Small Business Toolbox – August Thirty First

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.

IFTTT – If you're a productivity freak, then If This The That will be a dream come true.  IFTTT lets you create productivity “recipes” where you can connect one online service to others and create chain reactions every time you make an action.  Hundreds of different recipes from social media to cloud storage to online reading.

Dwolla – Online payment system that lets individuals, businesses and non-profits to send and collect money online.  Low transaction fees makes this a great choice for small business.

Regret quote

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 – August Twenty Fourth

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.

Avidemux – Free video editing software that provides basic editing features for the novice.  Lacks advanced features of high priced video editors, but it's free and does the basics for you.  Supports all major file types.

Podio – Free CRM and team collaboration tool (up to 5 people) that lets you manage your business from a central location.  Hundreds of add on apps lets you customize this tool for how you want to use it.

Great quote from Jim Rohn

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

 

A Paperless Office: 5 Reasons why your business should use the cloud

Woman office worker going paperlessAs the business landscape is becoming more and more competitive, many small and medium sized businesses are beginning to look at opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competition. There are many ways to gain a competitive advantage to make a business stand out; one of the most interesting trends I have seen recently is the adoption of a paperless office.

With that said, there are many tools emerging within the industry, that are meant to specifically help businesses to share and manage their important documents through the cloud while reducing paper clutter in the office. Although an entirely paperless office is still far from possible, these tools help to create a green aspect for your business, while allowing business owners to manage and share information with clients located around the world. Today, we will look at some benefits for businesses who are adopting the idea of a paperless office, and why your business should think about going paperless.

Security

When dealing with paper, documents can be easily damaged, misplaced, or stolen. This is why having a digital backup is essential when filing your important information. Many document management applications allow for documents to be stored on their secure servers, giving a similar security as your online banking. You are also able to authorize users to view, access, or retrieve document within the application, allowing for digital files to be much more secure than the original paper copies.

Collaboration

There are many document management applications available to the public, and choosing one that fits your needs is essential for your business. A good document management application gives users the ability to enhance collaboration on important documents, sometimes with just a click of a button. Many systems allow for multiple users to have access to the application simultaneously, resulting in work being completed more efficiently, and in less time. Alternatively, users are able to share specific files by emailing a secure link that brings the recipient directly into the application.

Storage

Managing and storing documents within a document management application is simple. There are a number of ways to upload documents into the application, including via email, phone, or directly through the computer. Once the document is in the application, searching and retrieving the document is just as easy! Many applications have state-of-the-art functions that allow for documents to be easily uploaded, shared, and retrieved in a matter of seconds.

Accessibility

One of the main features of online document management applications is the ability to view and manage documents from any location, at any time. Users are able to login to the application from any computer using their secure password. Many applications allow for multiple users to have access to the information.

Audit Trail

Businesses are able to store as many documents as necessary within the application, which offers the ability to store records for many years. Each document has a unique code that can be tracked, automatically generating an audit trail. Document management applications give businesses the opportunity to forget about their paper documents, while storing their digital files in an efficient and secure environment.

As technology grows, more and more businesses are adopting new tools to help differentiate themselves from their competition. Document management applications give businesses an opportunity to have one location that simplifies the storing, managing, and collaboration of important documents.

Author Bio
This article is written by Dene Paquin, marketing strategist for LedgersOnline, a West Coast bookkeeping firm, and LedgerDocs, an online document management application that helps businesses, bookkeepers, and accountants to store, manage, and collaborate on financial information. You can find the on Twitter at @LedgersOnline and @LedgerDocs

 

Climbing Out of the Pressure Cooker: Dealing With Anxiety Without Stressing Yourself Out

Frog meditatingThere is a billion-dollar industry designed to help you escape from stress. From escapist vacations to spa treatments that promise to “melt away stress” you can actually feel a lot of pressure when trying to stay calm. Is it just me, or does that sound a little backwards?

Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole concept. Even the Scientific American thinks that stress may not be the health boogeyman most of us were raised to think it is. So how can we handle stress in a way that doesn’t actually drive us to screaming at someone or scarfing down a box of Twinkies on a random Thursday night? There are a few options:

Turn pressure into your ally

Pressure is natural for humans. We are equipped to deal with it, with adrenaline surges and other responses. More to the point, pressure and stress are designed to help us detect and respond to danger. High pressure can also be a road to peak performance. When we are stressed, that may be the kick in the butt we need to climb faster, run harder, or get that business off the ground. Stress is designed to help us survive — and thrive. What we are not designed to deal with is low-grade, non-stop pressure, simply known as stress and anxiety. That sort of niggling worry is what will age us and hurt our cardiovascular system. The trick is to learn to recognize this type of anxiety and address it.

