technology best practices for small business growth
Updated: 1 hour 33 min ago
You’d think that “everyone” likes shopping online – but that’s not the case. Best Buy’s successful sales show that there’s many people who are quite comfortable NOT buying online – in fact they’d prefer to go to a retail store and make a purchase.
AdAge reports that Best Buy’s store-within-a-store bet is starting to pay off. The world’s largest electronics chain posted its fourth-straight quarter of same-store sales gains thanks to higher demand for appliances, TVs and phones, and is preparing to offer top brands like Apple and Microsoft even more shelf space heading into the holiday season.
If you’re an “online only” strategy – you might want to consider serving customers who want to shop in a retail store or some other means. Online sales are “hot” but if you’re a retailer don’t neglect the “in store” experience and ensure you’re offering customers a great online and offline experience.
With the Holiday’s approaching ensure you’re retail store and marketing to DRIVE retail sales is as good as it can be.
The post Everyone Doesn’t Like Shopping Online. Best Buy Proves It. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Ideally, we want to be be on time and in full from our customers. However, all the time that might not happen. Freshbooks has a new feature. They have an option to allow your customers to pay you partially.
Maybe they owe you $500 for some service – now they can pay you $300.
Sounds simple, I know, but for small business owners, every dime counts – even partially paid invoices.
Cash flow is so important to business owners – especially small businesses. What’s ironic is that many BIG companies take 60 – 90 days to process a payment. Yet I know many small businesses try to pay their invoices, when paying other small businesses or consultants, immediately (or close to it).
The post FreshBooks Enables Partial Payments – Increasing Cash Flow For Vendors appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Small manufacturers, in fact many small businesses, feel that they’re business is too small to be of interest to hackers. That’s not true. Hackers want to steal personal data, money and anything else they can use to make financial gains or some other nefarious reason.
Bank of the West published a 6 page white paper which helps outline some ways to be more secure.
Some of the tips include:
- Develop an approval process for large transactions. Require approval from two or more executives for large wire
transfers to protect against internal and external fraud.
- Use a purchase order model for wire transfers. Many companies require a purchase order number to spend money. Apply this model to match all wire transfers to a purchase order reference number, which provides another layer of control by requiring an approval for wire transfers and a verification of that approval.
- Confirm and reconfirm. Use multiple means of communication to verify wire transfers are legitimate. If the initial request comes in email, then call the person to get a verbal confirmation and vice versa.
- Stay in touch with your bank. If a transaction seems suspicious at any point in the process even after a wire has been sent contact your financial institution immediately.
The post Small Manufacturers Are Hacker Targets. Here’s Some Tips On Being More Secure. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Email messages are important – but sending an email message with a great subject line is even more important. It’s important for one to one communication or for email newsletters.
SendGrid analyzed 18 million emails and distilled three important aspects of what makes a great email subject line:
Shorten Subject Headers: While 7 words is the most common subject line word length (14.0% of subject lines), 3 word subject lines (1.6% of subject lines) have the highest engagement rates (21.2%, compared to 17.2% overall and 15.8% for 7 word subject lines).
Measuring engagement rates by number of character lines tells a similar story: longer subject lines have lower engagement rates. Past 15 characters, each extra character is correlated with a 0.03% absolute decrease in engagement rate (or about 1% per 33 characters).
Choose Your Buzzwords Carefully: Recipients prefer certain words over others. Subject lines referring to “yesterday” and“tomorrow” have higher engagement rates (20.5% and 22.3%, respectively) than “today” (11.8%).
Subject lines with “soon” have higher engagement rates (21.9%) versus subject lines referring to now “now”
Email subject lines that use the word “free” have significantly lower engagement rates (13.1% versus 17.2% for “free”-free subject lines).
Eliminate Links and Hashtags: Subject lines that contain URLs do poorly, with average engagement rates of 9.9% (compared to 17.2% for subject lines that do not contain a URL). Subject lines with URLs in them are rare (fewer than 0.4% of emails).
Subject lines that contain #hashtags do poorly, with average engagement rates of 10.5% for subject lines with a single hashtag (compared to 17.2% for subject lines that do not contain a #hashtag). Thankfully, emails with hashtags in them are rare (fewer than 0.2% of emails).
