How SmallBizTracks Works: Meetings

Skype Video Call In sales training years ago, phrases like “face-to-face and belly-to-belly” were as popular as “Always Be Closing.”

There are more possibilities now, especially for business meetings. “Face-to-face” doesn’t always include the “belly-to-belly” part anymore.

At SmallBizTracks, many of our customers are looking for new customers in new regions and across borders. Meeting across a coffee table or in a single office – while still highly favored – is logistically unfeasible at times. For us too.

The technology is now available so meetings can take place in a variety of ways. Here are some of our practices, in order of preference:

In person (toe-to-toe) – This is still the preferred method of meeting, especially when a project first gets started and especially if the work to be done is not related to web-based presence.

Video (face-to-face) – We can still have face-to-face without being toe-to-toe, using tools like Skype. In addition to being available on any device, the potential to share screens, record conversations for coaching or to catalog for reference, and the conferencing possibilities, Skype also allows for voice only and also for instant messaging.

Telephone (voice-to-voice) – Still popular, especially if one party is traveling. Great for checking in, but not the best for a meeting.

What does the (near) future hold?   Always-On-Video tools like Perch or Sqwiggle are growing in popularity and extending reach across geographical borders. Here’s a video for Perch to give you an idea about the potential use for your business:

As you can see, meetings across borders are getting easier. Even setting appointments is becoming easier with various plugins, portals, and apps.

If you have Skype and want to set up a meeting, simply add me to your contacts: mikesansone and send me a message.

How SmallBizTracks Works: Every Project Gets a Scope

One of the most important practices we have at SmallBizTracks is starting things out with a Scope Document.

Whatever level (size of project) or track (type of project), “The Scope” starts the project off on the right foot, keeps the project on “track”, and serves as a check list to know when to modify and when the task is complete.

The outline below is written in a format similar to our scope document, just to give an idea of what our scope looks like (not a specific track or model):

  1. Initial Consult
    1. Phone, Skype, or In-Person conversation
    2. Inquiries re: Short-Term and Long-Term goals
    3. Data Points, i.e., Timeframe, Resources, Conviction level
    4. Expectations
  2. Scope Document
    1. Draft and Delivery of Scope Document and Specifications
    2. Questions or Modifications
    3. Acceptance of Scope Starts the Project
    4. Project Invoiced, Payment Held in Escrow Until Project Complete
  3. Project Work
    1. Scope becomes Checklist
    2. Modifications Become Subject to Possible Additional Charges
    3. At End of Work, Customer uses Scope as “punch list” to completion
  4. Next Track
    1. At completion of project, a “Next Track” document is delivered
    2. Suggestions are made as to potential Improvements
      1. Some will be suggestions with current track
      2. Some will be suggestions on other tracks within business model
  5. Referrals and Reviews

While it would seem that only the Master Level projects would require a document like this, the “scope” serving as a checklist protects all parties, including potential outsourced contractors.

A scope document also acts as a box, of sorts. We can still think outside the box – it’s encouraged all parties involved do so, but at least we always know where the box is and what it contains should we get lost in practice or purpose.

2014 Breakthrough Small Business Transformer Summit

I’m excited to be among the 20-plus guest speakers at the 2014 Breakthrough Small Business Transformer Summit, a free webinar with lots of information around building your small business up in 2014. It all begins on Saturday, February 22, 2014.

Here’s a short video with more information, and a link below to reserve your seat for this profitable resource:

Reserve your spot at the 2014 Breakthrough Small Business Transformater Summit now.

Start with a Taste on a Toothpick

Whether it’s a new opportunity for you, or it’s something you’re offering to a new market, sometimes a taste on a toothpick is enough to get things rolling.

The risk is lower, the reward potentially greater. Often it’s enough to satisfy curiosity, and a new decision comes with the new information.

Taste on a Toothpick at the Food Court

Whether it’s Bitcoins and Beacons (your business taking a taste), or podcasts and product offerings (your business handing out a taste) – sometimes the Taste on a Toothpick is the best small step to take on either side of the coin you’re on.

