Many of my readers know that most of my clients are also small business owners. Because of this, I like to share ideas every now and then on my blog that may lead to savings. After coming across the article Cost-Cutting Ideas You Might Not Have Thought Of in the Wall Street Journal it reminded me of some of the things I do to help save money in my small business. While the article in the journal was intended for larger businesses, I think small business owners can benefit from them as well. My focus today is on leveraging technology.
As a solo business owner, you can only be in one place at a time. Because I work with clients all over Michigan, I find it helpful to use technology to handle my back office needs. A few of my favorite services include:
- VoiceNation – This telephony system allows me to have an 800 number for under $10 a month. Calls go straight to voicemail unless callers hit a number asking to be forwarded to someone, in this case, me. I have the phone forwarded to my cell phone. Voice messages are emailed in mp3 format to my email which I can check from my andriod phone. The number doubles as a fax. Faxes are emailed to me in a PDF format which I can also check on my phone. Being an 800 number, I do pay a toll of 8 cents per minute or faxed page, but the service gives me a flexible, inexpensive way to be accessible for my clients.
- Google Apps for Business – There is little that this service doesn’t do. It starts out as email and quickly expands to calendar and contact management. Google Drive can might even become your document management system. You could even start intercompany websites. Google even offers Google Voice if you’d rather not pay for the Voicenation service. For $50 a year per user, this is a no brainer. Not to mention, you can find other apps in the Google Marketplace that allow you to have even better customer service such as:
- Batchbook – Batchbook is a CRM or Client Relations Manager software that allows you to better service your customers. You can set appointments, track conversations, create tasks or a series of tasks to make sure that you are completing your projects. For example, when I have a client meeting to rebalance their portofolio, I can create a series of tasks that will schedule times to perform the trades, check to make sure the trades are processed, and communicate to the client the status of the transactions, all with the click of a button. Did I mention Batchbook is a social CRM, so you can easily communicate via LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter with your customers via Batchbook? Very cool!
- Tungle – Tungle is a calendar service that allows customers to view your appointment and schedule their own appointments. It integrates with many other apps, including Batchbook, so you can schedule appointments directly inside Batchbook. You can even offer several time slots and have the client schedule the appointment themselves.
- Android Phones – I can hear the iPhone lovers piling on now, but I am an avid android phone user largely because it integrates so well with ALL of the services mentioned above. A while back I was at a conference in Florida. I was able to answer emails, schedule appointments, and perform many of my scheduled tasks in between talks and on breaks using my android phone.
The more business owners utilize technology to better service their customers, the happier their customers will be because you can spend more time with them. Good service and building relationships is the back bone of small businesses. As the world changes, technology can help you change with it, sometimes at a very reasonable price.