When you hear "digital transformation" do your eyes roll... or light up? The once-buzzword has worked its way into every aspect of modern business and it can't be ignored. To successfully transform and increase the maturity of your business model, it’s important to consider which guardrails you'll want (and need) to put in place before moving forward.
If, for example, you’re evolving from a small business to a medium one, digital transformation means a focus on scalability across all your divisions.
Some vital touchpoints include:
- Customer experience
- Operational agility
- Culture and leadership
- Workforce enablement
- Technology integration
- Data privacy and security
Your goal will be to leverage technology to reduce digital gaps, which grow larger as customer behavior evolves faster than your operations.
“Years ago, I was at an INC 500 conference, and they called this area the ‘dreaded churn zone.’ A lot of businesses just can’t wrap their arms around what it means to evolve from a $10 million dollar company to a $50 million dollar company.”
– Staci Tischer, Agency Marketing Manager
Because we’ve helped countless clients digitize parts of their businesses, we know a thing or two about what it takes to reimagine offline processes and practices into the digital world.
The cold, hard business end of digital transformation
When growth is the primary focus of everything you do, immature businesses are often inclined to spend time and resources on sales and marketing efforts. After all, that’s how you get new customers. But this may be a mistake.
When all your attention goes to these areas, you neglect creating real, tangible value for your customers. Innovation goes by the wayside and customer service takes a back seat. The result could be a poor customer experience that negates any progress you make on the sales and marketing front.
So, before we talk about sales and marketing, ask yourself:
- Do you need to reconstruct your business model?
- Do you need a more mature IT infrastructure?
- Do you need to upgrade your CRM, web platform, or accounting software?
- Does your production warehouse space still fit the bill?
- Are you ready for the complexities of managing a larger business?
- Do you have the right people and processes in place?
- Does your evolved product or service still fit into the marketplace?
A good growth strategy involves the balance of opportunity with capabilities and capacity. You cannot simply hand your workforce new tools and hope for the best. You need to make sure they have the capability to leverage a new digital infrastructure. You need buy-in from leadership and you must account for company-wide resistance to change. You need to make sure your team is ready to take this journey with you.
Consider what this change will mean for your business:
- People: Who will execute the strategy, including senior management, developers, marketers, data analysts, content writers.
- Process: How will the team work together to make the digital strategy a reality, and how will the organization make the transition.
- Platform: What technological tools the organization will use to execute the strategy, and how it will use them.
- Content: What content will be needed to support the digital strategy, and how will it be created and managed.
- Data: How will the team collect, store, and analyze data to make decisions.
- Measurement: How will the organization measure success, and what metrics should be tracked.
- Products: What products or services will be produced, and how their characteristics or delivery will change in line with the digital strategy.
- Partners: Who do you need to work with to make the strategy a reality.
The need to become obsessed with your customers and their experiences
Nowadays it's not only important but vital to get real, authentic feedback from your stakeholders, team members, clients, customers, and third-party partners. We know how difficult it can be to ask direct and simple questions. (And sometimes it’s even harder to ask questions that you don’t want to hear the answer to.)
It might be uncomfortable, but you don't want to lose clients during this transition. Their priorities are different and you'll want to address that head on. For example, they may be worried that they're going to lose the personal touch they've become accustomed to. Within this conversation, you’ll be able to reassure them of their value to your business, get their opinions for your future state, and invite them to be an ally as your business grows.
Pro Tip: Skip the survey. Schedule a coffee meeting with your customers and talk to them one on one. Take notes, listen, bounce ideas off them directly. If you’re having a good conversation, maybe ask them if they’d be willing to be quoted or featured in a customer success story.
It’s incredibly important that you know your customer base. As you scale, you want to duplicate your best clients. Take the time to profile your customers, their businesses, or their interests. This will help you later down the line.
Ways to create a trustworthy community:
- Form an advisory board — Ask a handful of your clients if they’d be willing to chat with you on a reoccurring basis about key business considerations
- Consider loyalty programs or subscription models — Loyalty programs can be an incentive for new clients, but it can also help you solidify your current fan base
- Use user-generated content — Create inherent authenticity for new customers by showcasing existing customers profiles, stories, or opinions within your materials
Pro Tip: User-generated content is especially important for companies in travel and tourism, food and beverage, and manufacturing. This helps you showcase a diverse set of individuals who might be interacting with your services or products.
These conversations may redefine how you reach and engage with customers, unlocking new ideas that can help refine your brand story.
Creating (and executing) a more refined marketing and sales strategy
“Refined” is the key word here. You’re not simply doing more with your digital marketing strategies. You can’t run a medium-sized company with small-business tactics. To evolve to the next level, your goals must become clearer and more precise across your marketing activities, across all your channels, and, more importantly, across all stakeholders, team members, and digital materials.
Here are a few more things to consider:
- Evolving your website: Your website can no longer be a static webpage but should now be a dynamic stand in for your best salesperson
- Update your brand: Mature businesses evolve their brand to include colors that pass ADA compliance, and apply more accessible and practical user experiences across their digital properties
- Create multimedia content: Videos and animated snippets are now viewed and served more to search engine users and are faster and more interesting to digest
- Understand how SEO really works (or trust someone who does): If you want to become a search engine expert, you can. But it's a growing and ever-changing beast and sometimes best left to a pro
- Leverage omnichannel, SMS marketing, and chatbots: Leverage technology-based tactics to communicate with consumers, support clients, or help with customer service
The small-business mindset is to cover the spread and be everywhere “just in case.” But as your business matures you'll realize that your money is better served in very specific places based on your market and audiences.
- Niche businesses: If you have a niche service or product, stay niche. Evolving how you talk about your product does not necessarily mean you’re abandoning who you are or why you are in business
- Ecommerce & E-tailers: If you were a retailer with no online presence, consider setting up a web store to capture sales. Once you have enough consumer emails you can set up an email campaign
- Online-only & D2Cs: If you’re an online-only business, consider a direct mail campaign that includes a catalog with your best sellers. After testing a multichannel approach, you can determine how best to spend your ad dollars
The hardest part of digital transformation is execution: clean, clear, detailed execution. You must ensure that everyone within the organization is accountable.
Pro Tip: To make sure you don’t miss the bigger picture, you’ll want to make sure your digital tools talk to one another and you are avoiding silos. Now that you’re aiming to become a larger organization you should be leveraging automation throughout the customer journey.
Automation can help streamline your entire digital and operational ecosystem, from business processes through employee and user experiences. Even if you have multiple digital or agency partners, get them in touch with one another. This information will allow you to make better business decisions in real time without the hoopla.
“We can often solve problems that clients would never think of asking us because we know enough of their business. We know other challenges they're having that they didn’t even know that digital could solve for them. Chances are other clients have had similar problems, too.”
– Scott Wintheiser, Agency Partner
Over the past 24 years, we’ve helped businesses of all shapes and sizes level up and streamline digital processes, increase revenue, improve market share, and strengthen customer loyalty.
For many of our manufacturing and professional service clients, we've helped create a healthy balance between quality and cost by:
- Helping them expand into a new B2C market
- Develop employee or customer applications
- Create wildly robust back-end systems
- Reconfigure internal processes for ecommerce
- Build websites with permission-based content controls
- Better showcase product and service portfolios
- Develop an omnichannel strategy to increase visibility
- Upgrade data connectors and workflows
If you think your business is ready for a digital transformation, now is the time to talk to an expert. Schedule a consultation with our pros to get started.