How to set up a toll free number for your website

When it comes to technology – the answer to “Can you do this…?” is always yes – it’s simply a case of how long or how much.

It’s only Tuesday and I’ve had an amazing week when it comes to technology research. I will save some of my research for another day – but today I’ve cracked something I’m extremely proud of – and I appear to have come full circle.

Back in 1996, I worked for the UK’s largest telco – BT. It’s even possible some of you reading this will have worked with me back then! One of my roles was as an International voice networking specialist – working with our global division to provide sales support to the likes of Hertz (memories of Oklahoma City) and advising on the latest and greatest call centre technology to distribute calls around the world to different call centres.

100’s if not 1000’s of engineers were involved in running our global network and switching voice calls around the world back then, according to time of day or menu options was hard and complicated and BT charged a lot of money for it.

Reason #1278 to love the Internet: Yesterday, I set up the equivalent network in about an hour for $20/month.

I have two businesses and until recently, our web application, Customer Thermometer has email support only. We’ve had a number of ‘complaints’ we aren’t easy to get hold of – many of our US customers like to pick up the phone and talk to a real person (even if they’re British!) and one of our US colleagues decided it was time to implement a toll free ‘1800’ type number.

It’s not something I’d ever researched – yet I knew what I wanted – a number in the UK and a number in the US which would arrive at the same place – press ‘1’ for sales and ‘2’ for tech support… depending on which of the team were awake and on duty – the system should then route the call seamlessly… if no one was able to take a call – voicemail kicks in. I of course wanted to control all of that from some kind of web control panel and have complete flexibility.

Too much to ask?

What I wanted is wanted by hundreds of businesses around the world every day I would imagine – and I guess it sounds simple on paper – however when you stop to think about it – have you any idea how complicated that set up is!

It was time to Google: how to set up a toll free number.

Approximately an hour of research later, I hit the jackpot and want to recommend this company to you. provide an online virtual control panel for setting up your toll free numbers.

You select a US toll free number and start your 1 month free trial. Inbound calls are then routed to your cell/mobile or chosen landline depending on how you set them up. You can then add in a UK toll free (or any other number for that matter).

Once set up, there are then multiple options available:

You can switch in a voice menu (which I recorded in my best voiceover voice – available on request) to distribute those calls, depending on the expertise around and available:


Voicemail is amazing – if someone leaves a message – you can hit play in your control panel to hear it … PLUS it emails you the voicemail as a wav file.

Calls are fully itemised:


Calls can be routed, depending on time of day / day of week:



You pay a line rental every month for the service and each toll free number of $20 (starter) and then pay for routed calls separately. To route a call from a US toll free to a UK mobile is just 10c/minute… very reasonable. All features etc are fully inclusive.

You should know – I’m not on commission – this isn’t an affiliate sale – I just like to promote what works, is great value and could well answer many consultant’s questions…

Main image credit.

How I earned £300 cashback in 6 months (without trying)

[For UK readers only.]

I buy a lot of ‘stuff’ online, mainly because it’s a) cheaper and b) saves me time and c) why leave the house when I don’t have to?! I have huge sympathy for the UK High St, however, as I’m often told, business is business.

About a year ago I was told about the TopCashback site by a friend of mine. He runs his own IT business, buys IT equipment on behalf of his clients regularly, and had made thousands just by buying the ‘stuff’ via a cashback site.

Before you take a look – let me describe it.

1) You need to buy something online and either already know which website to buy from OR you’d like some help in finding somewhere.

2) You visit the TopCashback site.

3) Type in the name of the retailer or item you’re looking for. (Examples include Apple, Insurance, ISAs, Sky, Vodafone, Ebuyer, Dell, PC World…) It’s brilliant when you’re looking to change car / house insurance for example.

TopCashback search

4) It’ll list the retailer (they have 100’s) and make some recommendations too.

5) Next to each one, they’ll then list the amount of cashback you’ll receive if you click their link. PC World is currently at 7%, Vodafone currently offering £151 cashback on a 12 month contract. Legal and General – £60 cashback on home insurance.

