web analytics

Choosing the right platform for your email newsletters

So. Your new website is up and it is absolutely beautiful. It has all the bells and whistles to enable you to conquer the world. Right? Now that you have the easy part done, what’s next? Now you have to be able to tell people about it.

Fortunately, there are many choices to enable you to do just that. The best way to accomplish that is through an e-newsletter platform (provider). This is a service that enables you to use your email list to distribute your valuable information to your clients/customers/friends and family.

Naturally, the first thing you need to do is create that list, which is the subject of another post. For our purposes here we will be addressing only the platforms available for your use, whether you are an artist, photographer, blogger, etc.. The graph below highlights the Top Ten, according to Top Ten Reviews (link below).

 Email Marketing Chart

When you are at the point in your business where you need to find new customers as well as market to existing ones, one of the best methods of doing this is through the use of email newsletters, coupons, and announcements.

The following is a list of why email marketing might be your best choice to further your goals.

The role of email in your marketing arsenal:

• 94% of all online adults read or send email

• Email is ingrained in people’s daily routines

• 2.9-billion email accounts worldwide

• $40.6-dollar return on ROI for $1 spent

• Email is checked unconsciously all day

• Email is the #1 online activity

• Email can be easily targeted

• 89% of marketers consider it very important

With that in mind, here are a couple points to consider when deciding to look for providers for solving your email marketing “challenges”:

1. What do I want to achieve by deciding to use email marketing? Do you have a product to sell? Do you want to share your wisdom with like-minded people? Do you want to use coupons to drive business to your virtual doorstep? You may want to create a list of your more immediate goals, in order to be better informed in selecting a platform that will assist you in achieving those goals.

2. What can I afford to pay for this service? Many of the services listed in the above graph allow you free service either by a prescribed period of time or through the use of a limited amount of subscribers, usually up to 1,000. While all of the services can send out your email campaign, several are all-in-one packages that can handle all your email marketing needs, such as excellent tracking, thorough statistics, the ability to schedule events, segmentation of your lists, etc. Others may only offer limited services, such as sending, basic tracking, and minimal statistics.

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is that you might want to select a service that someone you know is using. That way you can “get in” easier and with a lot less effort.

David Wells, who publishes a great photography newsletter, The Wells Point, did just that. “I use Mail Chimp simply because a good friend who is a techy and who helped me build my various sites said it was better and easier to use as compared to others he had used. Once I learned how to use it I had NO interest in learning how to use another program.”

If one of your main concerns is customer service, Todd Shapera from Todd Shapera Photography also feels that is a good point to consider. “Over many years, I also have received terrific customer phone service from iContact, especially when I have formatting and design issues. I also use iContact because it feels user friendly on every level—flexibility in designing the newsletter, linking to other web galleries, managing lists, scheduling and sending newsletters, and receiving detailed user reports on opens and clicks.”

 

The graph above should aid you tremendously in your selection process. It is the best site I have found that offers considerable information in relation to making a well-informed email marketing choice. Each time you click on one of the tabs on the left, a new graph will appear, indicating the levels of “Ease of Use,” for example.

 Email Marketing analytics

 

For my own work I use Benchmark, which has performed very well for me. One of the best statistics I use is the “Campaign Comparison” graph (above). It allows me to compare a number of my campaigns to see which one performed best. I can then use this information to do some research and find why certain campaigns performed better than others.

 

Over the years I have used Constant Contact, AWeber, Mail Chimp, Online Newsletters, WYSIJA (WordPress plugin). Some I found to be awkward to use, while others had insufficient reporting structures. I was doing well with AWeber, but soon found out that users didn’t have the ability to select which segmented list of yours they wanted to opt out of. When I called customer service, the person I spoke with had no idea what I was talking about.

 

Everyone has their own experience, which is why it is up to you to do the research necessary to get the right fit for you.

 

Links:
top graph, http://email-marketing-service-review.toptenreviews.com/
David Wells: www.davidhwells.com
Todd Shapera: www.ToddShapera.com
Tim Anderson: www.reddognews.com

Author Bio:
Tim Anderson is a professional photographer and writer and is the editor of RedDogNews.com and the publisher of Red Dog News, a bi-weekly international photo-based e-mail newsletter, read in more than 128 countries and by more than 5,000 readers and subscribers. He recently spoke at WordCamp Albuquerque, Online Newsletters: Benefits and Challenges.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Find a New Web Host for Your Small Business

The phone’s ringing off the hook, your only employee didn’t show up today and your website and email just crashed. It’s another hectic day in the life of a busy entrepreneur. Someday, you’ll be able to take a day off – maybe even a whole week! But that won’t be anytime soon.

