A key trait of innovative small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) is agility– making decisions quickly, shifting direction with a customer, and swiftly working out the details with colleagues. But at the end of the day, what it all comes down to is having the right technology—to enable responsiveness, increase overall productivity, and keep SMBs competitive.
And that becomes especially important when you look at statistics around mobility. The mobile worker population is expected to reach 1.3 billion by 2015, and 71 percent of SMBs now functioning as work-from-anywhere businesses (according to IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2011–2015 Forecast. At the same time, this move to mobile has refocused SMBs’ attention on security.
On-the-go SMB workforces need to be able to work and collaborate securely, whether onsite or mobile. And, since SMBs generally don’t have dedicated IT departments, they need technologies that are easy to use and manage, all while fitting within a tight budget. This kind of enablement is what allows small businesses to be agile.
In response to these challenges, Cisco has introduced a host of new small business technologies designed to support the requirements of nimble SMBs that are looking to get an edge. These offerings deliver new capabilities around security, collaboration, and mobility.
Cisco SPA500DS Expansion Module: A digital attendant console that attaches to the SPA500 Series IP Phones, further enhancing Cisco’s collaboration products.
Cisco RV215W Wireless-N VPN Router with 3G/4G: Easy-to-use wireless router packs in security features and enables seamless mobile connectivity with a wide variety of options including 3G and 4G via a USB data card. This allows connectivity when wired access isn’t available.
To learn more about our latest small business products, visit our website. And, watch for additional blogs in the coming days that will zero in on related topics to provide more context around how you can help maximize productivity in a secure environment, however you define your workspace.
We’d also love to hear from you about your SMB challenges. What are you hoping to tackle this year from an IT perspective?
No, the email newsletter is not dead. It’s very much alive and still one of the best ways to build trust, generate demand, and regularly stay relevant with your customers and prospects.
In other words, unless you’re blatantly violating anti-spam legislation, your email subscribers have elected—or raised their hand—to receive information from your company. This is not something to take lightly. This is something to take advantage of on a very regular basis.
However, there are things you might be doing to kill your results. So, consult this list of 5 newsletter “don’ts.” In fact, ignore them at your peril.
1. Don’t start a newsletter unless you can commit.
Your customers and prospects need to know that you’re reliable. If your home page promotes a monthly newsletter, commit to sending it every month like clockwork—on the same day, at the same time—if possible. Oftentimes this is your subscriber’s first indication that your company delivers on its promises, and goes a long way to develop trust.
2. Don’t ignore the mobility factor.
According to Forrester, more than a billion people will have smartphones by 2016. And, Worldata Research claims that 87% of C-Level executives check the majority of their email via mobile device. Clearly, if you haven’t designed your newsletter for easy readability on an iPhone, Android, etc., your regular monthly cadence won’t matter. Ensure that your design renders properly in major email clients.
3. Don’t assume that blogs take the place of newsletters.
Blogs are not permission-based. Email newsletters are. It’s far more impactful to send content to contacts who have asked for it vs. hoping the same people find your blog on your website. However, the best scenario is to cross-pollinate, or to use both vehicles to convey your message. Point to specific blogs in your newsletter, and refer to a story in your newsletter in your latest blog. These two tactics can work together for optimal results.
4. Don’t bore your readers.
Your e-mail newsletter is not the place for a stiff, long-winded introduction accompanied by a “glamour shot.” Avoid the “scroll-fest” (causing your readers to page-down unnecessarily through a manifesto in search of valuable content). Today’s newsletter copy should consist of 2-3 teaser sentences, accompanied by a link to a very scannable article or blog, a video, your social media properties, or to a subtle promotional offer. Include a “colorful” mix of content, drawing from a variety of sources, taking multiple forms. Above all, ensure that your content is relatable, concise, and compelling. Avoid fluff at all costs.
5. Don’t treat your newsletter like a sales tool.
As tempting as it is for Sales to hijack your newsletter at the end of the quarter in a mad dash to make their numbers, this is not the tool for that. Newsletters are best suited for relationship marketing and nurturing contacts (customers and prospects alike) as they travel along the sales cycle. Consider their journey. Put yourself in their shoes. This is the vehicle for reminding them that you exist, for providing value in terms of content that will make their job/lives easier, and for steadily building demand. This is hardly the forum for “the close.”
Maybe you’re completely new to email newsletters? Don’t be afraid to get started. A little bit of discipline goes a long way to establish and sustain customer intimacy. And, aside from the “don’ts” above, you should also consult the mConcierge Newsletter Tactical Marketing Guide. This 2-page “cheat sheet” gives you a basic overview, best practices, tips on measuring your newsletter’s success, as well as a sample timeline.
Again, the email newsletter is not dead. It’s just evolving like every other tactic in your marketing toolbox. In a world seemingly dominated by social media, there’s still nothing more powerful than a database of customers/prospects who have actively opted in to interact with you on a regular basis. Don’t disappoint them.
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Proserv Property Services, a customer of Clark Integrated Technologies based in Aberdeen, Scotland, who recently implemented a Cisco Unified Communications solution designed for small business. From the moment that I arrived in town, I had a feeling that the trip was going to be an eye-opening experience. First of all, the weather condition was just a drastic change especially coming from California. Quickly, I had to adjust to the freezing temperature in Aberdeen and some light rain during the entire trip.
I pre-arranged a meeting to visit ProServ early the next morning so I could learn more about their business and the reasons why they’ve become so successful. I also wanted to know more about their day-to-day operations, their challenges and how they are using technology to serve their customer better. Walking into ProServ was like a breath of fresh air. I quickly understood where their true success lies… which I’ll come back to it as I wrap up this blog.
