When trying to assess the economy these days, the word that comes up for a lot of people is “uncertain.” During times like these, businesses naturally look to revisit departmental budgets and find new ways to control costs.
While frugality is never a bad idea, things can get complicated when addressing your IT spend. For many companies, the technology stack is one of the biggest drivers of productivity and profitability, which makes haphazard budget cuts the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. You also must carefully consider how any cuts may affect your ability to protect your company’s data, ensure customer privacy and maintain regulatory compliance.
Here’s how you can address your IT costs intentionally, strategically and most of all safely.
Begin by looking at your existing IT processes, procedures, solutions and systems. Then, ask yourself some hard questions and answer honestly. Which are value-adds and which are value-drains? Be as thorough as possible while doing this inventory. Remember to consider not only the up-front cost of a given software system, but also associated training and maintenance expenses.
Find low-cost alternatives
There is no doubt that software solutions streamline business processes and drive new efficiencies, but they also carry costs that can add up quickly. One potential remedy here is to seek out lower cost alternatives.
Yet when considering lower cost software, always keep that old expression of “You get what you pay for” in mind. One potential downside of a less expensive product is that it may not offer the same sort of robust protections for sensitive data flows or mission critical infrastructure. That’s why you should only deploy this strategy for software that is not involved with securing valuable company assets and does not need to comply with intensive legal regulations.
But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t numerous areas where you could find potential savings! From scheduling assistants to word processors to graphic design platforms, there is no shortage of cost-effective software solutions just waiting to be leveraged online. We even put together an entire blog on the topic where you can get more information.
Consider the cloud
You’ve likely heard a lot about the cloud over the past few years, especially the positive way it can impact your business. When you look at the benefits, it is easy to see why.
Transitioning IT systems to the cloud has been shown to enable a more productive and nimble workforce. You reduce the costly and cumbersome hardware systems you are responsible for. You can also add or remove resources on an as-needed basis. System updates and maintenance are typically handled by the cloud provider following a transition to the cloud.
Of course, transitioning to the cloud can carry some security risks. To mitigate these, carefully vet third-party providers. Ask pointed questions about how they ensure compliance and what they can do to protect data while it is in-use, in-transit or at rest.
If you want to learn more about the benefits the cloud offers to users and businesses, check out our previous blog.
Assess your software licenses
Once you start adding software systems to your business, you can quickly lose sight of how many licenses you are paying for if you are not careful. Any assessment of your IT stack and its associated costs must include a rigorous inventory of who is using what and for what purpose. After you’ve compiled this information, take steps to reduce licensing costs for unused or underutilized applications.
Apply a critical eye to cut IT waste
Operating a lean business and seeking out cost-cutting measures can be a good idea in business, especially in times of uncertainty and upheaval. But when it comes to your IT stack, you need a scalpel − not an axe.
Indiscriminate cuts can set your company back – not move it forward, and not just in terms of lost productivity. Fines, fees, breaches and reputational damage can all result from cutting back on IT solutions that secure your business’s critical systems. The potential consequences of skimping on IT security far outweigh any savings you might achieve.
But by using these tips, you can free up valuable resources to drive greater business growth and innovation without compromising your existing setup.
For many who work in real estate, the job site isn’t defined by a single location. Workers are often highly mobile, and their job responsibilities may require them to move from house to house to conduct closings and other business. To stay connected, collaborative and productive, these workers need access to cloud-native enterprise mobility solutions. When properly equipped, workers can stay connected to the data, channels and applications they need. Here is what you need to know about these technologies and what benefits they can bring to your business.
What are enterprise mobility solutions?
Enterprise mobility management (EMM) encompasses the processes, underlying technologies and solutions that enable enterprise mobility. More specifically, EMM includes things like software hosted over the cloud, applications optimized for mobile devices, VPN networks to boost security and programs like mobile device management. These technologies work together seamlessly to empower employees and enable greater organizational flexibility, while at the same time allowing administrators to conduct oversight of how devices and programs are being used.
One of the biggest things remote workers gain when equipped with the right mobile solutions is process improvements. The right digital toolkit not only reduces the need for endless paper documentation, but it streamlines access to necessary business information, allowing employees to provide better customer experiences.
For any business, finding ways to increase worker productivity is a key priority. When the right mobility solutions are deployed, real estate and title insurance employees can stay apprised of their most important tasks and responsibilities from anywhere on any device. Potential benefits from this include a reduction in lag times, easier collaboration and happier and more satisfied customers overall.
While the rise of mobile has worked wonders for many aspects of business communication and collaboration, it is safe to say that it has introduced new challenges for data privacy and security. Real estate and title insurance are both data-intensive fields that routinely deal with sensitive customer data. Agents must have the means to secure that information. Without the right digital tools, your business runs the risk of experiencing a security-related incident and potential long-term damage to your brand.
