The immediacy of online interaction has made marketing both easier and more challenging than ever before. On one hand, companies can respond to market shifts in real time. On the other, new innovations can quickly make once-vital services unnecessary.

In other words, disruption is now part of every brand and business’ DNA. Or at least it better be for the next disruption is coming.  It’s only a matter of time.

No event demonstrates disruption better than Netflix’s ascension over Blockbuster. Not only did Netflix’s disruption swiftly decimate Blockbuster’s market, but the former video giant openly rejected the idea that the market could change so quickly. According to Business Insider, Blockbuster had the chance to buy Netflix for just $50 million. Today, Blockbuster is defunct, and Netflix is worth more than $32 billion.

For CMOs, running a business in the digital age constantly presents never-before-seen challenges. Companies that fail to appreciate the power of instantaneous communication will succumb to more savvy enterprises that embrace innovation.

The Ripple Effect

When Netflix toppled Blockbuster, it set off a chain reaction of events that disrupted several subindustries within the tech sector.

As more viewers switched to streaming, demand for high-speed Internet skyrocketed (per Leichtman Research Group), ramping up the competition between ISPs and infrastructure providers. This intense competition then led to the creation of a new subindustry of comparison sites. Tech company InMyArea.com, for instance, began offering people a way to compare prices on home services in their area — such as high-speed Internet — to save money on Internet services and avoid the hassle of searching themselves. Companies like AT&T and Comcast were then forced to overhaul their sales structures to maintain competitive rates.

Cutting the cord is now so common that the cable packages large companies once relied upon no longer interest most customers — even at discounted prices. According to The Economist, more Americans have been giving up cable than buying it since 2013, and the gap continues to grow.

This entertainment revolution expanded rapidly. Soon, competitors to Netflix — such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — emerged. New streaming hardware from Roku and Apple came out to combat the bulky and expensive boxes that were then the norm.

When one industry changes in the age of the Internet, the shockwaves affect everyone. Companies that are not prepared to change quickly find themselves outpaced and overtaken by more innovation-minded competitors.

To ensure your company doesn’t follow Blockbuster into irrelevance, follow these strategies to stay nimble in the digital world.

1. Tell a proactive brand story.

Creating engaging content to establish a narrative for your online customers to follow is one of the new top priorities of a CMO. Thanks to social media, consumers today are more in control of brand perception than ever before. It’s up to you to keep up a steady flow of content to guide that conversation in a positive direction.

Content Marketing Institute found that 75% of companies plan to increase the amount of interactive content they produce. The more engaged your customers are, the less likely it is that you will lose control of your brand’s image.

2. Find consumer hangouts.

Wherever your customers are online, you should be, too. Whether you use digital advertising, organic social content, or active engagement, maintaining a constant social media presence is a prerequisite to successful marketing. CMOs need to coordinate regular communication on their brands’ own pages (including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) and join industry groups around the web to see what people are saying.

MNIB Consulting recommends using suggested sections on sites like Amazon and Facebook to see which sources and tangential sources are influencing your customers.

3. Respond to consumer demands.

The Internet can be a scary place for brands because consumers don’t hide their feelings when they’re unhappy. But don’t lurk in the background online. CMOs must listen, engage, and respond to consumer wants, needs, and demands. Take advantage of social media tools like SocialRank to gather data and address common issues.

If you address consumer complaints well, your brand ambassadors will do your marketing for you. Few companies do this better than Southwest Airlines, which regularly receives commendations for its excellent customer service.

4. Solve real-life problems.

Industry disruptors like Netflix succeed because they solve a key problem for a target demographic. Similarly, when people started complaining about the difficulty of dating in the modern age, Tinder was born. When fashion enthusiasts were tired of paying high prices for clothes they would wear once or twice, Rent the Runway gave them a solution. Even established brands, such as Domino’s and Jimmy John’s, adapted to shifting consumer needs by developing apps to allow customers to order from their phones.

CNBC compiles a list of 50 new disruptors each year, with some 2017 highlights including Airbnb, Lyft, and 23andMe. No matter the industry, the digital age leaves plenty of room for disruption if you have an innovative idea. To find inspiration, CMOs can scour social media and read online reviews regularly to see what people like and where they would like to see improvement. It just may spark an idea for a new disruptor.

5. Anticipate market shifts.

Stay informed on industry trends, and plan ahead for the needs and demands of tomorrow. Attending conferences, keeping up with market news, and networking with industry influencers will help CMOs to stay in the know about the next big things. Observe competitors with a keen eye to see where they shine and where they’re lacking. The more insight you have into what’s happening now, the better prepared you will be for what happens next.

The age of the Internet will continue to disrupt markets across the world. Don’t hesitate and get left behind — use these strategies to take control of your destiny and own the next disruption in your industry.

It All Comes Down To CX

Regardless of what the next disruption brings with it, the key to success will be the customer experience. That will never change. As customer expectations continue to rise, businesses need to appoint a senior executive like the Chief Marketing Officer to deliver exceptional, end-to-end customer experiences. It’s a tall order, but if done right, enhanced customer experiences translate into loyalty, repeat business, and revenue.

Download Should the Chief Marketing Oversee the Entire Customer Experience to learn all about the rewards and risks for a CMO to step into an all-encompassing role to deliver the end-to-end customer experience. 

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Photo credit: Foter.com

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