How Visuals Can Immediately Improve Your Small Business

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Steve Jobs

Photo courtesy of ZDNet

Let’s play a game. I’m going to describe a painting, using only words, and you have to try and guess it as quickly as possible. Don’t worry, you shouldn’t have to be an art history major to figure this one out.

Okay, here we go:

Night has fallen across a sleepy rural town tucked in the foothills of a small mountain range. In the center, a church steeple reaches to heaven like the countless prayers echoed behind its walls. Above, a tapestry of blues and purples swirl across the canvas, crashing like waves on a shore — a blanket of tranquility protecting the townspeople below.

Any guesses? Don’t worry, I’ll keep going.

It’s nighttime, but the sky is not dark. No, it is a flare with 11 golden stars and a waning crescent moon, each enveloped in an eternal glow like candles at an all-night vigil. 

I hope by now, most of us know the painting I’m talking about. It’s Vincent van Gogh’s, “The Starry Night,” one of the most famous works of art in history.

Almost everyone has seen a picture of this painting at least once in his or her life. It’s absolutely breathtaking — a masterpiece. But something gets lost when you read about it instead of seeing it. No matter how eloquently one may describe a painting or sculpture, nothing quite compares to seeing the brushstrokes and emotion with your own eyes. (Seriously, read the description again, then look at the painting here. It’s no contest).

Keeping this in mind, why should your business or sales presentation be any different? Visuals are just as important when talking with an audience or to a client as they are anywhere else. You need more than words.

Making the Most of Visuals for Your Business

Statistics show that 65 percent of humans are visual learners and that the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Therefore, if you’re giving a presentation without some type of visual, you’re ignoring a majority of your audience before you even begin.

So let’s look at a few ways you can start using images and visuals for your business’ website or during your sales presentations to further engage your audience and hopefully attract more clients:

1. Product Videos for Your Website

Videos are one of the most effective ways to present information about your company or product without a large financial investment. Consider making some short videos to help explain your products to potential customers, especially if your product works well with a visual demonstration. A simple video can go a long way in not only improving your image as a “current” company, but it also keeps website visitors engaged longer than other media.

2. Effective Slide Shows during Presentations

The days of boring slide presentations are over. New technology lets you create visually enticing and interactive presentations to keep your audience engaged throughout your presentation, so don’t be afraid to flex your creative muscles. These aren’t your normal slide shows. Think of the late Steve Jobs when announcing a new Apple product. More images, more movement and less bullet points. Draw your audience in and keep them there. If you are describing features or an update on a new product, show the audience what it does, don’t tell them.

3. Communicate A Lot of Information without Saying Much

In today’s world, you don’t have long to get your point across. Just look at popular new mobile applications like Vine or Snapchat. Users have six seconds of video or a pictures that disappears after five seconds to get their point across. If you want to communicate a large amount of information with someone, you need visual representations – infographics, charts, etc. Anything that can convey 15 minutes worth of information into about 15 seconds. Otherwise, your audience is moving on.

I realize the irony in presenting the above information without many visuals. Believe me, I wish words could come across as beautifully as the effervescent glow surrounding the stars and moon of Van Gogh’s painting. There is a place for written content and oral presentations, but if you can start thinking of your marketing in terms of visual representations, you will immediately improve its effectiveness.

Introducing Zoho Vault, Online Password Manager for Teams

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While the excitement over the announcement of Zoho Pulse, the social network for businesses is fresh in the air, here comes yet another announcement. We are glad to introduce Zoho Vault, an easy-to-use online password manager for teams and businesses.

Same password everywhere is a potential security threat

With a variety of online applications occupying every aspect of our lives, we cannot get rid of passwords. Human memory has its obvious limitations and it is a tough task to remember even a handful of passwords. This naturally forces us to coin an easy-to-remember password and use the same everywhere  - social media, banking, brokerage and other business accounts. Password reuse is a potential security threat. If the password gets exposed in one of the sites, in all probability, hackers would be able to easily gain access to all your other accounts too. Here comes the big question: How do we use unique, strong passwords without worrying about remembering them?

Your former colleague could still have access to your accounts

The case with business establishments are still more complex. With the proliferation of password protected online accounts and IT assets, businesses are drowning in a pile of passwords. The sensitive business passwords are mostly stored in volatile sources like Excel spreadsheets, printouts and text documents; insecurely shared among work groups without relevant protection; passwords are reused across sites and applications and still worse, weak and easy-to-remember passwords are often assigned. There is absolutely no trace on ‘who’ is accessing ‘what’ and a former employee could still be accessing your accounts. Obviously, this haphazard style of password management leaves the organizations open to security attacks and identity thefts.

