Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Google Primer App: Quick and Fun Business Lessons

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Google Primer App: Quick and Fun Business Lessons

One of the best kept secrets in the Google arsenal of small business tools is an app called Primer.  This app provides business lessons in an engaging, quick and fun way.

The app is free as are the lessons.  It’s available on Android and iPhone.  Once you download the app, you can take any of the business lessons — or all of them.

Each lesson tells you how much time it will take up front. Most lessons I saw were 3 to 5 minutes long.

I worked with Google to create a lesson on small business budgeting.  I am a Google Small Business Advisor (a volunteer capacity), and I provided the substantive information that went into the lesson.  Google assigned someone to do a half hour interview with me over Google Hangouts to gather my input.  Then the Google person assembled my points into the Primer app lesson format.  I thought they did a great job putting it together, and it was a very efficient process.

I checked out the app thoroughly before agreeing to volunteer my time on the lesson (trust me, I have plenty of things on my plate!).  But I felt it was well worth my time to do, because the app is so unique.

What’s unique about it is the format is so easy to use — and it’s engaging.  When you’re taking a lesson, it asks you simple questions and has other features to get you actively involved.  You’re not just sitting back and reading.

Since it’s a mobile app, you can take a lesson while sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, or while at the airport before your plane boards.

How’s that for a quick and easy way to learn?

For all you seasoned business owners who want a refresher or you up-and-coming  entrepreneurs who want to learn something new, it’s a fast and easy way to educate yourself and develop your business abilities.

Here’s where you can find my Primer lesson on small business budgeting: Primer is not available on desktop.  If you click on it from a mobile device you’ll be prompted to download the app immediately.  Otherwise, you’ll be asked to click from your mobile device.

Follow along on Twitter @YourPrimer to be notified of new lessons.

Image: Google Primer

This article, “Google Primer App: Quick and Fun Business Lessons” was first published on Small Business Trends


Leading Through the Turn: Enjoying the Journey of Business Leadership

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Leading Through the Turn: Enjoying the Journey of Business LeadershipBusiness biographies ultimately focus on the end goal, when the hero walks off to a beautiful sunset with their profitable business (or string of businesses) as a legacy for readers to follow. Leading Through the Turn: How a Journey Mindset Can Help Leaders Find Success and Significance is a little different. The focus in this book is on enjoying the journey leading up to the beautiful sunset. Elise Mitchell wants current and aspiring entrepreneurs to know that your focus shouldn’t be only on the end goal. You can and should learn from the entire winding journey that is entrepreneurship.

What is Leading Through the Turn About?

Elise Mitchell shares in Leading Through the Turn how she came to appreciate not only achieving her dream but the unorthodox journey that got her to that dream. She started off on the traditional path. Went to school? Check. Got hired by a PR company? Check. Dreamed about owning a global PR agency with her name on the front and agents who were thrilled to hang from every bit of wisdom? Check — with a twist.

Mitchell’s husband had been offered a prestigious opportunity … in Arkansas.

To Mitchell, this felt like the crushing of her dreams. She decided to move with her husband, thinking that her dream of becoming a PR newsmaker was over.

That wasn’t the end.

In fact, it was the start of two brand new businesses, a PR agency and a virtual talent network, which started from her kitchen table. Using her previous work experience and the resources around her, Mitchell transformed her PR business from a kitchen hobby into something ultimately larger than she had ever imagined.

In Leading Through the Turn, the life lessons that Mitchell learned during her entrepreneurial journey are transformed into a blueprint for others to follow. Her book looks at the crucial decisions she had to make at each step of that journey, whether that was working all-nighters to keep the business going or deciding if she wanted to sell that business after it reached millions. Through these decisions, Mitchell asks entrepreneurs to take a moment to appreciate the entire entrepreneur’s journey, from where they are now to where they want to be. If you don’t appreciate the entrepreneur’s journey while you’re on it, Mitchell explains, you’ll miss the significance when it ends.

Mitchell, a communications expert, author, speaker, philanthropist, and dedicated motorcycle rider, now serves as CEO of Mitchell Communications Group and the Dentsu Aegis Public Relations Network. She developed a powerful reputation in the PR and marketing industry before launching her own businesses from the kitchen table, a global media enterprise and a virtual talent network of freelance creative and media professionals.

What Was Best About Leading Through the Turn?

