Category: Small Business


Working Freelance

Well, another year has passed and a lot was accomplished. Contacts made, family nurtured, skills expanded and I’m still standing! How great is that?

So, what next?

Many people use New Year’s Day to re-assess their goals and dreams, but I prefer my birthday. It is a more true measure of where I am in the universe. How have my experiences reshaped my moral compass? Maybe what was important last year is not as important today. After all, we live in changing times. So, forge ahead.

First, Access.

What worked in the past year? I make an informal list of where my biggest gains came from. For me, the biggest gains came when I stayed organized. Making a list and ticking things off is satisfying, but it also leads to rewards. Keeping focused on business expanding activities grows the business and creates income.

Next, be Ruthless.

Yep, there are some things we all do that make for false happiness but are a productivity drain. Sorry Facebook, time spent with you will be cut by 70 percent. Why? Although Facebook is the Monster in the closet we can’t ignore, it doesn’t bring the profits that other social media does. In less time per week, I get more leads and business generated from Twitter and LinkedIn than Facebook. It’s hard because I like being on Facebook, but chop, chop.

Wrap Up.

Decide on three objectives for the coming year and prepare an action plan. I have an ongoing objective to focus on mobile. Training, tutorials and development are all focused on mobile products. Mobile marketing is not going away and small business must adopt.

Also, entertainment is a key component of digital marketing so I am upping my animation skills. My website update will downgrade the giant slider and focus on animation and interactivity. Sliders are still important, but movement and fun are the keys now.

My last objective for the coming year is to improve my health. Smoothies, more homemade food and organically grown food (by me!) are all things I will be ramping up this year. And so far I am on track with my goals.

How about you? What objectives are you focusing on? How is it going? Let me know in the comments.

Techsnoop 30 days with Note 4

The Story

After sadly having to replace the beloved HTC EVO LTE, Techsnoop choose the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. This is a story of the first 30 days with the Note 4.

The Usurper

So in Techsnoop’s 30 day shake down of real world use, the Note 4 was extremely satisfying. Although the phone is large, it is a comfortable fit in my hand. (side note, Techsnoop has hands on the large side for a female). If you need frequent one-handed operation, there are settings to make that easier. It is thin and light and beautiful to look at. And the basic functions are simple to master.

Let’s look at the number one concern; battery life. Yes, the big, bright screen does suck up energy. But a tweak of screen brightness and screen saver settings helps extend this time.  In this test Techsnoop ran 3 to 5 games continuously with 3 email accounts, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, messages and S-Health. These settings with calling and texting using Bluetooth meant twice a day charging. The included fast charger made this pretty painless.

Techsnoop 30 days with Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Credit: Phone Arena

Productivity

Social media apps including Hootsuite are easy to open and use and the recent apps button keeps everything at your fingertips for fast retrieval. Voice recorder, Office Suite, Splashtop, WordPress and Square apps all work seamlessly. These are the apps Techsnoop can’t live without. Cashing checks with the Note 4 couldn’t be easier and the 3D Anatomy app is great for learning and for looking up info if you are having pain or symptoms. The scroll, detail and zoom all work excellent.

Entertainment

Games play lighting fast and graphics are crisp. Angry Birds games were great to play with the extra screen space. The display skews cool and bright but settings can be adjusted. Techsnoop prefers the rich colors. Phone connected to my bluetooth headset smoothly and voice quality was great (till my bluetooth battery started dying). Same with music playing, sound great and quickly switched from music to voice when calls came in.

Reading with Nook, Kindle and Komik apps are all smooth and easy on the eyes. The Note 4 is light enough to not have arm strain while reading for long periods. Graphics on the comics are crisp and beautiful. Disclaimer: Techsnoop loves printed comics, they are great but storage becomes an issue quickly. So, compromise with a digital/print mix.

One benefit of the shakedown is learning that all of Techsnoop’s/DKemp Designs‘ sites are beautifully displayed on the mobile screen which is between the former HTC EVO LTE and the 7 inch tablet size previously tested.

Stay tuned to this post for the unboxing video which is being edited by IRM.

The Dirty Specs

Galaxy Note 4 Specs Techsnoop 30 days

Techsnoop is a Web Designer. I live, breathe and love web design. Techsnoop is also a front-end coder and graphic designer. I read and dream code and pictures.

DKemp Designs Workspace

Because social media and SEO affect the usefulness of design, Techsnoop has had to become proficient in these areas. But they are not my passion. They are necessary tools to meet goals.

Enter Facebook. Undisputedly the wooly mammoth of social media, as Facebook goes, so do other platforms. Which brings me to; Facebook Sucks.

