Which business doesn’t want to go from good to great or small to medium? The few that actually make early progress here discover all too soon that the path is strewn with complications at every step.
Things get even trickier if you’re an agency or service provider, and if your business happens to be in the B2B domain. You need to target clients who are established businesses themselves. They expect a standard of output that’s considerably higher than the average Joe on the street. So you have a lot of professional considerations to keep in mind.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 20% of new businesses fail in their very first year of operation. By year five, 50% of them close up shop.
Running a startup or limited service agency, therefore, is a gargantuan task. Entrepreneurs frequently need to put off fires that seem to start and spread when they’re least expected. They don’t have the luxury of two parallel tracks – engineering/product and managerial – and especially no functional departments with a head for each. “Founder” is, many a time, one word for Director of Sales, IT, Finance, what have you.
The good news is, there has never been a better time to do business. There are a gazillion tools that help growing agencies sail through various business functions. There’s now a whole ecosystem of SaaS – or Software as a Service – tools that are just waiting to make your life simpler than ever before. In this article, I’ve attempted to pick the right ones that you can run with. I also present their functionalities a la “just do this” to give you that crucial leg up in operations.
Stay with me…
Woo – Find People Who Turbocharge Your Business
We often hear that a great business idea is just 1% of the factors that determine the success of your business. The people you bring on board and how well you manage them contributes in a huge way to your business making it or missing the mark entirely.
Recent research actually demonstrated this pattern by studying census data about legal firms that spun out of existing ones – making it especially relevant to agencies and new businesses. The study found that although the founders’ personal skills were important, what mattered more in the growth and eventual success of a firm was their ability to attract and hire the right, experienced employees in their business. What makes good recruitment even more critical is that a bad hire can set your team back by as many as 17 weeks.
AI powered candidate discovery tool Woo promises a strike rate that’s exponentially higher than most traditional recruitment methods. It levels the playing field for smaller agencies and helps you land the smartest employees. How? By bypassing multi-round HR-driven interviews and identifying hiring practices that work best for you.
Side Note: If you think AI is not for small businesses, think again.
Woo has a special focus on tech talent, important for agencies. It can reach out to candidates who are not actively job hunting at the moment. The AI algorithm matches candidates to employer requirements as closely as possible. It eliminates the need to wade through hundreds of irrelevant resumes. This way, recruiters can hone in on the talent that they definitely want to get on board. The algorithm helps both employers and candidates determine if they’re a good fit for each other right from the outset.
BigCommerce – Sell Anywhere, Seamlessly
An eMarketer study found that on average, about 8.8% of all retail sales happen online. If that number is too low to excite you, how about this: 56% of all sales (whether online or in-store) have a clear digital influence!
But when we think ecommerce, we think immediately of Amazon, eBay, and their ilk. Did you know, however, that Amazon’s B2B avatar Amazon Business is equally successful and is transforming B2B ecommerce inside out?
When online engagement with your customers plays such a critical role in converting them, you want to put your best foot forward online. It makes sense then that you invest in building an online presence that represents your business elegantly. You also need to simultaneously focus on helping your customer solve their problems as best as possible.
BigCommerce is my pick for a web platform that can make both those things happen with equal ease. Don’t be swayed by the “Big” in its name; BigCommerce offers businesses of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to set up their very own, completely transactional online presence.
From savvy merchandising practices that best showcase your products’ benefits to connecting to the right dropship partner, from order fulfillment rules that guarantee satisfied customers to configuring and accepting credit card payments, the user-friendly interface and informative blog covers every possible aspect that an online business might consider, regardless of whether it operates in the B2C or B2B sphere.
TailorBrands – AI-Sculpted Brand Presence
Agencies are notorious at getting their own marketing wrong. That’s because their own marketing gurus and business owners frequently overlook the significance of branding. One school of thought in the marketing community argues that having a better brand is better than having a better product. Yes, brand perception is half the battle won.
Every growing business needs to pay extra attention to improving brand awareness and recall in their markets. Some of the critical factors that augment your brand include:
- A unique and memorable brand name
- A simple but striking logo
- Consistent and balanced brand colors
- Strong and distinct brand positioning
- An impactful tagline
You need a brand that resonates with your target audience and is memorable enough to trigger a purchase. Focus on getting a unique logo that represents the essence of your brand. Now, there’s no formula or right way to develop a logo. However, if you’re a small business, you can set yourself up with an AI-based branding toolkit such as Tailor Brands, which helps you build a personalized logo that serves you well throughout the company’s growth trajectory.
