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4 Ways to Use Google Hangouts in Your Business

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: February 13, 2013

Small business people still seem to be in the process of catching on to Google+, the social network created by Google. Google has made a number of moves to encourage people to use Google+. It has tied in several applications to Google Plus.

One of those applications is Google Hangouts. Hangouts are a type of online group meeting using webcams so that each of the participants can see and hear the others. Think video conference and webinar all rolled up in one.

With Hangouts, you can hold group presentations online and automatically record them for YouTube, and archive them for later access. You can stream live broadcasts directly from your website, YouTube channel and/or Google+ profile with just a few clicks. Even better, you can save your recorded Hangout videos and post them on your site. If you wanted to try offering webinars, this is a no-cost way to do it – because Hangouts are completely free to do.

So what exactly can you do with Hangouts? Here are 4 suggestions:

1. Conduct Team Meetings

With so many teams having members spread out in different locations or working from home, just scheduling an in-person team meeting can be a challenge. Traveling to attend meetings can be costly and more importantly, time consuming.

Conference calls are the typical way of handling meetings when everyone cannot be present. But phone communication leaves a lot to be desired. When you can’t see facial expressions, miscommunication can arise. Worse, in today’s world, team members can succumb to distraction and start focusing on their smartphones instead of the team participants. When you can see one another, those issues are minimized. People tend to stay alert and engaged.

Need to share a Web URL to the team, or share your screen to show them something? With Hangouts you just push a button and you can do that.

With Hangouts, the person who happens to “hold the floor” and is speaking at the moment, has his or her video screen showing in the large view. Other participants’ screens are minimized until they speak.

And yes, you can restrict Hangouts to make them private.

2. Hold Webinars

Have you ever wanted to share expertise and have it available online, perhaps to establish yourself or a company executive as a subject matter expert? Or perhaps you want to start a webinar series as part of your content marketing repertoire. Or maybe you want to provide a question and answer session for customers or prospects, about a product offering either for sales or customer support purposes.

Hangouts are an interactive way to do all of the above. Hangouts normally are limited to 10 active participants (available to 15 participants with Google+ premium features). Their small size of active participants keeps them rather intimate and encourages participation and questions.

With Google Hangouts On Air, you can broadcast your Hangout publicly. You can record it, edit the recording, and share the recorded event online.

If the cost of webinar software has kept you from experimenting with webinars or customer Q&A sessions, then Hangouts are a low-risk way to experiment. Same with technology issues – if you have been concerned with the technical elements of holding webinars, hangouts are pretty easy. There’s a free Google video chat plugin you will be prompted to download and install upon your first Hangout – but it’s fast and easy. You don’t have to worry about trying to make recording software sync up. You simply start a Hangout, name it and you’re good to go.

3. Offer Consulting Hours

Remember when you were in college and your professor held Office Hours so students could get individual help? Why not offer the same feature as a consultant?

You could offer customized coaching services. A Hangout session with your client can replace phone calls and emails, or lengthy and expensive travel.

For smaller consultants and professionals, it can differentiate your business from competitors. You’ll look high tech, at no extra cost. And Hangouts can allow you to offer an expanded range of services, such as paid coaching sessions that can be advertised and scheduled on your website. Musicians can offer paid music lessons. Only your imagination is the limit.

4. Hold a Press Conference

Who says press conferences are limited to big companies? Recording artist Taylor Swift hosted a Google+ Hangout to announce her new album. During the live chat, Taylor answered fan questions from around the world, let them know what they could expect from her album, and debuted its first single. When her single was released on iTunes it went straight to number one, faster than any other song in history.

Have a big announcement – whether it’s a new executive hire, a new product, or simply to announce that you’ve won an award? A Google Hangout lets you tell the world and provide an interactive record of the announcement.

There are many ways for small business owners to use Google+ Hangouts to connect with their customers, build their brands, monetize their businesses, and create buzz. Check out the Google Live Events calendar to help spur some of your own ideas. You can also add your own events to the calendar to increase your reach. And check out this article with more ways to use Google Hangouts.

