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Barriers Between SMEs And Digital

There are definitely psychological factors that influence someone’s ability to adapt to change. After four years working with SME owners, I have noticed some barriers and I am learning to navigate them. When I meet SME owners and ask them why they were hesitant to enhance their digital presence, I often got responses like:

“Technology and the social media thing are too confusing, so I’ll stick to what I know.”  

“I’m already busy enough and don’t want to grow anymore.”

“My customers are not on Facebook.”

“I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work.”

“I’ll try it in 6 months when I have more money and time.”

“I just don’t understand where I can get the time to do all this.”

“I am shy on camera, what will I say?”

I couldn’t grasp the reasoning behind the responses I was getting because the landscape of today’s marketplace is crystal clear to me so I put myself in their shoes and began analysing this. I sought out deeper conversations and began taking mental notes about the barriers between them and the digital world.  Here are some of the reasons I was able to wrap my head around.  

  1. a) Lack of awareness:  I believe that a lot of SMEs are simply not very aware of the digital transformation occurring in the business world because they themselves are not active platform users.
  1. b) Unclear targeting: This parallels with their lack of awareness, as they don’t really know how to use social media to communicate with their target audience.
  1. c) Fear, uncertainty, doubt: I believe this to be one of the more psychological barriers SME owners face with digital. For many of these owners, they are familiar with the traditional forms of marketing (like print) that they fear the uncertainty of changing to a foreign landscape.  This whole ‘you have to put content out’ thing is completely new to them.
  1. d) The complexity factor: Imagine rarely using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and then someone telling you that your company now needs to rely on these platforms in order to keep up with the competition. It would be a bit overwhelming that’s for sure, and for many of these owners, learning the ins and outs of social media is complex and foreign.
  1. e) The paralysis of choice: This one is also extremely psychological.  We all experience the struggles of decision making on a daily basis but not all of us run a business and need to decide in the interest of the company and its employees.  It’s a sticky place to be. The paralysis of choice is very real and common among SME owners. Why Facebook? Why Instagram? What if something new comes out.

SMEs owe it to themselves to identify and deal with each of those factors/feelings in their businesses to catch up to the digital economy. With the knowledge from Sensis reporting that social media confidence is at an all-time high with consumers, I believe that this topic is important for SMEs to discuss and analyse. Ultimately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, but uncovering the reality of the current marketplace is a great first step.

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