Small Business Toolbox – January Twenty Eight

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

AWW App – Ever wanted to quickly explain something to someone online?  Wish you could write it out on a whiteboard?  Now you can!  AWW is a free online whiteboard tool that lets you quickly create and share your ideas, drawings and collaborations quickly and easily.  No signup needed, just start drawing and share.

Magisto – Automatically turn plain old videos into great looking, edited movies.  This free tool is a great way to spice up your business videos and it's really simple to use.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

5 Ways Your Small Business Can Use QR Codes

Do you know how to incorporate QR codes into your small business marketing plan?

QR codes are becoming quite popular. You can spot them pretty much anywhere, from large billboards to the stick of deodorant in your bathroom. As more and more people are adopting smart phones, QR codes can become a powerful part of your marketing mix. If you're unsure about how to go about creating a marketing strategy for mobile platforms, QR codes is an easy way to get started.

Below are 5 easy ways that you can start incorporating QR codes into your marketing mix. 

QR Codes on Brochures

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Adding QR codes to your informational brochure is pretty common these days.The mistake most people make is simply sending people to the website's home page instead of a dedicated landing page that is optimized for mobile display. Tip……Smartphones are not really meant to surf the web, hence the wide-spread use of mobile applications that take the place of traditional web surfing on a smart phone. Instead of sending visitors to a generic web page on your website, why not create a special (optimized for mobile) landing page where you can:

  • Show them a video of your product or service in action. Visuals like this are perfect for smart phones.
  • Show a customer testimonial or a 30 second collage of customer testimonials. Social proof in action!
  • A digital version of the brochure

 

Place a QR Code In Your Storefront Window

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Place a 12 inch by 12 inch QR code window cling on your front window. Why? People walking past your shop off hours can scan your window cling and instantly see:

  • “The top ten reasons you should come back tomorrow”
  • A special message from you, the business owner
  • A downloadable coupon that can be redeemed within 24 hours

Use QR Codes Alongside Your Products

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Whether on the product itself, or on the informational card below it, QR codes can provide additional information about the product like:

  • Reviews of the product from 3rd party websites
  • A video or written customer testimonial of the product
  • Fact sheet or FAQ on the product
  • Video demonstration of the product

Business Cards

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Business cards are the perfect place to turn a traditionally lame custom of trading business cards (think networking events and conventions) into a potential powerhouse of a marketing tool. Some things things you can do with a QR code on your business card:

  • Let people download a V-card version of your card directly to your mobile phone. People will love you for not having to type all of your information into their phone with their thumbs!
  • Give away free information via your QR code like an E-Book or White Paper
  • Have a mobile sign up form that is mobile friendly
  • Have your QR code open to a custom video greeting….from you!

Print QR Codes On Stickers

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Online custom printing services like Moo.com make it easy for you to create cool looking QR stickers that you can place virtually anywhere. What are some things you can do with your stickers?

  • Place QR stickers on your printed brochures that were created before you found out about QR codes
  • Place them on the back of envelopes you send to your best customers, when they scan it, it's a personal thank you message from you
  • Running a contest? Temporarily place them on your printed marketing materials to help promote the contest
  • Running a joint promotion with another business? Instead of printing up special brochures, add a quick message along with a QR code on a sticker and place it on their brochures

You Can Get Really Creative With QR Codes

As you can see, there are hundreds of possibilities when it comes to using QR codes for your business. The best way to get started is to pick one of the above and do it! QR codes work best when they are interactive and fun for your customers so keep that in mind when creating them. QR creating services like Delivr let you create QR codes quickly, easily and for free. If you register for a free account with Delivr, you can change the destination URL of your QR code, allowing you to use the same QR code over and over again for different promotions.

What are some of the ways you're using QR codes for your business?

 

Do You Have A Roadmap For Your Business?

Do you have a plan for your business?  Better yet, do you have a plan for your life?

If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. ~Jim Rohn

Just like for your life, your business needs a plan.  And no, you can't have a plan for your business without a plan for your life.  Owning your own business is too intertwined with your personal life not to have them both aligned.  The importance of having a plan is not so much that you actually follow it, it's that you have at least thought about what you want your business to look like and a rough sketch on how to get there.  Plans change all the time…..

