If this hasn’t already become clear, let’s say it again here:
Small business success is increasingly tied to the smart use of the right technologies.
According to a new report published by SMB Group, a market research firm, small businesses that view technology as critical to growth are outpacing their peers.
The most technologically progressive business owners spend an average of about 29 percent more on technology than their less progressive peers. They are 55 percent more likely to have fully-integrated business applications to handle finances, marketing, CRM, sales, HR and other key functions. And they are 86 percent more likely to use analytics than their counterparts.
“By using technology to streamline work flows, cut time spend on inefficient processes, gain better insights into opportunities and threats, and create new business models, business owners are better positioned to tap into new customer requirements, improve customer experience and enter new markets,” says SMB Group in its 2016 SMB Technology Trends report.
According to the report, attracting new customers and growing the business remain the two top goals for small businesses.
But many owners spend so much time managing the daily grind of financial, human resources, procurement and other back-office processes that they have little time to focus on growth and innovation.
Small firms in fast-growth industries, such as software and biotech, can be role models for a more automated and often cloud-based approach that helps them spend less time on back-office processes and more on decision making. Business owners who take note are replacing outdated, disjointed back-office systems with next-generation solutions.
These solutions help them automate drudgery, save time, improve visibility, collaborate more effectively and make better decisions on adapting to an ever-changing marketplace. As early adopters reap these advantages, pressure will mount on businesses that resist change. They will need to update the way they operate or risk falling behind.
Although cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software has become extremely popular in recent years, many small businesses have found enterprise-focused solutions, such as Salesforce, too complicated and expensive.
Fortunately, there are now several CRM solutions geared specifically to small business. These go beyond simple contact management to help you improve customer experience, compete more effectively in a world of social media and multi-channel marketing, and gain access to analytics to stay ahead of customer expectations.
Some examples include a new small business version of Salesforce called Salesforce IQ, Hubspot Connect, Zoho CRM and Insightly.
Continuing Shift to Mobile
Huge numbers of small businesses are continuing to turn to mobile solutions to help them pursue opportunities. An astounding 60 percent of business owners surveyed now view mobile solutions and services as “critical” to their business. These include a wide range of apps, from file sharing, financial management and banking, to expense reporting, email and other types of communication.
Business owners are also moving more and more to cloud-based computing solutions. Adoption of cloud solutions vs. on-premise solutions has surged across all functional areas, including collaboration, file sharing, accounting and marketing automation.
Computer security, however, remains a big challenge. As business owners rely more on tech to run their businesses, the issue of data security has become both more critical and more complicated. But many small businesses are overwhelmed, confused and unsure about how to deal with the seemingly endless potential for digital threats to wreak havoc on their businesses.
“All too often they take an outdated, ineffective, 1990s-era approach to security, deploying point solutions to ward off the latest security threat du jour,” says SMB Group in its report. A better approach, they say, is to install a more holistic, end-to-end solution that can close off the biggest vulnerabilities.
Download a free copy of SMB Group’s complete 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends report.
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