In 2016, over 45% of SME business owners thought that digitizing their business is absolutely necessary for the upcoming future. Four years and a full ongoing pandemic later, it’s extremely important for businesses to move fast and digitize as much as they can in an effort to avoid bankruptcy.
Let’s not be all doom and gloom though, as you can take the current context as an opportunity to make that step you always wanted toward digitization.
As for the nonbelievers, we’ll provide you with reasons why digitizing your business can be revitalizing, especially in dire times.
See the forest for the trees
First things first. It’s important to take a step back and assess if your business truly needs digitization.
Chances are, it does, especially on the logistic side. For example, given the ongoing pandemic, it might be smart to overhaul your restaurant business in order to be to-go only.
When the pandemic ends, you’ll be able to re-open the restaurant for people AND have delivery experience.
Brick and mortar businesses are also at a strong disadvantage now, but it also opens them up for a digitization effort that, truth be told, needs to come at one point or another in the future.
Think of what needs to be digitized first. Your sales process? Your customer support process? Delivery? Your employees? You can always hire little robots that don’t ask for a salary and…. I’m kidding.
Depending on your business, you might only start by dipping your toe in the digitized world. For example, let’s say you’re a hairstylist.
You don’t exactly know how and why should you digitize and what it actually means. But you want to give it a go and you decide to download an app to help you better schedule and reduce no-shows, such as Appointfix.
Playing with the app you see it lets you schedule appointments (duh, it’s in the name). Then you see financial reports – Nice, you think, now I don’t have to keep separate tabs with reports. Oh, it also sends SMS reminders to my clients. How awesome is that!
Bit by bit, you start and digitize more. Having an ecosystem that keeps everything neat and tidy for you and makes your life easier is the ultimate purpose of digitizing your business.
That should be the end goal, not being in trend with all the other businesses that are going digital. If you can’t see any benefits, then digitizing isn’t worth it.
But we’re willing to bet that digitizing your business will pay dividends.
Revamp your processes
Upon deciding to start your digitization process, don’t just digitize your existing procedures.
For example, if you run an HVAC business and have a dispatcher file paper sheets with information about the technicians’ day, don’t switch to just making him file digital papers on Excel.
What marginal returns you might get from having the dispatcher use excel you lose when investing in training him to use the software. Plus, it’s the same thing but on a computer.
Take it a step forward and really think ways to revamp your existing processes. For example, by using a scheduling app for field service professionals, such as FieldVibe, you rid yourselves of your old ways.
Sure you might say, but is it worth the effort? Well, it’s like driving a Mercedes for the first time. Sure, your trusty Toyota never let you down, but once you get to drive a Mercedes, it’s hard to go back.
It’s an opportunity to rethink your systems, to re-evaluate your business journey which includes the customer journey, different for the digital era.
By the way, our team at FieldVibe wrote an excellent article on digitization as a growth engine for home service companies. So if you’re in the home service industry, you’re in luck.
Also, at the time of this writing, FieldVibe is offering full support for organizations that fight the pandemic. If you’re one of such organizations, head on over here to find out how FieldVibe can help you fight the pandemic.
The magic of digitization is the ability to leverage scaling opportunities for your business.
For example, instead of having multiple customer support personnel ready to manage support tickets, you can use customer support software that does it for you.
And you can pair it with your website or app and have it inside. That way, support tickets get automatically created by users interacting with your business and you can have someone on customer support to handle those pesky little tickets.
Another huge opportunity is for brick and mortar shops. Generally, there isn’t much you can do in order to spread your awareness to the general public. Sure, you might do some ads in the paper, maybe post on social media here and there, etc.
But by completely digitizing your communication channels, you also get to reach more people and connect them with your expertise.
For example, by adding a blog to your business and employing an SEO expert who diligently researches your brand’s strengths, you will be able to reach more and more people this way. Not to mention targeted ads through social media.
Cutting costs & saving time
Chiming in with the scaling opportunities, there is obvious cost-cutting with digitizing your business.
For example, since you developed an app to keep track of your employees clocking in and clocking out, there is no need for having someone dedicated to file in timesheets.
The app does it automatically for you. Not to mention the time saved for filing that timesheet.
Having your documents digitized does wonders for information searching & sharing. Imagine trying to find something in stacks of papers. Awfully tedious, right?
Now imagine being able to search thousands of documents and find the info in minutes.
The elephant in the room. Digitizing your business is one of the best ways in order to avoid catastrophes. And we’re not talking only about the current ongoing pandemic.
