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Updated: 5 hours 35 min ago

How to Market Like the Big Dogs on a Small Business Budget

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 16:28
How To Market on a Small Business Budget

“If you build it, they will come”. If only!!

One of the biggest struggles most small businesses face is trying to reach and attract customers. Whether you are a B2B (Business to Business) or a B2C (Business to Consumer) business, if you don’t have a way of letting people know you exist, they’ll never find you, regardless of how great your service or product is. With limited financial resources, there isn’t typically much left in the small business kitty to support a marketing budget. But that doesn’t need to put you out of the game. By getting creative, and resourceful, there are plenty of ways you can market like the big dogs on a small business budget.

Take Advantage of Social Media

Of the over 7 billion people on earth, over 3 billion of them are active internet users and over 2 billion have active social media accounts, according to We Are Social’s Jan 2015 Global Digital Snapshot. Creating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube accounts is free – something even the smallest marketing budgets can handle! Social media, if done right, can play a big part in getting a business noticed by the right people. It’s just knowing what platforms will work best for your business and employing smart tactics to reach potential customers.

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Here’s a quick outline of which platforms work best for different business types and some tips to help amplify your business presence:

Facebook: With nearly 802 million daily active users, Facebook has proved to be the perfect social media platform for most B2C businesses. While B2B’s will find some success, their time is better spent on other social platforms.

Tip: Facebook posts with less than 250 characters get 60% more engagement. Also, posts on Friday’s tend to get more engagement, while posts on Sundays get fewest comments.

Twitter: Twitter is a platform that both B2B and B2C businesses have found success. A recent study actually found that Twitter users visit B2B tech brand sites at a higher rate compared to average internet users, supporting the fact that there is a strong B2B audience. Additionally, 53 percent of Twitter users recommend products in their tweets at some point in time during their usage.

Tip: Tweets with 1-2 hashtags get 21 % higher average engagement. Tweets with more than 3 hashtags get 17% less engagement.

LinkedIn: While B2C’s have found some success on LinkedIn, this platform is truly the playground for the B2B. 83% of B2B marketers are using LinkedIn to distribute content and for 93% of B2B marketers find LinkedIn the most effective social network for B2B lead generation, with 77% saying they’ve acquired at least one customer through LinkedIn.

Tip: Take advantage of the LinkedIn publishing platform to publish value added content that your target audience is seeking.

Pinterest: If you are looking to market to women between the ages of 18 and 35, then Pinterest is the platform for you! With over 70 million users worldwide, Pinterest is the fastest growing social platform, and it’s dominated by women. In fact, 83% of Pinterest users are women, 45% of which are between the ages of 35-54. Additionally, 100,000 of Pinterest members are retailers.

Tip: Get creative when using images on Pinterest and use them to tell your story and give users some insight into who you are and what your business is all about.

YouTube: Video is where it’s at and with over 1 billion users, YouTube is a powerhouse for any business that has a story to tell. More than cute kittens, YouTube offers businesses a platform to tell a story, give advice, educate and inform. And in today’s fast paced world, where time (and attention spans) are limited, video allows people to quickly access the information they want and need.

Tip: Just as with all social networks, one of the biggest keys to success on YouTube is consistency. Keep a steady stream of content coming to your channel so people have something to look forward to. Also, because people search on YouTube like they do on Google, make sure that you perfect video headlines and keywords so you can easily be found in the vast sea of content.

Regardless of which platform you choose to use, the most important thing to remember is that these are ‘social’ networks and the key to success is engaging and interacting with your followers. Let them know who you are, why you do what you do and how you do it. Allow them to become your brand advocates by creating customer experiences that entice them to check in, share photos and tell others about your business.

Whether you have $100K or $1 to spend on advertising, it doesn’t matter: social media has evened the playing field. All you need to do is take the time to determine which will work best for you and employ best practices that will attract and engage your customers. So maybe, in this case, if you build it, they WILL come.

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

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Categories: SMB

Crowdfunding for Your Online Business and Best ECommerce Practices from FLUXMOB

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 15:13

In the past couple of years, we have seen a rise in the number of entrepreneurs that are using crowdfunding to help raise money for their business ventures.  With sites like, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe, and their great community success, crowdfunding has proven to be a beneficial option for entrepreneurs looking to launch their businesses and set out on their entrepreneurial journeys.  A successful crowdfunding campagin doesn’t just happen though. So, how do you make sure that your crowdfunding campaign succeeds?

