How to Win in a Digital Economy

I suppose I would describe myself as a product of the digital age. One of my first jobs was working for the first Australian personal computer company in 1985 that sold the first IBM personal computer.

How to Win in a Digital Economy

In the late 1980’s I remember installing and using my brand new mobile and chatting to my grandfather (who was brought up in an age of milk being delivered by horse and cart).

Ten years later I remember firing up my PC and connecting to the internet with a very slow modem and hooked into the web using one of the first search engines “Alta Vista”

It was about another decade later that I registered on Facebook for the first time and connected to people I had gone through college with, some looking considerably grayer and others with a lot less hair.

These technologies are now intersecting with high impact in an increasingly digital economy.

The Age of Disruption

There are technologies and events that are disrupting our world.

Nassim Taleb in his book “Fooled by Randomness”  gave the title to these events, “Black Swan Events” .

The black swan was a mythological creature that was not thought to exist but this bird was in fact discovered in the 1600’s by the Dutch when they landed in Western Australia.

What are Black Swan Events?

Three attributes define  Black Swan events.

  • They are unexpected
  • They have major impact
  • In hindsight it was predictable

Examples of Black Swan events include: Einstein’s theory of relativity, the invention of penicillin and the September 11 attacks.

Black Swan Digital Events

In the digital world four major events (technologies) are disrupting business and how we communicate.

  1. The invention of the personal computer
  2. The Internet and world wide web
  3. Social networks
  4. Internet connected smart phone

The intersection of these technologies is creating a tidal wave of change that threatens “business as usual

The question an entrepreneur or a CEO has to ask is “What are these challenges and how can we innovate and adapt to take advantage of these events?

The Challenges of  the Digital Economy

To win in a digital world there are many challenges to overcome.

This presentation was the keynote at Turkish Time magazine’s 10th anniversary event  in Istanbul, Turkey and provides a visual journey of “How to Win in a Digital Economy“.

[Click on the image below to view the presentation on Slideshare]

How to Win in a Digital Economy Slideshare Presentation

Challenge One: Humans Change Slowly

We have a fast changing world but the challenge is that humans are slow to change and our thinking and habits are still trapped in traditional habitual thinking and customs. A lot of senior managers are still acting as if we are still living in an industrial and traditional mass media economy.

The pace of change is accelerating.

To reach 50 million users

  • Radio took 38 years
  • TV took 13 years
  • Internet took 4 years
  • iPod took 3 years

Facebook added over 200 million users in less than 12 months!

The pace of this change is creating fear for executives that  were not educated or familiar in this new digital economy

Challenge Two: We Think Local not Global

You competitor is no longer in your local district, city or country. International couriers and modern logistics enable products to be flown around the world in 24 hours. Online stores in the UK, USA or Europe are now your competitors.

The opportunities to expand your market to the world is now possible with the new online media which includes social networks, online banner ads and search engine optimization.

Challenge Three: It is Disruptive

Who would have thought 10 years ago that Kodak would be in bankruptcy and Apple would turn the music industry, the publishing industry and the phone market on their heads

Challenge Four: It is a Noisy and Crowded Web

In a digital universe of 500 million plus websites, 150 million blogs and 200 billion display ads every 90 days, the challenge for any business is to cut through all the clutter and noise.

In just one day we create

  • 1.5 billion pieces of content
  • Tweet 200 million times
  • Post 2 million new videos online

So how do we change our thinking, adapt, be found online and  play to win in a digital and increasingly global economy?

Step One: Build your Digital Assets

We need to establish and optimize our online assets.

What are Digital Assets?

Any online web properties that you have your name and brand on.

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Online Store
  • Social Networks
  • Mobile apps

In the past having a website was considered enough but the game has changed! You need to be everywhere and on a variety of digital platforms.

Websites in the past were static and considered to be optional. In 2012 they are mandatory and need to be an integral part of a business and constantly updated and interactive.

