Digital is changing business.

Digital refers to a set of technologies changing people, customers, industries, companies, products and services.

Digital technologies include mobile computing, social media, business analytics, big data, cloud, sensor networks and the like. These technologies have been coming ‘online’ over the past five years and are reaching a critical mass that is changing business.

An engaging, mobile-ready, relevant and search-friendly Web site is essential.


[source: Mark McDonald, Accenture] Digital changes business because it makes customer and business resources information intensive and connected. Digital technology applied to people, equipment, information etc., creates opportunities that were either impossible or uneconomical in the pre-digital world. The result is a wave of changes that increasingly face executives and corporate leaders.

Digital creates new business logic by changing customers. Customers change business priorities and values from inside-out to outside-in. New ways of thinking evolve the business and technology relationship and new demands for future success. That is why digital is changing business.

Digital is changing customers at the start

Digital technologies are customer oriented technologies. Prior technology was process oriented and transaction focused. Digital technology builds on top of transactions to concentrate on information and relationships. This is a fundamental reason why digital changes business. This change is often overlooked because it disrupts everything, but the logic is simple. Technologies that change customers revolutionize business.

Digital customers are different. According to our own and other research studies, digital customers are better informed, more demanding, more discriminating and more likely to change products and services when they have a poor experience. The result is a multi-trillion dollar annual growth opportunity created as customers switch products and services.

Digital customers represent the future. Digital is where customers expect you to be and where they look for your products and services. Customers expect you to have a presence at the time, place and context of their present need, else the business goes to someone else.

Customers define business on their terms

Business is a voluntary exchange, particularly whenever customers have information and choice. Customers have both in the digital world. This creates an ever changing digital economy with few incumbents giving leaders ability to redefine value and success provided those definitions start and end with the customer.

Digital is finishing what the Internet started. E-commerce pricing and product transparency is evolving into contextually heavy business services, consumerization and disruption. Digital is where business will be in the future with more than six billion mobile phones, billions on social media, and trillions of dollars in the online economy.

Digital customers are not objects in the business models. They are the subjects of their own story where you provide the actions (verbs) that lead to value. Just as our parents ‘xeroxed’ copies or “fedexed’ packages we will use new verbs in the digital world beyond googling, tweeting and facebooking.

Executives can no longer work from the inside-out telling people what to buy and remain effective. Digital business leaders recognize that digital turns the world outside-in.

Business must change its perspective and think from the outside-in

Business must change the way they think, act and learn in a digital world. Inside-out thinking provides clear plans and paths for growth and results as executives see the world they want to see. Executing inside out strategies guarantee success so long as the world works exactly as planned. Learning inside-out means avoiding failure and not learning at all. If a career marked by four wins and zero losses is better than one with eight wins and two losses then you live with the limitations of an inside-out perspective.

Think outside-in, start and more importantly finish with the customer. Use analytics and experiences to see the world for what it is. Act by placing emphasis on customer experience, their value and engagement. Finally, learn by recognizing customer and market dynamism values and applying the lessons of missed plans to create a better future.

Outside-in thinking changes the relationship between business and technology

Digital Business represents a radical revolution in the relationship between business and technology. Business and technology had a linear relationship. Business stated requirements and technology built to those requirements thereby enabling the business. Today the relationship is bi-directional and dynamic. Business still has requirements. But more importantly technical innovation creates new opportunities resulting in an iterative dialogue rather than a requirement specification. Evidence of this change is everywhere in IT from calls for shorter cycle times to agile development methods.

Business used technology to execute its processes in service to the customer. Now, customers use technology in service to themselves. Customers incorporate products and services at will and to meet specific needs. The shift is dramatic and revolutionary. We cannot call them ‘users’ any longer. They are people with technology selecting based business services rather than following IT enabled business processes.

Five things to get right in the digital world

Companies no longer control the customer. People use digital technology to engage and build their own experiences and meet their needs. Just look at your own smart phone. It is filled with task based apps rather than end-to-end applications. It is one way of seeing how digital is changing business.

How leaders forge links between customers, information, technology and services determines success in the digital future. Those links form five things executives must keep in mind in the digital world.

  1. People are everything, everyone and everywhere at all times. People become customers when they choose your products and services. If they lose their status as human and become customers or walking wallets, you lose your ability to create a compelling experience. People and their individual choices shift the balance of attention in just about every market. That is what much of the digital marketing fuss and the future of work is all about.
  2. Experience is everything. Experience is the reason why people continue their relationship with you, your products and services. Winners deliver the best experience. They win in terms of revenue growth and profitability. That is why customer centricity is a hot topic and product silos are under threat.
  3. Information is elemental. Information is the source of context, the proof of experience, the prism separating activity from results. Leaders confront the world the way it is – outside-in, rather than rationalizing it from the inside-out. Understanding, presenting, manipulating and acting on information is how leaders gain flexibility and efficiency in a digital world.
  4. Turn infrastructures into a platform that provide differentiated solutions from the same set of information, business and customer resources. Google, Amazon, Facebook are all platforms for understanding, change and growth. Transforming rigid channel/product/process infrastructures into platforms creates the yield on three decades of IT investment and operations.
  5. Learning is the new license to operate. Digital accelerates the pace of change as billions of people make billions of decisions every day. Controlling a market is vanity, leaving you vulnerable to those who know, think, feel and act with the market rather than against it. That is what makes the digital world dynamic and creating opportunity all the time.

