I’m stating the obvious when I say that technology has completely changed the small business landscape in recent years. With the widespread adoption and availability of new technology tools, small businesses are now able to keep up with their big business counterparts. However, technology can be a blessing and a curse for small business owners because of the learning curve that comes with it, as well as the additional resources that may be required.
Earlier this month, I participated in a Google+ Hangout, part of Bank of America’s Small Business Social Series. With the help of our moderator, CNBC Contributor Carol Roth, and participants Steve Strauss (small business columnist for USA Today) and Jason Teichman (Chief Operating Officer for Web.com), we discussed top tech trends of today, and how small businesses can leverage technology for business success in the future.
You can watch the full event here, but some of our key takeaways included:
An online and social presence is worth it. Even if you don’t transact on the web, a website is crucial to any small business. A website gives your business credibility, as most customers look online first. Much like a website, social media is also a must-have for small businesses. Find the social platforms your customers use and then develop a strategy to be on those platforms in order to get in front of your customers.
Consider Mobility. To take your business and online presence to the next level, mobility is a great solution for small businesses. Make sure your website is mobile-optimized, as customers are now more likely to search online on a mobile device than on a traditional computer. Mobility can also be extended to your point-of-sale solution with a tablet-based POS, like Bank of America’s Clover™ Station. In fact, tablet-based POS systems are proving cheaper for small businesses than traditional registers and can provide valuable data-based insights over time as well.
Big Data and the cloud aren’t just for enterprises. Big Data doesn’t have to be “big” to be insightful and actionable. By measuring a few key factors like financials, customer surveys or web analytics, you can find big business insights on a small business scale. Much like Big Data, the cloud can also be adopted on a small business scale. The cloud allows your data to be stored, protected and accessible 24/7, around the globe, from any device – allowing you to work on the same scale as big businesses.
Stay current to stay competitive. Outdated technology, or a lack of technology, can be a red flag to customers and potential customers. Steve Strauss of USA Today drove this home for viewers, stating, “Technology doesn’t cost, it pays!” Small business owners need to challenge themselves to embrace tech and invest in what they need.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats. Instead of adding another responsibility to your plate, find a partner or technology expert you trust who can help determine the ROI of a technology within the context of your cash flow and business goals. Partners like your small business banker and online resources like Web.com can assist you with technology maintenance and financing.
Technology is leveling the playing field to help small businesses compete with their larger counterparts, allowing your key differentiator to be about how connected your business is versus its size. Get passionate about technology and see how it can benefit your business!
You can get learn more about technology and small businesses by watching the 30-minute video of the event or you can read about how small business owners of all ages are really using technology in our fall 2014 Small Business Owner Report.