All posts by Status Flow

Tips to Improve Your Company’s Business Logistics

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Many in business who concern themselves with logistics understand the benefits of managing, controlling and improving business logistics.  A goal of continuous improvement is critical to the overall health of a business and can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

In business, the category of logistics refers to the network of systems that control how resources flow through a company, as well as from one firm to another, over the course of a supply chain or production process.

Regardless of what might be happening in other areas of a business, implementing efficient logistics strategies will help keep service levels at their highest performance. But what exactly should owners, managers, and logistics professionals focus on to improve their business’ effectiveness? What methods and strategies can impact the major areas and help control costs, utilize production capacity, improve quality, and compete in the marketplace?

Identify your inefficiencies. The resources needed to hire an experienced systems expert now to fix your areas of inefficiency will save money in the long run and create long-term advantages.

Use multiple communications tools. One of the most overlooked ways to improve logistics is to improve internal and inter-department communication. Utilize tools (video chats, live messaging, Yammer) to facilitate seamless communication in the entire organization.

Meet customer expectations.Logistics is about optimizing costs while providing outstanding service. Every new strategy or tool (such as upgrading management software) should be designed within the overall objectives of the business to achieve excellent service and customer satisfaction.

Outsourcing can be an advantage. The awareness to understand your core competencies is important. Focus on your strengths and outsource what you’re not good at to avoid reoccurring issues and minimize inefficiencies.

Learn how to delegate in-house. While you might outsource much of your logistics, it remains important to have managers and internal experts within the organization who fully understand the moving parts and every step of the process.

Build long-term relationships. Logistics is a very complicated business, and it’s vital your company surrounds itself with experts and experienced partners throughout every step of the process – even if they are outsourced – who are invested in the relationship.

Utilize the technology available. Businesses, especially small firms, can dramatically reduce costs by utilizing technology to consolidate and automate processes across multiple departments, reduce overhead, cut out middle men, and eliminate repetitive work.

Does your brand or company struggle with logistics? Click here for improvement tips.

Does your company need help controlling costs or quality? Click here for tips on business logistics.

Knowing your core competencies is a key to business logistics. Click here for tips on logistics.

Can you afford to take a vacation from your business?

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can-you-afford-to-take-a-vacationPeople are not created to run at optimal capacity and productivity indefinitely.  Physically it would be impossible not to mention hazardous to your health and relationships.  Taking a vacation at least once a year will go a long way to keeping your business successful and your productivity optimal.

Affording a vacation is more than a financial affordability.  Knowing that your business will survive without you, that you have capable employees to entrust your business to and that your business will benefit from your vacation all pinpoint to affordability.

How a vacation benefits your business

The ramifications of taking a vacation are proof in themselves that your business needs you to take a minimum of a week’s vacation each year.  The benefits are more than a healthy founder.

A vacation increases productivity and sales providing a fresh perspective. This can often help you approach your business dilemmas from a new angle.  The result can be a 30 percent productivity increase and sales increase.

Taking a regular vacation will show your staff that vacations are beneficial for their health and the overall business will result in a sharp and productive team.

Preparing yourself for a vacation

When it comes to business owners and entrepreneurs, preparing for a vacation goes further than packing a suitcase.  In fact, planning a vacation can have a lot of preparation to it. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a well-deserved break.

Organize your business

Taking a vacation in the midst of a company audit may not be an appropriate time for a vacation.  All bills need to be paid, supplies bought, contact clients about your time away, and brief your managing staff on what to do in your absence.

Plan ahead

Before you start a new year with your business, look at the year ahead.  Mark off in your calendar a vacation time.  A week or long weekend is usually viable to slot in for all owners.

Arrange frequent updates

If you need to know how the business is going while you are away, set up a time to check in on emails or call the office for an update. This will help you relax during your vacation.

Tips on taking a vacation

Since a regular vacation should be a priority for any person let alone a business owner, knowing that your business is in good hands is vital.

