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I like data.
I use Google Analytics and Crazy Egg on my site to see how people use it. I track subscribers a few different ways in Recurly, I track tweets and retweets in Buffer, and between QuickBooks and Numbers, I have a good idea where my money goes.
Like I said, I like data. But even for a small company like mine, that’s a lot. So when you hear about larger companies leveraging Big Data and governments spying via metadata, it can feel like we’re drowning in data. Hence this metadata/Big Data cartoon.
I know it’s passé – but I miss the days when just watching your “hits” was data enough.
MasterCard says its MasterPass In-App Payments feature will allow customers to make all mobile payments from one app.
In an official release, the company says the new product is a response to demand. The company says research shows revenues from mobile apps and in-app payments will reach $46 billion by the year 2016. Other sources suggest that about $90 billion in sales will be conducted via mobile payments by 2017.
MasterCard also notes that the average smartphone user has 26 apps downloaded on their device. Rather than having to load and store your payment information into multiple apps, the new app would allow you to make mobile payments from just one place. For MasterPass users, this may make mobile payments potentially more convenient and secure.
For small businesses that are looking for a way to take advantage of mobile payments, there could be at least two clear benefits. First, using a single mobile payment app should make mobile business payments easier. Second, especially for small retail businesses, it should make it easier to accept mobile payments from customers by working through a single payment system.
The release further explains:
“Apps with MasterPass embedded in them enable consumers to complete a purchase with as few as one click or touch on their favorite connected device without leaving the app environment. The optimized checkout process creates a seamless shopping experience, supported by the highest levels of security and cryptology.”
The new app is currently in beta for merchants, so an invitation is required to get started. The company says that the new feature will be widely available to app developers and merchants in the second quarter of this year.
Venture Beat reports that some companies are already using MasterPass’ mobile app, including Forbes Digital Commerce, Fat Zebra, MLB Advanced Media, NoQ, Starbucks Australia and Shaw Theatres Singapore. Meanwhile, MasterPass is already available as a browser add-on.
A great product idea alone is no guarantee of success for an entrepreneur. The time taken to develop a product and take it to market within reasonable costs is a key aspect.
Steve Owens, a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience, was always frustrated by how long it took to put good product development teams together and bring a product to market. And each time, he had to incur fixed costs for setting up the infrastructure and developing the product. All this reduced the flexibility and risk-taking ability of his startups and got him thinking.Outsourced Product Development
To provide a solution to these problems for his fellow entrepreneurs, in 2002 Steve started a product development service company Finish Line Product Development Services. Finish Line develops technology products for small companies in the down hole tool and machine-to-machine (M2M)/Internet of Things (IoT) technology markets.
Finish Line’s pricing model is economical and well suited for small businesses running on low budgets and time constraints. It charges only for the hours they work on the project and provides written estimates for each phase of the project. Typically, their customers are able to break even on their investment in less than a year from product launch, and sometimes just a few months.
Its overarching strategy is to develop products for small businesses where they have a very high degree of existing expertise and reference designs. This strategy allows them to develop the product for significantly less cost than its customers can in-house.
Using proven processes and creative solutions, Finish Line converts product ideas into innovative and cost-effective products. It has technical expertise in low power, long life battery operated devices, RF communications, low cost wireless sensing and communications products, machine controllers, motion control, and power solutions. It caters to product development challenges in a wide range of industries including oil and gas, industrial and manufacturing, electronics and controllers, and healthcare and life sciences.
In addition to these segments, it also offers specialized services in niche technology areas like low-cost RF communications, remote monitoring, industrial controls, and Internet connectivity.
Since inception, Finish Line has worked on more than a thousand projects for more than 200 small companies. It has also incubated two startups, WellTronics and EnerTrac. WellTronics, which provides cost effective technology solutions like FloDrift to the oil and gas drilling industry, was sold to National Oilwell Varco.
EnerTrac, a provider of propane tank delivery automation systems and leader in the rapidly growing M2M market, with annual revenue of more than $2 million has raised more than $8 million from three venture capitalists.
As its clients have grown, so has Finish Line. Revenues are now a little more than one million dollars a year.
Steve says Finish Line does not have a clear direct competitor in its niche. Though there are several other product development companies, unlike Finish Line, they are restricted to narrower technologies and platforms. The main challenge or competition it faces is from potential client companies hiring their own engineers.
Outsourcing product development (OPD) is proving to be a sensible strategy for staying ahead of competition and ensuring timely product releases. Other factors driving its adoption are the lack of talent at a single location, lower costs for better quality, and higher business flexibility.
According to a recent Gartner report, the global IT outsourcing market is expected to increase 2.8% over the year to reach $288 billion in 2013. For the R&D/product engineering services market, a recent IDC report forecasts that customers will increase their outsourcing spend in 2014 for these services and the market will reach approximately $66.2 billion in 2017.
Further, IDC forecasts fairly robust growth in the long term as technology product customers continue to move away from a labor arbitrage approach and award long term outsourcing contracts for their product development, engineering and innovation work to outsourcing vendors.
Overall, the OPD trend is gaining speed in the small business sector. For a long time, we’ve seen the trend develop very well in the software industry with companies like Persistent, Symphony, Globant, etc. Now, the trend is crossing over to a broader realm of hardware, manufacturing, etc. More specifically, into the domain of small, innovative companies.
Product Development Photo via Shutterstock
The post Outsourced Product Development Gaining Popularity Among Small Businesses appeared first on Small Business Trends.
Microsoft is set to introduce its own personal digital assistant very soon. ”Her” name is Cortana. According to several reports, this service will be added to the Windows Phone 8.1 update in the next month or two.
