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NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- What's happening in small business today?
1. A strategy for avoiding a Petraeus-like email scandal. Here's a way to have a foolproof plan to avoid the email disaster suffered by David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell. The "plan is so effective and perfect that it doesn't even involve any adjustment in personal behavior, standards of marital fidelity, or anything else of the sort," according to
"Never put anything in an email message, to anyone, that would cause you serious problems if it fell into the wrong hands," author James Fallows writes.
"I mean things that really can make trouble. Harsh criticism of people we work with -- or, worse, work for. Behind-the-back snark about people who think we're friends. And clues of any sort about behavior that could make trouble if exposed -- for instance, if you are having an affair that you would rather your spouse and work mates didn't know about," he writes.
Of course, scandals similar in nature happened in the days before email, but email makes everything different because it can be easily forwarded and sent to places it shouldn't go; it can also be easily mis-addressed (hint: that "Reply All" button is a sneaky one); and it can be easily stored and searched for.
2. Small firms benefit from outsourcing. Even if your small business is doing well, the benefits are large to outsourcing some of the most basic operational tasks. According to
USAToday, identifying necessary tasks and turning them over to a specialist firm can free up capital and manpower, which can then be redirected to jobs directly related to growth, such as customer relations, production and sales.
One such area that small firms can benefit is in the payment of sales tax, which may sound simple, but isn't, according to the article. And with local governments stepping up sales tax compliance, the risk of an audit is increasing. Using outsourced software can help mitigate any potential conflicts for a small business, the article notes.
"Knowing the sales tax we collect is accurate down to the house number provides us with a great deal of comfort," says Logos Bible Software CFO Andrew Skipton. "We provided the examiner with our monthly Avalara [AvaTax product] reports, and our audit resulted in no additional tax due."
Another area is in streamlining expense reports. Redmond, Wash.-based Concur helps employees file expense reports from the road using their laptops, tablets or smartphones. The Internet-based technology software is able to complete a wide variety of tasks including scanning taxi and restaurant receipts, the article says.
A third chore is managing basic telephone and Internet connections. Outsourcing this task through Voice Over Internet Protocol systems, especially as a firm grows, can save the company a few hundred dollars a month in overall expenses.
3. Six online small-business marketing trends for 2013. While small-business owners aren't typically marketing gurus, there are a few strategies that should be implemented sooner rather than later, according to an article via
Business 2 Community, an online community focused on social media, marketing, branding and public relations news.
Static websites are out; interactive tools are in. Add "content marketing" to your website. "Creating quality, relevant content attracts your target market and positions you as the expert in your industry," the author writes.
Which leads to always having fresh content on your website. Try implanting an "editorial calendar" to help plan ahead so you don't waste time trying to figure out what type of content to produce and what is relevant to your readers.
Get with the program on SEO. Changes to
Google(GOOG) search algorithms earlier this year mean small-business owners should be reading up a little on what works and what doesn't when it comes to SEO. It may be more efficient for you to hire a local, reputable marketing company to help you.
Support your mobile visitors. Customers more than ever are using their smartphones to connect via the Internet. Don't miss out on the opportunity to connect with your customers by failing to offer a mobile-supported website. "Most small businesses will not be able to afford having both a browser website and a mobile website designed and developed. If you transition your website to a responsive theme, you can support all devices easily," the article says.
Don't abandon email marketing; it just needs some refining. "Make it part of your content plan to create a valuable product such as an eBook, whitepaper or useful tool, that people get for free when they sign up for your email list," the article says.
Make sure your overall Web presence is optimized. Are you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest? Getting on these sites has several benefits, including creating more visibility for your brand; networking opportunities and attracting your ideal client.
-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. Follow @LKulikowski
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