Think strategically. Evaluating digital opportunities

Digitalization of everything, adaptation of technologies in many levels, keeps opening all kind of business opportunities to grow (or to smooth fluctuations), to make profit (or stop loss-making), and to be competitive. To be different than your nearest and far-most competitors.

There are so many opportunities today:

- moving sales, customer service and marketing in digital environment
- streamlining process through digitalization
- adding digital technology to existing products and services
- creating totally new kind of digital-only products and service
- being 100% present and 100% closer to customers 24/7.
and more.

But. How to proceed? Decision making requires some level of discipline. Over the first couple days in ITP´s Digital Marketing Strategies -summer course at Aalto University School of Economics we went through some frameworks that would help to assess ideas and concepts. Here is a small summary.

Step 1

Understand your business area. What are the competitive factors? Who are all the players on your business area? Direct competitors and non-direct competitors.

  1. Interview people
  2. Read business area related news and article
  3. Study all kind of trends
  4. Do insight research
  5. Look the numbers
  6. Ask end-customers.

50% of SWOT analysis is a useful tool in this stage. Or 100%. You decide because on step 6 you will assess your internal capabilities anyhow.

Remember to work out the Buyer Personas. They are more flexible tool than one first sees. You should use them to support all kind of decisions, read forward to see why.

Step 2

List all factors (current) and look at the competition. Are they investing (at any level) heavily or with minimal effort to certain factors? Their price level? Draw yourself a profile of an average company in this business area. And if you have time go through all competitors one by one!

Step 3

Think it you could eliminate some of the competitive factors? Or could you at least reduce the investment? Could you highlight other factors - or even - is there something missing that you could create? Think about your existing profile and potential new ones. Ask: "What could make us different", being different is an absolute goal for any business since that reduces competition to zero!

Step 4

Time to ideate. Think about how you could change the market areas boundaries. - investigate other partly competing business areas than purely yours aka look for alternatives which allows you to define new markets:

- study strategic companies groups in your business area, and get rid of narrow "tunnel definitions" to see new markets
- see if you could satisfy very different target audiences to find new markets
- could you add valuable and additional features to expand your markets
- is there a chance to add emotion to rational products or other-way round to reach new markets (often in specific business areas there is a common belief that their customers are expecting "the same"
- finally, is there a untapping trends that could help to create new markets?

Step 5

After you have identified opportunities in steps 3-4, ask

A - am I delivering exceptional value to buyers on a large scale? If not, it's a bad idea. Look back to those customer personas you made earlier.

To test buyers utility there are six reducing, weakening or "breaking" topics to consider over stages of the buying and using journey:

- could we improve the productivity of the buyer
- could we simplify his process of buying and using your product
- could we make it more convenient (to buy, deliver, use, add, maintain, disposal) the product
- could we reduce risks at any stage
- could we deliver fun&delight to the process
- could we make it environmentally friendly

The more you have "yes" to different stages of the buyers´ experience, the better chances are that you are going to provide superior buyer utility.

Step 6

If you say yes in utility assessment, then

B- what is the price point that my target group is willing to pay to receive the value I am creating?

These two steps are the revenue side of your strategic planning. If you still feel confident, ask...

Step 7

C - am I able to produce exceptional value with strategic price within a cost level that keep us profitable? Of course, you understand that answering "yes, we can do profit", is a must to go forward.

D- finally, tackle the adaption of a strategy. Ask if there are any hurdles to overcome like culture, skills, legacy system, customer relationships, contracts, internal politics, bonus-systems, all potential factors to cause your brilliant idea to dust. Is your environment ready even for a pilot?

Step 8

If you are here, there is a chance you have found a strategic approach that could make your business different AND at the same time very profitable. 

Great! Please proceed to the implementation, which is totally another story.

Good luck!

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