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Small Business Success Index 4

Index Score*   Grade
73 marginal
Capital Access 67
Marketing & Innovation 65
Workforce 76
Customer Service 88
Computer Technology 73
Compliance 92
*Index score is calculated on a 1-100 scale.
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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’


Small Biz Resource Tip: Compete.com

November 25th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Compete.com

If you’re looking for a quick traffic overview of your website (or your competitor’s site), go to Compete.com and check it out. You can look at one site or plug in up to three sites for comparison. You can see your traffic on a chart month by month, your number of unique visitors and your rank overall on the Compete site for free. If you subscribe to one of their services, you’ll receive analytical reports, demographic metrics, where users go after visiting your site, what sites drive traffic to your competitors and more. Compete can also give you demographics on your visitors such as age, gender and income levels.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Rescue Time

November 22nd, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Rescue Time

Are you worried about what your employees are really doing during work hours? They look busy, but unless you look over their shoulder all day, they could be checking the latest fantasy sports stats, for all you know. Enter in Rescue Time. By installing an application on your employees’ computers, you can track what sites are being viewed and for how long. You can also customize the information you receive and not track certain sites you know are work-related. If this all sounds a bit “Big Brother” the site explains that when you let employees know from the beginning you have this application in place, it simply boosts accountability.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Major Geeks

November 5th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Majorgeeks.com

Although it sounds like a website for tech geeks to trade industry secrets and talk in their secret language, Majorgeeks.com has something for the rest of us tech dummies who need a little tech support, software advice and possibly a solution for a pesky virus invading your system. Tools are available for both the novice and advanced computer user, and the “hosts” try to make the language and interface as user friendly as possible. Most helpful are the free downloads that do everything from solve a performance issue to multimedia to networking. And Mac users, you can be happy, Majorgeeks has not left you out this time.

Retailers Plan to Expand Mobile Commerce

October 26th, 2010 :: Karen Axelton

By Karen Axelton

While only 8.8 percent of retailers currently have a mobile commerce site, 75.9 percent expect to launch one, reports a survey by Internet Retailer conducted in August. Of those who plan to create an m-commerce site, 31.9 percent expect to have it up and running in the next six months and 52.6 percent in under one year.

There’s good reason retailers are moving so quickly: According to the report, mobile commerce could generate sales of $23.4 billion in the U.S. by 2015, up an astounding 875 percent from an estimated $2.4 billion in 2010.

“If online retailers haven’t developed a sense of urgency about mobile commerce yet, they need to,” says Mark Beccue, a senior analyst with Allied Business Intelligence Inc.

Sucharita Mulpuru, a vice president and principal retail research analyst with Forrester Research Inc., agrees. “The age of mobile commerce we are in now is akin to the business-to-consumer e-commerce market of 1997,” she says. “These are still the ‘Wild West’ days of mobile commerce and there’s plenty of room for experimentation.”

Building an m-commerce site doesn’t have to cost a lot, according to the report. Only 25.8 percent of those surveyed have an annual mobile commerce budget of more than $200,000. The majority (61.3 percent) expect to spend $50,000 or less building their site.

The research cites one expert’s estimate that if your business already has an e-commerce site, a version optimized for smartphones and the iPad can be launched in 30 days for about $20,000 to $30,000; a mobile app for iPhones takes about 60 days and costs $50,000 to $150,000.

For those who already have an m-commerce site, sales are also modest. Some 64 percent of merchants have annual mobile retail sales of $250,000 or less; of those, 50 percent report sales under $50,000. But 5.9 percenthave annual mobile sales of over $10 million—and as the number of consumers using smartphones to shop grows, so will mobile sales.

Why are retailers planning to add mobile commerce? Their goals include:

  • 39.1 percent of companies want to attract more visitors and generate more sales.
  • 13.5 percent want to increase sales conversions
  • 12.8 percent want to improve marketing and merchandising
  • 12.2 percent want to increase multichannel sales
  • 10.1 percent want to improve customer service

The key to success in developing an m-commerce site? Take time to assess how your customers want to shop. What devices do they use? What are they looking for? What are their key issues?

