December 16, 2010

Small Business Tech Trends: iPads Galore

Filed under: Company Headlines — admin @ 1:16 pm

A few months ago, Apple announced that they’d be shifting their focus from consumers to small businesses. According to their own descriptions, the tech company chose to focus on basic computer hardware, as opposed to their successful line of gadgets and accessories. The decision to direct marketing efforts at independent entrepreneurs made sense because Windows is deeply entrenched in the corporate world. IT departments do not handle change very well, yet mom and pops enjoy considerable flexibility when it comes to technological resources. This can be seen as a latent function of not having an in house IT staff, though this perceived handicap carries a distinct set of advantages.

The spirit of high-tech openness is leading many small business owners into the hands of an unlikely device: the iPad tablet. Touted as a netbook alternative, the iPad is becoming a big winner for local retailers in particular. Salesmen find it useful for running product demos, showcasing new items, explaining features, and creating rich media presentations. Its super long battery life and compact size make it the perfect trade show companion as opposed to a clunky laptop. The touch screen capabilities are a favorite when it comes to consumer interaction because it gives a contrived sales pitch a natural feel. The superb image quality doesn’t hurt, either.

Bosses love it because it’s cheaper than a comparable laptop. Employees can use it to jot down notes during a meeting and there are plenty of inexpensive, business-minded apps to increase worker productivity. The entire iWorks Suite package costs a mere $30, which is a huge savings when compared to Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office. Bento is a database app that’s ideal for those interested in storing a large amount of information without having to worry about navigating a complex system. The tool has space for 25 different templates, which is a lot of bang for $5 bucks. VNC Viewer enables total remote access to any PC, whether Mac or Windows based. That means there’s no such thing as a forgotten file or document anymore. At $9.99, it’s on the pricier side, but well worth the investment for obvious reasons.

Did your business adopt the iPad or another kind of tablet instead of netbooks? Tell us about your computing experiences!

December 14, 2010

The Walmart Factor

Filed under: Company Headlines — admin @ 12:09 pm

It’s no secret that there’s been a strong wave of anti-corporate sentiment amongst the small business community, especially when it comes to the retail sector. Throughout the years, Walmart has come to symbolize the ongoing fight between the commercial equivalents of David and Goliath. The retail giant has been targeted by advocacy groups for a variety of reasons. Whether or not the reputation is warranted, the company has been branded as the scourge of independent entrepreneurs. The familiar narrative casts Walmart as an evil villain that swoops into a quiet community and lures customers away from mom and pop shops with ridiculously low prices. The tiny outlets simply can’t compete due to the economics of scale, and family businesses gradually become a distant memory. Consequently, many rural towns have fought tooth and nail to prevent Walmart from establishing outposts in their neighborhoods.

But that negative perception might be changing, according to the results of a new study of New York area small business owners. Funded by Walmart, the data reveals significant support in unlikely places, namely commercial entities and the service industry. Although the figures aren’t as solid, there are still a surprisingly large amount of cheerleaders in the retail arena. Their reasoning relies on expected job creation and increased access to low cost consumer goods.

The results seem to indicate that the little guys no longer view companies like Walmart as a mortal threat to their livelihoods. Critics dismiss the findings as a hollow public relations scheme designed to manipulate an unenthusiastic city council. They want a mandatory economic impact study prior to any type of planning or construction. The city of San Diego already enacted similar legislation, against Walmart’s protests.

It seems as though Walmart would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate its positive contribution to a local marketplace. Their reluctance to participate in this kind of research raises a few eyebrows and leaves unanswered questions. We’d love to get the perspective of small business owners that have firsthand experience with the Walmart effect. Did Walmart move into your town? If so, did your business suffer, close down, or thrive? Has your attitude towards multinational corporations shifted in any way over the last couple of years? Let us know what’s on your mind!

December 13, 2010

Manage Social Media With Postling!

Filed under: Company Headlines — admin @ 5:22 pm

postling logo

Small business owners are slowly starting to embrace the marketing potential within social networking sites, but taking advantage of numerous free platforms can become overwhelming. Customers generally love being able to interact with local companies and their expectations are pretty high. They want a response as quickly as possible and lose interest if they don’t get one within a day or two. Whether this is reasonable or not is open for debate, although no decision will change this reality.

Chances are, your small business has accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, and Merchant Circle, just to name a few. Thankfully, Postling.com is available to help you streamline multiple accounts into one clear interface. The site is designed to meet the little guy’s particular challenges, as opposed to those of giant corporations. Unlike similar advertising tools, Postling permits users to respond to consumer comments, generate fresh content, set up photo albums to showcase products, and even schedule future blog posts. This feature is very helpful because it’s pretty difficult to remember to write a blog post about a shipment that’s arriving on Friday when you first get the idea on Monday afternoon.

