Times are exciting right now for those of us who work within digital transformation. In an era of social distancing, videoconferences and working from home, the vast majority of people have gone digital at breakneck speed. We are seeing rapid growth within e-commerce – potentially having set a record in the second quarter that we will never beat again, and we have completely reevaluated how we communicate and socialise. Proposing a digital happy hour would have been utterly inconceivable last autumn, but now it seems like the most sensible option we have. It is certainly true that our new behaviours are largely down to coronavirus, but it is also only natural that we will permanently adopt the changes that work.

What this means for us as entrepreneurs, is that there is a need to hit the accelerator on the digital transition, particularly within customer-facing areas. We do not have time to wait for amoritsations on old technologies and slow budget processes. Right now it is action and activity that count.

With digital meetings becoming all the more common, there are two skills you need to master: working in a data-driven way and turning your head towards the path in front.

Creating sales opportunities from everyday data

Traditional marketing is based on sequential thinking, often illustrated in the form of a funnel or arrows which point out the way through a customer journey. There is nothing wrong with that. But on the digital plain, we can and should do things differently. We need to systematically capture signals (or data) and be in a position to respond to these signals rapidly. Preferably through automation so that we don’t miss any unique opportunities. When we raise our heads and look at the patterns being created, what we will see is an irrational behaviour. We hop and skip through channels and intentions. We take a peek here, a little look over there, and then we suddenly buy this particular sofa or download that app.

If we were to begin systematically collecting data on a larger scale and simultaneously developing processes and working practices which allow us to react quickly, we would quickly begin looking ahead and predicting what your next step is likely to be; or at the very least, we would know which steps to take to push you in the right direction towards a purchase.

How to: kick off right away

At the very tip of Gartner’s Hype Cycle sits ‘real-time marketing’, and there is no doubt some truth in these expectations. Exactly what this will mean, we can only guess at. But instead of trying to predict the future, what we are presenting here is a number of activities that you can set in motion right away to dip your toes in and put your ear to the ground, in order to pick up on signals you can respond to in real-time:

  • Set up Google Alerts for trends and conversations within your sector. What are people talking about and who has the loudest voice?
  • Perform a competition analysis and reflect on how your competitors are behaving at industry events. Have they got live chat functions on their website? How active are they on their social media channels? Etc, etc.
  • Take stock of the influencers working in your sector and start building relationships with them. Influencers can act fast and hit the mark when it suits.
  • Subscribe to everything related to your sector: newsletters, publications, download reports, take part in webinars, etc, to get an idea of what is trending.
Gartner Hype Cycle for Digital Markering 2020

Possessing a realistic snapshot of your industry will make it easier to understand where things are headed and what capabilities you will need in order to scale up and be first on the ball when an opportunity arises. Begin testing and responding to the signals you receive. What results do you get? What sort of effect are your efforts producing? Have the courage to try out different things. Through manual and practical experience, you will garner insights that can inform smart decisions on what you need to do when bringing things up to full scale. With the right system support, working processes and competencies.

There is no reason not to start now – traditional campaigns will not be enough to exert the effect you need to retain or improve your position in the market.

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