Office Organization Tips to Increase Your Efficiency

Nothing can make you more unproductive than not being able to find what you need when you need it. While you may see yourself as being busy all the time, how much of that “busyness” involves searching for something and not being able to find it?

Better is to spend just a little bit of your daily work time setting up an organizing process that will have you 100% more organized by the end of the month.

It takes far less time to file a document properly than to do it over again because you can’t find it! By the same token, being able to find the staples you need for your stapler immediately will take far less time than another trip to the store, when you know you have a new box of staples lying around somewhere.

The old adage, “a place for everything” certainly applies here. A storage cabinet specifically marked for office supplies will make them far easier to find.
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Why it is Important for Your Small Business to Accept Online Payments

10 years ago the only reliable methods for accepting payments for most small business owners were face-to-face, credit cards over the phone or billing through the mail. As technology has advanced and people have become more Internet savvy, the possibility for payment processing has opened up and now allows small businesses similar opportunities as their larger competitors.

Until recently, accepting online payments was too costly for many small business owners, and too confusing to manage on their own. With payment gateways and payment processor agreements, it was often easier to mail invoices as they have done for decades. That is not the case anymore. With simple to install, low cost online invoicing solutions such as SimplifyThis, business owners everywhere can enjoy the benefits of automatic, online payment processing.
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Elements of a Strong Brand: Vision, Mission, Values and Personality

Apple, one of the world's most recognized brands, is known for its value of innovation

Developing a brand strategy can help a business to get more customers and to have an easier time selling. The down side of developing a brand strategy however is the time it takes. Still, understanding your audience, positioning, goals and the benefits of your product or service—all elements of a brand–are crucial for success. There are softer elements of a brand too, which depending on the business can be equally important to understand. Having a clearly defined brand vision and mission can help to propel a business forward. These elements serve to inspire people working at the company—including the business owner—as well as customers. Vision, mission and values speak to people on a human and emotional level, helping people to connect with the brand, and also to develop loyalty.

Developing a clear vision and mission can take some soul searching. Be patient with yourself as you go about defining these elements, and remember, your brand strategy will never be perfected. Perfection isn’t the point. As you create vision, mission, values and personality statements, don’t worry about the words you use as much as the concept of what you are saying. You can go back and edit these statements later. First priority is to understand these elements in conceptual terms.
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Do You Need a Brand Strategy?

Having a strong brand helps a business to attract the right customers.  It takes multiple encounters with a product or service before people buy, and having a strong and consistent brand helps people to connect with and remember you. A brand strategy is a tool that helps you to accomplish a strong and consistent brand.

Famous brandsMany new business owners think of brand and branding in terms of a logo. Your logo in fact is part of your company’s visual identity, but before you design your logo there are more fundamental aspects of your brand, such as your mission, positioning, values, personality and more. A strategy clearly defines these and other primary elements in order to guide such key decisions as what to name your company, whom to hire, what your logo should look like, where to market and advertise, and even how to conduct your business.

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Audience, Goals, Benefits & Positioning: Crucial Elements of Your Brand Strategy

There are many elements that together make up a strong brand, including a mission, vision, personality and values. Taking the time to define these elements as part of creating a brand strategy is a very worthwhile, albeit often time consuming endeavor. It’s not uncommon for a company to enter the marketplace without creating a brand strategy. There are people in business for decades who’ve never formally created a brand strategy. There is the question however of what if they had?

audience chairsWhether you have time to toil over your mission statement or not, there are several elements of your brand that are especially important to understand and that are the foundation of all of your marketing materials. They are: target audience, positioning, goals and benefits.

Target Market 

Knowing your target market is the single most important aspect to a strong brand strategy. If you don’t know your target market, intimately and specifically, all of your marketing materials will be shooting in the dark. Not knowing your audience is a common marketing mistake that many small business owners make for various reasons including being afraid of excluding possible potential customers. There are a few things to understand about identifying a target audience:

  • Target audience is about targeting who is most likely to buy, not everyone who could feasibly buy from you.
  • Target audience is about identifying your ideal customer, not your average customer.
  • As the marketing idiom goes, when you try to reach everyone, you reach no one. Trying to include everyone in your target audience leads to watered down marketing messages that don’t land with anyone.

