Are you a small business owner who’s buried in your work and just doesn’t have time to research the latest and great apps and technology to use at your small business? No worries. Join hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks as they discuss the latest in small business tech and teach you how you can use each tool in your own business.
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Elizabeth: We are back with another episode of the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. This is Elizabeth Larkin and I’m here with Gene Marks.
Gene: Hello, hello, hello.
Elizabeth: Hello, hello. Today I just want to give a really quick shout out to my mom, because the day we’re recording this is her last day working at Charter Oak State College after 31 years.
Elizabeth: She’s finally retiring.
Gene: Wow. That is crazy.
Elizabeth: A little shout out to Linda Larkin. Mom, we’re very proud of you, and enjoy your retirement. We will be right back with our first question. This is all about Gene’s favorite tech for small business, after we hear from our sponsor.
My mom doesn’t listen to the podcast.
Elizabeth: And we’re back with our first question. As I was just telling Gene, my mom doesn’t even listen to the podcast. I just felt as a child, I had to do that for my parent.
Gene: We’re going to make her listen now. She’s got a little time on her hands now.
Elizabeth: She’s not doing anything.
Gene: Of course.
QUESTION 1: How to Keep Track of New Tech Products and Apps?
Elizabeth: Our first question is from Ted in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Very close to where we’re recording in Hartford right now. Hello, Ted. Ted writes:
I recently heard Gene speak at a small business consortium event. That’s one of those words I can never …He talked about tons of great sounding tech products and apps. What’s the best way for a small business owner to keep track of them?
Gene: It was a reSET event, yeah.
Elizabeth: … Hartford, last spring. Gene does all of these speaking events and he comes with a Power Point that’s just packed full of tech things. I watched all the small business owners, there were tons of them there, they were rapt with attention. They were taking notes. At the end of it, Gene’s like, “I’m going to give you that list.”
Gene: Hey, don’t worry about it. I learned to tell people in advance, okay, listen guys, you’re going to get a copy of this. Just relax. Just listen. You don’t have to sit there scribbling away. People taking photos of the screen and all of that.
Elizabeth: We get this question all the time. As a small business owner, it’s really hard to stay … you’re running your business. You’re not sitting there reading Wired.com every day. It’s really hard to stay on top of it. What I would actually like to do is start a series where maybe once a month we do an episode where Gene can go over, okay, I heard about this new way to do online ads or some type of app that’s really helping me out. Today I just want to talk about maybe three.
Gene: First of all, you’re hitting it right on the head. When the question is saying, where do I go to stay up to date on all of this stuff? I get that question a lot. There’s actually lots of places that you can go. You got to pick one. Honestly, Yahoo Tech has got a good channel, Forbes Tech has got a good channel.
Elizabeth: We’ll put these in the show notes.
Gene: PC Mag has got a great tech channel to it as well. Engadget, it’s E-N gadget, is also another great site. There’s a lot of them. What it comes down to when people ask about, where do I go to get tech, the best place to do is to pick one resource, and then use that resource. Some people get their tech information from shows and presentations. My job is to watch all that stuff that’s out there, because I write about it, and then compile it up. Then I go on this podcast or I go on to speak and I talk about what you need to know. You can go to PC Mag, you can go to PC Week, you can go to all those different sites, Engadget, Forbes. Or you can listen to this podcast once a month and we will do our best to keep you up to date on the most recent tech.
Elizabeth: Gene writes for Small Biz Ahead, the blog, and writes a ton about technology. If you just follow him on our blog-
Gene: You’ll be up to date.
Elizabeth: And I will link that in the show notes, where you can do that. You will be up to date on all of that.
Gene: I’m always looking for new stuff to write about. The only issue that I always have to be careful with is, there’s technology today that’s useful and technology today that’s not useful yet. I just wrote about in Forbes, it’ll be this week, it’s coming out. By the time this podcast comes out obviously it will be out there. It was about this startup that created an exoskeleton suit, which is this aluminum suit that you put on that supports your back, your shoulders, and your legs. It’s designed for workers in a factory so that they can lift stuff. It gives them all this extra support and all this extra ability to do their jobs. That they’re not pulling muscles or breaking their backs. For any business owner, who runs a factory or distribution place or field service place, we all know that safety is huge. The expense of, Workers Compensation Expense, is a big issue. That startup is developing this suit that looks like … that could be … solve that problem. It’s still a couple years away.
Gene: There’s technology that we can use today and then there’s technology that looks kind of cool, drones, but not going to help your business this year. So I’m hoping we’ll talk about both.
