Live Google Hangout: Wow Your Customers (Beyond Customer Service) Thur (31 July)

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 21:00

We all know that good customer service is necessary. If you treat your customers bad they won’t come back, they’ll say nasty things about you online and worse.

However, what about WOWING your CUSTOMERS? What about taking the time to go above and beyond the “normal” and really show them that we care.

Wowing customers establishes an emotional connection with customers – BEYOND the transaction.

This emotion connection causes THEM TO COME BACK again and again, causes them to REFER business to us and so much more.

In this live Google Hangout On Air, Join Ramon Ray (Small Business Evangelist, Infusionsoft) as he shares insight into why and how small businesses can WOW customers and DELIGHT THEM.

 
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Categories: SMB

4 Simple Ways to Make Your Next Conference Call More Productive and Crystal Clear

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 17:00

In today’s world of the telecommuter and virtual worker, conference calls are a constant, crucial form of business communication. While technology has given us the ability to make these conference calls more dynamic by connecting dozens of folks via video, the reality is that audio conferencing is the most affordable way to conduct a conference call and the preferred method for most businesses. Conference calls can quickly get off track and become unproductive if you don’t have the right technology in place and follow a few rules to help stay on track and remain productive. Here are four simple ways to ensure your next conference is more productive and crystal clear. Cost and time are key factors that make audio conferencing a preferred option for hosting effective meetings. A study by Verizonshowed that a five-person meeting conducted in person (average cost $5197.50) is over seven times more expensive than a meeting conducted by audio conference (average cost $689.24) and nearly three times as expensive as a video conference (average cost $1700.69). Considering the cost and time involved, it’s important for businesses to ensure that the conference calls they are holding are effective and productive—not just a waste of time. But for anyone who attends a conference call on a regular basis, we all know that this isn’t always how it goes. Unstable connections, garbled voices, too many participants talking at the same time and people popping in and out of the call are just some of the issues that can spoil a call. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “I can’t hear you …can you move closer to the speaker?” on a conference call I’d be a rich man! Here are a few tips to make your conference calls more productive and some technology to help keep it crystal clear:

1. Have an agenda and a facilitator. The easiest way for a conference call to get off track is by not having a clear-cut agenda and someone to facilitate the conversation.

2. Keep it short. Best-selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin suggests that the maximum length of any call should be 10 minutes. Employees won’t have time to multitask in that short window, so you can expect their undivided attention.

3. Invite only those who need to be on the call. As a rule of thumb, you should limit the amount of people on a call to 4 or 5. The only people who should be on a conference call are those who you expect to speak. For instance, instead of inviting the entire sales and marketing team to a product launch call, invite just the team leaders or managers. All others who will be involved in the process can review the meeting notes after the call is complete. This eliminates chaos.

4. Eliminate background noise and distractions. Background noise and interference will make it impossible for those calling in to your conference call to effectively hear what is being said. Here is where having the right technology is essential and the right conference phone makes all the difference. One of the best systems for small business is the ErisStation™ from VTech. With four wireless DECT 6.0 microphones with Orbitlink Wireless Technology™, onsite participants can spread out and speak without having to raise their voices, no matter how large the meeting room is. Add in dynamic noise reduction (DNR), which automatically eliminates ambient noise (computer fans, ventilation systems, etc.) and your call will be crystal clear and free of background noise!

It’s time to say goodbye to garbled voices, background noise and unproductive calls! By employing smart tips and technology, you’ll put value back into your conference calls and save your small business lots of time and money.
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Categories: SMB

More Customers, More Often – 7 Tips To Get It Done

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 15:00

We all claim to want more customers, more often, but are we doing what it takes to get that done? I asked Sarah Reilly Engel, VP of Merchant Success at Belly, a loyalty rewards company for retailers, to share advice with us.

It is widely known, through research and studies, that businesses derive 80 percent of their revenue from 20 percent of their customers. As a small business owner, it becomes overwhelming to develop customer acquisition and retention strategies effectively without using tools to automate the process. Luckily, some of the best customer-driven marketing tactics and tools are at every business owners’ fingertips.

Here are 7 ways you can to turn your casual customers into your brand advocates:

1) Get Mobile. Leverage technology partners who have scale, reach, responsive design and local search benefits to get your business found. Find a digital platform like Belly that allows small businesses to get discovered through an intelligent map that denotes all participating merchants nearby! Furthermore, optimize your website for mobile so that all customers can find you regardless of what device they’re using.

2) Get Social. Showcase your personality and utilize social profiles including Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram. Define your unique voice and tactics for each channel and post real-time behind-the-scenes photos to engage with your audience. You can also use these channels to inform customers of upcoming promotions. Post actively to these channels at least once a day to show your customers that you are engaged. Your social media channels will help increase brand awareness for your business and create affinity with followers.

