Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Industrial Companies Can Make Their Websites More Interactive - Marketects Inc.

IndustrialMegaSearch.com New Company Listing

Latest listing on IndustrialMegaSearch.com:

Process Barron  -  With 30+ years of proven leadership in the design, manufacturing, installation, and service of heavy process equipment, ProcessBarron is the industry's total systems solutions provider.
Located In: Pelham 35124, Alabama 35124
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Process-Barron/166911698262
Blog URL: http://www.processbarron.com/blog/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/processbarron
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ProcessBarron
Other Site:

Sign up yoru company for free in the Industrial Mega Search Regional Industrial Directory. The sooner you get listed, the higher you rank!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What is RSS and Easy Ways To Use It

RSS to Email - A "How To" Article from Baer Marketing

Like many small business people, you might feel overwhelmed with the deluge of information coming at you from all sides; twitter, facebook, blogs, trade publications, videos, websites, etc. So how do you keep up with the best sources of information pertinent to your company?

Have you ever seen this image on a web page or a blog? This is an "RSS" image, which stands for "really simple syndication." RSS is very common, but usually not so simple for the majority of small business people who don't know what it is or how it works. But it is a great way to get  pertinent information from your favorite sources on a regular basis.

If you've ever heard about "feeds" from a site or blog, they're talking about RSS or Atom, another popular feed system. Most blogs and many web pages allow you to subscribe to updates; to subscribe to their "feed." Some sites allow you to subscribe by email. But most sites don't have that simple option.  And that is where RSS comes in.

There are lots of RSS readers, sometimes called "news aggregators" such as Google Reader, FeedDemon, NewsGator, Bloglines, and many, many more. Some are web based and require signup and then sign-in whenever you want to read your feeds. Some are Windows based and require downloading and installation. You can also get RSS feeds in some email clients like Outlook (plugins) and ThunderBird.

But one of the easiest ways to get your information via RSS feeds is via a service called FeedMyInbox. If you're just subscribing to a few feeds,  FeedMyInbox  is a great option. First of all, it's FREE for up to five feeds. You don't even need to signup. All you have to do is enter the Feed URL and your email address. That's all! After doing that, the updates magically show up in your regular email inbox.

But now you might ask... "what is a Feed URL"?  It's really pretty easy. When you see an RSS image on a web page or blog where you want to keep up with their updates, just right click it and select "Copy Link Location". Then paste that link location into the Feed URL area on  FeedMyInbox. Then enter your email address, click "submit" and you're done.

A few other similar services include FeedMailer and Reblinks. And a google search for "rss to email" will likely yield many more similar services. But so far, FeedMyInbox seems to be the easiest RSS to Email service I've found.




***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Did This Industrial Trade Group Give Social Media A Bad Rap - What Do You Think?

@IndHeat - The folks over at "Industrial Heating: the International Journal of Thermal Technology" (heat treating & thermal processing) posted an Oct 2011 article titled "Is Social Media Relevant to Technical People?"  So please read this article, and then come back to this post to share your thoughts.

Working in industrial marketing for over 10 years, I've sometimes wondered how some SMB industrial companies can be so averse to the marketing opportunities offered by the internet. But if their own industrial trade groups are misleading them, as Industrial Heating has done, then it begins to make sense. Sure, SMB industrial companies are conservative by nature, but shouldn't their trade groups try to reach beyond their own limited world to help their members by seeking outside expertise for areas beyond their scope?

Admittedly, the folks reading "Industrial Heating" are highly technical in their knowledge and application of heat treating and thermal technology solutions for industry. But that also means that they could easily adopt the minimally technical aspects of social media marketing.  So, what are they missing?

  • Do agree with the analysis of the folks at Industrial Heating? 
  • Do you agree with their conclusion that "chances are very good that your disinterest in social media will not hurt you in the short-term or intermediate-term future"?
  • Do you think that none of their thousands of industrial prospects and customers that use heat treating services are using social media?
  • They're reluctantly conceding that maybe, just maybe, video might have some value. What do you think? Would quality videos benefit the thousands of metal fabrication and other industrial companies that might need their parts heat treated? Could videos be helpful in explaining the different types of thermal treating like carburizing, nitriding, induction treating, vacuum treating, etc. Do you think all of their customers know all of those details? Do you think their customers care about those details?
  • Are they perhaps missing the point that their companies are not actually heat treating companies but, instead, there companies are sales companies?
  • Are they missing the point that every single employee at a company is part of the sales and marketing effort?
  • Did they do a sufficient job educating and encouraging their readers to adopt twitter? 
  • Did you notice a lack of links in their article, even when they referenced clearly linkable information?
  • How about the lack of interactivity in this article (and many of their articles)? There is no ability to have a discussion. Hmmm, what's that word...? Oh, "interactive" !!!
  • Did you search for #hts2011 on twitter? What did you find? Did their Twitter efforts at their trade show work?
  • How could they do a better job of helping their users adopt social media?
What's interesting also, is that they include AddThis.com sharing & bookmarking links at the bottom of the article. They apparently want people to share their content, but not to interact with them. And, they have their own LinkedIn Group, Twitter and Facebook accounts. So maybe it's just the author that hasn't gotten the message, but others in their organization have.  Regardless, I surely hope that their members aren't following the advice they gave in "Is Social Media Relevant to Technical People?".  What do you think?


