Technology alone isn't going to make your company a success. Adding a fancy Customer Relationship Management System, integrating the most robust marketing tool or incorporating AI technology for your customer service model are not silver bullets for achieving your goals.
Jessica Rector is firm about that philosophy. As the Salesforce Administrator at Card-Monroe Corp., Rector emphasizes prioritizing relationships involved in your business practices, and thinking of the technology that fosters those relationships as a tool to help.
To move forward successfully with tech changes deemed necessary by your organization, she outlined three key considerations:
Technology Promotes Greatness
“Technology done right allows us to be better and smarter and faster,” Rector says. She says that when a company adds new technology, there are two possible outcomes:
1.) The technology and business operations stay the same.
2.) The technology converts, and business operations consequently convert.
“If our people and our technology aren’t in sync, we won’t be great,” Rector says. “As we make changes in our technology, our team has to be able to change.”
At Card-Monroe Corp., tech culture has been evolving since its inception to ensure they are offer premier service and support to their customers. In addition to keeping up with the latest equipment, they've adopted Salesforce as their multi-purpose operations, sales and marketing platform.
“You have to diversify your thinking,” Rector says. “The culture becomes really innovative with different perspectives and ideas.”
For Card-Monroe Corp., a new management system has been a disrupter for their customer service — in a good way. In seeking to be an industry leader, they've changed the expectations of their audience while also delivering improved processes and experiences, which has built trust (and business) over time. They have also opened a dialogue with their customers to discuss needs and pain points, which has streamlined processes in various aspects of the company’s operations.
“What makes you stand out is when you’re thinking not just six months down the road, not just next year, but five years down the road in terms of your customer,” Rector says.
Similarly, Plainview Outdoor has sought to evolve their outdoor advertising solutions from the static, standard billboards of yesterday to a new technology that offers clients a modern and more economical way to promote their businesses.
“Digital Billboards have been a game changer in the outdoor industry,” says April Bell, Plainview Outdoor Market Manager. “Clients are now able to communicate with their potential customers with real-time messages that can change anytime. We recognized the importance of the switch to digital to modernize our clients’ marketing campaigns and are now investing in the manufacturing of the digital signs themselves.”
Planning for the future needs of clients, Plainview Outdoor anticipates a new plant in Chattanooga that will allow them to be a technology leader for billboard and LED sign advertising.
“You have to be that beacon,” Rector says. “You become the expert, and when they see you as that expert, you earn their trust. That momentum in your relationship with your customer is not about sales, but when you get to that relationship with your customer, it doesn’t hurt the sales side.”
Select the Right Tools
It's easy to get caught up in the newest products to hit the market or the most popular name brands. The same goes for gadgets and software for your company. However, having a CRM or CMS with an API and great UX to gather data on your KPIs, CPC and SEO is not the way Rector recommends going about advancing your business.
“It is not a list of tools that you need to have a good business,” she says. “It’s about what you need to be able to do. You want to be able to collaborate and knowledge-share with each other, with the industry, with what’s going on in the world. And you want to grow.”
In a simpler sense, Chris Cooke, Business Technology Specialist for ACT Business Machines, Inc., notes that even everyday technologies—phones, computers, email and virus protection—can be a confusing aspect for any business.
“Technology is not static; it is changing every day at a rapid pace,” Cooke says.”For a business to have the right solutions and partner in place can be the difference between failure or success.”
Gaps and redundancy in your processes are a good indication that a tech solution would be advantageous for your company. However, considering the issue at-hand and not the impact it will have even a few years down the road can create further setbacks and additional expenses. Rector likens the technology to a train; it’s always on full-throttle. By the time you’ve implemented what’s relevant to today, the next best solution has already been delivered.
“You should always be thinking ‘what’s next?’” Rector says. “There’s always room for improvement or there’s always something coming down the pipes that’s going to impact or change what you’re doing or what’s great.”
Cooke’s role with ACT Business Machines, Inc. is to help take the pressure off his clients so they can focus less on being a tech expert and more on managing their business and leading their team.
“I enjoy the challenge and reward of helping individuals and businesses in this area implement the right solutions at the right time, taking them to a higher level of success, profitability and sustainability,” he says.
In addition to a consultant, there are other ways to independently stay on top of the latest trends. Read blogs posted by professionals facing the same challenges; listen to podcasts that review new software and assess the advancements of tried and true brands; and network with your peers to discuss successes and failures that relate to your endeavors.
“If you’re already invested and you have all the software, figure out how to get them to all work together,” Rector says. Automated workflow tools like Zapier and Workato can provide integrations with otherwise disconnected platforms to simulate a single ecosystem for your business processes.
Bridge the Knowledge Gap
The core of any company is not its technology; it’s the people. As new technological processes are implemented, a primary consideration should be the role of your team.
“Even with the fourth industrial revolution and the IOT (Internet of Things) and the data science that is coming, you still have to have the people,” Rector says. “All good technology has to have good people behind it.”
In making that transition, she recommends communication being the highest priority to ensure that all employees who will be impacted clearly understand that although their role may be changing, they are still of value. Diffuse any misconception that an employee is being replaced or that their role is being diminished.
“Change is difficult for people; it’s difficult for me,” Rector says. “I think it’s even more difficult in a business setting. People are comfortable with what they do. I live and breathe in technology, but for people who aren’t in that all the time, they think, ‘This works really well. Why do we have to change this process?’”
Because change can be difficult, it is often avoided. Even something as simple as a cell phone upgrade can feel like a daunting task, yet the convenience and streamlining benefits can be profound. But implementing a new software system for your entire company is not quite like getting a new cell phone. There is a lot of responsibility that comes into play. Still, Rector feels strongly about taking on that potential struggle. Is it worth it?
“Hands down, 100 percent,” she says. “If you’re not advancing the technology, eventually you will be left behind.”
Based on research conducted by Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, there were approximately 8 billion connected devices in 2017, and it is estimated that over 20 billion devices will be connected in 2020.
For Christi Broom, Marketing Coordinator at Hullco, accepting and advocating changes within her organization has been highly beneficial.
“Technology has definitely changed the way we market to our potential customers,” Broom says. “We have the ability to reach them in so many different places, and at times, it is very helpful for targeting a specific audience for a specific product or promotion.”
Still, Rector emphasizes that the hurry to keep up with the changing times must be centered around your team. The relationships with your employees, your customers and your partners are what drive your success and future achievements.
“When you strip down culture, it should be about the relationship,” she says. “It shouldn’t be about anything else.”
Want to dive deeper into this topic? Tune into the related podcast episode “Diversified Thinking & Bridging the Technological Gap” from the Flywheel Brands podcast, “Momentum Marketing: Fulfilling Your Urgency to be Great.”
Flywheel Brands, Inc. is a leading brand marketing agency that has been generating momentum for its clients with creative solutions like custom promotional products, apparel, graphics and print since 1981 in Hixson, Tenn. For more information on Flywheel, visit FlywheelBrands.com, or follow us at facebook.com/flywheelbrands, twitter.com/flywheelbrands and instagram.com/flywheelbrands.