How Important are Online Platforms for SMEs to get the Help They Need?

How Important are Online Platforms for SMEs to get the Help They Need?

SMEs (small to medium enterprises) are the heartbeat of our economy here in Australia. While big businesses make headlines more often, SMEs make up the majority of Australian businesses, around 95% actually, and they operate very differently from large corporates. For example: 

  • You won’t find them indulging in extravagant corporate offices in the CBD of large capital cities. Instead, you’ll find them in your local community, or working from home. 
  • Unlike corporates, SMEs generally aren’t equipped to carry all the systems, technology and expertise they need. This means they call in experts and specialist services as they need them. 
  • They rely heavily on their online presence, word of mouth and networks to grow their business.

SMEs are taking things online

Recently, it’s become clear that an online presence is vital for most businesses. But SMEs have been aware of this for some time! 

According to a 2019 report from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsmen, out of more than 2.3 million businesses in Australia: 

  • 95% of SME businesses have access to the internet in their business.
  • 81% of SME’s use the internet to search for suppliers of products and services they need.
  • Roughly 53% and up to 75% of SME businesses place orders online.
  • Between 30% and 47% of SME’s receive orders online.

It’s clear that online tools are essential for SMEs to access the expertise and services they need in order to thrive.  

What kind of expertise do SMEs need?

From what I can see, both in Australia and other parts of the world, there’s a common core group of services that SME businesses need to access most often. 

Here’s my top 7:

  1. Technology:  Technology is key for SME businesses. They typically need help with things like web design and development, IT consulting to set up, support  and maintain systems, and help with security. 
  2. Marketing: Getting the right advice around branding and marketing strategy is vital for SME businesses. They frequently seek help with social media, content creation, digital advertising, SEO, email marketing and more. Getting this wrong can be expensive, and have a major impact on the success of small and medium businesses working with limited budgets.
  3. Finance and accounting: There have been great advancements in accounting software for small businesses over the last few years, allowing them to manage much of their own bookkeeping and payroll requirements. But businesses still need expert advice on things like business structure, business and tax accounting services, financial planning, superannuation and insurance.
  4. Legal: Legal advice is a highly specialist service, and it’s critical to protect your business interests. SME businesses might need legal advice around things like company incorporation, intellectual property, contracts, litigation, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions and even employment law. 
  5. People: Most SME businesses will only need access to HR and Workplace Health and Safety related experts from time to time. This ranges from help with recruitment, employment conditions and contracts, policy advice, remuneration and compensation, payroll services, HR consulting, mentoring and training. On the safety side they might need WHS strategy and consulting, compliance, EAP services, WorkCover advice and inspections.
  6. Logistics/supply chain: Having fulfilment, warehousing and delivery activities handled by third-party providers not only lowers overall spend, it helps improve customer service. These providers are experts in what they do and having access to a strategic supply chain expert to provide advice can be a game changer for SME businesses. 
  7. Property management and trades: From time to time, business owners need experts to manage and maintain their property portfolio, including qualified tradespeople such as builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, cleaners, painters… I could go on! 

The challenge for SME businesses

The challenge many SMEs face is how to easily find and connect with the best and most reliable people when they need these specialised services. Time and resources are limited for most SMEs, so it can be costly to engage someone only to find out they’re not the right person for the job. 

The new CircleSource platform is designed with exactly this in mind. It helps SME businesses like yours find and connect with trusted and qualified services providers, allowing you to search by skill set and location, and read endorsements before engaging someone’s services. And it’s free! Check it out now at www.circlesource.com.au

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