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How to move your business online

Covid-19 has businesses scrambling to get online after the New Zealand wide lockdown highlighted the vulnerabilities of bricks and mortar, but a significant number of businesses are getting it wrong.

CEO of digital marketing agency Insight Online, Kim Voon, said that while big and small businesses recognise the need to future proof themselves online after they were exposed during the lockdown, there needs to be a more measured approach.

"More than half of our inquiries are from companies that want to shift to online marketing and customer service, even businesses not traditionally associated with digital processes, including commercial boiler companies and trucking companies.

"This includes retailers that relied heavily on brick and mortar and a centralised physical location to do business. So many Kiwi businesses have relied on brochure websites, but that is changing fast," he said.

In the past, many businesses may have relied on their websites to generate leads which were then picked up by a salesperson, who would qualify the sales lead and take it from there. However, more businesses now are thinking about automating most, if not all, of the sales and service processes.

"We are a digital marketing agency, so our work is heavily weighted in marketing, but I am increasingly in touch with many businesses that want to put more of their processes online but are not looking before they leap. This includes investing in expensive marketing automation platforms that may not be fit for purpose, or even necessary.

"I want marketing managers and business owners to look at their processes before they decide if its right for them. While most decision-makers were aware of automation and the opportunities, they weren't doing it pre-Covid. Now they're rushing in because they want to avoid risk, but all they're doing is creating more risk -- we need to take a breath and take stock."

Voon offered the following advice for companies looking to shift their marketing and customer service online:

1. Map your processes
"Think about and document the current processes in your business. What journey does the customer follow through your business, from awareness through to post-purchase? Get staff feedback and map it out on a whiteboard."

2. Identify the online opportunity
"Identify what can be taken online," Voon said. "For example, after-sales support, such as checking in to see if the client is happy, can easily be done with email or messenger."

3. Start slowly
"Make changes progressively and slowly. Don't go the whole hog with an enterprise solution before you've had time to learn and understand how technology can help your business.

"I see too many businesses purchase enterprise system before they've had time to work out how their internal processes and functions would integrate with the software. If you don't have a process or a system, don't just jump in and buy software," he said.

4. Invest in training
"Avoid making changes without the planning, money and time to invest in training your people. Make sure you have a programme to adjust to change and transformation. Too many decisions are coming from the top, without consideration of how staff will cope," Voon said.

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