Digital technology is hot. Start-ups are flourishing, the data scientist has been declared as “the coolest job of the 21st century,” and coding has established street credibility (even a common requisite across departments outside of IT or web development). Consumers are enjoying a multitude of connected devices and applications, enabling them to become more astute, social, and empowered. Businesses are leveraging technologies such as CRM platforms, project management tools, and collaborative communication applications improve customer engagement, innovation, operation processes, and decision-making. As a result, technology platforms and capabilities to support digital transformation are continuously evolving.
In this age of fast digital transformation, brand-new innovations have opened new possibilities and created difficulties, essentially transforming customer experiences, operating models and our work. So it’s no surprise that organizations of all sizes, especially small and medium-sized companies, are turning to technology to fuel growth and remain competitive.
75% of small business respondents agree that using new technology effectively is key to their company’s survival and growth and that technology is reshaping their business models and their industries.
The benefits of using technology for business growth are:
- Agility – With different innovations and trends continuously evolving, it is essential for the business to be agile and remain current to keep your competitive edge and grow. Agile business models generate more revenue compared to non-agile counterparts.
- Decision making – Technology enables the mining of a large amount of real-time data. Companies with access to accurate and effective data grow faster by 35% each year. Real-time data helps to make informed business decisions, which helps make continuous improvements and business growth.
- More Profit – Smart investment in technology is the key to greater business growth. Incorporating new technology automates many business processes like accounting, customer service, communications, and marketing; allowing your team to concentrate on strategies that drive business growth.
- Increased security – The business cyber-threat landscape is rapidly evolving so too is our security defense software solutions and security methods to protect your organization from hackers and nefarious cyber profiteers. From anti-virus to firewalls to digitally linked security systems, digital protection is under continuous innovation to protect your team from any unforeseen incidents that could prove to be dangerous for the business.
Technologies That Drive Business Growth
Whether you’re B2B or B2C – the technology, software, and applications you use can create a strong foundation to catapult your business forward or mutate into parasitic vines that choke your organization and employees of their full potential. We’ve identified three areas of technology that every modern business must have to accelerate business growth and remain competitive.
Customer Relationship Management Technology
CRM solutions have had an immensely positive impact on nearly every facet of business operations. Implementing an effective CRM strategy today is essential to your growth, your customers expect timely responses and personalized communications. A CRM will help you understand your prospects and customers to create scalable 1:1 personalized experiences buyers demand.
Five Ways CRMs Benefit Business:
- The average return on investment of a CRM is $8.71 for every dollar spent. (source: Nucleus Research)
- CRM applications can help increase sales by up to 29%, sales productivity by up to 34% and sales forecast accuracy by 42%. (source: Salesforce)
- Outbound and inbound call tracking, CRM technology helps your business track calls or route calls about different products to the correct representative. CRMs help client success managers and representatives prioritize calls and log them saving you hours throughout the year.
- CRM helps to understand the customers and cater to their needs. It helps to understand a customer’s taste, preferences and buying habits and provide the service and products accordingly which increase customer retention and business value.
- Many CRMs offer workflow and marketing automation that enhance your prospect and customer journeys with deep integrations that enable you to leverage a better-personalized experience to keep customers happy and propel prospects from the first touch to a signed contract at a pace not feasible 10 years ago.
While CRMs vary by use-case and industry, here are three key players you’ll want to check out first when looking for a CRM.
ActiveCampaign is a marketing platform with a price tag small and medium sized business can love. ActiveCampaign’s Plus edition starts at $49 per month with up to 25 users, unlimited email sending, CRM features like contact, account and deal management, built in marketing and sales automation with an easy-to-use intuitive user interface, contact and lead scoring, deep data integrations with over 250 of the most popular apps plus Zapier, SMS marketing and conditional content. By far, it’s the one of the most feature-rich Customer Relationship Marketing tools available with advanced marketing automation features, all bundled, in a package that’s built to help you achieve the hyper-growth you desire without damaging the bank account. Compare ActiveCampaign to Hubspot’s features and you’ll find that at 1,000 contacts – you’ll receive equivalent features and save $750 each month. Plus if you need live support, you’ll be happy to know a representative can be reached via live chat within minutes.
