Cool Software | A David Creation- Part 4

Swipe Credit Cards with Your Smartphone

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 6 Comments

Accepting credit cards using your iPhone, Blackberry or Android phones have been available for a number of years using specific apps. However, not to 2010 did a nifty program and product become available to small businesses: Square. Square is a tiny device that plugs into your phone’s auxiliary port and enables a user to swipe a consumer’s credit card, have them sign their signature and even sends an emailed receipt. The neat thing about Square is there are no monthly fees. So if you are not doing a lot of credit card swipes, Square is definitely worth considering. The software and Square device are completely free. You only pay a $.15 transaction fee plus around 2.7% to your friends at VISA, MasterCard, and so on.

One draw back is the transaction percentage. I use Authorize.net for my credit card transactions and my local bank: PNC. I pay around 2.3% for my fees and have a monthly fee of around $40. I’ve shopped around a bit but am comfortable at this rate for now. By using Square, I’d pay a little more, but again…you don’t want to have to wait for your money too long. If you have something that takes credit cards, chances are you’ll get paid on the spot. So, if you are a small business and need to get paid, use the Square.  This can be a great tool for estimators who need to get a deposit right away to secure a contract. Learn more about Square (started by the guy who created Twitter)

Simple CRM That Works with Google Apps

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 4 Comments

I’ve been keeping an eye on some full scale CRM programs in the cloud and a number of simple and less complicated CRMs for small business for many months now and have some exciting news to report. Pipeline Deals, a simple and easy to use CRM for small business, finally made a big change to their cloud-based CRM. They integrated a two-way sync with Google Contacts and Calendar. They are also on the Google Marketplace, making signing in a cinch. A two-way sync makes Pipeline Deals miles ahead of most other online Customer Relationship Management systems. I am surprised that Zoho, Tactile, Highrise, Batchbooks and most other companies have not integrated a two way sync.

So why is this such exciting news for small business? If you are like me, I’ve completed switched from Microsoft products to a Cloud-based business. My business is run using the following: a Mac, an iPhone, Google Apps, Dropbox and 37Signals’ Basecamp. I did not use a CRM, because nothing synced well with my “Office in the Clouds.” I’ve been testing out Pipeline Deals CRM and so far…so good! I can make an appointment with Google Calendar, and it shows up in my Pipeline CRM account. Also, if I create a new contact on my iPhone, that syncs to Google Calendar, which then syncs to Pipeline Deals.

I must add 4 items for my Pipeline wish list to make it an almost perfect program:

  1. I’d love to see a Native iPhone and Android App, and not web-based. The current mobile version does work well but has its limits. The scheduling of an appointments do not work well on Pipeline’s mobile version, for example. But now I can just continue to use Google Calendar!
  2. Make the flow of creating a new lead to customer easier (currently a bit confusing where to start and enter data).
  3. Creating and managing deals (opportunities) are a bit confusing as well. I’d stick to what people are familiar with: Opportunities. I’m still figuring out how to use “deals”
  4. Make the Mobile Version’s activities (events) with more details: location, time, reminder, (like Google/Outlook details). It is currently more setup for “Task” that activities

All in all, Pipeline Deals is excellent for tracking your sales on the go! Now that it is one of the first to truly sync with Google Apps, it makes it my favorite! Pipeline will get my business, and I’ll stay with them…especially if they make my wishlist come true.

Get a copy for your estimator/salesperson today. It is only $15 a month!

Blackberry Torch Might Keep Business Professionals

Posted by | Cool Software, Marketing Commentary | No Comments

The Blackberry Smartphones have struggled a bit since Apple and Android created some pretty amazing touchscreen phones. Blackberry entered the touchscreen market  2 years ago when Verizon released the Blackberry Storm. The Storm has never really taken off like Verizon or other Blackberry users were hoping, which is why Verizon turned their attention to the Android “Droid.” Having had a Blackberry for a number of years in the past, I must say, the keyboard was awesome. I think RIM has the keyboard mastered. So, with the arrival of the new Blackberry Torch, RIM created a better touchscreen phone and a pulldown keyboard that Blackberry users are familiar with already. I think this might be a good call. They are not calling it an iPhone killer, which is also a good marketing strategy. Instead, they are catering to what their clients want: an easier to use browser and touchscreen with the ability to use the “old-fashion” keyboard. It will be released to the US. in about 2 weeks.