Mitchell is a great communicator and it shows throughout the book. Leading Through the Turn has two distinct features that deserve attention, especially in a world overflowing with leadership biographies. The first feature is the back-and-forth conversation Mitchell has with the reader. She shares the life situation or problem she faced, how she dealt with it and then follows it up with a discussion of how readers can adapt the insight into their own professional or personal lives. She does this effortlessly as if she were actually in the room giving a lecture with the reader.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

One area that could possible use more attention is the section on innovation. Mitchell makes an excellent case for businesses (of all types) getting more involved with innovation for their long-term survival. She mentions briefly what she and another female entrepreneur did to improve profits. While this is inspirational, more practical examples (specifically how other entrepreneurs overcome innovation obstacles) might be helpful for those entrepreneurs that want to innovate but literally don’t know where to start.

Why Read Leading Through the Turn?

The road to success is often poorly paved, especially in business.

The pain points along the way to ultimate success are often forgotten. Who wants to remember the bad times, the slumps and the rough patches?

Of course, there are plenty of good times, too. But instead of separating them between good and bad, Leading Through the Turn looks at the journey through a singular lens — and embraces it.

This article, “Leading Through the Turn: Enjoying the Journey of Business Leadership” was first published on Small Business Trends


Are You Attending These Two Important Small Business Twitter Chats in June?

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Sometimes the best way to get ahead in business is to simply network and gather input from your fellow entrepreneurs.

And you don’t even need to travel or buy expensive conference tickets to do this. There are two upcoming Twitter chats next month that can help you learn more about various aspects of small business ownership.

The first chat is about confronting challenges in business. The MetLife sponsored chat takes place on June 21. And the second is just a week later on June 28. That Microsoft sponsored chat is all about getting inspired in business.

You can learn more about these chats and how to participate in the Featured Events section. Then check out even more upcoming event opportunities for small businesses in the list below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Twitter Chat: "Voices of Small Business: How Business Owners are Confronting Today’s Challenges"Twitter Chat: “Voices of Small Business: How Business Owners are Confronting Today’s Challenges”
June 21, 2017, Online, Twitter

Join us on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at 7:00 pm ET under the hashtag #MetLifeSmallBiz to explore how small business owners are navigating the current economic climate as well as their outlook on hiring and future business conditions. Spotlight findings will be shared by Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends (@SmallBizTrends), and MetLife (@MetLife) from the new MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, including commentary from real business owners. Join in the discussion to receive actionable insights that will help you manage your businesses for success.

Twitter Chat: "Get Inspired in Your Business"Twitter Chat: “Get Inspired in Your Business”
June 28, 2017, Online, Twitter

Are you ready for the Microsoft Inspire event? The company’s annual partner conference is only a couple weeks away! Join Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, and Small Business expert Gene Marks on June 28, 2017 at 3pm ET (12pm PT) under the hashtag #MSBizTips for a preview of what’s coming down the pipeline for small businesses from Microsoft, and discover what you can expect to learn from the conference.

Sales World 2017Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 - Digital Marketing ConferenceDIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.

More Events

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

Twitter Happenings photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Are You Attending These Two Important Small Business Twitter Chats in June?” was first published on Small Business Trends


10 Tips for Avoiding Mistakes While Running a Small Business

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

While mistakes can often teach valuable lessons, they also have the potential to cost your business — and set you back from achieving your goals. So here are some tips from the online small business community that may help you avoid some of the more costly errors. And also there are some tips to help you avoid missing out on great opportunities as well. Read on.

Don’t Ignore Cybersecurity

If you’ve paid any attention to the news in recent months, you’ve probably heard a lot about cybersecurity issues. And small businesses are not immune. But some CEOs ignore cybersecurity, as Rebecca Jordan of the Sociable Blog discusses here. She also explains why you should take it seriously.

Keep This Secret in Mind to Achieve Your Goals

Achieving business goals can be a complicated process. But you need to stay focused on your main processes and objectives if you want to be successful over the long run. In this SUCCESS Agency blog post, Mary Blackiston shares the number one secret you can use to achieve your goals.

Banish These Entrepreneurial Fears

Fear can be a major roadblock to success for small business owners. And there are some common fears that entrepreneurs have to deal with. In this Biz Epic post, Akshay Nanavati outlines some of those fears and how to banish them.

