Tips on Staying Organized for Small Business Owners

July 11th, 2014 Comments off

blog602Do you know where your important documents are? As a small business owner, you have to deal with many important documents like your tax forms, lease agreements, mortgage papers, receipts, invoices, purchase orders and more! Are they all together in one safe, organized place? Probably not. You most likely have some of your documents stored in a filing cabinet at home, some others in your desk at the office, and your digital files floating around various email accounts, hard drives, and cloud storage services. The more advanced the world gets, the harder it seems to be to keep everything together.

How to Stay Organized?

Tip 1: Invest in an advanced digital filing system, like Neat. It gives you one place to store all your important information, and helps make that information easier to find, use, and share with others.

Tip 2:  Set up your scanner near where you open your mail. Anything that’s worth keeping goes into the scanner, where it’s digitized. The information is safe, and the physical mail can go straight to the recycling bin.

Tip 3: Integrate organization into your routine. Make it a habit to find 30 minutes every week to file away your important documents. Don’t let the pile grow!

Benefits of Using A Digitized Scanning Solution

  • When it’s time to find that important piece of mail, just sign into your computer, phone or cloud and it’s there. No more rifling through piles of paper or trying to remember where you stashed something “so you wouldn’t lose it.”
  • It’s easy to use and include in your routine!
  • The time savings are immense. Once you begin using a digitized scanning solution, you will free up additional time almost immediately.

The Neat Solution: Smarter than the Average Scannerneat_logo

Neat does more than just store and organize your documents. It actively parses the information you send it, pulling key information like contact info from business cards or tax amount, total, and vendor name from receipts. This information becomes easy to use – export it to other programs, instantly generate expense reports, and more. Just try doing that with paper.

It doesn’t matter if your information comes from paper or from a digital source; everything has a home in Neat. Between their smart scanners and their easy-to-use cloud service, Neat gives you a way to get everything into the same database. That means whether you need to find a digital receipt, a scanned copy of an invoice, or whatever else – if it’s important, you’ll know it’s in Neat.

 

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8 Online Store Mistakes that Can Turn Off Shoppers

May 14th, 2014 Comments off
Couple In Kitchen Using Laptop with Yellow Oops Road Sign on the Screen.

Don’t let these common shopping cart mistakes turn away shoppers from your site

It’s essential to inspect and evaluate your online store every now and then. You never know when you’re doing something wrong or missing out on something important that’s making you lose a huge amount of traffic and potential profit every single day.

Here’s a wake-up call to alert you on common online store mistakes that actually turn off shoppers.

Mistake #1 – Not Having a Contact Page
This may sound like a far-off mistake for many online entrepreneurs. But if you’re a newbie in the biz, there’s a great chance you were not able to include a contact page in your online store. Perhaps the details are there somewhere in your website, but there’s no separate or dedicated contact page.

Even if you’re running your business from your own home, you should at least mention the city and state and provide a valid phone number with voice mail service. This way, shoppers are more assured that you’re a legit site.

Mistake #2 – Showing Distorted Photos
Even if you used a professional camera and originally had spectacular photos of your products, if you don’t resize them to suit the thumbnails or required size on your store, they won’t appear so spectacular after they’re uploaded. They might actually look distorted or stretched, surely turning off customers.

Remember that visuals are BIG when it comes to online businesses. Make sure to resize your photos to be a perfect fit. Check them out before publishing.

Mistake #3 – Having a Slow Responding Website
Many are not aware that the leading cause of a slow responding online store is high resolution pictures. Of course you want your photos to look professional, but this can be done even without the use of large files! Some stores make use of 2MB photos which appear really good and do not cause any delays when visitors click on tabs or move from one picture to another. A lengthy loading time can bore and exasperate shoppers, especially if they actually have good Internet connection in the first place.

