Small Business Owners Lagging in Technology. Is that You?

tech leaders

Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by Capital One Spark. All the comments and opinions are my own.

Looking forward to the November presidential election, pundits are already saying that the candidate who best leverages digital analytics and marketing is likely to win.

The same is true in small business.

That’s why the results of a Capital One’s Spark Business Barometer should be a wakeup call for many small business owners. Here are some of the findings:

  • Only 21 percent of small business owners are currently using data analytics to help them make business decisions.
  • Some 40 percent of all small business owners are not using social media in their businesses at all.

Of the owners who do use social media, only 26 percent are “very familiar” with the ways to take advantage of commerce opportunities and market their products via social media.
Tech savvy small business owners have several ways they can use a wide range of new tools to get an edge on the competition. Smart use of technology and other available modern offerings will help you lower costs, make smarter decisions, and boost sales – just to mention the main categories. Let’s look at some highlights in each of these areas.

Lower costs

Productivity is often what separates the winners from the losers, and small business owners must be constantly on the lookout for anything that boosts productivity, even marginally. In the long run, it’s almost always a long string of small productivity improvements that delivers high profitability.

Cloud services are a major player in lowering costs and improving productivity. It can be as simple as efficient file sharing and document handling via something like DropBox or Office365. Or if your office is still tied down to an ancient fax machine, you need to check out services like Adobe FormsCentral and DocuSign.

Whenever something can be done more easily online through the cloud, it delivers a productivity boost. And remember, time saved in one area of your operation can be invested in another area. This makes it especially attractive to streamline legacy operations, and this is certainly true with the various cloud-based accounting and billing options you have today. For service providers who invoice billable hours, a cloud-based app like OfficeTime, for example, will greatly improve productivity and help prevent losing any billable time.

Since we’re on the topic of lowering costs, let me step “out of the cloud” for a moment and point out another area where many small businesses are missing the boat, according to the Capital One survey.

Although a majority of small business owners have business credit cards, only 29 percent use rewards to pay for business expenses. Further, only 10 percent say they use rewards to boost their bottom lines.

You know, the yearly fee you pay for your business credit card isn’t tied to how often you use it, yet only 17 percent of small business owners say they use their business credit card as their primary method of making business purchases. A majority of small business owners continue to rely onusing savings or checking accounts. What’s the cost of those checks? Do you get rewards for writing checks?

If you found more ways to use your business credit card, you would enjoy more rewards that could filter down to your bottom line.

Make smarter decisions

We’re in a lot of “Ages” today, but the “Information Age” may be the biggest and most important. The small business owner with the best information is in the strongest position moving forward. However, we can also suffer from information overload, so it’s important to discern what information is most important for your small business and then find the best ways to get and use that information.

When we’re talking about data analysis to drive decision making, we could divide it into two parts: macro and micro views. By this I mean analyses that look at groups of prospects and tools that look at individual prospects or customers.
For example, something like Google Analytics or heat map software will show you how groups of users navigate your website and help you uncover ways you can improve. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) apps will let you drill down to the behavior of individuals so you can target messages better and improve the timing of your offers, which takes us to our third topic.

Boost sales

You’ve probably noticed that there is an interconnectedness when we discuss these topics. If you make smarter decisions about the behavior of your prospects, you should wind up with greater sales. However, as the Capital One survey discovered, many small business owners are also missing out on some straight-forward Internet-based marketing and sales opportunities.

A lot of the popular social media platforms are implementing “buy now” buttons, but I don’t think very many small business owners are taking advantage of them yet. Further, Facebook has done an incredible job building an interface that helps small business owners put their ads in front of their best prospects, but it takes some patience to learn the system. Twitter is also doing a good job with its targeted advertising program.

These social media advertising and sales systems are going to be increasingly important for the future success of small businesses. However, as I cited from the Capital One survey at the top, 40 percent of small business owners are not using social media at all!

Ignore them at your own peril.