Buying Technology for your Small Business
Technology Spending Tips for Small Business
As a small business owner you face a countless number of decisions on a daily basis. Your company’s financial health rests on your shoulders and expenditure choices are crucial, and at times complex. Investing in technology can be daunting, an investment not to be entered into lightly. How do you know if you've chosen the right one? So to help you along we’ve put together a few “Dos” and “Don’ts” to help you navigate this crucial decision.
To start, investing in the right kind of technology for your business is a definite DO! As small businesses continue to evolve in our ever increasing digital world, a good technology solution can help bring your business to the next level. While it's true that tech can be pricey, the doors it can open will almost always ensure a high return on investment, but only if the tool is chosen wisely - not all tools are created equal, and not all tools are an ideal fit for you. Let’s take a high level look at some of the more common types of tools:
Customer Relationship Management tools (CRM) have become the backbone of many successful small businesses. They provide a home for all your company's customer data, sales flows and statistics. Tools like Salesforce gives you the ability to dig into your customer data to better understand your customers so you can do better at giving them what they want and improve the overall customer experience. This kind of data is invaluable to maintain your relationship with the customers you have while providing a good indication of how to go out and get the customers you want. The opportunities with a good CRM are endless.
Business Intelligence Technology
These kinds of tools help business owners make better decisions based on the data they compile and house. BI tools are great because they can provide insights into your business's history, current performance, and future projections, among other things. A company can mine this data, analyze it and transform it into meaningful information the owner can use to make their small business more strategic. Although the marketplace is dominated by premium software designed by companies such as SAP and Oracle, free options exist as well.
Network Security Technology
Keeping your data safe should always be priority number one. It is very likely that your business has at least some sensitive information so it's important that you take the proper steps to keep it secure. Putting security measures in place will provide your customers with peace of mind knowing their personal information is safe, it adds credibility to your small business, and it can also be the deciding factor in potential clients choosing you over a competitor, not to mention all it takes is one breach to irreparably damage the reputation of your company. To combat potential security threats, do your homework on the kinds of network security options that are available such as Kapersky and Digicert, and determine what kind solution would best fit your needs.
Social Media Technology
Social media has grown to become a respected medium for business communications. Companies big and small have all jumped on the social media marketing bandwagon and have realized that it can be a fairly time consuming task. Between sourcing and creating content for your audience, to posting and monitoring your community, to listening to social chatter about your business, it can be a pretty big job. Enter a host of tools to help you do all of the above saving you time and energy. Another plus to these kinds of tools is the in-depth analytics you can get to help fine-tune your social strategy.
What to Watch Out for: Subscription Traps
Always know what you’re signing up for. Today, many software companies offer their products though cloud networks and require monthly or yearly subscriptions as opposed to a flat rate. As exciting as implementing a new tool to reap all that potential can be, it's important to know what you're getting yourself into. What are the terms? Make sure you understand the time commitment, is it month to month or yearly? It's important to establish what you are getting in addition to the basic service you are applying for, like support and integration. These can be lifesavers when your technology solution decides to bug out!
Best Practice: Vet Your Tech
While it may be tempting to to just buy the newest and flashiest tool with all the bells and whistles for your small business, it's always a good idea to make sure you vet tools before you commit to buying them. Many offer a free trial, try out at least 3 options if possible. This will help lower any subsequent costs associated with having to double up on tools to meet all your needs or to scrap a poorly chosen solution altogether.
- Ensure that the tool has an easy to use user interface. At the end of the day, if the software is not intuitive and user friendly, your new software will end up consuming more of your time than it saves.
- Ensure the tool is scalable so that it can grow along with your small business. A lot of software is now available through cloud-based systems providing access to the most up to date versions but this is not helpful if you end up outgrowing the tool that you put in time and effort to learn.
- Ensure that there is built-in support, training, and integration included with your tool. You want to make sure that your tool is up and running as quickly as possible, and that you know how to use it properly. And should that tool go down, there is someone that you can contact and rely on for fast help.
In a nutshell:
DO invest in technology, but DON’T overspend beyond your needs on bells and whistles you don't really need.
DO explore your options to find the right fit, DON'T rush tech decisions.
DO make sure you vet your tools, DON'T just buy the "shiniest" one.
DO make sure your tools come with "extras" like training, support, and integration. DON'T settle for less for the sake of saving a couple of bucks, it will probably come back to bite you.