How To Sync Google Calendars Between Domain and Non-Domain Users (iOS and Web)

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Calendar & Scheduling, Google, Workflow

Sharing calendars can be tricky business; either your team uses a shared CMS calendar (e.g. Basecamp, Salesforce, etc.) and receives notifications via email, or each member of the team maintains his/her own calendar by manually updating each event.

By using Google Calendar (and a few tricks) though, you can have an instantly accessible and real-time calendar that doesn’t require an extra log-in.

To start, determine who will need to access the calendar both now and in the future. As we discovered recently, there is no way to make a calendar readable and writable to someone outside of a specific domain. In other words, if john@example.com wants to share a calendar with john@gmail.com, he can, but john@gmail won’t be able to make any changes or even view event details.

Thus, if you’re planning on collaborating with people outside of a single domain, make sure that the creator of the calendar is not part of a domain. Using our example, we want john@gmail.com to create the calendar and then share it with john@example.com and others.

iOS Integration

If you’re an iOS user, there are just a few extra steps you’ll have to take to integrate your new team calendar with your proprietary Calendar app.

First, make sure that you’ve set up the Gmail account that the calendar is being shared with as an Exchange account. Our post about scanning business cards with your iPhone includes a photo tutorial in case you’re wondering how it’s done.

Next, using Safari navigate to http://m.google.com/sync and log into your Gmail account. You will then be prompted with a list of devices so choose the iOS device you’d like to sync. Then, under My Calendars select check box for the shared calendar you’d like to add.

Finally, open your Calendar app and press the ‘Calendars’ button in the top-left. Scroll down to the Exchange section and select the shared calendar that you chose to sync in the last step. That’s it, your shared team calendar events will now appear in your iOS calendar!

Every Contact, Everywhere (Using Smartr Inbox)

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Customer Management, Google, Productivity, Workflow

I had heard about Xobni (“inbox” backwards, in case you were wondering about the name) through Twitter, and while such advice should be taken with a grain of salt, it’s not often that people enjoy a company’s product so much that they state it publicly. The task is simple, yet I had never before found an adequate solution: to keep all of one’s contacts from various email addresses and social media outlets in one easily accessible, cross-platform repository.

Cue Smartr Inbox, Xobni’s response to years of customer service requests and forum posts asking, “How do I sync X with Y and Z?” To start, there are a few things you should know:

1. For an email address’ contacts to be added, it must be accessible by Gmail. This means that the account must either be a Gmail account to begin with, or that you will need to set up Google Apps if it’s a domain address (e.g. john@doe.com).

2. Smartr is not meant to push contacts from one email account to another. Rather, as I’ll demonstrate, Smartr acts as a unique database for all contacts being collected from your multiple accounts.

3. You won’t have to go to Xobni’s website to check your email and have your aggregated contacts available. There is a Smartr extension/add-on for Chrome, Firefox, and any other browser you might use that will display a contacts list inside your Gmail.

Now let’s make it happen.

Step One: Go to Xobni.com and create an account (it’s free) using a Gmail address.

Step Two: Go to http://www.xobni.com/download/gmail to download the extension for your browser (the site will detect which one you’re using automatically).

Step Three: Login to your Gmail account and make sure that the Smartr window is appearing on the right side of your inbox. If not, try refreshing the page and/or restarting the browser.

Step Four: To add additional email and social networking accounts, scroll to the bottom of the Smartr window within Gmail and select ‘Add/Edit Accounts’

NOTE: From this page (https://www.xobni.com/account/xobni_cloud) you will be able to add social media accounts by entering your login information, however to add additional Gmail accounts you will have to log out of your current session and then log back in using the desired account. To reiterate, once you’ve got the Smartr extension installed on your browser, you should log into each Gmail account you want to add, then select ‘Add/Edit Accounts’ and then ‘Add a Gmail account’ on the Xobni Cloud page.

Step Five (optional iPhone integration): To utilize Smartr on your iPhone, download the Smartr Contacts app (free). The app will not only allow access to your aggregate contact list, but you can call, email, or SMS directly from the app making it essentially an upgraded version of the standard iPhone Address Book.

NOTE: To add your iPhone contacts to the Smartr database, select the gear icon in the top left of the app’s front page. Scroll down until you see ‘Push Contacts to Cloud’ and select it. Allow a few minutes for the database to update and your iPhone contacts will now appear within Smartr! Also check out our post about how to scan business cards with your iPhone.

How to Scan Business Cards and Set Google Calendar Follow-up Reminders (iPhone)

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Calendar & Scheduling, Google, Productivity, Workflow

By using the ScanBizCards Lite (read: free) app available for iPhone and Android, you can easily set up automatic reminders so you never forget to follow up on newly made connections. Here we’ll present a full walkthrough for the iPhone though the same app is available for Android and thus this process can probably be completed in a very similar fashion on any Android device.

