Archive for December, 2013


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Start a Customer E-Newsletter

customer-experience-digitalDo you want to remind customers of your business, encourage them to interact with you and provide useful information to help make their lives better? You can accomplish all of these goals and more with a customer e-newsletter.

Starting an e-newsletter for your customers may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many email marketing services that provide design templates you can use to create your newsletter, send it out for you, and provide tools and analytics you can use to measure results. Plus, email marketing services stay up-to-date on the latest laws regarding email marketing and spam, which can help ensure your business isn’t running afoul of FTC regulations.

Your e-newsletter should contain a mix of useful information to help your customers and special offers from your business. You don’t want it to be solely promotional, but you also want it to inspire customers to click through to your website, visit your store or otherwise engage with your business. For instance, if you own an ecommerce site that sells gardening supplies, you could send a monthly email newsletter with do-it-yourself tips on gardening activities like preparing your yard for winter, along with timely offers such as discounts on seasonal supplies. Also be sure to include links to your social media accounts so customers can follow you on social media.

How often should you send an email newsletter? The key is regularity—if your schedule is sporadic, customers may think you’ve gone out of business or are not professional. A monthly newsletter is a good starting point for most small businesses. If that’s too much, consider starting quarterly, or if you have more bandwidth, try biweekly or weekly. Monitor your readers’ unsubscribes to make sure you’re not sending too often.

Once you’ve got your email newsletter going, be sure to promote it everywhere you can with links to sign up on the home page of your website, in your marketing materials, on your social media accounts and at the end of your email signature. 


2014 Resolutions: How to Promote Wellness in Your Company

office-yogaWith the New Year right around the corner, everyone is thinking about how to get back into shape, improve what they eat and live better lives. That way of thinking can easily be applied in the office setting and, according to Lisa Menninger, a corporate wellness consultant, business owners are smart to incorporate health-related practices during the workday.

“For every dollar a company spends on wellness, they get back $5 to $6 in decreased insurance claims, a decreased number of employee sick days and an increase in general efficiency on the job,” she says.

Here are a few easy ways to promote wellness in your company:

Start a walking club

Chances are good that your employees are looking to get healthier in 2014. Help them in their effort by creating a walking club where a group meets for a 30-minute stroll at lunch or after work, recommends Menninger. Establish a daily meeting time and ask a staff volunteer to lead the group. Better yet: divide leadership responsibilities between a few people to increase the chances of the program lasting past January.

Throw out the break room

Take inventory of the snacks in your break room. Are you finding chips and dip or carrots and hummus? If your answer is the former, it’s time to get out the trashcan and start over.

“Don’t stock fake creamer or fruit juices. Instead, cut up veggies and put them out on the table,” suggests Menninger. “I promise that those goodies will be gone in no time. By supplying the room with healthy snacks, your employees will no longer reach for the other stuff. They will be fuller longer or have more energy to get work done.”

Launch a health-related newsletter

Take a moment to think about your staff members. Who is the healthiest person in your office? The person who runs races on the weekends or talks about his or her yoga retreats on a regular basis?

“If you have someone in your group that can recognize good information, ask that person to circulate blogs on health topics or create an internal newsletter to help motivate employees throughout the year,” says Menninger. “Either that, or give the person a corner of your existing newsletter to write a column about health.” 


10 Startups to Watch in 2014

Here are 10 startups launched in 2013 that are ready to rock the world next year:

Collegefeed has a noble mission to help every college student and new grad get hired. The service has already grown to tens of thousands of users, over 1,200 schools and hundreds of employers. It was created by Google's former product chief Sanjeev Agrawal who has turned all of his passion to using technology to solve the job crisis for millennials. Students are facing skyrocketing tuition, massive loan debt and nearly 50% can't get jobs that use their degree. Users have been hired using the tool from Morgan Stanley to Facebook.

Rockbot is an out-of-home music service disrupting the billion dollar market dominated by Muzak. Many bars, restaurants and airports stream music. This service lets customers vote on the playlist and request songs. It’s the modern day jukebox from the customer’s smartphone. They recently announced their newest customer, JetBlue in their JFK terminal.

