Last month’s article covered the common misconceptions of technology, but there’s a question unanswered: how do I use it to help my business? Before we dive into the ways technology can help, let’s find out how you’re using it by measuring against these three metrics:
- Do you have a one- or two-year strategic plan that identifies challenges and reflects your overall business objectives and goals?
- Have you evaluated your technological infrastructure, budgeted appropriately for annual replacements of hardware and planned for growth?
- Do you have an online marketing strategy clearly outlining your business’s online objectives, brand, identity, and messages?
- Are there policies in place for technology, online marketing and brand reputation management?
- Do you have a stable and reliable infrastructure that can support growth?
- Have you identified your online presence, audiences, developed engaging content and campaigns in alignment with your brand?
- Are you proactively managing your technology and online marketing?
- Are you proactively posting and engaging customers? Are you measuring these metrics on a consistent basis?
- Are you re-evaluating and implementing revisions to your strategic, technology and online marketing plans?
If you answered “no” to any (or all!) of the above questions, you are not alone in this venture! We often don’t think of leveraging technology as a tool for success, because the only time we really recognize our technology’s importance is when it breaks – meaning more time and money spent, right? But what if we actually used technology the right way from the beginning? This time, not as just computers and the Internet, but as a partner in business.
Think in Threes
Where do you want to go? What are the steps and challenges to get there? How will we sustain these efforts? The answers are always different for each business, but the process remains the same:
– Plan. You never execute or implement anything without identifying a clear set of objectives and goals first, right? Building the foundation is single-handedly the most critical component in this process.
Develop a Strategic Plan to set your business objectives, goals and identify challenges and the resources needed to be successful. Once you have a clear idea where you’re going, it’s time to think about what infrastructure is needed to support your business’s growth by creating a Technology Plan. This includes an overview of your existing technologies, pain-points and frustrations you and your staff are experiencing, cultivating ideas for improving processes and enhancing efficiency, and other objectives in alignment with your strategic goals. The final step in the planning process is to create your Online Marketing Plan. This document identifies your business’s brand, identity and messages and concisely defines your online target audience. From researching successful competitors’ engagement tactics on social media, to selecting the appropriate social media outlets, to identifying brand reputation management pages such as Yelp, Google or UrbanSpoon, the online marketing plan is vital to building consumer awareness, increasing public visibility and expanding your audience.
– Implement. Your foundation is set, now it’s time to start executing your plans! First, implement the appropriate infrastructure needed to support growth and eliminate any operational frustrations by increasing efficiency. After all, the quicker you can manage the day-to-day processes, customers and other information pertinent to your business, the easier it will be to focus on what matters most – reaching your goals.
Your technology is now up-to-date and the staff is happy and more productive than ever, but now it’s time to implement policies to ensure your business’s brand is promoted as efficiently and consistently as possible. IT policy defines how your business will approach security, how technical issues will be handled and set rules for how technology is to be used in the workplace. Your online marketing policy will primarily focus on branding, identity, and online brand reputation management. The staff responsible for implementing your online marketing strategy will also be responsible for responding and engaging with your audience. Your staff should have a comprehensive understanding about how to manage both positive and negative customer feedback, content aligned with your brand and how each aspect of online marketing will be managed.
– Sustain. The investment of time, financial resources and dedication to achieving your business goals means that there needs to be a strategic approach to sustaining these efforts. Proactively managing technology and online marketing means that your business is able to easily adapt to the inevitable evolutions of technology and social media trends, leaving your business in a position to overcome obstacles and grow.
Using technology to build your brand and grow is a process and a big black hole of endless learning, but with proper planning, implementation and sustainability efforts, you will find that it will be the one thing that differentiates you from the competition – getting you to where you want to go. QCBN
Chalease Linderman is the owner and community development director of CommunIT, LLC
She can be reached at 928-443-8433. Visit the CommunIT website at azcommunit.com.