The shift to digital has been going on for decades now. With so many transitions and changes in processes, behavior and expectations, keeping up can be tough for SMBs when you feel like you're always competing with the corporate giant. How can you keep up with a corporation with a marketing department bigger than your whole team? When they're utilizing sophisticated technology to streamline customer's experience with apps and other fancy bells and whistles?
Here's what you can do. You can let yourself be intimidated by the digital shift, or you can embrace the future and outfit your company with the best customized tools that will enable you to leverage your size as a strength.
What smart SMB owners today know is that many of this seemingly out-of-reach tech is available to (and customized to the scale of) their companies. While some business owners are treading water and struggling to keep up, others are quickly and cheaply adopting the same tools that power industry-leading corporations and high-octane start-ups.
Back in the day when everything was on paper, we'd have project folders and real inboxes on our desks. As our work is increasingly taking place entirely in the digital space, we need totally new systems to enable digital collaboration between team members, forecast and manage workloads, optimize and plan for hiring. There are practically dozens of awesome project management tools available right now, and many of them (like Asana, Trello, and Airtable) have completely free versions for small teams and scaled pricing based on team size (and features). These tools can help your team manage deadlines and break projects up into tasks. Transparent project management simply increases accountability and gives management insight into employees' workflow. You can literally use the same tool as NASA and the New York Times (Asana), National Geographic and Google (Trello), and Target and Pinterest (Airtable) for free or next to nothing.
There's no need to even argue that the digital shift has only made mass marketing more accessible to SMBs. From the free platform of Facebook (that replaces the website for some business) to the cost comparison of, say, direct mail to email marketing—advertising is cheaper and more accessible than ever. The self-service ad platforms of Google, Facebook, Twitter and more mean that you're accessing the same ad options as the big guys and are able to hone your targets in to maximize your budget. Reaching your customers and being searchable are crucial to business success today, and they don't necessarily come with a high price tag. Websites can be built and hosted for low cost and many come with simple SEO guides. Transitioning to digital marketing may take some learning (and some outsourcing), but the return of being relevant in the digital space is worth it. We promise.
Social Media and Content Creation
Okay, this one kinda goes with digital marketing, right? Social media has given SMBs a great platform for advertising, but more than that, it's an opportunity to share organic content for free. Great content that's crafted with strategy in mind is an amazing source of traffic and revenue for businesses of all sizes. From blogging to Instagram...The same people who wouldn't know where to start creating content are all holding amazing cameras and video editing equipment in their hands right now. Our smart phones have incredible image-capturing capabilities and editing apps like Canva for graphic design and Splice for video.
No matter how many new channels pop up, from texts to email to Slack, there's no replacing the phone call. Whether its one-on-one or a conference, we all know that simply hearing each other's voices brings personality, trust, and humanity into our business dealings. There are so many ways to deliver a message or information to someone, but for the big decisions, questions and sales—you just pick up the phone. But just because we're sticking to the old school phone call doesn't mean you should be stuck with the old school phone systems. Traditional copper phone lines were the default for decades, but these expensive public switched telephone networks (PSTNs) are no longer the only solution. VoIP systems (like Verizon's One Talk) cut down on hardware, infrastructure, and costs, saving business owners an average of 50% on costs across the spectrum. More importantly for your business (what's more important than the bottom line?), One Talk gives businesses access to enterprise-level customization like automated receptionists and custom call routing. Whether you've got a team of two or twenty, One Talk makes your business sound ultra-professional and ensures that whoever calls you gets to the right person every time.
Don't forget faxes! Sometimes the fax can seen anachronistic and incongruous with our current technologies. However, digital Fax over IP provides the same functionality of classic faxes with the features that make it make sense with your world. Features like fax to email, which allows you to receive faxes from anywhere without having to leave your inbox—and an easy-to-use portal that allows you to send and receive faxes from your desktop.
All of these tools depend on the same life-force: connectivity. Robust broadband is a key component to making sure that your digital tools are functioning and thriving. VoIP and FoIP can save you hundreds, thousands of dollars on your phone bill–but these cloud-based systems require baseline broadband functionality. Money invested in the right internet connection for your business size and needs is paramount to fully utilizing the digital tools that will, yes, save you money down the line. So get off on the right foot and make sure that your business has the connectivity you need for success. If you're not sure, take a quick internet speed test!