Note: My guest this week on Talk Business With Howard radio is Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends. The show is on Wednesday, April 18th at 11 AM/ET. Anita and I will be talking about technologies that you can use in your business. If you’re not following Anita’s site, SmallBizTrends.com, you’ll want to start doing that immediately. SmallBizTrends offers business people a wide selection of experts and information that will be a valuable resource to your business. Join Anita and I this Wednesday at 11 AM/ET for what will certainly be an interesting business discussion. For show details, click here or listen to the show right here on this page. Thank you, Anita, for writing this week’s guest blog post and for being a guest on the radio show. -Howard-
In the past decade we’ve seen a flip flop in the way technology gets introduced and adopted in the business world.
When I started out in business a few decades ago, we had the “trickle down technology” theory. Technology was expensive – so expensive that most small businesses couldn’t afford much technology. Technology was for large corporations. Technology was primarily built for big companies that could afford to spend five, six or seven figures on software and hardware, plus many thousands more on training, implementation and annual maintenance. Then, once the technology was out in the marketplace a number of years, some vendors would create “lite” versions that were attempts to scale down the product so that small businesses could (a) afford it, and (b) figure out how to use it without bringing their businesses to a screeching halt while employees struggled to learn a diabolically complex piece of tech. In other words, technology was “trickled down” from big to small companies.
Today, however, much new technology starts out as consumer technology – or it is designed to be so intuitive and easy-peasy that consumers could use it, even if it is designed for business use. The technology quickly get adopted by enterprising small businesses, and later on the big companies start using it. Think of devices like the iPhone, or email programs like Gmail, or social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. While the large corporations were still in committee meetings discussing whether they should use Twitter and what their social media policies should say, small businesses had built large followings and were offering “tweet specials”. Instead of being laggards in tech, small businesses are leading the business world in tech adoption in many segments such as marketing technology.
On top of that, technology is proliferating. Yes, we small businesses are bravely diving in, but there seems to be an endless supply of new technology to learn – in categories that may not have existed even a couple of years ago. Let’s explore 7 technologies for business you probably should know more about:
U.S. Postal Service Website – The U.S. Postal Service has a website called Click-N-Ship that allows you to purchase postage, print labels and schedule pickups, using Priority Mail packaging. Designed orginally for consumers, guess what? Out of 1 million users, half of them are small businesses. The Post Office is launching a business-specific version soon. There another service called Every Door Direct Mail aimed at small businesses, that allows you to send direct mail pieces to a city, zip code or neighborhood, without the need for a mailing list or affixing labels or a mail permit.
Analytics and dashboards – The field of analytics has exploded in recent years – everything from Google analytics to analyze your website traffic, to social media analytics tools like TwentyFeet and Tweeb. See more social media analytics tools. Dashboards, long used by large businesses, and often being custom built, are gradually being developed as off the shelf products or tools for small businesses. InDinero, Dashboard to Success, and Zoho Dashboards are a few approaches.
Google and Bing Webmaster Tools – Did you know that you get a free dashboard to monitor the health of your website, from both Google and Bing? You just need to go through a simple procedure to claim it. Trust me, it is amazing what you will learn. Google Webmaster Tools. Bing Webmaster Toolbox.
Mobile apps – The world is going mobile – what more can I say? If you are already creating apps for your business, pat yourself on the back. If not, learn to use apps yourself (and insist your staff use them) so that you can understand why your customers and the public want to use them. Don’t be left behind.
Accounting, payroll and invoicing solutions – No matter how tightly you control your business finances, I bet if yours is like most businesses, there’s room for improvement. There’s a dazzling array of solutions for accounting, and automating payroll and invoicing functions – solutions for even the smallest business. From Intuit to online services such as SurePayroll, Freshbooks, PayPal and even your bank’s billpay service, check out what’s there to make your operations more efficient and automate laborious functions. On top of that, you’ll be able to manage your business more intelligently, with new insight into where you are spending your money, which are your best customers, your growth trajectory, and other patterns you never “saw” before.
Google+ – You may feel overwhelmed with social media, but if there’s one social media platform for the future to invest time figuring out, it’s Google+. Google is integrating “signals” from its platform into the Google search results. For that reason alone, it’s worth getting on board with it.
Stock image sites – The online world is increasingly important, and the world is going gaga over images. So be sure to spice up your online marketing efforts with inexpensive (sometimes free) images from sites like iStockPhoto, Shutterstock and others. Check out a list of 50 image sites.
Anita Campbell is the Founder of Small Business Trends, and its CEO and Publisher.
A former corporate attorney and General Counsel, she went on to become the CEO of a technology subsidiary of Bell & Howell. Happily running her own business for the last decade, she founded Small Business Trends in 2003, while looking for a simple way to publish newsletter articles. The site grew quickly, and other sites focusing on the small business market were acquired along the way.
Anita is widely regarded as an expert in small business issues. She is the co-author of Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images and Design (Wiley 2011).
Remember to join Howard every week on Wednesday at 11 AM/ET on Blog Talk Radio. The replay of the show with Anita Campbell is available at the top of this blog post. Thanks for listening. If you have a question or comment after listening to the show, just post it here.