Smooth Your Way Into Big Data

Having access to a lot of data isn’t enough for businesses. They must know how to integrate it into their processes and provide access to their staff for it to be useful. This can be challenging to small companies or those on a limited budget.

data_mgmtHowever, you can slowly integrate it into your systems and not become overwhelmed.

Understand What Problem You are Trying to Solve

The first step comes in figuring out why you need big data. What problem are you trying to solve? The answer may be multiple problems or it may focus on one specific thing such as gaining new customers.

Once you know why you need big data, you can then decide what kind of data is useful to you. You don’t want to collect more data just for the sake of collecting. On the other hand, you want to keep any information that you think will be useful in the future as your business grows.

Know Where You are Getting the Data

The next step is to figure out where you will get the information. Will you send out surveys or collect certain data when people sign up for a newsletter or special discounts? Will you need to use outside sources? This helps you know how much work will go into compiling the data and allow you to establish a cost for retrieval.

You also need to know who you will use to compile the big data. You need someone that is knowledgeable about these systems and can help you provide the right solution.

At the same time, you must figure out how to integrate it with your current systems or replace them with something new. Information is only good when it is accessible and useful.

Figure out if you will incorporate it into your current CRM or create a new database for everyone to have access to.

Start Out Slow

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your company. Begin by using data that you already have access to such as email addresses and other customer information.

Look for a system that can include that data or incorporate it into your current one. Make sure staff knows about the information and how to access it.

Only add new information when you have a purpose for it. Decide what kind of information would be useful and how you will go about getting it.

For example, maybe you want to start sending out e-newsletters to your customers but you don’t have their email addresses.

You can put a page on your website telling them about your new newsletter or Tweet about it or post it with a link to where they can go to sign up. You can also offer a free deal or big discount if people will give you their email addresses and opt in to the newsletter. This is an easy way to get more information about your customers that you can use later on in many other ways.

As the article, “Little wins key to big data success” says, small improvements are just as valuable and may be more realistic for those that incorporate big data.

Integrating a lot of information into your system can feel overwhelming. Begin by including the data that is most important for your business goals. After all, big data is only beneficial if it has a purpose for your business.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including business and technology.

Is Your SEO Game Plan a Winner?

Whether you run a large business or one with just a handful or few dozen employees, being cognizant of search engine optimization (SEO) is something you should never take for granted.

SEOAs various reports show, more and more consumers are going online to search for and buy products and services. Now just imagine if your website has a low page rank (PR) and does not pop up among the top searches in your respective industry.

Is that something you are willing to chance, especially when many businesses are oftentimes fighting for each and every consumer dollar?

In the event your SEO knowledge is not where it should be, consider some of these tidbits as to why you need an SEO game plan, one that and others can offer you:

  • My website has fallen and can’t get up – If your website is on life support, your business may be too. The days of consumers calling you on the phone to order something or visiting your office/store of course still exist, but online shopping is growing by leaps and bounds. Even if a consumer chooses not to buy from you online, there’s a very good chance he or she is browsing your website for product and service information.

If your site has a low page rank, there stands a good chance your competition will grab their attention first;

  • Website marketing is key – Whether it is budgetary issues or just a lack of marketing expertise, too many businesses fail to market what can be one of their biggest assets, their website. By creating a prioritized SEO action plan, you and your SEO consultant/team can market all your site has to offer, including what should be relevant content (how-to and tips material), product and service analysis, and Q & A’s to help consumers;
  • Be relevant – Finally, your SEO game plan means doing keyword research to see where your site can attain its best rankings. For example, if you are a travel agency in Miami, Fla., you don’t want to only show up in a generic travel agency search. Make it so you are at or near the top when consumers Google “Top Miami travel agencies” in their search. This way you are in a much better position to get business than if you’re stuck in page 3 or 4 of the search engine.

If you’re not in tune with how to do SEO for your business, make it your business to find someone to help you.

Not doing so will rank as one of your top mistakes when all is said and done.

About the Author: Dave Thomas writes for a variety of websites on topics such as social media and marketing your business.

