Monday, August 30, 2010

What's in a Number? The Psychology of Free

My colleague on the my1voice side wrote a fantastic blog post giving his thoughts on Google Voice integration with Gmail. In general, his thoughts were as follows - if you're a small business owner and you are looking for software to help you run your business, free sounds great in theory. In reality, free doesn't deliver reliability, useful business features, or a live person ready and available 24/7 to ensure your business services are working for you.

Don't get me wrong, using a free service isn't a bad thing - it actually has its advantages.

Let's take a look at the concept of free from another perspective - growing your business. A short while ago, a great piece of advice was passed along to me by a MyFax customer. This customer said, "In a down economy, nobody ever hesitates to call a toll-free number."

Queue the light bulb! He was one of the many MyFax and my1voice customers who have built their business around the use of a toll-free number.

Put yourself in the shoes of a local customer who has the option of calling two companies for a particular need - one that is located in his/her city or one in a neighboring county or state. In these tough times, where every penny counts, what choice do you think that customer makes?

This is where the use of toll-free numbers comes into play. What many experiments in behavioral economics and psychology have shown is that free can be a powerful tool - it removes boundaries and risks and allows the better product and/or service to win - and hopefuly that's yours!

But really, and maybe I'm just overthinking things - I mean, you wouldn't charge someone to visit your website, would you?

So it should be natural then, that you wouldn't charge them to phone you or send you a fax. Put another way, maybe the reason why toll-free numbers work so well for small business is that they make doing business with you easy...Not to mention giving your business a higher level of prestige by allowing you to cast a big shadow.

Either way you look at it, as a MyFax and my1voice customer you have a choice - either local or toll-free for the exact same cost - so get those numbers out there!

As a starter, remember to take advantage of our free business card offer to MyFax and my1voice customers to see for yourself why free has so many advantages.

And don't forget to take to the comments section to let us know how YOU'RE using free to build your small business!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Batter Up - Are You Ready?

Like successful small business owners, Major League Baseball's best managers know when to tinker and when to leave well enough alone. That makes complacency your biggest enemy. For example, as a small business owner, look at your IT infrastructure - it may not be broken, but is it taking too much time, energy, and resources for the results it derives? Like the good baseball manager who tinkers with his batting lineup to get his players in the right slots, your IT support system is something you need to constantly review, looking for what works best now.

Perhaps the toughest part of any baseball manager's job is letting a player know that he no longer benefits the team as he once did. Fortunately for small business owners, the decision to replace an IT component isn't nearly as heart wrenching. After all, a piece of peripheral hardware like a fax machine is an inanimate object that won't break down in tears if you decide the time has come to eliminate it due to cost, ongoing maintenance, or the simple annoyance factor.

While small businesses have proven to be resilient in this era of economic recovery, they're facing the most critical time of the year - the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter of any year is like the ninth inning of a tie game. You don't have time for pop flies or strikeouts; you need to get a run on the board and earn that win! And to do that, you have to be aware of the resources you have. It simply won't do to go overboard spending time and money that will mean a poor return on investment (ROI).

Small businesses can make the most of their fourth quarter by looking to the cloud. Using cloud applications like MyFax, you can minimize margins and stay focused. These affordable, pay-as-you-go applications are operational in minutes and can be accessed from anywhere you can access the Internet.

On September 16, we'll host a webinar on the Intuit Community called "Home Run Stretch - Make the Fourth Quarter Count!" This is a must-attend event for small businesses, as we'll discuss:

- Leveraging cloud applications to streamline time, lessening time spent on administrative tasks;
- How your business can go paperless for efficiency and effectiveness;
- Why you need to integrate workflows to avoid duplicated efforts;
- The advantages of going mobile with your iPhone, Blackberry or Android to make the most of your day

Click here to register for this webinar and hit the comments with YOUR suggestions as to how to make the most out of the fourth quarter "home run stretch."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Efficiency is All About Workflow

Over the last year and a half I've had a pretty hectic life - working and studying full time. It was a unique experience, which tested the limits of sleep deprivation, productivity, and work/life balance. It was also unique because it allowed me to experience what small business owners go through in terms of starting and growing their businesses. What I came to realize in the context of the day-to-day life of a small business owner is that time is the most precious of resources.

Saving time requires you to identify the many little things that can deviate your attention from far more important things - like growing your business! It's called being efficient, and as many small business owners will tell you, it's easier said than done.

The MyFax service has, over the years, gone far beyond just offering you the ability to send and receive faxes with your email, the web, or your smart phone. We continuously listen to our customers, and we've gladly delivered with innovative integrations with some of the most popular software applications and mobile phones in the market, including: Microsoft Office and Outlook, Salesforce CRM, Act!, Lotus Notes and, just last week, the iPhone.

In addition, we also created the MyFax Print-to-Fax Assistant. The Print-to-Fax Assistant is a print-driver that lets you send faxes directly from within any Windows-based application by simply selecting File>Print>MyFax.

The MyFax Print-to-Fax Assistant further integrates MyFax directly into your current workflow by allowing you to manage fax communications and document management workflow even more efficiently. Here are some examples:

Two of the most popular office document applications outside of Microsoft Office are Google Docs and OpenOffice. Each offers a suite of free products similar to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Visio. The fact they are free and offer similar functionality has made them popular among small business owners.

