Australia’s physical isolation has often led to a delay in adoption of global trends. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if there are still hundreds or thousands of businesses still being run by their original owners from back in the 50s, 60s and 70s. This slow move to transition businesses to the next generation has left many outside of the digital revolution that has been happening for the past 20 plus years.
Here are some numbers:
In Australia, family businesses account for 70% of the total marketplace and have an average staff count of around 37 employees. This sector of the Australian economy represents an estimated $4.3 trillion dollars of total value with 81% of owners looking to retire in the next 10 years.
The opportunity over the next 10 years to transition these businesses online represents significant billings to many digital marketing agencies and the fight is to get a foot in the door. To me this can also be a red flag for business owners.
Most SMEs (small to medium enterprises) are already focused on their business operations and have a limited digital vocabulary. Agencies can and do take advantage of this lack of knowledge, selling in services that pad their bottom line, rather than meeting the needs of their clients.
What is worse; most agencies do not take the time to educate and advise their clients on what changes are needed within their organisations to properly address the challenges of digital commerce, nor do they help their clients optimise their internal processes to maximise their profits and margins before going to market.
For example, many traditional brick and mortar stores have their inventory spread across their store networks. This ensures that their walk-in clients have a wide selection available, reducing the possibility of a customer not being able to find what they want/need.
For an online business, the centralisation of inventory into regional distribution hubs, or into a single distribution hub is essential for simplified inventory control, order packing, logistics and returns. These setups can be confusing with a lot of moving parts needing to speak to one another. It would be easy for any business with a lack of experience to rely on external vendors whose sole interest is their own bottom line.
So, what is the best approach you say? I’m glad you asked.
- Find the gaps in your teams’ digital knowledge and address them
- Fully scope the business’s digital transformation objectives
- Develop a plan of attack
- Choose your vendors wisely
Filling the gaps in knowledge
Before embarking on any digital transformation project, it is critical to educate your key stakeholders on the digital concepts that they will soon be dealing with. Understanding the gaps in knowledge your team may have and addressing them in advance means better engagement and outcomes when working with your agency partners and in the long-term, more profits. These may include inbound or acquisition topics like paid and organic search, content, social media, CMS selection and management, CRM, EDMs. They may also include internal systems and processes like inventory management, RFID tracking, logistics and fulfilment, digital invoicing, returns and online customer support etc.
Define your objectives
Once training is completed, it is critical to fully scope the businesses objectives and to develop a transformation plan with realistic expectations along with a calendar and budget for implementation. These goals need to include the behind the scenes changes like software, inventory, warehousing, logistics etc. as well as the consumer facing work like your website, social media presence, acquisition (paid and organic) and content. Each of these will require the development of a strategy as well as the KPIs that will be used to measure success and failure.
Keep in mind this process may take several months or even up to a year to complete depending on the size and complexity of your organization. By setting your objectives, strategies and KPIs in advance, you are investing in the foundation of your success once you are in-market.
Develop a plan of attack
Now that you have scoped your transformation project, It’s time to develop a plan. Knowing how long it will likely take to complete each step of your transformation project as well as identifying the order in which they need to be completed means you can reverse engineer your implementation timeline. Of course, you need to add in some contingency for delays in development, financing, staff turnover etc., so make sure to include that in each step of your project plan.
Once your plan is in place, get all of your key stakeholders together a review it as a cohesive group. Go through it in detail to identify any red flags and to develop any fallbacks that may be necessary should any problems arise.
Choose your vendors wisely
Ok, so you have addressed your gaps, educated your team, defined your objectives, KPIs etc. and have an approved plan. It is finally time to choose your vendors. The procurement process is critical. You are about to spend a large amount of money which will likely take time to recover.
Not to be overly cynical, but agencies are more concerned about their bottom line then they are about your business so it is important to find a partner who not only have the knowledge you are looking for, but once that culturally fits in with your business as well. Communication is key to projects being completed on time and on budget.
So, what is missing?
There is likely one thing you are asking yourself. How do I find out my gaps? How do I know what objectives are practical and achievable? How do I know how long each step of my project will take? How do I interview and decide one or many digital vendors?
This is where having a team member or an independent advisor on your side it critical. My job is to guide you through the process, helping you to avoid the pitfalls in this journey. My experience and advice will guide you and your business through the process and will help you select the best vendors for your project. Being agency agnostic, I don’t take commissions or payments from any vendor. I work for you, taking a best practice approach to delivery.