Try these low-budget shortcuts to help make your daily work life easier.
Competing with industry giants and doing more with less in order to become more efficient are at the very top of every small business’ list of resolutions. But the disconnect between small budgets and big ideas all too often results in those resolutions falling at the first hurdle.
Why? Because they’re missing a few tricks.
Technology is one of life’s greatest levellers and it can help small business owners leverage limited capital in smarter and more effective ways. In some cases, using technology is a natural progression for existing processes. In others, you may need to make some adjustments to reap the benefits of these tech-friendly alternatives.
Once new systems are in place, the benefits often outweigh the short-lived challenges of the transitional process. By using the below hacks, businesses of any size can more than match the bigger players at their own game and future-proof their business in their process.
Mobile working and telecommuting
Increased train fares and rising fuel costs, along with the added pressure of day-to-day life, has meant there is a resurgence in businesses – both large and small – adopting a more flexible attitude towards where they expect work to be carried out, with today’s employees expecting to be given mobile or remote working as part of a job package.
With smaller businesses looking to adopt such a strategy, the benefits can be tenfold and nowhere will that be felt quicker than on the bottom line. Depending on the industry a business operates in, there is an opportunity to significantly downsize bricks and mortar office space or even get rid of them completely.
But where do you start?
Going paperless and implementing a cloud-based document management system immediately improves things. By switching your business’ paper-based processes as early as possible, and filing securely in an encrypted DMS, you can solve a lot of problems in one go, aside from just freeing up physical space.
Remote working itself can be improved by going paperless. For example, employees who regularly work on the road can use scan-to-cloud technology to digitise documents in real time. Additionally, software such as Adobe Sign complements such processes by providing a simplified signing experience that speeds transactions for each and every department.
Similarly, remote desktop applications are also a key investment and allow you to take control of remote computers or virtual machines over a secured network connection. This means any remote device can be just about anywhere on the planet with the end user able to access their desktop and apps in the cloud. For businesses, remote desktop applications can be managed in real time from one location allowing you to review and edit permissions as well as restricting access completely.
Collaboration and learning
With many businesses operating on a multi-site basis or, in some cases, across different continents, the modern meeting requires all participants, regardless of location to be able to see, hear and collaborate within a meeting as easily as everyone sitting in the same room. That’s where tools such as Skype for Business come in.
Skype for Business is quickly becoming the go-to tool for communications and collaboration for users of Office 365. Its applications such as Skype for Business Conversations allows users to quickly start chat, voice, or video calls directly from their inbox which not only provides an easy-to-deploy meeting platform, but also works towards tighter integration between meetings and inboxes.
By leveraging Skype for Business, firms can significantly cut down on non-essential business travel. Skype’s video conferencing capabilities serve as a brilliant replacement for face-to-face meetings, while its Outlook integration means you can effortlessly schedule it into your working day from anywhere and on any device, saving your employees time and your business money.
Skype also opens up opportunities for inexpensive yet effective training. It allows up to 25 people on group audio calls and up to 10 on video calls. Within audio calls, users have the opportunity to ‘present’ or ‘share’ their screens, maximising visibility of presentations or essential training collateral without the need to organise travel where staff are away from the workplace.
Its call recording option also means that anyone unable to attend a call can catch up at a later date by accessing a full recording. For businesses that can limit the need for hiring external parties to deploy training and allows them to build their own reference centre of useful resources.
Marketing and customer service
Increasing brand awareness and marketing effectively to the right audiences are at the top of any business’ priority list, yet funding can often see smaller businesses unable to achieve what they need.
Social media is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing methods used to syndicate content and increased your business’ visibility. Implementing a social media strategy will greatly increase your brand recognition as you engage with a broad audience of consumers.
Social media is first and foremost a network and communication platform, and creating a voice for your company through such platforms is an important exercise in humanising your product. Customers appreciate knowing that their posts and comments are read and acknowledged and, as a result, such channels are now becoming the most popular way of interacting with a business – and that includes to complain or report any issues or grievances.
Social media platforms are a great extension of your business – particularly if bricks and mortar locations have set closing times. Creating an ‘always-on’ presence assures your customers that any queries or issues will be dealt with and this doesn’t necessarily mean having someone man your accounts overnight.
Leveraging social media management platforms, such as HootSuite and Oktopost, allow businesses to schedule posts that are distributed at any chosen time 24 hours a day. This feature enables you to point customers in the right direction or promise a reply once offices reopen, reducing the likelihood of disgruntled customers.
And depending on the nature of your business, further personalisation is available meaning your platform becomes a true extension of your business. Oktopost, for example, is designed for B2B businesses and allows integration with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Users can schedule posts using the auto-scheduler feature as well as garner full visibility of all platforms from one screen, meaning no direct messages or requests are ever missed.
Oktopost is also the perfect employee advocacy platform. By connecting your employees’ personal LinkedIn or Twitter accounts, specialists within your business can amplify the reach of any given post than any posts that your company could generate alone. This is particularly beneficial if you have sales teams for different products as they are likely to have a more sector-focussed following and this translates to a more personal method of communicating with existing customers.