By Stephen Sheinbaum
You’ve got a line for tech spending in your business’ budget for 2015, right? Good. The lessons learned from business in 2014 tell me that there are five things you absolutely have to do with that funding this year:
- Invest in cybersecurity: It’s not just big businesses that are getting hacked. The credit cards and data that you collect for your small business are every bit as valuable to thieves. And if you haven’t paid attention to security, they may be easier to get. Step one? Change the password on your POS terminal to something other than the factory-issued password, which the hackers already know. If you don’t make sure your systems are secure first, none of the other four technologies may matter.
- Get social: This one will cost far less than #1. Technologies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are free but you may need to spend to use them. No, that’s not a contradiction. Identify the best platform for your business–restaurants might favor Facebook, while professional firms like LinkedIn–then think about paying someone to create content for it so you can stay focused on your business. Also consider a subscription to a social media scheduling service to keep the posts going all day long.
- Go mobile: In 2015, your Web site must work on a smartphone. By 2017, experts say mobile commerce will hit $114 billion, up from just $14 billion in 2011. Getting ready for that is easier than ever, because there are dozens of low-cost Web designs that are “responsive”, which means they automatically reshape themselves to the device your customer is using, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Your goal is a design that lets your customers make decisions without squinting or pinching.
- Take mobile: Mobile payments that is. Paper billing is going the way of the dinosaur. It won’t get all the way there in 2015, but you can prepare your business for the change. Send invoices by email and invite customers to pay through a service like PayPal, which also accepts credit cards. If you’re a retailer, upgrade your point of sale system to one that will work with a so-called digital wallet like Apple Pay.
- Find your big data: You don’t have to have a huge amount of information to be part of the big data trend. At its simplest, big data is just about creating relationships between information so that you can see patterns. Think of what it would mean to your business if you could truly understand who your best customers are and when they are most likely to need your business. If you don’t already use a database like a customer relationship management (CRM) system, invest in one in 2015.
Stephen Sheinbaum is the founder of Merchant Cash and Capital, which has provided nearly $800 million to small businesses since 2005. That funding has been used for a variety of purposes, including new technology. Follow them at @MCCfunding.