3) Boost Social. Spending small budgets to increase local reach on Twitter and Facebook can help you expand your customer network and lead to new paying visitors. I recommend testing different budgets and creative, in addition to defining your target audience by selecting the location and age group that your business desires to reach.

4) Focus on Loyalty. Your behind-the-counter charisma and service is a great start, but with many competing businesses it’s hard to stay top of mind with casual customers. Focusing on loyalty can help you increase profits up to 6-7x. Implement a loyalty program that rewards frequent visitors and encourages them to stay true. Customers are likely to spend more with each visit and each positive experience may spread the word about your business.

5) Cross-Promote. Draft a list of local businesses who may have complimentary products or services.  Network with the desired partners and kick off a promotion that offers customers rewards, and discounts for visiting each location or choose a loyalty program that lets you interact with customers and rewards them for repeat visits. This is a great way to get new referrals and new loyal customers.

6) Activate & Manage Reviews. It’s critical to have a presence on review sites, like Yelp! Go the extra mile by providing photos, descriptions, menus, hours and your businesses’ direct contact information online. Adding signs on your window and at your counter are also a great way to remind visiting customers to share their positive feedback about your great service. Since 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews – keep up with active reviews and comment politely to customers who have had a negative experience. Lastly, host a Yelp event at your establishment and position yourself as an active community member.

7) Create Your Email Marketing Plan. Email marketing is one of the most powerful methods for growing sales and maintaining relationships with customers. Ditch old methods of capturing email addresses offline (think: business cards in fishbowls) and encourage users to sign up for the loyalty program you work with so you can close the loop and drive conversions both on and offline with communication tools at your fingertips. With customer-driven insights and email automation, messaging customers is easy and trackable so you can measure results on retention.

Following these quick and simple tips is a great way to kick-start your marketing programs and strengthen your customer relationships. Try them out and see the difference it makes
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Categories: SMB

3 New Media Strategies Every Business Should Know to Survive the Shrinking Newspaper Market

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 15:45

Newspapers have been rapidly vanishing from the American landscape, as consumers increasingly get their news online. With CNN.com or The New York Times as a person’s homepage, why would they need a newspaper dropped on their doorstep every morning? As this media outlet continues to shrink, there are three new media strategies that every business should know.

Brought to you by PRWeb, a leading online news and press release distribution service used by 40,000+ organizations. From Fortune 500 companies to small business, companies are using PRWeb to increase their online visibility, improve search engine rankings, drive traffic to their site and increase sales. To get a free expert guide on writing press releases and 25% off your first release, go to PRWeb.com

 

The Shrinking Newspaper Market: 3 New Media Strategies Every Business Should Know

Newspapers are fading as a news source, with many major papers deciding to focus more on monetizing their online content than creating paper versions delivered to customers each day. Smaller city papers are being combined to create one major paper to serve an entire major metropolitan area, as even those subscribers who are left are now choosing Sunday-only service.

What does that mean for the small business owner? Previous efforts to get information to the public through newspapers are now being shifted online. But does that mean print media should be abandoned? Here are a few things small business owners should consider when planning a campaign.

Specific Demographic

The reduction in newspaper readership means small businesses can no longer assume one advertisement or piece of coverage will be seen by everyone in a city. Newspaper readers are a very specific demographic today, and it’s important for a business owner to know whether that readership fits his or her intended audience.

According to data from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), if you’re trying to reach the 18-34 demographic, a newspaper isn’t the best place to reach your customers. The primary readership for newspapers is aged 35 and older, with nearly half of that group being aged 55 and older. Readership is almost evenly divided between male and female, although slightly more women read newspapers than men.

Targeted Online Papers

The move toward the Internet means newspapers can now segment their target market. One great example of this is Blue Sky Innovation, an online section of the Chicago Tribune that is targeted specifically to entrepreneurs. Today, newspapers are no longer limited by geographic boundaries and are instead able to focus on niche audiences potentially located around the globe.

This is also good news for business marketers, who will now be able to choose an online media outlet that will spread its message to those who will be most interested in it. This could put local businesses at a disadvantage, leaving them unable to compete with businesses that have a wider audience range.

Universal Messages

When preparing a marketing campaign, it’s important that businesses take a more universal approach. Campaigns should be designed to deploy on social media, print media and online media at once, with businesses understanding that when they pitch a newspaper, that message will likely appear both in the print and online versions of the newspaper.

