Twitter Buy Button and New Page Features a Boost to Online Businesses

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 21:04

We’re starting to see trends with social platforms, such as Facebook and Google Ads, adding “Buy” buttons for quicker sale transactions. These features can be game-changers for small online businesses looking to quickly convert lookers into buyers. Following suit, testing is under way for a Twitter “Buy” button as well as for product and collection pages. Here’s what online businesses need to know.

Small business shipping solution provider, Endicia, recently shared an article titled, What Online Businesses Should Know About Twitter’s “Buy” Button and New Page Features. The article outlines Twitters plans for the new “Buy” button. It also mentions another new feature they are testing, product and collection pages, which are being designed to bring a visual element to the social platform.

If used correctly, these new features can really help catapult sales for small businesses in the online ecommerce space.

To find out more about the features and what every online business should know, visit the Endicia blog HERE.

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Categories: SMB

Is It Time For Your Accountant To Use Less Paper? Sage and eFileCabinet Think So

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 20:30

My accountant has had a paperless office from day one. All incoming documents are scanned into their computer. We review my taxes on a big computer screen and documents are digitally signed. Neat.

However, not all accountants are like this – I’d say in fact most are NOT like this. Many are buried in paper and pass this avalanche of paper on to their clients as well.

eFileCabinet has a document imaging solution and has teamed up with Sage to provide this solution to Sage accountants.

The press release reads, “The partnership will enable users of Sage Impact cloud-based platform to sign up for and use the eFileCabinet cloud document management solution from within the Sage Impact dashboard.

Sage Impact is the accountants’ everyday business management platform and go-to for access to payroll, accounting, financial management, business intelligence, community, new business leads and more, all managed in one central hub. More than 150,000 users worldwide rely on eFileCabinet document management solutions to provide simple but effective document management solutions. eFileCabinet’s document management solutions are designed to help organizations capture, manage and protect their data regardless of industry. “

One of my rules for thriving in today’s Uber economy is to leverage technology. Those who do, will grow and succeed, those who don’t will move slower, be inefficient and eventually be swallowed up by competitors.

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Categories: SMB

UPS Is Getting Ready for the Holidays. Is Your Business Ready?

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 16:00

UPS is getting ready for the holiday shopping season, are you. The WSJ journal writes 

UPS is already talking about pricing and the holidays with its customers, Chief Financial Officer Richard Peretz said in an interview, particularly with those who tend to flood the network with unexpected packages.

“It’s about customers that surge, to make sure that we’re appropriately looking at both the compensation that UPS receives against the resources they’re using,” Mr. Peretz said.

Some of those customers send between about 10% and 20% more packages on surge days, while others ship several times their normal average package number, he said. The company is talking with customers about how to better manage those spikes, he said.

What are some things you can do to get ready for the holiday shopping season now?

  • Just think about it – what went right last year? what areas could you have done better?
  • Are your online operations up to snuff – security, speed, mobile
  • What about your retail store inventory? Are you and your suppliers ready?
  • Do you have a staff hiring plan?

These are just a few things.

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Categories: SMB

Google Plus Fades, Facebook Grows. Let’s Move On

SmallBiz Technology - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 21:00

Google+ (Google Plus) is used by millions of people to stay connected. However, it’s not used by enough people to make it a viable community for Google to continue to be investing in.

The Wall Street Journal writes that Google is backing down from requiring folks to have a Google Plus account to use many Google services or share content with others.

For those still wondering if you should build and mange a community on Google Plus, it looks like you shouldn’t bother.

This does not mean you should ignore Google. Your rank in Google search is important. Your use of YouTube is still important. Using Google for advertising – still important.

Focus on Facebook for the best engagement and experience in building a community.

Wanna get your ranking HIGH in Google? Check out my friend Martin Shervington’s Plus Your Business..

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Categories: SMB

Vertical Response Launches New Email Marketing Feature. Auto Follow Up.

