Small Business Toolbox – June Twenty Ninth

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.

Mail Drop – Create a throw away email address without registering or signing up.  Use a throw away email address to keep your real email inbox clear of spam.  Great for free offer sign ups, downloads that require an email address, and about a hundred other uses.  Free to use without signup.

Vimeo Video School – Want to learn how to shoot engaging video for your business?  Vimeo offers a free online course to learn how to create compelling video with this free introductory course.

Butterfly quote-proverb-the small business playbook

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

Free Website Satisfaction Surveys From Google

Want to conduct a free visitor satisfaction survey for your website?  Google is giving one to webmasters for free through it's Google Consumer Surveys product.

Google introduced Google Consumer Surveys in 2012.  Starting at .10 cents a click, It's a low cost way for businesses to conduct some pretty fast and inexpensive market research.  Now, Google has introduced Google Consumer Surveys to webmasters to conduct website satisfaction surveys on their websites for free.

How Does Google Consumer Surveys For Webmasters Work?

Each website satisfaction survey you conduct will collect 500 responses from people who visit your website and complete the 4 question survey which will sit at the bottom right hand corner of your website.  After a survey is completed, a new survey will start again 30 days after the last one is completed.  You are allowed to use the 4 standard survey questions provided, or for .01 cent per response, can create your own survey questions.

It's really simple to get started, here's how

1- Go to Google Consumer Surveys for Webmasters and sign in with your Google account.

2- Grab the snippet of code and insert it just before the closing < /head> tag on your site.

3- Complete the survey settings

  • Here you will be able to choose options like:
  • Who to show the survey to. Each visitor or only some visitors
  • Show the survey to only certain referrers or to specifically not the show the survey to certain referring traffic
  • How long to wait before showing the survey to a visitor again, depending if they complete the survey or not

Google consumer survey for webmasters

4- Choose the 4 standard survey questions for free, or create custom questions for .01 cents per response

Google consumer survey for webmasters

Google consumer survey for webmasters

Google consumer survey for webmasters

Google consumer survey for webmasters

5- Activate your survey and you are done!

It's pretty easy to setup and get started, and can provide some valuable visitor feedback for your website for free.  You have to hand it to Google, I can't think of another company that provides so many free and low cost tools to small business owners.  What do you think about adding a satisfaction survey to your website?

 

Organic Search Customers Provide The Most Value To Retailers

Do you know where your best customers came from?  How did they originally find you online?

Not all customers are created equal, and the same goes for channels that drive potential customers to your business.

According to a recent study by Custora, a customer acquisition platform for e-commerce, customers that come from organic search have a 54% higher Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) than the average.

What is Customer Lifetime Value?

Customer Lifetime Value, or CLV, is simply calculating the potential lifetime value of a customer for your business.  Instead of calculating on a one-off purchase, you calculate how much and how often a given customer will buy from you over the course of their relationship with you.

When it comes to where the most valuable customers come from for online retailers, organic search seems to be the clear winner.  Google Analytics tracking was used for 85 U.S. retailers, and tracked 72 million customers in determining the results.

Customer lifetime value from social media and organic search survey

PPC and Email Tops Social

According to the study, Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) and email marketing were second and third behind organic search when it came to determining the most valuable customers.

So what about social media?  To all of the social media faithful touting that email marketing is dead (along with SEO), social media is at the bottom of the pile, right behind banner ad displays.  Yes, I said banner ads.

Facebook was a paltry 1% above average when it came to CLV for e-commerce retailers, which was in a dead heat with banner ads, while Twitter tanked with a -23% below average CLV score.

So is social media not worth it?  No, it's just that marketing to people on social media is usually a top of the conversion funnel activity while search and PPC customers are usually at the end of that conversion funnel, with wallet in hand.  Understanding where potential customers are in the buying cycle is important when creating your marketing plan.

Liftime value of a customer is highest with organic search and ppc

Email is back

While email marketing took a hit in recent years due to the rise in popularity of social media, this study validates what most internet marketers already know, that there is a lot of money to be made with a good email list.

I actually shouldn't say it's back, it never left the quiver of good internet marketers.

What do you think?

Search engine optimization, and search engine marketing in general, seem to be tried and true ways to drive conversions for retailers.  Social media definitely has it's place, but the conversion process doesn't seem as direct as other online channels.

image credit-Custora

 

15 Great Business Uses For Your Smartphone Camera

Who said that the camera on your phone was only good for taking snapshots?

