Tags: small business blog

How to Create QR Codes for Print & Online Advertising

Beyond • November 9, 2011

Fads come and go in pop culture, fashion and even the world of business. There always seems to be a new bandwagon for marketers to jump on, and QR codes are among the latest to come along. Are they worth the jump, or just a part of another fad that is all hype and no substance? I don’t have the answer to whether or not this is a trend that will last, but I can tell you that they have a ton of potential. What’s the Rage All About? Although QR codes are being treated as a new phenomenon in the marketing arena, they are not exactly new per se. QR actually has a history that spans over a decade in Japan, where it was originally created. The QR stands for Quick Response; the actual codes themselves are sort of like the barcodes you see stuck on items in a retail store. They can be scanned in a similar manner, but the big difference is in the wealth of information they are capable of storing. What really gives these fuzzy looking, two-dimensional codes so much potential is how they work. A person with a compatible smartphone can use their device to scan a given code and instantly access the content it contains. It may direct a smartphone user to a YouTube video, special offers and coupons, or directions to an event venue. If this thing takes off, we could start regularly seeing QR codes on automobiles, billboards and clothing items. If you look closely the next time you\'re out at the mall, you\'ll realize they\'re already in most major advertisements. Bringing QR Codes to Life So how do you actually create a QR code? There are quite a few options, with the easiest being using one of the web-based generator tools available online. QRStuff, GOQR and Maestro are just some of the applications that can be used to create QR codes with relative ease. If you have a savvy developer on your staff, you can create them by grabbing the source code from open source software projects such as the Open Source QR Code Library or PHP QR Code. This is the best option for shaping the look and feel of your creation. Incorporating QR Codes into Your Marketing Mix There are so many ways to put QR codes to work for your business. Perhaps the best thing about QR codes is the degree of flexibility that gives them so many beneficial uses. While the ideal place to send prospects may appear to be your website, there is nothing stopping you from directing them to your social hangouts. The potential for growing your following on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter is tremendous. And QR codes make the jump from online to print seamlessly. In fact, they act as a bridge between the digital and the physical. When a user sees something in their daily life that intrigues them, a quick scan with the mobile in their hand leads them straight to your landing page. Coupled with a compelling reason to join, slapping the URL to your signup form on a newspaper ad or t-shirt could definitely help attract those new subscribers you’re after. As marketing tools, the possibilities of QR codes are endless. We’re already seeing a lot in terms of how they can be used, yet realize that we haven’t even begun to start digging into the surface with this thing. With players like Google and Microsoft getting involved, the future of QR codes looks bright for sure.


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SEO: A Marketing Tool You Should Consider

Beyond • November 9, 2011

Just when you think that quality products and services, excellent customer support and competitive prices are enough to make your business boom, here comes a looming question: How should you let potential customers know that you have exactly what they need? It is indisputable that traditional forms of advertising (like TV commercials and print ads) do the trick in some ways. After all, those things wouldn’t still be here if they had not proven themselves effective for so long. However, the advent of the Internet drastically changed the playing field for businesses big and small. Whenever the modern internet user with dollars to spend needs a certain product or service, he or she won’t just sit in front of the TV all day to wait for a commercial that can address his needs. She’d rather go online, pull up her favorite search engine and enter a few words that relate to what she’s looking for. This is exactly why you should give a slice of your attention to search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is all about online visibility. It takes advantage of the fact that people rely heavily on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing for information. Of course, your business is not the only one that aims to get a spot in cyberspace. Your aim is to rank high on these search engines because prospective customers don’t have the time to browse all of the search results. Landing on the fifth page or below is almost the same as not landing on a spot at all. When you want to optimize your business in leading search engines, here are some of the things that you should consider before launching a business website. Monitor Keywords When people look for a product or a service using a search engine, they enter a string of words that directly relate to what they’re looking for. These “keywords” are pretty important things to consider when creating web content. It is easier for search engines to detect that your website can address the needs of a person looking for information if you use the right keywords. Keywords help search engines measure the relevance of your page to a user’s search. It used to be that the more keywords you had on your page, the better. However, this led to keyword stuffing by people who wanted to get to the top of search results. This was an abusive practice and didn’t help anyone. So the search engines got smarter, and the way you should use keywords is much more nuanced today than just saying the same keywords over and over again... Search Engines Hate Duplicate Content Make sure that the content of your website is as unique as it can be. When you copy a page from a different website, search engines like Google get confused in deciding which page should get a better ranking. Therefore, a page that doesn’t have any copied content will get prioritized. Get Some External Help You should realize that SEO is a long-term investment and something that you’ll need to spend significant time learning about. Any outside help you can find will make this process quicker. There are other ways to improve the online visibility of your business. If you sell services, another great way to rank high on Google is signing up on a website that serves as an online marketplace. Thumbtack, for example, optimizes your service listing for free. All you have to do is make a profile that tells everyone what you offer and then Thumbtack does all the work for you. Your visibility and accessibility on the Internet can make or break your business. It is universally accepted that a search engine is a convenient way for people to look for someone who can cater to their needs. Why not optimize your business and take advantage of this trend?


