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LinkedIn for Your Small Business

by Admin 14. July 2009 10:07

This will be the first part in a series on how to use LinkedIn for your business. We have been using LinkedIn here at OfficeClip to build brand awareness and create an online presence, as well as establish each of us individually as experts in the areas we work (such as marketing, software, development, etc.). There are several ways in which businesses can achieve these (and I must stress that it takes time and effort) and I am going to talk about a few briefly here as an introduction. Follow-up articles will discuss some of these techniques in more detail.

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Tech Skills for the Next 5 Years

by Admin 6. July 2009 09:07

Global Knowledge gives 10 technology skills you should acquire over the next 5 years. Some of them may be long gone before that so I will discuss a few that are relevant and will more than likely remain so for awhile at least.

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SEO for Small Businesses

by Admin 26. June 2009 15:06

I watched a webinar from Hubspot today, presented by VP of Inbound Marketing Mark Volpe, that covered ways small businesses can can market and promote their business besides Google PPC Ads. The presentation covered things like blogging and publishing articles, videos and podcasts as well as Search Engine Optimization. Mark broke the process of optimization of the small business website into two main parts: On Page and Off Page SEO.

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Can Bing be the Next Great Thing?

by Admin 12. June 2009 13:06

I just wanted to write a little something about Microsoft's newest adventure. Also, we ourselves are considering advertising on Bing, so I though I'd share some of our research in case others are thinking of putting some ads there.

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Creating Relationships in OfficeClip Contact Manager

by Admin 3. June 2009 08:06

Relationships exist in various forms in the real world and any software, including OfficeClip Contact Manager, could not possibly think of and fulfill all the possible relationships while implementing the system. To fill this gap the Web Contact Manager provides the ability to create arbitary relationships between various entities in OfficeClip. For example:

  • For Real Estate transactions, a Broker can be a relationship between two Contacts
  • An Account can be a Partner of another Account

Relationships are shown as the "children" of the object (for example Contacts, Accounts etc.) to which it is attached. A relationship is always created between two objects and OfficeClip shows this relationship as a "child" of both these objects.

To create a new relationship, go to the object that you want to create the relationship with and click on the Relationship link (on the object detail screen). For other tips on using the OfficeClip software and the Contact Manager in your business, check out our forum.

Companies Turn to Web Software in Recession

by Admin 20. May 2009 15:05

As the recession continues on, many companies are looking for more beneficial ways to manage projects, employees and customers while saving some money at the same time. One way of doing this is through collaboration tools such as web based software. A new Forrester Research survery states that 70% of firms may adopt some form of collaboration tool in the next 12 months. Forrester analyst T.J Kiett says:

The tough economy is forcing companies to restrict travel while keeping distributed teams in touch. In addition, changes in the composition of the workforce mean enterprises must find ways to capture the knowledge of retiring Baby Boomers and provide Gen Yers with their favored tools to work efficiently.

Web management software, like OfficeClip, is a great solution to the current reductions in travel that businesses are doing, as it allows users to have access from anywhere and supports contractors and partners as well. Once businesses begin using collaborative web software, it will more than likely remain an integral part of their customer and employee management strategy even after the recession ends.

Online project management software such as timesheets, contact manager  and issue tracking can also be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis for hosted versions. According to Meridith Levinson of CIO.com, these tools will not require companies to make a large inital investment so the risk and the cost are less than if they were installing the web software on their own servers. Both types, hosted and installed, are still much more cost effective than traditional software, as they are online and collaborative, providing great flexibility and ease of use.

We all hope the recession ends soon, but there are ways to improve your business without spending a fortune and collaborative web software is one of those ways!

New Feature: Mileage calculation

by Admin 19. May 2009 09:05

We had many requests for this feature and so we have implemented the mileage calculation module within OfficeClip's Expense Report.

To use it the administrator must first set the mileage rate from the Expense Report > Profile screen and create a expense type called mileage.

Whenever a user fills up an expense report and selects the expense type mileage, the number of miles entered will automatically be multiplied by the mileage rate.

Mileage Calculation for Web Expense Report

Mileage Calculation for Web Expense Report

We are confident that this new feature will help OfficeClip users to better track the expenses for their projects. Inadvertent errors will be significantly reduced and the automatic calculation will save time from entering the mileage rates manually.

