Why Executive Office Space Is a Good Alternative to a Traditional Office SpaceRead More >
Paid search goes by a number of different names and acronyms, including cost-per-click (CPC) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. The reason for these terms is that most ads are sold on a CPC or PPC basis. While many business people have heard these terms, they still may not know exactly what PPC is and how they can leverage it for business.Read More >
How the Traveling Entrepreneur Can Stay Organized When Out of Town
Many people are perfectly organized when they’re in their office. Emails get answered in an orderly fashion, and work gets done throughout the day. Yet, many entrepreneurs are often not in their home or virtual offices. Instead, they’re on the road trying to drum up business throughout the country.
Just trying to plan for the trip can lead to chaos, and then it’s even more difficult to get work done while out of town. Here are some tips to help traveling entrepreneurs plan and work during the trip.
Planning Your Week
When going to a conference or meeting, entrepreneurs may already have a booked scheduled. An itinerary will help keep track of session times, but these can also be used for actually scheduling some work time. Most smartphones have a calendar or reminder app. Before the flight is ever boarded, add the meeting sessions to the calendar, but then “schedule” free time for catching up on emails and getting work done. If it’s in the calendar, people are more likely to stick to their original plan.
If traveling out of the country, entrepreneurs should learn the local methods for travel, and if necessary, the bus and train schedules. Also, have some local currency on hand in case cash is required, and have smaller bills if you decide to split meals or cab rides with someone. Alert banks when traveling to avoid your bank cutting off your card due to suspicious spending activity.
While many people tend to wait to pack until the night before their trip, an entrepreneur on a business trip needs to verify that he has everything to make the trip successful. This should include laptop, business cards, contacts list, reports, presentations, business suits, USB drives, sunglasses, first-aid kit, etc., along with all personal items. For meetings, business suits or nice dresses will be required. Also, if attending a conference, trade show or meeting, check to see if there are special events that will require some extreme dress-up or casual clothing. Even if traveling to a warm client, bring a jacket or sweater and some long pants just in case it gets cold.
Create a list of everything that is needed for the trip ahead of time, and then begin packing a couple of days in advance. As items are packed, check them off the list. Verify that the luggage isn’t too heavy to avoid additional luggage fees.
How to Stay Organized While Gone
Besides keeping up with work and session schedules, down- and sleep time should also be scheduled. When traveling to a different time zone, try going to bed at an earlier or later time a week or two before – if possible. Then, add down/sleep time to the smartphone calendar, and stick with it. People get less done when they’re sleepy. Sleep is necessary to stay on track throughout the day.
During work time, shut off any external distractions. If necessary, head to the hotel room away from others, and turn the phone to silent unless it’s needed for work activities.
When traveling out of the country, make work calls using a system like Skype or Google Hangouts. These free or cheap alternatives will ensure that an entrepreneur is connected with the office without paying astronomical roaming or international phone fees.
If possible, delegate some work to others. Not everyone has an assistant or coworker, especially entrepreneurs. Utilize a Virtual Assistant while out of town to answer phone calls and take messages. This assistant can also answer general business questions and only forward important or emergency messages.
Get some work done on the plane. Certain airlines have WiFi, which can be used to catch up on emails and work while traveling to the destination. Store documents in a cloud drive like Google Docs or Dropbox. One advantage to a Google Docs type of system is that entrepreneurs will always have the latest iteration of a document even if someone else has made changes.
Finally, don’t be afraid to let things drop for a day or two, and then schedule a “make-up” day to catch up on emails and other work. Not everything can be done when traveling so instead schedule a day or two when travel is done to take care of everything else.
How do you stay organized when out of town? Do you have any additional rituals or tips for planning and keeping on track?
So, you’re ready to begin using social media for your small business. Here’s a simple guide to getting started.
There’s tons of information online about using social media to boost your small business. You can certainly get very in-depth with social media marketing, but if you’re just starting out, give these 5 simple steps a try.
