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The Rise of the Progressive SMB [Infographic]

November 7, 2012 at 9:45 am PST

Throughout the recent years we have seen an uptake in a new group of SMB’s – the “Progressive SMB,” organizations that are increasingly encroaching on the territory of their larger competitors. But what makes a SMB progressive?

Check out the infographic below to see what you can learn from progressive SMBs, including how they are going against the grain and investing heavily in technology to improve collaboration, productivity and long-term business bottom line results.

Do you consider yourself a progressive SMB? If so, we would love to hear how you are investing in IT to gain a competitive edge.

 

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With Cloud, SMBs Will Lead Emerging Economies Across the Digital Divide

By Peter Ford, Director, IBSG Service Provider

Service providers in developing countries have the potential to kick-start economic growth by helping small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) take advantage of information and communications technology (ICT), especially cloud services. The “greenfield” nature of ICT in many emerging economies creates the opportunity to “leapfrog” to cloud computing.

For some time, governments have recognized the role of broadband in supporting economic development. The World Bank states that for every 10 percent of broadband penetration in a developing economy, there is typically a 1.38 percent increase in GDP.

Each year, there have been tangible improvements in broadband networks across emerging markets. However, in Read More »

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Social Media: A Swiss Army Knife for SMBs

Social media has become so ingrained in our culture these days that much of the time, we’re not even aware of it as anything “other.” But for some, it’s way more than just a recreational outlet. It turns out that small businesses that are using social media are seeing the biggest gains, according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report: from new partnerships to qualified leads to improved sales to reduced marketing costs.

Gartner’s Anthony Bradley defines social media this way: “At its foundation, social media is a set of technologies and channels targeted at forming and enabling a potentially massive community of participants to productively collaborate. IT tools to support collaboration have existed for decades. But social-media technologies, such as social networking, wikis and blogs, enable collaboration on a much grander scale and support tapping the power of the collective in ways previously unachievable.”

One company that’s doing exactly that is FanAxcess.com, an Oakland, California-based start up that aims to match up-and-coming musicians with potential brand sponsors, while also creating a simpler and more cost-effective pathway for advertisers to reach target markets.

Brands are always seeking fresh ways to differentiate—and personify—themselves with standout spokespersons. But, that can be tough when there’s always the same pool of big fish to choose from. “We provide a forum for artists to create very specific profiles that give insight into who they—and their fan bases—are. So, if you’re an advertiser, you can search artists by audience (based on their social media fans across sites or, their average number of live fans), by genre, by eco-friendliness (or other indicators), and by upcoming tours and promotions,” explains Suzanne Mino Koga, co-founder, artist manager and music marketing consultant. This creates a dynamic library for advertisers to source from, to find just the right match in terms of brand feel/aspirations and audience it wishes to target. “And along the way, musical artists can tap into new potential revenue streams and raise their visibility,” adds Koga.

For other businesses that use social media such as Yelp, Facebook or Twitter as a way to market and build community with their customers, there’s something else to think about: the caliber of the type of customers you attract when you engage in social media. These folks are more digitally connected. And that means they can be a powerful form of advertising on your behalf. So when your customers come to your place of business, you need to provide guest wireless access to let them be your spokespersons and to keep them coming back.

Consistently monitoring social media activity is also critical. In fact, according to Indaba, 66% of businesses were using or were planning  to use Social media monitoring for their business. Remember to watch out for potential security issues, as pointed out in a recent Cisco Small Business blog: As the line between personal and professional blurs, employees who might monitor or update your accounts could unknowingly introduce malware picked up from their own personal accounts.

Just as a Swiss Army knife can be a great productivity tool, so can social media—with care and clarity around how you want to use it, you can expand your community of customers and partners. Not only that, you can sharpen your results: If customers can be more productive interacting with your brand—and amplifying their experiences—you’ve carved out a really great success story.

If you’re going to be in Houston next week, be sure to register for The Small Business Tour: Time to Thrive, on June 7. Cisco executive Lief Koepsel will talk about how small businesses can use social media—as well as cloud and mobility—to reach new levels of productivity and success.

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How Broadband Reduces Small Business Expenses

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

When it comes to proving the benefits of broadband deployment, we frequently focus on the macroeconomic issues – the big-picture impact of infrastructure and access to high-speed networking. But the Internet Innovation Alliance and the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council (SBEC) recently looked at broadband from a microeconomic standpoint.

In their report, Start-Up Savings: Boosting Entrepreneurship through Broadband Internet, jointly issued last month, they calculated how much small businesses can save by conducting their administrative activities online. The answer: a  substantial $16,550.52.

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BYOD, Social Media and New Cloud Consumption Models

Bringing You the Workplace Revolution

Kids get sick, cars malfunction, pipes break, bad-hair days occur, and the list goes on. Life simply happens.  But thanks to technology, it no longer means the end of the world for that work day. With a rapidly growing change in workplace ideologies like BYOD (Bring your own device), and technologies like TelePresence, Jabber and WebEx, I have the ability to work almost anywhere at any time, even if things prevent me from getting to the office that day.

Given the explosion of social media technologies in the past few years, it only makes sense that BYOD is taking off like a firestorm—even among small businesses—as covered in two recent blogs,  ‘Business Ready: On the Go and in the Clouds’ and ‘Supersizing Your Small Business.’  In fact, the Cisco Connected World Technology Report found that two of five college students and young employees would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with BYOD, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility. So what about those at companies with very little flexibility when it comes to devices? Seven out of ten employees knowingly break IT policies on a regular basis, and three out of five believe that it is not their responsibility to keep the company secure. The bottom line: the workplace revolution is happening (and it’s being video streamed on your mobile device).

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