In identifying your audience, you want to know the key demographics, i.e. male/female, age, education, household income, geographic location, profession, marital status. You also want to understand the psychographics: attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria. Also you want to know where they are and how you will best reach them.


Understanding the benefits of your service or product is also key to business success. Benefits are distinct from features. The difference between features and benefits is important for any business owner to understand. Example, a yoga studio offers one-on-one classes. The one-on-one class is a feature of that yoga studio. The benefit is what comes from that feature, such as individual attention leading one to get more out of each class. Getting more out of each class would be the benefit. You want to “sell” the benefit, as that will resonate most with potential clients. When considering a product or service people want to know what’s in it for them. To get clear on how your service or product benefits your audience create a list of three to five main benefits your brand offers, do this from a customer’s pint of view. Start by writing down five to seven features of your business, and then a benefit of each. This can take some time, but is worth the work.


Know the essence of how your business is different from others in the same space. Your positioning statement is an internal document that guides you in knowing how you are different from the competition. Ask yourself how are you unlike others in your field in your market. A good format for your positioning statement is: “For [customers], [product name] is the [product type] that [top benefit]. Unlike [competitor], [product name] [differentiator]. Since this is an internal document, you don’t have to worry about how well it reads, you need to focus on the concept of it, and understanding yourself how you are different from your competition.


Finally, goals are at the center of any marketing initiative. Goals give your marketing activities direction; without them you are merely accepting what is handed to you rather than driving your business toward a destination that is important to you. As part of understanding your brand strategy, take the time to identify three business goals that will remain at the center of your marketing activities. Be sure to use the SMART goal setting method.

Understanding your target audience, benefits, positioning and goals is paramount to marketing and selling your services or products. While understanding and defining these brand elements will take you some time, doing so will give your business and marketing the strategic direction that successful brands have. You can also take a look at your brand’s vision, mission, values and personality to round out your brand strategy.

Post by Rebekah Meola

A Few Simple Techniques for Increased Productivity

There are hundreds of legitimate tips for increasing productivity out there in books and on the internet. If you are struggling in the realm of personal productivity at work, it is worth it to research the topic and to select a few of the tips that speak to you. Don’t overdo it, however. No need to follow every tip out there. Be careful not to over-engineer your plan for increased productivity, as it’s tempting to do this—the point isn’t to have a perfect plan for productivity, it’s to become more productive. Focusing on and committing yourself to a few techniques should do it.

Three Techniques for Increased Productivity

Be realistic about time. Most of productivity comes down to good time management.  An important first step in managing your time effectively, is having a realistic read on how you are currently spending your time. This includes having a realistic view of how long each of your regular tasks takes you from start to finish—realizing that you are an individual and you have your own process for accomplishing things. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you designate a certain number of hours to designing a piece for a client, but part of your design process includes milling about your apartment and washing the dishes while you dream up ideas and inspiration. If doing that is part of your process then it should be included in the number of hours you

estimate it will take you to complete that type of project. No sense in carving out two hours for a task if in actuality it takes you three. Being realistic about your time, as you currently spend it, will help you to create time management plans that will work for you.

Honoring your word. Let’s face it, many dreams and ambitions go to the wayside as motivation and focus wane. Sustained motivation and focus fuel the hundreds of action steps that add up to the successful achievement of a goal. There are again a plethora of tips on how to stay motivated . But the one I like most for its simplicity is the concept of honoring your word. It’s really simple to follow: do what you say, because you said it. Following this rule and putting your word above all is simple and it frees you from the time wasted in constantly re-thinking the merits of completing different tasks. Another plus, when you do what you say—and simply because you said you would do it—you feel great. It’s related to a greater sense of integrity, which can become a motivating force in and of itself.

Progress not perfectionism. While we each have our own standards, and we need to adhere to them, perfectionism is a common productivity killer. Perfectionism is in fact a procrastination technique. Your goal should be to move your project forward a little bit each day and to feel good about your progress. This will be more motivating then trying to perfect things. Try following these tips for letting go of perfectionism.