Reduced IT overhead
Like any other business process, the more control and standardization you can exert over your IT setup, the more it can work wonders for reducing IT spending. Today’s enterprise mobility tools offer the type of visibility, convenience and functionality that can improve an agent’s job performance without saddling your company with a lot of additional costs. One of the ways they do this is by streamlining processes like file sharing. Another involves how enterprise mobility is one of the foundational technologies behind the rise of remote work. Businesses that successfully run and manage hybrid or remote workforces may achieve sizable savings in lower office costs, reduced employee churn and higher productivity.
Equip yourself for success
With the benefits of enterprise mobility being crystal clear, your next question might be: Where do I start? Well, unfortunately, the answer is going to be different for each agency. As I have said before, your organizational goals should dictate the type of IT solutions you employ – not the other way around. Spend some time thinking about what your needs are before you make any decisions. Don’t discount the value of getting a little help. Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com with questions or if you would like to talk. With any luck, you’ll quickly find the right setup for your team and start taking your mobile operations to the next level.
In today’s battle for clicks and conversions, personalization is key
By now, pretty much everyone knows how important digital technology is to the modern economy. From streamlining communication to improving product lines, digital makes the business world go around. Yet while digital technology has been a net benefit for companies, it has also raised customer expectations significantly. Today, it is not enough to merely offer the best product or service, you must also use your digital infrastructure to create unique, seamless and personal experiences for your clients. Here are some simple ways you can start doing so today.
Bring in the bots
I’ve previously written about the immense benefits of using chatbots on your website. From a customer service perspective, it just makes sense. In today’s “always-on” economy, you need to support your customers around the clock. Thankfully, chatbots have advanced enough to now answer a variety of user questions, direct visitors around your website or even provide educational or product resources.
Personalize content assets
One benefit of the digital age is that it has never been easier to deliver personalized communications at scale. Take email marketing. There are small, pre-written code snippets that you can insert into your subject lines or body copy that will populate with each email recipient’s personalized information upon delivery. The data shows that this simple action can have a big impact on the overall ROI of your email marketing campaigns, with some studies depicting a bump of nearly 50% in open rates.[i]
Always leap at a chance to solicit and collect customer feedback. In doing so, you’ll gain valuable insights to improve your processes, operations and service delivery.
This is another area where digital technology can play an invaluable roll. Many standard CMS platforms offer built-in customer contact forms. The drawback is that this method is inherently passive – meaning your customers may take the time and effort to respond but also may not. A more active approach would involve creating a customer feedback survey that you disseminate directly to your customer base. SurveyMonkey or even Google Forms have made it a breeze to accomplish something like this, providing free or low-cost tools to help you connect with your clients and gather valuable opinions.
Create meaningful landing pages
An often-overlooked element of a given marketing or customer journey effort is landing pages, which is unfortunate for a variety of reasons. Not only can a shoddy landing page harm the overall impact of your marketing campaigns, but it wastes a chance to further personalize your client’s experience. While you shouldn’t overload your landing page with extraneous links that distract visitors from the action you want them to take (such as filling out a contact form), including a few other strategic resources targeted to their unique goals and pain points can help you create more valuable experiences.
Personalization and optimization = better business
It’s tempting to put personalization and optimization initiatives on the back burner, especially when you have many other competing priorities. Yet even making small tweaks to your digital ecosystem can go a long way toward developing more powerful connections with your audience and creating modern brand experiences.
With software needs growing, here is where you can find low-cost alternatives to top brands
You’ve likely heard the word “Luddite” before. This expression refers to 19th-century English textile workers who destroyed machinery that threatened their livelihood. Today, it serves as a shorthand to refer to anyone resistant to technological change. While undoubtedly an overused term, the real story of the Luddites exemplifies that you can’t stop the march of technology. Instead, you must adapt.
The truth is customer expectations have changed. Businesses need to deliver faster and be more flexible than ever before. To do this effectively, though, requires digital transformation, which can be expensive and time-consuming. In this blog, I will share some low-cost alternatives to popular software programs to help you in this process.
Branding and Graphic Design
Competing for customers online requires digital marketing, and digital marketing requires proper branding and design. Unfortunately, programs like the Adobe Creative Suite can run you hundreds of dollars over the course of its lifetime.
An investment like this might make sense for some companies, especially if they are in design-heavy industries. But title agencies may only require periodic design work, making a free or low-cost option a better bet. Some potential options worth checking out include:
Canva – If you’re looking for a turnkey, browser-based option for relatively simple graphic design tasks, Canva is a great place to start. There are both free and paid versions of the software, and it comes with tons of helpful templates you can use to start quickly producing social media graphics, flyers, logos and much more.