Until you can afford to pay higher wages, you may be stuck with that one deadbeat employee. But you don’t have to put up with your website being unreliable. The problem is most likely your Web host, so if you’re not getting what you need, it’s time to make a change.

Choosing a Host

As you begin your search for a website host, take advantage of resources available to you as a small business owner. Consult with your local chamber of commerce and check the U.S. Small Business Administration website for advice. Talk to other small-business owners in your community and ask them what Web host they use.

Responsiveness Matters Most

Look for a Web hosting provider that offers excellent customer service and 24/7 technical support. Once you’ve narrowed-down your list of reputable hosting companies, call them to ask a few questions. Make a note of whether the person you speak with seems friendly and knowledgeable, how long you’re on hold before someone takes your call, and how many times you’re transferred or put on-hold. Because any time you’re on the phone with your Web hosting service is time you can’t field phone calls from your own customers.

Ask each company you’re comparing for an “uptime guarantee,” which is the amount of time you can expect your website to be functional. Ideally, your uptime would be 100 percent, but that’s difficult to guarantee. You should expect, however, your uptime to be 99 percent or higher.

If you have content on your website written by bloggers or copywriters, make sure you ask any potential Web hosts how they respond to allegations of plagiarism or misappropriation of content. In some cases, website hosts will shut down an entire website, rather than investigate whether such claims are legitimate.

Ask whether a new host can handle the transfer for you, or at least help you understand the steps involved.

Look for Ample Storage

While storage space needs will vary from business to business, 200GB should cover your needs. Aim higher than that if you foresee your business growing or offering new services.

Before you transfer to your new host, download all the files from your website and save them to your hard drive. Even though you should experience little – if any – downtime as you move to a new host, plan to move files to your new server at a time when customers normally wouldn’t be trying to access your site.

Hassle-free Hosting

With all of your responsibilities as a small business owner, you need a Web hosting service you can count on, because if your host’s server crashes, your website stops working, and you could lose customers as a result. Find a host that values customer service as much as you do, with an exceptional uptime guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about website outages complicating your day.

What Information Should I Include in my Business Website?

You’re in the process of building your small business website. Congratulations. You’ve designed it beautifully (or hired a professional to), but you want to make sure it has all of the information you need. How much is too much? Or worse – how much information is not enough? And how should I organize it?

These are all common questions for small businesses. You’ll want to make sure you answer all of your customer’s questions on your website. You’ll also need to make sure that the information is organized well. If you answer your customer’s questions, not only about your company but about the industry as a whole, they will return to your site every time they have a question. When a problem occurs, your website users will think of your products and services before your competition’s.

For your website, think of the content you need to include in sections. While these will probably be pages for most websites, some designs include all of the content on one page. One-page websites work well for small businesses or businesses that expect their website to be accessed regularly from mobile devices. Obviously 1-page designs won’t work for online retail companies because they need product pages. No matter what web design you choose, make sure your design is responsive so that consumers can access it easily from all of their devices like tablets and cell phones.

The sections you need are:

Home

This doesn’t need to be a long section. Some sites just include a large photo or collection of photos that represents their company. You do want to give a signal about what your business does and the name of your business, but don’t type out a long message. Your customers won’t read it.

Services/Products

This page or section will go into detail about what your company has to offer. Including what makes your company stand out against the competition can be powerful information to include here. Call to action buttons, or buttons that encourage your customer to do something, will most likely be included here. “Click here for a quote,” “Purchase” or “Add to cart” would all be call to action buttons.

FAQ

This should be the largest section of your website. Make sure you answer every question you’ve ever received about your company. You can include estimated pricing here, too. Give consumers more information than they need. This makes your website incredibly valuable to them and unforgettable. But again, make sure this information is organized. No one will read 1000 questions on one page.

Contact

Be sure to include contact information. Have your phone number and e-mail address handy for your customers, but also your address. Do not include contact information in a graphic or picture. Search engines can’t read information in pictures. You want the search engine to be able to find you so they can direct local customers to you. Including maps and call to action telephone buttons can make it very easy for customers to contact you.

