INTUIT TO ACQUIRE DOCSTOC

by Rochelle on December 4, 2013

Intuit has entered into an agreement to purchase Docstoc, Inc., the premier online destination for content and resources to start and grow small businesses.

Docstoc, founded in 2007, has quickly become a go-to resource for new and emerging businesses and is a leading tech company in Southern California.  The company provides a broad array of user-generated and proprietary documents, articles and videos that help small businesses on topics including business plans, licensing, marketing, human resources, and financial management. In recent years, Docstoc has complemented its content offering with tools such as License123 (business licenses) and ExpertCircle (product recommendations).

As part of Intuit, Docstoc’s team of 50 employees will maintain operations in Santa Monica and will continue to be led by Docstoc’s CEO and co-founder, Jason Nazar.  Docstoc.com regularly attracts more than 16 million unique monthly visitors with over 40 million registered members worldwide.

The acquisition will help Intuit expand its offerings to solopreneurs, self-employed and independent contractors. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 22 million entrepreneurs looking for assistance to start and grow their businesses. Combining Intuit’s powerful brand, customer reach and small business savvy with Docstoc’s platform, broad content and popular tools will ultimately help more small businesses succeed.

“Our vision is to be the ultimate destination and resource site for small businesses.  We’re extremely excited to continue to pursue this shared vision with Intuit, a world leader of solutions for small businesses,” said Nazar. “Together we will have an unprecedented opportunity to help entrepreneurs make their businesses better.”

“As we strive to be the operating system behind small business success, we are looking for solutions and teams that best serve small businesses, and Docstoc stood out as a clear leader,” said Alex Chriss, a vice president and general manager within Intuit’s small business division. “Docstoc’s model of harnessing the contributions of the community, customer-centric mindset and fast-paced culture will flourish as part of Intuit.”

The transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of Intuit’s fiscal year 2014, which ends Jan. 31, and is subject to customary closing conditions. The purchase terms were undisclosed.

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Five Must-Try Ways to Boost Sales

by Rochelle on May 30, 2012

Increasing sales takes work. But there are some simple approaches to sales you may not have considered that can be highly effective. Here are five great way to easily boost business sales…

 

Create Special Offers for Past Users

If you haven’t (or have barely) harnessed the power of past customers, it’s time to dig more deeply into market.  This is your most profitable demographic, they have already been convinced of the worth of your product or service, and trust your brand. They are the most primed to spend money on it again. Reward past customers with special deals; maybe offer them an exclusive look at a new product before the public, and offer them  a special discount if they act before the release date. Treating past customers as “preferred customers” increases customer loyalty and satisfaction, and can lead to a surprising amount of sales.

 

Offer Another Payment Option

Many times the payment is what prevents a customer from completing an online sale. If you only accept credit cards, consider offering PayPal or Moneybookers  as other options, to ease the concerns of customers who fear entering credit card information on an unfamiliar website. Another easy change is to simply make payment easier, make as few steps as possible between clicking “Purchase This” and submitting payment information. You will be surprised how many people don’t follow through with purchases simply because they don’t feel like clicking through too many steps.

 

Good Email Newsletter Campaigns

Many businesses already implement email blasts, because successful and consistent newsletters have been proven to increase click-throughs and sales. But remember, if readers feel they’re being emailed a constant sales pitch (no matter how it’s phrased) they will not be interested in receiving your newsletters. The key to email newsletters today is providing value; meaningful insight, creative ideas, useful applications of your products or special deals. There are too many other newsletters and spam filters out there that will keep your newsletters from your customer’s eyes; you can’t afford to send anything but the most useful content.

 

Create an Attractive Custom Landing Page on Facebook

Almost all businesses are active in social media, but many don’t take full advantage of its opportunities for increasing conversions. Increasing Facebook likes do not equate to higher sales. Having an attractive page that engages customers, shares new products, offers special promotions… that can lead to sales. Facebook has the option to customize your page so that new visitors see a sleeker business page upon landing. Use this to display eye-catching graphics featuring your newest deals or products, and consistently include special offers Facebook users will return to see.

