How can I implement new technology into my business?
I own a courier service business. Currently, I don't really employ much technology. What sort of cutting-edge software might benefit my business? I would like to use technology to boost my marketing/branding efforts too.
There are a number of technologies that can help you with various aspects of the business. If you don't have one already, you should look into a good accounting package designed specifically for small businesses (rather than personal accounting software). They're fairly easy to use and will help you keep track of your cash flow and make things easier when tax time rolls around.
You'll also want some sort of customer relationship management (CRM) system. Being able to capture information about customers -- especially their preferences and quirks -- really helps with building repeat business. It can also help you see who your best customers are so you can market to them more effectively. You can either purchase software to run it yourself, or you can use a "hosted" model where you login on the Internet to use it but the supplier takes care of all the technical management.
You don't say how you manage incoming orders, but if you don't have a Web-based system for placing orders you'll want to look into one. These days people are used to ordering just about everything online. If you can give them that option you'll increase the convenience. Be sure the software you use allows them to schedule pickups in advance. You'll also want to include a "live call" button on the site so customers can easily reach you by phone if they're having problems with the online system or have questions.
On the marketing and branding side, one thing you can do is invest in an application that allows you to create very versatile email campaigns without a great deal of effort. With these packages you can design and schedule campaigns, build opt-in lists (mailing lists where the recipient has already said he/she would like to receive the email), create simple email announcements and newsletters, and track results to help you refine your next campaign. Using a hosted system helps keep your costs down over purchasing and installing the software on your own servers and removes the burden of maintaining the software and hardware.
Steve Adams is vice president of marketing for Protus, a provider of Web-based services for small- to medium-size businesses. He is a seasoned industry speaker having spoken at a variety of telecommunication trade shows and conferences. He is a graduate of the University of Waterloo and the Ivey School of Business.