Says Mulpuru, “Whoever winds up being the next Amazon of mobile retailing will do so because they developed a strategy that’s based on a clear understanding of how their mobile phone shoppers want to interact with [their] brand.”

How Much Internet Access Should Your Employees Have?

October 19th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

As a small business owner, you’re probably struggling with the following dilemma in your workplace: Your employees expect to be able to surf the Net, update their Facebook status and shop online during the workday. For many of your employees, some of those things might even be part of their jobs. But when employees spend too much time on personal business online, it can put your business at risk. How—and where—do you draw the line?

Here’s a closer look at the issues you may be concerned about and how to deal with each one.

Time-wasting: A little bit of online goof-off time is to be expected these days and, if it’s used as a quick work break, has been shown to actually boost productivity. But if employees are spending too much time Facebooking, watching cat videos on YouTube or checking sports scores, you might need to step in. Start by having a conversation with the person in question. Usually, just being alerted that you’re aware of the person’s habits can snap them into shape. If the problem is widespread, let employees know that you expect them to use good judgment in using their time, but that excessive use of the Internet for personal reasons can lead to discipline. Nobody wants to be the one person who ruins it for the whole group.

Viruses or security issues: It’s easy to accidentally download malware or click on a link that gives your computer a virus. Work with your IT department or consultant to create a policy that makes sense for your business. Specify what types of e-mails, links or attachments your employees should or shouldn’t open; what types of sites they should not visit, if any; what types of warning signs or messages to watch out for; and what to do if they think they have a virus. It’s important to catch problems before they spread to your entire staff or network.

Image control: Employees need to be aware that websites typically capture their visitors’ addresses. That means if your employees are visiting questionable sites, it could reflect poorly on your business. Let employees know that anything they do online can reflect on your company—whether that’s commenting in a blog, posting incriminating photos or spreading confidential information about your company’s plans.

Get tough: If you need to, you can install software that monitors, logs and records every keystroke employees make on their computers. This enables you to track their emails and the websites they visit. Often, just letting your staff know that you have this technology in place is enough to keep them on the straight and narrow without your ever having to actually use it.

As with every employee-related issue, the best policy is being clear and straightforward. Let your staff know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

Now is the Right Times to Spend on Online Technology according to SBSI Report

September 30th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

Small business owners are routinely confronted with a difficult decision: when is the right time to spend money on the business. The question becomes significantly more complex when you’re considering spending that money on online technology. It’s evolving quickly — what is cutting-edge for your industry today may be obsolete next week. Despite these concerns, however, making the investment in the right tools for your company is necessary.

In the survey that resulted in the most recent Small Business Success Index, small business owners reported lower levels of spending on online technology. While there’s still plenty of spending on social media — adoption rates held steady at 24 percent — adoption of other technologies dropped. That includes technologies ranging from websites to online advertising.

Getting Ahead of the Game

If your key competitors are small businesses, this information means that there is an opportunity to get ahead of them with some carefully considered investments into your business’ online technology. The best opportunities depend on your industry: if you’re in a particularly tech-heavy field, you may need to be moving towards the latest and greatest social media opportunities. A particularly heavy investment may not be so important if you’re in an industry where your competition is slow to adopt new technology. Many individual professionals, for instance, have been slower to roll out new websites and other online marketing efforts, creating a gap where you can move forward if you’re willing to put some money into the online technologies that will help you reach out to new customers or even manage your business more effectively.

The difficult consideration is choosing where to invest your time and money. If you’re planning to handle each step internally, it can take time for you or one of your employees to get up to speed on the fast moving developments among website tools and the like. Simply for the sake of efficiency, it may be worth focusing your initial spending on tools or consultants that can bring you up to speed quickly. It’s perfectly possible for a small business to build its own online technology, but it is often at the cost of taking away from your core competencies.

Focus Energy on the Big Wins

When it comes to online technology, there will always be low-hanging fruit: something as simple as building a basic website can transform your business if you haven’t already done so. Similarly, there are ways to get the most bang for your buck with social media or SEO. By going after the big wins first, you’ll get significant benefits. The opposite approach — doing each step perfectly and optimizing it as much as possible before moving on — will get you the maximum benefit, but only over a longer time frame. By looking for the biggest changes you can make, you can start reaping the benefits fast enough that you’ll be able to easily spend time and money on the smaller tweaks later on.

