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Top 5 Human Resource Tools

Top 5 Human Resource Tools

HR tools can reduce your hiring and staff management costs

Top 5 Human Resource ToolsFew small businesses can afford the overhead of a dedicated HR department. Although the absence of this admin function from the office is a cost saver, it does mean that small businesses often fail to plan their HR requirements properly and can create ill will among staff through the haphazard treatment of HR functions such as pay and sick leave. Incompetent HR management can lead to production limits and uncooperative staff. Fortunately, there are a number of online HR tools that can help the busy business manager cope with the demands of HR needs. Here are five of the best HR tools currently available.

1) The Resumator

The Resumator automates the hiring process. It integrates with your email system, enables you to post job vacancies on a list of well-known employment websites, and then reads through and parses arriving resumes sent in PDF or Word formats. You can also post jobs on social media platforms through this HR tool or have your own jobs webpages, which The Resumator will host for you. The system also sets up workflows, which give you a schedule by which to complete the necessary steps the hiring process requires. However, you would need to have a fast turnover of staff or operate an employment agency to justify the cost of operating The Resumator. The system is available only on a monthly subscription; therefore, if you hire only one or two people a year for your small business, you probably wouldn’t require the unlimited capacity this HR tool offers. If you do have a regular staff intake, you can add “onboarding” and training modules to the basic HR tool for an additional fee.

2) Zenefits

Zenefits covers the operational aspects of HR. It keeps employee records, calculates payroll, and manages tax, insurance, disability, and compensation payments. The system records time sheets and logs employee attendance. Payments to employees can include a range of benefits, such as stock options. As you would expect with all that operational data going into the system, Zenefits is also able to produce a range of reports to help you file taxes and analyze resource utilization. This is a very comprehensive HR tool, but it is specifically written to comply with US taxation and employment law, so Canadian, British, or Australian readers are unlikely to benefit from Zenefits.

3) Upwork

Small businesses need to be quick on their feet. Web-based companies often have short-term requirements for programmers and content creators that do not justify hiring long-term employees. Rather than paying top whack for a consultant, you should check out Upwork to source specialist skills from freelancers. Many of the skilled workers who work through Upwork live in remote locations and like to telecommute. The benefit of this method of employment to you is that you don’t need to provide equipment or office space for these short-term workers. You don’t have to worry about the overhead cost of bringing in a specialist from far afield, either. This HR tool is more than just a job board; you can track goals and work hours through the system and even make payments to the freelancers. Upwork charges freelancers 10 percent of their fees, and you don’t have to pay anything for the service.

4) Staff Squared

The payroll functions of Zenefits are specifically written to cater to a US customer base. Staff Squared is very similar to Zenefits, but it does not cover payroll. Therefore, it is suitable for use by companies both outside and inside the United States. This is a cloud-based HR tool, so you don’t have to worry about losing data if your system crashes. The remote storage of your HR records also means that you can access your HR files from anywhere, so if you take a day working from home, you can still perform all your HR tasks. Staff Squared has an employee interface that mediates requests, such as vacation and shift change requests. The requests get directed to the relevant manager via email for approval. The system is charged on a subscription basis and is US $4.50 per month, per user. Unfortunately, because every employee needs to access the system for functions such as time-off requests, every staff member is counted as a user; thus, if you have a lot of staff, it could get pricey. You can try this HR tool for free for 14 days.

5) Jobatar

If you are fully stretched running your business, you may not have the time to dedicate a full day to interviewing applicants for a vacancy. Jobatar has a solution to this problem. This HR tool is an interviewing scheme. You record questions for interviewees and then send them invites to access the questions and record answers. The interviewees are recorded through the webcam of their PC or laptop, and then you can view each respondent whenever you have the time. You don’t have to be in the office to review the interviews because the system can be accessed from tablets and smartphones. Therefore, if you are always on the move in your job, this HR tool should tie in with your lifestyle.

HR solutions for small businesses

These new HR tools mean that small business owners can better manage their HR functions themselves without needing to have an HR manager on the team. After reviewing each of these HR tools, consider whether any of them could help you manage your own staff more effectively.

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Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

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Top 6 Business Tools

Top 6 Business Tools

Improve your efficiency with the latest business tools

Top 6 Business ToolsWhether you are a sole trader or a growing concern, chances are that you never seem to have enough time to complete all the tasks your business demands. Technology helps the entrepreneur expand his or her efficiency to stretch those precious hours. You can improve your own productivity and that of your enterprise by employing the latest business tools. This list covers six handy services and apps that will solve the problems you face in your working day.

1) Fuze

New businesses pop up everywhere. You don’t need to pay high rental fees for big-city offices to be a success. However, every salesperson and product designer will tell you there is no substitute for face-to-face contact, and getting to meetings with faraway customers can be time-consuming and expensive. If you feel that email contact isn’t enough and you want to work with collaborators and customers all over the world, consider using a video-conferencing business tool. Thanks to improvements in broadband speed, video conferencing is now a very effective way to get face-to-face contact without having to travel. The Fuze video-conferencing system offers HD-quality video and sound. Best of all, there is a free version.

