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

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

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

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




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Categories: SMB

Insightly CRM Review: Four Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing Customer Marketing Software

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 13:15

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

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

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

Why CRM is so important for small businesses

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

Better Communication with Clients

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

Improved Internal Communication

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

Integration with Existing Software

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

Why You Should Choose Insightly

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

Questions you Should Ask About CRM 

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

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

The answer to each of these questions was YES.

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

CRM for Small Businesses

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

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Categories: SMB

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

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

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

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

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

5 Reasons to Choose Microsoft

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

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

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

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Categories: SMB

The Small Business Advantage in Omni-channel Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: SMB

SMB HR: Using Social Media in Hiring Decisions

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

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

What you tweet may be used against you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That depends where, when and which.

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

Categories: SMB

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

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

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

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

Each stop on the Local Lift Tour includes:

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

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

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

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

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Categories: SMB

4 Ways to Incorporate Cultural Traditions into the Workplace

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

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

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

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

Have a Cultural Potluck

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

Celebrate All Holidays

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

Be a Role Model

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

Respect Spirituality

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

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

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Categories: SMB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: SMB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: SMB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: SMB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can I Take Part in the Twitter Chat?

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

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

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Categories: SMB

Want Your Emails To Get Delivered Better? Print Out and Keep This Neat Infographic.

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 15:00

Email marketing company Vertical Response provides a great overview of tips in how small business owners can better ensure their emails get through spam folders and other barriers to reach their intended destinations.

Vertical Responses infographic shows that you can directly influence whether your emails land in the inbox or the dreaded Spam folder. While the most important thing is to use a reliable email service provider, there are many other things that affect email delivery, including the health of your email lists, the content you include in your emails and even how often (or not) you send. This new infographic from email service provider VerticalResponse summarizes some key dos and don’ts when it comes to making sure your emails go where you want them to go: the inbox.
  • Require your subscribers to opt-in twice; this keeps your list quality high. Don’t use purchased or rented lists.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe so your readers don’t hit the “Spam” button, which can negatively affect delivery.
  • Don’t include HTML, Javascript or Flash in your emails.
  • Don’t send the same content over and over.
  • Keep your readers coming back with interesting content and offers.
  • Test all of your images and links; bad links could affect delivery.

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Categories: SMB

SMS Marketing Works. Use These 5 Tips To Do It Right.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 18:00

Marketing to your prospects and customers on their phones, via SMS can work, you just have to do it right.

Josh Lange, Lead Client Success Manager of SMS marketing company CallFire helps us understand how to do it right, in this post.

It’s no secret that smartphones have taken over the world. In fact there are almost as many cell phones (6.8 billion) as people on the planet (7 billion). With those statistics in mind, why go through all the work of marketing anywhere but where consumers are already looking?

For most businesses this is not a profound or groundbreaking thought. More and more businesses are employing tactics like apps, SMS, geo-fencing, and other mobile marketing strategies. And, it isn’t just big companies with equally big marketing budgets. Small businesses have more access to mobile marketing tools and technology than ever before, and they often have a much better response and return than the big guys.

One of the most cost effective and accessible mobile tactics for SMBs is SMS messaging. Yes, it’s a technology that’s been around for years, but the ways it’s being used are evolving every day. And, for small businesses with smaller spends, no other outlet can offer 90 percent of messages to be read within three minutes of delivery. But, just because you are getting the consumer to read your message, does not guarantee marketing success. Below are some guidelines for a company, of any size, to see return on investment using SMS messaging:

Specific Calls to Action

Though this seems like common knowledge, so many marketers do not include something for the customer to DO within their message. A common example of this is, “Check out this sale! Click here before it’s too late.” With this example there are no specific calls to action other than to click a link. A more specific approach would be, “Today only at XYZ jeans, 50% off all jeans for our VIP members. Use promo code XYZ at the register or online.” This is not only a clearer message, but it gives the customer a strong action to take and a timeline in which to act.

Another approach for a time sensitive call to action would be to have customers reply to your message. Some customers may not even know they CAN reply to your messages. This is a great way to interact with your customers. For example, “Be one of the first 100 people to reply to this message and receive a one-time 25% off coupon on your next purchase. Reply XYZ for your instant coupon.” Be sure to use clear impactful language – DISCOUNT, COUPON, or SPECIAL.

Time Sensitive Flash Sales

Flash sales have become a great way for businesses to get immediate results by giving customers a sense of urgency. This approach ties into an, ‘act-quick or it’s gone forever’ enthusiasm. Giving these limited time specials to your customers by text message only is a great way to continue customer excitement about your future messages. Similarly, flash sales can really pickup sales during typically slower seasons. Keep in mind that your messages should offer some sort of instant value that was previously unavailable. Traditionally, flash sales are only offered for a 2-3 hour period.  


