Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

23 Ways to Declare Independence from Day to Day Business Grind

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

business independence day to day business grind

Independence is one of the main benefits of owning your own business. But as many small business owners have learned, the day to day business grind and tasks involved in running a business can often make you fall back into that uninspiring routine that you thought you were leaving behind at your 9-to-5.

Luckily, as a business owner you have the ability to change that. Here are some simple things you can do to take back that business independence and freedom that made you want to start a business in the first place.

How to Get Out of the Day-to-Day Business Grind

Use the Archive Button for Emails

A cleaner inbox can help you focus on the most important items. Periodically, it can be beneficial to just archive or delete emails that are no longer relevant. Choose a period of time, say 90 days, and just clear out everything older than that so that you can focus on the newer, more relevant items.

Unsubscribe!

You know all those newsletters you somehow end up subscribed to? Spend 30 minutes unsubscribing to the ones you don’t read anymore. It’s very liberating.

Put Commitments on a Calendar

Putting events and other commitments on a calendar can clear space in your head so you don’t have to constantly spend time reminding yourself of those upcoming to-dos.

Compartmentalize

Have a problem that’s just simply too much to handle today? Don’t be afraid to put off some larger tasks for the following day or week so that you can really focus on what’s right in front of you now. You can even put those things in your calendar or planner so you’ll be sure to set aside enough time in the future.

Unplug From Your Electronics Once a Day

When you’re on a roll with a project, checking your email or responding to phone calls can really throw you off. So turning off your phone and closing out of your browsers while you work can really help your productivity.

business independence day to day business grind

Take a Break Once a Day

But all of that constant work can sometimes lead to burnout. When this happens, don’t be afraid to just step away for a bit. Taking at least one break throughout the day can help you release some stress. And then when you come back, you’re likely to get more done and be more creative, too.

Hire a Freelancer for that Ugly Project

Have one or two projects that you can’t seem to get a handle on? Go to a freelance marketplace, set a budget, and hire freelance help to get that ugly project that is overdue and has been weighing you down. You can often hire out projects for a few hundred dollars, depending on the type and size of the project.

Have Your Voicemails Sent to Email

There are applications like Nextiva where your voice mails can be automatically forwarded as an audio file to your email. This means that at the end of the day you can check all of your communications in one place instead of going back and forth responding to both calls and emails.

Make the Cloud Your Default Save

When you save files to the cloud, you’re able to easily share them with your team and access them on other devices. Once you choose a cloud storage solution like OneDrive or Google Drive, you can set it up so that your files are automatically saved there. Then you won’t have to spend time transferring all of your files over and over again.

De-clutter Your Work Area

Nothing says “I have a lot of things on my plate” like literally having a lot of things on your plate. Clean up your workspace and get it organized. A nice, clean work area is a good way to free one’s mind of mental clutter.

Learn How to Use Zapier

Zapier is a neat way to send information automatically from one app to another. By using Zapier to automate tasks, it frees you from doing repetitive tasks or manually entering data twice into a new app.

business independence day to day business grind

Use a Scheduling App for Social Media

Schedule and manage all of your social media profiles from one dashboard using an app such as HootSuite. It saves you from jumping around from social site to social site. You can schedule in advance, so you don’t have to interrupt your day to update your channels.

Chunk Your Work

To work in the most efficient way possible, it helps to work on similar tasks in one block, instead of constantly switching your attention back and forth to different types of tasks. For instance, if you have several different phone calls to make, set aside a block of time specifically for returning phone calls. That way, you won’t have to go back and forth between phone calls and other tasks throughout the day.

Create a Social Media Calendar

If you’re not careful, you can easily spend an entire day checking, posting, and monitoring your company’s social media channels. To avoid wasting away in the dark corners of Twitter and Facebook, consider creating a calendar to map out and track your social media strategy. Knowing what you want to accomplish and what it will take can help free the rest of your time for other things.

Diversify Your Income Streams

One of the main stress factors in any business is money. If profits are slow, you’re likely to have to make cuts or work even harder. But if you have multiple streams of income, such as an online store and partnerships with local retailers, then a slow month here or there isn’t likely to have as big of an impact.

Say “No”

Nowhere is it written that you have to accept every business proposition that comes your way. If something isn’t a good fit or you simply don’t have enough time for it, gracefully declining can be very liberating.

Have a Dedicated Workspace

Whether you work from home or in an office, it’s important to have space set aside for work and space set aside for, well, not work. The ability to work remotely is certainly nice sometimes. But you also don’t want to spend all of your evenings working from your couch when you should be spending time with family or winding down.

business independence day to day business grind

Take Vacations

Leaving your business behind for a week here and there won’t kill it (or you). If you have a competent team and you’ve prepared for being out of the office, stepping out for a few days to a week can actually be very re-energizing.

