(256) 882-6276

Where do you fit in the GOVCON Network?

Stage 1: STARTUP.  Getting registered in SAMS, setting up websites, creating marketing materials, deciding strategy and meeting as many people as possible and signing up for EVERY networking event. Learning the ropes.

Stage 2: EARLY GROWTH.  You’re beyond the startup stage, with 10 to 100 employees and $1 Million to $10 Million in Federal Revenue.  You’re a successful subcontractor and want to expand into prime contracting.  You’re starting to kill deals that don’t fit your mission or that don’t have the PWIN or ROI you need.  You’re keeping overhead to a minimum, and using part-time support services and outsourcing to run the company.

Stage 3:  RAPID GROWTH.  You’ve developed a niche and executed it well and you have a reputation as the “go to” team in that space.  With solid relationships, you expand by getting more projects with your core capabilities within your current customer base.  You’re starting to build a corporate back office with systems and you have a line of credit.

Stage 4: PERFORMANCE.  You’re leaning on relationships and past performance to expand your core competencies with new customers.  You’re watching for projects that match your NAICs and PSC codes and creating teams that leverage the contract vehicles and relationships you have.

Stage 5:  SUSTAINABILITY.  You’re stretching to create sustainable revenue that retains your core portfolio while expanding to new capabilities and new customers.  Now it’s really getting expensive and there are trade-offs to make, and not everyone on your team agrees with the direction.

Stage 6: MID-TIER.  You’re outside the small but not ready to compete with the Bigs.  You’re supposed to be Mid-Tier but you don’t have the cash to spend on more business developers.  You have to become more efficient to compete.

Stage 7: LARGE PRIME. ROI drives everything your company does and you don’t get to vote.  Your goal is to keep the pipeline moving and your boss happy.

You know how you’ve won and successfully executed contracts but it takes so much work to get ahead of the opportunities and teaming with a pipeline tracking 12 to 18 months out!

We all know that you need efficient, automated processes from the pipeline to CRM to execution and follow-ons that your team truly understands and buys into.

The problem is you can’t afford to lose the tracking in your spreadsheets while you’re moving to next platform, but you can’t scale your current system.  You dread the process but can’t wait any longer.  You don’t have the cash flow to both upgrades and spend on the critical business development activities.  It’s like building the runway while trying to take off!

Imagine if you could have a business intelligence process that instantly identifies opportunities and teammates to create a sustainable revenue stream, and also shows the performance of your current portfolio and backlog.

Each year during the Florida GovCon Summit, we’re bringing together top industry experts that show you how your entire business development, capture, proposal, and execution processes can come together to grow your revenue faster.

With national, regional and local subject matter experts in federal contracting, Florida GovCon Summit brings you a unique business experience for teaming, tools, process with capability-focused matchmaking sessions led by super-connectors from across the industry.