If its launch is successful, Cortana could become a competitor to Apple’s Siri and even Google Now in the realm of digital assistants. These are services that can answer random questions, maintain your personal and work schedules, and even send you reminders of upcoming meetings or other deadlines.
Microsoft may not be completely sold on the name Cortana, though, according to The Verge. It could change by the time the update is released. Cortana, by the way, is the name of a female character [pictured below] in the video game Halo 5, another Microsoft product.
Microsoft’s new digital assistant will not appear as a female, as she does in the popular game. Instead, an animated circle appears when you request Cortana’s assistance. The circle spins while Cortana is listening to your questions and animates when it’s replying. Microsoft also claims it will develop a personality as its services are used more.
IGN details how Cortana will work. The features are essentially similar to Siri and Google Now. Cortana will use Web searches through Bing to provide answers to your questions. It will be able to be set up to address you as you’d like and it will also be able to be customized to scan emails for contacts and other scheduling information. That data will be stored in a Notebook that can be accessed later by you or Cortana.
Media reports suggest a recent investment in Foursquare by Microsoft indicates that Cortana may use a lot of location-based data to provide more pertinent information to you when you ask a question.
Another feature will be a personal notification system, IGN reports.
Here’s a leaked video supposedly showing Cortana being set up on Windows Phone 8.1:
Small business owners may be unimpressed with the geek factor connected to Microsoft naming a virtual assistant after a video game character. But Cortana could offer many features to rival Siri or Google Now for the dedicated Microsoft user.
Image: Video Still/Wikipedia
The post Microsoft’s Cortana Set To Rival Siri and Google Now appeared first on Small Business Trends.
LinkedIn is the best place for business professionals to post information about themselves, regardless of your discipline. As a business professional, regardless of what your function is, you need to be findable to those in your field.
And to be findable among 300 million other professionals will take some hard work – but it is doable.
A good to great profile can make the difference between you getting your next client, consulting agreement or that elusive speaking gig. This is the place where you need to define and discuss the value you bring to your profession without hyperbole.
To become more findable by those who need your expertise, you need to address the top elements of your LinkedIn profile, in order of importance.Top 5 Elements of Your LinkedIn Profile Photo
This is the first thing people gravitate to as we are all visual beings. A professional looking photo of you smiling is usually best.
Nobody needs to see your boat, your dog or your family – just you.Headline
This is the tag line under your name and it is valuable real estate. The default mode is your current title.
A good tag line gets people to read your LinkedIn profile, just like a good email subject line gets people to read your email.Name
This is your name. We have all seen people with email addresses, professional designations and more in the name field.
Use your name – just your name. Anything else is clutter.Summary/Specialties
View this as your first conversation with your LinkedIn profile visitor. Make it an interesting conversation and talk about what you bring to the market.
The specialties (2nd part of the summary) is where you enumerate each of your skills. Use the jargon of your particular industry, that’s what people search on. There were 5.7 billion searches done on LinkedIn in 2012.Experience
This is where you highlight your talent and expertise. Tell people what you do, what you’ve done, and what your small business does – make it interesting.
There are several other facets to your LinkedIn profile, but these are the biggies. Do these right and you will start attracting attention from the people you want attention from.
Your LinkedIn profile is always a work in progress. Check out OPP (other people’s profiles) and get some ideas on how to improve yours.
Remember, a good to great profile can make the difference between you and your next client, consulting agreement or that elusive speaking gig.
A bad profile is the difference between your next piece of work – and staying at home, watching daytime TV.
LinkedIn Photo via Shutterstock
Verizon Wireless has restructured its pre-paid phone and data pricing in plans called Allset Plans. It introduced these plans this week.
A pre-paid phone and data plan may not be the most ideal for all small businesses. Those looking to have more control over these costs, though, may find them a sensible option.
In an official announcement posted in the Verizon Wireless News Center, Albert Aydin, Verizon Wireless analyst for corporate communications, explains:
“Similar to modern smartphones, which have different features to fit individual mobile needs, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” wireless plan. Many people have their own mobile lifestyles, so it’s important to have options in order to find the plan that fits best.”
The most basic Allset Plan starts at $35. The base price for a smartphone Allset Plan is $45. This plan includes unlimited calling within the U.S. and unlimited texting to Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
With the base plan for smartphones, Verizon is including 500 MB of data. If you use up all that data in the month, you can buy more data in units called “bridges.”
Another 500 MB “bridge” costs $5. It has a 30-day expiration on it. So, if you start an Allset Plan on the first day of the month but need a small bridge by the 20th, for example, you’ll have until the 20th day of the following month to use it. That’s after you’ve used the original data included with the plan.
Bigger “bridges” last for 90 days, meaning you can actually roll over that data allotment past several billing cycles.
A 1GB “bridge” costs $10 and 3GB of data costs $20. But then that data will last you three months and can be added to the 500MB you get monthly with your basic plan. So if you buy data and don’t use it that month, you’re not wasting that money you’ve spent.
You can manage an Allset Plan account from an online dashboard, where you can add more data and renew your monthly plan, the company’s site notes.
Gigaom’s Kevin Fitchard reminds customers that Verizon restricts Allset Plan pre-paid users to the 3G network, even if your phone is 4G-enabled. And Verizon’s plan, including the data, isn’t on par with what some pre-paid competitors offer. However, the company has the most wide-ranging network so access to 3G is available to you in more locations.
While pre-paid plans usually limit you to some subpar smartphone options, Verizon will let you activate most devices you already own. You can also buy a new phone to accommodate these pre-paid plans, including an iPhone4 and Motorola Moto G, each at $99, according to the company site.
