How Should SMEs Use Technology to Grow?

June 2016


Technology has revolutionised business and is a fundamental component to success. It has transformed the way we work, interact, learn and develop. So how can businesses harness the power of tech to stay ahead?

Andrew Millard, senior director of international marketing at Citrix says, 'Technology is clearly playing an important role in SMEs overcoming some of the traditional barriers to growth and digital competency is becoming the new currency of growth. We hear on a daily basis how our customers are using technology to reinvent not only the way they work but the markets that they operate in.'

So, here are a few tips to stay ahead.

 

1. Embrace new solutions

solutionsImage Credit: Startup Stock Photos 

A ‘Business Matters’ magazine article claimed that it is now, “more important than ever for businesses to embrace emerging and disruptive technologies before it is too late – ignoring them now will leave businesses falling behind and questioning what might have been, as a potential competitive advantage slips through their fingers”.

So how are business owners making the most of technology?

A recent study by the .uk domain, run by Nominet has identified that “tech-savvy tradesmen and women are reaping the rewards of going online, as the web replaces word-of-mouth…tradespeople who have set up their own website pick up an additional 21 jobs a year, on average worth £16,590. More than a third (39%) are winning jobs outside their main patch and 36% are pulling in jobs from clients with heavyweight budgets”.

But what does all this mean? Analyst firm ‘IDC’ carried out a global study on behalf of IT company ‘SAP’ and found that there is a huge correlation between digital technology and faster growth. Here’s what they discovered:

  • Between 53% and 60% said new technology solutions have enabled them to begin/ revise their workflow and processes to streamline operations and improve productivity
  • 39% believe that active participation in the digital economy will be essential to their company’s survival in the next 3-5 years
  • 1/3 of respondents said they were applying technology to connect people, devices and businesses

This means that digital transformation has a big impact on the running of a business and enables them to run simpler operations and ultimately, grow quicker.  

And it’s not just about in-house technology solutions – look for suppliers who underpin their products and services with up-to-date technology. It will help your overall business efficiency and provide you valuable insights to help grow your business.

 

2. Be accessible

The evolution of online technologies has enabled employees, employers and companies to work in a more streamlined, accessible and trackable way. People are no longer restricted to the office; they can now work from anywhere if they have portable access to the company’s system or Cloud technology where systems and files can be reached.

For a business owner, work hours do not consist of the ‘norm’ of 9-5; you need to be switched on at a moment’s notice to deal with any issues and actually work on your business to grow it.  This is now less of an issue when you consider you can attend meetings via video conference apps such as Skype and you don’t need to depend on a desktop computer! Tablet and smartphone developments now mean there’s technology for ‘on the go’.  As long as the business is equipped to handle remote access, there’s no excuse for not being able to log on.

 

3. Work smarter

tabletImage Credit: Olu Eletu

Technology is an enabler which aids more flexible, more productive working.

Remote access has fuelled the working from home trend; you may not even need an office for your business anymore which would lower costs as you won’t be paying rent, bills or maintenance on a building you don’t even need.

An article on SME Insider, claimed: “UK micro and small business owners are huge multi-taskers – managing all of the company’s tasks from completing the work, generating new sales and managing accounts and pay roll… now, they need to think about how they can save time by embracing technology further so they can focus on the tasks that add the most value to their bottom line. “By embracing additional tools, they will be able to reduce time spent on unproductive admin tasks and focus on the activities that really drive business growth, such as producing excellent work or networking for new leads.”

Technology has created new ways to deal with business tasks, such as:

Online/mobile banking

  • Handling financial issues is now far more practical rather than taking time out of your working day to pop down to the bank; you can be more productive with your time!

Smartphones

  • Simply being able to use mobile technology whilst out on location has transformed the working practices of a variety of sectors ranging from engineering to retail.

Digital advertising

  • Target your customer on their favourite browsing site or most relevant business resource. Follow the journey of communication and track which advert/ site worked best for you and use this as a basis for your next campaign.
  • Those who browse your website and who visit repeatedly, are displaying a high degree of interest in your business. They look like they want to buy from you but have not yet completely made up their minds. “This is why retargeting ads, which remind shoppers to return to your site, are the fastest-growing form of online advertising”. Remind your customer of your brand and increase the likelihood of purchase.

Social media platforms

  • Hit your audience in their social frame of mind and influence them with your brand and message.
  • Increase your website traffic, rate of conversion and brand recognition.

Tracked delivery

  • Provide your customer with an easy, transparent and tracked delivery of their item. Make the consumer easy by enabling them to know where their delivery is, when it is likely to be delivered and if there’s an issue.

 

4. Communication

facetime

Image Credit: Thomas van de Weerd 

Communication shouldn’t be a hassle; whether it’s with employees, colleagues or customers.

We can now speak to anyone anywhere in the world without costly telephone charges. Platforms such as Skype enable global video conferencing; perfect for the meeting in China about your imports or the team catch-up.

Probably the most crucial aspect of communication is that with a customer. They need to be able to access a suite of products or services and know who they can contact for help or how to place an order. A functioning website with up-to-date content is a crucial aspect of the communication mix for the customer to both research the company and the product. However, the website must operate smoothly and have a support structure in place; there’s no doubt that an incorrect or stagnant website will not give off the most professional and trustworthy image of a product you’re trying to sell.

 

So what's next?

drone

Image Credit: Shane Perry

In today’s omnichannel environment technology adoption is now a crucial factor in the quest to grow a business. We can’t ignore this so we may as well embrace it for our own benefit and if you don’t, you can be sure your more agile competitors will.

If you’re at a loss of where to start or where to go next, there are many resources to help you grow and expand the technologies within your business. One such resource is ‘Do it Digital’, a resource for SMEs on how to use digital technologies to achieve more in business. They claim that "greater digital engagement strengthens small businesses".

So what’s next? Will robots be serving us in restaurants? Drones delivering our parcels? Who knows? But one thing’s for sure, we must keep on top of technological advances and adapt business along the way.  Maintaining a competitive edge will allow you to adapt easier and quicker than if you ignore these trends.

 

At Whistl we’re always striving to deliver our customers with the most efficient and market leading services. Find out how we can help you on our Services page.

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