From the recession to banks’ lending policies, if you’re a SMB, it can feel like the only thing growing is the competition.
In the current climate, the ability to communicate efficiently – both internally and with clients or customers – is vital, but many SMBs can’t afford the same standard of communication technology as their larger counterparts.
However, an efficient marketing engine, supported by an effective sales model is essential to acquiring new business. You need to ensure every marketing lead is followed up by the sales team, and that not a single opportunity is missed.
But not only that, you need to ensure this process is scalable. Every small business has the dream of growing, alongside the worry of managing costs – so a scalable solution is key.
So, how do you get efficient (and scalable) technology? Answer: The cloud.
Every silver lining has a cloud – while this phrase is usually the other way round, this arrangement best describes cloud computing for business. Today if a business is growing, there’s usually a scalable, flexible and reliable cloud platform behind it.
How do cloud services for SMBs work?
Cloud computing is the ability to outsource IT services to companies who deliver them online.
Rather than buying an expensive product outright (with the hassle that comes with maintaining it), cloud computing allows you to use a market-leading product in a cost-effective way.
In many ways, it’s the difference between buying and renting a car. When you buy a car, it’s a huge expense, and you don’t get that money back if you only use the car occasionally. Plus, there are regular maintenance costs along the way and when you want to replace it, the car is worth significantly less.
However, rent a car and you’ll always get a current model, in good working order – and you only pay when you need to use it.
Cloud computing is the IT equivalent of renting a car. And it’s not hard to see which makes more economic sense.
While there are many cloud-based applications, we are going to look at cloud communication platforms, as this is our area of expertise – and also essential for improving sales and marketing.
Traditional on-premise contact systems are not easily scalable – there’s a risk of paying too much for what you’re not actually using, or quickly outgrowing what you bought. Plus, advanced phone systems can be tricky to program, leaving you with a system that can’t adapt to changes in your business.
If the way you manage leads, client relationships and communications is inefficient and inflexible, you’re in a bad position – and this is where the cloud comes in.
Why cloud-based communication systems are perfect for small businesses
Here’s how moving your sales and marketing communications to cloud could streamline your SMB:
- It makes IT someone else’s problem
IT can be a huge drain on your business’s budget, but working in the cloud puts an end to this. There’s no need to hire expensive external IT support. Plus, you’ll have less hardware and software to manage, back-up and fix.
All of this leads to a situation where you can concentrate on how the technology is meeting the needs of your business, instead of spending all your energy and resources maintaining it.
- Aligns costs to reflect the size of your team
Cloud communication systems are flexible and scalable – you can pay per user, per month. If you add people to your team, you can easily scale up, if you cut back on staff, you’re not paying for what you’re not using.
- Reduces capital expenses
Many small businesses are looking to keep their capital spend low. What’s great about cloud services is they won’t even affect your capital budget. You pay based on usage requirements, not for hardware and software outright, so any cloud-based service would fall under operating costs.
- Increases productivity and supports homeworking
There is strong evidence that allowing employees to work from home can increase productivity and loyalty – and this is exactly what the cloud enables you to do.
Because the software is accessed via the cloud – any laptop, phone or computer can instantly connect. This means you can hire staff from a wider pool – ensuring you get the skills your business needs. You can also allow employees to work from home, on-the-go or from multiple sites.
All of this leads to happier, more productive employees and a team that’s more flexible and scalable.
- You get a system you can rely on
A power cut or hardware/ software problem could leave your team unable to work. Cloud-based systems offer much greater reliability – for instance, our ContactWorld solution uses three separate data centres to ensure 99.999% platform availability.
- Enables you to be more responsive to leads and opportunities
Cloud services have the ability to give your marketing a boost. For instance, ContactWorld allows you to set up a dedicated number for marketing campaigns and prioritise incoming calls based on lead scoring software – this means each caller can be routed to the most appropriate agents and VIP customers can effectively jump the queue.
- Boost your sales
Efficient communications can boost sales – if you make it as easy as possible for your clients or customers to get through to the right people, you can increase the chance of that call being a success. Confusion does not lead to conversions!
All of these benefits lead to happier customers, clients and employees, and a more flexible, scalable and cost-effective business. Best of all, it only takes a few weeks to get your business set up.
You can find out more by reading our Small Business Guide to Cloud Communications.
Has the cloud helped your business grow? Share your thoughts and experiences below.
Article first published in BobsGuide.
Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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About Tim Pickard
Tim joined NewVoiceMedia in July 2011 with over 20 years' experience as a leader in the IT industry. He served as VP and board member of RSA Security's international business for seven years where he ran marketing in EMEA, Asia Pacific and Japan. He spent two years as Chief Marketing Officer for SaaS/Cloud-based email management provider Mimecast.Read more from Tim Pickard