tech insight and news for small business
Updated: 1 min 50 sec ago
Planning on creating a site for your business? Considering the up-front cost of hiring developers to make a site for you, content management system (CMS) platforms have risen to the rescue to fill the gap. Two of the most well-known free CMS products available are WordPress and Joomla.
Both of them provide very powerful features that small businesses can use, but only one of them is appropriate for you. Today, let’s put these two content management systems head-to-head and determine which one remains the victor for your particular situation! It’s WordPress vs. Joomla!
We’ll first have a look at WordPress and see what it has in store for small businesses:
- It’s very robust and secure. WordPress is highly competitive and has risen above all other blogging platforms.
- While it’s primarily for blogging, it can prove a valuable platform for professionals and entrepreneurs who want to showcase the services they provide. Retrofitting WordPress is almost as easy as installing a theme. There are plenty of small business themes available. For professionals, I recommend using the Shell Lite theme, which I use for my own services.
- As hinted from my previous statement, it’s a blogging software right out of the box, meaning that you can add content from the get-go without having to worry very much about tweaking the software. If you’re hoping to make sales out of content, use this as your blogging platform. It can be very Google-friendly as long as you don’t choose very bulky themes.
- WordPress has a strong e-commerce platform through a plugin. Making a site that sells stuff is very simple and doesn’t require a lot of elbow grease.
- Sites made through WordPress are straightforward and simple. This can also be a downside. Making a complex site with lots of features that give your small business a competitive edge is very difficult through WordPress and sometimes could prove impossible. The one-click installation feature is convenient, but lots of the plugins have to rely on a very strict application programming interface (API) that doesn’t necessarily give them ample elbow room.
You’ve had a look at what WordPress is all about. Now, let’s put Joomla to a fair test against this contender:
- Extensions vary from very simple features to game-changing functionality. There are so many extensions for e-commerce sites that it may be difficult to know where to begin!
- Out of the box, Joomla provides an extensive array of features and the perfect layout for a business looking to sell things online. To have a look at how rich some sites using Joomla can be, have a look at the GSAS at Harvard or ITWire. But that’s probably not enough for you. You want to see a real e-commerce site in action. There’s Pierro-Astro and TrolleyStore. Both demonstrate how powerful Joomla can be for a small business. They are using the VirtueMart extension, in case you were wondering.
- This is not the ideal product for a blog. It’s rather difficult to set up a blog and maintain it. The indexing system is not as ideal as WordPress, and there are many other caveats to using this for a blog in general.
- Some security issues in the past have given Joomla a poor reputation, but it’s managed to mitigate most of these issues and even provide a guide for a properly secure setup.
- In general, Joomla is not for the faint of heart. The learning curve is long, it’s hard to set up, and the whole process can be a bit painstaking even for an individual with previous experience setting up WordPress.
- If you’re stuck somewhere, don’t expect a lot of support. The community is a bit slow to respond and the same can be said for the developers at Joomla.
If you’re looking for a solid piece of software, you can choose either one. However, only one of them is going to be suitable for your business. In a nutshell, use WordPress if you need something simple, fast, and content-smart. On the other hand, if you want to focus strictly on e-commerce, Joomla can really spruce up the look of your business!
The post WordPress vs. Joomla: Which Is The Best System For Your Business appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Social media promotions are one surefire way to get your followers up on Twitter or boost those likes on Facebook. You can boost engagement and get your brand out there. If you’re offering something good (Apple products like iPads are a very popular social media giveaway), you can see huge numbers of people getting involved.
But it has to be done right to get you the engagement you want. Anyone who wants an iPad will “like” or retweet something for the chance to win, but many won’t bother to find out anything about your business, if it’s that easy to get involved in your social promotion. The key is to make participants really think about what you do. How?
Well, first, you want to give away something of value, but something that’s connected to your business in a real way. So if you provide a software solution, perhaps the winner gets one free year of your software. This ensures that the people who are entering and following and liking are actually potential customers. And how about every entrant has to tell you in a tweet why they need what you’re giving away? If it’s productivity software, maybe they’ll say, “I need your software because I want to double my work output.” And/or make it fun. Have everyone write a haiku about your business, or have them take a picture of the weirdest thing in their office/on their desk.
Finally, know the law. Here’s a look at the legalities of social promotions.
There are some great ways to do social promotions and get valuable data out of it. For instance, Splurgy and Grosocial allow you to create and automate social media campaigns. The lighter weight Splurgy is free to use, while the powerful Grosocial costs between $30 and $60 a month. Check out our closer look at Grosocial here.
Let us know in the comments how you do social promotions and what your experience with them has been!
The post Best Practices for Social Media Promotions: Get More Followers, Engagement, and Sales appeared first on Small Business Technology.
What’s your favorite email management tool and why?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
1. Constant Contact
I use Constant Contact to manage my email lists and communications. The tool makes sending smart, custom-designed emails easy. All of the bells-and-whistles features make you look like a big company, even when it’s just you. The best thing is that, if you aren’t going to send any communications for a while, you can store your list for a small fee.
- Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work
If you use Gmail for your email needs, go get Boomerang ASAP! It lets you remove emails from your inbox that don’t need immediate attention or that you’re waiting to follow up on. It then brings them back whenever you choose. It can also send emails automatically at a preferred time. Trust me; get it now.
- Shahzil (Shaz) Amin, Blue Track Media, LLC
Infusionsoft is more than just email management. It allows you to collect prospects’ email addresses and follow up with them automatically and send broadcast emails, but it’s so much more than that. It has smart-tracking and tagging features that you can use to segment your list and target your offers.
- Nathalie Lussier, The Website Checkup Tool
Bananatag is a must-have email management tool for any business owner. This service effortlessly tracks your sent emails so you can see what happens to them after they are sent. The system then notifies you of both email opens and link clicks inside your email. The interface is very user-friendly and displays all your email metrics in an easy-to-follow dashboard.
- Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings
5. MailChimp’s Group Feature
We use MailChimp “Groups” to send subscribers content they want. We’ve used MailChimp’s tools to collect more data about our subscribers so we know what they like to receive. This has allowed us to steer away from blanketing users with mass emails. Instead, MailChimp makes us smarter as marketers because we can pinpoint our target audiences using their technology.
- Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
I’ve really enjoyed using Mailbox on my iPhone. The app is super slick and is based on a practical philosophy. The app encourages you to take action on your email (archive, delete, snooze, list) and will actually get you to inbox zero. It’s a great feeling.
- John Meyer, Lemon.ly
I’m a huge fan of Klaviyo. It allows you to segment your customers in any possible way (people who bought or haven’t bought products, people who always open your emails, etc.) and send messages to those people. By sending the right content to the right people, it increases engagement, sales and our ability to connect directly with our customers in a relevant way.
- Kit Hickey, Ministry of Supply
Taskforce lets the user transform all of his or her emails into tasks. It comes with an automatic filtering feature as well. Even if an email comes from someone not using Taskforce, you can still assign it to one of your tasks. It’s a great tool for managing and prioritizing your work-related emails, and it cuts down on the time spent digging through your inbox.
- Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
I’m not a fan of receiving newsletters, so I’m a big Unroll.me user. Unroll.me lets you easily unsubscribe from newsletters you may have receive. if you want to continue receiving them, it lets you combine multiple newsletters into one single email.
- Ben Lang, EpicLaunch
Beyond its role as a de facto to-do list, email is most valuable to me as a tool to manage my business connections. Streak does an awesome job of organizing my emails into specific “pipelines” for sales, fundraising, PR, etc. I love the ability to share specific pipelines with teammates.
- Neil Thanedar, LabDoor
The post 10 Awesome Email Management Tools appeared first on Small Business Technology.
While you’re probably worried about the future and are constantly trying to make your business a more customer-friendly environment, there are a couple of things you need to know about mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have been penetrating the workplace for a while already. They’ve made conducting business a very simple process while, at the same time, ensuring that employees can attend to work practically anywhere in the world. It’s been quite a blast to have these things around.
However, there’s a flip-side to mobile penetration. Your business’ security and integrity can be threatened by two things: The loss of a device that eventually ends up in the wrong hands, and the intentional theft of one. These things can’t always be prevented, but there are ways in which you can make the possibility of such things happening minimal.
Digital Defense, Inc., a provider of a variety of network security products, has been kind enough to give us some tips on ensuring that your mobile security is as tight as a taut rope:
- Make and enforce a mobile security policy within your business. Obviously, this means having a dialogue with your employees on how they should operate their mobile devices. We’ll get to some of the details in the points below.
- Make sure that employees are aware that they must use certain devices to access your enterprise networking infrastructure. This is to help you determine which devices are able to access the network and which aren’t.
- Configure the network in such a way that only devices you’ve approved for use with that network will have connectivity.
- If you’re giving employees devices you own for their use at work, make sure you have a way to track them. Make an inventory of these devices regularly.
- Limit the amount of operating systems and device brands that you distribute to employees. It’s preferable to have only one or two brands of phones. This removes the headaches of having to manage the weaknesses in each brand of phone.
- If you’re going to limit phones to one operating system, choose one that has strong OS-level encryption. iOS has very powerful security that includes solid encryption, for example.
- Lest you be concerned about employee privacy on a phone that you gave them, conduct random inspection of these phones. Obviously, if you let employees bring their own phones, you’d be breaching their privacy by doing this.
- Any phones you give employees should not be capable of tethering or providing hotspots.
- Don’t allow company-owned devices to synchronize with cloud services automatically (like iCloud).
- Teach employees how to make a strong password (a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols, like “fjF@94#,” works) and enforce this policy any way you can. The hardest passwords to crack are phrases with symbols embedded in them (such as “ph1llip w3nt to th3 m@rk3t”). The longer the password, the better it is at resisting brute force and dictionary attacks.
- Configure mobile devices so that they do not cache sensitive data (like passwords) on their browsers.
They also have one final piece of advice: Keep up to date on the latest mobile security threats. After you’ve learned how to mitigate these threats, teach your employees to do the same and ensure that their phones and tablets are kept up to snuff!
The post 12 Mobile Security Tips All Small Businesses Must Be Aware Of appeared first on Small Business Technology.
What you offer is amazing, but too often prospective customers just don’t“get it”! They don’t buy or they aren’t willing to pay what you know your product or service is worth. If you suffer from this problem, then you won’t want to miss our upcoming NYC Event, ‘Get Prospective Customers To Say ‘WOW’ and Close More Sales!‘ In this seminar, we’ll show you how to overcome this problem so your customers ‘get it’ and you begin to close more sales!
Get More Customers To Say ‘WOW’ and Close More Sales!
May 30, 2013 - 9 am to 11am
Regus Office Suites
1745 Broadway, NY, NY
Presented by Infusionsoft
and Evan Horowitz Advising
Using marketing techniques taught at Harvard Business School, Evan will show you how to dramatically increase the number of people who buy. He’ll show you a way to talk about your product or service that makes prospective customers say “WOW!”
Ramon will show you how to use the 7 steps of Lifecycle Marketing to capture leads, nurture prospects and turn customers into loyal, lifelong customers.
From this content-packed session, you’ll gain:
- A whole new way to close more sales, designed for “non-sales” people who want to be authentic and extremely effective.
- A step-by-step process to enhance your communications, so instead of saying “OK cool,” they say “WOW! Tell me more!”
- Evan’s “Communications Workbook,” so you can apply these secrets to YOUR business during our interactive training.
- A process that allows you to capture leads, nurture prospects and turn those into lifelong customers.
- A Lifecycle Marketing workbook and marketing plan for your business.
