How to Market Computers and Office Systems


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Market Research

The availability of these small, inexpensive computers brought computer technology to even the smallest of enterprises. The most recent category of microcomputer to enter the business world is the portable computer.

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These small and light—but increasingly powerful—computers are commonly known as laptop or notebook computers. Laptop computers have the same power as desktop personal computers, but are built more compactly and use flat screen monitors, usually using liquid crystal display, that fold down to form a slim unit that fits in a briefcase and usually weigh under 15 pounds.

A notebook computer is one that weighs under 6 pounds and may or may not have a full-size keyboard. A pocket computer is a hand-held calculator-size computer. Portable computers are increasingly popular among businesspeople who travel, such as executives or sales representatives.

Today, most computer systems are "open"—compatible with computer hardware and software from different manufacturers.

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In the past, all components of a computer system originated from the same manufacturer. There were no industry-wide standards. As a result, printers, monitors, and other peripheral equipment from one manufacturer would not operate when matched with the computer of another manufacturer. More significantly, software could only run on the specific computer brand for which it was designed.

Today, however, "open systems," wherein various equipment from different manufacturers can be matched together, is common. Open systems are especially popular among small business owners because they allow enterprises to upgrade or expand their computer systems more easily and cheaply.


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Open systems provide business owners with more buying options, enable them to minimize expenses of employee retraining on new systems, and give them greater freedom to share computer files with outside clients or vendors. Computers on a network are physically linked by cables and use network software in conjunction with the operating system software.

Depending on the hardware and software used, different types of computers may be put on the same network. This may involve computers of different sizes—such as mainframes, mid-ranges, and microcomputers—or computers and peripherals of different manufacturers, which the trend toward open systems has facilitated. Local area networks LANs link computers within a limited geographical area, while Wide area networks WANs connect computers in different geographic regions.

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Networks may have various architectures which determine whether computers on the network can act independently. A commonly used system architecture is client-server, whereby a server computer is designated as the one storing and processing data and is accessed by multiple users each at a client computer.

LANs have transformed how employees within an organization use computers. In organizations where employees formerly accessed midrange computers through "dumb" terminals, these employees now typically have more capabilities. These users have their own personal computers at their desks, but are still able to access needed data from a midrange or other server through the network.

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Whereas smaller businesses typically favor LANs, WANs are often used by companies with multiple facilities located over a wide geographic area. After all, under a WAN system, a company's databases can be accessed at headquarters in one city, at a manufacturing plant in other city, and at sales offices in other locations. Computers are used in government, industry, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, and in the home, but their impact has been greatest in business and industry.

The competitive nature of business has created demands for continuous advances in computer technology and systems design. Meanwhile, the declining prices of computer systems and their increasing power and utility has led more and more enterprises to invest in computer systems for an ever-widening range of business functions. Today, computers are used to process data in all aspects of a business enterprise: product design and development, manufacturing, inventory control and distribution, quality control, sales and marketing, service data, accounting, and personnel management.

They are also used in businesses of all sizes and in all industry segments, including manufacturing, wholesale, retail, services, mining, agriculture, transportation, and communications. The most common business uses of a computer system are database management, financial management and accounting, and word processing. Companies use database management systems to keep track of changing information in databases on such subjects as clients, vendors, employees, inventory, supplies, product orders, and service requests.

Financial and accounting systems are used for a variety of mathematical calculations on large volumes of numeric data, whether in the basic functions of financial service companies or in the accounting activities of firms. Computers equipped with spreadsheet or database management software, meanwhile, are used by accounts payable, accounts receivable, and payroll departments to process and tabulate financial data and analyze their cash flow situations.

Finally, word processing is ubiquitous and is used to create a wide range of documents, including internal memos, correspondence with outside entities, public relations materials, and products in publishing, advertising, and other industries. Databases may also be used to help make strategic decisions through the use of software based on artificial intelligence.

A database system may include—in addition to records and statistics of products, services, clients, etc. This is referred to as a knowledge base. Examples of expert system usage include business forecasting activities such as investment analysis, financial planning, insurance underwriting, and fraud risk prediction. Expert systems are also used in activities associated with regulatory compliance, contract bidding, complex production control, customer support, and training. For most small businesses, jumping into the world of computers is a competitive requirement, especially with the advent of the Internet.

But computer system purchases can be daunting for entrepreneurs and established business owners alike. After all, small business enterprises typically have less margin for error than their big business brethren. Given this reality, it is very important for owners and managers to make wise choices when choosing and maintaining computers and computer systems. Four major areas that business owners and managers need to consider when weighing computer options are: 1 your company's overall business strategy; 2 the needs of your customers; 3 the needs of your workforce; and 3 the technology's total cost of ownership TCO.

Although it may well exist in the owner's mind, many small and mid-sized companies have no detailed written system strategy. It is not surprising then, that many of the systems technology implementation decisions are more reactive than they are strategically based. Competitive pressures, the need to catch up to the marketplace, and internal growth tend to force buying decisions. Business owners also need to ensure that their chosen computer system meets the needs of customers.

Is ongoing communication with clients a critical component of your business?

ELEMENTS OF THE COMPUTER SYSTEM

If so, then your system should be equipped with features that allow you and your client to communicate via computer in a timely and effective fashion. Does your business's health hinge on processing customer orders and generating invoices? Much of our diagnostic equipment is portable, and we will remove a PC to our workshop only when the problem requires more detailed diagnosis or repair.

