Building a business website is more than just throwing some content together, adding a few keywords and hoping that since you built it, the customers will come. You have to devise a way for people to find and stay on your site until they purchase your products or services. How can you make that happen?
The following tips are a great start.
Getting Off on the Right Foot
A good web hosting service should provide you with website builder’s tools, guarantee 99.9 percent uptime, offer excellent customer service, support email accounts through your domain and provide adequate protection from outside threats. A virtual private server is a good route to take if you want to control your own server, which allows your business to produce top-of-the-line customer service because you won’t have to rely on a web host company. Premiere virtual private server hosting has a capable and easy-to-use control panel that helps manage myriad resources across your shared network.
After you choose a web hosting service, it’s time to pick a proper domain name. The name should be either your business name or something describing what you do. It needs to be something customers can remember and spell easily. If a customer can’t find you, you lose sales. Finally, as you’re choosing, don’t make the name so close to another business’s name that your customers can confuse the two.
Design & Links
Have a clean, user-friendly site for visitors to browse through. Avoid flashy multimedia and opt for white space instead of “stuff.” An easy-to-use website that is appealing to the eye will keep visitors clicking through instead of clicking out. If your page only works on certain screen resolutions or browsers, you run the risk of losing visitors because a messy, unprofessional site drives customers away. Check your page’s browser compatibility with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari and their different versions.
Linking to your website helps search engine spiders find it. You should use social media links and trade links with other sites, which is called back linking. If you trade links with someone, make sure their site complements yours, but is not in direct competition with it. The other site can sell the same services and products, but you shouldn’t infringe on each other’s customer bases.
For example, if your site only targets people in Alabama and their state only targets people in Michigan, it’s a great idea for a partnership. If your site sells a widget, but the other person’s site sells an accessory to the widget but not the widget itself, that would also be a good link.
Make your site mobile-friendly. Many people search for things on the go. If a person is looking for a specific product and you carry it, your site should show up in their mobile search results. With a mobile-ready site, a prospective customer can easily navigate your site on a smart phone and get directions to your business.
Contact information is just about the most important information on the website. List your business name, address, phone number, email address and social media information somewhere on every page of the website. The footer is a great place for this information. Create a “Contact Us” page with all the necessary information.
As a final touch, post pictures and videos about services or products. If using YouTube, imbed the videos or link to them directly. According to the Small Business Advisor, YouTube is the second most searched website after Google. Use it to your advantage.
October 19, 2012 No Comments
Small business owners need to be their own primary source of labor. They should learn to work for themselves as it may become costly to hire employees. Hiring cheap labor is impossible if people are unwilling to first of all provide the cheap labor by themselves. The hiring process has to be done effectively with plenty of caution; therefore external help would come in handy. Referrals from friends and family can help come up with trustworthy individuals for the job. There is nothing as frustrating as hiring an employee who consistently thwarts the vision of the business.
It is wise to establish a plan that would guide the operation of the business on a regular basis. The owner should take time to monitor the business in order to determine the amount of money that runs the business. From rent, electricity and all other bills to toner cartridges, coffee and paper, all costs have to be fully drawn. Afterwards a minimum amount of money that is required daily can be set to establish high standards for the business. This would also reduce the rate of wastage with the accountability offered by the records.
Success is inevitable once business owners learn to embrace technology. Cloud applications for instance can transform the storage aspect of the business. This application is inexpensive and allows small businesses to compete with large businesses on a unique scale. Small businesses need to take advantage of the mass storage provisions featured in the cloud. Cloud technology would most definitely leave business with more money to invest by cutting down on the running costs.
Marketing strategies for small businesses must be on point, as they focus less on quantity. Going online would set a perfect backbone for any business. It is important to list the business on search engine local listings; furthermore this service is free of charge. Customers get a more professional outlook of a business that is featured on the web.
Advertising is a very essential marketing strategy for any business, however small businesses should not advertise like the big ones. Large companies often offer costly advertising strategies, which would most definitely be strenuous to smaller organizations. Simple ways of advertising can be employed with the incorporation of offers and awards to draw the attention of prospective customers. Small businesses should reduce the size of their advertisements in order to come up with more adverts at the same cost. The adverts can be so enhanced that they draw more attention than the larger ones. Printed adverts should be placed in strategic positions that feature a large number of the targeted group.
Customers often exhibit various tastes and preferences, and it is very important to cater for their varied needs. Some people would rather have a cheaper version and compromise on the quality. Others on the other hand are willing to settle for a higher price as long as they get the best products or services. It is therefore essential to feature several versions and packages of the same product, which come with different prices. Instead of limiting consumers and clients to fixed prices, a narrow bargaining allowance can be established to encourage them to buy the products.
