Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Google and Twitch: Why You Need A Video Content Marketing Plan Now

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

google and twitch

Think you don’t need a video content marketing plan now? Think again. The recent development of Google buying livestreaming service Twitch for $1 billion is a red flag that video marketing is going to explode. So knowing that - Google and Twitch – what does it really mean for marketers? Let’s explore.

What is Twitch?

Twitch is a leading video platform and community for gamers, with more than 45 million visitors per month. Twitch connects gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch and chat from everywhere they play. While details of this livestreaming move by Google will likely be revealed in September, Google’s YouTube division is reportedly in charge of the acquisition.

So why does this merging of Google and Twitch mean you need to get a video content marketing plan in place now?

Livestreaming Is Advertising Gold

You don’t have to be a livestreaming gamer to realize the move to acquire Twitch is greater than a love for global game play.

As reported by VentureBeat’s GamesBeat, the Google and Twitch deal underscores the value of live Internet streaming and the rise of competitive gaming as a spectator sport — something that draws millions of viewers, offering prize pools that surpass pro golf’s marquee events, and providing a multibillion dollar opportunity for advertisers.

Mobile Advertising + Video Gaming + Livestreaming = Millennials

The youngest millennials (age 18-24) rated their mobile phones as indispensable to their day-to-day existence (96%), that’s way higher than TV (54%), Internet access (88%) or their even a toothbrush (93%), according to a study (PDF) from Bank of America on Trends in Consumer Mobility.

If a business wants to get noticed by millennials, positioning ads on livestreaming platforms is the way to go. Millennials are the masters of multitasking, so they can watch videos while surfing ads without missing a text.

Video Ads Are Skyrocketing

In a new report from BI Intelligence, a research service of Business Insider, online video ad revenue will reach nearly $5 billion in 2016, up from $2.8 billion in 2013, while TV ad revenue will decline by nearly 3% per year during the same time period. Video ad views exploded in 2013, topping over 35 billion views in December, averaging over 100% year-over-year monthly growth during the year.

If you want to get the attention of millennials, keep in mind millennials are more likely than any other age groups to use mobile phones as their only Internet-enabled device. According to stats from comScore, a leading Internet technology company that measures what people do as they navigate the digital world, 18% of millennials are mobile only Web users, compared to only 5% of people ages 35-54.

Video Content Marketing Is Happening – Now!

Waiting to get mobilized with a video content marketing strategy is a mistake. Video content marketing is happening now.

Video offers a spectacular way for companies to target messages to key groups fast, allowing everyone from game enthusiasts to Web surfers to engage with dynamic, vibrant, sharable video content. Whether creating targeted video ads for key gaming platforms or robust testimonials and tutorials for display on your website, video is the great wide open for advertising, marketing and branding campaigns today.

Exploring and determining the right video content initiatives for you is an exercise well worth embracing – now. There’s YouTube, Vimeo, Vine and more platforms to promote and share your message.

Video content marketing and effective video advertising is on the rapid accent – don’t watch it leave you behind.

Image: Twitch

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Is Your Spouse Compatible with Your Business?

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

spouse compatible with your business

Is your spouse compatible with your business and entrepreneurship? Your startup? Your plans to grow your existing business?

No – it’s not a trick question. And no, I’m not an expert.

But my wife and I have been married 44 years, including more than a decade of scraping to support a startup, and sending five kids through college. So maybe I know something about this. But it doesn’t take 44 years’ experience to know that balancing building your own business and having a life while doing so can be tough. Even downright acrobatic in some cases. But it may be the most important acrobatic feat you ever accomplish.

Doing it successfully means knowing, or being able to quickly discern, answers to some key questions. Here are a few:

1. Does Failure Lead To “I Told You So?”

Comedian Rita Rudner says she never tells her husband she told him so. She adds, “I just hum it” and everybody laughs. Everybody knows that tune. Is that what you’re going to hear if you fail?

If so, that adds an order of magnitude to the risk of starting, running, or growing your own business.

2. Can Your Spouse Handle Uncertainty?

Before we go further with this, let’s clarify – waffling over whether you’re committed to a relationship isn’t an uncertainty anyone’s comfortable with. On the other hand, waffling over a new business, whether to start, when to pivot, how to grow. . .that’s everyday life with an entrepreneur.

