Times have changed and the business world is no different, in fact it’s imperative that you keep ‘up to date’ with technology in business or it’s possible you will get left behind and risk business failure. Yes, that’s how important technology is today in running a business, of any size.
Technology has made it possible for basically anyone to start an online business but to have a successful online business is a whole different ballgame. Owning and operating an online business requires many skills, some of which include, marketing, technology, communication and design. Many people have a great idea to begin with, then unfortunately reality hits. Successful businesses are hard work, and there’s still no guarantee that you will succeed. As any successful person will tell you, you need to know your product and be able to commit to many hours, months and even years of little return before finally ‘starting’ your successful business.
We’ve seen many small Aussie businesses fail over the years and unfortunately it is usually the ones who cannot commit full time to their venture. A part time business will result in maybe a part time success, if you’re lucky.
To give yourself the best chance of business success you need to thoroughly think through your business idea and then how you are going to make it work. How are you going to get the sales you require? How are people going to hear about your business? Can you commit to the time involved? Can it be your first priority?
It’s getting more ‘cut throat’ in the small business sector daily and part of the way to support your eventual success is to keep up with technology that can help your business.
Here’s 5 ideas that you should already be doing or considering doing in the future.
1. Get Mobile
This is the largest growing area in how people are accessing information from businesses. Is your business mobile ready? If it isn’t then I recommend you look into this technology immediately.
Getting an application for your business will be essential in the future, you’re probably already missing out on traffic without it. This area grew 400% in the last year alone. An application will allow your customers to access your services on their phone and they can then either buy directly or interact with your business at will.
Do you have a QR code for your business website/pages etc?
QR code is short for Quick Response Code, meaning the code can be read quickly with the click of a camera by a mobile phone. Once you have a QR Code Reader on your Iphone/SmartPhone you simply scan the code and are instantly taken to the website or information of the code. When you scan a QR code you can link to content on the web, activate phone functions such as email, IM and SMS and connect the mobile device to a web browser.
It literally takes less than a minute to install the QR Code Reader onto the phone. You can find an application here – http://reader.kaywa.com/getit
You can make codes for any page you’d like the recipient to land on when they use the code. As I write this blog the service is free and one code generator can be found here – http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ You simply enter the URL where the information is written or stored and the code is instantly generated. You then save the code picture to your computer and use it in your marketing efforts, it’s that easy!
QR codes are popular in Japan, Europe and now the US has also embraced the technology. In Australia we are lagging behind a little but they are appearing in magazine advertisements and elsewhere. Expectations abound that the codes will be very popular over the coming year. QR Codes are very cool, will add an element of interest and conversation to your website and are also perceived to be cutting edge—though they have been around since 1994.
How can I use QR codes?
These codes can be very useful for marketing, arousing interest in your website and they also make you appear very tech-savy! Here’s a small list of how they can be utilised.
- Use on business cards/fridge magnets
- Facebook and social media
- Postcards – handout at networking events
- Printed correspondence
- Magazine/print advertisements
- Packaging – printed on bags and boxes
- Use to enter contest
- Use in emails with discount offers/coupons
- Link to maps/directions to your business
A mobile campaign is similar to an email campaign but directed to your customer list of phone numbers. It is more for instant action and can involve text messaging people with immediate offers if they respond or if you feel they would benefit from knwoing something immediately concerning your business. Don’t spam, this is a fine line.
Businesses now realise that when customers come to their website they are looking for something specific, not everything for everyone. This targeted shopping is where savvy small businesses are now focusing. You must find your niche – then when you think you have, go deeper and specialise further into that niche, that’s where the money and sales are. Once you have done this then you can SEO your site and you are way ahead of your competition immediately! Don’t skimp on the SEO – this is the most important part of a successful website and therefore business. If you can’t do it yourself (and really you shouldn’t) then pay to have it done. I cannot stress this enough. If you run your business online then this is a major part of your success or failure.
The resources you need to use when running your business will also be an important part of your overall success. You must determine what resources you and your business need. Resources include the people, programs and equipment your business depends on to run.
You want these resources to be right for your business so pick them carefully. For instance will a Facebook page be of benefit to your business by either generating interest or sales? Would Twitter be better for you if you just want to quickly inform people of specials everyday? You don’t want to waste time on resources that don’t give you a good return on your time and effort. Remember Facebook is NOT a marketing plan, it’s a small part of the plan!
Outsourcing can be a wonderful way to balance your business, especially if you are trying to grow a business while running a household and family. In fact I’d say it is essential if you are running a household and family!
Many businesses use virtual assistants already to rank high in Google with great regular information, interact with people via social media and generate interest and ‘word of mouth’ for their businesses. The days of doing it all yourself are quickly disappearing so I suggest you find yourself a terrific virtual assistant you can work happily with into the future.
You can outsource an array of business related work from writing your blogs to managing your Facebook page. Of course you get to edit and touch up or change anything you like before it goes to press so you can still add your personality to it all.
You can find out more about outsourcing here…
4. Keep Your Facebook Likers Happy
If you do have a Facebook page for your business, and 99% of you do or should, then you need to keep your likers happy or you will lose them. If you don’t lose them they will simply ignore your page and cease to visit.
You need to engage with your likers regularly and with great content and information that they can use or benefit from. Adding at least one post daily of Facebook should be the minimum and three should probably be the maximum. If your business is geared towards it try to set up face to face meetings with your Facebook likers – organise a lunch, child friendly picnic or afternoon tea to cement relationships and network with more fun! This will generate more hype around your business.
Can you email your likers directly with specific information or answers?
Social media optimisation is a combination of using the platforms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These are used to develop a campaign to generate interest in your website and business through the social interactivity they offer.
Over time your popularity increases giving you a substantial online community that you can access and where you can promote your products and services.
Here are ten tips to help you.
- Make your messages interesting enough that others will want to republish them
- Follow your competitors followers
- Search Twitter for your products or services to find more people
- Give information away – be generous and others will republish or send people to you
- Comment insightfully, share your knowledge
- Post links to articles that compliment your business or service
- Offer discounts to your followers
- Post information on your recent products or services – use the networks for your PR
- Post frequently – daily if possible but certainly weekly
- Be yourself – don’t just be a marketer, be passionate and friendly
5. Point of Sale
You all know about the point of sale tips like asking if they would like drink with their meal or would they like to add a product that compliments the one they just bought, right?
Well now with digital sales you are more likely to get an email receipt with an offer or discount code for the next time you purchase from that site. Do you have a system set up to entice buyers back after they have bought from you? An email 10 days later following up if they are happy with the product they purchased and giving them a coupon is a way to generate repeat customers, easily and cheaply.
Point of sale will take on a whole new dimension shortly with the mobile payment system. You can already get apps that will enable you to take payments from customers right from your phone, eg; PaypPal, but the way customers can pay you from their phone is still a little from perfect as many will have to upload the system before being able to use it. But rest assured this will be just another application that we will be expected to have on our phones as sellers and buyers so look into it as soon as possible. Terrific for market sellers and impulse buyers!
So start getting excited about the future of technology for your business because I think we are all going to have to to succeed!