How to Enhance Your Small Business in the Digital AgeWritten by Mindaugas on September 03, 2018
A small business in the digital age has its challenges. With breakthrough technological advancements and a data driven society, there is much to learn in order to stay ahead of the pack.
The 21st century thus far has posed many economic challenges that need to be overcome. A business that made no effort to adapt to recent developments is destined to be overrun by savvy innovators and those who embraced novel ideas.
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Small Business in the Digital Age…
Will not only survive but also thrive if change is embraced. Stagnation is dangerous since your competitors are bound to welcome new development and evoke an unconventional tactic that propels them forward.
The industry in which you operate is a dynamic organism. Don’t be naive and expect progress to plateau – this is not going to happen. Your business needs to be ready to envelop the unconventional or if need be, to make haste and follow the bread crumbs set forth by industry leaders.
There may come a time when you will have to neglect the status quo and make some difficult decisions. Starting a business is an inherent risk in itself; you have to become more comfortable seeking calculated risks in order to succeed.
The market is not always the end-all and be-all “dictator” of your actions. Going down a road less traveled can open up new opportunities never before seen by you or your consumers.
Bureaucracy can invoke some strong feelings in many people – whether it’s related to the government or a business structure. While operating a small business, it may be in your best interest to let of the reigns a bit; give your team more autonomy and self determination.
Innovation and free-flow of ideas is often hampered by rigid organizational structures. Bureaucracy can often suffocate employees and their desire to produce exceedingly good results and implement fresh ideas.
Often times, the position where flexibility is key – tasked to deal with customers for example – is where employees encounter iron-clad grasp of bureaucracy. Rather than an implementing impromptu solutions, employees could be confined to rehearsed responses that generate less-than ideal results.
Small businesses – especially in their infancy – are in great position to tackle bureaucratic development long before it gets out of control. Non-conformity and flexibility should be ingrained within the business culture from the get-go.
Ability to Act Quickly and Efficiently
Having the ability to set things in motion quickly is often seen as a positive aspect in a business environment. Rather than running things up the ladder to see how it’s perceived by multiple organizational layers.
Harvard Business Review did a study in 2017, about the affects bureaucracy has on business operations. Survey-takers reported that on average, 28% of their time – 1 day a week – was spent on bureaucratic chores such as preparing reports, attending meetings. Furthermore, those time consuming tasks were described as a waste, and offered nothing of value.
The business environment is a perilous place and time may not always be on your side. To stay competitive, it’s in your best interest to be efficient and take heed of unencumbered team initiatives.
Free range cows produce best milk – free range employees can produce positively unexpected results.
As cliche as this may sound, but there really is no “I” in team. In the fast paced and ever-evolving business environment, you need a great team behind your back.
To enhance your small business in the digital age, you need to cherry-pick the best team members. Now this may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses tend to rely on quantity rather than quality when it comes to human capital acquisition.
23% of business fail because of a terrible team composition. Take your time when weeding out applicants and deciding on bringing them on board. Evaluate how they are perceived by your team and if they vibe with the organizational culture.
Smaller businesses employ a “meet the team” tactic during the interview process. This allows everyone within your organization to gauge the potential employee and implore them to disclose their opinions. Through this process, you can also get the potential new hire more accustomed to the people he or she will be working with.
Talent In the Digital Age
Necessary skills that keep your business competitive are constantly evolving. Some of the most sought after talent in today’s business environment didn’t have much demand a few decades ago.
With great developments happening on the web and entire industries migrating online, in-depth knowledge of technology is crucial. Having staff on board handling web-development, data analysis, innovation strategy and other similar tasks has become the norm for companies both big and small.
To bring your small business into the digital age, you too will have to embrace tech savvy staff to help you wade through the digital waters.
Outsourcing and Remote Teams
A small business in the digital age is endowed with additional labor sources that were once underutilized – outsourcing and remote teams.
Gone are the days when a business was run in an office with everyone involved under the same roof. Geographical location is no longer an issue while trying to hunt down the right team members. Remote work and outsourcing are very real solutions to fill a talent void.
Strong and Constant Communication
Unyielding communication within the organization is of utmost importance. Speaking up, asking for clarification, being able to freely express opinions, concise instructions, progress updates, feedback – all fall within the vital communication stream.
Promoting constant engagement and flow of information between employees comes with quite a few upsides –
- Ensures transparency within the company;
- Reduces conflict between employees and minimizes the risk of task overlap;
- A study conducted by Towers Watson discovered that companies who incorporate effective communication within are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers;
- Communication cultivates a collaborative environment which in turn builds a positive and productive atmosphere.
Tools to help spur effective communication and teamwork
Seeing as how we’re operating in the digital age, online tools that enhance communication and collaboration are plentiful. These tools become even more crucial if you have any remote workers on your roster.
Slack is a simple collaboration platform. Here you can chat with your colleagues, share files, evaluate task progress, and even conduct video chats.