***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Does B2B Social Marketing Work?

"How One SMB Makes B2B Social Marketing Work" @thebyard @IVCiLLC @garyvee

"Someone can search for a product name and we come up, which is great, but it doesn't really show our value... Through social media and our blogging efforts, we can put out thought leadership content."

This is what Adam Kaiser, director of marketing at IVCi, was recently quoted as saying in the article "How One SMB Makes B2B Social Marketing Work" from "The BrainYard", Information Week's community for social business.

So let's look at that first half of that statement. "Someone can search for a product name and we come up, which is great, but it doesn't really show our value."  This is what traditional website marketing has always been about. Build a site, help it get found with SEO, and the sales will just roll in! But in the real world, that doesn't necessarily happen any more. Nowadays, just about every company has a website. And among you and your competitors, there is usually a lot of very similar website content. As Mr. Kaiser points out, even when you get found, you're still just one company on a list of similar companies. Being ranked #1 or #4 or #6 in not any kind of indicator of quality or value. 

So how do you stand out? The second part of that statement is all about marketing in today's interactive environment of integrated marketing with social media, SEO, video, and a good website as the base.  "Through social media and our blogging efforts, we can put out thought leadership content."  

In the B2B world, where there are often long cycle high value sales, we all have to remember, and remind ourselves periodically, of a few very important things.  

  1. We're actually selling to people, not to companies. At a recent conference I attented, the keynote speaker (Gary Vaynerchuk - @garyvee) made a simple, but very wise statement about B2B... "Behind every B is a C".  Remember, B2B or B2C, we're selling to people!
  2. In high value sales, people don't necessarily just buy features. They generally don't even just buy products or services. They're buying you. More precisely, they're buying into you. They're buying a belief in your credibility and your experience. They're actually investing, not buying. They're investing their trust in you.

So how does this relate back to social media marketing?  If you do it right, social media is another avenue, another multiplier to build and spread the value of your expertise, the value of your experience, and the level trust in you as a person and then in your product and company. You're building "thought leadership" in your field.

People will be able to tell from your posts and your tweets if you're just another huckster out to push a product down their throat or if you're someone who actually believes in educating and helping people. They'll see if you seem to be reasonable and relevant in what you're saying. Social media is consultative selling.

So make your blog posts relevant, helpful, insightful and informative. Don't just talk about a product; talk about an experience!  Make your tweets and your facebook page point to similar quality content; whether it is your blog post or someone else's.  People will appreciate if you're not a know-it-all who thinks you're the only wise person out there. So share other people's good content as well and give them credit! Goodwill, karma, pay it forward, etc. You get the idea.

And when you do this, your total web presence (website, seo, social) will help you stand out among the list of companies in the search results and among your competitors because you've moved the game to a higher level.



***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Best of "100 Best Twitter How-to Tips"

I ran into an excellent series of blog posts and tweets that are also an eBook about the "100 Best Twitter How-to Tips to Maximize Your Twitter Business Strategy", by Dan Hollings (@dhollings).

But for small business and for my typical SMB industrial client, 100 tips is a bit much to digest. Keeping up with social media, after all, can be quite time consuming with limited resources. So I'm going to summarize the best of those tips for the SMB marketer. (SMB, by the way, means Small or Mid-sized Business) Links to the full lists will appear at the bottom of the blog, and also on twitter at @site_map by @dhollings.

The Best of  "100 Best Twitter How-to Tips" 

from Tips 1 -18

#10 - Do not think that just because Twitter asks for your web address in the settings account area with the silly question, "Have a homepage or a blog" means you must put in your blog or homepage URL. In fact, in many cases that is not a good idea. Instead, enter the URL to a dedicated page made specifically to greet, excite, or manifest interest from the people that will be investigating that link. It's literally like a landing page and in many cases should be design to get people to follow you. (See Tip #64 for another Bio link idea).


#13 - Try to keep your Twitter "Following / Follower" ratio balanced. If a potential follower sees you are following 1532 people and only 32 are following you; rightfully or wrong, some people might make assumptions you've not washed your socks in months...


#16 - What do you post? Ah, that's the magical part. Now granted, what you post depends largely on your goals and purpose with Twitter, but in general this is easy... post interesting stuff, preferably related in some way to what you do, who you are, what you (and your followers) are interested in etc. It pays to be interesting to your followers, but it pays more to be interested in your followers. Twitter is NOT a micro-advertising billboard.


#17 - When you engage in conversation with others, reference who you're talking to or about in your post by adding their Twitter username in this format: @dhollings


from Tips 19 - 36


#22 - Twitter does not allow images (or videos) directly within the posts, however, people love to see images. An all-text world, even if it's Twitterworld, is rather boring. Either link to images direct (like at Flickr.com), or through your blog, or use an application like TwitPic, Twinkle etc.


