Looking for ways to make your small business more competitive? In this podcast, learn how you can use technology to help gain an edge over your rivals.
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Here is a written version of the podcast.
Tad Clarke: Hello, I’m Tad Clarke for AT&T. I’m here today with Laurie McCabe to talk about ways small businesses can be more competitive. Laurie is partner of SMB Group, a research and analyst firm that focuses on the technological needs and requirements of small businesses. Laurie, thank you for joining us.
Laurie McCabe: Thank you; it’s nice to be here.
TC: Before we get started, let me say that AT&T offers several solutions to help small businesses collaborate and improve their business operations. OK, Laurie, what are some of the ways that small businesses can gain that edge over the competition?
LM: I think that what I’d put at the top of the list is really understanding your customers and what they need. To do that well in today’s day and age, I think that means you really have to be listening, not just to the one-on-one conversations and e-mails going back and forth between you and your customers but also tapped into social media and those kinds of things so that you can really get a good grip on what the market requirements are.
TC: What kinds of technologies can help a small business be more competitive?
LM: What we found is that there’s a distinct category of small and medium businesses that we call “progressive SMBs.” And these guys, despite economic uncertainties and things like that, continue to invest in IT spending because they really see technology solutions as a vital tool to help them transform their businesses and be more competitive.
TC: Let’s talk about the cloud for a little bit. Can you explain what that is and what it can do for a small business?
LM: “The cloud,” when you hear that, really means that you don’t need to install and run an application yourself on your own computer, whether that’s a desktop or a server. You’re getting the application over the Web via a Web browser and a logon and a subscription. You don’t have to worry about installing and running and maintaining and patching and upgrading that software; that’s all done by the cloud service provider for you.
TC: What about conferencing and collaboration tools that can be used over the cloud— how do you use those?
LM: Very few small/medium businesses want to invest in running and owning conferencing and collaboration tools. When you run these solutions in the cloud, you usually have capabilities to easily invite people that aren’t in your company in to collaborate with you or obviously, be on a Web conference with you.
TC: Mobile is another big area companies are using to gain an edge. And I know your company just did some research on this. What about mobile, and how can you use that to improve your business operations?
LM: Where most small businesses are at is using basic collaboration types of applications, email and calendar and contact management, that kind of thing, on their mobile device. But what we’re seeing is that they’re starting to get into looking at what kind of business applications they can do or have employees do with a mobile device? So whether that’s things like time tracking or expense reporting or checking inventory, for example, if you’re an HVAC guy and you’re in the truck and your customer needs a certain part. And the other area that we see a lot of traction with is small and medium businesses becoming interested in how do they provide mobile access to their company for customers. So whether that’s creating a mobile-friendly website or mobile apps that maybe let you schedule an appointment from your smartphone.
TC: Very good, Laurie. Thank you for being with us today.
LM: OK, Tad, thank you.
TC: Let AT&T help make your business more competitive. Come back to ATT.com/smallbizstrategies for more tips to help run your small business.