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7 Awesome Accounting Apps for Small Business

AppsEvery year, The Sleeter Group – a firm that helps business owners and accountants work together – conducts a competition to identify the best tech and software solutions for small business accounting and finance. Some are add-ons to QuickBooks, while others are stand-alone products that can make your life easier, and help improve profits.

In order to qualify for what Sleeter calls its “Awesome Add-On” awards, the product or service must come from a solid company with a reputation for outstanding customer support. The product must also show superior design, implementation and features, integrate effectively with QuickBooks and other software solutions, and conform to good accounting principles.

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These six recent winners are worth considering for a small business:

1. Bill.com Receivables:  This service, which is an upgrade ($5/month) to a Bill.com Payable account, is great for any business that sends invoices to customers and wants to offer the option to pay electronically, online. According to Sleeter, it’s “a perfect example of how the web is revolutionizing small business.”

By allowing businesses to manage the entire accounts receivable process in the cloud, Bill.com has taken a big leap forward. In addition to sending electronic invoices and reminders, you can receive payments online and by credit card, and customers can access their own portal (for free) to see their invoicing and payment history.

2. Bill & Pay, from Skyhill Software, is great for small businesses that want to streamline their receivables process online. Bill & Pay automatically uploads invoices from QuickBooks, Peachtree, Great Plains and other accounting software into a web portal where they can be tracked and managed. There’s also an “Easy Invoice” feature that lets you create your own invoices without using any accounting software.

Bill & Pay integrates with several merchant accounts (including Intuit Merchant Solutions) so it doesn’t require extra steps for batching deposits into your bank account. Cost is $16.95 per month, plus 55 cents per payment transaction.

3. QQube, from Clearify, is for business owners who want more powerful or complex reports and dashboards than QuickBooks can create by itself. This can be especially helpful in developing data analytics. Says Sleeter, “Although there’s a learning curve, once you get the hang of it you’ll be amazed at how much you can do with this tool. This is a game changer.” Cost is $425 for the single user version.

4. If your business ships 20 or more packages daily via UPS or FedEx, ShipGear provides a simple way to manage those packages, update QuickBooks invoices to include freight charges and eliminate double data entry in the two systems. As each package ships, ShipGear generates a personalized email notification to the customer. Cost is $225 for QuickBooks Pro version, from V-Technologies. Also integrates with Peachtree and others.

5.  ViewMyPaycheck, from Intuit, lets QuickBooks payroll users upload paycheck information to the cloud where employees can securely access pay stubs, vacation/sick time balances and W-2 forms. Employees can view, print or download copies of their payroll information anytime, from anywhere. This is free for QuickBooks Payroll subscribers at all levels, including Basic.

6.  ExpenseWatch.com is a web-based time and expense reporting tool that helps you streamline the process of time tracking, expense reporting, as well as purchasing and invoicing.  ExpenseWatch includes modules for expense reports, purchasing and AP invoice management that you can subscribe to individually, or as a fully integrated expense control suite. Costs ranged between $16 and $35 per month, per user.

7.  AvaTax Certs, from Avalara, is a life-saver for businesses with customers who are sales tax exempt. This typically includes industries such as manufacturing, tech, education, wholesalers and some types of retail. AvaTax Certs limits your audit exposure on non-taxed transactions by helping you manage customer exemption certificates end-to-end. The online wizard automates paperless certificate collection and ensures you only collect valid certificates. Starts at $375, plus $249/year.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Why Business Owners are Adopting Digital Marketing

Internet marketingSmall business owners are a practical bunch. So when it comes to digital marketing – websites, search ads, digital banners, email, mobile ads, and others – they approach it with a decidedly practical bent. “Generating leads and sales is very important to us,” says Jack Groot, owner of JP’s Coffee & Espresso Bar in Holland, MI. “Without real traffic and ultimately profit, there is little or no value for us in digital marketing.”

Groot speaks for millions of small business owners who are leaning more and more into digital marketing, but only if they see real value in it. Larger organizations are accustomed to marketing digitally – they’ve been doing it for years. Many smaller firms, however, have stuck with traditional ways. But that’s changing, and picking up steam.

