Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

5 Essential Basics of a Small Business Domain Name Strategy

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

domain name strategy

Did you know that if you don’t make an effort to protect your brand name (which may or may not be your business name), you could lose your rights to trademark it or to enforce it once it’s been trademarked?

That means you might not be able to prevent others in the future from profiting from your brand or confusing consumers about your brand.

The first step to protect your brand is to federally trademark it, so you can legally enforce your rights to it. Another critical step is developing and implementing a domain name strategy.

What is a Domain Name Strategy?

The purpose of a domain name strategy is to proactively protect your brand online by reducing the chance for others to use your brand name in their online activities, specifically, in their website URLs.

For example, Nike owns Nike.com. Imagine if another company began selling sportswear at Nikes.com or Nike.biz. There could certainly be confusion among visitors to those sites.

Visitors might wonder if those sites are owned by Nike or not. Only a savvy shopper who takes the time to do some research would know for certain.

Of course, Nike would want those confusing sites taken down, and since Nike is a trademarked name, the Nike Company can enforce its trademark rights and require that the confusing sites be removed from the Web.

Small businesses can do the same thing. First, trademark your brand name. Second, implement your domain name strategy. Third, monitor your brand online (and offline), and fourth, enforce your rights to it under U.S. trademark laws.

A domain name strategy can be very complex. Large companies with household brands like Nike might own hundreds of domain names, but for a small business that doesn’t have the budget to register every imaginable variation of its brand name, it’s important to ensure the basic steps are taken at the very least.

How to Develop a Domain Name Strategy

Following are five essential first steps you should take to protect your brand with a small business domain name strategy:

1. Common Extensions

If you do nothing else, be sure to register domains that include your brand name with the most common extensions including, .com, .net, .org, .us., .info, and .biz.

2. Common Misspellings and Obvious Variations

Register domain names that include your brand name with obvious mistakes or variations using the most common extensions referenced in no. 1 above.

For example, if your jewelry brand is Snowcone, register snowcone.com and snocone.com as well as snocone.net, snocone.biz, and so on.

3. Phonetic Equivalents

It’s also important to register domain names that are phonetically equivalent to your brand name.

For example, a company with the brand name WearsLikeNew would register WearsLikeNew.com and WaresLikeNew.com using the common extensions.

This is particularly important for brands that include numbers. A brand like 4TheWin.com should also be registered as ForTheWin.com and FourTheWin.com using the common extensions.

4. Plural and Singular Variations

If your brand name is singular, register the plural version as a domain name, too. If your brand name is plural, secure the singular domain name as well.

For example, InnovationToProfits.com is also registered as InnovationsToProfit.com. These variations should be secured for each common extension.

5. Hyphenated Variations

The final step in the most basic domain name strategy is registering hyphenated versions of your brand name.

For example, CircleLegal.com should also be registered as Circle-Legal.com. As with the four steps above, do this for each common extension.

Protect Your Brand and Business

With the introduction of hundreds of new top level domain extensions this year, including the controversial .sucks domain, and anticipating the introduction of hundreds more in the near future, it’s critical that you develop and implement a domain name strategy to protect your brand and business.

You might not think anyone will ever launch a website using a domain name that is similar to your brand name.

You might not think that site will sell products or services similar to yours, and you might not think that consumers will become confused about which site is actually yours.

However, it happens to small businesses just like yours every day. I have the client list to prove it.

Don’t put your business and brand at risk. Instead, take the necessary steps to proactively protect your brand today. Trust me, you’ll save a lot of money and time by doing it the right way today rather than trying to clean up a mess later.

Domain Image via Shutterstock

This article, “5 Essential Basics of a Small Business Domain Name Strategy” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Adrian McDermott of Zendesk: Using Facebook Messenger as a Customer Support Channel

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Earlier this year, Zendesk, a cloud-based customer support platform, and Facebook announced a partnership allowing businesses to engage their customers via Facebook Messenger. Companies can send order information and interact with their customers on Facebook Messenger, via an integration with Zendesk’s Zopim Chat product.

Adrian McDermott, Senior Vice President of Product Development for Zendesk, shares with us how using Facebook Messenger for customer service can help create more successful support experiences. But only if companies don’t abuse the privilege of using a channel originally meant for friends and family. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)

* * * * *

facebook messenger for customer serviceSmall Business Trends: Give me a little bit of your personal background.

