In today’s high-tech, online world, your digital presence can make or break your business. Things are changing so quickly, that staying relevant is all many of us can hope for, never mind getting ahead.

Yet there is hope. If you plan well, pay attention to the right things, and make yourself adaptable, then you’ll be well on your way to crafting a digital presence that not only keeps you up-to-date, but that also can help you develop an edge over your competitors.

Here are some of the most important things to remember to help you get your digital strategy right from day one.

Know Your Audience

To build a great digital strategy from day one, you need to determine the best ways to connect with your target audience. And the starting point for this is always research. Begin by nailing down the demographics of your target market, such as age, sex, location, etc., as all of this is helpful. But you’ll want to go beyond this and work to understand the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of the people you’re targeting.

Surveys and focus groups are great ways to learn this information, but they can be expensive and difficult to do correctly. Yet you can gain valuable insight about your target market through some abstract brainstorming. Specifically, consider doing one of the following two exercises:

Customer Journey

Every customer goes on a journey when they make a purchase. They start by being interested in a product or service, and then they slowly become more informed and motivated. This continues until they decide to make a purchase. For you, it’s important to understand every step of this journey.

Ask yourself questions such as: How do my customers begin their research? Do they use social media? Search engines? Review sites?

Then try to find out what it is they’re looking for. For example, many people use social media to learn about products, but they prefer blogs to learn about the specific features of each option. If you’re pitching specifics on Facebook, then you’re going to be off message and your efforts will have less success. The point of this exercise is to make sure the messages people receive from you match their expectations for that medium and for that point in their journey. For more information on how to do this exercise, check out this resource.

Ideal Customer

The “Ideal Customer” activity is useful for helping you figure out some of the values, beliefs and opinions of your target audiences. To do this activity, start by creating fictitious audience members, describing their lives in as much detail as possible.

Work to identify pain and pleasure points, and then come up with some reasons as to why these events trigger these emotions. For example, if you find that your ideal customer is constantly late, and that this is something that frustrates them, then it’s a good bet that he or she will value information and products that help them save time.

By conceptualizing your ideal customer, you’re going beyond just simple demographics. While these are important, they don’t tell the whole story. For your digital presence to be effective, you need to produce content that resonates with people on an emotional level, and you do this by “walking in their shoes for a while.”

Use the Right Channels

Once you have a solid understanding of who you’re communicating with and what you want to communicate, you need to figure out the best way to do it. One of the big challenges in establishing a digital presence is using all the tools available to you as effectively as possible. There are countless social media platforms and blogs, but not everything is the same. Exposure on one might not mean the same as exposure on another.

For example, your Facebook page is going to be good for building engagement and increasing exposure.  But your blog will be better for building trust, loyalty and authority with your customers and target audiences. Both can be good for generating new leads and driving sales, but this is not a guarantee.

During the research phase of your digital campaign, make sure you learn about the ways in which your target market gets information. If the people you’re going after don’t use Facebook for purchasing decisions, and you are hoping to drive sales, then you’re going to want to design a strategy that doesn’t try to use Facebook as a way of generating new leads. Maybe you can instead use it to build your brand and interact with customers. Overall, the key to this aspect of the plan is making sure what you’re doing aligns with the expectations of those you’re trying to reach.

Set Up Some Rules

Once you’ve figured out what your objectives are and what your customers want, then it’s time to start outlining what your digital presence is going to look like.

Start by setting up style guides and brand guidelines. These are so important because consistency is critical in determining the success of your digital presence. You must conveying a coherent image to your customers at all touchpoints.

Brand guidelines outline the types of content you will and won’t curate for each medium. You’ll likely end up outsourcing a lot of your content, or at least delegating its creation, so it’s important you take steps to make sure what does get created is sending the right messages to your customers.

However, brand guidelines are useful for more than just determining the types of content you’ll produce. Design plays a key role in shaping your digital presence. It’s the first impression you give to people, and it’s therefore critical you get it right. Guidelines will outline the colors—which have a surprising effect on the people’s initial perceptions of a brand—fonts, images, etc. that are suitable for each type of content so that each piece that reaches your audience is set up to achieve its goal.

Make Sure Everyone’s on Board Before Going Public

Every single employee needs to be treated like a brand ambassador. Whenever they communicate digitally, they are representing your company and what it stands for. As a result, it’s important everyone be aware of what’s expected from them.

Brand guidelines are useful for this, but you’ll need to go a step further. Consider running some training and informational sessions to roll out your strategy and give people the chance to ask questions. You may want to work with an agency or HR consultants to help you devise an onboarding procedure that starts people off thinking about the company’s digital presence and how they can affect it. It might also be a good idea to set up an approval process so that you can to make sure all content is on-message before it goes out.

Have a Plan and Stick to It

The key to getting your digital presence right starting from Day One is to have a plan and stick with it. Do your research, take your time mapping out your strategy and then execute it with all you’ve got. Your digital presence will be a major contributor to the success of your company, and even more so if you get it right from Day One.