Trello is less about live communication and more about keeping tabs on long-term projects and sharing progress updates with your colleagues.
I am sure most of you are familiar with this tool. Skype is a simple way to contact your colleagues through video chat, share files. You can even make direct calls to a persons phone.
Cultivate and Online Presence
I will go out on a limb say that whenever you’re trying to find out more about a business, you probably search for information online. That’s true with an overwhelming majority of consumers in our society that is oozing with information.
For those of you who may hesitate to establish an online presence, I will share some eye-opening statistics that prove the immense impact internet has on consumer outreach –
- 88% of consumers conduct research online about a product or a service before committing their money;
- 60% of consumers use a search engine to find a product they want;
- 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust their friends recommendations;
- Almost 3.2 billion people use social media – that’s over 42% global penetration. Social media platforms have an immense audience for you to reach out to.
It’s probably becoming a bit more clear as to why promoting your business on the web is of vital importance. Online, information spreads like wildfire and provides users with unparalleled accessibility.
We are here to discuss how your small business will overcome the hurdles brought on in the digital age – acknowledging and embracing the internet is essential.
This is the perfect segway to our next step.
Data Driven Decision Making
Data has become a valuable asset that can enhance any business. Since a lot of consumer interaction and marketing is now taking place on the web, ample opportunities arise for consumer data collection.
Though it may sound a bit sinister – gathering data of unsuspecting online traffic – businesses, whether big or small, are bolstered by data and information. The digital age is also sometimes referred to as “the information age” and it’s been endowed with that name for a reason.
Many of the digital outlets that you choose for your business promotion offer analytic tools. These analytic tools passively gather data of users that view your content or engage with it. Amassing data on the web will lead to more refined marketing and product development.
Social media platforms offer targeted advertisements that are fortified through the data that’s been gathered from user profiles on those platforms.
Achieving quality results is the aim of any business – what results you want to achieve is up to you. Not all data is created equally, and the type of data you use to base your decisions on may lead to drastically different outcomes.
Evaluate what metrics are relevant to you and your business goals.
Data Gathering Tools
Decisions that are influenced by data are typically more sound with a higher payoff potential. Gathering the necessary data is done with a help of analytic tools.
Virtually all of social media platforms give you access to analytic tools developed in house. The easily accessible metrics help develop and improve your audience engagement tactics and content development.
Large data pools can be difficult and time consuming to decipher effectively. Sisense is a business intelligence tool that simplifies the analytic data gathering process so it’s easy to digest for anyone regardless of technical ability.
The word “automation” can invoke some resentment in the labor market. This may be interpreted as human inadequacy in the current economic environment. We assume that humans are no longer a necessity and are subject to be replaced by machines and software by companies in pursuit of lower overhead and higher profits.
You are capable of implementing automation tools that work in conjunction with your still-very-much-relevant human capital. It will co-exist alongside your workers, enhancing their performance, making you a much more formidable entity in the digital world.
Getting automation involved in your operations is always a wise decision. Allowing software to take over some of the work makes life a whole lot easier and can reduce your operating costs.
There is a hefty amount of automation tools available for you to use. Narrowing down the choices to the few optimal tools can be more difficult than you’d expect, so I will include the industry leading automation software below.
Over 88% of businesses use social media marketing. That statistic alone speaks volumes about the potential of social media as a digital marketing asset.
To make social media marketing even more formidable, automation tool Buffer can be utilized. Buffer is a social media platform management and automation platform. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ can be managed and scheduled through Buffer’s dashboard.
Twitter marketing is alive and well, and by harnessing the power of automation, you can elevate your Twitter feed. EvergreenFeed is an automation tool designed specifically with Twitter in mind and it possess the power to breathe new life into your Twitter account.
Tweets can be created and categorized into buckets through the EvergreenFeed dashboard. The buckets that you create can be scheduled individually according to your specifications – though the content within each bucket is selected randomly by the software. I like this element of surprise.
Repeating the same action to get things done on multiple platforms is a time consuming endeavor. Entering data, saving documents, sending out emails are a necessity for any business, though you don’t have to be redundant with your actions.
Zapier is an automation tool that negates the need to perform the same action multiple times. It integrates with a lot of the popular online tools to make your life a whole lot simpler.
Move info across multiple platforms that are integrated with Zapier securely. Save yourself the valuable time that can be allocated to more pertinent business matters.
Invoicing is still required of many businesses though it doesn’t have to be a painstaking process. InvoiceBerry is an online invoicing platform that let’s you create and send invoices in mere seconds. Not to mention the invoices can be automated with the help of InvoiceBerry.
In the digital age, a small business needs to create synergy between team members, data, and software in order to enhance competency. Your business will not only survive the rigors of competition but will thrive if it manages to envelop all the principles we discussed here today.
I know that it can be difficult to accommodate change – especially in this dynamic era we find ourselves in, but you should greet it with open arms.