Technology For Your Small Business Toolbox

Technology is evolving quickly with new gadgets, gizmos, and what-nots coming out everyday. It can be a little overwhelming for small and home based business owners trying to figure out if they need it, want it, can use it, should have it, will help them. The most important factor in making a decision about integrating technology into your business, and life, is whether or not it is going to help you. Period. You have to ask yourself, “Is this thing going to help me be more efficient? Will it help me to better serve my customers?” Technology is essentially a tool, like a shovel or hammer. These things should help you do things easier, better and more efficiently. With that in mind, here are a few technologies that you should consider for your toolbox.

Contact Management

Regardless of the fact that much of our daily business is now done online, through email, virtual fax, and over the phone, and possibly because of this, it is more important than ever to maintain good relationships with your customers. The relationships you build with your customers are what will keep them coming back to you. If you have any sort of customer base you may think there is no way you could possibly build a meaningful relationship with all of them. This is where a contact manager comes in. There are a lot of different contact manager programs to choose from. Regardless of which one you choose, it is going to help you keep track of all of your customers. It will help you quickly recall important information about each person, keep track of communications you have had with them, and easily find the people that you have not contacted recently. A contact manager is also going to help you stay on top of your deadlines and remind you of appointments, conference calls or any other time sensitive details in your life. So now ask yourself, “Will a contact manager make me more efficient and help me to better serve my customers?”

Automated Communications

A common complaint among consumers is that once they do business with a company, they never hear from them again. So how do you make sure to stay in contact with all of your customers? One way is with auto responders. An auto responder is going to allow you to schedule regular emails to go out to your customers at pre-determined times. The subject of the emails will vary depending on your specific business. It may be just a note checking in to make sure everything is working out well with the product or service they purchased. Or, perhaps it introduces an additional product or service that might be of interest of them. Maybe some tips about how to get the most out of the product or service that they bought from you. Another automated way to communicate with your customers is a newsletter. Write one newsletter and you keep in touch with all of your customers at once. There are a number of newsletter software and templates out there. Some are free while others charge per number of subscribers. Your newsletter can be weekly, monthly, bi-monthly or even quarterly. The important thing to remember with a newsletter is that the information needs to be relevant to your customers. It should not be about you and your company so much as it should be about your customers. Figure out what they need or want to know and give it to them. So now is the time when you ask yourself, “Will auto responders and newsletters make me more efficient and help me to better serve my customers?”

Advanced Telecommunications

In this day and age there is no reason that any business should be using a local number with a standard voice mailbox attached to it for their telephone line. There are options available now that can unify our many sources of communications while giving small and home based businesses a boost to their image at the same time. Take a virtual PBX for example. A virtual PBX is basically the same kind of phone system that a large Fortune 500 company would use, without all the hardware, software, maintenance and expense. Technology has made it possible for small and home based businesses to have a toll free number, automated attendant that answers each call, multiple voice mailboxes, have their calls forwarded to them on any land line they like and have all their voice and fax messages be delivered to one place, be it to an email address or an online web interface. A virtual PBX can accomplish a number of things for a small or home based business owner. One, it unifies their communications with just one number for both voice and fax. Two, it allows business owners to have one place to check messages whether they are voice, fax or email. Three, it helps business owners stay connected with their customers. Four, it helps the business to establish itself in the eyes of their customers as being an efficient, organized and professional company. So now, ask yourself, “Will a virtual PBX make me more efficient and help me to better serve my customers?”

It can be difficult to not get overwhelmed by all the technologies being marketed to small and home based business owners today. Not every one will be right for your business. Look at each technology individually and evaluate whether it is something that will increase your efficiency and enhance your ability to help your customers before deciding if you should add to your toolbox.