Register today so you don’t miss out on this great event!
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Millions of people each year are impacted by identity theft–a statistic that now includes small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration. Crafty thieves are coming up with creative ways to scam small business owners. In fact, according to the Ponemon Institute, 60 percent of small businesses have had at least one data breach in the past year, emphasizing the importance of having identity protection in place. Valuable customer data and inside information can be leaked through these data breaches, damaging your company’s reputation and potentially costing business.
“Security breaches continue to be a major concern for companies of all sizes, but small businesses are especially at risk given their limited resources and lack of security expertise,” said Dale Dabbs, CEO of EZShield.
In addition to EZShield, several services are now available to help small businesses prevent data breaches. When looking at cost, it’s important to weigh it against the potential costs you’ll incur if a data breach happens.
- EZShield–With a full assessment to determine each business’s needs, EZShield provides a consultant to help with implementing security and reacting if an identity breach occurs. The service also allows businesses to extend identity theft protection to employees as an additional perk. Basic protection starts at only $5.90 per month.
- IDefend Business–When it comes to identity protection, knowledge is power. IDefend Business keeps an eye out for businesses, providing alerts and reports from Dun & Bradstreet. iDefend Business costs $29.95 a month.
- Firewalls–Every small business should have a strong firewall in place to protect data. If your services are now Cloud-based, still make sure each PC is protected. Services like ZoneAlarm and Symantec Endpoint Protection are both proven and affordable.
- Positive Pay–Avoid fraudulent checks by signing up for this service through your financial institution. You let the bank know which checks have been written against your accounts and the bank verifies those checks before cashing them. Since check fraud is such a prevalent crime, this can save businesses thousands of dollars.
- Online tools–As we pointed out earlier this year, several resources are available to help you learn more about protecting your business. The National Association of Secretaries of State has joined forces with the Identity Theft Protection Association to form BusinessIDTheft.org. The site provides a toolkit to help small businesses learn to protect and monitor accounts, put controls in place, and keep your data safe. The information on the site is free to access, so businesses have nothing to lose.
Identity theft is a problem for both businesses and individuals. Business owners have an additional level of responsibility, however, since they are intrusted with valuable customer data. Identity theft can not only harm a business’s bottom line, it can shutter that business for good. By utilizing the above-mentioned tools, you can keep your customers and your private data safe from the eyes of criminals without spending fortune.
The post Could Identity Theft Impact Your Small Business? appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Mobile apps are increasingly being used to boost productivity and automate businesses, according to a recent survey by FileMaker. Many businesses are building custom solutions.
“The next wave of business mobility, fueled by iPad and iPhone-equipped ‘productivity warriors,’ is delivering real ROI by automating processes in the building and on the company campus,” said Ryan Rosenberg, Vice President of Marketing and Services for FileMaker. Many businesses are replacing paper-based processes with mobile processes.
FileMaker makes database software that allows users to build custom databases, produce reports, keep track of inventory and more. Other database software solutions include Microsoft Access and Oracle.
FileMaker’s survey and research into their customers revealed that there are many ways businesses are connecting workers to their servers, but the most common method (59% of the time) is a direct connection over local wireless network, which allows for iPhones and iPads to be integrated into the workflow.
The survey found organizations also are creating solutions that connect workers to servers when out of the office. Popular methods include remote connections via the Internet (35%) and connections via a VPN (21%).
More than half (51%) of the mobility case studies involved replacing paper-based processes. For instace, Boston University’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP), one of the leading intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) schools with 1,700 students per year, replaced its cumbersome, paper-based admissions processes – which occur 10 or more times a year – with a new, automated document management system on the FileMaker platform. The system includes a custom solution running on iPads and desktops. The new system has replaced photocopiers with iPads, slashed up-front document collection time by more than 50%, and reduced wait times for students.
Organizations are also “mobilizing” many traditional business tasks, not just “mobile” tasks. We recently reported on three businesses who used Filemaker to build apps that helped grow their businesses. The top 10 tasks automated with FileMaker are: 1) contact and customer management; 2) inventory; 3) invoicing/quotes/orders/estimates; 4) field data collection and field surveys; 5) project management; 6) general data tracking and logging; 7) timesheets; 8) reports and analysis; 9) work tickets and scheduling; and 10) medical records.
This survey is just one company’s data on their particular customers, but it’s clear that iPhones, iPads and similar devices are here to stay and will be affecting the way we all do business more and more with each passing year. Check out our list of must-have travel apps for business owners.
Let us know in the comments how you use mobile devices and apps in your business!
The post Rise Of The Productivity Warrior: Boosting Your Business With Mobile Apps (Infographic) appeared first on Small Business Technology.
New School or Tried and True: Are We Making Too Much of a Big Deal About Social vs. Traditional CRM?
Contributed by Lena L. West, Founder of InfluenceExpansion.com
Is social CRM just traditional CRM turned on its ear? Or is the small business community simply fascinated with yet another buzz term?
But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself.
For the uninitiated, CRM, is shorthand for Customer Relationship Management and Wikipedia defines CRM as “a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.”
Simply put, CRM is a way to keep up with existing and potential clients in order to provide a seamless client-care experience and when clients have a consistent experience – a task that is not easy for busy small business owners – they stick around longer and make referrals to other ideal clients.
Clients and customers are critical to any company; in fact, without them, you don’t have a business at all. So it only makes sense that small business owners would want to deliver consistent, quality communication and interactions with their valued client base.
The challenge in today’s business environment is most communication and interaction takes place via social networks, and unless a business owner has superpowers, it’s hard to keep up with all the streams of communications coming at you on a daily basis – which is why the most popular CRM systems now come bundled with social channel “hooks” or tie-ins.
The evolution of CRM systems to include social media connections has raised a bit of a debate within the small business and CRM communities; should business owners seek out a CRM tool that’s heavy on social functionality or should they stick with a tried and true CRM system?
