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Updated: 4 hours 36 min ago

Should You Switch to a Standing Desk? A Look at the Pros and Cons to Help You Decide

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 16:00

Standing desks are a current fad sweeping offices and schools across the country. However, surprisingly enough, standing desks aren’t new at all. The history of standing desks dates back to the 1400s and in the 18th and 19th century they became especially popular among the rich. Several famous people throughout history have used standing desks, including Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway and Donald Rumsfeld.

Today there are several companies that make standing desks, including Varidesk, Ergo Depot and others. These desks are designed to be used while standing up or while sitting on a high stool. While designs vary, these desks are purported to have several health benefits – but others say they offer health consequences too.

Standing desks are getting the spotlight once again this year because of a recent study about the effects that standing desks can have when used at school. The study measured high school students on a number of neurocognitive tests – both before and after they had used standing desks for an entire semester. The study found that using standing desks changed the students’ brain activation patterns and boosted their cognitive skills such as memory, concentration and problem solving.

That study aside, there are some people who claim that standing desks can do more harm than good. To present you with a fair and balanced discussion of the topic, we’d like to share the pros and the cons of standing desks to help you decide if a standing desk is right for you.

Pros of Standing Desks

According to the recent study we mentioned earlier, standing desks can possibly help your cognitive functioning. Having better concentration, problem-solving skills, and memory are certainly pluses no matter what industry you work in. If the study results are also applicable to adults in working situations (not just students in school), then a standing desk could improve your productivity and efficiency on a daily basis.

The other benefits of standing desks have to do with physical health. It has been found that the average worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at their desk, and another 7 hours sleeping at night. That’s a whole lot of sitting and laying around, which can have negative health consequences. Therefore, a standing desk can help to:

  • Improve your metabolism (thereby lowering your risk of obesity)
  • Reduce your risk of metabolic problems including Type 2 Diabetes
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce your risk of cancer
  • Lower your long-term mortality risk (the risk of dying within a given period of time)
Cons of Standing Desks

The pros of standing desks demonstrate that they can help your physical and cognitive health, but that doesn’t mean the issue is a closed case. Some people say that standing desks can also have harmful effects on your health. This includes:

  • Pain including sore feet and lower back problems.
  • Health risks such as increased risk for cardiovascular problems like carotid arteries, varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (because the heart has to work against gravity to keep blood flowing from the toes up).
  • Some tasks are better performed when sitting down, such as those that require fine motor skills, so a standing desk may impact your work on some tasks.
  • Standing burns 20 percent more calories which means you will likely tire more quickly during the day.

So is a standing desk right for you? Only you can decide based on the pros and cons we listed as well as your job and individual preferences. The one thing that can be certain is that no matter what desk you choose – a traditional desk or a standing desk – you need to switch it up throughout the day. You shouldn’t be sitting all day and you shouldn’t be standing all day either. Try to work both into your daily routine so you can enjoy more health benefits and avoid the consequences.

The post Should You Switch to a Standing Desk? A Look at the Pros and Cons to Help You Decide appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

How Can You Keep Your Tech Working Better? A Tech Evangelists 7 Useful Tips To Help.

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 23:11

Ramon Ray at airport on mobile device

Busy professionals rely on their computers and mobile devices to do business. Even one sudden glitch can seriously derail a businessperson’s day, getting in the way of completing work and potentially cutting off communication with customers. For that reason, it’s essential that professionals keep their technology in top shape at all times.

We’ve partnered with Staples Tech Services to give you 7 tips help you keep your tech up and running!

Protective Cases

From the day you purchase a new smartphone or tablet, a protective case should be in place. The best cases offer shock absorption while also protecting the screen by extending over it slightly. A glass screen protector will help keep your screen scratch free, while also protecting it from shattering during drops.

Line Up Emergency Tech Support

Your team relies on your equipment to be functional at all times. To avoid costly downtime, you’ll need an affordable tech support service that can provide rapid turnaround when you need it. A recent Staples survey found that guaranteed next-day service would be highly valued by a large majority of small businesses (76%). With Staples’ new Next Day Guarantee, PCs that are brought into a Staples before noon are serviced by 5pm the next day, or the repairs are free (some exclusions apply – see www.staples.com/techservices for more details).

In addition to troubleshooting issues with PCs and mobile devices, Staples Tech Services will also handle issues such as malware removal and PC tune-ups. Mobile repairs at select Staples stores include replacements for cracked screens, poor batteries, broken home buttons and more.The service can therefore keep your technology running at top performance, and also get you out of a jam if something fails. For more information on Staples Tech Services, visit www.staples.com/techservices.

If you take care of your devices, you’ll get many years of use out of them. In addition to protecting them with cases and screen protectors, you’ll also need to protect them against malware, which can damage your entire network if it makes its way into your systems through one of your devices. Following the right procedures will keep your hardware and software in working order, thus improving the reliability of your business technology.

Keep Software Updated

A recent Staples small business survey found that software and hardware installation is considered a challenge for many small businesses (16%) and two-thirds (65%) would find next day software or hardware upgrades valuable. And rightfully so! Software problems can actually render your devices unusable even quicker than hardware damage. To protect against malware and security breaches, your software should be updated regularly. This includes the definition updates for your antivirus software as well as your operating system, which has built-in protections against malware. Businesses with multiple pieces of equipment should make sure they update automatically rather than requiring administrators to manually update each device. And when in a bind, Staples Tech Services can help.

Educate Your Staff

Some of the biggest dangers faced by your organization relate to the behaviors of its employees. Poor password management policies can lead to outsiders guessing your system passwords and finding a way into your databases. Employees can also let malicious traffic in by clicking on links in email or on social media sites. Bring in a technology expert to train your staff on responsible technology use and make sure you sit in on the class, as well.

