When a company invites me to evaluate the state of their digital maturity, the first question they always ask is, “What’s the ideal state?”

The fact is, a complete digital transformation results in a company that is in a position to continuously improve and optimize its marketing and customized engagement with customers. That’s the full, digitally mature state. But it’s by definition not an end.

Companies will often point to their technology investments as an indicator of their digital maturity. Technology is an important TOOL in digital transformation. It’s an enabler. But the acquisition and use of technology isn’t the transformation in itself. Achieving this level of digital maturity requires a change in the way the company does business, responds to external changes, and engages with customers.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

The famous quote from Peter Drucker is particularly apropos of digital transformation. Strategy is important but it’s the cultural change that drives success. The digitally mature company has shifted its culture away from ‘the way things have always been done’ to a point where everyone in the company understands the value of digital, how it helps them do their job, how it helps the company meet its overall goals, but most important of all, how it dramatically improves the customer experience. And everyone in the company — not just the digital team — feels they have a stake in the program’s success.

A corollary cultural change that will facilitate a successful transformation toward digital maturity is a move toward a more risk-tolerant environment. This requires a change management program that clearly communicates what the changes are, why changes are necessary, when they are happening, and that everyone in the company — from the CEO to the interns — is responsible for executing a successful transformation. Company leaders have demonstrated their full support for the transformation — even acknowledging that the transformation itself may have a short term detrimental effect on quarterly results as people learn new ways of working. Employees must feel they have permission to spend the time necessary to learn new tools and processes that will ultimately make them more effective and efficient. They should also feel that they can experiment and introduce new ideas or programs without being penalized if the new idea doesn’t pan out. This is the breeding ground of innovation.

Starting with customer-focused insights

The ideal digital enterprise leads with customer experience and allows this to drive everything else. Because implementing best practices, leveraging the most cutting-edge technology, creating the most beautiful campaigns, the cleverest promotions and the most intuitive and easy-to-navigate internet presence will still not result in success if these elements don’t deliver on meeting the customer’s needs.

Digital capabilities are literally bursting with sources of customer insight and a digitally mature company leverages all of them.

They use deep keyword research and structure the data into maps of topic areas that customers are interested in. They understand trends and seasonality of the topics and they know for sure what content to create to engage the customers. Because they’ve gotten the insights from the customers’ own search queries.

Social listening delivers insight into conversations that are happening in the social space that are relevant to a company’s business — what customers and potential customers think about their brand and competitors. Listening tells them what makes customers happy, their challenges, their needs, their ideas. It identifies where these conversations are happening so they can join in. And it tells them who’s leading those conversations: the influencers.

The enterprise that has reached digital maturity tracks customer activity on their website to understand what offerings the visitors are interested in, and they score customer activity at the individual level so they can connect the customers with an offer or a sales rep at the exact time they’re ready for that connection.

The sales teams understand the value of inputting as much customer information as possible into their CRM database because the more marketing knows about a customer, the more personally they can be engaged. That data is used for segmentation, campaign design and even personalization.

The ideal digital company creates detailed and progressive profiles of its customers and when there are gaps in the information, the company asks the customer directly in the form of a Web or social survey.

Digital helps bring it all together

Finally, digital maturity means integration. Getting everyone focused on the customer is the first step, so that visitors have a consistently good experience no matter where they touch the business.

The mature digital experience expresses the brand consistently. All the company’s businesses are using the same content strategy and templates, their customers see a single company, speaking with a unified voice and common messages. There are no outward-facing silos. There’s no confusion or dissonance to create friction or distract customers from their reason for interaction.

The various business units also share customer insights, so they know customers better and can recognize them no matter where they’re connecting with the company.

They share a content repository to reuse content and lower costs by preventing content duplication. And they share a common CRM to coordinate marketing activities and regulate how often customers receive communications.

Integration isn’t just about working across business units, the mature digital company also works to build relationships between marketing, sales, customer care, and other functional teams. All are rich sources of customer information and these partnerships result in better leads and more satisfied customers.