Have you ever dreamed about working from the beach on a nice sunny day? Recently, I was drinking my coffee in the morning and using my iPhone to check appointments for the day. I heard on the radio that it was going to be 90 degrees by mid-day. When I checked my emails, I saw that a meeting after lunch was rescheduled... so I started thinking about that 90 degrees and remembered that one of our local beaches in Half Moon Bay, California had a very good wireless data signal from AT&T (seriously, don't laugh).Read more
In 2013, there is a much larger opportunity than in the last few years for non-technology oriented Small Businesses to implement the latest technology. All of them will help you increase your sales and/or reduce your costs. In addition, technology prices have dropped like a rock and they are so much easier to use (and learn) than ever before. This article was written for the non-technical owner or manager of a Home or Small Business.
Here are the 10 Key Small Business Trends:
Marketing Videos are being Added to Websites to Increase Sales Leads These days, most prospects want to watch a short 30- to 90-second video about your products or services on your website. Many don't have time to read a long white paper or product description during their first visit to your site. You can thank the use of YouTube and Smartphones for this change. The good news is that the cost of creating videos has dramatically gone down in the last few years. You can create them yourself or hire professionals to publish them. This will reduce your cost of Sales and Marketing and increase the number of your Sales / Marketing Presentations to prospects over the next 12 months.
Lead Nurturing Programs are Increasing Sales Prospects while Reducing the Cost of the Lead Process Send (or Scan) all Leads including: Trade Show Leads, Business Cards and Paper Lead Forms into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System or a dedicated "Marketing Automation" system. You can then use "Lead Nurturing" Campaigns to better qualify sales leads before sending them to expensive outside Sales / Account Managers. Sales and Marketing Productivity both go up.
Smartphones are Replacing Basic (Feature) Phones I know many Small Business Owners don't believe this. However, a Smartphone is NOT a "Nice to Have" product anymore. It is a "Need to Have" It's simple... If your competition have Smartphones and you don't, you will be less responsive to your customers and you will lose sales over time. Thanks to eMail, Texting, Instant Messaging, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, you need to respond to your sales prospects and customers much faster than even two years ago. You can also use a Smartphone to process credit card orders in the field. There are several companies that provide Free Apps and Credit Card Readers. Smartphones let you and your employees respond to Customers, Partners, Managers and Prospects as quickly as your Competition... or faster.
Social Marketing is Reducing Telemarketing & List Buying Costs If you are still only using Telemarketing, Buying Cold Call Lists and Sending Paper Mailers, you are missing a lot of sales prospects, spending more money than the competition and falling behind in productivity. If you outsource your telemarketing overseas to save money, you very likely have other issues. Your "under 40" prospects, don't talk as much on the phone as before. It's time to start learning and testing Social Networking... yes Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook, Blogs and more....
Small Business Applications are Moving from old Client / Servers to Web or "Cloud Computing" If you need to replace or upgrade an old application or computer system this year, you should seriously consider replacing the application with a cloud computing application. The new Cloud Apps are designed to work with the new Smartphones and Tablets. Sales Leads are delivered real-time to your Sales Teams and Channel Partners which will increase the number of sales contacts per day. As a small business, you can also save significant money over the next three years by moving to this newer technology. You can usually reduce your start-up, training and conversion costs for employees. If you are new to Cloud Computing, this article and video should help explain this basics: ABC News Brief Article: "What is the Cloud?" YouTube Short Video: Computer Basics: What is the Cloud?
Web Training Programs will Increase the Professional Skills of your Employees Technology is rapidly changing almost all industries. Some companies are being turned upside down due to these changes. You need to help your people keep up (and get ahead) of all the changes.... or you may NOT be in business in the future. Web-based Training is ideal for remote sales teams working out of their homes or small offices. Affordable Web-based training can now keep your costs down, your peoples' skills up and improve sales productivity.
