Digital Strategy

This week on Boagworld we ask do we really need a digital strategy and if so what should they contain.

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Paul Boag:
This week on Boagworld podcast we ask do you really need a web strategy and, if so, what should it contain?

[adapt]

Welcome to boagworld.com, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul Boag and I completely forgot how to do that introduction and had to record it three times. How is that possible? How many 100s of times must I’ve said that?

Marcus Lillington:
100s of times.

Paul Boag:
100s. 100s of times. Hello, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Hello, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Hello, Leigh.

Leigh Howells:
Hello Paul.

Paul Boag:
I get the sense that none of us are in the mood for doing the podcast today.

Leigh Howells:
Hello, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Hello, Leigh.

Paul Boag:
You’re not allowed to directly talk to one another.

Leigh Howells:
Hello, Paul. Oh, okay. Still via you, the intermediary.

Paul Boag:
You’re only allowed to communicate via me otherwise I’m not the center of everything. You know how I like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Shall we talk about music, Leigh?

Leigh Howells:
Oh yes.

Marcus Lillington:
We could do, couldn’t we?

Leigh Howells:
You wanted to…

Marcus Lillington:
What we haven’t done is discuss your divider from…

Leigh Howells:
Yeah, I did notice it wasn’t in the last episode at all.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
You only put it in the one episode?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, was used once.

Paul Boag:
All that work he put into it.

Marcus Lillington:
Ah half an hour?

Leigh Howells:
I’m sorry, once ever? What do you mean once ever?

Marcus Lillington:
I might use it again one day.

Paul Boag:
You have to use it…

Marcus Lillington:
The power.

Paul Boag:
It has to be used…

Leigh Howells:
It has to be once per show. Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
So all dividers…

Marcus Lillington:
That’s fair enough. All the dividers today will be yours.

Leigh Howells:
Yeah, I think I’m in that. That’s me singing the bassie bit.

Paul Boag:
Is there singing in it?

Leigh Howells:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Play it.

Leigh Howells:
You haven’t even heard it, have you?

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t play it now.

Paul Boag:
I can’t remember. All I know is it it’s weird shit.

Leigh Howells:
No, that was Marcus’s stuff you were hearing there.

Paul Boag:
No, his was all [makes noise] – a cat being strangled.

Leigh Howells:
Mine was a different weird shit.

Paul Boag:
Yours was [makes noise]. Yours sounded like …

Leigh Howells:
It said Boagworld.

Paul Boag:
Did it?

Leigh Howells:
Well, yeah.

Paul Boag:
I don’t remember that.

Marcus Lillington:
There you go. That’s what people think of your work, Leigh.

Leigh Howells:
It was quick.

Paul Boag:
We’re just so horrible to one another. I think we’re horrible people.

Leigh Howells:
It’s a good thing.

Marcus Lillington:
No, we’re not.

Paul Boag:
Well, it came across at lunch today. We were meeting with a potential client at lunch and at one point the client next to us – next to me went round the table pointing out all the horrible things we’d said about each other.

Leigh Howells:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s just banter.

Leigh Howells:
It is just banter.

Paul Boag:
I mean every word of it.

Marcus Lillington:
No, you don’t.

Leigh Howells:
If it was truly…

Marcus Lillington:
You’re a big softy, Paul.

Leigh Howells:
If it was truly horrible we wouldn’t have said any of it, would we? We would have kept it all secret.

Paul Boag:
Building up inside. We’d be saying it behind each other’s backs. Who says we’re not doing that? Anyway …

Marcus Lillington:
Blimey, yeah. Silence all of a sudden.

Leigh Howells:
It was bit of a big lunch though.

Paul Boag:
I don’t know if I want to do a podcast today.

Leigh Howells:
No. I’m a bit tired now, bit sleepy.

Marcus Lillington:
Well we’ve done one.

Paul Boag:
That’s it? That’s it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes and thanks.

Leigh Howells:
Play a divider and we can have a little sleep?

Paul Boag:
Excuse me, I said at the beginning we were going to talk about specific things. You’re going to make me a liar.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t remember what they were.

Paul Boag:
We are talking about strategy, web strategy stuff. Do you know what, I have to confess I’m a bit sick of it.

Leigh Howells:
What the podcast?

Paul Boag:
No, not the podcast.

Leigh Howells:
Doing a podcast? You heard it here first. The end.

Paul Boag:
I feel like all I ever talk about these days is digital strategy and I don’t care anymore. Do what you want with your business.

Leigh Howells:
You can only say so much if people don’t listen to it. Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. You try and help and they just ignore you. No, it’s because I am in full promoting-the-book mode at the moment.

Marcus Lillington:
Let’s just talk about lunch. Lunch was lovely.

Leigh Howells:
Oh, it was very good, yeah.

Paul Boag:
I was a bit disappointed with my choice. The soup was lovely. We are not talking about that now. I’m not having this conversation.

Leigh Howells:
Soup was fabulous. I think I may have made a better beef bourguignon myself though, to be honest.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh really?

Leigh Howells:
It was very nice, but I think it just shows just how good mine must have been.

Paul Boag:
And so modest.

Leigh Howells:
The twice I’ve ever made it.

Paul Boag:
So there we go. Right can we actually – we could get the show over with, couldn’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
What you mean, we have to ramble for at least 10 minutes surely.

Paul Boag:
Otherwise people don’t know how far to skip.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. We’ve got into the one interesting part.

Paul Boag:
And they’ll have missed it because they would have skipped ahead too far.

Marcus Lillington:
Have we got any news?

Paul Boag:
No, there’s nothing happening.

Marcus Lillington:
How is the weather? It’s the same.

Leigh Howells:
Rainy.

Paul Boag:
You can sign up for notifications about my new book at boagworld.com/season/8. You could do that which is really important. I’m trying to …

Marcus Lillington:
It’s really important.

Paul Boag:
It’s important folks. I tell you what’s happened right. Motivation, I have been lacking motivation. Since coming back from the Maldives.

Marcus Lillington:
Did you go to the Maldives, did you?

Leigh Howells:
Really? Oh, that sounds nice.

Paul Boag:
I’ve brought that in. I’ve been lacking motivation and so I thought I’m going to read up on motivation. I’m going to learn how to become more motivated.

Leigh Howells:
Oh, that’s so you.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t be bothered.

Paul Boag:
And what’s – one of the things that I learnt in my reading is that when you’re motivated you need a goal to work towards. And I was feeling like I was just producing blog posts and doing all this kind of stuff with no real objective. Yes, it hopefully will lead to more business for Headscape, yes it might lead to more sales of the book, but there was no kind of real motivation. So what I’ve done …

Marcus Lillington:
You have to have something to look forward to.