Social media isn’t dead, and small businesses still need it
More than 60% of businesses say that they haven’t seen a return on investment for their social media efforts, but there’s a reason for that: social media is all about patience. You can’t just set up an account and watch the sales roll in, because social media success for small businesses is far more nuanced than that.
So how does a small business owner win on social media? It’s not as complicated as it sounds.
What can social media do for my small business?
Social media is all about making connections with your customers. Now more than ever, customers want to do business with companies that feel human. They love personality, especially the growing Millennial demographic.
Social media is the most effective way to give your company a voice and a personality, and customers are increasingly turning to social media when they want to praise or slam a company. A company that responds to this positive and negative feedback can earn a spot in the customer’s heart (and wallet.) And the best part? It can eventually tap into the rest of that customer’s social network, hopefully gaining more devotees in the process.
Social media is not a place to generate leads, at least not in the beginning. Building a relationship based on trust and loyalty takes time, and that’s what the social media game is all about. In the end, the time spent is typically worth it.
I don’t want to mess this up... what are some common mistakes small businesses make with social media?
Many businesses try to dive into social media by creating accounts on every platform that’s available. Let’s clear something up right now: there’s no golden rule that says a business has to be active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube, and that new social media platform that will inevitably be created next month.
There’s only one real caveat to this: you should have a Facebook page, sinc e71% of all adults are on Facebook.
Trying to excel on every social media platform is the quickest way to screw up your social media marketing
Take a moment to think about your target audience. Who is your perfect customer, what are their demographics? This is the most straightforward way to determine your social media plan.
In September 2013, Pew released a comprehensive study detailing who uses what social media networks.
Do you want to reach men? You can find them on LinkedIn (24%) and Twitter (17%.) For women, find them on Pinterest (33%) and Instagram (20%.)
Targeting 50-64 year olds? The social media platform they’re primarily hanging out at is LinkedIn (24%.)
Give Pew’s report a read, and try to figure out where your customers are spending their time online. It’s better to ignore the platforms that your customers aren’t using, because then you can be a social media rock star on the sites that matter.
If you aren’t sure how to get started on social media, stay tuned. In Part 2 of our Social Media for Small Businesses series, you’ll get the lowdown on how to get started, and don’t worry- it’s not tricky.
The Best Tools and Methods for Improving Your Local SEO Presence
Small businesses often find it nearly impossible to rank on the first page of a Google search for competitive keywords. Most of the highly-searched terms are being used by their much larger competitors.
A smaller business, however, can rank high in local searches by using local SEO tactics. According to SE Talks, nearly “30% of the total searches in Google per month are localized searches”. This means that this 30% isn’t looking for the “top mechanics in the nation”. Instead, they want the “top mechanics in the New Orleans area”. A local business probably may not rank nationally, but it can take advantage of this large search pool that wants to find a business closer to home. Local SEO helps level the playing field, allowing local businesses to rank on the first page SERPs in their service areas.
Why Use Local SEO
Yet, small businesses need to rank near the top of the SERPs since sites on the first page of results get over 90% of total search traffic. Also, people want to research businesses before they buy anything, but they tend to buy within 10 to 20 miles of their current location.
Taking advantage of readily available localized search sites puts a business ahead of competitors that are not aggressively utilizing these channels. Also, when a business claims their local SEO listing, it will show up on Google maps, local business directories and even on mobile devices. The Google Hummingbird algorithm update more closely entwined mobile and local search to provide better, faster results to mobile device users. Taking advantage of mobile is very important since it accounts for nearly 30% of total web traffic, a huge audience of potential customers. Plus, over 80% of people who use their mobile devices to look for businesses “tend to make call or visit the location within 24 hours so the conversion rate of the local searches is very high”.
Going local can increase conversions and build brand awareness since businesses will show up in local searches more often. For a little amount of work, this increase in visibility will result in a high return on investment.