The post 3 Simple Tips for Better Email Subject Lines. 18 Million Emails Studied. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
It’s deliciously awesome to get an invoice. But it’s frustrating to have the invoice take so long to get paid. As small business owners, we try to pay our vendors quickly, but in working with our larger customers, they might take 30 – 60 or more days to pay us!
Fundbox has a neat solution.
There’s many ways to get company financing – you can get a loan from companies such as OnDeck, CAN Capital, Fundera and many others (see the recent Manhattan Chamber event about financing here).
When I first looked at Fundbox, I thought maybe it was too good to be true. In a short time (less than a day) I could sign up with Fundbox and get a pending invoice paid?
I had to try it for myself.
Fundbox integrates directly with a variety of online accounting solutions – such as Quickbooks, Xero, Freshbooks, Harvest and Wave.
Once you connect your accounting solution, which takes seconds, Fundbox alerts you to which invoices it can give you money for – transferred right to your bank account.
The fees are comparable to other financing services – about 5% give or take. You pay back Fundbox in 12 weekly, equal installments. Their fee plus your invoice amount.
There’s no cost to sign up and see which of your invoices for qualifying
The post Get Your Invoices Paid Faster with FundBox – A Financing Company Every Business Should Sign Up For appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Microsoft recently released a new app, Sway, which integrates video, images and text.
Think of creating a Power Point, with the ease of Canva and all hosted online. A digital story telling app is what Microsoft calls it.
When you want to convey something to a client, customer, or just a friend, Sway lets you take your content and share it with them – easily.
You can take pictures, video and other assets from Facebook, Twitter and a variety of other sources.
I did my first Sway here
The post New Tool from Microsoft: Sway Integrates Video, Images and Text appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Epson released a new line of printers that come with a reservoir of ink tanks so big they hold up to about 2 years worth of ink. That’s a lot of ink.
The new line of printers, EcoTank brand, are five new all-in-one color printers featuring large ink reservoirs – what Epson defines as the Supertank category – that come loaded and ready for up to two years of prints without replacing the ink.
While many of us MIGHT not put ink and printers on the front of our shopping list – when you press the “print” button and your printer is out of paper – you might wish you had a printer like this around.
Check out the full press release here.
The post Two Years of Ink With Epson’s New Line of Printers appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
So you’ve got a 10 person team, or 88 person team – who work for you. How can you maximize what they’re doing? How can you optimize their time. This is NOT implying that they’re playing games or posting to Facebook all day. They could be working very hard – but are they working smart?
The NY Times writes:
Increasingly, bosses have an answer. A new generation of workplace technology is allowing white-collar jobs to be tracked, tweaked and managed in ways that were difficult even a few years ago. Employers of all types — old-line manufacturers, nonprofits, universities, digital start-ups and retailers — are using an increasingly wide range of tools to monitor workers’ efforts, help them focus, cheer them on and just make sure they show up on time.
While I think it’s too much to monitor your employees 24/7 and invade their personal space, I do encourage you to think with your employees what you all can do together to maximize their time and your own time.
Technology can surely help.
The post Employee Productivity Is So Important. Can Technology Help? appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Last holiday season, Amazon updated pricing on its website nearly 10 million times, ensuring the best sales beat out competitors. Now, smaller retailers have similar enterprise-pricing tools that enable creative pricing strategies across all sales channels.
Kara Egan, Stitch Labs
Kara Egan, Director of Product Marketing, Stitch Labs, shares her insight in this guest blog post.
As a business, it’s important to manage prices across sales channels directly in an single command system for complete accuracy. With that ability, you can set prices across your products and push those prices up to your sales channels. This is a great feature for both multichannel control and creating effective pricing strategies.
Specifically, the multichannel pricing strategy part of the business is where it gets interesting. If you aren’t already thinking about pricing strategies, you should be. The idea of pricing strategy and promotions are all around us – just look to Amazon’s Prime Day. An effective pricing strategy was implemented for the highly anticipated “Prime Day,” when Amazon succeeded by increasing sales for July 15th by over 266 percent over the same day last year, and 18 percent more than last year’s Black Friday numbers. The key to being successful with a pricing promotion is ensuring you have the right strategy for each sales channel.
