Category Archives: Business

Email Marketing Contact Lis

Developing a successful email marketing strategy starts with building a proper contact list.

“Contact lists are the foundation for successful email marketing because they’re more than simply names on a sheet,” Dave McCann, vice president of customer success for Constant Contact, told Business News Daily. “They allow you to keep track of, and engage, your customers instead of wasting time marketing to the masses.”

Quality over quantity
While you might be tempted to focus on building the biggest list possible, SEO and email marketing expert Brian Dean said it is more important to focus on quality over quantity. You want your list to be filled with people who have an interest in your business.

“You can have the best newsletters and the best offers, but if your contact list isn’t a good fit your emails are likely to fall flat,” Dean said.

The key to building a solid contact list is to first engage customers one-on-one online or in-person, McCann said. Then, based on the customer’s positive experience with your business, ask permission to continue the conversation through email. [See Related Story: Best Email Marketing Software for Small Businesses]

“As you add customers to your contact list and engage them, make note of their interests and recent purchases,” McCann said. “This way, you can present them with tailored content and offers that will keep them coming back and looking forward to hearing from you.”

To help small business owners, McCann offers a number of tips to building an email contact list:

Put a sign-up sheet near your checkout.
Ask in person, if possible, especially after a customer has a positive experience. As you ask, reiterate the benefits of subscribing, such as insider deals and exclusive content.
Insert a link in your email signature and social media bios so customers can automatically subscribe. Avoid forcing customers to fill out long forms and questionnaires.
Include back issues of your newsletter on your website so customers can see your content.
Add a sign up form on your Facebook page.
Create a “reasons to sign up page,” featuring feedback from customers and post it on your website or next to the sign-up sheet.
Optimize your online listings on sites including Yelp with a link to subscribe.
Include a text-to-join feature so people can easily sign up through their smartphone.
Add a QR code to a flyer, business card, brochure or post so people can scan-to-join your email list.
Dean encouraged small businesses to make sure their sign-up forms are on several places on their website.

“Many small businesses place a single form buried in their page’s footer,” Dean said. “From lots of testing, I’ve found that more forms equal more subscribers.”

In addition, it never hurts to entice potential subscribers with something valuable. Dean advises small businesses to create something that will draw the attention of customers, like an eBook, report or case study that will make their subscription worthwhile.

Online Business Card

Are you trying to choose an online business card printing service for your business? We’re here to help you find the one that’s right for you. While some printing services are appropriate for larger businesses, we found four that we think are best for small business or freelancers’ needs.

Online business card printing
The best business card printing services for small businesses produce high-quality cards without requiring you to use special software or to have design skills. You should be able to create your new card design easily online, see high-resolution previews online, and receive your new cards in a timely manner. The best services also provide a wide variety of card stock choices, images, fonts, colors and card shapes.

Benefits of online business card printing services:

No design skills required
Low price options available
Wide variety of paper and templates
Quick print and delivery times
When you create your business cards, think about how you plan to use them. If you are using them for offering discounts or one-time opportunities, you can save money by choosing a low-priced option. If you plan on using them to give to contacts whom you wish to sell high-priced items to, you’ll want a card that is attractive and worth keeping that may cost a bit more. If you plan on using them to share your contact information with a lot of people at a convention or other large sales opportunity, you’ll benefit from a card that scans well with a business card scanner or even a near-field communication (NFC) card that can be scanned with a mobile phone.

How we evaluated online business card printing
Top Ten Reviews (TTR), a sister site of Business News Daily, has been testing online printing services for many years. We discussed business card printing with the reviewers who recently evaluated business card printing and online printing services. We were also able to access their sample prints from more than 10 printing companies to help decide which online card printers we thought would be best for small businesses.

After looking over Top Ten Reviews’ research notes, talking with the reviewers, evaluating the sample products and conducting our own research, we found the best three printing services for small businesses plus one well-known option, Vistaprint, that did not make it into our top three. These online services are simple to use, do not require image editing software and have quick print run times.

HubSpot Review

After conducting extensive research and analysis in 2017, we recommend HubSpot as the best marketing automation platform for small business. We chose HubSpot from a pool of the dozens of marketing automation solutions we considered. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of marketing automation software on our best picks page.

