ID=10

Online Hotel Marketing

When it comes to online hotel marketing, Social Energizer can help you tackle the tough parts. Each solution has been researched, tested and chosen for features that will quickly help you make the most of getting online. You’ll be amazed at our focus on choices that let you work less, not more!

Online Booking Engine on your website

A Smart Website that gets found in Google searches, connects to Facebook, is dynamic and changing each week, is informative with easy-to-find answers, and integrates with your property management system.

Property Management System -we have teamed up with one of the best PMS companies in North America for small hotels and can help implement their system at your hotel quickly and efficiently. Have the best of both worlds, state-of-the-art technology, backed by local and personal assistance that is able to focus on your business’ needs.

• GDS/OTA Integration Assistance -from strategy to implementation, our assistance will save you hundreds of hours of work and frustration. Optimize your new PMS with seemless integrations to your favorite online partner. Using our strategy, you will discover how working with online partners can be a WIN/WIN for everyone -without costing you an arm and a leg!

• Merchant Account / PCI Compliance -Allow guests to charge their room charges right from your website  booking engine and your staff to charge from within the reservation -all with lower fees than you are probably paying now! Then have those monies deposited to your bank all from within a controlled and trackable interface. Exceed the standards that credit card companies require for processing credit cards with PCI Compliance.

• Social Media integration and automation -social media is a lot of work, but the payoffs can be the most significant of all possible efforts. Integrate to reach full impact. Automate for efficiency and the sake of your sanity! After all, you have a hotel to run.

• Mobile Website so potential guests can find you on the go. Over 30% of travelers now find their accommodations by connecting to the Internet via their cell phones and tablets. Can they find and use your mobile website?

Automate routine guest communication -Welcome, cancellation and after-stay follow-up emails can be set-up to almost run on their own. Now, won’t that be a lot of work off your plate?

Marketing -run an ad campaign on Google, email campaign to your past guests, send press releases to online media outlets of your latest accomplishment. That’s just the start of the things we can do together!

Business Support -email with your domain like me@yourhotelname.com, learn to utilize free powerful online services that will revolutionize the way you do business.

Learn and stay up-to-date -It’s a new world out there. Learn about new trends, opportunities and threats that relate to travel and hospitality.

For a full list of our services be sure to check out our ‘Services‘ page.

Your Guide to Selecting a Hotel Property Management System

When I was young, my grandmother and grandfather owned and ran a small resort in Northern Wisconsin. I remember her notifying the nearby Visitor’s Information Center on Friday evenings when they had open, unsold cottages. It was a friendly conversation that was often repeated just before the cottages ‘turned-over’ for the next weekly rentals. These phone calls often resulted in new guests and increased occupancy for the resort. Wisconsin Resort

The days of putting up a sign and then advising the local Visitor’s Center of your hotel’s availability just isn’t enough anymore. To survive you’ll need to realize that hotel marketing has changed. Influences such as social media networks and the global marketplace can make your new sales world seem like you are the smallest of fish in a very large ocean. Sometimes it can even seem like there is a minefield in that ocean, just waiting for you. BUT, it doesn’t have to be THE END. Independent hotels and resorts, yes, even the small- and medium-sized ones, that invest in technology to streamline operations, sell globally, and enhance the guest experience can navigate through successfully.

Today, selecting an outstanding hotel property management system (PMS) is the essential element to maximizing occupancy rates and increasing profitability. As online systems’ integration and the influence of a global marketplace become more and more important to hotel sales, selection of the right property management system, your hotel’s core business tool, is the most critical component to success. Choosing one that easily and efficiently manages and organizes hotel inventory and tasks, while seamlessly coordinating marketing channels to maximize occupancy is the key to a successful implementation.

How do you find a PMS that can do all this? Here are a few steps to get you on your way:

Form a Plan

Form a Team

Unless you’re a small ‘mom & pop’  hotel, where the owners are the team, the first step in selecting a property management system is to form an integration team that includes managers and staff. It’s important to do this to make sure the property management system addresses most of the needs throughout the hotel and is evaluated through various viewpoints. It also helps to get the ‘buy-in’ of the eventual users. For small lodging professionals, the ‘moms & pops’, sit down and discuss this throughly. Treat it as the important decision it is. Don’t let the day to day operations push this decision aside. It WILL make your life easier -and allow your property to make you more money.