2) DudaMobile

The biggest trend in web access during 2014 was the shift from access through desktops and laptops to access via smartphones and tablets. Since January 2014, more Internet access time in the U.S. has come from mobile devices than from desktops and laptops. That fact sent big Internet companies, such as Google and Amazon, scrambling to produce mobile-friendly versions of their sites. The IDG Global Mobile Survey 2014 found that 77 percent of executives use a mobile device to research products and services, which shows that you need to get a mobile-formatted version of your site prepared. Small screens require different layouts compared with those traditionally used for webpages, and getting an expert to produce your mobile version can be expensive. DudaMobile is a business tool that enables you to quickly create a mobile-friendly site for your business via a series of templates and apps. You can also add “click to call” buttons and interactive maps to help boost your conversion rates.

3) MailBox

Many entrepreneurs find they now access their emails from their phone more often than from their desktop computer. MailBox is an email system specifically written for smartphones. This mail app business tool is formatted to be mobile friendly and includes some special features. It learns your habits and sets priorities for emails from those senders that it notices you access immediately, and it gives less priority to emails from senders you tend to ignore.

4) Tripit

Tripit “automagically” converts all your travel-booking confirmation emails into a travel itinerary. If you have ever gone on a business trip to a conference or seminar, or made a customer visit, you know there is enough to worry about, such as making sure you have all your notes, brochures, and samples organized, without having to keep track of all the printouts of hotel confirmations and electronic boarding cards. The Tripit business tool can be accessed from a range of devices and is even available on your phone or laptop when you do not have Internet access.

5) CrashPlan

You are legally required to keep sales and employment records for a number of years, depending on the nature of the data. However, you do not have to store all the original paper documents to comply with these requirements. Still, if you digitize your records and your computer crashes, wiping out everything, you could be in big trouble. Therefore, it is very important to back up all data, although having a backup device on your premises is a bad idea. If your office gets robbed, the thieves are likely to take any USB memory sticks they find, along with the computers. Fortunately, many online-data backup business tools are now available. CrashPlan offers cloud-based storage that enables you to back up all your data on the Internet and protects your business from data loss.

6) LastPass

Every website and online service that requires a log-in advises you to choose a password that is different from those you use for other services. Having the same password for everything would enable a data or identity thief to get access to all of your business’s online services after learning that one word. However, keeping track of all the different passwords you need to log in to all of your essential services can be a headache, and you certainly shouldn’t write down a list of them. LastPass fixes this problem by providing a secure list that is password-protected. You write all of your passwords into the system, and then it logs you in to each site you visit, prompting you only for your LastPass password. With this business tool, you only need to remember one password.

Mobile world

These six essential business tools will enable you to run your business even when you are on the move. Savvy entrepreneurs know that acquiring and adapting to new technology provides a business edge that improves productivity. The rapid proliferation of mobile-friendly business tools shows just how important it is for your business to have a website that can be accessed from a mobile device. The World Wide Web is going mobile. Make sure your business doesn’t get left behind.

Image source: Orla/BigStockPhoto.com

 

Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

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4 Online Marketing Tools to Enhance Your Brand

Boost your online presence and find more clients

Online Marketing ToolsIf you run a business, then you already understand the importance of marketing.

Nowadays, marketing is more than cold calling or direct mail campaigns. To really make an impression, you need to establish a solid online presence and a high level of engagement with your audience. This involves leveraging social media, blogging, email campaigns, and more.

That’s a lot to do for any business. These four online marketing tools will help simplify your efforts and make you feel more confident about your relationships with clients.

1) Infusionsoft

Infusionsoft combines the best of online marketing into one easy-to-use tool. With Infusionsoft, you’ll receive different resources for selling, content marketing, and building an email list.

Infusionsoft brings you closer to your contacts than ever before by allowing you to track their payment histories, lead scores, and email clicks. This information will help you tailor marketing efforts to a specific demographic, using Infusionsoft’s automated email tool.

Good marketers know that an attractive landing page helps entice more customers. Infusionsoft shows you how to optimize your landing page content and monitor lead sources on your website. With a solid focus on eCommerce, Infusionsoft will help you manage payments and close more sales.

If you’re overwhelmed by your workload, Infusionsoft has the tools you need. The interface makes it easy to schedule meetings, track appointments, and follow up with contacts in only a few clicks. It also includes seamless email integration, so you’ll never miss an important message from a client.

2) HubSpot

As one of the most effective lead generation strategies, inbound marketing can provide tons of organic traffic to your website. An industry leader, HubSpot delivers an exceptional inbound marketing platform that will make your interactions with clients more targeted and personal.

This accessible suite of tools lets you leverage your website, social media activity, and SEO to attract customers and convert more leads into sales. HubSpot provides detailed reports all in one place, and its emphasis on collaboration helps put you in sync with the rest of your team. Not only does HubSpot track website traffic and page performance, but it also provides data on email clicks. This information can help you create targeted emails, segmented lists, and timed posts across multiple media channels.

If blogging is more your style, HubSpot makes content creation easy. It provides beautiful templates, SEO tools, and an easy editor for blogging. The tool also automatically optimizes your blog for mobile devices so that your audience can always find and share your content.

3) Oktopost

If you’re a social media fan, you’ll want to check out Oktopost. Designed to meet the specific needs of business-to-business (B2B) marketers, Oktopost helps you manage all of your social media accounts at once.

