Why every business leader should understand digital

As the influence of the internet continues to play a larger role for a majority of businesses, having a digitally connected leader who is confident with using digital channels to support their business strategy is essential.

With 33 million people in the UK using the internet on a daily basis, with half of this total using social media every day, it has never been easier for business leaders to interact directly with their audiences by adopting a ‘Personal Touch’ method of communication.

The Personal Touch is a two way communication process, supported by digital technology. Recent research by Sitecore shows that CEOs and business leaders from the FTSE 350 companies who are adopting this leadership approach, are reaping the benefits. Unlike a one-way approach, which sees a business leader emit information but not respond to it, or a corporate approach which is delivered via a PR or marketing department, a two-way approach involves the CEO engaging in a direct dialogue with consumers.

Consumers are using digital technology on a daily basis to share their feedback on the brands they have engaged with, which inspires the question: why aren’t CEOs of major firms tapping into this valuable method of communication?

The research by Sitecore reveals the performance of companies using the Personal Touch since 2009/10 exceeds all other firms. This is demonstrated by annual growth rates in turnover and compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in turnover and profit. Additionally, Personal Touch firms recorded a CAGR of 27% from 2009 to 2012 and a rate of 30% for 2010 to 2012. This compares to a rate of just 9% from 2009 to 2012, and 13% from 2010 to 2012 by the next best performing group; corporate two-way firms, compounding the commercial advantages of the Personal Touch leadership style.

However, despite these benefits of the Personal Touch approach, just 7% of FTSE 350 businesses are adopting it. Interestingly, the research reveals that out of the small percentage of CEOs adopting this digitally connected approach, nearly three quarters (71%) have been with their company for less than five years showing newer leaders are more open to embracing digital technology. It is Personal Touch companies, however, who are managing to raise their online profiles, with the research indicating that online traffic and interest from stakeholders increases if a company CEO understands the importance of digitally connected leadership.

The general interest which surrounds CEOs and business leaders means the Personal Touch approach is a relatively easy and effective way of engaging with consumers to encourage loyalty and attracting new prospects. If a CEO understands this, then organisations can rethink the ways in which they can acquire, grow and retain customers over a lifetime.

In the ever-changing digital landscape, where the number of social media users is continuing to grow, companies need to be looking to their leaders to set an example and understand the full potential that a coherent understanding of digital channels can have for their company.

Having a CEO who understands the Personal Touch approach to leadership, means firms have the opportunity to engage their stakeholders and customers in a more meaningful, and direct, two-way dialogue. Listening, anticipating and responding to consumers will encourage a more loyal, sustained business to customer relationship that will stand the test of time and ultimately help the business to grow.

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