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Thursday, November 20, 2014
Update by Andy Wendt, Editor
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SMB Holiday Security Tips

Holiday Security TipsThis holiday season thousands of shoppers will trust companies across the country with their credit and debit card information. But with the holiday cheer, shouldn’t come fear. Though cyber-attacks against businesses spike near the holidays, you can help your readers learn how to protect their small business. Why? Because….

Thirty-seven percent of respondents to the 2014 Symantec Small Business Holiday Survey report that customers have expressed concern about the security of their personal data.

Twenty-eight percent of small businesses plan to provide security training to all employees this holiday season.

According to Symantec’s 2014 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), more than 400 million identities were exposed through data breaches from October through December last year – which is more than double the 149 million exposed in the other nine months combined.

Symantec, a global leader in protecting small business security, recommends small businesses do the following:

Remove sensitive data from your network: SMBs will often store sensitive data that isn’t frequently accessed on a computer that either is not or only intermittently connected to the network. Removing this data from the network will help greatly reduce security risks.

Talk to third-party vendors and employees: Most SMBs rely on third-party vendors for help with a business need, like accounting or security, and these third-party vendors often have access to sensitive customer information. Small business owners should ask their vendors about how they are protecting corporate information and look for ways to limit unnecessary vendor access to sensitive data. Additionally, small businesses should train their employees on security best practices, like setting up strong passwords, backing up data and identifying phishing emails.

Multi-layered security: Today’s advanced threats call for multi-layered protection. SMBs should protect its data during prime holiday buying times, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with a security suite that goes beyond basic anti-virus, like Norton Small Business or Symantec Endpoint Protection.

Keep your OS updated: The holidays are a perfect time to update security software and operating systems. This will protect against recently discovered vulnerabilities, as well as the increased likelihood of attack that comes with the holiday shopping season. Norton Small Business updates systems automatically, as well as tracks and flags devices that are running older software versions


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Update by John Beagle,
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16 Tips for Mompreneur SMBs

In the United States, there are 10.6 million women-owned SMBs, generating $2.5 trillion in annual revenue, according to the Center for Women's Business Research. Included in that staggering number is the multi-talented mompreneur SMB—she’s not only running her household, but her small business operations too. With so many moms diving into entrepreneurship, the need for resources to create successful small businesses is in high demand.

Diana Ennen, President of Virtual Word Publishing has some ideas for moms to create their own SMB. Perhaps even the business of her dreams.

by Diana Ennen

Mompreneurs SMB Magic –  Tips to Create the Business of Your Dreams

A successful mompreneur SMB is one who has taken her passion and what she loves to do and been able to make a successful business out of it. It’s not always about the money (although that helps) it’s more about having a business you are passionate about and one that helps others as well.  Be proud of your mompreneur SMB title and the business and lifestyle you are achieving.

Tips to Running a Successful Home-Based Business:

Know that it takes commitment, dedication and passion.  There will be some rough days especially in the beginning, but it’s so worth it.  As long as you truly believe in your business and your services you’ll do great.

1         Do your research.  Read as much as you can and follow those in your industry who are doing it now.  There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel.  Social media has made it so much easier today.

2         Market aggressively.  And even when you get clients continue to market.  Too many make that mistake.  They get a client or two and then stop.  You want to always be out there so then you become known as the go-to person for those tasks.

3         Have a great website.  That says so much about your professionalism.  Most today will check out your site and social media before they hire you.  It’s well worth it to have a good one and with WordPress today, you can even create one yourself although I highly recommend getting it professionally done.

4         Brand yourself well.  It’s so easy to do by just having a consistent theme on your website, marketing, social media, proposals, etc.

5         Have a plan of action and stick to it.  So many go into business and just hope for the best.  Instead, plan for success.  Doesn’t need to be anything detailed, but write down your goals, how you are doing to do business, pricing, what you will offer, etc., and then write down actionable steps to achieve it.  Revisit this plan often.

