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Business is a digital “ecosystem”

Changing your company’s marketing strategy to fit your audience is essential to success. Unfortunately, too many business leaders are not prepared to keep up with their customers.

Perhaps the most dramatic shift in marketing over the past few years has been the rise of technology and digital communications. As Nigel Fenwick of Forrester Research writes on Forbes.com, the future of business—for customers, products, operations and competitors—is digital, and that development is altering consumer behavior. Although new research conducted by Forrester reveals that nearly three quarters of business executives say their company has a digital plan, a paltry 15 percent actually believe they have what it takes to see those plans come to fruition.

Digital marketing is more than having a web presence; any business can create a Facebook or Twitter page and acquire likes and followers. That’s easy. Today’s digital business landscape is rapidly evolving and is more sophisticated now than it was a year ago. What many business leaders are failing to see is that this landscape looks more like a “dynamic ecosystem of value that connects digital resources inside and outside the company to create value for customers.” Furthermore, they’re failing to see that this change is here to stay.

Consumers now have a plethora of mobile apps that drive their consumption habits, hence the catchphrase “There’s an app for that!” Often these apps are working in conjunction with one another to serve a greater purpose for the consumer. Take, for instance, a business trip. As Fenwick notes in his article, someone traveling for work may use several mobile apps to accomplish distinct tasks: Hipmunk to search flights; SeatGuru to check airline seat availability; SPG to track hotel reservations; American Airlines to deliver an electronic boarding pass; Avis to track car rental information; and TripAdvisor to find places to eat; and Uber to find a ride from place to place.

Independently, each app addresses a specific task or need. Combined, they create an “app ecosystem” that provides more value to the trip and streamlines the overall experience. Should one app not work or suit the traveler’s needs, there are likely scores of competing apps waiting for his or her business. The consumer’s options are now endless thanks to the digital revolution. In this context, a company that does not harness digital technology will likely sink, while the companies that do will surely swim, and will stay afloat as long as they continuously modify their operations according to the changing circumstances of modern business.

Many business leaders are aware of the digital void in their marketing operations and aren’t surprised by Forrester’s findings. Digiday asked executives of major companies for feedback. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Eric Johnson, interactive marketing manager, General Mills
“It’s not that there aren’t good people at these companies working on digital — there are! —it’s that there aren’t always established business metrics to validate digital marketing. It can take significant investment to develop and execute digital strategies, let alone manage the organizational change necessary to implement them. It’s difficult to feel confident about digital work without the assurance of a proven ROI.”

Adam Kmiec, senior director of social media and content, Walgreens
“I think things fall apart for most organizations when they hire the wrong person to lead their digital efforts. You need to look well beyond the resume.”

Bob Rupczynski, vp of media, data, CRM, Kraft
“Digital isn’t just a tactical execution. It’s about understanding the pace of change of media and culture. There are a lot of companies that are playing the wait-and-see game. I’ve worked at plenty of companies where there are no plans for digital, so, no, the results don’t surprise me.”

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