 

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

The Bigger Financial Picture – Is it Time to Hire a CFO and Where Should You Look?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 11, 2013

So, your business is growing. While you may or may not have an accountant on hand, what about your bigger financial picture? Is it time to hire a Chief Financial Officer?

More than just a bookkeeper, payroll administrator or keeper of P&L and cash flow statements, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) can help you plan, model, forecast and make better business decisions. A CFO looks at your business holistically–this includes people, processes and systems–and ensures that together you have accurate financial information to plan for the future.

A CFO will also work with you or your accountant to understand the drivers for business performance. They’ll pick up on signals that might indicate a problem (such as a potential cash flow issue down the line), and help you make informed decisions about reaching your business goals.

Are You Ready for a CFO?

We all have sleepless nights worrying about the direction of our business; when cash flow will take a turn for the better; or where our next higher margin client is coming from. And being a small business owner, wearing all those hats, it isn’t easy to step away from the day-to-day details and look at your business as a whole.

A CFO can help with these worries–and needn’t break the bank in the process.

How to Cost-Effectively Hire a CFO

If your business is growing fast, then you could consider hiring a CFO on a part-time or as-needed basis and start delegating some of that financial angst. Management consulting firms often offer this type of service. If budget really is an issue, consider the volunteer services of SCORE.

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. SCORE mentors deliver free, confidential, valuable advice for your business needs across diverse industries and business functions including finance, marketing, operations, technology and more. Connect with a mentor here.  

Not Quite There Yet? Consider an Accountant

If you are still in start-up or growth mode—or feel you’d benefit with the help of someone to take care of your daily financial obligations such as account payables and receivables, payroll, taxes, and make sound judgments to benefit your personal and business finances—then you should really consider hiring an accountant. If you already have one, consider leaning on their services a little more.

An accountant can save you time and clear up much of the confusion that you experience when it comes to managing your finances. This blog offers tips on finding and interviewing potential accountants: How to Find an Accountant Who Can Help Your Small Business over the Long Haul.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

7 Ways to Increase Foot Traffic to Your Small Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 7, 2013 Updated: September 12, 2016

Late last year, I hosted a web chat with the SBA offering holiday marketing tips and ideas to small business owners. And while many business owners submitted questions relating specifically to the holidays, a large percentage of the questions centered on that age-old question: “How do I get more foot traffic to my store?”

Here are seven tried and tested steps you might want to consider:

1. Start from the outside and look in

If you are in a pedestrianized area, get to know who passes by your store. Literally, sit outside or close by your window and assess the demographic of who comes and goes. Do they window shop? Have they come from another store close by first?

Next, take an objective look at your signage and window display–does it appeal to your target demographic or buyer? For example, if you run a coffee shop and most of your business is done during the hours of 8 AM to 10 AM, think of ways to optimize your merchandising and window display to attract more buyers during these times. This could be as simple as using this time to hand out coupons outside, offering bakery samples to passersby, or promoting your latest offers using sidewalk signage.

2. Host a community event with a newsworthy tie-in

One of the best ways to increase foot traffic is to host a community or charity event. A great way to do this and get noticed is to tie it to a topical event. Say, for example, your local NFL or high school team is playing a critical game. Consider teaming up with other businesses nearby to offer game-day promotions/offers or a tie-in event. Host the event as a block party or at a central location downtown (even if you have to take your business on the road for a few hours). Don’t forget to be community-oriented—consider donating a portion of your profits to charity.

Feature the event ahead of time on your website and social media. For maximum impact, don’t forget to contact local media outlets—including radio channels—and email and mail out fliers to your contact list. 

3. Host a seminar or workshop

Both retail and service-based businesses can generate a good deal of foot traffic by educating their customers about how to get more out of what they are buying (even if you don’t make a sale that day). Florist shops could host a flower arranging class or realtors could host a house-staging workshop to attract potential sellers. And of course, publicize your event—in-store, online, via press releases and advertising.