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Digital marketing has blossomed as digital marketing tools for small business have become more accessible and affordable. A major trend driving increased use of digital marketing by smaller businesses is the increased availability of customer data – from website visits, social media, electronic purchases, and many other sources. This information helps even the smallest businesses understand customers better, identify leads earlier and respond to customer needs by knowing what they’re looking for.

According to a new study conducted by Inc. Magazine and Vocus, a cloud software provider, the top six reasons small biz owners use digital marketing are to:

1)    Drive sales

2)    Increase brand awareness

3)    Reach new customer segments

4)    Drive customer engagement

5)    Identify usable customer insights

6)    Save money/improve productivity

Another attraction of digital marketing for small business is that you can move the needle without having to allocate lots of resources – especially personnel.  Meanwhile, more than half of the small and mid-sized businesses surveyed by Inc. say they now have at least one full-time employee working on their digital marketing efforts. Others use part-timers, outsourcing, or the business owners do it themselves.

Not surprisingly, the Inc. survey found that websites are the most commonly-used digital marketing tool among smaller businesses, with about 87 percent now using them. And while some still use “old” non-interactive websites, many others are incorporating digital marketing tools that incorporate social interaction to gain much greater traction.

Here’s a rundown of how many small businesses are using some of the different digital marketing tools:

  • Email marketing (66%)
  • Videos/photos (55%)
  • Blogs/white papers (53%)
  • Webinars (26%)
  • Paid search (23%)
  • Online store (23%)
  • Mobile apps (18%)
  • Mobile/SMS messages (4%)

Spending Levels on the Rise

Small business spending on digital marketing is also on the rise. According to the Inc. survey, some 23 percent of all small businesses now spend more than 75 percent of their marketing budgets on digital.

Among “larger” small businesses (those with $1 million or more in revenue), about 22 percent allocate less than 10 percent of their budget to digital. About 1-in-5 of these firms spends between 10 and 24 percent of their budget on digital. Another 13.5 percent of firms allocate 25-50 percent to digital, while about 14.5 percent devote 50-75 percent of their marketing spend to digital.

Groot’s businesses – including the Midwest Barista School in addition to the coffee and espresso bar – are now focused almost entirely on digital. And the reason is simple. According to Groot, digital methods – including his website, social media and blog – give him more bang for his buck for generating sales and leads, building awareness, keeping a high profile and driving profitability.

Defining Digital Success

Business owners are clear about what constitutes successful digital marketing in their eyes. Increased sales tops the list (named by 71%), with generating leads second (59%). Other success criteria include the following:

  • Higher search ranking (33%)
  • Publicity/social following (32%)
  • Employee recruitment (9%)
  • Event attendance (5%)
  • Retention rates (4%)

Business owners seem largely satisfied with the progress they’re making on the digital front. About 71 percent rate their current digital marketing efforts as successful at achieving their goals. For those with revenues over $1 million, the success rates are even higher, with about 80 percent rating their efforts a success.

What’s Ahead

Overall, small business owners overwhelmingly expect to increase their spending on digital marketing, with about 90 percent saying they are likely to do so in the next three years.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

4 Tech Trends that are Changing Small Business

tech trendsWhen it comes to using technology, one thing is clear: Small businesses that embrace it are growing faster than those that don’t.  From mobile applications to social media, and cloud computing to data management, “new” ways of doing business centered around technology are taking hold and becoming the norm for millions of small and mid-sized firms nationwide.

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Here are 4 tech trends that are reshaping how the most successful small businesses are facing the future:

1. Mobile Adoption Soars: A new study by the SMB Group, which tracks technology adoption by small and medium businesses, shows that mobile use continues to skyrocket. In the last two years, the number of small businesses using mobile-friendly websites has nearly doubled, from 18% to 35% according to the SMB Group study. Meanwhile, the use of mobile apps for employees continues to increase, as does the number of small businesses using mobile commerce solutions.

Business owners are also spending more money on mobile. On average, a small business spends about 11%-20% of its technology budget on mobile. And two out of three business owners expect to spend more on mobile next year in areas such as devices, applications, security and consulting services.

The big problem, however, is that most small firms still struggle with how to manage the explosion of mobile devices, apps and the so-called “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon, where employees are asked to use their own smartphones or other mobile devices for business purposes.

