February 5th, 2013 at 6:32 am
Valentine’s Day is a little over a week away and signals the start of the Spring holidays. Before we know it, it’ll be Easter, then Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and so on. Even though sales during these holidays pale is comparison to those of Christmas, they still present a profitable opportunity for your business.
If you want to know just how to take advantage of this particular holiday season, join Small Business Trends as they talk about this topic during a one hour Twitter chat. The chat will take place this coming Thursday, February 7th at 8pm ET. You’ll be able to ask your own questions and get real time answers. To participate, simply follow the hashtag #SMBValentine.
As an added bonus, several $25 gift cards, courtesy of FedEx Office, will be randomly given away throughout the chat. More information is available here. Hope to see you there!
January 25th, 2013 at 6:09 am
From now until March 4, 2012, BizSugar is giving you the chance to win one of three Brother Office prize suites valued at $500! All you have to do is take a few minutes to create your best brochure, mailer, poster, calendar or business card using the Brother CreativeCenter. After your design is done, follow their instructions to save your design and then simply submit that design here as your contest entry.
Three lucky winners will be chosen and each will receive:
- Brother Inkjet Color All-in-One Printer (MFC-J4510DW) – $199.99 value
- 2 Black Ink Cartridges (LC107-2PKS) – $63.49 value
- 3 Color Ink Cartridges (LC105-3PKS) – $54.99 value
- Desktop Labeler (PT-2730) – $99.99 value
- Labels, one and a half inch – TZe-231 (2 packs) – $37.98 value
- Labels, half inch – TZe-335 (2 packs) – $43.98 value
Be sure to read the complete official contest rules before entering. This contest is only open to U.S. residents. Enter the BizSugar Brother CreativeCenter “Back to Business” contest now! Good luck!
January 15th, 2013 at 6:54 am
Giving employees company laptops is a great way to allow for maximum productivity both in and out of the office. You don’t have to worry about software incompatibility issues – everyone will have the same make and model of computer. Employees who couldn’t work out of the office will now have the ability, regardless of whether they owned a computer in the past.
There are a few things that you have to do to your company laptops, however, before you can hand them over to your employees. By taking a few precautions now you can help avoid massive headaches and potentially expensive issues later on.
One of the first things you’ll have to do before giving your employees their new company laptops is install antivirus and antispyware protection software. On a personal computer, a virus could end up damaging personal documents or even compromise information like credit card or bank account numbers. On a business computer, a single virus puts your entire business at risk.
Likewise, spyware can greatly slow down a computer’s performance causing your employee’s productivity to decrease as a result. While you’re at it, set it to run automatically so employees don’t have to remember to run a scan.
Another must for any employee laptop is some type of firewall protection beyond the native tools offered by the Windows operating system. A firewall can help prevent unwanted intrusions onto the laptop via the Internet. Without firewall protection, malicious individuals could potentially access the information contained on the laptop or even use that laptop to remotely connect to your work network.
Care and Maintenance
Employees will also need to be instructed on the proper care and maintenance for all company laptop computers. Lessons should include information on both how to properly clean a laptop and how to take care of certain basic hardware and software issues by themselves. Teaching your employees how to take care of their laptop computers now will save you a lot of time and money in professional repair bills later on.
All employee laptop computers should also have some type of backup program installed that archives all information to a cloud-based storage system on a frequent basis, ideally nightly. There are two main benefits of a backup program. The first is that all work that an employee does on the laptop will be safe and secure in a secondary location, even if something physically happens to the laptop. If it’s lost, stolen or damaged, all of the employee’s hard work isn’t gone with it.
You should also provide some type of physical protection for employee laptop computers. This can include a protective outer case, a carrying case, a screen protector or some other type of alternative. Doing so will prevent damage later on.
You can’t just give an employee a laptop computer and expect everything to work out on its own. By taking a few precautions now, like making sure all of the necessary security software is already installed and teaching your employee how to properly care for their new device, you can be well on your way to the most productive workplace possible.
About The Guest Author: Dawn Altnam lives and works in the Midwest, and she enjoys following the business tech world. After furthering her education, she has spent some time researching her interests and occasionally blogs about StorageCraft.
Executive With Laptop Photo via Shutterstock
January 4th, 2013 at 6:14 am
A small business requires a lot of work in order to prove successful. You can use all the help you can get in order to manage the work and the employees better. Luckily for you, there are many useful tools available that will make your job much easier.
PandaForm is a great tool which can help you centralize all of your business data into one single database. You can also use it to create many different kinds of forms such as for orders, meetings and customer surveys. The program is also able to export and import the data it gathers and even share it with clients.
