The Power of Technology
Digital technology has undoubtedly transformed the way we do business. In just a few short years, we’ve gone from pen-and-paper record keeping to smart technology that is real time, predictive and accessible from just about anywhere. We can deliver impactful messaging with precision and determine with unerring accuracy those customers who are attaching to what content. The fog of customer engagement has finally lifted.
Or has it? While today’s technology advancements are impressive and many companies are benefiting from the digital transformation, others have seen less than stellar returns on their digital investments. There is a new solution or platform around every corner, each promising to get you over the next hurdle, whether it be behavior tracking, lead generation or data hygiene. While the graphs produced look great in your morning meetings, are they really helping you drive more business? Is there really actionable information under all those trend lines?
Installing various digital platforms has become a simple, almost point-and-click endeavor. Within days - sometimes merely hours - your new system is up and running, serving up gobs of data. Well, that’s often the simple part. It’s the definition of business processes (the “what”), the selection of the right platforms (the “how) for a specific business environment, and the sometimes-disruptive cultural changes (the “who”) that often hamper results.
Without careful planning, the advantages that the latest technology can offer become elusive myths that consume valuable time and resources. These myths include:
Myth #1: “A new website will improve our business.”
While a timely, well executed website refresh can make everyone feel better about your brand and attract a few eyeballs, it often does little to drive new business. It’s sometimes not the website design itself, but other factors that hamper the effectiveness of your digital strategy. For example, are you sure that this is the way customers gather information about providers in your space? Is the content on your website truly useful to your stakeholders? A website refresh or redesign as part of a well-rounded business enablement strategy makes much more sense, where specific changes can be directly mapped to desired business outcomes.
Myth #2: “This new CRM will make us more productive.”
There are myriad new CRM packages available today, ranging from light, breezy platforms capable of managing a few hundred customers to enterprise class, “big iron” solutions that are integral to more comprehensive turnkey ERP systems. Regardless of the platform chosen, productivity is the key. These systems should decrease the time needed to effectively manage a customer’s expectations, thus freeing up time to manage more customers. If these platforms don’t make customer engagement more efficient, what’s the point?
Myth #3: “This new software is going to make our lives simpler.”
Aside from marketing automation and CRMs, there is a host of add-ons that promise to enhance your digital ecosystem and rain opportunity from the skies. Whether its scraping the web to find new leads, measuring performance, or predicting who will buy and when, each package promises to be precisely what you will need to open the floodgates of clarity and revenue. But do they really deliver? Once you look past the cool graphics, ask yourself, “What is this data really telling me?”
Myth #4: “We’ll be able to track our performance.”
A great promise of today’s CRMs and marketing automation platforms is the ability to quantify what is working and what is not. The days of “I know 50% of my marketing works, I just don’t know which 50%” are finally over. But these platforms are only as effective as the quality of the information they are presenting. If your underlying data is dirty or corrupt, the reporting power of these tools is sharply diminished.
Myth #5: “Sales are down because of poor online content.”
The best online content is often overshadowed by poor website visibility. Take an objective look at the traffic coming to your website. Perhaps it’s not your content that’s the problem; perhaps it’s your offer. Maybe your audience prefers to communicate in a different way. Before you hire copywriters to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, take an objective look at your audience, and what a meaningful online relationship looks like to them.
Myth #6: “The IT guys are solving that problem.”
No doubt, the whiz kids down the hall can do amazing things, whether it is making multiple data sources play nicely together or connecting your front end to your back end in a seamless, reliable fashion. But they are only so talented. Without clearly defined objectives, driven by the business enablement organization, you may wind up with an elegant, well-designed bridge to nowhere. Before you ask the designers to design, make sure you all agree on what to build and why it should be built.
Myth #7: “Boss, we can build that in three months.”
Today’s digital platforms are amazing in their flexibility and ease of use. Billions of dollars of engineering labor and market research have resulted highly scalable solutions with customizable features that can be seamlessly integrated and tailored to most businesses. But it takes diligence, perseverance and expertise to get to the end of the tunnel. Platforms are only part of the struggle. Processes and culture (change management, that is) must be fully considered before a successful transformation can occur. Don’t be surprised - it’s likely that the three-month proposed schedule will take markedly longer.
Myth #8: “We need more social.”
The various social platforms are great at keeping us connected. In many cases however, social channels are not the preferred method of communication between company and customer. For technical or consultative relationships, the constant din of social noise can be a distraction. Be sure to understand your clients and their preferred methods of communication. The magic bullet of social - a cheap way to communicate effectively - only works if everyone is interested in participating.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Now that we’ve reviewed the myths – and there are a few more, for sure - here’s a cold, hard fact: Many companies invest time, energy and funds on business enablement platforms and projects that simply will not improve business outcomes.
Does this sound familiar? Have you spent the last several years installing new technologies only to find yourself defending the spending? Are you always “two or three quarters away” from seeing real results? In reality, the today’s digital technologies are a subset of an overall marketing strategy, which sadly to say, is often not written and even more often not followed. And while the ability of these tools to help your business improves every day, the benefits often touted are often elusive. Why?
You Need A Plan
There’s no doubt that many of the digital tools available today can be truly transformative when it comes to performance, productivity and improves business outcomes. But they aren’t magic bullets that will solve pervasive problems with a simple turn up and configuration. Effective utilization of technology requires a deep integration with a well-developed strategy. These platforms are usually enablers that will either augment a strong strategy through better performance or drag a poor one down with cost and schedule overruns and other distractions. The latter scenario is more common that you may think.
Before investing in new technology platforms, consider the processes upon which you wish to improve. If a platform’s benefit to your process is not clear and unequivocal, you may be about to embark on a money and time wasting exercise. Map the platform’s benefits to your desired outcomes. If you can’t, move on.
Once the processes and platforms are well connected, the greatest hurdle to transformation must be addressed – change management. Your changes are sure to introduce cultural stress and perhaps outright rejection. Does the plan take into account the daily users? Is the comp plan aligned? Are you planning a rollout at the busiest time of year? Building organizational awareness and receptiveness to your changes is paramount. In most cases, you only have one chance to succeed. Make it count!