Archive for July, 2012

US imposes sanctions on Iran oil industry

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Obama administration warns against ‘defiance’ as Treasury department also places sanctions on China’s Bank of Kunlun and Iraq’s Elaf Islamic Bank

India – power crisis

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The lights have gone out because generators have to import costly coal and gas to supply and customers who enjoy capped tariffs

Mountain Lion Offers New Features for Small Business Customers

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Apple has just released the latest version of its OS, Mountain Lion, which includes a whole host of features that may be helpful for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including a system-wide sharing application, a new alerts system, and a gatekeeper platform for improved cyber-security.

Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion includes changes to the Notification Center, which streamlines alerts from different programs like Mail, Calendar, Messages, and even third party apps. Having all alerts come from one notification center could have an impact on productivity, since users wouldn’t have notifications and distractions coming from several different programs at the same time.

Another time saver could be Mountain Lion’s system-wide Sharing application, which can make it easier for companies to share files and media content from one centralized platform. The system can also integrate with social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo, so companies that use social media marketing can make sharing easier and more streamlined.

Apple has also gotten rid of iChat in the new OS, and replaced it with a new Messages app, which people can use to communicate with anyone using an iPhone, iPad, or other mobile devices with iMessage. So companies that switch over to Mountain Lion can easily communicate with other employees, collaborators, and clients while they’re on the go, which could prove to be exceedingly helpful due to the large number of businesses that have begun using iPads and other mobile devices.

And finally, Apple’s new Gatekeeper platform aims to make downloading software from the internet safer, especially for companies that don’t have an excess of IT resources. Gatekeeper gives users more control over what apps are installed, and helps to protect users from installing malicious apps and other software from any sites on the web.

Though most businesses have stuck with Windows operating systems through the years, the new OS from Apple could at least be worth a second look. Mountain Lion includes over 200 new features, though many are smaller changes that some Mac users might not even notice.

The software update is currently available for $19.99 from the Mac App Store.

From Small Business Trends

Mountain Lion Offers New Features for Small Business Customers

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Drax meets interim profit expectations

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The company says it is now confident it can push ahead with investments of up to ?700m required to enhance biomass-based combustion capacity

ENRC secures Congo mine licence for $102m

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The London-listed group can proceed with production at a processing plant it acquired in January in a $1.25bn settlement with First Quantum

Bootstrapping a Global $7M Software Company from Kolkata, India

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Those who know me know that I am a strong advocate of bootstrapping. Of course, it’s not always feasible, but when it is, as in the case of Pallav Nadhani, CEO of FusionCharts, I believe every entrepreneur should bootstrap.

bootstrapping

Pallav was born in the small Indian town of Bihar where he lived until the age of 15. After that, he lived in Kolkata with his father, a man with an entrepreneurial spirit of his own. Pallav’s father had started his own Web design company and Pallav helped out. He’d gotten his first computer at age nine and used it to teach himself Basic and C++. While helping out at his father’s Web design company, Pallav “picked up a few different Web technologies.”

One day, while browsing the Web, he discovered ASPToday.com, which was published by Wrox Publication. The idea for FusionCharts came when Pallav noticed that desktop applications didn’t look as good as Web applications, and came up with an idea to change Excel’s charting to a “webified interface.”

He described his idea in a tutorial article that ASPToday.com published. Pallav earned $1,500 for that article and used it to fund what would grow into a multi-million dollar operation with close to 500,000 people using its products.

Many people who read Pallav’s article started contacting him. They wanted to know if he could customize some aspect of his tutorial. So, he decided to create all of the requested customizations and use them as the foundation on which to build a product that he could sell. Because he didn’t know how much he should charge, Pallav started out only charging $15 because that was the minimum amount that a payment gateway he had signed up with would accept. That was in 2001.

Once Pallav’s first customers deemed the product a good one, Pallav put it up on a website and started marketing it by writing articles about “why people should not be using outdated charts in Excel when there was a better technology.” He had no money at the time, so guerilla PR – writing articles that indirectly promoted his product – was the only option available to him.

FusionCharts gained traction with the help of recommendations from clients whom Pallav helped integrate his application into the product for free, only charging them a licensing fee. In return, they wrote recommendations that led to more clients. Pallav continued to write guest posts. He also visited Web forums and talked about the features of his product.

Because one of the clients for whom Pallav provided free integration services had a wide reach, Pallav’s business grew steadily early on. He launched the first version of his product in October 2002. By March of 2003, the company had earned $10,000. In 2003, the company earned $100,000; in 2004, $300,000; and in 2005, FusionCharts earned $750,000 in revenue and so on.

Increased earnings allowed Pallav to start paying for online advertisements, which helped the company to grow even faster. By 2006, FusionCharts had almost earned $1 million and had a staff of 10 people.

Of course, pricing has come a long way. Where Pallav once charged $15 dollars for a product that’s designed for developers who can integrate charting with software applications, he now charges from $199 to $13,000 for the reseller license. Enterprise licensing can cost as much as $100,000.

FusionCharts has another product that’s designed for SharePoint users who require visualization on the platform. The fee for that is $1,299 per server. The third product is for non-technical users who need visualization that’s better than what they can get with PowerPoint. For that, the charge will be $49 per user.

