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5 big changes for today's small businesses

A generation ago, the notion of a small business owner meant something very different. You pictured a person who owned their own storefront, often named after themselves, and every day they were the first to arrive and the last to leave. They worked tirelessly for their customers, and their reward was enjoying those customer interactions day after day.

These days, small business owners are still the first to start and the last to finish, and they still work tirelessly for their customers. But that stagnant storefront isn’t always their home base. In fact, today nearly 40 million small business owners work out of their homes. That’s just one way the face of small business ownership has changed. Here are five others:

* There when you need them. A generation ago, a small business retail shop looked much like the example above and relied on customers coming through the front door to do business and make a sale. These days, many small businesses host a website that allows them to do business outside their immediate community, and small business owners are more active in traveling to their customers to meet their demands and increase name recognition for their business.

* Total tech control. Small business owners no longer need to outsource their needs to take advantage of the latest technology advantages. Staples, a longtime supporter of small businesses, partnered with Xerox and recently introduced a new, innovative self-service machine that provides customers greater control over their time and production through independent scanning, printing, email and faxing. All of these service options are managed through a new Android-based, easy-to-use interface that runs on a standard tablet attached to the self-service kiosk. Payment, usage and receipt functionalities are all built into the device, allowing the business owner to enjoy professional-quality interactions all at the click of a button.

* Going mobile. The world is increasingly mobile, and for small business owners, utilizing this tool is one of the best ways to connect with their customer base. Many small businesses are adopting mobile app technology, including click-to-call voice or video communications. Adding video chat to their apps makes it easy to provide customers the personalized experience small businesses are known for.

* Customized print and marketing services. Print and marketing services were once a luxury exclusive to larger companies who could afford to hire marketing agencies to do the work for them. That's no longer the case. Staples Print & Marketing Services offers everything from the printing of business cards and flyers to postcards, brochures, custom stamps and more. Small business owners will also find a variety of signs, banners and poster options as well. Everything they need is ready and waiting for their custom enhancement.

* Ongoing customer interaction. A company’s customers are its lifeblood, and today’s small business owners recognize their unique ability to interact with their customers on a personal level more effectively than their larger big-box brethren. Customer surveys, special themed events, social media interactions and a good old-fashioned handshake all strengthen the bond between customer and business owner that keeps both parties interested in doing business for years and years ahead.

To learn more about how Staples can support your small business in its marketing efforts, visit Staples.com.

EDITION: California | U.S. & World
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