Web-based Meetings/Events Increase the number of Sales Calls, Demos & Seminars per month Web-based Meetings and Event technology is now used by most larger companies on a daily basis. The cost of Web-based Meetings and Events has dramatically decreased and Small Businesses can now take advantage of this technology. It also reduces their cost of sales significantly. ROI is in months, not years.
iPads are Increasing Sales Productivity A dirty little secret is that many Sales Reps still leave their laptops at home, in the hotel room or in the trunk of a car when they make sales calls. The Tablet is replacing the need to carry around a laptop for everyone. Tablets also lower the cost of training remote staff and laptop maintenance. I recently traveled to Europe for two weeks with an Apple iPhone, iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard. It's the first time I ever traveled without my laptop and I never missed it for a minute. One strategy is to keep your old desktops and laptops for another year. Invest in new tablets for your key people this year and run pilot tests on how to improve productivity.
Web Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is Replacing Old PC and Client Server CRM The modern Web-based CRM Systems were developed for the Web / Cloud and Mobile Apps. Older systems just do not work as well with the new Smartphones and Tablets. This increases your maintenance costs and many of the real-time updates are just not available to your employees.
Evaluate Replacing or Supplementing MS Office with Google Office to Reduce Costs & Improve Collaboration Most employees only use 10-25% of the features in Microsoft Office. As more Applications are moving to the Web / Cloud, there is less and less need to buy and upgrade expensive Microsoft Office Applications for everyone in the company. Note: Google Office is less polished and has fewer features when compared to Microsoft Office. Many Small Businesses are moving to Google Office (@ $50 per person per year) or Zoho Office or other solutions to save money, and improve staff, client and partner collaboration.
If you have any questions or comments, please give us a call @or comment in the field below.
Image above courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Please share your comments below on any other key trends that you think are important in 2013.
Recently, my wife and I went to the Los Altos Art & Wine Festival. I had a great time shooting photos and videos with my iPhone 4 while Alana checked-out the booths.
On our way back to the car, I tried putting my iPhone away in my backpack while walking, talking and not paying attention to what I was doing.... bad idea! Unfortunately, the iPhone slipped out of my hand and dropped on the edge of a concrete sidewalk. I picked it up, turned it over, and saw that the back of my iPhone glass was smashed to bits.
What to do if you Break the Back Glass on your iPhone 4 (Continued)
I was in shock. I read about how other people have had this happen to them... but I never thought it would happen to me! The good news was that when I turned the iPhone on... it worked fine. The bad news was that small bits of broken glass were starting to fall out of the phone.
We stopped at a few stores on the way home to find an iPhone case that would cover the broken back. They ran $15 to $25. I decided to just wait until I got home and buy an inexpensive case from Amazon.
Once I got home, I searched on "iPhone 4 back panel broken" and found several videos and articles featuring how easy it is to replace the back panel of an iPhone 4 or 4S. I then found a few comments about how Apple will just fix the iPhone for under $30.
So....I went on to my iPhone Apple App and scheduled an appointment with the Genius Desk for the next morning at 9am. It took 60 seconds to make the appointment.
Monday morning, I went into the Apple store and showed the Apple Genius my phone. He confirmed everything worked ...I just had to replace the broken back panel. He also confirmed that it would cost $29 and he could do it NOW. He went into the back of the store and five minutes later he was back with my iPhone fixed and cleaned. I gave him my credit card and sent the receipt to my email address on file. I was all done in 10 minutes.
People always talk about why Apple is so wonderful and why the company is growing so quickly. Well, this is a great example of why......
$29 and 10 minutes to fix an out-of-warranty mobile smartphone
...and NO Hassles ...just smiles!
Now What? ...Look for Shock Proof Cases
After breaking my phone screen, I did a lot of research on Shockproof iPhone Cases. Here are three of the best iPhone 4 / 4S cases I found to protect your Smartphone. Note: these are also available for the iPhone 5.
Top iPhone 4/4S Cases - Water Proof, Dirt Proof, Snow Proof and Shock Proof
LifeProof Case for iPhone 4/4S - Links to Amazon Reviews
OtterBox Armor Case for iPhone 4 /4S - Links directly to the OtterBox Website
The following case is also very strong, but not as tough as the above cases.
