• Leveraging the Cloud to Boost Your Bottom Line

    Looking for ways to whittle away some of your fixed costs of doing business? Leave it to a tech company to tell you there’s an app for that.

    Mike Pugh, VP of marketing at J2 Global, is helping his customers bring down their expenses now to prepare themselves for the day minimum wages rise. And he says small businesses can really simplify and streamline their operations by getting rid of the hardware and software that impose fixed costs. He recommends moving any front- or back-office function that is not adding value onto the cloud where companies [like J2] provide services to manage them professionally.

    Here’s his advice for engaging the latest cloud-based apps to save dollars.

    Ditch your fax. “Faxes are key to commerce,” Pugh says. “Accountants, lawyers, real estate agents, and loan officers love them.” But cloud-based fax services mean that no startup company ever need invest in a fax machine again.

    Do a Yahoo search for “cloud based fax services” to find the plethora of

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  • A Texas Startup Exports Consumer Electronics to China

    Oransi air purifiers in a shipping container in China

    There are two remarkable facts about a consumer electronics product designed and manufactured by a 16-person startup called Oransi: it's American made, and it's selling like hotcakes in China. Oransi CEO Peter Mann expects to do $10 million in sales of his high-end air purifiers this year. Half of that revenue will come from filling up empty shipping containers going out of New York harbor. Oransi's Chinese distributors are trying to keep up with demand from homeowners there who are desperate to combat severe air pollution. Mann says the first 500 units he shipped to China sold out in 3 days.

    Mann, 47, is a former Naval officer who held executive positions at Tech Data and Dell before starting, and selling, his own high-end appliance e-commerce company in Austin, Texas, and then investing $200,000 in 2010 to make a business of building hospital-grade residential air filtration systems. He conceived the idea when his infant son was battling life-threatening asthma and every system he

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  • There’s a (Big Data) Science to Keeping Your Customers

    Retention Science Uses Data to Keep E-Commerce Customers ComingIt costs significantly more to win new customers than it does to retain the ones you have, and it’s easier to get existing customers to spend more money than it is to sell to those who don’t know your brand. So why do so many businesses work harder on getting new customers than they do on retaining the ones they already have?

    E-commerce entrepreneur-turned-marketing pro Jerry Jao confesses he was guilty of the same. “I was constantly getting new customers, but I didn’t have any plan for retaining them. I spent a lot of time and 100 percent of my marketing budget on acquiring new customers through new channels,” Jao says.

    He cites Advertising Age data that indicates that repeat customers spend 33 percent more on brands than new customers do, and that 80 percent of a brand’s future profits will come from 20 percent of its existing customers. “Small businesses start off with a smaller customer base and are always thinking about how to grow, but they forget they have a gold mine to dig

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  • Sales Planning

    If you want to set yourself up for sales success, your best strategy lies in being fully prepared for the all-important sales call. It’s critical to think through every aspect of the call ahead of time. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can just wing it – you’ll get much better results if you clearly define your goals and create a strategy you can follow to achieve them.

    With careful planning, you’ll have a much clearer vision of what you need to accomplish and a roadmap for how to get there. Unfortunately, many sales professionals have never been taught to create a comprehensive sales plan. The good news is that the process is relatively simple. Here are seven steps you can take to create an effective sales plan:

    1. Define your objective. Clearly outlining your goal should always be your first step in planning a sales call – or any other business endeavor. Is your purpose to establish yourself as a trusted advisor? Close a specific deal? When you define your key objective, you

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  • March Madness

    By now you’ve probably heard that completing a perfect March Madness bracket this year could net you $1 billion, courtesy of Yahoo Sports, Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans. What small business owner couldn’t use that kind of cash? The odds of winning (1 in 9.2 quintillion, per USA Today) might be against you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win big from studying the game. In fact, basketball and branding have more in common than you might think, and those commonalities can help your company look like a billion-dollar brand. Below are 7 profitable pointers on branding taken straight from basketball’s playbook:

    1. Master the fundamentals.
    Michael Jordan once said, “ You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.” Similarly, if you don’t get the basics of branding right, your brand can’t win. It’s that simple. What are the fundamentals, you ask? Read on for the biggies.