In a recent article on Endicia, Ramon Ray shares how running a successful crowdfunding campaign also lead to the online success of FLUXMOB, a revolutionary portable phone charger.   In the article, Co-Founder of FLUXMOB, Alan Tran shares three of the best ecommerce practices for online retailers as well as how to get the most out of your crowdfunding campaign.

From these three tips, Alan shares how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign the right way, how to build a relationships with manufacturers and how to continue to boost sales beyond crowdfunding.  As many of us know, selling online isn’t easy, but with these best practices from FLUXMOB, you too can learn how to turn your online business into a success.  To learn more about Alan’s keys to finding success check out Ramon’s article, “Crowdfunding for Your Online Business: ECommerce Best Practices from FLUXMOB”.

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Categories: SMB

Is a New Google Targeted Ads Option on the Horizon?

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:00

The web is buzzing with speculation on a new possible Google targeted ads option – one that uses customer email addresses to better customize ads for consumers who are searching in order to make a purchase.

The rumor was first leaked by the Wall Street Journal. Although Google is not commenting with specifics at this time, sources say this new form of targeted ads could go into effect later this year or sometime next year.

In order to place these targeted ads, businesses would share customer emails with Google – email addresses obtained when a customer made a previous purchase on your website, for example.

Google would then match the email address on its end, perhaps by using Gmail addresses and primary and secondary email addresses they obtain from services such as YouTube and Google Maps.

The Wall Street Journal offered speculation on how these targeted ads would work. For example, an office supply business may provide email addresses of customers who recently purchased printers. The website owner could then bid on search terms – for example, in order for their ads to be placed when that same customer is Googling for printer ink later on.

To elaborate with other possibilities, if a clothing retailer sold winter clothing to a customer they could show targeted ads when the same customer is searching for summer clothing. Or an electronics retailer who sold an iPhone to a particular customer could use targeted ads to try to reclaim the customer as they are searching for iPhone accessories.

It is further speculated that this move would be a way to counter Facebook’s “custom audiences” targeted ads that use a similar method of linking businesses with their past customers. Advertising services such as “custom audiences” helped Facebook’s ad revenue grow 65% in 2014 while Google’s ad revenue only grew by 17%.

If it goes forward, this new Google targeted ads option would have additional possibilities too. For example, according to sources this option would only be available for search ads, but it could eventually spread to banner ads. Capabilities could also expand to include lookalike ads where a business can target searchers who have similar profiles to their past customers.

This possible Google targeted ads venture demonstrates the increasing sophistication of advertising, where businesses can target not only the type of customer but instead the exact customer they are looking for. Since the data (email address) comes directly from the business, it also may raise concerns about data privacy, making some customers question what exactly happens when they give out their personal information.

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Categories: SMB

5 Keys For Getting Your Website Visitors Where You Want Them To Go

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 21:25

For a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, nirvana is when he not only gets inside the house, but gets to toss a handful of dirt on the floor and then vacuum it up with his super-duper top-of-the-line vacuum cleaner.

If he can keep his prospect’s attention for that long, there’s an excellent chance he’s going to make the sale. Of course, most vacuum cleaner salesmen never get beyond the front door.

The goal and journey is essentially the same with your website. You need to do much more than get visitors to your “door.” You need to guide them on a journey that leads to your call to action. Unfortunately it is easier to fail than to succeed.

Here are five absolute essentials you must understand before you have any decent chance to get a sufficient number of website visitors to your desired “finish line.”

1. Know your visitors. I suspect the great vacuum cleaner salesmen of yore could smell a sale almost immediately. In the same way, you need to understand your prospects and they might not all be the same. Will a prospect coming from an organic search be the same as one coming from an AdWords ad? Or how about a visitor coming from a social media post?

If you’re taking them all along the same path in your website, you could be losing conversions that are there for the taking…with the right user experience.

2. Website design is a multidisciplinary quest. If you don’t read anything more I will offer here, understand this point. An effective website combines graphic design, digital architecture, writing, psychology, computer science, and other disciplines.

Today, many small businesses are being pulled in by do-it-yourself website design services or WordPress themes. I’m not saying that you can’t build a good site with these, but if you think that the only criteria for a good site are pages that “look professional,” you will be very disappointed with the end result.

You need to work with designers and writers who are creative, technically proficient and understand designing for business purposes. Don’t be “wowed” by a beautiful portfolio if none of the sites are effective business websites.

3. You must establish a website flow. Think of your website like the Yellow Brick Road in “The Wizard of Oz.” It needs to clearly take your visitors on a journey. Again, this can be a problem when you’re using pre-defined templates because they already have a design “logic” built into them. You start filling up little boxes rather than strategize a journey you want to take your visitors on.