Building a passive income will help your business obtain the necessary finances for future growth and daily operating while you take a week or two off.  In addition to passive incomes, your business will need clear procedures and delegations to help delegate your work to your employees, while maintain a professional standard of excellence and uniformity.

When your business has been taken care of, you can take time to relax and unwind.  When you return from your vacation, your business will be waiting for new inspiration and innovation.

Using social data to understand your target market

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Many businesses know that market research can be costly and a time-intensive endeavor. Knowing what you want is only part of the equation. Getting the data, analyzing it and then leveraging it to your benefit to gain practical insight is another matter.

The proliferation of social media data has added some complexities to market research. Most pertain to the proper capture of data, its accuracy, and the gaps that exist between online behavior and the private reality of users. At the same time, many businesses have turned to social media as a cost-effective and in-depth tool for insight into many aspects of market research, including customers, market and brand awareness.

The key for many businesses is how to utilize the real-time social media data in their market research methods, creating a campaign plan to deliver targeted, efficient and measurable results. The additional insights garnered from social media can provide marketers the added perspective they need to better appeal to their customers as well as deliver better results to their business or clients.

Here are three tips to leveraging social data:

Explore real-time social data. Research the industry, vertical or groups of your customers to uncover emerging trends and gain insight into what they care about. Uncover the motivations and what drives their decisions to better target your audience, build deeper relationships, and close more sales. This makes your research increasingly more specific.

The benefits of efficiency. In most cases utilizing social data in your research is a matter of minutes or hours, remarkably efficient compared to standard market research practices. Free tools exist for nearly every platform, allowing for many ways to test and explore what your target audiences will respond to the most. The social sphere is a perfect area to test out messages, types of content and campaign themes with minimal time or monetary commitment.

Gain perspective and engagement. The interactive nature of media data allows you to gain information through both engagement and simple observation. Checking the quick pulse of your segment or vertical through interaction, engagement and participation to obtain useful and accurate data, and you might discover additional insights than typical research methods. Leverage those insights to feed your customers timely information they care about, and over time the relationships will develop.

Do you utilize social data in your market research? Click here for some tips.

Did you know that social data can be more efficient for your business than typical market research? Click here for more.

What do you consider the biggest benefit of social data to your business? Check out more on utilizing social data.

Introduction into e-invoicing

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Electronic invoicing (or e-invoicing) is the exchange of an invoice document between trading partners, such as a business and its supplier, in an integrated electronic format. Simply put, instead of posting a traditional paper invoice to a customer, an e-invoice can be sent directly from your accounts payable system electronically.

The process called e-invoicing includes many different technologies and data capture options, and is essentially referred to as a concept to describe any method by which an invoice is electronically transmitted. At its most basic form, an e-invoice could be a PDF version of an invoice document which is emailed to a client for payment, and the data is then captured by software. At more complex levels, e-invoicing is part of fully integrated invoicing software and other business systems between businesses and clients without any human intervention in an end-to-end electronic process.

Traditional invoicing, like most paper-intensive processes, it has a number of drawbacks. It is manually intensive, prone to human error, and the source of significant costs due to inefficiencies.  Removing the human element of the invoicing process can lead to significant savings.

E-invoicing offers considerable cost savings, mostly due to increased efficiencies due to ridding themselves of costs inherent with manual and time-consuming tasks such as printing, filing forms, filing envelopes, mailing, scanning, data entry and archiving. This is especially true of companies with a high volume of invoicing that can be overwhelmed with paper invoices and other forms. Some research suggests companies will save up to 80 percent in invoicing costs simply from gains in efficiency.

Beyond the cost savings through improved efficiency, the other benefits of e-invoicing include reduced errors, faster dispute resolution, fewer unpaid and lost invoices, improved customer service and better customer retention. Business can also factor in the cost benefit of time, as employees will be freed up for initiatives other than producing invoices.

As businesses on both sides of the invoicing equation sign on for e-invoicing, the integration of the technology will increasingly become even more important. From a conceptual standpoint, e-invoicing is simple to implement considering  the potential cost, time and customer service benefits.

