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10 posts from September 2012

September 27, 2012

9 Classic Business Books You Should Have Read Years Ago

Entry By Jason Brick

Whether you read them while riding on the commuter train, kicking back in the hammock at your house, or streaming from an audiobook during your workout, learning the best ideas business has to offer will directly improve your company's bottom line.

Library

If you haven't read these books by now, you should make doing so a priority. If you have, consider looking into some other works by the same authors. 

  1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    Covey's insights into how to organize work and prioritize tasks has influenced businesses, academics and personal effectiveness gurus for decades. If you haven't at least heard of this one, you should probably get to know it immediately.
  2. In Search of Excellence by Thomas Peters & Robert H Waterman, Jr.
    A study of highly successful international companies, this book identifies eight key principals of business and tells you about this with a variety of case studies.
  3. The Practice of Management by Peter Drucker
    Trends change, but people remain the same. There's a reason this book on how to manage and treat your people has stayed in print for 67 years.
  4. The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson
    A newer book on how to handle your employees or team, this focuses on result-driven communication and fostering trust between yourself and the people who help you succeed.
  5. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
    Gerber built an empire on teaching people how to systematize their businesses for best results with least effort. This book distills his most vital discoveries into actionable advice.
  6. Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter
    A theoretician writing about the real world, Porter managed to create a classic that changed not only business, but how business is taught. Sixty-three printings later, the book remains a must-read for those who want to grow a business beyond their local neighborhood.
  7.  How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    Carnegie got it. He understood that most of success isn't skill set, knowledge or market -- it's knowing how to express your ideas and get other people excited about them. This book tells you how.
  8.  Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar
    No business book list would be complete without mentioning sales training by Zig Ziglar. This is one of his most comprehensive and best.
  9.  The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley & William Danko
    Though mostly about wealth management, this study of how people become millionaires is full of actionable advice for small business owners looking to make the most out of their profits.

Of course, books don't have to be classics to be worth reading. What are some more recent publications that belong on our bookshelves? Comment below with your favorites. 

Ed. Note - We will follow up this post next week with a collection of business books 'that aren't really about business.' Stay tuned!

September 26, 2012

Who is the Next Stephen Covey?

Entry By Jason Brick

Stephen_Covey_2010Stephen Covey died on July 16, 2012. If you run a business, you've probably heard of him. If you haven't, you've definitely heard some of his ideas. Covey is arguably the most famous and influential thought leader for business and work methods of the 20th century, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. His passing leaves a huge hole.


Here are some authors and thinkers who might be able to fill it.

  • David Allen Allen's Getting Things Done described a task management system that's being adopted about as eagerly as the 7 Habits. His consulting firm is running strong and he continues to publish.
    • Key Concept: Putting everything you need to do into a system means not spending mental energy worrying about what you haven't done yet.
  • Tim Ferris Ferris' The 4-Hour Work Week is about lifestyle design, time management and setting priorities. Though his business model isn't for everybody, his ideas certainly are. 
    • Key Concept: As much as 90 percent of our effort and time are wasted. Fix that and live a life free from "time famine."
  • Seth Godin Another business celebrity who started by founding a web boom company, he now writes a blog and dozens of books about how we view marketing, markets and our work. Seth has a cult following, and may be poised to break into mainstream success.
    • Key Concept: The ways of doing business we developed since the late 19th century aren't just outmoded -- they're dangerous.
  • Ken Blanchard Author of The One Minute Manager and Gung Ho, Blanchard is tactics to Covey's strategy. He offers specific, actionable advice about managing teams ranging from large businesses to the nuclear family. 
    • Key Concept: Management is a science, not an art. It can be taught and learned.
  • Michael Gerber Electing Gerber would be like electing a current vice president after an 8-year run by his presidential partner. The E-Myth, his core concept, is as nearly as popular and widely accepted as 7 Habits.
    • Key Concept: Systems are the best solution to running a successful business.

