For small businesses, it’s a fight for survival – with 75% closing within their first five years of business. And yet…the gap between small businesses and large businesses is growing wider every day. So what separates the small, failing businesses from larger and more successful businesses? Often times, it’s not even a question of money or resources, but how quickly a small business can adapt to new technology. Smaller businesses who can quickly adapt to changing tech trends are the ones who can successfully compete with larger, more-resource rich competitors.
But how do you actually do it?
If you’re a small business, here’s how to successfully compete and win against large business competitors.
How Quickly Will You Adapt To New Technology?
The world is evolving, and the technical rate of change is constantly speeding up. New popular social apps spring up overnight, and customers leave you reviews on sites you might not even know existed. Even if you’re a small business in a non-technical trade (plumber, locksmith, carpet cleaner), success means keeping pace with technology, and meeting your customers where they are. Sure, you might be a great plumber. But if customers don’t know you exist – you’re doomed to go extinct. This might mean giving support to customers through a social apps, answering reviews on a review sites, or finding new digital channels to reach out to and find new customers. Being able to adapt to new technology is now the differentiator between success and failure for small businesses and one that you can no longer afford to overlook.
The Way We Do Business Has Changed 180°
Again, even if you’re in a non-technical field, the way that we do business has completely changed. Let’s say you’re a plumber. While your actual work probably hasn’t changed (and unclogging a drain might always stay the same) – customer expectations certainly have.
Millennials Have Changed the Rules of the Game
Millennials are now the largest and most important consumer group in America. Serving this group has completely different expectations than other generations. Millennials often ask if they can pay with Stripe or credit card before they decide to book your service, and might opt for a competitor who does accept their preferred payment method – no matter how good your product or service. Other millennial customers might expect you to be available by Facebook message, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube or Snapchat. Progress means keeping up and meeting customers where they are.
Millennials are also savvier than any proceeding group of customers before them. They’re the first group to check review sites for recommendations before booking a service, or voice their frustration after a negative experience. Moreover, the reviews themselves tend to reflect on the level of customer experience given, rather than the actual service rendered. In the case of a plumber, customers generally have no idea what rests under the hood – and they’re usually completely in the dark about things like the quality of pipes you used or how well you actually performed your service. Instead, reviews are often related to the customer experience (i.e. Were you professional? Pleasant? Punctual? Clean? Well dressed? Did you remind the customer prior to their appointment? Accept digital payment? Etc.)
It’s Make or Break For Small Businesses
Large businesses are supercharging their performance with advanced technical tools, like machine learning, AI and deep learning. This technology allows big businesses to scale their services by 10,0000x, and serve 10,000 customers at once, rather than just one at a time.
So what can small businesses do to compete with their large competitors, in an increasingly digital world?
Find a Low-Cost Technical Tool That Supports Your Business
Even if you’re small, there’s no reason why you can’t use the same technology big businesses use to be successful. First, you’ll need to get crystal clear on your needs, and what services you can easily automate with AI. Sure, you can’t send a robot out to clean a customer’s carpet (yet…), but maybe it’s possible to automate a number of daily tasks in your day-to-day business.
For example, field service software (like our app, Workiz), allows field service professionals (like plumbers, carpet cleaners, electricians, etc.) to automate so many time-consuming and mundane tasks. Whether it’s sending their customers automated text-message reminders right before an appointment, or transcribing their voice messages into text messages which can be converted into jobs in one-click, field service professionals have all the technical tools they need to succeed on a bootstrap budget. With one, complete, and feature-rich app, field service professionals can streamline their entire business operations using the power of AI and machine learning.
For between $50-$100 a month, field service pros really can be everywhere at once, preserve a high level of service, and successfully scale their business. Field service professionals can manage their schedule with an easy, drag and drop interface, see where their employees are located out in the field so they can better manage their time, and record every phone call to make sure their service levels remain high. They can also track their digital advertisement to understand their ad-spend, request digital signatures from customers, prepare invoices and even take credit card payments through a variety of payment processors. And let’s not forget automatically request reviews from customers after performing every single job.
Yes, even if you’re a small business, you really do have the power to compete with larger businesses who might have more money and more resources than you do. The secret’s all in the technology that you use.
What technical tools are you using to supercharge your small business? Are there any that you can recommend? If so, we’d love to hear more about them!
Adi Azaria is the CEO of Workiz, a San Diego-based field service software company, that enables small businesses to easily manage every aspect of their operation and outperform larger competitors without the need for huge budgets or specialized expertise. He is also the co-founder of Sisense, the leading Business Intelligence solution, as well as a startup mentor at The Lisbon Challenge and the Junction (by Genesis Partners.) @workizinc