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The Most Trusted B2B Brands in 2018 Are Also the Most Profitable, Report Says

Getting the trust of your customers is one way to ensure the longevity of your business. This is true whether your company is a B2B or B2C enterprise. The 2018 B2B Trusted Brands Report (PDF) from Sagefrog points out why trust is so important in B2B, and why you will probably recognize all if not most of the brands on its list. Most Trusted B2B Brands In the report Sagefrog says, developing a rapport with clients characterizing their brands as trustworthy plays a major role in the market. This it says is because when a customer trusts your particular brand, more often than not it translates to brand loyalty. For small businesses in the B2B segment gaining this trust requires a concerted effort which Sagefrog says are based on three major factors. And in the report, the top-ranked brands exhibited these traits. They are Brand Awareness, Customer Interaction & Satisfaction and being in a Trusted Industry. The company said, “For B2B brands to be recognized as the most trusted, excelling and driving innovation in each of these three categories is critical. Exceeding customer expectations in just one category while performing with mediocrity in the other two is detrimental for brands in today’s buyer-centric business landscape.” Sagefrog collected over 1,000 votes in a customer-choice survey during the first quarter of 2018. It then ranked B2B brands based on trust factor to come up with the list for 2018. Here are the most trusted B2B brands with scores of 80+ which is exceptional and 60-79 excellent. A quick look reveals these 17 brands belong to some of the most recognizable companies in the world for their B2B and B2C operations. The next list is made of brands with a good trust factor receiving a score of 50+. The brands on this list are also very familiar to both segments. The Three Factors Sagefrog says Brand Awareness is the most important factor related to how it affects a company’s trust level. It makes a great deal of sense because without the recognition it is that much harder for your customers to know you…

HubSpot Conversations Gives Small Businesses Unlimited Chats and Chatbot Capabilities

HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS) has announced the launch of Conversations, a new collaboration tool that’s part of the inbound marketing and sales platform’s CRM. Hubspot Conversations This easy-to-use feature provides business users with unlimited chats and chatbot functionality, allowing teams to manage chat and email conversations from one convenient place. The Conversations tool also allows for sophisticated targeting and lead routing, which connects sales teams to the right people at the right time. For many time-starved small businesses, sifting through emails and threads from both colleagues and clients and customers can be frustratingly time-consuming. HubSpot’s Conversations tool creates a more unified and manageable inbox, and collaborative, easy-to-use live chat and chatbots for small business users, so they can connect and communicate more efficiently, helping them manage their time more proficiently and ultimately grow their business. As Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO at HubSpot, commented in a post on the official HubSpot Company News blog: “As consumers, we have high expectations of the organizations we buy from. We expect businesses to be always on and clued in to our context — to know the history of our relationship. It’s been tough for businesses to meet those expectations, especially with disparate tools that aren’t integrated. “HubSpot’s Conversations solves this problem by providing organizations with one single view of the customer and one unified ‘inbox’ across all channels of communication.  This helps ensure that every interaction an organization has with its customers is contextual and, ultimately, delightful. And the best part is that it’s all available for free,” Shah added. Small businesses can use Conversations’ live chat feature to connect with customers and prospects in real time. The tool can also be used to automatically connect chatters to the right people on different teams. Having important messages or emails slip through the cracks will no longer be an issue with Conversations, as teams can hook up shared email aliases to the Conversations inbox, to enhance and maintain transparency and take teamwork to a whole new level. Personalized emails can be had at scale with the Conversations’ chatbots builder, which creates bots that help users book meeting,…