To see other new features and enhancements for OfficeClip 8.1.1, check out our blog article that describes them in detail!

Introducing the Newest Version of OfficeClip

by Admin 12. May 2009 16:05

OfficeClip 8.1.1 Release

We have been working hard to improve our software and we are excited to introduce some great new features with the release of OfficeClip 8.1.1!

OfficeClip Interface

In this release, OfficeClip has a completely new interface. The look and feel of the software has been changed to improve the user experience. The main toolbar has been shifted to the left side, from the top. All the colors and tones have been altered throughout the software to make it more appealing to the user. 

 

Contact Manager Home

New Interface for OfficeClip

 

Contact Roles for Opportunities

When you create Opportunities in the OfficeClip Contact Manager, you can now add multiple Contacts to each opportunity. Additionally, each Contact can be assigned a specific role, such as Manager, Contractor, Associate, etc. To enable this feature, go to Opportunity > Admin > Children.

Manage Campaigns More Effectively

You can now associate your campaigns with other objects. This will enable OfficeClip Campaign users to have documents,  notes etc. associated with each particular campaign. Using these objects with campaigns will allow you to be more organized.

Automatically Track Mileage Expenses

We have added a new feature to the Expense application that enables users to enter a mileage rate and have the expense amounts automatically calculated. The feature will save users the time of having to manually enter their mileage expenses and also eliminate inadvertant errors associated with entering it manually. Learn more about this feature.

What is coming?

We soon plan to add the following features:

  • Full fleged Project Management
  • More useful reports
  • Addition of Relationship Manager, Contract Manager and Products

OfficeClip Resources for Your Business

We are continuously building our online community where current and prospective customers can learn about our software and receive ideas for improving efficiency in their businesses. In addition to our fairly new Twitter account, we have created a forum where OfficeClip users can go for support, share tips and ask questions.

OfficeClip Forum 

OfficeClip Forum

Network with us online and be part of our conversation to help small businesses become more efficient!

How to allow users to access OfficeClip from home

by Admin 10. May 2009 18:05

Many OfficeClip administrators (who have installed version of OfficeClip) have asked us how they can allow people to access the software from home (or anywhere outside their office). This article will discuss various ways of doing this.

OfficeClip works with the Internet Information Server (IIS), so it is a matter of making the machine with the IIS available outside your organization.

If your organization has a VPN connection

If your company already has a vpn connection, then you can use it to access OfficeClip.

If you are using DSL/Cable Internet connection

  1. Make sure you have a firewall rule on the OfficeClip machine that states that TCP/IP Port 80 is accessible outside your organization.
  2. Log in to your Dsl/Cable router and go to the port forwarding option.
  3. Open port 80 (TCP/IP) and forward all traffic to the IP address of the OfficeClip Server.

If you do not have Static IP Address

Get a free dynamic dns service. There are many free provider out there. We have tested it with a service called no-ip.com. This service allows you to use a real name (instead of the dynamic ip address) to connect to the OfficeClip server from outside your organization.

Building an Online Community: Part 2

by Admin 7. May 2009 09:05
Our first post in this 2-part series talked about the use of forums in buidling an online community for your current and prospective customers. In this post, I will discuss how a blog, together with a forum, can be great resources for small businesses and serve your customers better.

 

Blogs can be used to build relationships with customers, as well as help you in product development by sharing new features and welcoming ideas and feedback from the readers. Blogging can also be used for viral marketing, as the posts can create a number of responses from other bloggers, bringing traffic to your blog and improving your SEO.

 

Blogs can help you improve your operations and this is where running a forum parallel to a blog can really benefit your customers. Blogs and forums can both give support to customers; blogs through the article format and forums more through a question and answer(s) format.

 

Although all the above are true benefits your company can experience from blogging, perhaps the biggest one is the ability to create brand awareness and set yourself apart from your competitors. At OfficeClip, we have chosen to use our blog to help other small businesses become more efficient. We do this by sharing tips on marketing and advertising techniques, technologies and strategies, and by explaining the benefits of our timesheet software, web contact manager and issue tracker.