Take the GOVCON Business Readiness Level Self Evaluation 

  • DCAA Compliance means you could pass a DCAA Pre-Award Survey, form SF1408. Here's the quick fail test - if you can't calculate indirect rates based on your income statement detail, then you'll fail.
  • Can you print reports from your accounting system that show your labor hours and costs broken out by contract, overhead, G&A and leave? How do you show that the overhead and G&A percentages you are using to bid are based on your actuals and projected costs.
  • You've been bidding a wrap rate of 1.7, but could your actual costs be higher? How often do you update your bid rates?
  • If you don't bid, you can't win, but where do you draw the line? Do you set a B&P budget of 2% - 3% of sales? Do you have a pipeline that is realistic about PWIN? Does your comp plan make everyone just chase deals?
  • You know how to find opportunities and respond to proposals. You're a successful subcontractor and want to go after your own prime contracts. You have a pipeline and have planned your track for the next 18-36 months. You've found affordable online tools to find opportunities and teammates faster, and your PWIN continues to improve.
  • You've got a professional looking Capabilities Brochure with your CAGE code, NAICs, D&B, all contact information, and you're using your domain e-mail. You've strong LinkedIn profiles for everyone, and they are all connected to your LinkedIn Company Page and Showcase Pages. Your company Facebook page is all about employees and community service. Your website includes everything on your capability brochure plus more about your products, past performance and clients. It's clear to any Contracting Officer that you are a Federal Contractor. Your GSA schedule and other contract vehicles show up in online searches.
  • Do you have Pricing strategies that show how the direct labor added from a contract win will drive down your overhead rates and make you more competitive? When you complete the spreadsheets for the cost volume, are you sure that the math is right? Do you know what the competitive range is for your fully burdened labor rates? Can you show your projected indirect rates for 5 years with confidence? When you are going after more complex contracts, do you know how to come up with onsite/offsite overhead rates and material/subcontracts handling?
  • Billing would be easy if you didn't have so many charge numbers, billing rates, contract values and end rates to track. Are you able to get billings out within 5 days of the end of the billing period? Are you billing in spreadsheets or do you have an automated process? Can you tie your billings back to your timesheets, payroll and accounting system? Do your billings show the current amount billed and the cumulative? Do you have any Cost Plus contracts and have you prepared an Incurred Cost Submission?
  • Do you have Financial Statement and Project Management reports with reporting available within 7-10 days after the end of the month? Do the hours on timesheets flow into your payroll systems or does someone have to re-key them? Are your program managers keeping their own set of books? Do you understand your Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss well enough to explain to your banker? Do you review budgets vs actually monthly and make sure your indirect rates for fringe, overhead and G&A track to your bid rates?
  • Do you have an Onboarding Process that makes new employees feel like a part of the team and the customer feel like their needs are being met? Is there a hand-off from proposal to Program Manager that ensures you deliver what you stated in the Technical and Management approach?
  • Are you using in-house recruiter or outsourcing? Do you have a flat rate or percentage agreement with a placement firm? Do your primes poach your employees once the clearance comes through? Can you present your candidate faster than your competitors? How are you using LinkedIn and Facebook for recruiting? Have you created an intern program to develop your team and qualify for hubzone, etc.?
  • Are you confident that your handbooks and policies cover all the communications and legal requirements you need? Does your unique company personality show up in all the relationships you have with your team and your community involvement?
  • Do you have professional contract management staff? Do you have sharepoint or other portals for contract documents, scope of work, contract values and funding and modifications. Do you have your own teaming agreements, consulting agreements and subcontracts? Do you have advisors you can turn to about contracting issues before you involve your attorneys?
  • Do you have regular Program Management updates? How do you control employee assignments and availability for your contracts? Do your program managers keep their own set of books? Do your Program Managers receive reports of time at least weekly? Who prepares and send CDRLs and Status Reports. Are there review processes for billings and collections?
  • Do you have written documentation of your DFARs Cyber compliance, a reporting system and testing going on? Do you have Cyber insurance coverage?
  • Do you have a designated FSO that stays current with rules and administrative changes? Are you concerned about passing any audits of your security clearance processes?
  • Are you on any of the Best in Class Contracts or do you need to be? Do you know how to market your GSA schedule? Have you considered what it would cost to get onto one of the larger vehicles, and how your investment would pay off? Do you understand the on-ramp and contract rules?
  • Do you have a Line of Credit or are you still using a factoring company? Have you ever lost a proposal because the KO determined that you didn't have the history to support your indirect rates? If you won an IDIQ but everything is LPTA, how will you make up for the risks on those task orders? Do you understand how risk averse banker can be about financing a company that has no collateral, and a very high Debt to Equity and a pitifully low Current Ratio? How do you explain anomalies like negative Retained Earnings and the low profit margins? Do you know the bankers that truly understand and advocate for federal contractors?
  • Risk Management in federal contracting ranges from compliance risk, insurance coverage and options and legal counsel. Do you work with specialists in the federal market that are proactive in meeting you needs.
  • Are there advanced certifications like CMMI, ISO that you need or have? Do you have technical products in R&D stage and what would it take to hit the Technical Readiness Level that you could use to get into innovation programs or be able to access Other Transaction Authority (OTAs) through one of the OTA Consortia (Like NSXTL, TReX.)

Visit GOVCONCONFERENCE.COM to claim your invitation to the next annual conference.

Want to attend other GOVCON events and be kept up to date on the latest information?

 

FLGOVCON22- How to Build a Business with Veteran Talent

In this episode Jenny W Clark starts a new series called the Florida GovCon Marketplace Series.

In this series Jenny will be interviewing leaders in Florida about trends in the federal market.

Today’s guest is Sara Slettebo. Sara is the Executive Director of Association of Veteran Friendly Employers and the Owner of ReMilNet.

 

Website: http://www.remilnet.com

LinikedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/saraslettebo

FloridaGovCon.com is brought to you by Solvabilty. If you have questions or want to learn more about what we can offer you go to Solvability.com and click on contact. There you can request a free system assessment. Thank you for listening and let us know how we can help you?

I hope that you have enjoyed this podcast and I hope you enjoy this series.

Thank you for listening!

FLGOVCON 14 – Attracting Military Veterans

Today I am going to talk about how your company can benefit from hiring our military veterans and having a veteran friendly program at your company. One of your greatest company assets is your employees. I know you want great employees who give you their best and communicate well with your customers.

Sometimes finding cream of the crop employees is hard and takes a lot of work. I am going to go ahead and say that some of the very best employees are military veterans. They have a strong work ethic; they are disciplined, detail-oriented, they adapt to any situation or environment. Hiring a veteran brings strong leadership to your company and is just smart business.

