Online services is the new buzzword for today’s business—who doesn’t want to be “online” and “in the cloud!” Leading researcher, Gartner, reports that the worldwide market for cloud-based (online services) has grown from $175 billion in 2015 to $204 billion in 2016, with no sign of stopping through 2017 [http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3188817]
The benefits are clear. A business that operates online eliminates high start-up as well as ongoing operating costs. By outsourcing bookkeeping, accounting and payroll to online service providers, staff costs are reduced or eliminated. Taking a business online can remove the need to stock inventory, if you’re selling products. And online marketing services such as email campaigns, PDF brochures, and websites make it easier to reach niche target markets at a lower cost.
In spite of all the benefits, how “online” do you want to be? Is it really a case of all or nothing?
Black Tulip says no.
There are reasons why business owners might choose a mix of online and traditional services. In fact, combining old and new practices can give you balance for your business. Some best practices, like picking up the phone to talk with an unhappy customer, are still irreplaceable by technology; others, like tracking your customer activity, are provided through technology.
Online services that are practical for many business owners
Before choosing tasks to outsource online, take a good look at your business and determine your strengths and values. You want to outsource activities that are getting in the way of what you do best. Small business owners often make this move when they realize they are unable to manage day-to-day business on their own. Others have in-house staff to handle daily admin tasks, but need outside help for new projects that don’t warrant a full-time employee.
Moving to an online accounting system with automatic invoicing is a very efficient way to manage bookkeeping if your business isn’t, say, bookkeeping. So is payroll administration. Using an online service provider to develop your social media presence on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. is a great way to build your brand and expand your business without the headache of figuring out how to actually make a “post”.
Remember those old tape backup systems for data? Online cloud storage is safe, secure and inexpensive plus it can save you tons of space. Just imagine what you could do with that area in your office currently packed with file cabinets.
Traditional services that need to stay offline
Technology should be used to enhance “old school” practices, not eliminate them.
Online meetings, for example, work well for projects where team members are in different geographic locations. But there are times when it is far better to meet around a table. After all, we do business with people, not entities. For sales presentations or dealing with a challenging situation, face-to-face meetings can be critical for building trust or repairing relationships.
Bookkeeping works well as an online service (link to past blog) but many companies choose a combination of online and on-premise accounting, depending on their specific needs. There are a wide variety of options available depending on the expertise you already have and your specific compliance issues.
Online services that support customer relationships
As a back-office service provider, Black Tulip can be as virtual as you need us to be. Although we are able to provide our clients with services online, we make a point of building relationships through staff who routinely talk with you, or meet in person when that is important to you.
We take this approach because technology should support customer relationships and personalization, not take away from them. Figure out how to make your customers feel that they are special to your business and deliver it. If this means online services that keep them up to date with your latest products posted on Instagram, that’s great. But if it means sending them a handwritten birthday card to demonstrate you are thinking of them on their special day, then get out your pen and paper and start writing.