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. ~Old Boxing Quote

Military strategists spend countless hours planning every detail of an upcoming battle, knowing full well that once the first shot if fired, the original plan will basically become useless and they will have to formulate new plans as circumstances change.

Why do they bother doing all of this up front work knowing it will have to change almost immediately?

Because……

It's not the plan that is important, it's the planning. ~Dr Graeme Edwards

The value is in the planning….not the actual plan. The planning is done to force yourself to think…..to think deeply about what you are facing, to make you think long and hard about what you are getting into.  Planning lets you visualize what you want to happen and helps you create the action steps to move you there.  Planning also helps you to anticipate challenges and to formulate responses to those hypothetical situations.

Most people are too lazy to spend time thinking about “what might happen”.  They are also the same people who fold like a cheap suit when the sh@t hits the fan.  Why?  Because they have never given thought on what they would do when faced with a challenge.

I spent 13 years in the NYC Fire Department.  We trained, at a minimum, 2 hours a day.  What did we spend most of our time training on?  “What if” scenarios.  When we trained new firefighters, we would constantly asked them, “What would you do if….” and “What would you do when….” questions.   We would do this non-stop until they have thought through every scenrio and gained an understand of why they would do something in any given situation.

And guess what happened?

When the hypothetical situation actually happened, the new firefighters were able to react, and react swiftly.  Why?  Because by thinking the situation through dozens of times in their heads it was like they had actually experienced the it before.

That's what you need to do for your business.

Create your road map, do your planning.  Know what you want your business (and life) to look like.  Things to think about;

  • Do my business goals align with my life goals?  What's the big picture for your life?  How will your business support it?
  • What do you want your business to look like 1, 2, 5, 10 years from now?
  • What steps do you need to take today, this week, next month and next year to get there?
  • What challenges might you face?
  • What steps will you need to take to overcome these challenges if they arrive?

Create Your Roadmap [Free Download]

Hopefully you see the importance of having a vision for your business and a plan for getting there.  The act of planning is just as important, if not more, than the actual plan itself.  Spend some quiet time, do some deep thinking and get started on planning a great business.

**To help you create your roadmap, I created a simple form where you can write down your plans for key areas of your business.  Use it as is, modify it, or use it as inspiration to come up with your own. [Download Here]  Your Small Business Roadmap

 

 

 

 

Small Business Toolbox – January Twenty One

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

SpringTern – A new service where businesses can find student interns to work on a number of different projects for their business.  Students are always looking for real world experience and to spice up their resumes, and businesses are always looking for some extra help, especially when it's free. Though Springtern does charge a small fee for the service, they are currently in beta testing and offering the service for free.

Pingdom – Is your website loading slowly?  Not sure what is dragging it down?  Run your website through the Pingdom speed test tool and  see exactly which files are loading fast and which ones are loading like a hog.  The time it takes for your website to load is very important for both impatient customers as well as the search engines.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Small Business Toolbox – January Fourteen

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Live Minutes – A free and easy way to quickly collaborate on a document with your team.  Instead of emailing a document, simply invite your team to view the document online and annotate it as a team.  Live Minutes will produce a great looking report of everything that happened.  Schedule meetings in advance and store up to 100mb if you sign up for a free account.

Remember The Milk – A very popular online to do list app that integrates with dozens of popular services like Gmail and Twitter.  Add a task to RTM and it will sync seamlessly with with your email, smart phone and even social networks.  Mobile apps available for all of the major smart phone carriers.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

24 Things to Think About Before Starting A Business

Starting your own business is hard work.  I mean really hard.

Most people think they know how much work is involved but are hit with a hard dose of reality once they get in the thick of things.  As a business owner you need to have both an iron stomach and the ability to live with uncertainty.

Before you take the leap and start a business, you should ask yourself the questions below and answer them honestly.  You need to be certain that you are fully prepared to take on the responsibilities that will be required of you as a small business owner. The questions below focus on your motivations, aptitude, and business plan.

Questions to ask yourself before starting a business

1- Are you prepared to work for the next year (or longer) with little or possibly no income? How will you support yourself during this period?

2- Are you prepared to work long hours in the first year of starting your business? 50-80 weeks are not unlikely during the first year. How many hours will you commit?  Be prepared to give up most, if not all extracurricular activities during this crucial time.

