This year’s Small Business Summit 2012 had a good line-up of speakers from well known companies such as USA Today, Dell, Constant Contact, TripIT.
There were many presentations which conveyed key pearls of wisdom to small businesses regarding cloud-based business apps as well as how to manage and promote a small business in today’s “Web 2.0″ world.
In this blog post, I am going to share some good advice about cloud-computing and email marketing from various speakers.
The Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Businesses
“Cloud computing” is a prevalent term these days, but there are still people who are not quite sure what it really means.
Small business guru, author and reporter for USA Today, Rhonda Abrams, said it quite well in both her summit presentation and in her new book, Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth. “The cloud is more than just a buzzword or tech fad. In essence, cloud computing transforms products into services,” she says. She goes on to say that the cloud can “…open up your business opportunities; improve employee productivity; increase profitability.”
Cloud computing means that solutions are delivered to you via the internet. But instead of the small business buying expensive servers and hardware to store the information, a vendor does it for you. All you need is an internet connection and a computer and away you go.
The major benefits of cloud computing:
- Delivered on Demand – “You can sign up for cloud application and your employees can be up and running in just hours,” Abrams says. Many on-premise software packages can take weeks or months to integrate in your company, whereas cloud apps are more immediate. Many of the cloud applications on GetApp.com are easy to learn – and those that take more time to navigate offer videos and other tutorials to help you get up to speed.
- Scalable – “Cloud services can expand and contract as you need them,” Abrams says. “You get exactly the power and capacity you need when you need it – no more or less.” This is true as you will notice that many applications are offered at various subscription prices – at some level they are free but for more powerful solutions you can be pay $50 – $250 per month, depending on the solution.
- Flexible – You don’t have to be in your office to work on a cloud-based application. All you need is an Internet connection and laptop or mobile device and you access the application. If you run an e-commerce business you can literally buy and sell cookies over the web.
- Budget – Most small businesses do not have a large IT budget and cloud computing offers “enterprise” class services for considerably less. When “…cash flow is a challenge…and it’s time to do a major upgrade of your hardware or software,” Abrams says that cloud computing can offer you the latest software for affordable pricing. Once customer relationship management or CRM software was only for businesses with deep pockets, but now small businesses who want to improve their sales and bottom line can have the means to better manage and organize contacts.
Is Email Marketing Still Effective for Small Businesses?
Wendi Caplan-Carroll of Constant Contact is one of the most passionate people I have ever met and her passion is email and online marketing. Email marketing tools are popular to promote products and services to a large client base through graphically pleasing emails. These emails can be in the form of a newsletter, an ad, links to white papers and much more. Constant Contact is one of the more popular and older solutions out there and probably the most recognizable.
I sat down with Caplan-Carroll because I wanted to challenge her a bit. After all email marketing has been around for a long time – is it still effective in the advent of Twitter and Facebook?
Caplan-Carroll explained that despite the fact that so many people are using social media like Facebook and Twitter email is still the dominant form of communication. “Email is ingrained in all of us and is a major way to communicate. It is intuitive and personal,” said Caplan-Carrol.
Of course, said Caplan-Carroll, you need permission to send these emails to your clients and you can get that permission by simply asking your customers to sign up to your mailing list on your business website. “Email is used more often that Facebook and one of the nice things about email is that there is history – you can look back and see what you wrote.”