With the Internet changing the way traditional media operates, it’s constantly evolving. Businesses that pay attention to these changes can leverage them to their advantage, trumping the competition and reaching consumers with their messages. Marketers are beginning to realize they can segment their marketing campaigns to reach different customers through the media they’re most likely to be using. While newspapers are cutting staff and seeing reduced circulations, they’ll likely be around for many years to come, if only in an online format rather than paper.
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Categories: SMB

Summer Is Here. Sales Are Down. 7 Cool Ideas To Heat Up Summer Sales #OwnYourSummer

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:15

For many businesses, summer is traditionally a slow month. The heat slows our bodies down (I guess that impacts sales), folks are focused on going away for an annual vacation, children are home from school and people want to leave their offices early and have FUN!

While some businesses thrive during the summer, others dread the 3 months of heat, beach and vacations because their customers attention is even more distracted then it might usually be.

There’s several things you can do to turn up summer sales and look FORWARD to the summer month.

  1. Check out Infusionsoft’s “Own Your Summer” campaign. Win prizes (including time with Daymond John) and get free education to help you grow your business even more.
  2. Send your customers low cost “summer themed” gifts – just to wish them a great Summer
  3. Have your own weekly “Summer party” – to draw in customers and prospects to your business or being the party to them to their business.
  4. Survey your customers so you know which ones are NOT going away during the Summer and get to know them better (take your best customers to lunch, for example)
  5. Invite prospects (not customers) to your office for breakfast meetups (or lunch or evening networking). Have part of it fun (remember it’s summer) and the other part educational as a soft introduction to your products or services.
  6. Use the slow time to educate yourself, freshen up your business operations, get to know your employees better and prepare for the upswing that the Fall Season might bring.
  7. Partner with other companies on a referral campaign – they encourage their customers to buy from you and you encourage your customers to buy from them. Make sure you track all the activity (Infuionsoft can do this for you)

 

 

 
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Categories: SMB

Why Every Business Needs External Storage – Collaboration, Backup, Save Money. (Video Interview)

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 15:00

I’ve used external storage devices for years – plugging them directly into my computer and more recently attaching them directly to my network.

Seagate recently launched a new line of external storage devices which make it easier to leverage external storage in your business.

These new drives provide a much easier interface and enable you to easily use your drive how you see fit.

While Seagate is not going to get rid of Dropbox and other online storage solutions, Seagates new drives do enable you to easily share files with others – just as easy as you can do with an online storage solution.

Read the full Seagate press release here and see my video interview here or below.


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Categories: SMB

SAP More Tightly Aligned with Market Needs

AMI Partners - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 18:59
Having worked with SAP for a number of years, we see a noticeable improvement in SAP’s customer centricity and market execution.  This is in no small part due to an improved ability to critically self examine, and listen closely to suggestions coming from the market and its ecosystem. At SAPPHIRE NOW 2014 Bill McDermott laid […]
Categories: SMB

9 Simple and Free Tech Support Tips For Your Office (Tip 3: Chrome Can Help You Access A PC Remotely)

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:00

Bobbi Dangerfield, Dell’s head of customer experience, shares her insight on how small businesses can have an awesome tech experience.

1.    Take advantage of the diagnostic tools available on your employees’ systems and on the internet – for example, Dell provides diagnostics online in the form of Dell PC Diagnostics. If there’s something wrong with your Dell system, you can run this and organize a part dispatch without having to pick up the phone.

2.    If you have employees based in a satellite office or work with freelancers, try using a remote desktop session to fix their software issues instead of sending someone to them. If your organization uses Google Chrome, you can install the Chrome Remote Desktop application from the Chrome Web Store to do exactly that.

3.    Half the battle of trying to fix your employee’s PC is trying to figure out what setup they have. Take the opportunity to make a note of exactly what each employee has (PC model and make, network router model and make, software installed, etc…). Alternatively, you can make life easy for yourself by downloading a system information tool like Speccy to get that information. That way, you can start to compile a list of drivers that you’ll potentially need to fix their issue.

4.    A lot of the issues that workers come across stem from clicking on links from less-than-reputable sites or e-mails. Education on what’s safe and not safe to click on is the key. For example, spam e-mails might appear to come from a colleague but when you hover over the link, the URL doesn’t appear to come from that person at all. Get your employees out of the habit of clicking on every link they see and you’ll save yourself a lot of work and money.

5.    Automate their security regimes to make sure that their systems are as free from viruses and spyware as possible. Set up automated tasks in their operating systems or in their anti-virus and anti-malware tools to run these on a regular basis.

6.    Stress the importance of having a backup to their data and a system image. For example, Dell has Dell Backup & Recovery which can do exactly that. Remember though to make sure that the backup and system image aren’t stored on their computer – the last thing anyone wants is to find out that the backup or system image is unusable due to a faulty hard drive.

