How to bring your business to the 2020s
The digitalisation of business has long been seen merely as a new means of competition and a platform for acquiring and serving new customers, but today it is already the norm for business. Very few companies are able to operate without digital marketing, e-commerce or a presence on social media. At the latest, the covid crisis forced more and more companies to move their businesses online. For many companies, however, this change is not easy: getting online is more challenging. It is no longer enough that your product is the best in town. You compete at least all over Finland or mostly worldwide, even if you don’t acknowledge it right away.
In ancient times, technology was a mainstay of a company: an important, yet only a supportive function. However, digitalisation and technology can no longer fit into this role. Digital solutions drive innovation, sales and competitiveness; traditional business has little market volatility. As the digital business is no longer a support function, it is also not an IT project living in a bubble. Digital business is an organization-wide way of thinking and a common language. This mindset covers everything from accounting to purchasing services and marketing to maintenance services. Digital competence must be found in every corner of the company, from the salesperson and the graphic artist all the way to the CEO.
In summary, digital business differs from an IT project in its coverage: IT projects are inward-looking and traditionally cost-effective digital solutions. Digitization, on the other hand, shifts the focus outward. Business can really be developed with, for example, data-driven marketing, advanced analytics, buying path tracking, or sales pipeline automation. At this point, let’s focus on how you digitize the outward-looking aspects of your business. We deal with topics such as modern sales channels and automated customer acquisition. ERP systems and other support processes are discussed in another article. In addition, consider the legal issues that may arise when digitizing your business with, for example, software or outsourced software licenses.
Digital sales are something entirely else
We in Finland drive on the right side of the road. In Australia, on the other hand, people drive on the left. Both systems seem to work well, but it is not smart for a Finn to go around Australia on the right side of the road; combining the systems would at least lead to a bad mood. Here’s a relatively clumsy allegory about the relationship between traditional and digital sales work: both work, but combining them is a bad idea.
The traditional sales job is reminiscent of pictures of a guy cold calling to bored people who are interested in the product offered perhaps once in twenty calls. The system works, of course, but is relatively inefficient. Digitizing sales is about forgetting traditional sales work.
Google is the virtual front door of your business
When digitizing your sales, the first question that arises is: what is the best possible substitute for newspaper or television advertising? You probably already know the answer: Google and social media advertising. Intelligent algorithms target the service you offer exactly to whom you want to target it.
But no, people are by no means interested in your product any more when the sales talk is in the form of a Google ad. The difference, however, is that smart salespeople take over the keywords on Google that describe the problem the service being sold solves. These leads are already hand-warm compared to cold calls. They are already interested. Plumbing services are easier to sell to those who have google for ways to open a clogged restroom.
Search engine optimization – the noble skill of pleasing Google’s algorithm – is, of course, a discipline in its own right. Science maybe, but not magic. In a nutshell, it’s about filling your website with the right kind and relevant content. However, you could write a book series on search engine optimization, so this text doesn’t go any further (if you have any questions about this, please get in touch!).
The ultimate goal of search engine optimization is to generate organic (free!) traffic for your business in the long run. However, your business may be completely new and you are unfamiliar to the general public. Maybe your whole service is unheard of! In the short term, a better strategy is paid advertising. But how to do it? While Google’s algorithm is pretty good, it can’t create an optimized ad for you. (Google advertising is also talked about in my unnecessarily flamboyant Digital Book. Coming soon!)
In a nutshell, Google advertising is about defining the right keywords and search terms. Your business name is a bad search term: no one even knows you exist! Let’s continue with the example of the plumber service. Good keywords are clogged pipe, hair in the drain, leaking faucet. What is the problem your service is solving? The job of a Google ad is to make a cold call for you.
Alright, it is agreed that at this point you have got a working marketing campaign on fire or you have paid an expert to do it.
Important to understand: Google advertising only pays when it works. If you buy advertising space from a local newspaper or even from Iltalehti’s website, the price is determined by its impressions. It is said that a thousand people see your ad in the local newspaper Sysmä. However, no one buys anything from you. Bad investment! Google, on the other hand, charges on the basis of clicks. If no one is interested in your ad, you pay nothing.
