For the first time in recent history, small businesses not only have access to the same new technology as large organisations, they are also able to embrace and react to it more quickly, nimbly and cost-effectively. Small businesses are, in many instances, in pole position to steal a march on the bigger firms.
The explosion of cloud computing-based business services means small businesses have access to a vast array of functionality previously only found in large corporate environments, yet involving minimal commitment and up-front cost. Taking advantage of cheap and simple online marketing tools is another way for smaller organisations to project a big brand in the marketplace without a big marketing budget.
Cloud computing and online marketing tools are also perfectly complemented by mobile devices, which means small businesses can be run from anywhere.
- Cloud based CRM – CRM in the cloud makes systems more accessible, more mobile, more up to date and less expensive to own and maintain. Systems are updated instantly and real time information on sales figures, customer data and analytics are available from mobile devices for constant, accurate access for all staff.
- Communication, collaboration and project management in the cloud – Cloud tools offer anywhere access to email, documents and project management tools. Google Apps is free and allows multiple users to work on the same documents and spreadsheets simultaneously, with access from anywhere. Online access to email and calendars is possible through cloud software providers, while business file sharing tools such as Dropbox allow small businesses to upload files and share with selected users.
- Cloud based customer service – Helpdesk software can help small businesses compete with larger organisations by having all customer support requests go through one place, irrespective of whether they’ve come in through the website, Twitter, phone or elsewhere.
Queries can also be handled from mobile devices, so small businesses can respond to their customer queries whilst they are out of the office or outside office hours
- Online accounting tools – Online accounting tools are an excellent way to manage cash flow. Systems can be configured to send alerts when outgoing payments are due, automatically invoice customers, and check if payments have been made. They can create and update cash flow forecasts based on real-time figures from daily bank feeds. Best of all, online accounting allows access from a mobile device.
- Social media and online marketing tools – Taking advantage of online marketing tools and social media can help small businesses present a large brand and increase market penetration with minimal investment. A solid website with a healthy blog can drive online engagement and sales. Tools such as MailChimp can be used for free email marketing campaigns and company newsletters. Understanding the value of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook can also help small businesses interact with customers in the same way as larger companies.
Having access to technology features previously only the preserve of bigger organisations is levelling the business playing field. Those small businesses that embrace cloud computing and simple marketing tools are the real winners in today’s fast-changing technology scene.