With Oktopost, you can schedule posts across multiple channels and measure the performance of your content, including clicks and conversions. This information is essential for determining how well your marketing efforts match your bottom line.

Oktopost is also an expert in content curation. It automatically tracks mentions and suggests links to share, so you always have a way to engage with your audience. Oktopost’s social inbox collects comments on your posts in one place, allowing you to respond quickly to customers.

If you’re interested in Oktopost, you can get started with a free 30-day trial, or you can purchase one of four subscription plans. Buying a subscription provides additional user accounts and more detailed performance reports for your website.

4) SlideShare

SlideShare is a popular multimedia tool that takes content marketing to the next level. Using SlideShare, you can instantly upload presentations, documents, infographics, and PDFs. With millions of worldwide users, SlideShare is the perfect platform for sharing original content and promoting your brand.

As a marketing tool, SlideShare helps improve your reputation with search engines. By creating and posting quality content, you can increase your ranking on Google and drive more traffic to your website.

The most compelling SlideShare presentations offer something of value to their readers. Webinars,
how-to posts, and top 10 lists are especially popular because they are evergreen and easy to share on social media. Images and video clips will enhance your SlideShare content and make it more memorable for your audience.

Your presentation should be on a topic that is relevant to your business. It should also include a call to action that points readers to your website. SlideShare can help you generate a lot of great leads, provided you consistently produce high-quality content.

Online marketing tools put your business on the map

There’s no denying it—the marketing world moves quickly. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to leverage the right tools. With these four services in your toolkit, you’ll build brand awareness and nurture your leads more effectively than ever before.

 

Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

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Top 6 Technology Tools

Top 6 Technology Tools

Improve your website with the latest technology tools

Top 6 Technology ToolsYou might be pleased with your company’s website and think it is performing well, but do you know for sure? Even a website that brings in sales could be improved to bring in more sales. The only way to discover whether your website is doing the best possible job is to test its performance. This review covers the best technology tools that will help you improve the performance of your website by identifying your potential customers and asking them about the site. Word of mouth is an important sales tool, so you need to ensure your back-office functions and after-sales service are also maximized.

Until recently, to get product testing for your website, you would need to hire a marketing firm. However, new feedback technology, analytical services, and website traffic analysis services can do much of the work for you. Take a look at the top six technology tools that will help you improve your website.

1) UserTesting

The classic method of product testing involves gathering a group of typical people from your target market, getting them to use the product, and requesting their opinion. UserTesting offers analytical services that do exactly that with websites. No matter where your website is hosted, it is accessible throughout the world. You don’t need to go to the UserTesting offices. They communicate with you over the Internet. Because you can’t physically be there to witness the testing, the company creates videos of typical users moving around your site and then sends those videos to you. The tests are specifically based on an aspect of your site you want investigated; for example, you can determine whether users can find the FAQ page or whether the payment page is easy to use on a smartphone.

2) Mixpanel

Mixpanel is a technology tool that covers information similar to that provided by UserTesting. However, the data that is used by the analytical technology of Mixpanel is gathered from regular users of your site rather than from nominated test subjects. To use the feedback technology of this service, you have to install a set of programs on your web server. This enables you to request data on the behavior of your site’s visitors. The aim is to gather business intelligence on how people use your site, which gives more detailed information about your site’s strengths and weaknesses than a simple count of the number of people who visited each page. You get information from the system by assembling data queries from a series of drop-down option boxes. Mixpanel’s pricing structure is a monthly subscription payment. The analytical services track either a certain number of people or a certain number of data points in your site. The plans cost up to $2,000 per month, but there is a free version available.

3) Mint

Mint is similar to Mixpanel in that you install the technology tool on your web server. The program applies analytical technology to visits to your site, and you access the gathered business intelligence through a dashboard program. Mint is much cheaper than the paid version of Mixpanel. You pay a one-time fee of $30 when you install the technology tool on your site. However, the information you receive from the system is much less comprehensive than the data presented by Mixpanel.

4) Clicky

Clicky provides feedback technology through a range of technology tools, the list of which expands with increasingly more expensive plans. This analytical service has a much wider range of analysis options than Mint does and doesn’t require you to assemble queries of data to get business intelligence from the system. Clicky has a menu of pages, each of which presents a different graphic covering aspects of your site. All the information shown in the analysis includes live data, so the reports are up to the minute. A distinctive feature of Clicky is its Heatmap presentation of your webpages. This shows which features of each page attract the most clicks, by overlaying colored spots over the image of a particular page. The Heatmap feature is available only with the Pro Plus plan and more expensive plans. Pro Plus costs $14.99 per month, while the Pro plan, the cheapest paid plan, costs $9.99 per month. There is a free version, but it only allows you to monitor sites with daily page views of less than 3,000.

5) Kampyle

One of the most straightforward ways to get customer feedback is to ask for it. You can either put feedback buttons at various locations on your site or program a dialogue box asking for feedback. Kampyle specializes in the process of asking for customer feedback and interpreting the captured data. Feedback technology can be an effective method to get public opinion about your website’s performance.

6) Jira

You may have lost many customers in the past because you didn’t realize that your customer service methods weren’t good enough. The technology tools in this review may help you gain business intelligence into what is going wrong, but you can’t fix lousy procedures if you are prone to poor organization. A good work- and team-planning tool like Jira will help your improve your overall task management.