Loretta Jones, VP of Marketing at Insightly, a leading web-based CRM application, thinks the small business community is over-processing the social vs. traditional debate, “I do think it’s yet another catch phrase because these days 90% of CRM applications have social. So when I see [the phrase] ‘social CRM’, I’m wondering what’s the difference between social CRM and a CRM system with social hooks? And, so far, out of all the things I read on the Internet, no one has a good answer for that question.”
Jones is super clear about what she thinks, but, I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here are some of the chief points of differentiation between traditional and social CRM, what do you think?
- Communication vs. Process – Historically, businesses have used CRM applications to implement and adhere to certain processes whether it’s how to manage leads or projects, CRM has, for a long time, been driven by tasks. One of the foundational rules of marketing and sales is you can’t make a client buy anything, the best thing you can do is be top-of-mind when they decide they’re in the market for what you’re selling. And, social conversations provide a great way of staying top-of-mind so it only stands to reason that more and more, today’s CRM apps are mining the social sphere and helping small businesses to develop a process around putting themselves in and around their client’s conversations online.
- Individuals vs. Communities – For many companies, CRM apps function as a way to store and quickly access contact information and data about individuals. Social CRM will put your brand at the center of a community and allow you to identify and track the social conversations of the usual set of stakeholders while also tracking and engaging the “unwritten” gatekeepers as well as entire communities of influencers. This allows you to connect with people where they “hang out” online and thus have a better chance of getting on their radar.
- Actions vs. Content – And, of course, traditional CRM systems provide a means to keep up with any number of actions you’ve taken in relates to a client: sent email, details of phone conversations, potential deals in the pipeline, etc. With the added layer of social CRM you can catalog actions, especially your company’s responses and replies to frequent questions and requests. Your business can then turn those responses and replies into helpful social media content such as a “Did You Know?” series of updates for your Facebook Business Page or as a starter question for a hosted Twitter chat.
The increased attention social CRM is getting is definitely warranted – the additional data, conversation entry points and content generating and participation capabilities are all gold to a small business looking to grow. But, in a way, I agree with Jones, above; instead of using our energy to split hairs about social versus traditional, let’s take that energy and direct it toward taking advantage of and leveraging the additional opportunities social CRM offers.
Lena L. West is the Founder of InfluenceExpansion.com, home of the Influence Expansion Academy, the only social media learning academy created SPECIFICALLY for women entrepreneurs. Membership starts at just $5/mo. Really!
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Running a business takes a lot of know how. Starting a business without that know how makes the first few years a rocky road. Luckily, there are several great resources online that can help you make fewer mistakes than those that came before you.
A newly launched resource comes to us from MOO, the makers of some of the best business cards you can get. (Check out our list of the best in online printing services.) MOO’s Startup Business Toolkit is a collection of tools, articles and resources for small businesses, start ups and entrepreneurs, that will be regularly updated over the coming months.
They’ll be adding articles written by carefully sourced experts, entrepreneurs, startup founders and people at MOO itself, filled with educational tips on starting and maintaining a successful business. Right now, they have a look at the benefits of being your own boss, a flow chart to help you evaluate your business idea, and tips on making the switch from freelancer to founder.
We recently covered another fantastic resource from SCORE. It’s a small business success podcast, answering burning questions many business owners have. SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They deliver their services at no charge.
Their podcast covers the following topics:
- How Can I Convert Leads Into Buyers? (Sales)
- Understanding Finance/Accounting – Value of Inventories, Critical Numbers & Reports, Metrics
- Leading People/HR
- How Can I Get Found on the Internet? (Websites/SEO)
- Getting the Most Out of Social Media
So if you’re starting a business, definitely check out those resources, and keep checking back on Smallbiztechnology.com for a lot more great content.
Let us know about your business in the comments!
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It’s Tech Thursday from Smallbiztechnology.com. Each week we take a quick look at business and technology news and updates for the small business community and share them with you in a quick and simple round-up.
Dell Services Launches the Dell ProSupport Enterprise Suite
New Suite Helps Customers Improve Performance of Critical Systems, Increase Productivity and Reduce Downtime
As enterprises face an increasingly complex and converged IT environment, they require a higher level of service to maintain and optimize performance. Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of its award-winning Dell ProSupport service that boasts an estimated 95 percent enterprise customer satisfaction, Dell unveiled its new ProSupport Enterprise Suite of services.
With new support offerings and automation, customers can improve the hardware performance and stability in the data center, leverage the insights gained through intelligent data and increase the productivity of their teams.
For more information on Dell ProSupport Plus, click here.
Seiko Instruments Smart Label Printers Offer Easier Way to Get Organized
New printer line frees up desk space, supports Microsoft Office®, and simplifies day-to-day administrative tasks.
Seiko Instruments USA Inc. (SII) Thermal Printer Division, a globally recognized leader in thermal printer technology announced the availability of its new Smart Label Printer 600 Series (SLP 600).
The new desktop label printer lineup offers three cost-effective models, ideal for professional services firms, healthcare applications, small businesses, and home office users. SLP 600 printers are more convenient and versatile than traditional sheet-fed label printing solutions. The new printers allow customers to rapidly customize individual labels, print out whole mailing databases, and easily interchange among address labels, file folder labels, shipping labels, multipurpose labels, and others.
For more on these new printers, click here.
Regus and Concur Form Partnership Making Business Travel Efficient and Productive
Alliance brings together experts in flexible workspaces and business travel management
Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplaces, and Concur, joined forces to help business travelers increase their productivity while traveling.
Through the new partnership, today’s busy professionals can manage their business travel logistics, which includes trip and expense management, as well as finding a convenient place to work.
