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7 ways technology can help grow your small business

Technology and business go hand in hand

Consumer expectations have risen in recent years, creating challenges for start-ups and small businesses that simply didn’t exist before.

Today’s consumer expects a 24/7 service with personalised interactions and answers to their questions at the click of a button. What’s more, they expect this from every business they deal with, regardless of size.

As large companies increasingly leverage data, technology and social media platforms to provide instant customer service and personalised messaging, small businesses without the same financial resources or in-house expertise often struggle to keep up. This sounds pretty daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a wealth of affordable or even free solutions out there to help you challenge your rivals without going over budget. With that in mind, here’s our list of 7 ways you can use technology to help grow a small business:

1. A low-cost website to get you noticed

 When you start a new business, it’s wise to get online as soon as possible. A solid online presence builds trust in your brand and will increase custom organically through internet searches for businesses like yours. Newly contacted sales leads and other prospective customers will use your website to check you out before they decide to buy, so it’s important there is something credible for them to find.

Before you rush to hire a design agency, it’s worth considering whether you need a custom-made website, or if you can get what you need from one of the many providers selling ‘out of the box’ products (a selection of templates ready for you to fill) or simplified site building tools you can use yourself.

If you’re unsure of what to put on your website, begin with a simple home page that states clearly what you do, a Contact Us section to make it easy for users to get hold of you and an About page where you can go into more detail about your business and include industry keywords that will help to boost your search rankings.

2. Phone answering services for small businesses

Advances in technology and global connectivity mean small business and sole traders have more opportunities than ever before to sound professional, increase sales enquiries and offer better service for their customers over the phone. Good overflow support or out-of-hours cover can give you the edge over your competitors, delivering the instant service that modern consumers have come to expect without the overheads of a full-time employee.

Depending on your needs, you can opt for a professional-looking business number (0203, 0161, 0333, 0800 etc.) diverted to your personal phone, a cloud-based phone system with features like an auto-attendant (“Press one for sales”) to transfer callers to pre-assigned numbers or a remote phone answering service with real people speaking to your customers when you aren’t available.

Much like your website, the scale of phone service you need will grow as you do. Your small business won’t see the benefit of an all-singing outsourced switchboard yet, but a PA helping customers and taking new enquiries while you’re out in the field could be exactly what you need.

3. Streamlined social presence

A common misconception is that you need to be on every platform to ‘do social right’, but social media marketing for small businesses should be kept simple and manageable. Before you get started, consider these 3 questions;

Are your customers on this platform?
Don’t waste time shouting into the void. A nail technician might benefit from posting their designs on Instagram or contributing to relevant groups on Facebook, but it’s unlikely they’d see much of a return from LinkedIn where users are predominantly interested in professional services like recruitment, finance and HR. It may take some trial and error, but find out what suits your business and don’t waste energy elsewhere.

Is it making money?
Put simply, if an activity is not bringing in new business you need to limit the time you spend on it. While it’s beneficial to have a presence and get your brand seen, it needn’t consume your day. There are plenty of free services available for scheduling social media posts and they make life much easier – you can schedule a weeks’ worth of content at once, freeing you up to focus on core business tasks. Just be sure to keep an eye on any responses you might receive.

What are you offering?
If your Twitter page is just a series of adverts for your business, you’ll never get a decent following. No matter how fantastic your products or services may be, you need to offer more to be desirable. An easy rule to remember is “80:20”- for every 2 posts promoting your products or services, send 8 that are purely for the benefit of your followers. It could be industry news, handy hints and tips or a picture of an otter. Just be sure it’s useful, relevant, topical and/or adorable.

4. Live chat with website visitors

Live chat on your website delivers instant customer service and is proven to capture more enquiries than standard contact forms. If a user can’t find what they’re looking for right away they will often go elsewhere, but given the chance to ask you a question many will take it. Of course, not every live chat will result in new business, but our research confirms that 42% do. It’s certainly worth considering.

You can use an outsourced service to manage your live chat either 24/7, out-of-hours or just when you aren’t available. This approach saves you the time and expense of managing live chat yourself or paying an employee to do it while giving your customers a simple, instant way to interact with your business.

5. Gathering and analysing data

You can get hold of good data without paying for lists, and you don’t need to be a data scientist or marketing whizz to use it well. Use simple data capturing tools on your website like a newsletter sign-up box, Contact Us form, live chat window, fan club application or competition entry to gather useful information about your customers.

To see how visitors engage with your website, check out Google Analytics. This free tool is user friendly and allows you to see where web visitors come from, monitor the results of advertising campaigns, pinpoint pages on your site where users drop off and even integrate with paid tools like Google Ads. Similarly, you can track the success of social media activity with the free analytics available on each platform and adjust your marketing strategies accordingly.

Ensure your team knows to ask all new contacts for their information (full name, email address, contact number etc.) when they interact with your business. If you work in retail, you can even offer to email receipts at the point of purchase as a way to gather customer data. Whatever methods you use, just make sure you’re GDPR compliant and request the same core details from every new source. If you do this, you will have the makings of a really valuable database.

6. Email marketing for beginners

Once you have your database, don’t let it gather dust. You can use online email marketing platforms that are built to help you create and send campaigns. With the use of a proper email marketing platform, your communications will look fantastic and have tracking tools built-in to monitor your success. In most cases, these providers will only charge once your database is in the thousands or if you want their logo removed from the footer – even then, there are plenty on offer at a minimal cost.

If you’ve never used email marketing software or find yourself struggling to choose one, there are thousands of user reviews online and tutorials on YouTube that give step-by-step guidance for beginners, seasoned marketers and everyone in between.

7. Basic personalisation to give you the edge

 When planning your sales and marketing activity, use the data you’ve gathered to offer the personal touch that consumers love. With a simple merge tag, you can try adding first names in the greeting line of your marketing emails. All email marketing programmes come with pre-set merge tags which put placeholder text in the email template like *|FNAME|* or <<FirstName>>. When you send the campaign, the placeholder text will be replaced with the names from your database.

You can also tailor advertising messages by the location, profession or interests of the recipients. Again, this is easier than it looks. The most efficient way to do this is segmenting your data lists within the email marketing software/platform.

If you have the information, set yourself a reminder on your phone or email calendar to send birthday wishes to VIPs or a little note to say thanks after they’ve been with you for a year. Even the smallest personal touch will delight your audience, and the options are endless!

How we can help you

Moneypenny is the UK’s leading Telephone Answering and Live Chat provider, offering solutions for businesses of all sizes. Our range of services are particularly useful for sole traders and smaller businesses who understand the importance of a great first impression and the value of every new enquiry.

To find out how you will benefit from our amazing people and technology, take advantage of our FREE trial. Experience our full service for a whole week with no set up costs, no admin charges and absolutely no ongoing commitment. You have nothing to lose, contact Moneypenny today on 0333 202 1005.

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