1. Adding your Gmail account as an Exchange account
(note: also see this Google tutorial for more info)

To accomplish this you’ll want to navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Add Account… > Exchange


Once you’re prompted to enter your account information, put your full Gmail address as both Email and Username e.g. info@financealpha.com as well your password in the password field

Next you’ll be prompted to input a server, here you’ll want to enter m.google.com


Don’t worry about the Domain field, you can leave that empty

2. Configuring your Gmail Exchange account for calendar sync

Once your Gmail account has been successfully added as an Exchange account, navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Fetch New Data > Advanced > Exchange (or whatever name you have for the account) > select ‘Push

Next, navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Default Calendar and change your default calendar to your Gmail Exchange account e.g. info@financealpha.com


3. Download the ScanBizCards Lite app (free) 

An app store search for ‘ScanBizCards’ will easily find the app, available for both iPhone and Android


4. Scan a business card using the ScanBizCards app

Open the app and select ‘Camera’ to scan using the iPhone’s built-in camera. Try to center the image and make sure that there are no shadows across the face of the business card if possible.

Once the scan is complete, you will have the option to manually fix any mistakes that the scanner might have made. Once all mistakes have been corrected, select ‘Add to Address Book’ then ‘Done’.

You will then be prompted with a number of options, select ‘Add Follow-Up Reminder’. Here you can set when and how you would like to be reminded to follow up with your new contact. When you have finished setting your reminder, select ‘Done’.

5. Calendar sync complete!

Your follow-up event will now be visible on both your iOS calendar and Gmail calendar (remember: only the calendar set as default will display the event). Changes made within either calendar will now be reflected in the other.

Can You Make Money On The Internet? Slicing The Internet Money Pie Part 1

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Advertising, Blog, Google, Sales & Marketing

This is the first in a series of posts about making money online in which we will discuss the major online industries and their leaders. In our next post, we will provide examples of niche sites that have had success selling online and outline their business models. 

I received a question from a professional acquaintance of mine about the best way to help a professional service client add the internet as a channel for delivering service.

My first instinct was to answer that there is A LOT OF FREE information online. Unless you are offering something that can not be found for free your chances of selling your product are bleak. As a small business or individual, potentially developing and offering some digital products, it can be difficult to both compete with the wealth of information and learning material freely available online and distinguish yourself and your product from the competition.

So the real question is: what market are you competing in? E-commerce, advertising, Software as Service, digital goods?

In 2010, Americans spent $165.4 billion online.  Perhaps the first monolithic online industry that comes to mind is eCommerce — selling both physical and digital goods online. While giants like Amazon.com (with its online properties at Diapers.com and Zappos.com and many, many affiliates) and  eBay certainly dominate the lion’s share of the market, smaller sites have been able to benefit from the industry’s long tail. Sites like Etsy offer handmade and unique items while specialty sites like Cabela’s cater to interest-specific shoppers.

The second major industry of the digital world is advertising ~ $26 billion in 2010.  Making money by selling advertising online requires significant traffic and, often, a niche site for advertiser to be willing to spend their advertising budgets on your site or blog. Google is the dominant advertising force, offering targeted ads based on search results and collecting the advertising budgets of so many small businesses through AdSense. Facebook is a prime example with > 750 million users and a high number of page views such that their low click-through rate  doesn’t adversely affect ad sales. Per Mashable, in 2010, Facebook  had 0.051%, or about one click-through (CTR) for every 2,000 ad impressions with the industry standard CTR is 0.1 percent, or one click-through for every 1,000 impressions. As with eCommerce, niche interest-oriented sites can also generate significant advertising revenue fron banner advertising by offering information and a point of view not available elsewhere. Examples of sites of this type are TechCrunch.com (a tech blog), TeamLiquid.net (a popular gaming community site), and GorillavsBear.net (a music blog).

There is the increasingly successful SaaS (Software as a Service) industry ~ $12 billion in 2010. SaaS is attractive because it makes itself available “on-demand” and exists completely within the confines of the internet which means customers are not required to have hard disk space, CD-ROMs, or a personal computer, just a credit card or a few :). Furthermore, as a relatively new industry North American SaaS revenue is predicted to experience an 18.7% increase between 2010 and 2011 alone.

Finally, the digital goods market (the goods that do not exist in real life) has been growing.  In the US, it is expected to reach $2.1 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 2010.  This includes offerings from the social gaming companies like Zynga.com

Jumping into ponds with such big fish (Amazon, Google, Facebook) shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to your internet sales venture, but in our next post we will outline how individuals and small businesses have had success selling online by targeting smaller niche markets.

