Why digital transformation is a must – not an option – for SMEs

Many Australian small businesses are missing out on the advantages of digital transformation because they have been “fine without them”, or they don’t have the time to look into it explains leading SME expert, Elise Balsillie.

SMEs should not consider adopting digital transformation as an option or a luxury, she says, but rather an essential business strategy for survival and growth. 

“Those businesses that do take the time to transform digitally, will have the advantage going forward.”

Balsillie is head of Thryv Australia, a fully integrated, end-to-end customer experience platform that helps small businesses reach more customers, stay organised, get paid faster and generate more user reviews.

“As we’ve seen recently, market trends can be incredibly volatile, and while your business may be fine now, it may not always be so. Adopting digital solutions will help businesses survive, grow and prosper in the long term.

“We saw many businesses fail to adapt to changing times during the pandemic, and really, this is what digital transformation is all about – ensuring your business can continue during uncertain times.

“Digital tools allow your business to become flexible in adapting to business climates, ultimately resulting in less downtime. Often, these same tools allow businesses to see changes in trends ahead of time thanks to the data they provide, meaning that digital transformation is not just about guaranteeing continuity, but also about guiding future business decisions.”

The importance of being online

An example of how digital transformation can help a business thrive is maintaining an online presence. But many businesses struggle, usually because they lack time or skills to implement it and they are uncertain where to get advice.

“Having an online presence is an integral part of any modern business and yet, is one that many business owners lack a lot of technical knowledge on,” she explains. “Luckily, there’s a lot of help available in the form of experts and software that can help bridge that gap and get your website and social media running optimally.

“Being knowledgeable in the ‘why’ of what your online presence is about is more important than the ‘how’ of it, and once you know why your business should be online then you’ll be able to seek appropriate advice.”

Similarly, digital software solutions can help resolve another important challenge for SMEs – managing compliance and debtor management.

“A lot of these tasks require oversight – especially in compliance – and take up a lot of time. Fortunately, these can all be automated to ensure effective reporting. For example, you can automate reminder messages to debtors to ensure you’re proactively seeking payment without minimising your time with other clients,” says Balsillie.

“You’d be surprised, but the majority of business processes can be automated, all the way from administration to marketing. For example, sending quotes and invoices, having an online booking system that connects directly to your calendar, having a marketing automation tool that suggests when and where to be posting or buying ads – all of these automation tools are there to make sure you’re not spending countless hours figuring them out for yourself.”

A key benefit of digital transformation is collecting data and being able to use it to make decisions across the business.

“For example, a business might see a growing trend in sales of a particular product or service, and adjust their offering accordingly,” explains Balsillie. “This means businesses can become proactive in their growth, rather than reactive, and are less vulnerable to changing market trends.”

Finding a way through the ‘noise’

Even when a business has recognised the benefits of digital transformation and committed to it, she says a potential pain point businesses face in implementing is there “is a lot of noise” in the market.

“Most small businesses understand the need to adopt digital solutions, but have trouble figuring out where to start. Oftentimes they’ll take the approach of adopting bite-sized technology so as to not be overwhelmed, but this leads to having a patchwork of solutions instead of an all-in-one.”

She says businesses should prioritise a system that can save them time, rather than add to their workload, one that can work seamlessly across multiple parts of the business, from social media marketing, and maintaining an online presence to automating some administrative interactions with customers and suppliers.

Balsillie allays any fears some businesses might have over automation compromising the personal connection that many SME owners – especially tradies and small retailers, for example – consider a key point of difference to competitors. That is not at risk at all, she says.

“On the contrary, it frees you up to have even more personalised conversations with your customers. If you’re spending all of your time running admin tasks, sending follow-up reminders and chasing payments, you’re spending less time giving customers a good service.

“A customer chooses to do business with you because of the experience they receive. This experience is underpinned by things like fast invoices and quotes, automated reminders and easy payment options. A customer will feel appreciated when it is effortless to do business with you – and automation allows this experience to happen.”

Article originally posted on: https://insidesmallbusiness.com.au/partnered-content/why-digital-transformation-is-a-must-not-an-option-for-smes

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