Remember the time when our clothes came from catalogue orders?
About twenty years ago our wallets were filled with business cards, our shelves stacked with photo albums and our evenings spent with long-awaited TV premieres.
It seems quite unthinkable, but a time before the internet actually existed.
Since then, we’ve changed so much of how we work, think and live. The digital age is fully upon us, and the rules of the game have changed. Today everything begins and ends with a buzz notification.
The Digital Challenge
Once changed, our daily habits haven’t only affected society and its pre-Tinder dynamics, but dictated the course of education and employment as well, directly transforming the consumerism cycle.
Urged to modernize in order to meet the needs of contemporary consumers, the business world has perhaps experienced the most dramatic shift.
Digitally native, ruthlessly cosmopolitan, slightly narcissistic and, above all, clever and educated, the Millennials remain in the very core of the big change. Being the largest target audience in the world, the Generation Next is now how we measure our selling success by.
Whatever the size or niche, a company can now hardly exist without its online equivalent.
It’s on the internet where we build and develop our business ideas and branding strategies, where we meet our prospects and convert them into long-lasting customers.
The times have changed, and the only way of keeping up with the current tempo is by being where everything happens – online.
1. Virtual Head Office: Your Website
If the only difference between you and your main competitor is you don’t have a website, then be prepared to lose that battle.
It’s simply how the business world functions these days – when the quality of products and services are the same, online presence is a leveraging factor.
In fact, modern consumerism is all about instant delivery and convenience, which means that if what you’re offering is not available for everyone to see and purchase from anywhere at any time, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the customers your business needs to be successful.
The internet has become the largest source of product sales, the main channel of communication and a crucial presentation platform, all of which you cannot benefit from without a virtual store.
In the digital era, a professional website is a necessary and powerful advantage.
If you already have a website, consider further improving your customer experience and brand image. This includes everything from easy navigation and mobile responsiveness to digitalized customer service and professional images, all of which build the experience that will keep your customers coming back.
Think of it in terms of the brick and mortar store and make your website a place that is never closed and always attentive.
2. Build Customer Relationships: Social Media
If a website is a modern-day alternative to a physical shop, then social media could be considered similar to a local coffee shop where your customers can relate their experiences to people they know about your brand (word-of-mouth).
As well as directly connecting you with your customers and allowing you to communicate one-on-one with them, activities such as social listening and active engagement can help you get a pretty accurate grasp of what your audience likes, wants and needs.
You can also see how your competition has been meeting those demands, which provides you with market analysis and customer data of priceless value for making future business decisions.
Unlike your website, your social media presence can deliver a more personal message to potential customers.
While you should be sharing some branded content on a daily basis, your social media presence won’t and shouldn’t be reduced to sales pitches. More importantly, it will establish a two-way channel essential for building and enriching customer relationships.
These relationships will not only earn you loyal customers, but will provide social proof and assure potential leads that you are the right person to help them.
3. Spread the Word: The Power of High Quality Content
With the popularity of websites and social media, traditional advertising techniques have almost completely vanished.
As the new leading force, content marketing is now the most powerful strategy for most businesses.
Creating high quality content has become a game changer for growing businesses. First and foremost, it’s the best way of getting an audience acquainted with your brand and keeping them engaged in the process. Grab their interest and they’ll be looking forward to your future posts.
Once this happens, you can start moving them into your sales funnels, which will convert them from potential customers into paying ones.
4. Brand Engagement: Interactive Campaigns
By merging customer engagement with clever marketing strategies, these new social media campaigns are effective means of business growth.
These interactive campaigns use regular content posts but add an additional call to action – a challenge. The power of these social media campaigns comes from the fact that the audience simply cannot ignore the invitation or challenge to participate.
Full of Millennials, Snapchat has sparked creativity in some of the greatest brand makers to create campaigns that compel their followers to participate. For example, GrubHub has launched a trend of developing interactive campaigns instead of producing and posting promotional content.
In one case they used a Snapchat Story feature to invite their followers to snap them a food doodle and promised a reward for 10 random snappers. By doing so, GrubHub has made their brand super fun and engaging, their fans are creating content for them (user generated content) and their audience is interested and loyal.
5. Customer Retention: Embrace the Feedback
Connecting with your audience on a personal level has never been more important than today.
Whether on a website or on a social media platform, your customers want to be heard and need their opinions to be acknowledged.
They demand more personalization and attention than ever before. But as demanding as these customers might be, they respond to care from brands and businesses with gratitude and devotion.
They also prefer their daily habits to be less time-consuming and as effortless as possible and are quick to stick with the brands that delivers solutions in real time, even with an increased cost.
While negative feedback is always a risk, it can happen whether or not you choose to acknowledge it. If you choose to ignore it, you risk losing any chance to contain or repair the situation.
It is a risk you simply can’t afford to take.
Keep in mind that when seen from the right perspective, negative feedback can help your business pinpoint product flaws, service challenges or other areas you may need to improve your business.
The feedback philosophy is simple: one comment from a dissatisfied customer is often more helpful than twenty positive comments, as the negative ones are the ones which provide opportunities.
The key is to listen, acknowledge and respond appropriately. People admire brands that handle negative situations well. And most of all, learn from it.
In the words of the master himself:
If your business is not on the Internet, then your business will be out of business.
There’s a lot we can learn from Bill Gates and his followers. But the message is simple enough – the internet is where modern-day business takes place, so be sure to not only establish a presence…but a powerful one if you want to be successful.
What are some other things that you think are needed to put a business on the map in the digital age? Is there something you think should be added to this list? Tell is in the comments below.
Anja is Content Blogger and Community Manager at FirstSiteGuide. She provides tips and resources for web beginners.