Keep It Clean

It can be easy to discount the importance of keeping your PCs and servers clean. Over the course of multiple months, dust can build up inside desktop units and servers and over time, that dust can cause components to work inefficiently. With a can of compressed air, cotton swabs, and a cleaning cloth, you can keep the internal workings of your computer clean over the years it’s in use.

Pay Extra for Quality

If you’re operating on a budget, as every business is, it can be tempting to opt for less expensive equipment, especially if you’re buying multiple items at once. However, less expensive devices can fail more quickly than some of the more expensive ones. You’ll be better off long term investing in high-quality equipment that will be reliable for many years.

Replace Aging Devices

No piece of equipment will last forever. If you wait until devices fail, you’ll be left scrambling to replace them during a busy workday. Instead of being reactive, set up a proactive plan to replace your equipment on a cycle. Some businesses find that replacing computers every four years is best, although mobile devices may need to be switched out more often. Upgrading technology is a smart investment. A recent Staples survey found technology issues are among the most problematic management concerns faced by small firms. A third of small businesses surveyed (33%) would spend an unexpected large cash infusion on technology and equipment. Look for incentives when it’s time to upgrade. Staples offers a technology trade-in, giving you a Staples eCash Card for your old devices. If your device no longer has value, Staples will recycle your old electronics for free. See www.staples.com/tradein for details.

The post How Can You Keep Your Tech Working Better? A Tech Evangelists 7 Useful Tips To Help. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Overwhelmed by Marketing? New Survey Shows Just How Tough Small Business Marketing Is

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 16:00

Marketing is of utmost importance to small business owners, but it is also one of the most challenging parts of running your business. Which marketing strategies should you use? Who should handle your marketing? How do you fit marketing in a small business budget? And is your marketing even effective? If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by marketing, it turns out you are not alone. A survey by LeadPages and Infusionsoft is revealing just how tough small business marketing really is.

The survey involved gathering opinions from more than 1,000 small business owners from across the United States. The ten-question survey asked about small business marketing in 2016, including goals, priorities, challenges and tactics.

Results show just how tough small business marketing is. Some of the interesting findings include:

  • Nearly 47 percent of small business owners handle marketing on their own. That’s a big duty for someone who already wears so many hats.
  • Nearly one in five small business owners don’t plan on using digital marketing in 2016. Digital marketing includes things such as websites, social media, digital advertising and email marketing – techniques that are popular among larger businesses but harder for some small businesses to manage.
  • Over 20 percent of small business owners don’t store customer and lead information at all and only 24 percent use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
  • Small business owners are challenged with measuring the results of their marketing campaigns. Almost half aren’t sure if their efforts are effective, and 13.9 percent know for sure that they aren’t.

Despite these statistics, small business owners are well aware of the potential benefits of a good marketing strategy. About half will be using digital marketing in 2016 to drive sales and brand awareness, and about one in three will focus on goals such as collecting leads and retaining customers.

The survey clearly shows how difficult small business marketing is. One potential reason is demonstrated in the following finding: “Most small businesses are still using a fairly unsophisticated digital marketing stack.” Fourty-one percent use only one or two software applications, and another 26 percent use three or four.

However, there are plenty of tech tools available for small business marketing, including tools to help manage customers and leads, tools to help measure marketing results, and tools that make specific strategies (like blogs, social media, and emails) easier to implement. Small business marketing is definitely one of the biggest challenges your company will face – it’s time to embrace the technology that will make it simpler and more effective.

The post Overwhelmed by Marketing? New Survey Shows Just How Tough Small Business Marketing Is appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Is Your Web Site A Sales Lead Machine? Here Are 5 Ways To Turn It Into One.

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 20:45

Your web site is one of the most effective ways to attract leads to your business. However, just having a web site is not good enough. You must ensure that you BUILD a web site that’s set up for successful lead generation and lead capture. LIndsay Bayuk, with Pure Chat (live chat software), shares her insights on this.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of theoretical marketing and sales advice. Give me some clear, actionable tasks I can implement today. In the past few months I’ve read what seems like every “growth hacking” article on web. I’ve tried some of the ideas from these articles. And you know what? There’s no silver bullet. You just have to do the work. In this post we’ll cover five “hacks” to help you generate more leads and sales from your small business website. These aren’t silver bullets, but they are practical tips you can implement today.

Submit your content to community sites

Share your expertise on Linkedin Groups pertinent to your industry or Reddit (relevant subreddit’s only), Inbound.org and BizSugar. StartupNation is completely free and started by entrepreneurs. Small Business Bonfire also includes a community full of news and resources. Take 10 minutes to identify the best communities for you and your business. You can go to resources such as Feedly or Alltop to find the best communities for you. Respond to a couple existing questions and share one of your blog posts. It should go without saying that you should give more than you take when joining a community.

Review products you use and love

Crazy about your accounting software? Or your project management tool? Write up a glowing recommendation and send it to their marketing team. Make sure to ask for a link back to your website. Most marketing teams will be grateful for your proactive advocacy and you’ll benefit as well. For one, you and your company will be listed on a prominent website for free. I’m all about win/win marketing! And two, the URL on their site will send “SEO juice” back to your website. Last I checked, everyone can use more backlinks.

Add live chat to your website

Phone and email are old and slow. When visitors on your website want to make a purchase, they are ready to buy now. When they have a question, they want an answer now. Live chat is fast, easy and more comfortable. You can easily add live chat to your website in less than five minutes. Even when you’re not available to instantly message website visitors, live chat software works to collect leads for you. With products like Pure Chat, the chat box converts into an email capture form when you’re offline. Or, you can use mobile apps to chat with website visitors from anywhere.