Mistake #4 – Forgetting to Renew Your SSL Certificate
How would you feel if you visited a website and got the “This Connection is Untrusted” sign? Definitely frustrated and turned off. New visitors will especially tend to head on over to your competitors’ websites! Even returning customers may get ticked off.

This happens when you don’t renew your SSL certificate. People are likely to find your business suspicious and will not want to buy anything from your store. Furthermore, there’s a risk on the personal information released by buyers because of the unencrypted data.

Mistake #5 – Including Plenty of Pop-Ups
What’s another reason to turn off shoppers? Annoying pop-ups! It’s like having a poster flashed onto your face or a billboard spring up from the floor without warning while you’re looking through the items in a physical shop. Now that can be a major turn-off, especially if it occurs more than once or if web users can’t even find the X button easily.

Mistake #6 – Requiring Registration Upon Checkout
When a customer is about to pay for an item but is asked first to fill out a registration form upon checkout, there’s a great chance that he or she will just leave. You don’t want to risk this, right? So it’s definitely better to provide the option to check out as a guest rather than lose a sale.

Mistake #7 – Presenting a Lot of Confusing Buttons to Click
Many merchants love offering a one-click checkout option, which customers have repeatedly appreciated. When you have plenty of options, each one with an individual button, it can get confusing and overwhelming. Even if you offer different payment methods, it’s essential to keep everything clean and simple.

Mistake #8 – Utilizing a No-Charge Shopping Cart Software
Some start-up companies and newbie entrepreneurs on the Internet opt to use a free shopping cart software online. It’s definitely a turn-off because you won’t seem so legit and professional in the eyes of shoppers. Furthermore, there are numerous wonderful features you’ll be missing out on which can significantly boost the experience for your store visitors.

You’re fortunate to have gone through these common mistakes that many online store owners have committed in the past. At least you can make sure to avoid them in order to increase traffic to your store, improve your conversion rate, and boost your online reputation.

logo_3dcartJoe Palko is the CMO of 3dcart. Prior to joining 3dcart in 2011, Joe was a true internet pioneer co-founding his first e-commerce website in 1994 which later sold to America’s largest mail order pet supply retailer in 2007. Joe also co-founded Solid Cactus in 2001, which was later sold to the Web.com Group in 2009.

Stamps.com NOT AFFECTED by the Heartbleed Bug

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

blog_heartbleed-247x300Last week (April 7, 2014) a serious security vulnerability called Heartbleed (http://heartbleed.com) was announced regarding OpenSSL which is software widely used to support secure Internet services.

In response to notification of the vulnerability, Stamps.com reviewed all of our sites and applications and found NONE of our systems are vulnerable to this security issue.

Very few of our sites use the OpenSSL software and those that do are not running versions of the software vulnerable to Heartbleed.

Need more info? Get it at http://heartbleed.com/

5 Ways to Make Your Freelance Business Look More Professional

July 9th, 2013 Comments off

blog_freelancerIf you have a specific, marketable skill, you can build a business by doing freelance work for businesses and individuals. Getting your freelance business off the ground takes a lot of networking, personal marketing, and chutzpah. You can increase your credibility to potential clients by adding these professional elements to your business communications.

#1 Upgrade Your Phone System

Your clients need several different ways to get in contact with you. Even if you complete your work entirely online, clients will want to contact you by telephone. Instead of directing them to your home phone line, install a separate line specifically for your business. Having a business phone number that differs from your mobile and home phone lines gives your business an air of professionalism that can be difficult to attain as a freelance worker.

  • VoIP small business phone systems can be very affordable while offering you big-business features like caller ID and directories, conference and multiparty calls, and call parking, transfer, forwarding, and hold.

#2 Hire a Virtual Assistant

Companies may outsource projects to your consulting business – and you, in turn, can outsource some of your own administrative functions. Hire a virtual assistant to handle your business calls, take messages, and divert calls to your mobile phone as needed.

  • Since your virtual assistant may work for several clients at once, you only pay for the work they do for you – a much cheaper option than having an in-house receptionist to handle your low volume of incoming calls.