OtterBox Defender Series Hybrid Case & Holster for iPhone 4 & 4S - Links to Amazon Reviews
“The iPhone is Just Easier & More Fun to Use” - Quote from my wife
Let me start by saying that I highly recommend both Android and Apple iPhones to all of our clients, friends and family. I think they are the best Smartphones available for business and personal use in the marketplace today. The other vendors have great Smartphones. However, Android and iPhones are just better to use at this time. Sorry Blackberry, Nokia and WIndows users :(
In the past, I was an enthusiastic user (and fan) of the Blackberry and the Palm Smartphones. For the last two years, I used an iPhone 3g. Unfortunately, it was stolen out of my jacket pocket in San Francisco a few months ago. I was devastated. So my wife, feeling sorry for me, let me borrow her Android Smartphone for a few months (one of the many reasons why I love my wife). Since I always really liked the Android Smartphone, I took this opportunity to evaluate all the latest Android Smartphones to see if I wanted to buy one of them or to just buy the new iPhone 4 (FYI... our contract was up, so I was free to buy any mobile phone). I spent hours in the various phone stores and Best Buy asking questions and testing the new Androids. I read all the reviews, watched the video reports and asked everyone with an Android what they liked and didn’t like about their Smartphone.
However, after using an Android Smartphone for 8 weeks and after all the research, I dumped my Android Smartphone for the iPhone 4. At this time, I greatly prefer the iPhone 4 to any of the Android Smartphones. Everyone kept asking me why I switched... so here are my Top 10 Reasons:
- Silent Mode Button - Every Smartphone should have this button. I use it every day during Movies, Meetings, Phone Calls and Meals. One click and the phone is OFF. One click and it’s back ON. Most other Smartphones require you to enter passwords and click several times through menus to turn off the Smartphone sound.
- One App for all Music, TV, Audio Books, Movies & Podcasts - This is a very BIG reason why I love the iPhone (and yes... I’m using the word “Love”). I use ONE App to download, buy, back-up and play all Music, Movies, TV Shows, Videos, Audio Books & Podcasts. It is fast and easy to use each day. If you have a simple question, just walk into any Apple Store and someone is usually available to help you.If you use an Android Smartphone, you need to find, evaluate and download 2-10 different Apps to buy, play and download multimedia. When I go into the other retails stores to ask which Android App should I use to: Buy, Back-up, and Play Music, Movies, TV Shows, Videos, Audio Books & Podcasts, the Store Reps all have different answers and typically recommended 2-4 Android Apps. Bottom-line: With the iPhone, there is only ONE iPhone App to learn and use... and only ONE company to ask questions.
- One Simple User Interface - All 100 million+ iPhone iTouch and iPad) Users have had the same simple user interface for the last 3 years. Almost every Apple employee and iPhone user can help answer questions on how to use the iPhone... because they all work the same. You can also ask almost anyone at work or friends that have an iPhone for tips and help. The Apple iPhone is simple to learn, use and upgrade. Almost every new Android Smartphone User Interface has a different (or sometimes significantly different) interface to learn. The vendors add their own look and feel to the basic Android operating system on each phone. When you upgrade to a different brand Android Smartphone, there is a high probability that you will have to start all over learning a new use interface. Most people HATE having to learn a new mobile phone.
- Apple Retail Stores - I can’t get over how wonderful it is to go into an Apple Store and ask anyone for help. It is even a better experience when you make an appointment with a Genius Support Rep to help answer (for free) any questions about the iPhone. There is even an easy-to-use special Apple Store App (that you can download for free from the iTunes Store) to schedule Apple Store Training and Tech Support Appointments. The FREE weekly Training is pretty terrific as well. I went with my wife to the Apple Store iPhone Trainings after she recently got her 1st iPhone. She loved the training. I believe it is always better to have someone else teach your Spouse how to use new technology... if possible. Don’t you agree? :) I have a dramatically different experience when I go into many Verizon, Best Buys and Sprint Retail Stores for help & demos on the new Motorola Droid X, HTC Incredible, the original Motorola Droid, Samsung Android or various Blackberry Smartphones. They can usually tell me all about their rates and plans. However, the Reps are not much help answering standard “App questions” on how to use a Smartphone. To be fair, there are so many models, options and versions of the Android, it is hard to know them all. This goes back to the fact that too many versions of the Android operating system makes it very hard to provide an excellent customer experience buying and learning how to use a new Smartphone. Even if the Sales Reps own one Android phone, that doesn’t mean that they know how to use an App on another Android smartphone because the interface will be different.
