Digital strategies for small business

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Kudzai M. Mubaiwa
It is time for every small business to embrace the digital age. Many business processes traditionally executed by human beings are now done online or electronically, and customers have also adjusted upwards their expectations for transaction ease and precision as well as prompt responses.

In this digital age, small businesses need to be investing in available technology to enable exceptional customer experience. Periodically, they must internally audit to ensure they are still in the game. The following is a suggested “digital starter-pack” for small scale enterprises, a gentle reminder of some key facets to check on within.

In 2018 it is a must to be present online (even if you are present offline). Over and above your business address in a street, you must have an online address, a digital home referred to as a website. This is the place where a forward looking business must tell the world what it does, for indeed the opportunity of the internet breaks all kinds of barriers and enables anyone to access information on another entity, regardless of location.

A website must be easy to navigate and contain up to date information. There are lots of free templates and examples online that can be replicated, and then customised. The purpose of the website is to give a full brief of the company, its’ activities, service offering, and its’ people. Keep it up to date and simple to navigate for the users. The best websites are also optimised such that anyone who fancies can locate your kind of business in your location through simple search engine enquiry.

Further, a company may advertise its’ presence online by generating a “Google my business” a free online directory type initiative that allows anyone anywhere to know your specific physical location, website and contact numbers. The fun part of this application is that it then makes it easy for customers to find you; it links by default to the Google maps application. The same is true for the phone number which you can dial straight off the application.

Marketing as we know it has been revolutionised by the coming in of social media. Many businesses have a Facebook page in lieu of website, and here they put up all their company information, but with certainly much more engagement through the timeline posts their comment sections.

Today’s customers are much more discerning than those in times past so nothing less than a full on assault on all relevant social media fronts will work. A living company must have a deliberate social media strategy that includes a Facebook page for information on what they do, where they operate from, business hours and price ranges. If they make tangible products, Instagram would be extremely valuable for pictures of actual products, or for those in a service business, images of the team at work. Speaking of quality of service, again social media applications like WhatsApp and Twitter work very well as a real time, easy to use tracking mechanism for queries and enquiries as they come with a default time stamp and a reasonable character limit for back and forth conversations until a customer is satisfied, or has the information they require.

Through social media, companies can promote their offerings practically the whole day and night. Businesses that have people who come through to their premised and are served while they wait, or “sit down” type ventures such as restaurants do well to avail “free wifi for their patrons, and as they get connected, it can be set up such that connection comes after viewing some adverts and perhaps a gentle nudge to share about them before accessing the internet.

Key in using social media is putting out as much information on the product or service as possible, and not forget to indicate the pricing — because the average potential customer makes a follow through decision in just a few seconds. Digital marketing training is now an important skill for all marketers, such that they can be able to both get the numbers in terms of followers, but further get conversion — which is then actually closing a sale.

Some of the best ways to engage people on social media includes running promotions where the most engaged get small prizes (people love winning) and they are also rewarded for telling others about your business various platforms, which ends us as a combination with the most powerful offline method of selling: word of mouth.

Value creation and community building is an integral part of a business digital strategy, in this age every business must aim to offer free content related to what they do, this can be through a blog or short videos that give helpful information. A technology hardware company, for example, may give advice on how to free up space on one’s computer or things to look for when deciding to purchase a new smartphone. This endears customers to them and makes them seem as experts in the subject matter who also care about people.

Payments have also been disrupted by the digital era, going to the bank is now mostly at the point where one opens an account, but a small business can now easily transact using a plethora of channels.

Bank transactions of all sorts can be done through mobile banking now — bill payments, internal and external bank transfers and even sole traders can get cards for swiping.

Companies can receive money through various ways, into the accounts through ZIPIT, recently launched mobile swiping devices, and there are exciting developments in mobile money, where interoperability is on the horizon.

Some forward looking businesses are also making and receiving international payments through crypto-currency like Bitcoin, which, though contentious, has a strong use case in present day Zimbabwe for remittances.

Daily business operations in the digital age are also painless — less paper is required for day to day activities as there are systems for all sorts of things, from stocking, to selling, to accounting.

Anyone can access free templates online for generating quotations, invoices, receipts as well as managing cash-flow, and preparing income and expenditure statements, effectively cutting out the need for engaging designers and many accounting officers.

Our own tax authority has been progressively bringing most of its’ interaction with business online, reducing the need for trips to their office and related paperwork.

The small business owner in Zimbabwe can make substantial savings by being intentional in going digital in every aspect. In conclusion, an example of a baker using mobile and digital to make a chocolate cake may work as follows. She finds a recipe through an online search, reads it from her tablet, buy ingredients at a store she finds through geo-location, makes the cake as directed through a Youtube channel, then share the delicious results on various social media, secures an order and is paid through mobile money. What’s not to like in such a situation. Embrace digital, it is the present and the future of all business, never mind the sector!

Feedback: Twitter @kumub, Email kudzi@investorsaint.co.zw

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