When was the last time your handbag got a tech upgrade? These days our technology is an everyday personal experience. There’s the ever present smartphone in our pocket and the tablet in our bag. Now, smart watches and even glasses are becoming more common. Leoht is one company that thinks it’s time your handbag got on board the wearable technology train. Leoht is no humble handbag. At the start it’s a leather luxury item with custom hardware touches. It’s created with fashion in mind and the tech in the bag is integrated to be nearly invisible so as not to interrupt its sleek design. The company boasts that this is stylish technology that says no more to ugly wearables. Essentially Leoht’s tech is purposed to keep your devices charged. The bag contains a built-in lithium ion battery hidden in the bottom. The battery can be wirelessly charged by a charging plate included in the sale. Leoht boasts that by simply placing the bag on the plate it can charge while not in use. The company also claims the battery can last up to 30 days on standby. For more information on Leoht check out the Kickstarter video below. An external power panel is included in the bag’s design. This panel has a two-fold use. It indicates how much charge the bag has left with a minimalist light-up display. It also contains a microUSB charger allowing for a power up when you can’t get to the charge plate. Two built-in USB ports can be found tucked away at either end of the bag. This allows you to plug in and charge your devices while you’re on the go anywhere. Leoht claims that with a full charge the company’s bag can charge a smartphone up to four times and a tablet up to two. In addition to charging your devices wherever you may be, Leoht also wants to solve the problem of your handbag becoming like a black hole. Interior lighting is made possible with the inclusion of four LED lights. There is even one exterior LED to make rummaging around in the dark easier. This could definitely be a potential time and frustration saver. Leoht has started a Kickstarter campaign to get its product off the ground. The early bird price for one of the bags is $149, though it’s rumored that once the Leoht Handbag hits stores it will retail between $300 and $350. The company hopes to start shipping in the fall. Image: Leoht This article, ” Combine Fashion and Tech with the Leoht Handbag ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Infusionsoft CEO Clate Mask (above) and his executive team kicked off the company’s annual conference, ICON15 , with several product announcements. Among them: Infusionsoft is entering the super-hot mobile payments space. This summer the company will offer a built-in payments solution in its marketing automation software platform. Rates will be “competitive” company executives say, at 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per each transaction. There is no setup fee. The payments solution has mobile capabilities so that small business users of Infusionsoft can accept payments from their customers while out of the office. Appearing before the crowd of over 3,000 business owners and partners at the Phoenix Convention Center, Mask said, “Small business is a big deal.” Small businesses have created a net of 18 million jobs in the last 5 years, Mask shared. Large companies have contracted their job pool by 2 million, he added. “You are part of something big. Your success matters – a lot. It matters not only to you, your families, your employees and communities; it matters to the economy, too,” he told the audience. Mask, together with his cofounders, Scott Martineau and Eric Martineau, related the story of Infusionsoft’s start in a strip mall. The company began as a software development company. “We were working way too hard and making way too little money,” he says. At one point, they got a visit from the police. They were erroneously suspected of being a meth lab because of people coming and going at all hours. The trio of cofounders say they went through the small business owners’ paradox: the things that free you also bind you. So while many entrepreneurs start businesses in a bid for freedom, they end up with responsibilities such as having to make payroll. Addressing the thousands of small business owners Mask said, “Thank you for never giving up.” Infusionsoft’s product, he said, is being transformed from a sales and marketing platform to a small business success platform. Infusionsoft is designed to automate marketing tasks to free up small business owners and their limited staff. Kyle Leavitt, Vice President of Product, said Infusionsoft will be introducing a variety of enhancements and new tools this year, including: Email Builder It includes a library of email templates all responsive and optimized for mobile. This will be implemented in the fourth quarter of 2015. Campaign Builder Enhancements This visually-oriented function Infusionsoft introduced more than a year ago helps companies automate their marketing campaigns and visualize them in a flowchart format. Leavitt said the enhancements, to be introduced later this year, will make it “even easier to use.” Payments The payments module will be introduced this summer. According to Leavitt, Infusionsoft users will be able to access full order history from mobile devices. Infusionsoft customers will have just one vendor to deal with and no manual actions or special integrations needed to implement a payments solution. Help Center A new online Help Center is being launched next week, and will include 24/7 