Introducing modern practices into an old-fashioned business
By Adam Blanch
The business world changed with the advent of the internet. For a long time, smaller operators have been able to continue without having to do too much, continuing to manage using invoice books and the yellow pages for marketing. Good service and old-fashioned business practices were sufficient.
Unfortunately, that can't last. The population is using the internet for shopping, communication and supplier engagement in ever larger numbers. But it's not all bad news. Once a business gets over the hump of modernising, there are some real advantages and cost savings. At the very least, these are two aspects of your business you need to address to stay current.
You need to know one thing about modern marketing - Google! It's the world's number one search engine and the place you really need to be. Fortunately, Google makes it both easy and cheap. You can set yourself up on Google for free, using Google Places for Business, Gmail for a top-notch email service, Calendar for planning and task lists, Google Sites for a free website and Blogger for a promotional blog.
In addition, Google Plus gives you intra-business communication, video conferencing, event listings and a bunch of other useful tools. All for free. Spending some money puts you on Google AdWords and can give you access to Google Apps, which is a full suite of business software that is used by some of the world's largest companies to run their operations. With the emergence of location-based advertising, which will explode with the release of Google Glass, not being net savvy will put your business behind your competition.
Google isn't the only operator for some of these things. If you want more than a basic website, then take a look at Wix or WordPress, both of which are either free or very low cost.
A phone call is increasingly a second-level communication device, or what you do after you've purchased. Quotes, information, referrals and inquiries increasingly happen by email, live chat and text message. People want their information without having to wait. At minimum, that means a mobile phone with email, but 'live chat' is emerging as the preferred tool for many people - an instant response from a real person. That doesn't mean you have to spend all day by the computer. There are services you can hire that will answer for you.
Old-fashioned business principles like prompt service and good products still apply, but the channels they go through have changed. Have you reviewed how effective your customer channels are lately?