According to Smart Insights, 49 percent of organizations don’t have a clearly defined digital strategy.
Choosing the right digital strategy for your business is essential. Experience helps you sift through what to do differently, what not to do, and where to focus your energy. Having a fresh perspective from an outside eye can make all the difference. What’s more important is choosing a company that can execute that strategy.
When you need to choose the best digital strategy company, you may be wondering where to start. Here’s a list of our picks for the best digital strategy companies in the world.
1. Neil Patel Digital — Best For Content Marketing & Digital Strategy
I’ve written more than 4,294 blog posts in 10 years. I’ve created millions of words and I’ve used content marketing to build three companies of my own. I used content marketing to generate 195,013 visitors a month and I’ve done the same things for my fortune 500 clients. When it comes to digital strategy and content marketing I’ve shown it can work.
I do the same thing for clients with my agency, NP Digital. We help our clients develop a digital strategy that maximizes the results they achieve with their content marketing, advertising, and SEO campaigns.
The focus with our digital strategy is revenue. Everything we do is focused on producing real results for businesses whether that’s more traffic, leads, or revenue.
NP Digital’s client list includes:
- Thomson Reuters foundation
- American Greetings
2. REQ – Best for Enterprise Business Strategy
REQ is a Washington DC based, award-winning agency with enterprise-level experience. They’re industry veterans with some of the best talent in the business.
Projects start at $50,000. They offer a comprehensive suite of solutions for your marketing and digital strategy needs. Including:
- Advertising & Media
- Digital Advocacy
- Brand Strategy
- Reputation Management
- Public Relations
- Data & Analytics
They’ve been named to both the Inc.500 and Deloitte Fast 500 lists – they’re one of the fastest growing companies in America. They have offices in Washington, DC, New York, Boston, San Diego, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
REQ’s client list includes:
- Sweet Green
- Empire State Building
- Constellation Energy
3. Usman Group – Best for Mid-market Business Strategy
With 80% of its clients in mid-market range, earning between 10M – 1B, the Usman Group specializes in digital strategy and market research. They provide analysis, strategy, execution, and measurement to help clients deploy successful campaigns.
They apply the four key principles of design thinking, learn from people, identify patterns, make solutions tangible, iterate continuously, in all of their client engagements.
Projects start at $10,000. You get a hand-picked team that will provide evidence-based, practical strategy and recommendations.
Usman Group’s client list includes:
- Red Prairie
- University of Chicago
- National Safety Council
- Chicago Sun Times
4. DeSantis Breindel – Best for Branding Strategy
DeSantis Breindel is a New York City based digital strategy company that specializes in end-to-end branding strategy. They help businesses with brand differentiation, customer experience, merger & acquisition branding, brand valuation, brand launch, and employee engagement.
Projects start at $75,000. They offer thorough research and measurement for your digital branding, brand identity and strategy, content marketing, customer experience design, and film production services.
DeSantis Breindel’s client list includes:
- Lathrop Gage
- Lincoln International
- Lewis Roca
5. Mabbly – Best for Data Analysis, Channel Strategy
Mabbly is a Chicago based strategic design agency that relies on digital strategy, market research, and data analytics. They focus on turning complex problems into growth opportunities. Supporting human connection with digital experiences, via sophisticated design and data-backed digital strategy.
Mabbly’s team of digital and brand strategists work together to curate a channel strategy that combines the message along with the medium that’s right for your business opportunity. Projects start at $25,000.
Mabbly’s client list includes:
- Berkshire Group
- Griffith Foods
- 21st Century Fox
- Limitless Coffee & Tea
6. Ironpaper – Best for Small Business
Ironpaper bills itself as a B2B growth agency. Their conversion growth strategy is focused on gaining traction with growth up to 1 percent. The growth phase is set at 1 to 3 percent, with anything above 3 percent listed as scaling.
What’s interesting about Ironpaper is the fact that they discuss the elephant in the room.
“Oftentimes, enterprises try to answer the question, ‘What is a good conversion rate?’’ without any context. What is a good conversion rate? When establishing conversion rates, context is everything.
A lack of context can actually do harm to a marketing team, because it causes teams to make the wrong assumptions.”
This tells you that Ironpaper isn’t focused on vanity metrics or conversion manipulation. They know the difference between high and low value conversions. Their projects start at $10,000 and are focused on small businesses.