live support help. It is also accessible from mobile devices. Infusionsoft has had a reputation in the past as a powerful system yet with a steep learning curve. But the company is in process of simplifying all aspects of it. “Its going to be simple … and awesome,” Leavitt enthusiastically told those gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center (pictured above). According to CRM industry analyst Brent Leary, Partner at CRM Essentials , Infusionsoft has made strong progress with its product in recent years. “When Infusionsoft started out, the product was complex. It could do a lot, but you almost needed a PhD to use it. It’s been great to see over the past few years how it’s evolved. They’ve made it so much easier to use. You can get more things done with fewer steps.” Analyst Paul Greenberg, President of The 56 Group, LLC agreed that the product has improved and he’s impressed with the product simplicity. “It’s intelligently designed, too, with the small business user in mind, not an enterprise user. My favorite feature is ‘My Day’ which shows your tasks for that day. That’s perfect for the small business user.” Co-founder Scott Martineau reinforced the company’s commitment to making the platform easier to use. “When we first started developing software, we weren’t focused on simplicity. A lot more of our efforts now are focused on usability,” said Martineau. In one sense, according to Leary, Infusionsoft is playing catch up by just now focusing on mobile-optimized email templates. Other competitors already offer those. But, he says, “Infusionsoft has so many other things going for it” compared with competitors. Infusionsoft customers make heavy use of email marketing, sending over 15 million emails each day. The announcement about the new Email Builder was met with a spontaneous round of applause in the event hall. In addition to the tech developments, Mask said that the Infusionsoft Marketplace will also be growing. The Marketplace is where Infusionsoft customers can find apps to integrate with other software applications they use, such as QuickBooks. “You’ll see an explosion in partnerships,” Mask assured analysts in a special Q&A session. Infusionsoft targets small businesses with up to two employees, but can serve them as they grow, up to a hundred employees. Infusionsoft, last year, secured a Series D round of funding in the amount of $55 million, led by Goldman Sachs. Company executives spoke openly about a potential IPO at some point in the future. Infusionsoft is based in Chandler, Arizona, and has 600 employees and more than 30,000 customers. Image: Infusionsoft, Twitter This article, ” Infusionsoft Announces Mobile Payments and More at ICON15 ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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When you once were called the “Social Media Swami,” what might a logical next career step be? For Shashi Bellamkonda, that next career step is to become a Chief Marketing Officer. Bellamkonda joins Surefire Social starting April 1. He will be the new CMO of the Herndon, Virginia-based technology and services provider. Bellamkonda is joining the management team as the company prepares to launch a new online software service called SurePulse later this summer. Chris Marentis, founder and CEO of Surefire Social, cited Bellamkonda’s “deep experience and vision in the local marketing space” as a key reason for the hire. In an official release from the company announcing Bellamkonda joining Surefire Social, Marentis said: “I am delighted to welcome Shashi Bellamkonda to the Surefire Social management team. His deep experience and vision in the local marketing space gives us the marketing leadership we need as we prepare to launch SurePulse, our new SaaS service. We have an excellent team in place to manage Surefire Social’s explosive growth while still providing innovative results driven marketing solutions.” Bellamkonda has over a decade of experience serving small businesses in the technology realm. Bellamkonda made social media history by taking on the unofficial title as the world’s first “social media swami” while at Network Solutions. He was on the forefront of those who foresaw social media becoming a critical channel for customer satisfaction and marketing. Today we take it for granted that social channels like Twitter must be monitored and listened to for customer service. But it wasn’t always that way. Said Bellamkonda, in an email interview with Small Business Trends: “So much has changed in the last 5 years. When writing about website trends for Small Business Trends, we stressed the importance of mobile for small business marketing. Today that is even more important and small business should pay attention these points to win in business.” Businesses today are more “local centric,” Ballamkonda says. This involves businesses being more integrated with GPS so that customers can use applications and Google searches to find local businesses, then visit the businesses with the GPS on their phone. These integrations lead to action with customers using mobile device being more likely to make quick decisions and convert, due to the on-the-go nature of mobile devices, Bellamkonda adds. Business websites have become more visual and instant as mobile has changed the way we lay out websites, and the way we interact with content. Everything is simpler. People are more likely to choose search results at the top of directories simply because fewer results are shown on their phone