To learn more about the new phone, watch the WSJ report below. | or visit The Blackberry Torch Page.

Remote Access Using an iPad or iPhone

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | No Comments

I’ve been using LogMeIn’s software for a couple years now and have been quite impressed with their iPad and iPhone apps as well! They work great. I only use LogMeIn on my iPhone when I forgot something at my office computer that cannot wait til I return. The reason is because the screen is so small on the iPhone. For example, if I forgot to click “send” on an email and ran out the door. I’d use Logmein from the iPhone to send the email. As for the iPad, that is definitely a wonderful app due to the larger screen size!

The LogMeIn has a free and paid subscription. For contractors, you only need the free version if you are trying to login to 1 computer. If you want to login to multiple computers, I’d suggest the paid version. The App for the iPhone or iPad is $29.99 but is well worth the cost!

I recently was turned iTeleport, which looks like a competitor of LogMeIn. To read a thorough review comparing iTeleport to Logmein, Visit this blog. I have not tested iTeleport, but from reading an article or two, it looks like LogMeIn might be the same or better. Give LogMeIn or iTeleport a try and let me know what you think. iTeleport has also done a better job, in my opinion or marketing to the small business folks. Their short videos take after Dropbox and really help consumers know what iTeleport does well!

Paperless Post

Posted by | Cool Software, Marketing Commentary, Small Business Solutions | No Comments

I recently received an invite to an interactive, online Stationary program. It is pretty nifty and called Paperless Post. The program is easy to use to send custom stationary online, instead of printing and mailing it. Although I still prefer the Old Fashion approach at times, Paperless Post is a good alternative if you are trying to save on postage. The cost to design and send a custom letter in a virtual envelope starts at about $.06. As best as I can figure out, it would cost closer to $.25 if you wanted your company logo sent and a custom envelope look. So, Paperless Post can get pricey if you don’t look carefully at the bottom line price per piece. No matter what you do, it is cheaper than the US mail.

Play around with the Paperless Post program. The first few letters you send are free of charge. It can add a nice personal touch at the end of a project: something different than an e-Card or letter in the mail.

Freshbooks and Quickbooks Online

Posted by | Cool Software | 10 Comments

I’d highly recommend two great online programs: Freshbooks and Quickbooks Online.

Invoicing Made Easy

Freshbooks is the easiest invoicing system in the world. There is nothing that comes close to this program. Stop looking for another option and try Freshbooks. It is incredible. A number of my painting clients want to switch but can’t because they use Quickbooks (which I’ll talk about in a minute). Why do they want to switch so bad? Because it is “Invoicing Made Easy!”

Freshbooks offers the following great features for a small service business: Basic Customer Database, Create & Send Estimates, Invoices, Expenses, Run Simple Accounting Reports: Balance Sheets and P&L, Track Time and Bill Clients and Accept Online Payments. Why is it easy? You don’t have to open an email program or attach anything. Everything is done within Freshbooks.

How Does Freshbooks Work

First, you type in a client’s contact information. Second, you create a new estimate. A contractor can have a template for his/her services along with prices. Once you create the estimate, it gives you a couple of options. You can send as a PDF by email, email it through Freshbooks (recommended) or USPS using Freshbooks to do the sending (envelope, stamped and mailed). Once the client views the estimate, he can either comment on changes he’d like to make or click “Accept Estimate.” Freshbooks then converts it right into an Invoice for you to approve and send your client. The client then has the option to mail a check or click “Pay Online.” If they select to pay by Credit Card, you will receive a confirmation once the transaction goes through and Freshbooks will mark the “invoice” as paid!

I use Freshbooks for my entire accounting system as I don’t have employees. So I use the “expense” tap to keep track of all my expenses, which are imported using my bank and Expensify. I then email my report to my account during tax season. Give Freshbooks a Try! You’ll love it!

Quickbooks Online

Quickbooks is the leader in small business accounting software. A couple of years ago, they created Quickbooks Online (QBO). It was not until the last year that QBO became a viable option for service companies. This is because Intuit made some pretty substantial upgrades to the online program and enticing low monthly cost. One of the best things about Quickbooks Online is that everything is “in the clouds.” You don’t have to purchase QB upgrades each year. Instead you just have one low monthly bill: typically $25-35 a month. This is worth it, because it includes technical support.

