There are many examples where a business has gone from zero to multi-million turnover in no more than a few years using digital as their key strategy to generate great success. How do they do it?
It’s not necessarily big budgets. Instead, there are a few recurring themes that you see with each of these businesses that have been consistently applied.
1. Theme #1 - The focus is on the entire customer experience
In the digital age, the barrier to creating great experiences for customers is much lower because of the ability to access many digital tools and services via the cloud at very reasonable entry level prices. A savvy business owner is able to create a website and engagement funnel to convert customers, whether that’s a series of automated emails based on particular triggers from the customer or a webinar or some other engagement piece, it’s easily setup and is limited only by their creativity and ability to communicate well. The power of this is made all the greater by how much of this can be automated and made scalable.
Thinking through every touch point that a customer has with you and crafting it into something that is a great brand experience should be common place, but it’s not.
Two well-known examples are Air BnB and Uber. They’ve applied excellence in the digital experience in such a way that they have literally re-made complete industries.
Air BnB have used technology to connect up individuals with other individuals to rent out rooms and apartments. But this very concept would never have worked had they not been able to establish a digital experience that created the necessary trust and ease of listing properties for discovery for both the person renting out their home or room and the people renting the rooms.
They focused on delivering a create online experience by:
- Providing an easy search and discovery engine. They showcase the ‘spaces’ on a map, with filters based on what the initial priority parameters for the guest.
- Enabling easy showcasing of the ‘space’ for rent by the owner – in particular making sure that all of the important points that a guest would want to consider are part of the property listing process in a clear but simple templated approach. Everything is standardised and contextualised, particularly with showing the location on a map and providing information about what’s good in the local area, eg. Cafes, local sights, parks, transport etc to help guests with their selection.
- Placing a focus on the ‘owner’ of the space so that you understand who they are and then providing social proof - or comfort with reviews by other guests that have stayed at the property.
- Connecting the guest directly with the owner to ask questions and bring comfort of mind to their choice.
- Making what is normally a complex validation and identification process easy with photo capture and social media proof of your status as a real person, and pulled together disparate data points so that the people renting their spaces can also have comfort about who is hiring out their room or home.
- Triggering multiple touch points along the guest journey from reminders of their upcoming stay, information on their destination, directions and follow up thank you’s and rating requests,
The experience that they have created is reliant on digital for their success. Not only to reach and market the service that they offer, but also to create a great experience for both the owner and guest.
Uber have done a similar thing by focusing on experience on their app. While the initial setup does take a few minutes, the ensuing benefits are quickly delivered.
- You can order a car via the app – no long wait times on the phone to order a cab.
- You can see exactly where the car is and how long it will take for them to reach you – before you actually order the pick up.
- The cost is estimated cost up front.
- You can contact your driver at any point while you’re waiting (eg with more specific instructions on pick up etc) and see reviews/ testimonials of previous clients to help you establish trust in the driver.
- There is no need to stop and wait for payment to be processed as it’s done automatically via the app with your pre-registered credit card and a receipt is emailed directly to you reminding you of your route, your driver etc.
Uber have turned a sometimes-harrying experience of getting a taxi into a convenient experience with all the usual moments of friction associated with a taxi ride removed.
Question: What are you doing that make you stand out online and create an exceptional experience for your customers?
Theme #2 - In a state of continual optimisation
Many people are hesitant to jump into digital or online for increasing sales and opportunities for their business because it changes so often and you constantly need to update and keep abreast of the new trends and approaches.
But it is this very negative that businesses with digital as key to their success have turned to their advantage. They accept that if you are not constantly optimising and looking to refine and adapt as the tactics and technology change, then you will not be or remain successful.
Companies that excel with digital, measure, track and understand that to track is to enable you to ask questions, make decisions and optimise your digital activity. The Peter Drucker quote “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” is never truer.
Getting your statistics set up properly means tracking goals that you have set for your online activity, then against these goals, understanding which channel drives the most goal conversion so that you can put more effort into the channel that drives these goals. Or focusing on where people drop out before purchasing from so that you can improve the content that you are delivering to decrease the rate of drop outs.
By constantly asking what’s working and what’s not, they are able to do more of the right kind of things – and stop what isn’t driving positive outcomes.
When a company is focused on measuring, assessing and acting on the results, they are set up immediately to be able to be in a state of constant change.
This is in perfect alignment with digital. There is no set and forget to be successful online. If you don’t accept that what you are doing this year will not be the same approach in a year’s time, then you will never have sustainable growth and success.
Question: Do you know what your online goals are and the online metrics you have in place to measure if you are hitting these goals?