Today's mobile devices feature some pretty powerful cameras, they also feature some awesome apps that can turn your camera into a productivity machine.  If you thought that your camera was only good for creating “photo art” on Instagram, think again!  Below are 15 ways you can use your mobile camera for your business.

Turn Printed Documents Into PDF's

Who needs a scanner when you have a smartphone.  Instead of filling you filing cabinets with paper you'll most likely never read again, turn those docs into PDF's you cans store online.  Cam Scanner is a powerful mobile scanner that will let you do this for free, though paid versions are available.  It's one of my most used mobile apps and connects with many third party cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote.

Create Awesome Video Of Your Staff In Action

Create on the fly videos of you and your team to share on social media.  Show the human side of your business, and all of the quirky things that happen behind the scenes.  Apps like Lapse It (time lapse video) and Social Cam (editing and sharing) make using your camera an exciting way to create great looking videos.

Barack Obama Painting Walls

Use It As A Mirror To Avoid Embarrassment

About to enter an important meeting?  Before you proudly display to your potential client the remnants of that burrito you just ate, take a minute and check yourself in the mirror.  No need for an actual mirror, use an app on your phone and use your camera as a mirror.  Many apps available on Android and iPhone.

Create A Visual Checklist For Your Employees

Are your employees ignoring your daily checklists?  Maybe they are visual learners and can't appreciate what an awesome checklist you've created.  If checklists are an important function of your business, why not liven them up by adding visuals to the list?  Use your camera to take shots of what the display case (or bathroom) is supposed to look like when finished.  Importing images from your phone to your computer is seamless if you use an app like Dropbox, which automatically streams images from your phone to your computer.

Need a good program to create these great looking checklists?  Try Clarify, by Blue Mango.

Create visual guides for your business

Turn Your Phone Into A Flashlight

Lights in the stockroom out?  No problem, turn the flash on your mobile phone into a high powered flashlight.  You'd be surprised how bright it is.  Here's a free app for Android as well as the iPhone.

Create Instant Testimonials

Have a really happy customer that just made a purchase?  Ask them if you could take a picture or video of them in their excited state.  Great fodder for social media!  For images, use an app like Skitch and let the customer write something directly on the image.  For video, use an app like Vine to create a short video testimonial you can create and share in under a minute.

Have A Face To Face With Your Employees

Out of town and need to have a talk with one of your employees?  Maybe a text message won't do, why not use your phone to host a video call?  Mobile apps like Skype and Google Hangouts make it easy (and free) to have a quick video conference with someone.

President Obama using Google Hangouts

Document Your Belongings Before You Travel

Has the airlines ever lost your luggage?  Yeah,…..let's just say that the airlines aren't known to be super helpful in situations like this.  Before you head to the airport, take a minute to snap a picture of your luggage, and it's (unbroken) contents, so you have something to counter the airline personnel when they question whether your guitar was broken before you got to the airport. Bonus, take a video of the condition of your rental car before leaving the lot to save yourself a headache later on.

Take Pictures Of Your Business Cards

Going to a trade show? Instead of keeping all those business cards in your nerd pocket, why not use your mobile camera to snap and store them digitally?  Use an app like like CamCard to scan a digital version of a business card and add detailed notes for a later follow up.

Nerd Pocket

Send Product Images Instantly To Potential Customers

Customer calls your store asking about a new product?  Take a snapshot of it with your camera and email them a visual while you're still on the phone to increase your chances of making an instant sale.

Use To Scan Bar codes

Whether you're doing price shopping or just checking out how other businesses are using QR codes, the camera on your phone can scan QR codes as well as traditional bar codes.  The Google Goggles app works on Android and iPhone, and does much more than just scan bar codes.

 QR code as a Thomas Jefferson quote

Digitize Your Printed Brochures

If you lost the digital file or the printer is out of ink, use the Camscanner app to create a PDF version of it you can email to customers.

Remember What It Looked Like

Before you take something totally apart, take a picture of it so you remember how to put it back together.  Also works for display cases and anything else you want to remember before you change it around.

Missing parts

Use It To Capture Your Computer Screen

Did your computer just crash and it's displaying an error code you may need to fix it?  Did a website just give you a crazy looking temporary password or reference number you're afraid you'll lose?  Whip out your phone and take a picture of the screen before you lose it forever.

