May 9, 2018 Stewart Marshall

5 Principles of IT for SMEs – #4 – Engage

Most SMEs have few, if any, IT technical staff on site, and most CEOs are not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to IT. While they might be quite handy with Excel, and may even be able to knock up a quick macro, an understanding of how best to apply technology to solve the issues of their business is something typically left to specialists, and all too often an afterthought.

Fortunately, and despite the incredible variety of organisations, you won’t be surprised to find that they share many similarities when it comes to their technological needs. Each is of course subtly different, so implementation details will vary, but there are patterns of requirements and behaviours that repeat across all industry sectors.

To help CEOs better understand their systems and the effect they have on their business, MarshallFloyd has developed the FASES methodology. This framework applies 5 key principles when reviewing IT assets.

They should provide a Foundation for your business and Assistance for your team. They should Simplify your activities, help you Engage with your customers and become a pillar of Strength over time.

Here’s a quick look at the fourth of these.

Engage

Your IT Foundations are solid, and your team has all the Assistance that it needs to do its now Simplified processes, so it’s time to look at your business functions from the perspective of your prospects, customers, suppliers, partners, employees (they’re you’re internal customers!) and anyone else that your business interacts with.

It used to be that providing a half decent product and mediocre service was good enough. As recently as the turn of the century, organisations could rely on marketing to help them overcome their inadequacies, but the rise of social media and the information age now means that being “good enough” is no longer good enough.

So, when we look at how a business engages with the many and varied organisations and individuals, we need to look through a customer service lens first and information technology second.

MarkITing

There was a time in the late 90s when not having a website was ok. In fact, in some sectors, the cost of building and maintaining a website was considered to be prohibitively expensive and a low return on investment.

How opinions have changed. Even your local trades are expected to have a web presence today.

But you can’t rely on something you built 5 years ago! The emergence of web 2.0 in the last few years now means that websites must work well on different device sizes. Ease of use, a strong brand aesthetic, and above all, good performance on a small screen of a mobile device are all absolutely essential.

Similarly, a strong social media presence is a must, whether it’s FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram or a host of others. You don’t have to be everywhere, but you need to be somewhere, and you need to do be doing it well.

Size Isn’t Important

Customer loyalty programs work well for the big end of town, but they also have a profound effect on the little guy. You’re local coffee shop will tell you that. And so it follows then, that SMEs can also reap an excellent reward by ensuring that they invest in IT functionality that creates additional touch points with their prospects and customers.

Today, apps or customer portals are the new websites, and they’re rapidly becoming the new normal for customer interaction with your business and brand as use of mobile platforms grows. If you haven’t got a facility that allows your customers to interact with you, you’re missing a vital opportunity in terms of sales and you’re not collecting as much data as you should be.

The good news for SMEs is that there’s almost no excuse for not investing in technology. The rise of Saas (Something as a service) is making more and more IT functionality available to SMEs, and those that aren’t on board will be left behind as competitors reap the rewards of the emerging world of AI, as it’s used to scrutinise their data, allowing them to market their wares with almost surgical precision.

Sell, Sell, Sell

The more a business engages meaningfully with people, the more familiar they become with the brand and the more trustworthy that brand becomes. And, as any marketer will tell you, the more we trust, the more likely we are to spend our hard earned cash. But once you’ve got them to press the “buy” button on your website, even a 2 second delay in the transaction can result in an increase in cart abandonment from the typical 67% to 87%.

All of your IT guns therefore, whether on site or remote, should be pointing right at the heart of any activity that is remotely sales centric to ensure that all of the people you Engage with have the best possible customer experience.

If you do that, your customer will come back for more, greatly reducing your cost of sale, and increasing your customer lifetime value.

And I, once more, will be able to assert that IT is really little to do with computers, and all about making your people more profitable.


Today’s Top Takeaway

Customers aren’t always right, but they’re always important.


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