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5 Tips To Keep Your SMB Teams Engaged Over The Holidays

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 18:10

Avoid Seasonal Office Distraction
By Matt Pierce, Customer Engagement Manager, TechSmith

Conducting business during the year is fairly routine, right? Meetings, deliverables and day-to-day operations all make up the typical workplace environment. But the holidays are upon us, and at this time of year, it’s easy to push aside priorities for seasonal distractions like decorating or parties. Shopping on the clock is one of the main reasons for productivity loss during the holidays, with 53 percent of management-level employees surfing the web for gifts. However, business needs don’t halt because of holiday happenings so it’s vital to keep employees focused and engaged. Here are five ways to do just that:

1. Continue to make assignments meaningful. It’s easy to let work become something of a drag when there are other things around you that need to be accomplished; however, start by acknowledging to your staff that this is a hectic time and schedules are stretched. If the work hasn’t changed, reemphasize the goals and assert how each assignment influences the bigger picture. If this resonates, it can provide an added push employees need to continue to work hard and produce results.

2. Prepare coverage and give opportunities. Vacation days are the inevitable during this time of year. Small businesses are particularly susceptible to the challenges of time off.  If only a few employees know how to run a process, make sure backup is in place with a deep enough skillset. Use videos that are accessible on the fly as employees will need to quickly master something they don’t do frequently. This also provides a good chance to give new opportunities to different employees. 

3. Find time for 20 percent projects. Google is a huge advocate of allowing its staff to spend up to 20 percent of their time on projects of their choice. This approach has even found its way into classrooms as an engagement technique. You might say that 20 percent of employee’s time is not something your organization can afford. But perhaps you can provide a dedicated day or just an hour out of each day during the holiday season that employees can use for a project that ignites their passions. This may also be beneficial to the business as a whole. You can challenge teams to consider things like learning and development presentations, designing training aids, or uncovering new market opportunities.

4. Incorporate visuals and technology where possible. In reality, this should be part of any company strategy be it the bustling weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s or the height of summer. So drop the long lists of bullet points and make presentations that are less static and more energizing. This is especially true with training. Be it onboarding a new employee or cross-training an existing one, adding visuals can increase return and retention rates. Research suggests that when you utilize technology to combine visual messages with verbal communication you increase retention of information by 50 percent.

5. Celebrate and say thank you! So often business get stuck in the rigidity of a nine to five schedule. Allowing staff to celebrate the holidays can actually increase the amount of focused time they dedicate in the office. Have a Yankee Swap or an ugly sweater party, or let teams out an hour or two early. Employees will feel more inclined to do their best work and reach deliverables when they have something exciting to work towards.

There’s no denying of the number of distractions during the holiday season, for everyone from the executive suite to the junior employee. While we’re all longing for a bit of down time, business must go on, and go on successfully. Be prepared to shake up what’s routine, but don’t be the season’s Ebenezer Scrooge – all it takes is keeping employees engaged in business to ensure operations are both efficient and enjoyable this holiday season.

Matt Pierce is customer engagement manager at TechSmith Corp. He has directly managed its training and user assistance teams, and has also run its visual communication web show, The Forge, interviewing guests from around the world discussing the use of visuals, video, and technology in education, training, marketing and more. Teach him something @piercemr.

Categories: SMB

4 SMB Cold Calling Tactics

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 19:19

Cold calling, the practice of randomly calling prospective clients to pitch a product or service, was once the primary method sales representatives used to generate leads.

Lead generation services say that traditional cold calling is ineffective and should be abandoned. Frank disagrees saying, "When practiced efficiently alongside other lead generation techniques, cold calling still can be an effective means of garnering prospective client leads." 

Here are 4 SMB Cold Calling Tactics by Frank Paterno 

1. Focus on quality over quantity, targeting those who have expressed an interest in your company or who are decision-makers for their businesses – known as “intelligent calling.” 

2. Align your sales and marketing teams. Once marketing has nurtured sales-ready leads, the sales team should then immerse them in the sales pipeline beginning with a call to assess a purchase-ready prospect. 

3. Combine cold calling with modern lead generation techniques, such as tracking leads’ online interactivity, post retweets or LinkedIn page views, are subtle online gestures that provide solid reasons to give them a ‘cold’ call. 

4. Have a Plan: Cold calling should not be random and uncalculated. Employing a few proven strategies can heat up your cold calls and accelerate your success rate. 

