A small business technology story with Ramon Ray
Small business expert Ramon Ray tells us how small businesses can leverage technology to take their success to the next level.
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Technology is very, very important to small business owners and entrepreneurs. In fact as you're starting your business, it helps you bring that vision you have to life and take care of the other parts of your business that you need as your business grows.
So what we want to do is talk about kind of a fictitious business because that business will help represent your business. And the owners of that business are Catherine and John. They own a jewelry company that sells to individuals and other businesses.
So many small business owners market their business at trade shows. That's a great way to get customers and partners into your business, especially for new companies. One of the things that often happens, of course, at trade shows is you get a pile of business cards.
Now when you're first starting out and your business is small, you have the time and you can afford to type up those email addresses and send them an email to follow up with your potential customers, and see if they want to buy from you.
As you grow, however, it's really important to look into something called CRM, customer relationship management. And this is what Catherine and John had to do as they grew out of just sending emails. They needed a system that could grow with their business.
One of the really cool things about using CRM is that it lets you take your specific product line or your services and target this to specific people or companies.
As Catherine and John's business grew, they said we're going to have to invest in social media and purchase some advertising. If you're purchasing advertising on social media, the social media companies will boost, will promote what you wrote a little higher to let more people see it.
Catherine and John are growing, and they're realizing they can no longer manage their finances with just an Excel spreadsheet or a shoebox, so they bought some financial planning software to help them track their business finances.
Instead of manually sending those invoices to customers, they can email those invoices to customers and clients with just the click of a button. Also the people they're sending invoices to, which are their customers, can pay via credit cards or other systems. This means they're going to get their cash faster, and that helps cash flow.
Another thing that's very important is as Catherine and John are growing, they're experiencing a need to hire more people, sometimes as contractors, sometimes as employees. Their accounting software is going to help them manage payroll, manage payroll taxes, and other things that are required when you're paying employees.
Another great benefit of accounting software is able to track the business' day-to-day cash flow, their inventory and forecasting. Using an accounting solution can definitely help with that.
Another way that technology can help is helping your small business be productive and communicate better. A few things they're finding they can use: online document sharing platforms such as Google Docs, Evernote, DropBox, Microsoft Office 365. Tools like this help them easily collaborate with their contractors, their vendors, and their employees.
As Catherine and John are growing, they're going to have to communicate with people and companies in other cities and different time zones, so these collaborative and productive tools are going to be much more important as well.
Last, but not least, video conferencing. It's very difficult to buy jewelry sight unseen. So using video conferencing, they're able to show customers, show prospects, show partners exactly what they're buying and hold company meetings.
Overall, Catherine and John are finding that technology is really helping them grow their business and not control their business. And it's real important that you as a business owner, that you understand what you're working with and you still follow your instincts, grow your business, but use technology as an asset, as a tool to grow your business.
Learn more about tech devices that can help your business.