The end of the calendar year is a potent cocktail of stress, accomplishment and setting lofty goals for the future. Digital strategy planning is your key to calmly and confidently meeting the demands of the New Year
Digital strategy planning can seem overwhelming. Many firms are thinking about end-of-year audits and improving their performance in 2024. We’ve identified an approach to digital strategizing that we hope will simplify your process and yield better results for your firm.
Here’s how to create a digital strategy, what to include, what to exclude and our three-pillar digital planning philosophy (which you can steal for your own firm’s strategy).
What is (and isn’t) a digital strategy
A digital strategy is your firm’s playbook for managing your digital assets and online presence. It’s a document that will guide your approach for navigating predicted and unpredicted issues in the future.
This strategy should consider assets like your website, mobile, email touchpoints, social media and any digital marketing.
One note on timelines: Note that a digital strategy is a relatively short-term document. Whereas business strategies tend to include a long-term roadmap and other kinds of forecasting, it simply doesn’t make sense to plan so far ahead with digital strategy. Technology and trends change so frequently. It’s more important to understand your priorities and processes so that you can adapt to changes.
A digital strategy should focus on general approaches, not specific forecasting or didactic action plans.
Budgeting is very tricky with digital strategy, so we’ll cover that section down below in more detail.
Areas your strategy should encompass
Consider breaking your digital strategy into five key areas.
- Social Media:- Which platforms are you investing in? Who is responsible for these platforms and what policies exist to manage the content? What’s the plan for negative events? Are there other platforms where your audience is more active?
- Mobile: Is the site responsive? Will you be building any native apps for your firm? If so, what platforms will you support? Think about how you can enhance the mobile experience for clients on the go.
- Email: Who is responsible for mass email correspondence? Who is maintaining your lists? Do you have a plan for privacy protection? Do you want to consider personalization, targeting or other automation in the future? Consider newsletters and trigger-based emails in this category.
- Website: Assess the user experience of your site. Does it align with your firm’s values? What features are you supporting and will you add or remove any? How do you decide on content? Who is responsible for technical, design and content maintenance?
- Digital Marketing: Consider your current online marketing channels, including PPC and SEO campaigns. Are they reaching the right audience? How’s the process working for your team? Are there new marketing avenues you may like to explore?
You may wish to include a budget subsection for each category as well as an overall budget section.
We also recommend a “people, process, priorities” approach. This could be applied to each bullet point above, so long as you are careful to ensure alignment between each area.
Who is responsible for digital decisions?
The key to unlocking a successful digital strategy is assigning responsibility. Clear responsibilities ensure that, even if something fails, you’ll have someone who is responsible for reporting it so you can address it.
Start by sketching out your digital team.
Who makes decisions about different elements? Is there one person who is at the top and must give approval? Who actually does the work once it’s assigned? Who reviews the marketing data? Will all of your digital assets and campaigns be managed in-house or will any of it be outsourced? What are the criteria for making this decision, and what are the criteria for selecting a supplier or contractor?
Note any platforms that your team uses to track action items and report back. Include frequencies for making these reports.
If there’s a lack of clarity on any of these points, don’t try to solve it in your own head. Note the confusion and include it as an opportunity to improve next year, or pitch a few options based on your knowledge. You’ll get better results by collaborating with the rest of the team.
One tool you can use here is a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM), although this could be overkill for smaller firms with fewer digital marketing projects on the go.
What policies will guide future digital decision-making?
Now that you’ve identified personnel, you can move onto policies and processes.
Clear frameworks can streamline your process while ensuring consistent outcomes.
Think through areas like social media, content creation, website management and potential crisis situations (like bad PR or data leaks). Are there any decisions you find yourself making again and again? Could you formalize any of these processes into some sort of policy?
For example, you might consider a document for social media guidelines that indicates which topics are allowed, enabling you to eliminate extra approvals and hasten the creation to publication pipeline. This document could include style and content boundaries, too.
Consider policies for content removal, coding standards, accessibility and crisis management. What merits the removal of a piece of content? Does it get archived? Does it require a statement on social media? Do you have an accessibility checklist for social media and newsletter content? How do you respond to negative reviews?
You don’t need exhaustive definitions in your digital strategy. However, you can identify these areas and set yourself on a path to creating these policies in the near future. The goal is document each process clearly and ensure easy access for key people, preserving your values one time so that every future decision is aligned with your values and goals.
Are there priorities that we can use to guide us?
Priorities can help guide your digital decision-making when information is hazy. Of course,
digital strategies are intimately tied to business strategies and priorities.
Identifying key priorities can expedite decision-making and keep everyone aligned.
Start by defining your digital users and digital business objectives. Everything should be tied back to these two clearly defined groups. Who are the people you’re targeting and serving? What do they need? What is the main purpose of your digital presence, or the purposes of each platform? Is it to serve, educate, entertain, convert, reassure?
Here’s an example of how this exercise in priorities could help you in the future.
Let’s say your content team has decided on a slate of features for your blog. A partner suggests a new post on a totally separate topic. You can use your list of digital priorities and audience profiles to determine if this new topic should or should not displace the other ideas in your slate.
Organize your work into a roadmap
You’ve made great progress! Now, collect your work into a roadmap with at least five key categories: social media, mobile, email, website and digital marketing.
For each section, identify the main benefits that each one provides. Explain how it’s currently performing (you can blend qualitative and quantitative data here). Include areas for improvement and make some recommendations in the long and short term.
As you write your recommendations, start with issues that need immediate attention. You can give more detail to this section because the need is imminent and you have more information. As you proceed with future tasks in the long-term, you can reduce the level of detail. This is only logical as the technology will change in the next few years and it would be unwise to too closely predict a version of the future and devote resources to addressing it.
Finally, please feel free to recommend a consultation with outside experts if you and your team do not possess specialized knowledge in certain areas.
Money matters and how to budget for change
Okay, it’s time to address the financial elephant in the room. Legal marketing in a recession can be scary!
How do you budget for an unpredictable future?
We like the agile model, which sees digital marketing as an annual ongoing project rather than a fixed cost project. Try to think of it like allocating funds dynamically to adapt to emerging trends, seize opportunities, and address challenges.
Some fluidity in your annual budget is required to ensure that your digital strategy remains agile in a changing digital world. We see a lot of marketers and firms stuck in an outdated model of fixed cost projects. They’re simply unable to keep pace with the newest requirements, and so they fall behind.
The agile model acknowledges that your digital presence is never finished and is constantly being improved. Because of this, an annual ongoing budget is the way to go.
Try setting an expected cost for each area of work. Tweak depending on whether you plan to do it in-house or high contractors, then add some contingency. Now, you have to live it and adapt as you go.
Review and next steps
Digital strategies for law firms should include flexible, agile budgets and a “people, process, priorities” approach to guiding digital decision-making.
Avoid getting bogged down in the details! Instead, focus on creating frameworks and assigning responsibility to enable your firm to confidently adapt to the coming challenges and new technology of 2024.
Digital strategy is dynamic in nature. It takes skill, adaptability and accountability to get results. Reach out to Omnizant for law firm website design advice and digital marketing for lawyers.