3- Is there something that you will need to change in your life in order to accommodate the long hours you will have to work? How will your personal/family life be affected?  The time required of a new business can stressful on the whole family.

4- Do you have any formal business training? Owning a business requires many skills such as Marketing, Sales, Operations and Management skills.  These skills are a must, whether you possess them or you bring on someone who does.

5- Do you have any experience such as management or supervisory positions that might serve as good experience for starting your own business? Managing employees is one of the biggest challenges of owning a business.

6- Does your family support your decision to start a business of your own? If your spouse is not on board think twice as mutual support is critical during the early, high stress days of the business.

7- Have you discussed your plans with your family? Are they fully aware of the implications of starting your own business? This is the time to be really honest with them as it will be worse later on if they found out you were hiding key details.

8- Have you thoroughly explored why you want to start your own business, as opposed to working for someone else? What are those reasons?  Will owning your own business actually support those reasons?

9- Will these reasons serve as sufficient motivation to make your business a success?

10- Have you saved any money or secured enough money from investors to get your business through the crucial first years?  Always anticipate needing more than you think.

11- Have you carefully examined exactly how much money it will take to start your business and carry you through these first crucial years?  Like above, it is always more than you think.

12- Are you planning to use money you have saved to start your business? Or will you be relying heavily on loans?  If you lost this money, how would it affect you and your family?

13- Have you created a realistic plan for paying back any loans?

14- Are you willing to reinvest any income you may make from your business in the first years to help your business grow in the future?  Don’t plan on a large salary, or any, during the early years.

15- If you will be taking out a loan with a bank, do you have a good relationship with your banker?  If not, you should be forming those relationships now in anticipation of starting a business.

16- Will you be operating and managing this business on your own? Or do you have someone to help you?  A strong team is vital to a successful business, you can't do it all yourself.

17- Will you be managing the business with a partner? If so, is this person someone you can trust through thick and thin?  Partnerships can either be great or a nightmare, do you really understand what a partnership should look like?  Speak to business owners that are in partnerships agreements, get their feedback.

18- Have you researched the possible benefits of having a partnership or incorporating your business? There may or may not be benefits to such arrangements.

19- Have you created a detailed business plan?  Is it an accurate portrayal of what should happen or is it wishful thinking?

20- Have you shared this business plan with your partner? Your family?

21- Do you know someone experienced in the business world that you can ask for advice?  Can you find a mentor?

22- Are you able to motivate yourself to get work done, even if it means sacrificing other perhaps more enjoyable activities?  Plan on missing out on almost all extracurricular activities during the start up phase of your business.

23- List some strategies that you plan to use to motivate yourself. For example, you may list your end goal, the freedom to be your own boss, the potential financial rewards, or anything else that may motivate you.

24- Are you willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make your business succeed?  There will be many.

Summary

The above questions are not meant to discourage you from starting a business, but to help you answer some questions you may not have considered.  Owning your own business can be the greatest feeling in the world, but it does come with a price tag.  You just need to be sure your ready to make the purchase.

If you have any questions about starting a business, feel free to contact me, I love responding to questions!

Symbaloo – A Great Tool For Organizing Your Web Bookmarks

I'm an information hoarder.

Every time I come across a piece of information I think may be useful in the future, I save it.  I have scores of old magazine articles, news paper clippings and hand written notes stored in a dozen places, collecting dust,  in case one day I will need to reference it.

The thing is, I never remember what I saved and have no idea where to find it when I need it.

My web life is much the same.  For years I have been trying to find a way to organize my long list of web links, using bookmarks and folders to keep things organized.  It never works.  I can honestly tell you I have no idea why it doesn't work, the only thing I know is that it doesn't, at least for me.

About a year ago, I stumbled upon a bookmarking service that I decided to try out.  After trying out several others in the past, I didn't have high hopes.  But guess what?  A year later, it's the default homepage on my Chrome browser and I use it everyday.

The service is called Symbaloo, and i'd like to introduce you to it today.

What is Symbaloo?

Symbaloo is a free visual bookmarking application that lets you create multiple tabs for organizing all of your web links.  It's like having a custom dashboard of all of the websites you visit most.

