It’s exciting to see small businesses jumping on the mobile revolution. I think it’s more noticeable with small businesses, because we’ve been conditioned to expect “old style” low tech ways of conducting business from smaller vendors. But today that’s simply no longer true.
Small businesses have the advantage of being nimble. We’re able to jump on opportunities and technology solutions that it would take larger businesses more time to implement. In some ways, smaller businesses are leading the way with mobile activity. And so we are seeing some innovative and inexpensive ways of using mobile devices out of the office.
If you’re looking for ways to develop or extend a competitive advantage, consider using smartphones (and their bigger cousins, tablets) to gain an edge. To get your creative juices flowing, here are 7 ways that small businesses are using smartphones while out of the office:
1. Accepting mobile payments
A consultant who has just published a book; a landscaper who gives an estimate for spring cleanup and mulching; and a crafter attending an outdoor crafts fair – what do they have in common? All are using a mobile payment swipe device attached to their smartphones to process credit card payments. Your funds get automatically swept into your bank account. Add the ability to print a receipt right there, and you’ll really save time.
2. More responsive service calls
It’s the classic small business dilemma: your business is growing, and your field service crew is small. If you have to schedule a crew while in the field, do they have access to work orders and other details? Will they have access to driving directions? A good navigation system integrated with your back office systems to make sure crews have the right information, can save money. There’s less wasted time, and less phone time verbally explaining job details.
3. Tracking deliveries in the field
A local distributor of specialty foods needs to track exactly where shipments stand – verifying they were made, what was delivered, when and where. And have a record of it for the company and for customers. A software solution tied to barcoding that tracks variances and issues an accurate invoice on delivery avoids follow-up calls – all enabled from smartphones — can make sure you get paid faster.
4. Demonstrating before and after pictures
Providers of homeowner services have gotten smart about using before and after photographs of home improvement projects. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds new meaning when you are meeting with a provider for an estimate , and you see before and after pictures right there on a smartphone or better yet, a tablet. In the past, service providers had to rely on printing out expensive brochures. It is much easier to make a sale when your prospect can see the quality of your work.
5. Tracking timecards and distance/time
How exactly do you track the hours worked by your remote workers, such as construction crews? Construction companies and contractors have adopted wireless apps that track time and attendance, verified by GPS, to make the process efficient. You get better recordkeeping, payroll can be more accurate, and your compliance is easier. Oh, and you save money, too, through eliminating manual work and wasteful errors.
6. Traveling light: have smartphone and tablet, will travel
For knowledge workers who fly on business, lugging around pounds of gear such as a large laptop, a variety of cords and charging devices, a briefcase and more, is literally a pain. The whole package can approach 10 pounds. That 10 pounds of gear may not sound like a lot, but it can feel like a hundred by the time you get to your destination. And for security purposes you don’t want to check items like that.
Savvy business people have learned to travel light, with a smartphone alone or combined with a lightweight tablet for short trips. It takes mobility to a whole new level, and it keeps employees happy and productive.
7. Using smartphones for processing orders and work flow
Some of the most savvy small businesses have integrated smartphones into their work flow. For instance, one painting contractor told me he closes 20% more business by generating professional looking estimates and invoices on the spot at the customer’s home, after taking measurements and showing paint samples. It’s all because he has forms available on a tablet that can be configured, finalized and printed on a mobile printer. In other words, he increased his business by being innovative with technology.
These are just some examples of small businesses using technology for an edge. How do you use smartphones and tablets?
Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock