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October is Hispanic Heritage Month and Small Business Trends is partnering with Biz2Credit to bring you The Changing Face of Small Business Ownership; Latino Entrepreneurs on the Rise.
The free webinar features Small Business Trends’ own Anita Campbell as moderator, joined by other small business advocates to lead the discussion. Topics include the explosive growth of Latino-owned companies, keys to lasing success, different types of funding options, and more.
Also available this week — if you’ll be in the New York City area — is Relate Live by Zendesk.
Customer engagement is important to any small business and Relate Live offers keynotes, training sessions and breakouts discussing techniques to improve your customer’s experience.
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
Webinar: The Changing Face of Small Business Ownership; Latino Entrepreneurs on the Rise
October 7, 2015, Online
Small businesses run by minorities account for over 15 percent of the 28 million small businesses in the U.S. Some of them are recent arrivals while others are longtime American citizens, but part of historically underserved groups. As part of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), Biz2Credit will host a webinar on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, with several leading small business advocates – including our very own CEO, Anita Campbell. Discussion topics includes the explosive growth of Latino-owned companies, tips for overcoming obstacles to growth, keys to lasting success, tips for making financing, marketing, and personnel decisions, challenges facing entrepreneurs searching for startup capital and other funding – and much more.
Relate Live by Zendesk
October 7, 2015, New York, New York
A conference designed to help you better understand your customers
Small Business Influencer Awards: Nominations Open
October 15, 2015, Online
The 2015 Small Business Influencer Awards is produced by Small Business Trends and Small Biz Technology and honors companies, organizations, vendors, apps and people who have made a significant impact on the North American small business market. Who has influenced your business positively? Or have you created an app that’s influenced small business? Who is your business mentor – have they made a positive impact on your business? Nominate those that have influenced your business today!
Global Small Business Forum
October 23, 2015, Chicago, Illinois
The Global Small Business Forum 2015 held in Chicago will help entrepreneurs and small business owners export successfully and network with their peers. It will answer such questions as: What’s the best way to ship goods? How will I get paid? Do I need a license? Should I sell direct or indirect? Does my business have what it takes to sell in China?
October 28, 2015, Online
Bizapalooza is an online event that begins on October 28, 2015, and brings together the “rock stars” of small business success, entrepreneurial expertise and marketing wisdom, sharing their sought-after insights during this virtual festival — 3 days of Peace, Planning and Profits. Discover the best business building techniques from the world’s leading experts. You’ll rub shoulders with the biggest names and brands in small business marketing, soak up countless tips and new strategies and enjoy extensive networking opportunities all from the comfort of your home, office or local coffee shop. This is a unique opportunity for you to connect face-to-face with the top small business experts while networking with like-minded peers from around the globe.
November 9, 2015, Las Vegas, Nevada
UnGagged is a gathering of the smartest, most forward thinking and most courageous SEOs and digital marketers on the planet. For 3 days they get together under one roof, sharing the latest proven techniques. This is an event for technopreneurs, online publishers and SEO professionals. Hear from those who know what they are talking about. No recordings. No pitches. Just pure SEO insights you won’t get anywhere else!
World Business Forum New York 2015
November 12, 2015, New York, New York
In 2015 the World Business Forum will present two days of powerful stories; of individuals who face shocks – both personal and organizational – and who use those shocks to achieve the extraordinary. Speakers include Sir Richard Branson, Jim Collins, a former faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Walter Isaacson, once the 14th editor of TIME magazine in 1996 and named Chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, Adam Grant, author of the New York Times bestseller Give and Take and Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD.
November 16, 2015, Las Vegas, Nevavda
SleeterCon is the accounting solutions conference for professionals to learn and differentiate their practices, with in-depth education to prepare for the future.
This article, "Webinar for Latino-Owned Businesses, Other Events Crowd Calendar" was first published on Small Business Trends
Running a business today is much different than it was just a few years ago. There are so many new platforms and strategies to keep up with, and even new groups to market to. With all of those changes, some tips from the small business community may come in handy.
Read on for this week’s list of tips in the Small Business Trends community news and information roundup.Consider These Live Streaming Platforms
Live streaming video content has really taken off in recent months. With so many different platforms to choose from, it can be difficult for those new to the process to choose which is best for their businesses. Taylor Redick outlines some of the different live streaming platforms like Periscope and Meerkat to help you choose the one that’s a good fit for your business.Learn How to Effectively Market to Teens
If your business is one that relies on young customers, then you need to know how and where to best reach that demographic. Bart Caylor shares some tips for marketing to teens for the education industry. But the concepts can span a variety of different industries.Consider This Business Advice from a Pro
Sometimes entrepreneurs just have to learn lessons the hard way. But often when you listen to those who have been there before you, running a business can get a bit easier. Dagmar Recklies shares the four best pieces of business advice she ever got. And BizSugar members weighed in on the subject.Set Your Holiday Email Priorities
Believe it or not, the holiday shopping season is basically here. So it’s time for your business to really plan for your holiday marketing efforts, including email. DiTesco includes some tips and an infographic about setting your holiday email priorities.Write for People, Not Search Engines
(Resonance Content Marketing)
SEO is important to the success of any website. But that alone won’t make your online content a success. To really get the most from your content, you need to keep your actual readers in mind, rather than just search engines, according to Rachel Parker. You can see further discussion about the post on BizSugar.Create a Call to Action that Sells
A good call to action is essential for any website or marketing materials. But what some businesses think are acceptable calls to action may actually be repelling customers. Lisa Furgison includes some examples of calls to action that really sell to customers, along with a few that don’t.Make Better Profits with These Top eCommerce Strategies
The competition among ecommerce sites is fierce. So you’ll need to make a really good impression on shoppers if yours is going to stand out. Nikole Haiar shares some tips for making a good impression on ecommerce shoppers and thus increasing your overall profits.Use These Content Curation Tools to Amp Up Your Strategy
Content curation can be an effective and timesaving part of any content plan. But you need to have the right tools in place in order to get the job done. Lucinda Watrous includes some top content curation tools that may improve your overall strategy. And BizSugar members also discussed the post.Make a Dry Spell Work in Your Favor
Dry spells will occur from time to time for pretty much any business. But you don’t have to just sit around and wait for customers to rediscover what you have to offer. You can use that time to better your business for the future, according to Anna Eschenburg.Develop Your Leadership Skills
(Startup Professionals Musings)
Being a leader comes naturally to some. But even the naturals need to learn a thing or two to really hone their skills along the way. Martin Zwilling shares some key principles that most strong leaders share. And BizSugar members shared their input as well.
Mobile Video Photo via Shutterstock
This article, "Business Tips on Live Streaming, Marketing to Teens and More" was first published on Small Business Trends
Working from the comfort of your own home may sound like a dream. But if you don’t have all the right elements for your home office, it can have a detrimental effect on your productivity and even your health and happiness.
No two home offices are the same. But regardless of the size and layout of your space, there are some elements that can help make it a more productive space. Here are some of the most important elements.Good Lighting
The light in your office is essential, not only for your ability to clearly see your work, but also for the entire mood and atmosphere. If possible, set up your office in a room that has a lot of windows so your workspace will be full of natural light. If that isn’t possible, ensure that your artificial lighting is sufficient and warm — not just a single fluorescent bulb in the corner.Adjustable Desk
Sitting at a desk all day long, even if it’s in your own home, can be draining and even detrimental to your health. But if you have a desk that adjusts to different heights, you can switch from sitting to standing whenever you’d like throughout the day. Adjustable desks are available at home and office supply stores, or you can even make your own.Comfortable Chair
When you do choose to sit, it’s important to be comfortable. So choose a chair that offers ergonomic support and adjustable features.Some Personalized Decorations
Your home office is your own personal space, so it should make you comfortable and happy. Fill it with artwork, desk toys, and even some creative or personalized office accessories to really make it your own.Plants
Plants are another way to add some visual interest to your office space. But they can also have other benefits like air purification and creating separation between different parts of a room.Good Computer
The computer you choose for your home office has the potential to make a huge impact on your productivity and success. So choose one that’s completely customized to your needs. If you tend to work from different parts of your office, a laptop might be best. If you stay put at your desk and work on multiple projects at once, a desktop with multiple monitors is likely a better choice. Make sure the model, hardware and software are what’s best suited to your individual working habits.High-speed Internet
A good Internet connection keeps you just a click away from your online accounts, other team members and a whole host of other tools that can help you run your business from home. Whether you use a desktop, laptop or multiple devices, you’ll need to ensure that your Internet provider is fast and reliable enough to keep you on top of things.Good Printer
Depending on your business needs, a good printer, scanner, or all-in-one device can be a good investment. If you need or want to keep hard copies of documents, then an actual printer is likely a necessity. But if you tend to stick with digital copies and just occasionally need to send a copy of a tangible document, a simple scanner might be enough. You’ll need to examine your own needs to really decide which type is best for you.Communications System
To best communicate with your team, clients or anyone else, a reliable communications system is a must. You might consider getting a separate phone line specifically for business calls. But online and VoIP services like Nextiva and Skype for Business can also be good options.Surge Protectors
When you’ve invested a lot of money into electrical devices and equipment to run your business from home, the last thing you want is to see that equipment ruined. Surge protectors offer a really simple and easy solution to protect your devices from damaging electrical surges.Exercise Equipment
Getting some physical activity in throughout the day is essential to a healthy work-at-home lifestyle. Depending on your preferences, you might consider adding a treadmill, stationary bike or some free weights to your space. Some people even use stability balls in place of chairs to build core strength. Or, if you’re really into multitasking, there’s always the treadmill desk.Calendar
Staying organized is just as important when you work from home as it is in a traditional office. Keep a calendar or planner in a prominent location in your office so you don’t lose track of important appointments or deadlines.Filing System
You’ll also need a place to store and organize your important documents and files. A traditional filing cabinet usually does the trick. But if you’re more of a minimalist, you can opt for a smaller file folder and then just scan the rest of your documents to keep digital copies.Safe
For those items that are really important or sensitive, a safe may also be necessary. Find one that’s large enough for some important documents and any expensive equipment you might have that you want to keep safe either on a daily basis or just when you leave for lengthy periods.Office Supply Cache
Don’t let yourself get sidetracked from important tasks just because you’re running low on printer ink or can’t find a pen. Constantly keep your office stocked full of all the supplies you use regularly so that you’ll never need to make an office supply run in the middle of the day.Radio, Media Player
Music can be a great way to drown out any background noise that may be happening around your home and keep you focused on the task at hand. Choose a radio or streaming station with some instrumental music if you tend to get distracted by lyrics. And try to avoid stations with ads if at all possible.Healthy Snacks
You’ll need fuel to power through any productive work day. Keep some healthy snacks in or near your office so that you won’t have to leave on a fast food run or settle for food that will have you feeling less-than-stellar later.Coffee, Tea
Caffeine can also be a powerful productivity booster, in moderation of course. Keep a coffee pot or some tea in or around your office so you always have quick access whenever you need a coffee break.Temperature Controls
You likely already have the ability to control the basic temperature of your home. But if your office is in an area, like a basement or top floor, that tends to be hotter or colder than the rest of your home, you’ll still need to stay comfortable. Try a space heater or fan if you find that the temperature is a bit off in one way or another.Alarm Clock, Timer
Keeping a regular work schedule is essential to a productive work-from-home life. Use an alarm to wake up at the same time every day, just as you would when working at a regular office. You can even use an alarm or timer to signal the end of your work day or the end of a specific task you need to spend time on.Door
One of the most important factors of a successful home office is its ability to be separated from the rest of your home. If you simply work from your bed or couch, the day can really get away from you and you’ll find yourself either getting distracted from work by non-work demands around you.
If you absolutely can’t have a door or some kind of physical barrier separating you from the rest of your home, try staging the space so it’s clearly designated as your office. And only spend time working from that one space, rather than migrating to your couch or kitchen table. But if you’ve already included all the elements above, who would want to work anywhere else?
Home Office Photo via Shutterstock
, Other Images: Wikipedia
Chaos is a blessing and a curse to many startup teams.
It occurs in the entrepreneurial environment during the launch years, but it can also hamper strategic decisions and consume valuable time when starting a business. Fortunately there are more books providing guidance to minimize chaos, especially as so many cloud services become available to businesses, be it enterprise or the sophisticated mom-and-pop.
One of the books that should be on your radar is “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” by Gino Wickman.
An entrepreneur who, at age 25, turned around a debt-loaded family-owned business, Wickman is the author of Get A Grip, a business problem-solving fable. Wickman’s experiences led him to create the Entrepreneur Operating System, (EOS), a holistic system that helps leaders run better businesses with better control and better balance while building a healthy, functional and cohesive team.
I had the chance to review a test copy of his latest book “Traction” from BenBella Books, and I have to say it’s a helpful guide for small businesses looking to get ahead.
“Traction” examines six components that, in one way or another, become part of a business: vision, people, data, issue, process and traction.
The first five are aspects of a business operation with labels based on EOS. The purpose of the last aspect, traction, is to be a catalyst based on those first five that lead teams into meaningful action.
Wickman uses each aspect to show practical universal principles of planning so that working with teams and managing resources is easier. Some of the aspects may seem straight-forward on first read. What Wickman provides are the steps to creating each aspect in an integrated system that will help your business execute meaningfully on strategy.
For example, when planning a vision, Wickman suggests about proving your services to potential clients and customers:
“There is a proven way you provide your service or product to your customers. You do it every time and produces the same result…There are typically three to seven major steps in any company’s proven process. Creating a standard proven process to use in selling situations will give you two very powerful advantages. It will increase your potential customer’s confidence and peace of mind in doing business with you….it will make you stand out among the competition….Rather than giving them a sales presentation and inundating them with information, you’re saying ‘let me show you exactly how we are able to accomplish great results for our customers.’”
While I like that non-fiction books reference classics in their topic — in this case, Jim Collins’ “Good to Great“ — I admired Wickman’s choice in “Traction” to not go too far in mimicking its source material. For example, he notes BHAG — Big Hairy Audacious Goals — from Collins for setting 10 year and 25 year objectives, yet he leaves room for adjustment, that “the length of time is up to you.”
Wickman introduces the idea of Quarterly Rocks, 90-day objectives that small business owners should adopt ASAP.
I have long believed that business owners should commit to small objectives in quarterly periods to better organize their results and needs for long term survival. Wickman believes that as well. Here’s what he says about how such an approach can be used:
“Quarterly Rocks creates a 90-day world for your organization, a powerful concept that enables you to gain tremendous traction… Every 90 days, your leadership team comes together to establish its priorities for the next 90 days based on your one year plan. You discuss and ultimately conclude what has to be executed in the next quarter to put you on track for the 1 year plan, which in turn puts you in track for the three-year picture, and so on.”
I also really appreciated Wickman’s sensibility about building a profit. Sales is important but statements like the following are excellent reminders that its the quality of profits that drives a business for longevity.
“Growth for growth sake is normally a mistake. Being a hundred million dollar company is not all that it’s cracked up to be… Would you rather have a 10 million dollar company with 20 percent profit or hundred million dollar company with a 2 percent profit? It’s the same net profit with considerably more work and higher complexity.”
Business owners are well-served with this perspective as a reminder to build businesses of lasting value.
There are tools within the book to help you document your core processes and to guide your team to agreement on vision derived from resources. While this is not an analytics-themed book, much of the material can open a discussion for organized tech needs such as analytic solutions and cloud solutions. Such tech is essential for scaling your organization while reducing unnecessary chaos. (There’s that word again! )
If your startup team is in the midst of maturing, this book can put some traction in your operations. And watch profits trend up as the chaos goes down.
This article, "Need to Get Your Business Going? Then You Need to Get “Traction”" was first published on Small Business Trends
As a business owner or manager you already have a huge number of responsibilities on your plate, from leading a team and staying on top of finances, to launching new product lines, trying to obtain capital, and more.
However, it’s important not to neglect an often ignored, yet critical aspect of running a business: having an up-to-date and effective emergency management plan.
While of course you always hope that you and your team don’t have to face a natural disaster or violent attack at any stage, you never know when such an incident might occur. As a result, you should ensure your business has a disaster preparedness plan in place to safeguard both the company and its staff in case something unforeseen does happen.
Whether it’s your first time developing a disaster plan, or you are about to embark on a higher degree to become specifically trained in the area, it helps to have some basic knowledge of what’s involved. If you need some tips on how to put a plan in place today, read on for some of the key ideas you’ll want to consider.Assess Risks
One of the first things to do when crafting an emergency management plan is to assess the risks to your business and your staff. It’s important to look at both types of potential hazards — natural and man-made. There are various levels of risk-assessment that can be completed, from a basic self-assessment that you conduct in-house, through to extensive paid studies and evaluations.
The needs for your business can vary according to the industry you’re in, the size of your firm, and the scope of your work, so use common sense and as many available resources as possible. To start with, though, take a look at potential risks that you think might be the most common and/or the most hazardous.