QBO is a full accounting system: invoicing, job tracking, budgeting, estimates, automatic bank reconciliation and much much more. I’ve heard from a few accountants that they are not ready to switch to QBO because it is still a smaller version of the PC software “Quickbooks Pro.” So, talk to your accountant and see if it will do what you want. I tried it out for a month or two, and all though it was too big for my company, it was pretty easy to use.

Now, if you are a contractor, what program is right for you? In most cases, I’d suggest Quickbooks Online, but do talk to your Accountant. Some accountants don’t like QB online because it lacks a few key features such as good Payroll and Job Costing. Freshbooks, even though it will do estimates and basic expenses, Quickbooks really has a lot more features. Freshbooks also does not claim to be an accounting program. It specializes in invoicing. It also integrates with a lot of 3rd party online programs, and I hope someday it will integrate with Quickbooks. Right now, Quickbooks Online will do everything Freshbooks can do. The difference is that QBO is not as fun to use as Freshbooks, it does not have a company branded website (Freshbooks does) and Quickbooks only allows for emailing or mailing invoices: in other words, a client can’t accept estimates and invoices through Quickbooks Online. So for now, contractors, use Quickbooks…and if you have another $25-30 extra a month, use Freshbooks! Freshbooks is really geared toward the freelance and very small business owners such as a web designer, marketing guy like me or even an online retailer.

If you have further questions, let me know.

How To Setup Google Apps Account on iPad

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 45 Comments

IMPORTANT UPDATE SPRING 2013

As of January 31, 2013, Google, not Apple, decided to stop supporting Exchange ActiveSync on iOS devices. Before this date, it was a piece of cake to setup one’s email, calendar and contacts with a two-way sync between Google Apps and one’s iPhone or iPad. The steps in this 2010 blog showed the OLD WAY. All that has changed. It is still rather easy setting up your device, but requires a manual setup and multiple steps.

View my 2013 Blog Post on the “new way” to setup your Google Apps account. I wish the old way still worked.

 

 

OLD POST

I was asked by a client recently how he could get his calendar, contacts and email on his new iPad easily. He was not sure it can be done. Well, he was in luck. There is an easy way to get all three items in sync in 5 minutes or less. Once it is setup, you just have to be connected to an Internet source. My client just purchased the new 3G iPad, and within a few minutes, he had all of his information in real time. He is using the iPad as his main “mobile office.”

To get your mobile office running on your iPad, I strongly suggest using the following programs: Google Apps and Dropbox. If you are using Microsoft Outlook and want to continue using MS Outlook, you need to sign up for Google Apps Premier, which is $50 a user per year.

Step by Step Setup Step 1. Open Settings App
Step 2. Open “Mail, Contacts and Calendars
Step 3. Create a New Account– Under the Accounts Heading, Tap “Add Account”- Touch the first “Microsoft Exchange” logo
Step 4. Fill out Account InformationEmail: Google Apps email account: yourname@yourcompanydomain.comDomain: leave blank

Username: same as above “email” for Google Apps Account

Password: Google Apps Password

Description: Whatever you’d like. I suggest, “Company Email” or “Google Apps Account”

Then Click “Next”

Step 5. “Certificates and Verify Account”You will receive a few pop ups to verify your account. Just tap accept, continue and/or next when prompted. Bottomline: don’t tap “cancel”
Step 6. Add “Server” info– After you tap accept, you will see the previous screen appear with a new tab called “Server”- Type in “m.google.com” and tap the blue next button
Step 7. Turn ON Mail, Contacts and Calendar– By default, the mail will be “ON” and the Contacts and Calendar will be on “OFF” mode- Turn ON the Contacts and Calendars.

– If you already have contacts on you iPad, You will be prompted with a pop up screen that will ask you if you wish to keep or delete your iPad contacts. To avoid duplicates, I’d recommend making sure that your Google Contacts are up to date and you remove all iPad contacts. Google should be the default.
Tap Save…and you are done!

If you are not currently using Google Apps for your business or Dropbox and don’t know if that is a good move, email me with your questions.

Using Google Docs and Forms for Questionnaires

Posted by | Cool Software, Marketing Advice | One Comment

Remodeling companies need to get specific information from a clients about their home remodeling projects before going to the next step. To do this, a remodeler needs a custom questionnaire to help him move smoothly through the sales cycle. I was recently asked if there was an easy way to create a questionnaire for kitchen and baths and post it on a company website or email it to a prospect. The answer is “yes there is!”