Now I’d like to take a minute to say my motivation for talking about this today is for a couple of reasons. First of all one of our goals at Florida GovCon is to help small businesses gain a competitive edge and succeed by providing the knowledge that can help you make better business decision concerning government contracting, technology, software, social media, marketing, and more. We want you to be able to take your business to the next level. So helping your business learn techniques to find and keep veteran employees will ensure you have a strong and reliable work force.

The other reason is because helping veterans is something I am passionate about. After serving 11 years in the military and getting out of the Marines with a good conduct discharge I thought transition would be really easy. What I found out was there are challenges with finding a good company, and more importantly one that is the right fit. Sometimes there is a communication gap that is hard to get across due to terminology or even the “I vs team” issue. Even after finding a job it can be a real struggle and it might not last if it’s not the right fit. There really needs to be a level of understanding and respect for what our military veterans have been through.

Keep this in mind when thinking about hiring a veteran. Many go in at an early age and spend their life serving their country. They work their way up taking on enormous responsibilities. Think about some of the things they are responsible for: attack and support aircraft, hundreds of troops, deploying units around the world, protecting the nation. I could go on and on but I won’t. In the military you unit, your team is your family. They are like your brothers and sisters. Now think about your company and all the things that you are responsible for.

So these days I do everything I can to help transitioning veterans make a smooth transition. I help with resumes, coaching, networking and introductions. I volunteer at Project Transition USA to help teach monthly classes to transitioning veterans on how to use LinkedIn to create a brand, network, and find a job. I am a student Veteran mentor for the University of South Florida and a couple other veteran mentoring websites.

I want the veterans to find you I want to introduce them to you. Are you veteran friendly? Do you have a reputation for hiring veterans? Have you made it easy for veterans to find you?

How do you get these highly motivated, dedicated, and skilled veterans to join your company, and how do you keep them? That is what we are here to talk about today.

Another exciting thing I just wanted to throw in there is how awesome it is for the last episode of this series not only to be about helping you find the veterans and them finding you but it is also International Podcast Day! I love podcasting, I love helping veterans, and I love helping small businesses. Podcasting gives me the ability to talk about the things I love and to help others succeed at the same time. So for International Podcast day why don’t you help someone too and share this podcast with them. FloridaGovCon.com

So let me answer those questions attracting veterans!

First of all you want to be completely clear about the fact that you support and are interested in hiring veterans. You can add something about this on your website. A great thing to do is have a dedicated page or sub-domain where the information is veteran specific. You can talk about your goals of hiring veterans, you can have testimonials from currently employed veterans, you can highlight jobs available that would be a good fit for veterans, use words like leadership, challenge, team, and career. Having a dedicated page or sub-domain allows you to market directly to veterans and you can use a special URL even using the word veteran. Also on your website be sure to publish your mission statement and core values. This is something veterans understand as they are mission oriented and they will feel more at ease knowing what you stand for. Use military friendly language on your website, let them know about career paths, opportunities for promotion, team events, and that their family is also important to you.

Highlight your current veterans workforce! If you already have military veterans that are employees you can introduce them to potential new veteran candidates. Let them know there is someone that understands them and that will show them the ropes. Have an employee veteran be part of the interview process for veteran candidates. You can mention employee veterans, their branch of service, and how your company has benefited from hiring them. Let veteran candidates know that your company takes a special interest in helping veterans transition from the military to the corporate workplace.

Educate your recruiters to target veterans and change the recruitment process to meet the goal of recruiting veterans. Highlight jobs already identified as a good fit for veterans. Have your recruiters explain why the veteran would be a good fit and how they could be successful in the position. Remember your job descriptions need to be translated into language that veterans can understand and match up with skills they had when serving in the military. You or your recruiters need to be skilled at gauging a veterans proficiency from their resumes. Many recruiters may not be able to translate military skills to a corporate job.

The resumes of many skilled veterans may not make it through your application tracking system if you have one. It should be setup to additionally recognize military related keywords. If possible in your applicant tracking system the resume could even be tagged to separate veteran resumes from the rest of them so a dedicated veteran recruiter can review them. Your recruiters may have to probe for the veterans accomplishments, collateral duties, awards and recognition to figure out if they are a fit for your company and how their experience can add value to your company. Remember they have been trained in a team environment where everything is we and not I so they are not used to talking about themselves or their achievements. It may take multiple rounds of open-ended questions, solid listening skills, and patience.

To be veteran friendly don’t just stop at the recruiters. Ensure you educate your employees about the importance of hiring veterans as well. You could even have a training program for your non-military employees. They can learn about the military community and what they bring to the table.

Once you have hired a military veteran match them up with a mentor, preferably also a veteran, who can show them the ropes of your company. The mentor will make the transition from military to regular life much smoother, and your new hire will feel like the company cares about their growth.

