5 Best Practices to Use the Web to Improve Your BusinessSmall businesses need the entire boost it can. Fortunately, the Web has equalized everything and brought technology that could benefit your business to your reach.
Here are five best practices on using the Web for your business.
1. Get a Web site.
Businesses are today are lucky to have the Internet on their side. For one, it is now easier to showcase your products and inform people about your services. Your Web site can serve as a catalogue to show off your products, provide product descriptions, prices and anything and everything that can help you sell.
Your Web site could also handle orders and help you with the fulfilment of these orders. Right now, thousands of people are availing of the convenience clicking on order buttons and filling out forms to get their merchandise. The Web can now securely transmit the necessary information you need to charge your customers and ship them their orders.
There are a lot more that business Web sites can do for you, such as serve as the platform where your customers can contact you with their inquiries or feedback. It can also help with customer service, customer follow-ups and complaints.
2. Manage your customers online, no matter where you are.
During recent years, a new kind of service emerged with the development of cloud computing. Called Software as a Service, or SaaS, these services allow you to access it from anywhere in the world over the Web. It used to be that business owners had to keep their own database manually, taking an email, opening up their spreadsheet programs and manually copying the customer's details into it. With the new customer relationship management software, these are done automatically. When a customer fills out your online contact form or order form, the information is automatically added to your CRM database.
Imagine the time you save in this automation. What is more, CRM packages now allow you to assign campaigns to each customer. It can automatically send a follow-up e-mail or perhaps a survey after some time. It also reminds you of when a customer needs to pay, or simply when you could touch base with a particular customer.
And if you have to travel out of town, or even the country, you do not have to worry about neglecting your customers or piling up work for when you return. You can easily access your customer database, along with all the things you need to do, with an Internet connection.
3. Get help.
As your business grows, your responsibilities and tasks also grow. In time, you might need to hire the help of an assistant to help you keep on top of things, or an IT specialist to help you maintain your IT network or Web site. Whatever your needs, you can easily outsource these.
Outsourcing allows business owners to get top talent, even if it means that the talent one hires lives in another state or another country. You can hire a virtual assistant in India, or a programmer from the Philippines. The Internet makes it easier to have them work for you and to manage their work, even if they do not physically come to work.
The benefits of outsourcing are tremendous: you can cut costs on salary even as you get the best talents in the industry. Instead of having to expand your office to accommodate the new people and buy desks, computers and other things they would need, your outsourced worker uses their own resources so that you do not have to provide them. Further, you only pay for the hours they actually work and not worry about benefits.
4. Stay on top of your industry.
It used to be that people go to industry-related seminars and conferences to get the latest news and trends about their industry and network with other professionals. While this is still a good way, you can take a step further. Most industry associations now have their own Web site, and you can get a membership to these associations, wherever they may be based. You can subscribe to industry newsletters via e-mail and read them at your convenience. Talk to an expert or consult with a colleague at no charge or cost-effectively with chat clients or voice over IP systems.
What is more, social networking sites make it easy for you to connect with industry professionals easily. For example, you do not have to elbow your way up to Bill Gates at a Microsoft conference and compete for his attention. You can add him on Facebook or follow his thoughts on Twitter.
5. Plan for disaster.
At one point or another, your home or your office might become accessible due to force majeure. Your area might be flooded, or an earthquake might destroy all your computers and even your office. Without a good disaster plan, your business might be adversely affected or interrupted. Imagine if the computer that holds your customer data, orders and Web site files suddenly conk out?
With the Web, it is easier to plan for disaster. For one, you could have an offsite, online backup of all your important data. In case of disasters, you can easily access these backups and somehow continue your business. Admittedly, this is only part of a complete disaster preparedness plan, but it is one of the most vital.