06/27/13

Key Tech Tools to Help Your Small Business Outsmart the Competition

Happy owner of a cafe showing open signThe number of online marketing tools on the Internet can be overwhelming for any entrepreneur or small business. Every week, there’s a new site for this, a new app to track that and a new person to follow for everything else. With all this information swirling around your world, an entrepreneur must be able to step back, take stock, focus and ask:

Internet usage is skyrocketing (about 2. 4 billion people globally have Web access, according to Internet World Stats) and the amount of information available is nearly incomprehensible. Managing the data and making the information work for businesses is crucial to a small business. With the right tools, your small business can find niches to compete effectively in your industry.

Below is a snapshot of some of the tools available to small business owners and entrepreneurs to help you gain a competitive edge. Check out some main categories of those tools, and specific examples of some reputable tools in each category:

Social Media Management

Most small business owners know they need to use social media consistently. SMBs and entrepreneurs should know that being on Facebook and Twitter for your online fans is important to your branding and customer work. You already know social media is critical to your success. Try these tools:

Live Chat Support

Customer service on the web is a crucial aspect of a SMB’s life. You can answer your web visitor’s questions by offering live chat support through services like live chat at Liveperson.com. With it, a small chat window pops up on user screens and the business owners can dictate what happens within that user interaction. Web visitors are looking for quick answers from web sites, so having live chat is a smart idea.

Daily Deals Websites

A recent Constant Contact survey shows that business owners are finding daily deals websites to be their top tool for attracting new business. Offering new and existing customers a chance to try your service or product at a discount has resonated with consumers. You get new customers, and your customers get to try you out with less pressure on the pocketbook.

Groupon is the biggest daily deal player, but there are hundreds of competitors, so you have a plentiful base of competitors from which to choose. Some of the more notable players include: LivingSocial, Saveology, BuyWithMe and many more local and regional providers.

Marketing Automation

Many SMBs have found ways to automate and centralize marketing processes. This may include the types of work around SEO, blogging, social media management, content marketing, sales calls to action, and lead generation and follow-up. The top competitors for small-to-medium-sized businesses in this rapidly-growing arena include Hubspot, Infusionsoft, Marketo and Eloqua.

Marketing automation services are fairly large – with revenues running into the tens of millions of dollars. Some of them are public companies, while others are gearing up to go public. It’s a unique service to SMBs and entrepreneurs to help consolidate and streamline marketing processes.

Mobile App Development

Going mobile with your tools can be a great move for your small business. But before you do, make sure your business has a clear use for one and can justify the ROI. Creating an app just to be cool and join the crowd won’t add any growth to your business. Get your in-house staff to generate your own app with a app tool from AppyPie. Other tools include Infinite Monkeys or AppMakr. The latter 2 options are free, but they force you to view ads when using their app. However, for a fee, you can have those removed.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Advertising on the web can be great for your business. PPC may be the solution that saves the day. Most people use Google, but Bing (formerly MSN), and Yahoo have their own networks too. Be careful, though — set your budgets lightly at first, as PPC costs can skyrocket out of control quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing. Consider hiring a company to do the work for you (probably the better option). SEO/internet marketing companies handle this process, but firms do exist that exclusively work with PPC. They’ll examine factors such as keywords, page directs, text ads and much more.

Hopefully this content helps entrepreneurs and small businesses understand the tools available to make their business grow online and offline. Use the tool to do the job at a price your budget can handle.

Daniel_StelterDan Stelter is a freelance business/finance web writer and currently runs his own web content firm. Connect with Dan here: Twitter or Google+

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