Growth is a priority for every small business. Incorporating technology trends to streamline your small business processes is an essential element to growth and success. What are some of the best tools to help streamline your internal processes and growth?
Technology Solutions for Small Business Growth
There are multiple ways you can use technology to streamline business processes. From generating sales leads to improving the customer experience, the positive impact the right kind of technology can have on your business is unlimited.
To help small business owners cut through the noise, we sat down with Laurie McCabe, an IT industry analyst with three decades of experience and co-founder of the SMB Group.
McCabe and her team help small to medium sized businesses understand how technology solutions can facilitate growth. “How are they using technology, what are they using it for, what are their challenges, what are the drivers, all kinds of things about how they’re consuming different kinds of solutions,” she said.Let’s take a closer look at how SMBs can utilize technology for more integrated, streamlined processes that lay the foundation for growth.
How Can SMBs Benefit from Technology Trends?
The use of technology to build better business processes has become more important than ever. Control has essentially been returned to the consumer via the Internet.
“In the business world, because we have the Internet in our pocket on our phones, people that are buying things from businesses, whether they are consumers or B2B, they’re the ones that have the power today,” McCabe explained.
Mobile devices have given people more choice and the ability to make more informed decisions. In fact, 81 percent of consumers are doing online research before buying.
“Now whatever we want to buy, we can do all kinds of research on our own before we even contact a sales person, get reviews, rankings and recommendations online,” McCabe noted. “The bar for businesses is much higher.”
More consumer choice means more competition. This is especially true for local small businesses trying to compete with global online ecommerce companies.
“It’s very easy for us to take our business elsewhere because of technology,” she said. “Think pre-Amazon. If you couldn’t get something at a local retailer, you might have a hard time getting it, but that’s not the case anymore.”
Did you know that 50 percent of all product searches begin on Amazon? Statistics like this have caused quite a stir for small to medium sized businesses trying to keep pace with the robust marketing budgets, inventory, and online presence of bigger companies.
Focus on Customer Needs
Keeping pace is an important aspect when it comes to growing your small business, McCabe urged. “Small businesses need to really think about their business, and think about whether their business is able to keep pace.”
Interestingly, the idea of keeping pace may not be what you think. It’s not so much about SMBs keeping pace with technology, she explained, “Can they keep pace with their customers, and how did they use technology?”
What are the technologies that small businesses need to leverage in order to keep pace with their customers? Knowing where to begin is the first step.
“Where most businesses need to start is by evaluating their own internal strengths and weaknesses,” McCabe explained. “Where do I need to do a better job in my business? Where am I experiencing pain?”
Identify Small Business Growing Pains
Every small business experiences growing pains, McCabe pointed out. “The biggest challenge around small businesses is growing the business.”
Attracting new customers, growing revenues, customer attention and retention, etc. are a few priorities that small business owners need to address. Aiming to meet those priorities often results in more hours, more work, and in the end, many business owners don’t see progress. Why?
One pain point example McCabe used was the use of cloud applications by SMBs. She noted that 92 percent of SMBs are already using cloud applications in their workflow. Trending technology is being used, but not very efficiently.
The Efficiency Problem
“The problem is in a lot of cases is they haven’t integrated them,” she added. “That’s often why you find yourself in that situation of feeling like ‘I can’t keep up,’ because they [cloud applications] don’t talk to each other.”
Using non-integrated cloud applications to access or input data can cost time and money.
“It’s not effective and really ends up creating a drag on the business,” McCabe said. “If you are trying to run the business with a bunch of things that really don’t work well together, it’s not a good long term recipe.”
Finding these costly issues is important to business growth, both short and long-term.
“Businesses need to look where disconnects are, because growth is so important for small businesses,” McCabe said. “Look at what’s working and look at what’s not working, and start taking steps to develop a more integrated and holistic approach to these things.”
Use an Integrated System to Overcome Pain Points
Using an integrated system can reduce costs and help small business owners streamline workflow and other business processes.
“Step one is to get all of your customer data in one place in one integrated system,” McCabe said. “You don’t need to buy from one vendor, but you need to do it.”
“Most SMBs are better off with something that comes with everything already pre-integrated,” she said. “Pick your flagship, whatever it is, and work within that ecosystem.”
Won’t this be a costly endeavor? Yes and no, explains McCabe. “A lot of times what we find is that they [SMBs] are still using a lot of email contact managers, spreadsheets, etc. to manage a lot of sales and marketing.” Seamless integration will significantly reduce labor and monthly recurring costs associated with accessing multiple technologies.
Develop a Future Growth Plan
Integration is an important factor for small business growth and success. There is, however, another crucial step. “How do I integrate to get efficiency and also how can I get a better view of the business? You really want to look more broadly at what’s going on,” McCabe noted.
Most small business owners can only focus on one or two things at a time when it comes to growth. To get a clearer picture, McCabe suggests SMBs ask, “What’s one or two things I can do to really improve my business?”
McCabe suggests using Google for business, since it can be integrated with CRM systems to streamline your business. Her top tip to streamline business processes, “Don’t get something that is really bloated. Really focus on two things and ask if it makes sense and if it’s intuitive?”
Get Funding for Small Business Technology Solutions
Purchasing CRM platforms that allow you to integrate multiple business applications under one roof can be difficult on a small business budget. If you need help financing a new, integrated CRM, we can help.
Call Mulligan Funding at 855-326-3564 to discuss your financing options today!