Online Small Business Banking

In the digital age every bank has an online presence, from my little credit union to the big national players. However, not all banks are geared toward serving small business via the internet and, while they all offer you a lot of promises and maybe a flashy new toaster oven, not all of them offer you the services that you need at a competitive price. Here’s what to look for and how to spot those that offer online small business banking from the poseurs.

Customer Service and Big vs. Small Banks

One thing that you may read is how important it is to “cultivate relationships” with your banker and how important your banker is in expediting and even deciding whether or not you get a loan. While this may still be true in the smaller banks, in larger regional or national banks you will never, ever meets the person who approves your loan. A buddy of mine who was a big shot at a major bank before ditching it all to go into the Peace Corps said that the big banks create a strong separation from the banker that you meet, who is basically a sales person, and the person who decides, who is basically an accountant. So skip bribing your banker with chocolate truffles or bottles of bourbon. In fact, if you already bought the “gifts,” just send them here and I’ll gladly dispose of them for you for free!

Similarly, once the recommendation for business people was to keep all their banking with one bank, in order to build up a relationship of trust with that bank. Now, however, the idea of relationship is breaking down and, thanks to the internet and the relative ease of online banking, small businesses can cherry pick the best services off a smorgasbord of banks just like the Bigs do. In fact, the biggest reason that I can see of deliberately keeping all services with a single bank is not having to remember more than one sign-on, password, and pin!

What Your Bank Should Be Able to Do for You

Business Checking Account

One of the essential elements of running your own business is treating it as a separate entity distinct from your own personal affairs or the affairs of your other businesses or investments. Failing to treat your business as a separate entity opens up numerous potential legal and tax consequences that could end up being very costly or even financially disastrous to you. Opening up a business banking account is one essential act that helps establish your business as a separate entity. For most business the key to the checking account is functionality, forget interest rates and a few dollars difference in cost. The key questions are:

  • Can you use the web site to pay pre-pay bills, transfer money, accept online payments and whatever other essential services that your business might need?
  • Are you able to easily download information from the online site to QuickBooks Online or whatever other accounting software that you might be using?
  • Do they have the highest level of online security that is convenient for you?
  • Are they relatively light on “hidden fees” that $5 and $10 you to death just to be able to perform regular, essential operations of your business?

Security

Small businesses run by new entrepreneurs often have lower standards of security and this is especially true when it comes to banking and banking online. The smalls just don’t have the expertise nor the payrolls stuffed with I.T. professionals to keep up with the Trojans and frauds that cyber-criminals use to prey upon the unfortunate, and the unwary. You want the highest level of security possible but without making it so inconvenient on yourself that you aren’t fully able to take advantage of the online services. For example, while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala I often had to do my banking from internet cafes, and not always with my laptop that was impractical to lug around. When Chase, my original bank, changed the security so that I had to go through a complicated and time-consuming process every time I tried to access my account from a different computer I had to change banks (rather, I added a new bank) because that just wasn’t doable for me.

Loans and Lines of Credit

Loans are a prime area of shopping around and using the power of the internet to shave a fraction of a point off the interest rate. However, if you can’t pay the loan through an electronic transaction between the bank of your checking account and the bank that services the loan and make that payment for free then who cares about a little reduction of the interest rate. I like to look around for the best deal and then ask my primary bank if they can match it, just to keep my life as simple as possible.

Credit Cards

One of the easiest ways to make payments these days is by credit card and you will want at least one that is exclusively used for business purposes. There is no “best” credit card for small business and usually your bank will be able to provide you one. Keep in mind that you want one that is easy to set up and maintain electronically, that is widely accepted (especially if you travel for business), and has a high enough limit for what you need. Remember that building up credit for your business is just like building up credit personally, the better your history the higher your limit will be.

In Conclusion

Starting up a small business can be intimidating and the days when you could have a banker hold your hand and guide you through the process are long gone. The flip side of that is the incredible amount of information available to you at your fingertips. Another advantage is that you are no longer geographically limited, a world of banks is waiting to serve you! Just remember to keep in mind the services that you need, those that you don’t need, and those that you need but could be found at another bank for a better price. Happy banking!

Business Solutions in Online Survey Software

Whether you’re the VP of a large company or a small business owner, you want to know more information about your clients and your target market. Now that so many people are online the virtual plain of the Internets is one of the best places to contact your target market. To this effect, online survey software companies are a great business solution. They provide you with the ability to build surveys, send them out to mailing lists, and receive answers quickly and all in one software. Using this type of tool as a business solution, the sky is the limit!

Well, almost…. Not all online survey software companies will suit your specific needs. You’ll need to shop around. Online survey software companies all provide survey creators, data collection, and many similar features. How, then, are business people supposed to decide which tool suits their needs best? Survey creation is important because it affects what respondents experience during their survey and determines drop-out levels. It is important to keep in mind the contact management of the software: what features exist for publishing surveys? If you collect data then you most likely need to present the results and therefore the reporting capabilities of the software are also important. With all of these features available, we could choose any one of them to base our decision on. This choice depends on your and your business’ needs.

