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  • America Just Gave Small Businesses A Big Thumbs-Up

    Thursday, August 27, 2015 by
    thumbsup
    It's easy to get the impression these days that small business is on the decline in America. It seems that there are often news reports about small businesses that are killed off by big businesses. Mom-and-pop stores, for example, forced to close after decades of operation, run out of business because of the construction of a new big-box store nearby. Or an independent eatery hurt by competition from the construction of a new nationally franchised store like Micky Ds. But though it's easy to get that impression these days, it's only an impression. It's not the truth. Because while there certainly are isolated instances of small businesses succumbing to competition with large businesses, on a national scale it's a far different scenario.  

    The Survey Says…

    A recent Gallup poll provides an indication of just how healthy small businesses are in America. If you consider small business and big business to be antagonists competing for the favorability of Americans, there's a clear winner. And it's not even close. According to the survey, more than two-thirds of Americans report having "quite a lot" of confidence in their dealings with small businesses. And the percentage of Americans that report the same amount of confidence in dealing with big business? Only 21%. And that's an entrenched attitude; it's nothing new. Gallup has been conducting this poll for decades. Small business has always received a favorable response. And big business has always received a negative response. In fact, the highest favorable rating big business has ever received occurred 40 years ago. In 1975, big business received a 34% favorability rating. It's been all downhill ever since.  

    It's More Than Mere Perception

    But what about the numbers? While it's wonderful for small business people to have the trust and confidence of America, how does that play out in real numbers? Quite well, as it turns out. According to a recent report by Inc. Magazine, small businesses are faring quite well on a number of fronts. Some of the highlights include:
    • 7% of businesses that hire workers are small businesses
    • Half of the nation's workforce is employed by small businesses
    • Small business accounts for about half of the Gross Domestic Product
      And small business beats big business in another arena that's often overlooked: innovation. In a recent 4-year period, small business filed far more patents per employee than big business (among firms that filed 15 or more patents).  

    The Big Boys Are Envious of You

    If you're the owner or operator of a small business, you have your trials and tribulations to deal with. All businesses do. And likely you've faced some pretty stiff competition at times from big businesses competing for your clientele. But you have a gift, an astounding competitive advantage. It's an advantage that big business can't buy with all of their vast money and resources - though they've certainly tried. You have the trust and admiration of the American public. They want you to succeed. They're rooting for you. And they want to do business with you. The big guys can only dream of being so lucky.  
    *****
      Chris Delker is a freelance copywriter based in Dallas, Texas.
  • 4 Tips For Hiring The Right Business Assistant

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015 by
    4 Tips for Hiring the Right Business Assistant Starting an online business, launching a startup, or simply creating a product that's in demand, requires a substantial amount of energy and commitment to be done properly, and as we continue to invest this energy, we start to realize that more and more time goes to tasks such as email management, reputation building, and general activities that don't really correlate with our business strategy, yet are essential in their own way. Email for example, can turn out to be one of the most time consuming parts of your business -- you're always replying, always receiving new messages, and surely there is someone who you've forgotten to reply back to as well. It's all part of the business creating process, but eventually you want to step it up a little and perhaps introduce an assistant that can help you with these less technical and less financial parts of the business. If you're not sure as to whether you need an assistant, answer these questions to yourself truthfully:
    1. Do I feel satisfied with my overall performance at the end of each day?
    2. Are my energy levels equally balanced after a day of work?
    3. Am I contemplating to stop running my business, because it feels too much?
    4. Am I deliberately slowing the growth rate of my business to keep up?
    5. Would I be able to do more if I had an assistant?
    and more often than not, we can quickly realize where our main issue lies -- it's in the manpower, and if we don't put aside some of the tasks for another person to do, we can often run out of juice altogether. The following tips are to help you find the right person as your future business assistant.  

    1. Decide on the Tasks & Salary

    The first steps towards finding a great personal/business assistant is to find out and realize the tasks that you wish for this assistant to do on your behalf, and on top of that you need to figure out a good salary plan that you can work with. Only when you've got these two things figured out, can you head to sites such as Elance to find the appropriate people who could do the job for you. Hiring the right assistant Freelance sites offer a variety of people, so you need to be clear about your ambitions and expectations, and don't be afraid to chip in a little bit more if an experienced assistant approaches you. Do you want them to do social media tasks for you? Or perhaps you want your assistant to schedule and organize things for you. Maybe both!  

    2. Take Time to Get to Know Them

    You are, after all, going to trust this person with a significant part of your business, and so it is good idea to go through a concise interview process with each candidate to get to know them a little bit on the personal side, as well as on the business side and how they plan to accomplish the tasks that you need accomplishing. Don't settle for someone that doesn't fit your profile, you are more likely to run into further headaches that way.  

    3. Learn About Their Previous Experience

    Entrepreneurs often talk about one of the most important things to learn about new hires, is their personal experience in the field, and their general understanding of the tasks that they're about to embark on. Learn about their accomplishments, both small and big, to have better understanding of the areas that the particular candidate has covered and to see how that fits in your current business tasks and model.  

    4. Can They Walk the Talk?

    Naturally, you will be doing a lot of the interviewing from your own personal experience, and so some of the questions will come to you automatically and you will be able to tell their worth through your own filter, but some things can only be tested and seen by real field work. This means, we have to check whether the candidate is ready to walk their talk on the stop, if you're hiring a sales assistant -- have them sell something to you live, or if you're a social media manager -- give them scenarios in which they have to respond to support questions and queries.
  • How You’re Doing Branding Wrong, And What To Do About It

    Thursday, August 20, 2015 by
    How You’re Doing Branding Wrong, And What To Do About It Having a consistent and clear brand will help you build a business that lasts for the long-term. At the core of your branding should be a connection between you and your customer. The role of your brand is to communicate your value to your customer in the clearest manner possible. Only by understanding your customer can you truly create a brand that lasts. Most companies go about branding from the opposite approach and end up with a brand that speaks to no one. Below you’ll find some of the most common branding mistakes and what you can do to fix them.  

