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11 Important Small Business Tools You Can’t Live Without

Small Business Tools

Find the right small business tools to boost your profits

Small Business Tools Big businesses have IT budgets that enable them to blow their competition out of the water. As a small business with little to no money to spare, you may think that the productivity benefits of top-notch software are out of your reach. However, you have a surprise in store. Read through this list of small business tools to discover that there are plenty of IT packages suited to small businesses and many of them are free.

1) Google Analytics

If you have a website for your business, you may be wondering why it isn’t bringing you all the business success you read about other small businesses enjoying. Businesses that get their webpages on the first page of search engine results are more likely to win customers, because most search engine users rarely look beyond the first page of results. Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, so tuning your site to rank highly on that search engine will get you noticed by your target market. The secret to the success for any website hoping to get on page one lies in modifying the characteristics of the site, and you can get an analysis of your webpages for free by signing up for Google Analytics. Your competitors may already be using the small business tools provided by Google Analytics, so sign up, and get back in the race.

2) MailChimp

An email campaign is a great way to convert interested visitors to your site into buyers. You can build customer loyalty by sending regular newsletters by email to highlight special offers and events at your company. All the big businesses use email campaigns to improve their sales, and small businesses can harness this technique at little to no cost. MailChimp is a free email management system that enables you to include graphics and special fonts in your emails. These email-related small business tools help you manage your mailing lists and sequence your sales campaigns. The service includes paid high-volume versions, but the free version gives sufficient capacity for any small business.

3) Skype

Skype is an online telephone company that also offers video calling and chat messaging. You can sign up for free and then print your Skype username on your business stationery. If you keep Skype running on your computer in your store or office, potential customers can contact you for free. If you subscribe, you can make calls to landlines and cell phones, and you can even buy a Skype handset, so the process of making a Skype call is the same as any regular call.

4) Jira

Jira is an online project management environment. It is organized as a collection of small business tools that enable you to pull together a disparate or peripatetic team. You can assign tasks, set deadlines, and hold your project documents in a central store. There is a subscription fee for the tool, but you can also have a go with the free version.

5) Evernote

This package of small business tools is mainly designed to help you keep all your research notes for a project in one place. You can also derive presentations from the data you gather or the designs you create in Evernote. This tool would be especially useful for a sole consultant or for artisans such as furniture makers, shop fitters, plumbers, and electricians.

6) LastPass

LastPass is a simple small business tool to keep track of your passwords. You download the program onto your computer, and it logs your usernames and passwords as you go about your daily business. The program maintains a vault of this information and autofills login details when you return to the sites for which it has recorded details. You can use the paid version to generate passwords and enforce security on shared documents that have to be accessed by a team.

7) FreshBooks

Big businesses use Enterprise Resource Planning to tie their invoicing, bill payments, and expenditures into their bookkeeping system. FreshBooks provides small business tools that cover the invoicing and expenses part of that same concept at a fraction of the cost. You can tie the program into QuickBooks to close the loop and feed your invoicing and expense reports directly into your accounts.

8) Expensify

Like FreshBooks, Expensify provides small business tools that cover the process of logging expenses. Expensify doesn’t have the invoicing capabilities of FreshBooks, but it has something that every consultant and freelancer would love—a receipt scanning tool. Anyone who has had a job that includes the payment of expenses knows what a pain it is keeping track of all those little bits of paper. With Expensify, you can scan the receipt the minute you get it.

9) Get Satisfaction

If you have a website for your business, you probably have a “Contact Us” page, and you may even have a Web form where customers can enter a message. Get Satisfaction takes customer contact functions one stage further. You set up a community page, which is a little bit like a Facebook profile, but on your own website. Through this, you can allow customers of your products to give each other tips, and you can also put your customer service team on the system to answer questions raised by potential and seasoned buyers. This concept helps sales conversion and encourages repeat business.