Theme # 3 - Building a solid follower base
This theme speaks directly to businesses that have had either the agility or insight to understand that the age of the social economy is nothing more than human relationships and behavior put on steroids and amplified in the digital space.
They’ve recognised that a conversation on Facebook can be and is just as important to build a fan base as the one-on-one conversations they may also have with customers.
Digitally successful companies have found a way to create content that is exactly what their followers want. By providing content that they like, want or need, then they create brand advocates that are happy to follow, view, like, comment and share, happily spreading the word about your company.
Part of getting this right is that they actively listen and respond. So yes, they are commenting and sharing, but they are also using their measurement and optimisation activities to be constantly improving their content to make it more relevant, more engaging and more interesting to their audience.
A great example is Frank Body who built their business from nothing to more than $20 million in revenue in less than three years. They focused on delivering content that consistently resonated with their audience, but also by embracing and using content or posts generated by their customers. Focusing on user generated content they were able to build an army of loyal brand followers, who were more than happy to share Frank Body posts with their own followers.
They extended this with a separate account just dedicated to their customers with their before and after shots.
What more could a company wish for but free advocates and proof of their product’s greatness than 70,000 talking about and showing their product’s efficacy?
In the Frank instance, they’ve been able to rely on customers to establish a degree of transparency which leads to trust in their products. However, this is a something that is also a common repeatable characteristic of successful businesses leveraging digital. Being able to be transparent, particularly around any kind of issues or problems and making sure that they haven’t tried to dismiss customer problems away is also a point to take on board. In the words of Jay Bear, 'hug your haters' and make sure you are accessible, listening, responding and being honest and up front. The rewards will always be delivered on this kind of behaviour because that’s what the new social economy values.
One more point, particularly when we are talking about social media in your online experience, is to be careful about focusing on the sale. Businesses doing well online are focused on delivering value by being useful, entertaining or informative to their audience in some way.
Examples of businesses that have a strong value led approach are Social Media Examiner (who run conferences and subscription learning services) and Amy Porterfield (who provides online training for people that want to run online training programs!). So yes, they do sell, but they also deliver enormous value upfront to their target audience before they put their hand out asking for a sale. Their audience already feel like they know them and have already gained lots of useful information from them beforehand.
Question: Do you have any true fans and what are you doing to deserve loyal fans?
Theme #4 - Bullet eye accuracy of their target
If you talk to everyone, you are talking to no one.
To be successful online success it helps to be targeted. In fact, it’s one of the great benefits to building a strong business using online – it is highly targetable. Whether you are looking to target people in their moment of need when they are actively searching or whether you know their interests and pain points so that you can deliver great value to them to help scratch their interest spot or to solve their problem, digital makes this very easy. Again, a business that does well online is taking aim at a precise bulls eye. They know their audience and speak only to them. They don’t dilute their message by trying to please everyone, they focus on their one key audience.
Every example used in this article – from AirBnB to Frank Body to Amy Porterfield have very clear target audiences and they know what is their key issue that they are solving.
It’s powerful and can not be under estimated. When looking at the type of digital experience and content from each of these examples, every touchpoint has a clear brand look and feel, tone of voice. The content that their audience wants to hear or see and it is consistent and delivered with day in day out reliability.
Question: How tight is your targeting and do you follow through at every point to ensure your targeting is spot on?
Theme #5 - They are strategic, purposeful and deliver
The final trait of successful online businesses is that they are not following everyone else. They have been strategic in considering the whole purchasing cycle from how people will ‘discover’ them to answering all questions to convert to remove any barriers to signing up, and providing such a great experience that people can’t help but want to buy from them.
They overlay this with a content formula that is delivered regularly and without fail. Companies that have grown quickly deliver far more content than you might think. Most will publish at least daily if not much more – depending on their channel.
In short they deliver. There is no way to put it tactfully. There are clear actions and a plan, there is measurement in place, and execution is full on. They will:
- have taken the time to map out how to deliver on this, know what they need to measure and how they will be able to deliver.
- have developed a digital strategy to give them a logical plan of attack that has inbuilt agility and self-correction as part of the plan.
- be looking at what is changing, what their competitors are doing and always looking for how they can improve or do it differently to make it a better experience for their customers.
None of the above are natural abilities. All of them can be learned and applied to any business.
All it takes is the right knowledge, a strategic plan of attack and consistent and ongoing implementation.
Do you think you are missing out on important opportunities for your business in the online space?
Why not take steps to develop your digital strategy for a persistent and consistent digital sales funnel?
- Read about working with the Online Fix to develop your digital strategy
- Read about The secrets to a successful digital strategy to drive new sales and leads for your business