Let’s go back 40 years, when business was agreed via a firm handshake and the internet, as well as what we now know as the ‘global market’ were complete unknowns.

Today however we are in a world where a multi million pound business deal can be completed at the click of a button, without ever having to meet, or even know the name of the other party involved.

Is this change a positive thing for businesses, or has it marred what was once a noble profession?

Well I’m sure many of you reading this, owners of SME’s, will see it as the best thing since sliced bread and you have every right to. For a business without the resources to have representatives all over the world tying up deals and creating contacts, being able to do business via email or a phone call allows you access to the world wide market place with relatively low costs. Furthermore, the internet and email especially have made marketing and advertising a lot easier, both financially and with regards to time, meaning you can reach more potential customers in no time at all.

In addition, organisations are able to cut back their expenditure on staff as roles are becoming easier and more efficient meaning employees can now carry out the workload of two employees from yesteryear due to IT making their jobs a lot easier. For example, sales people can now tie up deals in no time at all via emails and telephone calls, where in the past it was paramount for a sales team to go out into the field and meet their potential clients which took up a lot of time.

However, this lack of face to face communication can prove detrimental at times for businesses. Take this scenario, for example; an employee could be minutes away from the deadline for securing a deal and sends an email to whom they believe is the intended recipient. However, human error can cause misspelling, meaning that the email is not sent to the correct party. This ‘human error’ could cost a business untold amounts of money, which would not be the case if the deal was completed ‘face-to-face’. Not only could information be sent to the wrong person, but it may also be the case that information is not understood. Remember, terminology used within your business may not be understood by a businessman on the other side of the world. With this being the case, important information could prove ambiguous and may affect your ability to communicate with potential customers successfully, proving detrimental. As communication via an email, for example, doesn’t require feedback to confirm that the message has been understood it is not uncommon for information to be misinterpreted, which would not be the case if face-to-face communication was carried out.

I’m sure we’ve all fallen foul of technology in the past, where a computer has broken down or a phone line has lost its reception; well these are aspects that business owners need to keep control of. Being reliant on technology to run your business is a dangerous game especially if you don’t have the resources to cover yourself were something to go wrong. For example, if you take orders online and your system crashes, then customers won’t wait around for your ordering system to be up and running again and before you know it those potential customers will be lining the pockets of a rival company. Therefore, it is important to have a back up system in place as a contingency for these potential problems and if as a small business you don’t have the finances to do this you’re leaving yourself open to the possibility of losing not only customers, but your reputation in the marketplace.

With many SME’s now tying up deals via the internet, businesses are underestimating the importance of creating a rapport with potential clients. This could potentially be costing them business, as clients want to feel as if they’ll be looked after and if you’re doing all of your negotiations over email instead of face-to-face it can create an impression that you don’t take much care with clients which can be a huge deterrent. Repeat business is also usually gained based on the quality of service previously received and if a business is coming across as if they don’t have time for their clients, they can kiss bye-bye to those potentially lucrative repeat orders.

In conclusion, from the perspective of SME’s, the move into a more technological age has bought with it a whole host of opportunities to tap into markets which previously would’ve been out of their reach. With this, the potential scope to create business further a-field has increased meaning businesses can potentially become more profitable than ever due to the online marketplace. However, as mentioned it is important that companies remember that business principles are based upon face-to-face communication and abandoning this altogether could be detrimental as it will isolate clients who will look else where for a more ‘personal’ service. Therefore, it is advisable that businesses make the most of the opportunities that arise through online business, but keep in mind that face-to-face business will prove just as important in the long term.