Your company is on the up and up, and you’d like to keep it that way. Who can blame you?
Unfortunately, you know better than anyone that there are no guarantees in business (or life, for that matter). Your company won’t simply continue to grow because it deserves to. It’s up to you and your team to ensure that the precursors are in place for sustainable, steady growth that endures beyond your next quarterly or annual report.
Exactly which precursors are we talking about here? That’s the question that alternately inspires and frustrates countless executives and business owners. Figuring out which pieces to put in place, and when, is an art form unto itself.
For our purposes, we’re interested in the “pieces” most likely to both support the continued scalability of your enterprise in the digital realm and to ensure that said scalability does not sacrifice the safety or security of its digital or physical assets (not to mention its human resources).
That’s no small feat. But, as they say, the time for half-measures has passed. If you are truly serious about laying the groundwork for your company’s next phase of growth, you need to begin to implement the following initiatives now — before your competitors beat you to the punch.
A Flexible Hybrid Cloud Architecture
It’s no exaggeration to say that a flexible hybrid cloud architecture could be the linchpin of your company’s digital transformation. But what exactly is it?
Without getting too technical, a hybrid cloud architecture is a scalable computing environment that facilitates the free and secure exchange of data, applications, and processes between public and private clouds. A hybrid cloud architecture is far more flexible and adaptive than either a public or private cloud in isolation. It’s also more secure, allowing access to the resources and capabilities of the vastly more extensive public cloud without compromising network security by routing traffic through third-party data centers.
In short, a hybrid cloud architecture provides the best of both worlds and sorely needed peace of mind. Make its implementation the first major project in your campaign to scale your digital presence.
A Corporate VPN That Protects Your Entire Digital Footprint
While we are on the subject of network and data security, let’s give a nod to one of the most overlooked-yet-essential pieces of a secure digital presence: a business-grade virtual private network that keeps the “bad guys” from snooping on (or stealing) sensitive data and allows global teams to work as seamlessly as they would on the same floor.
When evaluating your virtual private network options, understand that there’s absolutely no need to compromise. This is true despite what you might have heard about the efficacy of free VPNs, none of which are adequate to keep your company secure while addressing its business needs. A robust VPN is worth the cost; if it’s bundled with a comprehensive hybrid cloud architecture, all the better.
A Resolute Corporate Firewall That Doesn’t Compromise Performance
This is another essential digital security feature that’s too important to compromise over. This primer on setting up a corporate firewall is a good overview for non-experts, but this isn’t a project to undertake on your own. You’ll need expert guidance at every juncture, and if your company operates in a heavily regulated space like healthcare or finance, you’ll need an even higher level of expertise to ensure that your firewall complies with applicable state, federal, and international regulations (such as GDPR).
You’ll also need to educate yourself on operational best practices for corporate firewall use. Many preventable data breaches that occur despite adequate firewall protection are attributable to misuse or inexperience.
An Anti-Malware Suite That Can Scale With Your Company
The final pillar of a comprehensive corporate digital security apparatus is a business-grade anti-malware suite that can scale with your company. As with your VPN, it’s vital that you don’t compromise here. It’s absolutely worth paying a bit more to ensure adequate protection. After all, protection correlates directly with peace of mind, which is arguably more important during the hopefully long intervals between attempted breaches.
A Content Management System That Meets Your Business Needs
Your company’s content management needs depend to a great extent on its business activities and marketing goals. While every consumer-facing company needs a scalable content marketing plan at this point in the evolution of the digital economy, the extent and structure of your company’s plan will certainly vary. These variables, in turn, will influence your choice of content management system. For a fuller explanation of the main considerations to factor into your choice of CMS, refer to this guide.
A Scheduling Tool That Actually Facilitates Effective Social Media Management
Social media management might not be brain surgery or rocket science, but it’s a fine combination of art and science. It’s also incredibly time-consuming. While your content marketing campaign can’t afford a slapdash approach that utilizes internal resources on an ad hoc or “when we feel like it” basis, the in-house social media marketer that you will soon hire (or already have hired) needs to be in a position to use their time effectively and not feel obligated to expend resources your company doesn’t have to hire adequate manpower for the job.
That’s where a social media scheduling tool comes in. As with CMS selection, choosing a social media scheduling tool is a multivariate process, and to the extent that there’s a “correct” answer for your needs, it may ultimately come down to comfort and familiarity.
Effective Email Marketing Automation
Email marketing is finally getting the respect it deserves, in spite of (or perhaps because of) innovations that hamper its effectiveness. These days, successful email marketing campaigns demand a degree of forethought and creativity that aren’t always in abundance in corporate marketing teams.
Hiring or retaining the right specialists for your email marketing campaign is a good start, but as with social media scheduling, time and resource management is vital. Select an email marketing automation suite that enables your company to market at scale, reaching hundreds or thousands of prospects across multiple campaigns simultaneously. It can be done.
