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How Effective is Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

Digital Marketing StrategyA well-designed digital marketing strategy can bring you closer to your audience engagement or lead generation goals. But designing an effective strategy isn’t as simple as defining objectives, creating a mission statement, and prioritizing tasks. It’s about compelling your organization to move in a very specific direction.

In his book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters, Richard P. Rumelt reveals how the best strategies depend on what he calls the “kernel.” Equal parts planning and execution, the kernel consists of three elements: diagnosis, guiding policy, and coherent actions.

Diagnosing the problem

To understand the “diagnosis” part of the kernel, pretend you want to design a social media strategy for your organization. Before creating accounts and publishing status updates, you need to define an actual challenge you’re trying to address. That is, you must diagnose a specific problem.

You might diagnose the problem like this: People in our target audience are having conversations on LinkedIn where we could add value and put the spotlight on our content. By failing to join those conversations, other brands are gaining an advantage over ours.

With your diagnosis at hand, you can build the rest of your digital marketing strategy around a definite challenge instead of loosely-defined talking points or slapdash to-do lists. You can actually focus.

Assembling a guiding policy

The next step is to create a plan that addresses the specific problem or problems you diagnosed. Rumelt calls this your “guiding policy.” Continuing with the social media example, a guiding policy might consist of the following elements:

  • Direct most attention to LinkedIn and Twitter, the networks where our audience is the most active.
  • Curate valuable content from around the Web and publish two to three status updates on LinkedIn each day, at least one of which links to our own content; do the same on Twitter.
  • Join others’ conversations when we can add value. Help people solve problems, but avoid being salesy.
  • Respond to everyone who tweets at us or mentions us in an update. Be friendly and conversational, not stodgy and corporate.

However, simply having a policy can only get you so far. You’ve also got to execute on that policy, which is where the final part of the kernel comes into play.

Taking action

Rumelt states that “coherent actions” must follow from a guiding policy. In other words, the specific actions you take must clearly relate to the policy itself. Anything else would amount to on-the-fly problem solving, not strategizing.

To execute on the social media policy we just defined, you might designate someone on your team to post updates and monitor accounts. You might even hire a community manager or invest in software that enables social media performance monitoring. In every case, your actions will address a specific part of your guiding policy, which, as we demonstrated, came as a direct result of your initial diagnosis. All elements of the strategy connect with one another.

As a leading digital marketing agency, this approach reflects the steps KEO Marketing takes to build an integrated marketing strategy for clients. It’s more than just a formula for creating the strategy itself – it’s a way to ensure the strategy is effective, too.


With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.