To Stay At The Cutting Edge Of Technology, Learn To Exploit Evolution At The Right Time To Improve Both Your Business Process And Knowledge Products.
If there’s one thing inevitable in an online business like Knowledge Commerce, it is this. Technology will keep changing and evolving. Technology will change the way your business operates – and it may change your knowledge products repertoire as well. No one can stop that.
Those solopreneur Knowledge Commerce marketers who are timid about change – or tentative or fearful – will get stuck in the old ways, and fall behind the curve. Those who embrace technology change pro-actively, and try to encash on it, will grow faster than the crowd.
We, at Solohacks Academy, have a dictum for ourselves, that we will not adopt technological shifts just for the sake of it – or just to be with the crowd. Neither will we overspend by being too far ahead of the trends, and put ourselves in a position to be guinea pigs.
You too, like us, should stay at the cutting-edge with a strong readiness for change, but also with vigilant trend-watching. Because your goal is single-pointed: it’s growth. Whatever supports growth is the only right way to stay ahead of technology.
1. Get Your Mindset Ready For Adopting Technology Changes
To stay ahead of technology – and not get thrown by it – the first thing that has to be ready is your mind. Things may change and they will, especially in the world of technology. Whether you see it as an opportunity or a fearsome thing is up to how you have trained your mind.
Here are a few pointers to how to keep your mindset ready to cash in on new technologies as they blossom on the horizon …
a. A Growth-Hacker’s Approach to Business Is The Best Way To Ride Oncoming Technology With An Experimentative Attitude
Growth hacking is particularly popular with startups, and more so with bootstrapping solopreneurs. To combat lack of money and experience, growth hackers usually approach marketing with an almost fanatic focus on innovation to achieve speedy growth.
Growth hacking is their typical process of rapid experimentation in various aspects of their business and marketing. Their mission in life is to identify the leanest and meanest ways to grow a business.
Sean Ellis coined the term “growth hacker” in 2010. In his blog post, he defined a growth hacker as “a person whose true north is growth”. This idea is behind the core of growth hacking, even though Sean Ellis’ original concept has now grown beyond his original definition.
In very simple language, for a growth hacker, there is only one goal in business: GROWTH. From looking single-mindedly at the goal of growth, he gets everything, like innovative ideas, competitive edge, smart customer care, wealth, success, motivation.
Those who evangelize growth hacking usually use various types of marketing and product ideas to rapidly test everything – from persuasive copy or email marketing to SEO or viral strategies. They try out diverse tools and techniques, quickly adopting those that work and ruthlessly discarding those that don’t.
In short, the growth hacker is a solopreneur or entrepreneur with a ferocious hunger to grow his business as fast as he can, spending as little cost as he can.
There are some typical characteristics of the growth-hacking mindset that could serve all of us … even those who are not, by nature, growth-hackers. That appetite for growth at the least cost, and with lots of readiness to experiment and innovate is the key. That makes technology change part of the experimentation process, and not part of the business that you fear.
b. Adapt To Necessary Changes With A Positive Attitude And Outlook, But Remember Change Itself Is Not Success
Have you noticed that as you say the words “Change is inevitable,” you may let out a sigh of resignation. It’s as if you may feel that change is problematic … but, hey, what cannot be cured has to be endured. This attitude towards change is the problem, and often change itself is never the problem.
If you see change as something to be “suffered through with somehow” it sounds like a bugbear. Instead, embracing change as something anticipated and welcomed, encourages development. Incidentally, there can be three ways you may sabotage your own mindset for change.
1. Outwardly you may welcome change. But silently and innately you may repel change. If you have this dichotomy, you may go through life without ever living up to your full potential. You may not allow yourself to express who you really are.
2. You may welcome small twists of technology change, but not big ones. Technology changes not only what it touches, but in doing so it changes many layers of the world around it also. Most entrepreneurs don’t fear small technological twists and turns. They actually fear that technology change may cause upheavals beyond what they had anticipated. If you find yourself fearful of wholesale change caused by new technologies, you have to shift your mentality to be able accept big ground-up changes rather than just the small tweaks of life you were expecting.
