Updating your Facebook page each day doesn't constitute a digital strategy for your small business. Today we talk about what it is and how it can help to future-proof your business.
A Digital Strategy is one of the most important documents you can now have in your business. We are all familiar with the importance of having a clearly defined and documented Business Plan for our business, to set our vision and strategy.Very few businesses however understand the importance of a clearly defined and documented Digital Strategy. In this episode I outline what a digital strategy is and how it is so much more than scheduling posts to Facebook and Social Media.
What is covered in this episode:
- What is a digital strategy and why you need one
- Case studies of businesses that didn't have a digital strategy and the impact that had on their industry
- Why a digital strategy is not just your social media and marketing activity
- The different components of a front-end and back-end digital strategy
- The digital life cycle of consumers
- Identifying where your customers fit in the digital spectrum
- The importance of identifying the trends in your industry and how that can impact your product delivery
- Why you need to build your business on your own assets such as your website and not on rented land or third party assets that you can't control such as YouTube and Instagram
- Back-end digital issues you need to consider around protection and security
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G'day, g'day and welcome to another episode of the ‘Business Made Easy’ podcast where we make business easy. Jason Skinner, your host here, and I'm thrilled that you are with me for another episode of the ‘Business Made Easy’ podcast. Whatever you're up to out there, I hope things are going well. We've got a great episode today. We are talking all about digital strategy in your business, and I'll get onto that shortly, but before I do I just want to welcome any new listeners out there. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm glad you're here for the very first time. Don't forget to hit the subscribe button if you are new. Be sure to hit the subscribe button and that'll make sure that you get access to the weekly episodes and the new episodes as they come out each week.
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Alrighty, I hope everyone's having a good week out there in business. I know I have been really busy this week. I've been getting together a lot of stuff for a few new products that we're bringing out shortly, which I will tell you more about in coming episodes as they come along, solutions to help business owners to really get more profit and grow their businesses, which I'm really excited about. We're putting a lot of work into getting those together and out there for you, so I'll let you know about those as soon as they become available.
But today we're going to talk about digital strategy and what that actually means. Everyone has a different definition of digital strategy. When I ask people, “Do you have a digital strategy?” or, “Do you understand what your digital strategy is in your business?” there's a real mix of responses ranging from, “No, I don't have one. I don't know what that is,” or, “Yes, I do, ours is all under control. We post to Facebook on a daily basis.” Pretty well that's the spectrum of answers that I get. But a digital strategy, which we're going to work through today and I'm sure you'll appreciate, is probably one of the most important things you could have in your business right now, if you haven't already done so.
I'm going to go through with you what an actual digital strategy is and what it encompasses and why it's important to your business. And then I'm going to go through some of the things that you should actually be looking at or having in your business as a part of your digital strategy to help you put one together quite easily. It is an important thing because with the speed of technology and the way things are changing out there, industries are just getting zapped up because they failed to identify the digital disruption that was happening in their industry. That's happening faster and faster. As our technology grows and as our technology gets better and better and more and more people are embracing the technology, we're going to see more rapid shifts occurring in our business environment and in our individual businesses.
A digital strategy basically allows you to sit down and take account, take stock of those changes that are coming and where you are in the spectrum of those changes with your business. I'll give you, I mean there's a million examples out there of digital disruption that have been occurring from Uber changing the taxi industry, rapidly changing the taxi industry. Now if you think of the taxi industry, really it's quite a simple industry. It involves cars picking up passengers and driving them and delivering to a set destination and charging a fee for that. Very easy. We stand out on the street and hail a cab and it pulls over and we jump in.
But through the advent of technology and services like Uber where you can just jump on your phone and you can book somebody, anybody who's happy to drive you in their own personal car. You can see where they are, you can see their ratings, their history. That's digital disruption occurring to an industry. It caught the taxi industry off guard because they were happy just picking up people that were hailing them off the streets and busy doing what they were doing, but really … Other examples are Airbnb and the accommodation space. You can go and stay at somebody's house just by booking using technology, using an app to go and stay in a stranger's home. And they all of a sudden become almost like hoteliers. This is all digital disruption occurring.
