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Home Business; Quick, Easy Money... And Pigs Will Fly

. Posted in small Business questions

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By Kirk Bannerman

Wednesday, March 23, 2005; 6:15pm EST

Here come those flying pigs!

Does it ever end? I've been involved with Internet-based home businesses for some time and I continue to be exposed to a seemingly endless barrage of offers (all costing me money, of course) claiming to be "the secret" for making a fantastic income, in a very short time, and with very little effort involved.

I must admit that I may have a slightly self-serving reason for addressing this topic. My articles are published on my home-based business websites for the purpose of trying to give prospective team members a true sense of what is really involved with starting and developing a successful home based business. The self-serving part, I suppose, is that I want people joining my team to have the straight scoop going in so that we don't waste each other's time. I admit to being selfish in this regard (I don't want to waste time working with people that have unrealistic expectations), but it is also very efficient for both parties involved, so it is not a totally one-way thing.

Now, back to the topic at hand. There's no magic here, folks. Once you have selected the home business that you are going to pursue, there are no substitutes for time and effort in developing your business. A dream of being an "overnight success" is just that, a dream.

I can tell you from personal experience, that once you "pay your dues" and begin to have real success with a home based business, it is really terrific. Think about Nirvana or Valhalla, take your pick, but in any event it's really sweet.

When I started developing a home based business, making a good income was obviously an objective, but I also had other sub-objectives. One of the most important things was to have nearly total time flexibility (I mean, if I was willing to continue to wear the 9-5 Mon-Fri collar I could just have just

stayed in the previously "traditional" work force).

Time flexibility was (and still is) a "biggie" for me. Many people working at home have the same need for various reasons. For work at home moms, a home business can be a real godsend to accommodate the hectic time pressures, particularly when the kids are quite young and mom is also spelled "transportation".

In my own particular case, the reason is not quite so noble... I just want (need?) to be able to pick up my fly rod and go fishing at a moments notice (sometimes I'll be gone for a week or two at a time, but now the business has enough momentum that it keeps on operating just as well as if I were here tending to it on a daily basis).

Bear in mind, I am only able do the breakaway thing now that I have put in all the up-front time and effort and now have developed enough kinetic energy in my home-based Internet business to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

About the Author

Kirk Bannerman operates his own successful home based business and also coaches others seeking to start their own home based business. For more information visit his website at Proven Work At Home Business

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Online Magazine Caters to Savvy College Women, Scores Major Ad Deals

. Posted in small Business questions

Despite headlines predicting the publishing industry’s demise, online magazine HerCampus. com, is flourishing thanks to a team of college-aged writers and partnerships with Juicy Couture, LOFT, The Body Shop, and other major brands. Cofounders Stephanie Kaplan, Windsor Hanger, and Annie Wang were also named to Inc.-s -30 Under 30″ Coolest Young Entrepreneurs last year.

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New Green Your Business Forum Launched at Intuit Community

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Intuit, in partnership with the Green Business Bureau, has launched a new Green Your Business forum in the Intuit Community. This forum provides a space to address the challenges you face in going green as a business owner, with industry-specific ideas for introducing sustainability to your business - specifically those that help reduce costs and grow your sales.

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Logitech Z-2200 Speakers. High-end THX certified 2.1 speaker system

. Posted in small Business questions

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, February 24, 2004; 10:30pm EST

Over the past couple of years there has been an avalanche of new computer speaker packages on the market, in every price category. Whether you want a complete 5.1 surround speaker system for under $99, or a pair of tweeters and a sub for over $200 - its all there and its abundant. A relatively new player to the high-end speaker world, is the well known webcam, keyboard and mouse producer - Logitech.

Within its short presence in the high end speaker market, Logitech has managed to really catch peoples attention with a collection of award winning surround sound speakers that really pack a punch. The new Logitech Z-2200 model basically takes all the winning features of their high end surround sound models, and chops it down to a 2.1 version.

So why, you may ask, would someone be interested in a speaker package consisting of two satellite speakers and a subwoofer, when everyone is going out and buying 5.1 and even 7.1 speaker systems for their computers? Many users lack space; suitable speaker locations; wiring convenience; or simply have no need for that many speakers. Many of these users want to primarily listen to their MP3 collections, occasionally hit a game or two, don't necessarily need surround sound, but want quality sound reproduction with lots of power on tap. This pretty much describes the target audience for the Z-2200.

The Logitech Z-2200 takes the 2.1 speaker concept to the max. Using high quality components and a brute force approach that will win over many who crave to have that power headroom. The THX certified system is comprised of two 40 watts RMS polished aluminum phase plug satellites (essentially a tweeter and mid-range speaker merged together forming a higher quality full range driver) and a 120 watts RMS front-firing 8" long-throw driver subwoofer in a flare ported 11"x11"x15" enclosure. This totals up to a very respectable 200 watts of clean RMS power to play with and a rated peek performance of 400 watts. The system is controlled by a "SoundTouch" wired-remote which has power, volume and bass level controls along with a convenient headphone jack. The system is rated to have 35hz-20khz frequency response. Satellites can be converted to a wall-mount mode if needed.

From the moment we started to unpack the system we were immediately aware of the attention to detail that was put into this system. Packaging was well thought out and protected the product well, included instructions were simple but effective. Installing the speakers was simple, with the well marked plugs and cabling. Both satellites plug into the subwoofer (much preferred over the method of some to string the two satellites together), and the "SoundTouch" wired-remote is the conduit to the computer sound card or other sound device. An adapter is included for connecting the Z-2200 to game consoles. The satellites have a heavy, solid quality feel with attractive grill and casing design. The speaker cones, surrounds and ports are well crafted. We were particularly impressed with all of the cabling supplied with the system, which is of a decent gauge and utilizes quality connectors. The subwoofer is a real bull of a box. Heavy wood construction, massive heat sink fins running the vertical length of the back, commanding 8" driver diameter with a quality surround, strong but attractive metal mesh and large port opening on the left of the unit. The colouring scheme of the speakers works very well with contemporary computer cases (colour matched our Dell Dimension XPS test system perfectly). The wired remote is a significant improvement over using the audio controls located on the actual speakers of other systems. The remote is simple in layout and the quality of the controls is suitable.

As much as we loved the construction of the system, things only got better when we fired the speakers up with some MP3's. First thing we noticed were the incredibly crisp high's and a very defined and commanding bass line. The satellites did a superb job of imaging in songs that other speakers had difficulties even building anything that resembled a sound stage. If any 2.1 speakers were going to successfully going to pull off  3D and 3D EAX type surround emulation, these were it! The subwoofer really had a strength to it that gave even some of the more demanding house and hip-hop tracks a run for their money. The great part is that no matter how much you turned the Z-2200 up, it always felt like it had reserve power. We were never able to turn it up enough to get distortion - and let me tell you we gave it a good hardy try. It just kept getting clearer and stronger as we cranked it up higher. It is one of those expensive toys you simply smile about when you are "testing" it out.

With a market so full of speakers that would let you down well before the half way point on the volume dial, we were just so happy to finally listen to a speaker system that really showed that the designers cared. It has been a delight listening to speakers that will literally play anything well, from games to movies to your favorite music track. While some may say the price tag is perhaps steep for a 2.1 system, the Z-2200 is truly worth the investment if you are a heavy user of your computer sound card. The Logitech Z-2200 comes with a 2-year warranty, its recommended retail price is $149.99USD / $229.95CDN and is available immediately.

PROS - Beautifully constructed speakers, excellent sound quality in all departments, THX certification, commanding subwoofer, plenty of reserve power, wired remote is improvement over speaker based controls, attractive styling, heavy gauge cabling and quality connectors, 2 year warranty.

CONS - Price may be a detraction to some.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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12 Tips to Reduce Stress

. Posted in small Business questions

By Justin Tyme

Friday, March 05, 2004; 5:00pm EST

"My computer crashed at work, my boss was being difficult and I got stuck in traffic on the way to pick up my son from school" -- Caroline Greenwood, Surprising new stress-busters that'll take the tension out of your day, Woman's World, May 30, 2000

It always comes back to time. There's never enough time. There are so many things to do and so little time in which to get them done. Reports are due. Project deadlines are coming up. A major client hasn't paid your latest invoice and there are bills to be paid next week. Stress is closing in on all of us. Stress is affecting not only the way we do business, but our bodily health at the same time. While we can't make stress go completely away, there are some things we can do to reduce our stress levels and make us happier and more productive, which reduces our stress levels and makes. . . and so on and so on.

"As health problems go, heart disease, cancer and obesity get all the limelight. But we should pay just as much attention to another serious health issue: stress." -- 6 Steps to lessen stress, USA Weekend, May 26-28, 2000

Here are twelve things anyone can do (yes, even you) to reduce stress:

    Replace the phrase "I have to. . ." with "I get to. . ." - Small business writer Don Doman, author of Out of Work? Get Into Business and Look Before You Leap: Market Research Made Easy, says that when he's feeling overwhelmed and has too many things to do, he starts using the phrase "I get to." "Even the most miserable of tasks seem easier and less stressful if you get to do them. It's kind of like a reward. Oooeee, I get to make cold calls today. It gives you a positive feeling." By removing that feeling that you "have" to do something, you've reduced some pressure and stress.

    Cut out the coffee, hot chocolate, and soft drinks - Caffiene can cause anxiety and make things more stressful. So, you might want to limit your trips to Starbuck's when you are suffering from stress.

    Keep toys on your desk - My wife used to keep "Transformers" near the phone. Transformers were plastic robots that changed their shape depending on which way your turned them and moved their body parts. She played with them while she was on the phone. It gave her something physical to do and mental at the same time, and helped reduce anxiety.

    Write down your stressful situation - By putting your thoughts down on paper (or in the computer) you can transfer your emotions from your mind to something more tangible. After you're done with the writing you can crumble up the paper and throw it away, or light a match to it and let your troubles go up in smoke.

    Tackle the most stressful tasks first - As we become more tired, our stress defenses go down, so it's best to handle the most stressful events when your body is most alert and rested.

    Exercise - I have a "Thigh Master" that I use to exercise my upper body and my thighs when I've been hunched over a desk for too long. Getting away from the desk and exercising for just a couple minutes can reduced stress remarkably. If you can get away for a walk, that's even better. Think about pleasant thoughts and not about your problems -- that helps, also.

    Get some oxygen into your body by breathing deeply - Headache expert Dr. Jeffry Finnigan in his book Life Beyond Headaches says that one of the main keys to a healthy body is getting oxygen, which we can't do if we're all slumped over and stressful. Take a few minutes and close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly. I like to tell myself that with each outgoing breath I am becoming calmer and less worried and stressed. If you can stop and breathe deeply for ten minutes a couple times a day, you can reduce your stress dramatically.

    "Breathing becomes short and shallow when we start stressing out," says Deborah Johnson, Ed. D, an assistant professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "The quickest way to break this tension loop is to start drawing air deeply into your lungs, which allows oxygen to flow throughout the body. You should feel a difference almost immediately."

    -- from Soothe your stress spots, Fitness, November 1998

     

    Eat a sweet - When you're feeling really stressed, take a minute and eat a bite or two of candy (watch out for chocolate, which has caffeine in it). Researchers have found that stress levels go down when we consume sugars.

    Make yourself at home - Personalize your workspace. Surround yourself with photographs of home, posters from favorite movies or plants and flowers. The familiar, homey-objects, help relax tensions.

    Drink some orange juice - Scientists have discovered that vitamin C can reduce the production of stress hormones. Eat an orange, drink some juice, take a 200 mg. supplement, or eat other foods rich in vitamin C like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, grapefruit and cantaloupe.

    Sing a song - This tip does double duty, music and singing relaxes the body, AND by singing you breathe more deeply. Depending on your voice, however, you might create more stress from the people around you.

    Watch a funny video - Laughter like singing gets more oxygen into our lungs, so watch something that gives you some belly laughs. Blazing Saddles always works for me. I know most of the lines, but so what? Mel Brooks says the essence of humor is anticipation and payoff. Just like reducing stress.

    Find out more about stress. Read a book, listen to an audio book, watch a video. You'll see that you are not alone and that there are many ways to overcome stress and the way you handle a stressful situation.

No matter what kind of work we do, stress is part of our lives. We can reduce our stress levels, but we can't eliminate it. We can learn to control it and live with it, however.

About Source of Article This article was written by Justin Tyme and made available by Ideas and Training at http://www. ideasandtraining. com/.

 

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-Speak Up- in Social Media and Deepen Customer Interest

. Posted in small Business questions

Do you feel like your tweets and status updates are futile when it comes to building customer engagement? If you’re only using text-based content, they may be. According to Twitter, 140 million “tweets” are sent each day; that’s a lot of chatter to compete with. New social media research reveals there-s a feature that small business marketers should integrate into their social media outlets to increase customer engagement online. The best part? You-ve already got it: your voice.

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5 Steps To Turn More Leads Into Cash

. Posted in small Business questions

By Anthony Davis

Tuesday, September 11, 2007; 7:15pm EST

It's very easy to start generating a lot of leads because it's a very scientific process.

Most marketing guru's say run this ad or make this type of offer and you'll have an explosion of people responding and those leads will show up in your inbox.

Nothing that you've done has made them come there, it's all been very scientific, you've run a very specific direct response ad and people are responding to an offer that you've made, and that is where the lead conversion process starts. Now you have to do something, and your mindset is really going to make a big difference at this point.

Here are 5 smart things you can do right now to turn more of your leads into cash.

Idea #1: Start Thinking of Your Leads In bundles of 100. This is what that means, instead of thinking about your leads individually right now, you need to get a little bit of altitude, get a little bit of perspective on exactly what you're doing here and start looking at the results you want to achieve.

Let's say we're going to look at it as 100 leads, that means we've got 100 people who have come through a process where they've listened to a recorded message or they've gone to your website and they liked what they heard or saw.

We may have spent $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 to generate that bundle of 100 leads. If you're using a good direct response system, you're probably spending between $10 and $30 for each lead, but that isn't important at this point. You don't need to be concerned with how much each lead cost to generate - what I want you to do is think about the monetary value of those 100 leads at maturity.

You don't make any money generating leads, you spend money generating leads and you make money converting leads. So let's look at what this bundle of 100 leads might be worth.

We know that half of the people that enquire about something will buy in the next 12-18 months. We know that's true because it has been studied again and again. What would those 100 leads be worth if half of the people are going to buy in the next 12-months?

That would mean that 50 out of those 100 people are going to buy a the same product or service that you offer, from someone(it might as well be you right), in the next 12-months. Let's say you have an average commission value from a transaction of $5,000, that means those 100 leads are going to be worth $250,000 in commissions. That's how much is going to be paid when half (50) of the people that are going to buy, actually do.

If that number is exciting for you, that's great, but how many of those people are you actually going to help? Because that is what we're really going to focus on. Let's say that you're able to help 5 of those people? That bundle of 100 is going to be worth $25,000 if you're only able to help 5 out of 100 or 1 out of 20, which would be an average conversion ratio.

The big mindset shift is that you don't make any money generating leads, you make your money converting leads. Let's recap, you've spent $1,000 - $3,000 for a bundle of 100 leads that is going to be worth $250,000 at maturity and you're trying to determine how much of that money you are going to cash-in.

Are you going to get $25,000, are you going to get $50,000 or are you going to get $150,000? Because the way that you approach this process is going to determine how many of those leads are actually going to work with you and in turn how much money you're going to make.

Idea #2: Treat All Leads Like 5 Star Prospects. You know a lot of times people have a mindset of treating prospects like they're not 5 star prospects until they prove that they are. Well the most profitable mindset you can have is to treat them like they are 5 star prospects until they prove that they aren't. I'll give you an example. I got some running shoes last Spring, and I went into this store in the mall, and there were a few people in there ahead of me, and the salesperson who was in the store that afternoon, is in there asking people "Can I help you?" And some of them are saying "no thanks, I'm just looking" or somebody might ask a question, but nobody was really in the market to buy shoes, they were just kind of looking around. He came to me, I was in the market for buying shoes, and he asked me "Can I help you?" And I told him exactly what I was looking for and let me tell you, this guy was the most helpful person in retail that I've ever dealt with.

You know he asked me what I was going to be using the shoes for, I told him I was going to be using them for running on my treadmill. I sat down on one of those shoe store stools where you put your foot up, he brought out several pairs of shoes for me to try. This guy was very attentive, he even laced them up for me. I ended up buying the most comfortable shoes that I've had on my feet. And it's because this guy knew a lot about shoes, and he treated me like I was a 5 star prospect. - AND as a 5 star prospect, I really appreciated it.