Depending on what you want your visitors to do at your call to action, the flow might be short or long. This is why we are seeing so many long, single webpages today. Words and images work together to keep the visitor scrolling down.

4. Quality is required for every element that defines your website. Dropping the ball on any of the elements will scuttle the chance you have for success with your site. An automaker wouldn’t hire the world’s greatest designer to come up with a new body style and then stuff it with an old Yugo engine.

The graphics, colors, writing, functionality, speed, and more have to be their best and all be created with their purpose in mind. A highly experienced technical writer won’t do a good job writing copy that sells.

5. Understand that you won’t get it right the first time. In fact, it will never be perfect. I think that every website should always have an Under Construction sign at the top…well, figuratively at least.

You must constantly work to improve the flow and keep visitors engaged and increasingly interested as you lead them to your call to action. Further, design is always evolving. Right now, flat designs that unflinchingly focus on usability are in vogue, so that should be a starting point for you.

Plenty of great products and businesses don’t enjoy the success they should experience because the responsible parties didn’t fully understand what is required for effective web design.

Don’t make that mistake.

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Categories: SMB

Amazon Dash Button Makes At-Home Ordering Easier Than Ever

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 18:02

Imagine that you’ve just finished doing laundry and realize that you’ve run out of detergent.  To replace it, you simply push a button and within the next couple of days a new container of laundry detergent is delivered directly to your home.  This is exactly what the new Amazon Dash Button is meant to do.

The invitation-only service was created to give select Prime members the ability to replace frequently ordered items with the push of a button.  Instead of creating time consuming grocery lists, and making inconvenient errand runs, Amazon is aiming to integrate every smart home with their Dash Button ordering service.

The convenience that the Dash Button brings to homes is the first of it’s kind. However, there are still some kinks to be worked out on the product. One of the flaws to the service is the obtrusiveness of the button. It’s quite bulky and highly visible and with the amount of items that can be found in the average home, it would imply that customers would need multiple buttons around their household to successfully order all of the items that they use.  There is also a limited selection of items that can be ordered using their service.  This can turn potential customers aways and would prove to beneficial to Amazon to expand their item selection and area of delivery to both rural and urban areas.

In this article on Endicia, “Could the Amazon Dash Button Be the Future of At-Home Ordering?”, Ramon Ray covers more of the pros and cons of Amazon’s new Dash Button and how individuals are integrating it into their every day lives.  Check it out to see if the new Dash Button ordering service is for you!

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Categories: SMB

3 Easy Steps to Home or Office Automation and Energy Saving with the Staples Connect

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 20:50

In honor of Earth Week, we spent some time looking for cool tools and tech that is making a difference not only in our lives, but to the world as a whole – by saving energy and natural resources. The one thing that came to mind was home automation – the automatic electronic control of household features, activities and appliances. In recent years there have been incredible strides in the direction of “connected homes”. In 2013 there were 1.48 million US households with smart home systems and that number is expected to rise to 15.03 million connected homes by 2019. The connected home was given a lot of attention at both CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and SXSW this year, but there is one complication. As TechCrunch put it – if connected homes are to become more mainstream they have to “shift from nerds to normals.” One critical aspect of that shift is making connected home products more user friendly so even the not-so-technologically-inclined can install and control their connected home devices. The other is expanding the use of the connected home to the office. To that point, Staples recently took a huge step in the right direction by releasing the D-Link Staples Connect Hub. This hub allows you to hook up all your connected devices and control them all from one hub, via one app. I recently got my hands on one of the Connect devices so I could try it out in my home. Now, let me be clear. While I am a ‘technology evangelist’, the closest I’ve ever come to ‘home automation’ is using a video camera connected to an app. So, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to see how much more I could do in my home, with a video camera, door / window sensor and other products. Check out a quick video of my thoughts on the Connect hub below:   So, as you can see in the video, it’s pretty simple to get started with this device!  I just opened the box, connected the Ethernet and power cables to the Staples Connect Hub and then downloaded the app and opened up one of the monitoring accessories, a door/window sensor. Setting up the app is a matter of configuring some settings – very similar to setting up your Bluetooth headset – and “pairing” the sensor with the hub. After a few resets of the device (taking the battery in and out) and configuring the app, I was up and running. When the sensor sensed that a door (or window) was opened, I was emailed a notification and sent a message via the Staples Connect app.

