A well-run business is one where all the tedious, non-creative aspects of work are minimized, freeing up time to work on actually moving the business forward – winning new business, servicing clients and communicating with existing and future clients.
When it comes to running an online business, there’s a dangerous assumption that much of the day-to-day tasks are automated. You’ll soon discover that’s not the case when you start your own online operation. There’s inventory to manage, sales to record, employees to pay, tax records to track, and most importantly you must have on-going communication with your existing a client base.
There are a number of responsibilities to fulfil, and there’s always a better way to do any repetitive task. Software can help your online business run a lot better. Let’s look at five such types of software.
Voice Over IP Software
VOIP (Voice Over IP) has married two technologies together – the telephone and the internet. With VOIP, you can make cheap (and even free) phone calls via the internet to anyone in the world. Using VOIP software will help improve your business in a number of ways:-
- Conduct virtual team meetings with several people
- Video chat; Share your screen with those in your conference
- Inexpensively purchase separate phone numbers for work and home, for those with a home-based business
- Much cheaper than using traditional landline technology
Many people simply use webmail, but installing a proper email client (such as MailChimp, iContact, Constant Contact, Outlook or Thunderbird) will make managing your emails much easier and quicker. Again, it’s worth taking the time to get to know your software and even exploring the various extensions that you can add to make managing your email that much easier.
All businesses deal with numbers – there’s no getting away from them. Be it revenue, tracking costs or inventory, you need a way to track your financial records. And then there’s data – lists of clients, products and suppliers.
Spreadsheets allow you to do all kinds of things with both numbers and information – from budgeting and sales projections, to storing client lists on a grid, just like a very simple database You can sort this information numerically or alphabetically to quickly find a record. MS Excel is a great option for this. You should also be using accounting software, and as an online business you want to make sure that your accounting software integrates with your shopping cart system, so that you are not duplicating work in your business.
Database software allows you to store vast amounts of data, and retrieve specific records from that large pool of data quickly. MS Access is a database program that you probably own already, but may not know how to use.
If you stock over ten thousand products for example, a database is the ideal place to store all the data associated with your catalogue of products – their product codes, prices, stock levels, categories etc. There are so many ways to slice and dice the information a database records, and such software will greatly help your decision-making processes.
Some real-world uses of a database:
- Check stock levels
- Determine which products are best sellers
- Track customers trends
If you make sales online, there is a good chance that your data will need to be interfaced to your website’s shopping cart system, in which case you may need to look into using MYSql, or working with someone who knows how to use it. You may also want to use an app or a shopping cart system that will give you an all-in-one solution.
The most important thing in any online business is the list of people who have already done business with you. CRM software is similar to general database software, except that it’s specifically dedicated to managing your contacts:
You can inter-relate each contact, create a calendar to manage when to contact each contact, and quickly communicate with one (or a group) of your contacts.
If you haven’t looked into a CRM package yet, it is worth exploring. Using such software can make your life much easier and your marketing efforts much more effective.
As a business owner, your top priority should be to streamline your repetitive business activities. It can take time to establish processes, but once you do you’ll wonder what too you so long.
“Online Meeting Concept” courtesy of cooldesign / www.freedigitalphotos.net
Do you have any other advice for online business owners?
This guest post was written by Mike from Advantage Business Systems. Mike is a business IT consultant who works with mostly small and medium sized online businesses.