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Interview with an Expert: <br>Advice to Grow Your Business Part 2

advice-grow-business-pt2-0315-banner In the second installment of Wasp’s interview with Gene Marks, best-selling author and columnist for the New York Times, we continue with the last two trends small businesses should consider as they work to grow in 2015.   Small business leaders’ expectations are high for the new year, and, although challenges continue to face SMBs, current feelings of optimism and confidence are significant motivators of change. Marks believes small businesses that are ready to invest more working capital to grow revenue and increase profits will achieve success by identifying opportunities within these last two trends: sales & marketing and technology.


AccountingTodayAlthough small business owners may want to grow their business, 56% of those surveyed in Wasp’s State of Small Business Report plan on only investing less than 3% of their revenue on marketing. If you want to grow and expand, this is a very low investment, says Marks, since experts recommend small business owners invest from 10 to 20% of their revenues. Even more glaring, 72% of small business owners don't have a customer relationship management (CRM) system.  "[All small business owners] have got to get a CRM system this year,” says Marks. “It’s the number one, top-selling cloud-based application. It's going to continue to grow. And it's a giant trend." There are two things a good CRM system will do for your business: 1. Eliminates lost and mismanaged opportunities.  “It's an online database,” explains Marks. “Everybody shares information about your customers, your prospects, your partners, vendors, it's all in there. Your scheduling files, your emails are in there, your notes. Nobody falls through the cracks when you have a good CRM system.” 2. Every employee is up-to-date, all the time.  Since information is updated within a central database, everyone who has access to that database knows everything there is to know about a customer. “When somebody calls, like a prospect or a customer, whoever picks up the phone, they look at the CRM system first,” says Marks. “They see who last spoke to that person, what was talked about, any notes about that person … everybody is in the loop and nobody looks like a dope."
There are three rules when considering a CRM system:
  • Make sure you've got a strong administrator.
  • Make sure senior management (if you’re a small business owner, that’s you!) is behind it 100%.
  • Make sure you've got good reports because data is everything.
Sales & Marketing Automation in Small Business
A few good CRM systems to consider are Salesforce ($125 per user), Microsoft Dynamics ($65 per user), Zoho CRM ($7 per user), and Insightly CRM ($7 per user).


Another area small business owners are thinking about is efficient technology spending. According to the report, 38% of small business owners plan to increase their technology budget this year. If your small business is part of that group, Marks suggests three technologies to consider: 1. Google Hangouts On Air is a free service from Google and allows small businesses to increase customer interactions and promote their business services and products. Anyone can use the service for free and since you can broadcast a live event for 20 minutes, small business owners should consider using the time to interview an expert, conduct a case study, do training, or certification work. At the end of your time, the video will automatically be saved to your YouTube channel.

"Cloud accounting leaders are reshaping all of the accounting software out there right now.”

2. Business Intelligence will be a huge investment in the new year. This service enables small business owners to easily increase their profit by keeping track of details and numbers. If you’re not happy with your current system, Marks suggests hiring a consultant to identify the right options for you.
3. Cloud accounting software is another technology trend small business owners should think about adopting. “Cloud accounting leaders are reshaping all of the accounting software out there right now,” says Marks. “What that adds to your business is more flexibility, more productivity, mobile access from wherever you are and interaction with a lot of other services that can interact with your other systems very easily.”  A few
Technology Spending & Trends in Small Business
good options are Quickbooks, Xero, Intacct, and Netsuite. While the new year is exciting, there are a few challenges and the report finds four in particular that are worrying small business owners the most: 1. Revenue growth. Even though most small business owners expect growth in 2015, they’re still worried about where it’s going to come from, what marketing to adopt, where new customers are going to come from, and how the economy is doing overall. 2. HiringFinding the right people is time consuming and expensive. Small business owners are thinking about their next hires and how they can keep the current ones motivated. 3. Government regulationsThere are still a lot of regulations that will come into play in the new year that will have a huge impact on businesses. Small business owners are spending a lot of time thinking about these regulations. Oct-20134. Cash flow.  Another challenge small business owners are thinking about is managing their cash to make sure they’re as profitable as possible. The most successful small business owners think ahead when it comes to planning for their company’s future. What will changes in tax reforms, immigration reforms, national debt, annual deficit, and a national minimum wage mean to your business? How can you plan ahead to accommodate these changes and make sure you end up on top? "In conclusion, look forward, think ahead, that’s what you want to do,” says Marks. “But be confident … 2015 is looking like a good year."

Related Article: Interview with an Expert: Advice to Grow Your Business Part 1

We’d love to hear your thoughts about our interview with Gene Marks.  Are you planning on investing in any of the four trending areas – growth, hiring, sales & marketing, or technology?  If you are, we’d like to know more about your plans.  Leave us a comment!