The modern business environment is very different to the one that existed even 20 years ago. It provides both challenges and opportunities to the dozens of local independent businesses that operate in the Antelope Valley. Many have been in existence for generations, and change can be a frightening concept. But if the events of the past few months have taught us anything, it is that embracing technology can help to sustain and future-proof a business, no matter what the world might throw at it.
Businesses are built on relationships, especially those that do the majority of their transactions with the local community. Over the past few months, some businesses have had to close their doors, while all have been affected to a certain extent by people staying at home and keeping their distance from others. Technology can help keep those relationships intact, and even strengthen them.
Targeted emails and newsletters are great, but think bigger than that. If you thought Facebook and Twitter were just for idle teenagers, think again. Data from Pew Research shows that around three quarters of Americans use social media of one kind or another.
Setting up business pages on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin doesn’t take long and provides the most efficient way to stay in touch. You could even consider setting up a YouTube channel. Just be sure to post something at least a couple of times a week, and to respond promptly to messages and comments.
Giveaways and promotions
Times are tough and residents in Antelope Valley have felt the financial pinch as much as everyone else over the past few months. Choosing now to offer some special promotions is a way to contribute to the community when it’s needed most. That’s a good enough reason in itself, but in addition, it makes sound business sense as it is great for those important customer relationships.
Online discount codes provide a simple but effective way of handling promotions, and you get the additional benefit of instant data to keep track of how effective the promotions are and how they affect your sales and profits. Even if there is an initial hit to the bottom line, giving away free stuff works very well in some industries. Arguably, the best example would be free bonus offers that online casinos use to get new customers. The offers never end, but the businesses are thriving and the customers are happy.
This was becoming an increasingly important consideration for businesses long before anyone had heard of lockdowns and social distancing, but of course the remote working trend has accelerated dramatically over the past year. Facilitating remote working only needs relatively minor investment for most back office functions like finance, payroll, IT support and the like.
Being able to work flexibly from home is usually regarded as an employee benefit. But remote working practices can open a lot of doors for small businesses themselves in unexpected ways. Of course we all want to employ people from Antelope Valley where possible. But where there’s a local skills shortage, it gives the flexibility to widen the search. Remote work also correlates strongly with better productivity and improved staff retention.
Soar into the cloud
Cloud technology has been one of the biggest game-changers for businesses large and small. The core benefits are simplified IT systems, reduced hardware investment costs, more effective and secure data backup and better flexibility to facilitate that remote working we were talking about.
Cloud technology takes all those servers, discs, backup tapes and the rest and places them in remote locations. It means you can access all your systems and data files from anywhere and you no longer have the onerous responsibility of maintaining, securing and backing them up every day.
Automate those mundane tasks
The idea of automation can have negative connotations, with people getting the idea that it is about machines “taking their jobs.” But does that mean we should throw away the photocopier and employ scribes instead, or perhaps do away with the CCTV and replace it with 24-hour security guards? Automation really means using technology that can do those repetitive and boring tasks faster and better than humans. It’s a concept with which local manufacturing businesses will already be familiar, and is now something that can be considered in other business areas, too.
Examples include email marketing programs and software that will automatically schedule and post those social media updates we were talking about earlier. Exactly what you can automate and to what extent depends very much on your area of business. It’s worth setting aside a couple of hours one afternoon to talk to a managed service provider with experience in helping small businesses to get some tailor-made advice from an expert.