TopCashback - Apple cashback

6) You’ll then be taken to that retailer to search and buy what you’re after

7) Days, weeks or sometimes months later – you will receive that %age back in cold, hard cash or topped up Amazon vouchers. cashback

There are no catches, it truly is that simple and frankly, if you don’t use it when you buy online, you are losing money.

How does it work?

When things sound too good to be true, they often are – so let me explain their business model.

I’m sure you’re aware of the concept of affiliate marketing. If you click on a banner or link which eventually leads you to make a purchase from that advertiser, the person hosting that banner or link gets a %age payment. This cashback site is an affiliate and has affiliate relationships with 100’s of retailers. Here’s the clever bit. Rather than collecting the affiliate revenue themselves, they pass it back to the ‘clicker’ – ie you. They make their money through the advertising on their site. They are currently Alexa ranked 9,166 and so get thousands of visitors/day – making their business model viable.

So – it’s a no brainer isn’t it?

Go take a look. It has genuinely made me £300 in Amazon vouchers in the last few months – simply by remembering to click their bookmark first AND it’s also given me some great retailers I wouldn’t have visited without their help.

It’s good to be transparent – and so if you do visit the site, sign up and make your first purchase through them – I will be ‘thanked’ by them and £10 will be added to my account. It’s called viral marketing – and you could do the same with your friends.

Hopefully if you like what I’ve been up to on this site over the last few years – you’ll be happy to see me earning 3.21 tall,skinny, decaf mochaccinos.


How to create product screenshots without Photoshop

The product screenshot you see in this post has been generated without Photoshop or any other form of image manipulation software. It was also produced in approximately 15 seconds!

In the video below, I show you how to do it, including how to take a screenshot from your iPhone or iPad, if you’ve always wondered how.

I honestly believe it’s one of the coolest shortcut techniques I’ve ever discovered.

The perfect consultant’s office setup

Everything becomes so much easier when you’re organised.

I’ve always loved my office – because, well… it’s mine. I can have it set up however I want – no one can tell me what I can and cannot do and like all the best things in life, it’s evolved over time.

Part of the evolution I have to attribute to an episode from Freedom Ocean – the excellent podcast with Timbo Reid and James Schramko. Thank you guys.

So – in the video below, I talk through what I think is the perfect office set up.

Details of some of the kit I mention:
USB mic

(FREE) Software – two pcs, one keyboard and mouse:

How to sync Outlook with iCloud

Making your life easier…

So much about being a lone consultant is about having your life made easier by technology. More often than not, it transpires against you to make life harder.

With iOS5 launching yesterday, I’ve been keen to find out how iCloud is going to help sync our lives – how helpful would it be to have all contacts and appointments etc on all devices? In addition – I wanted to see how iCloud interact would with Outlook and PC users.

It turns out it’s pretty darn good… oh and it’s all completely free for the first 5GB anyway.

There’s a short demo below – what it actually is… how to set it up… and watch it in action.

A review of Putler – the best Paypal app ever

If you use Paypal for your online transactions, and chances are you do, then you’re going to thank yourself for reading this review.

For years people selling services online have used Paypal, but have struggled with their website. It’s slow, it’s clunky and it’s NOT intuitive at all. Processing refunds and analysing data are a nightmare and it should be a dream.

It now is.

With this revolutionary new Adobe Air desktop app for Mac or PC, the Putler team have created an interface into your Paypal account. It has dashboards, it is fast, it provides automatic analysis on how your business is doing.

In short, it is totally awesome and life changing if you deal with Paypal every day.

You can download Putler right here for FREE to get you going.


Why you need to get disciplined with RSS – a case study

I discovered RSS about 3 years ago. 2 years ago I started to get disciplined with it.

For most people it’s a hidden part of the Internet. Pretty much all of my friends’ eyes glaze over when I mention the word. Maybe there should be a sexier acronym for it, maybe we should collectively think of a new name. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t – because if everyone used it, where would your competitive advantage be? Because that’s exactly what it gives you if you use it correctly.

If you don’t know what it is, my definition is

RSS is where information is pushed to you in a simple, convenient format, rather than you having to go and seek it out.

I now rarely read my RSS feeds during the day – it’s too distracting and time consuming. Instead, I tend to go to bed earlier these days and prop myself up with my iPad to go through the day’s feeds. I then do a couple of things:

  • I read the stuff I’m immediately interested in.
  • I ‘star’ the stuff I’m interested in that’s too indepth to read and that I think might be interesting to others.