Iron Paper’s client list includes:
3 Characteristics That Make a Great Digital Strategy Company
Your digital strategy company should be able to provide you with specifics ahead of time. While many companies are able to provide you with amazing strategies, many are unwilling to demonstrate this ahead of time.
1. Your agency asks the right questions
Creating an exceptional digital strategy begins with your agency asking the right questions. These questions determine what will be answered and where your answers will go. Here’s a small sample of the questions your agency should be asking.
- How is our business currently performing?
- Which parts of your business are underperforming?
- What’s our goal for each area of our business?
- What do customers expect from our product and our business?
- Which marketing channels are our customers active on?
- Which marketing channels should we use to accomplish our goals?
- Which metrics and KPIs will we use to evaluate performance?
- How should we promote our products and services in the market to achieve our goals?
These questions inform your digital strategy.
- Why are we in business?
- Where are we right now?
- Where do we want to go?
- How will we get there?
Your digital strategy framework should answer four high-level questions. Good digital marketing agencies should be asking these questions at the beginning of the engagement process.
2. Your agency is willing to share strategy
The agency you choose should be willing to share sample strategies with you. This doesn’t mean that you should expect your agency to provide the entire strategy upfront, for free. Spec work isn’t ideal and that’s not what you’re looking for.
You’re looking for one example.
They can share this with you over the phone, in your proposal or quote, or in a sample report. You’re looking for them to share a small snippet, a piece of their proposed digital strategy. This is important for several reasons. With sample data you can:
- Evaluate your agency’s competence
- Use sample data to evaluate potential performance
- Assess their digital strategy or marketing priorities
- Outline knowledge gaps and weak points in their process
You’re not asking for a comprehensive strategy document, you’re simply asking your agency to pick one part of your business and create a strategy around that; ask your agency a question (e.g., how would you increase sales for one of my products?).
3. Your agency can implement Strategy
Venture Capitalist Arthur Rock, believes strategy is important, but not as important as people who can execute that strategy.
“Over the past 30 years, I estimate that I’ve looked at an average of one business plan per day, or about 300 a year, in addition to the large numbers of phone calls and business plans that simply are not appropriate. Of the 300 likely plans, I may invest in only one or two a year; and even among those carefully chosen few, I’d say that a good half fail to perform up to expectations.
The problem with those companies (and with the ventures I choose not to take part in) is rarely one of strategy. Good ideas and good products are a dime a dozen. Good execution and good management in a word, good people are rare.”
A great strategy isn’t enough. You need amazing people who can implement your digital strategy and produce the results you need to grow.
Your agency should have two things:
- A team that can implement your digital strategy
- A proven track record showing that they’ve achieved this consistently in the past
If they can provide you with both or they’re willing to provide you with a trial period where you’re able to test their ability to execute your digital strategy, then it may be a good fit.
What To Expect From a Great Digital Strategy Company
Your agency should provide you with detailed specifics for each of these points. If you have more questions or concerns, you’ll want to bring those up with your agency.
- A clear track record: Your agency should be able to show you samples, references, case studies, and reviews showing that they’ve achieved results for other clients.
- Clear milestones: You’re looking for clear milestones, timelines, and deliverables that show you’re able to create and implement a plan successfully. Your agency should be able to provide you with a timeline, explaining how long everything will take to implement, and when they anticipate you’ll begin seeing results.
- Agency procedures: You’ll want to see how your agency plans on approaching your campaign or project. They should be able to break down the approach that goes into their strategy document; this document should clarify how they’ll approach your campaign, what you should expect, what their goals are and more.
The digital strategy company you choose should provide you with the options you need to implement the plan successfully.
Choosing the right digital strategy for your business is essential. You need a plan to guide you, outlining where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. Having a fresh perspective from an outside eye can mean the difference between success and failure.
Remember, executing your digital strategy plan is even more important than simply having a plan. Use this pool to choose a digital strategy company that will partner with you to achieve your business goals.
Here’s how fast a few dozen startups grew in Q3 2020
Earlier this week I asked startups to share their Q3 growth metrics and whether they were performing ahead or behind of their yearly goals.
Lots of companies responded. More than I could have anticipated, frankly. Instead of merely giving me a few data points to learn from, The Exchange wound up collecting sheafs of interesting data from upstart companies with big Q3 performance.
