Optimise your business.

Top 10 tips to enhance your small business with technology

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1. Have an engaging and branded website

In today’s digital world, many would argue that your digital address (known as a domain) is even more important than your physical one. It is the place where you engage with potential customers long before your first business interaction with them. A website is a cornerstone to building your brand and allows you to facilitate a controlled interaction with potential customers. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms can be used to strengthen your website by directing viewers towards it. However, social media platforms should never be seen as an alternative to a well considered, branded website. These platforms are controlled by external organisations who can change policies, security and monetary compensation at any time.

2. Use a professional, branded email address

After you setup your website, the next most important technology item for any business is a professional, branded email address. Many internet and phone providers offer free email addresses with your broadband internet or phone plan; however, you are in business for one reason… to sell your product/service, not theirs! For a business wanting a professional image and strong branding, you need your own domain name. What do we mean? Well here’s an example:

Imagine you, John Smith, are a builder trying to win a contract. Your business name is Smith and Co. Master Builders. What do you think your client will perceive of your company when you email them the quote from:

johnandsally@bigpond.net

For the cost of a latté or two a month, doesn’t this look more professional?

john@smithmasterbuilders.com.au

Besides the branding and image considerations, a custom domain/branded email provides portability between internet/phone providers. You can then shop for the best bargain for internet or phone services rather than being stuck with a provider simply because you don’t want to change email addresses.

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3. Greet your customers professionally with a VoIP phone system

Effective communication is essential in any business and a quality VoIP phone system plays an important and often larger role than you would think. Realtime communication methods are essential to business and can’t be replaced with the likes of email for one simple reason: time. If something is urgent or time critical you can’t send an email and hope someone will read it quickly and get back to you!

A VoIP phone system (cloud hosted PBX) is not associated with your physical landline or business premises. This means that if you move office, your phone number can move with you. Instead of relying on the default number issued to you by a landline provider, you can secure a quality, easy to remember number (13, 1300 or 1800), or series of consecutive numbers.

Taking control of your phone system allows you to customise and optimise this vital component of your business. Instead of a basic landline and answering machine, a VoIP phone system can be customised to suit your business structure and workflow. For example, you can forward calls to specific people based on the time of day or use a series of voicemail messages that change to suit different situations like Out of Office, After Hours, Busy line etc. You can also program a main phone line to bypass to a secondary office if your primary office is busy. This is particularly useful if your growing business involves working from home or from multiple offices.

Lastly, a VoIP phone system, just like cloud based email, allows your business to continue to communicate in the event of a disaster or emergency situation as your phone numbers are not tied to a physical line. Especially with the rollout of the NBN in Australia, a VoIP phone system is a smart way for a business to future proof and protect their voice communications.

4. Build your email list

Creating a business using social media only, is like building a house on rented land. Don’t misunderstand, social media is powerful; however, in real world context think of it as a billboard or the ad on the side of a bus. Social media is extremely powerful with vast audience reach, but it is not exactly in your control and certainly not owned by your company.

Like our bus analogy above, social media is transient. It reaches a lot of people but the chance of conversion to a sale is actually lower than email because they are likely to see it at times when they are paying very little attention.  People consume email differently from other communication mediums, why? Because emails wait in your client’s inbox until they are ready to read them and they are therefore more likely to pay attention to what they are reading. Believe it or not, for these reasons, email still converts to more sales than other methods and therefore many business owners would agree, that their email list is their most important business asset.

5. Use social media effectively

Well after reading tips 1-4 you might be starting to think we’re against social media. But we’re not, far from it. Social media is a fantastic tool, but like all tools, it works best when used the right way, for the right task.

Many of today’s consumers flock to social media and the more people who are talking about your brand, the more valuable and authoritative your brand will seem to other users. When used correctly, social media can be the largest driver of new opportunity/visitors to your business and more traffic means more leads and more conversions!

Social media has a compounding effect also. Did you know that search engines like Google, are now starting to consider a business’s social media presence, as a factor in determining where their website will rank on a search results page?