Adrian: I’m originally from Northern England, but moved to Silicon Valley in the mid-90s for a bottle of wine. And I’ve been doing the startup thing ever since. I joined Zendesk about just four-and-a-half years ago.

Small Business Trends: Recently, Zendesk announced a partnership with Facebook, and particularly surrounding its Facebook Messenger product. Talk a little bit about exactly what the partnership is.

Adrian: Facebook released Messenger not that long ago. And that has grown to be a product that 600 million consumers use to communicate with each other on a daily basis. I believe they announced recently they also manage 10 percent of the Internet’s voice over IP traffic through that product.

Facebook was looking at using Messenger as perhaps a communication channel that will allow brands and small businesses to communicate with their consumers. I think for many small businesses, they’re still operating at a scale in which they can have a personal relationship with their customers. And Messenger is a very personal communication channel because you’re basically invited into someone’s fairly private circle of friends.

We were really excited about being able to work with that channel and being able to figure out how some of the brands we work with were going to communicate with their customers. We already have voice, instant messaging, Twitter and Facebook page support within our product to allow businesses to communicate with their customers through different channels and manage those conversations. Make sure they’re getting timely responses to consumers, and spreading the work among a team. We’re also able to produce analytics on top of that.

With Facebook Messenger, we saw this super relevant channel for consumers. Facebook was working with two established customers already managing various channels in terms of customer communication — customer engagement — through Zendesk. And it was a natural fit for us to then work with Facebook to figure out what would go on the back end.

Businesses are going to have thousands of channels open with various consumers. And one of the things that Zendesk provides — specifically in this case through its chat product, Zopim — is the ability for customers to come online to talk to them, and to actually manage the inflow of conversations and track those conversations.  And so it seemed like putting Zopim and Zendesk together with Facebook Messenger would provide the back end that was needed, that could seamlessly allow businesses to communicate through Messenger and handle the scale of all of their customers using that as a channel. And the same with techniques that have been built up over time to handle email, and to handle chat and to handle voice, etc., etc.

Small Business Trends: On the consumer end, it’s just them using what they’ve been using with Facebook Messenger. But on the company end, they’re using your product, Zopim, to not only communicate, but to really collaborate on the back end and make sure that information being requested is being efficiently responded to, and shot back in the channel the customer is talking to them in.

Adrian: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Facebook put some real thought into the API. We’ve worked together on the customization for Everlane. Everlane is an online retailer of clothing. Everlane’s mission is to make it apparent how much clothing costs to produce and which factories it comes from. And they cut out all of the middlemen and pass the saving directly on to the consumer for designer goods.

Facebook allowed Everlane to push the receipt into the Messenger channel. You make an order online. The receipt appears in the Messenger channel as do all of the shipping notifications and other things. And what’s beautiful about that is, if I get a shipping notification from Everlane, I may have a question about it. And I see that it’s coming from a certain warehouse and may wonder why it’s not coming from the factory. I can respond back in that messenger channel. And on the other side of the fence, the Everlane agent who looks at that query and gets ready with a response, can put it in a context through Zopim with all of my other queries perhaps. And they can look at the merchandise information, the order information, but also see other questions that I’ve asked in the past and have all the context they need to keep responding.

In customer support and customer engagement, we often talk about mapping the customer journey. You need to think about each of the touch points you have with your customers — what it’s like for them to sign up, what it’s like for them to buy their first product, buy another product, have an ongoing relationship. And each of these things, you can put into the customer journey map and think about it. I think for a lot of companies, particularly retailers, it’s really interesting to think about the customer journey map being represented in this stream of chats and comments that appears in Messenger. So I think that’s quite exciting.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the challenges for companies to make sure they don’t abuse the great technology and the partnerships you’re putting together, but to make it a much more pleasant customer experience?

Adrian: I think there’s a set of challenges and a set of advantages. You may feel like there’s an intrusion or you may feel somewhat violated, right? So Facebook has been good about saying you have to be invited in to create this channel. The consumer has to acknowledge that this is the way they would like to receive updates and information and talk. And I think it’s important. I’m sure Facebook is very sensitive to the fact that you don’t want to, once you’re in, betray that trust.