The geographical area the business is located in, for example, might tell you that you’re most at risk of an earthquake, flood, or cyclone. Alternatively, looking at the type of work the company does might alert you to more internal risks of biological or chemical disasters. Analyze the factors that could most affect the future of your business if the worst-case scenario happened, and work from there.Create Checklists and Plans
From the risk assessments you conduct, you can start to put together checklists and an emergency management plan that addresses specific potential emergencies (both in-house and community-wide) and how they should be handled. You will want to cover both minor and major problems, and have documentation written down in steps and sections.
For starters, put together a checklist that covers all the items or procedures that need to be obtained or followed before a disaster happens. This preparedness list might include setting up an evacuation site and stocking up on survival kits that contain things like water, torches, blankets, non-perishable food, batteries, a spare cell phone, and a first-aid kit. The checklist would likely also include the compilation of emergency contact information.Train Staff Members
Once relevant information for your emergency management plan is compiled, you’ll need to start training your team on what to do if an emergency does indeed occur. All staff members should know what their response needs to be if a disaster happens, especially where to find escape routes from the firm’s building or how to locate emergency supplies.
It’s always a good idea to have regular (at the very least annual) meetings where the emergency management plan is discussed and test runs are carried out to prepare for worst-case scenarios. Employees should be very clear on who is responsible for what in case of an emergency. That includes knowing things like where to meet or who to contact if the business premises is seriously damaged. Plus, they should be aware of techniques for staying as safe as possible during both man-made attacks and natural disasters.Keep Vital Documents Safe
In addition to the safety of team members, you should also consider how to keep vital business documents and intellectual property (such as formulas, records and the like) out of harm if an issue arises.
Make a list of all the critical information that needs to be protected, and ensure these documents are kept in a portable container that is both waterproof and fireproof. Keep this container easily accessible at all times so that if an emergency occurs, it can be quickly picked up and taken out of the building as you exit.
Additionally, it’s best to have copies of each essential piece of information and your emergency management plan backed up via an external storage option like the Cloud, or kept locked away at a bank or other location.
Evacuation Route Photo via Shutterstock
This article, "What You Need to Know About Emergency Management Plans" was first published on Small Business Trends
Twitter has long been considered one of the most useful social platforms for brands. And this week, the microblogging site announced some changes, like removing share counts below tweets and redesigning buttons.
But it’s another social platform that seems to be catching more eyes lately. Instagram just reached the 400 million user mark, making it a bigger platform than Twitter.
Read about these headlines and more below, in this week’s Small Business Trends News and Information Roundup.Social Media Instagram Hits 400 Million — Now Bigger Than Twitter
Surpassing Twitter by more than 80 million users, Instagram announced it now has a community of more than 400 million around the world. This means that Instagram is bigger than Twitter. Going from one million users in December 2010 to 400 million in 2015 represents meteoric growth no matter how you gauge it.Twitter to Remove Share Counts and Redesign Buttons
Changes are coming to the way you see Twitter every day. The microblogging site has redesigned Tweet and Follow buttons and is losing the share count — the displayed number of times a tweet has been shared — some time in October.Employment ZenPayroll Changes Name to Gusto, Adds Benefits, Workman’s Comp
ZenPayroll, a San Francisco payroll startup, has changed its name to Gusto. In an official post on The Zen Blog, CEO and co-founder of Gusto, Joshua Reeves, confirmed: “Our new name Gusto was inspired by our customers and their teams who show courage and passion in the work they do every day.35 Freelance Sites to Explore for Freelance Assistance and Jobs
Need project help or temporary workers for your business? Today you’ll probably go online to find help, especially for knowledge workers. And for freelancers who themselves operate as solo small businesses, marketplaces have opened up new opportunities and become powerful marketing platforms.How to Use Social Media to Find Employees
Social media has transformed how businesses recruit today. Consider that, on a monthly basis, more than 288 million people use Twitter and 300 million use Instagram. Even more, about 890 million a day, use Facebook. Social platforms are marketing platforms, but hiring managers and recruiters are increasingly turning to them to find talent too.Finance How to Manage the Risks of Equity Crowdfunding
Equity crowdfunding refers to efforts by entrepreneurs to raise small amounts of money from many people (“the crowd”) by selling shares, typically through an online portal. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently approved the final rules for equity crowdfunding in the United States.What is Bonus Depreciation and Does Your Business Need It?
A group of small to medium-sized manufacturers is asking Congress once again to restore tax provisions that allow small businesses to write off equipment costs as well as deduct the purchase price of some equipment.Management You Won’t Find Most Entrepreneurs Napping On the Job
Getting enough sleep is essential to a productive work day. But busy entrepreneurs don’t always have time to get as much sleep as they’d like. A new infographic from furniture company Home Arena examines some of the sleeping habits of successful entrepreneurs, including Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell.Can Fidgeting Help When Sitting Long Hours at Your Desk?
Small business owners tend to be desk jockeys, what with all the paper (or computer) work associated with running the business. Studies show that even the recommended cardio exercise for a half-hour two or three times a week may not sufficiently offset hours of sitting.Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Usersnap Creates Business Out of Online Bugs
Everyone with Internet access has likely experienced bugs on various websites. And if you’ve ever tried to convey your experience to the website owner or operator, you’ve likely experienced frustration that you can’t simply show them what’s on your screen and get them to fix it. That’s the problem that Usersnap is aiming to solve.Small Business Operations Small Business Travelers Should Benefit From Expedia, Orbitz Deal
Small business travelers that search online for better deals on airfare, hotels, and the like, stand to gain from the Expedia acquisition of Orbitz Worldwide. The companies each promise that the Expedia Orbitz merger can expand their offerings to discount-seeking travelers, especially those traveling for business.Shutterstock Shutters Skillfeed, the Online Training Marketplace
Skillfeed.com, an online video tutorial and learning marketplace run by Shutterstock, is shutting down effective September 30, 2015. An announcement posted by the Skillfeed team explains: “Skillfeed is at a crossroads and, after thoughtful consideration and exhausting many different ideas, we have decided to no longer accept new customers or instructors as of today.Technology Trends Onboarding Microsoft’s Cortana to Your Small Business Team
Cortana is Microsoft’s version of the voice-activated virtual assistant. This app and new base feature of Windows 10 first started on the Windows Phone operating system. She stacks up against the other heavyweights like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, and Google Now. If there’s a superficial difference between each, give Cortana the edge in personality.Nexus 5x and 6P Unveiled
Rumors have been circulating and speculations abound but now the anticipation is over. Google has finally revealed the newest phones in its Nexus lineup. And they’re available for pre-order. At Tuesday’s live Google event the company unveiled its newest smartphones, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. The Nexus 5X is the smaller and less expensive of the two.How Does Your Business Rank On DuckDuckGo — And Should You Care?
Pebble is hoping that the new design of its latest smartwatch will change the public’s perception of the devices … and hopefully their acceptance, too.Could a GoPro Drone Be On The Way?
GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman confirmed in an interview with Matt Burns at Disrupt SF that his company is working on a GoPro drone. TechCrunch quotes Woodman explaining: “Development is on track for the first half of 2016. We have some differentiations that are right in the GoPro alley.” Other than that, Woodman didn’t divulge any more specifics on the drone.
Twitter Mobile Photo via Shutterstock
This article, "Instagram Hits Major Milestone, Twitter Announces Redesign" was first published on Small Business Trends
A federal court has ruled that disgruntled Google AdWords customers may, in fact, join a class-action lawsuit against the company regarding the placement of ads on so-called error pages.
In a recent ruling, the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeals overturned a previous lower court ruling that said AdWords advertisers could not file for class-action status in their complaint against Google. That court ruled the method by which the advertisers were calculating the restitution they were due from Google was “arbitrary” but the appellate court disagreed. This decision allows the plaintiffs to continue with a Google class-action lawsuit against the company.
Plaintiffs in the case argued that Google was misleading them about the sites their AdWords ads would appear on between 2004 and 2008. Specifically, Google was allegedly unclear that ads could appear on error pages or on pages that were no longer active.
When visiting a domain that is not currently active, there are likely multiple ads for various companies on the page. Because these sites are inactive, it is highly unlikely they are receiving any traffic. But when advertisers took the case to court in 2012, attempting to gain class-action status, the lower court sided with Google.
But the higher court now says that decision was reached in error. Circuit Judge Richard A. Paez presented the court’s opinion (PDF):
Here, the harm alleged is Google’s placement of ads on lower-quality web pages without the advertisers’ knowledge.”
