Monthly Archives: August 2016

Business Embrace Wearable Technology

With the advent of smartwatches and Fitbits, wearable technology has jumped from the pages of science fiction novels into the real world. This versatile category of technology can be used in a vast number of ways, especially in the workplace.

Whether it’s monitoring employee safety, helping to boost productivity, or encouraging healthier lifestyles to reduce health care costs, wearables offer great promise for today’s workers. So, of course, businesses are clamoring to find ways to incorporate wearables into their daily operations.

Wearables are far from ubiquitous in the workplace just yet. While the technology has developed quickly, businesses remain hesitant to integrate them into their everyday operations.

“It really is very early in the game; we haven’t seen widespread adoption yet, but expect to see more,” said Kirstin Simonson, cyberlead for Travelers Global Technology. “People are struggling to determine what their [return on investment] is going to be.”

Many smaller businesses, in particular, opt to focus on stronger network security, the internet of things, and other technological advancements first, she said, so wearables may fall to the wayside. Still, the wearables industry is growing quickly. According to a report on wearables from the International Data Corp. (IDC), shipments of wearable devices are projected to increase to 101.9 million by the end of 2016, a 29 percent rate of growth over 2015. Moreover, IDC anticipates as many as 213.6 million units shipped by 2020.

“Unlike the smartphone, which consolidated multiple technologies into one device, the wearables market is a collection of disparate devices,” Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, said. “Watches and bands are and always will be popular, but the market will clearly benefit from the emergence of additional form factors, like clothing and eyewear, that will deliver new capabilities and experiences.”

Here are just a few ways businesses are already using wearables, as well as what the future might hold for these devices.

One of the top reasons cited in favor of adopting wearable tech is its ability to streamline normal business operations and improve a company’s productivity. Whether it’s a pair of smart glasses that help guide a warehouse employee along the most efficient route or sensors that help employees more quickly reference needed information to complete a task, wearables allow businesses to improve efficiency in task management.

“Long gone are the days of … time wasted sifting through emails for info or searching out team members for communication,” Franklin Valadares, CTO and co-founder of Runrun.it, said. “Businesses have all of this information and communication through the wearable technology. Employees are able to alert their managers or teams when they have started or stopped [a task], attached files, etc., thus increasing the communication lines and overall productivity of business today.”

By monitoring employee activity or helping to guide workers through potentially dangerous tasks, wearables help empower employers and managers to prevent workplace accidents before they happen. Not only does that save the employee a world of hurt, but it also saves the company time and money.

“[Wearables can] help workers be safer, for example, either around chemicals, lifting something, or climbing towers,” Simonson said. “They’re able to monitor how your body is reacting to these conditions and determine whether or not you might need to do something differently.”

Many companies are offering employees fitness trackers, coupled with incentive programs, to encourage healthier lifestyles both in and out of the workplace. Healthier employees are often more productive and less frequently absent, and can save their employers on health care costs. Fitbit offers one such corporate wellness program to partner with companies trying to promote employee well-being.

“Everything starts with the data. Data not only provides key insights into an individual’s health and helps drive behavior changes that lead to better health outcomes, but, at a macro level, it can also provide much larger trends about population health,” Amy McDonough, vice president and general manager of Fitbit Group Health, said.   The advent of wearable devices has revolutionized our ability to collect and track health data on a much larger scale.”

Wearable tech is also changing how consumers interact with businesses. Businesses are exploring wearables in the form of targeted advertising and simplified payment services through the use of “near-field communication” (NFC) chips.

“I might walk into a store and the wearable device I have goes that step further to bring some kind of [augmented reality advertisement] into focus,” Simonson said, using an ad for bedsheets as an example.

With the addition of an NFC chip, which could be worn on a wristband or even embedded under the skin, customers can transmit data needed for payment, such as credit card info, directly to the store’s point-of-sale system.

“Consumers are excited about things that can make the world more engaging for them, and they’re more prone to early adoption than small businesses are,” Simonson said. “Those people are walking into these stores, so how will that drive businesses to adopt?”

Wearable tech is not without its drawbacks, however. As the market grows, many are troubled by the implications wearables hold for network security. Filip Chytry, a threat intelligence researcher for Avast! Software, said the security risks surrounding wearable devices are many, especially if their connection to a company’s network is improperly configured.