SmallBiz Technology - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 16:30

Don’t you hate it when you email 100 people on your list and only 20 open the email? Often times, assuming all of these individuals have opted into your list, they’re busy and just need to be resent the email one or two times. Sometimes they might even miss the email in the deluge of emails they get every day.

Vertical Response is out to change that. Their press release reads:

“In today’s ‘information overload’ world, it can be challenging to get the attention of your audience when sending a single email,” explained David Shiba, VerticalResponse general manager. “This new feature allows our customers to schedule an automatic follow-up email at the same time they are creating their original campaign. This follow-up email will be sent three or more days later. Our internal statistics show that customers can generate up to 40 percent more opens by re-sending to this non-responder group.”

This new feature allows small businesses to reach more of their audience, which in turn should generate a greater number of opens and clicks for the email campaign. Paying VerticalResponse customers who use this feature can view detailed reporting on the lift in results on the reports page

Marketing automation and repeat touches is important for successful marketing.

Some other options?

Email marketing systems like Vertical Response, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Aweber, Emma or Campaigner,.

CRM system such as Marketo, Hubspot or Infusionsoft.

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Categories: SMB

Windows 10 Is Here. Four Things You Need To Know.

SmallBiz Technology - Sat, 08/01/2015 - 18:00

Windows 10 is here – some people (millions of insiders) are using it now , some regular people have it already and others will have it gradually downloaded to their computers over the next few weeks.

Although it’s not a RADICAL upgrade to Windows 8, it is an improvement, with a few key areas you should know about.

New Browser

Windows 10 comes with a new browser, Edge, that lets you more easily annotate web pages and read online content how you want.

Custom Desktops

With Windows 10 you can customize your desktop experience, have up to four apps on the desktop or create virtual desktops to work on projects how you want.

Security

Windows is slated to be more secure, with a new feature, Windows Hello, that recognizes you – no password typing is needed.

These are a few updates in Windows 10. It’s better than Windows 8, so definitely something to consider. But give it a few more weeks until you upgrade, giving a chance for any last minute bugs to be ironed out.

Read all about the upgrade here

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Categories: SMB

Email Security. Carefully Review Emails. Hackers Love Email Hacking

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 07/31/2015 - 22:42

Ever get an email that refers to PayPal or your bank? You look closely at the email and realize that it’s a phishing email from a hacker. It’s not paypal.com but paypal.scammers.com or something a little more subtle.

Be careful of any email you receive asking you to click on something – or an email that instructs you to do something such as wire money or do some other financial or personally invasive action.

The Wall Street Journal writes, George Kurtz, chief executive of CrowdStrike Inc., an Irvine, Calif., cybersecurity firm that investigated the loss, said it appears that malicious software implanted on the broker’s computer allowed the crooks to collect passwords that provided access to the broker’s email system, and then to falsify wire-transfer instructions for a legitimate purchase. “Given that the money has been moved out several times, there is no hope of recovering it,” said Mr. Kurtz.

  • Install and properly configure security software on all servers and entry points
  • Hire a security expert to audit your computers
  • Train employees to be vigilant and wary
  • Work with your vendors to ensure THEIR computing infrastructure is setup

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Categories: SMB

Dear Small Biz Owner. VC Backed Startups Are Not Your Mentors.

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 18:00

Often times we see the glamour of venture capital backed, billion dollar (to be) companies and wistfully wonder, if we should follow their routes. Some of the things they’re doing are good – we can learn from them. But other things might not be so good.

The NY Times writes about Jet ,how it’s prepared to lose money for 5 years and it’s plan is to sell memberships and make it’s money that way. I guess it COULD work, but it’s not a model that small businesses should follow – losing money for years and making money NOT with the product you’re selling. There’s only ONE Amazon.com

Intense competition in the delivery space may be prompting such offers. According to one venture capitalist, “some of these companies are forced into making moves that they know don’t make long-term economic sense, but they could make short-term economic sense if they end up winning the customer’s loyalty.”

