What's Keeping You Up?
Besides all the usual challenges facing small businesses what else can keep you up at night?
There is certainly no shortage of articles dealing with the ever present business challenges such as lack of capital, cash flow management, workforce retention, strategy etc. But now, increasingly, we hear terms such as Cloud Computing, Crowd Source and Social Media just to name a few. What do these terms imply to the small business owner? What is to be gained by spending any precious time to consider these nebulous terms and what impact they might pose?
Here is a quick look at these terms and a perspective on their benefits as they relate to the small business enterprise.
The list is well known: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, and a host of new up and comers like Yelp, Reddit, Foursquare and Pinterest.
Past responses such as “not my market or audience” are no longer applicable; even senior citizens are adopting Facebook in ever increasing numbers. A key when using Facebook for business is it must offer content rich information. Your company page setup can utilize videos, photos or coupons, all of which will promote the brand and support business growth. This is intended to supplement the company’s website and is usually more interactive and dynamic.
Twitter, with its masterful approach requiring the ability to be concise, has a broad appeal to all ages and business interests. As a business owner your messages can be timely and directed to your audience.
YouTube and viral videos have the ability to boost name and corporate identity exponentially, and more importantly, add incremental revenue. In addition, YouTube videos can be easily imbedded into the company’s website and Facebook page.
While the options are endless in what you can elect to indulge in keep in mind they will all take some time to initiate and regular updates are important; we all cringe at websites that feature content three to four years old.
What is Cloud Computing anyway? For the purposes of this discussion it can be described as a service offered through the Internet that allows the subscriber to store and access information, as well utilize a host of software applications in a secure and cost effective manner. This has appeal across virtually any size of enterprise. The inherent scalable nature offers the same relative cost and convenience savings any business is seeking. Issues such as workforce collaboration, internal electronic storage limitations, back-up regimen, and maintenance are all seamlessly managed. Certainly, there are inherent risks using the Cloud, but the same is true with your own in-house environments. The reality is that the Cloud is considerably more secure than most in-house environments, and metrics such as up-time, privacy violations, loss of data and maintenance all benefit with the Cloud.
A recommendation here is securing the services of a Cloud computing service consultant. The myriad of options to consider, and how best to start your enterprise down that path should be left to the experts.
The quickest way I can illustrate Crowd Source is referring to Wikipedia in the quintessential use of the crowd as a source of knowledge shared.
One great example is a dog food treat manufacturer that was having difficulty in naming a new product. Acting on a whim the CEO posed the question on the company’s Facebook page. He had a few suggestions and asked subscribers to “like” their favourite, essentially casting a vote. The idea was a huge success. While this example relies on a large Facebook following, there are other ways to access similar crowds. Again, the use of an expert in social media marketing is advised. Another cautionary note is ensuring you have targeted your demographic appropriately and are sourcing input from the right crowd.
The use of technology today as a growth enabler is as relevant to the Cottage Industries as it is to the Fortune 500. While simply embracing these will in no way ensure success, they will provide avenues to more customers, better customer retention and a way to effectively tap into today’s “tools of the trade”.
Managing Principal – Alberta