Is It Time to Hit Refresh on Your Business Technology?
It’s understandable why small business owners struggle to keep up with the latest technology. That’s because it changes so quickly. What worked six months ago might slow your business down today. It’s hard to keep up.
If you haven’t done an internal audit on the type of business technology you’re using, consider today your day to get started. Here are a few of the hottest types of small business technology that could make your office more productive and your business more profitable.
Automate Your Human Resources
A top priority for small businesses is finding ways to check administrative tasks off the never-ending to-do list. These tasks can often be shortened or automated with the help of a few simple tools.
One example is payroll. If you’re stuck at the office on the last Friday of each month until after dark trying to sift through payroll and get paychecks cut to each employee, you’re wasting your time. Automated payroll solutions, such as those from Zenefits are game changers in the small business world. These types of programs can give you hours back in your work day.
Another HR task that can be dramatically simplified with the help of software is employe scheduling. Scheduling is often a time-draining task that sneakily eats away hours of productivity each month. When managers try to take it on themselves, updating paper schedules, calling in last-minute help for poorly staffed shifts and making adjustments to time-off requests mid-month, they’re forced to take their focus away from other tasks. By using an app, such as ScheduleBase, you can give your employees control over schedule changes, making it faster and easier to make adjustments on the fly without stealing hours from your workday.
Chat With Chatbots
Say goodbye to the days of confusing email threads. Savvy small businesses today are using chatbots to converse with team members about projects or hold brainstorming sessions about how to resolve an issue.
A chatbot is simply a program designed to simulate human conversation. There are a variety of chatbots you can use for your small business. Two of the more popular ones include Slack and GroupMe.
Slack has channels you can set up to focus discussions around specific areas. Each person on your team has a username. Team members can connect one-on-one with each other using these names, or they can call people out in conversation on a channel. You can also send files, links, and other resources through Slack. The opportunities are abundant.
GroupMe has similar functionality. This app is owned by Microsoft and works more like a group text message than a robust chatbot program. Although it’s harder to connect with people one-on-one, this app is ideal for collaborating on ongoing projects and brainstorming toward long-term goals as a team.
Accept Mobile Payments
Do you sell a tangible product, such as a book, clothes, or even food? Do you ever sell products at trade shows, conferences, or vendor fairs? If so, you need to make it as easy as possible for your buyers to pay you.
Consumers today expect vendors to accept credit cards, anywhere, anytime. If you don’t have the capability of running a credit card on the fly, you could miss out on valuable sales.
There are several mobile card reader systems available. A few of the most commonly used are Square and PayPal Here. Both offer a relatively low price for the hardware and fairly low pricing (about 2.7% per credit card swipe). The important consideration to make with mobile payment systems is security. You’re still transferring private financial information via an insecure line. These two systems are popular because of the security measures that are in place. Your customer’s data is transferred safely, so your clients can feel comfortable making a purchase with your business on the go.
Automate Your Marketing
Marketing is essential to growth. But, if you’re stuck working in your business instead of on your business (like many entrepreneurs are these days) finding time to break away to perform necessary marketing tasks can feel impossible.
To ease your workload, once you have a marketing plan in place, automate. There are many marketing automation tools available to do the job of maintaining a strong connection with your buyer easier and more lucrative.
Social media marketing is perhaps one of the hardest types of digital marketing because it’s so easy to get sucked up into the interest of what’s happening in your newsfeed every time you login. There are also so many networks to post on that it can be hard to keep up with it all. With a tool like Buffer or Meet Edgar, you can schedule your posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other networks. Do this at the beginning of each week, and your marketing will run automatically in the background after that.
For email marketing, you can use programs such as Emma or MailChimp to set up funnels and automate how you connect with new leads that come into your business. Write the email once, set up the timeline for when each email should be sent, and start your funnel.
Many small businesses fear that marketing automation makes the interaction with your company impersonal, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. By crafting personal-sounding messages, your customers will feel like the connection is personal. When a person replies, you can have it go directly to your inbox or someone else’s inbox in your company. That’s when the interaction becomes personal and more meaningful.
Protect Your Virtual Data
With all of this movement to administering, chatting, accepting payment, and marketing your business, having secure virtual protections in place is mandatory. If you’re running outdated anti-virus software, or if you’re not using anti-spam tools in your email client, you’re putting your business intelligence at risk.
Securing your small business against cybercrime is one of the most important things you can do. Make sure everything you’re running is up-to-date and that you have all of the necessary protections in place.
Ready to hit refresh in your business? By incorporating these types of technology, you can make your company run smoother and more efficiently. What piece of software has transformed the way you work? Share in the comments!
Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine's Top 500 Software Companies 2004-2007 and again in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.Read Full Bio