Help Your Workers Focus in on Retirement

One of the primary benefits that companies have uses over the years for employees is a 401k plan. The best companies even matched the contributions. After the recession hit, the number of companies offering this benefit dropped.

shutterstock_104521202That has changed with the improvement in the economy and now more employers are including it in the list of benefits again. However, many are not matching or at the same level as before.

Lack of Money and Interest

Many small businesses do not offer any retirement plans for their employees. One of the reasons why this is the case is because of uncertainty about revenue. When they are concerned about sales and profit, they look for areas that are not essential to cut. Retirement benefits often fall into this category.

Companies that have numerous part-time or seasonal workers or high turnover may not feel the need to offer retirement benefits. One of the big issues is that employees don’t value this benefit so employers don’t offer it. They are likely to have younger workers who are not thinking forward to retirement yet.

Why would a company offer a benefit that is not seen as valuable to its employees? According to one survey, only 14% of businesses that employ less than 100 workers offer retirement plans to employees. Many of them cannot afford to offer the benefit and others do not understand which plans are best, especially if they have both young and older workers.

Choosing the Right Retirement Plan

If you are interested in offering a 401k plan as a benefit to your workers, you may be one of those who are concerned about the complexities of enrolling and choosing the best option. You should ask some tough questions to know you are enrolling with the right broker.

While looking for a company that offers low fees is important, other aspects of the plan bear consideration, too.

They include:

  • Who handles the paperwork?
  • Who explains the plan to the employees?
  • Does the company help you design the right plan for your employees?
  • How do you get the money when an employee retires? Can an employee get a loan on the plan?

As the following articles show, a good company will be able to answer your questions and explain everything in language you understand about the different “Retirement plan solutions” that are available.

Get Employees to Contribute

If you offer a retirement plan, you want your employees to take advantage of the benefit. To encourage participation, set up meetings that educate staff on retirement and plans. Sometimes people don’t contribute because they don’t understand the plan. When you educate them, you take away the fear of the unknown.

Offer automatic enrollment. When employees are automatically enrolled in a plan, they are more likely to use it. Make sure you let them know this is occurring and allow them to opt out.

Having a 401k plan is a wonderful benefit to employees. That said employers must make certain their staff understands that benefit.

For businesses that don’t offer such a plan, they should think about getting one to help employees invest in their own futures.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including business and finances.

5 Reasons You Should Hire an Agency For Your Social Media

Nowadays, every business has a strong social media presence. It is no longer a luxury option for the most profitable companies; it is a necessity for even a marginal level of success. Once you’ve decided to make an excellent decision and embark on a social media strategy, you must choose whether to keep your endeavors in-house or to hire a social media agency. Although there are pros and cons to each method, most industry experts agree that employing an outside organization is optimal.

crowd artHere are 5 reasons why you should heed their advice.

It’s surprisingly cost effective.

Although it might seem as though creating an in-house staff to take care of your social media needs would be cheaper than hiring an independent agency, employee costs add up quickly. For every employee that your company hires, you need to provide benefits and pay taxes for each individual. These hidden costs pile up and take a toll on the amount of money that can be allocated toward a social media plan. By hiring an agency, your company is ensuring that your entire budget is dedicated to the social media campaign, rather than getting wasted in an employee’s benefits package. Furthermore, any effective social media strategy will incur costs with graphic design, video production, and PR. But an outside agency can absorb these fees. Plus, as your social media budget increases, an independent social media agency can do even more for your business.

They’ve got tons of brain power.

When you hire a social media agency, you’re essentially getting 10 employees for the price of one. If you opt for an in-house team, you’ll likely only have about 3 people working on social media. But agencies use an entire team of experienced professionals to push the social media campaign that’s best for your company. These individuals understand which networks will work best for your organization, and they know how to execute your specific strategy. It won’t take as much time or for them to stay up to date on all social media platforms. Plus, if any problems do arise, the agency’s employees will put their minds together and find a creative solution to the issue, whatever it is.

Their experience prevents newbie mistakes.

Social media agencies do one thing: social media. As a result, they don’t make the mistakes newbies would. Employees at these agencies know what works and what doesn’t. Unlike a team created in-house, these individuals don’t need a period of adjustment. There is no learning curve. An independent agency’s employees immediately begin implementing your social media strategy. Plus, the social media strategy they devise is created from years of experience. Social media agencies already know how to navigate sites and will save your business a lot of time.

They’ve got objectivity.

As outsiders, social media agencies can make objective assessments about your company. This impartial outlook will produce the best strategy for your social media campaign. They will pay attention to every aspect of your business because they will not get caught up in the specifics of any portion of your organization.

They’ve got insight.

Because social media agencies are consumed in social media, they notice the changes that occur on every platform. In fact, agencies may even help to create certain trends in order to promote your business. They use advance search tools to control and join conversations related to your brand, leverage new channels, and even help test new features. These organizations understand how social media works and will serve your company to the best of their ability.

The professional content and conduct offered by social media agencies make them experts in their industry. Employing an outside agency can free up your time so that your company can devote attention to your daily tasks. Although creating an in-house division to handle social media may seem like the best option, the peace of mind gained by hiring an independent social media agency may grant your business the edge it needs to thwart the competition.

Laura is a content crafter and a research guru with the Marketing Zen Group. She writes about social media, SEO, and online marketing. When she’s not blogging, Laura loves all kinds of physical activity, ranging from yoga to ice hockey. She also tinkers with technology and follows pop culture closely. Connect with her on Twitter @l_mcconney.

Scheduling the Best Results for Your Company

Stop and think for a minute about what exactly constitutes the backbone of your company. While you certainly would not be in business without your customers, your employees are just as essential. Without a team of hard-working dedicated employees, your business can flounder all too quickly.

scheduleWith that said, continuity among your employees is important so that your business runs as smoothly as possible. While having employees that work hard and get along with one another is certainly important, the most crucial element in all of this is making sure your team shows up for work when it is supposed to and departs the office when required.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

In order to have both employees and management on the same page, having the right schedule maker online is very important to the process.

For those business owners who have kind of been running schedules on the fly up to this point, there are programs out there that can make your life and that of your employees much easier.

Before you decide to just pick a scheduling software program out of the blue, make sure you:

  • Do your research – Given there are various scheduling software options out there, be sure you select the right one from day one. Do some online research, check with other businesses you deal with and/or have a friendly relationship with to see which program they recommend;
  • Discuss it with your employees – While many employees would like to just come and go as they please, the majority know deep down that sticking to an organized work routine is best for them and the business itself. Get some feedback from them on what programs they may know about and/or suggest;
  • Do a trial run – Before you sign off on any particular scheduling software, ask to use it for a trial period. This way you can see if it is a proper fit for your office, is a good deal for the price being charged, and whether or not your employees seem to work best with it;
  • Consider today’s world – Last but not least, keep in mind that many employees these days telecommute from home or spend a fair amount of time working on the road. Given that is the case; you want a scheduling software that reaches beyond your desk just like your employees do. You can come up with the right employee scheduling apps for iPhone and Android to assist you and your workers run their schedules while they are out and about. Doing so should also impress some of your customers, letting them see that you are up to speed in today’s working environment.

If your company is still a tad behind the eight ball when it comes to properly scheduling employees, get in touch with the right software program today to make your company’s work life that much easier.

About the Author: Dave Thomas writes for a variety of websites on topics such as human resources and running a small business.

Retailing the Pros and Cons of Students Helping Your Business

Whether you are looking for temporary help or hiring full-time staff, one option you may consider is student employees. In fact, according to statistics from, high school and college students made up about two-thirds of the seasonal workforce between Thanksgiving and New Years in 2013. Retailers have a lot to think about when hiring students.

collegeEnthusiasm but Lack of Experience

Some retailers are drawn to students because of their enthusiasm. For some, it may be their first job while for others it is a continuation of their part-time careers

Either way, this age group is generally full of energy and enthusiasm, which reflects to the customer. It’s always good for business to hire a smiling face behind the counter.

The downside of hiring students is lack of experience. Because many have not held a job, they do not know how to handle many situations. They make mistakes as they are learning even if they are dedicated to their jobs. This can be a concern for retailers that fear upsetting customers and losing business.