Google charged based on the number of clicks their ads received. But advertisers say the amount was calculated using formulas that determined the value of each ads placements. Those wishing to advertise through Google would choose a “search site” where their ads would be placed under search topics, or a “content site” that would run their ads on sites with content about the subject they were marketing, like coffee products or travel products.
While they did not know where the ads would be placed, advertisers say they believed the ads would display on either a content site or a search site. They claimed they did not know ads would be displayed on parked domains or error pages searchers might have reached in error.
While some advertisers did get clicks from these sites, those filing suit say they would not have paid for the ads had they known they were being placed on the parked domain sites and deserved a refund as a result.
A previous version of the lawsuit was dropped after Google updated its interface for AdWords in March 2008 to reflect the fact that users can opt out of showing their ads on error pages.
Advertisers are now seeking restitution for the clicks paid for during the time they say Google was unclear about where their ads were actually being displayed.
Attorney for the plaintiffs Miranda Kolbe told The San Francisco Chronicle:
“It was like Google said you have a choice of putting your ad on a billboard on Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue, and instead they put your ad on a billboard in another location, say at the end of a dirt road in Kansas.”
Google AdWords Photo via Shutterstock
If you have an iPhone, you know Apple has done a great job in making the device very consumer friendly. But business users have been slow in coming around, that is until the global partnership with IBM in 2014.
Since the announcement, many apps have been deployed for enterprises. And with the new iOS 9 mobile operating system, Apple — more than ever — has pushed how its phone can be used by businesses of all sizes.
So what’s new in iOS 9 that will help you run your small business more efficiently?
First thing’s first. The devices compatible with iOS 9 include:
iPads: iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad (fourth generation), iPad (third generation), iPad 2, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 2, iPad mini
iPhones: iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPhone 4s
iPods: iPod touch (sixth generation, fifth generation)
Apple says iOS 9 is better than ever for business and it has done this by introducing features that are essential in today’s connected and collaborative digital workforce. Not only that, but the business specific apps it has been creating with IBM have enhanced management tools with faster integration.
And all of these improvements take up just 1.3 GB of your device’s on-board storage, compared to the 4.58 GB hogged by iOS 8.Use the New Siri as Your Assistant
The public’s expectation of Siri was maybe a bit too much, but she is getting smarter. And for small businesses without a personal assistant, the new features in Apple iOS 9 can give you a heads up on many different tasks. A great new feature creates context-specific reminders so you or your employees can be reminded at a certain time or when a specific email, website, a note or a maps location is opened.Use New Notes Features to Get Organized
Notes lets you attach images, videos, Web links and Maps locations. If you need to add more information, you can add bulleted to-do lists using checkmarks and sketches. And if you have multiple devices throughout your company, any changes you make on your Notes will be updated to all of them through iCloud.Multi-task with iPad’s New Split View
Many businesses now deploy iPads so their employees can work from anywhere. The new Split View mode lets them use two active applications on the screen. This means Word and Excel files can be open at the same time and data can be swapped between them seamlessly.Use Picture-in-Picture for Better Video Calls
Collaboration is key to the way we work today. With this new feature, FaceTime video calls can be scaled down and moved so the application can take over the rest of the screen. You can chat and work on your apps without missing a beat.Mail Message Attachments Easily from Anywhere
The previous iOS Mail app limited the attachments of images and video to what was stored on your device. This was a great inconvenience for businesses that wanted their employees to be able to mail content from different sources. That is no longer the case in iOS 9, as you can now add files from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple apps and more.Streamline Business with New Apple Pay
Cash is a great inconvenience for small businesses, and mobile payments are making things much better. The new platform will be able to store retail and loyalty cards in addition to standard credit cards.Let Your Calendar Be Your Guide
Calendar is a great feature, but now it is much better because iOS 9 accesses reservations for restaurants, trips and other events from your email to make sure you are always on time. Based on this information, it looks up the location on Apple Maps as well as traffic conditions and makes suggestions about when you should start your trip.Let New Maps Features Lead the Wa
Business travel meansy new cities, and the iOS 9 has a new Transit view that gives you directions including public transportation. It also has a multi-modal route planning feature that includes public transportation, other transport or walking as part of your overall directions.
Another Maps feature is “Nearby,” which displays Food, Drinks, Shopping, Travel, Services, Fun, Health and Transport located around you.
One of the biggest concerns many have with their devices is security. The 4-digit passcode of the past is no longer sufficient, so iOS 9 has a 6-digit code to secure your device. An additional security feature is two-factor authentication, an extra layer of security for your Apple ID.
As the collaboration between Apple and IBM continues to grow, there will be more business apps in future iterations of iOS, and some may be of use to your business.
This article, "9 Savvy Ways to Use Apple iOS 9 for Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends
While more and more customer interactions are taking place via Twitter, Facebook, text messages and other forms, most of the important interactions still take place in email. And in many instances, information in those emails is overlooked — information that could provide important insight that doesn’t come from human eyeballs.
Art Papas, founder and CEO of Bullhorn CRM, discusses how email analytics can help find those insights that can drive real engagement opportunities and help you stay on top of what’s important to customers and prospects.
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Small Business Trends: Maybe you can give us a little bit of your personal background?
Art Papas: I started Bullhorn probably about a year after college, I worked for a company doing financial services for a year, and then started Bullhorn, and that was back in the heyday of 1999 when the internet was going crazy.
Small Business Trends: Well tell us a little bit about Bullhorn because quite honestly you’re a CRM application that grew out of professional services and helping recruiters keep track of their contacts. But you’re a full-fledged CRM that a lot of folks don’t know about.
Art Papas: We did get our start in a niche industry and a staffing industry which a lot of people don’t know about unless they’ve interacted with third party recruiters and staffing agency folks and trying to find a job. But we started in that industry sort of by serendipity.
The interesting thing about that business though, is that the staff industry has really high turnover. And it’s generally a low margin business. So there is no shelf wear in the staffing industry. It’s a lot of owner operators, they never buy software and don’t use 100% of it. They are very focused on return on investment because they are spending their own personal money.
I think starting there really was incredible training for us on how to change the way people use software and make sure people actually get a ton of value without having to do a lot of work. So we developed some really powerful stuff around either changing the way people have to enter data and making sure we can deliver insights without people having to take any action, or even use the software necessarily.
Small Business Trends: So how does email analytics help a person grow relationships with folks they’re trying to do business with?
Art Papas: Most people get they should keep good notes on their customers and process. But it’s hard, and it takes time and energy to go note take and put notes in the system and put appointments in the system. And what happens is people treat it like their expense report. Yeah, I got to file my expense report and I got to put my notes in my CRM, and we looked at that and said that’s a huge problem for us if people view the system as a chore.
We’ll never get rich information on the customer. And we would walk into our early customers and see they’d be spending their whole day in Outlook, in their email, and then flip back and forth between our system and Outlook. And to me, that was like, why should they have to go to my system at all? They’re communicating with people, it’s digital, it can be tracked, it can be tied back to customers or companies, so we came up with this concept that you should be able to interact with customers seamlessly just as you normally would, but in the background the database of information about those people is building automatically without you having to do anything.
So analytics is just a fancy way of saying we’re organizing information automatically about who is talking to who as a customer, who has the best relationship with the customer, what the communication has been, what the patterns have been, then does this customer respond to us. Or do we have to email them a lot or call them a lot to get them to engage.
If you’re building that automatically, the insight you can get is really powerful and we say to people, our goal is to have you not using our software to enter data, but use our software to understand what’s going on with your customers and relationships. And I think that it’s kind of like almost like the difference between using a taxi or Uber, or calling a restaurant for a reservation or using OpenTable.
We really focused on this transformative approach to saying all this communication with customers, it’s got tons and tons of rich information in it. Let’s harvest that for you.
Small Business Trends: When it comes to sales, what’s the proper mix between insights versus instincts?
Art Papas: I’ll give you a real live example. Customer comes to us and they say look, we’re struggling because we have a bunch of sales people and a bunch of service people that touch our account and use finance, and what happens is the customer will email the sales rep and say hey, I need to talk because I’m frustrated about what’s going on in my account.
And that kicks off a process. The first thing a salesperson does is go in a customer database and they try and figure out who’s involved in this account. Nobody’s put notes in or the notes are spotty. The last note was from two months ago. Obviously that’s not going to help. Maybe they look at look at service tickets or service issues. Then the email chain starts and the sales person puts 15 people on the distribution. Anyone talking to my contact at Bank of America, and then oh, you should talk to John, you should talk to Pete…
Pete said no, talk to finance, they’ve got a problem with their bill, and you get this run around, this extraordinarily difficult process to figure out what’s going on. So what’s a sales person do, they get on the phone with the customer and they get manual. Okay, tell me what’s happening. They say ‘well why don’t you know what’s happening, I thought I was your most important customer’?
