Often times, entrepreneurial success is determined by the fearlessness and intense drive to explore new horizons, seize new opportunities and embrace change. With progress comes new technology, which is a regular hurdle for many to overcome. Particularly, for the set of business owners out there who are already set in their ways and don’t want to learn anything new. For younger entrepreneurs steeped in the modern era of social media and mobile devices, it is frustrating to see a business, large or small, still operate like it’s 1955.
There are some business owners who follow the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mantra, despite customer dismay for a lack of being contemporary. If you are one these entrepreneurs, none of what follows will matter to you much. The traditional business model was in the grave years ago with the onset of e-commerce and since the waning years of the twentieth century, the models that rose from its ashes came to dominate the way business is done all over the world in nearly every known capacity.
Just in the past few years, the adoption of social media, user-generated and “freemium” content has come from the savvy, forward-thinking business owners and industry leaders who have embraced technology and have become the harbingers of an entrepreneurial and social Renaissance. Are you ready to embrace technology and see the amazing things it can do for your business?
It is important to remember that your business does not need to embrace every piece of new technology overnight. Unless you’re a tech-savvy start-up, it will take some time to gradually integrate even something as simple as a Twitter account. Do not let new technology in the workplace be intimidating. Here are some ways your business can use technology and platforms designed around it to stay relevant:
One of the easiest and most effective new technologies your business can embrace. This is the space where your customers are conversing. You want a voice in their conversations. Your business needs to connect, attract and engage with its audience, tracking the pulse of the market and discovering their preferences and what they want. But it isn’t just about posting on Google+, Twitter or Facebook, it’s about making meaningful connections with others in those social communities. It’s like any other relationship—built on trust. Social Media is a great listening platform as well to better understand whether the content you’re sharing is resonating with your audience.
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These days, companies have an array of choices for video conferencing, including Skype, Facebook, Spreecast, Zoom and Google Hangouts. Skype works well enough for P2P video chats when there are only two users, and Facebook’s video chat works via Skype. However, Skype doesn’t have the ability to search customer profiles.
Hangouts, about two years old now, are the latest and most efficient in video chat platforms that can handle up to 10 unique users in the video chat. And with Hangouts On Air, an unlimited number of users can view and interact in the comments section. Since Hangouts are integrated with Google search, you can also crowd source future customers by typing in your product name into the search bar on Google+.
Hangouts are reducing the physical space between multi state offices. Companies are saving money in travel time and employees are able to collaborate and screen share in real time beyond communicating via emails. With wearable technology like Google Glass or perhaps Apple’s rumored iWatch, group video chat can be conducted during your morning walk, as you’re unloading groceries from your car or walking to a taxicab. And you don’t just need to use video chat for employee conferences. Several brands are experimenting with the new layer of social called “Human Media” which is face-to-face social interaction with customers via video chat.
If you’re not familiar with QR codes, these are essentially next-generation barcodes that, when scanned by a smartphone or similar device, can link to a website’s landing page, a promotion or advertisement. QR codes are a great way to implement technology into already-existing product lines and retail packaging. The wearable computing devices that are emerging for your customers make QR codes even simpler to scan which could increase their use.
Location-based Systems (LBS) and Geo-targeting
The explosion of the mobile tech industry has yielded some wonderful new innovations for businesses. A key factor driving the success of local businesses is the use of location-based systems (like the GPS on a mobile device). Businesses can take advantage of a user’s LBS by using what is known as geo-targeting. This is when a business sends a promotional message that to any “targeted” users that are physically in the vicinity via push notifications. With Four Square now using post check-in ads, geo data is yet another technology tool in a business’ tool kit.
Take for instance the North Face brand. As the outdoor enthusiast’s one-stop shop, North Face has seen huge successes with its social media campaigns, which have so far yielded more than 3 million Facebook ‘likes’; 112,000 Twitter followers; and 1.5 million views on their YouTube page! North Face has created a community around its brand, which includes its customers, enthusiasts and professionals, all of whom promote the brand because of their strong connection to the company and its values. The company’s philanthropic work is showcased, raising awareness (and funding) for social projects around the globe. The North Face brand has a powerful following that trusts and respects the company.
Then there was the social media marketing campaign that essentially saved Domino’s Pizza from a catastrophic public relations blow a few years back when two employees uploaded videos of themselves tainting customers’ food. The inevitable backlash on Domino’s brand was harsh—Domino’s saw a 6% drop in sales. Within three days, the company met the PR disaster head on and launched the “Pizza Turnaround” social media campaign. Domino’s CEO, Patrick Doyle, used social media to apologize publicly and promise to commit to a higher standard of quality. The company realized the power of social media to reboot its image and listen to its customers. Domino’s re-created its pizza based on user feedback, with the goal being a better pizza recipe and an overall stronger brand.
How Does Your Business Embrace Technology?
First, you need to assess what technologies are already employed at the office. Remember, you needn’t go overboard with your company’s tech adoption. Integrate the platforms that will increase the company’s productivity, intimacy with key social influencers or bottom line. Tap one person at your office to be the “canary in the mine” who can test new technologies to see if it fits for your business. Get a webcam, experiment with a Human Media campaign and interact with your customers face to face. If you deal in products, look into using QR codes at retailers’ points-of-purchase for discounted promotions that can also drive traffic to your company website.
I’d love to hear …how is your company embracing technology?