#25 - Don't keep your Twitter account a secret. Add your Twitter link to online, offline and mobile spots. Business cards, SMS text messages, Billboards, classified ads, yard signs, stickers, flyers, yellow pages, phone message machine, and every other place you can think of.


#26 - Add your Twitter message (example: "Follow Me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dhollings") on all your online profile pages: FaceBook, Google Local, Amazon.com, Your Blog, YouTube, Naymz, Zoominfo, Ustream.tv, LinkedIn, MySpace, ReJaw, MerchantCircle, Ecademy, Pownce, Bebo, Profilactic, Tumblr, etc


#27 - Send invites by email and regular mail to your connections (friends, employees, prospects, customers, etc); those most appropriate for the Twitter content or conversation your Twitter page will engage in.

#31 -  [Reply to new followers to thank them for following.] Including a link to something in your [response] email is good, but ONLY if the link goes to something really related and really interesting. Track the link, page or download file that it links to so you can gage if new followers are clicking or not. A followers interest is at its highest point immediately after they start following. Your goal is to secure enough interest (that is, muster up the Twitter WOW-factor) so they remember who you are and actually read your future tweets.


#32 - A general "rule of thumb" is to follow back MOST of those that follow you. To not follow-back can seem rude.


#33 - Twitter allows followers to send DIRECT (private) messages and public messages to you. There is a high likelihood that immediately upon following you and/or upon receiving your [response], the new follower may message you through Twitter. I highly recommend you Tweet back to these early direct or public tweets even if you cannot maintain a high level of one-on-one messaging all the time. First impressions are lasting and you'll only get one chance to make a good first Twitter impression.

#35 - Try setting up interesting (or perhaps controversial) Twitter polls to get follower feedback, engagement or word-of-mouth. 


#36 - Remember that with Twitter, it's not all about YOU; rather, it's about others, it's about helping, sharing, having interesting exchanges, making things happen, and community. Blend in YOU (and what you do) in this mix and you'll become someone that people will want to follow.

***
Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this series. And please check out the links to the full series of posts on "100 Best Twitter How-to Tips" by @dhollings.


***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
Vist Baer Marketing Network on Google+


IndustrialMegaSearch.com New Company Listings

Go to New Company Listings
Check out these new listings of industrial companies, including all of their social media links.




Baghouse.com  -  Dust collection experts for over 40 years, with highly trained staff, and real-world experience Baghouse.com can help you meet your dust collection needs, and increase efficiency increase profits.
Located In: Newark , Delaware 19711
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Baghousecom-LLC/111426178935865
Blog URL: http://www.baghouse.com/category/dust-collection-blog/
Twitter:
YouTube:
Other Site:

Applied Laser Technology, Inc.  -  ALT offers high precision laser micro-maching and fabrication services. An Industry pioneer, we specialize in laser drilling, scribing and cutting, post processing, lapping, polishing and much more!
Located In: Beaverton, OR 97005
FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Applied-Laser-Technology/117141931680572
Blog URL:
Twitter:
YouTube:
Other Site:

Rockford Specialties  -  Custom Wire Displays - OEM wire forms, welded components and complete fabrication
Located In: Rockford, IL 61111
FaceBook:
Blog URL:
Twitter:
YouTube:
Other Site:

PDQ Industrial Electric  -  Industrial, Commercial, Electrician, Electrical, Contractor, NJ, New Jersey, PA, DE, DelVal, MD, NY, CT, MA, RI,24 Hour, Emergency-Repair-Service, Automation, Conveyor, Machine Wiring, Troubleshooting
Located In: Laurel Springs, NJ 08021
FaceBook:
Blog URL:
Twitter: http://Twitter.com/PDQelectric
YouTube:
Other Site: http://PDQIE.com

Prototek Sheet Manufacturing  -  Prototek Sheetmetal Fabrication began in 1987, specializing in quick-turn prototypes for the precision sheet metal fabrication markets.
Located In: Contoocook, NH 03229
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Prototek-Manufacturing/129135277174294
Blog URL: http://prototekmanufacturing.tumblr.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/prototek
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/1987prototek
Other Site: https://plus.google.com/b/112349367567575264672/112349367567575264672/posts






IndustrialMegaSearch.com New Company Listings

Oops, double post as we work out coordinating RSS feeds & blog posts.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Industrial Steel Shelving, Pallet Racks & Cantilever Racks

Industrial Steel Shelving, Pallet Racks & Cantilever Racks on IndustrialMegaSearch.com http://www.IndustrialMegaSearch.com/info_steel_shelving.html

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Easy Blogging & Bookmarking As Part of Your Social Networking Strategy

Serial entrepreneur and blogger Brian Wong had a great post about "How To Automate Your Blog Work Flow And Increase Your Search Engine Ranking."  http://ow.ly/7xciW

So with a little bit of one-time effort setting up all of your social networking accounts, the workflow methods suggested by Brian can make your ongoing efforts very automated and very easy. There is almost no excuse to not blog!

