Does your small business have the right tools? If not, you could end up treading water while your competition sails away.

In 2019, companies can’t compete without the right technology. Automotive shops need SEO strategies to bring in local customers. Shipping and logistics businesses need AI to optimize routes and boost margins. Whether you run a junkyard or a cloud software company, the technology you use determines how much you can grow.

Make sure your business has all the tech it needs to thrive:

1. Simpler Sales Enablement Software

You can’t make money if you don’t sell anything. Make life easier on your salespeople by providing sales tools that let them spend less time struggling and more time selling. 

“Plenty of sales tools offer power, but most companies don’t need a million features,” says Jeff Winters, CEO of sales engagement software company Regie.io. “Salespeople need software that makes it easier to sell, not software that makes it harder to work.”

Look for tools that can automate non-sales activities. Bonus points go to tools that integrate with your existing stack or those that have the ability to adapt to evolving needs as your business grows.

2. Smarter Chatbots and AI

Chatbots keep your business open 24/7 while you sleep. Bots on your website or in popular programs like Facebook Messenger can provide customer support. They can also market to your target audience and process sales. Even if your chatbots don’t have all the answers, you can make them better. Review popular questions, and program new answers. 

Give your chatbots a personality that reflects your brand. Bank of America’s Erica is down-to-earth and functional, while the Whole Foods chatbot takes an inspirational approach to helping users discover new recipes and products.

3. Easy HR and Payroll Tools

Whether you have a dozen employees or 100, you need HR tools to handle important tasks like payroll and benefits management. PCMag put together a great list of the most popular options for small business owners, each of which has its advantages and drawbacks.

Gusto, for example, is great for benefits administration and payroll, but it sets a cap at 100 users. Zenefits lets you add more users and provides more features for a higher cost. Think about your business’s needs to find the HR solution that fits your size and budget.

4. Intuitive Marketing Options

Businesses don’t grow unless people know they exist. If you don’t reach out to potential customers, you’ll lose opportunities to make sales and expand your brand.

Email marketing remains one of the most effective tactics in the business. Pick a good tool like MailChimp to deliver relevant, personalized communications to your biggest fans.

“Personalized email content is by far one of the best ways to increase email marketing effectiveness,” says Thomas Smale, founder of FE International. “According to statistics, personalized emails offer six times higher transaction rates than emails without any personalization.”

5. Stronger Data Security

When users trust you with their data, don’t break that trust by allowing someone to breach your systems. Companies like Facebook and Equifax learned the hard way that consumers don’t take kindly to brands that fail to safeguard user information.

The FCC offers good advice for non-technical business owners to keep their data safe. Keep your systems like Windows and web browsers updated to the latest versions to make sure you always have the latest security upgrades. Use password protection tools to make it harder for hackers to gain access to your files. 

6. Internal Communications Channels

Your team members need to talk. Help them streamline their efforts to communicate by using some of the most popular tools on the market.

Slack, for example, organizes conversations into channels to keep your team members updated on project statuses. You can even host video calls and share your screen, which makes it easy for Slack users to jump in to help when someone has an issue. If you need to review an old conversation, Slack keeps searchable records to ensure you can always pick up where you left off.

7. Social Media Automation

Social media marketing, like email marketing, allows you to communicate quickly and easily with your target audience. Tools like Buffer provide tons of functionality to help you plan, schedule, and analyze social media posts across a variety of channels.

With Buffer, you can even engage in the comment section. One new Buffer feature lets you schedule a comment to go along with your Instagram posts, which makes it easy to get the conversation started. 

Beyond post management, use your social media tools to analyze what people think about your company. Brand monitoring tools let you monitor specific terms, like your brand name or important industry keywords, to see what users say. 

If filling your digital toolbox sounds expensive, don’t worry. Most of the tools mentioned here offer multiple pricing tiers, so you can customize your setup to get everything you want — and nothing you don’t. Download a few free trials to see how much better your business could be with a little help from smarter software.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.