It’s really uncomfortable. So we did a pilot and we implemented it, and the first thing they said is now when a salesperson gets that kind of a call, they just pull up the account, in Bullhorn, and they can see the last person to communicate with this customer was John.
And John sent them an email about the billing question. And I can also see the actual email itself and it looks like John made a mistake and added a zero to one of the numbers, and of course the customer is upset. But I can diffuse that right now on the phone and go oh, that was a typo. Okay great. Also the sales rep looks like a hero because this isn’t rocket science. But you look like a hero if you know what’s going, if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing the customer says wow, you guys are really great at service. You guys must really have great internal communication.
It’s that power of total awareness. And you’ve got to get all the data if you want that kind of power and you’ve got to make it easy to access. It can’t take half an hour of research to figure out what’s going on. You’ve got split seconds when you’re on the phone with a customer.
I’m so much more empowered and I’m so much more confident with customers, I’m able to be a better solution provider. And better able to troubleshoot challenges in their business. And you get to be a trusted advisor a lot quicker and that of course helps you sell more business.
Small Business Trends: If you look a year or two out from now, is email analytics also going to grow and mix with text messaging analytics or social analytics …
Art Papas: Today we do email and we do text. We we’re making a big advancement to the way we do texting later this year, and then phone as well. And what we’re working on is trying to get transcription of a conversation you had with a customer logged in the system on an iPhone. And if we can get that, then that’s every system you use to communicate with customers, we’re capturing data.
So we can take data from customer service surveys, or customers support tickets. And then we take all this stuff and we look at it and say let’s help you get a total picture of the customer. The vision is whatever you use to communicate with customers, we’re there giving you a total picture of all the communication, all the interaction and all the transactions.
Small Business Trends: Where do people go to learn more about what you guys are up to?
This article, "Art Papas of Bullhorn: Using Email Analytics to Better Understand Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends
When I’m writing a new batch of cartoons, I usually begin by sitting down and reading.
Sometimes it’s a newspaper, sometimes it’s a magazine, sometimes it’s an article online. And I’ve found that after I read a few articles in the same vein, patterns begin to emerge.
So, one day I decided I’d play close attention and see if I could discern the pattern. This cartoon doesn’t get it exactly right, but it’s not far off.
This article, "Jargon Overload Will Limit Your Audience to This Guy" was first published on Small Business Trends
The face of small business is changing yet again in the U.S.
There are an estimated three million Latino-owned businesses in America today. Together they generate an estimated $500 billion in sales each year.
Small business credit expert and Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora explains:
“Latino-owned businesses are growing by leaps and bounds in record numbers and instilling vibrancy into local economies, yet they face many challenges in securing capital. During the past decade, Latino-owned companies have increased substantially and have become one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy. However, it is not easy to be your own boss.”Latino Entrepreneurs Need Guidance
Latino entrepreneurs need answers when navigating the sometimes turbulent waters of small business ownership. So, Biz2Credit, an online marketplace for small business funding, has created The Changing Face of Small Business Ownership; Latino Entrepreneurs on the Rise. The free webinar will happen Wed., Oct. 7, 2015, starting at 3 p.m. EDT.
“Research has shown that it has been particularly difficult for Latino-owned and women-owned companies to secure capital to expand their firms. The goal of this webinar is to provide information and guidance to help Latino entrepreneurs get the funding they need to grow.”
The free webinar pulls together experts in small business lending and leadership to answer tough questions facing many entrepreneurs in running their businesses.
Participants will hear from a panel including Small Business Trends founder and CEO Anita Campbell, entrepreneur Rafael Cuellar, Paychex Multicultural Marketing Manager Antonio Lizano and Arora.
Topics covered will include:
The webinar will include a downloadable version of the presentation for all participants. It will also feature an opportunity after the main session for participants to get some of their questions answered.Helping Latino Entrepreneurs is Vital
Addressing the problems and concerns of Latino-owned business is critical, Biz2Credit insists. Not only are these businesses, many of them also woman owned, already a force to be reckoned with. Their number in the U.S. is expected to double in the next five years.
All of this is good news against the backdrop of a steadily declining small business base. It is an epidemic of small business closings some are calling the worst in history.
So, how do the members of this burgeoning new group of Latino entrepreneurs avoid letting their own ventures become just another casualty?Advice for Small Business Survival
Here are some suggestions for keeping your business strong even in tough times when others are struggling:
For more advice on obtaining funds and keeping your business healthy, don’t forget to catch the free Webinar. More details are below.Join the Webinar
Who: Anita Campbell, moderator, founder and CEO of Small Business Trends; Rafael Cuellar, speaker and entrepreneur; Rohit Arora, speaker and CEO at Biz2Credit; Antonio Lizano, speaker and Multicultural Marketing Manager at Paychex
What: The Changing Face of Small Business Ownership; Latino Entrepreneurs on the Rise
Where: Webinar Signup
When: Wed., Oct. 7, 2015, starting at 3 p.m. EDT
This article, "Latino Entrepreneurs, Attend this Free Webinar from Biz2Credit" was first published on Small Business Trends
Financial transparency can be a tricky issue for small businesses.
You may be tempted to keep the majority of your financial information on a need-to-know basis among only your top leadership team. But there can be benefits to sharing this type of information with your team, especially for small, early-stage businesses.
“Todd and I founded Okta in 2009, and back then we were incredibly open with our numbers. We discussed share count with prospective employees to get them invested (pun intended) and we sent emails with specifics every time a sale closed. Sharing our numbers was an easy way to bring our early hires into the inner circle and help them feel confident about our direction. Being transparent about our finances built trust among our small team; it gave employees a sense of ownership and responsibility.”
By sharing this type of information, you’re basically showing your team members how important they are to your operation. You’re showing them that you trust and count on them enough to keep them informed about important and sensitive company information.
This may motivate them to work even harder toward your company’s objectives, especially if they are officially invested in the company. And it can even improve your company’s overall reputation.
Especially if you are relying on investors to fund your business early on, you should at least be comfortable sharing this type of information. And treating your employees and others with the same respect as you would a potential investor can only help your cause.
As your company grows, this may change, especially if you are considering going public at any point. Kerrest recommends gradually shifting away from relying on sharing financial info to make your employees feel included. This can help you avoid an all-at-once shift from being completely open with your team to letting them learn your numbers at the same time as the general public.
But you still need to keep employees in the loop on other aspects of your business, especially if sharing those financials isn’t an option. Treating your employees as important members of your team rather than just replaceable workers can have an impact on many areas of your business. And especially early on, it may even have an impact on your bottom line.
Glasses Photo via Shutterstock
This article, "When Financial Transparency Helps or Hurts Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends
With sales such a critical part of any business’s success, one obvious way to be competitive is in the reward paid to your sales team.
So how do most small businesses pay when it comes to commissions for the people who bring the money in? You might be surprised by the answer.
According to an August 2015 sales commission survey by SurePayroll, the majority of small businesses when asked said they paid commission rates of 20 percent or less to salespeople. In fact, nearly 45 percent say they pay 10 percent or less as a commission.
SurePayroll, a Paychex company based in Illinois, provides a system allowing small businesses to do payroll and make other payments including tax filings. The sales commission survey covered small business customers of SurePayroll, mainly with 1-10 employees.
And what the survey found about how these businesses dealt with paying sales commissions was particularly eye-opening.
Surprisingly, about one fifth either don’t pay commissions at all, or base them on something other than the face amount of the sale. Some other options include gross profit or net profit.
Two smaller groups of respondents, 7.7 percent each, said they paid sales commission rates of 30 percent or more.
Here are some of the write-in responses from small business owners who marked the “Other” square on the survey. Some paid:
From the numbers, it appears there’s room for competition among the small businesses surveyed. That’s especially true when it comes to sales commissions.
Are you competitive when it comes to the sales commissions you pay to your team? Ultimately, the question is whether the amount you pay in sales commissions is sufficient to keep one of your most important resources working for you or leaving for greener pastures.
This article, "Are You Paying Too Little Or Too Much in Sales Commissions?" was first published on Small Business Trends
Has your content marketing strategy hit a speed bump?
Writing and publishing original, timely and relevant content is where most marketing departments focus their efforts, and rightly so. But here’s the thing: no content team is an island.
