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Is Your Tech Making You Productive Or Inefficient? Work With Purpose To Get More Done.

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 18:00

A person can’t be 100% productive all day. As much as you want to make the most of every minute, to get shit done, to hustle, it’s just not humanly possible. Concentration is like a muscle, it needs to rest to be able to function, and it shouldn’t be overworked, otherwise it’ll simply burn out and take longer to get back into the swing of things. For this reason even an employee working an 8 hour workday need to take breaks to stay productive.

I’ve asked Julie Gifford with Desk Time to give us more insight into the important issue of work, productivity, and time!

There’s been much controversy over the nature of workplace productivity. While many employers associate an employee’s physical attendance in the office with productivity, the more modern school of thought practiced by people like Jason Fried of Basecamp (as he describes in his book Remote: Office Not Required), has a focus on work done rather than hours put in.

Regardless of what employers view as productive, we’ve been able to pinpoint the working flow that produces the most productive work, and it turns out that the key to workplace productivity is all about effective breaking. From attention span, to physical well-being, breaks have meaning to our productivity. It’s what the 10% most productive people have in common. This is what we found from our research:

The most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes.

The employees with the highest productivity ratings in fact for the most part don’t even work 8 hour days. Turns out the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a work day, is not working longer, but working smarter with frequent breaks.

In this article we’ll take a look at the statistics gathered from the top 10% most productive employees, as well as the theory of what makes it productive, and tips on how you can implement this in your own life.

How we got the stats      

As a time-tracking, productivity app, DeskTime collects substantial amounts of daily computer-using behaviour (5.5 million logged records per day) . This gives us a ton of information that we can use to analyse the computer-use behaviour, through the spectrum of what the users themselves consider to be productive.

What we’ve done is isolated the top 10% most productive employees, and analysed their computer-use behaviour during one workday. The way we decided the most productive, is by taking the people who had the 10% highest ratio of use of “productive” applications for their line of work (each individual can have different apps they consider productive, ex. a marketer would indicate social platforms like Facebook as “productive”.)

The theory of productive working

The notion of productivity is the ability to be able to do more in a smaller amount of time.

The reason the 10% most productive employees are able to get the most done during the comparatively short periods of working time is that they’re treated as sprints, for which they’re well-rested. They make the most of the 52 working minutes, in other words, they work with purpose.

Working with purpose can also be called the 100% dedication theory. The notion that whatever you do, you do it full-out. Therefore, during the 52 minutes of work, you’re dedicated to accomplishing tasks, getting things done, making progress. Whereas during the 17 minutes of break, you’re completely removed from the work you’re doing – you’re entirely resting.

Purposeful working, rather than working 8hrs/day - 100% dedication theory

Making the most of your 52 working minutes

Lately the meaning of breaks towards the mental and physical productivity of an individual has been valued as incredibly important. Since concentration is like a muscle – it shouldn’t be overworked – then it only makes sense that a fully productive employee

Though by following this set pattern, you’re physically working less time, what you should be doing is entirely devoting yourself to working to your best capability during this time. This is called the 100% method. Whatever you do, dedicate yourself 100%. If you’re working, then work 100%. If you’re relaxing, relax 100% – none of this checking email every few minutes while you’re on break, and none of this “I’ll just quickly check Facebook” while you’re working. Others call this “purposeful” working.

Purposeful working isn’t a new notion – a similar and popular technique is The Pomodoro technique, created by an Italian philosopher who used a strict working/resting time to achieve more. They use the same strategy of working hard for 25 minutes, then breaking for 5. It’s a rigorous schedule, which is geared towards driving attention to short, deliverable tasks within 25 minutes, without succumbing to distractions, either coming from the outside, or self-inflicted.

The science behind breaks

The break of 17 minutes lets your mind, your attention span and your body rest so that when the 52 minutes of work begin, you’re entirely ready to knock off the tasks to be done.

This amount may seem high, but if you take a look at world class violinists, they become great by practicing in similar increments of time, because of the notion of deliberate practice.

Mind – Working for long periods of time can be detrimental to your level of engagement with the certain task or company in general. Repeating tasks lead to cognitive boredom, which in turn halts your ability to thrive at the task at hand.

Attention span – The human brain isn’t able to focus for 8 hours at a time. The best way to refresh attention span is to take a break, let your mind wander wherever it wants to, and allows you to return to a task and be able to be fully dedicated to it.

Body – The human body has never been made to sit for 8 hours straight, as many knowledge workers to these days. Research has shown that breaking up the all-day sit-a-thon can improves productivity – even if it’ simply by working standing.

There are numerous benefits to breaks with physical activity throughout the day. It impacts your eyesight, back pain, arthritis, stress levels, and even heart disease. Not to mention, getting up helps circulate blood, which gets more oxygen all around. Specifically your brain will thank you by waking up and being able to perform more competently.

What to do while you’re on break

You’ve got 17 minutes to take yourself out of the working zone. Coincidentally (or not..), if you look at the world’s professional musicians, they also take 15-20 minute breaks. Really, we’re reaching the level of the greats. We’re talking completely dedicating yourself to not working.

