Don’t Start a Business Without Considering Essential Digital Tools

Monday, May 30, 2016 - 19:00
 Don’t Start a Business Without Considering Essential Digital Tools

Every small business owner confronts the same reality. As you begin your journey, all the tasks and responsibilities necessary to keep your business going and growing become painfully obvious.
Accounting. Marketing. Sales. Staff. Emails. More emails. There’s always something screaming for your attention. And it can be overwhelming. The solution is to have the professional tools in place that make your business easy to run.

The right tools can make your life simpler, but it’s also important to appreciate that more apps or software doesn’t mean that you’ll get more done. You need to think carefully about precisely what functions your business requires rather than sign up to every service because it’s been featured in the App Store and has a nifty logo.

The point of this post is to help save you time, not encourage you to sign up to dozens of apps to get even more emails every day. The less time you spend on admin in the working day means more time to focus on the primary purpose of your business. i.e. why you started in the first place.

So, let’s look at tools that actually mean less work for you even as you build a successful and growing business.

Run a small business. Don’t let a small business run you.

Your business makes many demands of you, so the more help you can get the better. But you need to recognise exactly how your life can be made easier. Key functions that every business should consider getting help with are: keeping accounts, getting paid, and completing administrative tasks.

Accounting: Making sense of the numbers that make your business tick – and keeping your accountant happy – is a must. Xero simplifies your accounting.
Point of sale: How do you sell your products, take payment, and track performance? You need a POS solution that will make these easy for you, as well as provide customers with a seamless experience.
Day-to-day admin is the backbone of your business. Email, calendars, and a full office suite backed by Google is an easy choice to work collaboratively and get things done.
Your own business will have additional, more specific tasks that you can find service providers for. But a note of caution: be smart about where you automate or outsource. Signing up for every potentially useful app or service isn’t a good idea. Understand how those ‘time-saving’ solutions will fit into your workflow in practice before you commit.

You can’t opt out of marketing. Here’s how to prioritise your efforts:

Every business owner would like more customers, and marketing is a 24-hour process these days. Your website is open all hours doing work for you and is therefore constantly nagging for your attention. How do you know what to do?

Is there a way to encourage customer engagement without spending the entire day composing tweets and snapping pictures for Instagram? The online/offline divide is shrinking every day and you really need to reach customers on their terms, not yours.

Small businesses, therefore, need to prioritise digital marketing efforts. Before you do anything new online, let your existing customers connect with you. Have an email newsletter for your business and encourage people to sign up.

Then, use analytics to work out who is already visiting your website and why they are there. What pages do they visit? Are you providing enough information that your visitors want to find? Use this data to decide what additional content to put on your website.

Choose time/cost effective marketing channels. For example, email is the dark horse of the internet. Customers are far more likely to see your email than your Facebook posts. Put email sign-up forms on your website to allow customers to get your newsletter, then send out a basic monthly newsletter. It won’t take much time and you will regularly be in your customers’ inbox.

Tools aren’t enough. Make sure you and your team know why you’re in business.

You know as well as I do that stitching together the latest cool tools and trending apps doesn’t make a successful business. You do.

Remember your core purpose, and why you’re in business. Maybe it’s to give your customers 15 minutes of peace in a comfortable bar, or a tasty lunch from a food truck. When you and your team pursue that purpose, your customers will recognise your focus and commitment and will keep coming back for more. That’s what makes the difference to how you do business and impress your customers, not the apps you’ve downloaded.

Don’t let your business grind you down and make you lose focus on why you got started in the first place. Choose your business tools carefully so they truly help you, rather than complicate your business and get in the way of serving your customers.

If you’re happy with your business it’s easier for your customers to be as well.

Nick Blackbourn