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Mobile Apps: Small Business Owners, Don’t Leave the Office Without Them!

Managing time – and finding enough of it – stands as one of the biggest challenges small business owners face. With the demands of running all aspects of your business, it takes more than just time to accomplish all that you need to do; it also takes tools. Mobile apps can be a life saver for on-the-go entrepreneurs. There’s a plethora of free apps available for both Android and iOS mobile devices to help you take care of business no matter where you are. Best of all, you can turn what might otherwise be wasted time (waiting for a client or standing in line at the local deli) into productive time by having some key apps on hand.

Consider these mobile apps for your business:

Social Media Management Apps
No matter which social networks use in your marketing efforts, there are mobile apps for them. Facebook Pages Manager, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram…all have free apps you can download to your smartphone or tablet. Capabilities vary from app to app, but they all give you the ability to post updates to your social accounts and monitor and interact with the activity of others in your newsfeed.

You might also want to check out Hootsuite and Buffer. Both are social media management tools that enable you to not only post to social networks in real time, but to also schedule future posts.

Blogging Apps
Both WordPress and Blogger enable you to create new blog posts, edit existing posts, upload images to your blog, manage comments, and publish posts directly from your mobile device. From crafting new posts to putting the finish touches on drafts, you can tend to your blog from anywhere.

Note-taking Apps
For capturing ideas and making to do lists, check out Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. Both enable you to create text notes, audio notes, and check lists that you can tag and organize into notebooks for easy reference and retrieval. From within the apps, you can take photos of documents, receipts, post-it notes, etc. to store them electronically and eliminate the clutter of paper in your office.

The beauty of all these apps is that they sync across all the devices you access them from so you can effortlessly and conveniently stay on top of things no matter where you are. It’s a very good reason not to leave the office without them!

What mobile apps have helped you manage your business on the go?

Evaluate Your Competition

You are ready to launch your business in a growing niche market. Out of the blue a friend sends you a link to a similar new product or service.  After your initial shock, head over and evaluate the competition. Move into discovery mode and look under the hood of the competitor’s engine.  That knowledge may add a creative spark to your thinking.  Or it serves to confirm that you’re bringing an authentic solution for a customer want or need at precisely the right time.

Take a short drive  and see what makes them tick.  Scope out their website and metatags.  Appraise how they tell their story. Are they solving the pain point in a novel way?  If you compete in a new market segment with low barriers to entry, understand the incremental features and benefits promised.  How does that compare to the “must have” features you learned in your customer discovery?  Tap into their social networks and get a feel for their buzz.

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Five Tools No Business Owner Should Go Without

As a business owner, you’re doing all you can to reduce your costs; after all, this is one of the greatest ways to keep more money in your pocket. Whether you run your business from home or a co-working location, technology can help save you time and money.  Here are five social marketing tools to add to your arsenal.

Email Marketing

MailChimp makes it easy to create content with a catchy, streamlined email formatting platform to reach the masses. Allowing business owners to target specific customer lists, you can target your email blasts to those potential customers who aren’t faithful to your brand – yet. MailChimp is a great free option for business with less than 2,000 email subscribers who send less than 12,000 total emails each month. Another great option is Constant Contact, which “wrote the book on Engagement Marketing.” Offering a combination of free, personalized coaching and a unique set of online marketing tools, Constant Contact helps business from start-ups to well-established companies engage with their customers.

Social Media Management

As you’re probably well aware, being active on social media is a great way to get the word out about your company, but if not done properly, your social networking can actually backfire on you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of business owners out there who believe they simply don’t have the time to be as active on Facebook and Twitter to make social media worth their while. Gremln is one tool that makes posting to all of your social media accounts a breeze. Allowing users to schedule posts in advance, you can sit down and get your weeks’ worth of tweets and Facebook posts created, and allow Gremln to take over and post on your behalf at the times you schedule the posts to go live. HootSuite, another popular option, has built a following of over 7 million users through the ability to easily manage multiple social media campaigns from one platform. Ultimately, it will come down to the ease-of-use for either, but Gremln and HootSuite will take your social media strategies to the next level.

Credit Card Reader

No matter the size of your company, unless you have a retail store, there really is no need for your business to deal with cash transactions. Many small business owners have transitioned toward mobile credit card readers to accept payments when they’re meeting customers face-to-face, while implementing an E-commerce system on their websites to process credit card transactions. With Intuit GoPayment, you can choose between paying a monthly fee or a convenience pay-as-you-go pricing structure that charges you a percentage for each sale you make, helping keep more of your money within the company. Square is another great tool allowing users to accept credit cards on the go. Whether you use an Android or iOS smartphone, just plug the Square into your headphone jack and you’re ready to swipe cards and get paid for your products and services.

