June 04, 2020
Coming out of high school and heading to university, I had plans to study international business. It struck me as the best option since I wanted to circumnavigate the world, living the international business life. But before I chose, I sat in on a lecture of a business professor discussing why or why not to choose business studies as a major. He explained that most concentrations - marketing, finance, accounting, etc. - within business studies will provide pathways to work within a variety of different fields and specialties. But, he gave one word of warning: Do not take international business.
He explained that in ten years, every company would have an international presence. The international specialty, in that case, would become meaningless since it wouldn’t provide a differentiator, as everyone would have an expectation to work internationally. I immediately dropped the specialty from my choices, instead focusing on marketing and economics.
Even though I would eventually switch back to an international business focus in order to fund studying abroad, I often think about this lecture when I hear someone works for a technology company. In many ways, the technology company has become the international business studies focus.
That’s because, over the next decade, all companies will have to adapt their staffing and training to a point where they look like a technology company today. Your mom and pop businesses will operate proprietary technology stacks. Your local grocery store could have its own line of software. The distinction between a tech and non-tech firms will crumble. Instead, there will be a built in expectation that you will grow and scale with technology in the same way one should now have the flexibility to handle shipping and manage operations with foreign customers.
We’ve built this philosophy into the core of WLTH, even though we’re a financial management company. I’m constantly talking technology with our staff. I discuss it with our web team and SEO team and sales team and customer relationship management (CRM) team. We’re building a tech company that works in the financial sector. It’s our lifeline for survival and growth, long-term. Our current pandemic-riddled environment has only further proven the importance of this structure, as we operate without having to stand in the same room with customers or our coworkers.
If you’re not operating as a technology company, then it’s time to start adapting. Here’s how.
As technology creeps further into our daily social and business interactions, your staff needs to have the tools and skills to adapt. Customers are increasingly interacting with your team via text, email and now video. You need to prepare your team with the appropriate laptop, cell phone, server, software and more. It’s your responsibility to have your team trained on these systems so they run smoothly.
As a tech company, your staff also needs to understand they’re expected to change and adapt processes to improve, as you incorporate new technology and innovations. By behaving as a tech company, preach flexibility and encourage your staff to offer solutions that pull the most value from the different tools.
When operating your business, you’re shaping and building your brand. In the process, business owners spend countless hours deciding where to spend marketing budgets to develop this brand. If you’re not thinking about how to do so online then you’re already ten steps behind. But even if you’re just thinking about it in the most basic sense, you could soon find yourself sprinting to try and catch up.
Even if you’re a primarily off-line business, your potential customers want to know about you prior to talking to you. If you haven’t developed a clear brand online, creating unity between your website and social presences, while also growing your search and backlinks, then when people seek you out, they may not trust what you’re selling.
Your branding and where you target customers online will also develop your customer database. For most companies, this transition will take time as you’re not expected to pivot all your effort and marketing dollars online, but you should work to improve these systems now. The hill to climb on growing your online presences remains large, whether you start today, tomorrow or in two years. But your competition’s lead will spread while you wait. Your online brand should help build trust and encourage new customers to reach out.
Technology allows your company to operate beyond your traditional city, county or country lines.
You do not need to drive to see a client. You can network outside of local events. There’s an entire world of potential customers and you’re only limited by your will.
Creating effective ways to bring new potential customers to you is vital. You want people to find you online and gather the information they require to make a purchase. This involves different sales funnels and marketing techniques to move these customers from new contacts into a sale. Many online shoppers will look for specific problems they want to solve. Others will need general information, which could lead into a deep dive of their needs. Build funnels, tactics and information to capture both types of customers.
After you have a strong online brand, you also want it to make money. Try to switch some of your online efforts into direct engagement that develops qualified leads. This will take practice. It could involve ads, search engine optimization, retargeting your social media feeds and more.
Most large businesses incorporate CRMs within their sales or customer relations departments. They also have different tech stacks for inventory, human resources and accounting. Smaller businesses, however, either don’t use them or use these tools ineffectively. Those that can properly introduce and manage internal software and controls will have an advantage over other small businesses that haven’t taken the time to embrace the idea.
These are complex systems to set up and expect them to cost more than you would like. In time, they’ll also improve workflow, the customer experience and expenses. For many companies, you may think it’s too early or costly to fully implement such tools. That’s ok. Spend time now learning how to develop and incorporate those systems, so when the time hits, you’re ready.
The technological world moves at a rapid pace. Understanding your offerings work across multiple device types, platforms, browsers, and software will be a key component to future success. This means invest in areas that can be transposed across newer and better technology. The last thing you want is a scenario like this $10 million dollar supercar:
Which can only be serviced by the 30-year old laptop below.
It seems like overkill at times, but you don’t want to have to pay someone to manually transcribe thousands of customers from one CRM to the next. Or you don’t want to develop an amazing proprietary software that can’t upgrade to a newly released operating system.
Often a tech-forward company spends extra time and money to prepare for predictable changes. It prevents becoming obsolete overnight.
That’s the real downside to all companies becoming tech firms. If you’re not properly prepared, another technology can sweep you out of business in a heartbeat. That’s why it’s so important to start acting like a tech company now. It’s the only way to protect against this threat of obsolescence.
By Timm McLean, MBA |
CEO at WLTH