It is often said that small businesses are the engines of the economy. Small and nimble, they are able to deploy resources and explore ideas with a speed and free-wheeling character that larger enterprises cannot match. Historically, however, this size has also been a disadvantage as small businesses have struggled to overcome the same barriers of entry into the marketplace that larger firms also face. Recently, small businesses have begun to take advantage of the Internet as a way to level the playing field, increase efficiency and maximize profits. Working to the advantage of small businesses, the availability of high speed internet with unlimited data limits is much greater thanks to companies like Exede, the most consistent ISP in North America in terms of speed.
Marketing via Social Media
The Internet has made costs of marketing and advertising almost completely scalable; businesses no longer face exorbitant upfront costs when they use services like Google AdSense. Now, small businesses can use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to market their products to their most loyal customers without spending a dime. These services, looking to find novel ways to monetize their huge user bases, now also allow advertisers to reach new customers at low, and entirely scalable, cost.
Today, many small businesses encourage their customers to “like” them on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter. This allows the enterprises to push product and marketing information directly to these customers, whose interest has already been demonstrated, at no cost. While this a great marketing avenue, social media is no longer JUST a marketing channel. Social media has become more of a customer experience channel where you communicate and engage your current and potential customers.
Sales Using an e-Commerce Solution
For firms that sell conventional products, one of the largest costs of doing business is maintaining a sales staff. While there is no replacement for a skilled salesman and the accompanying client relationship, small businesses that adopt an e-commerce solution, a way of selling products to customers over the internet, may be able to trim the size of their sales staffs and increase the company’s efficiency. If existing customers who know what they want can place orders directly over the Internet, salespeople can spend less of their time entering data into computers and more time developing relationships and selling products to new clients. While it certainly feels like e-commerce has taken over, Jet.com founder Marc Lore reports that just 8% of all U.S. retail sales occur online; a number that he expects to skyrocket in 2016.
Connecting Customers with Each Other
Companies of all sizes doing business online are quickly realizing that many of the services that were once provided to customers by the firm, sometimes at substantial expense, can instead be provided by other customers over the Internet and at little to no cost. Businesses of all sizes now routinely create online communities where customers can answer each other’s questions about products, share experiences and even provide technical support. After incurring the modest costs of setting up and moderating these communities, small businesses can realize savings in terms of reduced and more efficient technical support and sales staffs.
Outsourcing Projects Inexpensively
There are a lot things that have to be done to get a small business off the ground, at least some of which will be beyond the expertise of the firm’s small number of employees. Going outside the company, or outsourcing, is a common way to get tasks like graphic or web design completed for much less than the costs of taking on a new employee. However, outsourcing, especially of technical work, can still be expensive.
Recently, online outsourcing communities like upwork.com have greatly reduced the cost of obtaining one-off work. Whereas in the past small business would have to work through an outsourcing consultancy or local connections, these websites connect firms directly with qualified freelancers around the world. The increased pool of available workers both increases the chance of finding someone capable of doing the required task and, through competition, drives down the prices.
By employing these four practices, and by always looking for new ones, small businesses can use the Internet to decrease costs, increase efficiency and raise the bottom line. No matter where you may be, your business can use a high speed internet plan to your advantage and help move your small business forward!