As part of the agreement, Concur Small Business Edition customers will receive 12 months of Regus’ Preferred Businessworld Membership giving them access to more than 1,500 business
lounges in 100 countries. Regus’ lounges provide road warriors with unprecedented access to professional drop-in locations where they can work, hold a meeting with a client or colleague or relax with a cup of coffee in between appointments. Additional discounts are available on 12-month office and virtual office agreements.
In turn, Regus customers will receive a 45-day complimentary trial to Concur’s Small Business Edition. With Concur’s integrated travel and expense system, managers get greater visibility into company spend, while providing their employees with a simple, expense reporting tool.
Concur customers can activate their Regus’ Preferred Membership by visiting: www.regus.com/concur.
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Here is a listing of NYC Business and Technology Events for the upcoming week (5/17 – 5/23) that we thought would be beneficial to our small business community in the Greater NYC area.
Have a business and/or technology event coming up in the New York City area that you’d like us to add to our weekly post? If so, email us at eve...@smallbiztechnology.com.
The Digital Marketing Toolkit for Small Businesses
May 20, 2013, – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, Pillsbury Law – Winthrop Room, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
For the typical small business owner, digital marketing is a bewildering array of options. Choosing the right tools to reach your goals is essential. Join a panel of thought leaders, who specialize in helping small businesses with all aspects of online marketing. We’ll discuss using advertising and email, offers and community, and other strategies to help your small business acquire and retain customers using digital channels.
Our goal: to shed light on which tools and strategies give the most in return, so small business owners can spend more time on what really matters: running their business.
Marketing Your Summer Event
May 20, 2013, – 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, In Good Company, 16 West 23rd St, 4th Fl, New York
Events present wonderful branding opportunities for entrepreneurs and solopreneurs to connect with fans, network with future collaborators and meet potential clients. If you are interested in planning and executing events to market your expertise, join Nicole McGarrell for Marketing Your Summer Event. The workshop will cover the following topics:
• Event marketing strategies and tools to get the right attendees in the door
• How to set up and manage your event in one complete, easy-to-use online solution
• How to promote your event, send invitations, accept registrations, process payments seamlessly
• Using your event to lead to future customers and sales
• How to use events to build your brand even further
What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About Gestures
May 20, 2013, – 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, WeWork Labs, 175 Varick Street, New York, NY
We’re not all waving at our computers to check email yet, but like the jetpack of yesteryear, nearly all of us have seen Minority Report and Iron Man and kind of expect it to be just around the corner. Sci-fi is leading the public conception of what gestures mean for our audiences as users and ourselves as designers, and we should examine that carefully before we accept it as what’s best.
Christopher Noessel, co-author of the book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Sci-Fi, will be leading an interactive presentation live from San Francisco, talking about the gesture chapter of the book: covering the paradigm that Hollywood has (accidentally) invented, what a narrative point of view means for gestural interfaces, and see illustrative clips from sci-fi to back up the analysis.
Big Data, NoSQL, Now What?
May 22, 2013, – 7:00 PM, AlleyNYC, 500 7th ave 17th floor, New York, NY
Big Data technologies are evolving to suit the needs of real-time analytics for 2013 and beyond. During this interactive discussion we will explore this evolution starting with a brief recap on Hadoop and related technologies, how NoSQL technologies fit in the Big Data landscape and where things can/should go from here. Of course, this dialogue would not be complete without discussing the new and changing roles in IT, what IT managers should know vs developer/architect concerns
B2B Mobile Leadership Forum
May 23, 2013, – 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM, New York University Midtown Campus, 11 West 42nd St, Room 1027, New York, New York 10036
By now we understand the trends with mobile. Almost all business decision makers have smartphones and most of them identify their phone as their primary business communication tool. Tablets are increasingly the device of choice to consume content for business leaders. Mobile traffic is growing at an unprecedented rate.
The B2B Mobile Leadership Forum is limited to 75 senior marketing and communications executives from major B2B brands and agencies. Our format will include case study presentations followed by a 60 minute interactive moderated panel discussion where attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions and share their insights with the audience.
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Often when working on a computer, employees may find that their desktop just gets too crowded. When managing many different windows, they begin to overlap and hide one another, which creates a chaotic workplace. Microsoft attempted to relieve this stress by adding the snap feature to windows, allowing users to have two windows side by side, taking up half of the desktop. However, in a rapidly evolving technological age, is that really enough?
Just in writing this article, I have five windows open and I have to work around that overlap. Actual Multiple Monitors is software that really clears the clutter and helps you organize your computer experience.
Actual Multiple Monitors for Windows allows users to recreate the entirety of the desktop, including the Windows 7 taskbar on each monitor that utilizes all of the functions, like Pin, Peek, and Jump lists. Further, it provides a full copy of the start button, system tray, clock, toolbars, etc., as well as allows Windows 8 users to create Start menus or replace them with Start buttons from Windows 7.
Now the name of the software is a bit misleading, because multiple monitors aren’t actually needed. You can have your single desktop, and split that into a grid of tiles to your liking. Open a new window and it pops up in one of your grid spaces. Maximize it and its borders are those of the grid you’ve set. Instead of wasting time opening, resizing, and rearranging windows you can dive straight into work, upping your productivity. Start to find a few different set ups for your grid depending on what you’re doing? Hotkey the layout and use is again later. Need to move a window to a certain tile area? Use hotkeys to move it without even lifting your hands.
Have a few jobs that need doing? You can customize each desktop, complete with custom backgrounds, screensavers, and hotkeys for each one, switching desktops as your work to reduce time wasted rearranging windows or changing keys. If you want a certain application to open in a certain spot or monitor, even that is an option.
While the name may mislead you into thinking it’s an unnecessary product for your business, Actual Multiple Monitors can be a real time saver for any Windows based work for your business. Employees will be better able to customize their experience, and time wasted reconfiguring will become time spent earning you a profit.