We don’t get to know anything. We’re always using the best guess. We dabble constantly with failure, possibilities, and what-if. Uncertainty, the classic state of not knowing, can be a real problem.

How does your spouse feel about that?

For most of the 1980′s and half of the 1990′s my wife and I lived without knowing for sure where the money was coming from three months ahead. In our case, it was consulting, mostly, some early products. . .so we had to get used to the state of not knowing. As I look back, it took two of us together. We had mortgages to pay, and the kids needed shoes.

There is nothing wrong with being a security seeker. That need for knowing where the money is coming from is a legitimate need, stronger in some than in others. But it’s not compatible with building a new business. You live with uncertainty. And in a relationship – that’s two of you living with uncertainty.

Real-life logistics come into play here, too, in some extreme cases. Sometimes, pursuing a business means moving across the country, or around the world. It can mean uprooting yourself and your family for what can seem like little more than a wing and a prayer. If your spouse is a security-seeker, they may not deal with those seismic shifts well.

Looking at your partnership with some detachment at this point can be an invaluable attitude — and save you lots of fallout later.

3. Can Your Spouse Handle Being The Sole Breadwinner?

In the first flush of the excitement of falling in love — with a person or a business idea — most of us believe we can endure anything the fates throw us – literally. But living on canned soup and ramen gets old after a while (translation: a couple of days). And having only one income to carry the family can be a recipe for disaster, even if that income is steady and stable.

Some people are emotionally fine with being the one that everything financially rests upon, at least temporarily – and some are not.

There’s no denying, like it or not, that a spouse who doesn’t buy into the dream of entrepreneurship adds to the risk. And the last thing you want is to deliberately court additional risk.

If you start to get “vibes” that this is the case — that despite their best intentions, your spouse doesn’t want to be the “be-all and end-all” of your bank accounts for a while — take this as a prudent message of caution. Don’t leap off the “edge” too soon. Keep your job. (Gulp, if you still have one.)

4. Can You Consider Your Spouse Your Business Partner?

It goes without saying that the answer to this depends on whom you talk to. Some spouses take a co-owner role seriously. Some are creative energy sources for the fledgling startup. On the other hand, some mates keep a hands-off attitude and an arm’s-length distance. And more than a few entrepreneurs truly believe that their business is their baby, and will sink or swim on their efforts alone.

You’ll hear opinions that range from “sit down together every week and evaluate how things are going” to “don’t bother your spouse with all the grisly details.”

So what’s the answer for you?

Start with candid honesty as the default case, and then match the timing and level of detail to your relationship. Maybe you don’t want to torture your spouse with those massive swings of optimism and pessimism several times daily, as the future hinges on the smallest detail. But don’t let reality be a sudden surprise.

If the grocery cart needs to be a little thin this week (or this month or this quarter), or the savings account has to dip below your comfort level, both of you need to deal with it at about the same time.

Surprises heighten the negative. Yes, the emotions will still be there. Yes, there may be a few (or many) tough times of trying to eke out a decent life while trying to also run a decent business. But there’s a reason relationship counselors talk so much about communication – it works – and lack of it simply doesn’t.

5. Can Your Spouse Tell You When It’s Time To Fold?

Once again, this answer is different for every relationship. Entrepreneurs are our culture’s version of pioneers — the cowboys/cowgirls of this century. They’re romanticized as mavericks. They’re looked up to as the innovative, the brave, the ones who break “out of the box” and pursue their dreams no matter what.

But sometimes you can do everything right, and the business still fails miserably. Or maybe worse, it doesn’t fail, but it doesn’t really succeed, either. It bubbles and perks along slowly but without signs of imminent “takeoff” or of paying its own way in any foreseeable future.

So what then?

Yes, it’s wonderful if your spouse gives you carte blanche. It’s terrific if, as my wife did, they say, “Go for it.” But it’s also good to have a spouse who’ll be honest enough to tell you if things don’t look like they’re going to pan out. Or if the cost for this entrepreneurial freedom may be too high. As one of my colleagues said after walking away from a new opportunity after six months, “It’s much easier to get a new job than a new spouse.”

Call it a “make or break” factor – but ignore it at your own peril.

If you’re starting a business and living a relationship, it’s worth knowing where the “line” is. Know how far you and your partner and/or family should expect to bend before it’s too far, and you’re able to call a halt with a clear conscience. As the old song says, “Know when to fold ‘em.”