Regardless of how small a business is business owners should make an effort of getting insurance. This would save the business a great deal sometime in the future if something happens out of the ordinary.
October 8, 2012 No Comments
Hiring an extra employee can help your business expand and provide better services to your customers. Many businesses choose to create an employee contract for each new addition to the company’s team. You must generate a small business employee contract even if you are hiring an old colleague or a friend. Small business employee contracts protect your business and your employee. In addition, they let the employee know what his or her job expectations and the terms of employment are. This includes what hours the employee is expected to work and how much he or she will make while working.
Include All Basic Information in Your Employee Contract
There are certain things that you must include in your small business employee contract in order for it to be effective. For example, you have to include your employee’s starting date. You should also include your employee’s responsibilities while he or she is working for your business. The employee contract also gives you a chance to explain your employee’s compensation package. A compensation package includes benefits, medical leave, vacation time, your employee’s salary, bonuses and stock options if stocks are available. You should also include how often your employee will be paid in the contract.
You will also use the employee contract as a way to explain how many hours your new employee will be expected to work. This will ensure that there will be no confusion about anything later. If overtime is available at your business, provide more information about it in your contract. For example, you will need to explain what the pay structure is for overtime. You also need to include how pay raises are given out and how often performance reviews are done. You should also explain how much notice your new employee has to give you before he or she terminates her employment at your small business.
Use Your Employee Contract to Protect Your Business
In order to protect your business and your employees it is a good idea for you to draw up different employee contracts for each new employee that you hire. This is safer than just using the same standard contract for each employee. Each person you hire will have different compensation packages and job responsibilities based on their experience, knowledge and background. Having employee contracts that explains everything to them can build a trusting environment and that can help you keep your business active and productive. Your employee contract needs to explain everything to your new employee. It should also protect their rights and your rights. Your employees need to know that they are being treated fairly. It also gives you a chance to show that you will respect and value their efforts. Remember to include a nondisclosure agreement in your small business employee contract. Nondisclosure agreements make sure that your employees will not share any business secrets while they are working for you. You should also find out what state laws will affect your employee contract. Everything must be legal. Because of this, it may be a good idea for you to get the help of a lawyer.
October 3, 2012 2 Comments
Most small business owners understand that good communication is vital in being able to run a successful company. Even with this understanding, many businesses still find it difficult to maintain effective forms of communicating with consumers and other businesses. In today’s society, some of the most common forms of communication include emails, traditional print advertisements, virtual ads, tweeting, and much more. When companies fail to communicate in proper manners, this causes marketing campaigns to fail, and this leads to decreases in profit levels.
Fortunately, there are quick fixes that can be implemented to ensure successful communication is maintained. All small businesses should consider some or all of the following communication tips:
Use Social Networks: With millions of consumers taking part in online social networks, businesses will find it very beneficial to dive into these media platforms. Anytime companies choose to take this communication route, it is wise to partner with a social network professional. In doing so, businesses can rest assured their brand is being reflected in a positive manner on the networks. It is also smart to start out by only partaking in one or two social networks because when trying to juggle too many of them, companies often end up developing a bad online appearance.
Utilize Spell-Check Programs: There is nothing worse than sending out advertisements and emails that display incorrect spellings and grammar. When this happens, businesses look unprofessional and are not taken seriously by consumers; this leads to a decrease in customer loyalty as well as in sales levels. It is also smart to avoid using slang. Slang words and phrases are many times only understood by people living in certain regions. In order to captivate the attention of consumers on a global basis, slang should always be avoided.
Be Positive: No matter what type of communication businesses take part in, they should always strive to be positive. Even if bad news needs to be relayed to consumers, employees, or other businesses, there is always a positive way in which the news can be communicated. Messages should not be created by people who are in a bad mood or having a bad day. When this happens, many times, a negative tone becomes apparent in the content of the messages.
Thank You Notes: Consumers and other businesses greatly appreciate it when they receive thank you notes. Many businesses brush off the idea of sending out these types of notes, and this is very unfortunate because such notes can be extremely effective at increasing brand awareness. Thank you notes can be sent out in a number of different situations including after a sales transaction has taken place, a business deal has been completed, or just as a way to tell consumers that they are appreciated for being customers.
Hire a PR Consultant: Hiring a PR consultant can help small businesses maintain effective forms of communication. From handling social media communications to writing articles for newspapers, this type of consultant is definitely worth the investment it takes to obtain his or her services.
