You have a great idea for a new online service. Agencies have made beautiful designs for you and the road show is in progress… but somehow the stakeholders are not as enthusiastic as you are.
And here’s why.
The conceptual designs are not a strategy. They are snapshots that could fit the strategy but they do not explain the contribution to the corporation and the business lines. They don’t say how everything is going to be managed on an operational level. And they might come across as very cool looking but isolated ideas for a couple of touch points.
The conceptual designs are important for ideation and validation – of course – but you need to make a solid story of the strategy in order to get the Go.
An introduction into the model “Elements of an Online Strategy”.
Create one solid story
The NEOS-framework “Nahapiet Elements of on Online Strategy (pdf)” holds the elements to draw up a strategy. This can be used as a checklist or as the steps for the project to take.
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pdf 180 kb
It starts with knowing your customers. Where are they located most on the online landscape and what is their online activity? Do this analysis regardless of your business: you want to reach potential customers, so take a look at all the places where they walk and talk.
Hypothetical example: a financial institution might see that an interesting part of its audiences spend a lot of time on online gaming, and can then consider investment games in order to build a new connection with these potential customers.
Investigate the potential of the online landscape beyond the usual suspects.
Specifically their behaviour, decision-making model and needs are of interest here. I find that most market research focuses on the likes and dislikes of people. I would much rather know how their actual behaviour is structured and through what constructs they perceive the world around them. And the reason is that we want to cater to the deep needs and we want to influence behavior.
Once the behavior and the needs are known it is time to draw up the conversion matrix: the definition of value propositions and persuasion triggers.
For a remarkable number of online projects I have found little to no connection to the corporate strategy. Whether it concerns a branding site, online campaigning or apps for tablets: they all must contribute to the overarching objectives. Make that connection in your online strategy and clarify the contribution and role in the business model. That role might be in branding, marketing, the sales funnel or the servicing model… or any combination thereof. Point is: define a clear role and make a plan how to successfully fulfil that role in the business model.
This is also a good moment to do some serious stakeholder management. Not just a trip around all the desks, but really get into the plans of those departments.
It is not merely a question of understanding their objectives, but a matter of embedding those objectives into your ideation process for the new online touch points.
This is a vital aspect for any company in the digital and social world: the cross-channel brand behaviour, the personality and the presence in the online landscape.
Most companies offer comparable products in its pricing, characteristics and delivery model. So what is the differentiating factor? Why should people buy products from you? Start with “Why” and (re)discover the remarkable stories that can be told about you. Be the difference.
The personality is rooted in the origins of the company and can be felt in the way the organization is run. For customers the identity is most tangible in the way the brand behaves. Organizations are decomposed into separate teams while customers regard any and all of your touch points as – well – You. And preferably they encounter a consistent image of you.
When putting together an online strategy think of composing a symphony: all touch points need be arranged in one flow.
The final stage in creating a solid story is the most important one. This is the stage where both the front and back office are being moulded into shape.
There is an art and a science part in making online services. On the one hand there is user centred design with all its methods and tools. On the other hand there is creativity, storytelling and design. For me these should be equal powers within the team: two sides of the brain working together.
Visualization has been a strong companion throughout the former three stages but it will really proof its worth here. Quick illustrations ensure a better understanding by all team members, and will enable better creative loops towards the desired result.
I find that the team itself should be cross-functional and empowered end-to-end. Break down the walls between the silos and set up one cross-functional team:
- Customer Experience
- Design & Content
Further more I find these teams work best when they are the owner of a specific service or product. This means that they work outside of the limited span of a project: they are the online team for your business.
The framework is based on best practices
This is version 1.1 of a work in progress: it will be further updated and explored. It is based on a number of online projects for a diverse set of clients over the past three years and on the models and thoughts on the market:
- Start With Why, Simon Sinek
- The Brand Victory Model, Andy Mosmans
- How Customers Think, Gerald Zaltman
- The Conversation Manager, Steven van Belleghem
- The Content Strategy Mind Map, Richard Sheffield
- The Persona Lifecycle, John Pruitt, Tamara Adlin
- Crea-trilogie (Flamish / Dutch), R. de Bruyn
Share your thoughts
Download the free poster of the framework. Share your ideas & experiences in the field, and below in the comments section.
Please let me know if this model can help you in your work, or which of these elements are of most interest to you.
This is the beginning of a journey and I am sure it will be an intriguing one.
Concept, Strategy and Design