5 Questions That Determine If You Need a Mobile App for Your Business

5 Questions That Determine If You Need a Mobile App for Your Business

Mobile apps are a rapidly growing field. Android, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and other major tech companies are all offering apps to smart phone users. In order to keep up, you may think that your business needs an app as well. Here are five questions that you can ask yourself to determine if your business needs a mobile app or not.

  1. Why do you feel you need a mobile app? Is it because your competition has one and you want to keep up? Or is it because you honestly want to offer something of value to potential, new and existing customers?
  2. What will your app do? Will it provide valuable information? Will it enable people to order things from your business? Will it be something that they can go back to again and again?
  3. Will your app be a standalone product or an extension of your website?
  4. If you can’t answer any of these questions, will you be willing to hire a consultant to help you find the answer? A consultant can help you sort through the confusion of the mobile website/apps world and set a clear path leading to your goal.
  5. Are you willing to spend the money needed to properly develop an app? Mobile apps are not cheap. Even the cheapest developer will charge you thousands of dollars. You must be willing to invest time and money to make your app a success.

Credit Card Perks That Make Your Business Appear Bigger

Credit Card PerksSmall businesses need all the breaks they can get in today’s competitive market. American Express, also known as AmEx, is the largest credit card company in the US, yet it has not forgotten the little guy. AmEx launched American Express OPEN in 2007 to service small businesses and help owners grow them by offering various benefits exclusive to OPEN members.

The OPEN program benefits both small business owners and AmEx. The credit card giant realized the force of the small business owner, and had come to the conclusion that if they gain their loyalty, they would get returns tenfold when the business grows with their help. Although not entirely altruistic, it does provide the assistance and support that many small business owners need. The OPEN program of services is a huge success, even making inroads in social media. In Twitter, OPEN Forum has 10,000 followers and the numbers are still climbing.

There are many perks and benefits of being an OPEN member, butthree of them are unique to AmEx. They provide business services that are concretely effective and deserve to be mentioned.

Discounted Office Solutions

  • Nothing increases credibility more than having office space in an exclusive area. The Business Platinum Card offers the Platinum Office Program in cooperation with Regus. Under the program, a cardholder can improve his business image by:
  • Availing of fully equipped and furnished office space at one month free with a six-month contract or 2 months free with a 12-month or more contract
  • Getting  a 35% discount on a virtual office complete with mail forwarding service, local telephone service with receptionist, administrative services and use of a professional business address
  • Having complimentary access to any of the 1,200 business lounges all over the world

OPEN Forum

  • This is a loyalty service exclusive to AmEx OPEN card members which may help in growing their business. This is by:
  • Connecting business owners and forging new professional relationships
  • Providing a networking opportunity for members to promote their business
  • Giving access to expert advice on a wide variety of industries through a library of videos and articles
  • Providing a platform for discussing current business trends and issues, and asking advice from experts
  • Developing Connectodex, the counterpart of Facebook for AmEx for business entrepreneurs who joined the program in 2009, which allows the exploration and creation of partnerships with other OPEN members

Exclusive By Invitation Only Events

Nothing impresses clients more than being given the VIP treatment. OPEN members are given the opportunity to attend exclusive, not open to the public events which can be used to treat staff or entertain clients all over the world. These include:

  • Sporting events
  • Fashion events
  • Visual and performing arts
  • Dining offers

Cardmembers also enjoy:

  • Preferred Seating and Premium Access at live concerts, entertainment and sports events
  • Advance ticket sales
  • Access to the STAPLES Center Platinum Lounge

4 Reasons to Ditch Your Office for Your Laptop

laptop officeThe rise of the internet economy has changed a lot of things. Something that has changed for a lot of people is the necessity of an office. Many businesses are looking to be leaner, and it’s hard to justify the expense of holding on to a large amount of office space. You may have already begun questioning whether your office space is necessary. We’re going to go over some of the reasons you should consider giving up your office right now.

Reason 1: It May be an Expense You Don’t Need

Offices are expensive. The nicer the city, the more you’ll pay just for the right to park a few computers. Many people are convinced that an office is a necessary part of running a business, but a lot of that “necessity” has been preempted by the internet in the last few years. Buying, selling, communicating, and organizing are all possible now without the traditional office.

In addition to being expensive, holding an office also crowds people with many different work styles and tolerances into a single building. Ditching the office for an online workspace allows everyone more flexibility.

Reason 2: It Offers Everyone More Flexibility

More and more companies are finding reasons for their employees to do part of their jobs from home. There are many good reasons for that. Making employees telecommute allows the business to downsize to smaller operations, and it saves on the massive power bills that large offices generally experience.

