Communications Guide for Small Business
The digital age has transformed every aspect of how we live, including how we work.
Whether it’s social media, cloud computing or e-commerce, companies are increasingly embracing digital solutions to help their business grow.
And it’s not just larger firms – smaller organisations are also using information technology to create, innovate, grow or consolidate their businesses.
This short guide is designed to offer some ideas on how digital communications can help you develop and transform your business.
Digital communications – what can they do for you?
Digital technology is enabling small business to make the most of being small and personal while giving them the flexibility and ability to reach new customers, both within the UK and overseas.
Here are a few things you might consider to help your business.
If you’re not already signed up for one, look for a dedicated business broadband package. There are packages available from a variety of providers and they come with features tailored specifically for businesses. For example, they can include email addresses for your company, website domains and webspace if you want to build a website and enhanced security features to protect your business against viruses, malware and spam.
Packages may also include priority network access – where your web traffic will take precedence over domestic users at peak times. Contention rates – the number of users sharing the same line – are also lower for businesses than home users.
Even if you have a business broadband package, it may be time to shop around for a better deal more suited to your company.
A good way to find out what deals are available is to check out the price comparison sites which have been accredited by Ofcom. Only websites that have had their price comparison services put through a rigorous independent audit are awarded Ofcom accreditation.
Accredited sites have information on business broadband packages.
Go to Ofcom’s price comparison page to find out what deals are available.
A nation of online shoppers
The value of B2C e-commerce in 2010 was almost £1000 per person in the UK, with four in five internet users claiming to have purchased online, higher than in any other country in Europe.
Selling your goods and services online is a great way to reach new customers wherever you’re based.
GetSafeOnline – the UK’s national internet security initiative – also has information on how you can protect your online shop from fraud as well as tips on making sure your ecommerce website is secure. Find out more.
Some businesses are finding that cloud-computing applications and services are helping them to cut their IT costs.
That’s because instead of having to buy expensive hardware and software licences, cloud computing allows firms to store data, information and applications online.
They can then be accessed using directly over the internet. New cloud services are coming online all the time.
Three fifths of adult internet users now have a profile on a social network site, with more signing up by the day.
If you’re not yet involved in social media, you can be assured that your customers, your potential customers and even your competitors will be.
Businesses are increasingly using social media sites to promote their products and services, to find new customers, to help existing clients and even to recruit new staff.
It’s quick and easy to create a social media presence and it can be a great way to raise awareness of your brand.
Smartphones and tablet computers are revolutionising the way we access the internet, with the rollout of faster 4G mobile technologies likely to further accelerate this trend.
More and more customers are likely to access your website via a mobile but how does it look on a smartphone? Standard websites can take an age to load so you may want to optimise your site for mobile browsers or even develop a dedicated mobile site.
Smartphones, tablets and mobile-broadband dongles can also help businesses to work and keep in touch on the move.
However, the strength of a mobile signal can vary depending on where you live and which provider you choose. Check out the coverage in your area
Help and advice
Digital communications are changing fast, and keeping abreast can be a challenge for small businesses.
There is also no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Different businesses may benefit from different technologies so you will need to assess your own needs and the solutions most appropriate to them.
For further help and advice on mapping out a digital future for your business, check out the following resources
Federation of Small Businesses – UK body promoting the interests of small businesses. Formed in 1974, it now has 200,000 members across 33 regions and 194 branches.
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) – The British Chambers of Commerce represents the interests of over 100,000 businesses through a network of over 50 accredited chambers across the UK.
Bdaily – an online business network featuring business news, interviews, columns and “ask the expert” sessions.
CMA – membership organisation for businesses delivering services online.
Invest Northern Ireland, part of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), and NI Business Info provide information on setting up and running a business in Northern Ireland. Logon NI is another service set up by DETI to provide businesses with impartial and free advice about getting online.
Startups.co.uk – offers guides for small businesses. Topics covered include funding, finding premises, employing people and writing business plans.
And useful links for beginners
Webwise: The BBC’s beginners guide to using computers, the internet and social media. Includes a step-by-step guide and online courses.
Go-on-UK: Website encouraging and helping small companies to get online.
Advice and complaints
Your fixed line, mobile and internet
Our job is to make sure that phone companies treat you fairly.
Our advice and monitoring forms
TV and Radio Programmes
Are you concerned about a programme you have seen on television or listened to on the radio?
Find out how to complain
TV and Radio reception problems
The BBC are responsible for investigating complaints of interference to domestic radio and television.
Advice and how to report a problem
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The Communications Market
The Consumer Experience