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Unlocking Digital For Top Management Is Just A Game Away

Digital transformation can indisputably be a game-changer for brands but many marketers are hampered by the lack of digital understanding and commitment among their top management. Gamification turned the top 100 executives of a multi-billion Euro engineering group into true digital believers.

Your brand probably already has a decent online presence and digital marketing plan. In any case, you may want to accelerate things and leverage digital fully to grow your business. That is the main challenge for me in my role as VP of brand & marketing for a global industrial group. And through a holistic approach and a dedicated focus on digitisation, we have managed to achieve breakthrough progress over the past few years.

Proprietary digital solutions and services now complement the product offering to strengthen our overall customer value proposition. Digital is leveraged across key strategic, tactical and operational stakeholder touch points and processes to drive efficiencies. Online communications have been upgraded through responsive web platforms, personalisation and integration of marketing automation, CRM, and other supporting technologies. Proprietary social media platforms and integrated programmes put our brand at the centre of industry thought-leadership and networking.

Selected results include 41% year-on-year growth in web traffic, a 10-fold increase in conversions and 500% growth in the number of qualified sales leads. The key has been to get top management to really understand digital and the associated opportunities. Our proven approach has been a holistic change programme that included gamification as a powerful element.

Digital Enables Profitable Growth
Whether you are working in a progressive blue chip FMCG company, as I used to, or in a more traditional B2B context as I do now, digital carries significant (unlocked) business potential. In my experience there are two main cornerstones you need to establish with top management in order to unlock the investments needed and consequently the associated business potential.

The first one is that digital must be viewed as a strategic business opportunity, not just a tactical marketing thing. Executive workshops on how digital might offer opportunities for all elements in your business model and go-to-market strategy can be a highly effective approach. Review element by element and get top management to consider what strategic impact digital might have, which changes are needed, and what investments are required. That will establish digital as a far bigger issue than nice-to-have marketing.

Secondly, digital is an investment that enables profitable growth, not a cost that causes profitability to decline. A proven approach to changing attitudes is to use relevant best-practice case studies backed up with business data. Business simulation games can also show business leaders how sales and profit can benefit from digitally power-charging market offerings and commercial activities. We need to get straight to the business rationale and prove it with data, not lose ourselves and the executives in digital marketing terms. Keep it simple and to the point.

Gamification In Change Management
It might not always be easy to reframe top management’s mindset, especially in traditional organisations. The exercises described above, coupled with other elements like an internal education programme on “The what, why and how of digital for business purposes” and a two-day bespoke strategic marketing training exercise for executives, took us a long way in our journey. However, the real break-through came from using gamification.

Doing is believing. Upgrading from theoretical understanding to practical experience will turn top management into true believers. It helped us prove the business relevance of various digital tools and platforms, and made management see how these can be applied to grow the business.

Hands-On Digital Experience
Consider setting up a “Digital Race” team competition at your next management conference. Divide your colleagues into teams of between three and eight, and equip each team with smartphones, tablets and a laptop connected to a screen. Send them on a pre-defined digital journey that allows them to experience some key channels, platforms, tools and assets. Expose them to a broad range of elements linked to your main customer journeys and the various stages of the actual buying process. With the business glasses on, top management’s perception will change.

Task Solving And Business Relevance
You might want to steer the overall experience and what specific learnings your executives should take away from the exercise. Define two or three specific tasks for the teams to solve for each digital platform. Use great examples from aspirational brands, your own company and even your competitors. Use the tasks to ensure they get a rich experience and clear messages. That will build awareness and understanding.

And why not take the business importance message one step further by letting each team discuss and assess the relevance of the respective digital elements for your business? Force your executives to analyse and rate each element, and to provide the rationale behind their assessment. That will establish the business connection and relevance.

As a final component, get top management to consider how each element might be used for your business specifically. Get the teams to define and capture how to apply the digital elements in the pre-sales, sales, and/or after-sales phase(s) respectively. It will shift mindsets from “if” to “how” and reveal the strengths of each element. That will cement digital for your business.

Digital Devices And Communications
The devices that are used and how communication is set up during the game will also help drive home additional messages. The smartphones and tablets used for browsing and task solving will also illustrate how important mobile is for customer communications and interactions.
 


To bridge the analog and digital worlds, we started our game by letting the teams download a QR reader and scan a code that opened up a video clip which introduced the “Digital Race”. It instructed each team to check in to Foursquare where they received a link to a microsite that served as the game engine for the whole competition. On the microsite they were given a team colour plus an associated Twitter handle. When they activated it by sending a tweet to the game leader, the first digital platform to explore and the associated tasks to solve appeared on their microsite.

All teams were connected to a central game engine that displayed how each team was progressing in the race in real time on a big screen. It also showed all tweets to the game leader, as well as the tweets between the teams. The further the competition progressed, the more active the tweeting became. The team with the best combination of shortest time to complete the Digital Race and the most correct solutions to the tasks won the competition.

Output As Digital Strategy Input
You might want to get each team to summarise their key learnings from the event, and combine it with the business relevance rating and the sales process application. Distribute it to your executives to fuel the momentum and use it as input for your digital strategy development. We did exactly that and it created a breakthrough in internal commitment and external results, which I will get back to in a forthcoming article.

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