These may be the front runners, but there are plenty of other smart people in the race. Who would you nominate? Comment below. 

September 24, 2012

New Seasons: Six Weather-Related SMS Coupon Ideas for the Fall

Entry By Jason Brick

"How about that weather?"

There's a reason people talk about the weather even though we all know that's what you talk about when you can't think of anything intelligent to say. It's the one thing you can absolutely guarantee people in your ZIP code all have in common.

As summer shifts gears into fall, people notice the weather. It will be on their minds, meaning your SMS coupons and broadcasts will have more sticking power if they include some mention of the changing seasons.

Autumn Leaves
  1. Low Temperatures Mean Low Prices Tie a coupon or three to the dropping thermometer by offering a discount on days the mercury dips the lowest so far that year. If you have easy access to real-time readings, you can offer a time-sensitive deal to people who get in before things warm up in the morning.
  2. The Betting Pool Every fall, there's a first day the temperature drops below a certain threshold. Every fall, there's a first day with no sun visible behind the cover of clouds. Every fall, there's a first day of color on the leaves. Hold a poll predicting what those days will be, with small discounts for all participants and a bigger prize for the winners.
  3. Don't Leaf Savings Behind This one's easy and fun. When the leaves start falling, send a broadcast offering a coupon discount to everybody who brings in a fallen leaf. Store them in a barrel or crate to show how many people came through.
  4. Here Comes the Rain If you live in the right climate, rain is as much a part of fall as the dropping temperatures. You can use most of the ideas above, skinning them for rain instead of temperature or leaves.
  5. The Last Hurrah In many regions, late September or early October gets one last week or so of summer-like weather before Autumn really drops the hammer. When that happens, blow up subscriber phones with contests and deals celebrating the reprieve. Discounts for people who show up in shorts, or a contest for predicting how warm it will get, are just two ideas for this concept.
  6. Falling Back Okay, this one's not really about weather -- but it is a fall-season idea worth trying. On "Fall Back Day," use that extra hour for a special event for SMS invitees and guests. Since the actual hour happens at 2 in the morning, consider running it just before you open, or at another time during the day.

September 20, 2012

Get Our Free iPad Signup App & Collect Phone Numbers With Your iPad!

Over the past few months, in conversations with you (our awesome clients!), again and again we were asked for an iPad App that would allow you to collect phone numbers. We heard from so many of you - from retailers who wanted to place the iPad at the Point-Of-Sale (POS) to event organizers who wanted their staff to roam around events and encourage people to join their list. Today, we're excited to announce that the FREE Ez Texting Signup iPad App is here. You can get it at the App Store right now, within iTunes or on your iPad.

Ipad-app-screenshot

 

Ez-texting-signup-appstoreThe App requires an Ez Texting account - and it should work with any iPad. We've tested it on all three generations of iPads, on iOS 4, 5 and 6!

P.S. - If you've got a 3rd generation iPad the App is Retina ready! No blocky graphics or text!

 

September 19, 2012

12 Common Sense Ergonomic Mistakes That Cost Your Business Money

Entry By Jason Brick

Ergonomics can feel like a capitalist's version of feng shui. Some "expert" offers to come in -- for a surprisingly significant amount of money -- and rearrange the furniture in a way that makes your business work better.

Doxy cares about my ergonomics

If you run a major plant or similar operation, it can be worth hiring a pro to organize your workflow. For the rest of us small business owners, simply avoiding the most common and costly mistakes is enough.

