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SMB Technology

Maintaining best-of-breed technology is a mountain too high to climb for most.  Today’s world is saturated with so much technology which promises so much.  And like many things in life, a lot don’t deliver on their magnanimous promises.

Instead, consider an approach to technology which gives you some breathing space to make the right decisions.  When new technology is released to the market, instead of believing the marketing hype and diving right in, consider holding off, even if only for a little while.  Allow the early adopters to test and re-test.  The cream will usually rise to the top.  Once real-world analyses have been made, you can then make a much more informed choice on which emerging technologies will have the biggest impact on your SMB.  Here are some current best-of-breed for you to consider:

1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

This is one of the most important and most undervalued digital tools within your business. Essentially, this is the main database of contact, business, task, pipeline and activity data for your company. It really is the cornerstone on which you should build the rest of your sales and marketing stack. It is the “central point of truth”.

A good CRM will allow you to manage your teams, deals and key metrics. As with any good dataset, though, it’s only as good as the data you input. Therefore, it’s critical that your CRM is user-friendly, otherwise your team just won’t keep it up to date.

Here are some best-of-breed CRMs you should factor into your considerations:

NameProCon
HubspotForever free for unlimited contacts. Ability to integrate marketing, service and sales add-ons for a pricePricey when specced up
SalesforceCompletely customisable and integrates with nearly every marketing platform availableImplementation takes quite a bit of upfront time and dollar investment. Typically geared to medium organisations  
PipedriveEasy to setup and use Low monthly costsMay not have all the enterprise features needed for running larger sales teams
Recommended CRM Providers

2. Marketing Automation Software

The next tool in any 21st Century SMB’s arsenal is a good marketing platform. This will allow you to capture lead information, set up email nurture journeys, build marketing workflows, set up landing pages and forms, and start to fill your CRM with useful data.

It’s worth noting there are varying degrees of what constitutes marketing automation and it will depend on what objectives you’ve set for your business as to the best tool for you. Most will give you the option to try-before-you-buy, so you can typically test a couple of platforms before settling on the right fit. It could also be worth investing in a good marketing consultant or agency to help guide you – this will potentially save you some time and money at the front end.

Some platforms worth investigating:

NameProCon
AutopilotHQIntegrates with best-in-class third-party platforms Reasonably priced Can scale as you do Excellent journey management for leadsRequires quite a bit of time to configure correctly with the rest of your platforms
Hubspot Marketing  Complete native integration with a host of features, workflows and integrations out-of-the-box  Can be pricey and probably not suitable for large email database numbers
ActiveCampaignReasonable monthly cost with full lead management Has integrated CRM  No native integrations – you’ll need to rely on Zapier
3 Best-of-Breed Marketing Automation Platforms

3. Social media

This might seem obvious, but you must know where you should be playing in this space based on your customer personas. For example, if you’re a B2B construction company, it’s probably not worth your while setting up a Snapchat or TikTok account. Again, if you target the Asian market, it could be worth investing in a WeChat or Weibo account.

For the record, you should be on at least three social media platforms. This gives you a solid level of presence. Many businesses are on a lot more and have KPIs for each. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of platforms you can try: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and WeChat

A helpful tool for checking the availability of usernames that you can claim for your business is https://namechk.com/. You can also check out Hootsuite or Buffer to help you schedule your social media posts.

4. Website

Your website is the forward-facing part of your business, often referred to as your shopfront. Nothing influences the sales cycle of your company more than this. It allows potential customers to review your products, services and pricing, evaluate options in comparison to your competitors and update their buying criteria.

The content of your website must support the business goal for your site. Is its primarily purpose to be a brochure? A sales platform? A booking system? A price list? A reference manual? Given a clear strategic brief, a good copywriter can take the message you need your target sector to know and turn it into something they want to act on. In Queensland, I’ve found that Search And Site Authoring (www.searchandsite.com.au) are guns at finding just the right words.

So, unless you can showcase your value proposition and effectively drive a call-to-action, then you’re letting potential business go by the wayside. Depending on the type of SMB you run, here are a couple of platforms you can build your website on:

WordPress: Ideal for B2B or corporate sites. Plenty of plugins to add the functionality you need. You will need to have access to the right design and development team to deliver this properly as a reasonable level of know-how is required.

Shopify: Built specifically for eCommerce. If you’re exclusively selling products online, this is a great option. Big global brands rely on Shopify and they have an extensive ecosystem to plug in marketing and third-party platforms.

Squarespace/Wix: I’ve put these drag-n-drop website builders together as they are the leading pair of several simple editing platforms that have low barriers to entry, low ongoing costs and a reasonable level of integration available.

5. Email and calendar

There are really only two options to consider here: Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite. Both are cost-effective for SMBs, offer options to scale if you’re a large organisation, integrate into just about everything and provide nearly all of the functionality you’ll ever need. Even better, new features are added all the time.

It would probably be remiss of me to try to provide a comprehensive breakdown here. Even if I could, you’d probably be confused at the end. Personally, I use Microsoft 365 mainly because my company runs PCs and the platform lets us cover all our Windows licensing, Office products, OneDrive storage and the connected collaboration dashboard of Microsoft Teams.

6. Business Process Software

If there exists a business which wouldn’t benefit from even basic business processes, I’m yet to come across them.  While most SMBs have at least one documented process in place, less than 5% measure or manage them.  Business Process Management (BPM) software can help SMBs improve by:

  1. Removing steps
  2. Reducing tasks
  3. Mapping clear guidelines
  4. Delegating
  5. Automating
  6. Outsourcing

Once BPM software was priced off the charts, and as such limited to Enterprise-level organisations with very large budgets.  Now, however, there are many very good BPM software providers who specialise BPM solutions for SMBs.

Not all BPM software is created equal, so take a good look around to see what suits your particular business.  Be sure to check out these, however:

NameProCon
NintexProcess automation Easy to use Integrates seamlessly with O365Lack of training resources Nintex support sometimes questionnable
Pipefy  Good tutorials Great support Easy integration    Can be slow Buggy  
WrikeGreat reporting features Customisation    File storage and management Complicated set-up
3 Preferred Business Process Software Examples