How Small Businesses Are Using Technology to Get Ahead

Deals are scarce and rustling up customers is tougher than ever, so many small businesses are finding it challenging to turn a profit.  One way they’re making it happen is by turning to technology.

Valerie King-Bailey runs OnShore Technology Group, Inc, an internationally known firm out of Chicago, and uses the Web to market for herself and her clients.  She says the key to her success is using advanced technology.

“Lots of firms are using Facebook -- it’s an excellent way, free of charge, to market your own company,” said King-Bailey.

King-Bailey joined the University of Wisconsin group on Facebook and got two new clients there.

“Small businesses are constantly trying to level the playing field, and they don’t have the deep pockets that large firms do,” she noted.

One way King-Bailey helps her clients to get exposure is using cellphones as marketing tools.

“I started to get ideas from the Obama campaign; he used a lot of social networking, blogs, podcasts,” she said.

She started using technology, which makes Web sites easier to view and navigate on cellphones, to get her clients more exposure on the cellphone.

King-Bailey also uses Blogs, Twitter and podcasts to get the word out about her clients.

When small businesses have small budgets, these new technologies work the best.

“Setting up a blog is free,” said King-Bailey.  “And connecting the blog to a Web site is called ‘syndicated technologies.’”

She says putting a blog on a company’s Web site increases traffic for both.  In some cases, sales went up 20% for her clients.

“A blog is conversational, it’s not written in marketing ease,” said King-Bailey.  “It’s excellent way to get your message across.”

Podcasts are available on Apple (AAPL)  iTunes also for free.

“All you need to do is go to Radio Shack and buy a microphone, as cheap as $9.99,” King Bailey said, adding that it’s an easy way to educate your market.

Many small business owners find it tough to develop their own Web sites.  As part of her local chamber of commerce, King-Bailey has helped developed Web site using dotnetnuke, a free content management system.

Small business owners can also simply pay someone to set up a Web site, then manage the content from there.

Theresa Daytner runs her own construction in Maryland and saves on overhead costs using technology.

“Technology saves me needing a lot of office space,” said Daytner.Daytner Construction Group manages all facets of the construction process and the projects range from $1 to $75 million.  And many of the project managers can work from home.  And Daytner says that flexibility expands her hiring pool significantly.

“Technology gives me opportunity to look for talent pool in a wider geographic area,” said Daytner, “and we can manage projects remotely sometimes, so there’s tremendous upside.”

Daytner, mother of six children, had one day where she needed to go for a hike before going into work.

“Because I got service where I was, I was able to check email and check-in and get pulse during the hike.”

Maureen Borzacchiello owns a trade-show display company in West Hempstead, N.Y.  Borzacchiello used technology to give her clients complete access to their projects.

“We’ve developed a platform that offers full transparency for clients,” said Borzacchiello, “additionally we have section built in for budget information.”

This real-time data has been invaluable during this economic downturn for her clients.

“Business owners need to know that they need exposure,” said King-Bailey, “You can hide a light under a bushel, you’re not going to get any more light.”

King-Bailey says her business is booming right now, partially thanks to her use of technology.