How to Leverage Digital Strategy Maps for Agile Marketing

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I want to share with you how our agile marketing team works. We’ve found a ton of operational efficiency for our marketing services by leveraging agile methodologies and story mapping tools we had traditionally only used for web development and product design.

By making this shift, our processes and mapping tools are now our greatest assets.

After reading this, I hope you can adopt these strategies for yourself, so you too may find cohesion across your disparate digital channels and more effectively define valuable campaigns for your team.

Let’s dive in.

How Does Digital Strategy Mapping Help My Business?

When we approach business partners about Digital Strategy Mapping, the first question raised is: How will it help my business?

Digital strategies were traditionally built out and locked away in documents. Since they are so extensive, they often boil down to nothing more than text on lots of pages, making it hard to easily thumb through when marketing teams are in the midst of deploying strategies. The inability to see the whole picture of the digital strategy—and drill down to the detail level all in one document—leads to inconsistent strategies that underperform.

We recommend Digital Strategy Maps because these live documents come in the form of 2-D visual roadmaps, harnessing the ability to do several important things:

  • Surface and document your customer’s journey - As the map spans each phase of your customer’s journey, you’ll gain insight into the fears, motivators, demotivators, and educational hurdles they face as they interact with your company and products or services.
  • Assess where your digital strategy pain points are - Not enough customers in the top of the funnel? Proposals not getting sent out fast enough? Discussions around the flow of the customers through the digital experience are easier to envision, and that creates dynamic discussions around competing priorities.
  • Visualize the different fronts where you are trying to make improvements - As you roll out your agile digital strategies month-to-month, you can iteratively scope revisions so you can swiftly respond to changes in market conditions and consumer behavior. With a visual map, your team’s fresh ideas for digital strategies and improvements are easily reviewed and groomed before the next agile marketing sprint.
  • Give your team a full perspective on the priorities across the organization - By having monthly ceremonies to review each upcoming sprint, your team can ask questions and toss new ideas into the backlog without interrupting the direction of the current campaigns. Additionally, you may find that your team will highlight risks for delivery and help you build a better outline of scope, costs, and timeline for delivery.

How Do I Build And Use A Digital Strategy Map?

Digital strategy maps are easy to set up, and they drive thoughtful discussions on the different facets of your digital strategy. It is up to you and your marketing team to dig in and pull out the components that will lead to your business’s digital strategy success.

Not to worry. We’ll give you the foundation you need right here:

Digital Strategy Map

Facet’s Digital Strategy Map

Step 1. Set Up The Map

  • Create your Digital Strategy Map with a Story Mapping SaaS solution, such as Stories On Board. It is helpful to title it with your company’s name, followed by “Digital Strategy Map.” As you build out other maps (e.g. business strategy map, content strategy maps), this will make it easy for any member of your team to find it.
  • Now that your map has been titled and the initial steps of creating the bare surface has been completed, create blue cards—moving horizontally—to lay out the initial foundation for the different phases each customer passes through as they engage with your business’s digital channels.
    • For instance, “Exposure,” “Discovery,” “Consideration.”

Customer’s Buying Journey

The phases of a customer’s buying journey

Step 2. Document Your Current Digital Strategies

  • Create a release called Current for any ongoing and repeatable digital strategies. You can do this by clicking on the ellipsis (...) symbol and selecting “Manage Releases,” then “Add Release.” This will be a starting point of reference to show how your strategies differ vs. new releases. When we create a Digital Strategy Map for a client, we place all their current digital strategies into their own release, or “Current,” so we know which are active.

“Manage Releases”

A look at what should appear after you press the ellipsis (...) symbol and select “Manage Releases”

  • Review then document your strategies across each phase of the customer journey and digital experience, creating yellow cards directly under your blue cards. They too should run horizontally. There isn't any need to detail specific tasks here, but instead just mark the individual major channels that are part of the digital engagement funnel, such as “Exposure & Raw Leads” part of the funnel, we have “Social Media,” “Organic Search,” “Paid Search,” “Guest Posting,” and “Email.”  (Note what you see in the image below are the blue cards and yellow cards in two-level board view, which causes them to run vertical. In three-level board view, they will run horizontally as we described).

Strategy Mapping

The blue cards represent the different phases of each customer’s journey, while the yellow cards represent the digital assets (e.g. offers or social media) you’ll use to connect with and attract those consumers.

