I’m currently researching the impact of digital technology on the relationships of businesses with brands- this is for SMU’s future ready forum. In particular I’ll bring together digital disruption and strategic thinking.
One of the key challenges i see affecting business facing an untelenting digital onslaught is the simple pressure from inside and out to ACT; pressure to do things, something, anything, to become more digital. This tacticization of thinking is a fundamental problem in a complex and changing world.
I have repeatedly seen this focus on action and tactics in the research of B2B companies dealing with the growth of digital engagement and the tsunami of social media. An immediate response is demanded and so a social media platform is created and posting initiated. There is nothing worse for promotion prospects than being thought an analog manager in a digital world.
Here are some of the “BEST” digital engagement examples I found on the web… these were called “BEST” not by me but by “Digital Experts”, the Director of Social Media at award winning US agency Overdrive Interactive. As you could infer we disagree on what good and best means.
This connection, supposedly called a great campaign by a noted digital expert, only collected 67 likes and 6 comments, 2 shares… hardly worth posting … and this was considered not only great content for Salesforce but something to aspire to.
A similar result this time for Oracle, 20 shares and 26 likes- yet lauded as a great digital engagement. I understand the sentiment that it’s great that Oracle raised money for charity- but why use this content to engage digitally.
Ok, lets move from one off examples to two campaigns- again lauded
Here’s a review of Cisco’s engagement on Instagram- judged the best digital campaign. Over the course of a year, with daily posting on Instagram, Cosco managed 750 engagements per post on average, but they have 80,000 followers- which looks good until you realise they have almost 80,000 employees. Engagement less than 1%.
IBM’s campaign as again lauded as effective based on content, but i terms of engagement over the bets two weeks they posted typically 10 times per day and engaged with 90 people. They have 377,000 employees and maybe a million customers and clients.
Overall these corporate attempts at engaging digitally with their clients are laughable, with virtually no impact, and what’s worse companies are left complacent hidden behind the cover of their digital tactics.
What’s the difference between powerhouse digital businesses and brands and feeble ones?
I believe, the key to answering this is where is the initial focus; either at a tactical level, the level of doing things, creating content … Answering “WHAT” or instead at a vision level, of considering“WHY”.
Most companies communicate their ideas starting from the most concrete element: what they want to do. Then businesses debate how they’re going to achieve that. Finally, they try to explain why they actually do what they do. This seemingly logical approach manifests itself in their reaction to the new digital disruption- tactics first.
Great businesses and brands, in fact, do it the opposite way around: they start with considering why they do what they do, first. Its a point I’ll make next week when describing the role and usefulness of the strategy cascade.
It is this reversal of order that allows successful companies to enable their vision to be reflected in the digital space instead being a tactical pitch for business.
Here’s how you can apply this thinking to your business:
1. Rethink your digital platform, starting with ‘WHY’.
Do you have an existing company vision statement? What does it look like? Instead of merely describing what your company is already doing through digital media, start by asking yourself why do you do what you do. It might not be easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort. By focusing your teams on your Vision statement, starting with “why” helps you adopt a broader view of what you ought to be considering in engaging with your clients.
It also forces you to look beyond the scope of what’s happening in the digital space now, to see if what you’re doing is still in line with your goals.
2. Consider HOW you may implement your vision.
Obviously the world has changed, and maybe how your customers and competitors think about their corporate strategy may have changed, maybe you have new digital competitors or old competitors using digital well or customers engaging with you in new ways. Here’s where you should clearly re-evaluate your strategy or your go-to-market approach. Maybe more and more of your customers are searching for information digitally, then maybe your traditional sales-engineer relationship based commercial approach should change. Think through HOW digital can either replace or reinforce or reinvest your existing strategy.
3. After strategy comes Tactics… now think about WHAT,
Now we can think about what we want to do… Revamp the website, use twitter to engage quickly with complaining customers, use Instagram to show how fabulous our new office designs look… But all actions are informed by our Why and How, our vision and strategy. This means we are completely aligned with our customers about how to engage with them.
Above all, having a clear company vision and a strategy leading from this helps to build your business and brand. And this is reinforced when venturing into the digitally dislocated future.
It serves as a compass to ensure your tactics are leading you in the right direction- to create happier customers and a more profitable business. More than that, it liberates Employees from aimlessly posting pictures of happy Employees, to enable them to know whats the right and wrong digital tactics.
Are you starting to re-think how you engage the digital disruption? By starting with why, it will help inspire you, your employees and your customers. That’s how the greatest brands are built.
So stop just doing stuff , and start thinking about what’s the right stuff to do.