The next day, the ‘starred’ stuff, I Tweet over the course of the day and shock, horror I tend to use timed Tweets using Tweetdeck, so that my followers aren’t bombarded all at once – dripfed makes sense in my book.

This disciplined approach means you’re constantly feeding (and hopefully impressing) your audience plus you’re staying uptodate with the things you need to know, whether that be Linkedin connections, Google alerts on key words or news from the sites I follow, including local news.

Which brings me on to my main point.

One of the RSS channels I follow is my local newspaper. 95% of articles are not of interest to me – a cat being stuck on a garage roof doesn’t rock my world so much, however it takes seconds to skim past those. The 5% which are interesting however can lead to great things. A couple of weeks ago (on the same day the article came out – hence the discipline point) I was reading this local newspaper feed, and spotted this headline:

The Waterside Inn celebrates its 25 anniversary with 1985 prices

[quote]The Waterside Inn is one of three 3 star Michelin restaurants in the UK and it’s about 100m from our house. I got on the phone immediately to friends and booked a table around 10pm that night. It was the last table. We eat there today. Can’t wait.[/quote]

Since then, I must have had a dozen friends say to me – “how did you find out? I’d have loved to have gone…”

I then talked to them all about RSS until their eyes glazed over…

If you need more explanation on what RSS is and how to use it, take a look at this great explanation.

How to avoid the Outlook junk filter

Part of getting noticed – the theme of this Being Smarter blog is getting emails past not only human gatekeepers, but the worst gate keeper of all in the corporate domain – the dreaded Outlook Junk filter.

To say it is an inaccurate and overzealous piece of software is an understatement. At first glance, it appears to have little consistency too – emails from the same person sometimes get through, sometimes don’t. As a receiver of plenty of emails – I will always give the junk folder a once over before SHIFT-DELETING (delete forever as opposed to deleting to the delete folder – it’s not as if you’re likely to ever need the mails in the junk folder ever again…)

Here are some rules I’ve picked up along the way to help you get round this junk filter whether you’re sending a single mail or an email marketing campaign.

A company called MAPILab reverse engineered the spam filter in Outlook 2003 and beyond and believes that its spam filter gives different weights to different emails depending on several categories. According to MAPILab, the following steps are taken by Outlook to consider whether email is junk or not:

  • message sending time check–messages sent on a Saturday or Sunday are more closely correlated with spam than messages sent on a Wednesday)
  • check of the message subject for words in uppercase–if words in uppercase make 25% or more of the total number of words, then the email is more correlated with spam
  • check of the sign number in the message subject–this test calculates the ratio of signs (symbols which are neither letters nor numbers) to the number of signs, letters, and numbers. If the ratio exceeds 8%, email is more closely correlated with spam
  • check of duplicate character number–this test counts the maximum number of duplicate characters in the message subject. In many spam messages there is a sequence of meaningless (to recipients) symbols separated by several dozens of spaces

Avoid the following in your FROM address

  • Numbers in the first 8 character of the address
  • Success
  • Sales
  • Profit
  • Hello
  • Mail
  • public in the domain
  • saavy in the domain

Avoid the following in the body or subject

  • Subject contains “advertisement”
  • Body contains “money back “
  • Body contains “cards accepted”
  • Body contains “removal instructions”
  • Body contains “extra income”
  • Subject contains “!” AND Subject contains “$”
  • Subject contains “!” AND Subject contains “free”
  • Body contains “,000” AND Body contains “!!” AND Body contains “$”
  • Body contains “Dear friend”
  • Body contains “for free?”
  • Body contains “for free!”
  • Body contains “Guarantee” AND (Body contains “satisfaction” OR Body contains “absolute”)
  • Body contains “more info ” AND Body contains “visit ” AND Body contains “$”
  • Body contains “SPECIAL PROMOTION”
  • Body contains “one-time mail”
  • Subject contains “$$”
  • Body contains “
  • Body contains “order today”
  • Body contains “order now!”
  • Body contains “money-back guarantee”
  • Body contains “100% satisfied”
  • Body contains “mlm”
  • Body contains “@mlm”
  • Body contains “///////////////”
  • Body contains “check or money order”

    Feel free to add your insights below so we can grow the list…

    What I’ve learnt about Twitter after 1,000 Tweets.