In the past year alone, use of mobile apps for employees – including email, calendars and customer relationship management (e.g. SalesForce) – has jumped 20% among small businesses. And the number of businesses adopting BYOD policies for employees has more than doubled.

As you embrace mobile, however, be careful to track how it’s actually benefiting your business. It’s not enough to embrace mobile solutions just because everyone else is. Look for areas it can really make a difference for your business, such as inventory tracking where mobile devices offer huge time savings.

2. Social Gets More Serious: The percentage of small businesses using social media continues to rise, up to 58% from closer to 50% just a year ago. Still, only about one in four small firms use social media strategically to pursue specific business goals. Most others take an informal, ad hoc approach, without any specific business goals in mind.

But the social bar is rising. More business owners want to ensure that their increasingly time-sensitive investment in social media pays off and are developing plans to map their social efforts to specific business outcomes, such as increased sales.

To make your efforts in social media pay off, consider using an outside service such as HubSpot (www.hubspot.com) that offers all-in-one web-based software for attracting leads and converting them to customers, through social media and other channels.

3.  Cloud Cover Expands:  Cloud computing – essentially, using web-based instead of PC-based software – has quickly become the “new normal” for millions of small business.  There’s a cloud application for nearly anything your business needs to do, from accounting, expense tracking, data backup and storage, to time tracking, project management, document signing and hundreds more.

Working “in the cloud” simply makes sense for small businesses. It lowers your cost (no software to buy and install, although many cloud services require a fee), is far faster to deploy and gives you access to the kinds of computing power that once belonged exclusively to bigger businesses.

4. Information Overflow Drives New Data Solutions:  The mobile-social-cloud triumvirate that emerges from the first three trends is generating unprecedented amounts information that few small businesses can manage, let alone put to use. This data fire hose is at full blast, and isn’t likely to abate. Businesses that figure out how to harness and turn some of this information (customer wants and needs, for example) into useful insights will gain a big competitive advantage.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Top 10 Internet Security Tips for Small Business

Internet securityHigh-speed Internet, interconnected mobile, desktop and laptop devices along with web-based tools and digital applications are making small firms more productive than ever.  But all that online speed and efficiency can come at a stiff price if your website, financial information, social media accounts, business or customer data fall victim to cyber thieves or troublemakers.

According to U.S. government crime data, digital information theft has now surpassed physical property theft as the most commonly reported type of business fraud. That alone is reason for business owners to be concerned. If you aren’t taking up-to-date steps to protect your business, you could be exposing yourself to serious trouble that can threaten your future.

Here are 10 tips from the cyber security experts at the Federal Communications Commission for building a sound strategy to protect your business and your customers from this growing threat:

1. Keep clean machines: Your computers should be equipped with the latest security software, web browsers and operating systems. This simple step is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats that are constantly changing. Install key software updates as soon as they are available and set antivirus software to run a scan after each update.

2. Secure your Wi-Fi networks: If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

3. Train everyone in security basics: Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating your policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

4. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection: A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure your operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that their home systems are protected by a firewall as well.

5. Create a mobile device action plan, too: Mobile devices create big security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the business network. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

6. Backup all key business data and information:  Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

7. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each person: Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

8. Protect payment card systems and information: Work with banks or card processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may have certain security obligations under agreements with your bank or processor, so make sure you know your liabilities. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

9. Limit authority to install software and access information: Don’t provide any single employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install software without permission.

10. Get tough on passwords: Require employees to use strong passwords and change them every three to six months. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multi-factor authentication for your account.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Things Wrong With Your Website

In this age of social media and digital everything, you can’t afford to be a website weakling. If your competition has a killer online presence, and you don’t, you lose. Today’s consumers look online more than ever before.  Even business owners who think they don’t really need a “best in class” website are missing more than they think.  Based on visiting thousands of small business websites, BizBest compiled this list of 10 common mistakes that businesses make with their websites, and how to fix them:

1. Crummy Content

Thanks to the rise of social media and changes in how search engines operate, it’s now more important than ever to have high-quality content on your site. Off-topic and poorly written content won’t show up in search and makes your site look second-rate. Don’t load up on sales pitches. Instead, provide helpful tips, case studies and other info that gives customers and prospects valuable information on how to solve a problem or accomplish a task.  Avoid industry jargon and keep it conversational. A service such as HubSpot.com can help.