Pixlr – Those looking for an out-of-the-box editing tool will find a lot to love about Pixlr. You can use the solution to crop and resize images, adjust brightness, manipulate contrast, remove red-eye and add filters and effects.
GIMP – GIMP is an open-source software solution with robust photo editing and other design capabilities. Unlike the other programs listed above, GIMP does require a download. But its wide range of features makes it well worth it.
Document and Word Processing
Word processors are among the most common types of business software, used in every industry. While popular programs like Microsoft Word are fairly affordable, there are alternatives out there that are less expensive and offer a comparable level of functionality:
LibreOffice Writer – An open-source application, LibreOffice Writer has been a leading alternative to more mainstream word processors for many years. LibreOffice has many features that will feel familiar to your average Word user, and it supports file formats like .doc and .docx. Best of all, LibreOffice’s open-source community is highly active, constantly refining the program.
Google Docs – One of the most popular alternatives to Microsoft Word is Google Docs. Accessible to anyone with a Google account, Google Docs is a respectable word processor by any metric, including all the bells and whistles businesses need to create content assets. Even better, Google Docs offers its users an effortless way to collaborate within documents in real-time.
PDFs and File Converters
For document-heavy industries like insurance, having a reliable way to convert files and prepare PDFs is critical to developing efficient processes. Like Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Acrobat and Reader are leaders in this space, but those looking for low-cost or free options have no shortage of programs to check out. I will talk about two of them here:
Foxit PDF Editor – Perhaps one of the most comparable solutions to Adobe Acrobat is Foxit PDF Editor. Loaded with features, Foxit PDF provides users with everything they need to manipulate, edit, redact and annotate PDFs.
PDF-XChange Editor – Feature-heavy, user-friendly and basically free, you can do a lot worse than PDF-Xchange Editor if you are looking to break away from Adobe. Seventy percent of the program’s tools are entirely free.
Do What You Can to Go Digital First
Although the events took place over 200 years ago, the story of the Luddites is surprisingly still relevant today. Technology will continue to march forward, and if businesses want to thrive, they must find a way to adopt the technology they need. Of course, this is a lot easier with unlimited resources. But as we see here, there are low-cost alternatives to popular programs out there. By deploying them, you can jump start your path toward a more productive and profitable enterprise.
Digitization has changed business; how can you take advantage?
If you spend any time on technology websites or blogs, then you have probably heard the term “digital transformation.” In the broadest sense, digital transformation or “DX” refers to the adoption of digital services to replace non-digital or analog applications and tools. When digital transformation is done well, it has been shown to increase innovation, customer experience, productivity and bottom-line profitability. For agents, there are numerous areas where you can deploy digital technology for business advantage. In this blog, we will examine what you can gain from going digital, as well as some best practices for a successful transition.
Benefits Of DX
Let’s look a bit closer at a couple of the potential benefits DX holds. First, digital tools can streamline incoming communication, letting customers effortlessly navigate to a specific department or agent. Switching to a digital phone system like voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) also give agencies additional functionality like automatic call-back features, call volume management, call monitoring and more. These tools contribute to happier customers, higher productivity and better brand awareness.
Next, DX can help you develop a well-rounded, 360-degree view of your customer base. Flexible, scalable tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software serve as a strong foundation for a modern, interconnected tech stack. Other services can be layered on top of a CRM to create an even more comprehensive digital suite. Integrate your email marketing service to better target prospects. Interweave collaboration software to align your departments or agents. Whatever you choose, it is now more than possible to unify your external and internal operations for maximum efficiency through the power of technology.
DX Implementation Best Practices
To ensure your digital transformation is a success, never assume that the technology itself is a magic bullet. Just like any business initiative, DX must be approached strategically. The first step is to get a clear idea of the problems you’re trying to solve. Second, you must have the right culture in place. There is a wise old saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and that certainly holds for digital transformation. DX is a complex process. Without a culture that embraces change, experimentation and open-mindedness, it won’t be easy to adapt to new systems, solutions and tools.
Measuring the ROI of DX
Measuring your DX’s ROI is also a critical piece of the process. Unless you have clear metrics in place, it is difficult if not impossible to determine if your investment has paid off. Begin by determining the cost metrics of your digital transformation. This includes not only the direct expenses for new digital technology, but also indirect costs related to business network infrastructure, consulting activity, and staff onboarding and training time.
Equally important is stacking these costs up against your value metrics. These could include bringing in more prospects, building out better customer personas, improving staff productivity or expanding company profitability. As with any business goal (IT-related or not) you’ll want these metrics to be SMART – that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely – so you can weigh them easily against your costs.
DX is Your Path Toward a Future-Proof Business
Digital transformation is the way forward for any business looking to better engage with customers, collaborate well internally, while also safeguarding against future disruption. While not a cure-all, a well-executed DX can give you a clear advantage over competitors.