Myth vs. Reality: 5 commonly held beliefs about using technology in your small business
Guest post from our friends at SCORE (http://blog.score.org)
W. Kenneth Yancey, Jr., CEO
Ken Yancey is responsible for developing SCORE’s business plan and vision as well as coordinating national program efforts and all the association’s management operations. He also directs the efforts of the headquarters staff to serve and support the 370 chapters across the country. Prior to joining SCORE in 1993, Ken was Executive Director at the National Business Association. A graduate of Texas A&M University (BBA/Finance), Ken is a recipient of the USA Freedom Corp Award of Excellence, the ASAE Summit Award, and the BSA Goose Creek District Award of Merit.
Do you routinely use technology tools, such as a smart phone, a laptop, an internet connection in your personal life, and yet still hesitate to use them for your small business because of one or more of these commonly held beliefs? If so, you are not alone. Let’s look at the top 5 myths that small business owners, just like you, believe about using technology in their business. Then, let’s examine the reality behind the myths. You might be surprised by what you uncover.
Myth # 1: “Small businesses can’t afford technology.”
Reality – Many technology solutions are free or low cost, such as social media marketing sites (free) and data storage and backup (low cost). A key starting point is determining your exact business goals and then matching them up with the type of technology tools that will help you reach them. Once you have identified the best type of technology tools for your business, price them out. You may be surprised by how affordable some tech tools are or you may need to look at technology as a longer term investment and factor it in to your business plan.
Myth #2: “Technology can’t do what it promises. I’ve been burned before by false technology promises.”
Reality – This may not be a myth because, unfortunately, it may be something that has actually happened to you. However, it is important to distinguish between the actual technology component and the marketing or sales hype surrounding that component. If this has happened to you, you can use your past experience to focus on your business’ actual needs. This will help you identify a relevant technology solution that will give your business the best return on your investment.
Myth #3: “Technology will put my business at risk. My customer data/trade secrets will be stolen.”
Reality – Being concerned about your database security is extremely important for protecting your valuable data and trade secrets. However, it shouldn’t act as an impediment to establishing your business’ web presence. Many technology solutions exist that address this problem, such as the addition of properly configured firewalls and virus protection software. It is also a good idea to institute a regular procedure for backing up your data and storing it in a safe fireproof location. Finally, don’t forget about password protection for your important files.
Myth #4: “My problem isn’t with technology, it’s with getting my customers to pay. Technology can’t help with that.”
Reality – Actually, technology solutions can help you collect customer payments faster. If your business sells services, review your business’ payment terms. Revise your payment policy to request up-front payment and send all invoices electronically at the time the services are contracted. Simple accounting software can help you keep track of unpaid invoices. Using a customer relation management tool can help you follow up on payments due in a faster and more consistent manner. If your business sells products, determine whether you can offer online payment options or accept credit card payments on your mobile phone. The easier it is for clients to pay, the faster they will pay.
Myth #5: “My product/service can’t be sold using technology.”
Reality – Sometimes asking yourself the right question is the key to finding the right solution. For example, ask yourself: “What would I have to change in the way I do business to sell twice as much this year as last year?” Would adding technology to the mix provide you with a workable answer? Products and services that are unique, such as antique furniture or dog walking services can benefit from a social media marketing campaign. You can use free web-based social media tools to get the word out about your business and its services and products, and ultimately boost your sales. You might also consider creating or re-designing your business’ website to turn your visitors’ interest in your product into a strong desire for your product. And if you make sure that your site has a readily accessible and easy to use e-commerce shopping cart feature, your visitors’ desire for your product can seamlessly be transformed into a sale.
For small business owners seeking to get beyond the myths, one great and free resource is the new “Boosting Your Business Using Technology” workshop from the e-Business Now Program. The workshop tackles and dismantles technology myths, piece by piece, and presents easy to understand case studies of technology solutions that have helped small business owners overcome their business challenges.
You can view it for free online and on-demand at www.ebusinessnow.org/workshops or you can check www.ebusinessnow.org/events to find it offered live by a SCORE chapter near you. Cisco is a proud sponsor of the SCORE e-Business Now program.