How SMBs Can Punch Above Their Weight

SMB News - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:14


by Kieran Flanagan & Dan Gregory

One of the opportunities we have as we travel around the world working with organizations of different sizes and from virtually every business sector is that we get to observe the macro-trends that are redefining the way we do business. One of the macro-trends we’ve identified is the rise of entrepreneurship and intra-preneurialism.

In other words, pieces of large corporations are peeling off and becoming start-ups as employees become business owners, and internally, corporate culture is scrambling to develop this kind of free-thinking enterprise in a world where playing safe is the new risky.

This requires a big shift in the way we think about work and just as importantly what we consider is necessary to have an impact at scale.

Much of this is being driven by the digital revolution that is quite literally making the “two people in a garage” scenario a credible and ever-present threat to the big end of town. Whatever the reasons behind this shift: what’s immediately obvious is that these are indeed interesting times for small business owners with big ambitions.

In this environment, those who do well, those who stand out from the competitive chaos and establish a strong hold in their industry are those who demonstrate a new set of critical skills.

So what are these new skills that SMBs require?

1. Love someone better than anyone else does

We all like to feel like we’re important, like we matter, that we’re special and respected for our individuality. But this is scarcely the experience most of us enjoy from the commercial entities we interact on a daily basis. When we do have this kind of experience, it is not only noteworthy, it seems extraordinary.

The café that has the regular’s names printed on cups and hung on the wall so they feel a sense of “membership”, the photography school that specializes in teaching new and expecting parents how to take amazing photographs of their newborns, the florist whose database keeps a log of your important dates and prompts little acts of thoughtfulness with a text so you never miss a birthday, anniversary or special occasion. These are the businesses that develop loyalty beyond reason (to draw on the language of Kevin Roberts).

2. Understand the business you’re in, not just the job you do

This is a problem businesses of all sizes often find themselves in. It’s easy to be so distracted by the day to day activity of our “job” that we forget the business we’re really in.

Hairdressers, for instance, may cut your hair, but if they hope to justify a premium pricing, they had better be in more than the business of shorter hair!

It’s useful to think not in terms of the service or product you provide, but rather in terms of the value your customers or clients gain from this experience.

Sometimes, this is as simple as being clear about where the money trail leads. At the risk of sounding like Cuba Gooding Jr in the movie Jerry MacGuire, show me the money can often be sage advice. For instance, those optometrists who make considerably more money in selling frames than from their medical consults are in fact in the retail fashion business, not medical services. This distinction should inform the way their store in designed, how they communicate with customers and also the language their staff use in store.

3. Design “nowhere else” experiences

In many ways, these experiences are the very things that justify the existence of your business in the first place. This should be more than a superficial point of difference and should define the way you would like to see your industry change.

It’s the restaurant with the “arrogant” chef who tells you what you’ll have and kicks you out if they see you perusing a menu (in doing so a “weakness” becomes uniqueness), the jeweler who shows the little girl choosing a charm for her bracelet the same attention of an engagement ring shopper and the airline that makes those monotonous safety warnings at the beginning of a flight more tolerable. These are the experiences we remember and importantly, want to share.

4. Create stories worth sharing

As word of mouth has become word of mouse, the stories, experiences and opinions our customers share about us have become increasingly important and either an incredible asset or else a pressing liability.

Social media has largely been a distracting annoyance for a lot of small to medium businesses, where perhaps the thing we should be focusing on, is not the channel, but in generating stories that a worth sharing, then making them easy to share.

5. Focus on the boring bits

Too often we become distracted by the “big” things in our business. This makes logical sense, but these are often areas that small to medium businesses struggle to find a competitive foothold. We fight to compete on range, or pricing or distribution, simply because scale makes this factors an easy win for the big end of town.

However, it is the small things, the areas in which SMBs can perform, that are often overlooked by big corporates. More importantly, they are often the friction, or “breakage-points” that drive customer dissatisfaction where SMBs can stand out by paying more attention.

6. Understand who you help them to be

All human behavior is ultimately driven by our sense of identity – this affects us at a far deeper level than simple logic or emotion. In fact, human beings can be compelled to commit incredible acts of heroism or cruelty, things that defy logic and can even cause emotional pain, simply by aligning these actions with our underlying definition of identity.

However, this is rarely the level at which businesses seek to engage their staff or customers. Key in this process is asking the question, “Who do we help them to be?” By engaging with our business, using our services or buying our products, what do they project to the rest of the world about who they are?

This is critical, not just to inform our sales and marketing strategies, but also how we attract, inspire and lead members of our team.

The point is, SMBs can punch above their weight and stand toe to toe with the big guys, so glove up and start punching!


Kieran Flanagan & Dan Gregory are behavioral researchers and strategists, specializing in behaviors and belief systems–what drives, motivates and influences us. They have won business awards around the world for Innovation, Creativity and ROI working with such organizations as Coca-Cola, Unilever, News Corp and the United Nations in Singapore. They are passionate advocates for the commercial power of creativity and a return to more human engagement, cultures and leadership. Published by WILEY, Kieran and Dan’s new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid is available in paperback RRP $22.95 from

Categories: SMB

New HP Officejet X Series Changes The Way We Look At Business Printing

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 21:31

When thinking about efficiency and productivity in your business and areas you can easily improve, you might first think about your employees, software, and apps. But when was the last time you thought about your printer? It may not be the first thing to pop into your mind, but it’s time to change that thinking, as HP has recently introduced the HP Officejet X Series of printers… and they are changing the way we look at business printing and productivity.

Research shows that printing is an often neglected part of running a business. For example:

  • 90% of business don’t keep track of what they spend on office printing
  • Companies underestimate printing costs by 30-40%
  • The average business spends 1-3% of their revenue on printing.

These statistics are pretty alarming when you consider that the average U.S. office worker prints 10,000 pages per year. When you add it up, that’s a lot of lost money and wasted time… but it doesn’t have to be, not when printing companies, like HP, are looking to change the way we do business.