 Blue screen of death-Windows

Create a Virtual Filing Cabinet

Use your camera as a catch all to digitize and save just about anything.  Save digital copies of receipts, letters, invoices, statements, etc.  I personally use Evernote to store all of my documents, though SpringPad and Google's new app, Keep, are all very worthy replacements.

And Finally………..

Take Lots Of Pictures Of Your Family

When things start to get stressful with your business, break out the gallery and be reminded of what life is all about : )

 

Small Business Toolbox – June Twenty Second

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.

Compfight – Free and easy way to find creative common images for your website.

Audacity – Free desktop program that lets you record audio.  Great for recording interviews, podcasts, etc.

Quotes Oscar Wilde

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 Awesome Examples Of Using Videos For Business

Funny-Cat-Video-MemeAre you using video as a marketing tool for your business?  If not, you may be missing the virtual marketing boat.

Video as a marketing tool is nothing new.  What is new is the explosion of the way people view and create videos online.  Increased bandwidth and phones that can shoot high definition video have created a new revolution when it comes to consuming video online.

Studies have shown that consumers are more engaged when their are visuals incorporated in the medium they are consuming, whether it's your website or on social media.

There are lots of ways to incorporate video in your marketing mix.  The hardest part is getting past the hesitation of getting in front of a camera, though as you'll see, there are lots of different ways to get started without you having to be the face in front of the camera.

Check out these 5 examples of how businesses are rocking out using video, maybe it'll spark an idea for you and your business.

Dollar Shave Club

This video from DollarShaveClub.com is funny. The video may be a little edgy for some consumers, but it works perfectly because it isn't made for everyone, it's for their customer demographic, guys.  They don't take themselves too seriously (or at all) and the video does a great job connecting with their audience, as you can see by the number of YouTube views which currently stands at over 10 million.

Chipotle

This animation short from Chipotle uses no dialogue except an awesome Willie Nelson version of Cold Play's, Back To The Start.  In 2 minutes it tells a stirring story of what makes Chipotle different from other fast food restaurants.  Part of the Chipotle brand is serving “Food with integrity“, and this video nails it.  While animation shorts can be costly, you can still make a fantastic one for a few thousand bucks or less.

Choice Lunch

This California company that provides healthy school lunches for children has a great video explaining what they do and what their mission is.  It's a professionally produced video that perfectly captures what their company is all about.  If your business has a mission that deeply resonates with your audience, a video like this can do more than text on a screen could ever do.

Choice Lunch from Brett Eichenberger on Vimeo.

ZenCash

Here's a good example of an “Explainer Video”.  An explainer video is a short video that shows potential customers how they can use your service as well as how they will benefit from it.  This video is under 1:30 minutes and replaces about 2,000 words of boring text that would have been needed to explain the same thing.  Expaliner videos should be short, somewhat entertaining, and they should do a great job of explaining how your service works.  These are usually less expansive than animated short videos, they can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on length and work involved.

Wistia

A great way to use video on your business website is to use customer testimonial videos.  While some small businesses use customer testimonial videos, most do them totally wrong, making them look like an interrogation scene from Guantanamo Bay.  Testimonial videos should be short, energetic, and to the point.  This example from Wistia (great site for hosting video) shows you how to create customer testimonial videos in a fun and engaging way.

There are lots of ways to incorporate video

So here are 5 great examples of how you can start incorporating video into your marketing mix.  Some can be low cost, even using your mobile phone to shoot the video, others can be more expensive and time consuming.  The point is that there are numerous ways to incorporate video, a lot more than what's listed here.  Get a head start on your competition and start shooting some video today!

5 Security Tips For Small Businesses

In countless ways, the internet and mobile devices have flattened the world for small businesses. No longer do you need a big IT department to have access to time saving and stimulating productivity and creative tools; just load up a cloud-based tool and you're good to go.

There's just one downside. The rise in reliance on web services and mobile devices has also increased the number of security threats small businesses face. In fact, Symantec estimates put the average cost of cyber attacks at a whopping $188,242 dollars, with nearly 2/3 of targeted companies closing their doors within 6 months of the attack. And yet, the same study found only 59% of small businesses have any kind of contingency plan for data breaches.

