Monday, December 15, 2008

How Managed Print Services Reduces Costs

It is no secret that one of the easiest ways to save your business money is to run more efficiently. That is why so many businesses have begun tracking the cost of toner. Reducing your toner costs can yield a large amount of savings, but the savings are limited because of the inefficiencies that are involved when a company manages their own printer fleet.
This is why many money-conscious businesses are turning to Managed Print Services (MPS). Like the name implies MPS basically means you rely on a specialized IT company to help plan, implement and service your printer fleet.

They have the expertise to incorporate new printers into the network with the expectation of increasing productivity and efficiency while reducing costs. By having your printing network planned and managed by one vendor your business saves a substantial amount of time fixing IT problems, ordering toner and implementing new document management systems.

• Save up to 30% of your print costs
• Reduce the number of printers
• Service, implementation and supplies from one vendor
• Document Management properly configured
• Reduce energy consumption and waste

Printer and toner costs are the final part of the equation for MPS. There is more to printer and toner costs than the pure price alone. Don’t force a square peg into a round hole. Finding the right printer for the job can save thousands. The primary consideration for a printer should be reliability. Nothing costs a company more money than downtime. The second thing to look for is the cost of the consumables; this includes the toner and drums. Many companies such as HP and Lexmark have inexpensive toners but they do not yield nearly as much as their competitors resulting in much higher costs. Companies like Kyocera can help reduce toner costs and have one of the lowest TCO (total cost of ownerships).

Even if your business’ printers are new and you believe you have an efficient printer fleet having an outside MPS vendor may help you see the base of the iceberg more clearly.

If you are based in the Kansas or Missouri area one vendor that provides Kyocera products and manaaged print service is called Tekniq Data Corp. Copy machine and printers

How to choose a Contact Manager or CRM

Here is a good aricle/tutorial of things to look for in a CRM or Contact manager

Wiki How Article

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Website Design - Target your Market

These days there are lots of different website designs you can choose. The most important thing to keep in mind is what is appropriate for the market you are advertising to. For instance, a website like College Humor may be able to get by with lots of video, file sizes that are enormous and flash that may slow down the navigation of the website. It is simply because the people viewing the site are not nessisarily trying to get to information. They are trying to be entertained and enetertainment comes in all forms.

However, for a small business this could be a bad thing. People want to find information about your company and find it fast. They may not be willing to wait for a flash animation to load and don't want to dig for the information they want.

Take Roy E. Daly Management Corp, they are a real estate company that has apartments and townhomes in California. Their customers want to find floorplans, contact information, apartment ammenities and photos of the properties. It is clean and streightforward which is what it should be.

So when choosing a website design, ask yourself what your customers would like to see first.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How to choose the right website design company

Choosing the right designer for your small business can be hard if you do not know what you should look for. Here is a simple guide that you can use to make sure you ask the right questions and make an educated decision every time.

Website Design

Any company can say they have great designs but we believe a company’s portfolio should speak for itself. To adequately judge a website you must look at:

  • Quality of Design
  • Ease of Use
  • Initial Impressions
  • How sites compare to others in the same industry
  • Consistent look throughout each the entire website
  • Navigation is located at the top or left side of the website

Technical Expertise

This aspect is much harder to judge unless you are familiar with web technologies. However, this can be just as important as a good design. A few things to look for and ask when looking for a web design company are:

  • Do their sites load quickly?
  • Does the company put an emphasis on Search Engine Optimization?
  • Does the company use templates?
  • Does the company test on Mac and PC?
  • Does the company have a testing environment and backups?
  • Does the company host their own sites or use an outside company?

Attention to Details

Sometimes the smallest things can make the difference. Look for:

  • Page titles – each page should be unique and descriptive
  • Terms of Use page – make sure it is present
  • Copyright statement on every page
  • Use of contact forms rather than published email addresses
Of course there are many other things you will want to find out, but the important thing is to go with your instincts. If you visit a web site design website and it isn't one that you would like having, then why hire them to make your website. Hopefully this guide will help save you money and hire the right website designer the first time.

This article was written and provided by Josh Collins, a multimedia designer in the Kansas City area. He has designed user interfaces and websites ranging from small business sites to large social network websites. His recent work includes: an easy to use web based contact manager

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Improving Search Engine Ranking

Recently I did some research on to what makes each search engine tick. What I found was of course that they are very similar as to what they look for in a website, but one of the biggest things I found out was the site’s age plays a giant role in your search rankings.