Once you have installed the MyFax Print-to-Fax Assistant and you are working within any of the aforementioned programs, rather than saving the file and closing the program, you simply select Print and Choose MyFax. The Print-to-Fax Assistant will then open, and from there you can send your document to multiple recipients by either manually entering contacts or uploading contacts from Outlook. You can even include cover pages and billing codes.

The MyFax Print-to-Fax Assistant is free to all MyFax customers and can be downloaded from MyFax Central. You can see it in action yourself by viewing our video tutorial. Either way, we hope you enjoy the extra few minutes in the day you'll save because of it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Need to Run Your Small Business? There's An App For That!

I love my iPhone. There's no two ways about it. The marketing professional in me loves how it totally changed the mobile phone game, and the branding and marketing behind it - right from its amazing and flawless design down to the packaging. The early adopter in me loves having the best piece of technology out there (I already have the iPhone 4 while many of my friends are still waiting for theirs), and the ability to stream things like World Cup matches directly on my phone, while at the beach. The business person in me loves what the iPhone and its apps marketplace represent - a remarkably simple but powerful piece of technology that can help you run your business from the palm of your hands, from any corner of the world. But why is that important?

Well, one common thread across our many customers, who are spread across many industries including real estate, construction, and health care, is the "mobility factor." Whether a small start-up or a large enterprise, mobility can now make or break your business. It's no wonder then, why close to three quarters of US workers can now be classified as mobile.

Developments that have certainly aided and abetted this trend include not only the iPhone, but other smart phones and the availability of Software-as-a-Service (i.e. software applications you can access over the web). Starting with the BlackBerry and the idea of "email everywhere" and evolving to the everything-under-one-roof iPhone and Android smart phones (with their respective marketplaces), and continuing with the availability of 3G/4G Internet and cheap data plans, small business owners using SaaS in conjunction with their iPhone can now run an entire office out of their car, at a client meeting, or at half-time during their son or daughter's sports game. This means they are connected to their customers , employees, suppliers and partners 24/7 - anytime, anywhere.

Where Does Fax Fit In?
So where does fax fit in? Well, fax is still an important business communications tool and a staple for many industries in the context of the prospect-customer-supplier dynamic. So it's no surprise that our very large and mobile customer base requested and now has available to them the MyFax app for the iPhone. Available in the Apple App Store - for FREE - this app means MyFax customers can now add even more convenience to their iPhone business experience.

So bear with me for a moment, as I've been waiting a long time to say this: Need an important fax but you're 1,000 miles from your office? ...There's an App for that!!

Read more about the MyFax App for the iPhone here.

So what role does your smart phone play in your business strategy? Have your say in the comments...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Successful Entrepreneurs Aren't Risk-Takers

I read a great article the other day on the subject of Entrepreneurs and Success, by one of my favorite authors - Malcolm Gladwell. You might recognize the name from his recent works: The Tipping Point, Outliers, Blink, and What the Dog Saw. The article debunks the myth of the successful entrepreneur as a risk-taker, and introduces the Predator theory as one of the main reasons behind the success of many of the most famous and well-known entrepreneurs. The success of these entrepreneurs, as the article successfully points out, is not the result of their ability or willingness to take on risk, but rather their aversion to risk-taking, and their focus on the sure thing.

Put another way, these successful entrepreneurs wouldn't place a bet on a Yankees-Red Sox game, where there would be a 50-50 chance of either team winning. They would, on the other hand, put their money on the Yankees, if the first place Yankees were playing a last place team with a depleted starting rotation!

Little risk, high value, and a big pay-off may tend to explain the huge success and adoption of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) within entrepreneurial start-ups; and small, medium, and large businesses that have stayed true to their entrepreneurial spirit. What SaaS represents is a huge deviation from the traditional software model, with little downside and a whole lot of upside:
  • There is no upfront investment - you don't have to buy any hardware or software, because SaaS can even replace things like your fax machine, phone system and email servers;

  • Little or no risk - you can try it before you buy it. If you buy it, then it's pay-as-you-go with no contracts involved. As well, since you're using a service/services that is used by thousands and/or millions, you know what you're getting from the get-go;

  • Value - sharing with hundreds of thousands (and in some cases, millions) of users also allows you to get a more robust service than you could get by running the software and/or hardware all by yourself. Most SaaS offerings provide small business with features and capabilities that were previously available only to large enterprises, and only at a steep cost;

  • Accessible from anywhere - the road, home, in an airport, etc. Mobility, whether for a small at-home business or a Fortune 500 company, is the new reality of business. Operating your business from a car while waiting for a customer is no longer just convenient, but necessary to get ahead.

These days, just about anything can be offered "as-a-service" from fax to phone systems; customer relationship management to accounting software to word processing. With the above advantages starting for as little as $10.00 per month, you can truly understand why, for most entrepreneurs, adopting almost a sure thing.

What do you think? Do you see entrepreneurs as risk-takers? Are you adopting SaaS successfully in your business? Take it to the comments...