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You have worked hard to build your eCommerce business and it’s now up and running. You’ve optimized your eCommerce site to increase conversion rates, your social media team is executing your marketing strategy and more and more potential customers are turning into brand advocates.

Congrats!

However, scaling up an eCommerce company isn’t just about bringing in new business. Yes, that’s the foundation of growth, but how you handle that growth is a big determining factor in your online business’ success. Your operations are what sets well run businesses apart from those who fail to reach their full potential.

For a small business, managing orders, inventory, and fulfillment manually might have been a reasonable place to start.

As your business scales and becomes more complex to keep up with your customers’ demands, you’ll have to consider many more moving parts to ensure that you’re growing profitably and sustainably.

For example, is your backend processes optimized for efficiency so you’re not paying a large overhead on labor-intensive tasks that can easily be automated?

Do you have full visibility into your inventory, so you know exactly what products to stock, when to reorder, and make sure you have a healthy cash flow to support your expansion?

Are you putting the right measures in place to minimize delays, bottlenecks, and errors in your workflows?

Here are five key strategies for scaling up your eCommerce company while minimizing the growing pain:

1. Prevent Cash Flow Challenges Caused By Stockouts, Overstocks, And Backorders

Inventory control is often a Goldilocks situation… if you have too much stock, you’re holding up cash flow and limiting your ability to invest in products that sells. On the other hand, if you run out of stock, you’re losing out on sales and missing out on revenues.

To prevent inventory issues, set strict reorder points to indicate the exact moment when you’ll need to order new stock for each item in your eCommerce store.

A reorder point should take into account the typical lead-time for placing an order, processing payments, and have the items ready in the warehouse for fulfillment. Also, set aside an emergency stock to cover sudden changes in demand, which shouldn’t be counted when setting the reorder point.

Good inventory control is the key to healthy cash flow and maximizing sales so you can fuel growth where it matters most. You can use an inventory management software application to get real-time updates into the movement of all your products.

When you have visibility into your stock at all times, you can better control your inventory. For example, you can sell against incoming stock by launching a special eCommerce sales promotion to generate additional cash flow.

An inventory control system can also help you manage multiple online channels for your eCommerce business (e.g., Shopify inventory management, Amazon) so you can coordinate inventory without the risk of running out of stock and missing out on sales.

It can also give you the necessary information to respond to market demand, move stock, and increase cash flow by using merchandising techniques such as bundles, mystery boxes, pre-orders, and loyalty programs.

2. Increase Efficiency, Reduce Delays, And Minimize Errors With Automation

There are many moving parts in the supply chain and as your eCommerce company grows, the complexity of these processes will increase exponentially. Tedious and repetitive tasks that are labor-intensive will become more costly as your business expands.

Handling OMS processes manually (e.g., order splitting, backorder management, order import, and shipping updates) can create bottlenecks and unnecessary delays in the workflows, which could have a domino effect on other aspects of your operation.

Not to mention, many of these tasks are prone to human errors (e.g., re-keying information from one system to another or moving paperwork from one department to the next) and inconsistency can cause delays and confusion.

Consolidating all the processes onto a single platform that handles omnichannel order management and automates the workflows can help you minimize inefficiency, delays, and errors.

Some key automation functions that can help streamline operations and increase efficiencies include order splitting, pre-order or backorder management, returns management, e-invoicing, and order routing.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that automation technology is only as good as the workflow you’re automating. If a workflow isn’t optimized, you’re just making an inefficient process happen faster!

To maximize the ROI on automation, you should first audit your current processes and then optimize and standardize the workflows to make sure that when you scale up, you aren’t multiplying any inefficiency that’s inherent in the processes.

3. Test New Items With Pre-ordering

Scaling up takes some trial-and-error and introducing new products to the market can open up opportunities for growth. Yet, the last thing you want is to stock up on a new item only to find out that it’s not what your customers want.

Not only will you suffer a loss and hold up cash flow, but the excess inventory will also take up resources in other areas such as warehousing.

To minimize risk and plan for inventory, you can explore the market and test out new product ideas by preselling an MVP (minimum viable product.) It’ll help you find out how much inventory you’ll need and get a gauge on future potential sales so you can plan for cash flow.

To make the most of your MVP launch, create a dedicated product page and position the promotion as exclusion access for existing customers or a limited time/quantity offer to generate buzz and build brand awareness.

In addition, you can use the opportunity to test the supply chain and collect data on the various fulfillment and logistics operations so you can optimize the workflow before automating the order management process in the future.

