We all know the struggles small and midsized businesses (SMB) face in today’s highly competitive economy. Too many SMBs fail early on in the game, unable to make it past the breakeven point. However, one of the benefits of our technology-obsessed society is the ways in which it can be leveraged to actually aid SMBs to get on their feet or to soar when they’re already established enough to walk on their own. Unfortunately, most SMBs don’t take the time to consider the advantages of technological solutions, thus limiting themselves and ultimately disadvantaging themselves in comparison to competitors who’ve jumped on the tech-bandwagon. In fact, according to Microsoft, the way a SMB uses technology is actually directly correlated to the future success of that SMB. With all of that in mind, I present you with some of the best and most affordable technologies of today to help elevate your SMB to the next league of the game.
1. Automatic Expensing Applications
Whether you’re managing a café or managing a whole department, keeping track of the everyday expenses of running a business can be exasperating. Expensing applications are simple but infinitely useful tools that can be used to avoid the hassle of filling out expense reports and hoarding months’ worth of receipts. With automatic expensing applications like Abukai Expenses, you can quickly and easily track, organize and compile the everyday costs of running a business into one uniform report with the click of a button. It’s as simple as taking a picture of the receipt and clicking "Process Expense Report". The application will automatically e-mail you a finished expense report including all relevant information about the purchase already categorized. And of course with the elimination of a paper trail, you’ll be making your company a little greener.
2. Productivity Tool
We all know how distracting the Internet can be. Especially when business seems slow or you’re just not in the mood to work that day, the Internet can be a dangerous procrastination tool for the unfocused mind. As a solution to ensuring employees stay on track with their tasks and don’t get distracted in a lull moment during business, applications such as StayFocused been designed to keep self-control in check. These disciplining programs allow you to prematurely designate distracting websites and constrict the amount of time that can be spent on them. Once the allotted time runs out, the website will be blocked for a predetermined amount of time. In the case of unmotivated employees, such applications may be used on work computers to restrict access to websites that may deter employee attention from the task at hand, thereby increasing the amount of time spent committed and focused on the job.
3. Social Media Management
In this new era of drastically influential social media, many SMBs can benefit from managing their online social image. Just as large companies may gain followers on Twitter or "likes" on Facebook, the SMB owner can also leverage social media as a tool both to advertise his company and to narrow in and redefine his target clients. Products such as Hootsuite can not only put your business on the social media map, but actually make building and managing a social media platform effortless and effective. Such products allow you to engage with your potential clients, gain measurable user feedback from social media sources, and analyze relevant social media trends and data, among other features. This allows a business to narrow in on prospective client niches and gain more company traction through global brand awareness.
4. Trend Analysis
The Internet is used by billions of people every day searching for and interested in an infinite array of subjects. Harnessing the information that is readily supplied through web-based searches and posts can significantly strengthen a company’s self-awareness and help them refine their intended target market. Online software such as mention can provide a company with invaluable insight into their current public image and help them redirect their marketing efforts appropriately. Such trend analysis tools give timely and reliable information outlining what is currently being posted or said about the company on the web. In addition, they organize and restructure gathered information and make it comprehensive and relevant to the company. This includes supplying reports that isolate both qualitative and quantitative factors for analysis. This information may in turn be used in comparisons against competitors to gauge strengths and shortcomings on both ends and react appropriately.
5. Employee Care
One of the most prominent and often overlooked resources an employer has is his human labour. It is easy to become preoccupied in the operational management of a business and forget that some of the key tools at your disposal are in fact human beings. And everyone knows that a happy employee is a productive employee. Employee satisfaction shines through in each area of a business, from the type of service they afford to the quality of product the client receives. Showing concern for employee well-being is also one of the best ways to maintain employee loyalty, commitment and positivity towards the company. With applications as simple and effective as UP by Jawbone, you can help your employees stay content and healthy while also demonstrating your interest as an employer in their welfare. In offering your employees such a product, they will be able to track their individual sleep, eating and exercise patterns and thus learn how their lifestyle habits may correlate with one another. The raised awareness an employee may gain about the benefits or detriments of his lifestyle may prompt him to change his behavior for the better, thus resulting in a healthier, happier and ultimately more energized and productive employee.
6. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
One of the biggest dilemmas that face a SMB owner is trying to increase brand awareness online. But with hundreds of businesses offering the same product, it’s often difficult to gain market share or even show up on a Google search. More and more, SMBs are turning towards marketing solution products such as Yodle to gain the website traction and online presence their business so desperately needs. Such solutions promise to revamp the company website, increase online presence by making the company turn up on major search engines and manage the company’s social media portfolio, among other features. Whether you’re a new business trying to initiate your business into the market or an older business looking for more website traffic or looking to promote a new image, almost any company can benefit from search engine optimization.
One of the most difficult parts about managing a group of schedule-based employees, varying between part-time, full-time and in-between statuses, is trying to reconcile fluctuating availabilities and last-minute time-off requests. And the more employees to manage, the bigger the headache when trying to construct a schedule that meshes well with everyone’s personal lives. Fortunately, cloud-based technologies like Scheduling Direct have been created specifically to target the encumbrance of "Making the Schedule" day. With this user-friendly, sleek and visually appealing software, employers can input employees into the system and have them manually submit their weekly availabilities. The program will then generate schedule options that accommodate everyone. Additionally, employees may request time off or initiate shift switches via the software without burdening the manager with the added stress of refurbishing the schedule to accommodate each employee lifestyle change. And best of all, the software is completely cloud-based so employees and employers can easily access it anytime, anywhere as long as they have a Wi-Fi-friendly device and an Internet connection.