Did you even know it's possible to rent a laptop? Many people don't. But you can!
There are many reasons business and individuals might chose to rent over the more costly, but permanent, option of purchasing.
A few common reasons for a laptop rental include: A short term project, such as an event or a large training class. Adding temporary office staff. Or even an out of town business demo. Individuals may even sometimes need a laptop rental for special occasions to perhaps run a slide show at a wedding or retirement party.
In today's market there is no shortage of laptop rental suppliers to chose from. Some companies tout their large variety of leading brands and a turnkey solution designed for any size business need. Other companies focus more on their low rates and target the consumer market with promises of instant credit approval.
For help choosing the right laptop rental company for you, see our summary of the nations leading laptop rental suppliers below:
Rentacomputer.com is one of the nation's largest computer rental companies. They offer large quantity orders for laptop rentals. If you have a training session or a corporate event that requires several employees to have mobile devices to track information and be connected, then large quantity rentals make perfect sense. They can handle all your temporary laptop rental needs to fit any duration. Their rental rates are tailored to the period of time you need, whether you need it for a day, a week, or months at a time. They have all the major brands available in 1500 cities worldwide!
RentOurLaptops.com has a variety of laptops from powerful mobile workstations to ultra-light netbooks. They also offer rugged laptop rentals for demanding environments. Whether you need 2 GB or 16 GB of RAM, each laptop rental can be custom configured with the exact hardware you need. You pay for only the specifications you need.
Aria Technology Solutions is focused on providing Mobile Technology Rentals for companies nationwide. With thousands of products in stock ready for same day shipping, they can supply rental companies with the quantity of laptops they need. Consistently competitive prices, breadth of inventory and equipment quality are just a few of the reasons their customers turn to Aria Technology Solutions for all their laptop rental needs.
Rent-A-Center provides more than furniture and household appliances rentals. They provide a decent selection of laptops, and are located in most cities across the nation. If you are looking for an average laptop for personal needs Rent a center is the way to go.
Aaron’s is a national leader in the sales and lease ownership and specialty retailing of residential and office furniture, consumer electronics, home appliances and accessories. They offer a handful of laptops at more than 1,800 Company-operated and franchised stores in 48 states and Canada.
Laptop rentals have their advantages. Are you trying to fill a business need or has something come up on short notice? You can rent a laptop to get the job done. If you are interested in purchasing a laptop but are unable to decide what you want, you can rent one short term to see if it what you want.
Planning on creating a site for your business? Considering the up-front cost of hiring developers to make a site for you, content management system (CMS) platforms have risen to the rescue to fill the gap. Two of the most well-known free CMS products available are WordPress and Joomla.
Both of them provide very powerful features that small businesses can use, but only one of them is appropriate for you. Today, let’s put these two content management systems head-to-head and determine which one remains the victor for your particular situation! It’s WordPress vs. Joomla!
We’ll first have a look at WordPress and see what it has in store for small businesses:
- It’s very robust and secure. WordPress is highly competitive and has risen above all other blogging platforms.
- While it’s primarily for blogging, it can prove a valuable platform for professionals and entrepreneurs who want to showcase the services they provide. Retrofitting WordPress is almost as easy as installing a theme. There are plenty of small business themes available. For professionals, I recommend using the Shell Lite theme, which I use for my own services.
- As hinted from my previous statement, it’s a blogging software right out of the box, meaning that you can add content from the get-go without having to worry very much about tweaking the software. If you’re hoping to make sales out of content, use this as your blogging platform. It can be very Google-friendly as long as you don’t choose very bulky themes.
- WordPress has a strong e-commerce platform through a plugin. Making a site that sells stuff is very simple and doesn’t require a lot of elbow grease.
- Sites made through WordPress are straightforward and simple. This can also be a downside. Making a complex site with lots of features that give your small business a competitive edge is very difficult through WordPress and sometimes could prove impossible. The one-click installation feature is convenient, but lots of the plugins have to rely on a very strict application programming interface (API) that doesn’t necessarily give them ample elbow room.
You’ve had a look at what WordPress is all about. Now, let’s put Joomla to a fair test against this contender:
- Extensions vary from very simple features to game-changing functionality. There are so many extensions for e-commerce sites that it may be difficult to know where to begin!
- Out of the box, Joomla provides an extensive array of features and the perfect layout for a business looking to sell things online. To have a look at how rich some sites using Joomla can be, have a look at the GSAS at Harvard or ITWire. But that’s probably not enough for you. You want to see a real e-commerce site in action. There’s Pierro-Astro and TrolleyStore. Both demonstrate how powerful Joomla can be for a small business. They are using the VirtueMart extension, in case you were wondering.
- This is not the ideal product for a blog. It’s rather difficult to set up a blog and maintain it. The indexing system is not as ideal as WordPress, and there are many other caveats to using this for a blog in general.
- Some security issues in the past have given Joomla a poor reputation, but it’s managed to mitigate most of these issues and even provide a guide for a properly secure setup.
- In general, Joomla is not for the faint of heart. The learning curve is long, it’s hard to set up, and the whole process can be a bit painstaking even for an individual with previous experience setting up WordPress.
- If you’re stuck somewhere, don’t expect a lot of support. The community is a bit slow to respond and the same can be said for the developers at Joomla.
If you’re looking for a solid piece of software, you can choose either one. However, only one of them is going to be suitable for your business. In a nutshell, use WordPress if you need something simple, fast, and content-smart. On the other hand, if you want to focus strictly on e-commerce, Joomla can really spruce up the look of your business!
The post WordPress vs. Joomla: Which Is The Best System For Your Business appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Social media promotions are one surefire way to get your followers up on Twitter or boost those likes on Facebook. You can boost engagement and get your brand out there. If you’re offering something good (Apple products like iPads are a very popular social media giveaway), you can see huge numbers of people getting involved.
But it has to be done right to get you the engagement you want. Anyone who wants an iPad will “like” or retweet something for the chance to win, but many won’t bother to find out anything about your business, if it’s that easy to get involved in your social promotion. The key is to make participants really think about what you do. How?
Well, first, you want to give away something of value, but something that’s connected to your business in a real way. So if you provide a software solution, perhaps the winner gets one free year of your software. This ensures that the people who are entering and following and liking are actually potential customers. And how about every entrant has to tell you in a tweet why they need what you’re giving away? If it’s productivity software, maybe they’ll say, “I need your software because I want to double my work output.” And/or make it fun. Have everyone write a haiku about your business, or have them take a picture of the weirdest thing in their office/on their desk.
Finally, know the law. Here’s a look at the legalities of social promotions.
There are some great ways to do social promotions and get valuable data out of it. For instance, Splurgy and Grosocial allow you to create and automate social media campaigns. The lighter weight Splurgy is free to use, while the powerful Grosocial costs between $30 and $60 a month. Check out our closer look at Grosocial here.
Let us know in the comments how you do social promotions and what your experience with them has been!
The post Best Practices for Social Media Promotions: Get More Followers, Engagement, and Sales appeared first on Small Business Technology.
What’s your favorite email management tool and why?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
1. Constant Contact
I use Constant Contact to manage my email lists and communications. The tool makes sending smart, custom-designed emails easy. All of the bells-and-whistles features make you look like a big company, even when it’s just you. The best thing is that, if you aren’t going to send any communications for a while, you can store your list for a small fee.
- Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work
If you use Gmail for your email needs, go get Boomerang ASAP! It lets you remove emails from your inbox that don’t need immediate attention or that you’re waiting to follow up on. It then brings them back whenever you choose. It can also send emails automatically at a preferred time. Trust me; get it now.
- Shahzil (Shaz) Amin, Blue Track Media, LLC
Infusionsoft is more than just email management. It allows you to collect prospects’ email addresses and follow up with them automatically and send broadcast emails, but it’s so much more than that. It has smart-tracking and tagging features that you can use to segment your list and target your offers.
- Nathalie Lussier, The Website Checkup Tool
Bananatag is a must-have email management tool for any business owner. This service effortlessly tracks your sent emails so you can see what happens to them after they are sent. The system then notifies you of both email opens and link clicks inside your email. The interface is very user-friendly and displays all your email metrics in an easy-to-follow dashboard.
- Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings
5. MailChimp’s Group Feature
We use MailChimp “Groups” to send subscribers content they want. We’ve used MailChimp’s tools to collect more data about our subscribers so we know what they like to receive. This has allowed us to steer away from blanketing users with mass emails. Instead, MailChimp makes us smarter as marketers because we can pinpoint our target audiences using their technology.
- Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
I’ve really enjoyed using Mailbox on my iPhone. The app is super slick and is based on a practical philosophy. The app encourages you to take action on your email (archive, delete, snooze, list) and will actually get you to inbox zero. It’s a great feeling.
- John Meyer, Lemon.ly
I’m a huge fan of Klaviyo. It allows you to segment your customers in any possible way (people who bought or haven’t bought products, people who always open your emails, etc.) and send messages to those people. By sending the right content to the right people, it increases engagement, sales and our ability to connect directly with our customers in a relevant way.
- Kit Hickey, Ministry of Supply
Taskforce lets the user transform all of his or her emails into tasks. It comes with an automatic filtering feature as well. Even if an email comes from someone not using Taskforce, you can still assign it to one of your tasks. It’s a great tool for managing and prioritizing your work-related emails, and it cuts down on the time spent digging through your inbox.
- Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
I’m not a fan of receiving newsletters, so I’m a big Unroll.me user. Unroll.me lets you easily unsubscribe from newsletters you may have receive. if you want to continue receiving them, it lets you combine multiple newsletters into one single email.
- Ben Lang, EpicLaunch
Beyond its role as a de facto to-do list, email is most valuable to me as a tool to manage my business connections. Streak does an awesome job of organizing my emails into specific “pipelines” for sales, fundraising, PR, etc. I love the ability to share specific pipelines with teammates.
- Neil Thanedar, LabDoor
The post 10 Awesome Email Management Tools appeared first on Small Business Technology.
While you’re probably worried about the future and are constantly trying to make your business a more customer-friendly environment, there are a couple of things you need to know about mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have been penetrating the workplace for a while already. They’ve made conducting business a very simple process while, at the same time, ensuring that employees can attend to work practically anywhere in the world. It’s been quite a blast to have these things around.
However, there’s a flip-side to mobile penetration. Your business’ security and integrity can be threatened by two things: The loss of a device that eventually ends up in the wrong hands, and the intentional theft of one. These things can’t always be prevented, but there are ways in which you can make the possibility of such things happening minimal.
Digital Defense, Inc., a provider of a variety of network security products, has been kind enough to give us some tips on ensuring that your mobile security is as tight as a taut rope:
- Make and enforce a mobile security policy within your business. Obviously, this means having a dialogue with your employees on how they should operate their mobile devices. We’ll get to some of the details in the points below.
- Make sure that employees are aware that they must use certain devices to access your enterprise networking infrastructure. This is to help you determine which devices are able to access the network and which aren’t.
- Configure the network in such a way that only devices you’ve approved for use with that network will have connectivity.
- If you’re giving employees devices you own for their use at work, make sure you have a way to track them. Make an inventory of these devices regularly.
- Limit the amount of operating systems and device brands that you distribute to employees. It’s preferable to have only one or two brands of phones. This removes the headaches of having to manage the weaknesses in each brand of phone.
- If you’re going to limit phones to one operating system, choose one that has strong OS-level encryption. iOS has very powerful security that includes solid encryption, for example.
- Lest you be concerned about employee privacy on a phone that you gave them, conduct random inspection of these phones. Obviously, if you let employees bring their own phones, you’d be breaching their privacy by doing this.
- Any phones you give employees should not be capable of tethering or providing hotspots.
- Don’t allow company-owned devices to synchronize with cloud services automatically (like iCloud).
- Teach employees how to make a strong password (a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols, like “fjF@94#,” works) and enforce this policy any way you can. The hardest passwords to crack are phrases with symbols embedded in them (such as “ph1llip w3nt to th3 m@rk3t”). The longer the password, the better it is at resisting brute force and dictionary attacks.
- Configure mobile devices so that they do not cache sensitive data (like passwords) on their browsers.
They also have one final piece of advice: Keep up to date on the latest mobile security threats. After you’ve learned how to mitigate these threats, teach your employees to do the same and ensure that their phones and tablets are kept up to snuff!
The post 12 Mobile Security Tips All Small Businesses Must Be Aware Of appeared first on Small Business Technology.
The spirit of American entrepreneurship is alive and well. It is that spirit that is the drive and determination of these visionaries who are responsible for some of the most successful and ubiquitous products on the market today. Case histories abound with stories of vast technology companies who had their beginnings in garages; of two or three individuals collaborating on the next breakthrough in medicine; of small companies working with other small companies to bring the next innovation in video entertainment to the market place - even a worldwide social network begun in a university dorm room. While these stories are, for the most part, more accurate than allegorical, the products themselves did not come to market overnight.
In fact, through trial and error, the process of attaining commercial viability can be a long process and can be a discouraging one – and it can prove to be expensive. It need not be. A solid manufacturing partner with a track record of working with small and start-up companies, as well as with individual entrepreneurs, can help make that journey from concept to marketplace a reality, with fewer stumbling blocks along the way. Small businesses are no exception and should be even more concerned about working with a good manufacturing partner.
Collaboration from the Start
It is important to develop a relationship with a manufacturing company that believes in conceptual collaboration. Working together, designers, engineers and visionaries can utilize that manufacturer’s expertise and industry contacts. From the very first steps, they can collaborate to ensure that all phases of product design, development and manufacture -- even marketing in some cases -- work together. Sometimes called “concurrent engineering ”, it’s an uncomplicated concept that reaps large benefits. Teaming with a company that has those capabilities as well as years of technical know-how, a dedicated staff who will work with you to find the right answers to the challenges along the way, and with a global presence, can make the trip from idea to commercial product as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
Occam’s Razor Meets the Conveyor Belt
The strategy behind conceptual collaboration is simple. The principle of Occam’s Razor states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum necessary to achieve the correct results. Well, in conceptual collaboration, one should not make any more product design adjustments during the manufacturing process than necessary. First, it is critical to find a manufacturing outlet that is not only willing to work with you or your designing/engineering team, but also has the experience, expertise and industry connections to guide you at each step of the way.
