Every business wants more customers. The big challenge is to find them economically. With the big changes that have been happening in the ad industry, it can be difficult for a small business to keep on top of how to harness their marketing dollars most effectively. This series of blog posts takes a look at some of these topics.
The Evolution and Future of Search Advertising
Take a look through advertising past and future in this interactive, clickable post.
Read the post at Bing Ads Blog
Pay-per-click (PPC) At-a-Glance: How a Bing Search Can Drive Potential Customers to Your Site
New to search advertising? This infographic gives you a simple view of how a search engine search can turn into a sale.
Read the post at Bing Ads Blog
Bing Ads ExpressBeta is now available to businesses in select US cities and towns. See if it’s available in your area.
It only takes a few minutes to connect with customers searching for your business
Promote your business across Bing, Yahoo!, and partner sites, where millions of people are searching for businesses like yours.
And then spend a few minutes telling us about your business, then Bing Ads Express will help you get your first ad up and running on the Bing Yahoo! Network.
You write your ad, set your budget, and define the customers you want to target. Bing Ads Express takes care of the details, but you are always the boss.
Cloud computing allows your business to stay flexible in today’s ever changing business market, it reduces IT management and lowers costs. In this article we’ll tell you about 5 benefits to consider as you review cloud computing for your business.
In many respects, small businesses stand to benefit the most from cloud-based technologies. Facing tough budget constraints, it has not always been easy for start-ups and even established small firms to take advantage of information technology. But all this has changed with the advent of the cloud. Working in conjunction with a third-party specialist, small businesses now have every opportunity to add value with IT.
Utilizing cloud based business solutions is a great way to help reduce the technology costs for a small businesses. With cloud services, you have low up-front costs, with reduced hardware, software, maintenance, and management costs.
Another advantage for small businesses using the cloud is the abundance of third party services hosted in the cloud. Small businesses are able to use the latest solutions available for their industry. Cloud vendors are naturally inclined to offer market-leading technologies to customers - if they don't, then end-users will simply move to a rival provider who does. This means that, despite being a subscriber rather than an 'IT owner', small businesses can use advanced solutions which would previously have been out of their price range. This is further helping to level the playing field with larger businesses, giving small firms the chance to be more competitive.
Cloud providers, such as Microsoft, take every precaution where security is concerned. These companies invest heavily guarding their IT infrastructure, ensuring every effort is made to fend off online attacks. Each small business that runs its own IT infrastructure in-house is responsible for IT security, and as a standalone firm, they do not benefit from economies of scale. Can a small company, operating in isolation, afford to spend as much on security solutions as a cloud provider with thousands of customers? In almost every instance, the answer to this question is a resounding no.
Cloud services can help small businesses become more agile, with employees freed up to work from various locations, not merely in the office. Small businesses can have access to a full range of integrated software, services and devices that deliver seamless collaboration and flexible productivity when your people are working away from the office. For example with Microsoft Windows Phone 8, and Office 365, they can access documents and edit them using the very same productivity tools that they would use in the office. As well as email, they can also access instant messaging, and video conferencing for scheduled meetings or just to get quick answers that support the customer or an important business decision.
In the cloud age, it is easy to back up important files, documents and data online, which can be a life-saver for small businesses in the event of some form of disaster. In the event of fire, flood, and technology breakdown or hardware theft - indeed any event which prevents the company from accessing its premises or IT - key information is still available online. It can be accessed from any location with an internet connection, providing the person accessing it has the necessary administration rights and password.
Microsoft has cloud services designed with small businesses in mind. Available on a subscription basis, Office 365 enables any company to scale its resources and manage expenses, with a set of pay-as-you-go, easy-to-use Web-enabled tools.
Another cloud based tool from Microsoft is Microsoft Dynamic’s CRM. Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and long-lasting customer relationships are vital to sustained success. Redefine and increase sales performance. Resolve customer issues and create customer loyalty.
This content was adapted from Talking Business
Join us in the community forum to discuss: What are your experiences with cloud services?
There are many ways to market your business to your customers. Some require spending quite a lot of money. In this article, we present several ways that you can market your business without breaking the bank.
Online advertising is one item in the small businesses marketing toolkit that can outperform traditional media hands down. Here’s why:
Check out Bing Ads Community for more details.
Whether you offer a product or service, you should consider creating three different versions to meet the needs of the different types of customer that you will encounter. Whatever you offer as a ‘standard’ offering, think about how you can meet the need of these other types of customers:
Even if you just make simple changes to your ordinary offering to look after these audiences, you will successfully sell more units to more clients.