Keep an Eye on Your Small Business Competitors

When running a small business, it’s important to focus on your own goals. But you should still have an idea of what your competitors are up to, as Tony Paull details in this post. BizSugar members also shared thoughts on the post here.

Get a Top of the Line Antivirus for Your Mobile Device

You probably already have an antivirus program for your small business computer. But the same technology is often overlooked when it comes to mobile devices. In this post, Sean Mir explains why small businesses need to consider this technology.

Make Ads Less Adversarial

Not all online ads are necessarily effective. There are some common problems advertisers face when trying to communicate with customers online. But you can combat that with the tips in this Marketing Land post by Brad O’Brien.

Heed Google’s Warning About Guest Posting to Build Links

Guest posting can be a great way to share your expertise and build your network online. But Google warns against doing it strictly to build links. This Search Engine Journal post by Matt Southern includes more information.

Go Beyond Linear Thinking in New Ventures

Today’s businesses require more innovation and creativity than ever. So you may need to reset your thinking if you want to create something new that can really disrupt an industry, as Martin Zwilling discusses in this Startup Professionals Musings post. You can also see commentary from the BizSugar community here.

Make Your Content Marketing Profitable

You already know that content can help you connect with potential customers and spread the word about your business. But if you’re not making your content marketing profitable, you could really be missing out. Neil Patel shares more information in this post.

Make Sure Your Copy Has a Human Voice

When writing copy, it can be easy for marketers to get stuck in the trap of using a copywriter’s voice. But you need to add in a human tone to really get through to your audience, as Gary Hennerberg discusses in this Target Marketing post.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to:

Small Business Mistakes photo by Shutterstock

This article, “10 Tips for Avoiding Mistakes While Running a Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends


How To Use YouTube Cards on Your Business Videos

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

How To Use YouTube Cards on Your Business Videos

YouTube cards, also known in some quarters as Info Cards or Interactive Cards, replaced annotations in 2015. While annotations had their benefits, one major disadvantage is that they didn’t work on mobile devices. Like annotations, YouTube Cards give you the ability to add clickable calls to action in your YouTube videos that prompt viewers to respond.

Adding YouTube Cards to Your Video

To add Cards to your YouTube video you need to first start by going to YouTube Video Manager and finding the video that you want to add the Card to then click Edit below the video title.

How To Use YouTube Cards on Your Business Videos

On the next screen, click the Cards tab in the top navigation bar.

At this point you can now add cards to your video. Just click “Add card” and then click create to add more information to your card.

How To Use YouTube Cards on Your Business Videos

Once you have added the card then you can go back to your video and choose the points that you want your card to show up on. Just drag the time marker below the video to the spot where you want the card to appear. The video below should make it easier for you to know how to go about this.

After you are done with setup, it is important for you to check everything is functioning as it should before you publish. It is also important for you to know that you can add up to four more cards to the video.

How to Use YouTube Cards for Business

And if you are wondering how you can use Cards for business then a few tips would be to use them to send your viewers to the video in the series, direct viewers to an influencer’s content featuring your product and to get viewer input to drive content development by using polls for a truly interactive experience and to drive engagement. You can also use YouTube Cards to highlight some charitable institutions that you support. This will have positive impacts on your business’s reputation.

Image: YouTube

This article, “How To Use YouTube Cards on Your Business Videos” was first published on Small Business Trends


Free Range Brands Have to be Innovative, Agile, Engaging to Survive

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Free Range Brands Have to be Innovative, Agile, Engaging to SurviveFree Range Brands: Join the New Breed of Agile Brands by branding expert Nicole Ertas, is an exploration of the newly-disrupted world of branding. In this world, brands can’t depend on large budgets or media control to reach their prospective customers. Brands have to be innovative, agile and engaging in order to survive. Ertas’ book helps entrepreneurs understand the principles governing this new reality facing marketers and refine their brands so they can survive the age of Millennials and whatever technology is coming our way.

What is Free Range Brands About?

“This isn’t a digital revolution. This is total brand anarchy.”
Free Range Brands

Ertas starts her book by contrasting the branding of the past (called “dynasty brands” in the book) with the new kind of branding (called “free range” brands) required for today’s marketing. Dynasty brands thrived on the nature of control and scale. Businesses focused on creating a strong brand with large budgets that guaranteed their message on the marketing channels of their choice. Brands innovated at a snail’s pace and only enough to keep customers happy without losing a lot of money. As a result, smaller brands could not effectively compete and the bigger brands kept on dominating the market share.