When you start thinking about this, what can you do to treat your prospects like they are 5 star prospects? You know it's very interesting when people are generating leads but they determine in their own mind ahead of time, that people are tire kickers or that they're not really serious.

It goes back to the law of attraction and the way that you think about things. If you treat people like they are 5 star prospects, you're going to find that more people will be attracted to you and will want to work with you because you've treated them like they are valuable to your business.

It's very interesting, but just re-evaluate the way that you look at leads. Hopefully, by having a monetary value on that big bundle of 100 leads is going to make a difference in the way you approach each lead individually, because now they are part of the big picture.

Idea #3: Connect As Quickly As You Can. This is the most crucial step in the process of lead conversion. By connecting with a lead as quickly as we can, you will find out if they really are 5 star prospects. Remember, 5 star prospects are people who are willing to engage in a dialogue, who are friendly and co-operative when you talk with them, who know what they want, who will be taking action in the next 6-12 months and who would like you to help them.

It's very important that you know that you can only discover 5 star prospects, you can't create them, you can't turn a 3 star prospect into a 5 star prospect. All leads are either 5 star prospects or they aren't.

Idea #4: Make A 12-Month Commitment To Bond With Your 5 Star Prospects. You know, people are going to take action in their own time frame. You can't make them do anything. You can't make them act fast if they want to take it slow.

You've got to be ready, willing and able to follow up with your leads for 12-months consistently versus following up with them for 12 days, which is how most people execute their marketing plan. But the reality is, if you can stretch that out to 12-months, you're going to be much further ahead than your competitors. You will stand out as he expert in your field because you've been giving them valuable information over that time.

Now do you think it might be worth it for you to make that extra effort, especially when we're looking at making $25,000 or more. I guarantee you the difference between converting 5 prospects and the difference between converting 10 prospects is in how you approach this 12-month follow-up process.

Idea #5: Make It Easy For Prospects To Start The Process. The easier you can make it for prospects to start the process or take the next step towards buying your products or services, the more people in your target market will act on your offer. You should never assume the people that you've been marketing to are going to call you when they're ready buy. Remember, you've got to lead people to the next step.

Hopefully you can start using these 5 smart ideas right away. It's going to be a great paradigm shift for you which will lead to forward progression in your business. As you can see, lead conversion really requires a bit of skill, it requires a bit of commitment, but you can achieve great results by simply adding these techniques to your daily business activities.

About the Author

Anthony Davis is an active real estate investor and debt expert, who practices what he preaches by offering detailed money-making strategies and easy steps for implementation in his newsletter, "Wealth Without Wall Street" and online, www. powerhouse2000.com.

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Symantec Norton Antivirus 2004. Windows platform antivirus protection for files, email, internet, instant messenger

. Posted in small Business questions

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, November 4, 2003; 9:00pm EST

Symantec's Norton Antivirus solution, widely regarded as a market leader, gets its 2004 makeover with some welcomed new features. Visually it is almost identical to its 2003 predecessor, with only minor hints of changes throughout the programs design. Installation, as with past versions, is relatively quick and effortless, with exception to a recommended pre-scan for viruses before executing the installation or upgrade.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Norton Antivirus, it takes all of its functionality (as well as the features of any other Symantec utility you purchase) and integrates it into an icon on your system tray. Once clicked you have all your virus protection "vital information" immediately at hand (although at times it can be sluggish to load). It also allows you to change settings, run an on-demand scan and check for updates to the software and virus definitions. In addition to checking for updates yourself, Norton Antivirus also conveniently grabs the latest updates in the background as they become available, which we have found at times interrupt the performance of your computer. This feature can be deactivated if so desired.

Where it starts to get interesting is its all out war on viruses. It protects your computer at literally every possible front. It checks all of your in going and out going mail (scans within the email and all of its attachments); all files as they are transferred to and from your computer by removable media or internet; it protects your instant messenger transfers; scans the contents of compressed files in real time (Windows XP and 2000 only); scans for trojan horses and internet worms; and now I am pleased to say it also searches for those wretched spyware, adware and keystroke logging programs lurking in your computer. Yes, that's pretty much every possible entry point for a virus.

The impact on your system performance appears to be negligible for all typical tasks such as copying files, receiving files by instant messenger with exception to email transactions. At times it noticeably slows down the sending and receiving of emails.

As for its effectiveness, right away it was more effective than its prior version as it detected 3 viruses during its first full hard drive scan after being installed that the prior version did not detect. During the 2 weeks we have lived with the product running on our test system (Pentium 4 3GHz, 1GB memory, SATA hard, Windows XP Pro) it found scores of viruses arriving in our email in box, ranging from potential annoyances, to viruses that threaten the integrity of my computer and its data. Your ability to control what happens upon the discovery of a virus is a definite plus. Choose from automatically fixing the virus, deleting the infected data or quarantining the data. It's default automatic attempt to clean the infection seems to work best.

A great aspect of the latest version is that by default, it has a brute force approach to scanning for viruses. Which means people who are less familiar with such programs don't have to search around the program attempting to activate features for full protection. Something else which I have found very helpful about Norton Antivirus, is when it discovers a virus, it doesn't just tell you the name of it, it links you to its online database of virus knowledge for an unbelievable wealth of information about the virus, its impact to you and other informative tid bits.

System requirements for Norton Antivirus 2004 range widely depending on the version of Windows you are using. Minimum requirements for a Windows XP computer are 85MB drive space, Pentium 300MHz processor, 128MB memory. While minimum requirements for Me/98 are 125MB drive space, Pentium 150MHz, and 32MB memory. Norton Antivirus 2004 has a recommended retail price of $69.95CAD. A "Small Office" 5 seat license pack is available for $299.95CAD. Current users of the 2003 version can upgrade for $39.95CAD, rebates and special offers can usually be found online to save further money. Norton Antivirus 2004 Professional is also available offering the addition of data recovery features, an advanced delete function (virtual document shredding for privacy); and inclusion of a license for 2 workstations. Clearly this is aimed for people who wish to protect both their home and work computers with a single purchase; it tags $30.00 to the price brining it to $99.95CAD.

We would absolutely recommend Norton Antivirus 2004 to people considering a virus scanner for their computer for the first time, for those not pleased with their existing solution, and for users of the previous 2003 version of Antivirus. Although there is limited reasons for upgrading from 2003, the spy/adware checking alone in my opinion is worth of it; due to the growing prevalence of these horrid programs around the world. Norton Antivirus comes with 1 year of free software and virus definition updates as part of the package; that can be renewed annually for a fee if desired. The product is available immediately in stores and was released September 2003.

In this day and age of relentless virus attacks from every direction, this is a must-have utility for all computer users that value the integrity and privacy of their computer data.

PROS - Its "all-out-war" approach leaves literally no entry point for viruses; a generally non-intrusive approach that makes its operation transparent; addition of spyware, adware and keystroke scanning an excellent addition; it's solid reputation for eradicating viruses effectively.

CONS - Slow email scanning at times; no continued innovation in the interface from previous versions; at times slow in loading its windows and performing background updates; cannot completely close system tray icon, can only "disable" it.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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Commanding Respect of Your Team

. Posted in small Business questions

By Mike Bosse

Friday, March 11, 2005; 4:00pm EST

When I was a child my father would take me ice fishing with him and his buddies. I remember very clearly the first time he took me out on the ice. I was so excited to be included in his fishing trip that I couldn?t sleep the entire night prior.

So at 4:00am when my father came into the room to wake me, he was a little surprised to find me wide eyed and full of energy. When we got out onto the frozen lake I remember hearing the ice creak beneath the wheels of the truck as we slowly approached the small wooden shack that would house us

from the elements for the remainder of the day.

I remember being concerned as the first ?POP!? resounded from the crystal floor below. But then, I took one look at my father and all of my fears where dispelled. I knew that with my father at my side I was safe from harm.

Once inside the ice cabin we lit the small heater in the corner and my father went over some of the safety rules with me. After the initial talk on safety, the wooden plank which covered the 4 foot long by 2 foot wide hole in the ice was removed. One look into the murky darkness below and I became the poster boy for ice fishing safety.

My father went over the basics with me and then showed me how to properly drop the line and how to watch it for a bite from the fish.

