Thursday, August 6, 2015 by Kevin WoodAs a small business owner you’re going to have a ton of tasks to manage and keep track of every single day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and this is where the power of apps can come in. By managing your workflow and reducing the time spent doing aimless things you’ll be better able to advance your business. In this post we’re going to cover the top productivity apps for small business owners, and how they can be used to transform your business. Most of the apps below will work across any smartphone or tablet-like device. Asana Asana is shared task-management software that helps you track every moving piece of large-scale projects. When working on projects with multiple people it’s easy for emails, conversations and ideas to get lost in the shuffle. Asana makes sure every piece is accounted for, and you can track the progress of each project. You can set due dates and assign tasks to specific team members as well. Dropbox Dropbox is an extremely popular could storage app. It allows you to store backups of your website, copies of documents and anything you need really. It makes it easy to share documents with multiple team members, and syncs easily across multiple devices. Whether you’re collaborating with multiple team members, or looking for a place to backup your files Dropbox will be able to help. DocuSign If you need to sign digital documents, then DocuSign makes it easy. All it takes is a number of clicks and you’ll be able to sign a document and forward it on to the right party. If you’re constantly on the go, then you can sign documents from whatever device you’re opening the document on. Evernote Evernote is a very useful note taking app that sync seamlessly across all of your devices. It makes it easy to manage to-do lists, take random notes and have a place to store random digital media items. There is also a paid version of the app, which gives you a greater suite of tools, including more admin features, a higher storage capacity, and the ability to easily collaborate with other app users. Doodle Doodle is a great scheduling tool, which will help you keep track of your schedule across multiple platforms. If you already use Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo calendars, then this app will help you keep track of your meetings and appointments across all three. CloudOn If your business relies on working within the suite of Microsoft Word tools, then CloudOn makes it easy to edit these files when you’re on the go. If you need to make quick edits to a PowerPoint presentation, but only have your iPad, then this app has you covered. Managing your time as a small business owner doesn’t have to be stressful. Any of the apps above will help you to manage your to-do lists, collaborate with team members, and keep track of the day-to-day. Take control of your time and take control of your business with a suite of helpful apps.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015 by Chris Delker
Editor's Note: the information in this post, while incredibly valuable, is simply non-applicable to those who use owr Optimized WordPress Hosting, as HostGator manages all aspects of backups and security. Having said that, please enjoy the information contained herein, and do apply the same logic to non-WordPress sites as well:" WordPress is the most popular content management system on the planet. And for good reason. It's easy to use, and offers an incredible wealth of functionality through plugins. Let's consider just one aspect of managing a site: performing backups. There are many reliable, easy-to-use plugins available for backing up a WordPress site. That's why you regularly backup your business WordPress site. Right?
No? You're Not Alone…A recent survey revealed that nearly half of WordPress users do not perform regular backups. So if you don't frequently backup your WordPress site, you've got lots of company. Perhaps that will offer you some measure of consolation. After all, according to the old saying, misery loves company. And if you continue to be lax about backing up your site, it's quite possible that you will end up miserable - but with lots of company. That’s because bad things can happen to any website - even WordPress-powered sites.
Updates, Break-Ins and BlundersAccording to a Small Business Trends report, regularly backing up your WordPress site may save you from one (or more) of three common occurrences that regularly vex website owners:
- Update Problems: Like any other well-maintained piece of software, WordPress code is frequently updated. That means that your WordPress site should be frequently updated. But with each update, there's a risk - a possibility that one of the plugins you use won't be in sync with the code update. And that can cause major problems, up to and including the complete failure of your website.
- Attacks and Hacks: Your site is under constant threat of a cyber attack. In fact, the cyber security company Symantec recently reported that nearly a third of all cyber attacks target small businesses. There's much you can do to defend your site against cyber criminals. But alas, there's no way to assure that your site is absolutely invulnerable.
- Oopsies: Accidental file deletions happen with great regularity. In fact, there are really only two types of people: those who have accidentally deleted files, and those that will. So if an accidental deletion hasn't yet occurred at your business, it will. It's only a matter of time.
So How Frequently Should You Perform Backups?For most businesses, daily backups are best. Particularly active businesses may even wish to perform backups multiple times per day. But certainly no business should go more than a week without performing a backup. Backups, after all, are easy. They can be automated to occur seamlessly and behind the scenes. There are lots of options for WordPress users, ranging from free plugins to paid third-party services. And cloud-based backup options can even protect your business data from calamities such as natural disasters and fires.
Just Do It…As the old Nike commercial recommends, when it comes to backing up your WordPress site - just do it. Choose your preferred backup method, and just do it. And do it frequently. After all, misery may indeed love company. But your company doesn't love misery, does it?
*****Chris Delker is a freelance copywriter based in Dallas, Texas.
Thursday, July 30, 2015 by Jeremy JensenLiving in a city built around a tourism based economy has shown me the businesses who survive aren't those with the best marketing strategy, but those who have managed to retain loyal customers, both local and returning visitors, throughout every season of the year. The feeling a customer gets coming back to the business often means more than the quality of the service being offered. For instance, one of the most popular coffee shops in my town thrives due largely in part to offering a location in which people want to be seen. As a self-proclaimed coffee critique I can tell you the difference in product would not be enough to create this much separation in popularity. The trick is in the x-factor, in this case providing a hub in which people can see friends, come to get work done, and really gain a secondary experience through visiting the business altogether. However, earning the adoration of customers is easier said than done. Like any metric in business it involves a variety of factors, a lot of which boil down to good customer service and unique products of high quality. Small businesses are making a come back, and if yours is to contend in the realm of people defining themselves through brands and products it's important to start gaining customer loyalty right now. Here are some great tips to get you started.
