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What is Digital Transformation?

December 23, 2021By Shannon Curley

Topics: Marketing Strategy

The Role of Digital Transformation in the Modern Marketplace

Last weekend, as I sat on my couch binge-watching a new-to-me, old-to-the-world television show for the umpteenth time, something one of the characters said stood out to me: “Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.

The show is; Halt and Catch Fire, a gone-too-soon 2014 AMC original about the computer industry, starting with the invention of personal computers in the 1980s and eventually leading into the World Wide Web, search engines, and beyond. The speaker is Joe MacMillan, a sales wunderkind known for wreaking havoc at IBM on his pursuit of world-changing computer innovation.

The quote in context had to do with the emergence of the Internet, but its message reminds me all too well of the current state of business: computers aren’t the thing, but they’re the thing that gets us to the thing – and the thing, of course, is our audience.

For business leaders, it is no longer acceptable to be a passive player in the digital landscape. Instead, like in the race to create the first portable computer, it’s time to embrace digital transformation – and all the “things” that come with it.

Okay … But What is Digital Transformation, Really?

To be sure, digital transformation is about more than just computers, mobile phones, and other digital devices. Rather, it’s about what people are doing with those devices, and how we can use the digital habits and preferences of our target audiences to create a connection between what they need and how we can provide it.

But let’s take a step back. What makes digital transformation different from say, an email newsletter or a social media campaign? While those two content offerings may be part of a digital marketing effort, digital transformation is a comprehensive approach to marketing that privileges digital above all else.


If you’ve ever heard of a Rube Goldberg machine, digital transformation is kind of like what happens when every piece of the machine fires off correctly, and completes the ultimate final task.

The way a Rube Goldberg machine works is simple: there are a series of components that trigger a reaction, and that reaction triggers the next component. Each event prompts the next event and so on and so forth until the final event is complete. A social media campaign or email newsletter is a great component that can work in isolation, but it’s only through a series of well-timed and thoughtfully executed events that you can reach your end goal. In our case, it’s successful marketing, lead generation, and increased business; in a Rube Goldberg game like Mouse Trap, it’s capturing a rodent. To each their own.

Now that doesn’t mean that digital transformation requires eliminating other standard business best practices like in-person events, discovery calls, TV spots, newspaper ads, flyers, and the like. What it does mean, however, is shifting your mindset away from traditional operations management and towards the future of business, and more importantly, the future of consumerism.

And it doesn’t take more than a glance at the front porches of your neighbors’ homes and the stack of Amazon Prime boxes piled up at the door to realize the obvious: the future of consumerism is digital.

Taking Your Marketing Program Digital

One-off digital marketing efforts are a start, but the goal of digital transformation is more holistic than that. The marketing machine of the future is digital-first and digital-everywhere. Why? Because to the modern consumer – and yes, even the modern employee – digital is convenient, efficient, and right at their fingertips.

And, while digital transformation doesn’t have to happen all at once, it is worth noting that for any arm of your business – save for Happy Hours and company softball leagues – the infrastructure already exists to help you take the digital leap.

From social media to e-newsletters, to e-commerce and online stores, to customer relation management (CRM) and sales process software, video conferencing platforms, project management suites, and everything (I mean, EVERYTHING) available on the cloud, support for your marketing and sales funnel is already in place, and continues to evolve.

“Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.”

As you consider the future of your business, remember that digital is what’s going to get you where you want to go.

Want to learn more about digital transformation? Check out our eBook, Elevate Your Marketing Through Digital Transformation

Read the eBook