I received an email this past week from a reader of my weekly column which made me think of this quote. Winston Churchill once said, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often."
The reader asked a question that is one of the most common questions I routinely receive: "What are some of the strategies a small business can incorporate to compete in today's business climate?"
Before I cover a few basic, proven and inexpensive strategies small businesses can employ to better compete, let me provide some contextual landscape.
Currently, the baby boomer generation and those even older are sitting on over half of the total wealth of our nation. As these older generations continue to dwindle in size, we will witness and experience the greatest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen. Not only will it be the largest, but it will also be the most revolutionary transfer of wealth. It will change and impact many of the traditional aspects of our current life.
The younger generations, those who will be the beneficiary of this massive wealth transfer, think vastly different than their predecessors. They value experiences over material things. They value digital assets such as crypto over traditional stocks and bonds. Their work habits tend to be vastly different. But above all, they have been raised almost solely in a digital world where nearly everything can take place in the palm of their hands. Businesses that not only understand this digital evolution but prepare for it will be vastly better prepared to face the challenges this massive financial shift is sure to bring.
So, knowing we are witnessing a seismic consumer shift, what can small businesses (I would add small communities, as well) do to navigate this shift? Here are three or four digital actions you can take right now:
- While this may seem basic, you must make sure your websites are current, top-notch, updated, and very mobile-friendly. I am constantly amazed at how outdated many businesses' websites are, they are basically obsolete. The younger generations live on their phones, to believe this will ever change is the height of business malpractice. Let me stress, be mobile-friendly.
- Building consumer loyalty is huge. When it comes to building local and effective loyalty programs, it need not be difficult or expensive but it must be present. Loyalty brings about repeat business, which is the holy grail of successful business survival. This is something with which local chambers of commerce should be assisting within their communities.
- Your reputation management and word-of-mouth marketing (think positive video reviews and plugs) are huge and so much more effective, powerful and widespread when done digitally. I am constantly amazed at how many haven't a clue when we discuss and train businesses on the need for this simple digital asset.
- Most importantly, understand that data is king. I am also amazed at the number of businesses that have no idea who their customers really are. Yes, they know some of the old timers and friends who wander through their businesses, but they have no real clue about the others. You will be unable to compete effectively in the future without knowing who your customers are, what drives them, and how to reach them on their terms. Obtaining data need not be expensive or difficult, but it is critical. Perfecting data allows for repeat business beyond your wildest dreams.
- Lastly, your mobile strategy is critical. The ability to reach your customers or potential customers on their mobile phones is imperative. If you don't have a texting, newsletter, and social media strategy, you will be unable to keep up with the change coming down the tracks. Notice, I didn't say "or"; I said "and"; all three of those will be essential in the future. The ability to reach people by texting, newsletters, and social media will provide businesses a huge advantage and are not difficult or expensive.
The digital world is not a scary space. In fact, once you jump in, you begin to marvel at the capability at your fingertips. As we work with communities and businesses, we find they really do catch on and often embrace it. Now is the time to double down on the digital future. If businesses don't, their futures will be very short-lived.
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John Newby is a nationally-recognized publisher, community, chamber, business and media strategy consultant and speaker. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column runs in more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community leaders, businesses, and local media in building synergies and creating more vibrant communities. He can be reached at [email protected]