Does this sound familiar?
A small business owner sells her products online and to a few select resellers. She manages all her sales and inventory in scattered spreadsheets, and laboriously creates custom invoicing with Word documents. She uses a basic email provider, and has a WordPress site to sell her products and represent her company.
While her business is very small, this strategy works fine. But as her business grows, she’s spending more and more time holding everything together. She’s researching, buying, and learning more and more services to manage her calendar, productivity, and marketing. More and more she’s making different payments and spending more and more time logging in and out of different accounts.
Worst of all, she’s less and less in touch with her business, her dreams, and her love for what she does.
Many small business owners hit this particular wall as their company starts to grow. She may not know it, but what she needs is ERP software (enterprise resource planning).
What Is Small Business ERP?
Small business ERP is business management software specifically designed for the needs of small businesses. It’s an all-in-one software solution which combines all the web tools you need into one dashboard for easy access and real time reporting.
What separates true small business ERP from other productivity solutions is the way it combines both the front-end and the back-end of your business management into one integrated platform.
It’s a great way to set up your business whether it’s online, brick and mortar, or a combination.
ERP for small businesses is made up of at least the following web tools:
- Website hosting
- E-commerce and Commerce tools
- Inventory and Shipping
- Marketing Campaign tools
- Email, including email marketing
- Employee Time cards
- Customer Resource Management
- Lead Acquisition
Because they are all working together and sharing data, these tools can give you reports and projections in a different way than if they were separate. You’ll get specific reports with broad scope which are highly actionable.
The reports will also be timely – your small business ERP software will operate and update in real time. It’s not based on periodic updates.
Why Haven’t I Heard of This?
While ERP is a common tool for larger businesses, ERP for small business is a relatively new idea.
Why? There simply haven’t been any options that could be tailored to the needs of a smaller company. Big businesses use complex software that often requires expensive infrastructure and a dedicated team of developers to set up and maintain it.
Small business ERP offers you the same functions, without the need for all the setup and maintenance. There are now a number of providers of small business ERP. These software solutions offer you:
- Integrated database for all modules
- High rates of customer satisfaction
- Ease of use and quick set up
- Flexible customization of features
- Ability to grow with the small business
You should be paying attention to these up-and-comers as a way to make business management and planning simpler.
A Great Way to Replace Point Solutions
Most small business owners try to solve the problems of small business management in a different way. They use a strategy of point solutions. This means that for each function or problem in a business, you use a different strategy to meet the need.
Do you have a point system solution? Many small business owners combine a system of spreadsheets with Quickbooks, email providers like MailChimp or Constant Contact, web hosting from WordPress, and other apps, websites, and software systems.
If you’re doing this, you’re probably:
- Spending a lot of time researching, testing, and integrating new web tools
- Logging in and out of many accounts each day
- Making a lot of separate payments
- Having difficulty integrating statistics and information
- Ending up with unclear results and reports
Moving away from point solutions can give you much more accurate marketing reports and more effective marketing campaigns. ERP software for small business is an inexpensive, reliable, and easy-to-use alternative, which can help you grow your business faster while minimizing your growing pains.
In the spirit of transparency, I freely admit that I work for AllProWebTools, a company that offers cloud-based small business ERP, so I’m obviously biased in that direction. But hear me out and see if my argument for integration stands up.
5 Signs You Need Small Business ERP
Sign 1: Your “Marketing Strategy” is Facebook
Ok, so you don’t just use Facebook. You probably also send out emails and newsletters. You’re taking a stab at content marketing. You’re running a couple of ads locally and online.
But do you ever feel like you’re shooting all those posts and newsletters out into a void? If your reports are all from separate point solutions, you could be.
For example, one of our clients is a family-run health food business called Hawaiian Organic Noni. Having small business ERP gave them the ability to scale up their marketing efforts.
Their monthly sales increased by 62.5% this year, and their referrals on social sites went up 90%. Over the five years they’ve been using small business ERP, they’ve gotten the clear, actionable reports they needed to hone their marketing strategy.
Small business ERP draws upon data from all your modules at once. You can start proactively improving your search engine ranking, finding out how much your campaigns are generating in sales, and actively growing your business once you start using small business ERP.
What’s the Benefit? Feed what’s working by getting the full picture. Start spending time and energy only on marketing strategies that are making the most impact.
Sign 2: Your “Email Marketing” is Carrier Pigeons
Obviously that’s a joke. But in all seriousness, your email provider could be seriously limiting your marketing potential.
