SMEs need to get on the digital train, says du’s Vice-President of Marketing, Vikram Chadha. He tells you the five things you must do now to thrive in the digital age.

We live in interesting times. The frenetic pace of change, fueled by mobile internet, is transforming businesses five times faster than the internet revolution 15 years ago. The world is becoming digital, and this new wave is all about disruptions to the traditional business models by the digital medium.

Digital transformations are being accelerated by three critical factors:

  • Technology, which is enabling digital services and applications
  • Mobility becoming a way of life – and the mobile screen the most important screen of consumers
  • Personalization: the ubiquity of digital, in terms of medium and location, is providing the customer the service just as he or she wants it.

Think digital

If you want to be a next-generation SME, you need to understand digital and embrace it. It is a channel that cannot be ignored and should be part of your core strategy.

In most economies SMEs contribute about 40 – 60 percent of GDP and provide 80 – 95 percent of national employment; therefore for any country economy to thrive, the adoption of digital channels in SMEs is key for growth.

One of the key reasons for the gargantuan US economy is how the entrepreneurs there have been able to create billion-dollar companies by using digital and disrupting the traditional way of doing business.

Word of mouth

Today, the most powerful medium is word of mouth. SMEs previously lacked the means to spread their opinions beyond a few companies. In today’s digital era, word of mouth is very different.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and blogs enable you to spread news SME fast and with a multiplier effect, leading to higher awareness… and culminating in higher sales.

Conversely, one negative review can have an adverse effect too so it is important in this digital age to be more nimble and agile.

It is becoming more and more important for the SMEs of today to incorporate social media channels, email and content marketing as part of their strategy to build awareness, increase sales and provide superior customer experience.

Experience and engagement

The digital era is throwing SMEs a plethora of opportunities. SMEs, through the digital medium, can enable customers to experience their services – like giving the first few levels of a mobile game for free, as marketing for a start-up game developer, rather than just giving messaging about the benefits of that game.

The mindset and behavior of customers is undergoing a paradigm shift. I clearly see that traditional billboard advertising will change. Context – time and location – will come into play.

The new media companies of tomorrow will be able to serve time-dependent ads across multiple locations and through digital services enabled by sophisticated software.

In this fast-changing world, engagement with the customers at the right time will be key. Digital is about talking with the right people at just the right time.

Search

In the analog age, searching for a company that could serve your needs was difficult and tedious. In today’s age, search engines put the entire web a click away in 0.003 seconds – that’s pretty fast! However, your potential customer still needs to quickly find the information they were looking for on your site – an engine simply serves them links.

So don’t force customers to click repeatedly through your site to get to the information you’ve advertised. The digital age allows SMEs to focus on what happens after the click. Tools are now available for the SME to organize their information in a much better way.

Through search, SMEs can find a steady source of customers, at the precise moment when they are interested in any kind of service.

With search comes SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing), native business parameters that SMEs must be familiar with. And is your site mobile-responsive? If not, what does the experience look like when your would-be customer arrives from a search?

Data and real-time insights

Digital is full of metrics and ratios, and can provide the SME with a lot of real-time data and insights. This propels their business forward by allowing them to spend correctly. SME marketers must get their heads around digital.

With the development of technology and software applications, analysis of data and, particularly, real-time data has gained significance.

At the same time, the old adage that one percent of data holds 99 percent of the insight holds good. Analysis of customer search patterns on your website can reveal vital information that will enable you to drive traffic and increase sales substantially.

To give you an example of how customer insight from the offline world is adapted to the online world, most young men read newspapers from the back, because that’s where the sports news is. Today, portals open sports news first on the mobile screen.

A complete, real-time analytics dashboard is a serious competitive advantage to SME owners. The digital medium also provides the SME owners with a clear insight into ROI (return on their investment).

This is extremely powerful; they now know exactly how their money is being used and what benefits they are deriving. Decision-making becomes instantaneously smarter.

Your next digital steps as an SME

If you are an owner of a SME, an entrepreneur who is getting started, or you own any business – make digital a key part of your strategy. Do the following, now –

  1. Get a mobile responsive site with a powerful search tool.
  2. Employ professional SEO support so your company and product have higher rankings when you search through an engine.
  3. Make consistent investment in SEM a must, to drive traffic to the site, generate leads and increase sales. It provides the best ROI.
  4. Social media marketing through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is key to build engagement with the customers and build brand metrics. It is also a great tool to communicate and build awareness – and helps in sales closure as well.
  5. Getting a real-time analytics dashboard provides the owner of the SME a complete view of how his customers are connecting and interacting with all his digital assets, in one place – and the chance to quickly change things that are not doing well.

You need to be on this train so your business grows and thrives in the digital age. The future is bright for such companies – making digital core to your strategy means you will leapfrog over your competitors.

Vikram Chadha is Vice President of Marketing for du and has  16 years of experience in Asia, Africa, America and Middle East in the telecommunication sector.

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