I think from the brand perspective, there are challenges because of the way many small businesses think about customer service. A customer service interaction could be referred to as an issue or a ticket potentially, depending on the language that they use. But that’s an interaction that has a beginning, middle and an end. The consumer asks for something. The agent handles it. Maybe there’s a back and forth and that constitutes the middle. And then there’s an end where it is “closed” or “solved” and it’s over. Now in the consumer’s mind, that may not be over, right? A telecom company provider did a study and they realized that there were very common follow-on issues to things that happened. So if you order a cell phone, for example, there’s a 20 percent likelihood that you will call back and open another ticket. Which is ‘I need to find out how to access my voice mail. Someone left me a voice mail. I don’t know how it works,’ right, and these kind of things.

And so these follow-on issues — in customer service land we often think of these things as different events. They have a beginning, middle and an end. And they track for consumer purposes, right? In the consumer’s mind, that follow-on call to get access to voice mail, and the initial set up and the billing question that you have — those are all part of the experience of buying a new cell phone. I think the power of Messenger, personally, is that once you have this interaction around a transaction with a customer, the channel is open.

It’s a long-running channel. And without needing to go back into the archive or figure out what’s been the question, or going back to the support page and looking for the click link that sends a message to them or pops up a form — without needing any of those things — you can go into your Messenger and see. ‘Oh! Here’s a conversation I had with Everlane about that t-shirt that I bought. I want to buy that T-shirt in black. I can just click through here and do that.’

Small Business Trends: I noticed in the post on the Zendesk blog that you mentioned live chat is getting some of the highest satisfaction rates already when it comes to customer engagement. Do you see that increasing with this kind of integration?

Adrian: I’m not sure. It depends. We thought about why live chat has such high ratings. And I think it’s because live chat happens synchronously. As in the person helping the consumer and the consumer occupy the same digital space at the same time. And I think because you’re both in the same time and space, you can have a direct conversation.

Small Business Trends: With 600 million active Facebook Messenger customers, does this kind of partnership lead to even more customer service chat in comparison to the other channels?

Adrian: Yeah, it’s certainly a very, very large chunk of market. And there are a lot of advantages to brands having that continuous stream of activity being registered and recorded in a handy place for the consumer. So I imagine as businesses become more socially aware that there’ll be a significant move towards chat. It is a concern for businesses though. Because you do need to think about how you organize the teams that are going to be talking on instant messenger or on Messenger chat.

Small Business Trends: Are there any other main themes or concepts or challenges that companies really should address before they go down this path?

Adrian: It depends a lot on where businesses are at in terms of their journey to engage the customers on different channels in customer service. It’s a short distance journey if you’re already running chat for customer support or customer engagement or sales.

I think if you’re new to that game, but excited about Facebook Messenger, one good thing is that you can A/B test by not making the Messenger feature available on every transactions. You could train and ramp up the team and do it all slowly. You don’t have to big bang migrate all of your transactions over to it at once. At the same time, I would definitely encourage brands and businesses to use some kind of NPS or customer satisfaction measurement tool. Obviously, Zendesk can provide those tools so that you can check that — the before and after state.

Small Business Trends: Where could people learn more about the integration, and also just more in general about Zendesk?

Adrian: Best place to start is zendesk.com. That’ll guide you through descriptions of our core customer service, customer engagement products, the Zopim chat tool which is also available on zopim.com, and the work we’ve done with Facebook as well getting ready for the ultimate launch of the Messenger communication channel for customers.



This interview on Facebook Messenger for customer service is part of the One on One interview series with thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above. 

This article, “Adrian McDermott of Zendesk: Using Facebook Messenger as a Customer Support Channel” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Playing Catch Up? Use Both Hands

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

cartoon7156

This idea came from a conversation during a family visit, and I must admit, I’ve been working from home as my own boss for so long that I’d forgotten what this feels like.

So many times I returned after a week relaxing somewhere only to find that I was going to pay dearly for the time off. Stacks of paperwork, items missing, an inbox chock full of emails…

It’s never easy playing catch up after time off, but at least these days I know what I’m coming back to.

This article, “Playing Catch Up? Use Both Hands” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Is it Time for Your Business to Go Mobile?