Others may not take having a job seriously and often show up late or not at all. This is a risk you take when hiring any employee, but it can often feel like a bigger issue when you focus on hiring students.

The key to avoiding these issues is to use the same thorough hiring approach that you would when hiring traditional employees. Even with no work experience, many students have a history with volunteering or belonging to clubs.


One of the primary reasons retailers hire students beyond the busy season is for their work flexibility.

While business owners must be willing to work around school schedules, it often means they have employees willing to work outside normal business hours. Students will take early morning and late-night schedules that other people don’t want to work. They also don’t mind working weekends.

Hiring Students

When you hire students, you must be sure to pay them an adequate wage that is representative of what you would pay others with their level of experience.

While many of these jobs are entry level and pay a lower salary, you must make sure that you don’t take advantage of the fact that they are students and pay them less than others in the same job.

You may want to consider including benefits, especially if your student employees work more hours or are long-term.

As the following article shows, this may include vacation and paying part of the cost of Health insurance for students.

This gives them experience with what a “real job” would be like. In addition, it often gives them incentive to work harder and even consider staying with your company once they graduate.

Hiring high school and college students could be a smart move for your business, but only if you treat them with the same respect and expectations that you would other employees.

But with the right policies in place, it could be beneficial to both you and the students.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including HR and the retail sector.

Five Reasons Your Business Needs the Cloud

Is your business making the most of the Cloud? With research from Emergent Research and Intuit Inc. showing that 80% of small businesses in America plan to be fully adapted for Cloud computing by 2020, it’s clear that many businesses are switching on to the capabilities of the Cloud.

cloud_compHere are five reasons your business needs the Cloud:

Cloud Encourages Flexible Working

With the Cloud, you’re never away from your desk. From internet-based phone services to databases, word processors to customer relationship management, a great deal of your business can be managed in the Cloud. That means that anywhere you have a computer and a good internet connection, you can get to work.

No more time wasted while traveling or frustration at being away from your desk – with the Cloud and your laptop, tablet or even Smartphone you can access the information and applications you need wherever you are.

Cloud Increases Collaboration

The Cloud means less time spent trying to set up meetings or conferences, or pass physical files to your colleagues. Instead, you can collaborate with team members in any location quickly and easily. As well as less stress for you, using the Cloud for collaboration means everyone who needs it can have access to the most up to date version of any document or information.

No more out of date information or working at cross purposes, which is better for you and your customers.

Cloud Keeps Your Customers Happy

Whether you use a Cloud-based phone system to route calls while you’re out and about, or make use of the Cloud to collaborate with your customer service team and get queries answered, the Cloud makes it quicker and easier to get in touch with your colleagues and your customers alike.

That means faster responses for your customers and less time spent trying to get in touch with you or waiting while you get in touch with other people within your business.

Your business will benefit from the speed and flexibility of the Cloud, and your customers will too.

Cloud Assists with Damage Control

With the Cloud you can make sure good security and reliable data backups come as standard. With an on-site database for example, a fault could cause catastrophic data loss.

With Cloud-based applications, you are backed up by the full security of your Cloud service provider. When choosing a Cloud service, make security one of your top priority questions, asking how they handle security, data backups, data loss and downtime.

Making the right choice will mean increased security for your business and better peace of mind for you.

Cloud Grows with Your Business

As the article “How to ETL in The Cloud In 3 Easy Steps … And Develop For Free!” points out, Cloud-based options such as IronCluster and Amazon’s AWS offer low-cost options for businesses who want to start using the Cloud for data-based applications.

Many cloud services allow you to pay for what you need and scale your service up or down as your business’ needs change and grow. Compared to the cost of installing on site systems the Cloud is very cost effective, which gives even small business access to useful and up to date technology without an extortionate cost.

The Cloud means your business will be more flexible and responsive. You’ll gain a competitive edge as the Cloud helps you facilitate better team work and faster customer service, making the Cloud an invaluable tool for your business now and in the future.

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn writes on a wide variety of topics, including social media, SEO, Cloud computing and ETL.


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