 

Define it. Name it. Own it.

Write down a list of the things in your life that stress you out. Sort it so that the most stressful items are on top. Give each source of anxiety a nickname, preferably something a little silly. Every time you feel stress creeping up on you, say can always say to yourself, “Oh this is just that stupid worry about getting all my ducks in a row, nothing more.” This is the first step to self-control.

 

Cross that bridge when you come to it

Deal with your pressure items one at a time. If this isn’t the time and place for it, wait until it is. One of the great things about stress is that you can procrastinate. You put off work and car repairs all the time, so why not delay something as tiresome as money worries? If you find yourself worried about your business, tell yourself “I will worry about that tomorrow. Right now, I’m only going to think about my health concerns.” The idea is to “be in the now” or “be in the moment.” It keeps from being overwhelmed by multiple worries.

 

Find ways to address what worries you

Once you have a list of your worries, they are no longer vague anxieties — they become concrete problems. And that means they can become actionable items. Beside each worry on your list, brainstorm things you can do to turn the situation around. Are you worried about your health? Maybe you can visit a new doctor or hire a trainer. Do you have financial woes? Maybe you need to sit down with the accountant. Anxiety usually happens because you feel out of control. When you realize that there are things you can do, that tight feeling clenching in your chest eases up a bit. It feels better to do than to sit around and worry.

 

Use a productivity system

Get things out of your head and into the system a trust, like a productivity app or personal assistant. This way you can focus on doing things instead of worrying about things you may have missed. This lets you free your mind from remembering where everything is and what to do next, so you can re-focus on getting things done. Most of us also worry about things falling through the cracks. When you have a good system in place, that’s at least one worry crossed off your list.

 

1% theory, 99% practice

There is no shortage of advice on dealing with stress and pressure, but “knowing and not doing is not knowing.” Make sure you spend 99% of your time in practical application instead of reading endless books and articles about dealing with stress. Practice makes perfect.

 

One practical thing you can do to address worry is to train your mind. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing, and the only mind-training method known to man is meditation. Start with 3 to 5 minutes, twice per day, ideally when you wake in the morning and before you retire to bed at night. Don’t be greedy and add more time too quickly. There’s always the danger that starting too strong will tire you out quickly. Think of it as a marathon, not as a 100-meter sprint. My advice to beginners – and personal favorite – is zazen, a sitting meditation that is the core and only form of Zen practice. Another good choice is the Sedona Method, which teaches you to stay in the moment and release stress. Or you can always look up a meditation group or class in your area.

 

You don’t need another day off to deal with stress — you need a better solution. Start with that list of worries and start owning your anxiety rather than letting it rule your life.

 

About the author:

Dmitri Eroshenko is the founder of Relenta, an innovative solution for business CRM needs. When he’s not busy helping companies whip their marketing and customer service into shape, Dmitri likes to travel, read, and spend time with friends and family.

Small Business Toolbox – August Seventeenth

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.

Trello – Manage projects and tasks collaboratively with this simple card and board concept of organizing.  Simple concept that works exceptionally well.  Free to use.

Present.me – Free online presentation tool that lets you display a slideshare presentation alongside a video of you explaining the slideshare in a split screen format.  Great for business presentations.  Free and paid plans available.

Napolean Hill Quote

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 Marketing Techniques to Use in the Last Half of 2013

So sales are in a slump and your business needs a swift kick in the pants for the second half of 2013. It can be easy to get disheartened when it's already August and you're just not performing like you thought you would be. There's usually something you can do to help sagging sales pick up in the second half of the year. Or, at the very least, you should be able to plant a seed for greater brand recognition early next year.

You still have several months before the year ends, this is your time to kick it into second gear and make the most out of 2013 for your business.

Photo by Chris Heiler via Flickr

Break the Language Barrier

Are you sure that your target demographic speaks English? Consider, for instance, a video game developer who mostly focuses on challenging shoot-'em-up games. The big market for these games is Japanese, and by keeping the game English only, this developer is missing out on what might well comprise the lion's share of their viable market. In China, in particular, we're seeing a surge in consumer demand for electronics and technology products in both urban and rural areas, as pointed out by Gallup.com.

