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  • Small But Mighty

    The Power of Storytelling for Singapore SMEs in 2023 Key Takeaways Differentiate or discount Storytelling and emotional connections are especially crucial today for SMEs to stand out in a competitive market. Branding attracts talents A compelling employer brand increases odds of appealing to top talents, which in turn can improve company performance. Magic of Retention A 5% increase in customer retention rates can result in increased profits ranging from 25% to 95%, a famous study shows. Perception Matters Singapore has long been recognized as a thriving business hub in Asia with tons of global accolades but many SMEs here still struggle to stand out in a sea of sameness. As of 2023, a staggering 99% of the 409,000 ACRA-registered firms here are small businesses, with 80% earning less than S$1m per year. In the world of business, it is a common misconception that the best product will always come out on top. Quality is still a crucial factor. However, perception is quite everything in today’s experience-driven world. Your customers are swayed not just by product quality, but by intangible factors like branding and reputation. This makes it challenging for small businesses to attract new customers and grow, without a strong brand image. Breaking Free from the Vicious Cycle Without it, businesses easily sink into the vicious cycle of commoditization and price wars, leading to limitations in talent and returning to old ways of working. If we continue to do the same things, we will continue to receive the same results. SMEs can achieve success by using automation and creativity to differentiate ourselves. Someone in the company needs to initiate change to break free from this deadly "me-too" cycle. If we think small, we are more likely to be bullied. The power of our thoughts cannot be understated, as leaders' directions influence the whole team’s actions and words. It is the responsibility of leaders to facilitate change, but someone MUST initiate action. To win in business, we need to keep finding better angles and focus on creating a compelling story that sets us apart. We’ve won multiple tenders against much larger competitors with our creative positioning, storytelling and emotional connections with customers. It is indeed possible and even addictive. In the game of tenders, just like in business, there's no room for 2nd place. But how do you ensure that you're the one coming out on top? How do your clients perceive you? When done well, your customers will be more willing to stick to you, even if you’re not the cheapest. Think about how you are different and better, in 1 line. Think of branding as a secret weapon that gives you a competitive edge. An emotional connection with your audience can retain existing customers and secure new ones, with a renewed loyalty translating into increased sales and profitability. There are tons of famous quotes out there on how vital branding is and its impact on selling and even survival. According to Steve Forbes, "A brand is the single most important investment a business can make." However, building a strong brand can be a daunting task, particularly for companies with limited budgets or in-house talent. The risks of falling behind and becoming irrelevant is real and require a creative rethink on new ways of working, leveraging new tools and people. Collaborating with top quality third-party providers can offer a cost-effective solution to overcome these challenges. In such cases, this can be a game-changer. Superior partnerships can help you tap into expertise and resources that may not be available internally, allowing you to create a more compelling brand and grow your business. Be curious, go find out what’s possible, invest 30% of your time on social media here. New tools, new ways, new you. Bounce and Conversion In today's digital age, the neglect of branding can result in high bounce rates and low conversion, ultimately costing your business money and customers. With weak differentiation, potential customers may likely perceive your business as a "cheap" option, perpetuating a vicious cycle of competing on price. It is only natural. High bounce rates mean that people leave your site soon after visiting it —— usually within 8 seconds, without interacting or exploring further. It's like customers going to your physical store and leaving immediately without looking around or buying anything. Low conversion rates mean that visitors are not taking the desired action —— such as clicking that button to buy, fill forms, or sign up. A healthy conversion is between 2-5% depending on industry. SMEs we spoke with needed 10x to 50x more visitors to get that same number of clicks. Google Analytics doesn’t lie. Some even needed 100x, this for real. Cheap is costly. Primitive 'More of the Same' templates in today's world will quickly lose eyeballs, naturally. Evolution of Branding When branding is done for the sake of it, clients can smell it even. Looking more of the same not only drives your prices down but also leads to reduced engagement and detachment from potential customers, a return to that vicious cycle. The