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

mobile app user

Now that mobile is coming to the forefront of marketing and Web development (to say the least), applications are naturally becoming more and more important. Although this used to be somewhat advanced and even confusing in the past, the latest mobile technology has made it possible for virtually every company and every type of company to create an app. The big question is simply whether or not it’s the right move for any given company.

As just about everyone with a smartphone already knows (all 2 billion of you), an app, or application, is a piece of code that you create that is completely separate from your website. This means that you have to create something entirely new and manage the app on it’s own.

The benefits are discussed above, but by and large many companies are creating apps as a way to make their information even more accessible and give their clients and customers another avenue to engage with the company faster and easier than in the past.

A mobile website is great and necessary thanks to mobilegeddon, but apps take things one-step further, which you can learn more about below.

An app is a great and creative option, but keep in mind, not every company is suited for an app, even in 2015.

Benefits of Creating an Application for Your Company

The truth is that creating a mobile application isn’t much trouble at all. It’s important first, however, to consider some of the benefits and see if an app is right for you. Some of these benefits include:

Convenient for Users

Once a user downloads the app, all they have to do is click it and they’re ready to go. Although some companies may think having to download the app is a disadvantage, people are beginning to make using apps commonplace. The whole idea behind applications is convenience for users, and they know that.

Customization Available

Because an app is a native piece of code, you can customize it in any way you see fit for your company. This means that you have complete control over how relevant and helpful your app is to your customers and clients. If there was ever something about your company that you hoped could be easier, an app just might be the answer.

Reach

Apps could very well help you reach a new audience. More and more people are beginning to shy away from desktops and traditional websites and are using apps and their mobile phones as their connection to the Web.

Easy Integration

Apps can be created to sync up with information that a user may have in their phone. For example, if your customer wanted to get a content update from your website, an app might allow them to sync this up with their mobile calendar.

Extra Cash

Many companies choose to create a free app as a way to help customers make purchasing decisions easier, but some have been successful selling the actual app itself. Either way, it usually can’t hurt to create an app.

PR Tool

Apps are currently a huge trending topic in the media. Lists of some of the latest apps do well because there is such a demand for that type of content, so you can use your app as a PR tool and help get your brand into that discussion.

Competition

Many of your competitors will start creating apps, so you don’t want to fall behind. At this point, you might be one of the first in your industry or in your area, but that is a great way to stand out and grab the entire audience that is looking for an app for the type of work that you do.

One of the most important things to realize about a mobile app is that it is not a mobile website. A mobile website is simply using your website and customizing it for the mobile screen and the mobile user. It is not a native piece of code. Creating a mobile website should probably be your first plan of action, and an app second.

When Creating a Company App Might Not Be Right for Your Company

So naturally, with pros come a few cons. In general, there are two things that deter companies from creating an app: First, you can only run your app on one platform, which means that you have to develop multiple apps if you want them to be available for different operating systems (BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, etc.). Second, users have to download and find the app from an app store. You can advertise your app on your website, but they can’t get it right then and there. It’s something to consider. If this is your biggest worry, I recommend checking out this article that discusses App Store Optimization, or ASO.

Your Turn

Of course once you decide if an app is right for your company, you have to work with a developer and make it happen. What you want out of an app, how you want it designed, how you want it to work, and more can get very involved, so it’s best to work with a professional to put your plans into action. You can learn more about how to create and optimize an app here.

Have you ever created a mobile app for your company? Did you find it successful, or would your time have been better spent elsewhere? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Mobile User Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Is it Time for Your Business to Go Mobile?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Imbue Tea Infuser Brews Using Magnets

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Imbue tea magnetic tea infuser

Many tea drinkers will tell you that for superior flavor, the best option is loose leaf tea.

Unfortunately, the drawback to using loose leaf is the mess involved with brewing it. This is especially true if you are away from home.

But a group of Western Washington University students have created a product they believe will make brewing loose leaf tea on the go easy and mess free.

The group has dubbed their creation Imbue, the magnetic tea infusing vessel. It’s a travel mug crafted from shatter-resistant borosilicate glass with a magnetic bamboo lid and stainless steel strainer. The magnetic Imbue tea infuser also comes with a removable natural fabric sleeve with a no-slip suede lining

The group claims the stainless steel strainer magnetically connects to the lid with ease. No need to twist the infuser into place or fumble with clamps. Once the strainer is in place, tea is brewed by flipping Imbue upside down.