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Online Marketing Tips: How Global Consumers Shop Online

Beyond • November 8, 2011

Consumers are increasingly shopping online, and if you buy into statistics, the number who do so will continue to rise over the next couple of years. A report published earlier this year by Goldman Sachs predicted that the global e-commerce market will surpass $1 trillion by the year 2013, which would mark a 19.4% annual growth rate by the end of the projected year. Consumers are spending more than ever, but for brands, the key to tapping into the shopping frenzy is all in understanding how they shop and knowing how to play the engagement game. Patterns and Trends in Shopping Nielsen’s 2011 Global Online Survey uncovered a few patterns and trends in the shopping tendencies of the worldwide population. The study, which consisted of responses from over 25,000 people across 51 countries, provided some very interesting insight into how consumers around the world purchase the items they need and how location plays into their purchasing decisions.According to the report, ordering items online that can actually be delivered instead of picked up is a big thing in Asia Pacific. The findings show that 77% of respondents in the region are likely to take this option when making purchases. This trend is much less of a phenomenon in North America and Europe where it was embraced by just 20% and 35% of respondents respectively. In this particular case, analysts have concluded that the huge gap has to do with the fact that consumers in Asia Pacific have access to fewer stores and are thus more dependent on internet shopping destinations. Intriguing patterns were also spotted in the area of grocery shopping. In Africa and the Middle East, 48% of respondents reported to shopping online for groceries so they can have those items delivered. Again, this is due to having a fewer number of physical stores. Consumers in North America reported the need to stock up on essential items as the main reason to travel to a grocery store, but the reasoning was quite varied among consumers across the globe. The research shows that size of household, gas prices and access to refrigeration are some of the factors that weigh into the grocery shopping patterns of global consumers. Savings Rock! Consumers have always jumped at the opportunity to save money, but you can say savings are even sexier now that the coupon craze of daily deal sites have gone mainstream. The Global Online Survey conducted by Nielsen reiterated just how important coupons and bargains in general are to shoppers throughout the world.According to Nielsen’s findings, coupons are used by more consumers in North America than people in any other continent, with the United States having the most usage. The research shows that roughly 80% of households in the U.S. use manufacturer-issued coupons at all the retail stores they shop at. Coupons are also big in Asia Pacific, where they were used by 55% of respondents. The report revealed that coupons are strongest in China and Hong Kong, where usage was at 67% and 65% respectfully. In what may be surprising news to some, Nielsen’s research exposed the fact that the coupon trend has not necessarily taken off all over the world, particularly in Latin America and the Middle East/Africa region. Just 25% of respondents in Latin America reported to using coupons, while the percentage for consumers in the Middle East and Africa was even lower at 18% combined. A rep from Nielsen said that consumers in these areas prefer to reap their savings through sales and promotions, as opposed to coupons. Nielsen’s study on global shopping provided an in-depth view of how consumers the world over prefer to spend (and save ) money both on and offline. Above all, it is another research effort that underlines the importance of knowing what your target audience wants, and tailoring your strategy to create an experience that accommodates their preferences.


