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23 June 2020

5 steps to create your digital future

5 steps to create your digital future - The Value Engine

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu

The recent COVID lockdown has highlighted the importance of digital and online, but of course, the challenge remains, where to start? And how do you make sure that you invest in the right areas and spend smart?

You’re mining the land for the digital diamonds to grow your firm, the challenge being to find and extract that prize diamond.

In this guide I’ve outlined a framework for this journey, by considering the following questions:

  1. How do you find the right approach for your firm?
  2. How do you mine your existing data for ideas and inspiration?
  3. How do you develop your vision & prioritise?
  4. How do you manage the risks?
  5. How do you keep growing & innovating?

1. Finding the right digital approach for your business

Your business is unique. No one else has the same mix of customers, skills, and history, so it makes sense that your digital solutions are unique too. Fortunately, there are tried and tested ways to create options for your situation.

It all starts with your customers and sales model. Do you sell high-value solutions to other businesses or do you sell lower value products through retailers such as Amazon?

In the table below I’ve outlined some possible commercial aims for different ways of doing business.


To find your digital solution you’ll need to clearly define your sales model and then leverage technology to make things easier and better for customers.

To find what “better” means you need to look at things through the eyes of your customer. For example, if you’re selling directly; could you make customer lives easier by providing smart online tools or assets such as films to enable them to get up close and personal with your product?

For a business to business sale, it may be creating the “how-to guide” or interactive tool which helps your buyer and for which they are prepared to share their details.

For example, in our Bott Smartvan online sales case study we created a way for end-users to buy van racking online. To deliver a brilliant customer experience, a design & build tool enabled customers to create their custom solution whilst relaxing on their sofa. This approach formed the backbone of what now is a seven-figure turnover business.

2. Mine your existing digital data for ideas and inspiration

Review your website & social data

You probably have more data at your fingertips than you realise. If your website is set up with an analytics tool, have a dig around. How many people visit your site? Where do they come from?  What do they look at? If you don’t have an analytics package you can easily add one with free tools such as Google analytics. Whilst you’re at it don’t forget to look at your social media data. Has any of your social content resonated with your customers? If so, why?

Look at your competitors’ digital footprint

Take a deep look at your competitors. How do they engage with customers online? Look at their website, social media, and on their product presentation on retailer websites. Ask, what do they do well, and are there any tricks which we may be missing?

Look at other industries

You may find your inspiration from another sector. For example, the design and build tools that drove the success of the Bott Smartvan business were originally pioneered by the automotive sector.  Try to find businesses that operate a similar sales model to yours and look at their successes. How do they gain customer’s attention? How do they engage and if appropriate capture customer data? And how do they turn the online prospect into a customer?

3. Develop your digital vision and document your assumptions

Once you’ve started to get some ideas on paper, try to cook things down and come up with your top 3 ideas. Next, try to quantify some of the benefits and challenges, think in terms of:

“If we reached xx people and y% bought at z cost we could drive £££££ of extra revenue.”

“If we could convert x% more of my website visitors to sale with a y% higher spend we could grow revenue by z.”

By following this process you’ll start to get an understanding of what these projects could mean for your business.

Then, take the best idea and write down the following:

  • What assumptions am I making about customers’ behavior for this solution to work? (For example, if I create an interactive online cost calculator, I’m assuming that the customers want to find a cost instantly online and are happy using a quoting tool)
  • What do I need to do to make this project a reality?
  • What skills & capabilities do I need to get the job done – and can I easily access them?
  • What risks do I need to manage?

By taking this approach you’re starting to understand some of the key assumptions behind the project and the things you need to put in place to move forward.

4. Start small & test those assumptions

It’s all too easy to then jump into a delivery mode and to start making big plans. At this point pause, you need to prove or disprove the assumptions behind your model. Remember, no idea survives contact with the customer.

To do this you’ll need to take those ideas and find ways to validate your assumptions. Talk to current customers, send out a questionnaire, or try developing a really simple version of your idea and put it in front of users and measure the response.

For example, if you want to create an online price calculator tool try to mock up a basic version using simple tools and find a way to test with users, to see how they got on with your tool.

By taking this approach, you’re moving from an idea to a validated proposition, enabling you to move forward with confidence.

5. Grow and don’t stop innovating

Once you’ve got your first online tools live it’s time to make them better,  talk to users, drill deep into the data to find the points where customers leave, and keep making incremental improvements. With this data-driven approach, you’ll soon find your small wins mount up so that you’re achieving big wins for your business.

And keep going, once you’ve made a breakthrough it’s time to do it again. Over time, digital innovation will become part of your daily activity.

6. Next steps

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the digital challenge, there are so many options. However, one thing is certain, standing still won’t make the problem go away. Therefore, start by following these steps and try something, you’ll be sure to learn on the journey.

I also offer a free 30-minute online consultation in which we can explore your business and your unique digital challenge. Get in touch to book your session, and remember. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  – Lao Tzu

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