The Lowdown on QR Codes for Small Business

If you’ve noticed these funny, fuzzy little squares popping up on everything from magazines to business cards, it’s for good reason. They’re called Quick Response, or QR Codes. You can scan them from your mobile device, using a special app. What are they good for? The sky is virtually the limit. They’re a great, innovative marketing tool for small businesses.

qrcode

Essentially, people scan the code to get more information. That might be a website, entry into a contest or additional information about a product. Here are a few of the ways people are using QR codes to promote their companies.

1. Business Cards

If you attend networking events or trade shows with a tech savvy set, you just might see a QR code on a business card. Since we all basically throw business cards away or store them in a big box, never to be opened,  having a QR code lets you scan it to get your new contact’s details, which you can then save to your phone or contact management system. Easy.

2. Books

If you’re an author, consider using QR codes on the back of the book to give people a taste of what they’ll find in the book. A sample chapter, information about the authors or a chance to win a copy of the book are all enticements worthy of your book’s cover.

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5 Mobile Sales Apps That Beef Up Your Game

If you’re in sales, you may not be in your office very frequently. You may work out of your car, and in days gone by, that meant not getting much done. But with the advent of useful business applications for the mobile device, selling is that much sweeter.

1. Pages

This Apple product allows you to edit and display documents on the iPad and iPhone. I envision using it to display a proposal or sales data in a meeting (using the iPad, in that case). It saves trees and looks pretty. Plus, you never have the excuse of having left your paperwork back in the office; you can access anything via the cloud.

Bonus: The program comes with templates for appealing letters, reports, flyers and posters.

Cost: $9.99

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Finding Freelance Talent Online

If you need an occasional programmer, writer, marketer or website designer, you probably don’t want to hire a full time staff member to do the job. Sometimes you have a project that needs assistance for a few weeks. But where do you find freelancers?

My top picks online are Elance and Guru. Read on to find out how they can help you find talented freelancers.

Elance

While there are dozens of freelance sites online (and believe me, I’ve pitched my services on most of them), most irritate me because they are filled with low-quality, low-wage workers who are beating out the more talented competition simply because they’re overseas and cheap. But, as I always say, you get what you pay for. The quality of service providers on Elance is better than other sites.

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Must-Have Resources for Startups

In this economy, startups need all the help they can get. I’ve compiled a list of people, blogs and incubators you should familiarize yourself with if you’re serious about success.

Entering startup

Paul Graham

If you have a startup, you need to know Paul Graham’s name. He’s the founder of Y Combinator (see below) and an all around super-smart guy about startups. Read his essays and Tweets to get smarter in your space.

Y Combinator

This is Paul Graham’s incubator, which has become famous in its role in helping startups like AirBandB, Reddit and Wufoo skyrocket to success. Y Combinator is a three-month program in the Bay area that teaches startup founders what they need to succeed. But the best part is probably the contacts it brings you. Completing the program is tantamount to graduating from Harvard.

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Tough Times: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Biz

This economy is really beating us up, isn’t it? Just when things seem to get better, we slide back down into the hole we’ve helped create. For small businesses, this is truly a time of soul searching, especially when you can’t make ends meet.

But should you shut your doors and let the economy win? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to determine the answer.

Capitol Hill Question Mark (Washington, DC)

1. Do I Think the Business Can Weather the Troubles to Come?

We don’t know when the economy will get better. You don’t know where your next customer will come from…or if he will come. Only you can decide whether your business is solid enough (and whether you have enough savings to cover the rough patches) to sustain whatever awaits you for the next 3 months, year, five years.

If you don’t think your business will survive, it may be time to scale back, shift gears, or close up shop altogether.

2. Do I Truly Love What I Do?

If the answer to this is “no,” get out immediately. There’s no sense in going bankrupt doing something you don’t feel passionate about. Maybe real estate made you millions a few years ago, but is drained dry these days. If you don’t have love for the game, why waste another minute doing it?

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Not Working With Female Bloggers Yet? You’re Missing a Huge Market

Stern Woman Blogger

I’ve long been an advocate of brands working with bloggers. Every blog has an audience of readers who trust the blogger’s opinion, and often they trust the blogger more than traditional advertising.

