Depending on where you sit within an organization has shaped your definition of going digital.
To some, going digital has meant an overhaul of their computing systems -- modernizing how their network of computers are interconnected to a "data center" protected by a secure firewall, and maybe included a centralized database for things like sales tracking, time entry, expense and HR submissions, and/or customer information.
More recently, the cloud, cyber security (hopefully), and/or the discussions of BYOD have been added to the mix.
Often, CIOs, COOs, HR executives and CEOs have these discussions on their radars.
But, going digital also has a different meaning -- one that may just disrupt how an organization has set up its computing system in the past. Going digital relates to future viability of consumer interest in and interaction with an organization's brand and offerings, and that is something marketing and communication experts have been trying to stay on top of as their industries are (also) being redefined by the same technology.
Going digital used to mean converting print brochures to online versions with expanded capabilities (aka more "space" to pack in more information at a lower cost). Then came the social platforms, which created communities of like-minded to share, shape and impact reality.
Now we are in the mobile era meaning business models need to shift from tactical execution of brand-appealing posts and self-serving news and information to creating and nurturing relationships online in ways that are meaningful to customers.
As HBR's recent (May 29, 2017) article points out:
Even the word “digital” now means something different. It used to be synonymous with “IT.” Nowadays, a company’s digital strategy practically drives the roadmap and goals of many departments, from marketing to sales to HR.
This point cannot be emphasized enough. Yet, many of us are still thinking old school, hierarchical decision-making, marketing and managing.
According to the same HBR article:
In our most recent survey, executives say they look to digital initiatives primarily to increase revenue and reduce costs. These are worthy goals, of course, but it also means there’s less priority being placed on innovating and implementing the latest technologies into their products.
Tomorrow is upon us. The race is on which organization is savvy and will be able to spark new levels of growth, and which ones will not. As such, it is essential for executives to speed up their digital investments and transformation initiatives if staying relevant is a goal. In doing so, here are a few initial considerations to keep in mind:
1. Include a senior marketing/PR expert (with a digital experience) in the conversation, if not have them lead an internal AND external needs assessment. Since there are two ways of defining "going digital" both need to be represented at the table as equals to uncover opportunities and help define solutions for challenges that will arise.
2. Have IT and Marketing co-leads define the "what"(it is) being recommended starting with the consumer and working backwards. This obviously builds on #1, but the point worth noting here is the intention of focusing on the desired experience of the mobile device consumer/member and NOT the other way around (or what works internally best based on traditional roles and responsibilities).
3. Be prepared to redefine your organization's operations. Digital redraws the lines and how decisions need to be made. This isn't easy but reality. Think about a lawyer who recommends to the CEO not to respond to a potential issue... 10-20 years ago the lawyer got his way. Today, however, if you take that advice your brand is likely to be publicly scorched and take a costly reputation hit. Just ask the airlines. It's not just crisis responses that need to be instant. ALL out reach needs to be timely, meaningful and serve to add value. Yet, many organizations are still so entrenched in past ways of managing their brands and reputations -- often requiring pre-vetting of content and responses before they "go live" -- which screams outdated to Millennials most of all. Speaking of Millennials, who don't trust traditional ways (of business, government and associations), organizations need to interconnect budgets, agendas, and outcomes between departments unlike ever before. This takes us to point #4...
4. Revamp your understanding of (and annual budgets for) marketing and communications. Digital marketing means integrating Marketing, PR and Public Affairs. These divisions are no longer separate but integrated and build upon each other. Coupled with this reality are things like: Traditional websites are no longer effective for mobile consumption and visually identify an organization as out-of-date. Consumers/members need to be integrated in the process of building new products. Social media isn't mean a place to overtly advertise; and, not every organization should be on Facebook or Instagram. Content needs to be customized and organizations need to provide ongoing value or lose trust.
Like it or not, change -- that "avoid-it-at-all-costs 'C-word'" -- is a part of life.
Yet, most of us do everything we can to avoid it. After all, it is uncomfortable, especially since fear is part of the package.
But the truth of the matter is whether you appreciate change or rank it scarier than the monster under your childhood bed, it (and fear) is what makes life (and business) evolve.
If you've studied successful leaders and profitable entrepreneurs like I have, then you know it's also a study of failure, change and fear -- three constants in the recipe of success. But, as Jen Sincero's quote indicates, feeling fear is not a sign of doing something wrong, but something right.
(A concept is backwards from what we're taught as kids at home, in school and/or how we are rewarded at work.)
Of course change often is accompanied by vagueness, uncertainty, and a dash of chaos, and doesn't guarantee a certain outcome. But, focusing on these aspects of change, quite frankly, is only half of the truth. Change is also accompanied by unexpected gifts, new highs, and growth.
It's up to each one of us which side of the equation we're going to focus on and manifest; moreover, is indicative how we will experience life as a result.
It's not all our faults. Culturally (including those in our work places), we celebrate innovation, yet fall short on supporting the messy process change entails. And without being taught how to embrace the unknown and see what is yet to be created, we start grasping and limiting what's possible.
In our jobs, as more is asked of us or perceived to be taken away, the reaction becomes more about saving one's hide, accumulated perks, and/or perceived position of power than doing what needs to be done to succeed as a whole.
Unfortunately, leaders often incorrectly react to these behaviors by assigning the wrong value to fear -- as an indicator of heading the wrong direction or doing something wrong rather than a sign of stretching and growing.