4. Use location-based services to attract passersby

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to promote your small business using mobile apps that target consumers in the vicinity of your business. Groupon, Living Social, FourSquare and ThinkNear among others let you post information about your latest offers and limited-time deals to consumers within a certain distance of your business. You can also schedule deals to get delivered during key hours, for example, if you’re looking to boost foot traffic during off-peak times.

5. Engage old customers in new ways

It’s always refreshing when a store or restaurant you’ve frequented for some time starts doing something new. And thanks to the power of social media, doing something new or different and doing it well can quickly go viral.

So think about ways you can get the attention of older or existing customers. It could be as simple as offering a new type of discount (it may sound obvious, but offering something of value at a discount for a limited period of time can be attention-grabbing) or letting customers know about a new product or service you’ve added.

A straight-out sale is always a great way to bring old customers out of the woodwork. Send out an email or e-newsletter to your contact database and post it on social media. You might even host a secret sale first for a hand-selected group of customers.

If your business is service-oriented, consider offering a referral fee to existing customers who bring in new clients for you.

6. Put on your small business customer service hat

There’s a reason why consumers opt to frequent small businesses over larger chains—personal relationships. A smile, great service, product knowledge and enthusiasm will bring customers through your door and keep them coming back. So as you host new events, sales or workshops, use your small business advantage to the max!

7. Stay in touch

Staying top of mind with new and existing customers who you’ve engaged through your new efforts is not just about offering great products and services. It’s also about staying in touch.

If you host an event that brings in new customers, encourage them to sign up for your emails. A little incentive, such as a free giveaway in exchange for an email address, is always effective. Then stay in touch, set-up an e-newsletter program, send out regular updates about new product lines, company news, and events and start to engage with your customers via social media. (For tips, check out this blog).

What tactics have you used to increase foot traffic to your small business? Leave a comment below.

 

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Much Higher Surety Bond Guarantee Ceilings Enable Small Businesses to Bid on Larger Contracts and Grow

By byrned
Published: February 6, 2013 Updated: February 6, 2013

A major revision in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Surety Bond Guarantee (SBG) Program more than triples the eligible contract amount, from $2 million to $6.5 million, the Agency will guarantee on surety bonds for both public and private contracts.

What does this mean for small businesses trying to grow?
 
A Los Angeles subcontractor for example, was looking to take on bigger jobs and grow its business, but needed a much larger bond to bid on and get a contract that was larger than past work it had performed.
 
As a direct result of higher SBA guaranteed bond limits, companies like that California contractor can now experience continued growth in bonding capacity, employ more employees and improve revenue streams. And with that kind of growth and resulting experience on bigger jobs, such companies can bid on more federal construction contracts, build an even stronger management team, and set strategic plans for bigger contracts and expansion into larger markets.
 
Contractors purchase surety bonds to guarantee that they will complete contracts. If the contractor fails to complete the contracted work, the surety bond is used to pay for completion. The SBA offers a guarantee of up to 90% on three types of surety bonds: bid bonds, which ensure that if a bidder wins a procurement competition the bidder will sign the contract; performance bonds, which ensure the contractor will complete the work as contracted; and payment bonds, which ensure that the contractor will pay its supplier and subcontractors.
 
These increases in bond capacity result from provisions in the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and are expected to bolster participation by surety bond agents and brokers and their surety companies in SBA’s SBG Program.
 
The changes also allow SBA to guarantee bonds for government contracts valued at up to $10 million if a contracting officer of a federal agency certifies that the guarantee is necessary for the small business to obtain bonding, and it is in the best interests of the government.
 
SBA partners with the surety industry to help small businesses that would otherwise be unable to obtain bonding in the traditional commercial marketplace; and now, with the increased capacity, that public/private cooperation helps these small businesses grow as well.
 
If your small business needs SBA assistance in locating a participating surety company or agent, and completing application forms, simply go online to http://www.sba.gov/osg/, or call 1-800-U-ASK-SBA.

 

 

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