Long before Covid-19 barrelled its way across the globe, small firms in the region were already struggling to survive amid sky-rocketing cost of doing business.
No wonder about eight out of 10 small enterprises fail every year. With the pandemic now in the picture, one can only imagine just how worse off the situation is for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
This crucial business segment, which employs over 60 percent of the region's working-age population, needs all the support it can get to get going, preserve jobs and maintain growth. But more importantly, they need to think outside the box, innovate and adjust to changing times.
Amid the lean times when cash is tight, capital preservation is key and this demand cutting non-essential costs to bare-minimum while increasing operational efficiency. To this end, strategic online operations and digital tools can make all the difference and help cut the death rate of small enterprises.
First off, stepping up online marketing campaign is a low-hanging fruit readily available to enterprises. If you're not marketing online nowadays, then you're not selling as much as you could be. In short, you're selling yourself short.
According to Invesp, 80 percent of internet users have used the internet to make a purchase. Additionally, 81 percent of internet users research products online before making a purchase. For SMEs to thrive, their businesses must be visible to consumers doing their online research and shopping.
The question then is, how can traders boost their digital footprint and increase their online visibility?
The simple answer is by tapping into search engine optimisation (SEO), social media marketing, and cross-selling between all communication channels.
Media exposure, press releases, traditional PR, social media, and even print marketing should incorporate strong online components. For example, several companies now incorporate QR codes and social-media icons into their print ads because they know an increasing number of people will look up their business online. The more that SEO activities intersect with marketing efforts, the more visibility you gain.
Most importantly for SMEs, and amid the prevailing tough economic climate, online marketing could be a cheaper alternative compared to traditional options. To thrive, traders also have to study their markets and closely keep track of changes in customer tastes, trends and preferences.
Studies indicate that 78 percent of consumers will listen to the input of other users online more than any other source. Whether or not your primary marketing efforts are online or offline, give your customers an easy and immediate way to interact with you online. They can give you feedback about your product, pricing, and business practices. In turn, you give them a "chat level" of response that can turn into an ongoing relationship. Your quick and helpful responses to your customers' feedback and reviews will impress both your current clients and potential ones – those who are looking into online reviews to determine if they want to use your business.
Landing additional new clients especially during the pandemic could make all the difference between a business surviving or dying.
SMEs are also encouraged to plan for future growth by establishing strong digital brands, as yet another strategy to ensure longevity. While many offline marketing efforts have short-term impact, your online marketing drive can last longer. If you brand yourself effectively, you can grow exponentially. Make sure your online presence, ranging from a business website to a company Twitter account, are all in sync with one another in messaging, tone, and overall look and feel. Customers and potential customers will respond well to aesthetically pleasing websites and are more likely to return to your site.
Lastly, it is important to track and measure your marketing efforts. Web analytic tools can provide you with valuable market research and insight. Use web analytics to see which activities generate traffic to your business, what your audience wants to know, who's buying what (and who isn't) and which customers are leaving your site without purchasing. Being able to measure your online business in action allows you to improve user experience, discover trends and boost your numbers. Equally important is the need for traders to adapt to the new normal and evolve with market changes.
Study how other successful small business owners in your area are thriving and incorporate what you find in your venture. Taking the time to do the nitty-gritty research will pay off in spades when you are ahead of market trends. The internet is a good place to start. It is important to be aware that getting online requires a strategy that need to be implemented with discipline and consistency.