Well-known for creating the buzz around inbound marketing, Hubspot offers a 100% free CRM with a 1 million record contact limit and most of the essential features SMBs need keep up with prospects and customers like contact, company, and deal management, as well as website activity tracking, task and activity management so your team stays on top of each micro-commitment through the sales journey. Hubspot’s free Marketing Hub supports pop-up forms, external form tracking, 2,000 email sends per month, limited ad management, live chat, and essential reporting features.
If you are a startup or do not have an established digital marketing strategy with adequate resources, HubSpot’s free editions will get you started. However, most organizations will require HubSpot’s Professional Marketing Hub starting at $800 per month. While their free CRM will get you traveling down the right path, if you actually want to grow your business by aligning sales and marketing, you’ll quickly find that the cost of contacts after the first 1,000 may quickly scale outside of your planned budget.
Salesforce dominates the worldwide CRM market with 19.5% market share, standing out among other options thanks to its high customizability, basically limitless integration opportunities, numerous apps and add-ons available and regularly released upgrades and innovations. While it’s a great platform overall, be forewarned that the prices can quickly increase you need specific features. Salesforce Essentials starts at just $25 per user per month providing your team with the basic like account, contact, lead and opportunity management, email integrations with Gmail and Outlook, and a mobile app to support your team on the go. However, if you require a full-featured CRM with integrations and more advanced administration features, you’ll need Salesforce’s Professional edition at $75.00 per month to effectively support small to midsize deployments in Sales Cloud.
Project Management Solutions
Project by definition is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Leveraging project management software will help you track processes, tasks, and goals to ensure you stick to your schedule. In other words, the purpose of project management is to plan and manage a project to successfully complete its listed goals and deliverables. It involves identifying and managing risks, careful resource management, smart budgeting, and clear communication across multiple teams and stakeholders. Project management software tools help pinpoint problems and organize business responsibilities.
How Project Management Technology Benefits Your Business:
- In an international survey of 1,534 business, 97% of respondents stated that project management is critical to business performance and organizational success. Furthermore, 94% agreed that PM enables business growth (PwC Global PM Survey)
- In contrast – only 23% of organizations use standardized project management practices across the entire organization. 33% use standardized practices, but not across all departments. While a small portion – 7% – of organizations don’t use any standard practices at all. (PMI)
- Project management software helps your team define goals, stay focused and aligned through each client deliverable with accountability and reporting that offers transparency across the entire organization
- Project management technology allows your organization to identify and triage internal roadblocks. Fix impediments at the source and streamline client deliverables to ensure your organization is functioning at optimal capacity like a well-oiled machine.
Three Project Management Tools Worth Checking Out:
One of the most well-known project management applications. Asana is a project management solution for small and large organizations to track and collaborate project workflows. We’ve used Asana internally and love the easy-to-use interface. Asana’s free Basic plan comes with all the vital task management features you need like task imports, member assignment, due dates, Kanban and list views, basic search, and best of all the free plan supports teams up to 15 users. If you’re looking for more robust features like task dependencies, start dates, custom templates, milestones or custom fields, Asana’s Premium plan starts at just $9.99 per month.
Acquired by Atlassian in 2017, Trello provides an intuitive visual way for your team to collaborate without missing granular details. Trello unites a plethora of project management and collaboration functions, and ensures employees have a private channel to communicate, follow updates, and discuss projects in real time. Trello’s free plan offers unlimited personal boards, cards and lists, with 10 team boards, simple task automations and two-factor authentication for enhanced security. At $9.99 per month, Trello’s Business Class plan offers advanced automations, custom fields, 250MB file attachments, and enhanced administration features.
For established teams of 20+ with some project management budget, you may find Wrike to be the perfect management tool that comes with enterprise-level security and scalability. With Gantt charts, calendars, workload views for resource management, custom dashboards, and auto-assignment workflows based on task statuses. Wrike enables you to collaborate effectively, across internal and remote workers with an easy to use user interface, straight-forward features and built-in time tracking, you’ll be able to ensure your team delivers on time, every time. Wrike is considered a leader in the project management space for creative teams, Wrike’s award-winning software for creatives lets you keep internal teams, external creative agencies, and clients happy and on the same page.
