3 Technologies to Help You Take Advantage of the Economic Recovery
by smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
- Created: August 17, 2009, 4:38 pm
- Updated: January 28, 2011, 8:41 am
Twenty-seven economists polled by
the Wall Street Journal said that the Great Recession is over*.
Maybe you agree with those
economists - or maybe you don't. Perhaps
it doesn't feel like it's over, to you.
I don't know whether these
economists are right or wrong.
But I do know this: ALL recessions eventually end. At some point I assure you there will be an
end ... and customer demand will pick up. Companies
and consumers will loosen the purse strings.
When the recovery happens, you
want to be ready to jump on opportunities.
If the recession's been tough on your business, consider the recovery a
time for a reboot. With that in mind,
here are 3 tools that can help your small business sell more and do so
profitably, as the recovery takes hold:
1) CRM Software
CRM stands for 'customer relationship
management.' Now on the one hand managing your customer
relationships sounds like motherhood and apple pie. It's hard to argue against it. The real
question is, what does customer relationship management add to your bottom
line? How important is it?
Let me drive the point home in
dollars and cents. It's a lot cheaper to
retain existing customers and sell more to them, than it is to go out and find
new customers. According to Brent Leary, Principal of CRM
Essentials*: 'Even in good economic conditions it can be 10 times
more expensive to bring on new customers as it is to keep the ones we
have. Small businesses are turning to CRM applications to help extend
relationships with current customers, while increasing opportunities to connect
with prospects more efficiently.'
In other words, CRM helps you do
a better job at satisfying and retaining existing
customers, and organizing your sales efforts so that you can cross-sell them additional
products and services. CRM also helps you go after new customers efficiently.
And you spend less money getting sales, because CRM automates routine
functions and takes labor costs out of many activities.
One of the key metrics I urge you
to start tracking if you don't already, is 'customer acquisition cost.' Know what it costs you to get a new
customer. When you start tracking that
metric, you will begin to appreciate the dollars-and-cents value of CRM.
2) Email Marketing Solution
Email marketing is a fantastic
way to market to existing customers - at one-fifth or less of the cost of
direct mail (snail mail). One website
offers a side by side comparison of the cost of an email mailing versus a paper
mailing. The results? According to their figures*, it would cost
$48,620 and 17 days to execute a direct mail campaign to 50,000 addresses,
versus $650 and 6 hours to execute an email marketing campaign.
Whether you agree those numbers
are accurate or not, one thing you can't quibble with: there's a real cost
advantage for email over snail mail.
That's due largely to direct mail having high costs in paper and postage
- with email you don't have that.
There are many email marketing
software solutions on the market today that automate the entire process -->
However, I caution you not to assume that email marketing is right for every situation. Paper direct mail still is a far better way to get NEW customers. With email marketing, you must have permission before you can market to someone (usually through a double opt-in process where someone goes through 2 actions to sign up for an email list). That means it is much more difficult to use email to prospect for new customers with whom you have no existing relationship. Prospecting for new customers is one situation when email marketing has not replaced paper direct mail - here are some other situations*.
3) Website Analytics
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that putting up a website is a one-time event. You get it launched - great! Other than refreshing the content now and then, you think you're off scott free and can go do other things.
No wonder so many companies end up dissatisfied with their Web presence. They're not doing anything to actively work it!
Websites are living breathing organisms. In fact, today you can think of your Web presence as an ecosystem. You have a presence in microcommunities (i.e., other websites, including social media sites) and those presences work together with your website. And then there are the search engines, which index your website's pages for various keywords, and bring potential customers to your virtual door when they search for those keywords. It's all dynamic and constantly changing and evolving.
It is crucial to know about your website traffic, if you want your website to help get sales. Because if you don't know what's happening on your website, how can you know what to improve?
Install a good analytics package. Google Analytics is free and is a solution that many small businesses start with. Examine the data it generates, regularly. It's a goldmine!
(1) It tells you where your traffic is coming from. You will see which sites or search engines are sending visitors; which keywords or search terms people used to get there; the links they clicked on. This can tell if you need to develop more inbound links, or do a better job with content for more relevant search terms, and so on.
(2) It tells you information about your visitors. You'll learn which countries they come from; which days and times they like to visit; which browsers they use; even what screen resolution they have. This tells you who you are appealing to, and provides design considerations for your website.
(3) It tells you what's working in your website - and what isn't. You will see how long people stay, which pages they abandon, or whether they are converting to paying customers from particular online ads but not others. This will help you improve your website, your graphics and content, and your online ad campaigns. Sometimes a small change (moving a graphic from one spot to another, or a change in wording) makes a big improvement.
In conclusion, the above 3 tools are not the only ones, but they are worth their weight in gold. They will not only help you sell more, but do so cost effectively and efficiently.
*This hyperlink goes to a non-governmental web site.
About the Author
My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 4 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.
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