Adroll: Online Ads
Elizabeth: Yes, that’s a good idea. One of them that you were talking about that a lot of people at that event really perked up at is, you were saying you were planning a business trip to Chicago. You booked your flight, and then a couple days after that you started seeing ads everywhere you went about different steak restaurants in Chicago. The World Wide Web had figured out that you were going to be in Chicago and that you like steak restaurants.
Gene: How do they know that? That’s exactly right. The technology that we can talk about now is called remarketing or retargeting. There’s a lot of different services that provide this technology. One of the most well known is a company called, Adroll. A-D-R-O-L-L. If you Google retargeting or remarketing technology, you’ll find a bunch of others that are out there. What these services do is this. You sign up with the service. You connect it to your website. When people visit your website, the website automatically downloads because it’s using the service, a cookie, to their device. Whether it’s a phone, or it’s a iPad, or it’s a laptop, or whatever.
Elizabeth: That’s the users device.
Gene: That’s right. The users device gets a cookie downloaded. A lot of people are like, oh my God that’s an infringement on my privacy. Yes, it is, and you can turn it off, but none of us do. We do and we upgrade our browser and it turns it back on again. That’s the way the universe works. It downloads a cookie. That cookie is active for as long as the service is that you signed up for or whatever the thing is. What you do is you then, that service then allows you, like Adroll, will then allow you to go and purchase ads. You purchase ads on ESPN.com or TheHartford.com or CNN or any place where ads are shown. What happens is that, that poor person-
Gene: … unsuspecting, sweet soul who visited your site and was just trying to get some information or some pricing about your product. Now you’re stalking them all over the internet. Because whenever they wind up on one of the advertising sites that you purchased ads for, now they’re being fed, they’re being delivered your ads, right? Saying, oh, hey, you want to buy custom piping or whatever it was that you sell driving them back to your website. The whole concept is, when you talk about remarketing, if somebody visited your site they clearly had an interest in what you’re doing. By now they have moved on, that doesn’t mean that you can’t remind them to keep coming back.
Elizabeth: Yeah. You’d want to keep yourself top of mind.
Gene: That’s the reason why Expedia, you have a restaurant that they use Adroll, and if you go to Expedia and you’re like, oh I’m booking a trip to Chicago. Suddenly for the next three weeks I’m getting ads for restaurants and hotels in Chicago, and I’m not on Expedia. How do they … How can they know that? Well, they use that remarketing service to do that.
Elizabeth: What types of businesses could use this?
Gene: It’s in my opinion, it’s online companies. People that are selling anything online, because you want to drive traffic back to your website. People that want more traffic on their website because maybe they’re delivering content about it. It’s really people that are selling, like E-Commerce, people that are selling stuff online to do that. Having said that, I don’t sell my products online Elizabeth. We sell CRN products and other technologies.
Elizabeth: You generate leads online.
Gene: We do. People come and they see our websites and we get some traffic on our website. I have never used remarketing, but for 2017, this year that’s part of my plan. I’m going to dive into it, and I’m saying, “You know what? I don’t sell all this stuff online.” You can’t just click and download the software from me. But I’m like, “If they’re visiting my site and then they go away, why can’t I be sending out ads when they are elsewhere around the internet?” Reminding them to come back to my site to download a White Paper or attend an event or whatever. It’s part of my plans.
Elizabeth: You design the ad. You upload it to Adroll. They take care of the everything else.
Gene: Then you purchase where you want the ad to be shown.
Elizabeth: How much is that? What’s a range?
Gene: Everybody asks this question. Of course this being the internet and the world of Google, you get no exact answers. You set your budget.
Elizabeth: For impressions.
Gene: Yeah, for impressions for what you want it to be. You try things out. Most people I know, they budget at least a few hundred dollars to try and gain as many impressions as possible. Then they track it. Track it closely. Which gets back to, and I forget if we talked about this in a previous podcast, but for a lot of business owners this is a whole other thing.
Elizabeth: It’s another thing I have to learn how to do.
Gene: I have a social media person that works for me. She works for me 25 hours a week, she’s a part timer. She handles a lot of social media stuff. This is going to be one of her projects next year. I don’t have the time to deal with it.
Elizabeth: She’s like a digital marketing person-
Gene: She is.
Elizabeth: … more than just a social media person.
Gene: You’re right. I call her my digital marketing, it’s not just my social media. She’s all about trying to expand people to come and visit my site and “like” my Facebook page. We’re always thinking of things. How can we have people do that? This is one of those ways. I guess the point is, I’m not going to be personally doing it. It’s a whole other expertise to do. I do know that when she does it, she’s going to track it closely and she’s going to be delivering metrics. Saying, we spent $1,000 with Adroll this month, and you had this many people that came back to your site because of it. I want to know that.
Elizabeth: Great. Number two, what’s your second idea for tech this month that small business owners should know about?