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State of the Media: Social Media in Your Brand Marketing

State of the Media: Social Media in Your Brand Marketing

Beyond • November 8, 2011

It is hard to imagine a world without social media, but at one point in time that is exactly what we were faced with. Just a few short years ago, there was no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to fill that void of emptiness in our lives. As we all know, the digital landscape has undergone a dramatic transformation in a very short amount of time, and the social channel has been an integral part of its evolution. If you are one of the marketers who still believes this new age media is just a fad, listen up, because we have run across some research that may finally get you on the other side of the fence. Research firm Nielsen and NM Incite, a company born out of a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey, recently published “State of The Media: The Social Media Report,” which focuses on research looking at how consumers interacted with brands through social media during the third quarter of 2011. According to the report, people are increasingly using this channel to not only seek out brands, but to connect with them and share the experiences they have with them as well. The collective research effort shows that 60% of consumers who use multiple internet sources to research products discovered a specific brand or business through a social media website. 53% of active social users are engaging to actually follow brands and tell others about those experiences. The vast majority said they do this by relaying their experiences through reviews. As far as what compels social media users to share brand experiences, the report cites a variety reasons. 61% said they share them to commend the company for a job well done. 58% said they do so to protect fellow consumers, while 25% give reviews to punish the brand for a job not so well done. 41% of social media users said they share reviews because of discounts, which highlights the power of incentives. Whatever the reason, the fact that consumers are so willing to share their experiences and play such an important role in the branding process should be viewed as encouraging news for marketers. Identifying High-Value Social Media Users Although social media is arguably the hottest channel going today, it is just one of several in terms of platforms brands should be paying attention to. More research headed up by Nielsen and NM Incite focused on the digital channel as a whole to produce insights into the value of the one constant in today’s internet experience - the consumer. According to the study, brands are likely to find the most valuable consumers in the following three areas: Social Media - The research by Nielsen and company shows that 51% of users were influenced by advertisements on social networking sites that display how many of their friends like or follow the brand presenting the offer. Parents were considered the most valuable overall as 64% were shown to use the social web to discover brands. Local - The rising popularity of location-based technology is also reflected in the study. 45% of consumers acting on local offers are likely to recommend the participating daily deals site to others. Interestingly, only 5% cite using the Foursquare app. Mobile - Some of the most interesting data on consumer value can be found in the mobile category. Nielsen’s research shows that 38% of Americans own a smartphone, while nearly all mobile internet users visit some type of website. In what may be surprising to some, teens were viewed as the most valuable mobile users because they are more likely to respond to ads and upgrade from the free to the paid version of an app. Consumers are plugged in firmly to the digital channel. The brands who understand how they are interacting and adapt their strategy accordingly will be the ones who benefit from that activity.


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Creative Tech-Savvy Platforms to Revitalize Company Presentations

Beyond • November 7, 2011

Last week I talked about a beginner’s guide to switching up presentations from drab PowerPoint to something a little more dynamic. This week, we’ll cover what real tech-savvy business owners can use to launch stellar presentations that get talked about. Remember that you can still use any of these tips if you’re not tech-savvy. You can always hire someone to run the presentation for you, teach you how to do it yourself or be there as an on site support should you decide to brave this digital frontier. Prezi – Any presentation is about telling a story, and Prezi lets you master just that. Called the “Zooming Presentation Editor,” Prezi offers six easy steps to get your presentation going… Use the full canvas: Prezi lets you manipulate the workspace canvas as you like. Zoom in: Once you’ve developed your presentation framework, you can zoom in to fill out the individual areas. Create structure: After you have your ideas down, you can create structure, hierarchies, scale and add images. What’s great about it: Prezi offers tons of online support, how to guides and manuals to help you understand how it works and how you can get started. Their own presentation is flawless and very easy to use. I can see just about anyone that knows how to navigate a computer and social media learning how to navigate Prezi. Presentation Design Tennis – The best of the best when it comes to collaborative development, SlideShare’s “Presentation Tennis” lets various participants work together to come up with one presentation. What’s great about it: Its collaborative factor. Use this pre-meeting or during a conference to offer an end-product that showcases what the audience thinks/feels. It’s a great way to start or finish any meeting. SlideRocket – This platform goes beyond just incorporating Google and PowerPoint presentations…it lets you upload them and invite others to join in so anyone anywhere can use them. SlideRocket is ideal for presentations that need to be accessed remotely. You can create your presentations online and turn your presentations into a collaborative effort. You can also plug your presentations online for greater visibility and reach. They can be turned into a URL to share, embedded on your site or blog and sent as an invite. The service is free for “casual users,” who receive the benefit of tools, online/mobile access, as well as access to a basic library. Other user tiers include “pro” at $24/month, which adds professional tools, versioning, offline access and analytics; you can try out the free 14 day trial before signing up. Larger organizations can get in on “enterprise,” which encompasses additional features that include total access and security. What’s great about it: Super fun and easy to use. Detailed analytics support lets you gauge success by tracking how many people have viewed your presentation. This medium should be considered by business owners that need to conduct online meetings, such as through GoToMeeting.