September 13, 2012 No Comments
Protecting an office requires unique considerations that are not needed when protecting a home. Sensitive customer data, employee turnover, trade secrets and expensive electronics are all things a small business owner must take into account when designing a security plan. Another challenge when securing an office is that the threat of theft can come from the inside as much as the outside. It would be nice if we could all trust our employees like family but the reality is that an employer must always err on the side of caution. Fortunately, there are many easy and affordable things that can be done to add various levels of safety and protection to your office.
Top Ten Ways to Secure an Office
1. Outside Lighting
If your office has access to the outside you must ensure that all exits are adequately lit at nighttime. Nothing is more appealing to an intruder than an entry point that is dark and hidden from view. You can get inexpensive motion activated lights that will turn on every time something or someone moves near them or you can setup time activated flood lights to illuminate all your entrances. If your business has a parking lot, you should also ensure the entire parking lot is well lit to protect your employees that work late and have to walk to their car in the dark.
2. Computer and Laptop Locks
Computers are expensive enough by themselves. When you consider the cost of replacing the data on the computer, they are priceless. Even if you back up your company’s data onto a server, many important documents may only live on the physical hard drive of the computer. While laptops are especially easy targets due to their small size and portability, a simple laptop lock is all you need to secure the physical device and at the same time protect the stored data.
3. Surge Protectors
Not only do you need to protect your computers and other electronics from theft, but you also need to protect them from the elements. A lightning strike can be a disaster for an unprotected office. Insurance may replace the device itself but it can not replace the data on the computer or the time it takes to reconfigure the device. However, a few surge protectors can easily prevent this situation from ever happening.
4. Lockable File Cabinets
Even though we store most information electronically these days, most companies will never truly be paperless. It is important to keep all sensitive documents and files stored under lock and key to ensure unauthorized individuals do not have access. There are many kinds of file cabinets with locks and you should choose the cabinet that suits your office’s needs. Basic file cabinets with a lock may be enough to keep nosey employees out of important documents, while a Sentry file safe will protect your documents from burglary and fire damage.
5. Key Management
As you add various levels of security around your office, you will inevitably end up with a wide variety of keys. Simply keeping things locked will not provide protection if you do not also protect the keys to those locks. It is always best to minimize the number of available keys floating around your office so they do not end up in the wrong hands, but you should also ensure that you keep all keys locked up. A locked drawer may be enough, but for the bigger offices with numerous keys you can also look at adding a commercial key cabinet. Key cabinets let you store your keys in an organized and secure way. As the business owner, you should maintain control over the key for the key cabinet for maximum security.
6. Data Security
Securing your office’s electronic information is more important than ever but you do not need to invest in an expensive IT security division. Encouraging your employees to use strong passwords for their computers is a good measure that doesn’t cost anything. There are also numerous low cost options for virus protection to maintain network security. It is equally important to protect the data that is no longer needed. A paper shredder that turns your documents into little pieces instead of strips will ensure that no one is able to piece together your old documents. Also, destroying old hard drives before you throw them out is a security measure many employers forget.
7. Access Control
Whether it is high quality deadbolts on your exit doors or an advanced electronic access control system, it is crucial to restrict access to your building so that only authorized employees can get in and out. If you can’t afford a full on access control system with proximity cards and access management software, you can add more advanced door hardware that uses access codes or biometric fingerprint readers. Make sure that you change access codes whenever an employee leaves the company.
8. Video Surveillance
Cameras can be the biggest deterrent to theft or vandalism. When someone thinks they are being recorded, they almost always behave. You can use this to your advantage by installing dummy cameras which don’t actually record but still provide protection. If you want to take it to the next level, a quality DVR camera system will keep recorded footage of all installed cameras on an electronic device that can be reviewed after a situation has occurred. Network DVRs are even more secure as the data is stored off-site and therefore can not be tampered with during a burglary.
9. Alarm System
Alarm systems today are much more advanced than in the past. Wireless alarm systems do not even require wires run throughout your property which can be a huge hassle and expenditure for a small business. Alarm systems can simply sound a loud siren when an intruder is detected or you can opt for a monitored alarm system that is backed by a central station that can deploy emergency response after an alarm is received. Luckily, for those frugal home or business owners, security companies have begun to really cater to those who like to do things on the cheap. DIY home security wasn’t possible 15 years ago. But now with the internet, much of what used to require specialized knowledge is able to be replicated by individuals who simply want to save money by doing things on their own. If you want a recommendation on a good looking control panel that will get the job done, we recommend the Honeywell L5100. This unit is the plain Jane version. For those who want a wireless setup, you can extend it to make the Honeywell L5100 wifi enabled.
