Everywhere you turn you hear about digital transformation and the importance of going digital. People are out there selling digital transformation services and software. What they are not selling is a way for everyone in your organization, including yourself, to understand what going digital actually means.

Going digital means committing to long-term future success at the expense of short-term successes.

Why the Move?

Why is going digital so important? It depends on your business:

  • Do you rely on forming bonds with your customers?
  • Is what you offer considered optional or a luxury?
  • Do you plan to retire more than five years from now?
  • Are you looking to expand your business to include younger customers?
  • Do you want be relevant?

If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, you need to go digital. If a slow slide into irrelevancy appeals because you're counting the days until you move to the beach, then by all means — don’t go digital. Who wants to learn new things or succeed when shuffleboard awaits?

Business models are changing. We aren’t talking about the cloud, though cloud vendors have digital in their DNA. There are new ways to market, sell and support your product. Some things will likely never change — like putting a face to a name — but people need and expect answers without having to wait for a person to return from their lunch break.

Old Habits

What does this mean? It means quashing old habits. It means spending energy to not only learn new techniques, but to understand that moving to digital typically doesn’t succeed overnight.

For example, part of marketing in the digital world involves the heavy use of content to drive value and traffic. Traffic does not appear overnight and neither does the content. Old content can be repurposed, but is that old content still relevant? Is it packaged in a way that it is easy to consume or is it all stuck in PDFs? Is all your useful content behind registration walls? Even worse, is it hiding behind paywalls?

Going digital doesn’t mean changing one habit. It means changing all habits.

You change all your old behaviors with the flip of a switch. A transition time will acclimate existing customers to the new ways of working. This is also the beginning of the learning curve — there will be missteps. A lot of missteps. Feedback will be constant. Listen to the feedback, but remember that people don’t like change. Are there gaps in the new digital processes or is the change perceived as too 'changy'?

Don’t look back once you are committed. If business slows down, look at how you are executing. Look at trends to determine where efforts are dropping off. Talk to customers and ask them about the process, including those customers that are still buying.

When things go wrong it can be easy to blame the change, but don’t use that as an excuse to revert back to old behaviors. You'll only have to start over.

If you have an aging customer community it can be daunting. They are used to receiving your mailings and mark the changing seasons by the annual conference brochure arriving in the mail. They are also your most loyal customers and many of them will find you.

Commit to the Future

If you've got your bungalow picked out, skip the transition to digital. For the rest of us, the time to move was years ago. Baby boomers are retiring, tech savvy Gen Xers are making the decisions, and millennials are the future customer base.

While age does not define how digital a person lives their life, there is a strong correlation. This applies to companies as well. Digital companies appear fresh and full of new ideas. As the world’s population becomes digital, every organization is going to have to become digital to do more than thrive.

We all have to become digital to survive.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Lennart Tange