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Big fish in small bowl

How to look big while staying small

The trick to landing unlikely new clients, improving your reach and driving new growth for your business could be as simple as appearing bigger than you are. An expert from Google has seven simple ways any small business can do this.

1. Leave data storage to the experts

Few SMB owners are IT experts, so why not leave it to people who are? One way to reduce costs as well as the time spent managing and maintaining your IT system is to move from a server out back to “the cloud.” Moving your stuff to the cloud means it will be stored on the web across multiple data centres rather than on a single local computer.

With your data in the cloud you’ll never have to worry about losing a list of potential clients, or your annual report, as your data is always backed-up. It means no more amature hour showing up to a meeting only to find that the presentation you worked on for a week has been “corrupted” or you lost the memory stick.

Because your all your data is on the web, you can access it from your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. You can also work from home, work remotely and work at hours that suit you and your customers.

How does this make you look big?

Because your data is everywhere, you can be everywhere too. If a customer hears back from your business quickly whenever they you send a message, you create the impression of a much bigger organisation with lots of service staff and resources.

2. Come together in virtual meeting rooms

When you’re running an SMB, time is money. Video conferencing services from Google, anymeeting Skype or Oovoo are an easy way to bring everyone face-to-face. You don’t need expensive equipment to do it — just an internet connection. With Google Apps, for example, you can use Google+ Hangouts for brainstorming sessions, team meetings or consultation sessions. Up to 10 people can join a Hangout at one time from their computer, tablet or phone and you can also upload presentations, documents and videos to view together.

How does this make you look big?

By staying in touch virtually, your team can be everywhere your clients or your business need them to be. This could make your fleet of sales staff, personal trainers or IT consultants seem much bigger than it actually is.

3. Be more productive with collaboration tools

Whether you’re a nursery working on a seasonal potting plan, or a restaurant developing a new menu, you can reduce time spent sending emails and attachments back and forth — as well as the inevitable confusion over what’s the latest version of the document — by bringing the conversations and people to one place. Cloud-based collaboration tools like Google Docs allow everyone to make edits in real time on the same document. You can chat within documents too.

How does this make you look big?

By cutting the time spent on administrative things like sending and updating your documents, you can focus on the important stuff  — the content and the conversation — which will lead to bigger outputs.

4. Use a virtual personal assistant

SMBs don’t have the budget for support staff, but they can hire the smartest personal assistant around: Gmail and Google Calendar. Like a good assistant, Google Calendar will never let you forget an appointment or allow you to be double booked. Smart Rescheduler can find times that work for everyone and it can even convert time zones if you have meetings across the globe. Gmail has your back too. You can manage your “To Do” list by using “Tasks” and the Priority Inbox automatically separates out your important mail.

How does this make you look big?

By handing over the day-to-day drudgery of staying on top of emails, prioritising tasks and organising appointments to software, you’ll not only save time, but you’ll never make a rookie mistake like double booking an appointment again.

5. Treat social media as your water cooler

If you don’t have a physical office, but want to keep the team connected, social media can be your team’s glue. On Google+Facebook and Yammer, staff can ask questions, share knowledge and feel connected. With Circles in Google+ you can share the right things with the right people —that way photos from the team Christmas party can stay internal and debates about which supplier you’re getting next year’s stock from can be limited to the buyers.

How does this make you look big?

If your staff in Bundaberg know what’s going on with their colleagues in Bargara, they’ll have a better understanding of the business overall, leading to a more efficient and coordinated organisation.

6.  Custom design your own software

Building software tailored for your business isn’t always possible. Instead of buying specific accounting, invoicing or productivity software, you can draw on the innovation of hundreds of developers around the world with The Google Apps Marketplace. From customer management tools like Desk.com, to project management software like Smartsheet you can find the best tools for your business and add or remove them at any time.

How does this make you look big?

Being frugal is an SMB trademark, but no business wants to look cheap. By only picking the applications that you need, you can have all the power, scale and security of a much big system but  only pay for what you use.

7. Get insights on the fly 

If you want to find out which new ice-cream flavor your customers want on the menu this summer, try conducting an online survey with Google Sites or Survey Monkey. Or if you want to do some product evaluation, you could create a form or survey in Google Drive, email it to colleagues or clients, and keep track of their answers in one spreadsheet. You can also use graphs and charts to visualise the response data.

How does this make you look big?

Quality customer insights and evaluation often come with a big price tag from an external consultant. Now you have the tools to get the kind of feedback and analysis your business needs for a fraction of the price.