How Retailers and Small Businesses Can Grow With Less [Video]

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 18:30

In the past ten years, the functionality of work offices has changed drastically.  Gone are the days of notebooks and filing cabinets and here are the days of cloud computing and using new technology and apps to run your business.  In this presentation from the 2014 Small Business Summit, Jason Richelson, founder of ShopKeep, gives us the ins and outs of using cloud computing for your business.

What is cloud computing?  In simple terms, Jason explains that cloud computing is taking your server or database and putting it in a cloud service center. The software is then accessed through a web browser where it automatically fixes any issues, installs updates and constantly adds new features.

Check out the full video of Jason’s presentation here, or simply watch below.

To help manage back office management, Jason shares how all of your day-to-day activities can be managed through your computer.  For example, with applications like Evernote and ScanSnap Scanners, you can get rid of those bulky filing cabinets and turn your office paperless.  Or, how about the hassle of contacting your phone provider and having them install a business phone. Instead, use programs such as RingCentral that can be easily bought online and used through a simple internet connection.

Throughout the rest of the presentation, Jason continues to share how you can use cloud computing not only for the front end of your business but for the back end as well.  Using apps to manage the book keeping, accounting and more for your business.

If you haven’t started using cloud computing or are not sure how to use it in your business, watch this presentation and learn how your can grow your business with less.

The post How Retailers and Small Businesses Can Grow With Less [Video] appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Uversity: An SMB Case Study From Dropbox

SMB News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 20:37

Uversity helps colleges boost student enrollment with Dropbox for Business
Steve Carpenter

College admissions can be an intimidating and confusing process. But applicants who have a chance to see what campus life will really be like—often by speaking with current students—typically enroll at higher rates to universities that are a better fit for them. That's the premise behind San Francisco-based Uversity, which uses real-time data to help colleges and universities improve enrollment and retention rates. 

With five million students across 140 partner schools (like Washington State University and Columbia College Chicago), Uversity has built an online community where students can interact with future classmates and admissions officers, to learn more about the university and campus life. Using algorithms to crunch large volumes of demographic and behavioral data, Uversity predicts which prospective students are most likely to enroll in—and stay—at their partner schools, so those schools can target the right candidates. 

But performing these predictive analyses requires the ability to store and share massive volumes of data, and Uversity had no central repository for its information. While staff members initially resorted to storing data on local hard drives and sending files over email, as the young company grew, the team realized they needed tighter control over their information. 

“Our data was very fragmented,” recalled Operations Manager Meghan Strauss. “Not everyone had access to the files they needed. There was no visibility into our file-sharing environment and no security over our proprietary information. It was like the Wild West.” 

They knew there had to be a better way—so they took a cue from the student world. Solutions like Dropbox, for example, are already a favorite among college students for accessing class materials from anywhere or easily sharing term papers with professors. And because students often use the service in high school, too, the transition to college becomes that much easier; there's one less thing they have to acclimate to during the first few stressful months of college. 

So after evaluating multiple solutions, Uversity decided the best way to regain control over data access and file sharing was moving to Dropbox for Business —and they quickly saw a difference. “Dropbox for Business has brought our team together,” explained Strauss. “Our employees can access the exact information they need. And from a business perspective, we know our data is secure and always available to us whether we’re working remotely or in the office.”

With Dropbox for Business, the Uversity team no longer has issues accessing and sharing large files, especially because Dropbox's LAN sync feature reduces the time it takes to update and share files within the same office network. Now the marketing and sales teams can quickly download and share large multimedia presentations and webinars; finance can easily access spreadsheet archives, sales contracts, and partner agreements; and the product team can work with large volumes of data without issue. “With our large files and everyone working on a wireless network, availability could be a big issue for us,” said Strauss. “But Dropbox for Business does a great job of managing bandwidth and transferring data.”

By keeping the company's files securely stored and backed up, Dropbox ensures that Uversity's information is always accessible when it's needed, yet ensures that it never falls into the wrong hands. For example, if a Uversity employee loses their smartphone or laptop, the company can remotely wipe the Dropbox files from the device whenever it next comes online. Similarly, if an employee leaves the company, Uversity can easily reassign his or her files to another user, thanks to Dropbox's account transfer feature. “Security is really important to us,” she added. ”With Dropbox for Business, we know our information is always safe.”

For Uversity's small but growing team, deploying such an easy-to-use platform has allowed them to save on training costs, while boosting productivity. "We've never had an IT person on staff, and Dropbox for Business lets us maintain our do-it-yourself approach," says Strauss. "We can keep resources lean and use our capital to invest in product development, sales, and marketing."

With data storage taken care of, Uversity can spend more time focusing on their mission of helping students find the best college experience. “Dropbox for Business is an indispensable part of our daily lives," said Strauss. "We don’t ever have to think about it, so we can focus our attention on what we do best: helping students make the right college decisions.”

Categories: SMB

Modern Technology Debunks Small Business Myths

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 20:31

There are a whole lot of small business myths out there that are just no longer true in today’s technologically advanced world. In order to debunk these myths, I’ve teamed up with Microsoft to create a series of videos that will help educate and inform small business owners.

What kind of myths are we talking about? Well, myths like:

  • Upgrading to new technology is too expensive.
  • Only big companies need to invest in data security
  • Employees are only productive when in the office

None of these statements are true in today’s world and we’re going to show you why!

Let’s start with ‘Employees are only productive when in the office’. While many years ago that might have been true, today it’s not even close to being factual. From annoying co-workers, to the endless echo of ringing office phones, there are so many situations that can be distracting to an employee when working in the office.

Ready to see what I mean? Check out the first video in the series I created with Microsoft, as we take a fun approach to debunking the myth and proving how you can be more productive working outside the office.

