15 Web Tools to Help Small Business eCommerce

As the number of people using the internet grows steadily, as cell phones and tablets become more affordable, eCommerce has definitely become the norm. With 91% of adults in America owning mobile phones, physical stores are no longer needed as we can buy anything online with our mobile devices. Websites, once a novelty of the super niche, or the mega conglomerate international companies, are now essential for business.


There are many web based tools out there to help businesses run things smoothly online. It used to be that a business had to go to great expense; buying a server that could handle the flow of customers, hiring web designers to create a website that was user friendly, to promoting that website on TV and various other media. These days there are tools that handle everything, and if done right, social media can be a cheap way to make your site a household name. Here’s a list of a few important web tools that help you run your business:

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Web Design and Hosting

It used to be that you needed to hire a team of professionals to build your website, and you needed a server in house to maintain the flow of customer traffic to your site. These days there are tools that can help you build a website yourself, with no coding experience needed. Good web design tools will enable you to tweak your site pretty much however you want it. If you want things to be super specific though, not to worry. There are plenty of ways to learn coding online for free.

The vast majority of webhosts have themes and tools that can help you build your site. For businesses looking to monetize their site, it is especially important to be able to have a powerful host that not only can handle customer flow into the site, but also be able to provide security site-wide.

A few webhost tools include:

  • WordPress  – 9% of all websites worldwide run on WordPress. Has a nearly endless supply of tweaks, themes and extensions so you can customize your site to your heart’s content.
  • Squarespace – has an easy to use interface that has a “drag and drop” approach to design. Squarespace is fully customizable just like WordPress, with various themes and add-ons that make your site function however you’d like.
  • YourMembership  – a one stop shop for businesses, Your Membership software helps you monitor and interact with your customers and provides analytics based on spending and other trends. They also provide web hosting as well as a web design tool focused on helping you attract customers.

Social Media Management

Social media has always been a game changer when it comes to doing business online. Recently social media activity has even been showing up in search results, giving businesses even greater incentive to cultivate a social media presence. Businesses are able to reach more people than ever with a properly managed social media profile. People often contact businesses through social media to voice concerns or ask questions. In fact, 42% of Americans expect a response within an hour to complaints. It is important to be on top of communications that might negatively affect your business.

Getting a social media following has the added benefit of encouraging return customers. People like deals, so those who follow you are most likely to jump on opportunities when you present them with deals. Here are a few tools to help get the most out of your social media accounts:

  • SocialClout – analyzes your social media presence and gives suggestions on how to improve. Analyzes keywords, demographics and data from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to let you know what people are talking about that’s relevant to you.
  • Edgar – you can create a posting schedule for your social media accounts that also can give you suggestions on what to post and where. You can always be on top of the latest buzz!
  • Mention – monitors web content in real-time that makes mentions of you and your brand. You can keep tabs on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. You can also connect it to Buffer. Use it to share and assign tasks to your team.
  • ly  a link shortener that tracks people that use the link, gathering data like where they’re accessing it, the demographic as well as social media shares.

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In-house Communication

Communication is key to running a business smoothly. Keeping on top of deadlines and letting your team know of changes that need to be made, assigning tasks, all are a part of a business’s communication. There are quite a few apps out there that help people convey information, the best of which are loaded with features and enable syncing across multiple platforms.

Every business needs good communication, as being in the loop is essential. Keeping on top of client calls and updated meeting times, is essential to make a business run smoothly. Here’s a list of some communication apps that are available:

  • Slack – has many features including file sharing and Google Drive and Google Hangout integration. Slack also supports group conversations, and even has an app that can be downloaded for iOS and Android that will enable you to keep in touch 24/7.
  • Campfire – has lots of add-ons that can be used to customize your communications for specific needs. There are various security features such as password-protected group chats, and users can use it with other networks.
  • Redbooth – mainly a task tracking/productivity application, Redbooth also has a chat function. It enables you to assign tasks and organize meetings and deadlines; it even connects to a webcam.
  • OfficeChat – is a versatile communications app that is compatible on iOS, Android and Windows. It enables group conversations and file sharing. You can also buy plans that allow you to add more features.