Gene: There’s a lot of other great technologies that are out there. We may have spoken about this before, but I have to mention it again, is Facebook Live. When we talk about technologies, video technology for your business. 2017 is a giant year for video. Most people that are getting their content now online are getting it through some sort of video. It’s extremely popular. I use Facebook Live as example because Facebook is investing so much money. They are advertising on TV for Facebook Live. When was the last time you saw Facebook advertise on TV?
Elizabeth: Please use us.
Gene: They’re pushing this thing. It’s powerful medium and it will change how you can market your business. Their biggest competitors are Twitter’s Periscope, Google Hangout’s On Air. Those are really important places to consider to create video content for your business. Advice, interviews with other people, tips, training, certification info-, whatever it is. You can stream it live to your audience, but then it saves and then people can go back and look at it again. With all of these platforms you can pre-record stuff and stream it as if it’s live.
Elizabeth: Really? You can pre-record it.
Gene: Yeah. Facebook Live doesn’t have to be live. We can be doing and we should be doing this podcast with a camera on us. The extra added effort that needs to happen is that once we’ve done it, somebody can edit it and make sure that I don’t say anything that’s going to get you in trouble here at The Hartford. Then take that edited video and then stream as if it’s live. The new Gene/Elizabeth conversation will be on Facebook Live. It’s as if it’s live, but it doesn’t have to be live. I have no basis for this prediction at all, I predict that Facebook’s going to change their … the name from Facebook Live to something else. I think so many networks and TV stations from CNN to FOX to whatever, they’re going to be having all their Facebook channels and it’s going to be live and pre-recorded stuff. It’s another technology is the video.
Elizabeth: Just to put you on the spot a little bit, how would a B2B company use this?
Gene: That’s actually easy. We’re B2B. It’s educational content. Once a month, you’re going to do a Facebook Live show. For starters, hire a kid to do it for you. Hire a marketing student at a local college.
Elizabeth: A twelve year old. College kid.
Gene: College Kid, a junior in college. Kid, I’m going to make you a star. You’re going to be my Facebook Live host and every month I need a 20 minute live, Facebook Live. What’s the content? Maybe B2B, you go and interview a customer. Why they like your products? What they’re doing with them? Maybe internally one month you interview your customer service manager about some customer service tips. Your sales manager on how to close more sales.
Elizabeth: Or a how-to, instructional video.
Gene: Instructional video. If you’re selling stuff, it’s a visual thing. How to put this together? How to maintain our product the best way possible? How to do this gardening thing in your corporate offices? Stuff like that. It’s visual, that you can show, all those things, it’s just 20 minutes. People don’t have the patience. For all we know, five years from now it’ll be a minute. The whole world is Snapchat. So you keep it as limited as possible. It’s just ongoing, great content that people can come back and watch. People will watch it.
Elizabeth: We’ve said this a million times on this podcast. For this type of content to work, it has to be about what is helpful to your target customer and not about your business. It can’t be an ad for your business. It has to be helping them run their business better or make their life easier.
Gene: Hundred percent right. It’s got to be content, it’s got to be credible, it’s got to be independent, and it shouldn’t be a sales pitch. People will turn it off.
Elizabeth: The other tip, I’ve been reading about this lately is, most people who are watching videos, even if it’s Snapchat, Instagram, they’re watching it with the sound off.
Elizabeth: You do need to have … I’m sure this could be very easy for your college kid to do this, to put up some graphical elements. Maybe put up closed captioning so people can read the video.
Gene: That’s great advice.
Elizabeth: A lot of people, for instance-
Gene: They’re doing it at work. Not that you’re doing this at work of course.
Elizabeth: A little bit. If I’m going to watch an Instagram video or a Facebook Live, I’m not going to have the sound up if I’m at my desk.
Gene: Excellent advice. That’s a really, really good point. I’m going to remember that.
Elizabeth: That’s pretty easy to do.
Gene: I’m going to remember, that’s really right. While we’re talking about video and you mentioned Snapchat. Snapchat has like a billion users. It’s huge. Do you use Snapchat?
Elizabeth: I love Snapchat.
Gene: I use Snapchat. People always look at me because I’m a 52 year old guy. You use Snapchat, dude? Really? I use it because my kids use it.
Elizabeth: I can just see you sending really obnoxious videos to your kids.
Gene: Yes. I get a lot of late night videos from them. They send to me and my wife just to annoy us. They’re out partying or whatever. Look at us and you can’t do anything about it. Snapchat, it’s great, and it’s fun. I use it all the time and I send. I’m a middle aged man, their audience is millennials. Again there’s a billion of them on Snapchat. If your business is selling towards millennials, we talked about videos, you should really be considering some type of Snapchat just now. You can do promotions on Snapchat, not as much. I don’t see that many ads per se. Your channel, I’m always looking on Snapchat and I think there’s one big need on Snapchat, is other people to follow.