Implementation

The three key technology tools for website traffic analysis are Mint, Mixpanel, and Clicky. Each of these business intelligence tools can be installed and run without the need for additional technological capabilities. You could try the free version of Clicky and then progress to one of the paid plans once you become familiar with the tool. Once you have worked out how to analyze your site’s performance, you can ask for a second opinion by getting UserTesting to check the vital functions of your webpages. Adding feedback features through Kampyle will enable continuous feedback data to drive your website’s design. Implementing a task management tool for user support or project management should improve your customers’ opinions of your site. You can get started today with these technology tools and improve your site’s sales performance.

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Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

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Top 8 ECommerce Tools

Top 8 ECommerce Tools

ECommerce Tools That Will Get Your Business Online

Top 8 ECommerce ToolsPeople with the entrepreneurial spirit come up with great ideas, but then sometimes encounter technological and psychological barriers that stop them implementing these ideas. You may have turned your enthusiasm to eCommerce a few years ago, but then found it all too complicated and just given up. If this is the case, try again. There are many new eCommerce tools available now that will make your online enterprise a lot easier to set up.

You don’t have to be a computer genius to get an eCommerce shop going. In this review, you will read about eCommerce platforms, services, software, and shopping cart solutions. It takes time to get familiar with new systems, but this roundup of eCommerce solutions has done some of the groundwork for you by narrowing your search to the eight top eCommerce tools currently available.

1) Recurly

Getting people to subscribe to a service is a great way to tie in repeat business automatically. Services like investment tip sheets, diet plans, exercise regimes, and lifestyle coaching can be charged with monthly or yearly repeat billing. If that’s the type of business you are in, you should look into Recurly, an eCommerce platform specifically serving subscription businesses. They have credit card verification methods that minimize any impact you might suffer from fraud, and their confirmation procedures reduce incidences of canceled payments and chargebacks.

2) Shopify

Shopify offers a complete eCommerce solution. This platform hosts and helps you build your website, provides an online shopping cart, and processes payments. You can interface your Shopify site with PayPal and many other payment processing systems. Shopify integrates some of the best eCommerce software, and it has pretty much covered all the eCommerce tools you will need. They even offer an interface that enables you to use a Shopify screen instead of a point of sale (POS) system if you have a brick-and-mortar business as well as an online outlet.

3) Vendio

Vendio is very similar to Shopify, and you will need to examine each of their websites to decide between the two. Vendio places more stress on the fact that you can sell on eBay, Amazon, and Facebook through its system. You can do that with Shopify, too, but you have to dig a little deeper through its presentation to find this information, suggesting that Vendio gives those services a little more priority than Shopify.

4) Sift Science

Fraudsters win by gaming the eCommerce world—getting goods delivered and then demanding refunds from their credit cards without returning anything. A credit card refund, called a chargeback, can be made without your permission, and if you get hit with too many of them, credit card companies will withhold a large chunk of your revenue for a time. If the chargebacks continue, they will refuse to deal with you, and your business will be finished. Sift Science is a fraud detection system that analyses shoppers’ habits and prevents fraudsters from buying from your site. This will protect you from excessive chargebacks and unpaid deliveries. This eCommerce solution integrates with Shopify.

5) Google Adwords

Google offers a chance to get ahead in the search engine optimization game, right to the top of search results. This method is called Google AdWords. You may not be interested in paying for your slot on Google’s results, but signing up for Google AdWords is free. You can use it to research what keywords are popular at the moment. So, it is a useful eCommerce tool even if you never actually use it for advertising.

6) Open Cart

At first glance, Open Cart seems to be just an online shopping cart. However, it isn’t just that; it is a comprehensive eCommerce platform like Shopify and Vendio. Just like those other two eCommerce solutions for instant online shops, Open Cart integrates with payment processing and shipping companies such as PayPal and FedEx. If you already have your own domain and hosting package, Open Cart has one big advantage over Shopify and Vendio—it’s free.

7) Zendesk

Zendesk is a customer relationship management (CRM) system. CRM systems enable you to chat with potential customers to answer their questions about your products, and then you can provide support and help through those systems for after-sales service. Zendesk isn’t an eCommerce platform—you will still need an eCommerce solution, such as Vendio or Shopify, that has an online shopping cart included. Zendesk is more of an eCommerce service that you could add to your existing online store. This eCommerce tool can be integrated with Shopify.

8) IDChecker

IDChecker, like Sift Science, is an eCommerce tool for fraud prevention. This eCommerce service includes document and face scanning, which is performed through the buyer’s webcam. As with Sift Science, the motivation for integrating IDChecker into your online shop is to reduce the damage of chargebacks. A main benefit of IDChecker is its scalability and effectiveness for enterprises of all sizes.

Solutions

Starting an online business is an exciting venture, and you should take time to read through the descriptions of Shopify, Vendio, and Open Cart to see which of these three eCommerce platforms would work best for your products. If you sell subscriptions to your services, then you should consider Recurly for your billing method. Sift Science and IDChecker provide essential eCommerce services to prevent chargebacks and keep your business running. Google AdWords will help you analyze your market and target your advertising. Finally, eCommerce tools like Zendesk will encourage nervous shoppers to buy and increase word-of-mouth recommendations by making sure you help buyers fix problems with your products. Your eCommerce strategy just got a lot easier to plan.

