Ah technology … let me count the ways it benefits your business. It helps you close sales faster, get paid faster, and ship product faster. It helps the bottom line — you capture more opportunities, increase customer loyalty, and do it all in fewer man hours. In short, by wisely using technology your business works smarter, not harder.
But sometimes, deploying technology to improve profits sounds like something the OTHER guy does.
You know who I mean — that OTHER business owner who is somehow smarter or runs a more exciting business (or so it seems).
It’s that OTHER business owner we obsess over when we catch a case of “grass is greeneritis.”
I’m here to show you how real life businesses just like yours are taking advantage of technology to be more efficient, improve customer loyalty, get paid faster — and most of all be more profitable. Here are five examples from the BizSugar community of small business owners who have created smarter, more profitable businesses … and the simple doable ways they have done it:
1. Automating accounting and banking functions speeds up the sales to ship cycle.
As a teenager, accountant Sian Phillips remembers helping a bookkeeper add double entries by hand on an accounts ledger. Today, computers not only do double entries automatically, but Phillips serves clients all over the country by handling their accounts online via the cloud. The technology also allows the transparency to let her clients see the work she has done. As a former financial director for a London-based importer and exporter of computer hardware, Phillips also saw firsthand how technology helped make order processing more efficient. “With banking technology these days, payments into and out of an account can be seen in real time, thus speeding up the process of sales and shipping,” Phillips says.
2. Invoicing software automates administrative tasks, enabling time and money to be focused elsewhere.
As founder of 3BugMedia, a Web marketing company helping small businesses grow their online presence and bottom line, Gary Shouldis dreaded the end of each month as he busily scrambled to track down expenses and handle other financial issues with his business. Introducing financial software not only eliminated a lot of paper, it also unlocked the value of Shouldis’s business, enhancing productivity by automating administrative tasks and reducing excess costs.
“I started using Freshbooks several months ago for invoicing, and it has saved me about 10 hours a month when it comes to invoicing customers and tracking expenses,” says Shouldis. “Using Freshbooks, I’m able to automatically import contacts from my Website contact form as well as my CRM (customer relationship management system). I’ve also done away with paper receipts, as I now scan them with my mobile phone and email [them] into Freshbooks using a third party add-on.”
3. Email lists grow customer loyalty … efficiently.
As old school as it may sound in today’s social media age, e-mail lists have been an important tool for Stephanie Ward, a small business and social media coach, and owner of Firefly Coaching. Her e-mail building strategy has allowed Ward to stay in touch with potential and existing customers globally, maintaining visibility and services to improve customer experience and increase customer loyalty. “Being able to consistently stay in touch with people who are interested in my business allows me to provide helpful information and build relationships,” Ward says. “And people buy from people they know, like, and trust.”
4. CRM cuts costs, while preventing lost customer opportunities.
Ashley Neal, owner of Celebrate Atlanta, LLC, a leading home welcome service based in Atlanta, Georgia, and editor of award winning small business resource blog, Small Biz Diamonds, says customer relationship management (CRM) software has given her “one woman band” business wider reach and a larger impact. The software helps automate time-consuming lead and customer management, allowing more focus on driving revenue.
“I don’t forget about following up with anyone that has shown interest, and as a result I have seen a leap in my profits! My CRM lets me know when I need to follow up, forward a document, collect on an invoice, and so much more,” Neal explains.
5. Sales funnel software positions one business to focus on higher-probability sales prospects.
Follow through is also at the heart of Chris Hamilton’s approach to technology at his company, STAD Consulting and his blog Sales Tip a Day. Hamilton uses free sales funnel software that allows him to identify prospects, direct them to his Website via e-mail, and then follow up based on the offers prospects viewed.
“Since I have an understanding of what a prospect is looking at, then I can have an educated conversation with them when I follow up. This one process has allowed me to focus on only the people who are showing an interest in what I have to offer,” Hamilton says. “This has dramatically reduced my sales cycle, increased my close rate, and increased my profitability by allowing me to work with prospects who have a higher probability of buying from me.”