We regularly hear from clients that they are struggling to differentiate themselves from their competition and are always looking for new ways to be more innovative, attract more customers and keep the best people working for them.
They are often looking for new tools, methods and systems they can adopt to stand out in the market, but are usually left in no better position, out of pocket and wondering where they went wrong.
It’s great to see this kind of passion and desire to succeed from SMEs but it’s so disheartening (for them and us) when they are constantly disappointed and still trying to get ahead.
So, what if the most innovative solutions are actually the simplest? What if you forget about trying to keep up with the next best company and instead focus on getting your own house in order?
What you might find is that by concentrating internally on doing all you can to improve processes and systems, you might just automatically come out on top. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Or maybe you think it’s too simplistic to work?
Top leaders around the world agree that business simplification is key and that this will only grow stronger in the next few years.
The ‘Simplifying the Future of Work Study’ – a survey conducted by Knowledge@Wharton and SAP – revealed that 51% of respondents, predominantly business leaders, said simplification carries significant strategic importance for their enterprise, and 67% said the issue will become even more relevant soon.
But it seems that there is still work to be done to achieve this – only 27% said that their current operations are aligned to this goal.
So how can the simplification gap be bridged? Here are some starting points that we have collated but we’d be interested to hear what other SMEs think too. Remember, simplification is key!
Effective communication needs to take place across all areas of your organisation (internal), as well as with suppliers, business partners, 3rd parties, and the media (external), and also with your target audience across the platforms they are spending their time (social).
Having a holistic internal, external and social communications strategy ensures your brand is aligned, all employees are spreading the same message and your customers and stakeholders experience a united front.
You can also add collaboration to this one as it goes hand in hand with good communication. Your customers don’t want to hear ‘it’s not my department’ or ‘we don’t know where your shipment is or when it will arrive’ – they just want the service they paid for.
By 2017 estimates show that there will be 3 billion global devices, including smartphones and tablets. There is no escaping mobile usage within your business, whether you’re ready for it or not.
Your customers are connected 24/7 and they expect you to be too. If they want to browse your online store at 3am from their smartphone and have a question about a product, you need to have a solution in place that responds to them.
Your employees are also just as connected and this needs to be mirrored in the way they deliver your product or service. Do you have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or a COPE (Corporately Owned Personally Enabled) policy within your organisation that enables employees to have flexibility in their mobile communications?
Empower them with the tools to respond to customer enquiries, manage stock better, ensure the supply chain runs smoothly etc.
Advertising and marketing
There’s certainly nothing new or innovative about advertising but the way in which smaller companies can leverage the various channels available today already sets them ahead of their predecessors.
Big advertising budgets can be replaced by cost effective (often free) campaigns that go above and beyond what traditional marketing methods could ever hope to achieve.
Building engagement with your customers, gaining their trust and offering them relevant content, products and services is more an investment in time and diligence than marketing dollars.
Forget about the ROI, this kind of customer engagement can’t be calculated in the traditional ways, but for those that need more proof, here are some statistics from global brands that have seen the benefits of integrated social marketing campaigns.
No longer as innovative a concept as it once was but automating your processes is really a must for small and medium companies.
Not only will it free up resources from performing repetitive, manual tasks, embedding a culture of automation leads to more innovative solutions to problems. Your employees can better spend their time working on processes that drive growth instead of being held back by operational activities.
SMEs really are in a fortunate position today in terms of how they can assess their own business, and how quickly they can adapt to the market.
With an embedded analytics model, such as SAP Business One Version for HANA a company can delve into their enterprise data in real time and make accurate decisions immediately. This could mean buying reduced price inventory knowing you have the storage space and demand to move it quickly, or adapting a marketing campaign due to a surprise global event, or even targeting new markets that clearly show a demand for your product. Without reliable analytics, these decisions are made slowly, or not at all, and the competition has already beaten you to it.
So, instead of focusing on the competition, focus on yourself to reap the real rewards.
Think differently. Work smarter.
Note: This story has also been adapted for publication in Steemit.