Image source: Scanrail/BigStockPhoto.com

 

Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.
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Content Writing: Using Words to Benefit Your Business

Content Writing

How Content Writing Can Benefit You

Content WritingRunning a business is hard work. Some days, there is so much to do that it’s difficult to keep track of all the tasks you’re responsible for. Add to this the increasing demand for marketing yourself online, and you have one mighty to-do list. How can you find the time to reach out to your potential customers? That’s where content writing and marketing come into play. Writing content is a process that should be tackled continually over time. Making your content writing a regular part of your day can help this task feel like less of a burden, and it can also help you create more engaging content. Here are a few examples of ways to use your content marketing strategy to benefit your business.

Highlight the strengths of your business

Many businesses find it a struggle to communicate effectively with their target audience. Finding the time to produce a weekly newsletter or blog can help you reach out to both current and potential customers. Writing content can assist you in highlighting what you and your company do best. A content writing strategy can ensure that you stay on track while meeting your communication needs.

Ensure professional results

Establishing an online presence is not just a matter of purchasing a website domain. It requires knowledge of many areas of the online industry. To get the most out of your content writing efforts, you need to educate yourself about the basics of search engine optimization—that is, using tactics to drive traffic to your website. Although acquiring knowledge of website design is not an easy undertaking, it will be worth it to ensure you get the professional results you’re looking for.

Compete with big companies

Most big businesses can afford to outsource their content marketing. They may also spend a great deal of money on paid advertisements. However, not all businesses are large enough to support this kind of spending. The financial benefits of a content writing strategy mean you can focus on developing quality content to establish your brand over time. Your smaller budget doesn’t limit the level of expertise you can offer to your audience, just as it doesn’t take away from the quality of the services you provide. A content marketing strategy, when executed properly, can help you expand your brand to compete with big businesses without the added expense of paid advertisements.

An up-to-date strategy will help you avoid outdated content

One of the cardinal rules of website management is not allowing your content to get stale. Outdated content can be a huge hindrance to attracting readers and clients looking for fresh information. When your site looks old, it implies that your company either has a lack of organization or does not have sufficient resources to support itself. Making your content writing strategy an integral part of your business strategy means that someone is always keeping track of your website maintenance schedules. Keeping your website content current shows that you are relevant and worthy of the consideration of your site visitors.

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Top 5 Web Development Tools

Top 5 Web Development Tools.

Awesome web development tools to give your website an edge

Top 5 Web Development Tools.Developing a new website for your business is an exhilarating experience. You need to work through designs for all the pages your site needs and decide how visitors will move from one page to another. You may decide to pay for expert skills for the design, the build, or both. Custom web development is a fairly straightforward task, thanks to the wide range of web services and tools now available. You can do the web development and design yourself or use web development services. Whichever path you choose depends on your confidence and your computing skills.

A number of web services now offer online templates that automate the web development and design process, making custom web development a task that anyone can perform. Consider the web development tools outlined in this review before you decide whether you can tackle the job yourself.

1) Balsamiq

Balsamiq may influence your decision about whether to perform your own web development and design. This easy-to-use web service enables you to create mock-ups of your webpages. If you want to have the program on your computer so you can work with it offline, Balsamiq offers a downloadable version. Nowadays, you have to produce several different versions of your site because people may access it from desktop and laptop computers as well as smartphones. The mobile versions of your webpages will require different layouts because a phone screen is much smaller than a laptop screen. This makes custom web development a little more complicated than it was a few years ago. Creating mock-ups of your pages before the final build means you can test their appearance and get feedback from others on the look and feel of your new site before you go to the trouble of building it.

2) 99 designs

If you aren’t going to do your own web development and design, you need to find someone to do it for you. 99 designs enables web designers to showcase their abilities and pitch for work. You fill out an online form with your requirements and specify how much you are willing to pay. This information is then accessible to freelance web designers, who come up with a pitch and post their ideas for your project. The competition closes after seven days, and you pick the design you like the best. Don’t forget to specify that you need SEO web development, because that will get you search engine-friendly web services built into the submitted designs.

3) Amazon

You probably know Amazon as an online retailer. The company extended its platform from selling books to creating a marketplace for a wide range of products. Selling online requires many specialized web services, not just web development and design. For example, you will need a shopping cart and some form of payment processing. Amazon Web Services helps users of the Amazon platform set up their online shops through a series of web development tools. You can create your own pages online with the Amazon templates, which simplifies the decisions that must be made in custom web development. Amazon is highly experienced at web marketing, so you can be sure that its templates include search engine optimization, thus guaranteeing SEO web development for your enterprise. Another advantage of Amazon Web Services is that the company is so well known; plenty of blogs and web development and design advice sites can give you tips specifically related to using Amazon Web Services. Some small businesses, however, may find Amazon’s standardized design procedures too restrictive for their needs.