    1. Trusting Instinct Alone

    It’s easy to fall in love with your business idea. But, if it isn’t serving anyone, or no one is going to buy what you’re offering. Then it’s better left as a hobby than an actual business. Instead of focusing on building your brand identity and other activities to solidify your brand you should be talking with actual customers to verify your idea and uncover their needs. Only then does it make sense to invest more time into your project. After all, by going of instinct alone you’re essentially flying blind and will have no idea if anyone even wants what you’re offering until it hits the market.  

    2. Little To No Engagement or Feedback

    Like we mentioned above, if you’re relying directly on the assumptions you have about your target market you’re going to have a difficult time nurturing a brand over the long-run. The best brands speak directly to their target market’s needs and nothing more. Acting on instinct alone puts you at risk for attempting to raise awareness around your brand for years, with nothing to show for it. A better route is to find people in your target market, or people who already interact with your company and ask them some of the following questions:
    • How would you feel if your product or service ceased to exist?
    • What alternatives to your product or service would you use instead?
    • Why do you choose to work with us over our competitors?
    • How can we improve our offerings to serve you in deeper ways?
    By working with these answers you’ll be able to better refine your brand (if you have an existing company), and figure out how to position your offers to your fans in a more compelling and attractive manner.  

    3. Being Consistent

    When you have a stable brand it can be tempting to change up subtle elements of your brand just for fun. Although most brands go through design overhauls and image shifts over time they’re usually structured and thought out. However, even subtle inconsistencies within your logo, colors, and messaging can throw off your users and start to erode your trust. Make sure you keep an eye on brand consistency, once you’ve developed a strong brand and don’t stray from what you’ve created. Brands aren’t built overnight. The take consistent time, effort, work and refinement. However, by taking the time to incorporate feedback, and consistently engineering your brand towards service you’ll build a brand that works for you, instead of against you.
  • 4 Tasks That Will Save Your Email Marketing Campaigns

    Tuesday, August 18, 2015 by
    4 Tasks That Will Save Your Email Marketing Campaigns On the internet, email is like having a mobile phone, with the difference that on the internet -- you can almost always get anyone's phone number, at any given time. Sometimes, you create something and ask users to enter their phone number (email) in for you, so that they can be notified when you share and publish more of the amazing stuff that got the interested in the first place. We now it by the name of email marketing. The reasons for creating an email list have long been known and understood by expert marketers, and we recently published a post ourselves, about the reasons why a small business should invest in an email marketing strategy, and how rewarding it can be. It's without question the leading way of staying in touch with your customers and peers of interest. If you'r new to email marketing, or have done it a few times before, you will be familiar with email marketing campaigns -- in simpler words, it simply means to send out a carefully crafted message and/or announcement to everyone who has signed up to be on your email list. And more often than not, we want these emails to be of highest quality so as to retain the subscribers, but also to convert leads where possible.  

    1. Talk to Your Customers

    Marketing always was and always will be about the customer, there is no denying that. These days there are countless ways of connecting with your customers, social media and content marketing being a few of them, but email is usually the one that plays on the more personal level. And there is nothing more dissatisfying than a corporate email that only wants to sell you something. When sending a new campaign:
    • Always greet your customers by their first name, which means you have to find a way to collect their name as well. It's a nice and personal touch.
    • Don't drag the email for too long only to try and sell something at the end. Bring value to the table.
    • Give them a good initiative to continue reading the email at the top, rather than the bottom.
     

    2. Optimize the Email Experience

    The mobile experience can now provide just as many features and possibilities as a full-blown desktop computer, and with that in mind, the usage of mobile devices for business and personal needs has increased dramatically over the last few years, even months some would say. And with that in mind, we need to make sure we're catering to our mobile users the same way we are to desktop users. A mobile device is usually going to require a responsive email design that can naturally adapt to the needs of the mobile device. The impact of responsive emails in terms of open rates, and conversion rates, is too huge to miss out on.  

    3. Test What Works

    In development, programmers test their applications against common errors and performance optimization, in email -- we can use testing to test what works best for us and our subscribers, including the email design, the titles we choose to have, and the overall email experience we provide. It's easy to get started. Testing allows you to compare and contrast different elements of your email campaigns to see how they impact your subscribers’ reactions to them. You can form a hypothesis about what you think will occur, and then formulate a test and find out what really happens.  

    4. Email Campaign Frequency

    The last task on our list is actually less a task, but more of a reminder to those who are eager to build their email list quickly. It's easy to get carried away with having access to so many people at any given time, and sometimes we may feel that sending out a few emails a week is going to increase our conversion rates significantly, that simply is not true. Email Campaigns Even before you begin sending out your first emails, you should get clear about the email marketing strategy that you're going to be using, and whether sending out multiple emails on weekly basis is going to yield you the best result. It's possible to ask your new subscribers to select the frequency of emails they'd like to receive, but then you've to be completely clear about the message you're trying to convey over your email campaigns. Sometimes as frequently as twice a month is enough to capture the attention of your customers, and customers-soon-to-be. MailChimp fully agrees that more is not always better.  
    *****
    Alex Ivanovs is an online entrepreneur who has been writing about technology, business and developer topics for over a decade. He currently manages CodeCondo — an aspiring community for designers and developers.