Basecamp is one of the leading project management solutions for a small business. It can be used to keep track of all projects going on within the company and also assign tasks to employees and various contractors.
It is important nowadays for a small business to have a substantial online presence, especially in social media. HootSuite allows for easy access and navigation of all major social media websites for multiple accounts.
Using similar logic as the previous entry, someone who manages a small business is also likely to have a personal phone, a work phone, office phone, several email accounts and even accounts for instant messaging software. With VoxOx, all of these various numbers and accounts are stored into one single place for easy access.
VerticalResponse is ideal for the small business manager that is looking to establish successful online marketing campaigns without too much hassle. It blends social media with emails and allows for scheduling of update releases up to a month in advance.
RescueTime is a very useful tool that can show a manager how he or any of his employees is wasting time. It tracks an impressive amount of statistics and shows just how much a person spends time on certain sites during work hours and it can help improve the efficiency of your small business, overall.
As its name suggests, Less Accounting is accounting software ideal for a small business. It comes packed with plenty of features yet it still has a friendly interface that is intuitive and easy to use. With it you can import or export bank accounts and contacts, keep track of expenses and exchange information with the company accountant.
MissRefund can save a lot of money for a small business which requires a lot of traveling by plane. Most people are not aware that they are entitled to a refund when they cancel a flight, even for a nonrefundable ticket. MissRefund can get you that money back, which averages to around $100 per ticket.
With the help of Demandbase, you will be able to keep track of who is visiting your small business’s website. It analyzes IP addresses, looks them up in databases and links them to the companies that use them. This way you will always know who has an interest in your business.
About The Guest Author: Vanessa Li is a part-time science fiction writer, consigned painter, and now is working for a lovely software company called Oursky who develops web and mobile applications for app designers, small business owners and every one.
December 27th, 2012 at 6:12 am
Few moments are as energizing in your business as sitting across from a potential client in a meeting that is going well. Your presentation came across smoothly, the client is engaged, they’re ready to buy…the only thing left is the price.
You quickly calculate a reasonable price in your head. You know that your competition couldn’t come close to your level of quality – and still you keep your prices in par with theirs.
You tell your prospect your price…and the conversation chills. They tell you that they were expecting to pay half of that. What should you do?
Discuss your competition
If what you are offering is genuinely better than the competition, don’t be afraid to highlight your competitors’ weaknesses. If your competitor has a string of bad reviews online, let your prospect know. If your competitors are using outdated tactics, explain that your unique strategies mean you spend their money twice as efficiently. Refer back to your case studies – and point to people or businesses that are testament to your level of skill.
Explain your scarcity
Don’t act too eager to work with a potential client. Tell them that to keep your level of quality high you only work with a limited number of people a month; spots are quickly filling and they have the opportunity to grab one. Demonstrating scarcity is critical to charging your desired rate – everyone wants gold, no one cares much for aluminum.
Be ready to walk away
Be willing to walk away if after a few days your prospect is still hesitant to about the price. The worst clients are the ones who start out worrying about the cost. They will likely never be satisfied with your work, demand instant results, and weasel away at your profit margin every chance they have.
Walking away might seem foolish. Why should you throw away an opportunity to grow your business? Walk away because there are bigger and better fish to fry; one’s that will contribute to the long-term growth of your company and not unbalance your resource allocation to a single small paying customer.
Handshake Photo via Shutterstock
About The Guest Author: Johann Beishline is the founder & CEO of Lezal Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @LeadersWin.
December 20th, 2012 at 6:46 am
Now that you have one business up and running, you may be itching to dive head first into something new. You may not realize it but you now have an advantage over other new business owners. You’ve been there and done that. From growing your first business, you know better now what to do and what not to do.
That‘s exactly what Brian Scudamore, Founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, also realized when he decided to venture into a second business, 1-888-WOW-1DAY! Painting. Brian found that he could use those valuable lessons he learned the first time around to benefit him this second go around. And now he’s sharing those tips with you!
Brian recently joined Anita Campbell for a podcast interview to talk about his experiences in starting multiple businesses. If you’d like to hear what he had to say, take a listen to the interview here.
Start a Business Key Photo via Shutterstock
December 14th, 2012 at 6:26 am
Lauren Freeman, President of the e-tailing group (a niche e-commerce consultancy), published a white paper to share the findings of consumer rationale for using chat. Studies were undertaken to determine the “who, what, where and why” behind consumers’ choosing to use an online chat feature.
