Utilizing the right technology is a sure way to improve your business. In fact, businesses who fail to utilize technology simply can’t compete. So, if you are running a business, how can you be sure that you are making the most of the technology available?
To get started, here are five simple tools every small business should consider utilizing.
Email Client Software
Email certainly isn’t a new thing, but it’s about the most popular way to communicate online. In spite of the popularity of other social media platforms, email certainly isn’t going anywhere. A surprising number of people still use Webmail, where you have to go to a website and log on to see your emails, but for business use this simply isn’t efficient.
If you don’t already use an email client, download one now. Thunderbird by Mozilla is free and easy to set up. The main advantages of using an email client include the ability to quickly set up folders and filters to sort your email, you can also create multiple email accounts without having to log in and out of each account and you can view incoming emails instantly, all in one place.
You can also integrate an address book and move emails between accounts as well as automatically synchronize emails in the cloud so your inbox looks the same on any PC, assuming you use IMAP settings.
Finance Management Software
Bookkeeping can get complicated for the smallest of businesses and whilst you can certainly use a simple solution like Excel to keep your finances in order you might be causing yourself more headaches down the line.
There are plenty of simple accounting packages available both online or to download, but investing in the right finance software can be the best thing you ever do for your business.
Amongst other things, finance software will help take the headache out of bookkeeping. It can allow you to easily keep finances up-to-date and reveal important information like how much you are spending on various business expenses and profitability. Best of all, it saves you from having to think about these things; which frees up time and mental space to worry about actually running your business.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
If you have customers, your business can benefit from CRM software. Unfortunately, many business owners assume it is only helpful for big businesses – they’re wrong. Using a CRM package (eg. Microsoft Dynamics) can harness powerful customer data to improve customer service and make your marketing more efficient.
Typical uses might include: a) Integrating marketing and sales channels so you can apply a cost (time or money) to each channel and see how much revenue it actually generates – even taking into account repeat purchases X months down the line. b) Managing customer communications so you know what communication you (or any staff member) have had with a customer. You might even set up follow up alerts to send out promotional material. c) Integrating your website sales process and finance software in order to manage your business operations from one place – easily comparing actual costs to assumed margins and advertising costs.
VOIP & Messenger Software
Programs like Skype can be very useful if you need to make client calls; saving you money compared to regular phone calls, as well as adding additional functionality (i.e. multiple phone lines) for a lower cost.
Even if you don’t make a lot of phone calls, being able to add an additional landline number to your website might make your business feel more trustworthy. Meanwhile, using messaging features can be a nice way to communicate more effectively with clients.
Order Processing Software
For any business that sells products or services via a website, the online ordering process is essential, but the back end fulfillment process can often be clunky and inefficient.
Whilst you are small this may not be a problem, but what about when you want to grow your business and maybe even sell your inventory via multiple sales channels? The specific solution to these sorts of problems will depend upon your ordering and fulfillment process, inventory limitations, and which channels you want to use (i.e. eBay or Amazon, for instance). But one thing is for sure, using an appropriately integrated order processing package will make the selling process more efficient and more scalable.
Mike Spalding specializes in IT support and MS Dynamics Integration at Advantage, experts in helping businesses make the most of the technology available. Learn more about their software options. This post was originally published on the Small Business Bonfire. The Small Business Bonfire is a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs. Join their online business community and read their small business blog to get immediate access to small business help, tools, advice and resources.
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