It’s a priceless form of success in itself. Don’t overlook this solid common sense attribute. It can save your sanity, your marriage – and even your life.

Spouse Photo via Shutterstock

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improveit! 360 Serves Software in The Cloud

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

improveit! 360

If you’ve visited a home improvement site or done business with a home improvement company, you may already have experienced this company’s services. improveit! 360 builds customer relationship management (CRM) software for the home improvement industry.

At one time that software was actually installed into a clients computer system. Today it’s delivered via mobile apps and through the cloud. Read more about this 30 employee firm from Columbus, OH, in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE THE BUSINESS OFFERS?

CRM software for the home improvement industry.

In fact, the company says it’s built its own business management platform. It’s based on Salesforce and it helps home improvement companies track leads, schedule appointments, manage jobs, and report on their activities. The software integrates with a client’s existing software whether delivered through mobile apps or in the cloud.

THE ONE THING THE BUSINESS IS KNOWN FOR?

More than just CRM.

While that certainly is what the company sells, their mission is whole lot bigger. The company also provides education to the company’s users and prospects to help them run their businesses better.

improveit! 360 Director of Marketing Justin Showers explains:

“We create content and distribute it to everyone with articles, blog posts, videos, webinars, and more on such topics as sales, marketing, business management, and operations. We give away what a lot of other companies charge for by taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience of our team. And we’re not a bunch of stuffy software developers – you should see our Meet the Team page or our Limbo contest video – we go the extra mile to give our customers what they need, make them smile, and help them succeed.”

HOW THE BUSINESS GOT STARTED?

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Basically, improveit! 360 is the offshoot of another successful business. When Big 50 Remodelers of Columbus, OH, needed a better system to run their business, the company created its own. The result was a CRM software product that worked so well, other companies started to ask whether they could buy it to manage their own businesses.

You don’t get a clearer signal than that!

THE COMPANY’S BIGGEST WIN?

Moving to the cloud.

It was 2009 when improveit! 360 said goodbye to physical software installations and migrated its software service to the cloud – and they never looked back!

Showers says:

“This gave us the chance to offer this solution to everyone with Internet access. With no software to buy or upgrade, i360 was easier to use, easier to update, and faster to improve. We take input from our users and apply the most popular changes several times a year.”

INTERESTING TIDBIT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?

NERF battles!

Yeah, you heard us right. Hey, all that stress from making a popular software application has to come out somewhere, right?

Showers again explains:

“We enjoy our Nerf guns. Nearly everyone has a Nerf gun a collection of foam darts at their desk. It’s not unusual for a late afternoon battle to erupt and for darts to be flying through the air. And even if someone is in a meeting, a few darts might get launched over the wall, into the conference room.”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program.

Image: improveit! 360

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How to Find Perfect Experts to Interview on Your Website

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

find experts to interview

Featuring niche influencers on your business website has quite a few important benefits:

  • First and foremost, it sends trust signals to your readers: Seeing a well-know face featured on your site will encourage more visitors to trust your brand as well.
  • Secondly, it engages those influencers with your brand encouraging them to share your content to their social media channels.
  • Lastly, it makes it easier to build relationships online as you can always refer to the experts that chose your blog was great enough to get featured there.

You’d be surprised how many of those busy people would be willing to contribute to your website. Because every opportunity to get featured works well for their branding (there simply cannot be too much publicity right?) But where do you start? How do you find experts with original insights in your industry that will also be willing to take that relationship to a new level?

Over time, using trial and error, you will discover and perfect your own methods. But to help illustrate the general idea, I’ll break the process down here.

How to Find Experts to Interview

Start on websites you are reading regularly. Write them down, and then move on to related sites where those you’ve identified have contributed, or people who have contributed for them. Find out where they have been commenting and reading, or check out their public social media accounts to find out where they are sharing content from.

find experts to interviewThe following tools can help expand your search if you have a specific article idea you need a professional insight into, or if you’re stuck looking for some fresh ideas for your website:

  • HARO is the most obvious source of expert opinions. In most cases, you are sure to get dozens of contributors from a single request (make sure to select the best ones and build your relationship further – don’t stop at just featuring them.)
  • MyBlogU (disclosure: this is my website) is a newer platform geared more towards bloggers than reporters. One of the cool features of it is that you keep track of all the received pitches and ideas, so you can return to them at any time in the future (even if they don’t seem too related to what you are going to write about at the moment). You can open a brainstorm request to get random ideas or a group interview request to generate a complete article with lots of selected quotes in it.
  • BuzzSumo is an awesome content search engine. You can limit your search by “Interviews” and show the most recent ones to discover more experts who are willing to respond to an interview request. Here’s a sample search result.