A Look at the HP Officejet X Series

The HP Officejet Pro X series is specifically designed to improve speed while lowering costs. When compared to a laser printer you’ll find it has up to twice the speed but only half of the printing costs. Here are some key features of the new Officejet X series:

  • Incredible Speed: The secret to the HP Officejet Pro X series’ speed is the HP PageWide technology. With a print head that spans the entire width of the page, you can print entire documents in just a single pass – that’s whole pages in just a fraction of a second and up to 70 pages in just one minute.
  • Lower Costs: The combination of HP ink, energy and printing technologies allows you to print pages at up to half the cost per page compared to color laser printers. Time and money can also be saved by using the double-sided printing feature.
  • Fewer Interruptions: The input tray of the HP Officejet Pro X series holds 500 sheets, and if you routinely print in high volumes you can get the optional second 500-sheet tray too.
  • Connected Technology: The HP ePrint feature of the Officejet Pro X series allows you to conveniently and easily print right from your tablet or smart phone.
  • High-Quality Results: HP technology produces a uniform drop weight, speed and trajectory of ink drops, greatly improving the precision of your printed documents. HP inks also delivers the blackest blacks and vibrant, saturated colors.
  • Other Great Specs: The HP Officejet Pro X series allows networking for 5-15 users and can print up to 6,000 pages per month per set of installed printer cartridges.

HP Officejet Pro X Series Options

There are four models of the Pro X series, allowing you to find the right one that matches your needs.

There are two ‘print-only’ models, the Pro X451dn and Pro X551dw that print 55ppm and 70 ppm, respectively and include additional features such as Enterprise Network capability, duplex printing and front USB.

Additionally, there are two ‘multi-function’ models, the Pro X475dn MFP and the Pro X576dw MFP. Boasting the same ppm capabilities as their print-only counterparts, as well as many of the extra features, these multi-function models also allow for copy, scan and fax capabilities.

Each model in the series varies in specs and price, so you can find the exact printer that meets the needs and budget of your own business.

The HP Officejet Pro X series offers improvements to your office efficiency and productivity, as well as a reduction in costs. If your business is due for an upgrade, it’s time to check out the HP Officejet Pro X series.


The post New HP Officejet X Series Changes The Way We Look At Business Printing appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Can You Get Too Many Followers? Yes, Absolutely.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 20:56

We love to measure our worth by numbers. When we’re younger it may be our high school or college grade point average; when we’re older it’s probably our salary. The value of professional athletes is measured in things like RBIs, TDs and field goal percentage.

More often than not, the higher the better.

The equivalent in social media marketing is usually the number of followers, and again the higher the better.
However, if you have the wrong kind of follower, a bigger number isn’t better; in fact it’s worse.

Singers seldom need graphic artists

An acquaintance of mine was trying to build his Twitter following to promote his freelance graphic arts business. He was using various apps to find people to follow who would be interested in what he offers and also be good prospects for where he ultimately planned to take his business.

He was adding followers at a good rate and then he noticed something. Many singer-songwriters started following him. Here’s what was happening: He had some friends in the music business who followed him. A few of their followers started following the graphic artist on Twitter. He returned the follow without thinking and that just caused the phenomena to snowball.

Soon he had a good number of followers on Twitter, but some unknown percentage were people who would never need his services or buy what he wanted to sell at the next stage of his business development. While he made his error on Twitter, the same thing is possible on the other social media platforms. For example, using a giveaway promotion to increase engagement on Facebook could easily pull in the people who just aren’t that into you.

Halt! Who goes there?

Before you start employing every strategy you can think of to increase your social media followers, you need to identify who you want in your “community.” In fact, being able to clearly define your ideal prospect is the first and most important step in any marketing initiative. In all of your social media efforts, including the commercial platforms and your own blog, the idea is to build a community rather than merely a following.

When you define the target for your social media marketing you need to consider attributes such as:

  • Demographics,
  • Location, and
  • Status.

Some platforms and available apps will help you with some or all of these attributes so you can perform searches to seek out the right people. In some cases those attributes will determine the platform(s) you should be active on.

Going back to Twitter, apps such as Tweet Adder allow you to filter by a wide variety of attributes, including location. So if engaging 600 high quality prospects within a 100-mile radius of your location is more valuable than engaging 6000 followers around the world, you can accomplish that.

As you’re identifying your target, some attributes will never change; if you’re selling bikinis, you’ll never care about increasing the number of men in your social media community. However, there are also these pesky things called trends, so you need to anticipate where your industry is going and by doing that you will be laying the foundation for growth in your social media community.

Do your homework: Define your target, find the social media marketing platforms where they hang out, and then use the best tools at your disposal to engage just those people.

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Categories: SMB

Simplify Facebook Ad Design with Social Postcards from Vistaprint

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 18:05

If you are a small business who understands the power of Facebook marketing and advertising, but just hasn’t been able to make it work for your business because designing the ads is too difficult, then you are in luck. Vistaprint, a global e-commerce brand empowering more than 16 million micro business owners to professionally promote their business with quality printed and digital marketing products at an affordable price, just released a new solution called ‘Social Postcards”, which allows you to transform your printed postcards into great looking Facebook Ads.

Vistaprint and its digital services business, Webs, worked with Facebook to create this small business-focused tool for its customers, in an effort to allow them to streamline and boost their print and online marketing efforts.This new tool simplifies the task of creating and managing Facebook ads. Users who design a postcard on Vistaprint have the option to turn it into a Facebook ad, choose the target audience, publish it, and view the ad campaign’s results – all in one easy-to-use dashboard.

Beyond the statistic noted in the image avobe, the “2014 Webs Small Business Digital Trends Survey” also showed that 65 percent of small businesses are currently using, or are willing to pay for, Facebook ads, but most don’t have the tools or resources to design highly impactful and professional-looking social media ads. Facebook research further shows that ads on the platform can drive more in-store revenue, with one-third more people purchasing the products or services, and two-thirds of people increasing their order value. In addition, Facebook is more than twice as accurate as other ad networks in reaching a business’ target audience – enabling marketers to get their ads in front of the right people.