Information Management & Security

Database and file management is important to keeping sensitive information secure and available to those who need it. There are many file management web tools to choose from that have a wide variety of functions, to keep your business running, you can really keep your sensitive files how you need.

Some file management web tools:

  • BackupAssist – a cloud based file backup and recovery service which provides encrypted security protocols. BackupAssist also has SQL server and Hyper-V protection and many other options to keep data safe.
  • Thinkfree – a file locker that emphasizes cloud based access to files, to enable work on any internet accessible device. Thinkfree also allows you to share documents with your team, where they can have various levels of access, from read only to edit permissions and the ability to post to blogs.
  • JustCloud – uses a program to automatically back up files to the cloud from your computer so you can access them anytime. There are also apps available to allow you to sync between devices.
  • Hightail – allows you to send files of up to 10 GB and features advanced security features so you can control who sees them. Share project folders with colleagues and customers alike and decide who can edit. Hightail offers unlimited storage space and has mobile syncing through an app.

These are just a few of the tools out there that can help your business run smoothly. There are thousands to choose from and one of them is sure to fit your needs.

5 ways small business can compete with bigger firms

Gone are the days when small businesses couldn’t compete with bigger companies. Technological advances have helped to even out the playing field, but there are inherent advantages to being the little guy.


Here are five ways your small business can compete with larger companies, and sometimes come out ahead.

1. Be nimble

Sure, bigger companies have a larger staff and more resources. But that can also add layers of bureaucracy to their infrastructure. The more vice-presidents and managers you have, the longer it usually takes to create, develop, approve and implement change. As a smaller firm, you have fewer internal hurdles to clear when implementing changes. You can also respond to customer queries or complaints faster because there are fewer people in your company who have to meet, discuss and approve how to reply to such client feedback. According to a study by QMS, smaller companies are actually more efficient, productive and cost-effective than large ones.

One tool your SMB can employ to make its collaboration and innovation process even more efficient is social Intranet. It takes the old-school corporate Intranet model (let’s all just list our company events, birthdays and human resource forms on one internal site) and updates it using today’s social networking approach, so employees can truly contribute creative ideas and content (including video, Web links and photos) from anywhere in real time.

2. Get personal

What sets many SMBs apart from large companies is their ability to build personal relationships with customers and suppliers. If you know many of those players by name and have an ongoing relationship with them, nurture it. You can do it in little ways: mention them in your company’s blog, write a client case involving them and post it on your Web site, ask them to take part in a roundtable on improving customer service and products at your firm. You can even publicly acknowledge their personal or corporate milestones (anniversaries, contract wins, awards, etc.) on social media. There’s evidence that when it comes to forging business and sales with other SMBs, personal contacts still make a difference.

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3. Be social

Social media and blogs have given small businesses the opportunity to market themselves to a massive audience of potential clients, and it seems to be working. Last year’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report found that SMBs benefit more than bigger firms from using social media when it comes to making sales, generating leads and partnerships, increasing site traffic, subscriptions and overall marketplace exposure, and cutting marketing costs. It’s not always easy to manage a social media strategy when you’re a SMB but there are technology tools to use and organizational steps to take so it’s a little easier these days.

4. Tell your own story

Break out of the traditional marketing and publicity box of simply issuing a press release that shills your latest product and recounts why it’s so amazing. Those formulaic quotes don’t sound real, and thousands of other companies are doing the same thing every day. But only you can tell the unique story of your business: how you started and grew your business as well as all the personal bumps you encountered along the way. A 2010 study by the University of Chicago found that products marketed using “brand biographies” highlighting passionate entrepreneurs overcoming the odds were chosen 71 per cent of the time over products that weren’t promoted that way. Just think of all the category killers whose branding is strengthened by their leaders’ back stories. There’s a reason The Social Network drew in millions of moviegoers with the story of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s the same reason they’re making a biopic about Apple’s Steve Jobs as we speak. People love to hear personal stories.