 

Blogging is a way for us to share what we know and what we struggle with, so that we can help our current and prospective customers. Hopefully, they'll leave comments and suggestions for us too!

 

As far as platforms for blogs, we use www.wordpress.org and this is probably better for a business than www.wordpress.com because we have more control over things like widgets, adding features, changing the design, etc. to fit our specific needs. Also, we get to have our own domain name, which is very important for SEO.

 

Online communities connect us to our customers in ways that most could not have even imagined a few years ago. Building one by being transparent, honest and creative can help you establish your company on the web.

Building an Online Community: Part 1

by Admin 27. April 2009 10:04

This is the first part of a two-part series; we are now focusing on forums and the second will focus on how blogs can help small businesses to build an online community.

So far we have been serving our customers and prospects using direct email, phone and our product knowledge base. We have known for awhile that we wanted to implement a forum, where our OfficeClip customers could discuss their own findings with the software, such as easier ways to use web timesheet or web contact manager, how to set up issue tracker, etc. In effect, we want to create a community for our users so they have some place to go to find answers. This will make their satisfaction with our product even better and allow us to easily look to the conversations to see what we are doing well and where we need to improve. Additionally, prospective OfficeClip users can look to the forum to gather their preliminary information and talk with current users about their experience. This does put pressure on us though, because we want the word-of-mouth comments to be positive!

Our next step was to find a forum for us to implement. While researching for an online support forum, we found that there are many inexpensive and open source forum products out there. To my surprise the free and open source are almost as good as the paid ones.

We selected the YAF (Yet Another Forum) to implement our support forum. The advantage of being open source is that we could make some minor tweaks to the source code to make it work exactly like what we want.

When using open source, it is important to remember that developers of these open source programs need to be supported through donations (many of them have donation links on their website) or contributing to the open source product (if you are a developer and want to add more features to the product).

Please visit our OfficeClip Forum, let us know what you think and let us know if forums are working for your business. And if you like our community and want more discussions, follow us on Twitter, too!

Reminder: Humans visit your site

by Admin 23. April 2009 15:04

Yes, we all want to be #1 in Google for every single keyword. Well, that's unlikely to happen, but we can still try to do our best. According to Brafton, most of the time, this means through SEO content in which people will write keywords...and keywords...and yet more...you guessed it, keywords. But what are those keywords really saying to your human readers?

For example, we may have  web timesheet software used many times in our content, but we also have to explain what our timesheet software is and how it  can benefit the visitor's business. If the content is largely written to completely accommodate keywords, the descriptions of your products and why the visitor to your site needs or wants them will be lost.

So maybe you end up #1 in Google and everyone comes to your site...but if you fail to communicate what it is your selling, chances are you won't sell it. What's the point of being #1 in Google if it doesn't translate to sales?

Bottom line, you have to write your content for the robots and for humans. Don't forget the humans.

It Continues to Look Bleak for Newspapers

by Admin 16. April 2009 10:04

This post will be a follow up to my previous post, Would you Pay for Your Online News?, which examined what will happen to newspapers as advertisers leave in drives due to the recession and more people switch to reading online for free.

There was a very interesting post in the NYTimes about "hyperlocal" web sites and blogs that are bringing community news to the community as the major papers are cutting back on this news. These "hyperlocal" online sites are filled with links to news articles and posts from local bloggers, data feeds from city government, crime reports, restaurant openings and specials, locations for road construction and traffic, etc.

The biggest question is how these sites will make money and the answer appears to be advertising, although in a different form, and this is where the innovation of this idea could become a huge business. “When you slice further and further down, you get smaller and smaller audiences,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst who has followed the hyperlocal market for a decade. “Advertisers want that kind of targeting, but they also want to reach more people, so there’s a paradox.” 

However, he means large advertisers. But what about small ones? Numerous small businesses have never put ads online before and their estimated worth by 2013, according to Peter Krasilovsky, is $32 billion. Let's have an example.

We at OfficeClip are a small company located in Atlanta (Norcross, specifically). At present, we advertise online but not too much locally besides listings. Now let's say there is some very local news on this "hyperlocal" website about the police department nearby or a local chain restaurant adopting a new software or technological device to make their business run better, etc. That would be a great place for us to put an ad for our web timesheet software or web contact manager software. We might not reach as many people as we do with Google, but it probably would not be as expensive either. Also, there is a dedication that small businesses have to other local small businesses. This would enable them to know about one another more easily.