But's it not just blogging. If you follow his methods, you can "turn a single blog post into about 40 back links" and those are immediate and effortless. Blog once a week and you'll have created over 2,000 back links in a year to your blog, interest and trust in your brand, credibility in your market place and new potential customers!

Best of all, this is all above board and will greatly help with your overall market reach and SEO. I'm implementing this for Baer Marketing and for any clients who want to get on board. Please send me your questions or comments to dicuss this great idea!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why Is There A Skilled Labor Shortage in Manufacturing?

A recent post on Skilled Labor Shortage issues in the LinkedIn group Fabricators & Manufacturers Association generated a robust discussion that is worth reading. From talking to many of you with SMB manufacturing companies over the years, I know that most of you have experienced trouble hiring qualified and committed workers across the skilled machining specialties. And you're not alone. Consider that...

"even as the American manufacturing sector shrinks by a million jobs over the next decade, it will see a shortage of labor, as 2 million manufacturing workers retire and few are trained to take their place"

Anthony P. Carnevale, an economist and head of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce
in Business Week "Can Retraining Give the Unemployed a Second Chance?" September 14, 2011

This is a substantial challenge to our manufacturing economy. So please check out these other articles mentioned in the LinkedIn discussion and then join the LinkedIn group and add your two cents. Or start the conversation here by commenting on this blog post.

Please check out:

"Why Companies Aren't Getting the Employees They Need" - The Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2011

"Got the people, but not the skills" - Minneapolis Star Tribune, Octobe 25, 2011

"Can Retraining Give the Unemployed a Second Chance?" - Business Week, September 14, 2011

"Skilled Labor Shortage?" - LinkedIn discussion in the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) Group, Fall 2011

Video: "Mike Rowe on the importance of skilled labor" - Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel's 'Dirty Jobs,' recently told Congress why we need to do a better job nurturing skilled laborers. by Shea Gunther on the Mother Nature Network blog, June 23, 2011 (Twitter: @mothernaturenet)

You can also check out sites like Digg.com that are powerful virtual book marking sites. I searched for "skilled labor in manufacturing" and there were over 4,000 results fitting that criteria that various people had bookmarked over the years.

One great article link I found on Digg.com was "Manufacturers Respond to Skills Shortage" on the Shopfloor blog by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The article was about a National Public Radio series that features in-house manufacturing job training and "the NAM’s Manufacturing Institute" which creates "partnerships with local companies, educational institutions, and worforce development groups in the Institute’s 'Dream It Do It' campaign."

As you can see, there is a wealth of information and discussion on this topic that is so critical to the future of manufacturing in the USA. Please use these resources and become an active advocate for our manufacturing economy!  And feel free to add additional resources in the comments sections of this blog entry. (when you add good resources, we'll add them to the blog post!)



***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Introduction to BaerMarketingNetwork.com

A brief introduction to website design at http://www.BaerMarketingNetwork.com


Time For A New Website?

If your company needs a new website, consider http:/www.BaerMarketingNetwork.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zendesk help desk in the cloud

Article: How three immigrant entrepreneurs found U.S. success in launching Zendesk. Is your company using ZenDesk? 
This was a great tweet by @Shoeboxed (Shoeboxed.com), a Durham NC company that makes tracking business receipts and expenses very, very easy.  I use them and love them and I recommend Shoeboxed to any business!
Ah... but back to Zendesk.  I have not yet used Zendesk, but I've been reading great things about it for the past year.  Plus, Zendesk integrates with many other cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) products.  For instance, I use Highrise CRM, and Zendesk and Highrise zip customer info back and forth so you can have improved tracking of all customer contact information.
I'm eager to learn more about Zendesk and to integrate it in my business in the future!

Friday, August 5, 2011

CRM in the Cloud: Part 1.6 of 3


Again, just further evidence of why it is smart to move to cloud based software. If at any time in this article you get confused or overwhelmed, just skip to the end.

The fiasco of restoring and synchronizing my ACT Database continues.  I'm now on my third session trying to restore my ACT customer database following the crash of my old computer and the free replacement I got for it.

First, I had to find the installation CD-Rom and reload the software onto my computer. During the installation, it checked for additional updates online so it would install the latest version (remember this). 

Then, I followed the 19 steps laid out by Sage Customer "No" Support... four times!  After the first fail, I called Sage Customer No Support hoping to find quick resolution. Instead, I was routed around endlessly, put on hold endlessly, and then told that I needed to purchase a software support plan in order to get assistance. So I figured that I was on my own.