“Most wearables have a lack of encryption, so if it’s communicating with a cellphone or local network, it’s not using the strongest encryption possible; some are using none,” Chytry said. “It’s really easy to intercept the data.”

That means hackers could potentially infiltrate a business’s network and usurp sensitive documents or even audio and video recorded by smart glasses. The same goes for NFC chips, he said, because although they are designed to only communicate at a short distance, a savvy hacker can find ways around that and abscond with highly sensitive information.

As if those doomsday scenarios weren’t frightening enough, even those devices that are encrypted remain difficult to secure, according to Chytry.

“It’s really hard to update the software for most wearables,” he said. “Theoretically, you have a big variety of devices and each is different, so it’s really hard to protect the entire ecosystem.”

 So, what’s the solution? Chytry advised employers who want to embrace wearables to create BYOD (bring your own device) policies that only allow access in certain places for certain devices.

“For example, with the glasses … create a separate channel outside of the company network so nobody will have access to local servers and the local devices [if they are hacked]. Create separate policies and rules for each of the devices,” he said.

Simonson echoed Chytry’s concerns. Isolating wearable devices within separate parts of the network is imperative, she said.

“From a network perspective you need to make decisions about what the device needs to be connected to and what it doesn’t need to be connected to, and then separating one from the other,” Simonson said. “It’s not as simple as just hooking it up to internet. What does it need to talk to, why does it need to talk to that, how do you manage access? It’s the same conversation you need to have regarding anything else.”

If you can maintain proper control over your network, wearables have the power to dramatically change your business operations for the better. The technology continues to evolve and more businesses are adopting wearables, so learning to manage the risks today will give you a leg up on the competition tomorrow.

 

Mobile Marketing Solutions

Mobile marketing lets businesses get in front of customers on the devices they use the most: their smartphones and tablets. From text messages to push notifications, mobile check-ins, emails and even social media, mobile marketing can help you boost sales by sending coupons, special discounts, announcements and other promotions to highly targeted customers. By reaching out to customers on devices that they take everywhere they go, mobile marketing can work wonders on in-person walk-ins and online shoppers. To help you get started, here are 11 mobile marketing solutions for small business.

Yelp is more than just a reviews site and go-to app for finding local businesses and deciding where to eat. It’s also a great place to incentivize customers via the Yelp mobile app. For instance, a restaurant can offer free drinks or appetizers, and a medical clinic can offer special discounts on select treatments — all customers have to do is check-in from their phones. The Yelp app also makes it easier for customers to contact you using call-to-action buttons, such the ability to call your business, visit your website or place a mobile order with just one tap. Yelp also lets you create and publish local ads, making it easier for nearby customers to discover your business while searching for ones just like yours. For more information on how to use Yelp for business check out our primer,Yelp: A Small Business Guide.

The easiest way to reach customers on their mobile phones is by texting them. Mozeo aims to make texting customers a breeze with its easy to use dashboard and text messaging management system. To connect with your business and agree to receive communication, all customers have to do is text a keyword followed by a unique short code. For instance, Denny’s restaurants had customers text the word “Dennys” to 24587 to receive special deals, and Heineken used the word “USOPEN” to run a national text-2-win contest. In addition to deals and contests, Mozeo can also be used to send text notifications, reminders, verification codes and account alerts (such as when a password has been changed), as well as hold two-way conversations to provide customer support.

Another popular form of mobile marketing is using mobile devices to find out more information about a product simply by scanning a bar code or quick-response (QR) code. ScanLife’s Mobile Engagement Platform goes the extra mile by letting customers scan everything from UPC and QR codes to NFC, images, print ads and even actual objects. After scanning, customers are taken directly to websites, videos and other interactive sources. Such technology was once only available to large companies with generous marketing budgets, but ScanLife gives small businesses access to the same high-tech consumer mobile engagement solution on a small business budget.

Figuring out marketing budgets and gauging returns on investment (ROI) can be challenging for small businesses, particularly when it comes to mobile marketing. Convertro eliminates the guesswork by delivering key insights into mobile ad performance, allowing small business owners to make well-informed mobile marketing decisions. This platform can track all mobile elements on the path to purchase by creating customer profiles, no matter what devices they use to engage with your business. For example, if a prospective customer sees a mobile ad on his or her tablet, sees an ad for the same product on her smartphone two days later and then finally makes the purchase on his or her laptop, Convertro’s cross-device attribution technology accurately determines the impact of the mobile activities toward the final purchase. If small business owners have this information, they can make data-driven decisions on how to shift their ad spending toward the most efficient and profitable channels with the greatest ROI.

