francesca geensFrancesca Geens is a small business tech and productivity strategist at Digital Dragonfly, where she works with solo business owners to make sure they have the right tech, tools and systems in place to run their businesses. She recently answered a few questions about how small business owners can use technology more effectively to run their ventures. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about Digital Dragonfly? What inspired you to start your business?

Digital Dragonfly is a technology and productivity consultancy that I set up nearly six years ago. There are ever growing numbers of people setting up their own businesses – they work from home offices or are very mobile and though they might be independent, they need to be as professional as any bigger business. Many will have left corporate life and so were used to good tech and a helpdesk. I become their tech go-to person and will work with them to make sure they have everything in place to be productive from a tech point of view. This covers everything from the essentials like good hardware, backup, email and structures to productivity hacks and tools to make for efficient working. I love untangling and simplifying and we make sure clients are setup in the simplest and most appropriate way for them and their business.

What are the most common technological needs or headaches your clients come to you with?

A big one is email. Both inbox management but also making sure that they have a reliable setup that syncs across devices. It’s amazing how many people still struggle accessing key business data on the go – whether it’s email or calendar and contacts. This is often a big muddle with data scattered and people not trusting their systems so having to duplicate. We love tidying up email, calendar and contact data and getting it into the cloud so that clients can work seamlessly across devices.

What areas of IT do you find small business owners overlook the most?

Unfortunately, it still has to be backup. There is so much confusion around this area and misunderstandings as to what they are currently using that most people are at risk of losing important data should they have massive hardware failure or lose a device.

What do you think are the most important tech tools business owners should use?

I am a big fan of the cloud and run the whole of Digital Dragonfly in cloud-based tools. So I think all business owners should make the most of cloud services for everything from email to backup to documents and key data and workflows. Not only does this give you the ability to easily work across devices but you can also share with a team and be sure you have peace of mind that your data is backed up.

What considerations should small business owners make when shopping for IT products?

That’s a good question and very often people don’t know how to go about choosing a new tool or online service. It’s important to look at pricing and how this is tiered, how you get your data in and out (the latter is especially important with tools like CRM), what security and backup measures are in place and always, always test the support. It’s really important to know how responsive and helpful a provider will be when you have questions or something goes wrong.

What technology trends or innovations are you most excited about for how they can help small business owners?

What’s really cool is that all tech companies seem to be offering the option to integrate their tools with others. So we have an amazing opportunity to automate and move data around seamlessly. Small business owners can create powerful workflows with just a few simple clicks.

How should small business owners be approaching digital marketing today? What tools should they make sure to use?

This should be a really fun area for small business owners but I often see people really stuck when it comes to digital marketing. There are so many tools out there it can be hard to choose. I always say start simple so that you build clarity on what you really want to do and they go from there. You don’t want to commit to something big and complicated from day one. At it’s most basic you are looking at a way to track prospects, build a list and engage with your audience. So I would say most people need a newsletter list management tool from day one and a way to capture leads and feed into this.

I’m sure I’ve read many times that you can’t start building your list early enough. You also need some sort of CRM to keep a track of your pipeline and clients. Choosing a CRM can be hard so I normally suggest starting with a spreadsheet to give clarity as to exactly what is important to your business and this will make it easier to match you up with the right tools.

What advice do you find yourself repeating to clients over and over again?

Make sure you backup!

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