Is your company losing time and income due to invoicing issues? Click here for benefits of e-invoicing.
How much do you know about e-invoicing? Click here for an introduction.
The biggest benefit of e-invoicing for your business is cost efficiency. Click here to find out more.

How to Make Productivity More Fun

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Every successful business owner or manager understands – or should understand – that happy employees make productive employees. Many also wonder if it is all really so simple.

Outside of a great salary and awesome benefits, many companies have developed systems (which sounds overly serious) to create active, energized and (gulp) fun workplaces to increase employee productivity. If that’s a counter-intuitive concept to you, then you might want to listen up.

While some companies, most notably those like Google, NIKE, Zappo, or Foursquare, have blazed the trail in creating fun workplace environments, there is research to suggest a fun workplace not only improves productivity, but also fosters organizational community, pride, and loyalty. A University of Florida study found employees who had fun on the clock accomplished more and showed more creativity. Likewise, a professor at the Mayo Clinic [told The New York Times] workers don’t take enough breaks, while another study shows regular breaks increase productivity.

On the flip side, recreation in the workplace not only promotes creativity and innovation, which increase productivity and profitability, it also reduces costs in employee turnover and health care. The World Health Organization suggests that workplace-related stress actually costs American companies more than $300 billion. As it is, more than 40 percent of American workers report chronic workplace stress , and other research points to the fact that employee stress squashes creativity and competitiveness.

It could lead one to believe stress is bad for business, and fun is good.

So what are the best ways to take a break, goof off or recharge your batteries that lead to less stress and increased productivity when you get back to work?

Get out of your chair. Do anything that gets you up and moving , whether it’s a walk around the block, running an errand or just visiting co-workers to chat. If your company has a gym, take advantage of it during the middle of the day.

Add fun or relaxation space. A game room will give employees a reason to take a mental break, while a quiet relaxation room could be used for reading or naps during mandatory breaks.

Use fun tools. If you’re a fan of gadgets, use them to manage your productivity and make more time for fun. Check out these mobile apps that can make you more efficient.

Ditch the mundane meetings. Traditional meetings can be boring and a huge time waster. Try different approaches to the traditional meeting that focus on different principles for hyper-productive sessions.

New thoughts on workplace design. Let employees create a sense of ownership by decorating their own spaces, such as with lights or chairs, and bring in personal artwork for the office. Take down walls that separate employees, create open environments, or even standing work stations.

Celebrate good things. Instead of a pat on the back, take time away from the desk to celebrate victories and recognize good work. Take afternoons off or let people out early for a holiday weekend.

What is your favorite thing to do at work to take a break? Check out these ways to be more productive.

Do you think it’s productive to take breaks during the workday? Click here to learn more.

What are the best ways companies can promote having fun at work? Click here for ideas.

Apps for your (digital) wallet

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bigstock-hardware-wallet-30917513There could be a time soon when carrying your wallet – the one you actually keep in your pocket or purse – is a thing of the past. That time is actually here now, and some digital wallet apps are close to making it practical for you to stop carrying cash altogether.

If you dream about a streamlined, digital existence and a totally cashless society, though, we are not quite there yet. But mobile payment technology is primed to drive commerce thanks to the next big thing in tech.

Thanks to a little something called near-field communication (NFC), your smartphone can be enabled via a hardware chip to wirelessly communicate with another NFC device in a store to make transactions. A digital wallet app on your phone stores your payment and loyalty card information, all of which is encrypted. Simply put, when you tap your phone against an NFC receiver in a store, behind the scenes computers will charge your credit card, debit from your bank account, refund a return, or complete any other transaction.

Before we get to full-fledged implementation, there are hurdles – such as security issues, among others – to hash out. And, conceptually, other technologies such as digital currency – with Bitcoin being the most well-known – on the horizon that could alter the future of digital commerce.

For now, here is a look at several of the digital wallet apps:

Google Wallet
This robust system allows you to link a credit, debit or loyalty card to your Google account for both in-store and online shopping, simply by waving your phone.