Frank Paterno 
Frank is vice president of marketing at Intelliverse. He oversees marketing for the Intelliverse family of companies including: TeleArk. A creative and analytic marketing and product executive with hands-on and management experience identifying, creating, delivering, and communicating value with technology-based products and services, Frank's corporate and product marketing experience is enhanced by a strong technical and financial background. 

Categories: SMB

SMB Startup: HybridPlay

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 15:20

This SMB startup needs additional cash for an idea that can put video game fun on the play ground by utilizing swings, seesaws and slides as came controllers! 

And here is the good news, HybridPlay is an open project which means the code can be customzed by anyone including kids, parents and school administrations. HybridPlay utilizes Gamesonomy, an editor that allows users without programming skills to create games for mobile platforms.

No software downloads are necessary. The game is directly created in the cloud and tested on the phone.

Valencia, Spain—November 22, 2014— HYBRIDPLAY has developed a new video game system that blends two seemingly opposite entities: the alluring fun of technology and the great outdoors. A specialized wireless sensor,  along with an app, changes ordinary playground equipment, such as swings, seesaws, or slides, into video game controllers that will get kids of all ages and abilities outside and moving.  Twenty prototypes have already been created and tested extensively with thousands of children. The creators are now in the final steps of its creation.  

HYBRIDPLAY needs at least $80,000 by November 28, 2014, so it can improve game design and development thereby creating a device that meets its full potential. HYBRIDPLAY will be compatible not only with Android and iOS smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth, but also with Google-ware devices. In the future, iPhone watch compatibility is also planned.

“Too many kids nowadays are no longer playing outdoors,” said a HYBRIDPLAY representative. “They are inside playing games on phones and tablets. Video games are a fun and enriching tool, but with HYBRIDPLAY, we can go a step further and make games not only mentally challenging, but physically engaging as well.”  It is also designed to encourage social interaction, verbal communication, and peer collaboration.

So, how does it work? Simply clip the wireless sensor to a chosen piece of playground equipment. It works with static elements such as slides or even equipment that rotates on an axis like seesaws and swings. Next, start the app. Then play. Yes, it’s really that easy. The playground equipment becomes the game’s controller. The actions that the users make on the playground, directly affect what happens in the game, thereby integrating the real world with the virtual world like never before. The customizable, weather-resistant HYBRIDPLAY also fulfills the requirements of Design for All (DfA) which means that it is designed to be used by all people— kids, adults and seniors— regardless of ability. As an added bonus, HYBRIDPLAY is an open project. It uses Gamesonomy so kids, parents and educators can code their own games for personal or educational use.

Campaign levels have been created to encourage contributions.  The limited $99 Early Bird HYBRIDPLAY level units have almost all been claimed, but the $124 units are still readily available. A Reseller Pack which includes ten units is available for $1100. All contributions are much appreciated, regardless of dollar amount, big or small. 

About HYBRIDPLAY

HYBRIDPLAY consists of a team of media artists, open source culture supporters and educators who collectively have spent years working on projects that connect art with technology. The HYBRIDPLAY device connects the virtual video game world with the benefits of playing outside, thereby bringing out the best of both worlds. For more information, please visit http://www.hybridplay.com.

About L&C Media:

Crowdfunding Marketing & Consulting Agency.

Categories: SMB

SMB Holiday Security Tips

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 19:37

This holiday season thousands of shoppers will trust companies across the country with their credit and debit card information. But with the holiday cheer, shouldn’t come fear. Though cyber-attacks against businesses spike near the holidays, you can help your readers learn how to protect their small business. Why? Because….

Thirty-seven percent of respondents to the 2014 Symantec Small Business Holiday Survey report that customers have expressed concern about the security of their personal data.

Twenty-eight percent of small businesses plan to provide security training to all employees this holiday season.

According to Symantec’s 2014 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), more than 400 million identities were exposed through data breaches from October through December last year – which is more than double the 149 million exposed in the other nine months combined.

Symantec, a global leader in protecting small business security, recommends small businesses do the following:

Remove sensitive data from your network: SMBs will often store sensitive data that isn’t frequently accessed on a computer that either is not or only intermittently connected to the network. Removing this data from the network will help greatly reduce security risks.