Crafting The Perfect Approach

Using the tools above, create an “outreach” plan that will accomplish your goals:

  • Get brainstorming help. Oftentimes just seeing what niche influencers work in will give you loads of content ideas.
  • Gather ideas on how to get more out of each contact. Just getting a quote from a niche influencer is a waste of time. You should see many more ways to engage an expert in the life of your brand. See if they may be interested in becoming regular columnists, a brand ambassador, or an active endorser.
  • #BeEverywhere. Find those experts all over the Web (Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.) and add them everywhere using new circles and lists in order to keep track. This way, you’ll be able to really get close to important people in your niche and interact with them on a regular basis.

find experts to interview

Make a little list of details for each influencer in a spreadsheet:

  • What do they write about most?
  • What seems to be their biggest interest?
  • What tone do they use?
  • How often do they do interviews?
  • Who has interviewed them?
  • Can they interview you as well?
  • Where else do they contribute and how often?
  • Are they working on, or have they worked on, a major project recently?
  • How can you help each other to co-promote?
  • Are they speaking at, or have they spoken at, a major industry event?

Some people wait to gather these details until after they have made contact, but it’s more useful to have it on hand. Besides, if they say no initially, they might say yes in the future to something else like becoming a regular columnist. Having those details will come in handy.

Make Your First Step Sweet and Short

Niche micro-celebrities get a lot of requests, mail and feedback. Many will take the time to skim emails and, if the messages are too long, they may be deleted or put aside. Your job is to give those influcenrs relevant information as succinctly as possible. Your message to them should be between 3 and 4 sentences long. Short, very well personalized, sentences work best.

Introduce yourself and what you do quickly and include a link to your website. Tell them what you want to interview them about, and have a specific topic in mind. Give them a date and time you are thinking of conducting the interview (unless it’s a written q&a). But tell them you are open to other days that work better for their schedule if necessary. Inviting them for a Twitter interview is another option as well.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up!

Some experts will respond, others won’t. Most will at least provide some kind of follow up, whether it is a yes or a no. If it takes awhile, don’t get discouraged. Remember how many messages these people get on a daily basis. It could take them a while to respond to yours.

Once you get a positive response, you can be less succinct in your communication. Use some of your social media channels to thank them publicly as well. You may also want to work out things like links, projects they want to promote, etc.

find experts to interview

Checklist!

Here’s a quick checklist my old friend and team member Phil Turner helped me with:

  • Find people who have unique viewpoints, rather than just those who will regurgitate the same old topic.
  • Prepare open-ended questions that allow interviewees to expound on each one.
  • Beware of off-putting questions like, “What makes you qualified to answer this?” Instead, phrase it as, “Please outline your own experience in this area.”
  • Narrow down the focus of the interview.  The best interviews are highly focused (i.e. SEO for high street retailers rather than SEO today).
  • Promotion is easier if you have high-profile interviewees because each one will promote their interview.
  • Try to incorporate some visual stimulation. Perhaps an infographic or a video that you request comments on. This makes promotion easier, too.
  • Re-connect with your interviewees often to make sure you are developing that relationship into a mutually beneficial partnership.

Conclusion

To find experts to interview is an involved process – but surprisingly simple.

More importantly, it adds that “influencial voice” to your branding efforts that could really sky rocket your website and social media presence (when done right, as always).

What has worked for you when you’ve needed to find experts to interview?

Interview Concept Photo via Shutterstock, Questions Photo via Shutterstock, Checklist Photo via Shutterstock

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Get Out of the Dark Ages: A New Type of Business Internet Connection

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Sponsored Post

ethernet over t1

You look at your outdated laptop with disgust as you try to work, only to find it takes FOREVER to do anything. It ran fine five years ago when it was the latest-greatest. Now, it boots up slowly and runs even slower with all the RAM-hungry software you want to use on it today.

That’s the problem with staying in the dark ages. Maybe you are saving money by not updating your laptop to a newer generation model, but you sacrifice performance. And in the end it could cost you money because of slowness, freezes, crashes and unexpected failure.

