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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 26, 2015 • Issue 15:01:02

Techology tools and tips to grow your business

By Vicki M. Daughdrill
Small Business Resouces LLC

Ah, technology. It's either the bane of your existence or the best thing since sliced bread. Depending on your viewpoint, today's technological advances provide great opportunities or serious challenges for your business. It is certain, however, that in our increasingly technological world, it is essential to understand and embrace new and existing business technologies.

Here are some tools and tips to help you utilize technology to efficiently manage and grow your business.

Sales tools

Microsoft Corp.'s PowerPoint software is a highly effective sales tool. It can make extremely compelling, professional sales presentations. Following are 10 tips on how to properly use this software.

  1. The simpler the slide, the better. Keep your slides clean and free of junk or frivolity. Customize them to your individual customer. This easy-to-follow tip leads to a terrific first impression.
  2. Keep it short and sweet. Do not overfill slides with words. Slides should support your oral presentation and not duplicate your comments.
  3. Use animation such as "fly ins" sparingly, and do not use them on each slide.
  4. Use high quality graphics that do not pixilate when enlarged. Be cautious when using clip art; much of it is cartoonish or juvenile. Also, be aware of copyright issues concerning images available on the Internet.
  5. Be sure to use a theme in keeping with your company's brand. You can insert logos, color bands and other identifying markers. Don't use templates available in PowerPoint; they are overused, common and already too familiar to most people.
  6. Charts are always useful on a slide. They add visual interest and can compel
  7. Use color carefully. Select a color theme, perhaps in keeping with your logo or other branding materials, and stick with no more than three colors. Be sure the colors complement each other and are not too close in shade.
  8. Select a sans-serif font such as Helvetica or Arial for your slides. Use the same font throughout the slides and add visual interest by bolding some words or putting some words in italics.
  9. If possible, insert sound or video. These elements can provide just the punch you need, but remember, less is more.
  10. Once you've completed your slides, use the slide sorter to be sure they are in the best order.

Survey Monkey, another outstanding tool, can help you measure how your clients think you are doing. A simple, easy-to-prepare survey will allow customers to tell you whether they are satisfied with your performance and your products. Also, this type of knowledge can provide the opportunity to correct situations before you attempt to close sales.

Today's new reality is online advertising and marketing. If you are going to market your company and your products and services online, you must follow stringent rules. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 describes penalties for companies that violate the law. Among other things, the law requires that each email marketing message include a notice informing recipients that it is an advertisement or solicitation, an opt-out feature, and a valid postal address for the sender.

The Federal Trade Commission pursues individuals and companies that violate this very specific law. If you plan to advertise your business through online marketing, be sure to seek legal advice to assure that you are following both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Communication tools

A number of communication methods can make keeping in touch with your clients easier and more frequent. Here are several actions you can take to keep your name and business in front of your customers.

Fully employ all of your smartphone's features. A phone is no longer just a phone. Your phone can become your greatest business assistant. A brief follow-up email sent via your smartphone after a sales call may win you the client.

  • Create a first-rate website that you keep current and up-to-date.
  • Post best practices from your clients on your website.
  • Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Host webcasts on topics of interest to your clients or customers.
  • Write a blog on contemporary issues that might help your customers become more profitable.
  • Utilize FaceTime or Skype when you cannot conduct a face-to-face meeting.
  • Conduct online conference calls with your staff or clients.
  • Use Constant Contact or a comparable service to email periodic newsletters to clients. This practice allows you to announce new products or services, staff changes, and news about legal issues, changes and other concerns of your clients.

Management tools

With increasing demands on your time, it is vital that you use advanced technologies to manage your business effectively. If you are not using them already, the following business management resources can help you achieve the success you desire. If a particular software program requires a purchase, ask for a 30-day free trial or another type of complimentary demonstration to ensure the software meets your needs.

  • Accounting software: Every business, whether large or small, should be running in-house accounting software. You cannot know where you stand financially without this asset. Even a one-person business needs to track income and expenditures and set up a budget.
  • Contact management software: You need a simple, easy way to keep up with contacts. Numerous software packages are available to assist with organizing and maintaining customer contact information. Don't know which one to pick? Ask your colleagues, friends or family members what they use and how they use it. If possible, select one that will allow you to sort data by different fields such as name, business name, type of business, location, etc.
  • Goal setting software. Once you've established your goals for the year, tracking your progress can be challenging. Numerous free software packages exist to aid you with measuring how well you are advancing toward meeting your goals.
  • Time tracking software. If you have employees, time tracking software is essential. It allows you to track hours worked and also determine what tasks are profitable and which tasks should be eliminated.
  • Calendar and time management software. Whether you use the calendar feature on your smart phone, your desktop computer, your iPad or other device, it is imperative today that you maintain a detailed calendar. And a calendar that will cross devices is the best of all worlds, because you'll be able to access it on the go and schedule appointments immediately without waiting to set the date until you can check your calendar.
  • Expense tracking software. It is increasingly important that you detail all of your time and expenses. Keeping accurate records of your expenses can save you time and hassle and help you complete your tax returns to maximize your deductions.
Former Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steven Ballmer said, "The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential."

Technology is here to stay. Don't be left behind. end of article

Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at vickid@netdoor.com or call her at 601-310-3594.

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