To give you an idea of what the 19 steps are like, check out these crystal clear tasks:
  • Click the Windows® Start button, and then click Run. The Run dialog box appears. [Brian's Note: I have Windows 7 and there is no "Run" to click. Instead, the Run dialog just appears anyway. I get that, but not all users would]
  • Type actdiag in the Open field, and then click OK. The ACT! Diagnostics tool launches.
  • Click the Database button from the left navigation bar. The database list appears.
    Locate the desired database and click the rectangle to the left to select it. Note the location of the database files in the DATABASE FILE LOCATION column. [Brian's Note - the location will be something like: C:\Users\Bob\My_Documents\ACT\ACT for Windows 10\Databases\dbasename - just in case everything wasn't clear enough already]
  • Click the Actions menu, and then click the Detach Database option. The Detach Database dialog box appears.
  • Launch Windows Explorer (or open My Computer).
  • Browse to the location of the database files. locate the ADF and ALF associated with your database. (Hint: If your database is named Contacts then you will be looking for Contacts.adf and Contacts.alf.)
  • Copy these files and the supplemental files folders to a removal media if moving to another computer, otherwise copy to the new location. (Hint: If your database is named Contacts then your supplemental folder will be named Contacts - database files.) Note: the PAD file associated with your database is not needed. A new one will be created when you re-attach your database.
So you get the idea.  Gobbledygook techno-geekese that would throw the average user for a loop and drive them insane. It has surely driven me insane. So, I had detached the old database prior to getting rid of the old computer. I had backed up the ALF and the ADF files (and the PAD and RDB files for good measure). And the directions said to open ACT again and begin to reinstall.  Of course, they didn't say it, but the user would need to understand that this meant on the new computer!  And, of course, click one wrong place in this whole process, and you could really screw things up.

I tried to reinstall the old database to the new computer. But I got an error message saying that I had to ask my administrator for permission. So I swore at the computer and said "I am the Administrator!", but it didn't care. So I looked that up and found the solution, then followed the ensuing steps to find the ADF file and reinstall it.

Ah... mission accomplished!  Arghhh!  Not really!  After all of that, my laptop version of the customer database would not sync with my desktop version! So I spent the next 2 hours searching the SAGE Customer No Support section. I tried all kinds of suggested updates and recreates for the both databases to get them to sync.  And finally, the sync process started and the green progress bars started flowing!  Woohoo! it was working!  But when it gave all indications of success, it said the sync had failed.

So I started over, and over, and over. And then, again, when all appeared to be well, it told me that I had incompatible versions of the ACT database software!  So I let out a few more expletives. Do most people even know how to look up the version of a piece of software?  I clicked Help, About, and I saw that they were two different versions, even though both had been installed off of the same CD-Rom.  But remember what I told you to remember? The desktop installation did an online update during the intallation process!

So I then updated the laptop based version of the ACT customer database and tried the sync again.  Same error!  Incompatible software versions!   #&!@   After comparing versions again, I realized that the most recent version downloaded on the laptop was a more recent version than the updated version on the desktop! So I updated the version on the desktop and at last, I had equal versions of the software!

I synced again, the green bars indicated a successful completion, but the notes still said "Synchronization has failed."  So then I started checking and comparing individual contact records on my laptop ACT database and my desktop ACT database. From everything I can tell, they're exactly the same.  But I still get that error! Oh well, I give up for now. And that is a long story that should never have to be told!

Imagine instead a cloud based CRM contact manager where you wouldn't have had to go through any of this! You would simply use any computer, open a browser, and go to your web based database.  And it would automatically have the latest version of the database program and all of your latest contact data and notes already synced! How easy would that be?  All of that for a small monthly fee compared to the endless hours I've been spending on a software based monstrosity.

Moral of the story? Save yourself a ton of time, a lot of effort and immense consternation. Dump your computer based customer database (ACT, Goldmine, etc.) and move to the cloud. I use Highrise. Other options inlclude Batchbook, Salesforce, SugarCRM, etc. 

[If you want help getting started with Highrise just let us know. We're happy to help you jump into the cloud!]

***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

CRM in the Cloud: Part 1.5 of 3

Just a quick note on CRM (customer relationship management / contact management) and why the cloud (internet based) is better than installing a software based contact database on your computer.

My less than one year old custom built computer from a local computer supplier turned out to be a lemon. (but they are replacing it free of charge).  My computer problems, however, perfectly illustrate the point of cloud based computing.

While my problematic main desktop computer has been constantly crashing, I've been able to easily keep up with things using my laptop because most of my data is now kept in cloud based services.

  • Freshbooks.com - all of my invoicing is cloud based
  • Shoeboxed.com - all of my receipt and expense tracking is cloud based
  • Outright.com - my accounting and reports are cloud based, and pull data from Freshbooks and Shoeboxed.
  • Expenser.com - my mileage trackign is cloud based, and also feeds to Outright accounting
  • Highrise - all of my new customer information and updates are done in this cloud based CRM/contact management system.
  • BidSketch.com - all of my proposals are cloud based
  • Dropbox.com - all of my personal and business files are automatically backed up to the cloud and synced to my laptop
  • IMAP email instead of POP3 email - all of my email (inbox, sent mail, specific folders, outbox, drafts) is perfectly synced no matter where or how I access it.