The post New Software Helps To Customize Your Desktop Across Single or Multiple Monitors appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Last year, we mentioned a virtual receptionist service that can help save businesses money. By replacing the front-desk greeter with the ALICE (A Live Interactive Customer Experience) virtual receptionist, businesses can save on annual salaries and benefits for a live person without sacrificing customer service.
But the large up-front cost of ALICE made it daunting for small businesses. Sure, those businesses are saving on $20,000-plus annual salaries and monthly health insurance premiums, but many small businesses can’t afford to replace that with the large purchase of software and hardware. Recognizing that, ALICE’s founders, WinTech, have released a SaaS version of its service that will cost businesses only $299 per month. When combined with a monthly salary in the range of $2,000, that can provide significant savings.
“Small businesses often choose to leave their office lobbies unattended to avoid incurring the cost of a full-time receptionist to greet customers and visitors to their building,” said WinTech Chief Technology Officer Mike Yoder. “While small businesses can save $20,000 to $30,000 a year by doing this, they can lose credibility and the ability to leave a positive first impression when customers or visitors come into their place of business.”
Though the SaaS model, businesses can have access to the full suite of ALICE features, according to Yoder. This includes all hardware, software, and licenses, opening up ALICE to offices of all sizes. SMBs will be able to set up each employee on the directory, with the ability to set up multiple locations to use ALICE’s services.
When visitors enter an office with ALICE, they are greeted via video chat by a receptionist of your choice, who can also see the person being greeted. Your receptionist stays at his or her desk, greeting people standing in your lobby or even in the lobbies of locations in another city or state. Calls can even be forwarded to a person’s home or smartphone, allowing home-based workers to greet visitors to your location. This is especially beneficial to extremely small businesses, where the owner would like to be able to greet guests while on the road.
Receptionists aren’t the only ones who can greet customers in the lobby. Your visitors can call up the specific employee they’re visiting, with calls forwarded to those employees wherever they are. If you’re running late for a meeting, you can speak directly to your visitor and ask him or her to wait for your arrival. ALICE can also provide customized video messages for visitors after hours.
“By offering a SaaS model, businesses receive a complete Alice system including hardware, software and licenses at an affordable monthly subscription price,” Yoder says. “Now even the smallest of offices have access to the full benefits of the ALICE technology.”
To learn more about ALICE or obtain a quote specific to your business’s needs, visit the company’s website.
The post Monthly Subscription Makes Virtual Receptionist More Affordable appeared first on Small Business Technology.
There are more and more apps, that claim to simplify business processes, coming online daily. Many of them are sensational, while others aren’t worth the time it takes to download. With most, you are limited to what is offered in the app with not much say-so from you, the user. Thankfully, that is not so with FileMaker. FileMaker offers a complete line of desktop and server software providing do-it-yourself solutions that allow the user to design, build, and manage data-driven business solutions for the iPad and iPhone. These customized solutions can also run in web browser and on Windows and Mac. Businesses today have to customize some of their own systems and many are already finding solutions by implementing FileMaker and customizing the platform to fit their needs. Here’s the story of three such companies and the difference this technology solution made in their businesses.
The first business we’ll highlight is West Paw Design, in Bozeman MT, a eco-friendly pet products manufacturer. They needed a solution to help them better manage their operations efficiency; both while in front of the desk and on the manufacturing floor. So, they used Filemaker to build a custom manufacturing and inventory automation solution.
“FileMaker has a lot of power in an easy-to-use platform,” says Spencer Williams, President. “We have found that FileMaker allows us to customize our information management systems to our unique small business rather than conforming our business to software. This combination of flexibility and power, along with usability on nearly any device, has allowed us to serve our customers better and run our business more profitably.”
West Paw Design had their initial database up and running in one week. They now manage everything from order entry to purchasing to inventory tracking and shipping. The company claims to have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars using FileMaker and the iPad combination.
Now lets look at another user and believer in FileMaker, Mike Procopio, owner of The Hoop Consultants. The Hoop Consultants help NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and rising college basketball players optimize their individual performance levels. Procopio was burdened with having to transfer notes and statistics he took while courtside into Word and Excel. So, he turned to Filemaker and with no previous programming experience, he built a custom iPad solution that streamlined his process of collecting, analyzing and displaying statistics – putting it right at his fingertips courtside, and eliminating spreadsheets and notes scribbled in a notebook. This saved Procopio four hours per day by eliminating the re-keying of information and helped to improve efficiency by pulling multiple facets of player data together in one place.
Procopio states, “My FileMaker solution is making life in this industry a lot easier to organize. I think FileMaker’s potential in sports, especially at the high school and college level, is enormous.”
FileMaker is built on a relational database, incorporating a scripting engine and a unified security model, making it easy to connect to existing business systems, protect confidential data, and automate business processes. The program offers data sharing, standards-based integration, and automated business processes.
Finally, let’s see how Sea Breeze Farm, a dairy farm on Vashon Island, just outside of Seattle, used Filemaker in their business. George Page, President, chose FileMaker Go for iPad, which allowed him and his staff to understand the production levels of cows on the farm. Page created several custom business solutions based on FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server, and is now providing them through FileMaker Go 12 on employees’ iPads, which was free to download from the App Store. The system allowed employees to enter their daily tasks on an iPad, which was then instantly synchronized and updated on the back-end in FileMaker Server. The FileMaker software worked great whether Page was gauging cheese production or tracking cows’ vaccination records for government inspection purposes.
“We have to track production for internal and regulatory purposes, constantly logging temperatures, refrigeration times, ingredients, recipes and weights. We need to do it in a tiny space and on a system that we can keep clean instead of running the risk of getting food stuck in a keyboard”, says Page. Filemaker, and all of it’s options, provided them the ability to create just that solution.
FileMaker offers a complete platform for customizing solutions for businesses. It is one of the latest technologies that are worth investigating. Starting with the basic FileMaker 12, the cost begins at $299 and goes up to $2,999 for the FileMaker Server 12 Advanced.