That approach can extend beyond marketing technologies. There are many online technologies that can help with other facets of your business, although the marketing tools often offer the biggest upfront wins. New inventory systems, bookkeeping tools and other technologies are also worth investigating.

Image by Flickr user Michael Surran

The Drawbacks of Early Adoption

August 17th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

Every business owner wants to be out in front of the pack, whether that means adopting a new process or picking up new gadgets. But early adoption can cause problems, especially in a smaller business that may not have the time or ability to test out new processes before making them standard.

Early adoption can let you get the drop on your competition, but there are potential problems that go along with it. Some of the most obvious examples come from tech gadgets — the people who picked up the iPhone 4 can attest to the downside of being among the first buyers just based on their antenna issues. But similar problems occur in business, as well. Even something as simple as a new machine that doesn’t work exactly as it should can slow down your business as you look for ways to fix new problems.

Conservative, But Not Too Conservative

Entrepreneurs are used to risk — after all, starting a new business from scratch can be more than a little risky. But when it comes to changing the way you do business, a little conservatism can come in handy. A certain level of reluctance when it comes to adopting new techniques or technology can be useful. Being first in line may allow you to get the drop on your competition, but it also means that your competition has a chance to see where things go wrong before adopting those new steps themselves. If you let someone else go first, you’ve got a chance to see where someone else goes wrong.

Once you’ve got a good idea of how to avoid those problems, though, it can be well worth the effort to be second. There are plenty of situations where the second company to get into the game is the winner — just think about how Sony released Betamax, only to be trumped by JVC’s VHS tapes. Sony was first to market, but JVC was able to take advantage of almost two years of observing Sony’s sales efforts. An observation period allows you to see the problems and even more opportunities to move forward, without have to break that ground yourself.

It’s Okay to Be a Pioneer Sometimes

Despite the drawbacks of being an early adopter, the benefits can sometimes be enough to make it worthwhile. If, for instance, you really are pioneering a new technique, you may have an opportunity to get years ahead of your competition if you do things right. There will always be risks in making a change, but if you’re a business owner, you can’t be afraid of risks. All you can do is look for ways to improve your business and reduce the risks as much as possible. That can mean waiting for someone else to jump in the pool first, or it can mean changing the situation so being the pioneer won’t cause you problems. There’s no metric for being sure that a situation is ideal, of course, but if you are sure you can turn early adoption into a benefit, it may be worthwhile.

Image by Flickr user MattHurst

Expand Your Company’s Online Footprint with a .CO domain – Landrush is Open

June 22nd, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

.CO Landrush is here — at an unbelievable price!

For only $270.00* you can be part of the .CO era! Now is the time to secure your .CO domain and start your new business or protect your existing brand.

It’s easy to get started, simply enter the .CO domain name you’d like to reserve in the search box below.

Please note, if multiple people submit requests for the same domain name, an auction will be held at the end of Landrush to ensure fair and equitable distribution of names.

The Key Benefits of .CO

  • .CO is a truly global, recognizable and credible domain
  • .CO gives businesses and brands the chance to create a worldwide footprint
  • .CO is relevant to individuals, businesses and organizations
  • .CO is meaningful, memorable and intuitive to use for people around the world
  • .CO appeals to today’s socially-networked individuals and entrepreneur

A Few Frequently Asked Questions Answered

What if multiple people or businesses want the same domain name?
Instead of deploying a traditional “first-come, first-served” distribution of domain names during the Sunrise and Landrush phases, a domain name auction system will be used to facilitate the fair and equitable distribution of names. The application fee is non-refundable.

Will I be charged an application fee?
Yes, for every domain submitted during the Landrush process will be charged a $9.99 non-refundable application fee.