Naturally, the startups that reached out were the companies doing the best. I did not receive a single reply that described no growth, though a handful of respondents noted that they were behind in their plans.
Regardless, the data set that came together felt worthy of sharing for its specificity and breadth — and so other startup founders can learn from how some of their peer group are performing. (Kidding.)
Let’s get into the data, which has been segmented into buckets covering fintech, software and SaaS, startups focused on developers or security and a final group that includes D2C and fertility startups, among others.
Obviously, some of the following startups could land in several different groups. Don’t worry about it! The categories are relaxed. We’re here to have fun, not split hairs!
- Numerated: According to Numerated CEO Dan O’Malley, his startup that helps companies more quickly access banking products had a big Q3. “Revenue for the first three quarters of 2020 is 11X our origination 2020 plan, and 18X versus the same period in 2019,” he said in an email. What’s driving growth? Bank digitization, O’Malley says, which has “been forced to happen rapidly and dramatically” in 2020.
- BlueVine: BlueVine does banking services for SMBs; think things like checking accounts, loans and payments. The company is having a big year, sharing with TechCrunch via email that it has expanded its customer base “by 660% from Q1 2020 to” this week. That’s not a revenue metric, and it’s not Q3-specific, but as both Numerated and BlueVine cited the PPP program as a growth driver, it felt worthy of inclusion.
- Harvest Platform: A consumer-focused fintech, Harvest helps folks recover fees, track their net worth and bank. In an email, Harvest said it “grew well over 1000%+” in the third quarter and is “ahead of its 2020 plan” thanks to more folks signing up for its service and what a representative described as “economic tailwinds.” The savings and investing boom continues, it appears.
- Uniphore: Uniphore provides AI-based conversational software products to other companies used for chatting to customers and security purposes. According to Uniphore CEO Umesh Sachdev, the company grew “320% [year-over-year] in our Q2 FY21 (July-sept 2020),” or a period that matches the calendar Q3 2020. Per the executive, that result was “on par with [its] plan.” Given that growth rate, is Uniphore a seed-stage upstart? Er, no, it raised a $51 million Series C in 2019. That makes its growth metrics rather impressive as its implied revenue base from which it grew so quickly this year is larger than we’d expect from younger companies.
- Text Request: An SMS service for SMBs, Text Request grew loads in Q3, telling TechCrunch that it “billed 6x more than we did in 2019’s Q3,” far ahead of its target for doubling billings. A company director said that while “customer acquisition was roughly on par with expectations,” the value of those customers greatly expanded. I dug into the numbers and was told that the 6x figure is for total dollars billed in Q3 2020 inclusive of recurring and non-recurring incomes. For just the company’s recurring software product, growth was a healthy 56% in Q3.
- Notarize: Digital notarization startup Notarize — Boston-based, which most recently raised a $35 million Series C — is way ahead of where it expected to be, with a VP at the company telling TechCrunch that during “the first week of lockdowns, Notarize’s sales team got 3,000+ inquiries,” which it managed to turn into revenues. The same person added that the startup is “probably 5x ahead of [its] original 2020 plan,” with the substance measured being annual recurring revenue, or ARR. We’d love some hard numbers as well, but that growth pace is spicy. (Notarize also announced it grew 400% from March to July, earlier this year.)
- BurnRate.io: Acceleprise-backed Burnrate.io hasn’t raised a lot of money, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing quickly. According to co-founder and CEO Robert McLaws, BurnRate “started selling in Q4 of last year” so it did not have a pure Q3 2019 versus Q3 2020 metric to share. But the company managed to grow 3.3x from Q4 2019 to Q3 2020 per the executive, which is still great. BurnRate provides software that helps startups plan and forecast, with the company telling TechCrunch with yearly planning season coming up, it expects sales to keep growing.
- Gravy Analytics: Location data as a service! That’s what Gravy Analytics appears to do, and apparently it’s been a good run thus far in 2020. The company told TechCrunch that it has seen sales rise 80% year-to-date over 2019. This is a bit outside our Q3 scope as it’s more 2020 data, but we can be generous and still include it.
- ChartHop: TechCrunch covered ChartHop earlier this year when it raised $5 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. A number of other investors took part, including Cowboy Ventures and Flybridge Capital. Per our coverage, ChartHop is a “new type of HR software that brings all the different people data together in one place.” The model is working well, with the startup reporting that since its February seed round — that $5 million event — it has grown 10x. The company recently raised a Series A. Per a rep via email, ChartHop is “on-target” for its pre-pandemic business plan, but “far ahead” of what it expected at the start of the pandemic.