DIY Marketing for New Entrepreneurs

With a plethora of free marketing platforms available entrepreneurs are readily taking a do-it-yourself approach toward marketing. Here are some tips to help your D.I.Y. efforts go smoothly.

The exhiliration and empowerment of D.I.Y.

Advancements in technology have made marketing a DIY affair for many small business owners. Now more than ever, ordinary people can be publishers using popular blogging software like WordPress and Tumbler, email software like Constant Contact and social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. These tools have become primary methods for promoting a business, supplanting more expensive marketing approaches like advertising in print or on the radio or TV. Today, with the primary marketing tools accessible to all people, it pays for small business owners to adopt a proactive attitude toward managing their own marketing. Fully utilizing these tools can often be daunting for many business owners—particularly people for whom technology entered onto the scene in their adult lives. For many, the concept of being able to update their own websites seems farfetched, requiring greater skill than they have. The truth is, anyone can learn to use these tools, all that’s necessary is a can-do attitude and a healthy outlook on learning.

Follow these tips to aid you in your journey toward self sufficiency in the marketing realm.

Make friends with Google: As a business owner and marketer in today’s world, Google is your BFF. Don’t know how to add a new page to your WordPress site? Google it. Read several of the results so that you can get a consensus. Gone are the days of needing an expert to solve your technology and marketing problems. As long as you know how to Google you have the answer you need at your finger tips. This fact represents something of a paradigm shift. In the old way, there were experts who had information that you typically had to pay for to access. Today, all sorts of people openly share their experiences online in forums and blogs. The question here isn’t whether you should Google the answer, it’s how to Google. Get the most out of the popular search engine by following some of these advanced Search tips.

Don’t call until you search: RTFM may be rude, but in sensibility, it is probably the first commandment of technology. Standing for read the ** manual, RTFM is a rude albeit common sentiment found online. While it’s not recommended as a way of treating people, it does represent a certain level of responsibility that is  expected in the online world these days. Let go of the idea that someone out there will hand the answers to you. That’s how it worked in the ‘90s. Don’t call your friend who knows a lot about technology until after you have researched the solution yourself. It’s simply the appropriate way conduct yourself in the online world. Similarly, let go of the idea of customer support. Have you ever tried to get on the horn with Facebook to ask them how you should go about running ads?  It doesn’t happen. With the plethora of free platforms, customer service is becoming passé. Adapt. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll experience the freedom and power of being able to D.I.Y.

Don’t make it mean anything about you: This tip can really be extended to the rest of your life as well, but we’ll keep it focused on your use of technology as it relates to marketing your business. The thing is you will bump up against issues, problems, times when you do not know how to do what you need to do. There’s a chance you’ll feel yourself tighten up, become frustrated and aggravated, overwhelmed by the task ahead of you—we’ve all been there. When that happens you have a couple of choices. You can a) make it mean that there’s something about you that is leaving you unable to complete the task i.e. you’re too old, not technical enough, dyslexic—these are all actual reasons I’ve heard from small business owners bumping up against technology woes. Or you can b) slow down, take a deep breath and realize that all it means is that you have something to learn. There’s some piece of information that you don’t have. Once you do have it, you will be able to move through whatever it is you’re doing. To get that information, see points one and two.

Remember as you go on with D.I.Y. digital marketing activities, be confident. Most of the information you need is there online for you to read and apply. Even the experts are self taught—you can do it too. Succeeding online is less about technical prowess, and more about attitude and a willingness to learn new things. The fact is, the digital landscape rapidly changes–even the experts need to constantly update their knowledge and teach themselves new techniques as they go along.

Five Common Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make

These costly mistakes lead to marketing that misses the mark.