This is true for Google especially, it is almost impossible to get a decent ranking by Google if your website is fairly new (under 18 months). Yahoo and MSN seem to put a bit different emphasis on this and in as little as 6 months you can get a good ranking with them if you build your website correctly.

The basic things I recommend to get your search ranking up are below (and in order from the most important).

1. Don’t use navigation that is Javascript based, crawlers may not be able to see all the pages in your website

2. Use your keywords in your title tags of your website

3. Use your keywords on the text of your website frequently and put them in the appropriate paragraph and heading tags.

4. Get links from other websites that have high PR rankings. Just a link isn’t great, but a link that contains your keywords. (for example if your website is that sells widgets, try to get a link that goes to when they click on the word “widget”)

5. Use meta tags and descriptions. They say they aren’t that used anymore, but I think it could be the difference between a good rating and a great rating. Try to be as detailed as possible to each page and not use the same description on every page.

6. Use title/Alt tags on images and link on your own website.

That about covers it, there is not amazing technology that you need to know – but people frequently don’t do the basics so if you do it will be noticed.

LongJump CRM Reviewed

LongJump is one of the newest web based CRM’s on the market today, unfortunately all the hype may not be worth much.

I reciently signed up for the 30 day trial to see what all this “custom application” and “relational database” stuff that they advertise is about. It is definintely not geared to inspire small businesses to use a CRM package. It is just much too difficult and involves too much understanding of the underpinnings to do even basic tasks.

First impressions:

The appearance of LongJump is actually pretty nice. It has a green a blue windows XP color theme going on that works quite well. The overall layout is really nothing new with the tabs across the top and some actions on the left. What was interesting and hard to get used to was to add a record of anytime you needed to click on the tab you wanted and then click “add record” from the left side of the screen. A bit odd but nothing to major.

Another thing that I noticed was the drop down menu at the very top of the page. This allows you to go between your “contact manager” and your “sales force automation” along with over 12 other modules that you can choose or ones that you have created yourself. This was somewhat neat but the more I got into it the harder it was for me to use because of this.

The homepage consisted of widgets that are “drag and droppable” which was nice, though the drag and drop was choppy on FireFox. They allow you to show a lot of content on each page but this requires a minimum screen resolution of 1280x1024 to use their product. If you have this, no worries.

Under the hood:

My biggest pet peeve when working with LongJump was that you have tabs from each area that are the same but not connected to the other areas. Ie. In the Sales Force Automation tab I have accounts and contacts but if I go to the “campaign manager” tab and try to set up a mailing list it seems that I have to import new contacts instead of being able to say “use these contacts that I have already entered. There may be a way to do this, but it sure isn’t intuitive.

The lack of intuitive actions was the bottom line to why I cannot recommend this product. Even something as simple as uploading your logo isn’t as easy as it should be. You have to click on “upload logo” then you go to a screen where you need to enter all your company information, go to another screen to upload the photo and then select that upload from the prior screen. It doesn’t even resize it to make it look decent.

Final Thoughts:

What LongJump has done is create an application that can create other applications. In theory this is fantasic, but in reality all it did was create a hard to use product that isn’t “great” at anything. If you use only the basic contact manager and ignore the other parts it may work for your company, but once you start messing around with the rest you will find it just isn’t designed as nice as it could be.

For the same price you can get an easier to use small business crm software.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The verdict is in on LogicBright’s new version

After several responses about the new version of LogicBright CRM, the consensis is that it was a great move for the product. Everyone thought the interface changes were good and made it easier to get around. A couple were really impressed with the “dragging and dropping” of custom fields. Most of the other features went over really well including the “assign to teams.” However, they felt that feature was really needed prior to this launch, but is glad it is part of the product now.
Though I only talked to a few small businesses regarding the changes, it seems that LogicBright CRM is really paying attention to what their clients want in a small business CRM solution.

Friday, March 7, 2008

LogicBright CRM Launches New Version: Is it good?

On 3/2/08, LogicBright CRM released news of version 1.5. The new version boasts "30% lighter and has innovative new features that will help users be more productive and efficient while maintaining its ease of use." For those of you unfamiliar with LogicBright CRM, they are a small business CRM application.

