Unless you're living under a rock, you can't get through your day without technology. From your phone to your car to your work computer, technology is an inseparable part of your everyday life. So on a surface level, you understand that technology is not only crucial for your business, it's essential.
But how important is it to you that your business adopts cutting-edge technological advancements?
Take an accounting firm, for instance. They've used Excel spreadsheets, email, and fax for decades—and they're comfortable that way. Those things count as technology, so what's the problem?
You know the answer. If that accounting firm doesn't adopt emerging technologies like advanced accounting software and secure file upload platforms, they'll be left in the dust by their competition.
And staying abreast of the latest business tech innovations is about more than just keeping up with your competitors. Your business has goals, like:
- Creating more efficient workflows
- Identifying and reaching out to new market segments
- Launching new products or services
Technology can likely help you with all of those goals if used correctly. And it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, either. If you're looking for growth at a lower cost, read on for some affordable—but effective—solutions your business can implement today.
How Do You Know What Business Tech to Focus on First?
Of course, understanding that business tech is essential and knowing how to implement it are two different things. How do you decide what to focus on first—especially if you're strapped for cash?
To see the best results, you need a clear goal before taking any steps to upgrade your technology. What results should the new tool or technology generate to be truly useful to your organization?
Most businesses that successfully prioritize technological improvements start with the tools that add the most value to their bottom line. Whichever tech will be the most impactful to their organization and present the most significant ROI should be prioritized first.
It's also a good idea to start by replacing the most outdated tech in your company first. Innovation can wait until you've replaced tools that are old, inefficient, or that present a potential security risk to your organization.
5 Specific Ways to Use Business Tech to Improve Your Business on a Budget
Implementing new technology for small businesses can quickly become cost-prohibitive. But if you know where to look, there are many budget-friendly options available that will create an impact at the end of the day.
Let's look at affordable tools in five of the most common business tech categories below.
1. Project Management and Productivity Apps
Managing your team's workload and tasks might be simple when you're a small operation—but once you've gained a few employees, it's suddenly a much thornier job to juggle multiple projects and assignments without digital help.
Thankfully, there's no shortage of project management apps available to help you keep track of everything, make sure your team is on the same page, and avoid letting any important deadlines slip through the cracks.
A few of our favourite options include:
- Asana — Great for team collaboration and flexibility. Pricing: free for the basic plan; premium subscriptions start at $10.99 per user per month.
- Wrike — Simple to learn, excellent for team collaboration, and includes a Google Docs import/export feature. Pricing: free for the basic plan; premium subscriptions start at $9.80 per user per month.
- Trello — A flexible, Kanban-style app with great visual options and file storage. Pricing: free for the basic plan; premium subscriptions start at $10.99 per user per month.
- Airtable — Great for spreadsheet lovers or teams that work with complex databases. Pricing: free for the basic plan; premium subscriptions start at $10.99 per user per month.
2. Web-Based Payments
Cash might be king—but no one wants to pay that way. If you want to keep up with the times, processing payments digitally is a must.
There are quite a few mobile payment apps for small businesses out there, so make sure to choose the one that best meets your business's needs. Some of the best options to choose from include:
- Square — Payment processing on a smartphone or tablet; best for brick-and-mortar businesses who need a secure point of sale. Pricing: 2.6% + 10¢ for every tapped (mobile payments), dipped (chip cards), and swiped (magstripe cards) payment.
- QuickBooks GoPayment — Processes a wide variety of payment options and integrates with e-commerce platforms; best for businesses that already use QuickBooks software. Pricing: 2.4% + $0.25 per swipe, dip, or contactless transaction
- Veem — Offers free wired payments and invoices and integrates with your accounting software. Best for organizations that need a simple, free way to send and receive payments online. Pricing: free with a $20 fee for currency conversion when sending or receiving international payments
3. Backup Software
Business backup software lets you prevent data loss by creating a copy of your most vital information, including your database, servers, and physical and virtual machines. These tools store a copy of your data in a separate location, such as in the cloud, on a USB drive, or on an external hard drive.
A few popular backup tools are listed below:
- Altaro VM Backup — A simple, user-friendly backup software that can restore VMware-based and Hyper-V virtual machines. Pricing: Free.
- Acronis True Image — Built for both personal and business use, this software backs up both locally and on the cloud. Pricing: Starts at $49.99
- MSP360 — Cross-platform cloud backup tool that integrates with cloud services like Amazon Web, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. It also offers data compression and military-grade encryption. Pricing: Get a custom quote here.
4. Sales Engagement
Tracking your customer data, sales processes, and inventory gets trickier as your business grows. You also need to communicate with customers and create personalized sales journeys if you want to keep up with your competitors.
In short, the name of the game is increasing two-way communication. Sales engagement tools, like the ones listed below, help you make personalized and dynamic interactions with your target audience:
- Hubspot Sales Hub — A CRM database, sales analytics, and email marketing tool that easily integrates with other apps and tools to let you create an end-to-end customer experience. Pricing: Free basic plan; paid plans start at $45/month.
- Klaviyo — Personalized emails and email marketing analytics; also integrates with top e-commerce tools. Pricing: Free for up to 250 email contacts; paid plans start at $20/month.
- SalesLoft — Customer communication platform that automates processes, provides data analysis and enables coaching among sales staff. Pricing: Free for the basic plan; get a custom quote for premium plans here.
5. Customer Service
Customer service tools are generally separated into five categories: Live chat, phone support, email, knowledge base (such as community forums), and messaging apps. All of these tools streamline customer interactions and make it easier to provide outstanding customer service and problem-solving.
When looking for a customer service tool, be sure to factor in the platform's user experience (UX) design in question. A few of the most popular include:
- HubSpot Service Hub — Shared inbox functionality and powerful message-routing automation to ensure customer requests get to the right agents. It also includes chatbot functionality and reporting tools. Pricing: Free
- MobileMonkey — Combines all your customer channels into one inbox. The chatbot software also provides support 24/7 with automatic rerouting to a real person if the problem isn't solved there. Pricing: Free
- Zendesk — A cross-channel communication platform that lets teams collaborate seamlessly when responding to customer requests. Zendesk also integrates with popular marketing platforms like MailChimp and Hootsuite. Pricing: Starts at $49 per agent per month
Budget Business Tech Can Pack a Punch
Digitizing your processes and embracing technology is essential for your business to thrive, compete, and scale effectively. But for many small business owners, it can be challenging to implement new technologies on limited budgets.
Thankfully, there are many free or affordable tools available that you can begin using today—from internal improvements like project management and backup software to external things like sales engagement and customer service.
Of course, not everyone has time to research and decide on the perfect technology solution for their organization. Book a meeting with a Ridgebase advisor today to get a customized plan for tech solutions to meet the challenges of today's market and improve your day-to-day operations.