Is how you see your digital strategy really how your customers do?
At this year’s Marketing Week Live Hyper Island and AKQA held a rather interesting talk about the age of digital marketing and how its going to move forward. And, while this seemed like a glaring signal for something utterly dull to come about in conversation – dragging up old points instead of providing new ones – it actually hit a very valid point: what do you actually think your company does?
AKQA’s planning director Jourik Migom brought up three questions that really boiled down to the point of ‘do you know what you’re trying to achieve’.
Migom pointed out that digital is really disrupting business, traditional competitors really aren’t your competitors anymore, companies just aren’t flexible for this ‘new’ world and that’s why they’re struggling while smaller businesses are making all the gains. According to Migom’s research through clients he’s worked with, 74 per cent of business executives say they have a digital strategy in place, yet only 15 per cent of those really know how they’re going to leverage it.
So, what business are you really in?
It pays to think about what your actual aims are as a business. Many successful companies end up doing something completely and utterly different from what they started out doing, yet their progressions made sense along the way.
One example Migom brings up is how American Express started life as a transport service, signing and delivering goods across America. Now, though, it’s knee deep in the world of payments, capitalising upon the boom of the credit card in the US. It’s an odd jump, but a natural progression as they’ve gone from transporting goods to transporting payments.
Another place to look is the automotive industry, sure they sell cars, but what exactly are they selling to customers? Is it a mode of transportation, or is it actually mobilisation? In this day and age more and more car brands are actually selling an experience, they want to entertain you in their cars, they aren’t selling a car on what the principles of transport are, they’re doing it on the thrill of driving or through integrating technology into it for an easier life.
An even further out-of-the-box way to think is with how Elon Musk is handling Tesla at the moment. They’ve gone from being an electric car company to helping build the foundations for every electric car in the world. And, now Musk has made all Tesla’s patents open, Migom sees them as actually a company that’s out there for sustainability over anything else.
It pays to think about what your next move in the digital marketplace will be, how it’ll help you expand. “Innovation is what sits just outside what you do today,” explained Migom in front of an incredibly crowded room at Olympia.
What problem are you trying to solve?
That could be a tricky one, but the answer is simple: it’s the friction you’re trying to remove.
Just like The Trainline wants to dissolve away anything that can get in the way of a great user experience, that’s actually what it’s business is about – not about selling train tickets.
Migom provided Soylent as an example into what a company or product can do when it’s really trying to solve an issue. Spawned out of one engineer’s desire to reduce the amount of time spent eating so he could work more effectively, Soylent is a complete nutritional food replacement that’s entirely personalised to an individual user. They create the mix, add flavouring as appropriate, and then drink it whenever they feel the need to. It eliminates the need to sit down for meals at set times, and provides the body with everything it needs. It also turns food into an art, a luxury, something that you’d make an occasion of – just like going to the movies. It’s only just launched, but already they money is rolling in, and that’s because it genuinely solved a problem many people have.
So Migom’s question is, are you really solving a customer problem or just making something new into an already saturated marketplace? It’s hard to be truly original and innovative, but you can certainly position yourselves in such a way to make yourself unique.
Its about making a process simpler for a customer, rather than solving a problem outright.
How will you lead change?
To lead change you need a direction and, quite helpfully, an idea of what you want to change. It’s almost impossible to steer your ship into something better if you don’t even know what that is.
Eric Schmidt, Google executive chairman, is a good example of this – albeit a bit of an exception to the rule. When Google was starting out, all those years ago before it became the ubiquitous powerhouse it is now, Schmidt was repeatedly asked how he would differentiate the company from the plethora of other search engines out there. His reply was that there was no competition. Nobody was doing what he wanted to do. He was in the business of making information accessible and for everyone, not for helping people find something, but actually give them the platform to have it anywhere they wanted.
If you want to lead your business through change in a digital world, you should adopt the 70/20/10 split.
This means that 70 per cent of your time or budget is spent on the core of your business, after all you need that to keep funding the innovative areas of your work. Spend 20 per cent searching for things just outside of your comfort zone, look at the adjacent possibilities for growth and start actively investing in them. And, for the last 10 per cent you need to jump into the unknown; try something and if it fails, who cares, scrap it and jump again.
While I hate to leave this article on an inspirational quote, Migom’s got quite a talent for mantras, so in his own words “leadership isn’t a position within a company, it’s a mindset.”