Some research is more reputable than others, but when you can tap into a network of more than 6,300 small businesses across the country — like the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses can — the data you get back is pretty conclusive.
The CFIB recently published “Crossing the Digital Divide,” an in-depth look at how small and medium-sized companies in Canada are using technology and the opportunities for them to realize its full potential. While the numbers speak for themselves, it may be worth offering a little more context about what the CFIB found. Here’s just a sample of what the research should be telling you:
Okay, we know what you’re thinking. Of course, companies don’t want to look like luddites and deny the impact that trends in technology have made. There’s a difference between paying lip service to technology’s promise, however, and actually pursuing it. In fact, some might look at that number and assume it’s the more established SMBs who have had time to grow and invest in the latest technology trends which have seen the biggest benefits.
In fact, the CFIB discovered that SMBs less than five years old were the most likely to tie digital to their overall performance. That’s probably because CRM, marketing automation and customer service tools are one of the best and easiest ways for new companies to look and behave bigger or more experienced than they actually are. The next stats help explain why.
Given how many people are carrying around smartphones today, it only makes sense that a third of Canadian SMBs would make sure they have ways to connect with customers and prospects through a mobile channel. The bigger question is, what will it take to convince the other two thirds?
The CFIB study’s authors suggested that some companies may be concerned about the complexity involved in using certain mobile technology trends. Most small and medium-sized businesses probably don’t have developers on their payroll today, for example, and aren’t sure how best to source that kind of talent.
The good news is, they don’t necessarily need to. There are tools available today, such as Force.com, that make mobile development not only simple, but closely tied to the business processes or objectives that lead to growth. Don’t just think about mobile apps as something customers use, but how you could run your entire operation from your smartphone.
While the use of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is fairly strong, there’s obviously a lot of room for social media to grow among SMBs in Canada. According to the CFIB, one of the biggest impediments for more companies to leverage social media is the time they believe it takes to update those services with the right content and volume of posts.
As with mobile apps, there may be a perception that you need to hire dedicated social media managers or teams to keep your presence active. When you tie social media to other parts of your business, however, you’ll quickly see that’s not the case.
Take marketing: just as you can use automation tools such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud to run the way you manage e-mail or other campaigns, the same tools can also be applied to help keep your social media channels sending out the right information at the right time.
It’s also important to realize that social media is not a “nice to have” for SMBs but an increasingly popular way for customers to ask questions or troubleshoot problems. The best customer service applications, such as Desk.com, integrate social media along with every other conceivable customer touchpoint, such as call centres or “contact us” forms on their web sites.
This category represented the very bottom of the list of tools included in the CFIB survey, and it may be low because “online client booking platforms” can be broadly defined. These systems were also more likely to be used by companies with 50 employees or more, versus those with only a handful of employees.
Perhaps SMBs believe that, particularly in the early days, finding and setting appointments with prospects has to be a manual, face-to-face process that can build trust. The fastest-growing firms know otherwise: Salesforce IQ CRM allows even the smallest companies to track who they’ve talked to, what has been discussed, where the best sales opportunities lie and how best to follow up. Using CRM when you’re an early-stage company is more likely to offer a competitive advantage and potentially leapfrog over rivals who don’t recognize the power of these tools.
The CFIB report concludes that more SMBs will adopt future technology trends if they are simple, cost-effective, and available in an “off the shelf” way that firms in Canada can easily understand. The reality is, those kinds of products and services are already here today. Now is the time to learn more and make the kind of strategic moves that will reposition what success in Canada as an SMB really looks like.
Learn more about the benefits of Salesforce’s CRM solutions—and how they can help your company succeed—with our eBook, “How a CRM Helps Your Business Grow.”