Go Hosting Cloud Infrastructure Upgrade

For over a decade, Go Media has been proud to espouse the virtues of hosting with Amazon Web Services. Also known as AWS, this behemoth lapped every competitor in the space to become the preeminent provider of offsite cloud infrastructure. AWS is largely responsible for keeping Jeff Bezos within the top spots of the financially wealthiest humans on the planet. Early in our industry there was a saying “nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM”. I would imagine that mantle now belongs to AWS when it comes to datacenters. After years of inconsistent service with many predecessors, we breathed a sigh of relief our first year hosting with Amazon and have enjoyed 99.98% uptime ever since, over a decade later. I would have to say, it has been worth the money.

Alas, we are moving away from AWS.

This announcement will not devote much time explaining why we are moving away from AWS specifically. Although there have been speed benchmarks showing cloud competitors being more performant than AWS, we would not make the leap to say AWS infrastructure has anything significant to do with our decision. Most of the underlying hardware across the industry is the same and even much the software is the same. It would be outside of expertise to assert any leading cloud infrastructure provider is “faster” or “better” than another. We can only speak to our experience with our specific use case and our rationale to go in a different direction.

Our migration is really about moving away from Plesk™

Go Media has been a fan of the Plesk hosting control panel long before “the cloud” was a household term. Plesk has given our clients and system administrators easy to use tools for website hosting management. Plesk offers a lot of great features, many of which we will miss as we develop our new hosting infrastructure. Ultimately, Plesk itself was never a problem in terms of what it is built for. The reason we are moving away from Plesk is due to what it was NOT built for and that is scalability. Although Plesk is very smart in terms of resource management, it is really a server management tool built for individual service instances. We have managed to scale it in unusual ways to host hundreds of websites. However, this has primarily been an exercise in what is referred to as vertical scaling. Vertical scaling is essentially stacking more resources onto a single platform to try and get more capacity out of it. Although AWS offers heaps of computing power and additional ways to scale vertically, we began to realize there must be a better way.

Enter ClusterCS and Upcloud

Early on in the history of our firm, we tried our hand at running our own servers for web hosting. Although this is somewhat common in the web development community, we found it to be too stressful and outside of our core competencies to justify being on call 24/7. Datacenter technology has come a long way in the last twenty years so maybe self-hosting wouldn’t be as painful as it used to be. For us, we have come to prefer this division of labor with system admin experts and found it to ultimately be more cost-effective… or at least better for our health. The past few years we have experienced an uptick in stress. It began to feel like we were hitting our limits with our current cloud infrastructure and so our search went in a different direction. It is remarkable just how many new vendors have leaped onto the scene this last decade. After pouring over the leader board and zeroing in on the type of cloud hosting design we desired, we decided to go with a combination of ClusterCS for the control panel service and UpCloud as the datacenter provider. ClusterCS offers a managed platform for the type of cloud architecture we were after: horizontal scaling. This is achieved through a curated combination of leading opensource software such as HAProxy, GlusterFS, MariaDB and CentOS, designed in a way where we can add more computing resources and confidently expect the load balancing capacity to scale in a predictable manner. For a long time it has felt like whatever computing power we threw into our cloud at AWS, only resulted in short-lived gains.

Who is Upcloud? We honestly can’t say Upcloud was ever on our radar as a viable cloud hosting provider. Based in Helsinki, Finland, Upcloud was rarely mentioned in the typical industry forums. What we did hear about UpCloud was all good things and they came highly recommended by the folks at ClusterCS, who manage hundreds of servers. Go Media decided to test drive UpCloud on some pilot projects and we were pleasantly surprised. The console was quick. The servers were ever faster. All the necessities in the cloud dashboard were easy to find and worked as expected. Their team was responsive and, maybe most importantly, they are transparent about their datacenter positions. Because we primarily serve small to medium sized businesses, we prefer to place our servers as close to our client’s business region as possible. We were happy to see UpCloud has partnered with CoreSite to provide their infrastructure in the United States. May we someday find ourselves “fired for choosing UpCloud”? It is impossible to tell. But the provider has struck as as extremely talented, ambitious and well on their way to contending with the behemoths. We feel a little competition for Bezos & Co. is a good thing.

What our Clients Want

Speed. Nowadays it has become more and more clear our clients rarely ever need to use the Plesk control panel. They do not lose sleep over where their website is hosted. Our client’s top issue, when it comes to hosting, has consistently been speed – or lack thereof. An unhappy client is what we lose sleep over. Beyond that, most of our clients have come to expect concierge-like managed hosting service with us, allowing them to “set it and forget it” for the most part. It is our job to never rest on our tech laurels. Our goal with this new hosting infrastructure is performance. It will likely take several months to make the transition, but we feel it will be well worth it in the long run. Major web application providers have proven horizontal scaling is the only way to deliver high availability to the masses. Teaming up with ClusterCS and UpCloud will give us the flexibility and performance we have been searching for. We are applying the lessons we have learned over the years to this new build and are very excited about what awaits on the other side of this migration. If you host with us, please be on the lookout for messages from the support team regarding next steps.


Yours in page load speed,​

Wil Revehl
Web Developer, CTO

Go Media | https://gomedia.com
8400 Franklin Blvd. Cleveland, OH 44102

What Does Your Retail Business Need by the End of the Year?

The last six months of any year seem to pass at lightning speed. Once summer hits, there are marketing promotions to run, gearing up for back-to-school and then the holidays are right around the corner. Before you get caught up in the rush of Black Friday preparations, take a little time and evaluate your end-of-year needs.

There are more than 1 million retail establishments in the United States alone. That number ebbs and flows, of course, as businesses open and close each year. Part of outpacing the competition and ensuring your cash flow remains high throughout the last two quarters includes paying attention to the needs of retail businesses in general and assessing how your brand measures up.

Here are six things you should assess before the end of the year and see what adjustments you need to make before the new year arrives.

1. Prepare Your Holiday Marketing Campaign

Well before November arrives, you should already have a full marketing campaign in place. Once the busy season hits, you’ll have little time for planning social media posts, which items to get in stock and what to put on sale. Instead, use the summer months which are typically slower for most retailers, unless you’re in a tourist town and plan how you’ll reach your target audience.

Think about some of the better-known retailers. One example of a store that often prepares for the holidays well in advance is Macy’s, with their famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. In addition to the parade, they tell compelling stories through videos and print campaigns that tie into their message of “Believe.”

 

Macy’s also hosts an annual fundraising event for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which ties in nicely with the other elements of their campaign. If you can find a purpose you believe in and tie into it with your marketing, those who support the same cause should respond positively.

2. Create a Retail Business Map

For retailers, foot traffic can make or break you. Choose the wrong location for your store, and you risk not making enough sales to afford the rent. A retail business map shows potential foot traffic in the area and even what times of year are busiest. For example, if your store is near a college campus, you might be busy when school is in session, but lose out during what should be the busiest time of year because everyone goes home for the holidays.

3. Beef up Your Content

If your retail business doesn’t yet have an online component, it should. Studies show people often begin searches online, even if they’re planning to visit a local store in person. One easy way of beefing up your content through the end of the year is adding a content marketing system and managing contributors to your site. Happy customers, employees and management can all contribute to your blog.

In a recent survey of marketers, 74% of business-to-consumer marketers felt their content marketing campaigns were successful. However, you must know your audience well, create unique content and market that content in the right places. Accomplishing that feat requires diligence toward internal data about your specific audience.

 

You’ve likely seen people post their dollar store craft ideas on Facebook and Pinterest. Did you know Dollar Tree maintains a blog with tons of DIY ideas for crafts, decorations and even recipes? Every suggestion on the blog uses items you’ll find in Dollar Tree stores. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun, and they prove that with their blog posts, which hit their target audience perfectly.

4. Revisit Quarterly Budgets

Now is an excellent time to revisit your budgets for Q3 and Q4. Is there enough money left in the coffers for advertising, ordering extra inventory and paying seasonal helpers? If not, you may need to revamp your budget. During your slow time, you should also begin mapping out your first-quarter budget for the next year. Remember, you’ll be crazy busy once the holidays hit, and the new year arrives right on the tail end of the most hectic shopping season. Preparing for your first quarter now saves you valuable time later. You can always adjust as needed.

Toward the latter part of each quarter is a smart time to look at the budget for the next quarter. Make sure everything is in order and still makes sense based on your goals and profits. If you feel overwhelmed with this task, hire an accountant to help you out. A financial professional may see opportunities to save money you would never spot. You can hire an accountant on a contract basis to come in occasionally, or employ one full-time.

5. Update Software Now

Do you need any major software upgrades? Perhaps you plan to implement a new point-of-sale system before the holidays hit. It makes much more sense to update your systems now when you aren’t as busy and work out any bugs. If updates won’t be available until just before the holidays, considering delaying the updates until after the first of the year. People will only wait in line for so long. If your POS system is down or having issues, you risk losing sales. Once customers leave your store, it’s unlikely they’ll return.

6. Order Inventory

Based on sales so far and what customers are saying, what will the hot products be for the holidays? Think about gift sets and items people can pick up quickly during last-minute shopping. Not only should you begin increasing stock within reason on those items, but think of ways you can make them easier for your customers, such as pre-wrapped gift sets and baskets aimed at specific audience segments, such as Dad, Mom, boyfriend and best friend. The easier you make shopping for your customers, the more they’re likely to buy from you.