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Workplace Motivation: Disney’s Electronic Whip Not to Be Emulated

Beyond • November 7, 2011

As an employer, it is probably safe to assume that you want the members of your staff to put their best foot forward at all times. Maybe you’re getting it. Maybe some employees are working harder than others. The time may come when the team needs a swift kick in the you know what, but how do you do it in a reasonable manner that actually works? We’ll get to that later, but let’s first dive into why it probably isn’t a good idea to follow in Disney’s footsteps. Enter Disney’s Dungeon Word has gotten around that Disney, the maker of cinema magic and dreams for all ages, has not created the happiest environment for some of its employees. A story written by L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez portrayed a disturbing image that sounds like it comes straight out of a modern day science fiction movie. According to Isabel Barrera, an eight year worker in Disneyland’s Anaheim hotel, the global media company runs a tight shift mandated by what the crew calls the ‘electronic whip.’Barrera, who was quoted in Lopez’s article, is referring to the system Disney had installed last year to police its staff and maintain a high level of productivity. Apparently the electronic whip is a network of huge, flat-screen monitors that hang from the walls in each room where laundry employees do their work. The monitors are similar to the scoreboards you may see on a basketball court or football field in how they openly put employee performance on display. Interestingly, the screens highlight the performance of those who are both meeting and failing to meet expectations for all to see. The Lopez article revealed a similar setup in Paradise Pier, another Anaheim hotel owned by Disney. Barrera said that it has gotten to a point where laundry workers actually pass up on bathroom breaks in fear of production dropping off and being reprimanded by management. In the Paradise Pier location, there is said to be a framed picture of the lovable Mickey Mouse enjoying a lunch break with a huge smile hanging right underneath the screen that monitors employees. This can be either be viewed as irony or a slap in the face. Boosting Employee Motivation the Right Way Even if you have the reputation of being a bit of a drill sergeant in the workplace, you probably don’t want to take notes from Disney on how to keep employees fired up and on top of their responsibilities. I think you’ll find these quick tips a bit more civil and effective:Reward Often - There is nothing wrong with buttering up your employees to keep them motivated. In fact, it is one of the most effective ways to keep both morale and productivity high. Whether it’s monthly awards or a recognition program, implement a system that shows you recognize their hard work and appreciate it.Keep Communicating - Your employees want to be in the loop, so why not let them? Open the door of communication to keep staff updated on company happenings and allow them to be a part of the decision making process when applicable. The motivation of an engaged employee is typically through the roof.Be Flexible - Is it necessary for your entire staff to commute to the office? If it really isn’t, you may want to allow some of your employees to work from home. Telecommuting greatly relieves the stress associated with everyday family life, meaning it could work wonders for improving retention and productivity in the workplace. Some employees, of course, will need the motivation of the actual office environment, but a little flexibility can go a long way in getting your team to give their all. It’s All About Building Relationships Marketing gurus always stress the importance of building relationships in business. Don’t just apply this to your customers, adopt this mindset for staff as well. Building relationships in the workplace is key because with it comes trust. Having a trusting relationship will encourage struggling workers to get better, and convince perennial all stars to stick around.