A small business can look big on the web.

Digital Asset One: Website

They are your online digital front door and reception  that you own and control, more people visit your digital property than your physical reception or office.
So invest appropriately and treat it as important as your physical assets.
Building an online digital asset is not a zero sum game, the sooner you start  and optimise the further ahead of the competition you will be as you continue to create content that brings people back to your website and Google pushes you further up the rankings.
Websites should not be set and forget – it is an active environment that requires constant and persistent updating. It informs and educates while you sleep. This is something that a salesperson cannot do.

  1. Business content website
  1. E-Commerce website

There are 2 main types of websites.

1. Business Website

How do you go from a “Basic and Boring” online web presence to a “Stunning and Special” online brand?

It starts with a great design and that is not just how it looks!

Steve Jobs when interviewed by “Wired”magazine in 1997, said that “intuitive and usable design  goes much deeper than how it looks, it is how it works! –  you really need to to “Grok” it, this means to intuitively understand and to empathise with your users and your target audience.

A great website should have these attributes.

  • Integrated to your companies systems and backend databse systems such as your CRM or email database.
  • Designed and developed for search engines
  • Calls to action to capture those important leads
  • Socialised – built for sharing and subscribing to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+
  • Have 2 way communication. Create an interactive blog as part of your website – It needs to move from static to interactive and allow comments and feedback. Provide a platform for engagement.
  • Write and develop content that is addictive, liquid and linked
  • Publish high impact images and multimedia that brings your viewers back and  compels them to share with their friends and colleagues

2.  E-Commerce Website
Online retail and e-Commerce is growing fast all around the world. It is challenging the traditional bricks and mortar stores.
Consideration must be given to making it easy for customers to buy your products at your physical store, your online store and other ecommerce distribution outlets such as Ebay. It is about Omni commerce, having your products everywhere. It is about making it easy for your customers to buy no matter where they are and no matter what digital device they are using, whether that is a mobile phone tablet or laptop

What are the key elements for a successful online store?

  • Build it on a robust technology platform that you can easily update and control yourself. (CMS or Content management Systems, allow you to change your website without having to be a programmer)
  • Intuitive design it so you don’t make people think
  • Make it easy for people to check out – each page you make customers click through to you lose 15%.
  • Create Trust – credibility through awards and obvious security features
  • Offer a choice of widely accepted payment methods
  • Provide discounts and incentives
  • Personalize it – eg Amazon. Registering as a guest using Facebook connect  allows your visit to personalized
  • Make it social – allow reviews and sharing

Digital Asset Two: Mobile Platforms

I don’t know about you, but if you walk the street, ride a bus or a train have a look at what people are doing. They are checking their smart phone or tablet. People commuting to work or watching TV at home are browsing on the mobile devices, checking their Facebook or even buying products from Ebay or an online store.

The growth of the social networks over the last few years has been matched by the mobile internet with smart phones sales approaching nearly 500 million units in 2011. The synergy that these 2 fast tracking trends provide is changing how we work and play.

So what are some mobile statistics worth noting?

  • The smart phone sales were up over 63% in 2011 from 2010 (488.5 million)
  • 5.9 billion people now use mobile phones globally
  • Over 500,000 apps have been developed in the past 3 years and downloaded more than 10.9 Billion times
  • 77% use mobile phones for search
  • Social networking accounted for 50% of all page views on mobile phones in 2011
  • Facebook mobile users quadrupled in 2 years from 50 million to 200 million•
  • There are 200 million mobile video playbacks from YouTube every day
  • There are 1.2 billion internet connected smart phones
  • In the US, 50% of the population with a phone now has an internet connected smart phone

The upside for mobile commerce and smart phone growth is enormous as all mobile phones will eventually become internet connected. On current numbers that means that 4.7 billion smart phones are yet to  be sold and connected!

So how do you plan for this increasingly mobile web?

