Transformation is a subject on everyone’s lips right now, but if you haven’t already brought yours over the line it’s about time you quit talking and got down to some action. In fact, you could very well already have run out of time.

The need to transform is driven by the influence of digital natives whose demands differ so vastly from those of their predecessors only a digital business can hope to meet them. Digital natives represent more than half any developed market and their wish list includes better design, higher quality, quicker response, an all-together better experience in fact, and all at a lower price. For suppliers, this isn’t just pressure on your margin, it will eliminate the margins of any business operating on a legacy model. If you think you can blag your way through this with a bit of nifty sales chat, think again. Digital natives don’t want to hear it. They come to you when they are ready, by which time they’ll know at least as much about you and your products as your best sales executive.

There’s no closet to hide your skeletons in the digital economy, such is the power of the Internet and the new consumer will resent anything less than total transparency or attempts by you to interrupt their researches with your take on the facts. The traditional sales role has definitely had its day, Today the game is support and advice. This is good if you can get out of traditional sales mode and set about building relationships with prospects by providing information on demand, but even that is proving too much of a paradigm shift for many businesses.

There is no room or complacency. If you haven’t transformed already and you are still in business, don’t think for a moment this thing has passed you by. The only reason you still have an office to go to every day is because nobody else in your sector has managed their transformation either yet. That will change very soon, it will happen over night and from the moment it does your business will start to disappear at an alarming rate.

Another thing about digital businesses is they have infinite capacity. The first digital business to arrive in your sector will, theoretically at least, be able to handle the demands of all the customers in your market. It’s almost certain your sector will consolidate with fewer players servicing the needs of more customers.

The really scary thing about the digital challenge is you won’t know where it’s coming from. Don’t assume you’ll be seeing the same old faces across the battlefield. In fact, in many sectors that’s the last place you’ll see them. Many sectors have been disrupted by newcomers who didn’t even exist prior to taking a sector by storm. Their growth is often also more rapid than traditional businesses, because they are usually new businesses unencumbered by legacy, with an agile approach, fast decision-making and leaner structures. What this all adds up to is fewer places at the table and more businesses competing for them than ever before.

The odds are against you. Today 70% of transformations fail and 40% of the brands we know won’t survive the new paradigm because of this. But, if every failure is a lesson in how to succeed even those who have got it wrong so far are ahead of a business that hasn’t started yet.

There are many reasons given for the high failure rate. Lack of C-suite commitment is the most popular, employee resistance another, but when you analyse these and other failures the reason behind them all is a lack of focus. Before you make a start on your transformation you need to get a few things straight. Firstly you need to understand where you sit in your sector, you should also know how your competitors fit into the landscape. It’s essential you get a grip of the demands of the marketplace and understand what resources you have and, more importantly, are missing, that you need to satisfy those demands. When you have all of this clear you are in a position to create a brand model, central to which is the promise you will make to your market. This will provide your focus and influence everything you do moving forward.

Taking all the facts into account, it’s clear that to survive transformation and prosper in the digital economy you need to move faster than the pace currently being set within your sector and get it right first time, which, as we know has rarely been the case to date. A brand model is the answer. Brands sit at the heart of any modern organisation and your brand model, which defines your brand and incorporates your brand promise, is the key to eliminating wasteful off-strategy initiatives.

Putting your brand first will give your transformation the efficiency and pace you need to make ground in the race for a place in the future of your sector. It does so primarily by providing a single focal-point for everyone involved. This is your target, but it also provides your launch-pad and the framework that a clear sequence of follow-on projects and activities; including, brand design, internal marketing, business re-engineering, process development, re-launch and on-going marketing communications; happen within.

So, as I said at the start of this, if you haven’t started your transformation, you need to – today,. Kick off your transformation by getting the help you need to define your brand and increase your chances of survival in the digital economy.

First Published on LinkedIn November 2017

Phil Darby
August 3, 2018

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