6 Essential Tools for SMEs in the Digital Age | SMB Compass
Ezra Cabrera | November 28, 2020
Are you a hopeful business owner wondering, “How do I become a successful entrepreneur in the middle of a pandemic?” Although it may seem contradictory to start a business in the midst of an economic crisis, there are some notable benefits that might work in your favor. For instance, with so many people working remotely or out of work, now might be a good time to take advantage of increased free time or to work on your passion project.
In fact, there are several businesses that have thrived in the midst of the pandemic, including new businesses, existing businesses, and businesses that executed smart pivot strategies. There’s also been a rise in “pandemic entrepreneurs”—individuals who launch companies to address challenges incurred as a result of the coronavirus.
While COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we interact and work, you can still make your entrepreneurial dream come true. The key lies in using our existing resources and leveraging them with what’s happening in the world today. You’ll find that many business ideas can still thrive in current times, even if you need to pivot your original concept a bit.
With that in mind, here are six essential tools to help you get started:
Social media has not replaced the power of email marketing. Consumers still consider email to be the preferred method of communication with brands. This is why the email list is considered a marketer’s most powerful asset; it offers a direct line of communication to someone’s digital mailbox, and it’s the online equivalent of having their home address. Build your email list with powerful opt-in forms that add value, whether it means giving away premium content or new user discounts.
Think about an email that compelled you to open it. Why did you open it? How did it make you feel? When you write your email marketing campaign, you’ll know you’ll have written a good marketing email when you can read it and decide that you’d open it if it fell into your inbox.
As previously mentioned, social media isn’t the end-all, be-all for digital marketing like some agencies might have you believe. Specific social media platforms will be more conducive to your business’ goals than others.
For example, if your business marketing relies heavily on imagery or visuals, you’d choose Instagram over Facebook for your social campaign. Pick one appropriate social media platform to promote your business. Master that platform before expanding. When it comes to social media, it is beneficial to get a small amount of strong, organic engagement concentrated on one platform instead of disengaged visitors spread out across various platforms.
But social media isn’t about just starting a few social media accounts and posting with regularity (although this is certainly an important aspect of social media marketing). You should also use social media listening tools to monitor brand mentions, assess and track your competitors, and identify potential opportunities.
Additionally, be sure to use social media management platforms like Hootsuite to ensure your entire social strategy remains cohesive and organized across a variety of channels. One of the most important aspects of a successful social media strategy is planning; leveraging social tools allows you to create calendars that offer a high-level overview of all your social outreach efforts.
Money in versus money out; this basic equation is the backbone of all business. But of course, it’s not as simple as that. If you are trying to find success as an entrepreneur, you will have to become familiar with bookkeeping basics. There is no shortcut for this, unfortunately. However, plenty of bookkeeping software on the market can help you avoid accidentally incriminating yourself in tax fraud or some other fiscal mishap.
There are several important bookkeeping tips you should follow. First and foremost, separate your personal and business finances. As a new business owner, you might inadvertently overlap these two categories—it’s best to nip the habit before it continues. Next, automate wherever you can and sync your bank account with your bookkeeping software. Conduct quarterly reviews to keep an eye out for trends and any discrepancies. Lastly, if you aren’t confident in your ability to handle the numbers—particularly as you grow—hire an accountant or bookkeeper to do this for you.
You’ll still have paperwork you’ll want to share across businesses. In today’s day and age, you utilize a hybrid record-keeping process; having a scanner on hand makes accounting super easy. It’s a breeze to track a company’s expenses if you have all the receipts available in an instant at your fingertips. This is especially true for brick-and-mortar businesses who will be making the transition to remote work due to the pandemic.
Your business can quickly and seamlessly digitize hard copy records with these tools. Digitizing your hard copy records is tedious and time-consuming, but it is well worth it to have a searchable digital database whenever you need it.
Microsoft Office, Adobe, Google Office, and software as a service companies (SaaS) like them are so widely used that it is easy to take them for granted. However, your business needs to commit to a digital office suite that works for you. No matter what your business does, you’ll eventually need a word processor, or spreadsheet maker, or a similar tool. It is important to choose a SaaS that is affordable for your company in the long-term, scalable as your company and its needs grow, and intuitive enough for everyone in your business to learn.
Some small businesses can make 100% of their investment back in revenue through advertising. The trick to advertising is making sure that the advertisements target the audience that is most likely to convert into sales for you.
Avoid casting a wide net in advertising. With the potential for large returns, it’s easy to get carried away investing in advertising. You’ll see the greatest, most consistent returns on your dollar if you really buckle down and do the research to target a niche audience.
Pay particular attention to social media advertising. If the majority of your customers or users are on Instagram, invest in Instagram advertising. An advertising strategy that utilizes the platform your target market is on increases your chances of connecting with the right type of buyers. Overall, social advertising increases brand recognition, doesn’t annoy your targeted audience with intrusive and impersonal ads, and allows you to benefit from advanced targeting options.