Are YOU better off skipping the next business networking events?

If you’re like most of us that rely on business networking to grow your business, that idea might sound crazy, but in reality, is it?

Think about the last 5 networking events that you have attended. How many good contacts did you meet? 10? 15? 20? Sounds like a lot of progress for your business, right? Now ask yourself how many of those have you actually followed up with and done anything productive with since then? What does that number look like? 1? 2? maybe 3?

If you think about it, many of us spend way more time going to these events and convincing ourselves that we are being productive than actually following up and doing something with the good contacts that we meet. So next time there is a networking event, maybe your best bet is to skip it and spend the time to reach out to the people that you were once excited to meet and build that relationship. Instead of waiting for the other person to one day reach out to you, take the initiative and make something happen. Once you’ve caught up, then go out hunting for more. I guarantee that will be more a more productive use of your time than tossing another business card on the pile that is stacked on your desk.

Contact me if you’d like some tips on how to turn the business cards that you currently have into leads that turn into sales.

2016 Apple Event announcing the iPhone 7

On Wednesday, September 7th, Apple had their annual event to announce the latest in their product line. It is always the most anticipated of all of the tech company announcements because everyone wants to hear what the latest news is with the iPhone. This year was interesting because the biggest buzz from the event was not about new hardware or a new feature that was going to be added, but rather what was going to be taken away. The headphone jack. Apple is making another of its patented moves to be the first to remove something that people had counted on as being a standard in the name of “progress”. In the presentation, they spoke of the courage that it took to get rid of this tried and true connection port and how by removing it they are creating new possibilities. The lightning port does seem like a nice connector, but there are a number of issues that will now be created for iPhone 7 users- Mainly that all of the peripheral devices that used a standard aux cable can not be used unless they are connected to the adapter. That might not be too big of an inconvenience at home, but thinking about all the places that people usually connect their phones now to listen to music (car, boat, friend’s stereo etc.) that means they’ll have to carry the small (and sure to be lost eventually) adapter almost everywhere they go. Most people do not see the value in this tradeoff. The Airpod speakers look great too, but again, it seems like they could be easily misplaced. Or one falls into the couch cushion, and then what? At $159 that is something to think about before making the investment.
On the plus side, the new processor and graphics capability look terrific. This will great vast new playgrounds for the gamers. Also, the tech world anxiously awaits the Apple foray into virtual/augmented reality, and now even more so because they will have a massively powered device to run it. Also interesting is the new ability to edit the live photos. That is a cool upgrade.
The Apple Watch is getting a refresh. The waterproofing of it seems to be a very nice upgrade. As mentioned in their demonstration, swimmers should be thrilled. The other big news is that they added GPS to the device so that runners can take it out without having to lug their phone along. This will be very appreciated. It was fascinating to see that Apple has in one year moved up to #2 in the world in terms of watch sales revenue. That is an incredible accomplishment, especially since Smartwatches are still a bit of an enigma. They have not come even close to the mass appeal that many in the tech world anticipated. There are a number of factors at work with consumer demand for these products. It will be interesting to see this market develop as the technology matures.
On another positive note, the iPhone 7 Plus (but not the 7) will be equipped with a dual camera. This has a lot of photo enthusiasts excited. Hopefully this will become a standard feature as the quality of photo capabilities that it provides are very impressive. Zooming will be a lot better and the light capturing ability will also be much improved.
Lastly, phone users everywhere rejoiced when they heard that not only would the battery be on average 1 to 2 hours better per day for the new iPhones but that the standard memory capacity would be increased to 32 GB. In an unprecedented move, the older models would also see their memory increased to at least 32 GB as well. This has always been the major gripe about the iPhone that its camera is so great and it offers so many apps that most users quickly run out of space using its capabilities. Now they will have a lot more room to work with before seeing the dreaded Low Memory Warning.
So the bottom line is-Should you upgrade? That choice is up to you. It really depends on your current model. If you have a 6 or 6S there really isn’t a huge jump. Plus you are going to have to make a lifestyle adjustment for the headphone jack being removed. However, if you want a more water/dust resistant phone with a great new processor for gaming or other more intense uses and want an improved battery life it really seems like a terrific new device.
If you do decide you want it, unless your current phone is broken, Smarterphones always recommends waiting at least a few weeks before upgrading. Let other people be the guinea pigs. Wait until they have tested it in the real world and correct any bugs that are frequently present with any new technology product.

