Food Trucks Are Small Businesses. What’s Their 3 Secret Weapons of Success?

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 20:05

Running a food truck is not easy – the permits, the staffing, the regulations and so many other things are challenges. However, if you like to get up close and personal to your customers and enjoy the mobility of running a business – a food truck could be a great option for you.

NCR Silver spent some time with Happy Belly, a food truck in Atlanta and documented their day in this video.

Here’s a few tips from NCR in running a successful food truck business:

Know your regulations
 
Many local governments want to see food trucks succeed. But it takes time for laws that were written decades ago for brick-and-mortar restaurants to catch up.
 
Adjacent cities and counties can sometimes have different rules on safety, parking and more. Fees can also vary widely. 
 
“Be sure to know each city’s and county’s rules first,” said Justin Hotard, president of NCR Small Business. “Compliance can sometimes be so time-consuming that it may be best to dedicate one person full-time to handle licensing, permitting and other regulatory requirements during the initial few months.”
 
Get creative with parking
 
With a mobile business, location is everything. To combat parking restrictions in certain communities, many food truck vendors are generating additional income by offering catering services.
 
The industry also is seeing an increase in free market options, such as “pods” in San Francisco, where trucks can park in public spaces and not worry about breaking local rules.
 
Bottom line, know the market options in the communities you serve – some are better than others – to minimize parking hassles and maximize customer reach.
 
Build – and maintain – your brand
 
The most successful food trucks have unique brands, which include everything from the menu and logo to truck design. Given the mobile nature of food trucks, letting fans know where you’re going each day is crucial. Social media is a prime vehicle for this, as well as overall customer engagement.
 
Loyalty programs also help. It’s beneficial for a loyalty program to work seamlessly with the checkout process – automatically tracking rewards with each sale, so customers see what they’ve earned, and have added incentive to come back. Loyalty integration eliminates punch cards and disparate programs.
 
“You need several ingredients to run a successful food truck – good service, amazing food and passion,” Hotard said. “The element tying all of this together is your brand. Staying consistent with your brand and continually engaging customers increases your likelihood of long-term success.”
 
For more industry stats and insider views, check out “#GetRolling America: 2014 Food Truck Facts” infographic and “Rolling with Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen: A Day in the Life of a Food Truck” video.  

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Categories: SMB

Lovely Landing Pages for Lots o’ Lead Generation

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 15:00

How many new leads did your website bring you last week? If you cringed a little while considering your response, it’s time to rethink your landing pages.

What are Landing Pages?

Look online and you’ll find a variety of definitions for landing pages. For the purpose of marketing, it is important to differentiate a landing page from any webpage a person lands on. It’s much more advanced than that.

A landing page in the marketing sense of the word is a page that has a specific offer and an end goal of capturing visitors’ information. It’s a lead generation tool that, when used effectively, can bring high-quality new leads to your sales team.

With so much confusion about landing pages, many marketers are missing opportunities. To help you get more out of your online campaigns, here are five ways you can make your landing pages a little bit lovelier (and bring in massive amounts of new leads).

  1.    Rewrite Your Headline

The first thing your visitor sees is your headline. When writing the headline for your landing page, be specific. The less your visitor has to guess, the more likely he is to explore your offer in more detail. In many cases, you should also add emotional elements. This will trigger an emotional response and immediately engage your visitor on a deeper level.

Smart marketers test headlines regularly to discover what resonates and what falls flat. Doing a basic A/B test of various messages will show you which headlines generate the most leads.

  1.    Use Smart Buttons

The buttons on your landing page are what your visitor clicks on to take action and hand over his personal information. The placement of the button, the text used on the button, and the color all play an important role in whether or not the person clicks.

When designing your landing page, make sure the buttons are above the fold. Use bright colors to draw attention the buttons and encourage more clicks. Just like your headline, you will also want to test the copy on the buttons to see what inspires people to click and what falls flat. Simple changes, like using “I” instead of “you” can make a big difference.

  1.    Eliminate Distractions

Giving your website visitor too many options is a huge mistake. Each landing page should have one purpose only. Eliminate distractions to prevent your leads from leaving before handing over their information.

Remove the navigation bar from the top of the page. Instead, focus your visitor on one specific task; to click a button and fill out a form with his details.

  1.    Be Smart With Your Requests

The goal of your landing page is to generate leads. The more information your visitor has to hand over, the less likely he will be to finish filling out your request form.

When requesting information, only ask for what you need. In many cases, this will only be a name and email address. You can follow up later to qualify the lead, but the goal now is to capture visitor information.

Use a form, such as the Insightly Web to Contact form to automatically send your leads into your sales funnel and online CRM. This makes your landing page work harder for you, eliminating unnecessary work.

Let your sales team do what they do best – sell! With a well-designed landing page, simple form and automatic CRM integration, you’ll spoon-feed high quality leads to your team so that they can close more deals faster.

