Ahhh, the many benefits of technology and all it has to offer…especially for small businesses. Is there anything better than having the ability to quickly connect with customers, offer online specials, broaden your target market, and even sell or market globally? But did you know, there are even more benefits of technology when it comes to productivity? Thanks to technology, businesses are able to focus on what really matters when it comes to business…doing the “real” work.
I know you are wondering what I mean by “real” work since being a business (especially a small business) means everything is work. By work, I am speaking of making a product (which let’s be honest, a lot of creativity goes into) or providing a service (which can consume a great deal of time). Finding ways to spend more time making creative decisions or working on business priorities can be advantageous to any business.
Here are five ways to use technology to improve productivity:
1. Office automation
The woes of being a small business really start with data tracking, email tracking, receipt tracking, call tracking, information tracking, task tracking, and just plain tracking…tracking…tracking! Did you really go into business just to do tracking? I mean seriously…who does, but it is a part of the business that has to be done (whether we like it ornot). There are ways to bring efficiency to business (and pretty quickly, too). And you know what they say about business efficiency. Efficiency brings about productivity and productivity brings more time doing what you love, which was the reason you went into business in the first place.
There are many ways to leverage technology to automate many office processes. One way is through email marketing, which is an advantageous way to reach new and/or potential consumers, businesses, and/or clients. This is not only a way to make contact via email; it is also a way to send newsletters, auto-reply to emails, sent personalized letters; as well as track email marketing data. For email marketing, there are tools like MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, Constant Contact, and Vertical Response. And these are just to name a few.
2. Let’s talk money
Naturally, while consumer outreach is important, funds receiving and tracking is vital to the financial health of all businesses. And I am sure you have heard of the old saying, “time is money”; which says a lot in how you spend your productive time and how much your time is worth. There are quite a few financial receiving and tracking tools that allow businesses the ease of tracking revenue, spending, expenses, and invoices. Choosing the right tool for the fit of your business is often contingent upon costs, processing time, associated fees, the ability to upload or send receipts, the ability to include taxes, and/or ability to operate via a mobile devices/smartphone.
Within the last two to three years, more and more businesses are leveraging technology to increase productivity by providing the ability for consumers to pay at their tables when they eat at restaurants instead of having to wait for a server to bring their checks; being able to shop in retail stores and pay by an attendant walking around versus at a register; allowing consumers to make purchases via the business owners mobile devices and receive emailed receipts; and allow scanning of mobile devices for purchases via ApplePay, PayPal, or other payment system mechanism. Talk about efficiency and productivity increase!
3. Project sharing
Project sharing is information sharing, which naturally enhances the transparency, productivity, and efficiency within any businesses. If you are a small business with an assistant, project sharing is also crucial for productivity. I am sure you remember the days of writing information in notebooks, on notepads, on whiteboards, and even sticky notes…all so you can review the information later (and please not let coffee spill on it or accidentally throw it in the trash).
So why run to the aid of technology? It’s a faster way to review document or notes and quickly provide feedback; as well as, track projects from beginning to end. The big bonus to project sharing is no matter what happens (i.e. an employee becomes ill, an emergency arises having you/them of office for an extended period of time, or an employee quits), the work and it’s flow can be continued without starting over or reinventing what was previously done.
The other benefit of leveraging technology for increased productivity is the ability to ensure accountability if you have employees or contractors that work from home. If you are a sole proprietor, you are able to track your time, which you can better determine hourly rates if you provide a service. While there are a few project management tools, three that come to mind are Trello. Evernote, and Office 365. Unfortunately, I always find it difficult to say which one is best; as businesses have different needs and have different financial resources available (in which more small businesses seek free over those with costs).
4. Virtual meetings
Virtual meetings have, by far, become one of the best tools created for small businesses. And, yes, I am aware that video teleconferencing is not new; however, the capabilities have advanced to work in the favour of small businesses (especially for consulting, artistic, and service providing companies). While yes, physical meetings have their perks, virtual meetings offer flexibility (especially when the meeting are with people in other cities, states, or countries. Need to conduct an interview or look for a guest for a podcast/radio show? You have the ability to have global outreach for potential interviewees or guests/participants. On top of that, these are additional benefits in how virtual meetings can improve productivity:
- You can host and/or take part in a meeting anywhere in the world.
- No driving and no traffic to get to a meeting (especially if you reside or work in a big city).
- The ability to have recorded meetings; therefore, cutting down on the need to have someone take minutes (i.e., if you are driving during the call).
Zoom, for example, allows for a virtual meeting where you can not only share documents, but it also has the capability for all attendees on the call to share documents as well. Another benefit is the ability to have attendees be physically present and not simply on a voice call. Other virtual meeting tools are Skype, Facetime, JoinMe, and Zoho. Again, finding one that will meet your requirements will determine the tool/software that will work for your business.
5. Customer service
Have you ever ordered something online and tracked your purchase from the moment the order was placed until it was delivered? OR have you placed an order online and chosen the earliest date you need the item and it shows you the earliest date it can be delivered; as well as, the status of it (i.e purchase is being reviewed, in production, waiting for shipping, shipped, delivered; etc.)? Either way, as a consumer, I absolutely love these options. But guess what, many business owners love these even more, which is also why many big businesses have gone to this option.
As a small business, you may think, “I’m too small to need this type of capability”; when in reality, this a perfect business process when it comes to customer service (especially if you are a sole proprietor or a small business with only an administrative assistant). Why? Because the more you can provide upfront for your clients, the less you would have to make time for calls or emails from customers asking about the status of their product(s) or service(s). Of course, this is only one way to leverage technology to improve customer service and it is imperative to choose options that will best fit the mission and vision of your company. A few customer service technology options are automatic appointment scheduling, email marketing, and auto-reply emails.
Take advantage of technology to leverage the business playing field and expand your outreach to generate more revenue. It is what you would call a return on your investment (ROI). As I said earlier, your “time is your money”.