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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Jan 19, 2021 15 min read

Digital Transformation In 2021: Start Now, It’s A Long Journey

Digital Transformation in 2021

True Digital Transformation Touches Almost Every Aspect Of Your Business

Digital transformation is about the long game, meaning it’s not something you do for a month and then consider it over, done or complete. It’s a strategy you deploy across your organization and never look back. It influences everything you do for the rest of your company’s life.

We just wrapped up a weeklong content experience called The Butterfly Project, with sessions, expert advice, workbooks, guides and frameworks to help companies start their own digital transformation initiatives.

Since it is January and everyone is on a diet, working out, practicing sober January and in general working on all of their resolutions, it’s worth comparing these commitments against a commitment to digitally transforming your entire business.

Anything worth doing is generally hard work. It’s hard losing weight and keeping it off. You have to change your lifestyle and never look back. You have to eat differently, work out regularly, consider changing some very old habits and maybe even limit some of the activities that you enjoy the most.

But losing weight and being healthy is critically important, especially today. Making these changes is something you view as “worth it.”

Digital transformation is similar.

It’s going to be hard work. You’ll have people trying to talk you out of it. You’ll have to change processes that have been in play for years. You might even need to change some of your team. It’s going to take a commitment to the long term. Just like changing eating habits, you should never look back.

The results won’t come overnight. It’s going to take time. You have to think marathon, not sprint. You might have to train for it, and you definitely will have to push through the pain and prove you have the stamina to finish.

Here are some of the considerations to help you make that pivotal decision to digitally transform your business once and for all.

Digital Transformation in 2021

Change Is Driven From The Top Down

Yes, you can digitally transform marketing. Yes, you can digitally transform sales or any function at your company. But to realize the big results, you should consider looking at the entire company, as opposed to one or two individual departments.

This means the CEO or business owner has to be the one leading the change. Whoever has the ultimate authority to make companywide decisions must be 100% supportive or, even better, the one leading this change.

If you’ve sold this idea up the chain of command and the response was “let’s give it a try,” ”let’s see what you can do” or ”you have two months to show me results,” you don’t have the buy-in you need to make any digital transformation initiative work.

Alignment Across The Team Is Required

Once you get buy-in from the top, you still need alignment across the entire organization. You need everyone in the organization on the same page.

Digital transformation is not about silos. It is about looking at the entire prospect and customer experience across the whole organization and making that experience remarkable using new tools, new techniques and new tactics.

This means that when people first interact with your company the experience is amazing. Marketing typically owns these touches. When people are ready to talk to your company, that experience is amazing. Sales owns these touches. When people sign your agreements or purchase your products, those experiences are equally amazing. Customer service typically owns those touches.

But this also includes finance and how people pay for your services as well as operations and the people who work with your customers regularly. It involves everyone in the company.

Solve For The Customer

With leadership and alignment, the hard work begins. One of the best ways to start looking at the changes necessary is to make sure that you constantly solve for the customer. This is a mantra used by many of the biggest and most successful companies.

"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well." Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon

"Customer service shouldn't just be a department; it should be the entire company."  Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

An intimate understanding of what your prospects and customers want, need and desire is imperative to any digital transformation process.

Your prospects and customers have very specific needs. Those needs change as they get to know you and get close to making a selection. Their needs change again as they become customers and work with your team.

Knowing every single touch point along that journey is the secret to “solving for the customer.” Every single time a prospect or customer interacts with your organization, there is an opportunity to impress them.

Some of these touches are simple, like communication around the delivery of a product or service. Others are more complex, like creating a faster shipping system, delivering a one-page contract or creating a sales process that 100 sales reps follow religiously.

All of these need to be looked at objectively and resolved in an innovative and remarkable way. This is what separates the good companies from the great companies and the companies that are surviving versus the companies that are thriving.

Digital Transformation in 2021

Transformation Methodology

With leadership and alignment all squared away, it’s time to start the real work. The goal for any digital transformation project is to create an upgraded experience for prospects and customers using new digital tools, techniques and tactics.

Step 1 – Define and agree on the business outcomes you expect as a result of this initiative and the timeline associated with all the major milestones. Remember that this process might take years and may never officially wrap up, especially if you create the culture to continuously identify and work on making experiences better. There is always room to improve.