7.    It is always better to show how you fixed issues than just to fix it yourself and tell your employees afterwards. Sit down with them and show them step by step how to fix their most common issues – being proactive will save time in the long run.

8.    If you find yourself regularly going out to save the day for your team, create USB flash drives with the most common utilities you use when fixing systems – an anti-virus program (like Avast  or AVG), file recovery software (like Recuva) and anti-malware software (likeSpybot) should be the minimum that you have on the USB flash drives.

9.    Direct your employees to tech help forums. Vendors often have social media sites with tech experts on hand to answer queries – for example, we use our @DellCares site to provide customer support.
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Categories: SMB

3 Things SMBs should do about Tech Security Threats

SMB News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:38

by Aakash Patel

 

Over the past few months, technology companies around the world have been tackling one of the largest security threats. According to cyber security columnist Joseph Steinberg, today [security threats] are the  “worst” since “commercial traffic began to flow on the Internet.”

 

One big threat to SMBs is called “Heartbleed”. this is a serious vulnerability on OpenSSL, which is one of the widely used security protocols. SMBs have to deal with confidential customer data. Many SMBs have  opted for OpenSSL because it is inexpensive to implement and manage.

 

Here are three things that SMBs should consider in order to minimize tech security threats from smartphones.

 

1. Migrate To The Cloud :There are a number of  software tools that SMBs use that are vulnerable because of the deployment of outdated technologies. Migrating to high quality cloud-based services could help. Cloud-based applications are continually maintained for quality and security purposes. For Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), you can choose Epicor,a NetSuite partneror many others. These consulting companies handle the implementation and managing of cloud ERP in your business as a managed service.

 

2. Have a BYOD Policy : The use of smartphones has become predominant. Today, most employees make use of their smartphones to do work-related things such as checking emails, transferring documents and making work related calls. This is a vulnerability because third party devices could be the source of malware attacks.

 

Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is here to stay. One really cannot prevent the use of employee's personal devices at work. The optimal solution is to have an elaborate BYOD policy that permits smartphones and personal laptops only after they have been reviewed and authorized by your network security person or department.

 

3. Hire A Consultant : Hiring a consultant will provide you with a go-to person who will advise you on all things relating to IT security such as upgrading software or changing your communication systems. A security consultant will help you with the process better than just doing it yourself.

 

What other policies and pointers do you think would help your business against cyber security? Write to us in the comments below.

 

Author Bio :Aakash Patel is an IT consultant with 8 years of experience in cloud and IT security. He works predominantly with SMB clients in India, Canada and the United States. 

Categories: SMB

9 Things Your Company Should Do Before Switching Email Service Providers

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:00
What’s your best tip for switching email service providers for your company?

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. Make Sure Your Data Migrates

When it comes to switching email service providers, the most frustrating thing can be when your data doesn’t migrate, or when your email client doesn’t immediately recognize the new email service provider. Finding one that can handle this with ease is KEY before going forward.
- Rob Fulton, Automation Heroes

2. Set Up Mobile Devices

Make sure that all the mobile connections are made and all company members can continue to receive emails on their mobile device. The less complicated and user friendly, the better.
- Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

3. Test Your Process

Test your process with one email account first to see what the transition experience is like and how the migration happens. After one account is fully migrated and operational you’ll have a much better idea of the exact issues that will need to be addressed and how to best handle them. You’re guaranteed to find a few things that you didn’t think about and your tests will be well worth the time.
- Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

4. Lower Your DNS Email TTL

When switching email service providers you have to change your domains DNS MX records, which often has a long Time To Live (TTL). Before the migration you should make sure the TTL is lower (about an hour) in preparation, so that when you make the provider change your DNS won’t be caught pointing to the old provider for too long.
- Phil Chen, Systems Watch

5. Check Your IPs

Make sure that the company you use has clean IPs. IPs are very valuable. They can be your biggest friend or worst enemy. If you don’t have clean IPs your emails will never inbox. If they don’t get into your customers’ or potential customers’ inboxes, you’ll never survive. Find a reputable company. Make sure they’ll let you upload all your contacts without having to resubscribe.
- John Rampton, Adogy

6. Look for Simplicity

Three years ago we switched from a typical Microsoft Outlook system to Google Apps. It was life changing for our company. It was simple, the data migrated and we could access email anywhere, anytime, from any computer. Most importantly, we saved time and money. Look for a provider that’s in it for the long haul — and a switch that doesn’t throw a wrench in your current workflow.
- Tim McHugh, Saddleback Educational

7. Export Your Data First

Before switching email service providers, make sure you have exported all your data to .xls or .csv files so you have them for the future. It’s helpful to maintain a record of past email performance in order to benchmark the results against your new email service provider and future email campaigns.
- Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

