- Goal Setting: Start each day by making out a list of the things you need to complete by the end of the day.
- Plan: Note on your to do list, next to each item, what supplies you need and personnel resources.
- Prioritize By Relevance: When you write down your to do list go over and cut those items which are not important.
- Prioritize by Need: Items with deadlines need to be completed first. Do not clutter your daily list with things whose deadlines are weeks away.
- Keep Track of Time: Take a week and track your time by writing down what you have done, how long it took and interruptions that waste your time. You will be surprised that by eliminating some time wasters, you will recover significant work time.
- Make Large Tasks Smaller: Where possible, break down large tasks into smaller and less intimidating jobs.
- Plan Realistically: You will not get through your list in an hour. Plan for interruptions, your capabilities, and limitations.
- Break Times: Even though you are the boss, you need to take breaks throughout the day. Make sure you include them when planning your schedule.
- Social Media: This is part one of the dynamic duo of time wasters–social media and email. It’s important to monitor your business’s social media pages throughout the day, but don’t get distracted checking your personal profiles. For personal social media use, schedule time during your break, otherwise close them.
- Email: Email is necessary, but can be distracting and time-consuming. The best thing to do is to schedule time to respond to email that is business-related once in the morning and once in late afternoon. If you need to continuously check your email throughout the day, make sure you’re only responding and reading business-related emails.
- Create Self-Imposed Deadlines: When undertaking a project, set a deadline for completion and tell everyone about it. This is a motivator to help you get it done on time.
- Track the Clock: Many times, you become engrossed a project lose track of time. Glancing at the clock or your watch, or even setting an alarm/timer, will help you stay on schedule.
- Establish Reminders: Use your cell phone or computer to remind you beforehand of deadlines or meetings.
- Reward Yourself: When faced with a difficult task reward yourself when it is finished. Rewards need not be extreme; a break is a fine reward.
- Keep Distractions to a Minimum: Identify time wasters and eliminate them. Turn the TV off in your home office. Working in an office requires you to be sociable; keeping your socializing to break time saves time.
- Do Similar Tasks at the Same Time or Consecutively: One example is email–read and respond to emails one after the other. Or do the same with phone calls, return and make phone calls consecutively.
- Do Not Multitask: Multitasking is not a time saver. Focus on one task and complete it, then move to the next and you will be through your list quickly.
- Social Media for Marketing: If your business uses social media for marketing look into a Central Social Media Management Systems. These give you a central dashboard for all your social media accounts, and allow you to schedule posts in advance.
- Why?: Know why each task is on your list and ask yourself what the importance of completion is on your company. This will help you focus on results.
- Keep Things Together: Keep all materials needed for a project in one place throughout the project life. One file for projects in progress and another for completed projects. Keep them organized in a file drawer for each with a file folder for each individual project.
Eventually, almost every business or company will find a negative review or a post from a disgruntled customer in social media. Whether a retweet takes on a life of its own, or somebody leaves bitter post on your own Facebook page, it feels like a personal attack on your small business. For this blog in our Social Media Monday series, PowerSites is giving you the steps to help you convert any social media negativity into customer lotalty.
Monitor your brand
Negative comments can appear anywhere, not just on your Facebook page, Yelp page, or in a Tweet. Monitor the internet for any negativity so you can take action as soon as it appears. If you’re too busy to do the monitoring yourself, designate someone reliable. This is too important to ignore.
Post a reply
If you do see a post or comment on any of your social media pages, resist the temptation to ignore the post. Statements and opinions posted on the internet have the potential to be magnified and spread quickly, and the impact of a negative post that goes un-addressed can be substantial. People expect to see a response from the business owner, so if there isn’t one, it makes it seem as though the negative comment is the whole truth.
You may need to take a deep breath before you write it, but always reply to a negative post as quickly as you can. If the poster has a valid gripe, apologize and offer to make it right. If the post is just bizarre, make sure that customers hear your side of the story by creating a careful and factual reply. Don’t rush through writing your initial response. You want a well thought out response and you need to make sure it addresses all the points in the original message.
Watch for the poster’s response to your reply
If the negativity resulted from a legitimate problem, your sincere apology and offered fix may be enough to turn the poster into a happy customer. The internet is full of messages from once-angry people who amended the original post when the business resolved the issue. If you’re lucky, your poster will be one of these people. Now, when people come across the negativity, they also see your response and the poster’s amended comments. They realize that your business cares about its customer satisfaction, and that helps them to trust your products and business.