The new Social Postcards tool features:

  • Simple, user-friendly interface
  • Step-by-step Facebook ad creation that’s powerful yet simple
  • Proprietary technology that enables matching print and online branded content
  • Library of ad templates to highlight sales, events, promotions and more
  • Extensive library of royalty-free images for ad usage
  • Adherence to Facebook’s text guidelines
  • Simplified ad targeting based on demographics, interests, connections and more
  • Compatibility with Facebook desktop and mobile
  • Low one-time fee that enables testing with limited investment
  • Ad analytics to help optimize strategy

“As a real estate agent, I’m responsible for doing all of my own marketing and have to leave a lasting impression in someone’s mind when they turn to social media for their home-buying needs,” said Emilee Sinclair, broker/agent at Coldwell Banker Sea Cost Advantage. “Having the option to turn the materials I’m already creating on into a Facebook ad made it really easy and affordable to reach a large number of potential customers I typically would not be able to reach by myself.”

If you are currently creating print marketing materials and looking for a simple and effective way to turn those assets into Facebook ads that engage and convert, you’ll definitely want to check out this innovative tool.

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Categories: SMB

Main Street Forum Hosts 5 Small Business Leaders. 9 Challenges Of Small Business Success

SmallBiz Technology - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 22:10

Last week’s Main Street Forum (NYC) focused on the challenges small business owners face in growing and running their businesses. The resounding themes of the forum were - what is the definition of a small business and how can companies selling small business services make running a small business easier.

The Main Street Forum, hosted by Infusionsoft, brought together executives from companies and organizations focused on providing solutions to small businesses: American Express, OnDeck, Wix and SCORE participated.

Also in attendance were a media focused on small business success, including Inc, WSJ, Inc, NY Times, Mashable, Smart Hustle Magazine and (represented by me!).

The evening’s moderator was Bo Burlingham, author and editor at large of Inc Magazine.

Here are highlights of the lively discussion:

Lack of capital

40% of businesses fail due to a lack of capital and ineffective marketing. Why are so many businesses on shark tank? Ignoring the ones who come just for fame, there’s many who will not qualify for  traditional bank financing and want the money (and expertise) from the sharks.and who don’t know how to get to the next level.

Definition of small business is mixed

Small business formation is not a singular event, but it’s a progression that happens over time, explained Clate Mask, CEO and co-founder of Infusionsoft. Registering with the state and filing articles of incorporation is not necessarily when a business is really formed. I’ve launched 3 companies and having them “incorporated” was just one small process of their success! The progression of business growth takes place from the idea, to the test of the idea, to the legal formation of the business entity and so many others stage of “starting a business”.

(Resource - Clate’s 7 stages of small business growth).

The Main Street Forum panelists also discussed, is a small business an entity that reaches a certain level of maturity, from hobby to “business”? Or can it be a wedding that generates thousands of dollars of revenue over a few weeks, for participating vendors. What defines a “business”. Eric Mason, Director of Communication at Wix shared that out of the millions of web sites Wix hosts, there’s many representing various stages of “business”. Defining what a small business really is and their stages are important.

Running a business is just hard

If you look at the top 50 companies on the New York Stock Exchange, 90% who were there some years ago are not there today, shared Christopher Hollins, Vice President and GM of American Express OPEN Top Client Group. It’s not easy for big companies to be in business and surely not easy for very small companies to be in business.  “Scaling up” is a relatively new term,. 20 or 50 years ago – you just went into business. Now startups are all about testing and scaling, Bo Burlinghman (Inc Editor at Large) shared. Fail fast (and move on) is one of the lessons of many startups.

Access to data is a game changer

Vendors who are selling to small businesses can offer precisely the technology their customers want, shard OnDeck’s COO, James Hobson. Smart companies closely analyze their customer buying patterns to ensure they’re delivering to their customers precisely what they want. For small business owners, their ability to access data at the click of a mouse gives them many more advantages than those who started their businesses even just 20 years ago. This point was not a reason for their not succeeding of course – but a reason for them (small business owners) to succeed!

Education is critical for success

Christopher Hollins shared that there is such a low barrier to start a business and it’s important to have a guide or mentor to help them succeed. Small business ownership requires so many decisions and responsibilities to go right – in order to last. David Bobbitt of SCORE shared that SCORE fills this void through their national counselling services to small businesses all across the United States.

Complicated tools and services

One of the challenges small business owner face is that using many of the services provided to them is still relatively complicated. I’m a techie and am often asked to help other business others with their technology. But it’s beyond technology complications. Even applying for a loan, getting a permit and other things a business might need are often very complicated. Eric Mason, shared that there should be an element of fun and ease of use into more small business services. All of the The Main Street Forum panelists are focused on making their offerings easier and easier to use. Wix’s web site builder is one of the easiest ways to build a web site. OnDeck shared how their loan service application and entire process is fast and very easy to use – much easier than a traditional bank.


The pain of small business owner loneliness was brought up by Clate Mask. He said working day to day all alone in the grind of their business is a problem for many business owners. The success of Meetup, #ICON 2015 (small business sales and marketing event), SCORE, American Express OPEN Forum and other communities is that they enable otherwise lonely small business owners to find help from peers and experts and/or network.

It’s hard to sell to small businesses

Some business, selling services and products to small businesses, do NOT understand how to sell to small business. Some of these vendors try to treat small businesses as consumers. This does not work. Of course treating them as Fortune 500 companies is definitely not the way to go either. There is a different approach needed – high touch and high tech – said a panelist.

Resource – Anita Campbell (Small Business Trends) and I will cover this topic at the upcoming Market2SmallBiz Conference in San Francisco in May.


The panel concluded with comments in how small businesses don’t have to do everything on their own. They can leverage talent and online services to help them manage and grow their businesses – while they focus on their customers and other things essential to their business.

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Categories: SMB

Gamification. Is It Something You Should Consider? Five Reasons To Think About.

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 20:37

Gamification enables companies to make “work” fun. Weather it’s getting money out of an ATM machine or having a cheery voice greet you at the gas pump – these are (kind of) ways that you make doing an action – engaging. Right?

I’ve ask Adam Hollander, CEO of FantasySalesTeam to share about this with us.