Verizon Photo via Shutterstock
The post Verizon Will Now Let You Roll Over Data Like You Once Rolled Over Minutes appeared first on Small Business Trends.
Are you looking for a cost-effective and fun way to raise your retail store’s profile in the local community? Then consider hosting events to market your business.
Even if your location is snow-bound right now, this is the perfect time to start planning some Spring events to attract shoppers who will be eager to get outdoors once the weather turns pleasant.
There are all kinds of options for hosting events, from having local musicians play in the shop, to hosting an art opening, to having a VIP only sale for your best customers after hours. Below are some steps to get your event rolling.How to Use Events to Market Your Business Figure Out Your Goals for Your Event
Do you want to reward existing customers or attract new ones?
A VIP only sale could work for the first option, while an event that attracts passersby (like live music or a cooking demonstration) could work for the second.Determine Your Budget
Consider factors like extra employees to handle the register, the cost of staying open later, refreshments and decorations. Also, figure out if your event will be a reoccuring one or a single occasion event.Find Participants
Do you need outside participation to make the event work? For instance, if you own a boutique and want to host an art show, you could reach out to local artists to let them know your store is going to start featuring original art work. Offer them the chance to sell their art in exchange for a small commission and having them bring in their fans and friends to the event.
Similarly, plenty of local musicians are probably willing to play for free or a nominal fee, and this can expose your store to a whole new clientele. Think creatively and you’ll be able to recruit participants for little or no cost.Create a Marketing Plan for Your Event
This could include store signage, email marketing, social media outreach and, of course, PR with local media outlets.
Be sure to start marketing well in advance so you have plenty of time to spread the word.Plan the Logistics of Your Event
Consider factors such as:
This is a key part of every event. After all, you want a way to stay in touch with people who came in to your store:
Once you’ve gathered contact information from customers, be sure that you follow up with them within the next two weeks while the event is still fresh in their minds. Get them back into your store by providing a special offer or discount that’s good for a limited time.
By hosting events on a regular basis, you can make your store more than just a store – it can become a gathering place for the local community, strengthening your ties with your customers and differentiating you from your big competitors.
Event Photo via Shutterstock
If you answered architect, you’d be flat wrong!
According to U.S. News and World Report’s list of 100 Best Jobs in 2014, software developer is the top job in America right now. Software developers are in great demand and make handsome salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that 140,000 new software developer jobs will be created by 2020.
Other jobs high on the list include computer systems analyst, dentist and physical therapist. Small business owners shouldn’t be too surprised by the ranking. Many of the jobs on the list can easily be filled by a small business person. These can either be self-employed people, or those working with a small support staff.
As for the position of architect, well, it sounds like an exciting career indeed. But, it’s way down the list at number 92, just above customer service rep and plumber. The field has suffered somewhat in overall earnings and demand since the building slump during the recession. The field is also highly stressful, U.S. News and World Report judges.
It’s not just demand and high salaries that caused some positions to be placed high on the list and others down near the bottom. And it may not be demand and earning potential alone that attracts small businesses to these fields. There are also factors like work-life balance and job security to consider.
For software developers, unemployment rates are at just 2.8 percent nationally, U.S. News and World Report explains. Getting started in the field only requires some basic computer programming knowledge. This can be gained at local community colleges or even through job experience.
Here are the top 25 jobs, according to the rankings:
1. Software developer
2. Computer systems analyst
4. Nurse practitioner
6. Registered nurse
7. Physical therapist
9. Web developer
10. Dental hygienist
11. Information security analyst
12. Database administrator
13. Physician assistant
14. Occupational therapist
15. Market research analyst
17. Physical therapist assistant
18. Civil Engineer
19. Mechanical engineer
21. Occupational therapy assistant
22. Clinical laboratory technician
23. Operations research analyst
24. IT manager
25. Dietitian, nutritionist
Jobs Photo via Shutterstock
The post Who Has the Better Job: Software Developer or Architect? appeared first on Small Business Trends.
Twitter sent out thousands of reset notices this week and media sources report users may have had trouble accessing their accounts initially.
The problem was not hacking, however, the company insists.
Instead, it was simply a system error that caused Twitter to send the notices to thousands of users by accident. At the time, Twitter also said it had reset affected passwords for user protection.
In a portion of the initial email reprinted by Naked Security, the company warned:
“Twitter believes that your account may have been compromised by a website or service not associated with Twitter. We’ve reset your password to prevent others from accessing your account. You’ll need to create a new password for your Twitter account…”
Then, in a complete reversal, a Twitter spokesperson told The Next Web:
“We unintentionally sent some password reset notices tonight due to a system error. We apologize to the affected users for the inconvenience.”
Twitter users, including many small business owners, can at least breathe a sigh of relief. It would seem that their personal and business data has not been compromised this time.
It isn’t the first time that Twitter has experienced a security breach potentially putting user data at risk.
And, of course, Twitter users, including those with legitimate business accounts, have also endured other problems. Take the rash of Twitter accounts banned in error for supposed spamming back in 2013.
If you use Twitter regularly for your business, these problems are just par for the course. But if you run an online business, you’ll also want to think about how such system hiccups make you feel.
Try to keep similar problems to a minimum for your users and customers and be sure to make up for mistakes when they happen.
Reset Photo via Shutterstock
The post Twitter Accidentally Sends Out Thousands of Reset Notices appeared first on Small Business Trends.
What are the best practices that help you succeed, serve your customers and keep up with changing times?
If you figure out who your customer is, what they like and need and how they prefer being communicated to, you can build a “customer centric” relationship that can be mutually beneficial long term. This should be a relationship building goal for all your connections.