CLICK ABOVE TO WATCH VIDEO

With today’s mobile and cloud technology, businesses have the opportunity to be more mobile, more agile and less docile! Keeping employees connected by allowing them to access files and documents that they need with a simple wi-fi connection allows them to function in almost any environment.

In fact, case studies show that working across multiple platforms increases productivity by 30-40%. With cloud and remote support technology, employees can keep up to date with the latest software upgrades and synchronization of files.

So, don’t get distracted by random chatter, useless conversations and interruptive co-workers. Instead, allow yourself to work in the office without actually being in office by collaborating and working virtually and in real time.

Check out the video HERE to see how you can use modern technology to be more productive working outside the office.

The post Modern Technology Debunks Small Business Myths appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Cyber Security Myths Small Businesses Need to Know About

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 16:30

I’m teaming up with Norton to help small businesses resolve to be better about their cybersecurity in 2015. Experts have repeatedly cautioned businesses of all sizes against the dangers of leaving data unprotected, leading to tightened security measures across the country. Professionals still aren’t sure they’ve done everything they can to protect their networks, since many business owners and department managers would never claim to be tech experts.

Small businesses are especially concerned about network safety. Industry publications and blogs are filled with warnings about cyber threats, leaving entrepreneurs unsure what to believe. In all of this, several myths have emerged. To help small businesses discern truth from fiction, here are a few of the most popular cybersecurity myths.

Our IT Provider Handles That

Many small businesses outsource IT, either to a cloud provider or a local company that handles tech support. Whether IT is handled by an in-house IT professional or one that is offsite, IT can only go so far in protecting your network. In truth, the biggest threat to an organization is its own employees, who engage in risky behaviors like unsafe web surfing, clicking on unsecure email links, and careless password behavior, among other activities.

The truth is, regardless of the resource you entrust with your IT security, the ultimate responsibility falls on your business’s leaders. If an incident occurs, your own staff will be forced to answer to your customers, as well as any regulatory authorities. While some providers accept a certain amount of liability, a business’s reputation can still be damaged.

My Business Flies Under the Radar

Hackers are increasingly targeting small businesses, seeing them as relatively easy targets. Big businesses take extreme precautions on their networks, making it almost impossible for malicious activity to get through. Realizing small businesses don’t have the resources to invest in heavy-duty security measures, hackers see those business types as prime targets.

It’s important to check your business’s IT security measures and ensure strong encryption is in place. If you’re using cloud service providers, carefully scrutinize each service’s security measures and ensure your data is safe.

Make sure you have good antivirus protection

Invest in a strong antivirus product, such as Norton Small Business available at Staples. The product provides critical protection to secure your PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets against viruses, malware, spam and more. It’s crucial to take a look at all of the technology devices that make your small business run, and make sure you have cybersecurity protection for all. For instance, a Norton survey of small business owners found that while nearly all have a cybersecurity system installed on their desktops (98 percent) and laptops (96 percent) only around two-thirds (65 percent) do so on their tablets, and a little over half (56 percent) on their smartphones.

To keep your business safe, you’ll need the latest standards in data encryption for every data transmission, as well as strict password requirements on your servers. Your devices should be encrypted, as well, to protect against theft and any mobile devices should have remote-wiping capabilities. For additional tips on how to resolve to be better about cybersecurity in 2015, check out this post on the Norton Protection Blog: Top 10 Small Business Resolutions and Strategies to Achieve Them.

Cyber attacks are a real concern for businesses today, but it’s important to be able to separate myth from reality. Education is key to protecting your SMB against an attack and keeping your customer data safe.

The post Cyber Security Myths Small Businesses Need to Know About appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Building Business Class Websites That Work! [Video]

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 16:30

As a small business owner, a website is crucial to your business.  For most of us, the most difficult part of creating a business website is figuring out where to start. With technology constantly on-the-go it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what tools to use to build your website. Eric Mason, from WIX however, shares with us that sometimes we are better off “less taught, more reminded.” In this presentation from the 2014 Small Business Summit, Eric shares a few of the core things that make a great website:

1. “To thine own self be true”.  Build your business website around who you are.  By knowing yourself and understanding your business you can better connect with your audience.

2. “If everything is important, nothing is”.  Do not overwhelm your users with too many options on your website.  Determine what you want users on your website to do and give them one clear action.

3. DIY doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Websites that work are collaborative.  Engage with others and get feedback and advice to help build your website.

In addition to building your website, it is not only important that it is flexible and functional on multiple platforms, but that it looks good as well.  In the video, Eric continues to talk about design and layout of your website.  He shares different ways on how to engage your followers and send a clear message to your audience through the use of white space, BIG images and more.

If you would like more details from Eric on how to build your website you can watch the full video of the presentation here, or simply watch below.

The post Building Business Class Websites That Work! [Video] appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Investing In An IT Support System: SMB Tips For Outsourcing

SMB News - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 23:41

In the age of software-defined-everything, many small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) continue to feel pressure to keep pace with the natural evolution of technology.   While many business problems often require a technology solution, the fundamental implementation of cloud computing, and IT infrastructure, paired with the vast amount of available options, can lead businesses down a confusing path. However, to properly marry IT and business to improve security, reliability and the bottom line, now more than ever, high-touch customers – especially small businesses –  are looking for true IT partners to guide, educate and effectively manage IT solutions.  