Build a Great Team

The benefits of having a great team around you cannot be overstated. When you trust the people who work with you, you can feel more comfortable leaving some tasks with them rather than trying to do everything on your own.

Set Clear Guidelines for Delegation

However, there are limits to passing tasks off to your employees. People tend to do better work when they know exactly what is expected of them. So if you have a clear work stream and chain of command, delegation of tasks is likely to be a pretty smooth operation.

Have Fun with Your Team, Too

Just as you likely experience burnout while running your business, your employees are likely to get weighed down by their daily tasks from time to time. In those instances, a team retreat, office party or even just a venture to your local happy hour establishment can do wonders for morale.

Meet with Other Business Owners

It can sometimes help to get perspective from people who don’t spend every day working for your business, but who still understand some of things you deal with on a daily basis. Having a business mentor or just some peers in your industry who you can bounce ideas off of or meet with over coffee periodically can provide that all important perspective.

Take a Look at Your Goals

No matter what your current situation, it’s always important to keep your main business objectives in mind when making decisions. It can sometimes help to take a look back at those goals to remind yourself what all your hard work is going toward.

Freedom, Bicycle, Keyboard, Vacation Images via Shutterstock

This article, “23 Ways to Declare Independence from Day to Day Business Grind” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Marketing Value Metrics: A Model for Profitability?

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

marketing value metricsAre we collecting profits or just numbers? Marketing metrics are everywhere and increasing by the day. They’re things like Facebook Likes, Twitter followers, email subscribers, ROI, Cost per Customer Acquisition, bounce ratio, conversions, and leads.

At no time in history has the marketing and sales process been so quantified. Marketers can tell you with growing precision whether this article gets clicked and who bought an item from this webpage because they clicked on a certain advertisement.

At the end of the day, every aspect of business should be about making a profit. Is modern-day marketing (whether it’s one person or a whole team) pulling its weight in regard to this?

Many businesses aren’t so sure anymore.

Is it worth it to pay for someone to write blog posts, Facebook posts, and Tweets when the proof isn’t readily visible?

The Problem: Online Marketing is Confusing

Malcolm McDonald, Peter Mouncey, and Stan McKlan, writers of “Marketing Value Metrics: A New Metrics Model to Measure Marketing Effectiveness,” claim that this confusion is a sign of the times. Marketing, especially social media, suffers from several problems that most marketers don’t want to face:

  • Increasing number of marketing channels and increasing complexity with those channels
  • Time lag between marketing techniques and marketing ROI
  • The concept that “cold hard data” shouldn’t be tied to profitability

In a world where businesses are expected to be competitive on a world stage, marketing budgets and expenses have grown as business owners chase metrics (Likes, comments, ratios) in order to get their customers.

This leaves marketers and business owners in a bind. Most business owners know they need a strong online business presence to thrive in an always-online world, but they don’t know which efforts will give the best return on their marketing expenses.

Metrics Must be Direct, Adaptable, and Structured

Online marketing, the authors of “Marketing Value Metrics” assure readers, is not the problem. The problem lies in the lack of an adaptable, but structured model to track, adjust, and implement marketing metrics that are tied directly to the bottom line or the long-term growth of a company.

“Marketing Value Metrics” states that this is the missing key to effective online marketing. Without it, businesses will end up chasing short-term marketing wins without long-term success.

3 Levels of Accountability

The concept behind the comprehensive model introduced by “Marketing Value Metrics” is structured around 3 levels:

Level 1: Shareholder-Value Added (Profits)

This level addresses basic questions of marketing effectiveness tied to overall business planning. [aka Executive Level Planning]

  • What are we trying to do as a business?
  • How do we measure what we are trying to do?
  • How often should we measure?
  • Who should be responsible for what we measure?

Level 2: Action

This level involves picking strategies to achieve the objectives and goals planned in Level 1. [aka Middle Level Management Planning]

  • Strategies — What do we need to do?
  • Critical Success Factors — How do we know we are going in the right direction?
  • Budget — How much do we spend to reach those goals?

Level 3: Micro-Measurement

This level involves choosing the day-to-day metrics and activities that will reach the objectives and goals discussed in Level 1. [aka Front-line Planning]

  • Awareness — What steps of the buying cycle are we measuring?
  • Testing — How do we know if our ad campaign went well?
  • Forecasting — What response do we anticipate for next year?