4. Focus On Products With High Margins

As you grow your eCommerce company, you’ll need more stock to fulfill increasing orders. However, that also means the inventory will cost more money, which could put you in a bind if you don’t yet have the cash flow to sustain the volume.

As such, you need to plan your product selection strategically to focus on selling differentiated items that have profit margins instead of commodity products that have low margins. This will allow you to generate more profits, which you can invest in higher inventory levels to scale up.

In today’s competitive market, guesswork is no longer enough. In order to identify the most profitable products to carry, you need to understand the market demand and find out what’s most appealing to your customers.

Then, you can make data-driven decisions based on information from a variety of sources to optimize your profits. However, gathering information from across the organization can be a time-consuming and cumbersome task.

You can use a centralized platform with a robust reporting and analytics feature, which can help you break down silos, minimize bottleneck, and consolidate data from various teams (e.g., accounting, operation, and sales) to make informed decisions.

In addition, it helps you minimize errors caused by importing and exporting files, transferring data, or manually re-keying information. You can bridge knowledge gaps and empower your team to make sound decisions in a timely manner based on real-time analytics and insights.

5. Optimize Fulfillment To Improve Customer Experience

Since it costs more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones, the ability to build a customer base that’d buy from you repeatedly is the key to sustainable and profitable growth.

Besides the many ways to improve the customer experience at the front-end, such as a streamlined checkout process or better customer service, you should also make sure that the backend processes are supporting a great customer experience.

If customers aren’t getting their order fast enough or delivered on time, they’re not going to have a satisfactory experience that’ll keep them coming back.

Therefore, making sure that your fulfillment and logistics operations are as efficient as possible can help delight and retain more loyal customers – giving you a strong foundation to expand your eCommerce company.

Automation can help you streamline time-consuming tasks, such as order splitting, warehouse routing, and shipment updates so you can improve efficiency while making sure that your customers are getting their orders as quickly as possible.

To facilitate shipment and delivery, use an order management platform that gives you full visibility into the fulfillment process and allows you complete control over logistics – even when outsourcing to 3PLs.

With the ability to control when and how orders ship, you can reduce mis-ships and improve delivery times. You can also provide better customer communications and post-sales customer service (e.g., real-time order status) to improve customer experience.

Tools like StichLabs’ fulfillment and logistics solution also enables you to leverage pre-built integrations and 3PL partner network to expand shipping coverage. It allows you to serve more customers without the added overhead so you can scale up more quickly.

Conclusion

As your eCommerce company expands, your inventory and order management system needs to grow in tandem to handle the increasingly complex processes associated with higher volume, wider product selection, and a more complex supply chain.

Consolidating as much as of your operation management onto a single platform and using automation technology to streamline workflows will help you improve efficiency, lower cost, minimize human errors, and improve the customer experience so you can scale up sustainably.

The post Growing Your eCommerce Business Through Optimization appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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When you run a business, one of the most important metrics you need to track is productivity and attendance. If you can make sure that these two remain high, your profit levels will soar.

A tool that can help you track these metrics and make necessary improvements is a time clock software. You need to get it immediately if you aren’t already using one. But you need to be very meticulous about it. As there are hundreds of them to choose from and if you aren’t very careful, you could end up with the wrong one.

Therefore, to help you make the correct choice I have written this guide to choose the right time clock software for your startup…

Make a list of the essential features you require:

The first thing you must check for is that the time clock software has all the features you require. So, make a short checklist of all the features your potential time clock software requires.

This should include…

  1. How many people will be using the app and if the number will increase? As you need to pick a software that will be able to accommodate all your employees and managers who will monitor it.
  2. Are their upgrades? You should be able to upgrade your plans and add in more features.
  3. How hard is it to use the software? Can anyone at the company use the software or does it require technical expertise and do you have an employee who can handle it?

This way make a list that is as detailed as possible. Don’t be afraid to write down a question, no matter how silly it looks. It is important to get the right software the first time because moving to another one will be highly convenient to both you and your employees.

After you make this checklist you can look up words like ‘time clocking software’ and ‘time clocking software for business’ on search engines and on software directories like Capterra. This will result in hundred and hundreds of software. You should visit their websites, check them out and make a list of potential tools that meet your requirements to a spreadsheet. Include comments that will help you easily recollect what you liked about them.

See what customers are saying:

After you create the list of potential time clock software for your startup, you should visit their testimonials page and see what customers are saying about them. If the software’s website has some case studies that show you the effect their tool has had on their business i.e. number of hours saved, amount of money made as a result, you should definitely read them.

You can also conduct a quick search on social media to see what people are saying about them as you can find more genuine responses here.

Test out the tools:

After you read testimonials, case studies and social media updates, your list of potential time clocking software to use will become shorter.