Zoho Vault solves your password problems

Zoho Vault helps you securely store all your passwords, online credentials, financial records and other sensitive information in a centralized repository, generate strong, unique passwords, organize them for easy access and management and also safely share them among work groups. It solves all the problems related to storing, sharing and managing the passwords.

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The market is flooded with password managers – personal password managers on the one end and enterprise solutions on the other end of the spectrum. While the personal password managers fail to cater to the specific needs of businesses, the enterprise solutions prove to be too complex and expensive. Zoho Vault bridges this crucial gap by offering a feature-rich, easy-to-use, highly secure and affordable online password management solution, which can be put to production within a few minutes.

Highlights of Zoho Vault

Safe, secure and offers complete data privacy

Passwords are encrypted with the strongest known encryption standard AES-256. The encryption key is entered by the user and it is not stored anywhere. Server holds only encrypted data and the encryption key never leaves your browser. Thus, the passwords remain completely private and only you can decrypt and view the data, not anyone else, including Zoho employees.

Secure sharing among work groups

Provision to securely share passwords among the trusted members of the organization with different access privileges. The sharing process has also been designed to follow the highest levels of information security and privacy standards. Sharing can be enabled or revoked real-time just by a single click.

Direct login to websites & applications

Once you deploy Zoho Vault, you will never be required to type or copy-paste passwords to login to websites or applications. You can launch direct connection to all websites and applications from Zoho Vault GUI, without even viewing the password.

Appealing to businesses of all types, sizes

Zoho Vault has been designed keeping in mind the requirements of businesses of all sizes and types, including SMBs, Enterprises, MSPs, Online Marketing Firms, Web Professionals, and IT teams that are struggling with shared passwords.

Tools & Utilities

  • Grouping of passwords and secrets for better access and management
  • Clear-cut ownership for all passwords; Provision to transfer ownership when someone leaves the organization
  • Provision to enforce password policies
  • Import and export passwords and secrets
  • Secure offline access mechanism for passwords and secrets
  • Comprehensive audit trails for all user actions
  • Two factor authentication for increased security
  • iPhone app for access to passwords while on the go

Absolutely FREE for personal use and affordable for businesses

Zoho Vault is available in two editions – personal and enterprise. The Personal Edition is completely free and allows having one user. The Enterprise Edition is priced at $1/user/month. Refer to the Zoho Vault pricing page to know more about the editions.

Sign up for a 15-day free trial, credit card not required

You can sign up for a fully functional 15-day trial without taking out your credit card. The trial version allows you to test with five users. Try Zoho Vault now!

Announcing Zoho Pulse –– A Private Social Network for your business

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Today is a special day for us at Zoho. We’re excited to unveil our new robust addition to the range of products at Zoho. Introducing Zoho Pulse –– a private social network for businesses.

Zoho Pulse is a secure workspace that enhances internal collaboration and communication among employees. It is a place on the cloud, that can serve as a virtual water-cooler and keep employees informed about company-related activities. It boosts productivity of employees, by giving them a podium to get their grey cells working on solutions that can bring mind-blowing outputs. Zoho Pulse is a great platform for employees to foster focused groups and share ideas, and thereby companies can promote inventiveness through engagement.

Pulse can change the way you work. Read more

Turn Your Meetings Around: 6 Tips from Our Users

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Let’s face it – no one wakes up in the morning itching to go to their meetings for the day. There’s a reason why many people can relate to the dread of the infamous meeting and it’s this – they often don’t work. Meetings have good intentions, but the manner in which they are held often results in the loss of productivity.

Ready to turn your meetings around? On our Facebook page, we asked users to complete this sentence: “Meetings are productive when ____”. We received some interesting responses and noticed a few trends. Here are 6 tips small business owners gave to help you make meetings worthwhile:

Make Meetings Work

  1. Allow Voices to Be Heard. No one wants to go to a meeting where they are unable to give their knowledgeable two cents. Creating an open atmosphere where people can be heard can make a meeting more enjoyable and give way to creative problem solving.
  2. Make Action Items. When people leave a meeting feeling lost and wondering what the purpose was, it’s often because the meeting did not reach a clear decision. A meeting shouldn’t start and end with planning to make plans. Instead, it should answer the ‘what’, ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the meeting. When this happens, participants will leave knowing what has been decided and what next steps to take to achieve the goal of the meeting.
  3. Don’t Bring Distractions to the Table. It pays to leave behind mobile devices and put up with a few minutes of separation anxiety when attending a meeting. When distractions are left behind, participants are more focused and can help a meeting be more productive and stay on track.
  4. Have the Right People There. Keep the number of people in a meeting small. This will help avoid situations where participants who are not crucial to the core of the meeting are left asking why they are there in the first place. Make sure a meeting only consists of key players of your meeting’s agenda.
  5. Use Tools to Be Efficient. There’s a fine line between bringing in distractions and bringing in tools that will be useful during the meeting. Choose wisely! If you’re unsure, ask yourself 3 things:
    • Will it help me contribute to the meeting?
    • Will it be a necessity to the meeting’s success?
    • Will it help me get the most out of the meeting?
  6. Less is More. If a large number of meetings are scheduled and cover the same agenda, it may be an indicator that the meetings aren’t staying on track. If you have successful meetings to begin with, you won’t need to have many meetings. Make sure meetings stay focused and on point.

