How the Internet can streamline your business
The internet has only been around for about a decade, but it has already advanced dramatically in that short time. It is now at a maturity level where it can be used for much more than just marketing in a business – it is a fully functional business tool that can provide real bottom-line results for businesses.
One area we have seen massive growth in is the web being used to increase efficiency and save time and money for businesses. It can be used to streamline everything from marketing activities and customer support through to internal processes and administration.
Here are some ways that our clients are using the Internet to streamline their businesses:
Workshops and seminars are a great, highly-leveraged lead generation strategy. Now, thanks to the internet, organising events like this is simple and stress-free. You can easily have an event management system built into your website which allows you to send email invites to your database of contacts quickly and easily. Attendees can click on a link in the email to go to your website and register for the event, and they can even pay for their ticket online using their credit card. People can also register for an event on your website if you advertise it in external media – just make sure you include your website address in all your advertising. You can even send out email and SMS reminders prior to the event and print name tags directly from your guest list. This system will save you lots of time and money – it’s all online so you don’t have to get your staff to make and take calls, it’s easy to keep track of attendees and manage the payments if you have them, and because it's so easy and instant, it will ultimately increase the number of registrations and reduce the number of people that don’t turn up to your event.
We all know the value of finding out from clients what they really think about your business, gaining people’s opinions on new services or products, and even getting feedback from your staff. But often, putting together a survey to find out this information is just too hard. The good news is the old way of printing and sending out forms, getting them back in the mail, then inputting and graphing the results has been replaced by simple, fast and effective online surveys. Now all you need to do is write up your questions once, email the survey to your database and sit back and wait for the results. Best of all, the system collates and graphs them for you instantly so you don’t have to lift a finger. Sending online surveys will save you lots of time and money (no postage costs!), and because it’s so simple for people to do, you will get lots more responses. Also, it’s all online so you can easily compare results over time and store them for future use.
Common client requests
A number of businesses have (or could have) forms for our clients to complete for a number of purposes, such as qualifying leads, job applications and information requests. If all the details form these forms could be obtained quickly over your website and passed on to the right person via email, you and your staff would be able to spend less time on administration and more time on actioning the enquiries. Also, the efficient service would keep your clients and prospects happy. It is now possible to easily set up forms like this on your website and you have almost unlimited freedom with the information you can gather . These forms can also have word verification built-in to prevent spam bots bombarding you with junk email. Custom forms provide a great value to your business and give you more time to focus on meeting the needs of your clients.
If you want to keep your customers and get them to buy more from you and refer others to your business, you need to show them you care about them. However, it would be impossible for you to call or meet with all your clients on a regular basis to do this, so you need a cheaper and more time-effective way to stay in touch. Now you can use automated emails to communicate with your clients – set up a series of welcome letters to go to them when they first join your business, send emails on special occasions like their birthday or Christmas, email them deals and promotions to celebrate their anniversary with you and send newsletters to keep them updated. While this won’t completely replace the value of an occasional phone call, it is a great cost-effective way to keep your business at the top of your clients' minds. The benefits of using automated emails is the amount of time it saves you, as well as higher customer retention and increased customer loyalty, which in turn can generate more sales and more referrals.
Online client area
While your existing clients are very important to your business, they can sometimes take up a lot of your time by asking simple, common questions. A great way to solve this challenge is to have an online client area on your website. You can have a searchable knowledgebase with answers to common questions and product manuals for clients to download, as well as a secure area for them to access private documents from your business. For example, an accountant could have all his client’s statements, tax returns and past financial data in an individual secure area for each of them, so if they need something they can just login instead of calling and taking up the his valuable time with administration tasks. A system like this would vary greatly depending on your business, but no matter what you do, it’s a great way to save time, cut your administration costs and keep your clients happy.
Motivating your team
Your staff are an important asset to your business, so you need to be constantly educating and motivating them so they can keep you ahead of the competition. Similar to the online client area mentioned above, you can set up an online resource centre for your staff or agents. There are so many tools you can use for this – for example, podcasts of interviews and lessons, videos of sales presentations, downloadable product guides and sales checklists or even a forum for staff to interact and discuss various topics. As well as this, you can use email marketing to keep everyone up-to-date easily with news alerts, latest marketing offers and educational information. Strategies like this will definitely streamline your business and save you time, but they will also make you more money – an educated and motivated team will definitely get more customers and make more sales for your business.
Author: Tracey Voyce
About: With more than 25 years business management experience, Tracey Voyce is the CEO of Bloomtools. Tracey has owned and managed many businesses and spent several years training and motivating coaches at the world’s largest business coaching franchise.Connect via: Twitter Google+ LinkedIn