2. Keyword Clueless

Knowing — and using — the proper keywords for the products and services your business sells is important to online success. Even if you think you know what they are, unless you’ve used a keyword discovery tool to see the precise terms that real people are typing into search engines daily, you haven’t done it right.  KeywordDiscovery.com and the keyword tool in Google AdWords can help.

3. Social Scarcity

No website is complete today without some nod to social media.  At a bare minimum that should be a link to your Facebook page, but could and should also include Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and your own blog.

4. Muddy Metrics

Who’s visiting your website? Where are they coming from? What are they doing once they get there? What are the most and least popular portions of your site? What kinds of visitors are making you the most money? If you lack the answers, you’re flying blind. Sign up for a web metrics service such as Google Analytics to get a grip on what’s happening.

5. Missing Mobile

Mobile web usage is exploding, with huge  implications for small businesses that lack a mobile-friendly site. Mobile sites are designed specifically for the small screen. They are quick, easy to navigate and “thumb friendly,” which means they use large, centered buttons with “breathing room” to prevent accidental clicks. The best mobile-friendly  sites make the mobile experience local. Since customers are constantly seeking local information on their phones, your mobile site should make it quick and easy for people to find you. Google has a terrific program called GoMo (www.HowToGoMo.com) to help business owners and startups learn about mobile websites and find help setting one up. You’ll find tips, a tool to rate the quality of an existing mobile site, samples of good mobile site design, and a helpful list of vendors who can help you create a mobile presence.

6. Obvious Omissions

It’s stunning how many websites lack obvious info such as contact information, hours and location, or seemingly try to hide it. Don’t make people hunt for a “Contact Us” page. Display your preferred means of contact prominently across your site. If you make it easy for people to call or email, they will. Be sure you have a process in place to follow up all inquiries.

7. Offer-less Ordering

If you want people to sign up, order or otherwise engage, you need to encourage it with some type of offer or call to action. You could, for example, offer free trials, discounts or a newsletter. Tell people what you want them to do.

8. Dorky Design

Design counts. But it’s not all about looking pretty. It’s about creating a great user experience and being highly functional and effective at attracting, keeping and converting customers. Obvious cookie-cutter sites and over-the-top images undercut your goals. Customers are there because they want to accomplish something, and your design needs to reflect that. Keep all order and lead-generation forms simple. The more information you require, the fewer people you’ll get filling them out.

9. Laughably Link-less

If people can’t find you online, you’re toast. One thing that makes Google (and other search engines) take notice is how many quality sites link to yours. Other sites are more likely to link to yours if you offer helpful information such as tips, white papers, newsletters, a blog or other items. Sending out regular press releases on your business is one way to build links. You can also seek links from professional associations, clients and vendors.

10. Unborn Updates

Incorrect or outdated info on your website spells certain doom. If your latest press release is three years old or other content is clearly aging, customers will wonder how up-to-date and vibrant your business really is. Review and update all content on your site regularly to keep it fresh and timely.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

What You Should Know About Pheed

First off, no whining about yet another social media site – even if it is one that gives you a way to directly make money from it (assuming you have content or clout that people will pay for).

Here are the basics:  Pheed is a new social platform created by a group of tech and entertainment entrepreneurs in Los Angeles that “soft launched” (biz speak for “we’re not sure it’s fully baked and we have no money to promote it anyway) October 12, 2012.  It has many similarities to Twitter and other social sites (they use the same @YourName and channel “hashtag” conventions, along with “timelines”), and the game is to get subscribers, while posting your own Pheeds and subscribing to channels you like.

But there are some important differences as well.

While Pheed lets you post the usual text (albeit longer than Tweets), photos and videos, it spices things up with new stuff like voice notes, audio clips and even live broadcasting.  A few Hollywood celebs were first to jump in, in part because Pheed gives them (and you) the option of charging people a monthly subscription fee to view what you post. If you have the clout to pull that off, great.

You can also do live pay-per-view broadcast events or simply make your channels and Pheeds freely available to anyone.   You set the prices, and earn money directly, although Pheed takes a hefty half of any revenue.

