As you may know, I have a martial arts school for children call Smart Karate (smartkarate.com). I love to tell the kids that every day is their birthday, every day is Christmas, and every day is Thanksgiving.
The reactions are predictably silly and wild-eyed with impish protest and disbelief. But when I go on to explain how we SHOULD view every new day as something special, they gradually begin to see how they can change their own perspectiveand ultimately feel more empowered.
We business owners play this ‘black belt trick’ fairly often. And we usually do it quietly in our heads. It keeps us hopeful and forever pushing forward – filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run, as Kipling would say.
The good thing about national holidays is they give us nice little reminders about what’s truly important and to start planning for a better future. We need these markers, especially when we get too busy taking care of business.
So in the spirit of the coming new year, the ability to chart our own futures, and the joy of using emerging technologies to help us do more by doing less, I will share with you a quick checklist of tech resolutions for your business. What we ultimately want is pretty simple: happy customers, happy employees and a happy CPA. And if we can change the world for the better, then we are doing very, very well.
Here’s how you can leverage technology next year to capture new clients, keep them, and have plenty of money in the bank:
- Nuke your website.
Chances are you have one. But you most likely haven’t re-imagined what it can be doing for you. You must assess your business and determine how you can do what you do in a web-enabled way. Having a brochure-like site online is not enough anymore. To stay competitive, it’s imperative you move your business’ lifecycle online. This includes sales functions, post-sales customer service, human resources, employee training, intra-office communications, etc. Downsize your brick-and-mortar footprint. Supersize your online real estate.
Use WordPress for non-commerce sites: Themeforest.net
- Go mobile.
There are more Americans who have mobile phones than Americans who have passports. Kids these days learn how to use a mobile phone before knowing how to tie their shoes. Next year more people will access the internet via their mobile phones than from their PCs. Mobile matters to your business. Your customers expect their mobile experience to be as good as their desktop experience. In fact, 52% of users will not engage a company when the mobile experience if bad Fifty percent of mobile searches lead to a purchase.
Want to see what your site looks like on a mobile device? Check out HowToGoMobile.com
- Throw out the server.
There was a time when we all needed an in-house server and it would cost $15K every few years to replace it. The internet is now the server. And companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are wholly committed to taking care of your cloud-based operations. For example. we now monitor clients’ networks remotely. We can spot issues and resolve them before they become issues. And we can fix your desktop hiccups over the internet. It’s cheaper, faster and better for everyone.
Moving to solutions like Google Apps for Business can save your company hundreds of dollars per year per employee. Cloud computing can also speed communication between team members and clients, and give your company the ability to conduct business anytime/anywhere. It’s awesome!
- Play with social.
One of the fastest growing social sites is Pinterest. My wife created a board a few months ago called ‘Cute Baby Clothes for Boys’. It’s a part time hobby for her but the amazing thing is she already has 600+ followers and receives 2-3 baby outfits per month from various manufacturers. They send her those outfits free, just to say “Thanks!” for sending them so much business through her Pinterest board. I am not saying you should be like her. Instead, I am saying you should be like those manufacturers. If Pinterest is global and predominantly female, and if Pinterest is one of the strongest social tools for brand referrals, how can your company join the fun? Social enables you, the owner, to connect with your customers unlike ever before.
Read this article on why fortune 500 CEOs should learn to love social: http://goo.gl/IzHEX
- Try PPC.
This is a good one for the holidays. PPC is geek-speak for ‘Pay-Per-Click’ advertising. Instead dumping money into something like Yellow Pages, where you were locked into a 12 month contract and really couldn’t discern how many people were viewing your ad, PPC advertising via Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, let’s you send a highly focused ad to a very specific demographic. You control everything, including where in the world the ad is displayed and who gets to see it. You also have full control over your how much you want to spend per click, per day, per month, etc. You can turn it on today and turn it off tomorrow and get qualified leads all day long. Caution: Be sure to minimize your budget while you’re experimenting. You don’t to blow through $2K overnight. Also, be sure you link the ad to very focused landing page. So, if you’re selling Kona coffee, the ad should focus only on coffee lovers who have expressed an interest in quality coffee, and when they click on your ad, they should get a landing page that’s all about Kono coffee and full of call-to-actions (CTAs).
- Drill into your data.
In the tech industry, we love to use words like ‘big data’, because it sounds cool and really is the new thing. There’s a ton of money to be earned by helping companies know more their customers, the efficiencies of their business operations, and the changing competitive landscape.
We don’t have the budgets to hire the real ‘big data’ ninjas. But thanks to all things digital and the do-it-yourself internet world, we can now study our company’s numbers ourselves. For example, using software to manage your customers is a huge advantage compared to the old school way of doing things. If your company does not yet have a solid tool for developing customer profiles, assigning tasks, shepherding opportunities and calendaring related events, then you may want to signup for a few trial accounts.
The last thing I want to say is I have a 7 month old baby boy named Jett. He’s the first kid I’ve manufactured and he’s the best thing I’ve ever done!
Lately, he’s been try to stand up. It’s a clumsy and endearing effort but he’s not yet good at it. Most importantly, he’s always ready and willing to try again – even after an unplanned tumble.
Our approach to emerging technologies should be the same. We should be unwaveringly curious and always be at the ready to get back up.
If we can do that – every day of the year – then we will always be competitive. Happy Holidays!