Forrester estimates that  by 2017, business technology (BT) will consume over half of new project purchases by 2015, with overall BT spending rising by 10 percent or more per year – and with this trend comes a greater attention to the customer’s needs. In order to create a working partnership, service providers must focus on people, process and technology, internally and across a company’s ecosystem. Self-service IT has long since colored the conversation for strategic thinking. While this method is effective and appropriate for certain groups, it may not be the best option for an SMB who is looking for guidance not just in selecting the right cloud or IT solution, but also for driving business productivity.  For the small business, a solution provider's technical support is not simply an inconvenience; it’s a business-critical IT service. From the onset, a provider that understands what the customer wants to accomplish, and consciously makes the decision to walk the technology path alongside them, will be better able to understand the customer’s needs and develop an effective, tailored and secure IT solution. As we start off the New Year fresh, here are the top factors for small businesses to consider when outsourcing IT:

· Trust – By outsourcing IT, small businesses invest in a more than just a service or tool, but a support system. With a partner organization staffed around the clock to fill in the schedule gaps and keep the infrastructure humming, quality certifications, security assurance and even cultural alignment matter. Trust is paramount.

· Cost-effectiveness – To leverage limited budgets to align with overall corporate strategy, some forward-looking small businesses will require a combination of colocation and public or private clouds. A true partner will sit down with a business and invest in this conversation, understand the business objectives and help develop the best solution.

· Security and Compliance – On top of general IT duties, increasing IT security concerns of viruses, spyware and password breaches, may have internal IT staff for smaller companies strained. The right IT infrastructure partner should be an expert at making short work of these concerns. It can assemble Intrusion detection, firewall/content filtering, institution-wide SPAM/virus filtering and other techniques into a threat management configuration customized to the business’s most pressing requirements.

A trusted provider and partner that understands the importance of secure, compliant and affordable solutions, values the customer’s own business objectives and enables their successes sends a powerful message.  By keeping these tips in mind at the start of 2015, small businesses can avoid IT and cloud confusion and remain laser focused on choosing long-lasting partnerships that streamline IT processes, preserve IT budgets and focus on internal core competencies.

About The Author: Mark Wensell, VP System & Process Improvement, Peak 10

Mark Wensell, PhD. brings more than 12 years of large-scale web-hosting and management experience and more than eight years of entrepreneurial experience to Peak 10. He is responsible for evaluating, streamlining and enhancing the company’s internal systems, tools and processes. Prior to this role, Mark served as vice president and general manager of Peak 10’s Richmond, Va. operations.

Before joining Peak 10, Mark was the co-founder, original CEO and Vice President of Engineering for bayMountain, Inc., a managed hosting company in Richmond, Va. specializing in comprehensive IT hosting, management and support.

Mark has nearly a decade of graduate and postdoctoral experience in computational physics using supercomputing and cluster-computing platforms. He received a bachelor's degree in math with a computer science concentration from St. Mary's College of Maryland and a Ph.D. in physics from North Carolina State University. For more information, visit peak10.com.

Categories: SMB

Use These Free Image Tools to Boost Social Shares and Arouse Interest

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 17:07

In the spirit of the “there’s no such thing as a dumb question” maxim, let me ask you this: What do you notice first on a webpage or blog: the first paragraph, the headline, or the main graphic?
It’s never the first paragraph and more often than not, it’s the graphic that catches your eye. Unfortunately, many bloggers and others who depend on readership fail to bother with a good graphic at the top of their articles. There’s really no excuse for this because there are many easy and free ways to create graphics that combine illustrations and words for your website.
Making a habit out of incorporating good graphics with your website copy will pay off in several ways. Among the benefits communicative graphics can deliver are:
• Increased content delivery,
• Arousing interest in your content,
• Brand messaging, and
• More social sharing.
Let me elaborate further on those points and then I’ll steer you toward some sites where you can easily put together good graphics to illustrate your blogs and website copy.

Marrying a photo with type

In many cases, your graphics can communicate one of the most important ideas you want your readers to get. The right marriage of a photo with a few words can be powerful and memorable. Think of some of the billboards you pass on the highway. They have a strong image and a few well-chosen words.
In a similar way, when the brain processes an image it uses different areas of the brain than when it processes words alone. Tossing an illustration or photo at your website visitors gives you more “pulling power” to draw them into reading what you have to say.
There are at least two good ways well-designed graphics can further your brand messaging. First, the images you select communicate style and tone which makes an impression about your brand. Second, when you combine images with type, it’s often a good idea to include your brand or URL someplace within the type. That visually reinforces your brand immediately and also gives you “branding power” if it is shared in the social media.
And speaking of social media, content that includes images command more social shares than plain old words…with apologies to the English language.

Free tools, free images

If you aren’t a Photoshop power user – or don’t want to invest in the software – there are several excellent places online where you can merge images and text to make powerful graphics. Some of the most popular are:
Picfont
Canva
Spoken.ly
These online apps have greatly increased in power over the years. They often have their own gallery of free images you can use. Sometimes they charge small fees for other images or features. They generally let you upload your own images as well.
If you’re a Mac user, Apple’s Pages makes it easy to combine type and include things like drop shadows or reflections. Software such as PowerPoint can also be used to make good imagery.
I won’t delve deeply into acquiring the images here, but there are plenty of public domain and Creative Commons images you can use. With public domain you don’t have to give attribution. With Creative Commons you usually do. A good place to start is by searching Google Images. Once there, click on Search Tools > Labeled for reuse > Labeled for reuse.
Sometimes I go straight to Pixabay.com because all the images there are public domain. If you’re creating an infographic or going for the new flat user interface feel, you can probably make good use of the free icons at The Noun Project, many of which are public domain.
Whatever system you decide to use, you’ll soon become an expert; cranking out images to accompany your writing will take very little time and extra effort will benefit you significantly in the long term.