Methods for Building A Local Presence
Use this checklist to ensure that your business is fully take advantage of local search:
Standing desks have skyrocketed in popularity lately. Believers cite increased productivity, higher energy levels, less back pain, and other benefits as concrete proof that making the switch from sitting to standing is the best thing office workers can do for their health.
Before making the switch, it’s important that you understand the risks, too. You’ll likely have a long adjustment period before standing around all day feels normal and comfortable, and there are some health risks associated with being on your feet for eight or more hours each day.
Features and Benefits of the Evernote Suite of Products
Evernote is a suite of software tools designed for taking notes, saving information and organizing files and documents. The basic products are free, but you do have to pay a fee for the premium services. The software runs on all major desktop and mobile operating systems, including Windows, iOS, Android and Blackberry.
The Evernote product suite includes the following eight products:
Evernote: The signature product allows you to create “notes”. Notes can be nearly anything, including images, text messages, podcasts or even web pages via the Web Clipper feature. Since Evernote is a cloud-based app, all of your notes can be accessed from any device, and all notes are updated simultaneously. Share your notes with coworkers or colleagues, making it easy to collaborate and keep everyone up-to-date. Use this software for a variety of activities, including taking meeting notes, collecting research, or planning your business itinerary. Use the audio feature to capture important talks from conferences.
Skitch: Skitch allows you to markup documents, images or presentations with text or by adding arrows and shapes. Rather than adding a lot of comments to a document, use arrows to point directly to an element in an image or add a green check to a document to show that presentations have been reviewed and approved.
Penultimate: Penultimate is Evernote’s iPad handwriting app. Using a stylus, Penultimate allows you to take handwritten notes directly in to your Evernote notebooks without the paper. Add drawings, doodles or side-notes just as you would in handwritten notes. For those who prefer writing to typing, this app makes note-taking more convenient. And because your notes are stored within your Evernote account, your Penultimate notes are searchable and easy to share with collaborators.
Evernote Web Clipper: Bookmarking web pages used to be the only way to save important research or interesting articles. With Evernote Web Clipper, you can clip either certain sections of a page or an entire web page and save it to your account. If you’re collecting stats for a presentation or just for a business use case, the app lets you pull together all of your research into a single file. Web Clipper is a cloud-based application, meaning that you can access your saved web pages from any device, including your desktop, tablet, laptop and smartphone.
Evernote Hello: It’s hard to remember all of the people that you meet when networking or at meetings and conferences. Evernote Hello allows you to create a virtual Rolodex of people, including where you met them, how you interacted with them and other history.
Evernote Food: Evernote Food keeps track of all your favorite recipes and food. For business people on the go, you can also use this app to find new restaurants when you’re out of town.
Evernote Clearly: When you’re reading a blog, pop-up ads can obscure the text and even slow down how fast the page loads on your device. Evernote Clearly removes these distracting ads from the text, leaving you with a clean version of the post. Aside from making for a better reading experience, it also provides you with an ad-free post if you need to use it for a presentation or marketing materials. Plus, the product allows you to save the post for later reading, i.e. when flying home from a conference.
Evernote Peek: Evernote Peek is an iPad app that turns your notes into virtual study guides. It works in conjunction with the iPad Smart Cover or the Evernote Peek Virtual Cover, and it essentially allows you to create “virtual flashcards”. Peek under the edge of your Smart Cover to view the question or clue, then lift the cover all the way up to see the answer. Questions and clues are created from your own Evernote notes; the title of your note is the clue, and the body of the note is the answer. Use this app to prepare for a presentation, learn new material, or even to learn a new language to improve your overall business skills.
Evernote’s product suite combines the functionality of a note-taking app with a virtual filing cabinet that you and your team can access anywhere.
“The cloud” is one of the latest buzz words within the business community;but what, exactly, is it, and how can you leverage it for your business?
What is the Cloud?
You and your business are probably already using cloud computing in some form. For example, if you’re using Dropbox or Google Docs, then you are already using cloud-based applications. With cloud computing, you virtually “rent” both software and hardware for as long as you need it, including servers, backup and virtual storage, firewalls, load balancers, and apps like word processing, design, customer relationship systems, payroll, etc.