4) Wufoo

If you like the idea behind Amazon Web Services but want a little more originality in your web development and design, take a look at Wufoo. This company offers web development services similar to Amazon’s in that you can create your own pages using templates. However, one big limitation in Wufoo’s web development tool is that it is restricted to producing forms. Forms can be used not just to input data but also to display it. If you have a catalog of products, you can set up input forms that only you can access and then construct the main product pages of your site as forms to display search results based on the data you input into your database. But not every website needs input forms, and those that do have forms also need other pages that are not centered on forms. However, you can integrate your Wufoo forms into an Amazon shop. Websites are more than just the layout you see in the browser. Often there are complicated behind-the-scenes programs and databases at work in a webpage. Wufoo generates all these programs for you. Handling forms input, storing the input data, and accessing it is a complicated programming task, so if you need forms on your site, look into Wufoo.

5) Swiftype

Swiftype won’t help you with your web development and design, as it isn’t a web development tool; however, it is a search facility that you can integrate into your website. A search facility is more complicated than just an input field labeled “Search.” The search engine needs to index the site and record keywords against different points in your webpages. Swiftype stores this information on its own server, and the Search button on your site prompts a call to a program on its computer. This may slow the response of the search, depending on the performance of the Swiftype computer and the speed of the Internet connection when a user tries the function.

Considerations

If you are completely new to web development and design, Amazon Web Services is probably the best solution for your custom web development project. The limitations of design decisions in this system will actually help you get the job done, and the automatic integration of a shopping cart and payment processing simplifies the work you need to do to get your online shop running. If you don’t need to collect payments through your website but have a lot of products to display, you might be more interested in Wufoo’s web development services, where you get more design options but fewer services. The prototyping facilities of web development tools such as Balsamiq will enable you to test the usability and visual appeal of your planned webpage layouts. Remember to create mobile-friendly versions of all your pages, and check them out on a range of devices before settling on your design.

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Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

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Top 6 Online Tools for Operations

Top 6 Online Tools for Operations

Top 6 Online Tools for OperationsOperations management is the process of running the day-to-day functions of your business. Although these functions tend to be the main activities of a business, most small-business owners tend to slip into a routine and rarely examine these tasks to form an operations strategy. Taking just a little time to consider these things will enable you to identify operational weaknesses in your organization and start to think about what tools could assist you in improving the efficiency of your business processes.

New, cloud-based services can help any business save money and improve efficiency through proper operations management. You don’t have to be an online business to benefit from these online tools for operations. Take a look at this list of the latest tools for operations, and see whether any of these would fit your business’s needs.

1) Yammer

“Collaboration” is a buzzword in business at the moment. Basically, it means keeping team members informed. In the old days, managers would send endless streams of memos to keep everyone informed. The most recent method of collaboration is based on email systems. Yammer is a business collaboration platform that mimics social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Yammer is a cloud-based service, so your employees out in the field, such as the sales team, can access the network on their smartphones. You can also integrate the applications you use in your day-to-day operations. As Yammer is all about business collaboration, very small businesses would probably not find a social network like Yammer suitable for their operations strategy.

2) Carbonite

One service that no business should overlook is data backup. If your laptop gets stolen or your hard drive crashes, the loss of data could ruin your business. Carbonite is one of many cloud-based services specializing in data storage. A major benefit of Carbonite is that it is affordable and scalable. It is not one of those tools for operations that suit only multi-employee businesses. Sole traders and small businesses also need to build data recovery into their operations strategy, and Carbonite has a range of plans to suit all business sizes.

3) Trello

Trello is a business collaboration tool that could also be used by a sole trader for operation organization. The user assembles all the information for a project onto a board, which can then be accessed by others; it is a way of allocating tasks to a team or just gathering all your thoughts in one place. Because Trello is a cloud-based service, the boards you create can be accessed from any other device, including a tablet or a smartphone. So, if you are a decorator or a handyman, you can compose a library of guides and checklists at home or at the office and then access that information when you are out on site. Trello combines many tools for operations, such as a calendar for scheduling and a method for centralizing project documentation.

4) NetSuite

NetSuite is a big system that covers all operations management for a company. Its tools for operations include an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that covers financial functions, such as accounting, financial planning, order management, invoicing, and bill paying. The NetSuite ERP system is the world’s most implemented cloud-based service for operations management. It enables you to track inventory, order supplies, and write sales orders. The system also helps you ship packages and issue invoices to customers. The company also offers a customer relationship management (CRM) module that controls the customer contact aspects of operations management. NetSuite isn’t designed for small businesses—the NetSuite website only mentions midsize businesses and enterprises—so the product is less suitable for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

5) Deputy

Deputy is one of the tools for operations in this list that focuses on the workforce management aspects of your operations strategy. This is a cloud-based service, so information you post in your Deputy system can be accessed from mobile devices—making it a business collaboration platform as well as a scheduling and task allocation system. The operations management functions of Deputy are comprehensive. Nevertheless, sole traders or small partnerships probably wouldn’t benefit from the team management and business collaboration aspects of the system enough to justify Deputy’s expense. Consultancies and agencies, however, would find this a useful tool for operation organization.

