The digital age has opened up a wave of potential, and small businesses are in the prime position to capitalise. We’re nimble, we have the ability to pivot and change quickly, and we’re not hampered by bureaucracy – we just need to seize the opportunity.
Running a small to medium business in the digital age isn’t easy. The market is changing at an extraordinary speed, customers are increasingly harder to please and there’s an abundance of digital tools available. It’s easy to understand why many find it overwhelming to shift direction and set-up their businesses for future success.
At Connexion Media, we’re fortunate to have a slightly different view on the digital age, in that our business is founded on technology. We’re an Internet of Things (IoT) company that provides smart car technologies to the automotive industry – so technology is at the heart of what we do.
It has given us the mindset that technology can be truly transformative, and reiterates why we’ve invested in digital tools to improve our business behind-the-scenes, particularly in the areas of sales and marketing.
In the recent Deloitte Access Economics report, Small Business Imperatives for the Digital Age, changing customer expectations is listed as a key perceived threat for small businesses in Australia and New Zealand. This doesn’t surprise me. It’s true that customers today expect a superior experience that’s connected, intelligent and personalised.
It’s positive that businesses are aware of this emerging customer trend, but are they taking the necessary steps to respond? Perhaps not, when you consider 78% of small businesses aren’t personalising their marketing content, and a staggering 70% are still using basic methods of recording and analysing customer interactions.
Strategies and processes need to be altered to remain relevant in the modern marketplace – and swiftly because small businesses are more exposed to the effects of customer attrition, given that we rely on a smaller pool of customers than our enterprise friends. Customers are the lifeblood of a small business – it’s imperative that we’re listening to them and responding to their needs.
The great news is that small businesses have unprecedented access to cost-effective digital tools that can help us approach the market and deliver the solutions and services our customers want. This is because cloud technology has really levelled the playing field – it’s no longer those with the biggest budgets that have exclusive access to the advantages of technology. Digital enables organisations to elevate their capabilities to compete with larger resourced competitors.
However, now that access is easily available, a decision not to invest in digital tools might leave a business behind. When your company is small, you might be able to get away with using manual processes and spreadsheets, but there comes a point when such practices limit your ability to grow, meet customer needs and operate in an efficient manner.
It always amazes me how many small businesses don’t actually have a clear picture of the day-to-day. One of the biggest advantages of technology is that it creates transparency across your business. No longer are customer details hidden in spreadsheets or stored in someone’s memory, where they get lost forever if a server dies or an employee leaves the business.
Technology also provides a new level of business insight. By using analytics tools, you can uncover opportunities and make better decisions. For us, technology has created a great baseline for future investment and makes ROI much easier to measure.
Generating reports is another area where we’re enjoying significant efficiencies. Eighteen months ago, we had a dedicated team creating a number of different reports each month. Now, these reports are created automatically using digital tools, and shared with partner customers to collaborate and grow sales.
If you’re a small business that wants to make a digital leap but not sure where to begin, my advice is to start with a vision of where you want to go, then start small with a focus on digitising existing value streams. You don’t need to completely digitise the business overnight.
At Connexion Media, we started by using a pipeline management tool to streamline our sales processes. Then, we moved onto the marketing and support functions, using technology to engage existing and potential customers quicker and more effectively. Digitising has also aided work life balance via on-the-go user engagement.
I’d also advise that you start thinking about data management. New technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT, are poised to push business forward in a big way. But, a business’ ability to leverage these technologies will entirely depend on the quality of its data. While AI might seem like a quantum digital leap, good data management practices will go a long way in setting your business up for the future.
Investing in the right digital tools offers small businesses substantial benefit. Find out more by downloading Deloitte’s Small Business Imperatives for the Digital Age report.