6         While you are planning, implement a marketing plan and get really clear on who you want to work with and why it’s a good fit. It not only helps with marketing copy, but also provides confidence in your marketing as you know your own strengths and what you can do best.   (Want to see my marketing handout, email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you.  Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com

7         Don’t delay doing a marketing plan because you feel it’s too technical or time-consuming.  Just do it!  But remember a marketing plan is not a one-time do it and forget about it.  You want to constantly update yours.

8         Do marketing you love! Don’t market and do things you should be doing because “others” tell you so.  If you aren’t comfortable doing it, you won’t do it often. Find what works for you and of that on a consistent basis.

9         Marketing via social media - Get creative on social media.  Be engaged.  It’s about relationship building.  Don’t just promote.  I see so many and it’s sell, sell, sell.  Yet, I haven’t connected with them enough to know why I would buy from them.  It’s a huge turnoff.  Yes, you do want to promote and talk about your business, but be their friend first.

10       Reach out.  I absolutely love it when someone connects with me and I can tell they really get me and truly have been following me and know about my books, services, etc. But be real.  For example, if you endorse someone on Linkedin and you’ve never worked with them before and have no idea of their skillset, you send the wrong message and a huge red flag.

11      Be careful on social media. Remember that often times long before someone hires you, they are following you and seeing what you offer.  If you are constantly complaining about too much work, not knowing how to do something, or lousy clients, guess what?  They are going to run and FAST!

12      More is not always better on social media.  It looks awesome to have thousands of fans, but if they aren’t loyal fans, it’s not doing to do much good. 

13       My best secret for marketing success is to take one of my best articles,  develop a pitch and then sent it out to reporters, blog sites, etc. who might be interested.  It works! Plus, best yet is even months later you can hear back from someone who then has a need for your article and they want to connect.  

14       Be consistent in your marketing. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see.  Businesses go full steam ahead for a few weeks and then disappear for a few months and then go it again.  Some repeat this time and time again and what happens then is the next time you say, “I’m back.” No one cares.  OUCH! 

15       Enjoy the successes, big or small.  When you do that, you feel that winning feeling and want to do more of it.

16        And finally, be that valuable resource that clients simply can’t do without.  Make those deadlines (and even get them done before they need to be done), do a great job, and always make your clients feel like they are your only clients.  Yes, they know you have others.  However, when you make them feel special, it just feels great and they want to work with you more.

Know there will be good days and bad days, but work to make sure you have more of the good ones. Love what you do and have fun.  There’s so many types of businesses you can do at home, choose one that works for you.  Continue to grow and learn along the way.  It’s important to keep up and it’s never been easier with so many offering free webinars and teleseminars and training.  And finally you need to always market your business even when you have a full client base.

So what is the future bring for mompreneur SMBs? It’s just going to continue to get better and better.  Mompreneur SMBs have been around for a long time.  However, the difference today is that they are so widely known and respected and it’s commonplace today to hire one.  Plus, social media has just opened up so many doors and enabled them to connect with their potential clients and clients in a way that didn’t exist before.  Just do it!

Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing, http://www.virtualwordpublishing.com offering PR and marketing services and also hosts PR classes through www.prsuccessseries.com.  She has been featured on Fox Business News, CBS, CNN Radio, USA Today, Woman’s World, Entrepreneur Magazine, Home Business Magazine and so many more.  She’s also the author of six books on starting your own business including the best-selling VA the Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA, Contact her at Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com or @dianaennen for a free PR Informational Package.


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Monday, November 17, 2014
Update by John Beagle,
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How your SMB can Save on Energy this Winter

Energy costs can be SMB's largest single expense, especially with the arctic air sweeping across the nation today.

 
By Kevin Stevens

Arctic air is sweeping across the nation and higher heating bills won’t be far behind. Unfortunately, these chilly winter months can hit small to mid-size businesses particularly hard because energy costs are often their largest single expense. The good news is, there are several simple steps business owners can take to save money, conserve energy and help their bottom line.