3. You may wrongly believe that implementing technology change itself equals growth. There are some entrepreneurs who think that if they simply embrace change they are already succeeding. That too is not a healthy mindset. You foolishly follow and spend on every technological twist and fad, and think you are progressing wildly in business. Success is what is visible in your performance numbers. Technology change is just another tool that can help those numbers improve. Technology for its own sake is the mistake you must never make
c. Allocate Time In Your Present For Future-Facing Readiness Cultivation. Stay Ahead Of What’s Oncoming
If you wait to get ready for new technologies when they are about to descend on you, it’s far too late. Your reactions will be all over the place because you have not understood what is happening fully.
Too many opinions will sprout all over the Internet on what is good or bad about any impending or imminent technology change. You will never know where to begin and end with it all. More importantly, you will get so caught up in the melee, that you will not be able to properly think about how it should be incorporated in your business to make your goals reached faster and easier.
The time to get prepared for change is not when it is about to happen, but well before it happens. But how do you do that?
You have to set apart time allocation in the present to do some vital future-facing reading. Being forewarned is being forearmed.
- Subscribe to the key technology magazines that affect all online businesses.
- Also, subscribe to good magazines that talk of trends oncoming in your niche.
- Subscribe to research that studies evolving customer behaviors.
- Subscribe to news feeds like Feedly to get the latest articles from thought-leaders in your industry.
- Follow the A-list influencers in your niche on social media.
In your future-readiness reading time, make sure you read what’s on offer – and then spend a moment or two examining how it may affect your industry, your niche, your business, and your products.
Where would the coming technology change be most valuable to you in your own business? Is there anything you could do to experiment right now with some low-cost tricks that may help later? Or is it just enough to absorb all that’s being said and heard, and get your mind ready to “pivot” when the time for change becomes inevitable?
Make your future-readiness reading time sacrosanct. I do it first thing every morning, because it helps me face the day with a forward-looking and broadminded attitude.
2. Get Your Business Ready For Adopting Technology Changes
After you’ve got your own mind ready to welcome technology changes, it’s important to take stock of your business, to see where your opportunities for growth could be spurred by new technology. View your business with a consultant’s objective eye. See in advance where your weak links are and then study imminent technology change to see if it can help bridge your deficiency areas.
Here are a few ideas on how to go about this …
a. Locate Your Areas Of Business Where New Technology Could Make The Most Difference, At The Least Cost, With The Least Risk
There’s no point looking to rapidly shift to new technology in areas where your business is already doing well. You obviously have already set up a system in such areas of operation that is paying you dividends. Therefore, those are not the hot-priority areas where change is imperative.
The areas where your business operation is less than optimal are the areas ripe for change. Instead of allowing every single new technology tempt you, look for the technologies that can help you strengthen your weak areas of business.
One advantage of doing this is that you will be selective and judicious about the new technologies you adopt. You will check if the new technology is fulfilling some definite goals for you. The second advantage is that you have your past performance in that area of business as a reference point to check if the new technology is likely to be better, same or worse than before.
Not every new technology is worth its propaganda. Many purportedly game-changing technologies are all much ado about nothing. They have to prove their mettle not in the magazine reviews or in the blogosphere, but in the trenches of your own business.
When you have identified and isolated the weak areas of your business to try out some new technologies, look at these factors during evaluation:
Every switch you make in business has its costs and its returns. The questions to examine are these When will you start seeing returns? How much more will the returns be over the costs of the switch? How much more will the returns be over what you are spending before the switch? As the pundits would say: “Does it make good business sense?”
b. Choose To Upgrade Wisely, Stay A Bit Slow To Adopt New Stuff, And Let Others Be The Guinea Pigs
In the adoption of new technologies, both marketers and customers are affected by certain patterns of readiness that researchers have studied. It is very interesting to know what people’s general technology adoption psychology is. An important chart that illustrates the adoption curve of any new technology is the Rogers’ Bell Curve, shown below.