Leigh Howells:
You goal is going back to the Maldives, right?

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a good one.

Leigh Howells:
Like next week.

Paul Boag:
But you need something that’s related directly to what you’re doing. So my motivation has become to increase the number of e-mail sign ups to the newsletter, the Headscape – Boagworld newsletter, right, and sign ups and notifications about the book. And I’m measuring all of those and so every blog post I write now I can see how many sign ups that’s led to. And do you know what; I honestly can say it’s worth. It’s made me interested and excited again because there is a specific thing to aim for. So I’m really into sign ups to the book. So – sorry, not for the – well either the signups for the book or for the newsletter and I’m giving free giveaways on both. If you sign up for the book at Boagworld.com/season/8, you’ll get a free video which is my presentation on transforming your business. And if you sign up for the newsletter, which you can find by clicking the subscribe button on any page of the Boagworld website, you’ll get two free presentations.

Leigh Howells:
I have a surprised face.

Paul Boag:
No you look like Macaulay Culkin when he put some shaving cologne on his face. He goes “oh!” Like that.

Leigh Howells:
Is that right? Is that how I look? Okay.

Paul Boag:
That’s what you look like, or possibly the scream from that famous painting.

Marcus Lillington:
So basically, Paul, you’re motivated by reaching solid targets with real numbers?

Paul Boag:
Yes. Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Can you earn me more money every month?

Leigh Howells:
Targeting a real number.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Well, that’s the trouble because ultimately if we’re honest, with all these blog writing and speaking at conferences and doing the podcasts and stuff like that, the ultimate aim is to generate more work for Headscape.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But you can never tie that to specific things, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Not – yeah, you can’t.

Paul Boag:
Yeah but you can’t in the sense of this blog post caused somebody to contact us…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Sure, sure.

Paul Boag:
…that then led to a piece of work. You can’t do that. So it’s not – it’s all a bit morphous. So that’s why I’m going for the newsletter sign ups as the thing – it’s not that that’s particularly – I mean it is useful. It’s great to be able to keep in contact and provide good information blah, blah, blah. But it’s just so that I’ve got a goal with something to work towards.

Marcus Lillington:
But the thing is some people might read the blog post, think that was a rubbish blog post that one, but I’ll sign up this time anyway. Then the blog post wasn’t the – it didn’t lead to the newsletter sign up.

Paul Boag:
But some data is better than no data as we have said many times on the show before. And that’s not a likely scenario now, is it Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
No, it’s not. But I quite enjoyed saying it.

Paul Boag:
No. Don’t you guys ever feel like it? The lack of motivation because you can’t tie what you do to a specific good outcome, because it’s not like when we used to build websites, right…

Marcus Lillington:
Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul, I’ve always said my favorite part is doing proposals and pitches because you’ll – basically you’ll either win it or lose it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. And it’s – but so much of our job is not that tangible, is it? And I miss that. You know when I used to build websites there was a website at the end. Well, most of the time. And that was usually satisfying. You could see something and go I did that.

Marcus Lillington:
But what Leigh does must be satisfying, because he still deals with colors and stuff once in a while.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you actually produce things.

Leigh Howells:
Yes, even if it is all ultimately a waste of time and doomed and will just be taken down at some point and replaced with something else. Not being negative in any way. It’s very satisfying in terms of me looking at something and going oh, that’s nice. That’s all I need. It’s not really a goal or.

Paul Boag:
But then something more – yeah but I’m just trying to think of a more abstract…

Marcus Lillington:
You know Leigh does things like competitor reviews.

Leigh Howells:
The kind of strategy stuff yeah.

Paul Boag:
But again you’re producing something, although and it’s – I suppose I could say I’m producing something in writing a blog post, but it’s not enough by itself. I want…I don’t know.

Leigh Howells:
I don’t need goals to encourage me.

Paul Boag:
Don’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
No, I don’t either.

Paul Boag:
You just plod along, do you?

Marcus Lillington:
No, no, no, no. I have other sorts of goals. I have like oh it’s the weekend or I’m going on holiday.

Paul Boag:
Well, yeah. I have those kinds of things but that doesn’t…

Leigh Howells:
That’s another day over.

Paul Boag:
But that doesn’t keep you motivated at work, does it?

Marcus Lillington:
Well you have to – you can’t do one without the other. If you don’t work you don’t get a holiday or wine.

Leigh Howells:
Or paid.

Paul Boag:
I know but I need to be motivated in the work itself.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, okay.

Paul Boag:
And you don’t. See that’s …

Leigh Howells:
No, I don’t particularly.

Paul Boag:
Do you not?

Leigh Howells:
No.

Paul Boag:
Am I just really peculiar?

Leigh Howells:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I don’t know about that…

Paul Boag:
If you think I’m peculiar …

Marcus Lillington:
But you are peculiar.

Paul Boag:
I just think I like having something tangible – I like measurable tangible. It’s like at the moment …

Leigh Howells:
It’s because you’re goal driven, achiever.

Paul Boag:
Well, I am and also I like to apply some of the stuff that I learn. So for example with the …

Marcus Lillington:
He is ignoring you.

Leigh Howells:
We are plodders.

Paul Boag:
With the subscribe box, I’m like look, now it’s gone dark to make it stand out more and I’m doing multi variant testing of which strap line is the most compelling, you know. Get weekly… Yeah, I love all that stuff.

Leigh Howells:
Really? Oh, that’s why you were doing an Optimizely, okay.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’m using Optimizely, link in the show notes.

Leigh Howells:
As opposed to Visual Website Optimizer?

Paul Boag:
To – are people more likely to sign up if it says get weekly web insights direct to your inbox or if it says be on the cutting edge of web design or if it says whatever else.

Marcus Lillington:
Sign up or die. That was my recommendation.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it wasn’t the most useful recommendation you’ve ever made.

Leigh Howells:
Or just sign up now.

Paul Boag:
And that’s why I like the e-mail newsletter.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s quite good actually; sign up now.

Leigh Howells:
It’s tried and tested.

Marcus Lillington:
Sign up now.

Paul Boag:
No, you’ve got to get the word free in, haven’t you?

Leigh Howells:
Free, yeah. Free. Sign up now.

Paul Boag:
I’ve got that. Look, you get two free video presentations for subscribing and you can unsubscribe with one click.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s too long. Sign up now for free in small print though.

Paul Boag:
It is the smaller print. It’s not the major print.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh okay.

Paul Boag:
But I do – I love it. I love if you can measure it and you can go yes, I’m doing better than last week or whatever. That’s why I like the e-mail newsletter.