Many employees prefer to work from home anyway. It allows them to do their job even when they occasionally need to run errands or deal with illnesses. In the past, this was balanced by the fact that communication was lost, but that is no longer the case.

Reason 3: You Can Communicate Just Fine over the Web

Even when the only option was email, it was still an effective way to communicate. Now there are so many more options that it makes face-to-face communication look quaint. Email is still a good option, but you can also have video conferences and instant messenger communication.

The options are also not limited to straight communication. It is now possible to deftly manage massive teams using management software and websites that inform every person of their obligations and archives all submitted work. New programs are also beginning to make live collaboration easier by computer than it ever was when people were crowded into rooms.

Really, the only reason to keep dedicated office space is so that you can have a place to host clients. Fortunately, that can be easily achieved just by renting office space only when you need it.

Reason 4: You Can Always Rent Space When You Need It

You may be worried about clients having nowhere to go when they can’t come visit you at your brick and mortar business for meetings. However, there are many ways around that. Rented (hourly) meeting space offers you many advantages over having your own.

For one, you’ll have access to much nicer accommodations at an hourly rate. If you could afford a budget office, you can afford a high-class meeting room that will impress anyone who walks into it. Even if you need to entertain clients weekly, you’ll be paying much less than you would for a permanent office.

Now might be the Right Time

Giving up the office is a hard decision to make, but now may be the time for you to consider. You’ll enjoy the advantages of saving money, guaranteeing flexibility for your employees, maintaining communication, and having office space only when you need it.

Punching Above Your Weight: Making Your Small Business Look Mighty

clientYou manage a small online business, and you’re in trouble. You keep missing all the big clients you really need to get the success you’ve always wanted. There could be many reasons you are being ignored, but one of the principal ones is likely the perception those bigger clients have of you. To them, you look too risky and unstable to be trusted with a big contract.

You can’t really blame them for thinking this way. Every day, thousands of new businesses are founded online. Most of them aren’t going to last out the month, and the ones that do still won’t have a great chance at surviving to the end of the year. Investing time and money into one of these small businesses is a gamble, and most of the big guys prefer to do their gambling at a roulette table.

When you are just starting to get your business of the ground, you are fighting for your very survival. In the wild, a popular survival strategy is to make yourself appear larger than you really are. This is something that can be done in business as well. We’ll tell you about some strategies you can use to make your small business look mighty.

Mailing Addresses That Make an Impression

If you are operating a small business online or offline, you may not have an address that makes much of an impression. For many small business owners of the new economy, a business address and a home address are one in the same. If you want to impress a client however, you’ll want something on your business card that inspires confidence—even if you are running your business out of an apartment.

The most effective way to get a great address without paying for premium office space is to take advantage of a mail forwarding service. These helpful services will take mail at one address and forward them to your real address. This means you can put something impressive (5th Avenue, NY for example) on your business card, yet still receive all your mail where you need it.

Renting Hourly Office Space to Improve Your Identity

One of the biggest challenges of getting new contracts is meeting with them. It is not going to inspire much confidence if you try to bring them to your home. It won’t be much more effective to bring them to any budget office space you’ve been able to procure while you are getting started.

Your best bet is finding some rentable meeting rooms in your area. You can choose from some very high-class options without needing to pay for them when you don’t need to use them. When you take your clients to high-class meeting spaces, you give them the impression that your business is financially stable.

Maintaining Professional Phone Service

Something that always signals professionalism is phone banks to take calls and direct them to the appropriate department. This signals to your clients that you have the budget for a reasonably-sized staff, and that you are important enough that screening your calls is necessary to doing business.

This may sound incredibly expensive, but these days it isn’t. For less than you would pay a good secretary, you can now borrow time from call centers. Their operators will be trained to answer questions about your business, and forward you the calls that you need the most. If you are currently the only one answering your phones, you may want to look into this service right away.

Go Out and be Mighty

Once you have all the trappings of a much more professional business, you’ll be able to get attention from clients who have ignored you in the past.

