Grade Change 2013: Annual Survey of Online Ed in the US

Grade-Change-2013-Infographic


Tapping Into Big Data to Get Pricing Right

One of the most important decisions companies have to make is determining pricing, as it could mean gaining more customers while raking in profits too. Sellers can price their services or products however they want but not everyone can set the right price. According to McKinsey & Company, “On average, a 1 percent price increase translates into an 8.7 percent increase in operating profits.” Yet, almost 30 percent of companies fail to determine their best pricing every year.

Very few businesses take a scientific approach to setting prices and focus more on trial and error but by doing this they could be losing thousands of dollars that could have been profit if their efforts fail. So, how can companies avoid missing out on profits by figuring out the best price for their services? Well by implementing big data of course.

According to Nancy Rubin using big data will help your business:

  • Discover new patterns that will have an effect on your company
  • Collect detailed information that can be used to help you make the best decisions
  • Predict trends and outcomes more accurately
  • Achieve a better understanding of the habits your customers have when making a purchase
  • Find any problems that your company may have so that you can fix them and work more efficiently
  • Develop certain products and services that exceed the needs of your customers

Using Big Data to Figure Out the Best Price

When doing big data research you should always ask the questions that you would want to know about your own company like:

  • What products are customers most likely to buy?
  • What is the best price for my product?
  • What is the value of social media marketing?
  • Why are customers not returning?
  • What are customers’ opinions about my current pricing?

Helpful Strategies to Use

Once you start receiving big data results then you can start implementing some helpful pricing strategies to boost sales.

Experiment with Different Prices

Big data can help provide you with the information you need to identify current trends among a variety of buyers and any trends your competitors may be following. You can then use these trends to determine the best pricing for each group.

Dan Ariely conducted this famous experiment that is available in his book Predictably Irrational. The example here shows three options for subscription for The Economist

arielyWhen 100 MIT students were asked to choose the option that they would prefer, 16 students chose A while 84 students chose option C. None chose option B, which was solely print subscription at US $125.

Dan Ariely then removed the second option and again asked 100 MIT students which option they would prefer.

ariely2This time round, there were more students opting for the first option. Indicating that , though the middle option for only print subscription wasn’t chosen by anyone, it still played a vital role in customer preferences.

Create Different Versions of Your Product

There may be a market for different versions of your products or services and big data can help you find out if those markets exist. For example, if a customer really wants your product or service but simply can’t afford it you may want to consider creating a simpler version at a lower price.

dellFor example, Dell computers produce different versions of their PCs, with ranges starting from $269 to $20000. Customers are free to choose the one that suits their budget.

Offer Multiple Payment Options

In a world where using cash is becoming less common accepting various methods of payment like Paypal, American Express, etc. as a way to increase sales would make your company more technologically up-to-date.

While big data can help you determine the best pricing for your company through research methods, companies should be wary of the fact that there have been some issues in the past where customers felt ripped off when companies experimented with different pricing towards different groups. The important aspect here is to listen to customers and to make necessary changes before it is too late, neither would you want to lose custom to competitors nor would you want a lot of customers but dwindling profits. This is where a company’s listening post moves to the forefront of business communications. Remember, not all customers will call in during work hours, so relying on after hours call support would benefit tremendously in the long run.

One of the toughest things for a business to get correct is pricing but by using big data you will be that much closer to getting it right. It is about using available resources intelligently to zero in on optimum pricing.

 

Guest author Nick Robson is an SEO expert and presently works as a consultant for many small businesses. He loves writing and combines this passion of his with his knowledge of SEO to create compelling content.


Network Automation’s Key Role in Your Company’s Success

Turning your fragile and precise network settings over to an automated system may be a difficult thing for traditional business owners to handle. But in the digital age, it is imperative for businesses to remain agile and efficient – and network automation enables you to do exactly that. Manually operated networks are at the mercy of the natural human limitations of speed, focus and consistency.

networkAutomation provides all three of those crucial elements in their maximum capacity – all with a smaller drain on manpower and financial resources.

Save Precious Resources

As the following article shows, you may look at “How network automation helps your company improve”.