Cover is a restaurant payment application that changes the way people pay at restaurants. Using an Uber-style experience, it lets diners leave without ever "paying" the check. The app lets people prepay it or split it among diners.  The product is live at about 30 top-tier restaurants in New York.

startupKONO was inspired and created by culinary genius, Rossano Boscolo. It has over 130 locations in countries throughout world where it offers consumers an entirely new pizza experience with its cone-shaped crust filled with fresh Italian ingredients. Launched in August 2013, KONO USA has over 15 units in its development pipeline.

Sense Health helps providers create, deliver and monitor interactive patient support plans called ‘scripts’. Providers simply answer three assessment questions about their patient: their specific condition, their goals for the month and barriers that might be hindering their ability to accomplish them. Through their proprietary algorithm, Sense Health automatically creates a 28 day script which consist of daily text messages delivered automatically. Scripts are comprised of reminders, educational, motivational and interactive text messages. Providers have a dashboard which alert them when a patient asks a question or are non-compliant.

Touchcast is an innovative video platform that brings interactivity of the web into an online TV viewing experience so users can engage with Twitter, web pages, maps, and polls inside the video without interrupting playback. It has been nominated by AdWeek as Hottest Startup in their Hot List. The company saw record downloads since launching in June.

Tok is a new social opinion network that turns online commenting into discussions and users into communities. Its networked, visual conversation interface creates a richer experience that brings people together and will offer companies with an audience an effective way to share targeted, dynamic, interactive content.

3Dagogo is an online marketplace of certified 3D designs to “print” consumer products at home. The company crowdsources “proven-to-print” designs and has an intuitive search interface that allows users to search for designs that work with their home 3D printer, materials, and skill level.

Simply Insured is a way for small businesses to find and buy health insurance online. With the problems on Healthcare.gov, many companies will be facing different requirements and options for health insurance. This company helps small businesses navigate the changing health insurance landscape, using their technology to make it transparent and easy to understand.

TestRocker brings together premier academic tutors with the best technology to make quality private tutoring available to students around the world whenever and wherever they desire. Launched by two sisters, the company's first two programs are SAT and ACT prep. Within one year of launch, TestRocker had students in 14 different countries studying on its platform.

What startups are you watching in 2014?


The Hottest Technologies to Watch in 2014

sparkling_2014_lightsWhat are the hottest technologies your company should know about next year? Here is my watch list for 2014:

Rapporative: People buy from who they know, like and trust. Form a relationship with your prospects and customers by integrating their social media posts inside your email. How to use it: When you receive an email from a prospect, you now see their latest social media posts attached. This is a fantastic time to comment on them to further your relationship.

Bitcoin: This internet currency is getting a lot of press this year. It uses peer-to-peer computer technology to operate with no central banks. The managing of these transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out by the an Internet network. How to use it: Is it time for your company to accept this currency to gain an advantage over your competitors?

Mobile wallet: Is this finally the year for the customer to leave their wallet at home? With solutions like Coin, it is sure to make an impact. This new product allows consumers to program all your credit cards into one payment size card. The device must be near your smartphone or it locks! How to use it: Ensure your company accepts mobile wallet solutions at all brick and mortar locations.

Geofencing: When customers are searching for something on their phone, how does the small business get them to buy from their company? One answer is geofencing that uses GPS to set a virtual perimeter for a given geographic area. How to use it: Generate a fence around your store or a particular location. When the consumer enters the "fenced-in" area, a text or email with a special offer is pushed to the customer's phone with their permission.

Mobile check out: Apple pioneered mobile checkout from a sales person’s smart phone. Gone are the days of waiting in a cash register line. How to use it: Equip your staff with these devices and sales will increase as a result of a closer bond with the customer.