Sometimes, what small business owners need is a comprehensive mobile marketing solution. SUMOTEXT is a mobile relationship management platform that offers a wide range of mobile marketing solutions. These include mobile coupons, mobile loyalty programs, mobile wallets, mobile alerts and mobile giving (for donations). SUMOTEXT offers four flexible service options based on your business’s needs: self-service for do-it-yourself campaigns; managed services, including dedicated training, execution and support; hybrid services that combine an account manager and in-house execution; and API for advanced users.

Mobile marketing is all about sending texts and alerts at the right time and place. Thumbvista, a mobile marketing company that specializes in geofencing and location-based messaging, can help. After customers opt in to receive text messages, Thumbvista lets businesses collect specific demographic information and use it as filters to better target consumers — for instance, by gender, age and location. Then, Thumbvista’s geofencing technology lets users set up a “geofence” around the target perimeter — using buildings, blocks, miles and other locations — to trigger where, when and to which customers alerts and text messages should be sent. By letting small businesses tailor their mobile marketing campaigns, Thumbvista lets them create more effective and relevant messages while providing ultimate control over marketing spends and ROI.

The beauty of mobile marketing is that customers can also do the work for you. Foursquare, a mobile app that connects people to businesses, engages customers by allowing them to check in, recommend and create conversations about local businesses they visit. Categories include food and coffee, shopping, the arts, nightlife, outdoor activities and more. The app also connects to Facebook for an even wider net of potential and repeat customers. Foursquare has more than 45 million users and 1.5 million registered businesses.

Is email marketing part of your marketing strategy? With the majority of mobile users now checking their inboxes on smartphones and tablets, it’s more important than ever to make sure customers can view emails the way they were intended. Email marketing service MailChimp offers mobile-friendly email templates that make emails look good on any device. Users can choose from professionally designed templates or create their own. Spare customers from emails that aren’t formatted correctly for their device, and put the focus on your message instead.

Retirement Plans A Buyer’s Guide

It takes a lot of planning and preparation for employees to enjoy their retirement years.

While most people want to get to a point where they don’t have to trudge into work each day, if they aren’t financially prepared for that time, it may never come. While the burden might be on employees to make sure they have saved enough for retirement, many believe that employers should share that responsibility.

To help employees make sure they have enough money saved for their golden years, many businesses offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

“At its most basic level, it’s a savings vehicle that employers can choose to offer to their employees that allows those employees to save for their retirement on a tax advantage basis,” said Chris Augelli, vice president of product marketing and business development for ADP Retirement Services.

With employee retirement plans, workers set a percentage of their paycheck that they want to invest in the plan.

“It comes right out of the employee’s paycheck each and every time they are paid,” Augelli told Business News Daily. “It automatically comes out pretaxed and automatically gets invested into the plan.”

Linda Wolohan, a spokeswoman for the investment management firm Vanguard, said employee retirement plans can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

“The type of plan can vary in features, and can vary in terms of whether the employer makes all the contributions to the plan, the employee makes all the contributions to the plan or whether it’s a joint effort,” Wolohan said.

Joint efforts occur when employers offer a matching contribution option. Meghan Murphy, a director at Fidelity Investments, said that in addition to the money the employees invest on their own, many businesses also offer a matching program, in which employers match a certain percentage of the employee’s contribution with their own contribution into the employee’s retirement account.

“A common match is 100 percent on the first 3 percent,” Murphy said. But if you go over that 3 percent, and contribute 5 percent, for example, the employer would just match the 3 percent in that type of match, she said.

With the uncertainty surrounding Social Security, employer-sponsored retirement plans have become much more important in recent years, Augelli said.

“People really need to be taking the onus for their own savings and personal retirement, and there is no better way to do that than to be an employer who is going to offer you one of these plans,” Augelli said.

 

Tips on How to Advertise Your Lawn Care Business

unduhan-8Tip

Hire a design agency to get the designs for your flyers, posters, advertisements, business cards, door hangers, etc., done to give them a professional look and feel.