Step 2 – Map out every single touch point across the prospect and customer experience with your company, from the very first time they hear about your company to the time they leave, regardless of reason.

Step 3 – On that map, identify the weak spots in your experience. At the same time, identify the bright spots (those places where it’s going exceptionally well).

Step 4 – Identify the weak spots on your map and align them with your business outcome goals. This will help you prioritize where you start your efforts. For example, if the prospect experience isn’t great and revenue growth is one of your business outcomes, fixing marketing to drive more leads would make a lot of sense as one of your top priorities.

Step 5 – Make a decision around working on one area of the business at a time or working on multiple areas of the business concurrently. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches. How you approach this will mostly depend on budget and resources.

Step 6 – Create a list of potential projects across the buyer journey map. These can be high level. Agree on the prioritization of the projects across the company and make sure they are funded appropriately and supported with leaders and the teams required to get them accomplished.

Step 7 – Now look at the projects and make sure you have the team, the resources and the expertise to execute those projects. This is typically where many companies run into trouble. Without the team, resources or expertise, the execution gets tricky. Our recommendation is to bring in an external team of people who have done this hundreds of times before with companies just like yours.

These partners help deliver the projects and keep your digital transformation initiatives moving forward. You’re also in a position to share your vision, culture and corporate alignment with potential partners that will inevitably help provide support to get your project done successfully.

Strategy, Tactics, Analytics And Technology

As you stack up your projects you should look at grouping them into these four sections. It’s also possible that within your projects there are subsets of work.

For example, if you are working on transforming all the touches that execute within your sales efforts, you’ll need to look at your sales process, how your sales reps talk to prospects, the tools they use to tell your story, the metrics you use to measure performance and the technology that makes this all roll out and work easily for all your reps.

You can look at almost every area of the business and apply a similar methodology.

Strategy – Helps you understand the high level and defines the important business outcomes.

Tactics – Identify all the specific work that needs to be done to improve the process and transform the experience.

Analytics – Define the numbers you’ll need to track, report on and use to get insights and create your ongoing optimization action plans.

Technology – To create new experiences, execute new tactics and get access to the data, you’ll probably need technology.

And by the way, you need to be thinking about your execution of these projects. Don’t lead with technology or make your technology purchase decision until the other three parts of your project are completed.


Managing The Transformation

If you haven’t realized yet, these initiatives can be mammoth, reaching out to all parts of your company. The best way to manage efforts like this is to put someone in charge someone with enough clout, authority and leadership to get the job done.

In addition, there are a ton of moving parts. Having a project manager might also be a smart move to ensure that all the small details are accounted for and being tracked so that progress is being made and goals are being met.

Finally, the key is to map out a plan and get started. Not everything has to be done at once. Remember, this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s more of a mindset than a project.

Start with marketing. Make sure everything you’re doing from a marketing perspective takes into consideration digital tools, channels and experiences for your prospects. Then move to sales and make sure the sales team can deliver a 100% digital experience that matches with what marketing is doing and saying.

Next, move to service and apply the key learnings from your marketing and sales work to your customer service team. As an example, if you’ve mastered chat as a tool to engage prospects and connect them with the sales team quickly, leverage chat for customers too.

As you go through marketing, sales and service, you’ll be presented with operational, managerial and some procedural touches that you’ll have an opportunity to transform as well. For example, perhaps now new customers have to sign paperwork. Why not make those signatures electronic?

If you keep your digital transformation initiative front and center, all of these touches will get resolved along the way.

Transformation Timelines

How long is this going to take? It’s a common question, and the answer isn’t going to be as specific as you’d like. I don’t know, to be honest. These are big projects with big payoffs. Many times it depends on you, your team, your budget and your stomach for change.

We’ve seen companies do it in six months and others take six years.

The big question for you is this: When can you get started? Because the sooner you get started, no matter how fast you go, the sooner you can get there.

More importantly, the sooner you’ll get the rewards associated with increased lead generation, efficient lead generation, increased number of sales opportunities and a higher quality sales opportunity, shorter sales cycles, increased close rates, more revenue from current customers, more online reviews from current customers and on and on.

The rewards far outweigh the risks or the downside. In fact, I’m not sure what the downsides are today. It’s more a question of how quickly are your competitors going to do it, and will you be trying to catch up or will they be trying to catch up with you?

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.