At each stage of your product’s development, it is important that a team of experienced technicians be available to make sure that each phase of the process is on track and in sync with all the other phases. Multidisciplinary teams should work in parallel from the start of the project to test and make sure every detail in every phase is correct before moving on to the next. This saves unnecessary revisions and duplications in the process, cutting down on not only the time to market, but the expense of multiple design revisions. Initial input needs to be obtained from as many sources as will be involved in the project for the duration. Joining forces early in the workflow means that any necessary compromises can be made in areas such as design and incorporation of all features, availability of product, assembly requirements, material needs, and cost and time considerations. If potential pitfalls are recognized early, design and manufacturing reconciliations can be made with little workflow interruption. It is generally accepted that conceptual collaboration, or sequential development, can result in anywhere from 30 – 40 percent savings in overall project time and cost.
Go From “Can We Do It?” to “We CAN Do It!”
Early collaboration with a company is only part of the equation. Just as important is who that company is. A company with a successful track record in collaboration through to finished product is of prime importance. As an example, FLEXcon has worked successfully with a number of innovative engineers, designers and scientists in developing commercially viable products for a variety of industries. Most recently, an innovative surface application film was developed that decreases the need for bactericide in health care settings.
This film, called Sharklet®, inhibits the growth of bacteria by not allowing it to grow on a specially designed surface similar to a shark’s skin. In collaboration with University of Florida’s Dr. Anthony Brennan, FLEXcon was chosen for this project because it is the only manufacturing company with the know-how and capability to transfer, microscopically, that pattern of shark skin design to a wide-web construction, allowing it to be commercially viable. The material is currently in use and being studied at the University of Colorado Hospital.
The progress in this field of microstructure research has shown that, with the appropriate collaboration and the experienced technical specialists, commercially viable products can be developed and brought to the marketplace in a timely manner. Constant communication and input is not only functional but feasible.
Other researchers and designer have contacted FLEXcon and our experts are working closely with them on products and designs such as the mapping of the topography of a moth’s eye in an effort to determine its effectiveness in an application for photovoltaic use. A moth’s eye has an unusual property: the surfaces are covered with a natural nano-structured film which eliminates reflections.
While also acting in that protective capacity as a natural defense, this lack of reflectivity also allows for greater light absorption. If successful, the application of this technology will increase the light-gathering capabilities of standard photovoltaic cells by some 15 to 20 percent, thus increasing their efficiency in gathering available light, and also amplifying their storage capacity. This will potentially create a much more efficient solar cell, enhance the potential use of this alternative energy source and, hopefully, decrease our dependence of fossil fuels.
Other capabilities include film casting, the production of very thin layers of polymeric films that can be used in a variety of unique applications in the aerospace and medical industries. Making use of the readily available expertise of polymer developers, FLEXcon is able to use its manufacturing assets and wide web roll to roll processing capabilities to create these unique film functions.
One of the stumbling blocks to exciting and innovative products has, in the past, been either the inability of companies to conceptually collaborate with those in the research fields, or the fact that many companies just don’t have the capabilities to carry projects through from start to finish. FLEXcon, which has decades of experience, is a company that can offer a wide choice of options to meet whatever needs you may have during the production process.
Developing Now and for the Future
From the beginning, designers and engineers need to work closely with manufacturers in their efforts to bring a commercially viable product to market. It is expertise, curiosity and experience that have brought many of the concepts once relegated to academia, research labs or other ‘idea incubators’ to the manufacturing floor and, eventually, to commercialization. Requests range from the esoteric to the everyday. But regardless of the designs and engineering challenges,
conceptual collaboration works in all instances. During all phases of manufacture, it is imperative to involve cross-functional teams, from technical to quality assurance, purchasing, marketing and a large list of suppliers and service representatives. Work with companies that provide a vast range of technical knowledge. At FLEXcon you can tap into our process engineers who understand our process capabilities to develop the product you need to create.
In today’s market, it is not necessarily those who build a better mousetrap, but those who can get it to market quickly who will reap the rewards. Concurrent engineering, conceptual collaboration, integrated product development – call it what you will, its benefits to designers, manufacturers and the marketplace in general, can be substantial. In addition to the project cost and time savings, working together with a company who has the technical know-how, a variety of ancillary products, solid relationships with suppliers and a global presence can assure future products will be of the same quality and consistency as any prototype developed together. Knowing that collaboration with a company you can trust and can rely on to provide the same type of service for any of your future projects is a relationship well worth cultivating.
William Sullivan is Vice President, Performance Products for Spencer, MA-based FLEXcon, Inc., and oversees a department responsible for, among other things, the development, marketing and commercialization of high performance adhesives, functional coatings, film castings and the creation of functional microstructures. Author of published articles primarily on FLEXcon’s success in helping in the creation of Sharklet, a functional microstructure which prevents the growth of bacteria through its microscopic design capabilities, his expertise is in assisting start-up companies and enterprises with bringing their concepts and ideas to commercial reality.
FLEXcon is an innovator in adhesive coating, laminating and finishing of durable materials used in graphics applications, electronics and new products. Through a culture of curiosity, flexibility and a drive for excellence, FLEXcon is the trusted partner to a wide range of companies from printers and fabricators to engineers and designers developing products for existing and emerging markets. Headquartered in Spencer, MA the company has operations throughout North America and Europe with distribution worldwide. For more information, visit www.FLEXcon.com or call 1-508-885-8200. Follow us on Twitter @FLEXcon.
What you offer is amazing, but too often prospective customers just don’t“get it”! They don’t buy or they aren’t willing to pay what you know your product or service is worth. If you suffer from this problem, then you won’t want to miss our upcoming NYC Event, ‘Get Prospective Customers To Say ‘WOW’ and Close More Sales!‘ In this seminar, we’ll show you how to overcome this problem so your customers ‘get it’ and you begin to close more sales!
Get More Customers To Say ‘WOW’ and Close More Sales!
May 30, 2013 - 9 am to 11am
Regus Office Suites
1745 Broadway, NY, NY
Presented by Infusionsoft
and Evan Horowitz Advising
Using marketing techniques taught at Harvard Business School, Evan will show you how to dramatically increase the number of people who buy. He’ll show you a way to talk about your product or service that makes prospective customers say “WOW!”
Ramon will show you how to use the 7 steps of Lifecycle Marketing to capture leads, nurture prospects and turn customers into loyal, lifelong customers.
From this content-packed session, you’ll gain:
- A whole new way to close more sales, designed for “non-sales” people who want to be authentic and extremely effective.
- A step-by-step process to enhance your communications, so instead of saying “OK cool,” they say “WOW! Tell me more!”
- Evan’s “Communications Workbook,” so you can apply these secrets to YOUR business during our interactive training.
- A process that allows you to capture leads, nurture prospects and turn those into lifelong customers.
- A Lifecycle Marketing workbook and marketing plan for your business.
Register today so you don’t miss out on this great event!
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Millions of people each year are impacted by identity theft–a statistic that now includes small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration. Crafty thieves are coming up with creative ways to scam small business owners. In fact, according to the Ponemon Institute, 60 percent of small businesses have had at least one data breach in the past year, emphasizing the importance of having identity protection in place. Valuable customer data and inside information can be leaked through these data breaches, damaging your company’s reputation and potentially costing business.