Start the team building right away.  On the veteran’s first day have the mentor show the veteran around and meet the teams and have lunch with the veteran. Introduce the veteran to the chain of command. Go over benefits, policies and procedures, dates for evaluations, career paths and timeline.

So with this information do what you can to make your company military-friendly and be a motivator for military veterans. Watch their leadership and dedication help transform and move your company forward!

And don’t forget to use your social medial accounts to spread the word about your company’s veteran opportunities, veteran friendly program, and your love for veterans and our country.

You can mention FloridaGovCon.com and International Podcast Day too!

Next week Jenny will be starting and is excited to bring you a new series about pricing strategies.

I hope that you have enjoyed this podcast and I hope you enjoy this series.

FloridaGovCon.com is brought to you by Solvabilty. If you have questions or want to learn more about what we can offer you go to Solvability.com and click on contact. There you can request a free system assessment. Thank you for listening and let me know how I can help you?

​FLGOVCON 13 – Small Business Marketing

 

I imagine your company provides great value to your customers. The product or service you provide may help them do amazing things or accomplish their mission in a timely manner. That has to make you feel really good. But wouldn’t you like to help even more people, and grow your business at the same time.

I am Pete Blum and today I am going to talk about Small Business Marketing and how you should be using technology tools to market your business by communicating the value of your product or service so you can reach new customers. What I will cover in this episode is Social Media Marketing, Leadpages, Meetup Groups, Podcasting, and SEO.

First let’s just talk about where to find your customer. Today almost everyone uses some form of social media. In previous episodes we have talked in detail about LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I also mentioned Periscope, Snapchat, and Instagram. Also let’s not forget all the various apps for listening to podcasts like iTunes, Podbean, Google Play, Stitcher, and more. You want to get the message about your product or service out there on all of these places so you can reach new and existing customers with your latest and greatest offer. Your business may only have a marketing person and not a marketing team. By leveraging social media you can get in front customers mostly for free and get them to come to your website or your business.

The best way to catch your customers attention on social media is with content. You can create well thought out messages to post, you can create eye catching images, you can give spreadsheets or documents, and you can give educational or promotional videos. You can share these things with your audience on your social profiles, pages, and groups.

For new promotions you can share 2 or 3 times in a day. For ongoing promotions at least once a day but don’t overdo it. No one wants to be spammed continuously by promotions. Also have more than one content type for each promotion so you can change it up and give your customers something new.

Most of the social media platforms have some sort of analytics that can help you determine what content you have that is working best. For example Facebook Audience Insights will tell you statistics on age, gender, relationship status, education level, job title, location, and more. Additionally with Facebook Reactions you can see how many people have liked, loved, and been wowed by your content. You can see comments and who has shared your content.

With Twitter Analytics you can see the impressions and clicks from your tweets. Twitter impressions are different from tweets since impressions are actual interaction or engagement after your tweet has been posted.

Under Influencers you can see the top accounts that tweeted links to your content.

And of course with Google Analytics you can get even more great information. Google Analytics is a web analytics service that that tracks and reports website traffic. You can get statistics that will help you improve your SEO and marketing efforts. Google Analytics is now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. All you need to get started is a Google account.

You can set goals to help you move towards accomplishing your marketing deliverables. On the Admin page select “Goals” from the View column to track traffic to an opt-in, thank you, or confirmation page.

Next you can set up a campaign so that you can track your visitors based on links you specified in your goals. On the Google Analytics Campaign page you can track sessions, percentage of new sessions, new users.

You can also fine tune your Google Analytics to allow you to view all of your data based on certain specifications like location and lots of other choices by setting up Segments. To set up a segment you would go to your dashboard under reporting and click on “All Sessions” and then click the “New Segment” button. You can use Segments to compare one traffic type against another to see what is working best like your Facebook traffic compared to your Twitter traffic.

So I talked about content types including documents and spreadsheets. I also talked about page types like opt-in, thank you, or confirmation. Now I want to tie a lot of that together with what I think is one of the best tools out there for catching a customer’s attention and getting them to email you for more information.

Leadpages is the top rated landing page builder that can help you generate leads and sales for your company on the web, in emails, using text messaging, and using your social media accounts.

The first thing I want to talk about is the features. One of the things that makes Leadpages great right out of the box is their excellent landing page templates that you can customize for your own company. They have hundreds of both free and premium templates that cover everything you need. Categories are launch, opt-in, webinar, sales, upsell-bonus, pre-cart, thank you, and other.

Editing a landing page is really simple. Just click and add your own text, company logo, images, and more. You have the ability to hide elements or entire sections if you do not need them. Recently Leadpages has stepped up even more in the template area by creating drag and drop templates that basically give you control over the whole thing. Way better than the standard templates if you ask me. I love the flexibility. They keep adding new drag and drop templates so this is where I go first now when starting a new lead page.