#3 Use Your Website Email Address

Are you emailing your customers and business associates from a free email client? Don’t. For just a few dollars, purchase a domain for your business and set up an email address and website. Not only is this more professional, but it also is good preparation for the future, as many free email clients begin to shut down their services.

If you run your freelance business from home, consider renting a PO Box for your business  instead of using your residential address. Or, you can take advantage of new mail services that enable you to use an actual street address (“105 Main Street,” for example) in place of a PO Box number.

#4 Change How You Send Your Postal Mail

Speaking of mail – how many pieces of mail do you send out per day, week, or month? If you find yourself repeatedly running to the post office, hand-addressing envelopes until you get a cramp, or using the latest novelty stamps plastered with images of characters from “The Simpsons,” you may benefit from using custom online postage instead.

  • Print your postage online or order custom stamps to be delivered straight to your door.

#5 Your Website & Social Profiles

The first thing a potential client or customer will do when looking for your business is search for your online presence. Fill your website and social media profiles with relevant content, company information, and, most importantly, contact information. They don’t have to be fancy – but they have to be current, functional, and informative.

When you run a freelance business, the most important thing you do is communicate. If your communications – online, over the phone, and through the mail – are unprofessional, that will have a negative effect on your ability to attract and keep clients. Make your communications more professional, and watch your business grow.

blog_272x77_resource-nationMegan Webb-Morgan is a business blogger, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from social technology to online marketing. She writes for ResourceNation.com, a B2B lead generation company. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Image: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Successful Small Businesses Use Twitter – Part 2

May 28th, 2013 Comments off

blog_twitter-for-small-business-3In the part one of this Twitter marketing for small business series, we covered how to choose a username, how to write your bio and the one tip that will guarantee your success. In part two, we’re getting more in-depth with eight suggestions for tweets, how to gain more followers, how to handle customer complaints, and how to measure success.

What to tweet
The most important strategy for Twitter content is to vary your content. Avoid too much self-promotion to the exclusion of being helpful to your customers. Also, keep in mind that tweets under 120 characters are the most effective (they allow for retweets and comments).

Here are eight suggested topics:

  • A coupon code or special discount for your followers
  • A look behind the scenes of your operation
  • Tips for your customers (drawing on your subject matter expertise)
  • Positive press or news stories
  • The human side of your team/employees
  • Customer spotlights
  • Industry news
  • Best practices for your industry

How to gain more followers
Remember that Twitter is not all about you – it’s about community. The Twitter accounts with the most followers commit to a regular schedule and post at least once a day. Think about what you’re tweeting and ask yourself if it’s “share worthy.” Consider when your customers are most likely to be online as you time your posts. Finally, don’t forget to follow your customers, your employees, and industry leaders. Following often (but not always) means that users will follow you back.


Troubleshooting: How to handle complaints
Businesses can use Twitter as a customer retention tool, spotting unhappy customers and solving their problems. Sometimes customers take to Twitter to complain about a negative customer service experience. You’ll want to respond to those people. Think of it as an opportunity. When responding, express concern and offer a solution. Most customers just want to be heard, and may even tweet about how you rectified the problem (which is good press for you).

How to measure success
A good way to start is by using social media tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to help with tracking, engagement, and marketing on Twitter. Then, decide what your goals are. If your goal is to increase brand awareness and build buzz about your offerings, you’ll want to pay attention to your interaction count (@ replies and retweets). If your goal is to drive traffic to your website or store, you’ll want to pay attention to click-thru rates.

Consider these metrics to measure your success:

  • Number of quality interactions (retweets, favorites, @ mentions, lists)
  • Number of clicks (and clicks that convert to customers)
  • Tracking your hashtag

There’s never been a better time to integrate Twitter into your marketing strategy for your small business. Now that you have the tools, start brainstorming potential tweets, following your customers, resolving customer complaints, and tracking your Twitter success!

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