  • Some exercises - there are plenty of exercises you can do in the confines of an office. There are plenty apps available for this, one I’ve successfully used is called Fitster, it senses when you’ve been at the computer for a while and launches a desktop workout.
  • Take a walk - better yet, go outside. Not only will it clear your mind, you’ll get fresh air which means yay, oxygen to make your brain work better, plus you might catch some rays. Vitamin D makes for a better mood, which will only further stimulate your ability to concentrate.
  • Grab something to eat - replenish those energy levels. The best foods to eat to replenish glucose (good energy) are nuts, apples, pears, blueberries, cheese, fish meat, etc.
  • Talk to colleagues – research shows that employees who socialize are both happier at work, and are able to do as much as their non-socializing coworkers, who as a result spend more time working.
  • Surf social networks - because this is your time to do what you want. Make sure to take a moment to look away from the computer and gaze in the distance, to relieve your near-focused eyes.
  • Watch funny cat videos  - it’s proven that looking at cute pictures of cats and dogs, you become more productive.

Conclusion – Making time for breaks will help you get more done

By taking the time to rest your brain and concentration muscle, stretching your legs, relieving your eyes, you’ll be doing not only your body and overall well-being a favour, but you’ll be in a position to create the best possible work. If your boss doesn’t agree, send them this link

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Categories: SMB

15 Key Strategies for Marketing to Different Generations

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 15:06

The most effective way to market your growing business is to customize the marketing strategy to your target customer demographics. Until a few years ago, you would have been right in thinking that differentiated marketing is for the big players with big budgets. However, that is no longer true. The internet has become the great marketing leveler, allowing growing businesses to effectively customize their approach to marketing to different generations at affordable costs.

Apart from your product itself, demographics are a major influence in buying behavior. Individuals born at different points of time have distinct preferences in what they value, how they spend their money, and what advertising channels they use. Recognizing these behavioral differences in your customers is essential for maximizing gains from your marketing spends.

There are four distinct American customer demographics.

Millennials (Born between 1981 and 1995)

According to the 2013 report ‘Across the Ages: Generational Impact on Spending’, there are more than 80 million millennials. This young generation that has grown up on technology will soon surpass baby boomers as the largest age group. Millennials are more educated and have more choices than any other generation before them. They are unpredictable, not always brand loyal, and are just as comfortable buying online as they are buying off the rack. If you are targeting this group -

  • Have a strong online presence, including blogs and social media
  • Adopt the latest technology trends to market to this generation
  • Ensure that the promotional e-mailers are compatible for mobile viewing
  • Benefit from their impulsiveness by offering additional items for purchase at the checkout point.
Generation X (Born between 1965 and 1980)

The Gen X demographic covers some 65 million Americans. This generation is an important target market because these individuals are at the peak of their earning and spending years. While they weren’t born in the internet era, majority use smart phones and regularly access social media. This generation does not want to just follow trends/ styles and is not easily convinced. When marketing to this demographic -

  • Avoid hard core sales tactics
  • Convince them of your business claims with research and customer testimonials
  • Combine traditional marketing efforts with digital promotional tools such as Facebook,   email marketing, and online adverts.
Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964)

Comprising 76 million consumers, this demographic represents individuals who focused on hard work, individualism, and social activism. They value trust, loyalty, and sense of community. Many baby boomers are retired or will be retiring soon. According to the Across the Ages report, Boomers are the most likely to be bargain hunting; nearly 28.9 percent Boomers say they only buy clothing when it’s on sale, a larger share than any other group. Here is what you need to know about this group -

  • They will search for product information online, and through calls and emails.
  • However, they place higher faith in face-to-face communication.
  • They would be interested in knowing what your business stands for
  • Discounts and bargain deals will appeal more to this demographic than any other
The Silent Generation (born between the mid-1920s and 1945)

Also known as “Traditionalists,” this category has 50 million consumers. This generation displayed tremendous resolve to overcome the impact of the Great Depression and World War II.  They seek value for money, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Many of them are active seniors and do not like to be regarded as ‘old or dependent’.

  • They are the least likely to make an impulsive purchase
  • Target them with traditional marketing tools such as flyers, newsletters and postcards, although keep in mind that some of them will use the internet to search for information.
  • The promotional material should be in larger font for ease of reading
  • Use grammar and language that they will appreciate
  • Use a single image (one that conveys emotions) rather than a collage

Customizing marketing campaigns as per customer demographics is one way to appeal to your customers. As a smaller business, every customer contact offers you the unique opportunity to ask valuable customer research questions like “Have you tried this product before?”, “Did you like the product?” and “When do you use this product the most?” Knowing more about your customers will help you design products /services attuned to their needs and lifestyle choices.

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Categories: SMB

Walmart Updates Website to Compete with Amazon in a Battle of the Ecommerce Space

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 16:32

Amazon is clearly the dominate force in the eCommerce space, with over $67.9 billion in online sales in 2013. But online retail is a BIG space and the question becomes, “if someone else can create the same experience as Amazon, can they take a portion of those sales?”

Walmart is testing that very question and recently updated their website in efforts to create a better online shopping experience for it’s visitors. Smallbiztechnology.com editor, Ramon Ray took a look at the new Walmart website and put it to a buying test against Amazon to compare the two. He writes about the experience and his evaluation of different aspects of each site in a blog for Endicia titled, “The Battle to Dominate the eCommerce Space: Amazon vs. Walmart“.

Read the full article on the Endicia’s Savvy Shipper blog page to see how the two sites compare and to see if Walmart made enough changes to win the battle!

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Categories: SMB

How to Use the Most Powerful Sales Tool: YouTube

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 16:01

In baseball utility players are never the stars; they’re pretty good at everything, but don’t excel in anything.