Apple’s Passbook
Relies on a barcodes to help you manage your loyalty cards, coupons, movie tickets and boarding passes for selected merchants. You can’t link to cards for in-store purchases, but you will get location and time-based discounts.

PayPal
Allows you to send money to friends, family or merchant accounts and view past transaction history. The PayPal app also allows you to make your smartphone a swipe machine for credit cards.

Are you one of those people with an embarrassingly large or messy wallet? Click here for the latest on digital wallets.
What is you favorite feature of using a digital wallet? Click here for some popular apps.
What is the best digital wallet you have used? Click here for some popular apps.

Online Invoicing/Accounting Services

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Make account less painfulÑHere are the best online invoicing and accounting services

It’s good news for small business owners that the today’s software market is inundated with more choices than ever when it comes to online invoicing and accounting options. The biggest problem might be knowing which option to choose.

Thanks to the boom in online cloud-based applications, there is a wide range of inexpensive, easy-to-use and widely-used options with similar sets of features for business of all sizes. Given the options, it’s important to determine the services your business requires, how the invoices are generated and your budget. Then draw up a short list of options and try the free trials to test each to decide which best suits your needs.

Freshbooks

One of the veteran application options, Freshbooks facilitates fast and simple invoicing, offers team management tools and the ability to work across platforms , on mobile devices (iPhone and iPad only) or by using other apps. Create invoices, manage projects and accept payments online from anywhere.

 QuickBooks

Offers eight different products, including five online accounting packages, which run on Windows or Mac operating systems. Provides advanced invoicing, reporting, expense tracking, billing and payment tracking, imports data from Excel and comes with mobile tools to create invoices (both iPhone and Android).

Invoicera

Offers an intuitive user interface as well uncluttered navigation. Supports 20 global payment gateways and languages and advanced invoicing functionality, including a time and expense tracking feature. Creates estimates and supports reoccurring billing, invoice scheduling, partial payment options and late fees payment.

Harvest

Features superior online, desktop and mobile time-tracking app, which is both iPhone and Android compatible. Supports Google apps integration, plus uploading data to Excel and QuickBooks. Includes timesheet management features and is adept at converting estimates and tracking expenses on the road.

Proper Planning for B2B Content Creation

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image-1000pxIn the online world, content is still king. For marketers and businesses creating content for other business, content marketing is more than just buzz worthy, it’s a solution that can accomplish a wide array of business goals for clients.

Content creation in today’s social-media driven digital world needs to do more than actively capture and engage audiences; it needs to cut through the noise. The array of objectives for content creation can include building brand awareness, establishing thought leadership, lead generation, driving sales, and search engine optimization, among others.

Maybe, this is easier said than done. But with clear goals and a well-defined strategy, creating content – exceptional content – can accomplish all of these goals. Here are five elements a business can include when planning and implementing content for other businesses.

Targeted content. Content that doesn’t capture and engage your audience isn’t the right content. Know the audience, and objectively determine what content satisfies their needs. Consider the objective, and think critically about what you need your content to accomplish (what reactions it will cause) given its target audience.

Choosing the right assets. An established objective and target audience will lead directly to determining the format and structure of the content. Along with an editorial calendar that plans how and where the content is consumed, what formats (blogs, videos, podcasts, ebooks, newsletters, social) are used?

All about optimization. Strategic content is optimized in two ways – for search engines and for lead generation. One of the biggest benefits of lots of content is SEO, as each piece of content (blogs, video, podcasts) gain traction in search engines. The other is that effectively optimized content will be positioned to generate business leads.

Offering real value. Producing content that is truly valuable to an audience is the most effective way to cut through the noise. What makes it valuable? Apply what you learn to the content you continue to create. Content that educates, informs, offers industry opinions, advises, or reacts to news often brings value.

The end result. What good is content creation if it isn’t driving results? Planning and implementing amazing content requires adaptability and the need for continuous improvement. Utilize statistics and user feedback to validate the value of the content. If the content is helping business – brand awareness, thought leadership, generating leads, driving sales – then it represents a successful content campaign.

