As online editor for the CropLife Media Group (CLMG’s) and long-time employee at its parent company, Meister Media Worldwide (MMW), I’ve had a front-row seat to the evolution of our brands. I’ve witnessed CropLife and CropLife IRON transform from magazine-only products into the successful multi-media properties they are today. While printed magazines remain a staple at MMW, they are now neatly integrated with live events, award programs, e-newsletters, Web sites, and more.
The “more” part is often digital in nature. It’s also the area I spend countless hours immersed in such things as social media, video, Webinars, and other technology-driven tools. These digital components are now part of our DNA at CLMG. For example, PrecisionAg, sister publication to CropLife and CropLife IRON, offers its audience an online community at the PrecisionAg Network. Our Web sites are loaded with video content. Webinars are becoming routine. And, of course, there’s “more.”
But “more” hasn’t come without its share of “aha” moments. The lessons learned are plentiful. In fact, you may be able to use some of them in making your own ag retail business more digital-centric. Thus, I present to you eight digital do’s and don’ts to consider for 2010 (in no particular order):
- DON’T procrastinate developing your Web site. How would you like your customers to think of your business? Robust perhaps? Secure, with a clear mission? Easy to contact and to deal with? Well, shouldn’t your Web site reflect these qualities? No longer is procrastination an option when it comes to Web development. Plus, the cost to develop a Web site has never been lower than it is today. You no longer need a Webmaster or IT person to have a Web site. The software available today makes running a Web site easy and nontechnical, which leads us to our next item.
- DO give ownership of your Web site. Anytime a business spends money, no matter the cost, someone should be accountable for the return on investment. A Web site is no different. Speaking from experience, designating someone in your operation to be responsible for your Web site is an absolute must. This is particularly important when your site features e-customer tools and the mounds of customer data tied to them.
- DON’T overlook your Web site as an important customer service tool. Your customers are flocking to the Web to save money. That means sales opportunities for your business. Are you taking advantage of them? Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely used strategy for managing and nurturing a company’s interactions with its customers. It often involves using Web-based technology to organize and automate business processes — principally sales-related activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. Consider investing in a CRM tool for your business.
- DO subscribe to an e-newsletter(s). In the fast-paced world of e-everything, you demand information that is convenient, timely, and easy to understand. E-newsletters can deliver vital business and technology news right to your desktop via the Web. They offer an opportunity to stay up-to-date with the latest industry news, trends, and insights. Subscribe to CropLife e-News today (shameless plug No. 1).
- DON’T dismiss the value of social media. Social networks may have been prospering long before the Web, but only in the last few years have they crossed into the mainstream. So why use social networking? To tell stories. To make sense of the information we share. To put it in context. THAT is the value of social networking. So many people dismiss the need to network in this way, yet we see how critical it really is. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have presented several new ways to promote your business … especially locally. These opportunities can drive new traffic to your Web site. Are you ready? Consider joining our online community for precision agriculture at the PrecisionAg Network and/or become a fan of CropLife on Facebook (shameless plug Nos. 2 and 3).
- DO attend a Webinar. There are a number of benefits to attending a Webinar. You don’t need to leave your office or home (I’m actually attending one as I write this column). The entire Webinar is conducted from the convenience of your desk or meeting room. Fancy technology is not required. All you need is a computer with a high-speed Internet connection and speakers. You don’t have to waste time traveling to and from a specific location. You will gain insights and information from professionals knowledgeable in their fields. Consider attending CropLife’s State of the Industry Webinar at www.croplife.com/soiwebinar (shameless plug No. 4).
- DO use video as an educational tool. One of the reasons YouTube is so incredibly popular is because creating videos is faster and easier than ever. Why not use video as part of your dealership safety and security training program? You can post these training videos on your Web site, or company Intranet, and make them available on-demand. At CropLife, video has allowed us to reach our audience in a whole new way.
- DON’T be overwhelmed by technology. The Internet is allowing us to do things we’ve never been able to do. Many routine tasks can now be now automated through Web technology. It’s truly amazing. The downsides are that it’s addictive and you can become tied to it in ways that are exhausting. The wireless age has opened the floodgates of momentary distractions. The barrage of e-mail, phone calls, text messages and new info from Web sites provides a steady flow of interruptions we can tap — or that can tap us — at any given second. Try to not get caught up in it 24/7.