Kimberly Crossland is a copywriter. She helps clients develop landing pages that bring in quality leads. Follow her on Facebook to get more copywriting and online marketing tips.

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Categories: SMB

GoToMeeting Free: The Smart, Simple and FREE Collaboration Tool for Workgroups

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 00:33

According to statistics from the American Community Survey, telecommuting has risen 79 percent between 2005 and 2012, with approximately 3.2 million workers doing their thing from home. This number only includes full-time employees who work from home for someone other than themselves at least half the time. Now let’s add in self-employed consultants and virtual freelancers and that number skyrockets and enforces a trend in the workplace and mindset that will not soon be going away, but continually increasing.

(Welcome to sponsored reviews – from SmallBizTechnology and Small Business Trends)

With this new way of working comes the need for better communication and collaboration tools. In response to this, Citrix, a leader in mobile workspaces providing virtualization, mobility management, networking and cloud services to enable new ways to work better, has introduced a new version of GoToMeeting Free. An extension of its popular online meeting tool, this latest version is answering the call from virtual workers who wanted a more simple collaboration tool that offered the features they need to get things done.

As a guy who is constantly on the ‘go’ and who works with a virtual team who helps me keep things moving in my many projects (Smallbiztechnology, Smart Hustle Magazine, Small Business Summit), I too am always looking for better tools that allow me to get more done faster. So I was pretty thrilled when I saw this new product and the features it offered. Here’s four reasons it’s a winner in my book:

  1. It’s Instant. When I say instant…I mean instant. I send my custom URL (oh yeah…you get to claim a custom URL so that you can easily remember your personal ‘online meeting room’) to whomever I want to meet with  – they click, I click and we are meeting. That’s it…we’re meeting! No phone numbers or access codes to remember, no trying to figure out how to get the ‘hang-out’ connected…just click, connect and meet!
  2. Meet and Share Content. Have you ever had that endless email exchange with someone trying to collaborate on something and you just wished you could both be looking at the same thing at the same time so you could get it done and move on? Well, GoToMeeting Free has you covered here as well. Simply go from video to screen sharing – from either side – during your meeting or quickly share documents by dragging and dropping them onto the screen. Simple.
  3. It’s Mobile. Because I’m always on the go, mobile is a big deal for me. GoToMeeting Free works on Google Chrome and Firefox browsers and on Android mobile devices. So while I’m on the train with my Galaxy S4 phone, I can have a quick meeting with my director of operations whose back in her office. And if we need to, we can circle in our director of marketing, because GoToMeeting Free allows up to three participants.
  4. It’s Free. Everyone loves free, but most of us expect that with free comes some caveat – unwanted ads, limited connection, etc. Nope – not with GoToMeeting Free. Free is simply free.

If you’re looking for a better way to meet and collaborate with your virtual team, head over to free.gotomeeting.com  and click start a meeting. Share that URL with your team members and you’ll be on your way! Simple.

 

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Categories: SMB

Nurturing The Sales Funnel Using Social Media

SMB News - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 20:39

Click Above For Full Infographic

While social media has been around since the early days of the internet, it isn't until recently that advertisers and marketers are beginning to realize its widespread influence. People of all ages are now using at least one of these platforms to connect with their peers and companies. In fact, more consumers are shunning traditional advertisements in favor of social media and customer reviews to make informed purchasing decisions. Luckily for companies, the same principles of engaging customers in a marketing funnel still apply in today's digital world: create brand awareness through incremental exposure.

In a way, the dominance of networks like Facebook and Twitter has made it much easier to increase brand awareness quickly and cheaply. However, with so many other businesses competing for consumers' attention and money, it can also be much more difficult to get in front of your target audience and even get them started in your marketing funnel. In order to pique the interests and desires of your market, you must take a more relationship-oriented approach to your social profiles. If you're stuck on how to foster a community and convert them into paying customers, the infographic below will provide you with some useful tips and ideas.

Categories: SMB

7 Awesome Services for Data Visualizations and Infographics

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 15:00
What is your favorite tool or service to help create awesome data visualizations/infographics?

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 StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Tableau and Datawrapper

We have used Tableau and DataWrapper to create interactive visualizations for data dives and articles. Both tools have helped us move faster in creating and distributing relevant content.

Luke SkurmanNiche.com

2. Mygraphs

For publishers of blogs and websites, a great and easy-to-use visualization tool is mygraphs.com. You can embed customized graphs that can be dynamically updated from an online interface. The benefit of not being static is that you can keep your articles evergreen without bugging your art department.

Phil ChenSystems Watch

3. Piktochart

Even tech-challenged folks can use Piktochart’s service to easily create high-quality infographics. Your infographics can be customized and edited, and pricing starts at $29 per month.

Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

4. Canva.com

Canva.com is an easy-to-use DIY web-based tool. I prefer tools that are web-based and that the least tech savvy person in my company could successfully use. Canva is point-and-click to stunning graphics. But for external projects, I prefer visual.ly. I love their global talent pool and marketplace.

Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

5. Infogram

Infogram is one of my favorite tools to create professional, well-designed infographics. The online tool is incredibly easy to use, and the final products always look fantastic thanks to the diverse and aesthetically pleasing templates they have. Infogram is a great, free alternative to other infographic tools, so you can seamlessly create and share insightful visualizations based on your data.

Doreen BlochPoshly Inc.

6. Picmonkey

Picmonkey and Canva are perfect for the small business owner with limited resources and/or no graphic designer. Especially Canva, but youcan use the two in conjunction with one another to create very polished graphics.

Tolga TanrisevenGirlsAskGuys

7. D3 Javascript Library

We love the D3 framework here at RTS. It offers a variety of visually appealing options that transform data into attractive graphics that are easy to digest.

- Jyot Singh, RTS Labs

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Categories: SMB

Walking the Fine Line Between Effective and Creepy Personalization

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 15:00

Personalization. It’s a word that is taking over retail these days, and nowhere is it more important than in ecommerce. Without the ability for face-to-face communication with the customer, online businesses have to think of clever ways to connect. Personalization can make a customer feel welcome and comfortable shopping at your website. It can also prove that you understand who the customer is and know what they are looking for.

Many websites are engaging in various forms of personalization these days. These personalization practices stem from collecting information about the customer so you can present them with relevant information later on. But these days, customers know they are being watched and they are increasingly demanding transparency. This creates a fine line for businesses between providing a personalized customer experience and just plain creeping the customer out.

In a recent Endicia blog post, Small Biz Technology’s Ramon Ray examined the issue of personalization and the fine line between being effective or being creepy. If you own an ecommerce business, this is something you HAVE to get right! To avoid ‘creepy’ personalization, read the full blog post here.

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Categories: SMB

Marketing Isn’t Enough. How To Up Your Game with Customer Targeting

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 20:15

You’re a small business that is marketing like crazy in an effort to get new customers and sales – but it isn’t working. What’s going wrong? Why aren’t your marketing strategies bringing new customers to your door? Isn’t that how marketing is supposed to work?

You’ve just hit the harsh reality that sometimes marketing isn’t enough.

Big businesses have the budget to cast a wide net and bring in enough customers for a hefty ROI – picture the 30 second television ad that is seen by millions of viewers and prompts thousands of new sales. But small businesses, with smaller budgets, have to be more strategic.

Enter customer targeting.

Customer targeting is about knowing who your customers are and putting the right marketing message in front of them. It involves figuring out who you’re trying to reach, who will be excluded, how you will reach them, and what message you will send. Using customer targeting, the impact of your marketing campaigns are magnified. You’ll see new customers lining up, an increase in sales, and a huge ROI from your marketing efforts.

Obviously customer targeting isn’t easy, but the good news is that there are companies and resources to help you out. One such example is MyAcxiomPartner.

“We live in an increasingly digital and mobile world, where consumers are checking their smartphones 150 times per day. MyAcxiomPartner.com was created with the goal of combining the power of Acxiom’s enterprise marketing engine with the ease and flexibility of a self-service portal. Now, with the click of a button, businesses can target customers on mobile and social with the same precision they’ve been able to achieve for years with direct mail.”, commented Jeff Standridge, Vice President and head of Acxiom’s small and medium business strategy.

MyAcxiomPartner offers the following customer targeting services:

  • Marketing Lists – Order lists of customer or business prospects based on your customer profile.
  • Cleaning Your List – Clean up your list so you avoid wasting money targeting the wrong people (duplicates, wrong addresses, underage, those on the do not mail list, etc)
  • Enhance Your List – Using your list, MyAcxiomPartner can add information so you know more about your customers and prospects
  • Email Marketing – Get help with your next customer acquisition campaign through email
  • Mobile Ad Campaigns – Reach new prospects with precise customer targeting on mobile ads

MyAcxiomPartner is not a subscription service – you pay only for the products or services that you want to use. This allows you to try out customer targeting in a way that will work for your business and your budget.

If you’re a small business whose marketing efforts are not bringing in the results you’re looking for, it’s time to take a serious look at customer targeting. The tools are available to create focused prospect lists, to enhance your knowledge of customers, and to run targeted campaigns that bring in new customers. With a little bit of customer targeting, your small marketing budget can bring in huge returns.

The post Marketing Isn’t Enough. How To Up Your Game with Customer Targeting appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

How Insightly CRM Helps Small Business Owners Improve Communication and Collaboration

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 15:00

Customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the secret weapons that growing companies use to manage their internal communications, communicate with employees and overall run their business more effectively.