Make your customers feel special. Text messages are geared to be more urgent than an email, and can be perceived as a more private way to speak to your customers. Don’t lose their trust by sending them a generic message. Customize your messages to include customers’ names (or any other personal identifier) for each message, which requires minimal effort on your part. Your messages will be much more impactful if customers perceive that they have qualified for a limited VIP promotion.

No Repetition

If you send the same message every Saturday, your texts will quickly lose their flair. Be creative and relevant with your messages. You have 160 characters to speak to these customers directly and instantly.

Do not send the same SMS message as you did for the email you sent earlier that week. Use all marketing channels efficiently and purposely. If a customer gets an email offering $2 off their coffee, then receives a text message offering the same thing, and then walks into the store with signage prompting the same special, what is the point?

And, don’t forget to test and modify your messages continuously. Your messages need to evolve with your customers.

No Fluff

Mobile marketing is geared to be concise and keep brands top of mind for customers on the go. Be focused, familiar and succinct. Make sure to include from whom the message is coming to decrease the perception of spam. Know your target audience and speak specifically to them.

Though you are using a text message to reach out to your customers, stay professional. Try not to use abbreviations, slang or ‘text lingo.’ Keep in mind no one has ever lost a customer because they used correct grammar.

The cell phone is the most widely adopted consumer technology in the history of the world. Most people find themselves checking their phone even if it did not vibrate or ring. You already have your consumers’ undivided attention – be sure to present the right message at the right time with the precision of just 160 characters.

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Categories: SMB

Use Customer Data to Improve their Experience. Be Careful How You Use It.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 15:00

Facebook is one of the recent and most publicized examples of an online service testing (manipulating?) customer data.

Christian Rudder, founder OKCupid writes in the Wall Street Journal that his service also tested customer data and even manipulated it a bit.

They did inform users, they did share the results and the experiment helped OKCupid to improve its offering.

For small business owners, it’s a MUST to use existing customer data to make your product better. However, it’s also important to ensure you use the data properly. It’s also important to reassure and not anger your customers when you share with them how you’ve used their data.

Christian writes “We announced the test in a post on our blog, and we explained what we found without fully explaining the test’s purpose. The collection and interpretation of consumer data is sensitive and complex. Our lighthearted analysis of an important issue rang sour, and it appeared to many that we were secretly toying with our users’ love lives. That’s an unsettling idea, even if incorrect. While we can apologize for the way we presented our test, the outcry around it broached a larger issue that transcends OkCupid or any one company.”

In a discussion I had with Small Business Summit (Oct 22nd) speaker, Cliff Worley, Chief Digital Officer of Shark Branding (Daymond John’s Company), Cliff shares how he uses Infusionsoft to know what his users want and help create additional offerings for them.

If you are NOT using customer data to improve the user experience – you’re missing out. If you are using customer data make sure you use it wisely.

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Categories: SMB

Can Your Small Business Compete Against Big Retailers? Here’s 4 Suggestions.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 01:00

Let’s face it – Bath and Body Works, Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Radio Shack and a zillion other retailers have already primed their marketing engines and are ready to push out million dollar advertising blitzes to attract customers, get them to buy and wow them.

According to e-commerce company Volusion mobile commerce will explode, in 2014 the Holiday buying season is shorter and more.

If you’re nervous about bix box retailers, here’s a few things you can do, from Volusion:

  • Tap into existing customers now by marketing to them via email and encouraging the usage of loyalty programs – repeat customers are the easiest to convert, so placing one’s small business in their consideration set earlier than later will help prevent shoppers from flocking to Amazon.
  • Leverage current customers to recruit new customers. Extending sharable coupons or simply encouraging and incentivizing existing customers to tell their friends about one’s business is a cost-effective method to attracting first-time shoppers to a small business website.
  • Work to increase average order value and number of items per order to remain profitable. The primary reason online shoppers use Amazon and other large websites is for cost savings, meaning that if a small retailer is forced to reduce prices or offer other promotions like free shipping, they need to increase the average amount of sales per customer to stay in the black. To do so, smaller merchants are encouraged to offer personalized product recommendations, bundle related products, and find other upselling opportunities.
  • Encourage account registration for shoppers visiting their site. This is helpful for two reasons: 1) it allows merchants to further market to these customers, and 2) allows shoppers with accounts to save cart items that were previously abandoned, as Adobe reports that 55% of shoppers want to save their cart for later purchase.