But what does this all mean to you? Is it better? Faster? Do the new features complicate things?

Well I tried it out and here is what I found.

As to the "30% lighter, faster" claim. I didn't really notice the speed difference on every page, I am using a 8mb cable line so it is doubtful that their old interface was large enough to impact me. But I would assume that on a slower connection, maybe one that a mobile sales person would use, it could impact them.

There were many new features listed on their LogicBright CRM 1.5 tour page. So I will go down the list and discuss a few of them.

Start-up wizard - When new users login, they get a 5 step wizard that walks them through a few basic tasks. This is really innovative and original. I think new users will really appreciate this feature and will help them understand what CRM is capable of in an easy way.

The Interface - This was noticeable from the first login. The data is shown in a clear more refined way. I found it easier to scan for the information I was looking for.

Drag and Drop - This was probably the best feature addition I could have seen. One of their weak points in the past was their inability to put custom data fields any where you wanted. But now you can easily drag them to the spot you want them. It was one of the easiest "setups" I have seen for a CRM product.

Assign to Teams - Long overdue, but done well. When you type in an employees name it allows you to choose numerous employees or choose a team that they are on. Like usual, they use their innovative instant search that searches for your users as you type.

New Widgets - I noticed the addition of a photo widget, where you can put a couple photos to have a mini slide show on the homepage. Neat, but not overly useful. I also noticed a few options for existing widgets which allowed me to read a bit about the article before clicking on the news link. Pretty useful.

Overall, most of the changes are really good. There are a few "niceties" that aren't overly useful but add to the refinement of the product. I think LogicBright CRM has sealed the "Easy use CRM" part of the market.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Google, MSN and Yahoo Differ on Search Engine Marketing

So you are interested in advertising on Google, MSN and/or Yahoo but don't know if there are any real differences. Take it from me, there are very big differences and being aware of them can save you a lot of money.


Recently, I was charged with the task of promoting a new piece of software that is geared towards the small business market. I felt this was a good opportunity to run a test to see which search engine is most effective to advertise on. What I found was some startling differences between Google Adwords, Yahoo Sponsored Search and MSN AdCenter and how effective each one was at promoting my product.

Test Setup

Over two months run the same advertisements with the same keywords on Google Adwords, Yahoo Sponsored Search and MSN AdCenter to see how each of them performs. Though the daily budgets were the same, the cost per click had to vary in order to keep consistent with other bids for each search engine. The goal was to bid just enough to appear in an average search position of 2-3.

Test in progress

While the test was taking place I noticed that Google had by far the most impressions to offer and had very little trouble filling my entire budget each day. Yahoo, though they said they didn't have many impressions to offer for those keywords also maxed out my budget each day, sometimes even exceeding my daily maximum. MSN on the other hand never came close to filling my budget; sometimes it only drove a handful of people to the site over a week's time.

Another thing I noticed is that the cost per click varied slightly for the same position in their results. Google was the most expensive at just over $3 dollars per click, Yahoo was $2.67 and MSN was $2.39. I realize that the costs are a bit arbitrary without the keywords but this article is for comparison's sake and not specifics.

The Conclusion

In the end the only thing that really matters is how many clicks were converted. For those of you new to the term "conversion": A conversion is any signup, purchase or traceable action that you wish a user to perform. For us, a conversion meant a sign up.

After two months we had 60% of our signups from Google, 50% from MSN and a dismal 10% from Yahoo. The biggest surprise is that Google cost 50% of our total money spent, Yahoo cost 35% and MSN cost only 15% of our total budget. In the end MSN ended up being much cheaper per conversion and even though they didn't send a ton of traffic to our site it seemed that they were well qualified people that they were sending.

Yahoo was the biggest disappointment, costing over 3x's per conversion than Google and over 6x's more than MSN. There can be a host of reasons this is so, one of the possibilities is that Yahoo's users are not interested in the type of software we were promoting. Another possibility is that Yahoo's ads get clicked on by their users at a much higher rate which also causes the quality of the leads to be lower.

In the end, running campaigns on the major three search engines can be a great help, but monitoring them can save you a lot of money in the long run. What works on one search engine many not work on another, and keeping an eye on it will help you determine this. Don't be afraid to pull the plug if one is not working, sometimes you just need to go with what works and not force something that isn't showing you results.