Online retailers have much to be gained by implementing the best of the live chat experience into their business. It can be concluded that the six core reasons online shoppers choose to use live chat are multi-faceted:
Shoppers feel special and empowered when they use live chat
Strong expressed strong feelings of appreciation for chat’s availability to solve a problem when sought on their own terms. Knowing their problems and/or questions matter and that help is conveniently available is significant for many of the shoppers interviewed.
Shoppers can multi-task when chatting
Busy online shoppers embrace technology that saves them time; freeing them up to accomplish other things. Live chat uniquely puts shoppers in a position to problem solve while still focusing on other tasks at hand. Not having to stray from their computers or pick up the phone (especially in a work environment) were significant reasons chat was favored.
Chat provides instant gratification – getting questions answered in a timely fashion
For access any time of the day or night, live chat is hard to beat. These shoppers seek immediate answers to any and all questions and “get it done in 5 minutes versus having to call or go to a store.” Ultimately, the less time spent dealing with specific issues means more time for shoppers to do something else of their choosing.
Chat works in multiple scenarios from simple service questions to complex product queries
Pre-order benefits are varying as the information gathered beforehand not only answers a question but saves having to return products. Alternatively, post-order lends itself to a different set of questions that can be just as valuable for saving time. Queries might seek general information but also benefit shoppers addressing processing challenges, returns and even post-purchase support.
Speed, efficiency and an ability to utilize live chat for almost every issue imaginable cannot be under-estimated. From basic service concerns to questions on the most complex of products including high ticket merchandise, all seem to be fair game for consumers.
Chat allows consumers to avoid inconvenient or annoying alternative methods
The individuals that were interviewed outlined a multitude of reasons why chat is their preferred form of communication with the retailers they shop. Instantaneous responses in real-time are much preferable to the wait time of alternative email or phone options.
Chat is like “good old-fashioned” customer service
Several respondents suggested that, “chat is like having a salesperson right there when you need them — and not (right there) when you don’t.” These chat interactions reinforce that retailers actually have people in place who understand the product and have valuable information to impart. This harkens back to times prior to this technological age when such knowledge was the rule of retail.
These key insights gained from consumers that appreciate a positive live chat experience should be taken into consideration for every retailer’s growth strategy.
- Your live chat feature should be easy to find and easy to use.
- Be sure that your customers are treated with intelligence.
- Be helpful and don’t make the mistake of using chat technology as playing the role of a pushy salesperson.
Incorporate the best of traditional customer service interactions into your live chat feature to create a positive customer experience, enhance your company’s reputation and foster customer loyalty.
About The Guest Author: Patty Whelan is a seasoned copywriter with significant experience producing original content in all facets of online and offline marketing communications, with specialties in all aspects of Search Engine Optimization copy writing. Her work has covered a broad range of topics for varying industries and has been published in print and electronic media. The focus of her current work concentrates on the electronic payment processing industry, small businesses for Merchant Express.
Online Customer Support Photo via Shutterstock
December 5th, 2012 at 6:46 am
When you’re an online marketer, it becomes a necessity to keep adding new angles when it comes to engaging your readers with content. This keeps your readers happy and looking forward to more. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – just a few imaginative twists and angles now and then are enough to keep the blood flowing.
1. Highlight Words And Phrases
When you want your readers to pay special attention to funny bits, informative bits and quotes, make sure you highlight them. If possible, use a different font for quotes – perhaps even a slightly larger font size. Try to present your top keywords in italics or in bold, to let your reader know that the content is relevant to their search. The extra interest you take in this area will impress your readers and keep them engaged.
2. Include Lists Within Posts
A list post need not be separate from a regular text post. You can go ahead and include a descriptive list within a text post, as part of the content. Just make sure it flows well together when you present it. By doing this, you can increase the value of your post to the reader, and also keep them engaged for a longer time.
3. Mix Up Media
Start your post as a regular text post and include a couple of related videos within it. Or, create an interesting infographic and link hotspots within it to videos, text posts or links. Write a post with a lot of images in it, or include a slideshow within a post. Just be imaginative – do what it takes to keep your reader hooked. However, don’t go overboard with too many media aspects and confuse the reader.
4. Play Truth Or Dare
At the end of an engaging post, throw out a challenging question to your readers. Ask them to be honest while providing their answer. You can make your question controversial or slightly objectionable. Alternatively, dare the readers to challenge a popular opinion or even write a response to your controversial post.
5. Include Surveys And Polls
Write an informative post on a good industry-related topic and open up a related survey. You don’t always have to offer a reward for survey participation – just mentioning the names of the participants on your blog will do. Your readers will love the fact that their opinion matters to you and might even have some relevance to their favorite niche.