To protect you and your business from online threats, we highly recommend first diagnosing your points of weakness with this Digital Security Guide, which offers a quiz and in-depth answers. And to get you started, here are just a few security tips to get you going.

Securing data for your business

Internet security stock photo by Bigstock

1. Know Best Wi-Fi Practices

One of the most pernicious issues with Wi-Fi is a phenomenon called wardriving, a technique that has hackers driving around neighborhoods with high-powered antennas, breaking into any non-password protected or otherwise weak networks. Once inside the network, hackers have access to both employee personal information and sensitive company information like banking details.

To prevent such hacks, there are a few steps you can take:

Create a hidden network. Disable the service set identifier (SSID) so that your network isn't broadcasted. Since this isn't a foolproof measure, you can also change your network name frequently so that it will be harder to find.
Use WPA2 passcodes. While a WEP password is better than nothing, they're also pretty easily cracked by savvy hackers. WPA2 codes create longer encryption keys that are harder to guess. For more tips on generating good passwords, see tip #3.

2. Encrypt Your Data

No matter how many security steps you take, you can't 100% prevent scammers from accessing your networks. That's why it's so important to create an extra layer of security right on your devices to make your data unreadable should hackers access it. For this, encryption is the way to go, at least for your most important data. Put simply, encryption translates your data into a format that's unreadable by unauthorized users. However, encryption only works when users are logged out, so it's not a perfect measure, and it also means you should be sure to set computers to automatically logout after 15 minutes.

Encryption is easily done through programs that should already be on your computer, like BitLocker on PCs and FileVault on Mac.

3. Strengthen Your Passwords

You may think you have a good password, but if it contains any personal information or even any distinct words, think again. Now multiply those password risks across your entire business, and you've got some serious security risks on hand.

To create strong passwords, encourage employees to:

  • Not use any words.
  • Employ a good mix of lower case and capital letters, symbols, numbers and letters.
  • Never use the same password twice.
  • Change passwords on a regular basis.
  • Passwords are certainly not perfect, so you might want to consider using two-step authentication whenever possible, particularly on sites like Gmail and Twitter, two early adopters of the technology.

4. Backup Your Data

In case not just of security breaches but of technology crashes, backing up your data is also a crucial step you can take to safeguard the integrity of your data. While you should ideally do this every day for all of your business data, at the very least, do it for your most important financial data, human resources files, presentation and intellectual property. This can be easily done on external hard drives as well as on cloud-based backup services like Mozy. If you're already outsourcing your IT to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) you can likely have them store your data as well.

5. Educate Your Employees

Of course, the biggest threat to a small (or any sized) business' security are the employees, whether they're making weak passwords or clicking on links they shouldn't. That's why it's so important to have clear and frequently updated security policies that are regularly reviewed with employees. A few key things to cover:

Wi-Fi while on the road. If your employees rely on mobile devices, make sure they never use a public network or even one that lacks a password, as those are often set up by hackers. They should also be instructed not to enter any sensitive company data over networks with unconfirmed identities.
The game plan for employees who leave the company. Sensitive information is often contained on employee mobile devices. Have a procedure in place for clearing data, or even wiping it remotely if need be.
Downloading files and clicking links. The policy for this should be clear: Unless you recognize the address, just don't do it. No clicking, no downloading. End of story.

Takeaways

While no individual security measures are perfect, taking these security steps together will go a long way towards safeguarding your most important data…and your bottom line. The sooner you take these steps, the sooner you can take advantage of today's many helpful online tools without anxiety.

Contributor Luke Clum is creative marketer, designer and writer from Seattle.

Small Business Toolbox – June Fifteen

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.

Social Oomph – Free social media management program that helps you organize your accounts.  Free version offers unlimited accounts, paid version offers more features and additional social media platforms.

Clicky – Web analytics tracking tool that lets you track what's happening on your website.  Not as robust as Google Analytics, but offers better real time reporting.  Free and paid versions available.

Happiness quote from Ghandi

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

Image Credit

The Science Behind Using Visuals [infographic]

Are you including visuals in your blog posts and other marketing collateral?

If you're not, you may be boring your visitors to death, or at least enough to make them leave without finishing what they started.

Lets face it, we live in a visual world.  The explosion of Pinterest, along with every other social media platform scrambling to “visualize” their platform, have clearly shown where the trend is heading.