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5. Use tech

Okay, we’ve already mentioned a few ways your SMB can harness technology to compete with the big guys. And there are many online tools out there that can help small businesses run more efficiently and effectively. But since it’s impossible to ignore the big players, why not take advantage of the fact that most of them are now launching their own services targeted to SMBs? Corporate giants like IBMRogers CommunicationsDell Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd. are all vying for your SMB budget dollars with products and services that, ironically, might just help you compete with companies as big as them. Whether it’s cloud storage or Web marketing, they’ve all got something designed (and priced) just for companies your size.

8 Business Ideas for Travel Lovers

Travel Do you want to explore the world and be your own boss? Starting your own business doesn’t mean you have to stay in one place. Many businesses in the digital age don’t require a brick-and-mortar shop, and some businesses will even take you to your dream destinations. Travel

Traveling and owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart, however. If you’re determined to see the world while owning a business, check out these 11 business ideas for people who love to travel.

Some people, such as politicians and celebrities, require a personal assistant. Personal assistants usually travel with their employer whether they are going on tour, have speaking events across the country or have business in other countries. Virtual assistants are in high demand due to their ability to work remotely and many businesses’ desire to cut unnecessary payroll costs.

If organization, time management, and problem-solving are your top skills, create your own agency. Personal assistants typically arrange travel and accommodations, manage schedules, run errands, and coordinate with other staff members.

If you love writing and photography, a travel blog could be your ticket to several dream destinations. Bloggers often create helpful guides, explore new cities, take interesting photos, and provide recommendations and tips on their websites. Before you take the plunge, understand that blogging can be tough and time-consuming. It often takes a couple of years before you make money blogging, but when you do, you’re essentially getting paid to travel the world and write about it.

If writing isn’t your expertise and you’re better with a camera, try being a travel vlogger. With YouTube, vlogging is a lucrative business. Take your business on the road and create videos about traveling the world and visiting the best tourist spots.

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The days of only posting cat videos and family updates on Facebook are long over. If you have a large following online, you can make a steady income through sponsored posts and pictures. Many brands use influencers to advertise their products and encourage followers to buy goods and services.

Some brands will even foot the bill and pay for social media influencers to attend their events or stay at their resort in exchange for documenting their experience on their social media accounts.

People want honest and helpful advice. Travel agents help people plan vacations and trips across the globe. They often have specialties for different countries or niches. If there is a country or city you love to visit, you can make recommendations to others wanting to see more of the world.

You can start your own home-based travel agency through either a franchise or nonfranchise agency depending on your budget and accreditation. You may need to look into obtaining certification, and you may need to pay monthly fees if you partner with a host agency.

Photography is a great skill to have if you want to travel. If you start a photography business, you could travel the world and capture its beauty with your camera. You can sell these photos to publications or as art. You could also become skilled at a specific type of photography, such as candid portraits, family photography or wedding photography. People need a skilled photographer at their destination wedding, and you could be just the person for the job.

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Do you have expertise in your field, solve problems or do people want to hear what you say? If so, you could become a public speaker. Speakers often travel across the country or even the world to spread their message and inspire millions. These individuals also have other streams of income, such as being a social media influencer, selling books or creating a blog about their expertise.

Event planners plan corporate and professional meetings and events. They typically arrange everything from catering to selecting the location to travel accommodations. If you have the networking, organizational and time-management skills, you could travel the world as an event planner. Event planning worldwide could open up even more travel opportunities and larger-scale events in the long term.

If you’re fluent in multiple languages, creating a translation business could be a great way to see the world. Translators are needed in almost every industry. They assist international businesses, globe-trotting executives and high-profile individuals by translating documents, books, emails, conversations and more. If you’re not sure where to start, offer to restaurants in your area to translate their menus or translate promotional materials for small businesses.

New Year Resolutions For Business In 2020

New The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on your future business plans and how you want it to expand in the coming year. If you’re a business owner, it’s a great idea to make resolutions that will help simplify your life and grow your business.


Let’s focus on some high-power, super-efficient business goals for small as well as big businesses and look forward to building a rewarding and more prosperous business establishment.