    2. It’s all about teamwork.

    Read More »from Small Business, Big Branding: 7 Things Basketball & Branding Have in Common
  • Clown Sales?Have you ever dealt with an incompetent salesperson? Of course you have. We all have. It turns out there's a good reason for that, which is that nearly three-quarters of people who work in sales simply cannot execute, according to Kurlan & Associates, a sales training consulting firm. "For lack of a better word, they suck," says Dennis Connelly, vice president of business development at Kurlan, based in Westborough, Mass.

    Kurlan's conclusions are based on Objective Management Group evaluations of 700,000 salespeople over the past 24 years. Objective Management Group is a testing and evaluation company affiliated with Kurlan.

    At first glance it seems shocking that there could be a profession in which three-quarters of practitioners are inept. If the same ratio were applied to medicine, we’d have patients dropping dead all over the place.

    But the numbers make sense when you consider that most people who go into sales have no formal training about how to sell. They didn’t major in sales

    Read More »from 3 out of 4 Sales Reps Have No Idea What They’re Doing
  • Domain name

    The world of domain names is rapidly evolving, but you may have been so busy running your business that you didn’t notice. Small business owners often take an “I just need it to work” stance—they’ve paid their money and assume everything will work the way it always has. But before you dismiss new registration rules and other changes as something best relegated to your IT specialist, remember that your domain name is one of the most valuable assets your business has. Not only could you be missing opportunities, but you may even find yourself temporarily without a website, and having to turn away potential customers.  Here are four things you need to know—and act upon—right now to protect your business domain.

    Verify or Be Shut Down

    A new ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) rule that came into effect on January 1, 2014, requires registrants to verify their email address and phone number—whether registering new contact info or updating the old. If the information

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  • No MoneyNo Money

    If you have been around the sales and business owner block for a while, you understand the mental strength necessary to cope with rejection. Sometimes becoming numb to the rejection can be both a blessing and a curse. How many times have you submitted a proposal, giving free consults and went through presentations where the person didn’t end up doing any business with you?

    The first few times your company gets rejected for a gig, you probably take it to heart and then put some thought into why the prospect declined the opportunity to work with you. But then after a while you probably become a bit immune to the rejection, and that is when you don’t even bother going back to watch the game tape.

    The four reasons why people don’t buy or want your help come down to ; No Need, No Money, No Time/Urgency, No Trust. Last week we looked at No Need. Today let’s dissect No Money.

    No money

    If you hear the “no money” response it could be a blessing in disguise- if it is sincere. Would you rather

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  • Social Media Marketing

    Social media can be one of the most effective ways to grow your small business and drive additional visibility for your brand and products. While the importance of Social Media Marketing is not lost on many merchants, they still consider it a foreign concept and do not know how to properly engage with their customer base. Effective social media campaigns take time to create, strategic planning to execute and money to maximize visibility, but by implementing a few of these tips below, your brand’s social presence will be better than ever.

    When using Facebook to expand your marketing efforts, you have a few options, either promoting your business page to generate more followers or promoting individual posts to maximize their visibility and reach. Although both options have proven to be successful, remember that overall success is determined by content.Marketing on Twitter does have its advantages, if you are able to spend the money to promote your Twitter account rather than individual

    Read More »from Breaking down social media marketing for small business owners
  • On The EdgeThere is no shortage of leadership books written by presidents, politicians, CEOs, psychologists, military heroes, and executive coaches. I am none of the above. My take on leadership comes primarily from my experiences as a high-altitude mountaineer and polar explorer. In addition to serving as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, I have climbed the highest peak on every continent (the famed “Seven Summits”) and have skied to both the North and South Poles, an achievement known as the Adventure Grand Slam. My adventures have taken me to some of the harshest, most remote places on the planet, where determination is every bit as important as skill when it comes to survival. I have also spent two decades in the business world (including three years at Goldman Sachs) and have worked for Fortune 500 companies as well as start-ups, so I understand the pressures that go along with high stress jobs in today’s economy.

    I have toughed it out in some of the world’s

    Read More »from Today's extreme environments call for a new kind of leader

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