It’s remarkable the impact of technology on business. Put differently, it’s remarkable what happens when small businesses don’t utilize technology in today’s world. The impact of technology on small and mid-size businesses has never been so obvious as it is now, particularly when you consider the myriad payment options, customer contact points, and even simple communication. Even the most traditional of businesses can see significant increases in their efficiencies, profits, customer acquisition and retention by utilizing things like ERP, CRM, e-commerce, and digital marketing utilities.
But how do you as a small-to-medium sized business owner decide what technologies you need, and what could you do without? Here’s a list of the Top Five Reasons you, as the owner of a small- to mid-sized business, should consider ERP and CRM systems to drive your business.
The old adage is that “information is power.” Without the drama of evil empires, the basis of the statement is true. Your staff can serve a customer better when they have a customer’s order history, payment history, account information, and likes/dislikes more readily at their fingertips. When a customer is treated with the deference of being a long-standing and loyal customer, their satisfaction is affirmed and they’ll more likely remain loyal.
What’s more, how many times have you tried to remember your account information for a particular retailer? That unique password amongst dozens. Unless you’re super human, it’s a hassle and a barrier to a purchase. If your staff – either on a customer service issue or a new sale – can make the account information easy, then you’re that much closer to revenue.
Good technology also gets you closer to getting paid. The easier, faster, you make it for customers to pay, the more likely they will be to pay on-time.
The top four reasons good technology makes your staff better are:
It’s almost cliché these days that when someone asks, “how are you?”, the answer inevitably is “busy.” Of course, everyone is busy these days. If you’re not busy, you’re not living and working to the fullest. But what if your business helps save your customer time? Isn’t that going to the very heart of what they say they need most? Time?
Good technology doesn’t replace or change human behavior. What it does do is make a human behavior easier or faster. Think about it. Facebook didn’t invent a new human behavior. People connected through telephone, email, social events, and snail mail before. What Facebook does is makes it easier and faster to share news and messages to larger groups of people, and for them to respond in a faster and easier way.
So what does this mean for your business? Technology can make the way your customers do business with you faster and easier. It won’t change what they do. But in the end, good technology satisfies the customer because they walk away saying, “that was easy.” And for a small or mid-sized business, that’s a win.
What are the ways technology can make you faster? Here are the top three:
As a general rule, the longer you make a customer wait the less likely it becomes that they’ll complete their order. Time is key, so being timely directly relates to profitability.
Imagine this scenario. A couple has season tickets to a theater in a trendy neighborhood. In addition to the theater, there are several restaurants and bars. As the couple begins going to that season’s productions, they make a reservation at a particular restaurant that’s just down the block from the theater. It’s an up-scale restaurant that also has valet parking. The next month, because they enjoyed their meals and the convenient proximity to the theater, they make a reservation at the same restaurant. The third month, much to the delight and surprise of the couple, a few days before the show they receive an email from the restaurant suggesting a reservation and makes an offer of a complimentary dessert with their reservation. Because it’s surprising and useful, the couple makes the reservation and decides that it’s now their custom to eat at the restaurant before each show. In addition, the couple now receives a personalized note from the general manager after each meal thanking them for their visit.
How does it work? The restaurant uses a CRM system that recognizes the name from a reservation, and the pattern with which they make reservations. Once the CRM establishes the pattern (a visit every third Thursday, for instance), the system uses an automated marketing flow to suggest repeat behavior, plus an incentive. The result? The couple confirmed their behavior by receiving timely, relevant, and useful information.
So what are the top three ways that technology helps small businesses be timely and therefore more profitable?
You know the cliché. It’s in every power mogul’s playbook. They walk into a restaurant and the maître de falls over themselves, dropping the customer’s name, and doing everything they can to ensure their satisfaction. Practical? No. Necessary? Not really. But when the customer feels like they’re known as a valuable customer they feel differently about your company. That’s one of the benefits of a smaller company – you have the chance to get to know your customers on a personal level.
Reality is, big companies want to retain this aspect of being small. They want to recognize their customers. How they buy. When they buy. What they buy. That’s why there are loyalty programs that not only reward the customer for their patronage, but also feed information into their systems so that their sales and service folks can have a better idea who the customer is, even when they don’t.
But is it really practical, even for small businesses, to know that much about each of their customers? Not without technology to help.
That begs the question then, what should you try to know about your customers? Here’s a starter list of the top data points you’d want to know about your customers:
The answers to these questions can be at your sales people’s and service team’s fingertips with the right ERP and CRM systems.
The reality of today’s marketplace – whether B2B or B2C – is that people expect buying to be easy. That’s a combination of both the “what” and the “how”. There’s a measured value in the experience, in addition to the message. If you suggest a targeted, value-driven message to the right customer and then offer an easy method of purchase, the customer sees greater value than a simple price savings equation. Check out this article in the Harvard Business Review for a deeper dive into how this is explained.
