Mobile Carriers New Profit Plan: Upgrade Plans

Recently the mobile phone carriers have been finding ways to take more of your money, this time in the guise of saving you money. They call it an upgrade plan and its aimed at people who like to upgrade their phones every year that a new version comes out. The guise is that by getting on one of these plans you are supposed to somehow save money, but when the Verge dove into the specifics they found that no money was saved and you are more likely to spend more money over traditional plans:

Ultimately, most everyone is better served by sticking with their traditional cell phone plan and buying a phone at full cost when you can’t take that old smartphone any longer. It’s best, then, to think of these “upgrade plans” as extended payment plans that take advantage of customers who want the newest phones and want to pay little up-front by charging them massive fees as the months roll by. No deal.

You gotta give it to the phone companies though, they sure are clever.

Chromecast – TV’s are now yours to control

If I had a TV I would have one of these no questions asked. For $35 you basically turn any of your TV’s into remote viewers for WiFi-enabled Android 2.3+ smartphones and tablets; iOS 6.0+ iPhones, iPads, and iPods; Chrome for Mac® and Chrome for Windows®; and Chromebook Pixel. Initially I was concerned that this would only be Android compatible but its everything compatible.

Shut up and give it your money here:

Think about the TV in your conference room and how you will be able to deliver a presentation just by bringing up your phone or tablet. No more projectors or wires. Just get on the wifi and BOOM!

Seriously its only $35 and you have what a $99 apple TV does in a smaller form factor. Done. Just get it and ask questions later.

My only caveat is that I dont think Google is being completely fair about how easy it is to setup. At the bottom of this page in the light grey text where it tells you what devices it is compatible with it also mentions that a power cord is required but that it is not shown. So my guess at this point is that you plug this into the HDMI port and then plug a power cord into the other end of it. Not a huge deal but not as simple as they make it seem in the ad…

Chromecast small print hides that a power cord is required

Chromecast small print hides that a power cord is required

Roger Williams Media is a Clio Certified Consultant

For the last few years I have spent a lot of time marketing for law firms. As I have been successful in gaining them more clients, I have witnessed some shocking business practices. When it comes to tracking clients and ensuring they receive effective counsel, many law firms are using outdated legal software and methods. Amongst a litany of legal software programs on the market I recently learned about a solution called Clio that should make all lawyers and law firms pay attention.

From managing contact information to billing time and expenses to sharing documents and collaborating with peers and clients, traditional software is cumbersome and expensive to use. This means that in many cases, even after a firm has implemented a desktop based system they are not using it effectively or at all. I have one firm who doesn’t let its lawyers access the system at all!

Head in the Clouds

Having worked with online tools for over a decade now I assume everyone else is equally as comfortable as I am with logging into a website and getting to work. To me software is a tool that I access to get things done. If that tool doesn’t have to be loaded onto my computer then all the better. With online software or Software As A Service (SAAS) you don’t have to install any software which eliminates needing a server and the costs that come along with one. Instead you simply create an account and get to work. When the company makes updates to the system they simply roll them out and when you log into your account they are there, working, and tested to ensure they are working properly. Additionally if you want to work from home or the beach you just need a computer or device with an internet connection. Then you just log into your account and all of your work is right there.

Getting on board the Clio train

In June of 2013 one of my clients invited me to an event being held by a software company I had never heard of. I glanced at their website before arriving so I had some idea of what they would be pitching to us. From the quick review I was impressed by their marketing acumen with good calls to action, clear cut sales pitch, and lack of industry lingo. While sales prowess isn’t the most important thing it does give a good indication of a company if they have thought past just making a good product.

Once we arrived at the event I sat down with Rian Gauvreau one of the co-founders, and started peppering him with specific questions about the functionality of the product. He was incredibly forthcoming with his answers and quite humble about the products capabilities.

Own your data

One of the major things that stuck out to me was their take on data portability. As a user of online services you should understand that for the most part the data you are entering is not yours. A major example of this is Facebook. If you wanted to download all of the entries and photos you have ever posted into Facebook you would be searching for a while. With Facebook that might not be a huge deal since we are posting seemingly inconsequential information, but with a business service like Clio data portability is a huge deal, or it should be.

The simple answer to whether a service has data portability is if there is an Export button. An Export button does exactly what it says and gives you all of your data into some form of file format that can be accessed by other programs. In Clio’s case it exports in CSV and Quickbooks file formats.

One step further with Automation

However, Clio takes things to another level and will help you setup an automated backup of your data to your own Amazon S3 instance. Clio already does their own backups of your data hourly but this automation creates a system that you own and operate which sends your data every Saturday. This means that if you want to move to another software system or simply shut down your Clio account while maintaining all of your work you can.

As a veteran of internet businesses for over 15 years I have rarely seen a company that is this comfortable about letting you leave them so easily. Personally this is how I work with all of my clients so that if I were hit by a truck, went rogue, or their brother in law started making websites tomorrow, they would still be able to operate their marketing functions. This should tell you that Clio is a company interested in keeping you because their service is good rather than because changing away from them would be too much of a pain (subtle hint, it’s how I operate as well).