  • Shop Energy Suppliers: By shopping energy plans before the frigid temperatures settle in, SMBs can save big on their electric bills by locking in a fixed-rate for their energy. According to Choose Energy, the nation’s leading energy marketplace, businesses can lower their monthly heating bill by up to 32 percent just by switching suppliers. 
  • Use Smart Power Strips: Smart power strips are time-controlled power strips that can help cut energy consumption during hours of little use. Consider setting these strips to turn off for at least a few hours during closed times.
  • Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances: Break rooms and kitchens are popular areas in businesses. Make sure your appliances are Energy Star appliances to make your business more energy efficient. 
  • Substitute Incandescent for LED Light Bulbs: The initial upfront cost for LED bulbs is higher, but it does pay off in the long run. Incandescents can cost almost 400 percent more to operate than LEDs.
  • Monitor the Thermostat: Each degree lowered on the thermostat can save between 2 and 5 percent on the heating bill. Business owners should consider lowering the temperature during closed hours. To make it easy, programmable digital thermostats are available at most hardware stores for $25-$75.
  • Look for Leaks: By covering leaks, customers can earn up to 5-10 percent in savings. Business owners can check for leaks by looking for air drafts surrounding windows and doors. Drafts can be covered easily using spray foam, or for windows, shrink wrap.
  • Inspect Insulation: Insulation plays a big role in saving energy. Often times, just adding a few inches of insulation (instead of replacing everything) can be done quickly, providing long-lasting savings. Costs incurred with insulation may qualify for energy-improvement tax credit.

Just by following these simple tips, businesses will waste less energy and save more money, which will ultimately help their bottom line.

Kevin Stevens is product market manager, small-mid size business at Choose Energy, the nation’s leading energy marketplace. In October, Choose Energy announced a small-business offering in New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania where small to mid-size business owners can shop for providers online to help them save time and money with their electricity plans. To learn more about Choose Energy, visit www.ChooseEnergy.com.


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Friday, October 31, 2014
Update by John Beagle,
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3 Pitfalls for SMBs to Avoid

By: John McGee, CEO OptifiNow

Approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month. Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least two years, half at least five years, a third at least 10 years and only a quarter stay in business 15 years or more. With so many businesses launching and folding up each year, there are lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of others.

Most SMB owners have heard advice about what should be done with their business, but many times that advice is too general or too particular to a completely different niche. Rather than being told to conform to a certain mold, businesses owners should observe what has caused failure in other ventures and evaluate if those pitfalls are something they need to avoid as well. The common mistakes businesses often make include:

1. Focusing on the customer base you want versus the customers who are actually interested in your product or services.

               During market research and when writing a business plan, entrepreneurs are able to develop a sense of who they will want to market their product or services to in terms of a target customer. But, if after launch the majority of sales are coming from a different market segment, do not be afraid to take a change of course and redirect your efforts to capitalize on an emerging opportunity.

2. Lacking a differentiator from competitors.

               Cost-savings, better quality, efficiency, technology, these are all reasons that your product or service might be different from other similar solutions already on the market. Figuring out what your unique qualifiers are and how to explain them to your audiences will influence the overall success of your business.

3. Not being able to succinctly describe what your business does.

               Whether you are communicating via email, in person or over the phone it is essential to have an easy to understand two to three sentence description of what your company does, why your product or service is important and why it is unique. Investors, customers and partners will only give you a limited opportunity to catch their attention. Allowing it to slip by because you are unable to articulate what you do is a fatal error.

 

About the Author
John McGee, President OptifiNow

As the President of OptifiNow, John leads the company’s vision, strategy and growth. John founded OptifiNow to solve a common problem of enterprise customers – the shared struggle of managing national and global sales teams with brand and legal compliant messaging. OptifiNow was built from the ground up by simplifying the complex needs of customers. The result is a software platform that delivers a complete suite of customer engagement solutions for its clients.

For more information visit http://www.optifinow.com/


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