Building a Culture of Open Communication
Finally, you need to be sure that your business has the communication capabilities it needs to be successful. Looking back, most of us have likely worked for a company with a disconnected digital culture. Was it fun? Probably not.
It’s a common problem within startups and growing companies, departments become siloed, everyone is busy focused solely on the individual task at hand, and in most cases, employees often may have no idea what’s going on in other departments. Customer support, sales, marketing, and executive teams appear to operate on different wavelengths. When critical information doesn’t flow between departments, these silos can crush productivity, stifle growth, and ultimately create a disconnected culture that increases employee disengagement, distrust and diminishes confidence in the direction of your business.
Instituting a transparent workplace by practicing open, clear communications across departments builds confidence, solidarity, and aligns disconnect departments in a way that builds confidence and keeps your employees engaged with a “we” attitude versus “them”. Practicing collaborative leadership aims to bring managers, executives, and staff out of silos to work together, sharing information organically so that everyone takes responsibility for the whole organization.
Recommended Communication Apps
Having the right tool in place that allows you to transition from internal to external communications with ease can help you better communicate with customers and employees to drive an open digital culture that accelerates business growth. Here’s our take on the two leaders worth investigating:
Teams was built from the ground up to support a digital workforce and build an open-collaborative digital culture by keeping all your chats, conversations, online meetings, tasks, and shared files within a single application and interface. Keep everyone on the same page and prevent inbox overflow with well-thought-out channels. You can post your message in a relevant channel, @-mention the people or group of people that need to know while leaving the message available for all members to read if they want. Help make work fun again – employees can use emojis as well as gifs to respond and recognize one another, thereby increasing engagement and creating a fun collaborative atmosphere across departments. If you already have Office 365, Microsoft Teams comes free with virtually all features unlocked (Business Premium is required for Audio Conferencing), and comes free for everyone with the essential chat features that integrate with all your Office products even if you don’t have an Office 365 account.
Effective collaboration and open communication impacts the success of a single project and contributes your overall culture. It’s no surprise, Slack is recognized as the fastest-growing collaborative workplace software in history, with features that employees love like custom emoji, memes and gifs as well as a constant evolution of technology more effective communication. Slack allows your team to communicate effectively internally and externally with clients with well-organized channels and an intuitive natural interface. Slack has a free option that provides 10,000 searchable messages, ten native apps to increase productivity, 1-to-1 video calls and two-factor authentication.
Bonus Tip – Empower Your Employees to Recognize Wins:
Bonusly is a relatively new personal recognition and rewards application that allows everyone in your organization to publicly recognize another by giving small bonuses that add up to meaningful rewards. While not a substitute for a collaborative communications application like Microsoft Teams or Slack, you can add Bonusly as an additional tool to build a scalable culture of recognition by empowering everyone to recognize their peers, direct reports, and managers. Encourage frequent and timely recognition by integrating with the communication tools your employees use every day, like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts. If your executives or HR are looking for a solution to boost morale and increase employee engagement, and you have the resources to show your employees a little more love, you may want to investigate if Bonusly is right for your business.
Cybercriminals do not discriminate in what business sizes they are willing to target – and the more successful your business becomes, the larget of a target you’ll become.
Considering this unpleasant reality, up-to-date security practices, and solutions that provide comprehensive protection are a crucial element to your business’ technology. By carefully selecting the right solution, you are more likely to minimize and outright avoid the threats that are out there – including ones that leverage automation.
There’s a lot at stake today – 22% of businesses with less than 1,000 employees are forced to cease operations immediately after a ransomware attack. (Malwarebytes). If your servers, client data, confidential and propriety information are compromised, you might find yourself looking for a new job instead of leading an organization.
IT Support Guys stands on the front-line to protect your business and reputation from cyber threats.
Information Technology plays can play a pivotal role in growing your business. Not all technology and technology partners are created equal. Investing in the right technology and managed IT solutions partner helps ensure your team reaches the growth targets you desire. When you partner with IT Support Guys, you’ll receive the technology and software expertise you need at a cost-effective price point. IT Support Guys continues to provide outsourced IT for small to mid-sized businesses since 2006. Call us today at (855) 448-4897 – we’ll help you identify the optimal applications and technology to catapult your business forward in today’s age of fast digital transformation.