What do you think is the most important element of planning content creation? Click here for more.

Looking for new ideas on content marketing and creation? Click here for a few tips.

What steps does your company take in planning B2B content creation? Take a look at these steps.

How to Build a Successful Small Business Brand

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Developing a brand for your small business may seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a huge budget for marketing. Fortunately, building a successful brand for your small business can be accomplished without breaking the bank! Here are some helpful tips to get you started.

Understand brand power

A strong brand provides your small business with power and advantage. Taking the time to create a brand that generates an immediate and definitive relationship with your customers is the goal of successful branding.  When people see or think of your niche industry, their immediate thought should be your business brand.As your brand wields its power, your business can also benefit from Google’s SEO benefits.

Unique brand style and voice

Know your brand’s style and voice, and keep it clean and simple. This will help people to quickly recognize and remember your brand logo. Learn to find the balance between simplicity and showcasing your business and what it stands for. Avoid ambiguity and phrases that have lost their wow factor. Use clear imagery, language, and a smart logo.

Protect your brand

Monitor your brand to protect it from being copied in part or fully. Be proactive in monitoring how and where people use your brand. If not protected, you may find yourself fighting with competitors who’ve taken your brand and adjusted it slightly. You may find websites using your logo without linking back to your business. Worst case scenario, you could find yourself pursuing legal action for brand infringements.

Be consistent

From your website to your social media presence, make sure that your brand message remains consistent. This will prevent confusion among your customers and prospective customers. This consistency needs to incorporate your products, services and brand presentation (name, logo, design, marketing, etc).

The more consistent you are in your message, the more familiarity people will have with your brand, which can help generate trust. Trust can help convert prospective customers into loyal customers!

Always add value

Regardless of the level of your success, be sure to keep maintaining excellent customer service and creating good products. Continue to analyze your products and services for what distinguishes your business from that of your competitors. Scrutinize your brand from all angles to ensure that you are giving your customers benefits and value.

The more value you add to your brand through products, services, and customer care, the more likely your customers will remain loyal and share your brand ideas and product to to their friends and followers!

Ways to Market Your Business with A Small Budget

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Marketing your business does not have to break your bank. With some creativity and ideas on maximizing the benefits of the Internet, you can keep your business brand at the forefront of your customers’ minds!

Capitalize on social media and networking

Networking is the backbone of business success. With commitment and patience, networking is a great way to build business relationships and find new clients and customers.

Along with networking, maximize on social media by creating a Facebook Group and Facebook Page to broaden your sphere of influence and generate traffic to your site. Simultaneously, join other Facebook or LinkedIn groups within your niche as a way of contributing relevant information and advice. This will help establish you as a trusted expert in your field.

Have a riveting pitch ready

No matter where you go, opportunities for marketing your business will arise. Be prepared to grab the attention of your listeners by creating a riveting pitch. Research studies have shown that an adult will decide within six to eight seconds if they’re interested in an advertisement or pitch. As a result, your pitch needs to be skillfully crafted to grab their attention within those few seconds!

Freebies, coupons, and discounts

Encourage people to sign up to your email listing by offering a coupon, discount or freebie. This is a quick and clear call to action for visitors to enter your advertising funnel. Research has confirmed that offering coupons is a successful method of expanding customer base and generating return visits.

Articles and all things blogging

Find those magazines within your industry that accept guest articles. Once you have identified those magazines, write articles for them as a way of promoting your business. Your article should establish you as an expert in your industry, while your author bio will promote you and your business.

The same can be done for guest blogging on other people’s blogs or websites so you can expose your work to a new audience. Your author bio should hold a back link to your site to encourage more traffic.

As you follow blogs, leave thought-provoking comments as a way to get the blog owner and audience’s attention. This will continue to establish you as an expert in your field, generate more traffic to your site, and hopefully create more opportunities for guest blogging or article writing!