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21 posts categorized "Education"

April 09, 2014

5 Apps for Helicopter Parents


Remember the old days? When kids were free to run wild without their every move being micromanaged by anxious parents? Growing up in the 80s, the best a worried mother could hope for was a call from a public telephone – if the mood struck her child.

Those days are gone. Between SMS messaging, smartphones and GPS, app developers have all the tools they need to help anxious parents keep tabs on their offspring. Kids, you might want to stop reading now. Grownups, check out our top 5 apps for making sure little Johnny is as safe as houses – and your house is safe from little Johnny!


Featured on Today, CNN and Good Morning America, iCam provides you with live feeds from any room in your house, direct to your mobile device. Each room must contain a running computer with webcams and the app installed. Probably unwise to use it instead of a babysitter, but it’s ideal for people on vacation who can’t shake that feeling that the house is burning down being broken into.


The ultimate in overprotective app, Kitestring can be programmed to track your whereabouts and ensure you arrive safely at your intended destination, at the intended time. Just like a worried parent, it checks up on you by requesting a response at a certain time. If you fail to respond, the app alerts your pre-programmed contacts via SMS messaging.

FBI Child ID

Created by the FBI, this app allows parents to store ID information and photographs of their children. The stored information can be quickly access in the event of the child disappearing. Crucially, it only stores info on the iPhone until parents need to send it to the authorities. The app includes shortcuts to 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Find My Kids – Footprints

In the same vein, this app gives parents real time updates on their kids whereabouts. GPS has been applied to everything from vehicle navigation to mobile marketing solutions, but this is a world-beater in terms of providing parental peace of mind. Find out if your child is travelling alone and whether they’ve arrived at a specific destination.

Txt Shield

As kids grow up, concerns about sinister abductions begin to lessen. But parents of newly-driving teens have a whole new set of concerns. Txt Shield is one of a number of apps on the market aimed at preventing accidents caused by distracted driving. The app sends automatic replies to any incoming text messages based on how fast the mobile device is moving. 

January 16, 2014

3 Language Pitfalls to Avoid in Text Message Advertising


Nobody wants to receive a text message that looks like spam. And a sure way to alert mobile users that what they’re receiving is indeed one of the many mobile marketing advertising campaigns that aren’t taking their precious time into consideration is by using language pitfalls. Hype, jargon and abbreviations are three critical language pitfalls that will turn your customers off from your text message advertising campaigns.

Here are some text message advertising examples of what NOT to write:

Using words like “awesome” and “amazing” just scream “spam” to your customer. If a deal or promotion is truly awesome (i.e. valuable to the consumer), then it will speak for itself. Be sincere and meticulous when choosing your words. Talk to customers how you’d like to be spoken to, with honest and realistic content that helps consumers make an informed decision.

You will never alienate customers through the use of standard language conventions, but slang or jargon can certainly cost you a customer. In addition, it can come off as an unprofessional reflection of your brand. Use careful wording when addressing customers. Show them respect for being loyal and regard the relationship as a privilege. If you wouldn’t talk to your boss like that, don’t send it in a text message to a customer!

Don’t assume that your customer knows what you are talking about. Using abbreviations can cause confusion, resulting in lower conversion rates. This is part of the general application of text message advertising: be concise, but be clear!

Testing campaigns can often eliminate these types of errors. Running a trial text marketing campaign can tell you if your test receivers are having trouble understanding the message or are turned off in any way to the language chosen. You may go through several versions of as text message advertising campaign before it’s ready to launch. However, taking the guesswork out of which messages are effective and which aren’t by obtaining throughout feedback regarding the language used, will prove ultimately more valuable to both consumers and the brand sending the message.

January 12, 2014

Schools Find Creative Ways to Use SMS for Updates


Too often, mobile marketing practices are associated solely with retailers and other businesses who use the types of service offered by the likes of Ez Texting to promote special offers and issue reminders. But SMS marketing can be used for more edifying purposes than mere commerce.

Local and national governments already rely on texting to communicate with staff and voters. SMS allows them to streamline their communication process and keep people tuned in to the latest events. Now, schools and colleges all over the world have followed suit. Educational institutions are signing up to mobile marketing programs that help them improve the lines of communication between students and staff. In the process, they are creating a new culture of applying cutting-edge technology to a civic context.

A typical application of SMS in schools is notifying parents of a school closure due to extreme weather. Another use is minimizing truancy by sending texts to the parents of absent children. Other schools are using mobile marketing strategies to inform pupils of upcoming events.

In Scotland, Fife Council recently introduced bulk SMS messaging across all schools in the area. Their system reaches out to supply teachers in a staffing emergency, sends closure notifications and notifies parents of upcoming events. The rollout was so successful, Fife has won several awards for their innovative use of mobile marketing technology.

Cash-strapped schools with small admin teams are, arguably, some of the most well-suited organizations for harnessing the power of text messages. Firms like Ez Texting, with their affordable SMS marketing plans, are opening up the possibilities of this technology to groups of people who are not in the profit-making game. The example set by Fife Council demonstrates that the latest mobile marketing trends are not just for business – they serve the common good as well.


October 01, 2012

9 Classic Business Books that Aren't Actually About Business

Entry By Jason Brick

Ed. Note - Last week we posted 9 Classic Business Books You Should Have Read Years Ago — and this post is the followup. If you missed the first, we highly suggest you read it now!

Reading is an important form of education for most small business owners, but not all business reading has to be about business. Check out these titles, ostensibly in other sections of the library that can stimulate your business mind just as effectively.

  1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    This classic book of military strategy was recommended by Michael Douglas's Gordon Gecko character in Wall Street. You always knew business was full of conflict. This manual tells you how to win them.
  2. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
    Don't let the title fool you. This hippie-flavored text is full of actionable ideas for improving your personal effectiveness, focus, energy level and relationships with people.
  3.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
    "Machiavellian" means "brutally effective" for a reason. Another centuries-old book, this one describes how to run a principality for maximum gain. As it turns out, principalities and businesses aren't terribly different.
  4.  The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
    A pop-scholarly work on globalization and modern communications, it's one of the best for wrapping your mind around how people work in this century. Business owners operating without his insights are at a disadvantage.
  5. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    Gladwell uses case studies of successful ideas and businesses as the core of this book, but it's really about how people think and groups react.
  6.  Drive by Daniel Pink
    Pink spent years looking at the research on what really motivates people, and found some surprising facts. It will help you identify the kinds of incentives your staff needs, and how to apply them.
  7. The Book of Five Ringsby Miyamoto Musashi
    Where The Art of War discusses battle at the mass scale, Five Rings is about personal combat. Musashi's lessons can just as easily be applied to the "singles combat" of negotiations and meetings with human resources.
  8. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
    A guide to moving serenely through the tribulations of life. The Agreements -- Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions, and Do Your Best -- are equally applicable to successfully navigating the rough waters of business and entrepreneurship.
  9. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
    When people say somebody is smart, most of the time they mean that person communicates well. Especially in this age of easy self-publication, social media, blogging and text marketing, knowing how to write is a skill all business owners need. This is the go-to book on the topic, recommended by the likes of Stephen King and "Grammar Girl" Mignon Fogarty.

These obviously aren't the only non-business books you can use for business. Other blogs have recommended everything from The Bible to Dr. Seuss. What reading would you recommend?

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.


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 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 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. 

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. 

August 30, 2012

6 Back To School Text Message Coupon Ideas

Entry By Jason Brick

Ed. note – For general Back To School SMS Marketing ideas/strategy see our previous post.

Back-to-schoolThere's a classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin fears that summer vacation is slipping away from him and starts running around in a panic, trying to pack in as much fun as he can in the remaining weeks of summer. Your customers won't take it that badly, but the return to school is on a lot of minds as August fades into September. Mentioning that fact in your text message coupons can keep you in front-of-mind awareness during this relatively busy consumer season. 