So, my saving grace in the face of a computer that crashed 2-4 times per day was that just about everything I do now is cloud based using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) internet based business solutions.

By contrast, I still have a lot of old data stuck in my ACT customer database.  I still have to manually sync my laptop and desktop versions of ACT. When I don't sync them for a few weeks, I get a warning that the sync will be disabled unless I synchronize very soon (always a friendly idea to threaten your users with data disruption!).  

And in preparation for swapping my lemon computer for a new one, I had to figure out how best to backup and prepare my ACT customer database.  Well... I found the instructions online and there are 19 steps I have to take.  And most of that was written in techy language not easy for the average user to understand.  Plus, I have to reinstall the ACT software on the new computer and then reestablish the sync with my laptop.  Last time I did this, I ended up having ACT tech support on the phone and doing remote control support for over five hours!  So I'm still prepared for the worst.

But, at least I know that for all of my current and active customers, I have all of their latest information and notes easily available via any web browser on any computer. And I know that all of my business financials and business files are also available to me securely in the cloud.  

So I think it is official... I am divorcing traditional software as much as I can and I'm moving to a virtual life in the  cloud.  I hope you'll join me!



***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Arts Access Website

Just launched a new non-profit site: http://www.ArtsAccessInc.com. Please check it out. And take our 5-second test .

This simple design actually packs a lot more punch than meets the eye.

  • Not only can you change the font size for easier reading, you can also change the color scheme / background contrast.  You can change any page from the default white background to a gray scale page or to a black background with white print. Why? The audience for this site has a substantial number of vision impaired people.
     
  • The "join" form integrates with a cloud based CRM database / contact manager. So whenever somebody signs up, all of their data is automatically and immediately entered into the database and classified with various tags depending on which interests they checked.
     
  • Every single page has content management (CMS) built-in so that the site owners can change and update content on any page, any time.

So while this is out of our traditional realm of industrial or building trades contractor websites, it was still an interesting experience.  

By the way, if you believe in their mission of "Making the arts accessible to people with disabilities", then please make a contribution at http://www.artsaccessinc.org/donate.shtml.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CRM in the Cloud: Part 1 of 3

 I recently switched to a "cloud" based Contact Management / Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system after using ACT since 1999.  What is “cloud based”, you might ask?  It simply means a “software” solution based on the internet rather than installed on your desktop computer.  The reasons I switched include:
  • I was tired of the cost and hassle of upgrading ACT software every few years
  • ACT seemed like over-kill... way to many features that I never used.
  • ACT is clunky. Compared to user friendly online contact manager systems, it seems very old fashioned and the user interface is not very user friendly.
  • ACT lacked integration with any email system but Outlook; not even with Outlook Express. I've been using Thunderbird email for 2+ years and ACT won't integrate with it. I was also never able to use ACT's internal email system because I use IMAP email rather than POP.  You might check with your email provider to see if you're setup as IMAP or POP (topics for a future post!)  If you’re not using IMAP already, you might want to switch to that.
  • ACT needed manual data synchronization between my computers. It works well, but it's just another step to think about when I'm trying to pack up my laptop and run out the door. And if you're having to sync manually, then the more people in your organization, the more complicated that becomes.
  • ACT has very few integrations with other business software applications, especially cloud based business software
So at a recent conference in Raleigh I came across a cloud invoicing solution called FreshBooks.com.  As I started reading reviews about it and perusing it's website, I began to see a whole world of cloud based business software solutions for small businesses and I was quite amazed at the range of solutions that were available.  So if you look at http://community.freshbooks.com/addons/, you'll see many software solutions that integrate with each other.  And if you check out any of those other cloud software solutions, you'll be able to see the whole range of cloud software solutions that they integrate with.  So I tried to find a CRM system that was commonly integrated into many other business software solutions.

What I discovered was that "cloud" based contact manager/CRM solutions have many advantages:

  1. no software to install, update, trouble shoot, etc. In the cloud, you'll always automatically have the very latest version of your CRM system whenever you login.
  2. there is no need to sync data manually between your various computers and smart phones and various employees who use the contact management system. All of your contact data is automatically synced regardless of where you access it (laptop, desktop, smart phone, iPad, home, work, airport, coffee shop, grandma's house, etc.)
  3. Many cloud based contact managers / CRM solutions have free versions for a few hundred contacts. Most have many price tiers for different levels of need, and almost all are month-to-month with no long-term commitments. Most also have free trials.
Whether you’re looking for simple or complex, there are CRM solutions that run the gamut.  But something that is increasingly important is the ability of your CRM to easily integrate with other business software solutions.  For instance, if you use forms on your website to collect information from interested prospects, why should you ever have to manually type in that information to your contact database? A cloud based CRM combined with an integrated cloud based forms processor is an ideal solution. In that case, the form submittal will automatically create a new record or update an existing record in your CRM for every new form submitted. And it can simultaneously update your email newsletter list and your invoicing system, if desired.