6) AOMi

AOMi stands for Active Operations Management International, but you don’t need to be a multinational to run your operations management through this system. The “international” part of the name just refers to the fact that the company is active in many different countries. AOMi is probably the most targeted of the tools for operations in this list in that it doesn’t focus on business collaboration or form part of an ERP system. It is specifically targeted at supporting operations management. The AOM methodology focuses on staff allocation and goal setting. Many businesses overlook the concept of capacity when planning their operations strategy. AOMi starts with HR capacity, including the availability of in-house skills and outsourced services. If your business has many employees, or if you operate with independent contractors to fulfill your orders, you would benefit from the performance and resource utilization capabilities of this system.

Considerations

As you work through this list of reviews of tools for operations, you will probably see immediately which of these systems match the needs of your business. If you are a sole trader or a small business with very few employees, you probably wouldn’t need the business collaboration features of some of the products in this list. Some of the systems reviewed here, such as NetSuite and AOMi, are better suited to midsized companies with a number of employees and sales activities to track. Other services, such as Trello or Carbonite, fulfill operations management needs of all sizes of businesses.

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Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

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Top 9 Sales Tools for Small Businesses

Top 9 Sales Tools for Small Businesses

Online sales tools can help you win new business

Top 9 Sales Tools for Small BusinessesYou don’t have to run an online business to benefit from online sales tools. Even if you generate all your sales in the real world and have little presence on the web, you can benefit from web-based sales tools to support your sales management functions.

A sales strategy is easier to implement if it involves a well-motivated sales organization and is fully supported by sales tools. If you are struggling to improve the conversion rate of your initial contacts and you want to know how to increase sales, you should try to move to an online sales strategy that includes conversion optimization. The nine sales tools detailed in this review should get your sales management buzzing with technology.

1) Highrise HQ

Put very simply, the Highrise sales tool is an email address book that allows you to add notes to a contact’s details. That description may be an oversimplification; the system also includes a calendar section to enable you to schedule meetings and follow-up calls. The purpose of this sales tool is to improve the conversion rate of your sales organization by making details about the client available for future reference. If your sales management extends to a team, you can choose to share the details you note about a client with one, some, or all of your sales force.

2) Velocify

Velocify is the new name for Leads360. It is cloud based, which means you access the software and store your data on a host computer in the Velocify office. You don’t need to run your own servers to operate this system as your sales management tool. The system can integrate with other software popular with sales organizations. There is a version of Velocify specifically written to interact with Salesforce, which is a well-known sales management tool. The company’s other sales tools are called LeadManager and Dial-IQ. LeadManager enables a sales manager to schedule tasks for team members and track their activities in the field. You can set up automated follow-up emails in the system to keep a potential client informed while you attend to other tasks. Velocify Dial-IQ was written for telesales teams. Outgoing calls can be channeled through an area code that is local to the client, so a remote call center can appear to be in the client’s neighborhood.

3) Bidsketch

Not all sales tools are about customer relationship management. If your tenders and proposals need extensive details, then you may need a sales tool that specifically focuses on presenting bids. Examples of detailed proposals are those presented by advertising agencies or interior designers. Such proposals have to detail more than just a list of tasks and materials. Bidsketch allows you to communicate your proposal online, mixing text, calculations, and graphics. You can include a contract in PDF form with your bid, which the client can approve and commit to using the digital signature technology integrated in the Bidsketch sales tool.

4) ZohoCRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems track contacts with sales leads and store customer and sales information. Full CRM systems also include customer support systems, such as a help desk. Highrise is a CRM tool, but ZohoCRM is a more comprehensive package of customer relationship sales tools. The system is accessible from smartphones, so a sales team member can check customer details before and during meetings. Another feature for conversion optimization is access to social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. ZohoCRM has many features, so if you are searching for ways to increase sales and improve the conversion rate of your sales organization, check out the ZohoCRM website for all the sales management facilities the package offers.

5) Contactually

Contactually is similar to Highrise in that it is an email address book, like a contacts database married to an appointments calendar. This is a much smaller CRM system than ZohoCRM, so if you are an individual, you would be more likely to buy the single-user version rather than shell out for all the team functionality of ZohoCRM. Like ZohoCRM, Contactually offers access to customers through social media and is also accessible from smartphones.

6) Bloomfire

Bloomfire is a comprehensive CRM system. In fact, this sales tool extends beyond the boundaries of usual CRM functions to those such as staff training. The Bloomfire website explains the ethos of this package as “enterprise collaboration software.” The system can be integrated with other sales tools, such as Salesforce and SharePoint, and also includes interfaces to social media sites, such as LinkedIn.

7) Sidekick

HubSpot specializes in services to facilitate digital marketing efforts, and they produce Sidekick. You don’t have to be an online business to use this sales tool, however. Sidekick is like Highrise because it centers its CRM on an expanded contacts database that acts as an email address book. HubSpot is developing a full CRM system, and Sidekick customers will gain early access to the new sales tools before they are released to the general public in 2015.

8) RelateIQ

Salesforce is a sales management package that is well known among sales organizations for its ability to support conversion optimization. RelateIQ is a sister product of Salesforce, so it integrates well with its stablemate. RelateIQ is an email contact list-based system, much like Highrise and Contactually. If you find the customer contact features of Salesforce weak, add on RelateIQ.

9) Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is a data scanning service that digitizes your receipts, business cards, and other sales documents. The documents are stored as images and uploaded to cloud storage, so expense receipts can be printed for tax returns. The information from the documents is also indexed so you can search your data store for any relevant information.