traditional elements of branding, such as logos and taglines, may work in 1990 but are no longer enough to engage with today's customers. Instead, Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) are crucial aspects of branding that must be considered. This includes elements such as short videos and gamified loyalty programs that appeal to younger audiences and helps you stay top of mind. Additionally, it may be necessary to transform your brand personality, tone of voice and visual identity to communicate your unique value proposition, to better resonate with your target audience of today and tomorrow. “When You Do It Because That's What Everyone Does, Clients Can Tell" From Unknown to Trusted Customers are willing to pay more for products or services from a brand they know and trust. Further, it can also help SMEs expand into new products and services and even venture into overseas markets with confidence. On the other hand, they are also often sceptical of new and unknown brands, we are like that as customers, right? It’s a very human thing. This is especially true in industries where quality control and customer service are vital, such as healthcare and hospitality. In a world where first impressions matter, looking different and better can make all the difference between a successful SME and a struggling one. A Compelling Employer Brand On building a strong team, many SMEs overlook the importance of branding when it comes to attracting and retaining top talents. However, just as customers are more likely to trust and pay a premium to well-branded SMEs, that top talent is also more likely to consider an employer that has a strong and distinctive brand image. Yes, easier said than done, but do we do something, or wait and see? Creative branding helps improve quality of candidates who apply. Don't be afraid to embrace the quirks and idiosyncrasies of your team members. Instead, use them to your advantage. It’s a great form of differentiation and authenticity. You are not expected to be flawless. By showcasing your unique strengths and values, you can create a compelling brand that resonates with young talents. This step is often assumed away, which can lead SMEs back into the cycle of competing on price and a race to the bottom, with no good people to help raise standards or perception. By forming a strong team that sets you apart, you can break free and establish a unique identity in the marketplace. The Power of 5% In today's market, it's crucial to retain customers to sustain business viability and even attract potential investors. Loyal customers who value your brand are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend your products or services to others. A famous study by Bain and Company has shown that a mere 5% increase in customer retention rates can result in significant increase in profits ranging from 25% to 95%. Make them return and refer. Not only is customer retention crucial for profitability but it's also more cost-effective than winning new ones. Acquiring new customers can cost up to 20x more than retaining existing ones (many reports on this), not forgetting today's skyrocketing platform fees. While buying eyeballs may be easy, converting them into loyal customers is not. Hence, customer retention is not only cost-effective but also essential for the longevity of any business. Without repeat customers, businesses risk being deemed unviable, in the eyes of investors. By focusing on customer retention, SMEs can create a loyal customer base and improve their profitability. So, take advantage of the power of 5%. Go Google; CRM and Loyalty Programs. Automation; Work Smarter, Not Harder SMEs often face resource constraints when it comes to daily operations. However, automation tools like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI can help alleviate this. RPA has been around for a decade; it can handle repetitive tasks such as data entry and inventory management while Modern AI tools can conduct market research and even generate insightful reports. Moreover, with low-cost SaaS tech tools and grants from the Singapore government, SMEs can initiate change and take the first step to avoid falling behind. Adopting automation not only saves time and resources, but also improves accuracy and product quality, leading to happier customers and increased revenue. This was further highlighted in our recently concluded 4-month long Digital Growth and Innovation course, a pioneer SkillsFuture Queen Bees (SFQBs) project in partnership with Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Here at Whizzard, we have kickstarted proof-of-concepts and readied 2 MVPs on several fronts to "scale and automate to the extreme." Automation may not be flawless, but it is crucial for driving our processes, systems and products. To avoid common pitfalls and deliver value, SMEs must stay updated with industry trends and gather feedback from customers, to simply keep up. As Davids taking on Goliath, we need to think smart and band together to take advantage of new tools and new ways to partner. To enhance our efficiency and to remain competitive in today's exciting market. “I’ve never seen this level of business