Panda’s aren’t just cute and cuddly! Click for our special offer.

In business, we’re always looking for ways to do things better. Things to make us more efficient, save time and streamline processes. Last week I wrote about Calendly and how it has saved me hours with booking meetings.
 
This week, I’d like to introduce you to another amazing tool.
 

Introducing PandaDoc

Panda what now? PandaDoc is a business proposal and contract tool. It uses digital signature technology to reduce time to close deals. It streamlines and reduces paperwork and generally, makes it easier to do business.
 
When Summit moved to PandaDoc, we found that errors on application forms reduced. This was a huge time saver for our team. It meant less backwards and forwards getting all the information we needed.
 
Needing to do a quick quote or proposal? Create a library of items you sell and add them to a quote template with automatic calculation.
 
Quote to Payment – You betcha. With the Stripe Payment Gateway, your customers can approve and pay for your quote all in one hit.
 
Templates for easy document creation – Create easy to fill documents using content blocks.
 
Secure Signing – The best part of PandaDoc is the streamlined and secure signing.
 

We’ve teamed up with PandaDoc to bring Australia an amazing Offer.

For a limited time only, you’ll receive 2 Months Free and 30% off your PandaDoc Subscription for Life!
All you have to do is sign up here and Rick from PandaDoc will be in touch to get you started.
 
Part of Summit sharing the love to make your life easier 🙂
 
Find out how else we can make your life easier, drop us a line on 1300 049 749.

Tired of calendar ping pong? There’s a better way

For years, we’ve all played the game of calendar ping pong. It usually goes something like this;
“Hey John, when are you free for a meeting?”
“Hey Greg, I’m free on Monday between 1 and 3, Tuesday at 10 for an hour or, Friday any time”
“Hey Greg, Actually, No, I’m only available after 11 on Friday”
“Hey John, Let’s lock in Tuesday at 10” “Hey Greg, Sorry, I’m already booked there now, how about another time”
This look familiar? It sure does to me as this is how I used to work playing ping pong diary with customers, suppliers and our partners. Not only was it unproductive, but it was damn frustrating too!
 
Enter Calendly – this application has actually changed my life!
Now, I don’t usually make a bold claim like that, but it has.
 
Scheduling meetings now is easy! Send a link and you can see my availability and select a time and book. It integrates to my Office 365 and allows the person booking to cancel and reschedule at the click of a button.
 
So, what does this calendar goodness cost? A whopping $8 a month! Yep. That’s it.
 

How does it work?

Step 1 Sign up for your free trial and link it to your Office 365 or Google Apps for Work account. This will allow Calendly access to view and write to your calendar.
 
Step 2 – Define your meeting types. By default, Calendly gives you a few meetings, 15 Minutes, 30 Minutes and 60 Minutes. I’ve customised mine a bit to make it more defined
  • Phone Call – Sends the contact my direct phone number and a Zoom Meeting ID
  • Lunch Meeting – Allows the contact to request a lunch meeting between 12pm and 2pm and only 1 per day.
  • I blocked out times where I’m not taking face to face meetings such as when I’m working from home.
  • Built in buffer times so that it won’t allow bookings back to back to allow for travel and breaks.
Step 3 – send out your Calendly link and start booking meetings.
 
Yep – It’s that easy and there’s a free trial to get you started. AWESOME!
 
I’d love to help you with your Voice and Data requirements in your business.  Book in for a phone call and I’ll give you the best options for fast internet and savings on your phone bill.

IoT for small to medium sized businesses

The Internet of Things (IoT) became a popular buzzword in 2015. By 2016, predictions of a trillion-dollar industry were common. While the future is difficult to predict, every now and then, something comes along that is as close to a sure thing as you can get. The Internet of Things is one of them. We won’t be able to tell how accurate the predictions are for a while, but there is a consensus across most industries that the IoT is going to change the world.

Knowing this is well and good, but it’s not particularly helpful to anyone running a business. You need to have a basic understanding of what the IoT actually is, how exactly it’s going to affect businesses, what you could get out of it and how it could be a threat to your business.

