Unless you run a retail outlet or e-commerce site, the fast-approaching holidays mean your business will likely slow through the end of the year. Your clients have already begun winding down work to focus on family. Soon not a prospect will be stirring. But this quiet period can actually be good for you. After all, when life hands an entrepreneur lemons, you build a lemonade stand.
Here are 4 simple, inexpensive mobile-technology tips that can help you get more done, and even close deals, on the go. If you start investigating and implementing these tools and techniques now, during the holidays, your business will be positioned better than ever in the New Year — when your clients and prospects return fresh from their vacations, with shiny new 2014 budgets.
1. Make your smart phone a hotspot
You’re a mobile entrepreneur, and you probably do a lot of work from a laptop. But what if you’re working on an important presentation, email, etc. for a prospect and you don’t have Wi-Fi where you are? Time counts here — your prospect is waiting.
You could grab your laptop and try to find a new location. But why not just pull out your own Wi-Fi hotspot from your pocket?
Most smart phones today — iPhones, Blackberrys, Windows Phones and Androids — can act as a personal hotspot for a nearby device, like your laptop. A Google search will show you how to “tether” your smart phone. And it’s definitely worth taking a few minutes now to learn how to set up this Wi-Fi backup, to ensure you’re always able to connect when it matters.
2. Get the cell plan for your tablet
If your iPad or other Wi-Fi tablet has cellular capability, pay for cell service. Here’s why.
Say you’re on your tablet drafting an email to a prospect, or doing research for your business, and you need to change locations. What if at your next location (perhaps on the road), you don’t have Wi-Fi available?
You could “tether” your smart phone to the tablet and use the phone as a personal hotspot. (See Tip 1.) But what if you don’t have your phone with you? What if the battery is dead? In either case, you risk not being able to complete an important task.
Most cellular add-on plans for tablets are relatively inexpensive. Besides, a $30-a-month plan could pay for itself for years if it helps you close just one deal.
3. “Hire” a virtual receptionist
As a small business, you need to signal to prospects that yours is a professional, established organization they should feel confident working with. One powerful (and surprisingly inexpensive) way to do this is with a virtual phone solution.
Virtual phone systems let you establish toll-free 800 numbers for your business, which greet every caller with a professionally recorded greeting you can script. Your “virtual receptionist” can then offer callers multiple “extensions” —Customer Care, for example, and Sales — even if all of these messages simply forward to your mobile phone. None of this requires any hardware or software — it’s all handled remotely, in the cloud, for a low monthly fee.
With the right virtual phone system, you can easily set a call-routing sequence for your incoming calls — say, your office first, then your mobile, and finally your partner’s mobile — and change that routing sequence using the online interface as often as you want.
Another great feature: voicemail-to-text. Say you’re meeting with a client and your phone rings. You don’t want to take the call or excuse yourself to listen to the voicemail. No problem. Your virtual phone system transcribes the voicemail and sends it to you as a text message or email. Just glance at your phone (or your computer screen) — and you can read – and respond via reply – to the voicemail without having to actually make the call.
Here’s a great Startup Nation article, “How a Virtual Receptionist Helps You Close More Sales,” listing more benefits of a virtual phone solution.
4. Build in low-tech backup for key data
Pop quiz. Think of your three most promising prospects at the moment, the ones most likely to close. Got them? Okay: If you were on the road and your phone battery died, would you be able to quickly access their phone numbers?
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where you need a key piece of data that’s locked away — a contact’s number stored only on your phone that just died, or an email available only through a web mail program with a URL you can’t remember.
Protect yourself from these inevitable problems by writing down key pieces of information — phone numbers, email addresses, URLs, etc. — and keeping them with you wherever you go. By “writing,” I don’t mean using the “Notes” app on your phone, or sending them in an email to yourself. I mean using "lo-tech" standards of pen and paper.
Have tips of your own? It’s the season for sharing, so please let us know what ideas you have for leveraging mobile technology for more business in the New Year.