Running a small business means you have a thousand roles split between (often) just a few people. Very few small companies have a formal “IT Department” taking care of their technical needs and, as a result, resort to either a third-party support company or occasionally, the boss’s niece, who’s “good with computers.”
It’s not like you need to follow every gee whiz technology trend that comes along, but there are a few changes you should make over the next twelve months if you haven’t already. None of these are especially expensive, and all of these have a hidden benefit of improving your business all the way around.
Switch to Cloud Storage and Backup
If you’ve seen commercials or read articles talking about “the cloud” when it comes to business and tech, they basically use the term to mean that some or all of the information you’re accessing doesn’t exist on your laptop or desktop computer. For small businesses, companies like Dropbox and Box are great starting points for doing this upgrade. Look to move any important computer files off the hard drive of your laptop and copy them into a secure service like Dropbox or Box, so you can access them on your computer without worrying about what happens when your cousin comes to visit the office and spills coffee on the company’s most important computer.
Once you get the hang of that, look for an automated backup solution that pairs with either of those services to do automatic backups of your most important computers. These are usually sold as a subscription service and are very much worth it. The point here is to eliminate any misery from the accidental destruction of any particular computer or laptop.
Switch to an Email Service Provider
When you go to send out mail to your entire customer database, if you’re not using a professional email service provider (ESP) like Mailchimp or Constant Contact or Aweber or the other big names in the space, it’s very unlikely that your mail is going through to the people you hope to receive it. The other huge benefit to using an email service provider (and using it better) is that you can learn to segment your big newsletter list.
Not every customer wants the news about every product. Not every customer uses your product the same way (or in the same amount). It’s important to segment your email list so that you can write to schools differently than you write to manufacturing plants, so that you can talk to house cleaners in one way and to building contractors another way. Be sure to check out various pricing plans for the different providers. Some are more cost effective depending on what size your customer base is at the moment.
Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Compliant
According to this study from Perficient, mobile traffic accounted for 58% of website visits in 2018 (it’s up in 2019). 42% of all time spent online is via mobile devices in 2018 (higher now). Your website has to run beautifully on mobile, plus it has to be fast. Google has a free tool that lets you test how fast your site runs on mobile devices. It’s worth seeing how well your site holds up.
Look to upgrade your site design to run better and faster by seeking to remove unnecessary code. Your overall design might need to be modified to accommodate mobile devices better. Everything needs to be checked for brevity. The cost of a full website redesign is a lot less than it ever has been, even though the need for a verymobile-friendly site is at its highest. (And if you don’t have a website, get one. It’s silly to let other people control your visibility in the modern workforce.)
Update Your Training Methods
Attracting and retaining well-trained talent is a priority at most companies right now. Companies all over are starting to report feeling the impact of a massive experience gap due to a significant uptick in retirement from one segment and a huge need to attract new talent on the other. But formal knowledge transfer still lags at most small (and plenty of the large) businesses, with most anonymous surveys rating company training efforts as too brief, too infrequent and relying on poor materials.
There are formal learning management systems (LMS) out there ranging in price from a few hundred dollars for a mostly DIY solution to a few hundred thousand for something intricate with a lot of bells and whistles. Consider your current training technology. If it’s a few three-ring binders and a bad DVD copy of a VHS video, plus a little hands-on time at the end, you’ll want to rethink this. Look for mobile-drive training solutions with video-friendly modules, as well as the ability to incorporate new training tools like AR (augmented reality) and the like.
You already have the basic technology for this. Take more pictures. Shoot more video. For reasons unknown, companies shy away from visual communications, even though most humans favor visual consumption as their means of acquiring information. (Not all. Some prefer test. Others learn from audio. Still others can’t use any of these methods and need hands on training only.)
- Suggested reading: Sound Marketing: How Small Businesses Can Use Podcasts
Any small business that isn’t managing a growing media library of employee-created assets at this point might be behind. Sure, you can spring for the occasional expensive photo shoot and the like from the PR or corporate communications budget. But everyone has a cell phone that shoots photos and videos. Start encouraging the creation and sharing of this media (with a few simple guidelines for brand safety) and start collecting a company-wide media library so that everyone has access to this material for their own needs. This can vastly change the landscape of your business communications internally as well as externally.
- Suggested reading: Tips and Tricks for Fast, Easy Video Content
You don’t have to do all five of these upgrades at once. You can start with the email work and then tackle the website refresh. Pick whichever you prefer, though I’d make the cloud storage and backup stuff happen earlier than later because it will facilitate some of the other projects. You might not have the immediate know-how within the company to do these tasks, so it’s always okay to find a local consultant. But ask around first. You’d be amazed what kinds of technical geniuses you might have on staff already.
About Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
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