Displaying articles for: August 2010
As was mentioned on Friday, small- and medium-sized businesses need a website and finding a simple, easy affordable solution to create one can be a distracting or daunting task for many.
We’ve looked at a lot of business research and it’s clear to us that the number one challenge for SMB is finding the time to design and the money for an effective website. We already know that a large percentage of SMBs either don’t have a website or have ‘placeholder’ sites with limited functionality for the business.
No matter what kind of business you’re in – pizza parlor or financial consultant, for example, you need a strong website presence 24/7. Most pizzerias these days have online ordering options with the ability for customers to – dare I say it? – customize their orders. If you’re a financial consultant, your clients may look to you for a daily stream of financial market information, as well as the ability to view and, in some cases, customize their investments online.
While there are multiple website hosting and web listing options out there from the likes of Go Daddy! and Google among them, they don’t offer the robust features and ease of use that the new Verizon Websites powered by Intuit and Web Listings services do.. We know this because we’ve benchmarked against these and many of our direct competitors’ offerings. After all, you have a choice and we don’t like coming in second place on your list of preferred providers.
With Verizon Websites, creating a company website is as easy as clicking and dragging your mouse. In about three (3) easy steps you can launch your website:
Step 1: Pick the look of your website
There are over 2,000 website designs custom-tailored for 100 industries. If you don’t like any of the design in your industry, say you didn’t like any of the bakery designs, but liked a designed that’s suggested for a sporting store… no problem! Use which ever design you love and customized it for your business.
Step: 2 Customize it
Add in your company logo and your own text or edit what’s suggested in the template. Use graphics to make your website more attractive – there are 250,000 images to choose from.
Step: 3 Go LIVE!
It takes just one click of the button and your company website will be online and available to view by another.
It can’t get any easier than that can it? Okay, if you want it even easier, just call us and we’ll walk you through the process or, for a small fee, a website designer will build it for you.
In any event, at Verizon, we’re so excited about these two new services: can do for your business that we’re giving both away – Verizon Websites powered by Intuit and Web Listings – (with domain name, web analytics, and an e-commerce capability) as a bonus for 12 months when you sign for one of our newly simplified Solutions bundles with either FiOS Internet or High Speed Internet and voice services.—now available with no term contract. We also have bundles that include TV at a great price too.
Of course, Verizon Websites and all its design and hosting capabilities is available for $19.99/month and the powerful search engine registration and analytics of Web Listings for $14.99/month. I’d encourage you to look very closely at what kind of capabilities and support you’ll be getting for your website with Verizon Websites powered by Intuit. Intuit has worked with us to develop an exceptional suite of tools that make it extremely easy to build and manage your site to keep it up to date and you’ll have access to expert web advisors 7 days a week.
So, if you’re committed to the success of your business, invest in a good set of easy-to-use website tools that put you on the map and keep your customers coming back day-after-day, week-after-week. Now, Go Get Connected, Get Online, and Get Discovered!
As many small- and medium-sized business owners have learned in recent years, the days of not connecting with your customer base online has quickly disappeared. Sure, many small businesses are getting more and more engaged in social media channels or leveraging cloud-based services. However, one essential tool that can’t be ignored is the business’s website.
It’s critical that your company website perform at the highest levels and reflect the performance of your business in the minds of your customers – both current and potential. What do I mean by this? If your website is consistently down or doesn’t visually appeal to your customers, or have the same stale content day after day they may very well decide the business is not ‘up to par’ and move on to one that screams high performance. Think about your own online habits. Don’t you tend to visit websites more frequently that are intuitive and user-friendly when you’re online?
So, finding the right web hosting partner becomes that much more an indispensable asset for your business. It’s critical to have the right support. Whether that means 24/7 phone and email support, support in finding the most appropriate package for your business or support to keep your business up and running all the time…you need to find the right web hosting partner.
At Verizon, we’ve just launched a new website building service that’s so easy to use and gives you a lot of bang for the buck with domain name, web analytics, and e-commerce capability all included at no cost to you for the first year when you sign up for a qualifying bundled package. I know it’s easy, because I tried it out myself designing an easily navigated website and it literally took 10 minutes to complete – No lie!
In addition, we’ll offer a valuable service that lists in up to 100 local directories free for the first year when you sign up for one of our new bundles of voice and FiOS Internet or High Speed Internet. Being listed on local search sites will help your business appear when customers search for your type of business in your particular area, instead of directly searching for your business's name. So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have a website for your business, sign up now.