Small business owner, remember, you’re not a “dot-com”. Make smart investments in your business. Follow the advice of Norm Brodsky in Inc Magazine, Joe Connolly of WCBS Radio and the writers in Smart Hustle Magazine. Make a product you can sell a make a profit from.

Even my distant mentor, Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit believes in making money from what you sell – making a PROFIT.

For those entrepreneurs, who have BIG ideas and need venture capital for seed or growth funding – GREAT. However, spend your money wisely and ensure the FOUNDATION of your business is built on simple and solid principles, not on “funny money”.

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Categories: SMB

Facebook and Google Dominate Mobile Advertising. Understand Their Platforms.

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 13:07

 

Facebook and Google dominate mobile advertising. If you want to succeed, today, with mobile advertising, these two companies are the two platforms to focus on. Their platforms are mature and evolving and they continue to reach the biggest market. Just about everyone is either “liking” some Facebook post or searching on the Google search engine.

The Wall Street Journal writes Market researcher eMarketer says that together, Facebook and Google will capture more than half of the $69 billion world-wide mobile-advertising market this year. Google leads, with 35% share, but Facebook is growing faster.

Remember, to succeed in mobile advertising, any advertising, don’t focus on trying to advertise to ANYONE. Narrow your advertising and be very targeted. Your ad copy and message should be adjusted depending on who you are trying to reach.

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Categories: SMB

Elance Is Shutting Down. I’ll Miss It. Will You?

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 18:00

I’ve used Elance for many years to find great talent to help me build SmallBizTechnology, Small Business Summit and Smart Hustle Magazine.

It’s been a great platform to not only find talent, but also to manage talent and ensure your tax obligations are fully paid.

Elance writes about this in their blog here.

Elance and Odesk joined together and it looks like the result of that new company is Upwork.

  • When using free lance workers, here’s a few tips:
  • Know very clearly what you want your consultant to do.
  • Interview them and get references.
  • Test them and ensure they can do the work.
  • Have regular discussions and updates.

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Categories: SMB

Flash On Your Web Site? It’s Old and Insecure and Browsers Are Blocking It.

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 19:00

At one point in the history of digital content marketing – Flash was king. But that era was over YEARS ago and replaced with HTML 5 and other technologies. Guess what? Due to security flaws with Flash, Google and Mozilla are blocking older versions of Flash on their browsers.

The NY Times writes, “Long used to animate websites and play online videos, Flash has become equally known for security flaws and slowing down websites. Steve Jobs famously refused to allow Flash to be installed on iPhones and iPads, in part, because of security concerns. Over time, other animation tools have become widely used by many sites and browsers.”

If you’re using a DIY web site service like Wix or Squarespace – you’re ok. But if your developer made your web site a long time ago and hasn’t updated it recently – be sure there’s no Flash.

 

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Categories: SMB

10 Easy Ways to Track Billable Hours

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 15:00
What’s your current favorite technology to track billable hours? Why?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Project Bubble

We use Project Bubble to track all billable hours for certain projects. It allows all team members to add to the project and keeps everything organized. Everyone is always on the same page — then we simply export the billable hours for each project into our invoicing software. It couldn’t be any easier.

– Jonathan LongMarket Domination Media

2. TSheets

TSheets is easy to set up, can handle complicated time tracking options and has mobile options. Process and single point of entry are the most important to a growing client; TSheets has allowed our customers to save hours with the direct integration to QuickBooks.

– Marjorie AdamsFourlane

3. Paymo

It’s simple, it’s flexible and it’s great for tracking employee hours without burdening the managers or others on the team. I highly recommend it. We’ve had many of our part time staff and consultants use Paymo in the past and it’s always worked very well.

