How to Choose the Right Size Tech for Your Small Business | Maigen Thomas | Skillshare
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How to Choose the Right Size Tech for Your Small Business

teacher avatar Maigen Thomas

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Intro

      2:20

    • 2.

      Identify the Business You’re Building

      1:36

    • 3.

      Overview of Essential Aspects

      1:36

    • 4.

      Your Website

      4:36

    • 5.

      Email Marketing Integration

      2:41

    • 6.

      Shopping Cart or Shopping Platform

      2:23

    • 7.

      Payment Processing

      2:34

    • 8.

      Scheduling and / or Calendars

      2:19

    • 9.

      Social Media

      2:55

    • 10.

      Other Considerations

      2:39

    • 11.

      Final Recap - Identify Your Minimum Viable Product

      1:25

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About This Class

The secret to scaling your business effectively is all in how you choose the right size technology from the start.

No matter what kind of business you’re building, making strategic decisions early is important for making maximum impact when you bring your product or service to the market. Choosing the wrong technology can cost time and money that small business owners can’t afford to lose.

Join small business and marketing strategy consultant, Maigen Thomas, for a short and powerful class focused on teaching you how to assess and choose from the wide range of technologies available for each aspect of your business.

Learn how to:

  • Identify what your minimum viable business needs are.
  • Effectively compare the right tools and platforms for your business.
  • Make strategic decisions that save time, money and allow for maximum future growth.

This class is ideal for small business owners, entrepreneurs or anyone considering starting a business. No previous experience is required and all materials are provided.

On completion of this class, you’ll have the skills needed to choose the most efficient and cost-effective platform or software for your business needs today, and feel prepared to make the right decisions when it’s time to take your business to the next level.

Looking for downloads? Check the Class Project tab!

*** All students who participate in the Class Project, complete the class and leave a review by 9/30 will be entered to win $100 in the tech service of your choice!

Meet Your Teacher

Hello, I'm Maigen. I'm passionate about helping others be and feel more successful. My background is in UX design and front end development.

I'm all about helping people reach their next level - whatever that looks like. If there's some way I can help you, I'd be excited to help you!

