If you’re an entrepreneur or running a SME, chances are you’re already “Cloud Computing” quite a bit. And being the entrepreneur you are – and as such very cautious with your finances and time – you have chosen this approach to spend your time on what matters the most; your core business.
The many benefits of cloud computing are not only advantageous for startups or SMEs though. In a nutshell, the concept of “Cloud Computing” means that you are using the brains and storage capabilities of remote computers to process your work. This includes creating and storing data and files by using applications that are hosted on and launched by computers from the other side of the globe.
But this article isn’t really about the many benefits of Cloud Computing. It’s about how you can use Cloud services to present your work like a Pro, just like the “big boys” (your big competitors). The following are some of the services you should definitely subscribe to. Not only to save money and efforts, but to present your work and yourself in the most professional way possible.
Your Email Service
Even if you are a micro enterprise or a freelancer, there is absolutely no need to use GMail or any other free email service. If you don’t have a company name yet, you should still use a customized domain name, which could very well be your family name. A couple of great alternatives that come to mind are Microsoft Exchange Online and Google Apps. From a branding perspective, the impact and benefits are immense as recipients will always perceive you as being much more professional with a proper business address.
Your Productivity Tools
Let’s face it; no business today can manage without spreadsheet, word processing, and presentation tools. If you don’t want to invest in licenses, you can use Google Docs which has all these and some more. And if you chose Microsoft’s Office 365 platform and are wiling to pay a bit more, you get the latest versions of Office both online and offline (downloadable).
If you are using Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365, you also have plenty of storage space at your disposal that you can use to securely share across multiple devices and other users. This would be one way of avoiding the need for a central file server, and all your team members get to work in real-time mode on the same files regardless of where they are. Plus, how great would it be if your clients can jump in and review draft documents and leave comments without having to deal with multiple email attachments?
Your CRM Solutions
This is one system you definitely want to have in the cloud. Not only is it much more cost efficient, but given the nature of what this function does it’s critical to have access to your data 24/7 and via any device you happen to hold in your hands. Any decent CRM solution today comes with fully enabled apps for mobile phones and tablets, and sync whatever you do in the background so when you’re back at the office you have all the updates and additions right there. That includes of course that order you just wrote up on your phone while visiting a customer.
This is a tricky one, and many people are reluctant to entrust another party with their financial data. This is not only a privacy concern, but also freaks many people out from a security perspective. What happens if the hosting company goes down and out of business? Where do all those precious receivables go? Therefore, this is one service you would want to do investigate seriously to make sure the company you chose is rock-solid and reliable. Intuit’s QuickBooks is a great example. Those guys have been around for decades and there’s no reasons to suspect they will go anywhere in the future. And when you use their service, you get to invoice and collect like a pro. Your invoices, statements, and credit memos are now customized with your brand and have the look and feel of a mega corporation.
Usually, large companies interact with their clients via sophisticated project management systems, while the rest of us (the small and medium sized guys) use spreadsheets and the likes. This is not so great when it comes to how we’re perceived by the client. Why not use an online Project Management systems such as Zoho Projects which lets you create a completely customized and branded portal? We can assure you that your clients will be impressed and regard you as being equal to that mega competitor who’s been after their business.
To put this all in the context of marketing, here’s how you’ll end up being “perceived” by your customers; your team uses your own domain name and each user has his/her own email address that corresponds to your website’s domain. Your clients have access to their project-specific files 24/7. Your CRM system cranks out interest-sensitive emails, and your team members are all in sync about recent discussions and developments with your client. Again, just like the big boys that are running expensive systems. Your financial records look impeccable, are delivered digitally, and you are even able to accept online payments. And yes, you guessed right; just like the big boys. And last but not least, your clients collaborate with your team via a branded portal that has all the bells and whistles of the most sophisticated project management systems. (Now you’re being even bigger than many big boys).
At the end of all that, you are suddenly no longer perceived as a small start-up or micro enterprise. Perception is reality, and the reality now is that you are professional, at the top of your game, and as such, you are big!
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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