Image courtesy: CC BY 2.5
What does this diagram show? In the adoption of any new technology, about 2.5% of adopters are very early into the game. They are the risk-taking Innovators. About 13.5% of adopters are what can be called the Early Adopters Group, while about 34% form the Early Majority Group. Another 34% form the Late Majority Group (already into the downturn), while 16% are the Laggards (too late by far).
Now, if you are among the Early Adopters, you are not taking as much risk as the Innovators (who are way too ahead of the curve). At the same time, you are well in before the Early Majority arrive in their large numbers to crowd the space. By being one of the Early Adopters you can spend less with less risk, because you are not spending before the technology proves itself, nor are you spending to keep off competitors.
The only issue here is to know when the Early Adopter stage kicks in, because there are no clear markers in real life. You need to keep your ears to the ground and see when it would be wise to invest. and when it would be wiser to hold back. Let the restless others become the guinea-pigs and let the technology prove itself by showing enough results to be considered reliable and stable. Then jump in if you wish. But again don’t dither so much, that the crowds begin to enter in force and make merry. Timing is everything.
c. Allocate Reasonably Good Budgets For Experiments And Innovation, Stay Within Them, And Don’t Get Carried Away
I have written in another post about the habit of “frustration spending” that many solopreneurs get into. What is this all about? Here’s a piece from what I had written:
One other very important thing … when you are not making money as fast as you wish in Knowledge Commerce, you can at least not spend money faster. You’ll find a lot of knowledge marketers who can’t sit tight with patience while their content marketing waits to blossom. They let loose their frustrations by becoming “tool buying junkies”.
On the other hand, financially-focused bloggers usually decide upfront on how far they will go on spending as they wait for results – and they revise plans maybe once a quarter. Then, come what may, they stick with the financial plans without using “frustration-spending” as a way to let out steam.
Very often “frustration-spending” is cleverly couched as “experimenting with new technologies”. The itch to get something moving in the business is camouflaged as “making room for new technologies”. If you find yourself wanting to spend on new technology, first ask yourself bluntly “Why have I got this itch? What’s behind it? Am I really exploring technology or am I just driven to change something because the needle is not moving in my business?”
If your truthful answer is that you are really checking out the new technology, then set yourself a small but reasonable budget, and stay within it, no matter what. Don’t get carried away.
Every vendor of new technologies always offers a free trial. So use those opportunities to reduce costs of trial. Also don’t spend too much time on the new technology, because it’s not a plaything that should distract you from the main tasks of your business. Time spent is also money.
3. Help Your Customers Through Your Choice To Change Your Technology
Most marketers, when they change their technology to adopt new ones, forget that there are more stakeholders in the event than just themselves. They forget that the burden of change they impose on themselves will also fall on their customers and affiliates, who may or may not be ready for such change. When customers are not readied to anticipate changes of technology at your end, there’s a good chance it may make them balk for a while. What works for or against you is the trust customers and affiliates have in you to help them through the decisions you have made.
Here are three ways to make life easy and smooth for customers, while also encouraging their feedback on your technology changes …
a. Create Enough Pre-Buzz To Ready Customers For Change, And Champion The Benefits Not The Technology Itself
By far, one of the best vendors I have come across who orchestrates technology changes beautifully, while handholding the customers and affiliates, is WP Engine. This is the company with whom my site is hosted. Even at normal times, their 24x7x365 support is beyond wonderful. But they are at their best when they have to upgrade technology.
As you know, when you run a server and hosting company, there are lots of times during a year when new technologies have to be incorporated into your system, because it’s a crowded and cost-sensitive market. Some changes don’t require any extra knowledge about usage changes by the customers and affiliates. But many changes do. This is mostly because the technology involves a lot of jargon. The change itself may be simple enough, but the jargon often makes customers and affiliates say “What? Huh!”
Here is an example of how to keep customers and affiliates in the loop when you are changing technologies. In recent months, WP Engine undertook a small but far-reaching change to their billing systems by introducing multi-currency payment options. You would think this is a simple enough thing to do, but they took no chances with their customers.
Below is the smart pre-launch email that was sent to prepare all customers for the change. More importantly, they explained the impact of the change on us customers.