Mistake #1: No goal: All marketing starts with knowing your goals. It is your goals that should determine which tactics you take, not the other way around. However, many business owners start with tactics, stating something like I want to start to use Twitter when asked to describe their goals. Ask yourself what do you want to accomplish? Do you really want to accomplish using Twitter, or do you want to accomplish raising awareness of your brand? Probably raising awareness. Using Twitter isn’t the goal in and of itself, it’s just a tool for reaching your goal. Approaching marketing with no goal is like going for a drive with no defined destination. The results will be random at best. Make sure your goals are SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Once you define your goal then you can decide how you will accomplish it—this is your strategy. Your strategy includes what tactics you will use, if you will use social media, or direct marketing, or advertising, etc.

Mistake #2: Trying to reach everybody: Who and where is your audience? Knowing this is the single most important aspect of a strong marketing campaign.  Business owners commonly resist choosing a target market. They say “everyone is my target market” afraid to exclude any potential customers. The question of defining your target audience isn’t who could feasibly buy from you, it is who is most likely to buy from you. It’s not about whom you’re willing to sell to, but where will you spend your limited resources attracting the lowest hanging fruit. Before embarking on a marketing initiative, outline who your ideal customer is. Remember the marketing adage, when you try to reach everybody, you reach nobody. Trying to market to every possible potential customer results in watered down messaging that won’t resonate with anyone.

Mistake #3: Trying to do too much: The temptation is there to rush to try every new tactic that is out there, to list in every possible directory, to use every new and old social networking tool, to be all over the place. Marketing isn’t about doing everything. It’s about doing a few things well. Go deep, not wide in your marketing plans. The truth is marketing takes time and/or money, if you spread yourself too thin you risk being ineffective. Most small businesses will do well choosing no more than three primary marketing activities. If you use more than three main activities it may become difficult to execute well. Yes, choosing only three requires a certain level of commitment, and passing up other marketing possibilities, so choose carefully. Once you choose, commit to the campaign with the knowledge that you chose the best activities for you.

Mistake #4: Selling on social media sites: Many small businesses jump into social media eager to sell their products or services. Don’t make this mistake. Social media is about socializing, not direct selling.  People aren’t on Facebook looking for things to buy, they’re there to be entertained and to connect with others. If you’re new to social media, or feel you may be using it ineffectively, read up on social media best practices so not to risk making social faux pas that could be perceived as creepy.

Mistake #5: Overlooking customer service: Many people are eager to get the word out about their business through P.R. or social media, failing to recognize that most of their business will come from referrals, and offline word of mouth. Focus on first things first, keep your existing customers happy, this is the true key to marketing your business effectively. Focus on streamlining your processes for keeping them happy and mining your existing client base for more business first, and reaching out to people who have yet to hear about you second.

SimplifyThis is dedicated to helping small business’s simplify operations and administrative tasks with technology. Our online appointment scheduling tool and online invoicing tools give business owners and managers back valuable time.

How To Grow Your Commitment and Get Over Your Fear for Greater Business Success

“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too,” is a famous quote attributed to Scottish explorer W.H. Murray (and often mistakenly Goethe). It appeared in his book: The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951). In it he describes the role commitment plays in accomplishing one’s dreams.


Success has many ingredients, but certainly the main one is commitment

Do you ever question your own level of commitment in driving your business forward? If you suspect that your level of commitment waxes and wanes consider the following tips:

Tie your business goal to personal goals

Tying your business goals to personal goals will help you to stay motivated, and committed to the accomplishment of them. When outlining your goals on paper  also write down what the accomplishment of the goal will help you achieve personally. For example does the achievement of your business goal allow you to spend more time with your family, or avoid having to get a job working for someone else? Tie the two together on paper.

Recommit. Often.

Very often people write down their goals, yet fail to accomplish them. While writing down your goals is an important first step. Actually accomplishing them requires committed, sustained action over a period of time. Keep your goals in sight. Regularly look at them, see if you are feeling as committed as when you first set the goal. If not, recommit yourself. You may need to do this every day.  Remind yourself of the reasons that you originally set this goal, and remember too how the accomplishment of this goal will impact your personal life.