A lawn care business requires you to undertake a number of different advertising strategies to reach out to your target market. While some of these can be easily afforded, there are a few which are expensive. However, consider the advertising expenditure as your investment which will help communicate about your business to your prospective customers. This is even more vital, if you are not an established business and are relatively new in the market. This calls for special efforts which will help get the attention of your target market. If you are thinking about maximizing your advertising to gain profit, the upcoming sections will guide you on how to advertise your lawn care business.

Advertise

Book advertising spaces in the local newspapers, magazines, community publications, church publications, etc. For a business like yours, this type of advertising will not go unnoticed. There are many people who have a large lawn, but have no time to mow or maintain it. Such people are always on the lookout for a good business. Hence, investing in this traditional medium of advertising can reap you a good profit.

Flyers

Get a printing vendor to print flyers for you at an affordable rate. Generally, you will have to pay lesser for a bulk print order. Mail these flyers to homeowners in residential areas with lawns. You can also distribute them at home improvement shops, malls, supermarkets, parking lots, etc. However, you may have to take their permission before handing out flyers at these outlets. Many believe that flyers are a waste of money; however, contrary to popular belief, they will help bring more and more profit for the business.

Posters

Put up posters at a number of places like community billboards, church boards, supermarkets, malls, hardware shops, etc. Let people see the poster and be compelled to call you. Ensure that the poster is designed in an attractive way and conveys the message in minimum words. Also, tell people about the various schemes you will offer through the poster.

Referrals

This is one business that can benefit through referrals. Just imagine, if you have 5 happy and satisfied customers and they recommend your services to 10 others, your business will expand rapidly. Getting a referral lends credibility to your service. Hence, ensure that your customers like your work and approach you for repeat services or recommend you to their family and friends.

Directories

First and foremost, get your business enlisted in the yellow pages and other directories. Yes, there are many people who are not Internet savvy, and depend on these directories to find services like yours. So, don’t underestimate the power of advertising in a hardbound directory. Similarly, there are many online directories where you can enlist your business.

Online Listing

Try to register your business on websites which enlist various services like Craigslist. This will help people, who will be searching for a lawn care business, to find your contact details. This will enable you to get maximum number of customers. Many such websites also show customer ratings and reviews. Hence, ensure that your service is such that you do not face criticism on these websites. Try to get yourself registered on the BBB website, as it will lend credibility to your business.

Trade Shows

Trade shows or home improvement fairs are the right platform to promote your lawn care business. If you cannot afford to get an entire stall, you can go for a smaller booth. It will give you an opportunity to interact with the prospective customers on a one-on-one basis and also lend you an opportunity to get service contracts signed at the venue. You can also hand out your marketing material along with a small branded gift.

Business Cards

Having professionally designed business cards is a must. You will have to hand them out to prospective customers whenever you get a chance. Try to hand over more than one card at a time so that the person can give them to others who need it.

Website

Get a decent website designed for your service. Try to show the before and after photos of the lawn once you have mowed it. Images can speak a lot more than words; hence, incorporating such photos will speak about your lawn caring capabilities. Try to include testimonials from your customers. If you can book lawn care orders online and process the payment, there’s nothing like it. Also, the website should rank when someone searches for specific keywords related to lawn care, so optimize your website for search engine use.

Vehicle Branding
You can use your business vehicle or truck to brand your logo. This can be costly, but it will serve the purpose of advertising as the vehicle will travel all over the city and people will read about your business.

Radio Ads

Sponsoring spots on local radio stations and adding a catchy jingle or two can make people remember you. This can help generate a good brand recall and recognition. Also, advertising on a local radio station will not cost much.
Discounts, Coupons, and Other Schemes

You have to come up with interesting discounts, free service, and other schemes to gain a competitive edge. Try to distribute discount coupons to people who will recommend your service to others. Keep introducing such innovative schemes to make profit.
Others
✦ Put up door hangers, advertising your business details.

✦ Network with allied businessmen to promote your business.

✦ Try to put yard signs in certain areas.

✦ Distribute branded merchandise like car magnets, refrigerator magnets, mugs, key chains, etc.

Whatever advertising and promotional investment you are making, ensure that you calculate the return on investment to know whether you are on the right track. In the end, make sure that every advertising strategy which you implement leaves the customers mighty impressed.