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25 must-have technologies for SMBs

Jeff Vance | April 30, 2013
Running a small business isn't easy. I know. I run one. As a freelance writer, I’ve learned that you need to run your writing career as if you were running a business.

Vocus recently rolled out a new feature, Buying Signals, which scours social media to find people who are seeking particular products or services. Then, it puts you in touch with the leads most relevant to your business. For instance, if you're an optometrist and someone in your city Tweets "I just broke my glasses," you'll be alerted. Pricing starts at $250 per month.

The trouble with leads, though, is that most prospects do not buy immediately. Instead, they'll want to do research, kick the tires and may even have objections you must overcome. This is where many small businesses fail: they dont follow up.

According to Robert Clay of Marketing Wisdom, 63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months, and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.

Many small businesses can't afford the expensive CRM suites that would help guide them through the process of nurturing leads and overcoming objections, so they lose out on potential sales. In fact, according to Clay, 92% of salespeople have already given up before the prospect is ready to buy. If you want to be in the 8% still standing consider 4) , which lets you schedule a follow up to an email the minute you respond.

In the Bcc area, simply put or and will automate the follow-up process for you, sending you email reminders, allowing you to snooze those reminders if you're busy, integrating with your calendar, and automatically importing the contact info of those you follow-up with most frequently. A browser plug-in even lets you schedule follow-ups for websites, rather than keeping a million and one tabs open like I do.

Pricing ranges from free (for a plan with 20 reminders/month) to $99/year for a plan with added functionality and unlimited reminders.5) viClone helps SMBs tackle customer support challenges. Providing consistent, high-quality customer service is a major undertaking for SMBs. Online customer service is the easy choice for SMBs since phone support is prohibitively expensive. However, even online customer service and support (Email, Live Chat, Ticketing Solutions) can carry big price tags, especially in labor costs.

Moreover, most automated systems are targeted at the enterprise and are too expensive for SMBs.

ViClone's virtual agents are designed for SMBs. The agents have self-learning capabilities and can support more than 35 languages.According to Alexander Malov, viClone's COO, users are typically able to configure the virtual agents to answer their customers' top 15 to 25 most frequently asked questions, which will reduce the number of support requests by as much as 80%.

Getting Paid

Now that you have customer leads, you need to have the tools in place that let them buy from you. By now most people know about 6) Square, a high-flying startup that gives retailers a small card reader that attaches to smartphones or tablets via the headphone jack.  A  Square alternative is 7) Leaf, which provides you with a purpose-built tablet. The tablet serves as your Point of Sale (POS) infrastructure. You can augment that by downloading apps for other smartphones in your business. The Leaf backend includes business management software and customer care tools.


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