So, what do you need to know to run an effective pricing promotion?
Which products do you want to discount?
When thinking about your sale, you can either go with a discount across the whole site, or a more targeted approach of discounting only certain items. This is similar to the idea of door busters. Are there certain items that your customers just LOVE and you know you will catch their attention if they go on sale? Consider selecting some of your more popular items and discounting those as a start.
How low can you go?
When it comes to a sale, you want to not only attract customers, but also make money from them! It is important when thinking about your discounts to make sure you aren’t going into the red. Be sure to factor in your cost of goods sold, including shipping, fees or other marketing spend you might be considering. This could be different across each of your channels, and you should consider the flexibility that you might have on your own branded shopping cart versus a marketplace where you have to pay a percentage in fees.
Some inventory management solutions include an Amazon Competitive Price report to help with some of these decisions. Amazon is often where customers go to find the lowest price option. This report will tell you the price that is currently winning Amazon’s buy box, as well as your Amazon price, and your cost. Now might be a good time to win a few of those lowest spots! Additionally, you can take this information and price more competitively on your other channels.
Ideally you want to price at a point where you believe the increase in order volume during the sale will outweigh the decrease in margins.
Once you’ve determined prices, you can set a new sale pricing tier. When you are ready to flip the promotion on, you can just switch to that pricing tier for any and all channels and they will update automatically! When the sale is over, you can quickly go back to your old pricing tier.
Spread the word
If you think a sale is going to motivate people to buy, you need to tell them about it! Send out an email to all your past customers. Highlight not only the sale, but the popular products that are discounting to drive them back to your site. Same goes for social; post it on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Beautiful imagery of your bestseller or a creative sale tagline are sure to capture their attention. On your site, you might want to put a sale banner at the top or even a new header image.
Make the most of your traffic
Now that you have driven your customers to your site with the promise of a sale, you need to fill those shopping carts! Consider placing profitable items alongside sale items,or take it one step further and bundle some products together. This can increase order sizes and improve margins.
Manage the volume
If all goes well you should see an increase in order volume. So that means two things: first, that you have the inventory on hand and are properly updating stock levels to your channel, and second, that you have the capacity to fulfill within the expected time frame. The last thing you want is unhappy customers because you can’t ship their orders! If you are just getting started with pricing promotions, don’t worry about forecasting increased demand, just use this first one as a test to give yourself a benchmark for future forecasting. But, do make sure you and your team are ready to move into turbo if all goes well!
Measure the results
At the end of the day, you want to know did this work? Did you increase the number of orders, your revenue, and your profits? So how do you do this? Reporting, my dear friend, reporting! You will want to look at your sales and profits during this period compared to a comparable period,say the week before the sale. Was the sale successful at growing your business? Hopefully the answer is yes! But if not, refine your strategy. Were the discounts too steep? What could you do to increase the total order size? Like all things in business, its an evolution, where you are constantly learning and refining every day.
The post How To Make Price A Strategy In Your Sales appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
If you gather only the most basic website statistic – page views – you have probably noticed an interesting fact: “About” pages always rank among the most visited pages on virtually any website.
I was surprised when I first noticed that and I suspect it surprises you as well. Next, let’s combine the popularity of about pages with one other web page fact: A very high percentage of website owners put little or no thought into their about pages.
After all, most people believe – mistakenly – that they aren’t selling their product or service from their about pages, so why should they bother. Doesn’t it make sense to invest more time and effort into product pages and landing pages?
Grade your about page
Let’s put that assumption to a quick test. I would guess that many of you are working hard to build your email lists. A healthy email list is critical to virtually every business model today, so savvy business owners work like crazy getting quality email addresses.
So here’s a simple question that will illustrate the power of an about page and also get you started in the process of grading yours: Does your about page generate a lot of signups for your email list?
Here’s how you should be considering the context of this question. Your about page should sell visitors on your authority, the quality of your product, or the quality of your service. People reading your about page should say to themselves, “This site/person/product/service has a lot to offer. I want to be included!”