First of all, it costs less and dramatically reduces strain on your IT department by automatically handling run-of-the-mill tasks that they would have to otherwise do themselves.

Do you want to pull an already overly taxed IT pro off of a job just because the network was interrupted? Allow your IT department to keep other projects on track by automatically running your network.

Automated Networks are Fast Networks

Most processes run faster when they are automated. Manually regulated networks not only are at the mercy of human error and time limitations, but if the person who is in charge of the network leaves the business – specifically if they leave suddenly – it is nearly impossible to maintain continuity.

Automated systems are better at recognizing new devices, which is an absolute must if you’re part of the BYOD revolution. When network changes are made, it is far more difficult – and time consuming – for people to get the network running again afterward.

Automated Network Configuration Backup

Network configuration backup is a crucial, yet often overlooked component to network stability and data security. If there is a disaster or network interruption, a recent backup point is the surest way to a quick recovery and reduced network downtime.

On the data side, configuration backup dramatically reduces the chance of accidental data leaks or intentional breaches by outside hackers. Only around one-third of companies perform network configuration backups regularly. Of those that do, 20 percent still do their backups manually. This is time consuming and leaves room for human error. Automatic network configuration backups keep your data safe and your network prepared for problems.

Whether it’s to unburden your IT staff, to ensure consistency and speed or to guarantee that your network configuration will be backed up correctly on a consistent basis, the clear benefits of automation are among the only guarantees in business.

About the Author: Andrew Lisa is a freelance tech writer. He covers business technology and Internet security.


Being Sure of the Right Surety Bonds

Surety bonds are a great failsafe for your business, but choosing the right surety bond at the right rates isn’t always a sure thing. Depending on the type of contract, your business has a number of surety bond options to choose from, so it’s important to make the most educated decision possible.

financial statementsHere are just a few reasons why your business might want a surety bond and how to get one at a reasonable price:

Pre-qualification Advantage

Surety bonds create a safety triangle for your business by inviting a third party into the business contract. This triangle protects your business from unfulfilled obligations and contracts by guaranteeing the obligation is performed. With that said, a huge advantage for your business with surety bonds is contractor prequalification.

Surety bond companies require that any party your business signs a contract with is prequalified to do the work. This gives your business the financial peace of mind that any obligations mentioned in the contract are completely fulfilled. In the event contractual agreements aren’t met, your business receives the benefit of the bond.

Other Financial Benefits

With a surety bond in place, your business always receives the financial protection of the bond and the risk falls solely on the other party.

As the following article shows, in addition, when it comes to “Surety Bonds: The Process, The People, and The Price”, the premiums you pay are applied to the financial backing of the surety company.

This means your business is paying for a protection guarantee, not just a contract middleman.

Does Your Business Need a Surety Bond?

Well, that depends on a few factors. First of all, whether or not your business needs a surety bond with an outside contractor largely depends on the value of the contract. For instance, a construction contract with a value of $150,000 or more does require a surety bond.

Although your business may not have a contract valued at that amount, there are other types of common contracts that require surety bonds. Small service contracts and certain supply contracts require ongoing surety bonds for example.

If you’re unsure whether your business needs a surety bond, you can contact the Small Business Administration or your local surety bond company to find out.

How to Save Money on Surety Bonds

Just like any other service that benefits your business, there are costs involved with hiring a surety bond company. The costs and premiums are usually minimal depending on the size of the contract, but there are still ways to save money during the surety bond process.

Among the ways to do this:

  • Pairing with Pre-qualified Parties – Pairing with pre-qualified contractors saves the surety bond company time, which saves your business money.
  • Improving Your Credit Score – Surety bond rates are based on your business’s credit score among other factors. Improving your business’s credit score makes you less of a risk in the eyes of the surety bond company, this will result in better premiums.
  • Extended Bonds – In some cases, buying your surety bond for longer periods of time results in lower rates because the cost of the bond will stay the same until it’s time to renew.

If your business is about to enter into a contract with an outside party, then it’s important to consider the surety bond pointers above.

About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including risk management and small business.