You’ve now decided to invest a few thousand euros in Google advertising. You can see from the Google Ads Dashboard that people have even clicked on your ad! Congratulations, but this is not enough. Maybe the page you referred to potential customers isn’t even an online store. Maybe this page has a contact form that the customer fills out and a completed form will come in your email. Great, but it seems like a pretty bad system. Will you continue to dig up all your moderately warm leads from your email folder for a call? Maybe a contact request that came in one Friday night will get in the way of it. Wouldn’t it be more comfortable if all these leads were automatically stored in a dedicated system?
Case Kriisirahoitus.fi: Customer Management Systems are pop
No, they are not just pop. They are a lifeline for any growth company.
Kriisirahoitus.fi was a team built during the covid crisis, the sole purpose of which was to obtain development financing for companies to cope with an exceptional situation. The sales system built for the team was as follows:
- Google advertising reaches businesses that need funding
- The company submits the contact request on its dedicated website
- The team will contact you to find out preliminary information about the company
- The company will sign a consulting agreement and send the requested information about the company
- Kriisirahoitus handles all stages of obtaining financing, from start to finish
- Business Finland or the ELY Center will call and ask tough questions about one particular company whose application you were considering last month. You need to be able to answer this right away.
- A financing decision is made and the company leaves the system
Sounds relatively simple, doesn’t it? But there were 600 contacts in two months. To put it mildly, the 16-person (initially two!) team would not have coped with the situation, if it had not had a well-functioning Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Relevant information had to be immediately available, in the right format.
Read more about Kriisirahoitus.fi
CRM is just a fancy term for a system that helps you stay on track with all your customers and their place in your own sales pipeline. In other words, it is not enough to get interested customers. They also need to be taken care of. There are more CRM systems today than there are self-contained tubettors, but at least Hubspot and Salesforce should be named.
In summary, without CRM system, you are in trouble. Successful Google advertising gives you customers like a tray, and you should keep them going with a working system. Can this be automated? Absolutely. In the case of Kriisirahoitus.fi, the contact information of the company that submitted the contact request appeared immediately in the centralized system. Here you will find the name of the company, the name of the contact person, telephone number, e-mail and a brief description of the company’s operations and current status. The salesperson contacted the phone number provided and the conversion rate from lead to paying customer was amazingly high. Let’s talk more about optimizing your sales channels. Sterly can take care of it!
Those legal intricacies
When digitalizing your business, you will most certainly encounter a situation where the solution you need cannot be found as a ready-made package that you can only buy with a company credit card. You need something customized. You will find a digital office that can build you a mobile app or ERP system. But who owns it?
Your new application must be YOUR intangible assets.
Let’s take the plumbing service example again. This time you are a customer. The water hose on your washing machine is leaking, so call the plumber service. The seller says they can repair the leak, but only on the condition that the pipe that is closest to here belongs to the plumber service. The only one who can fix the pipe or make improvements to it is this company.
Sounds pretty silly. So, why give your company a new sales platform builder similar rights?
Claim your intellectual property rights in all aspects of your project. This includes project source code, project-related documentation, graphics, data collected, etc.
But now your platform is collecting data from its users. Don’t stumble!
Data protection and GDPR
Data is the new gold. It is no wonder that big players like Google collect all possible data about their users. Even one that doesn’t really have any use today. But maybe tomorrow it will have. The same goes for you: the data you collect increases the value of your business.
However, there are rules to the game in data collection. The purpose of the GDPR Regulation is to facilitate the regulation of the movement of personal information by EU citizens. You can read about it. The point here is that there is no way to expect an individual plumber service to understand all the nuances of this regulation. The most secure solution for the application you just purchased is to keep your security up to date.
The easiest solution to data collection is to leave it to a competent party.
This doesn’t make any sense
As I wrote this text, I found a thousand tangents that I could have written about.
The truth is that the digitalization of business can in no way be condensed into a single blog post. I could have written a list of French lines that would have found some coherence. However, that would have been dishonest. There is no way to open up this huge digital revolution without a debate that will take ten conferences. It would be the same as writing a single newspaper article in 1791 about the Industrial Revolution.
I’m going to open up all of these aspects (and others!) Much more deeply in my Digital Bible. Before that, I recommend contacting Sterly. We can help, even though I haven’t yet put my thoughts into words.