What a difference a year makes! Whether you are a digital business aficionado (i.e., website, mobile, social media, cloud services and more are fine tuned revenue generating or cost saving machines) or you’re a newbie, there is something we all may have in common – a bit of anxiety! Am I doing the right thing for my business? Are we using our capital efficiently? Why aren’t we reaping any new leads or sales? One thing is certain, digital business is continually changing, and while a little anxiety may be ever present, there are things you can do to settle your stomach besides a visit to your local pharmacy!
Let’s go easy first and get solid footing. For small and medium businesses (SMBs) who have been in business for a number of years, or even a startup, the business plan is a natural starting point. Its a known and in many cases, already working pretty well for you. So find it on your hard drive (or file cabinet) and bring it to the next board or staff meeting.
Don’t have a business plan? Well you will want to at least create a roadmap of sorts. It doesn’t have to be a fully detailed plan, but you may want to research your business and write a profit-making plan. This is important so that when you do spend time and money on digital marketing (e.g., ads, social media, website upgrades, etc.) or digital business services (e.g., Customer Relationship Management or CRM solutions, ecommerce solutions, inventory systems, online payments, etc.) you can track back to the business objective in the plan in order to prioritize and maximize the use of your capital, both cash and human.
So plan is in hand, check! How do you bring up the topic with your key stakeholders? For example, senior executives, staff and/or board members? There’s a straightforward and often eye-opening way to get the subject taken seriously. Start by asking your team how do they use the Internet. Here are conversation starters:
a) How do you research important information (e.g,. major purchases, health insurance, travel services, etc.)?
b) What is the most common way that you purchase?
c) Where do you get referrals for products or services from?
d) What device (e.g., phone, tablet, desktop, laptop, etc.) do you use most?
e) What’s your favorite/most used mobile app?
You’re probably saying but my team isn’t my target audience. No, maybe not, but your team is probably using some of the same de facto online tools that your audience uses. What a lot of small-medium businesses (SMB) may not realize is that the personal/individual practices that our staff/team utilizes online (e.g., how we research, how we shop, how we share information) often mirror those individuals we want to do business with, whether a consumer or particular segment such as procurement within a company or organization. So your team can be a mighty important asset to the business in more ways than one!
If you’d like to go a step further, conduct an online survey or in person focus group for your own product or service. Invite individuals that fit within in your target audience with an incentive like a gift card, free product or service, or cold hard cash! From the survey, validate what practices are in fact similar to what your staff/stakeholders shared. Finally, look for indicator from survey feedback to keep potential customers engaged through your website, an enewsletter or social media.
These steps can provide a wealth of information before you begin updating your website, investing in a mobile app, determining digital ads that work for your company, investing time and money into social media, etc.. If you have a larger budget, you can hire freelancers or agencies to help you in this effort. However even with a little bit of capital referencing the business plan first will point you in the right direction.