I want to #makemorehappen with my own Connect from @Staples @RamonRay!
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In three easy steps you can have all of your connected devices and you are ready to control them all with just one app, versus having a separate app for each. It also works with ALL the top brands of smart electronics, so it doesn’t matter if your security system is from First Alert and your temperature is controlled by a Honeywell thermostat and your home is lit with Philips automation lighting. The Staples Connect hub can connect to all of your various devices, then allow you to control them easily with the free app. The Staples Connect hub can control all types of connected electronics. For example, it can:

  • Unlock doors
  • Turn lights on, off, or dim the lights
  • Raise and lower blinds
  • Control the fireplace
  • Control web cams and security cameras
  • Adjust the thermostat
  • And so much more

With all the connected devices that are emerging on the market right now, the possibilities are endless. Having touch-of-a-button control over your home or office can help improve safety, monitoring and environmental control. Speaking of environmental control, buy automating it, it can help you save money at your home or small business.

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Categories: SMB

Tips & Tech to Boost the Productivity of Your Next Online Meeting

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:39

With a growing number of remote workers in businesses large and small, traditional meetings are now being replaced by online meetings where team members can collaborate from multiple locations. Whether you’re thinking of holding your first online meeting or are already a seasoned pro, this article will provide tips & tech to boost productivity and make your next online meeting a success.

 

 

Online Meeting Tech Tools

There are quite a few online meeting platforms available, with a range of prices and features to fit the needs of any business. A few of the big names in online meetings are:

  • GotoMeeting – GotoMeeting is as simple as launching an online meeting, sending out invites, and then getting to work. Team members can participate by phone or through the computer using mics, speakers and webcams. You can see each other, work on your screen while the meeting is happening, and even share your screen with the group. They’ve also recently added new features that allow PC users to move/hide the control panel, Mac users to switch devices without having to reconnect, and personalization options so you can create custom meeting rooms and destination URLs. Plans start at $39/month and include a free trial period.
  • ClickMeeting – ClickMeeting offers both meeting and webinar subscriptions. ClickMeetings allow videoconferencing with up to 25 participants and 2 presenters, built in presentation apps, document sharing, and desktop sharing. The price is $30/month. ClickWebinars allow videoconferencing for up to 1,000 participants with added benefits including tools for interactive presentations and for managing participants & discussions. There are four plans available, starting at $40/month.
  • Onstream Media – Onstream Media is a place for all sorts of virtual events, offering streaming services, conference services, virtual environments, and other professional services. Regarding online meetings, Onstream allows you to choose from audio conferencing (an automated/spontaneous meeting using your office or mobile phone, or an operator-assisted conference call) or web conferencing (which allows users to share and present slides & documents from the desktop). Onstream Media is billed on a per usage basis with no minimums.

These are three of the highest rated online meeting platforms, but there are dozens more to choose from. This website has reviews and comparisons, and for an even longer list of online meeting platforms check out this page.

Online Meeting Best Practices

Now that you’ve picked out an online meeting platform that will work for your business, put these ideas in practice to improve the productivity of your meeting.

  • Conduct a Test Meeting – If you’ve never used online meeting software before, test it out before the big meeting so you can better understand the program and deal with any issues.
  • Schedule in Advance – Make sure you schedule the meeting in advance and email all participants so they know exactly when the meeting is and what they have to do to join.
  • Prepare Notes – Just like a traditional meeting, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for your online meeting. Jot down an agenda, list of ideas, and any extra notes you have, then keep your notes near your desk so you can reference them during the meeting. You may also consider making a slide presentation to share with participants and help guide the meeting.
  • Find a Quiet Space – This will minimize background noise and other distractions.
  • Turn Off Other Apps & Devices – This also eliminates distractions and the chance that a random instant message may interrupt the meeting (especially if you’re sharing your screen).
  • Open Files – If you plan on sharing multiple files during the meeting, have them open so they are just a click away.
  • Maintain Pace – Keeping up the pace of your meeting should be easy if you’ve prepared notes and an agenda. Maintaining pace will keep the meeting efficient, productive, and ensure that participants don’t lose interest.
  • Allow Participation – Your team members may have ideas, comments, and questions to contribute; just like a traditional meeting, you’ll want to allow them time to have the floor so they can collaborate. If participants don’t know each other, have them introduce themselves before they comment or ask a question. You may allow participation during the meeting, at specific stop points, or at the very end in a Q&A session.
  • Share Files – Most online meeting platforms will allow you to share files with participants. Share files, relevant documents and slides at the beginning, at appropriate times during the meeting, or at the end before you dismiss.