Live chat also creates better customers. An eMarketer report found that “63% of respondents who chatted said they were more likely to return to the site, and 62% reported being more likely to purchase from the site again.”

Improve your user experience without a designer

Even if your website doesn’t look like it’s from the 90’s, it still may be out of date in today’s world of mobile searching and browsing. When was the last time you checked your own website on your mobile phone? As a small business owner you need to optimize for mobile. In fact, Google announced that mobile traffic exceeded desktop traffic in ten countries in 2015. First impressions matter for new website visitors browsing on web or mobile devices.

It doesn’t have to cost and arm and a leg to have a beautiful web presence. The fastest way to improve your web presence is migrate to a website platform like Weebly, Shopify or Squarespace. Only sell 1-15 products? Consider using Gumroad. Each product offers beautiful templates that are easy to customize and continually update. Use ColorHunt to pick your own set of modern colors. A fresh website will make you and your company look more trustworthy and professional. All of these platforms are already well-designed so you’ll benefit from the improved user experience.

Optimize your site for local search

Build a base of loyal, vocal fans locally. If you haven’t set up a Google My Business account yet, do it today. Creating local community is so important for small business. Even if you have customers nationally or internationally you still likely have local prospects and customers. Setting up your Google profile will get you exposure on Google Maps, Google Search and G+. There’s really no excuse not to list your business. It will help you simultaneously drive web and foot traffic. It won’t take much time if you follow these steps.

What’s your most practical tactic to generate leads? What works best for your business? Please share below. I’d love to hear from you.

The post Is Your Web Site A Sales Lead Machine? Here Are 5 Ways To Turn It Into One. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Do More in 2016 With These Project Management Suites

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 16:00

Whether your teams are working in the same office or remotely, keeping everyone on the same page is essential to the success of your projects. Project management suites are a cost-effective way to stay organized so you don’t have to rely on lengthy email threads. Whether you’re a solopreneur or a small business owner, there’s no shortage of free or inexpensive cloud-based suites out there. With the tools below, you just need to create an account and you’re ready to go. You can even add users on the fly so as your company grows, you don’t need to switch programs.

Asana

A long time player in the cloud-based project management space, Asana is a favorite of many because of the robust capabilities it packs into a simple-to-use package. The suite stands out from other solutions because of the robust reporting features which enable users to visualize project progress with charts and graphs. Asana also lets you create custom search views so you can instantly filter projects, tasks, and other action items with a click of the mouse.

The Asana free plan supports up to 15 users and includes numerous collaboration and project management functions within the software. Their premium plan costs around $9/month per user and offers a few extra features such as privacy controls, guest user support, and the ability to export your data. You can also expand the functionality by integrating Asana into a variety of other productivity tools.

Trello

The best way to describe Trello is that it’s the digital equivalent of sticky notes on a whiteboard (commonly used in the Kanban project management method). Getting started is fairly simple. Users simply create a board for each project. Within the board, users can create categories and cards for each task. Each card has its own comment section, descriptions, file attachments, and other custom information fields. For small teams and businesses just starting out, the free Trello plan should be sufficient. As your company grows, the Business Plus plan provides fine-grained user permission controls and support for apps to expand the functionality.

Mavenlink

Unlike most other project management suites which focus solely on team collaboration and project management, Mavenlink provides a more comprehensive solution which integrates into all components of your business. The solution is ideal for long-term projects which require extensive planning. Mavenlink uses Gantt Charts so you can easily spot dependencies and potential bottlenecks.

In addition to being a project management solution, Mavenlink also helps to simplify your accounting processes. Built in accounting capabilities enable you to generate invoices, view and approve billable time, view your margins, and manage your budgets. The starter Mavenlink version costs $19/month for five users. If you want invoicing and other financial management functions, you’ll need to pay at least $29/month per user.

Smartsheet

If you’re looking to manage your projects using an Excel style solution, Smartsheet is the tool for you. The solution enables users to quickly enter project action items line by line on a spreadsheet. For each project, you can group tasks and assign them to different team members. Overall it’s a straightforward project management solution; the biggest selling point is that the learning curve is kept to a minimum without sacrificing functionality.

Smartsheet integrates with a variety of other tools such as Google Apps, box, Dropbox, DocuSign, and Evernote so you can make the solution fit the way you work. The starter Smartsheet tier starts at $10/month and supports one admin user and unlimited collaborators. This means you can create sheets (projects) and invite as many colleagues, guests, and other parties as needed. It also includes Android and iOS mobile apps so your teams can access their project information at their desk or on the go.

There are plenty of project management suites available for businesses of all sizes and budgets. Assess your needs and then choose a tool that offers the capabilities that will benefit your business.

The post Do More in 2016 With These Project Management Suites appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Publicity Hacks and Buzz: Webinar on 3 Feb with Ramon and Geeta (Baby Got Booked) – 2pm EST

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 14:36

Publicity, media coverage and BUZZ are important for every business.

Word of mouth is nice but limited. Investing is advertising is amazing – but costly.

Another way to get attention for your business is by having the media talk about your business and/or share your expertise. This is “Free Publicity” for your business.

Join Ramon Ray and Geeta Nadkarni (Baby Got Booked) for a discussion and effective process in how YOU can get media attention for your business. Geeta is a journalist and media coach and she’s been wildly successful in getting media publicity and buzz for her business and she’s going to tell YOU how to do it in your business – in our webinar on February 3rd, Wednesday, 2pm EST.

