Posted: Fri 5th Jan 2024
When you’re starting a small business, choosing the right tech is essential to getting things off the ground. Technology will help you reach customers, track sales leads, manage your books and more.
It’s also great for simply keeping you organised – a challenge that often gets overlooked in the first few months of starting up. The problem? There’s so much tech available that it can be hard to know what’s best for you.
Naturally, you’ll want your tech to be easy to use and intuitive. It should serve your current needs and be flexible enough to grow with your business. And, crucially, it shouldn’t cost the earth.
We’ve put together a useful checklist for small businesses. It’s based on our experiences and years of working with business owners like you across the UK.
Essential small business technology in 2024
Get a reliable laptop and phone
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time online, make sure you have a good-quality laptop or PC. You need something dependable – the last thing you want is your computer breaking down at an important moment.
Look for fast processing speed and a decent amount of RAM (memory). Time is your most valuable asset when you’re running a small business, so don’t let sluggish tech hold you back.
The same goes for your phone. A decent smartphone should see you through your business day, but if you’re worried about receiving business calls in the evenings then think about getting a separate phone.
Set up your business website
Your website is the window to your business. It’s not just a place to showcase your products and services – it’s a vital part of building trust with your customers.
It’s normal to be apprehensive about building your own website, particularly if you aren’t necessarily tech-savvy. But there are many great budget-friendly options for small business owners that make the process simple and quick.
Squarespace is a popular option for beginners. You can choose a template based on the type of website you want or the sector of your business.
For example, website types include:
And website topics include:
art and design
Squarespace also has in-house tools like analytics and marketing dashboards, so you can understand where your sales are coming from.
If you want something more advanced, a lot of business owners opt for WordPress. It offers greater flexibility when it comes to customising your site and you can access powerful plug-ins, but getting up and running takes more time.
Create a visual identity for your business
Having a clear brand identity will make your business look more professional, cohesive and trustworthy in the eyes of your customers. It’s something you can create yourself too, using online tools:
Coolors lets you create a colour palette. You can ‘lock’ colours you like, generate complementary colours and view different shades.
FontPair matches two fonts – one for headers, one for body copy – so you can see what looks good together.
Hatchful by Shopify asks you to fill in your industry and preferred visual style (for example, bold, reliable or elegant) and produces a free business logo. You can then edit the colours and font.
Use Adobe Express to create branded images for your business. There are templates for everything, plus free photos, graphics and icons.
Start building your business community
Not every business can go live straight away – you might be waiting for a licence to come through or a manufacturer to deliver your products, for example. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start building a community around your business and getting people hyped up about your offering.
Make a page on your website that lets you collect email addresses from people who are interested in your company.
A simple “let’s keep in touch” or “we’ll let you know when we launch!” form should do – there are templates for this on Squarespace and form plug-ins on WordPress.
Check you’re complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when collecting information.
You’ll need to choose an email marketing platform to send email updates to your list. Mailchimp is a popular service. Its free plan lets users send emails to up to 2,000 subscribers, with a limit of 12,000 emails per month.
Record sales leads in a spreadsheet or CRM software
You don’t necessarily need expensive technology to record sales leads at an early stage – something simple like a Google Sheets doc would work. List names, job titles, companies and sectors, plus whether the person is a warm or cold lead.
But if you need something more comprehensive, a customer relationship management (CRM) system will organise customer data, log conversations and forecast sales growth.
Keep on top of your accounts
Having a good grasp of your numbers will help you work out whether your business is profitable and, if so, how to keep it so. You can also track your expenses, set aside money for tax and spot new opportunities.
Luckily, accounting technology has come a long way and there are plenty of tools designed to make the process simple for small business owners. Alternatively, the cheapest option is to create your own bookkeeping system using spreadsheets.
Schedule posts on social media
The reach and affordability of social media makes it essential technology for small business owners. But while it’s easy to create a profile on each platform, keeping track of different social accounts can become a full-time job in itself.
It’s worth using a scheduling tool, which lets you write social posts in advance and then publishes them at your chosen time.
Organise behind-the-scenes processes
Most people already have something that keeps them organised, whether it’s a calendar or trusty notebook. And that’s fine – but there are some great tech tools that can help you take that to the next level.
Technology like cloud storage can give your small business an all-important added layer of security, while there are numerous apps to segment and prioritise your to-do list. Here are some of our picks.
Storing and sharing documents
Even if it’s just you in the business, using a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox or Google Drive is more secure than hosting your own files. They allow you to save big files online, like images for products or presentations.
Edits to Google Docs or Sheets are saved as you go too, so there’s no risk of losing an afternoon of work if your wi-fi drops out.
Mostly, these systems push you to create a process for keeping your business organised. Saving documents to your desktop might work for you right now, but it will be a nightmare to unpick if you team up with freelancers or hire staff in future.
Creating to-do lists
To-do lists tend to get complicated when you’re running a business and, as a result, things can slip through the cracks. Having one central place for different tasks should give you a clear overview of everything you have on your plate.
We’ve found that this makes it easier to work in blocks – you can work through all the items on your admin list and then tackle your sales list for example, rather than dipping into every area of the business.
With Trello, you create tasks as ‘cards’ and assign them to columns. It’s particularly useful for planning projects, since you can move tasks to show what’s in progress and what’s done. You can also tag people to cards if you’re collaborating with other people on a project.
For something simpler, Todoist is an app that does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a digital home for your to-do lists. The free version lets you create lists for up to 80 projects.
Use communication tools to stay in touch
If your small business is home-based, it’s likely you’re working with people who are in a different location entirely. So what better to help you keep in touch than communication tools?
These are vital if you want to maintain regular contact with a co-founder, supplier, freelancer or colleague. You can use them speak to people one-on-one or in groups. Some apps have extra features for managing projects, sharing files, collaborating and so on.
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