The business to consumer relationship has changed dramatically. I believe the consumer has an edge now. The end user has more choices and is seeking a much higher, better experience with businesses. Businesses that don’t provide the value, experience and the service – will lose.
The opportunity we all have right now with digital and social tools to build customer centric relationships is greater than ever before. The ability to respond in real time to customer praise or complaints is transformative in building the B2B and B2C relationship.
Based on a survey commissioned by RightNow Technologies and conducted by Harris Interactive:
This should be proof enough to focus on and ramp up your customer centric tool box. Below are six best practices, tactics and experiences that should be in it.Customer Centric Tips Branded, Informative Landing Hubs
The saying “you get only one chance to make a good first impression” is truer today then it’s ever been. It’s expected and the only thing some people will have to make a decision about whether to move forward with you.
It’s also important to update and refresh your hubs and make sure everything is current and up to date, especially pictures and professional activity. Nothing fares worse than dated pictures, activity and branding.
Consistently stimulating what people see and read including your website, blog and all your social media platforms keeps people interested. A branded social media profile, timeline and header can make a big difference in how you are perceived and how you can clearly present what you do.Content Marketing Using Social Media
If you don’t create it, there’s nothing to be found. Just Google yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
What are you creating, publishing and sharing that helps people and positions you?
Content marketing has become a premier tool to build credibility, reach and buzz. Are you blogging, using eMarketing, creating video or podcasting and promoting and marketing yourself on social media?Purposeful Networking In Person and Online
Go out and meet people anytime you can. Balance your face to face and online networking. Use them in tandem and always follow up and thank people you meet that could be direct prospects or door openers to others. Go local, national and international. Amazing how we can do this today.
Be an active part of your industry and meet different people doing what you do in different geographical areas.Volunteer and Pro-Bono Commitments
Getting involved in the community and world that supports you is just good business. Choose some causes, communities and issues you believe in and help them move forward.
Most of these organizations have boards with influential people you could meet, not to mention it’s good for business in general and the soul to “give back.” So many organizations need help and our human capital can impact that.Professional Development, Education, Building Relevance and Value
Growing and increasing our expertise and adding more value to what we deliver is essential. With technology and trends driving change at a brisk pace, we should be committed to expanding what we know and apply that to our services and relationships.
No matter what industry you are in, staying real time with skills, technologies and applications that relate to your business only helps your customers have the best experience with you.4 R’s: Rest, Recreate, Recharge and Relax
I have seen way too many people crash, burn and fail from not integrating balance into their lives. We must step back, get away from and allow time to rest, recreate, re-charge and relax with ourselves and our families. This can only make us better with our clients.
Plan that “staycation,” getaway, tech fast or travel vacation into your plans and work it into your business trips too. Business will be there when you return.
Below are some great resources and ideas that can help you manage your business and build those solid, long term relationships with your customers and community.
What are the best practices, tactics and experiences in your small business tool box that helps you serve customers?
Customer Photo via Shutterstock
The post 6 Best Practices Should Be in Your Customer Centric Tool Box appeared first on Small Business Trends.
How much can employers inquire about employees or have a say in their actions on and off the job? The staff of a small business can easily grow into a family of sorts, but this doesn’t give the employer the right to act as the patriarch.
The trend, as evidenced by laws, court decisions and administrative rulings, seems to be toward less involvement of employers in the lives of their workers. Below are three indications of this trend.Employees Obligations to Employers are Not Personal Ones 1. Inquiries About Personal and Family Matters
When I applied for my first full-time job in 1970, I was asked whether my husband would mind if I worked late and when I was planning on having children. Times sure have changed.
It is now, and has been for some time, a violation of anti-discrimination rules to ask job applicants about their personal situations, including marital status, number of children and childcare arrangements.
You can inquire about marital status and children only after a favorable hiring decision has been made, but only for purposes of payroll and employee benefits (e.g., withholding allowances; health coverage).
Are you interested in an employee’s or prospective employee’s credit history, especially if the person will be handling money for your company? You may not be able to obtain this information.
While federal law currently allows an employer to run a credit check on an employee or job applicant with prior permission from the person (as long as the employer complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act), a number of states now bar this action.
Nearly a dozen states, including California and Illinois, generally bar or severely limit employers from obtaining credit histories, and many other states are considering similar legislation. Check with your state to see whether you can do a credit check if you believe it would aid in your employment decisions.3. Restrictions on Social Media Activities
Courts and the NLRB are increasingly saying that employees’ First Amendment right of free speech doesn’t stop when they enter the workplace. This means employees who want to vent about the company may not be stifled in most cases.
The NLRB has guidelines on social media policies in the workplace. Use these guidelines to craft your company’s social media policy. Employers can restrict speech that shares confidential information – about the company, its employees, or customers.Final Thought
Pay attention to changes in employment laws that may impact the practices and policies you use at your company. You don’t want to find yourself out of step with the latest trends, a misstep that could result in costly litigation for you.
When in doubt, consult an employment law attorney.
Stop Photo via Shutterstock
PNC Bank has a new online tool that’s designed to create a picture of your company’s cash flow. Cash Flow Insights is being marketed to small businesses.
The tool puts all your financial interactions in a single format and tracks each transaction telling you where money is coming from and where it’s going, the company says. It has three main features:
PNC Bank’s Deputy Manager of Business Banking Troy Baker explained in an official release:
“We recognize the challenges our small business customers face, finding the time and resources to effectively manage their money. With these enhancements to Cash Flow Insight, business owners can stay organized and focused, as well as manage and forecast cash flow to make strategic business decisions in one place online.”