Marcus Lillington:
The problem with stats that keep going up is eventually they will go down and then they will go up again. There is never a constant upward curve on this area.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. There is on e-mail subscriptions.

Marcus Lillington:
Is there?

Paul Boag:
Ever since I’ve been doing the newsletter…

Marcus Lillington:
Frequency, really?

Paul Boag:
No, ever since I’ve done the newsletter, the number of subscribers has always gone up; it has never dipped.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes for total number of subscribers, but if – I don’t know – if you got 20 week one and 21 the week two and 25 week three and then 19 week four.

Paul Boag:
Oh I see getting less on one week.

Leigh Howells:
Oh, de-motivation sets in.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, no see that doesn’t worry me so much.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay cool.

Paul Boag:
I don’t – yes, I’m more interested in cumulative effect. And things like with e-mail newsletters I really enjoy things like open rates. If I change the subject, just slightly re-word it, which titles makes people open it more. You know how do you word this…

Marcus Lillington:
I think it’s whether they have got a cup of tea or not that makes them open it more. Not the title of it, but there you go.

Leigh Howells:
Or they’re on an iPad or…

Paul Boag:
Yes, well that is certainly a part of it. I’m not denying it.

Marcus Lillington:
Because I do – because I read it sometimes, even though I know most of the content, but I do read it. But usually it’s if I have gone – I think it’s always on a Friday afternoon isn’t it and I’m thinking if I’m really trying to busy finish something, not a chance, but if I’m sort of like diddling around…

Paul Boag:
But when you – yeah, I agree with that on a kind of individual basis, but when you’re talking about 3,500 or whether the – I can’t remember …

Marcus Lillington:
I’m not saying there’s no worth to it. But it’s …

Paul Boag:
Look I’m trying to create some worth in what I do, when there is none.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, there is.

Paul Boag:
So there’s…

Marcus Lillington:
Because I ask people, Paul, when they talk to us, when they enquire, how did you find out about us? And they say I listen to the podcast or I read the blog, nearly every single one of them. So…

Paul Boag:
I know. But I like something a bit more tangible.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, fair enough. We have waffled for long enough now by the way. We can stop.

Paul Boag:
No, that was useful. That’s useful web design related stuff.

Leigh Howells:
We talked about AB testing, didn’t we?

Paul Boag:
We talked about AB testing, we talked about being motivated. Those are useful things. People …

Marcus Lillington:
People skip over this bit.

Paul Boag:
They’ll skip it and they will miss out. Screw them I say. That’s what we need to do at the beginning of every show now; say something really valuable just for the people that don’t skip the waffle at the beginning.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
That’s what we’re going to do from now on. But right now we’re going to look at is strategy really necessary.

How necessary is strategy really?

Why is it that everybody talks about the need for a digital strategy and yet so few organisations seem to have a concrete one in place? Does this mean they are nice in theory but unnecessary in practice?

Share your thoughts

You sounded like you were going to jump in there, Leigh.

Leigh Howells:
I was I was. It’s good to hear my divider again, Marcus. Really good to hear that.

Marcus Lillington:
I can remember it.

Paul Boag:
Don’t put it in now. Don’t put it in, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Ha ha. No, I made a promise. A solemn promise.

Paul Boag:
A vow, a vow to Leigh in the sight of almighty Paul.

Marcus Lillington:
Strategy, but surely there is a strategy in everything, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yes, okay. Well it depends on what we’re talking about here, right.

Marcus Lillington:
What do you mean?

Paul Boag:
Well, if …

Leigh Howells:
He doesn’t know!

Paul Boag:
No, I was ready to launch into the pre-prepared stuff and then realized that isn’t an answer to the question you’ve just asked, because you’ve just thrown me out of my whole pre-prepared stuff now.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, I’m really sorry, Paul. I’m not that…

Paul Boag:
Because I prepare every word that I say. It’s all carefully scripted.

Leigh Howells:
Get back on track then with your little script.

Paul Boag:
No, no.

Marcus Lillington:
How necessary is strategy really?

Paul Boag:
Marcus, take a moment to think about your clients. Why do I bother? I don’t think a lot of our clients have got a clear strategy for their use of digital. But I’m having – I’m asking myself do they really need one? What about broad business strategies? What – should you have a separate digital strategy and a separate business strategy or should you have a business strategy with digital components. And also most business leaders agree that you should have a strategy and it’s an important part of business, but how many people actually have a concrete plan written down? Take for example, we say all the time: you should have a strategy. What’s our strategy, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
Cake.

Leigh Howells:
Get work.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, or cake.

Paul Boag:
But you see what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
Get work, do work. Get work, do work, get work, do work.

Paul Boag:
And then die. But do you see…

Marcus Lillington:
We do have strategies, Paul, but we’re not – we don’t go and check the document. We don’t have a document.

Paul Boag:
Yes. And that’s I guess …

Marcus Lillington:
But we kind of do because Chris writes stuff down.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
But we don’t refer back to it so we may as well not have written it down.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but that’s kind of my point really, is I think a lot of people say that strategy, yes, that’s a good thing. And either they don’t write it down and it’s just knocking around in somebody’s head or alternatively it’s written down and nobody ever reads it. And is it – is strategies just something that has to apply to larger organizations? Perhaps you need to be a certain size to have a strategy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I was going to say – I mean it’s fairly – what we do, I mean we’ve tried to diversify on more than one occasion then we’ve gone oh that was a bit of a rubbish idea and gone back to what we do and continue to do what we do. So – and it is if I get work, do work. I know that sounds really crass but we are a service based…

Paul Boag:
Yes, but that’s not a strategy. We come onto this bit…

Leigh Howells:
No, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I know it’s not a strategy, but we don’t need one because it works.

Leigh Howells:
Well, this podcast itself was part of the strategy, wasn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, all right. But …

Paul Boag:
We don’t have a formalized strategy.

Marcus Lillington:
No, we don’t.

Paul Boag:
And I’m not – I just think the reason I was asking this question because we all go oh yes strategy is very important, we all must have strategy. But there seems to be this …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the impression of me.

Paul Boag:
But there seems to be this big gap between the theory and the practice. We all seem to accept the theory of having a good strategy, that we should have strategy both from a business and digital and that it makes sense. But then we fail to follow through and I just I thought it was an interesting thing to discuss.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it is and some people confuse rules with strategy or guidelines. It’s like what does strategy mean. This is how we’re going to do stuff.

Paul Boag:
Well we are we going to get onto …

Marcus Lillington:
Whereas strategy really means this is our plan for the next year or two years.

Paul Boag:
Yes. But we’re going to get onto the specifics of what goes into a strategy in the second part, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
But I just want to …

Marcus Lillington:
But the fact that people confuse it with guidelines is a problem. Can we talk about that now?