Selection

Some of the products in this list complement each other, while others compete to offer the same service. If you are a sole trader or small business looking for a CRM system, the lighter features of Highrise and Contactually would be suitable. As your company grows, you may find the extra features of Velocify worth the money. Larger sales organizations focused on customer contact would be better served by ZohoCRM or Bloomfire.

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Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.

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Top 5 Customer Relationship Management Tools

Top 5 Customer Relationship Management Tools

Improve customer support with customer relationship management tools

Top 5 Customer Relationship Management ToolsYou may have seen the term “CRM” bandied about on blogs and technology sites and wondered what it means. The term stands for “customer relationship management,” and it’s a hot topic for small businesses. CRM is all about improving contacts with existing and future customers. It runs from a sales office fielding calls from potential customers, through to scheduling sales meetings, and on to customer service and technical support after a sale. Maintaining an office just for customer support is an expensive luxury that most small businesses just can’t afford. However, more and better customer relationship management tools are now becoming available to reduce the complexity of this field of business to the point where an existing small team can integrate CRM functions into its usual work schedule. This review examines the top five customer relationship management tools currently on the market.

1) Zendesk

One of the main benefits of customer relationship management tools is that they enable you to focus all the contact channels customers may use to contact you in one dashboard. You centralize information gathered by different team members during customer contact, share any pertinent information, and enable the customer to feel recognized. There is nothing more annoying than calling a company, getting transferred to different people, and having to explain your needs all over again. Zendesk helps keep your team informed regarding contact with customers made by other team members. Therefore, it helps reduce repetition of effort and improves response times to customer queries through workflow scheduling. This customer relationship management tool is cloud based, so you don’t have to install any complicated software, and your team members can access the system from home or while on the move. One element of the Zendesk suite enables you to set up self-help systems, so customers can browse a set of solutions without having to call in for technical support.

2) Get Satisfaction

Zendesk includes a customer self-service module to help reduce the demands on your technical support team, but Get Satisfaction takes this concept one step further by fostering the creation of customer communities. This is like having a Facebook specifically dedicated to your company, its products, and its customers. You encourage customers to check out the community when they first visit your website. This has the benefit of getting existing customers to guide potential clients on the value and usage of your products. People naturally resist sales pitches, so being able to talk to existing customers gives first-time visitors the courage to buy. The community ethos carries through the customer life cycle, enabling customers to advise each other about how to install and exploit your products to their full potential. Customers having trouble with a purchase can use the community for technical advice as well.

3) SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is the world’s leading online survey platform. It includes access to millions of respondents in the world population, which enables you to research the appeal of your products while they are under development. However, surveys and questionnaires are also key tools in CRM, and you can use SurveyMonkey as a customer relationship management tool. Customer feedback is a key input to improving your services. People are sometimes reluctant to complain if they received poor service, but they will tell their friends, meaning you will lose potential customers without realizing your company is doing anything wrong. Prompting customers for feedback, especially those that chose not to buy, will help you highlight and fix weaknesses in your business’s customer services.

4) Casengo

Casengo is a lot like Zendesk, but it’s a lot cheaper. It can be difficult to choose between these two customer relationship management tools, but fortunately, both offer a 30-day free trial, so whether you choose Casengo or Zendesk may just come down to which of the two you feel more comfortable using. Like Zendesk, Casengo centralizes customer contact channels and provides a central store for records of contact events. Casengo also has a customer self-service module. Both Casengo and Zendesk have a free version with limited functionality. The free version of Casengo only allows you to monitor chat-based contacts with customers. The free version of Zendesk only covers email contact. Casengo is based in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, so its tariff is priced in Euros, not US dollars. Casengo’s basic paid plan costs €9 per user per month, whereas Zendesk’s cheapest paid package costs US $25 per user, per month. Casengo offers a free trial of any of its packages, but Zendesk’s free trial offers its mid-range package, which retails at US $59 per user, per month. The equivalent package at Casengo costs €29 per user, per month.

5) Deskero

The distinguishing feature of Deskero is that it integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. So if you focus your marketing efforts on social media, it’ll probably be the most appropriate customer relationship management tool you could choose. The Deskero presentation specifically refers to the system as Help Desk software, so they don’t aim to fulfill all CRM functions, such as pre-sales and sales force support. Deskero has four different price packages, the cheapest of which is free. The free version allows for only one user and integrates with just one social media platform. The cheapest paid package costs US $15 per user per month and can be integrated with accounts on all five of the social media platforms that Deskero supports. Your help desk webpages are hosted on a subdomain of the Deskero site. Although Deskero’s user interface comes as a standard series of pages, these can be customized to reflect the look and feel of your main website.

Prioritize customer support

Customer relationship management tools enable you to quickly and cheaply offer online customer support, without the need to outsource services to a call center. Whether you expect to get customer approaches via the telephone, through a chat screen on your website, or via email will dictate which of the CRM tools listed in this review work best for your enterprise. Fortunately, all these tools offer trial periods or free versions, so log in to each, and play around with their systems to decide which customer relationship management tool is right for you.

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Disclosure: If there are links to a product in any of the reviews, a commission may be paid to us if you purchase the product. We will never write a review on a manufacturer’s product, nor will we promote a product, if we believe the product will not be beneficial to you.