Here 4 things I suggest you do:

  1. Speak with a marketing consultant to get IDEAS and HELP executing on your sales strategy for 2014
  2. Make sure you have an updated list of CUSTOMERS who have already bought from you. Hopefully your database shows what they bought from you
  3. Get very clear on what your TARGET MARKET IS so you can smartly reach new customers
  4. Implement a CRM system that can help you manage the entire sales process – from lead capture, to education, to sales, to order fulfillment and to wowing that customer after they bought and asking for a referral!

There’s a lot more you need to – but the BIG step is a) knowing your existing customers and b) knowing the profile of your potential customers!


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Categories: SMB

The Key to Digital Marketing…Shark Style: Interview with Cliff Worley of Shark Branding

SmallBiz Technology - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 19:00

The calendar just rolled around to September, bringing us one step closer to the 9th Annual Small Business Summit, a one-day event specifically for small business owners that will take place on October 22, 2014 in NYC. The Summit is packed with opportunities to learn, network and have fun – and there are some incredible speakers on the lineup for this year including Cliff Worley, Chief Digital Officer of Shark Branding – Daymond John’s (of ABC’s Shark Tank) branding consultancy firm.

Cliff is going to share with Summit attendees what it’s like working for a celebrity and how to translate that into better marketing initiatives. He also explains that while you think having a celebrity presence makes it easier to reach people, it isn’t. They go through the same steps as every other small business to convert prospects.

Recently Ramon Ray had a chance to speak to Cliff in a Google Hangout on what we can expect from his Shark Branding session. To find out, you can watch that video here, or simply click the play button below.

As you see, Cliff has many insights in regards to using CRM and social media to engage with customers and help them develop a relationship with your brand. And there is more where that came from! You certainly won’t want to miss his full Shark Branding session, so make sure to sign up for the 9th Annual Small Business Summit today.

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Categories: SMB

Don’t Let Apps Kill Your Security and Productivity

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 15:00

Remember the classic “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel are wrapping chocolate candies on an assembly line? Production starts moving so fast, the gals can’t keep up with the pace and they try to cope by shoving the candies into their mouths and down their blouses.

The situation parallels what’s happening on our mobile devices. We’re stuffing them with so many apps – most that claim to be “free” – that we can’t keep up with the risks to our security and productivity.

You need to take control of apps in your small business today or suffer major consequences tomorrow. Several currents in mobile computing and small business are coming together to create a potential tsunami of trouble. These are the increasing dependence on mobile apps in business, the prevalence of employees using their own mobile devices, and the deluge of “free” apps.

Generally, the threats fall into two categories: security and productivity. Both are serious. We’ll outline each.

Productivity Losses

Intermedia published a report recently that looked at the relationship between small businesses and cloud apps. It found that the average small business was using more than 14 cloud apps and that each small biz employee had nearly six business-related cloud apps.

Considering time spent logging in and out, dealing with updates and all the other app housekeeping chores – and assuming employees are security conscious – these apps are costing a $15 loss in productivity per employee each month. How many employees do you have? Do the math and you’ll see that it can become a major drain on your bottom line.

Intermedia figured that just with logins that take about 20 seconds each, a small business that employs 75 people will waste 570 hours a year. The bill for this is nearly $14,000 in lost productivity.

But hey, if your employees don’t want to waste time logging in and out, they can just stay logged in all the time, right? How would that conform to your security policy?

Security Threats

Many small businesses are allowing employees to use their own mobile devices. It saves money and people know how their devices work. However, mixing business apps, with personal apps, along with business contacts with personal contacts, creates a new level of security risks.

When your employees are syncing their Outlook contacts, your business contacts – which you want to protect – are getting thrown into the mix. Add to this the fact that virtually every free app gets access to the device contact list and now you’re exposing your business contacts to a variety of unknown third-parties.

At worst you’re opening yourself up to corporate espionage; at best you’re exposing your business associates to spam. Also, don’t overlook what can happen to mobile devices when they are lost, stolen or “recycled.”

Privacy is Gone

Appthority just published its App Reputation Report where it looks at security and privacy risks posed by apps. Virtually every iOS and Android free app gets access to:

  • Contact lists
  • Device location
  • Calendars
  • Purchases
  • Unique mobile device ID

Further, even 80-90 percent of all paid apps get similar access. There’s no escaping the fact that you and your employees are providing a wealth of information about yourselves and your business every time you accept the “terms and conditions” of a mobile app.