Master the Art of Customer Service with these 30 Tips

Every business owner will tell you the key to success is solid customer service. Then why do so many businesses struggle with it? There are a couple reasons for this… First, customers are more likely to remember a poor experience with a business or a brand than a good one. Unfortunately, customers that have a negative experience are also more likely to leave a bad review. In fact, 52 percent of customers will complain or leave a bad review after a poor experience. And if you think that one poor review won’t matter in your sea of glowing reviews…think again. It takes posting 12 good reviews to push down that negative review. This is the crux of the customer service challenge. How do you minimize bad experiences while also ensure good experiences are so memorable that customers have no choice but to recount tales of your business’ graciousness? Furthermore, how do you deliver impeccable customer service without compromising profit? Finding the sweet spot of providing good customer service without diminishing the value of your product is certainly a challenge, and a target that all businesses shoot for. The good news is that good customer service is built upon manners and honesty. Of course there is more to good customer service than politeness and honesty. Tips on Customer Service Here are 30 customer tips worth trying: 1. Have Thick Skin Starting a list of customer service tips with an admonition about being tough may seem counterintuitive, or even slightly pessimistic. However, it’s important to remember that no matter how awesome your business is, or how solid your customer service, it’s impossible to please everyone 100 percent of the time. Having thick skin allows you to remain calm in aggravating situations so your solutions-oriented strategy can find a way out and turn an adversarial relationship into one that truly benefits both parties. 2. Use the Personal Touch The best customer service experiences and success stories are those when customers feel truly special and like they received personalized service and attention. For example, learning a customer’s name, and using it at the beginning of a pitch and throughout conversations…

Zoho Mail Celebrates 10 Years – and 10 Million Business Users

Zoho Mail is celebrating its tenth birthday. During the last decade, the ad-free business email account has evolved from a “bare-bones communication tool”, to a collaboration platform that is rich in features to meet the needs of small businesses. Zoho Mail Turns 10 Testament to the mailing platform’s success, as the company celebrates ten years in operation it proudly asserts it now has over 10 million business users. In a statement on its blog about its ten-year birthday, Zoho Mail wrote: “On this celebratory note, we are proud to announce that we have surpassed 10 million business accounts. In fact, on any given day, Zoho Mail’s servers process about 30 million emails. And in the time it’s taken you to read this post, more than 20k emails have passed through our system.” Zoho Mail is offered as part of the Zoho Workplace system, which includes an integrated suite of nine apps, including Office Suite and Zoho Docs. Saving Time with Streams Designed with business users in mind, Zoho Mail allows businesses to cut through their email clutter, tag people and share folders in just one click. Recognizing how much time businesses waste sifting through emails, Zoho Mail has introduced Streams, where users simply share an email with an ‘@’, mentioning the people they want to involve in the conversation. Instead of having to read long and cumbersome email threads, Zoho Mail’s Stream feature crafts more productive email conversations, helping businesses save significant amounts of time. Bringing a Social Element to Business Emails Zoho Mail appreciates that for businesses to get the most from their employees, there needs to be an element of fun. The platform’s Socialize feature means every team member gets a wall, a personal space to hangout. Users can post messages from their wall to the group and tag colleagues to start a discussion. Team members can comment and like posts and attach important information to message threads, such as progress reports. Tasks can be created and assigned to colleagues and notes can be ‘stuck’ to Streams. Combining the “best of old-school email with new-age social media”, Zoho Mail allows business…

Want a Thriving Farm or Food Business? Food Safety Modernization Act Rules You MUST Know

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was originally signed into law back in 2011 to limit the risk of foodborne diseases. But this is the year that some of its rules go into effect for small farms and food handling facilities. Food Safety Modernization Act So in order to comply with the law, here’s an explanation to help you understand the different parts of the law. Produce Rule The produce rule applies to businesses that grow or otherwise handle fruits or vegetables before they are sold to consumers. Some businesses might be exempt from this rule, but only if none of the produce is consumed raw or if you sell less than $25,000 worth of product per year. If you are responsible for complying with this rule, then you must keep specific records about how your food products are grown and handled and then make those records available to the FDA. The rule also has requirements related to health and hygiene training for workers, soil amendments designed to improve food safety, implementation of water testing practices, and compliance with other rules related to animals, buildings and equipment. Some businesses may only have to comply with certain parts of the rule. For example, if you already process food in a way that kills harmful pathogens, then you are only responsible for the record keeping measures and requirements. And if you average less than $500,000 in annual sales and if more than half of what you sell goes directly to end customers, then you must keep up with those same record keeping requirements and label all food at the point of sale. Preventive Controls Rule The Preventative Controls Rule is one that can affect a larger number of food businesses. It applies to companies that manufacture, process, pack, or hold any kind of food that is made for human consumption. This includes manufacturing businesses, packaging or processing plants, and farms that also pack and hold food on site. Facilities that are responsible for complying with this rule must register with the FDA and develop a full HARPC plan (Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based…

