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Turning Your Small Business into a Smart Business

Running a small business can pull you in a million different directions. While a large corporation has separate departments for advertising, finance and IT, small business owners wear multiple hats. This makes it all the more important to leverage technology to work smarter.

small business into a smart business

Here are some tips on how to turn your small business into a smart business.

Guiding Principles

Look to the future: When making software decisions, consider where your business is headed and which tech tools will give you room to grow. You may want to anticipate future needs rather than having to change systems in a few years. Or you may be content to just get things rolling on a small scale and then upgrade later. But let the company’s priorities and direction inform your decision-making process.

Be realistic about your skills and time: If you and your staff are not very tech savvy, seek out tools that offer comprehensive help desk support. Or if you’ve already got deadlines breathing down your neck, maybe a quick and easy setup process is a priority.

Look for integrations and opportunities to streamline: No one wants to waste time managing their technology. Look for tools in comprehensive packages or with built-in integrations so your software programs can work together, just like your staff does.

Software

Project management programs:

Whether you’re collaborating with clients or with your staff, let technology do the work of keeping everyone informed of a project’s status and keeping processes organized and on-task. Some software examples are Trello, Asana, Basecamp and Podio. Here is a comprehensive comparison of project management software.

Digital files in the cloud:

Many small businesses do not have the capacity to manage their own file servers. By using a cloud-based file storage system, you can feel confident that your work is being backed up, and you’ll have the convenience of being able to access your files from any location. Some cloud storage tools include Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and iCloud. Here is a comprehensive comparison of cloud file storage tools.

Time tracking:

Use time-tracking software to record your billing hours and make the invoicing process smoother. Additionally, you can use it to learn how to spend your days more efficiently. Maybe you’ll learn that your inbox is eating up most of your day, or maybe your meetings are running long. Some tools to consider include Toggl, Timely and Harvest. Here is a comprehensive comparison of time-tracking tools.

Finance:

Streamline your finances with an all-in-one service that can manage budgets, produce invoices, create reports and assist with tax filing. Often cited as the best all-around solution is QuickBooks Online. Here is a comparison of other small business accounting software.

Website:

Build a site that clearly describes your company and provides engaging information for anyone who is interested to learn more. Choose tools that make the site easy to update with news, articles or blog posts. WordPress is a much-used website solution that offers both website building and hosting services. If your business is based on eCommerce, consider Shopify as a solution. Here is a comparison of free web hosting services.

Customer relationship management:

Having a client database lets you log interactions, interests and work activities. That way, when a client calls you up two years from now, you’ll be able to easily pull up the details on the project you worked together on as well as remember the conversation you had about his or her family. Salesforce is one of the most-used tools, and here is a list of other CRM software, including more affordable options.

Email marketing:

You want to maintain regular contact with your clients and supporters. Email marketing programs can manage mailing lists, create engaging email formats and integrate with your website to capture visitors who want to opt in. Some tools to consider include Constant Contact, iContact, and MailChimp. Here is a comprehensive list of email marketing software.

Social media:

Because you need to be producing content across all the major channels, look to third-party social media tools to provide a single platform from which to do all of your posting and reporting. One of the most popular tools is Hootsuite. Here is a comprehensive list of social media management tools.

Manage Your Inbox

The goal of reaching inbox zero may be a never-ending quest, but there are ways to use technology to help manage the constant influx of messages.

Change how you use email:

Email overload can prevent your business from advancing. Consider developing a company culture that reduces email. Shift conversations to project management boards or chat channels.

Batch messaging:

Establish a personal practice of tackling email at certain times of the day rather than getting side-tracked whenever a new message comes in.
Filters: Use filters to automate certain tasks and organize your project conversations. For example, make press releases or promotional emails bypass your inbox and get sorted into folders. Automatically label messages that are from certain senders or that contain certain words.

Folders:

Use folders to keep your archive of correspondence organized. It’s a great feeling to easily find information that was in an email sent three years ago.

On the Go

Phone apps for your office tools:

As you’re making software decisions, look for tools and software that also have a companion phone app. Whether you’re on the road for business meetings or want to check in with your staff during a free moment, phone apps can help you stay connected and stay productive.

Accept payments:

If you’re running a commerce company or want to be able to accept invoice payments on the fly, look to tools like PayPal Here, Square or QuickBooks GoPayment to turn your phone into a credit card machine.

Sources:

https://trello.com/
https://asana.com/
https://basecamp.com/
https://Podio.com
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_project_management_software
https://www.dropbox.com/
https://www.google.com/drive/
https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/
https://www.icloud.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_file_hosting_services
https://toggl.com/
https://www.timelyapp.com/
https://www.getharvest.com/
https://quickbooks.intuit.com/online/
https://quickbooks.intuit.com/online/
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2458748,00.asp
https://wordpress.com/
https://www.shopify.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_free_web_hosting_services
https://www.salesforce.com/
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2367263,00.asp
https://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp
http://mailchimp.com/
https://zapier.com/learn/ultimate-guide-to-email-marketing-apps/best-email-newsletter-software/
https://hootsuite.com/
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2491376,00.asp
https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/credit-card-reader
https://squareup.com/
https://quickbooks.intuit.com/payments/mobile-credit-card-processing/

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Ken Narita

Ken Narita’s marketing career spans two decades helping businesses large and small grow. Whether it’s been advising emerging startups, guiding clients from the agency side, or currently, leading SMB marketing at Ooma, Ken has always taken an empathetic approach to addressing goals, gaps, and opportunities. Previously at TriNet, from 2011 to 2017, he grew and led the revenue marketing team through a period of rapid change and growth where net service revenue consistently grew in a range of 15-20% per year and reached $650 million at the end of his tenure. Ken has led demand generation, field marketing, customer marketing, and marketing operations teams and enjoys the ability to integrate campaigns across all functions to drive results.

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