Technology can make or break a small business, both at launch and when success has it scaling up. Here are three-must haves to ensure professionalism, maximize productivity, build market share and save money for businesses with 1-10 employees.
The phone is still the most common way that your customers, partners and suppliers will communicate with you, so don't cut corners. But don't spend more than you have to, either.
For starters, get a dedicated business number. There are services that offer a free basic phone number, or, based on your business needs, you can get a low-cost monthly subscription virtual PBX service, like Cloud Phone, that allows you to get a toll-free or local number with more advanced business features, such as ability to add employee extensions.
Next, decide whether your employees really need deskphones or whether tablets and smartphones are a better fit for their work styles. If it's the latter, eliminating deskphones can easily save a couple hundred bucks up front in hardware, plus $30 or more per month per employee in service fees. Those savings are a major reason why so many businesses are ditching deskphones in favor of VoIP softphones on tablets, smartphones and laptops.
Many businesses have bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. If yours does, consider a cloud-based telephony service that makes each BYOD smartphone reachable with a second phone number just for your business. That helps separate business and personal use. The best cloud phone services also provide customized greetings, call recording to eliminate the need for notes and finger pointing, and voicemail transcription, all of which make employees more responsive and productive while giving your small business the cachet of a large enterprise.
If you have a distributed workforce, cloud telephony is ideal because it provides all of the above benefits even when employees work from home or spend a lot of time on the road. Furthermore, cloud phone services aren't vulnerable to fires, floods and other disasters that would wipe out a phone system that's based entirely in your office.
When was the last time you reached for the phone book to find something for your home or business? If prospective customers can't find your company, you'll lose revenue and spend more than you have to on cold calling and other outreach. A broad Web presence avoids that problem.
Consider your customer types when deciding where to invest. For example, if consumers are your target market, Facebook and Twitter are ideal places to start. If you're selling to other businesses, a professional-looking, frequently updated website is critical. LinkedIn and Twitter are two other options for supplementing your website. And take a look at where your competitors are online to make sure you're not ceding any channels to them.
Marketing automation tools
As your business ramps up, so does the challenge of keeping track of all your existing customers, as well as prospects. Consider CRM tools such as Insightly to streamline tasks such as saving and editing customers' and prospects' contact information. For example, if you're communicating with them via email, Insightly lets you link that message to the task you're performing with them and save the attachment with their project.
Focus on these three technologies, and your small business will be on course to save and make money.
Kevin Hertz is CTO of Voxox
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