PUBLICITY HACKS AND BUZZ WEBINAR – 3 Feb, 2pm EST

  

The post Publicity Hacks and Buzz: Webinar on 3 Feb with Ramon and Geeta (Baby Got Booked) – 2pm EST appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

CNN Heroes: Nominate Your Hero for Worldwide Recognition

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 18:55

They may not wear a cape or have incredible superpowers, but each and every one of us has heroes in our lives – people who have inspired us through their brave actions, heartfelt deeds, and powerful impact on the world. It’s officially time to celebrate these unsung, everyday heroes, as CNN rolls out the nominations for the 2016 CNN Heroes contest.

CNN Heroes is a contest where you are encouraged to nominate your own heroes – neighbors, friends, colleagues, parents and community members that have touched your life and your community. By taking a few minutes to share their story, you give them a chance to be selected for worldwide recognition on CNN.

Past winners include:

  • Tawanda Jones, who runs a drill team in the violent city of Camden New Jersey to inspire children and teach them about discipline.
  • Robin Emmons, who helped community members from low-income neighborhoods to get better access to healthy, fresh food.
  • Dale Beatty, who runs an organization to build and modify homes for injured veterans.

By now, you probably have your own hero in mind. Here’s how you go about nominating them.

Nomination Instructions
  • All nominations must be submitted through this nomination page.
  • Your nominee must be a single individual who is at least 13 years old and whose accomplishments occurred (or continued) on or after November 1, 2015.
  • The main questions are “Tell us about your nominee and what is special about his/her work” and “Accomplishments and Impact: How is his/her work making a difference?”
  • Think very carefully about these questions and provide the strongest answers. CNN will get a high volume of nominations – yours needs to stand out!
  • The nomination form also includes contact details for you and your nominee.
  • Although it is optional, you can also include links to back up your nomination – articles, websites, social media, etc.
  • You can learn more and find FAQs here.

Nominations will be accepted until September 5, 2016. Winners will be announced in a special global broadcast in October 2016 – “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.”

Heroes in our own lives are changing the world each and every day. Give your hero the recognition they deserve by nominating them as one of the 2016 CNN Heroes.

The post CNN Heroes: Nominate Your Hero for Worldwide Recognition appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Smart Hustle Recap: Time Management Tips, Funding Mistakes & Advice for Your At-Home E-Commerce Business

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 17:05

Business owners are busy people – there are always a million things on your to-do list so it can be hard to find time to catch up with the latest business news and advice. To help you out, we are starting a new regular SmallBizTechnology column that will fill you in on the latest stories from Smart Hustle. The Smart Hustle Recap will give you a glimpse at the latest articles so you can quickly catch up on the week’s news and click to explore the articles you are most interested in.

During the last week of January 2016, we saw articles on some of the most important considerations for small business owners, including time management tips and funding mistakes. Here are the top stories:

Time Management Tips from Tor Refsland

Tor Refsland is a time management guru and in the latest Smart Hustle video interview, he shared some of his top tips to help small business owners reclaim their time. You will be amazed at the simplicity and brilliance of the three-step solution he shared with us! This must-try solution is included in the article, plus you can watch the full video interview to get additional tips and inspiration.

Click to read How to Best Manage Time from Time Management Consultant Tor Refsland.

5 Funding Mistakes to Avoid

Funding is an important aspect of getting your business off the ground, and making the wrong moves can put your business’s future in jeopardy. As you navigate the process, you can learn from the mistakes of other entrepreneurs so you don’t repeat them. In this article, you’ll learn about 5 common mistakes that entrepreneurs often make with their initial funding, including advice from Chris Poelma of NCR Small Business delivered in a short video.

Click to read 5 Initial Funding Mistakes Made by Entrepreneurs.

Advice for Starting an At-Home E-Commerce Business

It has never been easier to set up your own business, and all around the country and the world, people are becoming their own bosses by setting up e-commerce businesses run from their own home. If this interests you too, you’ll love the guidance provided in this article, which talks about building an online headquarters, hiring workers, packaging and social marketing. If you’ve been toying with the idea of starting an at-home e-commerce business, NOW is the perfect time to dive in – and this article will help get you started.

Click to read Crush It in 2016 With Your At-Home E-commerce Business.

So there you have it – the recap of the latest and greatest from Smart Hustle! Click to explore these articles and stay tuned next week as the Smart Hustle Recap will now be a weekly feature on SmallBizTechnology.

The post Smart Hustle Recap: Time Management Tips, Funding Mistakes & Advice for Your At-Home E-Commerce Business appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Learning From Politics: Ted Cruz Has 178 Voter Profiles. Bernie Sanders Is Crushing Video.

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 15:35

Bernie Sanders, Snapchat Geo Filter (photo credit WSJ)

There’s a lot we small business owners than learn from the Presidential campaign. Ted Cruz’s campaign has 178 different profiles of voters. He can target these customers with different messages. Berni Sanders is crushing the use of videos – with many going viral.

I had the opportunity to interview President Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2002 . Today, video is even more important today as it was then.

  • Build a fan base
  • Don’t sell, educate.
  • Create engaging video and other digital content.
  • Target and segment your customer base.
  • Build profiles of your prospect customers.
  • Connect your fan base to a sales funnel.

Read the full WSJ article on the 2016 Presidential Campaign’s digital marketing here.

The post Learning From Politics: Ted Cruz Has 178 Voter Profiles. Bernie Sanders Is Crushing Video. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Living Remotely – Best Tools, Tips and Services for a Life on the Road

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 18:52

Thanks to technology, today’s business landscape is completely different than it was a decade ago. Advances in technology and connectivity have made it possible for people to work from just about anywhere in the world. Because of this we’ve seen huge cultural changes in large companies that embrace telecommuting policies and many businesses and industries (like virtual assistance) flourish in the wake of the change.

