Running a small business means that you’re a lean, mean business machine. Often, it’s just you and a few trusted staff members. You may not believe that a small business-budget can gain access to the kinds of technology that will build business and streamline operations, but you do.
And whether you will need a little help doing the books for your doggie daycare business or want to streamline scheduling to your budding housecleaning business, chances are there is a solution just a couple clicks away.
We spoke with Jayson DeMers, CEO of Audience Bloom and a contributing writer on technology at Forbes.com, and Robert Clay, a freelance technology consultant who has worked with Fortune 500 companies like IBM and consulted to small businesses in the healthcare sector.
1. Make Yourself Easy to Find With a Great Website
Prospective customers see a solid, clean website for a mark of professionalism. In addition to your own website, creating profiles on sites like Care.com can help to attract new clients as well.
A web presence also increases the chances you’re going to be seen on search engines. Learn how to use SEO practices to enhance your Google existence
2. Expand Your Reach With Social Media
Social media is an effective method to build stronger relationships with your customers, while also making a positive impact on prospects. “Take the opportunity to share high-value information with your followers related to your company,” states DeMers. “This helps build trust and position you as an authority in your field.”
3. Use a Smartphone or Tablet to Stay Connected on the Go
If you are in a business where customers need to reach you easily, having a dedicated smartphone or tablet is a wise investment so people can reach you no matter where you go.
If you are providing invoices to customers or tracking expenses, having an effective system is vital, says Clay. Programs like FreshBooks are accessible online and inexpensive. Most ports are easy-to-learn and accessible from any computer or mobile device.
5. Use a Project Management or Calendar System
When you are routinely managing documents and appointments for clients, keeping everything you need organized and centralized is vital. A calendar system, such as the one that comes with Outlook or Google Apps for Business, or a job system like BaseCamp is a great way to get started. Each of your staff members can access their schedules, client documents, and discuss updates in 1 dashboard.
6) Consider an Email Newsletter
Regularly publishing an email newsletter is one of the best ways to connect with and build your audience, says DeMers. Focus on knowing what your audience is interested in learning , and produce content that delivers value with no hard sell.
7. Consider Offsite Storage
If your company has important records or files, be certain that your computers are running backup software. In the event of a fire or computer crash, backup programs such as Carbonite and MozyPro store a copy of your documents securely.
8.Cut Communications Costs
If your business uses seminar lines or has a lot of teleconferencing expenses, you can easily cut those costs. Services such as FreeConferenceCall.com or Skype allow you establish a bridge to discuss a student’s progress with both the parent and the mentor calling from different locations.
9. Take a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy
BYOD policies are one of the biggest tech trends small companies are seeing in 2014, according to Clay.
10. Make Security a Priority
Protect your wireless networks using a secure password. Require that employees regularly change their passwords, and that mobile devices have security modes enabled. Make sure that each one has the most recent anti-virus and malware applications installed. Any of the major suppliers from MacAfee to Bitdefender will do the job.
11. Streamline Payments
Tracking expenses and paying employees can be as simple as pointing and clicking when you use applications like QuickBooks and Intuit. By digitizing paperwork you’ll be able to save time on both preparation and execution, which will free you up to spend more time on your core business.
12. Consider Service Technologies and Apps
Would an online scheduling program make things simpler for an elder care transportation business? Or could new tutoring programs help the children you teach? Gradually look at the technology that helps you serve your clients better, says Clay. These investments can reap enormous rewards.