The post Use These Free Image Tools to Boost Social Shares and Arouse Interest appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

How to Write Marketing Copy That Gets the Results You Want [VIDEO]

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 16:00

Writing engaging and informative marketing copy for your business can be a struggle. Finding the right words that convey who you are, what you do and target your ideal client can be a challenge. At the 2014 Small Business Summit, Jean Tang, founder of MarketSmiths - a creative copywriting agency located in Brooklyn – shared tips and strategies on how to write marketing copy that gets the results you want for your business.

Jean says, “copy is a story.” Using text is one of the most fundamental ways to understand and sell by guiding, informing and captivating your audience.  However, there has been a trend with companies being unable to explain who they are and what they do without being bland.  Jean argues that people are always interesting so their copy should be too. Make the copy for your business useful and motivating, not boring and misleading.

As Jean moves through her presentation, she goes over the most common order of copy, and sharing how the standard format can often set yourself up to bore your audience. As she continues, she shares examples of work that have been changed from bland and boring to detailed and intriguing.  To achieve this for your copy, she shares these 7 tips:

  1. Value sits in the future. Don’t worry about defining yourself on the page, that sits in the past.
  2. Humanize.  No matter who your are marketing to, your copy is meant for humans, full of feelings and emotions.
  3. Turn your voice outward to your reader. Let your reader know what’s in it for them.
  4. Do a real exploration of differentiators. If 50% or more of your competitors are likely to say the same thing, take advantage of the opportunity to go deeper and make your copy stand out.
  5. Make it tangible. Figure out a way that you can show what you do, not tell them. 
  6. Stick your neck out. You don’t always have to be traditional, make it enticing and make it unique.
  7. Don’t go for emotion. Go for more, make it spiritual and go for their soul.

To put these tips to life, Jean asks attendees of the 2014 Small Business Summit to volunteer to share their site while she shows them how they can spice up their content to “sing for their supper”.

Watch the full video here to see what Jean has to say about the volunteer’s sites, or simply watch below.

The post How to Write Marketing Copy That Gets the Results You Want [VIDEO] appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

New Software Solutions Help Keep SMBs on Track

SMB News - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 15:24

by Alex Smith

Bill Clerico talked previously on how web innovations have brought about an era of unmatched production and prosperity for small businesses, making it much easier for entrepreneurs to access valuable tools and develop crucial ideas. Incorporating these new solutions into traditional businesses’ practices is exciting; it improves the productivity of a small business by giving employees a new outlook or perspective on everyday tasks.

It makes sense for businesses to invest both time and money into tailored software. The increasing adoption of cloud based technologies in software is creating new platforms for better business strategies, on which innovation is growing. Most importantly, they are improving the overall functions of a small business, helping to cut costs whilst providing easier ways of accomplishing important work.

Working toward the important goals that will make a small business succeed is difficult, but also hugely rewarding. Defining these goals early on will give you and your team something concrete to strive toward. One of the most difficult barometers to set is finances; without a clear idea of which areas require more or less spending, small businesses can find themselves in difficult situations. In a continuing effort to assist effective planning, new solutions such as budgeting and forecasting software help businesses keep track of current spending patterns, which is crucial during the early developing stages of setting a financial plan. Marketing planning tools can also be important to spurring initial growth, by allowing users to easily maintain social media and marketing platforms within unified software programs.

Adopting new software solutions can also prevent outdated internal systems from hampering the financial performance of a business. Notable cases have seen simple arithmetic errors wipe profits from balance sheets; as an example, British clothing manufacturer Superdry wiped £170 million from its share value in 2012 after its internal control systems failed to convert elements of its accounts properly, leading to a £2 million shortfall in stock. It later conceded that rapid expansion and a lack of history to base its financial projections upon had made it difficult to predict. Making sure internal practices do not prevent growth is important to small business success, where-as software solutions are scalable and can adapt to continued growth within a developing business strategy.

Online based businesses, especially eCommerce platforms that store sensitive customer data, are also becoming increasingly vulnerable to cybersecurity issues. Sophisticated attacks have made businesses aware of their own security needs, and the importance of protecting sensitive information from unwanted attention. A data breach at any level can be devastating for a small business, by putting user trust massively at risk and threatening the entire framework on which the business has been built. Being better equipped to fight this illicit activity prevents security breaches, such as storing valuable information in an offline hard-drive or in highly secure cloud based storage services.

New software solutions are ultimately enabling small businesses to achieve a sense of stability, opening up possibilities that hugely benefit the actualisation of their goals and strategies.

Categories: SMB

Hackers Are Targeting Small Business and the ‘Free’ Security Methods of Old Days Just Won’t Protect You

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 16:30

Protecting small business from cyber threats is vital, so I’ve teamed up with Norton on their ‘Take the Pledge’ campaign (#CSPledge) to help educate small business on how to better protect against cybercrime. The threat to businesses, large and small, is so much more than it was 20 years ago, and the ‘free’ protection so many of us are used to having on our systems just won’t cut it any longer. Let me tell you why.

The Evolution of Cyber Crime

I recently spoke with Brian Burch, Vice President of Product Marketing, Norton. We discussed the evolution of cybercrime and cybersecurity and what today’s small business has to do to protect itself. He explains how today’s hacker doesn’t even remotely resemble the hacker of 20 years ago, when the concept of a computer virus was first identified and the ‘hacker’ was born. “Those days hackers wanted notoriety and to impress their friends and get their names in the news,” he says. “They were rebels just looking to do something that was supposed to be impossible. Today’s hacker doesn’t want fortune or fame. They want information – names, birth dates, social security numbers, and credit card numbers. Any type of information that they can use to turn into cash by selling or using to buy items themselves.”

Who’s At Risk

A recent Symantec Internet threat report said that there’s been a 91% increase of targeted attacks in the past years. Not just broadcast spam campaigns to distribute a virus – but campaigns that TARGETED companies and specific computer networks. These targeted attacks are from a criminal who identifies a small business as the specific target of an attack.