subsidy anywhere else in the world.", a seasoned globetrotting management consultant recently told us. Now is the time to deploy modern tech tools and talents at low cost with high impact. Embracing automation can enable SMEs to work smarter, not harder. Time is precious, spend more time with your loved ones, clock that 7,000 steps and drink more water. Memorable Uniqueness You know why luxury brands evoke such strong emotions and drive people to pay exorbitant prices? It's all about the perception of scarcity, which creates exclusivity and desirability. But how can small businesses break out of this never-ending cycle of price competition and create their own memorable uniqueness? Customers can easily tell if a brand is just going through the motions. Authenticity is key. It's not just about the product or service, but the story behind it that can create an emotional connection with customers. By finding your unique characteristics and showcasing them authentically, you can stand out in a crowded market. Creative angles and partnerships with the right people can help businesses unlock their own secret to success. In this digital age, perceived value matters as much as product features. Emotional Connection Storytelling helps SMEs build emotional connections with customers, but many prioritize short-term marketing over branding, which can often be limited by high bounce rates and low conversion rates. To compete with bigger brands, SMEs need to start to prioritize targeted messaging, storytelling and new technologies to break the cycle of commoditization and to keep customers coming back. To convert eyeballs into share of mind and share of wallet, we all need to keep finding better angles to our stories. Winning Combination No, we don't have the winning numbers to this week’s Toto. Branding is a complex process that involves both art and science. Investing in branding is crucial for SMEs to create a memorable and engaging experience that keeps customers coming back for more. By creatively utilizing available tools and partners, small businesses can stand out from competitors, go beyond short-term gains and sometimes, beat the big boys.

  • The Human Factor in Digital Transformations

    Summary The dilemma; above 70% of digital transformations fail (try Google it), often due to human factors, yet businesses risk becoming obsolete if we stick to BAUs (business as usual). The approach; even with limited resources, there are creative ways to better think and do. Success is best driven by small cumulative changes, aided by new tools and ways of working. Digital transformations are crucial for businesses to stay competitive but above 70% of them fail, primarily due to human factors. For Singaporean SMEs to succeed in this digital age with limited resources, we must adopt human-centric approaches that prioritize understanding behavior, leveraging incremental progress and avoiding tech hype. A majority of successful transformations, 80% of the 30%, incorporated key elements like prioritization, effective monitoring and modular technology deployment, which are all people-centric. Breaking down solutions into smaller, manageable chunks minimizes risks and allows for quicker, more effective implementation, wouldn’t you agree? Sources: IMDA DAI Study, 2019-2021. Flipping the Odds of Digital Transformation Success, BCG, 2020 People-Centric Elements of Success Communicating simply Maintaining momentum Celebrating small victories Each and every one of these 3 are vital for morale and guard against human tendencies to falter in the face of setbacks. Easy to assume, tough to implement. Even after securing buy-ins of those sceptics, early supporters may also lose steam or become disillusioned. SMEs especially should pilot experimental projects with proof-of-concepts (POCs) and minimum viable products (MVPs), popularized by science and tech but applicable to all industries. Imagine baking a cake for the first time. A Proof-of-Concept is like a mini cake test run, checking if the recipe works. If successful, you move to a Minimum Viable Product – a simple, unfrosted cake to gather feedback and refine before creating the final masterpiece. POCs and MVPs help innovators test ideas efficiently and break down transformation efforts into manageable projects. Transformation Leaders of Today As Chief Transformation Officers (CTOs) of today, we must ‘skilfully navigate delicate situations and handle people with tact’. Use storytelling to motivate and lead a movement. To rally leaders, inspire dialogue, empower risk-takers & our fav – unite change champions for a culture of bold growth. Branding elements like good positioning and storytelling are crucial in successfully getting across the vision, objectives and expected benefits, to secure buy-ins week after week in the iterative journey. Managing Change Capability building and change management make up 70% of successful transformations, with IT only contributing 20% and strategy accounting for the remaining 10%. Businesses should view tech tools as a means to achieve more victories rather than the core purpose of their operations. Technology remains the HOW and not the WHY we are in business. Businesses