A word of caution here: Many business owners have spent a small fortune stocking up on inventory for the holidays, only to find they’re stuck with stock they can’t sell. Make sure your sales for the last few years justify the inventory you’re ordering, or have a backup plan for how you’ll move the items if they don’t sell. Cash flow issues plague many small businesses, so be cautious about the inventory decisions you make.

The Secret to Success

Planning is the secret to ending your year on a successful note. The more planning you put into your last two quarters, the easier your marketing and sales will be when the time arrives. Spend a little time prepping now, and have the best year you’ve ever had in your retail store.

How to Be a Better B2M Business

A business to many (B2M) model sells goods and services to both consumers and other businesses, so is a mix of both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). Meeting the needs of such a diverse set of clients is challenging.

There are about 30.2 million small businesses in the United States. Some of those businesses are B2B, some are B2C and others take on many faces. Trying to serve many different markets in the same niche requires a bit of finesse and attention to detail. There are some specific things on which you can focus that will make your B2M better than you ever imagined.

1. Know All Your Target Audiences

As a business that serves a variety of audiences, you must take the time to dig deep into the analytics of the different audiences you serve. Develop buyer personas for each different demographic. Although marketing campaigns might hit on more than one audience at a time, you still need to ensure you speak to specific people. Look for areas of commonality among your different audience segments, so your marketing speaks to all your buyers.

 

Facebook’s model is an excellent example of how a business serves both other businesses and consumers at the same time. They offer services for business owners, such as advertising and business pages. However, they also serve consumers, offering features for them such as online groups, free profile pages and games.

2. Dig Into Your ROI Reports

What goods and services bring the best return on investment (ROI)? While you expand your customer base by becoming a B2M company, it doesn’t help your profits if you don’t make a decent ROI for one segment or the other. Knowing which audiences spend the most money and on what also allows you to predict what inventory you might need and ramp up marketing campaigns around specific seasons.

3. Segment Your Website

If you don’t want to have multiple landing pages, you can simply segment your site into sections that serve your different buyer personas. This works particularly well with service-based industries. You might even make the transition as simple as offering a section for consumers and one for business owners or adding details to listings about how to buy in bulk as online retailers such as Office Depot do.

Shipley Energy creates a sales funnel for both segments of its buying audience. They offer a section titled “For Your Home” with an invitation to enter your zip code and click on the type of information you’d like to purchase (heating oil, propane, natural gas, etc.) On the other side of their home page, the column reads “For your business” and offers different information geared toward business owners, such as fleet fueling and wholesale fuels, and offers a free quote. Although the two segments look similar, the information contained is quite different.

4. Cross-Train Employees

Make sure your customer service staff is cross-trained to handle questions and problems from both the B2B and B2C segment. Calls get routed to the wrong department, or some customers will have a personal need of your product as well as business needs. Your employees should all feel comfortable answering any questions that might come their way. The only way to ensure your employees are fully versed in B2M needs is through extensive training and asking them to work in different departments from time to time.

5. Meet Everyone’s Needs

Figuring out how to meet the needs of one audience without disrupting another is a balancing act. Think about some of the direct sales companies out there. If they sell their products online, their sales consultants may suffer. However, the ability to sell to the general public is a tempting proposition that’s difficult for many multi-level marketing (MLM) companies to resist. One way some companies get around this is by matching buyers with consultants. However, MLM isn’t the only industry which must balance the needs of many.

Think through each aspect of your services to B2Bs and make sure they don’t violate the needs of B2Cs and vice versa.

 

Sony Pictures discusses their product placement policies and are pretty well known for placing products in their films. At the same time, they must create entertaining films which aren’t too advertisement based. They’ve set some standards for the types of products they’ll place in order to protect their audience (consumers). For example, they won’t advertise tobacco products.

6. Adjust Your Marketing

While there are ways of reaching both audiences at the same time, marketing to B2B and B2C is quite different. Marketing to businesses requires educating your audience and showing them you’re an expert. On the other hand, consumers want to know you can meet their needs or solve a problem. The ROI is also skewed. With consumers, they typically buy one of an item, while business owners may buy in bulk and spend much more money. A more expensive advertising campaign aimed at B2B may have a higher ROI because of the average sale.

The only way to come out ahead with your marketing efforts as a B2M is with careful tracking of costs and results. When the ROI is significant, repeat those efforts. When the results fall flat, find something different.

Perspective Matters

When it comes to running a B2M business effectively, the way you view your audience segments makes a huge difference. Know your customers and all the little details about them so you can meet their needs and give them a positive experience with your brand. Serving multiple segments isn’t just possible but might be profitable. However, you must be highly organized and ready to adapt to any market changes.

14 Tips to Improve Your Video Marketing Campaign

Video Marketing Tips

Videos have consistently grown in popularity in recent years and are a big part of most marketing budgets. However, you can spend a lot of time and money creating ones that have little to no impact. There are some key features every successful video marketing campaign must have to reach your target audience and turn browsers into buyers.

The average person watches about 90 minutes of video a day. Video gives you a chance to reach people you might not reach any other way. Since you want your videos to be the absolute best reflection of your brand possible, here are 14 ways of improving your marketing videos:

1. Set a Goal

Before creating a video, set a goal for the marketing endeavor. Do you want to inform your audience, reach new customers or use the video to convert site visitors into fans? Once you know your goal, it’s much easier to decide on what kind of content gets the job done and where to share your video. Make sure your goal meats SMART standards and is specific and measurable, so you know if you hit the mark or not.

2. Develop a Brand Personality

Every company has a personality it presents to the outside world. Think about what impression you want to leave with people. Is your brand strong and reliable? Perhaps your business is youthful and fun. Your personality is about how others see you as well as how you see your brand. Think about the story behind who you are and use your videos to introduce your company to others.

 

Six Flags has used a little old man for years who dances to fun music and motions people to follow him to the theme park. Because it’s an entertainment venue, it wants people to associate it with fun. This video marketing campaign with catchy music and bright colors screams a good time.

3. Be Consistent

If you start off as a fun, hip company, stick with that theme. Don’t switch between a serious, studious image and a fun one. If you aren’t consistent in your branding, in both video and other mediums, then the consumer may not feel you’re very reliable. When you start a video series, stick with the theme all the way through. However, also be cautious of changing the tone of your videos from campaign to campaign.

4. Study the Competition

You can learn a lot about creating successful videos by studying your competition. Spend time on their websites and social media channels. Do they offer videos? If so, watch the entire video once and then go back and watch it while taking notes about what you feel is particularly successful. Do you notice any themes? While you never want to copy what a competitor does, you can certainly learn about the best ways to reach a target audience and discover areas they haven’t yet covered.

5. Show Off Your Expertise

Images get the point across much more quickly than words, so video is a great way of showing off your knowledge of the industry without tooting your own horn or sounding conceited. Show your best workers in action, discuss big projects you completed and highlight the unique value your company brings to the consumer.

 

H.O. Penn runs a video in the background of its landing page that highlights its machinery in action. This shows what the equipment does and how many types of machines the company offers.

6. Tell a Story

Around 92 percent of consumers state they want brands to create ads that feel like a story. They stay with people far longer than information or a sales pitch. You can utilize them in your video branding by discussing your founding, sharing customer testimonials or creating a story around your product. Think about some of the storylines from big-name companies, such as Geico and its cavemen ads or Subaru with its stories about how the car grows with and protects the family, featuring different scenarios.

7. Consider Mobile

Make sure your videos adapt to mobile. If you upload to a site such as Facebook or YouTube, the video will automatically be optimized for smaller screen sizes and adjust for whatever device the viewer is on. However, if you place it on your website, this becomes an important consideration. Around 85 percent of U.S. internet users watch video each month on their mobile devices. If they aren’t mobile ready, you’re missing a lot of potential traffic.

8. Think of a Unique Twist

Try to think of a unique way to highlight your product or service. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you must present your business in a new, fresh style that also highlights the value of your offerings. You may even want to hire a professional advertising firm to come up with a campaign theme for you. While you might not have the funds to pay them for every aspect of production, just having a plan in place helps you stand out as unique and creative.

 

Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” video campaign series shows the resilience of its product by mixing things you normally wouldn’t place in a blender, such as glow sticks or an iPhone. The videos are entertaining and unique but also highlight the power behind the technology.

9. Include a Call to Action (CTA)

Make sure you add a strong CTA to the end of your video. When users finish watching it, they should know what action they need to take to move forward. A CTA can be as simple as “visit our website” or as specific as “order the XS500 by calling 1-800-XS500.”

10. Keep It Short

Although it’s tempting to record long videos, the shorter it is, the more impact it’s likely to have. People are busy today and have short attention spans. If you can get your message across in a minute or two, then you have a better chance of the consumer sticking with you through the end of the footage.

11. Create a Thumbnail for Your Video

If you plan to upload your video to YouTube or some of the other social channels, you’ll want a thumbnail that clearly defines what it is about. You may even need a headline to grab user attention. Spend some time on YouTube looking at the thumbnails and take note of the attention-grabbing ones. Watch a few seconds of the video and see how well the thumbnail reflects what is highlighted.

 

My Little Bakery highlights different creations you can grab in the shop. Note how the thumbnails highlight a still image of the finished product. However, if you click on any of them, you get a video that shows the process of creating the treat.