The optional sections to include depend on your business. Optional pages/content:

About

This is sometimes thought of as a necessary component for websites, but it isn’t. Unless your business was started for a special reason or has a specific mission, most people won’t read this information. If you decide you need one, you can find tips and tricks for an “About us” page here.

Portfolio/Testimonials

Depending on what your business does, you may want to include examples of your work or customer testimonials. In some cases, it may not be possible or practical to show off your work. Consult a professional if you’re not sure if you need this information.

Again, include the information that you think is most important. If you’re really stuck, consult a professional. As long as the information is organized well and designed in a user-friendly way, you should have a successful website.

Why Print Marketing Still Matters

Many small businesses recognize the value of online and social media marketing, because it’s an affordable means of reaching a wide audience. But print marketing still plays a role in generating leads for businesses. Print marketing can be the gateway to get your customers and potential customers engaged with your online marketing campaign. You just need to come up with the right approach.

Variety of Options

When you receive a flyer or coupon in the mail, odds are you look at it before you toss it in the recycling bin. Or maybe you stick that flyer on your fridge. That kind of permanency isn’t possible with online marketing; customers may see your banner ad online, but they may forget about it minutes later.

Traditional print marketing materials like flyers and direct-mail ads can be effective, but increasingly, businesses are using new and creative forms of print marketing.

If the purpose of your print marketing campaign is to support your online marketing efforts, you can include a QR code on printed materials. When customers use their smartphones to scan the QR code, their browser will lead them to a destination tied to that code – it could be your website, a contest, a discount offer or some other interactive online environment. Adding a QR code just makes sense, if you want to connect with people online.

Credibility

When you visit a website and get bombarded with pop-up ads for a business, you may be inclined to avoid that business, simply because it’s interfering with whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish online. Print marketing doesn’t disrupt the customer’s daily routine – while a customer must undertake a little effort to, say, remove a flyer from his windshield, it’s not as much of a hassle as closing several unwelcome ads online.

Print marketing materials, unlike online advertising, won’t be mistaken for spam, and there are no threats of viruses or malware possibly being attached to print ads.

One of the most tried-and-true forms of print marketing is the business card – which not only boosts your credibility, but allows you to share important information about your company. A company that offers business card printing services can design a card for you that grabs the attention of customers. Make sure to include information about your website, Twitter handle and Facebook page, so customers can look at your business card and know where to find you online.

Mix it Up

With so many different ways to engage customers, why not incorporate several types of marketing into your overall strategy?  A balanced mix of online advertising, print marketing and broadcast marketing tactics is the best way to promote your business. Make your marketing campaign even more successful by cross-promotion, like using a direct-mail flyer to promote an online offer.

Print marketing has evolved alongside online marketing efforts. So think about how you can use print creatively to work in tandem with your online marketing campaign and increase customer engagement.

Localized is Better: Gearing Your Site for Local Search

A localized webpage can make all the difference between a new conversion and a missed opportunity. 88 percent of users searching for a particular business from a mobile phone follow up with an in-person visit to the business within 24 hours. If people can’t find your business when they search for the service you provide in your town, you’re losing out to your competitors. Try these tips to give your website a localized SEO boost.

Going local

—      Include an address. While you may already have your address on your contact page, you’ll get more mileage by including it on every page. Put it in the footer so it’s in the same position on each page.

—      Don’t forget your phone number. Make it easy for potential customers to be in touch and always include the phone number with your address. Use both your local number — area code included — and your toll free number.

—      Mention local landmarks. If you’re near a tourist attraction, it can pay off to list it in your Web copy. So don’t forget to mention that your dentist office is near Willis Tower or Navy Pier. This reinforces your location with Google and can help your business rank for long tail phrases. For example, if you’re a florist near Navy Pier and you’ve mentioned that fact on your site, you could rank highly for the phrase “florists near Navy Pier.” As a bonus, this data can also help new clients locate your business.

—      Localize your keywords. Your keywords tell search engines what you do, and information on your business’s location is integral to your ranking success as a small business. Include geographic data in your Web copy to boost your location-specific rankings and receive a higher spot in search engine results pages. Your goal is to be on that first page of search results for your keyword.