Pheed makes it clean and easy to open a Pheed channel by signing up with an existing Facebook or Twitter account. Mine was up and running in minutes (posting is a cinch), although I have no clue where it could lead.  For now, the flavor of Pheed is decidedly about celebrities of one fashion or another. But that could change.

 

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

12 Digital Trends That Will Rock Small Business

The digital world is changing rapidly with profound implications for how small businesses are found online, in search, on mobile devices and in social media. Here’s my list of today’s 12 key digital trends with the greatest potential impact (for updates, follow us on Twitter @140Main or visit BizBest):

1. Shrinking Space for Search Results

As Google continues to claim more and more space for paid products on every search engine results page, there’s less available for your business to show up in free “organic” results.  Bottom line: Banking on SEO tactics to get found online will keep getter harder.

2. Social Search Soars

Search engines and yellow pages type directories aren’t the only places people look online for businesses. More customers are using social media to search for what they need locally (and elsewhere). If you lack a prominent social media presence, beware.

3. Articles as Ads: High Value Content is The New Ad “Creative”

Content (articles, photos, videos, menus, white papers, newsletters, etc.) is where most small businesses stumble. Having a website, blog and social media pages isn’t enough without good content to go along. The simple act of offering a helpful PDF download can produce big results. Content, in effect, becomes your new ad “creative.”

4. Mobile Devices Own the Day

As the power and sophistication of mobile devices grows, they’ve become the “central processing units” for their lives. People already spend an average of 2-5 hours daily on a mobile device. This raises the ante for making sure your business is visible on mobile. About 55% of the U.S. population owns a smart phone, and 78% of them don’t leave home without it.

5. “Day Parting” and “Conquesting” Become more Prevalent

“Day Parting” is the term for dividing up the day into distinct marketing periods for making specific offers to local customers. For example, a restaurant that makes offers just before lunch. Mobile ad services can help you do this. “Conquesting” is a term for attracting a customer already at one local business, over to another local business offering a synergistic product or service. For example, an ice cream shop suggesting (via mobile) to diners currently eating in nearby restaurants to stop by for dessert.

6. Facebook & Twitter Deliver More

Facebook is finally figuring out small business (and vice versa), offering new ways for you to acquire customers. Twitter, too. A term you’ll see more is “Native Placement,” which includes paid placements on Facebook and Twitter such as Sponsored Stories and Promoted Tweets.

7. Four-Screen World Rules

No single device or “screen” dominates. People move effortlessly between a PC, smart phone, tablet and TV.  According to Google research, 90% of consumers begin a task on one device and complete it on another. Content (such as an ad) viewed on one device can trigger behavior on another device. This means businesses can no longer construct campaigns specific to a single device.

8. Google Product Listing Ads Gain Prominence

Google Product Listings (free) and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have been around for years but have been given a makeover and will gain momentum as businesses discover that PLAs can be far more effective than simple text ads.

9. Big Move Toward Video

Video will continue to explode. Already, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. There are channels for every interest — over a million of them. Seek out channels that interest your customers and try advertising there.

10. Digital Ad Products get Simpler

Solution providers are starting to heed the call of business owners who say digital products are too complex. Google, for example, just introduced AdWords Express, a simplified version of AdWords. Details: google.com/adwords/express

11. NAP Alignment Gets More Critical

NAP — or Name, Address and Phone number — is the vital info that every local business must make available online and on mobile. But if your NAP details aren’t consistent in all places (including dozens of online directories) you risk confusing Google and slipping in search results.

12. Engaging Customers in “Social Storefronts” Gains Importance

Imagine a customer walks into your store and you turn your back. That’s essentially what’s been happening online when a small business has a Facebook business page but doesn’t actively engage with customers. The importance of building online relationships will grow even bigger.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

10 Reasons to Consider Google Apps for Business

If you run a business and still think of Google only for search and AdWords, you may be missing something that could help your business work smarter and cheaper. The search giant is really a softy when it comes to small business, and has been working to woo biz owners and startups into its Google Apps for Business bundle.

