The Singapore government has been pushing SMEs to grow as it sees a vibrant SME community as an integral backbone to grow its GDP and for these SMEs to spread their wings to go regional and beyond. This is not a new thought. In fact, we have been talking about this for a very long time now since SMEs Go Digital programme launched in April 2017.
Challenges Facing SMEs
However, digital transformation is easier said than done for most SMEs. According to a survey done by Daptiv, only around 40% of SMEs have a website. This is a shockingly low number in today’s day and age. But we shouldn’t be surprised when one notices the number of business that still uses a generic free email address ending with @gmail.com, @yahoo.com.sg or worse, @singnet.com.sg in their marketing brochures or advertisements when a corporate domain name and identity is so easily available.
Why is it so hard for SMEs bosses to start on their digital transformation journey?
For one, there is no lack of information on the topic and tools. In fact, I believe the opposite is true, there is simply too much information out there. Confusing and sometimes contradictory.
Another reason is the vast graveyard to failed attempts in digitalisation. Stories abound of unrealised returns on all those investments or outright failures. Sometimes, it seems so much easier and safer not to do anything.
This is something very familiar to me at Core Concepts where our patients have to deal with the amount of information available on the internet about musculoskeletal medical conditions and treatments. Teasing out the facts from sometimes outright misinformation is just downright challenging. Sometimes, patients get so confused that they just rather wait and see to get better until their problem becomes chronic and much harder (and costly) to resolve. Like the old adage, prevention is better than cure.
I am not saying that you should try to learn more on your own. While it is important to understand one’s condition better, you should avoid self-diagnosis on-line. Do it once you have gotten a proper diagnosis from a trained professional.
Back to SMEs, unfortunately, playing the waiting game can only lead to the inevitable result of obsolescence. The world marches one, with or without you. While recklessly charging forward is not prudent, standing still doing nothing is not your only alternative option.
It is all about the process
One must understand digital transformation is more than just digitisation. It is about transforming your business processes. This is the first stumbling block for most SMEs as most are not process driven. Most adopt common market practices without much thought as to how the way things are done actually create and deliver value to their customers. It has to start from the process level. Which steps add value, which doesn’t.
Aside from streamlining operational processes for cost-savings, the next most common area that SMEs look at is to improve the marketing processes. Marketing is the lifeblood of any organisation, big or small. Any SMEs will attest to the importance of cash-flow. To be able to bring in more revenue while spending the same or less is something that all SMEs need to strive for, to push ahead or even simply to stay afloat. This process of automating the marketing process or Marketing Automation is a simple idea but can be difficult to actually implement for the reasons mentioned above.
If you are looking for a place to start, Daptiv’s eBook, "Digital for Singaporean SMEs: Practical Guide for Founders and CEOs" is a great place to start. The ebook gives a great overview of the process and lists a great selection of tools and platforms to help you get started.
However, don’t expect the tools to solve your problems without you first having a clear understanding of your marketing processes. There is no generic, one-size fits all solution. First, know what you want and need, then only should you look for the tools to help get them. If this is too daunting, get professional help. Like with treating medical conditions, it is worth getting the right professional advice to avoid unnecessary problems down the road.