– Mitch GordonGo Overseas

4. Mavenlink

Mavenlink is the most user-friendly and efficient time tracking software that we have come across thus far. It provides instant reports and the ability to plan future projects based on information from past ones. Its mobile website is available through all devices, and most importantly, it is easily navigated by our entire team — which leaves out any confusion or frustration.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

5. Desktime

We use DeskTime. In addition to tracking billable hours, it also records time as productive/neutral or unproductive based on the users’ active applications or websites visited. Over time, it learns what’s productive and what’s not. It also generates comprehensive reports showing productive time and efficiency KPI for every team member.

– Andrew KucheriavyIntechnic

6. Time Doctor

There are many solutions for this, but right now I really like Time Doctor. This is a web-based platform that does everything I need, such as monitoring hours worked, recording screenshots, creating invoices and a lot more. This is very useful, whether people are working in one place or remotely. It definitely encourages productivity when everything is so easy to track.

– Shawn PoratFortune Cookie Advertising

7. Harvest + Asana

We integrate Harvest (which has great time tracking and reporting) with Asana, where our team’s tasks are stored. We can then log time directly from within Asana against a particular task (for instance, a software feature within a larger project). This provides transparency to our clients as to where our time is going at the feature level, and they can compare them against our original estimates.

– Inderpal Singh, Northshore Partners

8. HoursTracker Pro

We use HoursTracker Pro to track hours worked, expenses, etc. We love the GPS integration features, and the ability to group entries by different views. The pay periods are automatically set, and additionally have different types of export. All in all, it’s super useful and user friendly.

– Marcela DeVivoNational Debt Relief

9. Tenrox Timesheet

This cloud-based time management tool tracks everything from employee hours, expense, project budgeting and other trackable billings. It’s provides us with a real-time graphical workflow engine, which is a major contributor to the time and productivity factor that keeps my company’s momentum going. Tenrox Timesheets gives me a reason to look forward to the end of the month.

– Reuben YonatanGetVoIP

10. Screenshot Monitor

Our company works with a lot of freelancers and we use Screenshot Monitor every day to track their hours. It’s similar to other popular time tracking software out there, but differs in one important way — it periodically takes screenshots. Since this software will randomly take a screenshot of a person’s screen, we don’t have to worry about them charging us for time and not doing work.

– Andrew SaladinoKitchen Cabinet Kings

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Categories: SMB

How to Cook Up a Perfectly Fried Landing Page

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 18:13

It’s a terrible day when the truth becomes trite and that’s what has happened with one of the most important truths in marketing: Know your customer.

Ask a marketing guru what’s the most important thing, and the person will say that it’s to “know your customer.” We have heard this so many times that we have stopped “hearing” it.

I want to bring this truth back among the living and I think the way to do that is by example. I want to use an example that puts the need to “know your customer” into perhaps its sharpest focus.

If you’re at all familiar with the culinary world, you may know that some chefs, when auditioning new chefs, will ask them to fry an egg. Frying an egg reduces the craft of cooking to its most essential and basic skills. Any chef who can produce a perfectly fried egg on demand is a worthy hire.

In the world of digital marketing, I think producing the perfect landing page is the equivalent of serving the perfectly fried egg, so we will look at landing page essentials and relate them back to the concept of “knowing your customer.” I’ve written before on these pages about some of the layout basics of landing pages. Here I want to focus more on psychology.

I think you will see how critical it is to be able to get into the mind of your customer when you face head on the challenges of producing the perfectly fried landing page. A great formula for a landing page is to combine four elements: A value proposition, an incentive, a deadline and a call to action.

Your value proposition

Gene Schwartz was one of the best direct mail copywriters of all time. He wrote headlines like:

  • World’s first effortless exerciser
  • How to make 13 ½ percent on your savings or more – All fully insured!
  • Why haven’t TV owners been told these facts?
  • How to eat your way out of fatigue

Look at each of these headlines and try to picture the consumer to which they would appeal. Next, work back from that image and identify where that consumer would find the “value.”

In the first headline, I picture someone who is overweight and – to put it politely – a person who has never enjoyed breaking a sweat. Being able to understand what makes that person tick gave Schwartz the clues he needed to appeal on an emotional or psychological level.

