For your small business in its infancy, technology can be the most important tool at your disposal to maximize potential, draw in clients and manage your business effectively through the stormy waters. However, fail to use technology shrewdly and you might see your ship sinking to the bottom of the ocean in no time. Here’s a list of ten ways that this could happen – and what to do to steer clear of them.
I’ve asked Joel Duncan, a freelance writer-photographer, with a passion for technology, entrepreneurship and education to lend his expertise. He is particularly interested in how new technology is being used to positively change and connect the world.
1. No website
One of the biggest mistakes a small company can make is to assume they don’t need a website because of the size of their business. Think a local plumbing company or a hair salon.
Just because these businesses are only going to attract clients from the local area does not mean that they won’t benefit from a website. Most people search for options on the internet, even if the thing they are searching for can’t be bought online.
Having a social media presence is all well and good, but the website must be the anchor for any social media sites being used. However, one important caveat to remember is that it must be professional-looking, responsive, and easy to navigate – sometimes having a poorly-designed website is worse than having no website at all. If you are looking to draw clients in with a messy website, then you will lose out on that good first impression and your clients will skip to a smarter competitor.
2. Misusing Social Media
Now this is a big one. Social media is a very alluring marketing channel for new businesses because more often than not it’s free.
It is easy for businesses to start their online branding efforts via social media under the naive assumption that the customers will instantly flock to their profiles. This definitely isn’t the case, especially since a lot of small businesses just don’t understand the right way to use social media. A very common error that businesses often make is that they try to use too many social media channels and neglect differentiating their strategy for each one.
For example, they might decide to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest, which is already a lot to manage, then will proceed to use them in the same way. Social media users will quickly unfollow and go somewhere else if they see the same content repeated on each platform. A smart business should show different facets of its business on different channels. For example, a restaurant might share only photos on Facebook, videos on YouTube, links to magazine reviews on Pinterest, and promote new deals and offers on Twitter.
3. Not being interactive on social media
Some businesses think that social media is just a free marketing tool. But the clue is in the name – social. Its imperative that whoever is managing the social media sites for your company is doing more than just opening accounts in your company’s name and getting the logo and the brand out there.
Social Media channels give businesses the opportunity to develop their online personality. It’s a place to communicate with clients, forge connections, offer advice, and above all, be honest. Social media users are accustomed to companies behaving like this online, and if your company doesn’t get involved, do not expect many clients to come your way because they have been turned off by your social media attitude. It may be free to open a Facebook account, but for your business to thrive, it means you need to spend a lot of time interacting with potential and actual clients.
4. Keeping Tabs on Your Progress
After you have established a website and a decent social media presence, the next step is to ensure that you know what is working for you and what isn’t. Companies that are in the dark about how their services are performing are not in any kind of position to decide what to enhance and what to jettison. Good web analytics tools can keep your business abreast of how well it is doing, and should be high on the list of priorities of things to invest in. Remember: data is all important!
5. Not Having IT Support
Companies who don’t think it is worth investing in decent IT support may be worryingly unprepared when disaster strikes. Often a small business will just have one employee handling the entire company’s technological infrastructure, and they may not be fully prepared for any eventuality. A investment worth considering might be to outsource your IT support to an experienced and professional outfit who can help you guard against malware, data loss, and all the other hordes of tech gremlins that lay in wait.
6. Failure to reinvest in hardware/software
It might be very tempting for a company to persist with their aging PCs and temperamental printers because the cost of replacing them might appear too high. Most hardware has a life expectancy of about three to four years. But offset these costs in the long-term against the rising expenditure in repairing the dinosaurs on your desks and it might make a lot more sense to just invest in newer, fitter machines.
7. Leaving Yourself Exposed
It is vital that your company’s IT system is protected against all kinds of calamities that could end your enterprise in a single stroke. If you take the time to plan for doomsday then you might just survive it. What about if your office floods and destroys all your machines, and, more pertinently, the data that is on it? You will need to have backed up all your information on cloud servers. You can also protect your infrastructure from cyber threats and viruses.
8. Cutting Corners with Software
It might be very tempting to illegally download that version of Microsoft Office to save your company money when it is just starting out. But pirating software can result in fines and the arrival of malware into your system.
9. Using Home Equipment to Run Your Business
Yes, your business may be small. But do not expect that the same hardware and software that you use at home will be robust enough to power your company. When things go wrong, and they will if they can’t cope with your tech traffic – then you will regret not investing in something more appropriate for your business model. When your company experiences downtime due to a painfully slow internet connection, it is the company’s coffers that will suffer in the long run.
10. Skimping on Training
You can save your business a lot of money if you ensure that your staff are qualified to operate hardware and navigate software. To some, it might seem that understanding how to use a printer or how to work a spreadsheet might be learned as you go. However, if your new employee accidentally wipes your accounts from last year, or causes physical damage to your printer, then you only have yourself to blame for not making sure they were trained in the first place.
Remember – most of these pitfalls can be avoided by careful planning and having priorities in order. Yes, they might require more investment than is available to a new business right from the outset – but they might prevent a lot of headaches further down the line!