This is why you need to keep an ear to the ground on new technology. Oh, and this is not an ad.
Square, the new payment processing system, is a game changer. It allows any merchant (and we can even use this term loosely) to accept payments from any smart device with a headphones jack. You set up an account, get the little reader device, and load the software, and you can accept payments. It's super easy. But that's not all.
You don't need a special merchant account. You don't need a contract. You get a free mobile card reader, free setup, no monthly fees, and cheaper-than-most rates on the percent taken by the vendor (2.75 percent + 15 cents if the card is present and 3.5 percent + 15 cents if you key the card in manually).
When my parents started a wire-wrap jewelry business, the credit card reader and related merchant account fees were the biggest expense they incurred that wasn't directly related to the project. This platform would have saved them tons. And they might not have heard about it, had they not stayed keyed to what's new and what's coming out.
It's Easy to Get Complacent
We don't look at new computers coming out because we already have a computer. We don't listen to all the new features in the new phones because we already bought a Blackberry, a Palm, and so on. We believe that we've solved that technology issue because we already did it once.
That's not how we treat our bodies. We go to the doctor reasonably regularly. We get our teeth checked out two times a year. We take our cars in every 3,000 or 5,000 miles or so. But we don't do the same with the systems for our business?
How Often Should You Look?
Talk about asking myself a question that's tricky to answer. How often should you look for game changing new technology that might impact how you do business? It changes daily, it seems. But I have a feeling about this. I think you could look four times a year and be better off than not at all. Four times.
So, maybe January, April, July, October, if that makes sense. I picked those because January's a great time to rebuild. April is right before the summer rush. July is right in the down time (depending on your business type), and October is right before the holiday season. (These are in U.S. terms. You can fold this into your calendar easily enough).
And where would you look? I'd be bragging if I said that OPEN Forum does a great job of helping you stay informed. Beyond here? Mashable has great news. So does ReadWriteWeb. Beyond that, you might want to look for a blog that talks about your particular area of interest. Not sure where to start? Check out Alltop.
Stay Open to What's New
A handful of years ago, the answer to which office software you should use would be Microsoft Office, or if you were nerdy, OpenOffice. Now, there's Google Docs as a very strong contender.
Three years ago, the first iPhone hadn't changed the game in cell phones. Now, instead of asking how many minutes you get, people ask how many apps the platform supports. Things change so fast. You have to stay open, or you risk missing new opportunities to improve your business.
Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at chrisbrogan.com.