Technology For Business Sake Blog

Small Business 2.0: The Blog

Posted by Brent Leary on Fri, Dec 22, 2006 @ 10:39 AM


When you have a free minute or two, you should check out www.smallbusiness20.com.  It's a really great, informative site aimed directly at small business folks who are trying to figure out how to use the web to grow their organizations.  It's run by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, co-founders of HubSpot, a company you will no doubt be hearing about in the near future...and not just from me.  In fact, our whole radio show website, including this blog, is powered by HubSpot.  All I can say right now about HubSpot is that I really like what I've seen so far and am eager to see what the finished product will look like, as it is currently in beta.

Brian and Dharmesh really know small business and what it takes to create successful ones.  Looking at their combined experiences, they've been involved with starting, running, funding and selling small businesses.  And they bring all that experience, as well as some fine book-learning they picked up at MIT to the Small Business 2.0 blog.  Do yourself a favor and take advantage of their wealth of knowledge and down-to-earth writings.  I know I am.
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Word to the Wise (Hitwise) about Consumer Generated Media

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Dec 21, 2006 @ 11:55 PM

Tags: smb, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, web


I'm always on the hunt for interesting information about how folks are using the web, and how that translates to relationship building....for business sake.  Although I'm in cutback mode when it comes to e-newsletters, I do like the info the folks at Hitwise puts together.  Hitwise is one of the leading sources of online competitive intelligence.  And you may want to have them email you a copy of their November 2006 "US Consumer Generated Media Report".  There's a lot of good stuff packed into the 22 pages of the report, but I'll just touch on a few I found interesting.




  1. People are spending a great deal more time on social networking sites


In September 2006, 5% of all website visits were to the top 20 social networking sites – a 94% increase compared to a year ago. Not only are they going to these sites, they are also spending over 27 minutes on average on these sites, compared to only 11 minutes for the overall website average.

The growth of these sites is being characterized by a term the report uses called “the network effect.” Basically this means that the more people join these sites, the more content gets created and people to interact with, which causes users to spend more time on the site interacting with each other and sharing content.
  1. More commerce is being driven through social networking sites


According to the report, the growth in web traffic to sites like MySpace is also driving up traffic to commercial websites. For example, upstream traffice from MySpace to companies Hitwise categorizes as being in the telecommunications industry grew by 89% between March and September of 2006. An 83% increase was seen by companies in the shopping and classifieds category, and a 77% increase for those in the Banking & Financial Institutions category.
  1. Photo and video sharing site traffic is growing rapidly, with its primary source of this traffic coming from search engines


People are uploading more and more of their own content to the web. They are also finding more and more of content by way of search engines. And with more and more people signing up for broadband access, they’ll be able to upload more and more of their own stuff. Which will generate more and more reasons to interact with people for personal and business reasons. There’s nothing more (and more) to say about that!

I’m sure many of you working in businesses that don’t sell consumer electronics, music, dvds and other hot sellers that social networking sites seems perfect for are probably wondering why this would be of interest. Well even though there may not be a direct link to what you do, there are some things that can be applied. Like GoDaddy.com founder Bob Parson’s told us in an interview, which is also proven to be true by Hitwise, “People love using the Internet for convenience, transacting business and communicating with each other.” And sites like MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others have been great at creating loyal followings by enabling users to actively participate in growing the community.  And it's not just the Web 2.0 companies taking this approach, Intuit has created www.JumpUp.com, which is a nice social networking-ish site aimed at helping start-ups get off to the ground faster.  So if you can create a web presence for your business that provides solid content and encourages collaboration, you’ll give prospects and customers alike a great reason to willingly interact with you. And it’s becoming increasingly simple (relatively speaking) to drop in all kinds of relevant content from sources all over the web to enhance your own content. Just look at all the “bling” (aka widgets) that are being created for blogging services like WordPress and TypePad and you’ll see how easily this can be done.  

In the end, willing, active participants are more easily converted to actual customers, who can become real advocates for your business. Just a few words to the wise.
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Are e-newsletters going the way of the Dodo Bird?

Posted by Brent Leary on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 @ 11:13 PM

Tags: smb, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, email



Talk about grabbing your attention. I receive an e-newsletter from The Warrillow Group on a weekly basis and today’s was a doozy. The Warrillow Group is a Canadian based research firm focused on the SMB market. There information is pretty interesting and you may want to check out their site. This week’s newsletter came with the following subject line – “The beginning of the end for the e-newsletter”. Now I am signed up to more than a few newsletters and most of the time I delete before reading them, as most of you probably do as well. But this one I opened.

As you rifle through your inbox (and through all the e-newsletters you no doubt have piled up in it), it’s probably hard to conceive e-newsletters going out of style anytime soon. But its popularity with businesses is precisely why Warrillow’s survey says e-newsletters are on their way out eventually…not tomorrow, but eventually. The survey, answered by small business owners with fewer than 100 employees, found the SMB marketers have become too reliant on e-newsletters, and that e-newsletters are being read less and less, not making it through spam filters.

Now this report is really aimed at companies selling to SMBs, letting them know that they need to do something else to reach the target. In fact, 84% of Fortune 500 companies selling products to SMBs have an e-newsletter. But you know businesses of all sizes are sending e-newsletters out with reckless abandon because it’s easy and cheap to do so. Causing a fraction of them to be read.

Warrillow points out that RSS (Really Simple Syndication), may be the tool that may replace e-newsletters. Many folks, including yours truly in a post on my personal blog, believe RSS will supplant e-newsletters at some point in time. Mainly because it puts the power of choice in the end user’s hand, and allows them to take back control of their inbox. And with Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 due out shortly, RSS will be hitting the mainstream at some point. So now would be a good time to acquaint yourself with it from a business perspective, and how it can enable you to get your messages through to the desired target.

To get more of this information you may want to sign up for Warrillow’s e-newsletter. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear they have a blog or RSS feed yet. I guess that means e-newsletters still have a little time left before they become extinct.
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Quick Takes on Software-as-a-Service for Small Business

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 @ 06:19 PM

Tags: smb, crm, saas, sherylkingstone, marketing, smallbusiness, email




Small businesses are really starting to embrace Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in 2006. And it is truly a great way to quickly incorporate functionality that in the past would have been too expensive, too difficult to learn and too long for benefits to be realized. SaaS truly makes sense for small businesses to use in a number of ways.

Our company, CRM Essentials, was among the first certified implementation partners of on-demand CRM pioneer Salesforce.com when we signed on back in 2003, and have been following the rise of SaaS since then. In fact, I’ve been following traffic patterns of some of the better known SaaS providers of CRM with my “Alexa CRM On Demand Ratings” posts on my blog for the past six months. So you can definitely call me a strong proponent of it, especially for small businesses who need to get up and running quickly and cheaply to compete, thrive and survive.

Now with all the hype surrounding SaaS you would think that buying traditional software has gone the way of the do-do bird, or relegated to history books…”Remember back in the 1990’s when we used to Comp USA to buy software?). But just keep in mind that the majority of software is still acquired the old-fashioned way. And that it still makes sense to do so for many uses.

Recently we had one of the leading experts on the SaaS market, Sheryl Kingstone of Yankee Group, on the show to discuss the whole “Buy vs. Rent” dilemma with respect to SMBs. Here are a few quick hits (90 seconds or less) you should check out before you completely go the “no software” route.

1. Installed software will be here for awhile, and might be cheaper for what you need it for


2. Email marketing is probably the best way to get started with SaaS to see quick results



3. Make sure you add everything in when doing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison between SaaS vs. installed software for a 3-5 year timeframe


4. SaaS will help make it easier to use functionality from one service provider from within another service providers application. This has created a new term called “intelligent mashups”.



Software-as-a-Service really can allow small business to “look like a big guy” while paying like a little guy. But there will probably be things that you’ll always want to install directly on you machines. Just take the time to figure out when it’s appropriate to use one or the other.







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Do You Have A Web Presence, or Presence on the Web?

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Dec 14, 2006 @ 10:36 PM

Tags: smb, marketing, blogging, smallbusiness, entrepreneur



Recently I had an interesting conversation with customer relationship management guru Paul Greenberg about small businesses and their lack of corporate websites. According to a recent AMI Partners study of businesses with fewer than one hundred employees, only 56% had a website. With the growing dependence on Internet search as the primary means for information discovery, I think it's important for even the smallest of businesses to have some sort of web presence. But Paul brought up an interesting point - he doesn't have a web presence (meaning no website) but he has a whole lot of presence on the web based upon the 109,000 or so links returned by Google in a search on his name.
Now not everybody has written a best selling book in their field of expertise like Paul, but he was onto something. Your business doesn't necessarily need a website to pass "The Google Test" - meaning people can find you on the web when they are looking for products or services they require which you provide. You can make your presence felt in all sorts of ways. One quick way is by reviewing popular books in your field on Amazon.com. You’d be surprised at the contacts you can make be writing thoughtful, concise reviews to important books in your industry. Another proven tactic is to write a press release for newsworthy topics and distribute them on www.prweb.com or www.prnewswire.com. If written correctly news outlets and industry websites may include your release and generate a great deal of web exposure. Participating in popular industry forums and creating a profile on business networking sites like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and Spoke (www.spoke.com) can definitely help. Writing articles and submitting them to extremely popular sites like Digg (www.digg.com) where users vote on which articles get posted on the front page can make you a “star” overnight. You can also submit articles to the sites below to raise your GQ (Google Quotient) dramatically:

• Ezine Articles - http://ezinearticles.com
• SearchWarp -http://searchwarp.com
• Buzzle  - http://www.buzzle.com
• IdeaMarketers - http://www.ideamarketers.com
• eBooks N’ Bytes - http://www.ebooksnbytes.com
• Article Central - http://thewhir.com/find/articlecentral/

These are all great ways to gain a degree of prominence on the web, but I believe the best way to begin building your presence on the web is to use a service like TypePad (www.typepad.com) or Blogger (www.blogger.com) to blog about what's going on in your industry and share your experience and knowledge. Because of the ease of getting started and adding new entries, you may even find using your blog as your corporate website will work for a while. Blogs really make sense if you are a consultant or need to bill yourself as a subject matter expert. There are even tools and services like Blurb (www.blurb.com) that make it possible to turn your blog into an actual printed book.  Use free services like Slideshare (www.slideshare.net) and YouTube (www.youtube.com) to easily add slide presentations and video to your blog to create compelling content. And if you have enough of the right people commenting and linking to your blog, nothing can be better in terms of branding.
Blogs are great, but at some point you will probably need a fully functionalized corporate website to create a grander image for your company and to transact business. And nowadays it's easier than ever to do this. So I think Paul and I are both right. You will need both a web presence, and presence on the web to really make some headway. After all when it comes to the web, it's not just who you know, but who knows you AND what they know about you that makes the difference.
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Online Marketing for the Offline Small Business

Posted by Brent Leary on Wed, Dec 13, 2006 @ 03:16 PM

Tags: smb, quickbooks, marketing, adsense, smallbusiness, email, google, adwords



I recently had the pleasure of delivering the keynote presentation at a small business CRM/Call Center/Contact Management conference in Louisville, Ky last week. There were approximately one hundred or so folks in attendance and I would say the majority of them worked in or owned business employing less than fifty employees. A good number of them had businesses participating in traditional, boring, “low-tech” industries. You know, the kind that built (and is still building) this country.

I was very happy with the reception my presentation received from the folks, but I could tell that many of the things I talked about were not too familiar to the audience. So my whole Web 2.0/Social Media Optimization/Business Web spin on finding, catching and keeping good customers may have been a little over the top. But I think it did help some attendees understand an important message they needed hear: Even though your business is not “high tech”, you still can benefit greatly by using Web 2.0 technologies.

That theme really resonated with one business owner who runs a manufacturing operation with thirty employees. Currently she has no website, but realizes the value of having one as she is doing more and more networking, and feels that having a site to point people to will generate more interest. But what about those folks she doesn’t meet face to face who are looking for the services she provides? Don’t they have just as much potential to become customers as those she meets at the trade shows and networking events? These questions can also be posed to printers, cleaning services, lawn care providers and other traditional businesses. But many of these “traditionalists” don’t think tools like search engine marketing are really for them. I beg to differ……

So I had the traditionalists in mind when we had Emily White, Google’s director on online sales and operations, on the show to discuss search engine marketing (SEM) and its usefulness to small businesses. Below are a few quick snippets from the thirty minute interview that should change a few minds.
  1. SEM is definitely not just for high-tech businesses

  1. How using SEM working inside Quickbooks can help get you online faster

  1. How CRM + SEM = $$$ for small businesses

  1. A few short tips for converting online leads to offline deals


Now it’s easier than ever for your offline business to get big benefits from online tools and services like SEM. And it will get easier and easier as time goes by, but it’s important to get started now, or fall further behind as more and more businesses beat you to the punch.

To hear the whole interview with Emily, click here.
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SMB Tips for Doing Business Online (and Offline) from GoDaddy.com's Bob Parson

Posted by Brent Leary on Sun, Dec 10, 2006 @ 04:13 PM

Tags: smb, blogging, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, BobParsons, GoDaddy.com


When you have a chance to learn from someone who's literally "been there and done that" in business, you soak up as much as you can.  This was definitely the case when we had GoDaddy.com founder and CEO Bob Parson's on our show.  Many people (me included) probably would have been satisfied to call it a career after selling a business for millions of dollars the way Bob did when he sold Parsons Technologies to Intuit in the mid 1990s.  Bob took a short breather and went right to work in building what would eventually be known as GoDaddy.com.  So Bob built a successful business pre-Internet and another successful business in the current Internet era.  Here are a few snippets from our conversation with Bob that I think you'll want to check out.


1. Bob’s short and sweet message to attendees of the Web 2.0 Summit

The Web 2.0 Summit focuses on emerging business and technology developments that utilize the Web as a platform and defines how the Web will drive business in the future. There is a great deal of attention aimed squarely at the phrase and companies of all sizes are trying to figure out how to leverage emerging technologies like blogging, podcasting, wikis, RSS and other Web 2.0 phenomena to capture more business. But Bob gave attendees some food for thought about what not to forget in the Web 2.0 age. Listen below:


2. How you should use the Internet

Many companies look to use the Internet to replace the need for human interaction. Bob uses it to enhance customer interaction. Listen below:


3. BobParsons.com

Many out there may still think that blogs are for kids, but a quote in Entrepreneur Magazine says more companies are viewing blogs as a business staple. Bob uses his blog to speak directly to customers and prospects. Listen below:


4. How close was Bob to closing GoDaddy.com? Why didn’t he?

This needs no set up…..just check it out.
 

To hear the whole conversation with Bob click here

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Email Tips from Entrepreneur.com's Email Marketing Coach

Posted by Brent Leary on Fri, Dec 08, 2006 @ 10:08 AM

Tags: gail, marketing, constantcontact.com, goodman, email



Our interview with Constant Contact's CEO Gail Goodman was filled with a great deal on information that small businesses really need to know about effectively using email marketing to grow their businesses. If you have a chance please check out the whole conversation by going to the show page. For those who don't have time to check out the whole show, here are a few quick hits (clips range from twenty-four seconds to ninety-two seconds) that should be more successful with email marketing:

  1. Proper target for email marketing campaigns is your current customer base, NOT prospects .

Many small businesses use email campaigns as a way to initiate contact with prospects. Gail explains why its best use is aimed at your current customer base, not people who don’t know who you are. Listen below:

  1. It’s easy to get yourself “blacklisted” for bad email campaign execution practices


Be safe rather than sorry and check out Gail’s tips for keeping in good standing with the email police and staying of the black list. Listen below:

  1. Second thoughts on using Outlook or other email client software for executing email campaigns


Outlook is a great application for sending emails to individuals and small groups of people. Gail explains why you may want to reconsider using email clients to execute full blown email campaigns. Listen below:

  1. MIME-ing for Success!


This isn’t about Marcel Marceau , but about making sure your email campaigns can be read on mobile devices like the BlackBerry. It's about making sure you're sending a Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) message. Don't get too excited about this, as Gail explains most email marketing services can handle this for you. This is important because roughly half of all emails are read first on these devices, and if your campaign isn’t formatted correctly, it definitely won’t be read. Listen below:
 

These are just a few of the great tips and insights from our conversation with Gail.  To hear the whole interview, just click here.
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