As more and more individuals find themselves living remotely and traveling across the United States and abroad, we wanted to take the opportunity to point out some of the best tools, tips and services for living a life on the road. By employing these tips and services, you’ll have better peace of mind whether you are traveling to the Californian beaches, Rocky Mountains or across the pond to the United Kingdom.

Internet

It’s impossible to think of our life without the internet or complete connectivity to the big world that it has made so small? It’s become an essential in just about every individual’s life, but it is the life-blood of a business traveler. Luckily there are a number of solutions to keep us connected!

If you are traveling within the United States and carry a smartphone, most devices today allow you to use them as a Wi-Fi ‘hot spot’ to connect to the internet. As long as you have service, you have the internet. If you want something more dedicated, then and you can look at getting a MiFi wireless router from your carrier or try a mobile WiFi service like Internet on the Go or Karma.

If you are planning to go International, check out XCom Global and Tep Wireless. These companies have their Wi-Fi devices that work in many different countries.

Meetings and Presentation

Another essential for most business travelers and remote workers is the ability to take part in virtual meetings and presentations. While Skype for Business is a favorite application that allows you to see colleagues’ presence, start IM, have voice or video conversations, present documents and share desktops, there are a few other applications tailored to professionals and their work objectives that deserve taking a look at. Join.Me, AnyMeeting and Team Viewer are all solutions that let you collaborate online with multiple team members and share your screen for online presentations.

File Storage and Sharing

Another critical part of remote working and collaboration is the ability to access and share files. Thanks to cloud technology, this has gotten much easier. Just keep in mind, putting items in the cloud does require you to carefully think about what types of information you are saving and who you allow to access it to ensure the security of your information, and that of your company, clients and customers.

Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and FilesAnywhere are all file storage and sharing applications that employ cloud technology. Each comes with varying amounts of storage and various pricing.

Staying Productive

Just because you are on the road, you shouldn’t lose any of your productivity. Thankfully tools like the new Microsoft Office, help people and businesses of all sizes work better – and easier – together. For example, if your team were to use the new version of Office (Word, PowerPoint or OneNote) to make revisions to a presentation or project, everyone would have the ability to edit the same draft at the same time. The best way to start taking advantage of the new Office is via an Office 365 subscription.

Staying Juiced

One thing that can quickly stop you in your tracks working remotely is a dead battery. Whether it’s your laptop, smartphone or mobile device, having juice is essential and you need to be prepared for those moments you aren’t near an outlet.

There are many lightweight external battery chargers designed specifically for travelers to help in these situations. Try the LinearFlux Lithium Card Pro, mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Pro or the Oxa Juice Box S2 External Battery to keep your smartphone or mobile devices charged and working.

Stay in Touch, Don’t Get Lost and Sleep Well

It’s important to stay close to those you love when traveling. Some great applications for doing that include social messenger service WhatsApp, which works both domestically and in most international locations, Facebook and WeChat.

You probably also want to keep a map app handy on your mobile device just to ensure you don’t get lost. Google Maps, Bing Maps and Waze are three great apps that offer GPS and step by step directions that can be downloaded to your device.

And to ensure you get a good night’s sleep, you’ve got to have a decent place to stay that caters to business professionals. Online travel services like Booking.Com, Expedia, and Kayak allow you to find the best rates on hotel rooms, rental cars and airline flights. Many also offer reward programs, so rack up those points and enjoy a few free night stays! If you are traveling for an extended period to one location, another great option to consider is Airbnb business travel. Here you can book apartments, condos and homes that provide you more of a ‘at-home’ comfort and flexibility.

Keeping up with business while working remotely doesn’t have to be stressful or a chore. Employing these great tools and tips will help you find peace of mind and possibly some extra time to enjoy your new surroundings.

The post Living Remotely – Best Tools, Tips and Services for a Life on the Road appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Being A Late Adopter Is Not Cool. Your Business Will Suffer If Your Tech Is Not Up To Date.

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 22:30

The Wall Street Journal’s Tanya Rivero did a segment focused on late adopters. Those who are just now buying a tablet, those who just now are getting rid of flip phones – while most of us – have been doing this for years.

For those in business, NOT leveraging technology to it’s fullest potential can be deadly for your business. Customers expect to be served fast and efficiently, employees and partners expect to collaborate and communicate at the speed of “now”.

Must you have the VERY latest technology? No. But if your use of technology is later than 18 months – it’s too late. For example, mobile live streaming gained steam at SXSW (March 2015) with Meerkat, and Periscope gained traction shortly thereafter. Many of the tech elite caught on to mobile live streaming almost immediately.

While live streaming is still fairly new – it’s now – almost a year later beginning to be the norm. So now is the time to consider using live streaming in your business. I’m not saying you must live stream your life – but you MUST consider using it in your business and/or to build your personal brand.

What about smartphones. Must you have the VERY LATEST smart phone? Of course not – but the smart phone you bought 3 – 5 years ago is too slow and too old. Smart phones of 18 months – 2 years ago are faster, have more memory and have more features. Specifications that’ll help you serve your customers better.

Small business owners don’t have to us the LATEST technology – but they must use modern technology.

The post Being A Late Adopter Is Not Cool. Your Business Will Suffer If Your Tech Is Not Up To Date. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Why Your Business Needs to Pivot: Change Is Risky But Often Needed. Here’s How To Do It Right.

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 17:30

When Jim Kolb bought a floral shop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, he decided to name his business Oshkosh House of Flowers. But over time, Kolb and his team felt that the word “Oshkosh” in the name of the business limited his shop to an Oshkosh customer base. With the growth of online ordering, rebranding the shop as simply “House of Flowers” opened Kolb’s business to orders from surrounding communities.