No one in web design expects the status quo to remain for any length of time, however changes should be geared towards usefulness, capturing audience and integration of new technologies. Facebook ignores all of that. Their changes are arbitrary and only direct energy toward making moolah. This means catering to Big Business and their desires. How to squash ads from small businesses and start-ups and make sure all you see in the feed is Big Business seems to be their new development mantra.

Techsnoop has more than one Facebook business page. Since the implementation of new FB algorithms (a word Techsnoop had hoped was dead after college), post reach has plummeted. Regular followers are not seeing valuable content from Techsnoop just because of FB’s pandering techniques.

Keep in mind that part of what drove massive use of FB was small businesses and start-ups creating pages and having lots of followers. Big Business jumped on board after they saw the results of small business usage. So, in effect Facebook says “thanks for helping us grow, now shove off”, to small business. Not a gracious thank you.

Techsnoop has no problem with any business making money. Hey, money is central to keep a business alive. BUT, turning on the audience who helped you grow and selling them out to come-lately followers with big pockets is bad business and, frankly, rude. This is especially true because small business cannot yet afford to leave FB.

Notice the “yet”. Yes, there are grumblings afoot in the social world to replace FB in the holy trinity line up (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) with something more small business friendly. Welcome Pinterest and Instagram. While neither has overtaken FB yet, they are growing. Even more telling, the youth market has largely moved to Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms to share with their friends.

So, what’s an up and coming entrepreneur to do? Fine tune your audience, know what social channels they use most for purchasing. Focus your time and marketing budget on the top two or three only. You may find that LinkedIn or Twitter are more profitable in ROI than FB. Don’t ignore FB, just don’t spend a lot of your time and money there.

And the most important thing you can do for your business is have a mobile optimized web site that gets customers to you. Location, contact information and specials need to be prominent on the home page for smartphone users. If your web site is not mobile ready, contact a great designer like DKemp Designs now. Google will not be forgiving of non-mobile ready sites after April 21. This means one URL, readable and clickable on all devices and no flash. Sorry, HTML5 video only. And don’t forget about the great customers who supported you when you were small.

Meanwhile, Facebook is making more and more work for less return, so Techsnoop is on FB, but if you want to really contact me, hit me on Twitter @dkempdesigns or @dkempanimations where I have great conversations with great people and, make meaningful (read; profitable) connections.

DKemp Designs Why Go Mobile
Are you hung over from Black Friday or did you celebrate Cyber Weekend and avoid the crowds? As a business owner Thanksgiving can make or break you for the year. Customers remember a great shopping experience even more than the deals.  Great mobile shopping strategy begins the year before you want results.

Still need a reason to convert to a mobile-optimized website?

  • Tablet users spend 50% more than desktop shoppers.
  • Mobile ads perform 4-5 times better than desktop ads.

*http://21-vital-mobile-marketing-facts

  • Over 40% of shoppers purchased from their smartphones on Black Friday 2013.
  • 78% of local mobile searches result in a purchase.
  • Over half of all internet shopping is on a mobile device.

*https://surprising-mobile-ecommerce-facts/

What are you waiting for?

Face it, no one wants to be outside in long cold lines. Why not shop in your cozy pajamas while eating leftovers? If your business doesn’t ship, let customers buy online and pick up in 48 hours. This allows you and the customer to shop more relaxed than in a 2 to 4 hour sub-awake rush.

As one of the growing crowd of shoppers who refuse to join the crush of camped-out zombies, Techsnoop only shops online during the Friday-Monday holiday kick off. An informal poll cites ridiculous hours for the employees, over saturation of useless items, rudeness of crowds and shopping apathy as reasons many are opting out of the in person experience.

DKemp Designs black friday 2014
Get ready for the next holiday by calling a local web design company to assist you with a mobile presence. It is even more important for 2015 due to the Google Penguin search rules. Have a fun and mobile holiday season!

DKemp Designs Be Mobile

(Originally published on LinkedIn by Dorthea Kemp)

If you are a small business owner, congratulations!

You are part of what keeps America growing in this fast changing economy. You anchor communities, give local teens jobs and provide competition. We all thank you.

The good news is, small = agile and able to respond quickly to market shifts and customer demands. Close relationships with customers translates to stronger referral business. The not so good news is one or two missteps can end your enterprise. So, what can small business owners do to bolster themselves for the long term?

Mobile Investment.

The amount of consumers using mobile to research and compare businesses before ever making a purchase is over 50%. Further;

72% of tablet owners purchase online from their tablets each week*.
95% of smartphone users have searched for local information.**
60% of mobile shoppers use their smartphones while in a store, and another 50%
while on their way to a store.**

Small businesses have to leverage every available tool to compete against the mega-corporations endless marketing machines. Mobile technology is the pebble that levels goliaths.