Cloud computing is just a new name for an old IT technology - virtualization. The technology is just more available nowadays. In the past, you had to work in the IT department to understand how virtualization works and how to use it. Now, cloud service providers are willing to handle all of the logistics - for a simple monthly fee.
Small businesses can use cloud computing for a variety of services and tasks. For example, your server will run out of space, run slow as it gets older or even crash. Servers are expensive to replace. You can use a virtual server to run processes and software for a monthly fee that is often less expensive than buying a new server. You can also use simple backup tools like Mozy or Carbonite, saving your files externally in case of power failures or lost equipment. Or outsource all of your storage to a virtual cloud storage drive that holds both data and files, ensuring that you always have access to your processes, data and files even in the case of a natural disaster, server failure, hacking, etc. Plus, since everything is cloud-based, your cloud applications will seamlessly run on cloud servers without deployment issues.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
The major reasons for the buzz around cloud computing have to do with the business benefits. Here are some reasons to consider the cloud:
Savings: With cloud computing, you’ll eliminate major capital expenditures since you won’t have to buy servers, on-site storage/backup and other infrastructure needed to run an office.
No Maintenance: When you have on-site infrastructure, you have to maintain and upgrade it, which can be extremely expensive and time-consuming. When you rent storage and servers from a provider, they’re responsible for all the maintenance/upgrades.
Control Over Software: In the past, you had to buy the whole software program and licensing even if you only needed it for a month or a project. For example, if you wanted to use Adobe Photoshop, you would have to buy the entire program or even a version of Creative Suite, which is very expensive. Nowadays, Adobe offers a cloud-based version of all its software, allowing you to “subscribe” to the program as long as you need it. Cloud computing allows you to use the software for only as long as you need it. Further with cloud applications, you just log into a website to access your apps, and you don’t have to download anything to your computer.
Access from Anywhere: Need a document when you’re on the road? No need to stress or VPN into your office desktop. Instead, just go online, access your cloud drive, and get everything that you need – no matter where you are in the world.
Scaling: Running out of space on a server or storage unit is a real concern for businesses. Cloud computing provides you with virtually unlimited server capacity and storage space. Scale up or down as needed. No need to buy that extra server just for the busy time of year.
Backup/Recovery: You’ll never lose all of your data because of a lost laptop or a server failure. Back up your data to the cloud, and you can quickly recover any missing files – without any loss of business continuity.
How to Get Started
Finding a good cloud service provider is the hardest part of getting started with the cloud. Do your homework, read reviews, and only sign up with a trusted name in the business. Also, do an inventory of your actual needs, i.e. how many software seats, estimated amount of storage, server capacity, etc. If you work with IT consultants, they can help you with this task.
5 Ways to Cut Down on Your Business Carbon Footprint
Businesses have begun embracing the “green movement” in recent years. The value of going green is two-fold: it helps the environment, and – more importantly for most businesses – it improves their bottom line.
According to a report by the World Wildlife Fun and Carbon Disclosure Project, if American businesses were to cut greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 3 percent per year, businesses could “save up to $190 billion in 2020 alone or $780 billion over 10 years”.
Businesses of all sizes are seeing the benefits of going green. The Aspen Skiing Co. ski resorts decided to start small by changing out the incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones. This move has saved the company $10,000 each year since 1999. They have gone on to add solar panels and replace old boilers, all saving the company more money and improving overall efficiency.
Search engine giant Google has even embraced the green movement. In 2012, “it invested $200 million in a Texas wind farm, and in 2011, it invested $280 million in a fund that helped now-public Solar City finance more solar installations in America, focusing on the residential and business markets.”
Ideas For Your Startup to Go Green
While larger businesses have actively led the “green” charge, startups can take advantage of the environmental and cost savings that come with reducing your carbon footprint.
