Before you row harder, check you are rowing in the right direction

Before you row harder, check you are rowing in the right direction

Digital Marketing Strategy: An integrated approach to online marketing by Simon Kingsnorth

Reviewed by Sarah Alder, Digital Marketing Consultant,

Recommended read for marketers wanting to take their digital marketing practice to a more strategic level. If you are running your own business and want to get to grips with the myths and facts of digital marketing this would be a great start.

Currently core text for the CIM Digital Marketing module.

Published by Kogan Page, £26.99 also available for Kindle £21.59.

I think what got me hooked on this book was Simon Kingsnorth highly intelligent decision not to agonise about a definition of “strategy”*. Instead, in the Introduction, he poses the questions “Can you sum up in one sentence what will be trying to achieve over the coming years? If not, then you don’t have a strategy.” We can all relate to that and it puts us in an action-oriented, slightly alarmed frame of mind, making us perfectly poised to read on and find out how to get ourselves sorted out. Very clever!

It’s definitely worth reading on. This is a good book for experienced digital marketers who want to see how everything fits together or for those who want to feel more confident in creating plans and strategies and selling them in to their clients or colleagues.

Do we need another digital strategy book?

There are lots of books about digital strategy (a quick peek at Amazon listed 4,482 books!) so any author needs a good reason for adding to that. Simon Kingsnorth has come at this from a very contemporary, very practical angle. His background is as a consultant and marketer working in a lot of different roles across many environments. The book clearly comes from points he has made to clients and senior management many times over the years, to get them to pay as much attention to digital as they do to other aspects of their business, not to marginalise it.

His isn’t the first book to proclaim the value of digital marketing, the importance of it. What it doesn’t do – at all – is bemoan the folly of senior management, clients, fellow marketers in not grasping that. It’s a completely positive book, focused on the reader not on the author.

Key plus points

Here’s a few points that really hit home with me:

His main thrust is that digital is not so different. Just as marketing needs to be totally aligned to business goals, so does digital. He makes a good case for that. Blending that idea into a book that looks at specific channels too is a neat trick. There’s just enough detail on, for instance, search marketing or display advertising to inform but not enough to distract the reader.

I’d say he’s a big advocate of planning and has probably heard lots of excuses for why planning isn’t appropriate or important. He sets out in parallel two approaches for planning, one for vision-based planning (all about long term goals) and the other for real-time planning (focusing on what needs to be done short term). This presentation shows the similarity, reinforces the importance of both and gently makes it clear that now is always the time to create a plan or strategy, there are no justifications for delay.

Towards the middle of the book Kingsnorth addresses some of the current themes of digital marketing: User Experience, CRM and Retention, Personalisation and Customer Service. These chapters explain briefly what these tools are and bring them together with the art of strategy development. By setting the importance of tactics such as SEO and social media alongside a strategic approach these chapters root strategy firmly in the practical rather than the cerebral.

The section on User Experience is particularly helpful. As he points out User Experience (UX) is a relatively new discipline and its proponents have come from psychology, creative and development backgrounds. Each brings something of value to the discipline but the variety of approaches can bring some conflict and confusion too. He shows the value each adds:

  • UX Designers tell us why something should be a particular way
  • Creatives tell us what needs to be there to deliver that
  • Developers know how that will work.

As UX morphs into CX (Customer Experience) this area will become more mainstream and including it here will help a lot of marketers and entrepreneurs see the value of it.


Range of topics

The range of topics covered in this reasonably short (320pp) book is broad and well-selected. As well as the sections mentioned above he covers SEO, paid search, display and social media plus a chapter on Content Strategy. The Analytics and Reporting chapter is very thorough and there’s a particularly good explanation of attribution.

To keep digital marketing and marketing aligned, he has a chapter early on in the book showing how some key marketing models work when applied to digital scenarios. This is very well done and helps to enforce the point he makes about digital being part of marketing, marketing needing to align with business goals.


A strong finish

The best strategy in the world is no use to you if you can’t get buy-in from colleagues, management or investors. Simon Kingsnorth approaches this problem in two ways. Near the beginning of the book he has a chapter on Barriers and Considerations, looking at how to anticipate and overcome problems and objections. He returns to this in the final chapter, Presenting your Strategy, where he provides a useful framework for formulating a presentation (the 6Ss) and again looks at how to identify and avoid potential pitfalls.

This is a great book for marketers but I think this focus on selling in a strategy also makes it very useful for entrepreneurs or those in smaller organisations.



It is very simple, maybe a touch simplistic in places. Like a lot of business books now it uses a formula for structuring chapters, lots of pull outs and bullet points summaries. Nothing wrong with these (indeed it helps the busy reader) but it can make it seem over-simplified at times.   I also found the sections on the history of digital marketing and some of the individual topics a bit pointless. It’s not that I knew all the information in there, clearly Simon is very knowledgeable, I just didn’t feel it helped me write a better strategy.



Kenichi Ohmae, who brought Japanese business thinking with its idea of “long-term planning horizons” to the west said “Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.”. This book will really help marketers and business people to get their boat heading in the right direction, before they invest their own and other people’s effort and resources.


I hope that helps you, good luck with your studies. Let me know if you have any other suggestions, you can find me on LinkedIn including in the group The Marketers’ Forum Members Group. Or maybe I will see you in one of my classes. You can find out more about studying CIM qualifications with The Marketers’ Forum at


*If you do want a definition of strategy, read Richard Rumelt’s fabulous book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy or watch his presentation on that topic to LSE, on YouTube. He has the answer.




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About the Author

Morag Foudy

Morag Foudy

Morag, who has worked for TMF in a number of roles since 2004, is our Head of Professional Courses. Her focus is on new product development, such as the course design for the new CIM qualifications, as well as communications for all our different audiences.

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