Perhaps in a perfect world, small business owners would be able to turn on that “Out Of Office” notification, punch out, and enjoy a week or two completely offline just like everyone else.
But until that utopia manifests, entrepreneurs know that in order to keep their small businesses running smoothly and growing continuously, they require regular attention. Does this mean that small business owners should resign themselves to years of cancelled vacations and missed holiday celebrations? Certainly not. This is where the right tools and tech can make all the difference.
Today we’ll look at 6 tools that allow you to enjoy the upcoming holiday season with family and friends. These tools will allow you to strike the right balance between dropping the ball on your business and being the workaholic who can’t step away from the computer long enough to enjoy a little eggnog.
1. Use your website to communicate. If you have the right website builder (ahem, ahem), it’s easy to make small, temporary changes to your website. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by managing your customers’ expectations about response and shipping times while you’re away. You certainly don’t want to sound like you’ve abandoned your business, but if you will not be able to ship items for a few days, adding a quick note to your home page or web store checkout is well worth your time from a branding and relationships perspective.
2. Forward your phones so you never miss a client’s call. When your business is small, every client – and every sale – matters. So it’s important that when someone is ready to buy they do not reach an automated out of office voicemail greeting. One option is Phonebooth, which offers services like call forwarding to any/all of your numbers. And if you do miss a call, Phonebooth also offers automated voice attendants and voice-to-text transcripts of your voicemail messages over email.
3. Put your social media on autopilot. Much like a needy houseplant that can’t be left alone too long, social media requires daily tending. This is the one area of your marketing and your business that you really can’t leave behind. Luckily, Pagemodo Posts exists, and it allows you to find and schedule quality, engaging Facebook and Twitter content in advance. So while you’ll still need to check in with your social profiles to watch for customer service issues, the time-consuming task of finding and posting content can be done before you step on the plane.
4. Keep a mobile eye on your analytics. Your website’s analytics can serve as a barometer for its health. Keeping an eye out for things like crazy traffic spikes (spam attack?) or steep drops in visits (your site is down?) can be a good early warning system for problems that can’t wait until you get back to the office. For Android users, Google Analytics does provide a mobile app version of their tracking software. If you don’t have an Android device, but you DO have a Webs website (with an Enhanced or Pro Package) you can view the Stats tool for your website on any mobile device that browses the web.
5. Schedule and send email marketing campaigns. Most modern email service providers offer options for automating and schedule your email campaigns in advance. So do it! If your campaign is a success, you’ll make money even while you’re on vacation, which is pretty much a win-win. If you don’t already have an email service provider, check out small business options available from services like Bronto and Constant Contact.
6. Monitor your cash flow on the go. Keeping a watchful eye on your business checking accounts and credit cards is always a good idea. The accounts used by small business owners see a LOT of transactions in a typical day. If you want to see that all the right things are coming in, and none of the wrong things are going out, download the fantastic Mint app for your mobile device and quickly get a snapshot of your financial situation.
Using the tools above, you should not only be able to take a vacation this holiday season, you might actually get to enjoy yourself while you’re at it. Cheers to that!