that resist change also risk becoming obsolete. As a case in point, 52% of Fortune 500 companies in 2000 have vanished from the list. They have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist. This sobering statistic was revealed by then Chairman and CEO of Accenture at the World Economic Forum in January of 2016. Cool Tools and Moves of 2023 A First Just last week, we graduated as the pioneering batch of the 16-week Digital Growth and Innovation (DGI) course, a collaboration between SkillsFuture Queen Bees (SFQBs) and Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) RISE for Business curriculum. It’s a dynamic mix of Zoom lectures, group discussions and presentations, providing SMEs and MNCs here with the knowledge and tools to better differentiate and compete. A seasoned, globally-travelled external consultant also recently commented, 'I've never seen such (90%) subsidies and support from any governments in the world. Key Takeaways • Adopting new habits and Rapid experimentation • Clarifying opportunity spaces and Recalibrating segment-specific pricing While balancing course commitments with day-to-day business demands can be challenging, we feel the long-term benefits of digital transformation is well worth it. We acquired good shortcuts to the necessary tools, strategies and mindset to thrive in this exciting digital age. There are lots of wisdom and expertise (usually reserved for ‘big companies’) sprinkled across the twice weekly 4-hour Zooms. We share some here. Knowledge-Sharing The process of change can be a frustrating and lonely one. The DGI course embraces this challenge by nurturing a culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among participants. As fellow SME owners and professionals share their experiences, we gain valuable insights and inspiration, allowing us to make smarter decisions and learn from each other's mistakes. This sense of camaraderie and shared purpose also provides much-needed reassurance that others face similar challenges. It’s both precious and heart-warming. SMEs at different stages of digital maturity are encouraged to embrace new approaches, redefine their vision and cultivate a strong digital mindset and agile culture. By connecting with diverse perspectives and experiences, SME owners can gain a fuller understanding of the reasons behind slow change and explore creative ways to overcome obstacles. Networking events such as meetings at the BCG office complete the course experience. We gained diverse perspectives and further strengthen connections. Course mates include senior folks from a listed company, MNCs and President of a large association. Also, we are meeting again for a beastly Korean BBQ soon. Maybe a blog post on food next week? Creative Approaches The era of "business as usual" is long gone. With resource limitation, we SMEs must find and adopt creative approaches to problem-solving and growth. We also appreciate the supportive DGI community focused on collaboration, knowledge-sharing and networking. By leveraging the collective wisdom of the group, both SME owners and professionals can overcome challenges, embrace innovative solutions and drive our businesses forward. Interesting quote: The personable Mariam Jaafar, MD and Partner at BCG gave us a little motivational nudge at our DGI graduation; “If you think small, you remain small”. Thinking drives doing and prioritization is key, this we heard are part of BCG’s secret sauce for tackling problems. Embrace the power of digital growth to outperform your peers, but don't be afraid to ask for help or rely on others for support. That’s what we did. Embracing vulnerability in the transformative journey fosters authenticity too. Small Steps to Big Impact Question; “How did David win against Goliath?” Answer; “Drastic transformation is moved by small changes.” This came from one of our favourite slides, right at the start of the DGI course. Now we’ve a question for you too; are big boys better at small changes? It's not about size, but agility and adaptability. Access to powerful tools is available to all now, take some initiative today. Mindset Change Adopting a mindset change, building capabilities and reducing risks through human-centric design are vital components we learnt to navigate the complex world of stakeholders and priorities. We start to adopt best practices of digital champions (proven track records) to Reframe problems and Challenge inherent beliefs Prioritize innovative solutions, to channel firepower Become both a robust change agent and dynamic facilitator Like you, we face multiple stakeholders, often with differing interests. One good approach to align stakeholders is to co-create with them, starting with a tiny little project or POC. Find ways to celebrate small wins. The structured ways to reframe problems and challenge inherent beliefs also brought us creative approaches to apply to our business. When Starbucks was just starting out, as an SME they were concerned if; Coffee being an everyday drink, customers may not be willing to pay higher. It helps to ask; “are we asking the right question?” Once we reframe the problem it brings new perspectives. Redefining customer experience