Why HubSpot?
HubSpot seamlessly unifies all your marketing channels and easily scales with your business. This makes HubSpot ideal for small, growing businesses – as you attract more customers, this software can simply grow along with you. HubSpot also eliminates the need for sophisticated IT or coding knowledge with its easy-to-navigate drag and drop user interface.
Features
HubSpot offers a healthy slate of features to make marketing automation easier. These features vary in availability depending on the pricing tier you choose. For a detailed breakdown on HubSpot’s plans, see the pricing section below.
Scalability
Scalability is what set HubSpot over the top for us. Its versatility as a marketing automation platform for the smallest businesses and growing startups through to enterprise level companies made it attractive even beyond its set of features.

For small businesses in particular, scalability is particularly useful. Transferring all the stored information about contacts and past behaviors and sales to a new system can be an arduous undertaking with a high risk of issues. In addition, retraining staff to use a new system takes manpower and diverts attention away from operations. HubSpot offers businesses continuity in their marketing automation platform so they don’t have to worry about these issues.

Pricing
HubSpot is significantly more affordable than many other market leaders, and incudes the benefit of long-term scalability for companies that may still balk at the price tag.
Customer Service
Our customer service experience with HubSpot was positive. After a brief holding period, we spoke with a representative who took a considerable amount of time to walk us through the finer points of marketing automation in general and HubSpot specific features. Upon explaining that we were just testing the waters, we didn’t feel pushed to make a purchase or that the representative lost interest in our conversation. Most, if not all, of our questions were adequately answered during the call.

All of HubSpot’s core plans offer phone, online and live chat technical support and customer service. Moreover, HubSpot hosts an online community forum, where users can ask and answer questions about basic platform operations and more advanced uses.

Limitations
There are some drawbacks to using HubSpot, but none so significant that it made the solution any less attractive. First and foremost, the high price tag might be prohibitive to some small companies. For those, we would suggest a solution like Zoho Campaigns, which is more affordable and even offers a free version. Still, HubSpot makes up for its high-end cost with high-end functionality. Like they say, “you get what you pay for.”

Marketing Automation Software

Marketing automation is a holistic process that joins email, websites and social media channels into a unified force. Beyond simply streamlining the day-to-day work of your marketing department, marketing automation software helps it work smarter with automated workflows based on user interaction with your content. In this way, marketing automation better targets interested parties, more effectively wielding your advertising dollars and stretching your budget further.

With the right selection, marketing automation software can help you attract new customers, cultivate old relationships and reduce waste in your marketing budget. Business News Daily can help you sort through the noise and make the decision that suits your team best.

Here is a roundup of our favorite marketing automation platforms of 2017. For a comprehensive look at how to choose a marketing automation solution, read our Buyer’s Guide for Marketing Automation Software.

Best Marketing Automation Software for Small Business: HubSpot
HubSpot stood out as the best marketing automation platform for small business with its scalability. Its features are comprehensive and useful, but what really sold us was HubSpot’s ability to seamlessly grow with a young company into a full enterprise system. While there is a bit of a learning curve to overcome and the initial price tag seems high, HubSpot delivers a quality marketing automation system that is easy to use and understand. Customer and technical support for the solution are helpful and highly accessible, and a healthy online community helps support one another with advice and discussion about the product itself and strategies that can be employed by using it. HubSpot will help your business grow more efficiently and eliminate the need to implement new systems and retrain staff.
Best Marketing Automation Software for Enterprises: Oracle Eloqua
Oracle’s marketing automation solution, Eloqua, is an advanced and comprehensive system that is highly effective for large companies that have the team to back it up. Eloqua excels at creating automated campaigns through its Campaign Canvas. Drag-and-drop functionality makes the process fun and straightforward; you drop an icon on the canvas and connect it to the next step in the workflow by dragging your mouse. Using Campaign Canvas is almost game-like and simplifies what can be a somewhat convoluted process.

Eloqua’s central dashboard is also a big plus, giving the user easy access to virtually any aspect of the marketing automation process in a single click. Tabs boasting every asset and lead, as well as shortcuts to different campaigns, accompany at-a-glance reports on the homepage, giving a bird’s-eye view of your ongoing marketing campaigns.

How to Choose Marketing Automation Software

Marketing and advertising often make up a sizable chunk of a business’s budget, but it’s usually difficult to judge how effective each advertising dollar truly is at generating more business. Luckily, marketing automation platforms not only make the task of reaching potential customers and generating leads easier, but they help narrow the search to the most likely and most lucrative customers.