To sum it up: Understand the area in your customer’s psyche where the benefits of your product or service overlap and find emotional language to express or imply the value.

The incentive

Every machine operates best when a little oil is applied. Adding an incentive to your landing page is the oil. Your job is to understand what kind of incentive will strike a chord with your customer.

Sometimes you can toss in a little something extra. There was a time when banks gave away toasters, gas stations gave away free glasses and hamburger restaurants gave away toys with children’s meals – okay, the burger joints still do this; the other premiums are long gone.

However, if your customers are somewhat risk adverse – perhaps you’re the new kid on the block and you need to establish credibility – an unconditional money-back guarantee might be the answer. These virtually always prove to be cost effective ways of drumming up new business.

The deadline

In Popeye cartoons, Wimpy’s famous line was, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” The gag was funny because Wimpy said it all the time and everyone knew that “Tuesday” was no real deadline for payment.

Again, some understanding of how your customers think and relate to your product will help you set the right deadline. The deadline can be a point in time, like “today,” or when some event occurs, such as “The first 15 companies who contact us…” or “Extremely Limited Supply.”

The call to action

There are two elements in the typical digital call to action today, the graphic and the wording. Graphically, it’s critical to make your CTA standout and be obvious that it’s something to be clicked on.

Your CTA button will have a word or short phrase on it and here’s where you need to understand how your customer is thinking. You can come up with some very good wording for your button by completing this phrase “I want to ­­­­­­­____________.”

For example if you’re selling a weight loss program, the phrase “lose weight easily” might work on your button. Give some thought to this. Avoid tired phrases like “Click Here.”

I hope that by discussing these four landing page fundamentals, you begin to have a new, and more focused appreciation for the need to “know your customers” and an improved ability to apply that knowledge.

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Categories: SMB

Dropbox Adds Two New Features. Document Collaboration Easier and Smoother.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 17:00

Many of us have used Dropbox for years. It works well and is one of the popular ways to share files.

In addition to making it easy to share files, Dropbox is adding some new features that make it much better. These features include:

File requests – With file requests, you can request and receive files from anyone, and they’ll go right into the Dropbox folder you specify. Here’s how it works:

  • Get files from anyone: Anyone can send you a file, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account
  • Easily receive large files: Unlike most email attachments, you can receive files as large as 2 GB
  • Keep your files handy and secure: Submitted files are accessible on all your devices, but just to you — people who send you files can’t see those uploaded by others (unless you choose to share them), and can’t access your Dropbox

The Dropbox badge – The next time you open a Dropbox file in Excel, PowerPoint, or Word on your computer, the Dropbox badge will be waiting for you. It’s a handy tool designed to help you move your project forward, right from inside the file you’re working on. You can:

  • Easily share the file you’re working on
  • Ask for feedback or contributions by commenting on the file
  • View file history to go back in time and find content you’ve already changed or deleted

With these features Dropbox is becoming much more than a file sharing tool, it’s being a collaboration and communication platform.

What platforms do you use? Google Drive? Office 365? Yousend It?

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Categories: SMB

Square Is Going Public. Here’s Why It Matters To Growing Businesses

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 13:00

Square has flied to go public reports the New York Times. Square is best known for it’s “credit card swipe” dongles that attach to smart phones and tables making it easy to accept credit card payments. If you didn’t know it yet, that’s just the beginning. Square needs to make more money and GROW.

What’s Square’s big play? To offer financing options to growing businesses. If you need $10,000 , $50,000 etc, you can get it from Square. Square is competing with PayPal, OnDeck, Fundera and many other companies offering these solutions – include your bank and credit card companies.

Looking for financing? You have lots of ways to get money – make your decisions smart.