We will also offer free pick-up and delivery of PCs needing repair. To meet the growing demand for this service, we will purchase a company vehicle in the third month. We will also offer extended maintenance contracts, so that business clients can deal with technical support and repair needs as a single line-item expense, rather than having to plan for unexpected crashes and problems with a rainy-day fund they may never use. Maintenance contracts yield a high gross margin for us, and provide peace of mind for the customer.

We will, however, keep up to date with multiple operating systems and networking developments, working with clients to make sure they have the most appropriate combinations of hardware, OS, networking, backup systems, and software. Backup and security are becoming higher priorities for all our potential customers, as internet usage and its pitfalls becomes more common, and as more and more daily records are stored electronically.

PC Repair will provide computer support in both a consulting and technical capacity to small business owners as well as home PC users. However, these first three months are critical for establishing our credibility and a reputation for getting the job done quickly and well. We will focus on delivering excellent service, and using the good word of mouth from this initial period to network with other potential clients.

Personal market research by the owner indicates an attractive market niche for our services, of which PC Repair will take full advantage. The very nature of the computing industry, with its extraordinary rate of technological development, creates a constant need for businesses skilled in updating and advising customers on computer-related issues. Customers are seeking skilled help with everything from installation of software and hardware components, to networking, to transferring files from an old computer to a new one. The existing computer service market is so extensive that categorizing it is rather difficult.

We have broken our potential market down into two groups, based on their needs: home PC users and small business clients. Home PC User Our home PC user market includes non-tech-savvy residents of the local area 15 mile radius , generally between the ages of 30 and 70, with at least one home computer. We are not expecting income from users below 30, who tend to be more comfortable with technology and willing to attempt repairs and upgrades on their own, without seeking professional assistance. Such home users generally own a computer to do email, play games, write letters, scan and print photos, and occasionally to do bookkeeping or taxes.

Home PC users with more sophisticated applications generally have enough tech savvy, from tech experience at work, to do their own repairs and upgrades. Their hardware needs will include the computer itself, monitors, keyboards, mouse, printer, and scanner. Small Business Users Small business users will provide the majority of our business revenue. Their business use may include minor usage, such as updating a business website for a brick-and-mortar store, keeping the books, designing graphics or ad campaigns, and writing copy for press releases.

The more intensive their computer usage for business, the more critical it is to them that their technology work well and reliably, and that quality repairs and support are available in a crisis. Their hardware needs will include the same items as home users, plus servers, backup systems, data storage, and wireless networking. Although there are more potential customers among home PC users, we expect the majority of our revenue to come from small business clients, since their need for our services is more urgent, and they are willing to invest in technology as part of their business plan.

The majority of our marketing efforts will thus be focused on small business owners. Home PCs are often used by multiple people, and serve multiple purposes. Our home PC users need help with managing their settings to integrate the different needs of all household members as much as they need technical assistance. ComputingNet magazine recently reported on the substantial need for timely and cost-effective computer upgrades and repairs in this region; Jack Hacker has seen this market need in person, as frustrated clients waited for days or weeks for their critical components to be returned to full capacity, with no inexpensive alternative to the existing computer repair shops.

All of our clients need technical assistance, but we are also selling peace of mind: our clients will know that friendly, efficient help is just a phone call away. As more and more companies switch their support services to automated call centers or touch-tone menus, the simple reassurance of hearing another human voice on the phone within a few rings is immeasurable. Even better is knowing that within a few hours, someone will show up and take care of their problem.

Both the software and hardware side of the computer industry continue to turn out new and revised computer components at alarming rates. For PC Repair this means job security well into the future.


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As reported by the Wall Street Journal, there seems to be no end to the development of the computer market. Secondary market research shows computer service customers tend to be very loyal to providers that do good work and satisfy their needs. The computer maintenance and repair industry is fragmented, with a few large, national players and hundreds of small, local stores. While most computers are actually repaired in-store, near the customer, parts for the repair come from major manufacturers and distributors; delays in receiving necessary parts can significantly slow down the repair process.

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Large chains have solved this problem by keeping vast amounts of inventory in stock at all times, while local stores offer customers the trade-off of personal interaction and trust that may make up for some delay. PC Repair has established a relationship with a local distributor to do rapid special-ordering; although this capability is more expensive than normal channels, it will enable us to quickly establish a reputation as efficient and responsive to customer needs, particularly for our small business users.

Customers choose computer repair and assistance services based on reputation, previous experience, and price. Large stores, especially the service departments of national chains, have a great advantage simply in their affiliation with an established brand. Establishing our brand identity and a great reputation in the first few months is critical to our success. Once we have broken in to the local market, our great service will turn new clients into permanent clients. Our services will be second to no one and our prices will be very reasonable for the high quality service we offer.

By providing superior service, word of mouth alone will bring in many new clients. The satisfaction our consumers find will keep them coming back. There are two main competitors for the computer upgrade and repair business in this area:. They are a well established provider of computer upgrades and services, and do quick work.

However, they have a high staff turnover, a young and inexperienced staff, and are more interested in selling new components than in maintaining existing machines or finding custom solutions. They do not offer any kind of pick-up and drop-off service, and do not offer on-site help. They really only offer hardware support.

How to Market Computers and Office Systems How to Market Computers and Office Systems
How to Market Computers and Office Systems How to Market Computers and Office Systems
How to Market Computers and Office Systems How to Market Computers and Office Systems
How to Market Computers and Office Systems How to Market Computers and Office Systems
How to Market Computers and Office Systems How to Market Computers and Office Systems
How to Market Computers and Office Systems How to Market Computers and Office Systems

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