You can create some very appealing, eye-catching Leadpages that will really help you convert a lead into a customer. You can use the links to your Leadpages and put them all over social media or on you website. Another option is to link your domain name to Leadpages at which point your lead page is your website.

Leadpages has four different ways to strategically help you generate leads and sales. Leadpages and yes the company and the main feature have the same name. We talked about the pages you can create and the ease in which you can create them.

They also have:

Leadboxes which are links or images that you can put on your site. When someone clicks it, it will generate a pop-up box where they can provide their name and email address to opt-in to your list.

Leadlinks is a feature which allows you to create a link that someone can send out in their email autoresponder and when someone clicks it, it can automatically register them for your list or register them for a webinar without them having to fill in their details again.

Leaddigits is a feature that you can use to get people to text a certain number that they give you, like 33444. Then they text the word you tell them to text, like FREE. They get a message back saying to text their email address only and they will get the free thing you promised them. Then they get added to your email list and automatically get emailed whatever is that you are offering. For example, you are on stage at a conference and want to tell the entire crowd about your awesome promotion. You tell them if they want more information and they text the word BOOK to 33444 you will be sure to send them the information and they will be emailed a free ebook right away.

The entire process behind these features is to capture email addresses of potential leads and turn them into sales. Another part of the process is to entice your customer by offering something for free if they provide their name and email address. This is accomplished by lead magnets. You could setup lead magnets in advance like a checklist, spreadsheet, document, or ebook so that when you create a Leadpage Leadbox, Leadlink, or Leaddigits you can offer them something for free by choosing it from your lead magnet list.

Along with these features Leadpages has integrations for several email and CRM providers, a WordPress plugin, webinar integration for GoToWebinar and WebinarJam. Also LeadPages has a two-step opt-in process. The two-step opt-in process asks your lead to click on a link before they see your opt-in box where they would enter their name and email address to opt-in to your list. By having just one button that they click shows they are already interested and when the pop-up box comes up they are more than likely to enter their information as they have already said yes once by clicking the first time. Leadpages has statistics that switching from a one-step opt-in process to a two-step opt-in process can increase conversions around 30 percent.

Both the integrations and the two-step opt-in process I talked about are easy to setup and simple to add to your Leadpage or Leadbox.

Leadpages has three plans:

Standard for $37 a month if paid monthly, $25 a month if paid annually, and $17 a month if you pay for two years

Pro for $79 a month if paid monthly, $49 a month if paid annually, and $42 a month if you pay for two years

Advanced has no monthly plan and is $199 a month if paid annually, and $159 a month if you pay for two years

With Standard you have the functionality to create all the Leadpages and Leadboxes you want.

With Pro you additionally get Leadlinks and Leaddigits, access to affiliate programs, and A/B Split Testing.

The A/B Split Testing allows you to create two Leadpages for the same thing and it alternates using them so that you can determine what works better between the two. This helps you learn and improve on how you create your Leadpages.

The Advanced plan additionally gives you advanced integrations with CRM, 5 free Leadpages sub-accounts, 50 Extra Leaddigits Text-Messaging Campaigns, Free Leadpages Virtual Workshops, and a few other things.

Now about Meetup Groups, Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups with more than 9,000 groups to choose from.

Your first thought might be singles groups, camping, or something like that but Meetup is actually a good place to post your business event or training workshop. They have a category for “Career & Business” also a category for Education & Learning. Remember it is about finding people where they are at and bringing them to you or your website.

You can start a meetup group and then invite people to join. Others will find you based on searching key words and categories. Once you create a group you just go to your group and click “Schedule a Meetup”.

Podcasting! I am sure you can tell by now this is something I enjoy, in fact I am passionate about it. I think to myself all the time what information can I provide that will really help people. I enjoy helping small businesses and I really enjoy helping veterans. Podcasting is a way to get a message out there to people who are interested in what you have to offer. But you don’t just want to sell something you need to have a desire to educate and create value.

Podcasting fits right into your marketing plan. You can discuss promotions on your website, promote your social media accounts, tell the listens how you can help them and where to find you. One of the biggest benefits of podcasting is your listeners can be mobile, listen when they want and where they want, on the go.

If you wonder well how many people really listen to podcasts back in 2014 iTunes podcast subscriptions passed 1 billion, and that is just for iTunes. There are many other places where you can listen to podcasts, host podcasts, there are even paid podcasts out there. Paid podcasts are considered premium content.

If your company does not have a podcast you should consider one. It does require dedication. To keep your listeners and grow you need to consistently record based on you schedule. So if you say you are going to do a weekly podcast make sure it is weekly. You either have to make the time to manage and edit your podcast or you can source that out.

Now this is an area where I can help you out if you want a podcast but either don’t know how to do it or have no desire to manage it.  I can help you with a podcast launch or just the everyday management and editing of your podcast. If you need assistance go to FloridaGovCon.com and over to the right of the podcast episodes are links to the services I offer.