  1. Storing "Grouped" Items Separately
    If you have a task that requires both a widget and gizmo, always store the widgets and gizmos as close to each other as possible. Otherwise, that task takes extra time with every repetition.
  2. Cramped Work Spaces
    Working in a cramped, or otherwise restricted or uncomfortable, work space slows the work process and costs you money. It also makes repetitive stress injuries and similar maladies more common.
  3. Cheap (or Inappropriate) Tools
    If somebody has to drive screws every day, spring for a power driver instead of a hand tool. This saves time every day and cuts down on workplace injuries.
  4. Bad Floors
    Rough floors can trip. Too-smooth floors can cause slips. Folks on their feet all day should have an ergonomic mat to ease the stress on joints. Fixing this can be one of the cheapest ways to boost office ergonomics.
  5. Dim Lighting
    This one is obvious, considering how often it's ignored. Keep work areas bright enough to work in, and change light bulbs whenever they start to dim.
  6. Poor Work Space Arrangement
    Any given work station has a flow to it. If that flow is set up for maximum efficiency, it works well. If it's set up poorly, it costs money.
  7. Bad Lines of Sight
    The worst line-of-sight situations require you to hire extra people to keep an eye on the door, or on line workers. Make it easy for people -- including supervisors -- to see everything they need to see.
  8. Ignoring Hazards
    Most small business owners have done this once or twice -- putting off a repair that makes an area more hazardous than it should be. Don't do it, and if you are -- stop.
  9. Bad Storage Arrangement
    In your storage areas, put heavy and large objects on the lower shelves. Light, small objects go higher up. Any other arrangement takes more time and risks more frequent injuries.
  10. No (or Inconvenient) Ladders
    Some jobs just need a ladder or step stool. If you don't have one -- or if it's all the way across the facility -- your employees will try to make due with a rickety pile of boxes, or one of your wheeled chairs.
  11. Cheap Chairs
    If your employees will be sitting in chairs all day, make sure they're nice chairs. Back injuries and tendonitis are just two of the risks associated with cheap sitting space.
  12. Not Writing It All Down
    Your processes and policies are there to help people work safely and efficiently. If you don't write them down, it's hard to train new employees on how to do things the right way. It's even harder to discipline employees who don't want to comply.

September 17, 2012

6 Money Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurs

Entry By Jason Brick

Money SecretsSuccessful entrepreneurship comes from a wide variety of traits. Good timing, perseverance, luck, charisma, intelligence and drive are some of the most common. But the most successful small business owners share one trait that many others lack: a unique relationship with money that helps them find the funding they need where others would miss the opportunity. The good news is this trait can be learned. Take time to get comfortable with these six laws of money the likes of Rob Kiyosaki already know.

  1. Money Is Everywhere Most people would be amazed at how much investment capital is available at any given moment, even in the middle of America's second-worst financial crisis. Venture capitalists talk casually about numbers with seven and eight zeroes in them all the time. Your job is to find some of that money and point it at your dreams.
  2. Aim High Low long-term goals is one of the most common goal-setting problems reported by beginning business owners. This comes from a short-term problem set that makes it hard to appreciate the true potential of small gains every day over the course of years. If you make that slow, steady progress, though, it's not hard to outstrip even modestly aggressive goals faster than you imagine.
  3. Adopt a Wealth Mindset A wealth mindset means never saying "I can't afford that." Instead, you ask "How can I afford that?" or "What must change in order for me to afford it?" This small tweak in how you approach money puts many things in reach that you may previously have thought out of your league.
  4. Mind the Pennies Everybody has at least one friend who makes a lot of money, but spends like a pauper. It's one of the secrets of becoming wealthy. If you mind the small corners of your expenses -- not losing perspective, simply understanding the cumulative value of watching things like your utility bills and variables -- you'll find your business has the extra margin it needs to take advantage of new opportunities.
  5. Everything Is Negotiable Highly successful entrepreneurs consistently negotiate for better deals than "normal mortals." This comes in part from the power of the companies they control, but also from a lifelong habit of never accepting the first offer. Everything is negotiable, from your lease payment to the deadline on a project. Further, almost everything is renegotiable -- meaning you can still make changes to a deal you don't like.
  6. Pay Yourself First This isn't exactly a secret anymore, but it's still a fact many people ignore outright. As a struggling businessman, you might believe you don't have the extra money to set your slice aside at the beginning of the month. That may be true, but it also misses the point. If you pay yourself first, the cash shortage forces you to find extra money. This helps you practice resourcefulness and look for new opportunities to grow your business -- thus making you more successful.