10 Daily Activities That Can Be Outsourced

outsourcingLikely, there are a couple of tasks around the office that you wouldn’t mind handing over to someone else. With outsourcing, you can do this. Giving away certain daily activities to someone outside the company could give you more hours in the day to attend to more important projects. Don’t be afraid to get outside help for your business, especially if it means making your business more productive. Let’s take a look at 10 daily activities that you may want to outsource to someone else:

 

  1. Scheduling: This is a task that can easily be handled by someone outside of the company. There’s no need for inside help because it involves non-specialized information and skills. You can find a virtual assistant to handle this task, since there’s no need to be in the office either.
  2. Answering Calls: Unless calls are urgent, you can outsource your phone lines. This will free up time, so that you won’t have to be at your desk all day answering phones. You can have all emergency or important calls forwarded to your desk or cell phone if you are constantly away from your office.
  3. Data Entry: Again, a virtual assistant can be used to handle this task. You can save office space by doing it this way. Data entry can easily be transferred over via email, using a scanner or Microsoft Office documents, if that’s what your company uses.
  4. Tasks You Don’t Like Doing: When you are stuck with doing daily tasks that you don’t want to do, it takes longer to complete. Whatever activities around the office that you don’t like doing that can be easily outsourced, you should do so.
  5. Payroll: This is something that has to be handled daily, so why not allow someone else with the right skills to do it for you? If you have a business software system that your company uses, you can allow them virtual access, by giving them login info.
  6. Writing and Editing: If you’re in a business that involves a lot of writing and editing of business documents, you can allow someone with great English writing skills to handle this for you.
  7. Email Correspondences: Answering emails all day is another daunting task that you can pass along. Just make sure that you outsource to someone who has great customer service and English writing skills.
  8. Setting Appointments: When you run a business that involves making lots of appointments, you can have someone set them for you.
  9. Handling Sales Calls: Telemarketing is important for businesses that have products and services to sell. You can use your freed time to worry more about the actual product or service that you have to offer.
  10. Social Media Marketing: Being on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites all day can quickly eat up your time. Outsource this task and see your day become more productive.

 

The purpose of outsourcing these daily tasks is to help you as a business owner to have more time to worry about creating new products and services, driving more sales and getting new customers.

Creative Ways To Get Your New Business Noticed

Creative Ways To Get Your New Business NoticedIt’s a no-brainer that you need to get recognition for your business to keep revenue flowing in. Whether you are a startup or been in the game for a couple of years, getting constant attention is the way to keep you in the mind of your current and potential customers. Unfortunately, not all businesses have the capital needed to properly get noticed, which means you need to use creative methods to do things on a shoestring budget. Here are a couple of ideas that you can get more exposure for your business without paying thousands of dollars.

Host an Open House or Special Event

Everyone enjoys gathering together where there’s free food and fun. If you can invite customers and your local community to an open house with food and refreshments, it will give you more visual. Make sure to have banners, brochures and business cards available, so that everyone will know who threw the event and what you have to offer.

Join Business or Civic Organizations

By joining in local organizations in your community, you will be able to make a good name for you and your business. It’s a great way to meet new business contacts and potential advertising contacts that can help you get the word out about your company.

Swap Ads with Another Company

If you have a publication or Web site, you can find a non-competing business to swap advertisements with. This works by advertising their business services or products in your publications and the other company doing the same for you. Of course, you should try to find a business that has clients that would actually be interested in what your company has to offer. Otherwise, it would be pointless.

Give Away Free Samples at Tradeshows

Attending tradeshows is a great way to network with other businesses and potentially find new customers. While there, you can hand out free samples. Make sure that the samples you give away are branded with your logo and contact information (depending on what your samples are). If not, at least include a business card with the free sample. People love getting free things and if your samples are great at showing what your business has to offer, then you’ll make a great first impression.

Create Custom Vinyl Banners

With customized vinyl banners, you can advertise your business, ongoing sales or special events that your company will be hosting. These vinyl banners can be placed on the side of your building to help bring in more foot traffic.

Contact Your Local Newspaper  

Sometimes, there is extra space for a newspaper issue that needs to be filled. By contacting your local newspaper, you can see if they would be interested in doing a story on your business. If you have something newsworthy to talk about, such as an event you will be hosting, a charity you are taking part in or something else the community would be interested in learning about, then this would make it easier for you to get a free spot in the newspaper.

Customer Privacy Issues You Need to Know

Customer Privacy Issues You Need to KnowCollecting personal data from your customers is a big responsibility and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Technology can be an amazing tool, but it can also be the downfall of your business if you’re not careful. There are hackers on the prowl looking to steal critical personal information about your paying customers. You may remember a couple of big corporations having breaches in their security, which means no one is safe from predators. This is why you should make yourself and your business partners and employees aware of the sensitivity of customer information. There are a couple of ways that you can protect your customer’s privacy.

Find Out How Much Data You Are Collecting

If you are using a third-party software code for leads, then you may be collecting more data than you realize. Knowing what personal data your company has in its files. Make sure that legal obligations are made known by all of your company’s employees and there should be guidelines made on how to keep that data secured.

