Why Technology can Level the Playing Field for Small Businesses

A recent survey administered by the New York-based Center for an Urban Future shows most small business owners have only started integrating technology into their business and aren’t taking advantage of software and web-based tools that can improve operations. Source

• Less than half of respondents said they were using technology to a sufficient degree to be competitive.

• Only 75 percent of low-income business owners are using email to communicate with customers, vendors and other employees.

• Of those that use email, only 60 percent use a professional domain tied to their business.

• More than 30 percent of small businesses who responded don’t have a website for their business.

• Social media is used by two-thirds of respondents.

While the survey only questioned New York City-based small businesses, but the message is universal: Small businesses are facing a gap in technology.

In fact, David Meade, executive director of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, said in the report that many small businesses are 10 or 15 years behind when it comes to technology.

“Lack of technology doesn’t necessarily impact the client base they have already built up,” Meade said. “But it impacts their ability to develop new clientele, and to get their word out there more.”

The survey polled more than 230 small businesses in New York City. Every small business owner who has a desire to expand their customer base must embrace technology, especially the following elements:

Utilizing Your Website

If your small business doesn’t have a website, it’s extremely behind in the game. The Yellow Pages are a thing of the past. It’s vital to have an online presence. If you don’t, your next prospective customer will find someone else.

“Even if customers don’t intend to purchase something online, many now prefer to browse there first,” writes the author of the report.

If you run a local florist or bakery, you don’t need to give people the opportunity to order online, as that can be trickier to setup, but people want to see your work. They want to make sure you’re a professional and deliver professional results. If they like what they see, they’ll likely come into your business and hopefully buy some flowers or baked goods.

Engaging in Social Media

Social media is inevitable. It’s the Internet’s fastest growing segment and if you don’t have some kind of presence, you’re missing out on some great free advertising for your small business.

Whether its Facebook or Twitter, social media can elevate your company to compete with the bigger competition.

“Facebook can be used to promote anything from mom-and-pop restaurants to a bank,” CK Chung, former director of the NYC Business Solutions Center, wrote in the report. “For micro-enterprises, if they want to compete with behemoths, technology is the platform on which they compete.”

Social media isn’t exactly free because it does take time and energy. But it allows you, as a small business owner, to engage in conversations with customers and prospectives and reach a whole new audience.

Conclusion? You Could be Doing More

Technology is a tricky thing for small businesses. The upfront cost of computers or software can be expensive, but the upside of integrating technology into your small business is quite clear.

The old mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” doesn’t apply anymore. By ignoring technology, you’re ignoring new customers and new sales. You wouldn’t ignore a customer that walks in the door, so why would you ignore a customer searching for your business online?

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