See full profile

Level: All Levels

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Transcripts

1. Intro: You're ready to start building a business, but you're not quite sure what technology you need. I'm excited to help you with that. In this course, we're going to focus on choosing just the essential technical elements that will enable you to build and level up your business quickly without losing time or money. As a business consultant, I primarily work with small business owners and entrepreneurs who don't have a background in tech and probably aren't familiar with a wide range of software applications. I have a background and full-stack development and user experience design. I also have a passion for trying new technology that comes out. Maybe a little bit of a tech quarter. Don't hold it against me. It's actually this background and experience that allows me to guide my clients towards the right size and type of tag that meets their needs and allows for the most future growth. I'm a huge fan of bootstrapping and making incremental changes. I will never suggest that you throw money at a problem to make it go away. I feel it's important to suggest, try not to listen to the opinions of absolutely everyone who has ever started a business, fails at making a business, has considered making a business or who in fact is a successful business owner. Not everyone is going to have the same experience that you do, and not everyone is building the same exact business that you're. Their opinions might be helpful, but they can also get a little overwhelming and start to cause some doubt on what it is that you really need to do to build your business. Worse, those opinions can cause you to make very bad decisions early on as you build, forcing you to spend money you don't need to spend and ultimately making it difficult to expand. Lots of people are going to have suggestions. You just need a minimum viable product. This is where many small business owners get stuck. They get a little overwhelmed. It's like I got to engage. Let's pick the colors, how about pick the important stuff. In this course we're going to look at key questions around picking the right size product for what you need right now. One thing to remember, above everything else, it is okay to pick a small and tactical product that meets your needs exactly as they're this moment. Then you can grow into an enterprise version later. Let's get started by finding out what your minimum viable product is. We'll do this using the class project workbook and answering a few key questions. 2. Identify the Business You’re Building: Participating in this class assumes a few things; First that you've identified your target market. Secondly, you've surveyed your potential customers and identified what their needs are. Third, that you've determined your customers have the money and are willing to pay for the solution. These are important things. If you don't have this information, I've included a simple ideal customer worksheet in the files for this course. Come back to this video when you finish that. If you've already completed that and you already know this information, let's continue. The first part of your class project workbook has one simple question. What kind of business are you building? You're either selling products or you're selling services. I know there's a lot of companies that do more than that or they do both of those things. You'll find a lot of businesses that do both in a hybrid way, like selling and teaching a course. You're combining products and services with a hybrid business. But it's important for you to realize at this stage, just like with the learning how to ride a bicycle, you can only do one thing at a time. Your ultimate business goal might be a combination of many things, but you can only build one type of business properly at once. Which one of these options represents that most essential aspect of the business that you're building. Are you offering a service, or are you selling a product? You're first-class project submission is to write down the business that you're building, and who your customer is. Put it on the worksheet, snap a picture of it, and upload it into the class project area. I'm really looking forward to seeing the results. 3. Overview of Essential Aspects: Now, let's look at an overview of the essential tech needs that you might want to include as you start to build your business. What is the minimum tech you can get away with to build your business as easily and affordably as possible? You may not need all of the tech needs that I will mention in this course. The following videos are going to help you determine specifics about each tech needs and a little bit more detail. Remember, it's important to only select the essentials. You can always scale up. You can always add more, but it's really hard to take things away. Spending too much money upfront on tech you don't need can handicap your long-term growth. At a minimum, you're going to need a website. In the next few videos, I will talk a little bit more about the following possible essential tech needs. Not only are you going to need a website, but we're going to go over the basics of what you need for your business website. We'll go over some of the e-mail service providers and e-mail marketing possibilities. We'll review the pros and cons of having your own store in a shopping cart versus selling in a marketplace or on a separate platform. We're going to go over payment processing and how to accept money from your customers because that's the name of the game. We're going to go over easy scheduling and calendar management tools, and we'll address social media needs and platforms. We will also briefly touch on a few possible considerations like accounting, invoicing, and possible legal needs. Each of the next few videos addresses just one of these topics, so you can refer back to them very easily in the future. Follow along and your class project workbook for the key questions we will use to determine your essential tech needs. 4. Your Website: Let's start the initial tech needs assessment with your website section. As I said before, everyone needs a website. It is your calling card, It is your business card. It is your salesperson who works while you're sleeping. There are three questions you should answer when figuring out what size tech is right for your website. It's all on the worksheet. What is the main purpose of your website? Are you just describing or explaining your products or service and giving an option to find it in other locations? Are you selling your product or service there? Are you gathering e-mails for contacting them later? All of these things are possible. What do you want your website to do for you? The second question on the worksheet is; how frequently do you want or will you need to update your website? If you're selling just a few products that don't change very frequently and you don't have a huge range of new products dropping every week or every month even, you may not actually need to make a whole lot of updates to your site and that impacts the service that you can use and how you use it. If you need to