One way to make a decision, which may prove most effective for determining the utility of a software to your business, is to place more importance on the data analysis capabilities of the various software companies. To get meaningful results from your survey you need more than just numbers and percentages. You need advanced data analysis. Advanced data analysis includes using multi-level crosstabs to obtain brand feedback, for example. Another example could be conducting pricing analysis to measure the likelihood of purchase at a specific price point. To provide you with business solutions survey software has to go above and beyond simple survey creation and data collection. Advanced data analysis is imperative.

There is so much potential for survey software to provide real business solutions. It is important for you and your business to look for the features in each company that will best suit your needs. Here are some of the features that may provide potential solutions for your business:

Solutions for marketing:
Online survey software has the potential to help you to understand your current and future markets using analysis to identity clear action points that feed into marketing plans. Certain survey software companies have the potential to become meaningful market research tools for your company. By capturing customer feedback you can ensure that you minimize customer churn to build relationships and keep customers happy. You can also analyze survey data to speed up a new product development process and gather feedback from your target market on pricing, new product concepts and product features. By collecting feedback on advertising concepts, website design, packaging, logos, etcetera, you can improve current marketing campaigns and fine-tune future ones. For example, some software allows you to use multi-level cross-tabulations to obtain brand feedback from various populations; test advertising concepts using heat-map or video; and conduct pricing analysis with scale slider questions to measure the likelihood of purchase at a specific price point. This software even allows you to create multilingual surveys in order gather global feedback from your customers all over the world.

Solutions for sales:
Using online surveys you can capture valuable customer feedback to provide information to your Sales department about their current satisfaction and dissatisfaction levels as well as future requirements. Use this information to identify ‘at-risk’ customers, follow-up on leads to develop new business or upsell to customers who have unfulfilled requirements. Use trend analysis to measure changes in customer feedback over time. Using advanced analysis functions to identify clear action points that feed into sales strategy can optimize your business’ relationships with customers. You can evaluate the impact of advertising campaigns among your sales forces. Some companies make things a little easier by funneling survey data directly to your sales team with Salesforce integration. This way your Sales department is alerted to dissatisfied customers and provides the opportunity to build relationships before the customer dissatisfaction reaches critical levels.

Solutions for Human Resources:
They backbone of your business is the people who make it work: your employees. To optimize your business you need to make sure your team is fit, satisfied, and efficient. Survey software can provide innovative solutions to keeping your team satisfied and functioning at the top of their game. Using online surveys you can gather feedback from employees about corporate communication, benefits, salaries, satisfaction, training and development opportunities. With features such as ‘grouping’ you can develop 360-degree feedback from questionnaires, e-learning quizzes or even post-training tests. The feedback you receive will allow you to improve churn rates, improve internal communications, address areas of higher dissatisfaction, and develop appropriate training programs. The possibilities for gathering feedback are endless, but of course, once again, you have to use tools with advanced data analysis to deal with this data effectively.

Every business is looking for ways to improve their profits, satisfy their customers, and keep their employees happy. Online survey software is one way to provide your business with solutions and tools to achieve these objectives. It is important to look for attractive survey creators to optimize respondent experience and improve your chances of getting more responses. However, as I have emphasized in this article it is the data analysis components of the software that provide the most advantages and solutions for your business. There are several survey software companies that provide these types of data analysis tools. You need to shop around a find the tool that suits your specific needs. Engage in intelligent consumerism, go beyond the survey sending step, and demand more from your survey tools.

The Advantages of Outsourcing Business Solutions

Outsourcing business solutions allows businesses to maintain a competitive edge while saving on costs. There are certain functions, like IT and web design, that are necessary but may not fall under a business’s core competencies. Maintaining in-house teams can be costly in terms of office space, equipment and training. Some businesses may not have the resources to spend on them.

By outsourcing their solutions, businesses can leverage the expertise of a provider at a fraction of the cost of maintaining in-house services. There are distinct advantages to outsourcing, including:

Cost-effective communication. Businesses can boost staff productivity with professional email and collaboration tools. These solutions require their own servers, however, and need to be maintained by a dedicated IT team. By outsourcing the IT solution, businesses can save on the cost and hassle of server maintenance while enjoying 24/7 support.

Professional Web design. Businesses may not have the time or expertise to design their own website. Through a provider, they can have a professionally designed corporate website built according to their budget and specifications.

Enhanced online visibility. It takes IT expertise to enhance a website’s visibility so the target audience can find it. By leveraging search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising services, businesses can reach their target audience without having to deal with complicated IT processes.

Easy setup of applications. Web applications let businesses manage online content efficiently and enhance customers’ experience. With a managed solution, businesses can easily add applications and upgrades without having to install anything on their own computers.

By outsourcing business solutions, companies can offload complicated processes to an experienced provider while streamlining their own resources towards their core business.

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