Are you kicking off 2020 on a mission to up your game?

However successful you may have been to date, if you’re not looking for continuous improvement, you could become a loser very quickly. If you want to last another year remember, in the digital economy, any business is only as good as its NEXT big idea.

It only takes one operator in your sector to decide to raise the bar in the New Year and your business could be on it’s knees by the summer. Disrupters are everywhere and a digital business can literally “own” a sector within weeks of its arrival.

It’s no use being in denial, burying your head in the sand, wishing it would all go away or just trying to convince yourself that you are too successful to fail. Unless you are operating as a truly digital business you don’t stand a chance of competing against digital disrupters. You either jump on board or check out.

So, what determines whether you last another year?

The first thing you have to understand is this is not about automation. It’s “business transformation” and that’s a far bigger challenge. 

Automation or change will only hasten your demise. A lot of businesses will see short-term improvements as a result of digital programmes, but it’s a fool’s paradise. Any form of automation will enable a traditional business to perform more efficiently – you can reduce head-count, speed up processes, reduce errors, but the benefits are always only short term. In the long run, it isn’t going to help because you’ll just be streamlining an obsolete model. 

To survive you have to become a digital business. This is the real meaning of transformation. It’s expensive, painful and takes, literally, forever, but it’s better than the alternative!

On average a traditional business takes three years to get to a point where they are trading as a digital business. From that point change becomes part of the daily routine.

Currently between 70-90% of transformations fail and the businesses concerned fold anyway. That’s due to a number of factors, including confusing change and transformation. However, if you aim to transform in the short time that’s left for traditional businesses to make the change it means you are simply going to have to take a different approach to that which businesses have adopted to date and that means Brand-Led Business Transformation.

It’s a big decision for any organisation to make. Especially one that has already shown a reluctance to change, but there really is very little time left if you haven’t already started. However, there are a few things you can do today that will set you up should you want to move forward with your transformation and all of these will give you some immediate benefit. So, get on with these while you are thinking about the bigger move.

Five things you need to do to last another year.

1 – Define your brand

The most common reason for business failure these days and certainly the reason most business transformations fail is because the businesses concerned lack the focus that you can ONLY achieve with a strong brand. Don’t make this fatal omission.

In fact, you have to tackle your brand before you start anything else and you need to do it in an organised way. 

Start by creating a brand model that defines your purpose, character, your community and above all the promise you make to them.

I have created a twelve-point brand model template that I use to help my clients ensure they consider every relevant detail. You can get an idea of what this includes from the Brand Modelling section of my infographic.

2 – Get to know your market

It may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many businesses I encounter that haven’t done this. In the digital economy the landscape of your sector can change in a day. New disrupters arrive with increasing frequency and with the help of technology they can, literally, “own” a sector within weeks. Again the key areas you need to be intimate with are contained in the Discovery area of my infographic, but they include: 

  • Market facts
  • Consumer needs
  • Competitive positioning and resources
  • Your own resources

You will get the full list from my infographic.

3 – Develop your strategy

At its most basic, marketing strategy development is a three-stage process

  1. Define consumer needs, 
  2. Identify the ability of your competitors to meet these – which leaves you with opportunities or “gaps” in the market. 
  3. Determine which of these you can meet with the least investment, in the fastest time-scale, offering the greatest return and create your road-map. 

This much is marketing #101. You next have to decide what filing these gaps means to you in broad practical terms – personnel, skills, investment and timescales. This gives you a range of smaller projects you then have to organise and implement.

4 – Build your community

A brand is a community of people with shared values, beliefs and objective (or focus). 

Without this focus you will, at best, struggle to bring about the changes and implement the initiatives essential to your transformation. Silos exist to some extent in almost every business I encounter, yet they are one of the most commonly-quoted reasons for transformation failure. You simply have to break these down and get every one of your internal stakeholders to understand and commit to delivering your brand promise.

Building a community that’s strong enough to drive transformation will usually take a year or more, but you will start to make ground from day one of an organised programme. You’ll need a robust, internal marketing strategy that utilises tech tools and communication channels alongside traditional tools, in an integrated strategy to bring about the mind-shift you’ll be looking for. You’ll also need expertise in contemporary internal marketing.

5 – Start re-engineering your business

A transformed business will operate in a very different way to a traditional one. It’s common for businesses that go through transformation to emerge in a different sector entirely utilising different processes and delivering different products to those they started out with. 

You have to remember, even businesses that took the time in the past to try to find out what end-users needed, have delivered a solution that was compromised. We have only ever delivered the nearest to the perfect solution that current technology has allowed. One important feature of the digital age is there is no need for compromised solutions. Digital makes anything possible and unless you are delivering exactly what customers want they’ll go somewhere else. It’s why disrupters win.

Once you understand demand and your community is raring to go to meet it, all you have to do is join the dots. It’s not easy, of course, but it certainly isn’t beyond a competent marketer. Any business with the will to last another year can do so, if they tackle it in the right way.

It will require changes in management philosophy as well as practical and physical change, but all of this is part of the transformation process. However, each of my first four initiatives will deliver immediate improvements and hopefully give you the confidence to up-scale and launch into the full-on transformation that will ensure you will last another year.

Good luck!

Phil Darby
January 2, 2020

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