Enter the Millennial generation, the internet and social media.

In this new branding environment, the rules that used to guide branding are no longer relevant. Situations are reversed. Legacy brands used to maintain external control of the marketing message. That power is now shared in a two-way relationship with the world. Internally, businesses that use to plan their branding campaigns by the year or month are shortening that time into weeks to avoid getting left behind. Well-established brands with large budgets are facing disruption from small-budget innovators.

Free Range Brands explores how branding reached this point. In particular, it places a spotlight on the shift in values and technology that disrupted everything. Unlike previous generations, Millennials (and those generations that came after) no longer tolerate artificial and one-dimensional branding. Millennials want a two-way conversation with a brand that is transparent, authentic and engaging. They want brands that are as “free” as they aspire to be.

Ertas is a speaker, consultant, and branding strategist who has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands including Johnson & Johnson and General Mills. She is the founder and CEO of Free Range Brands, a global consultancy agency.

What Was Best About Free Range Brands?

Free Range Brands is visually and conceptually engaging, which serves as the perfect embodiment of what Ertas stands for in this book. Her message in Free Range Brands is delivered with a set of specific observation that reflect a deeper understanding of what drives Millennials and how this understanding can be leveraged for branding in the future. For any reader who is trying to answer the “How do I market to Millennials?” question, this book serves as a great starting point.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

At a little over 100 pages, Free Range Brands is a brief look at branding in the age of the Millennial generation and beyond. Free Range Brands spends the majority of those pages exploring and contrasting the old-school approach to branding with the new “free range” approach. Here some attention to strategy might be helpful for those who grasp the book’s central message but need directions for their next step.

Why Read Free Range Brands?

Free Range Brands is very similar in style and look to books by author Seth Godin (author of books like “All Marketers Are Liars”), although her book focuses exclusively on branding. Both Ertas and Godin urge readers to break away from static thinking into a dynamic one. The book will probably best serve business leaders and staff working in the marketing field. Free Range Brands offers a specific and clear perspective for businesses that might be confused about the barrage of marketing advice that is currently out there.

This article, “Free Range Brands Have to be Innovative, Agile, Engaging to Survive” was first published on Small Business Trends


How to Manage the Scarcity of Time, Talent, Energy for Success

Friday, May 26th, 2017

How to Manage the Scarcity of Time, Talent, Energy for SuccessTime, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power addresses how successful companies like Netflix, Google, Apple, and other powerful brands are able to maintain their success in a world where competition is brutally fierce and customer loyalty is fleeting.

The book argues that the continued success of these companies doesn’t depend on their capital as many would assume. It depends on how they manage scarcity, particularly three scarce resources: time, talent and energy. Any business that can leverage these three resources, the book says, will have a massive competitive advantage over every other business in its industry.

What is Time, Talent, Energy About?

In Time, Talent, Energy, the key to becoming a profitable and successful company isn’t getting more money so you can invest in more resources. (In fact, the authors argue that the business world has an overabundance of capital!) Money helps, but it isn’t the only factor. It’s how you use the resources a business already has — time, energy and talent. This is what distinguishes an excellent company from an average one. Companies able to attract the right talent, cultivate that talent and direct its energy will create a decisive competitive advantage that builds each year rather than declines.

The book contends that businesses, in their quest to grow, sabotage their efforts with red tape, complexity, ineffective leadership and a lack of engagement with their workforce. Businesses don’t do this on purpose, but it happens. As businesses start to mature, culture develops and policies develop. More meetings are scheduled and more departments are created. Decisions take longer to get approved as more layers of management get involved. Leadership focuses on maintaining the status quo instead of developing and cultivating talent. Slowly, the once successful company becomes a fossilized version of its own success.

Time, Talent, Energy suggests it doesn’t have to happen this way. Businesses, especially mature ones, can adopt the book’s strategies to cultivate an efficient, loyal and engaged workforce. Once a business takes the steps to create that workforce, those employees begin creating a cycle of success on their own. In attracting and retaining good talent, a business becomes more productive. In becoming more productive, it can afford to hire even greater talent for even better results.

Author Michael Mankins is a strategy expert, speaker, regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and partner at management consulting firm Bain & Company (San Francisco office). He is also a board member of the Children’s Creativity Museum and the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues.