As he instructed me, I absorbed every bit of information he shared, and followed his lessons to the tee. I never questioned him, or desired anything else but to make him proud of me, and have fun. Over the course of that day I caught half a gallon of trout, and had the time of my life.

I often think back on this story when I am in a position to lead men. My father commanded not only my loyalty, but my respect, my devotion, and I surrendered to his command on blind faith.

As I reflect on the experiences in my life it becomes clear very quickly why this is. When I joined the military I had the opportunity to see this exact style of leadership in action. I found that the leaders who where loved by the unit, who commanded the respect of the men, and who without question would be followed into a hail of on coming bullets, where those who the men saw as ?father figures?.

All men who command this kind of following have one thing in common?

They honestly care about the well-being of there men.

No man or women will follow you willingly unless they know that you have there best interest in mind. You cannot force the loyalty or respect of your team. Leaders who care for every person on there team are, not surprisingly, also the ones who produce the best results, because there teams care about them, and love working with them.

I blindly followed my father because I knew that he cared for me and would never allow misfortune to come to me if he could help it. Because of this, I also wanted to make him proud. The men and women you lead are the same way. They seek approval, desire respect, and want to be lead by someone who is more concerned about them, than about their wallet.

Give your team respect and care about them as people, and you will see an amazing change in the attitudes and production of your team. True concern for your people builds respect, loyalty and great results. You will find that when you give to your team, they will give back to you.

About the Author Mike Bosse is the founder of www. LeadershipForge. com. He is also the editor for the "LeadershipForge Newsletter" a weekly publication which reveals hidden methods to improve your leadership skills in a goal oriented world.

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Born On The Fourth of July: Pyro Spectaculars by Souza

. Posted in small Business questions

The Fourth of July conjures up images of booming, skyrocketing, jaw-dropping fireworks displays that light up the night sky. If you’re lucky enough to see one at your county fair, in your city, or on TV, chances are Pyro Spectaculars by Souza produced it.

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Online Shopping Carts

. Posted in small Business questions

By Larisa Thomason

Monday, August 2, 2004; 4:00pm EST

The numbers are scary for online retailers and e-commerce: for every online shopper who completes her transaction, another abandons his online shopping cart without ordering. So what should be a story about online shopping success often becomes a tale of lost opportunities. Don't let your site suffer. If you know why customers abandon their shopping carts, you can take steps to correct the problem.

Online Sales Increase... And So Do Abandoned Carts

By any measurement, $54.9 billion dollars in ecommerce sales is impressive. That's the US Census Bureau's estimate of the total ecommerce sales in 2003. The "The Register" web site reports that total retail sales in the United Stated during the fourth quarter of 2003 increased just 6.2% while online sales increased by 25.1%.

Those numbers are astounding, but don't tell the whole story because they could be even larger! Different studies of online behavior estimate that between 50 and 75% of online shoppers regularly abandon their shopping carts and that 77% have done so at least once. DataMonitor statistics suggest that incomplete online transactions could deprive retailers of up to $63 billion in revenue this year.

Why People Abandon Their Carts

You've probably abandoned a cart at least once - and probably a lot more often. This isn't a problem with beginning users either. Experienced Internet users are actually more likely to dump a shopping cart because they know there's always somewhere else they can go online to purchase the same item.

There are as many different reasons for ditching a shopping cart as there are visitors, but various Web surveys have pinpointed the most common causes:

Reasons Shoppers Abandon Their Carts Source: Yankee Group

56% Shipping charges were too expensive

41% The item was unavailable

29% The site was too difficult to navigate

21% The order wouldn?t go through

18% The order form was too complicated

15% They were unable to use coupons or discounts

Reasons Shoppers Abandon Their Carts Source: WebTrends

35% Shipping charges were too expensive

35% Site requested too much information

17% Not enough product information

14% Decided not to buy online

So what's up with customers and shipping charges? Surely any reasonable person knows that it costs to pack and ship merchandise.

Of course they do, but these reasonable people still suspect that the shipping and handling costs they're asked to pay are sometimes unreasonable. A study by Ernst and Young seems to back them up.

89% of online retailers charge for delivery

11% used delivery charges as a profit center

Many charge based on the cost of the item and not its actual shipping costs.

The idea of charging for shipping based on cost infuriates customers the most. It makes sense if you're ordering something that sells by the pound, but what if one customer orders a $70 scarf and another orders a $25 scarf? At most online merchants and catalog retailers, shipping costs for the $70 item are higher - even though there's no real difference in weight or packing difficulty.

An ecommerce study by the marketing firm NFO CFGroup found that "?59 per cent of online shoppers believe they're being gouged for further profit on shipping costs." At least 11% of the time, they're right!

Help For Orphaned Shopping Carts

We touched on the issue of shipping charges in the last Webmaster Tips article: "7 Ways To Increase Your Online Sales", but there are other issues you can address to keep visitors with their carts all the way through the buying process.

1. Shorten the process! Visitors get frustrated easily with a shopping cart system that asks for huge amounts of duplicate information - as in forcing visitors to enter both billing and shipping addresses even if they're the same.

An ecommerce case study published at MarketingSherpa. com found that when the Web site PersonalCreations. com redesigned their shopping cart system to eliminate an entire screen, their cart abandonment rate dropped from 45% to 33%.

Fewer clicks move the process more quickly and give visitors fewer chances to click away from your cart.

 

2. Make it snappy! Forms that process slowly irritate your visitors just as much as slow-loading pages. Check your page load time with NetMechanic's HTML Toolbox and use our Server Check tool to verify that your server responds quickly when visitors submit the form.

3. Check for errors. Test your forms thoroughly to make sure the information is processing correctly. Also check to make sure the form displays correctly in all browsers. A simple coding error like a misplaced input tag can prevent visitors from submitting the form they took the time to fill out.

4. Give visitors another chance. According to the MarketingSherpa. com case study, the designers at PersonalCreations. com experimented with another method that resulted in a 25% average improvement in sales.

They added a pop-up to the shopping cart system. Customers who abandon their carts see a pop-up window that offers $5 off the purchase they abandoned - but only if they immediately return to the shopping cart and finish the transaction.

Most visitors say they hate pop-up windows, but that's because the pop-ups are often for products they aren't interested in. This technique gives visitors something valuable. Learn how to create pop-up windows in our April 2001 JavaScript tip.

5. Safeguard personal data. You're asking visitors trust you with their personal information and credit cart numbers. Make sure they feel comfortable doing that by linking to your site's privacy policy, offering secure online transactions, and requesting only the information you need.

Ideally, you should ask for personal information as late as possible in the ordering process. Personally, I click away from any site that requires my credit card and contact information before they tell me the final cost of my purchase - including shipping charges!

6. Answer questions! Each shopping cart and product page should include a prominent link to your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. Visitors can refer to it to get information about shipping times, ordering options, contact information, returns policy, and any other questions they may have.

Contact information is important. The NFO marketing survey found that customers like to know they can contact a live person and might not have abandoned their carts if one were available:

"22 per cent said a 1-800 number to call customer service might have changed their minds, while 15 per cent said live text chat with a customer rep would have helped."

7. Make it user-friendly. Shopping cart usability is essential to the success of your online business, so you should always test early and often.

There's more to testing than just checking the HTML code for errors with HTML Toolbox. True usability testing gets actual users in front of your site so you can evaluate their user experience. Of course you can use the site because you designed it.

But can your visitors order your products, input information, and complete their transactions? You need to know that before you launch, not after!

Our July 2002 Usability Tip "Test Early, Test Often" outlines the testing process and explains how to conduct a usability test on a limited budget.

No matter how carefully you design your site, test your ecommerce system, and price your products, some shoppers will always leave without buying. Not every customer in a brick and mortar store buys something on each visit either.

Visitors are more likely to buy if they perceive that your site is trustworthy, provides good value, and is easy to use. That perception is vital to your online success.

Source of Article The author of this article is Larisa Thomason, Senior Web Analyst with NetMechanic, Inc. NetMechanic is an online service specializing in html code checking, search engine optimization and web site maintenance and promotion. For more information visit http://www. netmechanic. com/.

 

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5 Social Media Mistakes for Your Business to Avoid

. Posted in small Business questions

Nearly half of American adults are on at least one social networking site, according to the latest Pew Research Center data. But in spite of the vast potential audience — and the equally vast amount of advice out there — the social world isn-t necessarily a straightforward proposition for small businesses. Here are five mindsets that could lead to trouble.