Next, you should take each of these tools, sign up for a free trial and begin testing them out. Most of the top tools will offer a free trial. Don’t just get one person to try it out, get some of your managers and employee (all, if possible) to take it for a spin. They will be using it the most and their opinions should matter most.

Ask them to use all the features for a few days. Also, contact customer support a few times to see how quickly they respond. The best companies will respond within 24 hours. Make a note of the performance of the software and the customer support on a piece of paper or spreadsheet. You can rate it on a scale of 1 to 10.

Follow this process and test out at least 5 software for 2 to 4 weeks. By the end of the test you will find the perfect software that suits your business.

Now choose the right time clock software for your startup:

These are the steps you should follow while choosing a time clock software for your business. Make sure you go through all of them. It might seem like the first software you test out has all the features you are looking for, but trust me when I say that there will be better ones out there. Also, as you keep using a software for a while you will begin to see all the flaws in it better. So, take all the time you need.

The post How to Choose the Right Time Clock Software for Your Startup appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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Today, software developers leverage continuous integration to deliver exceptional consumer-centric applications. Continuous integration is rooted in the Agile methodology. Since the emergence of Agile, enterprises have worked relentlessly toward improving development strategy and optimizing the software development.

This quest eventually resulted in the emergence of the Lean methodology. Now, continuous integration (CI) is the methodology that’s emerging as a champion among DevOps teams. The method encompasses developers working on a small piece of code and pushing them to market as deliverable as soon as they’re complete.

What Is Continuous Integration?

Historically, programmers toiled away in seclusion, working on large chunks of code and adding their work to the central repository once they’ve completed their task. The method made it much more challenging to merge substantial changes into the main program. Even worse, the code typically contained many bugs that weren’t apparent until the programmer merged the new work with the main project.

In the broadest definition, CI is the routine integration of small changes in code into a primary repository. Using the method, developers test code early, frequently and often.

Continuous integration does not eliminate bugs. However, it does help programmers find them remarkably faster. Also, with a CI pipeline in place, developers can produce deliverables quickly.

Making the Case for Continuous Integration

Using continuous integration methodology, software developers endlessly process, test and upload changes and code additions. Programmers save their work in a central repository that’s accessible to all team members. This way, all personnel have access to the latest version of code. By centralizing the storing and sharing of code, software development firms reduce the common errors that occur when many team members work on different versions of the same product.

Continuous integration is the first half of the continuous delivery cycle. By combining continuous integration with continuous delivery (CD) programmers streamline overall workflow, enabling them to deliver high-quality updates and programs faster. Enterprises that deploy both continuous integration and continuous delivery enjoy notable improvements in performance.

The CI/CD pipeline enables developers to quickly create business solutions that empower employees to meet corporate goals. The methodology ensures the release of reliable, top-notch software. Furthermore, the CI/CD pipeline reduces costs, labor, errors, outages and downtime.

Companies that deploy continuous integration and delivery can leverage the increased functionality of the method to deliver enhanced products and services. Resultantly, these firms gain an advantage in a highly competitive market.

Continuous Integration in Action

On a typical day at a software development firm that leverages the CI/CD pipeline, a developer might write a new feature or fix a bug, then push the updated code to the centralized repository. The repository would then run an automated integration test and notify stakeholders if there are any bugs or other quality concerns. As Jeremiah Small, Director of Engineering at Soliant Consulting, points out, “This empowers the development team to identify and fix bugs more quickly, because the changes tend to be more incremental and less complex than they would be with less frequent integration.”

After the review, and a final sign off by programmers, the code would move to the central repository. Meanwhile, feature development and bug fixes will continue. This process will repeat several times a day.

The CI/CD pipeline is especially beneficial for large teams. The method makes the most of many programmers working on small tasks. The difference is that all changes remain in sync. CI/CD methodology delivers on the concept of large teams working together to achieve a common goal.

Continuous integration/continuous delivery is an effective method for creating both internal and external resources. Companies of all sizes can benefit by embracing the philosophy.

A CI/CD pipeline can give any firm the ability to move nimbly and quickly while delivering high-quality goods and services. Today, continuous integration and continuous delivery are the latest tools that forward-thinking leaders use to outdo the competition.

The post Why So Many Businesses Are Implementing Continuous Integration appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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E-commerce and online shopping is one of the most common ways of consumption in the modern world. Besides, it has reduced the distance between clients and service providers by providing equal shopping opportunities to all.

Below are hints to assist you in getting the most out of internet shopping.