Additionally, a CRM should be easily accessible from anywhere and always up-to-date. Cloud based CRM accomplishes this automatically and without the need to manually launch a synchronization task. Plus, cloud based CRM makes it easier to have multiple users and to scale-up or scale-down as needed. There is no need to buy multiple licenses, install software on multiple machines and on a server, and no need to set-up and manage synchronization. Also, there is no need to update software or to wonder if your aging software will still be supported as new versions come out.  Updates just happen automatically in the cloud!

Overall, cloud based CRM is worthy of serious consideration, and, in my opinion, it offers many significant advantages over competing software/desktop based CRM systems.

In the next two post of this three part series, we'll discuss the four cloud based contact management systems that I tested.  Please be sure to come back and read those new posts!  You can subscribe to blog updates or the RSS feed (both to the left) to easily stay up-to-date as this series progresses.

We look forward to your feedback and questions!


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by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

IndustrialMegaSearch Preliminary Launch

You can start using IndustrialMegaSearch today!  While this a preliminary roll-out, the industrial search function is fully functional.

With one click in one place, you can get search results from the top 10 industrial search engines and directories.  No more jumping from one directory to the next. No more search results littered with useless sites like online yellow pages.

In fact, we're trying to weed out bad results by excluding specific undesirable sites. For instance, we're promoting Made in the USA so we have already excluded results from sites like Alibaba and various sites from China, Taiwan, Mexio and Brazil. This will get even better over time. And soon, we'll be asking for your feed back on the quality of your search results so that we can  improve your search results even further.

We can also help your company get found better by giving you the same status as any of the large industrial search sites.  We'll spider your website specifically so that your company can show up at or near the top of the search results on an equal basis with any of the big industrial search sites.  And you'll even be able to specify specific keywords so that you'll place above the standard search results in a premium position.

So check it out today!  When you need industrial search results, IndustrialMegaSearch delivers!

Monday, April 18, 2011

How To Make Awesome Flowcharts - Easy Too!


Thanks to a new post at Mashable (see item #5), I just discovered an incredibly easy to use Flow Chart system at LucidChart.com.
I registered for the free account, and in about 5 minutes, I created a fairly attractive and informative flow chart showing how Baer Marketing integrates various cloud based services into our regular work flow.
They have a pretty generous free plan and paid plans range from $4.95 per month to $29.95 per month.
So if you're looking for a very, very easy way to make great flow charts, check out LucidChart.com.  


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by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
Vist Baer Marketing Network on Google+


Monday, March 28, 2011

What Are Temporary Emails & How To Use Them

What do you do when a website requests an email address and password to get the informatoin you want, but you really don't want to give out your email address?  Maybe you'll get on a spam list or even a legitimate newsletter list, but you just don't want the hassle of getting more useless email.

The answer is simple!  Use a temporary email address that expires in a few hours.  It will last long enough to let you jump through hoops.  A temporary email address allows you to receive emails for a short period of time and, for instance, to confirm a sign-up at a website just to get yourself temporary access to some desired information.

But then your email disappears after a few hours, you're already done with that website forever and you won't get spammed or receive any unwanted email.  Tricky, right?

So check out these temporary email providers:

Mailinator.com
10MinuteEmail.com
myTrashMail.com
GuerrillaMail.com

And don't worry, you don't have to give out any personal identifying information at all to any of these services.
If you like this tidbit of advice, please share it using the "Share" tool below.  Thanks :)


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by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
Vist Baer Marketing Network on Google+


Monday, March 21, 2011

How to Use White Noise to Eliminate Background Noise

Do you ever wish the chatter  and noise around you would just go away?  Does the chatter and noise ever distract you or challenge your focus?

Checkout these free "white noise" websites.

WhiteNoisePlayer.com has 8 different sounds from standard white noise to ocean waves, wind and rain.  It's relaxing and helps you focus on what you're doing instead of being distracted by the other noise around you.

SimplyNoise.com is another option.  It has just white noise, "pink" (?) noise and "brown" (?) noise, but not any sounds from nature.

For me, WhiteNoisePlayer.com is the winner!  I hope you'll check these out!


***
by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
Find me on Google+
Vist Baer Marketing Network on Google+


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Looking Forward with Baer Marketing

So what will you find in the upcoming months on Baer Marketing's resurrected blog (BizTipz.com) and on our new social media presence?  The plan is for quite a lot!

thumbnail image of new Baer Marketing Network websiteWe will be announcing the launch of a rebuilt BaerMarketingNetwork.com.  The old site started in 2003 and hasn't had a major upgrade, so it's way past due. And the changes will be significant!

We will be relaunching IndustrialMegaSearch.com (image below) as a revamped and substantially upgraded industrial search engine and regional industrial directory. You can take a sneak peek if you want!  It will follow the freemium model of free listings for any US based industrial company along with options to upgrade your listing for significantly greater presence and greater impact and for SEO effect.  More to come!

thumbnail of industrial mega search websiteWe'll throw in lots of useful tips and reviews of web "cloud" based small business services such as CRM contact management / customer relationship management systems, cloud based invoicing and expense tracking, and a cloud based proposal management system.  And we'll show you that the best part of these services is that they all tie together and easily feed information back and forth to each other.