 

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Categories: SMB

Shipping Company Uses AT&T Service to Monitor Its Fine Art

SmallBiz Technology - Sat, 07/25/2015 - 18:00

 

Technology can be used in the most amazing ways. I just watched a video which shows how a NY area shipping company uses AT&T’s Cargo View and Flight Safe service to monitor its fine art shipments.  No matter what business you are in, there’s always technology you can find which can help you do it better and more efficiently.

Watch the video below or here.

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Categories: SMB

Data Is Nice. Information Is Better. Microsoft Release Analytics Tool for Small Businesses

SmallBiz Technology - Sat, 07/25/2015 - 00:04

We business owners are drowning in data – from our financial software, to marketing, to our HR software and more. Seeing and measuring our key performance indicators is not always easy – but it’s an important part of growing and managing our businesses.

Microsoft has recently release a new tool, “Power BI” to give small business owners a fresh way to visualize their data and make better decisions.

According to a Microsoft at Work blog post:

At its core, Power BI is a centralized hub that allows users to easily pull in, visualize and interpret the vast amount of data that their business generates on a daily basis. SMBs use a wide range of tools and services to run the different aspects of their business. By generating unified charts, graphs, maps and statistics, Power BI allows users to spot trends that would be difficult or impossible to identify by looking at an unorganized assortment of different spreadsheets and dashboards.

Check out more details on Microsoft’s blog here.

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Categories: SMB

Intuit Exec Joins Infusionsoft Small Business Marketing Company

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 07/23/2015 - 13:30

While Apple leads in consumer mobile design, Intuit leads in small business accounting software and other solutions.

Like many large companies who’ve been many years in business, there are many former Intuit executives leading other companies. One of these executives, Terry Hicks, has joined small business sales and marketing software company Infusionsoft.

According to Infusionsoft’s press release, Hicks brings deep insight, knowledge, and understanding of small businesses and how to meet their rapidly evolving technology needs.

During his 15 years at Intuit, Hicks served in a variety of general management and product leadership roles in the Small Business Group and Global Business Division. He established from the ground up to the now $600 million payments business, and most recently, prior to joining Infusionsoft, focused on accelerating worldwide customer growth as the vice president and general manager of QuickBooks Online.

Terry’s role at Infusionsoft is pretty big, to lead their global product strategy, including product management, payments and business development and more.

Intuit’s pedigree of being able to adapt, such as their evolution from Quickbooks for the desktop computer to one more focused on Quickbooks Online and creating a variety of “apps” to help small businesses is amazing. It’s not easy to innovate, but Intuit has continued to do so and create great products.

Terry has a big job ahead of him, to accelerate and continue Infusionsofts growth in providing solutions to small businesses.

While Infusionsoft is the leader in small business sales and marketing software, the market is crowded and will continue to get more crowded as more and more established companies and upstarts seek to offer varying degrees of CRM solutions to small businesses.

There’s three things Terry needs to do, to continue to help Infusionsoft succeed, taking a play book from Intuit:

  • Grow and innovate a thriving and improved ecosystem for Infusionsoft, embodied in its marketplace
  • Create software as easy to use and well designed as Quickboks Online
  • Seek and build other growth opportunities, such as payments

 

 

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Categories: SMB

Join the #HPProductivity Chat For Ways to Improve Office Productivity

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 19:31

If there is one area we commonly hear small business wanting to improve, it’s office productivity. They know they may be missing big opportunities to save time and money, but staying ahead of new technologies and processes can be tough. That’s why the team at HP has teamed up with Ramon Ray, Smart Hustle Magazine and Smallbiztechnology and Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends, for an hour long Twitter chat – #HPProductivity –  on how to improve office productivity.

The Twitter chat, which takes place on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 1pm ET, will teach small business owners how to enable and improve efficiency in their office. Whether it’s optimizing mobile technologies, taking advantage of the cloud or finding new ways to communicate with team members, they’ll be sharing tons of tips and strategies that will help you save time and money.

They’ll also be looking for participants to share their thoughts and opinions on questions like:

  • What top productivity tips save the most time or money in businesses?
  • What is the incidence of employees using personal computing devices?
  • Can virtual offices be as productive as physical offices (or more)?
  • What printer features help offices the most, etc.?