If the copy and graphics on your about page fail to make the case for your business in a way that will bring people on board, then you need to rethink what you’re doing. Let’s start by going back to my original question: Are you adding names to your email list via your about page?
Many websites fail to do this for the simple reason that they don’t ask for email addresses on their about pages. If that’s you, this is the first problem you need to correct. Further, because you have some freedom in your about page copy, you can do a great job with your email signup call to action. In other words, you can really sell the benefits of hooking up with your business via email.
Think like your prospects
You always need to consider the psychology of your prospects and what would motivate them to do business with you. When they click your “About Us” link, they expect to “meet” you and your company. If they are greeted by four boxed heads, each accompanied by copy that is little more than an abbreviated curriculum vitae, you aren’t really accomplishing anything – and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that kind of layout on an about page!
The elements on your about page are very similar to what normally appears on a home page:
- Great headline.
- Excellent image(s)
- Copy that sells
- Call to action
About pages differ more in style than in content. For example, you may not be directly selling your product or service here; you are selling yourself or your company as the best provider of the product or service. What are your personal unique selling points (USPs)?
While you’ll tend to bullet point list USPs on a product page, you’ll take more of a storytelling approach to relate the USPs of yourself or your company on an about page. You’ll want to take your visitors by the hand and lead them on a journey that pulls them straight into your call to action.
Align your CTA to your purpose
As I said earlier, this call to action may be getting a signup for an email list. It might also be to send the visitor to a product page where a purchase can be made. Exactly what you want to accomplish via your about page CTA is up to you, but it should service some real purpose within the framework of your website.
With these thoughts in mind, how would you now grade your about page? If it’s not kicking butt and taking names, work on it. In fact, consider some A/B tests with different copy, images and layouts. Attack its design optimization just as you would a landing page or product page.
With just a little bit of effort this highly-trafficked and often-overlooked step child of a page can blossom into your website’s Cinderella.
The post How to Boost Results With a Killer About Page appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
The publishing industry (that includes SmallBizTechnology, Smart Hustle and a zillion other publishers like Wired, CNN, and more) are wringing their hands at the amount of ads being blocked by ad blockers. It’s bad enough that advertisements only pull 1% – give or take of click through – but more and more advertisers and publishers must deal with ad blockers.
The Wall Street Journal writes:
But ad-blockers have become a major problem for publishers because most of the free content distributed online is supported by advertising revenue. One recent report suggested the issue will lead to $22 billion in lost revenue this year as one out of three Internet users now employee some software to block ads.
What to do about it?
For small businesses who are in a war to get readers to “click” on an advertisement – what about doing other things? Here’s a few things that can help boost click through rates and things you can do beyond just banner advertisements.
- Offer a lead magnet. Offer something of value that would entice or that could be an incentive for someone to hear more from you.
- Consider using engaging video -beyond a boring static banner advertisement
- What about ditching banner ads altogether and offering up better value added content, Twitter chats, virtual webinars and podcasts. These take more time to develop but you’ll be creating a loyal audience who wants to hear from you.
The post Readers Are Blocking and Ignoring Your Ads. What’s the Solution. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Intuit’s letting go of Demand Force, Turbo Tax and Quicken – that’s big news – to focus more on its core small business market.
Quickbooks continues to be the leading accounting software for small businesses.
From my reading of Intuit’s investor statements, Intuit’ pushing more and more into a cloud and mobile world – with the foundation being Quickbooks Online, which now has over 1 Million subscribers.
Brad Smith, Intuit, CEO said this:
Let me provide some context about why we made these decisions. Demandforce and QuickBase are great businesses, but they do not support the QuickBooks Online ecosystem, and both serve customers that are up-market from our core small business customers. For Demandforce, we are seeking a buyer who will invest in this industry-leading marketing solution with a growing and talented sales force. Divesting QuickBase has a similar effect, freeing both Intuit and QuickBase to focus on better serving the needs of our respective, but distinct, customers.
For those of you still clinging to Quickbooks or any other “computer installed” software -it’s time to let it go and modernize your business for future growth.
