You may hear that running a successful small business is harder now than it ever was — but there’s another way to look at it. Sure, competition is fierce in the internet-connected age, and your business model has to be as bulletproof as possible to push yourself to the top of the crop. This is undeniable. However, you also have access to more services that can help you succeed than any time in history. In many ways, it’s a great time to own a small business if you’re smart about employing the right services. Here are some suggestions.
To Help You Pay to Play…
Making investments in your business is never going to be cheap, and you should count any paid tools that help you engage customers, generate better marketing, and register feedback as just that — a major investment. You should also know that there are good ways to snag outside funding for these critical tech investments.
Small business lending isn’t scary or dangerous if you’re smart about where you’re investing (making sure your chances of ROI are strong on every investment). Look into Small Business Administration loans, term loans, short-term loans, and business lines of credit (among other types of financing). If you’re lost, start with a handy small business lending guide.
To Increase Customer Engagement…
One surefire way to increase online engagement with your customers/clients is through email. It’s the tried and true method — the backbone of customer communication in the digital age. Good email automation will send out personalized communications when, for example, “a contact gets added to a list, submits a form on your website, clicks a link in an email, views a page on your blog, clicks on one of your AdWords ads, or becomes a marketing qualified lead.”
You must also make sure that your actual email client is doing what you need it to. Free options like Gmail for Business work for some, but there are other paid options that may offer more.
To Get Better Customer Feedback...
Improving customer satisfaction is hard if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong (and what you’re doing right, to some extent). Communication with your customers and clients is vital to growing your business and adapting to an ever-changing market. The value of a post-interaction survey cannot be overstated. “Do you want to test out a new product or service idea? Measure consumer sentiment of your business versus your competitors? Create surveys to get a sense of what consumers want,” says WebpageFX.
There is both free and paid survey software for small businesses. Some of the best include Zoho Survey, SurveyMonkey, and TypeForm. You may even be able to get customer feedback through your point-of-sale (POS) system.
To Step Up Your Marketing Game...
Online marketing is incredibly important to a growing small business. Without focusing on it (and yes, throwing some money at it), you will fall well behind other businesses in your sector. It’s no longer a luxury these days — it’s a necessity.
The king of online marketing now is content — email, social media, blogging, and interactive website content, for example. It pays to get some help (and automation) with this. Good internet marketing software can help. You can get this from Adobe, HubSpot, iContact, and more.
Even small business owners with an old-fashioned mindset are coming to terms with the fact that online services, tools, and software can help them expand and sustain their companies. Most of the best tech for small business boils down to this: better connection with your customers and clients. Because, just like it was hundreds of years ago, good business is about good relationships. That hasn’t changed — how you go about it has.