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A New Communications System Can Help You,

The Internet has opened up the playing field for small businesses. Whereas any business used to require a lot of capital to get started, manpower, and a lot of time to become established, an online presence -- as well as the increased market for online services -- has made starting a business both easier and less of a financial risk. More than that, it's made many business tasks easier, primarily through automation.

What's the best technology tool for increasing automation in your business?

There are a lot of small triggers, buttons, and processes for using everything from social media for advertising campaigns to organizing posted invoices. As easy and wide-reaching as online tools are compared to their physical counterparts, all of that clicking still takes time away from core parts of your business. That's why having a tool like Zapier, which lets you create custom formulas for automation, is one of the best ways to get online manpower for businesses with few employees.

Zapier operates off of a system of triggers and actions. You can create a formula in which, if you receive an email with an attachment, that attachment is automatically screened and deposited in Dropbox or a company intranet. Or you can build a formula for receiving a confirmation email about a meeting (the trigger) that automatically finalizes the time in your synced calendar (the action), which in turn can even act as a trigger to alert you if you have conflicting events or your day is too packed. The possibilities can range from managing your work-life to automating actual business operations such as responding to certain YouTube comments and sending out alerts if key clients are late paying their invoices.

How should you use Zapier for immediate benefits?

All programs have a bit of a learning curve, but you can see immediate benefits on your schedule with one of the most common and basic functions: automating your social media updates. It's important for every business to post everywhere from Facebook to Twitter to niche forums, but once you hit the biggest two or three sources of external traffic, you see a large drop in profitability of updating each source. It's still worth doing to reach the whole of your customer base, but diminishing returns for routine tasks is both bad for innovation and for morale. Open up your marketing team's schedule by creating 'Zaps' that update all of your profiles with news about your newest blog post or sale, and make sure your RSS feed is automatically sent across the Internet.

These outbound formulas, that take a long list of nearly identical tasks and shrink it down to only one human task before using an automated process, save you time. They let your employees focus more on the content and effectiveness of your messages rather than just the mechanics. They also reduce human error.

But Zapier has inbound formulas, or Zaps, too. You can amass all of the analytic data from Twitter, Instagram, and even your website into spreadsheets to see what campaigns are the most effective, where you should spend more or less of your marketing budget, and how your business is growing overall. You can automate the importation and translation of data without having to spend an hour configuring the data and instead spend your time on deciding how to make use of it.

Not only does an automating tool like Zapier reduce the time it takes for administrative tasks, it can also keep an eye online trends that you don't have visibility to or problems that might fall through the cracks. Visit White Mountain IT for more ideas on how to use this and other online tools to grow your business efficiently.