Small Business Tech—8 Tips for Working More Efficiently

Whether you’re looking to create a more productive workforce or better connect with your customers, technology helps small business teams accomplish more with fewer resources and personnel. In many ways, today’s technology is the great equalizer—never before have SMB leaders had access to so many tools and applications that can help them outperform their more sizeable competition.

With so many tools and resources available, it can be difficult to determine which tech opportunities will help your small business the most. That’s why we’ve shared a few insights for small businesses looking to update their tech usage in order to work more effectively on the day-to-day.

Invoice more accurately
If you’re looking for a solution to your invoicing woes, look no further than an internet-based invoicing software. While some invoices are promptly paid off, there’s a good chance that your business struggles to manually check on invoices that are either overdue or partially paid. Having a professional invoicing system will not only help you keep track of each invoice your business is due but will also help ensure that you get paid in a timely manner. Even better, by hosting your invoicing information online, you can easily collect relevant information for tax season and set up recurring payments for repeat customers. Aside from this, it will also help you with your finances like keeping track of any short term financing or lines of credit that you might have taken out.

Connect with Social Media
From responding messages on Facebook to sending out your daily tweet, you can build a better online presence through a social media management tool. Social media is one of the most powerful methods for businesses to connect with current and potential buyers. As a result, your customers often require instantaneous engagement from your business when it comes to their questions, comments and concerns. Designed with the small business in mind, these platforms allow you to collaborate with several of your team members to schedule posts and address customer inquiries in real-time. With the aid of messaging templates and knowledge bases, you can also ensure that your team’s responses are on-brand and have the right tone.

Consolidate your communication
In order to improve your communication with both internal teams and external customers, you can support all of your communication channels through a simplified unified communications platform. This technology streamlines your approach to team chats, web conferencing and even phone calls by hosting them in a single place, allowing you to scale with ease and switch between different communication channels to meet your current needs. For small businesses specifically, this type of tool is effective because it lessens the need for on-site IT support and maintenance, giving you the flexibility that comes with online communication without the hassle of having to manage it yourself.

Manage your allocations
Creating accurate billing statements is even easier with the help of a project time tracking tool for small businesses. Especially when your teams are bouncing between multiple projects for an array of customers, it’s imperative for small businesses to track the cumulative time spent on each task to ensure that your customers are paying only what they owe. Time tracking software can also help on the front end by helping you properly allocate resources for each project. By recording the amount of time spent working, you can begin to gauge how much time and how many people will be needed to deliver your products or services before the deadline.

Create a customer support system
Designed to better manage customer priorities, a small business help desk software offers a single digital space to track your customer inquiries and prevent any tickets from falling through the cracks. Help desks are no foreign object for larger companies, and many providers of help desk systems now offer solutions that target challenges that are unique to a small business customer base. Many come equipped with a knowledge base to help you understand and make use of the many features this software can provide, and depending on your subscription package you’ll be able to assign tickets to specific team members and automate certain requests. Not only does this help you remain better organized, but it can also help you address customer concerns strategically for reduced response times and higher customer satisfaction.

Go paperless
Remove the hassle of paperwork, contracts and confidential documentation by adopting a cloud-based storage and backup solution. Paper documents are difficult to store, organize and keep secure; they take up valuable office space and can be easily damaged by water, mold and office fires. That’s why many small businesses have decided to go paperless by migrating to a cloud-hosted solution. Because your information is stored through the internet, accessing these documents is as simple as searching for them, regardless of your current location. However, it’s important to do your due diligence and pair your cloud system with a backup and disaster recovery tool to keep data losses reversible.

Unify employee training
Since small businesses rarely have the time or extra staff that training new hires demands, many SMB owners now use an interactive learning management system to keep your trainees engaged while they learn and develop the skills they need to succeed at your organization. Perhaps most importantly, LMS software helps small businesses create a repeatable and uniform process for training new hires in each role, which helps prevent any accidental omissions of information and promotes a more logical sequence of training activities. As your business grows and you hire more people, having a concrete training strategy in place will help your employees become proficient more quickly without requiring additional work on your end.