8. Keep Users’ Preferences Consistent

Make sure your ducks are in a row. It’s great to switch providers for a variety of reasons (functionality, price, customer service) but it’s really important to make sure that when you export data from your old email service provider and you import everything into the new email service provider that you have kept your users’ rights preferences consistent (i.e. opt-out data, user preferences, etc.)
- Luke Skurman, Niche.com

9. Maintain Old Contacts

Find a service provider that allows you to import your emails and contacts. You may think they are old and unnecessary, but you will inevitably find yourself looking for an old contact or email. There are also email continuity services (such as McAfee), which redirect mail by updating your MX records for your DNS, and this can ensure a smooth transition in case your new provider has issues.
- Gideon Kimbrell, InList Inc
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Categories: SMB

#GoldenBRICS: Opportunity for ICT Vendors in the Large Enterprise Space

AMI Partners - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 05:07
By establishing the BRICS Bank each of the member countries will have access to funds targeted towards infrastructure and development projects. The bank aims to raise $100 billion (starting out with $50 billion initially) in lending funds, and another $100 billion in currency reserves to tide over short-term emergencies. As GDP growth in these emerging […]
Categories: SMB

The 6 Best SaaS Solutions for Scheduling Business Appointments

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 15:00
What is your favorite SaaS solution for scheduling appointments or phone calls easily?

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. AppointmentCore

We just started using AppointmentCore to automate our appointment scheduling. We love how it integrates with Infusionsoft, GoToMeeting and Google Calendar. Highly recommended!
- Pete Kennedy, Main Street ROI

2. ScheduleOnce

I’m a big fan of ScheduleOnce, which is true to its name. It uses your Google or Facebook ID for log-in capabilities and allows you to schedule appointments or phone calls from anywhere.
- Rob Fulton, Automation Heroes

3. Google Calendar

I’m not sure why you need anything except Google. All my calendars are instantly on every device I use with every piece of information I need. I’ve seen people using it more and more, which just makes it that much more effective.
- Carlo Cisco, SELECT

4. Clarity.fm

I get the odd request to answer questions about our business once a month. I find one of the best ways to make those calls productive is through clarity.fm, which is an expert network that charges by the minute for a phone call. I just give the customer my link and clarity creates a phone bridge that charges the caller my minute rate and takes a small cut.
- Liam Martin, Staff.com

5. Calendly

I’ve only just switched to Calendly, but so far I like it. I can set up different types of meetings that people can schedule (and different lengths). The tool is still fairly new, so I expect even more features to roll out soon.
- Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

6. Speek

Speek has totally changed the way we handle conference calls in our office. I can take up to 10 calls in a day and it’s nearly impossible to keep all that information straight. Speek allows me to record conference calls and share them with my communications gal to take notes, give me deliverables and in short, keep me sane. Love it, it’s awesome!
- Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media
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Categories: SMB

Wix Launches Email Marketing. Vertical Response Launches Web Sites

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 15:00

Wix, the leader in do it yourself web sites, recently launched a basic email marketing service – as reported by Small Business Trends. Vertical Response announced a basic web site service which enables you to host a simple form to capture emails.

What does this mean for your business? More and more, vendors who are providing best in class service in one area are quickly growing to provided additional services.

Eventually, I would fully expect Wix to provide a more robust email offering – competing head on with email marketing services. I’d fully expect Vertical Response to offer more and more web site services, competing head on with the DIY web site companies.

Your next web site, might come from your email marketing provider.
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Categories: SMB

Social Media Management: DIY or Hire-Out? 7 Tips to Help You Decide

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 22:15

Having an online presence is so important these days, but managing social media pages for your business can be confusing and time consuming. Not only do you have to decide which social media outlets to join and how to engage your fans, but you also have to make the decision of whether social media management should be an in-house task or something you should contract out.

Lucky for us, small business expert Ramon Ray (editor of SmallBizTechnology.com) was recently featured on the Wells Fargo Works for small business website with an article that tackles these exact questions. He understands that many business owners wonder if social media management is something they can tackle themselves or if it’s best to hire an expert – so he prepared tips for both scenarios.

If you’re taking a DIY approach to managing social media, Ramon suggests:

  • Choosing your social media platforms wisely
  • Having a content plan
  • Using online tools
  • Focusing on engagement

OR if hiring out is the solution for your business, he suggests:

  • Discussing goals
  • Setting a budget
  • Measuring your ROI

As you run through these two scenarios in your head you should be able to decide if you should be managing social media yourself or hiring out. And whichever you choose, you’ll have a game plan for success!