Shopping sites

Unless you have a specific shopping site you want to shop from, type the name of the product or service you’re looking for on Google search engine, this way you find a wide selection of sites offering the product. This then grants you the chance to compare prices from different places and also read product reviews.

Picking the products

In online shopping, customers have a wide variety of items in every category and can get many brands from different sellers at one spot. This can be confusing to the client if they don’t understand how to pick what they require quickly. However, most sites use the magento shopping cart, which saves time and provides a more comfortable shopping experience.

Shipping costs/ product details

Ensure that you confirm if there are any shipping costs or tax to be added to the sale price of the item. Also, in case there’s a choice of color, size or any other specific details, ensure that you enter the correct information in the relevant spaces before making payments.

Making payments

It’s crucial to verify that the site that you’re using has a secure server. You can tell this by checking the URL at the top of the browser box on the payment page. If it’s not safe, terminate the transaction.  If it’s secure, enter your credit card details and make the payment.

Having placed your order, you should receive a confirmation email from the seller. Verify that the information is correct. Also, print the email or save it on your computer until the goods arrive.

Receiving the items

Ensure that you know where the products are being sent from. In some cases, you may think that you’re dealing with a firm based in your home country when they operate from other regions.

Also, due to differences in tax, it may appear less costly to purchase from an overseas website. However, realize that products bought over the internet are still subject to importation taxes that may apply. Thus, what appears like a bargain could turn out to be more costly than you expected.

Benefits of shopping online
  • Price comparisons Most websites provide the price comparison option which enables customers to compare prices. This assists clients to gain a better understanding of the products and purchase the most economical items.
  • Convenience- Online shoppers can shop from any point according to their requirements. This can benefit the elderly, homemakers or others who are homebound.
  • Consumer Reviews- A client can quickly look at the reviews posted by other users related to any product, making it easier for them to understand the benefits or disadvantages of the product.
  • Reduced crowd- Through online shopping, one can circumvent excessive groups, which can be confusing. Therefore, you can easily select the item of your choice online and at the same time, make payment.

The post 5 Tips for Shopping Online appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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A consulting business is very easy to start as you need to put in very little investment upfront. All you require is a website and an email address. But for attracting high paying clients you need to put in more effort.

When you go into consulting it can seem like many people are getting clients who pay them thousands of dollars every month. But I can assure you that these people are in the minority. Most people don’t earn those huge amounts.

This hasn’t got anything to do with their skill level in the niche or industry. It is all about how they are presenting themselves and their services. And they are usually getting it wrong. Therefore, today I am going to show you the mistakes you are making with your marketing and sales strategies that are costing you dearly.

Rectify these mistakes and you will join the minority who attract high paying clients…

You don’t find out what your clients want:

To attract high paying clients, you need to give them what they want. When most businesses create products or services, they just put out whatever they themselves believe the market needs. They don’t put in the research to find out what their potential clients want. This is why they end up attracting the same old low-balling clients.

If you want to attract high paying clients, you need to contact them, interview them, find out what their problems are, how they expect you to solve them and the prices they are willing to pay.

So, before you list the services on your website learn as much as you can about what your audience wants. The most successful businesses know how to get this right.

You don’t package it into an attractive offer:

Another big mistake people make while promoting big ticket offers is that they don’t package it properly. They just simply list out a fact like the number of hours of consulting or the few services that the client will get when they purchase on a basic services page.

But if you want to really ‘sell it’ you need to package up the service to make it look attractive. Along with the hours and regular services, offer some extra items like reports, courses, ebooks, checklists, audits, and then present them all in videos and landing pages. This will make it look attractive and differentiate it from the services already out there.

You aren’t providing proof:

When people are about to buy an expensive course or service, they are going to ask themselves ‘How big a risk am I taking when I purchase this?’ Therefore, you must eliminate this risk by providing proof. For selling high ticket offers a simple testimonial won’t do. You need something more sophisticated like a case study.

You need to create them and publish them all over your website and social media. These can either be written case studies or video case studies. Some great examples of these can be seen in Russ Ruffino’s YouTube Channel. Here he regularly publishes interviews (like the below one) of clients who got great results after using his services.

How One Client Went From ‘Making Peanuts’ to $80K/ Month - YouTube

When people see that his clients get results, they won’t see it as a risky investment anymore and their anxiety will drop. So, they will be ready to work with him.

You don’t spend time promoting:

Some people create great services and present them with proof, but what they don’t like doing is promoting. They just put it out there and hope that people discover them. But if they really want to get high paying clients, they need to promote.

Getting clients is a numbers game. If you send hundreds of people to your landing page, a few will buy and you can profit highly (as you will price your services high). So, invest in both long term and short term strategies like blogging and adverts to drive traffic to landing pages (displaying your services).

