There can be no doubt that 2016 was a wake-up call. The foundations of traditional media, politics, finance indeed every area of our society has been affected by the unstoppable shift to digital.
We all expected digital would change how we live, but recent political events in the UK (Brexit) and US presidential election have brought into stark relief that those changes have already happened and the ‘old’ way of doing things is now both less relevant and also less accurate.
Nobody believed that a reality TV star with zero political experience could beat many of the candidates, let alone the former first lady and career politician Hilary Clinton. It was a slam dunk, a sure thing.
Right up to the end, confidence was still high, Paddy Power even paid out 1m euros on the 8th November to bettors with money on Clinton to win.
They were wrong. As were the majority of the existing political measures.
What the two different US presidential campaigns represent is a fundamental shift; from the old way of reaching, engaging and influencing people to the new, digital way.
Closer to home, the vote to leave the EU was a precursor not only to the general levels of discontent amongst voters but also an indication of how people are finding, consuming and using information online to form opinions and make decisions. The traditional political polls were blind to the sentiment being expressed online and on social media and the outcome of the vote came as a shock to the establishment.
The use of digital by the Brexit campaign may have been accidental while Trumps was very much by design, but the stark truth is that whether you choose to or not, people are using information online that can have a profound effect on politics, society, me, you or your business.
But what does this mean for your business?
Aside from the long-term and currently unknown impacts of the Brexit vote, your digital profile is no longer just a vague concept that you need to be aware of. It is how your business is seen, understood and assessed by the people most important to you. The people that can dictate your success or failure, your customers, suppliers, employees, financiers, everyone is using your digital profile. Whether you know it or not. A recent report by Lloyds Bank further highlighted this, finding that in the UK the most digital small businesses were twice as likely to report revenue growth than the least digital.
What makes up your business’s digital profile?
Your digital profile is any piece of data or information that is created about your business and the volume of that data is growing exponentially. Data from your website, social media activity, customer feedback on third party sites, even your business finances, payment history and credit score are used to dictate what your business does or doesn’t get.
All of these things can impact major areas of your business. Are your prospects put off buying from by scathing online reviews? Do your suppliers offer you less than optimal payment terms? Can your customers even find you online or are your competitors hoovering up your potential customers?
Your website is the hub of your online marketing
Whether you sell online or are a B2B business generating leads, your website serves the same fundamental purpose. It's the central hub of all your prospect and business development activity. Where people go to find out about you, how you can help them and more importantly where they can make a decision about whether to contact you or make a purchase.
There are three key elements that every successful business website should be looking to achieve:
1. Can your customers find you?
2. Can they get what they want when they get there?
3. Do they trust you enough to take the next step?
There are almost infinite details beneath each of these areas but as a busy business owner focussing on these key factors can help ensure that whatever business you are in your website is at the centre of your sales process.
Check your own business website score for free today with FSB Business Profiling.
Social Media: Amplify your marketing for free
Donald Trump's use of Social media during his presidential campaign was unprecedented at reaching and influencing key voters. He generated an estimated $5 billion dollars of free media coverage, which while not all positive, demonstrates that if you are active in the same places as your audience your ability to reach and impact prospects and sales, scales exponentially.
The Brexit campaign was another clear example of the power of social media. Whether you take part in it or not your prospects and customers are potentially talking about you and either making decisions or influencing others decisions that you have no control over.
Check your own business social score for free today with FSB Business Profiling.
Do you know about all your customer reviews?
Online reviews are now considered as trusted as a recommendation from a friend or family member. They form a clear part of the buying decision for most businesses, not just those in leisure or hospitality.
The clear importance of reviews is evidenced in just how many platforms now allow you to comment on and make judgements about any business. Google, Facebook, Trustpilot, Feefo the list of platforms goes on and if you operate in specific sectors then you likely already have a review platform specifically for businesses like yours.
As these new platforms emerge, the controls around who can publish and what they can say become more difficult to manage. Your prospects, customers or even someone with malicious intent could create and publish negative reviews about your business across any one of these platforms and as the business owner, you might not even be aware.
It's critical that you understand what is being said about your business online so you can quickly take steps to respond to or manage any negative feedback and ensure the perception of your business online is not damaged.
Check your own business feedback score for free today with FSB Business Profiling.
Being digital grows your bottom line
A recent report by the Lloyds banking group highlighted that the most digital UK small businesses were twice as likely to report revenue growth than the least. They also reported that 2/3 of small businesses are using digital to reduce costs.
Returning to Trump, his data led digital approach to the presidential campaign was initially laughed at for being 'amateurish and comically bad' however, with this approach Trump was able to adjust and adapt quickly, ensuring he reached the voters most likely to vote his way at the lowest possible cost. His total budget spend was still an eye-watering $340 million but it was dwarfed by the Clinton campaign budget of $581 million which was spent on more traditional television advertising and door-knocking campaigns.
Check your own business finance score for free today with FSB Business Profiling.
Use digital to get paid faster
The final piece of the digital puzzle is the data held and used by your suppliers, lenders and financiers to decide how much money they offer you and when they want it back. For banks or loan providers we understand that process and as the general appetite for borrowing in the UK has fallen dramatically since 2008 you might think so what?However, if you pay for goods on invoice then your business credit score could be directly impacting the terms you are given.
Managing your company finances, paying bills on time and controlling cash flow are all the day to day things you do anyway but that data is being shared with credit reference agencies and potentially used by your suppliers to decide whether they give you a week, a month or three months to pay your bills. This has an obvious knock-on impact on your ability to manage cash flow so it's critical you understand how other businesses are assessing you and the steps you can take to improve your business reputation.
Check your own business credit score for free today with FSB Business Profiling.
How can you manage your digital profile?
As a busy business owner, how do you stay on top of all the tools necessary to control and monitor everything above that makes up your business's digital activity? Website analytics can be detailed and complex, third party social media analytics can be vague and not actionable enough, checking your business credit score is long winded and can be expensive.
FSB Business Profiling can help. Bringing together the data from your business’s entire digital profile into one easy to understand and actionable dashboard.
Understand if your website is getting found and helping convert visitors. Are your social media channels a marketing megaphone or are you just shouting into the dark? Understand your customer reviews and find the ones you might not even know existed. Plus check your business credit score for free. See how lenders and suppliers view your business, from how much they would be willing to let you have on account/invoice and importantly when they want to be paid.
With FSB Business Profiling you can understand where your business is today, what areas you should improve and then track your performance each month so you can monitor improvements and challenges over time.
FSB members get 2 reports of their digital profile completely free.