The purpose of the model is to encourage a couple of behaviors that “Marketing Value Metrics” sees as successful marketing planning:

  1. Linking budgets to specific performance indicators
  2. Testing specific indicators and using those indicators to forecast performance
  3. Adjusting performance standards as needed
  4. Engaging in whole-business efforts

Pros and Cons of New Model

The model presented in the book seems to serve as a breath of relief to business owners who want a more specific method to integrate their online metrics to their marketing budget. Compared to other business books, “Marketing Value Metrics” provides specific advice to many of the confusing elements of online marketing, like how to segment your customer base (discussed in Chapter 2). Through a plethora of models and graphs, the book takes social media concepts (like awareness) and drills them down to a specific measure or ratio.

On the other hand, the graphic of the model is a bit overwhelming at first look. The authors do an excellent job of walking readers through the individual characteristics in their model, but it can be overwhelming. If you are not comfortable perusing articles from magazines like Harvard Business Review, you may be too overwhelmed to continue reading.

Should You Read “Marketing Value Metrics?”

The answers depends heavily on your background and interest. If you are looking for a simple “12-step guide to social media profits” book, “Market Value Metrics” would not be for you. The book, however, will be of great value to marketing managers, executive-level managers, and boardroom members who want a more effective model for linking their marketing efforts to profits.

Small business owners may find that the model is too complex for their budget. Regardless of background, however, every business owner can find at least one or two concepts in almost every chapter that can help improve marketing effectiveness. This review is based on an electronic copy of the book provided for reviewing purposes.

This article, “Marketing Value Metrics: A Model for Profitability?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Sprint Announces Retail Agreement With Dixons Carphone

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

SprintEDIT


Telecommunication giant Sprint has entered into a working relation with a company that helped another big branch launch a super successful retail operation.

Sprint Corporation whose international headquarters are in Overland Park, Kansas, is announcing a partnership with Dixons Carphone Group which is based in London, UK.

Dixons Carphone is Europe’s leading specialist electrical and telecommunications retailer and services company and is recognized as a global retail innovator with world-class retail expertise. In a former joint venture with Best Buy, the company helped launch Best Buy Mobile.

The move is expected to accelerate Sprint’s retail transformation, and is the latest inventive move to grow its number of retail stores.

In an release on Sprint’s office website announcing the event, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure explained:

“Sprint is going to offer customers a greatly enhanced experience in buying wireless products and services. We are partnering with the world’s leading wireless retailer to improve the customer experience in our stores. Dixons Carphone has the expertise and capabilities to accelerate this important part of our transformation journey.”

In the same release, Dixons Carphone Deputy Group Chief Executive and CEO of CWS Andrew Harrison added:

“We are delighted to be working with Sprint and to be a part of a transformation in their business that is already making impressive headway. This is a very exciting venture for us, and is a significant step in growing our CWS business in the US. We bring specialist knowledge and skills to this relationship and will be looking to deliver innovation and outstanding customer service under the Sprint brand.”

As part of the arrangement, in coming months Sprint will work closely with Dixons Carphone Connected World Services (CWS) division on a pilot program to build and operate about 20 new Sprint stores in select U.S. markets.

These Sprint stores will operate similarly to the third-party retailers who operate Sprint-branded wireless stores across the U.S. Sprint will own and staff the stores while CWS will manage them. CWS will also apply its expertise and best practices across all of Sprint’s sales channels.

The current customers of both Sprint and Dixons Carphone should experience same level of service they’ve always had. The new partnership should only increase the availability of in-store support.

Employees and executives should not be affected by this new agreement.

Dixons Carphone plc is a multinational electrical and telecommunications retailer and services company. It was formed on 7 August 2014 by the merger of Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse Group.

It operates under a number of brands across the United Kingdom, Ireland and mainland Europe. These include Currys, PC World and Carphone Warehouse in the United Kingdom; Elkj?p in the Nordic countries and Kotsovolos in Greece. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

In 2006, Sprint exited the local landline telephone business, spinning those assets off into a newly created company named Embarq, which later became a part of CenturyLink.

The company continues to be one of the largest long distance providers in the United States. In July 2013, a majority of the company was purchased by Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Corporation, although the remaining shares of the company continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sprint Retail photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Sprint Announces Retail Agreement With Dixons Carphone” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Gmail Undo Send, New Tech Partnerships Make Headlines

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

GMailEDIT
Pretty much every business owner and professional has experienced the horror of sending an email only to find moments later that it included a mistake, typo, or even the dreaded unintentional “send all.” But now there’s a new solution for Gmail users in the form of an “undo send” button.

In addition, WordStream and Constant Contact and Bing and AOL announced partnerships this week that could impact small businesses. Those items top the list of headlines in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends

Do-over! Gmail Undo Send Feature will Save You From Embarrassment

Intra-office sniping accidentally slip into an email? Get a little too frank in an email and instantly regret hitting Send? Gmail users were finally clued in to the worst-kept secret on the Internet. The service officially unveiled its Undo Send feature that gives users up to 30 seconds to change their mind on hitting Send.