September 12, 2012

12 September Mobile Coupon Ideas to Finish The Third Quarter Strong

Entry By Jason Brick

The third quarter can be slow for many businesses. The summer travel season is over, leaving many consumers feeling a bit tapped, and the holiday rush is still months away. Although you aren't likely to see the kind of earnings you did during other months, you can still bump your revenues with some seasonal text coupons.

september 9+9


Add one of these 12 ideas to your text message marketing efforts, or use them to come up with your own:

  1. Seasons Change. Offer a discount on the first day the temperature drops below the summer average. 
  2. Back to School. Host a happy hour sale for all new freshmen at the local high school. Do one on another day for sophomores, juniors, and seniors while you're at it.
  3. Football Time. Give away a small item (free drink or a loss-leader gimmick) for people who bring a photo from the local high school football game). Works just as well for soccer, cross country and other fall sports. 
  4. Gettin' Hippy With It. September 21 is International Day of Peace. Have a "peace party" with prizes or discounts for the best costumes. 
  5. Happy Equinox. Celebrate the autumnal equinox (September 22 in 2012) by giving a discount on any two different items bought together that have the same price. 
  6. Clearance Sale. A no-brainer. Give steep discounts on stuff you're clearing out to make way for fall merchandise - and steeper discounts for people who bring in a new subscriber. 
  7. Celebrate Women. September 22 is American Business Women's Day. Offer a discount to women who give you their business card. 
  8. Bourbon Street. September is "National Bourbon Heritage Month." Not every business can make something of this fact, but bars and restaurants that don't are missing a golden opportunity. 
  9. Be Prepared. September is National Preparedness Month. Create an appropriate "package" of merchandise and offer a coupon discount -- or offer a flat discount as part of a contest where subscribers take photos of their preparedness efforts. 
  10. Don't Leave. If the trees start shedding this month in your area, have a contest where subscribers send in photos of their leaf piles. Use categories like "biggest," "most colorful," and "funniest shape."
  11. Charity Drive. Hold a warm clothing drive for a local homeless shelter. Use an SMS contest to get the word out.  
  12. Aaarrrr! Some folks consider September 19 "National Talk Like a Pirate Day." The implications for your text message and discounts should be obvious.

September 11, 2012

New Code Samples For The Groups & Contacts APIs - C#, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby!

Back in June we rolled out new APIs that allow you to manage the Contacts and Groups in your Ez Texting account. While most people like to use our SMS API to send text messages without using our web app at all - for those of you who want the option to integrate via API and utilize Contact & Group management you can do just that.

Like we said, these APIs have been available for a few months now - but today we're releasing new code samples in 5 more languages to help you get started:

PHP code samples for these APIs are also available.

...

Octocat

Our full libraries of code samples are also now available to fork and download at Github. Check out our Repos @ https://github.com/EzTexting/

September 10, 2012

12 Expense Hacks for Your Small Business

Entry By Jason Brick

If you came to owning your business from a management background, you already know the importance of controlling variable expenses. If not, apply these ideas to cut your costs and find out just how much you can save. The trick to the best expense hacks isn't that they make dramatic day-to-day differences. It's that they add up to thousands of dollars a year when used in concert. 

Business-hacks
Seen outside the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, CA

