Read immediately before tech trends change.
The U.S. Small Business Administration published a list of technology tools a small business owner couldn’t do without in 2009. Five years later, here are our updates.
1. Tech: Social media management tool (HootSuite, Sprout Social, Oktopost, Buffer)
Cost: Free to $1,500/month
Why: Three common online business-discovery scenarios exist, says Adi Bittan, CEO and cofounder of customer feedback app OwnerListens in Palo Alto, Calif.: customers search online for a business/service, customers see a friend mention a business on social media and customers ask their social media network for business/service recommendations.
takeaway, Bittan says, is that there is a plethora of places where consumers
might discover and get a first impression of your business, and it’s extremely
time-consuming to individually log in to each site regularly and upload updated
content. While you still have to create the content and strategy on your own,
content management tools consolidate all the other work into one place.
2. Tech: Mobile credit card reader (Square, PayPal Here, Intuit GoPayment)
Cost: 2.7 to 3.75 percent of the transaction, depending on whether swiped or keyed in
Why: These small, portable devices attach to your smartphone or tablet and allow you to process payments via credit card wherever you are. Since most people pay with credit cards, this is an essential tool for a small business owner, says Roberto Mejia, vice president of search and technology at Zizinya Web Solutions in Houston.
to eliminating sales barriers, a mobile card reader is more efficient than the
previous mobile option of manually processing carbon slips with a credit card
imprinter. Jessica Russell, owner of Tumbleweed Bead Co. on Etsy and in
Wenatchee, Wash., says using Square reduced her payment processing time by at
least 10 hours per week. (Here's how to get started on Etsy.)
3. Tech: Cloud-based file sharing/storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, Copy, Box)
Cost: Free to $15/user/month
Why: Before the cloud, small businesses were strapped by the need to invest time and money in file backup infrastructure and IT resources to install and manage it, says John Mason, general manager for midmarket business at IBM in Armonk, N.Y. With the cloud, small business owners can spend less time and resources managing technology and more time growing their business.
costs, these tools provide data access and team collaboration abilities no
matter the location as well as secure data backup/storage options, thanks to the cloud.
4. Tech: Customer relationship management (CRM) software (Salesforce, Base, Nimble, Zoho, Insightly)
Cost: Free to $300/user/month
Why: Over the past five years, customers have taken more control over the sales and marketing process by reading and leaving online reviews, asking for peer recommendations via social media or performing online research before making a purchase, says Michael Ortner, CEO of Arlington, Va.-based Capterra, which helps small businesses find software. As such, he says, small business owners need tools that allow better management, communication and engagement with prospects and customers—such as CRM software, which provides a thorough record of interactions and other data on each customer.
5. Tech: Email
marketing tool (MailChimp, Mad Mimi, Constant Contact, AWeber, GetResponse,
Cost: Free to $1,049/month
Why: Email marketing software allows small businesses to send mass communications to customers and prospects more efficiently than one-off emails and more cost-effectively than direct mail pieces, Ortner says. But the real attraction: It generates instant results.
Features such as list
segmentation, customizable template builders and analytics allow small business
owners to personalize communications for different target audiences and test a
variety of factors (sending time, subject lines and call-to-action items) to
see what works best.