We all know that when the phone rings it is an opportunity to sell to a customer; however, we often answer the phone as though we are terribly busy and the call is a nuisance rather than an opportunity. Sadly, we end the call with never having tried to upsell further products or services. If you want to drive sales, you don’t have to be pushy; taking a little time to better understand the customer’s needs can provide the opportunity to sell more. Give your phone customers star treatment, listen and suggest additional products or services that could help. You won’t win them all, but you will be pleasantly rewarded with a larger bottom line at the end of the year.
Selling is hard work, but there are people who are prepared to do it for you, free of charge – and they’re true evangelists. They are your existing happy customers. Depending on the nature of your business, try these ideas:
Whether you print for yourself (color laser printers are highly economical these days) or take advantage of professional printing, which has become so commoditized that it often costs half as much in real terms as it did twenty years ago, your marketing materials can look exceptional and go a long way. Design brochures, flyers, cards and letterhead easily with the templates with the free trial and templates for Microsoft Publisher.
You may have heard that you can use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to treat existing customers like they are your best customers by offering them the perfect next steps in your relationship. CRM is also a marketing and pre-sales tool. Very likely, you have had contact with ten to one hundred times as many potential buyers as actual buyers, and it can be worthwhile finding out what happened to them.
Think of the people who signed up online for updates or newsletters; the potential customers who gave you their phone numbers, but never got a call back. It’s time to get in touch with all of them – and thanks to CRM software you can give them just the offer or type of contact they want; even if it’s something as simple as “Sorry we didn’t take care of you first time around… give us another try.”
You can test drive Microsoft Dynamics CRM to see what is possible.
You may not consider yourself a salesperson. In fact, you may be so busy doing things in your business that you often don’t have time to focus on sales and marketing at all. This is a typical small business challenge. You are too busy working to find new customers. It is a challenge, but setting priorities and laying out a plan to do some marketing early in the day, every day will provide a payoff 100% of the time. Here is a simple set of priorities:
Spend an hour on the first two, an hour a day on sales and marketing, and you’ll still have time to do the work itself.
You don’t need an - expensive PR agency to get some press. A couple of calls or emails to the local press or your trade press can do the trick. But you do need a good story in the first place. The funny thing is, most people do have a story or two – they just don’t realize it. Every time something makes you think (the economy, your professional opinion, challenges or opportunities in your industry), it probably gets someone else thinking, too. And that’s enough to count as “interesting”. Take ten minutes to pop out a quick press release every now and then – you’ll soon get a reputation as a worthwhile commentator, and eventually the press, and customers, will come to you.
This content was adapted from Talking Business
For small business owners, blogs are frequently at the heart of your content or web strategy. The first step is to select a blogging platform such as Blogger, SharePoint blog, TypePad or WordPress. Maybe you have already installed a blog program and written a few posts (articles). Now you want to make it easier to write and keep track of your posts. If you are using Microsoft Office, you can publish blog posts directly from Microsoft Word.
In this video we will show how to use Word to craft your blog posts:
In your busy on the go world OneNote is a great tool to use together with Word. If you use Windows, Android, iOS, or Windows Phone you can download and use OneNote to update your notes from anywhere on all your devices. You can use OneNote to keep your thoughts organized, and collect the links, ideas and images that you want to include in future blog posts. What makes this so perfect is that you can organize all your information and then use the built in functionality to send the information to Word.
Note: you can also select your content in OneNote and drag the content in to Word. This is good if you have saved your content in different OneNote pages and want to assemble the various post components.
If you have not been living on Mars for the last few years, chances are you will have heard of the term 'Cloud Computing'. Indeed many Small Businesses (SMBs) are being told that the only way to 'stay relevant' in their market place is to embrace the future, and move their IT systems to the cloud. For those who have not heard about the cloud, it provides an externally hosted platform for your applications or services to run on.
Office 365 is Microsoft's flagship cloud offering, it is the familiar Microsoft Office experience, running externally to your premises. It is accessible anywhere there is an Internet connection - reducing the requirements for telecommuting and providing anywhere access that is so important today. For most cloud services, they will be in a geo redundant hosting environment, avoiding outages in any one location. The cloud certainly does offer many benefits to small businesses, but it does not solve all of the problems they may face. Windows Server 2012 Essentials attempts to fill the gaps by enabling integration with cloud services, whilst offering the traditional on premises experience which most computer users will be familiar with.
