Covid-19 hit the world and at a time we didn’t expect it. Suddenly businesses had to quickly come up with digital strategies if they hadn’t already. For small businesses, the going was not as easy but some sort of shift to digital had to be made. However, without a strategy for digital business, you could find yourself struggling in this new normal. There’s nothing about business going digital. The good news is, it’s never too late to create a digital strategy. To assist with this let’s talk about the small business digital journey and how it assists in creating a digital strategy.
Define your business
What people don’t realise about the digital representation of businesses, especially on social media platforms is that they all look the same. And this is important to note because people cannot tell from your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page what kind of business you are. What separates you is the content you put up, your brand voice, your symbols and your interactions. You see if you were running a business face to face people interact with you so they learn these things through your behaviour. You have body language in your favour. When replying messages and comments there is no font for tone. So which business are you going to be? Ultra professional? Laidback? Also, take time to little down your Unique Selling Proposition to precise and concise language. Digital is about faster. Sending me a 1000 word essay to explain your business is great but you should also be able to explain it in one sentence.
Make a plan
I have the great fortune of being asked by many people to help with their digital strategies or new ideas for their businesses and hobbies they want to monetise. One question tells me how much needs to be done: do you have a plan? I could choose from hundreds of quotes about the importance of planning but I will say this; how are you going to know what to do? And that’s all a plan is a guideline. I understand plans scare many people because they are worried about having a poor plan. It is better to make changes to a poor plan than to have no plan at all. What goes into your plan? Where you want to be and what you want to do. Do you intend to have a presence? Do you intend to find leads online? Do you intend to close sales online? Do you intend to completely automate sales online? And before you say “I want to do it all”, the question isn’t if you want to do all these but when. Once you’ve decided on when assess the costs involved with each step and how you will fund them. Don’t worry it’s a plan and sometimes you have to speak things into existence. I will say one thing, the greater the degree of detail in your plan, the more likely you are to succeed. And if it’s not written it’s not a plan.
Websites are very important to the digital journey but may not be the ideal starting point for everyone. Some may choose to start with social media for cost and reach purposes and that is just fine. What’s important is having a good website. My favourite Steve Jobs quote is “design is not how something looks, it’s what it does”. So when working on a website think about what it does than how it looks. There are 6 types of website; the information website, the communication portal, the product catalogue, the interactive catalogue, partial eCommerce and fully integrated eCommerce. I’ll run through these very quickly.
The information portal is a simple site that provides information about your business. Address, contact, what you do and the like.
The communication portal allows people to communicate with you through or on the website.
The product catalogue hosts information on your products. People can learn more about your products here.
The interactive catalogue is not everyone but it allows businesses with complex products to interact with their products. Useful for bespoke manufacturers. Say you make custom branded merchandise, this is for you.
Partial eCommerce allows people to order products online then complete the order offline.
Fully integrated eCommerce completes the transaction on the website.
You can start wherever you want to start. What’s important is your preparation for the requirements on each level. You can gradually grow through the stages so you are not locked in at any point in time. A website can be anything from a business card to a 24-hour salesperson for your business.
Social media is all about interacting. The purposes of social media differ but it tends to work very well with a website. That said Facebook is bringing us Facebook shops. The goal of this element of your plan is to increase your awareness and reach. People still need to find your business online and social is the way. It is not just about broadcasting what you have on offer. That’s great but everybody else is doing that. In my experience, the people who gain the most from social media are those who use it for listening. Listening to your customers and general conversation about your product or industry can do you a world of good. It’s also really useful for explaining. Yes, your website should do that but you also have to meet people on the platforms they are comfortable with receiving information. I see a lot of businesses shouting about what they are selling and silent about the complicated process they will put you through when you try to buy from them. I understand complexity, what I don’t understand is not preparing your client for it. Take a breath on social media and tell us about your process and sometimes even your industry. Gary Vaynerchuk said it best; social media is not about the number of friends/followers/connections you have, it’s about the strength of the bond you have with them.
And that’s it! The small business digital journey is broken down into 4 not so simple steps. If you have questions please feel free to ask.