Today’s economy is fueled by startups that grow into small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). In every industry, there are entrepreneurs using new technology and new business strategies to start something innovative, and no matter what their market, these fledgling businesses adopt the same types of tools for startups. All startups share common pain points and are adopting new tools to address those problems.
As big business continues to downsize, SMBs continue to grow. The SMB market contributes to 50 percent of U.S. employment and 42 percent of non-agricultural GDP. SMBs also are among the biggest consumers of new technology. More than 23 million SMBs are equipped with broadband networking. Ninety percent of SMBs are using PCs and smartphones, and 65 percent are using tablets.
Technology seems to be the common factor for SMB and startup success.
Technology helps level the playing field, making it possible for the smaller players to compete with the big guys. For example, cloud technology is affordable for businesses of all sizes. Gartner, Inc. predicts that sales of cloud technology will grow by 18 percent this year, and small businesses are becoming the biggest consumers of cloud services. Seventy-two percent of SMB leaders say technology such as cloud services helps them improve business outcomes, and 53 percent plan to invest in more technology.
Tools for Startups
So, what are the leading technology tools for startups? Here are six types of tools for startups that every entrepreneur can use to build business:
- Cloud computing – Perhaps more than any other innovation in the last decade, cloud computing is powering new startups and SMBs. By licensing rather than building a technology infrastructure, businesses are more agile and better able to compete and scale their operations. New services and capability can be added quickly, tested, and adapted to meet changing business needs and just as quickly abandoned if they fail to deliver. Cloud services also tend to be more secure.
- Marketing automation – Managing sales and marketing has always been a challenge for small businesses, especially startups. New marketing automation software simplifies lead generation and pipeline management, without adding new personnel or substantial overhead. Cloud-based customer relationship management automates marketing and integrates with sales to make it easier to nurture sales prospects until they are ready to become customers.
- Email marketing – Email continues to deliver as the best channel for marketing, and it is an important tool for customer support. What has changed is the sophistication with which startups are using email for marketing. The spam generators of the past are giving way to more sophisticated tools that deliver targeted sales messages tailored to unique customer needs.
- Analytics and business intelligence – With the use of more technology, there is more data available than ever before, and more tools to analyze that data. Whereas analytics was once a rarified specialty, technology provides better intelligence that leads to better decision-making. Even big data analytics has become part of the SMB’s toolbox, providing insight that can streamline operations, cut costs, increase productivity, and build sales.
- Collaboration tools – With the rise of the virtual workforce, there has been increasing demand for better collaboration tools. Virgin Media Business predicts that more than 60 percent of office workers will telecommute regularly by 2022. That means there will be more demand for collaboration tools such as chat and file sharing. This is another reason that cloud services are becoming popular tools for startups.
- Mobile technology – One element that is common to all tools for startups is the need for mobility. Smartphones have become the device of choice for consumers and workers alike. As a result, businesses are looking to go mobile with optimized websites and enterprise software, remote data access, and support for all-in-one devices such as the new generation of laptop/tablet combinations.
Startups Can Benefit From Smartphones
Smartphones have become the ubiquitous tool for mobile communications. In fact, telephone calls don’t even make the list of top uses for smartphones; texting, checking email, posting photos, shopping, and other online activities are far more popular. It’s no wonder that smart businesses are taking advantage of employees’ smartphone addiction to stay connected and promote greater efficiency.
In addition to implementing bring-your-own-device strategies for the office, more SMBs and startups are taking advantage of the find-me/follow-me functions of virtual phone systems so that employees can carry their office with them.
Smartphones allow workers to check email, chat with team members, access remote files, and access business applications from their handheld device.
Applications such as Spoke also extend the office phone system so that employees are reachable anywhere, anytime. Spoke is a simple-to-install app that turns employees’ smartphones into a virtual office phone system. Calls are routed to employees’ smartphones with features such as auto attendant, voicemail, call prioritization, and smart directories. Employees can place business calls, set up conference calls, transfer business calls, and perform a host of office phone operations from their iPhone or Android phone. And they still have all the great functionality of their smartphone, because Spoke functions like any other smartphone app.
The secret to startup success is being able to change business conditions. Having the right business tools in place is an essential part of remaining agile, and as business tools continue to evolve, you can be sure that mobile technology will be at the center of business innovation.