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Let’s have a look to see what other people have said because your opinion is obviously not valid. So I think part of it is that you – that I think – so people are – the question I was asking is why do we need strategy. Why would you say a strategy is necessary, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
To give people reason for doing their job. But continuing on from the – oh, people know why they are doing what they’re doing. Yes?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, well it goes back to the motivation conversation that you would have missed out if you skipped the waffle at the beginning of the show. Ha to you.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, quite so. Yeah it would allow in a larger organization cross-departmental goal setting.

Leigh Howells:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Co-operation heading in the same direction.

Leigh Howells:
You might not see that you’re one small part in a bigger kind of machine that’s doing something bigger.

Marcus Lillington:
It stops people faffing about I suppose. This is what we are doing. This is what we are aiming for, this is what – these are the goals that we are trying to achieve and everybody needs to be working towards that and not messing about with something else.

Paul Boag:
Kieran says something quite nice which I like, which is …

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve summarized it all. We can move on.

Paul Boag:
Kieran says something that I quite like, which is I think digital strategies are required in order to justify why certain approaches and channels are used by the company rather than just because everyone else is doing it. And I think we’re a great example of that. We choose not to spend money on marketing but we choose to spend time on marketing in the forms of the blog, the podcast, speaking, the books, et cetera. Our strategy is that. Do we have a clear idea of why we prefer that approach to another approach? That’s the kind of thing a strategy is there for, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, we do have a strategy. Of course we bloody have a strategy. Doing the podcast is part of our strategy.

Paul Boag:
Yes, exactly. Kieran also goes on to talk about creating a strategy that’s relevant, current and engaging which I like. There is a tendency for a document to become long winded and this leads to it being dated. Perhaps the skills that require development is writing a strategy that is concise enough, enlightening and thought provoking, so it will encourage others within the business to want to read it and be involved in it.

Marcus Lillington:
Simple as remember it in the first place.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. And I have to say – we keep coming back to the example of us – a lot of people have joined Headscape over the years because they have heard us blog, speak …

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
… do podcast et cetera. And they’ve wanted to be a part of that. So the strategy has actually brought people in as well.

Leigh Howells:
Do mission statements summarize strategy or are they something else?

Paul Boag:
I always think mission statements are a load of bull shit.

Leigh Howells:
Oh, could it just be summary of your strategy?

Paul Boag:
It could be.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But isn’t it …

Leigh Howells:
That’s for other people though, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
A mission statement I think is more permanent whereas strategy can change annually.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
We could decide to stop doing a podcast and do, I don’t know, standing on the corner shouting instead.

Paul Boag:
But our mission statement would still be the same.

Marcus Lillington:
It would still be: talks a lot.

Paul Boag:
Yeah and also I think you’re right that I think a mission statement is more an external …

Leigh Howells:
What everybody sees about you.

Paul Boag:
Values.

Leigh Howells:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
Because strategy isn’t really about values, is it?

Leigh Howells:
No.

Paul Boag:
As much as – well, it’s partly about values.

Leigh Howells:
Or is it?

Marcus Lillington:
Well we need to talk to people like Google.

Leigh Howells:
Is that really their strategy?

Marcus Lillington:
No, that’s their mission statement.

Leigh Howells:
Yes, it’s not their strategy.

Paul Boag:
Now this is – I like what Han says because this is one of those areas where I think you challenge strategy a little bit because he says by its very nature web or digital is very granular and very agile, but traditional strategy tools and methodologies are high-level and rigid. In other words, he argues that perhaps traditional approaches to strategy are not the best.

Leigh Howells:
What are traditional strategy tools?

Paul Boag:
Oh you know kind of long – a lot of goal setting and are all kind of woolly. Don’t you think a lot of traditional …

Leigh Howells:
Tools as in uses of language?

Paul Boag:
Yes. Ways of approaching it because seeing some of the strategy documents we’ve been sent by clients over the years, you read them and think I’m none the wiser now. Or alternatively I don’t really – how does that apply to what I’m doing in any way. And often they’re big grandiose goals like – I can think of some clients. Everybody seems to have a—what is it?—a 2020 vision at the moment, don’t they? Or is it, 2015 or …

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, but you can’t resist it, can you? 2020 vision.

Paul Boag:
Yes, 2020 vision.

Marcus Lillington:
Double meaning. Fantastic.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. And you just think …

Marcus Lillington:
I used to have 2020 vision myself, but now I’m completely blind.

Paul Boag:
Now you’re old.

Leigh Howells:
I was trying to think back to our .com days. Was there a strategy – well, the strategy was – the kind of strategy that reading in that book, good strategy, bad strategy like to become the nation’s premium supplier of touch screen kiosks. It didn’t say how you’re going to get there.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m amazed you can even remember the name of the company because that’s about as much as I can remember from those days.

Leigh Howells:
It was full of grandiose statements and absolutely no indication of how you were going to do it.

Marcus Lillington:
It was based on total bollocks, that’s why.

Leigh Howells:
Yes, it was all just nonsense.

Marcus Lillington:
Paul sold that to the Americans.

Leigh Howells:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I didn’t. To be fair, I just did what I was told to say.

Marcus Lillington:
Lie basically.

Paul Boag:
No, I was very honest.

Leigh Howells:
Was there a strategy though? Was there actually a strategy document that went to the people who invested in it?

Paul Boag:
I don’t know, I don’t remember. There must have been I imagine; some kind of paperwork.

Leigh Howells:
Yeah you’d have thought there should be. People would go have you got a strategy for doing those grandiose claims you’re making.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. I don’t think – I think in the .com days nobody really cared. I’m not convinced they care anymore now actually, the amount of venture capital…

Leigh Howells:
They just saw some potential made-up figures and then…

Paul Boag:
I know that’s just incredible. So okay. So what is our conclusion here? Our conclusion – would you say we’re making a mistake as Headscape not having a written strategy?

Marcus Lillington:
No, because ours is simple.

Paul Boag:
See I disagree.

Marcus Lillington:
There is no – it’s not like we don’t review it because we do.

Paul Boag:
Well yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So therefore ergo we don’t need to write it down. Well we do write down, we write it down every time we have a Board meeting. So it is written down, so therefore we can refer back to it the next time as part of …

Paul Boag:
Yes, I agree with that, but don’t you think we’re a bit shit at communicating that to the rest of the company. Leigh, would you know what our strategy is?

Leigh Howells:
Only what we’ve said about podcast and blogs and stuff. If there is any other strategy, no idea.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s simple so you know.

Paul Boag:
It’s secret.