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5 Ways to Add Qualified Techies to Your Business Team

5 Ways to Add Qualified Techies to Your Business Team

Beyond • November 4, 2011

Your website is the business face you present to the online community: thinking about having a lift? Hiring and retaining talented tech employees to your team is essential to improving your technological operations, but it can be tough to bring the best and brightest in when applicants aspire to auspicious positions at HUGE, Microsoft and even Google. Luckily for business owners, economic uncertainty has created a buyer’s market for HR departments: droves of recent grads and underemployed members of the tech profession are willing to cut their teeth in under the radar operations. Read on for five ways to make your office culture more tech team member friendly and add new tech members to your team. Pony Up. Sure, you could continue to hire freelancers and subcontract your tech needs to independent agents. It’s certainly less expensive. But by adding a tech team member to your staff at full time salary, you cause the person performing your tech operations to become fully integrated into your business: in short, you give them a reason to care about their contribution beyond a project-by-project basis.Can’t afford to add a new full-time member to your team? While you continue to work toward that goal, work closely with your contractors and work to build an opportunity for their potential with your business. If you want someone to be dedicated to your company’s goals and overall mission, you need to pay them to feel like part of a team, not just a project. Take Risks for Rewards. Business visionary Jim Rohn put it best: “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” Leaving room for failure in pursuit of great things is paramount to innovation in an office environment. Chances are, you hired a tech team member because their resume fit your needs, but you also recognized their potential to help your company grow. Their ability to innovate comes at a cost – namely, your willingness to take a risk on their ideas and contributions. You have to be willing to assume that responsibility to reap the rewards. Raise the Bar. Many tech professionals are at the beginning of their careers, recent college grads or perhaps in their thirties: they want something to be passionate about and sink their teeth into, but as a business leader you can’t inspire great work with mediocre standards. So set the bar high, preferably just out of reach. Give them something to strive for and build confidence, team identity and an internal respect for your business operations. Build a Ball Pit. Google has nap pods; Microsoft caters daily lunches; Groupon has built a giant ball pit for employees to sink into when they need a break from their computer screens: what are you doing to make your office environment a fun place to work? While it’s not necessary to construct an adult playground in the lobby, there is something to be said for making the space you work in a pleasant place to be. Deconstructing the cubicle is one step you can take to promoting more unity and employee satisfaction in your office environment - not just among tech employees, but everyone. Don’t be afraid to paint or hang artwork; consider alternative solutions to the traditional seating structure; and take preferences into consideration. Above all else, add elements of fun. Happy employees are more productive employees. See the “I” in “Team.” Hire a tech team member because you recognize the unique talents they will bring to the community. Programmers and developers can make contributions beyond code, and knowing your employees\' individual strengths will help you match them to the most appropriate projects. By allowing them to use their distinct talents, you help to cultivate an environment where employees feel appreciated for their professional and personal individuality. When they know they are being seen for their strengths they will place more value on their position and retain more positive feelings about your organization.


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Mobile Marketing: Web Marketing You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Beyond • October 29, 2011

