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anita-campbell

Anita Campbell

CEO of Small Business Trends

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7 Tips for Improving Your Business Operations

December 09, 2014

Here are seven ways to improve operations in your business, today, using technology – ways that don’t cost a fortune and can pay off big.

It’s all too easy in small businesses to fritter away our profits through labor-intensive activities and manual processes that eat up our limited staff resources.

Here are seven ways to improve operations in your business, today, using technology – ways that don’t cost a fortune and can pay off big:

  1. Make your website carry its water
  2. A simple “brochure” website with a few pages of information is a fine starting place for a Web presence. Just don’t let it stop there. A good website can help generate revenue cost-effectively, 24/7. Make sure your website “works” for your business by incorporating these four things:

    • At least one call to action.
    • Lead generation capture of some sort (even a newsletter subscription box is a good start).
    • A knowledge base to keep customers happy, with self-serve support in addition to phone and e-mail support.
    • The ability to conduct transactions, such as ordering products or services or setting up appointments.

  3. Get a good e-mail marketing software system in place, to sell more to existing customers
  4. It’s expensive to keep going out and finding new customers as the main growth strategy. The more profitable deal for most companies is to retain your existing customers and sell more to them. E-mail marketing software can help with that strategy. Today it can do much more than simply spit out newsletters every month.

    Segment customers according to interests, and send relevant follow-up communications. Analyze what your customers truly are interested in; good e-mail marketing software creates a valuable feedback loop. Dollar for dollar, e-mail marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to market and maintain customer satisfaction.

  5. Use software to encourage customer reviews and testimonials
  6. As more and more consumers and business customers go online to research purchases, reviews become crucial to your bottom line. Don’t leave reviews to chance. Adopt customer feedback survey software, or review software such as GetFiveStars, to ask customers about their experiences and encourage them to leave reviews and testimonials if they are happy with your products or services.

  7. Get a project management tool in place
  8. When a business is very small, e-mail and chat windows work fine. But as you grow, you will quickly crumble under the weight of unwieldy inboxes and critical information buried in multiple places. Organizing your team collaboration becomes essential if you want your business to scale and get larger.

    Don’t wait until chaos rules and a costly mistake happens through disorganization. Asana offers a free level that is a good no-risk place to start. Get this in place early and insist your team use it, until it becomes second nature.

  9. Improve your lead collection and follow-up, through CRM software
  10. A CRM system allows you to keep track of leads and prospects, and organize your sales and marketing efforts better than spreadsheets, e-mails, and phone logs. Small businesses still don’t use CRM to a wide degree, in part because it takes some effort to implement CRM effectively. But the payback can be huge, in terms of streamlining your marketing and sales and getting better ROI for those efforts.

  11. Use a central “local listing” update tool
  12. If you run a local business, there are numerous places online where your address, phone number, hours of operation, and other data appear. This information can easily get outdated, or you can miss places where your business should be listed. A tool like Moz Local can help you update your information in one place and have correct information distributed across the Web – saving you time and headaches.

  13. Integrate data, and use an executive dashboard
  14. Hopefully you are already using Google Analytics for analyzing your website traffic. Perhaps you also use some analytics from social media platforms, such as Facebook. You probably also have some financial information from your accounting software that you review periodically.

    One thing that happens as you grow and use more tools, is that you have more data that you’ve collected. Soon this data itself can become overwhelming. Two things make the difference between being buried under a sea of detail, and lassoing it into useful business intelligence:

    • Integrate data from various tools and software, so that you can connect the dots between disparate pieces of data. A tool like Zapier makes integrations easy, even for non-technical people.
    • Use an executive dashboard to see key data and make sense of it. A tool like Cyfe can give you insights at a glance. A dashboard doesn’t take the place of in-depth reports and analyses, but it does help you spot key trends and issues early.

Perhaps you’re already taking these seven steps. If not, pick one this month to implement or improve upon.

This article originally appeared on www.inc.com/comcast.

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