So, what exactly is the Internet of Things?

Without a background in IT, it can be difficult to conceptualise the IoT. The simplest way of looking at it, is that it’s the underlying network that connects previously non-connected devices, to the internet or to each other. In other words, it’s connecting everyday objects like your fridge, car, security door or dog collar to the internet. These connected devices are called “Smart Devices”.

That may seem like a silly idea. Why would you want to connect your dog’s collar to the internet?

The answer is quite simple. If your dog gets lost, you could use the internet to find the collar, and the dog. The point is that most objects we create have a function. By performing their function, they have the ability to generate information. If we can monitor and use the information, we can more efficiently use the objects to fulfil their functions. Whether it’s a dog collar or a whole factory full of machines, the principle is the same.

And how exactly does this affect a business?

The dog collar analogy should show that an object (the collar) with a function (keeping track of a dog) can carry out its function more effectively when it’s connected to the internet. If it were not, you would need to wait for a good Samaritan to find you dog and contact you. If it is, you could connect to Google Maps and find the dog yourself.

If you apply that principle to functions in a business, the effects can be amazing. In a nutshell, there are two primary benefits, reduced costs and increased productivity.

The best way to get an idea of how to get these benefits is by looking at real world examples.

  • Energy use is a major expense for most companies. Heating or cooling a building can cost thousands of dollars each year. By installing smart heating systems, you could monitor and control every variable that affects them. You could program them to only operate while there are people in the building. You could have them automatically switch off an hour before an office closes, the possibilities are varied but the result is the same. Less energy used on heating leads to less money spent.
  • Stock control processes in retail stores gives companies instant, useable information. By connecting the bar code reader at a till to the internet, you could run a program that automatically requests new stock from the supplier when levels are low, rather than waiting for a stock take. This leads directly to a decrease in lost sales, which is an increase in revenue.
  • Logistics management has become much more accurate. In any industry that needs goods to be transported from one place to another, losing stock, fuel and time are major expenses. By installing smart tracking devices on vehicles, driving patterns can be analysed, fuel usage can be monitored for theft and the doors of vehicles can be tracked remotely, stopping any stock from “falling off the back of the truck”.
  • Security services have become more accessible. Previously, you may have had an alarm that would alert the authorities to a break in at your store. Now, you can connect a camera to the internet and get a live video feed sent to your cell phone. If there is an intruder, you could call the police directly, decreasing their response time.

There are hundreds of applications and smart devices that have been developed, with thousands more in development right now. In the past, it would have been appropriate to assume that cutting edge technology is expensive and reserved for big business, until the price drops. Fortunately, the technology used by the Internet of Things is actually very simple. The devices used are usually cheap to manufacture and easy to program.

The unsophisticated nature of the devices, coupled with the ubiquitous reach of the internet, means that people with very little experience can build their own devices and applications. Small companies are creating innovations that compete directly with billion dollar enterprises. You could buy a developer kit for less than a hundred dollars and learn enough to create a fully functional smart device within a few months.

The point is, the speed of development is like nothing that’s ever been done before, the benefits are undeniable and available to all, not just big business. Barring and extinction level event, the Internet of Things is here to stay.

6 Tools to grow your online presence

It doesn’t matter if your business is a corner bakery, or a multibillion-dollar investment firm, it’s 2017 and the world has moved online. You need to be there with it. Just over ten years ago YouTube was born, it was a great place to watch videos about cats, but not much else. Now, there are thousands of people making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through their YouTube videos.

The point is, real change is taking place every year. What was conventional wisdom five years ago, could hurt your business today.

Small businesses are competing with titans of industry by out manoeuvring them online. It’s possible to get the same level of exposure using Facebook, for free, that you could get by spending a million dollars a year on advertising a few years ago.

Established companies are leveraging the wealth of information that’s at their fingertips to better understand and support their customers. By interacting with them on a personal level, real loyalty is being built.

Multi-national goliaths are helping shape people’s perceptions. The previously guarded inner workings of these companies are being exposed, showing that they’re run by normal, average human beings, who also like videos of cats.

The important things to consider when thinking about your online presence are what are the tools, what do you what to get out of it, how will you manage it and what will happen if you ignore it.

What are the tools you should use to build your online presence?

  1. Facebook – The undisputed king of social media. There are 16,000,000 Facebook users in Australia, that’s close to 7 out of 10 people in the country. That means that 70% of your target audience is probably on the platform, whatever your industry.
  2. YouTube – While not as big as Facebook, YouTube.com gets just under 15,000,000 unique Australian visitors each month. That’s not 15 million views, it’s 15 million people visiting the site.
  3. Instagram – The Facebook of picture sharing, has roughly 5,000,000 Australian users.
  4. Twitter – The younger cousin of Facebook. There are almost 2,800,000 Twitter users in Australia.
  5. LinkedIn – The more business-focused uncle to Facebook. 3,600,000 Australians have accounts.
  6. Your website –  This tool probably has the smallest reach but the strongest impact.

While there is probably overlap between the platforms, users will use each one for different reasons. It’s important to realise this when you are planning your online presence and what you would like to get out of it.

Deciding on what you want to take away from your online presence should be simple. More money. Interestingly, you have to put income at the bottom of the priority list to be effective. This isn’t the same as online advertising, this is your companies’ online persona.

When looking at what you want to get out of an online presence, try looking at the softer sides of business. You might consider, gaining customer loyalty and trust, increasing word of mouth advertising of your products, better brand awareness and having more informed customers.

The end goal of creating an online presence should be to increase the visibility, trustworthiness and positive perception of your company.

It’s not easy doing this, but it can be simple. If you know the rules.

The 6 cardinal rules of online persona management

  1. Focus on giving value. Not every Facebook post or YouTube video needs to be a sales pitch. If you run the corner bakery, why not post a few free recipes or a video on how to bake the perfect loaf.
  2. Content is king. Creating useful content and distributing it increases your visibility online. If you’re not putting anything out, no one is going to notice you.
  3. Don’t sell too hard. If someone visits your website, you have an 8 second window where they will decide to stay or go. If the very first thing they see is a sales pitch, chances are that they’ll bolt.
  4. Respect your visitors. Whether it’s your Facebook page or website, the average user has gotten wise to the sales tactics of old. Never try to hide what you are about.
  5. Be authentic. If you really care about your team or the environment, post a video of your company doing some teambuilding exercises in nature. Don’t just pay lip service.
  6. Treat it as an essential business process. Dabbling in online persona management is like dabbling in sales, ineffective. You need to have dedicated resources, a clear goal, a strategy and tactics to achieve your goal.

Ignore these rules at your peril. The consequences of badly managing your online presence can be devastating.

The most tragic thing that can happen to a business is “Lost Sales”. This is money that should have been in the bank, but was lost because something happened that made the customer change their mind. If you post something on Facebook that could be seen as racist for example, you alienate most of your customers, regardless of actual race. This could easily lead to the next consequence.

Public Relations nightmares. Your companies’ online persona is just as real to people as its physical one. If you distribute offensive content, the social media monster will devour you. One Facebook post that’s in bad taste can have reporters outside your door in a heartbeat, asking why you’re such a fascist devil.

On the business end of the spectrum, having a bad online presence is like having bad breath at a cocktail party. No one wants to talk to you. If you have an advertisement in a magazine, most people will try to find you online if they are interested, if you have a bad website or Facebook page, they’re not interested.

How to Run an International Business Without Worrying about the Phone Bill

Given the fact that the world is getting globalised rapidly, there are more and more businesses that have offices around the globe. Even smaller organisations reach out to outsourcing services abroad and collaborate with international companies. This means that companies have expanded their communication needs to an international level.

This has created a new reality for business; they need to have a lot of international calls to be able to organise themselves properly. However, finding reliable and affordable phone systems for these constant international calls is not easy.  This is where VoIP, or voice over internet protocol, comes into the picture.