Rather than having a desk full of unorganized paperwork, Cash Flow Insights uses a single online dashboard to display all of your interactions. PNC says Cash Flow Insights can sync with accounting software small businesses already use.
The PNC website claims it is compatible with:
PNC says Cash Flow Insights can also speed up your receivables by creating invoices that your customers can pay online. The company says the tool can integrate agreed-upon terms you’ve reached with some customers on when those payments should be made. Cash Flow Insights creates an invoice with your business logo and sends it to your customer, who can make a payment right from the invoice.
Of course, just as important as the money coming into your business is the money going out. Cash Flow Insights is also designed to track the money leaving your business. PNC says the tool also allows your business to schedule payments — including recurring payments — as needed.
The tool is also designed to offer short and long term financial forecasts for your business based on is monitoring of your company’s cash flow. Here’s more detail on how the tool works:
Of course, to use this feature, you need to be a PNC customer. The bank is offering a free trial run to small businesses for their current and next two statement periods. Businesses using Business Enterprise Checking, Industry Solutions Checking or Retail Businesses Checking won’t be billed for the trial period. All these accounts include online banking features.
Afterward, there is a $10 per month fee to use the Payables, Receivables, and Accounting Software Sync features. There is also a per-transaction fee that is taken out monthly after the trial, according to PNC’s website.
The post This New Online Tool Creates a Picture of Your Cash Flow appeared first on Small Business Trends.
When Stoney deGeyter started what would become Pole Position Marketing 16 years ago, the industry he works in today didn’t even exist.
In a recent interview with Small Business Trends, deGeyter explained:
“I would say we’re a full-service Web marketing agency.”
Once, it was a one man operation run out of a single room. Today, it includes a team of seven specialists. They work in fields like Web development, Search Engine Optimization, analytics and more.
About his business’s slow but steady growth, deGeyter recalled:
“It started in the bedroom and quickly expanded into the living room.”
But ever the cautious entrepreneur, he admits it was quite some time before he hired his first employee.
For deGeyter, the odyssey began after reading a book about how to learn HTML (the markup language of the Internet) in 24 hours. Before he even finished reading, deGeyter became convinced he could improve upon the website for his dad’s business, BatteryStuff.com — and did.
But, of course, that’s not where the story ended.
It wasn’t long before his father was back. This time he was talking about something he’d heard of called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It was (and is) a way to get websites found online.
In an effort to help, deGeyter again threw himself into learning new skills. What he would emerge with was an understanding of the principles of a whole new industry. He explained:
“My dad’s business started out more as a hobby. They traveled to sell their products and their goal, after building their new site, was to sell enough product online so they didn’t have to travel. That goal was hit in a year. The next goal was to sell $100K in profit. We hit that one too.”
Though deGeyter’s father would eventually sell the business, the company remains a Pole Position Marketing client to this day.
Not all online marketing companies are created equal. And as deGeyter’s business began to grow, it took on some very unique characteristics that set it apart. Some of those characteristics have remained strong while others have changed with the evolving industry.A Team of Specialists
One characteristic that lives on is deGeyter’s concept of a team of specialists rather than online marketing generalists. It’s a way he says his company differentiates itself from competitors in the field.
He claims many other online marketing firms have a team who all dabble in a range of online marketing specialties. These include analytics, content strategy, social media, pay per click and more:
“That does not make sense. When we come together as a team, we have so many different opinions.”
He says individual team members at these firms each take on a group of clients. Each member then handles their clients’ campaigns by providing a menu of services.
But at Pole Position Marketing, each member brings their own expertise to every client as needed.National and Big or Local and Small
In the beginning deGeyter, based in Uniontown just outside North Canton, OH, also admits he wasn’t interested much in local clients. The Internet was not local in those days. His best prospects seemed to come from companies that understood what he did and didn’t care where he did it from.
They were also large and able to pay big.
Though a small business owner himself, deGeyter’s website still describes his firm as an “SEO Company for Enterprise-Level Businesses.”
He said recently:
“I was never much for local networking. Traditionally, we’ve been a national company. I’ve always liked year long contracts. The local model is more about more little services for various clients.”
Those big national clients include websites like WinterKids.com and WinterWomen.com, both based in Denver. Other clients include Rawhide Fire Hose LLC of Orville, OH, and Sierra Instruments, a Monterey, California company with offices all around the world.
But his company’s view of big national clients over small local ones is beginning to change, deGeyter admits. With increased opportunities created by social media and mobile marketing, deGeyter has hired his first local sales rep and is conducting more local workshops for businesses.
The theory is that, with a smaller potential audience, local businesses may not need to do nearly as much to see very profitable returns, deGeyter says.
* * * * *
iCIMS, a leading provider of talent acquisition solutions for growing businesses, is proud to be the official sponsor of Small Business Trend’s “Small Biz Spotlight” of Pole Position Marketing. Like iCIMS, Pole Position Marketing understands the value in a team of specialists rather than generalists to consistently exceed their clients’ needs. iCIMS is delighted to have the opportunity to support the passionate drive and dedication of companies like Pole Position Marketing through the sponsorship of the “Small Biz Spotlight.” (Visit the “Small Biz Spotlight” series archives and stay tuned for more small business stories there.)
The post Pole Position Marketing: Creating an Industry of Their Own appeared first on Small Business Trends.
Google recently announced at a live event that it will start placing a prominent unsubscribe link in marketing emails in Gmail. According to PC World:
“Starting this week, a new, clearly marked ‘unsubscribe’ link will appear at the top of the header field in marketers’ emails. Previously only appearing for a small percentage of users, the feature will now be made available for most promotional messages with unsubscribe options, Google said on Thursday. Email recipients do not need to take action for the links to appear.”