In content marketing, the story is different. According to a study conducted by Aol Platform, when it comes to online sales, YouTube works best at the beginning of the sales cycle and also as the “closer.”

In product videos, YouTube is used 18 percent of the time at the top of the sales funnel and 14 percent of the time as the last step in the sales cycle. In addition, it’s used 14 percent of the time as the sole content vehicle for online sales. Not only should you have a YouTube channel, you should use it directly on your site.

Its nearest competitor is Facebook which is used 11 percent at the top of the funnel and 10 percent at the end.

Do you look at your analytics and wonder what you can do to lower your bounce rate and increase your engagement time? One word: video. A Comscore study said that last December the US watched 52.4 billion hours of online video with the average American logging more than 19 hours of web video.

Since those figures came from last December, another thought comes to mind: if you’re a retail business, perhaps video is your ticket to killer holiday sales this year. And with so much on the line, let’s look at how you should approach video content creation and share some tips.

Forget DIY Product Shoots

You may be fine at videoing your kid’s birthday party, but take it up a level when you want to portray your products or your company in an online video. If you’re editing together static shots from a variety of angles, you want a professional lighting setup. If things have to move and be demonstrated, you want a local pro behind the camera and in the editing room. When you plan your video, put yourself in the place of someone who knows nothing about your product. Don’t take things for granted.

If you’re selling a service – perhaps yourself – don’t stand in front of a white wall and just start talking. This is perhaps the most difficult video to create and I’ve seen so many professionals think they can just talk to the camera. Outline what you want to say and get a professional script written. The final video may be better as a montage of stills with limited video of you. In a world with services like Elance and others you can find a good voice-over person to do the narration without paying a fortune.

Get Your Customers/Users Involved

There are a variety of ways you can get users to upload videos of your product. If you have a WordPress site, there are plugins that get this done. Getting your fan base to upload video for you is a powerful means of social media marketing. Create a hashtag for this purpose. You can encourage fan videos by honoring the best each month with some kind of prize or notoriety. When your customers feature your business through their social media accounts you’re able to reach new prospects with very little investment.

Go Beyond Basic Product Videos

Use video to answer customer questions before they ask them. Maybe you sell a variety of related products or services. How do they compare to one another? Should a new customer buy the entry-level product, or go for all the bells and whistles? Don’t be afraid to honestly compare your product line. Customers want to know.

Make Buying Easy

Integrate videos into your purchasing pages. Don’t corral all your videos in a place on your website that requires additional clicks if customers what to push a “buy now” button. It doesn’t do any good to engage a customer with video and then have them drop out of the transaction trying to get to the purchase page. Also, make sure your videos aren’t too long and that they load quickly.

We shouldn’t be surprised by the power of video and YouTube. After all, the medium engages viewers through both hearing and seeing. The question now is if you’ve seen and heard enough to get truly serious about selling with video.

Image: Aro Video Sign Wellington, © 2009 Newsbie Pix, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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Categories: SMB

Why This Cuban Bakery Beat Dunkin Donuts With Niche Marketing

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 16:34

Recently I parked my car in front of a Dunkin Donuts to use their WiFi while I waited for one of my children to finish taking some tests at a local high school.

I got hungry and was thinking about going into Dunkin Donuts to get something to eat. But I looked around and noticed a bakery, Domingo’s Bakery. I went inside as a I wanted a freshly made sandwich that’s similar to what I would make at home. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE D&D chicken sandwiches, donuts and other food. However, at that time, I wanted something different.

Walking into Domingo’s Bakery I was pleasantly surprised at how packed and full it was. In fact how full of life it was, with a flurry of activitie, kids running around and Spanish filling the air.

My initial thought was, how does this bakery have a thriving breakfast service with Dunkin Donuts being right across the street?

It’s simple. This bakery is service a niche market.

1. Those who primarily speak Spanish.

2. Those who want more fresh or authentic food

3. Those who want a homey experience.

Also, as we learned from Dave Ramsey’s “Business Gets Personal” event with Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk, you don’t have to destroy your competition to win. Most markets are big enough that there’s room for many competitors to do quite well. You can leverage the power of your digital marketing to FIND customers and WOW them all day long.

Learn from the Cuban bakery. Don’t be afraid of your competition, in fact – embrace them and thrive.

Here’s the view that the local Dunkin Donuts store sees…every day…

Here’s the view Domingo’s Bakery sees every day…I bet this view inspires them to excellence and a deep focus on their customers. Go narrow, target small – get big profits.

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Categories: SMB

Reclaim Your Passion with Content: RebelMouse Founder Gives Preview to Small Business Summit Talk

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 15:00

Take a moment to think back to the first time you got the idea for your business. Recall that ‘aha!’ moment, and trace it forward, remembering the feelings of excitement and intensity that motivated you despite the difficulties. Do you want to recapture and reclaim that passion so it can push you forward once more?

Then it’s time to register for the 9th Annual Small Business Summit! At the Summit, which takes place on October 22 in New York City, you’ll be surrounded by small business owners who are doing the same – reclaiming the spirit that drove them to start a business in the first place.

 

In addition to networking with like-minded individuals, you’ll also get tips from business experts, like Paul Berry, the CEO and founder of Rebel Mouse. Rebel Mouse is a social publishing platform that pulls your social content together and helps you amplify it in an efficient and effective way. Rebel Mouse is all about engagement, and at the Summit, Paul will be talking about why education beats sales in content marketing.

