Weekly business rail, with small-business trends, BBB holiday-shopping tips, and more.
Tip of the Week
Check out these leading trends set to amplify in 2013, providing businesses with key ways to keep profits and customer satisfaction up:
- Trend 1: Look to the clouds. Everyone is talking about cloud technology these days, which basically means remote computing, leveraging the Internet. This is great news for small- and medium-size businesses because cloud-based systems provide a plethora of tools, save costs and minimize maintenance. For example, cloud programs can help manage payroll, invoicing, phone systems, documents, customer management, business analytics and backup systems. Online cloud services commonly used by small businesses include Skype, Dropbox and Google Docs.
- Trend 2: The era of social media. Social media's growth continues to boom, and businesses no longer have the option of ignoring this outreach potential. It's cost effective and connects you to customers in ways never before possible. Use Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and blogs as part of your business' social media program. The relationships you can build with key customers and the feedback they provide is invaluable.
- Trend 3: Your workplace is everywhere. Technology enables people to stay connected and work from virtually anywhere, meaning the terms "off the clock" or "away from the office" are going extinct. Whether you're working from home, at the office, or in a coffee shop, it is vital to be accessible at all times, especially if you run a small or medium-size business. Whether your preferred device is a laptop, tablet or smartphone, staying connected is a must.
- Trend 4: Video conferencing instead of business travel. Traveling is costly and time-consuming. Video conferencing is a low-cost way to meet with customers, prospects and suppliers from virtually anywhere with computer and Internet access. Common video conferencing resources include Skype, ooVoo and Cisco WebEx, making it easy to communicate with individuals or groups.
- Trend 5: Applications keep things moving. Apps are not just fun and games - many are made specifically for the mobile office, making on-the-go work easy.
- Trend 6: Talk just got cheaper. Long distance phone calls to employees, customers and prospects can quickly increase a phone bill. Internet-hosted phone systems are becoming more popular because they are low cost, flexible and low maintenance. Skype is a good example of a voice-over-Internet service that allows individuals to communicate through video, voice and instant messaging using a headset.
- Trend 7: Devices talk amongst themselves. Think how much more effective your communications would be if all your devices worked together. Fortunately, that now is happening, and the technology trend is aptly called Unified Communications. It delivers voice, email, SMS, video conferencing and document sharing into a single interface so that you easily can relay any or all of your data to others.
Consumers may shop more during the holiday season, and this increase in transactions may put them at a higher risk for identity theft or fraud, warns the Better Business Bureau. The BBB offers these tips to consumers on how to prevent fraud:
- Some mail can carry sensitive information that should be protected. It is important to install a lockable mailbox to prevent mail theft.
- Keep track of what credit cards you are using and which ones have become inactive. Be sure to close any credit card accounts that are no longer necessary.
- Be sure to check your account statements frequently, especially around the holidays when shopping increases. If there are any fraudulent charges deal with them immediately.
- Make sure to shred any bills or offers for pre-approved credit cards.
- When closing a checking account, be sure to have all the checks destroyed.
For more advice, visit www.bbb.org.
Here are the most powerful people in the world, according to Forbes.com:
1. President Barack Obama
2. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel
3. Russia President Vladimir Putin
4. Bill Gates
5. Pope Benedict XVI
6. Ben Bernanke
Movie-streaming company Netflix and Hollywood studio The Walt Disney Co. agreed to a movie-licensing deal. The agreement makes Netflix the exclusive subscription television service for first-run Disney Studios' animated and live-action feature films in the U.S. Beginning with its 2016 theatrically released feature films, all new Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios and Disneynature titles will be available for Netflix members to watch on multiple platforms, including television, tablets, computers and mobile phones. New Disney direct-to-digital releases will be made available on Netflix starting next year. – The Street
GateHouse News Service