As a small business, we understand the importance of getting the most out of your time and resources while utilizing the latest tech. We also understand how overwhelming it may be to find solutions that fit changing needs. IT is becoming an increasingly important aspect of being able to connect with customers and close sales, which is why TechRepublic recently posted a blog about the ten ways in which technology increases sales for SMB's. We wanted to spend some time on six areas that matter most. These simple fixes will help your organization get excited about tech again.
Some of you may have already worked with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system at a bigger organization, but smaller businesses are now able to use the same tool for a fraction of the cost. A new breed of CRM vendors are changing the rules and offering low-priced web-based applications that give you the same functionality as the "big guys". Tools like order status change notifications and contact reference numbers are baked into the already awesome features CRM gives you. Take some time and find the program that's right for you.
This low-hanging fruit should be picked right away - just type your businesses name into Google and see what comes up. You're often listed on sites you didn't even know existed. Is their info on you up to date? Do they have your correct business hours, address, and contacts? You never know how people may find you on the web, so fixing these mistakes is crucial. This is something I still have to do at least once a month, simply because new "business directory" sites are popping up across the web all the time. Set up a Google Alert with your company name and address - you'll be surprised to see how many websites take an interest in you (or try to sell your contact information to other businesses.) Also, check to see if there are customer reviews, questions, or complaints about your company online that you can easily address. Reply early and often, because a late comment is almost as bad as no comment at all.
If you haven't started a Google Analytic account for your site don't worry, it's very easy to do. Check out Google's "Analytics" page and sign yourself up. Analytics gives you a free (for now) look into your website performance, traffic, visitors, content, conversion rates, and a myriad of other useful tools. You can get a pretty good idea about what pages people are interested in and what makes them stay on your site. There are loads of introductory lessons on G.A., so don't feel overwhelmed. If your website is a little more complex, with in-depth pages and traditional contact forms, you may want to look into hiring a usability expert. If they do their job correctly, you should see an increase in traffic that will pay for their services within the first few months.
Sites like Groupon and Living Social are all the rage right now, however they are giving small businesses way more headaches than sales. Not only do you have to give deep discounts to get people interested, but the terms and legalities of the whole deal may be hurting you in the long run. For example - Groupon doesn't limit the amount of coupons they can sell and their site fee's increase, putting the squeeze on businesses who want to be a part of this new internet craze.
Companies that don't have a "per-sale" cost model are also seeing the nasty negative side effects. In the case of a mini-golf owner, many people didn't cash-in their coupons until the last possible day making for long wait times for their regular customers. Coupon sites may be a way to get your company some consumer recognition, but when it comes to making money off of the venture, you might want to think twice. Take a page from Public Enemy's playbook - don't believe the hype.
You wouldn't show up to a customer meeting with stains on your pants and holes in your shirt because you understand the importance of first impressions. The same should go for your company website. Going the unqualified "friends and family" route of web design may be cost-effective, but your customers will notice. You may want to also update your site and add pages on your own, and "under-developed" websites make these tasks nearly impossible. Hiring a professional to design and develop your website will cost a little bit of money, but the end result is something you can be proud of. Professional web developers have been doing this for a long time and will have answers to the questions you didn't even know you had. There are many great offerings out there and it would be worth your time to look at their portfolios. Whatever you do, don't hop on the $10/hour outsourcing bandwagon - the cons outweigh the pros.
The most obvious benefit of having a unique e-mail address is trust. You tend to trust a company that has their own domain name, and rightfully so. It shows that they are established and have taken the time and energy to brand their communications. Show that you're trustworthy - buy the domain name and use its e-mail capabilities.
Once you have the unique e-mail address, you're going to want to use an enterprise-level e-mail client like Microsoft Outlook. SureTech provides Hosted Microsoft Exchange for our clients, giving them access to all of the robust features inherent with an enterprise-level e-mail; including calendar sharing, contact management, free maintenance/upgrades, and guaranteed 99.9% availability. This was one of our first cloud offerings and has been very popular with our clients.
There are many ways in which tech can help boost your online visibility, streamline your conversion rates, and make a big mark on sales and customer responsiveness. We hope these tips helped you out. For more, visit the TechRepublic blog post here.