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Do you see your website, CRM, social media, and other digital initiatives as a way to improve service levels, market your organization, or be a central part of your thought leadership strategy?  While important, at best these are tactical approaches:  too often the bigger opportunity of digital transformation is ignored.

This isn’t surprising, as digital initiatives are often driven from marketing or IT, not from the board or the CEO.  When it is driven from the top, the question is more about digital transformation and the disruptive business models that the organization might adopt: after all, it is better to be a disruptor than be disrupted.  Here are seven:

  1. White label:  In this model, your organization provides a behind-the-scenes capability that others can incorporate into their offerings. A related strategy is co-branding, where your capability is “co-branded” with an organization who has client relationships.
  2. Vertical integration:  Think of the value chain, and particularly the functions both before and after your organization interacts with your key stakeholders.  Many accounting firms, for example, also provide bookkeeping services.  Amazon is now getting into the freight and delivery business, both with drone delivery at one end, and the purchase of a fleet of 40 Boeing 767 cargo planes.
  3. Software as a service:  This is the quintessential capacity rental business, made popular by Salesforce, but now adopted by many.  Other examples include Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud.
  4. Toolmaker:  This strategy is one where you build “tools” that others incorporate into their processes and their technology.  Stripe, the online payments processor, specializes in building developer tools that enable ecommerce.
  5. Debundling:  Instead of thinking of your organization as a single entity, is it possible to unbundle it and optimize each part?  A newspaper, for example, could think of itself as a content producer, a printer, a delivery/logistics operation, and an ad sales organization. Even these can be debundled: a content producer, for example is really reporting, writing, and editing.
  6. Shared service provider:  Associations at one point operated almost as a private club – a guild.  Modern associations, on the other hand, are far more experienced, and have operations including advocacy, accreditation, certification, training, event management, community building, job/career boards, and more. But what if they built a shared service capacity, providing all manner of for-profit services for their members? As they know more about the industry than anyone else, there may be possibilities for procurement, portfolio management, accounting, logistics, and more.
  7. Crowdsourcing:  This model brings key stakeholders directly into the business model itself:  YouTube is built with user-generated content, Uber is built with independent drivers, AirBNB is built using homeowners.

While not every organization might choose to be disruptive, the thinking behind it is important…  and should weigh into the digital investment decision.

This week’s action plan: Is your organization thinking of digital transformation?  If so, how much time has been spent considering the connection to your organization’s business model?  This week, choose one of these models, and whiteboard the digital implications.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials Digital strategy, technology, and design
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Was there really a surprise that Donald Trump won the American election?  Or that Justin Trudeau won the Canadian one?  Or that Brexit happened?

While Americans may eventually rue their choice of president, these three results have much in common:

  • Politicians and insiders who are perceived as privileged, and think that they know better.
  • An enormous group of pundits, intelligentsia, entertainers, media, and other so-called experts, many of whom are also disconnected from the person on the street, and who also thought they knew best.
  • The echo chamber of Social Media, which has effectively replaced mainstream journalism with individual “bubbles” where an individual is not exposed to dissenting views (or corroborating facts.)
  • Individuals who actually know best… Even if “everyone” from the first three groups thinks that they are dead wrong.

Putting aside the debate performances, the health issues, the size of the rallies, and the television commercials, it is these four fundamental factors that opened the door to outsiders.  People don’t want to be told how to think, and they want to hear ideas that personally resonate.

At the same time, people do have problems with politicians who are sexist, vulgar, lying buffoons (of course I am thinking of the former Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, another outsider), and there are many intelligent voters who never would vote for politicians who are this way.  But at this point in time, it seems the number who don’t want to be told how to think “trumps” the number who have bona fide concerns.

Interestingly, all of these outsiders are really just following a basic marketing 101 approach, albeit with their own unique angles:

  1. Define the needs of your target.  For Trump, this was jobs, immigration, security.  For Trudeau, this was jobs through spending and political transparency.
  2. Use branding to encapsulate and represent your service or product.  Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, as well as his personal brand as a successful businessman helped.  Trudeau’s brand was in the legacy of his name and in his youth.
  3. Differentiate your offering.  For Trump, this was his outrageously politically incorrect statements, which served only to ingratiate himself with people on the street. For Trudeau, it was the message of hope, which was completely different than his competitor’s message of doom.
  4. Exploit your competitor’s weaknesses.  For Trump and Trudeau, this was the insider nature of their competitors, and their connection to scandal (Hillary’s emails and Mike Duffy/Senate.)

The most important lesson these elections hold for marketers is more fundamental: Markets are in the midst of one of the most significant transformations around: did the taxi industry (or taxi regulators) think about Uber a few short years ago?  Or the hotel industry about Airbnb?  Or the Republican party Donald Trump?  New players, new technologies, and new ways of thinking are rocking traditional players to the core.

This week’s action plan:  Do you really think that you “know best” for your prospects, clients, or members?  Do you really think that what you see, hear, and read provides balanced input for your decisions?  And do you really think that each year, business (and life) will continue on its incremental journey, step-by-step without disruption?  If so, your version of Donald Trump (or Justin Trudeau) is just around the corner.  This week, do something about it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site Web strategy, technology, and design
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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Happy Birthday World Wide Web

by Randall Craig August 9, 2011

It’s not celebrated widely, but in August 2011 (August 6th actually) the world wide web turned twenty. From humble beginnings, this “child” has revolutionized the world in no less a transformational way than the industrial revolution a century earlier. Think about what didn’t exist in 1991: eCommerce, eBay, ezines, online newspapers, Wikipedia, iphones, ipads, itunes, […]

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