Digital transformation at Belgian growth companies: an overview
The original, Dutch version of this post can be found here.
Three main topics for this longread:
- Digital transformation at companies shows a few striking resemblances to broccoli.
- Many of today's digital buzzwords are irrelevant in the Belgian SME market.
- An authentic personal approach is still the way to go. Just don't overdo it - otherwise clients will start to work against you.
The wood for the trees
Every now and then, we like to take a step back, gather our thoughts and share a few insights on the digital topics that we specialise in. Why, you ask? Blog posts about topics like our agile way of working, IoT trends and digital industrialisation are all very well and we hope they provide some inspiration for the future. Translating these concepts and ideas into fully functional solutions is a different kettle of fish altogether. Time and time again, we find the initial strategy phase to be the most important factor in turning digital projects into a succes. Marketing buzzwords have zero value when it comes to deal closing, generating brand awareness, or delivering on pretty much any of your actual business goals.
Impact on growing companies
The list of digital transformation trends that are often predicted to completely turn the SME landscape upside down - which sounds quite like the near-overnight setting of a new world order - is, in our humble opinion, rather limited outside of the confines of the California tech campuses and a few other innovation hotspots. The trends that do remain as relevant and valuable in an everyday business context, might not sound as exciting as one would expect.
To get things out of the way, we'll first list a few hot topics that are clearly not part of most companies' digital roadmap - despite their frequent mentioning as examples of new ways of conducting business. In random order:
Self-driving cars, Blockchain (better known through the Bitcoin cryptocurrency) and Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR, respectively). I must admit: Tesla is doing a stellar job as a technical innovation leader, the financial world is most likely gearing up for some substantial changes (albeit not in quite the uprising, anarchy-led way that some people seem to expect) and I would be the first to book an AR-improved tour through the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Does this mean those innovations are relevant to most Belgian SME's who aren't directly involved in one of these markets? Probably not. There exists a massive disconnect between general digital transformation trends for companies and sector-specific technological innovations that take a supporting role within the digital transformation framework. This article on innovation in the construction industry is an excellent read on true sector-specific change.
What are the relevant items then - the not-so-sexy-sounding trends that improve over 90% of the businesses that we encounter in this part of Europe? A selection:
- B2one personalisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Not quite in the sci-fi way that one would expect - i.e. robots ruling our world -, but rather for more serious, time-consuming tasks like object identification, indexation, content distribution, mass personalisation and e-mail marketing.
- Data analytics. This might not sound the most interesting, but it's closely related to our point about AI. Data is worth its weight in gold - not that digital data are very heavy, but you get the point. Plenty of organisations are sitting on enormous amounts of data, which are usually locked up in silos and vastly underused. We know the struggle first-hand: at Dropsolid we are constantly working on optimising our own internal flows and making them as conversion-based as possible.
- Context and en content marketing. Easier said than done: it can be very time-consuming to set up and needs continuous care.
- A good customer service throughout the entire company and true availability of teams - whether your business revolves around website solutions, yoga classes or plumbing services. (Note: please don't exaggerate or institutionalise this too much: if you're regularly in touch with persistent UK or US companies' customer succes teams, you'll know what I mean.)
How do the companies we work with every manage to decide what to do, how to do it and when? The answer is simple: through consistent digital strategy. Usually, the combination of internal analysis and external expertise proves most succesful.
Digital strategy is like broccoli: it's not the first item on your shopping list and tastes quite bland, but it does give you a significant long-term health boost.
At Dropsolid, we try to practice what we preach internally - as digital strategists ourselves, we shouldn't be afraid to work on our own digital presence. At the moment, our entire team is dedicated to content and context marketing. Our approach is starting to pay off. Our technical experts share their Drupal knowledge with the world, whilst our CEO provides occiasional strategic updates and the marketeers shine their light on marketing-related issues. That's how we build trust - still one of the cornerstones of a healthy, growth-oriented SME.