Review your Business Plans Consistently

Whether you have a big successful established business or a small, medium-sized enterprise, you should have a business plan – a vision for how you are going to achieve these goals and ambitions for the future.

Plan carefully and specifically about what you expect from your business over a certain period of time in short, medium and long-term timescales and set out to achieve it.

Make sure you have clear and measurable targets to measure progress. Some businesses fall into the pattern of operating on a day to day basis instead of having a vision, this sometimes leads to many businesses failing out.

Regular Supervision of Social Media Strategy

No denying the fact that social media is invaluable to any business. As we enter this new year in 2020, make a resolution to use social media daily by doing these simple steps:

  • Interact with customers and other users
  • Answer questions
  • Post engaging content
  • Prioritize the network your customers are already using

For most businesses, this is Facebook and/or Instagram. Build your following on one of these platforms and then as per the response to the business, you can branch out to Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, etc.

Today we have several free social media scheduling tools that can be easily used to schedule a week’s worth posts all at once. Make full advantage of these great tools and sail through your business journey with greater ease and facility.

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Speed Up on Marketing Effort

Marketing is the process of telling consumers why they should choose your product or service over those of your competitors, and is a form of persuasive communication.

It is made up of every process involved in moving a product or service from your business to the consumer. Marketing includes creating the product or service concept, identifying who is likely to purchase it, promoting it, and moving it through the appropriate selling channels.

If the objective of your business is to sell more products or services this 2020, then marketing is what helps you achieve that goal. Anything that you use to communicate with your customers in a way that persuades them to buy your products or services is marketing, including advertising, social media, coupons, sales, and even how you display them.

Write a Blog

A blog is one of the easiest, cost-effective ways to add new content to your site. This is the most essential for SEO and as we all know that if one wants to grow in this digital marketing age content marketing needs to be followed diligently.

It allows you to share valuable information with your audience, gives you trending material for social media, and positions you as a leader in your niche.

Blogging doesn’t have to be a chore and you don’t have to post every day. In fact, one high-quality post per week is better than one poor-quality post every day.

And when it comes to what to write, get creative!! Even if you are writing for technology use creative, better ways to present your blogs. Place yourself in the reader’s position and then decide what to write and what to post.

Customer is the King

Your best clients are someone else’s best prospects. According to Outboundengine.com, getting a new customer can cost five times as much as keeping a current one. There are varying degrees of loyalty as well as reasons.

Always put your customer’s needs on top of your own, if you are looking to expand this 2020 and try finding answers to these questions:

  • Do your clients know you are growing your practice or business?
  • Do they know the type of prospect you want?
  • Do they know how you help other people?
  • Do you have a process that makes it easy for them?

It starts by letting them know you want to help people with needs or issues similar to theirs. Start communicating more with them.

Invest in Cyber Security Measures

Big institutions and technology firms aren’t the only ones that need to be concerned with online security. Every company should be taking proper measures to guard against cybercrime and implement the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other such online threats.

  • Regularly back up your company’s data.
  • Create a firewall that prevents outsiders from accessing your private network.
  • Invest in the latest security software, web browser, and operating systems on your company’s computers.

Keep a Close Eye on your Competitors

This one is very crucial for growing as well as for learning and creating something great. Never underestimate any of your competition and keep track of their achievements and mistakes as well.

Plan for 5 Years Ahead

The key difference between a business owner and a Leader is the difference of vision. How you plan for the coming years is that set the ball rolling for you. Always think ahead and have concrete strategies in place this 2020 if you are eyeing the top slot.

Build a Communication Plan

Agree, as a group, what needs to be communicated to the broader organization, who will deliver it, and when that is to happen. A town hall-type meeting with all employees is a great way to kick off a new strategic plan.

It should be followed up, however, with individual leaders sharing the plan in a smaller setting with just their team. The key to a successful communication plan is consistency and repeatability.

Fine Tune your Customer Service

Often businesses concentrate their resources on increasing the size of their customer base rather than on client retention. Many pieces of research suggest that it is up to 25 times more expensive to win a new customer than it is to persuade existing customers to make new purchases.