Baseball Motivation and Matinee

It’s an exciting time of year. Ballplayers are reporting to camp with everyone in first – and even us Pittsburgh Pirates fans are thinking pennant. Stay warm with these scenes and speeches, but know they relate to business as well:

Joe Maddon on Doing Too Much and Trying New Things

Billy Beane Transforms Baseball … and the world beyond

Mental Preparation of Evan Longoria – Focus

Who’s on First has a Sequel? Remember: Everything is a ReMix (and this one is pretty good)

–-
As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

How Mobile Payment Systems Can Promote Customer Loyalty

Written by Kristen Gramigna of BluePay

BluePay Mobile Card Processing

In the modern business arena, you’re in constant competition with people’s love of all things simple. Implementing mobile payment systems is a must if you want to keep consumers from heading elsewhere. Here are some of the ways these conveniences improve customer satisfaction and retention and promote heightened customer loyalty.

Making Shopping Feel Safer

When people can use their phones and devices to pay for things, they’re more likely to have a good experience spending their money. While they won’t turn into spendthrifts overnight, the mere fact that they don’t have to continually reenter payment and identity information on websites they don’t recognize ensures that they feel safer about purchasing goods and services.

Some mobile payment systems let small businesses connect with larger established services, like Google Wallet and PayPal, and others make it easy to accept traditional credit cards on the go. Because these conveniences all include the name-brand recognition associated with major payment processors, they bring more legitimacy to the firm. Consumers who aren’t afraid to shop with you are more likely to come back in the future.

Competing with Convenience

Not every consumer is a computer enthusiast, but if you take computers and put them into phones, astounding numbers of people jump into the tech fray. The secret lies in the fact that even though mobile devices only bear a fraction of the computing power of a desktop machine, they drastically simplify usage.

This convenience is what you’re up against. With mobile payments, the ease of using your coupons, account services and other shopping interfaces keeps the overall experience stress-free and easy. This is critically important when something as simple as not having to repeatedly enter shipping information could make all the difference between whether a customer patronizes you again or migrates to your competitor.

Building a Good Relationship

Another important aspect of mobile shopping is that it lets you connect with clients without forcing your way into their comfort zones. Many ads and direct emails can be seen as intrusive; customers who patronized you in the past may feel that you’ve violated their trust by hounding them after they were finished dealing with you. Apps make it much easier to let them shop with you at their convenience and still gain access to everything you have to offer.

Analyzing Your Performance

Timely feedback and appropriate responses are essential to customer retention. Only by learning what people think of your services and practices can you satisfy their desires consistently. Mobile payment systems give you the chance to integrate consumer shopping experiences with easy feedback interfaces people can use to get in touch with you whenever they want.

For instance, global software firms that want to gain faster access to consumer opinions implement mobile or cloud-based learning and training hubs and forge closer connections. Because these platforms allow even huge enterprise corporations to respond to the complex needs of their patrons, they’re highly effective ways to ensure that you don’t miss out on a critical issue that might be driving people away.

Applying Information Accurately

As viral marketing trends show, the digital world has insanely fast turnarounds; a video or ad that you post on a blog in the morning can reach markets on the other side of the world by the afternoon. In order to capitalize on this speed, you have to stay ahead of it; mobile apps and connected point-of-sale systems play an essential role in building your operational awareness.

Mobile shopping generates instant data about buying trends, so you don’t have to deal with disconnects when trying to analyze the efficacy of your marketing campaigns. These platforms also make it easier for potential repeat consumers to access relevant sale, product and pricing information without searching the entire Internet.

Mobile payment systems vary widely, but they all share a common aspect — they make it easier for people to shop using the methods they’re already accustomed to. By implementing a mobile transaction system, you may just provide yesterday’s customer with more of a reason to work with you tomorrow.

Also see: 5 Best Practices of Mobile E-commerce

Author Bio:

Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a provider of ecommerce payment processing. She brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors. You can follow BluePay on Twitter.

Accepting Bitcoin as Currency and other Friday Flutterings

Bitcoins

Coinbase seems the way to go if you want to setup a merchant account to accept Bitcoin payments. This is my weekend “track” and should have more info next week. A good information portal for the cryptocurrency craze is WeUseCoins

… Pitchers and Catchers have reported for most teams, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. MLB.com updates their daily Spring Training photos, giving us a taste for warmer things to come.

… 45% is a big number, but that’s what MarketingLand is sharing (from a survey) as the number of small businesses that don’t have a website of their own. For years, most reports had the number around 30%, but many new businesses are using Facebook or generic website builders for their web presence. If you don’t have your own domain, it’s rented space.

