Is Digital Transformation a Calculated Risk?

By on February 1, 2016

I do a lot of work with small business owners and entrepreneurs. Many of them suffer from spending too much time in the “weeds” of their business. They focus all of their efforts and resources on problems and opportunities that are three feet in front of them. As a result, they fail to see their business, regional marketplace or industry “from the clouds.” Many small business owners and entrepreneurs are missing the digital transformation that is currently taking place in our global economy.

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In his 2014 report The State of Digital Transformation, Brian Solis of the Altimeter Group defined digital transformation as a movement through a customer-centric lens. “The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle,” says Solis.

What does this definition mean to you and your business? In a nutshell, if you plan to move your business into the 21st century, you need to create an online presence for your company. This includes three basic components: a proper website, a social media presence on the same platforms as your customers and employees who are trained in executing your plan. What are the benefits of such a plan? More importantly, what are the risks? Let’s take a closer look at the three elements that make up your digital transformation.

  1. Your website. It’s almost unfathomable to think that ANY company is operating today without having a website. In its most basic form, a company site has replaced the Yellow Pages in terms of customers and prospects getting information about your company phone number, address, store hours and other contact information. It also allows you to show up in search results for potential customers interested in your product or service. But a good website is so much more than a replacement for the Yellow Pages. In today’s customer-centric world, a website acts as your spokesperson, a sales rep, a customer service platform and a marketing tool. It’s the mothership of your digital transformation. You need to make a proper investment in a solid website that can be accessed by PC and Mac, desktops and laptops, as well as smartphones… especially smartphones! Be a potential customer of your company and visit your website from all of these devices. Does the experience make YOU want to buy from your company?
  2. Your social media platform. For those small businesses that have stayed on the social media sidelines, I have unfortunate news: it’s not a fad. Social media is here to stay. Like it or not, your customers and prospects are using tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, Snapchat and Pinterest to post photos and reviews, gather product information and talk to other people about their experiences. If your company isn’t part of the discussion, then your company doesn’t exist in their minds. The 20th century model of communicating with customers is dead. The monologue of you telling them what’s new and trending is dead; it’s been replaced by a dialogue that is controlled by your customers and prospects. They have chosen to communicate through social platforms. If you want to remain relevant, make the investment of time and resources to learn how to properly incorporate social media into your business. One important note: do NOT cut corners and try to learn everything about social media in 30 days. All you are doing is setting your company up for failure. As social platforms constantly update and change, you’ll always need to be learning new things.
  3. Your employees. This area represents the biggest risk for your company as you go through the digital transformation. You need your employees to help execute a digital strategy for your business. Salespeople will need to engage with prospects online, customer service reps will answer questions and deal with complaints via social media, and your marketing team will conduct online research and prepare campaigns for a digital audience. There are too many examples of companies that have suffered PR nightmares as a result of a bad Tweet or status update. How can your company avoid a similar fate? Regardless of the size of your company, I recommend having a social media policy or manual that educates employees on how to properly conduct themselves online as a representative of your company. They need to understand how an errant Tweet or a misguided post can negatively impact your business. On the positive side, employees should recognize the importance of their roles in guiding your business into a new way of communicating with the business world.

The digital transformation is upon us. Every day, more and more companies are moving their businesses and discussions into the digital world. If your company has yet to make the crossover, fear not. There is still time – just don’t wait too long.

This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional small business tips, check out Progressive’s Small business Big Dreams program.

About Brian Moran

Prior to rejoining the world of entrepreneurship, Brian was the Executive Director of Sales Development at the Wall Street Journal where he oversaw the sales development and marketing programs for the financial and small business categories among the many Journal brands. From 2002-2010, Brian was President of Veracle Media and Moran Media Group.

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