Starting a new business or growing an existing business can be demanding. Staying one step ahead is the name of the game. The evolution of the Internet has certainly changed the economic and business climate, thus successful businesses need to stay on top and, more importantly, ahead of trends. Reaching your business potential is no easy feat, but looking at the nuts and bolts of your business will often lead to clarity and a newly found determination. To be successful in 2014, pay attention to these five crucial aspects of your business.
1. Automate your Business. Employees are a costly factor in any business. Take into consideration you are not just paying a salary, but factoring in recruiting expenses, employment taxes, benefits, work space and, at minimum, a computer and a phone. It’s the rare case when a business can hire exactly to meet their needs. Delaying hiring results in trouble meeting plans and objectives, hiring too quickly may burn through cash before revenue catches up. With today’s technology, small business owners are able to scale back on hiring by implementing simple automation.
We took a look at five areas that will help your business go automated:
1. Odesk. Need help with data entry? Need marketing help, but don’t have the budget to hire a full or even part-time marketing executive? Look to Odesk to hire qualified people either by the hour for a specific need or job or hire a team just for a project or two. The benefits to Odesk: audit and pay only for hours worked. Find the right person for the job, no matter where they live. Build an online workforce, on-demand, and on your own terms. Manage and pay a global team with ease.
2. MailChimp. More than five million people use MailChimp to design and send email marketing campaigns. MailChimp makes it easy to add content and collaborate on emails that fit your brand. Gather information from readers on your signup form, and send them newsletters they care about with segmentation. Multi-user accounts allow you to grant different levels of access to your team members, and you can share feedback right inside our email designer. Access your MailChimp account from any device, and use our iPad app to compose and edit campaigns, even when you’re not online.
3. EchoSign. Adobe® EchoSign® is the electronic signature solution to get documents signed and close business—easily, securely, on any device. Send and e-sign documents on your smart phone, tablet, or any web browser. EchoSign automatically records and stores the details of each document’s history, so you can view and record every step.
4. DropBox. Saving, downloading, and sharing files has never been easier. Dropbox allows users to create a special folder on each of their computers, which Dropbox then synchronizes so that it appears to be the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of which computer is used to view it.
5. Automate your CRM efforts. Customer relationship management is a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support. A CRM system allows fast growing businesses to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them. With CRM, you can store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities in one central location––ideally in the cloud so the information is accessible by many, in real time. A popular CRM system to check out is ZohoCRM
2. Online Marketing. Content marketing and social media is the core of any successful business. Here are some to check out.
$99 Social. This is your one-stop solution for social media and content marketing. $99 Social is a media company that serves small businesses, and the good news is that it’s affordable. If you are like most small businesses and you’ve accepted social media as a crucial component of brand and customer relationships, congrats, because you are already one step ahead. If you have researched social media companies, you might have found that hiring a company can be expensive, and long-term contracts are a turn off. $99 Social has already thought of that and has their small business clients’ budgets in mind. They offer no contracts. No hidden fees. And no price increases. Check out more about them in this video:
LinkedIn. As of June 2013, LinkedIn reports more than 259 million acquired users in more than 200 countries and territories. LinkedIn could potentially be the third largest networking site on the Internet. What does that mean to success in your business? One simple fact: if your business isn’t LinkedIn, it needs to be! If your business provides products or services then you can’t afford to miss out on the valuable sales, marketing and public relations tools that LinkedIn provides for businesses. LinkedIn has a wide variety of tools aimed at promoting and engaging with a target audience and your network of professionals. There are so many benefits to building your brand and profile and what was once thought of as merely a resource to gain employment is now providing a means to engage and share with your circle of influence. LinkedIn is free and easy to use and is very important to the success of your business in 2014.
Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about a website‘s traffic and traffic sources and measures conversions and sales. Google Analytics can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines and social networks, direct visits and referring sites. It also displays advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing, and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents. Google Analytics is a valuable tool for lead generation and meeting sales goals.
Quora. Quora is a sharing platform that connects people who share the same interests and provides you with relevant and interesting topics and ideas. Quora aims to organize people and their interests so that you can find, collect, and share the information that is of the most value to you. When it comes to getting your brand message across, Quora provides an opportunity for you to collaborate and post engaging questions and gather opinions and respected feedback. Your target audience will go to Quora to seek out information and answers, allowing you to position yourself as an expert and guide them through their online searches.
3. Stay true to your core values and mission. Realize that change is essential to achieving success by remember why you started. Immediate profits and short cuts are nice, but not at the risk of your core values. Make impactful changes in a positive way without loosing sight of your purpose.
4. Control Profitability. In an effort to enhance profitability you must be vigilant and track, monitor, and control how your business performs. Service or product, costs, overhead ratio and payroll ratios need to be measured. NCH Software nchsoftware.com offers a host of Software programs for small businesses such as accounting, invoicing, inventory, and point-of-sale software to track and control your performance.
5. Need for Investors or a Debt Makeover. Could your business use an influx of operating revenue? If you have tapped out your friends and family as resources, the next step is to consider other options, such as a small-business loan, an angel investor or venture capital. For starters, head to your bank and talk with your banker about a business loan. If that comes up short, look to any professional business organizations you might belong to and let your network know that you have a great product or service that they could get in on. If you have your sites set high, you’ll want to turn to the Internet to source capital. Before embarking on your search, fine tune your business plan and be prepared for the shark tank. Some great websites to visit are:
Debt Makeover. One sure way of achieving success in 2014 is staying out of debt or climbing out of debt, if that’s the case. Many small business owners are struggling with growing debt. To perform your own debt makeover, here are six areas to consider:
- Cut unnecessary costs and free up cash
- Revisit the budget
- Prioritize debt payments
- Speak with creditors
- Consolidate your loans
- Seek Counsel
Entering into a new year provides both growth and promise. 2014 is your opportunity to break old habits and take a fresh look at your strategies and tactics for success. If you need to create or revamp some old business ideas that aren’t working for you, now is the time!
Matthew Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Adam. Matthew is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewtoren