Create a digital strategy for your business

A digital strategy is your plan for introducing and using digital technology to meet your business goals.

A clear digital strategy can help you make sure that your digital presence is current, future-proof and achieves your intended goals.

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A digital strategy can help you:

  • set digital goals
  • plan and manage your digital business components
  • ensure resources and energy are used effectively.

Your digital strategy will cover:

  • all digital technology you use to conduct your business
  • your online or digital presence
  • the goals you want to achieve using digital technology
  • the steps and actions you will need to complete to achieve these goals
  • monitoring and review components.

Planning your digital strategy

When planning your digital strategy, it's important to:

  • consider current digital technology your business uses and explore other options that could benefit your business
  • consider your business's current digital capacity when identifying potential opportunities and additions
  • regularly review your digital capacity to ensure you can capitalise on technological advancements.

Your digital strategy should remain a part of your business plan and align with your overall business strategy and objectives.

Steps to develop your digital strategy

  • Research online tools used by your competitors and other businesses.
  • Decide which online activities will benefit your business.
  • Review your budget to work out what you can afford.
  • Factor in annual costs to maintain or upgrade your devices, renew subscriptions and pay for software licensing and training.
  • Find the laws and regulations that will apply to your online activities.
  • Consider your requirements, including software and computer equipment.
  • Plan for cyber security risks, such as computer viruses, scams, data theft and damage to hardware.
  • Think about recruiting new roles or training that you or your staff might need.
  • Be realistic about the time and budget you will need to manage the online aspects of your business.

Your technological skillset

Consider your technology ability before implementing a self-run digital strategy.

If you feel your skillset is not advanced enough for the technology you will be implementing, you can choose to outsource the tasks or hire someone to join your team.

Access low-cost advice from Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) Digital Solutions to grow your digital capability.

View one of our free business webinars.

Key components of a digital strategy

A digital strategy has 9 key components. You may not need all components for your business type or industry, or to implement them all immediately. Each part focuses on a different digital area.

Review the components below to assess your current digital footprint and implement a digital strategy tailored to your current and future needs.

Review your completed strategy regularly, as your business needs will change over time.

Your online presence refers to how and where the community and other businesses see your business online.

Your online presence includes:

  • your business website
  • social media profiles
  • corporate online advertising profiles
  • other websites
  • online news articles, press, links, information, reviews
  • any other online content related to your business.

When developing your strategy, consider:

  • if you'll need a platform for selling products and services online
  • where your customer will expect to find you
  • your business goals
  • what technology you'll need to meet your goals and support your online presence.

Digital marketing and advertising is the promotion of your business using various online marketing channels and tools. Digital marketing drives your customers to the digital platforms where you conduct business.

You need to identify what platforms your customers are using and how they are influenced to buy products and services to plan effective marketing and advertising.

Common channels and tools include:

  • paid-per-click / cost-per-click advertising
  • search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • search engine marketing
  • influencer marketing
  • content marketing
  • social media marketing
  • newsletters and email marketing
  • content designed to reach grow audiences and develop customer loyalty.

Read more about digital marketing and advertising.

When developing your strategy, consider:

  • your digital marketing budget
  • your customers' online behaviour
  • your competitors' digital marketing activities
  • your goals for your digital marketing activities.

Selling online allows your customers to purchase your products and services anytime and anywhere from any device connected to the internet. It is essential to consider how your business could sell its products and services online.

When developing your strategy, consider:

  • which of your products and services are suitable to offer online
  • practical tools used to provide these products and services
  • current trends in online sales and presentation methods
  • what your competitors are doing.

Read more about selling your products and services.

Digital communication is about giving customers ways to engage with your business through the channels they prefer. You should aim to make it as simple as possible for customers to find your information, services or products.

Create a digital communication strategy to ensure your customer service standards are consistent across all the digital channels you use.

You could interact with your customers through:

  • emails
  • text messaging
  • software messaging apps
  • website contact forms
  • social media direct messages
  • live streams
  • virtual assistants.

Read more about digital communications.

Cyber security protects your business, staff and virtual assets from unwanted online behaviour and attacks.

Your virtual assets are the data and information stored on computers and file servers that can be accessed through the internet.

Make sure your staff are informed about cyber security risks when working online. Develop procedures and training for your staff to help protect your business from cyber attacks.

You can protect your online assets by:

  • putting policies and procedures in place for staff, covering accessing and storing company data, using digital technology and dealing with customer information
  • backing up data to cloud-based systems
  • securing software and payment systems
  • developing staff training and onboarding plans.

Read more about cyber security.

Being active in a digital economy enables your business to develop supplier relationships in the global market. Your business can profit from sourcing suppliers online and this will be more straightforward if your business has strong digital capabilities.

When developing your strategy, consider how you will:

  • find and research new suppliers and
  • use technology to communicate with suppliers
  • make payments to online suppliers
  • manage any associated risks.

Read more about buying your stock online.

There are various solutions that you can use to make sure that the digital components of your business will be more effective.

