When to Hire Your First Digital Leader

How to Hire Your First Digital Leader

(Part 1 of 2) In this two-part article I’ll first look at how to take a quick gauge of where your organization is digitally, when the right time to hire a digital leader is, and in part two I’ll share 5 Tips to Hiring Your First Digital Leader.

Do You Have a Plan?

You would be hard-pressed to find an industry that has not been impacted by digital innovation. Everything from media, manufacturing, retail, banking, travel, real estate (you get the idea) has evolved in some way within the digital age. Digital has opened the doors of innovation and opportunity in almost every business sector; however intense periods of disruptive innovation can come at a cost. This change has been painful for many “traditional” industry segments where efficiency and automation has undercut many historically viable value-chains. Those who are “thinking digital” are future-proofing their business. Those who are not, are likely feeling the pinch from innovative competitors and non-traditional disruptors who are changing the game.

There’s been a relatively common adoption path taken by any business or organization “going digital”.

  1. Dabble With Who & What You Have
  2. Test, Measure, and Do What Works
  3. Develop a Customer-Centric Plan Aligned to Business Goals
  4. Innovate the Way Business is Done to Drive ROI

Even today, many small and medium-sized businesses tend to stall on the first step. This may sound familiar. The most digitally savvy person in the company (likely in Marketing) is given the responsibility to ensure the company is visible on the Internet and represented on Social Media platforms. It’s a way to say “we’re there” without investing too much time, energy, and budget.

Unless you have an unlimited budget to test and work through the failures to find success, attempting to establish a digital business footprint can be very expensive without a plan. There’s no secret to developing a plan, any plan created must align to core business goals or open up new opportunity that broadens those goals to be successful. Creating the right digital plan requires the knowledge of what digital integration and transformation can do to a business. This will not come from the marketing associate who oversees the token online presence.

When is the Right Time to Hire a Digital Leader?

For business owners and leaders who are not well-versed in digital and are unsure of the answer, look at your direct competitor’s websites, social platforms, online advertising and ask yourself if they own the conversation in your industry. Look at the number of followers on their social platforms, read the communication between their brand followers and company representatives. Are they supporting their customers by answering questions? Guiding customers to products and services? Engaging with your same target audiences in ways that you are not? Building relationships with clients and customers is all about spending time together, and if your competitors are spending more time than you are with your target audience, you’re already being left behind.

Are there new business models from new brands jumping into the fray and turning your industry on its head? Digitally native companies like Uber are changing the way we look at Taxis and Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry. Who are the innovation players forcing change in your industry?

If you’re in the thick of it and are under siege by the market around you, you are definitely past due to ensure you have digital leadership embedded and speaking on behalf of your business success. If others around you are relatively quiet on the digital front, you have an opportunity to get ahead and set the bar for others to compete with you rather than playing catch-up. You could ask your agency to take care of your digital needs, but how well does your agency know your business? Are you really getting 100% dedicated resources on your work? Given digital is here to stay, how does this help your own company become more effective in a fundamental growth area for your business by abdicating the strategy to people outside the organization? Are you really getting your budget’s worth? Consider owning your strategy, and having digital leadership in-house to hold your agency to account for execution.

It’s never too late to hire a digital leader. A digital leader is someone who has the skills, experience, and cultural fit for your organization who can work with the senior leaders in the company to develop a digital strategy for the entire business and be held accountable to the plan’s execution.

For helpful tips in hiring digital leader, see the second part of this article:
5 Tips to Hiring Your First Digital Leader