Most of the information collected goes straight to advertising networks. Security and privacy concerns are mounting for both the personal user and IT departments. Tracking the location of executives and hacking into devices or app developer databases to steal corporate information are no longer far-fetched scenarios.

Small businesses can’t afford to ignore the security and productivity risks when employees use mobile devices. App inventories must be taken and spurious apps removed from devices. If you don’t have a policy, now is the time to develop one and train your employees on it.

Image via Shutterstock

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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Categories: SMB

Online Storage & Collaboration Continues Strong Growth in US SMB Market

AMI Partners - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 14:37
AMI’s Q4 2013 annual US SMB trackers revealed that over 30% of US SMBs were using one or more online storage/collaboration services such as Carbonite, Dropbox, Sharepoint,, among several other brands. Another 20% indicated plans to start using such services within the coming 12 months. As these plans are realized through the remainder of 2014 […]
Categories: SMB

8 Online Invoicing and Time Tracking Tools for Small Business

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 14:29

One of the biggest challenges for many small business owners is managing finances, especially time tracking and invoicing. While there are many online solutions to choose from, finding one that meets all your businesses specific needs can be difficult. So we went on a quest to find the best in online invoicing and time tracking solutions and here are our eight favorites.

Online Invoicing and Time Tracking Services for Small Business

View more lists from Carolyn Crummey Getting paid is essential in keeping your small business running. We recently shared an article with six tips on how to get paid faster. By following these tips and using one of these online invoicing and time tracking tools, you’ll spend less time getting the money your owed and spend more time building your business.

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Categories: SMB

6 Ways to Get Paid Faster and Keep Your Business Rock’n and Roll’n

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 09/03/2014 - 15:00

For growing businesses getting paid on time is crucial for survival. Recurring delays in payment of invoices can quickly turn into a cash flow problem, especially with your business creditors waiting at the other end of the line. With payments piling up, you waste productive hours trying to collect amounts that customers owe instead of focusing on growing your business. Here are six ways to get paid faster and keep your business rock’n and roll’n! (Tweet This!!)

With the advent of cloud based invoicing and online card payment solutions, businesses are getting paid faster than ever before. Yet, every business still has to deal with those few late, or non-paying customers.The good news is that regardless of the size and nature of your company, you can take several steps to get paid faster by your customers.

Tips on Getting Paid Faster

1. Document your payment terms. Make sure your payment terms are clearly noted on all invoices and are simple to understand. To take it a step further, you can add a “Payment due by XX” line to ensure there is no misunderstanding.

2. Invoice Consistently. Invoicing on a specific day or date each month can help get paid faster. Whether sending invoices out every Monday morning or on the 15th of every month, remaining consistent will help keep your payments on track. If you do a lot of project work, invoicing as soon as the work is done, improves chances of payment because the value of your work is still fresh in the mind of the customer. Web based applications, such as Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Paymo and Zoho Invoice allow you to manage and send invoices, even on the go!

3. Invoice Correctly. The last thing you want to upset the customer with an incorrect invoice. Ensure that you have billed the customer correctly. Give a detailed breakdown of the services rendered or products delivered to ensure that the clients understand exactly what they are paying for. Also, address the invoice to the right person in the organization to ensure that your invoice reaches the right desk.

4. Make it easy for them to pay. If you want to get paid faster, then make it easy for your customers to pay you. Accepting payments through services like PayPal, Zipmark or bank payment services like Chase QuickPay, allow clients to pay you with a click of the button and the monies are transferred directly to your account with either no or minimal fees.

5. Be creative and flexible. Evaluate if you can afford to give clients an incentive for early payments. For example, ‘Pay within 10 days and avail a 5% discount on the bill value’. Alternatively, offer freebies or discount on future work for early full payments. Be open to terms your customers may offer. For instance a client may ask for a reduction of 2% in the bill value in exchange for paying by wire transfer by the 30th.

6. Focus on relationship building. Customers are likely to prioritize your payments when they like you. As per Freshbooks, an online invoicing company, adding ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’ can increase your likelihood of payment by 5%. You can send out email payment reminders, but if the person clearing payments doesn’t really know you, they might overlook the reminders. Pick the phone and speak to the person in-charge. If the customer has missed a payment date, don’t use harsh words or threatening language. A reasonable approach will be less stressful for both of you and can save the business relationship.

At the end of the day, getting paid on time is greatly determined by your ability to make customers happy with consistently good products and service. Conveying sincere gratitude for their business and following invoicing etiquette shows you’re a business who keeps their customers interests at heart and that is bound to be good for your business.

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Categories: SMB
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