Driven by advances in technology and by the way users interact with technology, small businesses face both a threat and an opportunity. By understanding several key trends and developing a roadmap to adapt, small businesses can accelerate growth, optimize operations and create value throughout their organizations.
Personalization. We have surpassed the days of adding a customer’s first name to the “Dear customer” line in an e-mail and calling it personalized. Today, personalization delivers an engaging experience to a specific consumer. It spans websites, e-mail and across devices such as smartphones and tablets. We use data to create an ever deepening understanding of our customers, and we measure everything. While this may sound like the purview of mathematicians in lab coats, the use of data to drive decisions and personalize conversations [should] start small.
Success is about a deep understanding of customers, and an ability to communicate a relevant message is critical. First, identify key needs within your customer file, and then create tailored messaging to speak to that need. The first phase in the journey may be sending three different e-mails to prospects based on interests rather than that single blast to all. In the near future, you may find this has iterated to a fully automated data-driven process that creates an individualized contact strategy for each customer.
The mobile imperative. The pervasiveness of smart phones, tablets and wearables makes mobile absolutely critical. Mobile usage has surpassed desktop usage in the US and continues to climb. While large brands are investing heavily in immersive mobile experiences, even the smallest business can take initial steps to ensure a website is mobile-friendly and responsive to different device types, or that e-mails render properly on a smartphone. From there, pursuing a fully integrated mobile strategy can be approached iteratively – but quickly.
Social media mastery. Previously, social engagement by business was an advantage. Today, a lack of social media competence is a business liability. While social media is nothing new, what is new – or at least continues to grow – is the importance of the social sphere in the customer relationship. Social drives awareness and builds trust. It fuels SEO, is a customer satisfaction barometer and a business intelligence resource.
When understood and embraced, tremendous opportunities exist to deepen our understanding of our customers and leverage that understanding to meet their needs with products, services and interactions that are relevant, timely and trusted. Though the approach and tools may differ for large businesses and small businesses, the necessity for it breeds conversion in business. Success will belong to those who accept the challenge.
About the Author: Steve Chitwood is a program director with Mindtree (mindtree.com) and consults with Global 1000 companies pursuing digital transformations.