For an established business like House of Flowers, a name change can be risky. Customers have already grown accustomed to the established name and may be resistant to something new or unfamiliar. But for House of Flowers, the change paid off, increasing sales and allowing them to expand. When an established business makes a dramatic change, or a “pivot,” it can be a great way for a business to change direction for the better.

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Pivot Successes

One of the best-known pivots is Twitter, which started as a site designed to help listeners find great podcasts. When the founders of the service, known as Odeo at that time, saw iTunes begin to take over the podcast market, they realized they needed to find a new niche for their site. As activity began dwindling, Odeo held a hackathon where employees were asked to come up with a new idea for a site. From that hackathon came “Twttr,” a site that revolved around status updates.

Twitter’s journey is an example of how a business will sometimes encounter insurmountable obstacles as it grows. In reconstructing their concept, Twitter’s team considered the growing popularity of social media at the time and created an innovative idea within that space.

How to Pivot

Once a business identifies a need to pivot, it’s time to begin the process of identifying what the new direction of the business will be. How does a business maintain its existing customer base while also reaching out to potential new customers? Often many of the variables that have made the business work well can be translated to the new environment. For a business like House of Flowers that finds itself operating in a more Internet-driven world, the change might simply involve using new technology to provide the services they’ve always offered.

A pivot can be a fresh start for a business that finds itself struggling. That means defining a mission and goals and making sure every employee adjusts to the new course their employer is taking. It also means finding a way to get existing customers used to the change, which won’t be easy if the pivot is as dramatic as Twitter’s was. In that case, a business may find that it’s wiser to go after a new customer base and merely invite existing customers to learn more about the new direction the business is taking.

While a major change in direction can seem risky for a business, continuing in a direction that isn’t working is the surest way to failure. When planned carefully, a pivot can be a great way for a business to venture into exciting new directions.

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

 

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Categories: SMB

8 Ways to use competitive research to get an advantage

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 20:30

Knowledge is power and because every business today is so closely tied to technology, the ability to understand your competition is better now than it has ever been. However, one important aspect of researching your competitors is to take a holistic approach to your research and analyzing the results of your research.

This is true if you’re planning a new business or product, or improvements to existing businesses or products. If your website plays any role in customer acquisition or sales, understanding the elements and design of competitors’ websites can be critical. Here are some fundamentals.

  1. Finding the competition. I assume you have a good idea who your competitors are, but if you don’t – or you want to broaden your vision – use this Google search: “related:www.mybizURLhere.com.” It will return a list of sites that Google believes have a purpose similar to yours. See if you’ve missed anyone.
  2. Architecture and infrastructure. Once you have a feel for who’s out there, what platforms are they using? Wappalyzer is a free Chrome and Firefox extension that will identify the software that is powering any website. The better you understand how the websites of your competitors operate, the better positioned you are to create something that’s superior.
  3. Graphics and user experience design. Every site has a “look and feel” and this can separate the winners from the losers. Sometimes it’s the most critical element of a site or a product. Recently, 888Ladies published a post that takes readers through their entire process of developing a new circus-themed game. They knew that they had to create something entirely unique and brought virtually their entire team on board for the development process – including measuring up the competition.

A key finding for them was the fact that competitors were not yet using 3D animation, so achieving that became a design goal early on. It’s obvious how important killer graphics and an intuitive user interface is to a gaming company, but frankly those elements are just as important to any business that has a presence on the Internet.

In ecommerce, we have all probably abandoned a purchase because the checkout process was too cumbersome or confusing. Work hard to identify those kinds of weaknesses in your competition. These analyses take the human touch. Have people thoroughly explore and test competitors’ websites and note their strengths and weaknesses. And unless you’re going for a “retro” feel, be sure your graphics are in line with today’s style standards.

  1. Traffic sources. When user acquisition is important to the success of your business, you need to know where your competitors are getting their Internet traffic. SimilarWeb and Alexa both offer limited free traffic analytics and more in-depth information with a paid subscription. These traffic-source websites are most useful when a small business is trying to compete with a big business. Smaller sites often don’t generate enough data to register on these services.
  2. Social media audience. Use Twitonomy to gather insights about your competitors’ social media, specifically Twitter, audience. See what hashtags are getting results. With a paid subscription here you can download a list of your competitor’s Twitter followers. If you felt it was appropriate, you could then Tweet an offer to them.
  3. Google alerts. Set up Google alerts for all of your major competitors. These are almost like a spy plane roving the Internet. You can have reports automatically emailed to you on whatever frequency you desire. You’ll be able to keep a close watch on them and find out when anything significant occurs with their business and it gets mentioned online.
  4. Sales outlets. If you make a product that is sold in stores, knowing the outlets where your competitors merchandise is sold is critical. Explore all of your competitors websites and look for pages like “Where to find our widgets” and put all of those locations into a spreadsheet or customer relationship management system. When you have that information, explore those websites trying to find the name of the person who would be the buyer. Begin a relationship with that person.
  5. Keywords. You certainly want to spend some time using Google’s keyword tool in Adwords. Also check out Übersuggest. However, very often your competitors will have their important keywords identified in the code of their webpages. In your browser, find out how to “view source” and then search for this phrase:
  • meta name=”keywords”

Following this will be a list of keywords that were deemed important, at least when the web page was originally put together. See if you think they apply to your business and if so, would they be worth securing with Adword bids.

You can see from this list that some of this is using tools to “spy” on your competition, but in virtually every case, human analysis is even more important. Use the tools to dig deeply, but then take some time to determine what is most important and act on those items first.