12. Add Tags

Use your description and any areas for tags to define your audience — this is particularly helpful for social media posts. One simple way of finding popular hashtags is searching on Twitter, Instagram or YouTube and seeing what people search for and are talking about. You may even be able to tie your video marketing campaign into a particular event or holiday.

13. Consider Foreign Visitors

Do you have a large number of site visitors from another country? You can always add translation text so both native speakers and foreign visitors understand the video. Your site stats will show how many visitors you get from each area of the world and help you make an informed decision about whether it’s worth the investment to reach out to a particular market segment.

14. Educate and Entertain, but Don’t Spam

Have you ever watched part of a video that was such a strong sales pitch you clicked away? No one likes advertising that seems spammy. Instead, educate the public or entertain them, but don’t shove your product at them and demand they buy it. It’s a big turnoff for most people, and they’re much more likely to just bounce away from your offering rather than taking action and buying from you.

Video Marketing Is on the Rise

Whether you like video marketing or not, it’s becoming more popular. Now is the time to perfect your video advertising skills and learn what your audience responds to. Hone in on the finer details of video, and you’ll have much greater success than you imagined.

Marketing Strategy for Ecommerce

How to Plan an Inbound Marketing Strategy for Ecommerce?

Inbound marketing is a set of marketing tactics and techniques concentrated on utilizing content relevant strategies to current and prospective purchasers and then pulling them toward a business and its products.

A dominant characteristic of it is that inbound marketing isn’t just one tool, one technique or even a single campaign. Rather, it is a group of on-going activities that, when completed successfully, create highly visible scalable revenue driver.

In recent years, there was a big shift in consumer behavior. Almost 80% of Americans shop online, and the rest of the world will soon follow. People purchase things through their smartphones more and more. Such trends mean that the eCommerce world is becoming more accessible, faster, and takes place over a broader variety of platforms and devices. The final conclusion is that inbound marketing is the one marketing approach that empowers eCommerce businesses to scale engagement with prospective and current consumers. The goals of inbound marketing include:

  • Increased number of visitors.
  • Bigger lifetime value.
  • Increased average order value.
  • Increased conversion rates.

Want to know how to plan your inbound marketing strategy? Read on and find out!

Set up your website

Selling anything online start with a place to sell it – your eCommerce website. If you are going with bare essentials, you can sell from marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. Here, all that you will need is to create a profile.  Their only disadvantage is that you won’t be able to accurately track conversions and build your own brand.

For high-quality hosted eCommerce platforms, you can use Shopify, Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. Other than that, you can set up your own eCommerce website with WooCommerce or WordPress.

All aforementioned options can give you a nice technical foundation with quick, easy setup. They will also enable you to incorporate a customized design – “theme”. Themes enable you to have a website that looks good and acts fast, while you don’t have to spend months of effort and large sums of money on building them.

Developing a store on an already established platform allows you to implement a unique and easy-to-build design.

Organic search and search engine optimization

While there is a broad range of paid traffic, a successful SEO strategy is always a pure win. Yet, most website owners fail to realize the sheer amount of traffic that Google organic search can create. It just needs to execute in the right context.

Google processes over 63 thousand searches per second on a daily basis. For the majority of queries, most of the clicks go to organic results. Everyone knows that AdWords campaigns for commercial keywords are quite costly. That’s a price you don’t have to pay when you rank in the organic results.

SEO consists of three parts.

Part one – Technical SEO. This one is all about ensuring that search engine bots/web crawlers crawl through and index your website appropriately. About not having numerous duplicate contents. If you choose a platform like Shopify or a self-hosted store with WordPress, these problems will be already solved for you. Different platforms may still need an SEO technical audit.

Part two – Optimization and on-page content. Here, it all about targeting the right keywords and making sure that your website is created in a coherent way that search engines and users visiting your website understand. Its crucial components are keyword research, keyword mapping, title tags, and meta descriptions. For an eCommerce website, you can create different pieces of content that will bring visitors, like purchasing guides, How To’s, Product comparison or Category pages.

Part three- Off-page factors. In this part, we need to get a link, while understanding that not all links are equal. Black-hat tactics, like purchasing links will actually harm your SEO efforts. High-quality links placed on websites with authority or that are popular are a dominant factor for increased visibility in search results.

Social aspect

If SEO has its place in inbound marketing for eCommerce, social media platforms stand in its close proximity. These platforms are a part of the initial phase where you’re attracting people to your website and convert them into leads.  You get to talk to millions of people, without needing to pay a dime, and even if you want to work with affiliate sites you can find the best Affiliate marketing strategies 2020 in this site online.

Besides attracting new people, social media are an excellent way of promoting your brand, interacting with any potential customers online, and most importantly, building your brand’s authority. Another way of building a brand’s credibility is through using phone systems for small businesses.

Almost every human on this planet has a habit of calling a company whenever they have an issue or a question for it. A big part of your inbound marketing strategy is creating an image of your business that says – I’m reliable, I have credible information you can trust.

Although social media experts try to make it all sound like rocket science, it actually isn’t that hard. Know where your audience is. You don’t have to omnipresent on just about every social media platform. Concise and direct interactions are where the magic happens and you build relationships with your audience.

Choose a single or two that will impact your audience, sales, links and brand awareness. Automate other profiles to save time and set up alerts to “listen” when not actively participating.

Focused pages

Now you need to create high-quality concentrated pages to receive sales. In addition to your About page, Home page, and Privacy page, you will need landing pages.

Landing pages aren’t complex – they are just places where visitors can land and make a purchase. Nobody cares about or even looks at your homepage. A homepage is for people who already know your business and are just navigating around.

Landing pages are for potential or returning visitors to land on and convert. Before creating all other website pages, you will need to develop focused landing pages that sell a single or all of these things:

  • Offer specific – Such pages are about the product info. They might be just a product page, but also a category or specific landing page for a bundle. The end-goal here is selling to people at the very bottom of the marketing funnel – where customers are most likely to convert.
  • Persona specific – That is all about the product benefits to those that you sell them to. Again, they might be a product page, a category page or a specific landing page for a bundle.

In conclusion. Remember that every part of this strategy needs to be measured, interpreted and analyzed in order to increase its effectiveness. There are numerous ways to gather reports and filter your visitor data. Google analytics is one of the ways, that lets you combine data into a single-screen layout that show the varying degrees of visitor marketing data and depth of the sales funnel.

Omnichannel Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses

How to Build an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy for Your Small Business

Omnichannel Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses

As technology keeps evolving, the line between the online and offline world is beginning to blur. Namely, with the rise of social media, automation tools, and AI, your customers have become more demanding and tech-savvy. They now expect you to provide them with real-time feedback and services.

Still, just building your brand presence across a plentitude of channels won’t help you increase user experience. Namely, Google’s statistics claim that 85% of online buyers begin their purchase on one device or channel and finish it on another.

That is why you need to focus on integrating your marketing and customer support channels into a seamless, omnichannel experience people can rely on whenever they want.

The Importance of Collaboration between Marketing and Sales Teams

Just like it was mentioned above, omnichannel marketing integrates multiple channels (both online and offline) you use to communicate with your consumers. By uniting the strengths of each marketing platform and channel, you will increase the consistency of your brand messaging.

Now, building the omnichannel marketing strategy is a complex procedure that requires the collaboration between your organization’s different departments, including marketing, sales, product, and customer support teams.

Your first goal is to ensure that everyone knows the goals of an omnichannel approach to marketing. Speak with employees, from project managers to junior customer satisfaction representatives to help them understand the purpose of this customer-centric approach. They need to know how their actions impact customers and what they should do to collaborate more proactively.

Build your Strategy on Accurate Data

A solid omnichannel marketing strategy is based on understanding a customer. Collect customer information and feedback from multiple resources to learn more about your customers’ needs, demands, and problems. Observe their behaviors – their purchasing habits, social media discussions, user profiles, interactions with a customer support team, chatbots, and CRM software.

Based on the data you collect, you should segment your audiences into groups. This is the only way to understand their buyer journeys and be able to personalize them. For example, if someone is at the top of the sales funnel, you shouldn’t send them bottom-funnel messages. Instead, you need to familiarize them with your brand and gradually guide them towards making a purchase.

Create a Cohesive Online-to-Offline Marketing Tactic

You need to centralize your branding, marketing, and customer support channels to provide a consistent omnichannel experience. It’s good that businesses are starting to see the importance of omnichannel customer experiences. According to the Target Marketing report, over 75% of them claim that this is an important, fairly important, or very important part of their online presence.

First, Provide a Cohesive Multi-Channel Customer Experience Online

For starters, prioritize the importance of customer experience. Make it easier for them to find you online, learn more about you, and buy from you.

Build a visually-appealing and highly responsive website that provides seamless customer experiences, irrespective of the device they use.

Then, leverage the power of social networks. Use social media monitoring tools to stay on top of your customers’ conversations and take part in them actively.

Implement AI technologies like chatbots. Chatbots are becoming the nerve center of any successful on-demand marketing strategy. They let your customers ask questions, stay on top of your brand news, browse products, and make purchases all from a single platform.

At the heart of any solid omnichannel marketing technology stack is CRM that helps you record each buyer journey, track your customers’ purchasing habits, and personalize your services in the future.

Then, Integrate Online Marketing Tactics with Offline Ones

Traditional marketing still matters. Statistics show that 40% of consumers are still influenced by offline ads when making online purchases.