screens. Also, important, Ballamkonda says, is the wisdom of strangers. “Unlike 5 years ago where social media was still in its infancy for customer interaction,” he says. “Today customers find and visit the business on mobile and then post social media to discuss their experiences. Or if they didn’t get the kind of service they felt they deserved, demand it. All on a mobile device.” Mobile social media has also led to a streaming world, Ballamkonda says. He explains, “Photos, videos and live streams are giving customers the tools they never had before. This is also an opportunity for businesses to showcase their products and services.” Bellamkonda says he’s excited to be returning to the world of small business. His most recent role was Vice President of Digital Marketing for a real estate firm. Surefire Social currently serves independently-owned small businesses and franchisees The company’s platform helps small businesses with their local marketing needs, including Web, mobile and social. Surefire Social was named to the Inc 500 list of fastest growing companies in the United States in 2014. (Surefire Social came in number 341!) Bellamkonda was twice named a Small Business Influencer Champion, in 2011 and 2012. Bellamkonda credits serendipity with how the new role came about. He was contacted through LinkedIn to recommend “someone like Shashi Bellamkonda.” Instead, Bellamkonda said he recommended himself. Image: Surefire Social This article, ” The Original Social Swami Joins Surefire Social ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Should you send employees emails after work hours? As entrepreneurs, our minds are always on our businesses and we tend to be in a hurry about everything, so it seems only natural to fire off an email about work the minute something comes to mind. That could be at 9 p.m., midnight or 2 in the morning. For your employees, however, receiving emails from the boss after work is likely to be seen as intrusive and can even make them downright angry, a new study shows. The study identified two kinds of employees: Integrators and Segregators. Segregators, who like to keep their work and their personal lives separate, got particularly upset by receiving work-related emails after hours. They felt the emails interfered with their personal lives. Even integrators, who don’t mind mixing work with their personal lives, got annoyed by after-hours emails. Their curiosity about what was going on at work often outweighed the anger, if the emails were brief and/or positive — but the good feelings didn’t last long. Not surprisingly, both groups of employees got angry when receiving emails that were negative or required work to be done after hours, interfering with their personal lives in a more significant way. You may not be able to avoid sending the occasional email after hours these days. But the study suggests some steps to make the communications less intrusive, and keep your team happier. Set boundaries for when and when not to send emails . In general, you might want to restrict work-related emails to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., or some time frame that makes sense with your business and the hours most of your team works. Of course, this rule might vary based on departments or roles. For instance, you and your key managers may want to email at night because it’s the only time you can get work done. That’s fine, as long as you’re not emailing subordinates. Provide training in good email communications . Writing clear subject lines and keeping emails short will lessen time needed to read and respond to them. The study found brief emails that convey positive news (“Great job”) are least likely to cause negative emotions. Try to use positive, encouraging language, and don’t forget to be polite. Saying “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” or “I appreciate all your hard work” can help emails come across as more positive. Know what subjects are better discussed in person . Sensitive topics such as reprimanding an employee, delivering bad news or anything that’s likely to be misinterpreted should wait until you can talk face-to-face. Don’t send cryptic emails like “We need to talk about this tomorrow,” which will likely have your employee up all night worrying. Set expectations . If you do send an after-hours email that doesn’t require action, let the recipient know it doesn’t need an immediate response and can wait until morning. Email in Bed Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” To Send (or Not to Send) an After Hours Email, That Is the Question ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Your small business may already use Facebook to keep in touch with customers. And the ubiquitous social media platform is getting ready to introduce a way for your business to contact them there directly in all new ways. Facebook recently unveiled Businesses on Messenger. It’s set to be formally launched soon, the company’s website reports . The Businesses on Messenger app will allow your company to contact customers in a variety of ways — and in a place where they’re clearly spending a lot of time. On the company’s official Developers blog, Facebook Product Manager Lexy Franklin writes : “Businesses on Messenger enables things like the following: during the checkout flow on a business’s site, a person can choose to start a conversation with a business, receive updates from that business on things like order confirmations and shipping status updates, and ask the business free-form questions