Let’s dispel a myth. Maybe your business has a website, and possibly a social media presence to attract customers. Many believe this is an online or digital strategy, and they’d be dead wrong. Websites and social media are tactics, small facets that are part of a digital strategy that processes your workflow.
Workflow can be one of the most daunting things about running any business. To get a great workflow it takes focus and planning to create a winning strategy. Gone are the days when a company can make up a strategy on the fly. Even those departments who like easily consumed frameworks such as lean, nimble, or agile management – can fail to realize that these management styles are based on having a core strategy. Without that core strategy, even modern-day management frameworks fall apart. The faster you can process marketing, sales & admin, and invoices – the easier your day can be. But if you don’t have departments or even a few co-workers to rely on, things can stack up pretty fast. The answer to this dilemma is of course technology.
While creating a holistic digital strategy should always be the aim; what we have found in the last two years, is that quite often software packages are daisy-chained together in hopes that they will create more efficient workflows. What ends up happening is businesses have to change their workflow to adjust to the newly adopted software, learn these systems, create workarounds to fit the business’s needs, and most often, work is lost and has to be replicated. Out of frustration many companies still rely on manual work and Microsoft Excel becomes the most robust software they use. If this sounds so familiar to you that it’s spooky – that’s because it’s very common. However, if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught the business world, it’s that if you don’t have a digital strategy in place – you won’t have a business for very long.
Having a digital strategy nailed down has never been more important. Even one year into a global pandemic, I’m continually hearing about offices where their software systems are not performing up to snuff, thus killing their business and efficiency of remote staff. Some people like to call this topic digital transformation or digital disruption. Whatever your choice of term, in this article we’re unpacking the things you need to look at to create a better digital strategy for your business both onsite and remotely.
What is a digital strategy?
It’s all about improving business performance through technology. In our case, web technology. There are several segments to a digital strategy that address the various segments of your business. Anything that currently exists probably can be addressed digitally. These business segments are marketing, sales & admin, invoicing, and possibly, depending on the business model, digital products. You can have a digital strategy for each specific segment. So for instance most people know about a digital marketing strategy. This would involve using social media, SEO, and all various forms of content marketing. But an overall digital strategy is usually what businesses struggle to implement. How do you get to the point where a landing page captures a lead, feeds it to an internal system like a CRM, customer service makes contact, and then places the contact in an automated funnel, and once the product is purchased order fulfillment automatically populates invoicing and bookkeeping software? This represents a digital strategy for your entire business because it joins together all the segments any business needs to function. The best ones automate much of the workload between these functions.
Why do I need one?
Business isn’t getting slower. Even if you don’t plan on having anything more than a local business, a digital strategy can make running a business a lot easier. With the right digital strategy, and especially when it comes to digital products, your workflows and “time to task” (the amount of time it takes to accomplish a single task) are drastically cut. The right digital strategy lets you focus on fewer specific technical functions within your business, and allows you to function more as a project manager or director of your company rather than having to be at the rock face on a daily basis.
How do I know if it’s working?
You’ll know when your digital efforts are paying off because the business function it addresses will suddenly feel less burdensome. You should either see communication happen more quickly between colleagues or customers, increased transparency and analytics when transitioning between business functions, tasks being accomplished a lot faster, or a combination of all of these.
The business case for your digital strategy
You can build a better business case for your company or department’s digital strategy by crunching the data you already have. Don’t base anything on assumptions. Even if your company is lagging in innovation and you are on the wrong side of the digital divide. Most likely you already have the data available to give you a direction on what to do. Common aspects of your data should identity:
- sales data
- web traffic volumes
- traffic to sale conversion
- how much time is taken to process a project/job/task
- how many people or how often do you work on the same task or have to repeat a task
- Which tasks or sectors of your business are taking the most resources
Digital strategy should be written down – even if you work on your own. This is good to have for a few reasons. It will keep you focused as a business owner or as a department. It helps with onboarding future employees, and help with future business valuations, and of course, it helps to lower costs.
How to implement a digital strategy
The trick is to use the right software tool for the job and to make sure those tools communicate well with one another through an already established API, or at least that the API provided gives you documentation so that you can develop the protocols of communication between systems. Here are the common tools used for each aspect of a digital strategy:
- online sales and sales data – Shopify, woo commerce, or the deals section of your CRM (if you don’t have online ordering)
- web traffic & sales conversion – google analytics and many alternative a list can be found here
- processing times & resource usage – employee time sheets, possibly CRMs, most likely bespoke systems
I hope some of this has been helpful on your journey to a digital strategy. We will be breaking this down further in the weeks to come with posts on digital marketing, defining your audience, integrating your website with marketing and your back office, and getting your back office to talk to your bookkeeping software.