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The six inches in front of your face

The six inches in front of your face

Few who have watched Pacino’s acting masterclass playing Tony D’Amato in Any Given Sunday will be unmoved by his half time team talk.  “It’s the six inches in front of your face, gentlemen.  Life is a game of inches.  When we add all those inches it makes the difference between winning and losing.”

Digital strategy sounds like a grand and lofty subject matter.  The sheer quantity of Internet memes quite rightly mocking “social media experts” attests to the fact that it’s cool to talk strategy right now.  Getting strategy absolutely correct is fundamentally important to winning online, but what is so often unconsidered, or at least underestimated, is the sheer volume of effort required to implement strategy effectively.

Increasingly we observe the pattern that the online winner is not the organisation solely with the best strategy.  It is the organisation with brilliant strategy and first–rate execution.  The winner is the organisation focussed on the right goal and with an insatiable appetite to succeed.

This issue is so prevalent currently that in the last twelve months we’ve come across tens of cases of mediocre strategy well executed trumping great strategy averagely executed.

The message to business leaders is clear.  You must leave no stone unturned in the translation of your strategy into implementation.  And that requires focus, a detailed action plan, measureable KPIs, and board level interest in the results.

The often–unspoken truth is that a significant amount of online marketing activity is inglorious.  It is tough, often mundane, regularly complex and at times, let’s be blunt, a slog.

To start with it involves the efficient coordination of search, social, email, banners, affiliates, shopping comparison, web and mobile.  Each of those in turn is multi–faceted; search divides into paid and organic, social separates into blogging, various social networks, building follower bases, email requires lots of segmentation, and so on.

Looking at each specific online channel the individual tactics in turn require great attention to detail.  Search engine optimisation requires the web marketer to assess keywords, think about web content, page titles, page headings, HTML tags, image alt tags, meta descriptions, site maps, Google webmaster tools and a program of back–linking.  Pay Per Click marketing requires extensive keyword research, budget management and a daily program of managing and optimising spend in order to enjoy return on investment.

Across social, email, banners, affiliates, shopping comparison, web and mobile channels, similar levels of complexity and pedantry exist.

And this multi–channel complexity all needs to be coordinated.

A good blog will reinforce search engine optimisation performance, positive reviews on social media will help to reduce shopping cart abandonment, social media based customer service will increase traffic volumes.  And so on.

The demise of high street giants such as HMV and Jessops reminds us that Internet activity is no longer an optional upgrade for businesses.  It is highly likely that in your business sector, hungry, focussed, smart online businesses are trying to eat your lunch with great web strategy.

You need to have a strategic response.  You need to have a detailed implementation plan.  You need to measure it every month.  Your board needs to care about it.  Then, and only then, you have a chance of winning online.


Inch by inch.  Play by play.  Until we’re finished.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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