Warmed with freshly baked handmade pizza, a crowd of more than 40 business people gather at 4Degrees, a tucked away bar restaurant in Maidstone town centre specialising in craft beer. It’s the Kent Digital Meetup, which Pentascape has newly re-launched in Maidstone, with the support of sponsors, our friends at Minerva Creative. The atmosphere is lively, casks are flowing and the oozing calzone has gone down a treat – our first foray into hosting a networking event gets off to a lively start.

Our guest speaker for the evening, Anwen Cooper of Get Fruitful Marketing, begins her talk by asking for a show of hands – how many in the room sell digital strategy as part of their business? A good few arms are raised – and with this in mind, Anwen sets out to challenge the very notion that digital is a strategy at all.

Digital, Anwen points out, is integral today across almost all areas of business from marketing, to finance, to operations. However, a business cannot focus on digital as an isolated strategy. A strategy is a plan of action for achieving business goals, and these goals must be firmly rooted in customer needs and business value, not in the tools (digital or otherwise!) used to deliver these.

After Anwen’s talk, with glasses topped up, the panel discussion for the evening commences hosted by Chris from Pentascape, with Anwen joined by Kenny Cox, of Snapwire Software. Is Kenny’s experience in the technology industry in line with Anwen’s observations from a marketing background?

With some engaging discussion, and the conversation opened up to the audience as well, there’s agreement and consensus that digital is a fundamental part of the very fabric of business today. It cannot be in a silo that is separate from sales, operations or business process.

An overall business strategy must focus on customers – customer needs, and customer experience – balanced with business efficiency and growth. Digital should be woven into the thread of our thinking, and seen as an integral part of a wider whole. Likewise, digital must not be a strategic goal in itself, but provide options and frameworks for achieving goals.

To illustrate, a business owner might think, “I need an ecommerce website” – where the website (“digital”) is the strategic goal. Can we reframe this to “I would like to sell to customers further afield”? – here, the goal is reaching customers, and ecommerce might be a (digital) tool to help achieve this. Equally, eBay, Facebook, or any number of other options (with differing budgets!) may be viable solutions to achieve this customer-centric goal.

As suppliers, we must challenge thinking in our businesses and our customers. Can we reframe our goals on this basis? Can we help our customers reframe theirs? As one guest put it, we must focus not on digital strategy, but on digital mindset. And always, always, put your customer first!

We’re buzzing from the excitement of the evening, and we hope to see many more faces future Kent Digital Meetups!