Operating an online business means that you must have a toolbox of resources that provide you with the ability to provide the same services virtually that you would provide face to face. You have to be able to answer your clients questions and inquiries no matter what. The fact that you can't be there physically can not hinder you from providing a great service to them. To be able to provide such great service you need to have some “tools” under your belt that allow you to access what you need from anywhere and anytime. And with everything going mobile, you need to consider whether these products and programs have mobile sites or apps so that not having a computer available doesn't hinder you either.
Below is a list of the top five tools that you need to have in your toolbox in order to deliver outstanding service to your clients. I have each one of these tools in my toolbox and I suggest you do the same.
- Document manager. One of the biggest efforts this country is undergoing is going green. And why should your business be any different. Get a cloud based document manager instead of a traditional filing cabinet. A cloud based document manger can be set up in a manner similar to a filing cabinet with client and vendor folders but without all the paper cuts. Plus you have access to all your files all the time no matter where you are.
- Scanner. So obviously if the first tool is a document manager then the second tool has to be a scanner to get all of the paper work, namely receipts, into the document manager. There are lots of apps that allow you to scan a document from your phone or tablet. No more collecting receipts, contracts and invoices on your desk in a to be filed bin. Now you can scan them while on the go.
- Financial program. For small business owners and entrepreneurs, it's important to be able to access their records at all times. In most cases, you are working in your business and on our business (that's another post), and you need to be able to answer billing issues expeditiously and with ease. Using a cloud based system will allow you to do just that. It also allows your outside accountant to be able to service you no matter where they are in the world.
- Merchant account. You have to have this tool if you want your business to have manageable cash flow system. If you are going to be a virtual business than you need to be able accept payments virtually. And by that I mean you need to open to accepting payment methods other than cash and checks. This makes your business more visible to a broader range of clients, including potential clients who are not in your local town. Using a secure merchant account, shows your clients that you are serious about protecting their information.
- CRM / PMO system. As you begin to build your client base what are you going to do with the list? How are you going to manage your ongoing projects for each client? A CRM/PMO system will allow you to do both of those things. You will have a detailed structured list, not a rolodex like my last employer, and you will have a system that helps you manage your on-going projects so that you don't feel overwhelmed. You will be able access all of your clients and their information in one place and track the projects that that relate to each one. Plus it is a very useful tool for managing you marketing campaigns.
What tools do you have in your toolbox?
Sherrell Martin is the Founder and CEO of Empower 2 Thrive, LLC, a boutique practice offering financial management accounting and business development strategies. She uses accounting, finance & business strategy to help business owners and entrepreneurs who struggle with business and financial organization establish systems that will allow them to create, build and maintain a financially thriving business.
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