  1. Separate Storage
    Keep only what your team needs for a day next to the work areas. Store your spare consumables in a different closet or other space. Seeing large caches in the open encourages your staff to be wasteful.
  2. Go Digital
    Phone, fax, credit card processing, and all manner of other once-vital office gear can be replaced with web applications that have equal or better functionality. Jettison the expense and space the equipment takes up. 
  3. Switch to Open Source
    Google Docs works just as well as Office for most businesses, as do a variety of free -- or nearly free -- software applications for other purposes. It's rare that you would need to spend top dollar on software.
  4. Use a Blogging Platform For Your Website
    Instead of spending thousands on a hand-coded website, download a free blogging template from Wordpress, Drupal or a similar source. For 99 percent of small businesses, it's all you'll need. And it's free. 
  5. Find Freelancers
    Never hire a full-time employee for a job that only needs a part-time freelancer. You spend less money on wages, and no money at all on payroll tax or benefits. 
  6. Use That Rewards Card
    Business expenses, paid in full every month, is one of the few places a rewards or miles card can really benefit the user. Since businesses often run through expenses at several times the rate of personal budgets, it's just a matter of scale. 
  7. Look Into Interns
    Interns provide motivated, educated, low-cost labor in exchange for a polished resume and/or college credit. These workers are especially valuable for helping with that layer of busywork that keeps you from working on building your business.
  8. Form Alliances
    You might not need enough paper towels to qualify for your vendor's bulk discount, but it's a fair bet the combined need of your entire strip mall will. Work with other local businesses to combine your purchasing power. 
  9. Always Ask Twice
    Never leave a negotiation without asking one more time for a discount or bargain. The worst that will happen is leaving with the exact same deal you had before asking -- and most of the time, you'll get something better. 
  10. Go Paperless
    A truly paperless office isn't generally possible, but the more paper you cut out of your process the more you save. Less paper, less toner, less printing time, les s stuff to store. 
  11. Barter  
    Always look for "gift-in-kind" trades instead of spending actual money. Beyond working with people you know, you can join barter sites to get wider access to goods and services. 
  12. Re-Assess Marketing
    In the 20th century, publishers and broadcasters owned distribution of marketing -- and charged heavily for access. Now, you can publish your own messages via SMS marketing, social media and other venues. Ditch old-style marketing that costs more than it's worth. 

These twelve hacks are by no means the only tricks to make your trade less expensive. Comment below with what's worked for you. 

September 06, 2012

The Back Door: 6 Ways to Cash in On Returning Customers

Entry By Jason Brick

Every business owner needs to watch two doors when it comes to the customers. The front door represents customers you don't already have, the ones targeted by the bulk of your advertising (ed note – See our previous post on The Front Door!). The back door represents those who've already made at least one purchase. In general, a returning customer has the potential to be five or more times as profitable as a new customer.

One of the great things about text message marketing is it provides a low-cost way to make occasional contact with your back door customers.

Alley in Wigan

Take these campaign ideas as just some examples of turning your businesses back door into another cash counter.

  1. Simple Rewards Program
    From credit card rewards to the punch cards you find in every sandwich shop in the country, programs that pay customers to come back work. Your SMS campaign can automate this by putting it all online.
  2. Referrals, Referrals, Referrals
    Word-of-mouth is golden because it brings you customers that are already pre-sold by people they trust. If you're not sending out at least one SMS broadcast a month with some kind of reward for bringing in a friend, make doing this a top priority.
  3. Insider Information
    People crave a sense of belonging, especially in our increasingly fractured and solitary society. They want to feel like they matter. If you broadcast your "inside track" subscribers with leaked news about new products, upcoming events and details about your staff, they'll think of you and talk about you more often. If the information is juicy enough, they might even share it via social media.
  4. Members-Only Sales
    Another take on the "insider" angle, this means offering some kind of sale to only returning customers. This might be a discount coupon you broadcast to your list, or simply using a specific text message as the entry fee to get in to a major sale an hour earlier than the general public.
  5. Upgrade Day
    For one day only, offer to buy back old gear for returning customers who purchase a newer unit. This idea doesn't always work for every industry, since profit margins and progress sometimes make it financially infeasible. However, if you can make a little money off of this deal it can be a real winner with your existing clients.
  6. "Missing You" Sale
    Use this one to pull lapsing customers back into the fold. Once a quarter, offer a discount to anybody who can bring in a receipt that's two or more months old, or otherwise demonstrate they bought from you so long ago. The theme implies that the discount goes to folks who haven't been in for a few months, but honor the discount for anybody who kept their receipts for that long.