With limited time and resources, it is easy for small businesses to stick to the same trusted technology strategies and solutions year after year.
So, how do small businesses get “unstuck” in 2013?
T-Mobile Vice President of B2B Marketing Milan Ruzicka discusses tips and tricks with Barry Moltz, a serial entrepreneur, small business consultant, and the author of several books on small business success.
MR: Thanks for taking time to talk today, Barry. What would you say is the biggest obstacle for small businesses looking to reimagine their business strategy in 2013?
BM: For most small businesses, the biggest obstacle is understanding how today's consumer makes purchasing decisions. There are no longer geographic barriers to distribution, and online peer and product reviews are increasingly important buying criteria. As we discuss in Small Town Rules, this makes a company's reputation - online and off - more important than ever. Today's small businesses must work hard to keep that reputation strong.
MR: Any advice on addressing that obstacle?
BM: Focus on customer service as a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Listen to what customers are saying about your company, make changes based on their suggestions, and build a community for your raving fans. Ask and incentivize customers to post reviews online. Potential customers will value that "earned media" more than advertising or traditional marketing.
MR: With so many mobile technologies and more than a million available mobile apps, how can businesses key up? What new mobile technologies or applications should businesses adopt in 2013?
BM: There will always be more technologies and devices than any one business can employ. The key is to find the technologies that will add true value to one's specific business needs and the applications that will give a small business the data to make its employees productive and its customers happy. Of course, adopting new technology usually requires an upfront time and money investment; however, the right technology can be even more beneficial than a second (or third) set of helping hands.
For example: As businesses continue to mobilize, collaboration technologies and applications that allow secure document sharing and project management via mobile devices will become critical to their success. Also, as I mentioned earlier, online community management is increasingly important. Applications able to aggregate content from social media channels and other online communities will prove their worth almost immediately.
Other mobile applications with great return on investment include Square, which helps businesses take on-site, mobile payments, and Any.DOor Astrid, both project management applications which help set tasks and reminders for small business owners and their employees.
MR: What are some of your other favorite applications?
BM: Sure, here are some of my favorites:
PushBullet: Moves snippets of what you need easily from your computer to your phone for later use. This includes files, messages, to-do lists and addresses.
Password Wallet: It is becoming increasingly hard to remember all your passwords. This app stores them all in one place on your phone. A real time saver! http://www.selznick.com/products/passwordwallet/index.htm
Everclip: Makes it easy to clip anything you find on your smartphone to Evernote: http://vimeo.com/44396882
Pocket: This app creates a list of items to read later instead of the pressure to focus on it now. http://getpocket.com/
Sleep pillow: Experts show that the key to being more productive is to get a good night sleep. This sleep machine app plays sounds that make it easy to fall asleep. (especially when in a noisy hotel room). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2268fVUoyc
Text Web: This app lets you download only the text part of the website. A real time and battery saver! http://textweb.fabapps.com/
Cam Card: Put all those business cards to good use. Take them out of your pocket, scan them with your phone and either add them to your contact list or export them to your favorite CRM program. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM9mSpG224c
Ego: Stop wondering. Find all the stats for your website and social media feeds right on your phone. http://ego-app.com/
Flightview: This is a favorite app for frequent business travelers. It tells the user where a flight is originating from. Many times the airline does not update departures based on when the inbound flight gets to a departure location. http://www.flightview.com/corporate/products/flightview-mobile-apps.aspx
MR: You talk a lot about the importance of customer service in your book, BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World. How can mobile help small businesses maintain, even grow, their customer base in 2013?
BM: Think there are some key tenets small businesses should embrace to grow their business and turn customers into raving fans:
• Provide your customers with multiple ways to connect with your business – including phone, text, email, a mobile website or app, and social media – and assign employees to closely monitor each one of these channels.
• When talking and engaging with customers, keep it simple, be transparent, and provide value. Avoid the trap of constantly trying to "sell" your service or product.
• Respond to customers quickly (in real time, when possible). Hint: mobile devices allow you to do so.
MR: Thanks for your time and insight, Barry.
Note: The opinions expressed above are not necessarily the opinions of T-Mobile. Listed apps have not been reviewed by and are not endorsed by T-Mobile.