(Welcome to sponsored reviews, from SmallBizTechnology.com and Small Business Trends)

I recently spoke with Bob Greenlees, director of operations and business development, at data migration company ShuttleCloud, who shared with me how Insightly CRM has benefited his business. He discussed how it’s helped him better communicate with his employees, manage projects and build a community with his customers.

Why is CRM so important for small businesses

While every business leverages email as a communication tool and even uses email marketing to some degree, it’s the power of CRM that gives businesses an integrated view of their business.

Better Communication with Clients

Bob explained that without CRM, he would be looking at clients in only one dimension. Let’s say he called on a client last week, and that client called in and spoke to another ShuttleCloud staff member. Without the power of CRM, Bob’s team would not know all the important interactions that everyone had with a particular client.

Improved Internal Communication

Many growing businesses work with employees and contractors who are not sitting in the same office, in a cubicle next to each other. In this scenario, remote teams must be able to work across time zones and geographies. Bob explained that his cloud-based CRM tool, Insightly, allows his distributed team to work seamlessly and more productively.

Integration with Existing Software

CRM is great, but it’s not meant to work all by itself. Many of us have Google Apps or Microsoft Outlook as one of our core office applications. One of the benefits of Insightly CRM, is that it fully integrates with Google Apps and also has an integration point with Outlook 2013/Office 365 Business Edition. Since ShuttleCloud uses Google Apps, Bob can be working in his Gmail powered office email and see the details of a contact through Insightly. Seeing the contact in Insightly helps add context to a potential reply.

Why You Should Choose Insightly

There are many CRM programs available for a small business such as ShuttleCloud and I asked Bob why Insightly CRM is best for him. He explained that it is easy to use, it offers both a gratis account that is free for up to 3 users and 2500 contacts, and a 14 day free trial of the premium paid version,. Furthermore, Bob feels that Insightly is feature rich and the built in suite of tools best serves his business.

Questions you Should Ask About CRM 

Bob asked several smart questions before he decided to use Insightly.

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Can we get it up and running quickly?
  • Will I get more out of it than I’m putting into it?
  • Does it easily integrate into the other applications, like Gmail, that I’m using?

The answer to each of these questions was YES.

Another bonus for ShuttleCloud is that Insightly works well as a project management AND communication tool. Bob explained that project management and communication are two separate functions, and while some CRM tools try to do both, most do not do project management well, but Insightly does.

CRM for Small Businesses

We know that CRM is something that very big businesses need, but is CRM useful for very small businesses? The answer is yes. If you wait too long to implement and use a CRM solution you’ll find that you’re wasting time and losing productivity. Every day you’re not using CRM is yet another day when you might not properly serve a customer or when a team member is missing critical information. Bob suggested implementing CRM before you start to experience too much “pain” in your business from a lack of proper communication and collaboration.

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Categories: SMB

10 Reasons Not To Miss the 9th Annual Small Business Summit

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 23:52

The clock is ticking and we are less than a month away from the 9th Annual Small Business Summit, which will take place on October 22, 2014 in New York City. This is shaping up to be THE must attend small business event in New York City and here are 10 reasons why.

If you’ve haven’t attended the Small Business Summit in the past, then you’ve missed out on some amazing opportunities to learn from industry experts and network with some very passionate and successful small business owners. This year is shaping up to be one of the best years yet – with some amazing speakers ready to share their tips and strategies and seats selling out fast!  So don’t miss out and register right now to secure your spot!

1. Brian Smith, founder of UGG boots, is going to share his story of success, and failure and the lessons he learned along the way that can take your from idea to profits.

2. Cliff Worley is the Chief Digital Officer at Shark Branding and he’s going to share what it takes to create a highly successful digital marketing program – the kind that a Celebrity like Daymond John expects!

3. Sarah Endline, she’s not only one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet but also founder of Sweetriot, a chocolate company with a social mission. Sarah is going to share her tasty secrets of success and publicity.

4. David Newman is a marketing expert who is going to motivate you and just tell you to Do It! He’s the author of Do It! Marketing and he’ll be teaching attendees how to outshine their competition and winning strategies to CRUSH the competition.

5. Michael Spadaro, founder and CEO of Profound Cloud, and Melanie Gass, President of CenterPoint Solution, are going to share the stage and ensue in a great battle: Google vs. Microsoft.

7. Carmen Sognonvi, owner of Urban Martial Arts and business blogger at CarmenSognonvi.com, is going to share some old school marketing techniques that today’s small business can use to be successful.

8. Paul Berry, founder and CEO of RebelMouse – a company that helps you maximize your online content – is going to share why educating your customers beats selling to them, especially in today’s mobile, local and distracted world.

9. Eric Mason, head of communications and marketing strategies at Wix, knows a LOT about websites and he’s going to share what it takes to build a business class website that works!