“Security breaches continue to be a major concern for companies of all sizes, but small businesses are especially at risk given their limited resources and lack of security expertise,” said Dale Dabbs, CEO of EZShield.
In addition to EZShield, several services are now available to help small businesses prevent data breaches. When looking at cost, it’s important to weigh it against the potential costs you’ll incur if a data breach happens.
- EZShield–With a full assessment to determine each business’s needs, EZShield provides a consultant to help with implementing security and reacting if an identity breach occurs. The service also allows businesses to extend identity theft protection to employees as an additional perk. Basic protection starts at only $5.90 per month.
- IDefend Business–When it comes to identity protection, knowledge is power. IDefend Business keeps an eye out for businesses, providing alerts and reports from Dun & Bradstreet. iDefend Business costs $29.95 a month.
- Firewalls–Every small business should have a strong firewall in place to protect data. If your services are now Cloud-based, still make sure each PC is protected. Services like ZoneAlarm and Symantec Endpoint Protection are both proven and affordable.
- Positive Pay–Avoid fraudulent checks by signing up for this service through your financial institution. You let the bank know which checks have been written against your accounts and the bank verifies those checks before cashing them. Since check fraud is such a prevalent crime, this can save businesses thousands of dollars.
- Online tools–As we pointed out earlier this year, several resources are available to help you learn more about protecting your business. The National Association of Secretaries of State has joined forces with the Identity Theft Protection Association to form BusinessIDTheft.org. The site provides a toolkit to help small businesses learn to protect and monitor accounts, put controls in place, and keep your data safe. The information on the site is free to access, so businesses have nothing to lose.
Identity theft is a problem for both businesses and individuals. Business owners have an additional level of responsibility, however, since they are intrusted with valuable customer data. Identity theft can not only harm a business’s bottom line, it can shutter that business for good. By utilizing the above-mentioned tools, you can keep your customers and your private data safe from the eyes of criminals without spending fortune.
The post Could Identity Theft Impact Your Small Business? appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Mobile apps are increasingly being used to boost productivity and automate businesses, according to a recent survey by FileMaker. Many businesses are building custom solutions.
“The next wave of business mobility, fueled by iPad and iPhone-equipped ‘productivity warriors,’ is delivering real ROI by automating processes in the building and on the company campus,” said Ryan Rosenberg, Vice President of Marketing and Services for FileMaker. Many businesses are replacing paper-based processes with mobile processes.
FileMaker makes database software that allows users to build custom databases, produce reports, keep track of inventory and more. Other database software solutions include Microsoft Access and Oracle.
FileMaker’s survey and research into their customers revealed that there are many ways businesses are connecting workers to their servers, but the most common method (59% of the time) is a direct connection over local wireless network, which allows for iPhones and iPads to be integrated into the workflow.
The survey found organizations also are creating solutions that connect workers to servers when out of the office. Popular methods include remote connections via the Internet (35%) and connections via a VPN (21%).
More than half (51%) of the mobility case studies involved replacing paper-based processes. For instace, Boston University’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP), one of the leading intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) schools with 1,700 students per year, replaced its cumbersome, paper-based admissions processes – which occur 10 or more times a year – with a new, automated document management system on the FileMaker platform. The system includes a custom solution running on iPads and desktops. The new system has replaced photocopiers with iPads, slashed up-front document collection time by more than 50%, and reduced wait times for students.
Organizations are also “mobilizing” many traditional business tasks, not just “mobile” tasks. We recently reported on three businesses who used Filemaker to build apps that helped grow their businesses. The top 10 tasks automated with FileMaker are: 1) contact and customer management; 2) inventory; 3) invoicing/quotes/orders/estimates; 4) field data collection and field surveys; 5) project management; 6) general data tracking and logging; 7) timesheets; 8) reports and analysis; 9) work tickets and scheduling; and 10) medical records.
This survey is just one company’s data on their particular customers, but it’s clear that iPhones, iPads and similar devices are here to stay and will be affecting the way we all do business more and more with each passing year. Check out our list of must-have travel apps for business owners.
Let us know in the comments how you use mobile devices and apps in your business!
The post Rise Of The Productivity Warrior: Boosting Your Business With Mobile Apps (Infographic) appeared first on Small Business Technology.
New School or Tried and True: Are We Making Too Much of a Big Deal About Social vs. Traditional CRM?
Contributed by Lena L. West, Founder of InfluenceExpansion.com
Is social CRM just traditional CRM turned on its ear? Or is the small business community simply fascinated with yet another buzz term?
But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself.
For the uninitiated, CRM, is shorthand for Customer Relationship Management and Wikipedia defines CRM as “a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.”
Simply put, CRM is a way to keep up with existing and potential clients in order to provide a seamless client-care experience and when clients have a consistent experience – a task that is not easy for busy small business owners – they stick around longer and make referrals to other ideal clients.
Clients and customers are critical to any company; in fact, without them, you don’t have a business at all. So it only makes sense that small business owners would want to deliver consistent, quality communication and interactions with their valued client base.
The challenge in today’s business environment is most communication and interaction takes place via social networks, and unless a business owner has superpowers, it’s hard to keep up with all the streams of communications coming at you on a daily basis – which is why the most popular CRM systems now come bundled with social channel “hooks” or tie-ins.
The evolution of CRM systems to include social media connections has raised a bit of a debate within the small business and CRM communities; should business owners seek out a CRM tool that’s heavy on social functionality or should they stick with a tried and true CRM system?
Loretta Jones, VP of Marketing at Insightly, a leading web-based CRM application, thinks the small business community is over-processing the social vs. traditional debate, “I do think it’s yet another catch phrase because these days 90% of CRM applications have social. So when I see [the phrase] ‘social CRM’, I’m wondering what’s the difference between social CRM and a CRM system with social hooks? And, so far, out of all the things I read on the Internet, no one has a good answer for that question.”
Jones is super clear about what she thinks, but, I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here are some of the chief points of differentiation between traditional and social CRM, what do you think?
- Communication vs. Process – Historically, businesses have used CRM applications to implement and adhere to certain processes whether it’s how to manage leads or projects, CRM has, for a long time, been driven by tasks. One of the foundational rules of marketing and sales is you can’t make a client buy anything, the best thing you can do is be top-of-mind when they decide they’re in the market for what you’re selling. And, social conversations provide a great way of staying top-of-mind so it only stands to reason that more and more, today’s CRM apps are mining the social sphere and helping small businesses to develop a process around putting themselves in and around their client’s conversations online.
- Individuals vs. Communities – For many companies, CRM apps function as a way to store and quickly access contact information and data about individuals. Social CRM will put your brand at the center of a community and allow you to identify and track the social conversations of the usual set of stakeholders while also tracking and engaging the “unwritten” gatekeepers as well as entire communities of influencers. This allows you to connect with people where they “hang out” online and thus have a better chance of getting on their radar.
- Actions vs. Content – And, of course, traditional CRM systems provide a means to keep up with any number of actions you’ve taken in relates to a client: sent email, details of phone conversations, potential deals in the pipeline, etc. With the added layer of social CRM you can catalog actions, especially your company’s responses and replies to frequent questions and requests. Your business can then turn those responses and replies into helpful social media content such as a “Did You Know?” series of updates for your Facebook Business Page or as a starter question for a hosted Twitter chat.
The increased attention social CRM is getting is definitely warranted – the additional data, conversation entry points and content generating and participation capabilities are all gold to a small business looking to grow. But, in a way, I agree with Jones, above; instead of using our energy to split hairs about social versus traditional, let’s take that energy and direct it toward taking advantage of and leveraging the additional opportunities social CRM offers.
Lena L. West is the Founder of InfluenceExpansion.com, home of the Influence Expansion Academy, the only social media learning academy created SPECIFICALLY for women entrepreneurs. Membership starts at just $5/mo. Really!
The post New School or Tried and True: Are We Making Too Much of a Big Deal About Social vs. Traditional CRM? appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Running a business takes a lot of know how. Starting a business without that know how makes the first few years a rocky road. Luckily, there are several great resources online that can help you make fewer mistakes than those that came before you.
A newly launched resource comes to us from MOO, the makers of some of the best business cards you can get. (Check out our list of the best in online printing services.) MOO’s Startup Business Toolkit is a collection of tools, articles and resources for small businesses, start ups and entrepreneurs, that will be regularly updated over the coming months.
They’ll be adding articles written by carefully sourced experts, entrepreneurs, startup founders and people at MOO itself, filled with educational tips on starting and maintaining a successful business. Right now, they have a look at the benefits of being your own boss, a flow chart to help you evaluate your business idea, and tips on making the switch from freelancer to founder.
We recently covered another fantastic resource from SCORE. It’s a small business success podcast, answering burning questions many business owners have. SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They deliver their services at no charge.
Their podcast covers the following topics:
- How Can I Convert Leads Into Buyers? (Sales)
- Understanding Finance/Accounting – Value of Inventories, Critical Numbers & Reports, Metrics
- Leading People/HR
- How Can I Get Found on the Internet? (Websites/SEO)
- Getting the Most Out of Social Media
So if you’re starting a business, definitely check out those resources, and keep checking back on Smallbiztechnology.com for a lot more great content.
Let us know about your business in the comments!
The post Two Great Resources For Those Starting A Small Business appeared first on Small Business Technology.
By Ari Rabban, CEO, Phone.com
Small and medium-sized business (SMB) spending on cloud solutions will grow almost 20 percent annually through 2018, IDC predicts. If your business doesn’t use hosted communications and IT services, here are five reasons why it should:
1 - Significantly lower costs compared to on-premise systems. The initial savings are in the form of CapEx because hosted services free businesses from the five-, six- or seven-figure upfront cost of hardware and software. The long-term savings are in the form of OpEx because small businesses don’t have to dedicate staff to managing that infrastructure. Another bottom-line benefit is that their staff now can focus on both their company’s core competencies and revenue-generating tasks.
Low or no upfront costs also enable small businesses to take advantage of telecom and IT solutions that they otherwise couldn’t afford. As a result, cloud services help level the playing field between small businesses and their larger rivals.
2 - Fast access to patches, upgrades and innovations.Small businesses typically have small IT staffs, when they have them at all. Either way, implementing patches and upgrades often gets pushed to the back burner. That creates problems such as security risks in the case of patches and lost productivity because an upgrade isn’t in place to eliminate bugs or add features. With hosted solutions, the provider automatically pushes out patches and upgrades.
Also, providers of hosted telecom and IT services often make their latest and greatest products available to their cloud customers six months or more before they’re released to customers with premise-based systems. That gives cloud customers a competitive advantage.
3 - An extensive, growing selection of services and prices. Hosted offerings no longer are limited to PBXes and basic IT services such as storage and backup. In fact, it’s getting difficult to find a business application – even highly specialized ones – that isn’t now available on a hosted basis. If you passed on cloud services because what you needed wasn’t available, it’s worth taking a fresh look.
If you already have cloud services, consider what else is available. For example, does your hosted PBX provider offer value-added services such as transcription, caller analytics and call recording? If not, hopping to another cloud could get features that make your employees more productive and responsive to customers.
The bottom line is that the choice of features and pricing will continue to grow, thanks to competition among cloud providers. They know that SMB cloud spending is increasing at a healthy clip, and they also know that one-upmanship is key to staying relevant and profitable.
4 - The world is your office. Small businesses often have employees scattered around a city, country or the world. They also often have a lot of road warriors, especially in the case of startups that are constantly running around lining up customers and making a name for themselves.
The cloud extends communications and IT services to those employees anywhere in the world where there’s a decent Internet connection: a home office, an airport lounge, a hotel, a customer’s facility, to name just a few. In fact, Ericsson predicts that by 2016, 70 percent of cloud access will be over cellular broadband. Whether it’s over a wired or wireless connection, cloud-based services enable employees to be more productive and responsive.
5 -Peace of mind. On-premise solutions are only a reliable as the premises they’re on. If your business’ ability to communicate and work is riding on a rack of gear in a closet, what happens if there’s a tornado, flood, fire or terrorist attack?
The best hosted services have their infrastructure spread over a wide geographic area, such as both ends of the country or around the world. That redundancy makes it highly unlikely that a single event will affect their customers – or their customers’ customers. Cloud providers also have hardened facilities with round-the-clock security, which are additional layers of protection. All of that adds up to one thing: business continuity.
It’s Tech Thursday from Smallbiztechnology.com. Each week we take a quick look at business and technology news and updates for the small business community and share them with you in a quick and simple round-up.
Dell Services Launches the Dell ProSupport Enterprise Suite
New Suite Helps Customers Improve Performance of Critical Systems, Increase Productivity and Reduce Downtime
As enterprises face an increasingly complex and converged IT environment, they require a higher level of service to maintain and optimize performance. Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of its award-winning Dell ProSupport service that boasts an estimated 95 percent enterprise customer satisfaction, Dell unveiled its new ProSupport Enterprise Suite of services.
With new support offerings and automation, customers can improve the hardware performance and stability in the data center, leverage the insights gained through intelligent data and increase the productivity of their teams.
For more information on Dell ProSupport Plus, click here.
Seiko Instruments Smart Label Printers Offer Easier Way to Get Organized
New printer line frees up desk space, supports Microsoft Office®, and simplifies day-to-day administrative tasks.
Seiko Instruments USA Inc. (SII) Thermal Printer Division, a globally recognized leader in thermal printer technology announced the availability of its new Smart Label Printer 600 Series (SLP 600).
The new desktop label printer lineup offers three cost-effective models, ideal for professional services firms, healthcare applications, small businesses, and home office users. SLP 600 printers are more convenient and versatile than traditional sheet-fed label printing solutions. The new printers allow customers to rapidly customize individual labels, print out whole mailing databases, and easily interchange among address labels, file folder labels, shipping labels, multipurpose labels, and others.
For more on these new printers, click here.
Regus and Concur Form Partnership Making Business Travel Efficient and Productive
Alliance brings together experts in flexible workspaces and business travel management
Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplaces, and Concur, joined forces to help business travelers increase their productivity while traveling.
Through the new partnership, today’s busy professionals can manage their business travel logistics, which includes trip and expense management, as well as finding a convenient place to work.
As part of the agreement, Concur Small Business Edition customers will receive 12 months of Regus’ Preferred Businessworld Membership giving them access to more than 1,500 business
lounges in 100 countries. Regus’ lounges provide road warriors with unprecedented access to professional drop-in locations where they can work, hold a meeting with a client or colleague or relax with a cup of coffee in between appointments. Additional discounts are available on 12-month office and virtual office agreements.