Mobile access is the single most important step in small business success today.

Having a properly strategized mobile presence allows business owners to collect information, create and execute marketing campaigns and stay in close touch with their customer base. Repeat customers in the local area are small business bread and butter.

A mobile presence allows small business to cultivate the close caring relationships customers like and respond with low inventory and overhead to customer demands. A strong mobile presence includes a responsive site, landing pages, social integration, SEO optimization under the newest rules and listing on the major search engines. This is a strong combination to cultivate your market area.

Mobile Works.

One customer had been in a community for 10 years. Yet when we published their website, walk in traffic increased by 15% in only 60 days. The most frequent comment was “I never knew you were so close, I was driving out to other cities for your service when I could have walked”. So a mobile web presence instantly boosts your market without any other efforts.

But, don’t stop with publishing your site. Just as one customer can find you, allow others to locate you by using current SEO, social media and other low-cost efforts to ensure your site is found in the area you cover.

*http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-2013-mobile-growth-statistics/
**http://www.mobify.com/blog/13-stats-to-convince-your-boss-to-invest-in-mobile-in-2013/

DKemp Designs Perfect

(Originally posted on LinkedIn by Dorthea Kemp)

I recently read Tom Stevens’ post “I Don’t Care Anymore (Do You)?” which got me thinking, what does it mean to truly not care? Do I care? I mean, I don’t think Tom really doesn’t care about anything. But I believe that he, like so many of us is tired. Bone, brain, deep tired.

We are tired of always being on. We think it is a good thing, but it is exhausting. As if we are at a perpetual cocktail party. Dress or suit perfect, hair styled, teeth white with no food stuck between. All day, every day. We’re not just ready for our close-up Mr. DeMille*, we’re ready for our Selfie.

We’re tired of being body slammed with negative information. News is always telling us somebody died horribly, somewhere is at war, some child is missing or our favorite food is killing us. Now, information is important, but I don’t want to see a 12-car pile up while looking at my best friend’s second-cousin’s wedding pictures. The constant slam of horror during everyday activities generates a roller coaster of hormones that leaves us wrung out emotionally.

So, how to keep light spirited and excited with all the attitude and negative information weight? Here is my 5 step plan;

Unplug Regularly

Don’t be available all the time. Turn off your ringer and use your phone to read while blocking calls. Carve out specific times during the week when you just don’t answer your phone. That includes Facebook feeds, Twitter, texts and any other social media.

Soak your feet, take a nap, hem some pants, or make a plan to leave a dead end job. Just do it without the phone ringing or checking your “feeds”. Allow your brain and emotions time to process and absorb information in a peaceful environment.

Turn Off the Noise

Yep, we all do it. The TV is on for noise, not information or entertainment. If you’re not actively watching, turn off the screens. This controls the flow of passive information raising your stress level unconsciously.

Bask in quiet or talk to your family or neighbors. Actual face to face conversations. Pour a tall cold glass of Coke or iced tea and discuss the length of the grass or the meaning of the universe. Enjoy quiet pauses and smile.

Your brain and mood will love the break. Too much news can lead to depression ** and/or dampen empathy responses. If we are always responding to crises, we become immune.

Take a Class

Learn something new or expand your current skills. Learning a new skill or a trick with an existing skill generates excitement and passion. Doing something faster or better than you have before gives you a Superman boost. You have Mastered something. Yeah! Udemy has free classes and YouTube also has lots of great free tutorials. And don’t overlook Pinterest for DIY projects from headbands to making your own furniture.

Using something on a daily basis that you created or improved with your own hands gives you a really happy feeling. I reclaimed a butcher-block topped dining table to use as a desk and it became my favorite place to hang out.

Cook From Scratch

Make one meal per week using no processed foods. If you have a crock pot, it’s not even that hard. You can make everything from homemade bread to pot roast and vegetables in a crock pot. Frankly, after you find out how easy crock pots make meals, you may need more than one.

Chopping and measuring can be a Zen experience. Don’t obsess, throw everything into the chopper (I use a Ninja) and dump. Or, put on your headphones and rock out like a mini spin class without the sweat.

Put in the liquid, turn on the pot and read a good book. Soon the house will draw your family to the table with the smell of fresh cooked food. No yelling needed.

