Many small businesses still don’t use modern technology, according to a recent survey by online marketing firm Yodle. While more than half of those surveyed use high tech for accounting purposes, far fewer use it for marketing and sales. Less than half have websites. Yet studies show 90% of all consumers prefer online shopping. Small-business owners who want to dash past the competition must embrace technology, says Marc Ostrofsky in “Word of Mouse.” “If you keep doing what you always do, and the competition does it differently, they could be getting ahead of you,” he told IBD.
How to get with the program:
• Find experts. “Know what you don’t know,” Ostrofsky said. “Hire your weaknesses.” After making a fortune buying and selling domain names, he’s learning book promotion. “In marketing my book, I need to know how to use Facebook (FB), Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn (LNKD), etc. Some I’m good at and others I’m not. I have to find experts who are fluent in those languages.”
His advice to small businesses: Find a generalist, someone who knows social media, search engine optimization and website building.
• Use smartphones smartly. It’s not enough to have a basic cellphone, says Ross & Ross International , a tech consulting firm for small businesses, in a recent press release. A smartphone that lets you text, instant message and use other social networking services lets you respond to sales prospects, customers and partners much faster.
Smartphones can also streamline the sales process. The cash register will soon be a thing of the past.
• Look into apps. Applications such as Square — which lets you swipe credit cards — turn smartphones and other mobile devices into cash registers. SpotOn says that’s a serious trend. Retailers nationwide are “ditching traditional point-of-sale systems in favor of touchscreen phones and tablets to better engage with shoppers, shrink checkout lines and improve customer experiences,” the consulting firm said in a press release.
• Digitize your network. The most basic information that small businesses should have about customers is their email address. Email lets you communicate sales, special offers and other vital information to keep clients coming through the door.
In his book, Ostrofsky tells the story of his favorite golf store, which loses its lease and asks customers to leave their email addresses so the owner can notify them of his new location. Ostrofsky was shocked the shop owner didn’t already have those emails.