Gene: Sometimes I’m just bored. And I like to … You could record your stories. They’re there for 24 to 48 hours.
Elizabeth: Yep, 24 hours.
Gene: I’m interested in interesting people and their lives or whatever. Even if you’re running a B2B business, and you’ve got a kid that’s every few days putting up a, “here’s a great thing that you can do with this product.” Look at me and that’s it. Just a one, whatever. You get followers that way.
Elizabeth: It’s expected to be raw.
Elizabeth: What I mean by that is it’s not produced at all. It only works if it looks like you just took your phone out and recorded yourself.
Gene: That’s exactly right.
Elizabeth: You don’t need to have any production value to it.
Gene: It’s funny too. I was thinking about it. Again, you spend money on video technology if that’s where your audience is. If your audience is millennials, 18 to 34 year olds. You want to go after that. You want to use Snapchat as a medium. If somebody in your office, every other day, they hound somebody else. This is Janet from customer service, Janet give me a customer service tip right now. That kind of thing. Just to make it fun and lively. If people want to follow you around, we’re going behind the scenes. We’re making this new product here. Get ready guys, it’s coming out next year. Get excited, that kind of thing. People watch that. It’s silly, it’s fun.
Elizabeth: It is fun. You really do need to have a host though. This is the official Snapchat person or this is the official Facebook Live person. I think what you hit on is, if you are a B2C company and you’re trying to reach millennials, which, who isn’t? Snapchat is the way to go. But you can reach more targeted audiences on Facebook Live.
Gene: That is true. That is absolutely right.
Elizabeth: Keep that in mind. We’re going to be right back with Gene’s final, third technology.
Gene: Fair enough.
Elizabeth: After a message from our sponsor.
We’re back with our third piece of tech from Gene that he’s going to recommend.
Gene: Big technologies that are moving up the scale for businesses in 2017 are HR technologies.
Gene: That surprised me as well Elizabeth. I would always think as the Cloud has gotten popular there’d be less. People would be reluctant to put money into HR, put their data on the Cloud, but that’s not the case. They’ve been exploding. There has been a huge number of great HR platforms. Very inexpensive that you can use to really manage your employees on. The big names that are out there, for example PayChex has got a great HR platform. They compete against ADP. Bamboo HR is wonderful. Zenefits, which they have gone through some challenges, but they’re coming back. Another platform is called Gusto. These are all names for you. You can put them on the site.
Elizabeth: Actually, you just wrote an article about this.
Gene: I did. These are platforms, I’ve seen more and more clients sign onto them. If you’ve got more than 10 employees, we’ll say. Nothing like the super small companies. If you have more than 10 people you’re going to want to get it. Here’s the reason why. Number one is that, if you have somebody that’s in charge of HR in your company. Whether it’s a book keeper or an HR manager. Everybody needs a tool nowadays. This is their tool. The platform is their tool. Number two is, there’s a portal, all these platforms. Your employees are then being driven to enter in all their information themselves. There’s no more sending out forms. They have to sign up again for health insurance. They want to change their 401K. They want to update their vacation. It’s all done online through these portals, and then submit it back to whoever’s in charge of HR. These platforms they keep track of vacation days, paid time off, sick days, performance reviews, semiannual or annual whenever you’re doing them.
Elizabeth: That’s great.
Gene: All that stuff is being kept in one place. Then they have work flows. Again, if you’re a small business and your accounting manager is also in charge of it. It’s important for people to get a performance review. Sometimes they get ignored. With a good HR platform you’re getting-
Elizabeth: Makes it easier.
Gene: … Elizabeth has a performance review due next week. Not only that, it’ll say Elizabeth has a performance review. It’ll send an email to Elizabeth saying before your performance review please fill out this form of what your objectives were, what you want to do-
Elizabeth: What you accomplished.
Gene: What you’ve accomplished. Then maybe the two people that are involved also get the same document. It’s all handled by the HR platform.
Elizabeth: That’s great.
Gene: Isn’t that great? They’re really very affordable. They save all that information forever. It’s not like you’ve got to pull out the employee file, what’d we do last time? They’re wonderful tools. In 2017, if you’re running a business, and you got more than ten people, look into getting an HR technologies, all-in-one platforms. They’re great and again PayChex is great because they’ve been around for ages. There are a lot of smaller ones that are also really good too.
Elizabeth: Okay. Great tips. We will be back next month with another edition of Technology for Small Businesses. I think this was a good first step in that direction.
Gene: Three a month. I like it.
Elizabeth: We’ll see you next week back on the Small Biz Ahead Podcast.