A small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development survey conducted by DP Information Group revealed that 26 percent of 2,800 SMEs polled in Singapore implemented ICT solutions in 2014. The same Singapore Business Federation–DP SME Index also showed that whilst sentiment remained positive amongst SMEs, overall business confidence has slipped for the past two quarters, and profit expectations have declined.
Recognising the need for innovation to drive greater productivity and agility, governments in Asia have been doing their part to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship and encourage technology use. The Singapore government has also gone to great lengths to offer various grants and programmes that start-ups and SMEs can take advantage of to adopt new technologies.
The Malaysian government also recently engaged consulting firm McKinsey & Company to groom the nation to be the next technology start-up hub in Southeast Asia. How can small businesses turbo charge their growth through technology?
Here are three entrepreneurs startups can learn from to integrate technology into business growth:
Connect with your audience 1:1
Tech pioneer Steve Jobs was famously quoted for saying in a 1997 interview that "You've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology." Jobs' vision for Apple grew from that and every product from Apple focused on the complete user experience.
The same should go for businesses learning how to connect with their audience through all points of the customer journey, on every platform. The link between customer service and revenue is irrefutable. In the digital world, knowing your customer and providing outstanding customer service can be challenging. Not prioritising customer service can hurt your bottom line.
To put this into perspective, research jointly conducted by Harvard and MIT previously revealed that 78 percent of new business goes to the company that responds first to a customer enquiry.
Start-ups need to have a customer obsessed mind-set, adopting an always-on mentality, gaining insight to what keeps their customers up at night and be able to position the company at that customers' point of need 24/7, then providing solutions that answer these needs. By empowering staff with cloud and mobile technology, start-ups can connect with customers across social media, phone, email and live web chat, anywhere, anytime.
Back to the basics with the cloud
Salesforce founder Marc Benioff once asked the question "Why isn't enterprise software as easy as buying a book on Amazon?" That simple question led to the transformation of the software industry. Benioff knew that cloud and software-as-a-service was the future for business and the key to driving innovation.
Savvy, fast-growing businesses can now significantly reduce their capital expenditure on hardware and software by adopting cloud solutions. Start-ups respond better to the cloud largely because they usually start with zero hardware, as compared to bigger companies. The ability to quickly scale a cost-efficient cloud service means business owners can respond to spikes in customer demand, while not over-investing upfront.
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