Small businesses are the heart and soul of the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration small business account for 65% of all new jobs and employ half of all private sector employees. These businesses are responsible for much of the innovation and growth that occurs in the American economy. According to CNN, two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. is created through small business ventures.
In contrast, large American corporations under pressure from shareholders have put quarterly profits ahead of corporate responsibility. Much of American manufacturing and a significant portion of the technology service industry have been outsourced to China and India. China’s cheap labor and India’s tech-savvy workforce are well documented in Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat. As the economies of China and India have matured so have wages in these countries. Outsourcing is no longer as cost effective as it once was. The New York Times reports that wages have increased by double-digit percentage rates in China and India over the last two years.
Unlike small businesses, large corporations can’t turn on a dime. Relocating a manufacturing plant can take months or even years. Small independent businesses have the flexibility to adapt quickly to changing market demands and are now proving their worth as the primary job growth engine in America today. One major advantage small businesses have is the ability to leverage the SaaS or Software as a Service model. Many large corporations are bound by proprietary internal database applications for tracking customers, inventory and sales. These large companies have to maintain huge amounts of hardware and infrastructure in sustaining these tracking methods. Small businesses now have a wealth of free cloud based tools they can access. Through social media channels small businesses can reach out to a large audience with little investment.
Here are a few ways small businesses can make the most of the internet:
Advertising, promotion, branding and messaging can all be accomplished through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.
G-mail is well known but About.com actually lists over nineteen different free e-mail services including such options as Zoho, iCloud, AIM and of course Yahoo.
There is a wealth of free Client Relationship Management solutions out there including Zoho CRM, Free CRM, SaasLight, Civic CRM and vTiger.
Easy to follow customer surveys can be created with tools such as Zoomerang, Survey Monkey, QuestionPro and LimeSurvey. Web site traffic can be closely measured and monitored with Google Analytics and Quantcast. Spyfu is an excellent tool for sizing up your online competition and SEO Book offers a nice free set of utilities that work well with Firefox.
Most of us are familiar with Google Docs but there are plenty of web based project management and collaboration tools out there such as Project2Manage, ProjectPier.org, Thinkature, Stixsy, Skype and Twiddla.
While many of the offerings listed above are free there is typically a charge for more advanced versions or usage of each service. Obviously, Google falls a class of its’ own with an incredible number of free and amazing business tools all designed to keep you using their “freemium” platform. Now more than ever before small business can make a huge splash with almost no traditional marketing. A viral YouTube video or a popular Facebook post can be more lucrative than a TV commercial or full-page print ad. Guerilla marketing is no longer the exception but instead it has become the rule for all businesses including larger corporations.
There are currently over 27 million small businesses operating in the U.S. and they are the primary force driving our economic recovery. Small businesses are also pushing forth the entrepreneurial spirit that made America great in the first place. As corporations now start to face the higher costs of labor and manufacturing in both China and India they will need to start taking a serious look at the U.S. labor force again. They will never be able to move or adapt as quickly as American small businesses can!