The simple fact remains that if everything in your company is manual in a digital world, you’ll have to try and compensate for that lack of technology with more and more people. Or, you simply surrender your position to a competitor. This is the opportunity cost of not making an investment into the right technology.
Here are six examples of how not investing into the right technology might cost you money you didn’t realize?
The Sum of the Parts
Here is a great comparison chart of the top ERP systems for small business. Some combine both ERP (operations and financial systems) with CRM (customer relationship management and marketing automation.)
You may find that you would be better served by having an independent CRM solution, in which case here’s a great list of software options to choose from:
If you’re in a place where you don’t feel comfortable evaluating your position or opportunity with technology, then let us help. Contact us and you’ll get a free digital assessment of your company’s –and your competitors’ – presence online and an assessment of your company’s technology opportunity. It’s no obligation and free, so drop us a line today.
As a small business, you have enough challenges keeping your head above water and focusing on how to grow. Navigating the digital world can be complex if you don’t understand the various channels and what you should focus on to get the most bang for your buck. Even if you do understand the technologies, how do you find enough time in the day to do it all? In this paper we will give you a concise list of things you can easily do to boost your business by leveraging the power of digital with web, social, and mobile.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, businesses that make use of the web expect to grow 40% faster than those that don’t. And according to Google, 97% of consumers go online to look for local products, yet only 37% of US small businesses have an online presence. Increasingly, the web is important, but so is making use of social media and mobile technology to engage with your potential customers.
If digital technologies like web, social media and mobile are so important, then why don’t all small businesses make use of them? There are several reasons that include perceived cost associated with doing it, not having enough time, or believing that it’s just too complicated. Lucky for you, there is plenty of help to address the complexities of digital while also managing your time challenges. There are marketing services companies that cater to small business needs. It’s also less expensive than you think, especially if you can pay for it with the increased sales that you can enjoy.
So let’s get to it – here are our top tips for digital success.
Since consumers are going online to search for businesses, unless you have a website you will not be found! Consumers will go to your competitors if they are easier to find. A couple of other things to consider are optimizing your site for relevant keywords that consumers may be searching on and making sure you have a responsive design. By having the right information and content on your website, you will help your company be found when consumers are searching.
A responsive design simply means that your site is optimized for viewing and interaction across different types of devices (computer, tablet, mobile). The site will be easy to navigate, read, and interact with, taking into account the different screen sizes that your web site can be accessed from. Also consider the user experience. They want to be able to access the information in as few clicks as possible. So, put yourself in the user’s shoes when designing your website – easy to navigate equals better engagement for you. Clunky or disorganized websites will result in potentially lost sales opportunities or your user exiting the site.
Getting your business listed on Google is another important step to getting found online. Google My Business helps you get listed on Google and also provides key information such as business overview, hours of operation, phone number, and address. For users using their mobile, they can use Maps to get directions and click to call. Consumers can also leave ratings and reviews of your business.
These days, advertising online has also become important to drive new customers to your business. It’s fairly easy to set up an advertising CPC campaign on Google. With Google Adwords, you can specify whether you want your ad to be local and what specifically you want to advertise. Google provides tools to help you decide which keywords to advertise, setting up budgets, and managing the whole campaign. And the good part is that you only pay if someone clicks on your ad. There can be potentially many more people that see your ad and read it, but you don’t pay unless they click. It’s important to track how much business is resulting from your advertising budget and make regular adjustments as needed to get the most out of it.
The top social media platforms you should consider are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, and Pinterest. You don’t have to be on all of the social media channels, but the ones that make the most sense for your audience. It gives you an opportunity to build loyalty with your customers and connect with them outside of your normal business interaction. It also provides an avenue for you to then share what’s new with your business, advertise specials, and foster a loyal customer base that will keep coming back.
We already talked about a responsive design that helps you interact with customers that are on different devices such as tablets. That will also help you for customers using mobile. Increasingly, consumers are using their phones to make purchases, search for local businesses, and using click to contact the businesses directly.
People are also spending more and more time on their mobile compared to other devices. Their mobile is always within reach. If it makes sense for your business, you should also consider mobile advertising, such as SMS, MMS, or banner.
Now that you are online, advertising, and getting found by your customers, you need to understand if the money you are spending is giving you a return on your investment. Analytics will help you track and review data that is relevant to your business. Best of all, Google Analytics is free! You can track every click, measure every dollar, and get insights on the type of device that your customers are connecting with (mobile vs. desktop). And by looking at how many conversions you have, the dollars of business that translated into, and how much you spent on advertising, you can tie it all together to ensure it is paying back. You can also tell if your activities on social media are driving traffic to your website.
Now you have the 6 top tips for succeeding in the digital world. Perhaps you were already doing some but not all, now is a chance to dive into the rest of the digital initiatives. Some of these tips are free to implement (Google My Business for example), so it won’t cost you a cent. It will take an investment in time, but increasingly digital is the way to reach your target customers. And if you can’t do it all yourself, there is plenty of help out there without breaking the bank.