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7 Ways to Increase Online Sales

. Posted in small Business questions

By Larisa Thomason, NetMechanic, Inc.

Monday, March 08, 2004; 5:00pm EST

The 2003 sales figures are in and online sales boomed last year. Total online sales in 2003 saw an increase from $4 billion to $6.4 billion. Online commerce increased by 59% during the holiday shopping season.

Did your online business process its share of online sales? If not, try these seven techniques that encourage visitors to buy.

1. Encourage impulse buys. Fast food restaurants understand this concept. Think: "do you want fries with that?" Well, you can do that online as well:

    Suggest related products. Amazon. com is a leader in this technique. An online shopper searches for a particular book and clicks to view the details and reviews. The detail page offers the book at a special price if the customer buys it together with a book on a related topic or by the same author.

    Associate linked products. If a customer buys a video game, ask if he'd also like to buy some batteries, games, or other peripherals. Those are items the customer may forget to purchase or might not realize are available.

    Limited time offer! A visitor is more likely to take advantage of a special offer if she knows there's a time limit. "Only 2 days left!" But don't get carried away. An advertised limited time offer really needs to expire. Otherwise, you lose the trust of your customers.

2. Offer online-only specials. Many Web users prefer to gather information about products online. They visit a few sites to get an idea of what's available and at what cost. But they don't complete the sale online. Instead, many log off and head directly for nearest brick and mortar store to make their actual purchase.

Combat this tendency by providing an incentive to buy online. Advertise an offer that's only available at your Web site and you give your visitors added incentive to become a customer. Remember though: most users are quite well educated about what's available. They'll know if your offer is really a special deal.

3. Ship larger orders for free. It doesn't take much more time and effort to pack and ship 5 items than to pack and ship 1 item. It's more efficient for you to pack more items in each order, so give customers an incentive to purchase more at one time.

How? Many online shoppers really hate paying shipping charges. It's not uncommon for the shipping charges for a small, low-priced item to add an extra 50-70% to the purchase price and customers feel that retailers take advantage of them.

But for a small retailer, small orders are a pain to deal with. Raise your profit margin and encourage larger orders by offering free shipping for multiple-item orders or orders that reach a certain dollar level. Large online retailers have found to this to be very effective at boosting sales.

4. Be honest about pricing. People want to know the total price before they start filling out a shopping cart order form. Most users will leave a site without completing their purchase if the site doesn't show total cost - including shipping - before asking for personal information.

5. Provide great customer service. You don't want one-time customers! It takes far more effort to attract new customers than it does to keep existing ones. That simple concept seems to be forgotten in these days of anonymous email and the torture of automated phone systems:

"Press 1 for the Order Department, Press 2 for Sales, Press "Wish Again" to speak to a live operator!"

Nobody expects you to stay up all night to field phone calls, but promptly respond to queries within 24 hours if possible. Forrester data shows that 42% of US Web buying consumers made their most recent online purchase because of a previous good experience with the retailer.

6. Create compelling Web site copy. Web site design is an important component of Web site credibility, but design only takes you so far. Visitors quickly note the design, but then look for content. Format your content to reflect how people read online and consult The Copywriter's Handbook for instructions on how to write persuasive, convincing online copy.

7. Have complete product information and photos. People want to see what they're buying and they want to know a lot about it. But consider overall page size and download time when you're adding this information.

    Informational pages. You accomplish two goals when you create informational pages. Pages loaded with useful information attract human visitors and search engine spiders. Good information turns your site into an authority site on the Web so customers feel more comfortable buying from you.

    Create thumbnail images and link them to full-size photos of the product. Even if you can post life-size images of your product from several viewpoints, don't place them on the main informational page. Instead, create thumbnail images the link to the larger photos. Visitors with slow dial-up connections will thank you!

    Use GIFBot to optimize images. In fact, you should carefully optimize the size of all the images on your Web pages. Use HTML Toolbox's Load Time Check feature to identify slow-loading pages and optimize all your images using GIFBot, NetMechanic's free image optimization tool.

Visitors have a limited amount of time and patience, so make sure they're spending time reading your content instead of waiting for the page to load.

Closing The Sale

The basic idea of methods 1-4 is to close the sale while visitors are at your Web site.

They help encourage visitors to buy before they leave your site. None of these methods are underhanded or unethical. They're based on common knowledge of human nature. Successful marketing and salespeople use them and so should you!

Even so, methods 5-7 are the most important because they depend on your site having good content and service. The hard sell may work in person (sometimes!), but it almost never works online. Spend the bulk of your time writing good content that clearly describes your value proposition, explains how your product works, and tells how much it costs.

Good content will increase your search engine visibility, attract more visitors, and encourage them to become customers.

About Source of Article The author of this article is Larisa Thomason, Senior Web Analyst with NetMechanic, Inc. NetMechanic is an online service specializing in html code checking, search engine optimization and web site maintenance and promotion. For more information visit http://www. netmechanic. com/.

 

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EBay's New Economy. 69 million users buy, sell and earn a living on eBay, here is a conversation with Kevin Pursglove, eBay's senior communications director

. Posted in small Business questions

By Dana Greenlee, co-Host WebTalkGuys Radio

Thursday, September 4, 2003; 12:20pm EST

Selling and buying online has been made easy and enticing by the granddaddy of all e-commerce sites ? eBay. com. Kevin Pursglove lives and breathes eBay culture as their senior communications director. Want to do a little shopping through their 16 million items for sale or supplement your paycheck by selling your neglected trinkets?

Kevin tells us about the fun to be had dabbling your feet in the waters of eBay - and how eBay can help you sail through tough economic times.

Q: Most people probably don?t realize how diverse the selection is at eBay. How broad is your database?

Pursglove: A lot of people remember eBay from its early days when people would clean out their garage or attic and sell merchandise on eBay. But eBay has branched much further than that. There are 26,000 categories on eBay right now. On any given day, eBay users have a choice of 16 million listings and eBay users will create 2 million new listings each and every day. Those listings are in categories as wide ranging as antiques, books and sports memorabilia, which were around in the early days. Some of the newer categories are business, industrial, home furnishing, computers and electronics.

Q: What are some of the unusual things available on eBay?

Pursglove: Elvis Presley-related merchandise has always been one of the more popular categories on our site. I have seen everything from used bowling shirts with Elvis Presley?s image, some very early 45s as well as a recent listing where a seller suggested they actually had a tooth, a lock of Elvis Presley?s hair, as well as one of his early recordings. If you did a really quick sample on eBay of Elvis-related items, I wouldn?t be surprised if you found 14,000 items available on the site.

Q: It?s fascinating that all these items are coming out of the woodwork that you couldn?t conceive someone would sell.

Pursglove: When eBay first started in 1995, it was not unusual for us to hear stories of those no longer limited by their region in terms of their trading. Now they could sell merchandise across state lines. As time went on, people could sell anywhere in the United States. Now close to 10-12 percent of the merchandise bought and sold on eBay crosses international boundaries.

Q: Is eBay growing into those other countries rapidly?

Pursglove: Despite the company?s phenomenal growth over the past five years, there?s a possibility for us to grow even further because eBay is only scratching 2 percent of the overall accessible market area. Part of that is the international reach. eBay sellers now conduct about 37 percent of our business through international transactions. eBay is in the United Kingdom, there is eBay Germany, eBay in Seoul, Korea - all of the sites are growing at very nice rates right now. In the not too distant future, eBay International will actually outsell eBay U. S.

Q: eBay has created a lot of new businesses as people have looked at selling as an employment opportunity. With today?s economy and so many people out of work, are you seeing a big boom with people earning their livelihood through eBay?

Pursglove: It?s hard to get precise numbers, but just anecdotally we?ve done some research and we estimate that somewhere in the neighborhood of 165,000 eBay users now regularly make a full-time income on eBay, either as a sole proprietor or as the operator of a very small business that may employ 5-10 people. That could be anywhere from people selling automobiles, toys or pet supplies. It really doesn?t matter which category sellers are located. The chances to make a full-time income or substantially supplement one?s income are very real on eBay. Of course, as everyone knows who has started a business, it can take a lot of work and a lot of hours.

Q: eBay is known for selling used items. Are you also moving into selling brand new items?