The post Intuit Ditches 3 Business Lines To Focus More On Small Business appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Family businesses are nice. I have a small taste of it when I use my family to help with my business, from time to time. One of the recent episodes of CNBS’s The Profit with Marcus Lemonis is about how a father had to let go and give his son room to grow into running the family business.
One of the challenges of running a family business is what to do when your children (or other family members) are no longer interested in managing the family business.
You might have to look to selling it to those who are not int the family – ending the “family business”
The Wall Street Journal writes:
Mr. Morgan said he and Pac Paper’s longtime co-owners agreed to a sale after realizing the next generation wasn’t likely to take over the company—and that good offers may not stay on the table forever. A sale “was the best way to keep family unity,” in the future, he said.
Long before you enter retirement years in your family business be sure to have a succession plan and/or know if your up and coming family want to take over the family business.
The post Family Business: What To Do If Family Doesn’t Want To Run The Family Business? appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Computer algorithms are useful – they can help the human mind shift through an infinitely wider amount of data than it normally could. However, algorithms are faulty.
The Wall Street Journal reports that as recently as May various image detection algorithms identified black men as apes and Jewish concentration camps as jungle gyms.
If you’re using resume software to find candidates or other algorithms for other data mining of images, use them very carefully. You could be missing out on a good candidate because the “computer” ditched them.
While you can never get to know everyone, you can make it a point to get to know more people, especially people outside of your core network and regular community. Discipline yourself to attend events, shake hands, call people – get to know new people and your community will grow.
Billionaire Marcus Lemonis shows us all the power of a firm handshake and personal relationships.
The post Computer Algorithms Prove Personal Relationships Are Best appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Periscope is one of the latest trends on the market.
It came to fame a few months ago, after its lagging competitor, Meerkat, took off at SXSW.
I did my first Periscope broadcast last week, sharing with my Twitter audience a live stream of John “ColderIce” Lawson’s e-commerce event.
Live streaming is amazing for a few reasons:
- It’s NOT about the “live” streaming – it’s about showing great content to your audience. It just happens to be video
- Every business should be a publisher. You don’t have to wait for BIG media to find you. You publish and share with YOUR tribe.
- Those who periodically send engaging content to their audience will win – live video helps do this
- Don’t worry about “numbers” just focus on great “live video” that your audience will want.
- Micro publishing is HOT. Sure, people still watch the “nightly news” but more of us want to watch what’s of interest to us in the MOMENT.
- The more great content you share, the more your personal brand will grow.
- Seek out great experiences you can share. Don’t share junk. Share content you know your audience wants.
The post Live Video: 7 Ways Periscope Can Build Your Brand appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Google Glasses is one of the newest technology used by modern warehouses to make them more efficient writes the Wall Street Journal.
Traditionally warehouses have just been about low wage workers doing manual labor. However, smart companies are providing employees with tools to make them smarter, faster and overall improve efficiency.
“The devices can tell workers the fastest route to find products and can read bar codes, which reduced the time needed to pick out an item and pack it for shipping by 25% in tests at a Dutch warehouse earlier this year, Exel says. The technology has the most application in e-commerce warehouses, where workers might need to find a handful of items out of more than a million individual products, the company said.”
What are ways you can INVEST in technology to improve efficiency’s in your company?
- Better printers?
- Better document management?
- Better inventory management?
- Better organization of inventory?
The post Modern Warehouse Is Changing: Google Glasses Are Coming (and other tech) appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
In today’s small business world things move fast! Technology evolves daily and there is always a better, more efficient way to get things done. It can be really hard to keep up and stay on top of the best processes an solutions!
Knowing this, I’ve teamed up with HP Small Business for a twitter chat called The Business of Now: Positioning Small Businesses to Thrive.
The Twitter chat, which takes place on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 2pm ET, will teach small business owners how to enable and improve efficiency in their office by using the latest technology tools for mobile and security.
They’ll also be looking for participants to share their thoughts and opinions on questions like:
- Is your business taking full advantage of mobile technologies?
- What types of technology are you using to better serve your customers?
- Do you have security and virus protection on your mobile devices?
It’s going to be an interactive hour jam-packed with great tips, tools and techniques to help you start saving time and money…RIGHT AWAY!