10. Jean Tang, founder of MarketSmiths - a copywriting agency that seeks to turn generic content into lively, engaging writing that brings your business to life – is going to share the secret formula for writing emails, blogs and marketing copy that get results.

BONUS…BONUS…BONUS: That’s right, there’s one more reason you won’t want to miss this event. All those registered for the Small Business Summit will be admitted to the Small Business Influencer Awards Gala reception. This reception is a celebration of those being honored as the most influential in small business and provides a wonderful opportunity to network and make new connections.

That’s just a preview – the 9th Annual Small Business Summit will delve into all of these topics at greater length so you walk away with actionable ideas on how to transform your small business.

Don’t miss out! Register for the Summit today.

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Categories: SMB

5 Great Website Backup Services

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 19:00
What website backup service do you recommend and 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 StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Carbonite

Carbonite first caught my eye due to their simple yet striking design. The name is perfect — invoking a nostalgia for Star Wars. I love it because it works without me having to even think about it, which is what you want out of a backup system.

Rob FultonExponential Black

2. Dropbox Pro

Dropbox isn’t just a syncing service: you can also use “selective sync” to disable some folders from syncing and keep a copy in the cloud as abackup. This is great for picture collections or project archives.

Pablo Villalba8fit

3. CodeGuard

CodeGuard sends you alerts when changes are made to your website, offers multiple restore points and features continuous backup. There is even a free trial available.

Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

4. In-House Website Backups

As your great grandma says, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This held true when the greatest generation was young, but for much of modern business it’s false. However, I still recommend in-house website backups. Because what serious hacker attacks an under $10 million or under $100 million company? Third-party companies might be a great “now” solution, but ramp up in-house backups as soon as you can.

Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

5. Amazon S3

Depending on your needs, there are plenty of services built on top of Amazon S3 to backup your website data (or any other data for that matter). However, using Amazon’s API’s makes it trivial to roll in your own solution that fits your specific needs. What’s great is that the storage is extremely cheap and reliable, making it ideal for all types of backups.

James SimpsonGoldFire Studios

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Categories: SMB

Shipping Is A Pain. 5 Ways Smart Retailers Do It Better.

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 22:38

eCommerce is awesome. You just build your “ecommerce web site’, watch customers click and buy and you just collect money into your PayPal account every week – right? No! Shipping is tough.

  • If you’re shipping internationally and want to ensure it goes through customs faster, put a Harmonization Code on the shipping documents.
  • Endear yourself to customers. Once customers have bought from you, leverage the power of CRM and Marketing Automation to nurture customers so they buy more from you. Repeat customers, who tell others about you, are your best source of revenue.
  • Be a student of your shipping vendor. You should really know what the USPS, Fedex, UPS, and other shipping vendors are up to. For example, the USPS reduced its rates. Did you know that? See Endicia’s infographic about this below.
  • Always look to how you can improve the overall design of your web site, including search functionality. 10WebSiteMusts.com
  • Shopping cart abandonment is a BIG deal. If you work hard to REDUCE shopping cart abandonment you’ll see an increase in profits.

 

 

 

The post Shipping Is A Pain. 5 Ways Smart Retailers Do It Better. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Cloud Battles: 5 Reasons Why Microsoft Beats Google in the Cloud

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 19:00

We’re gearing up for an epic battle that will take place on October 22 in New York City. It’s not a boxing match, nor is it an NFL game. This one is the battle of Google vs. Microsoft and at the 9th Annual Small Business Summit we’ll be talking specifically about which platform has the best cloud solutions for small business.

We’ve already devoted some Small Biz Technology coverage to this topic, where Michael Spadaro of Profound Cloud chose Google over Microsoft and gave us two major reasons why Google beats Microsoft in the cloud. Now it’s time to talk to Melanie Gass, president of CenterPoint Solution, about why she thinks Microsoft is the perfect solution for small business.

Ramon Ray met up with Melanie in a video conference recently to get a preview of what she’ll share at the Small Business Summit. You can watch the video here, or by clicking the play button below.

5 Reasons to Choose Microsoft

  • One Office 365 license is sold every two seconds, demonstrating that Microsoft took a program that was originally made for the ‘big guys’ and made it accessible and affordable for everyone
  • On affordability – Office 365 is affordable for any shoestring budget. The most you’ll pay is $20 per month and depending on your plan you can pay as little as $4-6 per month.
  • Office 365 eliminates the need for multiple software and apps like Dropbox, Skype and others because it combines multiple services into one (email solutions, web conferencing, document storage, document sharing and more)
  • Office 365 has a 99.9% uptime guarantee, meaning you’ll virtually always have access to your data. The guarantee is written into the contract and financially backed
  • Microsoft has an 800 number for Office 365 subscribers that is free, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, meaning you don’t need to pay someone else for maintenance and troubleshooting

Melanie has many other reasons why you should choose Microsoft over Google, and she’ll be sharing additional features and benefits on October 22 at the Small Business Summit.

