“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”
~Bill Gates ~
Client Ann Asks: I worry that we are not standing out from the competition. My IT Director says that we can gain a competitive advantage through information technology, but I’m not sure how to do this. Can you give me some ideas?
Coach Joel Answers: Ann, you are right on target. It’s vital that your company outshine other similar companies in order to maintain market share. You need things that help you work smarter, faster, and at a cheaper cost. Information technology can help you do all of that.
Let’s look at nine ways to improve your bottom line, support the team effort, handle paperwork, and gain more loyal customers.
When you employ some of these IT systems, you’ll feel more in control, you’ll save time, and you’ll see results.
1. Web Presence. Help your business be easily found. Make your website inviting, informative, and easy to navigate. You’ll find you’re converting visitors to buyers faster and more often.
2. E-commerce. Expand beyond your brick-and-mortar store. A.J. Madison started as a simple store in Brooklyn New York, selling to locals. Its expansive e-commerce site now has it sending appliances into all 50 states. This is a huge competitive advantage. Make sure your IT allows different online payment methods.
3. Supply Chain Management. A good IT program can make sure you have products exactly when you need them. It can manage your inventory as well as the clerical supplies that keep offices running.
4. Customer Relationship Management. Nothing can destroy your business faster than poor customer relations. And few things can give you a better competitive advantage than a host of loyal customers. Use information technology to help you follow up with customers, hear and respond to complaints, and segment your customers to reward larger spenders.
5. Automation Software. Your automated programs can track numbers of sales, customers, and transaction details. It can make those numbers available across a variety of documents for taxes, customer follow up, and financial accounting. Paperwork is not glamorous, but when you save hours and dollars with excellent software, it becomes cool.
6. Collaboration Software. Quality programs help teams work together. It allows documents to easily be shared. On a basic level it connects computers, applications, printers, and internet connections. These simple steps save you time and money. They also make a more productive and satisfied, team.
7. Web Design. Each company wants to stand out. With your unique website you can differentiate your products from your competitors.
8. Client Segmentation. Don’t waste your advertising dollars on clients who won’t buy. Use software to focus on those who do. Sophisticated information systems segment your list so you can target new buyers and big spenders and spend little time on “lookers.”
9. Privacy. Use IT to protect the confidential information of your customers and employees. Nothing breaks trust with your customers like a hacker stealing their credit information from your site. That extra layer of information technology can give you a competitive edge against other businesses in your field.
Ann, you don’t even need to use every one of these programs right away. Choose the two or three areas in your business that could most benefit from streamlining, and start there.
Soon you’ll find ways your competitive advantage is bringing in more clients and more income for your company. Information technology really does let you work smarter, faster, and with a lower cost.
To learn how your company can blow your competition out of the water, contact Joel.
Talkback: What programs or software have you used to give your business an advantage?