After two start-ups and ten years of building fully integrated information technology platforms on which to operate them, I have concluded the following two key points:
1. To be competitive in today's market, a business must have a fully integrated information technology platform.
2. To implement, one doesn't have to break the bank or take years to accomplish.
For small businesses operating in mature markets, often, it's become a matter of survival - a daily grind to hang on to existing customers and eke out some profits. However, as discussed in this article, two fundamental requirements exist for positioning a business for transformation.
- Firstly, a modest investment in information technology and;
- Secondly, a commitment to educational resources for learning modern digital marketing techniques.
Completing these two requirements can position a business for growth and profits within its existing market.
Typically business transformation may be considered by a small business owner as the act of transitioning out of one area of expertise into another and is usually contemplated because its original market has deteriorated or, for some reason, it's not considered possible for the enterprise to compete effectively in that market any longer. As a result, business owners contemplate the riskiest of business transformations by attempting to enter new markets and products. However, because it's likely the business owner's knowledge of the latest products and markets is inferior to the knowledge and expertise of the original call, it's more likely that mistakes and misjudgments will occur.
Before going down this risky path business operators in mature markets, where revenue is declining and profits eroded, should consider implementing a business transformation strategy within their existing market and area of expertise.
Suppose the qualifier conditions in the sidebar are met. In that case, it's possible to significantly mitigate the risks of a business transformation by staying within its existing field of expertise in products and customers.
THE FOUNDATION FOR A BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION
There are two foundational requirements to prepare for transforming a small business to compete effectively with larger enterprises.
1. Prepare and deploy a fully integrated information technology platform.
2. Learn how to use the platform effectively.
This must include a suite of systems that handle the following;
- the financials
- online payment processing
- direct email marketing and inbound digital marketing
- customer relationship management
- product catalog and shopping cart.
These software systems are available at a reasonable cost and usually within subscription models, so the upfront out-of-pocket expense is modest. However, they must be deployed for the different components "speak" to each other to be effective.
For example, the back-office system used for invoicing, receivables & payables, etc., must "talk" to the CRM system with full data exchange. The email campaigns must record their "clicks" in the CRM system to manage the sales pipeline. The e-commerce shopping cart must "talk" to the back-office accounting system. Ensuring these systems are fully integrated requires using intelligent resources experienced in their field. Shortcuts will likely backfire as failure to deploy an integrated platform means the effort to transform a business will be compromised.
Using the platform to transform a business
The business operator must learn to use the technology platform, particularly in front-facing components such as CRM, e-commerce, and direct email campaign tools. Furthermore, a vital part of the strategy also requires intelligent use of popular social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook; these must also be learned. Most small businesses are floundering in digital marketing, developing qualified inbound web traffic, and using social media to build and expand an audience. For the most part, these are new skills a small business owner has to learn and perfect to extract total value from the efforts, but for a transformation to occur, the new skills must be discovered.
Spending time and money to upgrade and integrate an information technology platform and to be prepared to enter the world of social media and digital marketing will largely be a waste of money if the necessary skills and know-how are not developed to leverage the potential from the platform.
There's no shortage of options for any business owner looking for support on digital marketing and social media strategies. So many opportunities have become overwhelming, causing great difficulty in figuring out where to start. This, in turn, has paralyzed small business ownership's social media strategy decision-making, leading to low adoption rates for these critical skills and strategies.
Dabbling in social media and digital marketing isn't very effective. Hence, small business owners must get their heads around the use of social media for marketing and move forward with well-prepared strategies.
However, an inbound digital marketing strategy needs to be launched from within a fully integrated information technology platform to be effective. If this can be accomplished, and leadership stays the course with the strategy, then it should be just a matter of time before a complete transformation can be achieved.