3D printing: Instant delivery of physical products are becoming a reality. If consumer 3D printer sales continue to double over the next two years, the download market could reach 73M units for 2015. Based on research conducted by 3Dagogo, an online marketplace for 3D designs, 70% of all 3D designs found online actually cause failed prints due to design flaws. How to use it: Can your company deliver its products through 3D printing?

Connected cars: Google’s self-driving car is not yet a reality, but with the Internet everywhere, why not in your car?  Auto makers are starting to make cars their own hot spot so they can receive data and communicate with the driver’s hand held devices. Leading auto companies Audi, BMW, and Mercedes are starting to make it standard in their cars. How to use it: What solutions does your company offer that should be accessed from the car?

The quantified self: Consumers are checking their own blood pressure, pulse and steps on mobile devices. Forty percent of smartphone users want their phone to log all of their physical activities and 56 percent would like to monitor their blood pressure and pulse using a ring. Popular wearables are currently available from Nike and Fitbit. How to use it: What solutions does your company offer should be monitored from smartphones?

Faster Wi-Fi: The average consumer household today has 6 devices that connect to the Internet. As more devices become connected, the burden on the existing Wi-Fi networks will begin to show strain. The next generation of the wireless networking standard called 5G WiFi, or 802.11ac will offer faster speeds making it more capable of handling the spiking demand for connectivity. How to use it: What solutions become more beneficial at higher Wi-Fi speeds? What else do you sell that can be connected to the Internet?

What would you add?


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Things Your Employees Need

Support your employees and develop a win-win relationship to help your business succeed. Learn how with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday video from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Is Your Small Business Website Boomer- and Senior-Friendly?

woman-at-computerYour small business could be missing out on a key target market with money to spend because your website isn’t suited to their needs. A recent poll by McAfee of Internet users age 50 and up—that is, baby boomers and seniors—found this group is nearly equivalent to Millennials in their reliance on the Internet.

Users aged 50 and up in the study spend an average of five hours a day online—and specifically, those aged 50 to 61 spend an average of 5 hours and 42 minutes a day online. Those figures are just slightly less than the time Millennials spend online. And even those aged 62 to 75 spend an average of four hours and 36 minutes a day online!

About 90 percent of users in this age group have bought things online, 80 percent have done online banking and more than three-fourths have paid bills online.

To make sure your business website provides the best possible customer experience for these users:

  • Use larger fonts or provide options to enlarge the font (some users may not know how to do this with their browsers).
  • Avoid hard-to-read color combinations like white or light type on a dark background or light-colored type on a white background.
  • Make it functional. Put plenty of white space around buttons or tabs so it’s easy to click in the right place. This is especially important on the mobile versions of your website.
  • Provide options to talk to a real person. Many seniors still like speaking to customer service on the phone, so make sure this is a choice on your website and display your phone number prominently on the top of every page.
  • Keep it simple. Busy designs can overwhelm older users who still aren’t totally Internet-savvy. Make your site design as simple as possible so it’s easy to see how to take relevant actions like checking out, contacting you for more information, or getting directions to your location. Simple design will not only appeal to boomers, but also to most of your customers. 

How to Plan the Perfect Corporate Off-Site Event

Holding a company event outside the office can be a useful way to bond a team and allow employees to relax and enjoy each other’s company without having to talk about work. It can, though, get a little overwhelming to try to plan such an event. Here, Anne Marie Rembold, owner of Anna Marie Events, a corporate event planning company based in San Francisco, offers her top insights.

Start with the money

What is the budget for your corporate off-site event? Establish a number and go from there. Don’t start looking into activities or locations before confirming a budget with your team as costs can quickly get out of hand, says Rembold.

Pick a venue

When choosing a venue, consider where your employees will be coming from, how they will be getting to the venue (public transportation or vehicle) and if you will offer alcohol at the gathering (a vital consideration for drivers).

“Then, go back to your budget,” she says. “Make sure you understand every layer of cost associated with your location. Will gratuity be included? Will there be additional service fees? What about room rental fees? After looking at all of those factors, determine if the venue still fits into your budget.”