Get in Some Trouble

Too often we worry about stepping on toes, but you can't conquer your market while being polite. That publicity stunt that you're worried will just embarrass you? The off-color jokes you want to post to the company's Twitter account? As long as it's in line with what you want for the brand, go for it. The controversy that arises from developing a brand that isn't “for everyone” is exactly the sort of controversy that let's your ideal customers know that they're not everyone.  Just be sure that's it's in line with your company's brand and it's light-hearted controversy, not offensive.

Stop Ignoring Your Data

Many companies collect data on market behavior, but few actually use that information to change the services they offer, how they advertise, and what it is that they're selling to the public. This is like reading your date's dating site profile, and then spending the whole night talking about movies that you know they haven't seen or don't like. As DMNews points out, simply putting your text-mining data to use and collecting frequent updates can make a big, immediate difference in your business's performance. You have the tools, you have the data: use them. Even your direct mail and shipping campaigns can be boosted by the data provided by a Pitney Bowes postage meter or your online customer database, so stop letting this valuable information go to waste.

Cross-Channel Marketing

Meg Enterprises suggests a greater emphasis on multi-channel marketing.Take that a step further and look into cross-channel marketing. Cross-channel marketing refers to an approach to marketing that involves multiple intertwined marketing campaigns, so you'll have your TV ads pointing viewers to your Web site, your Web site pointing people to your upcoming trade show appearances and your newspaper ads including coupons that can be redeemed online. Rather than leaving each marketing piece to stand on its own, you make it all a part of an overall strategy with every single piece building brand recognition and creating another way “in” for your leads.

Sponsor Something

Sponsor a local little league team, a Kickstarter campaign or an after school program. Invest in your community, whether online or locally, and you increase not only your brand, but the community that you're hoping responds to it.  It's the perfect way to get out from your desk and get to know the people in your community, they are your potential customers after all.

What will you do with the rest of 2013?

Oftentimes, improving your marketing efforts can be as simple as breaking the habit of ignoring data or coasting on your once-popular products and services, or simply failing to innovate. Treat every day as an opportunity to launch something new, as an opportunity to rethink your advertising and marketing efforts, and to change your business, your customers and the market.

5 Marketing Techniques to Use in the Last Half of 2013

So sales are in a slump and your business needs a swift kick in the pants for the second half of 2013. It can be easy to get disheartened when it's already August and you're just not performing like you thought you would be. There's usually something you can do to help sagging sales pick up in the second half of the year. Or, at the very least, you should be able to plant a seed for greater brand recognition early next year.

You still have several months before the year ends, this is your time to kick it into second gear and make the most out of 2013 for your business.

Photo by Chris Heiler via Flickr

Break the Language Barrier

Are you sure that your target demographic speaks English? Consider, for instance, a video game developer who mostly focuses on challenging shoot-'em-up games. The big market for these games is Japanese, and by keeping the game English only, this developer is missing out on what might well comprise the lion's share of their viable market. In China, in particular, we're seeing a surge in consumer demand for electronics and technology products in both urban and rural areas, as pointed out by Gallup.com.

Get in Some Trouble

Too often we worry about stepping on toes, but you can't conquer your market while being polite. That publicity stunt that you're worried will just embarrass you? The off-color jokes you want to post to the company's Twitter account? As long as it's in line with what you want for the brand, go for it. The controversy that arises from developing a brand that isn't “for everyone” is exactly the sort of controversy that let's your ideal customers know that they're not everyone.  Just be sure that's it's in line with your company's brand and it's light-hearted controversy, not offensive.

Stop Ignoring Your Data

Many companies collect data on market behavior, but few actually use that information to change the services they offer, how they advertise, and what it is that they're selling to the public. This is like reading your date's dating site profile, and then spending the whole night talking about movies that you know they haven't seen or don't like. As DMNews points out, simply putting your text-mining data to use and collecting frequent updates can make a big, immediate difference in your business's performance. You have the tools, you have the data: use them. Even your direct mail and shipping campaigns can be boosted by the data provided by a Pitney Bowes postage meter or your online customer database, so stop letting this valuable information go to waste.

