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The Future for Small Biz in Social Media

Time.  It’s a little word, but the single biggest roadblock to small business engagement in social media.  Sure, millions of biz owners have embraced social.  But time constraints produce constant dropouts and millions more won’t buy in as long as they believe the time sink outweighs the benefits.

The future, then, may well be a web-based service called Roost – or something like it – which promises to revolutionize social business engagement with free (for now at least) productivity tools that help local biz owners leverage the social web to generate leads and build their businesses efficiently and effectively.

Roost is brand new; barely out of the wrapper.  But its new social marketing platform for Facebook and Twitter solves the nagging problem all business owners face when thinking about social marketing: “What do I post and when do I post it?”

Roost helps biz owners and local professionals plan their social marketing activities in 20 minutes per week. Just set the duration and content types (post, link, quote, etc.) for each social media campaign. Roost automatically provides customized recommendations on post type and frequency to match the length of the campaign and achieve maximum customer and prospect engagement.

Roost’s suggested content feature offers direct access to articles, blogs, quotes and other original content. You can queue up content on a daily or weekly basis from a library of topics related to your type of business.  A feature called The Roost Bar also helps you gain more friends, fans and followers.  When someone views a shared link, a small, branded bar appears above the article and allows audiences to immediately “like” your business Facebook page.

A feature called Roost Circles helps biz owners and individual pros band together with their closest business associates, and by request, share each other’s posts, providing branding and engagement opportunities across each other’s networks. Whether the circle includes employees, favorite customers or vendors, the technology capitalizes on the economically relevant concept that rising tides lift all boats.

Roost was built for the restaurant, CPA or Realtor who can’t devote 10 hours each week to online marketing, says Alex Chang, CEO of Roost. “They know they need to be on Facebook and Twitter, but they aren’t sure what to do or how to start.”  In short, Roost is a service for real business owners who have little to no time, aren’t fully up to speed on all the nuances of social media marketing but who may live and die by referral business.

And best of all, it’s free.

Roost, a venture capital backed startup based in San Francisco, already has about 20,000 small biz professionals using the service.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

New and Affordable B2B Leads and Lists Online

A BizBest 30-Second Solution: 

Hoover’s – which  has the biggest and best database of business contact information anywhere (85 million contacts and counting) – has launched two new ways for small businesses to find leads and build B2B lists via affordable “view only” and pay-as-you-go services.   For the first time, the new “Essentials” and “Lead Builder” services give small business owners on a budget a way into this lead gen goldmine on affordable terms.

The new web-based platform lets you build lists to match your target markets and access them online in minutes.  You can search the entire Hoover’s business database, save and edit contact information online, access social media feeds for thousands of companies and purchase lists on demand or by subscription.  And the Lead Builder product gives you unlimited use of the lists you buy.  Hoover’s is a division of D&B.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

A Terrific New Twitter Tool for Business

BizBest 30-Second Solution 

With Twitter use by small and local business soaring, busy biz owners need new and better ways to tweet their way to success.  InboxQ is a new browser plugin that offers business users an efficient way to quickly find and engage Twitter users interested in specific products, brands or topics without having to scroll through endless tweets.  With InboxQ, you can set up a campaign based on specific keywords or tweet quantity and then immediately reply to those targeted tweets that are asking questions related to your business or expertise.  A clothing designer, for example, can easily keep an eye on women looking for a new dress.  In short, InboxQ is an easy way to alert your business of compelling opportunities to engage with prospects, and to use your expertise to help solve a problem and win new customers.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

A Cool Tool for Creating Online Forms

BizBest 30-Second Solution: If your biz needs to capture registration info, expenses, leads, invoices, job applications, worker evaluations, contests, surveys, promotions, newsletter signups, online payments, non-profit donations and much more online, Formstack is a cool tool to try.  The web-based Formstack tool lets you easily build snappy-looking HTML forms that you can put right into your existing website – no software or special skills required.  Then, once your forms are in place and collecting data, you can manage and edit the information, share it with others or integrate with other applications such as Salesforce, FreshBooks, MailChimp or dozens of others.  You get powerful, smart web forms that will save you time and make you money.   Cost starts at $14/month, and there’s a free 2-week trial.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Finding Startup Funds Made Easier