Co-author Eric Garton is also a partner of Bain & Company (Chicago office), a frequent contributor to Forbes, an expert in organizational transformation and part of the leadership team that develops best practices for consumer and industrial goods.

What Was Best About Time, Talent, Energy?

The best part of Time, Talent, Energy is the book’s core message and the recommendations that build on that core message. The book argues that every company can improve its productivity by paying attention to just three resources: time, talent, and energy. In a cash-strapped world still reeling from a recession, this is empowering news. Every business has the same amount of time. Time, Talent, Energy shows how to optimize that time so you can leverage the talent and energy every business possesses to reach a higher level of performance.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

One area of Time, Talent, Energy that could use more attention is the spotlight on small and medium-sized businesses (referred to as “everyday businesses” in the book.) While the book promises to demonstrate how an “everyday business” can utilize the strategies of Time, Talent, Energy, it doesn’t develop that promise into a fully fleshed-out example. More attention here (specifically a case study or case studies with a small business that utilized the book’s examples) might help small or medium-sized business owners who aren’t sure if the book’s strategies can be implemented on a smaller scale for big results.

Why Read Time, Talent, Energy?

Time, Talent, and Energy is a very important book because it redirects the conversation about internal growth with specific, actionable recommendations on how to optimize it in simple ways. Many business advice books focus on the paradox of success experienced by companies like Kodak and Blockbuster. As companies grow, they tend to reinforce their internal growth. That reinforcement includes policies, aspects of culture, assumptions and leadership styles that can become so ingrained in a business that it gets in the way of future growth. In other words, these businesses get so successful that they lose the qualities that make them so successful over the long run. Time, Talent, Energy was written to remedy that. By regularly focusing on the three scarce resources involved with growth, it is hoped, business owners can prevent their businesses from falling into the paradox of success.

This article, “How to Manage the Scarcity of Time, Talent, Energy for Success” was first published on Small Business Trends


Bowery Reinvents Farming for Urban Landscapes

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Bowery's indoor farming approach is a great example of how small businesses can find ways to update almost any business model.

Agriculture is one of the oldest industries out there. But businesses are still finding new ways to update this industry in order to get fresh produce to the people who need it most.

Bowery Indoor Farming

Bowery is one such business. The farming startup made its goal to get fresh produce to consumers in big cities in a sustainable way. To achieve that goal, the company uses hardware and proprietary software to set up vertically stacked gardens that operate indoors year-round.

This solves a couple of different problems. First, many city dwellers live in food deserts, or places where there isn’t a whole lot of fresh produce available. Secondly, traditional agriculture uses massive amounts of water and other resources. And Bowery’s high tech approach allows the business to function in a way that’s both sustainable and not reliant on outdoor weather.

A Great Example of Innovation

What this business shows is that you can put a new spin on almost any industry, as long as you’re willing to get a little creative. Throughout the years, people have come up with plenty of new tools to update agriculture or make certain processes more efficient. But if you’re willing to look at things in a new way, and innovate based on your observations, you can still find ways to update almost any business model.

Image: Bowery

This article, “Bowery Reinvents Farming for Urban Landscapes” was first published on Small Business Trends


New Features from Facebook and Twitter, More Small Business News

Friday, May 26th, 2017

If you use livestreaming in your business, you’ve probably had to host those live talks all on your own so far. But a new feature from Facebook Live could change that.

And Facebook wasn’t the only social media platform to announce new features recently. Twitter also announced a new feature that lets businesses use bots to chat with customers via direct message.

You can read more about these updates and other small business headlines below in the Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media

Facebook Live With: Now You Can Invite a Friend on Your Livestreaming Adventure

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is bringing the power of collaboration to Facebook Live. A new feature called Live With allows you to invite a friend or colleague to join you on your livestream. Having the flexibility of adding other participants but the control of doing so at your convenience seems like a key feature.

Twitter Direct Message Cards Let Customers Chat with Your Business via Bots

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) recently announced the launching of a new feature called “Direct Message Card,” which offers businesses new ways to engage and build deeper relationships with their audiences on Twitter. Twitter Direct Message Cards Direct Message Card is basically a specially designed ad unit.

Twitter Media Library Aimed At Tempting Social Media Managers

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) again pushed use of its Twitter Media Library this week. Announced back in March, the library collects all the images, videos and GIFs you have ever uploaded to Twitter to make re-posting the same visual content easier.