Your business Internet connection can be viewed similarly to that older laptop. If you choose old tech over new tech when it comes to your connectivity, you are missing out on all of the benefits.

When you are considering broadband connections for your business, the following question may pop up, “I have been quoted by my local phone company for a T1 line and a Metro Ethernet provider for Ethernet services — which do I choose? Aren’t they the same?”

Really, the only thing about the two technologies that appears similar is that they carry higher speeds than standard Internet connections.

Yet, from the technology standpoint there is a clear winner here. It’s the new technology. To see why the new technology is a winner over the other, you simply need to understand what they are.

Let me explain first by talking about the products themselves. Then I will get into advantages and disadvantages, before giving my conclusion.

What is a T1?

A T1 circuit is a dedicated (which in this sense means “not shared”) point-to-point line from your business’ network to the telephone company’s central office and then in some cases to the Internet provider, which could also be your phone company. A T1 line can also be used to link shared data between offices as well.

The T1 will require specialized equipment at each location, that you must have the phone company install. This line can carry data at a rate of approximately 1.5 Mbps. You can bond T1′s together to increase the bandwidth to roughly 1.5Mbps for each additional line.

Mbps stands for “megabits per second.” Notice we are not talking megabytes. Megabits refers to the transfer rate of data, or stated differently, the download speed. Megabytes refers to a file size. A megabit is one-eighth the size of a megabyte. What does that mean? It means, to download a one megabyte file in one second, you’d need 8 megabits of download speed (or 8 Mbps). This handy Google megabits to megabytes converter demonstrates how that works.

What is Ethernet?

Some time ago, T1 lines were the common method for receiving a high speed Internet connection. That started back in the day when slow dialup Internet connections were widespread. A T1 line was perceived as a faster and better choice — and sometimes the only high-speed choice available to businesses in a service area.

However, Internet demands are growing so rapidly that T1s aren’t able to handle the bandwidth capacity as easily as they used to. That’s why many businesses are turning to Internet using Ethernet.

On average, Ethernet service is delivered to a customer with a minimum speed of 10 Mbps (which, to compare, is equal to more than six T1s bonded together). Ethernet can go all the way up to 1 Gbps and beyond, depending on the service provider. One gigabit is equal to 1024 megabits — a tremendous speed advantage! So, as you can see, Ethernet can be orders of magnitude faster than a T1 line.

Even better, Ethernet’s high level of bandwidth comes at a relatively low cost since Ethernet cables and equipment are inexpensive. Well-defined industry standards make installation collectively simple and economical throughout the industry. In fact, the cost structure is generally lower than that of a T1 and in a managed Ethernet scenario you would not have the costs of equipment to buy and maintain.

How Do I Choose Between T1 and Ethernet?

When comparing T1 lines and Ethernet, the important things to note are:

Bandwidth Availability

Bonding T1′s will be limited by the equipment you own. Bonding up to 7 T1′s would get you to approximately 12 Mbps. However, you can easily exceed those speeds with a single Ethernet connection.

Service Level Agreements (Also Known as SLA’s)

Both types of services offer high up-time. So on this point there’s not much difference.

Reliability

Link bonding is a traditional method used for bonding T1′s together, but this technology requires all links to be up at all times to work. One circuit failure (physical or otherwise) will take down the entire data link. Ethernet uses a newer technology called loop bonding. If a single loop fails the other circuits will continue behaving as normal providing you with continued (even if slightly skewed) bandwidth during repair. You may not even notice the failure of a loop.

Expansion Capability

Adding T1′s requires additional equipment. That could make expanding your capacity a costly scenario.

Adding T1’s not only costs you extra equipment (T1 cards that typically your equipment vendor sells you and installs) but it also costs you time. The phone company has to physically install another line to your office, which may take months.

With Ethernet, not only do you not need any more equipment, your service provider can bump up your capacity remotely, with a few keystrokes.

Quality of Service

Generally both offer high quality of service, depending on carrier of course. So deciding to move to Ethernet will not impact the clarity of your VOIP call or your video transmission, for instance. In fact, more available bandwidth with Ethernet may mean more calls can take place without interrupting other Internet-based services.

Costs

Overall, Ethernet offers much better cost efficiency and in many cases you can get Ethernet in a 20Mbps connection for the same cost as a single T1.