When people think of online marketing, they often forget that users spend a big chunk of their time browsing the net from their mobile phones – making mobile marketing the most overlooked branch of web marketing. As Inc.com best phrased it, “in addition to thinking of mobile as a new advertising distribution platform, remember it’s far more powerful as a response, or ‘activation mechanism,’ to commercial messages we experience in other media, like print, broadcast, and more.” Mobile marketing continues to be on the rise. According to Forrester Research, Inc., mobile marketing is a billion dollar a year industry. Most of the money is going into e-commerce where due to an economic downturn more and more users are shifting to e-commerce spending for savings in gas and for lower prices and quick comparison shopping. If you’re an e-commerce business, you need to get on board with a growing trend. Forty percent of U.S. based interactive marketing agencies have incorporated mobile marketing into their services, with another 35% expected to begin in the next year. Agencies are expensive and if you’re a small business, chances are you don’t have that budget. But you can still apply this method of online marketing to your business. I’ve collected a sampling of top mobile marketing sites to make the process a little easier for you… iVision Mobile - Seeing the potential of a “market in every pocket,” iVision Mobile offers powerful text messaging software and mobile marketing platforms. With this clients can create interactive mobile campaigns, send text alerts, conduct mobile ads, create polls and coupons along with a host of other mobile-friendly applications that not only show your customers your relevance in a digital environment but also give them a way to interact with your company without being chained to a desk. The added benefit is that you can get powerful reporting and get a CRM system to manage data – making it easy to track your investment and progress. E-commerce can also take advantage of M-Commerce and mobile payment options through iPayText and Pay by Phone M-Commerce solutions. Customers can create an account, purchase on the go through a text-to-buy ad, order and pay via text message, get a purchase confirmation pin and then schedule to pick up or deliver their item. iVision boasts the capacity to cater to some top industries, as well as both small and large businesses. And with a diverse pricing plan, you can use iVision Mobile much like you would Facebook ad campaigns – by starting small and testing the waters or diving right in. InvolveMobile – If your business wants to focus more on short coded and/or bulk text messaging, you should check out InvolveMobile. Using a database that lets you develop and grow your campaign, users can create and send bulk SMS messages that are personalized, configurable, schedule for any time zone and target based on desired filters. You also get a “complete mobile message trail,” or result-based report on campaign history. Users can also export databases to Excel and import all data – making it a valuable marketing tool you can’t afford to miss. InvolveMobile also provides interactive text marketing campaigns that offer mobile coupons, contests, voting and analytics. Campaign costs start at just 2 cents per text message, plus a one time $75 setup fee and a $45 monthly fee, which includes: full inbound/outbound campaign functionality, CRM history and profiling, short code and keyword, 500 low priority text messages and web registration tools. Golive! Mobile – Choice number three offers $100 million in mobile content transactions, millions of app installations and SMS options, as well as a staff of 120 across five countries. Golive! Mobile is used by top dogs such as Coke, Sobe, United Nations, Kanye West, the FBI and Disney – off the bat telling me that this is for a small business with a big budget and is interested in making it big quickly. It also offers small businesses a great association and boasting rights that they’re within the same league as these top businesses (at least when it comes to their mobile marketing campaigns). The diversity in their client list also tells me that it’s clearly a great tool across all industries. With Golive! you’re not just launching a mobile campaign – you’re launching an interactive multimedia mobile messaging campaign from a state-of-the-art user interface that also allows for website integration and e-commerce marketing with Orbit Multimedia and a MobiCard billing module. If you’re a small business with the big bucks to invest in Golive! but perhaps not the personnel to research and market it, then I recommend doing a test launch for the first 3-6 months with one of the other two options.


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Paper.li and Tweeted Times Pioneer Twitter-Based Curated Content

Beyond • October 27, 2011

They said print publishing was dead and that the newest mode of media was in the digital sector. It’s true that media has shifted from the hands of publishing giants to digital nomads from traditional names down to remote bloggers with cult-like followings. But what no one really expected was the next step…newspapers 2.0. Newspapers are making a comeback, but now custom-tailored to the appetites of the individual, with content being as unique as the reader itself. Why are newspapers back? I would say that the approach of well-organized easily digested compact content is even more favorable in a time when we’re overwhelmed with data across multiple platforms. We want data and we consume it in record quantities, but we still need a systemized way of consuming it. Newspapers offered that; now, newspapers 2.0 master that demand. Paper.li Lets You be at the Publisher’s Helm I first came across Paper.li by a Twitter follower. I clicked on a quick link, was ushered to his online newspaper and was instantly captivated. The content was organized, vividly designed and relevant to my interest. I instantly become a Paper.li fan. Paper.li calls itself a “content curation service” that lets users publish digital newspapers based on preferred topics. It takes URLs from follower tweets, extracts URL content and publishes a paper that’s already organized based on content/categories. It’s easily searchable, and content curation can be customized per your preferences via either keywords, hashtags or users. The idea capitalizes on the digital revolution by pairing Scribd’s publishing capabilities with the Twitter and Facebook data filter provided by HardlyWork.In. Paper.li’s founder Eduard Lambelet believes that “mainstream media can’t cover everything really. It’s extremely difficult to search for this kind of content top to bottom. You really need to have small curators [and] small editors in chief — millions of them covering content.” Paper.li currently publishes over 300,000 digital newspapers, has 1.5 million monthly visitors and just received an additional $2 million in development funding this year. Clearly, this is a great tool that’s just going to get better. Tweeted Times Curates Follower Tweets for Customized Content Paper.li’s competitors include iPad accessible Tweeted Times, which generates a newspaper-like interface on web-sourced stories by people you follow. But unlike Paper.li where the audience is your consumer group, Tweeted Times works best for your own usage first, curating a customized newspaper that meets your interests. And this is really where the future of media and marketing is headed. This is a lot like what we saw with the blogosphere explosion that catered to niche interests and where bloggers commanded more credibility and attention than traditional media outlets and reporters. In the same way, every aspect of media is becoming more customized to our interests and our “tribe.” And here is where marketing in these new channels becomes even more crucial, since you’re now catering to a select and possibly very large group that all fall within your target range – unlike old venues where perhaps a small margin of the audience would be a part of your consumer group. Going back to Tweeted Times, it works like Paper.li by taking the most important information from your Twitter feed so you don’t miss anything you should have or wanted to know. Your newspaper also gets rebuilt hourly so it’s always fresh and up-to-date. You can also create a newspaper based on any topics, or Twitter ‘lists’ that you might have. What’s the Difference Between Paper.li and Tweeted Times? While they serve the same purpose, the two have different functionalities that might or might not cater to your interests. Paper.li allows for colors, pictures, subsections and article tweets via Twitter. Tweeted Times is colorless, has few pictures and a simpler layout. However, unlike Paper.li, there are no ads and each article can be Tweeted and/or liked on Facebook.