There’s more to Ramon’s article than this short summary. To get all Ramon’s tips for managing social media, check out the full Wells Fargo article here.
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Categories: SMB

Accounting and Email Marketing Partnership: Segment Customers In Xero, Email With Constant Contact

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 19:00

Small business accounting company Xero recently added a new feature called Smart Lists.

This feature enables you to segments customers in Xero based on certain criteria.

For example, who bought what product in a certain period of time? You can then take this list and seamlessly send it to Constant Contact to market to them.

We focus so much on acquiring new customers that we don’t spend enough time focused on the customers we have. The customers we have, ideally, are already happy with us and quite willing to buy again, especially if we nudge them to do so.

What I also like about this announcement is that it continues to show the power of integration – Xero a leading small business accounting software and Constant Contact a leading email marketing company – both coming together and leveraging their strengths.

 

 

 

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Categories: SMB

Small Business Online Marketing Requires A Balance of Art (Human Skill) and Science (Technology)

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 17:30

To get the results of online marketing done right, it’s important that you are using a great balance of art (human skill) and science (technology). I’ve asked Kris Barton, Chief Product Officer, ReachLocal to share some best practices and thought on this careful blend of art and technology.

Too often, online marketing solutions for SMBs don’t strike the right balance. Some are too technology driven, leaving some small businesses feeling overwhelmed or confused. Others are service-centric and light on technology, but in an era where big data and automation are central to successful online marketing, this approach falls short too.

So what’s the right balance in an online marketing solution?  How much should be art – decisions guided by human judgment — and how much science – actions dependent on technology?

The Triumvirate of Online Marketing

Online marketing solutions generally address three key activities: discovery, lead generation and lead conversion. Let’s take a look at how art and science play a role in each, and how to strike a good balance.

Discovery

All businesses need vehicles that help customers find them. Online marketing can drive discovery through organic and paid search, display advertising and social media.

Paid search is an excellent example of how art and science meld in online marketing. Owning the right search words on the right search platforms is critical because it can lead customers to your business listings rather than your competitors. While a machine can bid on those keywords in a more timely and efficient manner than any human ever could, current technology alone simply cannot judge which keywords are delivering quality leads and which words are misfires. Is your company’s “mole removal” a dermatological or pest removal service? Are there so many lawyers in your metropolitan area that you can’t gain any traction with the term “attorney”? Those judgment calls require an experienced professional – one that’s managed hundreds of online marketing campaigns – and the help of great technology.

Organic search requires a blend of technology and the human touch as well. Your business information: name, phone number, etc. should be listed in as many directories and services as possible. You can use technology to populate those listings with your information. However, to increase your chances of being found organically, you need to go beyond simple listings – you need to publish articles, blogs, etc. that describe your offerings, your relevance, and your differentiators. An experienced online marketing professional can create the content needed to boost your visibility and knows how to optimize it to help customers find you more quickly.

Display Advertising is an area where robust technology essentially runs the show. We all know how important it is for your ads to run in front of a receptive audience. The technology inherent in online marketing solutions can display your ads to potential or existing customers that have already visited your site or performed searches related to your offerings. There’s little human involvement with this aspect of online marketing.

Social media is increasingly prominent in marketing, so businesses need to be on top of the online reviews, comments, etc. referencing them and their offerings.  No human can possibly troll all the sites (Facebook, Yelp, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) that might contain that content. However, software can perform that function exceedingly well. Conversely, engaging prospects and customers by blogging on an industry topic, tweeting out a special promotional offer, responding to reviews and the like all require an experienced marketer’s human touch!

Contact

After they discover your business online through a listing, ad, review, etc., potential customers will often link back to your web site for more details. Your site must contain useful, easily located, up-to-date information. While it can be laid out and populated using technology, the content itself will drive the best results if it’s created by a marketing professional with SEO expertise. And, since prospects and customers will visit your site using a variety of devices – SmartPhones, tablets, PCs – technology is required to ensure your site is automatically optimized for each.

 

Conversion

There are several steps involved in lead conversion, and technology can support and speed up the process. For example, if you’re unable to answer calls, emails or web site inquiries, technology can provide a range of auto responses, with the frequency and type of response dictated by you. You can program the software to provide a second follow-up message after a set amount of time, and to even send you a reminder if you haven’t responded to the lead in a timely fashion. The human element in this case determines the amount and type of responsiveness needed to nurture leads, and the technology does the responding.

Recognizing a Balanced Solution

When evaluating organizations to help with your online marketing, make sure the technology provides the tools you need now, and those you’ll need as your business grows. The solution should include reports that demonstrate ROI – where your resources were invested, what worked and what didn’t. After all, one of the greatest benefits of marketing online is the data available for measurement. For best results, look for an end-to-end-solution. You’ll achieve economies of scale and synergies if you use all of the tools in the marketing toolkit.