What I want to make sure for you in your business is that you have a full control of where you … You might be in the best position. You might have work to do. That's fine. But you identify and you know what work it is that you've got to do to stay ahead of the curve.
Let's have a look at what we mean when we talk about digital strategy. What is a digital strategy? Typically when we think of strategy we think of business plans and setting strategic strategy for your business and digital strategy complements those strategies. I don't think they really… They shouldn't be looked at in isolation. I think it should form part of your business planning process. But the digital strategy is looking at the digital aspects of your environment, your industry, and your business. It's giving you an overview and an analysis and understanding of the digital capabilities and opportunities that exist within your business and within your business environment. We're looking at things like … We are looking, yes, it includes social media, it includes everything that's happening out there in the web type internet space, but it's also including protection of your digital assets and efficiencies within your digital structure and in your digital environment.
When we're talking about digital, yes, we're talking internet, we're talking about computers, we're talking about really just anything of a technological nature that is going to have an impact on your business. So what the digital strategy ultimately seeks to do is put in place a document to understand and identify the opportunities, the challenges, and risks that the digital assets of your business possess and are exposed to in driving your business forward.
What all this is about ultimately is sustainability. We want to make sure that whatever digital resources we have, whatever work we're doing in that space, is going to be sustainable in delivering our products and services. Because if you think about business at the end of the day, it is somebody providing fair value in exchange of products and services to somebody who needs those products and services being the customer for fair value, an exchange of value that they are happy to pay for. There are a lot of elements that go behind that. Then is how they're willing to transact and interact with you, the business owner, in consuming your products and services. Technology plays a big role in that. How they find you, how they find your solution to their needs, technology plays a big role in that.
You can see here that the digital strategy it really is an important aspect now of doing good business. I'm going to give you an example before I'm going to touch on what a digital strategy is, I keep saying business strategy, a digital strategy is not shortly, but before I do I just want to give you an example, a story actually of my childhood growing up, and I'm at the risk of showing my age here. I remember when we got our first VCR video player and recorder.
I remember dad brought it home in a big box. It was a Panasonic, National Panasonic I think it was called. Dad brought it home in this big box. He was happy and excited and my sister and I were happy and excited because all of a sudden we had this new thing in there, and you could watch movies on your own TV. We didn't have to wait 'til Friday night or whenever the TV station said you could watch them. You could watch your own movies.
I remember, we set it all up and dad said, “Right, let's go down to the video store.” “What? The video store.” So we jumped in the car. Dad happened to know the owner of the video store somehow, so I'm not sure if that's how we ended up with a video recorder, but I remember him talking to the owner of the video store. I was sort of amazed at all these movies you could watch. You could just pick, and I think the first one we watched was ‘Jaws’ of all things. But anyway. He got talking to the owner of the store, and the owner … We were all sort of, “Wow, this is so fantastic.” And the owner of the store said to dad at the time, “Do you know that one day you'll be able to just watch a video when you like, however you like, you'll be able to stop it and start it, and pick it up the next day, watch it again wherever you left of, and any movie you'll be able to just watch.”
I remember at the time picturing, I just, I was just amazed by this and I just went, “No way.” That would be like a massive room. How do you have a room with so many video recorders in that one room that people can just stop and start a movie in their own house? How would you be able to ever do that? I just had this vision of a big room full of video recorders and I was wondering how they were going to link up the video recorder to the house. I mean, how are you going to do, even do that? I just remember being blown away.
Of course, he was right. The owner of the video store was right. We now have streaming services such as Netflix and the like where you can stand, etcetera, where you can just watch a movie. I mean we don't have a video player or a video recorder anymore, or DVD player. We just call up Apple TV, or whatever it is that we are watching, we want to watch and we can get it. We very rarely, I know my wife and I, Melissa and I, we very rarely watch free-to-air TV. We generally will now consume a series. We'll sit down and binge watch a series of particular TV.
It really is an amazing, and my point to that story is I guess the way and a particular industry can evolve and develop and become extinct really. I mean, if you think of the … I'm sure the guy who owned the video store when I was a kid sold it before then hopefully, but I do know of video store owners that failed to see that coming and failed to actually take any action. That's the illustration of my point, is that a digital strategy, a proper digital strategy seeks to find and identify those risks and changes in technology going forward. It's a really, really important aspect of a digital strategy.
