With consumer spending and confidence hitting all new lows and bleak economic forecasts being broadcasted over the news daily, positive outlooks for Australian small businesses look pretty dismal.
The ramifications of such a gloomy economic climate are huge, especially for small business (SMEs) who thrive on consumer spending. A major concern of the recent economic downturn is that small businesses now have to face the reality that customers will have a far smaller portion of disposable income to spend on their products.
According to a recent survey by Bankwest, 57 per cent of SMEs have found it more difficult to retain new customers compared to 12 months ago. Combine this with ABS data that cites 53 per cent of business failures occur within the first 3 years – and 90 per cent within the first 10 years and the diagnosis for small business survival during a recession looks very grim.
In order for SMEs to ensure that they stay afloat during tough economic times, they need to reexamine the strategies they have in place to continue growing and standing out from their competitors, as customers begin to tighten their purse strings.
The first and easiest reaction for many businesses during economic upheaval is to cut marketing and communication expenditure. This can have a highly detrimental effect on future revenue streams for the business. The biggest trend affecting businesses right now is the strong increase in consumers purchasing and researching products online. Now, more than ever, Australians are conducting research online for various goods and services, with most using multiple forms of digital media to search, including search engines, retailer and manufacturer websites, email alerts, review websites, newsletters, and social media.
A key to survival in the current economic climate will be to capitalise on consumer trends affecting the market, such as the increase in online use. Social networking sites are still largely underrated and unexploited by Australian small businesses, with less than 15 percent having a digital strategy and social networking page. Social networking vehicles such as Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are an invaluable marketing tool as they are free to use and highly effective in reaching your customers due to their immediacy and widespread adoption levels. Podcasts, blogs, e-newsletters and email are also highly attractive platforms to engage with the consumer and build your brand.
When building an online presence for your business on third party websites, be sure you take full advantage of the offerings these websites provide.
On TrueLocal, we allow businesses to list all sorts of information on their business page including company name, opening times, product and service offerings, photos, video clips, street maps and independent reviews from customers.
The results when businesses take advantage of these features are huge. The power of the consumer review in driving website traffic and sales is not to be underestimated.
– By populating your page with additional content, your page receives twice the traffic than a basic listing.
– By encouraging and including reviews on your TrueLocal listing, your page receives quadruple the number of views than a basic listing
– If your TrueLocal listing has more than 10 reviews, it receives an incredible 19 times more traffic than a basic listing
The benefits of using these digital platforms are that you can share opinions, build a rapport, create a dialogue and personally engage with the consumer, whilst developing meaningful and relevant content about your business.
More importantly these tools will help you to better understand and build a relationship with your customers gaining insights by asking and responding to questions and concerns related to your business and industry.
I highly encourage you to sort out your digital marketing strategy if you have not done so already. The first global financial crisis in 2008 caught many by surprise. With threats of a second wave, don’t allow your business to fall behind.
–Simon Carson is General Manager of TrueLocal.com.au