Talk to third-party vendors and employees: Most SMBs rely on third-party vendors for help with a business need, like accounting or security, and these third-party vendors often have access to sensitive customer information. Small business owners should ask their vendors about how they are protecting corporate information and look for ways to limit unnecessary vendor access to sensitive data. Additionally, small businesses should train their employees on security best practices, like setting up strong passwords, backing up data and identifying phishing emails.

Multi-layered security: Today’s advanced threats call for multi-layered protection. SMBs should protect its data during prime holiday buying times, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with a security suite that goes beyond basic anti-virus, like Norton Small Business or Symantec Endpoint Protection.

Keep your OS updated: The holidays are a perfect time to update security software and operating systems. This will protect against recently discovered vulnerabilities, as well as the increased likelihood of attack that comes with the holiday shopping season. Norton Small Business updates systems automatically, as well as tracks and flags devices that are running older software versions

Categories: SMB

16 Tips for Mompreneur SMBs

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 15:58

In the United States, there are 10.6 million women-owned SMBs, generating $2.5 trillion in annual revenue, according to the Center for Women's Business Research. Included in that staggering number is the multi-talented mompreneur SMB—she’s not only running her household, but her small business operations too. With so many moms diving into entrepreneurship, the need for resources to create successful small businesses is in high demand.

Diana Ennen, President of Virtual Word Publishing has some ideas for moms to create their own SMB. Perhaps even the business of her dreams.

by Diana Ennen

Mompreneurs SMB Magic –  Tips to Create the Business of Your Dreams

A successful mompreneur SMB is one who has taken her passion and what she loves to do and been able to make a successful business out of it. It’s not always about the money (although that helps) it’s more about having a business you are passionate about and one that helps others as well.  Be proud of your mompreneur SMB title and the business and lifestyle you are achieving.

Tips to Running a Successful Home-Based Business:

Know that it takes commitment, dedication and passion.  There will be some rough days especially in the beginning, but it’s so worth it.  As long as you truly believe in your business and your services you’ll do great.

1         Do your research.  Read as much as you can and follow those in your industry who are doing it now.  There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel.  Social media has made it so much easier today.

2         Market aggressively.  And even when you get clients continue to market.  Too many make that mistake.  They get a client or two and then stop.  You want to always be out there so then you become known as the go-to person for those tasks.

3         Have a great website.  That says so much about your professionalism.  Most today will check out your site and social media before they hire you.  It’s well worth it to have a good one and with WordPress today, you can even create one yourself although I highly recommend getting it professionally done.

4         Brand yourself well.  It’s so easy to do by just having a consistent theme on your website, marketing, social media, proposals, etc.

5         Have a plan of action and stick to it.  So many go into business and just hope for the best.  Instead, plan for success.  Doesn’t need to be anything detailed, but write down your goals, how you are doing to do business, pricing, what you will offer, etc., and then write down actionable steps to achieve it.  Revisit this plan often.

6         While you are planning, implement a marketing plan and get really clear on who you want to work with and why it’s a good fit. It not only helps with marketing copy, but also provides confidence in your marketing as you know your own strengths and what you can do best.   (Want to see my marketing handout, email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you.  Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com

7         Don’t delay doing a marketing plan because you feel it’s too technical or time-consuming.  Just do it!  But remember a marketing plan is not a one-time do it and forget about it.  You want to constantly update yours.

8         Do marketing you love! Don’t market and do things you should be doing because “others” tell you so.  If you aren’t comfortable doing it, you won’t do it often. Find what works for you and of that on a consistent basis.

9         Marketing via social media - Get creative on social media.  Be engaged.  It’s about relationship building.  Don’t just promote.  I see so many and it’s sell, sell, sell.  Yet, I haven’t connected with them enough to know why I would buy from them.  It’s a huge turnoff.  Yes, you do want to promote and talk about your business, but be their friend first.

10       Reach out.  I absolutely love it when someone connects with me and I can tell they really get me and truly have been following me and know about my books, services, etc. But be real.  For example, if you endorse someone on Linkedin and you’ve never worked with them before and have no idea of their skillset, you send the wrong message and a huge red flag.

11      Be careful on social media. Remember that often times long before someone hires you, they are following you and seeing what you offer.  If you are constantly complaining about too much work, not knowing how to do something, or lousy clients, guess what?  They are going to run and FAST!

12      More is not always better on social media.  It looks awesome to have thousands of fans, but if they aren’t loyal fans, it’s not doing to do much good. 