After an initial small production run that sold out at the first showing, the group has decided to go big and start production on a large scale. To get things going, Imbue is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. The campaign met its goal the first day and has now raised more than $154,000 in pledges.

For more information on Imbue check out the Kickstarter video below.

According to the Imbue Kickstarter page, money raised will go to more than just production:

“Our Kickstarter campaign will not only enable us to produce the highest quality product possible, but also help support the WWU student chapter of IDSA, Industrial Design Society of America. IDSA provides opportunities by putting on design events, educating students with guest speakers, and arranging job shadows with different design firms around the country.”

Instead of going an entirely different route, the team behind the Imbue tea infuser seeks to simplify and refine the infusion method. The infuser’s combination of glass, wood, and stainless steel adds to Imbue’s appeal, particularly with the trendy coffee shop crowd.

While the trendy and aesthetic design makes Imbue desirable to look at, it’s the magnetic lid that lends the Imbue tea infuser its functionality. It’s an innovative design that could cut down on the mess and frustrations of brewing loose leaf tea.

Currently, you can pre-order the Imbue tea infuser for $29. That’s not a bad price for a product like this on Kickstarter. There is no expected shipping date listed on the Imbue campaign page, though.

Image: Imbue

This article, “Imbue Tea Infuser Brews Using Magnets” was first published on Small Business Trends

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ReTargeter Creator Aims to Replace CRM with New Immediately App

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

immediately app

Arjun Arora, creator of ReTargeter, which presents highly targeted ads to consumers, moved on quickly after selling his six-year-old startup this past March. And now a new app called Immediately is his new gig.

The Immediately app is designed to integrate deeply with Gmail and Salesforce to help salespeople better manage their workflow. It does so by providing the ability to monitor leads and log phone calls. It also notifies users when recipients open emails, among other things.

The startup is located at 2 Mint Plaza in San Francisco.

“I joined as a late co-founder,” Arora told Small Business Trends in an exclusive interview.

He first met co-founders CTO James Mock and CEO Branko Cerny in October 2013 when the two were just starting out.

“Two brilliant young first-time founders had gotten the company to a great place and it made sense for me to join and help take the company to a new level,” he said. “When I was ready to get back into operating I happened to reconnect and it all made sense.”

Replacing CRM?

Mock and Branko initially focused their efforts on an email organizer app but later decided to focus specifically on sales with Immediately. The platform aims for nothing less than to replace the CRM concept with a mobile program that is “data-driven” and “highly automated.”

It’s deeply invested in “becoming the one product that a sales rep wants to use day in and day out,” Arora noted on Immediately’s website.

Noting that more than 70 percent of lost deals happen due to slow reaction time, the program aims to fix that by freeing up salespeople to focus more on the selling process itself.

The Immediately app has gotten kudos from the likes of Peter Kazanjy, Monster’s Vice President of Products and Technology, who said:

“Two things are important in sales: activity and timing. Immediately gives you both. The ability to react in real time to a prospect with a logged call or a templated, instrumented email is game changing.”

The Immediately app has also gotten funding. Cofounder Cerny told TechCrunch that Immediately had raised $2 million in funding and was working with pilot customers, including Tapsense, UserVoice, NatureBox, Spark Central, New Relic and ZenPayroll.

Immediately’s investors include Streamlined Ventures, Maiden Lane, Galvanize VC, Queensbridge, Friendster and Nuzzel founder Jonathan Abrams, TalentBin co-founder Peter Kazanjy, EdgeSpring co-founder Ryan Lange, and HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes.

Before Immediately

Arora’s earlier company ReTargeter was purchased  for an undisclosed price in late March by Sellpoints, which distributes media content for manufacturers.

“It started as a business partnership and turned into an acquisition,” Arora told Small Business Trends. “It started as a solution that their clients could use and to help them win more business and then turn it into an acquisition.”

The acquisition benefits SellPoints by enabling it to combine its massive collection of consumer data with ReTargeter’s ad network to bolster and expand efforts to reach online shoppers.

Image: Immediately

This article, “ReTargeter Creator Aims to Replace CRM with New Immediately App” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Join Us in the #MSFTBizTips “Grow a Dynamic Business” Chat

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

twitter chat microsoft

Productivity is imperative in your small business. It leads directly to profitability.

But productivity means different things to different people.

