Amazon Mechanical Turk: Is it What You Need in Your Business?

In an effort to keep you updated on the latest in available technologies to assist your business, I’m letting you know about a new service provided by Amazon call Amazon Mechanical Turk.  This service is being pegged as one of the most radical inventions in online outsourcing.  According to the site information “Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence.  The Mechanical Turk web service enables companies to programmatically access this marketplace and a diverse, on-demand workforce. Developers can leverage this service to build human intelligence directly into their applications.”

I’m not positive about all of the features or usefulness for the very small entrepreneur but it certainly looks promising.  It seems that large companies can also benefit from the system.  Apparently, it allows you to outsource tasks to other human beings for pennies.  Amazon Mechanical Turk is great for all those tasks that aren’t quite highly paid enough to bring on a real outsourcer, but are still too complex for a computer to handle.

So what kind of tasks are appropriate for use wtih Mechnical Turk?  A few examples are:

  • Look at a picture and determine if it’s uplifting or depressing.
  • Look at a name and determine if it’s a man or a woman.
  • Look for any words in this picture.
  • Look at an advertisement and determine what the core message is.
  • Look over a Yellow Pages scan and identify all the phone numbers.

Basically, these are all tasks that you would want a person performing rather than a computer. Amazon calls these “Human Intelligence Tasks” or HIT for short.

To know how HIT’s work, well, you set a price for each HIT to start.  For example, let’s say you want someone to look at a picture of a person and determine if they’re male or female.  You might set the price at 5 cents apiece. You figure a human being could do one task per 15 seconds and earn 15 cents per minute or $12 an hour. People who can work faster than that can earn even more.  For a lot of outsourcers, this kind of work is a dream come true. For many businesses, paying a few pennies for data is much more cost effective than developing software to perform the task.

Setting up a task is said to be pretty easy.   Begin by setting up one of the pre-made templates provided by Amazon to use as a base or you can create your own template from scratch.  You then upload your data sheet. This contains all the data that you want to sort.  For example, let’s say you’re having people look over your list of emails to determine if the names are male, female, undetermined or if they look like fake emails. You’d start by creating a template with four options: male, female, undetermined or fake email. You’d then upload your list of email addresses.  Mechanical Turk will present outsourcers with each email. The outsourcer will be awarded with a HIT every time they finish sorting an email for you. Once you’re satisfied with your results, you can pay all your outsourcers at once.

It’s said to be that easy! If you have tasks that need to be performed on a mass basis and you don’t have the software to do it, consider using Amazon Mechanical Turk to handle all your Human Intelligence Task needs. Find out more about Amazon Mechanical Turk at the website.  It could be a great way to get some help in marketing your business.  Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can get more information to share with NACWIB members during one of our monthly coaching calls.

Accounts Receivable Software: What Is It and Do You Need It?

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”                 Romans 13:8

Working with sales means facing the question about Accounts Receivables.  Christian business women usually know that running a business that offers payment terms to customers or doesn’t require customers to pay up front, means you are going to need some what to keep track of your accounts receivables.  Having an adequate accounts receivable software is important.  While it’s possible to keep track of just a handful of customers’ terms, by the time you get to more than half a dozen customers, tracking all their payments and terms will get difficult.

Accounts receivable software might seem basic when you first look at it, but it actually does a lot more than just track unpaid invoices. What exactly does AR software do and do you need it? Let’s take a look.

Tracking Who Owes You Money

The most basic and fundamental function of accounts receivables software is of course, tracking who owes you money. You can track the debt owed by each customer, track unpaid invoices, and track when you expect to get paid.

Tracking Creditworthiness

A credit background is something that’s very difficult to track by hand. If you run a credit-based business, chances are at some point your customers may ask for more credit.  They might ask for a longer payment term or for a bigger line of credit.  When that happens, you need to know how good they’ve been with paying their bills in the past in order to determine whether or not to grant credit.

Just like banks use your FICO score to determine whether or not to extend credit to you, you likewise should use your customers’ past payment behavior to determine if they should get more credit. Questions you need to ask include:

  • Have they been late in the past?
  • Do they always repay their balance on time?
  • Do you have to chase them down to get paid?

All this should go into making your decision; and AR software can track and report all this for you.

Tracking Expected Cashflow

Calculating how much money is going to come in can be very complex if you have dozens of accounts receivables to keep track of.  That’s especially true if you have different customers on different terms as well as partial payment agreements.  AR software can make calculating your cashflow on a month-to-month or even a day-to-day basis much easier.

Tracking Store Terms, Customer Orders, Contact Information and More

Your AR software can also store all kinds of other important information. You can use it to store all your customer orders, as well as records of whether or not you’ve delivered on those orders. You can store details about your agreements and payment terms with your customer.

You can also store basic information like addresses, phone numbers, who to contact for what, and more.

As you can see, AR software isn’t just about tracking invoices.  Business women will get the best use of this software by using the entire system to manage not just accounts receivables,  but to manage cashflow, tracking credit and more. You want to be a good steward of your money and this is one business system to help you do that.

Why and How to Develop a B2B Network before You Need It

The worst time to build a network is when you need it. People can sense it if you’re trying to connect with them because you need something from them. On the other hand, when you’re connecting with people with an eye on helping them, or because you genuinely want to connect with them, people are much more likely to be receptive.

That’s why it makes so much sense to build your B2B network before you need it. Invest time in your network long before you need anything from your network.

How do you do it?

==> Focus on Connectors

Focus on people who could connect you with the people who could make the biggest difference on your business, or who could refer you to those people.

For example, let’s say you’re a start-up company looking for venture capital funding. You should start building your funding network MONTHS before you need funding.

Connect with people who’ve been funded in the past. Connect with low-level venture capital guys. Connect with anyone in the local start-up scene who could help you meet potential investors.

If you’re an employee looking for a job, then connect with recruiters, headhunters, employers, companies and anyone you know working for the company(s) you want to work for.

Focus on connectors and lay the groundwork early.

==> Deposit in the Favor Bank

Retweet for people. Connect people with others who could help advance their careers. Answer questions for others. If others are doing a project in your area of expertise, give them free advice.

Build a sense of goodwill in your community, even if you can’t see how it’ll pay off yet. Build goodwill when you don’t need anything from people. Deposit in your favor bank today. This way, you’ll have plenty of “cash” to draw on when you do need a favor.

==> Use B2B Social Networks to Promote In-Person Events

Try to host a dinner party, a meetup, a talk or any other kind of gathering once a month, in person.

Use online B2B social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Meetup to help promote these events. Or use them to send one on one invites if you’re doing something more personal.

Hosting in-person events helps you build a lot of credibility and real world connections. Online social tools make managing events a lot easier.

==> Be a Daily User

Log in online every day, even if you can only be on for 30 minutes. Look for people who’re asking questions and answer them. Ping your old acquaintances. If someone’s doing a launch, help them out.

It’s much, much better to spend 30 minutes a day on B2B social media than to spend five hours once a week. Relationships are built through many small interactions, rather than in one big push.

To sum things up, work on building your relationships. Do so long before you need them. Be someone that others can count on. Support others. This is how you build rock-solid connections that’ll help you in your career and in life.