For small businesses, effectively managing technology can be a daunting task, and for the thousands of new businesses launching this year, understanding how to use it to their advantage will be crucial. According to a recent Bank of America nationwide survey, 54 percent of small businesses are expecting revenue to increase in the next 12 months and 31 percent are planning to add employees this year. However, an overwhelming majority (82 percent, according to Dell) in a number of key markets believe access to effective technology is imperative to successful growth, with 42 percent stating their technology needs are becoming increasingly complex.
This makes two things inherently clear, small businesses need to utilize technology for growth, and they need to understand how different capabilities and offerings can be leveraged to do so on a limited budget. Below are four technology-based tactics we at Infratel believe a small business owner must consider implementing to increase the chances of being successful in 2013 and beyond.
1.) Build a website and establish a web presence
A website is the window into a business’ soul. Small business owners only have one chance to make an impression. It’s imperative messaging is locked down and easily accessible. Hosting providers offer a myriad of solutions and tools to help companies create a professional online presence in a matter of days at an affordable price (often less than $10 a month).
From SEO to link building, content marketing, and beyond, there are copious methods to driving traffic, but it’s important people are getting to the site- start by identifying keyword tags and building a strategy around existing content. A mix of in-house expertise in conjunction with the help of a hosting provider is generally the best approach to ensuring website traffic will be directed to high profile pages across the entire site.
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2.) Set up a business email address
There are two options when setting up a business email address. There are free services like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Aol, etc. or the option to register with a hosting provider to create a customized domain for a minimal monthly fee.
When pursuing the hosting provider route, do a cost comparison, determine what type of support (if any) is included, and ask what kind of security precautions are in place. If the provider has ever been hacked, find another option.
3.) Establish a new business phone number… in the Cloud!
Eighty percent of consumers judge the validity of a small business based on the professionalism of their phone presence. Relying on a mobile phone as a primary business number is one mistake new businesses consistently make. It shows lack of professionalism to prospects and customers and the service can be unreliable. Establishing a business number also projects a professional look and feel that can give even the smallest, home-based businesses the feel of a large corporation with hundreds of employees.
By using a cloud-based virtual phone system or application, small businesses can create a professional number, integrate automated call answering and routing capabilities, and offer easy to use web-based digital voicemail, all of which can be easily implemented within a business’s website and social media platforms. These integrations allow small businesses to offer real time chat and online customer service capabilities to their users and customers. Further benefits of a virtual phone system include:
- Projecting a professional image with a toll free or centralized local phone number that can be managed from a cellular device.
- Guide callers through a simple menu of choices
- Route calls to existing phones when and where you want
- Capture additional business from your website by enabling real-time communication to solve customer and prospect inquires in rapid fashion
4.) Establishing affordable trusted IT support
The average annual salary for an accomplished IT manager is well over $100,000. For many startups and small businesses, a full-time dedicated IT professional is unaffordable and simply unnecessary. More often than not, hosting providers and MSPs deliver reliable add-on technical services with packages that are designed to meet the budgetary and IT needs of a small business or startup. The benefit of going this route is the ability to handpick various types of services that can be easily integrated into a customized package, providing a greater return on investment.
While seemingly conventional practices at a glance, understanding how to implement these four business technology “must-haves” will go a long way towards making the process of setting up shop quick, simple, and successful. Whether a small business is considering implementing one or all four tactics, the most important lesson is realizing what technology needs it currently has and how to leverage these affordable alternatives in order to compete with larger counterparts.
These are only four tactics we recommend our customers consider; what strategies have been most successful for your business? Are there any service providers that offer these services that you would recommend?