Tim Pat Dufficy discusses how small businesses can rebuild and re-evaluate following a long period of economic uncertainty.
Driving business growth is the key to survival for SMEs, especially considering the harsh economic climate that UK businesses have been subjected to for the best part of half a decade. However, there are various steps that business owners should be taking so they are prepared to hit the ground running as soon as the economic storm subsides.
Much of the preparation for SMEs simply involves getting the basics right, but as O2 Business reported earlier this year, UK SMEs are missing out on billions of pounds of sales opportunities every year due to a lack of investment in obtaining the relevant digital technology.
With news that the Eurozone has finally come out of recession, having seen a 0.3 per cent GDP in the second quarter of 2013, now is the time that business owners need to act to really exploit the situation.
Getting the basics right
After any economic disaster, the most important initial step is to rebuild and re-evaluate. This is the same for UK businesses coming out of the recession. As the economy starts to pick up, UK business owners will need to rethink their sales and marketing approaches, especially if they rely on trade abroad. A business operating in a recession requires a different strategy than a business operating in an economy experiencing growth.
There are certain aspects of a businesses’ operation that must, however, remain constant. It’s important that basics such as quality customer service provision are not forgotten, as this gives businesses the foundation on which to grow in line with a prospering economy.
It may seem like a given, but the businesses that fail at the ‘bread and butter’ elements will find themselves missing out and playing catch up when the economic situation starts to improve and collective UK businesses start to grow again.
Thinking ahead is important in any business environment, but it’s particularly significant when your business has been struggling to stay competitive in an economic downturn and things to start to pick up. Business owners should ensure that there are procedures in place for after the economic storm.
Embracing the digital revolution
Business owners are under constant pressure from investors and indeed from their customers to start engaging on a digital level. The report from O2 Business also delivered the potentially worrying statistic for SMEs that a quarter of consumers said they would not do business with a company that didn’t have a website.
Having a company website is one thing, but it’s how your business uses the website to convert interested visitors into customers that are going to make a purchase that will determine the success of your business in this new, digital age.
Social media engagement is how you’ll really attract interest from customers. It can be a pretty daunting project for SMEs, but the actual process is something that businesses have been used to doing for centuries.
It’s all about engagement. A hundred years ago, businesses would have communicated with their customers using traditional methods, such as pamphlets and carefully placed local newspaper advertisements. The power of communication is something that hasn’t changed; it’s just the platform on which businesses reach out to their customers has.
Getting consumers to talk about your brand or product is the golden ticket when it comes to driving potential sales. The way businesses go about this may have changed, but the desired outcome certainly has not. Consumers are increasingly aware of pushy marketing and advertising campaigns. The more hands-off approach to let customers converse with your business freely, via social media channels, is something that should be strongly encouraged.
With the European recession seeming to subside, the most important task for businesses is preparation. It is vital for business owners to make sure the basics have all been checked off before embarking on the more forward-thinking strategies to drive growth.
It’s really a tale of two strategies though. On the one hand, businesses should be going back to basics but on the other they should be using the end of the economic downturn as an excuse to start embracing digital marketing tactics, such as social media.
It’s also important that businesses aren’t afraid about using social media to promote their business. When used correctly, it can result in considerable sales growth and as the O2 Business report identified; investing in the relevant digital technology can be that much-sought after answer to the ‘million dollar’ question of how to drive business growth.