It’s time to sweat the small stuff when it comes to tech for small businesses.
If you’re bogged down with the nitty-gritty of your operations or admin, chances are you’re not taking advantage of all the tech out there that can automate, organize, or just do the small stuff for you.
Think you’re immune? Consider how much time you’re spending on the following activities, and check out the modern tech that will save you some serious time.
Problem: In one word? Paper. Invoices, receipts, and other documents are a pain to organize and manage. It’s also time-consuming because they require physical delivery across many departments
Tech Solution: Optical Character Recognition. It’s the tech that lets you take a picture of a check instead of going into your bank to cash it. There are plenty of accounting options out there that are implementing this kind of tech, such as Expensify or Bill.com. Information can be sent instantly and securely to your accounting software, instead of the time it takes to read, interpret, and crunch numbers manually.
You can also use this tech solution when scanning business cards, meeting notes, or other documents using the free app Scannable (by the good folks at Evernote). Never transcribe again!
Customer Service Communications
Problem: There are only so many hours in a day to answer calls or emails. Messages that come after-hours may be neglected or forgotten, which will leave a bad impression on prospective customers.
Tech Solution: AI Chatbots. If you’re getting a lot of calls or emails about the same kind of issues, chances are you can probably automate them. That’s where artificial intelligence can really save you some time. Services like Ada can help you build your own chatbot with personalized content to help sort or solve questions before they hit your customer service team.
Bonus Tech Solution: Virtual Phone Service. Providing a toll-free number that’s easy for your customers to use can give your business a professional touch. Many systems provide transcription services and dial-by-name directories, too.
Sales Data Analysis
Problem: Spreadsheets are exhausting to interpret and extremely time-consuming to truly analyze. Sticking numbers and text on a presentation does little to motivate a team or help close a sale. Charts and graphs can make it feel like it’s 1999 again, and not in a party kind of way.
Tech Solution: Data Visualization Dashboards. Many CRMs offer some kinds of visualization tools, so you’ll want to spend time finding the right one that works for you. But be sure to explore how customizable the user dashboard is in terms of presenting specific analysis you need to get your information at a glance.
Understanding your sales team’s uniqueness may be a key to finding the right visualizations that will truly save time and money. If you’re in a business that relies on outside sales, visualizing live data on a physical map can do wonders for territory management and optimizing sales routes. Map My Customers provides all of this and more – try it now for free!
Problem: If your company makes customers jump through a bunch of complicated hoops and fill out a bunch of information before they can purchase something, don’t be surprised if they abandon their shopping cart and look to spend their money elsewhere.
Tech Solution: E-Commerce Software. Good ones like X-Cart or Shopify will not only provide your customers with a way to shop, but have built-in tracking, help you manage your inventory, and offer insightful financial reports to foster your company’s growth.
If you have physical selling places, make sure the software you select compliments your point-of-sale terminals – or you might want to consider upgrading those to a modern equivalent, like what Revel or Square provides.
Problem: The recent advances in technology mean that small businesses are susceptible to cybercrime, which appears to be growing by the day. Protecting your company from malware, breaches, and fraud should be a top priority – but how?
Tech Solution: Cybersecurity. There are a number of cybersecurity practices you can implement within your company to help protect it from such crimes, including:
- Installing security software (e.g., antivirus software, encryption software, virtual private networks)
- Keeping security software, operating systems, and web browsers up-to-date
- Making sure all employees’ cell phones are protected (e.g., password protection, security apps, encryption)
- Encrypting and hiding your company’s on-site WiFi network
- Having all employees change their passwords every three months
Failure to implement basic data protection can leave your business scrambling to recover after a cybercrime event. This can negatively impact the public’s perception of your business, and it can take years to regain your reputation.
Problem: Small businesses can be very high-stress environments, with lots at stake and few people to get the job done. Not paying attention to the needs of your employees can create burn-out and high turnover rates.
Tech Solution: HR Software. Instead of writing out paychecks, coordinating schedules with phone calls, or manually selecting benefits, it can be automated with a few clicks of a button.
All-in-one platforms like GoCo.io and Zenefits can also handle more complicated aspects of HR such as onboarding, off-boarding, and compliance issues.
One bad hire can be extremely costly so small businesses also must prioritize the vetting process of their hiring practices. Thankfully, there are employment screening platforms like Goodhire that can also take a lot of that work off of your plate.
Problem: Hiring a graphic designer can be expensive. Buying graphic design software is not only expensive but might be too taxing for your small business computers to handle.
Tech Solution: Browser-based Digital Editors. Yes, you can bring your own marking messages to life with the dynamic, intriguing, story-driven visuals they deserve. Services like Canva or Piktochart can help you create sharable social media images or captivating infographics with just a few clicks of a button.
If you’re interested in more nuanced photo editing, Pixlr also provides many Photoshop-esque editing options to quickly color correct or crop as needed.
Problem: If your small business bills by the hour, figuring out how and where to store that information is tough. The accuracy of it might be left to trust, which is a problematic strategy at best.
Solution: Time Tracking Software. These can digitally help you manage hourly billing, as well as help you keep track of how long you spend on each project so that you can maximize the time you have. Moreover, it helps to increase productivity among employees and make your business more efficient overall.
Social Media Marketing
Problem: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Yelp… and those are just the big ones. Logging in and out of each one, coordinating messaging across them all, and answering comments from your followers can be overwhelming. Managing passwords as your employees come and go can leave you vulnerable. Need we go on?
Tech Solution: Social Media Aggregation Tools. Combine all of your various accounts into one dashboard with tools like Hootsuite or Sprout. These tools also feature precious analytic data for you to identify when marketing messages work or when they miss the mark. You can also schedule posts ahead of time.
Also, remember to select your networks wisely and allocate your attention based on the right demographics. If you’re using a spray and pray strategy, you’re missing out on some efficient ways you could be marketing your small business.
Every small business can benefit from more tech.
So what do all these have in common? They save you time. Time, of course, is money. And saving money is vital, especially for small businesses.
Your time is better spent thinking about strategy, managing your team, or selling your product — not filing receipts or scrutinizing spreadsheet formulas. The above tech will help you do just that so you can get back to the big stuff — making your company a success.
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