These targeted attacks are done for two reasons. A) Either the business has something of direct value to the hacker or B) the small business is CONNECTED to a larger business. Media reports show that in the case of the Target attack, Target was attacked through their HVAC vendor – the heating guy!

How to Protect Your Business

So I asked Brian, what is a small business have to do today to protect themselves?

“While standalone anti-virus security might have been good enough 20 or 30 years ago, it’s definitely no longer enough today. A multi-faceted and multi-pronged approach to security is a must,”says Brian. “What Norton Small Business does is provide multiple layers of protection – phishing, spyware, from any of the methods – all sorts of ways beyond just anti-virus.”

Cyber criminals are crafty, and because of that it’s imperative that businesses take new steps to ensure that they are protecting their systems and their customer’s information. And let’s be clear… no system is more secure than another these days. While in years past criminals focused on the Windows platform because it had a larger user base, those using Macs and the OS X platform are at just as much risk.

Putting proper security tools and processes in place is essential to protect your business. With so many outside threats no one is safe.

The team at Norton knows this and is dedicated to helping protect small businesses. Brian tells us, “Norton Small Business is the only solution that offers 100% guaranteed data security software and 24/7 technical support. If you are successfully attacked and use Norton software, Norton will get rid of it for free or refund your money.”

You can find Norton Small Business at Staples.

Does your small business have enough security in place? Take the pledge along with us and take time today to better protect your small business. #CSPledge

The post Hackers Are Targeting Small Business and the ‘Free’ Security Methods of Old Days Just Won’t Protect You appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Why Customer Education Beats Sales in a Mobile, Local and Distracted World

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 16:00

As we all know, social media has become a core part of most businesses when it comes to marketing and engaging with customers.  Some companies use Facebook, others use Twitter, some use every social media platform that there is out there, but how do you know which ones are effective for your business? At the 2014 Small Business Summit, Megan Berry, Head of Social Product and Community at RebelMouse talks about why customer education is essential in today’s mobile, local and distracted world and how you can catch the attention of your target audience.

One of the key points that Megan shares is understanding what your audience is looking for.  By sharing a variety of content in different ways you can track the response of your audience.  Whether you share a video on Facebook, an image on Instagram or a tip on Twitter, the goal is to see what is going viral to your market.  With this, you can narrow who you are talking to and what you share.

Watch the full video presentation from Megan here, or simply watch below.

In addition, Megan shares that the best way to engage with your audience is to talk about them.  Talking about your customers is the best way to get them to share your content.  Whether you highlight a customer in a new blog post or call them out on Twitter, use your audience to share your content and become your creative.

As Megan continues, she talks about the importance of mobile.  With most people being glued to their smartphones, it’s important to check all of your content on a mobile device.  It’s important to understand that the experience that you get from mobile is different from the experience that you get on your computer.

There is so much more helpful information in this presentation! If you’re having trouble reaching out to your target audience check out more awesome advice from Megan in the video presentation.

 

The post Why Customer Education Beats Sales in a Mobile, Local and Distracted World appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

How Profitable Resellers Are Capturing the SMB Cloud Opportunity

AMI Partners - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 21:51
The cloud reseller market is a hot place to be right now, and it’s no wonder: Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are gradually moving to cloud-based environments, and a finite number of providers are reaping the benefits. As partners consider moving into the cloud reseller space, they must work to understand SMBs’ needs, mindsets, and […]
Categories: SMB

Vote for Ramon’s SXSW V2V Las Vegas Presentation

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 20:18

When you think of the word celebrity I’m sure names like Brad Pitt, Daymond John or Donald Trump pop into your mind. BUT… what if when people heard the word celebrity they thought of you? I’d like to share my secrets on how YOU can become a local celebrity entrepreneur but I need your help! I need you to vote for me to share my presentation at the SXSW V2V Las Vegas event with other small business entrepreneurs just like you!

VOTE FOR ME!!!

(VOTING ENDS FRIDAY – Jan. 23rd – Go Vote NOW!!!)

As most of you know, SXSW (South by Southwest) is one of the largest most recognized events of the year.  The four day event brings together entrepreneurs from a multitude of communities to share their ideas and experiences to help inspire and motivate other entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level.  As an expert in small business technology and marketing, I want to share with you my secrets to becoming a local celebrity entrepreneur.  Are you tired of making cold calls trying sell yourself and your products and services to clients?  Instead, make customers come to you! Learn how you can build your brand, boost your marketshare and make yourself known as the go-to person in your industry. Stop clawing and scrounging for deal flow, publicity and brand exposure and start making deal flow come to you!

Check this out….

I need your votes! So, please, click here so I can share my presentation on How to be a Local Celebrity Entrepreneur at the SXSW V2V. Just hit the “thumbs up” to cast your vote!!

The post Vote for Ramon’s SXSW V2V Las Vegas Presentation appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

8 Tools to Efficiently Manage Temp and Remote Team Workers

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 16:00
What is your favorite tool for managing temporary (contract or project-based) team workers, 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. Basecamp

We have a smaller team of 12 people right now based all over the world, and 20+ contractors that do temp or contract work for us. Basecamp is one way we keep all of this organized and in the same place. It’s amazing to be able to track progress of everything and keep track of your team.

– Peter DaisymeHostt

2. Asana

Asana is just the best project management tool, hands down. Our dev team rarely even uses emails now. We’ve moved almost everything to Asana. It’s a great tracking tool, and it’s also a great accountability tool. It helps avoid confusion around deadlines, expectations, etc. It also increases transparency across the board for the team. We all know the important projects people are working on.

