Lloyds Bank’s latest Business Digital Index in association with Go ON UK, suggests that although progress is being made, small and medium-sized enterprises across the UK still lack the digital skills they need to compete in a rapidly modernising market.
Basic digital skills rises to 77%
According to the report the number of “SMEs now holding the right basic digital skills” has risen “from 75% to 77% since 2014,” however this figure varies from region to region, and across industry sectors. London is the most “digitally mature region” while the North East has seen the largest rise in digital skills. On the other hand, the charity sector has seen a fall in digital skills.
One of the key findings of the report is that there appears to be a “significant link between organisational success and digital maturity” and “financial value”. Strong digital skills are necessary for companies wishing to build a strong reputation online, and essential for any business wishing to compete with the market leaders.
Businesses lack digital skills
Lloyds Bank and digital skills charity Go On UK surveyed 2,000 businesses and charities. The Index revealed that 23% of SMEs lack basic digital skills such as maintaining a social media presence and running a website. A quarter of SMEs said that they don’t believe digital is relevant to their business model, while 27% said that they think they’ve done everything they can to capitalise on digital technologies.
Digital technology is important to future success
However the Index also showed that 82% of SMEs with high digital maturity say that they’re “very confident” or “confident” in their business’ prospects. Consequently results show that the most digitally mature small businesses were a third more likely to expand funding or profit margins in the last two years.
This conclusion is supported by similar findings from Google Garage. This is a multi-million pound project that has been designed to ‘fine tune’ the digital skills of 200,000 SMEs in the UK. They recently launched in Leeds and plan to expand to other major commercial hubs around the country. Information on the Google Garage site reveals that when a small business has a strong online presence, it’s twice as likely to grow than when it doesn’t and that SMEs could potentially access £19 billion extra in revenue expansion if they learned how to utilise digital technologies.
Why do SMEs need digital skills?
World famous entrepreneur Richard Branson wrote about why small businesses need digital skills last year for SME Advice. The Virgin Group Founder argued that “technology is constantly advancing, if you make sure your business is nimble and smart enough to adopt new ideas early, then it gives your start-up a weapon that will allow you to compete with the market leaders.”
He used the example of the taxi booking app Hailo to make his point. The entrepreneur noted that in the space of two years, the three internet entrepreneurs and three London cab drivers who came together to create the idea that you can order a taxi through your smartphone had seen their concept raise more than $50 in capital and become operational across 30 cities. Referencing the fickle nature of consumerism, Branson went on to point out that Hailo itself is now facing stiff competition from the similar, yet apparently more digitally advance, taxi booking app Uber.
How can reputation management help SMEs?
Developing digital skills in your office is essentially linked to managing a company’s online reputation. Content management, social media planning and online PR can help you to promote your business to a wider, more relevant audience. Good online reputation management can help your business be seen in a positive light, by the right people, in the appropriate places. A report from the World Economic Forum revealed that over 25% of a business’ value can be directly attributed to its reputation.
Did you know that Google has over a billion users? Data from Chitika shows that the first page of a Google search garners 92%, on average, of all traffic. Therefore, if unwanted content appears on the first page of a search for your company’s name, it will damage your reputation online and as the World Economic Forum report shows, this will drive down your turnover.
How to protect your company’s reputation online
Company reputation management can help you mitigate the effects of unwanted content or lack of content. My company Igniyte works with companies globally supporting them to develop the rigt digital skills to:
- Monitor for mentions of their company name and sentiment concerning their brand online.
- Position key executives as thought leaders in their field. Not only does this help a firm take control of the first page of a search for their brand on Google, it promotes them as a dependable source of industry information to their consumer base.
- Implement a review strategy in order to minimise the risk unwanted reviews pose to a business’ reputation online.
- Develop a process which allows them to challenge defamatory or unsubstantiated content online.
- Create a strategy that they can rely upon to ensure their social and professional media profiles register on the first page of a Google search for company or brand name.
- Develop an online communications crisis strategy that a company can deploy quickly in emergency situations.
Outmanoeuvre your competitors online
The fact that 23% of SMEs in the UK lack basic digital skills should be a warning to businesses. While company reputation management may help you outmanoeuvre your competitors online, it may also allow you to capture a larger share of your customer base, facilitate expansion and ultimately, increase turnover.
For more information on managing your company’s reputation online contact me on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 or email email@example.com in confidence.