The relationships between businesses and their customers/prospects are rapidly changing. Not only do we have the issue of who has more control (the answer is the customers, clearly), but we also have changes in the way information is sought, transmitted, received, and acted upon. Businesses today must stay in tune with these dynamics. Their strategies, tactics, and yes, even the way they are organized and operate, must change if they are going to remain competitive and profitable.
Although retail is a major example of a strong mobile marketing and communications adapter, changes are being seen in much broader examples than just the retail industry. Retail is bearing the first brunt of (or benefiting first from) the mobile wave, and there are lots of good examples there. But, in the end, this transformation will affect the way all businesses interact with customers and prospects, as well as how they operate internally.
Mobile marketing and communications trends are changing the relationships between businesses and their customers. There is no question about that. But the underlying technologies we have been discussing also present significant opportunities for change in the way companies are organized and operate. These technologies are already affecting the way people work, and the relationships between employees and employers.
The Virtual (Untethered) Organization
Way back in 1993, William Davidow, a venture capitalist, and Michael Malone, a business writer, foresaw what they called the "virtual corporation," bringing together findings on the effects on companies of information technologies, organizational dynamics, and manufacturing systems. Their book, The Virtual Corporation, highlighted some very early adopters of the virtual strategy, including Lenscrafters and Taco Bell Express. They explained how ad hoc aggregates of companies or virtual corporations were combining to deliver instantaneous, customized services and products, and defining new linkages between company, supplier, and customer.
These visionaries were way ahead of their time. Over two decades later, their predictions certainly ring true. What they called the virtual corporation, we are calling untethered businesses. Although they foresaw many things, even these bright guys couldn't possibly have foreseen the impact cloud computing and mobile communications have had in the last couple of years - and will continue to have - on businesses and their customers in 2015 and beyond. But their basic concepts were solid. If you can lay your hands on a copy of this out-of-print book, it would be worth your while to give it a read. (Check out Amazon!)
So, what is an untethered - or virtual - business? Les Pang, Ph.D., of ISACA, describes a virtual organization as, "a flexible network of independent entities linked by information technology to share skills, knowledge, and access to others' expertise in nontraditional ways," saying, "virtual organizations do not need to have all of the people, or sometimes any of the people, in one place to deliver their service. The organization exists but you cannot see it. It is a network, not an office."
In a paper submitted to the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Scott M. Preston from Michigan State University had this to say about virtual (read: untethered) organizations: "Virtual organization requires a different way of perceiving the world by those who wish to participate in it. There are four key characteristics of virtual organization as process. First, virtual organization entails the development of relationships with a broad range of potential partners, each having a particular competency that complements the others. Second, virtual organizing capitalizes on the mobility and responsiveness of telecommunications to overcome problems of distance. Third, timing is a key aspect of relationships, with actors using responsiveness and availability to decide between alternatives. Last, there must be trust between actors separated in space for virtual organization to be effective."
As the relationships between our businesses and our customers and prospects continue to change, we need to do our best to combat these changes and work with our customers and prospects to deliver the information that they want, where they want to receive it. Rather than be afraid of these changes, we need to learn to embrace mobile marketing and communications to provide the best service possible.
About John Foley, Jr.
John Foley, Jr. is the CEO of interlinkONE and Grow Socially. John and his team consult with print, mailing, and fulfillment companies on transforming and thriving by maximizing the success of their services through new technology and strategies, write strategic marketing plans to get them on a path to multi-channel success, and John speaks frequently to providers on how to integrate technology into their products and services to better interact with their audience and grow their business. Learn more about John at JohnFoleyJr.com, and his companies at www.interlinkONE.com and www.GrowSocially.com.