It’s a bundle bursting with productivity tools small businesses need, starting at, well, free. And these aren’t stripped down versions, either. With little fanfare Google Apps for Business has already signed up some 5 million firms – most of them small.

Basically, Apps for Business is a cluster of cloud-based tools you access via web-connected computer or mobile device. They include documents, presentations, spreadsheets, online storage and sharing, calendars, email and more. The free version for individuals and teams of up to 10 includes the basics, while the paid “business-ready” version offers more (including 24/7 customer support) for $50 per year, per user. Get full details at www.Google.com/apps.

Here are 10 reasons to consider Google Apps for your business:

1. Custom Gmail for Business: A business class version of Gmail lets you create a custom email address using your own business domain name and have email you can access anywhere, anytime on any device you choose.

2. Storage galore: With the paid Gmail version, you get an astounding 25 GB of storage capacity for each inbox. That’s essentially a bottomless email inbox, so you’ll never have to delete emails. Even the free version has 10 GB.

3. Super search: Gmail’s search feature lets you find anything in your email, while labels and filters help keep your email organized. What’s more, text, voice and video chat features let you see who’s online and connect instantly. You can even see your contacts’ profile photos, recent updates and shared documents next to each email.

4. Google Calendar is a great tool for organizing your day, week or month. You can get reminders on your phone or in your inbox. Attach files or docs to your event so you have the right materials when your meeting starts.

5. Keep everyone together: Use calendar sharing to find time with others in your business, and let the smart scheduling feature suggest meeting times that work for everyone.

6. Schedule Clients Too: You can even create a calendar and embed it on your website or set up appointment slots so customers can choose the best time for them. Calendar lets you automatically send invitations and track RSVPs via email.

7. Core Needs are Covered: Google Docs (like Word), Spreadsheets (like Excel) and Slides (like PowerPoint) give you all the power you need to create documents with images, tables, drawings, links and more. Keep and share lists, track projects, analyze data and track results. Sheets includes tools such as advanced formulas, embedded charts, filters and pivot tables.  Slides lets you create presentations with embedded videos, animations and fancy transitions.

8. Easy to Import and Convert: With Google Docs, it’s easy to import your existing work and convert it from most common text, spreadsheet and presentation formats so you can edit and share. Optical character recognition (OCR) even lets you import editable text from PDFs and images.

9. Access Your Files From Anywhere: Google Drive – included in the Google Apps bundle – lets you access your files from anywhere. With Google Drive on your PC, Mac or mobile device (as well as your browser), you’ll have a single place for the latest versions of your files, accessible anytime, anywhere. You can upload and store any type of file you choose. Share files or entire folders with individuals, your team, as well as customers or partners. In the Docs, Sheets and Slides editors, multiple people can work on the same file at the same time.

10. Shared Online Workspaces:  Google Sites is the app that helps you build a project website without writing a single line of code. It’s like writing a simple document. Or choose from hundreds of prebuilt templates. Use your team site to organize everything from calendars to documents to presentations, to videos. Google-powered search makes it simple to find what you’re looking for later. Share your site with co-workers or customers with a single click.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Best App to Record Calls on a Smart Phone

If you or your business ever need to record phone calls from an iPhone or other smart phone, filtering the options for doing so can be frustrating. Trust me.  I just did it.  But with help from my Stanford-student son, we came up with a clear winner that’s low-cost, easy to setup and use, and produced fast, high-quality results.

Our BizBest 60-Second solution winner in this category is an app called “Record Phone Calls” Pro edition  (uninspiring name perhaps, but certainly descriptive) from Blue Square Group LLC ($9.99 from iTunes store or other app download sites).

How it Works

I started this search thinking there’d be a simple solution that would allow calls to be recorded directly on the phone for free.  No such luck. Smart phones don’t support this. They way most apps work is by establishing a third-party call to a recording service that creates a digital recording of the your call and then either emails it to you or allows you to access the audio file online. While some charge per-minute fees, this app does not. So while you pay a little more to get the app, it’s way cheaper in the long run.

Records Both Outgoing and Incoming Calls

What’s more, some apps will only let you record outgoing calls, but not incoming. With Pro, you can do both. Be careful to follow the instructions for setup.  You need to register your cell phone number, obtain a local access number (from a list of access numbers available worldwide), make that number a contact in your phone, and provide an email address so they can send you the recordings of your calls.

