You use mobile apps to help you find a place to eat, to get a parking spot and even to look up flight times, but are you using them to be more efficient in your business? That was the topic of yesterday’s webcast on using online applications and mobile applications to save time and money. The panel was moderated by Anita Campbell and Brent Leary (CRM Essentials), and introduced me to speakers Mary Shapero (Intuit Project Manager), Vivek Thomas (Maximizer) and Sonny Byrd (Shoeboxed.com).
As a small business owner myself, I admittedly don’t rely on that many professional mobile apps or services. And it seems I’m not alone. When asked which business applications small business owners used on their mobile phones, the responses were telling:
- 60 percent of people use newsreaders
- 12 percent use payment processing
- 44 use navigational systems
- 32 use CRM/Contact systems
- 36 use none of the above
Though the number of blog readers was impressive, the other stats really were not. A mere 12 percent of SMBs said they are currently using payment processing apps and a serious 36 percent admitted to using no apps at all.
But why should you be looking at online services and applications for everyday tasks? Because, as Sonny mentioned, you lose business when you’re inefficient. When you misplace a business card and lose a contact. When you accidentally throw out a receipt and cancel out a tax deduction, etc. All of these actions take money out of your pocket. Being able to do business in the moment and make processes more efficient helps you to reclaim those dollars.
Yesterday’s webinar focused on using online apps to maximize business in the following areas:
- Customer Relations Management
- On the go payments
Using a mobile Customer Relations Manager gives you constant access to your accounts, sales deals, and schedules while traveling or on the road. Vivek cited the importance of using a mobile CRM system while talking about his company’s own dashboard, Maximizer. With Maximer, merchants can look up a customer’s history before meetings or after, get in-the-moment updates from field to management and even track their time better. And because the dashboard syncs with your central database, it can be updated as frequently as your SIM allows. It’s all about using the tools of today to improve customer face time and productivity.
If you’re going to invest in a mobile dashboard system, make sure you know what it is you want to track in order to maximize your ROI. You want to track the actions that are most important to you first, and then move on from there. Choose metrics that are easily identifiable, quantified and that reps/users can both identify with.
On the go payment
Traditionally, if you were on the go and trying to get paid, you were out of luck. You were either collecting a check that you’d have to wait and deposit or you had to shell out $1k for a credit card terminal for each member of your staff. That process is cumbersome, expensive and slows down cash flow. It’s also not secure if you’re calling from the road with a credit card number. You’re wasting time.
During her presentation, Mary talked about GoPayment, a service which makes it possible for small business merchants to easily process payments via their cell phones. For a service fee of $19.95, merchants can register unlimited user accounts for their staff that allow them to get paid on the spot; they just need a mobile phone with a mobile browser or the ability to download the GoPayment mobile app. Once inside the system, a small business owner need just log in, select Charge from the main menu, and enter the amount charged/ customer’s credit card information. There’s no traveling to the bank to deposit a check, no calling in the numbers, nothing. It’s done right there.
One of the most useful apps mentioned yesterday (at least in my eyes) was Shoeboxed, a service that takes the pain out of keeping receipts, tracking them and sending them to the IRS.
The process behind Shoeboxed is simple. You mail them your receipts/contacts (or send them in via cell phone photo!), they scan them, extract the data, and then load it all into your account for you. From there, someone on their team is tasked with going through the data to make sure it’s accurate and uploaded correctly. In a few days, you’re able to log in, see what’s there and then export it into a format of your choosing – Quicken, PDF, Quickbooks, Evernote, Outright, Excel, etc. Shoebox essentially becomes your personal assistant/filing cabinet in order to give you time back in your day. They take your data and make it usable.
I wasn’t aware of Shoebox before, so this will definitely be something I’ll look into. No one likes crunching their own numbers or holding on to receipts. As Anita mentioned later in the webinar, you should be spending time running your business, not working in it. That’s where you’re most valuable and why this new generation of on-the-go apps are so important.
If you’re a small business owner, take some to learn about the mobile applications that can help you with your business. Mobile and online apps let you attend to your business while you’re running to the airport, stuck in traffic, or just away from your office. I want to thank all the speakers for sharing their time to talk about the products they offer for small business owner. I know I learned a lot.
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to our sponsor, BlackBerry, for making this session possible.