- App Store & Security - The Apple iTunes Store is very easy to use. In addition, Apple Engineers Review and Approve Apps before I even see them in the iTunes Store. Why do I prefer this as a user? Read the recent two examples below. Android recently had 1+ million people download and install a free nice looking wallpaper Android App. The App looked perfectly normal in the Google Marketplace Store. Unfortunately, the Android App sent user passwords and personal information to a website in China without their knowledge. Google started looking into the “high security risk” App after a million+ Android users’ data was stolen. Most experts predict that this problem will get worse... not better in the future.Here is another Android App issue: Since no one checks Google Marketplace Android Apps before you download them, many poorly designed Apps keep running in the background after your think you stopped using them. The problem is very common on many Android Smartphones and can cause the Apps to quickly drain the battery. To fix this, you need to find and download a special Android App to kill other Apps. This is just great for non-technical people that just want to use their Smartphone phone.
- Camera & Video - I don’t know what Apple did... but the new iPhone 4 camera has a fast shutter speed and takes great photos during the daylight. Night shots are good but not great. The Camera App has one switch that changes from a Digital Camera to a Video Recorder within the App. Most of the the Android Smartphone Camera and Video Apps work slightly different on each Smartphone and the camera shutter speeds are much slower. On the Android Smartphone you need two Apps to do the same thing as the iPhone one Camera App. You have one App for the Camera and another App for the Video.
- Design & Screen - The iPhone 4 is beautifully designed. It is the right size and feel for most users. As a result of the iPhone 4 being 25% thinner than the older iphones, I replaced my iPod with the iPhone 4 when I work out. The extremely high resolution and quality of the screen really makes a difference with everything you do on the Smartphone. I love reading and watching HD Videos a lot more since I upgraded to the iPhone 4. The new hot Android Smartphone operating systems are rough around the edges, the hardware has a plastic feel and many of them are huge when you hold them. If you have small hands, you need to use both of them to hold some of the new phones. I don’t like the “Geeky Look” when I am on the phone. When you hold one of the new huge Android phones to your head to talk, it looks like you are holding a brick. If you put it in a case and try to wear it on your belt or clipped to a purse it looks ridiculous. Women will have a hard time fitting a Droid X or Sprint HTC EVO into a small purse going out at night.
- Bloatware, Crapware & More - Apple doesn’t install lots of extra Apps (Bloatware and Crapware) on your iPhone. There are a few Apps Installed when you first get the Smartphone. When you buy an Android Smartphone from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, they install lots of extra Apps from paid Advertisers and their own Apps. The first thing you have to do when you leave a store after buying your new phone is to go through the phone and figure out which Apps to delete and which Apps you need. I hate when HP and Dell install Crapware and Bloatware to a new Windows PC. Unfortunately, Android Smartphones are now sold using the same bad practices.
- Facetime - This App is just a wonderful “Game Changer” in Smartphones. Apple made this video phone App so simple to use compared to any other smartphone or laptop solutions. Touch One button and you are seeing and talking to a loved one. If you travel for business, have a child at college, a loved one in another city, or just stuck late at work, I cannot describe how wonderful it is to see someone you care about on your phone. A few other Android Smartphones have video Apps. However, they are much more difficult to set up and use... so the App doesn’t get used.
- It’s just Easier to Use - This is a quote from my wife after using her new iPhone 4 for four weeks (Note: She replaced the android smartphone that she was using for the last year) The bottom line is... “It’s just easier... and more fun to use.”
I think the Android Smartphones are ideal for Tech and Gadget minded users. It appears the newer Android phones will continue to have a few more new features and gadgets when compared to the iPhone. You can customize an Android Smartphone every hour just for fun and you get to learn a new user interface each time you upgrade.
If you have a contract with and like Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint, I would buy an Android Smartphone over any of the other Smartphones today. I personally like the HTC from Verizon at this time.
No surprise here... If you are with the AT&T network, I would buy an iPhone over an Android Smartphone. Apple has clearly set the new standard for customer service and retail service. And... quoting my wife - “The iPhone is just Easier and More Fun to use”
Photo source: stockimages @ freedigitalphotos.net
Any Feedback or Comments are appreciated from all you Smartphone Users.