 

Take the Consultative Approach

If your business is more service-based, you may consider offering value without initially asking money. This has been deemed the “consultative” approach to sales, a drastic step away from the traditional hard-sell approach. People are much less responsive to direct approaches, and more open to trust and purchase from people who started out offering obligation-free advice. It also allows you to get to know the customer intimately, what they need and want, and how you can fit into that. This is more of an approach than a direct tactic, but consider doing more research on Consultative Sales if your business has slowed down… it’s a great way to build a base of extremely devoted customers.

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The Best Tools to Make a Website, Easily

by Rochelle on May 7, 2012

Every business and brand needs a website, that goes without question. But where to begin? The choices can be downright overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. Your best bet for your first website is to use an easy web building tool and either use a theme or (if you have the budget and the vision) hire a designer. Here are the best ways to go about it.

1. Get Started On Your Own

To start off, many people will suggest you use WordPress because it’s best-known option for simple, free, single-page websites. To upgrade from the basic WordPress themes, you can browse sites like elegantthemes, which offer affordable WordPress designs that can class up your webpage significantly. If WordPress isn’t for you, you can explore Tumblr or Blogger, which have a similar, one-page/tabbed layout to WordPress.

There are several other popular options for simple and customizable websites with their own perks; Yola offers over 100 templates that are easy to fill out, and also allows paid users to integrate PayPal, Google Maps, Flickr and other useful 3rd party services. Jimdo is another good option, although monthly subscribers unlock the best templates and tools, which very clearly guide you through how to build your own page (a good option if you want to diverge from the same ‘ol templates).

For a more edgy look, you can opt for services like Wix, which provide simple and easy Flash templates to create an attractive webpage for free (just remember that you may alienate some users who don’t have Adobe Flash).

For the more tech savvy of you, there are services like Google Sites, which is free but requires a decent knowledge of coding.

2. Hiring a Designer or Developer

If you really want to make sure your site is original, you can hire a designer/developer to create your website on Elance, which has hundreds of thousands of Web developers and graphic designers willing to work on one-off projects. The best way to do this quickly and on a budget, is to find a website that you like (the basic framework/elements of it), and have the developer build out from that basic structure. You can also get creative with a site like 99designs, where you can set up a contest for designers to compete to create the design of your website (and you can guide them along the way) and the winner is paid your “prize” money.

These options are best if you have a pretty clear idea of the style and layout you want for your website; if not, I’d highly suggest sticking to the themes and customizable pages offered by WordPress, Yola and the others above.

3. Resources for Quick Web Building

Video: Web Design for Your Small Business

Article: Website Templates vs. Custom Development

Video: Improve your SEO in 90 Seconds

Article: 5 Reasons WordPress is King

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interest has skyrocketed to one of the most used social media sites in the world, with an average of 1.63 million visitors a day and an extremely high retention rate (users spend an an average of 16 minutes browsing at a time, which is higher than Facebook and Twitter’s averages combined). Pinterest users also represent a seller’s paradise; almost 30% of members come from household incomes above $100,000 per year, and buyers that have been referred to a product through Pinterest at 10% more likely to buy products than when they arrive from other social networks, and will spend an average of 10% more.

Now before you pounce on the opportunity to push your business on Pinterest, understand this; unlike Facebook or Twitter, understand that Pinterest is a more specialized community than other social media sites, and requires a more thoughtful approach.

Firstly, you must embrace the demographic. As many of you probably already know, Pinterest users are mostly women (68.2%), to be precise, and there is a predominance of DIY crafts, home and garden, fashion, inspirational quotes, recipes and other topics of greater interest to women. That being said, there a lot of other more gender neutral themes that flourish, including technology and gadgets, music, travel nostalgia, art, architecture, workout apparel and more. Pinterest is about creating visual scrapbooks, sharing beautiful pictures or spreading ideas conveyed through images that move people.