Summer is almost over. Time to get your smartphone ready for fall.

Summer 2016 is quickly wrapping up. Hopefully your phone survived in one piece and was able to experience many memorable moments with you. With September looming on the horizon, now is a good time to do some regular maintenance on your phone to get prepared for fall.

  1. The most important thing to do is to make sure that all of your photos have been backed up. This is probably the most important because you can always buy another phone if something happens to yours, but you can not retake the photos once the moment is gone. There are many ways to do this. The easiest is to download a cloud program like Dropbox, One Drive or Google Drive and after going through the installation/signup process, turn on “camera upload”. Fortunately they usually make this easy for you by asking you if you would like to do this when you are just getting started. Also, double check, but usually they are set to only use wifi only to upload the photos so you will not have to worry about burning up your data plan. Once you have completed this, using your desktop or laptop, log in using your web browser to the corresponding site (i.e. www.dropbox.com) and download the syncing program that will allow you to access all of the files on your computer. Once you do this you will then have all of your photos saved and accessible on your computer. The photos and videos will show up as a separate folder in your operating system that will be easy to access. You can even copy all of the photos and save them somewhere else (including an external hard drive) to make sure that your photos will forever be safe or easily shared with friends or family.
  2. Once you have saved all of your photos and double checked to make sure that they are safe in the cloud, it is time to look at the storage space on your phone and see if you can clear some things out. Photos and videos usually take the majority of available memory space on a phone, but there are many other things that can and do add up. If you are looking for a quick fix, delete some of the videos that you have backed up. While a great way to capture an event, videos take up much more space than most people realize and should be deleted. The next thing to look at are text messages. Most people have hundreds, if not thousands of texts on their phone and many of the texts have pictures attached. These all add up and can sometimes gobble multiple gigabytes of space. Look through the text threads of people that are important to you, save the photos that you want to keep to your device and then delete the entire thread. It may seem traumatic at first, but once you see the space that gets cleared up, you’ll be glad that you did. Note-if you are using an iPhone, click on your Photos icon and then select the Albums tab. If you scroll down you will see a “Recently Deleted” folder. Open this up, select all of the photos and then hit delete. This will erase them from your phone, otherwise they will remain there for 30 days and continue to take up space.
  3. Check out the apps that you have on your phone and see which ones you are still using. Unused apps have a sneaky tendency to not only take up space, but also use phone resources like battery life and data even when you do not use them for months at a time. A good rule of thumb is that if you have not used an app in two months or more then you should delete it. You can always download it again. Even if it is a paid app you can download it again for free (as long as you are logged in with the same account on the app store that you are using).
  4. Going through the Settings option, using Android look for “Application Manager” or on iPhone go to General-Usage and see how much data each app is using on your phone. On Android it is easy to clear the application memory that usually takes up a lot more space than the app itself. This is usually photo cache or other no longer important data. Sometimes you have to relog in to the app next time you use it though. So make sure you can remember or have the ability to reset your password. On iPhone it can be easier to just delete the app completely and then redownload it. This is especially true for Facebook.
  5. Download a phone cleaner program that can scan your device and find unneeded files that are clogging your device. Type ‘Memory cleaner” into your app store search bar. Clean Master is a good program for Android. For an iPhone there are some available, but it usually works better to connect your phone to your computer using iTunes and use the cleaning options that are available there.

After you complete these tasks, make sure to completely power off your device, let it sit for at least 15 seconds and then reboot it. Actually, it is a good idea to power your phone on and off at least once a week. Now that you have more free space and the junk files cleaned off of your device it should run much smoother. Also, feel free to use some of the new space available to find some new apps that will help you with some of your needs in life. There are lots of them out there and we will cover some of the good apps for business in the next blog post.

Do you know how your customers have been lately?

It is common business knowledge that it is a lot more expensive and time consuming to find new customers than it is to keep the ones that you have, but how does this relate to the modern world?