If you do have a website, be sure to ask yourself if you are truly satisfied with the layout and attractiveness of your online storefront. If you aren’t, then maybe it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Does your current company website have a lot of online traffic? Can your current website allow you to communicate with your customers through a blog, podcasts or videos? Can you easily update, make changes or completely redesign your business website in minutes? Can your website handle sales online?
Each of these questions should be part of your evaluation process. By choosing the right features, you’ll get the best experience for yourself, employees and, most importantly, your existing and potential customers. Choosing your web hosting partner does not need to be an excruciating process. However, factoring in a few different variables can make a world of difference in the overall experience.
Remember, Verizon can help you through all of this. We can either help get your small business online for the first time or upgrade the current experience to one that will not only attract customers, but keep them coming back! Don’t forget, we offer so much more than just services and products – we offer a one-stop online resource called the Verizon Small Business Center.
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My online friends, where does the time go? I’ve been trying to post this blog since this morning, but one thing led to another… Check out below these interesting articles I spotted this week. Let me know what you think of these weekly roundups and feel free to share a link to an article you found helpful for your business. Until the next time, happy reading!
- Our friends at Small Business Trends have a wonderful social media workshop with plenty of links to navigate your way into social networking.
- Are you familiar with the Pop-up store? If not, perhaps you should be thinking about it and Entrepreneur’s Carol Tice provides five reasons to consider it.
- InformationWeek’s Keith Ferrell captured highlights from Panda Security’s recent survey which noted 46% of small and midsized businesses have experienced at least one incident of cybercrime.
- Biznik’s Stacy Karacostas outlines five steps to make sure your business’ voice sounds a lot like your customer’s best friend.
- Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch provides some good insight and details into how you can automate your lead generation system.
Verizon pays close attention to what small businesses want and need – particularly when it comes to packaging voice, Internet, and TV services. It really is a pretty straightforward world for business – you want simplicity when it comes to buying your services, savings – the best bang for the buck, and flexibility that allows you to adjust to changing conditions.
Today, Verizon has put this all together in the form of our new Solutions for Business bundles of voice, Internet and TV service at very competitive prices. We’re making it flexible by offering our first no term contract where you can pay monthly and cancel at any time without an early termination fee (ETF). You also can choose a two-year term contract for additional monthly savings and the bundled price is guaranteed for two-years (a prorated ETF applies).
On top of that, we’ve added a very simple option for you – if you want an extra phone line with no added services, it’s a flat $20 per month or $35 per month if you want unlimited nationwide calling on a line.
So take the time to look at what services you have now, what you’re paying for them and compare with our new Solutions options. If you’re not sure what you want, then use our Solutions Recommender which helps you evaluate what services your business needs. It’ll be worth your time and money to find out if there’s a solution that works for you!
There's always something happening in the world and the online world has become more of our waking hours which means - as always - that small business needs to be alert to the latest trends and tips for you. This week, there are a number of good posts included here with one focused on Facebook's announcement of its geo-location option - Facebook Places. With more than 500 million Facebook users and still growing, this may be one you'll want to take a closer look at for listing your business.
- Considering a new business? Inc. offers ten tips to think about before you launch a company.
- Are you good at bookkeeping? Have you thought about making this into a business? About.com’s Alyssa Gregory provides some fantastic tips to take your skill and help out other small business owners.
- At some point, everyone must stand in front of others and give a speech or presentation. Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch offers a few tips to weave into your speaking arsenal.
- As you probably know, running an efficient small business requires proper training for your employees. AOL Small Business’ Geoff Williams outlines five steps to write an employee handbook.
- We’ve talked a lot about how to use social media for your small business. Entrepreneur’s Mikal Belicove discusses this week’s Facebook Places announcement and what it means for your business.
Today we have some thoughts from our marketing intern Jenna Lamb about what businesses can expect when hiring the next generation of workers – passionate, hard-working young people who are ready to work and know how to get the most out of today’s technologies because they are digital natives.
As a soon-to-be college graduate, the thought of having a real job within a few months is both extremely terrifying and really exciting. I’m definitely more than ready to be done writing twenty page book reports, having surprise quizzes, and relocating to the library basement during the finals week at TCU. But, at the same time, it makes me super nervous to think I’ll soon be working with people who have more years’ work experience than I have been alive. Regardless of my reluctance, I’m very excited to graduate and start the next chapter of my life – entering the work world.