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Categories: SMB

New Comcast 4-Part Webinar Reveals How to Use Tech to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Sat, 01/23/2016 - 16:00

The right technology can give you a competitive advantage over your business competition – but knowing what the right tech is, as well as how to use it, is always a challenge for small business owners. Fortunately, Comcast has created a new 4-part webinar series to dig into this topic and share the tips you need on how to use technology to propel you forward in 2016.

The webinar series, which kicks off on February 11th, is titled “Leveraging Technology to Create a Competitive Advantage.” It will inform, empower and inspire you about the ways technology can be a small business owner’s best friend.

  • Think you can’t compete with the big guys? The right technology will make your company fast and flexible, allowing you to compete head to head with bigger names in your industry.
  • Think you won’t see a big enough benefit from using more tech in your business? As a matter of fact, using technology can help you improve your customer experience, make your daily operations more efficient, and increase your profit potential.
  • Think that technology doesn’t fit in with your business plan? The webinar will help you develop a vision and plan for your technology so it will align perfectly with your business and help you achieve your goals.

The webinar is free and it will be a live, interactive event – moderated by Rob Atkinson of ITIF, with panelists including Ramon Ray (of SmallBizTechnology and Smart Hustle), Gene Marks (of Marks Group PC) and Tom Sweeney (of Comcast Business).

The first part of this thought-provoking series will take place on February 11, 2016 at 1pm EST. You can learn more about it here, and when you’re ready, you can head over to this page to register.

It’s a small business owner’s duty to continually educate himself/herself about the latest business trends – or else risk falling behind. Free webinars such as this one are a perfect way to continue your business education on a small budget. If you want a competitive advantage over others in your industry, this is a must-attend event.

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Categories: SMB

New ShopKeep Video Eyes the 2016 Mobile Payments Race

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 23:41

Mobile payments have been growing in popularity for years now, with some speculating that cash payments will eventually become extinct. Although not everyone is on board the trend yet, there are several key benefits that make mobile payments attractive to business owners, including:

  • The ability to link mobile payments with loyalty programs and other incentives
  • The ability to track customer trends as well as your inventory
  • Mobile payments are an easy way to extend payment options from cash-only to credit cards
  • Mobile payments typically have lower processing fees than traditional credit card processing
  • Mobile payments offer your customers a faster checkout experience

Benefits to consumers (like convenience and security) also mean that business owners will eventually jump on board this trend as more and more consumers come to demand mobile payments and expect it as a payment option.

At this point in the game, it’s not a question of if mobile payments will take off – it’s a question of which company will end up winning the mobile payments race.

Currently there are several options for mobile payments from some of the biggest names in business – Apple Pay, Google Wallet and PayPal, for example, are all fighting for a piece of the mobile payment pie. As mobile payments grow in popularity, one thing is certain – whoever wins this race will take home a pretty hefty prize.

“Who Will Win the Mobile Payments Race in 2016?” is the topic up for discussion in the latest ShopKeep video where Norm Merritt and Ramon Ray discuss this question, as well as how to be a successful retailer now that cash is out and mobile payments are in.

Whether you currently accept mobile payments or not, as a business owner, this is a trend you NEED to stay on top of. Take a few minutes today to get informed by watching the Shopkeep video here.

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Categories: SMB

Can Wix Bookings Help My Dentist Stop Calling Me? New Online Booking Service Launches

Wed, 01/20/2016 - 17:00

I have a great dentist. However, they call me all the time to remind me of my dental appointment. If I need to change it around I have to call them or do it when I’m in the office – it’s annoying. It’s annoying because I should be able to take care of appointments without speaking to someone. There are many services that can do this and one of them is by Wix – Wix Bookings.

Wix Bookings affords all types of service providers and merchants the opportunity to maximize new business, boost client satisfaction and increase retention by simplifying the online booking process. Seamlessly integrated into a business’ online presence, Wix Bookings gives service providers an easy-to-use and visually stunning product that offers all the functionality required in an online booking system. The solution syncs with Google Calendar to help business owners keep track of appointments and scheduled classes, send reminders, and even collect payments via PayPal, offering a flexible one-stop-shop for any type of business.

Businesses should continuously evaluate their operations and see how they can leverage technology to be faster, more productive and overall serve their customers better. Online booking tools are make it easy for the business and for the customer.

 

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Categories: SMB

GoDaddy Has Logo Design Service. Plus 5 More Ways To Get A Logo For Your Business

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 17:00

Logos are important. They provide your company with a brand identity and easily recognizable look. There’s software you can use to design your own logo – but I think it’s best to let a professional design it for you.

GoDaddy recently launched a logo design service. You submit your need for a logo and professionals will help create it for you.

Through a simple four-step process on the GoDaddy site, customers provide business and design guidelines to professional designers who craft a logo tailored to that customer’s specifications. The customer receives a new logo within three to five business days, along with art files that can be deployed easily across all online channels.

Other ways to get a nice logo?

99 Designs

Fiverr

UpWork (formerly Elance)

Logo Garden

Or of course your local marketing agency or consultant can help as well.

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Categories: SMB

Expensive Video Conference Systems Are Dying. Low Cost and Nimble Ones Are Birthed.

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 20:00

In every corporate conference room there are traditional conference systems from Cisco or Polycom. They work on large monitors, have special cameras and a special hub to connect it all.

However, many startups and small businesses re using traditional video conferencing systems like Sype, Zoom and a host of other solutions.

Video conference systems in “today’s” conference rooms are cheaper (like a few hundred dollars – not multiple thousands of dollars) and are compatible with systems like Skype.

CNBC writes, “Companies are dumping their expensive, proprietary systems for technology that works on smartphones and in web browsers as well as on commodity cameras and big-screen TVs. They’re seeking the consumer elements of Skype with the security and support of enterprise software.”