 

The Online Marketing Code

A strong SEO strategy will almost always lead to good results in the end.

When it comes to online marketing, the purpose and objectives are generally the same as traditional strategies in terms of increasing brand awareness and finding new customers.
Making success happen with smart digital. ted360


[source: Entrepreneur] There are a number of ingredients that go into a successful digital promotion all the way from planning to sales. Perhaps the biggest benefit online marketing has for small businesses is that it enables them to spend each dollar more efficiently to yield a higher ROI.

Here are some ways in which small businesses are making the most out of their online marketing efforts.

Producing strong content

Content marketing is the cornerstone of every online marketing strategy. Producing stellar brand material is a surefire way to create loyal visitors and encourage sharing.

At the end of the day, the most important goal of content creation is to turn visitors into customers. This can start with small objectives like earning a follow on social media, signing up for a newsletter or taking a survey or poll.

Regardless of what type of content you are producing, such as a video, image, blog or social media post, you need to have a clear vision of how your content is going to add value to the life of the reader. Successful small businesses don’t just produce content for the sake of keeping a schedule. Typically, they know exactly what the concerns of their target audience are and they gear their content to address them in a profound, meaningful way.

Everyone benefits from quality content. Consumers get gratifying material and businesses earn better rankings on the SERPS. Small business can take advantage of their tight-knit followers and cater to their precise interests.

Localized SEO strategy

A good SEO strategy is the key to getting noticed in on the SERPS. Local SEO is extremely important for small businesses, especially ones with a physical address.

The end goal of local SEO is to gain high rankings for searches around your geographic location. When users search keywords or phrases in the area, you want your Website to be at the top of the list.

Localized SEO is great (but very competitive) for smaller companies such as dental offices or law firms. For example, a Tennessee injury law practice has used local SEO to dramatically boost their rankings to increase business. With consistent efforts, they’ve ended up ruling Google’s Map packs and local results for keywords like “injury lawyer Nashville TN.”

When someone is in need of legal counsel, they are checking the yellow pages less and less. They turn more to Google. With the help of some great local SEO efforts, a law firm with the right SEO strategy can be one of the first few names that pop up in the search.

Currently, only 17 percent of small businesses are investing in SEO. Now is a great time to jump onboard and find the best ways you can leverage the SERPS to increase your online exposure.

Web site marketing

To compete in the rapidly evolving digital landscape, having a strong Web site is a must for businesses of all sizes. Keep in mind, 51 percent of Web site traffic comes from organic search. Your positioning depends on the reputation of your Web site.

Perhaps one of the most important factors that go into a Web site’s reputation (that influences Google rankings) is speed. Loading time has a huge impact on how users interact with your platform. Page abandonment drastically increases after each second.

A great way to optimize Web site speed is to select a good host for your Web server. A lot small businesses miss the mark in this area because they’ve put together a site using a basic CMS like WordPress, but don’t have a good technical team to support them.

For a small business evaluating a Web site platform, the free trials are typically pointless. Building and marketing a good Web site takes a lot of work and resources. Committing to this task is one of the best investments of time and money you can make for your business.

One of the greatest things about online marketing is that it gives small businesses a chance to compete a relatively level playing field as the bigger enterprises. Success is based on smarter, more efficient strategies rather than total money spent. Having a solid content creation plan and SEO approach is crucial in getting your Web site in front of the eyes of your target audience.

 

Are you relying on referrals?

Referral marketing is not enough. ted360


Referrals provide, what in the marketing world is called social proof…

which means that others are have used your service and since they are referring you, the referrer must be happy with your services. For you, it’s a warm lead and a warm lead is definitely easier to approach than let’s say a cold prospect.

And let’s be honest, one of the main reasons why we tend to focus on referrals is that we feel uncomfortable approaching new clients.

Referrals are great until they’re not.

While all this is wonderful, focusing solely on referrals as a business development strategy has disadvantages that in our opinion far outweigh the advantages. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t rely on referrals as the only way to generate business.

Times have changed.
You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 executive to understand that mobile, social media, Google, smartphones and apps have changed the way that people communicate with friends, associates and vendors, research solutions, receive recommendations, and learn about your business (and your competitors).

So while referrals may have worked in the past, the reality is that digital technology has connected more people together giving them many more options than ever.

