Do you have some digital ideas to improve your business? Having a digital strategy to shape these ideas can help reach your goals.

In this lesson, we’ll help you prepare your digital strategy. We’ve included plenty of activities to help you build your own strategy as you go. So, whether you’re running a business or a single project, you’ll be able to deliver digital strategies that are tied into your goals.


  • Understand how a digital strategy can add value to your business
  • Fit your digital strategy to your overall business goals
  • Find good digital solutions for your business
  • Write and share your digital strategy

Read time:

18 mins

Chapter 1

Why have a digital strategy?

Read time:

1 min

Why use digital?

What do you want to achieve by going digital? Do you want to attract more customers? Maybe you want to improve your delivery process. You might even want digital tools to help your team work better together. Whatever your reason, there can be benefits to using digital.


How businesses have benefitted from using digital

The Royal Victoria Hotel

used digital marketing to drive £10k of new business

Superfast Business Wales Opens in a new tab

Candy Coated Accessories

launched an online shop to reach new customers, boosting direct-to-customer sales by 30%

Business Gateway Opens in aa new tab

Why put your digital ideas in a strategy?

It’s tempting to go ahead and start using digital tools straight away. But if you have a strategy document, it will help shape and test your approach.


Building a digital strategy can help you:

  • Avoid making poor decisions about which tools you’ll use
  • Focus on the impact on your customer and business
  • Increase the chance of driving impact
  • Share your objectives with your stakeholders and team


How your digital strategy supports your business goals

Your strategy should show how digital can help your business achieve its purpose. So keep your main business goals and strategy in mind, as you go through this process.

Working together

It’s good to work with others as you create your digital strategy. They can help brainstorm ideas, research digital tools and test solutions. This lesson will help you prepare for the steps you’ll take with your team when you’re ready.

Chapter 2

What to include

Read time:

1 min

The ultimate outcome

As you build your strategy, keep in mind what you want to achieve. What is your ultimate outcome? Your strategy should help you achieve this outcome through digital.


We use the term ‘digital solution’ in this lesson. You can take this to mean any digital product, service or idea that can help you achieve your goals.

The different stages of building your strategy

There are many ways to create and structure a digital strategy. In this lesson, we’ll describe a 5-stage approach. You can and should consider what works best for you once these essential building blocks are in place.


These five digital strategy stages are:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Decide where digital can help
  3. Do your research
  4. Create a high-level plan
  5. Share your thoughts


Over the next few chapters, we’ll guide you through each of these stages.

Chapter 3

Define your goals

Read time:

1 min

List your key challenges or goals

Look at your business goals. Rephrase them as either problems you would like your business to solve or goals. This can help highlight the areas where digital support might help.


How do I do this?

  • Start by looking at the overall vision and mission statement of your business. Your vision is your long-term goal. For example - 'To be the UK's number one provider of garden furniture'. Your mission shows what you do. So, it might be 'To provide accessible garden furniture that caters to all customer needs.'

    Once you have these, you can now write a set of SMART objectives. Each one should help the overall aim of your business.

  • For each objective, shape them into a goal or a problem statement. These will form the focus areas of your digital strategy.


Don’t worry if you find this difficult at first. You can always come back and refine it later.

Chapter 4

Decide where digital can help

Read time:

1 min

Review your objectives

Now you’ve expressed your objectives as problems or goals, it’s time to look at each one in turn. Ask yourself: could a digital solution help us with this?

Note that you may solve some of your problems without digital input. You may also be able to reach some goals through non-digital approaches. Focus for now on the problems and goals that you think would benefit from digital input. There may be some problems or goals you are not sure about. You can return to these once you start your research.


State the role digital will play

You should now have a list of the goals or problems where you think digital input could help.

Taking each item on this list in turn, ask: what exactly do I want a digital solution to do here?


For example:

Attract 20% more customers within 1 year.

Using social media or digital channels might help the business attract a wider audience for less. Digital can enable you to reach national and international audiences without the costs of physical locations.

Chapter 5

Do your research

Read time:

8 mins

Research can help find the right tools

You’ve worked out the problems or goals that digital input might help. Now it’s time to find the right digital tools to help.

When you’re researching digital products, focus on what their role would be. It’s easy to find a particular product that excels at what it does. But you need to ask: will it help solve the problems you have identified? Will it help us achieve our specific goals?

In this chapter, we’ll look at research ideas. You'll see how to take a deeper look at the products you're considering.


Researching ideas

Knowing where to start your research can be hard. Part of the process is finding out what’s available. We’ve given you a few research ideas here to get you started.