In all, this is probably bad for the newspapers, since they did not come up with it, but these "hyperlocal" sites still get information from them so they need to get advertisers quick in case their main artery newspaper fails. I still think this is a great idea and could really benefit local companies willing to participate!

Would You Pay for Your Online News?

by Admin 9. April 2009 08:04

Print newspapers are filing for bankruptcy daily. We all read the news online now, whether its from the New York Times, CNN, FoxNews, Politico, etc. There was a time, not too long ago, when the NYTimes and the Los Angeles Times were charging for certain content, called "Premium" articles and the rest was free. They abandoned this because they were losing advertising and that was where the money was at.

Advertising was how newspapers could provide their content for free online. Now, however, with the recession in full swing, advertisers are pulling their ads or downgrading, causing major losses for the papers. The debate about whether people will pay for the online paper is raging once again.

The New York Times comments in the situation: "Before the recession, media executives saw their future in online advertising, which was growing 25 to 35 percent annually. But last year, overall Internet ad spending rose 10.6 percent, and only 3.5 percent for television networks, according to a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Newspaper Association of America says that for its industry, online ad revenue dropped 1.8 percent last year. "

Priya Raghubir, professor of marketing at the Stern School of Business says that newspapers and magazines will have to provide unique content that can't be found elsewhere if they are going to be successful in charging customers. Indeed, this will be a major factor and something very challenging for media companies as the Internet is changing all the time. People want access to the most recent trends, whether it is streaming videos, free music, live forums, etc.

Can newspapers survive without strong advertising? The answer so far appears to be "no." And many companies, especially those only based online, will struggle as advertisers pay for less during the recession. Small businesses, like OfficeClip, may re-evaluate the necessity of all their keywords or the price of the keywords they choose and this kind of decrease can have a large ripple effect.

So, at the end of the day, if the advertisers leave the newspapers, will we be willing to pick up the tab for our daily dose of news?

View my follow-up post on a different kind of news and a different kind of advertiser.

SEM is still bigger than Social Networking

by Admin 2. April 2009 12:04

...But for how long?

CRM Magazine concedes that social networking is becoming bigger and bigger by the day but holds firm to the idea that SEO and SEM are still holding their ground. Social networks, according the article, have yet to lead to a true revolution but consumers are changing how they are searching, so marketers need to be involved and ready to adapt quickly.

5 Strategies

The article then goes on to give 5 strategies to improve your SEO and SEM by including, not excluding or ignoring, your social networking efforts.

The first one is to start preparing for mobile search. Jon Diorio of Google Adwords pointed out that people have a different mindset when they are using their mobile device for search than when they are sitting at a computer and searching. Bottom line: get ahead of the game and start devoting some of your marketing budget to this because by 2009, almost 90% of mobile internet users will be searching, compared to 13% in 2007.

The second point mentioned was to make sure that your social content is searchable. Optimize it because if you don't, there could be unintended consequences, such as searchers being attracted to your competitors whose social content is optimized.

Strategy #3 advises marketers to use brand awareness as a selling point and only 25% of marketers currently track brand awareness. 98% of ads aren't clicked, so their only real purpose then is is to create and extend brand awareness. People can be encourged to perform searches after viewing some kind of online or offline marketing. Your paid ad may not get the click, but that person may search for you later, which is even better since you won't have to pay for the click! Online and Offline campaigns can be used in combination.

This 4th strategy suggests that a TV, newspaper or radio ad could be used to drive traffic to your website by getting people to search for you.

The final idea was for companies who have ideas and budgets, but not enough personnel to manage the intiatives, to use technology.

Things like CRM software, which OfficeClip offers, can help you do this by managing campaigns and contacts. Other marketing technologies are constantly evolving and can really help you manage your programs.

So are you implementing any of these strategies? How are they working for you? What would you add to this list? Please leave comments for us!

