Tech-buying tips for women business owners
Typically, women business owners buy and use technology differently than their male counterparts — they adopt technology because it helps them multi-task and be more efficient.
Women-owned businesses are multiplying. Nearly half (48%) of the country's privately held companies in 2004 were at least 50% owned by women, a total of 10.6 million businesses, according to the Center for Women's Business Research, a Washington, D.C. - based organization.
Nearly two-thirds of those companies are majority-owned by women (51% or more), employing almost 10 million people and generating $1.2 trillion in sales. What's more, between 1997 and 2000, the estimated growth rate in the number of women-owned businesses was nearly twice that of all businesses (17% vs. 9%).
The pace of women-run enterprises is triggering other changes as well, almost under the radar. Despite perceptions that technology remains the province of geeks and guys, women owners and consumers are increasingly early adopters of new digital products. For instance:
Female consumers now account for more than half — a whopping $55 billion — of the annual $96 billion spent on electronics, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
Plus, nearly nine out of every 10 women entrepreneurs (86%) say they use the same office equipment and services at home as they do in their business. With women initiating fully 75% of all consumer electronic purchases, their interest in digital products is clearly on the rise.
Finally on the Microsoft Small Business Center website the first bit of advice to women wanting to get ahead themselves in business under the heading tech-buying tips for women - “To help women business owners like you make better spending decisions regarding technology products, keep these bits of advice in mind…….”
Tech-buying tips for women
To help women business owners like you make better spending decisions regarding technology products, keep these bits of advice in mind.
1. Join a women's business organization
Being a member of a women's industry or professional group offers a range of benefits. You learn how peers handle the same challenges you face. There are bound to be members who know a technological thing or two (if not tons) that you don't. Most such groups also offer discounts on products and services as well as access to training and seminars that are well worth the price of annual dues.
2. Review your needs — inside and out
Technology options for small businesses usually can be divided into three categories.
- Core business functions
- Customer services and marketing
- Administrative and internal functions
By looking at areas one by one, it's easier to calculate how you might get a better bang for your technology buck.
Start by assessing software or services that can most meet your needs. For instance, if internal reporting is essential, Microsoft's Small Business Financials offers inexpensive, integrated financial management capabilities, including sales, purchasing, inventory, and payroll and reporting functionality.
If sales leads and customer service is key, consider simple but effective solutions made for small businesses. For example, besides Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher, the Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003 includes Outlook with Business Contact Manager, which lets you consolidate and manage customer data and contacts via the Outlook application.
3. Stay close to an IT adviser
"It's easy to get overwhelmed about technology and hard to know what you must have and what's too much," says Michele Miller, an author and advertising executive who publishes Wonderbranding.com, a blog about marketing to women. "Working with an adviser lets you take it step by step."
Instead of jumping to a custom solution, for instance, a knowledgeable pro may recommend an off-the-shelf solution, points out Miller. In addition, when a consultant understands your business and your system, he or she can suggest upgrades or alternatives at the right time. Having that relationship means the expert is around to ensure that installations work with your older, legacy systems, too.