By: Brenda J. Trainor
The start of a new year is always a good opportunity to look inward and assess your business operations and your goals. With the speedy growth of business applications in information technology, keeping up with the latest trends can be fun, if not a little daunting, matching your operations with the latest technologies requires thoughtful planning, detailed research and an open mind.
As I look forward to 2012, the key trend that I see for all businesses is to increase the focus on your customer. No business can succeed and grow without good customer relations. The best way to communicate with your customers is to develop a relationship with them, so it is reasonable to assume that keeping up with how your customer uses information technology is the key to making sure your product or service is preeminent on their communication tools.
So let’s first look at what consumers’ are doing with information technology: the trend is for people to have hand-held, fully functional systems that go with them constantly across work, home and leisure activities. Consumers now have virtually constant access to smart phones and tablets that serve to meet all their communication needs: these devices have multiple applications that make the devices serve as telephones, diaries, calendars, email devices, wallets, research libraries, contact files, snapshot and video cameras, Dictaphones, word processors, calculators, newspapers, magazines, books, radios, televisions, and video players, etc.; applications deliver all of this functionality to a single device right at your customers’ fingertips.
Further, the distinction between a work computing system and a home computer is diminishing – personal and work functions overlap as people work from home after dinner and shop for groceries on the Internet at work. The prevalence of ubiquitous information systems that function across platforms means that you need to present the brand of your business in many different formats that work on all sorts of IT applications.
Whether you operate a business that has a product or a service, integrating your brand into technologies that work in 2012 requires some creative strategies. A growing trend is social networking: the growth of services like Linked In, Twitter and Facebook means that your business likely needs to have a presence on these kinds of services. You can use a variety of means to integrate social media into your business plan: you can electronically advertise on social network services, or you can create a presence for your business on these services. Integrating these elements in a coordinated media strategy is essential to make your plan work. For example, you might create a Twitter account with messages that might direct followers to your website; your website might integrate a Facebook link so customers can like your page and get a special discount.
To take full advantage of presenting your brand on various new technologies, you need to create the right tools that work across different media. That means that you need graphics and logos that will look good when viewed large on a billboard as well as when tiny on an iPhone screen. You need slogans and copy to describe your brand that works well in print as well as on different forms of audio and video materials: you might have podcasts and blogs and animated web sites. As you develop an integrated set of tools to use on different media, you’ll probably also want to generate a QR Code to facilitate getting your message in different places. QR Codes (Quick Response codes) are those funky squares of black and white block patterns that can be read by a smart phone and provide a quick link back to detailed information on the World Wide Web. These are useful devices that can be used on signs, business cards, newspaper advertisements and even embedded in emails. The key to using them is to assure that they link back to useful information that is appeals to your customer base and encourages interaction with your business.
In 2012, it is likely that more and more of your customers will be using their smart phones or their tablets to find you, call you, check on your prices, send you an email for customer service, use their vendor card or coupon, and pay for a transaction. You need to be ready to integrate your business operations with all the available means of your customers’ technologies. The technology of your business needs to be designed to process all these different levels of customer communications, so start now to make the new year a success and plan to fully involve your customers’ technology into your operation.