If you want to convert even more traffic to clients, you should also build a funnel where you educate people with content like webinars, ebooks and white papers before you sell. It will show that you have an immense level of expertise on the subject. This can eliminate risk too.

Conclusion:

Follow these 4 tips and you will begin attracting high paying clients immediately. After that it is all up to how you serve them. Service your clients in the greatest way possible and they will not only come back to you for more, but will also recommend other high paying clients to you.

The post 4 Reasons Why You Aren’t Attracting High Paying Clients appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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Customers today have higher expectations than ever. Unfortunately, salespeople don’t seem to be meeting these expectations.

According to the Brevet Group, 87% of customers believe salespeople don’t understand their needs. That’s why it’s critical to spend more time understanding the customer than educating them on your product or service. Most customers do their homework, anyway, and won’t even reach out until they’re ready to buy.

In today’s uber-competitive sales landscape, one wrong move can blow a sale. To help you close more deals, we’ve put together a list of three of the biggest sales mistakes.

  1. Not following up

A study by sales training company RAIN Group says it takes an average of eight contacts to get a meeting with a prospect. Every missed follow-up means you are handing sales to the competition.

The key to smart and effective follow-up are to be consistent and relevant.  Keeping up with prospects can be tough, and it is easy to let leads fall through the cracks, but fortunately technology can help. Email-based automation applications like Mixmax help sales teams stay on top of their prospects by using automation to enrich the customer experience, not degrade the customer experience. For example, you can create a series of emails that includes personalized videos and polls (which make it easy for prospects to respond), that make it easy for you to both automate your follow-up process and to personalize your message so you can stay on top of warm leads and make them feel important.

By creating email rules and sequences, email automation can do the bulk of the hard work. For example, you can create a series of emails for new customers that have never heard of your service. Over 3 or 4 short emails, directly state different ways your product helps them. Then, automate! The emails can be automatically sent every 5-7 days and can be automatically synced to your CRM. You can even create rules so if one of those contacts signs up for your services, the emails will automatically stop once the CRM is updated.  You can also pull in fields from your CRM that will populate as variables in your emails. For example you can use variables like first name, company, industry in your email.

 

  2. Being too pushy

While it’s true that following up is necessary, no one likes an aggressive sales person.

Once your customer understands what you have to offer, don’t keep pestering them to make a decision. It’s important to ask for the sale, but a better tactic is to stay in touch and offer valuable free resources.

When you’re dealing with high-dollar products and services, the sales cycle is longer and more people are involved in the decision. According to The Harvard Business Review, over six people are involved in B2B sales decisions. Account-based marketing strategies are a better approach here.

Here are some easy ways to provide value to your prospects through email:

  • Send a whitepaper

  • Invite the prospect to a free webinar (teach them to do something and spend less than five minutes asking for a sale)

  • Provide a link to an article of interest

  3. Talking More Than Listening

A study of 25,537 B2B sales calls conducted by HubSpot revealed that reps that spend less than 40% of a call talking won more deals.

 

Naturally, you’re enthusiastic about what your company has to offer. But not every prospect is a fit. If you charge through a conversation without determining a prospect’s needs, you’ll blow the sale.

  Wrapping it Up

When you’re approaching a potential customer, it’s easy to lose focus on what’s important. Good salespeople understand it’s not about making your quota or the potential revenue you’ll bring to your company.

The easiest way to get a leg up on the competition is to treat each customer like they’re your only customer. Listen first and don’t make assumptions. Ask questions if their needs are unclear. Take the time to build genuine relationships and stop worrying about the sale.

Don’t underestimate the power of personal connection in a sales situation. The best salespeople understand the importance of placing people over profits.

The post 3 Common Mistakes That Lose The Sale appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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The power of celebrity is not limited to social circles and red carpet after-party admissions. Many famous celebrities have successfully capitalized on their fame to cofound and grow their own companies to lofty heights.

In the past, celebrity involvement in a venture was limited to stakeholder buy-ins and endorsements.

But a new generation of celebrities has begun to foster their own personal entrepreneurial spirit — and they have inspired and infused the same in Hollywood. Many celebs have put their personal assets and money — not only their fame — into the build-and-scale technology-enabled companies.

Gwyneth Paltrow owns the wildly successful retailer Goop, Gary Vaynerchuk runs his own online media conglomerate, and Beats By Dre has become a household name. Jessica Alba has been able to leverage her fame and industry connections to raise over $70 million in Series C venture funding for her company, The Honest Company.

Shows like Shark Tank, Dragon’s Den, and the ability of startups to advertise for funding, has shown a clear trend — and this trend is about to explode.

