Tuesday, August 18, 2009

3 Technologies to Help You Take Advantage of the Economic Recovery


08-17-2009 04:38 PM

By smallbiztrends smallbiztrends

Twenty-seven economists polled by the Wall Street Journal said that the Great Recession is over*. …

I don't know whether these economists are right or wrong.

But I do know this: ALL recessions eventually end. At some point I assure you there will be an end ... and customer demand will pick up. …

When the recovery happens, you want to be ready to jump on opportunities. If the recession's been tough on your business, consider the recovery a time for a reboot. With that in mind, here are 3 tools that can help your small business sell more and do so profitably, as the recovery takes hold:

1) CRM Software

CRM stands for "customer relationship management." … The real question is, what does customer relationship management add to your bottom line? How important is it?

Let me drive the point home in dollars and cents. It's a lot cheaper to retain existing customers and sell more to them, than it is to go out and find new customers. According to Brent Leary, Principal of CRM Essentials*: "Even in good economic conditions it can be 10 times more expensive to bring on new customers as it is to keep the ones we have. Small businesses are turning to CRM applications to help extend relationships with current customers, while increasing opportunities to connect with prospects more efficiently."

One of the key metrics I urge you to start tracking if you don't already, is "customer acquisition cost." Know what it costs you to get a new customer. When you start tracking that metric, you will begin to appreciate the dollars-and-cents value of CRM.

2) Email Marketing Solution

Email marketing is a fantastic way to market to existing customers - at one-fifth or less of the cost of direct mail (snail mail). …

There are many email marketing software solutions on the market today that automate the entire process -- from signup, through managing your list database, to designing and sending bulk emails. A key advantage of using an email marketing software solution is that it saves a lot of time and labor, versus sending out emails on your own, managing your subscriber list manually through a spreadsheet, etc. …

However, I caution you not to assume that email marketing is right for every situation. Paper direct mail still is a far better way to get NEW customers. … Prospecting for new customers is one situation when email marketing has not replaced paper direct mail - here are some other situations*.

3) Website Analytics

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that putting up a website is a one-time event. …

Websites are living breathing organisms. In fact, today you can think of your Web presence as an ecosystem. You have a presence in microcommunities (i.e., other websites, including social media sites) and those presences work together with your website. And then there are the search engines, which index your website's pages for various keywords, and bring potential customers to your virtual door when they search for those keywords. It's all dynamic and constantly changing and evolving.

It is crucial to know about your website traffic, if you want your website to help get sales. Because if you don't know what's happening on your website, how can you know what to improve?

Install a good analytics package. Google Analytics is free and is a solution that many small businesses start with. Examine the data it generates, regularly. It's a goldmine!

(1) It tells you where your traffic is coming from. You will see which sites or search engines are sending visitors; which keywords or search terms people used to get there; the links they clicked on. This can tell if you need to develop more inbound links, or do a better job with content for more relevant search terms, and so on.

(2) It tells you information about your visitors. You'll learn which countries they come from; which days and times they like to visit; which browsers they use; even what screen resolution they have. This tells you who you are appealing to, and provides design considerations for your website.

(3) It tells you what's working in your website - and what isn't. You will see how long people stay, which pages they abandon, or whether they are converting to paying customers from particular online ads but not others. This will help you improve your website, your graphics and content, and your online ad campaigns. Sometimes a small change (moving a graphic from one spot to another, or a change in wording) makes a big improvement.

In conclusion, the above 3 tools are not the only ones, but they are worth their weight in gold. They will not only help you sell more, but do so cost effectively and efficiently.

*This hyperlink goes to a non-governmental web site.

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