Working as a Business Growth Coach in Berkshire, I’ve been able to observe first hand where a number of businesses are on their Digital Journey. Start Ups and early stage businesses like App developers have been born digital and are the ‘digital natives’. Others, like web developers, understand the impact of digital and have their radar tuned to mobile technology, social media and the impact it has particularly on the way customers now seek and validate information through friends, for example, as part of their buying journey.
The Challenge for Established Businesses
Many established businesses, however, have been slow or reluctant – or perhaps a combination of both – to recognise the impact digital technology and social media can have on performance. To dismiss the more familiar elements of social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc.- as trivial and irrelevant to the serious world of business – is to miss the point. Social media can be viewed as a sort of a ‘marmite’ test – love it or hate it. But, truth be told it’s not as binary as that. Like it or not social media – and its big brother ‘Digital Technology’ – are here to stay.
It’s really difficult for businesses in this space and the somewhat dismissive label ‘digital immigrant’ is not particularly helpful. Historically successful, these businesses have survived the recession but many find that their performance has now flat lined. It’s a challenge and no real help to be told – as in the Irish joke – ‘I wouldn’t have started from here!’ Attitudes to social media are often thought to be age related – it’s a very strong perception but not necessarily true. It does demand, however, a mindset shift, acceptance of change and a willingness to learn.
It’s not about technology or indeed necessarily understanding how it works – it’s what you can do with it and probably what your customers and staff are already doing with it.
Where are you Digitally?
How would you describe where your business is digitally at the moment?
- Grumpy and Unsocial
Frankly, the conversation goes, it’s too much trouble and really of no interest to my customers – they prefer to talk to me direct and meet with me face to face. This may be true – up to a point – but think about how you last bought a washing machine, a holiday, researched a new car. Your suppliers too may be streamlining their order procedures and expect you to be doing the same.
- Building an Online Presence
Increasingly these days, particularly for small and medium sized businesses, you are the brand. It’s often said that people buy people. So there is much to be gained by building your own social profile. Telling your personal story and being explicit about you interests and ambitions helps build empathy with customers and suppliers alike. It takes time but so does building your business brand. Websites have become more than just ‘brochureware’ – they need to be visually attractive, engaging and encourage visitors to start a conversation.
- Deeper and Lasting Engagement
The days when you could tell customers what to think about you are rapidly disappearing. They have their own opinions often informed by reference sites like TripAdvisor. Not only do you have to attract customers but build loyalty too – the compelling economics of retaining existing customers versus attracting new customers are well known.
- Fully Digital
What might you expect to see at this stage? More cost effective and focused marketing attracting and retaining the right customers for your business. An integrated customer experience addressing their needs at each stage of the buying journey. Staff who are free to use their own devices at work to share knowledge, capabilities and experience. Internal processes that are fully joined up and deliver tangible efficiencies and cost savings. And last, but not least, a shift in the mindset of the business leaders and managers who recognise that change, uncertainty and ambiguity are the new way of doing business.
About Chris Farrance
Chris is a business coach and mentor with a particular interest in the benefits that digital technology can bring to business performance. He is the founding Digital Business Consultant at Frontier Digital Business Consultants and a Business Growth Coach at the the Berkshire Business Growth Hub.