In the end you’ll find that online meetings have common characteristics of traditional meetings, with added features that boost efficiency and productivity. Online meetings can also improve collaboration and comradery among team members who don’t work in the same physical location.

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Categories: SMB

11 Ways You Can Improve Your Checkout Process and Increase Sales

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 19:00
What is one thing I can add to my online purchasing/checkout process that will increase sales?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Use an EV SSL Certificate on Your Domain

One of the things that customers look for when buying from a website is security. An EV SSL Certificate is a great way to reassure them. Not only does the customer get some piece of mind that the transaction is secure, but an EV cert shows the user in the browser bar that the company they are buying from has been vetted and exists as a legitimate business.

– Joshua DorkinBiggerPockets

2. Provide Additional Products

Provide smaller, additional products that keep people coming back. On our POSWarehouse website, we added receipt paper and labels as products to purchase. Not only does it increase the original sale, but it keeps them needing to come back for replenishing.

– Marjorie AdamsFourlane

3. Shorten Your Checkout Process

Instead of looking for things to add to your checkout process, I think it makes more sense to look for things to remove. Make your checkout process as simple and quick as possible. Users want to feel safe and secure, so design your checkout to look professional and trustworthy and then concentrate on allowing users to get through as quickly and painlessly as possible.

– Arian RadmandCoachUp

4. Add a Chat Function

We added chat throughout our site last year. We expected that we would get requests from folks during the entire shopping experience, but we saw a surprisingly high amount of people who had questions during checkout. Some asked about shipping rates, while others asked about their product selection. We were able to facilitate sales and even make recommendations that increased the final purchase.

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

5. Recommend Items Based on Known Data

Understanding your clientele purchasing decisions and patterns will help you build your system to act smarter. At the checkout process, the system will know current desired items, review customer’s past purchases and define the most viewed products. Your system will be data-driven, which will allow your cart to provide product recommendations that are catered to the customer’s needs and patterns.

– Dalip JaggiDevise Interactive

6. Provide Reassurance

Adding links to your return/cancellation policy and product or service guarantees on the checkout page provides transparency and gives customers more confidence that they are making a smart purchasing decision. Of course, you don’t want to take users away from the checkout process, so try using pop-ups rather than links that lead to a different page on your site.

– Robert De Los SantosSky High Party Rentals

7. Reinforce the Value Proposition

It’s a really good idea to reiterate your product’s value proposition on the checkout page. The checkout page is one place where a lot of people get cold feet and decide to abandon their purchase. Reminding your potential customers of the reasons why they decide to click “buy” will reduce cart abandonment. If you can, collect an email in advance so you can email them as well if they abandon.

– Mattan GriffelOne Month

8. Include a Count-Down Clock

When a user adds an item to the shopping cart they should have a count-down clock that tells them how much time that item will be reserved for, usually around five to 10 minutes. As they see the time remaining decrease, they are more likely to make a decision instead of waiting.

– Randy RayessVenturePact

9. Make Sure You Have Default Values For Any Options

Many checkout features are now common. Progress bars, instructions, line items costs, etc. are all table stakes and should be a part of your process already. More and more, companies are adding optional benefits to purchasers in an effort to differentiate from competitors. When doing this, it’s critical that you start the form field on a default value, not “choose an option.”

– Adam RoozenEchidna, Inc.

10. Add a First-Time User Promo Code

As an individual who frequently shops online, it would be impressive to see a first time-user/first-time check out promo code offer. When a first-time buyer is checking out, they would be provided with a promo code for a discount for future use. This would not only push them to come back to the site, but would also generate word of mouth advertising among their peers.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

11. Feature Relatable Past Client References

Having concise testimonials that are relevant to the buyer can help with faster decision making. For example, if someone is buying a book, then showing a testimonial from someone who previously bought the same book can go a lot further than showing a generic testimonial. Many psychological studies have proven that social proof can provide the much needed push when people are on the edge.

– Pratham MittalVenturePact

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Categories: SMB

New Facebook Creative Shop Helps to Share Your Business Story

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 15:36

Delivering an effective message on Facebook can be a challenging task for any small business.  Not only are you trying to explain to your audience who you are and the products and services you provide, but you’re also trying to provide high quality and engaging content.  That’s why Facebook has developed a Creative Shop for small and medium size businesses.

The Facebook Creative Shop is built from a team of brand marketers, creative directors and strategists who work together to build effective Facebook ads that enhance customer engagement while also growing their client’s business. Their goal is to help you develop an ad that stands out on the Facebook newsfeed and sets you apart from others in the marketplace.