Websites hoping to play matchmaker between investors and startup entrepreneurs have come and gone with great regularity.  FindVenture.com looks like a player.  The site has partnered with a long list of venture capital funds to create a kind of exchange that connects VC and other investors with biz owners and entrepreneurs seeking capital.  FindVenture uses a special algorithm to match investors and entrepreneurs — a time saver for both sides — and carries detailed profiles of VC firms and other investment companies.  Biz owners and startup entrepreneurs can post a funding request on the site and get themselves quickly on the funding map.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Sprouter is a Sparkplug for Startup Entrepreneurs

Sprouter, a still new-ish site for startup entrepreneurs, is a great place to sync up with other entrepreneurs passionate about the startup space.  The clean and refreshing site offers a Twitter-like service where you can Tweet, errr, “Sprout” about what you’re working on now, and network or collaborate with others who have similar interests and startup goals.  Discover and join local “Sprout-Up” events, start discussions and follow topics of interest. It’s a great place to bounce around ideas and get feedback. Sprouter founder Sarah Prevette is a passionate advocate for startups, social media and advocacy on the web.

A Better Touchscreen PC for Engaging Customers

Sneak Peak! (Coming in May 2011): If your small business has a customer-facing computer – typically a health-care office, lodge or retail store – you know customers often have to contort their posture to view the screen properly. A new touch screen desktop PC that will be introduced in May by HP aims to solve the contortion conundrum with a reclining display that offers improved comfort. The sleek-looking TouchSmart 9300 Elite Business PC screen (23 inches) easily adjusts from upright to almost flat, making it easier for you to engage customers. The TouchSmart unit is a space-saver as well, offering a single-cord setup and all-in-one design. The TouchSmart 9300 can adapt to your workplace needs, and offers desk or counter positioning, as well as wall-mount and kiosk placement.  In one nifty high-tech touch, you or your employees can logon using the 9300’s high-resolution, adjustable webcam with facial recognition software!  No more lost passwords, and improved security. Pricing for the Elite Business 9300 hasn’t yet been set, but a similar model for the consumer market starts at $900.  Details will be available at HP’s small business website closer to release date.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved. 

A Virtual Phone System App that will Blow You Away

Say what you will about AT&T, but its new “Office@Hand” virtual phone system application for small biz, introduced Feb. 1, is going to blow away a lot of business owners.  It’s a service that finally recognizes what biz owners already know – that small companies use phones today is radically different ways, with a complex mix of mobile and land line, voicemail,  fax, text, toll-free, automated messages/greetings, forwarding, email and more.

Office@Hand is a complete phone system for up to 100 users that you can buy, setup and activate instantly – no hardware or tech skills needed.  It’s a high-powered PBX system based entirely in “the cloud” (meaning you access it online) that works with your existing mobile and land lines and takes seconds to add, delete or change employee or department extensions, modify the auto-receptionist company greetings, change call routing and answering rules or update business hours.  The Office@Hand application (app) is a free download from the Apple App Store or AT&T AppCenter, and service is $14 to $16 per month, depending on number of users.

Office@Hand lets you perform minor phone system miracles and do things you never thought possible from a system you can run from your smart phone, such as transferring live calls between mobile and land lines, voicemail and fax forwarding via email, and advanced call routing rules and logs.

Check out this short Office@Hand video for an overview of how it works.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved. 

Save on Employee Training

Whether your business employs forklift operators, sales reps or cashiers, you probably have a need for training of some kind.  Mindflash is an online tool that can help train employees on anything from how to use your phone system, to sales methods and company policies.  It’s flexible and free for up to 10 trainees.  Employees learn on their own schedule and pace.  The site can turn almost any type of materials you have – PDFs, Word files, PowerPoint, videos and more – into online training. Automated emails make it easy to invite, enroll and remind your new hires and other employees. All you have to do is build (or upload) a list and Mindflash does the rest.  You can even build in quizzes and use MindFlash’s built-in reporting tools to see who viewed the training and how they did on your “tests.”

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.