Aug 27, 2015
Highly caffeinated on a Friday afternoon, Brian and I convened on Blab to catch up and discuss digital culture and transformation. In the spirit of embracing change we have completely migrated both SMACTalk and our #CloudTalk chat from Google Hangouts on Air over to Blab because of its ease of use and versatility.
SMACTalk is all about social, mobile, analytics and cloud and these topics remain top of mind for most businesses today.
Digital Transformation is a Top Priority
The C-Suite is paying close attention to the issue of digital transformation. Companies are literally disappearing due to failure to adapt to new standards and technology. It’s important that we discuss now how we survive and thrive as businesses in the digital era.
In 2008 John Antioco, CEO of the now defunct Blockbuster Video, insinuated that Netflix wasn’t even on their radar as a threat. Just six years later in 2014, Blockbuster closed its last store because it missed a critical pivot for their business. Netflix spent its early days saving on overhead by not having brick and mortar costs and ignoring the rivalry with Blockbuster in order to focus on developing their infrastructure. Their tactics proved successful.
Brian points out that a lot of brick and mortar businesses make the mistake of considering themselves not to be digital businesses. The bottom line is that all customers are living and buying in a digital world today. So digital strategy is critical for every business whether there’s a three dimensional storefront or not.
Digital Strategy is Key
It’s not enough just to embrace or to “be” digital. Businesses have to be strategic about their initiatives and what digital can do to help their bottom line.
Brian likes to say “The future of business is community.” And I say that not only is this so, but businesses need strategy in order to find and nurture advocates, reach customers and influence decisions.
As an example, Brian and I recorded this podcast using Blab but we also take pains to ensure people know how to find our website, our social profiles, our podcast elsewhere and so on. This helps us reach more people and further our business objectives. It’s strategic, not accidental.
Brian mentions running into Krista Kotrla at a recent event in Dallas. They discussed content strategy and she said that she creates content based on questions she receives from her community. This may sound elementary but it’s strategic and good for business.
If You Skip Digital, You Miss Opportunities
Again, even for brick and mortar businesses, the digital space is full of opportunities. Social listening, advertising, customer service, talent acquisition… the list of ways to leverage digital for any business is virtually endless. Any business in any vertical can use digital methods to attract and retain both internal and external advocates.
What if your business would like to have employees work remotely? There’s no way you can take advantage of the overhead savings for your business or offer this perk to your employees if you’re not using cloud technology and embracing digital capabilities.
I’m taking it one step further than community and saying, “Experience is the future of business.” I think community is one part of that but an individual’s experience with a brand is multifaceted. As customers we can preview products and services right from our mobile devices. We don’t even have to go into a store or a showroom. We can also connect with a company via their social profiles. We can ask questions, provide feedback and so on.
Small companies in particular are well positioned to leverage the digital space by adopting omnichannel practices. They can guide the buyer’s journey from beginning to end and back again. But they must be careful to see their efforts through and enforce that customer experience and relationship at every turn.
Go For The First Down, Not The Touchdown
Achieving success using digital as a vessel is about strategy and relentless execution. Brian says, “Rather than going for the first down… we go for the touchdown …we go for the hail Mary every single time. And then we can’t figure out why we can’t embrace change.” We need to understand what digital means and implement it where it makes sense. We need to know not just what’s available but what makes sense for our business initiatives.
When it comes to leveraging digital, it’s a must for every business and it’s about building blocks, not just one thing. If you have just a website, Brian says, you’re not digital. Everyone has a website these days so that’s just not going to get you or your business where you need to be. Businesses need to listen to their customers. Data from digital and social channels is an essential component for business strategy. You have to listen and be ready to make changes based on feedback. This takes a lot of time and effort but it will separate the successes from the failures.
“You walked into a car dealership and by the time you actually closed that sale, you (the customer) knew everything. You know what you wanted to pay, you knew the color, you knew the interest rate… That data is all right there and available to you,” I point out. Digital transformation is about stitching all of this together. Mobility can’t happen and cloud doesn’t work until everything is tied together. You can foster transformation in departments but there has to be an overarching strategy in order to make the business work and succeed. Digital transformation in silos will fail.
Making small changes and working together across functions and departments is what drives large scale change and success for business. We can’t keep up with digital change if we do it wrong. While speed is important, strategy can’t be sacrificed.
Brand loyalty is entrenched in experience. Businesses need to create top notch experiences and build strong communities as a formula for building long term relationships.