Digital disruption is business model transformation brought about by integrating digital technologies into a company’s processes. This disruption has helped millions of businesses reach new customers and grow their revenue. It has also left many businesses behind as they have been slow to embrace change. The main cause for these businesses falling behind, after lack of vision, is failing to adequately prepare for digital integration.
One of the most important steps a business can take in dealing with digital transformation is to have a reliable partner to help navigate through the complex digital world. However, the key word here is “reliable.” Too many partners today don’t offer all the insights and benefits a digital transformation partner should.
So, what are the characteristics of a reliable digital transformation partner?
Here are the questions you should ask your partners when you are trying to transition to a more digital world:
1. What are their core beliefs?
A company’s core beliefs will define how they deal with you throughout the potentially long process of digital integration. They will also reveal how they deal with adverse situations, such as a misunderstanding of goals or direction.
Does your partner lead with integrity? How do they balance confidence and humility? What is their communication philosophy? How much direction are they looking for from you, and what do they do with it?
It isn’t always easy to uncover a partner’s core beliefs. Probing questions and the right discussions with reference clients are the best way to start.
2. Do they act like a partner or a vendor?
When hiring a digital transformation partner, businesses are looking for just that: a partner. Not a salesperson, an advertiser, nor a vendor.
Reliable partners are looking to help build their track record of success by helping companies achieve their goals. Vendors often have cookie-cutter platforms and solutions that they try to squeeze their partners into.
A good digital transformation partner will be laser focused on your business goals and should provide unique solutions to help you achieve these goals.
3. Do they hire a team of professionals or contractors?
Professional service agencies almost always need to bring in contractors at some point or another. The work ebbs and flows, clients sometimes have unplanned and immediate needs. But with a long term plan and engagement, who is performing your work and interacting with you?
Professional employees bring many benefits to your engagement that don’t come with a group of contractors. As discussed above, professionals will know and embody the partner’s culture and inhabit their core beliefs. They’ll more intuitively understand how the partner operates, and know how to more quickly solve issues that arise. Professionals are also more likely to bring imaginative solutions rather than just focusing on getting the job done.
4. Do they have years of experience and a range of marketing skills?
All good marketers know how to define their target customers, reach them, and engage them. The benefits that experience can bring to this process are, however, significant.
A deeper understanding of human patterns and behaviors enables a more experienced partner to come up with more creative solutions for communication and engagement. Experience also allows a broader understanding of how people interact with design interfaces, be they front facing (your website or product application) or back-end (your dashboards and tools).
The process of digital transformation is not only about sorting out how to integrate technology into your business. It also means using marketing skills to create engaging, new narratives.
5. Can they help businesses achieve real growth results?
In the end, businesses are really looking for results: more leads, more customers and more revenue.
It takes a partner that really understands your vision, business, and clientele to help deliver real growth. The best partners see you as well as you see yourself, sometimes better. They can articulate your goals with you, and then use those goals to drive their actions.
6. Are they always looking for ways to improve and exceed expectations?
Once a partner understands your vision, business, and clientele, they can begin applying their marketing experience to your goals. This is when you should be able to see imagination, innovation, and creativity at work.
You can screen for creativity by asking potential partners to describe their creative process while you are doing research on partners. Successful marketing agencies know how to build good narratives, so an innovative partner should have stories on how they were able to exceed expectations from their other clients.
7. Do they communicate and educate in full transparency?
Business partnerships are designed to be mutually beneficial. What enables business relationships to develop are uniform rules of engagements that both partners follow. One key to these relationships is transparency; each partner having clearly communicated expectations that are founded on trust and honest values.
There are many steps that require trust in business relationships: Non-Disclosure Agreements, Letters of Intent and Performance Contracts all come with the expectation that partners on both sides are going to honor their agreements. Early transparency in communications around any issues or hurdles makes it easier to solve problems sooner and starts building that necessary trust.
Finding the right digital transformation partner isn’t easy. It takes some amount of research, conversation and communication to ensure that your partner understands you and your business and will work aggressively on achieving and exceeding your goals in a manner that syncs with your company and culture. The payoff for success is tremendous, which is why this search is worth the investment.