It doesn’t matter what industry you are in. If you run a small business, especially an owner-operated venture, it is important to work smart. Thankfully there are several ways you can become more productive over your working day. One of which involves embracing technology.
In the last decade, the rapid development in computerisation has resulted in a plethora of digital tools being launched – all designed to streamline your processes and help you run your business more efficiently. In fact, it seems like the latest hot new app or software is released every week.
For this reason, it can be difficult to keep up with which ones to use. Which is why we have decided to give you a helping hand.
Outlined below, in no particular order, you’ll find 9 must-have technologies for your small business. Adopt any of these programs, and your levels of productivity are sure to increase.
1. Project Management Tools
If you find yourself constantly trying to juggle multiple tasks, then you should consider project management software. These types of tools are very helpful in scheduling and tracking your daily activities. They can also help you to manage appointments and remind you of deadlines.
One of the best of them is Trello. Used by many small business owners, it allows you to create alerts automatically for pending events or tasks. It also allows you to input details such as where and when your next meeting or function is taking place.
If you have a team working for you, you can even assign tasks and send reminders to them. This, in turn, leads to clearer communication and reduces the need for meetings.
The great thing about Trello is that it is mobile-friendly and works on every platform. Just be sure to regularly back up your data as you are unable to import it back into Trello – should the worse happen and you lose it all.
2. Email Marketing
All businesses should strive to build an email marketing database. Containing the details and email addresses of previous customers, or those who have expressed an interest in your products or services, this is a potential cash cow.
Once built, you can send regular correspondence to them outlining special offers and advising of the latest news. If you don’t have an email marketing system, this can be a very labour-intensive task. However, with a tool like Aweber or Mailchimp, you can automate this process to ensure it goes out very quickly.
The great thing about these tools is they have lots of templates which allow you to easily create an eye-catching newsletter. They can also be scheduled in advance so you can spend a couple of spare hours producing them and setting them up to go out at various points in the year.
Both these tools also allow you to automatically post a link to it via your social media platforms. They even have pretty good A/B testing capability too.
3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Without them, your operation is likely to fail.
For this reason, CRM software should be a critical component, as it will offer you a central location in which to manage, analyse and measure all aspects of your customer outreach and relationships. For instance, it can tell you not just who is getting your emails. But also who is opening and reading them. As well as clicking through to your website.
It can even inform you of the last time you got in touch with your highest value clients. One of the leading CRM tools on the market is HubSpot. This is an excellent platform as it evaluates the data it gathers to recommend the most appropriate next step for customer engagement.
4. Electronic Payments
Every business that sells products or offers a service needs to accept payments.
While cash and cheque have been the traditional way of getting paid for many small businesses over the years, an increasing number are now turning to electronic payment methods. This method offers customers a fast and secure way to pay.
As a business owner, it also provides the benefit of access to funds within 24 hours – which is great for your cash flow – and eradicates the time-consuming need to deposit money at the bank. payWave is a popular method of electronic payment that many small businesses accept, however they do come at a price. You can find out more about it here.
Communication is very important for all businesses, so it is worthwhile investing in contemporary digital collaboration and communication too.
One of the most popular currently on the market is Microsoft Office 365, which offers several ways to communicate with customers, suppliers, staff or other third parties. This includes the ability to share files and instant messages. As well as send emails, create presentations and produce spreadsheets. One of the best aspects of Microsoft 365 is that you can see your workmates’ calendars and arrange meetings with them.
Just be mindful that as Microsoft does not have the facility installed to back up your data, you will need to use a third-party platform to do this.
6. Social Media Automation Tools
Social Media has become a very important part of the promotional mix for many small businesses. However, if you run Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Tik Tok accounts, it can be difficult to manage them all effectively.
Thankfully, social media automation tools like Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts for all these networks and more – up to 20 in fact. This way, you can stay on top of your posting requirements in an easy-to-manage way. Hootsuite even provides you with detailed insights and analytics of how many people view each post and what actions they took with it. Which in turn tells you how successful this market strategy is for you.
7. Video Meeting Applications
There was a time when scheduling a meeting with a potential client was a crucial step in closing a business deal with them. However, this was always a costly exercise as it involved spending time away from the office and money on travel.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Australia, the rise of video meeting applications was starting to have an impact on the way people did business. This only exacerbated during the lockdown and as a result of the restrictions.
In the present climate, the likes of Google Meet, Messenger and Zoom calls are seen as perfectly acceptable ways of holding an initial meeting with clients. It is also a very good platform to keep in contact with your employees without the need for them to travel into the office.
8. Accounting Software
Many small businesses are unable to afford both an accountant and a bookkeeper. So for this reason, they use accounting software such as QuickBooks. Essentially this tool conducts much of the activity these professionals would do.
This includes invoicing, keeping up to date with revenue and expenditure, claims for expenses and producing the documentation required for a tax return. All of these can save a small business a tidy sum of money.
9. Website Monitoring
For many small businesses, their website is a major gateway to their products or services. Whilst they might have spent a bit of money making it attractive and user-friendly, it is important to understand who is visiting your website, from where and what actions they are taking.
Website monitoring tools like Google Analytics provide you with detailed and fascinating insight into how your website is performing. This enables you to make the modifications required to improve it.
Among the things you can discover is where your traffic is coming from e.g. organic search, social media paid advertising etc. It can also provide detailed reports outlining how many sales each product page or category is making and how you can enhance the processes for your shopping cart and checkout.
This article was sponsored.