Make technology your friend with these tips to tackle common tech challenges
Is technology your enemy? Tech issues can trip up any entrepreneur, from creating an affordable website to figuring out collaboration tools to setting up cloud storage. And most entrepreneurs get frustrated with the learning curve and expense required to master a new device, application or service.
But, done right, technology can empower your business to climb to amazing heights.
Review these five top technology aggravations for Canadian business owners – and try the solutions suggested.
Building a website
Recent reports reveal that 54% of Canadian small businesses do not have a website. Designing, building and maintaining a website is naturally intimidating to anyone unfamiliar with the process. And, once launched, a website or blog generates ongoing work such as responding to customer inquiries, performing search engine optimization, posting content and staying current with changes in internet technology. It’s enough to make any business owner run for cover.
There are a number of companies offering free or low-cost website building platforms. These companies usually offer easy-to-use customizable website designs, and can help you with a domain name, hosting and email set up. Shop both large vendors like Microsoft Office 365 and small ones such as YourWebDepartment to find the right mixture of features, services and price.
According to research conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers, 70% of small businesses that experience a data loss will go out of business within a year. That may reflect the vulnerability of smaller businesses in this area: we simply don’t have the big-business budgets to spend on data storage, backup and protection. And, a disproportionate amount of our data may reside on one or two devices – leaving us vulnerable to catastrophe if a key machine is lost, stolen or destroyed.
Thankfully, there are a number of data solutions available. You can physically back up your data to an external device, you can copy your data onto disc, or you can subscribe to a cloud storage facility such as Box.com. For extra security, do all three. Whatever solution you prefer, make sure your data backup source is offsite, secure and accessible anytime.
Who knew a small business could generate so much data? Business owners are bombarded with different types of data including website analytics, sales numbers, financial reports and prospect research – all of it important and constantly changing.
Before anyone can make sense of this information, the challenge is organizing it. And that’s where dashboards come in very handy. A dashboard is management tool that allows a business leader to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs). It curates information to provide at-a-glance reviews – imagine being able to track the dollar value of sales secured by your remote sales team as deals close. You can also use a dashboard to spot problems within your business early enough to take action.
For example, Microsoft Dynamics is customer relationship management (CRM) software that lets you monitor team activities across sales, marketing, customer care and social media for up-to-date information.
The challenge here is time: Business owners want to be active in social media platforms (and know their marketing success depends on it) but understandably struggle to find the time to send tweets, post blogs, or build connections.
Lean on technology and apps to make social media participation fast and easy. Hootsuite gives you one platform to manage and measure your social media activities across networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. And every social media network is mobile enabled, so you can dash off some words of wisdom from your phone whenever and wherever you choose.
Cost to upgrade technology
The good news about technology is also the bad news: it changes quickly. It can get expensive to pay for the latest smartphones, tablets, wireless routers and other productivity devices – especially if you're buying for a team. There's also the cost to subscribe to current Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications essential to power everyday business functions such as accounting, invoicing, customer relationship management, data storage and more.
Upgrading technology is an important strategy for two reasons: it will help your business to remain competitive, and it will enable you and your employees to work more efficiently. Upgrading your tools only when you notice an impact on productivity may be too late – work with your accountant or financial advisor to establish a realistic annual budget to keep your technology fresh. Thankfully, technology costs are trending downward as more vendors compete for your business.