Research the different digital tools that you could use, for example:

  • payment systems
  • customer relationship management systems
  • online services
  • email software
  • accounting software for financial record keeping
  • project management software
  • supply chain software
  • virtual assistants
  • scheduling software.

Assess all the tasks you complete within your business and consider if they could be done more efficiently using digital technology.

You should regularly identify emerging and new digital options. The Australian Small Business Advisory Services can provide tailored advice for your small business to help you adopt digital tools to save you time and money.

The 'cloud' is a term used to describe a network of remote global servers connected via the internet.

These remote servers store and protect your data on their premises, with multiple back-ups, instead of you keeping it on your local computer hard drive.

Cloud computing allows you to have an increased level of security over your data and access it anytime from any internet-connected device. Your costs are also reduced due to no longer needing to invest in new infrastructure, training staff or licensing software.

When developing your strategy, consider:

  • the level of security you need
  • the volume of data to be stored
  • your budget and the costs involved.

Learn more about cloud computing.

Consider the digital roles and skills required within your business to achieve the goals of your digital strategy.

Assess if these roles and skills will be:

  • gained through self-development and training
  • recruited
  • provided by external suppliers.

Complete a skills audit for all the digital components of your business. A digital skills audit involves assessing all digital tasks and technology within your business so you can identify the roles and skills you will need.

Once you have identified your digital tasks, you can identify the related skills requirements; this information will define the roles required.

You will then need to decide if these roles will be internal or external.

If you decide to hire staff to complete digital roles within your business, or use existing staff, you will need to provide training.

When training staff to take on digital roles, you can:

  • use external training options
  • develop policies and procedures to guide actions
  • develop and train in standards, expectations and outcomes.

Your staff must be aware of the legislative and regulatory requirements for their digital role.

Read more about hiring your digital team.

Creating your digital strategy

Your digital strategy will include your business goals, digital audit results and your digital action plan noting your digital activities.

When building your digital strategy, you will need to work through 3 phases:

  • conduct a digital audit
  • outline your business goals
  • complete a digital action plan.

Phase 1: Complete your digital health check

Action item: Assess your digital readiness.

Assess your business against similar businesses in your industry to understand which tasks are most important. Your business may not need to be digitally advanced in all areas, but you should aim to match or surpass your competitors.

Phase 2: Outline your digital business goals

Your digital business goals summarise your reasons for improving your digital capability.

These goals are the digital achievements you would like to achieve. They're different to your general goals for your business.

Outlining the goals and actionable steps you can take will help you understand which goals to work on first and how you will achieve them.

Follow these steps to outline your digital goals.

  1. Digital business goal—write down your goals
  2. Actions to take—list all the actions you need to take to complete the goal
  3. Key component area—select which key component area the action relates to
  4. Priority code—give each action a priority order ranking

Add all the actions from step 2 to your digital action plan (phase 3).

Ideas for digital goals include:

  • streamline business costs
  • remove redundant technology
  • provide more secure access to data
  • implement a bring your device (BYOD) policy
  • improve communication with customers
  • move to cloud-based accounting and reporting
  • create and implement a social media strategy
  • improve SEO with Google searches
  • use online advertising
  • enable automatic backing up of data
  • install live webchat
  • add more customer support to your website
  • create secure socket layer (SSL) certificates to ensure the security of your online assets
  • digitise processes and find automated solutions
  • move to a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution.

Example business goals

You may need to scroll across to see all columns
1. Digital business goal 2. Action to take 3. Key component area 4. Priority code
Create a work-from-home opportunity for staff Purchase mobile devices (laptops) Remote workplace A
  Invest in an online storage system for accessing documents Cloud computing A
  Find an application for staff to communicate in real time from home Digital workplace B
  Implement work-from-home policies for staff and devices Online security C
  Reduce office space with real estate Remote workplace D

Note: Complete tasks starting at Priority A through to Priority D.

Phase 3: Develop a digital action plan

A digital action plan collates all information into a list of tasks to complete.

Action plan instructions

  1. Write down the headings for each of the 9 key components of a digital strategy and the topics from the digital audit tools.
  2. List all the action items under each heading that you need to complete for any of the 9 components.
  3. Add all the actions from your digital audit and advice from the digital health check.
  4. Add all the actions from the business goal actions you completed.
  5. Place them in priority order (A–D).

Example digital action plan

  • Key component—Online presence
    • Research which applications others use to take customer orders online. (A)
    • Set up the chosen application to start processing payments online. (A)
    • Speak with your web developer about adding an ecommerce solution to your website. (C)
    • (Include business goal actions.)
  • Key component—Digital marketing
    • Set up Google Ads. (A)
    • Define the marketing strategy for the launch and ongoing promotion of this channel. (B)
    • (Include business goal actions.)
  • Key component—Selling online
    • Research companies in your industry or related industries that are selling online effectively. (B)
    • Form a sales and logistics strategy for your new sales channel. (D)
    • Launch your new sales channel. (D)
    • (Include business goal actions.)

Remember to include your digital activities in your business plan.

Your digital strategy should adapt and change with the market and with emerging technology—in the same way as your business plan.

Regularly review and update your plan to keep up with your business's performance and goal achievement.

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