I recently attended BlogHer, a conference for female bloggers, and a session proved that I am right:

According to a Nielson study, blogs by women are the most valued source for information, beating both corporate sites and social networks.

Blogs are more than two times more likely than magazines to have inspired a beauty-product purchase over the past six months (63 percent versus 26 percent).

Women are just as likely to trust beauty-product advice from a parenting (43 percent), health (42 percent), or lifestyle (37 percent) blog, as from a beauty and fashion blog (43 percent). (DeVries/BlogHer study)

Whereas when I attended BlogHer in 2008, when “mommy bloggers” was an up-and-coming term that brands didn’t have a clue what to do with, these days, the power of the female blogger is being noticed by brands, large and small.

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Why Aren’t You Listening to Your Customers?

Recently I returned to Dell headquarters in Austin to participate in the company’s Consumer Advisory Panel for the second time. Dell wanted to know what customers (specifically those of us who blog and talk about brands like Dell on social media) think of Dell.


It was an amazing opportunity to be heard as a consumer. A year ago, our group made suggestions for improvement to customer service, brand messaging and the website. This year, they delivered. They updated us on their efforts to make our requests a reality. It’s a powerful feeling to be heard.

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10 Tips for Title Tags

Title tags, those brief descriptions that appear when you search for something on Google or other search engine, can help more customers find your website. Even if you think you’re SEO-illiterate, you can write title tags that search engines love.

1. Use Your Keywords. The “key” to great title tags is using keywords. Use resources like Wordtracker’s Keyword tool to find out which keywords that relate to your products or services are being searched for. Make a list of them and keep handy when writing title tags.

2. Give ‘Em a Title

Each page of your site should have a title (this will appear as the link to click on Google). Use one to two keywords in the title, and focus on what the page is about (“Blog Tips for Entrepreneurs.”)

3. Write a Brief Description.

In a few sentences (no more than three) write what this page is about. Use keywords in your copy, and make sure it reads naturally.

4. Don’t Overstuff

Just like turkey, you can only get so much stuffing in. Make sure you use your keywords in a natural manner so that your copy doesn’t sound odd. Google knows better.

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Best States for Small Business Taxes

In the Land of the Free, all states are not created equal when it comes to tax systems. The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council has compiled a list of the best (and worst) states for small biz taxes.

Tax by definition

The list is based on 18 factors:

  1. The state’s highest personal income tax rate
  2. The state’s highest individual capital gains tax rate
  3. The state’s highest corporate income tax rate
  4. The state’s highest corporate capital gains tax rate
  5. Any additional income tax  on S-Corporations
  6. Whether  or not the state imposes alternative minimum tax on individuals
  7. Whether or not the state imposes alternative minimum tax on corporations
  8. Whether or not the state’s personal income tax brackets are indexed for inflation
  9. Its property taxes
  10. Its consumption-based taxes, such as sales, gross receipts and excise taxes
  11. Whether or not the state imposes a death tax
  12. Its unemployment taxes
  13. Whether or not the state has a tax limitation mechanism
  14. Whether or not the state imposes an Internet access tax
  15. Whether or not the state imposes taxes on Amazon.com purchases
  16. Its gas tax
  17. Its diesel tax
  18. Its wireless tax

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Are You Drowning in Email?

I recently asked a contact if she had received a specific email from me. She said she’d have to look for it; she currently had 4,000 unopened emails in her inbox! Unbelievable! But true for so many of us. There are all kinds of strategies about managing your inbox and your workflow, but I like these three.

My Desk

 

As I mentioned last week, I just read David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. He provides three easy-to-use models to get through the pile of work on your desk and in your inbox.

The Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment

This helps you determine what is the most critical thing to work on right now.

  1. Context: What do you need to work on this? A computer? Paper? Being at a specific place? This can help you determine whether you can do it right now with the resources you have.
  2. Time Available: The amount of time you have right now determines which project you can work on. If you have a 1-hour project to tackle but only have 5 minutes, that’s not the one.
  3. Energy Available: Some activities require more energy than you’ve got at the moment; save those until you’re fresh.
  4. Priority:  Is a project due today? Work on it next. Save the chatty email reply to a colleague for later.

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