At FantasySalesTeam, we have a wide variety of customers.  We of course work with large enterprises like HP and CenturyLink.  But believe it or not, the large majority of companies that leverage our platform are small and medium businesses.  Everything from retail stores to software startups to car dealerships use FantasySalesTeam to motivate and engage their employees.  Here are five key reasons why any SMB should evaluate gamification:

Culture - Building a positive culture is of huge importance to any SMB company.  It’s how to attract the best employees and keep them as you continue to grow.  Making the workplace fun while also driving improved results is the dream of any small business owner.  Gamification, when implemented properly, can have a tremendous impact on workplace culture and engagement.

Results - Gamification is proven to drive meaningful results for SMBs.  Take this case study with Wireless Zone for example where they implemented gamification in a few of their retail locations across roughly 30 employees.  They saw a 176% improvement in results and a 9% increase in profit margin in just 30 days.   If that’s not reason enough to evaluate gamification, I don’t know what is.

Visibility –  Making everyone’s results highly visible is important in any company – but even more so in SMBs.  Each individual employee holds more weight on their shoulders – you can’t afford to have anyone not contributing.  When results are visible, employees react accordingly.

Teamwork - In any SMB, it’s essential to get your employees working together.  1+1=3 when you get everyone working towards a common goal.  Using gamification to get your employees working together as a team will have a profound impact.

Quick Win - Implementing gamification into an SMB is a very quick win.  With the right tool, you can have games up and running in a matter of hours and start seeing results within a matter of days.

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Categories: SMB

New App Crowd Sources Shipping and Delivery of Consumer Items

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 16:16

How often do you wish that instead of having to run out and grab last minute itesm like house paint, dog food or extra floor tile, that you could simply create a list and have it delivered directly to your door?  Well now you can, all thanks to the new shipping service, Roadie, the first neighbor-to-neighbor shipping service.

Roadie is a unique new service that essentially uses crowd sourcing to ship and deliver items from consumer to consumer. The concept is that if there is something that you need delivered, there is bound to be someone traveling in your direction that can grab the items you need and drop them off at your desired destination.  Whether it be the same day, next day or on weekends, Roadie provides a much friendlier, faster way of shipping.

In a recent article on the Endicia blog post, “Roadie: New App Puts Shipping in the Hands of Consumers” Ramon Ray shares the story of Roadie and how they are causing a disruption in the shipping industry, Roadie allows customers to create their list, called a Gig, including details of what they need shipped as well as the items origin and destination addresses. From there, Roadie will find a with a route that matches the user’s needs and shipping Roadies can decide which Gigs to accept and decline.

To find out more about Roadie and the disruption that it is causing in the shipping industry check out Ramon’s article on the Endicia blog, “Roadie: New App Puts Shipping in the Hands of Consumers”.


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Categories: SMB

5 Ways Small Business Can Improve Cyber Security Today

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 17:34

Hacking threats pose a serious problem for small and mid-sized businesses today,. Small Businesses usually lack the resources employed by larger corporations, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. To safeguard their resources, many Small Businesses rely on antivirus software and built-in firewalls. In a perfect world, they could also use the help of a top-notch security specialist to implement safeties in place to protect their devices and files.

But Small Businesses aren’t completely alone in their cyber security efforts. Using the many resources available, they can put measures in place to stay safe. Here are five ways your Small Business can lock down your network and reduce your risk of a devastating data breach.

Create Internal Policies

What is your company’s biggest cyber security risk? You may be surprised to learn it’s your own employees. Often criminals make their way into a network thanks to an employee clicking a link in an email or using weak passwords. Staying abreast of the latest scams and regularly educating your employees on those scams could be key to keeping your network safe.

In addition to your education efforts, check with the person who set up your server to make sure protections are put in place. You can set strong password requirements and lock down software installation rights at the workstation level to minimize the damage risky employee behavior can do.

Strengthen Your Network

Conduct regular audits on your networks to make sure you have the maximum protections in place. If you don’t have a full-time IT staff, consider paying a local trusted IT service an hourly fee to occasionally review your network for vulnerabilities.

In addition to regularly checking for weaknesses on the network level, have your security professional provide you a list of each employee’s access levels. Does each employee have only the privileges he needs to do his job? Employee responsibilities can change, so it’s important to check these rights on a regular basis.

Check Your Software

The foundation of your business’s security is the antivirus software you use to protect your network from infiltration. This software should be updated regularly with the latest definitions to keep your network safe. Check out the Norton Small Business product available at Staples, which puts the best of Norton security on your PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet. It guards your computer from viruses, online threats, identity theft and financial scams. For your smartphone or tablet, it projects it from loss, unwanted access to messages, contacts and photos.

One major mistake organizations make is ignoring warnings about connected machines. If you’re getting a warning about a machine, disconnect it from the network immediately and run a full scan. If a machine hasn’t been reimaged in a while, reimage it before putting it back in use to ensure the virus is completely removed.

Use Cloud Services

Many Small Businesses are saving time and money by contracting with cloud services for their data storage and application needs. Third-party providers often have access to the latest state-of-the-art security resources, including highly-paid security professionals.

For best results, use only trusted cloud providers. Research their security standards carefully before signing a contract to make sure your data will be safe.

Monitor Access

If your business allows mobile devices to connect to your network, you should make sure they are protected, as well. Set up remote-wiping capabilities and procedures for lockdown in the event a device is lost.

For businesses that allow vendors or contractors to access your system, make sure those parties have access only to the sections of your server they need. Carefully vet all parties before allowing them to access your servers.

Small Businesses often lack the resources available to larger companies. With a few safety measures, however, they can enjoy the same security big businesses have at a fraction of the cost.

This blog post is part of my Cyber Security ‘Take the Pledge” campaign with Norton. I’m teaming up with Norton to help educate small businesses on best cyber security practices. Check out their Small Business product available at Staples. For more information, follow #CSPledge. 














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Categories: SMB

13 Business Apps You Should Be Using

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 16:00
What interesting business apps that you started using in your business recently do you recommend, 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. Slack

Poshly has been actively using Slack, a fun corporate messaging app, a lot lately. It’s a great way for our bi-coastal team and remote team members to communicate and helps us build company culture. Slack has fantastic apps for mobile and desktop so it’s always easy to stay connected.

