As small businesses evolve, so does their usage of apps
If a small business cloud service offering is to be successful, it must address the needs of its target audience. In order to continue to deepen our understanding of those needs, we surveyed owners with businesses at various stages along the lifecycle. That ranged from companies who are pre-trading, all the way through to established businesses with a turnover above £500,000.
The realities of running a small business
We found general agreement about the main risks facing these businesses: lack of customers, money, time and support. A closer look at our survey’s results showed that these risks become particularly relevant at different stages in the lifecycle. For example, lack of customers and money are the two big worries for start-ups. That first year of trading is all about putting the right systems in place, winning customers and getting some money in the bank.
As time passes and businesses grow in turnover and staff, three challenges come to the fore: lack of time, support and – uniquely among this group – skills. It’s at this point that owners typically end up in a more managerial role, taking them away from the activities that complement their core skills, putting them under greater time pressure and making them feel less confident in their own abilities.
How cloud-based solutions are helping
Apps that help with managing money and servicing customers score high with businesses from the outset of their business journey and only gain importance as they grow. The financial tasks they support include forecasting cash flow, invoicing, recording expenses and managing VAT. When it comes to customer management, SMBs are using apps to record new contacts and dealing with enquiries.
After a year, for those businesses that stay small, marketing tools gain traction – perhaps as they look to grow their customer base. But the real difference comes when turnover rises above £500,000 and staff numbers increase.
Then there’s a corresponding rise in engagement with tools to help with HR, legislation and collaborative working. Apps can support a significant range of tasks in each area, including recruitment of staff and payroll; compliance with employee legislation and the creation of contracts; web conferencing and sharing files.
Industry verticals have different needs too
An analysis of the needs of different industry verticals produces similarly illuminating and complementary results. If you take project management tools as an example, these are less likely to rise in importance at different business stages, and instead prove their worth from the start for certain business types where people, budgets and tasks need to be carefully managed.
Putting this knowledge to good use
This type of research proves how valuable consumer insights can be when you go out and ask the right questions. Get to know the stages your customers are at in their lifecycle and the specifics of their industry vertical, and you can design a cloud services proposition that will deliver just what they need.