It shocks many when I explain to them just how slow smaller Australian business is when it comes to embracing new technology, or at least technology-enabled marketing.
“But we trounce the world when it comes to embracing new tech”, protest some.
“But Australia loves its gadgets”, cry others.
In one sense they are correct. As consumers, Australians are generally in the top five when it comes to adopting and embracing new technology.
Fast tech consumers
With personal computers, smartphones and mobile devices, we are world beaters when it comes to trying out exciting new toys.
But that isn’t the case when it comes to the small business market – at least the vast bulk of it.
Compared to consumers, our smaller businesses are somewhat lethargic in adopting new technology.
Take social networking for example. Australian smaller businesses with a social networking presence number around 30% where it’s remained for a few years now.
And one recent report suggested that only 50% of our smaller businesses even had a website – some 20 years after they reached ‘critical mass’.
By global standards this is still reasonably high. However, compared to our consumers, smaller business take their time when embracing new tech.
Slow business adopters
So slow is their comparative uptake with websites and digital communication, I’ve often been moved to say that investment in these areas is very much a ‘grudge’ purchase instead of an effective new way of improving one or more aspects of their business.
I say this because to most small business, new technology is yet another thing to understand, explore and try in an already busy schedule.
As soon as there’s yet another technology development that affects their business, you can almost hear them cry in unison: “Not another one”.
I don’t mean to disparage small business operators when I say this. It’s simply a reality of the smaller business operator’s world.
Finding the time or resources
Most I’ve come across are so busy with merely keeping their business competitive, paying their bills on time and ensuring there’s enough in the kitty to cover the upcoming BAS payment, that anything outside their already packed workload is just another headache they have to deal with.
Unlike larger business, there’s simply not the resources to research the newest developments, interview vendors and otherwise keep in touch with everything going on in the different silos of their business.
So when yet another sales person cold calls and tells them how much their latest gizmo can make them or save them, you can excuse them for rolling their eyes and politely (or not as it were) telling the caller to go bother someone else.
Where did that come from?
The problem is, as so many businesses have found out the hard way, if they completely turn a blind eye to new developments they might well find themselves playing catch-up football with their competitors or worse still, have their very survival threatened.
The ideal scenario is that smaller business operators are so well briefed on technology, that they have already researched it, done the math and even trialed it well before their competitors.
So close to the ground are there ears that they have seen this development coming for some time and have been keeping a close eye on its evolution.
In fact, it is already on their business plan for this financial year.
Normalising technological change
Whilst most smaller business operators would love to say that this scenario resembles the situation in their business, the reality is that they simply don’t have the resources to be this in tune with technological developments.
In fact, it’s only when they can see their sluggishness visibly impact their bottom line that they finally find budget to do something about it in the hope they are not too late.
But as have we have witnessed time and time again, failure to identify trends in technology that impact a business have seen many businesses decimated and even closed.
It’s critical that you find ways to ensure your business doesn’t fall into this category.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.