However, not everybody is so lucky, at least, not every time. If the poster responds negatively to your overture, repeat your reasoned response. Don’t get in to a flame war no matter how many unreasonable or outrageous comments the poster makes. Your responses must always be reasonable and professional.
In any case, it’s important that you make your side of the story available to potential customers. The most loyal customers may even make defensive comments or tweets of their own that highlight excellent service or superior products. By coming to your online defense, their original feelings of loyalty intensify, and they will become a more satisfied customer.
Did you know that 180 million Americans carry credit cards, and that is the most popular form of payment. It’s also been found that customers spend more when paying with card over cash. This info shows that it’s absolutely crucial for small businesses to accept credit cards, and if your small business isn’t accepting credit card payments, then you’re potentially missing out on a lot of sales and revenue.
If you don’t have a cash register that can accept credit card payments, and you’re worried it may be too expensive, PowerSites is here to present an alternative option–turning your mobile phone into a cash register that accepts credit card payments.
Smart Devices as Credit Card Terminals
Merchant service businesses are businesses that process credit cards for merchants. Companies that specialize in using smart devices such as smart phones and tablets usually provide a card-reading device at no charge that simply plugs into the businesses smart device, like the Square Reader.
In addition, when companies use landlines to process credit card payments there is normally a monthly fee, a fixed transaction fee, and another fee that can be as high as four percent of the total transaction. However, where smart devices used for credit card processing there is only a single fee that is less than three percent of the total transaction.
Businesses That Can Benefit From Smart Device Credit Card Acceptance
In the United States, businesses that are attracted to smart device credit card acceptance are primarily businesses that deliver to or work at customer’s residence or business. These businesses can be quite varied ranging from a butcher who delivers meets to your home to an electrical contractor that installs electrical fixtures. Other great candidates for using smart device credit card acceptance are repair people. Merchants that attend trade shows, county fairs, and street festivals or farmers markets to sell their products find that using smart device to accept credit cards is an affordable way to expand their customer base.
Anyone that works on the go and accepts payments for services or goods would be ideal candidates for turning their mobile devices into cash registers.
Smart Device Credit Card Acceptance Technology
Mobile credit card acceptance technology is in its infancy. A merchant services company gives a small reading device; frequently called a “dongle”, that easily plugs into a smart device. Once the card is swiped, the merchant services provider who receives the information over a mobile phone carrier’s network or the Internet, then processes it. Once the card is approved for, the transaction customers use a stylus or their finger to sign on a touchscreen. In addition to processing the card merchant services company also provides reports such as gross sales and best-selling products. It also benefits the customer and reduces the waste of paper with features like being able to email a receipt, instead of printing one out.
Don’t put off filing your taxes for too long. According to an annual report, recently released by the FTC’s Sentinel Network, about 160,000 tax identity theft complaints were reported to the FTC in 2012, says Forbes.com‘s staff writer, Janet Novak. The most common way a person can commit identity theft-related tax fraud is by stealing a taxpayer’s social security number and filing under his name. If someone else gets your refund before you file, that will hold up your ability to file and receive a refund.
While it might seem as if you are powerless to the ill effects of this awful crime, Sheryl Harris of the Plain Dealer online journal on Cleveland.com says that there are several steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family from becoming a victim of identity theft.
Protect Your Identity
You do have a choice and you can protect your family and your finances from being used in a fraudulent manner. There are identity protection solutions out there that you can try out to experience their effectiveness. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial of the Life Lock protection service and see what it’s like to have a company check on your credit, bank records and other financial aspects of your life that need to be kept safe.
Phishing for Refunds
Novak says that many taxpayers have been receiving fake emails that say they are from the IRS, and that recipients should not respond to these emails, but report them to the IRS immediately. How can you know for sure that an email is not from the IRS? Novak says that the IRS only contacts filers by regular mail. Harris also says that if a social media site contacts you and says that they need information from you, regarding an audit or return, that is definitely a phishy situation that indicates an attempt at committing fraud.
Create Impenetrable Passwords
If you’re filing for a refund online, Use a strong password to secure all of your sensitive data and be careful about who you share it with. Be sure that the password is a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and characters. Keep a safe record of your passwords in an easy to access app, like Lock ‘Em password manager.
If you keep spreadsheets or QuickBooks records, clear all of the tax data from your hard drive after you file and save the data onto an external hard drive or thumb drive. Harris says that after you are finished with filing, make sure that you keep the external drive in a protected place.
If you have any concerns or would like to know ahead of time if someone has already filed under your name, contact the IRS and give them your social security number and any other information they need to verify that you are who you say you are. Remember, if you are the one who is calling, you don’t have to worry about giving your sensitive information. It’s when someone calls you and asks for your sensitive data, that you should hang up.
