The right technology can make a major difference for small and medium businesses. When you only have so many employees and so much cash flow, automating a task or optimizing some process can be a serious victory.
However, adopting a new solution or kind of technology can be time-consuming and expensive. Most business owners only want to pick up new tech that they know will make a major difference when it comes to their day-to-day operations.
These four technologies are some of the most essential for small and medium businesses. They can help you improve everything from your customer relationship management to your marketing to your online storefront. If you haven’t adopted them yet, you could be missing out on some major competitive advantages.
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
Customer relationship management CRM) tools are software platforms that help you grow leads, secure sales and build stronger relationships with your existing customers. A CRM lets you organize all the data you have on your past and current customers. It allows you to segment them better, boost communications, improve targeted marketing and ensure you’re really meeting their needs.
Exact features will vary from platform to platform, but most CRMs offer a few core ones. For example, you should expect your CRM to help you with lead and contact management, providing tech that makes it easier to follow up on leads and organize communications with potential customers. CRMs also usually include features that help you automate your marketing and analyze sales data.
These tools are essential if you want to build the best customer relationships possible. If you start using them, you could have a significant advantage over your competitors, as well. Just 61% of small businesses use CRM tools, according to data from Capterra.
You can also pair these solutions with other tech that’s designed to help you boost client relations — like customer interaction management software or new customer service tools.
2. Competitor and Sales Mapping
Competitor mapping — and business mapping in general — help you really see where the competition is coming from.
Most competitor mapping tools offer various map modes and overlays that help you visualize information about your competitors. You can find out where they sell, where they’re doing well and where you might have an opportunity to provide a better service.
Typically, tools that help you map competitors also make it easy to generate other types of business maps, like sales goals, donors or sales routes.
If you feel like you’re operating in the dark regarding your competitors’ business practices, mapping tech may be a good investment. These tools can also be useful if you want a powerful visualization of where your customers live, and want to build more efficient sales routes or plan future expansion.
3. Support for New Payment Options
E-commerce and new point-of-sale retail tech bring a wide variety of new payment options and processors. These include proprietary options offered by big names in the tech world, private online payment processors like PayPal and new offerings like cryptocurrencies.
Customers often have preferences when it comes to how they pay. If you don’t support their payment option of choice, they could ditch their virtual carts at checkout, or even look to a competitor for what they need.
Different payment processors often support different options. Using existing online sales data and soliciting customer feedback can give you an idea of what options you’ll want to offer — and how an upgrade may streamline your customers’ buying process.
4. Data Security Tools
You may think that only major corporations — like Capital One and Equifax — struggle with hackers trying to steal their data.
However, cybercriminals are increasingly going after small and medium businesses, making security just as important for them as it is for major corporations.
A little security prep can go a long way. In many cases where companies suffered a data breach, they didn’t have basic security measures in place. For example, encryption can prevent hackers from taking advantage of stored info, even if they manage to break into your network.
The right tools can also help you train your staff. In many breaches, hackers can get access to company info with phishing attacks, which take advantage of employees’ lack of security knowledge.
The cost of a single data breach can be significant. According to one analysis, even the average breach costs enough to sink some small businesses. As data becomes even more important to company decision-making and marketing, you’ll likely hold on to more customer information. This can make you a bigger target.
Keeping this data safe will ensure you won’t have to deal with the costly aftermath of a breach. Advertising your data security practices can also help put customers’ minds at ease.
How New Tech Can Seriously Help Your Small Business
The right tech can make a big difference in your business’s day-to-day operations. CRMs and competition mapping can help you identify new leads and grow sales. New payment options will give your customers more choice at checkout. Data security tools will help you keep any information you collect as safe as possible.
New tech usually requires some money and time spent on training — but the value these technologies can provide is worth the investment. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.