Sure, when I say “offline,” I don’t necessarily mean TV ads, magazine ads, business cards, or billboards. For example, using promotional printing is one of the oldest and yet most effective brand promotion tactics. According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, 86% of consumers memorize brands that gift them a shirt or a cap. This is a great way to increase your brand awareness and turn your prospect audiences into paying customers.

Directly mailed catalogs are one of the most effective offline marketing effort with a high open and response rate. Research shows that 54% of customers want to get printed catalogs in their mail, while 56% of consumers that responded to direct mail also visited the brand’s offline or online store.

So, how to integrate online and offline marketing?

There are numerous ways to do so and here are some of them:

  • Use QR codes

Quick Response codes are a kind of barcodes, containing details about your business that can be read on mobile devices. Namely, you can use them on different offline marketing materials, such as business cards, flyers, direct mail, product packaging, storefronts – any type of printed materials you use to promote your brand.

A while ago, JC Penney launched ‘Santa Tags.’ Namely, a customer could wrap their present into a wrapping paper that has a QR code on it. Once they scanned the code, recipients could hear a personalized message a gift giver recorded.

  • Launch ‘to be continued’ campaigns

In other words, your goal is to spark your audience’s interest in your brand. For example, you could create a strong narrative in a form of a TV ad, radio ad, magazine article, or billboard to inspire users to visit your website to learn more about you. Always include QR codes and links to make it easier to find you online.

  • Digitize customers’ offline experiences

Why not create an app and let them reload their card both in-store and online? That is exactly what Starbucks does. When you’re in line waiting to get your pumpkin spice latte and you see you don’t have enough money, you can simply reload your balance through your app instantly.

Disney also takes the omnichannel approach very seriously. They’ve created a tool that can serve as a hotel room key, food ordering software, and a photo storage platform.

  • Implement near-field technologies

Just like their mere name says, near-field technologies provide contactless communication between a mobile device and another compatible device. You could use it to increase in-store customer experiences.

This is what Timberland does. Namely, they provide each shopper with a tablet they can press against the chip to find all product details they need. Moreover, as consumers keep searching for different kinds of items, the personalization tool on the tablet will recognize their needs and offer personalized product recommendations.

Over to You

Omnichannel marketing gives you the opportunity to provide seamless user experiences, regardless of the channel your customer use. You just need to implement it according to the needs of your brand and audiences.

Hope these tips will help!

How to Create a B2B and B2C Ecommerce Website

How to Create a Unified B2B and B2C E-commerce Website

Selling to both consumers and businesses is one way to gain an edge on the competition and increase your market share. However, figuring out the best method of selling to two very different audiences isn’t as easy.

Around 74 percent of small business owners indicate scalability is one of the most important factors for growing their businesses. Unifying your B2B and B2C business saves your company money and effort and allows you to scale up more easily than having two separate sites.

However, there are a few challenges with unifying both sides of your online business. Keep these eight elements in mind as you pull together both types of e-commerce into one platform.

1. Make a List of What’s the Same

Whether you sell to other businesses or directly to consumers, there are some similar elements of the process. Look at the journey each type of buyer takes through your site and list out what the similarities. Can you vary the number of items, such as through a wholesale discount, but the actual checkout process is the same? What elements differ between B2B and B2C orders? For example, you may need to add a line for B2B clients for tax exemption information.

 

ServiceMaster Restore offers home services for residential and commercial properties. They have one home page with the option to also navigate to “Residential Services” and “Commercial Services.” Users go one way or the other, depending upon their needs. However, combining both types of services creates an opportunity for increased profits. Business owners are often homeowners and vice versa.

2. Unify Your Inventory

Even though you might sell products to both B2B and B2C, your inventory systems can be consolidated, so you have a handle on what is in your warehouse at all times. Unifying your inventory allows you to see patterns in sales and ensures you always have the items on hand for both consumers and businesses. Integrating your online shopping cart with your database also keeps information in real time. If you have an offline sales department or store, your sales force will know what items are in short supply and what needs moved.

3. Highlight Varied Uses

When you serve different buyer personas, your product typically has multiple uses to different segments of society. One way of ensuring your site speaks to each of your different personas is by listing the industries you serve. While this might seem limiting at first glance, it doesn’t mean you won’t sell to others. Your goal is simply focusing on the main uses for your product or service.

 

EZ Dock offers dock solutions for a number of different types of clients. They highlight the various uses of their product with categories such as those looking for PWC ports, kayak launches, boat ports and swimming docks. Further down their landing page, they list some of the different types of industries using their docks including residential, commercial, government and industrial.

4. Hire Better Design People

A unified site keeps costs lower. This means you can invest more in your website design and hire the absolute best designers and marketers within your budget. With only one main site to maintain, you’ll try different methods and test them thoroughly to see what converts best with your target audience. Skilled UX designers will help you plan the best ways of reaching leads.

5. Enhance Customer Experience

The experience your customers have on your site (UX) impacts the reputation of your brand and whether users return to your site for future orders. With a unified site, you can focus on creating an amazing customer service experience. Look at elements users appreciate, such as live chat staffed with knowledgeable agents. Although there are many factors which improve CX, excellent customer support is a big indicator of how happy people will be when they leave your site.

 

Office Max caters to both consumer and business clientele. Throughout the site, they indicate you can take advantage of bulk pricing on things such as paper and printer ink. However, their customer service is integrated and includes multiple ways to get in touch with them. Because they integrate both types of audiences, they can create strong customer service that gives them a good reputation among both individuals and businesses.

6. Invest in Better Logistics

No matter what type of customer you serve, good logistics are one of the keys to keeping that customer with your brand and developing a sense of loyalty. Think about how Amazon does this as an example. They offer Prime shipping so their members get packages within a couple of days. Utilizing warehouses, they get packages out within minutes of the order being placed and then team up with the USPS and other shipping providers (including some of their own employees) to get packages delivered on time.

Your company may not be as big as Amazon, but that doesn’t you mean you can’t combine the logistics of both branches of your company to improve your shipping speeds. The first key involves your website design and combining shipping options into your shopping cart.

7. Narrow Your B2B Focus

The very nature of B2B sales means you target a narrow niche of customers, whereas B2C has a much wider base of potential buyers. Keep this in mind as you revamp your site for both B2B and B2C customers. What is the narrow niche for B2B and how can you define your value to potential clients?

 

Flexfire LEDs sells to both individuals and businesses. They use a grid system and list out some of the advantages of using their products and provide details for each use. For example, they have a section titled “Control Your Lights” and another titled “Freedom of Color.” Relevant images of their product in various locations, such as a bar or a living room show the various uses of each item. They further invite site visitors to contact them for project design support.

8. Find Your Brand Voice

One challenge of speaking to both types of customers at once is getting the tone right. However, if you have a specific voice for your brand, this becomes easier. While the topics that interest your B2B customers may differ from those that interest your B2C customers, your brand’s focus shouldn’t change. If your goal is to solve a specific problem, then your messaging should still reflect your goals and personality. You’ll offer content from two perspectives rather than one. Your storytelling should be more brand driven so all buyer personas relate to your content.

Simplify Operations

Look for ways of combining operations between B2B and B2C so you can reduce costs and improve results. Communicate between different departments to ensure you fully understand the best ways of marketing to each client base. Make notes about what meshes well and what must be kept separate — such as wholesale prices. Although there are challenges in combining B2B and B2C operations on one website, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Brand Marketing 101 for Startups and Entrepreneurs

Brand Marketing Strategy

A lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of forgoing brand marketing and branding strategy during the early stages of their startup’s development and set-up. Most business owners tend to focus more on the product, and even though what you’re selling is important, the image you’ll be selling is even more so.

This is why defining your brand identity at the beginning of your startup efforts is crucial for the survival of your business.

Why? Keep on reading to find out!

Why is branding important for your startup?

Establishing an identity should be your first step.

One of the main reasons you should start brand marketing early on is because this is the only way to establish an identity for your business. And that doesn’t just mean creating a logo design fit for your company, some social media pages, and a quick website. Your branding will involve much more than just your name and a few designs. It’s your organization’s whole personality.

This is why it’s critical for you to choose a brand identity that represents your values as a startup makes you relatable to your audience. Having a precise vision of what your startup should be will save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.

Don’t forget to give your audience what they want

Good branding will also help you influence your audience, and turn them from viewers to customers. Most importantly, branding is great for customer retention, because it’s always cheaper to make your customers loyal than to look for new ones.

Startup branding is also a great way to inspire your audience and create an emotional bond with them. In the end, no matter how good or innovative your idea is, if you can’t require loyal customers, your business will most likely not be a success.

Early branding ensures that your marketing strategy will promote engagement and inspire loyalty towards your products and/or services.

How about the competition?

Brand marketing will also set you apart from the competition. A brand is more than just a name and an image, and it is strong enough to offer your company a competitive advantage, especially if your market is nearly saturated and there are a thousand more other companies that offer the same products and services.

A quick summary

To summarize, early branding in the startup business has many advantages, the most important being:

  • Creating an identity for your company
  • Giving your direction, marketing-wise
  • Making your business memorable

So, how do you work on your branding strategy when you’ve just started your business? Here are a few tips you might want to follow.

1- Get to know your market.

This should be a crucial part of your branding strategy because there is no way your brand will be successful without learning about your market of choice. You need to be able to pinpoint who your customers are, where you belong in your market, and how your services and products compare to those of your competitors.

