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5 Key Areas For Small Scale Digital Transformation

Should Tiny Companies Participate?

In a previous blog, we explored the importance and benefits of companies making a digital transformation— reimagining business in the digital age. This includes changing business practices, culture and customer experiences with digital tools and processes. But what about the tiniest companies—the mom-and-pop stores, or solo independent contractors? Do they need a digital transformation? 

The answer is yes. The reason is, whether we like it or not, the world is evolving to rely heavily on technology. People are far more tech-savvy. To meet customer expectations and to take advantage of tools that will help the bottom line, even the smallest companies should make a digital transformation. 

Small business survival is also important to our economy. Small businesses generate 53% of all U.S. sales. Throughout this article are tips for the smallest business to develop a solid digital footprint with minimal time and cost.

The Challenges
Many small business owners may think they do not have the capacity to take on a digital transformation. For example, a contractor may juggle customer communication, scheduling, ordering materials, getting the work done, sending out bills, paying contractors or employees, and problem solving. It may seem there are just not enough hours in the day to squeeze in one more thing.

Another example is a local business with a storefront that thrived for decades on personal relationships and being part of the area community, but is now struggling to keep its doors open. Regular customers flock to larger chains and online retailers in search of a greater variety of inventory, lower prices and two-day shipping. 

In both these examples, businesses are not meeting their potential customers where they are looking for information–online. Their processes are not efficient, making it hard to compete. Finally, their mode of customer service is outdated and there is minimal customer follow-up. 

Fortunately, setting up or optimizing your company’s digital presence is not as daunting as you may think. It takes a small initial investment and a modest place in your monthly budget. But if it means sensibly growing a business while maintaining a positive work/life balance, a digital transformation is an investment that makes good business sense.

Digital Presence Basics
A digital transformation is going to look far different for smaller businesses than big corporations with departments of staff. Some independent owners may take on some digital tasks themselves, but you can reasonably outsource many initial development tasks and ongoing maintenance. Here are the five focus areas.  

1. Have an Up-to-Date Website
A website is like a calling card. It replaces the “Yellow Pages” of past generations. Even though the number of small businesses without a website is dwindling to around 29% according to, as many as 75% of existing websites are not fully optimized for people viewing on mobile devices. Since more people are now browsing the internet from their phones than from a desktop computer, having a website that appears properly on mobile is essential.

First, let’s dispel a few myths for people that don’t have a website. The reasons small businesses give for not having a website are:

  • 27%- Not relative to industry
  • 26%- Cost
  • 21%- Use social media instead15%- Lack of technical knowledge 
People looking at data in notebook and computer

Today, 85% of customers will search for products and services online before contacting a local business. Simply having a professional looking, well-functioning website adds legitimacy to a business. When a relative started his contracting business, he declined my offer of a free website. He already had a backlog of clients and didn’t see the need- until a competitor entered his small market area. 

A website opens up a business to a wider audience of customers, nationwide or even globally. Without a website, or with a sorely outdated online presence, a business is invisible to online customers. And social media just doesn’t cut it. When I see an interesting business on Facebook, I immediately look for their website address to learn more. Without a website, a company’s reputation is dubious.

Regarding cost, a company can establish a decent online presence for very little money, other than an initial investment of time and effort by the business. With today’s excellent template website builders, anyone with basic computer skills can build their own website. Arrange freelance marketing support if you do not want to build or maintain your online presence.

There are two routes to go down to establish or redo an outdated website.

  • Use a DIY website builder like WiX or Squarespace. Both options are easy to set up and maintain and have minimal monthly costs. 

    WiX is $27 per month for a professional business site, or up to $59 per month for advanced e-commerce. WiX is said to be the easiest for beginners.Squarespace is $18 per month for a business site, or up to $40 per month for advanced e-commerce. Squarespace is also easy, requiring no prior website skills. Squarespace is said to have more advanced features than WiX.

  • Hire a freelancer to help you set up a website. Freelancer hiring sites like Upwork can connect you to a professional to set up your website, whether it be WiX, Squarespace or a more robust site like WordPress.

    WordPress is a more advanced website builder, used by over 35% of sites worldwide. While a basic site can be fairly simple for those with some technical skills, WordPress has many add-on features that can make a site applicable for the needs of larger businesses, or those heavily e-commerce focused. 

Regardless of which resource you choose, aim to have a website that is:

  • Optimized for search results, so customers can quickly find you on search engines such as Google. 
  • Mobile friendly, which allows customers to easily view your website on cell phones and tablets.
  • Informative, so customers know what to expect when visiting your physical storefront, or what your service provides.

