Familiarize Your SMB with Online Forms

SMB News - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 20:08

By: Chad Reid is Director of Communications at JotForm

Running a SMB doesn’t have to be tricky business. If you’re running your own company, every tool at your disposal counts; especially the ones that save you time and hassle. Crafty small- and medium-sized SMBs utilize web forms to drive revenue and reveal key insights.

Let online forms do the heavy lifting for gathering customer insights, generating leads, collecting payments, finding new talent and keeping your employees happy. Here are the types of forms that can help your company thrive.

The Feedback Form

Master this style of form, and use it often. Knowing how your customers, former customers, employees and prospects feel about your organization is crucial to staying afloat. Include scales and radio buttons to see trends in response data, and keep questions with written responses open ended (“How do you feel about ….?” for example). The more you know about how your SMB is perceived, the better decisions you can make your about company’s future.

The Survey Form

A great use for surveys is for your employees. Build a survey so your employees can vote for employee of the months, where and when a company party should take place, and even to collect sandwich orders for a company lunch. There’s no easier way to gather data.

The Application Form

Are you asking applicants to send résumés to your email address? Creating an application form lets you manage all of your applications in a central login, and allows you to consistently collect all the pertinent information from each applicant. It’s easy enough to set up, and ensures an applicant's’ initial point of contact with your company is a professional one.

The Lead Generation Form

A great lead generation form can turn your small SMB into a money-making machine. Customize your call-to-action button, and make your form visually appealing to get even higher conversions.

The Contact Form

If your website doesn’t feature a contact form, it’s time to give 2015 a try. A clean, clear, and functional contact form is the professional way to gather customer information, and to receive comments and concerns. Posting your email address is a dangerous gamble, and it can even be off putting to site visitors.

The Payment Form

Did you know you can collect payments for service using a simple form and a PayPal account? If you don’t need anything fancy - or your own full online store - then using a form for collecting payments for services, donations or subscriptions is a great way to go. Other than a processing transaction fee, setting the form doesn’t usually cost you any money.

The great thing is that anyone can create awesome, custom forms. Using an easy-to-use form builder, you can knock out a fantastic form in just a couple minutes. Form builders are tools that any SMB can use, and it’s something that will save you loads of time and money down the road if used effectively.

Author’s Bio:

Chad Reid is Director of Communications at JotForm, a popular online form building tool. He’s written for a myriad of publications, including the Cincinnati Enquirer, recruiter.com, and multiple Patch sites. 

Categories: SMB

Tips & Tech to Boost the Productivity of Your Next Online Meeting

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:39

With a growing number of remote workers in businesses large and small, traditional meetings are now being replaced by online meetings where team members can collaborate from multiple locations. Whether you’re thinking of holding your first online meeting or are already a seasoned pro, this article will provide tips & tech to boost productivity and make your next online meeting a success.



Online Meeting Tech Tools

There are quite a few online meeting platforms available, with a range of prices and features to fit the needs of any business. A few of the big names in online meetings are:

  • GotoMeeting – GotoMeeting is as simple as launching an online meeting, sending out invites, and then getting to work. Team members can participate by phone or through the computer using mics, speakers and webcams. You can see each other, work on your screen while the meeting is happening, and even share your screen with the group. They’ve also recently added new features that allow PC users to move/hide the control panel, Mac users to switch devices without having to reconnect, and personalization options so you can create custom meeting rooms and destination URLs. Plans start at $39/month and include a free trial period.
  • ClickMeeting – ClickMeeting offers both meeting and webinar subscriptions. ClickMeetings allow videoconferencing with up to 25 participants and 2 presenters, built in presentation apps, document sharing, and desktop sharing. The price is $30/month. ClickWebinars allow videoconferencing for up to 1,000 participants with added benefits including tools for interactive presentations and for managing participants & discussions. There are four plans available, starting at $40/month.
  • Onstream Media – Onstream Media is a place for all sorts of virtual events, offering streaming services, conference services, virtual environments, and other professional services. Regarding online meetings, Onstream allows you to choose from audio conferencing (an automated/spontaneous meeting using your office or mobile phone, or an operator-assisted conference call) or web conferencing (which allows users to share and present slides & documents from the desktop). Onstream Media is billed on a per usage basis with no minimums.

These are three of the highest rated online meeting platforms, but there are dozens more to choose from. This website has reviews and comparisons, and for an even longer list of online meeting platforms check out this page.

Online Meeting Best Practices

Now that you’ve picked out an online meeting platform that will work for your business, put these ideas in practice to improve the productivity of your meeting.

  • Conduct a Test Meeting – If you’ve never used online meeting software before, test it out before the big meeting so you can better understand the program and deal with any issues.
  • Schedule in Advance – Make sure you schedule the meeting in advance and email all participants so they know exactly when the meeting is and what they have to do to join.
  • Prepare Notes – Just like a traditional meeting, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for your online meeting. Jot down an agenda, list of ideas, and any extra notes you have, then keep your notes near your desk so you can reference them during the meeting. You may also consider making a slide presentation to share with participants and help guide the meeting.
  • Find a Quiet Space – This will minimize background noise and other distractions.
  • Turn Off Other Apps & Devices – This also eliminates distractions and the chance that a random instant message may interrupt the meeting (especially if you’re sharing your screen).
  • Open Files – If you plan on sharing multiple files during the meeting, have them open so they are just a click away.
  • Maintain Pace – Keeping up the pace of your meeting should be easy if you’ve prepared notes and an agenda. Maintaining pace will keep the meeting efficient, productive, and ensure that participants don’t lose interest.
  • Allow Participation – Your team members may have ideas, comments, and questions to contribute; just like a traditional meeting, you’ll want to allow them time to have the floor so they can collaborate. If participants don’t know each other, have them introduce themselves before they comment or ask a question. You may allow participation during the meeting, at specific stop points, or at the very end in a Q&A session.
  • Share Files – Most online meeting platforms will allow you to share files with participants. Share files, relevant documents and slides at the beginning, at appropriate times during the meeting, or at the end before you dismiss.