Let's look at what a digital strategy is not. When we're talking about a digital strategy, when I ask people do they have a digital strategy, they say, “Yeah, we've got all that under control because we post to Facebook on a daily basis, or, “No we post to Instagram, and yeah,” or, “I've got a social media marketing manager and that our whole digital strategy's under control.” That's not a digital strategy. That's a social media marketing strategy. And it forms part of your overall digital strategy, but a digital strategy is a lot, lot broader, and a lot deeper than that.
What we want to talk about when we're talking about a digital strategy what we want to look at is, I break it up into two elements really, is a front-end digital strategy and a back-end digital strategy. I guess if you think of a physical shop, picture the general store if you like. This doesn't matter whether you're an online business or physical bricks and mortar business. This applies to any business, a service business, it doesn't matter what you're in.
I want you to think of it like this. Standing at the very … of the general store, just a general corner store, the very front door. You're standing there at very front door of that general store, looking out at the world. When you stand at front door and you look out at the world, there are all different things you can see, there are all different … There might an a-frame sign out on the foot path inviting you to come in and buy an ice cream. There might be advertisements for your general store all over the road and down the road, etcetera. That is your front-end digital strategy. Everything from the front door of your store out, looking out that is what we call your front-end digital strategy.
I then want you to turn around on the steps of your general store, turn around and look into the store. That is what we call or I call your back-end digital strategy. We've got a front-end digital strategy and a back-end digital strategy, and that's how I look at the two.
Let's look firstly at the elements in what makes up the front-end of our digital strategy. Remember, we're looking out of the front of the general store, standing on the steps looking out to the streets, etcetera, but as with everything in business we want to get an understanding of our customers and all things in marketing and the front-end really does deal with the marketing side of it, but we want to get an understanding of our customers and how they see technology and how they digest technology, and what's their perception of technology.
We really want to have an understanding, a deep understanding of our customers because it's, and I'll give you an example. It's no good saying, “Okay, from now on I'm going to deliver my product to you 100% electronically and you can never get a physical copy,” if 90% of your customers don't own a computer. There's just absolutely no sense in that. You really want to get a great understanding of the way your customers deal with new technology and technology in general and what their sentiment is out there.
It was made very, very easy by three gentlemen back in 1957, believe it or not, who came up with a model. It was like a bell curve. I'm sure you're familiar with a bell curve, it's shaped like a bell. They came up with this model called the technology adoption lifecycle back in 1957. The three gentlemen were just for reference Joe Bohlen, B-O-H-L-E-N, George Beal, and Everett Rogers, and they were from Iowa State University. I'll put links to them in the show notes for you if you want to read further on this topic. But I found this really fascinating when I sort of sat down to start to think about how people use technology in their business or how customers interact with business in a technological sort of sense.
They came up with this model called the technology adoption lifecycle and it's made up of five key stages. I'm going to go through briefly what each of those stages are. As I said, I'll put on a link in the show notes if you want more on this. There's been books written around this model even since this was brought out. I'll also put some more information over in the show notes for that as well. You'll be able to get that at businessmadeasypodcast.com/episode25.
This technology adoption lifecycle five stages, the very first one, very first stage, and I guess as I go through these think of your customers or clients and how they might apply to them. Just have a think about some of your major people that might fit into this box. I know when I went through them I could certainly relate to nearly every single one of them.
We've got the innovators. The first stage are people that are in the innovation stage, the innovators they called them. They represent about 2.5% of people out there that are happy to use a product or service or technology even though it's not finished. It's in its really raw stages. There's a concept out there called minimum viable product, which we'll talk about in future episodes, but basically these innovating people, they're happy to use something in its basic stage. They represent about as I said 2.5% on this bell curve. Features aren't necessarily important, but it's the new shiny thing. Picture someone who really loves sharing new shiny objects with you and that type of thing. They're sort of in the innovator stage.
