The relationship between companies and their customers has considerably changed with the beginning of the digital age: more aware and better informed customers are now in charge. From now on, customers decide who they’ll buy from , the
price they want to pay, and even what the product should look like. From a business point of view, we have moved from a “PUSH the product” model to a “PULL the clients ‘needs” process. The relationship between companies and their customers has considerably changed with the beginning of the digital age: more aware and better informed customers are now in charge. From now on, customers decide who they’ll buy from, the price they want to pay, and even what the product should look like. From a business point of view, we have moved from a “PUSH the product” model to a “PULL the clients ‘needs” process.
While most businesses observe and understand that move, not all of them are really prepared to deal with it; everyone wants change, but no one wants to be individually changed. But if executives don’t rethink their businesses from the customer perspective and create a genuine and authentic relationship that creates value for all, then they may not be around in several years. Digital is an existential threat.
Change is never easy, but it’s even harder when it has to happen quickly, particularly for large corporations with rooted systems, procedures, and cultures that are not designed for rapid transformation. And yet, that’s exactly what they need to do. Product life cycles used to be measured in years; today they’re measured in hours. This notion of urgency gets lost in businesses that still think in a linear fashion, and most business leaders within those organizations are scared not just by the idea of change, but also by the pace of change that’s required.
So how can companies overcome the fear and the friction that hinder agility? The following steps will help you start a digital initiative that will ultimately enable you to scale quickly based on managing expectations and demonstrating results:
1. Begin with what you have. I have observed that most companies already have a lot of data concerning their customers, but they’re doing very little with that information. The first temptation when undertaking any digital initiative often is to launch new research and data collection. But much of what companies need to get started on may already exist in their files. Take advantage of what you have and drill down to analyse and dissect that information to uncover and exploit the hidden gems of immediate value.
2. Know what you need. Knowledge for its own sake is largely useless without context. The type of information you need is based entirely upon your objective(s). What are you looking for? Revenue growth? Customer loyalty? Margin improvement? Crafting a clear statement that addresses what you’re trying to achieve will help you better identify the gaps in resources already at hand. Then, you can go about filling in those gaps.
3. Build a determined solution. You can’t fundamentally change every part of your business at the same time. The risks are too great and you’re probably not ready to do that culturally anyway. So take a pragmatic and incremental view, focusing first on areas that will provide value quickly and convincingly. But make sure that you take a holistic approach: Your solution may address a singular problem, but it should take into account the broader vision of where you want to take the company. Think big, start small, but be prepared to scale quickly.
4. Prepare the organisation for change. It’s essential to be fully transparent with your organisation so that when you do unveil the results of your change initiative, you’ll have “broad-based buy-in” because people will actually understand what you’ve been doing and why. Communicate, communicate, communicate in all shapes and ways; top-down and bottom-up, weekly/monthly and quarterly. Build change teams and task forces. Consider getting some external support. Action without preparation will prove risky and vain.
5. Show results. No matter how effectively you communicate, change is always disruptive and often painful. Even if people acknowledge that it’s absolutely necessary, they won’t be true believers unless they see tangible results. Once you have proof that your first big idea is actually having an impact, you’ll generate enthusiasm and a spirit of cooperation for your next one.
All companies, whether they’re B2C or B2B, must address the changes and challenges of the digital economy with a sense of urgency. We live in an age of almost perfect knowledge. The trick is knowing how to dig out and deploy that knowledge through strategic use of technology that helps you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to customer needs, while also creating value for your organisation.