Stephen Scheeler, The Digital CEO founder and former Facebook ANZ managing director, offers valuable insights on becoming a digital-first business in the digital-first world.*
While it’s not surprising that digital has usurped the “big three” — TV, radio and newspapers — as the default media choice, many small business owners still baulk when it comes to investing in it.
Facebook’s 2018 second-quarter results tellingly observed that while more than 80 million businesses have a Facebook page, only 6 million utilise Facebook ads.
This, says The Digital CEO founder Stephen Scheeler, is because many business lack the curiosity and willingness to self-educate.
“They haven’t googled ‘Facebook for Business’, or taken half a day to understand how to run, add and measure success through campaigns, and create target customer groups. A lot of businesses reach out and ask me to recommend a consultant or agency and I say you don’t need to; you can go online and learn.”
Scheeler is as qualified as anyone to talk digital. He spent five years as Managing Director of Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, a stint in which the social media behemoth transitioned from “adolescent company to the adult company it needed to become”.
His portfolio also includes management consulting and top-level strategy for Westfield and Lion Nathan, and he’s a sought-after keynote speaker on digital first consumerism and marketing to those who have grown up with smartphones and social media. The lag in digital investment is understandable, says Scheeler. “With any way of reaching customers —particularly with new technology — businesses should be sceptical and ask questions around what is ultimately going to be the value and the return of investment or value of this new channel.”
But while many business owners feel daunted by the rapid rise of digital platforms — “from nothing to everything in just a few short years” — the good news is that it’s never been easier to get a handle on measuring their impact.
Says Scheeler: “The biggest focus for players like Facebook, Amazon and Google has been to build out robust platforms based on real data, real hard analytics… so businesses can understand what is happening, what their customers are doing, what is the website traffic, and when they run an ad, what really happens with those ads; when do people look at them and does it actually change what they think or what they do? A few years ago, small businesses could not have accessed this.”
Each major digital platform has their own dashboard, and free tool kits that allow you to use their advertising platforms. There’s also self-learning tools, and, failing that, myriad ‘how-to’ videos on YouTube. Three years ago, Facebook developed what was essentially a ‘Facebook University’: a user-friendly, video-based course with around 55 modules explaining how Facebook can work for your business. Additionally, new help tools accompany the launch of new features, ensuring you can test and learn before spending dollars.
“If you don’t have a CRM there are severe limitations on what you can do with digital media and social media can perform for you.”
Scheeler says digital channels allow for more scale in terms of business analysis. “If I have 10 customers I don’t need a CRM, but if I have 100-plus my brain won’t work — even if I know a lot about my customers already — and I won’t find meaningful insights about them and will need help from technology.”
Now with the onset of artificial intelligence machine learning — with smart algorithms that help define insights and trends, and uncover nuggets that might not be apparent from looking at data at a superficial level — Scheeler is amazed at the advances. “We are really only now getting a machine that can do what the human brain can do,” he says.
Most importantly, all this new technology allows for better customer retention — which is important because, of course, it’s more cost-efficient to retain an existing client than acquire a new one. “We now have tools and techniques to understand the customer journey, with many products now designed with a customer-centric design and philosophy,” says Scheeler.
“You don’t just build a product, you find a product that the customer needs, look at the customer journey and look where the gaps are, and then you build a product designed around filling those gaps.
“As we marry the customer-centric approach with the idea of customer lifetime value you get a more powerful way of building a sustainable business than we’ve had in the past.”
Stephen’s Top Tips for Becoming a Digital-first Business
Get ‘inside’ social
“Go and spend some time on Facebook, Instagram, Google and LinkedIn. Get ‘behind the scenes’ of these platforms to understand how they work; look at success stories or case studies; watch the tutorials; dig a little deeper on how you can utilise them as tools to better your business and understand your customers’ needs.”
Draft a plan
“Come up with a simple, 30-day plan about what you need to do and change about your digital strategy and presence. If you don’t have a website, get one. If you don’t think your website is good, make it better. Get a mobile site. If you haven’t got a Facebook page, get one — and if you haven’t done anything with your Facebook page, go in and understand what it is you should be doing. After 30 days, come up with a longer-term plan: “what are the five pillars I need to put in place?”
Sort out your data house
“Everything you are doing digitally is only going to be as good as the data you have and are using about your own customers. This is going to be what you will use to build your social and digital footprint. You need a database [but] don’t use spreadsheets, start importing your excel spreadsheets into your CRM.”
Put some money into it
“I’m not saying spend thousands of dollars; put in $10 or $100 into running campaigns on Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube and build a campaign, target some customers and get creative. You don’t need to spend a lot of money; you can quickly see what is working and what is not. And that is where the analytics come into play.”