Tech Tools to Help Your Small Business Thrive
Half a century ago, the gap between small businesses and larger corporations was enormous. There was virtually no way a small, “mom and pop shop” on the corner could genuinely compete with larger corporations outside of a very small, specific geographic customer base. And then the internet came along and upset the apple cart of commerce.
As the first couple decades of the 21st century have played out, the development of the internet, ecommerce, cloud-based services, and globalization have revolutionized the business landscape — and given savvy small business owners a new lease on life. The plethora of modern tech tools available has allowed fledgling companies and smaller operations to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Google.
Vital Tech Tools for Small Businesses
Of course, just because the tools for success exist doesn’t mean they magically turn a small business into a sales-generating machine. Understanding and utilizing the power of each technological tool available takes time, care, and consideration. With that in mind, here are a handful of the most important modern tech tools that you’re going to want to make sure you’ve considered for your own small business.
Internet access is easy to gloss over as a prerequisite to any functioning business. However, you should resist the temptation to simply plug into the online community via the first opportunity that comes along. For instance, the internet is already a substantial cost to consider at any time, especially for businesses, and getting a good deal on your internet package can make a huge difference for a smaller company. In addition, make sure you get a quality, high-speed package that delivers the bandwidth you need in order to get your work done as fast as possible.
It’s important that you take the time to research the options you have available. Make sure to get quotes and look for bargains. The latter can be difficult to assess, with everything from bonuses and introductory specials to long-term contracts all factoring into the picture. That’s why it’s so important to consider every option. Often an introductory price for six months will increase significantly once the special pricing expires. Make sure to add up the cost over the entirety of the contract before making your decision.
Electronic mail has been a constant in the business world for decades now and has remained relevant throughout all of the evolution of the online marketplace. Utilizing a mass emailing service can be an excellent way to keep in touch with your most loyal customer base — in other words, the ones who literally like you enough to voluntarily request more information by signing up for your email list.
Traditionally, email has given business owners the ability to remain in contact with customers, send them important updates, announce product releases, and so on. In addition, modern email tools are increasingly being equipped with cutting-edge marketing capabilities that allow business owners to target their customers with specific emails tailored to their previous purchases or interactions.
While email is a vital technological tool for most modern small businesses, it is important to be aware that most mass email providers charge a monthly fee, although this typically starts small and scales depending on the size of your email list. MailChimp, for instance, charges as low as ten dollars per month for its basic package, although this comes with limitations and is for a list of just five hundred subscribers.
Website and Social Media
Your online presence has been and continues to remain a vital part of small business advertising for years now. Using a quality ecommerce website builder like Shopify, Wix.com, or BigCommerce enables you to provide a superior user experience for your customers — which is a vital factor in facilitating online sales.
Once you have your website set up, it’s also important to set up an analytics tool like Google Analytics or Woopra in order to track the behavior of site visitors, gather the data, and enable use unsupervised machine learning to find patterns of behavior that are based off customer purchases, interactions, time spent on each page, etc.
Along with having a well-oiled, UX-friendly website as a hub of your online operations, it’s also important to utilize social media outlets to interact with existing and potential customers. Each social platform is different. Some, like Twitter or Facebook, work well for conversation; others, like Pinterest or Instagram, help to showcase images and videos of your products. Find the social media platforms that work for both your marketing needs and your brands’ particular voice and identity, then utilize them to spread your marketing message and interact with past and potential customers.
With the endless threat of cybersecurity attacks, it’s hard to be overly cautious online these days. Fortunately, there are countless tech tools that can help you lock down and protect your company’s online efforts.
First, there are basic initial steps, like making sure you create solid, strong passwords and change them regularly. While this can feel daunting due to the challenge of remembering multiple, complex passwords across various platforms, the entire struggle can be quickly minimized by simply using a password manager.
Applications like 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass are all affordable and equip you with the power to create solid passwords without the rigmarole of keeping track of them all. Instead, you simply need to remember a single password that unlocks your “vault” of other strong passwords. While it isn’t a panacea for all password dangers, a good password manager can be the perfect balance of safety and convenience — both of which are vital factors for a busy entrepreneur.
Of course, cybersecurity doesn’t stop at mere passwords and password managers. In fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. In addition, it’s worth implementing tools like antivirus programs and multifactor authentication in order to make sure you’re guarded against any threats while conducting business online.
Antivirus, in particular, can be a huge factor in ensuring that you’re both protected from incoming threats and your actual computers remain clean from infection. Some antivirus options are free and can provide basic, updated protection. However, if you’re particularly concerned about your security, there are many other elite options out there like McAfee and Norton Antivirus that, while not free, are still affordable.
Sometimes the best uses for modern tech aren’t online at all. Case in point: barcode hardware and software. If you deal with inventory on a regular basis, purchasing a barcode system can streamline your inventory efforts virtually overnight, allowing you to:
- Integrate your inventory and accounting systems
- Receive and track all products and parts within your system, even across multiple locations
- Keep track of order progress and provide instant updates
- Be precisely aware of when inventory must be repurchased
The key factor here is purchasing a good barcode system. This includes getting quality hardware (e.g. a good barcode scanner that works well and a system that can print your own barcodes) as well as finding software that is compatible with the hardware.
Utilizing Modern Tech in Small Business
There’s no doubt that there are many tech tools available to modern entrepreneurs. From basic things like affordable high-speed internet and a good website to more complex elements like segmented email lists, inventory management, and cybersecurity measures, there is almost always a modern tool that can help to streamline and improve your efforts.
The important thing is to make sure that you don’t fall into the small-scale thinking that traditional entrepreneurs naturally had imposed on their smaller operations. On the contrary, don’t be afraid to think bigger. Chances are, whatever you come up with, there will be a tech tool already out there, ready to expedite your efforts and help your company thrive in the process.
Author bio: Ainsley Lawrence is a writer who loves to talk about good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. She is frequently lost in a good book.