As the aliens of the TV show “V” would say, humans are quite predictable; we are creatures of habit.
One of our big habits is making New Year’s resolutions. We hardly keep them, or at least all of them, but they are good to at least write down and try to do for the first few minutes, hours, days or weeks of the New Year. Hopefully, out of the few we want to do, we actually continue to do one or two of them.
There are a few simple things, related to technology, that I think every business should do:
- Refresh your web site (more on this later).
- Create a blog (including developing an online audience on Twitter and Facebook for your business)
- Optimize all your computers (if you are using old computers with old software invest in new equipment)
- Educate yourself in leveraging the Internet more (such as online tools) and technology in general.
These are just a few of many things you could be doing. What do YOU suggest?
Intuit, like few other businesses, has its hand on the heart beat of America’s small businesses, specifically their finances, through QuickBooks.
Intuit’s Small Business New Year’s Resolution Check List, with some input from Smallbiztechnology.com, includes:
Spruce up your website or get one: Your website is often times the first interaction customers have with your business. Does it help you make the right first impression? Perhaps it’s time for a redesign, or even just updating things like photos and customer testimonials, or adding a blog.
Read my 10 Web Site Musts
Or, if “get a website” feels like a permanent fixture on your new year’s resolution list each year, make this the year to cross it off. Research shows that 2/3 of consumers turn to the internet first for information about local companies so not having a website could put you at a disadvantage. Intuit’s Website Services is an easy way to get started. You can get a website for free for 30 days, and then it’s as little as $4.99 per month after. You can choose from 2,000 ready-to-use professional templates, or one of Intuit’s expert design consultants can customize your website to meet your specifications. Other companies such as Network Solutions and Register.com
offer low cost options for web site hosting and creation as well.
Get to know your dollars and cents: Do you know what money is coming in and going out? Who your top customers are? Who’s paying on time and who’s not? Financial software like QuickBooks Online can help you stay on top of your cash flow anywhere, anytime. If you already use financial software, but still don’t know what’s happening in your business, try making a regular date with it each week or month to review what’s going on.
Inc Magazine writer Norm Brodsky has filled his columns over the years with this sage advice.
Become your customers’ best friend: Okay, so maybe you can’t become each and every customer’s best friend, but try to boost that personal touch and provide great service to impress new customers and keep the current ones coming back. Customer Manager can help you ditch the pen, paper and post-it notes, and organize all your customer info online or on-the-go. Or think about sending emails to customers to thank them or let them know about upcoming promotions. Services like the QuickBooks Marketing Center can help you identify which customers you should be reaching out to, and when.
Part of the aspects of marketing online to your customers also includes an email newsletter and Campaigner, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, iContact and many others can help.
For customer information management beyond just contact management, but relationship development tools such as BatchBook and InfusionSoft.
I’ve found Palo Alto Software’s Email Center Pro a great tool for work groups to manage customer emails as well.
SEO your Web site (Search Engine Optimization). If you don’t know what SEO stands for, it’s time to learn. Having a website alone is just the first step to getting found online, it’s also very important to ensure customers can FIND your web site once it’s online.
Intuit’s Website services now has search engine optimization capabilities to help raise a your business profile with important search sites like Google Maps and Yahoo! Local.
OrangeSoda specializes in helping your web site be FOUND online as well.
Never say no to getting paid: Now you never have an excuse to say no to customers who want to pay by credit card – no matter where you are. Now with the cell phone you’re already carrying you can conduct business transactions right at the point of service, eliminating paperwork, follow up, and late payments. GoPayment lets you process credit cards payments and send an invoice in the form of an email or text message so you get paid right on the spot.
Get more face time: When you meet a new face on the job, you never know what the relationship might yield: a sale, a partner, a mentor, an employee, a job opportunity, etc. Forging new relationships and fostering old ones is a good and important investment in your business and your career. Set the goal of attending one networking event per quarter or of making a certain number of new contacts per month. And be sure to nurture the relationships by going to lunch and staying in touch via LinkedIn.
Add greenery: Plants create a peaceful environment and add oxygen to the air. Why not look around and see where you can add a plant or two. And while, you’re at it, why not green your office? Not only does it help the environment but it reduces your costs. Start by looking under your desk and see if you’re using a Smart Strip. If not, buy one! This energy saving power strip will you reduce your electricity bill and help the environment. Other tools to help include applications like Intuit Green Snapshot and ExpenseWare. These apps provide recommendations to green your business (cheaply), offering resources to help you along the way.
Let the tweets roll: Add bells and whistles to your web site with twitter feeds (hint: tweet links to your blog posting to improve traffic) and other social media mechanisms in order to gain access to a larger potential customer base. Twitter makes this easy as pie by offering a Twitter widget that can be automatically embedded in the sidebar of any Web site, showing your most recent tweets. Increase traffic (and sales) by offering limited time discounts and special offers via twitter to visit both your Web site and your brick-and-mortar location. And if you want see how other companies tweet, feel free to follow Intuit online at @Intuit.
Replace the pen and paper: It’s time to evaluate how to streamline any processes you are handling manually – like running payroll. A recent Intuit Payroll survey of more than 1,000 small businesses found that 94% of small businesses are concerned with paying payroll taxes and filing tax forms accurately – which can cause small businesses to incur costly penalities. Yet, 43% admitted that prior to using Intuit Payroll they were using error-prone methods like handwritten checks to pay employees. To help you streamline employee payroll, Intuit offers a variety of options like Intuit Online Payroll that helps you save time and money, while accurately running payroll for your business.
And remember to breathe : When you’re running a business, you can be your own last priority, but your personal well-being directly impacts the well-being of your business, for better or for worse. Within your business goals for 2010, set a personal goal that will improve your mental health. Bake a half hour of exercise into your daily schedule, take up a hobby you’ve been interested in on the weekends, or even just make it a point to get fresh air for 15 minutes during the work day! Happy life, happy bottom line. A good book to read on this is: The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.