Everyone has a preferred learning style, it makes sense to use different mediums to connect with your audience.  Incorporating a mix of text based content, video, and even audio (think podcast) can attract an entirely new audience for your business.

Infographics are a great example of how you can take a lot of data, and present it in a visually appealing way.  The infographic below does a nice job explaining why people seem to connect better when visuals are present.  It's courtesy of Neomam, and you can view the interactive HTML5 version here. Below is a static version of the infographic.

So my question to you is, what are you doing to liven up your website and marketing collateral?

Infographic on how the brain loves to visualize

Think Small When Setting Business Goals

Setting goals for small businessWe will increase revenue by 10% next year.  We will increase the average ticket sale by 15% this coming year.

How many times have you set goals like these for your business?  How many times have you actually reached them, or even remembered you set them by the time Summer came around?  If you're like most small business owners, the answer is usually “rarely”.

So is setting goals bad?  No they aren't, it has more to do with the type of goals you are setting rather than setting goals themselves.

The problem with lofty goals

The problem is that a generic goal like “increase revenue by 10%” is too lofty and non-specific.  If you're a million dollar company, a 10% increase can add 100K in revenue….not too shabby.  But HOW do you intend to add 100K of revenue to your business?  That's a pretty big number, there will need to be some innovative thinking in order to generate that much additional revenue over the course of the year.

Or will there?

Sidebar: An interesting video on goal setting

Dilbert comic on setting goals

Dilbert

Bite sized chunks work best

The first problem with a goal like this is that the timeline involved is too expansive.  Break the number into bite sized chunks to bring that lofty goal back to reality.  $100,000 is a pretty big number, a number that is difficult to wrap your head around when trying to figure out how to generate that much additional revenue.  But what about $8,334?  That's the increase in revenue you will need per month in order to reach your 100K goal.  Better yet, what about $1923?  That's the increase in revenue per week you will need in order to reach your 100K goal.

Breaking down lofty numbers and timelines into more manageable chunks can help you realize that the goal is reachable.  It also helps you start planning in much smaller time frames as opposed to thinking you have until the end of the fiscal year to reach your goal.

Once you have broken down your goal into something more tangible, you can start preparing the next stage of reaching your goals.

No results without action

A goal without a plan is just a wish.   ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Setting a goal without a detailed action plan is a waste of everybody's time.  Now that you have broken down your goal into realistic chunks, you now need to do the same with your action steps.

Your action steps are the “how” you are going to reach your goals.

Your action steps need to be very clear and actionable (emphasize actionable) if you want to reach your goals.  A common mistake many business owners make is laying out activities that are not action steps themselves, but outcomes.  Outcomes are the results you get after completing your action steps.

Making two additional sales per week to hit your goal might sound like an action step, but it's not, it's an outcome from the results of your specific action steps.  

The power of How

How am I going to reach my goal of increasing revenue by 10% next year?  You might conclude that you will need to increase sales in order to generate the 100K in revenue to reach your goal.  You determine that two additional sales per week will allow you to reach your goal.

How will I make two additional sales per week?  You may determine that you will have to schedule an additional 8 product demos a week in order to generate 2 additional sales per week.

How will you generate an additional 8 product demos per week?  Now we are getting somewhere!  You determine that in order to generate an additional 8 product demos per week, you will have to:

  • Call an additional 50 prospects per week to try and schedule a demo
  • Reach out to past customers to reconnect and see if there are opportunities to offer a product demo to them
  • Start a new Pay Per Click campaign to drive 200 targeted visitors a week to your website, with the hopes of scheduling 2-4 product demos per week from this channel

* You can now use the above action steps as metrics (along with revenue) to monitor your progress.  You can make adjustments as needed if you are falling short of your goal.

An actionable plan has now been created

We have now taken a high level, lofty goal of “increase revenue by 10%, or 100K”, to broken it down into into bite-sized chunks that we can wrap our heads around.  We have also determined what will help reach our goal (2 additional sales per week) and the detailed action steps involved in turning this into reality.

We are also working towards our goals within weekly/monthly time frames.  You are now accountable every week/month for your efforts as opposed to once a year.  This keeps everyone on their toes and the goal top of mind.

Now it's time to work the plan

Now that you have a clear understanding of your goals, have broken it down into manageable chunks, and have detailed action steps to reach them…..it's off to the races!  You can make adjustments along the way, but you are now moving towards your goals.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Well done is better than well said”.