—      Use webmaster tools. Google and Bing’s webmaster tools help you format your page for indexing by search engines. Once you’ve created a free account, you can set your geographic location.

—      Get listed locally. Local listings through provider directories, local search engines and social tools — like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Places and Yahoo Local — help people find you. They also provide valuable information for people using those services and their mobile apps.

Why it works

Google prioritizes three things when returning search results: Relevance, distance and prominence. By localizing your website, you’ve tackled the distance part of the equation. Google uses basic information gleaned from your Web copy and the user’s search terms to determine relevance. By optimizing your webpage to include keywords for your product or service — for example, by inserting the more relevant “Chicago dentist” over “dentist” — you help inform Google that you’re relevant to those searches. To realize the most relevance, include variations on the main keywords. For the dentist example, “dentist in Chicago,” “Chicago root canal,” “top dentist in Chicago” or “dentist in Chicago, IL” are good variations. For prominence, Google tries to assess your popularity compared with other service providers. If you have inbound links from authoritative Web pages, such as the Chicago Dental Society or local search tools like Yelp, you’re deemed more prominent than competitors that lack these references.

Track your progress by setting up a Google analytics account and monitoring your page views and referral traffic. Over time, you’ll be able to see your business rise in search results and receive positive feedback that your strategy is working or you’ll identify areas you need to improve in.

 

Google Apps – Tips and Tricks for a more Efficient User Experience

google_apps6464Improving one’s efficiency in the world of Google Apps can not only save precious time, but can also lead to a more organized and productive user experience. Our elaborate resource of Google Apps tutorial videos – GoogleGooru, provides step by step guidance from basic to advanced features.  In this post we’ve compiled a selection of  tips and tricks to help make your Google Apps experience more efficient and enjoyable.

Gmail:

Multiple Inboxes – Keeping Your Inbox Organized:

If you are using Gmail on a regular basis, there is a very high chance that you might find yourself spending a lot of time prioritizing your emails. Have you ever imagined what it could be like to have your emails arrange themselves automatically across multiple inboxes of your choice? In our Top Gmail Labs series we’ve provided a detailed video tutorial as to how to do exactly that.

One of the more powerful Gmail Labs is the ability to create multiple inboxes. In order to enable multiple inboxes (Mail Settings > Labs > Multiple Inboxes) please make sure your inbox type is set to classic. Go ahead and enable it.

Now you can use the mail settings interface to easily specify what type of email you want to appear in each inbox; such as drafts, sent mail  or a certain label.

Labels & Filters – Be More Efficient With Your Emails

One of the best ways to save time in Gmail is through the use of filters. By automatically applying actions to incoming messages, filters can help become more efficient in your workspace. According to the rules that you set – you can label, archive, star, forward, and delete messages automatically. Moreover, the process is rather easy: Gmail filters work just like search: just click the drop-down arrow in the search bar and set your own parameters.

Gmail also offers more organizational features such as labels. Unlike Outlook, Gmail allows you to apply multiple labels to a single e-mail. Using this method, you can organize, file, and later retrieve your emails more efficiently.

Canned Responses – Save Yourself Some Time

As one of the most popular Gmail Labs, Canned Responses allows you to create templates of emails that you send often, and quickly insert the entire template into an email.  That way, messages that are composed on a regular basis can be prepared in advance and later extracted rapidly, saving precious time.

Drive

Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Docs

If you are using Google Drive, you must be using Google Docs on a regular basis. In order to save some time while working with Google Docs, you might want to consider learning some keyboard shortcuts. While most of you must be already familiar with the basic  shortcuts such as cut, copy, paste, undo etc, our tutorials expose you to more advanced shortcuts such as copy and paste of formatting as well as keyboard shortcuts for headers. Check out the video on GoogleGooru to see a few of our favorites.

Advanced Search Operators

If you are a daily Google Drive user, your Google Docs must be rapidly accumulating within your Drive Library. While you can store and organize documents in different folders, it can sometimes be hard to find specific documents you’re looking for. Using Drive’s Advanced Search Operators you can find your Docs using not only their titles as the search word, but also through searching for keywords, frequent words and key phrases used within the Doc you are looking for. In addition, you can narrow down your search using sharing policies.

How to Copy a Collection of Google Docs

Another popular way to save time is through the editing of existing docs. In order to do so, most of us simply copy the docs we are interested in editing. However, Google Drive does not allow for the copying of multiple documents at a time. Fortunately, there is a way to do this using the offline version of Google Drive.