Small business owners have enough to remember without trying to keep critical tax dates top of mind, so the IRS thoughtfully publishes a small business tax calendar with all the important dates marked. This versatile tool is available in English and Spanish, and it comes in multiple formats so you can select the one that works best for you. In this installment of the Tax Time Survival Series by PowerSites, you’ll find information about useful resources for tax management offered in the IRS Small Business Tax Center.
The IRS Tax Calendar
The continuously updated calendar is available online, which is helpful if you’re on the road or you use multiple devices, or you can download it as a desktop application. For the lucky people who request a copy before they run out, there is a hard copy version that is available on a first-come, first served basis. If you use Microsoft Outlook, the ultimate convenience is the version that plugs into your Outlook calendar and automatically adds reminders of important dates.
The tax calendar has filters that let you see specific deadlines that matter to you based on whether you make deposits monthly or bi-weekly, or whether you want to see just excise taxes on vehicles or equipment. You can see the important dates for the current year, or a prior or future year to make reporting and planning simple, and you can print the calendar if you like to work with hard copy. The online version has extensive help in case you are stuck. All of the electronic versions of the calendar automatically update with new information as regulations change.
Along with the calendar, the IRS offers other resources to help you prepare and get through tax season.
IRS Small Business Tax Center Resources
- One resource is an on demand self-paced virtual workshop covering important tax regulations that affect small businesses. This workshop will help you to understand your tax obligations so you can avoid fines and penalties. Knowing what the regulations are helps you to understand the reminders on your calendar. The virtual workshop is free and can prove very valuable, so you might want to take the time to go through it even if you have access to professional financial management.
- The IRS also has a video portal with easy to understand short videos to help answer tax questions for small businesses. This site includes webinars, audio conferences and other presentations on many topics specifically geared to individuals or small businesses. The search capability helps you find the answer to exactly the question you need answered, but even if you don’t have a specific question these videos are valuable and informative about business issues and tax laws.
- Another important, and useful resource is the IRS Small Business Tax Center. It includes links to easy-to-understand explanations about tax regulations as well as all necessary tax forms. It also includes useful information on determining whether a person is an employee or a contractor, links to employer identification number requests, health care information, tips for setting up a retirement plan and helpful articles on starting, running or closing a business and the tax ramifications of each. In addition, the IRS also publishes a free newsletter, and you can subscribe from a link right on the Small Business Tax Center page.
Whether you’re a free-lancer or you have employees working for your company, the IRS Small Business Tax Calendar and other IRS tools offer important information and reminders so you never miss a date, and can survive tax season without getting too overwhelmed.
Besides getting started, the most difficult thing about an email marketing campaign is “the call to action” or getting the reader to do something like click through to your website, order your product or sign up for your newsletter.
Following are eight tips, brought to you by PowerSites, to help you create stirring calls to action that the elusive customer or client will find irresistible.
Compelling Subject Line
A compelling subject line should be direct and to the point. It has to appeal to the customer, let them know what’s in it for them, and stand out in their inbox. A compelling subject line might be something as follows: “8 Ways to Increase Online Sales.” A poorly crafted subject line may read: “Using SEO to Maximize an Online Cross-Platform Marketing Campaign.”
The first subject line is brief, and does not promise more than you can deliver; the second is too long, has too much jargon that many might not be familiar with, and is likely doomed to be overlooked or deleted.
Offer discounts, a free product, or a familiar brand name ad you will see your response rates soar. Experian Marketing Services conducted a study and found that using either “your” and “you” has gained favor with email marketing and the use of these two words has increased nearly 4 percent.
Have a Sense of Urgency
Use words such as Now! Or Today! If the reader catches the sense of urgency, they will click on your message and read it, knowing that the offer is only available for a limited time.
Question the Reader
In order to conquer the reader and snatch their attention, try asking a question. Questions are an effective motivator to get the reader to take action as long as they are relevant, compelling, and personal.
Pilot the Subject Line
Test a variety of subject lines to see which one generate the most click-throughs (response to call to action). You can do a small sampling of twenty emails for each subject line you create.
Use Caution with Images
It is true that images add to most messaging, but make sure that you do not use too many images or even a single image if it influences the time it takes your email to load. More than a few seconds and your reader is likely to move on. If you do use images, be sure to include “Alt Text” for the image, in the event that the email browser does not immediately display the images when the email is being viewed.
Keep Email Frequency in Check
An occasional and relevant email has a great chance of being read but if you start to flood the recipient’s inbox with similar messages, you are destined for their “black list.” Every email you send will wind up in the spam or trash folder without the recipient ever seeing it.
Your email should be 80 percent information and 20 percent sales. This means that the responsibility is yours to provide fresh and engaging information. Attention spans are short on the Internet and your email will be discarded if the information is not relevant to the reader. Avoid generic news; instead of talking about how business has been affected by the recession talk about how your reader’s industry has been impacted instead.
Quality is Key
Sending out 1,000 emails that are not high quality will not improve your chances of having it read. Group your recipients by categories and then tailor the message for that category alone. Quantity for an email marketing campaign is irrelevant; it is quality that brings results.
While some business owners prefer to take on the daunting task of filing their own taxes, some small business owners will find that they need the services of a certified public accountant (CPA). Small businesses may only call upon a CPA to prepare their taxes, but a CPA can do much more, by reducing your risk of financial errors and help your company build its value and your wealth. To aid in your search of finding the right CPA for your small business, PowerSites has put together an outline of things to do to find a CPA that’s a perfect match to the needs of your business.
What Your Business Needs
Some businesses seek out experienced financial advisors that will review their business books every month while other businesses only need an accountant to complete year-end financials and tax returns. Just like doctors, certified public accountants also specialize in specific areas. Some specialize in specific industries, while others may specialize based on business size. You also have to consider whether you want your bookkeeping done in-house, or remotely. There are other variables to consider as well, such as whether or not you want your accounting firm to also provide consulting services. It’s a good idea for you to create a list of what you seek in an accounting firm, so that when you begin screening candidate accounting firms you can just check off each item on your list that matches. This will help you keep track of what you liked about each accounting firm, and help you to make a knowledgeable decision at the end of your interviews.
Ask for Referrals
To make your search easier, ask professional associates that you know and trust if they can recommend an accounting firm to you. It is likely that they will have someone to recommend. Sure, you can do an Internet search, but personal recommendations are usually a more reliable method of inviting a firm to sit down for and tell you why you should give them your business.
Certainly, a referral from someone you know will carry a lot of weight— but if you do not interview several accounting firms, you have not done your due diligence. The greatest accountant on earth does you no good unless you and the CPA can communicate. During your search, ascertain the candidate firm’s billing practices. If they charge you for five-minute phone conversation, you may not make that call and a poor decision might result. Ask the company how many small businesses like yours are clients and then ask for names to call as references.
No matter how you find the accounting firm you want to hire always check the references you have been given. Ask your peers how much they value the advice given to them by the CPA, how good is the firm about returning phone calls. Ask them to brief you on the firm/CPA’s weaknesses as well as strengths.
Check the AICPA Website
If you’re looking for a CPA with a specialized skill-set and credentials, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants allows you to search a database of CPA’s, so you can find one with the required skills that you’re looking for.
Small businesses have limited resources, so every tool has to be effective or it won’t be worth the effort. Many small businesses shy away from webinars and virtual events because they think that they are expensive or complicated to produce, but with modern technology, this is not the case. Once recorded, webinars and virtual events can be useful for increasing sales in a variety of ways and for extended periods. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
When you are introducing a new product, a webinar is a great way to reach all your customers and prospects at once. It allows you to rehearse and control your message so that you know all customers are hearing a consistent message. The webinar can remain on your website indefinitely where it will continue to fuel the interest of new prospects, so be certain to remove any topical or time related references that will date the webinar too quickly.
Trade shows are expensive, and many of your customers have cut back on travel budgets so trade show attendance is down. For less than the cost of a small booth at a trade show, you can highlight your company and your products in a virtual event that will last far longer than any tradeshow in the physical world.
When you have an interesting webinar in your library, you can invite any new prospects to view it. As your prospect list grows, set up an automatic invitation to view the webinar and watch your sales increase because of this one nearly effortless process.
Post Sales Education
Face-to-face education is expensive and time consuming, and most people prefer to learn in their own way and in their own timeframe. By posting educational webinars, you can reduce your training costs while improving customer satisfaction – a double bonus.
Use webinars to help establish your company as an innovative though leader. Whatever your product, you can comment on pending legislation that might affect it, advances in the field, new uses for the product, how other countries or cultures approach the problem your product solves or any other topic that interests you. Just as they do when you post thoughtful commentary on social media sites, people will eventually learn to value your input and perceive your company as a leader in the industry, despite your small size.
There is always a need for employee training, whether it’s a result of new procedure, employee turnover or company growth. To ensure that all employees have consistent training, record training sessions. By recording, you ensure that you don’t leave out important points and that employees can review the training multiple times until they know the topic cold.
Like thought leadership webinars, this will help you build your company’s reputation. While it might be best to stay away from politics or religion, you can speak about topics such as community fund drives or local cultural events. When your customers perceive that you are a caring and involved force in the community, they will be more likely to bring you their business.
Doing taxes is tough for anyone, be it an individual or a major corporation. This is why personal and small armies of accountants are employed en masse every year, to figure out the complexities of the tax code. For a small business owner, who are spread thinner then anyone out there, hiring an expensive accounting firm or even an individual accountant may not be in the budget. In these cases, small businesses will have to do their taxes themselves, with a number of helpful forms and programs provided by the internal revenue service. PowerSites wants to help ease the burden of tax time, so we’ve compiled some of the most helpful forms and programs offered by the IRS, and listed them below.
IRS Virtual Tax Workshop for New and Small Businesses
The IRS Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop is an interactive online tax forum that provides new and small business owners a place where they can always ask questions, download forms and get advice from those who work for the IRS directly. Consider it a help desk whenever you need it so that if you run into any problems while doing your taxes and need help from the people who wrote the actual code, you will be able to easily ask them.
IRS Video Portal
At the IRS Video Portal, you will find a number of videos and webinars discussing a wide variety of tax topics. Not only will these instructional videos help you to do your taxes, but it will also give some great tips and strategies for keeping your taxes in order in the future. The small business section is also a great resource, especially if you are an employer.
IRS Retirement Plans Navigator
If you are thinking about retiring soon or even in a few decades, the IRS Retirement Plans Navigator will help you to strategize and plan ways to save money for this time. It is also a critical resource for small businesses who are offering retirement plans for their employees. This site will literally walk users through each plan that is out there and show them the ins and outs of it and what is required of the business and individual, in the simplest of terms.
IRS Small Business Tax Calendar
The IRS Small Business Tax Calendar is a regularly updated tax calendar, that reflects the ever changing tax code landscape, making it ideal for small businesses and freelancers to use when they are trying to do their taxes on their own. It is available online or as a print-out that can be hung on the wall for reference. There are also a wide variety of different tax and business tips offered by the tax calendar every year, based on new tax codes that may have been implemented.
Small Business and Tax Employment Center
In order to use everything that is outlined above, you must visit the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center online. Go there, and sign up so you can receive their regular email newsletter to stay on top of any new announcements, or features that they create in the future.
Remember to use these free online tools, and it’ll help to make tax time that much easier!
Facebook is regarded as something brand new and different in marketing, but the truth is that it’s really just one more way to ask for permission, and one of the most effective means we have of doing so. These seven tips will help you to make the most of Facebook as a way to enhance, improve and reach out with your email marketing campaign:
A Permanent Home for Email Content
A lot of people read through an email once and then delete it. By using Facebook as a permanent home for email content, you have a place where people can rediscover the old pieces they liked, and new users can check out examples of what they’ll be getting.
Your email service provider probably has some great Facebook apps that you can put to work for you. Check it out and see if they have anything that makes it easier for people to sign up through your Facebook page, and automatically integrate into your email database. You never know until you take a look at what they have for you to use.
Improve Your “About” Page
Improve and optimize your 150 word “about” description so that readers really know what it is that you’re all about. A lot of people click here first before reading more than one or two of your posts and updates, so this will be a tremendous help in winning over new readers.
Create Updates About Your Newsletter
Make sure to give your readers an update where they can use the comments as a thread to discuss the newest newsletter. When you send out a newsletter, create a post about it on your Facebook page, and pose a question that will engage your followers. It’s a good idea to figure out when most of your followers are online so that you can update them then and make sure that you’re reaching them while they’re actually up and about.
Promoting posts isn’t always helpful, but at times it can earn you a lot of new readers. Promoting a post costs a little money but reaches out to a wider audience. This means more people, including people that may not already ‘Like’ your page, will be seeing what you’re sharing. Make sure that you’re promoting something special, not just another update, but a story that really resonates, and will catch the attention of someone scrolling through their News Feed.
Make it Better
Finally, make your email marketing content, and your Facebook content, better. Your content may even be good enough, but it can always be better, and every time you make it better, you stand a chance at gaining new followers. Don’t rest on your laurels. Improve your content so that when you share it with a wider audience. It actually matters.
Remember that Facebook is not magic, it’s just one more tool that you can use to grow your subscriber base and social media reach. When used appropriately, the results are endless.