These tech tips cost little to no money to implement and can produce dramatic results by reaching a broad audience and enhancing your relationship with customers.
If you haven't yet grabbed the Twitter name for your business, do it now. The shorter the Twitter name the better, but make sure that your Twitter name identifies your business. The good news is that you can market by tweeting about promotions, new products and great reviews. The better news is that you can monitor complaints about your business on Twitter. A quick and caring response to criticism can generate a lot of positive buzz in the Twitterverse. Having an active Twitter account shows the world you care about your customers and are well ahead of the curve in keeping up with tech developments.
2. Facebook Page
Having a Facebook Page is an easy and public way to promote your business. With about half a billion users, Facebook reaches across the globe more broadly than any other platform. Over 30% of US ad impressions in the first quarter of this year were on Facebook. Why not tap into that audience with a Facebook page for your business? Post news, promotions, reviews and pictures on your Facebook page to attract fans. Consider a prize drawing to attract even more fans! Having a Facebook page can be an effective way to appeal to new customers and generate excitement with existing customers.
3. QR Codes
You may not be familiar with QR Codes yet, but their use is growing exponentially. Check out QR Codes: The Next Great Tech (You Haven't Heard of Yet) for a full explanation of QR codes.
A QR Code is a bar code that is scanned and holds much more information than a regular bar code. Use of QR Codes in business is growing rapidly; the second fastest growth is in Canada (after Japan).
Using a QR Code in your advertisements can convey information in a fun and innovative way, attracting a curious and technologically savvy audience. QR Codes are easily generated and anyone with a smartphone can scan them by using their camera and a Google search. Here is a blog post comparing different sites for QR Code generation: Finding a QR Code Generator.
You can use a QR Code for something as simple as a link to your website. You can also use QR Codes to reveal clues for a contest or for coupons redeemable online or at your stores. Consider using QR Codes on your business cards, website, and advertisements. You can use QR Codes in store displays to provide shoppers with more information about a product. If you run a restaurant, you could include a QR Code on the menu to link to nutritional information.
The use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is growing rapidly. Your business can get ahead of the game by developing its own app to reward loyal customers, spread the news about promotions and new products and provide store locations and directions. Offer push notifications for customers who want breaking news about your products and promotions. Include pictures of products to help your customers visualize your goods. Tailor your app to your target audience to build customer loyalty. Start with an iOS app for Apple devices, they're easier to develop and have a bigger market, then move on to Android. Make sure to update the app to keep up with changes in the operating systems.
If you have a shop or restaurant, having a Foursquare account is a great idea. Signing up for Foursquare is free and helps you to identify and reward your best customers. Foursquare is a location based smartphone app that allows shoppers to check in to earn badges and the coveted Mayor award at their favorite stores. Check out Foursquare: Fun, Friends and Deals! for a full explanation of how Foursquare attracts customers.
By joining Foursquare you will have an immediate draw for customers who will strive to be Mayor of your establishment. Make the reward sweet enough and you will have loads of customers competing to be Mayor. Let's face it, if a Foursquare member sees this on the front door of your business, she will likely choose it over a business that doesn't participate with Foursquare.
If you're with a media company, consider adding links to your reviews of restaurants in the Tips section of Foursquare. But I suggest you do this with positive reviews, not ones slamming a restaurant.
You may have a website already, but does it meet today's standards? Does it have a link to your Facebook Page? Does it have a Facebook Like button? Does it show a Follow Us on Twitter Button? How about a Tweet This Page button? Do you avoid putting essential information in Flash format so mobile users can access your website? If not, do you have a separate mobile website? Do you have an obvious way for customers to contact you directly, so they can air their complaints to you and not vent them all over the internet? Are all of these features visible and usable for your customers who view your site on their 3.5 inch (8.89cm) smartphone screens? If not, you are missing out on a growing percentage of customers who access the internet through their mobile phones. In India 49% of people access the internet exclusively through their mobile phones.
Take another look at your company's website to make sure it has social media links, an easy way to contact you and no Flash for essential information. Pull up the site on your smartphone and see what it looks like. That's what a lot of your customers are seeing.
While the chances of having a YouTube video go viral are similar to the chances of winning the lottery, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. If your products or services lend themselves to explanation, introduction or enhanced understanding through video, why not post a video on YouTube with a link back to your website? Many people who wouldn't take the time to read an instruction manual would watch a YouTube video explaining a particularly innovative feature of your product. If you own a restaurant, perhaps you could post a video of your chef giving handy cooking tips. If you run a women's clothing store, perhaps you could showcase how to pair accessories with outfits. What would you show the world about your business given the chance?
8. Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a free service from Google that sends you an email when your search term appears on the internet. You should register your business name and any trademarks your business owns to monitor their use and any possible trademark infringement. You also may discover praise and criticism of your business and/or products quickly after they hit the internet.
While you may be very busy running your business, taking some time weekly or monthly to write a message to your customers on your website makes your business seem much more personal. People get to see the person behind the storefront and what goes into making your business successful. Are you excited about a new product? Let your readers know what went into developing the product or led to the decision to carry the product. Make your readers feel as if they are part of the process and they may feel more involved with your business. Use your blog to connect with your customers in a way that your website alone can't.
10. Mobile Devices
If you have been resisting getting a smartphone or iPad for yourself, thinking that you don't want to be bothered by anything more than texts or emails when you're on the go, reconsider. Your customers are using these devices, accessing information through the mobile internet and apps and you should be too. Get an iPhone or an Android phone to see what the fuss is about. If you're locked into the company's cell phone contract or don't want to switch right now, check out the iPad. Do your competitors have apps? What do their mobile websites look like? How are they using Twitter and Facebook? Businesses aren't just competing in the real world, they are competing in the virtual world too. Only by accessing the internet through mobile devices will you realize what you're up against.
As we move further into the second decade of the 21st century, make sure that your business is moving ahead with tech. Most of these suggestions cost little or nothing to implement, but could reap tremendous rewards in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty as well as growth in your bottom line.
What steps has your business taken to keep up with developments in tech? Which changes have been the most effective? Let us know in the comments section below!
Carolyn is the author of The Wonder of Tech, a personal technology blog designed to sort through the tech world and let you know all about personal technology in plain English. Discover how tech can improve your life by providing efficiency, knowledge and fun! (www.wonderoftech.com)