That being said, certain businesses have flourished in the Pinterest community, such as Whole Foods, ModCloth, West Elm, and other companies that provide physical products that can be captured in an aesthetically appealing way. Have a look at their pages and see the categories and styles they go for; appealing, intimate and  colorful images, that will catch people’s eye and encourage repins. The “pinning” aspect of Pinterest is indisputably an incredible channel for viral marketing because an image can be repinned 100 times but clicking it will still take the viewer to the original source (the webpage the product or image is linked to). The key is to share things that actually have viral potential.

Remember that Pinterest does not look kindly on direct marketing and sales. Not only that, the Pinterest users won’t not have interest in repinning advertisements or product pushes. They are interested in beauty, ideas, whimsy and inspiration. You don’t need a pretty or girly product to share ideas on Pinterest, just be open-minded about how you engage users; develop creative pinboards that explore design ideas, color coordinated themes, gift ideas (some of which may be related to your product or service) etc. If you don’t sell a product, share images and stories of people your service has touched, or design ideas from your website. Just remember keep it personal .

The Pinterest market is especially favorable for smaller businesses, who can add a personal, local or crafty element to their pins that will be more likely to resonate with users. Building followers comes organically, from posting great images and engaging others in the community; follow people, repin and comment on their images. Create group pinboards to share ideas and images with other users who are interested in a similar field.

Just remember, Pinterest is a place for people to aggregate, scrapbook and share their hopes and dreams. In order to encourage users to respond to, click or repin your images, they will need to connect with them visually and personally.

 

Sources & More

Mashable: Very Pinteresting

Tamba: Interest in Pinterest

Docstoc: How to Boost Sales Using Pinterest

Docstoc Pinterest

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We’ve been in the process of overhauling our approach to social media so that it better connects our followers to a wider variety of useful topics, ideas and solutions of interest to business owners.

Every month we’ll be covering a relevant business theme, and breaking it down into weekly subtopics. Our goal is to find and share the best resources and start discussions with the entrepreneurial community, on topics such as Sales, Fundraising and Investing, Human Resources, Legal Tips for Small Business and more. This month’s topic is Marketing, and our current week’s subtopic is Social Media. Here’s our schedule:

 

 

May Theme: Marketing

 

Week 1: Social Media: Exploring the standard and cutting edge social networking sites, and how to leverage your likes and followers to boost your business

Week 2: Websites: Resources for building an attractive website and boosting SEO and traffic

Week 3: Online Marketing: The best approaches to email marketing, AdSense, blogging and more

Week 4: Advertising & PR: Methods for understanding you market and connecting with them through strong public relations and targeted ads

Week 5: Sales: Tips and guides from sales experts who’ve closed huge deals and mastered the art of persuasion

 

 

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Is a 40 hour work week always the most efficient? Is overtime a waste of money? This concern has endured in business circles since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and has been subject to hundreds of studies since. The topic recently stirred once again in the business blogosphere, in light of Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) proudly declaring that she defies startup norms and leaves work at 5:30pm.

Sandberg’s declaration was in reaction to the growing trend among companies, particularly small businesses and startups, of requiring a 50-60 hour work week in order to remain competitive. Due to the recession, many employees oblige to these demands out of fear of losing their jobs. But are both employers and workers suffering for this choice? Let’s pick apart the facts of productivity and longer work days, and outline when keeping employees later can help or hurt your business.

Pitfalls of a Longer Work Week

The reality is, the 40 hour work week was not popularized solely by pressure from labor unions who wanted to work less. In the 19th century, the 8 hour work day was implemented in a handful of factories across the UK and owners noticed that productivity and profit grew, while the number of serious accidents went down. This shift was a win-win for both business owners and workers.  Employees got their weekends to recharge, while businessmen maximized efficiency and saved money on compensation, human capital and (once disability compensation came into play) legal disputes.