  • Accept the fact that the world is going “Mobile”
  • Build a mobile optimized website
  • Build mobile apps that make it easy to buy from a mobile device from your online store

Is your business ready for the mobile web?

Digital Asset Three: Social Networks

As we mentioned earlier having just a website is not enough in a digital economy. You need to have your brand and digital assets in as many places as time and resources allows.

Secure your brand on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and LinkedIn. If you are a professional services company then you must also be on LinkedIn and Slideshare as a minimum.

Design and brand these networks to ensure that they are congruent with your brand image on your website and blogs.

So are you Done?

You have created a great website, built an online store, optimized your websites for mobile platforms, built a mobile app, secured and branded your social networks.

They look great! So sit back and wait for customers and prospects to find you and the money to roll in?

You are not done…Your work has only begun!

You need to be “found” and attract traffic so you can convert those leads and sell your products and services.

Step Two: Marketing your Digital Assets to Win

There are two core elements that are your foundation for your digital marketing.

1. Create a Digital Marketing Strategy.

This starts with a strategic approach not just tactics. A top level strategy includes the following steps .

  • Create a clear vision
  • Know who your audience is
  • Know what your goals are
  • Create tactics to achieve those goals
  • Persist and be patient

2. Develop and Publish Multi-Media Content

It also requires the foundation of creating liquid and linked content that is published everywhere and in a variety of media formats such as articles, images and videos.

We all consume information differently so provide content in a variety of multimedia formats that communicates to as many people as possible. It is about spreading your brand and being found everywhere. – be ubiquitous!

After creating your strategy and starting to build your content library you then need to commence your multi-channel marketing.

Channel One: Search

Business often does not give enough priority to being found by search engines. Here are some top level facts that display the importance of optimizing for search

Some Facts

  • Up to 90% of purchasing decisions start with an online search
  • Organic online clicks account for 75% of all clicks to websites
  • 25% of all clicks are paid eg. Google Adwords.

How important is it to be at the top of Google’s search results?

  • Ranking first on Google gets over 40% of all clicks
  • Ranking second receives just over 11% – coming second has distinct disadvantage as you only obtain ¼ of all clicks compared to first ranking.
  • 90% of all clicks occur on first page of search results

So if you are not on page one you will only receive a fraction of the remaining 10%.

2 Keys for Optimizing your Websites for Search Engines

There are two core activities  to optimize your website.

  1. Onsite SEO – Designing and developing your website so that Google’s crawlers can find the keywords and phrases that people will  use to find you. This requires key words in the titles, descriptions, words and phrases that are included when you build, code and update your website
  2. Off site SEO – Core activities here is “Link building” – this is where you get other websites to link to your website. The more important the website that links to you the greater value Google places on your website and pushes your site up the rankings.

Some Resources

10 Facts Reveal the Importance of ranking High in Google

Channel Two: Email Marketing

Don’t forget amongst the shiny toy syndrome of social media marketing the power and control of email marketing. Building and using an email database for communicating with your customers is a tool that you own and control.

Building an email database is an asset that is powerful and targeted.

Its importance is often underrated by marketing managers and business owners.


  • Make it easy – Just ask for a name and email
  • Provide incentives for prospects to opt-in to your email list – Eg A free ebook

Channel Three: Paid Online Marketing

Building a highly ranked website that Google can find takes time, patience and persistence. So paid online marketing can accelerate the process.

Provide a catalyst to your organic marketing and SEO activities that enables you to fast track your digital brand. It can be targeted and increasingly localized.

Examples of this type of marketing

  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Banner ads on websites where your customers hang out

These can create instant results. So if you are needing to fast track your brands online presence, obtain a marketing budget for paid digital advertising and accelerate the velocity of your marketing!

Channel Four: Social Media Marketing

This the biggest change to the web since the invention of the search engine.
It is democratizing marketing. It is putting marketing power in the hands of business people that has never occurred in the history of business marketing.

What are the Key Benefits of Social Media?