– Doreen BlochPoshly Inc.

2. Sprout Social

We’ve been using Sprout Social for growth marketing. It’s great for discovering influencers in our target market and reaching out to them, and for finding conversations relevant to our brand and joining in. We’re really happy with the other social discovery tools too, like cleanup (for finding inactive followers) and suggestions for who to follow.

– Dave

3. NextDeadline

NextDeadline is a brilliant little app that helps bridge the gap between strategy and implementation. We use values-based business planning to create a one-page plan based around our company’s core values. While this gives us a great high level overview, we’ve found NextDeadline then helps us easily figure out what to focus on next for implementation, based upon our key checkpoints and milestones.

– Lea WoodwardInspiring Ventures

4. Teamwork Project Manager

As a project-based software services company, it is crucial that we are highly efficient in our entire process. We need to effectively track our projects as well as forecast our availability to take on new work. We also need to track hours on a task level for billing purposes. Teamwork Project Manager meets all of these needs.

– Jyot SinghRTS Labs

5. Sidekick

Sidekick is an awesome app that works with ZinePak’s CRM, HubSpot. Basically, Sidekick tracks email opens and clicks. I can set notifications to get updates in real time when someone opens or clicks on an important email or link.

– Brittany HodakZinePak

6. Five Minute Journal

Happiness studies show that starting and ending your day by focusing on things you are thankful for is a great way to get a boost. Five Minute Journal makes this process simple, prompting you to list three things each morning and night that you are proud of or thankful for.

– Joel HollandVideo Blocks

7. Timely

Timely is a useful app to schedule calls. This makes it a lot easier for users that have questions about your product to schedule a call with your team and get their questions answered. Instead of having to contact us and suggesting available times, they can click on a “schedule a call” button and automatically see a calendar with available times for our call.

– Randy RayessVenturePact

8. Rapportive

Rapportive is an awesome Gmail plug that pulls LinkedIn info (company, title, profile picture, location) and displays it right in Gmail. This is helpful when you receive an email from someone you don’t know. Also, our sales team uses Rapportive for client prospecting. Just type a possible email address in the Gmail “To” field; once the person’s profile pops up, you know you’ve got it right.

– Douglas BaldasareChargeItSpot

9. Shyp

Our office manager used to spend hours each week standing in line at the post office waiting to send out test packages of new food items. No more! Now he just uses Shyp and it saves us time and money.

– Kate WheatcroftBien Cuit


10. Evernote

I’d heard about Evernote for a long time, but only recently started using it while at a conference this summer. I was surprised at how much easier it was to use than the native iPhone notes app, and I’m still discovering its potential.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now


11. 15Five

We started using 15Five this year. It offers a way for managers to keep in touch with their employees — kind of like a quick “touching base” app. It’s been an incredibly valuable service. It helps our company stay on top of issues, identify bottlenecks early, keep in touch with employees and brainstorm new ideas. 15Five will be an integral part of our engagement strategy going forward.

– Miles

12. Intercom

Intercom is great as it lets you personally communicate with users in your app or website through a little chat bubble that pops up in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You can manually send messages or automate them to show up based on a user’s actions (like when they first sign up) to give your app that personal feel. We’ve used Intercom to learn a lot about our users.

– Mattan GriffelOne Month

13. Focus@Will

I was skeptical at first that a music player could make me more productive, but Focus@Will has proven me wrong. It’s like Pandora, but they play music that boosts your concentration and focus through different stations. I often find myself listening to up-tempo and classical. They even have stations for ADHD and rainfall. If you find yourself struggling to focus while working, give them a try.

– Lawrence WatkinsGreat Black Speakers

The post 13 Business Apps You Should Be Using appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Is Every Retailer Vulnerable to Hackers and Data Loss? 5 Tips To Consider

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 19:51

EVERY business (and consumer) is vulnerable to hackers – it’s inevitable. Just like street crime. However, there are things every business can do to MITIGATE and make it more difficult for hackers to hack your business network.

I’ve asked David Bozin, VP of Growth Development at Bindo, which makes e-commerce solutions for retailers, to comment and give his input on this important topic.

A point of sale system (POS) represents the relationship of trust between a customer and a retailer. When that trust is broken by a security breach that results in credit card fraud or identity theft, it may never be restored. Undoubtedly, it will be costly to try.

The media doesn’t report on the POS systems that are breached. Instead, a retail company name appears in the headlines. Just ask Target and Home Depot. As a small business owner, you could lose your entire business to bankruptcy as the result of a cyber attack. You will certainly lose revenue.

To protect your customers and your business, you need to understand how the cyber attacks happen and how best to prevent them.

Know the Access Points for Hackers

Hackers infiltrate POS systems through three primary access points: the network, the server, and the POS device. The network is breached when any employee on the network opens an email or downloads files that contain malware. The server is vulnerable to attack via malware disguised as software updates. The POS device itself (e.g. the self checkout at Home Depot) can be tampered with by any number of people, from customers to employees to manufacturers to criminals. To ensure a proper defense, you must protect all three access points.

Operating Systems Matter

Think twice about the operating system you use. While no operating system is 100% secure, Windows-based systems continue to be more susceptible to viruses and malware than Apple’s iOS. The iPad alone offers features that minimize potential cyber threats. Sandbox limits an application to its intended functionality. In other words, applications cannot be corrupted for evil intent. Unitasking limits the iPad to running only one software at a time, preventing malware from working behind the scenes. And, due to the limited computing capacity of the iPad, you cannot program directly on the tablet. (For more information about the benefits of iPad POS security, read Bindo’s recently released white paper on the subject.)

End-to-End Encryption

Use a POS system that facilitates end-to-end encryption. Instead of transferring data from the POS device to the server before encrypting it, ensure your customers’ credit card and personal information is encrypted from the beginning of the card swipe until the payment is completely processed. That means you need to verify with your POS provider that data remains encrypted at every point in the process.

