The secret to small business growth: the right tech

In the early days of running a business, you can probably get away with using spreadsheets. Before long though, these manual processes will slow the business down, impact the customer experience and impede growth, not to mention making a small business owner’s life difficult (to put it mildly). Unfortunately, many small businesses underestimate just how important technology is in running a successful business, when it’s actually the backbone for small business growth.

When a small business starts to experience growing pains, typically one problem is fixed at a time – the one causing the most pain. Often, new systems and technology are haphazardly thrown into the mix ad hoc, creating more problems in the long-term than it solves in the short-term.

For example, you might need software to better manage sales leads, so you get that. Then you might need a system to automate your marketing, so you invest in that. But, if these two pieces of technology aren’t able to communicate with one another, you’re creating silos of information, a lot of manual work and duplication of effort.

And, if you’re wasting time on unnecessary manual processes to keep the business running, that’s the time you’re not investing in growing the business. It means you’re never going to hit the KPIs you need to for the business to thrive.

How to use tech for small business growth

Never get in a position where you’re chasing your tail. Successful start-ups are automating processes from the get-go, and investing in technology that scales with the business as it grows. As a result, they’re able to achieve those KPIs that propel the business towards a prosperous future. They’re able to bring more revenue through the door, at a lower cost of doing business, while delivering a superior customer experience.

Every single step in the customer journey – from marketing to sales to customer service – is either a link or a break in the process; a great or poor customer experience. Having the right technology in place, that can connect the customer journey from start to end, is not only about providing the customer with the best experience possible, but it’s also about running a lean, well-executed, viable operation.

The right technology is also a complete information source. You’re able to see a holistic, real-time view of the business, and make informed business decisions accordingly.

How to invest in the right technology, the first time

There are four questions to ask of any technology you are thinking of investing in:

  1. Does it solve your problems? Any technology you’re investing in should easily integrate with your business both now and in the future. Decisions made today cannot have a negative impact on your business tomorrow. This means a small business owner can’t jump from problem to problem, fixing one issue at a time – look for a solution that helps you solve multiple problems without causing others.
  2. Does it suit your processes? Some change can be good, of course. But if the technology is forcing you to change your business processes (not for the better) in order to use it, consider this a red flag. Good technology is easily customisable to suit your business needs and your business processes, not the other way around.
  3. Does it enable and support growth? Your technology is supposed to enable growth, so it needs to be ready to grow with you.
  4. Does it prepare you for future change? Just because your industry or environment is a certain way today, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be like that tomorrow. Never assume an Uber or Facebook isn’t going to come along and completely change the way you do business. Good technology should be able solve your business problems today, and move in whatever direction you need to go to evolve tomorrow.

How tech makes a small business play like an enterprise

Back at the turn of the century the technology world was very different. Businesses would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server. It was quite expensive and inflexible – for many small businesses, it was simply beyond reach.

Times have changed. The advent of cloud technology has levelled the playing field, giving small businesses access to the same technology that was once only an option for large enterprise.
Cloud technology has democratised business software, with no initial outlay or costly ongoing maintenance, operating on an annual subscription fee instead. Small businesses are now in a position to compete with the big end of town.

Want to take your small business’s growth to new heights? Download the Small Business Growth Kit here. It’ll help you chart your path to growth, prepare for the journey and optimise your tools – so you’ll be ready to scale in no time.

Next month, Adrian will host a ‘technology for scale’ workshop at Australia’s largest start-up and growth conference, StartCon. Find out more and register.

Adrian Towsey is Regional Vice President – Commercial Sales at Salesforce. He tweets at @AdrianTowsey. Find more of Adrian’s small business insights on the Salesforce ANZ blog.

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