Image credit: http://www.getelastic.com/profiting-from-the-digital-goods-boom/

Integrate & Automate Social Sharing: WordPress to Twitter to Facebook

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Google, Productivity, Sales & Marketing, Thumbs up, WordPress, Workflow


This post will outline how to integrate your Twitter account to automatically update your business’ Facebook page and for WordPress users, how to integrate Twitter with your Dashboard to directly share your latest blog posts.

The first step is to create Twitter and Facebook accounts for your business. Business pages on Facebook are treated differenly from personal profiles so you’ll want to head over to facebook.com/pages to create yours. It’s advisable to sign up for both accounts with the same email address since they’ll be linked later on anyway.

Once you’ve got both accounts set up you’ll want to navigate to apps.facebook.com/twitter to allow your tweets to be shared as posts on your company’s wall. To accomplish this, hashtag #fb at the end of each tweet that you want to appear on the wall.

During the setup you should be led to your Twitter settings page (twitter.com/settings/profile) but in case you aren’t, you’ll want to scroll down to the Facebook settings and check the box that says ‘Allow Twitter to post to the wall of: my Facebook page: [Page Name]‘.

That takes care of sending your tweets to Facebook, but for WordPress users there’s a plugin that will allow you to tweet from within the dashboard, eliminating one more step and saving you a few clicks in the process.

Begin by downloading the Twitter Tools plugin and installing it. You’ll then have to register your site as an application on Twitter’s app registration page  which is as easy as copy-pasting a few serial keys. Once your WordPress and Twitter accounts are connected you’ll see that Twitter Tools offers a large number of configuation options under Settings in the Dashboard. I prefer the more ‘manual’ application of its functionality, however, so that’s what I’ll cover here.

Simply click ‘Tweet’ under Posts and you’ll be brought to a simple tweet platform within the dashboard. Here’s what I recommend from there:

1. Open your newly published article in a new tab and use the goo.gl URL shortener (or another if not using Chrome) to create a shortened version of your article’s URL.

2. Back on the tweet page, write the title of your article followed by the goo.gl URL and then the hashtag #fb (remember how we set up automatic integration earlier?)

Now you can easily share your posts via Twitter and Facebook without ever having to leave the WordPress backend UI. If you have a different setup that works for you let us know in the comments, convenience is king!

Google Apps: a Toolkit for Startups and Small Businesses

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Google, Productivity, Project Management, Thumbs up, Workflow

This is the first in a series of posts about Google Apps. We will be covering the most useful third party apps for operations management as well as cool ways to use Google Apps to facilitate collaboration and smooth operations flow. Stay tuned!

A recent post on Google’s Blog showed that 97% of Business Insider’s 20 Silicon Valley Startups to Watch from the last two years were running on Google Apps. As the post’s author Rich Rao notes, Silicon Valley isn’t the only place for tech startups but it does highlight the salient point: Google Apps allows you to “focus on your business, not on your IT.” Likewise Martin Melin found that after analyzing MX entries for 204 Y Combinator startups that 142 (almost 70%) are using Gmail and as he observes, “This does not consider the possibility of some startups using another MX that is forwarding into Google Apps, so the actual percentage could very well be higher than 70%.”

So why Google Apps? Beyond the fact that you can have fully integrated domain email for free up to ten people without the headache of managing your own email server and with Postini taking care of SPAM, the default features available in Google Apps have expanded since its inception. In addition to Gmail, Calendar, web based word processing, spreadsheets, and slide presentations, Google Documents now offers Drawing (a free-form image manipulation tool), Forms (a template builder for customer feedback), and sidebar comment trails in the event that want to leave a note outside of a document itself. The real value of these tools is not their functions, however, but the fact that they foster collaboration.

With your team:
Let’s say you’re working with your team on a new product or process. The ability to communicate and collaborate in real time using the Gmail chat function along with Drawing for visuals and a text document with a comment trail allows you to share ideas, visualize them, and solidify present and future goals all without time spent moving files back and forth. There is even a revision history function that will show you who has made changes, when, and allows you to restore any deleted items.

Gmail Chat

 

Google Drawing with Revision History

 

Google Document with Comments

With clients:
Similarly, if your clients are using Google Apps you can bring them in on the conversation rather than working to provide a model, getting their opinion, and going back to the drawing board. Not only will your client get the feeling of personal service, but will likely be able to provide a clear description of what they want in a shorter amount of time. Best of all, when the project is complete you can simply ‘un-share’ any documents your client may have had access to and privacy is restored.

What’s on your keychain? Integrated Google Apps That Make Life Easy

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Accounting, Admin Tools, Blog, Customer Management, Document Management, Finance, Google, Productivity, Project Management, Workflow

This is the second in series of posts about Google Apps, to learn more about Google Apps for Business see our first post

The number of apps integrated with Google Apps has exploded recently and many are available for free or for a nominal fee (especially if you’re a small business using them among your team members).  At Finance Alpha our goal has been to find the best tools for intuitive and flexible collaboration, which has meant testing tools with a wide variety of intended uses and keeping an eye out for those that operate well in tandem across all members of a team.