about the order, receiving quick responses.” Franklin also writes that there are now 600 million users on Messenger. The chances that some of them are your customers are pretty good. It’ll be a few weeks until Businesses on Messenger is officially launched but until then, here’s how Facebook is telling us it will work: If someone makes a purchase on your website, they can opt to receive notifications of the transaction through their Facebook Messenger app. That includes shipping updates, too. This allows you to connect with your customers in a one-on-one way. And Businesses on Messenger keeps each conversation organized. That way, you and your customers can maintain that one-on-one connection. Businesses on Messenger allows you the ability to customize those types of messages. The message that initially connects your business to your customer can showcase the item they purchased, the size or style, and the cost. Future updates can track the shipment until it arrives at its destination and eventually when it arrives to your customer’s door. These personalized notifications are sent right to your customer’s Messenger app and come from your business. Normally, your customers would get confirmations on orders and shipping from third-party apps, and would have to manually check shipping statuses. Businesses on Messenger is going through a trial phase with two of Facebook’s first partners in this venture, Everlane and zulily . Facebook is also working on partnering with live chat platforms. Currently, the social site has a deal in place with Zendesk . This allows your business to have one-on-one conversations with prospective customers, too. Through this and future partnerships with live chat providers, Businesses on Messenger will allow companies to send and receive text messages and photos with customers. Even more, Businesses on Messenger can be set to send push notifications to a customer’s mobile device. These are the notifications that overlay any current activity on a user’s smartphone, even their lock screen. These types of notifications will put your business’s interactions your customer front-and-center and impossible to miss. Right now, Facebook is recruiting businesses that want to use Businesses on Messenger. On the service’s main page, there is a sign-up form for those interested in participating. Image: Facebook This article, ” Facebook Wants Your Businesses On Messenger ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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This is a live blog post from the Affiliate Management Days Conference in San Francisco. Affiliate Management Days is an educational event for affiliate managers and those responsible for performance marketing programs within their organizations. It is a place where the thought leaders of the performance marketing world gather to exchange thoughts about the advancement of their performance driven campaigns. Following are the key takeaways from Keynote Ben Edelman, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Key Takeaways: from A New Code of Conduct for Affiliate Marketing Why Affiliate Marketing? Creativity. Reach. Attractive pricing model, low risk model — “I’m thrilled to pay x percent commission for anyone who can bring in a sale. I can’t lose!” Affiliate marketing fixes paying for placement on low quality sites, invisible banner ads, and large volume click fraud. Challenges Difficulty managing and monitoring high volumes of affiliate partners you’ve never met. Many and divergent incentives: merchant, network, affiliate program manager, affiliate. Affiliate Earns Commission If User browses the affiliate’s Web site, User clicks affiliate’s link to merchant, AND User makes a purchase. Question : If that’s the case, can the merchant partner with anyone ? What Can Go wrong? Complacency. “Strategic behavior” — doing something that perhaps you would not like that helps them earn more money. This impacts affiliate behavior, affiliate network behavior, and affiliate manager behavior. You can use network tools and forensiq.com to help you monitor and catch fraudulent behavior in order to keep your program as clean as possible. There are legal case examples of “what can go wrong” working with affiliates, per  Ben Edelman ‘s website. Affiliate Networks Can decide “how hard” to look for this stuff. If they are not taking responsibility or accountability for affiliate bad behavior, they will still earn revenue from it. They need to consider what happens if they find a problem and how it will affect their revenue. How will merchants respond if they find problems? Affiliate Managers Can decide “how hard” to look for this as well. Especially when they get paid $60,000  plus 10 percent of year over year affiliate program growth, as an example. They have incentives to look the other way in many cases. Get an old computer and use Firefox’s built-in tools and/or Chrome after installing some adware/spyware to try and catch this behavior. Solutions to “Turning the Other Way” Set realistic goals. Reward genuine advances, such as catching fraud. What if the affiliate manager finds fraud in last year’s results? Accept and applaud that you get to save money going forward because of their discovery. Keep an Eye Out For: Adware Cookie-stuffing “Loyalty” plug ins Typosquatting Recognize your vulnerabilities. Network Managed Program Think carefully about network’s incentives. Set clear guidelines especially in the areas that are controversial. Don’t assume network’s default is in your interest. Self-Managed Program What do the specialists know that you don’t ? Come to AMDays . Read news forums. Hire professional help! Internet Marketing Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” A New Code of Conduct for Affiliate Marketing ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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I had the opportunity to interview Alex Osterwalder about his new book Value Proposition Design . This is the first part of the two part interview. For fun I thought I would break the interview into two parts so we could take a look at his thoughts on both bad value propositions and good value propositions in turn. Below you will find my questions in bold and Alex’s answers immediately following the questions. Continue reading →

