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You have a great idea for an online business, but you’re unsure where to start?  These five necessities will get you started without buying any hardware.

1. Domain Name

Choosing a domain name is similar to choosing a company name it requires a lot of thought and consideration. Your domain name is your identity on the Web; you want to make sure you choose a name that not only fits your business, but is also easy to find and promote. Use Whois.net to see if your domain name is already in use.  This is important, because many ideas for domain names that you have, may already be registered.

2. Website Hosting Provider

Every business, even if it only has a single employee, needs a website. A company without a online presence is leaving serious money on the table, because an attractive and informative site can draw a slew of potential clients or customers. That means choosing a Web hosting service and setting up your website. PC Magazine has a side-by-side comparison and walks you through selecting a hosting provider.

3. Marketing/Advertising

Now that you have a website you need to promote it and drive traffic to your website. This can be done multiple ways but the most sure fire ways are to:

  • Optimize your site for search engines to increase your search rank
  • Use Pay-per-click advertising (Google Adwords, Bing)
  • Generate content via blogs and social media

There are the big 4 social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+) that most companies start on. However if you want to get the most bang for your buck, you need to know what social networks your customers are on and get involved.  A great way to get your blog content out there is to use Outbrain.com

4. Email

Similiar to your website you need an email address.  While not a must, ideally you want to use your domain name as part of your email address.
There are a lot of email providers out there, how do you decide?  Your website hosting provider may provide email services and since they are hosting your domain name this is ideal.  However, Gmail for business can use your domain as well.  While not necessarily authoritative,  Wikipedia offers a great comparison of email providers.  Decide which factors are important to you and choose your provide based on those factors.

5. Telephone Number

With millions of new startups and websites worldwide every year, people want to know that there is someone really there.  Listing a phone number on your site is a great way to let them know you are real and that they can give you a call for help.  You can use your cell phone, but what if you start taking a lot of calls?  An alternative is a virtual answering service. A virtual answering service like InteliPhone™ is hosted and can provide multiple toll-free or local numbers and answer a large number of simultaneous calls, routing each one specifically as you want, whether to your cell phone or to different employees, voicemail or even live operators.

 

phone_prayer InteliPhone™ is perfect for telephone prayer.   Prayer lines and church organizations frequently use InteliPhone™ to connect people around the world in a simple and efficient manner.  This is perfect when prayer/church members who live a great distance from each other or when there simply isn’t time to drive out to a specific location.  Recording prayers will allow those who are unable to join the live prayer to listen at their own leisure.  Callers have the option of accessing prayers through their phone or through their computer.

Use InteliPhone to record a daily prayer that your members can call in to listen and/or respond.  Members can call in for special requests and describe their situation and what kind of prayer they would need. Whether asking for a prayer for healing … or prosperity … or a new job … or inner peace … or guidance …  or to express joy and gratitude, InteliPhone can be that personalized interface with your members.

 

Our staff is happy to discuss or even help you through the process if you have more questions.  Give us a call @ (800) 680-8306 or check us out at http://www.inteliphone.com.

 

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Recently, we had a customer of several years contact us.  They explained that when they originally decided to use InteliPhone™ they weren’t sure how it would work out.  So to they decided to forward their existing number to InteliPhone™ and if it didn’t work out – well they could just cancel their service and “un-forward” their number.  As they said themselves, “Back then my bills were miniscule and I wasn’t sure how your service would work for us replacing our answering service. As I stated you have done a bang up job and now our [provider] is charging us over $40/Month just for a number and remote call forwarding to you a phone number that has no outbound calls.”

Our customer wanted to know if there was a way to stop paying the $40/month bill and just “switch” the number to InteliPhone™. Well, under the FCC’s “local number portability” rules, you can switch telephone service providers for wireline, wireless, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and keep your existing phone number. The transfer procedure is simple.  You complete a release form and once submitted, the transfer normally takes between 2 and 10 business days. There is no specialized hardware or software required, and if you are not satisfied with our service, we will release your local number to the vendor of your choice at no additional charge.

Our staff is happy to discuss or even help you through the process if you have more questions.  Give us a call @ (800) 680-8306.

Woman on laptop screen and old rotary phone

Should you hire Live Operators to answer your phone or use a virtual answering service?

In trying to solve this problem for our customers, we kept a few principles in mind.

1. Most people trust automated solutions for simple tasks (ie. prescription refills, account balances, tracking shipments).

2. Most people do not make a major decision to purchase a product or service without talking to someone first.

3. In the tight economy, small business owners are leery of any major capital expenditures.

With this dilemma and these principles  in mind, we developed our Live Operator “Blended PBX” approach to answering your phone calls.  InteliPhone blends together the best of automated systems and live operators.  So simple tasks can use the automated system (saving you money) and Live Operators (or better yet – you or your employees) for those times when people need to talk to someone prior to committing.  We developed an online control panel, and free smartphone apps, that let you decide when and how to make our live operators ‘available’ to your callers.  Giving you the capability to add extra an extra employee, but only when you need it.