Are Your Employees Becoming Too Social?

Do you worry about your employees wasting their time on social media while on the job? You’re not alone. Many employers are concerned about the role social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest play in slacking off while on the job.

social_istock_000013528921xsmall1Research by Salary.com shows that 41% of employees spend time on Facebook every day with other social networks such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter also getting a mention. So just how much time is this wasting, and what is the best approach to help stem the amount of work hours lost to the pull of social media? The answers may surprise you.

Heavy-Handed Approach Isn’t the Answer

Salary.com found that 21% of employees admitted to spending up to five hours per week on social media. For a company with 100 employees that’s more than 5,000 hours of work time lost each year, or more than $36,000 dollars if you’re paying minimum wage. It’s understandable that if your employees are wasting time on social media, your reaction is to put a stop to the problem.

If things are out of control and you need to get a better sense of what is going on, there’s no doubt that blocking sites like Facebook can seem attractive, and in fact you could pop along to any major retailer like Walmart and find a security camera to help you keep a closer eye on your employees. But is that really the best way?

To really get a handle on your social media problem, you need to understand why your employees are wasting so much time, and what you can do about it in collaboration with them instead of by fighting against them.

During their survey, Salary.com discovered that employees waste time because they aren’t challenged, because they’re bored or unsatisfied with work, or because they lack an incentive to work harder or are struggling with long hours.

To tackle time being wasted on social media, you need to tackle the underlying issues. Once you do that, you might find that social media can in fact be your ally.

Tackling the Underlying Issues

If you want your employees to waste less time on social media, the answer is to tackle the underlying problems.

Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  • Get to know your employees – Talk to them, take surveys, discuss their needs and get a feel for what they would like to change and what would help to motivate them;
  • Cut down on meetings. Long meetings add to boredom and surreptitious social media checking. Streamline meetings to make sure they’re genuinely helpful and consider having no-meeting days;
  • Consider flexibility – If your employees are overworked or overstressed, they won’t be productive and will be more likely to turn to social media. Can you introduce working from home or more flexible hours to help your employees work better and smarter?
  • Co-create an internet policy – Having a policy will help everyone to know what is expected of them, but don’t design it and demand adherence. Instead, create it in collaboration with your employees so you can come up with something that you all benefit from;
  • Find ways to motivate your employees – From varied tasks to a new challenge that suits their capabilities, to rewards for goals reached, make sure your employees have reasons to get off social media and engage with their job.

Social Media Breaks Can Actually Benefit Your Business

It’s easy to start seeing social media as your enemy, but in fact in moderation a little social media can be your friend.

Of course if you’re using social media to promote your business it has many benefits, but what about employees checking their personal profiles? How can that help your business?

Corporate wellness experts Keas conducted research into the use of social media at work, and the results were surprising: Employees who took breaks to use Facebook were 16% more productive than employees who took breaks without social media, and 39% more productive than those who didn’t take breaks at all. How can that be so? The answer is simple.

A short break, such as quick surfing on the internet, gives employees a chance to connect with the outside world and have a short rest. Its stress relief, pure and simple, acting as a mental refresher and making it easier to concentrate again afterwards.

Being open to social media within reason can foster more connections and friendships within your business, leading to a happier team, and showing you to be flexible and in touch with the way your employees choose to communicate.

Instead of fighting social media in the workplace, take a measured and sensible approach; your employees will thank you and you may even see a rise in productivity.

About the Author: Tristan Anwyn is an author who writes on subjects as diverse as employee satisfaction, marketing, social media, and SEO.


Getting to the Cloud with Your Business

The cloud has been around for several years, but many businesses are just now taking advantage of its benefits. Still others are considering it but hesitating out of concerns or a lack of understanding. If you have a new or small business, you may not see how it can work for you.

Businessman pushing shopping cartThe biggest advantage of the cloud is that it works for businesses in all industries and of all sizes.

Understanding the Cloud

A lot of terminology is used in technology that many business owners and managers may not understand or pay attention to. However, it is important to understand exactly what the cloud is so you know if it offers benefits for your business.

