A Startup Makes It Easier To Pay For Your Pot And Other Small Business Tech Stories This Week

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 – Microsoft introduces a CRM tool for small businesses.

Called the Outlook Customer Manager, the application will be included as part of Microsoft Office 365 Business Edition and will enable teams at smaller companies to manage customer interactions, notes, activities and emails all through Outlook. (Source: PCWorld)

Why this is important for your business:

Microsoft’s Dynamics is a powerful tool used by many enterprises, but its features and price oftentimes excluded small businesses from its benefits. The Outlook Customer Manager promises to offer a more affordable customer relationship management solution to small businesses that integrates with Office 365. (My company, The Marks Group, is a Microsoft Partner.)

2 – Facebook is integrating Instagram and Messenger for businesses.

Now businesses will be able to “manage messages and comments on all three platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Messenger – from one page.” You’ll be able to see conversations, view Facebook profiles and respond to inquiries all from one place. (Source: CNET)

Why this is important for your business:

As Facebook continues to consolidate its tools and applications, your business will find it easier to use the platform to communicate and service your customers.
3 – An online retailer launches the first “shopfunding” site.

Online retailer Goodshop has announced “Goodshop Give,” a new service that will allow its customers to “leverage their holiday purchase as a way to raise money for a cause they care about.” Businesses and individuals and can launch crowdfunding campaigns on the site that will raise money as customers make their purchases – instead of soliciting donations. (Source: Goodshop)

Why this is important for your business:

This new platform not only provides another channel for your company to sell its products, but is also an opportunity to offer your customers a way to give back to charities and organizations they support. It’s easy to set up and enables you to take advantage of crowdfunding for a good cause.

4 – A new debit card makes it easier to pay for your pot.

It’s called CanPay, and it’s available in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Most banks and credit card companies, like MasterCard and Visa, will not do business with marijuana retailers while Federal laws prohibiting activities are still in place. CanPay enables marijuana buyers to use a QR code on their smartphones to pay for a purchase. (Source: Forbes)

Why this is important for your business:

OK, it’s only important if you’re a marijuana retailer. But this is an industry that will be growing significantly in the next few years. Until the Federal government changes its laws, an application like CanPay will make it easier for your customers (and less expensive because they’re avoiding ATM fees) to buy your products if you’re in the marijuana business.
5 – An exoskeleton will prevent injuries in the workplace.

It’s being developed by a startup called suitX, and it will provide braces for an employee’s back, legs and shoulders using “steel and aluminum supports to redistribute load from the user’s muscles and joints, reducing injury and increasing comfort.” And yes, it will be comfortable to wear. (Source: Fast Company)

Why this is important for your business:

If you’ve got a warehouse, a factory or even provide risky field services, you know how much an injury can cost your operations. The MAX (modular agile exoskeleton), when it’s commercially available, could go a long way to helping you reduce the costs of safety, training and of course workmen’s compensation insurance in your business.

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