A Discussion on Geo-Targeting

by Admin 26. March 2009 10:03

Some conversations have come up here at OfficeClip regarding reaching local businesses. Since we are located in Atlanta, GA, we are keenly aware of how many great opportunities there could be to reach out to other companies to offer our product or simply share ideas.The web is massive and sometimes  leads and sales can come from companies that want to or are willing to support other small businesses in their community.

Geo-targeting is what it's called when you do this with ad campaigns. I am not sure what it's called when it's a focus for social networking, like Twitter and Facebook...but I will lump it together for now.

My last post kind of hinted that Google has its faults (gasp!) and in this post, I am planning to return to that idea with this article, by Brian Carter of Fuel Interactive-a marketing agency in Myrtle Beach, SC and also offer some of my own thoughts on geo-targeting.

Mr. Carter's article focuses on experiences he has had with Google Adwords and his geo-targeted campaigns. He gives the following example:

"Say I want to serve ads about Myrtle Beach Hotels only to people in North Carolina – I’m creating a campaign specifically for North Carolinians with ads about a gas credit to save money on the drive down to Myrtle Beach. With AdWords’ current set-up and the query parsing exception, if someone in California searches for one of my keywords, like “myrtle beach hotels”, AdWords may still show them that ad. This happens despite the fact that the ad is for a gas credit that no one in California would ever use. Ridiculous. "

And I will have to agree with him here. Ridiculous. He goes on to further express some things I occasionally think when using Google:

"If I’m smart enough (or have good data from my analytics) to geotarget more specifically for better results or for specific campaign goals, I should be able to do so. Google either thinks their algorithm is smarter – and clearly it’s not - or they care more about making money than about helping me reach my advertising goals, or this is an antiquated approach they need to update. "

Things are tough out there right now and from what I've been hearing on Twitter and in some LinkedIn groups, people seem very committed to helping out their local businesses. Geo-targeting lets us try to get in touch with one another. If I want everyone to see my ads, I will create a campaign for the whole USA. But if I also want to target the Atlanta metro area, to see if any businesses here need web timesheet software or a web contact manager, I will want to create a campaign to geo-target this area for OfficeClip. Why does Google Adwords get to decide differently? Isn't it our money and our data? This is, for me, certainly an example that Google is too big and has too much control.

On another note, we have not implemented geo-targeting here at OfficeClip as of yet, but we are interested and engaged in our research. Any advice or comments...please post 'em as we would love to read 'em!

Is Twitter Really Better Than Google?

by Admin 20. March 2009 17:03

Interesting thought and one that had never crossed my mind until I read this article from Kuno Creative Strategic Marketing. They assert that Twitter is quickly replacing Google as the go-to place for valuable information. Of course, this should all be kept in perspective: Twitter still has a relatively low number of users, at 7 million, compared to Google's massive worldwide reach.

Their point is interesting though. They concede that Google is still "king of meta data" but go on to say that it is just too massive and people really can struggle to find relevant results and therefore go digging through the pages, wasting alot of time. Hmmm, I've done that a few times, how about you?

Twitter, in their minds, is like a search engine that is full of people with similar interests to yours, whether it be marketing, software, supply chain, medical, etc., giving you direct access to the 1% of the information Google would give you but without having to go through all the other "junk." Twitter is indeed full of "gurus" who are the best of the best at what they do and they are constantly feeding a steady stream of information. If you go to search.twitter.com and type in what you are looking for, you will get a very relevant, quality list.

So while Google has everything, Twitter may be able to save you some time searching for it because it is smaller and a lot more personal. Give it a try sometime.

How to create a help desk using the OfficeClip Web Issue Tracker

by Admin 15. March 2009 15:03

OfficeClip Issue Tracker can be used in various ways. This articles shows how to use it as an IT help desk.

