Why limit to local? Scotch whisky is mostly sold outside the UK (Credit: John Haslam)

In today’s digital world, some of the smallest, leanest businesses can achieve widespread exposure and appear much larger than they actually are, competing alongside long-established, high-volume and high-staffed operations.

Instagram famously had just 13 employees when it was bought by Facebook for $1bn. WhatsApp had 55 employees when it was sold for $20bn.

InsurTech Lemonade uses an ‘Automation Index’ to demonstrate how its use of technology and automation supports scale and efficiencies. Lemonade claims that it sells 2,500 policies per employee, more than 5x its larger competitors when you include agents alongside staff.

Larger businesses can continue to grow and become more effective too, even when the category they’re in is contracting, with more to gain from the smallest of changes.

Digital is at the heart of accelerating growth in such businesses. It’s no wonder when you consider the amount of time we spend online as consumers. Ofcom reports that UK Internet users spend a total of one day a week online (24 hours), more than twice as much as in 2011. And 62% of that time was on mobile devices.

Retail bellwether Next reported net growth in Q4 2018 despite a struggling retail sector. However, this was due to a 15% surge in online sales against an in-store sales decline of 9%.

Lloyds Banking Group reports that UK SMEs with low digital capability could unlock up to an additional £84.5bn turnover if they were to develop high digital capability.

Accenture Research and Oxford Economics said that the digital economy represented 22.5% of global GDP in 2015 and projected this rising to over 25% in 2020, with smarter use of digital generating $2tn of additional economic output over this period.

Another report by IDC forecasts that the digital economy in the Asia-Pacific region will represent a whopping 60% of its GDP in 2021. IDC also forecasts that by 2022, 80% of enterprise revenue growth will depend directly on digital offerings and operations.

By better harnessing digital you can grow your reach, revenue, reputation and profitability whatever size of business, sector or level of digital maturity.

Digital presence and prominence

Digital presence isn’t just about having a website, it’s about being visible and standing out in all the digital places people go – when searching on maps, browsing social media, reading news and blogs, looking at reviews and tapping on apps.

In a purely physical world, you’re limited to your own stores or business premises. If you can afford it you might pay for presence elsewhere too or broker partnerships with other businesses and organisations to extend your reach.

In digital, you can be much more omnipresent without the cost of setting up and maintaining physical exposure.

Paypal is so ubiquitous now, integrated into virtually every ecommerce experience, yet it’s barely visible offline.

Visibility isn’t enough though – impressions without clicks are just like a high street presence without footfall. You need to stand out and reflect what people want.

Every business can grow their presence, prominence and engagement in digital. What share of attention does your business attract?

Located everywhere

If you’re limiting your business to your physical surroundings you’re missing out on a vast national and international market.

Small businesses often start out being local but it doesn’t have to be that way.

For example, UK sales of Scotch whisky account for just 6% of global sales.

The Premier League is now considered Britain’s biggest export according to Populus, with global audiences far exceeding domestic ones.

Ecommerce gives you a shop front wherever your customers are. Work with partners if you need to for distribution, fulfilment and localisation.

Every business can be a global business. How can your customers buy from you wherever they are?

Customer experiences to rave about

There is no direct correlation between business size and customer satisfaction. In fact, the largest businesses are rarely rated highest by customers.

YouGov’s UK Buzz Rankings 2018, measuring the public’s perception of brands, puts Aldi and Lidl far above any other supermarket, despite being the 5th and 7th largest respectively.

Market share data from Kantar based on 12 weeks ending 30th December 2018; Buzz Ranking data from YouGov for top 5 ranked supermarkets only

The ‘Big 6’ energy firms in the UK, with 75% of the market, have shockingly poor customer service ratings, averaging a Trustpilot score of just 1.8 out of 10. Many of the smaller, newer firms have much higher ratings.

Trustpilot scores for selected UK energy companies as of February 2019

McKinsey reports that brands improving customer journeys see revenues increase by as much as 10-15% while also lowering the cost to serve by 15-20% (McKinsey)

Technology can enable an enhanced customer experience but simply investing in tech doesn’t mean you’ve cracked the experience. As Steve Jobs famously said:

“You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology”

The influence of peers on customer attitudes and behaviour is enormous. Despite reports of gaming the system, including The Shed at Dulwich making it to top restaurant in London on TripAdvisor, genuine reviews have a significant impact.

With reviews being openly accessible to everyone, it pays to actively encourage customers to share their experience and for you to engage with reviews – both good and bad.

Digital can elevate the experience you provide and amplify the word-of-mouth sharing of that experience to support both retention and acquisition.

Are you delivering an experience that people rave about?

Data-driven operations

Data is the lifeblood of a sustainably successful business.

If you’re blind to data, you don’t know who your customers are, how to reach them, what engages them, how to keep them coming back and how to evolve what you do.

Netflix uses consumption data to create personalised experiences and also develop content that works.

Tesla collects billions of miles of human driving data to improve automated driving intelligence. Waze has reportedly logged 22.5bn kilometres from 100m active monthly users to provide the most reliable real-time driving maps.

Sea Hero Quest is a mobile game that’s generated the equivalent of more than 12,000 years of lab-based research into dementia.

Are you harnessing data sufficiently to fuel your business? Collect, interpret and feed it back to improve your products, experiences and effectiveness.

Digital products and services

With physical products and services your ability to scale and grow your margins are limited. Traditional innovation or product development is also costly and time consuming.

With digital products and services you can add new customers and extend revenues from existing customers for a fraction of the costs.

BrewDog developed a video-on-demand subscription service to extend the interactions (and revenues) the brand has with its customers.

Peloton provides a digital service for its members to stream live and on-demand indoor cycling classes to their home.

What kind of digital products and services and new revenue streams you can create that go above and beyond your physical ones?

Beyond your category

Punching above your weight isn’t simply about growing share of voice or attention within your market or category. Boundaries are blurring as brands compete in new ways.

Adidas considers Netflix as competition.

Netflix says its competition is anything but TV (most recently Fortnite), but ultimately it’s sleep.

Your category doesn’t define your business. It’s always hard to grow market share and if you’re in a declining market, you’ll be fighting against the tide.

Be bold, be different, create your own space. Join other categories or forge new ones. Digital opens up innovative ways to establish your brand outside of traditional boundaries.

Remaining relevant

It’s easy to punch above your weight for a short amount of time.

Making this sustainable is less straightforward, especially if you feel like you put everything into the last effort. Innovation is a constant demand, it can’t be something you dip in and out of.

Digital and a culture of innovation should be embedded throughout your business. Even with this, change can be slower than you’d like or the market demands. Automation is the ultimate trick in doing more with less. Businesses of all sizes are now finding ways to automate what they do and introduce machine learning to remain relevant and grow.

Get punchy and grow

Digital can provide all businesses with the power to punch above their weight.

Rewrite Digital equips you to punch above by identifying your greatest opportunities for growth and profitability and putting them into action.

Get started with your free assessment, giving you a score for your digital maturity and effectiveness across 5 key areas: Business model, Business performance, Customer satisfaction, Digital experiences and Customer data.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.