Availability

The availability of T1 and Ethernet services depend on the physical distance between each location and the central office of the provider you are choosing and also the physical delivery method. If the technology is delivered over copper wire, the distance for availability is considerably shorter than if fiber is the available conduit.

T1 technology has been around and in use for a very long time and the telco providers have central offices very well spread out because of phone services, so T1 technology is more readily available.

Ethernet is still young and thus availability is smaller. However, as competition mounts and more fiber is being lit across the U.S., Ethernet will become every bit as available. Be sure to thoroughly check out the providers in your location and what they offer.

As you can see there are some great reasons to consider the new technology — Ethernet — as and when it becomes available in your area.

Ethernet Cable Photo via Shutterstock

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Do You Really Still Get What You Pay For?

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

get what you pay for

We’re all familiar with the phrase “you get what you pay for.It’s such a common statement that it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin. It’s likely that, as a business owner, you’ve used this exact phrase when discussing the value your business provides to potential clients or to your colleagues.

But how often do we think about this phrase when it comes to our dealings with other businesses?

Of course, when it comes down to it, it’s all about that bottom line. But it’s also important not to let thinking about our bottom line render us short-sighted. That concern for our bottom line is what can make someone “cheap-out” when it comes to other businesses and service providers – even though they’d never want to receive that same treatment themselves.

The Cheaper Way is Not Always The Best Way

An example that comes to mind is the popularity of outsourcing, popularized by sites like Elance, oDesk, Guru and Fiverr. These sites let people post a listing for services they need provided (everything from basic data entry to writing and editing to coding an app) and receive bids from providers around the world.

Because of the global nature of these marketplaces, they’re often referred to as a “race to the bottom” by service providers – there’s always someone willing to do what you can do, except for less money. And to a business owner, that lower cost can look like a great deal.

Despite appearances, it’s not always necessarily the best route, even if it costs less up front. You’re still going to pay a “time fee”. Discussing a project with someone whose English skills aren’t as good as yours can make it difficult to move things along in a timely manner. Back-and-forth emailing can get muddled once a language barrier is thrown into the mix. It’s likely that by the time communications have been resolved and the project is done, you’ve paid at least 2-3x what you would have if you’d gone with a more expensive but more experienced service provider.

And that cost doesn’t factor in the time that you’ve spent making sure the project runs smoothly – which can add up to several hours. As an example, if you bill your time at more than $5/hr, that adds up to a considerable expense. Often times, many business owners have come to the end of a frustrating project and wished they’d gone with the higher-priced service or business.

The phrase “you get what you pay for” works more than one way. By putting your hard-earned dollars towards something, you’re supporting it and creating the demand for more of it. So, if you use your business’s profits to outsource instead of keeping it local, you’re setting up the demand for more of that same sort of work – which can have long-lasting side effects on a larger economic scale.

Not All Is Lost

There are still tons of great ways to find actual talent that can get the job done well, and for a reasonable amount. SupplierPay, the new initiative launched by the Obama administration, promotes partnership within the private sector and is intended to boost small businesses by partnering with 26 companies to get small business suppliers paid faster.

If you’re looking to outsource to your own remote workforce, Flexjobs (for full time employees) and PeoplePerHour (for contractors or freelancers) are great choices.

Where That Leaves You, The Owner

By putting our money towards other small businesses like ourselves, we’re going to get what we pay for – more small businesses and actual growth within the private sector.

Small businesses already employ half of the U.S. workforce and create almost two out of three new American jobs – so growing our small business sector is absolutely an investment worth paying for.

Disappointed Photo via Shutterstock

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Heat Up Your Summer Sales With These 7 Cool Ideas

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

summer retail sale ideas

For many businesses, summer is traditionally a slow month. The heat slows our bodies down (I guess that impacts sales), folks are focused on going away for an annual vacation, children are home from school and people want to leave their offices early and have FUN!

While some businesses thrive during the summer, others dread the 3 months of heat, beach and vacations because their customers attention is even more distracted then it might usually be.

But there are several things you can do to turn up summer sales and look forward to the summer month:

1) Check out Infusionsoft’s “Own Your Summer” campaign. Win prizes (including time with Daymond John) and get free education to help you grow your business even more.

2) Send your customers low cost “summer themed” gifts – just to wish them a great Summer.

3) Have your own weekly “Summer party” – to draw in customers and prospects to your business.