- Credo: Credo is a marketplace for digital marketing talent. It’s actually a company I’ve known for a long-time, thanks to founder John Doherty. According to Doherty, Credo has “grown revenue 50% since June, while only minimally increasing burn.” Very good.
- Canva: Breaking my own rules about only including financial data, I’m including Canva because it sent over strong product data that implies strong revenue growth. Per the company, Canva’s online design service has seen “increased growth over both Q2 and Q3, with an increase of 10 million users in Q3 alone (up from 30 million users in June).” Thirty-three percent user growth, from 30 to 40 million, is impressive. And, the company added that it saw more team-based usage since the start of the pandemic, which we presume implies the buying of more expensive, group subscriptions. Next time real revenue, please, but this was still interesting.
They want to cancel their subscription? OK I don’t need them!
You are building a product and you put your hurt and soul into it. You’re rewriting the details, crafting perfect pixel design, generating leads, ads campaigns, cold outreach, and publishing on all channels.
You present a perfect demo, onboard a new subscriber, and then he churns.
At that point you get mad and start making excuses:
- “they don’t understand the product”
- “they were using it wrong anyway”
- “their business sucks”
- “I don’t need them”
But honestly, YOU DO.
I went through the same process but eventually realized that:
A subscriber that wants to cancel the service actually tells me a lot about how the product can grow.
Once you reveal churn hidden opportunities, you can take action to prevent churn and make your way to the holy grail of negative churn.
It makes sense – positive growth depends on having CAC/LTV metric, it’s as simple as that. You are already spending a lot of greens on CAC but how much are you spending to increase LTV?
Let’s say you have 1,000 subscribers paying $10 monthly subscription = $10,000 monthly revenue.
Assume your monthly churn rate is 6% so the next month you will have 940 paid subscribers and $9,400 in revenue, and the month after that – 883 paid subscribers and $8,830 in revenue.
If you run the calculation until the end of the year, you will see that on month 12 your monthly revenue is $4,760. Let’s see what happens to your LTV if you lower your churn rate from 6% to 1%: In the first month you will have the same $10,000, but at the end of the year your revenue will be $8,860.
Your LTV went from $4.76 to $8.86 -> that’s a 86% increase!
The article is written with love by me, the founder of Churndler.
Emerging Cloud Computing Technologies
It has taken many years for cloud computing technologies to mature and become mainstream in global businesses. Now the skeptics have stopped questioning the long-range sustainability of the cloud ecosystem, but it remains to be seen how allied technologies like edge, serverless, IoT, AI, and big data can together fulfill enterprise business needs. Many cloud technology experts seem to think that some emerging technologies have the capability of taking cloud to the next phase of business innovation.
In the next 10 years, businesses operators may experience unique levels of business performance due to cloud technologies, where “experience data” will combine with “operational data” to aid that unique business performance. According a Forrester Research Report, Predictions 2020: Cloud Computing:
“The public cloud market, which comprises cloud apps (SaaS), cloud development platforms (PaaS), and cloud infrastructure (IaaS) platforms, will reach $411 billion by 2022.”
This report also indicates that very soon, IBM and Oracle will stop outperforming opponents in the global “public cloud battleground,” recently taken over by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others. Currently, AWS, Microsoft, and Google jointly own 55 percent of the overall cloud market.
Cloud Computing and Cloud Architecture Trends in 2020 states that the results of a recent North Bridge venture firm survey indicate that 50 percent of surveyed organizations are using a “cloud-first” philosophy; and in some cases, using it “exclusively” for marketing needs.
of Cloud with Emerging Technologies
In recent times, the cloud
vendors have shown a distinct move toward technology consolidation around infrastructure
platforms, databases, and even apps. Along with this trend, another marked trend
shown by cloud service providers is the integration of “several emerging
technologies” like HPC workloads as industry standards.
to recent advances in container technology, now cloud service providers, in
order to compete with on-premise data centers, are likely to position a “hybrid-cloud,”
with superior container management
technology. This proposition, initiated in 2019, can continue to be game-changing
deal for cloud vendors and service providers.