One of the first decisions you should take is to choose who you want your audience and loyal customers to be. Create concise user and buyer personas and learn how you can communicate and bond with them. The best companies are, after all, the ones who know how to please their customers.

Focus on a niche, and you’ll be able to make a faster impact. How to recognize your niche? Easy, since it’s based on what you’re selling. Your services and products should be able to focus on an existing problem and be the perfect solution for it.

As an example, here is an answer to these two questions with The Puff Cuff company:

  • What is their niche?

Answer: people with naturally thick, textured hair

  • What problem do their products provide a solution for?

Answer: Styling thick curly hair is always difficult and problematic, which is why the company created the PuffCuff Hair Clamp, “a tool that makes it easy to achieve stylish looks without putting stress on curly hair or causing pain”.

2 – Learn more about the competition.

Even the most famous brands in the world can be at a disadvantage. This is why when you’re starting a new business, one of the first steps you need to take is learning more about your competition. You’ll need to work harder than the brands that are already established, so make sure to do it in a smart way.

Studying the competition offers quite a few advantages, the most important being:

  • The ability to determine whether or not there is a gap in the market that you can fill,
  • and how you can make yourself different from what’s already in the market.

This brings us to our next point…

3 – Make yourself different.

We know it hurts to read this, but your product alone is not enough to make you look good, no matter how incredible or genius it is. The only way you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from the rest of your market is by good branding.

For example, the brand Supreme is one of the world’s most desirable brand, and it stands out because of its exclusive, cool, underground image.

Separate yourself from the herd by having a unique voice and image. This is how your audience will remember you.

4 – Create the image you want to relay to your audience.

Finally, once you’ve done your research and identified the character you want your company to have, you should work on the image you will relay to your audience. A lot of variables go into a company’s image, especially a startup. From designing the perfect logo to your tone of voice to the typography you use to your color scheme, all these elements come into play to create your brand’s identity.

Also, remember that you can’t do everything alone. Especially for startups, using the services of experts are the best way to make sure you’re creating the perfect brand for your business. It might be expensive, but it is the single best thing you can invest in this early in the game.

Final Thoughts

Brand marketing is more than just coming up with a business name and creating a cool logo. It’s a whole strategy that should be well-studied and defined because it’s the one thing that will make you shine in an oversaturated market.

17 Stats & Facts You Can’t Ignore in Your Website Rebuild Strategy

Planning to redesign your website?

Well, it must be all because you want to altogether upgrade your website up to the next level. In fact, the website credibility judgments are 75% depending upon the overall aesthetics. This clearly indicates that the design and functionality of your website are the two significant factors which have a lot of importance.

Now, when it comes to curating a website redesign strategy, it can’t be an easy feat. There are some crucial aspects that you need to consider which make a lot of sense. You need to keep these things in your mind to assure that you are ending up with a successful website building. In fact, there are some prevalent stats and facts which depict the same. In this piece of writing, you can take a glimpse of all of that.

Read on

1 -Different age groups will react differently to different content, layout, and aesthetic choices. You all are aware of the fact that it is recommended to use smart content for contacts in varied lifecycle stage. However, if you have a target audience of different age groups, you should explore more about how you can customize what’s on your site as per the age group. This is how you can make use of an age-responsive design which is turning heads since 2017.

2 – According to Adobe, it has been noticed that 39% of people will not communicate with a website if images are not loading promptly.  So, make sure that you are accommodating the right images with the right loading speed to give your website a swift touch.

3 – It is a proven fact that the average human attention span has got reduced up to a great extent. It was around 12 seconds in the year 2000 which has declined to just 8 seconds now. So, make sure that you are keeping the loading speed of your website fast enough such that your users don’t have to keep hunting for the information that they need. This is one of the crucial things that you should remember while redesigning your website.

4 – Make sure to include exit intent pop-ups to increase your conversions, even if you think that your users hate them. All that you need to do is just utilize exit intent pop-up rightly; you will end up offering your visitors something really valuable. The way in which companies are using exit intent pop-ups is upgrading with each passing day. So, make sure that you are rightly adapting with that.

5 – Research says that the forms are way too boring to be incorporated into a website. If it is not done properly, they can be the biggest loophole for your website. While you design forms for your website, you must have a clear idea of which fields to include and which information to mainly incorporate.

6 – It is evident that when you design something beautifully, two-thirds of people would consume that better rather than plain content if they are provided with 15 minutes of time.

7 – Studies show that people are too visually driven when it comes to exploring a website. So, don’t present your users a wall of plain text and rather give a strikingly curate website to attract maximum traffic.

8 – It is a proven fact that users form an opinion about any website within just 0.05 seconds. So, you should remember that first impressions are important. Thus, make sure that your website pages are the perfect amalgamation of easily readable content, relevant imagery, and consistent branding information.

9 – The statistics say that 44 % of website visitors would not prefer scrolling a company’s website anymore if there’s no contact information or phone number available. This is all about trust and credibility. People are unlikely to explore a company’s website anymore which they don’t feel can be trusted. Hence, while designing, you must have thorough contact information on your website to ensure that it comes up to be a buzzing one.

10 – It is true 70% of customers can learn about a company through their blogs in spite of the ads. It is the foremost reason why you should consider the blog section as a priority while redesigning a website. Further, 31.1% of internet explorers consider any brand’s blog section to be the second most impactful factor when it comes to making a purchase.

11 – When it comes to internet users, the majority of them use mobile phones. In fact, 52.7% of global internet users explore the internet via their smartphones. And if only the US is considered, 75.1% of internet users use mobile phones to access the internet. No wonder, more and more people are using their phones to surf the internet. So, when it comes to website redesigning, you should consider mobile optimization as one of the integral factors.

12 – Speaking frankly, it is calculated that any website owner have just 10 seconds to leave an impression and interpret to his/her users what they can get out of the website and company. After this time, the audience will not wait and just leave. Therefore, if you think that your website is not capable of expressing its integrity within that time period, you need to consider the elements like value proposition, navigation, and initial content on your main pages.

13 – When you have got a specified group of people as your target audience, people who fit in that geographic location will be having more urge to see what you are offering, especially if you are using their language. Hence, while redesigning your website, you must completely understand your buyer persona and resonate with them. It will definitely fetch you more click-through rates.

14 – 69% of marketers believe that dynamic and personalized content makes their website worthy. Rather, only 5% of them think that they are of low importance. Thus, it probably makes sense to incorporate customized content in your website while redesigning to ensure that you give your audience a tailored experience.

15 – There was a study conducted by Fortune 500 websites. It showed that 63% of them accommodate content above the fold, 50% specify a scrolling content window of some sort, and another 63% make sure to use high-end images that connect with users better with the average loading time by 6.5 seconds.

16 – It seems like the change in a website bounce rate can increase up to 4% when a page takes more than 4 seconds to load. This rate can jump up to 150% if a page takes more than 8 seconds to load. Therefore, while you redesign your website, keep this thing in mind and make your website an easily loadable one.

                                      Source: tytonmedia.com

17 – As per the statistics, they are 22% of marketers who believe that they are efficient enough when it comes to responsive design, 29% of them think they have an average level of experience, according to 23% of them, they haven’t yet accepted this reality well, and the rest of 4% say that they are hopeless.

Summing This Up

Well, these are the most effective stats and facts which ensure that redesigning your website is a strategic approach. Don’t forget to keep these aforementioned things in your mind while you think of renovating your website for the next time and that’s it!

Author Bio:- Maulik Patel is Founder & Director of Click Matix. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in the expert industry coverage he provides. He is an expert in web marketing, search engine optimization, social media, affiliate marketing, B2B marketing, online advertisement of Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Website Design Trends 2019

7 Latest Website Design Trends to Follow in 2019 to Keep Up with the Modern Market

The reliability of a website hugely depends on the design of the website. Audiences are more drawn to a clear and descriptive site which communicates the essence of its content easily to them. Establishing a brand reputation and driving more traffic to the site are the main two goals of every website and the modern UI designs targeted towards these enhancements go a long way to ensure long term results.

With the current interest in the web designing field, it is being subjected to a wide range of experiments and a number of trends follow. The web design trends for 2019 are projected as follows.

1 – Strong User Interface:

A seamless user experience is the core of the web designing. In converting the visitors to actual clients, a strong UI is crucial. The UI that makes the process of finding content easier on the website without any hassle and completes the whole operation without any fuss is a popular among netizens and a simple change in the user interface by making it clearer and faster can ensure these improvements. Among the new trends in web design, minimalism has been a great favourite of the viewers, photo-based content, pastel or lighter shades of colours are being popularly used for the designs.

2 – White Space in Abundance:

To clear out the clutter, white space is added generously to the sites. This modern website design trend appeals to the aesthetic sense of the viewer while it gives the website a cleaner look and makes it possible to bring the content to focus. A white space is not meant to be white; technically, white space refers to the blank areas of space on the site that work to further emphasise the content that is put up there. Though the sites are hosting ads to profit from them, a site that has all sorts of ads and pop ups surrounding its content is less likely to be given much attention while a clearly thought out and designed site has better chance in reaching the goals. Too many graphic elements packed into one also produce the same effect of clutter.

Additional Helpful Resources:

10 exciting web design trends you can’t hide from in 2019

What are the Top 10 Web Design Trends in 2018? Get The Best Trending Web Design Tips

Can you tackle the web design trends for 2019?