My generation – Generation Y – does everything differently than the generations before us. I honestly use technology and the Internet for every aspect of my daily life. I can’t even begin to comprehend how people kept up with the latest headlines, communicated with others, or even maintained their sanity without technology! From my perspective, the “pre-Internet era” might as well be considered the prehistoric era, as I would be equally lost in both. As a business owner, you need to understand how to reach and do business with my generation. So when looking to hire recent college graduates here are some things that you should know about us:
- 1. We’re always connected
I’m always – and I do mean always – connected and available to the world around me. The Internet and wireless capabilities are such an integrated part of my life that if I somehow forget my Blackberry at my house, or my netbook battery dies in the middle of a class, I’ll definitely go into instant panic mode. I might as well be on a desert island. My multi-tech/multi-tasking lifestyle has become the norm for all of my friends and basically all people my age. So, if you try to tell us you have rules about text messaging or that you ban social media websites, we’ll think you’re joking.
- 2. We need guidance
Growing up I had scheduled practices for everything imaginable. Throughout high school I took private tennis lessons three times a week, went to French tutoring, had cheerleading practice, and took an SAT prep class….and this was all before school even started in the mornings. My generation is used to being taught how to succeed by doing things the ‘right’ way. So, when we start a new job we’ll need clear directions and feedback at the same level of coaching we have come to expect throughout our lives.
- 3. We hate “fluff”
There is nothing I hate more than wasting my precious time on something pointless. Having endless amounts of available on-demand information has made our golden rule quality over quantity. We’ve become masters at scanning and filtering out what’s relevant and what’s not. I want all information prepared and presented in the quickest and most efficient way possible through: PowerPoint presentations, bullet points, hyperlinks, and summaries.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I’m extremely excited or scared out of my mind to graduate and get a ‘real’ job – it’s happening. My generation represents the emerging demographic that is the new way of doing business. So please realize that we do things differently and embrace the change!
It’s Friday and it’s lunch time. If you are like me who eats at her desk most days (I’m trying to break this habit), take a break from doing work. Perhaps poke around online and even check out one of these articles below that might interest you or give you insights that you can incorporate into running your business better. If you only have a few minutes definitely read about entrepreneur Theresa Daytner, she shares tips on how she networks with the New York Times (last article); perhaps, you’ll follow her tenacity and find some golden opportunities for your business? And check out the blog Monte posted below on disaster planning. There are simple and very affordable solutions for small businesses to backup data and more so if your business isn’t protected from disaster… it is advisable you look into it today.
- InformationWeek’s Michele Pepe-Warren highlights the results from two recently conducted surveys gauging how SMBs feel about the economy.
- Thinking about taking a vacation this month? You should as Biznik’s Lynne Brisdon explains how to do it and not feel guilty!
- AOL Small Business’ Jenna Von Elling talks with a few experts on whether an entrepreneur should or should not use Twitter.
- Wondering how to gain more visibility for your blog? DuctTape Marketing’s John Jantsch discusses whether your blog is iPad worthy.
- The New York Times’ Adrianna Gardella speaks with Theresa Daytner on the art of networking.
We all know the superstition around Friday the 13th and bad luck – but that’s all it is. . . superstition. When it comes to the unexpected, there’s a different adage I prefer – “A stitch in time saves nine.”
In my line of work, I’m constantly thinking about how unforeseen events may impact small business owners. Recent news coverage surrounding floods in Iowa, fires in California, tornadoes across Oklahoma and the impending hurricane season cause me to wonder if small businesses have effectively prepared themselves for potential loss. The fact is a major disaster isn’t always a massive natural occurrence – a break-in, theft of a laptop or loss of a smart phone in a taxi would easily factor into a major disaster for today’s small business owner.
So small businesses need to ask themselves if they are prepared and, if not, how to get prepared. What should you be thinking about today to ensure that you don’t lose the countless hours on your finances, employment records, customer files and so on? The days of backing up your files are long gone, but what fits your budget and doesn’t take an engineer to figure out for your line of work?
This abstract will provide a vendor neutral view on small business disaster recovery. Verizon’s Monte Beck will outline how today’s small business can build up the proper defenses against major disasters and ensure they can be as prepared as possible in today’s online environment.
If you do capture most of your important documents, files and records online, how much storage is enough? Think about this. Do you file away enough documents to fill up five pickup trucks of printed documents each year? What about 100 pickup trucks? Well, if you have this same amount on your computer system at the office, what would you do if a power surge knocked out your PCs? What if your hard drive crashed? Would you be able to recover from this?