Cross-Channel Marketing

Meg Enterprises suggests a greater emphasis on multi-channel marketing.Take that a step further and look into cross-channel marketing. Cross-channel marketing refers to an approach to marketing that involves multiple intertwined marketing campaigns, so you'll have your TV ads pointing viewers to your Web site, your Web site pointing people to your upcoming trade show appearances and your newspaper ads including coupons that can be redeemed online. Rather than leaving each marketing piece to stand on its own, you make it all a part of an overall strategy with every single piece building brand recognition and creating another way “in” for your leads.

Sponsor Something

Sponsor a local little league team, a Kickstarter campaign or an after school program. Invest in your community, whether online or locally, and you increase not only your brand, but the community that you're hoping responds to it.  It's the perfect way to get out from your desk and get to know the people in your community, they are your potential customers after all.

What will you do with the rest of 2013?

Oftentimes, improving your marketing efforts can be as simple as breaking the habit of ignoring data or coasting on your once-popular products and services, or simply failing to innovate. Treat every day as an opportunity to launch something new, as an opportunity to rethink your advertising and marketing efforts, and to change your business, your customers and the market.

The Business Owners Guide To Blogging

Any business can benefit from running a blog as part of their online marketing strategy.  The problem is that most businesses fail miserably at it.

If you're a business owner, you may have heard that blogging is a fantastic and cheap way to drive customers to your website, to turn yourself into a thought leader in your industry and to actively engage with your customers.  All of this is true, if you do it right.

The problem is that most people take a scattered approach to blogging.  No plan, no goals and no method to their madness.  If you are a blogger, you know how difficult it can be in the beginning, trying to stay motivated when it appears you're getting zero results.  It can take several months of little return for your efforts before you even see an inkling of reward, but once it happens, the curtains are pulled up and you're exposed to a totally new way of marketing.  Too bad most people give up way before the curtains are pulled up.

Blogging-meme

What to do if you know you want to blog but you're not sure how?

The first thing you should do is to start immersing yourself into the world of blogging.  Learn best practices, follow great bloggers and learn how to turn your blog into a lead generating machine.

Some of the resources I recommend to someone who would like to start blogging, especially if you're a business owner:

Copyblogger – Great website to learn about blogging and copywriting. Sign up for their free 20 part e-course, you'll elarn a lot.

Hubspot – On the Hubspot blog, you will learn how to turn your blog into a lead generating machine.  Hundreds of great articles on inbound marketing, lead generation and thought leadership.  Here you will learn how to turn your blog into a business generating machine.

Pro Blogger – A great site to learn general tips and ideas for running an effective blog.

Conversion XL – Once you've figured out blogging and how to get visitors to your website, this fantastic blog will teach you how to convert them into customers.

Blogging Tips

  • Use a proper blogging platform like WordPress (my preference), Blogger or Tumblr to easily create content and manage your blog.  If you don't make it easy to create and share content, it's unlikely you'll be able to sustain a blog over the long-term.
  • Host the blog on your own website (yourwebsite.com/blog) and not as a sub-domain on a hosted blog (myblog.blogger.com).  All of the blogging options above let you use your own domain or sub-domain to host your blog.  I prefer the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org, not.com) as you can easily install WordPress on your own domain.  It doesn't matter if your main website is not a WordPress site, you can install WordPress on a sub-folder on your site and use it separate from your main site, though visitors will see it as a single website.  Sound confusing?  Check out this article from WordPress on the subject.
  • Be consistent with your blogging.  Especially if it's a business blog, stay on theme with your content or you'll lose people who are looking for your expertise but are finding random articles about your trips to the supermarket.  When it comes to how often to post content, it really comes down to what you think you can realistically do.  It's better to say you'll write an article a week and actually do it, then say you'll write an article a day and consistently fall behind.
  • Being patient is the most important thing when first starting out.  You may see little to no progress for the first few months, building a successful blog takes time and dedication.  It pays off for those that keep moving forward.

When it comes to running a great blog, there are a few things you need to know:

Topics and Keywords – The advice I always give business owners just starting out with a blog is to think of all the questions your customers have asked you and write a blog post answering each one.  If you can't think of a good title, just use the question itself as the title.  This is the basis of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), providing answers to people's questions.  Here's a beginners guide to keyword research from Moz.