These are the tools we have picked so far:

  Insightly: We ran across Insightly (insight.ly) while looking for an intuitive task manager integrated with Google Apps. Google’s own Tasks function has the advantage of being a proprietary and thus extremely integrated product, however we found that there wasn’t enough room for description within the tasks themselves and that tasks could not be easily shared or delegated. In the case of an ongoing task, Insightly allows you to add progress updates, assign a number of statuses (Not Started, Waiting, In Progress, Deferred, Completed), assign tasks to other team members with email notification, and can even act as a CRM. Integration with Google means that you can save an email transaction with a click of a button from Gmail into Insightly and the person’s contact information will automatically be saved in addition to the email exchange itself. Insightly is free up to 3 users and has plans starting at $29/month for more.

MindMeister: Ever heard of or used mind mapping? MindMeister is intended to allow you visualize one aspect of your life / project and its constituent parts. As an example, the standard Personal Tasks template shows how it might be helpful to conceptualize how your Home, Work, Car, Shopping, and Other personal tasks are related. Furthermore, individual nodes and tasks can be prioritized, tagged, flagged, highlighted, and even set up for email notification. Not only is MindMeister affordable ($9.99 per month for unlimited maps and users) but can easily be used for other purposes like project management and flowcharts. It is worth mentioning that like most great services, MindMeister is immediately comprehensible: whatever you think that button does, it does. We wrote earlier that we chose MindMeister over other flow chart tools.

Expensify: Expensify is already a brilliant tool for expense tracking that includes the ability to import credit card and bank records, create expense reports, upload receipts, and even integrate with Quickbooks. The service as a Google App (free for 2 users, $5 per user after that) seems little more than a convenient link from your Google account but nonetheless it saves you the extra login and makes Expensify more accessible if you want to use it from a mobile device.

GetHarvest: Harvest is powerful because it does one thing extremely well: time tracking. For employees Harvest presents a minimal, intuitive interface to quickly categorize and track time. On the accounting side, Harvest makes invoicing and report generation both instant and elegantly presented. A full business account (including unlimited users) is going to cost you $90 a month but if you’ve got a large team working on a variety of tasks, it simply can’t get any simpler.

Shoeboxed: Not unlike Expensify, the Google Apps extension of Shoeboxed is little more than the ability to log in from your Google account however this shouldn’t discount what a valuable tool it can be for your team. Shoeboxed allows you to send physical receipts, upload photos of receipts, and basically transmit any other record of a transaction to them for processing. In return you’ll have access to a clean record of your transactions perfect for substantiation in the case of an audit. Also, if you don’t import transactions from your bank into Quickbooks (or any other accounting software), Shoeboxed can help you there too. They offer prepaid envelopes in addition to receiving standard mail with just a little extra effort (you have to provide your email address on the outside and inside of the envelope). They’ll even dispose of your receipts safely or send them back to you if you’d rather hold on to the physical copies. The $300 annual price tag might seem high at first (includes 150 docs/month and 500 uploads) but the peace of mind it brings means never having to worry about providing a record of your transactions. Besides, who wants to sort receipts when you can mail them off in a crumpled ball?

Check out our example workflow of this process in flowchart form here

What third party apps integrated with Google Apps do you find most useful in your work flow? Let us know in the comments!

Thinking Outside the Box.net

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Google, Productivity, Project Management, Workflow

If nothing else the development team at Box.net is ambitious. Imagine taking the best parts of Google Docs, Adobe Reader, Dropbox, and your calendar and trying to merge them into a navigable, convenient interface. It’s a wonder the Swiss Army didn’t have a role in the project. Much like Google Docs, Box allows you to import, export, share, tag, and add tasks to documents among a number of other functions. Non-Google Docs files (Microsoft Office, text files) can be uploaded and then viewed in high resolution for better printing (à la Adobe Reader) which may be a response to the formatting issues that sometimes occur when copy pasting a Microsoft Office document into Google Docs.

Despite the appeal of Box’s all-in-one capability, however, the $15 per user per month cost (the highest among cloud content management / online storage services) seems a little pricey considering that you can achieve nearly the same functionality with other free or less expensive services. Online documents at Google Docs combined with file sharing at Dropbox can all be managed nearly as easily and for free for up to 10 people and $2GB per person.

Another important functionality missing from Box.net is real time collaboration — editors of the same document can not edit and comment on-the-go, and you can’t see the changes made in the document by peer editors — a function that works beautifully in Google Docs. Perhaps Box.net does have a place among large companies where a single interface is preferable to a number of smaller tools but for the small business Box seems overpriced and underpowered.

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