It’s going to be an interactive hour jam-packed with great tips, tools and techniques to help you start saving time and money…RIGHT AWAY!

Here are the details again so you don’t miss joining this event:

Who:  @HP_SmallBiz, Ramon Ray @RamonRay, Anita Campbell @smallbiztrends

What: Enabling Small Business Efficiencies: How to Improve Your Office Productivity

When:  Tuesday, July 21, 2015 – 1 p.m. EDT

Where: On Twitter under the hashtag #HPProductivity

We hope to “see” you on the 21st! Get your questions ready!!

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Categories: SMB

How Your SMB Can Use Stock Images Without Getting Sued

SMB News - Wed, 07/15/2015 - 19:46

Images are a quick and easy way to add color, life and personality to your business, whether being used for your website, new products, marketing materials or in presentations. However, simply copying and pasting from Google Images or from other sources online could result in lengthy and expensive legal battles over correct image usage. Despite a wealth of stock image providers hosting millions of images, companies of all sizes are regularly facing legal issues for failing to question whether they are legally entitled to use images for their own purposes.

In January this year, the Court of Appeal upheld a ban on Topshop selling a T-shirt featuring an image of pop star Rhianna. Taken during a video shoot in 2011, the image was obtained without her permission. It was the first successful celebrity case of its kind and Topshop’s parent company was sued for £3.3 million.

Without the appropriate release in place, the organization left itself vulnerable to this expensive and embarrassing lawsuit, showing that even huge corporations can suffer from a lack of consideration of image usage laws. 

In another example, Nestle was forced to award $15.6 million in 2005 to a model whose image was used on Taster’s Choice coffee product labels without correct permission. Following the original photo shoot in 1986, the model had signed a contract stating he would be paid $2,000 if the image was used in Nestle’s marketing. Although the image wasn’t used until 2002, ignoring the conditions of the release was a costly mistake for this international brand.

What Is A Release?

A release is a signed document which ensures that the people or property (works of art, trademarks, brands or buildings) included in an image or clip are safe to feature. While most stock image collections clearly identify where a release has been signed, further limitations may be in place so it pays to always double check. At Alamy, we make it clear as to which images have had releases signed, we’ve also developed an infographic to help ensure you don’t find yourself in trouble. You can view or download this here.

Key Facts About Image Copyright

There are some commonly held misconceptions around image use – we’re hoping to set some of these straight for you below:

  • Changing the image by 20% does not make it safe to use: If you use someone else's copyrighted work in any way you are violating the copyright and potentially liable for a lawsuit, even if you've changed the look of the image. 
  • Google's image search is NOT public domain: Copyrights last for 70 years past the owner's death, so it's likely that most images online will still be under copyright. Never use an image from a Google search without the correct permission from the owners.
  • Crediting the owner for the image does not override copyright laws: Check carefully before using an image, particularly for commercial use and, if in doubt, contact the image owner directly for permission.

Using Stock Images Effectively

We've put together some tips to help you get the best out of your stock images:

  • Do your research: You don't want to spend money on an image to features as part of a campaign or on a product if it has been used in a similar capacity before. Check to see where else it has been used. Google Images is a good resource for this. 
  • Make sure your image is relevant: You might fall in love with a picture, but always check and double check if it's relevant to your content. There's no point in spending money on an image which you won't be able to use. 
  • Check whether you need a release, and ask if you're not sure: It is your responsibility to make sure that the image has the necessary releases in place. 
  • Ensure your chosen image(s) has the appropriate release in place: It should be clear on the site as to whether this is in place or not. If in doubt, call and ask or check with your lawyer.

Copyright and IP law is complex and you don't want to find yourself in hot water after you've spent money and time building up your business. It's easy to get carried away when you've found the perfect image but getting the basics right is important to make sure your SMB is a success!

Categories: SMB
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