Companies spend a lot of time and effort building their house email lists. For obvious reasons, no one likes it when people unsubscribe, but it’s a normal part of running an email list.
By law in many countries, marketers are required to offer an unsubscribe link, but often subscribers say they cannot find it. So they just hit the spam button in Gmail or Google Apps mail, because it’s quicker and more convenient.
One way to look at this situation is that it might cut down on spam reports against your company. Clicking this link will send an automated message by Google to the email sender, requesting that the person be removed from their mailing lists. Of course, whether or not the company complies is a totally different matter. All Gmail can do is make the request.
Google is promoting this as something which will benefit companies that send out legitimate mass emails. It’s a common scenario that a person signs up for newsletters, but after a while, gets bored of them. But rather than go through the whole unsubscribe process, they just mark the email as spam. If enough people do this, then the company’s entire emails could have problems. By streamlining the proper unsubscribe process, the idea is that people will unsubscribe properly rather than marking the email as spam.
This is just the latest development in moves designed by Gmail to organize Gmail users with their marketing emails. Last year, Gmail offered a new inbox design which included tabs for the various types of email – including marketing emails. However, the reaction to the tabbed inbox design has been mixed.
So will the adding of the unsubscribe link make any difference? Ramon Ray, Regional Development Director at Infusionsoft, thinks the impact overall will not hurt marketers:
“Moving the unsubscribe button is good for end users who receive marketing emails. They can more easily, and quickly unsubscribe. For marketers, a more prominent unsubscribe email button and moved to the top would be a big sign begging to be clicked – for marketers whose emails are not first rate, that is. Marketers whose emails add value to the recipient have nothing to be afraid of!”
Ivana Taylor, President of DIYMarketers, agrees:
“The marketers who provide real value to their customers — those who are targeting customers who truly want to be in communication with them — will not have a problem reaching their audience. Think of it as spring cleaning for your list. It’s not the size of your list that matters, it’s the engagement. So, if someone doesn’t want information from you, they certainly are not going to buy from you.”
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Some question whether WhatsApp will be poised to become the next Skype. We’ve noted recently that Skype has been a tremendous benefit to small business owners who are saving thousands on international calls each year.
Microsoft’s instant messaging service allows video calls to be made for free between users. And now, it appears there may be another similar service on the horizon.
WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum announced recently that a voice messaging feature will be added to the already popular SMS app. The service is available on all manufacturers’ smartphones. Koum told those gathered at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona that this feature could be added by the second half of 2014 on all smartphones. Android and iOS users will see the feature added sooner, according to an Engadget report.
It’s unclear how voice messaging will be incorporated into WhatsApp. The company recently added a voice texting feature (pictured above). It allows users to send small voice messages as if they were text messages. So it will surely be something different than that.
If the new WhatsApp voice feature is more like Skype, it will likely be a major competitor. This will especially be true if its cost remains very low. WhatsApp has 330 million active daily users, according to the company. And it probably stands to gain millions more when a $19 billion acquisition by Facebook, announced recently, is finalized.
On the official WhatsApp blog, Koum recently explained that the merger with Facebook will not change the company’s basic mission. That is to provide inexpensive communication between users no matter where they are on the planet:
“There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.”
That raises the question of whether WhatsApp will remain just as inexpensive after the new service is fully integrated. Right now, users can take advantage of the service free for the first year. After that, users are charged $0.99 cents per year to continue using it.
The post WhatsApp Will Add Voice Service, But What Form Remains Uncertain appeared first on Small Business Trends.
When people think of free products, they are more likely to think of Google rather than Microsoft. But Redmond seems to be seriously considering up-ending the apple cart. Microsoft could be experimenting with a free slimmed down version of Windows 8.1, the Verge reports.
A free Windows 8.1 version would have two advantages. One, it would upgrade people who are still on Windows 7, who are procrastinating about the cost of upgrading. Two, it would motivate more people to take the leap and become more integrated into Microsoft’s services. Perhaps this would tempt away some of those currently using Google’s free apps.
If a free version does become available, it won’t include the full feature of the paid version of Windows 8.1. Instead it will be a version with more restricted apps and services bundled in. These could include Bing, Office, Skype and OneDrive. Some business owners may still opt to use the full version of Windows. However, small businesses who are on a tight budget may welcome a stripped down version of the software.
For Microsoft there is only one problem. If they start giving away the product for free, why would anyone bother to pay for a Microsoft operating system in the future? That is the dilemma Microsoft leadership seems to be grappling with right now.
How can the company strike the right balance between free software and monetizing it at the same time?
If Microsoft sees a serious amount of revenue walking out the door, will they do what Google eventually did with Google Apps, and stop the freebies? Will it be a case of “one hand giveth and the other hand taketh away?” On the other hand, Microsoft is looking at their biggest rival, Apple, giving away their last OSX operating system, Mavericks, for free.
The consumer climate is shifting, and Microsoft has been slow to respond.
Another option Microsoft is considering is cutting the Windows license fee to computer makers to either very little or free, if the limited version is installed. This has led one website to dub such computers “Bingbooks” (as opposed to Chromebooks). Microsoft is even thinking about giving the Windows Phone OS to phone manufacturers free of charge. Windows Phone is currently lagging behind iOS and Android.
Of course, Microsoft is already experimenting with giving things away. The company is currently offering 100GB of OneDrive space for one year in exchange for 100 Rewards credits in its Bing Rewards program.
Credits are earned every time you log into Bing with your Windows Live account and make a search. The question is whether these offers will be enough to attract more small business users to Microsoft.