Pursglove: We do a little bit of it. Where eBay can really add value is where inefficiencies exist in the current marketplace. For example, when a brand new item?s first coming out and, for some reason, the item will be available on eBay before national retailers will get hold of the product. This is typically a very short period of time - one to two weeks - where the item becomes very popular and high in demand and the people come to eBay to find the item. Six or seven months down the road, when the item has fallen out of season or comes to the end of its lifecycle, that again is where eBay will be a good place for the buyers and sellers.

For example, the retailers are getting ready for the fall season and might start stocking jackets and sweaters. It?s possible some retailers may test market the merchandise on eBay in the very early stages. The item is in very limited supply and there is high demand on eBay. After that it will find its way into the retailers across the country. Then in another seven months, the jacket will be out of season and you?ll see it on eBay again. It is at those double ends of the lifecycle of the product that eBay feels it can offer value.

Q: Can you explain your philosophy on how eBay has built this rabid group of buyers and sellers?

Pursglove: eBay was really built by the users. Employees at eBay consider themselves stewards of the marketplace. What we do is watch the trends of our buyers and sellers and then make strategic decisions on how to help them buy and sell. The community is really the heart of eBay. The best thing that eBay can do is stay out of the way, watch what our users do, and provide them with the tools they need.

A great example of this is eBay Motors. We just watched a group of buyers and sellers in our miscellaneous category buy and sell automobiles for a period of four to five months. We began doing surveys of our users to see if they were really interested in selling and buying cars on eBay. So we started providing the tools like on-site mechanic inspections, the escrow service and insurance shipping that made the market grow bigger and bigger. But it was really the users that came up with the idea.

About Source of Article Dana Greenlee is producer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show.  WebTalkGuys, a Seattle-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. It is broadcast on WebTalkGuys Radio, Sonic Box, via Pocket PC at Mazingo Networks and the telephone via the Mobile Broadcast Network.  It's on the radio in Seattle at KLAY 1180 AM.  Past show and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at http://www. webtalkguys. com/. Greenlee is also a member of the The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.

 

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In the Trenches: Evaluating Partnerships

. Posted in small Business questions

I suppose it-s a good thing that we-ve been getting a lot of inquiries about potential partnerships from other businesses lately. That just means that there-s greater awareness around our business and people want to be associated with it. But getting inquiries like these creates an another issue. It takes a lot of effort to figure out what-s a worthwhile partnership and what-s not.

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NextUp Text Aloud MP3. Advanced text to speech with output to MP3 files finally makes it to market

. Posted in small Business questions

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, October 7, 2003; 3:00pm EST

We all get inundated with information every day. Figuring out how to get through it all is not a simple task. NextUp, which produces a family of text to speech software products has a solution to this information overload called Text Aloud MP3. This amazingly simple to use program lets you bring any text based document (such as emails, Word documents, plain text files, HTML pages and more) to life by simply cutting and pasting the text into Text Aloud MP3 and pressing a button!

The program converts the text into clear audible speech - either instantly aloud, or saved to an MP3 audio file. Having instant playback is valuable for listening to documents in the background while you do other things, since you are not having to dedicate yourself to reading the text. But where the potential of this program really comes through is its ability to save the text to speech translations to MP3 files. You can take those files, "burn" (copy) them to CD's and play them back anywhere a conventional audio CD player is! Whether in your car, living room or out jogging with your portable CD player, you can go through all the documents you didn't have time for before!

Installation of the program was a "no-brainer". The main program, and additional voice "fonts" are separate installations which are all done through a simple to navigate installation menu. Once installed, there is no configuring needed with exception to entering your licensing information to activate the full program. Inside the program you are presented with a very simple and intuitive interface design, with familiar Play, Pause and Stop buttons for voice playback.

To use the program, you simply paste text into the main text window, and press "Aloud" or "File" depending on whether you want to immediately play back the document or save it for later use. The program can be configured in a number of ways, and doing so is straight forward. An options window lets you configure features like being able to automatically add to the Text Aloud main window any text being copied to the systems clipboard; change the file output quality and format; miscellaneous settings; and what voice you would like to use in the translation. The program can run in full size window, floating toolbar or system tray modes depending on what you desire at the time.

The different voices, and the technologies they are based on that are included with the package, range in quality from "lacking" to astounding. People who download the program from the web site rather then opt for the delivered CD version which includes AT&T's Natural Voice technology will be missing what we think makes the program practical. While some of the voices that come with the program are alright, many of them are somewhat "jerky", unnatural and sometimes irritating to listen to for complex documents. The AT&T Natural Voice speech fonts on the other hand will blow you off your seat with their "close to real" translation of even traditionally difficult words and pronunciations. We were quite amazed at how the included "Mike" and "Crystal" voices almost seemed to have their own personal traits and styles of saying words, like a real person. It is the AT&T voices that make listening to 30 minutes of a computer reading you your latest email newsletter a joy rather then a sometimes exercise in careful listening.

So how practical is Text Aloud MP3 for regular use? After goofing around with the program seeing how well it pronounced strings of less then polite words and phrases, we moved on to more productive uses. And there proved to be many uses for it. Scores of lengthy emails that looked pretty boring to read, became much more easily absorbed when read aloud. Text Aloud MP3 was noted as an excellent proof reader - by reading back to you what you have just read, it made spotting errors somewhat easier and more accurate then going through it in your mind. Rather then reading the latest news or editorials on our favorite web sites, it was much more easy to have Text Aloud MP3 read them to us. And finally, we were delighted that our long put off learning of some new computer technologies we needed to know, were helped along by our friend Text Aloud MP3 who told us all about them.

Text Aloud MP3 runs on any sound card equipped Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP desktop with at least a Pentium 200MHz, 64MB memory and 10MB of free disk space. If installing AT&T Natural Voice speech fonts, the minimum requirements increase to a Pentium 300MHz Windows based system with 128MB memory and 500MB of available disk space. The base program is a bargain at $24.95, but presents a significantly better value at $39.90 (including shipping) for shipped version that includes the AT&T Natural Voice technology. Overall, we found Text Aloud MP3 is a straight forward to use program that offers real relief from the deluge of reading we need to do to keep current these days.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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Three Twins Cranks Out Organic Ice Cream Success

. Posted in small Business questions

I’m blessed to have been born with a twin brother. I’ve also worked as a soda jerk in a San Francisco ice cream shop one summer while I was in college. So when I first heard the name of Three Twins Organic Ice Cream in 2005, I had to check it out.

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The 5 Best Blogs on Starting a Business

. Posted in small Business questions

Most people have dreamed of starting a business, whether it’s a doggie day care facility or a marketing consulting firm. But, faced with the challenges of financing, marketing, and actually getting your idea off the ground, they rarely follow through on their entrepreneurial dreams.

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How to Waste Money and Annoy Potential Customers

. Posted in small Business questions

By Barry Harrison

Thursday, January 20, 2005; 2:00pm EST

Why do some companies bid on keywords for products they don?t even sell? Or fail to provide the basic information people need to make the decision to buy? Here?s a cautionary tale-- with a happy ending.

Has this ever happened to you?

I?m looking online for lamp shades. I go to Google and click on the top Sponsored Link in the right column: Expo. com. I?m taken to their ?Lighting and Fans? page. There are 29 links in the left navigation, but no lamp shades. So I do a keyword search.

Products Found = 0.

All I can do is wonder why they wasted my time and their money, and move on to the next ad.

Close, but no cigar.

Clicking on the second ad takes me to a home page with a ?Shades? tab. I click on that and arrive on a page with

information about sizes and a link to the lamp shade collection.

I start browsing and find one I?m interested in. The text instructs me to ?Click on lamp image for detail.? I guess they mean lamp shade image. I click, and to my surprise, I see the

exact same thumbnail I was looking at, but now I have four color choices and an ?ad to cart? button.

OK, I?m a designer. I can appreciate subtlety. But what?s the difference between White, Off-White, Beige and Coffee? All this site shows me is a little grey photo-- but ?Dirty? isn?t one of the color choices.

I see the toll-free phone number at the top of the page. I call (during their normal business hours) and get voicemail. They say my call is very important to them, but I?m not so sure...

Third time?s the charm?

Back to Google, click on another ad which takes me to a page with lamp shades (YAY!). I can sort by nine different criteria, but even so, I don?t see exactly what I want.