Open the desktop version of your Google Drive > Right click a folder of documents that you wish to copy, and click copy. Now right click again within your Google Drive, and click paste. You should see an identical version of your folder with ‘Copy’ in front of it. Next time you sync your desktop Drive with your browser version, you should see this copy in your Drive.


Matan Levin @thegoogleguru: The Google Gooru is your #1 resource for Google Apps how-to videos and for keeping up to date on the latest updates and new features in Google Apps.

Why You Need to Simplify Your Message

Developing the perfect user experience takes skill, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of hard work. Perfecting UX is an ambitious project for any content management team to undertake. In order to succeed in our goal, every decision we make should bring our content platforms closer to meeting our audience’s expectations, while increasing sales and customer engagement.

But this isn’t always a happy marriage of goals, and nowadays commercial websites have become enormous, complicated structures that require FAQ pages just to answer site navigation questions. Meanwhile, competing websites will continue to offer audiences similar features and prices, but one will ultimately win out because it provided the better user experience.

The study of user experience involves many different aspects of web design and content writing. These are details that your users will always notice on their end, but will often get overlooked by management. Here we will focus on the idea of minimalism, highlighting the potential benefits of offering customers a more simplified experience on your website and in your other content platforms. We will also discuss why this strategy works, and what outcomes to expect. But first, let’s take a look inside the mind of a user and get an idea of where they’re coming from.

What Do Users Want?

People’s habits on a web page aren’t much different than their physical behavior in a retail store. They’ll quickly glance over your landing page, scan some of the text and then click on the first thing that really catches their attention. This could be some sort flashy new content or anything that would lead them towards that thing they came looking for in the first place.

If the new landing page doesn’t fulfill their expectations or wants, they immediately turn back and start the process all over again. As a result, there will be many different parts of your website that users will never actually look at or read through at all. This boils down to two distinct behaviors all users share:

Scanning – Users scan content. A study by the Nielsen Norman Group found that on the average web page, users will read through only 20% of the content. This isn’t a habit that reflects ignorance or disinterest on the user’s part, it merely shows us that people are busy and will quickly scan content to determine whether or not it is any good.

Intuitive Search – Users follow their gut. Most of the time, they would rather find their own way through a site than read through and introduction page explaining the process. Think of it as the equivalent of a guy refusing to ask for directions. As you might imagine, users won’t always make the best decisions as a result. They’ll either end up somewhere completely irrelevant to their goal, or get completely lost and assume that their solution isn’t offered on your site.

Users want instant gratification

This involves the shortest, quickest route possible towards fulfilling their needs and wants. Maybe that’s the quality of your content. If users know that you’re going to deliver really good content on your end, they’ll usually put up with advertisements, call-to-action pop ups, and other intrusive materials on their end.

But the real question is whether or not that’s a necessary risk. If a website falls short on experience even for a second, then the user will bounce and you lose the sale. So instead of focusing on improving experience by adding, try to think about what you can omit.

Users Know Where Things Should Go

According to the many eye tracking studies conducted in the past, users tend to start scanning through the content of a web page on the top left corner of a site. They then proceed through the rest of the content in an F-like pattern, occasionally stopping whenever they find something particularly interesting or useful to them. As a result, users have become accustomed to looking for certain key elements of a web page on certain parts of a website. Let’s take a look at an example:

Category pages enable users to search through product catalogs quickly and efficiently. So where do you typically find category menus on a home page?

amazon

ebay

apple

Users typically begin their search on the top left corner, so it’s easy to see that category menus are one of the most important aspects of an ecommerce website. Each of these websites is unique and has developed incredibly strong brands, and yet their site designs aren’t all that different when you take a closer look at it.

That’s because part of developing the minimalistic user experience involves understanding where audiences will expect to see certain elements of a website. Avoiding this altogether and doing your own take on it will cause users to waste time. Remember, users rely on intuitive search, so unnecessary site reorganization could ultimately lead to user disinterest and a loss of sale.

Users Want It Quick and Obvious

Content should be clean and out in the open. If a website provides a minimalist, simplified design, users will spend less time learning how to find what they want and more time actually finding what they want. The problem though is that we often have so many great ideas and content that we end up throwing it all up at once. It’s almost ironic when you think about it. We spend so much time thinking about cool new things we could add that we end up overwhelming our users with header art, signup sheets, FAQs, drop down menus and other excess materials.

There’s nothing wrong with constantly researching new ways to make the user experience better and more engaging, but it’s important to keep in mind that users want things quick and obvious. They want a clear road that will lead them to their goal, and they want to discover it for themselves. So why make it harder for them? Let’s take a look at this example:

OpenMile.com is a truckload freight broker that brings users with shipping needs to the companies who want to provide them these services.

Here’s their original landing page: 

Open-Mile-AB-test-Control

It’s a very clean and straightforward design. But the problem was that the cover art (original as it may be) proved to be too distracting to users looking to find where they could get a quote. As a result, many of them never noticed the solid “Get a Truckload Quote” button even though it was near the top left corner of the page.

Here’s there updated landing page: 

Open-Mile-AB-test-Variation

Notice how the distracting cover art is gone leaving a plain “Get a Quote” button dead center of the page instead. The surrounding color complements the button by bringing it out in the open instead of masking it in the page. It’s literally the first thing you saw when you looked at it right? This is what I mean about providing a clear and obvious road. Users will discover it themselves and commit because of it. What were the results? Well a study by Visual Website Optimizer found that the change was responsible for a 232% increase in lead generation.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to make a website a new and fresh experience, but you have to remember to keep the ideal user experience in mind first. Don’t force them to relearn browsing concepts they are already familiar with and understand that sometimes less will really mean more.



Vincent H. Clarke is a Marketing Analyst for USB Memory Direct, a wholesaler of promotional USB drives. While he mostly writes about marketing and branding, he also enjoys writing about productivity, content strategy, and user experience. Connect with him on Twitter @_vhclarke.

Communication of the Social Message: Tips for Business

For every brand, it’s important to think about public perception. How the public, your customers, thinks and feels about your company is vital for maintaining a competitive edge. Companies make impressions through their corporate message and how it’s delivered. As your organization grows, and you add talented players to your team, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that every member of your staff is on the same page. The last thing you want is for a team member to send out a Tweet or status update that’s completely at odds with your company’s overarching social message.

It’s also important to realize that your message may experience some shifts throughout the course of your company’s life. Every company needs technology to help keep everyone up to speed on your company’s branding message. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the resources and tools companies of all sizes should consider and implement.

Tools for Unifying Your Message

—     Collaboration Tools: Collaboration is the lifeblood of the modern business structure. With tools like hosted SharePoint services, companies of all types can stay connected in real time with employees. This is one of the most effective ways to keep everyone up to speed on branding. In most cases, if your employees are engaged with your collaboration platform, it’s easy to disseminate information in a way that is both non-intrusive and easy to access.

—     Cloud Data Access: Another similar way to deliver this information is through an integrated cloud storage service. Not unlike your collaboration tool, a cloud storage platform is a seamless way to deliver complex branding information in an easy-to-access package. While some companies are still wary of the cloud, studies indicate that more businesses are experiencing both the financial and logistical benefits of implementing cloud resources.

—     Virtualization Infrastructure: Regardless of what platform you use to deliver sensitive branding data to your staff, every company needs a powerful infrastructure to make branding data easily accessible for everyone. The problem many SMBs are facing relates to infrastructure itself. Smaller businesses often don’t have the financial resources to integrate and manage a dedicated server to deploy and manage complex branding and messaging information. This is why many SMBs are migrating to virtualized infrastructure solutions like virtual private server technology, which gives you the control and computing power of the cloud without costing what an entire cloud platform would.

Branding Communication is Serious Business

Keeping your team up to speed on your overall social message is no easy task. Not only is it difficult logistically, but you’ll come up against employees that disagree with how you approach your branding. It’s crucial to maintain dialogue about branding processes with your employees. If your employees weren’t on staff, they would be potential customers, so their feedback is valuable. The fact that not everyone is in the same geographic location can muffle this communication. Again, having powerful collaboration and cloud storage tools can serve as the proper remedy.

Social Media Positives: Conversion is Achieved with a Personal Touch

Marketing strategies are always evolving, and chances are, even the best methods today will be outdated within five years. However, that doesn’t mean that your business should ignore them. You need to be up-to-date with the best ways to reach your customer base, and right now, social media marketing is one of the methods at the top of the list. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the road when it comes to marketing on social media, both in terms of what to avoid and how to reach people and convert them into customers.

