A global study of C-Suite leaders uncovers a surprising fact about small and midsize companies: they may not be as digitally savvy as they’d like.

Top findings from an IBM survey include:

* More than half of midmarket companies lack an integrated digital strategy.

* 65% of the midmarket C-Suite business executives recognised that the lack of a cohesive social media plan is the biggest barrier to doing more in the digital space.

* More than half of respondents also cite the need to better understand how social media fits with other operational priorities, and how to measure its return on investment.

Specifically, midmarket CMOs want to put all the components of a strong digital strategy in place. These components include an increased focus on integrating cross channel touchpoints, analytics to capture customer insights, social networks to foster collaboration, and mobile and cloud to achieve advanced operational efficiencies and attract and market to new customers.

Midmarket CMOs aren’t alone in their desire to create an integrated digital strategy. The majority of midmarket CIOs surveyed say they aim to digitise their front offices within the next few years as part of an overall effort to focus more on the customer experience. This digitisation includes analysing data generated from customer interactions via social channels and mobile devices, and identifying emerging trends.

IBM surveyed more than 300 midmarket C-Suite business executives worldwide on a variety of business issues, including the expanding role of customer engagement, organisational management, marketing and economic priorities, and future strategic growth plans.

The study revealed an environment where technology has become the dominant driver of business change, and leaders are moving quickly to open up their organisations. As a result, business leaders are confronting an urgent need for deeper and more meaningful types of collaboration.

The survey indicated companies which have successfully fused the digital and physical, including Big Data analytics, mobile and cloud, to achieve transformation were 26% more likely to outperform their rivals.

Analytics, mobile and cloud technologies allow small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to tap into the social channels of influential customers who have a deep interest in their products and services.

Engaging these digital influencers helps brands connect on a deeper level with current and future customers. The future of brand strategy will include an ability to demonstrate authenticity to those who actually help define an SMB’s markets, and then turn customers into influencers.

“Understanding what resonates well with these customers can bring valuable insights to the development of new products, services and promotions, enabling smaller businesses to break through in this challenging and influential segment,” says John Mason, GM of IBM Midmarket Business.

“Smaller companies which use their agility to place customers front and centre in their ecosystem, embrace cloud, social and engagement marketing strategies could end up huge winners.”