Digital transformation depicted by an obsolete typewriter

3 Solutions for Companies Struggling with Digital Transformation

I joke sometimes that I wanted to be my own boss but ended up with Google as my boss.

An enormous part of generating new leads for your business happens online. If the internet is the ocean, Google is the boat, the fishing line and increasingly, the fish.

However, while we’re all hustling for Google’s approval, competing technologies are emerging, like generative AI. In many cases, it’s more efficient to get, say, ChatGPT to summarize something for you than to scroll through page after page of Google search results.

The ability to adapt to this technological change and others is made much easier if you adopt 3 specific practices.

  • Enhanced Employee Training
  • Innovation Culture
  • Next-level Customer Relationships

Before we dig into those, let’s consider whether digital transformation in 2023 is really all that different than it was a few years ago.

Digital Transformation? More Like Technological Prestidigitation

Finally I get to use the word “prestidigitation” in an article. It means gimmicky magic trick, which is exactly what finding success using new technology can feel like. Still, we’ve adapted so far, and mostly to our own benefit.

For example, it’s hard to argue that Google has brought positive change. I mean, where did people even get recipes, driving directions and kitty cat gifs back in the 90s?

It's a kitty cat gif. Duh.

Something else it has given us is the most successful advertising platform in history: Google Ads.

Google Ads, although increasingly expensive, democratized high-impact paid advertising. Everyone from the biggest discount retailer to the tiniest mom and pop café has historically been able to find a Google Ad solution in their price range.

As a result of its mega-influence, making Google happy plays a role in pretty much every part of your business’s marketing plans. Consider:

  • A fast website gets prioritized in search.
  • A complete Google Business profile is served more frequently to searchers.
  • Google ranks traditional media very highly in search results, which has become the predominant reason to issue a press release: a high-quality backlink.

Marketing Déjà Vu

Those of us who’ve been in the workforce for a couple decades or more, have seen how technological changes can totally reshape business in general and marketing specifically.

I was halfway through broadcasting school before Google even existed, so I have lots of memories of marketing methods in the pre-internet era. (Classifieds! Yellow Pages! Door-to-door sales!)

Also, as I navigated a TV news career, I saw my industry get decimated mainly because the decision makers decided not to monetize putting their content on the internet.

If you ever lament the current state of the news industry, remember it’s led by people who had a product everyone wanted, a hot new delivery method for this product, and somehow didn’t find a way to use those two things together to increase revenue.

I digress.

Between my fond memories of obsolete communication tools and my traumatic experience becoming an obsolete communication tool, I feel a little bit of nauseous déjà vu as I learn more about generative AI technology like ChatGPT.

Because I’ve already seen technology we use every day become obsolete within a hamster’s lifetime, and I’ve seen what can happen if you miss the boat on that change.

I’m not suggesting Google will become obsolete. However it’s been largely without serious competition over the past 25ish years. Now we have a new way to seek and synthesize information.

If people seeking information find ChatGPT to be a better user experience, they may abandon traditional search in droves. This means anyone who is dependent on Google’s traffic to drive leads, either through paid advertising, or by sending search traffic, may find their pipeline quickly drying up.

Struggling with Digital Transformation? Use Your Strengths

A lot of conditions exist right now that favour large corporations over small businesses. They’re getting better tax breaks than we are.

They’re acquiring their customers’ customers through acquisition, leaving the little guys left behind at a disadvantage when it comes to protecting their supply chain and hiring top talent.

They have easier access to credit. They’re better poised to handle economic turbulence and policy changes. They’re better able to pivot as a result of changing market conditions or new technology.

However, small businesses have a distinct advantage over large businesses that will never change. We have an opportunity to have a genuine relationship with our clients.

It’s the one thing big businesses can’t compete against. They pay consultants BIG bucks to help them simulate a connection with their audience. This is a saccharine relationship, though, quick to dissolve if the conditions shift even slightly.

How to Adapt to Technological Change

The 3 big ways small businesses can ready themselves for digital transformation and technological change all involve leveraging the small business superpower that is our authentic relationships.

  1. Invest in Employee Training
    Provide ongoing training and professional development opportunities for your employees. Ensure they have the necessary skills to adapt to technological changes in their roles. Encourage a culture of continuous learning to foster a more adaptable and resilient workforce.
  2.  Foster Innovation and Adaptability: Encourage a culture of innovation within your business. Encourage employees to generate ideas, experiment with new technologies, and find creative solutions to challenges. Being adaptable and open to change will help you respond to technological disruptions more effectively.
  3. Build Customer Relationships: Focus on building strong relationships with your customers. Understand their needs, preferences, and pain points. By providing personalized service and developing loyal customer relationships, you can differentiate your business from larger competitors that rely solely on technology.

I think it’s also important to engage with other small business owners in a spirit of mutual learning. If you collaborate with peers to share knowledge and learn from each other’s experiences, it’s far easier to stay informed about emerging technologies. Building a strong network can provide valuable insights and support during times of technological change.