Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Can you think of a country where people aren't buying things online or goods and services created elsewhere? E-commerce has brought millions of people into a marketplace comprising prospective customers from all communities, from all corners of the globe. Every business person knows there is no substitute for customers. Customers that an SME needs to find, present value to, delight, and hopefully attract back to your business again and again; to become a regular customer or a client, if you will, and, ideally, an advocate for others about what you can do. In our first course in the Deakin University FutureLearn SME series, we explored how, today, every business is a digital business.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsAnd how digital engagement is increasingly needed to boost business success. Customers, the lifeblood of any enterprise. In this course, experienced SME leaders will share how their no substitute for customers imperative has seen them embark into new market opportunities. Those opportunities in new markets are key to their business success. Many SMEs are making the most of these potential new markets, made possible by the rise of the digital economy and improving opportunities for trade. These incredible opportunities are being grasped by many SMEs, and producing new ways businesses interact with customers and each other. Online transactions are growing in popularity.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 secondsAnd platforms focusing on particular segments or bringing together a vast array of interesting small business offers, with interested and active potential customers, are turbocharging these channels. Platforms, freight, and payment providers are helping SMEs overcome some traditional challenges of customer engagement, market entry, fulfilment, currency conversions in seamless ways that enable even the smallest SME to, today, compete internationally. Niche and highly specialised SMEs can appeal to a much wider customer base in new markets, made available through more digitally powered and internationally connected global economies. There's little wonder that SMEs account for a quarter of all exports in the world's seven largest economies. SMEs are doing it for themselves.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 secondsAnd an SME with both domestic and international customers, are also more likely to have other businesses as customers and clients. Businesses are also finding out more about what other SMEs can contribute to their goods and services that they're producing to delight customers. This supply chain contribution is a key part of many SMEs business strategy. A market leading product or service may contain many components or inputs and much know how from a range of other businesses, sourced from numerous economies, as it moves from conception to ready-to-use completion.

Skip to 3 minutes and 10 secondsAs businesses and nations recognise their area of specialists, or exceptional expertise or capacity, they're profiting from this competitive advantage, by providing it into markets and through trade to open up new opportunities for their expertise. In terms of durable business success, there is no substitute for customers. And new markets can present millions of new prospective customers. What do these new market opportunities mean for your SME? By learning from and being inspired by others and the insights and experiences of successful SMEs that they're going to share with us, we'll be able to determine which of these new markets are worth considering as part of your business strategy, and your growth plans for your SMEs.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 secondsAnd as we work through the activities and add to our own learnings with the contribution and insights from other course participants, my aim is that we'll gain greater confidence from these new market pathfinders. So that we, too, can broaden our customer focus. That we can acquire knowledge to build the competence to execute new market entry plans. And that we can highlight the important considerations and the support that's available that needs to be part of your evaluation of which of these new markets should be part of your business ambitions. How to put that strategy together.

Skip to 4 minutes and 30 secondsWhat a committed plan looks like weighing these various considerations, so that you can contest with the many highly motivated and competitive rivals that also want to make those potential customers their own. Together, let's make sure participants in your SME can identify and access new markets where there are these millions of prospective new customers available in this modern, digitally powered, international economy.

Let’s get started

Successful SMEs understand that what they do well and profitably for their existing customers and in their traditional market may well delight a much wider array of customers.

Together, in course 1 ‘SMEs and Digital Engagement’, we learned how every SME is or needs to be a digital business.

In this course, we build on this earlier learning and explore how technology is again playing its part to vastly expand the range of potential customers for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The digital economy combined with improving market access means all SMEs have global potential.

Many SMEs are making the most of these potential new markets made possible by the rise of the digital economy and improving opportunities for trade.

In the seven largest economies (G7) SMEs account for 25% of export value. Smaller businesses are finding the tools they deploy to meet the needs of tech-savvy domestic customers and specialist markets are also highly suited for use well beyond their home base.

There’s no reason for your SME to be left behind or to wonder why others are profitably accessing new markets and you aren’t.

‘SMEs and New Markets: Trade, the Chinese Powerhouse and Online Opportunities’, is aimed at ensuring participants are better able to make this world of delicious possibilities part of their SME plans and ambitions.

Over the next two weeks, Bruce Billson will introduce you to a range of Australian business owners and managers who have identified and accessed new markets to support the success and growth of their small to medium enterprise.

The examples from actual businesses illustrate how technology, trade and supplying other businesses are opening doors to new channels and new markets, hosting millions of new prospective customers. How does your SME take these opportunities at a time of fierce competition for customers?

As you hear from others:

  • identify what research went into selecting which new market to pursue
  • consider what needs to be in place for your SME to compete for these new markets, and
  • examine how to access and delight these prospective new customers so they profitably become repeat customers or clients.

It is also useful to share your own experiences and insights with others in the comments. This could include what you’ve learnt through your own business or what you have experienced as a customer that would be helpful to others. In this way, we learn from and with each other and contribute to others’ learning as well as our own.

The case studies and resources in this course come from Australia but the principles we discuss can be applied to any SME in any country. If you live outside of Australia, search for similar resources and agencies in your country of residence. If you cannot find a similar organisation or resource, it may be useful to draw on the Australian materials realising that they may not comply with your country’s laws and regulations and should be used and general information only.

We look forward to your active engagement in learning about new markets and your exploration of practical strategies to further develop this area of your SME.

Your learning outcomes

This course is the second in a series developed by Bruce Billson and Deakin University, aimed at energising enterprise.

Upon successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:

  1. assess the array of new channels to new customers made possible by technology and economic changes and select those most suitable to support the vitality and growth of your SME

  2. discuss the importance of accessing new customers and markets to the success of your SME

  3. evaluate the most suitable channel, approaches and methods for your SME to access new markets and customers in a cost-effective and sustainable way

  4. investigate and identify the planning, preparations and precautions to manage risks that need to be in place to support profitable and durable new market access strategies for your SME.

This course addresses the question: What do I need to know to make sure my SME can identify and access new markets and the millions of prospective new customers available in this modern global economy?

Meet the team

Your Lead Educator for this course is The Hon. Bruce Billson. Bruce is a former Cabinet Minister for Small Business and a long-term advocate for small to medium enterprises in Australia. Through decades of engagement with SMEs Bruce has identified key elements that help to ‘energise enterprise’.

Bruce is the Director, Small Business and Enterprise at Deakin University, chairs the IPA-Deakin University SME Research Centre, is Executive Chairman of the Franchise Council of Australia, a non-executive director of an SME-focussed finance institution, Judo Capital, and a small-business owner and shareholder.

Bruce has a Bachelor of Business, Graduate Diploma of Management, and Masters of Business Leadership (RMIT), and is an Honorary Fellow of Monash University.

You’ll also be supported in conversations and discussions by mentor Dr Sharon Pittaway. Sharon is an experienced teacher and former small business owner who has worked closely with Bruce in the development of this course.

Select their names to find out more about each team member and follow them for course updates, feedback and discussions.

Your task

Watch the video to find out more about the key topics you’ll explore in Week 1. You can also download and print a course map.

Take some time to introduce yourself in the comments, tell us why you’re interested in this course, something about the markets you currently serve and the new markets you believe may be of interest to you and your SME’s business strategy.

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This video is from the free online course:

SMEs and New Markets: Trade, the Chinese Powerhouse and Online Opportunities

Deakin University