Conduct a Needs AssessmentPMS features

  1. It’s important to clarify all the property’s business processes, beginning with guest inquiries, moving to reservations and then ending with check-out and ‘thank you’ letters.
  2. Also gather a list of the numerous functions that, depending on the size of your property and the amenities it offers, can include anything from room service to bicycle rentals.
  3. Consider how and who you want to partner with. Integrating with the many online sales channels today will provide the highest occupancy levels, but not without significant cost. Choosing the ones that best match your guest demographics is the key.
  4. What type of support will be important to you and your team? Typically, most hoteliers’ first choice is 24/7 support with a support team based in the same country.

Prioritize the list of features

Create a list of basic requirements that must be included to create a platform suitable to your hotels’ operational and marketing needs. Then evaluate the ‘nice to have’ items and determine implications like ROI and guest happiness and add those top features to the list as well.

Determine your budget

Typically today, a cloud-based system will end up costing you less, provide unlimited software updates, and relieve you of the problem of having the system go down without the right personnel to fix it. In-place systems are usually a better fit for the large hotel chains that have enterprise-level demands and deeper pockets.

Evaluate the Options

Find the most cutting-edge, hospitality approved PMS systems. Ask for recommendations from colleagues at similar-sized properties, your local hotel and lodging association and staff. They have likely used a variety of systems over the years and can offer suggestions and warnings about the available PMS systems on the market. Create a comparison chart to capture the myriad pieces of information.

Common considerations for choosing a property management system are:

1. Functional design. The level of design may be a clue to finding the technology right for your hotel. A clunky, out-of-date interface should give cause for concern; the technology underlying it is probably no better. Look for a system that has a intuitive interface, is easy to navigate and organized logically. Tip- Count how many mouse ‘clicks’ it takes to complete routine functions.

2. Robust Property Management Functions. Fully-integrated front- and back-office operations, detailed guest profiles, management of guest folios and charge routing, housekeeping, special request management and task lists are all required of your multi-functional team and should be part of a basic PMS. Automation of routine communications should be embedded as part of the reservation process allowing your staff to interact with guests, while tracking the information.

3. Sell via new marketing channels. Today, hotels need to be able to directly access the global marketplace. This means systematic support for selling via your website, global distribution systems and social networks. The importance of social media in hospitality sales is now proven. Watch for trendsetting PMS vendors to capture and add guest social profiles to their CRM (customer relationship management) systems and add features for interacting in these new ways.

4. Integration with other systems. Your PMS should interface with your online services and marketing channels. Complex components like the online booking engine of your website, merchant accounts for credit processing, and linking of global distribution systems that will enable you to sell on Expedia, Booking.com, etc. should all be integrated into one easy-to-use interface. Your property management system will be the common control system and should be therefore be the easiest and most robust of all. Automatic synchronization is the key to successfully implementing these various functions.

5. Flexible reporting. Your system should be able to generate custom reports and queries. This will enable you to track your marketing efforts, predict opportunities and determine the partners that provide the best ROI. Do not overlook the importance of your accounting backend. Can you easily track all transactions as they process into your bank? Your PMS should either exist as a full accounting package, export in ready-to-use formats like Excel or .cvs OR both.

6. Positioned for growth. Select a property management system that accommodates future trends and growth. Look for a system with a structure that enables you to add services and functions as your needs evolve.

Narrow the list, based on the data in the chart, to 3-5 property management systems. Then arrange testing and more research for each of the systems. Arrange for system demonstrations with the vendors. Provide each vendor a detailed list of needs. This will ensure that your concerns are addressed and allow you control over the sales conversation.

It’s most likely that vendors will demo their property management system through an online demonstration where you will be able to see the software in action and ask questions about the system. Sometimes, vendors will give you a temporary account, where you can actually add info and test the system with little guidance.

This is also the time to firm up your budget. Request quotes as you evaluate the systems. Obtain references.

Before You Sign

1. Dig into the Real Costs. What is included in the final costs? Does this integration include all the items on your ‘must have’ list? Is the design and implementation of your online booking engine included fee-free? How is the global distribution (gds) set up? Are there additional costs? Are there 3rd party set-up charges that need to be paid? What commissions and transaction fees will you pay and to whom? I.e. Expedia and Booking.com have pass-through commission fees and some PMS vendors add on their own additional transaction fees, as well. Pay attention to vendors that are forthright and transparent in the costs you pay. Watch for warning signs from vendors that are not forthcoming with the costs you will pay (gds integration, etc.) and who will perform the integrations. As a rule, the more people involved in the middle, the more control is lost and the more time is involved for the integration.

2. Agree Upon A Timeline. After you’ve agreed on your ‘must have’ list with the chosen vendor, set up a delivery timeline. Determine key milestone’s and related delivery dates. Sometimes there are actions that are out of control of a vendor and depend on 3rd party implementation; these should be clearly defined and best case/worse case scenarios should be given.

3. Technology Partner. As you make your final selection, keep in mind that this choice will become a vital component in your technology requirements. Be sure that the services offered are encompassing enough to support your needs and skill-level. If not, then consider a 3rd party project manager, that can help with implementation, can fill in the technology gaps and will advocate for you to the many vendors that are in your global circle.

4. Additional Things to Ask.

• How is training implemented? One-on-one? Group? In-person?

• Is there an appointed account manager/trainer?

• System documentation, how to videos and updates should be up-to-date as the software changes.

• Support times (i.e 24/7)

• Guaranteed turnaround times for phone calls and emails.

• Country of Origin of the support team. Will language issues be a barrier? Can you wait several days for a resolution to a problem?

• How does the support team track and manage your requests? Do they have a robust support system for supporting their clients?

• How does your info export? Can you perform the export? Does it come out in usable MSExcel-ready files?

The hospitality environment is ever more competitive and challenging everyday. Selecting the right advisors and vendors to fully-integrate software systems to maximize occupancy, serve your guests well, and ease staff workload is the key to your hotel’s future success.

As an e-business advisor to the hospitality and leisure industry, Social Energizer helps with the selection, integration and implementation of property management systems, online sales channels and social media networks with a special focus on independent hotels, inns, resorts, and campgrounds.

Social Energizer integrates inbound marketing techniques into each marketing plan, creates dynamic and affordable websites fully optimized for Search Engines, then utilizes digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and web-integrated Email Campaigns.

A Tour- The Backend of the Internet

SwitchboardPlaced in non-descript buildings, evolved from early communication companies- these are the physical things that make up the Internet. Here is a fascinating look at the backend of the Internet.
 

This video by Ben Mendelsohn, a documentary filmaker, starts out in New York and expands across the globe to take you on a tour that shows you what makes up the Internet.
 

After watching this video mystic words like “cyber-space” will lose some of their mystique and concepts that seemed awesome, will now be almost ordinary. Enjoy!
 
Infrastructure

This has been Social Energizer’s Saturday Morning Post, a less business oriented, more personally related edition than our blog that is offered during the week. Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you. Are you venturing into online marketing? Give us a call!

Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl on Monopoly-Busting Google

This just in…
Herb Kohl’s office released this press release yesterday. Below are excerpts from his Opening Statement Of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl For The Of Hearing, “The Power Of Google: Serving Consumers Or Threatening Competition?”

Herb Kohls Senate Webpage image

“The basic premise of Google at its founding was that it would build an unbiased search engine — that consumers would see the most relevant search result first, and that the search results would not be influenced by the web page’s commercial relationship with Google. Its goal was to get the user off Google’s home page and on to the websites it lists as soon as possible. As Google’s co-founder and current CEO Larry Page said in 2004, “We want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’s the point.”

However, as Internet search has become a major channel of e-commerce, Google has grown ever more dominant and powerful, and it appears its mission may have changed. For the last five years or so, Google has been on an acquisition binge, acquiring dozens of Internet-related businesses, culminating most recently with its proposed acquisitions of Motorola Mobility and Zagats. It now owns numerous Internet businesses, including in health, finance, travel, and product comparison. This has transformed Google from a mere search engine into a major Internet conglomerate. And these acquisitions raise a very fundamental question — is it possible for Google to be both an unbiased search engine and at the same time own a vast portfolio of web-based products and services? Does Google’s transformation create an inherent conflict of interest which threatens to stifle competition?

In the last few years, Internet businesses that compete with Google’s new products and services have complained that Google is now behaving in a way contrary to free and fair competition. They allege that Google is trying to leverage its dominance in Internet search into key areas of Internet commerce where it stands to capture from its competitors billions of dollars in advertising revenue. Rather than fairly presenting search results, these critics claim that Google has begun to subtlety bias its search results in favor of its own services. This conduct has the potential to substantially harm competition for commerce on the Internet, and retard innovation by companies that fear the market power of Google.

Antitrust scrutiny is not about picking winners and losers, but is about fostering a fully competitive environment so that consumers can fairly pick winners and losers. As more and more of our commerce moves to the Internet, it should be the highest priority of antitrust policymakers that the Internet remains a bastion of open and free competition as it has been since its founding. We need to protect the ability of the next Google to emerge, the next great website or application being developed in a garage in Silicon Valley or Madison, Wisconsin.”