4) Survey your customers so you know which ones are NOT going away during the Summer. Get to know them better and maybe even take your best customers to lunch or provide one for them, for example.

5) Invite prospects (not customers) to your office for breakfast meetups (or lunch or evening networking). Have part of it fun (remember it’s summer) and the other part educational as a soft introduction to your products or services.

6) Use the slow time to educate yourself, freshen up your business operations, get to know your employees better and prepare for the upswing that the Fall Season might bring.

7) Partner with other companies on a referral campaign – they encourage their customers to buy from you and you encourage your customers to buy from them. Make sure you track all the activity.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Summer Photo via Shutterstock

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Canva Button: What it Means and Why You’ll Be Seeing it More

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

canva2

If you’re stuck with a boring website design and don’t have the technical skill to improve it, the new Canva Button may be an option.

The Canva Button allows website owners to quickly design their own site elements like headers and banner ads using drag and drop technology. If you don’t have a lot of graphic design experience – and your website shows it – a tool like Canva Button could save you hours of frustration and add a little more visual appeal to your site.

Canva CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins writes on the Canva blog:

“Instead of just offering an ‘Upload’ button and expecting users to figure out the rest, the Canva Button enables a website’s users to easily create graphics without leaving their page. We want this to be accessible to everyone so the Button is free and can be implemented with just a few lines of code.”

As Perkins has pointed out before, Canva won’t replace professional designers. It won’t enable a non-designer to draw a logo from scratch or create a complex illustration. But it will speed up some of the basic layout functions and make the design process more accessible.

canva button

Canva has announced partnerships with websites like GoDaddy, Tailwind, Agora Pulse, Post Planner and TabSite that will enable the users of these platforms to implement a Canva Button. But the tool will really work on any other site where you can paste the code for the Canva button.

These and other platforms are sites that regularly prompt their users to upload their own content. But when the Canva Button is enabled, instead of having to use a program like Adobe Illustrator to design a custom header or banner ad, you click the blank area on your site and Canva Button takes over.

Canva Button recognizes the blank spaces it needs to fill with design work. There are millions of photos and graphics within Canva’s library already, along with hundreds of fonts to use in your design. Using drag-and-drop functions, you move and manipulate objects and text within the design area. Then when you’re finished, you publish your work.

Canva is focused on online and collaborative graphic design. The company’s first app allowed users to create promotional and other printed materials, as well as web presentations. Photos that you incorporate into those designs will cost $1 each from Canva. But the company offers template designs for products like brochures, banners, newsletters, and more for free.

Images: Canva

The post Canva Button: What it Means and Why You’ll Be Seeing it More appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Get Started With This Beginner’s Guide to Using Reddit

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

guide to using reddit

Reddit is a social bookmarking site and forum considered to be “The Front Page of the Internet.” Reddit is also one of the most popular sites on the Web, with over 114 million unique visitors per month, as of March of 2014.

The way Reddit works is essentially, people submit stories about different topics or “Subreddits” and other users, known as “Redditors,” then vote the content up or down. The more votes, the higher visibility for a post and, likely, more comments.

It’s important to follow the submission guidelines for each subreddit topic and to get a feel for the community before trying to participate. Redditors also favor original content (OC), so avoid posting duplicate material and, of course, using poor grammar, as the site can be unforgiving.

Reddit has become a go-to source for content and has transformed into a powerful online community where even the President of the United States has participated in the Ask me Anything (AMA) question-style of forum.

Learn more about the do’s and don’t of Reddit below:

guide to using reddit

[Click image above for larger version]

Republished by permission. Original here.

Image: WhoIsHostingThis

The post Get Started With This Beginner’s Guide to Using Reddit appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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17 Tips and WiFi Tech for Making Your Office Smarter

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

smart office solutions

Having a small business does not mean you cannot have all the latest tech. You can move your small business or home office into the future by installing some of these WiFi devices.

Begin making your work life easier by making your office smarter with these smart office solutions below.

Belkin Instant Switch

The Belkin instant switch allows you to monitor energy usage and control electronics from anywhere in your office. You can turn devices on or off, set schedules, or set alerts to tell you when the shared printer has finished your project. It works with both Android tablets and smartphones.