US Chamber of Commerce Releases First Small Business Index

Even in the face of economic uncertainty, small businesses are looking at 2017 as a year to grow. According to the first ever Small Business Index from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife (NYSE:MET), a majority of small businesses are expecting revenue growth this year. And 1 in 3 expect to hire someone for a new job.

New US Beef Export Deal with China Could Be Huge for Domestic Producers

Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s secretary of agriculture, said once China begins importing American beef under a new trade deal, they will want more. “When the Chinese people taste our high-quality U.S. beef, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll want more of it,” Perdue said in a statement Friday.


Move Over Google and Facebook, Small Businesses are Attracting More Tech Talent These Days

Small businesses are no longer a second choice for tech professionals seeking the next step in their careers. According to new data from the job site, small businesses are increasingly attracting large numbers of job seekers in the technology field. Overall, though, the most popular jobs at small businesses remain in support roles.

Handmade Business

Amazon Launches Handmade Wedding Shop

If your business sells any handmade wedding goods, you now have a new option for getting those goods to consumers. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), the eCommerce giant that wants to be the “everything store,” just launched a dedicated store for handmade wedding products. The Wedding Shop is part of Handmade at Amazon, the handmade products platform Amazon launched in 2015.

Local Marketing

Snapchat’s New Custom Stories Could Revolutionize Local Marketing

Snapchat (NYSE:SNAP) may have just changed local marketing forever. If you use Snapchat to market your small business, you can either post content to your story, where anyone who follows you can see it, or you can communicate with people individually. But now there’s a new option for businesses to consider.

Surefire Local Marketing Cloud Aims at Features with One Login

Wouldn’t you love to access your social media accounts, reviews, email marketing, organic search and Google AdWords with a single login? Well, that’s exactly what Surefire Local Marketing Cloud offers its users.

Retail Trends

What Barnes & Noble Can Teach Small Brick and Mortars About Survival

Traditional retail stores are struggling right now. And that’s not great news for Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS), a bookstore chain with 634 retail locations. But the company isn’t going down without a fight. Once Amazon announced plans to open its own physical bookstore, the business saw it as validation brick and mortar stores can still succeed.

Watch Out: This Yelp Program Punishes Online Review Manipulation

Yelp (NYSE: YELP), a website and mobile app that publishes crowd-sourced reviews to connect people with great local businesses, claims to have over 120 million reviews of businesses worldwide.

Hey, Small Designers, the Latest Jeans Are Already Out of Style

Blue jeans are generally considered to be pretty timeless in the world of fashion. But that doesn’t apply to all of the trends within that niche. Recently, some specific blue jean trends have gained a lot of attention — just not always in a good way. You can currently get jeans that look like they have mud on them, plastic jeans, detachable cutout jeans and clear mom jeans.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Teamfluent Teaches Teams with Agile Learning

If you want to succeed in business, you need to be constantly learning. And if you have a small business team, you need your team members to be able to learn as well. That’s why Teamfluent offers a unique learning solution for teams. You can read more about the business and its philosophy below in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations

Small Business Regulatory Reform Bill One Step Closer to Reality

The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017 may be one step closer to reality. The bill,  sponsored by Senator James Lankford (R-OK),  made it through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently. It is aimed at streamlining and improving the regulatory process for American small business.

Negative Press Has Impacted How 57 Percent of Consumers View Uber

If you think all press is good press, you might need to learn a little something from Uber’s recent string of controversies. The company’s scandals, which include lawsuits, self-driving car mishaps, allegations of sexual assaults in the workplace, executive missteps and more, have seriously hurt its reputation according to a recent report.


What Founders Can Learn from the On-Demand Economy

Has there been a business model that has earned as much attention, funding dollars, and as many spin-offs as the on-demand model? Certainly not in recent memory, and certainly not so quickly.

81 Percent Of Small Business Owners Say Entrepreneurship Makes Them Happy

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you are probably happy to be one, a new study indicates. Are Entrepreneurs Happy? According to the 2017 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, the answer is, “Yes”. In fact, 81 percent of business owners say their happiness is due somewhat or entirely to being an entrepreneur.

Technology Trends

Cybercrime Explosion Creates Niches for Small Businesses

An influx of cybercrime in recent years has led to plenty of worry for small businesses. But it has also led to opportunities for some. Just ask Matt Loria. Cyber Security Business Opportunities Loria is the co-owner of Auxiom, a Michigan based company that provides IT and cyber security services to small businesses. And it’s a business that’s booming right now.

