On a webinar I was listening to recently, one of the panelists masterfully summed up the future of digital marketing and communications when he said, “What [your customers/clients] want is everything…all the time…from any device.”
As a consultant on the front lines, I can assure you that most companies are not prepared to deliver on this requirement.
Many are still mired in bureaucracy, supported by operational silos that are cast in bronze, unable to keep pace with change.
But, that doesn’t mean they are out of the game entirely.
Even if you work at a company that is stuck in the dark ages, there is always something you can do to start moving into the light.
While the suggestions below are very, very broad, tackling them can at least start you down the road to becoming a more innovative, customer-centric and social business, prepared for this “everything/all the time/any device” reality.
1. Centralize content generation, publication and tracking.
Silos were created for a very good reason — they provide employees with comfort, security and a distinct sense of purpose. But sadly, in a world that moves and changes quickly, your employee’s false sense of comfort, security and purpose are luxuries that are no longer productive or profitable.
While simply abandoning silos is easier said than done, at least start dismantling them by looking at your brand’s external-facing content more holistically to see if you can at least make it flow more easily between silos.
- Give multiple internal stakeholders a say in the development of marketing/communications content.
- Incorporate new content seamlessly between all of your digital channels.
- Set up systems to capture and share feedback you receive on your content (this includes the conversations surrounding it) among internal stakeholders, so more people in your company can benefit from the lessons you learn.
2. Increase the speed at which you operate.
In an always on, two-way communication environment, it is no longer possible (or practical) to put conversations on hold to go debate in an all-staff meeting what you’d like to say in return. Communications increasingly moves at the speed of real-time. You’re going to need to move that fast, too.
While simply “moving faster” is easier said than done, at least start identifying and addressing the time-wasters in your company and think of ways you can use technological tools to eliminate them.
- Use social networks internally to help your staff function and communicate more efficiently, decrease the volume of inter-office email and eliminate superfluous status meetings.
- Take advantage of real-time monitoring and response tools to more effectively manage social media channels and jump into conversations as they are happening.
- Establish policies and procedures to guide your front-line communicators so they can function more autonomously and in real-time.
3. Get more comfortable making mistakes.
The future will belong to those companies who are able to improvise and explore. And, as any good improv performer or explorer will tell you, 50% of every journey involves falling flat on your face.
While simply “accepting mistakes” is easier said than done, at least start desensitizing your company to small mistakes by putting them in a larger context and measuring your rate of successes, too.
- Reframe meeting your strategic goals as an iterative process, (rather than a black-and-white, success/failure initiative) and set more, smaller benchmarks around your goals to help you measure progress.
- Transition to making 5 minor decisions a day, (learning to quickly adapt to a few of those 5 being a flop) rather than making one big decision a week that you agonize over for months (which could end up being a flop, too.)
- Establish policies and procedures to protect your employees so they feel comfortable moving quickly, and protected when they make a misstep.
4. Let your audience get closer to you.
With the rise in two-way communications channels, consumers increasingly feel like they should have a seat at your brand’s table, (whether you want them there or not) and access to you whenever they have needs or questions about your brand, (whether at home or on the go.)
While simply “giving them a seat at the table” is easier said than done, at least let your customers/clients know that you care about their needs by making your communications more two-way in nature and more findable online.
- Acknowledge all feedback from your clients/customers in a timely fashion. Just knowing that you have heard them (regardless as to whether you have a response) can go a long way toward building your reputation as customer-centric.
- Optimize all of your external-facing communications so your audience can easily find you using their web browser, mobile browser or social media channels.
- Make sure your site is viewable on a mobile device and that social communications direct audiences to mobile-friendly landing pages.
5. Invest in education and training.
Those of us who study digital communications all day, every day can barely keep up with the changes. So, chances are, your employees — who are sitting in 3-4 status meetings a day and spending their remaining time cleaning out overflowing email in-boxes — are going to fall behind the learning curve.
While simply “investing in education and training” for everyone is easier said than done, at least start providing external facing staff members with more support to deal with a rapidly changing playing field.
- Curate breaking news and info applicable to your industry and syndicate it to employees via internal-facing networks.
- Encourage (and train) employees to use social media for research to do their jobs better (e.g. keeping tabs on changes in their profession, people in their position at competing organizations and industry news as it relates to their profession.)
- Bring in outside trainers to keep both your executive leadership and your various external-facing departments up to date on changes in digital technology.
Obviously, these suggestions are just the tip of the innovation iceberg (any one of these five points could be fodder for a blog post in its own right.) Do you have others to add?