For instance, you can activate an ‘Operator’ menu option based on time of day or day of week. Activate zero out capabilities on a per mailbox basis to allow certain callers to reach an operator when they feel the need is urgent. Additionally, you can override your pre-programmed schedule at any time to cover holidays, emergencies, meetings, vacations, etc.  You can even share operator responsibilities by assigning operator calls to your staff, when they are available, and to our live call center when they are not.

Our professional, US based operators will greet your callers with your company name and a script you’ve written. They can answer basic questions, provide directions, and take urgent messages for your business and employees — as though they were sitting at your own reception desk.

For more information call 800-680-8306 or http://www.inteliphone.com/liveoperators.html

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You will need to set your mobile phone to Call Forward to <YOUR CUSTOM SERVICE> voicemail number. You can usually set your phone to forward only when the phone is busy (when you are talking on it), only when you don’t answer it, or in both cases. Some carriers have a third condition for when the phone is off or outside the service area.
Here is the information we have collected on how to forward cell phones from the various carriers:

Verizon Wireless:
Busy: Dial *92 then the 10-digit number to forward to then press your call button. To deactivate, dial *920 and press your call button.
No Answer: Dial *90 then the 10-digit number to forward to then press your call button. To deactivate, dial *900 and press your call button.

AT&T Mobility:

The codes vary according to which network you are subscribed to and which kind of telephone you have. Please go to the AT&T Mobility Call Forwarding information page for all the gritty details.

In practice, we have found that it is often necessary to call AT&T Customer Service to get your Call Forwarding set up correctly.

Sprint PCS:

Busy: Dial *74 then the 10-digit number to forward to then press your call button. To deactivate, dial *740 and press your call button.
No Answer: Dial *73 then the 10-digit number to forward to then press your call button. To deactivate, dial *730 and press your call button.

T-Mobile:

T-Mobile does not use activation and deactivation codes. You must navigate the menus on your phone to set up Call Forwarding. For assistance, please call 1-800-T-MOBILE.

Nextel:

Nextel does not use activation and deactivation codes. You must use navigate the menus on your phone to set up Call Forwarding. For assistance, please call 1-800-639-6111.

Note that some carriers charge for forwarded calls the same as a regular call, while others charge a flat per-minute fee for forwarded calls.

 

cutTheCordSmallTired of paying for a landline you barely use?  So are almost 40% of other households, which only rely on cell phones.  The problem with getting rid of your landline is that you have had your phone number for years and just don’t want to give it up.

Did you know that under the FCC’s “local number portability” rules, you can switch telephone service providers for wireline, wireless, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and keep your existing phone number?

KeepMyPhoneNumber.com can help you keep your number at a fraction of the cost of a monthly phone bill. They help you keep your phone number by transferring it to their cloud-based messaging service for an annual service fee of around $60.  They also screen out “Robo Calls” so only people calling your number can leave you a message, which you can get in email.

The transfer procedure is simple.  You complete a release form and once submitted, the transfer normally takes between 2 and 10 business days. There is no specialized hardware or software required, and they claim that if you are not satisfied, they will release your local number to the vendor of your choice at no additional charge.

Innovation by many small businesses over the years has fueled our imagination and pushed us to heights that would not have been imaginable 50 years ago.  We have all heard the stories of the guy who built something in his garage and became an overnight sensation, but we don’t hear the stories about the guy who had a great idea and went out of business before his company could get going.  The latter occurs far more often than the former.

Take for instance “Bob”, a guy who had a great idea for t-shirts, so he started his own small business to sell them.  Bob prepared a flyer that he could distribute,  he added his cell phone number on the flyer and figured he would take orders over the phone. “Piece of cake” right?  Bob and a couple of buddies distributed the flyers at an event that drew in over 40 thousand people.   It cost Bob $5 dollars to have the t-shirt made and he priced them between $10-$15 dollars each. His idea was a hit and let’s say one thousand people called his cell phone to get a shirt.  So he should be looking at a profit of between $5,000 – $10,000.

Bob gets maybe a hundred orders and instead of $5k-$10k, he only brings in $500-$1000.  Why only a hundred orders?  Think about how many callers got a busy signal? How many callers heard that his voicemail box is full? Worse yet, maybe his cell phone battery dies!?

Bob did not plan for success.  With a little research and planning Bob could have captured more orders and thus more profit.  He could have set up an e-commerce website for as little as $100/year.  But maybe Bob is not that savvy on building an e-commerce site.  He could have spent around $10/month for an InteliPhone account (think of an answering service in the cloud).  No busy signals, no full mailbox messages, just the same courteous, professional greeting every time.  Bob could have taken his idea to the next level and had a custom application designed and built by InteliPhone to take orders immediately via live operators (or completely automated for that matter) and avoided anyone having buyers remorse later.

These innovations were only affordable to large companies years ago, but are affordable to almost everyone today.  A couple hundred dollars a year to Bob might have seemed too much to spend at the time, but it could have brought ten times the profit.  The moral of the story?  Unless you plan for success, you could easily drown in it.

The purpose of this blog is to help small businesses make the most of one of their most important tools — the telephone.