One of the great things about smartphones is that they allow you to create and access information that you have about your customers.  This can be extremely useful if done properly.  The first step is to create an online database with information about your customers and prospects.  This can be done easily using a Google Docs spreadsheet.  What is nice about Google Docs spreadsheets is that besides being free, they are very easy to read and can be populated with as much data as you want about each entry.  This can include a person’s name, phone number, email address, business, interactions that have taken place, last date of communication and notes. This is a valuable amount of data about your customers. You can also update it directly from your phone and have the information saved. This makes it easier to do when you are out working away from your office and is especially helpful if you are working with others and sharing the same spreadsheet. This way you can ensure that customers or prospects are not contacted by multiple people with the same message.

If a spreadsheet does not suit your needs and you need a more robust customer management program, it would be worth your time to check out some of the other CRM apps that are available such as Insightly.  These typically have a monthly fee but can do a great job of tracking all of the relevant information that you have about each one of your customers/prospects.

Whatever you decide to use, just remember it is important to stay in touch with your customers. Try using an email management program such as Savvy Sender. This allows you to create email campaigns that don’t end up in people’s spam boxes. It also allows you to see who opened your emails, and who did not. Try to think of a creative subject for the email and people will be more likely to open it.  Remember, not only are people much more likely to be repeat customers if they occasionally hear from you, but they will also be more likely to recommend your product or services to their friends and colleagues if they get a periodic reminder. Plus, previous customers can be an invaluable resource to find out current market trends.  Try creating a free online survey using Survey Monkey  that you can send out and ask your contacts specific questions about their preferences.  There might be untapped markets awaiting you that can take your business to the next level.

Lots of great possibilities exist for your business. All it takes is the willingness to try something new.

If a tree posts a status update in the woods, will anyone read it?

Social media has become an integral part of how you can manage your customer relationships.  It provides ways to instantly interact with people who have done business with you and can be a terrific tool to find out what the buzz in the marketplace is about your products and services. However,  anyone familiar with the Net Promoter system is well aware that “detractors” tend to be much more vocal than “promoters”.  That is why it is so important to be aware of what is being posted about your business and to immediately address concerns/complaints that your customers might have.  Many times it is possible to flip a detractor to a promoter about your company simply by listening, acknowledging and attempting to offer a resolution to their complaint.  Customers like to feel as though their voice is important, and responding to their posts, however negative they may seem, not only can correct the situation, but will also prove to others that may read it that you are serious about customer care and that you will respond if an issue arises. Likewise, customers also like to feel appreciated if they take the time to post praise about a company. Acknowledging them can help them feel an even stronger sense of connection and advocacy for your brand.  It is very important that happy customers do not feel ignored. Plus retweeting/reposting a happy customer’s tweet will not only make them feel important, but also serves as an unpaid customer testimonial validating the quality of your products/services.

Social media makes these interactions much easier than they were even 10 years ago.  In the past, customers were forced to mail a letter or look up a 1-800 number to call to communicate with a business. Not only were the business costs to responding to these much higher, but there was also a much longer lag in response time. Neither of these are appealing for creating a good brand image.

This leads us to an important question-What are your customers/prospects saying about you now?

There are many websites that allow reviews of local businesses. Is it part of your company PR policy to regularly review these sites and respond to posts when necessary?  Do you encourage your happy customers to post their thoughts on these sites? If not, you are probably doing your company a big disservice.  Customer reviews have become a vital part of everything from Google Maps location reviews to LinkedIN profiles.  Many people use these reviews to make their purchasing decision.  Happy customers should be strongly encouraged to leave positive reviews, even if you have to offer an incentive.  Each recommendation that you receive will make others more likely to do business with you AND because of the way Google etc. do their algorithms, also help boost your company’s website search rankings.

Even if you make customer service your top priority, unhappy customers can eventually be inevitable. Everyone has heard the old phrase “the customer is always right” but most people who have ever worked in  location involving the general public will disagree with that statement.  However, people are much more likely to patronize a location that responds to an unhappy customer and at least makes a reasonable attempt to placate their concerns.

Most companies do a pretty good job about addressing customer posts on Facebook and Twitter, but make a list of all of the social media sites that your business is listed on and check to see what is being said.  There are probably a lot more than you might realize. This is a great way to see what is working and what is not.  Once you have this information, make sure you use it to determine how to strengthen and grow your business. While the customer may not always be right, they can always tell you what you need to address to take your business sales to the next level.

 

Is your battery running out quickly these days?

 

The battle between mankind and phone battery life is one of the epic struggles of the Modern Era.  While many people would call this a first world problem, it is amazing how dependent we have become on our phones and how stressful it can be to hit 15% battery life knowing that you still have a long time to go before your day or evening ends.  There are several items at play when it comes to battery life and understanding them can help you get a little more time out of each charge.

The first thing to realize is that batteries have a life cycle that declines over time. The best way to think about this is that after about 500 charges your phone’s battery begins to lose capacity and each charge is going to last a little less time than the one before it.  The best way to optimize your battery life is to wait until your battery is at least under 40% before charging it again. Try to avoid short charging sessions when possible as they can actually decrease the lifespan of your battery.  Sometimes that is unavoidable but for best practices, try to aim for longer charging sessions.

After that, the best place to start is to look at your phone’s setting for screen timeout, meaning how long will it stay on before turning the screen off after you’ve last touched it.  1 minute or less is the best option for battery life. Usually having it set for auto brightness will help too. Next, and possibly more important look in your phone’s power management in the settings (or download an app that can do that for you) and see what things are running that are using your phone’s battery.  You might be very surprised to see apps that you have not used in weeks or months showing up and taking a percentage of your daily battery life.  The reason for this is that many of these are running in the background are doing things that you may or may not be aware of while your phone is idle.  This is one of the reasons why it is so important to pay attention to the permissions that apps request access to when you download them.  Coming soon you will be able to limit specific access to things for an app, but for right now it is all or nothing meaning that if you want that flashlight app for example, you are agreeing to let it use your internet access or whatever else it requests whenever it wants to for whatever reasons it wants to do.  This sounds crazy when you realize that simple apps like a flashlight could be using your internet access, but remember apps are very expensive to develop and market, so if they are “free” sometimes something else is going on in the background.

A good rule of thumb is if you have not used an app in over 2 months just uninstall it.  You can always reinstall it if you need it again but in the meantime deleting unwanted apps can easily add 10-15% or more to your daily battery life.  If you really want to maximize your phone’s battery, back up all of your important data, VERIFY that it is backed up, and then do a reset on your phone to original factory settings.  After this, only download the apps that you are going to use. You will probably be surprised and how much smoother your phone will run.

With the way that cell phone bills are set up, the longer you can keep your device after it is paid off, the more money you can save.  Plus there really is not nearly as big of jump in performance from upgrading to a new device as there used to be.  By following these tips you can have your phone last a longer which will keep a lot more money in your pocket and it will perform better for you while you use it.

Want to launch an app? Buckle up, it can be a wild ride!

Smartphones have taken over the world. Almost anywhere you go you’ll see people with their eyes locked deep into the warm glow of the screen on their hand. The modern day gold rushers have long envied the ability of this relatively new technology to capture people’s attention. The business potential is almost unlimited. Perhaps the best part is that it gives developers an almost unlimited playground to bring their idea to life. It seems like life will be a bed of roses until some of the realities of creating an app show up.

The first question to ask is-what is the specific goal that you are trying to accomplish? Are you looking to boost sales for your company? Create a new way for people to connect? New game or other form of entertainment? Once you have an answer to that, research what is currently available that is close to what you want to do and try them out. Ask your friends/colleagues to test them also. Pay close attention to the feedback, and especially whether or not it is something they would use frequently enough to want to keep. If you think you have a unique idea, start to proceed….cautiously. Besides the reality that it is costly to create an app, especially since it can cost extra to build for both Android and Apple, the real challenge begins once your app is approved and officially launched. The million dollar question then becomes-How are people going to find out about you?

One of the most important financial numbers for a company is the Cost Per Download. This number determines how much advertising money is spent per person that downloads the app. The number in the beginning can be a lot higher than what many people anticipate. Before launching your app, you need to have a marketing strategy in place. Every few months there are stories about a creative app designer who strikes gold by having the latest viral hit and tech world watches as their download numbers skyrocket. This is a terrific example of hard work paying off, and it definitely can for you too, but it is important to prepare for the challenges that you will have in getting to that level of success.