10) Intelius

Any small business sometimes needs to do background checks on employees and associates. Intelius is an online people finder, but the website also includes a number of small business tools. You can do background checks on potential employees to see whether they have a criminal record or whether they have created trouble with customers at their previous place of employment. The company also offers identity theft protection, which can help protect your customers’ details and prevent fraudsters from damaging your business.

11) Inklyo

We couldn’t resist adding ourselves in here because every business can use some help with writing. Whether you want to learn how to write persuasive marketing copy or help your employees improve their communication skills, Inklyo has a course that will fit your business’s needs.

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Sloppy English Grammar Can Lose You Business

Sloppy English Grammar Can Lose You Business

Poorly written promotions backfire

Sloppy English Grammar Can Lose You BusinessA browse through the site Engrish.com will highlight the frequently amusing mistakes foreign companies make when trying to tackle English in their promotional material. The many Far-Eastern production companies that Engrish.com derides are owned and staffed by non-English speakers who have no knowledge of their translators’ abilities and qualifications. British, American, Canadian, New Zealand, and South African companies, however, do not have these disadvantages and should take care that their written communications are properly spelled and grammatically correct. Poorly written articles and advertisements cause businesses to lose customers, and this can diminish a company’s profit line.

Who notices

A 2013 study by Global Lingo found that 59 percent of British speakers disregarded the products of companies that had spelling mistakes in their advertising and on their websites. In the Global Lingo survey, 74 percent of respondents said that they noticed spelling and grammatical errors on webpages. The survey found the commercial impact of poor spelling and grammar was particularly severe for foreign companies that posted badly translated copy, with 82 percent of respondents ceasing to browse on poorly translated websites.

In May 2014, the UK’s Office for National Statistics estimated that the UK’s weekly online sales were 716 million pounds. In 2013, Statistics Canada estimated total online sales in Canada to be 136 billion Canadian dollars; similarly, retail e-purchases in the USA topped 210 billion dollars. Any business that thinks it can get away with poorly spelled web copy should wake up and smell the JavaScript.

Poor spelling and grammar undermine credibility. Shoppers are less prepared to trust their credit card details to people with low standards. Company websites riddled with spelling errors create distrust in the company’s ability to keep private credit card and personal information secure. Online daters are also among those who value good grammar. A study found that 43 percent of people who used online dating websites found bad grammar to be off-putting, with 35 percent considering good grammar an attraction. So, it seems grammar is crucial to both your business and personal relationships.

Poor grammar

Karen Ashford, Marketing Manager at Scribendi.com, observes, “The basic grammar training taught in schools and colleges is not up to snuff, and with the change in our communication landscape, it’s more important than ever to ensure staff are trained properly in the workforce.” Ms. Ashford knows what she is talking about—Scribendi.com is a successful online editing and proofreading service based in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada. Her opinion of the standards of grammar in the schools of the English-speaking world is reinforced by a study by the UK’s Confederation of Business and Industry. A survey of their members found that 42 percent of employers were not satisfied with the basic reading and writing skills of their employees, with almost half reporting that they have had to invest in training to get their staff’s skills up to a satisfactory level.

Solutions

Online retailers put their staff under pressure to produce cost-effective copy. Many may balk at the cost of sending staff to training courses to improve the standard of their written English. The lost man hours alone are a disincentive to enroll staff in training. There are, however, a few alternatives that businesses of different sizes may find viable for their specific needs and standards.

Companies with small or highly elastic volumes of written output might better utilize their budgets by outsourcing all their editing and proofreading needs to an online service. These services can be accessed from anywhere in the world without having to rely on the postal service.

Alternatively, companies can train staffers in grammar, editing, and proofreading so they can write more effectively from the start. These workers would not need to take time out of their regular working life to travel away to a training college; they can enroll in an online grammar course. The courses offered by this site cost just 39 USD dollars per person, with discounts offered to corporations based on volume. Staff members can access the training from their regular office desk without having to excuse themselves from the business for days at a time.

If your company has not started to improve the grammar skills of its staff, it is probably losing online sales and damaging its credibility. The World Wide Web is your company’s shop window. Do not leave it streaky.

