As a member of Generation X, I was required to take Computer Information Systems (CIS) in college. When I say CIS, I’m referring to learning how to use Microsoft programs Word, Excel and Powerpoint … nothing fancy, no Java, C++ or Ruby on Rails … just the very basics which happened to be completely overwhelming to me at the time.
When there was just the inklings of the World Wide Web and no social media, I thought it was a big waste of time. I mean, was I ever really going to spend my days on a computer? (ha, ha)
Fast forward 3 years after college graduation with a degree in Broadcast Communication, a move to the big city of San Francisco and drum roll please … I landed a job as an “Internet Consultant.” That’s right. An.Internet.Consultant. Me.
In 2000, just 3 years after scoffing at computers, technology had advanced (or maybe it was me?), become mainstream and twenty year old somethings flocked in droves to the Bay Area during the dot com boom.
As an internet consultant, my job was to help McKesson Pharmaceuticals launch a beta program that would help customers feel comfortable buying online. That meant walking them step by step on “how-to” order medicine online.
Customers were hesitant to provide their credit card information or anything too personal online so I would call them and talk them through pressing the right buttons and reassuring them they were doing it right.
Hard to imagine that was only 16 years ago?! Now Amazon, Chrome and many other online sites and tools will happily store our credit card information so we can buy with a quick impulsive swipe or click.
We pay with our Starbucks app or Apple Pay. We have become very trusting of technology. That trust didn’t happen overnight.
The technology revolution has changed the way we work, how we work and what we are able to create from the press of a computer key from anywhere, anytime.
We now have an accessible global marketplace. You can sell products or services online, market to any country, get paid through Paypal and meet your clients virtually via Skype. The opportunities are here … now.
When I became a mom for the first time in 2007, I knew I wanted to stay home with my daughter but also wanted a professional career without sacrificing either.
I’ve interviewed and talked with hundreds of mom entrepreneurs. Having children and the desire to have a flexible schedule is the heart-felt WHY behind their motivation. The technology is the HOW. Mix that with their skill set, a need in the marketplace and they’re in business.
The #1 action these moms take after they have an “AHA” moment to start a certain type of business is to research through Google. Whether it is a patent search at USPTO.gov or looking up how to manufacture in the U.S.A. through Maker’s Row or find someone who can sew prototypes through family or Craigslist, the resources are endless online.
It’s not that moms never started businesses in the past but they never had the instant accessibility and knowledge technology provided to start, grow and run a business like today.
It is only because of technology that I can have the type of business I have and take my children to school and pick them up which is important to me. It’s my WHY.
Everything I do in my business was not mainstream or even available 10 years ago.
Public Relations – Past to Present
Before the internet and social media, a business owner would have to hire a publicist or pay for an expensive subscription to a PR database to get press contacts and media coverage.
Now, you can connect with reporters and journalists online and easily find contact information, editorial calendars and use resources like HARO (helpareporterout.com) to get leads to be featured in magazines, radio, podcasts and television.
The media is more receptive to being pitched as they are transparently building their reputation and following, too.
Since you can set-up Google or another analytics tool to track who and where customers are coming from to your website, you can see what is working and target more sites and customers like the ones that are buying.
A woman in my PR class landed a niche podcast interview that resulted in $8,000 sales, 14,000 visitors the first day, 9 wholesale inquiries and 300 visitors a day over 2 months later. She is able to track actual revenue and traffic.
That kind of data is very valuable. To understand clearly what is working for your business (and not working) is the difference between how fast you’ll grow.
Social Media is a free platform to build a following, engage with fans and customers and position your business expertise.
With new social media platforms popping up like Blab, Periscope and tools like Facebook Live and a comeback of Snapchat, there are always new opportunities to connect with potential customers.
There is also an opportunity to start a service based business like teaching how to use one of these platforms. In today’s media landscape, it is easier to become and “Expert” in your field because there are new technologies popping up all the time.
While they don’t cost money, they can definitely deplete your time if you don’t have a strategy on how you will use them for business.
Advertising – Past to Present
Advertising used to be for big budgets mostly through direct mail and hundreds of thousands of dollars in publications, radio, TV or billboards to reach a general or somewhat targeted audience.
Now you can advertise to a very targeted specific audience. Take Facebook ads for example. You can target your market down to location, interests (Shark Tank), behaviors (like “small business owners” or “moms of 2 year olds”) or competitors Facebook business page and see a ROI. I get results from $5 a day for one audience.
Marketing – Past to Present
Marketing used to be seen as creating graphics and content paid ads or sponsorship. It encompassed an entire team of people with specific skill sets.
The power in marketing today is automation. Automation allows you to scale yourself without relying on a marketing or customer service team.
Marketing automation allows you to nurture through a series of emails your leads and customers in a professional and strategic way.
You don’t need a design team either. With free graphic design resources like Canva.com, PicMonkey.com and free stock photo sites like PicJumbo.com or hiring out through 99Designs makes a very professional way for you …
The bottom line is that your small business can grow quicker into a large business by taking advantage of the efficiencies of technology.
Although these low cost or free technologies are available to all of us, not everyone will see the value and there lies the opportunity for you to uplevel your business.