Symbaloo uses “Webmixes”, which are basically pages where you can view your bookmarks, which they call “Tiles”.  When you create a Webmix, you will add Tiles that you can customize with your own text and image.  Symbaloo also has many Tiles already created for popular websites, saving you the time of adding your own information.

create custom tile bookmarks with symbaloo

You can create multiple Webmixes that let you organize and add as many bookmarks as you need.  I have my Webmixes sorted by personal, business and blogging bookmarks that I would like to access easily.  Our children even have their own Webmix they use to quickly access their favorite websites.

I also like to bookmark useful tools and services that I may need.  I have several Webmixes full of useful tools and services I have found over the years.

bookmark useful tools and services for easy access

 

Social Sharing

Symbaloo lets you share your custom Webmixes with other Symbaloo users in their online gallery for others to use.  You can also search the gallery for custom Webmixes that have been created by other users as well as the Symbaloo team.

You can search for Webmixes in the gallery according to ratings, popularity and country of origin.

symbaloo online gallery of webmixes

 

Summary

I've finally found a bookmarking service that I like and use.  I know there are some flashier visual bookmarking services out there, but I find them to be a little too distracting.  I like the fact that Symbaloo allows for alot of customization, but still remains pretty simple.

Symbaloo also offers an version for educational institutions that are well worth checking out as i've found some really great educational services I didn't know about through their custom Webmixes to use with our children.

If your looking for a neat and simple way to organize and visualize your bookmarks, consider giving Symbaloo a whirl.  I'd love to hear your feedback about the service or any questions you may have, you can contact me here.

Small Business Toolbox – January Seven

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Any Meeting – A free web conferencing service that lets you host webinars for up to 200 attendees totally free.  The free version is ad supported and they have paid plans if you would like an ad free version.  Create registrations forms for your webinars, send invitations, and even sell tickets for your webinar.

Free Make –  A free video converter tool that lets you create DVD's, Blue Ray discs and a host of other file formats all for free.  Can convert over 200 different kinds of file formats into AVI, WMV, MP4, MPEG, MKV, FLV, SWF, 3GP.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Ron Popeil (Ronco) – Salesman of The Century

Ron Popeil Expert Salesman and Inventor

Ron Popeil (Ronco) is one of the greatest inventors and salesman of the last century.

Ronald M. Popeil born on May 3, 1935 in NYC.  He's an American inventor and salesman and is best known for his late night infomercials.  His most successful product, the Showtime Rotisserie, is where he coined his famous phrase “Set it and forget it”

Ron and his brother had a rough childhood, spending most of their youth  in foster homes and with family members before eventually going to work for his father, himself an inventor.  Ron honed his salesmanship skills on the streets of Chicago, buying excess kitchen inventory from his father (at no discount) and yelling, hawking and doing just about anything to attract attention and sell his products.  From the streets of Chicago, Ron eventually started taping demonstrations for other salesmen, which eventually led to him becoming the infomercial king of late night television.

If you've ever spent time watching television late at night, you've seen Ron on TV, or at least some of his products.  The Popeil Pocket Fisherman, The Chop-O-Matic and the Showtime Rotisserie oven are just a few of his prized inventions.

What makes Ron's products and his sales pitch so successful?

First off, he sells some pretty neat products.  Second, he is a master of building excitement for his products. Over the course of 30-minute infomercial,  Ron will show you:

  • Why you need his product
  • A demonstration on how wonderful it is and also proof that it works
  • Show customers giving testimonials, along with oohs and aahs from the crowd
  • Give example after example showing you why you need the product

Embedly Powered

What you'll also notice is that he gives the price of the product very early on in the show.  Why does he do this?  Because from this point until the end of the infomercial, Ron will hit you with his famous catch phrase….“Wait, there more!”

Usually at this point of the infomercial, you're thinking “that's not a bad price, but it's not a bargain either”.

That's what he wants you to think.

Because for the rest of the show you will get hit with one freebie after another……all as a free bonus to you if you buy the product.  The freebies usually end up being worth more (at least perceived value) than the cost of the actual product.  Add in the money back guarantee and  it almost becomes a no-brainer to purchase the product.  By the end of the show, people are usually sold and eagerly ready to buy.

Summary

If you are a business owner or a salesman, become a student of the infomercial and learn to build anticipation for your product and re-invent your selling process.  Also note how enthusiastic everyone is in an infomercial, they do it because enthusiasm is contagious.