Then we move into the second stage, which is the early adopters. These are a larger group of people. They represent about 13.5%, the early adopters, and they are all about, it's got a few more features, a bit more stable product and service, yeah, it's new, it's absolutely new, but it's not necessarily in its beta phase either, it's a finished product and all the bugs have been pretty well ironed out. But it's also in the disruption phase. It's new. If I think back to people who started using Uber when it first came out, they were the early adopters. The system worked. The app worked. But it was new to the taxi industry. So that's where the early adopters started to come in.
Then we go into the third phase, and this is a larger chunk of people. These are the early majority, 34% they make up, and they are much more conservative, but they want to hear from others, they're very pragmatic sort of people and they want to hear from others about what their experience was when they used this new technology. As I said, they represent about 34%, so it's a fair chunk of the population, but they, yeah, they're open to it, but want to tread carefully and make sure that it's going to be right for them and practical for their needs.
That gets us up to the halfway point in the bell curve. Then we go to what I call the late majority. These are a lot more conservative people. They really want to know things are right and it's well tried and tested technology. Nothing's going to break you. If I put this in, it's just going to work and it's going to make a difference to my day, and, yeah, I'm happy to do it, provided that I'm not having to deal with scary new stuff. Everyone's already using it. I guess I'd liken it to someone coming into the Facebook space maybe two or three years ago. You know all the talk of Facebook going away that Facebook is not going to last, it all passed and these people were realizing that Facebook is here to stay and all the kids are on Facebook so I better get on there.
A great example of this that comes to mind is my mum with … And I'm not picking on my mum here. I love my mum. Hi mum. But mum with Netflix. She couldn't be convinced to get onto Apple TV and Netflix and those sort of things. Last time I was down there in Christmas time, she's on there and showing me how she watches movies and it's the latest thing in her world. She's what I call a late majority. She's in that space there where it's all the bugs are ironed out and it's commonplace technology. I'd suggest that probably in most of our customers and most of our clients and things, most people are going to fit within that early majority, late majority sort of camp.
Then we've got the skeptics, the people that's saying, “Facebook's never going to last. Social media is going to die. It's all just a fad.” They're the skeptics. They want to avoid technology altogether. They still want to go and transact over the counter. They don't want to know about technology. All businesses have this element of people and the skepticals that still want things done the old way because that's what they know and that's what they trust. They're the skeptics and they represent, as I said, 16% of the people. That's the final 16%.
My point of discussing this module with you is it gives you a bit of a framework to sit down and actually say, okay, well, before we get into designing, whether or not our technology and whether our systems and the way we are delivering our technology and our marketing, etcetera, is all heading in the right direction, you really need to have an understanding of that because there's no point going and designing a you beaut automated Infusionsoft methodology of delivering content out and products out to clients and customers, if none of them actually own a computer.
If 90% of your customer base is in the laggard skeptic’s box that I was talking about, then you'd be doing yourself a disservice and you'd be wasting money. This is where a digital strategy can save you money as well, is by doing this analysis and actually working out exactly where your customers fit in the technology spectrum so that you can make sure that you're delivering the appropriate products and services to them.
I'll give you another example. Let's say a majority of your customers are in the innovators phase. They want the cutting-edge stuff, they want to know, they want you developing systems and new things in new ways to transact with them and deliver products and services to them. You're not going to send them something that's been out for four years that, is mainstream and everyone's already using, because you may not be meeting their needs and satisfying them. You can see there that this customer starting point is really, really critical.
Once you have that, once you have a full understanding of your customer and where they fit in what I call the digital spectrum, then you can then build out your strategies and things from there. So you then can work back from there and start to, yeah, I guess develop strategies that are going to benefit them.
Having identified exactly where our clients fit on the digital spectrum, and where the majority I guess lie, we want to then start looking at the future and looking for trends that are emerging. Let's just say for instance there's new technologies coming out that are really going to revolutionize the industry or business that you're in or the products that you sell.
Firstly, I've been wanting to look at A – how, are there going to be shifts with our customers and clients around that, are we going to need to, are we already meeting that or adopting that change, and moving with those changes? Or are we sort of burying our head in the sand and just saying, “Oh look, we're just going to continue on as is and not worry about it too much. It's not going to happen to us. We'll be right.” These are all common things that people say when they don't want to deal with change, when they're reluctant to change.