Scalable Cloud Storage Capabilities
Your hybrid cloud architecture is only as good as the cloud storage tools that support it. While your company has almost certainly selected or grown into an out-of-the-box cloud storage platform such as GSuite or iCloud or Microsoft OneDrive, there comes a point when these solutions lose their appeal. This erosion of efficacy rarely occurs all at once, but it’s best not to let things deteriorate to the point that you’re left scrambling for a more secure or robust solution after an incident that never should have happened in the first place.
In-House Marketing Analysis Capabilities
Anyone can pull a Google Analytics report and convince themselves they understand how their SEO strategy is playing out. Ditto for social media and email marketing and any other sort of analytics adjacent to traffic- or lead-generation activities.
But pulling and “understanding” analytics are not enough. Truly successful marketing campaigns require truly insightful analysis — which in turn requires specialized capabilities that simply can’t be gleaned from raw analytics. (Not yet, at least.)
That’s where in-house marketing analysts come in. Even if you’re running all marketing activities internally for the moment and doing more or less okay with what you’ve attempted so far, you’re going to run into a brick wall eventually without expert guidance. And, while it’s tempting to simply outsource everything at a certain point, that’s usually not the most cost-effective (or plain-old effective) way to go. You need to have marketing and optimization experts on your team.
Yes, it’ll cost you, but it’s an investment that’s likely to pay for itself many times over. Remember: Planning for growth means staffing for the company you want to be, not the company you are right now. You’ll never be in a position to scale rapidly if you only do the latter.
An Earned Media Strategy Designed to Generate Positive Mentions
Make no mistake: most small and midsize companies don’t actually need to keep a public relations firm on retainer. There are cheaper and, often, better ways to connect with journalists and influencers positioned to deliver valuable earned media mentions. This article about low-cost earned media strategies outlines some of the considerations you should take as you evaluate the pros and cons of investing in traditional public relations or something more in keeping with a flexible, lightweight digital marketing strategy.
A Crisis Communications Strategy
Yes, really. When the crisis hits, it’s already too late. Unlike earned media strategy, crisis communications strategy really is best left to the professionals. The discipline is specialized enough to warrant keeping an outside advisory firm on retainer to step in when needed. Alternatively, you can temporarily retain an advisor to develop a crisis communications plan that you’ll take responsibility for implementing internally. What really matters is that you’re ready when disaster strikes.
Scalable Internal Processes and Operating Procedures
In the digital realm, flexibility and scalability are allied capabilities that go hand in hand. Most corporate leaders understand that, when the long-term goal involves sustainable, rapid growth, it’s better to be agile than set in one’s ways.
Does this mean that it’s better to wing it than to operate in accordance with established, regimented internal processes and operating procedures? Absolutely not. On the contrary, such processes and procedures are fundamental to sustainable growth. They enable individuals and teams to row in the same direction without relying on time-consuming level-sets or redundant controls. The more detail-oriented these processes and procedures, the likelier they are to contribute to efficient, effective work at all levels of an organization. As an example, a balanced scorecard system can be of value as it’s a way to look at your company from a balanced approach, seeking to align internal processes to ultimately meet and exceed customer satisfaction.
Internal Communications Tools and Chains of Command
The latter isn’t really a digital capability, of course. Official chains of command have been essential to the smooth functioning of large organizations since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. But they’re all the more important in a dispersed workplace, and doubly so at scale, when decisions are made in multiple time zones and customers half a world away matter every bit as much as those in the next ZIP code.
Today, we’re fortunate to have scalable digital tools to support the official chains of command on which we rely. Namely: internal workplace communication tools that facilitate rapid, frank interfacing between employees, contractors, and customers spread out across wide geographies. Whether you choose a chat-based collaboration tool like Slack or a more robust project management apparatus — or a suite with a bundle of capabilities, like Microsoft Teams — you know that you can’t rely on email alone for “business as usual.” Not anymore.
Multimedia Content Creation and Delivery Channels That Keep Audiences Engaged
Finally, your company’s marketing strategy needs a robust multimedia content creation and delivery plan that’s capable of meeting your prospects and customers wherever they are. This may require stepping outside of your comfort zone, and possibly your in-house marketing team’s comfort zone. Unfortunately, you don’t have much of a choice. More Americans now get their news from YouTube, TikTok, and other emerging multimedia platforms than from legacy media like broadcast television.
It’s a New Digital Day. Is Your Company Read to Seize It?
The digital world is rapidly changing and evolving. You already know this, of course — you would not have taken the time to read this far were you not painfully aware of the disruption wracking the Internet-enabled economy. But you might still have questions about how best to position your company to benefit from this disruption — or, at the very least, to avoid falling victim to its relentless advance.
Here’s hoping that you and your team can implement most or all of the initiatives outlined above. In its own way, each provides a sorely needed advantage to companies seeking to grow, thrive, and above all else remain secure in the digital space. If you have not already done so, huddle with your team and set out a realistic rollout schedule for the most mission-critical items on this list.
No need to let other priorities fall by the wayside, of course. You still have a business to run. You’ll do well to admit early on that you probably won’t accomplish everything in the next quarter or even the next year. Nevertheless, you know as well as anyone that time is of the essence. Better to get started today and find yourself that much farther ahead of the competition than to wake up one morning in the not-too-distant future to realize that the world has passed you by.