The world of business looks drastically different today than it did twenty, even ten years ago. You don’t need a brick building to operate, all you need is a website. You don’t need paid advertisements, you just need great online reviews. You don’t need a customer service line, you just need to engage with clients on social media. You don’t need a team of employees, you can outsource departments to software companies.
Even paper is a thing of the past. Companies still printing checks for payroll or accepting paper time cards are wasting precious time and resources. In fact, our office doesn’t have a printer or paper supply at all. Customers are online now, so businesses must be too.
This concept shouldn’t be intimidating—it’s actually quite empowering. The manpower and physical resources you needed previously can be streamlined into cutting edge software solutions.
You can keep your small business in tune by simplifying your processes. Here are 6 key areas that can be streamlined with online solutions:
1. Customer Service
Your customer needs to be at the center of your attention—all marketing and sales efforts ought to be directed towards delighting both potential prospects and current clients. Utilizing customer service solutions like chatbots can simplify your business processes, while still putting the focus on customers.
Many companies who are built off of a webpage provide a 24/7 chat function in order to be fully accessible to customers. These solutions can be integrated through software applications like Intercom or Zendesk.
However, you can go a step further by using a chatbot, essentially, a customer service robot.
Chatbots are great at answering FAQs and can handle a high volume of requests. Using a bot-building platform, you can customize your chatbot to address client concerns in a way that matches your brand voice and leads them to the best answers. You don’t even need to know how to code to program your chatbot—most software solutions allow you to simply order a list of if-then statements, writing canned responses.
If a chatbot can’t answer your customer’s query or if the customer seems agitated, the chatbot can also quickly send them to a human support member. This way you don’t totally lose the human touch, but you save money on easily addressed problems.
2. Time Tracking
The days of paper time sheets are long behind us. Optimizing employee tracking and payroll with cloud-based time tracking apps can help you get accurate labor costs and save valuable admin time, not to mention reduce the monthly payroll costs.
ClockShark was built to be accessible anytime and anywhere. Field service and construction employees can download the app on their phones, so they don’t have to worry about clocking in on a separate device or tracking hours on paper. ClockShark also uses GPS so managers can see not only when employees are clocking in—but where. It also allows businesses to see profitability by job, and you can even manage paid time off.
Digital time tracking solutions like this help to stop payroll fraud and provide a clear view into the health of your business.
Your cash flow is critical to the success of your business—you can’t function without it. Unfortunately, many business owners are missing out on valuable funds because they haven’t automated invoicing and payment processes.
In the past, invoices were handwritten or printed, sent in the mail, and sat ignored in client “to do” piles. Online invoicing software expedites the payment process. You can set your invoicing software to send automatic payment reminders, so customers never miss a due date. You can also set up recurring billing to process automatically when customers save their credit cards to your account—so neither you or your customer forget.
Digital invoicing solutions also link you to widely used payment processors, like Square or PayPal. If you can make the purchasing process as painless as possible, customers are more likely to pay up on time, or even early! In fact, some companies suggest offering a discount for same-day payments (between 1-5%). Even field workers can use apps or a mobile credit card reader to make this happen.
If you don’t digitize invoices or accept electronic payments, you’re missing important sales opportunities. Cloud-based invoicing solutions save time and money, and allow you to focus on growth.
No one starts a business because they want to do bookkeeping. Small business owners are passionate about their product or service, but find that their time gets sucked up doing the boring stuff. Find more time in your day and focus on doing what you love by investing in a smart bookkeeping solution.
Cloud-based accounting solutions are the norm in business today and are pretty affordable—some are even free! These products are built 100% online, so you can access your books any time, from any device.
Our company (ZipBooks) was born to simplify bookkeeping for small business owners, while still giving you the data you need to back smart financial decisions. Our software automatically produces critical financial reports—like Cash Flow statements and Income Reports—so you always know what your money is doing.
You shouldn’t have to do any math to reap the benefits of digital bookkeeping; let your software do the heavy lifting and invest your time in growing your business.
The days of print ads and expensive billboards are long gone. Most people don’t look up from their phones long enough to notice these things anyway. Instead, your marketing strategy needs to be focused around digital solutions and online reviews.
The advent of machine learning and AI technologies make marketing way simpler for the modern business owner. From ad retargeting to personalization, companies can get in front of their target audience with less effort. Netflix, Amazon and Spotify are three companies that personalize sales efforts by learning from your previous interactions with them. Self-learning algorithms measure the success of past advertising in order to guide the direction of subsequent campaigns.
Online reviews are also making a huge impact on marketing—and it’s customers doing the work, so take advantage of this! BrightLocal found that 91% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Use a reputation management tool to help you automate review requests to customers. Put your growth on auto-pilot by regularly collecting reviews from happy customers, letting them do your marketing for you.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing go hand-in-hand, and often by strengthening one, you are strengthening the other. And SEO isn’t limited to the tech-savvy anymore. There are lots of online solutions you can use to improve SEO, even if you know nothing about search algorithms.
As you’d expect, many powerful SEO tools come from the king of search engines himself: Google. Their analytics tool is one of the best out there for tracking SEO—and for small businesses, it’s free! Use Google Analytics to track engagement, monitor ads and stay up-to-date with traffic. This data will help you understand your human audience and create better content suited to them.
As keywords are still critical to SEO improvement, tools like Moz and Ahrefs can help you determine search volumes and competition levels. This allows you to target terms that are within your reach and compete for your spot at the top of the page.
Additionally, mobile-optimization is not optional these days, especially for SEO. Google Pagespeed Insights is a great resource to learn how Google views your page and where you can improve, on both desktop and mobile.
Not only do online solutions save you time and money, they also provide opportunities to streamline complex processes through product integrations. For example, time management systems can sync directly with your accounting or payroll software. ClockShark connects directly with ADP payroll to save you from hours of hassle.
Additionally, most accounting solutions integrate with other processes like digital invoices and receipt scanners to simplify expense reporting and financial analysis.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
As a small business owner, your time is too valuable to let administrative processes slow you down. You care most about growing your company and that’s where you should be putting your efforts. Focus on what you do well and automate the rest.
Find software solutions that fit the needs and budget of your business and then, use that extra time to hustle.