WordStream and Constant Contact Announce Partnership

WordStream and Constant Contact are announcing a new business partnership. As part of the partnership, WordStream and Constant Contact will develop an integration that brings new customer leads collected via WordStream Advisor seamlessly into Constant Contact, letting small businesses engage with those leads without any extra steps.

Bing Beats Out Google in AOL Deal

Bing has trumped Google with the announcement of a new Bing AOL partnership. The 10-year deal will be effective Jan. 1, 2016, with Bing powering search and search listings across the AOL portfolio of sites. Google previously held the AOL deal since the early 2000s. The company may not view being outed as a great loss.

Using Windows Server 2003? Microsoft Will Drop Support Soon

The end of support for software comes after a long period of warning from the companies selling these applications. In the case of Microsoft, it makes the announcements many years in advance, giving users ample time to make perpetrations for the migration to the latest platform. However, we are all very busy and before you know it is time to make the upgrade.

Mobile Technology

Sprint Announces Wireless Industry’s First-Ever “All-In” Pricing Plan

Recently, Sprint introduced what the company’s calling the wireless industry’s first-ever “All-In” pricing plan. The company claims that its All-In campaign counters the wireless industry’s current way of advertising by providing one monthly price for a smartphone and unlimited talk, text and high-speed data.

Microsoft Introduces 4G LTE Version of Surface 3

Fans of Microsoft’s Surface 3 might be excited to hear the company is beginning to roll-out a new 4G LTE model. But if you want to get your hands on one, you might have to wait a few weeks. Microsoft is taking its time bringing this latest model to market. The Surface 3 (4G LTE) has already been on the market in Japan through Y!Mobile for the last two weeks.

Your Surface 3 Can Now Have Windows 10

Microsoft has released updates for its Surface Pro 3 devices, allowing the tablet/laptops to run the new Windows 10 operating system. That’s one of the changes the company announced this week with its new firmware for the Surface Pro 3 and its sister product, the Surface 3.

Lenovo ideacentre Stick 300 is a PC in the Palm of Your Hand

The idea of taking your computer with you wherever you go is as old as the laptop. The notion of a computer so small it fits in your pocket — i.e. the “PC on a stick” isn’t novel either. So what makes the new Lenovo ideacentre 300 special? For one thing, the price. When it hits shelves next month, it will sell for $129.

Finance

Santander and Monitise Team Up to Invest in Fintech Startups

A major bank and an innovative financial technology platform are getting together to invest in fintech, a fancy name for financial technology companies. These are businesses largely centered around use of software for the delivery of financial services. The new partners are Santander Bank, a large North American lender, and London-based Monitise, an innovator in so-called mobile money.

Research

Many Small Businesses Aren’t Marketing to Millennials, Says Manta Report

Small business owners are missing out on a potentially big piece of the action by not marketing to millennials, a key consumer demographic, according to a recently released survey. Only 15 percent of small businesses across all industries are marketing to millennials, the survey results reveal.

Learning by Doing and Entrepreneurship

A few months ago, I did a non-scientific survey on this site asking the following question of anyone who wanted to answer it: “What’s the best way to learn more about entrepreneurship?” I promised to present the results in a post. I’ve finally gotten around to doing that and have included the results below.

Retail Trends

Small Retailers Make Up Their Own Minds on Confederate Flag Debate

Larger retailers like WalMart and Amazon have already made up their minds. They’ve decided to stop stocking the Confederate flag and related merchandise. The decision follows the tragic shooting of nine people, all black, in a predominantly African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Win Social Media Marketing Freedom with DrumUp

Social media is becoming a more and more essential part of running a business. But it can also turn into a time consuming task. That’s the problem that management tool DrumUp is looking to solve. The company provides a social media management tool that is specifically designed to help businesses and professionals save time on their online marketing efforts.

Small Business Operations

Check Out These Business Travel Horror Stories

Each month SurePayroll produces its SurePayroll Small Business Score Card. And this month the company was kind enough to allow Small Business Trends to add some questions posed to small business owners and managers about their practices and policies for business travel.

Social Media

Could Facebook Video Be Serious Competition to YouTube?

The rocky start of Facebook’s IPO has done very little to discourage the company from charging full steam ahead and going after its competitors. With its billion-plus users in its back pocket, the company has the confidence to challenge even the likes of Google and its video outlet, YouTube.

Startup

Serious Accident Leads to Life-Changing LeanOnWe Startup

Ron Gold was riding his bicycle in Northern New Jersey when an SUV struck him head-on without braking. The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. And Gold, having just come around a curve, didn’t have enough time to change course. By all accounts, the accident should have killed him. But his active lifestyle before the accident essentially saved his life.

Cafe Finds Perfect Location — In an Old Train Station?