Marketing automation is more than simple email campaigns and click-through reports. These platforms also work with social media, website visits, digital advertisements and oftentimes integrate with CRMs to optimize your customer outreach and lead generation. The best services are highly customizable, allowing users to set automated functions depending on how the potential customer interacts with the initial marketing material, company website or social media accounts.

The right marketing automation platform can save your business time, money and increase your conversion rates. Our guide can help you better understand the benefits of marketing automation and how to choose the platform that best suits your business.

Marketing automation 101
Marketing automation isn’t just about making the sale; it’s also about engaging potential customers on every step of their journey to becoming a buyer, then re-engaging them to encourage repeat business.

Jenay Sellers, director of marketing for Brandfolder, said marketing automation works by helping you identify patterns in behavior that lead to purchase. You can set up workflows to nurture clients who are making a buying decision, onboarding or renewing. For example, Sellers said, one of Brandfolder’s automated sequences sends a targeted email to prospects who download two or more pieces of the company’s content. Once this indication that the lead is interested in their services has been made, the software takes over and executes a preconfigured workflow to encourage the lead to take the next step closer to conversion.

Therein lies the key to marketing automation: It’s all about nurturing leads and encouraging them to take a closer look. This can be done with targeted email campaigns like Brandfolder’s, specific discount offers, social engagement and so on. Most marketing automation platforms give users a lot of latitude in determining exactly how they want to execute their strategies.
A holistic approach
Most people won’t be prepared to purchase your goods or services on first contact. Some won’t even be aware of your company or what it is you do. Giving them an opportunity to become acquainted with your brand through a series of interactions first is better than shoving a blatant advertisement in their face.

Best Email Marketing Software for Small Businesses

After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend Benchmark and iContact as our 2018 picks for the best email marketing services for small businesses. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of email marketing services on our best picks page.

Why Benchmark?
Benchmark combines ease of use with a wide variety of design options to deliver the best value for the price. The company also provides excellent customer service. Benchmark has a free plan, as well as paid plans that start at $12 per month.

Ease of Use
Out of all the services we tested, Benchmark had the best combination of producing professional-looking emails and being easy to use, even if you have no prior experience with email marketing.

To create emails, Benchmark offers a drag-and-drop editor for those with no design experience, a code editor for advanced users who have expertise in writing HTML code, and a plain text editor for creating text-only emails.

The drag-and-drop editor is simple to use. It lays out all the steps in a very natural way that makes it simple to understand. You start by picking a layout. You can create your own layout from scratch or choose one of the nearly 200 predesigned templates. The templates are categorized by industry and theme.

Benchmark’s drag and drop editor allows you to add in or delete as many content blocks as you like.

Whether you choose your own layout or use a predesigned template, the emails are broken up into various content blocks, such as image, text, boxed text, buttons, social shares and navigation bars, which you can tailor in any way you like. You can adjust their size, add in text, and change text size, alignment and color. You can also choose background colors for not only each box, but the entire message, and you can add or delete content blocks. In addition, there is a robust photo editing tool that allows you to alter photos by size, brightness and contrast and to add effects and frames to them.

When you’re finished creating an email, you can run several tests to ensure it looks as you intended on mobile devices, doesn’t include anything that can be flagged as spam and doesn’t have any spelling errors. For advanced users writing their own HTML, the software offers a dual-view option that lets them see the design of the email as they’re inputting the code.

The last step is to schedule when the email should be sent out. You have the choice of sending it immediately or picking a specific date and time.

Building contact lists is also simple. You can add addresses individually; import them from an XLS, CSV or TXT file; or upload them from a wide variety of popular applications, including Shopify, Gmail, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce and WordPress.

Once you add an address, you can create a complete profile for that subscriber that includes name, address, phone number, job title and any other notes.

TimeClock Plus Review

Why TimeClock Plus?
TimeClock Plus is a cloud-based system available in multiple service plans. It includes a multitude of features and works with a variety of time clocks. Depending on the service plan selected, TimeClock Plus costs $24 or $36 per employee, per year.

Multiple Service Plans
What makes TimeClock Plus so appealing is it offers businesses several service plans to choose from: Express, Standard and Professional. Each plan differs by cost and the number of features and tools it includes.

The Express plan, which is limited in how it operates, is offered only to businesses with fewer than 20 employees. The two other plans can be used in organizations of any size.