In documenting your strategy you want, and after identifying your customer, where they sit and how they position to take on any changes, you want to make sure that you're delivering your products and services in a way that is going to help your customer to best digest that change and for you to deliver that change as you move forward.
I guess to give you an example, let's say for instance you've got customers that are maybe in that conservative stage or that laggard stage where they're really not ‘go get them’ in the technology space. But there are shifts changing in the industry. New technologies are coming out that allow you to deliver your product or service better and more efficiently to your customer, more profitably, more sustainably. Then you don't just go out there and go, “Right, this is the way it's got to be done now because this change is coming and you're going to like it or not,” because you're not going to have customers for a long period of time.
You might be an innovator of technology, but your customers are laggards and more conservative. So you can't. You're going to be sitting lonely for a very long period of time if you go and get this brand new shiny technology, throw it at the customers that just aren't ready for that. Then you really need to be able to A – withstand that quiet silence for a long period of time of no customers coming in the door because you'll frighten everyone off, or B – yeah, you might end up, yeah, just regretting if you can’t. Even if you couldn't afford it, you might regret doing such an action. That's why understanding your customers so, so important in what I'm talking about here.
But you as the leader in your business and the leader in your company, you need to be able to identify the road ahead and look at the road ahead and look at the trends and the changes in the marketplace. Then the trick and the skill for you as the business leader and the owner and small business owner is to be able to marry up where your customer is currently positioned and where the profession and where the products and services are going, the trends in the industry are actually going. Very, very important.
This applies whether you're a plumber, whether you're an online business, whatever business you are in, it doesn't matter. I'm an accountant and I have an accounting practice. There's change massively happening in the accounting profession. For instance, I'm sitting here doing a podcast, which years ago I would never thought I'd be sitting on a digital platform doing a podcast. I mean there's change happening. As I said, the tricky is to marry up that change with where your customers' immediate needs and head space are at the moment, and almost take them on an education journey.
You're actually educating them on new ways to get better outcomes from your product or service. By doing that you're going to build better relationships with your customers, and you're going to have customers stick around for a lot longer because you're actually looking after them. You're saying, “Hey, Joe. We've been doing it this way for so long. And I know you're not a big lover of technology, but we've just got this small change that we'd like to implement so that this is the benefit for you.” I guess if you can educate the benefit to that customer on any changes that you're looking at making technologically is always going to serve you better.
The digital strategy is all about these things, it's all about sitting down and mapping out exactly what it is that your business is, how it's going to handle technology and change coming in the future. That's one aspect of it.
We also want to also look at protection. You're going to invest a lot of time and money in developing new systems and marketing systems and social media strategies and all these things to try and get new customers and serve customers better. You also on the flip side want to make sure that whatever it is that you're building is your asset and you're not building it on someone else's real estate or platform.
Now I'll give you an example of this, is that there's people out there with very successful online businesses in the digital space, and they're building their business all around YouTube, they're absolute YouTube sensations, making millions, some hundreds and thousands, some not so much, but building a business on YouTube. There are other people not going to the worry of building their own website, but they're building a Facebook page on Facebook, and that's going to be the face of their business.
The problem with these sorts of strategies are that you don't control the game, you don't own the game, you don't have the rules of the game. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, all these places, they control the game, it's their real estate and you're just building your business on it. Now that is a very, very shaky and dangerous place to build. You wouldn't go and build a house on sand and likewise or on real estate that wasn't yours. Likewise, you've got to look at your business as an asset, as real estate. You've got to look at every single post and email you build or content that you build as your own asset and real estate. It's very, very important and I can't stress this enough that you build that in an environment and a world that you control. At a very minimum you really want to make sure that in a digital capacity you are driving people back to your website, your real estate, and all your content from there.
By all means, I'm not saying don't use Facebooks, don't use Instagrams and all those things. But use them as baits if you like, as attractants, and then drive your traffic or drive your people or customers back to your real estate. The same as email lists for instance. There's a saying around that says that the money is in the list in terms of email lists. But I don't necessarily like that saying. I think it's a bit tacky, but what it's ultimately getting at is that the value of that asset is in your email list because you have a customer's contact details, you have a potential customer's details, or prospects details. You wouldn't go and put that list on, leave it on Facebook or leave it lying around anywhere or just open on the internet anyway. You want to protect that in your real estate. You want to control it.