  • It amplifies your content
  • Makes you stand out from the crowd
  • It puts your business networking on steroids
  • Accelerates the spread of your brand through “Global word of mouth
  • It can position your company as a thought leader in its industry
  • Your business can self publish
  • Creates trust
  • Improves search engine rankings

So what social networks should you market on?

The short answer. Where your audience is, whether that is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or Slideshare or other social networks such as Pinterest or Instagram.

8 Keys to Success with Social Media Marketing

  1. Treat your social networks as an extension of your websites
  2. Build your networks – big numbers matter!
  3. Optimise social networks for search
  4. Engage with your audience
  5. Publish multimedia content regularly
  6. Create content for your audience that educates, informs, entertains and inspires
  7. Share and subscribe buttons everywhere
  8. Drive traffic to your website and “call to action” landing pages

Social media marketing is not a silver bullet but integrated with your traditional marketing it can accelerate the reach and velocity of your marketing.

It crowd sources and empowers your tribe and social network followers to create more conversations and stories about your brand than you could ever achieve.

Takeaways for Winning in a Digital Economy

  • Build, optimize and maintain your online assets
  • Market your online assets relentlessly, everywhere
  • Don’t ignore the growth of mobile
  • Optimize for search engines
  • Don’t underestimate the value of email
  • Create Multimedia “Liquid” content
  • Publish and promote your content on social networks

What About You?

So is your business  and brand making the most of the new digital economy? How many digital assets do you own?

Is the content on your website compelling and contagious so that people want to share it with friends and colleagues.

Are you making it easy for Google to find you or have you forgotten to optimize your website, digital assets and social networks for search engines?

Is email marketing in your  mix or have you left it on the shelf ?

Are you taking advantage of the leverage of  social media to break through the clutter and noise of 500 million websites and 200 billion display ads.

Look forward to hearing your stories.

More Reading

Image by DrChino


  • Iris Sandkuhler

    OMG this is so chalked full of “right on” tips and insights. I want to quote you in my newsletter! Problem is, there would be too many quotes because all of your advice is relative. How do I choose?
    -Iris (living in Silicon Valley)

    • Jeff Bullas

      Thanks Iris for your comment and glad you found it useful.

  • MBO

    Thanks, great post.One thing for sure, change is constant.

  • Asoto Adeola

    Insightful Post. Managing one’s online assets effectively is a sure winner these days.

  • Asoto Adeola

    Insightful Post. Managing one’s online assets effectively is a sure winner these days.

  • Mel

    I’ll say it again Mr. Ballus – you are full of insight and this post is just brilliant!  I remember starting in PR a whole lot of years back when we had to fax or hand deliver press releases – if there were images we had to type up the caption and tape it to the bottom or back of the photo with instructions on where to include it….nowadays it’s just easier, more convenient and less time consuming.  Thank you for sharing!

    • Jeff Bullas

      Thanks for your kind comment Mel and glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Therese

    Today,the technology is getting a lot more advance. There are some who are experts and experimenting with robotics to the extent they made them like humans who knows what humans mostly do This post is great,I like it a lot. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jeff Bullas

    Thanks Rhianne and I am glad you liked it :)

  • Ozio Media

    Even the largest corporations aren’t really sure how to use all of this new advertising technology, so smaller businesses have a great opportunity to take advantage of developing the online marketing strategy that works for them. A decade ago, Facebook ads didn’t even exist and now they have become an essential promotional tool. The businesses that took advantage of them early have reaped the greatest benefits. The key is to keep up with as much of the new developments as possible and to look for ways to integrate them into your online marketing strategies where possible.

  • E Commerce SEO Service

    I am interested to work with you in this project. I have my own team of SEO
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  • Bhushan

    What an amazingly thorough overview of the digital branding environment, Jeff. Thanks for breaking it all down with such insight and precision. 

  • Dallas McMillan

    You’ve done a great job covering the key elements for businesses to succeed online. Love it!