Leigh Howells:
Secret strategy.

Marcus Lillington:
Because you know if everyone else knew what part of the strategy was…

Paul Boag:
Backfiring.

Marcus Lillington:
Selling up in six months.

Paul Boag:
Yes, we wouldn’t want them to know that. No, that’s true. I hadn’t thought of that, yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
We wouldn’t want them to know. I wish.

Leigh Howells:
Or that heist you’re planning on the high street.

Paul Boag:
I’ve got to say.

Leigh Howells:
All that drilling.

Marcus Lillington:
There would be no harm in writing it down, Paul. I don’t think we have to.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I think this is where we’re kind of on the border of talking about the next segment which will go into in a minute, which is what should go into a strategy and I think that’s key is to whether you need a formalized strategy or not, because it depends what you mean by a formalized strategy document. Because I think a lot of them have, a lot of the strategies we see are worthless. But I do think – and also a lot of effort and lot of expense goes into creating them and then everybody ignores them and you know or they’re not applicable because they are too woolly or whatever else.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
But I do think in principle having a strategy for your business that outlines the direction that you are going and what is it you want to achieve over the next period of time and how you go by achieving stuff is a worthwhile tool. Here is another question for you: do you think there is a value – because a big debate at the moment is do you have a separate digital strategy to an overall business strategy? Because someone like Gerry McGovern, for example, would argue you’re your digital is so fundamental to the business that actually you have a business strategy with digital elements in it rather than a separate digital strategy.

Marcus Lillington:
It depends on the business, surely.

Paul Boag:
Okay, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
For some completely digital businesses their digital strategy would be a…

Paul Boag:
Alright but a normal… Okay, take one of our clients. Take, for example, a charity client.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I agree with the statement then.

Paul Boag:
What? Which?

Marcus Lillington:
That what Gerry McGovern says: it should be wrapped up with the entire business thing but if it was – I can’t think of an example…

Leigh Howells:
We had examples last time…

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t – there probably is one but where the website or they don’t do electronic marketing, say, then maybe it could just be a separate thing. But then equally it could just be a section in the main strategy as well.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I think the main reason for having a separate digital strategy is if the business strategy is shit. I’m serious, actually, because often times people listening to this podcast won’t get a look in edgeways of creating a business strategy. They will be too far down the pecking order to get a say in what goes in the business strategy. And they will be handed some woolly document with a set of woolly goals like we want to increase engagement by 25% by 2020, which – well, what does engagement mean and how are you going to measure that and things like that. So I think in that case, then there is an argument for creating a separate digital strategy really to kind of clarify what hasn’t been clarified properly in the main business strategy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, okay.

Paul Boag:
You don’t care. Shall we move on, because you obviously don’t about anything?

Marcus Lillington:
No, I think it’s semantics to a certain degree. It’s like we could have one document and another one and then join them together.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Leigh Howells:
I mean if you have lots of ideas for a big digital strategy that probably needs its own document, but if your digital strategy is we need a website, that’s just part of the business strategy, isn’t it? That’s part of the marketing part of your business strategy.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Leigh, are your hands stuck to your head?

Paul Boag:
His head’s obviously too heavy. He’s having to prop it up.

Leigh Howells:
It does feel quite weighty today, yeah.

Paul Boag:
This is going to be a – this is a painful podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
It is the best one we’ve ever done.

Paul Boag:
Leigh, you don’t care about the first topic at all.

Leigh Howells:
It’s about strategy.

Paul Boag:
Now this – okay, let’s move on to …

Marcus Lillington:
Let’s be nice to Paul.

Paul Boag:
Let’s move, yeah I have put a lot of effort… No, it is difficult.

Marcus Lillington:
What, being nice to you?

Paul Boag:
Can we just stop now, is that all right?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. I’m stopping.

Your web strategy is worthless!

Many of the so called strategies are less than useless at guiding the reality of running a web team. But what exactly should a digital strategy contain?

Share your thoughts

Paul Boag:
Okay let’s try something different.

Marcus Lillington:
What now, Paul?

Paul Boag:
That maybe we can engage you more in.

Leigh Howells:
Something fun and entertaining and exciting? You can talk about…

Marcus Lillington:
I wouldn’t go that far.

Leigh Howells:
New fun toys.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, new fun toys.

Leigh Howells:
There must be some new fun things you’ve got.

Paul Boag:
No.

Leigh Howells:
Hell.

Marcus Lillington:
I haven’t bought anything for ages either.

Paul Boag:
I’ve bought a new shower unit. That’s about as exciting as my life gets at the moment.

Marcus Lillington:
I bought a golf GPS unit, but …

Leigh Howells:
A what? Oh golf.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. It tells you where you are, how far…

Paul Boag:
It must be time for new Apple device.

Leigh Howells:
I bought a swimming watch, which is supposed to measure my lengths when I swim.

Marcus Lillington:
Surely the pool measures you?

Leigh Howells:
No but you have to count, you have to count.

Marcus Lillington:
How many strokes per length?

Leigh Howells:
Yeah, yeah. It is supposed to know when you turn round. It’s like – it’s a wearable technology, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
That’s cool.

Paul Boag:
But it doesn’t work?

Leigh Howells:
Don’t work.

Paul Boag:
No? So it’s not cool.

Leigh Howells:
It doesn’t think I’m swimming.

Marcus Lillington:
So you can do proper front crawl turning your head breathing stuff because if I try and do that, I drown. I can front crawl but I try and breathe and …

Leigh Howells:
Start slow.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
The Apple TV, there is going to be new Apple TV apparently, isn’t there?

Leigh Howells:
Oh, is there?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, which is going to have apps on.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s going to have a screen.

Paul Boag:
They finally reckon it’s going to happen.

Leigh Howells:
Since when?

Paul Boag:
Oh I saw rumours a few days ago. It’s all rumours, yeah. It’s not…

Leigh Howells:
What you mean a proper TV device or box?

Paul Boag:
No, no it’s Apple box still.

Leigh Howells:
So it’s changing the OS so it’s less…?

Paul Boag:
Yeah. So it might even work on older devices. But lack of – there’s a lack of storage to put the apps on, that’s the problem. So they’re probably one with a bigger storage capacity. Anyway…

Leigh Howells:
That’s fun.

Marcus Lillington:
I quite like my Apple TV.

Leigh Howells:
I love my Apple TV, very good.

Marcus Lillington:
Paul is giving up on the will to live now.

Leigh Howells:
I heard it’s been brilliant in here for airplaying to the big monitor rather than using a projector.

Paul Boag:
That’s good. With Maverick.

Leigh Howells:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Is it all right if we talk about strategy?