Ramon Ray had a chance to chat with Paul Berry about what we can expect from his Small Business Summit session. Hear what he’s got to say by clicking the video below or going here.

Day-to-day business operations can get the best of all of us, increasing stress and draining us of our initial enthusiasm. On October 22 set it all aside and join us at the 9th Annual Small Business Summit – a time to reclaim your passion and push your business to the next level.

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Categories: SMB

Boost Your Local Online Marketing and Help Customers Find You

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 09:41

With more and more consumers now turning to the internet for local searches, small businesses have more opportunities than ever to connect. With a few simple improvements to your online presence, you can make it easier for local customers to find your business easily.

I recently wrote an article for Well Fargo and their Wells Fargo Works for Small Business site providing tips on how retailers can improve their local marketing efforts. Reality is, that with just a few simple changes, most retailers can vastly improve how local customers are finding them.

With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to revamp your local marketing efforts. Read the full article, Local Online Marketing: Help Customers Find Your Business on the Wells Fargo site and you’ll be on your way to more foot traffic and increased sales.

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Categories: SMB

Join Ramon and AT&T #BizCircleLive – Online Event: Social Content Is The New Way To Sell

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 19:20

Tired of Tweeting and having no results? Do you use great images on Facebook, but still can’t get the results you want? Join Ramon Ray on Monday, October 20th at 1pm EST for a special, online, live event, hosted by AT&T.

Ramon will share his BEST STRATEGIES for using social content to EDUCATE customers and prospects.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT THE DETAILS AND REGISTER

Social Marketing is all about content which educates (or entertains) the customer (or prospect), engages them and over time causes them to buy from YOU.

Social Content works and it is POWERFUL. If you are JUST starting out – it takes time. If you’ve been banging on the keyboard for months and seeing no results – join me (Ramon) next Monday (October 20th) and let’s see how I can help.

Ramon is a best selling author, journalist, entrepreneur, event producer and overall nut case addicted to small business success. He’s a student of Seth Godin’s belief in tribes and weirdness and a follower of Gary’s focus on being focused on your customer and jab, jab, jab, right hook.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT THE DETAILS AND REGISTER

 

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Categories: SMB

Cyber Security Awareness Month: Staples and Norton Team Up for ‘Take the Pledge’ Campaign (#CSPledge) to Educate Small Businesses

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 19:49

October is Cyber Security Awareness month. To inform and educate small businesses, Staples and Norton are teaming up and have created the ‘Take the Pledge’ campaign. This month-long campaign will include educational content, twitter chats, survey reports and giveaways from Staples and Norton, including a grand prize package with a Dell Latitude 14” Laptop and Norton security software. Data breaches have become much too common. While most associate these cybercrimes with large retail organizations, that perception is actually skewed.  While large businesses get mentioned on the nightly news when there is a data breach, the reality is that small businesses are just as vulnerable. Often more so. In fact, a recent survey by Staples found that over 1 in 4 small businesses do not have a plan in please to respond to any data breach, proving the lack of preparedness against cybercrimes amongst small businesses. A 2013 National Small Business Association technology survey revealed that 44 percent of the small businesses’ reported a cyber-attack. Of those reported, 59 percent suffered a service interruption and 35 percent reported information was falsely sent from their businesses’ domains or email addresses. The average cost associated with the cyber-attack was $8.699.48 per incident. This is a financial hit that most small businesses cannot readily absorb. Knowing how detrimental the effects of a cyber-attack can be on a small business, Staples and Norton want to go the extra step to help them understand the risks and how they can better protect themselves. Since 39 percent of small businesses in the 2013 National Small Business Association technology survey report handling security internally, either by themselves or with help of a staff member, and 1 out of 5 of those surveyed from the recent Staples small business survey admitting that they don’t understand how to protect their businesses from cyber criminals, there is definitely a need to share more information to help keep small businesses stay safe. You can follow the ‘Take the Pledge’ Twitter hashtag #CSPledge to get tips and information on how to keep your small business safe. You can also join the conversation with Melinda Emerson, producer of #SmallBizChat – a peer-to-peer Twitter live chat mentoring program designed to help entrepreneurs get answers to their small business question — on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 from 8pm to 9pm ET, as she chats with business expert Brian Moran. Brian and his team at Brian Moran & Associates are passionate about helping small business owners run better businesses and Brian has a wealth of information on cybersecurity that he’ll be sharing, including mobile security and cyber-security in the age of social media. He’ll also share options for protecting a business when owners are not comfortable managing cybersecurity in house. There is going to be A LOT of valuable information being shared. Follow along so you don’t miss a thing, while also enjoying a chance to win one of the great prizes being offered to help keep your business safe.

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Categories: SMB

Make Paying Invoices Easy and Get Paid Faster. Freshbooks Launches Payment Solution.

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 18:00

I work with many partners in the production of SmallBizTechnology.com, Small Business Summit and Smart Hustle Magazine.

Some send me an invoice via PayPal, some send an invoice through Freshbooks and link to Zipmark, others send me an invoice and I send them a check.

What’s interesting is that those who make it EASY for me to pay them get paid first. One of my team members uses Zipmark – with about one click (and a second one to login) I can pay them directly from my bank account – nice.

Freshbooks announced earlier this month that they’re now integrating a payment solution into their offering.

