Staying in touch
Mobile phones are a small business necessity, for owners and many employees. Smartphones have raised the bar even further, with internet, email, social networking and business applications easily available in your pocket. You can keep in contact with everyone and everything – customers, staff, suppliers, the latest trade news – and you don’t have to sit in the office waiting for it to come to you. Teleconferencing can also save a huge amount of travel time and money.
Some businesses can be run from smartphones. Take care to back up your information and contacts, just in case.
The right technology at the right point
What hardware and software do your staff need? It’s going to vary. Accounts people may need desktop PCs for spreadsheets, while staff who move around a lot will need a good smartphone, and maybe a tablet as well. Give your employees the right hardware and up-to-date software and they can be much more informed and productive. The ability to decide between making a phone call, sending an email or banging off a quick text message can be crucial. Don’t forget staff training and customer awareness. Old technology and attitudes will hold your business back and build staff apathy.
Engaging with potential customers has never been easier, and can often be free. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube… it’s time-consuming to use all of them, so choose a couple that fit your business.
All employees need to know what you’re saying online, so they can stay on message and deal appropriately with customer and supplier feedback.
A business website is an obvious marketing tool, but keep it simple at the start and make sure you can update and add new information to keep people coming back. Offer a mailing list, so you can target interested customers with special offers or news. MailChimp and other online tools can deliver professional-looking emails with images, formatting and links, and you can measure recipient clicks and reactions online.
Amazon and eBay can help you test the online market, depending on what you sell. You could add an online shop to your own website, exposing your products to a potentially huge audience. Make sure you’re ready – failing to fulfil orders is bad publicity!
Access to your information
The cloud is taking off as the place to store data and access software. You can have a mobile office and work anywhere with an internet connection. Passwords need to be hard to crack and changed regularly. If you’re the only person who uses the data, share passwords with someone trustworthy. If something happens to you, the business could founder if critical info can’t be accessed.
You should also back up data regularly, whether it’s on the cloud or in the office. Some experts say you should back up twice, with at least one backup off the premises in case of flood or fire.
See My Cloud.
See yourself differently
As new technology and new approaches sharpen your skills, your perception of yourself will change. Not just a dentist, a designer, a carpenter or a consultant, but also a marketer, a salesperson. Your customer skills will grow and your confidence will build. All of which is good for your business.