A Virtual Receptionist—Hire One Today

A simple phone solution for small businesses

A simple phone solution for small businesses

There was a time when the hustle and bustle of my office hummed with conversation, interaction and phones ringing. Today, it purrs with the sound of sleeping cats, Twitter tweets and email notifications.

If you haven’t noticed, our lives are on the brink of a virtual reality. Most dictionary definitions of virtual now include something along the lines of this one from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Being on or simulated on a computer or computer network—occurring or existing primarily online.

For the past couple years, all the minds and masters of creativity that contribute in assorted ways to the continuing Eagle Publishing saga have moved home to work with my blessings. Their cats need them, too.

In the beginning of our newly enlightened state, since I was the only one remaining in the office, I became the phone receptionist. Since I travel and am away from “the office” a good deal of the time and, admittedly, really did not want the job, we had a problem.

Enter—the virtual world. A Google search rounded up several virtual receptionists. I chose Onebox. It was easy to set up and can be administered online. Viola! Problem solved. It’s just too cool!

Here’s how it works…You call us on our office phone using the local or our 800 number. Onebox answers the call (I know it’s not a live person but this woman knows her stuff—trust me). You’re offered an assortment of extensions. You choose and your call is forwarded while you listen to soothing music. If your target is on another line or busy saving the world or getting coffee, you’re sent into voicemail and we’re notified via email so we can call you back.

I’ll soon be eliminating our landlines all together and directing callers to use our new toll-free Onebox number, 866-638-1115 (which btw is included in the very affordable cost of the service). You can also fax to this number. Your fax is converted to a .pdf and sent to our email to be viewed anytime, anywhere. I love it!

Save money, service our clients better and spend more time with our cats. Can it get any better? I’m still waiting for the clone service but until then, I grateful for my virtual receptionist. We’ll be talking to you soon, I hope.


What Is Custom Publishing?

Custom publishing can make your business stand out

Custom publishing can make your business stand out

Over the weekend, I was again reminded that the term “custom publishing” conjures up a variety of definitions and rarely the right one. The Custom Publishing Council uses this definition:

“Custom publishing marries the marketing ambitions of a company with the information needs of its target audience. This occurs through the delivery of editorial content–via print, Internet, and other media–so intrinsically valuable that it moves the recipient’s behavior in a desired direction.”

You’ve no doubt seen examples (aside from ours, of course) and didn’t even know it. Costco, AARP and AAA all have well read examples of a custom magazine. These publications are information packed and well written. They provide you with information about their products in an inviting and fun environment. Their goal, and in these cases they’ve succeeded, is to put them at the top of your mind when you think of the type of products they offer.

As you start to become more aware, you’ll see examples often. Maybe you’ve seen a special lifestyle magazine at your bank, or a health related one at your doctor’s office. For years, company and organization newsletters played the role of custom publishing without the designation.

Blogs (such as the Eagle Publishing one you’re reading right now!) are one of the newest and most exciting examples of custom publishing. The internet provides ready answers to every question we can think of and we’ve come to depend on to fulfill many needs in our daily lives.

Gone are the days when a standard display ad is enough. I say that hesitantly, as advertising in print media is what supported my family for years and brought me to where I am in business today. And, I am still and likely will be for years to come, a reader of magazines. Fact of the matter is, though, the average display ad in a magazine has the eye of the beholder for two seconds—about as long as it takes to say custom publishing. For the same dollars spent, a custom campaign has the potential for you to spend hours with your customer one on one. Which one do you think will benefit your company most and give you the best return on your investment?

Custom publishing is a win win for all involved. Companies are able to reach out to their existing and potential customers in a friendly, relevant environment. On the flipside, the reader has access to volumes of information that can help improve their lives, give them pleasure and allow them to learn more about a company they may want to do business with.

It’s been a win win for me, too. Being the info-holic I am, I’m learning new things every day as we journey confidently into the realm of custom publishing. I love it!

What Is A Blog

istock_000006057864xsmall2There are well over 100 million blogs on the internet today. Yet, I am frequently asked, “So what exactly is a blog”. Originally, blogs were used simply as online journals—a place for people to log their thoughts, adventures and daily activites.

Today the humble blog, derived from weblog, has evolved into its own social platform. Although still used to chronicle the lives of individuals, blogs now discuss, educate and offer enlightened observation on every topic of interest imaginable.

Blogs usually have a single author who keep the site updated. To the unseasoned eye, it can be difficult to distinguish between a blog and website. It’s simple to find blogs to read if you’re looking for examples. Pick an interest. Type it into your favorite search engine, i.e., cat blog, travel blog, etc.

Start clicking through and prepare to watch hours (maybe even days!) disappear. I should note here that unless used judiciously, blogs can be hazardous to your productivity (and maybe your health—hmmm, 10pm…did I eat dinner?). So, back to our topic…some of the components you’ll almost always encounter are the most recent post, an author bio, an archive of previous blog articles, a link to subscribe to future posts and a place to interact and comment. Depending on the goal of the blog host, you might also find advertising.

Blogging can be fun and one of the most cost effective ways to stay in touch with your customers if you have a business. There are several free or very affordable platforms to help get you underway. I use WordPress. I like the format. Others to explore are Blogger or Typepad.

About now, you may be saying, “But I can’t write!” A successful blog does require a time commitment but keep in mind you’re not crafting the next bestselling novel. It’s your blog and people expect a conversation tone and your voice.

Blogs were almost non-existent ten years ago and now, for many of us, they’re part of our daily routine. Maybe it’s time you joined in the fun? Another day and another time we’ll talk about how it can even make you money.

Time strapped companies should keep in mind we offer blog set-up and ghostwriting services. Like our tagline says—We make you look extraordinary!

Can Barter Benefit You?

Keep more cash in your pocket

Keep more cash in your pocket

It seems everyone I talk to now is trying to stretch their hard earned dollars to cover more with less. While attending a women’s business meeting last night, a table mate inquired if I had ever tried bartering.

I’ve been a member of a barter organization, ITEX, for over 15 years now. I’ve traded goods for goods directly, also, but joining an organized barter organization like ITEX allows more opportunities to use your trade dollars.

The big question…How does it work? Think of ITEX as the bank where you have your account. You have a service people pay for. Let’s say you’re a restaurant. An ITEX member has dinner at your restaurant and pays with a trade draft that draws from the trade dollars they have banked in their ITEX account. You deposit the draft, just as you would a check, into your ITEX account.

You now visit an ITEX member, a dentist, to have some work done and pay him with trade dollars in your account. You’re also in the process of renting a vacation beach house in Mexico that is owned by an ITEX member that lives halfway across the country. You pay for the rental with trade dollars. All the while, fellow ITEX members continue to dine at your restaurant, helping grow your trade dollar spending power.

Sign up fees for ITEX vary from office to office. My broker is running a new member campaign now and you can sign up with no fee. The usual sign up fee can vary. Each month, you’ll pay a cash maintenance fee and 6-8% on each transaction—coming and going.

People have bartered practically since the beginning of time. In these challenging economic times, barter might help you take care of business even when cash flow is tight or maybe you’ll be able to take that much needed vacation after all. If you have questions, I’d be glad to answer them and put you in touch with my trade broker to explore your options. Email me at nwwoman@mac.com or call me toll free at 1-866-638-1115 ext 3.