May 21, 2012

3 Ways My SmartPhone Helps Run My Business

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 10:52 am

Thank goodness for smart phones, I don’t know what we’d do without them. I think about work pretty much 24/7 and the only constant is my iPhone. Here’s how it helps me manage our business.

1. For bookkeeping
I totally hate paper, it creates clutter and takes up space I don’t have to spare. Thus, my goal is to be as paperless as possible for our business. This means we can’t keep the truckloads of receipts our business racks up, even though we need them for bookkeeping and tax purposes. To keep the clutter at bay we use Scanner Pro. This handy ap allows me to scan a receipt the minute it gets into my hands, no matter where I am. The receipts get uploaded to our DropBox so we always have them when we need them.

2. For task management
My to do list is always a million miles long and looking at it can be daunting. To make sure stuff gets done I add every task to my Google Calendar (each day of the week has its own to do list). As soon as a sentence starts with “we should…” I’ve got my phone in hand and I’m adding a to-do to my calendar.

This means no task is ever forgotten and I can add tasks to my to do list any time, even when I’m on the go.

3. For design concepts
Inspiration rarely hits me between 9 and 5. I usually do my best creative work over martinis and by the time inspiration strikes I’m usually a little too tipsy to write. I always keep my phone handy though, so I can dictate whatever ideas come to mind via Siri. Then I can review my ideas the next day to see what we want to use.

Do you rely on your smart phone to run your business? What are your can’t-live-without features and aps?

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March 12, 2012

Cool Tool: Statmyweb

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 5:51 am

Whether you want to check up on the health of your own site, spy on competitors or evaluate a blog to see if it’s worth sending them a sample to review, StatMyWeb is a handy too. Here’s the type of info you can gather about any website:

1. Estimated website traffic
Why this is useful: If it’s a competitor’s site you can get an idea of how their traffic compares to your own. If it’s a site soliciting a product sample for review, you can see if they have enough traffic to make a review on their site worthwhile. If it’s a site you’re considering adding to your press list, you can see if they get enough traffic to make it worth the time it will take to pitch them.

2. What pages are most visited on a site
Why this is useful: If you’re analyzing a competitor site, this might give you an idea of which of their products are most popular. You can use this kind of information to make decisions about your own product development.

3. Keywords a site ranks well for
Why this is useful: If you’re analyzing your own site, it’s important to know what search phrases you rank well for. You want to be sure that those phrases are relevant for what you sell. If you’re looking at a competitor’s site you might be able to get ideas for new key phrases you want to optimize for. You can use information about your own rankings and competitors’ rankings to make tweaks to your site’s search optimization. (Need more SEO help? Check out my free SEO download.)

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August 30, 2011

Cool Tool: Get Site Monitoring With SiteUptime

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 7:33 am

If you’re paying for web hosting service, you want to make sure they’re actually doing their job. Most hosts have a guaranteed amount of uptime they must provide — usually 99.9%. So how can you tell if your web host is meeting their obligations?

Check out SiteUptime. They have both a free and premium version of their service, but with either version you get alerts when your website is down. You can use these alerts to hold your web hosting company to their promises and be the first to know if yoru site is unreachable.

This information is helpful if you want to argue for a refund on your web hosting fees. You can also use this information to determine if your web host is reliable, in case it’s time to ditch your current provider and look for a new one.

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November 10, 2010

Cool Tools: Website Grader

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 9:52 am

How does your website stack up? Does it have enough inbound links? How’s your SEO? Do you get any buzz on the social networks? You can see how your site is doing and even compare it to your competitors with Website Grader. This free and easy to use tool will give you valuable data that can help you determine how you need to improve your website and your marketing.

What you can expect Website Grader to analyze:

  • Pages indexed by Google
  • How hard your site is to read (i.e. is it written for someone with a secondary school education or a PhD?)
  • Meta Data
  • Images
  • Headings
  • Domain Info
  • Page Rank
  • Inbound links
  • Tweets
  • Traffic Rank
  • and more…

Try it out >>

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October 26, 2010

Cool Tools: Abandonment Tracker

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 6:52 am

Did you know that 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before a purchase is made? You can find out why your customers are ditching with SeeWhy’s Abandonment Tracker.

This free tool provides:

  • Number of carts abandoned in the last 24 hours
  • Number of conversions
  • Number of sessions at each stage of your conversion process (i.e. number who added to cart, number who viewed the check out page, etc.)
  • Top 5 abandoned pages
  • Details of individual abandoners, including email addresses, referrer and optionally, their shopping cart value

Why this tool is cool:

  • Helps you identify problems in your conversion process.
  • Free to use.
  • Delivered daily so you can observe patterns of cart abandonment over time and see how improvements to your site’s usability or sales language affect the conversion rate.

Abandonment Tracker is part of a premium tool from SeeWhy called Conversion Manager. Conversion Manager is designed to help you recover sales associated with abandoned carts and increase your conversion rate with customers who’ve visited your site in the past.

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October 18, 2010

Cool Tools: Clue App

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , — Meredith @ 11:09 am

Earlier this year I wrote about 5 Second Test, a site that allows you to see what people notice about you website. Today I want to share Clue, another free tool with the same concept.

How it works:

  • You give Clue your website URL.
  • Clue takes a snapshot of the page and shows users your page.
  • Clue users see the page for 5 1/2 seconds, and then tell you what they remember about it.

Why use it?

  • To see if what your site is about is apparent to users unfamiliar with your brand
  • To see what elements of your site stand out most to users
  • To figure out if you need to make changes to your site to make its mission more apparent
  • Free of charge and fun to try!