The following are tools that you can expect to use within the Facebook Creative Shop:

Inspiration Gallery

Full of a variety of the best examples of small business ads on Facebook,  the Inspiration Gallery highlights the best qualities of certain ads as well as ways to creatively enhance them. The gallery not only provides clients with some of the best tools and resources to place an effective ad on Facebook but also ensures that the ads stand out and reach their target audience at a large scale.  This is a great way to see how businesses in different industries are creating their ads and the key things that they focus on to attract the attention of their audiences.

Story Packs

Having trouble coming up with ideas for your ads? The Story Packs is filled with pre-packaged ad ideas to spark your inspiration.  Choose a template from one of the three categories and then customize it by adding your own images and wording that best represents your brand. It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing and effectively share your story!

Creative Tips

One of the most important things to remember when creating an ad is to make sure that it attracts the attention of your target audience.  Within the Creative Tips tool, Facebook provides advice in three different categories: 1) Making your Ad, 2) Choosing images and 3) Writing Copy. Each category contains three tips on key areas to focus on and how to make each of these three sections stand out from other ads on Facebook.  Find out how to create an ad that is relevant to your audience, choose an image that stands out and create copy that gets the message of your ad across.

Not only does Facebook provide your with the opportunity to use these tools from their Creative Shop, they also offer the Facebok Blueprint and Learn How tools. These tools provide clients with a much more detailed understanding of how Facebook can be used for your business. Blueprint  is designed to provide clients with learning modules that teach them the necessary skills to take their businesses to the next level. There is also Learn How, which is more of an informational guide to better understanding the ways that Facebook can be used for your business and how to use their tools and resources in an effective way.

Whether you’re already successfully placing ads on Facebook or struggling to get started, these tools are a great way to make sure that you’re ads are as best that they can be at creating customer engagement and reaching your desired audience to help your business grow.

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Categories: SMB

9 Great Pieces of Call-Tracking Software for Entrepreneurs

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 15:00
What is your favorite call-tracking software and why?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. TalkDesk

I’m a big fan of TalkDesk simply because they lead the way on integrating other apps I’ve already been using into their software. They incorporate Shopify and ZenDesk, two truly innovative apps that are part of the foundation of productivity in my business. I don’t want to give these kind of things a second thought, and their customer service is incredible.

– Rob FultonExponential Black

2. Oracle Contact Center Anywhere

This is the biggest call-tracking software worldwide, and improves your contact rate (during a marketing campaign), while lowering cost per lead. You can set a preferred language, geographic location, skill or product type, so that your agents (who can work from anywhere) can convert every call into a sale. It offers call details, transaction history and call scheduling among other features.

– Cody McLainSupportNinja

3. Analytic Call Tracking

Analytic Call Tracking is a very inexpensive, yet robust platform to create, manage and track phone calls in your marketing campaigns. It uses Twilio so you can provision any phone number from any country in one click, track your metrics with Google Analytics, and dynamically insert different phone numbers for different campaigns. It’s the best I’ve seen yet!

– Chris BrissonCall Loop

4. SafeSoft

SafeSoft can act as an inbound or outbound call center. But we use it today in blended mode which makes it super easy to keep all of our agents busy and more importantly, our customers happy.

– Kevin HenriksonAcompli (now Outlook iOS/Android @ Microsoft)

5. UberConference

UberConference is a great tool for call tracking as it allows you to conduct international calls, screen share and provides you with detailed call statistics after each call. The call stats feature is very useful for sales.

– Randy RayessVenturePact

6. Close.io

Close.io is my favorite call-tracking software. When a customer calls, all of their emails, recorded calls and past orders pop up. This allows my team to quickly review what was said/noted on previous calls, making us more helpful to our customers. The API allows for pushing and pulling of this data to all our other SAAS tools, too. They even have a sales pipeline to track and close opportunities.

– Robert De Los SantosSky High Party Rentals

7. CallRail

CallRail has worked well in the past for us as it clearly defines the source or aggregation site that is being questioned as to performance or lack thereof. It dynamically changes the phone number on the landing page to reflect the source but still keeps the business in compliance as Google does not like to see multiple phone numbers. I have found this to be remarkable.