Why should I register my .CO domain name during Landrush instead of pre-registering now for General Availability?
You will have a better chance of securing popular and common domain names during Landrush. Requests submitted during Landrush are given priority over pre-registration for General Availability which is why they are offered at a premium price. When you pre-register your domain you are putting your request at the top of the General Availability list. After July 20, all names will be first come, first served. To learn more about pre-registration click here

Small Business Success Index — Technology Dimension

March 4th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

The latest Small Business Success Index cage small businesses what amounts to a C when it come to computer technology. That’s unchanged from a year ago, and there may be a simple reason why: with the economy adding uncertainty to many small business’ bottom lines, there are fewer business owners that are willing to spend money on improving technology, especially when it’s hard to see the return. However, when it comes to technology, small businesses do have incredible opportunities right now.

Improving Operations

The SBSI’s calculations in determining a technology score for small businesses specifically tracks the adoption of fifteen online business solutions that help small businesses with marketing, customer service and operations. The numbers point to a whole list of opportunities for small businesses to become more efficient, win over more clients and even save a little money.

The most commonly used technology, as far as small businesses go, is a disaster recovery / backup system. As of December, 2009, 61 percent of small businesses had implemented a backup system of some sort. What’s surprising is that nearly 40 percent haven’t. The expense of data recovery when you don’t have a backup system in place can easily reach four figures, without any guarantee of getting your information restored. Paying a few dollars per month to back up data is a much lower price to pay.

Website Ownership

Right now, website ownership is sitting at 46 percent — less than half of small businesses have a website. When you consider that you can set up and maintain a business website for under $10 a month, that number seems incredibly low. But it is also an opportunity. The benefits of having a website when your competitors aren’t even online allows you to tap into markets that those competitors don’t even have access to.

Email Customer Service

Offering customer service via email can translate into some significant savings. While you may have to have an additional email address, you don’t need anyone manning a customer service line. That can free you or an employee up to do work, only processing customer service questions a few times a day.

Other Technologies

There are plenty of other technologies that can provide big wins for your business. Making use of tools that allow you to communicate and share information internally allow your employees to work more efficiently, no matter whether they’re in the office or not. You can reduce expenses like printing, just by choosing the right tool. Similarly, marketing technologies, such as the ability to list ads in online directories, allow you to improve your reach for new customers. The benefits of improving marketing technologies go beyond price: you can often more clearly see how a customer found your business and made the decision to buy — allowing you to more clearly understand the ROI of a particular ad buy — than with traditional television or newspaper advertising.

Looking at the tools and technologies your business uses can help you find opportunities to become more efficient, save money and even land some new customers.

Image by Flickr user Jose C Silva

Your Customers May Be About To Move – Are You Ready?

January 26th, 2010 :: Tobias Bray

I read a short article by Steve Rubel over at Advertising Age about the future of Internet access that made me stop what I was doing and author this post. He thinks that facebook will enter the cell phone market. Why not? Google did right after releasing Wave.  This move has less to do with Google than the size and potential of the mobile market.  Let’s explore this and other data points –

Market Size – From the Ad Age Article sighted above “According to Morgan Stanley, more people will connect to the internet via mobile devices than PCs in five years. Meanwhile, Forrester reports that 17% of U.S. consumers have smartphones. This means that 83% currently don’t.”

Cost of Devices – According to, Moore’s Law the power of electronic devices will increase, the size will decrease and the price will fall so we will see a sub $150 carrier independent smartphone in just a couple of years.

User Behavior – Yesterday The New York Times ran an article that pointed to research showing children 8 to 18 years old now spend 7 1/2 hours with media devices on a daily basis absorbing 11 1/2 hours of information by multitasking. The majority of the devices they use are portable in nature.

Conclusion – At the confluence of demand and the affordable device lies your customer. In five or fewer years, you company will need to be fully engaged with a mobile site that fits on a screen roughly 2″ x 3″ and supports bi-directional connections to several communities.

Get the jump on your largest competitors – Large companies are still struggling to figure out social media. The inertia of complacency in these firms will cause them to show up at the party late and under dressed. There are some very good research papers on the internal issues these firms struggle with such as this Master Thesis pointing out the three reasons why large companies fail at incorporating community driven innovation into their plans.

So be nimble and start figuring out your strategy now. Chances are good you will get the jump on the big guys.

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