Category Archives: Business Tools

Learn about new technology and resources that will help boost your companies bottom line.

To Do List

The “To-Do” List: Your Key to Productivity

To Do ListEver feel you have been super busy all day, but really got nothing done? Or forgot to do something really important? If this is you, you’re either not managing your to do list effectively or worse, you don’t have one!

Managing a To Do List is one of the most important skills successful people in business have. It is fundamental in effectively navigating through a busy work day and making sure crucial tasks are accomplished.

By keeping a To-Do List, you make sure that your tasks are written down all in one place so you don’t forget anything important. By prioritizing these tasks, you concentrate on what needs your immediate attention, and what you can leave for later.

Although, keeping a properly structured and thought-out To-Do List sounds simple to do, you’d be surprised how many people fail to use them effectively. This article should give you a few pointers on how to make the “To Do List” your best friend.

Creating Your To Do List

Ironically, the first thing to do each day should not be your to do list—it should already be waiting for you when you arrive at your desk.  Here’s what you should do:

  • Put aside 15 minutes at the end of each day to write tomorrow’s to do list.
  • Make sure you check tomorrow’s calendar and schedule to see how it may affect your list. (Tomorrow’s to do list will likely consist of meetings and any crucial deadlines that are fast approaching)
  • Consult today’s to do list and focus on any outstanding tasks. (These remaining jobs will likely feature on tomorrow’s list)
  • Take into account previously skipped tasks. (If you’ve bumped a task from one day to the next, this task should automatically get a higher priority)

Now with these key points in mind, write down the tasks you will be facing. For the time being, don’t worry about how important or unimportant they are. Focus on creating a list of what you need to get done. Do this until you have listed everything that you have to do, with all tasks shown as manageable pieces of work.

Prioritize

Now that you have your list, run through the tasks and LABEL them with a level of priority.  When it comes to prioritization, people use different criteria to determine how their tasks should be ranked. Some use a color coded system, while others use the basic number system. There is no right or wrong way to go about as long as it works for you. I personally find that a traffic light system works best. See below:

Productivity Light

After your to do list is complete, quickly scan through the items and classify them with the above colors in your head. Grab some fluorescent pens and mark each task with its respective color, and then review.

Using Software

Although using a paper list is an easy way to get started, software-based To Do Lists can be more efficient. These can remind you of events or tasks that are due soon, they can also be synchronized with your phone or email, and they can be shared with others on your team, if you’re collaborating on a project.

With so many time management software programs available, it’s hard to know know which one to use. You can simply use MS Word or MS Excel to manage your To-Do Lists. Some versions of Microsoft Outlook, and other email services such as Gmail, have task lists and To-Do Lists as standard features. One in particular,  “Any.do“, is a popular online task management tool that will sync your information on the cloud allowing access across multiple platforms. It can even show you your To-Do List tasks on the calendar. Other similar services include Todoist and Podio which provide added features.

TodoistTodoist allows you to manage projects of any complexity by creating nested-tasks, adding deadlines, assigning priorities, and using color-coding. Also, Todoist automatically synchronizes your tasks across all your devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops – so you always have up-to-date access.

PodioPodio is a social collaboration platform that allows teams to create customized work spaces for internal and external workflows.  It helps groups manage and complete projects more effectively while eliminating redundancy and reducing 1-on-1 communication (This option maybe too much for your everyday needs, but worth taking a look at when tackling big projects).

One of the biggest advantages to using a software-based approach to manage your To-Do List is that you can update it easily. For example, instead of scratching off tasks and rewriting the list every day, software allows you to move and prioritize tasks quickly.

Key Points:

Key PointsTo be well organized, you need to be using a To-Do List. By doing so, you will ensure that:

  • You remember to complete all necessary tasks.
  • You handle the most important jobs first, and don’t waste time on trivial tasks.
  • You don’t get stressed by an overwhelming number of unimportant jobs.

