The top 6 ways to grow your small business with technology
- Red Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s ethical.
- Amber Technology can improve accessibility, but it can also disenfranchise.
- Green The bigger the disruption, the bigger the potential reward.
In this article we look at the year ahead (2020) to predict the top 6 technology opportunities for small business owners and how you can implement them into your business strategy now.
Business time saving tools
There’s a whole host of ‘self-proclaimed’ productivity tools out there to help you work smarter. There’s so many in fact, that sometimes it can feel like a job in of itself managing them. There are some however which can rescue a few precious hours in your day. Some of our favourite are:
Trello – Project management system which helps teams work together collaboratively in a visual and free-flowing way.
Microsoft Teams – An instant messaging app for your desktop which saves you from the burden of signatures and salutations in more formal lines of communication.
TextExpander – Programmable predictive text which allows you to quickly insert “snippets” – email addresses, signatures, code chunks, form letters, images – as you type.
Digital marketing for small business
E-commerce used to be a simple, two-way transaction between company and customer. That was until Google muscled its way in. Now, companies spend millions trying to outsmart its ranking algorithm gunning for the haloed #1 spot. With 90% of desktop searches starting on Google since 2010 (statista) and 46% of all searches on Google having local intent (Google), the opportunity for SMEs, especially brick & mortar spaces is massive.
Google’s algorithm changes quickly, capriciously and secretively though. And that elusive top spot can be taken away as quickly as it’s awarded. A fool-proof marketing strategy is to create content which is organic and authentic, because outsmarting Google’s programmers is a losing battle. That said, there are some tried and methods which can help swing the balance in your favour:
- Content marketing
- Backlink building
It pays to keep up to date with the latest digital trends and algorithm changes and there are myriad technology in the form of digital marketing software to help you do this. Some of our favourites include Moz, SEMRush and WebCEO. Mar-tech services are great, but it's often easy to get sucked in to complex digital strategies. The best advice we can offer is to always keep your potential customer / user in the forefront of your mind. Create content that is for their benefit and that serves a purpose. Gaming the system can be done but sometimes it pays to take the longer route to gaining visibility and online sales.
Do your research first and find a software partner that matches your requirements. Make use of free trials available and read reviews from other users before diving straight in.
AI for your business
Before you start smashing up the nearest device with a computer chip and donning a tinfoil hat, I’m not talking about robot overlords and judgement day, this AI is more interested in deading off customer contacts than it is terminating John Connor. I’m talking of course about Chatbots, a revolutionary customer service automaton which could not only rescue your time but improve your customer satisfaction, productivity and even revenue. If you’ve ever spent an afternoon responding to simple customer queries - order updates, shipping information, etc. - things easily answered by your website's FAQ, you’ll know the pain all too well. Chatbots aren’t just for e-commerce sites either. In a recent study 58% of companies with chatbots were categorised as B2B (goBoomtown), with these companies using Chatbots for lead generation. For a lot of small businesses the scale of customer contacts they receive probably won’t warrant the cost of licensing a bot, yet. But as technology improves and the associated costs decrease, it won’t be long until only the most nuanced problems will need human attention.
Small business rate comparison sites
Although not necessarily a new technology, comparison sites and aggregators have been around for some time. However, Love Energy Savings allow businesses to compare rates on a number of business related services. These include business gas and electricity, business insurance, telecoms and water. When you're running a business you have to think about the bottom line but with so many different providers to choose from it makes sense to save time and effort (and ultimately profit) by using comparison technology to help you. To help you along the way there are a number of business rate comparison sites to choose from. These include the aforementioned Love Energy Savings, Compare the Market, British Business Energy and Simplyswitch.com. Just enter your details and let the comparison tech handle the rest!
Small business mobile payments
Falling more into customer retention, mobile payment systems which allow you to process cards on the go are a godsend for small business owners who don’t have a bricks and mortar presence or fulfil deliveries, taking payment onsite. All these mobile payment systems require are a mobile network enabled phone / tablet, and a card reader (roughly £30 depending on your merchant service provider) you can then take payments anywhere there is 4 or 5G - a luxury which even the most rural of addresses can now boast. Your customers then have the choice whether they pay cash or card, a welcome convenience and reassurance that your business is reputable. There is usually no monthly subscription fee, charges are based on a per-transaction basis and some even offer offline payments. Some of the more popular m-payment solutions include Paypal & Square.
Social Media for business
It’s almost patronising to put this on the list but social media is still affecting how we shop every day. In a recent survey by PwC, 37% of 22,000 respondents used social media for purchase inspiration and 84% of online shoppers in the United States review at least one social media site before making a purchase (Disruptive Advertising). Opportunities for small businesses to grow their customer base will further increase as these channels - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. - continually find new ways to monetise their models, predominantly through advertising and shopping. It’s not all about clothes shopping either. Even the most niche hobbies are catered for and galvanised on these networks, with opportunities for gardeners, interior designers, and tradesmen to find powerful networks of brand advocates. And with phone technology improving, the ability to capture, edit and share professional-grade content from our phones has never been more powerful.
As is the case with any form of technology, unfortunately everything has a cost attached. Although you may have to invest the initial costs, with some careful financial planning you should see a return in the form of efficiency in the everyday running of your business. If you want to fund any of the services above, why not look into asset finance or a small business loan that you can use to invest in these time saving and efficiency technologies. Business technology is the future and it pays to stay ahead of the game!
Author: Samuel Taylor, Love Energy Savings
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