5 Novel Ways Entrepreneurs Can Use Smartphones
When you think of your smartphone, you probably associate it with checking email and perhaps engaging with a few useful apps. For the busy entrepreneur, there usually isn’t much time to explore a smartphone’s full capabilities. In many cases that’s fine and good. But there are many opportunities for any entrepreneur to get a little bit more out of a smartphone.
Shouldn’t you want to use your smartphone to its fullest anyway? After all, you pay $200 up front for the device and then pay some ludicrous monthly fee, which at minimum is around $100. Think of all the other things on which you spend $100 per month. Don’t you get the most out of them? Then why not out of your smartphone?
For entrepreneurs looking to milk every little bit out of their $100 per month device, here are some novel uses for the smartphone.
1. Travel agent
Yes, there are many ways to use your smartphone for travel. A previous guest post mentioned a few essential travel apps for smartphones, including Kayak. Yes, Kayak is a great app for booking travel. But how often do you need to book from your smartphone? Chances are you can wait an hour or so until you’re in front of a PC, which makes the booking process a bit easier.
Instead of booking your travel for you, your smartphone can be your travel agent, making sure you know all points on your itinerary at all times. When I was growing up my father used to keep all this information in a manila folder, but these days you can keep it on your smartphone — which you carry with you anyway.
The TripIt app is compatible with any smartphone or tablet. It automatically scans your inbox for travel confirmation emails and adds them to your itinerary. Just click on the trip in the TripIt app, and you can see exactly where you need to be and when.
2. Payment collector
As our lives grow more mobile, so do our buying and selling habits. Imagine being out on a trip and finding an unexpected customer. You want to make it as easy as possible to close the sale, right? The less friction, the smoother the sale goes. But if you have to break out a laptop to make a sale, you create friction. Thankfully, your smartphone provides you with a smoother path to the sale.
Intuit mobile credit card processing makes closing a sale as simple as ringing it up, as you would in a store. Just plug in the GoPayment adapter to your headphone jack and load up the software. You calculate the sale, swipe the customer’s card, and have them sign your phone’s touchscreen. This can come in handy during many business travel events, particularly conferences. Where others stumble because of friction, make sure that you have a quick and easy payment method for a smooth sale.
3. Site viewer
Do you ever check your company’s website from your smartphone? It might seem pointless. But that ignores the new reality. People are browsing from their smartphones more and more often. Many sites, especially content-drive sites, are seeing a third or more of their traffic coming from tablets and smartphones. The problem many companies face: their sites don’t render well on smartphnones.
The solution? Visit your site from your mobile phone, and often. Put yourself in the shoes of your visitors. What do they see when they load your site? Is it a crisp, clean interface? Or is jumbled on the smartphone screen? Click through as a visitor would click and see what they would see. You might discover that your site isn’t very navigable on mobile, or that the comments section doesn’t load properly.
The only way you’ll understand these problems is by becoming a visitor yourself. That’s easy enough on the web, but with traffic moving heavily to mobile that is an important consideration.
4. Managing and delegating tasks
Task managers have grown in importance, especially for smaller organizations. They need to stay on task, and task managers do a great job of laying out what needs to be done and when it needs doing, while adding important contextual information. The problem is that many people consider them desktop applications. Some of your best ideas can come when you’re out of the office, and you need a quick and clear way to relay these new tasks to your team.
For the past year I’ve loved the experience of Toodledo task manager. It’s highly customizable and so allows me to work with my own particular flow. Even better, for a nominal yearly fee you can adopt it for your entire organization. One of the biggest features: delegating tasks. By using the mobile app, you can not only create new tasks whenever they come to you, but you can also delegate them to the proper team member. It’s a seamless way to ensure that your entire team is not only on task, but also on the same page.
5. Creating robust contact lists
There is nothing more frustrating than needing to send an email from your smartphone and realizing that the intended recipient isn’t in your contacts list. While syncing has become a prominent part of all smartphone usage, sometimes it’s not the most reliable way to make sure your contacts make it to your phone. Thankfully, there are tools that can help you create a full and robust contact list that will sync to your phone and computer.
The service WriteThat.name pulls contact information from various email platforms such as Gmail and Outlook. It happens so often that we have someone’s contact information in these inboxes but not on our contact lists. There is also ScanBizCards, which lets you scan business cards with your smartphone camera and pull the contact information. Combined these apps can help you create the full contact list that you need when you’re on the go.
Yes, a smartphone is still most useful when it lets you take care of routine and urgent tasks. In other words, email and messaging will always be the primary functions of smartphones, at least from a business standpoint. But that doesn’t mean entrepreneurs should limit their smartphone use to those utility based tasks. There are many novel uses for smartphones that can help justify the mammoth monthly price.
About the Author: Joe Pawlikowski owns and has worked for a number of startups in the last six years. One of those is editing the mobile technology site MobileMoo. He keeps his thoughts on marketing and blogging at JoePawl.com.
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