447-corporate-team-building-events-with-way2go-adventures-ltdChoose an activity

Off-site activities should be inclusive to most people (hopefully everyone) on your team. Stick with pursuits such as mini golfing, corn hole or Bocce ball. “I also really like cooking events because it doesn’t matter how good of a cook you are, you can still have fun and learn something,” Rembold says. “It is important to choose activities that are lighthearted and level the playing field.”

Communicate with your employees

Think of yourself as a party promoter, you want to build buzz around the office. Generate excitement by announcing the event at least a month in advance. “Remind your team again two weeks out and then three to five days in advance,” she says. “You want to keep it front-of-mind so they are talking about it with their colleagues.”

Plan your food and beverage

Regardless if you are going to a bowling alley or a mini golf course, it is always a good idea to provide food and refreshments for your staff. Think hard about alcohol. It may not be necessary if the event is in the middle of the day. If, though, it is scheduled for the evening, you may consider offering beer and wine or even a full bar.

“But I wouldn’t plan for the entire event to revolve around alcohol,” says Rembold. “If it does, people who don’t drink or are trying to cut back could feel really uncomfortable.”

Stay on top of logistics

Logistical considerations—namely transpiration, directions and maps—are of utmost importance when planning a corporate off-site event. “I’ve seen it so many times where someone plans an event and no one knows how to get there. It can really throw people off,” she says. “Make sure everyone has detailed instructions in advance.”


10 Actions to Avoid in 2014

This is the time of year that a lot of articles are written about what to do to get ready for 2014. Instead, this is a guide to the 10 actions to strictly avoid for next year:

  1. Avoid changing your strategy too quickly. All small business owners want to take action, but many times they make too many actions. It is critical not to change target customers, product release dates and employee compensation plans too often. It produces organizational whiplash!
  2. Avoid canceling your employee health insurance. With the delays in the Affordable Care Act, you have another year to make the decision. Check your renewal rates as well ask your broker to use the Healthcare.gov website to check those additional options.
  3. Avoid bad mouthing your competition. While this may seem like a viable marketing strategy, it almost never is. Customers want to hear what is right about your solution, not how the other guy stinks. A business culture that takes “the high road” is always more sustainable.
  4. Avoid buying more phones without a plan. Stop adding to the telecommunications chaos for your company. Ensure that all your devices are connected through a central voice over IP systems (VoIP) to have one seamless system that never loses customers.
  5. Avoid posting on social media when getting angry. While this may feel good at the time, remember those posts take on a life of their own once they are online. Write it out if you have to, but then never press the send button.
  6. Avoid growing yourself broke. Contrary to popular wisdom, growing a company too fast can actually put you out of business. Ensure you have enough cash flow to support any expansion strategy. While bigger may feel better, it is not always more profitable.
  7. Avoid bragging about your company’s achievements. In a social media world, customers really do not like people that brag. A better strategy is to highlight your customers’ many achievements!
  8. Avoid using business funds for personal use. Even during difficult times, this is a red line that should never be crossed. Keep a strict separation between funds for business expenses and your own personal needs.
  9. Avoid extending credit to customers that don’t pay their bills. Cash flow is the critical life line for your business. As a result, extend credit as a privilege, not a right. Remember, customers that do not pay on time are not valuable customers,
  10. Avoid borrowing more money when sales are shrinking. Never borrow capital when revenue is going down since you are then using that cash to only cover losses. This is also the best time to stay away from borrowing with family and friends, since the chance of successfully paying them back is very low.

What do you vow to stay away from in 2014?

2014-business-technology-predictions


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Ways to Make More Money in 2014

Make 2014 the best year ever for your small business! This week's Work Your Biz Wednesday with Melinda Emerson offers five tips to make your business more money in the upcoming year.




 
Nextiva Logo

phone-icon(800) 799-0600 Sales phone-icon(800) 285-7995 Support
Nextiva is the leader in Business VoIP Services. Copyright 2014 Nextiva, All Rights Reserved,
Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, Sitemap