If you’re a small or medium-sized business owner I would like you to do something for me. I’d like you to please go to your bank and withdraw $150,000.00 in notes. I then want you to burn it. Yes, that’s right burn it, all of it. Then get back to what you were doing before I interrupted your day.
Actually, unless I sit on my hands, no, that’s not it. Next step, for those of you with thorough, active and sustainable digital and social media tools in your business, you can magic your money back because you’ve earned it.
SEE ALSO: Survival of the (digitally) fittest
According to the results of the Yellow SME Digital Readiness Survey conducted by Colmar Brunton and released in August, if you’re tapped into digital your business could be pulling in a revenue of $150K higher than your peers. And this is not being clever, it’s just smart business.
So, back to you business owners that are burning bricks of cash every day. You’re not alone. In fact you’re part of New Zealand’s $34 billion loss story; the 80% that have yet to embrace the digital evolution. In a report entitled The value of internet services to New Zealand businesses released by the Innovation Partnership in March this year, only 20% of Kiwi businesses have fully adopted digital resources. In a nutshell, the Internet has failed small businesses.
And by this we’re talking beyond social media to digital cloud-based services that optimise business efficiency and productivity. Like MyHR for small business human resources, Xero for accounting, Flossie Concierge for smartphone hair and beauty appointment requests, GeoOp for managing a mobile workforce, Workflow Max for tracking a jobs from quote to invoice, Unleashed for inventory management, Vend for ditching the till and taking customer transactions online, Smartpay for secure, Wi-Fi EFTPOS, and a whole heap more.
These Kiwi businesses are in the business of addressing your pain points and making your operation smarter, faster, better. One such person making waves in digital is entrepreneur Jenene Crossan, CEO of Flossie and idea queen behind Flossie Concierge. She turned her attention to the “new type of customer”. She looked at how the many thousands of New Zealand small businesses working in the billion-dollar hair and beauty industry could easily adopt new behaviour to get more customers.
“The consumer has changed,” she says. “They want products and services in the places they are, be it social media or smartphone apps. It’s the instant gratitude generations: ‘I want, who wants me’, and it represents a huge opportunity for businesses ready to engage on the customers’ terms. This model has proved successful Uber for taxis, and now for Flossie Concierge for hair and beauty.”
Why should you care?
Both the Yellow and Innovation Partnership assessments should make for some uncomfortable reading for 80% of you. And for banks, the government and the IRD. I’ve said it before, if only 20 % of businesses adopt digital, every person in New Zealand stands to lose. The flow-on effects will negatively impact New Zealand’s capability, productivity and bottom line. Our speck of a country way down the bottom of the map will miss this massive global opportunity, one that’s ours for the taking.
My message is not however a tale of woe, rather this is your opportunity to own; from today if you want it. There are examples in New Zealand and the world over on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube of small businesses making it big online. From jewellers showcasing wares on Instagram, plumbers and make-up artists giving YouTube tutorials, photographers sharing their talent on Twitter, and bike shops sharing tips on Facebook, there are people and businesses acing it online.
Socialites managing director Wendy Thompson has been working in digital marketing for 15 years and has owned her own business for 4. She paints an optimistic picture of Kiwi businesses using social media well, adding that it comes down to time, building social media into your daily business routine, and seeking the right knowledge and expertise to do it well.
“It’s like brushing your teeth. Every day at 10 o'clock put something up in social media. Set an alarm on your phone, use a post-it note, whatever works for you. It's just a discipline. There are plenty of tools to help you, like Facebook scheduling. A small business owner can do a week' s worth of posts in one go, and the task is done.”
Thompson says the most common concern she hears among small business owners is that they don't know what they're doing.
“It’s always worth investing a few hours to sit with a social media strategist to get you started. They have experience implementing the big exciting campaigns and they know what works and what doesn’t because they have access to high level reporting that a small business won’t. They’ll know what will work for you.”
One of her favourite New Zealand brands nailing it in social media is Naveya and Sloane on Facebook.
“They use beautiful images. Actually images are what works for most social media. Quality of imagery and composition is hugely important. It’s worth investing in a good photographer or a very good smartphone and taking the time to make your products pop on screen. Even if an image looks like it's taken very much in-situ, it has probably taken half an hour to create.”
Thomson adds that presenting a consistent brand in your social media channels is critical to achieving loyalty and success with your audiences.
“If you choose Instagram as a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your business, stick to it. Don’t then add photos of product. People don't mind being sold to; it's more that people like to get what they're expecting to get. They feel betrayed if they get something they're not expecting.”
The potential opportunity of using social media is one a small business owner can’t anticipate. And you’ll never know when you’ll hit the customer sweet spot.
“Last month Flash Tattoos on Instagram had 20k followers,” says Thompson. “Then Beyoncé instagrammed herself wearing one of their tattoos, and Flash Tattoos swept through social media and their followers instantly went up to 300k. They would have been getting orders from all over the world. I put my order in!”
Broadening your social media influence
Thompson adds it’s worthwhile for any business small or large to seek out bloggers and influencers in your industry, and pay for their time to endorse your product or service. And for those thinking this is some kind of sinister online behaviour, it’s not. Writers have bills to pay like everyone else, and they can’t eat lipstick!
Digital strategist Jo Twyford manages 400 bloggers at Bloggers’ Club and has curated content on nzgirl.co.nz for the past four years. She’s seen small Kiwi brands fly by employing simple social media tactics and understanding how to get into niche interest communities.
“Some of our small businesses have become global brands thanks to social media and blogging. We recently posted a Pineapple Lump fudge recipe on Facebook and it went viral, reaching people numbering into the millions from being posted across a few different channels. This is great for the recipe creator, Kirsten Robinson.
“The content was being created anyway, and a lot of work went into it. But social media meant that it went from reaching a niche audience to going global for the sake of 10 minutes crafting the post and putting $50 budget behind it. So why wouldn’t you leap into social media when the outcome potential is so huge?”
In New Zealand, there are small businesses – some with only one employee – that have connected with their community. Meadowlark and Leah Light on Instagram, Maiko Nagao Design on Facebook, Tara Sutherland on Twitter, Shaaanxo on YouTube, Annabel Langbein on Pinterest, Damien Nikora on Tumblr. And many more. Online is booming.
I’d urge any business owner to take the time to do the research and get on board digital. I have a personal need for you to become smarter, more successful and sustainable. I’m also missing out of your business services and products if I can’t even find you online. And really, better $150,000 in your back pocket than going up in flames!
SEE ALSO: Survival of the (digitally) fittest
Belinda Nash has more than 20 years’ experience working in media, communications and social media. She established AUT University’s social media presence and has worked for some of New Zealand’s most prominent companies.
She was Accredited in Public Relations in 2006 and gained a Master of Philosophy degree with first class honours in 2012.
She is passionate about getting Kiwi businesses online, even if it means a few tantrums along the way.