Leigh Howells:
Oh, if we have to.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Right here is the question: what should go in a good strategy?

Leigh Howells:
Don’t know, Paul? What should go in a good strategy?

Paul Boag:
Oh, no, it’s not a knock-knock joke, Leigh. I was hoping to have some kind of conversation – oh god this is just so painful. I’m going to answer.

Leigh Howells:
I was going to say people are paying money for this but they’re not.

Marcus Lillington:
No, they’re not, no.

Paul Boag:
Good job.

Marcus Lillington:
What should go in a good strategy? Achievable stuff.

Paul Boag:
Right. You’re writing a digital strategy for a client, what should go in it? Achievable stuff?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
What’s that? That’s a bit woolly. It’s my term of the day: woolly. Everything’s woolly.

Marcus Lillington:
Woolly. Jumper. What should go in a strategy?

Paul Boag:
Leigh, you know the answer to this.

Leigh Howells:
I know. I know. I know.

Paul Boag:
Because you’ve read the book.

Leigh Howells:
Well, it should have actual achievable methods of what you’re going to do. It should clearly and concisely state what are you going to do.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s what I said, more or less.

Leigh Howells:
And Ben says the same there look. Have a purpose, how that purpose will be achieved…

Marcus Lillington:
Basically, you need to review …

Paul Boag:
Shut up. He is quoting somebody – a listener. So that’s important. Say it.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Leigh Howells:
Well I recognize one point, how the purpose will be achieved, how the goal will be achieved. Yeah, lots of hows.

Paul Boag:
I like Richard Rumelt’s book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy—link in the show notes—where he talks about a kernel, doesn’t he? The kernel – you’ve read this, haven’t you?

Leigh Howells:
Oh yes, yes. Yes I have.

Paul Boag:
You don’t remember any of it?

Leigh Howells:
I don’t remember much of it.

Paul Boag:
It’s a good book. I really like it. He talks about three elements that make up the kernel of a good strategy, which is a diagnosis, guiding principles…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, looking at objectives and stuff like that again. You should be basing or you should at least be looking at what you’re trying to achieve generally before you start looking at your …

Paul Boag:
Well, he talked about these three elements: diagnosis, guiding principles and coherent actions. So a diagnosis – he argues that a good strategy should start by solving real-world problems. So these might be overcoming a threat or a weakness in the company or finding a way to capitalize on an opportunity or success. So the point is that by focusing on a real-world problem, you are preventing a strategy becoming too vague. So us the strategy might be we’re losing customers to the competition because they offer better customer service. So our problems – so that’s a problem that we need to overcome and address in our strategy. Or there is an opportunity to reach a new audience because of some new product. So what – but there is a problem there of how do we reach that new audience and your strategy would address that. So he talks about framing it in in terms of a problem that need solving, which I like. I think that’s good because it stops these really woolly goals.

Marcus Lillington:
The problem is, though, most of the time it’s business as usual for most – certainly agencies, small companies like us. Yes, we do do – we look at where we might expand, which parts of the business are – or where me might not getting as much income from the charity sector or from whatever sector. So we will take that on board. But I still keep coming back to it’s all really simple and we make too much – I put too much fluff in these.

Paul Boag:
Oh, absolutely. Totally agree with that, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t. I still think there’s – this goes back to what we were arguing about earlier when I lost the will to live – which is I still think it’s worth writing that down and having a record of what is business as usual. What is it that you, you actually – the problems that you are solving either for your customers or for yourself. What are those things? What is it you offer?

Leigh Howells:
So your strategy is what you do?

Paul Boag:
Yes. I think there is an element to that, because the other thing that he puts in as being a key part of your strategy is your guiding principles. So it’s what you do and how you do it. You know so for example I put some principles together for Headscape a while ago of what – of the way that we operate and these are things that we already knew, but I actually wrote them down and found it helpful to write them down. So things like we work collaboratively, we designed with data. We build through iteration, we work from users’ needs, we’re business focused. We recognize user experience extends beyond the website. Our work is accessible. We are client-centric. We’re always dedicated to educating people. These are – and they’re kind of – they’re principles about how we do what we do. And I think why that’s useful, why I’m kind of keen on having a problem you’re solving and some principles about how you solve it is then when you get down – I think that helps define what your actions should be. So, for example, one of the ways we might solve a problem that we have is to branch into a new area like search engine optimization, right. That might solve a problem that we have which is some of our clients ask for search engine optimization, we don’t offer it, so potentially we might lose those clients. So we could identify that as a problem, but our guiding principles would say we don’t do SEO because it’s not part of who we are and how we do things. So it’s a way of kind of – a plum line against which you can measure the actions you take or don’t take.

Marcus Lillington:
I agree with that. I guess that there is a bit of disconnect here because I would say we are going to do SEO or we’re not going to do SEO would be part of your strategy.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Oh I see. The decision to exclude it would be a strategy? Yeah, it could go in your strategy: we’re not doing it

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. Yes, so your strategy could be actions you’re not going to take as much as actions you are. Yeah. No, I accept that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. And that point of your guiding principle still stands, yeah.

Paul Boag:
Still stands, yes. But yes, you could include stuff you’re not going to do and why you’re not going to do it.

Marcus Lillington:
Although I think you spend a lot of time discussing what you’re not going to do.

Paul Boag:
It’s true. Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
… when you’re doing this kind of exercise.

Paul Boag:
Yes, if I think about the strategy we’ve done before now, I don’t suppose I ought to mention clients’ names, where, you know, the client has wanted personalization because that’s a buzz word they’ve heard. So we’ve had to address that in the strategy that we don’t think you should be doing personalization and he’s why.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So, yeah. And then the final part of Richard’s kind of kernel of good strategy is coherent actions. So how do you make your strategy practical, what specific steps should the company be taking to move towards its ultimate goal? And I think that’s really important. I think too many strategy documents tend to be very woolly and don’t kind of get into well how are you going to do that then. And I think that’s not – when you have a document that’s like these – don’t have those specific actions, they’re basically just goals. Oh, that’s my phone ringing I can hear in the other room, which is really …

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, we don’t care. Let’s leave it ringing.

Paul Boag:
Can you just hang that up for me?

Marcus Lillington:
What is that playing?

Paul Boag:
It’s the Cantina music from Star wars.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Leigh Howells:
It’s so cool.

Paul Boag:
Because I’m a very cool guy. That’s me.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re a very cool guy, Paul. I think of the word cool and I see your face.

Paul Boag:
I know. It’s true when you know it is. So what have other people said that ought to go into a strategy? Simon says goals with KPIs, key performance indicators. So goals you can actually measure is a part of strategy. Agree with that. What else we got?

