One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in business over the past few decades has been the rise of the small and medium enterprise in a space that used to be dominated by large corporations. In the US, over 99% of America’s 28.7 million firms are small businesses. In the UK, 52% of all private sector turnover in 2018 came from SMEs.
The reason so many more small businesses are able to carve out a niche for themselves – and thrive there – is almost entirely thanks to technology. Whether it’s a medium-sized consulting firm able to provide their services to businesses on the other side of the world through video conferencing, or a small carpentry business leveraging social media to promote their services locally, technology makes it all possible. Using technology in your SME is practically a given – but using it efficiently is how you stand out.
Have a vision for the future
Knowing what tech to implement when there are so many options now available can be tricky, but there is a logical thought process to follow when assessing whether your company will benefit from change or not.
First, identify where you want your company to be in five years’ time, and what the logical path to get there is. Only then set about finding the kind of tech that can help you get you there. Having vague goals and targets is a recipe for inefficiency.
Free up creativity by automating repetitive tasks
Perhaps the greatest advantage of all that the right technology has to offer is its ability to free up your team’s time to focus on the activities that deliver the most value. Tedious administrative tasks that drain both time and creative energy should be the first things you look at automating, so your employees can devote their skills and expertise to growing your business.
Try before you buy
Sometimes the only way to see whether a solution is truly going to work for your company is to give it a test run. Tech developers know this, which is why many offer demos and free trials before asking you to commit. If the particular solution you’ve been eyeing doesn’t offer one, remember that they almost certainly have competitors with very similar products who will. Try to time the start of your trial with a less busy period so you can give it the time and focus it deserves, as there will always be a learning curve before you can assess its true potential.
Consider outsourcing your IT
While tech may be great for your business, managing it can be time consuming and often confusing! Keep your focus on running your business, and outsource your IT requirements to a managed IT services provider who can monitor your technology remotely, offer expert advice and protect you against cyber threats while you do what you do best.
Back up new tech with training
Before you purchase any hardware, equipment or software, you should make very sure that the provider is going to offer comprehensive training included in the price, and for multiple employees. Not only will this ensure you get the best return on your investment, but it also presents a unique opportunity to cross-train and upskill junior employees. This way, should one of your key employees be unable to attend work for whatever reason, or simply get promoted to a more senior role within the company, there will be others who can keep things running.
Adapt, analyze and evolve
In today’s rapidly shifting business environment, being able to analyze trends, predict new customer demands and adapt your products and services quickly is vital for sustained growth. Being able to predict lulls in the market and order less inventory accordingly can help you cut costs during lean periods, while coming up with an innovative solution before your competitors are even aware there’s a gap in the market can help you take advantage of upturns. Cloud-based ERP solutions, for example, are a good way to spot and adapt to business trends.
Use tech to build customer relationships
From developing your own customer loyalty app, using CRM software to identify opportunities to cross-sell or upsell, to effectively managing your social media presence, tech can be invaluable in forging strong bonds with your client base. Tools like Google Analytics can help you get insights into your customers’ behavior, see which of your website pages and blog posts are performing best, track conversion rates and mobile performance, and much, much more. After all, the more in tune you are with your customers and the way they use tech, the better you’ll be able to serve them.