To draw up a Prioritized To-Do List simply jot down all of the tasks that you must carry out. Mark the importance of the task next to it, with a priority from 1 (very important) to 5 (unimportant). Rewrite the list into this order of importance. Then carry out the jobs at the top of the list first. These are the most important, most beneficial tasks to complete.

Using a software-based approach to manage your To-Do List has added advantages. Many programs, in today’s market place, can be synced via the cloud which gives you access to your information everywhere including your smart phone, which make it much easier to manage, prioritize and move tasks around.

Social Media

Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

Social MediaThe social media arena can be an intimidating place for many small business owners. With all the options available today who can blame them. Many ask themselves: where do I begin? How will this generate revenue? Is this really worth my time and effort? These questions arise for the simple reason that many small business owners are just not too familiar with the uses of social media and their benefits.

Social media is an incredible opportunity for small businesses to reach audiences because more and more consumers are embracing social media as part of their everyday lives. Even the over-50 population is adapting at staggering rates. Did you know that nearly 20% of all page views on the web are on Facebook? Still not impressed? Here are some more compelling statistics on why your business should be active on social media.

Statistics
  • The average user spends nearly seven hours per month on Facebook, 21 minutes on Twitter, 17 minutes on LinkedIn and 3 minutes on Google+. (WordPress Hosting SEO)
  • 60% of people who use three or more digital means of research for product purchases learned about a specific brand or retailer from a social networking site. 48% of these consumers responded to a retailer’s offer posted on Facebook or Twitter. (MediaPost)
  • 57% of companies say they generated sales through their blogs, and an identical share closed business transactions through LinkedIn. (iMedia Connection)
  • Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages. And companies with more indexed pages generate far more leads from search. (Search Engine Journal)
  • Companies that publish new blog posts just 1-2 times per month generate 70% more leads that companies that don’t’ blog at all. (MarketingProfs)
Getting Started

Marketing your business on social media is not difficult if you are organized. Opening accounts everywhere is not a good approach. In the end you will be overwhelmed and leave many accounts open that are not maintained. That won’t reflect too well on your company. Instead, open 3-4 accounts one by one and develop them slowly. Make sure your company profile is fully completed on all accounts. What social media platforms should you invest your time in? I suggest businesses start with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and WordPress for your company’s blog. Here’s why:

Facebook
Facebook is without a doubt the most popular social network out there with over 800 million users. Having a fan page is just as important as having a website nowadays. Customers do research online before they do business with companies, and finding them on Facebook is a popular way.

Twitter
In 2012 Twitter, the 2nd largest social network, added over 1 million accounts per day. Many successful businesses have used it to keep clients current on new products and events. It’s even a great channel to offer customer service.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great tool to network and meet new contacts. Nearly 50% of LinkedIn users are decision makers at their companies, which are important people you want to bring into your networking circle.

Google+
Google+ plus is fairly new, but growing fast adding over 625,000 user each day. Google is also integrating these profiles into its search algorithm with Google Authorship.

Worpress
Wordpress is the most popular blogging platform in the market today. It offers a user-friendly interface to manage your blog which can be customized by even the least tech savvy person.

I’m on. Now what do I do?

Social Media ConfusionSocial media is not a place to shout your company’s name at the top of your lungs in hopes to get a response. It’s a tool to share your ideas, content, generate leads and create meaningful connections for your business. Although, Social media can provide your business the visibility and authority in your industry, it can be a double-edged sword if not used properly.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to social networks: You can be as creative as you like, but here are a few things you want to stay away from:

Forget the Plan
Just like any other marketing activity, it’s important to take time to get to know the networks you are joining. Set realistic goals and develop a plan of action to achieve those goals. This will prove to be essential as you market your product.

Mislead
This is never a good idea, and can not only hurt your reputation, but it can also hurt your brand in the long run. More than one company has posted a tweet, which received serious backlash. Be careful.

Ignore Everyone Else
Acting like you are the only person out there is a quick way to social media failure. This can be as simple as thanking people for retweets and Facebook likes, offering your expertise to help others, and sharing a little of your personal side.

