Let's be honest, digital skills don't get most people wildly excited as a concept. It sounds a bit like a test you have to take, or maybe a dust filled department at the end of the hallway.... But in reality, it is a magic box full of opportunity for the average small business and budding entrepreneur. Most small businesses in the UK do not have the time or money to spend on really super-sizing their digital footprint and abilities. There is a sense that websites are expensive (and website builders even more so), that social media is hard to make a dent into, and that you can spend hours of your precious time for very little return to the bottom line.
But it really doesn't, and shouldn't have to be that way! We know from our research with eBay this year that the average small business could benefit to the tune of £20,000 per year with greater digital skills. By having a decent (not mega complex or whizzy) website, a professional email and a few social media skills, entrepreneurs can be found more, sell more and grow more!
With small businesses usually busy doing their thing - hairdressing, plumbing, photography, cake baking, wedding planning, environmental surveying - they just don't have the time to investigate what is available to them, and this is causing a growing problem in the sector (ok, small business is not a sector - it is MANY sectors, actually probably EVERY sector!) So if they wont come to the mountain.... We decided to take the bus to them.
It takes more than just a bit of marketing to get small businesses to exploit the fantastic opportunity of digital - it takes coming to their doorstep. The Do It Digital Roadshow is doing just that - going to ten towns across the UK, including Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London, and bringing the skills to the business rather than the other way round. In each location, two businesses are given a digital make over from our experts (most of whom are also small businesses!) looking at websites and social media, with workshops covering all digital topics, such as digital accounting and email marketing.
What we find in every town is that often it is not that the small businesses don't know they need to do something with digital, and they often have some skills gathering dust. What becomes more important is the confidence to use the skills. The Internet is very public, any failures equally so. Small businesses owners who are working hard on their product or service do not want to blow it with one dodgy tweet! Part of our job is to give them the confidence that they can do it and that it is worth it - and really, not so much of a risk.
Confidence is, I believe, the secret sauce for small businesses, and the more we can do to empower small businesses, the more dynamic, exciting and ultimately successful we will be as an economy and as communities. Empowering businesses with the knowledge to reach their customers, to engage their communities, to reach new markets outside their area and even overseas is surely the most important goal of all digital skills initiatives for business.
We are not alone in this goal - lots of organisations have made a pledge to help small businesses with their skills and confidence this year as part of the Do It Digital step change for 2017. HSBC has committed to helping 50,000 small businesses start with Internet banking. Barclays are running 500 training events for small businesses across the UK. The FSB are offering all their members cyber security insurance to give them confidence to do more online. Google are offering five hours of free training to every person (every person!) in the UK this year and expanding their Google Garages to 100 towns and cities. More and more organisations are coming on board all the time to join together and really make a difference to small businesses in 2017.
We think they are all superheroes. Even without the jump suits.
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