This 2020, aim to put that right – talk to your customers about how you can serve them better and what else they might want from you. That doesn’t mean giving up on new customers altogether – but put your current customers first.

  • The old saying, “the customer is always right,” means that if your customers ask for something you don’t carry, it’s time to fix that.
  • Is there something your customers have been asking about or even demanding? Look into how you can bring that good or service to them. They’ll thank you with dollar bills.

Network amongst Business Groups

Whether it’s a group specifically designed for networking or an organization dedicated to a particular type of business, in person or over the internet, making the effort to be a part of a group will revitalize you and your business.

  • There’s nothing like talking to other business people for sparking new ideas, refining old ones, and making contacts.
  • Approaching networking events with a strategy will make your next time out a more successful experience.
  • In 2020, make a resolution to attend a few networking events to meet fellow small business owners in your area.
  • Networking can help you find new opportunities, clients, collaborators, vendors, service providers, and even friends.

This is often ignored by many small business owners, but it’s so important. Use a service like Event brite to find events in your area. Chances are there are plenty of free networking opportunities already scheduled for the new year!

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Invest in Learning a New Skill

Most important of all-do not sit back on past laurels and achievement, Life is all about recreating, reanalyzing and renewing yourself each day.

Build your Brand

In business, planning for the future is as difficult as it is necessary. Branding your business, just like building your personal brand, means you have to think about the long term. What works in establishing your brand today. It’s impossible to know what the coming year might hold for your company — or others — but that doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing.

Future-prepping means trying to assess what your company is going to need, both in the short and long term.

Immediate planning means balancing budgets, identifying target markets, and anticipating industry changes. For longer-term planning, however, you have to think bigger.

Document Your Processes

With all the positive changes you’ll be making in 2020, it’s important to document your processes, especially if you haven’t done so in the past. Documenting your day-to-day operations, onboarding, business plan, company goals, etc will make things easier on yourself and your employees throughout the year.

Work Hard

This one is the key to achieving anything in life and it should be practiced with more focus this new year 2020 if you are planning to restructure, modify or boost up your business plans.

Follow Your Goals Diligently

Many times people make up big plans for every new year and don’t follow up on these goals with passion and focus, resulting in underachievement. This should be completely avoided this 2020 and followup on your plans with complete dedication and focus.

Set Realistic Goals

Goal setting is a valuable habit—if the goals lead to success rather than distress.

The next step in creating a strategic business plan is to identify and clarify your goals. Where are you, and where do you want to be by the end of 2020 (and beyond)?

Set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals based on your analysis of current business trends and market opportunities.
Resolve that the goals you set will be achievable. If you have trouble setting realistic goals, there are ways to map out a formula that makes sense for you.

Put Your Strategy Into Action

Building a good, strategic plan for the next few years takes a lot of work upfront. Split the team up into groups of 3-5 and give them each a goal for the year. Have them brainstorm 3-5 strategic initiatives that would help bring you closer to achieving that goal.

A strategic initiative is a focused project for that year that will add up to realizing that annual goal. If you successfully execute your strategic initiatives, you should be fairly certain you’ll achieve your annual goals this 2020.

Learn from the Past Mistakes

Begin by asking everyone on your team for the top 2 or 3 things that went well in their department this year and what 2 to 3 aspects they would do differently. Trap their ideas on flipcharts and then transfer them over into a shared document to have them in one central place. Take a moment to review the successes of your team across the whole year. This gives you the momentum to take into your discussion for next year.

It’s essential to set your planning for next year in the context of your overall vision. Any goals or strategies you set for 2020 should actively contribute to you achieving your vision in the long run.

Give back to the community

Whether you are serving somewhere or you own a business, it is of prime importance to give back to the society we are living in and contribute to the upliftment of the underprivileged community. Many people place a high value on social responsibility. If you are not focusing on this area up till now, start this 2020 and contribute and feel the joy of sharing!!

People and other businesses in your community support your business. What do you do in return? You might contribute to charities, but do your clients and the general public know that? Start finding answers to these burning questions this 2020.