Postling provides an excellent arena for online reputation management, which can literally make or break a company. For example, you’ll be able to see a positive review on Yelp immediately, and then repost it on WordPress. The site also makes it easy to create incentives for distribution in the major group buying sites, such as Groupon.com, Tippr.com, and LivingSocial.com. You may be able to handle your paid online advertising needs as well, depending on the networks you work with. There’s also a forum where you can chat and share advice or gripes with folks that understand what you’re going through. But Postling isn’t limited to the digital world; they sponsor flesh get-togethers in neighborhoods nationwide. Some are industry specific, such as restaurant owners, whereas others are aimed at any type of independent entrepreneur.

Signing up for Postling is free. After the two week trial period, users are given to option to pay the $25 monthly service fee or continue with their no cost account at the expense of key facets. The surcharge is definitely worth its weight in increased productivity. Otherwise, the site wouldn’t have won the approval of the New York Times, Mashable, and TechCrunch. Visit www.postling.com to join the community today!

December 9, 2010

Small Business Saturday a Smashing Success!

Filed under: Company Headlines — admin @ 5:32 pm

3 50 project

Some critics doubted the effectiveness of the first ever Small Business Saturday, but their predictions were dead wrong. According to the early figures, participating small businesses saw a whopping 27% increase in sales over last year’s performance! That means with a little more hype, next year is going to be nothing short of epic.

But the 2010 holiday shopping season isn’t over yet, so there’s still time to take advantage of this promotion. To keep the momentum going, American Express has extended their $25 cash back rewards program until December 31st. The credit card company also made good on their promised donations to Girls, Inc, a charity designed to assist young female entrepreneurs. They pledged to contribute $1 for every “like” on Facebook, which ended up costing them $1,000,000!

Perhaps the day’s most impressive contribution comes in the form of creating awareness. Nearly 1.2 million spread the word about their favorite economic sector on Facebook. Twitter also played a big role because roughly 30,000 tweets contained hash tags related to this subject. Numerous public officials did their parts by publicly declaring Nov. 27th to be Small Business Saturday. Approximately 200,000 consumers registered for the credit incentive, and there’s another 100,000 more on the way.

There are other initiatives with similar goals, such as the 3/50 project. This is a challenge to get consumers thinking about the importance of shopping local. It asks people to identify 3 neighborhood businesses that they would hate to lose, and then spend $50 per month at each establishment. That money doesn’t necessarily have to be separate from regular expenses. Try picking up lunch from a beloved independent diner or burger joint instead of a nationwide fast food chain. Buy milk, eggs, and snacks from the corner store rather than a supermarket. These little changes may not seem like much, but they definitely add up over time. Statistics show that $68 of every $100 spent in local stores goes right back into the community. Business owners should register with the 3/50 project to receive updates, exclusive offers, and free marketing tools. For additional information, visit www.the350project.net.

December 8, 2010

IBIS World Ranks Highest Performing Small Business Industries

Filed under: Company Headlines — admin @ 4:29 pm

According to the market researchers at IBIS World, 2011 will be an outstanding year for certain small businesses. They identified 6 areas that are going to experience massive amounts of growth for a variety of reasons. The lucky few include those involved with environmental or green consulting, real estate appraisal, debt collection, e-commerce and/or online auctions, advertising agencies, and job training or career counseling.

This is not to say that companies in other fields will not perform well in the coming year. But these particular types of businesses have been singled out as a result of their current performance, expert predictions/analyses, trends, and stats from associated sectors. Green consulting tops the list primarily because of stricter environmental regulations. Construction is expected to pick up next year, and many project managers will focus on the ecological impact of their undertakings more so than in the past. Increased consumer and commercial demand for energy efficiency are also propelling what was once a niche service into the mainstream. Many companies have figured out that going green makes an excellent PR campaign as customers respond to gestures of corporate responsibility. As such, excess profits might be channeled into green makeovers on a grand scale.

On a similar note, the anticipated construction boom naturally translates into a boost for real estate professionals. They suffered a painful blow as a result of the housing crisis, so this cheerful forecast comes as a breath of fresh air to an otherwise depressed group. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are still struggling under mountains of unpaid bills, which is why debt collection will continue to flourish. The dismal job market inspires some unemployed or underemployed people to continue their education, hence the continued success of vocational guidance counselors.

The E-commerce boost helps explain the relevance of advertising agencies. As retail sales transition into virtual platforms, internet marketing may render non-digital marketing a mere afterthought. QR ads will eventually overtake traditional billboards, mailers, and in store promotions as well. That means the technologically savvy firms are going to lay the antiquated models to rest once and for all.

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