Here are just four reasons that highlight the power of celebrity involvement in any startup.

Capital Injection

Slated as the number one reason businesses fail, is insufficient cash flow. Genuinely, many startups struggle to acquire the necessary capital they need to fund their business plans and keep them running until the product or service can stand on its own, monetary-making, feet.

Investors look to business leaders they can trust — who have the prowess to produce a viable product — earning the investor a good return in capital. We tend to believe in what and in whom we know — and most people are familiar with celebrities.

Take actress Kate Hudson’s startup which sells fitness products online. While all of these products are high-quality, the idea itself is not unique. Fortunately, Hudson and company were able to raise $85 million in Series D funding, and the company is worth over $1 billion. Hudson has plans to significantly expand Fabeletics to become a global giant.

Celebrity endorsements can also be a powerful tool for crowdfunding online or advertising your startup. Think of the crowdfunding campaign that made Kylie Jenner, who is already rich — much richer. Take expert knowledge and advice — and add an endorsement from a celebrity for your startup. Money is money, and the ability to receive crowdfunding solely for the namesake of a star celebrity will allow you the timeframe in which to build your product or service and make it a workable business.

Free Endorsements

Investors and customers rely heavily on social proof (i.e., reviews, endorsements, etc.) to decide whether or not they should purchase from a brand. One study purported that consumers have an easier time recalling a product that is endorsed by a celebrity.

Think of Jennifer Anniston’s Smart Water campaign, Kylie Jenner’s (now disastrous) Pepsi campaign, and Britney Spears’ famed Got Milk campaign. Influencer marketing is nothing new, but celebrities bring along their own influence and the influence of others, which is quite rare.

Access to Other Thought Leaders and Influencers

Celebrities and influencers also have access to thought leaders and bloggers in their industry who can give startups some much-needed buzz. Consider the countless interviews Jessica Alba has given and produced on behalf of her company — with small magazines and bloggers to drive traffic to her company’s website.

Celebrities like Kevin Hart have built a technology network through their investment — including backing companies like the talent-booking marketplace Special Guest App — cofounded by comedian/actor Damon Wayans Jr. Showcasing this much requested and needed tech-app, Wayans was able to promote the Special Guest App last year on National TV — during his interview on the Ellen Show.

People want to interview celebrities, and they want to hear from stars. Clients and customers often want to hear from a celebrated individual because celebrities and celeb influencers have gotten to where they are today by doing something. Celebs and celeb influencers have had to work — and we all relate and hold-on to that belief. In the recent past, celebs and celeb influencers have also become much more involved in the products or services they are endorsing — making them doubly appreciated.

A celeb’s entrepreneurial understanding of what is involved in businesses is shown by so many of them entering the tech and business fields with their own well thought out products, services, and business plans. Not only are stars and celebrity influencers opening-up online opportunities — but they’re also leveraging the speaking opportunities at conferences, events and trade shows.

Access an Established Audience

Celebrities carry a certain amount of influence with their audience that encourages brand loyalty and recall. Whether it’s gaining initial traffic to your website or getting some social shares — having celebrity involvement in a startup eliminates much of the footwork required to build a following.

As this trend continues to expand, we see the tech industry and Hollywood becoming much closer — we need each other. Finally, the time has come for the tech industry to be supported by the broader audiences gaining the benefits from their years of work and capital to bring a product or service to market. Hollywood celebrities are feeling the entrepreneurial essence, and these stars and influencer celebrities can, at last, be established in a strong partnership.

The post The Power of Celebrity Involvement in Startups appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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Much has been made recently of automation’s “tipping point.” Although some who hear the term envision a robot takeover, the reality is a much quieter revolution of the way we work.

According to a September 2018 World Economic Forum study, more than half of the work done worldwide by 2025 will be completed by some form of automation technology. In some fields, that tipping point will come even sooner: Information technology and data processing, for instance, is on track to reach the more-automated-than-human mark by 2022.

While 2022 might sound a long way off, the truth is that automation software is already taking on remarkably human roles. Today, automation conducts one-fifth of business decision-making as measured by task hours, the World Economic Forum report claims. By 2022, that ratio will be close to one-third.

The report also notes, however, that there are broad disparities in automation’s applications. While some enterprises use it for everything from data entry to recruiting to content creation, others have yet to touch it at all.

Automation for All

Fortunately, no matter where your company lies on that spectrum, there are four ways in which it can start or strengthen its application of automation:

1. Kick busywork to the curb.

Every industry, company, and role involves a certain amount of rote work. Although some, like data entry, are obvious targets for what’s called robotic process automation, others may not be so clear-cut. Government agencies like NASA, for instance, use RPA to “read” budgets and distribute funds between offices. In the next five to seven years, a Deloitte report found, such RPA applications could save the federal government 1.1 billion working hours per year — or around $37 billion annually.