Small Businesses today face a difficult economic environment, budgets are squeezed and more than ever decision makers need to get the very best value for their money. A cloud service may have minimal initial investment cost, something as small as a few $ per month per user for a full suite of applications, however that cost is ongoing, forever. You do not own a cloud service, and you never stop paying for its use.
An on premises server can improve the performance of your computer network by providing a single repository for your files and data, centralized network authentication and control access to sensitive information. A central location also means that backups of your data are easier to manage. If you ever need to restore data, having it backed up reliably in one place can save days of time to find data that was spread across several different computers.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials is designed for these types of computing environments. The hardware requirements are less than what you would expect from a 'standard' pc. The HP Microserver is an ideal piece of hardware to run Windows Server 2012 Essentials as your first server. It includes hardware features that a server needs, such as redundant hard drives, but at a very competitive price. In more complex or larger environments, you may wish to look at more powerful or more redundant hardware configurations – but the small office looking for their first server - I believe it is one of the best servers on the market.
At its core Windows Server Essentials 2012 is a Windows Server - it can offer your computers and users traditional file storage, mapped drives and support for your line of business (LOB) applications. It is fully licensed for 25 users and unlike its predecessor it is extendable beyond that 25 user limit, which allows for a lot of growth for most SMBs. It also features a number of unique features that are not available to any other Windows Server version.
A central dashboard provides an administrative overview of the network status, simplifies user account creation, and allows for shared folder management and management of your devices.
This server also includes a very useful Client PC Backup feature. Client pc backup may seem trivial, almost something that can be ignored. However, if you have ever had a virus infection or suffered from a hardware failure you may have experienced the pain of having your PC reset to its factory settings. This forces customisation of your desktop again, maybe not getting it quite the way it was before, as well as reinstall of LOB applications which may include a fee from the vendor to reinstall. Client PC backup removes these headaches by taking a backup of your computer every day and storing it on the server. Using special technology called 'Single Instance Storage' the server backs up an entire network of computers using a fraction of the disk space otherwise required by normal backup programs. In one example, we were able to backup 18 network computers in little more than the space required for just 1.
Working from home is also simplified with several different options available. If you have ever used Windows Small Business Server you may be familiar with the Remote Web Workplace, this is a website that runs on your Server that provides access to the internal computers and folders without the need for an understanding of binary code to configure! Simply login to the website, click on the pc you want to connect to and you are connected. This allows you to work on your PC in the office from the comfort of your armchair, garden or wherever else the mood takes you, and for those with laptops a technology called DirectAccess is available.
DirectAccess is a technology that was available only to large enterprises until the release of Windows Server 2012. It allows your computer to have complete access to the internal network, from wherever you you have Internet access without cumbersome VPN connection problems, it is an always on connection back to the office.
The centre piece of Windows Server Essentials 2012 is the Integration with cloud services. This feature is unique among other Windows servers, providing the opportunity to manage your cloud services directly from the Essentials Dashboard. The Dashboard can be integrated with your Office 365 account, provides a central platform to manage your Office 365 accounts and even have your computer password synchronise with your Office 365 account. If you use an alternate cloud service, that provider is able to write their own customisations for Windows Server 2012 Essentials, and integrate with the dashboard as well.
Microsoft also now offers an externally hosted backup service, Windows Azure Backup which can integrate with the Dashboard, providing automated offsite backups of your server. You can back up your entire server or your most critical data, allowing you to fit even the smallest budget with backups being the most critical part of any network this is an area that should not be overlooked.
With this type of hybrid approach to cloud computing, a small business today can leverage the benefits of cloud computing with the same traditional computer network services they are used to using.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a convenient way to follow websites of importance to you from one convenient place. Like the front page of a newspaper, you see the headlines for all of the new content that's available. An example of content that you can access by using an RSS feed is the Focus on Small Business column that is part of the Support for Small Business website.
The benefit of RSS is that you no longer have to go to different websites to obtain the latest information on your topics of interest. An RSS feed updates your reader with summaries of the content, and then you decide which articles you want to read by clicking a link. How many websites have you intended to go back to and then forgotten about them?
Reading an RSS feed is simple. You can use a program, such as Outlook or Bing News to read your RSS feeds. Many web browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, also can display RSS feeds.
Usually you will find the Feeds button somewhere near the other social media buttons for programs such as Facebook and Twitter. To retrieve content automatically, you should subscribe to a feed. To subscribe to a feed, click the Feeds button and then click Subscribe to feeds.