The more expensive and customized route is to hire your web designer to create the questionnaire form and post it on your website. Creating custom forms on a website typically require a lot of special coding which sometimes drives the price up. The second option is to use Google Docs. Google Docs has a Form Creator built in, and it is very simple to use. The form tool also comes with over 70 themes to help dress up your questionnaire.

When you create a Google Form, you can easily send the questionnaire via email to a prospect, have them fill it out and then login to see their answers. To make that easy, Google notifies you when a prospect uses the form/questionnaire.

So, the next time you want to create a customer survey, estimate request or questionnaire, give Google Docs a try. Google makes it simple!

Note: To make things even easier for your business, try switching your office to run in the Clouds: Google Apps, a good CRM & Dropbox.

Bookfresh vs. Setster for Online Appointments

Posted by | Cool Software, Marketing Advice | 55 Comments

Update 5/8/2017

Since writing this post back in 2010, many appointment booking software has surfaced. I have settled on using YouCanBook.me. It works with iCloud, Microsoft and Google Calendars. That is enough for me!

Update: 4/3/2014

It has come to my attention that consumers are having more problems with Bookfresh support. One person told me they cannot get in touch with them by phone at all. So I am not endorsing Bookfresh and have not for several years. This is an older post comparing (at the time) two good programs. If you are using Google Calendar, I highly recommend you use and try: www.youcanbook.me (they have the best service and can customize it to fit your needs). Setster is still a great product as well.

Do you remember the days before cell phones? Contractors and business owners had pagers and Daytimers. I remember my dad telling me that when he worked in the field painting for a homeowner, he’d have to ask the homeowner if he could use their phone to make a call or drive to the nearest pay phone. Life was simple. Asking to use someone’s phone was not an inconvenience. It was normal.

The days of pagers, pay phones, daytimers and people waiting 24+ hours for a response are over! Now consumers want quick and fast response. If they send an email, they get impatient if they do not hear back from a contractor within 2 hours or less. Some consumers don’t even like talking on the phone. They would prefer scheduling their appointments online at their convenience.

Well, to keep up with technology and this fast pace lifestyle, Bookfresh and Setster have made it a little easier for business owners to allow prospects and customers to schedule appointments online. Bookfresh and Setster are online scheduling and appointment booking software. A visitor can now go on to a contractor’s website, click on the “Contact Us” or “Book Now” button, select a service, view available time slots and schedule an appointment. Both of these companies have made online scheduling a breeze.

Which one do I like best? It is hard to say. I like them both. Bookfresh seems to have done a better job marketing themselves and has more testimonials from places like the New York Times and USA Today. Setster, is a younger company yet is slowly becoming a threat to compete neck to neck with Bookfresh.

Pros of Bookfresh

  • Mobile friendly: browser-based website to view and accept appointments
  • Attractive and Easy to Use.
  • Available on your Business Facebook Page and Email Campaigns
  • Has a “mini site” for your company. This could replace your company contact page completely. It is easy to use and search-engine friendly
  • Integrates pretty well with Outlook and Google Calendars
Cons of Bookfresh
  • Customer support, in my opinion does not exist. Enough said.
  • For contractors, there is no function to schedule specific areas of town. In other words, if you want to schedule appointments in the same zip code or area, there is no way to do this. Bookfresh makes scheduling easy for the consumer only.
  • Bookfresh takes a consumer away from a contractor’s website. This is not good from a marketing perspective. It should be a pop up menu with the contractors brand and identity. When a consumer clicks on the Book Now button, Bookfresh takes over.

Pros of Setster

  • Easy to for your customers to use on desktop or mobile devices.
  • Customer Services. Each time I’ve had an issue, they’ve respond by email well…and even picked up the phone and called me to make sure I was happy.
  • Pricing is good. Comparable with Bookfresh, YouCanBook.me and others
  • Branding of Setster is limited. A Consumer stays on a contractor’s website when booking an appointment.
  • You can have a developer customize Setster anyway you’d like!
  • Easy to install buttons for email marketing, website and sending business emails.
  • Works very well with Google Calendar.
  • Invoice and Accept Payments online (Integrates with Quickbooks, Freshbooks and PayPal)

Bookfresh and Setster are great programs! My personal favorite of the two: Setster

Consumers use these features and seem to like the ease of them. If Bookfresh would have better customer service, I’d give them two thumbs up. Until then, Setster takes the cake.

Schedule your free 30 minute marketing call. Contact David Today!