Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Digital has given small businesses in Australia an unparalleled opportunity to tell their story by building and interacting with both their local and global community. And that’s allowing innovation to flourish, according to digital strategist, startup advisor and industry commentator, Chris Adams.
“Embracing innovation is simply having the opportunity to change your story. With all the tools and platforms available, particularly in small business, you have an opportunity to tell your story,” he said during a press lunch organised by Sensis. The directories and marketing services giant has been on its own digital transformation in recent years and now has more than 50 per cent of revenues coming from digital service sales.
“It used to be much harder. If you were a coffee shop on one corner and there was another one nearby, it was about location and price. Now it’s about your community and who you are as a small business and what you’re doing. Digital is about taking these great stories and proliferating them.
“If you have that story, then digital tools become incredibly powerful.”
But while many SMBs today are getting up to speed with digital mechanisms such as websites, social media and search engine marketing, most lack the data analytics and insights capabilities to get the best value from these activities.
It’s a situation Sensis-owned digital marketing agency, Found Digital, says it’s looking to change for sub-200 companies. The agency was established in October 2014 to provide bespoke digital marketing services to Sensis’ 300,000 customers, and has 40 staff.
This week, Found Digital launched its Found Business Intelligence (FBI) dashboard, a live platform that acts as a centralised repository for data-driven analytics around an SMB’s digital activities. The agency’s CEO and former MediaCom managing director, Peter Barrie, claimed the new platform was a first for the SMB market.
According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Australian SMBs contribute 40 per cent of the nation’s GDP, or $550 billion. Yet these organisations could unlock a further $49.2bn in revenue by embracing mobile and digital in the next 10 years.
“Many customers have websites, a social footprint, and they’re already trying to do things differently. But they’re not sure about how to capture data, or what data means,” Barrie said. “They can’t translate that into usable insights for their business. What they’re really good at is being plumbers, a transport company, or a tyre service centre.
“We have built smart tools that help them do that.”
Core digital marketing services Sensis supplies to SMBs today include SEM, SEO, social media, conversion rate optimisation and data and analytics.
Barrie said Found Digital’s mission with FBI is to “democratise digital”. “It’s there for everyone, but not everyone knows how to do it,” he said. “We’re not talking about ‘big data’, what we’re talking about is looking at things that are relevant and then how we translate that into usable information.
“Sensis already does that in a lot of ways. With phone call tracking for example… Those directory customers get a monthly report and can see how many people have come through that ad. What we’re doing is taking this into the digital world.”
While many services on offer from Found Digital aren’t new to the market, Barrie claimed its unique selling point is the ability to tap into Sensis’ trusted relationship with customers, as well as its rich proprietary datasets around audience and online behaviour.
As an example, he pointed to the big opportunity around remarketing, noting online data from its Yellow Pages portal can be used to send a customer a message via its remarketing product.
“What we have in Sensis is a huge amount of traffic coming to us online looking for trades and services. We can now repackage that back and offer another layer of communication to our customers,” he said.
Barrie said Sensis has kept this data exclusive and uses the Audience360 platform as its in-house trading desk.
“We’re not going to let agencies carve up our data and use it in their trading desks,” he said. “We’ve seen what’s happened to businesses when they’ve given up their most valuable asset, data, and let other people serve on their behalf and they get a tiny clip on the way through.
“We’re using that data for the benefit of our existing customers.”
But Barrie also didn’t rule out working with bigger bluechip businesses in Australia.
“The expertise we’ve built over the last year is allowing us to start to have these conversations, and we’re having a few right now,” he said. “It’s not the core of what we do, but if there’s alignment in terms of the data we hold, and we think we can help a bigger business, we can. The beauty of this business is I can say no. ”