In the end there is no ONE winner in the battle of Google vs. Microsoft – this Summit session is about letting small business owners know their options and find the solution that is right for their business. Make sure to join us for the Small Business Summit by registering here. After a thoroughly informative ‘battle’ you’ll be able to confidently choose the side that works for you.

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Categories: SMB

The Small Business Advantage in Omni-channel Marketing

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 18:00

When it comes to marketing, big companies typically have an advantage over small business – but not all the time. According to Ramon Ray’s latest blog post on the Endicia Savvy Shipper blog, small businesses have big advantages when it comes to the hottest new form of marketing – omni-channel marketing.

Omni-channel marketing has been a buzz word for a while, but if you’re not sure what it is, it can best be summarized by providing a unified, holistic experience for your customers – no matter how they shop or in what way they interact with your brand.

By engaging in omini-channel marketing, you are ensuring that your customer has a seamless experience in their purchasing journey and are not jolted by segmented paths. You provide them with a consistent portrayal of your business and your brand, and you facilitate the movement from channel to channel.

Big businesses may still have more money to devote to omni-channel marketing – and we admit there are some technological hoops to jump through – but as Ramon mentions in his recent article, small businesses have the following advantages:

  • Knowing Your Customers
  • Providing Excellent Customer Service
  • Tech & Data
  • Less Hurdles

Omni-channel marketing is a fascinating new way to promote your brand, consistent with the way customers are choosing to shop these days. For more discussion of omni-channel marketing – including the advantages small businesses have and the way to get started – read Ramon’s full blog post here.

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Categories: SMB

SMB HR: Using Social Media in Hiring Decisions

SMB News - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 05:00

Just a few years ago, social media sites weren't even considered as part of the process of screening job candidates. Today there are very few job-seekers without at least a Facebook profile. No matter what social media sites a job seeker is using, a Google search is all a recruiter needs to find them.

What you tweet may be used against you

Research initiated by Microsoft indicated that nearly 90 percent of United States hiring managers admitted that they reviewed Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram,  or other social medial about job applicants.

Did you know? 75% report that that their companies have formal policies REQUIRING hiring managers to research applicants online.

84% of the hiring managers used what they found online in deciding to hire or not. In fact, 70% of  hiring managers from the study said they rejected candidates specifically based on what they found online about a job candidate.

As a result many job-seekers hide their Facebook pages according to Stephanie Goldberg, a technology reporter for CNN Tech. Her findings indicate that, "many students and recent graduates say they are changing their names on Facebook or tightening privacy settings to hide photos and wall posts from potential employers."

Is it appropriate for an employer to use Social Media in Hiring?

Seeing an applicant's Facebook postings/pictures may unfairly bias a hiring decision. People don't take pictures of people studying or doing school work, they take pictures of people at parties and doing silly things.

Sometimes there are too many Facebook pics to untag or delete. Unsuitable or inappropriate comments and photos from friends, customers, former coworkers do not necessarily demonstrate whether a candidate can do the job. In general it should not matter what someone does when not at work. That is unless the job happens to be in marketing and social media networking. Then you want to see how good they are at social media.

From the Microsoft study mentioned above, 44% of the general population think it is somewhat or very inappropriate, 40%  think it's ok or very ok for employers to check social cites. However of young people 18-24, 53% think it's ok or very ok.

Is it legal for an employer to use Social Media Sites in Hiring?

That depends where, when and which.

According to Karen Harned of NFIB, "Check your state law, a number of states have introduced and/or passed legislation that prohibits employers from looking at certain information on potential hires. In addition, some states have proposed legislation to prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts to get or keep a job."

Melanie Berkowitz, Esq., writing for Monster.com says, "Be Careful. Once you review a candidate’s online profile, a court will assume you are aware of that person’s protected characteristics.” By being aware of a person's race or religion for example, a hiring employer opens up the company to potential lawsuits brought about on the basis of that particular protected characteristic.

David Baffa of Seyfarth Shaw, LLP (an employment law firm) advises, "If you decide to use social media in your recruiting process, make sure you conduct the same searches at the same point in the process for every applicant." Additionally Mr. Baffa advises not to review social sites until after meeting a candidate face to face, “you are less likely to be accused of making snap selection decisions or of relying on protected characteristics evident from a social network profile.”

The NFIB recommends to avoid sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Instead use Linkedin and similar professional websites that are commonly used by recruiting/hiring managers. "Those sites are your safest bet."

