We hear a lot about new technologies when they emerge, but, often, small businesses are left wondering exactly how to leverage a new technology and incorporate it into their existing business.
We asked three small businesses to tell us how they are using new technologies to the best advantage.
Technology: Mobile App
Northeast Equine Services, a veterinary clinic out of Pittsburg, Texas, launched a mobile app last month to educate horse owners on colic, which is the most common killer of horses.
Keith Taraba, the application developer and head veterinarian at Northeast Equine, said that by using information from the app, owners can better communicate with veterinarians on possible colic symptoms their horses may have. He has plans for other mobile applications as well.
“I’m going to have an update that includes colic prevention and shows ways people can prevent colic,” Taraba said. “I’ll also have another app that will be an RSS feed to a blog I’m starting with updates on how to help your horse (with diseases) and information on the recent outbreak of equine herpes virus.”
Taraba said he isn’t able to measure the success of the app based on the number of people who have downloaded it and their feedback just yet, but he hopes this venture will be as successful as Northeast Equine’s website, which provides similar information.
“Just trying to stay on the forefront of technologies is helpful,” Taraba said. “Ten years ago, websites for veterinarian practices were a pretty new thing. Those with online stores drove more business throughout their stores. Now, the iPhone and Android market is like the new Internet. If you can get into it early, you can establish yourself as a gold standard before all of your colleagues.”
Technology: Online Video Sharing
As in the case of Northeast Equine, technology is being used to enhance the services of an already existing company. In other cases, the technology has made the company possible.
Such is the case with a company called Technique Doctor. The website, which just launched, uses online video-sharing technology to allow musicians and athletes a chance to get professional coaching from the company's stable of experts.
Users upload videos to be viewed and critiqued by the coach of their choice. Fees are paid directly to coaches and vary from $25 to more than $100 a review.
Brian Kaskavage, founder of Technique Doctor, said the website is used to supplement the coaching athletes receive by helping athletes and musicians improve their technique from virtually anywhere.
“They don’t need anything other than their computer,” Kaskavage said.
“One goal is to show that you can have quality coaches anywhere,” Kaskavage said. “This is going to add value to (the athlete’s) performance. Also, the consumer gets to select these coaches, and that’s inspiring to them.”
Technology: QR codes
QR codes have gotten a lot of attention lately as a new marketing tool, but small businesses have been slow to deploy their use.
Denver-based Butler Maps is using QR codes to provide avid motorcyclists with both print and mobile versions of its road trip maps. Motorcyclists can use their smartphones to scan QR codes on Butler maps, which will provide them with information on where to eat, sleep and explore.
“By using QR codes, we can link to sites that are relevant to motorcyclists,” said Justin Bradshaw, Butler Maps' owner. “It also gives some other social features, like live updates on road hazards, police activity and traffic important and instantly available to riders.”
Bradshaw said the business’ largest map with QR codes is the Texas Hill Country version, which he released last month. Approximately 1,000 of these maps have been sold, and the feedback from customers has been positive, although some motorcyclists are still hesitant to explore the use of QR codes .
“A lot of people are skeptical about technology, which is why we print a paper map in the first place,” Bradshaw said. “But we can combine the two and have the reliability and comfort level of the piece of paper and a map, but also have the open-endedness of the Internet and all of the features that come along with technology.”
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