What can SMEs learn from business titans?

5th October, 2016

The average small business may not be the next behemoth business like Uber, Facebook, Apple or Airbnb – but there are key lessons SMEs can learn from them.

These businesses are all global phenomenons that benefited from a confluence of right time, right place, right people to pull it together and the technology to make it all happen.

Are these businesses so rare and beyond the reach of the average business owner that there is little that can be learned from them?

While I don’t think it’s worth the average small business owner trying to imitate these businesses and expecting that kind of world domination, there are three key lessons that can be drawn from how they operate.

Customers power your business

One thing that a business of any size can learn from the rise of these corporate supernovas is the way customers and what they want are woven into the way the business operates.

They are responsive to, and rely on, customers having a voice.  This effectively makes them businesses by the people and for the people.

Take Uber, for example.

The taxi industry has poured a lot of resources into fighting the existence of Uber but it hasn’t stopped supply or demand.

People want a more flexible way to move around and they want it at a lower price, and car owners want to be able to earn income from their asset and their time when it suits them.

Uber provides that choice.

The taxi industry has spent a lot of energy complaining about how the rules are unfair and seemingly little trying to be more responsive to what their customers want.

They want to be able to keep doing what they’ve always done and make money, and they don’t want to acknowledge the rights of customers to change how they get around.

Different can be remarkable

Being different for the sake of being different can be risky – if that’s the sole reason for doing it.

If you change the way that you operate because you believe that it will provide a better customer experience, however, then that can be a powerful driver for your business.

Apple has changed the concept of how a retail store works, for example.

It has turned shopping for a tech tool or gadget into an experience that supports learning through its workshops and knowledgeable sales staff.

It encourages touching and using the different devices in a setting which is more like an art gallery than retail store.

There are no glass cabinets that require a sales assistant to unlock.  Everything is on display, switched on, and ready to play with.

This is because Apple understands customers want to get hands on and experience the differences between handling the different devices for themselves.

Know what you’re really selling

Many businesses focus on their product or service without thinking about what problem they are solving for their target market.

Facebook helps people connect, no matter where they are physically located.

This has proven to be very popular with around 1.7 billion active users in the second quarter of 2016.

What Facebook makes money from, however, and what it’s really selling, is access to those users.

As Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram as well as Messenger it now has extensive insights into their audience’s likes, dislikes and preferences.

Through its advertising products it provides the ability to get in front of an incredibly nuanced database that can be filtered and sifted for the exact audience a business or individual wants to reach.

In order to continue to offer a compelling offer for advertisers it need to keep its users active by taking feedback and improving its service.

It also encourages users to complete their profiles because the more information they have, the better advertisers can target their offering and the better results they are likely to get from their ads.

By being clear about what it’s selling, the focus stays on what key actions will make their offering more appealing and enhance it further