A small business today can have just about every advantage large businesses have with some internet access and some great PC-friendly programs. You won’t have their huge budget, but loyalty card programs, warehouses full of your stock and excellent marketing programs are well within your grasp.
One of the biggest struggles small business owners face is warehouse storage options. If you’re a microbusiness owner just working on a hobby, you’ll likely be fine just keeping your wares in a second bedroom or even in your living room. Likely, though, larger small businesses will find themselves falling behind if they’re constantly making trips to the post office and spending time dealing with packaging and processing their goods.
Order fulfillment companies can easily be found online. Many of them allow you to manage your warehouse through their web pages, and they can even help you track what you need more and less of as the holidays approach. Companies like this help you harness the power of a large business’s quick response to shipping demands while maintaining the product line flexibility of a small business. The best part? You can do it all at your computer.
Many small business owners wish they could have a sophisticated loyalty program without having to flip through files and rolodexes filled with customers’ names. As always, the Internet has a solution. Foursquare, a simple smartphone app with over 10 million users, lets your customers check in at your location to receive specials and offers created and maintained by you. If you own a small coffee shop, you can use it like a frequent shopper and offer a free coffee on the user’s fifth check in or even bring in new customers by offering a free flavor shot with any beverage purchase.
Beyond bringing in and keeping customers, Foursquare will give merchants demographic information like the total check-ins over time, recent and frequent visitors, and even a gender breakdown and the time of day most people check in. They can also tell you how many people have shared their Foursquare check-ins that make it to other social networks.
Big businesses have professional designers to create flyers and marketing products for them. Luckily, so do you. Microsoft Word has an entire database of professionally designed advertisement pieces, including flyers, brochures, booklets and even business cards. Any sort of paper design you need can be created through Microsoft’s Office Suite. Be sure to follow the link to look for more templates online if you don’t find what you’re looking for from the selection saved within the program.
If your home printer just isn’t doing it for your business needs, try using Vista Print, an online printing service that will professionally print t-shirts, mugs, calendars, business cards, key chains and more. They specialize in microbusinesses, so they’re priced for orders of 50 instead of 5,000 like many other businesses related printing companies.
Whatever your needs are, chances are good you can find a solution with a few clicks of your mouse and some simple keystrokes. PCs and the internet are making it easier than ever for small businesses to compete in the big business market.
Jesse Langley lives near Chicago and is a frequent contributor here at WindowsTalk. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media and also writes for Professional Intern.