hocus pocus
Anyone who tells you digital strategy is different from business strategy is selling you an illusion PHOTO: Paul Gallo

Advice on how to become a better “digital business” is everywhere you turn these days. 

With so much chatter, it’s easy to feel as though the decisions you make around digital are completely distinct from your core business strategy. But this could be your fatal mistake.

A great digital strategy (and stellar digital experiences for your customers) plays a huge part if your organization aims to become more customer-centric and competitive. But what many companies fail to realize is that digital strategy only pays off if your digital investments — in people, solutions and time — are in line with your overarching business strategy.

Technology Isn't a Strategy

I’ve seen far too many organizations buy technology solutions as a silver bullet, thinking it will solve all problems, exploit all opportunities and prove to the world that their digital strategy is alive and well. 

Just recently, a CIO at a $1 billion B2B company told me people in his business were pushing to acquire new ecommerce software to ramp up online sales. Not so fast, he said, seeing the disconnect. He told them to develop a business strategy first to guide the company’s ecommerce initiative. With that in hand, the company would be in a better position to consider new technology.

This particular organization is not alone in forgetting an important truth. Technology isn’t your strategy, it supports your business strategy. It’s most powerful when there’s a strong underlying focus on the customer’s (or prospect’s) wants and needs. 

Too many companies start with technology, rather than a strategic plan centered around customer-centric experiences. Remember: It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Building a Cohesive View of the Business

To better understand the importance of a customer-first business strategy, it’s essential to take a few steps back and look at “experience” as the sum of all the interactions people have with your brand. Digital experiences aren’t off to the side: they are core to everything you do. And, we know they aren’t one and done projects.

Customers interact with your brand as a whole. It’s up to you to create a cohesive experience that helps them view your company as a single entity, not the sum of all your disjointed channels. This requires thinking big about what’s possible, and ensuring everything you do is aligned with the core focus of your business. 

You may not be a Tesla or a Nike, but you do have a unique value proposition to offer, and every facet of your strategy needs to stick to it.

Avoid These Common Mistakes

There are a few fatal flaws to avoid in your quest to deliver a seamless digital experience, and remember, that quest doesn’t start with investing solely in new technology. Here are just a few mistakes you’ll want to avoid at all costs:

  1. Not Being Clear on Your Company Story: Resist the urge to jump right in without getting the basics figured out. Ask “Why does your company exist?” After all, if you can’t recite your business’ story and mission in your sleep, you likely don’t have a tight enough grasp on your primary objectives or target audience, let alone the customers you want to attract. Figure this out first, and you’ll avoid throwing spaghetti at the wall in an attempt to deliver an unforgettable experience.
  2. Letting Good Data Go to Waste: Gathering all the company data in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t put it in strategic, capable hands. You should probably be focusing less on gathering “all the data,” and more on gathering the right data. I’ve seen countless companies ignore crucial data that tells a comprehensive story of their customer. Data can be a powerful tool, but only if you use it properly.
  3. Choosing Technology that Limits Innovation: I’m not advocating the adoption of every new technology the moment it hits the market. IoT, AI, machine learning won’t necessarily be part of your strategy right now. But it is important to understand what your technology ecosystem looks like, as this will set the foundation for all the digital experiences you build in the future. Don’t set yourself up for limited capabilities. Arm yourself with tools that can support innovations and expand with you in the future.

In the end, the companies that provide a truly great customer experience are the ones that put the customer at the forefront of all activities and decisions — digital and otherwise. They make the necessary organizational changes to deliver these experiences, and their employees understand the impact their work has not only on customer experience, but overall business strategy. Finally, they capture, analyze, adjust and act on data to better serve the customer.