The last topic for this episode is SEO (search engine optimization). SEO really boils down to adding all the right key words to your website, your blog, your social media profiles and groups, and even to your podcast show notes so that you move up and stay in the first page of search results for your name or your business. When it comes to your website you could be using Go Daddy, WordPress, or something else. They all have some sort of basic SEO setting or a plugin where you can add keywords. For websites be sure to do it for every page, including filling in the description where available.

But don’t stop there, follow, comment, and share on your social networks so that others do the same in return. You are building a relationship and the goal is to grow your business through social engagement. You could end up in a blog article or be a guest on a podcast just by being part of a social media community. All of this goes towards improving your SEO.

If marketing has been a challenge for you and you were looking for some direction I hope that today’s episode has helped to give you some insight on where you can take steps to move forward and gain some new customers. If you need more information or want assistance implementing one of the things you learned about today you can contact me. I can offer services and training to assist you with your needs. Email me at peteblum@solvability.com and let me know how I can help you!

I hope that you have enjoyed this podcast and I hope you enjoy this series. It will be published every Friday at noon.

Thank you for listening!

FLGOVCON 12 – Small Business Productivity Tools

Last week in this series I talked about Office Productivity Applications and compared core applications for running your business. Well there are so many other business tools that could help you streamline and boost your business I wanted to take another episode and talk about several of them.

Today’s episode I am talking to you about Small Business Productivity Tools.

There is a long list of productivity tools available but you may not know which ones to use or which ones will benefit your business the most. I will tell you about the ones I personally feel will benefit your company when it comes to things like training, team collaboration, and more. I have used many of these over time and currently still use some of them now. Most of these have an entirely free version as well as a free trial.

Let’s start with Skype. Last week in episode 11 (Office Productivity Applications) I mentioned Skype for Business as a great tool available as part of Microsoft’s Office 365. Well if your business does not use Office 365 but you still liked what you hear about Skype for Business and all of its features, like recording, then I have some good news. There is a way to use the free version and still be able to record your Skype session. First let me break down Skype for you as  it may have grown up since you last heard about it or used it.

As you probably already know Skype lets you make free video calls and phone calls between two Skype users. But it does much more than that now. All you have to do is download the Skype app. Some of the things you can do are Skype to Skype voice or video calls, Group video calls, Instant messaging, Calling phone numbers of non-Skype users, Screen sharing, and Sending Files.

Calling other Skype users is free and the only time you have to pay is when you are calling someone who doesn’t use Skype. The rates for calling a non-Skype user are about 1 cent a minute. This can end up being cheaper than a landline but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Sometimes the call sound or video quality can vary and some countries do not allow calls to emergency services.

Skype Translate is a new feature that allows you to hear voice-to-voice translation for seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish. An additional 50 languages are available for translation via instant message.

Skype Bots is something new and can be really useful! Bots are artificially intelligent programs that can do useful things like search for news, summarize webpages,  and more. The new Bot button is located under your picture on the little tool bar that also has icons for home, call, and create a conversation, the +. The Bot icon looks like a robot head. You can click it to see a list of the bots available. Many of them are games but there are a few productivity tools like FreeBusy and Summarize. To get started with a bot click “Add to Contacts”. You will get a message stating what the bot does and how to use it. I really like the Summarize bot! It is a great time saver. Say you’re doing research on a new product, business, or client. You can paste a URL into the text box and hit enter and Summarize with give you a summary of the entire page. Excellent!

Skype Wi-Fi allows you to use Skype credit to pay for Wi-Fi hotspot access by downloading a smartphone app, logging into the hotspots, and paying for it with Skype credit.

There is now even Facebook integration with Skype so you can view your Facebook News Feed and log into Facebook Chat. To get started click “Sign in with Facebook” at the login screen down in the bottom right corner, or if you are logging in with your Skype ID there is an option to merge accounts that should show up under your name.

So about that recording thing I mentioned earlier. It is another tool that works hand in hand with Skype. It is called the MP3 Skype Recorder. It runs in the background and once installed will start recording as soon as you initiate a Skype call. The main features of MP3 Skype Recorder are automatic or manual recording capabilities, compact file format for mp3 files, and more. There is a free version and a Pro version.

Trello is another tool that I am a great fan of and I use it almost daily to organize my life. It makes an excellent project management tool for collaboration with the team or it can be as simple as managing lists and tasks.

There are three plans to choose from: Free, Business Class for $9.99 per user a month or Enterprise for $20.83 per user a month.

The Free plan gives you 1 power-up, a 10mb file attachment limit, and basic integration.

The Business Class plan gives you all free version options plus, unlimited power-ups, a 250mb file attachment limit, and collections to group and organize your team’s boards.

