6 ways a tablet can make you a better business owner

Tablets can help small business owners improve efficiency, deepen client relationships and support branding efforts. Here's a quick list of six top ways using a tablet can make you a better small business owner.

1. Make Every Wait Interactive

Tablets now offer small business owners an effective means of reducing boredom and inefficiency for waiting clients.

I use a set of Apple iPads to show customers that I value their time. Customers are issued a tablet upon check-in. The tablets open to a survey screen with three questions that help me better understand needs and spot opportunities for cross marketing. Upon completion of the survey, the browser loads my business's blog. This helps remind customers of the blog and shows new customers the information I make available.

2. Share Infographics

A picture is worth a thousand words. Small business owners quickly learn the truth of this aphorism. But until recently, preparing visuals for customers meant harvesting data from programs like Excel and then making charts or PowerPoint slides. Tablets simplify the whole design and publication process.

Powerful and inexpensive (even free) tools now help small business owners develop meaningful, individualized infographics. The newly launched Visual.ly is a free service that allows users to create engaging infographics from data harvested from social media sites. The results are truly impressive, but the best part is the creation process, from start to finish, can take less than 3 minutes, meaning you can impress customers with cutting-edge data.

3. Get Personal

Many small business patrons could take their business to larger operations. It's personal interaction that brings them to our small businesses. But how personal can you be as you enter data or take notes from behind a monitor?

Using my tablet (and a professional stylus) to record notes and appointments, I have freed myself from my desk. Now I can sit facing my customers. With no obstructions between us (not even a desk), my body language and eye contact reflect openness and interest. Accordingly, my customers feel more at home. I'm also able to make fluid transitions between note-taking and information sharing, literally showing customers what I mean as I discuss plans to meet their needs.

4. Make Blogging More Manageable

As small business owners, we all love free or inexpensive marketing. So why do we fail to take full advantage of our own websites?

Providing daily -- or hourly -- blog updates is hard goal to meet for the busy owner without a budget for content. Using a tablet makes hitting this goal much more practical.

I now access my blogging software (Wordpress) from my tablet. My goal is to provide my customers at least one daily update related to current developments that drive customer behavior. Because my tablet is always with me, I can upload short entries when I have just a few free minutes (such as a last-minute appointment cancellation or taxi ride). I can also respond to customer comments on my blog quickly and efficiently.

5. Translate Your Tablet into Customers

I have used Google's Translate app to help me communicate with non-English speaking customers. If your business requires frequent translation services, a tablet will be disappointing. But if you'd like to capture business from potential customers for whom language is a barrier, a tablet can save the day. Using the Translate app, I have communicated with German and Spanish speakers -- and made sales I would have otherwise had no shot at.

6. Track Finances on the Fly

Like most small business owners, I'm obsessive about my bottom line. I do my best to track and manage every expense and piece of income. Unfortunately, I'm often so hurried that I don't get to entering this data until the end of the week. This makes it challenging to spot and capitalize on trends throughout the week.

I now keep my tablet with me at all times, so entering expense and income data is a cinch, even when I'm rushed. Developers have provided a plethora of useful finance apps for small business owners. I simply chose the one produced by my accounting software developer. The programs link flawlessly, and my end-of-week data entry is significantly reduced.

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