More people than ever are taking to starting a business these days. And while there is plenty of opportunities out there, it’s important to understand there is also a lot of competition. And the big question is, what is it about your startup that is going to differentiate you from your rivals?
The good news is, there is a huge range of technology that is available now, for startups, freelancers, and small businesses. And using these tech tools can help you get a tighter control over your workflows, your contracts, and everything else that goes along with starting a business, that can help you offer a more professional service than the rest.
In fact, if you can get to grips with the right technology and tools, there is a high chance of success for your new business. You will find that you save a lot of time on the ins, outs, nuts and bolts of running a fledgeling company, and more time to spend doing what is important: providing first class services to your customers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the great technology available to you that will help you improve your offer.
Your smartphone and tablet
Smartphones and tablets are relatively cheap for what they give you regarding technology. Essentially, you have a super fast computer in your pocket, that you can take with you anywhere and do almost every essential task that you used to do on a desktop. Sure, they can be a little fiddly, but the advent of apps means that it has never been easier for startups and small businesses to be able to work from anywhere.
Effectively, smartphone and app technology means you are no longer restricted to the office. You can work on a project for one client while en route to a meeting with another. The apps you use can help you do everything from keep track of your finances to find clients. And, of course, you will always be available to your customers, whether they want to call, text, email, or social media message you.
You need an online presence in just about every single industry going these days. The vast majority of people look on the Internet before making any buying decisions, and a lack of a website is only going to cause you to miss out on sales, or just lose potential clients to your rivals. However, don’t forget that it isn’t good enough to just ‘have’ a website. It takes significant tie, effort and money to create something of value, and that is worthwhile to your prospects.
A great website is also only the starting point. Most businesses can benefit from having a presence on social media, too. So, claim Facebook and Twitter profiles for your business and take a look at using tools such as Hootsuite to help you manage and control all of your channels. Not only will it increase your online presence, but with the right levels of expertise and sensible ad spending, you might even be able to compete with your larger industry rivals.
In days gone by, businesses used to spend vast fortunes on computers, equipment, servers, databases and such. The landscape is very different now, however. The introduction of cloud computing means that businesses no longer need to keep everything onsite. Apps, programs and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions can be accessed remotely. You only need to pay for the services that you actually need, too; rather than a vast system that costs your business an arm and a leg.
The result is a much cheaper and more affordable playing field. You can pretty much do away with the cost of doing paperwork, for a multitude of tasks. Maybe you need an employee timesheet app to track your workforce’s overtime. Perhaps you need a barcode or inventory app that allows you to check your stock levels at a moment’s notice. Using solutions such as SaaS is enabling startups to take on the major players, with flexible, clever services that are secure, ready to go right from the start, and flexible when it comes to scaling up the business.
Of course, the whole point of technology is to make life – and business – easier for humans. It makes sense, then, that there are so many automation tools out there that startups and small businesses can use to save time and energy, and focus on the tasks that make them money. Whether it’s sending personalized, automated email responses to customers or automating an entire workflow, there is a whole range of fantastic tech tools out there that can help you streamline your operations.
Take the creation of a marketing database as an example. In days gone by, startups would have no other choice than to manually enter names, email addresses and zip codes into a spreadsheet, one customer at a time. It took a lot of hours across a whole year – time that could have been spent on much more worthwhile and profitable tasks. Now, though, building an email list – and keeping it clean – is simpler than ever with services such as MailChimp and others.
Productivity and workflow
Finally, there are an astonishing array of technologies and software that you can use to track and improve productivity and streamline your business’s workflows. Take Evernote, for example. It’s a cloud-based note taking tool that you can sync across all your devices, from laptop and desktop through to phone and tablet. There are tools such as Basecamp to consider, too – which is perfect for project management and collaboration.
On the subject of cooperative working, the major players in the online business tools industry make things so easy for you. Dropbox and other collaboration tools are inexpensive and straightforward to use, for example. And Google Docs gives you a huge amount of space for each of your accounts, and you can share files, collaborate on documents in real time, and share things with people wherever they are in the world.
Are you using any of these amazing tech tools for your business, or can you suggest any others? Let us know your thoughts below!