Even with the best resources at your disposal, cranking out great content every day just isn’t possible. It’s inevitable that someone else in your industry is going to publish a piece making the same argument you’re making, and they’re going to do so better than you did.
At the same time, flooding social media with your own content each and every day will alienate followers and eventually turn your social media feed into an echo chamber. Your solution: amplify your reach by not only being a content creator but also being a content curator.
Top-notch marketing teams already know that striking the right mix of creation and curation is fundamental to a winning content marketing strategy. Content curation brings meaningful and purposeful organization to the sheer deluge of content flooding the Internet each day. Sharing relevant, meaningful information with your audience not only augments the content that you’re producing but also builds your reputation as an industry thought leader.
Plus, by sorting through the large amount of Web content to find the most meaningful information and presenting this information in an organized, valuable way, you’re solving a problem for your target audience and enhancing their quality of life on a daily basis.
Ready to up your content curation game? These apps can help:FrontPageit
With FrontPageit, you’ll read the best articles, not every article.
FrontPageit filters out social network noise and clickbait headlines so users only read quality content from expert curators. Stories and articles are expertly categorized around the most popular and relevant topics.
Instead of relying on algorithms to aggregate content, users curate it. Users can also choose their own experts: the top five percent of all nominees are invited to become a FrontPageit curator.Sniply
You share great articles all the time. Sniply turns these shares into more traffic for your site.
This must-use app attaches a call-to-action to every link you share. You can link back to your own website, an event page, a shopping cart, an email sign-up form, or even a Kickstarter campaign.
Whenever you share content from another website, you actually drive more traffic back to your site. Make the power of viral content work for you!Zemanta
Zemanta aggregates and indexes your marketing content for multiple content ad formats, including promoted recommendations, in-stream ads, in-text ads, and sponsored content.
Its massive reach helps you precisely target specific audiences with your content. And unlike other paid distribution solutions, Zemanta’s bounce rates and time-on-site are in line with organic traffic.Bottom Line
If you really want to dominate content curation, you have to get off social media. Yes, I know that’s a bold statement — especially when Facebook boasts over one million small or medium-sized businesses — but hear me out.
Social media is cluttered with noise from irrelevant chatter, clickbait headlines, and hidden sales agendas. Content curation feeds like FrontPageit, and Zemanta are different.
Thought leaders and industry experts share the best content they find on the Internet. Stories and articles are expertly categorized, ensuring that the most relevant stories automatically appear at the top of a user’s personalized newsfeed.
Further amplify your reach by sharing your curated feed via content discovery tools like Outbrain.
Trust and authenticity are at the core of content curation. Spamming followers with articles you write is not content curation.
For every article you share that you wrote, share one article related to your business/industry and four pieces of content from other influencers. Whenever you share content from other sources, add value to the piece by including narrative insight or a fresh spin on the material.
With the right approach and robust apps for content curation like Sniply, FrontPageit, and Zemanta, you’ll build your following in no time.
Work from Home Photo via Shutterstock
The apocryphal expression “May you live in interesting times” (often incorrectly attributed to the Chinese) certainly holds true in America today.
With tiny handheld devices, we can access the virtual world of the Internet by simply tapping on an icon. We can meet people via dating apps, connect with friends or business associates on social media or via email. (The average smartphone user checks their inbox six times per hour.) Not to mention, other things technology puts at our fingertips, including playing games, shopping, watching a movie or reading a book. We can also continue working on whatever unfinished projects are nagging at us.
We can accomplish virtually anything with our smartphones and through our 2-in-1 devices – from virtually anywhere. Including our seat on the train or the front porch — even while supposedly “relaxing” at home and kicking back on the couch in front of the television or laying in bed before entering the Land of Nod.
Never before in human history has mankind been able to accomplish so much — so quickly — and from so many different locations.
This coin’s flip side, however, is the daunting reality that most of us are actually addicted to technology and its benefits. The ability to truly disconnect has become exponentially challenging it appears. This problem is not one that requires us to spike our smartphone in a garbage can. Rather, we need to set sensible boundaries so that we can avoid the inevitable burnout that follows too-frequent smartphone, tablet and desktop Internet access.
You know you are burned out if your “technology addiction” makes you feel distracted and sometimes overwhelmed. To put it in a larger context, by failing to properly disconnect from technology during free time, we are “creating [a] world of people who are stressed out, exhausted and perpetually teetering on the brink of a cold or worse, because their immune systems are similarly fried,” as Dr. Frank Lipman noted.
We need to truly disconnect from technology before we can recharge our body and mind and do things like get back in touch with our inner well of creativity. Truly disconnecting can improve your mood and boost your ability to concentrate and live in the moment. It can also do wonders for your relationship with those around you, especially your loved ones.
Below are steps to help you set sensible boundaries to disconnect from technology once in a while to avoid overwhelm.Have a Digital-Free Morning
This will be difficult, so start by doing this one day a week. On this day, rise from bed and follow your morning routine – without first reaching for your smartphone or tablet or firing up your desktop. Listen to music while you shower, and have a conversation with someone over breakfast if at all possible, or simply enjoy your breakfast uninterrupted alone. Wait until after you’ve done this before starting up your device.Meditate
You don’t need to be spiritual to meditate. Each day, preferably before you rise from bed, spend some time (as little as 10 minutes) meditating. If you can do this more than once a day, do it. Experts suggest the morning and middle of the day are the best times. Meditation calms your brain and leaves you refreshed. This refreshes your ability to be both productive and creative during business hours.Take a Weekend Retreat
Once you make meditation a daily habit and realize the benefits, you may want to take it a step further — such as a silent retreat where meditation and quiet contemplation are the centerpieces of your day. Groups that offer popular retreats are available. Check Google for a group near you. Save technology for business efficiency during the work week, and get into the habit of disconnecting on the weekends. Doing so will actually increase your productivity at work.You are the Boss
When it comes to your free time, do you really need to check your business emails on Saturday and Sunday? Do you really need to spend your weekend drafting that report? Only you know the answer. Chances are that pressing work you do on weekends is stealing large chunks of time you could otherwise spend enjoyably by spending time with family and friends, and recharging your batteries. Make sure you set healthy boundaries and employ multitasking tips to structure your work week better so you can get more work done during the week.When You Take a Vacation — Actually TAKE It
They invented the out-of-office notification setting for your email for a reason. Take advantage of this technology by crafting a polite message that will let your colleagues know that you’ll be checking emails at specific times. For example, 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Let folks know that you will respond only to emergency situations and those who truly need a response. You benefit mentally if you value your vacation days like gold.Get Off the Grid
Going “off the grid” once in a while may seem like a radical choice to disconnect from technology — it’s certainly not for everyone. But you can dial-down your digital dependence in various degrees by spending time where Internet service is unavailable during free time. Maybe you have a cabin in a remote area where WiFi isn’t available? Or maybe you’d like to spend a weekend in a rural setting, say a bed and breakfast of some sort? Spending time off the grid means that when you return to your work week, you will hit the ground running, recharged and ready to take care of business.Do Physical Activities Requiring Both Hands
This one really separates the bravehearted from the scaredy cats. It’s actually the simplest way to truly disconnect from technology during free time. The point is to disconnect yourself by participating in activities that are impossible to do with a digital device in your hand. Three often-touted activities that fall in this group are meditation, yoga and hiking, all of which are wonderful ways to clear the clutter from your head. If you do this, when you return to work you’re not feeling drained by technology. Instead, you’re ready to embrace it once again for business purposes and efficiency.Live in the Physical World
When you text, email and tweet during personal time, you are effectively living in the virtual world versus the real one. Your body is in the physical world, say the Sunday dinner table surrounded by family members, and your mind is in the virtual one. Consider the signals you send others in these personal moments. You are basically telling everyone around you in the real world that they are boring and/or they don’t mean as much to you as whatever you are doing in the virtual world. Remember the old saying “there’s a time and a place for everything?” Shut the device off and disconnect from technology during personal times like these and instead, devote your attention to those around you when appropriate.Partake in a Digital Diet
Knock out part of your technology addiction by spending less time on social media during free time. Be it Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or the like — make a conscious decision to reduce your access during personal time. Login to your account less per day, or less days per week. If you really want to go cold turkey, you can always delete your entire account. You might regret it, but maybe not as much as you think because you will have the time to get a lot of other things done.Honor the National Day of Unplugging
You already missed this year’s event (no, I am not making this up), but you can join next year’s event slated for March 4-5, 2016. The National Day of Unplugging is “designed to help hyper-connected people of all backgrounds . . . embrace the ancient ritual of a day of rest.” This entails choosing to honor the Sabbath Manifesto, “a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.”Create Disconnect Zones
