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The advancements coming out of Silicon Valley do more than bump up the stock price of big tech companies. A steady stream of technological innovation clears the way for new ideas, methodologies, and business models to bubble up through other sectors of the economy. The ripple effect of these innovations is the foundation for a fourth industrial revolution — not just within Silicon Valley, nor the tech industry alone, but across every type of business everywhere in the world.

The top brass at Toyota Sweden has recognized these ripples of disruption and is moving to stay ahead of them — not get caught in their wake. Recently, a group of the company’s top salespeople won a trip to Silicon Valley, where their bosses had organized a custom full-day immersion program with SVIC. They heard from top researchers, business developers, and marketing experts on how technological innovation in Silicon Valley is disrupting the business models of traditional fields like manufacturing and sales. By the end of the day, the Toyota salespeople had new insight into how Silicon Valley tech is affecting their own industry — and how to meet these changes head-on.

Responding Strategically to Technological Disruption

The first step for the Toyota team was learning innovation strategy. Technological disruption may be affecting all businesses, but the approach to embracing that disruption will vary based on company size, industry, risk tolerance, and other factors. Before a company can adapt to technological innovation, it must have a clear understanding of the specific changes and challenges facing its business.

To get a hold on this, the group heard from SVIC’s own innovation experts on how large companies like Toyota can adapt to changes taking place across entire market verticals — creation, production, distribution, and sales. Our experts offered existing theories, case studies, and practical solutions to this dilemma in general and specifically within the auto industry. The salespeople learned that the high competitive intensity of their business coupled with its considerable operating expenses make adapting to technological disruption particularly challenging. For big manufacturing companies like Toyota, the cost of competing directly with disruptors can be high. Embracing innovation opportunities in areas like marketing, where no such cost barrier exists, is critical for staying competitive.

The sales group continued their program with a visit to Stanford, cradle of Silicon Valley and incubator of tech and business talent alike. The team met with one of Stanford’s Senior Research Associates on the institution’s approach to educating leaders, developing new ventures, and commercializing university research. Stanford’s continued success in these fields demonstrates that technological innovation can be a repeatable, perfectible process — and the rewards of seeking this perfection, and understanding the process, are enormous.

The Toyota Sweden sales team is gathered outside at the Stanford University campus, listening to a talk from a Senior Research Associate.

Toyota Sweden’s top salespeople hear about Stanford’s approach to commercializing technological innovation.

Key takeaway from SVIC and Stanford: when adapting to technological disruption, traditional companies must choose an innovative approach that best suits their specific business and industry.

Leveraging Big Data to Drive Big Sales

Next, the sales team was ready to see Silicon Valley innovation in action. To give the Toyota Sweden team a taste of how Silicon Valley tech is shaping the future of sales, SVIC took them on a live case study of Google’s approach to marketing. Along with a private tour of the company’s Mountain View headquarters and a discussion of the tech giant’s innovation culture, the Toyota salespeople were treated to a talk on Google’s strategy for using data and analytics to connect with customers.

Using marketing for the transportation business as a through-line, a Google Brand Marketing Evangelist highlighted the importance of an integrated approach to sales, fueled equally by technology, insights, and creative (for Google, a noun). These three functions are “the pillars of every campaign,” and Google uses sophisticated technology to ensure these pillars prop up exactly the message they’re aiming for. By collecting scores of data, analyzing it with custom algorithms, and creating useful models with the help of artificial intelligence, Google ensures that all aspects of its marketing cycle — brand awareness, product launches, internationalization, expanding to new markets — are unified around a clear understanding of “who the audience is, how they behave, and the best time to reach them.”

The Toyota Sweden team is gathered in a lecture hall while a Google Brand Marketing Evangelist presents.

The Toyota Sweden sales team gets a crash course in Google’s data-driven approach to marketing.

Collecting and analyzing data is built into Google’s core, but every business has the potential to leverage technology to better understand their customers. In fact, Toyota has a head start in this game through Toyota AI Ventures, its own disruptive tech incubation arm based right here in Silicon Valley. Here, Toyota is gearing up to take advantage of big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous mobility by investing early into entrepreneurs and innovative startups. In this way, the company hopes to benefit from new tech across its entire market vertical without interrupting the manufacturing machine that drives its traditional business.

Key takeaway from Google: traditional businesses can increase their brand awareness — and sales numbers — by using data and analytics to better understand their customers.

Using New Technology to Shift Into a Higher Gear

Toyota is not traditionally a technology company, but by investing into new tech and new partnerships now the company is recognizing that sooner than later, all companies will be technology companies. Toyota Sweden’s salespeople came to SVIC to learn about this fourth industrial revolution and to understand how their company — a large international automobile manufacturer — can strategically embrace it. And within the realm of marketing, the sales team learned how trends in data collection and AI-augmented analytics are helping Google engage with their customers in a more meaningful way.

As Google’s Brand Marketing Evangelist pointed out: “insights lay the foundation for everything marketers do.” For the Toyota sales team, insights into how Silicon Valley tech is shaping the future of their business have prepared them to embrace the technological disruption occurring within it. With these insights in mind and a personal taste of the pace of Silicon Valley innovation, Toyota Sweden’s top salespeople are ready to steer their business into the future of tech.

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