Play With a Toddler

Nothing refreshes your world view like talking to a 3 year old. They have an innate sense of right and wrong and everything is new and fun. Warning: this can lead to hearing the title song from Frozen a couple dozen times. Just go with it. Don’t schedule a play date or any structured activity, grab some bubbles, chalk, crayons or magnets and go (no screens allowed). The toddler will find something to do. Just follow.

I garden and my daughter doesn’t, but on Mother’s day while outside, my granddaughter picked up my spade and started stirring dirt in one of my pots. No prompting, and she was neat with it. We talked and I explained the plants. A good time was had by all.

These activities may not work for everyone, but try one or two during the week and see if your level of excitement or caring about the world increases. Or maybe you’ll invent something or just de-stress. The brain can be refreshed with any good music, learning, and face to face interactions. These processes all increase positive neural actions and hormones.

Tom’s remedy to withdraw physically sounds great and I hope to try it one day myself. Unfortunately it may not work for everyone who needs to rejuvenate, but anyone can do the 5 things listed above. Any combination of them can be used for a mini vacation to revive your brain cells. And that’s where excitement begins.

* Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard
** Bad News Burnout

Skynet is Destiny

Let’s face it, a Google/Apple showdown was destined to happen. With all the recent moves Google has with Glass, self-driving cars, Nexus, and fiber optic internet all powered by Android, Apple had to swing back. Well, the gloves are off and the fight is on.

Disclaimer: Techsnoop believes Apple makes good products. Just not superior, and they’re overpriced for value. Techsnoop’s main objection to Apple world is their invasiveness. If I buy a product, I own it. Don’t shackle me to your way of life. Rant over.

According to Mashable, Apple feels they can meet your needs with seamless cross-device integration. Phone, tablet, laptop, TV are all powered and connected with the same familiar interface. Leave off email or movie on your phone and pick it up on your laptop or TV.

Android vs Apple

Innovation Fail

Hello? Where is the innovation in this? Google has seamlessly integrated across devices already. Ever heard of Google Docs, Google Voice, Calendar and Maps? (Have you picked up a Samsung phone lately?) All of these apps are connected through the Android system and are just as easily accessed from your Windows laptop, tablet, or PC. Oh yeah, and that little Google owned platform called YouTube.

Once again Apple has taken someone else’s great idea, tweaked it a bit and yelled INNOVATION! Thinking that if they yell loud enough and slap enough slick Apple logos on it, no one will notice they copied (stole) from some one else.

The upside is that Google will certainly fight back with a tightened up Android universe and some goodies to boot.

Taking a look at some of Apple’s “innovations”, check iCloud Drive with 5GB of free storage with larger amounts available for monthly or annual fees. This sounds remarkably similar to Google Drive, yet Google offers 15GB free. But, hey, you can now auto back up your photos in iCloud. A feature that Android has had for four years.

Does Techsnoop think some of the Apple software tweaks are good? Absolutely. And, frankly, Apple fans deserve the overdue upgrades. But Techsnoop needs an ice pack for the headache that comes in when Apple claims innovation when all they did is take a bunch of great ideas from other companies and scoop them into the Apple universe. But, if you are an Apple Fangeek, you’re in for some awesome treats that Android users have  enjoyed for five or more years. Congratulations.

Let Techsnoop know if you are a Droid or Fangeek.

Get a Taste of Geek

If you don’t understand the geek trend, May is a great month to test run your inner Geek. Try out some comics, movies or dress up as your favorite super hero.

Free Comic Book Day

Wonderworld ComicsIf you missed Free Comic Book Day, stop into your local comic store and talk to the staff. Chances are they still have some free stuff and some deals on popular story lines. As a newbie, they will be happy to catch you up on the latest. Techsnoop’s favorite store is Wonderworld Comics, located on Ecorse Road in Taylor, Michigan. The staff is ultra friendly and knows everything comic-related. Click here to find a store near you. As a bonus, most comic shops are small businesses and supporting local small business is great for everyone.

May The Fourth Be With You

Finally, celebrate today with a marathon of Star Wars movies. They were all released in May and the tag line is catchy. Here’s a salute from Techsnoop’s pal #SmuttyCat.

SmuttyCat Jedi

 

 

Recently, PayPal’s President, David Marcus berated his employees in writing, on not using the company products and even for forgetting their passwords. He summed up by stating that staff should get with the program or look for another job. Now, as a small business advocate, Techsnoop concedes that companies have the right to set their own standards and rules. Whatever the company thinks is best is their right, within law.

However, there are tried and proven methods for properly managing and motivating staff, and intimidation and ranting are not on the list. In fact, if you were to take a poll of employees around the world, Techsnoop would bet a case of Coke-Cola that these behaviors are guaranteed to make staff sabotage a business just before moving to another job. By the way Coke-Cola, Marcus supports his employee’s hacking of your machines. Perhaps an investigation is needed?

