Two employees at a small business working together on a laptop.

Game-Changing Small Business Technology Solutions You Need in Place Today

27 Jul 2016 by Michael Lazar

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, adoption is becoming the new norm. Late to the arena are America’s growing small businesses. According to the SBE Council (Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council), as of 2012, “…there were 5.73 million employer firms in the U.S. Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7% of those businesses, and businesses with less than 20 workers made up 89.6%.”

Clearly, these entities are the financial backbone of our nation. But few are at the top of their game for integrating small business technology solutions. As part of our “4 Small Business IT Solutions and Tech Predictions to Watch for in 2017,” taking center stage are solutions that include: fully integrated point-of-sale (POS) systems, enhanced security protocols, connected devices and cloud-based solutions.

While these serve as adequate predictions of what’s to come in this technology sector, it leaves the hanging question: What small business technology solutions do you need in place today to put your business in the best position for success?

Robust analytics pave the way for the most usable small business technology solutions.

Without analytics, you are essentially guessing. Certainly, you may make few correct guesses, but you’d never know why those guesses were correct or how they helped you succeed. Analytics bridges the gap between guessing and knowing, and gives you the ability to beta-test your influence across broad spectrums, ranging from your web presence, to social influence, reach and more. At the forefront are two elements no small business should be without: web analytics and social media analytics.

A great example of this in motion is social media. With billions of users connecting online and sharing posts, comments, media and links, it’s the surest way for a small business to gain rapid exposure in the modern era. But just what kind of influence does social media have as a technology tool for a small business?

Infographic showing one social post has the ability to reach millions of people in your target market.

As the chart above reflects, quite a bit. Just one social post has the ability to reach millions of people in your target market, explains ThoughtBuzz. For example, a small business that offers edible arrangements can garner a nearly viral response by posting Instagram images with catchy captions that are then later shared by their followers and audience, ultimately being aggregated across other social channels like Facebook, Collections, Pinterest, Twitter and others.

With the integration of social media analytics tools like Sprout Social or Hootsuite, you won’t be guessing about your saturation any longer; you will know what effect each post has so you can maximize saturation and exposure.

The social metric aside, analytics, as we’ve already explained, eliminate the guessing game. Think tank Data Science Central also agrees with this mantra. They advise that the “…major drivers for data analytics is that data allows entrepreneurs and division heads of companies to take decisions based on data. Gone are the days of guesswork. With the phenomenal amount of advancement in technology and tracking tools employed at every stage of transaction, it’s probably more difficult than ever to compensate for data with entrepreneur intuition.”

Getting your analytics in place so you can know instead of guess is a lot easier than you suspect. Consider looking to viable solutions that include Google Analytics, Geckoboard and Crazy Egg. Each of these technology solutions has a learning curve, but can be easily mastered with patience and a bit of practice.

On-demand cloud storage solutions are becoming the lifeblood of small businesses.

The cloud has changed everything, and is quickly becoming the most widely used of all technology solutions for small business. That’s because the cloud enables businesses to store, back up and recover their data. They can also integrate productivity and file-sharing solutions, as well as project management applications, host email, integrate CRM and host applications. Needless to say, it’s rather easy to become hooked on the cloud. Most small businesses are already using the cloud; even if they are unaware that they are.

New vs. Recurring Hosted/Cloud-Based Services in 2015 chart showing percentage of North American Respndents

But what benefits do cloud solutions have to offer to the small business that helps keep America’s heart beating? According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), cloud-based solutions generated nearly $70 billion in revenue as of Q4, 2015, and are on pace to show healthy year-over-year growth for 2016 and beyond.

"The technological innovations and enabling capabilities unleashed by cloud have fostered new opportunities across the industries," explained Eileen Smith, program manager, IDC Global Technology and Research Group in a press release. "As a result, it is necessary for both technology vendors and buyers to recognize the industry drivers and barriers of cloud deployment, to understand the business transformation brought by cloud, and to act upon the changes that will shape business and technology strategy in the coming years."

Average Annual Benefits per Interviewed Organization chart showing benefit of migrating to a cloud solution surpasses $2 million.

The IDC says the average annual benefit of migrating to a cloud solution surpasses $2 million. This includes benefits in the area of IT infrastructure cost reduction, staff and productivity benefits, risk mitigation and business productivity benefits. Naturally, all of these benefits easily cross over to the small business, making cloud-based solutions the most veritable and beneficial option for these growing entities. In par with this notion is an Entrepreneur publication. It emphasizes that the four key benefits of cloud migration include: reduced cost, better collaboration, increased flexibility and great integration.

Electronic conferencing improves productivity and decreases cost.

Most small businesses have a growth plan in place. With the exception of a few smaller mom and pop operations, the goal is to grow and expand into a larger sized business. Some of the greatest success stories we’ve ever heard of adhere to this moniker, and they all began as single-location enterprises that rapidly expanded over time. Feeding them were technology solutions. Take the Five Guys success story, for example. What began as a single location restaurant in the late eighties would ultimately evolve into a national franchise worth billions of dollars that utilizes cloud-based solutions, electronic conferencing, project management tools and CRM, amongst many others, to help facilitate success.

So what small business technology solutions help encourage growth while reducing costs? One of the most widely used and relied on are electronic conferencing solutions. As AZ Central explains, the integration of these solutions help businesses with: travel, project management, field support and collaboration. Such solutions also help to reduce costs, and work to improve productivity across the board.

An in-depth Verizon study found 52% of businesses already utilize this technology for their “daily business practices.” The findings of the study reveal that electronic conferencing offers many benefits. Topping the list of these benefits are: reducing cost (68%), improving productivity (65%), improving customer service (63%), reducing travel needs (61%) and improving the production cycle (59%).

68% of Respondents Report reducing costs as a strong need for Internet Conferencing Benefits

Choose the best technology solutions for small business.

Determining what small business technology solutions your business can best benefit from isn’t always the simplest endeavor. A few helpful tips can be offered to assist you along the way.

  • Look for a rich user experience that offers an easy learning curve (which will improve your adoption rates).
  • Assure that your technology solution can evolve and is accessible, which is not generally an issue for cloud-based solutions.
  • Put security in the forefront, so you can ensure that confidentiality and privacy are maintained.
  • Make sure you procure your solutions from a reliable company that has a strong commitment to customer service and a proven track record of success.