… Modeling as an example is a secondary purpose for most of the posts on ConverStations – even Friday Flutterings.

… Bill Murray’s recent interview with Charlie Rose (full show) presents a funny man sharing wisdom and modeling some great conversational habits: listening, timing, facial expression. Here’s a 2-minute clip on how he’s managed to pivot during his career.

Project Mindset is coming up in almost every conversation I’m involved in recently. Lots of people pivoting and changing pace.

… Contention comes from Pride (Prov 13:10), so when I feel it or see it start to bubble up, I simply throttle back.

… Cooking with fresh ginger root and garlic is happening more and more in my kitchen. As someone who believes in component cooking, I’ve begun slicing and mincing ginger and garlic, mix with a touch of lemon juice and broth, and putting the mix into a small jar. When I need some, I simply spoon out a desired amount. The prep time is small and brings out a great taste which is huge.

photo credit: antanacoins via photopin cc

Previous Friday Flutterings:

The Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

“The little things in baseball, though they may have a small impact on one game, can have a large impact on one season,” Brad Ausmus, Manager, Detroit Tigers.

Baseballs up close. One new, one old Baseball is made up of many small things and offers fantastic lessons for life and business. A lot of talk around the thinking person’s baseball conversation is about the game-within-the-game. The small things being part of the whole.

In a recent article by MLB.com’s Jason Beck shares how the new Tigers skipper is preparing for the big project of the 2014 season by paying attention to the small things. Ausmus shares, “…it’s the little things over the course of 162 games that can make a big difference.”

This week is a favorite time of year for me. Pitchers and Catchers report for spring training. Isn’t that a great thing to say? May I say it again? It’s like a symphony:  Pitchers and Catchers report … nice. As they begin to work towards Opening Day, there is a lot of minutiae and repetitive work. It’s a long season. The purpose for this portion of the season, is preparation.

Similar to business, whether it’s opening a new location or launching an online store, reinvigorating a blog or getting ready for your summer sales, pay attention to the little things. The things that can have a small impact on a single project are part of the outcome of your bigger vision.

The little things can make a big difference.

Aside: Pitchers and Catchers report

Photo on Morguefile by whiterussian

We believe that building a better presence for your business is a practice of constant movement. Changes don’t always need to always be made in large packages or expensive replacements, but can often be made by implementing in a tweak or modification at a time.

We call these SmallBizTracks. Depending on the level of change(s) you’re looking to make, we have three levels to choose from:

  • Basic Tracks
  • $79
  • Quick and Simple Solution
  • Out-of-the-Box Simple
  • Keep it Simple
  • Advanced Tracks
  • $169
  • More Dynamic or Detailed
  • Customized Frameworks
  • Make it Dance
  • Master Tracks
  • $349 and up
  • Still a Step, Lots of Style
  • One-of-a-Kind
  • Go Plush

For more information, click on of the buttons above to learn more.
Or contact us via phone 800-825-9973 or email: mike (at) smallbiztracks.com

A Quick Click RSS Button for Chrome Browsers

Believing that content curation is almost as important for small business owners as content creation, I tend to share this cool tool with several people to help save them time.

I call it a “Quick Click RSS button”, though I believe the official name is RSS Subscription Extension for use with Chrome browsers.

This tool allows the user as they are browsing to click on the RSS icon within the address bar and immediately subscribe to the page the feed of the site they are browsing:

Screen Shot of the RSS Extension for Chrome - RSS Icon

This kind of “auto-discovery” icon was once prevalent, but not anymore. Some RSS publishing tools allow for browser-friendly, human-consumable previews - many don’t – and I don’t want to read code-looking language anymore than I have to, thank you.

Feed Preview with RSS Chrome Extension

Since I use Feedly as my main source of web-based reading, I like how this tool allows me to quickly subscribe and organize a site’s feed into my Feedly folders. By doing so, I don’t visit the publisher’s site every day – but I never miss any of the content.

Adding a RSS feed to a Feedly folder - Screen Shot

This handy RSS Subscription Extension can be found in the Chrome Web Store. Thanks to Justin Kelly for making the tool available. If you’re inclined to use Firefox as your browser, there is a RSS icon add-on with similar functionality.

Aside: For the purposes of this demonstration, I’ve been using the SeeMore Interactive Blog, a fantastic read if you’re interested in keeping up with Mobile Commerce and Retail Technology. 

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