Their press release reads - 

FreshBooks uses the WePay payment processor, giving users a secure way to accept credit cards online with the added benefit of viewing payment status within their FreshBooks dashboard. Once a payment is made, the payment information is automatically updated across the FreshBooks account, marking invoices paid and inputting relevant expense information. FreshBooks also automatically records refunds and chargebacks.

FreshBooks improves the user experience by simplifying the sign-up process and helping small business owners get paid faster. During the beta program, FreshBooks customers experienced firsthand how easy and seamless it was to collect online payments. In fact, 52 percent of invoices issued with FreshBooks’ payments offering were paid within the same business day, and more than 70 percent had been paid within the first 48 hours.

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Categories: SMB

The Winners of the 2014 Small Business Influencer Awards Are Chosen!

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 15:00

On July 1st we approached the small business community with a call for nominations for the Small Business Influencer Awards – those people and companies that have significantly impacted the North American small business market. Your response was overwhelming as we saw nominations for the top news outlets, corporations, journalists, leaders, experts and apps pour into the system.

Today, we are happy to announce the winners– the top Small Business Influencers of 2014, nominated and chosen by small business owners just like you.

This years Growth Story Champion was Abe’s Market, an online marketplace for natural products. With the help of All Inclusive Marketing (AIM) they created a successful affiliate channel that experienced a whooping 4400% growth in less than one year.

The award for Marketing Campaign Champion went to CruiseOne, a home-based travel franchise. The company identified shopping cart abandonment as a major issue, and launched a follow-up email marketing program targeting potential customers that did not complete their purchase. The program has been wildly successful, producing triple-digit sales revenue and high click-through rates.

In addition to these two grand champions, the voting round also produced a list of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers. The list includes business experts, apps, cloud-based software solutions, small business media publications and more. You can view the entire list of 100 winners – along with 5 Honorable Mentions – here.

The Small Business Influencers were chosen by both community vote and the Judging Panel, so there is an additional list of winners for 2014 Community Choice Honorees. These are the top 5 vote-getters in each category, chosen 100% by small business owners like you. You can view the list of Community Choice Honorees here.

Up next on the agenda is the Small Business Influencer Awards Gala, where hundreds will gather to honor the winners. The Awards Gala is taking place in conjunction with the 9th Annual Small Business Summit.

The Summit is happening on October 22 from 8:00am to 5:30pm and will include a variety of small business sessions, giveaways and networking opportunities. It’s a must-attend event for all small business owners, so if you’re going to be in the Manhattan area on October 22, register now so you won’t miss the fun!

All attendees of the Small Business Summit also get a pass to the Small Business Influencer Awards Gala, which starts at 5:30 – so not only do you get a day full of education and networking, you then get to mingle and celebrate with the TOP influencers in the small business world!

Join us on October 22 for the Small Business Summit and the Small Business Influencer Awards Gala – you can register by clicking the Register icon below.

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Categories: SMB

Amazon.com Opens NYC Store. How Is Your Local Store Different. 5 Tips.

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 21:16

Wal Mart was a disruptor for local small businesses. Amazon.com was a disruptor for Wal Mart and of course ANY other retailer. With Amazon.com testing the waters of opening a local store, as reported by the WSJ, the differentiation you offer to your customers is even more important.

At the Wix Small Business Breakfast earlier this week, this question was brought up – how can we compete with big retailers. Shopkeep is going to touch on this at the Small Business Summit.

It is TOUGH to compete with big retailers but it’s possible.

  1. Know your customers.
  2. Go narrow – don’t sell to everyone
  3. Leverage technology, such as CRM to get to know them better, anticipate their needs and overall follow the principles of Attract, Sell, Wow
  4. Know who your competition is and anticipate your customer’s like or dislike of what your competition is doing
  5. LOVE your customers. Wow them, delight them and create an emotional connection with them . Beyond the transaction.

Keep your head up, don’t fear and LOVE YOUR CUSTOMERS.

 

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Categories: SMB

Founder of UGG Boots to Share Small Business Advice at Small Business Summit 2014

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 20:38

We interrupt your workday to bring you some breaking news regarding the 2014 Small Business Summit! Brian Smith, the founder of Ugg Boots is coming!!

The Small Business Summit is the premier small business event taking place on October 22 in New York City. It’s a full-day event like no other – designed BY small business and FOR small business. If you want to learn the latest tips and tricks to grow your small business, you simply MUST attend!

We’ve been telling you about our outstanding list of speakers, and we’re proud to announce two more.

The 2014 Small Business Summit would like to welcome Brian Smith, founder of UGG Boots, to the list of renowned speakers. Small Biz Technology’s Ramon Ray recently spoke to him about his session on innovation “From Idea to Profits.” Here’s what he had to say.

Yes, that’s right – the founder of one of the biggest footwear brands loves to help small businesses and he can’t wait to share his tips for success with YOU at the Summit!

If that is not enough to get you to register now, we also want to welcome Sarah Endline, the founder of the activist candy company sweetriot. You’ll want to hear Sarah’s advice on publicity because she started out as a small business owner just like you – and now her products are sold in over 1,700 stores across the country including Whole Foods and Pier 1!

With the 2014 Small Business Summit only about two weeks ago, you can’t delay in registering any longer. Space is limited and predicted to fill up soon! But just for our Smallbiztechnology.com readers, we have a special code that will save you 25 percent off your ticket! To take advantage of this special offer, go here to register (or click on the register button below) and use code 25OFF to get your discount. But HURRY – this code is only valid through Friday, October 10.