Certainly it involves effectively managing your team and workforce. It includes things like effective time management and good communications and collaboration with your team too.

But today it’s also about leveraging the powerful technologies available to all small businesses.

It’s about technologies like the cloud.

The cloud gives you a convenient place to store important files and projects. It allows you to then easily share these files with your team and clients. And it provides automatic backup of all work. (Imagine no more need to email important documents to team members or carefully track revisions.)

Want to measure how cloud technology is improving the productivity in your business?

  • Calculate the saved man hours in manual data entry and other activities.
  • Estimate the money saved on automating further activities; simply calculate how much time each of these activities takes and multiply this by an hourly rate.
  • Implement integration between cloud apps, a way of saving even more time for your employees.
  • Finally, calculate what you’ll save in software maintenance costs.

All of these factors contribute to what might be called a more “dynamic” business — one that is productive, grows and uses its money wisely and efficiently.

Want to learn more?

Join us for the Microsoft “How to Grow a Dynamic Business” Chat from 12 noon to 1 p.m. PST (3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST) Thursday, May 28, 2015 on Twitter.

Small Business Trends founder and CEO Anita Campbell (@SmallBizTrends) and Smart Hustle publisher Ramon Ray @RamonRay serve as moderators of the event.

You can participate in the conversation by using the hashtag #MSFTBizTips in your tweets.  And to follow what others are saying in the chat, just search on Twitter.com for that same hashtag.

Microsoft representatives and members of the Microsoft community will be on hand to answer questions about the best ways to save money in your business through the cloud. Other discussion will include how to leverage technology to analyze the data your business collects.

For all the details on the event, see below.

Twitter Chat Details

Date: Thursday, May 28, 2015

Time: 12:00 to 1 p.m. PST (3:00 to 4 p.m. EST)

Topic: How to Grow a Dynamic Business

Hashtag: #MSFTBizTips

Moderators: Anita Campbell (@SmallBizTrends) and Ramon Ray (@RamonRay)

At the time of writing this article, Anita Campbell is participating in the Microsoft Small Business Ambassador Program.

Twitter Image via Shutterstock (remixed)

This article, “Join Us in the #MSFTBizTips “Grow a Dynamic Business” Chat” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How The Face of Tipping is Changing Due to Technology — Are You Prepared?

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

tipping for services

Today’s newer payment apps and platforms can be pre-programmed for certain tipping amounts and seem to be resulting in higher tips for wait staff, cab drivers, and others.

For some entrepreneurs, this is good news. Even restaurateurs can benefit from their wait staff getting higher tips. Big tips tend to lead to happier employees, which generally fuels better customer service. And happier customers are willing to tip more.

Use of these new payment platforms has even spread beyond restaurants into other industries. Customers use them to pay and drop heftier tips at beauty salons, in taxicabs and anywhere else tipping applies.

Some of the key payment platforms include PayPal, Square, Breadcrumb, and Apple Pay. Even Facebook has debuted a new payment feature. These apps and platforms are designed to make paying simpler. But they’ve also impacted tipping.

Tech research firm Software Advice recently issued a new report in which it noted that digital platforms have helped fuel an increase in tipping because they ease the whole payment process.

Sometimes the act of tipping may be influenced by the simple design of the mobile payment system itself.

For example, a recent Iowa State study cites how one mobile payment company influences consumers to tip. Per the study:

“Upon swiping their credit or debit card, consumers then need to choose among … preloaded tip amounts (15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent), or to enter their customized tip amount, or decide not to tip at all.”

The interface itself is credited for raising “the proportion of tipping by 38 percent.”

In a post on TechCrunch, researcher Nir Eyal presents at least one supposition as to the reason why, explaining:

“For one, digital interfaces make it just as easy to tip as to not tip — a marked change from the way we used to pay in the past. When cash was king, anyone not wanting to give a tip could easily leave the money and dash. ‘Whoops, my bad!’ However, with a digital payment system the transaction isn’t complete until the buyer makes an explicit tipping choice. Clicking on the ‘No Tip’ button is suddenly its own decision. This additional step makes all the difference to those who may have previously avoided taking care of their server.”

