What does digitizing your business mean to you as a business owner? All too often, we think digitizing means making sure our business is online and this usually means having a digital presence such as a website or selling online.
But it’s more than that. And here’s why.
Digitizing is a mindset shift
Digitizing your business is not something that’s a trend; it is the way of the future.
As business owners, we need to understand and acknowledge that the previous ways of doing business may likely become obsolete. Adopt the thinking that you can embrace digital and make it work in your favour.
People used to pay you cash, now they don’t – they prefer contactless payment, zapping their digital money from their phone to yours. People used to abhor buying online; now, it’s the first place they check if they want to get something and usually it starts with a search on their favourite online marketplace. People used to fear shopping online; now they read reviews, watch videos and compare what they know before they click the buy button.
As business owners, we need to embrace digitizing as a way forward with apps that facilitate payment such as Touch & Go, Boost etc. Or apps that enable us to do business faster and better.
It’s not about getting mad that no one walks into your retail outlet anymore or that the customers who walk in know far more about your product than your sales person! Digitizing is about going completely online and disregarding offline – it’s not one or the other; it’s the best of both worlds.
Fighting it or procrastinating will only hurt your business. The longer you put it off, hoping it will go away, the worse it becomes. If you feel you don’t have a grip on what’s happening or everything confuses you, talk to someone who understands this to walk you through the process. But it is best you start now, even today, if you want to ensure the longevity of your business.
Start with current practices
Digitizing your business means that you want to make things easier for yourself and those who work for you. And the best place to start is with your manual processes and systems.
What are you doing now that involves manual processes or even precious resources? If your book-keeping or accounting is still done manually by hand, what about using software to help you? Or if you are still printing and sending invoices by post, what about looking for an online invoicing software that sends PDFs of your invoices via email?
If you are still trying to manage email, paper trails and whatsapp, what about using an online project management system to keep everyone on track? If you are worried you can’t access your work files when you’re at home, what about using Google Drive and its ensuing software to help you manage your work stuff easily without needing external hard disk drives? If in the past, your files lived in the office, now your files will be living in the cloud (in a server).
Getting your team on-boarded with digital practices
It’s not just you but your team and the people you work with too. They too have to start taking on the idea that digital is about how they work and how they access work documents.
Looking at this pandemic, it is most likely that most businesses need to look at work-from-home practices. When your team works from home, how does your team share documents and files?
What software and platforms or apps will you and your team use to communicate in real-time? Your team may need to be trained or taught how to use specific software. They may need more than just WhatsApp to communicate especially if it involves customers.
This is where you can check out subscription-based software such as Slack, Monday, Basecamp, Asana and more to see how you want to keep everyone on track. Here’s what we use in Redbox Studio to keep everyone informed and working on the right priorities – Dropbox, Trello, Google Drive and Clinked.
Get your business website spruced up
If you are in business and you don’t have a website, it’s time to ask yourself what’s stopping you and why isn’t this part of your marketing budget? Many business owners think that a website is unimportant and costly. The reality is, it is an investment in your own brand and credibility.
Since Facebook Pages are so easily created, many will just create a Facebook Page and proceed with the arduous task of gaining followers and updating the page (usually inconsistently).
What you may not realize is that a Facebook Page is not a website and you’re just building your brand on leased land. Many people have seen their pages removed when others complain about their pages, Plus do you really want people to see that only 23 people liked your page? While you are busy gaining followers for your FB, it is far better and makes more marketing sense to invest in getting your own website where you can easily say what you want, any time you want without anyone telling you what you can do or can’t do.
Use a website to help you get leads, close sales, convince investors and partners, persuade customers, hire employees and more. Leverage your website to tell your story and the story of your business. Even if you didn’t update your website in a week, no one will know!
Having a website informs the world you’re serious about your business as it takes time and effort to develop a website. Having your brand on your own real estate online is still the best investment. This is true especially if you don’t have a retail outlet or office and you need to show customers what you can do for them in one place. Best of all, you have a dynamic platform to showcase your best work and products.
And if you have products to sell, setting up your own ecommerce website means you get to sell directly to your customers and in many cases, it means more profit too. If you are in the services business, what’s preventing you from selling your consulting or coaching services from your website?
What if you have a terrible website right now that no one visits? First, you need to do a website overhaul, starting with a content audit followed by a website audit. Auditing lets you know what content and what parts of the website need to be enhanced and refreshed.
Many of our clients get their websites refreshed or redesigned every 3 to 5 years – as their business grows and changes, their website needs to change too.
Recently, a client came to us because she had outgrown her website. Her website had become too clunky and cluttered over the years due to her adding more and more information. More information isn’t better; curated information is better.
Her company had grown and she needed more than just a website; she needed an ecommerce section within her website and more marketing features such as adding in a mailing list and video resource page. She also needed to re-brand her company. Even her story had evolved throughout the years and she needed to capture this in her website.
If you can’t afford a website redesign now, review your website content and determine the content to update or remove. Sometimes, you can even refresh a website by using higher-quality images or rewriting website content. All this will help you present a consistent face to the world.
Get other digital presences updated
If you’re already online with your own Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn profile, that’s good. And since we’re talking about digital presence, it is time to review the information that you have put up years ago.
Lots may have changed about you and your business. When your prospects and customers are looking for you online, what do you hope they will find? This is the time to do some digital housekeeping! What needs to be pruned, deleted or updated from your digital profiles?
If social media updating has never been your forte, make it so by creating a social media posting schedule for yourself. You don’t need to spend all your time daily on social media but you do have to show up actively on social media so that your contacts know you’re in business.