These days, I don’t think it’s the right approach to not consider some sort of back-up system for your small business. We offer varying degrees of online storage and back-up – from the five pickup trucks option (5GB) up to the 250 pickup trucks (250GB) for our High Speed Internet or FiOS Internet packages. Our plans range from $1.99/mo up to $19.99/mo with the first 30 days free for new subscribers.
Backing up your important files is an essential part of customer service in today’s business environment. Never losing valuable information can go a long way for your customers should you experience a disaster. No one ever wants to go through one, but sometimes it can happen when you least expect it. Protect yourself and look to Verizon to help you find the right solution for your small business.
Join me tomorrow at 2 p.m. EST as I host a free webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center. I’ll show small business owners interested in getting a better understanding of the various options made available from Google for managing a business in the "cloud."
Over the course of the hour long webinar, you will not only just learn about Google's tools, but you will also gain some contextual understanding of how these tools can play an important role in the workflow and organization of their small businesses. And luckily for the attendees, I will not be the only person speaking for the entire hour. I will be joined by three guests that will provide their own unique perspective on Google Apps and other ways to extending the tools offered by Google.
Trada CEO and founder Niel Robertson will join the webinar to go over Google's AdSense and AdWords programs and how small businesses can take advantage of them. Trada is a Boulder startup that helps businesses of all sizes better manage pay-per-click ad campaigns by leveraging the power of crowdsourcing.
Also joining the webinar will be Expensify co-founder David Barrett. Expensify is a service that can integrate with Google Apps to help make the process of tracking expenses within small businesses quick, painless and seamless. Expensify is part of a larger collection of tools which live in the Google Apps Marketplace, and David will explain both how the marketplace works and how it can help small businesses.
And finally, the third guest is Caige Nichols, a serial entrepreneur and lead web developer at Zion & Zion, a Phoenix-based ad agency. Caige will provide the webinar attendees with context for using Google Apps with a startup - a process he has lots of experience with from his history of entrepreneurship.
Never heard of these tools? Then you should take a lot away from this webinar. Already have an understanding of them? Well there's something for everyone, I promise! So please register and spread the word and we hope to see you on the live free webinar tomorrow! Click here to register and bring your questions. If you can’t make it, catch the replay later this week.
Today I want to introduce an intern in our marketing department - Jenna Lamb - who's a senior at Texas Christian University majoring in marketing. I've asked her to share her thoughts in several posts this month about how college age consumers approach small businesses in their daily lives. I think you'll find her comments thought-provoking and good insight into how they view technology and social media influencing the way they do business.
The Way I Use the Internet . . . I Start With Facebook
Whether it’s searching for the dress Heidi Klum wore on last nights’ episode of Project Runway that I need for my sorority formal, or trying to find a local pizza place that delivers at 3 a.m. during finals week, I take full advantage of the internet and the instant gratification I receive from it.
As an always on-the-go college student, I don’t have time to do things the ’normal‘ way. When my mom reminds me I need to change the oil in my car, need to make a hair appointment, or I need to find somewhere that can fix my favorite pair of heels that desperately need some tender love and care, I can always find what I’m looking for on the Internet – and that doesn’t mean browsing only e-commerce catalogs either.
After a productive hour of studying in the library my friends and I allow ourselves ten- minute Facebook ‘breaks’, and don’t even get me started on how many fights have broken out because someone’s boyfriend was tagged in a photo with some unidentified girl. To say the least, social media, particularly Facebook, is an integrated part of my everyday life.
A recent study found that 1/3 of all women ages 18-34 admit to being “addicted” to Facebook, so much so that the first thing they reported doing in the morning is checking their Facebook. To me and my friends, having a Facebook site means a person actually exists, and the same goes for businesses. Social networking tools are an extremely important part of a business’s persona. If your business isn’t there, you’re less relevant to me than one that has a Facebook page.
Want to Know How I Shop? Read On. . .
Shopping to me means I literally have 20 free minutes to quickly browse my favorite fashion blog, look at the latest trends, quickly price compare different sites, and make the final purchase. If I’m already logged into my Facebook site, which I always am, I’ll instantly get message updates informing me of new products, lines, and promotions from my fan pages (If you don’t know what a Facebook Fan Page is, you’re missing out big time).
These updates keep me in the loop on what’s hot this season and keep these businesses on top of my mind. So if my sister asks me where she should get her hair highlighted, or my boyfriend asks me where he can get his mom her favorite flowers for her birthday, I’ll for sure think of the businesses that I see on a regular basis on Facebook.