brought in long queues for Starbucks the SME. Addressing inherent assumptions helps all of us better identify alternative solutions to old problems. When was the last time you applied creativity? Hybrid Intelligence Given that challenges of hiring will not go away anytime soon, we found new affordable ways to scale and automate processes using cutting-edge technologies like cloud adoption, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Capability building is crucial for success with 70% of it coming from managing change itself. With a digital-first mindset and optimization of processes, systems and products, we SMEs can then have a chance of intelligently achieving increased revenue and market share, while waiting for that dream hire. Another precious insight is reducing risks through human-centric design and feedback loops. By implementing a customer-led approach and refining offerings based on gathered insights, we can enhance customer satisfaction and minimize potential risks. Your customers may not really want what you think they need. Mother’s Day is coming, you think you know what Mum wants. But that surprise gift can end up in the storeroom collecting dust, just like past years. Never? We think we know them, but our assumptions may no longer be correct. New tools and new ways help us better understand our audience. They can be low-cost and high impact too. Embracing Change. Reaping Rewards. Empowering Davids Embracing disruptive technologies such as ... Software as a Service (SaaS) —— easy setup, cloud-based, pay-as-you-go No-code Platforms —— non-techie user-friendly, often drag and drop AI —— ultra efficiency, amazing shortcuts ... empower both individuals and organizations to challenge established norms and foster innovation. It can also enhance overall satisfaction for both our employees and partners. The explosion of data has also led to the development of new algorithms and AI systems that help us manage and analyze information. Industries like logistics, healthcare, media and finance stand to benefit significantly from these advancements. However, it is crucial to remain mindful of the potential risks as well. Cloud-driven no-code platforms enable widespread adoption by making technology accessible to non-experts. These user-friendly tools have led to increased efficiency, happier employees and more robust partnerships. Of the 6 disruptive technologies reshaping our world, Whizzard is leveraging 2 of them to raise our game. Pay-per-use, on-demand and fast deployment are some key characteristics of cloud services we really appreciate. We also started about 2 months ago to utilize no-code platforms and AI to reshape the way we work and it amazed everyone around us. (We are talented too lah of course) The disruptive technologies of today, such as advanced processing power and robotics, have levelled the playing field for those who dare to challenge the status quo. As more Davids triumph over Goliaths, besides tech unicorns, it becomes evident that curiosity and risk-taking are driving forces in this new era of innovation. Some of us in DGI have started playing with SaaS, taking up free trials or subscribing to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI tools. We have started to harness the power of low-cost, high-impact technologies to drive success. Sometimes we just need a nudge to start trying. It takes about 60 days to form a new habit and we are encouraging each other to keep at it. It's like nurturing your own child's growth; encourage experiments, fail faster, learn and never give up. Automation has clear benefits For example, sales teams spend only 28%-33% of their time actually selling, while automation technologies from a global CRM leader save businesses over 100 billion hours every month. With the right solutions, efficiency and output quality can soar. New Dawn What we just shared is just the tip of the iceberg. By implementing just some from the veritable treasure trove of insights and practical guidance from DGI is already a very good start. Adopting novel approaches, enhancing capabilities and learning from the experiences of others can truly unlock achievements - soaring revenues, delighted customers and efficient operations. Change is not just a flashy move; it's an essential step toward securing a competitive edge in today's fast-paced digital world. Like some, we started sceptical yet here we are. As Whizzard embark on the adventurous journey of 2023, we'll embrace an iterative mindset, automate processes and minimize risks through customer-centric design and feedback loops. Not forgetting the new pillars of support through alliances forged with fellow course mates as we overcome challenges. We discovered; small steps can really lead to big impact. Next step? Korean BBQ. Digital transformation helps do things better while branding transformation helps show things better. One provides the infrastructure and tools to deliver a better customer experience, the other ensures that the customer experience is compelling and differentiated. They’re highly interconnected and we ace the latter. Be a friend, stay in touch, cya on Linkedin.

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