Cloud technology allows businesses to store programs and various data on the internet instead of using a server or hard drive. It can be used for any department in an organization.

The article, “6 Steps to Establishing a Cloud Call Center”, even discusses how to create a call center using the cloud. Every department from human resources to accounting to operations can utilize the cloud for programs and data they need.

According to a report sponsored by Virtustream, about 54% of businesses use some form of the cloud either with private or public cloud options.

The numbers are expected to grow with the increase in off-site workers and mobile employees that need to access information or programs from wherever they are.

How the Cloud Benefits Your Business

Every business or organization has different reasons for using the cloud. However, one of the most common benefits seen in utilizing cloud storage is in cost savings over other solutions.

Here are some other advantages to moving a business to the cloud:

  • Versatility – Businesses can use the cloud to store just about anything. They can store projects, customer data and other information for easy access. It allows them to create virtual workspaces for collaboration.
  • Flexibility – With the cloud, companies can hire workers from anywhere instead of being limited to the local applicant pool. Information can be shared through the cloud so employees in different states or countries can work together. It also allows employees to locate information or use programs while they are traveling or meeting with clients instead of waiting until they get back to the office.
  • Efficiency – Workers can get more done in less time with easy access to the files or programs they need.
  • Cost-savings – Many businesses see the savings they can enjoy by not having to purchase on-site servers or hire extra staff to manage the information. Other savings include not having to install hardware or software updates or not making new purchases every time an employee is added.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from cloud technology.

Whether it is to create a call center for a small business or hire new talent from another state or country, cloud storage gives a business more opportunities and a greater chance at success.

At the end of the day, any business can and should take advantage of this technology.

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


9 Old-School Time-Management Habits You Should Adopt

You will find many applications to download to your smartphone to help you manage your time, especially if you run a business. There are software programs and many other high-tech gadgets that promise to add more hours to your day. However, sometimes the old-school methods work even better.

check_iStock_000016849530XSmallHere are nine of them, no technology needed:

  1. Set priorities. Know which things are most important or have deadlines and focus on them. Keep these to a minimum so that you don’t start feeling too overwhelmed.
  2. Learn to say no. If something doesn’t fit with your priorities or schedule, don’t try to make it fit.
  3. Be willing to change your methods. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a more efficient way to do it now. It’s easy to get in a rut of doing the same thing the same way, but it’s beneficial to take a fresh look and see if you can improve.
  4. Take care of you. Make time for yourself and form good health habits so you will have more energy. It’s much easier and faster to complete tasks when you feel good physically and mentally. That may mean getting more sleep, eating better, exercising, or just finding time to be quiet and rest. But the benefits will be a clearer focus, sharper mind, and increased energy.
  5. Look ahead. When you take time to look into the future, you can see potential problems and challenges before they happen. This can allow you to change course and either avoid them or be better prepared to deal with them. For example, if you check your calendar and see an appointment in the afternoon that cuts into your work time, you can either choose to arrive early to get everything completed, ask for help, or find another solution.
  6. Break projects into tasks. Large projects can seem insurmountable, but they look more manageable when you break them down into separate tasks. You can focus on what needs to be done by what deadline and make sure you stay on track. It also provides a better measurement of how you are coming along on the entire project to know if you need to allocate more time.
  7. Stop doing what is no longer important. It can be too easy to continue doing tasks that once served a purpose but are no longer worthwhile. Take inventory to find out if there are any tasks that can be removed from your list.
  8. Know when to complete difficult tasks. You are more productive at certain times of the day, so make that your time to work on critical or important tasks. You’ll give your best effort with less time because you’ll have more energy.
  9. Ask for help. When you are a manager, it’s called delegating. But everyone can use some help sometime. If you see that you are falling behind on a project, ask for assistance before you are stressed out. It will be easier to maintain your focus and stay productive.

Being a good manager of your time is not just a decision you make; it’s a lifestyle that must be implemented.

Practice these nine habits and you’ll notice how much more time you have, not to mention improve your business habits and online reputation for those running companies.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including SEO and small business for MediaShower.com.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,547 other followers