Step 3. Groom New Ideas and Digital Strategies

  • With this 2-D organization in place, you can start to brainstorm new digital strategies for your business.
  • Take into account your current marketing assets and infrastructure when building out ideas—it is important to consider how much of an investment each strategy will require. (More on this as you build out your Tasks that are groomed under each Digital Strategy Epic.)
  • With a map of initiatives, you might start thinking there is simply too much on the map to define any clear priorities. Time to cut a release! For our own digital strategy, we create a release for every upcoming month and then move cards into it.

Step 4. Schedule Your Next Agile Release

  • If you would prefer to know your velocity, you may want to timebox your team to 2, 3, or 4-week intervals.
  • Scheduling agile releases in month-long intervals works well for us. We find marketing consists of things getting done month-to-month, and we often have retainers or monthly tasks that align with this agile month sprint.

Step 5. Define Your Target KPIs

With your new digital strategy campaigns prioritized, it is time to talk about the brass tacks of expected outcomes.

  • First, start with what business goals you are trying to achieve by implementing the digital campaign. Do you want to increase your sales pipeline by 20% in the next quarter? List out the KPIs you will monitor to track progress for each business initiative. These will later become Sub-Tasks of your Digital Strategy Epic in JIRA and you'll want to make sure these are tracked with your Business Intelligence or Marketing Intelligence tools of choice for your marketing campaigns.
  • With your eye on which KPIs you will be tracking, start to discuss and list out how you will drive those KPIs forward. If you are unclear on how to drive the strategy forward, then the first task might be as simple as research! Talk to your advisors and any marketing strategy consultants you work with—drive the business strategy planning forward by focusing on the shortest path towards growth.

Step 6. Push your Agile Marketing Release into JIRA for Delivery

  • After a final review with your agile marketing team, push your Agile Marketing Release into a ticketing management tool such as JIRA as Epics so you can groom Stories or Tasks for the marketing campaign.

Step 7. Groom Tasks Against Your Strategies

  • Work with your marketing team to build out the Stories and Tasks that are required for your agile digital strategy implementation. Stories are individual content pieces, and on the map they are represented with white cards, which should be placed under the digital strategy they are tied to.

Customer’s Buying Phase

With a clear view of the customer’s buying phase and the digital channels, you’ll use to reach them, create individual content pieces (using white cards) to tie everything together.

  • After you’ve created your Stories, go into each that are planned for the coming sprint and add a description as well as “Acceptance Criteria.” Acceptance Criteria tells the team member working on the task what needs to be accomplished in order for the project to be considered complete. (These details will carry over when you implement the next step.) For general acceptance criteria, we recommend detailing a copywriting brief on the topic, along with expected length and medium (social media, landing page, case study, etc).
  • To reduce the work with this, we've set up a Playbook Library of our marketing strategies that we copy into each client project. We're also actively working on programmatically deploying these Plays using Python scripts and local source-controlled ticket outlines. For more information, check out “How to Treat Operations Like a Product: Agile Process Design.”
  • Once your tasks are groomed, you are ready to kick off your sprint in Jira or the project management tool of your choice! Stories on Board works with Jira, Trello, GitHub Issues, or Pivotal Tracker. You also have the option to manually export the map as an Excel file—also by clicking the ellipsis symbol—and manually import it to your project management tool.  

Jira Backlog

How your project Stories and Tasks will look in Jira’s backlog

Step 8. Track Performance

  • First, make sure you have an understanding of the expected outcomes and results for each digital strategy. You don't want to push digital strategies into an agile sprint where you're not defining an expected outcome—the result will likely be no outcome!

Digital Strategy Map and KPIs

An example of important KPIs tied to our Digital Strategy Map

  • Defining KPIs and metrics for each digital strategy allows your digital marketing team to build strategy-specific dashboards. Don't confuse yourself or the success of your campaigns with deep analyses. Leave that to the experts. Instead just work with your team to surface the metrics that really matter: revenue, expenses, and any micro-conversion that is directly correlated.
  • Setting up Reporting Dashboards with a tool such as Cyfe can give your executive leadership insights into ongoing progress without excessive analytics—keeping you and your leadership focused on the only metrics that matter to their business initiative. Localizing results around the campaign will give leadership focus, and prevent analysis paralysis from pouring over too many different reports.

Cyfe Dashboard

An example of a Cyfe dashboard

In summary, the more dimensions you plan in, the easier it is to balance the competing needs of your business’s digital strategy.

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