Remember you’re reaching individuals: Even if the person you’re marketing to is representing a company, you’re still interacting with an individual. Therefore, your marketing needs to have that personal appeal that will engage people. After all, your content is going to be lumped in with everything people are seeing from their friends, too. A casual voice, lighthearted tone and a little bit of personality will go a long way in connecting with your audience. Before posting anything, ask yourself whether it’s something you would be interested in looking at during your leisure time. If it’s not, rethink your content and adjust it to make it more interesting and relevant for the people you’re trying to reach.

Be trendy, but don’t break copyright: Sharing viral content on social media is all the rage, but you have to do so in a way that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. For example, many companies ran into trouble when they tried to post Harlem Shake videos because of copyright issues with the song. The safe method is to reference trends, while still keeping all of your actual content original. That way you’ll attract the attention of your customers without running into legal issues.

Keep the conversation going: Social media marketing isn’t your traditional outbound marketing. Rather, it’s a continual conversation with the people who interact with your company or brand. People are going to be posting questions or comments directed at you, or replying to questions or comments you make. Therefore, you need to be checking these and engaging with the people who have made the effort to engage with you. This often comes easily when people have positive reactions or honest questions about your products, but it can be more difficult with customer complaints. Remain polite and address everything, even the negative items.

Consider what people are interested in: People who are connected with you on social media don’t just want to hear about your brand and products all the time. Instead, they’re interested in information, fun facts, and news related to your type of product and services. Therefore, do lots of linking to interesting blog posts, news stories, and other content that will add value to those you reach. Go light on the promotional links, and tread carefully if you’re linking to anything that could be considered misleading.

Your business marketing strategy needs to include social media involvement, but it’s not going to be effective in converting customers unless you’re using the right tactics. Take a look at how companies similar to yours run their social media accounts and the results they’re getting in terms of customer engagement. Engagement often translates into sales, so if people are interacting with them, they’re doing something right. Of course, you don’t want to just copy your competitors, but to put your company’s unique voice and style into your social media marketing messages.

 

Can Technology Damage Small Business Efficiency?

web-security-threatsSmall businesses everywhere are constantly being told that the more they embrace technology, the better their opportunities to grow will be and the more efficient they will become. The thought of technology having a negative impact never enters their heads, and why should it. However, as they begin to grow and explore other areas, it is very easy for various technology platforms to start doing as much harm as they do good.

Don’t get us wrong; we are not saying businesses should ditch technology. What they do need to do, however, is ensure that they are cutting out complacency, and maintaining a focus on the products they do use at all times.

We explored some examples of business technology, and looked at how they can damage efficiency, and what they can do to deal with and prevent problems.

Poor IT Procedures

The biggest cause of data breaches in businesses is negligence. Even if you are a local company with no more than five or six employees, you need to have an IT policy and clear procedures in place. Not only does this protect your business, it means you can deal with people who decide to put your business at risk directly or indirectly, and it will improve the use of IT and the whole culture in your company.

Dealing with this problem can cost time, money, and your business’ reputation, and the best cure here is always to be preventative.

IT Maintenance

This is where the line about “the more they embrace technology” comes into focus.

When first buying hardware or servers, you naturally go for the best product available, or at least the best you can afford. As you move forward, however, it is easy to neglect upgrading these services or products, either inadvertently or because you don’t want to invest any more money.

The efficiency you lose because of slow systems or out of date hardware will cost you more than an upgrade, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot!

Not Going Mobile

If a business hasn’t gone mobile, then there are huge opportunities being missed. Why have people in an office sat in front of a computer making appointments, when they could be doing that on the phone while physically traveling to appointments and looking up information and potential leads on a mobile device at the same time?

When you do go mobile, it is important that devices are subject to the same security levels and maintenance as office hardware would be, even if you use mobile as part of a BYOD setup. Many businesses have lost data or been breached because they have accessed data via a tablet or phone, for example, that is otherwise secured in other locations.

Ensure your business is not caught out!

It’s a Must

If you don’t put this advice into practice, then you had better be ready to learn the hard way the importance of maintaining your technology platforms and security. It might seem time intensive and costly, but rest assured, it is more efficient than what you are currently doing, and definitely more so than having to deal with any problems.

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