What Small Businesses Should Know About Neural Machine Translation

Among the list of technologies that have radically changed our economy in the last year is a handful that did not receive the same level of attention as artificial intelligence or self-driving cars. One, in particular, is called Neural Machine Translation (NMT), a major breakthrough in language technology that some believe is a turning point in how business gets done.

The Battery on the New Surface Pro from Microsoft Lasts 13 Hours

As expected, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) this week announced the latest generation of their Surface Pro tablet. The numbering system is gone, so it’s now just Surface Pro. But that’s not the only thing that has changed. In fact, the Surface Pro is now no longer a tablet. Instead, Microsoft calls it “the most versatile laptop.

98 Percent of WannaCry Hacks Were on Windows 7 Computers

The WannaCry (or WannaCrypt) ransomware hack that impacted businesses worldwide was most successful on Windows 7 computers. It was believed that computers running older systems were most vulnerable to the ransomware attack. That turned attention to systems like Windows XP and Vista, still in use on a large number of computers today.

Facebook Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “New Features from Facebook and Twitter, More Small Business News” was first published on Small Business Trends


John Oechsle of Swiftpage: How Act! Transformed After 30 Years to Help Serve SMBs For 30 More

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Act!, the pioneering contact management application that helped usher in the CRM era, celebrated its 30th anniversary last month. During this span of three decades more than six million people have used the application to manage interactions with their customers and prospects. But much has changed since Act! came on the scene in 1987, especially the way people use software to keep up with customers. Which meant Swiftpage, the makers of Act! since it acquired the brand in 2013, needed to bring the venerable application into better alignment with the needs and expectations of the modern customer – from the way they access the app, to the way they pay for it.

Moving to a Software Subscription Model

John Oechsle, CEO of Swiftpage, shares how they transformed Act! from an off the shelf software app bought in stores, to a subscription-based cloud offering customers pay to use by the month; increasing it’s subscription customers by 140% and annual recurring revenue by 131% over the past year. And how that transformation has changed the way the company interacts with customers today, and how they’ll interact with them tomorrow.

* * * * *

Brent Leary: You had to go through the process of making Swiftpage align with modern customer behaviors and expectations. Talk a little bit about that transition and why it was so important to do now?

John Oechsle: When we acquired Act! in March of 2013, we acquired a closed desktop system. It was very popular, and over the years over six million customers have used this to grow their business. But as you take a look at where the industry is going today, just being a closed desktop system was probably not going to be something that was going to allow us to grow Act! and continue to keep this great brand going. So, one of the first things that we had to do is change the technology.

The functionality was all there. But the problem is the way people were beginning to interact with the software was becoming very dated. People didn’t want to buy software, and download it to their desktop, and run it on the desktop, et cetera. There was a whole different way of people interacting with that. But at the same time, we had hundreds of thousands of users that were very loyal to the brand, and very loyal to the company, and were using it that way.

We were faced with how do we transition to a more contemporary technology, and do it in a way where you don’t spook the customer base; where it gives them an opportunity to run off to something else. Our concept was obviously take the platform and cloud enabled it.

Our relationship was around once every three years for having a conversation with this group. Because that’s about the period of time that you buy a new device. So every time you bought a new desktop or you bought a new laptop, guess what – you had to interact with the company because the software didn’t work anymore.

It was a loyal relationship, but it wasn’t a relationship that was very fulfilling and very intimate. It was like ‘oh okay, yeah I knew you three years ago, you know come back in’. So now you basically have to go from talking to them once every three years to convincing them to come into the club, if you will, and pay a subscription; and then continue to have an ongoing relationship almost on a daily basis that you’re interacting with them. So that’s kind of how we set out to do.

We said we’re not going to force people over to go over here, or you’re not going to be a customer anymore. That’s just setting ourselves up for failure. We said here’s our value proposition. Here’s why we want you to come with us. If you come with us, here’s what you get. If you don’t want to come with us, that’s okay. We’ll deal with you as a customer, and interact with you. Oh by the way, here’s a very good incentive price to come with us. So that’s how we got the base moving, and we started in May of 2015. It took us about two years to get the platform right, to get the pricing right… to change entire set of processes inside as a company on how you’re going to work. So we had to take our time and do that correctly.