– Mitch GordonGo Overseas

3. Time Doctor

Time Doctor has been a huge help managing our outsourced team. We can see when they work and what they are working on, much like oDesk, but for all members of our team (not just the ones we hire through other platforms).

– Andrew AngusSwitch Video

4. Zoho

With Zoho, you can manage projects and tasks with your remote team, but it’s also great for managing client contracts, freelance team members and temporary team members. It helps keep track of progress and timeliness, and is accessible and functional anywhere.

– Brock StechmanDivvyHQ

5. Slack

A relatively unknown in this crowded market, Slack is the latest project from Flickr Founder Stewart Butterfield. Not only is Slack beautifully designed, but it does away with the slow, clunky email process altogether. Instead, it is set up like a very robust, task-based IM client. The killer feature though is that it is highly searchable. Referencing a file or conversation from last year is easy.

– Brian HonigmanBrianHonigman.com

6. Flowdock

Flowdock is by and large the way we communicate. All of our contract and project-based team members are remote, so it allows us to communicate with them efficiently, just like we can with the rest of our team in Argentina, Turkey, Spain, Los Angeles and elsewhere. It also gives us the ability to find the best talent because we aren’t limited to a single office environment. We can hire anyone, anywhere.

– Tolga TanrisevenGirlsAskGuys

7. Podio

Since we have a decentralized team of seven, which often includes freelancers, it can be difficult to track progress, hours and billing. More than a project management platform, Podio streamlines everything for us. There are hundreds of plugins you can use to track time sheets, project milestones and approvals. It even offers tools that foster creative collaboration sessions.

– Mark KrassnerKnee Walker Central

8. oDesk

oDesk has a large network to help you find the workers you need, but also the tools to manage their workload and pay them on a timely basis. One of the niftiest tools is the time-tracking feature that shows you what they were doing on-screen during the hours they were employed by you.

– Andy KaruzaSpotSurvey

The post 8 Tools to Efficiently Manage Temp and Remote Team Workers appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Use Facebook Page CTAs to Drive More Traffic and Get More Leads

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 16:00

The New Year has already brought with it major changes as far as Facebook and social media marketing are concerned. Some changes, like the social network’s new algorithm to crackdown on overly promotional content, could become a hindrance to small business owners using Facebook Business Pages. Others, however, are providing brilliant new ways of attracting and, more importantly, securing new customers.

Facebook recently announced the addition of CTA, or call to action, buttons to its Business Pages, making it easier than ever to bridge the gap between social media efforts and other marketing channels.

Businesses are seeing an undeniable trend in the way people research the goods and products they’re interested in purchasing: an ever-increasing number of individuals turning to Facebook Business Pages as a first point of contact with organizations large and small, as opposed to company websites.

The question in this is how are small business owners converting on all this social media traffic into

customers? If you’re using your business’ Facebook presence to continuously engage with your customer base, you’re on the right track. But you could be missing out on a bigger piece of the pie by not providing your audience with strategic prompts to move them on to the next phase of the sales cycle.

That’s where Facebook’s new CTA buttons can help. The seven CTA prompts that will soon be rolling out to Facebook Business Pages include:

  • Book Now – Ideal for businesses that require appointments to be made, like hair salons, hotels, or spas.
  • Contact Us – This general CTA is appropriate for any business, large or small.
  • Watch Video – Videos are a great way to establish thought leadership, such as a personal trainer doing short workout videos or bakery showing off easy recipes. This CTA is a good way to drive traffic to and promote video content.
  • Use App – Say your small business has an app for rewards or discounts, menus and happy hours specials, or even just to provide more information on the company; users are far more likely to download an app if they can skip the search and be taken directly to the download through your Facebook page.
  • Shop Now – Ideal for online retailers, this CTA gives users a smooth transition from a Facebook page to an ecommerce site or online storefront.
  • Play Game – As with app downloads, this CTA is perfect for gaming companies looking to skip the middleman and take users directly to the game download without having to search for it.
  • Sign Up – Facebook’s beta tester, Dollar Shave Club, saw a boost in its customer acquisition efforts by using this CTA to drive people to subscribe to a newsletter or email list.

Once the new CTAs have been made available, it’s important for business owners to utilize them properly, and in a way that furthers overall marketing strategies. To get the most out of the new feature, keep the following top of mind:

Alignment. It’s crucial to customize all calls-to-action so that they align with specific business objectives and ultimately further marketing goals. 

Harness the power of the CTA. Don’t let the opportunity to use a CTA pass you by. The buttons will be highly visible – front and center of Business Pages – and according to Facebook, they have been proven to increase conversion rates by as much as 2.5 times. Take advantage of these results!

Be mobile ready. Your call-to-action destinations should be mobile friendly. CTAs will appear on both desktop and mobile versions, so it’s important to make sure that you’re pushing users to an experience that is optimized for all devices.

Start simple. If you’re still unsure about which CTA best suits your business and its marketing goals, you should still, at minimum, set up a ‘Contact Us’ CTA to help visitors get in touch with you. If you don’t already have a ready-to-use contact form, there are several different tools available to create one.

Facebook’s new CTA feature provides a great way for small business owners to close the loop in a digital marketing strategy. Find a CTA that fits the needs of your business and start pushing customers to get better acquainted with your brand and move from one phase of the buying process to the next.

