All posts by Cory Skeates

03Mar/09

15 Applications No Small Business Can Live Without

Small business owners often have to wear every hat; from marketer to webmaster, so when I came accross this article today, I thought that some of you might find it interesting. The article was aimed at online business, but I have used several of these applications in my day to day work at the chamber, and i belive small businesses in genreal could really work more efficiently with them.

Note:

* Applications that I use

** Applications I have tried

1. WordPress* – Every online business should have a blog and WordPress is, by far, the most powerful blogging tool on the web today.

Alternative Resources:
Movable Type
Type Pad

2. Google Analytics* – Using a good analytics system is a must have for any online business. Spend some time learning how to read your site metrics and what they mean.

Alternative Resources:
Mint
Clicky

3. Basecamp* – Having a central place to organize and keep track of all your projects and notes goes a long way in making your life less stressful.

Alternative Resources:
Lighthouse
No Kahuna

4. Freshbooks – Because many freelancers are service oriented, it is essential to have some sort of invoicing system in place.

Alternative Resources:
Blink Sale
Ronin

5. Twitter* – Having a Twitter account is almost as important as having a blog these days. Twitter is easy to use and free to setup. Why wouldn’t you use it?

Alternative Resources:
Facebook*
Friendfeed**

6. Crowd Science – This is a cool tool that will randomly ask your visitors to take a poll to help you gather demographics about your visitors. It never hurts to learn more about your sites visitors.

Alternative Resources:
Get Satisfaction

7. Mozy – Its is never a bad idea to have some sort of backup in place. Mozy, makes backing up your files affordable and painless.

Alternative Resources:
iDrive
Carbonite

8. Google Webmaster Tools* – There are an amazing amount of tools here than can help you track your sites ROI, test designs, and much more.

9. E-Junkie – E-Junkie can be used for more than just selling products through affiliates, you can also use it to offer a reward system to your clients.

Alternative Resources:
iDev Affiliate
All Affiliate Pro

10. Netvibes – It is easy to be overloaded with RSS feeds. Having a tool that lets you easily organize that information will make it easier for you to digest.

Alternative Resources:
iGoogle**
Page Flakes

11. WuFoo Form Builder – A good form builder app is always good to have an account with. You never know when you may want a new form, quiz, poll, etc.

Alternative Resources:
Form Site
Form Spring

12. Mail Chimp – Email campaign apps make it easier for you to send bulk emails to past clients, setup news letters, and send important notices to customers.

Alternative Resources:
iContact**
Constant Contact*

13. Skype** – Skype is the ultimate communication tool, especially if you have clients all over the world. It is the default IM/Phone choice for freelancers who work abroad.

Alternative Resources:
Sight Speed
Google Talk *

14. Alert Thingy** – Alert Thingy allows you to manage and update most of your social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, Basecamp, and more; all in one spot.

Alternative Resources:
Event Box
Friend Feed

15. Are My Sites Up – If you have a website, then there is no reason you shouldn’t sign up for this service. Its free and lets you know if your sites crash via emails and text messages.

I would like to add one more:

16. Google Apps (For your Domain)* – Online, anywhere, company branded email, calendar, messaging, Intranet, & Google Docs.

Let me know what applications you use. I woudl love to hear from you.

02Mar/09

Marketing Mondays | The Next Step

This week’s Marketing Mondays comes from Seth Godin, in a way.  Last December, Seth posted an offer to take a group of students under his wing in what he called a 6 month MBA.  They’ve been up and running for a few weeks no and post to a blog called SAMBA.  From the SAMBA blog comes today’s Marketing Mondays post – a couple of ways to empower customers to become salespeople.

In a typical sales cycle, after you close the sale, the next step is to deliver and evaluate. I am suggesting a new step to the cycle after making the sale. That is, “Enable the customer to sell”.