Among the features and tools available in all plans are web-based clock operations, basic overtime calculations, views of employee status and hours, automatic punch rounding, and automatic logoff.

Additional features offered in both the Standard and Professional plans are employee time-sheet entry, employee and manager approvals, time clock compatibility, mobile apps, simple scheduling, accruals, and messaging.

Features and tools available only to Professional plan users are advanced scheduling, time-off request management, clock restrictions, advanced overtime, mass scheduling and automated reports, exports, and notifications. You can see a complete breakdown of all the plans on the TimeClock Plus website.
Time Tracking
Depending on the service plan you choose, TimeClock Plus can handle some or all of your time-tracking needs. While the Express plan focuses on recording when employees come and go each day, the Standard and Professional plans also include scheduling and time-off management capabilities.

There are several ways that TimeClock Plus tracks when employees start and end their days. Express users clock in and out via a computer, while Standard and Professional plan users can also use a mobile app or time clock. Businesses have the choice of PIN entry, card reader or biometric time clocks. The biometric time clocks use either fingerprint or hand scans to ensure employees aren’t clocking in and out for any of their peers. Additionally, Professional plan users can clock in and out from a telephone.
Cost
For what it offers, TimeClock Plus is one of the most affordable time and attendance systems we found during our research.

TimeClock Plus charges yearly fees for each employee. The prices of each plan are as follows:

Standard: $24 per employee, per year
Professional: $36 per employee, per year
The per-employee fee raises by 50 to 75 cents per month for businesses that would rather pay on a monthly basis.

In addition to the monthly charge, there is a one-time setup fee for the Standard and Professional plans. This fee is $100 for the Standard plan and $200 for the Professional. One hour of training is included in the cost of the Professional plan setup fee.

The only other cost is for the time clocks. The company offers a range of time clock options that cost between $1,000 and $2,400.

Ease of Use
TimeClock Plus is a cloud-based system that requires no software to be installed or maintained. The system, which is simple to use, is accessible online from anywhere.

The online portal has a clean interface that’s easy to navigate. Upon logging in, managers are taken to a dashboard that highlights all the tasks that need attention, including time sheets that need approval, which employees are approaching overtime, which employees forgot to punch in or out, and any pending time-off requests. We like that all of these details are front and center.

TSheets Review

Why TSheets?
TSheets offers numerous ways for employees to clock in and out, tracks remote workers’ location throughout the day, and is easy to use. TSheets costs $5 per employee, plus a $20 monthly base charge for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Mobile Tracking
TSheets is an ideal system for businesses with employees who sometimes or always work outside the office because of the variety of ways time and attendance can be managed remotely. Of all the services we examined, TSheets offers remote employees the most options for clocking in and out. With this system, on-the-go workers can use laptops, mobile apps, telephones, text messages or Twitter to record the hours they work each day.

The TSheets mobile app, available on iPhones and Android devices, lets employees clock in and out, track the time they work on specific projects, view time sheets, and see which of their co-workers are also working. Additionally, employees can use the app to see their schedules, receive notifications of schedule changes, and ask for time off.

The mobile app also tracks remote employees’ locations throughout the day. Besides logging exactly where employees are when they clock in and out, the mobile app records their specific location every 10 minutes. With this feature, managers get a clear picture of where their remote workers are spending their time each day. Most of the other services we investigated don’t offer this detailed level of tracking for remote workers.
Time Tracking
TSheets isn’t just a system for mobile employees. Time and attendance can be tracked and managed for those who work inside the office as well. With this system, employees can clock in and out online from any computer. TSheets gives employees the option of punching in and out in real time or manually entering their hours each day.

TSheets recently unveiled its TSheets kiosk. Employers can set up the kiosk in a central location inside their business on any internet-connected computer or tablet. Employees can use it to clock in and out using a four-digit PIN.

One fun feature of TSheets that its competitors don’t offer is the ability to set different sounds to play when punching in and out. For example, the system can play drums or a whistle when someone clocks in, and a hallelujah or a yee-haw clip when they clock out.
Ease of Use
TSheets is a cloud-based service that doesn’t require any hardware or software to install or maintain. You can access the system online from anywhere.

The online portal is easy to navigate, with each section clearly labeled. For employees, sections include My Time Card, to clock in and out and review the hours they’ve worked; Who’s Working, to see which of their co-workers are on the clock; and Submit Time, to send managers completed time cards.