A wealth of labor studies have supported the fact that workers experience a serious dip in efficiency after they complete 8 hours of work. In fact, knowledge workers, unlike physical laborers, only have a total equivalent of about 6 concentrated hours of productivity. So today, it’s widely accepted as scientific fact: employee output during overtime is often not worth the cost.

When Overtime Works

There is an exception to the 8 hour efficiency rule, so those who occasionally keep employees for pressing all-nighters can take heart. Research shows that your company can reap short term gains from a temporarily implementing 60 hour work week or all-nighters to complete a project. However, the benefits are only temporary, and have limitations many business owners forget.

The reality many managers overlook is that output will not increase in exact proportion to the amount of hours added. After the 8th hour, employee’s capacity to focus drops, and continues to dip for every hour you keep them. If you add 50 percent more hours to their week (so increase hours from 40 per week to 60) your employees will not get 50 percent more work done, they will most likely get closer to 25-30%.

More importantly, for every subsequent week that you have employees working 60 hours, productivity continues to drop until 8 weeks in, when their output is the same as if they’d maintained 40. Some owners have found that production is actually in the negative due to burnout. There is also an after-effect when you return to a 40 hour work week; once burnout occurs, many employees take a while to recover and reach their normal output speed.

Smart Solutions

Of course, if a project needs to be completed in a pinch, you often have no other choice. When there isn’t enough time to find and train a new hire, you might need your employees to pull a few all-nighters, and this move can be worth it when deadlines are tight. But if 60 hour work weeks are occurring consistently, you need to hire more people and divvy up the workload. Pushing your employees too long will lead to burnout in both your team and your wallet.

Another solution is to promote and prioritize excellent time management in your company, so your employees’ precious hours of concentration are not wasted by interruptions and distractions. There are several free time management tools outlined here, including Toggl, Evernote and RescueTime that can help employees better organize their schedules and improve efficiency. With the right tools and reasonable hours, your employees will want to put out their best work.

Here are some articles and resources for improving  and understanding productivity:

Time Management Tactics for Entrepreneurs

Why Workaholism is Counterproductive

Activity Resources Management Template

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Smart Finance: What to do with Your Refund

by Rochelle on March 30, 2012

Courtesy of kenteegardin via Flickr

Most Americans expect a refund each year, but many treat it like some sort of bonus. Remember, this is your money, and like all your other revenue you should invest in wisely. Here are some smart tips for those just receiving a refund, in a relative order of urgency:

 

  1. Reflect: If you received a massive refund, you’re most likely withholding too much. Take note to adjust your withholding allowances on your W-4 next year.
  2. Debt: If you have credit card or other high-interest debt, this should be the first thing you pay off. Mortgages, educational or lower interest debts come second. Paying down debt happens to be the most common use of tax refunds in the us (around 42% of Americans each year use their refund to pay off debt)
  3. Emergency: An emergency fund is the first and most important buffer to prevent financial debt, and you can use your refund to get started or add to it. Your goal should be to put away at least least half a year’s savings in an account with interest (a money market account, or online savings account).
  4. Need: Have you been meaning to get that car fixed, or those pipes replaced? Improvements in your home can be valuable, and preventative measures such as car repair can be a smart step in the long run.
  5. Education: You may choose to put money away for your children’s college experience in an educational savings fund, or possibly invest in continued education for yourself (a move with great potential ROI)
  6. Benevolence: If you don’t have any pressing financial needs, consider giving the money to charity. The benefits are plentiful: you can aid the community, improve your personal sense of fulfillment and claim the donation as a deduction.
  7. Want: If you have been good enough with your finances that you still have nothing left to spend at the end of this list, buy something you’ve been wanting: a summer vacation, a nice dinner, a wine-tasting trip… as long as it doesn’t exceed your refund, enjoy! You’ve been fiscally savvy, and you’ve earned it!

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Really, what is Cloud Computing?

Everyone talks about the “cloud,” but the exact definition of cloud computing still feels as nebulous as its namesake. The best way to think about it is simply using the a shared storage space to exchange information, collaborate, synch your data, or to access documents from a variety of mobile devices. It’s a universalized network, essentially the internet, that allows people to store and share data across the world.

