June 14, 2009

How one company uses Web 2.0 tools to run and promote their business

David SparkEveryone wants to be more efficient, productive, and successful. We’re constantly seeking advice on Lifehacker. We gravitate toward any post entitled “How to …” or “Top tips to …” And we’re feeding self-help book publishers who dominate 25 percent of the publishing market.

Rarely, though, do we get an opportunity to see one person or one organization completely open up the kimono and show us step by step how they deploy all of these time and cost saving techniques to actually run their business.

Stephen Jagger

Stephen Jagger

Last week, Stephen Jagger (@sjagger), CEO of Ubertor (web pages for real estate professionals), Reachd (web marketing training courses) and Outsourcing Things Done (high level virtual assistants), spoke to a group of entrepreneurs of the San Francisco Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) at Samovar Tea House at the Metreon in San Francisco. Here’s a summary of his presentation in which he talks about each of the tools he uses and provides an explanation of the value it brings to his business.

While I had used all but one technology Jagger mentioned, it was really eye opening to see an organization deploy all of these tools and demonstrate the business value they provided in terms of connectivity, productivity, and cost savings.

Step one: Lose the offices – Jagger used to have office space that his companies were spending thousands of dollars a month to maintain. An opportunity arose where someone wanted to take over their lease. Instead of searching for some new office space, Jagger and team all decided to go virtual. While they saved a fortune on rent and maintenance, they needed to adopt some Web 2.0 technologies in order to stay in touch and conduct business.

Web 2.0 tools for running your business

Messaging: Google Mail for business – For only $50 a year per user, Jagger moved all their messaging over to the Google Mail hosted platform. They still maintain their business email addresses (not gmail.com addresses) and spam is virtually nil. No need to maintain an Exchange server.

Office meetings and collaboration: Google Talk – Instant messaging and video chat features allow Jagger’s employees to still enjoy real time collaboration, office meetings, and water cooler talk.

Phones: Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral) – A free virtual PBX (private branch exchange or telephone exchange) to manage all phones no matter if they change or move. Google Voice allows you to get one phone number that you can use to forward calls to any number. Since Google purchased GrandCentral they’ve added transcription of recorded voice messages, conference calling, SMS, and many more features. Hear or read voice messages in your email in-box. You can import your contact database and create a customized outgoing message for certain phone numbers, like really important clients. By deploying Google Voice, Jagger went from 25 business lines down to zero.

Long distance calls: Skype – Turn an iPod Touch into an iPhone without the AT&T monthly charges. Simply load Skype onto a second generation iPod Touch or higher. Plug in an iPhone headset and as long as you’re in a wi-fi hotspot, you can make free-to-cheap local and international calls. This is not the only option for doing this. For more tips and suggestions, read my articles “How to make free to cheap phone calls” and “Cheap to free phone calls anywhere in the world from your mobile phone.”

Managing employees: Yammer – Jagger uses the free version of this private business microblogging application to get his employees to constantly be answering the question “What are you working on?” Looking and behaving similar to Twitter, Jagger only deploys Yammer to his coworkers. All conversations are private within his group. It’s the employees’ responsibility to update their Yammer status whenever they switch tasks. In addition, Jagger encourages colleagues to admit their mistakes quickly. That way everyone will know first hand and immediately the source of a problem. Yammer has become an excellent employee management tool. At any time, wherever he is, Jagger can flip out his mobile phone or computer and get a status on what everyone is working on.

Mailing address: Mail Boxes, Etc. – After an unfortunate incident where a client showed up at Jagger’s parents’ house when he was living in their basement and running his business, Jagger decided it was time to move the company address from mom and dad’s location. He purchased a Mail Boxes, Etc. mail box and paid a little extra to have it not show a P.O. box number. By keeping one mailing address (and consistent phone numbers through Google Voice) Jagger doesn’t have to reprint company stationary every time they move.

Timesheets: Slim Timer – Jagger uses this tool to look at tasks and roles over time. They see if they’re spending too much time and money on something and whether they need to outsource it or not. For example, in one case they realized they were spending far too much time and money with core resources creating handwritten “Thank you” cards. Not only that, the guy writing them had horrible handwriting. Via Craigslist, they found a woman in Canada with great handwriting that wrote them all for a cost of $4 per card.

Customer and sales support: WebsiteAlive – For $40 a month per user they have a chat window on their site to interact with people who have questions and concerns. They used to use LivePerson, but that was costing them $100 a month per user.

Employee manual: Google sites – While you can create a free website using Google Sites, Jagger uses the tool’s wiki features to document every single task at his company, such as the procedure for creating “Thank you” cards.

Web 2.0 tools for promoting your business

Professional growth: Meetup – Jagger creates local informational events for the real estate community in bars all across the U.S. and Canada. When he goes to new towns where he knows nobody, he holds one of these events and real estate vendors come to him. He uses Meetup to manage invites and RSVPs. Except for a little time, it costs him nothing to produce these events. He holds the meetings on slow nights for bars, such as Mondays or Tuesdays. Since he’s bring in crowds on these off nights, bars give over the space for free, sometimes even giving Jagger free drink tickets. He brings in speakers and the events are always educational for the realtors. While he’s just sponsoring the event, Jagger inevitably sells a few Ubertor web accounts to real estate brokers.

Company personality: Blogging – Jagger uses his company blogs to give his business and its corresponding website a personality.

Fill training classes: Twitter – When he’s looking for more people to join a meetup or a training class, a few tweets usually does the trick.

Promote events: Facebook – Want to know how much fun you missed at the last event? Jagger uploads photos from past meetups onto Facebook.

Video: YouTube and The Flip – For a little video promotion, a Flip camera and hosting on YouTube is all Jagger needs.

Track success: Google Analytics – Know how successful all your promotional efforts are.

Do you use any other Web 2.0 tools to run your business? Which ones do you use and how have you found it valuable to you in terms of productivity and cost savings?

BONUS: For all you entrepreneurs and people who work for yourself, here’s a video interview I did with my friend and Mac guru, Andy Ihnatko, about the benefits of working for yourself.


Check out more videos of me and Andy.David Spark, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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