 

Alfredo is the general manager of Pagemodo, part of the Webs suite of products. He leads day-to-day operations, product development, and technology strategy for Pagemodo, a popular social marketing suite for small businesses. Prior to Webs, Alfredo was head of product development at InQuent Technologies, a Toronto-based wholesale web and email hosting platform that was acquired by Network Solutions in 2005. During his tenure at Network Solutions, Alfredo launched the company’s hosting platform, eventually scaling it from a new product into Network Solution’s second largest product line. Alfredo was also responsible for leading Network Solutions’ websites, email, and mobile products.  Alfredo holds an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and a master’s degree in information systems from the Harvard University Extension School. Alfredo completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. A Peruvian native by way of Canada, Alfredo now lives in Washington D.C.

The post Use Facebook Page CTAs to Drive More Traffic and Get More Leads appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

The Rise of the Bottom Up SMB Economy

SMB News - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 17:56

By Bill Clerico

Historically, major technological breakthroughs have coincided with economic breakthroughs. Every time a major technology has been discovered, GDP growth accelerates. Yet after the invention of the Web, quite possibly the most game changing breakthrough in the history of the world, economic growth has actually slowed.

"The growth of the Bottom Up Economy is a big part of our story here at WePay. We think the Bottom Up Economy is changing the world, and by making payments safer, easier and more seamless, we have a big part to play in it."

Why? We think its down to a couple factors. The first is that the web, and what follows, has primarily been a revolution of automation and efficiency. Whereas, say, the steam engine, made it possible for there to be more raw materials available than ever before, web technologies have largely made it possible to create more finished products with less work, and by extension, less workers. This has led to a kind of schism in the labor market:

It’s rapidly becoming the case that there are two types of jobs: highly paid, high skilled jobs, and low or non-skilled jobs that pay wages that are barely adequate to get by. Middle skilled, middle paid jobs are disappearing, as the things that required those workers are done with far less manpower.

Now, this is good if you happen to be a highly skilled — your job is safe, and all that money that would have gone to a massive medium-skilled workforce starts to accrue to you. But such highly skilled people are necessarily a minority. What happens to the mass of folks that fall toward the middle of the bell curve? They’re increasingly forced to take lower-paying jobs as the middle of the graph is hollowed out.

This has had a predictable effect on wealth disparity:

Whereas technology used to be a rising tide that lifted all boats, the benefits of recent technological revolutions have gone to a relatively small number of folks at the very top. And that’s a problem — no matter how much money they have, a small number of hyper-affluent rich can’t spend as fast as an entire society of adequately compensated workers. And thus, slower GDP growth.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that while technology has created a problem, it’s also a solution to a problem. Enter: The Bottom Up Economy.

What the platform companies behind the Bottom Up Economy do is bring the advantages created by an Internet revolution to ordinary people, rather than placing them solely in the hands of the elites. If the Internet means that big corporations can make do with less, it also means that anyone can start building businesses that would have required a massive corporation behind them to be successful just a few short years ago.

Put simply: it’s never been easier to be an entrepreneur. You don’t need the bank loan you probably can’t get in an era of tightening credit to start a business. All you need is a great idea and a crowdfunding campaign. You don’t need to become a hotel chain to make money on Airbnb, you can turn the home you own into a hospitality business. Similarly, you don’t need to build a Prada-sized empire to be in the fashion industry — you can support yourself by selling clothes you make on Etsy. Meanwhile, the birth of the cloud means that you can now run those businesses with software tools that up until a few years ago would have been out of reach of all but the largest enterprises.

If the job market doesn’t have a place for you, then the entrepreneurship opportunities provided by the Bottom Up Economy give you the ability to create your own dream job. In his presentation, Bill gave the example of someone he met who went from being laid off from Cisco to becoming an Uber driver, to running his own successful car service on Uber with over 11 drivers working for him.

That’s why we do what we do: to enable that kind of opportunity to happen. Payments are usually the most difficult part of building a platform company like Uber or Etsy or GoFundMe, so we think that eliminating that roadblock could help the Bottom Up Economy really take off. If we can make payments easier, safer, and more seamless for these kinds of platform companies, then there will be more of these platform companies. And, incidentally that will lead to more growth:

Bill Clerico is CEO and co-founder of WePay, a leading provider of payment services to online platforms and marketplaces.  

Categories: SMB

Make a Resolution to Improve Cyber Security in 2015: Norton Promotes ‘Take the Pledge’ Campaign (#CSPledge) to Educate Small Businesses

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 16:02

As we head into a New Year, a major area of concern for businesses of all sizes is cyber security. To inform and educate small businesses, I’ve teamed up with Norton for the ‘Take the Pledge’ campaign (#CSPledge). This month-long campaign will include educational content, a TweetChat, survey results and giveaways from Norton, including a grand prize package, including a laptop with Norton Security software.

Data breaches have become much too common. While most associate these cybercrimes with large retail organizations, that perception is actually skewed. Small businesses are just as vulnerable, often more so. In fact, a recent survey by Norton found that over 1 in 4 small businesses do not have a plan in place to respond to any data breach, proving the lack of preparedness against cybercrimes amongst small businesses.

A 2013 National Small Business Association technology survey revealed that 44 percent of the small businesses’ reported a cyber-attack. Of those reported, 59 percent suffered a service interruption and 35 percent reported information was falsely sent from their businesses’ domains or email addresses. The average cost associated with the cyber-attack was $8,699.48 per incident. This is a financial hit that most small businesses cannot readily absorb.

Knowing how detrimental the effects of a cyber-attack can be on a small business, Norton wants to go the extra step to help them understand the risks and how they can better protect themselves. Since 39 percent of small businesses in the 2013 National Small Business Association technology survey report handling security internally, either by themselves or with help of a staff member, and 1 out of 5 of those surveyed from the recent Norton small business survey admitting that they don’t understand how to protect their businesses from cyber criminals, there is definitely a need to share more information to help keep small businesses stay safe.

You can follow the ‘Take the Pledge’ Twitter hashtag #CSPledge to get tips and information on how to keep your small business safe. You can also join the conversation with Melinda Emerson, producer of #SmallBizChat – a peer-to-peer Twitter live chat mentoring program designed to help entrepreneurs get answers to their small business question — on January 21, 2015 from 8pm to 9pm ET, as she chats with business expert Brian Moran. Brian and his team at Brian Moran & Associates are passionate about helping small business owners run better businesses and Brian has a wealth of information on cybersecurity that he’ll be sharing, including mobile security and cyber-security in the age of social media. He’ll also share options for protecting a business when owners are not comfortable managing cybersecurity in house.

There is going to be A LOT of valuable information being shared. Follow along so you don’t miss a thing, while also enjoying a chance to win one of the great prizes being offered to help keep your business safe.

The post Make a Resolution to Improve Cyber Security in 2015: Norton Promotes ‘Take the Pledge’ Campaign (#CSPledge) to Educate Small Businesses appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Why Old School Marketing Is Still Essential In Todays Digital World [Video]

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 17:12

In today’s competitive business environment, so much focus is placed on the newest ways to reach and market to your potential clients – and it’s often digital solutions that most turn to. But, as we learned from Carmen Sognonvi, Owner of Urban Marital Arts, at the 2014 Small Business Summit, there is definitely a place for old school marketing in today’s world.

Carmen shared her story of success with local “old school” marketing for their business and how the use of print brochures and flyers was extremely effective when executed correctly. She also shared a number of ideas with Summit attendees on how they, too, can incorporate these same techniques and strategies into their business.

Check out the full video of Carmen’s presentation here, or simply watch below.

In the video Carmen also shares information about her resource toolkit, which contains her ‘must-have’ tools for creating and executing cutting edge marketing materials. It includes tech tools, graphic designers and so much more!

Carmen also shares tips and strategies for partnering with other businesses that share a similar customer base to enhance both your businesses.

There’s a lot of great information in this video and a lot of great ideas that you can use today in your business marketing plan.

We’ll be publishing more great video’s from the Small Business Summit in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for the videos and great advice!

Did you find Carmen’s advice helpful? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

The post Why Old School Marketing Is Still Essential In Todays Digital World [Video] appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

How’s Search Working for Your Prospect’s Buying Journey?

AMI Partners - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 16:07
In the Beginning Was the Keyword Of the many pathways leading to the top of the sales funnel, the keyword search is turning out to be the widest one. This is especially true as firms adopt new technology solutions for the first time, or are looking to resolve an issue their current solution cannot handle. […]
Categories: SMB

9 Software Tools That Take Customer Support to the Next Level

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 16:00
What is your favorite software for responding to customer support inquiries/requests 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. Help Scout

We’ve tried full suites like Zendesk, but we feel like those solutions are always too bloated for our needs. We enjoy having personal connections with our customers, and there’s no better way to do that than making the layer between us and them as thin as possible. Help Scout does a wonderful job of this by being completely transparent to the customer, but well-organized for our customer support.

– James SimpsonGoldFire Studios

2. Rhino Support

Rhino Support is one of the fastest loading customer support platforms we tested, and it allows my whole team to assign, answer and collaborate on tickets together. It also has a simple way to create canned responses and ping someone via email if they have a ticket to respond to, as well. We’ve found it to be easy to use, and it works just like email, except better.

– Nathalie LussierNathalie Lussier Media Inc.

3. Twitter

I know, I know. Twitter is not actually made for customer service, but that doesn’t make it any less useful. The platform is widely used, so people are familiar with how it works. It is highly searchable and indexed. It is updated in real-time. And it’s inherently rant-proof (who can rant in 140 characters?). There’s a reason so many companies use it for customer service. It’s fantastic for the job.

– Brian HonigmanBrianHonigman.com

4. Intercom

I love that Intercom treats our customer requests as a conversation and not a ticket — our team can have a high-level view of their inboxes and a granular level view of what’s going on with each conversation at a time. It’s really enabled our support team to work together more holistically.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

5. Freshdesk

I used to use their competitor, but it raised rates and failed to deliver new features, while Freshdesk has doubled down on adding great features and offering a much more startup-friendly pricing scheme. With Freshdesk, no support requests will fall through the cracks, and customers can rate our team’s responses with the built-in feedback engine.

– Lane CampbellSyntress SCDT

6. Zendesk

Our team uses Zendesk because even with all of its features, the tool is still easy to use. One of our favorite aspects of the software is the ability to help our users via email, chat, phone and even Twitter, all from the same place. Zendesk’s Help Center tools helped us build an online knowledge base where our users can learn about Enplug and easily find answers to common questions.

– Nanxi LiuEnplug

7. Kayako

Having been around for a while, Kayako has had time to develop their product and make it extremely secure and stable. The software allows all the capabilities of everything else out there like Freshdesk or Zendesk at a fraction of the price. For a cost effective solution that will give you enterprise customization options, Kayako is the way to go.

– Cody McLainWireFuseMedia LLC

8. Streak

When it comes to customer support, we find that it’s easy to set up a dedicated email inbox just for customers and to make sure an email-based CRM program like Streak is installed. The dedicated email inbox makes it easy to track incoming requests and to respond quickly from anywhere. Streak makes it simple to integrate template responses, so replies can be as quick and effortless as possible.

– Doreen BlochPoshly Inc.

9. Desk

With Desk, you can respond to customer inquiries from every channel all in one place. Not only that, but it makes tracking the conversation with each customer easy, as they come in the form of a ticket. Each ticket can be assigned to various team members based on their expertise to answer that customer’s question or request.

– Andy KaruzaSpotSurvey

The post 9 Software Tools That Take Customer Support to the Next Level appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB
Syndicate content