This is a real breakdown of tech trends, brought to you with the help of Cara Turano, and without the push to be the biggest tech-savvy small business out there. Sometimes it pays to be on-trend and sometimes it doesn’t. Here’s what you should consider before making the leap.
How are you protecting your company’s data and private information?
Every week Cara Turano seems to hear of at least one company that’s been held for digital ransom and to a small company, this can mean death. You don’t have to become a cybersecurity expert to protect your business though. Being aware and proactive is generally enough to give yourself more peace of mind.
Consider what ways your data is accessible (How much is being stored digitally?) and consider what information you don’t mind sharing and with who. From there it’s looking at what systems you’re using to store everything. Ask your providers what their security looks like and, in the instance of a breach, who is responsible. More than likely it’s you.
Most software systems have built-in security and updates come with improvements to it, which is why it is also important to understand what an update can bring you, instead of just avoiding it so you don’t have to relearn a new app or site layout.
Photo Credit: NetGain Cloud
Training for Human Error
You can have the latest security in place and iron-clad walls around all of your important data and still find yourself at risk. The reason? People are amazing, but we’re not faultless, no matter our age, experience, or apparent skill. We all make mistakes.
The best thing to do is prepare your employees as much as possible by seeking cybersecurity training and providing strict guidance on where and when employees can sign into company accounts.
Short on a budget? Seek out your local Small Business Association, which is a free resource for small businesses. They can either help by providing training or directing you to some that fit your company.
2. AI and Machine Learning
CRMs and Data-Driven Sales
Depending on your business, a CRM (or customer relationship management system) may be on the horizon. They’re a bit daunting if you’ve been using paper or an excel sheet, but they are great cloud-based systems used to easily follow up on potential and current customers.
Good CRMs, like Blitz Sales Software, incorporate automation and reporting to help you be more intentional in your customer contact. They open up the contact with a customer between reps, making it easy and more efficient to track who’s doing what and where a customer is in the pipeline without ever having to put someone on hold.
Chatbots and Automated Customer Service
Automation is very beneficial in customer service. Things like chatbots and automated workflows and emails make it easier for your reps to spend time on your bigger issues and opportunities.
Things like chatbots and resource databases make it easier for customers to find the answers they need at their own pace. It also means that they’ll only come to you when they can’t find the answer on their own or they’re still confused. Many people prefer to have the ability to search for answers themselves before appealing to someone else for help.
Streamlined Data and Processes
When considering software options, look for systems that have multiple functional purposes. More than likely you can find an HRIS system that manages all of your digital HR processes and keeps them in one place. You can also find CRMs that integrate with phone systems and lead providers. Then consider how customizable the system is. Can you pick and choose the functionalities that fit your business? A good system will let you do this.
Once you have the appropriate systems in place, many of them should be able to “talk” to each other. Integrations and multifunctional systems make it easier to access data in a secure way without having to search for an extended period of time or to sign into 7 different places. It also helps cut back on the human error caused if notes for specific people or projects aren’t kept in the same place.
3.Emphasis on Reporting
Whether it’s through Google Data Studios or an internal system you’ve adopted, it is important to collect and understand your numbers. The new wave of competitive advantage revolves heavily around understanding and intentional decision-making. While there is still a bit of trial and error, it’s a lot less guesswork than it might imply.
With so many businesses populating the same markets, even small decisions can have a large impact and it seems the acceptable margins of error have shrunk. However, with all the resources out there, most systems come with at least basic reporting capabilities and even a small business can afford to pull several layers of reporting to work with.
It’s not enough to just pull all the data you can either. First, take a look at your business to understand what metrics are actually important to your teams and then find ways to measure that data. This includes looking at how the data is presented or ways in which you can translate it so your team can make sense of it, but also identifying what you’re trying to achieve.
Photo Credit: WorkWave
4.Marketing Through Influencers and Social Media
Social Media Advertising
Yes, social media is a tech trend. You may roll your eyes, but the printing press is a piece of technology and was once a new trend. The latest tech trends in marketing revolve around social media and how your company uses it.
Understand the platforms you’re working on before you begin. You can do your research to see what demographics are on what platforms and what kind of content they’re seeking on each platform. You don’t need to be on every platform. Focus on the ones that make sense for your target market.
When you’re ready for paid ads, start small and test what ads work and what don’t, and where. You can do a quick search before you even begin to give you an idea of what content you should start with. From there grow and strengthen your campaigns. If something doesn’t work, try to understand why and try something else.
An option to gain a larger audience and reach further than you can on your own is to utilize social media marketing.
Your goal is to connect to individuals whose audience matches your target demographic. Through influencer marketing, you have the potential to better navigate channel ranking algorithms and reach broader audiences. It also helps your brand join conversations that can help you add value for your own customers.
There are many influencers who will work with brands in exchange for products or services. Some require payment and like anyone running their own business, they set their price based on the work they do and the demand of their audience. Like when picking a software product, consider the cost vs the value you stand to gain. Start small and test to see what is beneficial to you.
5.Hybrid Work Environments
Thanks to evolutions in technology and other outside factors, like the pandemic, a huge trend we’re seeing is the adoption of hybrid and remote work environments.
So why’s this on a tech trend list?
Because without technology, most businesses cannot even consider adopting remote teams and yet, with the competitive recruiting market, more have to really consider it a viable option while looking for new talent.
Depending on your office and type of work, it might be worth considering hiring outside of your physical area and connecting to new team members through virtual means. Using programs like Teams, Zoom, Google, or Slack can help you stay in contact easily. You can also adopt software designed for small businesses, like Blitz and Aline, to make it easier to access your company’s data.
A Few Takeaways
There are more and more companies offering solutions for your needs, but as a small business, you don’t need to automate everything. Consider the cost of automation vs. the cost of your team doing it manually and then commit to a system when it benefits. Fortunately, there are many companies that have options built out for small businesses specifically and with your budget and needs in mind.
Cara Turano went in-depth about some of the things to consider and how you can really begin to make such daunting changes. Listen to our episode and put the power to grow using technology back in the hands of your team.
About Our Guest:
Chief Operating Officer - Technology Association of Oregon
Cara Turano, the Chief Operating Officer of the Technology Association of Oregon, has been in private sector technology for 15 years. She’s worked with a variety of businesses to build custom solutions and has been working in technology associations specifically for almost 6 years.
Cara joins us to break down some of the biggest tech trends she’s seeing in small businesses right now. She goes through the pros and cons of each trend with a realistic view of budgets, time, and ease of adoption.
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