The Enterprise plan gives you all Business Class options plus, onboarding with single sign on, intrusion detection, and lots of extra help from Trello like a dedicated Account Executive and priority email and phone support.

A Trello board is basically a web page containing lists laid out horizontally on the page so you can get a bird’s eye view of your project. Each list contains cards (list items). Cards can be dragged and dropped onto other lists or reordered within lists based on a cards status. Let me give an example of how I use Trello.

I manage this podcast with Trello. I created lists titled launch, to be written, to be interviewed, to be recorded, to be edited, to be published, and published. As Jenny or I come up with an episode it is added to the list called to be written. From there I can just drag and drop it to the next list as progress is made on the episode. Any team member with access to Trello can see exactly where each episode is at.

The cards in a list can contain a description, links, checklists, images, attachments, colored labels, and notes from your other team members who have access to the board. You can have as many boards as you want. Besides the podcast board I have boards for summit, follow-up, to do, and more. Think about how you could use it for personal to-do lists or team projects You can also use Trello as a weekly planner, with a list for each day of the week.

There are Power-Ups to help your team meet business needs through various features and integration. There are Power-Ups for Custom Forms, Voting, SurveyMonkey, Google Drive, Dropbox, Twitter, Salesforce, and more.

Power Ups can be accessed from the sidebar menu by clicking Power-Ups. Teams can enable one Power-Up per board for free.

Take advantage of another great feature, Trello Templates. There are templates for event planning, freelance and consulting, publishing, recruiting, and software development. Just copy them to your account.

Eventbrite is the next tool I will talk about. It provides you with cost-effective event management software to help businesses organize and sell tickets to events online. Jenny and I have used Eventbrite for live webinars, our Florida GovCon Summit, and more. I like the ability to “copy” an event when creating a new one so all the settings are done already. You can also email attendees, create promotions or discount codes, create add on items for each event, and more. Events can be for a single date or you can have a multiple date event. Customers can pay online and be all set to go prior to the event.

Other things you can do are:

Publish to Facebook
Use a widget directly on your website to interact with Eventbrite
Create events in advance and set them to be active on a specific date
Create a waitlist
Also each event gives you a link that you can use that in email or on a web page

For you there are a few fees that go to Eventbrite. Free events are free for you as well. Paid events either get a percentage fee or a flat rate fee. Percent based events are 2.5% per ticket and flat rate based events are .99. There can also be a credit card processing fee depending on your selection. You can also set it up through PayPal.

GoToMeeting is of course a meeting tool that allows you to meet and collaborate with others from anywhere. You can connect to a meeting using a computer or with a paid plan using a mobile app on your phone. Besides the main window where you can watch or participate in a presentation there is also a chat window where you can type messages to the host or other participants.

There are four plans for GoToMeeting:

Free for up to 3 participants
Starter is $19 a month for up to 10 participants
Pro is $29 a month for up to 50 participants
Plus is $49 a month for up to 100 participants
There is also 30 day free pro trial if you want to take it for a test drive.

With the paid plans some additional things you get are a dial in conference line, HD video conferencing, a mobile apps, the ability to record meeting, and more.

GoToMeeting will meet most of your needs but if you need to talk to more people than that you can step up to GoToWebinar.

With GoToWebinar you can host larger events as it allows for more participants. There are four plans.

Starter is $89 a month for up to 100 participants
Pro is $199 a month for up to 500 participants
Plus is $429 a month for up to 2000 participants
Enterprise is for up to 5000 participants and you have to call them for a price

In addition to all the things you get with GoToMeeting you also get Polls, Handouts, Q&A, and more.

There is one more step up and this one is for in depth training.

GoToTraining helps you to more effectively train your team or organization. In addition to all the things you get with GoToWebinar you also get the ability to keep your attendees involved with in-session collaboration, breakout sessions for small groups, detailed analytics, and more. There are three plans.

Starter is $109 per organizer a month for up to 25 attendees
Pro is $159 per organizer a month for up to 50 attendees
Plus is $314 per organizer a month for up to 200 attendees

Our next tool is Acuity Scheduling. It acts like a personal assistant booking appointments with your customers on your schedule. Your customers can view your availability, select the date and time that works best for them and schedule themselves. Another great thing is say your customer is booking time for some personal coaching with you. Acuity can be set it up to take payments in advance so your customers can pay as part of the scheduling process. Customers can also cancel or reschedule all on their own.

Some of the best features for Acuity are you can get a link that customers can use to access the scheduling page or you can embed Acuity directly on your web page. You can have multiple scheduled items or packages available on your web page for customers to choose from. You can change the look and feel of the scheduling page to look like a custom company page. You can create an intake form that customers can fill out when scheduling an appointment.

You can get a 14 day free trial for all of the paid plans. Acuity has four plans.