The post Windows 8.1 For Free? A Version May Be In The Works appeared first on Small Business Trends.
Social media is a crucial component for any online marketing strategy. If you’re running your small business website on the WordPress platform, it’s incredibly easy to integrate social. There are hundreds of ready made social media plugins for WordPress to choose from.
Your choice of social media plugins for your WordPress website will depend on which social platforms you use actively, what kind of content you offer on your site, and the best look and placement of social tools that complements your website design. From simple to richly featured, below are some of the best WordPress plugins for social media.Social Media Plugins for WordPress Digg Digg
This versatile plugin by Buffer comes with plenty of customization options and integrates with virtually any social media platform. With Digg Digg, you can create either a floating social media bar with left or right scrolling options, or sharing buttons that automatically populate at the top or bottom of each of your blog posts.
Digg Digg can be used with Twitter, Facebook, Buffer, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr – just about any social channels you might use. Facebook options include both Like and Share, and “lazy loading” helps you cut down on load times for your website.Flare
Simple and eye-catching, the Flare plugin not only gives you customizable share buttons, but also lets you create and display a Follow Me widget, so your visitors can one-click follow your social media channels right from your website.
The plugin is compatible with major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and more. You can customize the appearance of the buttons, and place the share bar at the top or bottom of posts, or to the left and right of your pages. The left and right options scroll down the page with viewers, and auto-hide when not in use.ShareThis
With great customization, tons of features, and more than 120 supported social media platforms, ShareThis is one of the popular social media plugins for WordPress that’s been downloaded more than 1.5 million times. This plugin tool offers more than social buttons, which come in the form of a Hovering Bar that can be displayed on the right or left side of your pages, with counters and your choice of small or large buttons.
In addition, ShareThis has built-in social analytics, a CopyNShare widget that helps you track shares when your content is copied and pasted, and more.Share Buttons by AddThis
One of the most popular and recognizable social media plugins for WordPress, AddThis Share Buttons let you integrate with more than 330 social platforms and bookmarking sites, as well as email sharing. While there isn’t an option for a floating sidebar, the plugin gives you plenty of layout choices – and you can also get free analytics when you create an AddThis account.Floating Social Media Icon
Highly rated and popular, the Floating Social Media Icon plugin gives you a customizable, configurable social bar that flies onto the screen and scrolls along with visitors. You can also disable floating and set up static icons with this plugin.
Floating Social Media Icon gives you more than 20 different icon styles to choose from, so you can match the themes and styles of your website. It also supports multiple widgets, so you can display various social media buttons separately on your pages.Social Media Feather
This plugin supports shortcodes, and is currently the only social sharing plugin that supports Retina and high-resolution displays used by mobile devices like the iPad 5.Slick Social Sharing Buttons
If you’re looking for a social media plugin for WordPress that’s easy to implement and comes with plenty of options, try Slick Social Sharing Buttons. This plugin lets you customize button types, specify which pages and posts to display social sharing on, and choose from either a floating or slide-out share bar. You can also customize location, direction, floating speed, animation speed and more.
Slick Social Sharing Buttons supports shortcodes, and gives you a social analytics dashboard to help you track your sharing activity.Social Media Widget
With a long list of supported social platforms, including email and RSS, and some fun and interesting customizations, Social Media Widget is an easy-to-use plugin that creates a sidebar widget for social sharing, with links that open a separate tab or window when clicked.
Social Media Widget offers three icon sizes, four icon styles (Web 2.0, Sketch, Heart and Cutout), and four animation types to make your social media buttons stand out on the page.Shareaholic
The feature-rich, powerful Shareaholic offers more than social sharing. With a stated aim to help you get readers to “actually discover and submit your articles to numerous social bookmarking sites,” this plugin supports Facebook (both Like and Send), Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn and other major social platforms, with share counters for many of them.
In addition, Shareaholic comes with Classic Bookmarks, a Recommendations & Related Content tool, built-in Social Analytics, and official support for Google’s URL shortener as well as Google Analytics.Share Buttons by AddToAny
Offering support for more than 100 social sites in 19 languages, AddToAny Share Buttons is one of the most popular social media plugins for WordPress with almost 3 million downloads. It’s easy to customize and fully featured, and supports both shares and interactive clicks – including Facebook Likes, a Tweet button for Twitter, a “Pin It” button for Pinterest, a +1 button for Google+ and more.
Bookmarking and email buttons integrate with the most popular email services (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook / Hotmail, AOL, and nearly every Web-based or desktop email program).
You can customize the appearance and position of the AddToAny share bar, and integrate with Google Analytics to make the most of your social marketing.BONUS: Microblog Poster
A different kind of social plugin, Microblog Poster lets you automatically push your WordPress blog content to various social media platforms. This plugin currently supports Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Delicious and more. It also supports shortcodes and multiple accounts on the same platform.
Social Media Photo via Shutterstock
U.S. Rep. Sam Graves wants to raise the federal government’s goal for the amount of government contracts that must be awarded to small businesses.
Graves, who heads up the House Small Business Committee, introduced the Greater Opportunities for Small Business Act of 2014. The bill calls for the federal government to award 25 percent of its prime contract work to small businesses. That’s 2% more than the federal government’s current goal of setting aside 23 percent of government contracts for small businesses.
New reports suggest that the federal government may actually meet that 23 percent quota, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. That would be the first time the federal government hit its goal since 2005.
Last year, we reported that the federal government fell short of its 2012 goal by about $3 billion.
But data available through the Small Business Administration shows that the federal government awarded $83.2 billion to small businesses for the year ending in September 2013, about 23 percent according to Bloomberg.
