By Rieva Lesonsky
My friends and colleagues sometimes tease me about how joined-at-the-hand my smartphone and I are—and don’t even get me started on how much my tablet has changed my life. As someone who once juggled three (count ‘em, three) separate smartphones, I’ve long been a believer in the value of mobile devices to help us do business better, smarter and faster.
Apparently, I’m not the only one. According to Manta’s SMB Wellness Index, more than 80 percent of small business owners use mobile devices for business at leaset once a day. More than one-fourth use them once an hour, 17.3 percent use them 10 times a day and 11 percent use them three to five times a day.
What are the top ways small business owners use mobile devices for business? By far and away, communicating with customers and/or scheduling appointments top the list, used by 55.5 percent of small business owners. About 30 percent use their mobile devices to create notes or to-do lists; 29 percent use them to manage or monitor social media; and 24 percent use them for banking.
But despite all the time they spend on their mobile devices, many small business owners still aren’t taking full advantage of the power of mobile to boost their businesses. If you’re one of the 29.4 percent of small business owners in the survey who use their mobile devices only to make phone calls and check email, you’re really missing out. In addition to the four ways mentioned above, here are five more ways to use your mobile device to boost your business:
- Track and manage your business expenses. Expensify, BizExpense and are Shoeboxed among the many mobile apps you can use to scan or photograph all those pesky receipts you gather on the road, then archive and organize them in the cloud. It sure makes expense reporting and tax preparation easier than dumping a big pile of receipts out of your bag.
- Make presentations. Tablets are easier to tote along than laptops, making them a great tool for impromptu sales presentations to prospective customers. This is especially true if you’re in a visually oriented field. With their crisp photo resolution and bright colors, tablets can show off an interior designer’s, event planner’s or landscaper’s portfolio of work to its fullest.
- Take customer orders. Restaurant and bar owners can streamline the sales process by using tablets to have their servers take orders. With less time spent writing down orders and less room for error, your servers can spend more time talking to customers, boosting their tips and your sales. You can also create fillable forms and have your customers fill them out on a tablet instead of dealing with filling, filing and inputting paper forms.
- Accept payments. Only 14 percent of small business owners in the survey use mobile devices to accept payments from customers. Tools like Square, Intuit GoPayment and PayPal Here are easy to use and enable you to take payments using customers credit and debit cards, so you no longer have to shut down prospective purchasers who don’t have cash. Nor do you have to be a mobile business to benefit—keep lines moving in your retail store (or avoid them altogether) by outfitting salespeople with tablets to make sales on the spot.
- Get customer signatures. Does it ever seem like the most agonizingly slow part of negotiating a contract is getting the actual signature? Speed things up by using digital document signing apps to have customers sign contracts and other paperwork right on your tablet and phone. The faster the contract is signed, the faster you can start working (and the faster you can get paid).
With so many ways a mobile device can help grow your business, it’s no wonder 78 percent of small business owners say they use their tablet or smartphone even while they’re at their desktop computers.