This was a very reassuring letter because it simplified the jargon, and it arrived in my mailbox a whole month before the technology change was made, which gave many of us, customers, a chance to ask questions if we had any.
One thing you must notice is that WP Engine have championed the benefits of the change rather than the technology change itself. They have made the technology change a tool towards the better service of customers. That is the way your priorities should be.
In addition, they also sent an email to all affiliates informing them of the implications to their earnings as a result of the technology change. See the email below.
b. For A While Give Customers Both The Old And New Versions, While Offering Hands-On Experience And Training
Here’s another gem of an idea from WP Engine that’s worth copying, when you too are going in for a technology change. In this case, WP Engine was upgrading to PHP 7.4. Although, again, this looks like a small change, it can become a problem to many customers who have other plugins in their WordPress sites incompatible with the new PHP version. For a while, till all the other plugins catch up to PHP 7.4 your website may start looking wonky.
WP Engine figured, correctly, that customers may like to tweak their site designs during the transition period so that the look and feel doesn’t look too messed up. Customers also needed to feel that the old PHP version would still be available until they felt totally comfortable with the new PHP version. So WP Engine had to keep both the old and new versions available for a bit of time.
Therefore, much before implementing the new PHP version. they allowed a special feature to their customers as shown below.
The allowed customers to stay at their current PHP version level, but click a button and preview their sites in the new PHP 7.4 version without actually changing to PHP 7.4. The customers’ websites would simulate the change, and give an idea of what may look different if the PHP version change was implemented. Customers thus got a chance to familiarize themselves with the implications of change.
The important thing is that no amount of explanation can match a hands-on feel of how the after-change situation will look. So WP Engine allowed customers to “play” with the changed scenario in a practical way, to feel less daunted. In case they had queries, or wanted to make tweaks to their sites, they were given ongoing advice, support and even training.
WP Engine then set a final date for the change, but if customers felt ready well before that, they could schedule for the change to PHP 7.4 any time before the final date.
c. Incentivize Feedback On The New Technology, And Build An FAQ Database From Customer Queries
It’s easy to think that if you tell customers about new technology that you propose to implement, they too will be as excited as you. But more often than not, change makes customers feel a bit thrown. People dislike disruptions to their daily lives. They may not have budgeted time for re-learning something they thought they already had in place.
Also, if you never ask customers for feedback after the new technology implementation, you will never know the level of irritation caused by the disruption you caused in their lives. So, in general, it is good practice to ask for feedback – because it gives disgruntled people a chance to air their upset feelings, and for you to soothe them with your answers.
I’d like to take another of WP Engine’s ideas to illustrate this point. When they changed PHP versions, they had a feedback webinar to let people air their grievances, and to understand the implications better. After the webinar, they picked the topic of most irritation to customers, and they built all the queries around this irritation into their FAQ database related to the technology change.
They also created separate blog posts to specifically address these most asked queries they got during the webinar. See the illustration of this technique below.
It is not always possible for businesses and marketers to guess at all the questions people may have about a technology change. Different people have different levels of understanding of technological issues. The most simplistic (even dumb) questions are the ones we marketers often take for granted, thinking that our customers will already know about these things. It may surprise us that they are asking such elementary questions which demand such elementary answers.
The moral of the story? Never second-guess the customer’s knowledge and comfort level with technology. Dumb everything down and anticipate the most basic of doubts from them. Give them a platform to air these questions, without feeling small. And highlight the answers by adding them to your ever-growing FAQ database. Finally, answer the most asked queries in a separate blog post or detailed email that uses jargon-free language for absolute non-techies. Do all this and you can’t go wrong.
In Summary …
- Technology evolution can enable you to improve both your business process and your knowledge products.
- Before everything else, get your mindset ready for adopting technology changes.
- As the next step, get your business ready for adopting technology changes.
- Finally, help your customers through your choice to change your technology, without putting them off.
- Look at some good examples of tech companies as role models. They have to change technology frequently while carrying customers along.
- Never second-guess your customers’ knowledge and comfort levels with technology. Dumb everything down for the non-techies among them.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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