Thanks to the ever-changing world of technology, how business gets done keeps shifting, and everyone from Fortune 500 companies to your local mom and pop printing press are trying to stay ahead of it and use it to their advantage.
While businesses across nearly every sector and industry have had to embrace multiple elements of technology to keep the doors open and the lights on, the savviest small-business owners know that a large part of the struggle is just knowing what your options are. Here are five tools you might not even know about that your small business still needs.
1. Mobile Report Generation
While it would be nice if generating reports were a thing of the past, they're simply too valuable to be done away with. That being said, your report generation does need to go high tech. In addition to being able to utilize and synthesize the wealth of information being generated by big data, your small business' report generating needs should also be able to go small, nimble, and mobile to make the most of tablet and smartphone technology. Reporting tools from companies like Windward can help you do that.
There's analytics and, then, there's analytics. Don't just settle for knowing what times of day see the most traffic on your website, the route visitors took to get there, and which pages are the most popular. While these features are essential and available for free as a part of services like Google Analytics, they're the absolute bare minimum when it comes to harnessing the data you need to improve SEO and generate leads and sales. Muscle up in the analytics department by looking into services like Demandbase, a service that will sell you information about who your visitors work for, which will give you invaluable demographic information that can effectively cut down on true cold calling. While you will have to pony up money for a service like that, you'll pay less than $2.00, on average, per lead.
3. Productivity Software
Being more productive is a goal of almost every small-business owner, and while self-discipline and prioritizing are essential character tools you'll need in spades, there's also some pretty good productivity software out there that can assist you on the more practical side of things. From note-taking software like Evernote to task management tools like Wunderlist, there are scores of great productivity helps out there. Whether you get sucked into email too many times a day or lose the forest for the trees with multiple projects, productivity software is a great aid.
An automated customer service phone line is a great idea except when it takes five minutes to maneuver one in order to get to the department you're actually trying to reach, as it goes without saying that your time is more valuable than that. Fonolo is a company that has mapped the phone tree of hundreds of different companies. Instead of calling an airline to make a change to an existing itinerary, for example, log on to Fonolo and click the department you need to reach. They'll make the call, maneuver the tree and connect you with the rep you need in seconds compared to minutes.
5. Social Media Management Software
One of the most important marketing and customer service tools ever invented, social media is a great way to connect with customers and potential customers — if you have the time to manage it properly. Since the odds of that are slim to none, look into social media management software that can do it for you. From Hootsuite to Sprout Social there are a lot of options out there. Because your needs are unique, however, be sure not to rush into a quick purchase. Do your research, and find the software that's right for you.
For a small-business owner, the rate of technological change the world is undergoing can be hard to take in. As these five examples show, however, the tools you need to compete are readily available.