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Marketers face a digital imperative in 2014

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We’ve reached a point where marketers agree that the way business is done has fundamentally changed. In almost every case, they’re ready to rethink strategies, tactics and technology, but most are struggling with how to make smart, durable, effective changes that don’t look like wasted effort in a few months. Wasted effort and lack of vision are a CMO’s nightmare and lead to a short tenure.

One step ahead

The CMO needs success in turbulent economic times, with rapid change and constant disruption. Success is defined in this environment as being two steps ahead. That doesn’t necessarily mean one step ahead of the competition, the customer, or the next big trend—it means being multiple steps ahead of all of those things.

Ouch.

That’s a tough prescription in the best of times, but a really big challenge when the only thing that will work is business transformation, which today means digital transformation. There’s no Band-Aid approach that will get you there. It has to be change that goes to the core of the business.

A digital imperative

An article published in the MIT Sloan Management Review focuses on the fact that companies now face a “digital imperative.” The digital imperative means companies must:

“…adopt new technologies effectively or face competitive obsolescence. While there is consensus on the importance of adopting digital technology, most employees find the process complex and slow. Many say their leaders lack urgency and fail to share a vision for how technology can change the business.

The report broaches on the widespread problem of “digital immaturity.” One survey finds that 78% of companies recognize the need to digitally transform, but 63% feel the current pace is too slow; and 38% don’t believe it is a permanent fixture on their CEO’s agenda. If these numbers are realistic, there’s a great deal of disruption about to occur for most enterprises.

What, then, can a marketer do? For one, push hard for alignment within the organization and embrace the digital imperative—tackle it with urgency. Secondly, respond effectively and quickly to emerging digital technologies—don’t be left behind. Lastly, use the technology you have more effectively—integrate what you have so that legacy systems have value and aren’t a showstopper.

This article was first posted on the Loyalty Lab blog and has been lightly edited.

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