Get Your Business Growing Again

Ideas for using technology to overcome a “good enough is good enough” mentality when it comes to your company’s performance.

November/December 2016

When your business has more than a few years of success or even a steady revenue stream, it can be easy to fall into a rut by thinking things are “good enough.” But without maximizing the use of available technology, your organization may not be reaching its full potential.

From using data and analytics, to better targeting your marketing efforts and eliminating business tasks through automation, here are a few ways you can leverage technology to stop settling and get your business growing again.

Make full use of mobile

Small business expert Gene Marks says mobile is a cost-effective way to increase productivity in almost any company. Whether it’s outside sales staff getting a contract signed on a tablet or a clerk taking inventory, mobile devices equipped with the right applications can spark growth by increasing productivity and access to information. Despite the benefits, Marks says, many businesses “surprisingly, aren’t fully taking advantage of it.”

Marks says companies that aren’t yet making the best use of mobile could find “significant room for growth.” Look for inexpensive, easy-to-implement methods that can boost productivity. For a retailer, putting tablets in the hands of associates could increase customer basket size and spend through enhanced customer service.

Mobile also helps businesses take their customer experience to the next level. There is a lot of potential for growing revenue by enabling service employees to automatically generate estimates, populate invoices and provide real-time insight into inventory and schedules while on the road. “They can communicate, get work, fill out orders, check on clients, and access all sorts of information employees would otherwise not have,” says Marks.

Use data and analytics

In a world of mobile devices, digital transactions and POS (point of sale) systems, it’s easier than ever to collect data about customers and consumers. Syncing your CRM (customer relationship management) or POS system with third-party solutions can help you gather insightful data about transactions, customer history and preferences.

Business expert Susan Solovic says analytics can help businesses in “virtually everything they do,” from forecasting inventory needs with BizSlate, to increasing customer retention with LoyalTap or Shoutem. Retailers can track things like basket size, individual profit margins and traffic patterns. Service-based companies can improve the productivity of their workers and sales staff by reducing inefficiencies with platforms like MomentSnap. While such analytics once were available only to large multinational corporations, any SMB can now gather valuable data with simple software solutions.

“You can really drill down and find out what your customers are doing and how certain areas of your business are performing,” says Solovic.  

Eliminate mundane tasks through automation

Solovic says businesses can find more time to focus on growth by automating mundane tasks. Third-party solutions now allow organizations to automate everything from accounting to order processing. New programs can even extract information from scanned documents, significantly reducing the need for data entry.

Companies can also greatly boost their marketing efforts through automation of customer contact, such as post-purchase follow-up. Marks says regardless of size, every company needs a good CRM system to serve as a backbone for such automation. A robust CRM system can enable automation of follow-up on leads and purchases, and help populate orders, generate invoices and distribute targeted emails and messages.

“It’s making companies a lot more efficient. You can really automate [many processes] and improve your workflow,” says Marks.

Adopt IoT

BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s research agency, forecasts there will be more than 24 billion devices connected to the internet by the year 2020, and that the Internet of Things will have a profound impact on small businesses that can capitalize on opportunities. BI Intelligence research writer Andrew Meola says IoT can help companies improve their bottom line by reducing operating costs, increasing productivity and expanding to new markets.

Things like smart locks, smart thermostats, mobile credit card readers, sensors, tracking devices for fleet management, and smart watches can all offer ways for organizations to be more effective and do more with less. “There is no shortage of devices that small businesses can leverage in order to take advantage of the IoT,” says Meola.

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Top Takeaway

Automating customer contact, such as post-purchase follow-up, can help companies boost their marketing efforts without investing a tremendous amount of resources. In addition to managing sales, a good CRM system can serve as a backbone for such automation.