– Sheldon Michael, Netjumps International

8. Freshdesk

Freshdesk is a great system for call-tracking, customer service, ticketing and much more. This is one of our favorite platforms to work with because it allows our customer service to be a team effort. With a team shared inbox, private notes for internal communication and an easy-to-use mobile app, our customer service team is able to easily and effectively work together.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

9. DialogTech

DialogTech is a really simple and cheap call tracking software that takes only a few minutes to install. It doesn’t have all of the crazy features like some of the other services, but it gets things done and never gives me any problems.

– Andrew SaladinoKitchen Cabinet Kings

The post 9 Great Pieces of Call-Tracking Software for Entrepreneurs appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

ECommerce Businesses Are Going Mobile-Friendly to Cater to ‘Flex Shoppers’

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 20:09

Technology today has made shopping for consumers nearly effortless. You can be sitting in your home, watching television and buy virtually anything with a simple click of a button.  As it continues to get easier for customers to make purchases on-the-go, at work or in the luxury of their own home, brick and mortar businesses are becoming a less convenient choice and most consumers choose to make purchases via online stores instead.  This has lead to the emergence of “flex shoppers” – consumers that shop at both, brick-and-mortar and online stores.

With “flex shoppers” on the rise, the pressure for businesses to create a mobile friendly experience is higher than ever.  Not only do customers need to be able to easily navigate through your mobile website, but it is also important to provide convenient and affordable shipping options as well as a simple and convenient return process.  Starting on April 21st, Google will start using these systems to rank your business for search results based on the mobile-friendliness of your site.

Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Ramon Ray just recently wrote and article on Endicia, “Why ECommerce Businesses Need to Start Catering to the ‘Flex Shopper’“.  In the article, Ramon shares how how you can test your website for mobile-friendliness and make sure it meets Google’s standards to provide a pleasant, convenient online shopping experience.

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Categories: SMB

New Features from Xero Makes Accounting That Much Easier for Small Business

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 21:39

Most companies want to “work smarter, not harder” and as most business owners know, the best way to do this is through the use of technology. Take Xero for example, an easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses. They know how important good technology is for small businesses and continue to add features to their software that save time… and money!

This past March, the company announced their new multi-feature launch, which will provide business owners with the capability to manage core business functions such as Inventory, Online Quotes, Side-by-Side Files and Practice Reports.

With it’s access to real-time information from live bank feeds and the ability to work with bookkeepers and accounting advisors, Xero has become a one of the leading accounting apps for small business. Not only has the average duration of invoice payments decreased since 2011, but they are continuing to make enhancements to their software as an ongoing commitment to make life easier for small business owners.

Jacob Wood, Founder of Woodies Clothing, a custom shirt-maker says, “From getting started in Xero—which was simple and fast—to using it to manage my business every day, Xero is always incredibly easy to use and I love the fact that our finances are accessible from any device, I can reconcile the books on my phone while walking to the subway; fire up my laptop at the office to examine our finances and make instant decisions about where and how to scale the business.”

Here are some of the capabilities that will be offered through the new software features:

  • Inventory will be much easier to manage.  The real-time tracking of stock items and ability to add items easily on to an invoice or online quote will allow businesses to save time while simultaneously improving their cashflow.
  • Online Quotes will be able to be created on-the-go, on any device to make it easier and faster to approve quotes on site and online as well as to send and pay invoices in a more timely fashion.
  • Practice Reports can be customized to individual clients by adding value to their accounts using real-time data.
  • Side-by-Side Files make it easy for accountants to compare financial transactions and store up-to-date records and transactions hassle free.
  • Bank Feeds make it easy to reconcile transactions for small business as Xero is already connected to 7,000 bank feeds and over 5,00 financial institutions globally.

With many more features to come, Xero continues to provide a solution for small businesses to make their accounting seem effortless. The software offers businesses the ability to increase productivity while focusing on the success of their business. The addition of online accounting solutions in small businesses are proving to be an effective way to invest less time crunching numbers and spend more time focusing on running and growing your business.

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Categories: SMB

How Entrepreneurs Can Build Their Brand Using Google+

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 16:22

The aim of this article is very simple. ­ I have to convince you that you are making a big mistake by ignoring a major part of the future of Google, Google+

First things first, people simply don’t get this whole Google+ social media thing. You think it’s about posting pictures of cats, or your lunch, or your latest meeting, right?

Let me explain why this is SO wrong and hopefully I’ll open your mind to a HUGE opportunity for every business person out there.

Google is an eco­system

If you use Google Chrome, or have an Android device, you know you log into the eco­system before you start using a Google property.