Spam Your Followers
Who said spamming is only for email? This practice has also entered the world of social media. Some forms of social media spamming to stay away from include unsolicited sales pitches, posting the same updates over and over, and sending private messages after being asked to stop.

Share Too Much
You joined the network to promote your products, but, there’s a thin line between being engaging and sharing too much. A good rule of thumb is to think of what you’re posting as if it’s a personal message going out to your most important client or a mentor. If you wouldn’t say it in front of people who are valuable in your business, keep it off social media sites.

Self-Promote All the Time
While you can and should share your experiences and the value of your business, products and services, balance your self-promotion by promoting and helping others. This will make your friends and followers much more receptive to your promotional posts, and your followers may be more likely to pass your promotions on to their own networks.

Final Thoughts

There aren’t any written rules about how you should approach and carry out your social media marketing plan. This is just a short guide that will help you get started without feel overwhelmed by the multitude of networks available. Remember to be creative and follow best practices when engaging your audience. Doing so will assure your success on the social networks.

5 Essential “Everyday” Business Tools

Small Business ToolboxOperating a small business is not easy especially during the start-up phase. The projects keep coming and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Managing your schedule and being efficient is the key to success in business. Luckily there are a number of applications available to increase productivity. Below is a short list of 5 very powerful tools I believe every business owner should be using daily.

Google Analytics

Google analytics, in my opinion, is one of the most important business tools today. We live in a world where it’s all about the numbers. How much traffic does your website generate per day? Where does the bulk of that traffic come from? What are some key demographics of that traffic? Knowing the answer to these questions plays a major role in the success of a business at any stage, and Google has made it simple. Google Analytics uses easy to read charts and graphs that can make even the least tech savvy individual fell confident about understanding the results. If you’re not running Google analytics, how can you prepare for your future marketing? Knowing what works and what doesn’t is just as important as the sales you are making now. It could save you thousands in the long run.

Pulse

Next on my hit list is Pulse, which gives users easy access to breaking news across all industries. I don’t think I have gone an entire day without using it. For business owners, strapped for time, it’s a quick way to stay up-to-date on current events. The application’s scrolling tile interface allows you to flip through your custom news feed and in minutes get a sense of what’s going on. Pulse is available on IOS, Android, Kindle and now on any browser. Also, small businesses that offer timely content are able to publish their articles through Pulse. With over 20 million subscribers, it’s definitely worth it.

DropBox

Most Entrepreneurs don’t just work at the office. They work at home and on their laptops. DropBox allows you to jump from one workstation to the next and seamlessly access your current work files. There is nothing more annoy than forgetting the latest version of your company presentation you need to make changes to. I personally use DropBox for all my files, and swear by it. I access my files from 4 different locations including my smart phone, and must admit it has doubled my productivity.  Also, aside from accessing your files, you can share your files with a simple URL to the file. This sure beats emailing a big attachment and crossing your fingers in hopes it’s received.

Evernote

How many times do you find yourself looking for that important sticky note with information of an important meeting, contact or prescription? Evernote is the answer to your organizational needs. It works with three basic functions: capture, access, and find. Capture all of your information, from doctor appointments to business meetings, access it from a host of different sources like your computer, smart phone, or tablet, and find everything in mere moments. With all of your information stored in one clearly marked space, you’ll save time and energy best spent on growing your company. Evernote is free to try, so there is no excuse to see if it works for you.

WordPress

The importance of blogging has been proven by the large number of blogging success stories, viral reach of online posts, and the number of individuals engaged via this method. For a new company trying to spread the word about their concept, blogging is definitely a marketing route to consider. It is one of the most cost-efficient ways to establish yourself as an authority in your industry. WordPress provides users with access to millions of different templates and have options of personalized plugins, which makes it flexible and easy for anyone to use. If your company does not have a blog, now is the time to start. It does wonders for your SEO efforts and builds your company’s credibility.

Summary

The internet is flooded with new business tools every day. These are just a few of the most popular and functional applications around. Not every solution is right for you or your business, but it’s worth trying something new. It may change the way you do business for the better.