Machines taking over the world might sound like a line from a B-Grade sci-fi movie but, like it or not, they are. Computers and the Internet have been around for decades and are an integral part of every sustainable business. Customers can now compare and access products and services globally, with all the benefits of consumer feedback, competitive pricing and convenience of same-day/next day delivery. The digital world is where your customers are.
International studies show barriers to improving digital literacy include low education levels and incomes, lack of technical knowledge and poor understanding of computer use. New Zealand’s 2018 Census revealed 212,000 households - almost 600,000 people - had no access to the Internet, so while we supposedly live in a time of “digitally native” youth and online everything, the digital literacy gap is increasing.
In Australia, research shows that 1 in 10 people have never used the Internet.
Digital Fitness Survey Conclusion from Small Business Australia
A digital fitness survey in 2018 canvassing the New South Wales/Canberra Small business community showed the aggregated profile reflected a business community that had significant opportunities to improve its digital capability, with concerns raised about the resilience of this sector in the face of global digital competition.
A critical area of risk cited was the low understanding and deployment of cybersecurity and data privacy practices.
The respondents were aware that technology would change their business in the future and that there would be new competitors that would disrupt the market. About 80% of respondents acknowledged they could see digital coming, but despite recognising the need to build digital capability and allocate resources, only 44% planned to do something about it.
When questioned on plans and budgets for specific areas such as digital and social media marketing and software, the scores were half that again. For example, only 22% of respondents had a plan and budget for social media marketing compared to 26% for software. Investment in skill development was equally low with plans for training across specialist areas one of the lowest scores.
5 Quick Fixes – Improve your Image, Improve your Productivity.
Improving your marketing and business productivity can start with some simple steps that won’t break the bank.
Computer Hardware – Get a laptop that fits your budget. Be sure that it has the latest operating system, browser, has reputable antivirus software and Office 365 (MS Word, Excel). Work on a life expectancy of around three years.
Own your own URL – The URL, or Domain Name costs around $30 per year to own. Find one as short as possible that reflects your brand. If you are “Franks Lawnmowing Services”, then try www.lawns.co.nz (will likely be gone), or www.frankslawns.co.nz. There are other options with domain names that should be considered, so seek advice.
Personalised Email: Even if you are not setting up a website immediately, use your Domain Name to personalise your email. Don’t print firstname.lastname@example.org on your brochure. Domain name registrars offer free email forwarding addresses, so you can still use your Hotmail or Gmail service, but have your customised email re-directed to that account. Using email@example.com gives you control of your digital real-estate.
Websites and social platforms: A website does not have to be huge – but a single page showing who you are, what you do, and how to contact you is the absolute minimum. A professional-looking website can be done for a few hundred dollars, so invest in an expert to ensure your image and brand is reflected and protected. If you have more to say and want to interact with your customers, then consider Facebook Business Pages, Instagram and Twitter. While they may be free to access, Social Media marketing takes time and money. If you are struggling with your accounts, look to one of the online accounting packages like Xero or MYOB, which can ultimately save you time and money.
Plan and Learn: Take the time to learn about technology and online marketing - it’s a business investment and proper use of your valuable time. Remember better technology efficiency in your business equates to improved productivity.
Starting Somewhere – Get a Mentor
The Australian small business survey demonstrates that learning is a low priority, yet research shows the solution for improvement of digital literacy is knowledge. Knowledge comes from education. Business Mentors New Zealand assists small business, start-up and not-for-profit business owners by providing one-on-one mentoring. Changing business practices and introducing technology-based systems takes time, planning, and good advice. The key takeaway from this is to start now and grow as your capability allows, just do it. Help from an impartial and non-judgemental Business Mentor is a great way to start your digital journey.