In the end you’ll find that online meetings have common characteristics of traditional meetings, with added features that boost efficiency and productivity. Online meetings can also improve collaboration and comradery among team members who don’t work in the same physical location.

The post Tips & Tech to Boost the Productivity of Your Next Online Meeting appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

11 Ways You Can Improve Your Checkout Process and Increase Sales

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 19:00
What is one thing I can add to my online purchasing/checkout process that will increase sales?

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. Use an EV SSL Certificate on Your Domain

One of the things that customers look for when buying from a website is security. An EV SSL Certificate is a great way to reassure them. Not only does the customer get some piece of mind that the transaction is secure, but an EV cert shows the user in the browser bar that the company they are buying from has been vetted and exists as a legitimate business.

– Joshua DorkinBiggerPockets

2. Provide Additional Products

Provide smaller, additional products that keep people coming back. On our POSWarehouse website, we added receipt paper and labels as products to purchase. Not only does it increase the original sale, but it keeps them needing to come back for replenishing.

– Marjorie AdamsFourlane

3. Shorten Your Checkout Process

Instead of looking for things to add to your checkout process, I think it makes more sense to look for things to remove. Make your checkout process as simple and quick as possible. Users want to feel safe and secure, so design your checkout to look professional and trustworthy and then concentrate on allowing users to get through as quickly and painlessly as possible.

– Arian RadmandCoachUp

4. Add a Chat Function

We added chat throughout our site last year. We expected that we would get requests from folks during the entire shopping experience, but we saw a surprisingly high amount of people who had questions during checkout. Some asked about shipping rates, while others asked about their product selection. We were able to facilitate sales and even make recommendations that increased the final purchase.

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

5. Recommend Items Based on Known Data

Understanding your clientele purchasing decisions and patterns will help you build your system to act smarter. At the checkout process, the system will know current desired items, review customer’s past purchases and define the most viewed products. Your system will be data-driven, which will allow your cart to provide product recommendations that are catered to the customer’s needs and patterns.

– Dalip JaggiDevise Interactive

6. Provide Reassurance

Adding links to your return/cancellation policy and product or service guarantees on the checkout page provides transparency and gives customers more confidence that they are making a smart purchasing decision. Of course, you don’t want to take users away from the checkout process, so try using pop-ups rather than links that lead to a different page on your site.

– Robert De Los SantosSky High Party Rentals

7. Reinforce the Value Proposition

It’s a really good idea to reiterate your product’s value proposition on the checkout page. The checkout page is one place where a lot of people get cold feet and decide to abandon their purchase. Reminding your potential customers of the reasons why they decide to click “buy” will reduce cart abandonment. If you can, collect an email in advance so you can email them as well if they abandon.

– Mattan GriffelOne Month

8. Include a Count-Down Clock

When a user adds an item to the shopping cart they should have a count-down clock that tells them how much time that item will be reserved for, usually around five to 10 minutes. As they see the time remaining decrease, they are more likely to make a decision instead of waiting.

– Randy RayessVenturePact

9. Make Sure You Have Default Values For Any Options

Many checkout features are now common. Progress bars, instructions, line items costs, etc. are all table stakes and should be a part of your process already. More and more, companies are adding optional benefits to purchasers in an effort to differentiate from competitors. When doing this, it’s critical that you start the form field on a default value, not “choose an option.”

– Adam RoozenEchidna, Inc.

10. Add a First-Time User Promo Code

As an individual who frequently shops online, it would be impressive to see a first time-user/first-time check out promo code offer. When a first-time buyer is checking out, they would be provided with a promo code for a discount for future use. This would not only push them to come back to the site, but would also generate word of mouth advertising among their peers.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

11. Feature Relatable Past Client References

Having concise testimonials that are relevant to the buyer can help with faster decision making. For example, if someone is buying a book, then showing a testimonial from someone who previously bought the same book can go a lot further than showing a generic testimonial. Many psychological studies have proven that social proof can provide the much needed push when people are on the edge.

– Pratham MittalVenturePact

The post 11 Ways You Can Improve Your Checkout Process and Increase Sales appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

New Facebook Creative Shop Helpse to Share Your Business Story

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 15:36

Delivering an effective message on Facebook can be a challenging task for any small business.  Not only are you trying to explain to your audience who you are and the products and services you provide, but you’re also trying to provide high quality and engaging content.  That’s why Facebook has developed a Creative Shop for small and medium size businesses.

The Facebook Creative Shop is built from a team of brand marketers, creative directors and strategists who work together to build effective Facebook ads that enhance customer engagement while also growing their client’s business. Their goal is to help you develop an ad that stands out on the Facebook newsfeed and sets you apart from others in the marketplace.

The following are tools that you can expect to use within the Facebook Creative Shop:

Inspiration Gallery

Full of a variety of the best examples of small business ads on Facebook,  the Inspiration Gallery highlights the best qualities of certain ads as well as ways to creatively enhance them. The gallery not only provides clients with some of the best tools and resources to place an effective ad on Facebook but also ensures that the ads stand out and reach their target audience at a large scale.  This is a great way to see how businesses in different industries are creating their ads and the key things that they focus on to attract the attention of their audiences.

Story Packs

Having trouble coming up with ideas for your ads? The Story Packs is filled with pre-packaged ad ideas to spark your inspiration.  Choose a template from one of the three categories and then customize it by adding your own images and wording that best represents your brand. It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing and effectively share your story!