This cafe has a unique location — inside a nineteenth century train station. The Market Cafe is located in the sleepy little town of Topton in eastern Pennsylvania. When you visit, one of the first things you might notice are the two very active train tracks. The second would be the old train station that now serves as the cafe.

Gmail on Mobile photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Gmail Undo Send, New Tech Partnerships Make Headlines” was first published on Small Business Trends

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New Smappee Pro System Helps Small Businesses Save on Energy

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

smappee

Smappee, a global energy management company based in San Francisco, recently launched its Smappee Pro, which it says is the only energy monitoring and control solution for small businesses on the market.

The device includes clamps that attach to incoming power lines as well as a Web portal in the form of a desktop website and an app for mobile devices that displays power usage within a building.

Using advanced algorithms, the Smappee Pro System is designed to allow small businesses to realize the benefits of enhanced energy efficiency. The system, for example, can sense when no one is on site. It will then shut off appliances and other electrical devices that may still be running via plug-mounted “smart monitors” also included with the system.

The Smappee Pro System also allows the small business owner to compare energy usage at a company’s different locations to see if one location is using too much electricity for lighting compared to other locations.

Richard Morgan, Smappee’s director of global business development, noted that while similar energy monitoring solutions are available for large companies—say, with thousands or hundreds of thousands of locations around the world, such as WalMart—no one has been going after the home and small business sectors.

Morgan, along with Smappee founder and CEO Stefan Grosjean, started in the energy monitoring and control business by working at a company that designed such solutions for big-box retailers and other large corporations.

The home and small business segment have not previously been targeted, he noted, because energy monitoring and control products “don’t necessarily scale down as well.”

That, he said, was Smappee’s mission from the start: “We wanted to bring the valuable position of energy analytics and control down to the domestic home environment” as well as the small business segment.

Smappee launched a home version of its product in 2013, which Morgan described as “successful,” adding that “a number of customers using the devices in their home are largely energy-aware people.

“We’ve had a number of those people who are energy managers of small to medium-sized businesses ask us about using the product in that space,” Morgan said. That prompted Smappee to “scale up” the home version into the Pro version for businesses.

Price varies depending on the number of units a business requires.

“Smappee can give you visibility as to where energy is going,” he said. “The other half of the story is about control. There are a lot of benefits to visibility of usage.”

A U.S. study by Smappee indicates that households using the technology generally save 12 percent due to the efficiencies the product allows. Morgan, however, said he believes, based on his experience, that the small business sector can save as much as 15 percent to 25 percent.

Through the use of the wall mount device, called the Comfort Plug, Smappee’s platform can then control whatever devices are plugged into it, shutting off devices that are consuming electricity unnecessarily.

To do what Smappee allows without the device would require a small business owner to install many different meters per each location. Then, a data concentrator would need to be added to read the data and a software platform that provides visibility.

With Smappee, everything you need to do this comes packaged in one box, he said.

“Smappee can put all those devices using vampire loads and put them to sleep at night, on weekend or holidays,” he added.

Noting that every small business can benefit from the product, Morgan said the optimal benefit would be realized by a small business with multiple locations.

“Smappe,” he added, “is designed to be installed simply and easily by homeowners though we recommend you hire an electrician to do this.”

Smappee is implementing a two-pronged distribution strategy, Morgan said. It is focusing on selling the Smappee Pro unit to energy service providers and utility companies, in addition to small business owners themselves.

For the first month of its availability, the Smappee Pro System will include six free Comfort Plugs.

Image: Smappee

This article, “New Smappee Pro System Helps Small Businesses Save on Energy” was first published on Small Business Trends

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PayPal Expects to Add More Customers with Xoom Acquisition

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

xoom hq

PayPal headquartered in San Jose, California, announces it’s acquisition of Xoom, of San Francisco.

Xoom Corporation is a leading digital money transfer or remittance provider that allows consumers to send money, pay bills and reload mobile phones from the United States to 33 countries, including China, India, Mexico and the Philippines.

PayPal is a worldwide provider of online payment services. Online money transfers serve as electronic alternatives to traditional paper methods like checks and money orders. PayPal is one of the world’s largest Internet payment companies. It is in the process of being separated from eBay and will be an independently traded company. The move will:

  • Help PayPal extend it’s offerings to its customers by cross-selling Xoom’s services.
  • Shorten time-to-market. (Xoom’s fast “funds-out” network helps PayPal to enter the growing marketplace with a strong presence in key international markets.)
  • Allow Xoom to expand it’s portfolio of send-markets by leveraging PayPal’s international network.