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The Top 4 Webinar Tools for Businesses

The Top 4 Webinar Tools for Businesses

Even high street businesses can benefit from webinar tools

The Top 4 Webinar Tools for BusinessesA webinar is a way to conduct sales meetings, training courses, customer support, or collaborative work. It is a form of video conferencing that enables you to lecture or chat interactively with an audience that logs in from remote locations. You don’t have to be an online business and you don’t even need to have a website to use webinar tools. With new services entering the webinar tools market every day, you have plenty of options to choose from. This roundup highlights some of the best webinar tools available today. Choose one to enhance your company’s communications with customers, suppliers, and associates.

1) Go To Meeting

Go to Meeting is a video conferencing platform that allows you to invite up to 100 attendees and broadcast live and interactively. The platform can be accessed via a smartphone, so the attendees don’t need to be sitting at their desk. You can communicate by voice only or choose to show a video from your webcam. The platform includes a number of presentation and drawing tools, but you can also switch the display to your computer screen, which enables you to broadcast output from your favorite presentation software. Go to Meeting will broadcast your webcam and your presentation to all attendees, unless you enable breakout sessions with subgroups interacting with one another. You can also record your session for rebroadcast at a later date. These webinar tools are particularly suited to corporate communication in such areas as internal news and conferencing, sales conferences, technical conferences, and work collaboration. This webinar tool offers the most functionality and is easiest to use of the bunch.

2) Fuse

One great feature of Fuse is that you don’t have to pay for it. This webinar tool comes in three types: Free, Pro, and Enterprise. You can conduct webinars with the free version with up to 25 attendees. If you want to go up to 125 attendees per webinar, you would need to subscribe to the Pro version, where the cost starts at $8 per month. As with the Go to Meeting and Click Webinar webinar tools, you can communicate by voice, video, or screen capture.

3) Any Meeting

Like Fuse webinar tools, Any Meeting has a free version. The Any Meeting free plan is advertisement-supported and includes voice, video, and screen-sharing methods of communication. You can have up to 200 attendees at one of your webinars conducted with the free version of Any Meeting. The two paid plans are called Pro 25 and Pro 200. Both offer more features than the free version. For example, you can record your webinar only if you broadcast on one of the Pro plans. The Pro 25 plan allows up to 25 attendees at each webinar and costs $18 per month. You can have up to 200 attendees with the Pro 200 plan, which costs $78 per month.

4) Click Webinar

Click Webinar offers webinar tools as part of the Click Meeting platform. This service is a great medium for offering training courses and can even translate the written communication that goes on in its chat windows. You can broadcast in either speech or video, and you can switch to a view of your desktop to present slides and technical data. Click Webinar also has a record function, so you can replay your webinar to future visitors to your site. Click Webinar includes analysis reports that detail how many people attended your webinar and the changes in attendance as the webinar proceeded. This information will enable you to examine your scripts and rewrite any sections that seem to be losing you attendees.

Which One?

You may be daunted by the variety of webinar tools available. The best way to approach the selection process is to focus on your exact needs and then try the free version of each of the services listed here. Once you have become familiar with the features of each service, you will be in a better position to plan your webinar strategy.

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10 Things Unhappy People Do Not Do

10 Things Unhappy People Do Not Do

10 Things Unhappy People Do Not Do There are so many self-help books and articles out there for people who seek happiness. They advise their readers to live kind, balanced lives—or so they say. They encourage meditating, and donating to charity, and avoiding gossip at all costs. They tell their readers to wake up, exercise, and eat a well-balanced breakfast, all before eight a.m. They advise kindness, and calmness, and preparedness, and acceptance, and flossing. Basically, these books and articles tell people that the key to happiness is being a flawless superhuman.

But what about those of us who don’t strive to be perfect? What about the people who can honestly find contentment with a bag of Cheetos, a beer, and a golden retriever to snuggle with on a Friday evening? What about the people who just want to go to bed each night with a smile on their faces? What are the really important things a person has to do to be happy?