Focus On Your Most Valuable CustomersValue can be a subjective term, but in this regard a valuable customer should be measured strictly on what they offer your business financially. Think of those who have recurrent faces first, the ones that are consistently coming back to your business and providing regular revenue. I like to think of these customers as 'buffers' because in times when business is slow they provide the difference between a strong month or just barely making it. Financial value may be variant depending on what you're selling, also. A coffee house may have valued customers based on them appearing most mornings for a cheap cup of coffee; a painting business on the other hand may have a most valued customer just by getting a couple gigs a year. In either circumstance both add up to lifetime value and your energy and attention needs to cater to those already serving your success. Taking the time to show appreciation and remembrance for their regular support also turns into referrals as word of mouth, which is the most valuable form of marketing.
Invest In Your Customers LoyaltyWhile this is an old trick, providing reward incentives has proven to be one of the most effective ways to bring customers back in times when they have options for products. Large companies like Safeway have advanced rewards programs by offering discounts on gasoline when you spend money in their grocery outlets. Many unit based businesses will offer frequent shopper cards, on which you'll receive a free product after so many purchases. I know when I'm hungry I'll tend to see if I have any punch cards in my wallet knowing my purchase will be even more valuable later.
Listen To Their Feedback and Actually Make ChangesThis one can be tricky depending on how you're choosing to receive feedback. Less than 5% of customers will respond to surveys when sent out via email, or posted on Social Media. Rather, take the time to scour sites on the Internet where reviews have already been posted, and take action to improve areas that seem to have recurring complaints or suggestions. Not every gripe has to do with the integrity of your business, but more often than not there's areas of your regular operation that go unnoticed to staff and employees. What I like to call a two-for-one is putting a survey on the receipt and offering a small discount on the customers next purchase just for returning the survey. Let the customer know you want to hear from them personally and that their return is extremely valuable, because it is!
Meaningful Customer ServiceDo you ever feel like certain customer service requirements are a little overboard? Perhaps less genuine even? Part of gaining a customers loyalty is making them feel a sense of personal connection to your business and that their time spent there is with recognition. Many small businesses put emphasis on employees learning their frequent customer's names, along with encouraging conversations that contain more depth than just asking how their day is going. Humans crave attention, even if that's coming from someone who only knows them in one environment. As your business becomes more well known, try employing these tactics to ensure your product or service means more than just business as usual. Working to gain your customers loyalty will add up to more than just dollar signs for you, it will make your business meaningful to the lives of others which is a great feeling.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 by Kevin WoodCreating a landing page that works is easy, but creating a landing page that converts is going to take a little bit more work. In this post we’re going to examine what a landing page actually is, and how to build one that speaks to your customers and converts.
What Is A Landing Page?A landing page is a page that your users are going to land on from some traffic source across the internet. This could either be from a social media post, a guest blog, or an ad. Landing pages are specialized pages that are designed to get your users to take action. Most unnecessary elements are cut out and the focus is appealing to the user so they’ll act on your call-to-action. Landing pages will help to educate your customers and turn them from window-shoppers to potentially paying customers.
Building A High Converting Landing PageCreating a landing page is simple. Most website templates have the ability to select a ‘landing page’ layout which will create a very simple page for you. The layout is easy; the real work comes from the copy, the media, and any other page elements. 1. Enticing Headline Right from the get go, you need to capture the essence of your landing page with a headline that gets users to keep on reading. Your headline needs to sum up what your page is about, as well as create some emotional tension so the visitor will continue to read to the bottom of the page. 2. Create A Sense Of Urgency You can create landing page urgency through a variety of methods. One way is by having a countdown timer, or having your offer expire after a set amount of time. Another method is to limited your downloads or sign-ups to a certain number. This sense of urgency will encourage the user to act quickly. 3. Build Trust Through Credibility You can showcase your credibility in many ways. One of the most common is through showcasing testimonials from past clients and customers. Another common means is to highlight endorsements from other business-owners in your niche. You can even highlight your credibility by displaying your number of social media followers, or subscribers if the number is high enough. 4. Inspiring Call-to-Action If people make it to the bottom of your website then you need a call-to-action that inspires them to take action. Most calls-to-action are displayed as buttons, so you’ll want this button to stand out, and be clear and action-oriented. Also, make sure your call-to-action only has a singular course of action. 5. Test And Refine The first time you build your landing page you’re going to be guessing based upon past interactions with clients, and your own intuition. By tracking and testing small variables on your landing page you’ll start to build a higher-converting landing page over time. When you’re testing make sure to only isolate and test a single element at time. It may take longer this way, but it’s the only way to ensure you know what is and isn’t working. Over time, with the data you collect it will be much easier to design a high-converting landing page the first go-around.