Aiming For A Digital Transformation? Don’t Forget Your Online Reputation

If your tree falls in a forest when no one is there to hear it, it really won't make a sound—at least, not loud enough for it to matter.

Before Covid-19 swept over the globe, the term “digital transformation” was a sigh-inducing buzzword — a phrase that all-too-vaguely implied that a business was forward-thinking enough to embrace technology and evolve their operations, products and services to better appeal to modern needs. There was no particular urgency or real meaning attached to the term even a few months ago. But now, needless to say, the situation has changed.

As business writer Joel Anderson recently explained for Yahoo! News, “[This is] one of those epoch-shifting moments when people are forced to take note of a process they might not have questioned before, only to realize it has to change.”

Of course, few business leaders believed that the changes they made at the start of the pandemic would be permanent; most changes were made to the tune of, “it’s only until we return to normal.” But now, it has become clear that even when social distancing measures do relax, the business sector will never return to exactly as it was before.

Digital transformations have suddenly become crucial for businesses across all industries. Those undergoing a tech-centric reimagining hope to achieve a new business model, tap new revenue streams or find new digital means to improve their products, extend their business reach and outfox their competitors. According to statistics published in the Harvard Business Review earlier this year, 95 percent of surveyed executives believe that the drive for digital transformation has “grown in importance” since 2018, and 70% describe the change needed as being “significant.”

Digitally mature organizations enjoy increased efficiency, better consumer satisfaction, improved employee engagement, and better product and service quality. Revenue growth, too, is notably better. One recent report from Deloitte found that 43 percent of businesses with high digital maturity experience net profits that are significantly higher than average, compared to 15 percent of those with low digital maturity.

But if these digital transformations are so clearly vital to the coming era of tech-savvy business, why are they failing?

Digital transformations fizzle out a lot. According to McKinsey, less than a third of companies succeed in their evolution; only 16 percent of surveyed business leaders said that their digital transformations have improved performance and facilitated long-term positive changes. Another seven percent claimed that their performance improved briefly only to falter over time.

Now, these lackluster success rates are likely due in part to faulty strategies or poor implementation. But there’s little doubt that at least some fault can be attributed to the fact that these digital transformations were not made clear to consumers, prospective hires and team members. As the old proverb goes: If a tree falls in a forest when no one is there to hear it, did it ever make a sound?

If no one has the opportunity to recognize your digital transformation, will it spark a positive response? The answer would appear to be “no.” 

This is where online reputation management comes into play. In a post-Covid world, remaining on that ever-important cutting edge means being remote-friendly, keyed into a tech-reliant world, and being capable of facilitating satisfying interactions between digitally-connected employers and consumers. Online reputation management is the practice of ensuring that your online presence accurately conveys your business’s brand — and any important digital evolutions it might have undergone.

A well-managed online presence can spark consumer interest and help attract top-tier talent to your team. In 2018, researchers for Clutch found that companies who invest in their online reputation tend to view an uptick in sales (and, by inference, increased consumer attention) as their greatest return. In the context of a digital transformation, an accurate online footprint empowers organizations to shout their new brand identity and improved capabilities from the digital rooftops, ensuring that those they most want to know about their evolution, do.

Put this way, it’s clear just how integral good online reputation management practices are as part of a successful digital transformation.

But herein lies the problem. When most business leaders strategize for their digital evolutions, they focus on internal changes — and completely forget to communicate those shifts externally. According to McKinsey, less than half of surveyed businesses say that they concentrate on “interacting with external partners through digital channels.”

This oversight presents multiple issues. First and foremost, it holds businesses back from achieving a successful transformation and conveying their evolved brand identity to potential consumers and shareholders.

This hobbling effect can be disastrous in the long run; as one researcher for the business advisory firm Binder Dijker Otte (BDO) wrote in a recent report on digital transformation, “Mid-market companies that don’t constantly transform and evolve risk being outranked by their competition, losing industry relevancy, and being replaced by their more technologically savvy, nimble competitors. They risk going out of business—and quite possibly, not being missed.”

Secondly, an inaccurate online presence prevents businesses from fully connecting with consumers during a time when social distancing has made digital connection paramount. As one researcher for Clutch shared in the above-mentioned report, “Allowing individuals to share their experiences about a company is an important element to building transparency and trust with customers. […] Having positive reviews can make or break a company that’s trying to earn new business leads.”

Putting together an online reputation management strategy is a necessary step in the process, one that could make the difference between a successful shift and total failure. For starters, assess where your reputation stands and start thinking about how you can align your new brand identity with your online image. You may find that, as we emerge into our new, post-Covid normal, doing so makes all the difference.

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