Running a successful small business involves more than just collecting capital and putting it to good use. You also need to deploy the correct technological tools.
The range of tools available today is truly staggering, making it difficult to know where to turn first if own or run a small business. Using them to achieve a competitive advantage, though, is vital if you want a profitable enterprise in the long-run.
Here’s what to do:
Use Time-Tracking Software
Time tracking software seems like it should have been around for a while. After all, knowing how your people spend their time is essential for improving both accountability and your processes. Unfortunately, technology lagged for years. The main difficulty was giving machines the intelligence required to figure out the task that an employee is performing in real-time.
Improvements in the underlying coding, however, have made genuine, automated time-tracking technology possible. You can view how your company spends its time at the office-level, or drill down into the details and investigate a single employee. Knowing how much time people in your organization devote to drafting emails, social media, or writing reports can help inform your strategic decision-making. It gives you the data you need to know whether it’s worth investing in labor-saving tech or not.
Upload Your Documents To The Cloud
While the cloud has been around for a little over ten years now, there are still companies that rely on local storage for their documents. Practices like this aren’t just inefficient; they’re also insecure compared to the leading-edge cloud storage solutions.
Uploading your projects to the cloud means that people can work on them wherever they are, not just in the office. You can offer your employees flexible working status, more time to themselves during the day, and help encourage work over the weekend to meet deadlines.
Use SEO Snooping Tools
Developments in SEO software mean that it is now easier than ever to construct a marketing plan for your company – and put it into action.
One of the most powerful of these is SEO snooping tools that let you discover critical information about your competitor’s strategies. You can see which websites link to theirs, the anchor texts that they use, and the authority level of the domains that they target. It makes it super simple to find out whether they’re spamming links or using organic strategies.
Use Teleworking Tools To Grow Your Talent Pool
Experienced business leaders know that the best way to achieve success over the long haul is to source people from as wide an area as possible. It’s why many of the world’s biggest companies locate in major cities. They provide a ready pool of workers.
As a small business, though, you might not be able to afford a central location. But that’s okay: with teleworking facilities, you don’t have to locate your premises near your employees. Instead, you can use digital tools, the internet, and the cloud to get the people with the skills you need, anywhere in the world. So long as they have an internet connection, there’s no reason in principle why you can’t take advantage of their skills.
Automate Document Template Creation
Legal document software already allows professionals in the legal industry to automate the production of documents, cutting down on the time they spend typing reports and letters. The same technology is also moving into other sectors of the economy. Regular businesses can now sign up for cloud-based services that provide portals to word processing templates that they can use for a range of activities, including marketing, internal communications, letters to customers, and invoices.
Build Skills With Online Training
If things are progressing fast in your industry, then you can sometimes feel as if both you and your team are falling behind. You’d like to take advantage of the latest tools and methods, but your people don’t have the skills to make it a reality.
E-learning is making training colleagues both cheaper and more efficient. Sessions can be as short as fifteen minutes per day, and they’re delivered via online software, instead of an instructor, slashing the costs. Furthermore, you can fit it around your schedule and workload, providing top-up training to colleagues when they need it.
Take Advantage Of Social Media-Based Customer Service
The days where companies operated massive call centers in giant warehouse-like offices are fast coming to an end. Thanks to social media, customer service reps of the future probably won’t wear headsets. Instead, they’ll type their responses to customer queries in chat boxes on social media sites.
This change isn’t being driven by businesses either: it appears that it is something that customers want. Instead of hopping over to your site or calling you up, they’d prefer to stay in the social media environment for communications instead. You can respond to them using dedicated staff or a combination of workers and bots.
Use Video Marketing Tools
Video marketing is becoming the primary driving force of social media outreach. Companies like Facebook believe in it so much that they’re considering scrapping written marketing altogether. Fortunately, you don’t need to go to considerable expense to fund a video marketing campaign. There are now numerous tools out there that allow you to construct compelling videos with speech overlay, clip art, and much, much more.
Automate Your Accounting
Accounting was once a massive regulatory burden for businesses – something that they had to do to avoid investigation by the tax authorities. Fortunately, the cost of doing company accounts has collapsed over recent years with the advent of smart accounting software. While it won’t do all your accounting for you automatically, it can make collecting and distributing data much more manageable.
Most accounting software tools come with options to link to a human accountant who will then prepare your statements. The software can scan and understand receipts and link to your bank account, categorizing expenses automatically.
Update Your Email Management Process
Data suggest that the average office worker spends around one day per week going through emails. For a lot of that time, they’re not actually responding to the messages themselves. Instead, they’re filing the emails away in various folders for later.
Managing emails, though, need not be a manual task. Even Gmail now has features that automatically compartmentalize emails into different categories, helping to free up time. There are numerous other business solutions out there that do the same. There’s no need for your employees to trawl through all their emails themselves, filtering out the ones that are worthy of immediate response.
Start Using Open Source Apps
The majority of small business owners automatically default to branded apps with high fees. It turns out, however, that there are loads of open source products out there that negate the need to pay monthly fees.
Use Integrated CRM Tools
Customer relationship management tools have been around for a long time. They allow you to record information that your prospects give you, providing a permanent record. The problem, though, is that a lot of legacy CRM tools don’t integrate with all of your digital touchpoints, like social media. Customers could provide you with essential data about themselves, but without integration, your colleagues won’t record it on the system. Integrated CRM, then, is a must-have tool for any business that communicates with prospects across a diverse array of channels.
In summary, developing a competitive advantage as a business is a challenge. Part of the solution for small companies is to rely more heavily on the tech tools already available, mostly via the cloud.