make frequent updates to your site like adding new products, images, or other content, you're going to consider a content management system rather than a static landing page so that you have more control. The third question you need to answer about your website is; what do you want to include on your website? There's a landing page. Usually, it's the homepage. It's the page that explains your service or product. You may want to have your pricing on a separate page. You could also include an about page sharing more about you, your business, your goals, the mission, your team, etc. You may want a contact page with information on how they can get in touch, find you, or even just have a simple contact form. Many websites include a frequently asked questions page to save time on e-mails. I highly recommend that if your product is complicated. You may even want a blog where you can post content that doesn't need to be included on your main website pages since content marketing is a more natural form of advertising. Do you want to include user-generated content like social media feeds, images, or contests submissions? Again, you need to consider the best use for your website. What are the essentials? Write down your answers in the website section of your class project workbook. Now that you have a better idea of what your website needs are, here are a few options. Free websites are available and you've likely seen the commercials for platforms like Wix or Weebly. They're all over YouTube. You can also build a WordPress site that is hosted on wordpress.com, which is different than having your own WordPress website that you host yourself. We can explain that more later. I also recommend the little known but free and awesome alternative Google sites. The upside is that these services are not only free, they are very easy to use and maintain. The downside is that they often come with limitations and it gets a little difficult to transfer the site and information exactly as it looks to your own hosting in the future. Low-cost website platforms are a really great option and I've used several personally and for clients. Two of my favorite options currently are Squarespace and ucraft. Both are under $20 a month or less if you pay yearly and they have a variety of attractive and helpful add-in options like plugins for WordPress. Ucraft has a free option if you want to just build a landing page and are okay with a bit of their company branding at the bottom. For an upgrade of $8 a month, you can have multiple pages, no branding and more control. For $16 a month you get analytics and e-commerce capability. It's pretty robust for pretty low price. There's even a high-quality logo creator built into the site, which is really nice when you're starting out and can't afford the 300 to $3 thousand a graphic artist might charge. Squarespace allows you to create a beautiful and robust, feature-heavy website for just $16 a month or you can have an e-commerce store for $30 a month. You may have noticed I didn't mention a well-known alternative Shopify and that's basically because it's primarily an e-commerce platform so I've decided to include that information in the shopping section. Also just wanted to take a second to point one thing out. I'm obviously telling you monthly prices and not annual prices because I never suggest over committing until you know your business is viable. Keep it small, keep it simple. I have total confidence that you can use any of these tools to create a simple but professional looking website. If you want additional inspiration and some guidance, search here on skillshare for a website building course on the platform of your choice. 5. Email Marketing Integration: Along with having a website, I believe that absolutely every business needs an e-mail service provider. The cost to acquire customers can get pretty heavy. When you start to get a little more into the analytics behind customer acquisition and you start spending money on ads, you will find this out first-hand. Ads are expensive and you can't guarantee that the people who make it to your site will actually buy from you. It's more important to build an e-mail list of customers who are genuinely interested in your product or service. They want to buy from you, or they bought from you in the past. It's more important to do that than it is to constantly focused on driving potential new customers and traffic to your site. E-mail marketing is really easy to get started with, and I highly recommend choosing a simple, well-known e-mail marketing service provider to start with. I have tried at least 20 different e-mail marketing services, and the two I think are easiest for those new to e-mail marketing are Mailchimp and MailerLite. Personally, I use MailerLite and I love it. Mailchimp does about the same thing and it's very familiar to most users. I've used that for many clients as well. It's super usable for the average person to figure out. They both have free plans that give you up to 2,000 subscribers and several thousand e-mails a month. Start with a free plan. Get to know e-mail marketing and understand what capabilities that you need in order to scale up. Do not get sold on an exciting bill of goods by a big, expensive provider until you know more about what you're paying for. Otherwise you're paying for stuff you can't even use. Two key questions to answer in this section of your essential Tech Needs Assessment in the class project workbook are: what do you really need to communicate to your customers? Are your sending one-off occasional e-mails? Are you sending sales announcements, simple text e-mails, picture heavy e-mails? Are you looking for engagement and interaction? Something along those lines What do you want to send? Consider what you want to send them and what you want them to do once they get that e-mail. Also consider how frequently do you need to send these e-mails. Sending too many e-mails becomes annoying. Not sending enough or frequently enough means you lose their interest. How often do you think you need to connect with your customers? Put that information in your class workbook. I recommend searching here on Skillshare for a course about e-mail marketing. There is a lot to learn, which is why you should start small, stay free, and learn the capabilities before moving to a larger or more robust product. By the time you realize the need to scale your e-mail marketing, you might be in a position to hire someone to do it for you professionally. 