But it’s not just the public sector that sees the sense in RPA. Email automation provider Mixmax’s latest suite of tools, known as “Mixmax 2.0,” features Beast Mode, a task automator that customer-facing roles at enterprise companies use to efficiently complete batches of tasks. In a press release, Mixmax CEO and co-founder Olof Mathé described Mixmax 2.0 as a broadside against busywork: “Our goal with Beast Mode, Dialer, and Auto Create is singular: empower business users to focus on their jobs.”

2. Do more with data visualization.

To focus on their jobs, however, business users need a clear picture of where opportunities lie. Again, automation has an answer, or at least a partner: exploratory data analysis. In a nutshell, EDA is the process of using algorithms to point out patterns, identify anomalies, and check assumptions through graphical representations. Although EDA can visualize “fun” issues, like who’s actually the main character in the television show “Friends,” its business applications are almost endless.

“At the very least,” argues Dino Fire, president of market research and analytics at datadecisions Group, “the EDA may reveal aspects of your company’s performance that others may not have seen.” For newer users, Fire suggests using a logistic model for a new take on customer segmentation. By ingesting customer data like net promoter score, purchasing behavior, and demographic variables, logistic models can show similarities between the company’s most satisfied customers and predict whether unscored customers are satisfied.

3. Create an automation center.

Data analysis, however, is one small area in the vast landscape of business automation. To keep up with the ballooning number of types and tools, four in 10 enterprises will have created automation centers by the end of this year, according to Forrester’s Predictions 2019 report. The point of these platforms, Forrester vice president and principal analyst J. P. Gownder explains in his report analysis, is to align the right automation solution with the right use case.

Although choosing a tool to complete a task might seem simple enough, Deloitte’s “Automate This” report makes clear it’s not. Two types of automation the report explores, for example, sound awfully similar: robotic process automation and intelligent automation. In fact, their use cases are practically opposites; RPA tools can tackle methodical, routine tasks at a relatively low implementation cost. IA ones, on the other hand, are for narrow, non-routine tasks that require thoughtful consideration and involve steep startup costs.

4. Integrate AI with other technologies.

Enterprises don’t use RPA, IA, or any other AI tool in a vacuum. As companies become more comfortable with AI, digital transformation expert Daniel Newman predicts, they’ll combine AI technologies with others in increasingly complex and valuable ways. “Convergence should be a top priority for leaders across industries everywhere,” Newman stresses.

Take, for example, how the oil and gas industry has paired AI with Internet of Things technology. By using machine learning to analyze data gathered by IoT sensors, operators can diagnose malfunctions, predict part failures, and optimize pump performance. Not only does the system reduce downtime and increase output, but it improves worker safety and decreases the possibility of environmental disaster.

Artificial intelligence might seem like it’s years away from its professional prime, and it certainly may be. But while automatons aren’t walking around most workplaces yet, AI is making its mark in more subtle, software-centric ways. By freeing workers from routine work, identifying hidden opportunities, and optimizing existing processes, AI is charging toward a tipping point that employees and employers alike should welcome.

The post The Tipping Point of Automation Is Coming. Here’s How to Stay on the Leading Edge appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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Most business owners are driven by the entrepreneurial spirit, a desire to build something of their own and make a difference in society. Unfortunately, your grit and passion alone can’t do much unless you have capital. That said, when funds are limited, you can take the following cost-cutting measures to set up your business without risking going bankrupt.

Buy Used Equipment

It’s understandable if you want the most advanced computers, top-notch furniture, and the best espresso maker that you can find in the market for your office. However, when you are starting out, you need to get your priorities right. There are a slew of things that you can buy from previous owners instead. For instance, quality furniture remains intact even after years of use. Similarly, you can buy used laptops that are just a few years old at ridiculously low prices. This will saves you thousands of dollars in the long run. 

There are plenty of websites like craigslist where you can buy used stuff online. You will be surprised by the kind of variety in products that websites like sell.com and letgo.com offer these days.

Use Cheaper Branding Tools

Regardless the size of your business, you should always take branding into consideration. Branding is important for every business. However, you don’t have to splurge your money when affordable options like tailor brands are readily available at an extremely affordable cost. 

There are also some fantastic freelance branding designers out there who can help create your brand identity. 