Minimize Data that You Collect and Retain

You should focus on only collecting the data that you need and trashing the rest. The less personal data you keep from your customers, the less pressure it will be on you to keep the information safe. A lot of businesses collect additional data that they feel they will need in the future, but this only increases risk of it being stolen by hackers. Also, asking for too much data from your customers may feel intrusive.

Ensure Your Infrastructure has the Best Security

In order to protect your customer’s personal data, you will need security that will keep it safe. If you take credit card payments from your customers, you should be using a high-end encryption software that will disable hackers from retrieving the numbers. This is a good investment to make because it will save you the embarrassment of having to tell your customers that their data has been compromised. Your Web site and network should also have top-notch security.

Create a Privacy Policy

When your customer’s data has been compromised, depending on how much damage has been done, you could face numerous lawsuits from angry customers. By law, it is required that commercial Web site owners have a privacy policy on their site where customers can easily view it. Refrain from using a cut and paste privacy policy because these are legally binding. You should have one drafted up by a lawyer or an expert who deals with privacy policies. There are also tools like Policymaker that can help you draft one up.

Allow Your Customers to Opt-Out

It’s becoming more and more common for businesses to allow their customers to opt out of having their information shared with third parties. This will give your customers more control and make them feel like you are keeping their feelings and concerns a priority.

How to Use Google+ for Small Business

How to Use Google+ for Small Business
Google+ is the latest frontier for social media. Small business is growing at a rapid rate and it’s largely in part due to social media. Social media allows a small business owner to take control of their own online reputation and brand identity when growing their business. Google+ is a fantastic tool to help the small business owner giving your business a means to reach out directly to your niche audience.

Business Owners Google+ Information

Business owners must learn Google+ because it currently reaches out to a different audience than Facebook and Twitter.

  • Google+ reaches a new audience.
  • Google+ gives a visual edge to your brand.

Google+ users are tech savvy and always on the cusp of what’s new and what’s next. If your business involves e-commerce or technology in any way, Google+ is a must for you. With this social media platform, you will reach out a new audience that often makes Google+ their only social media profile. Explore Google+ for a taste of how visual this social media site is. Like Facebook, Google+ relies heavily on images in order to make a profile pop, but other applications such as Google+ Hangouts allow you and your audience to interact on a new level.

Google+ is still growing, but there are many resources to help you flesh out your profile and begin interacting with a new audience of people. There is a very large international audience on Google+ which leverages your brand.

 

How to Hire Productive People

How to Hire Productive People
For any small business or start-up you are looking for people who are smart, eager and hungry to help your business grow. It’s no mistake that many people will end up working with numerous start-ups over the course of their careers. This because for the creative types it takes to make a start-up take off, the wheels are always turning.

 Hire Those With Relevant Experience

Start-ups are cloudy at times because many people on the team will wear multiple hats. Hire people who have experience in the tasks you’re hiring them for. It’s easy to find someone who is super passionate about a project or idea during the interview process. You need someone who is going to channel that enthusiasm into their work on a day to day basis.

Hire Those With Drive

This is tough, but you must make a judgment call based on various things in order to hire a person with drive. Look at their past accomplishments. Quiz them on what they see being the best plan of action for your start-up. Give that person the opportunity to think out loud because this may be the place where you can see their tenacity.

 Test The Person First

The beauty of start-ups is you can almost always arrange to hire a person on a consultant or independent contractor basis. This means you can see what the person produces in three months or six months before committing. This gives you the chance to see just what this person will do for your company.

How to Become an Authority on Google+

How to Become an Authority on Google+
Your business can grow by making your brand an authority on Google+. Remember that like any other social media platform, your following will not grow overnight. It takes time to build relationships. The good news about Google+ is you are likely tapping into a new audience that isn’t familiar with your brand. Google+ is still unchartered waters for many big brands and small to mid-size companies have shown significant growth by placing heaving emphasis on Google+.

 

What Google+ Can Do For You

Google+ can help you leverage your business to new heights. The key is to make yourself a resource online for people versus a business that pushes an agenda.

  • Keep social media posts varied.
  • Update regularly to stay relevant.

Social media is all about relationships and if you’re plastering ads and promotions all over your profile page (for any social media site). Experts suggest that for every two business posts on Google+, you should have between 6-8 other updates. These can be from people in your circles, GIFs, memes or videos that are related to your product or brand.

For example if you’re an online fashion boutique, you want to plug your own blog posts and products, but also articles from fashion websites or styling ideas from fashion bloggers in your circle. It’s all about sharing on Google+ and this improves your chances of having content shared. Also keep posting regular to stay relevant on Google+.  Google+ is a bright, visual space where you have many opportunities to make an impact with potential consumers.