In a statement announcing the deal, Dan Schulman, President of PayPal, explained:

“Expanding into international money transfer and remittances aligns with our strategic vision to democratize the movement and management of money. Acquiring Xoom allows PayPal to offer a broader range of services to our global customer base, increase customer engagement and enter an important and growing adjacent marketplace. Xoom’s presence in 37 countries — in particular, Mexico, India, the Philippines, China and Brazil — will help us accelerate our expansion in these important markets.”

John Kunze, President and Chief Executive Officer of Xoom, stated:

“Becoming part of PayPal represents an exciting new chapter for Xoom, which will help accelerate our time-to-market in unserved geographies and expand the ways we can innovate for customers. Being part of a larger, global organization will help us deliver the best possible experience to our customers, while maximizing value for our shareholders.”

PayPal will is acquiring Xoom for $25 per share in cash or an approximate $890 million enterprise value. This transaction represents a premium of 32 percent over Xoom’s three-month volume-weighted average price and was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, as well as the board of eBay Inc., PayPal’s parent company.

This merger will increase the number of services available through PayPal, but it’s primary business that it’s famous for should remain unchanged. Xoom anticipates that it will help accelerate their time-to-market in unserved areas.

No changes in executives or employees appear to be anticipated at this time.

Xoom was founded in 2001 and has offices in Guatemala City, Guatemala. It is a publicly traded company and was initially backed by venture firms including Sequoia Capital, New Enterprise Associates, SVB Capital, and Fidelity Ventures.

Established in 1998, PayPal had its IPO in 2002, and became a wholly owned subsidiary of eBay later that year. In 2014, PayPal moved $228 billion in 26 currencies across more than 190 nations, generating a total revenue of $7.9 billion (44 percent of eBay’s total profits). The same year, eBay announced plans to spin-off PayPal into an independent company.

Image: Xoom/Facebook

This article, “PayPal Expects to Add More Customers with Xoom Acquisition” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Jewel Burks of PartPic: How Working at Google Led to Business Idea, Helping SMBs Get Found Online

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Jewel Burks’ experience working at Google led her to co-found PartPic, a company making it easier for people to find product information by taking a picture of a part. That itself is a full time job — and one that has seen the company recognized by TechCrunch and Accenture as an enterprise disruptive technology. But even as she leads the company’s efforts in pioneering visual search technology, she also is a Google Entrepreneur-in-Residence focused on helping small businesses get found online.

I spoke with Jewel before her featured presentation during Intuit’s Quickbooks Connect stop in Atlanta. She shared how her experiences working at Google helped lead her to co-founding PartPic, and a few important things SMBs should be doing in order to build a more compelling online presence.

jewel-burksSmall Business Trends: Give us a little bit of your personal background.

Jewel Burks: I am originally from Nashville, Tennessee. I went to Howard University in D.C. and shortly after that moved out to California to start my career working in enterprise sales at Google for a couple years, before getting a little homesick and wanting to move back to the south. So, I moved to Atlanta a little over three years ago, and totally switched industries and began to work in parts distribution for a large industrial distributor.

And I got this idea that part search is really tough, and was very difficult for our customers. So I wanted to bring what I have learned at Google in terms of having a technological lens on everything to this multi-billion dollar industry, but pretty antiquated as it relates to technology. So that’s really how the idea for PartPic came about.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about what PartPic does and how it helps your customers help their customers.

Jewel Burks: PartPic is visual search for replacement parts. We’ve built computer-vision technology that can extract features from a parts image. We’re specifically focused on things like nails, bolts, screws, washers – so more industrial parts at this point. We’ll be moving into automotive and electrical later – probably next year.

We built this computer-vision technology that can, essentially from an image of a part, detect exactly what that part is down to a part number. And we are licensing that technology to distributors, manufacturers and retailers to put inside their mobile apps and on their websites. And the idea there is that people won’t have to struggle to find the parts they’re looking for. They can just have a picture of something they want to replace, and we can tell them exactly what it is.

Really, we’re just making our customers look good because their customers don’t have to struggle with finding things they need anymore.

Small Business Trends: But you also help businesses get found online.

Jewel Burks: I do have a role with Google where I help business owners leverage the power of the web. We’re understanding now that 90 percent of all purchases are researched – either researched and then take place online. And so in order for a business to be successful today, you have to have a really great web presence, and you have to know how to get people to you – whether it’s a website, your social media channels – and that takes work. It’s not just “turn it on” and hope for the best. It takes some skill and some tips that you can apply. And that’s really what my job is, to help business owners understand what they can do to grow their business, utilizing online resources.

Small Business Trends: Talk about how they’re doing that from a global perspective, and how different is it to make sure it’s easy to get found on mobile device versus just on the Web.

Jewel Burks: I mentioned that 90 percent number, and what we’re seeing now is the majority of that traffic is coming from mobile devices – so cell phones and tablets. Gone are the days where people are carrying around big, bulky laptops or just doing all their work on a desktop. People are using their mobile devices to make these same purchasing decisions. And there’s a huge aspect of local in that. So when people are in your neighborhood where your business is, you want them to be able to find you.