Free
Emerging Entrepreneur for $10 a month
Growing Business for $19 a month
Powerhouse Player for $34 a month

As plans grow you get more features like text messaging reminders for clients, additional staff (teams calendars), and integration with things like GoToMeeting and Aweber.

Zapier is an online tool that uses apps to connect and create automated actions between other apps and online services. It is very easy to use and does not requiring any coding. Zapier supports many personal and business apps.

There are 500+ Apps that you can sort by recent, alphabetical, premium, upcoming, and more. Everything you hover over gives you a description of exactly what it does which is really great.

Zapier focuses mostly on business and productivity apps. Examples of regular apps would be Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Trello, Office 365, and LinkedIn. Examples of premium apps would be PayPal, Salesforce, QuickBooks, Aweber, and Contactually.

There are three regular plan types- Free, For Work starting at $20 a month (you can also get a free 14 day trial with this plan), and For Teams starting at $100 a month.

With the Free plan you can only have five Zaps active at once. Zaps run every 15 minutes. You can make a two-step zap. The free account does not come with Premium Apps or Autoreplay tasks.

The For Work plan include Premium Apps and Autoreplay tasks. You can have 20 Zaps active at once. Zaps run every 15 minutes. You can make a three-step zap.

The For Teams plan additionally includes sharing Zaps with your teammates, separating personal and team Zaps, and controlling who can edit your Zaps.

When you have needs that go beyond those limits there are other plans. Business Plus and Infrastructure + 1, 2, 3, and 4. The Business Plus starts at $125 a month for 125 zaps that run every 5 minutes. The plans just keep increasing in zaps and price for the Infrastructure plans.

Autoreplay that I mentioned is a fail-safe measure that’s automatically triggered if a task is supposed to run but doesn’t. Failures could happen for a reason like a third-party API is temporarily unavailable. Autoreplay automatically retries the task.

Vimeo is a video-sharing website like You Tube but geared towards business. Users can upload, share, and watch videos. There are four plans:

Basic- Free, gives you a 500mb weekly upload limit (25gb a year)
Plus- $59.95 per year, gives you a 5gb weekly upload limit (250gb a year)
Pro- $199 per year, gives you a 20gb weekly upload limit (1tb a year)
Business- $599 per year, has no weekly upload limit (5tb total)

The two more expensive versions also have Team collaboration, Customizable portfolio sites, and VOD (Vimeo On Demand) where you can sell videos online and worldwide.

One of the things I like best about it is the ability to take care of clients and new customers by using videos two ways. VOD is great for getting your videos out there for anyone in the world to see. They can rent them or buy them based on the way you set it up and you can even specify the length of time like week, month, year. You can set your price per video or per groups of videos. Doing this is a good way to gain new customers. Additionally with VOD you can create VOD pages for different video products. There you can have a trailer, a poster, and a thumbnail that shows before the video plays.

The other method Is giving a special Vimeo link and password to existing customers. This works great for when you are selling and existing customer a package that may come with some video training and personal coaching. They pay for your package with whatever your normal process is for that and then you can give them a Vimeo link and password to a video or a portfolio. Portfolios are an excellent way to have sets of videos ready for different customers. You can create multiple portfolios and have them ready to go per client. You could be running a promotion that comes with a free video.

Canva is another great tool that I use to create images with other elements added like text, borders, and more.
It is great for making sharp looking images for marketing materials and social media posts. There are two versions:

Canva Standard where it is free to upload and design images. There are some premium elements you can use for a fee.

Canva for Work is a subscription service with excellent features for content creators or designers. Your team can create a brand kit with consistent colors and fonts, customizable templates, shareable photo folders, resizable designs, and more. Canva For Work subscription prices vary depending on how many team members you have and whether you want to be billed monthly or annually. If you choose a monthly billing plan the price is $12.95 a month per user. If you choose an annual plan the price is $9.95 a month per user.

Finally Aweber. AWeber is an email autoresponder that fits right into your email marketing strategy. Some of the features available are automated emails, broadcast emails, blog broadcast emails, newsletters, signup forms, and list management. Aweber is a tool that boasts “access to every feature from day one” no matter which plan you choose. Plans are based on the number of subscribers. They also offer a 30 day free trial.

Plans are:
0-500 subscribers for $19 a month
501-2500 subscribers for $29 a month
2501-5000 subscribers for $49 a month
5001-10000 subscribers for $69 a month
10001-25000 subscribers for $149 a month
25001 or more subscribers and you have to call them

I hope that talking about all these productivity tools has got you thinking about your business. You may have learned about something you can use to streamline or automate your business. Take action and improve today! if you need help sorting all this out or want assistance implementing one of the things you learned about today you can contact me for help or more information. I can offer services and training to assist you with your needs. Email me at peteblum@solvability.com and let me know how I can help you!

Thank you for listening!