Beyond the amazing educational and motivational sessions that will be featured at the Small Business Summit, you’ll also enjoy a full day of networking, fun and prizes – and immediately following the summit you’ll be treated to a free admission to the Small Business Influencer Awards Gala, an opportunity to celebrate and mingle with the top corporations, news outlets, journalists, apps, leaders, and experts in the small business circle.

The 2014 Small Business Summit is THE small business event that everyone will be talking about. Don’t miss out! Register today!

 

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Categories: SMB

Yext, Square, Infusionsoft and more…Big Companies Love Small Business

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 21:52

Dear small business owner, you are HOT stuff and big companies are INVESTING a lot of money to sell you solutions that will help grow your company even more.

As a champion of small business success it’s really amazing the FIGHT that big companies are having over small businesses – whichever big company “wins or loses” – small businesses will win.

Here’s a quick and dirty run down of some recent big company – small business movements.

Yext manages local and other online marketing for small businesses. They’ve just hired a CFO show specializes in IPOs, reports Crain’s.

Square got $150 million to help it get more little white credit card swipes into the small business market (and more of course). Also reports Crain’s

Yesterday, Infusionsoft announced a $55 Million investment lead by Bain (we reported on this yesterday)

GoDaddy is acquiring businesses and building a solid foundation to build a suite of small business services and recently launched a new set of advertising.

PayPal is going to split from eBay and PayPal is VERY focused on the small business marketing – providing not just credit card transaction solutions but also lines of credit.

Alibaba is going to make huge waves to steal the eCommerce market from Amazon and others. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder says it in this Bloomberg video

Microsoft is betting a LOT on ensuring Office 365 is the platform of choice for small businesses and continues to strengthen it’s partner network.

Who else should I add to the list? Use the comments below…

 

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Categories: SMB

Top eBay Seller and eCommerce Expert @ColderIce – 3 Steps To Triple Your Business Today

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 20:00

John “ColderIce” Lawson is a top eBay seller, guru of eCommerce and overall master of online marketing. His book “Kick Ass Social Commerce for Entrepreneurs” is a must read.

As a preview to John’s popular Ice Retailer Conference I’ve asked John for his tips on building a successful business. We can all use tips and success best practices.

Here’s John…

If you are breathing and on the planet Earth you’ve either shopped online, know someone who has shopped online; sold something online or know someone who has sold something online.  If you don’t fit into any of these categories than I greet you in your native alien tongue, “Nanu, Nanu.”

But seriously… From Walmart and Home Depot to Etsy and eBay, online sales are raking in billions of dollars for eCommerce giants, small businesses and solopreneurs around the world. This year alone, the top ten online stores had more than 588 million unique visitors with Amazon leading the way with 162 million and we’ve still got another quarter to go!

For small businesses as well as solo-prenuer operations, It’s easy to get lost in the mire of conflicting information out there; with each self-proclaimed “expert” telling you that they hold the “Holy Grail” to online  success if you will buy their book, attend their class and do such and such.

But the fact is that most of those people who are telling you how to make millions on the internet have not only NOT made millions on the internet (or likely not anywhere else for that matter) but don’t even sell anything on the internet; except maybe their books and some crappy  webinars.

So, why take my advice?  Because I opened a little store on the internet ten years ago and within 2 years was able to make enough to quit my job.  Over the last 10 years, my online enterprises have grossed nearly $30 million dollars. Then people started calling from all over the world wanting me to come talk at their conferences and then a publisher  asked me to write a book which THEY published, “Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs” and now I do my own conferences and bootcamps world-wide from America to Africa.

So, I guess that makes me kind of an expert but not at telling you what to do to make a million dollars.  I am very good at telling you what I did to make millions of dollars.  But maybe you don’t want to be as big as Wal Mart.  Maybe you just want to make more money than you’re making right now.    I can guarantee if you implement  the following 7 action steps, you will more than triple your online sales or income starting now  Let’s get started:

Networking Can Take Your Business To New Heights.

 

All too often online sellers spend too much time in our own isolated world; working with our own teams and only getting feedback from those we see everyday.  We forget that it’s important to get face time with others in our industry as well as intermingling with potential clients or referral resources.  Both our reputation and our sales are created through the relationships that we have with others.  It is important that we build and nurture quality connections that take us closer to our goals; ones where we can learn and grow.  

Education is a Key to Success.

 

The best thing that you can do for your business growth is to attend industry conferences, trade shows, boot camps, seminars and networking events.  Choosing the right event is important because you want to be where the trailblazers in online sales and marketing  are gathered.

There you will find knowledge, insider tips and connect with those who have done what you are trying to do as well as meet with others who at where you’re at now and moving up the ladder.  Not only can life long friendships be made but life long business relationships.   People do business with people they know more often than they do business with or a total stranger.

Stay Ahead of the Technology Curve.

 

Commerce is changing from day-to-day as technology makes leaps and bounds into the future.  By the time you hear the announcement for something new, it’s already old and you are behind the times.

The only way for you to stay ahead of the game is to be where the innovators and leaders are talking about the next big thing before it becomes the next big thing.  You want to know RIGHT NOW what’s coming in technology, marketing, sourcing, SEO and other necessary disciplines you must know to be successful.

So, if you’re racking your brain trying to come up with ways to increase your cash flow, the internet is surely the place to go. And if you follow my three suggestions, I can almost guarantee that whatever venture you partake will be a success!