StayFocused Can Help Users Become More Efficient and Productive
Staying on task is difficult for everyone, whether you’re a small business owner, freelancer or employee. The Internet provides enough distractions to drastically decrease overall productivity. One way to combat this issue is with StayFocused, which is a free app that reduces access to certain sites by limiting the time spent on them.
It’s an add-on for the Chrome web browser, and it tracks the length of time that is spent on distracting sites like Facebook, Huffington Post, eBay and reddit. Once a certain time limit is reached, users will no longer be able to access this site the rest of the day. This time limit ensures that everyone is doing their jobs and increases overall productivity. Most users want to stay on task and get their work done, but oftentimes just forget how long they’ve been on these sites. This app works as a reminder to help users get back on track and avoid going down the rabbit hole of gossip, social media, news or similar sites. Further, it’s also easy to install and very intuitive to use.
How to Get Started
As mentioned, StayFocused reduces the time spent on certain websites. Setting up this extension is quite easy even without a technical background or an IT department, and it works on desktops, laptops and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. To get started, go to the Chrome Web Store, and click the “Add to Chrome” button. Once installed, there are several options within the setup menu.
StayFocusedcan be accessed from either the app site itself or by clicking on the clock icon on the right-hand side of the screen, next to the address bar. The icon only has a limited number of options, including being able to block a site and immediately accessing the Advanced options, Nuclear Option, Settings and Help/FAQ.
Features and Benefits
The main goal of the app is to keep users from wasting valuable work hours on non-work websites. It provides ways for users to restrict how often they visit or stay on blocked sites. Sites can be blocked by going to the Blocked Sites tab, and adding the URL of the website, or by selecting a site from a list of recommended sites. Users can also create an “Allowed” list of sites. To create a list of blocked or allowed sites, go to either the Blocked Sites or Allowed Sites tab, and add the URL without the http://. To block an entire site, remove the www, or block all domains by using an asterisk, i.e. *.org.
As this is a free extension, there are no advanced admin rights that lock down the settings, meaning that users can change them if they really want to know about the latest celebrity gossip or to continue reading their Facebook newsfeed.. The Require Challenge, however, can be added, which makes it difficult for users to change the settings by making them complete a “challenge” before manipulating anything. Just the thought of having to do the challenge may be enough for users to quit trying and get back to work.
The main features of this extension include being able to sync it between all devices, which is a nice feature, especially in this Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) world. Active days can be set - shutting off the app on the weekends - and active hours, i.e. 8-5, which only blocks sites during business hours. The maximum time allowed on blocked sites will be applied to all blocked sites. The daily reset option reboots the daily allowed time on these restricted sites.
StayFocused also comes with a backup option, which saves the programmed settings by exporting them to a backup file in case the settings get wiped or users change devices. These can be easily imported back in - no need to re-setup devices.
Other possible settings include the Stalker option, which keeps track of the time on sites that are accessed by clicking on a link from a blocked site, i.e. etsy, MySpace, etc. Sites can be blocked for whole periods of time (i.e. 1-2 hours) with the Nuclear Option, and the time when this option takes effect can also be set, i.e.at a certain time of day, right now or when the max time allowed has been exceeded.
As mentioned, this is a Chrome extension, which means that it only works on Chrome. If users want to get around the blocker, then they can simply use other browsers. Also, it doesn’t appear to work on iPads. In the age of BYOD, this could also be a major limitation from keeping users from accessing blocked sites.
It would be nice too if individual timers could be set up for different sites. Some sites may be required for work, i.e. Facebook and Twitter for freelancers or social media specialists that work in content marketing, or the Huffington post for a research analyst. They may need to scan news feeds for their job, which may take longer than the 10-15 minutes allowed for other blocked sites. StayFocused should have an option to extend the time on these sites, but still limit it to a certain period of time to avoid users from getting sucked into reading the feeds longer than they should.
For anyone who has trouble staying on task and being productive throughout the day, the StayFocused Chrome extension works very well. It’s easy to use and set up. While it has some limitations, overall it’s a great tool to help users remain focused throughout the day.