6. Shopping Cart or Shopping Platform: The natural next essential technique we should assess is whether or not you need a store or a shopping cart on your own website, or if you should sell your products on a shopping marketplace or platform. To start with, there are a lot of benefits to getting started selling your products on a marketplace. First of all, you can get started with very little investment. It's super easy to get everything ramped up. That gives you the chance to quickly see how competitive your product is. They also do all the heavy lifting on handling payment processing. Let's be real the market and customers already exist. They have traffic. The downsides to selling your products on another platform or marketplace include they take a part of your profit and you have to price your product accordingly. Some marketplaces take up to 15 percent depending on the product. They could go out of business, destroying your traffic source and revenue stream. You don't know at all what's going to happen in their future. Questions to consider when selling on a marketplace or a separate platform, include one, are your product's price for profit, even if the platform takes a cut? Two, how many products similar to yours are already on this marketplace? Three, is this website or marketplace stable and reputable? There are also pros and cons when it comes to building your own e-commerce website, starting a store is very easy with low overhead, especially with stable, popular, and very well-maintained shopping platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, and a WordPress plugin known as Woo Commerce, that add the store to an existing website. The downsides include having to manage your own product and inventory, figure out your own payment processing if it's not included, update and maintain the site and drive your own traffic. The upsides include being able to create a more customized attractive design and experience, setting your own prices and managing your own sales and profit. Questions to answer when considering building and maintaining your own e-commerce store include, how do you plan to get customers to your website? You've got to get traffic, otherwise you don't sell anything. Also, how comfortable are you with setting up an e-commerce store? It's not like super heavy code, but there's something involved in how much work are you willing to do to maintain your store. Add these answers to your essential Tech Needs Assessment in the class project workbook. 7. Payment Processing: Anyone selling products or services on their own website needs the ability to process payments. What are your essential needs for processing a payment? Service providers like coaches, graphic designers, tax prepares, and stylus, all need to charge for the services that they provide just in the same way that a business selling a product needs to charge for an item. Consider the type of business that you're building and answer the next questions is in your essential techniques workbook, What is the most basic way you can accept money from a customer? Can you accept a direct payment via PayPal, via Facebook pay. What about Venmo? Does your service or product require you to send an invoice? You can create an invoice in Word or Google Docs. Do you need to accept credit cards? If you prefer to or would like to accept credit cards is there some reason you need a separate way to accept and process those credit cards? Can use a card reader like Square? Can the buyer pay via PayPal using their credit cards? If your business requires you to select a technology for processing payments. I highly recommend that you stay with one of the mainstream payment processing services. They do charge a fee which feels inconvenient until you recognize the cost involved in creating your own payment processing system using a mainstream payment processing service, actually protection in lot of ways, provides a lot of benefits. So it adds to, and it augments the customer competence and giving you their money. It leverages the brand name of the payment processing service or platform and gives a boost to your brand, product and service. It also provides a sense of legitimacy and safety for the consumer when they use a secure platform and get a really familiar, "Hey, this has guaranteed or protected." They get messages, validating their choice. It also provides safety for you as the seller because they don't have to trust you with their credit card information. Often making a purchase is just a one-click process. I would not recommend trying to build out your own payment processing unless your businesses ready to scale to an enterprise level. Even if you have a freelance development team that's building your site and suggests that it's as easy as using an API. You don't know that they have the full ability to test and execute it perfectly. You do not want to be liable for anyone's credit card data in a security breach. We're talking about convenient, right size tech choices. You can always scale up to a larger or customized solution later. 8. Scheduling and / or Calendars: If you're trading time-based services for money, you're going to want to schedule appointments and maintain a calendar. You need to manage the time you spend with customers, the travel time and prevent double booking. This is a particular favorite of mine, because most of what I do involves one-on-one work with clients. I've tried a lot of these services and I can recommend several for you to try out or even to purchase. Questions you should answer in the essential techniques workbook include, what calendar service do I plan to use to consolidate all of my personal and professional appointments? Think back to the last time you scheduled an appointment. It could be personal, maybe the dentist or professional, to get somewhere to do something for a client. Did you use Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, maybe Outlook on your work computer, something else? You need to pick one calendar that you know you'll refer to, the Master Calendar and ensure that the scheduling services that you prefer to use is compatible with it. Do I need simple scheduling? Or do I need customers to pay at the time they schedule my services? If you just need to schedule a time, the best free services I've used are Booklikeaboss.com. I've used that for client websites actually. Calendly, Simplybook.me, and Youcanbook.me. Those are really easy services to use, all of them have inexpensive upgrade options and fairly robust but similar free options. You can't go wrong with any of them. For the paid options, there's several I recommend, AcuityScheduling is one of the services that I currently use with my personal site because it's a free integration with Squarespace, which is a bonus it saves me $20 a month. I've been using it for over a year. I've created many paid options for scheduling, limited calendars for specific types of meetings, and a lot more. I really enjoy using it and it has a free option as well. I'm also using ScheduleOnce for my empowered women in tech company. Empowered women in tech.com, if you're interested and you can see it in action. You can schedule a meeting type and have an individual landing page per meeting type. It doesn't have to be integrated into a site. That's also a useful feature. No matter what scheduling software you use, you can always move to a different platform or plan. You can download all of your previous customer information and their emails to a spreadsheet and maintain it completely separately from the platform. 9. Social Media: Let's talk social media. You absolutely need to integrate social media onto your site in some way shaper form. You should already know who your ideal customer is, and if you filled out the ideal client worksheet, you know where they're hanging out online. I'm not going to cover all of the different types of social media in this particular video, just the top five. