Small businesses might be long on ideas and ingenuity, but they are almost always short on funds. That necessitates further ingenuity to find ways around these financial shortcomings. One way they can help level the playing field is by employing technology — which is perfect, because so many new small businesses center on technology.
For small businesses, there might be no more powerful tool than the smartphone. They’ve become essential for businesses of all sizes thanks to their multifaceted communication channels. But for small businesses, they can play a crucial role in growing without spending too much money. A few key apps can spur enormous growth.
Contact Relationship Management apps might not be considered communications apps, but they serve many of the same purposes. You might not use them to contact clients and prospects directly, but they help prevent miscues when using other avenues for contacting clients. Since new small businesses cannot afford mistakes, a CRM interface becomes of the utmost necessity.
Adding a mobile element to the CRM has become essential with today’s hectic travel schedules. The ability to capture and record information on the spot is crucial for fast-moving businesses. Yet if you look in the App Store or Google Play for the big CRM apps, you’ll notice that they’re very poorly rated. One exception seems to be SugarCRM’s mobile CRM. It works with Android and iOS phones and tablets, meaning you can record vital information no matter your location.
It’s almost pointless to list this, since it’s a pretty ubiquitous app. Yet there are many people who don’t understand the power that Evernote has for small businesses. In the same way that CRM apps aren’t directly communication apps, neither is Evernote. Yet it has communicative functions, and that’s only the start.
Evernote is actually a way to capture a moment in time. You can use it to clip webpages, snap photos, and share collaborative efforts. Since most good ideas occur because two previous ideas crossed, Evernote provides the prefect apparatus for coming up with the next big idea. With so many ways to record data and observations, and so many ways to sort through everything, Evernote’s suite of apps is a must-have for small businesses.
Small businesses can ill afford to let sales opportunities slip through their fingers. But sometimes the best opportunities come when you’re least prepared. Imagine meeting a prospect who wants to buy on the spot, and having no easy way for her to actually make the purchase. You have two options. You can 1) set them up on a computer, which takes time and effort, or 2) wait until you’re near your ordering system, which gives the prospect time to reconsider.
With the WePay smartphone app, you turn your phone into a virtual terminal that can accept credit cards of all types. It’s not quite as simple as swipe and go, but it also requires less hardware. That is to say, it requires only your smartphone. After entering in the client’s card information, you can send them a simple email receipt and that’s it. WePay, and apps like it, incredibly reduce the friction involved in sales.
4. Dragon Dictation
Walking and typing is never a good idea, and that was true even when most business people used BlackBerry devices with physical keyboards. Now that we’re in an era of touchscreen keyboards, walking and typing is even more dangerous. Do it in a big city and you’ll likely bump into someone every couple of minutes — or worse, walk right into oncoming traffic.
While voice recognition software isn’t quite perfect, there are some apps that do a better job than others. Dragon Dictation is one of the better ones, perhaps better at taking email and text message dictation than Apple’s native Siri. This might be the best way to communicate while on the go — who wants to type out a few paragraphs on a touchscreen keyboard anyway?
It’s feeling odder and odder, but it’s still a reality of modern business. People will hand you business cards, and will expect you to hand one back. The challenge is to then go through all the business cards you’ve collected and see how you can potentially work with the person. Even if you jot down a note or two when you get the card (highly recommended), it can still be difficult to make that all-important connection.
CardMunch, an app from LinkedIn, isn’t your everyday business card scanner. Yes, you use it to take a picture of the card, and yes, the app turns it into a contact you can import into your phone. But because it’s a LinkedIn product it can connect you directly to that person’s profile, so you can add him or her as a contact and explore your existing connections. If you’ve struggled to make use of the business cards you receive now, CardMunch might be just the thing you’re looking for.