The author of this Buzz Bin post, Joel Erb, is founder of INM United. Padilla acquired the digital strategy and development firm based in Richmond, Virginia. (From left to right: Joel Erb, Adam Hake, Nishiki Liu, Paul Venuto, Luke Stoutenburg, Matt Crom. Photo by Lee Khleang/Padilla. )

Over the past 19 years that I’ve been in the digital arena at INM United, much has changed. We’ve moved from internet access available by way of “dial-up” modems, to constant access through a device as small as a Pop-Tart in our pockets. With this advancement, so have the demands on how brands harness technology both internally and externally changed.

The corporate website is most certainly still a critical way to engage with our stakeholders. However, with so many “off-the-shelf” solutions available to brands, the role of the digital agency has evolved. It’s shifted to how we can leverage technology to solve complex business problems and how we use technology as not just a marketing tool, but as a critical part of a brand’s success.

Digital products are now an essential part of the technology “toolbox” that must be considered. What is a digital product? They are not simply marketing or brochure websites. Rather, they’re specific digital solutions built to solve problems for a brand and are often a critical part of their competitive advantage. For RoundTrip, we built a system of web and mobile applications that allow care coordinators within hospitals to book rides for patients, disrupting the antiquated manual systems that have been in place for decades. For Merlinio, we’re creating a new way for consumers to buy auto insurance without the hassle of endless forms and shopping across service providers. In these instances, we are building the technology that is our client’s business, not just playing a supporting role on the side.

There is an evolution taking place, where brands need to think more strategically about how to engage with their customers across all platforms – but even more, how to leverage technology to solve their specific needs and goals. To do this well, we leverage design thinking processes that methodically allow us to understand users’ problems, needs and wants to design solutions that they love to use and engage with often. All too frequently though, organizations make assumptions of what the solution looks and feels like prior to fully understanding the problem that needs to be solved. It’s through our methodology that we have not only built successful digital solutions, but we have built successful digital businesses that exceed expectations.

If you are a brand wondering how best to leverage technology, start with your users. Understand the problem space of your stakeholders. You might uncover opportunities you never knew existed, creating connections that build stronger relationships between you and your customers – and barriers to entry that your competitors will struggle to compete with. This is where we excel and we look forward to working with you here at Padilla.