The first thing to make sure you understand is that it can be very difficult to get people to download your app. There are many roadblocks that can prevent this from happening. It can be surprising to those who work in the tech community, but many people have not ever downloaded an app because they do not know their itunes password, nor how to reset it. Memory storage is also frequently an issue as many phones get loaded up with photos/videos etc. to the point that they have zero space available. It is crazy to think, but some people still have the iPhone 3G or one of the original Droids and have an old version of the iOS or Android firmware that does not support what you need to run your new app.
The reason these factors are important to consider is because many times it makes more sense to build your idea into a website that has an excellent interface from a mobile device. It can be much easier to engage with new users by having a link to your site that you can email, text, tweet, post or link to on a blog etc. that people can easily access than it is to convince them it is worth the effort to find and download an app. It is also much easier and quicker to update and add new features on a website than an app. There is always the opportunity to build an app after you already have an established customer base. However, sometimes you do need to build an app to fully control the user experience and provide unique levels of service that are not available elsewhere.

Once you have decided on the best path to proceed it can be of vital importance to connect with the local tech community in your area and promote your new product. Many times great new ideas or partnering opportunities can come from attendees of networking events like those created by Tech In Motion that can take your business to the next level. Carrot Pass is a new app that uses beacon technology and encourages people to be more active by providing financial incentives for them to do so. I think it is a great idea and have also been working with them lately. We were fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to present at one of their recent events and the exposure and contacts we made will be incredibly valuable once we are able to expand into the Toronto area. Whatever your vision is, you can be successful doing it as long as you prepare and plan for the challenges. The potential market is HUGE. People love using their smartphones and are always excited to find a new reason to turn it on.carrot

2015 Apple Event

The Apple Event was once again a huge deal in the tech world today. While this year’s event didn’t have the Wow factor that we have seen in years past, there were a few highlights. Perhaps the most innovative product is the new iPad Pro. Basically it is an iPad that now has a massive 12.9 inch screen. This is not really that exciting but the new stylus that is available called, in typical Apple fashion, ‪#‎ApplePencil‬ seems like it is really going to a game changer for the creative field. The artistic work that they demonstrated using it was very impressive.
Another new innovation that stood out was Live Photo. This makes your photos more interactive as they become not only still photos but also like 3 second GIF files. This is especially interesting for action shots or photos with movement in the background. It is not going to add much to every picture you take but will really bring some of your shots to life in a new way.
The other item that seems to be creating the most buzz is the new ‪#‎3DTouch‬ that will be available on the iPhone 6 and 6S. This now allows the phone to sensor how hard you are pushing the screen down and can create new options that will be available. It is almost like a right click button on Windows computers. It will allow all sorts of new ways to interact with games and certain apps.
Lastly, the new Apple TV seems much more focused on gaming and other apps and now includes SIRI to make interaction much easier and more in depth.
Not really much news on the Apple Watch. This will be an interesting year for that device to see if it really can catch on….. or not. So far reviews have been somewhat mixed. The new iPhone has some relatively minor hardware improvements but nothing that screams “I MUST OWN YOU IMMEDIATELY” and a lot of people seem a bit put off by Apple’s love affair with “high prices give the impression of high quality. Who cares if we have Huge margins on all of our products. “This is especially true with the optional Apple Pencil which costs an eye opening additional $99. This is even more true when considering the entry level iPad Pro, with only 32 GB of memory costs $799. Add in the new keyboard/case which costs $169 and you’re at over $1100.00 after tax for this device.
They also have a new plan available through the Apple Stores that will allow you to pay $32 a month for the latest version of the iPhone with Apple Care+ and then turn in your phone and upgrade every year. Some might argue that $384 annually is a lot for your phone, but there will certainly be people who line up to do it.

Overall, the event had a bit of the feel that the luster has somewhat left the room on these events. The smartphone/tablet market has matured significantly over the past 2 years where now there really is not the same excitement about relatively minor upgrades and people already have good devices so they do not need something new. This is probably what the new norm will be for these kind of events. Sure, there were some True iBelievers who hung on every word, and cheered wildly about features that have been available in other devices for years, but overall the responses in the social media worlds seemed fairly muted. While the term “It Changes Everything” seems to be tossed around pretty easily these days, people seem less interested in hardware and more interested in cool new software/apps that will change the way that they interact with the world. That seems to be where the real interest lies in “The Next Big Thing.”

It’s now a connected world, but is that helping your business?

It has now been over 8 years since Apple launched the first iPhone and forever changed the way that modern society communicates. Few items in history have had a larger impact than the smartphone. The lines outside the Apple stores coinciding with each new launch were the stuff of legends as each new generation of phone offered sparkling new features. However, recently the luster of each new phone release has diminished. Most people already have a phone that is powerful enough and contains the features that they want. We have moved into the next phase of smart communication where the devices can instead of being a source of endless amusement become an incredible tool to help us become more successful.

Connectivity is the new goal of today. Not only the opportunity to have all of your devices synced to allow access to your data and other important files from anywhere in the world, but the opportunity to connect with your customers in a way that fits their unique desires. There is vast amounts of information available that can help you customize your message and pitch to your business prospects. The challenge is to make the purchase of your product as easy and seamless as possible. Avoiding breaks in the sales cycle should be a top priority. This is where having the PayPal option for purchases on your website can be key. Many people have items in a checkout cart on ecommerce websites that remain unpurchased because the potential purchasers did not have their credit card handy when they decided to make these typically impulse purchases. The interruption of the desire to own the item by forcing the customer to move their hand off of the mouse or keyboard and sometimes even leave the room to look for their credit card caused them to rethink their purchase and usually that means putting it off until another time. This is a classic example of a missed opportunity for a business. Using PayPal on your site will allow someone to simply log in with their user name and password to complete this purchase. The process is much easier for the customer and more importantly does not interrupt the thought process that they want to acquire this new item.
Beacons have a tremendous amount of potential to seamlessly connect with customers in ways never before possible and help guide them towards making a more informed purchase while at or near your location. They have a tremendous ability to deliver information in an extremely cost effective manner. There will be much more information about beacons in the following months here on this blog but in the meantime make an inventory of the ways that your company interacts with potential customers and ask yourself if there are new opportunities available that your prospects might want that can help you close more sales and make more money?
If the answer is yes, contact us here at Smarterphones and we will schedule a consultation.

Are you looking for new prospects for your business? Use Google Maps!

In a perfect world, all of us that run a business would just start our workday and have customers come streaming in our physical or virtual doors. However, usually that is not the way that it works.  The great news is that now it has become easier than ever to find potential customers/clients that will be interested in your products and services.  The best part is that it is free to do and the answer is literally in the palm of you hand.

Google Maps is one of the most commonly used apps in the world. It is certainly one of the most useful.  It seems so long ago that we needed a physical map to find our way around new places.  Besides making it much easier to drive at night when street signs can be difficult to read, just not having to deal with folding the map up after using it is a reason to be grateful for this app. However, as useful as the directions feature is on Google Maps, finding businesses that might become customers of yours can be even more useful for your business.

The next time you use Google Maps, instead of typing an address in the search line, type in the name of a business industry that you would like to prospect. Start with the field in which the majority of your clients work. Let’s say you sell fertilizer. You might type in “golf course” into Google Maps and it will show you on the map all golf courses in the area. Click on each one and it will not only show you the address, phone number and hours of operation, but it will usually give you a link to their website too. This is the key item. Using their website you can do research on the company and usually find out who is the contact person. Some websites will give you a list of people and their specific titles and phone numbers. Copy the name of the person who is most relevant to you and head over to LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and do a search on them.  You will usually be able to find out more about that person’s background and what specific roles they now have at their current position. Take notes on any good talking points as you will need them later.  Next, once you feel comfortable with your familiarity with the company, have your pitch prepared and make your phone call. You will find that these couple minutes of research will make a significant change in the success rate of getting through the “gate keeper” and actually getting the opportunity to speak with the decision maker. Calling a business and asking to speak to the manager will usually get you their voice mail, at best. However, calling and asking to speak to a specific person, and then when you do talk to them having some information about their background and what they do will lead to much more successful conversations.  Just be sure to ask for their email so that you can send them a calendar invite when they agree to schedule a meeting with you.

For more information about using your smartphone to build your business, please contact us at info@smarterphones.net to set up a consultation.