Chip and PIN Cards

Prepare for the EMV chip card. The United States has mandated that all banks provide customers with Chip and PIN credit cards by the end of 2015. Such regulations have been in existence in Europe for years, explaining the disproportionately fewer incidents of credit card fraud there. An EMV chip card adds a layer of security by requiring the presence of both the chip and the PIN in order for the card to be processed.

Look Up at the Cloud

Take advantage of the Cloud. By storing sensitive information in the Cloud instead of on physical devices at your place of business, you’re eliminating one or more access points for hackers.

Stay current on cyber security. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring warnings or procrastinating necessary updates. Doing so is the equivalent of a boxer letting his hands drop in the middle of a fight. You may stay in the fight, but not for long.

The post Is Every Retailer Vulnerable to Hackers and Data Loss? 5 Tips To Consider appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Your Next Printer Must Be Mobile Enabled – New Xerox Devices Are

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 17:04

Sure, most folks working on desktop computers have their computers already networked and ready to print – but what about tablets, smart phones and other mobile devices (such as smart watches) and etc.

When buying your next printer makes sure it plays nice with your mobile devices to enable you to easily print, right from your mobile devices.

A line of new Xerox printers are optimized for the mobile world.

The Xerox Phaser® 6022 Color Printer and WorkCentre® 6027 Color Multifunction Printer (MFP) can be up and running in the same amount of time as it takes to brew a pot of coffee. According to Xerox, the devices are easy to use, even for offices without on-site IT staff, and offer sharp image quality typically found with larger, more expensive devices.

Users can print emails, photos and office documents from the devices they use every day like desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones. With the confidence of built-in security and Wi-Fi networking, these printers can be conveniently placed in the office. Wi-Fi Direct, Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print enable simple printing without the need to download and install apps or print drivers.

The Phaser 6022 and WorkCentre 6027 include time-saving features such as simplified wireless setup options. The Paper Setup Navigator takes the guesswork out of using custom paper sizes and stocks for printing envelopes, cardstock, labels and recycled paper easily.

Other productivity boosts for the small office include:

  • Faster print speeds – the Phaser 6022 and WorkCentre 6027 deliver 18 pages per minute in color and black and white.
  • Paper capacity of up to 150 sheets; capable of handling 16 lb. bond to 60 lb. cover media (60 to 163 gsm).
  • 15-sheet automatic document feeder on the WorkCentre 6027 saves time when copying, faxing or scanning multiple page documents.
  • Large, intuitive color touchscreen on the WorkCentre 6027 makes it simple to navigate all of the device’s features.

The post Your Next Printer Must Be Mobile Enabled – New Xerox Devices Are appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

The 10 Best Invoicing Apps for Service-Based Businesses

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 16:00
Name your favorite invoicing app or software for service-based businesses (please include a link) and explain 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. Plasso

Poshly uses Plasso, since it allows us to send and accept quick, secure and easy payments. Setting up payment forms and templates is very easy and there is no transaction fee. It integrates seamlessly with Stripe, too. Plasso alerts us as soon as a payment is sent, plus it’s just as easy for clients to use as it is affordable for the business to set up.

– Doreen BlochPoshly Inc.

2. vCita

Not only does vCita allow you an easy-to-build and install website plugin, but it also has a phenomenal bookkeeping and money-collecting machine. vCita allows you to capture leads, flow them through your funnel, and bill and collect money, all in little to no time. You can set it up once and forget about it.

– Matt

3. Xero

Accounting isn’t sexy. Xero is the best of the unsexy set. Built for the cloud, we’ve migrated all of our accounting, invoicing, payroll and expense reimbursement over to Xero. We’re happy we did: the user experience is better than anything else out there and all functions are tightly integrated at a fraction of the price, instead of having each service purchased separately.

– Avery FisherRemedify

4. Intuit Field Service Management

Intuit Field Service Management is amazing for the trades industry. It’s web- and app-based, and can connect to your QuickBooks financial file. Inventory tracking with workers on the go is always a difficult subject, but Intuit Field Service Management allows clients to maintain visibility into who is taking product from the warehouse and where the product is ending up.

– Marjorie AdamsAQB

5. FreshBooks

For several years, we manually created invoices and emailed out PDFs to customers because we couldn’t find a software solution we liked. We now use FreshBooks and love it. Creating and managing invoices is simple and you get weekly or daily email updates. My favorite part is the automated email reminders where we mention upcoming late fees, which has led to quicker payments.

– Andrew HoeftPinpoint Software, Inc.

6. InDinero

We love using Indinero. The invoicing is simple and allows you to track all of your finances cleanly. While cash is the lifeblood of a startup, time is as critical as anything. What we love about InDinero is that invoices seamlessly fit into our financial books, saving lots of data entry time. It’s incredibly helpful to have everything in one place whenever we need to do sales analyses.

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

7. Wave

Maintaining a professional appearance and minimizing the hassle is important for any successful business. Wave comes with great support and a built-in accounting system — it makes billing the easiest part of the job.

– Cody McLainWireFuseMedia LLC


8. PayPal

I use PayPal for nearly all of my invoicing.  In just a few clicks you can create a professional invoice that can be paid with a credit card if necessary. PayPal also makes payments a breeze for all of my international clients by greatly simplifying and speeding up the process. Plus, any withdrawal from PayPal is credited to my business checking account the next day.

– Nick Andrews, ReviTrage

9. QuickBooks

I really enjoy using QuickBooks Online. Not only do they offer an invoicing platform, but they also allow your clients to pay their invoices online with any major credit card. You can also access the QBO platform anywhere in the world, even on your mobile device.

– Dustin CucciarreBryghtAds Inc.


10. Harvest App

Harvest App is a great online time tracking and invoicing application. An awesome tool for small businesses and startups. Super easy to use and a very clean invoice look.