Matters and Contacts

The foundation of the Clio system is broken down into Matters and Contacts. When you get a new client you create a Contact and then add them to the Matter or case that you are working on for them. From here you enter any time or expense billings for their Matter and when you are ready to get paid generate a bill for the Contact.

You can also create specific billing on a Contact or Matter basis giving you maximum flexibility in how you handle different people and cases.

Customize the Field

Different law firms operate in different ways based on their jurisdictions and types of law practiced. With Clio you can customize the fields for both Contacts and Matters and create groups for quick addition of multiple fields to a Contact or Matter. This feature makes it really easy to quickly modify Clio to fit your firm’s needs.

Time keeps on slipping into the future

As a lawyer it is critical that you track how much time you are spending on projects and tasks. Clio makes this easier than ever to do with their own built in solution but also by integrating various external services that you may already be using.

One neat feature I like is the ability to have a calendar event automatically create a timed billing entry after the event occurs. You simply create the event and after it happens it will show up the next time you run the bill for the Matter.

Automate Document Creation and Revolutionize your Practice

Creating documents is arguably what a law firm spends the majority of their time doing. With Clio you can upload all of your documents into their system for quick and easy access by all members of the firm. You can take this one step further and create document templates, so creating specific documents for a Contact or Matter is as simple as clicking one button and then sending or printing it out.

Think about this for a moment. Rather than having to hand type in all relevant information to create a document with the cases specific information you simply setup a template one time and from then the creationg of the document is automated. This is the true power of computers: automating repetitive tasks.

Online Collaboration

I have been sold on the Internet since I first logged into a Netscape browser at my dorm’s computer lab in CU Boulder. To me, collaborating online is second nature because it is fast and much more effective than the phone, especially when it comes to reviewing documents or invoices. As a 36 year old this means I am not alone in operating this way. Even if you aren’t comfortable with working online, your clients are, and will be more and more.

With Clio you can use their Clio Connect Service from within your account to share documents, bills, and secure messages. This means you don’t have to wait for the mailman to deliver your package, wonder if they have opened and reviewed your bill, or if their email account has been hacked into and their spouse or boss is reading client-attorney privileged information.

You can even accept payment via Clio Connect using PayPal or one of two currently authorized merchants: LawPay and LawCharge.

Support, Support, and did I mention Support?

In addition to the openness of their data portability approach, Clio has created a huge library of information to ensure you can figure out how to use every aspect of their system. From text documents to screencasts, you can learn pretty much everything you need to know to use Clio to its fullest extent.

In addition to documentation, Clio also has live support available, from 8a-8p ET Mon-Fri via Support Tickets, Phone, Email, or Twitter.

Clio Certified Consultants

Finally, Clio has built an extensive network of Certified Consultants who have been tested on all aspects of operating an account to ensure they can answer questions and help you get everything setup and rocking.

The really cool thing about getting a certification means I can do something of consequence in business. In this case, I am very excited about being a Clio Certified Consultant as it means I can help small and medium sized law firms handle more business while delivering a better service to their clients.

After meeting Rian and learning more about Clio, I was so convinced that all of my clients would benefit from using the system that I immediately signed up to begin the 13 hours of testing required to become a Certified Clio Consultant.

Free to Try

Getting back to my initial impression of Clio and their excellent sales and marketing acumen is their 30 day free trial. This is truly a free trial as you do not have to give them a credit card to sign up and they give you a fully functioning account.

Once again Clio is so confident in their product that they know once you start using it to manage your practice you will keep using it after 30 days.

Here is a link to get started with a Free 30 day Clio Trial.

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me via the comments below or to setup a free consultation call me at 602-380-2692.

Launch Bar a Mac Users BFF

Video thumbnail for youtube video Launch Bar a Mac Users BFF - Roger Williams MediaHave you ever had a tool that you use so often that you only remember that you use it so much when you dont have it? For me there are two applications on the Mac that have this effect: 1Password and LaunchBar.

Application Launching

Personally I use it just for the ability to launch software from my keyboard. This saves me a lot of time from mousing to the dock and searching for my app. Instead I just type in a few letters of its name and BAM the app is launched and I am working, or surfing Reddit.

More than just App Launching

Just using LaunchBar to launch apps is very helpful and like I said it is pretty much all I use it for. However there is a lot of functionality that I am missing out on and should start taking advantage of.

Snippets

Do you have bits of text that you use all the time? Your email address, phone number, mailing address, etc? LaunchBar recently added Snippets to its arsenal of features and they are awesome:
Click here to read more about LaunchBar Snippets.

Loads of Actions

Rather than boring you with my screencasts I will let you watch Dan Frakes from MacWorld tell you all about this really cool tool.

What do you think? Do you use LaunchBar or some other launching application?

Have you been blacklisted for emailing Google?

Recently a client asked us about a problem they were having with email that was being run on the same server that we had setup their website on. In this case the problem was pretty severe as they had been blacklisted from sending emails to any Gmail.com email address. After contacting the hosting company we were able to identify that one of their email accounts had been compromised and was being used to send out SPAM emails. It was an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided. In this post we cover what blacklisting means, what to do, and how to avoid it from happening again.