Creative Tips

One of the most important things to remember when creating an ad is to make sure that it attracts the attention of your target audience.  Within the Creative Tips tool, Facebook provides advice in three different categories: 1) Making your Ad, 2) Choosing images and 3) Writing Copy. Each category contains three tips on key areas to focus on and how to make each of these three sections stand out from other ads on Facebook.  Find out how to create an ad that is relevant to your audience, choose an image that stands out and create copy that gets the message of your ad across.

Not only does Facebook provide your with the opportunity to use these tools from their Creative Shop, they also offer the Facebok Blueprint and Learn How tools. These tools provide clients with a much more detailed understanding of how Facebook can be used for your business. Blueprint  is designed to provide clients with learning modules that teach them the necessary skills to take their businesses to the next level. There is also Learn How, which is more of an informational guide to better understanding the ways that Facebook can be used for your business and how to use their tools and resources in an effective way.

Whether you’re already successfully placing ads on Facebook or struggling to get started, these tools are a great way to make sure that you’re ads are as best that they can be at creating customer engagement and reaching your desired audience to help your business grow.

The post New Facebook Creative Shop Helpse to Share Your Business Story appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

9 Great Pieces of Call-Tracking Software for Entrepreneurs

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 15:00
What is your favorite call-tracking software and why?

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

1. TalkDesk

I’m a big fan of TalkDesk simply because they lead the way on integrating other apps I’ve already been using into their software. They incorporate Shopify and ZenDesk, two truly innovative apps that are part of the foundation of productivity in my business. I don’t want to give these kind of things a second thought, and their customer service is incredible.

– Rob FultonExponential Black

2. Oracle Contact Center Anywhere

This is the biggest call-tracking software worldwide, and improves your contact rate (during a marketing campaign), while lowering cost per lead. You can set a preferred language, geographic location, skill or product type, so that your agents (who can work from anywhere) can convert every call into a sale. It offers call details, transaction history and call scheduling among other features.

– Cody McLainSupportNinja

3. Analytic Call Tracking

Analytic Call Tracking is a very inexpensive, yet robust platform to create, manage and track phone calls in your marketing campaigns. It uses Twilio so you can provision any phone number from any country in one click, track your metrics with Google Analytics, and dynamically insert different phone numbers for different campaigns. It’s the best I’ve seen yet!

– Chris BrissonCall Loop

4. SafeSoft

SafeSoft can act as an inbound or outbound call center. But we use it today in blended mode which makes it super easy to keep all of our agents busy and more importantly, our customers happy.

– Kevin HenriksonAcompli (now Outlook iOS/Android @ Microsoft)

5. UberConference

UberConference is a great tool for call tracking as it allows you to conduct international calls, screen share and provides you with detailed call statistics after each call. The call stats feature is very useful for sales.

– Randy RayessVenturePact

6. Close.io

Close.io is my favorite call-tracking software. When a customer calls, all of their emails, recorded calls and past orders pop up. This allows my team to quickly review what was said/noted on previous calls, making us more helpful to our customers. The API allows for pushing and pulling of this data to all our other SAAS tools, too. They even have a sales pipeline to track and close opportunities.

– Robert De Los SantosSky High Party Rentals

7. CallRail

CallRail has worked well in the past for us as it clearly defines the source or aggregation site that is being questioned as to performance or lack thereof. It dynamically changes the phone number on the landing page to reflect the source but still keeps the business in compliance as Google does not like to see multiple phone numbers. I have found this to be remarkable.

– Sheldon Michael, Netjumps International

8. Freshdesk

Freshdesk is a great system for call-tracking, customer service, ticketing and much more. This is one of our favorite platforms to work with because it allows our customer service to be a team effort. With a team shared inbox, private notes for internal communication and an easy-to-use mobile app, our customer service team is able to easily and effectively work together.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

9. DialogTech

DialogTech is a really simple and cheap call tracking software that takes only a few minutes to install. It doesn’t have all of the crazy features like some of the other services, but it gets things done and never gives me any problems.

– Andrew SaladinoKitchen Cabinet Kings

The post 9 Great Pieces of Call-Tracking Software for Entrepreneurs appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Pepcom Digital Focus Event: April 9, 2015

AMI Partners - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 14:43
My AMI-Partners colleagues and I enjoyed attending Pepcom’s Digital Focus Thursday night at New York City’s Metropolitan Pavilion. These events are great opportunities to have a front row seat to the latest and greatest happenings in business and consumer technology. On the business side, Pepcom consistently has a strong showing of PC and Storage solutions. […]
Categories: SMB

ECommerce Businesses Are Going Mobile-Friendly to Cater to ‘Flex Shoppers’

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 20:09

Technology today has made shopping for consumers nearly effortless. You can be sitting in your home, watching television and buy virtually anything with a simple click of a button.  As it continues to get easier for customers to make purchases on-the-go, at work or in the luxury of their own home, brick and mortar businesses are becoming a less convenient choice and most consumers choose to make purchases via online stores instead.  This has lead to the emergence of “flex shoppers” – consumers that shop at both, brick-and-mortar and online stores.

With “flex shoppers” on the rise, the pressure for businesses to create a mobile friendly experience is higher than ever.  Not only do customers need to be able to easily navigate through your mobile website, but it is also important to provide convenient and affordable shipping options as well as a simple and convenient return process.  Starting on April 21st, Google will start using these systems to rank your business for search results based on the mobile-friendliness of your site.

Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Ramon Ray just recently wrote and article on Endicia, “Why ECommerce Businesses Need to Start Catering to the ‘Flex Shopper’“.  In the article, Ramon shares how how you can test your website for mobile-friendliness and make sure it meets Google’s standards to provide a pleasant, convenient online shopping experience.

The post ECommerce Businesses Are Going Mobile-Friendly to Cater to ‘Flex Shoppers’ appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

New Features from Xero Makes Accounting That Much Easier for Small Business

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 21:39

Most companies want to “work smarter, not harder” and as most business owners know, the best way to do this is through the use of technology. Take Xero for example, an easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses. They know how important good technology is for small businesses and continue to add features to their software that save time… and money!

This past March, the company announced their new multi-feature launch, which will provide business owners with the capability to manage core business functions such as Inventory, Online Quotes, Side-by-Side Files and Practice Reports.

With it’s access to real-time information from live bank feeds and the ability to work with bookkeepers and accounting advisors, Xero has become a one of the leading accounting apps for small business. Not only has the average duration of invoice payments decreased since 2011, but they are continuing to make enhancements to their software as an ongoing commitment to make life easier for small business owners.

Jacob Wood, Founder of Woodies Clothing, a custom shirt-maker says, “From getting started in Xero—which was simple and fast—to using it to manage my business every day, Xero is always incredibly easy to use and I love the fact that our finances are accessible from any device, I can reconcile the books on my phone while walking to the subway; fire up my laptop at the office to examine our finances and make instant decisions about where and how to scale the business.”

Here are some of the capabilities that will be offered through the new software features:

  • Inventory will be much easier to manage.  The real-time tracking of stock items and ability to add items easily on to an invoice or online quote will allow businesses to save time while simultaneously improving their cashflow.
  • Online Quotes will be able to be created on-the-go, on any device to make it easier and faster to approve quotes on site and online as well as to send and pay invoices in a more timely fashion.
  • Practice Reports can be customized to individual clients by adding value to their accounts using real-time data.
  • Side-by-Side Files make it easy for accountants to compare financial transactions and store up-to-date records and transactions hassle free.
  • Bank Feeds make it easy to reconcile transactions for small business as Xero is already connected to 7,000 bank feeds and over 5,00 financial institutions globally.

With many more features to come, Xero continues to provide a solution for small businesses to make their accounting seem effortless. The software offers businesses the ability to increase productivity while focusing on the success of their business. The addition of online accounting solutions in small businesses are proving to be an effective way to invest less time crunching numbers and spend more time focusing on running and growing your business.

The post New Features from Xero Makes Accounting That Much Easier for Small Business appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

How Entrepreneurs Can Build Their Brand Using Google+

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 16:22

The aim of this article is very simple. ­ I have to convince you that you are making a big mistake by ignoring a major part of the future of Google, Google+

First things first, people simply don’t get this whole Google+ social media thing. You think it’s about posting pictures of cats, or your lunch, or your latest meeting, right?

Let me explain why this is SO wrong and hopefully I’ll open your mind to a HUGE opportunity for every business person out there.

Google is an eco­system

If you use Google Chrome, or have an Android device, you know you log into the eco­system before you start using a Google property.

Then there is…Gmail, Google Drive (which is amazing for collaborative working), Google Hangouts, YouTube, Google Play, Wallet, Google Maps etc. all connect back to your personal Google+ account. The image you use from your Google+ profile, for instance, will show across all those Google properties.

“But I’ve heard that Google+ is going to…”

Yes, yes, I’ve heard all the rumours too. The community members understand it better than almost any journalist though. So let me explain why it is ‘here to stay’: Google+ is the backbone to so many of Google’s products now.

It is integral to Gmail, Contacts, Search (G+ posts are all indexed), and importantly for you: Google My Business.

‘My Business’

Google My Business is where you will set up a Brand page or a Local Page.

Go to www.google.com/business to set one up (but Google yourself before you do as you may already have one!)

A Local type page’s content appears in Google Search e.g. when you look for a restaurant, bar, noodle bar etc. This information is largely drawn from the Google+ page within the ‘My Business’ dashboard. Job done.

If you have a Local type business, you must claim your page, as you are missing a trick and maybe even customers too. With Local pages people can leave you reviews which gives you a great opportunity to manage your digital reputation too. With 5 reviews show with ‘stars’ in the results ­ great for social proof, assuming they are good. (You may even turn around poor reviews by engaging and resolving any issues.)

 Build trust, create a reputation and become an authority in your niche.

Google+ then, is your digital identity on the web. And why should you want to build up that identity within the Google eco­system? Simple ­ it helps show Google your authority. And when you do this, you will find that your content surfaces in Google Search (the biggest Search engine in the world) and also in YouTube (the second biggest).

Think of it this way, if you want to be an authority on a subject you go and spent time with the best in the world, the existing authorities. Then, over time, they begin to engage with you and see that you too understand ‘this area’ too. Through their digital engagement (including on Google+) they begin to show that you should be trusted in this area, and tell other people about you (sharing your content), this in term leads to you being seen as an authority too i.e. their authority rubs off on you.

If you want to go deeper on this, make sure you check out my buddy David Amerland as he is the master of Semantic Search­.

So why would an entrepreneur want to be seen as an authority? Surely they just need people to buy into their products or service, right? Wrong! This is all about ‘who you spend you time with’ and as we know, ‘who you know’ in business is paramount. And in order for people to tell your story, and for Google.com to display this in Search, you need to be known for something. This is where is authority shines through, and people come to you to hear what you have to say.

Start creating content

If you are not blogging, doing videos, or have a podcast ­ start now. These are the modern ways for you to ‘show what you know’ as well as connect with people who e.g. you invite onto your show with guests.

Below you can see me chatting with Sir Ben Kingsley in a Google Hangout­-on­Air. (‘La di da… I know!)

TIP: As I know you are short on time I am going to give you a super tip on how to turn 30 minutes of your time into 3 blog posts, 5 videos, and a podcast as well.

And how? Use the power of Google+ combined with YouTube:

1. Start by creating a Google Hangout ­on­ Air

2. Then, once your recorded it, get a transcript done for about $1.50 a minute (I use this service www.corporatewritingpro.com). This will give you about 3000 words of text!

3. Create 3 blog posts from those words

4. Download the video (from Youtube) and remove the audio from it, then you have your base for the podcast. You can even add on a fancy front and back end to it as well.

5. As you know have the video on your computer, you can dissect that into sections, add a video intro / outro and re­upload each one to YouTube as a 3­5 minute segment.

You can also embed the videos into your blog content as well, which gives people an awesome mix of medias.

Make it easy for people to share your content!

Let’s say you are starting to build your Google+ network and blogging. You also want to make sure you make it easy for people to share your content ­ to do this, add in Social Sharing buttons (as you can see below), including Google+.

When people click the +1/share button on your website it create a Google+ post box, sharing your content with the people who the sharer decides.

Tip: always share to ‘public’ for the maximum reach on your content.


Build a community of people around your content and they will give your Search results. This is a BIG thing, but it is what many of us have done on Google+It only takes 100 fans who amplify your content (+1ing and sharing it) to spread the word of whatever you are up to. Trust me, it works.

My sites now have 36,000 unique visitors a month for people looking at Google products and services in their business. About 50% of this is coming from Search results using the methods touched on in this article. Any time I have a new idea, a new product, I have a wonderful tribe of people ready and waiting to support getting the news out there.

It will take a little time, but if you are looking at Social in general then Google+ is the place to be.



Martin Shervington is a consultant, speaker, trainer and coach on all things Google+ As the community manager for Plus Your Business!, his role is to support individuals and new businesses to use Google+.

The post How Entrepreneurs Can Build Their Brand Using Google+ appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Experience 3D Printing: MakerBot Printer Now Available at Sam’s Club

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 04/03/2015 - 19:27

For lovers of technology, the most frustrating aspect is the wait – the gap between the time when you learn about cool new technology and the time when it is actually readily available to the public. This is true for many technologies, but one shining example is 3D printing.

3D printing has a long and exciting history, including the first patent filed in 1980, the first patent issued in 1986, and the first system under $10,000 released in 2007. While that was a significant milestone, regular people have been waiting ever since for the price to come down even more so they can experience the wonders of 3D creation themselves.

Finally, the wait is over. On March 26, 2015, MakerBot announced that they would begin selling a compact 3D printer at Sam’s Club retail locations across the United States, just the right model and price for small business owners, professionals, educators, entrepreneurs, and home buyers who want to experience the technology for themselves.

MakerBot is a leader in desktop 3D printing technology. Founded in 2009 (just two years after a $10,000 3D printer was considered a milestone), they have managed to bring the cost of a Makerbot Replicator Mini down to under $1500, with an entire kit to get you going right away for under $3000. With over 80,000 MakerBot 3D printers in the world, the company holds one of the largest market shares in the desktop 3D printing industry.

“I truly believe that having the opportunity to learn about 3D printing first-hand is a big step towards a better understanding of the technology, noted Frank Alfano, acting CEO of MakerBot. “By expanding our retail presence to Sam’s Club, we’re providing opportunities to reach professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners and show them the power of 3D printing.”

If you’re interested in purchasing a MakerBot Replicator Mini, you can use the store locator here to find a Sam’s Club retail location in your area that carries them. You can also learn more about the MakerBot Replicator Mini here or by watching the video below.

The post Experience 3D Printing: MakerBot Printer Now Available at Sam’s Club appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

SMB HR: LinkedIn isn't the best way to Recruit Employees

SMB News - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 20:09

by John Reed

7% of candidates that come through referrals account for 40% of total hires

As a source of new, competent staff, employee referrals have no equal. There is no other source for candidates that generate the same ROI; in fact the 7% of candidates that come through referrals account for 40% of total hires.

New data show that employee referrals provide better candidates, higher retention rates and help companies hire faster.

Referrals are the number one source of high performing employees.

Applicants hired from a referral begin their position quicker than applicants found via job boards and career sites (after 29 days compared with 39 days via job boards and 55 via career sites).

Referral hires have higher retention rates – 46% of employee referrals stay for three years or more, compared to only 14% of those hired from job boards.

Challenges to employee referral programs

Recruiters and hiring managers realize how important and effective employee referrals are, and every large enterprise today has referral programs to stimulate their existing workforce to help identify quality candidates within their network. Companies use monetary incentives, in some cases several thousands of dollars, to get employees to refer candidates for critical open positions.

The HR question is: why do only 7% of all applications come through referrals? What is stopping employees from referring more candidates?

Recruiters declare that especially for senior roles, the peers that could make an introduction to the right candidates are usually senior managers or directors with a very busy schedule and little or no time for browsing through a company’s open positions and then identifying great candidates within their network.

The other problem is that sometimes even though a first attempt is made, employees forget to follow up, and the referral doesn’t go further.

Make referrals easy for your employees

The best way for recruiters to quickly identify great candidates through referrals would be to source talent within an employees’ network and identify candidates upfront. Once the passive candidate has been identified, the employee’s job is to simply make the introduction and let HR follow up with the talent. In order to implement and manage this process, recruiters have to:
1. Access employee’s network upfront
2. Leverage automated notification and customized messages
3. Track in real-time the status of referrals

Stalking passive candidates on LinkedIn is a least favorite activity for recruiters

If you are a recruiter you certainly know the pain of receiving hundreds of email requests from job seekers, and definitely don’t enjoy doing the same to candidates.

How can recruiters access employees’ networks and avoid LinkedIn stalking?

One option is 1-Page. 1-Page takes LinkedIn search out of the recruiting equation. The company creates customized company clouds with profiles of professionals connected to their employees. Leveraging the a large employee referral network (820+ million profiles) 1-Page allows recruiters to search candidates by job title, companies and location and see instantly those who match the criteria. The platform also identifies the employees that can make an introduction and enable HR to automate the referral process and follow up with candidates directly.


About 1-Page

1-Page provides a one-of-a-kind cloud-based human resources Software-as-a-Service platform, currently employed by leading global and US companies. The Enterprise Challenge-based Assessment and Engagement Platform is a patented, HR tool which enables companies to individually rank and prioritize candidates for employment positions based on their ability to solve real-time business challenges and achieve strategic objectives.

Ranked as one of the top 3 HR technologies in the US, 1-Page changes the dynamics of hiring: leveraging candidate’s solutions, sent in the format of one page job proposals, the platform applies new predictive data to rank the most suitable candidates for the interview.  By streamlining the recruiting process and identifying candidates while displaying the greatest desire and capability for the role, 1-Page greatly reduces talent acquisition costs and significantly increases employment retention rates for enterprises, especially those with large staffing requirements. More information about the company is available at: www.1-page.com.

Categories: SMB

Yahoo Small Business Committed to Offering Reliable Services Through Transition to SpinCo

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 19:25

Earlier this year, Yahoo announced a spinoff of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding into a new public company called SpinCo. A spinoff such as this one requires that Yahoo also place into SpinCo a legacy ancillary business that it has operated for at least five years. A few days after the initial announcement, Yahoo revealed that the “Active Trade Business” that would join Alibaba in the new SpinCo company would be Yahoo Small Business.

What does that mean for small business owners that rely on Yahoo Small Business tools such as website services and Yahoo Web Hosting, ecommerce through Yahoo Merchant Solutions, and local marketing through Yahoo Localworks?

Details are beginning to emerge, and it looks like everyone can take a huge sigh of relief, as the changes should not negatively impact your experience with Yahoo Small Business, and the gradual changes should make it even stronger.

How the Change Will Impact You

Through two Tumblr posts on January 30 and March 25 we have been given some details about the change. Here is what we know at this point.

What Will Happen or Is Happening

  • All Yahoo Small Business tools will remain at your disposal throughout the transition time
  • The completion of the SpinCo transaction should occur in Q4 2015
  • Yahoo Stores will get two new features – Coupon Manager and cross-selling
  • Yahoo Merchant Solutions will be getting some enhancements
  • There is a new partnership with Yahoo Shopping (Market St.)
  • There is a new feature called Product Picker added to Yahoo Live Store Badge
  • The Yahoo team will continue to explore changes and enhancements that will benefit Yahoo Small Business customers and make the product even stronger
  • Yahoo Small Business will move to the new company prior to the completion of the transaction in Q4 2015 and right now they are working on creating a strong transition plan

What Won’t Happen

  • No major server or technology changes will be taking place during the holiday season
  • No major infrastructure transitions are expected this year
  • When infrastructure transitions occur, there should be no downtime for merchants

In general, the plan for the new company demonstrates Yahoo Small Business’s commitment to providing small business owners with reliable hosting and online services. Although many people don’t like change, if Yahoo continues on its planned and strategic course it will mean a stronger platform for small business owners to succeed online. With the major transition not happening until Q4 2015, we will keep you posted on any updates that may impact your small business.

The post Yahoo Small Business Committed to Offering Reliable Services Through Transition to SpinCo appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Why Loneliness Can Cripple Your Business. 4 Lessons From An Empanada Bakery.

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 15:52

“No Man Is an Island”, but sometimes as small business owners we feel like we are deserted on an island – entrenched in our non-stop world of tasks, planning and decisions. Being a small business owner could possibly be one of the most difficult challenges one could ever take on. So why do we do it? Because if done right, the success we can find provides a payoff that matches no other.  But no one can, or should, ever go it alone. As small business owners it’s important to get yourself off the island and find others who can help you find perspective.

Watch the video below or here.

As a small business owner, you are continually tasked with making decisions that will affect your business growth. Many of these decisions might fall outside your realm of expertise. That’s why it’s so important to find others who you can turn to that will offer perspective, or different points of view, on areas of your business. The owners of 5411 Empanadas are lucky. They have each other to lean on and each partner brings a different background and expertise, therefore a different perspective to each problem that arises. This allows them to make more educated decisions. But what about those business owners who are flying solo. How do they find perspective? Here are a few options.

  1. Find a mentor or coach. A business mentor or coach is someone that you can turn to when you find yourself having to make decisions on an area of business that you don’t have experience in. A good mentor or coach would be someone who has a background and expertise that compliments yours.
  2. Join a Mastermind Group. A Mastermind Groups is a group of peers who come together to brainstorm, educate, support and hold accountable other members of the group. It’s a giving and receiving of advice and perspective. There are existing Mastermind Groups formed all across the country; some meet in person and some meet virtually. If you can’t find a Mastermind Group near you, then start one. Just look for others with common interests and a drive to grow their business.
  3. Take Advantage of Networking Events. Networking is not only a way to increase your reach and find potential customers and clients, it’s also a way to open discussions with other professionals like yourself. If you have a particular issue you are dealing with, ask others you are engaging with their opinion. You might just find that they, too, have run into the same dilemma and have some valuable advice and perspective to offer.
  4. Ask Friends and Family. While your friends and family might not have firsthand business experience, it doesn’t mean they can’t offer perspective. Even five year olds offer perspective. It’s just another way of looking at the problem and offering what they see. Beyond showing that you value their opinions and thoughts, turning to family and friends allows them a deeper insight into your life. It’s like letting them on the island, even if it’s just for a few moments.

The next time you are faced with having to make a decision about your business, remember how important it is to get perspective and take the time to turn to others to help. Before long you’ll find that your island isn’t so lonely.

This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional small business tips, check out Progressive’s Small Business Big Dreams program.

The post Why Loneliness Can Cripple Your Business. 4 Lessons From An Empanada Bakery. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Infusionsoft Announces the Addition of New Products at ICON15

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 18:04

Infusionsoft, the leading sales and marketing software for small businesses, announced today at #ICON15, their 9th annual small business conference, the addition of several new products designed to make small businesses more successful.

With more than 30,000 customers and 100,000 users worldwide, Infusionsoft plays a vital role in the growth of their small business partners. In light of that, they are constantly looking at ways to improve their software so they can meet the changing needs of the customer and fuel their success.

The new products they announced today, that will be rolled out over the next several months, include:

  • Infusionsoft Payments: This new product makes it easy for small businesses to get approved and set up with a merchant account. Infusionsoft Payments offers low, competitive fees and includes mobile payment capabilities, so small businesses can capture payments on the go and in the field.
  • Infusionsoft E-mail Builder: Set to debut later this year, this product includes a library of responsive, mobile-friendly email designs and templates. It is now easier than ever for small businesses to send professional looking emails. 

    Infusionsoft users experience the new email product being released.

  • Infusionsoft Help Center: This offering will shorten the learning curve and help Infusionsoft customers find answers faster. The Help Center was totally redesigned with mobile in mind.

Infusionsoft is a tool that provides small businesses the easiest way to get organized, grow sales and save time. With the inclusion of these new products, Infusionsoft is recognizing and incorporating the newest features that their customers need in order empower their small business and up their marketing game and customer interactions.

The post Infusionsoft Announces the Addition of New Products at ICON15 appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Hiring Is So Important. Here’s 5 Awesome Tips To Do It Right.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 21:09

Hiring, regardless of size of your company, is one of the most daunting, anxiety ridden and costly tasks you will be faced with as a business owner. For small businesses, however, it comes at a much greater cost, both in time and dollars. So getting it ‘right’ is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, there is no secret formula to finding and hiring the perfect employee. But, luckily there are some solid tips and strategies that reveal the secrets to successful small business hiring.

1. Define the Position. It’s important that you clearly outline exactly what the position is that you are hiring for and what responsibilities will come with that position. This will allow you to determine the skillset that the ‘perfect’ candidate must have in order to be successful in the position. Start by creating a list of all the duties the person will perform and the skills needed to complete each. This will allow you to see exactly what the key skills are that are needed and also allow you to write a thorough job description that you can use to advertise the position and when onboarding your new hire.

2. Go Fishing.  Once you’ve determined the type of person you need to fill the position, it’s time to go fishing and catch them! The easiest way to do that is to ‘Fish Where the Fish Are’. Figure out where the type of candidate you are looking for would go to find a job opportunities, either online or in person.  Conferences and events are a great place to find candidates because they allow you to open dialogue, often with people of the same industry or interest, in a more casual environment. This allows you to see more of the ‘person’ you might be hiring than a resume. Looking for someone technical? Drop by a local tech Meetup. Looking for a great salesperson? Try asking a salesperson you buy from and enjoy dealing with if they happen to know anyone like them looking for a position. Because they know you, and your business, they would have a better insight to the type of person that would fit into your business.

Check out this video below, about hiring. (if it does not play check it out here)

3. Don’t Forget Who You Are. Small businesses typically have small staffs and a company culture that is pretty clearly defined. Don’t forget that when you start interviewing. Finding someone that can fit into your company culture is key, and often as critical as ensuring they have the skills needed to be successful. A fish out of water simply won’t survive.

4. Don’t Get Desperate and NEVER Sell Yourself. If you are hiring, there is a strong chance that you are in serious need of help, possibly even desperate. This is the worst position to be in when hiring. When a business owner is desperate to hire, they tend to try to ‘sell’ the position and company versus forcing the candidate to sell themselves. This is never good! Even if you are desperate, always keep in mind that a bad hire will be three times as costly as waiting a few extra weeks to find the right person.

5. Be In Perpetual Hiring Mode. While you might not always have an open position to fill, as a business owner you should perpetually be in hiring mode. Keep a pool of names of those you met through the hiring position. Perhaps you met someone who didn’t fit one position, but they’d be perfect for a new position you are filling. Or maybe you got an application for a great IT person, but you were hiring for Sales. Start creating a database of people that could be possible candidates for future positions. This will save you time, and money, the next time a position opens.

Hiring should be an exciting time for you and your business. It’s a sign of growth and success. Instead of dreading it, use the tips above to approach the task with a positive, well-thought out plan. This will help you simplify the process and find the ‘perfect’ person to bring into your business.

This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional small business tips, check out Progressive’s Small Business Big Dreams program.


The post Hiring Is So Important. Here’s 5 Awesome Tips To Do It Right. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Save Time and Secure Your Business with a Password Management Tool

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 14:02

How many passwords do you have? If you’re like most business owners, the answer is “too many.” In the course of a month, the average individual visits over 25 different password-protected websites. That’s a lot of information to remember.

To make it simpler, some people use the same password for multiple sites; in fact, 65% of people use the same password everywhere. However, the practice of using the same password across many sites makes your business vulnerable. 90% of employee passwords can be cracked within six hours. When you’re using the same password that means that one simple crack unleashes ALL of your important information to hackers.

The solution is to use secure passwords that are virtually impossible to crack – long passwords consisting of upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters. Many websites even require users to create secure passwords like this.

The catch 22 is that while secure passwords are a must, they’re also impossible to remember. If you’re creating different, 10+ character passwords for each app, that’s the equivalent of 250 random letters, which is nearly impossible to remember.

If only there was a better way to remember strong passwords. Meldium is a password manager from LogMeIn with single sign on that helps businesses access web apps quickly and securely. How does it work and is it a good option for business owners? We recently reviewed the product and here’s what we found.

The Ins and Outs of Meldium

Meldium provides automatic login from every major browser with extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, and Safari or with apps on iOS and Android. You can instantly access password-protected websites and apps without typing or remembering a username and password. Here’s a little tour of the basics.

Available Plans

Meldium offers a 14 day free trial subscription that includes all the ‘Pro’ features to those looking to try the service. They offer a free plan that allows you to add up to five users and includes the basic features.

Their paid plans start at $29/month for the Basic, which includes unlimited apps and 20 users. The Premium plan is $79/mo for 100 users and the Professional plan is $199/mo for 250 users. Each plan offers a discount if you choose to pay annually.

From the smallest of organizations to the larger enterprises, Meldium has a plan that fits everyone.

The Launchpad

The Launchpad, or dashboard, is where you land once you log in and is the place where you’ll access all your websites and apps. Adding existing websites and passwords is easy:

  • Click on +Add an Application.
  • Scroll through the HUGE list of applications and websites – 2018 and counting.
  • Choose your application, enter the username and password, then click add.
  • Continue to add all your accounts.

All apps that you add will now appear on your Launchpad. The next time you need access, simply click on the icon for instant access.

Easy Management

The Manage section of Meldium allows admins and business owners to manage your apps, groups, users, events and settings.

  • Managing Apps: From one screen you can view and manage all your Apps, including:[checklist]
    • Launching the app
    • Editing the password
    • Editing the app settings including App name, login credentials and organization it’s assigned to
    • Deleting the application

  • Managing Organizations: For each organization you can manage all components including:
    • Creating groups of users within the organization and assigning applications
    • Quickly and easily onboard new employees
    • Invite users to the organization by email
    • Manage existing users access and permission levels
    • See all members of the organization

  • Managing Team Services: The team services management screen allows you to quickly add new services that specific teams within your organization will use. You can also update credentials and allow Meldium to monitor the service for new data to facilitate accurate user lists.
  • Managing Events: Wondering who’s doing what? The event management screen will show you all activity by user during time periods you can specify.
  • Managing Settings: The settings screen allows you to manage your Meldium account information, change your plan and set security specific security settings. You can also export data and delete any existing organizations.
One Click Access

Meldium offers an extension that allows you one-click access to all the apps you’ve added to your Launchpad. There are extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, Safari, iOS, and Android.

When you add the extension, a Meldium icon will appear on your menu bar (see image below). Clicking the symbol will bring up a list of your apps – then just click the one you want in order to log in.

Safe and Controllable Access to Your Accounts for Team Members

One of the major features, and in my opinion one of the most valuable, is the ability to share account access with team members that is controllable and secure.

When you share access to an application with a team member, they are sent an invitation that allows them instant access. What’s so wonderful about it is that while they have access to the account, they do not have the ability to see the actual password that accesses that account.

Additionally, you can control access from your management screen, including adding or revoking access. This makes the onboarding of new team members and the management of exiting team members super easy. No longer do you need to worry about spending countless hours getting someone all the account information and logins they need to get started. And no longer do you need to worry about team members that have left having access to your accounts. It’s all managed with just a few clicks through Meldium – keeping your accounts safe and secure.

Why Meldium is Right for Your Business

When it comes to evaluating technology for business, I typically look at three major factors:

  1. Will it save time?
  2. Is it easy, user friendly, and easy to manage?
  3. Does it make my business better?

In my opinion, Meldium receives a solid ‘YES’ on each of these factors.

It’s a definite time saver (and stress reducer) for anyone who is trying to manage multiple logins to multiple applications and programs. Meldium user, David Petersen – founder of BuildZoom, says, “One of the biggest stressors used to be keeping track of 50 passwords. Every site has different requirements: Numbers, upper case letters, lower case, punctuation, no punctuation – it caused me serious stress. I couldn’t get into my accounts and then I started using Meldium.”

The one-click access feature is pure genius. Additionally, the ability to quickly add and manage users is ideal for anyone with a team.

I found Meldium to be incredibly user friendly. It has a basic, yet powerful, design and after a little exploration I was navigating with ease. Menus are clear cut and directions appear on pages to help guide and instruct. If those aren’t enough, there is also an extensive help center and an email contact for support.

Whether or not it will make your business better can be somewhat subjective. But, given the fact that more and more small businesses are becoming victims of today’s sophisticated hackers, there is no doubt that increased password protection is the first of many steps to help safeguard your business. It’s the deadbolt on the door of your business. Coupling this with other solid security measures will increase your chances of avoiding costly security breaches.

Overall, Meldium is a solid password management program and security measure for small business. Because LogMeIn offers plans to fit every size organization and budget, Meldium should be a staple in the technology arsenal of every small business.

Smart Hustle Magazine and Ramon Ray were thrilled to partner with LogMeIn and the Meldium product to provide this review.

The post Save Time and Secure Your Business with a Password Management Tool appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Microsoft Righting Its Ship Towards Re-inventing the Enterprise in Asia Pacific

AMI Partners - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 07:01
AMI-Partners Singapore team attended Microsoft’s Asia Pacific Analyst Summit in Singapore last week for an extensive and well-timed strategy update with few months to go before the launch of Windows 10. I’m going to attempt to explain what I think I saw and heard at the Microsoft analyst summit last week – which is a […]
Categories: SMB

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