It's often been said that it takes money to make money. Of course, business owners rarely love to put capital into expansion because it's hard to be certain that the investment will pay off. As the new year begins, a few infrastructure options seem to be especially good bets. Here are five great investments that you can make for your business in 2022.
1. SEO Marketing
Search engine algorithms don't give every business equal treatment. If you're looking for a hotel in New Mexico, typing in "Embassy Suites Albuquerque" gets you an Embassy Suite, but what if someone just types "hotels in Albuquerque?" A small hospitality startup could easily get lost in the shuffle. That's where search engine optimization (SEO) strategies come in. SEO uses keywords and phrases to get your business ranked higher in search engine results. This added visibility drives traffic to your site and can build your conversion rate by making navigating your website more intuitive for customers. In the information age, it's hard to succeed without leveraging these uniquely web-based growth strategies.
2. Business Process Automation
Many business processes are expensive simply because they're labor-intensive. Whether that translates to paying employees overtime or just making do with lost hours and productivity, a lot of money can be saved through automation. One of the most well-known examples is sales force automation (SFA) software. These tools can help coordinate teams in the field, manage leads and make sales forecasts. This last feature is especially critical since accurate forecasts inform quarterly strategies. Examine your processes in detail, and see where adding automation could result in major efficiency gains.
3. Market Research
Market research is another great example of a process that can benefit from automation. Traditional research can require a large outlay of resources. A professional assessment might cost upwards of $35,000, and single reports alone can run around $4,000. AI-powered analytical programs can cut these costs by using powerful algorithms to sift through millions of data points in the same amount of time it takes a human to collate a handful. In other words, they can do the job both less expensively and more accurately. Remember, though, that the data you get out is only as good as the data you put in, and there's no substitute for knowing the desires and needs of the people who make up your niche.
4. Live Customer Service
At the other end of the spectrum, some processes can benefit more from the human touch than from automation, and customer service is one of them. Recent research by OnePoll showed that despite advancements in natural language processing tech, customers still overwhelmingly prefer human operators. When asked to pick their top three methods, 69% wanted help via phone, 54% said email and 46% picked online chat. It's not just the type of service being offered that matters either: Attitude is critical. 54% of respondents picked a "compassionate attitude" as one of their top three attributes they look for in customer service.
Live customer service can be expensive, of course, but so is losing customers to a poor experience. Consider all the options, from live chat on your landing page to messenger features on your social media channels, and see what fits your customers' expectations.
5. Upgraded Cybersecurity
2021 was a banner year for cybercriminals, with cyberattacks costing the global economy an estimated $6 trillion. This wasn't the just result of hackers getting more skilled; it was a product of increasing vulnerability. Weak passwords, obsolete hardware and uneven security protocols all play a role in exacerbating risk. Insisting upon verified credentials from all users on your network (known as zero-trust security architecture) is a good first step in reducing that risk. More importantly, learn about new threats as they emerge and teach your staff to recognize them. Security begins and ends with the people implementing security strategies, so make training a top priority.
Remember, there's no one right answer for what investments you should make in your business. The key is knowing your company well enough to match your unique needs with the tools that can fulfill them. Keep these tips in mind when building your infrastructure in the new year.