DKemp Designs Coke collage

The problem arose during a test of a new PayPal mobile enabled business some employees refused to install the app on their devices. While testing of technology products is absolutely to be encouraged, this is America and when an employee uses their money to purchase a device, for their use, an employer has no right to demand that it be used to support their business objectives.

If PayPal or any other business wants to utilize employees for product testing, provide the equipment and connect it to their own bank accounts for this purpose. Perhaps the employees do not want the employer to have access to their banking information or do not feel comfortable with mobile purchases in general. Maybe their device is a lower level Android and doesn’t run well with too many apps. Or perhaps the employee feels the application sucks and doesn’t want it on their device.

Remember, applications have broad permissions to access information on your device and can be used for hacking, identity theft and outright bank fraud. Demanding that your employees open themselves to these issues with no obligation to support them in case of an event is unconscionable.

Reactions to this snafu have been mixed. Some have defended the remarks as misunderstood “passion” for his company while others have noted that this leadership style is outdated and that the company needs to look at their products more closely.

Techsnoop believes the words of the message speak for themselves. PayPal is insisting that employees use their personal time and equipment to support the company goals with no reward other than being “passionate PayPals”. Further, Marcus instructs these “Passionistas” to pressure and intimidate their colleagues creating an uncomfortable work atmosphere. Mr. Marcus, as a previous HR staffer Techsnoop wants you to know harassment on the job leads to litigation.

Weigh in on the PayPal discussion in the comments below. Is it passion or intimidation?

Shake Off Snowpocalypse

Well, it’s that wonderful time of year again. January, when all is cold and bleak and you must somehow road map an entire year of business success. Perhaps 2013 was OK, but you need to move to the next level. Or, maybe some of your tools and strategies did not work out well. Or, maybe, like Techsnoop, you have an unquenchable desire to grow as much as possible.

Whatever the motivation, success does not happen in a vaccum, it has to be planned, adjusted and planned. Toward that goal, here are some tools and technology that can help your business reach 2014 goals.

DKemp Designs Banner for TSH

Security

Security breaches came fast and furious in the last part of 2013. Don’t be fooled, this is a trend that won’t go away. Every person needs a security plan for finances, business and personal information. Default features and systems are not reliable.

If you have a Windows 8 computer, make sure you upgrade to 8.1 and use Windows Defender or AVG. Many of the programs that come pre-installed will expire after 60 to 90 days. Windows Defender and AVG both are free and don’t expire.

Change your passwords. Techsnoop cannot stress this enough. Not only change them, make them all completely different from any previous passwords you used AND use special characters. Hackers are not only getting better, they have awesome tools to crack passwords that are simple or based on personal information. Although many state you should not write down passwords, Techsnoop recommends you keep an off-line list secured at your home. This makes it easier for you to feel OK making complex passwords. Never keep them in any on-line accessible medium.

Mobile

Make your business mobile now. The percent of buying customers only accessing the web from a tablet or smartphone is rising daily. If you are not visible on these platforms your business will drop daily.

There are many options for going mobile. Even if you currently have a site that is not mobile, you can use a mobile app, build a smaller mobile site with your top sellers or use a template builder. Of course the best option is to build your site mobile ready from the beginning. DKemp Designs creates sites that will work on all devices, including iPads and iPhones. Whatever you do, now is the time to be mobile ready.

Technology

Many studies say that using headphones while working increases productivity. Find a comfortable set, choose your tunes and get ready to warp out piles of work. CNET has a roundup from CES2014 to look over. Techsnoop uses the ARCTIC P311 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones with Integrated Microphone because they;

Have an awesome 20-Hr Playback and several days standby time.
Are comfortable with over the ear and behind the neck style and padded ear cover
Come in pink
Switch from music to phone with no problem
Fold down to carry easily (see Techsnoop review on Amazon.com)

Upgrade your drivers on phones, laptops and tablets. If you connect your tech to printers, headphones and each other make sure they continue to work well together by keeping the software updated.

Drop Windows XP. Yes, Techsnoop knows it is easy to use and you like it. BUT, it is not ready for today’s tech and security. Support for the platform is non-existent and it’s just time to move on. Find a qualified tech to update you today.

Social Media

Sign up for Buffer App, Hootsuite or Commun.it today. You need social media management. Branding requires nuturing which requires keeping your name positively in the public. Offer your followers great content and occasional freebies and become a social rock star. But you need a management tool. Get on board today. And use one of many analysis tools to determine your best posting times.