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Best Customer Relationship Management Software (Part 1)

Beyond • October 26, 2011

The most important part of any business is its customer base – so it makes complete sense why customer relationship management (CRM) would be an integral component of any smart business plan. CRM is about a lot of things. It’s about reaching out to your customers, about keeping them happy, and about how you present your company through smart marketing. The latter becomes even more complex when you consider newsletter outreach, which is a whole entity in and of itself, calendars, scheduling, etc. There are also a lot of companies out there that forecast the CRM needs of small/large businesses and have developed services/software that help you keep on top of things. Here’s a review of some of the top ranking CRM software: EssentialPIM – I know of a great small business owner who caters to home theater needs of OC/LA’s elite…but as good as he is, his business is always struggling because he can’t retain clients. He can’t retain clients because he has a core problem with scheduling. He can’t make schedules, communicate them or stick to them. Ideal for home-based businesses and small business owners, EssentialPIM helps you keep on top of things with a great scheduler that lets you… Use the software’s task module to mark projects with different tiers of priority. Organize files with an unlimited number of folders and notes. Personalize files by including images, tables, etc. Crawl through all your files with easy search features that quickly find what you need (which is great when you’re in the middle of a call with a client). Import data from Outlook. Create easy-to-tackle to do lists. Export lists and calendars into HTML, making them easy to share with clients and associates. You can hyperlink any document. EssentialPIM also protects your data via passwords and encrypted files. Prices range from $40 to just under $100. You can also use EssentialPIM Free; however, it only gets you a fracture of the functions that EssentialPIM Pro offers. Centerbase – In addition to company calendar management, Centerbase offers data security, easy data import, live sales force automation and price flexibility - all this on an easy-to-use Centerbase Dashboard. Their calendar management feature works a lot like EssentialPIm, offering clients the ability to set and manage schedules, appointments, create reminders, track tasks, set priorities and deadlines. They take it a step further by integrating a central calendar with any individual record or file, which is great for merging a reference point, task or deadline in the calendar with a company product launch, sales lead or opportunity. Data can be secured by allowing either public view, read-only, private or custom. This customization is perfect for larger companies or those with many projects to manage that may be data sensitive. Whatever your data, you can import data into a consolidated registry that can be manipulated as needed. Drive your customer relations with a sales team that’s in the know. Centerbase’s live sales forecasting lets you anticipate trends by creating reports/charges based on existing information. This is especially necessary for e-commerce businesses to help them determine what needs they’ll have in the coming months. Taking a step back, Centerbase also helps manage leads by classifying sales relationships between accepting, closing, re-opening, sending an initial email and sending a closing email. This is an undervalued primary step that many small businesses can keep on top of, causing them to lose contacts that would have converted into customers if only a little more CRM was in play. Leads need to be nurtured and this is a great tool to do just that. Stay tuned next week for part 2, with more top CRM software and how it can work for you….


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