The introduction of the iPad presented Pallav with a serious challenge because FusionCharts’ products require Flash and Apple doesn’t support it. Pallav’s answer was to partner with one his competitors to create a hybrid product that works on iPad, iPhone, Android, PCs and the Web, a strategic move that gave FusionCharts a big boost in business and, consequently, revenue.

Today, FusionCharts is a $7 million enterprise with a global clientele, many of them Fortune 500 companies. Pallav has increased his team to 60 people and increased its product offering to a total of 14. In 2011, FusionCharts opened a location in Bangalore.

Pallav has no interest in financing because, as he puts it, financing would not help him grow at this point. He runs a lean operation that for the seven years of its existence ran at 80% profit margin.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a young man who started his company with $1,500.

Boot Photo via Shutterstock

From Small Business Trends

Bootstrapping a Global $7M Software Company from Kolkata, India

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Total in Kurdistan deal with Marathon

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Move entails the French oil group acquiring a 35% stake in two blocks in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq and becoming a licence operator

BP chief on defensive as earnings plunge

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Oil group reports a disappointing 35% drop in profits caused by falling production, a big writedown of US shale gas assets and tax issues in Russia

Bulgarian FinMin Vows to Raise Pensions in Election Year

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Retirement pensions in Bulgaria will be raised by 7 to 10% in 2013, Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov stated on Tuesday.

“Currently, we are not discussing whether there would be an increase in retirement pensions, but how to do it,” Djankov said, as cited by local media.

He clarified that two options are being discussed – an increase of all pensions by an equal percentage or a progressive increase that would be more beneficial for those who receive smaller pensions.

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How to Use Social Media to Establish Trust

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Life as a small business owner is all about trust. Trust is how we make consumers feel comfortable purchasing from us instead of big box stores and its how we get them to keep coming back. And through the world of social media, we have a slew of new ways to develop trust in our customers’ eyes to make them feel good about our business. But are you taking advantage of them?

Below are six ways SMBs can use social media to establish trust with customers.

1. Turn customers into allies

Social media works to break down the invisible wall that has existed for too long between business owners and the people they serve. Through blogs and social networks businesses are able to talk to consumers more intimately, to share information without selling, and to seek their customer’s advice on matters related to their business. Those that take advantage of this can turn customers from marks to allies. By bringing customers deeper into your business and giving them a sense of investment in your company, you earn their trust and loyalty. You show them you value their opinion and how important they are to your business. As a result, they become part of your company forever.

2. Build up online reviews

More and more studies are showing the correlation between online reviews and consumer trust. For example, last year a 15 Miles survey found that 25 percent of consumers admitted ratings and review information made their decision for them about whether or not to make a purchase. It didn’t influence it. They didn’t just consider it. It made it. And those numbers are going up, not down.

If you’re a company who has not taken advantage of the review revolution, the simple truth is you’re going to be passed over for a competitor who has. One of the most powerful things social media has done is to help make important purchasing information more available to the consumers looking for it. As an SMB, establishing trust means soliciting reviews from customers and vendors, as well as managing and responding to the reviews that you do get. Build reviews into your sales cycle and encourage customers to get vocal about your business. And don’t worry about hiding from negative reviews; as long as you handle them correctly, they actually help your trust and credibility.

3. Establish social proof

The same studies that are showing the relationship between trust and online reviews, are showing that customers expect to be able to find certain information about your brand on the Web. If they don’t, it makes them wonder why it’s not there. And not in a good way.

Just like consumers want to see reviews about your business they also want to see that you have a Web site and a dedicated online presence. They also want to see that you have a Facebook page. Or a Twitter account. Or a blog. Heck, they want to see you commenting on the same blogs they’re commenting on. All of this acts as social proof, making you look more “legitimate” in the eyes of wary customers and building your trust levels. The expectation in today’s market is that businesses are using these platforms. And if you’re not, or if you are but they can’t find it, they drawn their own conclusions as to why. The more visible you are to customers and the more places they can find you, the more they trust your brand.

4. Follow up after purchase

Social media offers additional customer touch points, which again works to build trust in the brand. Whether it’s an after-purchase email message explaining features or set up, or a tweet to check on someone’s experience, the more you can use social media as a way to follow up and check in on customers, the more you’re going to show yourself as a company worth their dollars. And because monitoring can be automated through tools and alerts, this becomes a painless way for brands to stay in the loop with their customers.

5. Respond well to feedback

Hey, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies out there. When you enter the world of social media you’re going to find customers singing your praises and customers wanting to take you to task. By responding calmly and openly to customers who have less-than-stellar things to say about your brand, you show them that you value your opinion and that you’re a company not afraid to take and respond to criticism.

6. Bring value

Last week I shared how simply starting a company blog makes you a better business owner. The core of that post is that by solving your customers’ problems, both big and small, it makes you more aware of their needs and how your company can help. The other side of the coin is that by providing content and showing customers you understand their struggles, you build trust with them. Social media helps businesses build more loyal customers by putting the focus on education, not selling. And the result of that is we trust the brand helping us to solve our problems, not just pad their wallets.

As a small business owner, your business relies on trust more than a larger business. If your customers don’t trust that you can solve their needs and that you’ll be around in the morning, they’re going to seek out other companies. Thankfully with social media we have even more touchpoints to build trust with customers.

Image credit: johnkwan / 123RF Stock Photo

From Small Business Trends

How to Use Social Media to Establish Trust

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