Turn trendspotting into business opportunities
Recently, our Chief Strategy Officer, Gene Sigalov, discussed the key business trends Australian businesses will likely face in 2023. And while there are some challenges expected this year, there are ways your small business can weather the storm ahead.
Gene is a strategic technology executive with a passion for driving innovation in the CPaaS (Communications as a platform) space and leadership experience in R&D, product and technology. His focus is always on driving customer and business value.
Here he shares some advice on how your small business can navigate the major trends and challenges headed your way.
Relieving supply chain pain
Many industries are still being impacted by pandemic-induced supply-chain issues. The war in Ukraine, China’s troubled economy and ongoing COVID-19 problems have only made things worse – the World Trade Organisation backs us up on this.
So what can you do?
Reduce risk and build supply-chain resilience by shoring up weaknesses and finding alternatives to costly or hard-to-get resources. You’ll also need real-time information on your inventory – even a slight shift in the chain combined with sudden surges in demand can wipe out stock levels.
Keeping transparent with customers will also see you through any major issues – when they know your stock levels and shipping times, they’ll deal with fewer nasty surprises. You’ll have a better chance of keeping their goodwill – and their business.
Look for tools that let you talk to customers in real-time and have two-way conversations, so they always know what’s going on.
Winning the talent wars
With low unemployment rates and increased pressure on wages, the competition for skilled candidates has never been higher. There just aren’t enough good people to go around at the moment.
Most small businesses won’t be able to compete with the big guys on wages alone, so it’s time to think creatively. Ask yourself, “Is there a way I can widen my talent pool or make my overall package more attractive?” Start by getting clear on what you really need. What are your must-haves in a new employee,
and where is there wiggle room? Adding a bit of clever automation or AI smarts could let you hire someone with far less technical expertise.
That can also free you to prioritise hiring for soft skills – many experts believe that creativity, critical thinking, interpersonal communication, leadership, empathy and compassion will be the most in-demand skills in the job market by 2026. To appeal to the right people (and beat the big players), consider what you offer beyond wages. Do you have tools that allow you to communicate quickly and directly through the interview process? Can you offer greater flexibility by using tools that allow more of your team to have two-way conversations with customers from wherever?
Dominate with service, not discounts
When times are tough, it’s tempting to attract customers by slashing prices. It’s a race to the bottom that no one wins. Instead, offering better customer service is a far more reliable and cost-effective way to compete.
For example, you could use tools that let you have two-way conversations with customers and prospects where and when it suits them. This gives your service a level of personalisation that has become increasingly important to consumers – people want to do business with people. When you’re operating at scale, that’s easier said than done and means you need to manage your customer journey through multiple channels and touchpoints.
A good first step is to find tools that give your customers the engagement they want without you having to manage multiple platforms.
Use convos to boost culture
The Great Resignation. Quiet Quitting. It’s enough to make an employer go cold all over. Keeping your best people means you’ll need to double down on making your work environment and culture more attractive.
While remote working gives people that all-important flexibility, it comes with some downsides – the isolation can make people feel less valued and less connected to their colleagues and the business.
Luckily there are some simple tools that help you support your people’s well-being, engagement and productivity (and, as a bonus, keep them for longer).
Take the time to think about your employees, the technology they use most often and what communication method is most likely to reach them.
Digital, but make it integrated
Although digital transformation has been chugging along for years, the pandemic put some power under the hood. And it was clear that the difference between success and failure for many businesses was their appetite for digital transformation – and their ability to change things fast.
This new period of economic uncertainty will see that trend accelerate again, especially as transformative technologies such as AI, Web3 protocols and machine learning come together. It’s important to look carefully at your tech stack and ask if your tools are as integrated as they could be. Too many tools complicate workflows and bottom out productivity. Look for solutions that let you integrate with your core business platform and can be easily implemented.
Cybersecurity – don’t panic (much)
While cybersecurity has always been an issue for large businesses, in 2023, smaller businesses will need to add it to their ‘take seriously’ list.
The recent explosion in cyber-attacks has been spurred by changes to how we work, more engagement between nation states and, simply, more desperate people looking to make a buck. And easier-to-hack smaller businesses are the juicy, low-hanging fruit. Once inside your systems, bad actors can sift through, steal customer data and IP or deploy ransomware.
So, it’s time to lock things up a bit tighter – invest in the best cybersecurity you can afford and educate your people on how to avoid being taken in. If that sounds like it might be expensive, think about it like this: it’ll definitely be cheaper than dealing with even one major breach.
Be a pessimistic planner
Most of what we’ve covered here applies to businesses across the board, but how much you’re affected by these challenges depends on your location and industry.
Whatever your business, it’s always good to see the issues coming. Set time aside each week to read the latest market or industry insights and look for any indications in your business that things may be shifting. The better informed you are, the more time you have to minimise any damage. You can also put things in place now to help you better deal with whatever 2023 throws at you. Implement tools to increase transparency and engagement with customers and your team. When you can hold two-way conversations, you can mobilise people fast to fix issues, keep them up to date and make sure they feel cared for of and heard.