Tax & Accounting Software

One of the least favorite tasks many business owners are left with is dealing with corporate taxes. While it’s extremely tempting to hire a CPA to do your company’s taxes, that’s an expense you don’t need to pay for. Quicken provides business owners with more than a simple tax return, allowing users to maximize deductions while breaking down your taxes line-by-line. Quicken also provides users with the ability to manage every single business expense, from purchasing new office equipment to mileage reimbursements. Sage 50 is another accounting software package many business owners have already utilized. Built to handle all of your accounting needs, Sage 50 allows users to view multiple files simultaneously, manage cash flow, payments and collections, and reduce errors while deterring fraud thanks to a screen-level security system included with the software.

Temporary Assistance

Sometimes we need additional help, but due to monetary restraints, we aren’t able to hire the full-or part-time help we need. That’s where Odesk comes in; providing you the perfect way to connect with freelancers for any project you need help wrapping up. By posting your job or task for free, Odesk connects business owners with thousands of qualified freelancers from around the globe. However, if you need help with less specialized tasks, TextBroker is another great tool to take advantage of. Requiring its authors to go through an extensive background process, TextBroker allows business owners to request articles to be written for online content, and also allows you to include SEO options to target specific keywords. With five different quality levels of writing to choose from, you can get the help you need while remaining within budget.

Bradley Derringer is a blogger for TechBreach, giving you the latest on all things tech.

Build Brand Evangelists

You launched your business and sales are starting to ignite.  It’s time to discover your brand evangelists.  These are your customer champions!  Motivated users who are passionate about your product or service.  Initiate these 5 steps to capture their memorable user experience:

Reach out to 2 new customers each day. Pick up the phone and make that call. Start by thanking them for their business. Show some love, because customer shelled out hard earned money to buy your product.  Ask what they liked best about your product.  Before customers buy from you they have to KNOW you.  Followed by LIKE and finally TRUST.  If you have fostered trust,  you have made a sale. Discover what led them to your product.

Gather meaningful feedback.  Identify precisely how your product has improved their life in big or small ways. Did you save them time, money, or provide a new experience that was a WOW? Tease those pearls of information from their lips to your ears.  How did they find you?  That is a critical insight to understand. If someone else spread the word you now have another person to call and thank.

Ask for any improvements.  This may seem like a risk, but maybe there is a tweak or two or three that you may have not considered important when you launched.  That  feedback is critical as you improve your product or service further down the line.  Passionate customers usually have a lot to share.  Start by asking what would make it better.  Listen, learn and adapt.

Ask for a testimonial.  When a customer is genuinely excited about your product, it is time to spread the word.  A word of mouth recommendation is the single best marketing gift you can receive.  Recommendations lead to customer engagement, which reinforces the positive image of your business.  More new leads, more new customers, and more referrals.  All because you published trusted testimonials on your website, and/or on your blog.  Social proof delivers the credibility,  and starts the KNOW, LIKE, TRUST cycle all over again.

Offer a small token of appreciation.  Thank your customer for their time and their endorsement. Offer up a small measure of happiness, a coupon towards a discount on a future purchase for example.  It’s not the monetary value, it’s the thought that counts.

Continue to engage with your evangelists.  That’s a how small business wins in a socially connected universe.

Market Your Business Online

Begin the New Year by taking a fresh look at your business marketing strategy – how are you positioned  with So Lo Mo?   This cool buzzword stands for  Social Local Mobile, and these 3 marketing trends require your immediate attention.  2013 is the year to engage your brand or service with an interested audience, for free.

Do you have a social media presence for your business?  If not, why not? Social media simplifies a one-to one relationship with your customers.  Facebook is a place to start for your social media engagement.   Build your brand awareness and be part of a conversation.  It is easy to set up, free to use  and customers can locate your business should you lack a website.

If you still don’t have a website, now is the time to launch one and be found.  Head over to wordpress.com and set up a website or a blog for free.  Do you already own your domain name? It costs $13.00 to launch your website with your custom domain name and hosting on wordpress.com is free.  Talk about a no-brainer solution!

Choose a  website theme with a responsive design, which means it adapts to the screen resolution of the device its being viewed on.  Responsive design delivers a great viewing experience whether a tablet, or a smart phone or a PC. There are 59 responsive themes to choose from on wordpress.com. Some are free and some are premium (paid) themes.   Pick one you like (I like Watson from The Theme Foundry) and get started.  In a mobile world your website appearance is critical.  Enable your customers to find you in a flash!

You get the smart device implications, right?   Over 119 million of us are using a smart phone.

There were 17.5 million new smart device activations on December 25th, last December 25th 6.8 million.

Check out smart phone facts:  96% of smart phone users have researched a business or product on their phone;  94% have searched for local information; 70% called local businesses after searching.

Be found or be gone because smart phone users move on if they can’t find an address or phone number.  We all have the attention span of a gnat when we are searching for a solution.    Sprint over to getlisted.org and make sure your business information is available and current.  The search bots will be crawling all over your freshly updated contact details.

Don’t be left out of the conversation.  Get your message right with Social Local and Mobile.  Your customers will thank you with their business. And these 3 tips won’t break your budget.  Do it now!