Hire Remote Employees

It’s no secret that human resources are one of the biggest expenses that you have to bear. However, you don’t have to hire all the employees on a full-time basis. There are certain roles that can be assigned to remote workers and freelancers at much lower costs. For instance, rather than appointing a full-time assistant, you can find a virtual assistant on websites like freelancer.com or Upwork.com that can help you with tasks like responding to emails, taking calls, updating your calendar, etc. These remote assistants usually cost a lot less than full-time workers.

Since your business is new, it’s possible that you won’t get enough work from your clients in the beginning to keep your staff occupied at all times. So, you can create a small team of freelancers who can work and be paid on a per-project basis. This kind of flexible work-arrangement is win-win for your business and the workers (freelancers) especially when it comes to money. However, finding good freelancers is slightly different than finding full-time professionals. So, it’s a good idea to read a guide or two on hiring a freelancer online.

Use Free Marketing

The web is incredibly vast which means that it’s the perfect place to market your brand. In fact, it’s much better than traditional marketing that includes newspapers, TV ads, etc. as it gives you greater control over your target audience. With tools like social media managers, analytics, etc. you can ensure that your content reaches the right demographic for best results.

Not only is digital marketing super powerful, it’s also quite cheap when you do it yourself. You don’t even need to be an expert to put together some basic marketing campaigns as there are online tools and resources to help you. For instance, you can start by setting up professional company pages on appropriate social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. You can also create a blog on which you can publish fresh content on a regular basis to attract organic traffic especially by implementing advanced SEO techniques.  In other words, the opportunities are plenty as long as you are willing to do the work and learn new techniques and trends.

Don’t Let Your Dreams Die Due to Financial Constraints

Here is something that you should remember throughout your journey as an entrepreneur- ideas are powerful, but they are also priceless. You don’t need tons of cash to set up a business that disrupts an industry. The Internet is full of valuable information that you can help you achieve all your goals without breaking the bank. So, if you ever run into a roadblock that poses financial challenges, then do some quick research online on the matter. You are likely to find a solution that works for you.

The post Follow These Tips to Cut Costs When Starting a Business appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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Due to the continued adoption of technology, various web applications are being integrated into business processes. The electronic signature is a seemingly small yet extremely impactful tool that’s being adopted today. 

Electronic signatures have assisted many firms and individuals in handling high volume transactions as well as document processes. Also, firms using electronic signatures have experienced greater efficiency of document workflows. However, there are numerous electronic signature providers; hence clients should be cautious while choosing the best solution.

Here’s how you can ensure you find the right e-signature provider for your business. 1. Compliance of services

When opting for an e-provider, check how compliant their services are regarding the laws governing the use of electronic signatures. The provider should establish and state that its application is compliant with the primary legislation and also provide details on how the software works under the specific provisions of the laws.

2. Usability of the e-signature software

This will affect your use of the application over the long term. Therefore, examine the software with a free trial to gain the full experience of sending, receiving, and signing documents online. If you have questions, try reaching out to the support team to gauge the responsiveness of their customer care department

3. Integration with your internal systems

The platforms ability to integrate into your internal processes is systems is also vital. Electronic signature technology should enable you to tie the app into your current business processes.

Electronic signatures are investments and clients should be able to use them wherever they wish. However, not all electronic signatures allow for such capabilities

Therefore, firms soliciting electronic signature providers should examine their common document workflows and ascertain how they are going to integrate the technology in their business processes.

Also, investigate the API (Application Programming Interface) of the electronic signature solution as well as review examples of how other firms have integrated their systems with the e-signature vendor’s API.

4. Verification of documents

The best electronic signature should be adept with the confirmation of materials from outside the organization. Workers require flexibility; therefore the electronic signature should permit them to work on documents, for instance, signing even while traveling.

5. Use of various applications

It should create leeway for the use of multiple applications for example; Adobe Acrobat, TIFF images as well as Ms-word. There are electronic signatures which allow only one signature once; this makes additional signatures impossible. Therefore, cross-platform capabilities should be possible with a unique electronic signature.

6. Compliance with law

An excellent signature is compliant with the law. There is a specific standard that all e-signatures have to follow just as with ink signatures. For instance; the authenticity of the signature, integrity and also a signature that cannot be accessed by unlawful users.

7. Verification

The verification of e-signature is also very crucial. One should ensure that all parties could verify it. It should also be un-refutable, meaning that it cannot be denied.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of how you choose your e-signature provider, the right electronic signature solution will aid you in controlling document workflows and transactions a lot more efficiently than with paper. Once you opt for an electronic signature provider, be assured that you’re on the way to making your document workflow a lot easier for your business.

The post 7 Things to Look for When Choosing an Electronic Signature Provider appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

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