What is a digital strategist?

Broadly speaking, this a person who creates the digital marketing plan for a company or brand.

The plan would typically consist of channel planning (social, PPC, advertising, PR etc), budgetary allocation, objectives and KPIs, resource & asset management (creative & production), audience management and analysis.

A digital strategist isn’t necessarily the same person that executes a campaign. For example, they may create a plan which includes SEO, but a dedicated SEO agency may execute part of the campaign and a PR agency may be used for securing high quality media links.

The strategist may manage several individuals, or teams, that all work collectively towards the same project or plan.

Unlike individual department managers, such as a social media manager, strategists can drive synergies and create cross-channel marketing benefits. For example, a PPC campaign that attracts 1,000 website visitors per month – but no sales – may appear to be unsuccessful however, if, via social media, that same audience is targeted successfully, then the PPC campaign may well become a profitable endeavour.

If those people who originally converted from social media, are then able to produce further sales via an email referral program then the PPC campaign becomes more profitable still. What if those customers then became repeat customers? Or lifelong customers?

How strategists use data

A digital strategist uses data across multiple channels, and timelines, to ascertain profitability rather than measuring just the direct results. It’s for this reason that strategists have become more prominent in marketing over the last decade as data driven marketing has overtaken print & TV.

In fact, it’s understanding the overwhelming amount of data available that is one of the core skills that anyone in marketing should possess. Here are a few key terms you should know.

CPL = Cost Per Lead. The marketing cost to generate a lead
CPC = Cost Per Conversion. The marketing cost to generate a sale / conversion
CLV = Customer Lifetime Value. How much value that customer will be worth in total.

Understanding these numbers are critical to marketing and not only help drive profitability, but cashflow forecasting as well.

This free downloadable excel spreadsheet, available from I Am Strategist, helps businesses understand which channel offers the best CPL and CPC.

Consider a sales process where:

Cost per lead = $1
Cost per conversion = $10
Average conversion value = $9

This campaign is not immediately profitable. Possible direct remedies include reducing the cost per lead, improving the conversion rate (thus reducing the cost per conversion), increasing the average conversion value or some combination of all of these.

Now consider CLV = $250. How does that change things? Suddenly, making a loss on the initial transaction doesn’t appear to be such a negative because overall, the campaign is very profitable.

Learn from the best

The banks understand CLV more than most. They promote both customer loyalty and ‘stickiness’ in an effort to drive CLV. This is one of the mechanisms behind interest free credit cards. A bank is willing to buy debt, and not charge any interest for a fixed term, in the hope they create enough ‘stickiness’ and make profit long term. The initial transaction is very negative. The CLF more than compensates for the loss leader campaign.


One of the benefits of working with a strategist is that they can understand your goals, short and long term, and create campaigns that hopefully meet those goals. Marketing for short term profit is very different to building a loyal customer base with a high CLV.

An effective overall marketing plan will consider business goals, cashflow needs, budgets, resources available, the various marketing and distribution channels, branding and, of course, all the data available. It’s a complex puzzle which is somewhat ‘open to interpretation’ but having a logical plan derived from data and analysis is a far better bet than shooting from the hip and taking an ad-hoc approach to marketing.

StarterPad Staff

One of the lovely StarterPad staff members has toiled away into the wee hours of the night to write this amazing piece of literature :)