Leigh Howells:
No, that isn’t a strategy. I thought that was exactly what strategy isn’t.

Paul Boag:
I think it’s okay for that – it’s not enough in itself.

Leigh Howells:
That’s what he was – that’s all he said.

Paul Boag:
I know.

Leigh Howells:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
I was trying to be nice to him. I was trying to be nice to him. I’m not going to go Simon, you’re shit mate, right. You haven’t thought things through properly. We are just putting you on the show to humiliate you. I’m presuming that’s – he’s not saying that’s everything.

Leigh Howells:
You probably edited the rest of the enlightening things he said out anyway.

Paul Boag:
I might well have done actually, quite possibly. Ben, he says – he has got like bullet points. Lots of things. He says there needs to be a purpose of the strategy, right. So that’s the kind of guiding principles I guess. How that purpose will be achieved, which is your actions. Target market, which I think is a good thing to include in your strategy; who you are aiming for and who you are not. Any niches, positioning or USP statements that you have; what is it that makes you unique? I think that’s a really good thing. Don’t think people will talk about that a lot, although you can never come up with unique things. I think unique selling points always seems a bit of a misnomer to me.

Leigh Howells:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Is that a real word? Yea, I thought it was, right.

Leigh Howells:
Because they’re never actually unique.

Marcus Lillington:
Major, selling points. MSP.

Paul Boag:
No. Major, yes.

Leigh Howells:
Yes, that’s better.

Paul Boag:
A bit about your business identity, that’s quite an interesting one; personality of the business. What’s our personality, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
Ultra professional.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. And then budgetary stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
I think we are quite professional actually.

Paul Boag:
We are in a work, just not on this podcast. I worry about that sometimes.

Leigh Howells:
The lack of professionalism on this show is perhaps reflected in our work.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Leigh Howells:
Yes, you’re a bad advocate.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s not what he means. What he means is we don’t win work because we don’t come over as professional.

Paul Boag:
That’s what he was saying.

Leigh Howells:
That’s what I said, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
No, no, it’s different.

Paul Boag:
Read the transcript back.

Marcus Lillington:
I heard you say something completely different.

Leigh Howells:
Did you? Did I?

Paul Boag:
I didn’t.

Leigh Howells:
It meant the same in my head anyway, whatever I said.

Paul Boag:
That you’re worried that people will think that our lack of professionalism in the show will be reflected in our work. That’s what you said?

Leigh Howells:
Yes. Yes.

Paul Boag:
And that’s the same as what you’re saying.

Marcus Lillington:
No, it isn’t.

Paul Boag:
What are you saying then?

Marcus Lillington:
Something else.

Paul Boag:
Something else entirely.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Completely, completely different.

Paul Boag:
Do you think budget should go in strategy. That’s really interesting.

Marcus Lillington:
What do you mean?

Paul Boag:
Should a strategy document contain budget? Because Ben thinks so.

Marcus Lillington:
What, did – budget…

Leigh Howells:
Budget for what?

Marcus Lillington:
Budget for what, yeah.

Paul Boag:
Well, yes that makes me begin to think that maybe your strategy is getting too tactical.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Because I think – because it’s really – one of the big things I have – the big problems I have with strategy documents, especially kind of traditional business ones because they try and lay out a road map for like 18 months, two years, three years, five years and lay out budgets for all that kind of stuff. I don’t think that works with the web. I just think it’s too far ahead to kind of look that far into the future. I think your strategy document needs to be about setting up a framework that can adapt spontaneously to things as they come up.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I mean I suppose you do have – say if your strategy were to say we’re going to move into gold mining, try and get gold mining clients. I’m making this up, obviously …

Paul Boag:
That’s a terrible…

Marcus Lillington:
No but they’re very specific.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Right.

Marcus Lillington:
There aren’t many of them. That’s the strategy. You can start hanging stuff off it like and we are going to spend so much money on trying to do that.

Paul Boag:
No, see I disagree because to my mind that’s a goal, right? Our goal is to do more work with gold mines.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I don’t agree.

Paul Boag:
But you’re not specifying –- because you’re not specifying a way to achieve that.

Leigh Howells:
Yes, strategy is how are you going to get more gold mining company.

Paul Boag:
How are you going to reach gold mines.

Leigh Howells:
…which might need a new approach.

Paul Boag:
And that’s my big problem with most strategies is they stop at the point that you’ve just said and that’s not enough.…

Marcus Lillington:
And then a committee will take over that particular…

Paul Boag:
Yes, exactly. That is typical management style. I’m going to create these big overarching – yes, we want to rule the world and you minions go and work out how to do it. That’s useless.

Marcus Lillington:
But you need to know why that – yeah, but there needs to be…All right, but there – you would have – when you’re discussing strategy you would go – you would have had a conversation that led to why we need to be going after more goal miners.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, so your strategy needs to include why, needs to include the goal. But then how are you going to achieve that? And what limitations, what framework are you going to operate? Are we willing to murder the competitors in order to get that?

Leigh Howells:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
What framework are we operating within? How will – I think there is a lot more to strategy than big woolly goals. That’s the point I’m making.

Marcus Lillington:
But not so much detail that you actually want to bother putting in we are going to spend this much money on it.

Paul Boag:
No, there is a sweet point somewhere in between. I think maybe if you’re talking about traditional business strategies, then maybe you do want to get more into budget and that kind of stuff. I’m just saying I don’t think that can work on the web…

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
…because things change too fast. So in that case we want to target gold mine companies. If we were writing that as a digital strategy then you would be talking about the – that we’ll try and engage them through social media or we’ll engage them through these blog publications and that kind of stuff. So that means that we need to hire a social media expert and a good article writing person and that kind of thing. So maybe you could extrapolate budget from that. I don’t know. I think …

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, you can. It’s just more work, even more work.

Paul Boag:
It depends whether you go down to that level or not I guess.

Marcus Lillington:
And it depends on how – yeah.

Paul Boag:
So where this – how deep you go is quite an interesting one because Dimitri—or Dimitrio?—no, Dimitri.

Marcus Lillington:
Dimitrio.

Paul Boag:
Dimitrio said one of the – because he put one of the most valuable things you need concerning a web strategy is a good content management system.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
I know, which was my reaction because that feels like a really specific thing that shouldn’t sit within the strategy and Dave – David responded by saying surely this is the tail wagging the dog. Strategic direction should dictate the tools used in execution, not the other way round. In other words the strategy should say we need this kind of thing which shouldn’t be necessary that specific. And I kind of agree with him. You can go too specific which strategy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Silence.

Leigh Howells:
You can put a divider in there.

Paul Boag:
Just fill in the gap. Okay. I think we’re done, aren’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, hang on. How long have we waffled for?