Set a goal to post up at least for 1 – 3 quality posts per week on your LinkedIn – make it a combination of sharing other people’s posts, sharing helpful news or articles and sharing your thoughts about an issue or informing what’s new with you. While you’re sharing something about yourself, get ready to tag your contacts and business associates too as this gives your update greater visibility.
Even if you have absolutely nothing to talk about, do your contacts’ some good – take a look at their LinkedIn and see what shout-outs you can make. Sometimes all you need is to spotlight other people’s work. Or you could always, in lieu of posting, start commenting on what your contacts have posted up recently. You can derive positive attention from this if your comments are well-thought-out and well-crafted.
And if you want to raise your digital presence well, remember to claim your Google My Business as it helps your business get seen on Google.
Revisit your customers’ needs
Digitizing your business also means you need to revisit the way you market and transact sales.
If in the past you used to see customers walk into your store, you may see fewer of them now. They could be just shopping online at your ecommerce website. If in the past your customers were telling their friends how much they love your products, they’re now moving online and leaving their reviews on your FB page or Google My Business. If in the past customers preferred to have meetings with you in a cafe, they’re now sending you Zoom meeting links.
As business owners, we should understand that our customers’ needs and wants are changing with the present digital landscape. Perhaps your customers’ behaviours or demographics are also evolving – are they getting younger or have needs that emerged in the last few years? This could happen if they get married, have children or have entered retirement or are taking care of their parents.
How will you stay relevant and more importantly accessible to customers, new and old, right now? Will you use FB Messenger or chatbot on your website? How will you capture a younger audience if that is your prospective market? Will you open up to newer forms of communication and explore these to meet your customers’ needs? What about using AI (artificial intelligence), AR (Augmented reality) and VR (Virtual reality) for your business to serve them (not to show that you’re with the in crowd)?
Have you considered a hybrid model for your marketing? Offline to online and online to offline means we are covering both hi-tech and high-touch touchpoints. For us, this is an excellent model to adopt as it prevents face-less, name-less customer transactions which is the fear among most businesses.
Did you know that business books are already doing this? You read a physical book that refers you to its companion website for more resources such as worksheets, videos and audio. Again, this prevents the book from being bloated with information yet presents information the way readers prefer to access them (audio, video or even fillable PDFs). Our book does this too with a secret webpage of resources!
Counter the low-touch aspects of the Internet by utilizing audio and video formats to communicate, grow brand awareness, and connect with your customers. Audio, video, text and visuals will play their roles in our businesses even more in the future.
Think podcasts, think live video and think long-form quality articles and graphics that educate, engage and entertain. My question is, how will you use these formats now? Have you thought about these formats? Which will you explore first? How will you include these in your marketing mix?
What is common among all these formats – be it audio, video or text or visuals – is that there’s a much higher bar to attain in terms of the quality of your content because the audience is more sophisticated. As a business owner, think about how you will be producing and presenting content that moves your customers towards your brand consistently – this takes more than just a couple of ads on FB or Google. (Did you know that we have a number of useful videos that you can watch for free?)
If you don’t have the time or help to do this, consider outsourcing to experts who can do this better and faster. This is also why we manage websites for our clients. We can do it faster and better as it’s been our business for the past 23 years. If you’re a business owner with a growing business and team and still managing/updating your own website, perhaps it is time to change!
Next, look at your teams. Are you still insistent on seeing your people at the office or store daily? Or do you have policies in place that encourage work-from-home practices that benefit them and you? Again, what hardware, apps, software and systems will you use to make work productive and frictionless? What research have you done on software and systems as a business owner? What have you put aside to invest in these for the coming future of teamwork?
Have you embraced the idea that teams can be remote and work virtually and therefore you can hire, outsource or delegate as the work necessitates? How will you approach running a business with full-timers, part-timers, freelancers, sub-contractors and interns in the new digital age? How will you work with partners and collaborators? What criteria of engagement will you set out to ensure great working experiences and relationships?
Digitizing your business means asking yourself, how will technology help you eliminate inefficiencies, automate what used to be done manually by many hands and focus on the core business matters that truly matter?
It also means asking yourself, how can you make it easier for customers to access you, learn from you, pay you, connect with you and advocate for you. What areas of your business need to evolve especially if they are still lucrative while keeping your customers’ needs and wants in mind? It also means asking, how can you work better with your suppliers, partners and collaborators and again, use technology as part of that equation?
Let’s not forget that technology can be part of a sustainable solution when it comes to environmental matters. How will your business participate in preserving the earth or at least stop creating more waste for the earth? For us, we have stopped printing every single document. Instead, we keep screenshots and PDFs and send virtual contracts.
Finally, how will technology help you co-create and collaborate across the globe with people and businesses of similar values and beliefs? We use Streamyard, LiveWebinar and Zoom for our live streaming, podcast, webinars and meetings. Invest in software that helps you maximize time.
In short, digitizing your business isn’t just about creating ads online, tracking people via Google Analytics or retargeting them if they stopped short of buying at your website.
Digitizing your business encompasses a business strategy that understands that technology is not going away anytime soon and to grow, we need to consciously start adapting.
It also means we need to truly come into our business with clarity about what we value, what we stand for and how we want to do business in the future. It is a robust partnership between strategy, communication and marketing, not just a focus on bits and bytes.
It takes a macro view of your business, almost like plotting out a map for the next 20 years and knowing where you’re headed and how you are going to get there. The tactics may change and social media may change but you have an unshakeable belief in your idea of getting to that end goal.
The question is, how will you digitize your business?