Get over your fear

Most people associate commitment phobia with romantic relationships. But people who fear commitment usually see it play out throughout their entire lives, including in their work lives. Don’t be fooled, you can own a business and also be commitment phobic, but your fear will hold you back in driving your business to the level you desire. Committing to anything usually requires you to pass up other possibilities. If you are committed to starting a business, then you are likely passing up other career channels. Choosing one marketing approach involves forfeiting other approaches.

Dedicating your time to the pursuit of one thing, often rules out the pursuit of many more things. This is to many the down side of commitment. If you are afraid of the very concept of commitment, then there’s a chance that you are not committing to the level that you need to be truly successful in business. The first step in overcoming commitment phobia, is recognizing if you have it. In his book, Zen and the Art of Making a Living, author Laurence G. Bold  helps readers to identify what’s holding them back from their life’s work. He lists  9 of the most popular “reasons” why people might not want to know what they want to do in life including a fear of commitment. Have a read and see if fear could be blocking you from committing to your goals, and ultimately standing in your way of success.

SimplifyThis  provides simple, intuitive, and easy to use solutions for prevalent age-old business problems. Our online appointment scheduler and invoicing software help small business owners to achieve their goals by helping them to run their businesses more efficiently. TRY THE FREE DEMO NOW!


How to Simplify


How do you simplify? Simplicity is sometimes an elusive thing in business, particularly a small business where the business owner is wearing many hats—often implementing the work while marketing, selling, and managing the operations. How do you simplify a job that seems inherently complex? Here a few tips for simplifying just about any aspect of your life and business.

A Simple Definition

We all know what simplicity is, but in considering how to simplify your work, life, marketing message, whatever, consider this definition. As Wikipedia explains it, simplicity usually relates to the burden which a thing puts on someone trying to explain or understand it. Something which is easy to understand or explain is simple, in contrast to something complicated. Thinking of simplicity as a way of unburdening yourself and especially others should be incentive enough to continually simplify.

Really Smart People Simplify

Most philosophers believe that all other things being equal, simpler theories are better than complex ones. From Confucius who said “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” to Einstein who said that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler,” simplifying has been a guiding principle of philosophers, scientists, business leaders, and artists across all of time. There’s no shortage of inspiring simplicity quotes from the greatest minds throughout the times.  You may want to print them out and hang them by your desk to remind yourself of the many merits of simplicity.

KISS and Return to Fundamentals

KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. Or, if you don’t like to refer to yourself as stupid, you can try, keep it simple and straightforward. Either way, KISS is a popular mantra for those who like to keep things, well, simple. No matter how you remind yourself to keep things simple, do in fact remind yourself from time to time to simplify whenever possible by focusing on the fundamentals. While in business complex strategies seems to reign supreme, staying focused on the fundamentals is in fact the more powerful approach. In professional sports it is recognize that focusing on the basics is key to excellence. The best teams spend more time refining fundamental skills like passing and catching than learning complex new ‘plays’. Businesses can apply the same principles by always returning to the fundamentals.

Applying Simplicity

In his blog, ZenHabits, simplicity blogger Leo Babauta outlines four laws of simplicity and how to apply them.  In this post, he boils the laws of simplicity down to a simple method that you can use on any area of your life, and in also on your life as a whole: 1) collect everything in one place, 2) choose the essential, 3) eliminate the rest, and 4) organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely. He gives this example as it relates to work tasks:

“Have a long to-do list (or a bunch of long context lists)? Spend a little time adding every task or project you can think of to your lists, until it’s as complete as you can (GTD’s brain dump  works for this). Then choose only the tasks that you really want to do, or that will give you the absolute most long-term benefit, and put those on a separate, shorter list. The rest of the stuff? See if you can eliminate them, or delegate them, or at least put them on a someday/maybe list to be considered later. Then only focus on your short list, trying to choose the three most important things on the list to do each day.”

On a final note, as you begin to simplify, I leave you with this parting quote from Henry David Thoreau: “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

SimplifyThis conquers the complexity of overbearing business processes with the use of technology. We believe in creating simple, intuitive, and easy to use solutions for prevalent age-old business problems. Our online appointment scheduler and online invoicing software help small business owners to simplify their administrative tasks and  businesses. TRY THE FREE DEMO NOW.

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