In 2018 I was the Managing Director of an Energy Service company. 

I had a selection of ‘tools and techniques’ that I used to grow businesses back then. On the Sales side I was very much into the ‘Challenger’ thinking. You may have read the book…

"Instead of leading with information about their company and its solutions, Challengers provide customers with surprising insights about how they can save or make money", we put this to good use back in the day and it got us to places we could not dream of getting to by using other means.

My tools and techniques worked very well for a time, then I noticed they were becoming less and less effective. More calls, more emails, more adverts, more PR, more shows…. declining results.

The rise of Digital.

Back then, ‘Digital’ meant ERP systems and Project Management systems. Things that would make life easier once we had won projects and were managing them, but Digital began to spread into other areas of business.

Digital HR portals, Digital HSE systems, Digital Quality processing…. etc.

I noticed the Digital Impact on Sales, Marketing and Business development in 2018, but I didn’t understand it.

It was becoming more and more difficult for us to get to the right table/s, if and when we did get there…. we were increasingly late in the process.

trudging through analogue mud

Jump to today...I run a weekly LinkedIn Audio programme called 'Social Things' where we speak to professionals who are cutting a path on Digital with Social Media.

On a recent show, Tibbe Begemann from MacArtney Underwater Technology Group responded to the question of "what's changed?", with a simple comment…” Formality to community”.

Formality to Community

Formality to Community

Formality to Community

…this phrase kept ringing round in my mind. 

3 words that may seem innocuous and throw away, but they became bigger and bigger the more I thought about them.

It all started coming together.

In an interview series titled ‘Marketing leaders from Amazon  by Elisa Xu and Julia Hood for Business Insider, big organisations such as LinkedIn, Lego Group and more discuss what pandemic-fuelled business changes are likely to stick around’, Marketing leaders from large global organisations share insight into what parts of their business have evolved, and what parts have stayed the same through the past few years of unexpected change.

These leaders were interviewed at the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June.

The company executives featured in the video are from Diageo, Amazon, Mastercard, LinkedIn, TikTok, Accenture, the LEGO Group, Deloitte, EY Americas , Lowe's Companies, Inc. and Snap Inc..

Cristina Diezhandino, chief marketing officer at Diageo opens with:

"I think there's been an enormous amount of learning."

"Before, we would have had grand plans that would look into the next year, or perhaps even three years. Now we are in a position of looking at the next three months, perhaps even one month or even a few days,".

The topic of this festival was Creativity, so how do we leverage creativity to enhance our businesses and why is it important to widen our view of cross team creativity as a modern business imperative?

How do small engineering companies, mid-size service companies or start-ups put creativity to work and why should they bother?

In the analogue world of the past, we tended to view creativity in business as the domain of the Marketing department. The websites, the adverts, the shows, the marketing materials…all required solid creative brains to make them do what they were supposed to do.

Buts it’s all change in the digital commercial age.

Julia Goldin, Chief Product and Marketing Officer and Executive VP at Lego Group, said “we really believe creativity is an essential skill for everyone, in the world today and the world of the future. And if you don’t believe that creativity is your job, you know, whether you work in supply chain, whether you work in shipping, logistics, we really believe that everyone has to be creative”.

It’s an interesting point that Julia makes but putting this into practice on Social Media is another story.

In previous articles I’ve discussed how influence over broadcasting is key to progress in the strategic application of social media. Buyers are telling us that they are more interested in your teams thought leadership content than your marketing materials and product sheets, they want to hear from the people not the brand….

People are winning the battle over the brands…

Buyers are cutting out the ‘door openers’, choosing which doors they want to open and opening themselves.

The battle lines for market share are drawn and they are online…

Buyers want thought leadership content to allow them to assess whether you really understand their issues and can solve their problems, so it makes sense to have your team dominate the thought leadership space in your sector.

But so often we see organisations stuck in a corporate rut of stiff, glossy brochureware that is blending into the mass of other stiff, glossy brochureware that is not in any way creating influence in their sectors?

Influence comes from people connecting with people on a technical, commercial, and personal level, the means bringing personality into the picture.

Suzanne Kounkel, Chief Marketing Officer at Delloite US, said:

“work is everywhere, we’re people everywhere and that mixture of what is both personal and professional has become very, very blurry. And is that world our employees have a lot of agency and it’s something we have to really think about and lean into”.

A modern thinking CMO realising that the strength is with the people in the organisation, “our employees have a lot of agency and it’s something we have to really think about and lean into”.

Leaning into the army of technical and commercial influencers you have in your team. Look outside your office or on your next team video call…your army is right there.

“But Eric, we are an (insert your specialism) company, surely this doesn’t apply to us…?”

Yes it does, if you are selling products and services to other businesses it applies to you.

modern sales and marketing is about creating digital communities

So, all of this ‘agency’, the importance of building ‘Digital Dominance’, 'Creativity'…what is it all for?

I don’t mean orders or profit at this point; these are outputs…what is it really for? 

What are we doing these days that we didn’t do before…? 

What are we trying to achieve…?

We are building powerful digital communities.

If you’d come into my office in 2018 and said…"we can see into the future and it’s all about digital communities, ecosystems and partnerships", I would have fallen off my chair laughing.

To build meaningful and sustainable digital communities takes deep understanding, practise, and commitment. It takes more than someone reviewing your profile or sending you emails promising to increase your LinkedIn SSI…. it’s a commercial reset and rewiring.

The focus in now on building the digital twin of your sector and centring it around your people, your organisation.

If we want to be the Digitally Dominant players in our sector we must think differently and think wider.

👉We must be thinking influence over broadcasting and creating a space that people want to walk towards and join in.

👉We must understand that the engine room for this is in our people, not out brochures.

👉We must be thinking about training the internet to see us as the answer to all of those questions that we want to be the answers to.

Then we need a process and a framework to convert all of this into relationships, conversations, orders, revenue and other meaningful business results.

The world has changed, your business world had changed whether you like it/accept it, or not.

Your people build digital communities, ecosystems and partnership, not your marketing materials and products sheets.

The battle lines for order intake, revenue and ebitda in your sector are drawn, and they are online…do your people have the skills and expertise to build digital communities, ecosystems and partnerships?

Eric Doyle (F.ISP)

Consult Crux / DLA ignite