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September 7, 2010

Getting Organized With Ticketing Systems

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 7:30 am

Earlier this year I talked about how Google Docs is a great way to keep things organized for your business. I still use this tool often but I’ve moved my to-do list to a ticketing system. I found this necessary not only for keeping me organized, but also for improving ease of communication with my partner. We both have access to the ticketing system and can easily modify or add tickets at any time.

A ticketing system is a program that creates a ticket for every item on your list of to-dos. Some common features include:

  • A “web page” automatically generated for each task (ticket). This page will hold all the information you need to complete the task such as notes, instructions, links, file attachments, etc.
  • Prioritization; typically each task can have a set priority level so you can quickly see what should be done first.
  • Task assignment; enables the people in your company to assign tasks to each other. The system I use even sends an email to staff members when a ticket is assigned to them.
  • Ticket ID numbers, so you can quickly refer to tasks by ID.
  • Project categories; so you can separate out PR tasks from accounting tasks for example.
  • Project status; so you can mark a task as on hold, in progress, completed, etc.
  • Reporting; allows you to view a summary of all tasks (including columns such as assigned to, task name, priority, status. Ideally columns are sortable and customizable so you can choose which columns appear and what order items are displayed in.)

Nice to have additional features included in the task manager I use:

  • Name of ticket creator, so the person getting the ticket can ask them questions.
  • Ticket creation date, so you know how old a ticket is
  • Tagging, so you can associate tickets with keywords to find them quickly
  • Monitoring, a field that allows you to enter a staff member email address so they can monitor a ticket. Great if you created a complex task with a tight deadline and assigned it to a staff member.
  • Ticket hierarchies, so you can make one ticket the parent of another ticket.
  • Web access; enables your team to update and add tickets any time and any place, even from their iphones.

So what ticketing systems are out there? Here are a few:

Action Method – To me, this system is not the most intuitive, but other small biz owners I spoke to said they like Action Task. The system allows you to organize tasks by project, assign tasks and give them due dates. The system also comes with a discussion forum and an area called “back burner”, which allows you to store good ideas you plan to act on at some point in the future. You can also add an events calendar. Accessing on the go is easy with the Action Method iphone ap. There is a limited free version of this system, which allows you to create up to 50 tasks. The premium version is $13/month or $99/year.

Hi Task – This is a nice, sophisticated tool that’s easy to use, there are also aps for your smart phone, so using it on the go is even easier. The system allows to you prioritize and assign tasks, collaborate with your team, organize tasks into project categories, put tasks on a calendar and color code tasks. This system is also free for individuals, although you can pay for premium features, which you’ll want if you’re working with a team.

To Doist – This simple user interface just lets you make lists. You can put lists into categories and even sync your tasks with your Google Calendar. For something very easy to use and very no-frills, this free system still might be better than a notepad and a pen.

Mantis – This is actually the system I use and it wasn’t created as a pure task management system. It includes every single feature I talked about above. The system originated as a system to track bugs in software development projects. That said, it does exactly what I need a task management system to do and it’s free and open source (which is ideal if you want to customize your task manager).

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July 29, 2010

Cool Tools: Raffle Dog

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , — Meredith @ 6:40 am

If your business is new or small your reach may not be very wide. Maybe you only have 20 Facebook fans and a few dozen people on your newsletter. One way to get the word out is to have a brand with a wider reach promoting your contest. That’s why I want to tell you about Raffle Dog today.

Raffle Dog gives away prizes to its fans based on their participation in their “raffles”. Fans are able to enter to win each contest up to 5 times. They can leave a comment, follow Raffle Dog on Twitter, Tweet about the contest, post to Facebook about the contest, or “like” Raffle Dog on Facebook. If the company that donated the prize has Twitter or Facebook then fans get extra entries for liking the contest sponsor on Facebook or following the sponsor on Twitter.

Raffle Dog selects a random winner after 3 days.

Raffle Dog works well because it makes clever use of social media, encouraging contestants to promote the contest on Raffle Dog’s behalf. Although the site is relatively new, contests are already drawing hundreds of entries!

Want to learn to create awesome viral contests like this? Pick up my new ebook 45 Contests. I am also giving away a free copy , details here.

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July 28, 2010

Cool Tools: I Beat You

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , — Meredith @ 7:57 am
Want to host a competition but lacking in the techie resources department? Luckily, there are some great websites and aps out there that do most of the work for you. One of these resources is I Beat You.

I Beat You allows you to create virtual competitions for your fans. You can have them submit their funniest pictures, their best jokes, whatever you like. I Beat You will collect entries and allow people to vote for a winner.

Creating a contest on I Beat You is also totally free! That makes it a great solution for a cash-strapped small biz owner.

In my new e-book, 45 Contests, I wrote a chapter on how celebrity gossip blog, Popeater, used I Beat You to produce entertaining user-generated content that drove traffic and increased brand awareness.

You can win a free copy 45 Contests. Details here.

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June 9, 2010

Cool Tools: Reality Wanted

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: — Meredith @ 6:52 am

Last month I interviewed different entrepreneurs and asked them about the best thing they did for their business. One of the entrepreneurs I spoke to said self-promotion was his number one tactic and mentioned appearing on reality shows. There’s no doubt that getting your face on TV can make you, and by extension your company, more famous. But how do you get those gigs? Reality Wanted posts casting calls for a variety of reality show opportunities. If this promotional tactic appeals to you, check ’em out.

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