In just a few decades, the image of a businessperson has gone from a suit looking out from their suite over their vast army of minions on the office floor to a hoody-wearing, mobile-wielding 20-something with no overheads and an office in the clouds.
It used to be that the best way to grow your business was to expand horizontally — acquiring more staff, assets, premises, etc. But today, businesses that still swear by this model are like dinosaurs trying to get by in a digital world.
New-world businesses don’t need to invest all their dough in people and infrastructure to scale. Instead, they use technology to expand vertically — taking advantage of mobile, social, and cloud computing to rent everything they need and build a global presence from a coffee shop.
The implications of this are huge: tech has not only levelled out the playing field, it’s caused many big businesses that are weighed down by years of investment in scale to be left in the dust by smaller, leaner, nimbler companies that have their basis in software, AI, and machine learning.
The relationship between fixed costs and output that defined economies of scale for over a century has well and truly been flipped on its head. And any business that fails to recognise this shift will, like the dinosaurs, go extinct and become nothing more than a dusty exhibit in a history museum.
To show why this is so and exactly why technology, not scale, is the new marketing battleground, we decided to compare three old-world business solutions with their new-world, tech-based successors.
Old-World and New-World Solutions Fight It Out
Old-world solution: A crack team of marketing and sales experts
New-world solution: HubSpot CRM
If there was one place big business could always get the advantage, it would be in sales. The more revenue that’s turned over, the more money is ploughed back into the sales team, and so on and so on.
Cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems upend this model. They allow the small family business to nurture leads and manage their sales funnel in much the same way as an international conglomerate would.
HubSpot CRM is our pick of the bunch for a few reasons: It’s free, no matter how many users or how much data you have. It integrates with email, to enable things like scheduling and open message tracking. It offers premium features such as notifying you when leads are on your site, and, crucially, it connects with HubSpot’s robust marketing system.
Using a CRM not only increases the sales experience for customers, but it can also increase the odds they’ll spend more in their next transaction by up to 40 percent. On top of that, it can result in greater customer retention, lower marketing costs, and a much higher likelihood customers will recommend you to a friend.
Old world solution: Multi-lingual global customer support team
New world solution: Zendesk
Whether you’re still hiring an office full of support agents to work the phones or you manage customer service through a variety of channels like chatbots and email, AI can help you streamline and speed up the whole process tenfold.
As the best on the market (not just in our opinion), Zendesk pulls tickets from all your sources — phone, mobile, email, web, social media — to bring them together in one, seamless interface. But arguably its winning feature is its reporting and analytics system, which enables businesses to improve workflow efficiency even further and continually strive for better customer satisfaction.
Zendesk makes use of AI to serve both its client and their client’s users, with one of its latest offerings being Answer Bot. When a customer submits a ticket to Zendesk support, Answer Bot serves up article suggestions based on the query and knowledge from thousands of other, similar user journeys.
The company has also recently made it possible to offer multi-language support using Unbabel Translate. The tool combines professional translators with machine learning to significantly speed up response time — the number one factor that determines customer satisfaction.
Tools like Unbabel mean you don’t need to wait until you scale to go global; you can do it from day one. Plus, having a fast, smooth customer support system, in general, leads to better client engagement, higher customer retention, and a stack of saved time and money.
Old world solution: Around the clock team of accountants
New world solution: Quickbooks
The benefits seem obvious on this one: Go from drawers of paperwork and paying out your nose for a stuffy accountant who speaks another language, to a zero-fuss online platform and mobile app for a fraction of the price.
But as the largest platform for the self-employed and small businesses in the world, Quickbooks is becoming much more than cloud software that can automate the back office and do the books. With its subscriber base of 2.4 million, Quickbooks is evolving into an AI and data powerhouse.
For instance, its new chatbot, Quickbooks Assistant, uses natural language processing to offer an experience not too dissimilar to a chat with your accountant. Albeit the chatbot is available 24-7, integrates data from its vast network of other businesses, and can answer questions about your finances in seconds.
Using a system like Quickbooks saves your business a heck of a lot of time, but its principal advantage is that it allows you to manage your cash flow more effectively — integrating with your bank, automatically invoicing clients, and offering you reports on everything from profit and loss to tax returns. You may even say it’s more human and natural than dealing with an actual real-life accountant.
But it’s not very nice to insult the dinosaurs.