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“The digital tipping point: McKinsey Global Survey results” points out how far companies are from really exploiting digital opportunities.

According to the report, less than 40 percent of executives say their companies have accountability measures in place and only 7 percent say their organizations understand the exact value at stake from digital.  Digital, in the context of the McKinsey survey, refers to digital engagement of customers; innovation of products, operating model or business model; big data and advanced analytics; engagement of employees, suppliers and business partners; customer lifecycle management; automation; and more.

So what is the root cause for this massive disconnect?  Why are companies missing such important opportunities?

I submit that the primary root causes are a flaw in strategic planning techniques and insufficient use of social media.

If you follow the Balanced Scorecard methodology, you know that strategy begins with understanding the needs and desires of the customer.  We then identify the operational processes needed to delight our customers and determine the organization, people, skills and tools needed to support those operational processes.  And we measure, measure, measure.

So when I read that so few companies are focused on digital customer engagement and only seven percent of companies surveyed understand the value at stake from digital, it tells me that companies are not doing a good job of understanding their customers and tailoring strategies that will delight their customers, make brand advocates of those customers and create more customers to grow the business.

There are lots of reasons for why companies are missing this mark.  In my experience, organizations (as defined by their leadership) get stuck in a comfortable paradigm.  Sure, the executives know, intellectually, that digital opportunities are important to the business.  But they probably don’t “hear” what the customer is asking for and, even if they do, are uncomfortable with the changes required to get there.

It might be wise for these companies to engage in social media campaigns, facilitated by a knowledgeable insider or by an outside digital marketing firm such as Imagine Wow, www.imaginewow.com (full disclosure – I’m the CEO of Imagine Wow).  A simple social media campaign can give company leadership direct access to the dialogue that customers are having regarding a particular company or brand across social networks and deliver appropriate analytics that clearly measure the potential of digital opportunities.  And it can all be delivered to company leadership on a “silver platter”, meaning simple reports and excerpts from the social networks.  The C-suite doesn’t need to become experts in Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.

That simple exercise may de-mystify social media, demonstrate the accountability that can be generated, amplify the voice of the customer, open the door to digital marketing and, ultimately, pave the way for greater company growth through a variety of digital efforts that are targeted to the customers’ needs.

The bottom line is that most companies will not transform overnight and they won’t take great risks in getting there.  A deliberate, step-by-step approach will educate and enlighten leadership, and give them the tools they need to lead the entire organization into a new paradigm.  A paradigm in which we listen to our customers, develop strategies around what our customers really want, and build a sustainable competitive advantage.