The Software Advice report further notes some factors that might influence customer tipping. Here are some examples:

  • Forty-one percent of respondents said proximity to a server or cashier increased the likelihood they would leave a tip.
  • Eighty-six percent preferred using an iPad to enter a tip themselves instead of having a server do it.
  • However, 35 percent of female respondents said they would be likely to leave a higher tip if the server were to input it for them.

If you wish to encourage tipping of your employees or staff, consider some of the possibilities these new tends present:

Promote the availability of mobile payments as an option in your business. Consider signage that encourages gratuities and think about ways to promote tipping via your mobile presence and marketing.

Tip Box Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How The Face of Tipping is Changing Due to Technology — Are You Prepared?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Public Relations for Small Businesses — Does That Exist?

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

matthew bird

There’s an overabundance of public relations agencies and despite their high costs — or maybe because of them — they’re not trusted. If you do hire one, you’ll get no guarantees.

There are 29 million businesses in the U.S., but fewer than one percent are represented by PR agencies.

“When you come from the agency world, you know where inefficiencies, mistrust, and disconnects with the non-PR world come from,” said Matthew Bird in an interview with Small Business. Bird is a digital media industry veteran who intends to shake up the industry he worked most of his life in.

In contrast to PR, large retailers are an example of a trusted sector. People gravitate to stores with buyer-friendly return policies and prices, such as 1-800-FLOWERS.

Consumers have certain expectations when they buy from chains and franchises, thanks to standardization in quality control and sourced products, among other things.

With this in mind, Bird wants America to get familiar with a concept he calls “fractional PR” and a new franchise model.  His new company 1-800-PublicRelations Inc. allows small and medium sized businesses to get the highest level of PR service (“Tier 1″, in industry parlance), but on an a la carte basis. Businesses getting a la carte services from the franchise would get “what they request, nothing more, nothing less, and everybody’s happy,” he added.

What’s Different Compared to PR Agencies?

In old PR models, clients could burn through retainers quickly and without much to show for it. In the franchise model, if services aren’t needed, loss of investment is a non-issue. Clients only pay for the services they use.

“The majority of businesses want this type of transaction-based, low-risk model,” Bird added. In 2014, their first year of business, more than 290 companies used 1-800-PublicRelations, Inc.

The company is using cloud-based tech to parse and sort PR teams and coordinate efficiency and revenue sharing. One benefit of the franchise is that if a franchisee feels under-equipped to execute on a specific deliverable, he or she can reach out and revenue share with other franchisees, working together as one company to honor a client request which might have been beyond the scope of just one.

“When you see an industry about to change, it’s because a precipice has been reached,” Bird said “A lot of companies are frustrated with PR and IR agencies because they’re not getting the value they were expecting.”

What’s PR Good For, Anyway?

PR agencies operate on a few basic foundations. On one side, there’s research, consulting, strategic messaging and branding. Many agencies are strong on these, but then there’s an execution side, which many agencies aren’t great at.

Smaller agencies, often called “PR boutiques”, are typically started by ex-employees of larger firms striking out on their own, but with the support systems, infrastructure and other aspects common in a large agency go away, making boutique or solo PR execution a nightmare in many cases.

Buying new technologies and learning special cloud functions are examples of challenges Bird’s franchisees (regardless of tier) won’t need to spend time or energy on, because the corporate side would provide continuity and stability on the backend. This allows the franchisees to focus on account management and fulfilling customer requests, such as media bookings and content development.

Is This the Future of Small Business Public Relations?

Maybe.

There are big players in the PR world today, but lately, even they’ve been questioning what their future is going to look like. Trends are changing and there’s a growing need to serve small businesses, and to gain their trust for the long haul.

Boutique PR companies by themselves haven’t been the solution. Many boutiques and big agency initiatives offer isolated strengths and tout them as unique selling propositions. But isolated strengths are not cohesive solutions, even if tech-based. One ironic pain point is that there’s a wealth of technology to execute social media and content marketing plans, yet for PR’s workflow, there’s no cohesive glue or protocol to leverage it all.

“When you have a lot of technology, you need a fleet of people to manage it too,” Bird said. “Our idea is to streamline what’s important and what’s not important, and to consolidate traditional and digital pieces of PR in one turnkey solution. Everyone wins.”

Image: Matthew Bird/Facebook

This article, “Public Relations for Small Businesses — Does That Exist?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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This article, “Intelligent Insights to Ignite Positive Change for Your Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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