There?s a link to talk to a lighting consultant. I?m skeptical, but I call. Someone answers the phone! I explain what I want and I?m told I need a custom shade. This company doesn?t make them, but the consultant refers me to two

other sites where I can order custom-made shades.

Even though I didn?t find what I was searching for, I really appreciate this experience. I?d be happy to return to this site and do business with this company in the future.

The moral of this story.

Have some respect for your customers. Think about their needs and do everything you can to meet them. If you?re advertising a product for sale it should be available on your site. If you expect people to make a choice, provide

the information and pictures they need to feel comfortable making a decision.

And even if you can?t make the sale today, you can and should offer a good customer experience because there?s always tomorrow.

About the Author

Barry Harrison is the author of "REDiTIPS" eMarketing Newsletter and a partner in Resolve Digital, Web Strategy for the Real World. Engaging Web design, Effective Internet Marketing, Essential Content Management Tools, visit his site at http://www. resolvedigital. com or email barry@resolvedigital. com

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Join the Local Business Conversation with Social Media Marketing

. Posted in small Business questions

The other posts in this Online Marketing Toolkit discussed marketing approaches that have a longer history than social media marketing. So before we can talk about how to approach social media marketing, we will share some background on why this topic matters. Are you skeptical of the hype?

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Business Advertising Directories

. Posted in small Business questions

Online business advertising directories are an essential part of building and maintaining your small business’ online presence. Not only do these directories help increase exposure, business directories can add relevancy to your site which is vital for search engine ranking.

There is a wide range of online advertising directories. Some offer free submissions, others charge fees. Some are designed as general directories; others are industry or location specific. A concentrated effort to list your business in multiple directories is a low cost way to gain online exposure.

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Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000. Video camera for web conferencing including audio and zoom

. Posted in small Business questions

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, November 6, 2003; 3:00pm EST

With an ever increasing broadband population on the Internet, web cams have become a much more usable technology. With a broadband Internet connection, you are able to transmit video and audio with bigger and better picture quality, better audio transmission and better synchronization of the two. Web cams are practical for uses such as the production of simple business presentations, web conferencing, video phoning to friends and family, and creation of small home movies. They are also substantially more cost effective than having to purchase a camcorder and video capture card for people who are just wishing to occasionally dabble with video making.

Logitech has long been a reputable supplier of such peripherals as joysticks, mice, keyboards and more. One of their more famous product lines is their QuickCam web cams. Logitech's latest additions to their web cam line up is a much needed boost to the otherwise dwindling market of quality web cams available to net users. Big players such as 3Com have abandoned web cam production, while others have throttled back their number of models. Luckily the new QuickCam Pro 4000 has more than filled the void with a list of features that will meet just about anyone's shopping checklist.

Using our test box, a Pentium III 800 with 512MB of memory and XP Pro operating system - it installed automatically without any user intervention. XP picked up the new web cam device, and installed the necessary driver support in the background. We were able to use the web cam for video conferencing with Microsoft Messenger right away. To fully benefit from the array of software included with the camera, a very painless CD installation that took less than a couple of minutes and only a couple of questions to complete did the rest. Updates to the included software and drivers are available online at the Logitech web site.

The camera employs true 640x480 VGA CCD video capturing at up to 30 frames per second, and an ability to take 1.3 mega pixel photos. A built-in microphone greatly simplifies the use of the web camera by eliminating the need for an external desk top microphone or headset, and the related configuring required to make it work with the web cam. We were overall impressed with the picture quality of the web cam. The frame rates (smoothness of the video playback) for lower resolution capturing was excellent, full 640x480 capturing caused very minor sluggishness in frame rates, particularly during abrupt movements and low lighting conditions. The drivers for the web cam allow for automatic or manual control over the video configuration. There is an incredible wealth of video settings to help the camera better operate in your environment such as contrast, brightness and even a digital zoom.

Using the automatic setting (which a majority of users will most likely stick to) the camera operated well under most circumstances. The cameras ability to handle versatile lighting conditions was good, dark environments and bright environments were handled well. Video quality is significantly improved over previous generations of web cams. However, as with practically all consumer web cams (and especially if compared to camcorders) the picture quality is slightly grainy and washed out in colour and contrast. Unfortunately the test unit we received contained a "dead pixel" in the video (a single video pixel that remains either white or black irrespective of what is in fact being recorded), something which is not uncommon to many products ranging from notebook screens to LCD based televisions. Ask the store you purchase from what their return policy is regarding "dead pixels". Typically stores have no problem exchanging the unit for a replacement under such circumstances. In the end, when considering the limitations of transmitting video over the Internet, the video quality is more than up to the tasks it will perform.

The built-in microphone performed well - good enough that we removed the clutter of the old microphone that was standing next to our keyboard. Its sensitivity was good, we were able to place the camera on top of the computer, talk at a comfortable level and clearly hear the playback. The actual sound quality was clear if not slightly cavernous (typical for microphones situated far away from the speaker), and is more than adequate typical voice recording. Use of an external microphone can be configured easily with a couple of Windows setting changes, if so desired.

The construction of the web cam was mixed. The actual web cam "ball" is of solid quality and aesthetically pleasing - mixing well with much of the contemporary black and grey computers. The silver accenting of the manual focusing ring, and recording indicator light area were well designed. An included lens privacy cover can optionally be installed onto the camera. However the base to which it is attached to left something to be desired. The mechanism which the web cam attaches to is flimsy and has an indecisive feel. The base design also could have better matched the more professional look of the web cam. Connection to the computer is made via the included USB cable which is hard wired to the back of the web cam and is of a very generous length.

Typically we have been very disappointed with software bundled with most web cams in the past. They were usually a collection of cobbled together "lite version" third party software and poorly written in-house drivers and utilities. However, we were very impressed with the quality of the device drivers and software bundled with the Logitech web cam. The Logitech ImageStudio uses an excellent interface to navigate you to a number of programs all built into the single one-stop-shop of video based tools. The video tools include video recording, internet video broadcasting, a motion detector, and a tool for animation. All of the tools were very simple to use and effective at their task. In addition, the web cam also includes full licenses of MGI VideoWave and PhotoWave software for more professional editing of the videos and pictures you produce with the web cam. The only negative was that the VideoWave required a codec upgrade which costs $14US to purchase, this is something that should have definitely been included. An IM Companion program is also included to help send small video clips back and forth using your instant messenger over the Internet.

Hardware and software requirements are minimal and easily met: Windows 98/2000/Me/XP, minimum Pentium II 400 or Celeron, 64MB Ram, 200MB HDD free, sound card. The QuickCam Pro 4000 retails for $99USD and $159CAD. The unit is covered by a 2 year warranty. With its combination of solid video performance, the conveniently built-in microphone and an outstanding collection of bundled software, it should definitely be on the short list of web cam shoppers.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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1099 Contractor vs. W-2 Employee: A Decision Guide

. Posted in small Business questions

Regardless of the industry or size of the business, employers are responsible for the correct classification of their workers. Failure to correctly classify a worker as an employee or independent contractor can make the mistaken employer responsible not only for the worker-s back employment taxes, but also penalties, warns the IRS.

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How Daily Deals Can Kill Your Business

. Posted in small Business questions

Once upon a time not so long ago, daily deal sites emerged, paving a whole new potential avenue for small businesses to hit the big time. Sites like Groupon gave small business marketers an opportunity not only to get in front of a huge audience of captive customers, but they could instantly see the success of their promotion in the form of “deal takers.” Sure, you took a bit of a hit on the deep discount. But what was the alternative? Spending thousands on more traditional marketing media like print advertising and mailings, left to forever wonder whether anyone even saw your promotion. For many, the reward outweighed the risk.

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How to Green Your Customer Interactions - And Save Money

. Posted in small Business questions

Practicing sustainability when interacting with your customers lets them know they are purchasing from an environmentally responsible company. It can also improve your customer experience, provide them with the ability to make more informed product choices, and remove inefficiencies from the purchasing process, all of which can increase customer loyalty and build your reputation as a socially responsible business.

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Lost in the Business Startupping Maze? Use Your Goal to Find Your Way

. Posted in small Business questions

By K. MacKillop

December 16, 2009; 6:10pm EST

Startupping a business, especially for the first time, can be a complicated mess. There is so much information available, and much of it in conflict, that it can be difficult to determine where to start and what to do next. In addition, "starting a business" can mean very different things to different people -- from working for oneself as a one-man band to launching the first phase of the next multi-million dollar conglomerate. Obviously, different paths require different tools, a different set of priorities, and a different level of information.