– Jason GrillJGrill Media | Sock 101

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Categories: SMB

Infusionsoft, TaskRabbit and +Google for Work Join Forces to Talk About Productivity

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 22:17

On Tuesday, February 17th, from 3pm to 4pm industry experts from Infusionsoft, TaskRabbit and +Google for Work will be joining the Google Small Business Community for a text Q&A on Productivity. This hangout is part of the monthly series of educational sessions sponsored by the Google Small Business Community.[content field="callout1" format="true" class="calloutgreen"]

Every small business struggles with managing limited resources and many of us would give anything to just have one extra hour in the day or one extra set of hands. Well, since we can’t make that happen, the best option available is to ensure that we are utilizing our productivity and squeezing as much out of each available minute as we can.

During this hour long text Q&A, experts from Infusionsoft – a CRM company that helps small businesses streamline their marketing processes, TaskRabbit – a task based service that helps small businesses find temporary help, and +Google for Work – cloud based tools that help you and your team work better together, will be sharing their strategies for being more productive and will answer your productivity related questions.

You can join the Google Small Business Community today and RSVP to attend this event by clicking HERE.

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Categories: SMB

Chocolate, Growth and Publicity: A Sweet Story of Success [Video]

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 16:00

At the 2014 Small Business Summit, Sarah Endline, CEO of sweetriot, makers of  natural, healthy, yummy chocolate treats and snacks created in a socially responsible way, shares how her small town upbringing influenced her entrepreneurial journey.  Starting with the vision for her business and then working her way through discovering her delicious, guilt free chocolate, Sarah shares how she has built her business in a small town style. It’s a sweet success story that includes chocolate, growth and a healthy dose of publicity.

As entrepreneurs, Sarah says it’s okay to be crazy, as most entrepreneurs are! Starting with a vision to be the next Ben and Jerry’s of the candy industry, Sarah started her entrepreneurial journey. Spending most of her childhood on her grandparents farm, Sarah knew that she wanted to develop a business that would support the healthy food movement and could could give back to local farmers.

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

After targeting chocolate as the center of the candy industry, Sarah knew that she wanted to explore this yummy treat more.   By doing some research and finding the soul of chocolate, the cacao fruit, she knew she wanted to stay true to this plant and continued to build her business from there.

As she faced the challenge of growing her own business, she says that when it comes to sales you should treat the world like a small town and care about everyone and their business, no borders, go global.  Doing just this was what landed sweetriot a spot on the shelves of Whole Foods.  By being open and listening, Sarah was able to make a deal with the manager right on the spot.

To check out the rest of Sarah’s small town lessons on growing your business and gaining publicity check out the full video of Sarah’s presentation!

The post Chocolate, Growth and Publicity: A Sweet Story of Success [Video] appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Tips To Help Protect Your SMB This Tax Season

SMB News - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 15:26

Quick tips to help you protect yourself and your business this tax season:

· Make sure you have internet security software. Security software is the first line of defense you need between cybercriminals and the sensitive/financial data you keep on your computer, in your network, or in the cloud.  And traditional antivirus software is no longer enough. Small businesses should consider robust, multilayered solutions like Norton Small Business, which was designed specifically for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition, which was designed for small business with more than 20 employees and more complex IT needs.

· Internet security software alone is not enough; you also need to back up your important data. Having a digital copy of your critical business information ensures that you can recover your critical data in the event of an attack or a system crash.  

· Utilize encryption for sensitive data. If you plan to use a wireless network to electronically file your taxes, be sure to use a secure Internet connection – never use public wireless hotspots.

· Be suspicious! Scammers are quite good at making emails and links look legitimate, and the most lucrative tax return schemes are based on identity theft, so ensure your email is truly sent from the advertised source before opening it. Also, always be apprehensive about providing financial information, such as your Social Security Number (SSN), bank or credit card account numbers, or security-related information like your mother's maiden name, online—look for trust identifications like the Norton Secured Checkmark before submitting.

· Require Password Protection. Password protect directories and accounts to ensure your data is defended from outside threats. Choose passwords with care—don't select a recognizable word, or something obvious, such as "password" or your name. Make your passwords as long and as complex as you can.

· Always log out completely. Whether you're on a tax site, an online store, or any site in which you've entered personal information, remember one step: log out when you're done. If you don't, you're exposing identity information to cyber thieves. This is especially true if you're using a public computer or a shared work computer.

· The IRS will never email you. Ever. If you get an email from the IRS or EFTPS (Electronic Federal Tax Payment System), don't respond. Instead, forward it to You should also know that the IRS will never call you by phone. Email threats about consequences for failing to respond or blocking access to your funds are always fraudulent.

· The postal system is not the safest way to receive checks from the IRS. Criminals look for unlocked mailboxes at tax time to steal tax return envelopes. Always have your refund directly deposited into your bank account to help ensure your money reaches you.

Categories: SMB

Google vs. Microsoft: Which is Better for Your Business? [Video]

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 02/10/2015 - 16:00

Things got awfully heated at the 2014 Small Business Summit as Michael Spadaro, Profound Cloud and Melanie Gass, Centerpoint Solutions go head to head about Google vs. Microsoft and which one is better for your business.

As the debate starts, questions are thrown at Michael and Melanie in regards to the programs capabilities for document creation, the ability to run your business using the platforms, the security offered by both platforms and more!

Check out the full debate between Michael and Melanie here, or simply watch below. 

One of the debate topics addresses that while many people find Microsoft to be overwhelming and intimidating with the limitless functions, Google is argued to be a much more simple and easy to navigate platform. With this, Melanie and Michael begin their debate.

Melanie opens the argument saying that Microsoft is built to appeal to a wider audience, whether you’re an individual, a small business or a fortune 500 company, Microsoft is geared to work for you.  However, even with the large amount of functions, Melanie says that it is still easy to use basic functions if needed.

In response, Michael retaliates by agreeing that yes, Microsoft is a good step for taking the next incremental step in your business if you don’t want to learn something new.  However, if you’re starting a new company or if you’re looking to go completely virtual in your business and you are willing to invest the time and adapt to something new, then Google is the platform for you.

Make sure to watch the video to see more arguments about which software, Google or Microsoft is right for your business!