How does it help Businesses?

Many businesses have or are in the process of transitioning their data from servers and local area networks (LAN) to the cloud. Hosting conducted a survey amongst business professionals and found that 45% viewed cloud computing as a top priority for their company, and 80% of leaders who hadn’t already shifted to the cloud were considering converting from traditional servers.

Why? Cloud computing can help you company save money and time, while increasing the convenience and security of your data access.

Many individuals within companies find cloud computing easier to use, and rely less on an IT department. Your employees can also access data from anywhere, not just an office computer network, which makes it easier for employers to hire independent contractors and save money on payroll taxes and other employee expenses.

Cloud computing can also save your company on the cost of email services, virus protection and webhosting, and lower power bills and computer repairs. You can also rest easy knowing that your data is safe in the case of power surges or damage to physical servers.

Want to know more? Here’s a new Docstoc video just released this week by Kim Kovacs, CEO of OptionEase, about why she recommends cloud computing:

 

Learn more about the pro’s and con’s of cloud computing with these useful articles:

http://premium.docstoc.com/article/89514149/Small-Businesses-Going-All-In-on-the-Cloud

http://premium.docstoc.com/article/89144498/Can-the-iCloud-Work-for-Small-Business

http://premium.docstoc.com/article/97270622/Cloud-Computing-Benefits-For-Small-Business

Some helpful premium and user documents on the cloud:

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/24724126/Cloud-Computing

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/8051340/Microsoft-and-Cloud-Computing

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/110249418/Practical-Guide-for-Cloud-Outsourcing-Guide-IT-and-Data-Management

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/44026531/Cloud-Computing

 

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License123: Customer Thoughts & Updates

by Rochelle on March 20, 2012

As was reported earlier in the blog, Docstoc recently launched License123, which won the award at the Launch conference for “Best Business Model.” Since then, it’s attracted people from across the country who are interested in starting a business, but are unsure what permits and licenses they’ll need. Even if you’re just researching an idea, License123 allows you to access a free list of required licenses and view a sample report before purchasing. Since its unveiling, it’s become a light in a fog for many aspiring entrepreneurs.

We’ve reached out to people who turned to License123 for assistance, and gotten feedback on their experience. Several customers were very enthusiastic about License123, and were interested in sharing how it helped them.

Amy Isenberg is 34 and lives in Los Angeles, and she used License123 to research her food truck concept. “I was considering a new small business, given the food truck craze and my love for a lean corned beef sandwich,” she explained. Amy was considering partnering with a local deli “to have a traditional Jewish-style deli truck that serves authentic foods (pastrami, corned beef, etc.)”

Amy started researching what she needed to license the truck, and License123 popped up in Google. Even though she was unsure whether or not she was going to pull the trigger on her business idea, Amy thought $9.95 was worth the information: “I thought a one-stop-shop visit would be more efficient and reliable than searching for individual permits on my own. Although they are available for free, it’s hard to know if I have the complete set or if I am missing any important permits. Missing just one may cost lots of money in the long run. I could easily justify the $10 for accurate, complete info.”

The key to License 123, Amy discovered, was its simplicity. As she explained, “what I like most about the License123 experience is that the full list of permits I need appears all on one page, and as you click through each one, a synopsis appears at the top of the page to explain WHY I need it, and in terms I can easily understand.  Each one made sense.”

Many thanks to Amy and other customers for their input so far. When it was unveiled in San Francisco License123 covered 50 major cities, and we’ve been working on adding 15 more cities as quickly as possible, including Boston, Las Vegas, Now Orleans, Kansas City, Atlanta, Detroit, Portland and more! If you would like us to add your city, shoot us a line at support@docstoc.com!