Flock Offers Some Small Businesses Free Pro Service as Competition with Slack Heats Up

Flock is offering a whole year of Flock Pro for free to teams on HipChat and Stride after they were acquired by Slack. Not only did Slack buy both companies from Atlassian, but it is shutting them down. Flock vs Slack There is a battle brewing in the real-time, chat-based communications market as more of today’s workforce choose to work remotely and look for efficient collaborative tools. The latest skirmish comes as the result of Slack’s acquisition of Hipchat and Stride, which has led Flock to launch a campaign for persuading those users to come aboard its platform. Calling all ex @HipChat, @AtlassianStride users – Flock is offering you its Pro Plan Free for 1 year. It’s the closest thing we can offer to closure. https://t.co/AyWHYzdZVM — flock (@Flock) July 27, 2018 Flock, Hipchat, Stride, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams and others are all vying to be the platform of choice for the future of workplace communication and collaboration. These companies are now going after small businesses because they account for more than 90% of businesses around the world. The collaborative tools these platforms provide has changed the way small businesses hire talent and run their daily operations. Business owners now use freelancers, remote workers and contractors to supplement their workforce and get specialized talent for one-off jobs, temporary help or even a permanent hire at an affordable rate. And when it comes to communicating and collaborating with them, they are using one of the platforms mentioned above. For Flock, the consolidation of the market through mergers and acquisitions is making the platform a leading contender in the segment. The company currently has more than 30,000 companies using its platform around the world, many of them small businesses. Easy Migration In a recent press release, Flock said it is going to make the migration process from Stride, which is the team version of Hipchat, as easy as possible. Flock already has a simplified migration format for HipChat users. The new feature is going to allow Stride users to bring over all of their teams including messages and users with…

Scary Hacker Tactics and How to Protect Your Small Business

Most small business owners have a mindset that hackers don’t want to target them. This is far from the truth. Hackers understand that big companies have the resources for sophisticated security and small businesses don’t. Small businesses are now big targets for hackers. Small businesses’ percentage of IT budget directed to security has been increasing from 4.9 percent in 2010 to 7.9 percent last year, according to Ponemon Institute’s annual IT security tracking study, but their spending on security still is no comparison to big companies. Many small businesses are under-capitalized and outgunned, which makes them great targets for hackers. Hackers sometimes target small businesses with the goal of breaching a larger company connected to the small business. Target’s data was famously breached. But few people know that the company’s vast database was actually hacked through its HVAC vendor. That attack ended up costing Target $39 million in settlements and affecting 40 million customers. These breaches can be devastating. Small businesses may have access to huge amounts of data. So after a breach, small businesses can find themselves out of business and dealing with big lawsuits. Small Businesses in State Capitals at Greater Risk If your small business is located in a state capital, your risk is even higher. Computers in America’s state capitals have 224% more infections than the rest of their home states. That’s according to data recently released by ESG, makers of the anti-malware program SpyHunter. ESG looked at the malware infection rates detected on SpyHunter in each state capital and compared it to the average infection rate for the entire state. In 43 of the 50 states, the infection rate was higher in the state capital, in some cases, dramatically so. The capitals in Georgia, New York, Utah, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania each had infection rates that were more than 500% higher than the rest of their respective states. On average, the infection rate in capitals was 224% higher. “It didn’t matter if it was a big state, small state, large capital, or small capital, infections were almost always higher,” said ESG spokesperson Ryan…

Focusmate Provides Virtual Coworking Experience for Freelancers and Telecommuters

The number of coworking spaces around the world is expected to grow to more than 30,000 by 2022. It’s a concept that makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider the growing number of freelancers, telecommuters and solopreneurs in today’s job market. But if you’re only interested in the focused productivity sessions, and not so much in actually leaving your home office to spend the day in a separate location, then you might be interested in a relatively new concept from Focusmate. Virtual Accountability Partner Focusmate is a virtual coworking experienced that’s designed to give you access to other professionals so you can share ideas, get feedback and have accountability assistance for short periods of time. But unlike traditional coworking, you don’t have to actually go to a separate location to take advantage of those benefits. To use it, you just set up an account online and then carve out 50 minutes of time that you want to work on a specific project. Focusmate will connect you to another user that you can sit with as you work on your project and they work on theirs. Founder Taylor Jacobson said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “Two users anywhere in the world can sit side by side, remotely on a video call, while they work on their own projects, and business. It’s like going to the library with a study buddy, except it all happens online, on demand, for anyone, and any task.” The idea is that this type of interaction can help you limit distractions and keep you focused on the specific task at hand. In addition, it can also just give you some social interaction at certain points throughout the day, without you needing to head out to the store or do another non-work-related activity. For solopreneurs and freelancers who spend all day every day pretty much on their own, this can offer a welcome change of pace. Jacobson had firsthand experience with this type of interaction before launching Focusmate. In fact, it was a session with a coaching client where the idea behind the…

7 Ways In-Person Meetings are a Productivity Drag and How to Solve the Problem

Holding a face-to-face, in-person meeting is quite often unproductive for small businesses. However, workplace collaboration apps are turning that tide by increasing ROI. Small Business Trends interviewed Bhavin Turakhia, CEO and founder of Flock  for a list of 7 ways in-person meetings are a productivity drag and how to solve the problems associated with them. Reasons to Avoid an In-Person Meeting You Need to Travel to Them In-person meetings take up time to get to. The travel time is an issue because employees aren’t working when they’re on the move. The Solution: “Breaking focus and concentration on a task to do something else (in this case getting into a meeting) is the big problem,” Turakhia says. “Teams can use technology to solve and improve a variety of their daily operations. These innovations range from collaboration apps, to project management tools and software.” Employees Are Often Late Lack of punctuality is another way that productivity drops before, during and after these in person meetings. According to numbers supplied by Flock, people usually arrive anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes late. That translates into a big drop in productivity for the people who showed up on time. The Solution: It’s a good idea to plan your schedule to arrive at least 10 minutes before any meeting starts. These Meetings Can Get Bloated With these types of meetings, sometimes organizers tend to over invite people from different departments. The result is too many people in one space. The Solution: Team collaboration apps work well for teams of all sizes and types and not everyone needs to be in the same room. Employees Don’t Get Back to Work Quickly Afterward Not only is productivity time lost during the meeting itself, but there’s a lag time before most employees get back to whatever they were doing before. “People don’t pick up tasks 30-40 minutes before or after a meeting, ultimately leading to about 22 percent drop in productivity,” Turakhia says. The Solution: He highlights the fact larger companies like international fast-food giant McDonald’s have made the switch from emails to collaboration apps like Flock so…

Can Listables Help You Get More Done?

If you want all the pieces of your business to work efficiently, you need processes. These processes don’t need to be complicated. In fact, a simple checklist can often work wonders to help you ensure that your whole team is following the specific steps you’ve laid out for a particular task or function. That’s the very simple but essential problem that Listables aims to solve for small business. The company offers a collaborative checklist platform that you can use to create your own lists and even learn from those that others have created. Introducing the Listables App Founder and CEO Vivek Chugh said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “It lets small businesses or their team members create, share and track checklists. So it’s not just about making your own personal lists. But you can also use it to help with onboarding, as a way to show new employees how to handle a specific task. Or you can learn from what others on the platform have created.” Chugh got the idea for the platform when he was working for a gaming company. And as the team would work on deploying new software, he saw the need for a specific set of best practices and a system for tracking and auditing which essential tasks had been completed. He says, “Sometimes there would be a specific group who had great checklists, and I thought there should be a system where we all could share our best practices with one another. When I started looking at different options in the market, I realized that there was something to this idea and I decided to pursue it.” The idea of using checklists to manage daily tasks or training activities isn’t a new one. But Chugh adds that Listables is meant to be easier to use than putting together a Google spreadsheet or creating a list manually, especially if it’s for something that requires collaboration between team members. In addition, Listables doesn’t only give you the opportunity to share lists within your own company. You can also learn from others who have chosen…

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