Digital Skills Suggestions from a Digital Marketing Consultant
To improve the digital skills gap among UK Small and Micro-businesses isn’t a small task. But as a Digital Marketing Consultant working with businesses in a one-to-one setting Here’s what I’ve seen, heard and now know.
2,692 shops disappeared from the UK high street in the first six months of 2018. That’s 14 every day!
I spend large chunks of my working day with smaller business owners. By providing digital marketing know-how, I up-skill these gritty business owners, who put in an admirable fight in the face of adversity.
To say that it’s been eye-opening would be an understatement.
For the last 12 months, I’ve found myself with entrepreneurs who are ambitious – who want to run and grow businesses that they can be proud of. They want to see their hard work pay off. They put in many hours – rise early, go to bed late. Yet despite their determination, many things stood in their way.
Online competition is fierce – one in every five pounds is spent online.
Business rates are rising – they rose in 2017, then in 2018, and they increased again in 2019.
Get to Know small and micro-businesses.
If we’re to have even half a chance of saving smaller businesses, the first thing we must do is get to know these business owners. Let’s take a look at them now. Here are the things I’ve learned about them and some of their stories.
They are not Hobbyists.
The online world is crowded, making it difficult to differentiate between a dedicated business owner and someone with a side hustle.
Carl, an owner of a shoe shop that sells quality footwear for children, expressed how his business has had a rough couple of years. Yet he’s still passionate as ever about the quality of his products. And make no mistake – he’s dedicated to keeping his doors open.
They are grafters – putting in impressive hours
The average small business owner works an average of 50.5 hours a week
Most of the support offered to businesses is in the form of local workshops and seminars. Despite the belief that business owners manage their own time, Kate, a Couture designer of wedding dress and evening gowns, works up to 12 hours a day – seven days a week. It’s fair to say that there’s no fun and games when deadlines are to be met for important special occasions (especially weddings).
They Love their Community
They love where they live and work. They appreciate accessible spaces like libraries, and they support local causes.
Meeting Janet on one of my sessions was a delightful experience. I could sense her excitement for wanting to increase awareness for her project that distributes excess food and reduces food waste. Her passion was infectious.
They are Success Oriented
One client I saw, said these words as her opening greeting…
“I want to dominate the local area for what I do”.
This client named Pamela, who runs an art club for kids. Pamela is passionate about the smiles she puts on the faces of her students. She links her success to smiles, and that’s what makes a local business instrumental in the role to build a community where everyone prospers.
They Appreciative Tangible Support in a Safe Space
There’s no easy way to bring a level playing field to often unnoticed micro-businesses. And despite the many conversations about how to do this, business owners know that it’s easier said than done. That said, bespoke advice and hands-on help are always appreciated. There is a sense of comfort in knowing they can get the support they need within a safe space of the community. Additionally, business owners who are struggling don’t want to be sold to – they want to be helped.
With every business owner, I meet, their personal stories always provide a powerful experience.
No easy Fix to Improve Digital Skills Gap
There’s no easy way to fix the digital skills gap issues among the businesses. According to The Good Things Foundation (2019) report, Building motivation through longer, person-centred support is one of the most effective ways to help people develop digital skills.
Over a quarter (26%) of business owners in England lack confidence in their basic digital skills. (22%) believe a lack of necessary digital skills among their staff is holding them back from increasing their digital and online presence.
So the job to be done is above a single organisation and will take a joint effort.
Organisations wishing to offer genuine support must commit to the very best level of support — segments of information plunge business owners into more and more uncertainty and dismay.
Approach to the Digital Skills Gap problem
Here are six ways we can offer support for small and micro-businesses in the UK to bridge the Digital Skills Gap.
- Bespoke: No two business are the same, so create a bespoke plan that is realistic to implement based on time, budget and skills.
- Flexible: Hardworking business owners have an unpredictable schedule, so a flexible solution is necessary for them to access what’s on offer.
- Unbiased: Don’t oversell any particular tactic as a magic bullet unless it is. Based on your experience, offer realistic advice that best suits the business and stay away from making guarantees, you have no control over.
- Supportive: Exercise empathy for the businesses you work with. Remember that it’s a tough time for them so you may need to go the extra mile and certainly be available to answer their questions over time.
- Comprehensive: Do not provide what business owners thanks that they need, offer the support they need. Be the expert and consult on the best possible solution as offering them segments could lead to more confusion and lack of trust.
- No information overload: Seminars and workshops have their place, but for these business owners, they can do without the barrage of information. Translate information into actions or to-do lists that will help them achieve more without the guesswork or having to put in the time to figure things out themselves.
Finally, we must evolve, be flexible, affordable and most importantly be honest. We have a duty of care to uphold the local economy in which we all do business and want to thrive.