Another example of platform consolidation is the “multi-cloud,” where the end-to-end cloud environment may contain at least two public clouds and one private cloud. According to a VXChange article:
“By 2020, the architecture of public clouds will adjust to meet the growing demands of their clients, and many private clouds will be transformed into hybrid clouds, allowing them to link and interact with public clouds.”
The management of multi-cloud environments may be vested either with the business operator or with an external service provider. The biggest advantage of a multi-cloud environment is freedom from dependence on one (costly and technologically restrictive) cloud vendor.
Technologies for the Cloud in 2020
“Standardization and increased compatibility” are two signs of the maturing technology that now surrounds the cloud computing world. Like any maturing technology, it comes with a host of allied technologies designed to work with the primary technology platform. A few such emerging technologies, designed to work with the cloud are:
- HPC workloads allow workloads to be more portable and data streams more mobile. This elasticity of the public cloud accounts for a serious market proposition
- Google’s Anthos service, capable of running as smoothly on AWS or Azure as on Google Cloud Platform
- Now, cloud believers have an option of working in a cloud environment with wide-scale technology features, while preserving the security and privacy of an on-premise, private cloud.
- Cloud Computing Challenges Navigating the Multi-Cloud Landscape explains how multi-cloud combines additional technology benefits of the public cloud with the security aspects of a private cloud.
- Edge computing allows real-time analytics to occur very close to the source of the in-stream IoT data. Google took the bold step of unveiling Edge TPU to accelerate enterprise adoption of “AI at the edge.”
- Serverless PaaS, which enables high-performance business data processing without the need for expensive servers. As the cloud service provider manages all computing resources, it becomes easy for business owners to “build out their cloud-based systems.” The biggest benefit of serverless: the cloud host executes “snippets of code” without involving developers.
- Data containers enable easy transference of applications and workloads between two different cloud setups. The battle of container platforms peaked with assimilation of Kubernetes management at scale. But if the general assumption is that container management and container technology use are two distinct business practices, then adoption of cloud services could increase with Amazon’s EKS, Microsoft Azure AKS, or Google GKE.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing gives an overview of emerging technologies for the cloud. The growth AI, edge analytics, AI platform as a service (PaaS), and graph analytics a;; signal the arrival of a multi-cloud environment spanning different cloud infrastructures for sharing workloads, applications, and technology resources.
What Major Trade Publications Think of Emerging Cloud Technologies
According to Top Six Emerging Technologies in Cloud Computing, although technologies such as “serverless” were specifically created for the cloud, these technologies are gradually transforming the world of enterprise computing. A big advantage of serverless is that all computing management headaches are handled by the service provider. Take another cloud technology — the containers.
A post describes a collection of emerging technologies for the cloud, one of which is GuardDuty — an AI-enabled offering by AWS for analyzing cyber security data. Another AI technology about to storm the cloud environment is voice-activated decision support system (DSS) driving sales and marketing functions.
the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU has spurred
security-technology development for cloud data breaches. As non-compliance results
in heavy penalty for businesses, cloud security professionals are making sure that superior encryption and
password-protection technologies are implemented for higher governance on an
enterprise level. In the coming days, cloud IaaS services will have loads of
technology features, available at a low cost.
The service mesh, an interconnected, communications technology to enable containerized micro-services across environments, is starting to gain in popularity. This mesh environment is designed to “span the cloud, corporate data centers, and edge environments.” In the managed containers scenario, cloud service providers may soon think of offering hosted versions of major, on-premise container platforms such as Red Hat OpenShift.
A Sitepronews news release provides a detailed discussion about the current status of the cloud service industry. According to this news release, all cloud-based services like infrastructure as service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and platform as a service (PaaS) are all likely to gain steam in the coming years as they afford customers with business services at scale with some degree of control.
Another undeniable benefit of cloud as a service plans is the affordable price tag, which tempts hitherto uninitiated businesses to explore data-driven, business management. According to Allied Market Research, “the cloud services market will reach $555 billion by 2020 from $209.9 billion in 2014 — growing at a CAGR of 17.6 percent between 2014 and 2020.”
Edge Computing and the Growth of Hyperconverged Solutions Over the Cloud talks about a technology-enabled, complex hybrid cloud environment with both “micro-data centers at the edge and on-premise data centers.” This article indicates that edge computing market is “expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent, reaching $33.75 billion by 2023.”
Image used under license from Shutterstock.com
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