Structure – Many businesses fail at blogging because they don't understand how to properly optimize an article for both readers and the search engines.  They think a 150 word article is enough to give a full explanation to a more complex question, or they create paragraphs so long that that they give the reader a headache.

Then you also have the backend Meta Data that needs to be completed if you want to have a chance to rank in the search engines.  Here's an article from Search Engine Land explaining Meta Tags.

Visuals also play a big part in a  great blog article.  Make it a habit of adding great images to your blog.  You can embed photos directly from Pinterest, or even better, create your own funny memes to add to each article.

If you want a nice visual guide on how to optimize a bog post, check out this graphic from Moz.com

HOw to optimize a blog post, content and meta

Marketing – You can create the best blog article in the world, but if nobody reads it, it was a wasted effort on your part.  Many of the top bloggers will tell you they spend more time promoting their blog posts than actually writing them.  Using social media, email lists and general word of mouth can help you spread the word on the great content you are producing.  You can see what I do to promote my blog articles here, you can also find out more great ideas here.

Time to get started

As you can see, there's a lot of information and a bit of a learning curve involved if you want to start a blog that can generate leads for your business.  The good news is that most business owners will never take the time to do this stuff, they'd rather just buy another newspaper ad and hope for the best.  Lazy marketing like that is an advantage for you, if you're willing to make it one.  Good luck on your blogging adventures and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

 

5 Little Life Tips from Big Name Entrepreneurs

Herb Kelleher“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” crooned John Lennon. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Maybe you want to own a sustainable hobby farm, be a librarian or someday become the CEO of General Electric, there are principles that apply to everyone’s journey. Advice that comes from people who have accomplished their dreams can help you plan, execute and achieve your goals — no matter what they are.

Here are 5 little life tips from some well known entrepreneurs.

Bob Parsons: Get Out and Stay Out (Of Your Comfort Zone)

Security is for corpses

Success means stretching yourself to the limits. Bob Parsons, GoDaddy CEO, knows this to be true on a number of levels. In his “16 Rules for Success in Business and Life in General,” his first rule instructs the importance of taking leaps and trying new approaches, because, “security is for corpses.”

 

Dave Kerpen: When You Want Something, Give Instead

When you want something from someone, instead of asking, offer your service

Dave Kerpin image by Worth of Mouth Marketing Assn. via Flickr.

The CEO of Likeable Local credits his father-in-law for the best advice he has ever gotten. He explains to The Huffington Post that to act unselfishly and trustworthy establishes you as a true friend and a worthy person. When you want something from someone, instead of asking, offer your service. It may not always pay off, but more often than not it will work in your favor (and bring you good karma too).

 

Michael Moritz: Follow Your Instincts

At the end of the day maintain the courage to stick to your convictions

Three simple words made a big impact on Mr. Moritz as a young man. He clarifies this doesn’t mean you should “trust your gut” at face value, according to The Huffington Post. You must do extensive homework and analyze options carefully, but at the end of the day maintain the courage to stick to your convictions.

 

Herb Kelleher: Keep an Open Mind

Anyone should be accepted with an open mind, and everyone should have a chance to prove themselves worthy

The founder and former chairman of Southwest Airlines uses a piece of advice from his mother, who was a big influence in his life. “People should be respected and trusted as people, not because of their position or title,” he said in a CNN Money article. Do not trust a person because of high stature or important title. Anyone should be accepted with an open mind, and everyone should have a chance to prove themselves worthy. If you are talking to someone, give them your undivided attention. They should be the only one you are focused on at that moment. Everyone deserves that.

 

Derek Sivers: Be a First Follower

It takes guts to start something new, but it also takes guts to be the first one to follow that new leader

Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur who runs CD Baby, an online site where independent musicians can sell their albums. He gave a motivating speech on “How to Start a Movement” for a TED Conference that anyone could take to heart.

“The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader,” he said. It takes guts to start something new, but it also takes guts to be the first one to follow that new leader. There is no movement without a first follower.

Who inspires you?

Who are some of the famous and not so famous people that have inspired you?

Small Business Toolbox – August Tenth

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.

Pixabay – Great place to find public domain, royalty free images for your blog or website.  High quality images on this site and most are free to use, even for commercial purposes.

Slid.es – Web based presentation software that lets you create stunning slideshow presentations.  Easy to use and mobile friendly.  Free and paid plans available.

Jim Rohn quote

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