12 Tech Tools You Need When Scaling Your Small BusinessNahla Davies
Many business owners dream of diversifying and growing their small enterprise into a household name. You can't hope to compete and survive in an ever-growing digital world without staying up to date with the latest business tools. Technology makes it possible for nearly anyone to start a small business from their home.
There are many ways tech can help you scale your small business. The following guide will investigate the best types of tech tools to take your small business to the next level.
Understanding Business Systems
Business software is designed to streamline the organizational elements of your enterprise. These elements fall under three main categories. They include:
- Marketing and Sales
- Finance and Administration
A variety of systems must support these three elements to function properly. This section will explore the different tech tools to help you manage these areas. The first area we'll explore is marketing and sales.
Tech Tools for Marketing and Sales
Your marketing and sales departments are the lifeblood of your business. An efficient marketing and sales team will bring in new business and focus on retaining current customers. Marketing and sales systems are composed of three mains elements:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Marketing Automation
- Proposals, Quotes, and Order Processing
These elements are critical to ensure strong, successful marketing that drives traffic to your business. Let's break down each of these elements.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
The CRM is responsible for storing all the contacts associated with your business - whether the connection is a customer, lead, or partner of the brand. These contacts must be accessible from one place. This record is the heart of your CRM software. When organizing your business operations, you want this system in place first.
In addition to managing your contacts, the CRM system administers your sales pipeline. When you have a lead, you need to apply certain steps to convert them into customers. These steps may involve writing a proposal or preparing a quote (depending on what type of business you're running). Often, these tools are featured in the CRM software.
A good CRM software should end its process with someone signing an agreement or processing an order. Some of the best CRM tools include:
Many of the above tools offer free versions or free trials. Many of them also have secure cloud options that allow your sales force to access them from nearly any internet-enabled device. This feature allows for remote accessibility and easier integration.
Your sales department receives a qualified sales lead and works to convert them into a customer or client. Marketing takes a raw lead and converts it into a sales-qualified lead before finally converting it into sales accepted lead.
Marketing automation software keeps your brand in front of your prospects. They can use methods such as automated email and social media campaigns. Essentially, your automated marketing system sends out communication on behalf of your company. Additionally, it also measures the results.
For instance, they may send an email and measure the open or click-through rate. Once you have your CRM, the next step is to build your marketing automation system. Some of the best marketing automation software tools include:
You'll notice how some of these tools have CRM elements. Hubspot is a great example of a CRM tool that offers marketing automation too.
Proposals, Quotes, and Order Processing
After marketing, your business either prepares a full proposal, a quote or supplies leads and customers with order forms to complete a sale. You will need a method to generate those documents, creating a process that fits the type of business you're running. Some of the best tools for proposals, quotes, and order processing are:
Again, some of the functionality of these tools is included in certain CRM software and vertically oriented ERP systems.
Tech Tools for Operations
Your operations department is responsible for everything that keeps your business running and bringing in revenue, including delivering your company's products and services. The operations function often includes these three key components:
- Project Management
- Customer Service
- Business Specific Technology
Again, we'll break each of these components down and provide a few examples for them.
You can either use a dedicated project management system specific to the type of business you're in or a more general project management system. It would help to envision these tools as both project and task management solutions. They allow you to organize all the different resources in your company. There are many great project management systems out there, including:
Many of these tools allow you to schedule and manage your time and resources. They also feature application integration to incorporate them into your customer service or business-specific software solutions. It is important to take the time to select a project management system that will work with your team and your processes.
When someone calls with an inquiry, concern, or is just sharing information with your operations or marketing team, how are they interacting with your company? Do they use email or a more sophisticated system? With most businesses, this starts with a simple email. However, if you hope to streamline your company's customer service to scale your business, you'll eventually require a more advanced solution. Some of the best customer service software solutions include:
Again, many of these tools integrate directly into your CRM. For instance, if a client were to email you about an issue or possible purchase, the customer service software would automatically log a file in your CRM. A member of your sales department can then view their contact records through the CRM and access a conversation history.
This feature makes it far easier to address any customer-related issues and tailor your services to your clients. It also bridges the gap between support requests and future sales. Implementing the right tech tools makes this important data accessible from one place. Whichever solution you decide to use, make sure you understand how it will work with your business as it scales. For instance, you may have two customer service representatives, but will your system still work efficiently when you have ten?
Business Specific Software
These are the business technologies necessary to deliver your services. For instance, if you run a web development firm, you most likely use WordPress and other content management systems. You probably design software that allows you to create themes that you can plug into WordPress or sell separately. Whether you plan to build a company for the long term or scale so you can sell your business for a neat profit, employing the right business-specific software tech tools is imperative.
However, because business-specific software is particular to your company's product and services, we can't link any examples of the best ones. Whatever industry you are in, you should have a set of tech tools that allows you to deliver your services effectively and efficiently.
When researching the best business-specific tech tools for your company, try to pick solutions that can be integrated with your current systems. Many business-specific software solutions are stand-alone. However, you may want to facilitate communication between tools in your software stack and business-specific software. There is native integration between a project management system and a collaboration system in most cases. As an example, Trello is natively compatible with WordPress.
