Every small business owner knows that new technology can be pricey.
But technology can also pay in the form of significant savings-particularly over the long haul.
Savings from technology isn’t just a matter of plugging in a new gizmo and watching the cash roll in. You have to evaluate your priorities and choose the right technology that meets your operating and budgetary requirements.
With that approach in mind, here are seven ways that technology can save your small business money:
1. Cut down on paper use.
Not only is excessive printing expensive, it’s a needless waste of a valuable natural resource. To cut down on printing costs, Andre Preoteasa, IT director at Castle Brands, a New York City importer of premium spirits, suggests investing in a duplex printer: “It can print on both sides of the page-you cut your paper use in half, thus half the cost. It’s particularly valuable when printing draft documents.”
2. Advertise on the Internet.
In years past, companies placed hard copy ads in newspapers and hoped someone would notice. From a budgetary standpoint, that’s far too cavalier an approach to take now. A cost-effective option is advertising on the Internet, which allows easy tracking of results to readily identify what works and what doesn’t. Advertising that simply isn’t pulling its own weight can be eliminated. “We have a measurement tool that can tell where our clients’ leads are coming from and which form of their advertising is working,” says Devin Davis, director of marketing for G5 Search Marketing in Bend, Or. “We have a client in the self storage industry. As a result of their Web presence and online marketing efforts, they have significantly cut marketing costs. In Hollywood, for example, they have cut four separate phone books they were previously advertising in, saving about $100,0000 in just that one market.”
3. Communication above all.
With small business, staying in touch is essential and can save money. To illustrate: if yours is a delivery or on-sight service firm, equipping drivers with Web access phones allows immediate contact with your business. Rather than wasting time and money coming back to base only to head out once more, one quick phone call alerts them to stops they can see while they’re in transit. The same holds true for sales staff, service personnel and others who routinely work away from the office.
4. Don’t buy software on a piecemeal basis.
Software of all sorts is essential to the health and growth of any business. Buying it randomly not only adds to the cost, the question of compatibility comes into question. One way to counteract that is to use programs such as Microsoft’s volume licensing purchase arrangement. Here, you buy licensed software in bulk-cutting upfront costs as well as discounts on upgrades and other follow up services.
5. Make sure your technology is adequately protected.
The financial impact of spammers, hackers and other illegal intrusions on companies’ technology networks is virtually incalculable. There’s human resources lost to fixing the problem, not to mention the expense of repairing and replacing damaged or lost data and files. Make certain your firewalls, anti-spyware and other measures are as current and effective as possible: “That way, you won’t spend tons of money fighting viruses and other problems,” says Preoteasa.
6. Encourage telecommuting.
Saying gas has dropped in price lately is akin to saying that, since your broken leg feels better, you don’t have to bother setting it–neither is a long-term solution to a pivotal problem. One way to address the issue is through telecommuting. To ensure productivity and cut costs managing off-site employees, look into a unified communications system which allows workers to answer incoming calls, conference and collaborate no matter where they happen to be working.
“Conferencing and collaboration tools are no longer (just for) large enterprises,” says Kevin Johnson, director of marketing for Mitel, an Ottawa, Canada communications firm. “Teleworking helps improve accessibility, and saves employees time and money in travel.”
7. Can’t afford it? Meet it halfway.
Talking about the savings inherent in cutting edge technology is one thing-paying for it is another issue. Fortunately, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. If you can’t afford a completely new form of technology, investigate updates and other cost-effective improvements that let you operate more efficiently. Then, invest in the most current technology when your budget allows. “Products such as fixed wireless terminals that serve as a bridge between analog and digital communications can be installed quickly and easily with very little impact to overall business operations,” says Shawn Welsh, vice president of marketing at Telular Corp., a Chicago manufacturer of wireless technology. “Once the business is ready to move to new technologies, the bridging devices can be easily swapped out with little expense.”
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