There are many RSS readers and they offer a variety of special features, including combining several related feeds into a topic view, and hiding items that you have already seen. Here are links to help you find a tool to manage RSS feeds on your operating system:
You can add custom RSS Feeds to your Bing News App in Windows 8, enabling the content to be automatically downloaded for offline reading when new content that's interesting to you is posted on your favorite sites.
It is easy to add your favorite RSS feeds to the News app. First, if you have not already done it, update to the latest version of the News app in Windows 8. When you open the News app for the first time, you will see the Get Started panel. Click Add a source and then add the URL for your RSS feed. Another way to access the Add a Source Tile screen is to scroll to the Sources section and then Tap/click the Add button. From here you can paste the text in the URL for any RSS feed.
Tap or click the Add button to add the feed to your sources. Continue to add more RSS feeds as desired. You can view the subscribed RSS feeds you added in the Sources group. If you have multiple Windows 8 PCs and devices, you'll will find that News syncs these RSS feeds between each device as well.
Note: make you are in Add a Source Tile when you are trying to add RSS feeds, because there is also Browse our Sources option which does not have the option to add the feed.
Mike Halsey is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) who frequently produces videos to help users get the most from their Microsoft Products. Here are some of his top videos for small businesses starting with Windows 8:
Watch how to maximize your battery life on your Windows 8, Windows RT or Windows 7 laptop, ultrabook or tablet. Watch video.
Learn how to get around the new Windows 8 Start screen, and how to get the best out of it. Watch video.
See how to use search and get the best results in Windows. Watch video.
It can be difficult explaining what you were doing when a problem or issue arises in Windows 7 or Windows 8. Learn how to use a hidden Windows tool to show people exactly what was
happening when your problem occurred. Watch video.
Each day, more and more people search online for information to make their next local purchase. Will your business show up in their search?
With the introduction of the Bing Places for Business site, Bing has created a service to help businesses grow. You can claim your business listing and promote your business on both the Bing desktop and mobile experience – for free.
Once you have created or claimed your business listing on the Bing Places for Business site, you can personalize it by adding photos, a logo, hours of operation, parking availability, website information, and your Twitter and Facebook listings. Restaurants and bars can add menus and all businesses can edit or add up to six additional categories, keywords, and other details to give a more accurate view of what your business offers to customers when they find you in search.
Bing will help you reach the people near your business. You can engage local customers, increase customer loyalty and drive repeat business by targeting your ads to your customers. Location extensions are a must-have if you have a physical store because it lets you show both your address and phone number in your ad. If you have multiple business locations, Bing Ads will display the address and phone number for the location closest to the searcher.
Today the Web is accessible from almost everywhere, and your customers will be looking for you from their smart phones, tablets and laptops while on the road. Bing Webmaster tools offer insight on how to optimize your website. Reach your mobile customers when they are on the go.
Ever wonder what the difference is between search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing? Many small business owners often think the strategy for each is virtually the same thing and frequently select one over the other to promote their website. SEO and social media marketing, however, are actually different strategies that can complement one another and are most effective when you use them together. In this article, we define search engine optimization and explain how social media plays a role in its success.
SEO is the art of moving the rank of your site and content to the top of the page when someone uses a search engine like Bing or Google. Link and keyword tactics, together with a steady stream of fresh relevant content combine to help ensure optimization of your site. Search engines measure for authority and relevancy. Relevance is measured by analyzing page content, which is the words that you and I read on the page, and authority is measured, based mainly on the number and quality of other pages that link to the site. Links are like votes, and the more votes a site has the more authority the search engines give your site.
Social media marketing or social networking, on the other hand is the art of developing new connections to customers and their online communities from sources other than search engines. Social network sites including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube give voice to the customer, they are the word of mouth marketing resource for groups of people who follow one another and share items of interest. These sites provide a large opportunity to help define, personalize and socialize your brand by listening to and interacting with your potential customers.
There is overlap between creating posts for SEO purposes where you are posting to achieve more links back to your site and the social media-marketing message that you are posting to grab potential customer's attention. This marketing is an opportunity for your customers to talk about you, to like your post, to share and promote your information and for you to listen to them. Whether or not they click your link and go to your website, will be a spur of the moment decision. The search engines, however will record the url, and bring you one step closer to the rank you are trying to establish for your website. Both Google and Bing use; "shares," "+1's," and retweets, in addition to links and link-backs to your site to calculate site rank placement. Your "popularity" within the social media world can help with your search engine rankings, but it should not replace your SEO efforts because its purpose is completely different.
SEO and social media marketing have different purposes and should never be viewed as it "either or" in your online marketing plan. Working together your optimization tactics and your online social marketing plans can generate many new eyes on your site, and create a powerful presence that will help turn your online visitors in to loyal repeat customers.
