About twelve years ago I digitally transformed myself from being a complete Luddite to someone who understood and applied digital technology. It wasn’t a ground breaking Damascene light bulb moment – more of journey of baby steps upon which I listened, learned and applied numerous lessons in order to apply it to my own businesses and to those of others. Believe it or not (and there are many who don’t) digital technology and its application to your business as an agent of chance is actually a force for good but getting the fundamentals correct first time is fundamental to your success.
Apparently digital business transformation is the process of exploiting digital technologies and supporting capabilities to combine and create robust new transformational digital business models and achieve durable growth. Phew! Please don’t stop reading and I shall attempt to demystify.
Forget what you have been told by your nephew working at a trendy digital agency in Shoreditch or an MBA wielding ‘big six’ consultant – it’s just about applying a new set of tools to your business so you can compete better and sell more stuff. The problem is that many suppliers, vendors, consultants and agencies of all things digital will try and sell business owners a bill of goods for telling them the digital time.
Lets try and break this down into English. Most of us make and sell a product or service and once-upon-a-time we used to knock on doors, attend exhibitions or canvas the streets soliciting business. These days and with the correct application of technology and skills you can reach more customers and (hopefully) sell more stuff. Stuck in the way of enabling this process is a sea of jargon, which you can easily drown in and sink without trace. Let’s start at the beginning and we will restrict our discussion to sales and marketing.
Is my online presence any good? Do people actually look at my website? If not why not? Just ask your marketing director/manager/agency what the traffic was, is and where it’s going. If you are unhappy with the answer – change things or better still update the website and constantly keep it evolving. You might even decide to start again and why not? Things have changed since it was originally designed. Top Tip No.1 is do not attempt this 'in-house' (unless you have the requisite tools and personnel) and get a specialist, recommended, trustworthy person or company to do the job properly. You will need on-going support from a real person/organisation – as opposed to a raft of offshore providers who will not care about you once you have paid them. Do not make your decision on cost and on a technology note make sure that the platform they use is recent and not steam driven. Avoid the template options like WIX and Squarespace (these are for DIY experts) – there is nothing wrong with them but your site will be just like your competitor’s.
Where does the traffic come from? Now this is the hard bit and where lots of people have come unstuck (me being one of them in the past). Web traffic costs effort and cash. You can spend an absolute fortune on paid advertising - like Google Ads - and not get what you want to. Equally you have can have someone in your office creating thousands of Twitter/Instagram/Facebook posts and still not get there. Ideally it’s about creating a balance which can only be achieved through the creation of a decent digital sales and marketing plan and which needs to be executed by a professional person(s). Literally billions of pounds have been wasted by people not knowing their stuff. So Top Tip No.2 is get an expert(s) in – an enthusiastic team of of interns will only get you so far.
Do I need a digital agency or can I do it in-house? There’s no short answer to this one I’m afraid. In reality the answer is both because the results that you want to achieve will come from many different channels. For example your digital marketing requirements will probably include SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), Paid Advertising, Content Creation and Social Media Marketing to begin with – and these are just the broad brush strokes. There are many other disciplines that will be needed and you will probably need the assistance of a good agency to get the best results. So Top Tip number 3 is the same as number 2 – get a good one. Once you have found one that you can work with ensure they work to milestones – preferably payment on results. You can waste a massive amount of cash here if you make the wrong call which will send you spiralling off in the opposite direction that you should be heading.
A word on e-commerce. There are some wonderful off-the-shelf packages out there. Shopify is great but it doesn’t suit everybody particularly if your offering comes in a lot of variations. So choose the solution that meets your needs and that works for the product/service that you are selling. It is easy enough to get an e-commerce platform that works well with your new state of the art web site and you should get your people to ‘plug and play’ with a few before you decide on 'customised' or 'bespoke'. Top Tip No. 4 here is get one that’s right for you – it should do exactly what you want it to.
Following this advice won’t necessarily won’t transform your business in one masterful digital stroke but it will hopefully prevent you from making any early howlers that have the unhappy consequence of derailing your plan. It’s a costly and time-consuming process all told but worth getting it right first time.