Try to create some basic simple work life boundaries between yourself and technology. Don’t bring your device with you in the car or to bed, for example. By following a daily routine consisting of one or two personal “disconnect zones,” you will reduce your overall technology addiction.Selectively Allow At-Work Social Media
Using Facebook at work helps you and your business. However, this only holds true when this is done for business purposes as opposed to a frequent mindless habit. So maybe it’s time to set limitations. Encourage your employees to “treat” themselves to two Facebook visits a day for fun and that’s it. The rest is business. The point is that setting a fixed number begins the habit of setting healthy boundaries for all involved.Live an Adventure for a Day
On your day off, pretend you are on the run. (This may be the case, but hey, we’re not ones to judge.) The goal is to become untraceable for a period of time. Challenge yourself to spend some time losing yourself in a city or local landmark during personal hours without your smartphone (which can triangulate your position). You could also just simply remove the battery, only to replace in the event of a real emergency.Don’t Purchase Everything Online
You may be accustomed to buying certain things online during your free time instead of going to the store. To disconnect from technology, try replacing one of those purchases with a retail experience instead. On your next day off, or after work one day during the week, visit your local bookstore or gourmet shop to purchase freshly ground coffee beans. This necessitates that you go out and spend some time in the real world, including the journey to and from the location, as well as the time spent browsing.Designate a Facebook Page Moderator
It’s likely that you have a dedicated Facebook page for business. If you can, task one of your employees with management of the page for you – even if it’s only one, two or three days a week. By doing so, you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in the amount of time you spend on social media, and you’ll be able to engage more with those around you.Instead of Emailing or Texting, Call Someone
Emails and text messages can be misunderstood. You can’t see the other person’s face, body language, you can’t hear the inflections in their voice. Make it a point to call someone and have a chat with them instead of communicating electronically. If you’re ambitious, make this a daily habit.Play “Hide the Smartphone”
During free time, make a game of disconnecting from technology by having your children, significant other or friends hide your smartphone. You can then all enjoy some laughter and fun as you search around for it. You can even make a day of it. But you may find the phone quickly. If this happens, have them hide it a few times and then celebrate once it’s found. Disconnecting during personal time and enjoying some laughter helps recharge the mind for more productive business hours.Quit a Social Media Account
This is a radical solution, yes, and one not recommended for those still heavily addicted to the digital world. But by deleting just one of your personal social media accounts, you get to spend more time in the physical world. You also can avoid the mindless habit problems associated with living too long on social media. The fact is, your behavior online in not always in accordance with the way you behave in the physical world. In fact, it’s believed that the anonymity social media allows can bring the worst out on occasion. Studies have revealed that the anonymity of social media may cause an increase in the development of a “false self” or “worst self.”Reduce Social Media Sharing
We have developed a proclivity to share things — all kinds of things – right down to what we’re eating at that very moment. Do all of your friends and followers really need to know what you’re eating? Probably not. And some theorize that sharing too much during free time replaces a fundamental need. Every time we share something – we remove the urge to create something that would have sprung from our imagination. Stop sharing every little thing and you just may enhance your natural creativity.Find a Balance and Live a Fuller Life
Technology is convenient and necessary, but too often it takes up personal time we may have otherwise spent in more beneficial ways. You’ll never know what you may be missing out on in the real world while in the act of “liking” something in the virtual one. Putting limits on your virtual activities during personal time and dedicating your full attention to the present moment is so important that it can’t be emphasized enough. You need to put down that device whenever possible so that you can truly live your life.
Try to create free times for yourself to dedicate to living your life in the real world. Even it it’s only a matter of making each Sunday a tech-free day or making it a habit of not connecting until you leave the house for the commute to work, you can realize enormous benefits.
Make your life amazing by plugging into the real world and paying attention to those around you during your free time. You just may find that living life to its fullest during off hours becomes your new addiction.
Free Time Image via Shutterstock
This article, "Is it Possible to Make the Most of Technology AND Still Enjoy Free Time?" was first published on Small Business Trends
The companies each promise that the Expedia Orbitz merger can expand their offerings to discount-seeking travelers, especially those traveling for business.
Well known to small business travelers as a travel booking website, Orbitz uses a conglomeration of several online companies to offer an array of services and products needed on a trip. Among these are Cheap Tickets and the Away Network in America, ebookers in Europe; HotelClub and Australian-based RatestoGo.
Expedia is also in the online travel booking business with its own team of associated businesses. These include Hotels.com, Hotwire.com and Trivago.
Both companies enable the consumer to search online for the best deals in booking hotel rooms, airline or cruise tickets, car rentals and other needs during your travels. Its websites include ratings and comments by other consumers which enables shoppers to make more informed decisions about their travel options.
Dara Khosrowshahi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Expedia, Inc. explains in a press release, “We are attracted to the Orbitz Worldwide business because of its strong brands and impressive team. This acquisition will allow us to deliver best-in-class experiences to an even wider set of travelers all over the world. From the flagship Orbitz.com brand, to other well-known consumer brands such as CheapTickets, ebookers and HotelClub and the business-to-business brands Orbitz Partner Network and Orbitz for Business, the Orbitz Worldwide team has built a devoted customer base and we look forward to welcoming them to the Expedia Inc. family.”
Barney Harford, Chief Executive Officer, Orbitz Worldwide adds, “Our mission at Orbitz Worldwide has been to build our brands to be the world’s most rewarding places to plan and purchase travel. We’re excited for Orbitz Worldwide to join the Expedia, Inc. family and for our teams to work together to further enhance the offerings we provide to our customers and partners.”
This transaction is costing Expedia $12 a share for a total of $1.6 billion plus a premium of approximately 29% over the volume weighted average share price for the five trading days up to and including Feb. 11, 2015.
The boards of directors of both companies have approved the sale as well as the shareholders.
Business consumers might be concerned about the rolling into one big mega-corporation. There have been anti-trust challenges to this merger and an opinion was obtained from Qatalyst Partners, an independent investment bank that provides high impact strategic and financial advice to businesses.
The Justice Dept. did an investigation and found that the likelihood of harm is minimal and allowed the sale to proceed.
Orbitz began as airlines response to the rise of Expedia and other travel booking companies. Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, and United Airlines, subsequently joined by American Airlines, invested a combined $145 million to start the project in November 1999.
There were complaints of anti-trust behavior by other online booking companies due to the agreements made by the airlines to exclude other companies in making special deals.
Expedia was founded in 1996 as part of Microsoft and later separated out as an independent company and was purchased by Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster morphed into InterActive Corp which then separated out its group of travel businesses into Expedia, Inc. The corporation has since expanded its holdings by purchasing other online travel services.
Image: Small Business Trends
This article, "Small Business Travelers Should Benefit From Expedia, Orbitz Deal" was first published on Small Business Trends
Changes are coming to the way you see Twitter every day.
The microblogging site has redesigned Tweet and Follow buttons and is losing the share count — the displayed number of times a tweet has been shared — some time in October.
In a post on the Twitter community forum, the company announced its decision to remove share counts, a feature that has been part of share buttons for the last five years.
The post also added that, for the first time since 2011, the company was going to update its Tweet and Follow buttons. The 3D effect, blue Twitter bird and black text will be replaced by a simple 2D white-over-blue version.Changing Times
This update is the latest addition to a slew of recent changes to Twitter. Some of the significant ones include losing the 140 character limit on direct messages, the launch of desktop notifications for direct messages, and the removal of the homepage wallpaper.
What prompted these changes?
Many believe the company is facing an acute leadership crisis after its Senior Engineering Director moved to Uber and its relentless search for a CEO failed to net results.
To make matters worse, it has been slapped by a lawsuit that alleges the company snoops on direct messages.
In the meantime, competitors have stepped up their game to seize new opportunities. A recent example is Instagram surpassing Twitter to become the second most popular social network.
It would seem that Twitter is introducing these changes to regain its popularity and become more user-friendly.What do the Changes Mean for Your Business?
In the post, Twitter says, “Twitter REST API’s search endpoints are the best way to gather ad-hoc information about a URL shared on Twitter; full-archive search counts are available from Gnip.”
In other words, smaller publishers and businesses are possibly going to have to pay Twitter to access and share information about share counts.
For the small website owners, there are essentially two options: use Twitter’s REST API or work with Gnip to gather full-archive search counts.
At a time when social networking sites are going all out to woo users and businesses, it will be exciting to see the response these new changes receive when Twitter launches them next month.
Interestingly, Twitter is planning to continue reinventing itself to regain momentum. The latest buzz is the company is experimenting with a new way to poll users on Twitter.
This article, "Twitter to Remove Share Counts and Redesign Buttons" was first published on Small Business Trends
Last year, I was super excited to review BuzzSumo, albeit a little hesitant to share my secret content discovery weapon. Given how much I use Facebook and how awesome BuzzSumo has been, I was really interested in taking the company’s newest tool, SumoRank, for a test drive.
SumoRank was designed to give marketers insight into what performs best on any Facebook page.Taking BuzzSumo’s New SumoRank Facebook Page Evaluator for a Test Drive
The most obvious way to use it is to analyze your own Facebook Page’s performance by typing your own Facebook URL into the engine. The first thing you’ll see at the top of the analysis dashboard is an Alexa-like page ranking:
All this is telling you is how relatively popular your Page was, compared to every other Facebook page out there, in the current month. This insight could be useful for major brands, but doesn’t offer much insight for the average company competing in a smaller space than “every single Facebook Page.”
Slightly more interesting is the “Category SumoRank” in the second box from the left — this tells me that my company page is ranked #2420 amongst all Internet/Software related Facebook pages.
Other information you’ll find on the initial analysis page:
Now, right at the top, you’ll see this menu that navigates to different insights down the page.
There are some really cool and useful insights here, all presented in a visual and easy to understand way. Some of these will help you tweak your Facebook posting strategy, for more engaging and effective posts in future.Awesome Facebook Insights: Content Types, Third-Party Posting & More
Among them, you can see both the average number of engagements per post type and the average number of engagements for your shorter versus your longer posts:
You can also see how engagement stacks up for the posts you made from within Facebook as opposed to those posted from a third-party platform like HootSuite.
Of course, it’s always useful to see when you get the greatest engagement, so you can tell when your audience is online and most active:
SumoRank also shows you which of your specific posts were most engaging:
Yes, you can see detailed engagement data for each of your posts within Facebook’s Insights tab, but this is great for giving you a quick snapshot of which ones really kicked butt.
Don’t forget too that you can use BuzzSumo (SumoRank links to this at the bottom of the dashboard) to see what’s trending on Facebook. This is great info if you’re trying to newsjack or come up with socially relevant content.Use SumoRank to Creep the Competition
At a glance, you might think, “I can already see most of this in my own Facebook Insights.” Sure, but you can’t see the performance metrics of your competitors.
Well, now you can. Stalking competition on Facebook just got easier.
You can pull up all of the above information — top performing posts, best days/times for engagement, engagement per post type and more — for any page you want.
That’s way easier than creeping their chronological posts in an effort to see what’s working for them (as if you weren’t doing that… admit it).
Is it something you’ll add to your social media marketing arsenal?
Republished by permission. Original here.
This article, "SumoRank Tool Great for Stalking Competition on Facebook" was first published on Small Business Trends
There’s a big problem facing a lot of independent farmers in America. The areas with the highest concentration of potential consumers — cities — aren’t exactly conducive to farming, which often requires a lot of space.
So, farmers have to find a way to get their products from their rural farms into cities with a lot of potential consumers in as little time as possible.
This particular problem is very prominent in Vermont, where there are only about 600,000 residents in the whole state. Boston would be the largest city nearby for Vermont farmers to target. But doing so on their own can be a challenge. Candace Page, food writer for the Savorvore Section of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont told NPR:
“If you think about it, the system of food distribution in the U.S. is not friendly to small, organic, diversified farms. Farms don’t have the time to get their products on supermarket shelves in Boston, even if the supermarkets were willing to deal with it, which they aren’t. If you live in an urban area and you want to eat locally grown food, you’re going to have a hard time doing it.”
Enter Farmers to You. The Berlin, Vermont, startup aims to create a partnership between rural farmers, mainly those based in Vermont, and urban families in and around Boston.
The customers can order various farm-grown items once per week based on what’s available. Then, Farmers to You delivers the items to several pick-up locations around Boston. Or, customers can choose to have the items delivered to their homes. Customers can have their same order delivered each week, or change it up. But the company asks that customers spend about $40 each week to keep ordering and production consistent.
For farmers, the benefit is the ability to focus completely on their farming work, since Farmers to You handles all of the ordering and transportation. And the company’s rates, according to the farmers that Page has spoken to, are better than most wholesale markets to which they have access.
For families, the obvious benefit is a regular selection of healthy, sustainably produced food items. But another part of the process is their ability to really learn about their food and from where it comes.
“They get very good, Vermont-raised food, of course … Most of the food sold is organic, but I think even if it isn’t organic, people have more confidence in what they eat if they knew who grew it. Farmers to You has gone to great lengths to make a connection beyond the food, an emotional connection between the consuming families and the farmers. The website has wonderful videos where the individual farmers on their farms talk about how they grow their food and why they are in the business of growing food.”
Image: Farmers to You/Facebook
This article, "Startup Connects Rural Farmers with Urban Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends
Cortana is Microsoft’s version of the voice-activated virtual assistant.
This app and new base feature of Windows 10 first started on the Windows Phone operating system. She stacks up against the other heavyweights like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, and Google Now.
If there’s a superficial difference between each, give Cortana the edge in personality.
Named after the AI in the video game series Halo, Cortana identifies herself as a female but not a woman. That is the reply she gives you if you inquire about Coratan’s gender.
This answer should give an indication of the great lengths Microsoft has gone to make its VA more personable and, by all accounts, it has worked.
With Cortana, small business owners now have an assistant that is much smarter, never forgets, is always on, and much, much cheaper than an assistant of flesh and blood.
Here’s a guide with Cortana commands to begin using her as your small business virtual assistant:Setup and Introducing Yourself
If you want to speak to Cortana, you need a microphone, but if you don’t have one, typing a question or requesting a service in the search box gets the same result.
If you are using your keyboard, these two shortcuts will save you time:
Since the most efficient way to communicate with Cortana is through voice, you can set it up to answer anytime you say, “Hey, Cortana.”
To do that, open Cortana home > Notebook > Settings > and turn on “Let Cortana respond when you say ‘Hey, Cortana’.”
From here on, when you say those words, Cortana’s ready to help.
Cortana learns from the information you give her, so get into the Notebook and select the About Me icon to personalize it. This includes events, finance, getting around, entertainment, news, sports, travel, weather and more. The more you are connected with Microsoft applications, the better an assistant Cortana becomes.Getting Cortana to be Your Right Hand Create Appointments
You can create and modify detailed appointments with the voice command, including moving them to a different time or date.Set Reminders
Reminders can be set to do anything and it can be triggered when you reach a particular location, when you talk to a person or they call you, or when a date approaches.Set Alarms
Alarms can be set with the exact time or just simply by saying wake me up in 45 minutes.Take Notes
You can start dictating and Cortana saves it in OneNote.Getting the Information You Need “What is My Schedule?”
Any events you have scheduled will be displayed. You can ask a day, week or months ahead.“Show Me My Notes”
This will show you any notes you have taken.“Show Me My Reminders”
This shows you any upcoming reminders, along with the option of the history of completed tasks.“Show Me My Alarms”
This can list all of your alarms that are active and allow you to make necessary changes.“What is the Weather Like?
You can ask the weather for where you are or another location.“What is the Status of My Flight?”
Using information from your email, Cortana can give you the latest info about your flight.“How Long Will it Take to Get to …”
If you have set up different locations with identifiers, you can ask how long it will take you to get there.“Show Me Directions to …”
If you know the address of a particular place, Cortana will find it using Bing Maps.“What Time is it in …”
Although it might seem simple, getting a quick answer to this question is very important depending on the context.Getting Cortana to Look It Up For You Factoids
Cortana gives you basic information on many subjects, including science, history, people, entertainment, dates, currency exchange and much more.Using Cortana to Search the Web
With the help of Bing, Cortana can search for anything, and with the integration of the new Edge browser, she can do much more. Whenever you’re online, look for the small blue Cortana logo pulsating. This means you can access supplemental information such as location, reviews, menus, images, and other data.So Where is All the Fun?
Select the “Let’s chat” option and you can pretty much ask Cortana anything. And because it is a system that is continuously learning and adapting to your particular taste, you never know what you will get. You can tell her to sing a song, tell you a joke, or play a trivia game.Shutting Cortana Down
If you don’t find Cortana helpful, you can always shut her down.
To do so, go to Notebook > Settings and turn it off. This deletes what Cortana knows on your device … but not, of course, in the cloud.
Windows Desktop Photo via Shutterstock
This article, "Onboarding Microsoft’s Cortana to Your Small Business Team" was first published on Small Business Trends