The post From The Basketball Court To The Dairy Farm To Manufacturing Pet Supplies, Filemaker’s Customizable Solutions Are Helping Businesses appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Yesterday I was contacted by a reporter from a major media company, to contribute to a story. (Want to watch some of my advice on social media success? Scroll below to see the video for you)
This is not the first time I’ve been contacted by a journalist online – but most of the time I’m called directly or emailed. But this was the first time I was contacted by “major media” through Twitter. It was pretty exciting.
It got me thinking – why did this happen?
Well it happened for a few simple reasons, I shared these reasons in a recent Manhattan Chamber of Commerce presentation I recently gave at TD Bank (the slide is below).
- You must be frequent on social media. Just posting to Google Plus is not enough.
- You must be relevant. Do you think that people give a darn about your cat or your kids? No. Tweet about what YOUR AUDIENCE is interested in.
- You must be engaging. “Social” media is all about social, all about sharing with others. People share what’s interesting to them.
- You must measure. You must measure what you do on social media so you know what works and what does not work. Maybe Facebook is not for you? Maybe it’s Google Plus. Maybe Twitter is indeed better for you, instead of LinkedIn. You won’t know this unless you measure what you are doing.
A bit more about measurement: Below is a screen shot of Dlvr.it a social media management tool we use to post on social media abut also to MEASURE what posts are most engaging and what networks are most active. You can also use the measurement tools of Facebook (Facebook.com/insights) and the emerging analtyics tools of the other social networks to see what posts are gaining traction – or not.
Interested in Facebook marketing? Do read my best seller, “The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing“
Finally, remember that social media alone is NOT enough. You must ensure your DRIVE your social media traffic to something that can lead to a sale or at least lead to further marketing to interesting prospective customers or to get your current customers to buy more. This is where CRM comes in. There’s a lot of great CRM tools on the market – one of the best for marketing campaigns is Infusionsoft (my employer).
Gary Vaynerchuck is famous for saying “what’s the ROI of your mother” to clients who ask him over and over again if social media is really that important and how to measure the ROI. He’s right – in a way. But when you add CRM to social media – the ROI and knowing what works is much more clear!
Watch the video I did for you about social media success and the reporter contacting me below. (Doesn’t work – go here here – http://youtu.be/fWIL-rtXvCQ )
Facebook for Business (with a Twist of social media 101) presentation
Social Media 101 and Facebook For Business
from Ramon Ray
The post Ramon’s 4 Social Media Success Tips: Be Frequent, Relevant, Engaged and Measured appeared first on Small Business Technology.
It’s easy to get phished. It’s really easy. You impulse click on the wrong link and that’s it. It’s ridiculously easy for the wrong people to get access to your sensitive information. You need constant vigilance to avoid it, but as we’ve covered before, there are a number of ways to plug every possible security hole you can.
So what are the holes in your system making your small business vulnerable? CloudFlare, a web performance and security company, was kind enough to send us a few tips to keep your business secure:
- IPv6 Transition – The Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses and making a seamless transition to IPv6 is becoming more and more necessary – especially if you’re a small business. As an small business, it’s important for your company to be technologically current – utilize services that offer gateways for conversion to avoid any customer confusion or lack of access during the switch.
- Two-Factor Authentication – Although two-factor authentication may seem obvious, it’s a constant potential threat that consumers don’t always think about. The absolute minimum your small business should be doing to protect itself is turning on two-factor authentication whenever possible. It may not make your account invincible, but it adds an extra layer of necessary protection.
- DDoS Attacks – Don’t let your small business get held hostage or lose business. Small businesses are vulnerable to spambots and malicious DDoS attacks just like high profile companies. Be aware and educate yourself on best practices to avoid attacks.
- Phishing for Passwords – Still? Yes, phishing is still an all-too-common technique for hackers to steal your passwords, user names and other private information by sending fake emails posing as an organization. As a small business, be cautious of any suspicious communication via email or over the phone. And, never use the same password twice – vary your passwords by using numbers, capital letters and other symbols.
When it comes to viruses and malware, I completely stopped getting them and worrying about them when I got a Mac. But I’ve heard the latest versions of Windows are much better than XP was, and I understand most businesses run on PCs.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve been hacked or phished before, and how you dealt with it!
The post Don’t Be Hacked Or Phished! 4 Tips To Avoid Cyberattacks appeared first on Small Business Technology.
If you haven’t made a mobile website yet, you’re probably still asking yourself whether you should. Considering how the smartphone has penetrated considerably into the consumer market, you now are confronted with a new arena to compete in. But how competitive is the mobile space, really?
Hibu business, a provider of a variety of online services such as online stores and email marketing, has found some trends in consumer behaviors on mobile devices. I’ll take each one apart and discuss it:
- Consumers research online and buy locally. After people finish searching for the best smartphone, TV, or child’s toy, seventy-five percent of these people will go to a local place to buy the product anyway. Making a mobile presence is essential here, since you could attract many local people to come to your store after they’ve found you. A mobile app is especially useful, since you can give people directions to your place of business from where they currently are. Location-based services can help make your business look smarter and more modern than your competition.
- Mobile Battleground. What hibu means by this is that half of all Americans own smartphones, but three quarters of businesses don’t even have mobile-optimized sites. This reflects poorly on businesses and drives people to hit the “back” button on their phones to find another site that is a bit easier on the eyes. The need to zoom in and scroll all over the place can be especially daunting for someone in a hurry!
- Visibility on multiple channels. Here, hibu points to the fact that 87 percent of small businesses do not use display ads on their sites and 90 percent also said that they don’t utilize email marketing. This is a huge opportunity for you, especially considering the amount of mobile devices hooked up to push/IMAP email accounts. Get ads on your site (also get them on your mobile site) and use solutions like hibu or VerticalResponse to get your marketing done!
