Using Technology and Systems to Manage your Business

Published on 30 May 2019

Photo of John Cook and Elize Hattin sitting on a tan coloured couch in front of SmartHub Rockhampton logo

Efficiency makes a huge difference when it comes to running a business. Being able to identify and solve problems using systems and technology can put your business ahead of the game. In a recent Hub Live, SmartHub Business Manager Elize Hattin sat down with John Cook to learn his tips for using systems within a business.

John Cook founded both Iil Technology, a company providing technology solutions in the Rockhampton region, as well as Biscuits and Milk, which provides a record-keeping service for people with disabilities.

In order to solve a problem within a business, it’s key to understand what the issue, or main point, is. A problem that John often comes across in his line of work is people trying to mask their problems using technology. “Don’t go out and just get shiny new things. New, faster, better isn’t really going to help you. If everyone is complaining that your computers are running slow, buying faster computers might not fix that. It might be the systems you’re using, it could be your internet connection or it could be your workflow. If you understand where the actual problems are, you might discover that buying bigger and faster might not be what you need,” John said. 

When it comes to deciding to use a technology-based solution in your business, John has three criteria to help decide on what kind of technology system is needed:

  1. Enabling growth

    You want to be able to sell more and earn more money.

  2. Cutting costs

    You want to make things take less time and money.

  3. Efficiency

You’re sinking too much time into something and you would like to automate the process.

Customer Relationship Management

Understanding the customer journey is key to providing an excellent customer experience and ensuring repeat purchases. An amazing piece of technology that can systemise this process is CRM software, or Customer Relationship Management software.

“If Joe Bloggs walks into my shop, and he came in last week and talked to a salesman whose name he can’t remember, a CRM allows me to look him up in the system and know that he talked to Tim and he wanted a new wheelbarrow, so you can then connect with him and go, “Well, Tim’s not here today, but I know the one he was showing you.” Because it was logged in the CRM, we also know he was looking at potted plants as well,” John explained.

A good CRM can also track how people interact with your business online in various ways. For example, John can tell when a customer likes him on Facebook, when that customer goes to his website, how long a customer spends on his website and the CRM will notify him if someone didn’t make a sale. If an email address was captured during someone’s time on the site, John’s CRM can then email them a couple of days later automatically to encourage a sale, promote a product or offer a discount code. By setting up an automated system like this, a business can be run even in your sleep from anywhere in the world.

Using Data to your Advantage

Tracking the cost of customer acquisition is key for every business, as it makes it clear which techniques work, which don’t and what systems need to be improved in order to fix it. With the tools available now it’s possible to figure out the cost of customer acquisition in real time, from creating an ad on social media all the way to someone making a purchase or visiting your location. The data can provide insights into the purchasing habits of your customers which you can then use to improve the entire sales process. “A lot of businesses like a local fish and chip shop just have a cash register, they’ll keep track of the daily sales, but they won’t keep track of their individual items,” John said. “They won’t know if a fish burger or a steak burger sells more, or how often someone gets some calamari with their fish, or how often people buy a family serve of chips with four pieces of fish. Being able to get these insights into what’s sold together can lead to more sales. It’s the reason why supermarkets have loyalty cards, because they can see what items are bought together and they’ll reflect that data in the specials and where things are located in the store. If you have that kind of data, you can make informed decisions about the underlying systems that support your business in order to grow.”

There are a number of CRM solutions out there for different kinds of business. John uses Streak, thanks to its integration with Google’s suite of business products, but also recommends HubSpot for those looking for a free option, and Pipedrive for businesses with high volumes of customers. “A lot of CRMs can generate to-do lists and reminders, but some really great ones will also track when a customer opens a quote. I had a customer who put that system in to track when a customer opens a quote and then would try to call the customer while they were actually looking at the quote to try and close the deal,” John said.

Finding the Right Tools

When it comes to implementing systems in your business, it can cost as much or as little as you are willing to spend. It’s entirely possible to create systems using free products and more effort, or you can pay up to tens of thousands of dollars to have systems set up for you exactly how you would like them.

Shopping around can also make a huge difference, as John explained. “I had a client saying that they’d gotten into trouble with their email system, which had just completely stopped sending things. I had a look and she had just started a new website and was getting things set up, but she’d paid $150 a year for her domain with extra costs on top of that. The same service she needed could have been provided by an Australian supplier for $15 over two years.”

When comparing products, having clear knowledge of the customer’s journey and what it is your business exactly needs is important. “A lot of these products will do 80% of what you need them to do, so it might be that you need two products that link together. Unfortunately like all things to do with modern life, decision fatigue really kicks in because there are just so many products around supporting businesses. I’ve seen a lot of startups come up with solutions and go to implement them but find that the technology they’ve chosen doesn’t work exactly how they need it to. You really need to get in and evaluate the products. It’s a big time-consuming task unfortunately, but there’s no quick easy fix other than really learning about it, shopping around and seeing what’s available.”

Integrating Systems

The key to using systems efficiently is integrating them with other systems. A great example of integration in action is Square, a portable POS system. Square is a small white tile which uses PayWave technology, which integrates with a smart device like an iPad using an app. Square’s software communicates with bookkeeping software such as Xero and Quickbooks, cutting out the need for data entry.

John integrates his point of sales service with his bookkeeping, and it saves him a lot of time. “I’m preparing a technology service around protection of your computer at the moment, which includes security monitoring and updates in a monthly package, launching in July. In that process it will invoice based on how many times you’ve installed it on your computer. The system knows you as a customer, it knows you have it installed on five different computers and when the month rolls over it collates that data and puts it onto the invoice, sends it out and I get paid without having to touch any part of the process,” He explained. After this process, his CRM will remind him to send an email to the customer in a few weeks to encourage repeat business.

The SmartHub can help

The best place to start in business, according to John, is to understand your problem. “The SmartHub is a great place to try and understand things. You can come and see someone who works in technology and work out what you want to change.”

“The first thing you need to do is to work out your customer journey and business plan. Everyone in business needs a business plan in order to understand what you need to do from the very first time a customer hears about your business, sees an ad and makes contact with you. The SmartHub is a great place to do that and work out what your pain points are and find the right solution for you.”

John has been a part of the SmartHub for almost two years now and has found it a great place to learn new things and find support. “You can come here and do a lot of things with no risk,” He said.

John is also a part of the Startup Weekend Committee, which is currently preparing for a Startup Weekend event on the 26th of July. “The skills you pick up in the Startup Weekends are so fundamentally good at helping you deal with anything that you’re going to start. They’re fantastic and there’s no better way of learning these things that I know of. The way to ensure you’ll have a good future is to have entrepreneurial and innovative skills under your belt. It doesn’t really have anything to do with technology, it has to do with understanding customers.”

If you would like to talk to John in order to get some technology advice, he is at the SmartHub most days and is happy to help. Just head over to Customs House on 208 Quay St and introduce yourself to Adelae, who can get you in contact with John and other SmartHub members that can help you succeed in business.