Here are the details again so you don’t miss joining this event:
Who: @HP_SmallBiz, Ramon Ray @RamonRay
What: The Business of NOW: Positioning Small Businesses to Thrive
When: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 – 2 p.m. EDT
Where: On Twitter under the hashtag #HPBusinessNow
We hope to “see” you on the 25th! Get your questions ready!!
The post HP Twitter Chat: #HPBusinessNow – Positioning Small Business to Thrive appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
You’ve heard for many years that servers, on premises are not the way to go. You know it’st true.
Having servers in your office or that you remotely maintain is not necessary.
There’s many companies such as Amazon, Rackspace, Media Temple, Google, Microsoft and many others who can host your data for a fraction of the cost you can host it yourself.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Netflix recently pulled the plug on its last data center. All it’s data is now on the public cloud.
If you’re hanging onto servers in your office or remotely managed it’s time to get rid of them.
Netflix realized that its should be investing money in the next great set of movies it can stream, it’s data on its customers and other things that are its CORE competency.
What’s your core? What do you do best?
Marcus Lemonis gives this wisdom all the time to the companies he invests in. If you’re making ice cream or hand soap, there’s probably a company that can make your same product more efficiently than you can ever do it. Let them do it and you focus on selling the product – not making it (in most cases).
The post Netflix Got Rid of Its Servers. When Will You? Cloud Rules. Servers Don’t. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
On July 15, 2015 we added a new shopping event to our list of “holidays” – Amazon Prime Day. The event was officially announced on July 6 and pegged as a summer Black Friday that would have thousands of amazing deals exclusively for Prime members. The hype was huge and Amazon added to the anticipation with tons of advertisements and even a countdown on their website. When the clock struck midnight on July 15, the event kicked off.
And fizzled out right away, for some. The disappointed shoppers then took to social media, lighting up sites like Twitter with hashtags that included #UnhappyPrimeDay, #AmazonFail, #gobacktosleep, and #PrimeDayFail. They were upset with the selection of offers, the low number of electronics deals, and the fact that many items were sold out in seconds.
But just like any good Hollywood plot, there is a twist. July 16th came around and despite the smoke and flames on social media, Amazon announced that Prime Day was even bigger than Black Friday itself. In a press release they spouted out statistics:
- 18% more orders than Black Friday 2014.
- 266% order growth over the same day last year.
- Sellers who use ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’ saw nearly 300% growth in sales.
- “More new members tried Prime worldwide than any single day in Amazon history.”
Despite the negative reactions, it seems that Amazon Prime Day was a huge success.
What Small Business Owners Can Learn From Amazon Prime Day
Every small business owner dreams of numbers like the ones Amazon posted on July 16th – but they also fear the backlash from unhappy customers that occurred on July 15th. Is there any way we can learn from this event so small business owners can replicate the success without all the complaints?
That is the topic of Ramon Ray’s recent article on Endicia’s The Savvy Shipper blog. In this article Ramon analyzes Amazon Prime Day to give tips on how small business owners can best manage events, advertising, and customer relations during their own promotions. Learning from the good and bad of Amazon Prime Day is crucial if you too want happy customers and more sales. Get all of Ramon’s Amazon Prime Day lessons by reading his blog post, “What Can Small Online Businesses Learn From Amazon Prime Day?“
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As you might have heard by now the Jet’s have fired linebacker Ikemefuna Chinedum for punching Jet’s quarter back Geno Smith.
While football is all about “talent” in order to win the game on the field, your business is a bit different.
Instead of hiring FIRST and FOREMOST for the right skill set or high aptitude it’s much better to first hire for character and attitude. Then look for someone who has the right technical skills you need or train them.
Unfortunately, to make money and exceed, sports is mostly what happens “on the field”.
Thankfully for entrepreneurs and small businesses we have a bit more luxury to hire for skill and aptitude – which is so important for our “on field play”.
Rarely is there that rock star sales director, executive assistant, app developer or restaurant hostess who has such an incredible skill set that you can’t find someone else, if the person you want is at the bottom of the barrel for character and attitude.
The post Learning From Jet’s Sucker Punch: Hire For Attitude, not Aptitude appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
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