I was at Microsoft’s Redmond campus a few weeks ago and saw the Microsoft Hub in action – it’s VERY cool and useful.

Modern video conference system are cheap, low cost and easily used on mobile devices and leverage 3rd party video systems.

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Categories: SMB

Hackers Want “Two For One” Security Opportunities. Hack A Small Biz To Get A Big Biz.

Sun, 01/17/2016 - 19:00

Jon Crotty , Principal Analyst, Kasperskey Lab,

Security is often ignored, often confused but so important for business owners to keep top of mind. Jon Crotty is a Principal Analyst with Kaspersky Lab, he’s shared three trends that small business owners need to be aware of, in regard to their security.

The beginning of every year is a time when small business owners start planning out their year. They may ask themselves several questions such as: How will I grow my business in the coming year? What marketing initiatives should I take on? What is my cybersecurity strategy? Okay, that last question may not be on the mind of a typical small business owner, but it probably should be. In fact, a recent survey found that the average budget required to recover from a security breach is $38,000 for small businesses – a cost that could be devastating. In addition, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that 31% of all cyberattacks are directed at businesses with less than 250 employees. Unfortunately, we don’t expect this trend to change in 2016 and while implementing effective cybersecurity may seem like a challenge for a typical small business, knowing what to look out for and implementing a few simple initiatives in the coming year could go a long way.

A Cybercriminal “Two for One”

In 2016, we expect to see a rise in cybercriminals targeting small businesses that partner or do business directly with enterprises as a way to infiltrate corporate IT environments. Those behind targeted attacks now spend less money and time creating new malware and technology by using existing programs and methods; however, they still meticulously plan their attacks and analyze potential victims’ infrastructure to look for weak spots. In many cases, most small businesses do not have the time, cybersecurity knowledge or resources (both financial and trained IT staff) to combat cyber threats. For these reasons, cybercriminals look at small businesses as a potential weak spot to not only gain access to assets (customer data, intellectual property, etc.), but to get at enterprises that have the time and resources to be more strategic with cybersecurity initiatives.

So what should small businesses do to help prevent this from happening in 2016? A multi-layered cybersecurity strategy is key and a small business should consider what technologies they need most. There are plenty of sourcing options where a small business will be able to maximize value through products that integrate features through less consoles and through products that work seamlessly together. Encryption is also a strategy that all small businesses should implement. This is critical when processing and storing payment or other confidential information of customers. For example, if an employee laptop gets stolen, unencrypted customer information can lead to crippling fines from regulatory agencies and, equally bad, a loss of trust from customers. In addition, data encryption is actually a requirement once you start setting up Point of Sale terminals that accept credit cards.

The Cloud Tractor Beam is Pulling Small Businesses In

 Small businesses are probably starting to feel as if they are being pulled into the cloud by some kind of tractor beam out of a sci-fi movie. This makes sense if you think about the various IT needs of a SMB and a majority of new IT offerings are provided via the cloud. The problem with this is similar to most other technology areas, where security is not the first design priority. Many small organizations venture into the cloud first, then, at a later point, something will trigger a reactionary security concern.

To avoid this, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Smaller organizations must think about how they are using the cloud. The challenges that come with public, private and hybrid clouds, and the differences in security of these cloud offerings needs to be understood. In addition, data backup procedures and policies should be in place regardless of the type of cloud environment. These security considerations will be critical for small businesses as a part of a cloud implementation strategy in 2016.

Small Businesses Must Rethink Security On-The-Go

According to recent research by Manta, 80% of US small business owners used their mobile devices for business once a day or more. With almost everyone now utilizing smartphones and/or tablets, it is not surprising that the bad guys are targeting these vulnerable devices. In addition, most mobile devices have weak security, so it is easy for criminals to compromise these devices and gain access to not only the data on the device, but also the entire business network.

As a result, mobile security is no longer optional and small businesses that don’t take the time to secure these devices in the coming year will be at a higher risk of experiencing a security incident. Mobile security for small businesses needs to be treated as a two way street between the company and the employee. If the business is granting an employee the ability to use a device, that employee should be expected to make good decisions and follow security best practices. Small businesses understand that they need to roll out mobile enablement programs to keep people productive and happy, but they need guidance on where to start. As part of rolling out mobile programs, policies and education must be in place, even if it’s just a matter of making sure users understand best practices. A great starting point is to make sure users understand how to lock their devices down and how to use settings. This may sound elementary, but many working professionals are not doing this and/or simply don’t care about the security of their devices. These easy tips really help, so even a list of five or ten best practices for employees can be a good starting point.

The issue of addressing cybersecurity challenges may seem daunting to small businesses, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. By implementing a multi-layered security approach, safeguarding the cloud and protecting mobile devices, small businesses can spend 2016 focusing on what they do best – running and growing their business.

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Categories: SMB

Why Does The Government Hate Innovation? Uncle Sam, Show Love Not Hate.

Sat, 01/16/2016 - 15:17

Two headlines caught my attention. The first is that Uber is paying a $7.3 million fine to the state of California for violating a law about data sharing. 7 million dollars!!! The second is that the New York City, City Council wants to enact even tougher legislation for Uber and other ride-sharing services. A study just came out stating that Uber has NOT increased NYC traffic – this study was widely anticipated by the NYC Council and Mayor.

Overall it just enrages me that instead of doing what they can to FOSTER innovation and growth, too many politicians and business owners want to stifle this growth.

We DO need the government to regulate areas of food safety, air flight and other societal pillars that could have a large and immediate adverse effect on human life. But everything else – there’s no need for the government to want to PICK A FIGHT.

Love innovation and growth – don’t hate it.

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Categories: SMB