Look for human experience in a number of areas, including your geography and industry. An experienced online marketing professional should provide customer success stories that demonstrate the types of results you desire. Best practices in marketing technology are constantly evolving, so also look for someone that stays relevant and current.

Online marketing doesn’t have to be overly technical, nor does it have to be “tech-lite”. Look for a balance of art and science, and you’ll find the solution that is “just right”.

 
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Categories: SMB

Surveys Show How Cloud Accounting Saves Small Businesses Money and Gets Them Paid Faster

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 20:00

Cloud accounting solutions – do they actually work? Results from two new studies answer with a resounding YES! And the best part is that they are actually saving small businesses money and helping them to get paid faster.

From invoice to payment, cloud accounting solutions can help you get paid faster. According to a Xero study, the average wait on payment for US businesses is 41 days, but with a cloud accounting tool that wait time is decreased to an average of 29 days.

Further, as these cloud accounting tools get more sophisticated, the wait time is dropping at an alarming rate. For example, from 2011 to 2013, Xero cloud accounting users saw a 37% decrease in the time from invoice to receiving payment.

Cloud accounting means fast payment, and it just keeps getting better.

The Xero study results are echoed in a new Dwolla survey on the same subject. The Dwolla survey was conducted to get a better understanding of the payment systems of small- and medium-sized businesses. Results showed a split between those writing checks and those using cloud accounting tools:

  • Overall, 46 percent of businesses continue to write checks for payment
  • The majority of baby boomers still write checks (68%)
  • The majority of millennials use cloud computing (58%)

So those figures aside, why should small business owners consider using a cloud accounting tool? The survey gives some statistics on that question as well:

  • Writing checks is inefficient and costly – SMBs spend $4 billion per year in the process of issuing, writing, sending and depositing checks.
  • 46 percent of paper checks experience fraud
  • 19 percent of SMB owners worry about their financial information being exposed at the bottom of checks
  • The average small business owner spends 5 hours per week writing checks, or 60 hours per year
  • The average small business owner spends up to $25 per month on check materials (including stamps, envelopes and travel)
  • There are also many other costs when it comes to checks, including checks being lost in the mail, stolen or bounced.

Check out the infographic below for more on the impact and burden paper checks place on small businesses:

The downsides of checks are clear. But what is cloud accounting, and what can it do for your small business?

  • Cloud accounting allows you to quickly and easily generate, send and follow up on all your invoices
  • Cloud accounting means better access to your invoicing, billing and payment system – anytime, anywhere, and on any device
  • Cloud accounting tools are inexpensive and highly effective
  • Cloud accounting keeps your data safe – since information is backed up in the cloud, you never have to worry about important expense files going missing
  • There are many cloud accounting options, so you can find one that works best for your business. Xero and Dwolla are two options. We’ve also written about other cloud accounting tools in the past – you can read  those articles here and here.

The bottom line is that cloud accounting can help you save time AND money. Dwolla survey respondents reported that with the money and time saved, they would:

  • Reinvest in sales and marketing software (27%)
  • Spend more time with their families (22%)
  • Invest in employee’s professional growth (20%)

So what about you?

If you’re currently using checks – what would YOU do with the time and money you could save by using cloud accounting?

And if you are currently using a cloud accounting tool – which one do you use and why?

Let us know by commenting below.
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Categories: SMB

Social Media Etiquette: 4 New Rules Every Professional Should Know

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 18:00

Throughout history, professionals have followed unspoken rules of etiquette when promoting an event or product. They’ve sent press releases as directed, followed up later, and maintained positive relations with both the media community and the public. But with the rapid growth of social media, the rules are quickly changing, with professionals challenged to define proper behaviors as they go. To ensure you are following the new rules, here are four things you should know about social media etiquette.

Brought to you by PRWeb, a leading online news and press release distribution service used by 40,000+ organizations. From Fortune 500 companies to small business, companies are using PRWeb to increase their online visibility, improve search engine rankings, drive traffic to their site and increase sales. To get a free expert guide on writing press releases and 25% off your first release, go to PRWeb.com

 

4 Things Every Professional Should Know About Social Media Etiquette

Good manners are more relevant than ever, especially since every post can linger online for decades. To avoid making a mistake that could permanently damage your business reputation, small business owners should think carefully before posting an item on social media. Here are a few tips to successfully interact on social media.

Be Professional

Social media gives everyone the power to post anything they want, without going through an editor or supervisor. A business should ensure every employee representing it on social media is aware of the company policy on online posts. While regular interaction is to be encouraged, it’s important that your employees know the dangers of revealing personal information or sharing information that may be seen as unprofessional.

