Every business owner fears losing what they’ve worked hard to build. Back in the day, the worry you had was an economic crisis, natural disaster or a competitor wiping you off the block. Now, these threats still remain, but there’s the looming possibility of robots and software taking our place (to name just one)—unless you have a futureproof business plan in place.
This is a pretty confronting topic and you may keep putting it off for numerous reasons. At the end of the day, it’s better to think about it now and be prepared then having to confront the issue empty handed later on. Are you ready to prepare your business for the future?
1. Prepare and Plan for the Worst
What is the worst thing that could happen to your business? You probably thought of your finances going out the window, maybe yourself getting ill or a natural disaster wiping out your stock, location, tools or vehicles. Technological and digital advancements may be your best friend for growing your business, but it can also become your nightmare if you’re not on the ball and have a business plan to prepare for unfortunate events.
Ask yourself this:
- Is there a possibility of your industry becoming redundant?
- Could an app, piece of software or robot possibly do your job for you?
- Would a cyber security breach affect my business?
- Are my competitors growing a lot faster than I am?
Write a list a list of every possible thing that could cause your business loss or—even if they sound absurd now. Next, create a plan for each of these things. See our third, fourth and fifth points for some strategies to help find resolution for each of your possible problems.
2. Listen to Your Customers & Be Active With Their Advice
No one knows what your customers want like your customers. The easiest way to find out what they like and don’t like is to read the reviews they read for your business. But don’t just read it, nod and continue on with what you’re doing. Make changes to better your business.
If you don’t currently have any reviews, we show you how to get them very easily (and legally) at the bottom of our Online Reviews Best Practice Guide.
You can track pretty much everything online. It may not be the most riveting thing to do, but take the time to regularly sit down and go over how your customers (and potential customers) are interacting with your brand.
We recommend looking at:
- If people prefer calling or emailing you.
- What social media platforms they engage with you most.
- How long people spend on your website.
- Your return on investment for any marketing activities.
There’s plenty of other things you can look at but these should be at the very minimum. Changes you could make on these four points are:
- If people prefer emailing you, add a contact form on your website. For a higher call rate, make your number quick and easy to find in your header.
- Invest your time (and money if you’re paying for advertising) in the platforms people engage with you most.
- If your website isn’t performing very well, look at investing in a professionally designed and developed rebuild.
- Invest your money where you are receiving the most bang for your buck, or improve those that aren’t performing as well.
3. Be Innovative
Don’t fix what’s not broken, right? While this is a frugal tactic, it’s not good for advancing your business and ensuring you’re here in the future. Something may not be broken now, but it soon could be. There are two areas you want to keep fresh:
- Your digital marketing.
- The products and services you provide.
Here are some ways you can adapt in these areas.
- Provide a digital variant of your business (such as a traditional marketing agency transitioning to digital marketing services, wink wink).
- Expand your marketing to include digital marketing, such as a website, search engine marketing, social media marketing and direct marketing.
- Personalise your brand. Connect with your customers to build loyalty.
4. Make Your Business Memorable
Everything you do should be aimed at giving your customers a better experience. There’s even a term for it—customer experience. It’s not very creative but this seemingly obvious term covers so much more than a smile and “Thank you, come again.”
These are the three stages you need to look at pleasing your customer:
Pre-engagement: You need to ensure it’s easy for someone to become a customer. Your first step should be to check your website is a breeze to use on every type of device.
Active customer: This is obvious; provide good-quality products and services, amazing customer service and a smooth process to complete the transaction. Then, add the finishing touches, such as a handwritten thank you note or a follow-up call the next day, to really sweeten the deal.
Post-transaction: The exchange of goods and services for money may be complete but you want to keep your customers coming back time and time again. Use feedback and direct marketing to nail your post-transaction interaction.
5. Update Your Technology
To futureproof your business, it makes sense that you need to bring the future to you. There are so many ways you can use technology to smooth out your business processes, saving you time, stress and money.
Our top three recommendations:
- A customer relationship management system (CRM) to gather, store and manage your client information and data.
- A review and online reputation manager to see all your reviews at once, reply with ease and gather more quickly.
- Booking management software to save you (or your team) time from answering calls or replying to emails.
6. Be Cyber Safe
You could have it all and lose it very quickly if your website or social media accounts were hacked. Being online is essential, but you’re potentially risking your own and your customers’ data and details, and possibly your livelihood if you’re based online.
These are some vital cyber security steps to add to your business plan:
- Having at least two-factor verification on your social media accounts. Most social media platforms can be set up to ask for a code if being logged into from a new device.
- Don’t open links you don’t know or trust in emails or social media messages. Look at email addresses and ensure they’re legitimate if they’re coming from a business. Popular ones mimic Australia Post, grocery stores and retail vendors.
- Make your passwords difficult (include random words, capital letters, numbers and symbols, where possible) and do not give them to anyone.
- Have a firewall and up-to-date virus software running on every computer in your business and keep them protected.
You can learn more about malware, ransomware and other fishy activities on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website.
7. Keep Learning
In the digital age, it’s impossible to ever know it all, so it’s important you keep learning. Attend seminars and webinars, take short courses, read articles and always be open to listening to advice.
Our own events with Google are completely free to attend for small business owners. They are full of information to help your futureproof your business and chat with real industry experts from our own team and Google. Read about our most recent events or register your interest to bring Google and Localsearch to your region.