A highly competitive landscape
The interconnectedness of today’s marketplace has perhaps been a boon for your audience but it’s a double edge sword for your business. Today, you have hungry competitors both from the traditional sources as well as new competitors who act different, provide more complete solutions and who are savvy at marketing, and who employ more strategies than just referral marketing.

They are using social media to connect with new clients and customers. They are using content marketing to share their expertise, which assists potential clients and customers in researching various solutions. They use marketing automation to follow up and nurture clients and customers. This may seem overwhelming but it’s not. These same tools are available to all businesses.

Be prepared for ups & downs
This last and most important reason for not relying solely on referrals to generate business is that it’s just bad business. While working your existing clients and network to refer you new business feels great when times are good, it also puts an inordinate amount of control over to someone else for your lead generation. So, what happens in bad economic times? What happens when your network has no referrals to send you? What happens in months when referrals are just low or non-existent?

Now don’t get us wrong, there are people out there who are exceptions to the rule when it comes to how many referrals they receive each month, but more often than not, the ugly truth is that slow growth and inconsistent cash flow are the most common problems we hear from people who rely solely on referrals. Unfortunately, by the time people realize that this sole focus in a bad business idea, it is usually too late.

Conclusion
As business development method, having a referral strategy as part of your marketing mix is a sound tactic. However, putting all your marketing eggs in one strategy, whether its referrals or something else is just asking for trouble. Do yourself a favor and avoid the pitfalls mentioned above and remember, referrals are great, until they are not.

 

Essential Featrures for any Small Business Website

Your Website is the face of your business and an effective tool for generating leads.

It will help consumers discover your products and services, philosophy, and vision.

A poorly designed Website can result in a number of negative consequences, the most negative being a lack of business and sales. In fact, your Website can actually make the difference between your customers converting and moving forward or seeking alternatives, like reaching out to your competition.

With your Website carrying so much importance, the mere thought of building a new Website or re-designing your existing one can be intimidating. In addition to design considerations there are content needs and technical aspects that need to be well thought-out. The following infographic will help you address these considerations so that you can create an effective, efficient Website which will enable you to build your small business in the online marketplace.

Web design for small business. ted360

Engagement Marketing to Attract Customers

Today’s marketers must become stewards of the customer journey, building strong relationships with customers… wherever they are.


Build strong relationships with relevant experiences. - ted360
Unlike traditional approaches to marketing where you specifically target prospects with direct response offers, engagement marketing allows your audience and potential customers to interact with you and shape how they would like to communicate with you. Engagement marketing begins when an interested person takes an action to begin an interaction with you.

Engagement means someone is interested in listening to you, and you must engage that person in order to achieve your business objective while fulfilling their interest. As a commercial entity you will implement engagement marketing to drive your interested audience toward one of the following two key business objectives:

  1. Cultivate the individual as an advocate of your thought leadership and market image. Advocates will recommend your products and services enthusiastically to their network of friends and business colleagues.
  2. Encourage a dialogue with the individual to help them to make a purchase decision. An engaged customer is likely to become a loyal repeat customer.

Here are a few tips on engagement marketing to attract customers:

  • Develop an engagement strategy – To be successful you must prepare a clear plan and approach for your engagement marketing. Your plan will have to include how you will reach out to your listeners and how you will be able to respond and interact with your engaged participants.
  • Integrate with your marketing mix – All aspects of your marketing communications mix should include a ‘call to action’ for engagement from simply requesting comments or postings at your blogs or forums to encouraging reviews on your products and services.
  • Focus on content and relationship – Focus on relevant and interesting content as the key to engaging with your audience. Understand that building genuine relationships with content that is important to the individual is the best way to achieving the two key business objectives for engagement marketing.
  • Promote subscriptions – Use permission based techniques to encourage subscriptions with optimised web forms, RSS registrations, refer to a friend and social network sharing.
  • Invite listeners to interact with your Blog – Establish a culture and enthusiasm for engagement by encouraging your listeners to contribute with comments, suggestions and even as guest writers to broaden the points of view and resources available to your connected community.
  • Conduct surveys and polls – Run frequent surveys to give opportunities to initiate engagement while learning from and about your listening community. Use a surveys or web polls to start the dialogue that is relevant to the individual.
  • Engage with social networking – If you have not heard of Facebook, SnapChat or Twitter that are behind the social networking phenomena, you must not waste anymore time, go straight to these sites and understand how these sites that are capturing literally millions of people who are actively engaging on these sites every day. These sites work because social networking communities need to share and want to know what their circle of friends and relatives are up to. Find out how you can leverage the engagement and sharing of your content using these social networks.

Remember, once you have an interested community engaging with you, make sure you keep the lines of communication going, learn and adjust your strategy to ensure your engagement marketing will delivery bottom-line results to your business by increasing your customer base and repeat sales from your engaged customers.