In tough economic times, it’s important for small businesses to get as much bang for their buck as possible. Online and electronic tools can often allow you to make the most out of limited resources.
Here are five essential tools for businesses on a budget:
1. Company website
It seems like an obvious one to start with. Very few small businesses these days operate without a company website but not every business makes the most of their site’s potential. Your website serves as a virtual shop window. For many customers it’s their first port of call when they want to find out more about you, your products and services.
Your website should be engaging but it should also be functional, allowing visitors to achieve the task they want to in a simple and streamlined fashion. If you have customers overseas, you might want to look into website localisation. Online search is also increasingly going mobile, and mobile optimised websites are increasingly being seen as a must-have.
2. Reputation monitoring
Whether you have a strong online presence or not, the chances are that your customers are having a conversation about you online. There are numerous companies offering online reputation monitoring services but a good free tool is Google Alerts. This allows you to enter a keyword (such as your company name) and receive email alerts whenever that keyword is mentioned in Google’s search results. You can easily monitor the online conversation and respond or take remedial measures as appropriate.
3. Communication tools
Emails might have overtaken the humble telephone as the most convenient way to communicate, but there are still times when talking to another human being is more appropriate or far more likely to yield better results. Video conferencing systems are now far more streamlined than the jerky picture of early efforts, and even budget personal laptops now usually come complete with inbuilt cams. Professional systems allow intercity and international meetings without the hassle and expense of travel. Skype is a well known brand offering both voice and multimedia communications and can be useful in business as well as private use.
4. Accounting software
Keeping meticulous accounts is essential in any business, both for tax purposes and in keeping a grip on your company finances. A comprehensive online account management tool is ideal, providing a simple way to record all the money that goes in and out of the business. In-house staff can keep records without accountancy training or expertise and, as data is being stored online your accountant can access the information he needs at a remove.
5. Payroll software
Similarly, online payroll software can help streamline another essential process. UK companies have undergone something of an upheaval this year, being obliged to comply with new Real Time Information (RTI) rules.
This means that information relating to all employees’ pay must be submitted to HMRC electronically as and when they’re paid, as opposed to annually as was previously the case. Good quality payroll software can streamline the process and help you comply with the new rules.