With a rise in emerging technologies, how can SMEs can take the necessary steps to expand using these new platforms?
Founder of Small Business Britain Michelle Ovens CBE joined in virtually for the first day of Elite Business on 11 March as the digital transformation keynote speaker, speaking about how businesses can take steps to equip themselves with new emerging technologies to meet the rising demand for change.
Michelle spoke about how digital transformation is an evolution rather than a short-term destination, and that the pandemic has changed the way businesses use technology. There’s very little that hasn’t been transformed in our lives and our businesses. And it keeps changing, and it’s going to keep changing. I don’t know if transformation is a single thing but perhaps an ongoing process. It’s not one project or one goal, it’s a sort of continuous evolution in how we think and what we do.
She added: Prior to the pandemic, largely, the UK was seen as a bit slow on the uptake when it came to small business digital skills. Now that is a vast generalisation, but compared to other countries and compared to our national levels of digital skills as individuals and consumers, we were behind… As individuals and as small businesses, as big businesses and the government ‘ change has come fast. We need skills to allow businesses to be able to continue through a lockdown and to access the tsunami of support on offer.
The pandemic could have well been a moment in history in our digital era, Michelle said, with an astonishing transformation in the way businesses have utilised technology to their greatest advantage in daily operations. She described digital transformation as a silver lining, and that the revolution has brought about a fantastic opportunity for growth in the most unlikely places. I firmly believe this is a moment in history where things are going to shift for good… I believe digital is the silver lining of the pandemic. The last year has brought us a lot of things, but one of the biggest positives is the revolution in digital skills. It allows us to do more as a business but also customer digital skills, supply chain digital skills, the rapid development of new technology to serve is opening up this massive opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Michelle advised businesses to take advantage of all the free tools out there before forking out money on technology, as there is a lot of material out there ‘ but make sure to use it to the fullest. I would always start with the free stuff, Michelle said. There is a huge amount of stuff. Training, technology, costs not one penny ‘ and largely businesses are not maximising those opportunities… Free digital skills training on every topic you can possibly imagine, you can dip in, you can do it at your own time is a great place to start. Then you’re going to look at everything you use and make sure that you’re really sucking the marrow out of the experience, out of the product before you start to spend on it. Things like upgrading to LinkedIn premium ‘ but make sure you’ve used every bit of the free stuff first.
When it comes to emerging technologies, Michelle urged business owners not to ‘put their eggs in one basket’ and to use different marketing tools in social media ‘ such as Instagram and TikTok – to maximise their growth. “The absolute gospel of COVID business is don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Gospel number two is don’t rely on one other person or business as you do not know when they will be hit either. One thing that we’ve seen in the last year is that no one is too big to fail. Sell in different ways, things like video content, video meetings, video delivery of service even. Market on every available platform and a boom like you would not believe on Instagram. This is not so technical and it’s gone absolutely wild for selling during the pandemic. You’ve got newer platforms such as TikTok… But for most businesses, the winning strategy is getting on to the well-known and well-used platforms and reaching customers as soon as possible to get cash through the door.