Brent Leary: How has the relationship between the company and customers changed as you went through this process?

John Oechsle: If you look at, you’ve got groups of people inside of your company that normally have some kind of connection with the customer. You have marketing that connects on some kind of a level as you’re trying to market different things with them. You have sales obviously when they’re trying to sell them something. Then once you sell something now all of a sudden you have to service them. So you have all these different types of interactions.

In the past, before we went on this journey, it was three different types of conversations and interactions that we had with our customers. Once we made this change, it is really one basic message that we have. You really have to take marketing, sales, service, even something as far as the billing department inside of finance. All of that has to become a single face from the company to the customer with a single message, with a single type of interaction, and a consistent interaction.

That’s really the kind of interactions and conversations that we have with our customers, which are totally different than what they used to be three or four years ago.

Brent Leary: Yeah, that leads right into you know customers are much more tech savvy. The technology has put a lot more power in their hands so to speak. So how is it meeting their expectations now? Is it more challenging because now they have these expectations and they’re ramping up, and they know what’s possible? Or is it easier to predict where they’re going, and be able to provide them what they’re looking for on a consistent ongoing basis?

John Oechsle: It’s both easier and challenging at the same time. It’s easier because you’re having this more frequent interaction with them, you’re getting that information in more real time. So it’s not like oh let’s wait for a conference, or a user group, or this or that, or to hear things and bring them back in. I mean you’re literally hearing stuff every single day, which then enables you to take that information and very quickly analyze it and determine are we moving in the right direction, or did we completely miss the boat with something, et cetera. So that’s the easier part.

The challenging part is because you’re doing that, the folks have an expectation that you’re going to do something with that. If you’re talking to me every day, and I’m telling you the same thing every day, and I don’t do anything, well guess what I’m probably not going to be a customer of yours very much longer. So there is that, you know an expectation that okay I’m not going to wait six, eight, nine months for a release to come out. How come you can’t get this stuff faster type thing. So it’s easier and challenging all at the same time.

Brent Leary: What kind of opportunities can Swiftpage take advantage of now that you have a system in place like Zuora that helps you manage your subscriptions?

John Oechsle: First of all, we would not have been able to make this journey without Zuora. They’re just a great partner, it’s a great set of software. Now yes, as you’re gathering all this information, I think the number one thing that has helped us on this journey with Zuora is the ability to make it really easy for our customers to do business with us. If you think about it, it’s like okay I just subscribed to ACT!. Great, okay, well I want another seat, or I want another ‘this’, whatever. No problem, boom. You can put that right on very, very quickly.

It’s that ability that can go all the way down to a sales person. So I got a sales person on the floor that can actually do this very, very quickly.

The next step we’re working with internally and with Zuora on is literally putting that portal out into the market so that a customer can self-work on their account at the same time, self-administer that.

Brent Leary: So give us a little peek into the future. What are we going to be seeing from Swiftpage?

John Oechsle: We see three distinct segments of customers that we’re focusing on. The first one is somebody that needs full blown functionality of CRM, and they need customization.

The second group are folks that need the full functioning CRM, but they don’t need customization. They just need it to run in the cloud. They need to get access to it, and you know, go after it.

The third set, which I think is the most exciting and I think the fastest growing, is a group of customers that want all the functionality of CRM running in the background somewhere in the cloud, but they don’t want to have to pull it up and look at it all the time. They want to access it in small little chunks, which really fits the way that they do business. We call it little purpose-built apps. You’re going to see an enormous amount of that happening.

I think the other cool thing is the way that people interact with software is changing dramatically. There’s one common theme that’s beginning to come through and that’s voice interaction. That started with cell phones, you’re like hey Siri. Then all of a sudden Amazon came out with Alexa, and there’s other things. So you know that’s really what you’re going to see.

People are dabbling with it here and there, but you’re going to get to the point where people are going to ‘say ACT! how did my marketing campaign go?’. It’s going to say ‘hey, your marketing campaign did this. Oh by the way John, you should do this, this, and this’. So I think a combination of voice interaction with artificial intelligence and recommendation architecture, that’s where everybody’s going to go, and we’re on that path as well.

This article, “John Oechsle of Swiftpage: How Act! Transformed After 30 Years to Help Serve SMBs For 30 More” was first published on Small Business Trends