Is mobile competitive? It surely is! Are businesses taking advantage of it? Only the big ones are. It’s time to do this yourself. Don’t allow your business to fall behind the competition. Getting into the mobile arena may seem like a risky investment, but it’s a very small one that doesn’t require a lot of commitment. What are you waiting for?
The post Three Consumer Trends In The Mobile Space You Need To Know About appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Watch out LinkedIn! Facebook is coming in on the hiring and recruiting turf!
Facebook’s new Graph Search marks a major change in social recruiting, says enterprise software company, SAP. Employers can now harness their entire Facebook network for recommendations on who to hire. Through phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like engineering” or “photos liked by java developers in New York”), employers can comb through people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook to find the right candidate.
With 92% of employers using social networks for recruiting, Facebook Graph Search is undoubtedly going to impact talent acquisition strategies. But will social collaboration transform recruiting and mark the end of job boards? How much emphasis should employers put on what people post and “like” on Facebook?
LinkedIn made its name as a sort of Facebook for professionals, staying away from the junk the piles up on your Facebook wall or newsfeed and keeping things related to careers and skills. But Facebook is well-placed to snatch some of that market.
The main problem I foresee is that most Facebook users regard Facebook as an extension of their private social lives. The clear demarcations between LinkedIn and Facebook allow users to talk on Facebook as if they’re at a casual party with friends, versus being at a never-ending job interview on LinkedIn. That’s essentially how things break down for me. LinkedIn is for professionalism, Facebook is for connecting with friends, and Twitter is kind of in between.
For more on Facebook’s personal and professional balance, check out our archives. And don’t forget about Ramon Ray’s book, The Facebook Guide To Small Business Marketing.
Let us know in the comments what you think about this new Facebook feature! Will you be using it to find your next hire?
The post Watch Out LinkedIn, The New Facebook Graph Search Is Coming For Social Recruiting appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Spring is synonymous with spring cleaning our homes. But have your ever considered spring cleaning for your business?
In your zealous efforts to reach out to the customers via every form of web communication is your business guilty of an information overload? Have you failed to personalize social media communications or, even worse, still retain information that is out-dated? Here is a wonderfully simple and powerful infographic from ReachLocal highlighting the need for businesses to ask these 5 important questions of their online marketing efforts and how they can declutter their website and social media content.
Have you optimized your Google+ Local Page? Google+ Local Pages replaced Google Place Pages and have become a key source of online information on local businesses. Ensure that your business address is correctly updated on your Google+ Local Page. As per Janine Popick, CEO and Founder of VerticalResponse, “If your business is local, make sure your local page on Google+ is the best that it can be!” Regularly update photos, videos and display fresh content that contains keywords for your business.
Are your social media sites truly ‘social’? Let’s face it, unless you are an established business in the local community, have a large promotional budget or can get a celebrity to endorse your brand, getting customers to notice your social media pages can be hard work. Having your presence on every possible site is not enough, your need to be prolific in engaging your customers. Set aside a few hours every week to interact with your customers online, respond to their comments, seek out their experiences with your business and maybe even post customer photos on your site. If numbers permit, then offer an exciting spring /summer giveaway as a reward to your followers and a way to entice non-followers to enroll.
Are you actively seeking customer reviews? The Local Consumer Review Survey 2012, conducted across local consumers in U.S, Canada and U.K, revealed that 70 percent of consumers read online reviews and 58 percent trusted a business with positive online reviews. Google+ Local is now based on a 30 point scoring Zagat system (instead of stars), which are reflected on your business page and Google search result listings. You need a minimum of 10 customer reviews for the score to be populated. So your marketing efforts need to include concerted client communications via email and social media sites asking for feedback on dealing with your business. Equally important is responding to both negative and positive customer reviews, so that potential customers reading those reviews regard you as genuine and would therefore be more inclined to do business with you in the future.
Have you evaluated your website content lately? Ensure that your business name (the way the business is spelt, logo and fonts used) appears consistent on your website and other social media sites. When it comes to ranking of your business on search engines, besides ensuring presence on key social media outlets, publishing quality content on your website is as important as ever. Understand what topics your target consumers would be interested in and publish content that is not only informational but also entertaining. Make sure that hyperlinks on your website (and social media) are pertinent to the information on that page; failing to do so can downgrade your site’s SEO ratings.
Do your website and social media sites carry outdated information? Wrong information serves a death knell for customer satisfaction. Nothing is more displeasing for a customer than to walk in to a store only to be told that the product is no longer in stock or that the promotional offer is no longer valid!
Here’s a look at the full infographic from Reachlocal:
Information clutter and inconsistency can result in your online marketing efforts going amiss. Ensure that reviewing online business content forms a regular aspect of your business operations. To start with give your website and social media accounts a spring makeover to keep them looking fresh and relevant for your customers!
The post 5 Tips to Declutter Your Business Website and Social Media Content (Infographic) appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Each week on Smallbiztechnology.com, we post a lot of articles that help small businesses GROW their business. We want to make sure you didn’t miss anything, so here’s a quick roundup of what we talked about last week and a sneak peek at what we’ll be sending your way in the week to come. Check out our video here, or watch below:
Software and Cloud Computing
Here’s what’s coming up this week:
We’ve got 10 PPC Marketing Tips for Newbies, a Survey from American Express OPEN Shows Small Businesses Buy Local, a New Study Finds Pinterest Can Get You Clicks To e-Commerce Site, 5 Tips to Declutter Your Business Website and Social Media Content, How Facebook’s New Graph Search Is Coming For Social Recruiting, and Three Consumer Trends In The Mobile Space You Need To Know About and a whole lot more!
You won’t want to miss any of that, and there’s a lot more beyond what I just mentioned, so come on back and let us know what you think in the comments!
The post The Smallbiztechnology Weekly Roundup And Look At What’s Ahead appeared first on Small Business Technology.