You remember that feeling you got when you first decided you were going to make it on your own? The first moment you decided the simplicity of a 9-5 wasn’t enough for you anymore? That moment you decided you wanted to be the controller of your own destiny? To an onlooker, that look on your face probably equates to seeing someone at their most inspired.
This is my very favourite look on another person’s face – a fledgling passion turned into a wild idea that needs to be tamed. The birth of the possible.
A business idea might start with this look, but it certainly isn’t what you experience day to day. You know exactly what you want to do with your business but you have no idea how to sell it or how to make people excited by it.
It’s at this point that most people encounter some kind of digital revelation. “By George! Of course we haven’t had much luck compared to our competitor’s down the road. They’re on Twitter!” And off you trot to spend the next agonizing periods learning to be great at Twitter. And to what avail?
That very revelation didn’t have to be about Twitter. It could have been a mobile app or the use of augmented reality at an event. It doesn’t matter, the result would have been the same. Negligible.
Because this is not how you make a business successful online.
Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook alone hold 1.2 million terabytes of data. A terabyte is 240 of a single byte or 1024 gigabytes. That’s a lot of information for just a few companies to hold. Now, imagine being just 1 byte of data in that sea, looking for a way to be noticed. All start-ups discover the same conundrum – how to be noticed online.
Starting a company and hoping that your website or a few Tweets is going to make you a digital business is not enough to make you stand out. Doing what everyone else is doing is also not enough to make you stand out.
The Silver Lining Becoming a digital business isn’t as much about mastering an online channel (like Twitter for example). It’s about learning how to harness all online channels to best expose your brand to your potential audience.
You had the idea in the first place. So it’s possible to conceive that your business could be as large as Facebook, Microsoft or Amazon. Your idea is just as tangible as Mark Zuckerberg’s was the moment he thought of Facebook and you have just as much a chance of living that dream as he did. So what’s stopping you?
You have a product/service that you were born to sell. And you might already be doing a damn good job at selling it, but you want to start working less and seeing leads/customers generating themselves without you having to work so hard to bring the customers in.
Whatever your goals or needs are, you need to start seeing digital as a tool that fits around your business instead of the other way around. It needs to work for you.
From my experience there are really three stages to becoming a digital business. The aim of each stage isn’t just to adopt a good set of marketing tools or to master the processes but to learn how to capture the essence of your business and make it the very foundation of everything you do at that stage. A business will always change but it’s up to the business owners and leaders to keep the core message and focus running through every vein of activity.
Build Your Online Home The first step to any digital business is the digital storefront. Whether you’re going to sell your product through an app, website or Facebook group, you must pay attention to the detail – just as much as you would if it was a physical store.
Have you ever been to Harrods? Harrods is one of the UK’s largest and most famous department stores in the heart of London. From the very moment you walk near the store, each window is laden with a plethora of decorative displays, housing items from their in-store collections or advertising brands.
But it doesn’t stop there. You enter the store and you’re not made to sift through clothing rails. Instead, you are taken on a journey from department to department with every item easy to reach and displayed prominently. There is a method to the madness. It’s been designed with many years of testing and analysis of shopper habits.
The same should be true of your website. Everything from the colour, lighting, shapes and sizes would matter if it was a physical store, so don’t let them be overlooked in your website. The foundation of you as a business should resonate clearly the moment your site has loaded. What can you do to ensure that?
Focus and attention must also be paid to how people enter your site and how easily you lead them to a purchase. Give people an opportunity to sign up and keep in touch, give them a reason to keep coming back to your site and make it easy for them to find what they need.
Digital GrowthNow that you have a store, you need to get people to come inside and enjoy it. Here’s where you start creating your online community.
Building email lists and social media followers isn’t easy and takes time and commitment. People won’t follow you if you don’t give them a reason to, so share and create content that showcases your brand and your product/services.
You’re also fighting hard to get your share of the search engine result pages. But you can find innovative ways to compete with larger companies, you just have to make sure you’re creating content that is more entertaining and adds more value to your prospective buyers. Because as long as your audience finds it more appealing, your audience will always come to your website.
This is a huge opportunity to be more creative with your business because you are trying to stand out. And nothing is better at standing out than a truly unique tone, message and personality.
Use your customers and most loyal supporters to drive your growth and recommendations. It can take anywhere from 6 months to a year for a business to reach this point but normally they will see traffic to their site increasing steadily, conversions and business revenue increase and an organic community of people signing up to your lists – just from being a sensational online personality.
Digital ROIAt this stage, you’re sitting comfortable, watching your email lists and social media followers grow but you’re still not a truly digital business – not in my book anyway.
Digital ROI (return on investment) is a period in the digital business journey that goes from day to day growth generating activities, to a full immersed data-driven business. You’re in a great position to start gathering and collecting insightful data about your prospects, lost customers, won customers and even employees.
Data analysis can take your business from slow and steady incremental growth to driving huge wins in short spaces of time. This could start somewhere as simple as asking your audience how they feel about your products or services. Or a web landing page test where you change the colour of a button to see if one colour increases the number of people who buy.
You’d be surprised what data driven analysis can do for your business. Once you start listening to your customers, you can understand how best to serve them and make small adjustments to their digital journey that help them buy. In the long term this means small changes that lead to big wins and over time, a much larger profitability. Not that any of us care about the money…right?
This final stage is one that never ends. Data analysis can always to continue as you collect more data or find new ways to analyse old data. It also helps to join forces, look at studies conducted by other companies and see if your data is adhering to the trends or if something unique is happening in your business that isn’t happening elsewhere (something you could potentially capitalise on).
It may seem odd to start talking about creativity and end up talking about something as boring as data analysis but to be a truly digital business, you have to walk the tightrope between creative director and data scientist. This is how you come up with ideas like getting drones to deliver your packages (Amazon) or updating your subscription fee to monthly instead of one time (Adobe and Microsoft) or even expanding your services into a dating app (Facebook).
This is the mark of a digital business in my books and something I like to call a “digitally enabled” business.
I don’t charge for questions. If you have one, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Natasha Aidinyantz