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(ARA) – As the world’s economy becomes more and more challenging, small business owners need to find ways to keep their business afloat. Here are some tips to maintaining good customer relations while managing the bottom line:

Invest in technology.

Maintaining your computer systems is vital to keeping your business running smoothly. If you’re not a technical whiz and you don’t want to pay for ongoing information technology support, consider Macintosh computers for your business. Although they cost a little more initially, many people find the investment pays back in ease of use and longer life. More companies are releasing business software that runs on the Mac and you can also use a program such as Parallels to run any needed Windows-only software on the Mac. Investing in technology will allow you to implement other cost-saving processes and programs.

Share files and data.

When you share a centralized database and critical files between computers, it can increase productivity. For example, if a customer gets a new phone number or moves, updating it in the central database that everyone uses will keep you connected to customers. “Synchronization and file sharing are easy and intuitive on the Mac and these were key reasons driving the move to Mac,” says John Ives, who runs a defense-industry consulting firm and recently made the switch to Mac.

Communicate with your customers and prospects efficiently.

In a tougher economy, don’t stop marketing, just do it more efficiently. Rather than sending out direct mail, consider e-mail marketing as a way to reach out to customers and prospects alike. Using a tool such as CardScan contact management system, you can capture all your contact information electronically. Scan and read all your business cards with the card reader and use “drag–and-drop” to capture e-mail signatures or prospect contact information from Web sites. Using CardScan software, you can create and assign categories for your contacts. If you meet a group of prospects at a meeting, scan in the cards, assign the category with the meeting name and then you can send targeted follow-up e-mails to these prospects in just a few steps.

CardScan for Mac also keeps a photo of each business card, so you can flip through the various images of them on your computer, rather than losing them in a folder or a pocket. For business-owners on the go, the scanner plugs directly into your laptop’s USB power source, allowing you to scan your cards on a bus, in the hotel or on an airplane – before you return to the home office.

With over 7200 contacts, Ives, needs to be organized. Using a CardScan system, he quickly enters notes for contacts such as special interests or where he met the person. “I can type in a few letters or words and instantly find the one person I need with the CardScan system,” he says. “It’s very easy to use and synchronizing to Address Book ensures we are using accurate and up-to-date information.”

Get your business online.

Many small businesses put off building a Web site, or they let it get out of date because it costs money to maintain. But there are now many non-technical and free tools to build and maintain a Web presence. For example, using WordPress, an open-source blogging tool, you can build a blog that looks professional and is very easy to maintain. It’s also a more modern approach to communicate with customers and prospects.

Use inexpensive creative resources.

If you need photos, illustrations or graphics for your marketing materials or blog, resist the urge to use the amateur-looking clip art packaged with your software programs. Instead try inexpensive online sources such as iStockphoto.com for low-cost photos and graphics, or tempatemonster.com for Web templates and blog themes.

Courtesy of ARAcontent



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