Tech Tools for Finance
As with the other organizations and departments in this guide, finance can be split up into three main components:
- Contracts and agreements
- Human Resources and Payroll
Each of these categories has a system. In some cases, a system may incorporate all these components. However, there is a split between systems in most cases, and making sure that they sync is important. Let's explore these components and the tech tools available for each.
Financials refers to accounts payable, accounts receivable, tax, general accounting, and the statements that go along with them. There are many great software products, including:
Again, these tools are perfect for small businesses. Additionally, most of them integrate with a significant number of third-party tools – going as far as making their APIs available for application development.
When assessing these tech tools, make sure they fit into how your business functions. For instance, if you trade-in or sell cryptocurrency online, make sure you pick an option that can automatically sync and keep a log of these transactions. If your business bills for time, make sure that the financial system you choose has a good way of organizing hourly-based invoicing.
Contracts and Agreements
This refers to the legal side of your business. There are many tools and solutions available for you under this section. However, you need to ensure full digital documentation support when selecting one of them. Also confirm that your documents are managed and organized by a reputable third party. Some good examples include
Most of these tools can handle your contractor and employee agreements and contracts. In some instances, you can use your proposal, quotation, and/or order processing system to manage some of your contracts and agreements. For example, Propisify has a feature that allows you to accept and obtain document signatures.
However, you may want a different and more sophisticated solution to handle contract creation. When selecting a tech tool for contracts and agreements, you need an option that supports your business's scaling. Using a digital signature product with some form of integration is key to automate your document send, sign, and receive process. This ensures that your contracts and agreements system is compatible with your proposals or CRM software.
Human Resources and Payroll
There are many sophisticated human resources software solutions out there. However, when you run a small business, you likely can focus on covering the basics. Some great options include:
When selecting an HR and time-tracking tool, you will need a solution that caters to all your payroll needs. These needs may include your month-to-month and end-of-year processing. Additionally, it should allow your employees to log in and view their pay stubs/slips.
Many of these tools also enable you to manage your benefits system. Some have easy API integration, allowing you to incorporate them into your software stack or CRM.
These tools offer confidential databases where records of all your team members (employees, contractors, etc.) are stored. Not all these tools have time tracking, and you may decide that you need to use two separate solutions to handle HR/payroll and time tracking. If you want to scale your business, it's important to streamline your payroll by selecting the right digital tech tool for your needs.
Administrative systems tie your organization together. They include your:
- Collaboration and Communication Systems
- Integration Systems
- Reporting and Analytics
Each system has its own set of tools. Once again, let's examine each one and the tools that support it.
Collaboration and Communication
Collaboration and communications systems allow team members within your organization to communicate with each other. They may also facilitate communication between employees and clients. They've become extremely popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the most used tools include:
These tech tools make it easy for team members to interact when collaborating on projects. When you scale your business, you'll need to add new contacts and new users. These communication tools allow you to grow (or decrease) your list of team members. Additionally, most of these tools will enable you to create project-specific channels and teams. This feature makes it easier to organize work members and keep track of projects.
Integration refers to how you connect different systems. As we've illustrated in parts of this guide, some solutions will natively connect to others. For instance, you may have a CRM that syncs to a marketing or payroll system. However, if you have disparate systems without established connectivity, you can use an integration tool to facilitate communication between them. Your company can write its software integration tool, or you can use one of these:
Not only do these tools allow you to integrate and connect your software stack, but they also provide options for business process automation. This automation can help you eliminate tedious tasks and help your workforce focus on what's important – growing and scaling your business. Though you can write custom software to handle integration, the process may cost you more in the long run. When choosing an integration system, look for a user-friendly solution that offers out-of-the-box support for a diverse collection of integrations.
Reporting and Analytics
These refer to your business intelligence tools. They can be divided into two key components – internal and external reporting. Managing the business requires analyses of its key performance indicators (KPIs). Your KPIs may be influenced by the lead conversions, close rate percentages of sales, or time it takes for a business to deliver projects. Identifying your specific KPI’s will depend on what type of business you're running.
Some of this data can be pulled from your CRM or marketing automation system. However, you need a tool to display these figures. Some of the best include:
Many of these tools have native integration. For instance, Microsoft Power BI is compatible with Microsoft Teams, Asana, and various other software suites. Many of these tools can also be used for internal reporting. Reporting and analytics tech tools are critical to your business's future. You can use these tools to analyze current KPIs and create cash flow projections. These will allow you to plan how your business will scale in the future.
Once you select the right tech tools for your company, you must decide how they integrate into your organization's culture. Because many of these systems are connected by the business process they support, it's best to choose tools that can easily connect together. Of course, you can always select an integration tool if they don't communicate out of the box.
Many software companies offer entire suites that will cover all your business's digital tech requirements. Often, if you decide to use a single vendor, you may benefit from special discounts and savings. You'll need to consider which of these tech tools is the best fit to support your business your goals for scaling.
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