For marketers who’ve mostly worked in the traditional pre-digital realm, digital marketing may seem fundamentally similar. That’s true in many ways; human desires and priorities haven’t changed all that much. But one way in which digital marketing stands out is the need for flexibility.

Marketers now have direct access to tools and other resources that help them see exactly how their audiences respond to campaigns. But, combine those with the ever-changing nature of digital media and a shifting online-trend landscape. Developing a marketing strategy is no longer a matter of simply deciding the best way of doing something, executing it and leaving it at that.

When it comes to digital media, flexibility means staying on your toes and being willing to respond to new information as it arises. This could mean anything from creating an on-the-fly response to a relevant viral trend to ending an influencer partnership due to scandal. In order to create a truly flexible digital strategy, you need to incorporate adaptability into the structure of your campaign.

Creating and Testing a Hypothesis

Building flexibility and adaptability into the architecture of your marketing campaigns means avoiding making too-specific and extremely concrete plans from the very beginning. What this means, basically, is that you shouldn’t make assumptions about what will work.

If you use the right tools for digital marketing, you won’t need to rely on guesswork. The right tools give you specific data that allow you to change your response in real time. You can develop a hypothesis during your early strategy sessions, sure — you’ve got to start somewhere, after all. But make sure your strategy includes plans for testing that hypothesis.

For example, let’s say that you’re trying to market a beauty brand to women in their 20s and 30s, primarily in urban markets. Your early planning sessions might include some hypotheses about the design, language, platforms and influencers that might be the best matches for your campaign goals. You’ll move forward with your plans based on that hypothesis, creating and posting content as planned.

Instead of just leaving it at that, though, you’ll want to gather data to see who’s actually responding to your campaign. This goes beyond just monitoring sales. What are your data-analysis tools telling you about who’s responding to your campaign? If you aren’t seeing the results you anticipated or getting responses from the people you planned to reach, go back to the drawing board.

This process of hypothesizing and testing can vary widely depending on your brand, industry and goals. It’s also important to remember that true flexibility is ongoing. It could be that your campaign strategy works great at first, then tapers off or plateaus. You’ll need to keep monitoring and responding to the numbers you see in order to maintain or increase your success rate.

Flexibility on the Fly

Not all flexible digital marketing strategy elements work on such a high level. Some parts of beneficial flexibility are more spontaneous. Responding to trends on social media, such as trending hashtags or viral memes, can also be part of flexibility.

This means that you’ll want to stay on top of your social media accounts and be prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. That’s not to say your brand should hop on every content-trend bandwagon that rolls around. But being able to identify which trends are relevant to your brand can really help you leverage the audience impact you have on social media.

Staying aware of what’s going on in the social media landscape can also help your brand respond swiftly to potential bad press. Say a customer complains about your brand. You want to be able to respond to that in a way that’s empathetic and authentic rather than giving a canned response.

Training your staff to give appropriately personal responses to public complaints is another facet of flexibility that often goes ignored. Proper flexibility in these situations allows you to get ahead of stores that can showcase your brand in a bad light. If people get enough steam complaining about a common issue on social media, things can get out of hand quickly. You generally want to respond to or originate hashtags, not inspire them.

Doing Flexible Digital Marketing Strategy Right

When you approach flexibility from the right angle, your strategy becomes adaptable and ready to respond to any eventuality. No one gets too hung up on the details of what they want to see; instead they emphasize what actually works. If your initial idea for what might work ends up not being effective, that’s OK. It’s how you respond to that disappointing rollout that really matters.

But it’s also important to avoid flexibility for its own sake. Don’t make changes where they aren’t warranted. If everything’s working smoothly and you’re hitting your KPIs right out of the gate, you don’t need to make changes. Flexibility means responding to the data, and sometimes data prove that your initial hypothesis was correct.