On June 30, 1975, BusinessWeek foretold of the paperless office. After a
century of tireless toil, traditional typewriters were finally bowing
to text-editing models. The future? A â€œcollection of electronic
terminals linked.â€ The magazine dubbed Xerox and IBM as the chief
architects (no forbidden fruit until April 1976!). By 1990, the article
stated, most record-handling would be electronic with documents, mail
and messages accessible â€œby pressing a button.â€
Fast forward to today. While a few multicolored file folders may still
accessorize our desk, they certainly are less fat than they used to be.
The continuum of swapping paper for electronic ingenuity is
undisputable. Technology means growth on every level: streamlining
business processes, reaching more people through robust data, improving
customer service, reducing travel costs, measuring business goals,
boosting efficiency, strengthening customer relationships, reducing
security risks, mobilizing people to do more anywhere their feet are
planted, and so much more.
Read on for the top 10 proven ways to grow your bottom line using technologyâ€¦
1. Collaborate Like Never Before: Wikis
A wiki is a text-based site accessible via the web (think Wikipedia)
in real time. In English: lots of people may access a common page,
become informed, and put in their own two cents. Small businesses use
wikis (wiki means â€œfastâ€ in Hawaiian) to quickly share documented
procedures, explore new ways to become more efficient, share knowledge
within the organization, discuss and debate. Some options: MediaWiki,
TikiWiki, or DokuWiki. Or consider a wiki extension for your website if
itâ€™s built on an open source platform like WordPress.
2. â€Ownâ€ the Big Meeting: iPads
The Joseph Abboud suit rocks. The Coach wristlet shouts power. Yep,
time for the big meeting. Now all you need are a few iPads. Slide one
to each person in the room. Beam up your jaw-dropping presentation,
then use the Idea Flight application to share, present, and remotely
control the meeting from your iPad. No more easels or bound
manuscripts or tedious slideshows. Simply sweep the
potential/new/existing client off their feet (even if you wear jeans
or use a faux leather purse!). This is an excellent example of how
less paper and more technology grow small business one meeting at a
3. Turn Leads Into Brand Advocates: CRM Applications
Size of an organization does not dictate the sophistication of
technology. Growing the bottom line of small businesses requires
implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) solution like
SalesForce.com. It helps you manage customer relationships, track client
contacts & opportunities, channel leads into the pipeline, and
trigger touch points with people who refer business.
4. Communicate in Cool Ways: Online Meetings
A small publishing firm in Chicago recently vetted applicants for a
top editorial position. Resumes flooded human resources. Standouts were
narrowed down by phone interviews. Next step? A Google Hangout with
each finalist and three executives from the firm (two from the Midwest,
one from Colorado). Online meetings automate the obvious, saving time
and travel. Like Skype, you hear and see everyone in the group
conversation. Other options for videoconferencing, voice or instant
messaging: Apple FaceTime, Google Talk, and Microsoft Lync.
5. Never Miss a Call: VoIP Phone System
Time to get your phone system out of the closet and into the cloud.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology connects with CRM
applications. Get detailed reports on outbound calls, service, and sales
data analysis. Cloud-based phone systems allow small business to do
what they do best: be customer-centric. The technology never lets you
miss a call as it rings your office line, cell, or even your computer
(go ahead, read your voicemails in your inboxâ€¦very cool stuff for
people who wear a lot of hats).
6. Be a Thought Leader: Webinars
Webinars are live, online presentations, oftentimes featuring a
PowerPoint capped off by a question/answer session. Companies hosting
webinars are often dubbed thought leaders as they share knowledge on
topics vital to their customer or prospectâ€™s work. A few stats from 2012
according to ClickMeeting: The average webinar has 28 participants, 2
presenters, and runs 65 minutes. The most popular day to host a
webinar? Tuesday (but donâ€™t ever do it on a Friday or a Monday). Check
out Microsoft Office Live Meeting, Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, Cisco
WebEx, or GoToWebinar.
7. Engage Stakeholders: Social Media
Whole books are written on this one. Stats abound on how social media
is growing the bottom line. But hereâ€™s the one that stood out for us
about small business: According to War of Words: Myth-Busting Social
Media, SEO & Content Marketing, 82% of buyers say they trust a
company more when its CEO and senior leadership team are active in
social media. That confirms what we already know: small business owners
who take charge of social media impact brand awareness and contribute
to turning leads into sales. Social Media makes it easy for companies
to connect with stakeholders. So keep your Facebook page fresh (daily
postings), your executives on LinkedIn, your tweets interesting, and
your Instagram pics and Vine videos shareable. Website traffic
analytics and social media monitoring provide great metrics. Common
Sense Addendum: make sure everyone follows best practices with
automated email follow-ups and consistent email signatures.
8. On-the-Go Communication: Mobile Technology
By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than
people, according to Super Monitoring, a website monitoring
consultancy. Being mobile-friendly is mission critical to growing your
bottom line. Newsletters, blog posts, and websites should be
mobile-readable. Connectivity to your main phone system technology is a
must. And if your business is the one handing out the phones to staff
members, make sure training is part of the giving.
9. Streamline Costs, Achieve Scalability: Cloud Computing
Moving services to the cloud helps small businesses work smarter.
Basically, it means taking technology you used to install onsite and
using web-based applications instead. So, rather than purchasing costly
accounting software and attempting to keep up with the latest
versions, cloud computing brings it to you via the web (some top
picks: Salesforce.com, Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, QuickBooks)
along with automatic updates. Another example of cloud computing is
data storage. No more space-hogging servers for backing up and storing
data. Put it all in the cloud. Cloud storage is cost-efficient
because you pay for the space you use, and itâ€™s convenient since itâ€™s
accessible from any device.
10. Create On-the-Job Happiness: Technology Tool Assessment
Make sure employees have the tech tools they need to do their jobs.
An old, slow laptop means a person gets less work done. Inconsistent
Internet access creates problems (or leaves them running to Panera to
email photos for the local paper on deadline). By no means does a small
business have to have the latest and greatest, but people should be
tooled with technology that performs. The number one factor to job
satisfaction is â€œthe opportunity to use skills and abilitiesâ€ according
to the 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction & Engagement study by the
Society for Human Resource Management (job security was ranked second
followed by compensation). Technology empowers workers to reach their
greatest potential, a key contributor to the bottom line in any business
as well as on-the-job happiness.
Steven J. Banke is the CEO, and a founding partner, of 3-Points, LLC in Oak Brook, Illinois. Steve has been an Illinois-based technology entrepreneur since 1993, and his business expertise includes enterprise IT consulting, enterprise call-centers, equipment re-manufacturing, and IT Managed Services. Today, 3-Points, LLC is a leading Cloud-based technology integrator for small businesses throughout the Chicagoland area.