There are some other costs involved in a website, including buying a custom domain name and website hosting (these two items are free with a Squarespace plan). 

Professional photography is also essential, but you can find free stock images on sites like Pixabay, Unsplash and Pexels. Fill in with photos of your business that look professional or ask a shutterbug friend for help. Make sure all images are sized appropriately before loading. According to research by Google, if a page takes over 5 seconds to load, the user will probably leave that page. Load speed is also a factor in Search Engine Optimization ranking (where a site appears on Google and other sites). Faster load times can also increase sales.

Finally, have someone with good English and editing skills review your DIY site before publishing it to the internet. Bad grammar and spelling will not help your company’s reputation.

2. Be on the Social Media
Businesses today must be on social media. Why? Statistics don’t lie. Social media is extremely popular, and that trend is not going away. Use is fairly consistent across all demographics, including race, income and education. In the age category, use drops off after age 65, but that may change in the future as digital-born populations become seniors around 2045.  

Social media also remains one of the least expensive forms of advertising to put your business message in front of a targeted audience.

By far, Facebook is the most robust social platform, and second only to YouTube in overall audience. Since Meta (Facebook’s new business name) purchased Instagram, you can post to both platforms at once through the Meta business portal. 

There are other social sites a business could benefit from, especially if targeting young audiences. But for busy small businesses, a presence through Meta with posts to Facebook and Instagram will provide a good presence. 

Besides focused, monthly posts that link to your website, you can fill in content with posts relative to your business. Follow several blogs, websites and social media pages to get content ideas to share. For example, a realtor may follow “This Old House,” which has DIY home improvement content, or Explore Minnesota Tourism to find events in their market area.

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3. Use Digital Tools for Contacts and Communication
Contacts are a valuable resource for a business. They should be diligently collected from resources such as: 

  • Work you have done/current clients
  • Website forms 
  • Social media
  • Paid advertising
  • In-store promotions or sign-up lists

Some website content management platforms like Squarespace include contact management tools. Alternately, you can use a separate app like MailChimp. Free for your first 500 contacts, MailChimp has relatively low monthly fees based on the number of subscribers on your mail list. You can also keep contact lists on email platforms like Gmail or Outlook, or on an Excel spreadsheet, but you would need to connect up to another app for a newsletter or e-blast template.

Use email, messaging apps, and video conferencing tools to communicate with clients and collaborators. This can help you stay connected and productive, even if you or your customers are in remote locations.

4. Bring it All Together
There is a marketing strategy that allows small businesses to spend little time on digital marketing each month, but still get a big return. It’s a 1-2-3 method that I use for larger clients, that any size business can do.

First, create a blog post (or two!) for your websites at least monthly, with images. Focus on what is current or seasonal in your business in the month ahead. Emphasize advantages your business has over big box stores, specifically expertise. Pick a topic and dive in! Giving away a little bit of valuable information is an enticing way for customers to want to learn more. Creating this original content will help keep your website content fresh and your site ranking up on search engines.

Second, post a link to your blog post on your social media pages. Use trigger words on your social post like free, proven, new or top 10, to drive engagement. Create an ad for that social post, targeted to the demographics you want to reach. 

Third, create an email blast or e-newsletter based on this same content and send out to your customer and/or subscriber list once a month or once a quarter.

5. Other Digital Transformation Considerations
Two other areas often need a digital upgrade in the smallest businesses are appointment scheduling and bookkeeping. 

A contractor that is consistently late (or doesn’t show up) because they have overbooked themselves or forgotten to write down an appointment will not build a good reputation for their business. A scheduling app that links to a calendar and also sends reminders is an essential tool. 

Not having professional invoices or methods for accepting payments online could wipe out a significant portion of business opportunities. Service providers can often bundle together payment and scheduling functions. For example, payment processor Square also has a scheduling app. 

Organizations like GoSite bundle even more, including everything a small business would need for a digital transformation, including a website, scheduling and booking, invoices, payment processing, contact management, review gathering and posting, funneling messaging from all platforms to one app, increasing website SEO ranking on search engines and social media. Note you don’t have to purchase a GoSite website to use other paid tools. 

Overall, making a digital transition for your business can help you work more efficiently, reach more customers and stay competitive in today’s digital marketplace. By adopting digital tools and strategies that fit your business needs and goals, even the smallest business can achieve greater success.

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