Technology is an important enabler for businesses across the spectrum. This includes small businesses, and small business owners agree: four in 10 say they aren’t spending enough on technology.
With many technologies now delivered as software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications from the cloud, the entry point is often as easy as plugging your credit card into a paywall and hitting “Purchase.” These lay a critical role in helping small businesses gain greater efficiencies, lower costs, and capture new opportunities. One area where they deliver tangible value is in helping small businesses get and stay organized. The following are some of the more prevalent ways:
1. Accounting and Finance. This is a function that was a substantial pain point for many small businesses before the advent of cloud solutions. Small businesses had to install and maintain on-premise software for accounting. Provisioning and managing access to the application as well as making sure the software remained up to date and upgrading it accordingly was time-intensive and often complex.
With the emergence of the cloud, these challenges no longer exist—and there is a plethora of SaaS-based accounting and finance solutions. We use Intuit QuickBooks at TIRO Communications for accounting, but there are any number of other SaaS accounting applications—Xero, FreshBooks, among others—with powerful capabilities that are worthy of consideration. Additionally, there are great expense reporting tools that can save you a lot of time—studies show the average employee spends 30 to 40 hours annually filling out expense reports.
2. Communications. To start off, your customers and prospects expect to be able to engage you using any device at any time. If you fail to provide them with an omnichannel set of engagement options, then you’re likely missing sales opportunities and struggling to deliver optimal services experiences. The upside when you do give them omnichannel experiences is that you will be more organized. But this also means that you must stay organized in how you track and manage those interactions across the engagement channels. For example, you must aggregate data about each customer interaction for customers when they elect to email, chat, call, or text. This information cannot remain disorganized in silos, but it must rather be aggregated. Davinci Live Receptionist and Davinci Live Web Chat enable small businesses to overcome these challenges with an integrated communications solution.
3. File and Document Management. The cloud has made storage and document management inexpensive—and easy. Disasters occur; devices get lost, data drives corrupt. Organizations no longer need to worry about having file and data backups if it is stored in the cloud. Plus, cloud storage is a great file-sharing tool and means to organize your data so that each of your employees can access it. The good news is that there is a plethora of cloud storage solutions for small businesses.
4. CRM. Keeping track of and managing your list of prospects and customers—and the corresponding activities associated with each one—is a difficult undertaking. When businesses are disorganized in how they manage their communications with prospects and customers, they likely aren’t using a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Some of the most predominant use cases include:
a) a place register leads and contacts,
b) ability to track all customer interactions,
c) transparent visibility that helps ensure that no customer or prospect goes untouched and neglected, and
d) insurance that your customer data remains with you and doesn’t walk out the door with departing sales reps.
Depending on the needs of a small business, there are various CRM solutions that offer low-to-medium entry points.
5. Marketing Automation. The foundation for getting organized with your marketing activities is a marketing automation tool. Software Advice recently found that most small businesses are in the market for a marketing automation solution. Shockingly, nearly half of small businesses still use manual methods to manage their marketing activities, an enormous productivity drain and process to organize and manage. And it is much more than organizing your marketing programs; organizations with marketing automation solutions in place drive more leads and grow revenue faster than those that do not have them. Seeking to minimize complexity, small businesses should seek out CRM solutions that integrate seamlessly with their marketing automation tools, or simply look for a consolidated platform such as Infusionsoft or ActiveCampaign that provides both capabilities.
6. Social Media. When not managed correctly, social networks can become a drain on the time of a small business. The average small business spends around six hours each week managing their social media accounts and content. They can expand their reach and optimize results by collapsing each of their social media silos into a centralized management tool.
7. Project Management and Collaboration. How a small business manages projects—both big and small, internal and external (client-facing)—can mean the difference between success and failure. Posted notes and even spreadsheets simply won’t do in the digital age. Small businesses need project management and collaboration tools that are available across different devices and provide integration with multiple systems. The entry point for many of these solutions is very affordable, with many priced at less than $10 per user.
8. Meeting Scheduling. Getting meetings on the calendar can be tedious and time consuming. The upside is that there are numerous calendaring tools like Google Calendar and appointment scheduling solutions for specific industry segments that make it fast and easy for small businesses to schedule internal and external meetings.