Jumping Into Digital

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Customer interactions are central to businesses. “What do you like about our product? How did it work for you?” Discussions with customers have, and always will be, part and parcel of good business practice. Having a conversation with your customers allows you to stay connected, innovate and update your products and services. Digital communication is a modern day tool to help you achieve exactly this – a conversation with customers.

Many businesses are now going global, with processes often being managed from anywhere around the world, so it’s easy to lose connection with your customers. We have greater access, more products and services and more ways to find what we want than ever before. The greatest value of social media and digital communications is the ability to bring your customers and your business back together.

Facebook isn’t the only solution.

Some businesses think that by setting up a Facebook page their big jump into social media is complete. But while Facebook has the highest volume of social media followers in Australia, Facebook’s recent operational changes with regard to ‘organic’ reach mean that just having a Facebook page doesn’t ensure you are doing it right.

Changes around digital and social media are in real time. The digital landscape is continually evolving – and as business owners, we need to innovate and keep pace with developments.

Get started with a business and marketing strategy. Review your current practices and look at opportunities and threats. Using social media and digital communications effectively, what can you achieve? Find opportunities to innovate, improve, customise, grow, reduce costs or change tactics. In terms of risk, what is the worst thing that could happen if you make changes?

Create a strategic plan

The digital path is full of complexity. Perhaps you’ve already had a digital plan in place – it looks good from afar, but when you go to implement, it’s a different story. Suddenly there are more questions than answers… what is the best technology, how will it improve processes, how do I operate this 24/7, what resources will be needed, and when do I see return on investment.

Digital is all about investment. Rather than a cost centre, it will evolve into a return when properly aligned with business and marketing goals.

It’s time to view digital marketing as an essential part of your business plan. Look at where you are headed and set the path. By developing and adopting a digital marketing plan, you’ll future proof your business.

Use your data

It’s crucial to build a knowledge centre within your business, to provide you with a clear base point for digital strategy. Make sense of this jigsaw of information, combine it with your business knowledge and industry trends and you’ll have a clear understanding of what your data represents.

Review the data currently captured across your systems. Assess your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, transactional system, website data analytics and any social media accounts. These customer touch points will provide an historical basis to report and view activities.

With this information as a benchmark, you can more easily identify which areas to improve, alter and enhance. It will be easier to combine marketing campaigns around these metrics as clear goals.

A digital strategist can use your data in combination with digital measurements. Your strategist will use metrics to measure and view activity, transactional behavior, and using any existing digital sites, look for conversations, views, hits, links, traffic, conversions, sales, repeat sales and referrals.

Just as quality research is behind any great marketing strategy, it is data that informs and establishes a digital plan, using patterns and methods of customer interaction.

Don’t just follow. Stand out from the crowd.

Know your audience. Ensure your brand and digital conversations highlight the benefits of your business. Understand your point of difference – not only from your competitors, but also within audience categories. Rather than emulate someone else, use the power of digital to stand out.

Never before has there been a medium that allows you to be so creative, innovative, reactive and proactive. A way to reflect who you are and what you offer, while creating meaningful conversations with your customers. Jump in, the water’s fine – but remember you need a plan.

Article first appeared in Inside Small Business Magazine.

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