  1. Setup a Binder: Binders are containers that holds issues. You can create different of binders for different things. For example, one binder can hold Internal Software bugs and another binder can hold customer issues. More detail on how to set up a binder is available here.
  2. Configure fields: Each binders can be configured in terms of their fields and list values. After you setup the binder, you will be taken to a screen from where you can rename existing fields, add user-defined fields or select which fields should be shown on the opening screen.
  3. Setup appropriate Rules: OfficeClip Issue Tracker can be configured to notify users under various circumstances, for example, a rule can be created to email the issue to the person it is Assigned To. Also Escalation Rules can be created to take an action if an issue is not addressed for a specific amount of time. More details can be found here.
  4. Setup a drop-in mailbox: A drop-in mailbox is an email address that can be used by your customers to report issues via email. In order to use this feature, you will need to setup a POP account at your service provider. OfficeClip Issue Tracker will periodically go and check for mails in this mailbox. If found, any mails (along with attachments) will be captured and entered into the appropriate binder. More details on how to setup this feature is explained here.
  5. Create a web page for your users to report issues: Sometimes it is easier to have a web page from where your users can report issues. OfficeClip Extranet can be used to create an issue capture form. Extranet module will provide you with a URL that you can link to your website. Details on how to set this up is written here.
  6. Provide a secured page for your customers to manage issues: OfficeClip Extranet also provides flexibility to create secured extranet user accounts (these are different from your normal user accounts) that you can give to your customers. Using this account they will be able to enter issues, add notes to an issue and also change the status of an issue. See here  for more information.

Making Web 2.0 Work for You

by Admin 4. March 2009 09:03

Web 2.0, according to a McKinsey report and analysis, is extremely beneficial for companies but under-utilized. They give some reasons for this, which I think are very common, in small and large businesses alike:

"Web 2.0 efforts often fail to launch or to reach expected heights of usage. Executives who are suspicious or uncomfortable with perceived changes or risks often call off these efforts. Others fail because managers simply don’t know how to encourage the type of participation that will produce meaningful results. "

If these kind of problems exist, how can Web 2.0 even be beneficial? The McKinsey report explains that Web 2.0 is able to engage a broader base of workers and many of those have grown up using this technology. Also, the enagement demands a different mindset than the technologies of CRM software of the '90s, which were instituted mostly from management.

Web 2.0 consists of things like blogs, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, forums, wikis, etc. and require a lot of interaction from users to generate new content and information. In return, companies must to be open to these ideas and comments. Web 2.0 is like an open conversation...it is not for blatant self-promotion. Instead, it fosters the concept that by engaging with current and potential customers, news about your business and the products and services you sell, will increase.

It also takes a good amount of time. Remember, Web 2.0 is now a huge part of online marketing and if you use it, you should have a proper strategy in place and be willing to commit to blogging, twittering and responding to people's comments.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

by Admin 26. February 2009 14:02

So there's a lot of buzz right now about Twitter and how small businesses can leverage it.  Everyone has ideas about how this microblogging phenomenon can help companies improve communication with customers and foster open dialogue and feedback. While all of that seems to be a good thing, it remains to be seen how much value a company can get out of Twitter for the time they put into it.

Benefits

There is an article on CIO.com that discusses the best ways to get started using Twitter for your business. For businesses, you need to be interested in sharing ideas and tips with others in your industry or field and also committed to responding to others, which is called "following." For example, a small marketing firm might join Twitter, seach out other marketing professionals and discuss articles, news, industry updates, etc.

The other benefit is that, when you have enough of a following, you will see an increase in traffic on your website, blog, etc. and perhaps an increase in sales. This would come from the large exposure of your company to your followers on Twitter who perceive you as an "expert" and will be interested in your product themselves, or pass your information on to others.

Drawbacks

The main thing Twitter is not for, however, is self promotion. You should not put your blog and website link on every update. The idea is to connect with others and build relationships with those who share common interests. Trying to aggressively sell yourself is highly frowned upon (and it is in the blogosphere as well).

It seems to me that this would all take a large amount of work. I am still unsure of the true benefit this would provide to OfficeClip; some people say it won't take a lot of time because the updates are only 140 characters. This is certainly a fair point, but you still have to find the research, news, etc. to share with others. Also, every other kind of social networking, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and even blogging and forums, require quite a bit of time investment in order to achieve results. Its seems that Twitter would need to be approached from that perspective as well: you get out of it what you put into it. The question I have is, what do you really get out of it as a small business?

What to do?

But, on the other hand, we all know how powerful the internet is and how many companies are not taking full advantage. Maybe this a great to join Twitter then and get established as a company unafraid to enter the world of micro-blogging. I would love to hear some ways that Twitter has or has not worked for you, please leave comments below!

 

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