Bryan Goode, CEO of Infratel
If 2013 is the year you decide to take the plunge and open up shop, keeping an eye on technology will be critical. Nationwide, small businesses are heading optimistically into 2013, with 54 percent expecting revenue to increase in the next 12 months and 31 percent planning to add headcount this year according to a recent Bank of America survey. However, an overwhelming majority (82 percent, according to Dell) in a number of key markets believe access to effective technology is required to successfully grow, with 42 percent stating their technology needs are becoming increasingly complex.
To increase the chances of being successful, below are a handful of things business owners must implement to start off on the path to success.
1. Build a website and establish a web presence.
A website is the window into a business’ soul. First impressions are everything, so it’s critical for the company’s messaging to be locked down and content easily accessible. A potential customer will be lost if they have to click through multiple pages to understand the product offering. With their affordable prices (often less than $10 a month) and relatively quick implementation time, hosting providers offer many solutions and tools to help companies create a professional online presence in a matter of days, instead of weeks or months.
Once the site is up and running the next piece of the puzzle is getting people there. From SEO to link building, content marketing, and beyond, there are copious methods to driving traffic. Take small steps to determine what works and provides the greatest results. A good place to start is by identifying keyword tags and building a strategy around existing content. A mix of in-house expertise in combination with the help of a hosting provider is generally the best approach to ensuring website traffic will be directed to high profile pages across the entire site.
2. Set up a business email address.
There are two options when setting up a business email address. There are free services like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Aol, etc. or the option to register with a hosting provider to create a customized domain for a minimal monthly fee.
When pursuing the hosting provider route, do a cost comparison, determine what type of support (if any) is included, and ask what kind of security precautions are in place. If the provider has ever been hacked, find another option.
3. Establish a business phone number.
Eighty percent of consumers judge the validity of a small business based on the professionalism of their phone system. One mistake new businesses consistently make is relying on a mobile phone as a primary business number. A mobile phone as primary business number shows lack of professionalism to prospects and customers and the service can often be unreliable. To project a professional look and feel when dealing with customers, a business number must be established.
With many providers offering phone services, it can be overwhelming to choose one that works best for you. One popular option is using a cloud-based virtual phone system or application. This approach allows small business owners to create a professional number, integrate automated call answering and routing capabilities, and offer easy to use web-based digital voicemail, all integrated with a small business’s website and social media presence. These services sometimes also allow small business to offer real time chat and online customer service capabilities to their users and customers. Further benefits of a virtual phone system include:
- Project a more professional image with a toll free or centralized local phone number
- Answer & track every inbound call through the 24 hour auto-attendant
- Guide callers through a simple menu of choices
- Smartly route calls to existing phones when and where you want
- Capture more business from your website
4. Find trusted IT support.
The average annual salary for an accomplished IT manager is well over $100,000. For many startups and small businesses, a full-time dedicated IT professional is overkill and simply unaffordable. More often than not, hosting providers and MSPs deliver reliable add-on technical services with packages that are designed to meet the budgetary and IT needs of a small business. The benefit of going this route is the ability to cherry-pick various types of services that can be easily integrated into a customized package, providing a greater return on investment.
Understanding how to put these four business “must-haves” into practice will go a long way towards making the process of setting up shop quick, simple, and successful.
Bryan Goode is CEO of Infratel, a company dedicated enabling small businesses and entrepreneurs to establish a professional phone presence and create the best possible ‘Contact Us’ experience for their customers. Follow Infratel on Twitter, @MightyCall