And while local and mobile are buzz words, they’re actually super important to the success of business these days. So, I talk about how you can make your website mobile friendly. How you can optimize for mobile so people have a really great experience when they see your site. And those are, again, super important to growing business online.

Small Business Trends: What about maybe helping people understand the difference between making your site mobile optimized versus doing a mobile app?

Jewel Burks: That’s a really great question, and I get that a lot. I’d say probably 75 percent of the time, a mobile site is fine. You don’t need to have a mobile app. The investment of building a mobile app for the average business really isn’t worth it. It depends on your business. You have to evaluate it for yourself. But typically a really clean, easy-to-use mobile site will serve the purpose for the majority of businesses.

Sometimes if you go into developing a mobile app and you’re going to spend a lot of time and money and resources on something that’s not going to have a huge step-jump in the success of your business. It takes some evaluation on what is it that you want to achieve. What do you want people to be able to do when they land on your mobile site or your app? And understanding also, there’s so much competition as it relates to app. People use a core of 10 apps typically on their phone. They might have downloaded 100, but the ones that get the daily use are a set 10. So do you want to compete with that, or do you want to give the resources to a mobile-friendly site.

Small Business Trends: You mentioned a key word, competition. Businesses are forced to compete with other folks that are trying to hit their target audience. As they begin to do the things that you teach folks, how long does it take for them to start seeing some results?

Jewel Burks: That really depends. I think a lot of people go into all of this and they think it’s going to just be an instantaneous; money’s flooding in because of these changes. But it really does take time. It takes understanding the metrics associated with each of these small changes you might make. That’s why I’m a really big advocate for analytics. Google Analytics, obviously, is great. And it helps people make more informed decisions about the changes that they’re making on their website. What’s actually making an impact and what isn’t. And so I really encourage people to follow those pieces and understanding the whole picture of what can actually impact their business over time. And understanding it is an effort that can take place over time. It’s not going to just be a one-day…

Small Business Trends: Not a Hail Mary.

Jewel Burks: Yeah.

Small Business Trends: Well, what are some of the metrics that you really key in on that they can pay attention to and track over time?

Jewel Burks: I really want people to understand, when it comes to their site, what is your call to action? What do you actually want people to do when they get to your site? Are you wanting them to purchase on your site? Are you wanting them to give you a call? Are you wanting them to come to your location? Whatever that is that you want people to do, you’re going to want to put conversion tracking against that particular call to action. And so those are the type of metrics that are going to make a difference in your business.

Site visits are great. You want to get eyes on your site so that you can view those calls to action. But the most important thing is how does this visit correlate to money in my pocket – at least that’s the most important thing to me. So you want to make sure that the call to action on your site is super clear. They don’t have to scroll through and see your bio and you’re picture before they get to the call to action. You want them to see call me now, or buy now, whatever it is, right there at the top of your site.

Small Business Trends: Is there a big difference between somebody who has an e-commerce site and optimization versus somebody who has maybe more of an offline business that they’re using their website to convert folks to come in.

Jewel Burks: There are certainly things that you can do and things you’re going to keep in mind that are going to be a little bit different from e-commerce versus more of an information site. But that key element of whatever the call to action is being very clear and above the fold, rings true across both. If you’re looking at e-commerce, there are a lot of really great templatized or helper select – like Shopify for example – that can help you in building those sites and making them really clean and easy for people to navigate.

And also things like the images you use. If you’re selling clothes online for example, that makes a big difference. You want to make sure that the images are clean and crisp and make people actually want to buy. And then as it relates to more of the offline businesses, people sometimes think well I have a brick and mortar so maybe the website isn’t as important. That’s not true. The website is the new billboard, is the new phone book. Whatever people were previously using to find businesses, that is what online is now. So you really have to make the investment in a great website as well. Even if your business is offline.

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about your company – PartPic – and also some of the things that we just talked about?

Jewel Burks: Sure. So I’ll give you lots of hashtags and ats. So I can be found @jewelmelanie on social media. More information about growing your business online, you can follow @excelwithgoogle and use the hashtag #acceleratewithgoogle. And you can also follow @acceleratewithgoogle on Google+ for lots of tips and tricks. And also join the small business community, Google Small Business Community on Google+. Then for information about PartPic, you can go to partpic.com and follow @partpic on Twitter.



This interview on small businesses getting noticed online 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, “Jewel Burks of PartPic: How Working at Google Led to Business Idea, Helping SMBs Get Found Online” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Next Year, I’m Buying My Phone a First-Class Ticket to Somewhere Else

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

cartoon7191

I took a really nice vacation with the family this summer and promised I’d leave my work at home.

