Top technology tips to help blossom your business in 2014

Businesses need to boost their online presence and embrace the use of social media and technology to stay ahead of the competition in 2014, according to Bibby Financial Services’ technology trend predictions for the New Year.

Businesses need to boost their online presence and embrace the use of social media and technology to stay ahead of the competition in 2014, according to Bibby Financial Services’ technology trend predictions for the New Year.

The following are the top 10 technology tips that Mark Cleaver, Bibby’s Managing Director, Australia & New Zealand, expects will aid SMEs in boosting their brands and profitability without incurring exorbitant expenses.

1. Get mobile:
The biggest growth area in technology ownership in 2013 was owning a tablet, with more than four in 10 SMEs reporting owning a tablet, according to the 2013 Sensis e-Business report. By the same token, the strongest technology trend displayed by Australian consumers was the uptake of mobile devices, with over two thirds of SMEs owning smart phones in 2013. Only 17 per cent of SMEs with websites reported that they had a mobile specific website, up from nine per cent last year. So it’s an area where SMEs can develop an advantage.

2. Use social media to spread the word
:Overall, 35 per cent of SMEs that are online use social media for business purposes, according to the 2013 Sensis e-Business Report. This was most likely to be a Facebook page (93 per cent), Twitter (28 per cent), LinkedIn (17 per cent) and YouTube (seven per cent). Almost half of SMEs that used social media said it had a positive impact on their business.

3. Target the right audience:
Develop an online community where it matters. If you’re a recruiter, then a LinkedIn presence is an obvious necessity. If you sell products for young people, then you might want to be on Facebook or Instagram. Make sure you’re targeting the right audience to get the best results for your business.

4. Don’t let your size or budget get you down: According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only 13 per cent of micro businesses use social media, compared 52 per cent of large businesses. Just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean you don’t exist. So embrace social media with regular updates about your activity and you’ll notice the difference.

5. Think like a youngster:
Australian business owners aged between 18-39 years are significantly more likely to be using social media (83 per cent) than older business owners (56 per cent), according to findings from the recent Bibby Barometer survey. To remain competitive, SMEs need to adapt to technology as quickly as their competition does. They also need to be as tech savvy as their customers and potential clients.

6. Develop an overall digital strategy:
A digital strategy isn’t just about having a website, it’s about all of your digital activity. You need to go beyond having an email address to achieve greater engagement through, for example, SMS communications, developing mobile apps, SEO, social media marketing and online transaction capabilities. Given so few SMEs are thinking about their overall digital strategy, this represents an opportunity for you to get ahead and develop an extensive strategy.

7. SEO – more important than ABC:
Your digital strategy must include SEO so that once you have a website, consumers can easily find it. You may need an expert to help you because there are several tricks of the trade that smart businesses use to make sure people land on their website first.

8. Don’t miss a real-time sales opportunity:
Almost three in four Australians now make purchases online, so the ability to transact with almost 18 million Australians in real-time can really boost your revenues. Australians spent an average of $3,200 on online purchases in 2013. Some 32 per cent of purchases were reported to come from overseas businesses. If you don’t sell online, then you risk losing business, particularly to overseas business.

9. Spend on hardware or risk being dated:
Despite the increase in technology ownership, the level of SME expenditure on both hardware and software has decreased. However, investment in the latest hardware and software can make your business more productive, so budget for technology upgrades and reap the efficiency windfalls that will pay for themselves over time. SMEs reported sending an average of $4,000 last year on building and maintaining their websites.

10. Take advantage of the NBN:
The roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN), which will increase internet speeds, is a positive for Australian small business owners. As many as 61 per cent believe the impact will be positive with 27 per cent believing it will have a very positive impact. It’s just another reason to be online.

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