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by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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By Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny

Technology is a way of life; it is intertwined in all that we do and will only grow in its significance. Already, people are shifting more of their daily activities to digital and social media, mobile and other technology channels to communicate, buy online, be entertained and stay abreast of what’s happening in the world. 

While large organisations have responded quickly to this trend, smaller businesses have been slower to adopt digital solutions, perceiving them to be too costly and complex to implement. 

Many products out there are built for larger, tech-savvy organisations. The key to success is in finding the right provider whose products address your specific needs, who listens and can offer true sustainable benefit to your business, partnering with you now and into the future. The reality is that digital technology can be affordable and scalable, and embracing it can deliver real competitive advantages for a small firm.

First impressions count

Being small gives a business agility; it can pivot and make rapid decisions in a way that its larger competitors can’t. But there are benefits to being big. People tend to trust companies that have been around for some time and have grown to a certain size. Smart use of technology can help small firms appear bigger than they are and convey that sense of scale and stability that engenders customer trust while retaining all of their responsive capabilities.

Because most people nowadays research online before they buy, a high-quality website with professional images, engaging content, easy navigation and mobile optimization is the key to establishing an online presence that’s as authentic and compelling to customers as any large competitor. Set up separate addresses for different departments, such as sales, customer services, media, etc. Even if the same person responds to them all, it creates the sense of a larger and well-established organization.

Teamwork, task and time management

One of the biggest challenges for a small business is keeping the team working productively together. A new generation of productivity and project management tools can keep everyone working at full speed and productivity levels high. Trello is a highly customizable digital to-do list that helps teams collaborate on a wide range of tasks and projects. Asana allows small firms to create private task management and team management tasks and effectively streamline project management. 

Excessive multitasking can reduce productivity, so the Hello Focus app can prioritize and organize tasks to ensure that the most pressing issues are dealt with first. Small business owners are often time-poor and may find the Toggl app useful for tracking the time it takes to complete various tasks and for monitoring how much time is spent on different projects during the week.

Instant messaging apps like Slack that keep conversations flowing between team members, and videoconferencing platforms such as Vimeo, Microsoft Teams and Zoom that facilitate virtual meetings have been around for quite some time. However, with various subscription levels, including free options, these tools can move communications to a different level within even the smallest business.

Enhance customer experience

Customer experience (CX) has become the real key to attracting and retaining customers, and in the current climate, it is proving vital to business survival. Customers are increasingly demanding a rapid response from businesses. Digital tools such as AI chatbots and software that simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats or both are key to delivering this. Along with a more personalized CX, this can result in greater brand trust, stronger customer relations and, ultimately, more sales.

Analyse and review

Digital tools and technology have an important role to play in tracking progress for small businesses. For example, the latest communication software can analyse where customer calls are coming from and enable the business to respond quickly to changing trends. 

Social media monitoring also tracks brand exposure and can be a useful tool for testing messaging and measuring ROI. For example, Google Alerts can monitor the entire web for mentions of a company name, competitors’ names, or industry-related topics. 

Reputation management is vital in the digital age, and for small firms, it’s not difficult to do. Reputology is an app that allows users to monitor major review sites such as Yelp, Google and Facebook reviews, while ReviewTrackers allows the tracking of over 50 review websites in one place.

Save time and gain expertise

As small businesses grow, they invariably need additional skills on board; however, the costs of hiring staff, salary, benefits, office space, equipment, etc. can be prohibitive for their limited budgets. Digital technology enables small businesses to reduce these costs without compromising on the calibre of the skills they need by creating a virtual team of online freelancers. Many are specialists in areas such as design, marketing, and IT etc., and their services are generally available on a pay-as-you-go or project basis.

In terms of productivity and performance, digital tools like Trello, Zoom and Google Calendar are all useful for monitoring, engaging and guiding a remote freelance team.

Embracing all-things digital is critical to all business success, both now and in the future. Yes, it will require some investment on your part in terms of time and a little money but there will be immediate returns. If you can harness remote teams and expertise, streamline processes and improve the customer experience whilst also improving productivity then your SME has a head start on the path to greater success and competitive advantage in the future.