Of course, that meant working like crazy for a few weeks leading up to vacation. And working like crazy afterwards to get caught up and back on track. And then there was the problem I had to fix during vacation on my phone at the zoo while everyone else was looking at bears.

Maybe next time I’ll follow the lead of the guy in this cartoon.

This article, “Next Year, I’m Buying My Phone a First-Class Ticket to Somewhere Else” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Use Facebook Author Meta Tags for Better Connections with Readers

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

facebook author meta tag

Facebook is at it again, this time with a new feature to help publishers make connections with their readers through something called the Facebook Author Meta Tag.

You have to implement the Facebook Author Meta Tag on your website, but once you do it makes it easy for people to follow an author on Facebook if they found a piece of content they liked on the Facebook platform.

In other words, it’s not only helping foster relationships and bring brands and readers together, but it makes the social network a great place to publish content (and thus helping to keep people on Facebook). The Facebook Author Meta Tag is easy to implement, so there isn’t any reason not to get involved if you have a Facebook account and are looking to grow your audience.

How the Facebook Author Meta Tag Works

According to the official Facebook announcement, this is a “web development tool that connects the byline in a story preview in the News Feed to the writer’s Page or Profile with Follow. Users won’t have to see the Author Tag when they’re simply scrolling through your News Feed, but if they do click on an article to read more they will then be prompted with an option to follow that author along with a story preview when you scroll through their News Feed for the next time. Below is a screenshot example:

facebook author meta tag

In addition to seeing a Follow button, you’ll notice that there is also a Like button. This doesn’t necessarily mean someone likes the article, but it means they like the author, so they will start getting updates in their News Feed about that author.

How to Implement the Author Tag

All you need to get started with this tag is one small line of code in the header tag of your page. According to the announcement, you should visit here if you’re a developer to learn about adding the line of code. It only has to be done once, so it’s incredibly easy to use! It’s also worth noting, however, that if you manage a Facebook Profile (as opposed to Page), you have to make sure the Follow option is turned on, which you can learn more about here.

How to Use Author Tags to Your Advantage

It’s true that the Author Tag was really designed to help journalists, but brands can also benefit. Brands are not going to be able to use this feature as brands in general, however, because an entire brand doesn’t write an article. You can try and publish something that was written by your brand, but readers respond to real author much more frequently.

In other words, it’s important that you start building up the authority of your authors to help bring traffic to your site and spread awareness and visibility of your brand’s page. The more authoritative your authors can become on Facebook, the better chance they have of bringing their loyal readers to your website and earning opportunities online in your industry. If their writing is thriving, other websites are going to want to feature that writing. Because authority is becoming so important for SEO, starting with the authority of your authors is a great move.

What do you think about the new Author Tag button? Do you think brands and their authors can benefit, or do you think this is more for journalists? Let us know in the comments below.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Facebook Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Use Facebook Author Meta Tags for Better Connections with Readers” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Using Windows Server 2003? Microsoft Will Drop Support Soon

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

microsoft windows server 2003 end of life

The end of support for software comes after a long period of warning from the companies selling these applications. In the case of Microsoft, it makes the announcements many years in advance, giving users ample time to make perpetrations for the migration to the latest platform.

However, we are all very busy and before you know it is time to make the upgrade. If you have Windows Server 2003, you have less than half a month before Microsoft ends support. After July 15, security patches, technical support and software update will no longer be available for Windows Server 2003.

With millions of small businesses and enterprises running this server operating system, there is real danger the large volumes of information these organizations possess could be compromised. The impact of the threat is so severe, the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which is part of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) issued a warning on Nov. 10, 2014.

According to the agency, there were 12 million physical servers worldwide still running Windows Server 2003 as of July 2014, and they all face credible security threats if they are not updated. Malicious attacks and data loss are just some of the threats US-CERT warns against, but organizations that have to abide by regulatory compliances face very stiff fines and lawsuits from governing bodies and consumers.

The security threat landscape in the digital world is extremely dangerous. We are no longer dealing with teenagers hacking for sport. Organized criminal enterprises, rogue governments and hacktivists are on a mission to find vulnerabilities on every system that has information they deem valuable. Companies that don’t upgrade their Windows Server 2003 better be prepared to defend themselves against a relentless salvo of attacks.

In order to avoid this possibility, Microsoft recommends migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft Azure or Office 365. With these new applications, users will see improved performance, increased agility and faster response times to market demands. It goes without saying, it also includes security patches anytime the company finds any vulnerabilities in its software.

FYI, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 support is to stop on April 12, 2016.

Microsoft Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Using Windows Server 2003? Microsoft Will Drop Support Soon” was first published on Small Business Trends

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