Digital transformation is a business imperative — and the source of increasing anxiety for businesses of all sizes.

While Fortune 500 companies have the resources to embrace the latest technologies, small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) often struggle to make sense of these new operational priorities.

Marketing Technology Overload

As executives from one smaller company recently told me, “It’s scary.” He continued:

“We invested in some technologies and now, two years later, we aren’t sure we’re making the best use of it.

“We’re in a traditional — you might even call it a ‘boring’ — industry. We have a great reputation and have been a market leader for many years. But now our competitors are closing in.

“And here’s the thing. They’re not closing in because they’re offering a better product or a new service. They’re catching up on the basis of brand experience.”

Start With Strategy

At Arke, we understand. Ideally, when a business expresses an interest in maximizing its current and future technology investments, we suggest a two-pronged approach.

First, and most importantly, we work with the business to co-create strategies to support the company’s business goals. I can’t overemphasize how important this is. Remember, the only way to achieve digital transformation is through strategically aligning your technology to your business and marketing goals.

You should have a clear and well-defined vision before you buy any new technologies or make any investments in legacy systems. Otherwise, it’s like a child in a candy store, randomly selecting the brightest and shiniest treats in the store — and guaranteeing himself a belly ache.

Arke’s Marketing Technology Alignment

Next, we analyze the company’s marketing technology to determine whether it’s working as seamlessly as possible. We also work with the company to understand the systems and capabilities it believes it needs to put in place to support its marketing objectives.

This Marketing Technology Alignment (MTA) matches a company’s marketing’s objectives with available technology solutions.

Spanning as many as three days, the workshop places many of your organizations’ stakeholders in one room together for a meaningful discussion about how to best leverage People, Process, Technology, and Data. By the end of the workshop participants have a clear customer-centric roadmap, technology audit of current marketing tools, and so much more.

I don’t want to boast, but our clients almost invariably describe the MTA as the best strategic session they’ve ever had.

It’s a meaningful investment that pays off in smarter technology purchases, greater organizational alignment, and achievable digital transformation goals.

Smaller Business Survival Guide

But SMBs often have limited budgets. In those cases, a full MTA engagement by a company like Arke may be too time and resource intensive.

That’s especially true for SMBs that have already started to invest in technology haphazardly or piecemeal. While we can’t fix any tech investments after the fact, we can offer some preventative advice.

You may also like:  The Marketer's Essential Marketing Technology Stack Pt. I

7 Tips for SMBs

So if you represent a small but growing business, consider what we know from experience.

  1. Make sure everyone in the company — from the CEO to your employees and other stakeholders — understands and supports the concept of digital transformation. Unless you change the culture of the company, the desired transformation will remain out of reach.
  2. Don’t buy any technology until you know what outcome you want to achieve. That means having a clear strategic plan in place before you start investing in platforms and solutions.
  3. Evaluate digital consultants, vendors, and technologies carefully. Selecting what initially appears as the least expensive option can often cost you more in the long term.
  4. Make sure the partners you select are specialized in what you need — and not just someone you know because you used them for another project. The company that designed your portal may not be the best fit to design your website.
  5. Look for ways to reuse or integrate your legacy technologies. But understand sometimes it’s more effective and efficient to scrap some investments.
  6. When budgets are tight, create multi-year investment plans that enable you to phase in digital technologies over time.
  7. Stay on top of new technologies and opportunities, either by educating yourself or by relying on the advice of a trusted professional.

Even if you start small, a move toward digital transformation is a move in the right direction. These smaller, incremental strategic investments will not change your company overnight. But they will help you survive a rapidly changing business environment and support your continued growth.

Be thoughtful, invest carefully — and when you’re ready, consider hiring our team at Arke to take you to the next level.

Margaret Wise leads Arke Systems' initiatives related to their strategic technology partners including Microsoft and Sitecore. Margaret joined the Microsoft CRM ecosystem with the introduction of Microsoft CRM v1 and has been contributing her extensive CRM experience ever since. Margaret holds an MBA with a concentration in Finance from Brenau University. Margaret has also volunteered around Atlanta through Hands On Atlanta, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, at her church and her children’s school in Dunwoody. She has been a member of TAG (Technology Association of Georgia), CRM Society for 8 years and a board member for 3 years. As a member of WIT (Women in Technology), her favorite volunteer opportunities have been to mentor through Girls Get IT. Margaret is an avid reader and runner but mostly enjoys spending time with her husband, 10 year old son and 7 year old daughter.