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So you’ve already learned to install WordPress plugins and to automatically update the plugins for your WordPress website . Now you may be wondering, “How do I update WordPress itself?” That’s a good question and, as luck would have it, the aim of this post is to answer it. But before we dive into the actual steps, let’s take a step back so you can understand those steps better when it’s time for you to update your WordPress website. Do You Need to Read the Rest of This Post? WordPress comes in two flavors: hosted and self-hosted. When you create your WordPress site over at wordpress.com, you’re using the hosted option. While not as customizable as the self-hosted option, it’s the perfect platform if you want to get up and running quickly. Luckily for you, all WordPress.com sites are updated automatically, so you don’t have to worry about how to update your site on your own. May we suggest one of our other super-useful posts instead? If you create your WordPress website over at one of the many available hosting companies, you’re using the self-hosted option. Self-hosted WordPress sites are infinitely customizable, and that’s a good thing. What’s not so handy is that you need to update your WordPress site manually or set it up to update automatically. So if your site is self-hosted, the rest of this post is definitely for you. Types of WordPress Updates There are two different types of WordPress updates: Major Releases: Major releases add new user features and goodies for developers and fix both critical and non-critical bugs. These typically occur every 4 to 5 months. Minor Releases: M inor releases fix security vulnerabilities and critical bugs only. These occur as needed. You can tell the type of update by its version number. WordPress version numbers follow this format: #.#.#. Here’s how it works: Major releases are indicated by a change to the first two numbers. For example: versions 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 4.0 and 4.1 were all major releases. Minor releases are indicated by a change to the third number. For example: versions 3.9.1, 3.9.2, 3.9.3, 4.0.1 and 4.1.1 were all minor releases. One fun point of interest: as the WordPress core developers share a love of jazz music, all major releases have been named in honor of jazz musicians they admire . Updating Automatically vs. Manually? There are two ways to update WordPress: manually and automatically. You may be wondering why you’d want to update WordPress manually instead of conveniently setting and forgetting automatic updates. As we’ll discuss below, you can set up automatic updates for: all releases, major releases only, minor releases only or no automatic updates at all. Many folks just let their site update automatically and that’s just fine. However, major releases do have the potential to break backwards compatibility meaning that things like plugins, themes and custom code that worked before a major release update might not work after. In English? Installing major updates automatically may break your website until the broken plugin, theme or custom code is updated. Minor releases don’t pose this threat as the core WordPress development team works hard to ensure that backward compatibility stays in place during minor release updates. How do you decide which approach to use? If your site does not use a lot of plugins, uses a theme provided by WordPress and does not use much custom code, automating both types of updates will most likely be safe. If your site does use a lot of plugins, a premium theme or a good amount of custom code, you may want to automate minor release updates and manually update major release updates during one of your website’s slow traffic times (over the weekend or at night). That way, if something breaks, it will affect fewer of your site visitors. That said, it’s time to get updating. Ready? Let’s get to it … How Do I Update WordPress Automatically? By default, every website built on WordPress version 3.7 and later has automatic updates enabled for minor releases. If you’d like to automate major release updates, plugin updates and theme updates or if you’d want to turn off all automatic updates, you can do so using a plugin like the ones below: WP Updates Settings The WP Updates Settings plugin is our top choice for automating your WordPress updates. As you can see below, it offers a clean interface and lots of options for managing your site’s updates.   