John Lawson is CEO of 3rd Power Outlet, an online urban accessories retailer and ColderICE Media Digital Marketing.  He is author of, “Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs” and founder of ICE Retailer Business Growth Summit, an annual conference held in Atlanta, GA and other major cities across the United States. For more information contact John at: http://johnlawsonhq.com/

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Categories: SMB

Review: Why Xero Wants You To Ditch QuickBooks And Fall In Love With Managing Your Money

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 16:00

Money management is one of the most important responsibilities small business owners must take care of.

Without the proper management of our money we won’t know what products are profitable, which customers owe us money and how much we owe the IRS – amongst other things.

The tool you use to manage your money is important. Pick the wrong tool and you’ll find a decrease in productivity and you won’t be able to manage your cash flow as well as you should. Pick the right tool and you’ll find that you can work better with your accountant, create intelligent reports to give you insight about your cash flow, manage your money from your mobile phone.

(Welcome to sponsored reviews by SmallBizTechnology and Small Business Trends)

Xero was created from the ground up for a mobile and cloud based world, it has no legacy as software installed on a computer. Today’s generation of existing business owners and future ones want solutions to power that business that are fast, light weight (yet feature rich), completely accessible on a mobile device and that are easy to use.

Here’s a discussion with Xero USA President Jamie Sutherland about the value of Xero, cloud computing fears and security nightmares. Watch it below or here.

Your Accountant and You

For growing businesses, your accountant and book keeper are important partners. Xero has a powerful set of features, enabling you and your accountant to work better together. For example, right from Xero, you can get help from your accountant. This is a simple feature that can make a big difference in getting you the right help you need, at the right time.

Visualize Your Money Flow

It can be hard to always understand the nuances of your money flow. Xero works hard to provide a simple dashboard to to give a you quick snap shot of what’s most important in regard to your money.  How much money is coming in, how much money is going out and what money is in your accounts.

Bank Reconciliation Is No Longer A Pain

Do you enjoy reconciling your bank accounts? I sure don’t. Xero has invested a lot of time to understand the best way for you to reconcile your bank account.  With one click you can easily reconcile your bank’s records and Xero’s records to ensure your accounts are always up to date. Xero makes it so easy to manage your bank reconciliation that some business owners manage their banking on their phone.

 

Powerful integration and growth

While Xero by itself is powerful awesome, what’s even more impressive is that it integrates with a growing list of over  350 other business apps like Square, ZenPayroll and Constant Contact, allowing for a seamless and customized business solution.

Furthermore, Xero does not limit the number of users that can use it. So as your company grows, Xero grows with you.

Is Xero Built To Last

It’s important to know if the company powering your business will be around for the long term. With over 340,000 paying customers, $200 Million in the bank and investments from the like of PayPal found Peter Thiel, Xero is a strong company. It’s not a very young company, still in a “garage”, but it’s a mature company with the breadth and scale of services to serve your small business.

Want to enjoy your accounting with a better solution? Check out Xero

 

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Categories: SMB

UPS Brings Retail 3D Printing to Small Business Entrepreneurs – Big News

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 15:00

You’ve heard the talk about 3D Printing. Instead of shipping your product overseas and getting it manufactured in limited manufacturing run in the USA, you can use a 3D printer to quickly print a sample of your product and see how it works.

3D printing enables designers, inventors, manufacturers, retailers and any other business that needs a physical product to get one.

UPS is a cautious retailer and initially rolled our 3D printing in only a few stores – now they’ve expanded the program more nationally. What does this mean? This means UPS sees demand – real demand for 3D printing.

The UPS press release reads:

During the 2013 pilot program, the 3D print services were used by small businesses, startups, inventors, artists and a wide range of professionals to transform their ideas into reality. From inventors who patented innovative product designs to entrepreneurs who prototyped an idea and successfully delivered a retail-ready product to market, there were many success stories. Watch this 3D print video to meet a few of them.

 “We are committed to offering small business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers high-tech solutions in order to assist with all of their business needs,” said Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and sales at The UPS Store. “We launched the pilot to evaluate if there was demand for 3D print and we’re excited to be announcing an expansion, giving even more small business owners access to high-quality, professional 3D printing. We look forward to being a part of the future of the 3D printing industry.”

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Categories: SMB

Bain Leads $55 Million Investment In Infusionsoft. Small Business CRM Gets Validated…Again

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 12:00

Today Infusionsoft announced that it closed a $55 Million invested led by Bain Capital Ventures.

Infusionsoft is the leader in small business CRM solutions for small businesses.

This investment continues to validate:

  • the strength of the overall small business market
  • the potency of small business marketing solutions
  • that great tech companies aren’t just in Silicon Valley and Silicoln Alley

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the US and the global economy. Yet many small businesses lack an integrated sales and marketing system to help them to grow and succeed.  Infusionsoft has been providing software, services, education and a community designed to enable small business success for the last 10 years,” said Clate Mask, co-founder and CEO of Infusionsoft. “Bain Capital Ventures shares our passion and our vision for building the essential small business success platform and brings unique experience with high-growth SaaS businesses to our team. We’re excited to have them as partners.”

Infusionsoft said that the new investment will be used primarily for further product development and commercial expansion.  Learn more about the news on the Infusionsoft blog: http://insft.co/1rviSH0.

What does this mean for YOUR business?

