Digital Disruption: How Young Entrepreneurs Can Revitalize Old Industries

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Technology and youth are ready to revitalize industries that have been in need of change for decades, or longer. Get ready for a revolution.

Airbnb and the “sharing economy” may be a hot today, but many businesses fall into industry categories that have been around for decades or centuries.

For these “old” industries, many things don’t need to change. There are already a handful of successful companies who are content with their profits.

Maybe they struggle amongst each other for a percentage or two of market share, but there’s not much more change than that.

I believe it is these “old” industries, habitually content in their old ways, who are ripe for disruption. How?

It takes someone from outside the industry, someone with a different perspective and experience who can take an alternate approach, and often a profit along with it before anyone else even realizes.

Take Uber for example – they revolutionized their industry. Their founder wasn’t an old cab driver with years of experience, it was a pair of who thought they could bring it some youth.

The truth is, there are plenty of old industries out there trying to catch up whether it’s selling paper, mortgages, or in our case, insurance.

Related Article: Young Entrepreneurs: Bright Minds to Watch

How Technology Plays a Role

The most obvious way that someone can rejuvenate an industry is through technology. In most of these old industries, if technology is being used at all, it’s outdated. And modern technology matters to consumers. In fact, according to a study by Fox Business, 62 percent of consumers said that they are more likely to be repeat customers if modern technology is used. All too often you will see companies using tech that simply isn’t efficient by today’s standards.

Let’s pretend you sell home security systems. You have a list of 40 people in an Excel file from your sales manager. Name, phone number, and address, that’s it. For a company that is having success, it’s hard to argue against. But say a customer calls you and you’re prepared to pitch your brand new, state-of-the-art system. 20 seconds in, they stop you and say that’s out of their price range and hang up.

Your manager will say that you should have had a rebuttal prepared you should have known. But how? This isn’t a question that’s asked all too often in “old” industries. If something has worked for 100+ years, then it will keep working for 100 more they might say. That’s where technology can come into play.

Instead of your manager saying “You should have known”, an outsider might ask “How can we know next time”? Suddenly you’re asking yourself, “What if we knew more about these people before calling?” Better yet, “Can we set an appointment, automatically text them a confirmation, and have our sales person’s phone ring at the appointed time?” With technology, you can confidently answer these questions with, “Yes.”

Related Article: Early Entrepreneurs: Advantages of Starting a Venture Young

Strategic Ties

Some of the above ties to strategy, to marketing specifically. While email blasts and cold calls can still provide value, so can things like content marketing and social media. Although many are now starting to make the transition, these additional strategies that can vitally supplement a business are often overlooked in “old” industries.

It’s important to get people interested in your services before you talk to them. You should make sure you build awareness and trust before you ask anything of them. One way to do that is by giving your customers valuable, reliable content. You should talk about what you sell, publish data, be visible and transparent. It’s important to always make sure you’re findable online for the exact customer you want to come through your door. 

This is not to say that “old” strategies can’t provide results (traditional email marketing can still provide 3,800 percent ROI). Instead, it’s important to recognize that modern strategies can often be more efficient or, at the very least, supplemental to your current strategy.

Cultural Aspects

Culture is another big part of the approach and is often what often separates old industries from new ones. It’s vital that you bring energy and appeal to the workplace that can seem so outdated. On top of flexible schedules, modern expectations make it much more likely to encounter fun company outings, t-shirts, and ping-pong.

When disrupting an industry, it’s important to be able to say, “This is a place where we are doing things differently”. It will attract (and retain) the right candidates for your company. Further, it creates an environment that fuels the type of new ideas and problem solving that will ask questions like “How can we know next time?”

Related Article: Better Than Coffee: 14 Podcasts That Will Inspire Your Mornings

Ultimately, there are always going to be some industries perceived as “old”, waiting for an outsider to come change the way things are done. Technology, strategy, and culture will remain at the forefront when it comes to disrupting industries like these. The key is to understand and utilize these aspects in order to bring youth, efficiency, and energy to an old, outdated practice.

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