I’m glad our legislators are looking into this subject. I’ve long thought that Google is the ‘new Walmart’, but I’ve been hesistant to say anything. (Google controls my SEO). As you know, I’m always on the side of small and medium-sized businesses. I think Mr. Kohl, once again, has taken the lead on a difficult, but timely subject. What do you think?

The Dark Side Of The Cloud

I am often asked what cloud computing is. Most people know the buzzwords: working in the cloud, move to the cloud, life in the cloud, etc. Technically speaking, Wikipedia says cloud-computing means using multiple server computers via a digital network, as though they were one computer. Cloud computing, like regular computing, can be broken up into three layers: infrastructure, platform and application. Each layer has it’s own issues in cloud computing. For the most part this blog discussion is about the application side of cloud computing –consumer and business applications, but the principles pertain to the other layers, too.Cloud application relationships

In plain terms, you can tell that you are dealing with cloud computing when you have access to applications and data from a network device (smartphones, iPods, laptops, etc.). Cloud computing differs from the classic client-server model by providing applications that are executed and managed via a web browser, without an installed software program required. Google docs and Facebook are examples of cloud apps that get used everyday worldwide without anyone giving it a second thought.

Still don’t get it? Here’s a great simple video explanation.

There is a Saleforce.com video that says their cloud computing solution does away with businesses needing to purchase and implement their own databases, office space, servers and business apps. They don’t have to hire the staff to support the infrastructure. They claim that businesses will experience lower costs, more scalability and offer better security. Indeed cloud computing is a great concept, similar in nature to the Internet itself, just more capitalized. It’s all about consumer power and the benefits of using shared resources and technology.

There is no doubt that cloud computing is the wave of the future. Stopping the growth of cloud computing would be like stopping Internet expansion. Cloud computing can provide some very solid benefits like: lower costs, increased reach, collaboration, easy and stable software updates, no capital expenses, and working remotely. But there is a dark lining to many cloud apps and I’ve found a few things people should be watching for when deciding which ones to choose. Here’s my list of things to consider.

1. Assess the software or service carefully and have ‘an exit plan’

I started a couple of years ago with a new free cloud-based service called iCyte. It’s a bookmarking site that allows you to annotate and organize your web searches. After about a year and a half into using this software, they started charging a monthly fee. I decided not to pay the fee, but found the best I could do to export my vast collection of data was to export it to a very messy .csv file (aka spreadsheet). Lesson learned. I don’t give up info, pictures, and/or even clicks until I find out if I can get that info OUT in a usable manner. Test it early.

2. Does it fit the scope of your business?

When I ‘tested’ Salesforce.com within a small business, I found that although it may have been a good solution for a medium-sized business that had database-knowledgeable staff ready to customize these apps, it was not as easy as they portrayed. Most small businesses would not have the know-how or man-hours needed to get Salesforce.com or many other cloud apps to work easily for them.

3. Sales guys never think about security

Although the sales guys may tell you that cloud computing is safer, the proof is in the news recently. From Citigroup to Sony, this article explains how, in fact, there is cause for great alarm and  describes the vulnerability of cloud computing.

4. How supporting is your support personnel?

Do they even have support personnel? Can you get a  REAL PERSON on the phone to help? One of the first things that I check before choosing a cloud computing vendor is who will be the support team and if it offers live support. Since I speak only American, then they need to, too. Simple as that. If they do not speak American English, as in the same syntax, slang, etc. then I know when I get frustrated with an issue that I will not be able to get my point across. I’ve tried and tried it and now it is simply –my choice.

5. Beware the ‘free trial’

After the ‘free trial’ is done, businesses that ‘tested it out’ find difficulty in recovering the info and getting it back in house. If it’s a one month or 3-month trial, BEWARE. The longer you use a trial, that you decide later is not worth it, the more time and data you have added to someone else’s software. I suggest, in the event of the trial not working out, that you first assess (see point #1) how you will export the info out of their site and back into your system OR run dual processes (work in both places) while you test their system.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

The Pluses and Pitfalls of Partnerships

Many entrepreneurs and startups would never have been formed if it weren’t for partnerships –as in dual ownership of a business entity. Many depend on one partner contributing capital, while the other contributes intellectual capital; some depend on complementary skill sets, some depend on sharing time spent working on the business and multiplying what working together can do. No matter your reason, think long and hard before going into a partnership with someone.
partnership agreementphoto © 2010 o5com | more info (via: Wylio)

The reality of a partnership is that they are just like marriages, but many times, without the long vetting process of a courtship. Just like a marriage the percentages of survival are often against you. And just like in a marriage, a partnership involves balancing a huge mix of issues like: division of the work, who is the final decision-maker, work styles, money decisions, egos, perceptions & promises, and stress. Then as time goes by, uncover the skeletons in that person’s closet and you start to see why, in reality, it may have been better to go it alone.

If you’re still set on a partnership as the only way of making your entrepreneurial dream a reality then I suggest the first thing you do is see a business lawyer to protect yourself and your interest in the business. One of the things they may have you work through is a partnership agreement similar to the one on our Resources page. Leave a comment for me below (no need to post your email address), if you’d like it sent to you as a word document. If you think through as many of these things as possible you will no doubt improve your odds. I’d also advise you to be on guard if your future partner wants to gloss over any of the points in the agreement. Items like number 11, amount of time contributed, or item 13, whose decision will prevail, should be considered for all potential possibilities, as they will undoubtedly become important as your business evolves.

One thing that is not mentioned in this list is the idea of ‘full disclosure’. No matter how long you’ve known the person or even if they are related to you, I recommend having a background check done and credit score pulled for all involved parties. Finding out months into a partnership that your partner isn’t exactly what they claimed to be can be a rude shock and game changer, better to find out right away.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Vanity Suffixes For Your Domain, Small Businesses Need Not Apply

This week in Singapore, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the Internet body that oversees domain names, voted to open the control of domain suffixes a.k.a. gTLD (generic top-level domains) like .com, .net, .biz, etc. In the past they have allowed a total of only 22 suffixes. Going forward, companies will be able to apply for their own “vanity” suffixes or top-level domains.domain-suffixes

Mom and Pop, hold on! Don’t get too excited, this is probably a little bit out of your league and whether that’s a good thing or not will likely be a matter for future debate. By and large, this should not affect business in Appleton or Green Bay, WI. Let me use an example, likely new suffixes will be .coke, .ford, .canon, and maybe .kc –you get the idea. This move by ICANN is designed for the BIG BOYS and the brands that can afford it, not small or medium-sized businesses.

How Are They Targeted for the Big Brands?

Prices start with a $185,000 non-refundable application fee, plus an additional $25,000 annually just to operate the registry. Ouch! Now, that will keep a lot of businesses out, won’t it? Add in the whole legal cost of paying off cybersquatters to protect those trademarks and maybe Mom and Pop should be happy not to have been invited to this game.

The first round of applications will begin acceptance from next January to April (2012) and start appearing on the Internet by the end of 2012. ICANN will require those applying show a legitimate claim to the name they intend on buying and are hiring hundreds of consultants to adjudicate all of these claims. For those that apply and get turned down, please note that I said ‘non-refundable’ above. That’s right, if you get refused on whatever grounds, you lose $185,000.

Internet interest has of course spiked within all of the social media networks for this subject. The main concern seems to be that corporate interests are once again winning out over the general populace. Some of the other concerns are: 1) user confusion on the URL structure, 2) that there will not be any way to validate URL structures or emails without trying first them, 3) how search engines may be further manipulated, 4) the introduction of offensive domains like perhaps .nazi. and finally 5) those that invested in expensive .com domains will find the value of these assets greatly diminished.

Time will tell if this is a good thing, a bad thing or if it truly even matters. Right now, it looks like our kids will someday wonder what a .com even was.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Top Five SXSW 2011 Videos

NASA at SXSWSXSW 2011 has wound down for this year, but they’ll be back next year and I plan to be there. SXSW has something for everyone, especially in social media or inbound marketing. So many of the heavy hitters are there that it makes ones head spin.

It has taken a bit of searching around, but I found several short videos that really share the SXSW experience. These are all worth watching –sometimes more than once. Let me know what you think. It’s almost like being there.

3, 2, 1, Twitter: The NASA Tweet up Shuttle Discovery Launch

Phylise Banner, from APUS, speaking on how people are using tweet-ups to gather for Shuttle Take-offs. Sounds like fun.

“Mario” – SXSW 2011 Film Bumper

This film bumper makes me feel like I can’t wait to see the movie, a grown-up tongue-in-cheek version of my favorite video game. Just a bit naughty.

Gary Vaynerchuck -Author, Wine Connoisseur, Explorer of all things Social Media

You can’t help but love Gary. Such passion! He epitomizes the energy born from social media. Three for the price of one here:

Keynote part1- http://bit.ly/i3lcej

Keynote part 2- http://bit.ly/fuGxSz

Keynote part3 – http://bit.ly/hOx9ac

More Gary Vaynerchuck –he was a busy boy

1-1 Interview part1- http://bit.ly/ffpS1K

1-1 Interview part 2- http://bit.ly/hlvWeg

Matt Mallenweg, WordPress/Automatic

Speaking on the growth of WordPress and next step P2. Matt says that, yes, WordPress has moved beyond a blog platform and is, in fact, a complete web platform. Yes, indeed.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Bluehost ad

Right-Sizing Innovation for the Small Business Owner

Increasingly our world favors BIG. BIG Companies. BIG Stars. The next BIG thing. Big business seems to favor other BIG businesses, like during Christmas when ABC’s GMA seemingly supported only the online BIG Box stores, leaving small online entrepreneurs in the dust as reported in our December 8th blog, “Scrooge Strikes e-Commerce Small Business.”Big and small

What is the key to small businesses getting ahead? Many believe it is innovation. But it’s not that simple. Innovation tailored to the unique position and qualities of a small business propel it forward. Small business owners have certain advantages over their BIG business counterparts. They spend up to 80-90% of their days working directly with their customers, discovering their needs, solving their problems, finding the things that make them truly happy, and things, that no matter what, leave suppliers or service providers coming up short.

These insights from first-hand knowledge are the competitive edge of a small business.  BIG business might have the resources to implement innovation, but often they are so far removed from this fundamental information that they are not able to “see the forest for the trees”

In the article, “Think Small Innovations to Get Big” the author, Darrell Zahorsky describes the advantages of smaller incremental innovations found in the food industry. Small businesses that actively applied small innovations had better performance and competitive advantages over its two competing larger corporations.

How should your small business innovate? Perhaps they are things you already do. In a connected blog, Mr Zahorsky went on to list the “7 Principles of Small Innovations.” They are good tips all small business owners can benefit from.

In summary they are:

Free Time: Work smarter, not harder. Use new technology and outsource to work efficiently.

Collect Ideas: Carry around a small notebook to capture ideas throughout the day.

Look Outside: Look to other resources to succeed.

Be Customer Centric: If the innovation makes you feel uncomfortable but delights the customer, you are probably on the right track. Oh, and always consider your customer’s customer.

Use All Types of Innovation: Be alert for ALL innovation. Sometimes innovation occurs unexpectedly.

Ask The Right Questions: When talking with customers, ask about the experience, instead of the product or service.

Make a Daily Habit: Innovation can occur at any time and any place. Embracing daily innovation tactics into your lifestyle instead of as a main event will allow you to implement your best ideas.

Many of today’s leaders say the Small Business sector is likely to lead America to its next step in economic recovery. Learning the art of innovation within small businesses provides owners another competitive advantage needed to compete against all things ‘BIG’.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

RFID enables new Pickpockets for 2011 and beyond

During this busy holiday season I came across this story that may be one of the most intriguing underreported stories of 2010. The reason I feel it’s important to mention is the potential threat it poses to your identity in the coming years. This story from WREG in Memphis, TN. tells how the new RFID (Radio Frequency Indentification)chips embedded in new passports, credit and debit cards are susceptible to identity theft. Armed with a $100 credit card reader and a notebook computer, thieves can simply walk past you in the mall or along the street and swipe your information. Although, police departments are not yet finding actual cases of these crimes, experts feel that they may be underreported and untraceable to where the actual ‘theft’ occurred.

Watch the video here:

http://www.wreg.com/news/wreg-electronic-pickpocketing-story,0,6564458.story

My problem with this story is that a company that sells the special sleeve or wallet presents the ‘expert’ advice. That seems to be the problem voiced by WREG news’ viewers as well. These RFID ‘shields’, starting at about $20 each, seem a bit expensive for what seems to be a pretty simple, unappealing case to keep your credit cards or passport in.

I started looking into it a bit and was happy to find that these can be made at home by one of everyone’s all time favorite materials -duct tape! The other secret ‘key’ ingredient? Aluminum foil! That’s right, why buy an expensive sleeve when you can make one for about a dollar with stuff you have around the house. Here are the instructions on how to make them at home with the patterns. I think with a little ingenuity you may even be able to make a more appealing wallet for what, maybe two dollars? Just for fun, pick out your favorite colored duct tape, make a wallet that a science fiction fanatic would be proud of and keep your personal info where it belongs –safe from identity thieves!