Then there is…Gmail, Google Drive (which is amazing for collaborative working), Google Hangouts, YouTube, Google Play, Wallet, Google Maps etc. all connect back to your personal Google+ account. The image you use from your Google+ profile, for instance, will show across all those Google properties.

“But I’ve heard that Google+ is going to…”

Yes, yes, I’ve heard all the rumours too. The community members understand it better than almost any journalist though. So let me explain why it is ‘here to stay’: Google+ is the backbone to so many of Google’s products now.

It is integral to Gmail, Contacts, Search (G+ posts are all indexed), and importantly for you: Google My Business.

‘My Business’

Google My Business is where you will set up a Brand page or a Local Page.

Go to www.google.com/business to set one up (but Google yourself before you do as you may already have one!)

A Local type page’s content appears in Google Search e.g. when you look for a restaurant, bar, noodle bar etc. This information is largely drawn from the Google+ page within the ‘My Business’ dashboard. Job done.

If you have a Local type business, you must claim your page, as you are missing a trick and maybe even customers too. With Local pages people can leave you reviews which gives you a great opportunity to manage your digital reputation too. With 5 reviews show with ‘stars’ in the results ­ great for social proof, assuming they are good. (You may even turn around poor reviews by engaging and resolving any issues.)

 Build trust, create a reputation and become an authority in your niche.

Google+ then, is your digital identity on the web. And why should you want to build up that identity within the Google eco­system? Simple ­ it helps show Google your authority. And when you do this, you will find that your content surfaces in Google Search (the biggest Search engine in the world) and also in YouTube (the second biggest).

Think of it this way, if you want to be an authority on a subject you go and spent time with the best in the world, the existing authorities. Then, over time, they begin to engage with you and see that you too understand ‘this area’ too. Through their digital engagement (including on Google+) they begin to show that you should be trusted in this area, and tell other people about you (sharing your content), this in term leads to you being seen as an authority too i.e. their authority rubs off on you.

If you want to go deeper on this, make sure you check out my buddy David Amerland as he is the master of Semantic Search­.

So why would an entrepreneur want to be seen as an authority? Surely they just need people to buy into their products or service, right? Wrong! This is all about ‘who you spend you time with’ and as we know, ‘who you know’ in business is paramount. And in order for people to tell your story, and for Google.com to display this in Search, you need to be known for something. This is where is authority shines through, and people come to you to hear what you have to say.

Start creating content

If you are not blogging, doing videos, or have a podcast ­ start now. These are the modern ways for you to ‘show what you know’ as well as connect with people who e.g. you invite onto your show with guests.

Below you can see me chatting with Sir Ben Kingsley in a Google Hangout­-on­Air. (‘La di da… I know!)

TIP: As I know you are short on time I am going to give you a super tip on how to turn 30 minutes of your time into 3 blog posts, 5 videos, and a podcast as well.

And how? Use the power of Google+ combined with YouTube:

1. Start by creating a Google Hangout ­on­ Air

2. Then, once your recorded it, get a transcript done for about $1.50 a minute (I use this service www.corporatewritingpro.com). This will give you about 3000 words of text!

3. Create 3 blog posts from those words

4. Download the video (from Youtube) and remove the audio from it, then you have your base for the podcast. You can even add on a fancy front and back end to it as well.

5. As you know have the video on your computer, you can dissect that into sections, add a video intro / outro and re­upload each one to YouTube as a 3­5 minute segment.

You can also embed the videos into your blog content as well, which gives people an awesome mix of medias.

Make it easy for people to share your content!

Let’s say you are starting to build your Google+ network and blogging. You also want to make sure you make it easy for people to share your content ­ to do this, add in Social Sharing buttons (as you can see below), including Google+.

When people click the +1/share button on your website it create a Google+ post box, sharing your content with the people who the sharer decides.

Tip: always share to ‘public’ for the maximum reach on your content.

Finally…

Build a community of people around your content and they will give your Search results. This is a BIG thing, but it is what many of us have done on Google+It only takes 100 fans who amplify your content (+1ing and sharing it) to spread the word of whatever you are up to. Trust me, it works.

My sites now have 36,000 unique visitors a month for people looking at Google products and services in their business. About 50% of this is coming from Search results using the methods touched on in this article. Any time I have a new idea, a new product, I have a wonderful tribe of people ready and waiting to support getting the news out there.

It will take a little time, but if you are looking at Social in general then Google+ is the place to be.

 

 

Martin Shervington is a consultant, speaker, trainer and coach on all things Google+ As the community manager for Plus Your Business!, his role is to support individuals and new businesses to use Google+.

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Categories: SMB