Select the headings to learn more.

  • Type your problem statements or goals into a search engine. You may find lots of new ideas and products.

    This is a good way of starting to find solutions you haven't even heard of yet.

  • Look at your competitors, and other businesses like yours. Check out their websites and social media pages. What do they do that could also work for you? What do they do that you really don't like?

    Now widen your search to other organisations. Which ones do what you want to do really well? Research their use of technology.

  • If you're running out of ideas, or think you'd benefit from some advice? Check out these sites.

    • The small business website has guides and tips on digital solutions for UK small businesses
    • The expert volunteers at Digital Boost aim to help small businesses through free one-to-one and group sessions, plus other resources
    • In Scotland, Business Gateway's programme (also known as Digital Boost) offers free webinars, one-to-one support and online advice
    • And Superfast Business Wales helps Welsh businesses with free one-to-one digital advice sessions

Check your time

It’s easy to spend lots of time on this, so set yourself a time limit for your research. Work with others so you take in several perspectives.

Understanding the products you research

It’s time to include some information on ‘how’ you’d go about putting your solution into place.

At this stage, the ‘how’ is high level. You’ll be looking at estimated costs, benefits and other relevant information. This will help with the next stage: prioritisation.

For example, you might want to use a certain system because it's good for your audience and makes your business really stand out. So you look more closely at the details. If you find out that the cost is too great, you might then prioritise a different idea or goal.

So, let’s take a look at estimating costs now.


What are the costs?

Let’s take a look at the costs in three main categories.



Other costs


Who is going to do the work? Do you need to hire new people, train them or contract them?

Plan the work in terms of roles and skill levels rather than specific people. Estimate how much time you’ll need from each role and use this to estimate the cost.


Things to consider:

  • Add in how much will it cost to develop, launch, test and manage
  • Add in how much time it will take
  • Think about day-to-day running costs from a people perspective
  • If there are special skills needed, add 10% to salaries or use a contractor
  • Don't forget recruitment costs and agency fees, and employer costs (NI, pension, etc.)
  • Add in some management time to your budget for bigger teams

Top tip

You can search for similar roles and salaries on the web


Do you need to buy any tools to use or create the solution? This could be software (such as web design or planning tools) or hardware (like data storage or mobile devices).

Make a note of any specific products or ideas you have in mind. When you’re looking at products, make the most of the seller’s expertise.


Things to consider:

  • Don't agree to anything long term until you are sure. Try before you buy or get the minimum number of licences for the team
  • Always ask for discounts or see if you can get free trials
  • If it's a complex system, finding the right tool can be a project in itself


Other costs

We’ve looked at people and tools - the main things to estimate the costs of. There are a few other things you might want to think about when estimating how much money you’ll need


What you might need to include:

  • Work out how much you need to spend upfront and any regular costs
  • Bear in mind PR or advertising costs
  • If you are storing customer details, do you need legal help?
  • Think about adding 10% to your budget as a buffer


What are the benefits

Once you’ve created some basic cost estimates, it’s time to look at the benefits of your solutions. You will then be able to compare the cost with the benefits and start prioritising.


Benefits for your users

What do we mean by users here? They are the people who will be using the digital solutions you’re proposing in this strategy. This might be your team, partners or customers. Whatever they do now, going digital will mean doing things differently, so let's get to know them a bit better.



There are lots of ways to describe your users. We’re going to look at using 'personas'. A persona is a fictional character you create. It represents a group of people who will use your digital solution.

Creating personas will help you focus your strategy on the kind of people it's most likely to affect.


Personas can help you:

Pick the digital platforms that are right for them

Decide when and where to share your ideas online

Work out how to help people like them get the best out of your digital solution

Focus on what is important to them, removing things that might get in the way

Persona types include:

  • Customers - People who might buy the products or use the services you offer
  • Partners - Those who work with you regularly
  • Members of your team - People who are going to use the new digital solution


Building your personas

Your personas can include information on:

Who they are

For example: Name, age, location. What their role is, in life and in relation to your business?

Everyday activities

Family, work, hobbies and interests. What they enjoy, and what they don’t.

Their digital choices

How (or if) they use technology. What devices, sites and apps they use.


Create three to five well-rounded persona profiles to represent your main user groups. Put yourself in their shoes and try to create personas that could be real people.

If you already have personas, you can take this as a chance to check they are up to date.

Benefits for your business operations

What benefits will your ideas bring on a day-to-day basis? Here, we’d like you to think about the routine tasks and activities that take place in your business.


Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Generating income – For example, setting up an online shop
  • Time-saving – Like using a platform that speeds up your supply chain processes
  • Improving productivity – Such as a set of collaboration tools to help your team
  • Expanding your audience – Through things like promoting your goods through social media or a website


It’s a good idea to jot down your thoughts about these benefits for your business. Note how you might measure these. It could be in terms of profits made, time saved or customers added.

These notes will help you prioritise, which we talk about in the next chapter.


Measuring impact

Measuring impact can show how you’re working towards your target. It also helps you see what isn't working. So you can stop doing it or do it another way.


For example

Take the example of a business looking at solutions to help them gain more clients.

They might think Instagram might help, but the data they measure may show they are reaching the wrong audience. Their persona profiles may then lead them to think that Facebook would do this better.

Chapter 6

Rank your ideas

Read time:

2 mins

Focusing on what’s important

Once you’ve researched potential solutions, you need to decide how to prioritise them.

When you prioritise, you’re working out how important each option is, compared to the others. The aim is to work out which ones you want to use. You’ll also get a feel for the ones you want to start first.

In this chapter, we’ll look at two methods you can use to help you prioritise.


Using a Pros and Cons list

If you want a quick and easy way to prioritise, try this. First, write the idea at the top of a two-column grid. Name one column ‘pros’ and the other ‘cons’. Then, list all the benefits of the idea in the pros column, and all the disadvantages in the cons column.

Think about everything you found in your earlier research, like costs and impact on end users.


Using SWOT analysis

The term SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Here, instead of two columns, you draw a 2 x 2 grid. Use the top-left square to list the strengths might come from the idea. In the top-right one, list any weaknesses you’ve noted. The bottom-left square is for opportunities that this idea could bring. And in the bottom-right one, list any potential threats – what factors might cause issues for your business.

You need to consider that SWOT analysis is more complex than a basic list of pros and cons.


Which method to use?

You might decide to use one or both of these methods. They each have their benefits. Pros and cons lists are quick and easy to make, and can be helpful for small, low-cost or low-risk projects. SWOT analysis means viewing different aspects of your solutions. It can highlight gaps in your research and give you a deeper understanding of the solutions.

Chapter 7

Create a high-level plan

Read time:

1 min

Project plans

Your digital strategy should so far have shown you what digital solutions you might want to put in place. Plus, why you want to put them in place. It won’t have shown you much of the ‘how’.

Once your strategy has been agreed, it’s worth bearing in mind that the next thing you’ll create is a more detailed project plan.

A plan explains in detail how you’ll carry out the strategy.


A plan includes:

  • What the team need to do – A full list of activities and tasks
  • Timescales – A detailed schedule that lists all fixed deadlines, and check points and dependencies
  • How the team will manage it – Who will look after the parts of your plan


Project planning tools

Though there are lots of project planning tools around, you can even start with a simple spreadsheet.

Chapter 8

Share your thoughts

Read time:

2 mins

Think about your audience

You’ve put together your strategy and plan. It’s now time to share them. Before you do, take a moment to think who will be reading it.

Are you writing a paper for the CEO and Board? Inspiring a new team? If your business is new and it’s just you, you might even be writing a plan for yourself. It could also be all of these.

Once you understand who you’re writing for, you’ll know how to communicate in a way that suits them.



‘Stakeholders’ means anyone who has a stake, or a special interest, in what you’re proposing. Give them time to read your strategy. They’ll also want the chance to discuss it with you.

When you write your strategy, there should always be a call to action. This could be funding, sign-off or a commitment to be part of implementing the new solutions. Bear this in mind, as it will help you communicate your strategy in a way that makes the document’s purpose clear.


Tips for winning over your stakeholders

  • Send out your strategy before your meeting, so everyone has a chance to read it first
  • Make it clear what you’d like to happen next and when
  • Leave plenty of time for questions
  • If you have asks, state clearly when you need them delivered by


An example

Imagine a business trying to put in place a customer relationship management system (CRM)

The business might share their strategy with their stakeholders and have a Q&A session with their team.

Their team sessions may result in several offers to help. Team members who express an interest in the CRM system could sign up as ‘CRM Champions’. They would then receive training, test the system and shape the process for its use.

Chapter 9

Summary and further resources

Read time:

1 min

Let’s recap

In this course, we’ve shown you what a digital strategy is, and how it can help your business.


Remember the five stages:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Decide where digital can help
  3. Do your research
  4. Create a high-level plan
  5. Share your thoughts


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 10th February 2023.