  • It means if you’re still just doing email marketing – it’s time to consider doing more
  • It means if your social content is just Tweeting, you need to feed leads to a CRM system that can nurture the leads to a sale
  • It means if you are not wowing your customers – it’s time to do so
  • It means if you do not have marketing strategy in place – it’s time

Companies like Bain don’t invest money without serious thought. Should you invest serious thought into better marketing?

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Categories: SMB

Food Trucks Are Small Businesses. What’s Their 3 Secret Weapons of Success?

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 20:05

Running a food truck is not easy – the permits, the staffing, the regulations and so many other things are challenges. However, if you like to get up close and personal to your customers and enjoy the mobility of running a business – a food truck could be a great option for you.

NCR Silver spent some time with Happy Belly, a food truck in Atlanta and documented their day in this video.

Here’s a few tips from NCR in running a successful food truck business:

Know your regulations
 
Many local governments want to see food trucks succeed. But it takes time for laws that were written decades ago for brick-and-mortar restaurants to catch up.
 
Adjacent cities and counties can sometimes have different rules on safety, parking and more. Fees can also vary widely. 
 
“Be sure to know each city’s and county’s rules first,” said Justin Hotard, president of NCR Small Business. “Compliance can sometimes be so time-consuming that it may be best to dedicate one person full-time to handle licensing, permitting and other regulatory requirements during the initial few months.”
 
Get creative with parking
 
With a mobile business, location is everything. To combat parking restrictions in certain communities, many food truck vendors are generating additional income by offering catering services.
 
The industry also is seeing an increase in free market options, such as “pods” in San Francisco, where trucks can park in public spaces and not worry about breaking local rules.
 
Bottom line, know the market options in the communities you serve – some are better than others – to minimize parking hassles and maximize customer reach.
 
Build – and maintain – your brand
 
The most successful food trucks have unique brands, which include everything from the menu and logo to truck design. Given the mobile nature of food trucks, letting fans know where you’re going each day is crucial. Social media is a prime vehicle for this, as well as overall customer engagement.
 
Loyalty programs also help. It’s beneficial for a loyalty program to work seamlessly with the checkout process – automatically tracking rewards with each sale, so customers see what they’ve earned, and have added incentive to come back. Loyalty integration eliminates punch cards and disparate programs.
 
“You need several ingredients to run a successful food truck – good service, amazing food and passion,” Hotard said. “The element tying all of this together is your brand. Staying consistent with your brand and continually engaging customers increases your likelihood of long-term success.”
 
For more industry stats and insider views, check out “#GetRolling America: 2014 Food Truck Facts” infographic and “Rolling with Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen: A Day in the Life of a Food Truck” video.  

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Categories: SMB

Lovely Landing Pages for Lots o’ Lead Generation

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 15:00

How many new leads did your website bring you last week? If you cringed a little while considering your response, it’s time to rethink your landing pages.

What are Landing Pages?

Look online and you’ll find a variety of definitions for landing pages. For the purpose of marketing, it is important to differentiate a landing page from any webpage a person lands on. It’s much more advanced than that.

A landing page in the marketing sense of the word is a page that has a specific offer and an end goal of capturing visitors’ information. It’s a lead generation tool that, when used effectively, can bring high-quality new leads to your sales team.

With so much confusion about landing pages, many marketers are missing opportunities. To help you get more out of your online campaigns, here are five ways you can make your landing pages a little bit lovelier (and bring in massive amounts of new leads).

  1.    Rewrite Your Headline

The first thing your visitor sees is your headline. When writing the headline for your landing page, be specific. The less your visitor has to guess, the more likely he is to explore your offer in more detail. In many cases, you should also add emotional elements. This will trigger an emotional response and immediately engage your visitor on a deeper level.

Smart marketers test headlines regularly to discover what resonates and what falls flat. Doing a basic A/B test of various messages will show you which headlines generate the most leads.

  1.    Use Smart Buttons

The buttons on your landing page are what your visitor clicks on to take action and hand over his personal information. The placement of the button, the text used on the button, and the color all play an important role in whether or not the person clicks.

When designing your landing page, make sure the buttons are above the fold. Use bright colors to draw attention the buttons and encourage more clicks. Just like your headline, you will also want to test the copy on the buttons to see what inspires people to click and what falls flat. Simple changes, like using “I” instead of “you” can make a big difference.

  1.    Eliminate Distractions

Giving your website visitor too many options is a huge mistake. Each landing page should have one purpose only. Eliminate distractions to prevent your leads from leaving before handing over their information.

Remove the navigation bar from the top of the page. Instead, focus your visitor on one specific task; to click a button and fill out a form with his details.

  1.    Be Smart With Your Requests

The goal of your landing page is to generate leads. The more information your visitor has to hand over, the less likely he will be to finish filling out your request form.

When requesting information, only ask for what you need. In many cases, this will only be a name and email address. You can follow up later to qualify the lead, but the goal now is to capture visitor information.

Use a form, such as the Insightly Web to Contact form to automatically send your leads into your sales funnel and online CRM. This makes your landing page work harder for you, eliminating unnecessary work.

Let your sales team do what they do best – sell! With a well-designed landing page, simple form and automatic CRM integration, you’ll spoon-feed high quality leads to your team so that they can close more deals faster.

Kimberly Crossland is a copywriter. She helps clients develop landing pages that bring in quality leads. Follow her on Facebook to get more copywriting and online marketing tips.

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Categories: SMB