Google Cloud Print

You can print anywhere and from any device using Google Cloud Print. You can connect as many printers as you want to your account, share printers, so that others can print from your printers, and print things at your office while you are on the go. Even if without a Cloud Ready printer, you can still get connected.

Kwikset Deadbolt

Instead of using a key, you can also use WiFi enabled deadbolt locks for doors. For example, there is a single cylinder deadbolt by Kwikset. This one comes with a Kevo fob, or you can access it with your smartphone.

PlantLink

smart office solutions

Do you have trouble remembering when to water your plants? PlantLink sends customized messages to let you know when you need to water or if you have over-watered. It accounts for different types of plants and can create a watering schedule or analyze your watering history.

Cubico 40 Self-Watering Planter

Or, you can automate your plant watering with the Cubico 40 Self-Watering Planter. This planter automatically waters your plants so that they receive just the right amount of water. You will need to water regularly for the first three months, but then you just keep the reservoir full as needed. It is a great way for busy offices to have live greenery.

Doorbot

Want to know who is at the door before you unlock it? You can install a WiFi doorbell, such as Doorbot. Most come with night vision cameras and allow you to see and talk to your visitors before allowing them access.

Twine

You can purchase Twine to monitor your office environment and discover minor problems before they become major ones. Not only will Twine make sure your office thermostat is set right, you can set it up to monitor other things such as orientation and vibrations.

You can even purchase separate sensors to monitor for leaks, floods, and opened doors. With Twine, there is no need to head to the office after hours on your days off to make sure everything is how it’s supposed to be.

Honeywell Comfort System

smart office solutions

Honeywell’s Comfort System Kit is one of many programmable thermostats that allow you not only to schedule daily events and special events, but also to access your temperature controls via the Internet.

Nest Thermostat

Another good thermostat is the Nest Thermostat – 2nd Generation. This one goes a step beyond other programmable thermostats with more advanced A.I. (artificial intelligence) that learns what temperatures you like and when you like them. While I am a fan of the Nest, since Google acquired them, I opted not to install mine.

Sonos CONNECT:AMP

You can control the music in your break room or waiting room by installing a WiFi stereo system. For example, Sonos CONNECT:AMP lets you stream music from your tablet, smartphone, or computer and to program different playlists for different areas of your office.

Philips Hue Lighting

Philips Hue offers some pretty remarkable lighting options. You will need to start with a kit, but one bridge can control up to 50 lights. You can change both the color and mood of these LED lights. You can turn them on or off remotely or program them to change color and brightness throughout the day.

Qmotion

smart office solutions

In addition to light bulbs, companies such as Qmotion allow you to automate curtains and blinds. These are programmable and can be controlled with smartphones or tablets. They also offer a manual override.

Coolcam Wireless WiFi Security IP Camera

Security is another important area you can automate. Cameras, such as the Coolcam Wireless WiFi Security IP Camera, will not only allow you to monitor areas from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, but also send you email notifications when it detects motion.

Electric Imp

If you are especially tech savvy, you can purchase an Electric Imp and connect anything to the Internet. This device requires basic computer building and coding (Squirrel) knowledge, but allows you to take any electronic device you have in your office and connect it to a cloud-based service for monitoring through your Android or IOS.

Ninja Block

If you want an all-in-one sensor, motion detector, doorbell, etc. then Ninja Block will do it all. Theoretically, you can hook it up to everything and, for example, have it turn on any web cameras you have monitoring inventory only when motion is detected in that area. However, it only comes with one of each type of device.

Revolv

smart office solutions

Or, there are also master controls, such as Revolv, to integrate all your office’s automated devices. Revolv specifically will connect your iOS with Sonos (speakers), Schlage, Kwikset, Yale (locks), Philips Hue, Insteon (lights), GE, Leviton, Belkin Wemo (switches), Nest, and Honeywell (thermostats).

Ivee

You can also take it a step beyond with Ivee. This alarm clock allows you to monitor doors, locks, and even who is in the building with you using voice activated commands. Since you are working with both WiFi and sound, it takes a few seconds to execute commands, but it provides you with great, hands-free convenience.

Many of these tools come with a little bit of a learning curve, but can save you time and effort in the long run. Some of them could save you money on your utility bill making them worth the curve.

If you have an automation tool that you love and use — it might be an app, it might be the hardware itself — I would love to hear about it.

Office Photo via Shutterstock

The post 17 Tips and WiFi Tech for Making Your Office Smarter appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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