4 Technology Trends for Small Business

06/05/2015 10:47 am ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016

As a small business owner, it's not always top priority to keep up with the "next big thing." You have a business to build, finances to manage, employees to retain and customers to attract, meaning you don't have time to be in the loop about the latest gizmos and hottest technology trends.

It may be easy for business owners to think this way, but that doesn't mean it's a smart business move. One of the most challenging disadvantages that small businesses have is that you don't have the funds and manpower that giant corporations often do. Not keeping up with the latest business tech trends can put you even further behind since these solutions are capable of organizing and analyzing operations so that you can focus on sales and growth.

Below are four tech trends that will contribute to that growth for small businesses.

  1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
We all know, communication makes or breaks all relationships. For small businesses, the key to selling faster and better is to understand and communicate effectively with your consumers, which sounds simple, but is actually quite difficult when you factor in all of the other priorities you have. It's easy to miss out on relevant information, which leads to a miss opportunities.

This is exactly why it's so necessary for small businesses to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) software to keep track of the interactions and gain better access to customer data. Many CRM systems are affordable and helpful in the sense that all of the information you need for better customer relationships is all in one place. Nonetheless, 71 percent out of the 1,088 business owners and executives surveyed for the Wasp Barcode Technologies State of Small Business Report admitted that they don't use any kind of CRM software. This is a bad business move as CRM systems can maximize financial opportunities, allow businesses better access to customer information, manage sales pipelines and sales representatives, and analyze performance and business metrics.

A few recommended CRM softwares are as followed:

Salesforce is the world's number one CRM solution, according to its website, and is used by more than 100,000 organizations worldwide. The software promises to effectively track all sales activity as well as "every lead, opportunity, and customer" so business owners can "spend more time selling to the right people, armed with their personal marketing data and social insights." Salesforce CRM is completely mobile so you can manage your relationships at your office or while on the road.

Insightly offers social CRM which uses social media integration to detect every social media profile related to a specific email address. This allows businesses to learn more about their customers through their public profile information on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, FourSquare, Picasa, Klout, among others.

Zoho CRM takes visitor data from your website and inputs it into the CRM system, enabling small businesses to easily turn leads into sales. More than 50,000 customers have chosen Zoho for their CRM solution.

Nimble CRM focuses on relationship intelligence to "turn communities into customers" by "auto-magically [pulling] contact profiles, email conversations and social signals into one simple place so you can effectively engage them everywhere you work."

Due Due has more than 70,000 customers using them for an online invoicing and CRM solution. With their easy solution, turn website traffic into a great source of leads for your business.

  1. Network Security
Technology has changed the way we do business, but it's also made us more vulnerable to cyber crimes. Those at the front lines of this danger are small businesses; 60 percent of all cyber crimes are actually directed at small establishments, according to a recent McAfee survey. In fact, the same survey found that only 9% of small businesses have mobile security, less than half have any kind of email security, and only half protect their Internet data. Eighty percent of small businesses fail to have any kind of data encryption for network security.

Considering the numerous incidents of data breaches occurred in recent years, small businesses should make cyber security a top priority. The last thing a business wants is to have their customer credit card information stolen or private messages made public by cybercrooks.

In 2015, small businesses that have not made network security a priority should take the leap to protect both their company and customers. Don't wait for something unfortunate to happen before taking action since it takes much longer to win back trust after you've lost it.

  1. Business intelligence tools
Want to get to the "aha" moment quicker everyday? Business Intelligence (BI) tools is your answer with its ability to offer real-time access to data and analysis that so often leads to quicker intelligence and a higher level of informed decision-making skills.

While simple tools such as spreadsheets may have been enough to get your business rolling in the beginning, it fails in manipulating information that allows small businesses to see the "big picture." Implementing a proper BI tool can help small businesses analyze high volumes of data across multiple sources, and more easily identify how they're all connected.

Below are a few easy-to-use BI tools small businesses should seriously consider using:

QlikView offers small businesses "both a high level view as well as the ability to drill down into the business details." More than 1,000 international government agencies use

QlikView to defend their networks, manage finances, support logistics, manage programs, and maximize workforce efficiency.

Tableau is a browser-and-mobile-based software that takes data and allows users to visualize and create interactive and shareable dashboards secured in the cloud.

Birst has different levels of analytics depending on your company's needs. Both products empower small businesses to explore data in seconds.

LogiXML analytics is aimed at small to mid-sized businesses with no per-user fees and promises affordable pricing. The company says on its website that "unlike expensive, traditional BI platforms or tool kits that require time consuming development, [LogiXML] offers a solution that allows business users to easily create and share their own dashboards and reports while giving developers a platform to rapidly deliver specialized solutions."

  1. Smart Inventory Management
Poor inventory management is one of the major reasons small businesses fail, yet 46% of small businesses with 11-to-500 employees don't track their inventory, according to the State of Small Business Report. Failing to track inventory can lead to products sitting around for years, which Marcus Lemonis recently said on his CNBC show The Profit is comparable to "burning money."

With a limited budget, small businesses need to think about their inventory like cash. If there were piles of cash stocked in your warehouse, wouldn't you find some kind of system to track it? Poor inventory management leads to bad customer service and companies end up with large write offs on their financial statements.

A few smart inventory management tools that would save small businesses a lot of money -- and headache -- are the Wasp Inventory Control, most ideal for small businesses from 5-to-99 employees, Fishbowl Inventory, most suitable for small businesses with 100-999 workers, and AdvancedPro Inventory Management Software for users who prefer QuickBooks.

Since the Great Recession, startups and small establishments have been responsible for seven million out of the 10.9 million jobs added. According to the State of Small Business Report, 57 percent of the owners and executives surveyed anticipate revenue growth for their companies in 2015. With so much optimism in the air, right now seems to be the best time for small businesses to strategically plan for explosive growth. The above tech trends can help you get there a lot faster by doing the grunt work for you so that you can focus on sales and growth. Small businesses don't always have to be on top of the latest tech trends, but they should pay attention if the tools will help them move ahead at a much smarter and faster speed.