The additional two percent proposed by Graves may sound small, but the numbers are large. It could mean up to $10 billion more in federal contracts for small businesses nationwide, according to a statement from the Congressman.
Graves also wants to award more subcontracted federal government work to small businesses. Right now that quota is at 35.9 percent. The new bill would raise that goal to 40 percent.
In addition to the call for higher award goals, Graves also introduced legislation that aims to hold the federal government more accountable in the way it reports the money awarded to small businesses, the Contracting Data & Bundling Accountability Act of 2014.
In a statement, Graves (R- Missouri) said:
“These two pieces of legislation will go a long way towards increasing opportunities for small companies who want to grow and create jobs by doing business with the federal government. By increasing the federal-wide goal for contracts to small businesses, and requiring greater accuracy, transparency and accountability in contract bundling and consolidation, we make it easier for small businesses to enter this marketplace and compete for contracts. The federal government spends nearly half a trillion dollars on contracted goods and services, therefore, we must ensure that the money is being spent efficiently, and small businesses have proven that they can do quality work cheaper and often faster.”
Small Business Administration administrator nominee Maria Contreras-Sweet was asked about government contracts to small businesses during her recent confirmation hearing.
Contreras-Sweet pledged to work toward getting government agencies closer to their quotas. She said the SBA must do more to help smaller companies bid for this work. Sweet also said that the federal government must work to “debundle” larger contracts that often go to larger companies.
The post Rep. Sam Graves Proposes Requiring More Government Contracts for Small Businesses appeared first on Small Business Trends.
Many entrepreneurs start a business because they have an overwhelming passion around a certain interest. They want to help people accomplish a stated goal. A problem develops in growing their business because they continually ask the wrong question:
“I wonder if my exciting idea can help other people?”
This question is entrepreneur-centric and does not revolve around what the customer wants. Just because a person is passionate about an idea and its solution does not mean that people will pay for it.
This is the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when they try to convert a hobby to a business. They have a dream that they want to earn a living doing what they love. This is a result of a misinterpretation about the feel-good directive that an entrepreneur needs to be passionate about their work.
While this is true, a better view is that an entrepreneur needs to be passionate about what the customer wants them to do. Therefore, the better question to ask is:
“I wonder if the customer has the money to solve a pain which I am excited about?”
This question focuses on what the customer wants, not what the entrepreneur needs. The customer cares only about solving their problem, not the passion of the entrepreneur. The answer to this question is the core of what any business needs to focus on. Customers always buy painkillers before they buy vitamins.Other Wrong Questions to Ask Would This Product Help Your Company?
Again, most prospects will say yes as not to confront or embarrass anyone. Unfortunately, this may not reflect the action they would truly take.
Instead ask: What would it be worth to your company if I could fill this need (resolve this pain)?
With this question, the entrepreneur establishes what the customer wants and the monetary value of solving their need.Are You Interested in Buying the Product?
Most prospects will simply say yes because they want to be agreeable and not seem negative. What prospects say and what they do are two different things.
Instead ask: Where can I send your order?
This is an assumptive close and pushes the action to now. It will also immediately raise any hidden objections.When Should I Contact You Again?
Most prospects will give a date in the future and then never respond again.
Instead ask: Should I contact you in the future? If so, what will be different then as opposed to now?
This gives the prospect an ability to say no, so time is not wasted in the future. This also self qualifies them for another call and gives insight into what is holding their purchase back now.
What questions are you asking? And are you really listening to the answers?
This article, provided by Nextiva, is republished through a content distribution agreement. The original can be found here.
Question Photo via Shutterstock
First there was a report that Twitter is testing a new format more like Facebook. Now sources say the iconic site is redesigning its logo to a much more abstract version. (And by abstract, we mean it’s hard to tell by looking at it just exactly what it is.)
A report from the Marin Independent Journal in California notes that among the many changes at the new company headquarters, a new logo is there, too.
That Twitter new logo could be a very abstract version of Twitter’s iconic bird. Rather than an actual bird, one mock-up of the Twitter new logo by designer Roberto Manzari of Milan, Italy, shows a simple circle with a partial triangle protruding from one side.
One comment reacting to the redesigned Twitter logo notices that there’s no bird and it doesn’t even use letters identifiable with Twitter:
“I’m all for minimalism, it’s a big part of why the existing bird icon with no wordmark is successful. But explain to me how turning it into a mark that resembles a lowercase “o” (or at best, a stubby lowercase “d”) could possibly be strong and recognizable for Twitter.”
When Twitter announced it was changing its logo in 2012 for only the second time, it said on the company blog that the bird was Twitter:
“From now on, this bird will be the universally recognizable symbol of Twitter. (Twitter is the bird, the bird is Twitter.) There’s no longer a need for text, bubbled typefaces, or a lowercase “t” to represent Twitter.”
Twitter is giving the new look a test run on select profiles. These changes are certainly a departure from the current look, which was just unveiled in January to look more like Twitter’s Android and iOS app interfaces, according to a company tweet.
Are the proposed changes going too far? Will Twitter lose its identity? Some already believe so and when they visited their new profile, they thought they were somewhere else, even if half-jokingly.
— Keyvan (@k_7) February 11, 2014
With millions of daily users, Twitter can afford to tinker with its look. Small businesses may not have the same luxuries. Rebranding and changing the look of your business, especially too often, could confuse or alienate customers — not to mention involve a lot of expense.
Sometimes, though, changes are necessary. Twitter’s revamping is coming at a time when it’s lagging behind its competition, namely Facebook. The company’s stock, according to recent reports, has been on a downward trend after its latest earnings statement and the service struggles to add new users.
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