Commentary by Amanda Reierson, Head of Digital for Farmers Insurance®

Not every entrepreneur is a digital native, nor does every business need an address in Silicon Valley. But if you own a company, big or small, long-established or just starting up, you do need to connect with your customers, engage your team and sell your products. And in 2016, this means that even in a traditional industry, much like insurance, you need a compelling digital brand.

With more options than ever claiming consumers' attention and loyalty, having an up-to-date online and social media presence is table stakes for entrepreneurs seeking to compete successfully. It also humanizes you, which is so important when your consumers are making purchase decisions. With that said, the challenge for many small business owners is how to effectively use digital resources to grow the bottom line within a traditional industry. And equally important, how can you do so while ensuring maximum buy-in by your team and peers?

The question of how best to integrate digital technologies has been faced by companies of all different sizes and across all sectors. A number of best practices have emerged that you might want to consider when pushing the digital dial.

Start by inviting your stakeholders along on the journey - Trying to force the digital transformation of an organization is rarely, if ever, effective. Instead, you need your team and peers to want to move along that path with you. One way to accomplish this is to connect talent that has been with the company for a while and understand the legacy systems, processes and/or relationships with those who can provide a fresh way of thinking about processes in place, which either come from within the organization or from third-party source. And you can't institute change alone, so don't be afraid to ask for help. There are many different models that can provide small business owners with scalable programs for building a digital brand.

Stay true to your corporate culture - Even as you move into new digital territory, it's important to not lose sight of the vision that drives your business. Make it clear that the introduction of any new tools, platforms or processes will support the core values that underlie your company and that give meaning to people's work. Digital innovations are intended as a means to accelerate and expand upon your mission, and your digital brand should be the expression of that shared culture.

Be patient, but relentless - Although the digital transformation of a company can sometimes emerge organically, your role as the change leader is to stay on purpose. This isn't the time to get complacent about the likelihood, extent or speed of change. Instead, make sure to highlight any small wins to demonstrate what can and will be accomplished. One tool that has proven effective at many companies is to consolidate efforts in a "center of excellence." This can serve as a model to demonstrate successful usage of the new technology and help ease its acceptance and implementation on a wider scale.

Feeling comfortable with your digital brand is a big red flag - Of course, you have to feel comfortable with the security of any technology you use. But starting to feel too comfortable with your digital brand usually means only one thing: it's getting old. Look to connect with some emerging and disruptive companies with a tech focus. This will help keep you abreast with what's going on in the industry and with what your competitors may be doing. It will also help you establish relationships with cutting-edge companies that are hungry to help you succeed.

An effective digital transformation can help strengthen and grow your business by helping prospects discover your services and products, and by encouraging existing clients to come back. Your goal as an entrepreneur should be to balance digital change with measurable success.

You can facilitate this balance by remaining curious - keep asking questions and seeking better solutions. The decisions you make regarding digital innovations will then be more likely to serve the needs of your company and customers. And you'll be better positioned to respond quickly to a marketplace which, even if it's traditional, is nonetheless rapidly evolving.















Published on: Nov 4, 2016