What are your thoughts on these six tips? Do you have your own that you didn’t see on the list? Feel free to share your advice on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

Managing your email attachments got better with Dropbox integration in Zoho Mail

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dropbox-zmail-integration-nsWe are glad to announce that we have integrated Dropbox – one of most popular file storage and sharing services out there – into Zoho Mail. You can now add and attach files directly to and from Dropbox while going through your email routine in just a few clicks.

Dropbox lets you conveniently access all your favorite documents, pictures and videos, stored at a central space online, from anywhere. It can also keep your files in sync across devices you have it installed, by storing a copy locally and comes with neat file sharing options.

Well, but what if you find yourself scripting an urgent email on say a public computer without Dropbox installed and would like to fetch some files you recently stored there? You could log into Dropbox in a new tab, download the necessary files locally before attaching them or else use the Dropbox sharing features and then get back to your email. Slightly nagging this, isn’t it?

To make things easier in such situations, we have brought the convenience of Dropbox into Zoho Mail by enabling you to:

Attach files directly from Dropbox
Fire up the new Dropbox action in message compose view to browse through the files in your Dropbox account and select to directly attach them to your message (your Zoho Mail plan’s attachment limits apply).

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Store email attachments directly in Dropbox
Use the new Add to Dropbox option provided when you have messages with attachments to directly store them in your Dropbox account.

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Getting the hang of how this simple yet effective integration works is pretty straight forward. For stepwise instructions, check our help pages on attaching files from Dropbox and uploading attachments to Dropbox.

We thank the Dropbox team for their help and assistance during the development of this integration.

So Zoho Mail now provides the most number of options to manage your attachments – Zoho Docs, our own file storage application, Google Drive and the latest, Dropbox.

We hope this integration is a useful addition to manage your email attachments. As always, your feedback, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Countdown to Zoholics

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We are just a few days away from Zoholics and we are looking forward to inviting you to the event. We have around 50 sessions lined up for you along with keynotes from Sridhar Vembu, Ray Wang and Chris Silva.

If you haven’t installed the Zoholics mobile app, I recommend doing so. It is available on iPhoneiPad and Android. Presentations for the sessions will be available through our iPhone and iPad apps.

For those of you attending the CRM Training Track, we will be providing CRM training material to complement the sessions. I recommend bringing in your laptops to follow along the speakers.

We will have good number of Zoho employees at the event eager to talk to you and help you. Please take advantage of this opportunity to meet the people behind the products. Also, please do join us at the reception at the end of Day 2.

We also have great set of announcements at the event. We can’t wait to show you. See you in San Francisco next week.

gUnify and Zoho CRM – Automatically Log VOIP Phone Calls from Google Apps to CRM

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This is a guest post by Harprit Bhui, coFounder of gUnifya cloud-based Unified Communication System connecting Zoho, Google Apps, and Broadsoft Hosted VOIP.

gUnify is specifically designed and built from the ground up for businesses running Google Apps. It is compatible with hosted PBX systems running on Broadsoft and Zoho CRM. gUnify seamlessly integrates Google Apps, phone systems, and Zoho CRM to enable automatic call tracking and logging directly from Gmail.

As an organization, communication is the key to your success. And not being able to capture the details of your sales and support team’s phone calls in real-time can result in loss of sales, lack in customer service and lost billable time.

gUnify improves your sales and support team’s productivity by tracking individual telephone performance. This is achieved by automatically integrating all phone calls made from the gUnify application. All phone calls made using the gUnify application and associated device (traditional phone, soft phone and mobile) will be automatically pushed to activities module in Zoho CRM; where you can view the details of the call record including: the phone number, who made the call, date/time of call, call duration, notes and tags associated with the call; all in real time.

You can also analyse the key sales and support indicators, such as number of incoming calls, number of outgoing calls, duration of calls and the destination of calls.

Getting started is simple and quick, once gUnify has been installed on your company’s Google Apps domain. Each user of gUnify should perform a few easy installation tasks to enable the gUnify Plug-in for Zoho CRM , which can be found in Settings within the gUnify gadget.