About the Author

John Beagle is a SMB owner since 1987, who owns and manages 5 enterprises. Prior to that he was a employee headhunter and a district manager for a restaurant chain. During the last three decades he has interviewed and hired thousands of people for all sorts of technical and non technical jobs. His BBA degree is from Cleveland State University specializing in personnel management.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnbeagle

Categories: SMB

Get Free Social Media Guidance for Your Small Business in the Local Lift Tour

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 21:00

These days a presence on social media is a given. It’s not a question of whether your business should have social media accounts but rather HOW you can use those accounts as a marketing tool to grow your business. Does the ‘how’ of social media have you confused? Please know that you are not alone AND help is on the way.

Marketing company Main Street Hub has recently partnered with Yelp (local business directory) and Rocket Lawyer (affordable, cloud-based legal help) to provide marketing advice and education to local businesses. This summer they launched the Local Lift Tour on the West Coast to help small business owners like you optimize your social media marketing efforts.

Each stop on the Local Lift Tour includes:

  • A panel discussion with Yelp’s Elite Squad and local business owners
  • Proven strategies that will help you win more customers using social media
  • An in-depth overview of popular social media platforms like Yelp, Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare
  • Audience Q&A
  • Legal advice from Rocket Lawyer On Call
  • Marketing consultations
  • The chance to network with local business owners just like you

So far the Local Lift Tour has made stops in Austin, San Francisco and San Diego, but the tour is heading east soon! Here are the upcoming events:

  • Brooklyn on September 23, 2014
  • Philadelphia on September 24, 2014
  • Washington D.C. on October 20, 2014

If you’ll be in the area on any of those dates, we urge you to RSVP now. This is a FREE event that can be the stepping stone to your enhanced social media presence and the growth of your small business – but space is limited and it is first come, first served. Learn more about the Local Lift Tour and RSVP for one of the tour stops here.

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Categories: SMB

4 Ways to Incorporate Cultural Traditions into the Workplace

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:00

The American workplace is growing more diverse each year, with the U.S. Census Bureau predicting that by the year 2050, there will be no minority in the country, and between 2000 and 2050, immigrants and their children will comprise 83 percent of the growth in the working-age population. This multicultural workforce means that many offices will be tasked with bringing together workers from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Here are four ways to incorporate cultural traditions into the workplace.

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Instead of viewing diversity as a challenge, smart business leaders see this as an exciting opportunity. When employees work together, they learn more about each other’s cultures and find that they can each bring their own unique experiences to each project. By encouraging this teambuilding, a business can benefit from higher morale and better overall performance.

Have a Cultural Potluck

Each member of your team has traditions, whether they are part of holiday celebrations or weekly Sunday dinners. Set time aside on a regular basis to have each employee bring in a meal that represents his or her culture. Even American workers may bring in food that is unique to their own region of the U.S. This can help workers see that even two people who grew up in the same town could have completely different traditions.

Celebrate All Holidays

Christmas decorations have long been a part of office celebrations, but what about holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Chinese New Year? Some of your employees may not even celebrate Christmas because of their own religious beliefs or backgrounds, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you schedule your annual Christmas party. However, Christmas celebrations are a great tool for boosting morale and building camaraderie, so a good compromise may be to make celebrations optional, while also adding in festivities that honor everyone’s beliefs.

Be a Role Model

Team leaders should strive to be role models to others in the organization, learning as much as possible about each culture represented to better interact with employees. In some cultures, an action like shaking hands can be viewed completely differently than it is in the U.S., and being educated can highlight these differences. When an employer respects an employee’s beliefs and traditions, other employees will follow.

Respect Spirituality

Religion and spirituality can be tricky subjects in a business environment, but business leaders can navigate these issues gracefully. Problems occur when one employee feels offended by another person’s spirituality, so it’s important that an employer know how to handle these issues as they arise.

As the workplace becomes more diverse, leaders will be given the responsibility of fostering an environment of respect and tolerance. A culturally diverse workplace benefits everyone, enabling individuals to grow as they learn from each other. When a business brings tradition and culture into the workplace, team members learn to celebrate each other’s differences. This increases productivity and helps with overall team-building, while also giving employees reason to take time off from working hard to celebrate multiple holidays.

The post 4 Ways to Incorporate Cultural Traditions into the Workplace appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Office 365 Nation Fall Conference: Finally a Conference Dedicated to Office 365!

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 21:00

Large companies have been using (and loving!) Microsoft Office 365 for years now, but popularity has been quickly growing among small business owners. The reason is simple – small businesses need to work, connect and collaborate on the go, within a platform that is reliable and can keep their data safe. For many small businesses, that makes Office 365 the perfect fit.

If you’re looking to make the switch and want to learn more about Office 365, you may be interested in an upcoming event that will feature Small Biz Technology’s Ramon Ray as a session speaker. The event is the Office 365 Nation Fall Conference, which will be held September 26-28 at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington.

Office 365 Nation is a conference geared toward techies, and will include over 300 attendees such as IT professionals, consultants, techs, geeks and resellers. The conference is completely focused on Office 365, so it’s a must-attend event for anyone who wants to learn more about it. There will be over 20 sessions (a mix of technical and business sessions), well-respected speakers, and the chance to win prizes.