All of these steps are important and should be utilized in whichever capacity works for your office. However, even if you chose the most advanced expensive options for each step, things can and will happen. Therefore, it is vital that you have adequate insurance to cover any damag e, theft or false claim against your business.
Follow all of these steps and you can then spend your time developing your business instead of worrying about potential disasters.
August 24, 2012 No Comments
Where did the summer go?!?
No one feels the pressure of going back to school more then teachers. This year will be no exception as more budget cuts take effect. As a society, we always ask teachers to do more with less.
Read what our CEO, Marc Joseph has to say about this in his Huffington Post article: http://ow.ly/cWplP
In July, we ran our annual back to school sweepstakes where people could nominate a teacher to win FREE school supplies. We had just over 1,200 entries! We received entries from every state. The contest was a huge success. We have similar contests every month to help non-profit organizations, schools, and small businesses. Our goal for the monthly contests are to help those who need it. It’s a pay to forward effort to help those that have supported us through the years.
Here are winner’s we’ve contacted so far:
- 1st place – $2,000 in merchandise – Julie V. from Constitution Elementary – Broken Arrow, OK
- 2nd place- $1,000 in merchandise – Keri P. from Phillip Sharp Middle School – Cold Spring, KY
- 3rd place – $500 in merchandise – Kristin V. from Bret Harte Elementary – Chicago, IL
- 4th place – $100 in merchandise – Amanda F. from Our Lady of the Rosary School – Dayton , OH
- 4th place – $100 in merchandise – Ashley O. from Battesburg Leeville Elementary – Leesville, SC
- 4th place – $100 in merchandise – Colleen F. from Kingsborough Elementary – Gloversville, NY
- 4th place – $100 in merchandise – Delene C. from Auburn Elementary – Auburn, IL
- 4th place – $100 in merchandise – Dora A. from Adams Elementary – Wapato, WA
- 4th place – $100 in merchandise – Jennie H. from A. Brian Merry Elementary – Augusta, GA
- 4th place – $100 in merchandise – Ruth M. from Christian Schools of Springfield – Springfield, MO
We are still working to contact the rest of the winners. We will update this post with the other winners as we contact them and they accept the price. Congratulations to all the teachers that won. We also wish to thank the 1,200 people that nominated a teacher. Together we can make a difference!
Have you entered our August 2012 contest? Nominate a school to win free school supplies. Here is the entry form: http://ow.ly/cGrJb
August 13, 2012 No Comments
It’s that time of year again! Halloween in right around the corner. You don’t have to stress or spend a lot of money to have a spooky Halloween Party! Buy wholesale Halloween decorations and order your costumes early to save money.
Here are few tips to for your Halloween Party:
Halloween Invitations: Send your invitations early and keep in mind that parents will most likely take their kids trick or treating. While sending party invitations through the mail is the traditional way to let people know about your Halloween party, consider sending an e-invite this year. People will receive a custom Halloween invitation right to their e-mail box. They can RSVP online and everyone can share the spooky details regarding the party, like what costume they’re going to wear or what dish they plan to bring.
Food & Drink: There are so many Halloween themed food and drink options! It’s going to be hard to decide what to make. Try renaming normal food to keep things simple. Chips and salsa can become bones chips and blood. Add a few eyeball’s to the salsa to keep people coming back for more! Add gummy worms to the punch and turn your cupcakes into spiders! Everything can have a Halloween twist.
Halloween Decorations: You don’t have to overspend on decorations. Set a budget and reuse some of last years decorations to keep your spending in check! Don’t forget about the spooky music to keep everyone in the Halloween spirit. Play games like find the missing head or get some toilet paper and see who can make the quickest mummy.
We love Halloween!
Here are few of our Hallow YouTube videos to get you in the spirit:
Share your Halloween party tips!
August 13, 2012 No Comments
A small business has to develop and apply the right kind of marketing campaign. The plan increases the chances of getting the right reply from a target audience. It is essential that entrepreneurs should know that there are different types of campaigns. First, they must know the target market. Along the way, they must be ready to make changes, product improvements, package changes and other steps.
Business owners must know the right customers to reach and best times and methods to reach them. Succeeding in any campaign means finding and exciting the target audience. The most accurate results can be obtained from various studies and surveys. After figuring out the needs of the company, it is time to be creative and spark interest from the targeted section of the public.
There are certain steps that businesspeople can do to carry out demographic research. They should list the different groups of customers and then list the ways that the product or service suits each group. Next, advertising methods and messages should be chosen that work best with each group. People should set up continual case studies of the targeted market to know what to do to deal with competitors. The perception of certain ads will vary with different groups. Some people are turned off by certain messages, so it is important not to offend a potential customer.