Paul Boag:
We don’t know. If this show is done…

Marcus Lillington:
Plenty enough time.

Paul Boag:
Have we? It felt…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
It felt…

Marcus Lillington:
Strategy is a hard thing to talk about because it’s so…

Paul Boag:
Individual to everybody, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s really individual. It can be woolly or, in our case, it would seem woolly because it’s so easy.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
If it’s a tiny – if it’s a small business like us, our strategy you could write on a side of A4.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
With all the bits that are required to make it useful. Whereas, okay, if you are a 20,000-strong organization with lots of different departments then you probably need to get a bit more detail. I think what I was trying to say, but failed miserably. It depends – sometimes ….

Paul Boag:
See now, just to be argumentative with you, I would reverse that entirely, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Because I think if you’re a 20,000-strong company and strategy is being set at the corporate level then actually you want to leave enough room for your individual departments to interpret that strategy – I’m struggling to justify this.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, you are struggling now aren’t you, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Yeah I am.

Marcus Lillington:
All I said was you could fit it on a sheet of A4 and you wouldn’t be able to with a bigger company.

Paul Boag:
No, you’re right.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s all I meant.

Paul Boag:
I do think a lot of strategies are too long.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, because it’s – we are going right back to the beginning here when we were saying about you need to be able to either read it and understand it quickly or remember it.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Leigh Howells:
I read a 42-page strategy document yesterday. That’s a bit long. Yes, it was full of interesting and useful things, you know, it’s just not very memorable.

Marcus Lillington:
But maybe …

Paul Boag:
There is a sweet spot somewhere, isn’t there?

Marcus Lillington:
Well maybe there is a big detailde strategy document and there is a summary of it.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Leigh Howells:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Well, so I mean if you go back to Richard Rumelt’s thing, his core, it is going to get quite a long if you start getting into specific actions that you’re going to do, and routes you’re going to pursue, but the guiding principles standalone by themselves and so would the problems that you’re solving standalone. And those can be quite sure for any organization of any size. It’s when you get into the specifics of how those things are going to be achieved and what specific objectives and actions are going to be taken that things get more complicated. So there is a kind of multiple levels to this. So there you go. Didn’t work very well as a podcast topic, but it’s still massively important.

Marcus Lillington:
I think, yeah I may be inclined to agree with that. I just think it’s hard because it’s so specific to kind of go and we recommend this or this is what you should do, because it’s – it varies for every company for every person.

Paul Boag:
Okay. I’m going to sum it up.

Marcus Lillington:
Go on then.

Paul Boag:
Here we go. If you are the head of a web team within a reasonably sized organization, an organization big enough to have a web team—right?—you should be creating a digital strategy. You should be looking at the corporate strategy overall. You should be identifying a list of problems or opportunities that arise from that document, problems that need solving from their woolly goals or opportunities you see. You should be listing those out. You should then be creating a set of guiding principles within which you work. There are loads of those online. Gov.uk have got a load. We’ve published a load. Our link in the show notes to our own principles. And then you should be identifying a series of actions or steps that you can take in order to create a framework capable of solving those problems. Not actions like we’re going to buy this next Tuesday and then the following Wednesday we are going to do this on Facebook, but putting together a framework, a way of operating, I need to hire this person or we need to reorganize in this way; those kinds of things. Also finally do something else Richard Rumelt suggested which is create – look for objectives and actions that have—what’s the wording wording that uses?—that leads to multiple favorable outcomes which I really like. So to give you an example of what that means, we did a strategy for a charitable organization and one of our specific actions that they should take is systematically to work through the site and improve the calls to action on the website, because they were particularly weak. We picked that as an action because it had multiple favorable outcomes. If you get your calls to actions right, you get more donations, you get more volunteers, you get more sign-ups to your newsletter. There are multiple good outcomes from that one action.

Marcus Lillington:
I found it. Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one or a very few pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Leigh Howells:
Cascade.

Paul Boag:
There you go. So and I think if you do all of that and put all of that in place, you will be a good position to move forward. That’s my summary. How does that sound?

Marcus Lillington:
Marvelous, Paul. It’s been a superb podcast now.

Leigh Howells:
I think it’s one of the best ever.

Paul Boag:
I’ve recovered from it …

Leigh Howells:
Yes. Really enjoyed it.

Paul Boag:
… in that amazing statement.

Leigh Howells:
It’s a good summary.

Paul Boag:
Once again, my skill, my oratory skills save the day. My quick thinking and insightful view of the world. And I’ve just ruined it again. Okay, Marcus, do you have a joke for us?

Marcus Lillington:
I have a joke from Cindy at Dickstein.

Paul Boag:
Oh really? Yay, Cindy. Oh yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s…Right. So this is the joke.

Leigh Howells:
Hopefully it’s good.

Paul Boag:
We have to laugh because she is a client. Ready to laugh?

Leigh Howells:
Ready.

Marcus Lillington:
Well it’s one that – you know my taste in jokes. I recently joined a band, we are called 999 megabytes. We haven’t got a gig yet.

Paul Boag:
That actually is quite good.

Leigh Howells:
I like that.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, no that is good. Well done, Cindy. You may send in jokes again.

Leigh Howells:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
Well you are never quite sure with Americans when it comes to humor. It’s a bit hit and miss. They like Monty Python but then…

Leigh Howells:
That surprises me. No, I didn’t- really – I really didn’t think Monty Python would be, you know, something…

Paul Boag:
I want to find that Churchill quote again about Americans because that was just the funniest thing ever. I bet I can’t find it quickly now.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, Paul’s about to insult more than half the audience.

Paul Boag:
Churchill quote. Americans.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, so he didn’t say it. Paul didn’t say this.

Paul Boag:
I didn’t say it. I’m just quoting Winston Churchill, one of our greatest leaders of all time.

Marcus Lillington:
From a long time ago.

Paul Boag:
From a long time – he’s dead so I can take no responsibility. Right, Americans will always do the right thing after exhausting all the alternatives. I love that line. That is just such a… It’s so good. It’s just such funny line. Anyway, there we go.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t believe in all these sort of things.

Paul Boag:
No, obviously. That’s not – that was applicable then but not now, obviously.

Marcus Lillington:
Can we stop? I was going to say while we’re ahead.

Paul Boag:
And so on that…So as Jeremy Clarkson would say: on that bomb-shell …

Marcus Lillington:
Bomb-shell even.

Paul Boag:
Why do I podcast? Anyway, let’s go away.

Marcus Lillington:
To practice your elocution.

Paul Boag:
Bye. Speak to you again next week.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Leigh Howells:
Bye.

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