3 – Customisation:

Customization is among the fairly new website trends and has been gaining popularity since its introduction. A website with its customized contents – graphics and illustrations, impact the viewers in a positive manner and helps them stand out. The importance of visual content cannot be stressed enough and to stand out from the competition, the content needs to be exclusive. The uniqueness of the brands is communicated to the audience through its visuals and customized designs as well as illustrations and graphics add to that aspect and stand proof of the brand’s creativity and innovation.

4 – Subtle but Distinctive Use of Colours:

An assemblage of a few different bright colors can do more harm to your website than good. But a bland color can also affect it negatively. Striking a balance regarding the color scheme is extremely important and making sure that the application of it complements your content is paramount. A content-based site requires more solid color backgrounds to feature lengthy content while a photograph based site requires a general white background to complement the photographs, but for the site explaining certain services of the company or a process, the use of different colors in contrast with a basic white or any light colored background helps the audience take in the information smoothly and make the content look interesting.

5 – Mobile Integration:

Launching a mobile version of the website alongside the desktop version is among the new web designing trends. This trend is in keeping with modern times as the audience is more likely to be surfing on their mobile rather than a desktop. With the growth of this crowd, the latest trends in web design have mutated accordingly. If a site does not open properly on mobile, chances are that its viewership will be greatly harmed. More than half the audience online depends on their smart-phones for all works related to the internet and the site’s adjustability to both can only add to its advantages. A design that is responsive to the screen or launching a mobile app can be considered to deal with issues such as these.

6 – Integrated Relative Videos:

Video content is a tool abundantly used across the websites to increase their SEO ratings. The optimization is often based on how much time the views spend on your website and video contents are reputed for making people spend more time on the site. However, videos relative to the content or intent of the website are recommended as non-relative content can drive away audience just as fast. Websites had procured short welcome videos to add to their home page which summarised the basic ideas conveyed on the site; modern trends have the designers inclining towards animation and “how-to” videos which arrest the interest of the viewers while imparting useful information to them.

7 – Engaging Scrolling:

With the modern generation scrolling on social media, the trend of short and concise material is going out the door. While lengthy material is not preferred as to bullets and key points, the audience seems willing to scroll. Among the new web design trends, this experimental feature is to be carefully implemented. Making the pages longer inevitable calls for the content being sufficiently rich with information and graphics aimed towards making the audience understand its meaning correctly. This technique also leaves much space to be experimented with and the content can be properly spaced out to draw attention where required with the help of color and gradients.

Verdict:

A website is the backbone of the brand, both marketing and sales are directed from the websites. Thus, spending enough on the proper construction of it and giving it a look which keeps up with the trends but also does not abandon the trademark of the brand is to be carefully conducted. The content on the pages are to be extended that consideration and consistent high quality content is to be featured on the site to not compromise with the reliability of the brand value to achieve positive results.

Lean Business Planning for Small Business Owners

Fundamentals of Lean Business Planning for Small Business Owners

It’s not a matter of opinion, but rather, a simple fact that a business needs to have a business plan. In order to function properly, to break even, and to improve, you need a business plan. Without one, you will be rudderless, you will move in whatever direction the wind blows. However, today we suggest you take a different approach towards business plans themselves. Instead of going with old-school, detailed systems, we advise small business (no matter how long you’ve been online) to look at start-ups for ideas. This is where lean business planning comes in.

Lean business planning is a flexible and clear system of planning how your work and your business will go. Because of its flexibility and simplicity, we believe it is superior to a regular business plan. You can find an elaboration on this issue below.

Strategy vs. tactics

There is a large difference between strategy and tactics. This same difference reflects the disparity between lean business planning and regular planning. Namely, lean planning is much more focused on tactics, than on strategy (even though strategy is important). Strategy means looking at the big picture, planning long-term, focus on the future. With a focus on strategy you set your goals, tasks, milestones and you move towards them. Strategy can be rigid, and even suffocating. Tactics, on the other hand, are all about flexibility, thinking in the moment, being on the move. This is what lean business plans focus on.

Now, strategy is important for any business plan – you need to know where you are going, you need to have a sense of direction. However, tactics (i.e. business plans) have more freedom attached to them. With tactics, you know where you should go, what direction to move towards, but the way you’re gonna do this can change greatly.

Fluidity and change

Lean business plans are not hindered by overcomplicated plans, laid out months in advance. What they do focus on are the tactics (see above) that are needed to get through the day. Lean business plans not only allows you to make frequent changes and shifts, they somewhat expect you to do so.

Namely, things change, the market changes, the entire economy can shift at a drop of the hat (as far as you’re concerned). But, with a lean business plan, you can adapt with more ease. This is especially useful for small business. It’s much easier for a smaller business to change course, than it is for a larger one. Also, lean plans are much easier to make when compared to old-school ones. However, most often the best option is to get some help from professional software, like the one MAUS Business Systems offers for example.

Now, in practice, this is how it could look like. You set some clear goals, more like reminders in the form of bullet points, not actual elaborate descriptions. You set out your pricing structure, your marketing, product financing, and all the core functions of your business in as few words as possible. This allows you to know what to focus on and what you simply mustn’t change, allowing you to have as much fluidity as possible, without compromising your core values and goals.

Safety nets and focus

In a way, this amount of flexibility and room to change gives you a unique safety net, unlike any other. The ability and possibility to change may be the only stability that actually exists in the business world. However, there are other factors, not just your goals that need to be taken into account if you want to reap the full benefits of a lean business plan.  Namely, you need to stay on track.

A real danger of lean business plan is meandering too much, going in the wrong direction at many different instances. This can be mitigated by making a monthly review, and setting clear milestones and achievements that you need to make for certain periods of time. So, not much detail, just a calculable, actionable number or goals. This will help improve both motivation and focus for your team, since you will have clear goals to strive towards.

For example, instead of lining out months’ worth of information, drama, and work that you need to achieve, all in great detail, with hundreds of pages of instruction for the entire year, you just need to set one long term goal (make x amount of sales in a year) and a short term goals that leads to the long term goal (make y amount of sales in a month. It’s clear, concise, and can serve as a clear motivator that can be hung up on any wall or board.

Conclusion

Lena business plans are an excellent choice for small businesses. Direct, concise, clear, these can help you achieve much greater results than a regular business plan, while at the same time being easier to make, and easier to adhere too. However, above all, what makes them stand out is the flexibility they offer. So, no need to obsess with old-school plans. Look up towards start-ups, and do your best to draft a good lean business plan.

upcoming technology

7 Technologies Consumers Will Experience Soon

Technology has more of an impact on our daily lives than at any other time in history. Smart houses and smartphones are the first interactions most people have when they wake up and the last interaction they have before they go to bed. Doctors use technology for complex medical problems, teachers use technology in the classroom and businesses embrace new trends to attract customers.

The rise of the iPhone is an excellent example of how rapidly technology advances. Apple released the iPhone in 2007. At last count, 2.2 billion people own an iPhone just over a decade later. That is one little example of technology taking off and people embracing the smartphone.

In the coming years, some emerging technologies will become more common. Here are seven likely to take off and become a part of everyday life.

1. Speech Recognition

Speech recognition has advanced in the last few years due to the use of devices such as Alexa and Google Home, as well as advances in the way Siri and Cortana respond to voice commands. Consumers are already using this technology here and there, but expect it to become a more integral part of your day. There’s no need to navigate to Amazon and click on an item to order. Instead, users will tell their phones or smart devices to place the order.

Speech recognition will start to appear in the ways we navigate our vehicles and interact with devices such as smart refrigerators and washers and dryers. Knowing how to program a device will become a thing of the past, as speech recognition advances and a simple verbal command makes technology work.

2. Cryptocurrency

You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but may not have used them. As business continues its march toward a global market, expect to see more and more use of cryptocurrency. Already, people are much more likely to use Apple Pay or a virtual credit card than cash. In a study by the German bank Bundesbank, researchers shared that for the first time in the bank’s history, cash made up less than 50 percent of all transactions.

As more hackers perfect their skimming techniques, people are reluctant to use debit and credit cards for purchases. Cash isn’t always convenient to have on hand, and it’s bulky to carry around. Expect to see cryptocurrency rise, both for the convenience and the ability to use it across different monetary exchanges.

3. Driverless Cars

There is already quite a bit of buzz about driverless cars. Could the future of driving be one where humans don’t even need a driver’s license or the knowledge of how a vehicle operates? Fully automated cars would reduce traffic accidents, allow people to make better use of their time commuting to and from work and save money on fuel use. Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) is one area where advances impact the driverless car industry specifically. Autonomous cars use LSR parts while reducing the cost and increasing the performance of the vehicles. This tech will help make driverless cars affordable for everyone.

4. Artificial Intelligence

The driverless vehicles mentioned above may make you think about the novel-based movie I, Robot with Will Smith, where the computers try to take over the world and the car he’s driving in one scene. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) mean there are fewer menial tasks for humans to do, and people can focus more on creative and management-based endeavors. Through 2020, expect to see a push toward transparency in how AI functions. People still don’t fully trust AI perhaps because of movies where computers turn on society and developers are working to figure out how to expose the specific algorithms used for computer decision-making.

As people begin trusting AI more, the technology will take over more and more physical tasks. Although the day where a robot lives in your home and cooks dinner for you may be a decade or more away, the changes are coming. In the future, we may have everything from a robot nanny to a machine which cleans the entire house instead of merely a vacuum.

5. Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is growing by leaps and bounds. A few years ago, the idea of connecting all our devices to “talk” to each other may have seemed almost impossibly futuristic, but today, the average home might have a smart thermostat and lights, programmed to turn on minutes before residents arrive home from work. Smart devices range from garage door openers to door locks to ways of interacting with your pets while you’re away.

As 5G Internet speeds hit more areas and more devices enter the market, expect to see an expansion of IoT in nearly every field. One significant issue with all of these devices, however, has been that they all run separately, meaning users must keep track of a lot of different things. As Google Home and Alexa improve and expand which products they work with, expect automation of all devices to become simpler.

AI will also begin working with IoT so that devices can automatically set your preferences based on past behavior and best guesses. Imagine a day where you don’t even have to set your coffeemaker to turn on. Why? Well, your smart home already knows you get up at 6 a.m. and sets the device for you.

6. Eye-Controlled Technology

Advances in facial recognition and eye-tracking software allow people to interact more easily with electronic devices. Already, the iPhone XS Max recognizes the user’s face to open without using a passcode or fingerprint. The user looks at the screen, and the device unlocks, but only for the user through facial recognition. Expect to see more devices using this type of technology in the future. Imagine a car that’s impossible to steal because the vehicle recognizes a list of pre-programmed faces before starting.

In the next age of technology, gestures and facial expressions may operate all types of devices, particularly computers and smartphones.

7. Smart Fabric

Imagine wearing a shirt which adapts to your body temperature, keeping you warm or cool based on comfort level. A team of researchers produced a wearable fabric with sensors embedded inside. Solar receptors could capture the power of the sun and heat the material on a cold day. Multiple sensors might track health metrics and notify someone before they have a stroke or heart attack. It could be used to better track the effectiveness of a workout.

The applications for smart material are limitless, such as bedding that maintains an ideal body temperature while sleeping and tracks sleep patterns. Smart fabric might help airlines ensure their passengers are more comfortable and alert flight attendants about any severe health complications, such as blood clots on long flights.

Impact of Technology

Changes in technology impact people’s lives. As artificial intelligence advances, jobs will disappear computers will replace people. Either new jobs that use more human intellect will replace old ones, or people will feel an economic impact. Freeing our time from menial tasks will giving citizens additional hours to read, study, learn new skills or waste more time on social media than ever before.

Technology changes so rapidly that you may not even notice the shifts. Do you remember a time when you didn’t carry your cell phone everywhere, and you went out to dinner with friends instead of sharing a photo of what you had for lunch on Instagram? Technology changes not only the physical aspects of life, but our social interactions. While most technology will make life easier, you must also be aware of potential negatives and work to counteract them for a fulfilling life.

Writing and Graphic Design Hero

Highlighting the Importance of Writing for a Designer

How to launch and run a thriving design business has nothing to do with righting, write? Wrong! These days brand identity designers, logo designers, game designers, graphic designers, and even flash designers need to be able to spot the spelling mistake in the first sentence of this article. Designers can no longer be the master of their own dream world, where they choose and decide when, where and how they interact with the design project. It is highly crucial today more than ever that corporate design solutions align with client objectives from the largest corporation to the smallest enterprise. To become a successful designer, you must be able to cope with writing skills.

Why Writing is Important for Designers

Writing has its own worth regardless of the profession. From a technician to a designer, everyone needs writing abilities in order to communicate in a better way. However, for designers, it is far more important than just to communicate. Mentioned below are some of the reasons that elaborate on the importance of writing for a designer.

1. Writing Helps You Describe Your Design

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Albert Einstein

Very often, designers are required to explain the perspective and intentions of their design. Failing in the practice can lead to an ultimate thought that designs are not intuitive. Excellent writing skills enable you to think as a writer rather than a designer, which could help you finding the lacks in design if any. Writers usually do not hesitate to point out when the designs do not make sense as it could lead to a wrong description of a particular design. Searching for the mistakes in your own plan will allow you to manage an improved outcome.

Simply, it can be said that writing skills for a designer not only help him with literature but also helps improve as a designer.

2. Content First Designs are Trending

Gloria Tillison – A front-end developer at Crowd Writer illustrates during a seminar,

“Designers need to realize that the market is competitive, and every single person is focusing towards SEO with their designs and contents.”

She further said: “Content-First strategy is adopting widely in the world and we as a designer needs to cope with it as early as possible.”

Words are powerful and essential in any content of the website which cannot be ignored at any cause. As Biz Sanford from Shopify content team explains,

“Words are essential for helping users accomplish their tasks, and by thinking about them while you sketch, you’ll uncover problems early and be able to move faster later.”

Consider this page, by designer Justin Jackson, puts on the importance of words in a webpage.

3. Writing a Better Title, Body & Meta Tag Improves SEO

A designer is always focused on the SEO of any site he is designing for. In this regards, different tags have their own role and importance. Every tag has some particular requirements as well e.g.

  • A good Title tag is below 60 characters and includes a keyword or synonym.
  • Similarly, Meta tag lies in 150 to 160 characters and of course with a focused keyword.

Sometimes clients provide you with these tags; otherwise, a designer himself put the efforts. Designers with writing abilities will not find it difficult to manage these tags.

Despite the fact, the body content is always provided by the customers. However, usually, they are unaware of SEO. Good designers take care of SEO by modifying the given content with little changes.

They might need to add some transition words, convert passive sentences to active, shorten the sentences’ length and add focused keywords for better SEO and readability of the page. All of such work requires a good understanding of literature and excellent writing skills.

4. Sharing Your Ideas Help the Design Community

Many designers resist to share their work and have a feeling that someone may steal their idea or come up with a similar one. But they need to understand that what they have been creating is not coming all alone from their mind. There must be some inspiration and motivation from other works and designs.

Writing about your work, therefore, can be beneficial for you and others as well. It serves as the best tool to share your work and ideas which can help other designer feel inspired with and understand your design or your prototyping process.

5. Build an Audience & Start Business

With regards to looking for some kind of work, it can in some cases be hard to come up with new opportunities. Why not thinking about people coming to you rather than you approach them? All you need is to make it simpler for individuals to get an understanding of what you do and how you work. Writing allows you to do this efficiently through blogs, as it can enable you to build an online presence and become join communities to showcase your talent.

Once, you have developed your audience, it will be more convenient to launch your very own business. There are many businesses which were started just in a similar manner with writing blogs and building networks. They created their connections using their content, and people started recognizing them. So, this scenario is best for you to kick start a business when you already have a market and people know where to go for designing.

6. Let You Communicate With The Client In A Better Way

With the world being so fast, effective communication has become a primary skill to understand your client and make them understand your points. Since the market is growing vast, more professional seeking work and more communication happen in writing.

Remember the time when a confusing email from your colleague or customer left you uncertain, what to do with this. Such a gap in communication slows the process of designing.

Quick Tips For Getting Started With Writing

Now, since you are familiar with the necessity of writing for you as a designer, why not try some resources that can improve your skills. There are numerous tools and software that can help you to find a writer within you or assist you in different regards.

Grammarly: It is the software having several characteristics. It supports you to improve your writing by correcting grammar issues. It’s premium features allow you to check for plagiarism if by chance your piece is duplicated. It also lets you check the work with human proofreaders.

AustralianMaster: This is a human proofreader and editor. It can help you check your written material for errors, may it be structural or grammatical. They will correct it for you and add value to your written piece.

Writing Ocean: One of the most enriched hubs with different kind of composition marks. You will find here the best dictionary, easy to understand grammatical rules and a lot more.

Accurate Cite: When you will start writing, you will realize the importance of referencing. Accurate Cite can help you understand all these rules and regulations in a free flow manner. It also provides you with automated citation.

MHR Writer: They have professional and skillful authors who can assist you in any every type of composition. They will help you to make your cover letters and resume which can get you more work.

These tools will surely help you to develop a better scripting ability to benefit from the facts that I have described previously.

graphic design jobs

Graphic Design Jobs: Where to Find Your Dream Career Online

Seeking employment in the field of graphic design? When you’re looking for a new start, LinkedIn, Indeed, Simply Hired, Glassdoor, and Monster aren’t your only options. There are several sites that can connect you to your next freelance gig or running into the arms of an agency that will appreciate your talents. But where do you start looking? We are here to help!

Here are some sites you may find helpful:

AIGA Design Jobs: Professional Jobs and Internships courtesy of our friends at AIGA.

AngelList: Positions offered by Tech and StartUp Companies

Authentic Jobs: Design opportunities for graphic designers, developers and other creative professionals

Behance: Design Jobs, Internships and Freelance Work

Coroflot: Jobs in the areas of Graphic Design, Product Design, Creative Direction and more

Creative Hotlist: A creative job-board featuring categories like design, illustration, art direction and more

Design Milk: Design, Art and Architecture positions

Dribbble: Jobs for Designers

Higher Ed: Graphic Design Faculty Positions

How Design: Graphic, Web and Interactive Design opportunities

If You Could: A site covering a myriad of creative jobs

Krop: A multitude of creative positions

Media Bistro: Creative Jobs in areas like Graphic Design, UX & UI, Video, Web Production and more

Smashing Magazine: Jobs for Designers and Developers

The Dots: Creative jobs covering a range of roles. Some prestigious companies list here.

The Drum: Jobs in Marketing, Design and Creative Position, as well as a range of others associated with this field.

For Freelancers Specifically:

DesignCrowd: Freelance Design Jobs in areas including logo & branding, web design, print design, graphic design, product & merchandise, art & illustration

Freelancer.com: Post your skills/capabilities and get hired.

The Creative Loft: A premium job listing website for jobseekers and professionals of creative industries.

Upwork: The largest & most trusted freelancer site. Post your skills and clients will find you.

Make sure to check out our other posts related to job hunting!

The Magic Element to Include in the Best Graphic Design Cover Letter Ever

An Open Letter to Student Designers

Please Avoid Making These Mistakes We Often See on Design Resumes

How to Land the Design Job of your Dreams

Graphic Design Portfolio Examples to Inspire You + Important Tips

How to Have the Best Graphic Design Portfolio on the Block: 3 Tips

Good luck everyone!

Marketing-Budget-2019-Hero

How Much Should You Budget for Marketing in 2019?

Determining Your Marketing Budget

Every business, no matter if it’s a startup, a small business or a large enterprise, has difficulties setting aside a budget for anything, let alone marketing. The main reason is that you can never truly predict the exact amount of funds you’ll need to invest in something important.

Costs may vary and unexpected expenses may arise practically anywhere. Therefore, you can estimate a best-case-scenario budget and set aside a bit more than you’ve planned just in case. But what about the digital marketing landscape today?

In 2019, digital marketing is as dynamic as it ever was. Technological and market trends still shape consumer behavior, which in turn influences how marketers develop their strategies, as well as their campaigns.

All of these activities can have an impact on your marketing budget. So figuring out how much and where to invest when it comes to marketing in 2019 may be a daunting task. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can determine how much should you budget for marketing this year.

How much do companies spend on marketing?

If you’re trying to answer the question of how much to spend on marketing, the answer is always “It depends”. Your goals may differ from other companies on the market, which means you may need to budget more or less on marketing efforts alone.

You can compare how much other companies spend on marketing, on average, in order to gain an approximate estimation of how much you should budget. As an example, here’s average spending of companies on marketing in 2018.

Marketing budget as a percentage of a company’s budget:

  • B2B product – 9.2%
  • B2B service – 8.9%
  • B2C product – 16.0%
  • B2C service – 14.9%

Marketing spending as a percentage of a company’s revenue:

  • B2B product – 6.3%
  • B2B service – 6.9%
  • B2C product – 9.6%
  • B2C service – 11.8%

Invest in marketing research

Marketing research should be one of the most vital factors in your budgeting efforts. Research can help you determine the audience’s preference, needs and expectations, as well as the trends they’re currently following.

In addition, you can determine which marketing channels are best suited to your campaigns, as well as decide whether to consider both digital and traditional marketing in your campaign. Aside from all that, you can conduct a competitive analysis to determine which marketing efforts your competitors opt for and how much they’re investing in their strategies.

Your marketing budget depends on the approach you’ll implement, and research can help you develop such an approach. Even research requires investment, so it may be a good idea to keep the research budget separate from the marketing budget. That way you can clear out any confusion regarding spending and allow research to guide you in developing a budget for your marketing efforts.

Keep the cash flow positive

As mentioned before, digital marketing is quite a dynamic landscape. Things may change sooner than you think and they may change quite often. In such cases, additional and unexpected costs are quite common.

You may have to pour funds out of other business operations to make up for marketing costs that exceed your budget. That being said, it’s very important to maintain a positive cash flow in order to avoid a negative impact on your bottom line. There are various ways you can maintain a positive cash flow, such as by reducing operational or overhead expenses.

Moreover, you can consider various debtor finance options, they can help you manage your accounts receivable and thus help you maintain a positive cash flow. The fact of the matter is that it’s always better to have good financial health when unexpected expenses arise than it is to go into unnecessary debt to cover such expenses.

Consider return on investment (ROI)

Marketing efforts will eventually yield some kind of a return on investment. How much and how long that will take depends on the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. That begs the question of where to invest, in the first place. Again, that depends on your goals and what you want to achieve with your marketing efforts.

As an example, you should consider both digital and traditional marketing methods. In 2018, the majority of companies invested 42% of their marketing budget to online efforts. Digital marketing is oversaturated these days which leaves traditional marketing with untapped potential for ROI. In addition, consider both inbound and outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing, such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and social media may be more efficient at tracking ROI because you can use metrics to measure results from owned and earned media. On the other hand, outbound marketing, such as called call, trade shows and email promotions may be high-cost-low-gain efforts in some cases, but they may prove effective if your goals align with such methods.

Determining how much to budget for your marketing efforts can be a daunting task. However, if you make an effort to research relevant information, as well as leverage data from your previous marketing budgets, you’ll be able to set aside enough funds for your marketing efforts in 2019.

Must Have Apps 2019

Seven Must-Have Apps Before Your Next Business Trip

Must Have Apps for 2019 to Download Before Your Next Trip

Seasoned travelers know you can do a lot of little things to make being away from home more comfortable. You can follow tips to pack lighter, such as rolling your clothes and using hotel laundry services and certain credit cards accepted everywhere. What you may not have considered are the apps you should download before your next journey.

Experts predict that U.S. domestic business travel will reach 483 million trips a year by 2020. By the year 2021, experts predict business travel spending will reach $1.7 trillion. If you aren’t already traveling as part of your work, you’re likely to at some point in your career.

Figuring out which apps are worth downloading and which are a waste of time isn’t an easy task. Dozens of travel and business apps are available. We’ve done the work of sifting through them and figuring out which are most beneficial for business travelers. Here are seven of them.

1. Skyscanner

Skyscanner offers a mobile app that allows you to sort through the different prices for flying to and from various destinations utilizing business class. Some airlines offer discounts at specific times of the year, so pushing your meetings a week or two out might save you as much as 50 percent or more on your business class fare.

The app also notifies you of any specials, helps you track which airlines have the best deals and offers a chart which shows the cheapest months and days to fly. If your company makes travel arrangements for you, you can still offer input to the assistant making plans by looking at your Skyscanner app for the best dates before asking them to book your travel.

2. HotelTonight

Have you ever headed out on a business trip that ran a bit longer than expected due to intense negotiations or a sudden added meeting or two? In large cities, the hotel you were already in may be booked up for a conference or other event. There are times when you suddenly have to find a hotel room at the last minute.

Enter Hotel Tonight, a way to find a hotel in any city with a few filters. The app has a partnership with some of the best hotels in the largest cities. They offer their unsold rooms at a discount. You can book rooms in advance or look for something at the last minute. The app includes a full description of each hotel along with ratings from other travelers.

3. CWT

This app is the perfect tool for syncing your travel itinerary and work calendars. If you plan to do a little sightseeing at the end of a work day, then you can also plan side trips around important meetings, meshing the best of both business and leisure travel.

You can also share your itinerary through the app with your work colleagues, which reduces communication issues and keeps everyone informed of when essential meetings are on the schedule. This app helps keep you productive and on task while on your business trip because you see at a glance what’s next in your planned day.

4. Elk

You might have some issues with actually converting your currency into foreign currency when traveling, including that there are only a limited number of banks which convert currency. Last-minute travel plans don’t always allow enough time to convert. You may find yourself in another locale with different money than your country uses. However, in tourist-heavy areas, they will likely still take the United States dollar and other popular currency in exchange for goods and services.

Elk is a currency converter for those trips that take you outside of your home country. The difference between what your local currency is worth in another country varies daily. You can quickly see if you’re being treated fairly and also being fair to others by using Elk to convert currency in real time. The app works with an iOS device and integrates with your Apple watch, putting information at your fingertips.

5. Netflix

You may have some downtime during your business trips, so entertaining yourself is a vital part of travel. Watching videos is one way of keeping yourself entertained. Listen with headphones, and you won’t disrupt those around you.

If you have a Netflix account, downloading the app is a must for any traveler. However, there may be times when you don’t have access to cellular data. You’ll want to download a few movies or episodes of shows to your app, so you can pull them up even without WIFI access.

When you do have WIFI access, your viewing options are unlimited. Remember that downloads take up space on your mobile device, so delete files after you’ve viewed them.

6. Google Maps

Google Maps is one of the top means of navigating in a car or on foot. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, you can pull up the app and figure out what restaurants and stores are near your location and get walking or driving directions to the destination. The maps also integrate with Google Reviews, so you can see what others think about a particular establishment before frequenting it yourself as well as get price ranges.

Google Maps also offers stop-by-stop directions for local mass transit along with departure and arrival times for trains and buses. Never again will you feel overwhelmed by big city subway systems you aren’t familiar with. You can pull up the app and figure out the best route to take along with where to get on and off transit.

7. Expensify

One of the worst parts about business travel is keeping all those receipts and tracking expenses, so you can get reimbursed or prove your per diem. Fortunately, there’s an app that simplifies the process of expense tracking.

The app is free to download. You take a snapshot with your phone of a receipt and describe the expense and submit a final report to your company when you’re finished. Even if your company doesn’t partner with Expensify, you can track costs for your records in case you accidentally misplace a receipt or to make your final report easier to pull together for accounting.

Be Choosy About Apps

The seven apps above represent some of the most useful ones we’ve found. While numerous apps for business travelers exist, be selective about which ones you use. The best apps serve a purpose by making your travel experience easier or reducing your workload in some way. Look for apps that expand communication between you and your home office or solve problems likely to arise while traveling.