6. Create ‘Serial’ Posts
Take inspiration from TV shows and comic books that take a single story and expand on it. Similarly, try to create a series of posts, ending each one on a cliffhanger. Your reader simply must wait for the next post in order to get the rest of the story. Do this every now and then – perhaps once every couple of months. This kind of strategy will keep them hooked and checking back for new supplements.
7. Use Innovative Images
Find tools using which you can create amusing avatars and digital caricatures. Use callouts to insert deprecating statements or humorous asides, and insert the pictures into your content. Insert them wherever you’re stating an opinion that might seem a tad too controversial or farfetched to your audience. This lets them know you don’t take yourself too seriously all the time.
8. Throw In Additional Elements
Enhance your content and add additional value to the information you provide via charts, graphs and quotes. Many people are visually driven – pure-text posts won’t hold them for long. By interspersing your content with additional graphical value, you can attract and retain everyone in your audience.
9. Invite Your Readers To Contribute Content
Open the doors to competitive collaboration. Many top blogs are using content created by their readers. Get your readers to contribute their thoughts and opinions in any form – videos, audio files, slides, images – then collate, curate and present the content on our blog. This helps you to give your audience a voice. It helps your audience to
10. Explore Trendy Topics
Take a break from informative posts to explore a trend or two now and then. A trendy topic can be anything that’s happening in your industry right now that sparks interest and discussion. You can explore the hype around a new product or technological innovation. Or, you can focus on a celebrity who’s creating waves in your niche and open the floors for reader comments. Anything goes.
11. Work Your Titles To Create Interest
Your post title is the first thing that your readers will see. Grab their interest with your title from the word GO. While it’s true that your title should be in keeping with your content, try and experiment with unique phrasing. Make your titles slightly controversial, thought-provoking, and a little confusing if possible, without detracting from your post. This helps add a unique angle while provoking reader curiosity and interest.
About The Guest Author: Gagan Deep is a freelance content writer working for Invesp, who writes expert articles on how ecommerce ventures can achieve the best online conversion rates through excellent landing page designs.
Businessman Reading Online Photo via Shutterstock
November 23rd, 2012 at 6:35 am
Your chief information officer (CIO) may be in the loop about the latest cloud support services and offerings, but how about the company’s CEO? What many don’t realize is that technology consultants often recommend that business leaders who choose to place their data in the cloud, or use cloud-based applications, allow third parties to manage it.
In addition to giving you the ability to improve vendor relationships, cloud support services can help streamline service management, support company growth and give your IT employees the opportunity to focus on revenue-related projects.
Additional advantages of cloud support services include:
A focus on business outcomes. With the help of cloud support service providers, you can ensure service that’s based on the goals of the business, not its technical capabilities (or lack thereof). When you partner with such technology consultants, the cloud services you receive are devised to optimally contribute to the company’s strategic goals.
Cost savings. Using a cloud support service provider is less expensive than hiring in-house employees who will require technical training. The service provider has an array of experts on staff to tend to your organization’s needs at any given moment, allowing you to free up your staff, keep the company moving forward and continue to focus on core competencies.
Improved vendor relationships. You and your IT staff are busy focusing on the bottom line. Having to manage a multi-vendor environment can shift this focus for hours or days, which the company may not have the ability to spare. Technology consultants can help manage such IT operations and ensure better vendor integration and harmonization with your own hardware and software, so you and your team can remain productive, efficient and on course.
More control. Cloud support services give you and your IT department the ability to observe and manage the support delivery process during every step so you can make adjustments as needed.
A CEO has many roles, one of them being an agent of change. By partnering with a technology consultant, you can use cloud-based applications to help your company and employees integrate the changes needed to become truly innovative.
About The Guest Author: Prosum Technology Services provides IT consulting, cloud support services and IT staffing in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Woman’s Hand Offering Cloud Photo via Shutterstock
November 13th, 2012 at 6:07 am
The holidays are just around the corner and we want to help you get your small business prepared. This Wednesday, November 14, join our sister site, Small Business Trends, for an informative Twitter chat. For one hour, starting at 8pm EST, topics such as running holidays promotions and specials, buying employee and client gifts, ideas for greeting cards, store banners for the holidays, and shipping packages during the holiday rush will be covered.
All you need to do to participate is follow the hashtag #SMBHolidayPrep on Twitter at the date and time specified. You’ll also have the opportunity to win one of several $25 FedEx Office gift cards to be given out during the chat too!
More information is available here. See you then!
Christmas Gift Photo via Shutterstock