Starting small is important until enough profits are available. Small business owners should not imitate campaigns that are done by huge businesses because the work will cost too much. Going the whole nine yards is not required because the process is just starting. One of the first steps is to develop the ads well so that sales are converted correctly.
Advertising should be brief and straight to the point. Promotions that are concise and interesting will always be more successful because an entire book is not required to sell a product or service. The task will be highly affordable, as well.
There are print and online marketing options available. Regardless of the advertising option, business owners must constantly monitor the ups and downs of the campaign. Putting up a campaign is not enough work – people have to make sure that it is effective. Those who have small companies should make use of the expenses in the best way possible or they could go bankrupt.
The online world has more than enough resources that promote guides for professional campaigns. Entrepreneurs should be able to customize the guide and use their own personalities. Many companies participate in mass advertising to lure in as many customers as they can, but small businesspeople should start small in terms of budget and target as much as possible.
July 16, 2012 No Comments
Our non-profit give-a-way in June was a huge success! We had over 3,700 entries and 1,000′s of charities were nominated to win part of the $5,000 prize. Entries came in from across the country. Many people posted the contest on their Facebook page and really helped support the give-way.
Here are the winners:
Blind Cat Rescue in St. Pauls, NC – 1st Place $2,000 in merchandise
Al Maun Fund in Atlantic City, NJ – 2nd Place $1,000 in merchandise
For A Better Tomorrow in Highland Ranch, CO – 3rd Place – $500 in merchandise
Molly’s Adopt a Sailor nationwide – 4th Place $100 in merchandise
Project Sweetpeas in Belle Vernon, PA – 4th Place $100 in merchandise
Soldiers Angels nationwide – 4th Place $100 in merchandise
The Little Light House in Tulsa, OK -4th Place $100 in merchandise
Backpack of Blessings – Holy Spirit Ministries, Inc – 4th Place $100 in merchandise
Landstuhl Hospital Care Project - Stafford, VA – 4th Place $100 in merchandise
Trails For Hope - Cleveland, OH – 4th Place $100 in merchandise
Adopt-A-Bull Reuse - Coral Springs, FL – 4th Place $100 in merchandise
We are in the process of contacting eight additional 4th place winners. Please understand many of the winning non-profits are small so it often takes a while to contact them. We will update this post with the other winners as we contact them.
We wish to thank everyone that nominated a non-profit in our $5,000 give-a-way. Tell you what, if everyone keeps nominating we will keep having these monthly charitable give-a-ways. Sound like a deal?
|For a Better Tomorrow|
July 13, 2012 No Comments
Many businesses are always on the lookout for ways to bring in new customers. While there are plenty of traditional mediums available such as TV, radio, and print, there are sometimes more effective ways to get targeted leads. Instead of sending out a mass marketing message to a large group of people, and hoping to find a few, it is sometimes better to tailor a message to a select group of people. This exact strategy can be used by utilizing pay per click marketing. What exactly is pay per click marketing, and why would a business want to use it?
Pay Per Click Marketing Basics
With pay per click marketing, businesses can create marketing messages that go out to people who are looking for what they have offer. These programs are typically offered by search engine companies like Google. Companies can sign up for the program, and then create ads that are designed to get customers to their websites. They choose a specific list of keywords that will trigger the ad.
Once the ad is running, when someone types one of the keywords into the search engine, the ad can then be shown on the side of the page. If the user clicks on the ad, he is then taken to the advertiser’s website and the advertiser is charged a fee. The amount that the advertiser has to pay is based on the popularity of the keyword and one other advertisers are bidding for it.
One big advantage of using this method of marketing is that it can provide highly targeted traffic to a company’s website. With this method of marketing, ads are only shown people who are actively searching for something related to the ad. Then the advertiser only has to pay when someone actually visits the site. This means that the advertiser is only paying when people who are really interested come to the site.
Another advantage of this method of marketing is that it is appropriate for any size business. Companies that have million dollar marketing budgets can use it just as effectively as companies that only want to spend $5 per day. This makes it an ideal solution for any business who wants more customers.
Tips on Success
Although this is a very powerful marketing medium, not every business succeeds with it. It has to be used properly in order to really work. One of the most important things to keep in mind when using this method of marketing is to use attention-grabbing headlines. It’s critical to get people’s attention when they are searching online. It is also important to have a consistent message always from the headline to the website. People like to see what they are looking for when they visit a website.
Overall, pay per click marketing is a method that can really work for a business. If the business is willing to test out a few different ads and keywords, the perfect ad can be developed which brings in customers every day.
July 12, 2012 No Comments