Imagine a fire or a flood breaks out or at your HQ and destroys all your paperwork. That would suck. But if you had digitized your business in time, all your documents would’ve been on the cloud, safe and sound.
Also, it can provide a buffer in rough economic times. For example, you can reduce the number of employees of your restaurant (as difficult as it is for an owner to do) and employ only a few chefs and delivery boys.
Everything else is done through your restaurant app.
Ok, now that we learned why digitizing your business is well worth your efforts, let’s see now how you can do it.
Since businesses have different needs, it’s hard to come up with an actionable plan that isn’t a cookie-cutter solution. That’s why you need a business analyst to analyze your business (which we can provide).
But for now, let’s provide you with a bare-bones actionable plan that has a broad appeal:
1. A presentation website
In order for your brand to become known in the digital world, it needs to have some sort of presence. Think of it as brick and mortar but on the Internet.
A website is an obvious choice here, but it’s not always the best one.
Some businesses get along well with just social media for example. A Facebook Business page might be well suited and enough to communicate with your customers, have your menu or products listed there and be able to communicate with your customers hands-on.
It also depends on the kind of promotion you do for your chosen platform. For example, a website with a blog can take advantage of SEO strategies to rank it better in Google searches.
But with a Facebook page, a great way to put yourself out there is by using Facebook’s targeted ads, to reach your specific market segment.
Either way, a presentation website we believe to be a must, and in the long run is best to pair it with social media, such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
2. A mobile/web app
FieldVibe, our scheduling app for service professionals
Depending on your business, it’s important to provide your customers with a way to interact with you.
For example, if you have a commerce business and you want to go digital (transforming yourself into an e-commerce business), it’s important to have a web app that will let users shop, leave reviews, add products to carts, track the package, etc.
If your users or customers find you, and you don’t have a scalable way in which people can interact with your products (such as an e-commerce mobile app), then you’ll be overwhelmed with manually handling requests.
We believe it’s redundant to mention that 83% of Americans are projected to use a smartphone in 2020, so it’s a no-brainer that mobile is an important platform that needs to fit in your digitization process.
3. Customer support (CRM tool) or an Administration zone
If you’ll start to provide a digitized solution, it’s important to keep track of your customers and better streamline your sales process.
A CRM (customer relationship management) tool lets you handle everything from your sales process all the way to customer support tickets.
Hubspot has a great (and freemium) CRM tool to help you kickstart your digitization process for your customer relationships.
If your business asks for it, a custom administration zone can be built to be tailored to the needs of your business.
This administration zone will provide you with all the necessary information and actions that you can undertake in order to best manage your digital business.
4. New procedures
In order to accommodate the digitization process, you’ll certainly have to rethink your procedures.
Which is a good thing. It’s the perfect time to re-evaluate your existing methodologies and streamline them. You might uncover insights to which you were blindsided up until now.
For example, you’ll have to see if that paper timesheet is still of value to you now that you’re going digital (hint: it’s not).
5. A blog with SEO
A blog is a perfect way to interact with your customers and bring them added value to your initial business proposition.
It’s also a way to educate them with your expertise. We think highly of every blog that steps in to take that educator role in helping customers and users navigate their affairs.
Having a blog with no Search Engine Optimization is like writing in your journal. It’s great content, but nobody is going to see it. Which, in case of a journal is great (that’s the purpose).
Not so much when it comes to your business.
It’s important to target keywords that make sense for your business, to let Google’s index crawlers rank your content higher up the search list and become relevant for people in your segmentation.
6. Social media presence & Ad campaigns
The last step we’re gonna present here on the process of digitizing your business is being outspoken on social media.
Social media provides a cheap way to grow and reach your target audience through organic content (posts, videos, gifs, etc.).
To give you a boost, you can always run an ad campaign. Ad campaigns focus on specific audiences that fit with your target personas and can bring you the awareness you need as an emerging digital business.
Also, it’s easy to track the efficiency of an ad campaign, because Facebook provides you with hard data on what target segmentation received your ad, how many interacted with it, etc.
Overall, a proper ad campaign pays dividends, and since Facebook’s principal revenue model is ad-based, you’ll be sure to find help from them whenever you need it.
These are just a few reasons why we think that (especially now) it’s important to not postpone your digitization efforts any longer.
With the ongoing pandemic, it’s doubly important, especially for brick and mortar businesses.
We’re happy to help you with this process, so go ahead and drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally a word of advice from our favorite adventurer, Bear Grylls: