SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How to Validate Your Business Ideas Without Spending a Dime

Here are two extremely cheap (read: free) ways to test ideas.

ways use big data drive repeat sales

Founder of Soundwise. Host of Founders Nextdoor podcast.

FEBRUARY 21, 2017

Last night in the shower, you had an ingenious idea for a new business.

You rushed to the desk to write it down, with water still dripping down your back. Your [insert the brilliant thing] is going to change the universe! It’s time to call up investors, assemble a team and . . . stop! Stop right there!

Before plunging into execution, you should confirm you’re solving a problem and/or meeting a need that people want to pay for. (Unless you’re Beyoncé. Then you can make money selling the air you breathe.)

Idea validation should be done on both macro and micro levels. And if you do it right, you won’t need to spend your PayPal balance on any of that. Here are some extremely cheap (read: free) ways that I and other entrepreneurs I know have used to test ideas.

The macro test
Before testing the specifics of your new venture, validate the big picture first. How large is the market? Who are your potential competitors? Are you differentiated enough? Google will answer all of those questions for you.

Start by searching the keywords related to your idea in both Google search and Google Trends. For example, when I had the idea for starting Soundwise, a mobile platform for audio courses, I researched around keywords such as podcast, audiobook and e-learning. Need more keyword ideas? Sign up for Google AdWords and use the Keyword Planner tool for inspiration.

You should also Google “XYZ industry report” or “XYZ market analysis” to get stats and data about your market. Pay attention to the related search terms Google shows you at the bottom of your search result page. For more updated information, filter the search to only include results from the past year.

Think of at least one company that offers a similar product to yours. Do research on that company and on its competitors. How do you know who its competitors are? Just Google “product X versus.” The competitors’ names will pop up, as there are legions of articles written online comparing every minute detail of every product: Pepsi vs. Coke, Target vs. Amazon, chihuahua vs. chow chow . . . . How do people find time to write those? I don’t know. Ask Google.

What you want to find at this stage is not necessarily a large market size, which often comes with the side effect of competitors galore. Ideally, what you want is to be able to say yes to all of the following:

Is there an upward trend in search volume and industry growth related to your idea?

Can you find existing players in your market that are already doing well to demonstrate there’s indeed market demand?

Are there meaningful differences between what’s in the market and what you’re thinking of offering? (We don’t know that for sure yet. “Seem to be” is good enough for now).

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About one third of the people in the world are entrepreneurs today. And about half of them are not successful in this fast growing economy. One of the biggest reasons of this failure is because they are handling there business without any mentor or a helper. What do they think of themselves? Superman-Virtual AssistantThe man of steel?
Nowadays, entrepreneurs are focusing more on increasing their business revenue. They want to do all the tasks alone, and don’t have the time to do it. Then the downfall begins. The only person that can leverage your working hours and help upfront your business is the virtual assistant. There is no harm in hiring a competent virtual assistant, seriously. They become a part of your business and can remove that entrepreneurial stress from you-somehow.
Now, most of the entrepreneurs are oblivious of what and how they can outsource. They didn’t know what could a VA do for them or what tasks should we give to them.
Here are 7 main tasks you can give a Virtual assistant to increase or improve your business.

Checking emails again and again in your inbox while doing a hard tasks will probably be a waste your time. A virtual assistant will manage your inbox and respond to most of emails on your behalf. Managing emails is easy but you should provide your account, password and some guidance to reduce the risk of getting an error.

Doing the research and collecting the data is a hard process. But turning that data into presentation or excel can be a time waster for entrepreneurs. Hiring a virtual assistant having an expertise in Microsoft programs can give you great benefit of saving time you would be wasting on smashing your head to make a word document or presentation.

To hire a Virtual assistant to manage all the bookkeeping like making invoices, recording payments and extra bills is probably the hardest task to give. Because in this, you have given personal information of accounts and password to him or her. But if find a trustworthy virtual assistant, then thank God for this because that assistant will shave your working hours and that billing-paying stress too.

If you are having a content writing job, you would know how hectic is it to gather all the information by doing research. So why not hire an assistant to find that relevant information. All you need to give is clear and sound instructions and a topic. So, easy, right?


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How to develop an internet of things strategy

Former Amazon executive John Rossman shares his checklist for developing an internet of things strategy for your organization.

By Thor Olavsrud  | Follow
Senior Writer, CIO | FEB 20, 2017 6:53 AM PT


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The internet of things (IoT) may present the biggest opportunity to enterprises since the dawn of the internet age, and perhaps it will be bigger. Research firm Gartner predicts there will be nearly 20 billion devices on the IoT by 2020, and IoT product and service suppliers will generate $300 billion+ in revenue.

Successfully leveraging that opportunity — bringing together sensors, connectivity, cloud storage, processing, analytics and machine learning to transform business models and processes — requires a plan.

"In the course of my career, I've estimated and planned hundreds of projects," John Rossman, who spent four years launching and then running Amazon's Marketplace business (which represents more than 50 percent of all Amazon units sold today), writes in his new book, The Amazon Way on IoT: 10 Principles for Every Leader from the World's Leading Internet of Things Strategies. "I've learned that, even before you start seeking answers, it's imperative to understand the questions. Guiding a team to a successful outcome on a complex project requires understanding of the steps and deliverables, necessary resources, and roles and every inherent risk and dependency."

Before you start the hardware and software design, and before you figure out how to engage developers, he says, you need to start with a better set of questions.

Rossman says there are three key phases to building a successful IoT strategy. While he presents the steps sequentially, he notes that many steps are actually taken concurrently in practice and can be approached in many different ways.

Part 1. Develop and articulate your strategy

First and foremost, Rossman says, you must narrow and prioritize your options. IoT presents a broad swathe of opportunities. Success depends upon understanding your market, evaluating the opportunities with deliberation and attacking in the right place.

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5 Ways to Effectively Combat Data Theft and Data Loss

Data theft is no more targeted at only large companies. To be fair, large companies can spend on building firewalls and pay for top notch enterprise security. Small businesses are being targeted and why not?!

Attackers want easy targets, but you are also not going to let your hard work slide into the wrong hands. You do not want third data lossparty information stolen, or the record of clients compromised. Whether you are an individual entrepreneur or a small business owner, the last achilleas heel you want attributed to your operations, is your inability to keep data safe and secured. You do not also want to lose your hard-earned client data because windows will not start or because your hard disk crashed. Here are 5 ways to effectively combat data theft and data loss;

  1. Acquire a MiFi or a Personal Hotspot
    The ability to work on the go is a model which increases productivity. Sometimes the idea is not to move away from the office to work at the coffee shop, but it does happen, that you will receive a call requiring you to remotely solve a technical issue on your online shop to enable waiting customers make purchases. A situation like that can make you hurriedly connect to the open Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, forgetting that you are exposing your entire company to attackers. If you can acquire a MiFi, great, but if you are on a tight budget, speak to your network provider about the option to expand your data package to include a Personal Hotspot. This is a feature available in both Android and iOS. That way you can securely connect to your own network and not risk connecting to a public network which might just be betting on the wrong horse.
  2. Learn to Create Impregnable Passwords and Data Backups
    The password needed to log into your laptop should be close to impregnable at least. Always include CAPS, NUMBERS, lowercases and Symbols. Be shrewd about it, and do not concentrate all the characters in your password at one side of your keyboard. There is also the possibility of your laptop getting stolen. Make use of the free cloud space Google Drive and OneDrive offers. Budget for more if you must, because a hard drive can crash unexpectedly. Make local backups as well and change your HDD to SSD if you can afford it.
  3. Storage and Backups are not Enough
    So, you have been prudent by backing up your data online and locally on an external hard disk. That is not enough. Ransomware lurks all over the internet. Other malwares that can compromise data are multiplying. You need a strong anti-virus software which comes with a firewall that will manage your network connections and keep your computer safe when you connect to the internet or plug in a USB drive that is not yours. You also have to regularly keep an eye on the software which is responsible for syncing your files with your cloud storage to make sure backups are up to date.
  4. Collaborated Efforts can go Wrong
    Mistakes do happen, but some people are just careless and negligent by nature. These days collaborating on a project in shared files and folders are great, but there is always the danger of one colleague wrongfully deleting some files or exposing his/her computer to a data theft. You need to have your own local backup for whatever file your team is working on. Do not assume everyone will be careful, because all your efforts can go down the drain because of some elementary mistake by a colleague. Always assume the worse and look out for yourself and the team.
  5. Use Secured Links and Send Password Protected Documents
    Your business exists for your customers and you need them to achieve short and long term goals. As a small business, you cannot have your reputation ruined for mistakenly sending the right file to the wrong client. If that ever happens, only a password can save you, because you know only the right client has the password to access that file. Enterprise level security grants secured file sharing platforms and systems, and that makes working remotely safer. Small businesses cannot always afford such a service. Beware of sending sensitive links, and make sure there is some level of security created for clients to access their private data.
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The Definitive Office 365 Sales Guide

What differentiates a good sales person from a bad one is often the ability to ask good questions and really listen to the answers. In fact, almost 50% of your sales effort should be put in understanding the business needs of your potential clients. Once you understand the business reality as well as the processes, problems, challenges, and goals, the sales part is quite easy.

Microsoft Office 365 provides an all-in-one modern workforce designed to provide customers with a single solution for all their end-user cloud productivity and collaboration needs.

Your Office 365 sales team has to use a systematic approach to collect the right information from your clients. Building this approach relies on your ability to:

  • Identify Office 365 selling scenarios
  • Position the right product benefits to solve the client’s top pain points
  • Address security and compliance concerns with Office 365
  • Overcome the most frequent client objections with counter arguments

Our white paper lists top questions every sales person should be ready to answer about Office 365, plus different customer buying scenarios.  You’ll also find a list of the most common values that Office 365 offers an SMB and how these values are linked to 4 core business goals.


Download The Guide

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