Stratustime Review

Why stratustime?
stratustime combines a wide range of time-tracking options and features with an easy-to-use interface and excellent customer support. It costs $4 per employee, per month. There is also an installation and implementation charge based on the number of employees you have.

Time Tracking
stratustime from nettime solutions has the features businesses of any size would want in a time and attendance system. It tracks all of a business’s time needs, including when employees come and go, when they take breaks, how long they work on certain projects, and how much paid time off (PTO) they’ve accrued.
Besides recording the total hours employees work each day, the system has a job-tracking tool that logs how long employees work on specific projects. This can be valuable for employers, such as IT consultants or law firms, that bill clients based on the hours employees spend working on their tasks.

The system can also manage PTO. It tracks accruals, allows employees to request time off, and lets managers approve or deny those requests. In addition, employers can use stratustime to generate schedules for individual employees, departments or shifts. Besides designating when employees should start and end their shifts, the visual scheduler lets managers add in when breaks and meals should be taken. You can also click and drag schedules to copy them from employee to employee for quick assignment.
Cost
The base fee for stratustime is $4 per month, per employee. Included in the base fee are all the time and attendance tracking features, the scheduling tools, employee self-service access, and a variety of labor analytics. There is a $50 minimum charge per month.

Some of the more advanced tools come with an additional cost. Among the features businesses may have to pay extra for – starting at 25 cents per employee, per month – are PTO management, mobile access, automatic alerts, job forecasting, advanced reports and a point-tracking system, which keeps records of when employees are absent or late. Although there is typically an extra charge for these features, several of the sales agents we spoke with when researching the system said they would include these tools for no added cost.
Ease of Use
Since stratustime is cloud-based, there is no software to install or maintain it, and it can be accessed online from anywhere. The only hardware that you may need are time clocks; however, those aren’t required to use the system.

Small businesses will appreciate how straightforward stratustime is to use. Besides the simplicity of clocking in and out, the system’s online portal is just as easy to navigate. In addition, the interface was the best we found while analyzing time and attendance systems.

InTouch GPS Review

Our 2018 research and analysis of GPS fleet tracking software leads us to again recommend InTouch GPS as the best GPS fleet tracking software for small businesses. We chose InTouch GPS from dozens of GPS fleet-tracking software options. To understand how we chose InTouch GPS, you can find our methodology and a list of GPS fleet-tracking software vendors on our best picks page.

Why InTouch GPS?
InTouch GPS is our top pick for the best GPS fleet-tracking software for small business because it offers the best pricing, is easy to use and comes with a ton of time-saving features that simplify monitoring vehicles and drivers.

InTouch GPS costs $23.95 per month and comes with free hardware. There are also no long-term contracts or minimum number of vehicles, making it an excellent choice for small businesses.There are no installation fees, maintenance fees or other hidden costs, and pricing includes U.S.-based phone support.

Best price
Most GPS fleet-tracking software products aren’t cheap. In addition to monthly service fees, many vendors charge extra for certain features, setup and even customer support. Some vendors are also resellers that mark up the software, piling on fees and additional charges. InTouch GPS, however, is a direct seller that offers transparent, affordable pricing that won’t break the small business budget.

We like that InTouch GPS has a flat monthly fee of $23.95 per month. This means there are no installation fees, maintenance fees or other hidden costs, and includes phone support. Even better, InTouch GPS doesn’t require any long-term contracts, which earns them major bonus points from us. Unlike many of its competitors, InTouch GPS won’t force you into a multiyear service (some vendors lock you down for up to five years!) that includes hefty early-termination and restocking fees. We also like that there is a money-back guarantee with its 30-day free trial, which also doesn’t have any restocking fees.

What we’re not a fan of is the one-time $20 hardware activation fee, and that InTouch GPS requires first and last month’s payment upfront. Nonetheless, we like that InTouch GPS makes this information clear and doesn’t bury it in the fine print, so there won’t be any surprises when you get your bill.
Ease of use
Of the GPS fleet-tracking software we considered, InTouch GPS has one of the easiest user interfaces around. This is because it uses a very simple menu system that organizes each section into easily recognizable tabs: Locations, Dashboard, Reports, Drivers, Maintenance and Scorecard. This makes it easy to navigate the software and quickly get to the function you need.