Again, another example of an element that you would include in your digital strategy, where is your website hosted? We're getting into protection now. This is sort of in the back-end part of the strategy. Where we're getting into the back-end we're also talking about our security, our data security, where are our servers stored, where does our data live, how is it backed up, do we have ransomware protection in place to stop attacks of viruses or? What are our systems and procedures and polices around that? That all forms part of a digital strategy as well. That's the back-end part of it.
Also, included in the back-end is how do we operate within our business, what systems and processes do we use? In a digital sense within our business, do we have online checklists and forms that our staff and we ourselves use to deliver our products consistently and reliably to our customer? Can our customer or client digest that, if it's delivered in a digital capacity? Again, we're going back to that model of how they digest it.
You're getting the picture here. There's a lot of elements and a lot of parts to having a digital strategy. I'm happy to talk to you further about those, should you want more information on them.
The other areas are, and just before I get off the, and now I've digressed a bit down into the back-end, but just going back to the front-end digital strategy, social media strategy and email marketing and all those things, they do form part of this of what I'm talking about, they're all up in the front-end. I didn't really want to get too bogged down in social media today. I wanted to give you sort of a broad overview of what sorts of things you would cover in a digital strategy, the stuff I was just talking about there in the backups and things like that, that's all to do with threats, what threats are your digital assets exposed to?
What I'll do for you is put like a flowchart, an infographic if you like in the show notes that you'll be able to download, to give you a broad picture of what I'm talking about here. You'll be able to see it in one diagrammatic sort of aspect. You can get that by going to www.businesmadeeasypodcast.com/episode25 . Put your details in there and I'll certainly send that to you so that you've got that. It's an infographic that'll show you pictorially the sorts of elements that I'm talking about.
But the critical thing here in all of this is taking the time out to not just set your business plan and all that sort of thing, which I'm very, very strongly in favour of doing, but I also want you to take it a further step and to strengthen your business and strengthen your sustainability and future by looking at the digital aspect and the digital journey of where your business is going.
I'm advocate that every business plan nowadays should have a digital strategy in place. I think if you went to the bank to seek finance or looking to sell your business, a digital strategy accompanying the documentation would really serve you well because it would show clearly the vision that you've had, the intention that you've taken, the understanding that you've got of your customers and your clients, and your understanding of your industry and the threats and opportunities that are existing within it.
I hope that has provided some clarity around what an actual digital strategy is and ways you can actually look at that. There are a lot of elements to it. There's probably too many to just do in one podcast, so I apologise if I've lost you in any places.
Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] if you've got any further questions around, you can leave a comment in the show notes. There's the comment box in the show notes there. You can by all means leave your comments there and I'll more than happily go in there. Or drop me an email as I say if you've got questions as well, and we can help you further from there.
Digital strategy, it's a must do for your business and I really think it would serve you well by having one of those in place. Alrighty. Remember, if you haven't joined our Facebook community yet, feel free to go over and do that. You can do that by going to businessmadeeasypodcast.com/facebookgroup . I would love to hear from you over there. It's free to join. It's just a matter of going to that URL and hitting the Apply button and I'll let you in for sure. It's a great group of people over there talking business and all things, success in business, which is what we're all about as well.
That's all I had time for today. Thank you so much for joining me. I really do appreciate your time. I really appreciate you tuning in each week. For those of you giving me feedback and writing reviews, etcetera, thank you so much as well. I really appreciate those and I appreciate you. It's valuable for me to know that the content that we're putting out there for you is resonating with you and having a great impact and benefit for you in your business, because I really want to see everybody in business succeed and have a happy life. We go into business to give us life back. We want to make sure that it does that in spades and that we get the happiness that we are seeking out of business.
That's all I had time for now. Here's to your success. I'm going to hand you over to Mia until next week. We've got a great guest coming on the show next week, so I look forward to that, so make sure you hit the subscribe button if you haven't and tune in. We're going to talk some really good mindset stuff in business. So until next week, here's to your success and over to you Mia. All the best. Bye.