5 Ways Tablets Are Changing How We Do Business

Tablets have been perhaps the most surprising innovation of the last ten years—one of those magical products that we “didn’t know we needed”. From the briefcases of executives to the pockets of wait staff, tablets have become ubiquitous in nearly every industry. Here are a few of the biggest ways tablets have changed the face of the business world.

1. Building the market for cloud technology

One of the most noticeable changes that tablets have produced in the business world is actually caused by a weakness. Since tablets lack the raw computing power of a desktop, they’re often inadequate to run the most cutting-edge business software—so app developers began working around that limitation with apps that did the “heavy lifting” off-site, and simply streamed the relevant information back to the tablet. Consequently, we’ve seen an explosion in demand for cloud-based business resources and faster connection speeds, leading to more efficient use of server resources across the board, even for desktop apps.

2. Revitalizing one-on-one sales

We’ve become accustomed to the idea that innovations and new technology will either disrupt or eliminate more traditional methods, but the rise of tablets has breathed new life into a very old-school marketing strategy: the face-to-face, in-person sales pitch. With fully interactive tablet demos, sales reps are able to give a much more hip and informative presentation than the tacky flip-books and laminates they used before. And tablet credit card readers give sales reps the ability to strike while the iron is hot—with a smartphone credit card reader, they can accept payment on the spot, as soon as they’ve closed the deal.

3. Providing on-the-spot invoicing for contractors

Anyone who has ever done contract work knows that getting paid is a constant headache—especially if you do a lot of one-time projects like consulting or renovations. Getting both parties’ expectations in writing is essential, and until recently, it was difficult to get it all down on the spot in a legally-binding and credible way. A tablet with a solid online invoicing system allows contractors to define exactly what work they’re going to do, and what they expect in compensation. By lending the legal muscle of large financial institutions to small-scale transactions, tablets have made contract work safer for both providers and customers.

4. Putting the finishing touches on “just-in-time” production lines

Major corporations have had every element of their supply chains computerized for decades; but at the warehouse level, employees who spent all day on their feet were still stuck with manual inventory tracking—a single weak link in an otherwise extremely efficient system. Now, companies with vast supply chains like Microsoft and Wal-Mart have their workers equipped with tablets to monitor inventory and track shipments—so that executives know everything there is to know, as soon as it happens. These ultra-efficient supply chains lower the cost of inventory and enable expanded global reach with cheaper shipping.

5. Transforming point-of-sale

This may seem like a small thing, but small businesses like restaurants are able to save hundreds of dollars in work-hours every night by using tablet-based point-of-sale systems. When a server takes an order on a tablet, it’s available in the kitchen instantaneously—with no waiting for the server to complete his or her rounds. Then, when it’s time to pay, the server can swipe a credit card right at the table, saving the customer’s time, clearing the table quicker, and ultimately, allowing the restaurant to be more profitable on busy nights. By giving servers less walking and waiting to do, restaurants are able to serve more customers with a lighter crew, keeping costs lower and bringing in higher revenue.

Tara Wagner is a staff writer for TechBreach. She has worked from home for over a decade, and loves sharing news and advice with fellow telecommuting moms and dads. She’s fascinated by new tech and new ideas; and when she finds time to unplug, she enjoys long hikes in the mountains near her home. She lives in Denver.

Tips to Integrate Traditional and Digital Marketing

For all the doom-saying about traditional marketing and media, it’s not dead—not even close. A Nielsen survey conducted last year shows Americans still watch over three hours of live television every day—not counting DVR or online programming where it’s possible to block or fast-forward through commercials. And while subscriptions are declining, about a quarter of Americans still read a print newspaper every day.

This buffet-style media environment demands a new approach—both traditional and digital media are still too big to ignore—so here are a few ways you can cover all your bases without duplicating effort.

1. Use traditional networks to publicize your digital content

It’s easy to overlook this step, but make sure customers see your website URL on every billboard, sign, flyer, ad, or business card you distribute. Traditional media is now cheaper than ever, and if you can grab users’ attention that way, it’s a great tool to increase your online presence. Give users a reason to visit your site. Offer online discounts, and maintain an interesting and valuable social network presence—for instance, repair or home improvement contractors might publish simple tips or did-you-know factoids periodically.

