“The Cloud” is everywhere. Whether it is Microsoft selling its newest computer services, or a sales guy selling you a $10K software package, the cloud has now become main stream…or mostly mainstream. But as a small business, what does the cloud and cloud based software, AKA Software as a Service (SaaS), mean to you and how should you be using it?
SaaS has the power to reshape the small business landscape and make small businesses “BIG” by leveling the technical ground in which small businesses compete. Here are three ways that the SMB should be using SaaS to better manage their businesses.
1) Cost Savings: Every time I hear a small business talk about implementing big software that costs thousands and thousands of dollars, I cringe. Even medium size businesses, in my mind, have no need for big software deals. SaaS allows you to grow into software that you need. For example; let’s say you are the proud owner of a small widget shop and your sales guy tells you that he needs a system to gather leads, manage those contacts, and then send emails about tradeshows and industry events where you will be displaying your new widgets. You could go RFP some “end to end” solution that would get you a nice dinner with a sales rep and a 10K price tag. OR, you could use a $29/month form builder, integrate your lead gen forms with Highrise for $49/month, and send data into your Constant Contact email database for roughly $50 per month. All with very minimal set up. This could all be done for a whopping $128/Month or $1,536 per year!
2) Time Savings: If you aren’t utilizing cloud-based software to save time, you’ve missed the boat. Your job as a small business owner is not to type in data to excel, import into some accounting software, and export out reports and numbers. Your job is to manage the business, grow it, build something you are proud of and something that can run without you! SaaS as it is built today, should work to save you time, something we all need. So how does SaaS save you time? We are huge believers of open API’s and integrated web apps working together, heck, we even joined the Small Business Web, because of that belief! Using integrated web apps allows you to flow data from one app to another without having to import/export data. It happens seamlessly and allows you to focus on things that really matter!
3) Growing Your Business: Cloud-based apps aren’t just for keeping your business running. Thanks to a whole host of apps out there you can grow your business too. Sure, there are tools like Constant Contact for email marketing or WordPress for blogging, but did you know that there are apps out there that can drive real customers to your door? Did you know that you can use a smorgasbord of tools from SEOMoz that could make you an in-house SEO factory? Did you know that with services like Hootsuite, CoTweet, etc., you can publish to all of your social profiles, track what your fans/followers are clicking on and how they are interacting with your brand? Did you know that there are simple ways to do A/B testing on your web site, without having to know how to code? Small businesses who look beyond the management of their company can find some really great, inexpensive software products that not just run their business, but also grow it.
It’s an exciting time to be a small business. The variety of cloud-based software for the small business is really just starting to take off. Soon, small and medium businesses will be able to find interoperable software tools that level the playing field and create businesses that can really focus on growth and long-term sustainability.