When your email provider is sharing data with your e-commerce platform, website hosting, and other marketing tools, you can track more than just how many people open the email or click links. You can form an email strategy based on data and quickly start getting better results and higher conversion.
- See the sales generated from each email in dollars
- Automatically follow up on abandoned carts
- Develop affiliate marketing
- Negotiate virtually with potential customers
In our own business, we have used small business ERP to target our email campaigns to a very specific set of target personas. Just seeing who opened emails and who clicked links wasn’t giving us enough information.
However, by using tracking URLs to observe how potential customers interacted with the emails, and with our website after clicking through, we were able to find what words and angles yielded the best results.
Plus, you can stop making a separate payment to your email provider.
What’s the Benefit? Get more out of email marketing reports. Eliminate the guesswork and reap the rewards in engaged, active customers.
Sign 3: Your “Task Management” is Sticky Notes
If you use color-coded sticky notes to keep track of deadlines and projects, (or a day planner, or the back of your hand, or even Google Calendar) you’re wasting a lot of valuable time.
You need a tasking system that goes above and beyond. In an integrated ERP solution, you can:
Set priority levels and deadlines
Create recurring tasks
Pass tasks between users
Post tasks to a Workflow Timeline
See which employees are working on what tasks, and who they’re working with. This saves time checking in on each employee, so everyone can spend more time working and less time giving updates.
Colour Restoration, an auto restoration shop we work with, uses small business ERP software to completely manage employee productivity. By using tasks and time card notes to track how much time is spent on each project, they can keep everyone updated on the status of projects.
They also benefit from more productive and hard-working employees as a result of the transparency and accountability built into the software.
Tasking is a great tool for solo-preneurs as well. Setting tasks for yourself is a great way to make daily to-do lists, plan long-term projects, and set deadlines.
A good tasking system is extremely helpful for project management – you can look at similar tasks in the timeline history, and see how long they took. This facilitates more effective planning and greater accountability for your employees.
What’s the Benefit? Never hear “You didn’t tell me to do that!” again. No more confusion, no more excuses, no more misunderstandings. Just clarity.
Sign 4: Your “CRM” is Your iPhone
I’ll admit, iPhones are pretty good at managing your contacts and giving reminders to call customers. But you could be acquiring leads, recording client notes, sending emails, and more, from one software.
- Clients, contacts, affiliates, and more stored in one database
- Sort your contacts into different groups for automated emails
- Lead acquisition tools integrated with your sales pipeline
- Client notes shared among all employees in real time
In just one year, one of our clients increased their customer list by almost 250% through a combination of automated email marketing, an online leads box, and tracking URLs to analyze how customers responded online.
Log Home Maintenance and Supply has been with us since 2013, and as a result of growing that customer list, they grew monthly sales from $1,000 per month to $14,000 per month in six months of using small business ERP.
What’s the Benefit? If your lead acquisition, CRM, email provider, marketing campaign manager, and reporting tools are all integrated and sharing data, nothing can fall through the cracks. Following up will be easy, automated, and maybe even fun!
Sign 5: Your “Reports” are All Spreadsheets
I’m always amazed at how much information people keep organized in spreadsheets. You all must be way more organized than I am.
But, as your business grows and you hire more employees, that strategy quickly becomes impractical. Using ERP software to track your growth, consolidate and interpret information, and plan next steps could be your next big step in improving profits.
One of our newest clients has benefited greatly from getting all their reports from one software solution. Stuff’n Mallows used to sell marshmallows through select resellers and online through an e-commerce platform. They had to manually integrate these sales each month, and they were having a hard time getting any clear results or direction.
Now they get shipping updates, new orders from all points of sale, marketing statistics, and more all from one location. It saves them a lot of time, which they now spend actively growing their business. They’ve only been with us a few months, but so far, each month they’ve doubled the previous month’s sales.
What’s the Benefit? Save yourself hours each week. Save your employees hours each week.
Are You Ready to Grow?
I’m always impressed by small business owners who have the wherewithal to juggle the dozens of apps and monthly bills they rely on to make their business work, even more so by those of you who do everything in hard copy.
But there’s an easier solution, which can help your business to grow, and which can grow with you. You don’t have to settle for a retrofit of software that was designed for somebody else with small business ERP.
What software solutions do you currently use to run your business? What do you like and dislike about them? Is the idea of an all-in-one solution appealing? Let me know in the comments!