2. Put QR codes on every scrap of marketing material

The marriage of the QR code and the smart phone was made in marketing heaven. With a flyer, newspaper ad, or sign, you can engage customers with your digital content with the snap of a photo. Use some kind of “hook” to draw viewers, like a question, an enigmatic statement, or even a discount offer, to spur curiosity. Some businesses even print out a giant QR for the side of the company van, or incorporate them on Tyvek bands at entertainment events—it’s eye-catching and novel, and people want to find out more.

3. Throw your traditional campaigns online

With the typical small-business budget, your local TV commercials aren’t likely to be “high art”—but that isn’t always a bad thing. If you’ve put in the work to create a commercial that’s funny (intentionally or otherwise), post it on Reddit, Youtube, Tumblr, and anywhere else it’s likely to get a laugh. A small California taxidermist with the help of a local marketing agency created the “Nope, Chuck Testa!” ad, which got 14,000,000 views and made the company an internet sensation. That means they’ve earned $42,000 just for posting the ad, and it cost them nothing more than an ordinary TV commercial. Also, any fundraisers, trade shows, or traditional marketing events should go up on your social networks for customers to see.

4. Involve your online audience in trade shows

Trade shows are great for B2B networking—but keeping the party to yourself is becoming less and less feasible. Get the most out of trade shows by letting your customer base see you with your best foot forward, too. If you’re speaking, post surveys and questions to get users talking—then include them in your creative process. This strategy increases your viewers’ engagement, as well as demonstrating your responsiveness to the opinions of customers and clients. Record insights, snap photos, and involve your online audience as much as possible.

5. Apply online analytical tools to traditional campaigns

The unique advantage of online marketing is how measurable everything is—it’s possible to know exactly where your customers are coming from, what caught their eye, and what they’re looking for, in a way that simply couldn’t be done in the era of TV and print advertising. By pointing the QR codes and URLs on your promotional materials to different landing pages, you can find out who is reading them, what’s catching their attention, and more importantly, who is going on to patronize your business.

Tara Wagner is a staff writer for TechBreach. She has worked from home for over a decade, and loves sharing news and advice with fellow telecommuting moms and dads. She’s fascinated by new tech and new ideas; and when she finds time to unplug, she enjoys long hikes in the mountains near her home. She lives in Denver.

5 Money-Management Tips for Entrepreneurs

How to stay above water while your business is growing

Being an entrepreneur means being excited about the prospects of new ideas, products, and businesses. Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time finding and securing funding for new ventures, and then dive right into infrastructure, marketing and selling; but too often, good money management practices are neglected or outright forgotten. Many a failed venture need only look back on cash flow issues that were evident from the onset of operations. Here are some ideas to make sure you are properly managing your money.

1.Have a grown-up in charge of your budget

If you’ve been in the game for a while, you know the importance of having a solid business plan, and you know how much weight rests on the financial planning portions of that plan. Before they start their business, most people have a general idea of what your finances will be, but you might not realize all of the expenses that you or your business will need to stay afloat. Brand-new startups should have weekly budget assessments, that can gradually stretch into monthly and quarterly meetings—but if you know that you’re not detail-oriented enough to make it happen, find someone who is. There must be at least one person in your organization whose primary focus is asking “Where’s the money coming from?”

2. Size matters

You’re not an entrepreneur because you think small; but not every startup company will be bought up in the first year by a giant software company, so you might not be a multi-millionaire as soon as you anticipated. Be smart, and use your company’s small size to your advantage. A small company is better able to adapt to shifting market trends, and if you’ve got your ear to the tracks you’ll be able to see those changes coming, and plan quickly to take advantage. Growing large quickly simply to get noticed won’t benefit you, your investors, or your clients. Keep operations tight and efficient and in time everyone will be thanking you for your smart business planning.

3. Accountable accounting

One of the biggest mistakes small businesses can make is outsourcing too much, too quickly. Some things are better kept in-house, and accounting is one of them. Even if funds are tight, and you can only hire an accountant part time or on a contract basis, do this instead of farming that service to an outside company. Having someone that is intimately aware of your business, who you can talk to any time you need to, will be invaluable. Utilize free money management services and applications from Mint, Google, your bank and others to keep you on top of your finances.

4. Tech Savvy

Being tech-savvy can not only help you save money in operation expenses, but keep you aware of your money-management issues as well. Small businesses can easily operate with small and efficient computer, network, and other telecommunication solutions. The more educated you are on the availability of money management tools, online financial services, and free or low-cost communication devices and plans, the more you can do yourselves, and the better you’ll be positioned to keep a positive cash flow.

5. Money-minded

While you should be devoted to creating the best product, service, or model possible for your business you should always have your finances in the back of your mind guiding every decision you make. A great way to make sure you’re making your decisions on accurate numbers is by loading up your smart phone or tablet with some free financial apps that can be linked to your credit cards and bank accounts. Use them to stay on top of bills and to coordinate with your accountant in your weekly planning meetings.

Aimee Watts is a staff writer for Mobile Moo. She has spent ten years telecommuting full-time, and loves spreading tips and advice for fellow work-at-home parents. She loves gadgets, new ideas, and skiing with her two favorite people: her husband and teenage son. They live in Evergreen, Colorado.

5 Simple Life-Hacks for the Self-Employed

Increase productivity so you can focus on what’s important

When people imagine owning their own business, they often fantasize about setting their own hours, wearing what they want, working when they feel like it; but entrepreneurship is one of the most demanding ways of making a living, and most of us don’t have the discipline or organization to do it without a considerable amount of help. Fortunately, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to improve your small business, fortify your commitment and get things done.

1. Make room for distractions

This may seem counter-intuitive, but controlled and scheduled distractions can actually make you a more effective worker. Accept that other tasks will make demands on your time during your workday, and modify your goals accordingly (this is particularly true for self-employed parents). Also, taking a ten-minute break to read a chapter of a book or work on another project can help you return to work refreshed and ready to think in a new way. Interruptions that you’ve scheduled beforehand are less likely to disrupt your discipline.

2. Give yourself a workday

If you never clock in, you can’t really clock out—and too many entrepreneurs spend every waking moment half-focused on work while scrambling to fulfill other responsibilities. Entrepreneurs who work that way don’t last very long—it’s less productive, and it’s a sure recipe for burnout. Give yourself a real workday, as long as it needs to be.

Also, don’t assume that 9 to 5 is the best time for your productivity—you know which hours of the day are most productive for you, so schedule your workday whenever is optimal. Of course, you should consider the resources and contacts who will only be available to you during “regular business hours”, but that’s only one factor in your decision.

3. Schedule a ten-minute planning session every morning

Particularly if you’re the kind of person who struggles to stick to a plan, it’s best to make goals that you can hold yourself accountable for right away—and that means starting small, with manageable, quantifiable goals that you can achieve the same day. Then, at the end of the day, take ten minutes to take stock of how you actually spent your time, compared with your plan. It can be an illuminating experience.

4. Mobilize your office as much as possible

To whatever extent possible, empower yourself to get things done on the move; and if things just aren’t cooking in your home office, get up and go somewhere else. A simple change of scenery can do wonders for your creativity and problem-solving capacity. Smartphones, tablets, and ultrabooks can help you stay productive at a park, on public transportation, or even in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. Working in a new environment is also a great way to avoid your pet distractions, and being able to respond to problems wherever you are will keep your business agile and responsive.

5. Make time for education

Especially in today’s business climate, you can’t be a technophobic or rigid small business owner. Entrepreneurs are some of the busiest people on the planet—but the successful ones make time to raise their vision, build new skills, and change strategies that aren’t working. Make it a point to learn something new every day (you can invite a spouse or friend to hold you accountable)—and look for ways to apply what you learn to your business.

Patricia Shuler is a BBGeeks.com staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.