This is a system that transmits audio communications over long distances using the internet instead of mobile or telephone networks. This type of phone system has changed many things and created a lot of solutions for companies looking to maintain cheap international communications that are reliable.

In my experience, a company can save from 25% to 65% on communication and these are great numbers. Although these numbers can vary, it’s still a great way to cut down costs. So, let’s see what the reasons for these cost cuts are.

Why VoIP is the best solution for international business communication

A lot of business owners, managers and employees alike are familiar with communication systems that have voiceovers or messaging such as Skype, however there are much greater and more advanced systems that work on similar methods.

All of these systems rely on fast internet connections that allow companies to quickly make calls and have a stable connection. All of these systems transform analog signals to digital signals which then go through the web and reach a distant destination.

These systems have audio streams which are instant, meaning that the calls can be placed from any location which has a stable internet connection. A business can harness many benefits from these kinds of phone systems, especially when talking about saving money. On top of that, they are more flexible and scalable.

How Cloud VoIP communication systems cut costs

The majority of VoIP communication systems are hosted on the cloud. This means that your whole system and database will be located on one server through which all of you communication processes will operate. The first thing that saves money here is that you simply don’t have to install any phones or phone lines on site.

You won’t have to purchase any hardware for offices around the world, nor ship it and pay for its installation. Everything is taken care off by the provider. On top of that, your provider will also be in charge of maintenance, meaning that you won’t have to pay for IT experts to do this for you or waste your IT department’s resources to deal with these issues.

VoIP communication systems can also be installed with a business that has pre-existing traditional phone system. The only thing a business will have to get is an adaptor that costs around $40 which is used to connect all phones to the web, enabling them all to send and receive VoIP calls.

What to look for when choosing a good VoIP system

 

When looking for the best package for your business, the most important things you will have to consider are your budget and the costs of these services. On top of that, you also need to check whether the provider can cover a certain country, give you special features, and allow you to scale your package how you see fit.

It is also important to analyse what your needs are so that you can get the right type of service for your company. Not only that voice over IP systems are much cheaper, but they can come with some amazing features. When opting for a quality service, you should look to acquire things such as call forwarding, call transfer, tele-conferencing, data sharing, and caller ID perks.

These are all the things that traditional phone lines don’t offer. On top of that, the level of security and reliability is much greater, given the fact that VoIP systems have encryptions.

Not only that you will directly pay less for all of these amazing features, but these features will allow your organisation to be more efficient and achieve better results, while relying on a comprehensive communication system capable of handling a whole business spread around the globe.

Even employees will be able to respond more quickly, as they don’t have to be present within their offices to use this system and talk to their coworkers. These are all some of the things you should look from your VoIP provider.

Scale with minimal costs

Given the fact that users are added to the VoIP system quickly and that providers offer maximum customisation and flexibility in terms of how many people can use your system and communicate, you will have a much easier time of adjusting your service with your current needs. If a business is growing rapidly and it’s in need of more communication channels, it can quickly change it’s package that will be available almost instantly.

The same thing applies for when the needs are smaller. Not only this, but the price can literally be changed per user, and the cost of changes simply don’t exist; if you add more people, you will just have to pay for every individual and get on with your everyday work, no additional costs, no setup costs.

These hosted systems are always administered through an online control panel, located remotely, meaning that the scaling process within an organisation and throughout various offices is almost instant and quite easy.

It is very important that your do thorough research regarding usability and pricing that providers offer so that you are able to choose the VoIP solution that will completely suit your business. It’s generally a good idea to start with one office and see how the system proves itself before you start implementing it globally in all of your offices.

Given the fact that all modern business offices and spaces have stable internet connections, why not exploit this cheap resource even further and improve your communications as well. Don’t waste time, switch to a VoIP system as quickly as possible.

 

The Advantages of Cloud Based Telephone Systems

You probably heard a lot about various cloud based systems recently. This is a hot topic because various businesses have realised how beneficial cloud systems can actually be. On-site software solutions and systems are a thing of the past and the cloud is the new must have.

In the past, businesses relied on base telephone systems for their telecommunication needs, but the introduction of cloud-based systems quickly threw them off the market. Even the vendors who offer these systems have recognised this and now, less and less of them offer on-site telephone systems because the demand is simply falling down. Everyone is upgrading their phone systems and you should too.

The cloud is definitely the future, no matter if we are talking about telephone systems, project management systems, or any other business solution companies rely on to improve their daily operations. In this post, I will talk about the clear advantage cloud based telephone systems offer and why all businesses should choose them over traditional telephone systems.

So, let’s start from the top.

Which BUSINESSES need cloud telephone systems?

No matter if your business is small, midsize or a large corporation, the fact that cloud telephone systems save on IT resources is beneficial to any organisation. All businesses are looking to improve their efficiency and invest the extra money into business incentives that can bring more revenue.

The reasons why cloud based telephone systems are less expensive is because of the sheer fact that they are managed and hosted by a third party – the provider. Although all businesses can benefit from the cloud, these systems are most popular with small businesses with limited resources that cannot afford a separate IT department to take care of their needs.

On the other hand, both mid sized businesses and corporations use these solutions not just because they cut costs, but because they can help them improve their efficiency, reduce downtime, improve processes, and they can fit in better into their whole business strategies.

Improved mobility and usability

Modern businesses need to be flexible. Businesses are not tied to one location and they need to be able to operate from multiple locations and that’s what cloud telephones allow them to do.

Cloud based telephone systems are very mobile and an organisation that implements them offers their employees the ability to access and use all of its features no matter where they are located. Employees can simply log into the system while they are on the go and reach other co workers, or make themselves reachable.

This is how a business will have greater control of customer, collaboration, and production related issues. It is always better to tackle all problems immediately as they arise and with zero downtime. Simply put, the communication channel will always be open and available to everyone within the system.

Better customer service

 

All cloud based telephone systems have features called auto attendant and virtual receptionist and they allow businesses to quickly redirect all calls to designated departments. Organisations can also customise greeting messages specific to designated departments and respond to the right people the right way.

A cloud system has the power to improve the customer experience and help a business engage with its customers to the fullest by addressing various key points. For example, this kind of system can send automated messages to people to remind them of their payment obligations.

An advanced method of using this kind of system is to integrate it with a customer relationship management system where managers can get valuable insights, notice trends, and improve their approach towards customers. They can then advise salespeople and customer support departments to adjust the way they do their work.

Scalability

Given the fact that cloud based telephone systems are managed and maintained by the vendor, the services a business pays for are the ones it actually uses. So what does this mean? For example, if you have 5 employees using this system, you will get have to pay for those 5 users and nothing more. The issue with traditional systems is that it was very difficult to add an additional user or two.

This issue has been completely removed, given the fact that cloud systems allow organisations to quickly and easily add more users according to their needs. This means that these clouds based telephone systems can easily keep up with the growth of the whole business and its needs.

This is why small businesses that grow rapidly and change things constantly love cloud systems. The process is quite simple and there is no need to wait for your IT department staff to work for weeks on adding phone lines, phones, or transferring data. Everything remains the same, while the number of users can change.

Greater reliability

 

Businesses as a whole need to be reliable in every way. This means that they have to deliver what they promise, always, period. This is how they stay competitive and get ahead of their competition. Customers know to appreciate when they get what they were promised.

For example, in case of a power outage, no messages or communication will come through and people will assume that your website or mail are dead. Employees will not be able to communicate with each other. You might appear like you are out of business and this is something no organisation can afford.

With cloud based phones, this is not a problem, as they will always remain operational. On top of that, your provider will maintain your server and make sure that everything is working 24/7; however, it’s a good idea to do some research and find a reliable vendor.

Conclusion

Always remember that a phone system is a very important cog in your whole business and its operations, both internally and externally. It allows communication among employees and with customers. Both of these things matter and that’s why you need to seek good solutions that can make communication flawless.