You will get your new business off to a much stronger start if you integrate the best business tools from the beginning. Sure you need a great idea and, even more importantly, great execution. But without smart daily processes the business will face unnecessary bumps on the road to success.
The more attention you are able to give to the details at the beginning, the more time and hassle you will save later on. Here are our top tips for the processes you should build in from the start:
Process management is an area where we can all learn from the fast food industry. Fast food outlets are run around detailed manuals, which clearly specify every step of every task. This massively reduces error and speeds up productivity. It also means that the organisation is much less dependent on any particular individual. Use talented people and pay them well for the areas that cannot be standardised; don’t waste their time or focus on anything that can be routinised. That goes for your own time too; as the founder and leader of the business pin down, automate or delegate day to day tasks so you can stay focused on moving the business forward.
Accounting and paperwork
Unless your business has less than a handful of financial transactions each month the sooner you start using an online accounting package the better. There is a myriad to chose from. If you use an external book-keeper or accountant ask for the one they prefer or try some of the free trials most online accounting companies offer.
As well as keeping your finances in shape and helping you to plan ahead, accounting packages will present your paperwork to the tax authorities and to customers in a professional way. Most of the main packages include well designed invoice and other templates. By using files like this to help you will keep your business looking professional and keep on top of cashflow and money management.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Customers are the most important element of your business. Without them you do not exist! So the relationships you have with those customers are key to your success.
A simple CRM system will allow you to maintain a record of customers and their preferences, so that you can better serve them in future. It can automate bespoke communications and greetings and provide the information needed for better, more personalised customer service.
The data from your CRM will quickly become the beating heart of your business. Instinct and experience is still important for anyone leading a business, but always balance and reality check it against the best data analytics you can. That should include your website analytics and your CRM data.
Make it easy for customers and partners to communicate with you. Research first. What do your competitors do? What can you learn from other industries (like the fast food example above)? Ask your customers what they would prefer and then balance that with what you can reasonably support. Of course customers may want a 24/7 help desk, but if you under-deliver on your promise you’ll lose much more goodwill than if you have reduced availability but are reliable and able to deliver when you are available.
So what are the communication options? Options that could be in your mix include: phone answering services, ticketing, chat rooms, discussion forum or Facebook group, group messaging, texting, video or audio conferencing. And of course there is always face to face.
Project management tools are arguably one of the key drivers of the break up on the office. With an effective project management system you don’t need to be sat next to someone. You can be in different spaces or countries. You can be at home or in a cafe or co-working space. Good project management tools like Trello and Asana provide workrooms, communication channels and automated reminders and updates. They keep everyone in the team accountable and literally on the same page.
Marketing is an ongoing process. The launch of your business is a critical opportunity to establish the company in the minds of your target community, but marketing needs to be a consistent process from then on.
Good tools will enable you to streamline all the elements of a marketing department within your small business. Your marketing toolkit needs to start with brand. If you have the funds to employ a specialist to help with this that would be money well spent. Brand helps to establish an emotional response, it encompasses the look and feel of your business and also its values. Those fundamental values should flow through every part of the business, not just the way it looks but what you sell and the way you behave.
Tools you can use to develop your brand include freelancer recruitment platforms like Peopleperhour where you can recruit and work with freelance marketing professionals. If you need or want to develop some elements of your brand or marketing materials yourself then Canva is a very simple to use design system, that integrates very well with digital marketing routes.
These days your marketing communications mix will likely be a combination of analogue and digital. You’ll need fewer business cards as people now prefer to photograph your card or just hop directly to Linkedin to keep in touch. You will need a website and there are some great tools like Wix where you can quickly put together a simple but beautiful site. And you’ll need to keep the site fresh, with a content management process.
Tools for keeping in touch include email newsletters and of course social media. The best social media channels for your business are the ones where your customers hang out. There are tools like Hootsuite to help you schedule and manage social media so that you do not miss company mentions and that it also doesn’t take up more time than it needs.
Make sure that you have a system to measure the impact of marketing materials and communications. Use the analytic tools provided by Google for your website and by the social media platforms to check the value and impact of those digital tools. Keep reviewing and keep adjusting to maximise your marketing machine.