Don’t Bombard

Just as you wouldn’t call a reporter a dozen times a day to pitch a story idea, you also shouldn’t repeatedly blast your marketing messages throughout the day. Doing so will be seen as rude and obnoxious. Post a message once or twice and, if it needs to be posted again, urge others in your office to share or retweet it. Be sure to regularly post items of substance to give followers information and insight they need.

Ignore Hostile Posts

Even the most customer-friendly business will occasionally encounter a troll. Whether this person is an unhappy customer or simply seeking attention, buying into it will only make you look worse. The best course of action when you notice inflammatory posts directed toward your company is to ignore it and, if possible, block the posts from appearing on your newsfeeds. You can also consider reporting the offender to the site or his own internet service provider.

Interact Politely

If you have targeted a specific reporter you feel would be beneficial to your business growth, don’t resort to “look at me” tactics to get the person’s attention. Follow them and occasionally retweet or comment on his or her posts, but avoid looking like a stalker. Never request that the reporter follow you or like your pages. If your posts are interesting enough to catch the journalist’s attention, that will come naturally. The best practice is to follow the other person because you’re interested in what he has to say, not because you expect him to follow you in return. Sit back and learn from their posts and use the information to craft interesting story ideas to pitch through their preferred method of receiving such pitches.

When working hard to build a reputation, it’s important that businesses use basic professional etiquette, even on social media. By being aware of inappropriate behavior, business owners can avoid making a major mistake that could cause permanent reputation damage.
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Categories: SMB

Building Your Business Seminar Series from AT&T Travels Coast to Coast to Help Small Business

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 11:49

One of the greatest challenges any small business owner faces is finding the time to not only manage their business but to BUILD and GROW the business as well. Many of us get stuck working ‘in’ our business, but never have time to work ‘on’ our business. Well, that’s about to change! AT&T is is hosting an exclusive seminar: Building Your Business, that is traveling coast to coast and you are invited!

If you are challenged with finding time to focus on building your business, then join AT&T and Ramon Ray for this exclusive series of small business knowledge sessions. During the 2-hour seminar, they will  share tips and strategies on how to simplify building your business and you’ll have the chance to meet other small business owners, just like you, to share experiences and ideas.

Here’s a quick video from Ramon Ray on the Building Your Business seminar series:


The Building Your Business seminar series kicks off on July 15th in New York City and finishes in Houston, TX on July 22nd. Here is a full listing of the dates and locations:

New York, NY

Tuesday July 15, 6-8 PM

3 Times Square

New York, NY 10036
(212) 921-1984

Costa Mesa, CA

Thursday, July 17, 7-9 PM

298 E 17th St Suite C
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 764-0021

Atlanta, GA

Saturday, July 19, 9-11 AM

4805 Briarcliff Rd NE #101

Atlanta, GA 30345

(770) 270-4000

Houston, TX

Tuesday, July 22, 6-8 PM

3773 Southwest Fwy
Houston, TX 77027
(713) 877-0284

For more information and to register for a seminar near you, click HERE.

You can also find more great small business information by visiting Business Circles brought to you by AT&T.
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Categories: SMB

The Power of Mobility for SMB’s: Join the Twitter Chat July 16th!

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 00:06

On Wednesday, July 16th, join us for a chat on Twitter to discuss The Power of Mobility for SMB’s: Obstacles and Opportunities#HPGoinMobile. This will be a great way to take part in a fun and informative conversation, led by HP(@HP_SmallBiz) and joined by myself @RamonRay) and expert / influencer Smallbiztrends (@SmallBizTrends), where we’ll network, exchange great information and even have a few giveaways!

Small businesses face many challenges and opportunities in today’s business landscape. Mobile technology plays a major role in today’s business and while it provides many positive options, it also creates many obstacles for today’s small business. Businesses that are looking to grow and better serve their customers need technology solutions that support their ways of working. Securing and protecting confidential information, identifying the right mobile technology, using mobile strategically and implementing a BYOD strategy – these are all challenges faced by small business owners and decision makers. In our hour long twitter chat, we’ll cover all the pros and cons of mobile technology and provide tips and strategies that any small business can employ.

To join the Twitter Chat follow along at : #HPGoinMobile

Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Time: 1pm to 2pm ET

How to Follow: Log into Twitter and follow the @HP_Smallbiz handle and add the hashtag #HPGoinMobile to your tweets. You can search the hashtag to watch the full conversation and see who else is participating.

And don’t forget, we will be giving away some great prizes to some of our participants!

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat before and feel a little intimidated by it, then check out “How to Participate in a Twitter Chat” from Smallbiztrends and then join us on Wednesday the 16th!
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Categories: SMB
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