Here are 3 simple tips to help you improve the search engine ranking of your website.
The text in the HTML title tag that defines the name of a web page should describe the content of that page in a concise way. This title becomes the clickable link that the search engines display.
In the first 150 words, give enough information to help the user decide which of the search results they should use. Begin the page with your conclusion because you want your keywords to be denser at the top of your article.
Lists make it easy for you to use your SEO keywords in your document without making your document look disorganized, use a list to make a "references" or "related links" section. Encourage those sites whose link you include to link back to your site.
Other considerations for SEO friendly content
For information on using social media to enhance your search engine optimization see the entry How Social Media for SEO and Social Media Marketing Work Together
Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet software, mainly for number crunching and presenting data in various ways like charts and tables.
But Excel is more than that. It's an excellent tool to create templates with. Generally I say that it's not Excel's limitations that stops us from creating it is only our imagination.
In this article I will show you how easy it is to create an Excel template. It will not cover how we design the template. Why should we learn about that?
The most common way is to build a file and then save it with the file name extensions "*.xlsx" or "*.xlsxm". Next time that the user has to use it, the user opens the file and saves it under a new name with a common file name extension.
As such, this is not a true template file in the world of Excel. That's why this article is written, to show how we actually create and use a true template.
The following screen shot shows the designed workbook I will be using. During the development I save it with the file name extension "*.xlsx":
As you can see, it's a simple order delivery template.
When we have finished the design of the template it's time to create the true template file.
Click the Save Button and we are finished. Congratulations, now we have created a true Excel 2013 template!
Every time that we open the template a copy is created that has a running number Excel adds to the file name. The original file is intact and safe.
For a new copy we start Excel, select File > New. In the New dialog we select PERSONAL where the template is located when we save a template file into the default location.
If we have to change the template how do we do to access the original file? We open it exactly as we do with the regular workbooks, change it, save it, and then restart Excel.
To be an entrepreneur...challenging, exciting, life-affirming, adventurous. It's all of these experiences and more. You learn so much about yourself, and gain a clearer understanding of what you're made of. If the old saying is true, that we birth our future with every act of kindness, then the same can be said for acts of economically constructive business. Entrepreneurs step up to this plate everyday: inspiring, conceptualizing and educating the next generation.
Though the role of small businesses remains strong, it is natural to have concerns about the evolution of twenty-first century commerce. What will it look like 10 years, 20, 50 years from now, and how can you prepare for those changes? A valid concern, to be sure. With so much happening on the world stage, I decided to talk with some entrepreneurs about what they felt everyone in their profession should know. They gave me great tips - accented with historical wisdom, but configured and updated for the beginning of what will surely be a dynamic millennium.
Network without borders - Never let artificial barriers prevent you from connecting with people from different backgrounds and regions. As marketer Porter Gale points out, you never know if the person next to you on a plane or in a grocery store or at function can be the one to connect you to your next big project. Wherever you are, always have your "network" cap on. Organize events, and attend functions related to what you're passionate about.
Be patient - The statement "slow and steady wins the race" is always applicable. We live in a culture that wants it now, right now! An immediate return on investment. But business requires you to be measured and thoughtful about where you are going and what it will take to get there. To the serious, action-oriented small business owner - interested in longevity, success and relevance – a healthy degree of patience is a necessity.
Listen, more than talking - We learn so much more about customers and their preferences if we listen. There is no glory is creating a business with great intentions and making assumptions about what customers want. That's a recipe for disaster. Listening more means your business gains insight, eventual respect, and something every successful business is built on: loyal customers.
Collaboration is good - There is nothing wrong with looking good individually. Look good, and do good! But whenever possible, partner with another business on an online campaign, a community event, or perhaps on a cooperative advertising venture. Partnering with other businesses has been one of the biggest trends over the last decade, and I expect that to continue well into the future. It gets people talking.
Pay Close Attention to Disruption – Industry watchers and small business supporters will tell you: be on the constant lookout for "disruption". What is disruption? It creates a new market, and often goes on to absorb and replace an existing market. This takes place a great deal in the tech industry. And because technology is an integral part of small business, disruption can tremendously impact your business. Follow the trends as closely as you can (through publications like GigaOm and Mashable) because you never know, there could be a great opportunity with your name on it.
Entrepreneurs shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. Fail your way to success! Learn more, elevate your brand, make a difference, connect with the right people, and invest in your dreams. To be dynamic is to be an entrepreneur. Let's go!