This isn’t a “how to be happy” list. This is a “how to be a balanced human” list. Because, really, balance is what most people sorely lack in their lives, and it’s what they will never find if they are constantly striving to become “happy.” Here are 10 things that unhappy people don’t do and the reasons why doing these things may just make an unhappy person happier. Not happy, as in perfectly content with everything ever, but happier. Hopefully, you’ll read this list and realize that you’re doing all right. Maybe you’ll learn a few things and decide to make some changes.

1. Unhappy people don’t say thank you

Saying thank you—and, more importantly, meaning it—has actually been proven to make people happier. Feeling and expressing gratitude is a win for everyone involved. The person being thanked feels happy for being appreciated, and the person doing the thanking feels good for making the other person happy. So if you’re ever feeling down, ask yourself: Have I been acting like a jerk lately? If the answer is yes, the odds are pretty good that this behavior is affecting more than just the people you’re being rude to; it’s also making you unhappy.

2. Unhappy people don’t take active roles in their relationships

It’s all well and good to have lots of friends and family members, but if you never make an effort to work on or maintain those relationships, you won’t be getting nearly as much out of them as you could be. This is one of several examples of ways that being nice to others can benefit you.

3. Unhappy people don’t pray or meditate

Don’t get us wrong—prayer and meditation are not for everyone. You don’t have to be a member of an organized religion to be happy. The real issue here is spirituality and finding peace. Maybe you need to write in a journal, or play the violin, or paint. Whatever you need to do to get in touch with something beyond the physical world and to find some peace of mind, do it.

4. Unhappy people don’t change the things that make them unhappy

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” These wise words from a famous fictional high school student couldn’t be truer. Getting stuck in an unwanted situation can be a cause of unhappiness for many people. The solution to this problem is simple: change. Now, we’re not suggesting you skip school, steal your friend’s father’s sports car (now that’s a mouthful of possessives!), and lip sync to the Beatles in a parade. All we’re saying is that change, scary as it may be, can be good for you.

5. Unhappy people don’t give gifts

Remember earlier, when we mentioned that being nice to others is really good for a person’s happiness? Well, here we are again. Being stingy never helped anyone. Being realistically generous makes other people thankful, and making other people thankful makes you happy. Isn’t that great?

6. Unhappy people don’t sleep like normal humans

Okay, so this isn’t exactly true for everyone, but good sleep habits are associated with greater levels of happiness. Even though many university and college students have managed to live the nocturnal life for years on end, this is not how humans are actually wired. Try to sleep at night, and stay awake (and relatively productive) throughout the day.

7. Unhappy people don’t laugh as much

Contrary to popular hipster belief, finding funny things funny actually is cool. You know what else is cool? People who can laugh at themselves. Finding the humor in your own life is a great coping mechanism, and people who can cope are people who can be happy.

8. Unhappy people don’t manage their money well

Ugh, money. Nobody likes to admit that money is related to happiness. We would all like to believe that we are beyond the materialistic joys of life, but let’s be real here: being in debt sucks. The stress of being unable to pay off debt or, you know, to provide yourself with the basic needs of living is obviously a huge happiness-sucker. It’s nearly impossible to concern yourself with happiness when you’re busy trying to figure out how to feed yourself or keep a roof over your head. So while money doesn’t buy happiness, it does allow us to focus on happiness.

9. Unhappy people don’t let things go

At the 2014 Academy Awards, John Travolta absolutely botched Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her performance. The Internet exploded with references to the performer Travolta introduced as “Adele Dazeem.” Now, Idina could have been pretty ticked about that, considering her performance was kind of a big deal and her role in Frozen was kind of her first big Hollywood “moment.” But what did she do? She let it go. (See what we did there?) And you know what? She seems like a pretty happy lady.

10. Unhappy people don’t exercise

We know, we know! Much like you were hoping to lose that winter weight you’ve been meaning to get rid of for the past five years without working out, you were probably also hoping to skip the whole physical exercise thing on your quest to happiness. But the fact of the matter is, your brain is connected to your body; treat one well, and the other will benefit.

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