In turn, Regus customers will receive a 45-day complimentary trial to Concur’s Small Business Edition. With Concur’s integrated travel and expense system, managers get greater visibility into company spend, while providing their employees with a simple, expense reporting tool.
Concur customers can activate their Regus’ Preferred Membership by visiting: www.regus.com/concur.
The post Tech Thursday (5/16): News From Dell, Seiko, Concur and Regus appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Here is a listing of NYC Business and Technology Events for the upcoming week (5/17 – 5/23) that we thought would be beneficial to our small business community in the Greater NYC area.
Have a business and/or technology event coming up in the New York City area that you’d like us to add to our weekly post? If so, email us at eve...@smallbiztechnology.com.
The Digital Marketing Toolkit for Small Businesses
May 20, 2013, – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, Pillsbury Law – Winthrop Room, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
For the typical small business owner, digital marketing is a bewildering array of options. Choosing the right tools to reach your goals is essential. Join a panel of thought leaders, who specialize in helping small businesses with all aspects of online marketing. We’ll discuss using advertising and email, offers and community, and other strategies to help your small business acquire and retain customers using digital channels.
Our goal: to shed light on which tools and strategies give the most in return, so small business owners can spend more time on what really matters: running their business.
Marketing Your Summer Event
May 20, 2013, – 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, In Good Company, 16 West 23rd St, 4th Fl, New York
Events present wonderful branding opportunities for entrepreneurs and solopreneurs to connect with fans, network with future collaborators and meet potential clients. If you are interested in planning and executing events to market your expertise, join Nicole McGarrell for Marketing Your Summer Event. The workshop will cover the following topics:
• Event marketing strategies and tools to get the right attendees in the door
• How to set up and manage your event in one complete, easy-to-use online solution
• How to promote your event, send invitations, accept registrations, process payments seamlessly
• Using your event to lead to future customers and sales
• How to use events to build your brand even further
What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About Gestures
May 20, 2013, – 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, WeWork Labs, 175 Varick Street, New York, NY
We’re not all waving at our computers to check email yet, but like the jetpack of yesteryear, nearly all of us have seen Minority Report and Iron Man and kind of expect it to be just around the corner. Sci-fi is leading the public conception of what gestures mean for our audiences as users and ourselves as designers, and we should examine that carefully before we accept it as what’s best.
Christopher Noessel, co-author of the book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Sci-Fi, will be leading an interactive presentation live from San Francisco, talking about the gesture chapter of the book: covering the paradigm that Hollywood has (accidentally) invented, what a narrative point of view means for gestural interfaces, and see illustrative clips from sci-fi to back up the analysis.
Big Data, NoSQL, Now What?
May 22, 2013, – 7:00 PM, AlleyNYC, 500 7th ave 17th floor, New York, NY
Big Data technologies are evolving to suit the needs of real-time analytics for 2013 and beyond. During this interactive discussion we will explore this evolution starting with a brief recap on Hadoop and related technologies, how NoSQL technologies fit in the Big Data landscape and where things can/should go from here. Of course, this dialogue would not be complete without discussing the new and changing roles in IT, what IT managers should know vs developer/architect concerns
B2B Mobile Leadership Forum
May 23, 2013, – 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM, New York University Midtown Campus, 11 West 42nd St, Room 1027, New York, New York 10036
By now we understand the trends with mobile. Almost all business decision makers have smartphones and most of them identify their phone as their primary business communication tool. Tablets are increasingly the device of choice to consume content for business leaders. Mobile traffic is growing at an unprecedented rate.
The B2B Mobile Leadership Forum is limited to 75 senior marketing and communications executives from major B2B brands and agencies. Our format will include case study presentations followed by a 60 minute interactive moderated panel discussion where attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions and share their insights with the audience.
The post NYC Events: Upcoming NYC Business and Technology Events (5/17 – 5/23) appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Often when working on a computer, employees may find that their desktop just gets too crowded. When managing many different windows, they begin to overlap and hide one another, which creates a chaotic workplace. Microsoft attempted to relieve this stress by adding the snap feature to windows, allowing users to have two windows side by side, taking up half of the desktop. However, in a rapidly evolving technological age, is that really enough?
Just in writing this article, I have five windows open and I have to work around that overlap. Actual Multiple Monitors is software that really clears the clutter and helps you organize your computer experience.
Actual Multiple Monitors for Windows allows users to recreate the entirety of the desktop, including the Windows 7 taskbar on each monitor that utilizes all of the functions, like Pin, Peek, and Jump lists. Further, it provides a full copy of the start button, system tray, clock, toolbars, etc., as well as allows Windows 8 users to create Start menus or replace them with Start buttons from Windows 7.
Now the name of the software is a bit misleading, because multiple monitors aren’t actually needed. You can have your single desktop, and split that into a grid of tiles to your liking. Open a new window and it pops up in one of your grid spaces. Maximize it and its borders are those of the grid you’ve set. Instead of wasting time opening, resizing, and rearranging windows you can dive straight into work, upping your productivity. Start to find a few different set ups for your grid depending on what you’re doing? Hotkey the layout and use is again later. Need to move a window to a certain tile area? Use hotkeys to move it without even lifting your hands.
Have a few jobs that need doing? You can customize each desktop, complete with custom backgrounds, screensavers, and hotkeys for each one, switching desktops as your work to reduce time wasted rearranging windows or changing keys. If you want a certain application to open in a certain spot or monitor, even that is an option.
While the name may mislead you into thinking it’s an unnecessary product for your business, Actual Multiple Monitors can be a real time saver for any Windows based work for your business. Employees will be better able to customize their experience, and time wasted reconfiguring will become time spent earning you a profit.
The post New Software Helps To Customize Your Desktop Across Single or Multiple Monitors appeared first on Small Business Technology.
This morning, Metalogix announced the launch of Content Matrix Migration Express to make SharePoint migrations simple and fast. The new Migration Express edition is highly suited for SharePoint customers with focused migrations or Office 365 deployment projects. The new product is available as a free offering for 25 GBs along with additional small and departmental editions opportunistically priced and purchased online via credit card from Metalogix.com.
Metalogix Launches Content Matrix Migration Expressto Simplify and Speed Up SharePoint Migrations On-Premises or in the Cloud
Download the Free Edition or Purchase Online from Metalogix.com to Rapidly and Cost-Effectively Migrate Content and Files to SharePoint 2013 or Office 365
Washington, DC –May 15, 2013 – Metalogix, the leading provider of content infrastructure software to improve the use and performance of enterprise content on Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange and Cloud platforms, today announced the launch of Content Matrix Migration Express to make SharePoint migrations simple and fast. The new Migration Express edition is highly suited for SharePoint customers with focused migrations or Office 365 deployment projects. The new product is available as a free offering for 25 GBs along with additional small and departmental editions opportunistically priced and purchased online via credit card from Metalogix.com.
More than a decade of SharePoint migration experience, 7,500 customers and 50,000 terabytes successfully migrated has made Metalogix the established market-leader for SharePoint migrations. The new Content Matrix Migration Express provides SharePoint administrators fast, easy and affordable access to the industry’s most trusted and widely-used migration technology with the market’s most attractive pricing and packaging. The new edition includes a comprehensive range of features required for fast and focused migrations and upgrades to SharePoint 2010, 2013 and to Office 365 from SharePoint 2003, 2007 and 2010. It also includes capabilities to migrate content from File Shares and Exchange Public Folders. Customers can securely purchase Content Matrix Migration Express Edition via Metalogix.com starting with a free version for up to 25 GBs and upgradable editions starting at $1,995. All purchases include Metalogix’s award-winning, live 24/7 product support.
“The proliferation of SharePoint has created sites large and small that could improve collaboration and knowledge sharing by migrating to SharePoint 2013 or Office 365,” said Steven Murphy, CEO, Metalogix. “Content Matrix Migration Express was designed to make the migration process simple, fast and accessible for SharePoint implementations of all sizes. Robust migration capabilities combined with affordable pricing, online purchasing, live 24/7 customer support and a wealth of resources allow customers to quickly and confidently begin their SharePoint migration projects on-premises or the cloud at the most attractive pricing and packaging options available in the market.”
Content Matrix Migration Express is easy to use because it downloads and installs in mere minutes and requires only a simple, one-time connection to get started. Content Matrix Migration Express requires no server side install, which is ideal for moving to Office 365 or SharePoint Online as organizations can connect and migrate using Microsoft’s API. This ability is highly beneficial and tactical for departments within organizations that want to move only a small portion of content to the cloud.
Migrating content is simply a matter of selecting and copying content from the source and pasting it onto the target SharePoint environment. Powerful site collection migration features allow migration of entire site collections at once. The product’s reorganization capabilities help clean up existing structure prior to a migration as well as create a new structure in the target destination during the migration.
Metalogix is offering Content Matrix Migration Express for free for migrating up to 25 GBs so customers can experience the benefits risk-free and immediately get started on their SharePoint 2010, 2013, or Office 365 migration projects.
The full edition of Metalogix Content Matrix is also now available to purchase directly from Metalogix.com. This edition supports migration from additional content sources including website content, blogs and wiki products, and eRoom. It includes advanced features such as the ability to offload migrated BLOBs with the Metalogix RBS product StoragePoint, migrate Nintex workflows or MySite Collections and more advanced filtering options for migrated content. Organization tools available directly within the SharePoint UI allow administrators to offload significant portions of pre-migration, post-migration, and Continuous Improvement organization work to Site Collection Owners and Site Owners.
Customers with larger amounts of content, advanced migration needs or a large number of sites and users should consider the full Content Matrix product for their SharePoint upgrade and reorganization needs. For more information, please visit the product page.
Metalogix provides content infrastructure software to improve the use and performance of enterprise content. For over a decade, Metalogix has transformed the way commercial and government organizations manage terabytes of content to improve knowledge sharing and collaboration. Today, more than 7,500 customers rely on the company’s products to upgrade, migrate, organize, store, archive and replicate content on Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange and Cloud platforms. Metalogix has moved more than 50,000 terabytes of content – more than every other ISV in the marketplace combined.
Metalogix is recognized as the fastest growing software company in the Washington D.C.-area by the Washington Business Journal and was named to the 2012 Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies. Metalogix is a Microsoft Gold Partner, a managed partner in Microsoft’s High Potential ISV Group and GSA provider. Metalogix is a privately held company backed by Insight Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
By Matt Ramage, Advanced American Telephones
If you’re like most small businesses, return on investment (ROI) is the North Star that guides your success. Faced with a tight budget, limited staff and lean resources, you’re careful about allocating funds only to those investments that will enhance operational efficiency, customer service and sales. That may or may not include telecommunications. If it currently doesn’t, here are a few reasons why it should:
The right phone system can help you and your staff project more of a “big-business” image—but still allow you to stay true to your roots.
Looking for more ways to trim the fat? If you’ve been running your business with cellphones, a small office phone system can save you a lot of money. You won’t have to compromise on features either.
Despite—or because of—the proliferation of electronic communication like automated emails and recorded messages, your customers may actually prefer more personal communication. Another plus for the trusty telephone.
How do you make sure your investment provides the return you want? First, you can learn from the mistakes of others. For example:
Avoid investing for the short-term. You don’t want to get locked into a system that’s inflexible and obsolete within a couple years.
Don’t forget to factor in maintenance and service contract fees. If you’re really diligent, you’ll opt for a system that you can install and manage yourself.
Don’t be swayed by a deal. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t let all the frills blind you. If you don’t need them, don’t pay extra for them.
Take it seriously. Purchasing a phone system for your business is just as important as any other infrastructure decision. Make sure you involve the right people in the process.
Now that you know what to avoid, let’s look at what to consider. The market is awash with options—far too many to delve into here. These broad strokes should help you start evaluating traditional phone systems:
Size matters. You may be working out of your home today, but what are your plans for the future? How many employees do you think you may add in the next one to three years? You’ll want a system that can grow with your business.
Do it yourself. Are you prepared to set up and maintain the system yourself? If you are, you’ll save a lot of money. On the flip side, your time may be worth more than the cost of having a consultant handle it. Add it up to see what makes most sense financially. My money is on the former.
Your customers count. Do your customers expect you to be available after hours? Even if you can’t offer a live point of contact, there are options you can provide that will placate your callers temporarily. For example, an auto attendant will let you customize how calls are handled when they come in at off-hours. An answering system and voicemail are additional considerations. How many minutes of recording time can the system accommodate? Does each desk -set or extension have its own system or voicemail?
Take your work with you. If your business requires you or your employees to be away from their desks a lot, you’ll want to make sure the system integrates with cordless headsets and/or handsets. Ask about the range these cordless devices permit. Is it far enough to accommodate frequent trips out to your store room or back office?
Seize the sales opportunities. Besides helping you be more responsive to callers, a business phone system can help you market to your customers. For example, with music on hold, you can record messages that promote new products, sales, tech tips, etc.
Overall, the best advice I can impart is to keep your ROI compass front and center. It will steer you right.
Matt Ramage is the Senior Vice President of Product Management & Marketing at Advanced American Telephones, where he drives product management, channel marketing and customer support services for Advanced American Telephones and the company’s AT&T-licensed brands in North America.
Last year, we mentioned a virtual receptionist service that can help save businesses money. By replacing the front-desk greeter with the ALICE (A Live Interactive Customer Experience) virtual receptionist, businesses can save on annual salaries and benefits for a live person without sacrificing customer service.
But the large up-front cost of ALICE made it daunting for small businesses. Sure, those businesses are saving on $20,000-plus annual salaries and monthly health insurance premiums, but many small businesses can’t afford to replace that with the large purchase of software and hardware. Recognizing that, ALICE’s founders, WinTech, have released a SaaS version of its service that will cost businesses only $299 per month. When combined with a monthly salary in the range of $2,000, that can provide significant savings.
“Small businesses often choose to leave their office lobbies unattended to avoid incurring the cost of a full-time receptionist to greet customers and visitors to their building,” said WinTech Chief Technology Officer Mike Yoder. “While small businesses can save $20,000 to $30,000 a year by doing this, they can lose credibility and the ability to leave a positive first impression when customers or visitors come into their place of business.”
