Let’s examine the facts;
There were 2,079,666 actively trading businesses in Australia at June 2013.
There were 563,412 businesses that employed ‘1-4’ employees, followed by 197,412 businesses that employed ‘5-19′ employees, 50,946 businesses employing ’20-199’ employees and 3,598 businesses that employed ‘200+’ employees. At June 2013, there were 556,504 businesses operating in the ‘Zero to less than $50k’ turnover range, 718,005 businesses in the ‘$50k to less than $200k’ turnover range, 672,150 businesses in the ‘$200k to less than $2m’ turnover range and 133,007 businesses in the ‘$2m or more’ turnover range. *Reference: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8165.0
That’s a lot of small businesses.
While 91.9% of Australian businesses had internet access, less than half (44.6%) had an online presence.
Despite the stagnation in the share of businesses that accepted orders online, the income earned from online orders has grown significantly. In total, $237.1 billion was earned by Australian businesses through online orders, which is an increase of 25.6% from 2010-11 ($188.7 billion). When you consider that statistic with the finding that the share of businesses accepting orders online fell 0.2%, it suggests that those businesses that continue to hold out are missing out. *Reference http://www.digitalbusiness.gov.au/2013/07/02/latest-abs-statistics-many-australian-businesses-still-not-engaging-online/
Let’s not hold out – let’s work out what we should be doing online.
Small businesses are set to be winners in social media.
Facebook are making it harder and harder for businesses to stay in news feed ie when you don’t pay the advertising dollars for instance. It appears those who have always nurtured their small business communities online, through conversation, will win the day.
Traditionally, small business have relied on word of mouth.
Small businesses have always got to know their customers personally by learning their likes and dislikes. They are the type of operators who network with friends, share information and generally help each other out. And, if the small business is reliable, always doing what they say they are going to do and are willing to give back to the community on more than one occasion, you can bet they have the type of business that will excel online and in the social medias.
But so many don’t. Why?
In many instances because small business owners are busy people. And they are small business operators because they have a passion for x, y or z… and not social media.
To help you succeed there are a few simple steps you can take to win. Social media does not have to be a distraction, time consuming or frivolous. It is a valid business tool for soft leads and customer retention.
Here are 5 Essentials for Small Businesses;
- You know who your customers are. Get to know what they look like online. Learn how to engage with them like you would at the BBQ this weekend. Find out how to participate in conversations on social media — share information and ideas but don’t constantly say ‘buy my stuff”.
- Learn how to talk about your products, services or offerings in a clear simple way. If you had to write down what your service was in 120 characters, what would you say to make it sound appealing? Don’t worry about a few stuff ups to start with, the aim is to start talking naturally. If you enjoy yourself, your customers will engage quicker.
- Have a social media strategy. If it’s in your head, that’s OK, but have a rough idea what you want to sell this week. Think about how you would normally bring this into a conversation offline, then think about how and when you could bring it into the conversation online. People expect you too, but we don’t want you to look pushy or overbearing. Simple strategies like “don’t forget” or “did you know” or straight up “call us” do work.
- Learn when your customers are online. Interestingly, because of the “time waster” psychology factor surrounding social media, people are more often online at lunchtime or after hours (so they are seen as “doing the right thing”). You will want to be there at that time too. Don’t schedule too many as you will want to be able to engage with your customers at that time as well. Your strategy might be one of “has anyone got any questions about their x, y, z widget for me tonight?”. The strategy is “be social on social media”. Figures huh.
- Post multiple times daily if you are an online store. Post every second day as a minimum if you have a general service offering type business. Post weekly if you don’t want to be in business. Post anytime you think something is cool, funny, interesting or relevant to your customers and clients. This ad-hoc style posting really shows your customers and clients that you care and want to share with them, genuinely. Find the time. You will be rewarded.
Remember it’s an endurance race. We don’t say soft leads and customer retention for no reason. You are developing a relationship with your customer and that takes time. Sit back, relax, do your work and reap the rewards.