Basically, it’s just like setting up a 3-way call — only in this case, the third-party is a service that records your conversation. You can set it up before you call someone; or place an incoming call on hold briefly while you connect to the recorder via your access number.  In all cases, it’s recommended you inform the other party the call is being recorded, both as a courtesy, and for legal purposes (not doing so is illegal in some states).

Tests Worked Flawlessly

We tested both outgoing and incoming recording, and they worked flawlessly. Audio files were emailed in less than a minute (although can take more time for longer conversations). A few frustrated buyers of this app have posted bad reviews, but from all appearances it’s simply because they didn’t follow the instructions. If you register properly, it’s really a snap.

Copyright 2000-2012, BizBest Media Corp. (Follow @140Main) All Rights Reserved.

A 10-Step Facebook Cheat Sheet for Biz Owners

Despite its massive reach and wide adoption, Facebook remains baffling to many business owners. Facebook itself has never really understood small business, and hasn’t done a great job explaining how biz owners can use it to grow sales.

To Facebook’s credit, that’s starting to change as they provide more and better tools top help small firms, local businesses, professionals, start-ups and others leverage a platform that now claims over 1 billion users.  If you have a Facebook business page, you’ll be hearing more from Facebook as it roll’s out a variety of new ways for small companies to use paid advertising.

So far, however, the vast majority of local businesses are sticking with what they can get from Facebook for free – which is actually quite a lot.  Only about seven percent of small businesses surveyed recently by Merchant Circle are using paid promotional services on Facebook. That compares to 70 percent who are now using Facebook’s free features to promote their business.

The good news is that Facebook has upgraded the free tools and information it offers to help you succeed. The Facebook for Business section (www.Facebook.com/business) has helpful how-to tips and guidance on everything from building your page to best practices for engaging users. You’ll also find interesting stories on how other small businesses are using Facebook successfully, and a list of helpful resources.

Success always starts with building an engaging Business Page – the free foundation of your effort to grow with Facebook.  Here’s a quick 10-step cheat sheet on what to do:

1. Your Category

Choose a category and give your page a name that represents your business.

2. Your Photo

Pick a photo or logo to use as your “profile picture.” This is the smaller image associated with your page. In some cases, this might be your photo, a square version of your logo (beware: non-square logos can end up being chopped off), or some other graphic representation of your business.

3. Your Tag Line

Create a “tag line” or short sentence that captures briefly what your business is about – specifically what you do or sell, and the value you offer.

4. Your URL

Create a custom Facebook web address for your business that’s memorable and shareable.  The part you pick is what comes after Facebook.com. For example, Facebook.com/StateBicycle.

5. Your Cover Page

Select a “cover page” photo or other image – preferably something that people would associate with your business. Use a high quality image, as it will be featured prominently on your page. It’s the first thing people will see and should showcase your product, service or brand. Size restrictions are very specific. It’s best to use a horizontal image that’s 851 x 315 pixels. Avoid generic photos. It’s much better to use an image unique to your business, such as a popular menu item for a restaurant, or perhaps a customer using your product or service (with their permission). You might have to experiment with a few different images to see what looks best.  Avoid putting contact information or other business details in your image. Those should go in your “About” section.

6. Your News Feed

The “news feed” is the centerpiece of the Facebook experience. You can easily create different kinds of “news” or “posts” for your feed, including written text updates, photos, videos or questions. People who “like” your page will see your updates in their own news feeds (one reason you’ll want as many “likes” as possible). The news feed is where people spend 40 percent of their time on Facebook. This is where people engage and share ideas and information.

7. Your Posts

Short posts work best – no more than 250 characters (about 50 words). They’ll get 60 percent more likes, comments and shares than longer posts.

8. Your Sharing

The best things to share, however, are photos (including photo albums) and videos. People are twice as likely to engage with these as other types of posts.

9. Your Deails

To add details about your business, click on the Edit Page button in the admin panel. Then choose “Update Info” to change or add what you want.

10. Your Invitations

Invite people to like your page – including your community of friends, family, customers, employees and others who care about your business. The “Build Audience” button on your admin panel will show you some things to try.

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