As a business owner, you need to know that being online with a website, and active with social networking tools are not just ’add-ons‘ to your business. If you want to be found, and get more business, this is how you’ll get the attention of me and my friends.
1. Have a website
If I’m searching for the best cupcake in Texas and your bakery makes the best cupcakes in the state but doesn’t have a website, I will never find you. Guaranteed. I don’t own a phone book, my friends don’t own phone books, and I don’t have the time or motivation to figure out where I could even find one. If I’m Googleing bakeries near my house I want to find what I’m looking for, and fast. Once I’m on the website I need it to be very user-friendly so I can find product information, prices, location, and hours without giving up and trying someone different.
2. … AND social networking tools.
If your business has a social networking site I can quickly navigate and find my needed information. Again, I’m ALWAYS on my social networking websites, so if you bring your business to where I am, then your that much more relevant to me. If I notice some of my friends are your “friends”, it’s like we have an instant connection. The fact that my friends have “recommended” your business to their network of friends must mean that your great and definitely worth a shot!
3. Provide a discount, price cut, promotion, or coupon.
I’m pretty sure when my parents determined my monthly allowance they “forgot” to figure in my weekly pedicure, InStyle and USweekly magazine subscriptions, clothes, and Starbucks addiction. Whenever something is promoted that will save me money to spend on my “essentials,” I am more than willing to sign up for your mailing list, become your Facebook friend, and use your coupon.
4. Keep it updated and fresh.
I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to navigate to a company’s website and find out that it hasn’t been updated since 1999. If your business still has the “Summer Sensations Menu” and it’s December, or if your last Facebook status or Tweet is about who won American Idol Season 92394, then that’s a big red flag. If your site isn’t up-to-date, I’ll assume you either went out of business or don’t care about your customers. Either way, you will not be getting my business.
So… get to know your customers, what they like, and what they think is annoying. Focus your business endeavors on making them happy and on gaining a referral for your business through a new social network “friend.”
It’s Friday! Here are some articles I found this week that I think you may find of interest. Feel free to leave a comment or suggest an article you’ve read that’ll be of interest to other small businesses. Happy reading!
- While many feel the economy is getting better, the fact is that more work is still needed. Entrepreneur’s Carol Tice details a new study capturing bankruptcy rates in cities across the country.
- We continue to hear about the influence social media sites have on small businesses. As an owner, Yelp is one that carries a good deal of influence and AOL’s Small Business Julia Rodgers provides five things you must know about the site.
- We all work hard, but there must be some time factored in for your personal lives! Biznik’s Stacy Karacostas offers ten simple rules to help you unchain yourself from your business.
- Are you aware of the 404 error page? If you are or are not, ReadWriteWeb’s John Paul Titlow provides some great insight on what this is and why it should matter to the small business owner.
- Small Business Trends’ Wendy Lowe compiled ten tips to factor into your email campaigns. Great ideas here!
During the first few months of the year, Verizon and Cisco put forth a challenge to small business owners, asking them to put their best foot forward with video submissions that described the challenges they faced growing their business. The Better Way Challenge offered the grand prize winner a consultation with renowned technology evangelist and business startup expert Guy Kawasaki.
The grand prize winner – Dr. Ronald Banks of Pasadena, CA – recently had his consultation with Kawasaki via Cisco Telepresence. He also won a $2,000 American Express Rewards card as part of his grand prize. Banks won the competition with his video entry on what he’d like to do to grow his practice. You can view it here.
Kawasaki spent time with Banks talking about what’s important for small businesses in their planning. This report recounts some of Kawasaki’s observations regarding the need for effective websites to help people find your business and keep coming back.
In addition to Banks, two runners-up were selected from among the video submissions - Carmen Dawson of Advanz, LLC in Erie, PA, and Lisa Hickey of Media We in Belmont, MA. You can view the Advanz video here and Media We’s submission here. Each runner up received a one-hour consultation from the Cisco small business team as well as a $1,000 American Express Rewards Card.
All three consultations were tailored to the specific business needs of the winners and focus on ways in which collaboration and online resources can make their businesses more efficient and competitive.
While our contest was used to promote the Verizon Small Business Center as a resource for businesses, it also was designed to help entrepreneurs think about what steps they can take to use online collaboration, social media and related tools to build a solid foundation for their business.
Check Out the Verizon Collaboration Center for a month free - no obligation - and learn how to better connect with colleagues and customers to share work real-time. You don't even have to be a Verizon small business customer to take advantage of this offer!