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Categories: SMB

From Idea to Profits: Founder of UGG Boots Shares Story of Success [Video]

SmallBiz Technology - Sat, 02/07/2015 - 16:00

From going door to door to every surf shop in California, to exceeding over $1 billion dollars a year in sales, Brian Smith, Founder of UGG Boots is a prime example of how, with a little determination and persistence, you can turn an idea into profit. Brian shared this his story of success at the 2014 Small Business Summit in NYC.

In the first year of selling his product, Brian only managed to hit $1,000 in sales. Although it was disappointing at the time, when looking back at it, Brian says that his business never could have hit the billion dollar mark without going through the one thousand dollar phase.  He then shares with the audience an important business reminder that like in life, “you can’t give birth to adults”. He explains that starting your business is like giving birth to a child.  First the business is conceived, and then an event takes place to give birth to the business.  It starts off in the infancy phase, the worst period where you are constantly changing and working and there is nothing you can do to speed up the process. Your business will then grow to the toddler phase, progressing to the youth phase, the teenager phase and then finally mature into the adult phase.

Check out the full video presentation here, or simply watch the video below.

Brian continues to share the story of his business as it goes through each phase of growth. He shares challenges that he faced and how he overcame them as well as some of the most rewarding moments of his journey. From having to change his entire marketing tactic to accidentally selling the company and then getting 100% of it back, Brian’s story is nothing less than inspiring and motivating for every entrepreneur.

Here are four philosophical statements to remember when building your business:

  1. Feast upon uncertainty.  Even though you have no idea where your business might go, don’t let that get you down.
  2. Fattening upon disappointment. We all have disappointments, whether your partner burns you or someone lets you down, you just have to keep your head up and keep on going.
  3.  Enthuse over apparent defeat. Defeat is always apparent but it is never real until you give up.
  4. Invigorate in the presence of difficulties. No matter what challenges you are faced with, fight through them. 

Whether you are just starting your business or you’re already successfully up and running, this video is a must watch for all entrepreneurs!

The post From Idea to Profits: Founder of UGG Boots Shares Story of Success [Video] appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Winning Marketing Strategies that Will Crush Your Competition and Make Prospects Say “YES” [Video]

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 02/05/2015 - 16:30

At the 2014 Small Business Summit, David Newman, author of “Do It Marketing” started his presentation with a live poll to the audience about their favorite forms of marketing.  Whether you chose to be tech savvy, anti-social media or a business that hasn’t even developed a website yet, there was one common goal among everyone in the room.  For all entrepreneurs a common ground is providing good quality products and services and being of value to your community. This is the base for developing your winning marketing strategies.

David continues his presentation with these six effective and strategic ideas that all entrepreneurs should focus on when trying to answer the two question “who do you serve” and “what problems do you solve”:

  1. Target your audience. Stop sending out generic broadcasts and start focusing on segmenting and targeting your ideal audience.
  2. Create tailored customized messages. Avoid sending the same message to all of your stakeholders.
  3. Make it visual. Text is slowly going away and visual is becoming the new thing.  Don’t be stale in your message and include videos and images.
  4. Be radically helpful and radically useful. Don’t be pesky! Create YOU centered messages instead of ME centered messages.
  5. Earn your audiences attention. Once you’ve earned the attention of your audience then you have the right to earn their money.
  6. Make yourself wanted.  Even when things are bad, find a way that will make your audience seek you out more instead of less. 

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

In the second half of the presentation, David goes on to talk about the two purposes of marketing and the importance of understanding and catering to your target audience.  He explains that listening to your customers and clients is an essential to knowing what they want and reaching them through your marketing.

There are so many more useful tips and advice to better your marketing in this video that can help all entrepreneurs! Don’t miss out on David’s ways to identify your target audience, 3 secret ingredients to develop your content marketing and more!

The post Winning Marketing Strategies that Will Crush Your Competition and Make Prospects Say “YES” [Video] appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

The Dangers of the Self Inflicted Digital Divide – Will Your Business Be Left Behind?

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 02/04/2015 - 21:00

At a recent event hosted by web host 1and1 we discussed the digital divide of business. Not a divide of class, money or neighborhoods, but a digital divide of the mindset that some business owners phase. As technology gets cheaper, easier to use and more available, there will be a gulf between those growing businesses who embrace the power of technology and those who do not.

Money is NOT what keeps businesses from embracing technology – it’s a MINDSET to understand the power that technology has to make businesses better. To improve productivity, increase speed of communication, save money and other benefits.

While we need to focus on our business – producing product, working with customers, and hiring employees – we must also focus on our business by working on big picture tasks – such as how we can better use technology in our business.

If you’re a local design company and you’re using sticky notes to track customer projects, you’re going to be LESS efficient than your competitor who is using a task management tool.

Check out this two minute video and blog for more tips and thoughts on the digital divide.

The post The Dangers of the Self Inflicted Digital Divide – Will Your Business Be Left Behind? appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Amazon Heats Up the Competition with New One-Hour Delivery Service: Prime Now

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 02/04/2015 - 18:15

The convenience of online shopping has created a whole new level of competition for not only online retailers but local retailers as well.  The luxury of shopping in your pajamas from home has made online shopping the more convenient choice however, it has not been able to trump the advantage of immediacy that offline retailers provide. Amazon, however is slowly bridging the gap between the two.  With the new Amazon Prime Now service, Amazon members with a Prime account can receive same-day delivery for a wide variety of items.

As one of the leading online shopping websites, Amazon is a force to be reckoned with. Currently testing their new service in Manhattan, Prime Now offers free two-hour delivery of items and the option of one-hour delivery of items for $7.99. Although it still doesn’t allow customers to have their item in-hand immediately after purchase, it has most definitely vamped up the competition for other online retailers and local retailers as well.

In this article, Amazon Unveils One-Hour Delivery Service: Prime Nowauthor, Ramon Ray gives an in-depth review about the new service and what benefits it has to offer to it’s customer. He also shares other companies that Amazon will face as competition such as, Uber and Instacart how their services compare to Amazon’s.

There is no doubt that Prime Now will provide a new level of competition for these companies and force other retailers to find new ways to provide convenience for their customers. Check out Ramon’s article here to find out more information about Amazon Prime Now and what affects the new service will have on other online and local retail competitors.

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Categories: SMB
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