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The Number One Mistake Small Businesses Make With Technology

Posted on the 15 August 2012 by Onqmarketing @onqmarketing

Small Businesses MistakesYou’ve heard of the Moore’s Law, right? The “law” predicted that “the number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years” – that is, computing power will double every two years.

And of course, Moore’s Law applies to more than just computers. The same is true with mobile phones, tablets, social media and software (like accounting and productivity).

Now the question is, should your small business even try to keep up?

For most business owners, the answer is a resounding YES! We all love shiny new tools to play with. We call using new tools “innovation” or “leading edge”. We treasure that in western society. And imagine all the new things we’ll accomplish with it!

The Number One Mistake

The biggest mistake small businesses make with technology is that they embrace new technology unquestioningly. If you think that’s rare, think again. I used to run a small marketing agency and it’s not at all uncommon for clients to ask me to implement some new technology.

But when I ask them why they want to use it, the answer is pretty much always the same: because “everyone” is using it.

Smart business owners, on the other hand, take themselves out of the frenzy and you know… think.


5 questions you should consider

Do your customers even care?

Some technological innovation sounds awesome in theory but if your customers don’t use it, then why should you?

Here’s an example: QR codes. Read any social media blogs and they are going to espouse its use. “80% of the American population has a smart phone,” they say, “And it will only increase!” But the fact that you have a treadmill at home doesn’t mean you’ll use it.

Case in point: Just 3 months ago (May 2012), Mashable wrote that according to one survey of college students, 80% have seen a QR code, but a whopping 75% are “not likely” to scan one.

If students won’t use it, what do you think are the chances of busy professionals will?

Opportunity Cost

Now, am I saying that nobody uses QR codes? Of course not.

Even if most of us ignore them, millions of innovators and early adopters still use it religiously. It’s understandable that you want to reach that audience.

But that’s like saying an Alexander Amosu suit, a suit that comes with a £70,000 price tag, will increase your chances of getting a date. Yes it will. Question is, what other things can you do with that money to get better odds?

Even free tools come at a cost.

With QR codes, you need to spend time developing the campaign, promoting it, tracking it, reporting on it and dedicating other resources to it. If you adopt new software, such as an open-source productivity tool, you’ll need to train your employees to use it and dedicate resources to maintain it.

Is that really the best way to use your time?

Employee Adoption

Even if a particular technology is the best course of action for the business, you still need to convince your employees to use them. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of technology adoption: the human.

If you have ever tried to introduce a group collaboration solution, you’d know what I’m talking about. 80% of your team just never use it, preferring instead good ol’ spreadsheet and email. The other 15% would use it but never seem to fill out what’s required, like tags.

So now you have a software that creates more work than it solves.

When introducing a technology, most business owners think about how it would benefit the business and/or customers. The reasoning goes, if the business thrives, the employees would also benefit – but few of us think that far into the future.

Sure, you can force it down their throats. But how will that affect their morale?

If you want your employees to embrace it willingly, ask yourself how the new technology would help make their lives easier now. Or will it create more work for them?


Ok, now let’s assume your customers care about the new technology, the opportunity cost is low and your employees love it. Now the question is, do you own it?

Here’s an example: do you own your Facebook fans and/or your Twitter followers? If let’s say you broke a Facebook guideline unintentionally, will Facebook give the benefit of a doubt? Maybe if you spend a sizeable amount of money advertising, sure.

If not, all your social media investment can be gone in an instant – and you know just how mind-numbingly impossible to talk to a live person on Facebook support.

The same is true with Google, whose ever increasing number of products means we become more and more reliant on the search giant. If Google suspects you broke their terms and conditions, they can legally cut you off from Adwords, Adsense or any other service you depend on.

So what should you do? Back up and diversify.

Warren Buffett once counselled that as an investor, you should look for companies that have no superstars. Counter-intuitive, isn’t it, considering everyone in HR is busy looking for superstars.

But what Buffett is concerned about, and what you, as a business owner should be concerned about is what if the superstar leaves the company, dies or is otherwise indisposed? Then you, as an investor, are screwed.

The same is true with technology.

If you’re on social media, get your followers across different platforms, and ask them to subscribe to your newsletter. If you run Adwords, also advertise on rival networks. If you depend on Adsense for revenue, assign certain advertising spaces on your website to Google’s competitors.

Will It Last?

It’s a fact that technology comes and goes. And most of the time, you don’t know when they will come and when they will go.

Case in point: SEO. And I’m saying this as someone who does SEO for a living.

Google can change the rules at their will. And they consistently have. Yes, there are certain things you can adhere to to minimize your chances of getting “hit”, but even then, it’s not uncommon to read about websites that disappeared from the index despite having done nothing wrong.

If you’re a small business, you can’t afford to lose 90% of your traffic for 3 days, let alone the typical 3 week minor-penalty period.

The same is true with any social media platform. One moment Myspace was THE place to be and getting on the front page of Digg was the name of the game. Today, they are never mentioned, except in cautionary tales like this one.

If you invested a significant amount of resources on those platforms, they would have vanished through no fault of your own. It’s just the natural circle of life.

Fortunately, the solution is the same as the last point: diversify.

But there’s one thing you can do to cut down the chances of this happening by 90% – you need to adhere to this if you can’t diversify. And that thing is to stay on the leading edge, but never on the bleeding edge.

Let the innovators discover the bugs and pay for the ridiculously high price while you focus on the tried and true methods. Join in only when that technology goes mainstream.

Because for every high-profile demise you read in the news, there 10 more that sunk with a ship full of early adopters.

The Number One Mistake Small Businesses Make With Technology
Andrianes PinantoanView My Other Posts
Andrianes Pinantoan is part of the team behind Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found blogging about psychology on Cerebral Hacks. Add him to your Google+ Circles +Andrianes Pinantoan.

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