Why Every Small Business Should Embrace the Online Revolution
All small businesses can benefit from making the most of the tools and facilities available, often for free, on the Internet.
The Internet is officially everywhere – in almost every home, office, and pocket in the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics in 2016 some 87.9% of adults in the UK used the Internet. This is a stark difference to just 57% in 2006.
There are three main ways you can and should be using the Internet for your business.
● Web as a research tool,
● Your business presence on the Internet, and
● Using online tools, apps and services.
Web as a research tool: World’s information at your fingertips.
If you are reading this, you are already converted.
Anything you want to know – literally anything – can be found through a search engine. Industry information, competitor details, client backgrounds, business supplies, how to [insert any problem], why is the sky blue, and where is the best coffee in Cardiff?
The King of Search is of course Google, but for variety and sometimes surprising results try Microsoft’s Bing. Yahoo is still around and uses Bing results, as well as Ask.com and a variety of other search sites with their own particular slant.
Your business presence on the Internet: More than just a website.
If you haven’t got a website of some description these days you are effectively invisible.
This doesn’t have to be sophisticated or technical. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram afford your business the opportunity to have a business page or profile, with great SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) benefits, all for free.
If you feel a bit more adventurous, there are many great website builder tools out there which have been professionally designed, have SEO tools built in to ensure you get found on search engines and which you pay for on a monthly subscription. They also take over the hosting of your website so you don’t need to worry about the site maintenance, speed or security.
Online tools, apps and services: Cloud-based software for every business.
The last decade has seen a surge in web-based software and services to help manage core business functions.
Have you been managing thus far with spreadsheets but finding managing your staff, finances or customers becoming an uphill battle? As a small business owner it is likely you have to manage all these roles yourself, taking you away from focusing on your central business objectives.
Today, every business function has an online tool available for you to access to help you increase productivity and grow your business, and they are better than ever.
Benefits of using online business software
1. Cost. Online business tools are available via affordable monthly or annual subscriptions. There is no capital investment to lay out and you only pay for what you need or use. Most products offer a free trial so you can try before you buy or a free version of their product and paid for ‘pro’ version if you need to access more sophisticated features.
2. Simplicity. There is no installation required, products are easy to learn and use. Visit the website, sign up and away you go. Often there are step-by-step guides and detail help documentation to answer any question.
3. Power. No more spreadsheets. Today’s cloud software products offer powerful enterprise-grade solutions with inbuilt intelligence and functionality far beyond any spreadsheet, which were previously only the preserve of big business.
4. Access. Available 24/7 from anywhere, on any device. Your team can access and edit the same documents to allow cross-company collaboration at any time of day or night, and external parties – advisers, suppliers, and customers, can be given controlled access too.
5. Security. Online tools are backed up in the cloud for you, your data kept secure and most products offer a guarantee of 99% uptime. There is no maintenance hassle for you, no costly upkeep of server equipment, no IT team to build your systems. It is all taken care of for you in your monthly subscription cost.
Selecting the right tools: Too much choice!
There are endless choices of which products to subscribe to, so how do you make your selection? As small business owners ourselves we found that same time consuming problem so we built businesskitbag.com as a free to use curated directory of the best and most relevant online business tools for UK small businesses, to save your business time and money.
We have researched hundreds of online business products and identified the most relevant and most highly rated and reviewed solutions and created a free and easy to use directory to save you time on making your selections.
Our advice is to narrow down to two or three products which seem to suit your needs – both immediate and short to medium term – and trial them (for free).
During the trial period, make sure you focus on the most important features for your business, and use realistic data to test them out. Consider their ability to export or backup your data, particularly for data-heavy and crucial tasks like accounting or CRM, in case you want to migrate to something else in the future.
If you want to grow your business, reduce your administrative burden, improve productivity, or reduce business risk, online tools are definitely right for you.