Online Tools for SMEs

The internet has changed many things for business, allowing small businesses in particular to compete on the same footing as larger ones. It’s easier than ever before to adopt best practices from around the world. Each small business owner can now use freely available tools to help them day-to-day, whether it’s in marketing, customer service, accounting or other aspects of daily trading.

  • Cash Flow Planning

Accountancy is perhaps the most dreaded of business functions, but a good grasp of cash flow is essential to keep a business healthy. Many small companies stick to well-known tools like Microsoft Excel, but others are starting to explore the online alternatives.

Two examples are Quickbooks Online and PlanGuru, both of which help the business owner to create budgets and forecast their cash flow by inputting some simple data. It’s even possible for each employee to input their transactions as they go along, so with the right training your whole online cash flow tools can be updated in real-time, allowing you to keep a close eye on how things are going.

Online tools are available to use no matter where you are – you can access your finances on the move whenever you need to.

  • Employee Communication

Increasingly, small businesses are looking into alternative and more cost effective forms of working, including remote working. Skype is perhaps the best-known tool for this, allowing people to connect via video conferencing from anywhere in the world. Other useful communication tools include DropBox, a filesharing service that allows data to be accessed from anywhere. Combined with customer service applications like ZenDesk, even the smallest of businesses can become networked.

  • Managing an Online Presence

How your business is perceived online is increasingly important, as customers buy from sites that they trust or that their friends recommend. Any business owner would do well to monitor their brand, using tools like Google Alerts. This sends you an email every time a certain keyword (like your business name) is mentioned online. If your business has social media profiles on Twitter and Facebook, an application like HootSuite allows you to manage and analyse them all in one place. This can be really useful for getting information about how people interact with your business online, helping you to see the areas your customer service could improve.

Whatever your business needs in terms of online tools, chances are there’s one to fit, and many are available for free. There’s no reason not to use them, and taking the leap could benefit your business in a host of ways.

Other resources:

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/newslett.nsf/all/agnw19982

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