13       My best secret for marketing success is to take one of my best articles,  develop a pitch and then sent it out to reporters, blog sites, etc. who might be interested.  It works! Plus, best yet is even months later you can hear back from someone who then has a need for your article and they want to connect.  

14       Be consistent in your marketing. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see.  Businesses go full steam ahead for a few weeks and then disappear for a few months and then go it again.  Some repeat this time and time again and what happens then is the next time you say, “I’m back.” No one cares.  OUCH! 

15       Enjoy the successes, big or small.  When you do that, you feel that winning feeling and want to do more of it.

16        And finally, be that valuable resource that clients simply can’t do without.  Make those deadlines (and even get them done before they need to be done), do a great job, and always make your clients feel like they are your only clients.  Yes, they know you have others.  However, when you make them feel special, it just feels great and they want to work with you more.

Know there will be good days and bad days, but work to make sure you have more of the good ones. Love what you do and have fun.  There’s so many types of businesses you can do at home, choose one that works for you.  Continue to grow and learn along the way.  It’s important to keep up and it’s never been easier with so many offering free webinars and teleseminars and training.  And finally you need to always market your business even when you have a full client base.

So what is the future bring for mompreneur SMBs? It’s just going to continue to get better and better.  Mompreneur SMBs have been around for a long time.  However, the difference today is that they are so widely known and respected and it’s commonplace today to hire one.  Plus, social media has just opened up so many doors and enabled them to connect with their potential clients and clients in a way that didn’t exist before.  Just do it!

Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing, http://www.virtualwordpublishing.com offering PR and marketing services and also hosts PR classes through www.prsuccessseries.com.  She has been featured on Fox Business News, CBS, CNN Radio, USA Today, Woman’s World, Entrepreneur Magazine, Home Business Magazine and so many more.  She’s also the author of six books on starting your own business including the best-selling VA the Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA, Contact her at Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com or @dianaennen for a free PR Informational Package.

Categories: SMB

How your SMB can Save on Energy this Winter

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 22:13

Energy costs can be SMB's largest single expense, especially with the arctic air sweeping across the nation today.

  By Kevin Stevens

Arctic air is sweeping across the nation and higher heating bills won’t be far behind. Unfortunately, these chilly winter months can hit small to mid-size businesses particularly hard because energy costs are often their largest single expense. The good news is, there are several simple steps business owners can take to save money, conserve energy and help their bottom line.

  • Shop Energy Suppliers: By shopping energy plans before the frigid temperatures settle in, SMBs can save big on their electric bills by locking in a fixed-rate for their energy. According to Choose Energy, the nation’s leading energy marketplace, businesses can lower their monthly heating bill by up to 32 percent just by switching suppliers. 
  • Use Smart Power Strips: Smart power strips are time-controlled power strips that can help cut energy consumption during hours of little use. Consider setting these strips to turn off for at least a few hours during closed times.
  • Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances: Break rooms and kitchens are popular areas in businesses. Make sure your appliances are Energy Star appliances to make your business more energy efficient. 
  • Substitute Incandescent for LED Light Bulbs: The initial upfront cost for LED bulbs is higher, but it does pay off in the long run. Incandescents can cost almost 400 percent more to operate than LEDs.
  • Monitor the Thermostat: Each degree lowered on the thermostat can save between 2 and 5 percent on the heating bill. Business owners should consider lowering the temperature during closed hours. To make it easy, programmable digital thermostats are available at most hardware stores for $25-$75.
  • Look for Leaks: By covering leaks, customers can earn up to 5-10 percent in savings. Business owners can check for leaks by looking for air drafts surrounding windows and doors. Drafts can be covered easily using spray foam, or for windows, shrink wrap.
  • Inspect Insulation: Insulation plays a big role in saving energy. Often times, just adding a few inches of insulation (instead of replacing everything) can be done quickly, providing long-lasting savings. Costs incurred with insulation may qualify for energy-improvement tax credit.

Just by following these simple tips, businesses will waste less energy and save more money, which will ultimately help their bottom line.

Kevin Stevens is product market manager, small-mid size business at Choose Energy, the nation’s leading energy marketplace. In October, Choose Energy announced a small-business offering in New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania where small to mid-size business owners can shop for providers online to help them save time and money with their electricity plans. To learn more about Choose Energy, visit www.ChooseEnergy.com.

Categories: SMB