Smart businesses recognize economic slowdowns as opportunity to move forward relative to competition. As any house painter will tell you, rainy weather is the time to clean brushes, repair ladders and secure the shop. The same is true for your use of web tools. So here are 20 web-oriented ideas to make your business run more smoothly when things get busy again.
[originally appeared in Business Lexington]
Install Offsite Backups. Losing critical files from your computer can seriously damage your business and your customers’ confidence – and can even lead to lawsuits. When things are busy again, backups may get a lower priority so automating it now is a great idea.
Set up Local Business Profiles. Yahoo and Google Local profiles are used for their regional search engines. If you want to be able to show up properly next to competition on maps and city-wide searches, setting up your profile is critical.
Monitor Your Industry. Free tools such as Google Alerts and RSS make it incredibly easy to listen to the community and competition at a glance. If your industry has bloggers (most do) subscribe to the best and skim them daily.
Set Up Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) Software. Customers love consistent service, but when things are busy, that can be a challenge. Web-based CRM tools are an affordable, simple way to organize requests, proposals, support calls and follow ups.
Create Reusable Templates For Customer Messages. If you send similar notes often, learn to use the template feature of most email programs. This lets you cut down the accumulation of time spent typing the same information again and again. Setting
Update Your Website. Outdated corporate websites look unprofessional and often rate poorly in search engines. Check your site for correct content, broken links, and appearance on web browsers such as Firefox and Safari. Adding a FAQ can reduce service/support calls, and a map can help people find you without calling. It could be that now’s the time to invest more time and energy into this critical part of your business.
Check Your Media Licenses. Stock photo companies use sophisticated image scanning to seek out unlicensed images on the web, filing immediate infringement often over $5000 per image. Take the time to locate licenses for each image used, even if someone else did the website.
Start A Blog. These widely misunderstood publishing platform that forms the foundation for social media involvement. Unfortunately, they are frequently set up and used incorrectly – so now is a great time to do it right.
Get Involved in Social Media. Authentic and unselfish participation in discussions on social networks has a magical effect on reputation, especially keeping in mind that hundreds may review what you’ve posted. There’s no faster way to grow trust and authority in your market in front of people who matter.
Master Wide Area Access. I’ve been surprised how few businesses are able to connect while out with customers. Now’s a great time to master this.
Participate in Q&A Sites and Forums. Taking the time to answer a couple of questions a week in your industry can grow online authority and trust in a way that costs very little. Examples include LinkedIn Answers and Yahoo! Answers.
Install Website Analytics. It usually takes an hour to set up Google Analytics and start getting insights into a web site visitors’ behavior as well as which marketing mechanisms are working.
Set Up Remote Access. If you travel, having the ability to remotely access your office computers can save a meeting or hours of driving.
Read These New Media Books Groundswell by Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff, Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine, and Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae are examples that can transform thinking and get you ready for the future.
Get SPAM Under Control. A hosted solution such as spamstopshere can save a business thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity for just a few dollars per user per month, and takes just a few hours to set up.
Secure Laptops and Portable Drives. Lost or stolen laptops and “thumbdrives” represent a huge risk that can open your business to huge and even litigation. Securing these data for transport is relatively easy and affordable.
Shore Up Your Content Filtering. Studies show that 25-30% of work computers have illegal or inappropriate files such as pornographic images stored on them, exposing business to potentially disastrous litigation and embarrassment.
Update Your Wireless Network. These are huge productivity helpers but most are set up improperly or use old security standards. This can expose a business invasion by opportunistic hackers or simple bandwidth leeches. When you’re done securing it, consider providing Wi-Fi access to your customers. I mean, even McDonalds is doing it.
Solicit Customer Ratings. Many regional search engines and city-wide websites have the ability for customers to rate your company. While you never want to “buy” ratings or rate yourself, asking your best customers to give their thoughts can give you a competitive advantage in those searches.
Research Lower Cost Healthcare Programs for Employees. I do not want to advocate reducing the quality of the program, but choosing one that offers higher levels of automation, web-access, and still maintains the care for your employees may be available
Consider Outsourcing. Tim Ferris brought this idea to the general public by quoting A. J. Jacobs’ Esquire article “My outsourced life” in his best-selling book “The Four Hour Workweek“. Things just keep getting better and in a few days of note-taking, I’m betting you could create a list of outsourcable tasks.
Saw Image by Chrissy W used under Creative Commons Image