    Today is quite the momentous occasion… my 1000th Tweet after a year or so of taking Twitter seriously. I felt that this particular Tweet needed to be profound (everything’s relative) – and so I’ve decided to use it to refer to this post and write a few words about what I’ve learnt from this bizarre social media application and explain why I use it and what it’s actually done for me.

    Maybe my wife, parents, friends and anyone else who just ‘doesn’t get it it’ will have a little more of a clue as to what it’s all about if they get round to reading this.

    1. Like every tool ever invented – how you use Twitter will change what you get from it.
    2. Like every tool ever invented – it’s your choice as to how you use it.
    3. Some people use Twitter for talking about what they had for breakfast. That’s fine. I don’t, because it’s not going to further me or anyone else in a business sense and that’s my primary reason for using the tool. Your reason maybe different and that’s fine.
    4. I use Twitter to further myself (and I hope others) in business. Business however can be made up of many different things.
    5. Entertainment, education, friendship, humour and knowledge transfer have all been essential parts of my 1000 tweets.
    6. As of the time of writing I’ve 245 followers (thank you). I only follow 40 people. I only follow people I’m interested in understanding or hearing more from.
    7. I’ve had people complain I don’t follow them or hassle me to follow them. Guess what – that’s not the way to do it people.
    8. Part of the reason I use Twitter is for ‘legal stalking’. It’s not as sinister as it sounds. If I want to do business with someone, I follow them. If I am doing business with someone I follow them.
    9. Who wouldn’t want to get closer to a prospect or a customer to find out what they are thinking? What’s the perfect way to understand what makes them tick and to find out what they are interested in? Following them of course.
    10. I like communicating with people – I can’t help myself. If I find out something I think might be of interest to someone, I will share it with them. I used to do this using newspaper clippings (I still do). Twitter makes this a much easier process.
    11. I like the fact I have virtual colleagues in Tasmania, Australia (hi @michellef) I also like the fact I’ve met them in real life too.
    12. I like the fact I get to hear about the latest things happening in the world of WordPress (@woothemes) and get discounts off the latest themes.
    13. I like the fact that I won a signed set of books from one of my favourite business authors (@dmscott)
    14. 11,12 and 13 I did on Twitter in the last week and no point did I tell anyone what I had for breakfast, nor did they tell me.
    15. I admit I have Tweetdeck open on one of my screens for most of the day (unless I’m focusing on getting stuff done, in which case I switch it off). That’s not a good thing – it should be turned on at certain times of the day and I’m working on my addiction there.
    16. I happily paid $2.99 for Twittelator on my iPhone and use it every day (thanks @ed_dale). Why wouldn’t you absorb yourself in other people’s wisdom whilst sitting on a train/standing in a supermarket/waiting for your wife to try on clothes eh @ed?)
    17. Do I still interact with real live human beings? Yes of course I do. Do I also benefit massively most days from other people’s wisdom via Twitter? Yes definitely.
    18. Do other people benefit from my twittering? I’d hope so.
    19. Would I ever follow hundreds or thousands of people – no… following others to get followers makes very little sense in my book. I’d prefer people to follow me who are interested in what I have to bang on about.
    20. Do I recommend every person in business to at least consider using Twitter as a tool – yes I do. Is it right for everyone? No…
    21. I try to make Tweets less than 110 characters to allow easy retweeting.
    22. I like occasional random conversations with people I don’t know – it adds to the rich tapestry of life. #bbcquestiontime is a great example.
    23. Be interesting and others will be interested in you. Isn’t that right @lesleyeverett?
    24. So how will I change my use of Twitter over the next 1000 tweets? I need to turn off Tweetdeck more. It is distracting, and I need no help in that department. I want to get better at explaining the phenomenon in a simple way to people who don’t get it so that they can benefit too. I also want to find more interesting, relevant people in my niches and sphere of interest to follow to get even more tuned into my markets. That’s hard to do, so I need to listen even harder.

    There. I’d like to think I’ve made the most of my 1000th tweet. But maybe you disagree…. comments are open below.