Secure company data
Any small business looking to digitize their work processes should remember to secure their information with a cyber-defense platform. It’s certainly true that cyberattacks previously targeted larger, corporate entities, but as technology has become more integrated with small businesses, even smaller organizations have found themselves the victims of data breaches and hacking attacks. Phishing emails are one specific type of cybercrime that small businesses are susceptible toward, as it only takes a single click from one of your employees for the hackers to have access to confidential information. By educating your team on some cybersecurity best practices and proactively investing in cyber tools, you can ensure that your employee, customer and business information stays in the right hands.


How to unlock web content. Quick VPN guide

Nowadays, we hear lots of buzz around these three simple letters – VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and this app (usually its an app) can be a real lifesaver in some of the situations. We’ll try to quickly guide you on how VPN works, what it can do and if you should get yourself one.

What is a VPN?

Virtual Private Networks are physical or virtual servers that allow you to browse the internet safely and, more importantly, privately. VPN’s simply route your traffic to another server and your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or government are not able to see your activity online.

Are VPNs legal?

Being honest – it literally depends on the purpose. VPN as a commercial service is relatively new, so there are not many laws that could limit usage of the software. In all European and Western countries (including The US, of course) VPNs are completely legal and you can definitely look for one. However, there are countries where usage of VPN can get you in trouble. Here are a few of them:
Singapore – Moral reasons
Jordan – Political stability
Libya – Political stability
Russia – National security
North Korea – Political stability, national security, moral reasons
China – Political stability, national security, moral reasons

How can VPN help me to unblock content I’d like to watch?

Streaming services like Netflix or Hulu are the most common use cases for a VPN app. As you probably know (or not), Netflix libraries are different in each country. People pay the same amount of cash, but receive different types of content. Most of the TV series are available in the US, however, Europeans, Asians and everyone else are not able to see the particular shows (e.g. The Office is not available in Europe) at home. That’s a situation when a VPN comes in handy. VPN simply removes location filters created by Netflix, Hulu or any other streaming platform and will allow you to enjoy any content you prefer.
Keep in mind that not all VPN providers unblock specific streaming platforms, so be careful when choosing your provider. experts have a list of the best VPN providers and here are their TOP 3 picks for Netflix:

1) NordVPN – best overall
2) ExpressVPN
3) Surfshark

Steps how to unblock any content you want

1) Get yourself a VPN subscription
2) Download a client depending on device/OS you use
3) Connect to a US server (or any other you prefer, of course)
4) Connect to Netflix and boom. You are able to see the full library.

Is it worth using a free VPN?

A good VPN service requires some heavy investment. Everything costs money – powerful servers, infrastructure, employees, etc.. If the company is willing to provide all of this for free, there may be a catch involved.

Also, on top of a sketchy catch, there are some technical issues that also occur with these providers. Eg.:
Limited bandwidth
Limitations on server location and availability
No quality guarantee
Data may not be secure

Conclusion: VPN is a great thing if you love to watch TV series, travel, or use free Wi-Fi zones. Of course, number 1 reason why people use VPNs is to strengthen their privacy on the intenter, but it can be a really nice to have tool for your free-time activities as well.

CRM Marketing Automation for Small Businesses- Step by Step Guide.

Along with the growing popularity of social media and online blogging, content creation became as easy as winking. Everyone can become a blogger, influencer or any kind of content creator. Because of easy accessibility, the digital world has gotten jam-packed with content of different kinds.

The abundance of all sorts of information affected small businesses’ digital and mobile marketing strategies both positively and negatively. On the one hand, now it is easier and cheaper to promote products on the internet, ensuring that the marketing message reaches a broad audience. On the other hand, people receive tons of different messages on a daily basis, thus are used to ignoring them.

It is not a secret that small businesses need promotion to stay competitive in the market more than any other businesses. However, this chaotic situation doesn’t leave too many alternatives for them. The only solution left is to take a personal approach for each client, and base customer relationships on that. Fortunately, there is a way out. Small businesses can achieve that level of personalization through CRM marketing tools.

What is CRM Marketing?
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) marketing is a range of strategies and actions directed to enhance business-client relationships, thus increasing customer loyalty and creating a brand value. To put it simply, being heavily focused on consumers, CRM is designed to develop long-term relationships with existing and new clients.

CRM has come to prove that one-size-fits-all marketing campaigns are ineffective and their time is long gone. As much as marketing campaigns attract more consumers, they still struggle to maintain them in the long run. However, CRM marketing works to establish long-lasting relationships between businesses and clients, which increases the chances of attracting more consumers.

With CRM marketing software, small businesses can store and organize essential customer information such as purchase patterns, product preferences, age, gender and so on. This data can be at the disposal of each and every worker of the company at any time. In other words, you can learn everything about a particular client with just a click of a button.

One of the biggest problems for small business promotion is that the competition in the market is tough. Moreover, some of the competitors may be better off and have more effective marketing campaigns. Therefore, a business has to stand out in order to attract consumers and generate leads. This is where CRM marketing comes in quite handy by assisting businesses in showing an individual approach to every single client.

Let’s admit it, everyone likes to feel special. Who wouldn’t want to receive special treatment by a company? This is to say that an individual approach can lure customers in and place the business a step ahead of the competition. Since there are tons of customers with different preferences, businesses need CRM tools to get all the information together.

What is CRM Marketing Automation?
Before getting into the details, it is important to note that CRM marketing automation is different from marketing automation. Although some of the tasks they conduct may be of the same nature, they are used for two distinct purposes.

CRM automation tools conduct tasks aimed to manage interactions with new and existing clients and to store data related to it. On the contrary, marketing automation tools conduct operations, analysis, and predictions regarding the company’s marketing campaigns.

CRM and marketing automation tools can be quite expensive for a small business. Therefore, it is more efficient to combine them into one CRM marketing platform to save time and money. This can unify your marketing and sales teams and create a large platform to share client information.

Based on the client information received from the sales team, your marketing team can create a more effective and precisely targeted campaign. By the same token, your sales team can receive statistics regarding the customers’ patterns of behavior, preferences or needs.

A CRM marketing automation platform can also include other mobile marketing tools to increase its usefulness. Tools such as email or SMS API can be integrated into a CRM system to be controlled from there. This makes them more practical in terms of customer relationship management and overall marketing strategy.

How to Get Started with CRM Marketing Automation?
Although CRM marketing automation software may be expensive for small businesses, it is a smart investment for future growth. At any stage of the development, businesses should appreciate the value of each client and work hard to maintain them. CRM is the ultimate tool for this since it contains most of the crucial client data. This allows to establish a more productive interaction between the business and its customers.

Here is how to get started with CRM marketing as a small business.

1. Choose a Reliable Software Provider
There are lots of CRM software providers around the world, each offering different prices and services. In order to choose the best one for you, identify your needs first. Examine your problems and define what specific features of CRM your business needs the most. This will bring you close to the package that fits your business best.

As a small business, you may want to choose an all-in-one CRM package that can cover most of your marketing automation issues as well. Although those packages cost a bit more than ordinary ones, their practicality justifies it.

2. Conduct a Detailed Test of CRM Software Services
Some providers offer free trials for subscription. Typically, those trials give a general overview of the product’s quality. However, most of those trials don’t have all the functions of a complete package. Hence, make sure to check each and every detail before shifting to a paid plan.

CRM is almost an endless product, so when you shift to a paid plan, check whether you or your staff need any additional training. Every provider has responsive customer support that can help with anything. But still, additional training would be of great benefit to your company and employees.

3. Import Your Client Database into CRM and Get Started
Once you’ve identified your CRM provider and started the cooperation, you’re only left with importing client data into it. If you don’t have a client database at this stage, it is not a disaster. You can start importing the data gradually with every new client, though it might take a little longer.