As planned, I was greeted by Morgan Cooper of Proserv and members of her team who were all eager to discuss their experience using Cisco technology. They shared how it helps them to be more productive such as- rerouting their calls directly to the technicians on the road– a process that used to take multiple steps to complete. Now, the calls are automatically sent to the technicians on the road informing them of their next customer visit. All of this was great for me to observe because being at the customer site offered me some perspective that is usually hard to grasp otherwise.
Next, I met with Austen Clark, Sales Director at Clark Integrated Technologies – a very successful IT solution provider who is a Cisco Select Partner. Austen and I started working together earlier in the year so it was nice to finally meet him in person. He quickly reinforced the benefits Proserv is gaining as a result of the new IT network. Additionally he explained how Cisco OnPlus allows him to monitor the devices on the network proactively and alerts the client of any issues before they affect the business. Again, a plus for me to aborb this in the real customer environment! Obviously, Austen is a great business partner of Cisco.
As if this wasn’t enough, Morgan arranged for me to visit one of their clients, David Lloyd Gym & Tennis Club. What an amazing club! Top notch facilities, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, studio, gym, state of the art cafeteria and best of all, Ross, the Managing Director, extended us such a warm welcome. He shared that when businesses like ProServ and Lloyd, that are focused on serving their customers, implement IT solutions that helps them provide an efficient and reliable service, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone.
Now, I’ll come back with my conclusion on what I think makes Proserv stand out from their competition. Of course, choosing the right IT solution provider who can give them the best advice on the technology they need to meet the business challenges- is always a plus. But in my opinion, their true success lies in the quality of the service they provide, their management, having a proactive mindset and most importantly the people who work at Proserv–they truly are all super stars!
Check it out for yourself. Watch and enjoy the video! And don't forget to share it with others too!
Here are some helpful tips for choosing the right network technical support plan that can save you time, money and customers.
As a business owner, your top priorities are to grow your business, increase your employees’ efficiency, and serve your customers better. On top of that, small and medium-sized businesses like yours are looking to leverage a sophisticated IT network without dedicated or limited IT staff to support these goals. If this sounds like your business, you understand how increasingly reliant your company has become on your network.
As you realize the impact your network has on your success, you may also recognize the need to maintain the health of your network so that it’s always on and available for employees to connect, collaborate, and communicate with colleagues and customers alike. Network downtime can cost your business plenty in decreased productivity, tarnished reputation, and lost revenue. According to Infonetics Research, unplanned network downtime costs companies an average of 3.6% of their revenue every year. And this doesn’t even include potential damage to your reputation. In addition, dealing with unplanned IT network problems can also be very demanding on your IT staff, and time consuming.
There is a solution: If you want to reduce business-halting network downtime and stop reactively responding to IT network problems, consider purchasing a technical support plan or services from your solution provider, which can help you save time and money. A support plan gives you access to expert technical support engineers who can quickly resolve network issues, minimizing the time your network is down. Faster problem resolution and a more stable network also means your employees can stay productive. Finally, services offered by your solution provider may include additional services such as ongoing remote monitoring for proactive network management, helping to anticipate issues before they affect your business.
So before you make your decision regarding the plan that’s right for you, consider these factors when deciding which support plan best meets your needs.
Technical support. For companies looking to support new technologies while saving time and money on ongoing maintenance, a technical support plan may be the solution. These plans often provide such features as phone and online support, software updates, and hardware replacement if needed, like the Cisco Small Business Support Service. Some technical support plans like Cisco SMARTnet also offer more direct, anytime (24x7) access to support engineers to quickly resolve any network issues that may occur. Talk to your Cisco partner who can help to evaluate your current and near-future needs and determine which option is best for you.
Proactive IT service. Like large businesses, many smaller companies rely heavily on their network as a strategic advantage to serve customers, suppliers, and vendors around-the-clock—the network is their business. However, these companies often don’t have the in-house IT resources necessary to implement new technologies, let alone provide round-the-clock monitoring and rapid resolution should a problem arise. If this sounds familiar, your company would benefit from working with a managed service provider who offers more comprehensive services—one that provides real-time monitoring and alerting, troubleshooting, performance optimization, and routine maintenance.
Whether your company has 15 employees or 600, a support contract and your partner’s services can help ensure the reliability and security of your network so you can focus on your core business. To find a partner who can guide you, visit the Cisco partner locator
What features do you look for when evaluating support plans?
It’s official. The holiday season has begun. For many businesses—small and not so small, this is the season that counts. And that’s why we’re supporting Small Business Saturday. It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, launched by American Express, to remind holiday shoppers not to forget about small businesses in the midst of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
So what can small businesses do to help take advantage of the big day and the season at hand? Paul Jankowski offers some great tips in his Forbes blog, including taking advantage of social media. For those who get the value of technology, seizing opportunities comes easier.
Yet, according to Hiten Samtani’s recent piece on entrepreneur.com, many SMBs have little or no presence on social media, and 98 percent of business websites haven't been optimized for shoppers using mobile devices (check out the great infographic in his blog).
That’s unfortunate, given that technology is what helps small businesses compete on the same playing field as the big ones. The key is to have the right technology in place to connect people with information, securely. Not just to handle transactions, but to also help optimize productivity; so that employees and business partners can work together effectively from wherever, and customers can shop and buy from wherever.
As you head into Thanksgiving (and beyond), think about how technology could better connect your employees and your customers. Then think about what that would mean in terms of business performance.