How we manage uncertainty and change in our personal lives does impact the professional realm and vice versa. After all, we are the ones managing change. Who doesn't want easy, familiar, comfortable in our every day? But the reality of life is easy and staying put = a dead end.
The way through change? Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said:
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face...You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Or, put by C. JoyBell C.:
Don't be afraid of your fears. They're not there to scare you. They're there to let you know that something is worth it.
Next time we are facing change or fear, how might we go about seeing it as an opportunity to evolve, let go of what's no longer working, and/or try a new way of experiencing life/work?
If in a leadership position, how might we give people permission and the liberty to find new opportunities, innovate, and grow at work and personally?
Target recently announced it is changing two of its main brands to appeal to the preferences of Millennials.
So what? (You’re probably thinking.)
This move is more than just about a vendor change. It’s representative of how brands and “doing business” needs to evolve IF organizations (and that includes associations) want Millennials to care.
Gone are the days of “build it and they will come. ” Instead, it’s the era of building what makes sense to the consumer and mapping back to an organization’s mission – even if it means disrupting how marketing, operations and leadership has done it in the past.
It’s the era of customer relationships as a strategic differentiator.
Here is part of what Target announced:
"Our new brands are all about the changing face of our guests -- what they need, what they’re looking for from Target. When we took a close look at our existing assortment with this in mind, we saw a disconnect. We knew we’d need to refresh our offerings--and define new ones—so our guests continue to love what they’re discovering at Target and want to keep coming back, again and again."
This statement is rich with insight with at least two top takeaways:
1. Brands (organizations, associations) must ACTIVELY listen, align with, and take action based on what their customers want.
Certainly, business has always been about managing supply and creating demand. But what’s new in this Millennial and mobile era is the customer truly is a partner in development and marketing process. What they want, how they want “it”, and the way they want to find “it” is how organizations need to realign their assets and how they operate.
And they are a diverse generation so this isn’t as straightforward as one might think. Creating an App, a cool looking website, and/or posting content on social platforms that is based on what an organization thinks is important is the worst thing a brand can do in the digital realm. This type of self-promotion and self-centric content is waste of time and money. It also turns off Millennials and GenZers, who expect the focus to be on their desires. Period.
Doing anything otherwise is the equivalent to putting lipstick on a pig and the fastest way to hurt a brand.
This shift sounds subtle and easy to implement via marketing and advertising. But, it requires so much more than that. Just look at what Target is doing:
Successful implementation requires a level of disruption, or innovation, within Target Corporate, but this move of many shows the executives behind the brand understand that doing what has always been done won’t work in the future.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Millennials MUST see themselves in the brand and know they and their values are core to the businesses they support, and not the other way around.
Target’s announcement reinforces this:
“But it’s not just about creating a great product assortment—it’s how we bring the brand to life for our guests in stores, digitally and in our marketing, so that at every touchpoint, our guests understand that this brand’s not just new—it’s created especially for them.”
This leads us to our second takeaway…
2. Answers how best to leverage mobile technologies, social media and Millennials/GenZers are ever-present and easy to find if building an ongoing, active relationship with them is a priority.
By listening and engaging constantly, not just once a year or whenever a research study can be funded, both critical insights are uncovered and trust is built.
These days, CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities are commonly integrated into social media tools and as part of bigger database tools, such as Salesforce. As a result, there's no reason the pulse of consumer preferences and opinions is costly to obtain. With the digital nature of these tools and desire of younger generations interest to be an influencer with their social networks, there is significant opportunity to integrate them strategically into the traditional R&D process.
As a result, targeting Millennials and GenZers requires a new mentality, responsiveness, internal alignment of resources and decision-making process, as well as expanding the type of skills on marketing/communication teams. It also demands MarCom being a strategic asset with a strong voice at the executive roundtable, if not already.
Unfortunately, many organizations try to cut corners in ways that diminish their full potential. For example, many organizations assume being on every social platform (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn) is a good approach. It's not and communicates a lack of sophistication to our youngest generations.
network of people will self-populate and run itself if they build a design-savvy “community center” and offering online. Not so.
Others will go so far as to invest in game-like features and cool incentives (e.g., lunch with a celebrity or discounts to popular stores), but stop short of investing in the needed community managers and content developers that will keep an active ear to the ground and keep the relationship(s) going. You know, that “front-line” feedback where real-time innovation is possible that also builds loyalty and trust with these younger generations.
Sure, we all have to draw the financial line somewhere, as most of us don’t have the budgets Target has at its dispense. But, Target didn’t start out that way. We all have to start somewhere and if going digital (mobile, App, social media) or going after the younger generations is a priority, then it is imperative to do it right… or not at all.
Mobile and digital are no longer tactics and additional communication channels to spread the word about all the great things an organization or brand is doing. Not to Millennials anyway. This is their entire social connect point so brands that speak AT them, advertise and are angling for a transaction will be shut out.
Brands, however, that listen, adapt, offer, and grow as a result of building a relationship with Millennials and GenZers will find the key to opening the floodgates.
Of course, the type of innovation this requires within an organization is nothing at which to sneeze. Yet, “going digital” means new levels of value add, authenticity, transparency and engagement so that the customer is knows their interests are at the heart of a brand they support. Only then will mobile and social efforts flourish to the degree possible.
This is the Gokotta Group's blog.
It is the place for us to make note of changing times, new ways of thinking, and provide examples of how greater impact is being created. It's also a spot we can focus on people. And, occasionally, showcase the type of projects the Gokotta team supports (see "Case Studies" below).