And then there will be some quick reviews of sites like web based phone dialing systems (need to call the entire team quickly?, would you like to be able to click a number to dial it?), email reminder services, free online PDF tools, etc.  I am a web junkie who is always looking for cool and useful web tools, so get on board if you want to find all kinds of incredibly useful web-based productivity, management and marketing tools.

We'll be announcing our new Video Web Presence program to help your company improve it's SEO and it's message through effective video marketing.

And we've got a kick-butt Content Management System that we can add to new or existing websites!  Want to change your own web page content? We'll show you how!

We'll be announcing our Mobile Website Presence Program so your company can have an effective mobile presence. Mobile internet devices already outnumber computers almost 5 to 1, so you better go mobile!

We'll talk about email newsletter marketing to your customers and prospects, about pay per click advertising on the big search engines, and about our Industrial Web Presence Program to assure you're listed accurately on all of the major online industrial search engines and directories (think ThomasNet.com®, GlobalSpec®, MacRae's®, etc.).  

So this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is lots of good stuff to come! Stay tuned!

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Note:  Website thumbnails provided by BitPixels

Friday, February 11, 2011

CRM Integration with Smart Web Forms - Coming Soon

Coming soon - an in-depth blog post & how-to-video about web-form + CRM + email newsletter service integration.  Seamless integration and automatic updates of your contact records are essential to capturing and following up on your website form submissions. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Regional Industrial Trade Shows List

UPDATED: January 10, 2012

I recently made a Facebook post about the value of smaller, more specialized regional industrial trade shows for SMB industrial & manufacturing companies. It was based on an excellent article I read on Regional Manufacturing Expos.


My twitter friend and fellow industrial marketer @Achintamitra added even more insight to the subject in his Internet Marketing Today blog post about B2B Industrial Marketing.

So to carry on this discussion thread, here is a...
list of smaller, more specialized industrial trade shows.

The organizer of the following shows groups all of these shows together in locations nationwide to cover all of these market sectors simultaneously in various cities. They're basically shows within shows. Upcoming locations include:

Charlotte NC  |  Philadelphia PA  |  Chicago IL  |  Boston MA  |  Fort Worth TX  |  Anaheim CA
also Montreal & Toronto
#### BELOW SHOWS ADDED JANUARY 5, 2012 ####
  • NTMA Purchasing Fair - June 13-14, 2012. The show's purpose is to "align OEM's and large companies with highly competitive and skilled domestic small to medium sized manufacturers that specialize in machined, stamped and fabricated parts, special tooling (dies, molds, jigs, fixtures and gauges) and special machines, ultimately providing a more economical resource for sourcing needs. (show site not yet updated for 2012 show).
  • Composites Manufacturing 2012 - March 13-15, 2012. Mesa, Arizona. Practical solutions and cutting-edge knowledge on composite applications, processes and best practices. 
  • Fabtech Canada 2012 - March 20-22, 2012. Toronto, Ontario. The ONLY exclusive fabricating, welding and metal forming event in Canada.  
  • Westec 2012 - March 27-29, 2012. Los Angeles. Twitter: #westec  
  • Micro Manufacturing Conference & Exhibits - March 28-29, 2012. Boston, MA
  • Nano Manufacturing Conference & Exhibits - March 28-29, 2012. Boston, MA
  • FABTECH Mexico 2012 - May 2-4, 2012. Mexico City
  • Manufacturing 4 the Future - May 8-10, 2012. Hartford, CT - manufacturers supplying aerospace, defense, medical & energy sectors
  • Montreal Manufacturing Technology Show (MMTS) - May 14, 2012. Montreal, Quebec
  • RAPID 2012 Conference & Exposition - May 22-25, 2012. Atlanta, GA. Additive manufacturing solutions.
  • Medical Manufacturing Innovations - October 24-25, 2012. Missisaugua, Ontario. Connects medical and dental device manufacturers with companies that supply their production technology and equipment
  • FABTECH 2012 - November 12-14, 2012. Las Vegas. North America's largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event. 
  • AeroDef Manufacturing 2013 - March 19-21, 2013. Long Beach, CA. aerospace and defense manufacturing.
  • EASTEC 2013 Exposition - May 14-16, 2013. West Springfield, Massachusetts. 

#### BELOW SHOWS ADDED JANUARY 11, 2012 ####

  • Amerimold 2012 - June 13 - 14, 2012. Novi, Michigan. Tool and mold making, molding and additive manufacturing.

If you know of other industrial / manufacturing trade shows, especially smaller local or regional shows, or specialty industrial / manufacturing trade shows, please take a moment to list them via the comment section for this article. We'll then update our list above and tweet it out to the world. We hope you find this list helpful and we hope you'll add to it!

by BaerMarketingNetwork.com


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