The logo creation process starts out by asking a few questions about your company, such as name, tagline, and style preferences (with the help of a color palette to choose your brand colors). It then goes on to generate a bunch of designs you can customize and use on your website. The same goes for your landing pages, social media posts or pages, business cards, letterhead paper, and other marketing materials.
With the ability to create a new variation in less than 2 seconds, businesses can harness macro trends in design and brand strategy that are definitely essential to get started on the right foot.
ClickMeeting – Video Marketing Brought to Life
Just as social media marketing is unavoidable, video marketing is an essential part of bringing your brand to life in the customer’s mind. The combination of audio and video cues engage users’ interests and keep them hooked to your content and message more effectively than any other content format today.
Now imagine taking this addictive form of content and making it live, giving you a chance to interact one on one with your clients. ClickMeeting allows you to do just that. It provides interactive collaboration tools that help you solve customers’ problems as and when they arise – over a live video session where you demo your client’s product or explain the benefits of their solution.
Webinars offer some major opportunities in that they allow you to attract and qualify leads in one simple step. With ClickMeeting, you can create customized invites along with registration page that helps you qualify incoming leads. The webinar experience itself is rich and engaging. Presenters have the option to create polls, surveys and calls-to-action in real time. They can share their screens with viewers to demonstrate something. They can also deploy a whiteboard option to draw, annotate and collaborate with viewers during the session.
The newest feature allows you to broadcast webinars live on Facebook and YouTube. This is an added bonus that takes your webinar beyond a limited list of registered participants. It instantly increases the reach of your video content to all your followers on social media.
Cloud Management Suite – IT Management and Security in Real Time
A commonly held misconception is that small businesses or startups are a not a target for cybercriminals. In contrast to that, Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report found that in some verticals, up to 58% of all attacks were aimed at small businesses.
The lack of time, organizational knowledge, and resources makes lean startups, busy agencies or SMBs sitting ducks against malware attacks, data thefts, or social engineering. Time-strapped managers who are not educated on the subject of cybersecurity are particularly vulnerable to email phishing scams, where an attacker might pose as a client, vendor or associate and send you an attachment or link to click under the pretext of a payment, checking out software, or other operational transaction.
Cloud Management Suite (CMS) combines the best of IT administration apps and security updates. It gives you the ability to manage your entire organizational network through a centralized dashboard. Traditional IT departments had to carefully plan and schedule software implementations. Automation has the potential to do this quickly, with more accuracy.
As an always-on, real-time IT management system, CMS monitors every device that’s on your network 24×7. This includes discovering new devices that try to get on the network and keeping them secure at all times. It also involves automated software patches and version updates in real-time. CMS lets managers avoid learning about hardware, networking, or security solutions the hard way. Instead, they can focus on growing the business.
Pipedrive – Simplifying Your Sales Pipeline
We all know how important it is for sales professionals to meet their monthly targets. Conventional logic says they’d invest time and resources behind their most critical tool – the CRM platform.
A good CRM platform is a one-stop shop for all information related to a given account. It retains details about key contacts and pulls up previous conversations with the client. It clarifies user expectations and simplifies retention budgets.
Unfortunately, data shows that salespeople spend just 18% of their time with their CRM systems. In fact, they spend less than 36% of their time in actual selling. This is a key reason for the low usage of CRM platforms despite all their benefits.
Enter Pipedrive, which has been voted one of the most user-friendly CRM platforms in the business. It has managed to bring usability back to data management software. The tool’s mantra of simplicity starts with its elegant and easy-to-interpret dashboard. You can start your day by seeing where your sales team stands in just one glance.
Each user gets an up to the minute report card of their work. The tool also gives them cues on what projects to tackle next in a very visual fashion. The reminders and activity alerts keep team members on their toes and prevent important deals from slipping through the cracks. Pipedrive’s interface nudges sales reps towards the next step in closing a deal until they win it.
Pipedrive eliminates the need to play email ping-pong, by integrating users’ emails right into the platform. As a result, you get rich customer data and highlights right before you tackle sales calls. This results in more engaging conversations and higher conversion rates.
The Strength of the Structure Lies in the Foundation
The tools you use to accomplish your day-to-day work form the support system. Used correctly, they enable your business and services to breathe and grow. Resourceful, multi-functional tools pack a lot of power into various operational functions. They give you the edge to compete successfully with larger and much more deep-pocketed competitors.
The list above is just a guideline. The best tools are those that support your operations while you support your clients. When you get down to picking out platforms, this list will inform your decisions. It will serve as a benchmark against which you compare the options you have. Choose wisely and thrive!