Think back to how business was done a few decades ago. There was no email, Internet, mobile marketing, telecommuting or smartphones. Now communications are instantaneous, huge amounts of information move through email and the Internet and powerful tools are in the hands of owners and employees. Innovations in technology have improved operations at companies of all sizes and helped turn small local businesses into global businesses.
Cell phones have become small business necessities for owners and employees. These devices are lifelines for staying in touch when on the road and responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner. Smartphones raise the bar with access to the Internet, email and business applications in a small hand held device. Email, text messaging and social networking are other advances in communication that keep small businesses connected to their customer bases and improve internal communication within the company.
Technology has freed small businesses from the restrictions of prints ads when it comes to reaching new and existing customers. Internet marketing ranges from a simple informational website, to advertising on search engines, to online product sales. Email marketing is an effective and low cost method to reach a large group of people with a newsletter, coupons or business updates. Mobile marketing is a relatively new frontier that reaches people through text messaging, advertising on mobile applications and offering branded applications that tie customers into what is happening with the business in a fun and entertaining way.
Small businesses need to wring every ounce of productivity out of their operations and technology tools help employees get tasks done more quickly. This may range from printing out marketing materials to providing customer service through email or online chat. The key is to keep employees focused when using technology and to use it appropriately with the goal of saving time. Sometimes, a phone call may be more efficient and productive than an email. Provide employees with the right hardware and updated software to keep them working at peak proficiency.
Technology brings businesses closer to customers. Businesses use email to answer questions, offer online chat to help customers that are visiting the business website, and equip call centers with the latest phone equipment that makes customer service agents more efficient. Give customers a choice of ways to contact the company. Technology is powerful, but keep the people element in mind and don’t skimp on training employees in effective customer service techniques and the proper use of the technology.
Many small businesses now offer telecommuting and flex time as benefits. Colleagues can stay in touch from different locations, and when working different hours, by using email, online collaboration tools and mobile computing devices. When in the office, workers can share digital documents, convey information through presentations and create training videos to bring new employees up to speed.
Teleconferencing over the phone is one of the simplest conferencing methods, but advancement in recent years have brought web conferencing to the fore. Web conferencing can bring together web cams, audio and collaborative online meeting spaces to create an extremely interactive environment. Participants can see each other, work together on documents and recreate the in-person meeting experience no matter where they are in the world. This is one way that small businesses can extend their reach to include global customers and workers.