Update Control The Update Control plugin adds some options to your site’s General Settings page, letting you specify how auto-updates should work. Advanced Automatic Updates Although the Advanced Automatic Updates plugin hasn’t been updated in 2 years, it still gets rave reviews. Created by the same folks as the Update Control plugin, this one goes to 11 with lots of bells and whistles. How Do I Update WordPress Manually? When a release is ready to go, you’ll see a message like the one below. Click on the “Please update now” link to begin your website’s update process. Once you click the link, you’ll be taken to the update screen shown below. There are some points of interest on this screen:  The message in the white box recommends that you backup your website before updating. That’s good advice because if, as we discussed above, the new release does break your site, you can simply restore the backup to get your site up and running again. Not sure how to backup your WordPress website? We’ll be releasing a post that walks you through that process in a couple of weeks so make sure to check back. If you want to know what a particular release adds or fixes, click on the link to the new version (as shown below, the link reads, “WordPress 4.1.1″). Some businesses prefer to download the update and try it on a test system. Most folks however to click the “Update Now” button and that’s what we’ll do during our walk through here. At the bottom is a notice that your site will be in maintenance mode during the update. That should be fine as updates are quick however, if you have a lot of activity on your site, try to chose a time when that activity is low. In the short period that the update happens, your visitors will see WordPress’ default “Down for Maintenance” message. Once you click the “Update Now” button, you’ll be taken to the update status screen you see below: After the update has applied the latest release, you’ll be taken to a page similar to the one below. There you can learn more about the release and how it’s changed your website.   Conclusion To sum up, if your WordPress site is hosted over at wordpress.com, you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff. WordPress will handle the automatic updates for you. Of course, you’re missing out on all the customization possible with a self-hosted WordPress site. If you host your site yourself with one of the many providers out there, you’ve gained a lot more control over what your website can be. But with great power comes great responsibility. You’ll need to deal with WordPress updates yourself, either manually or automatically. WordPress.com Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” How Do I Update WordPress? ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Wix is hoping to hit the high note with independent musicians on its latest offering. Saying that indie musicians are under-served in being provided a competent Web platform to share and sell their music, Wix has introduced WixMusic. This new specialty platform allows musicians to upload their recorded music directly to their new Wix site and sell it immediately. Wix says it has created specialty site themes targeted at musicians. And because mobile devices are often used to stream music, the new WixMusic sites are optimized for those devices, too. Wix hopes the new platform will appeal to independent bands, DJs, music producers, studios, singers, songwriters and musicians. In an official announcement of the new platform March 31, Wix Co-Founder and CEO Avishai Abrahami, says: “WixMusic is the latest verticalized solution added to the Wix platform, further executing our goal to provide comprehensive ways for anyone, including musicians, to build, manage and grow a business or brand online. “Musicians want to focus on their music, not code websites, or piece together the tools they need. That’s why we created a complete and commission-free solution, letting this unique professional audience create an online presence that encapsulates their sound.” And perhaps most important to indie musicians, Wix takes no commission on the sale of their music. Check out the Wix video introducing the service, highlighting how one band takes advantage of WixMusic: Add this to an array of services already by Wix, best known for its drag-and-drop Web construction platform. Thousands of businesses have taken advantage of Wix’s relatively easy-to-use site building app to create a ready-to-go eCommerce platform, the company says. Now, that can include musicians with WixMusic. That’s not to say that musicians should pull a Taylor Swift and yank their music off other popular, albeit crowded, streaming services, but having a ready-made eCommerce site allows musicians to grow their brand and build their own identity. The WixMusic platform also allows musicians and bands to market themselves as a brand, too. The platform allows groups to sell their own branded merchandise. Bands using new platform can also create an email newsletter to stay in contact with their fans. Wix includes tracking and metrics that musicians can use to monitor their site’s successes or shortcomings. That includes determining how recipients of an email newsletter responded to it. This new platform will be gradually introduced, according to a Wix statement, and eventually available to all users soon. Image: Wix.com This article, ” WixMusic Lets Musicians Set the Tempo for Their Brand ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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You can accomplish amazing things in business when you have the right tools, both technological and social. This is especially true for managing company projects. With some great tools in your arsenal, such as those that follow, you should be able to address all your project management needs. Do you have all seven of these? Project Management Software Thanks to modern technology, project management software has become easier to use than ever. The best programs enable you to keep all your collaborators on the same page, with interactive timelines, data tracking, time stamping, expenditures on each job, content gathering, and delegation capabilities. According to Tom Treanor, Director of Marketing at Wrike , a project management software company, “You need a project management option that makes it easy to create tasks, involve team members through easy tagging, and that integrates with email and file sharing platforms. Using great project management software is one of the keys to successfully hitting your business goals.” Shareable Platforms Every project needs access to file-sharing capabilities in order to keep relevant members of the team on task at all times. This allows for access to files from the project manager to the team members and helps to minimize project issues and inefficient time management. The best sharing programs will have the following qualities: Online and can be accessed anywhere with an Internet connection Simple editing functions The ability to attach the project to the task Sharing capabilities between collaborators Security features that protect and back up your work Integration with your project management software Among the most commonly used sharing platforms are Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Communifire. Project Analysis In order to keep your jobs running as smoothly as possible, you need a project analysis tool that will collect data from project management software. Such data will improve your efficiencies and processing. The best project management options will have analytics programmed right into the software, but you can also find separate alternatives that collect the data for you. The resulting report will show you the time and money spent on each project, the number of people involved, the amount of communication necessary, and any other information you need to know in order to streamline processes and improve your bottom line. Communication Standards Before beginning a project with any collaborators, you have to define your communication standards. Most companies use email for all communication, but that won’t work for every company and every project. Let your collaborators know the proper channels to go through when they need to ask a question, participate in team meetings, discuss creative ideas, and interact with teammates. For example, you might want all simple questions and team interactions to take place within your project management software’s comment feature; and all team meetings to take place through group video chat, such as Google Hangout. Defining these standards at the beginning will reduce wasted time and miscommunication and help you deliver more efficient work. Templates Most of your projects will probably fall under the same categories. For example, if you specialize in SEO, you’ll be working with PPC campaigns, social signals, and website content, in all likelihood. In order to make projects flow more smoothly, you can develop templates for each of these categories. It may take a little extra time at the beginning, but it will be worth it when the various facets of each project run more efficiently and the work performed by your team members ends up requiring less revision. Delegated Responsibility A common curse of project managers is the desire to do everything yourself because you believe you’ll be able to do it right. Usually, it’s simply not possible to do everything yourself and taking on too much will only result in poor-quality work as you race to complete everything on time. A project properly divided between each of its team members is a project that’s more likely to succeed. Just remember that delegating a task means you trust the other team members to perform the work correctly and you need to show that trust by checking in only occasionally, and not micromanaging every element of the job. Delegating responsibilities and then trusting your team members to complete the task will not only lighten your workload, but improve employee performance over time. Defined Leadership The success of most projects depends on a definite leader who possesses the traits of a professional. If you don’t have a clear leader, this will cause confusion and slow down the process as your team members duke it out during decision-making because no one’s been designated to make the final decisions. A solid leader can put the best ideas from your team members into practice and deliver the final word on project decisions. The team leader should also: Advocate for the vision, Communicate well, Communicate openly and honestly with all collaborators, Exude enthusiasm about the project, Delegate without micromanaging, Exhibit confidence and strong decision-making skills, Know how to solve problems as they surface, Offer feedback and praise when deserved, Listen to the input of others and encourage creativity and ideas. A competent leader is one of the most important tools in your project management belt. With a defined leader who’s willing to work with all your collaborators, successful project management is not just possible … it’s probable. Project Manager Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” 7 Tools That Guarantee Great Project Management ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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