Over the past few decades, the Internet has been touted as "the great equalizer," and small businesses have found some great successes in virtual spaces. However, the realities of online business haven't consistently allowed independent local companies to truly corner markets that are dominated by multinational corporations.
Big business simply has too much firepower -- or at least that's been the status quo. The big guys have been able to spend more, have had access to more useful troves of data and have been the only ones who can work with super-powerful game-changing technologies. But the booming software-as-a-service (SaaS) scene has changed all that by providing solutions that give an edge to "mom and pop" business owners too.
Now, some of this best-in-class tech is available to small companies too. The gatekeepers of big data are now allowing anyone who can work with an API to work with their information. Thanks to the "integrations" trend, SaaS developers are enabling us to trigger automated processes across platforms. Apps powered by intelligence algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
To help your business compete on the level of enterprise companies, consider bringing these five technology solutions into your toolbox.
1. Multichannel ad retargeting with AdRoll
After you visit a big website, you might feel like it's following you around for days on end, thanks to ads for the site appearing on many of the other websites you visit. Retargeting has been proven to be an effective digital marketing tool, but nowadays, it's become surprisingly inexpensive. CPM costs range from $1 to $2.50 with the Adroll platform, and there are no minimum budget requirements or long-term contracts.
Since users often switch between browsers, apps and devices, Adroll features cross-platform retargeting, catching users on social networks, news sites and search networks, both on their desktops and on their mobile devices.
2. Integrated business intelligence tracking with Cyfe
Cyfe is a business-intelligence tracking platform that lets users create custom dashboards with widgets. After you've got Cyfe set up, you can monitor your social media, marketing, sales, analytics, support, infrastructure and more. It pulls data from your business records and from popular services such as Google and Salesforce to provide you with relevant data in easy-to-read and easy-to-download formats.
This service allows even the smallest startups to gain insight and use data in a way that was once reserved for enterprises with investments in staff and servers built to crunch numbers. Simply put, it enables leaders that leverage numerous online tools for daily tasks to customize perspectives vital to accomplishing specific goals, rather than tediously extracting data from multiple sources and trying to make sense of it all.
Unlimited dashboard configurations and widgets are available at only $19 per month. Powerful real-time and visual business intelligence is no longer the exclusive privilege of large enterprises.
3. Big data insights with Watson Analytics
Watson Analytics, the new service from IBM, provides business owners with powerful analytics to help them in decision-making. You import your data from various sources and then choose to slice it in several ways. Watson makes it easy to click around your data in search of patterns and interesting insights. You can also ask Watson questions and let the system find answers in the data. Watson also works with "story templates," which give users access to standard questions that most businesses need answered.
The premise of Watson Analytics is that even when data is available, small-business owners often don’t know how to practically interpret, apply and get everything they can out of it. The system eliminates the need to understand how to look at data and simply provides the answers needed that can be realistically applied to everyday businesses.
4. Mobile apps with BuildFire
Even app development is no longer the exclusive territory of big companies and elite developers. BuildFire allows users to create apps without the need to hire a developer. The platform has solutions for driving web traffic, sending out push notifications on deals and letting your customers purchase products directly from the app. You can even create interactive groups that work like miniature social networks.
The approach here is not simply creating a static app just for sake of having an app but applying functionality that supports and pushes forward your business’ sales and marketing goals. Its basic plan is free, while the premium plan will run just $49 per month. Makes you wonder why there are still small businesses without apps.
5. Email marketing with GetResponse
These days, it seems that everyone is doing email marketing, but many of the companies working with email are approaching it in outdated ways. It's easy to take your email-marketing efforts to the next level with GetResponse.
In addition to the usual email-marketing-platform features, GetResponse also offers modular landing-page creation, conversion-optimization experiments with A/B testing and tools for designing responsive emails. But the real game-changer is its event-triggered email capability, which shoots out messages with alerts or content to subscribers when they take certain actions on your site, when it's their birthdays or when they haven't yet visited a specific page.
Email-marketing campaigns are not just about sending emails anymore but is an amalgamation of advanced business processes, intelligence and relationship-building tools. It's a powerful tool for making businesses’ email-marketing intelligent and effective. Prices vary according to the size of your audience list, starting at $15 per month.
Game-changing tech for the up-and-comers
As technology advances and becomes more common and affordable, we see the introduction of constantly improving online tools all the time. To stay competitive, your small business should be taking advantage of these technologies.
Local businesses often struggle to keep up with the multinationals, but a small investment can give you some of the same tools they are using, which helps to level the playing field, with only a fraction of the investment. Did we fail to mention one of your favorites? Let us know by leaving a comment.