Digital Overhaul

Applying a technology makeover will open your business to more customers

best bet? Ask a colleague whose opinion you value.

[2. Make it electronic.] Use electronic billing and payments to accelerate timing of receipts and payments. Online payment processing such as PayPal (; transaction fees start at 2.9% plus 30 cents) and business-processing tools such as QuickBooks Online Edition (; starting at $19.95 per month) let you easily manage customer relationships.

[3. Create an electronic newsletter.] Newsletters are an easy and efficient way to add value to your business by keeping customers informed and interested in your products or services.

[4. Go back to school.] Use electronic learning tools, i.e., Webinars, as a vehicle for professional development. A good Web host will offer small businesses the opportunity to add such features at a nominal cost as their business grows.

[5. Give them a hand.] Consider incorporating wireless technology, especially the new generation of handheld devices, to improve efficiency and responsiveness. Some good choices include the Blackberry 7100 series (; starting at $199) and the Handspring Treo 650 (; starting at $299), which incorporate phone and PDA functionality in one small device.

[6. Keep track.] Small businesses can take advantage of automated online tracking and distribution services from UPS (, FedEx (www.fed, and the U.S. Postal Service ( UPS’s WorldShip program, for example, integrates with a company’s order processing and works seamlessly with QuickBooks, Yahoo! Merchant, and other programs.

[7. Link up.] Sure, you already have a Website that complements your brick-and-mortar operation, but consider linking your site to a larger company such as eBay or As an affiliate, you’ll enjoy the benefits of an expanded customer base and automated payment processing to smooth the way.
[8. Mr. Telephone Man.] Internet telephony or Voice Over Internet Protocol is alive and kicking (and better than ever). While there is a cost for this Internet service, using VoIP offers significant savings on your phone bill. Consider services such as Net2Phone or interactive voice response solutions such as (starting at $39.99 per month). GotVMail’s VirtualOne (; starting at $9.95 per month) offers small businesses a virtual PBX system, or call center system, which combines a unique toll free and local number with multiple mailboxes/extensions, call forwarding, music-on-hold, dial-by-name directory, and other advanced features.

[9. Open a merchant account.] Companies such as Visa and American Express offer small business accounts and services that help companies manage expenses. For example,Visa offers VIS Select (, a reporting and analysis tool for business customers. And American Express offers Open for Business ( open.shtml), which features online account analysis and management tools.

[10. Leave it to the pros.] Unless you are a seasoned Website designer, your best bet is to leave the nuts and bolts of a hosted site to the professionals. Do the research to find a h
ost that matches your needs–service, availability, and price.

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