Though the SaaS model, businesses can have access to the full suite of ALICE features, according to Yoder. This includes all hardware, software, and licenses, opening up ALICE to offices of all sizes. SMBs will be able to set up each employee on the directory, with the ability to set up multiple locations to use ALICE’s services.
When visitors enter an office with ALICE, they are greeted via video chat by a receptionist of your choice, who can also see the person being greeted. Your receptionist stays at his or her desk, greeting people standing in your lobby or even in the lobbies of locations in another city or state. Calls can even be forwarded to a person’s home or smartphone, allowing home-based workers to greet visitors to your location. This is especially beneficial to extremely small businesses, where the owner would like to be able to greet guests while on the road.
Receptionists aren’t the only ones who can greet customers in the lobby. Your visitors can call up the specific employee they’re visiting, with calls forwarded to those employees wherever they are. If you’re running late for a meeting, you can speak directly to your visitor and ask him or her to wait for your arrival. ALICE can also provide customized video messages for visitors after hours.
“By offering a SaaS model, businesses receive a complete Alice system including hardware, software and licenses at an affordable monthly subscription price,” Yoder says. “Now even the smallest of offices have access to the full benefits of the ALICE technology.”
To learn more about ALICE or obtain a quote specific to your business’s needs, visit the company’s website.
The post Monthly Subscription Makes Virtual Receptionist More Affordable appeared first on Small Business Technology.
There are more and more apps, that claim to simplify business processes, coming online daily. Many of them are sensational, while others aren’t worth the time it takes to download. With most, you are limited to what is offered in the app with not much say-so from you, the user. Thankfully, that is not so with FileMaker. FileMaker offers a complete line of desktop and server software providing do-it-yourself solutions that allow the user to design, build, and manage data-driven business solutions for the iPad and iPhone. These customized solutions can also run in web browser and on Windows and Mac. Businesses today have to customize some of their own systems and many are already finding solutions by implementing FileMaker and customizing the platform to fit their needs. Here’s the story of three such companies and the difference this technology solution made in their businesses.
The first business we’ll highlight is West Paw Design, in Bozeman MT, a eco-friendly pet products manufacturer. They needed a solution to help them better manage their operations efficiency; both while in front of the desk and on the manufacturing floor. So, they used Filemaker to build a custom manufacturing and inventory automation solution.
“FileMaker has a lot of power in an easy-to-use platform,” says Spencer Williams, President. “We have found that FileMaker allows us to customize our information management systems to our unique small business rather than conforming our business to software. This combination of flexibility and power, along with usability on nearly any device, has allowed us to serve our customers better and run our business more profitably.”
West Paw Design had their initial database up and running in one week. They now manage everything from order entry to purchasing to inventory tracking and shipping. The company claims to have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars using FileMaker and the iPad combination.
Now lets look at another user and believer in FileMaker, Mike Procopio, owner of The Hoop Consultants. The Hoop Consultants help NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and rising college basketball players optimize their individual performance levels. Procopio was burdened with having to transfer notes and statistics he took while courtside into Word and Excel. So, he turned to Filemaker and with no previous programming experience, he built a custom iPad solution that streamlined his process of collecting, analyzing and displaying statistics – putting it right at his fingertips courtside, and eliminating spreadsheets and notes scribbled in a notebook. This saved Procopio four hours per day by eliminating the re-keying of information and helped to improve efficiency by pulling multiple facets of player data together in one place.
Procopio states, “My FileMaker solution is making life in this industry a lot easier to organize. I think FileMaker’s potential in sports, especially at the high school and college level, is enormous.”
FileMaker is built on a relational database, incorporating a scripting engine and a unified security model, making it easy to connect to existing business systems, protect confidential data, and automate business processes. The program offers data sharing, standards-based integration, and automated business processes.
Finally, let’s see how Sea Breeze Farm, a dairy farm on Vashon Island, just outside of Seattle, used Filemaker in their business. George Page, President, chose FileMaker Go for iPad, which allowed him and his staff to understand the production levels of cows on the farm. Page created several custom business solutions based on FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server, and is now providing them through FileMaker Go 12 on employees’ iPads, which was free to download from the App Store. The system allowed employees to enter their daily tasks on an iPad, which was then instantly synchronized and updated on the back-end in FileMaker Server. The FileMaker software worked great whether Page was gauging cheese production or tracking cows’ vaccination records for government inspection purposes.
“We have to track production for internal and regulatory purposes, constantly logging temperatures, refrigeration times, ingredients, recipes and weights. We need to do it in a tiny space and on a system that we can keep clean instead of running the risk of getting food stuck in a keyboard”, says Page. Filemaker, and all of it’s options, provided them the ability to create just that solution.
FileMaker offers a complete platform for customizing solutions for businesses. It is one of the latest technologies that are worth investigating. Starting with the basic FileMaker 12, the cost begins at $299 and goes up to $2,999 for the FileMaker Server 12 Advanced.
The post From The Basketball Court To The Dairy Farm To Manufacturing Pet Supplies, Filemaker’s Customizable Solutions Are Helping Businesses appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Yesterday I was contacted by a reporter from a major media company, to contribute to a story. (Want to watch some of my advice on social media success? Scroll below to see the video for you)
This is not the first time I’ve been contacted by a journalist online – but most of the time I’m called directly or emailed. But this was the first time I was contacted by “major media” through Twitter. It was pretty exciting.
It got me thinking – why did this happen?
Well it happened for a few simple reasons, I shared these reasons in a recent Manhattan Chamber of Commerce presentation I recently gave at TD Bank (the slide is below).
- You must be frequent on social media. Just posting to Google Plus is not enough.
- You must be relevant. Do you think that people give a darn about your cat or your kids? No. Tweet about what YOUR AUDIENCE is interested in.
- You must be engaging. “Social” media is all about social, all about sharing with others. People share what’s interesting to them.
- You must measure. You must measure what you do on social media so you know what works and what does not work. Maybe Facebook is not for you? Maybe it’s Google Plus. Maybe Twitter is indeed better for you, instead of LinkedIn. You won’t know this unless you measure what you are doing.
A bit more about measurement: Below is a screen shot of Dlvr.it a social media management tool we use to post on social media abut also to MEASURE what posts are most engaging and what networks are most active. You can also use the measurement tools of Facebook (Facebook.com/insights) and the emerging analtyics tools of the other social networks to see what posts are gaining traction – or not.
Interested in Facebook marketing? Do read my best seller, “The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing“
Finally, remember that social media alone is NOT enough. You must ensure your DRIVE your social media traffic to something that can lead to a sale or at least lead to further marketing to interesting prospective customers or to get your current customers to buy more. This is where CRM comes in. There’s a lot of great CRM tools on the market – one of the best for marketing campaigns is Infusionsoft (my employer).
Gary Vaynerchuck is famous for saying “what’s the ROI of your mother” to clients who ask him over and over again if social media is really that important and how to measure the ROI. He’s right – in a way. But when you add CRM to social media – the ROI and knowing what works is much more clear!
Watch the video I did for you about social media success and the reporter contacting me below. (Doesn’t work – go here here – http://youtu.be/fWIL-rtXvCQ )
Facebook for Business (with a Twist of social media 101) presentation
Social Media 101 and Facebook For Business
from Ramon Ray
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