To get more information you can check out the list of speakers as well as view the sessions and conference agenda. Registration is open but the clock is ticking on this event that will kick off on September 26! Learn more about the Office 365 Nation Fall Conference and get your tickets here.

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Categories: SMB

3 Tips on Using Social Content Marketing to Elevate Your Online Marketing

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 15:00

Printed pamphlet. Emailed newsletter. Company blog post. No matter what form it takes, most businesses do some form of content marketing as a way to distribute content to customers and set yourself up as an expert or a reliable source of industry information. Content marketing is an important way to attract customers – but are you maximizing your impact?

With the growth of social media, every business should be going one step farther with their content marketing by implementing social content marketing strategies as well. In a nutshell social content marketing is a second step, where you use your social media channels to promote your content and engage with customers even more.

In a recent article on the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business, Ramon Ray discussed three ways to use social content marketing to elevate your overall online marketing, including:

  1. Focus on quality
  2. Engage your followers
  3. Keep at it consistently

For each social content marketing tip he shares extra information about how to do it, including the best strategies for small business. For all the details about how you can use social content marketing to your advantage, check out the full article here.

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Categories: SMB

Marketing Strategies to Crush Your Competition: Interview with Marketing Expert David Newman

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 22:59

Who out there would love to run circles around their competition when it comes to marketing and sales? Of course you do! But what if what you’ve been doing hasn’t helped you reach that goal? Then it’s time to sit back and listen to the tips of David Newman – the marketing expert who can teach you marketing strategies that will crush your competition.

David Newman is a nationally recognized marketing expert and Amazon #1 bestselling author of “Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits and Crush Your Competition.” He’s got a long list of accomplishments, so to learn more about him you can visit this page.

David will be a speaker at the 9th Annual Small Business Summit and he’ll be leading a special creative marketing clinic titled “Winning Strategies to Better Marketing That Will Crush Your Competition and Make Prospects Say ‘Yes’.”

The Small Business Summit will be happening in New York City on October 22, 2014, but we knew you couldn’t wait that long to hear some of David’s tips! That’s why Ramon Ray recently spoke to him in a Google Hangout session to get a preview of what David is planning to share. You can watch the video by clicking here, or by hitting the play button below.

As you can see, David has many valuable insights on taking your marketing up a notch in order to beat your competition – secrets of success specifically for small business owners. To get them all you’ll have to join us for the 9th Annual Small Business Summit on October 22, 2014. Tickets are on sale and you can get them here or click the image below.

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Categories: SMB

Small Business and Diversity: Join Us for a Twitter Chat September 11 at 3:30 EST

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 17:44

I’m interrupting your workday to tell you about an event that you simply cannot miss – a discussion of small business and diversity that is happening today (September 11) at 3:30 EST.

This Twitter chat is part of a series of chats organized by Yahoo Small Business Advisor that will be happening all year long, at a rate of about one per month (two in October). Each session will be based on a topic that has specific value to small businesses.

Today’s chat features commentary by Small Biz Technology’s Ramon Ray, and the topic is “Diversity: Embracing Small Business Opportunities For and With All.”

We all know that diversity can be a hot button topic, but diversity – at its core – goes straight to the idea of the “American Dream” – the belief that anything is possible, for anyone, if you’re willing to work hard enough. This is how diversity and small business intertwine. Diversity – in whatever form – is what drives small business growth and economics, not only in the United States, but also all over the world.

It’s going to be an interesting discussion of diversity and small business, and I hope you can join in. If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, the instructions below should help.

How Can I Take Part in the Twitter Chat?

Twitter chats are made possible when everyone uses the same hashtag to join the discussion. The hashtag for this small business and diversity chat is #YSBAnswers. Here’s how to get in on the action:

  • Log in to your Twitter account and use the search feature to search for #YSBAnswers. Alternatively you can just click this link.
  • The search results show you any tweet that has used the hashtag #YSBAnswers. The default (marked at the top of the page) is “Top” tweets, but to view the entire discussion select “All.” You can use either one to follow the chat.
  • Now you’re in on the chat! You can read the comments, and keep checking the top. As new comments come up you’ll see a message that says “X new results” – clicking on that will update the page with the new tweets that have been added since you last ‘refreshed.’
  • If YOU have something to say about diversity and want to participate in the chat, simply include #YSBAnswers in your tweet. The chat will be a Q and A format, so you’ll see the moderator ask a question and label it (for example Q1) and if you want to answer you would use A1 so people know what question you’re responding to.
  • I recommend having two Twitter windows open. Keep one window open to follow the chat (via the instructions above), but open a second window for your Twitter home page so you can tweet without having to go back and forth.

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Categories: SMB
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