Every customer interaction you have on a social media platform, is an opportunity to build your relationship with your customers and to show potential customers what customer service means to your business. For example, if a customer complains about a service you provide, you can address the complaint directly, apologise, and take the appropriate action. You can also leverage customer compliments as public testimonials and brand building opportunities.

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6. Secure your network and your devices

In today’s world of ransomeware, viruses, spyware, trojans, adware, worms, bots, bugs, rootkits and other malware you cannot afford to not take security and patching/software updates seriously. Your business can simply not afford the downtime!

If you don’t have a business grade firewall/security device and if you don’t perform monthly security maintenance on all your devices whether they be PC’s, Mac’s, printers, phones, switches, firewalls etc you are taking a massive risk!

We suggest a layered approach starting with education for you and your employees. We look at the importance of password management and data leakage and move on to software updates and backups.

Some businesses like to save money by managing this themselves but don’t know how to get started. Some businesses would prefer a professional to manage it for them. Either way we are here to help.

7. Integrate your data and your systems

While there are many factors that contribute to the success of businesses; it’s easy to see why data and system reporting/visualisation, have become key factors to success. As most businesses now operate on particularly small margins, it has become more important than ever to increase productivity and narrow in on every potential saving. System integration is key to data visualisation and also has the side benefit of increasing employee productivity.

What do we mean? Well, say you’d like to better understand the customers who purchase from you and how much they spend and how often in order to focus your marketing efforts. Some of that data might be in your finance/billing system, some on your website and some in your sales/CRM system. Without system integration there is no clear way to view or visualise this data. In addition to this, you’re probably paying an employee to enter at least some of that customer information 3 times instead of once!

Another issue that is compounding this problem, is the trend of migrating data to the cloud. Many businesses are migrating their data and systems to the cloud and this is often a great course of action; as it can provide your business with flexibility, better system uptime, lower maintenance costs, better connectivity and is capital-expenditure free. However, many forget to stop and think about system integration. This often leads to a situation where every product/system you use is now completely separate from your other systems and even hosted by separate vendors.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help your systems talk to each other!

8. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst

Imagine you came into work this morning and discovered that all your business’s data was gone. Maybe you got a virus, maybe it became corrupted, maybe a hard drive broke… What would you do? If the answer is “I don’t know,” you have some work to do!

Disasters and emergencies can happen without warning to any business. When they do, are you ready to keep your business operational? Can you assure your clients of continued service, that their information and privacy is protected, that the work you do for them can progress? Many clients will choose a competitor with a reliable yet perhaps inferior service over an unreliable one.

Your data, whether it is digital or even on paper is your business’s life blood. Imagine the loss of reputation in not being able to contact your customers just because you lost their contact details… Every business, no matter your size, no matter your level of technology use, needs a Data Backup Plan and a Disaster Recovery/Emergency Management Plan!

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9. Educate yourself and your staff

Using technology to empower you and your business can seem daunting at first, but we know you can do it. Ok, you might be saying, “This is the first time I’ve come to this site. They don’t know me. How can they make a statement like that?”

Well… Because knowledge, is not achieved through intelligence, but by having an interest, hunger and desire for it. What’s more, you’ve made it to Tip 9 so we know you have that desire!

You’re not an ICT professional and probably have no desire to be one but taking the time to learn some basics will save you and your business thousands of dollars over the years. Think about it like this: You don’t have to become an Architect to design your dream home, you can simply hire one. However, people who have the interest and take the time to learn about style and design, will have an easier time communicating their wants and desires to the professional, potentially saving many hours of consultation fees.

10. Know when to ask for help

Ok, so it’s time to call the professionals. Technology is not everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps you’ve hit something that is a bit outside your skill set, or you simply wish to free up your time to be working on your business. In any case, it’s reassuring to know that if something happens to your technology systems, experienced professionals are available to help.

Our mission is to empower your people and your business with technology and to that end we will provide you with thoughtful responses, patience and respect, expert service and trusted advice.

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