  1. The Inevitable Merchandise Sale
    Everybody does this, the trick is to find some way to be creative about it. If you offer anything remotely related to the school year, school supplies, or similar, broadcast a different deal every day in the week before school. Get a copy of the supply list from your local school district for help with ideas.
  2. Alumni Weekend
    Broadcast a discount to anybody who can show up with proof they attended the local high schools. Be liberal in what you count as proof to maximize takers, and consider a two-for-one buddy deal so your alumni can include folks from out of town.
  3. School Days Photo Contest
    Everybody has one or two pictures from high school they don't want to make public. Your job is to offer a deal so great they text that photo to you anyway. Extend this one by having a different themed contest every week: worst hair, best clothes, prom night pics, etc.
  4. Mom's First Day Off
    This is an under-served but real part of the back-to school season: that first day when the stay-at-home parent has no little ones underfoot. They'll be looking for a little pampering, so offer a deal that gets them to indulge in your business.
  5. School Year Philanthropy
    During the first week of classes, schools eagerly accept donations of cash and supplies from anybody who offers them. Instead of sending a coupon that gives a discount to your subscribers, offer a donation for every purchase made by a subscriber. This can help grow your subscription list, as parents share the deal across their PTAs.
  6. Iron Student Contest
    Take time to help aggressive students shine by offering a discount to those who bring in the most challenging class schedules to prove how tough they have it for the coming year. If your business caters to a less academic crowd, tweak it to reflect the tastes of your subscribers.

August 29, 2012

Back To School SMS Marketing Ideas & Strategy

Entry By Jason Brick

According to research by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. families spend $7.7 billion on back-to-school clothes every September. They spend $2.4 billion on textbooks, and $5.9 billion on school supplies. Those numbers are for K-12 only, with a total spending of over $52 billion if you include college spending. 

School desk at Southborough Historical Museum

And they don't begin to include the extra expenses of day care and other spending increases that come with the new school year. Bottom line: back to school is big business, and your business should be a part of something that big. Let's explore how you can use SMS Marketing to get in on the back to school action.

SMS Marketing Strategy for Back to School

How you get your business on the back to school bandwagon will depend on exactly what you sell...even if you offer something with no direct relation, you can find a way. 

  • If you offer back-to-school related merchandise, such as clothing, books, supplies and sporting goods, this is pretty simple. Tell subscribers that you have what you need, in as creative and attractive a way as possible. 
  • If you offer school-related services, it's best to wait a week or so before offering your best deals. Stay in peoples' minds, but realize that people don't usually hire professional organizers, tutors or test coaches until the initial chaos of back-to-school has settled. 
  • If you offer mommy pampering, go big on day two of school. Day one is often a half-day, and is always stressful. But day two is when mothers of school-aged children breathe deep and begin to relax. 
  • If you offer unrelated merchandise, get involved tangentially. Some ideas include making donations to local schools, offering specials based on school, simply cashing in with a school-related pun. Yes, that means your lingerie store can run a special on "naughty teacher" outfits.

Sample Back to School Text Message Broadcasts

If you're having trouble coming up with your own idea, use these wholesale -- or as a springboard for the message you know will work best with your customers. 

  • For back-to-school merchandise, run a series of sales on different kinds of items with each broadcasts. Ten percent off backpacks on Tuesday, buy-one-get-one on notebooks on Friday. Uber-shoppers will come back each day, while others will come in once and overspend on all the other things they need. 
  • For back-to-school services, consider a series of brief advice broadcasts, or even a sequence of pithy quotes, to keep folks thinking of you during the week before and after school begins. When week two begins, hit them with a time-sensitive, irresistible offer. 
  • For pampering mommy, nothing beats a buy-one-get-one offer so they can spend adult time with friends. This is as true for massage treatments as it is for a coffee house. Consider "teasing" the deal a day o r two early, so moms -- who are often busy -- can pencil you in.
  • For everything else, the best strategy is whatever you've been using all along. Just "spin" it in a school-related fashion for late August and Early September.