If a customer likes your product or service, they should be happy to talk about their experience and recommend it to others. This is the part in the process where you should ‘enable the customer to sell’ and make them into your volunteer sales force. Create ways to make it easy for customers spread the word about your product/service. Here are a few examples of companies who added ‘enable the customer to sell’ to their sales process:

  • Included in the pack of your Moo business cards are 5 colorful cards the same size as your business cards with fun messages like, “You like my cards? Oh, thanks! Why not take this one too. You’ll thank me later. Probably.” Another card states, “I’d like one of *your* MiniCards! (You haven’t got any? Oh…umm take this, it should help.)” This cards easily enable the customer to sell, plus, include a discount for the new customer towards their first purchase.
  • In the back of the book, The Dip by Seth Godin, there is a page that encourages you to read the book and then pass it along to a friend to spread the idea. There are multiple lines so you can track who has read the book (and how to return it to the original purchaser). Encouraging the customer to read and pass-on the book enabled the idea of ‘the dip’ to spread resulting in increased book sales making The Dip a NY TImes best seller for multiple weeks.
  • Gilt Group is an invitation-only site that sells high-end luxury brands at steeply discounted sample sale prices. They entice members to invite their friends with the referral fee of $25 account credit when their friend makes their first purchase. They make it easy to evangelize by providing a personal invitation link and a way to send invites through their website.

Don’t let the sales cycle end once a person purchases your product or service. Find ways to make it easy to spread the word about your product/service and enable the customer to sell.

27Feb/09

Discover Saltimbanco

From the Producers of Saltimbanco:

Coming to Lakeland in April for 5 days only!


Saltimbanco is an intense, colorful celebration of diversity, joy and creativity. In an imaginary city, a crowd of colorful, nomadic characters gather to take you on a senses-defying acrobatic journey. Between the hustle and bustle of the street and the poetic heights of skyscrapers, the thrilling world of Saltimbanco awaits you.

www.cirquedusoleil.com/lakelandpromo

26Feb/09

District 1 Rail Traffic Evaluation Study Public Workshop #4 at the John Fuller Auditorium

Your Chamber staff attended public workshop no. 4 of the District One Rail Traffic Evaluation Study presented by the Florida Department of Transportation at Winter Haven City Hall last night. The purpose of these workshops is to identify potential projects, improvements or strategies to address community concerns related to rail services in Polk County. The Study focuses on identification of opportunities in three key areas:

  1. Impact Mitigation Strategies
  2. Freight Service Operations
  3. Passenger Alternatives. Last night’s meeting focused specifically on the projected costs of the eight proposed alternative freight routes. The numbers were grim.

The Chamber continues to work with the City of Lakeland to move legislation forward in the Florida House and Senate that supports relocating heavy rail traffic out of impacted urban centers, including Downtown Lakeland. Here is the link to last night’s presentation.

26Feb/09

Chamber Opposes the USPS’ Proposed Consolidation of Lakeland’s P&D CENTER

Anu Saxena, Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman,announced Wednesday the Chamber’s opposition to the USPS consolidation plans for the Lakeland Processing and Distribution Center. The Chamber, in a written letter to the Consumer Affairs Manager of the Suncoast District of the USPS, asked that the following points be taken into consideration:

  • Lakeland is located strategically between Tampa and Orlando on the I-4 corridor, a geographic super-region that is ranked seventh largest in the country and fifteenth in the world. Lakeland’s strategic location, with 8.5 million people living within a 100-mile radius of the city, should be considered an asset to the USPS as more individuals are projected to move into the region placing a greater burden on mail services.
  • What is the cost and service efficiency of collecting the 338 zip code mail in Lakeland and trucking it to Tampa? Once processed at the Tampa P&DC Center, this same mail will have to be trucked BACK to Lakeland and to further points in the 338 service area. This practice adds to increased truck traffic on an already stressed interstate system and results in consumption of excess fuel.
  • Lakeland’s P&DC has been recognized frequently as the top processing plant in the country. Why wouldn’t that level of service be utilized to its maximum capacity rather than forcing the Tampa facility to increase their overtime labor to handle the additional mail service?
  • The USPS also claims that local postmarks will continue to be available. This is true, but only if one physically takes his mail to a Post Office. The majority of our Chamber members are small business owners who do not have ample time in their day to drive mail to a post office, thus their mail will no longer bear the Lakeland postmark resulting in a loss of identity.

Every business in this country is enduring the same challenges the USPS faces: to identify cost-saving measures to keep their doors open without jeopardizing their most valuable asset, the customers they serve. While we commend the efforts of the USPS to improve operational efficiency and make more efficient use of Postal Service assets, we urge the USPS to consider the negative consequences of moving Lakeland’s First Class mail operations to Tampa.