In today’s connected world, technology can make your business more competitive and you more efficient. It can also cause a lot of headaches if you don’t have the knowledge to communicate needs or track progress.
The following tech skills are relatively easy to learn and will let you keep up with all the changes technology is creating in the business world. By mastering these skills you will keep your business safer, reduce your reliance on outside help, and improve your customer outreach.
- Cyber Security
While recent news has been all about breaches at large companies, it must be pointed out that attacks on small businesses have been rising also. Many people believe it cannot happen to them, but it can and will if you are not prepared. Not only can hackers get financial data that can ruin your business, they might be able to use information from your system to access other businesses. While securing your network might be a more technical job than you want to tackle, you should know what areas must be addressed: antivirus and antispyware software, firewalls, and controlling access.
- Antivirus and antispyware software will block malignant programs from running on your computers. If you are connected to the internet, at some point a virus will try to run on your system, so these security programs can save you from lost time and money spent on cleaning up hard drives.
- Firewalls keeps hackers and malignant programs from getting into your network. They come in both hardware and software varieties. Using the two types together will prevent the most intrusions. Unfortunately, they can both be rather complex to setup. While you should know what they are doing, and their capabilities, you might want to have an IT professional install these pieces.
- Controlling access involves limiting what data your employees have access to and limiting what can be copied onto portable storage devices. It also involves requiring strong passwords,making sure they are changed regularly and anytime an employee leaves.
- Securing Data
After you have set up firewalls and security measures to keep people out of your computers, you need to address securing your data. While hackers stealing your data, or even worse, locking you out and ransoming your data is one concern, you also need to consider equipment failure. Both of these can be mitigated by backing up your data. If you have a good backup policy, lost data can be restored easily. There are several options for backup, but basically you are either backing up to local storage or to the cloud. Luckily, if for some reason your backups fail, there is the final option of data recovery. However, testing your backups and ensuring they are occurring is your best and lowest cost way to secure date.
- Email Marketing
Email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with existing clients and convert website visitors to clients. Through well-crafted campaigns, you can keep your business at the top of your customers minds, for much less cost than print, radio, or television advertising.
There are several services that you can use to craft and send email campaigns, including MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Campaign Monitor. When choosing which service to use, review what type of analytics each provides, as well as variety of templates and ease of list maintenance.
- Understand Social Media
Many of us use social media for our personal lives and think that it will be easy to convert this knowledge to our small business. However, when we actually try to implement it, often we forget that it should be a dialogue and interesting. We will spend all our time pushing our products or deals, instead of engaging our customers.
When you are a one person or small team business, it can be hard to find the time to effectively use social media. However, it is worth the effort, especially if your target audience is those age groups that have fully embraced it. To make it easier, use a social media management tool. They allow you to access all your social media accounts from one interface. Each program will have its strengths, so decide what is more important to you. Consider features such as greater control over when something posts, better analytics, or maybe better monitoring of what others are saying. A couple of favorites are HootSuite and Buffer.
- Accounting Software
If you are lucky enough to have an accountant or bookkeeper, this might not be such a big deal. However, many small business owners do their own financial paperwork. While it could be done through excel, or even on paper, there are distinct advantages to accounting software. These programs will have built in processes to help you follow generally accepted accounting principles, provide an audit trail, have easy to create reports, and they will make tax time much easier. In addition, if you do start out doing your own books, once you are able to hand it over to a someone else, the transition will be much easier.
So many of us are attached to our smartphone and this is doubly true for many business owners. Their phone allows them to stay connected as they are run from meeting to meeting. The right apps will make your phone even more valuable. There are apps for productivity, team collaboration, project management, and expense tracking. The biggest problem might be deciding which ones to use. Don’t get too bogged down deciding which ones to use or try to use too many. Find four to six that will help you stay organized and productive and stop there.
- HTML and CSS/Wordpress
Probably one of the biggest changes for small business today is the website. You can own a business without one, but you will be missing out on a lot of opportunities to reach clients. Even the Yellow Pages have gone digital. Luckily, there are many ways to get your business online without spending a fortune. This is why it is important for small business owners to know either HTML and CSS or WordPress. You could conceivably build your own website with knowledge of either of these, but it will definitely make it possible for you to make changes without having to call a programmer. This makes the prospect of a website more manageable and cost effective.
- Web Analytics
The term big data is all the rage right now, and with good reason. Through the collection and analysis of data, corporations are able to make better decisions quickly. Most small businesses do not have access to as much data, but they do have a rich source available to them through their website. By installing an analytics program (Google Analytics is a great one for small businesses) on your website, you will be able to track how many people visit your website, which pages they view and how long they stay. You can also see how they got there and if they came from your social media page. This is all great information about your customers, allows you to see what interests them, and what works and what doesn’t, and gives your pointers on how to increase your website traffic.
- Understand SEO
One final piece of the website knowledge is understanding search engine optimization. SEO helps determine where your site is shown in Google when someone searches for your category of products or services. However, it is not a simple process and it has a language all it’s own. Proper SEO can dramatically improve the performance of your website, so it is an important part of any website. Whether you take a seminar or just do some research on your own, learn about the different pieces of the process. Then you can decide to how involved you want to get in optimizing your website.
The growth and implementation of technology is not going to slow down. Having these skills will allow you to continue growing your business and improve your chance of success.
Guest Writer – Valerie Jocums
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