Trying to figure out what you are looking for, much less finding it, can leave you feeling like a rat in a maze -- hopelessly lost, irritated, confused, and, possibly, hungry for a little cheese. The best thing to do at this point is to take a step back and change your perspective. Remember those difficult pencil mazes in which it seems like every turn leads to a dead end? How did you solve them? The best mazers give up on starting from the beginning and try starting from the end of the maze.

By eliminating inappropriate options at the end of the maze, it is often easier to make the right choices from the beginning. In startups as in mazes, working backwards can allow you to see more clearly the path you need to take to succeed. In terms of considering a startup, the same logic applies. You need to know where you are going before you can make a plan to get there. Begin by creating a vision of where you want to be in five years. Do you picture yourself in an office with a full staff? Working at home, by yourself?

Travelling among multiple locations while others manage the day-to-day? What will be your specific responsibilities? Who are the customers you will be serving? What are the products you want to be offering? The services you will provide? What financial position do you want for both the business and yourself? There are no right answers, just be honest about how you want your life to be down the road.

Committing the answers to these questions to paper will help solidify your goals and remind you of them when you hit those branches in the maze. Once you have a clear idea in mind, work the plan backwards to today. For those with plans for significant growth, you will need to include additional tools in your startup planning now so that you are prepared for growth as it comes.

For those satisfied with self-employment over the long-term (no employees, limited growth), your priorities and needs will be very different. There is a right path to success in any kind of business, and the keys are good planning, effective marketing and solid financial management, no matter how big or small your venture will be. Be sure you know where you are going in order to make the best decisions to get you there. Don't stay lost in the business startup maze. Define your goals and plot your path to success!

About the Author

About the Author-K. MacKillop, a serial entrepreneur, is founder of LaunchX and blogs about starting a business. No matter where you are in the maze of business startup, the LaunchX System will help you reach your goal with step-by-step startup instructions, key software, management tools, business coaching and more. Visit LaunchX. com for a free Business Readiness Assessment.

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Create A Business Logo

. Posted in small Business questions

An essential part of building a business identity is to create a business logo that generates instant recognition. The most successful business logos are tied so closely to the companies they represent that additional identifying information is not required. Recognition of that magnitude takes time, but designing a powerful and effective logo from the beginning is an essential first step.

Many entrepreneurs design their own business logos. Conducting research into what makes a logo successful and employing one of the many easy-to-use logo design software and online services available gives most small business owners the tools they need to create their own compelling and memorable logo.

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Turning a Passion for the Islands (and Coffee) into a Business

. Posted in small Business questions

Drive-thru java shops are usually seen in big cities where coffee house giants such as Starbucks open them up to speed up service for their coffeeholic, commuting customers. However, small, entrepreneur-owned coffee shops like Island Bean Company are successfully competing with the big boys.

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Play Ball! The Who-s Who of an All-Star Lineup

. Posted in small Business questions

As we-ve reported via the Intuit Small Business Employment Index, small businesses have been slowly but steadily growing jobs across the country since October 2009. Choosing whether or not to hire at a given time is a difficult decision for small business owners, especially those who have operated as sole proprietors successfully. Perhaps the only decision more difficult is then who to hire. In this infographic we examine the reasons that compel small business owners to expand their staffs, the challenges they encounter when making the call whether or not to hire, and what teammates every small business should add to its roster when ready. Click the infographic for an enlarged view. For resources and tips on hiring, please visit www. intuithire. com.

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In the Trenches: Changing up the Routine

. Posted in small Business questions

I-m stubborn. Actually, I come from a long line of stubborn Snyder men, and that can be a good thing. It can also be a bad thing when it comes to making changes, so I-m trying to be very cognizant of not shooting myself in the foot when good ideas come up.

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Understand Shopper Personalities and Increase Sales

. Posted in small Business questions

Customer traffic (whether virtual or in the flesh) is critical to any retail business. By the same token, customers who leave your site or shop before they whip out their wallet contribute as little to growth as having no customers at all.

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5 Principles of Small Business Success - Straight from the Masters

. Posted in small Business questions

When it comes to running successful businesses, few people have made their mark on the world the way that Jack Canfield, Dale Carnegie, Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, and Timothy Ferriss have. In addition to accumulating wealth, these intelligent businessmen are known worldwide for their leadership skills and influence. The lessons they-ve learned along the way are each powerful in their own respect - and many have made it their mission to share their secrets with others ambitious enough to break into the world of business. Here are five of them.

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Make Money Off Your Website

. Posted in small Business questions

If you’re starting an online business, obviously your goal is to make money off your website. Depending on the nature of your site and your online business goals, there are several possible ways to monetize your online presence. While hucksters can promise instant online riches, learning to make money off your website takes careful thought, creativity, effort and time.

While there are no sure-fire, instant solutions for getting rich quickly with your website, there are several opportunities you can pursue for making money online. The purpose of this article is to discuss several of these options so you can start to think about what option or options make the most sense for you.

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Tips for Choosing a Product Manufacturer

. Posted in small Business questions

You’ve come up with a great product idea. Maybe you’ve even designed a prototype. But if your product is too complex or expensive for you to produce in bulk, it’s time to start working with a manufacturer.

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How to Choose the Right Name for Your Business

. Posted in small Business questions

What’s in a name? If you run a business, just about everything. Choosing the wrong name can turn customers off before they even bother taking a look at your offerings, while a catchy and unique moniker can lure them in. Here’s what some small business owners and naming consultants have to say about how to select the right business name.

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In the Trenches: Should There Be an App for That?

. Posted in small Business questions

I imagine I-m not alone in wondering whether or not our business should have an -app- for our clients. After all, all the cool kids have them, right? I-m approaching it with much more caution than most. Apps can be great… if there-s a reason for them.

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Drop Ship Distributors

. Posted in small Business questions

Using drop ship distributors provides the online business owner with a flexible solution for sourcing products. Drop shipping is the term used for a retail business that does not keep its products in stock. Instead, the business transfers the customer orders and shipment information to a distributor, wholesaler or even the manufacturer itself. These drop ship distributors then ship the ordered products directly to the customer.

The drop shipping technique is very popular for both small businesses and online retailers. Many customers will never know that their purchase came from drop ship distributors instead of from the retailers through which they placed their order.

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Entrepreneur on a -Roll- With Party Trailers for Kids

. Posted in small Business questions

Elementary school teacher turned entrepreneur Michael Falgares got his first taste of the entertainment industry when he started DJing at age 14. By college, he’d saved up enough money to buy a preschool, which he later sold to finance his next venture: a mobile entertainment theater called Gamin’ Ride.

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NFL Lockout Leaves Fantasy Football Businesses in Limbo

. Posted in small Business questions

We-re begging you, National Football League: Please figure out your labor dispute. -We- are, of course, the legions of fantasy football players anxiously wondering if the season will start on time — or at all. Meanwhile, there-s another group waiting with us: The small fantasy sports businesses that we spend our money with.

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Startup Business Ideas

. Posted in small Business questions

Struggling with how to get started in business? When I initially looked for help to start my own business, I found that a few startup business ideas can get the creative juices flowing.

Startups are hard work. Finding the right small business idea helps get you excited about the work (and benefits) that can lie ahead.

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Small Businesses Swipe Debit Card Transaction Fee Victory

. Posted in small Business questions

Small businesses will get a summertime lift at the cash register after the Senate voted this week not to delay the Federal Reserve-s proposal to cap debit card transaction fees at 12 cents per purchase. That means the new rules, written as part of last year-s federal financial reform, will take effect on July 21.

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Managing Across the Generational Divide: Dealing with Older Workers

. Posted in small Business questions

There are plenty of great reasons to hire older workers, but you might be naturally hesitant to put someone your dad’s age on the payroll. Chances are, you feel a little strange being “the boss” to someone with decades more working experience than you have. And likewise, how can you be sure that he’ll respect your authority? Managing older workers may be a difficult adjustment, but these tips will help the integration process go smoothly.

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Women Business Ideas

. Posted in small Business questions

Before we get started, we should probably clarify a couple of things regarding our business ideas for women category.

First and foremost, women can succeed in any business they choose. The business ideas we list in this category are absolutely not the only ideas for women. So why did we create this category in the first place? Well, to be honest, we have taken some heat for it.

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