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iPhone Users Rejoice

by Rochelle on March 15, 2012

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All of Docstoc’s Free iPad Apps are now available via iPhone, and the collection is growing. There are currently 7 apps available in the iTunes store, but Docstoc is working on releasing over quadruple that amount before the summer. These apps focus on providing  resources for professionals in specific areas of interest, from job interviews to legal advice for your businesses. They combine video tutorials with pertinent guides and documents, which you can access on-the-go. We will maintain a running list of all newly released apps (with links) in this new apps page in the blog, so keep an eye out for new developments!

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Yesterday Docstoc was invited to present at Launch, a start-up conference founded by Jason Calcanis. We were proud to unveil our newest product, License123, which was lauded by panelists from Google, Microsoft and more. Judges awarded License123 with the Best Business Model award, and we’re excited to continue building it out to help business owners across the country.

Photo courtesy of Dan Doperalski

What is License 123?

License123 is a research service that helps businesses find the permits and licenses they need in order to be compliant with their local, state and federal government. If you who want to start a restaurant, school, auto repair, bar, consulting office, retail or other business, you face the nightmare of figuring out what permits you need, how much it will cost, and where to file them. License 123 puts all this information in one place; we help you identify your required (and optional) licenses, evaluate the estimated application and license fees and provide you with a report covering all the information you need to complete and file these applications.

As of today License123 covers 50 major cities and counties, and we plan to expand our scope to every city we’re needed. Click the picture below to check it out!

 

 

Read more about License 123 from the press coverage around the web:

TechCrunch

Forbes

GigaOm

VentureBeat

InsideStartups

 

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Docstoc Chosen for Windows 8 Launch

by Rochelle on March 2, 2012

Courtesy of microsoft.com

The people over at Microsoft have been hard at work re-imagining Windows from the inside out, and on Wednesday February 29th released a consumer preview of the incredibly touch-centric Windows 8. The tile-based design is a complete shift from Windows 7, and is formatted to work on phones, tablets and computers alike. Each tile represents an app, which breaks down visually everything a person wants to see: unread mail, pictures, weather, music, games, maps and any other information they choose to have at their fingertips.

Docstoc was honored to be chosen by Microsoft Windows to create one of their first apps for Windows 8, which will be released in the app store along with the full release of Windows 8. Keep an eye out for the announcement on the Windows blog, and be prepared for something incredible!

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Docstoc Videos

by Rochelle on February 8, 2012

You’ve seen several docstoc videos interspersed throughout the blog, but I wanted to take a moment to feature some of our most popular and valuable clips. New videos are shot, edited and produced in-house every week in our offices, and they feature CEOs, investors, developers, VPs, lawyers and other professionals.

Here are our top viewed videos; they’re only a few minutes long but all three come from people with years of experience in their field.

 

 

 

 

For more insider tips, keep and eye on the docstoc video page for new videos weekly!

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Friday DocDeals: Our Most Popular Doc

by Rochelle on February 3, 2012

For this Friday’s docDeal we’re offering the MOST DOWNLOADED document of all time, our Non-Disclosure Agreement for 88% off.

This NDA, normally sold for $39.95, will be available for $5 through the weekend. Don’t miss out!

An NDA is an agreement between parties seeking to share confidential information while  preventing it from being accessed by a third party.  In other words, if you’re planning on sharing an idea or private information with someone, it’s a good idea to have them sign this. It’s attorney drafted and approved, with easy indicators for where to fill in your own information.

As always, feel free to drop us a comment or a tweet letting us know what docDeal you’d like to see next week!

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2 New Apps Released: Copyright and SEO

by Rochelle on February 1, 2012

We’ve been hard at work developing a variety of iPad apps that bring together the highest quality content and the topics small business owners care about. We’ve hand-picked the most popular documents and videos for our apps, and two new ones are now available for FREE in the Apple store!

Legal and Copyright Small Business Toolkit

 


 

Let us help you tackle the legal issues that every new company  faces when starting out: intellectual property, contracts, deciding how to register your business and more!

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Adwords and SEO Secrets

 

 

Website traffic is absolutely essential for growing your business, and we’ve got the tips from SEO and Adwords pros to help you increase hits in no time.

 

 

 

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