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Those are the five you need to worry about and here's a super brief overview of each of them. Facebook is social networking. It's the social network is for finding your tribe and communication. Instagram is all about photo-sharing. Incredible rates of active users and audience engagement. It skews really heavily towards the 18-29 age range and is mostly female. Twitter is microblogging at its finest, its product awareness, organic engagement, and access to both niche and mainstream influencers. Pinterest has a 100 million Pinterest users and 81 percent are female. It's essentially a virtual bulletin board. It's not very social, but it is an excellent search engine. LinkedIn is social networking for professionals, equally male and female, with over 60 percent of the 227 million monthly users falling into the 30-64 age bracket. Knowing where your audience is hanging out allows you to deliver what they're looking for, strengthen your brand and connect with them instead of just communicating at them. The only question you need to answer for this part of the essential tech needs assessment is this one. On what platforms are your customers found? You only need to be on the platforms where your customers are found. Don't bother being everywhere. Focus on what matters. All of them are free and when you get overwhelmed with manually posting, which you probably will, there are a few tech options that you should look at. Buffer.com is my favorite. It's excellent for scheduling posts to any and all of the above platforms, although the free version only buffers 10 posts at a time. The paid option allows you to increase your buffered post to 100 and you can post to several platforms and several accounts on multiple platforms at once. Tailwind is a scheduling product that works for Pinterest and Instagram mostly and has an interesting bonus feature called Tribes. You may want to check out if those are your top platforms. Hootsuite used to be only on Twitter, but now it's available for every platform. It only has a free trial, though, not a fully free option. I have personally paid for a lot of the things I've tried PromoRepublic, Amplifier, Gram, Social Being and many others although those were all at a premium price. Your best bet would be to look for classes here on Skillshare that focus on one of these platforms. There are so many classes, so it's quite likely that there are classes and courses that are not only focused on your top platform, but on your specific or very similar target audience as well. 10. Other Considerations: Other considerations for tech will come up as you're building your business.They are often very dependent on what kind of business you're building and how you're choosing to build it. These may not apply to you, so I don't have specific key questions for you to consider or answer rather just a suggestion that you take this into account. Speaking of account, dead jokes, you may not need an account immediately, but if you do consider Intuit or QuickBooks, same company, they've invested a lot of time and money into making sure that this is a very good product for a small business owner. I recommend it, I've been using it for years. It integrates with my taxes. You don't really need much more than that and if you do, I would suggest that you check with the tax professional. I am not one of those. So I'm recommending that your job is to find out if you need one. You may also need invoicing and I mentioned this earlier.You can do this in a number of ways, including PayPal. You can do it in a Word document, you can use a Google document. It really doesn't matter. You're just asking for money based on what you sold them. So you could consider using FreshBooks or wave apps for invoicing. There are a ton of options out there, and let's be honest, invoicing is pretty simple. It's a template for you to fill in with the information for what you would like to get paid for it's not rocket science. You don't need much more than that. But if you choose something, make sure it integrates with your accounting services, keep it simple. Legal concerns. I am not a lawyer. If you feel like you need to consult with one, you probably should and affordable way to do this to join Legalshield, I'm not a representative, but it is essentially a membership to access a lawyer should you need one at a very affordable monthly rate. I ever appreciated having a membership in the last year because of an issue I had on a social problem. It saved me thousands of $. Just throwing it out there. Legalzoom is great for legal documents that you can create without necessarily needing to consult or hire a lawyer. This is how a lot of people form their business because it's incredibly easy and very straight forward. Finally, in relation to legal documents, you're building a website. You need a terms of service and a privacy policy. If you don't know what those are, it's required by law that you state how you use and the ways in which you gather a customer's data. You can Google free privacy policy generator and free Terms of Service generator and get boilerplate that you can use. You should read it. If you're not sure how it works or what it means, please consult a lawyer. This is super important. You don't want to get in trouble for miss handling anyone data, especially as Europe has recently passed some laws regarding this. So just make sure that you're protecting yourself in every way possible. 11. Final Recap - Identify Your Minimum Viable Product: We've looked at several of the possible techniques for small businesses. The whole list included having a website, email marketing, and email service providers, deciding on a shopping cart or shopping platform, payment processing, scheduling and maintaining your calendar, social media and social media marketing, and a few other possible needs like accounting and voicing and legal. You've heard a little bit about each of these and some of the options that are available. You've answered questions on your worksheet about each aspect and how it relates to the business that you're building. Now you can look at the essential techniques workbook and realize that you should have outlined what the essential techniques are for your business. On the final page of the workbook, you'll find a chart that you can fill out with the techniques that you've selected and any notes you have on why those stood out as important for you. At the bottom of the sheet, you'll find a space to add which of the essential aspects you plan to execute on first just one of them and what tech you chose for it. The final part of your class project is to snap a picture of this final page and upload it to the class files. I'm really looking forward to seeing your responses, including the tech that you chose and which one you plan to execute on first. I'm available if you have any questions, so please don't hesitate to reach out if you're stuck in any part of choosing essential needs. Thank you so much for participating in choosing the right size tech for your business.