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Resolution #1 – I will make better use of technology in my business in 2011.
Resolutions. Most of us make them, and most of break them too. It’s January 7 – have you kept all of your resolutions so far? Don’t worry, me either (leftover Christmas cookies proved too tempting!). Let’s forget about the word ‘resolution’ for a moment and instead call them ‘goals.’ When most people set goals, they also know how important it is to create a plan to achieve those goals. So, why not create a plan to help you achieve your resolutions (yes, we’re back to resolutions now)? Throughout the month, we will be providing you with ideas and strategies to develop the plan for the email, social media, website, and other technology resolutions you have set, either for yourself or for your business. And, we’ll also be referring back to these and measuring progress throughout the year to help keep everyone on track.
There is a wide array of technology available to help make you more productive, facilitate your marketing, and automate many functions of your business, allowing you more time to focus on mission-critical activities. The challenge for most of us is finding the time to understand all of the options to make the right decisions for our own businesses.
Here are 3 common challenges we hear from small business owners and ideas for resolving them with technology.
A lot of my customer data is in my head or scattered among email, paper files, and electronic files.
We have to say it - managing your customer data effectively is essential. It’s also difficult for many of us to do effectively. We have found that the discipline to solve this problem and make it a focus area every day is even more important than the tool you select.
Once you understand the role you want your customer data to play in your business and you are ready to make this a priority, selecting a tool usually becomes an easy process. For most small businesses, a common solution is an online platform and most of the popular ones out there come with a free trial. Make sure you take advantage of those trials and use each one for a few weeks with a small set of test data to find the one you are most comfortable with. Some of the popular online options include Salesforce, SugarCRM, Highrise, and Batchbook. (Note: we are not endorsing these products and we are not affiliated with any of these companies. We’ve just either used them in the past, have clients who use them, or experienced their free trials. Every company has different requirements so CRM is not a one-size fits-all approach – you’ll need to try different ones to find the right one for you).
After trying many, many, many CRM options, we decided on Microsoft Dynamics. If you want to talk about our experience with Dynamics, let us know.
I have all of my business data on my laptop (or PC) and I don’t back it up on a regular basis.
Your business data is an invaluable asset and it has to be protected. Now that I said that, I will also admit that I have had my computer crash when I hadn’t backed up the data recently.
I paid a lot of money to have the data recovered.
After the first time, I bought an inexpensive portable hard drive and backed up my data weekly. That routine lasted for a while, but then I skipped a week or 2 or 10 and my computer decided to teach me a lesson and crash again, almost one year to the day after the first time. I dusted off the portable hard drive again for a while and was good about following the routine again.
Until the portable hard drive crashed.
If you aren’t doing anything to back up your data, at the very least, go to the store today, buy a portable hard drive (they aren’t too expensive), and copy all of your business data onto it. And, put a reminder in your calendar to copy it on a regular basis.
If you want something that is automatic and real-time that you don’t need to remember to do, we have an online data back-up option available. I was our first client of this service because technology had burned me (three times) and I didn’t want to pay the wonderful company who recovered all of my data (twice) any more money.
I have a smartphone, but I know I am not taking advantage of all of the features.
I’ll admit it, I have some pretty cool games installed on my smartphone. And I usually play them for a few minutes every day while waiting in line, waiting on hold, or when I just need a mental break. And, I attended a webinar recently where a leading doctor on brain health talked about how important it is to challenge your brain with intellectual exercises so that’s my free pass for games on my phone.
In addition to the games, I also have tons of apps for managing my business from my phone. So if I’m not playing a game while waiting in a line, I can post a blog entry, manage our network, access a file on my computer, manage client requests, send client invoices, accept a credit card payment, update a website (ours or a client site), edit photos, review web traffic stats, share documents, update a proposal, access any client document, video chat with a client, look up detailed customer information, download stock photos, and a whole host of other business tasks all from my phone.
If you are using your smartphone primarily for email when you are on-the-go, it can do a lot more so make it work harder for you in 2011. Look at the desktop and online applications you use every day and find out if they offer a phone app. Consider the tasks you can’t perform from the road now and then search the app store to see if there is a solution. Talk to the service providers in your business to find out if they offer an app that could be beneficial to you. It will take a small investment of time to see if there are apps out there for you, but the right ones will save you even more time in the long-run.
One of our resolutions this year is to blog on a regular basis and share relevant and useful information with you. We have some great topics lined up that we are very excited about and we hope you’ll stop back regularly, check them out, and let us know what you think. And, if there is a particular topic that you want us to talk about, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
What technology resolutions do you have for 2011?