When it comes to the digital transformation of a small business, COG Branding uses the simple analogy with our clients. “How do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time”.
This applies to modernising an older analogue business. You’ll never be able to migrate systems, processes, methodologies and the people running the business all in one go. It needs to be done via small measured increments.
And that’s the trick, smaller increments is the hardest part. The vision is one thing, executing it is another, and managing a big complex transformation made up of smaller parts needs the business and its management team to work cohesively to ensure the entire business reaps the rewards of a digital transformation.
COG Branding is a Sydney branding agency that specialises in small business digital transformation. Our team works alongside clients to develop the right foundation for a multistep digital transformation journey, which ideally should pursue a sustainable future for the business itself.
Our approach is always in a state of flux as each time we learn something new we fold it back into the agency. We’ve learned over 20 years that by helping brands drive growth and transformation with the latest marketing technology that automation pays off. More recently Deloitte engaged COG Branding to assist a selected group of Australian small businesses from an Australian Government Digital Transformation initiative to assist in the digitalisation of these businesses. Here we learned that implementing scaled digital solutions can drive up to three times more short-term revenue gains for businesses.
As the acceleration of change continues largely from the evolution of commercialised digital products and services, suppliers like COG Branding become an important link in the delivery chain.
Australian small businesses need the support and expertise of their agencies more than ever, together these three benefits can be achieved to ensure we’re keeping up with the rest of the world, remaining competitive and ensuring sustainable businesses have technology and digital at their core.
1. A Unified Business
In a digital-first world, it’s no longer a single board member, senior manager or technology officer to create, design or drive digital change through an organisation.
The speed and complexity in which digital moves needs all stakeholders to be onboard, and when there are clear collective goals it forces a business to align each business unit and individual with the broader vision. The entire management structure needs to be onboard to ensure that senior management, mid level management and office soldiers are all drinking from the same water cooler and singing from the same song sheet. It’s the only way a business will successfully transform itself into a business of the future.
In many companies, it’s long been the ‘person who understands the internet the best’ job to represent digital within the business. But in a digital-first world, one executive is not enough. While this person who understands the internet may be the coordinating force for different business functions, the entire management team must be motivated to transform the business from the top down. And, as an extension of the marketing team, any agency partners like COG Branding for instance are perfectly positioned to help unite senior leadership and establish common goals together.
An example of this is how we worked with Bodyfit to improve its core digital asset management and deliver an efficiency company-wide that allowed a decentralised workforce to follow the full suite of operational employee protocols almost autonomously, all from assigning the correct digital partners and processes to the management team to drive through the business. Now, Bodyfit teams rely on a suite of managed digital assets across the company, senior managers right through to retail staff.
2. An Agile Business
The digital transformation journey often requires that brands and small businesses get comfortable being in a state of perpetual change to keep up with client and customer behaviour and technology, and to stay ahead of competitors. For many, this can be challenging. Sydney branding agencies like COG Branding work with the latest insights and tech solutions, naturally we’re built to function within a disruptive working environment, though that isn’t always the case for our clients and their businesses that struggle to make incremental changes over time.
Agile as a methodology has been around for a good while, so nothing new by definition. Agile methodology evolved from systems pioneered by large manufacturers like Toyota, and more broadly adopted and embraced by the software development industry.
Today, “agile” is a concept that has filtered into all forms of business and project management, and small businesses have a lot to gain by employing basic agile methodologies.
At COG Branding we’ve learned it’s almost always quicker to launch a minimal viable solution than to bundle all tasks into a large complex digital migration. The smaller solution may not be perfect, but once you’ve got something in place, you can improve it based on what’s working or not that is tailored to the business reality. That way the business can internally gradually refine the big idea so BAU continues unhindered.
A small business can benefit from being agile because of its focus being customer-centric and adaptable to swift change. Larger companies generally find it more difficult to implement agile methods, they just don’t have the responsiveness or ability to pivot quickly to new culture trends or respond to events. Often, their ways of doing things have become entrenched. Their services or products may also be more complex, and they don’t generally have personal relationships with their consumers, clients or customers.
Small businesses can adapt much more easily, based on what their customers expect. Agile methodologies are also largely designed with small teams of people in mind, because they rely on daily interaction and feedback.
A small business looking to undergo a digital transformation project can often use the opportunity to experience agile methodology and watch how it not only transforms a businesses digital assets but also the behaviours of the team and the other processes of the business that may still remain analogue.
3. A Value Focused Business
A business that is able to demonstrate value often is likely to be a more profitable business. When there is true value in products and services determined by the market, the brand builds equity quickly.
This brand equity performs as an autonomous sales engine and works as a sustainable driver of existing and new business. All happening when value is at the core of the business and its people. Sounds easy but it’s difficult to distill through an existing business, especially one that is reluctant to change.
While focusing on value is very important for a business in the traditional sense, it’s critically important for the value equation to be present and exercised consistently within channels that intimately connect product and customer together.
A digital transformation journey can assist a small business in understanding where its value is. Sometimes a business will struggle to see this in its people, products and services. Often people get in the road of change, whereby digital solutions can remove the human bias by simply applying unarguable binary insight.
COG Branding has worked with over 1000 Australian SME’s and have identified two main sorts of businesses. The first is those with a leader who enforces their personal values onto the team, and their business is analogue, rigid and resistant to change. The second is those businesses with a living and breathing value set that is distilled from the senior team down through the business, and is often discussed which allows the organisation to behave a little more fluidly. This business type tends to be more adaptable to change and disruption, and works with us on solutions much more effectively.
Agencies like COG Branding play a crucial role in showing the ongoing value of transformation, particularly when it comes to the selection of what softwares and products should be selected by the business as part of its digital transformation journey.
Digital first often brings communication channels to life when there was previously none. Here a business that has digitally transformed becomes acutely aware that customers really are their ticket to business success. Because not only will they buy their products, again and again, they can also be up-sold. And not only will they buy those products, but they’ll also recommend their friends and family buy them as well.
Essentially, customers are mini-marketing machines and digital savvy can increase the sophistication and quality of these connections that ultimately can assist a business to scale.
When a business has put itself in this advantageous position it can play results back to clients and customers on a regular basis to help secure ongoing investment, as opposed to cycling through a manual sales retention effort from a calendar. For COG Branding, this means using platforms from the Google Marketing Platform and tools like Campaign Monitor to ensure digital marketing strategies can be used in real time to maximise performance, and truthfully enhance the value set and relationships the business has fought hard to build.
Digital transformation is not a one-time action plan. It’s a long-term commitment and an ongoing cycle, full of learnings and course corrections. By helping your customers and clients implement the right goals, organisational structure, and introducing the right technology, you’ll ensure they’re prepared for a successful digital transformational journey and will likely reap the benefits of a more competitive and sustainable business in our digital future.