What does ‘blacklisted for email’ mean?

Blacklist definition

According to google.com a blacklist is ‘a list of people or products viewed with suspicion or disapproval.’ In regards to email to be blacklisted means a provider such as Google has determined that your domain is abusing its system by sending too many emails to addresses on its network. Once you have been added to a blacklist all emails you attempt to send to the provider will be denied and you will see a message similar to this one:
SMTP error from remote mail server after end of data:
host aspmx.l.google.com [74.125.142.27]:
550-5.7.1 [YOUR IP ADDRESS HERE 1] Our system has detected an unusual rate of
550-5.7.1 unsolicited mail originating from your IP address. To protect
our
550-5.7.1 users from spam, mail sent from your IP address has been
blocked.
550-5.7.1 Please visit http://www.google.com/mail/help/bulk_mail.html to
review
550 5.7.1 our Bulk Email Senders Guidelines. ck6si8779257igc.40 - gsmtp

How did you get blacklisted for email?

You will be blacklisted for email because your domain has attempted to send too many emails to an email provider like gmail.com. The exact number of emails is unclear but it is also measured by how many have been sent in a certain amount of time.

Intentional

If you are knowingly sending a lot of emails to a lot of people then you may be blacklisted for appearing to be or actually being SPAM. If you want to send a lot of emails to various email addresses you may want to sign up as a bulk email sender with the various email services. Googles Bulk Mail Guidelines are here.

Unintentional

You may be blacklisted for sending too many emails to a provider if your email address or server gets cracked into by malicious users who then use your account to send SPAM. Unfortunately this is a very common occurrence as most people are not using strong passwords and are also using the same password for multiple accounts.

Who can help you?

If you are intentionally sending out a lot of emails then you need to point the finger at yourself and learn how to send bulk email. If you don’t want to become a bulk email provider then you need to check out the various ones on the market. We like MailChimp as discussed below and here.
If you are not intentionally sending out a lot of emails then your system has been compromised and you need to read on below.

Hosting company

If you are using the email services that your hosting company provides then you will want to contact them immediately to see what the problem is. If you are hosting your own server then you or your network admin needs to check the logs to see what email account is sending out a lot of emails. The first thing you need to do is identify if it is just an email account that has been cracked or your entire server. Then you need to update all passwords on the system.

Email company

If you are using a dedicated email service or hosting your own email server then you need to contact whoever is operating that for you and identify which account is sending out a lot of emails. As with the hosting company solution you need to update all passwords on your system.

Google

If you have been blacklisted by Google you can reach out to them and fill out a form that lets them know you have identified a problem and taken steps to correct it. The form is fairly technical and your hosting or email provider will need to help you get a lot of the answers. The Google blacklist removal form is here.

When will you be removed from the blacklist?

Timeframes are unclear

Google does not explicitly tell us how long it may take to get removed from their blacklist. I have seen things clear up in 5 days and others take 30 days. The most important thing you can do is update your passwords and ensure your system is no longer sending out massive amounts of email.

What can you do to prevent this from happening again?

There are a number of things you can do to prevent this from happening in the future whether you were intentionally or unintentionally sending emails. Below we have listed a few things to consider when moving forward.

Email best practices

Google Apps

When it comes to email no one does it better than Google. Their free service is gmail.com but if you are a business you need to have your own domain name to look professional. In that case you need to look at Google Apps which gives you email, documents, chat, hangouts, and whatever Google adds to it next. The cost is $5 per user per month or $50 per user per year and can serve to replace much more than email.
The main benefit to this is that now you are using Google’s system which means the likelihood of them blacklisting you should drop considerably. Another benefit is that you can implement 2 step verification which takes security one step further to prevent unauthorized use of your system.
We can help you get setup on Google Apps and make sure everything is integrated with your organization.

MailChimp

If you need to send a lot of emails to various users then you should use a company that specializes in bulk email not only to prevent blacklisting but also to avoid fines and jail time. We use and recommend MailChimp for sending out bulk emails for news and sales needs. They offer a free service for a list of up to 2000 emails and 12,000 emails sent per month. They also provide excellent templates and guides for creating an monitoring your email campaigns to see what is and isn’t making you more money.
We can also help you setup and manage your MailChimp account to help drive sales for your organization.

Security best practices

1Password

When it comes to passwords you cannot be too paranoid. Using the same password for everything is as bad as writing them on a post-it note and then sticking it on your computer monitor. If you are going to be truly secure you need to be using strong passwords which are more than 10 characters long and you need to have a different one for every account you have. With more and more websites popping up daily asking for you to create a new account you need to have a system for creating and managing them. We have been using 1Password for over 3 years now and cannot recommend this software more. Before you do anything else online you need to go and purchase 1Password for your Mac or Windows computer and start updating all of your accounts, just do it.
1Password is super easy to setup and use but we are happy to talk about how we implement it as well.

More Resources

This a list of the links from this post: