For small businesses, a new year means 365 new opportunities to take your business to the next level. In addition to perfecting new product or service launches, getting your finances in order, and reviewing your business's employee policy, it's important to make sure your technology house is in order to assure a smooth year ahead.
Here's a quick list of some of the technology considerations for small businesses.
1. Evaluate your website. Is it user friendly? Is it easy for your customer to find what they're looking for? Go through every page on your site and think about alternative ways to make it easier to navigate. There might be great content on your site, but it's hidden in a place that is difficult to find. Nowadays, a businesses presence online is everything. You want your website to be clean, simple, and hassle free for your customers to use. Lastly, is there any easy way to accept payments or register for services? Accepting payments for your products and services has never been easier -- whether you're conducting all your business online, via brick-and-mortar locations or you have service reps in the field. All you need is a service such as PayPal.com or the iPad/iPhone credit card scanner from Square.
2. Take your social media presence to the next level. Evaluate your current social media presence and focus on opportunities to expand and grow. For example, let's say you're a landscaping company and you have a decent presence on LinkedIn and Facebook; Pinterest might be a great way to connect with new customers, drive traffic on your website, and support your other social media efforts. Consider contests and promotions through social media, or testing out some social ads. If you haven't done so already, claim your Google+ business page, and make sure your business gets listed on sites like Yelp and Manta, the world's largest online directory of small- and medium-sized businesses.
3. Protect your business with an anti-virus tool specifically for SMBs. The last thing you need to deal with is a security breach. It's important right from the start that you select an anti-virus program with features robust enough to protect your small- to medium-sized business. Often you can customize security solutions to fit your enterprise and/or your budget. Make sure your anti-virus and security software is always updated against the latest threats and that all files from all users are covered.
4. If you haven't already, prepare for the virtual workplace. The "office" has changed and your business needs to be technologically outfitted to accommodate a virtual office and a distributed workforce. This can be a good thing -- helping you to keep overhead low, draw talent from around the globe and operate as a nimble company. But it also means you have to be technologically prepared with the tools to support this distributed workforce. Some of those tools include:
- Virtual phone system with an 800 number and extensions that can connect with all employees and sales reps regardless of their physical location.
- Web-based email platform. Gmail is certainly one option or Outlook can also be accessed remotely, with fewer ads and what some consider a less cumbersome interface. But you may also consider a full business email platform like Microsoft Exchange or BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 which provide administrative tools, password resets and other features. Again, it's important to consider email security when choosing your platform.
- Collaborative online tools. In a traditional office, pulling the team together to collaborate is easy enough. But for a distributed workforce, collaborative online tools are becoming more and more prevalent. Tools like Teambox, Teamlab and Basecamp help you collaborate and track progress and go way beyond the capabilities of email communications alone.
- Back-up and disaster recovery. It's never been more important to back up your data in case of a disaster or security breach.
5. Prepare for BYOD. The trend for companies to use bring your own device (BYOD) policies is on the rise and will only continue to grow. It's estimated that over 40 percent of businesses in developed markets opt for allowing their associates to use their own technology in the workplace. Do you have a BYOD policy in place? If not, now is the time to create one.