How Can My Small Business Achieve a Significant Online Presence?

The internet has changed our lives dramatically over the last couple of decades. It has changed our behaviour as consumers (meaning that businesses have to keep up) and one way they can go about doing so is being visible online. One thing small businesses struggle with is competing with more established companies, as an entrepreneur you need to show people that you’re reliable and trustworthy- and that they will have a good experience shopping with you. One way you can go about this is by having a good online presence; when a customer types your business into a search engine, they need to be able to see that you’re very much present and that everything is being run correctly. Here’s how you can go about it.

Get Your Website Right

When you’re a small business without much money to start off with, it’s tempting to want to cut costs on things like web design and have a go yourself. But while you may be able to knock up something that looks ok, it’s always going to lack that professional edge. If you want to make a good impression on customers and clients, you absolutely need to invest in a decent website. It needs to look good, be properly laid out and free of clutter and spam. It should be fast to load and free of errors. A web designer will be able to create something custom to you, so do some research and look through a few designers portfolios. Your website represents your business online, something that looks tacky will do nothing but put people off- after all, if your website is poor its easy to assume that the rest of your business is run the same way. We’re all guilty of thinking this way, how many times have you clicked off a website because it looked a little DIY or it was slow to load? It’s not something that would make you want to part with your money.

Have an App Created

Lots of smaller businesses still aren’t reaping the benefits of what an app can do for their business, meaning rightnow you have the chance to get ahead. Research how much does it cost to make an app and work this into your budget, it’s an investment that could mean big returns for your business. An app makes you look smart and professional, and for now it puts you ahead of your competition.

Get Social

Social media is one of the biggest things to come out of the internet in recent years. It’s something that business owners have been able to take advantage of, as it allows you to get closer to your customers and to communicate with them in a more informal way. You can quickly answer queries and questions, you can share positive comments, reviews and customer photos of your business. You can share marketing materials to your followers including sales, deals and discounts and you can run giveaways and competitions (which will increase your following further). Having a good following and being responsive on social media is a great way to improve your online presence.

Ask Customers For Reviews

Reviews really can make or break your business. When you’re thinking of shopping with a new company but are a little unsure, what’s the first thing you do? Chances are it’s go online and check the reviews. If you were already on the fence, a few bad reviews are going to sway you and lead you to go and shop somewhere else. Great reviews on the other hand will give you confidence, if most others have had a good experience then it shows that you probably will too. As a business owner, you should be investing time into building up your reviews. Ensure you’re putting out a quality service every time, and if there are any problems they should be dealt with quickly and professionally. You need to come to some kind of agreement where your customer is left happy, this will prevent them from leaving you a bad review. You can’t provide any compensation for positive reviews, but you can politely ask and if people have had a good experience with you then chances are they’ll be happy to leave you one. As well as adding a review tab to your Facebook business page, ask people to review you on a third party site like Trustpilot. These reviews are well respected as you have to sign up and verify your identity to post and so you know that anything posted is truthful- not just a company writing their own positive reviews! Another way you can get impartial reviews is by working with bloggers, if you send them out a free product for example they will review it fairly- of course if your product and business is good then it will be a good review. Having lots of reviews online when customers search increases your online presence and can sway anyone who’s a little unsure into making an order.

 

 

 

7 Helpful Hacks to Get the Best Out Of Your Super Staff

When you started up your business, you never thought it would grow to the size it is today. You started off scribbling ideas on the corner of a notepad whilst in corporate meetings at your old 9-5 job. You knew this life just wasn’t for you and you longed for an escape from the rat race. Your initial business idea stemmed from your lifelong passions and since then it has grown into a somewhat successful company that you are extremely proud of. Although you have conquered a lot in the last few years, you are always looking for ways to build up your company. Hiring employees to help with your workload is the top of your priority list at the moment, but you have no experience in managing and recruiting a team of people. Bringing new people into your company is a scary step for any entrepreneur to take, but it will all be worth it in the long run. You need to focus on what is best for your company when hiring staff; once you know a person is going to fit in, you can then shift your focus onto them and nurture them as they progress through the ranks. You were once a new starter at a company, so you know how daunting this can be. Be kind, considerate and fair at all time and you will soon have a new team of super staff to be proud of.

  1. Innovative Interview Techniques

If you have never interviewed anybody before the thought of this might terrify you. However, you will have been through interview processes before in your previous jobs, so you will have more knowledge than you think. Write down the key traits you’re looking for from each candidate and don’t forget to research great exit interview questions. You will only be able to gain valuable information, by asking good questions. Use open questions to gain a deep insight into your prospective employees, so that you know you’re hiring the right person for the job.

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  1. Explain the Job Description Clearly

When you put out the advertisement for the job, make sure you are laying out the job description clearly and concisely. People can often be misled by job descriptions and this will ultimately end up wasting your time. You should clearly state the qualifications, background and experience you are looking for, as well as the salary details and start date. If you miss out this important information from the job description you might just be leading somebody on. You want people to know exactly what they are signing up for, so clearly list their roles and responsibilities before you offer them the job.

  1. Listen to their Problems

When somebody first starts working for you, they might not feel completely comfortable coming to you with their issues. Make it clear from the get go that you offer an open door policy in your workplace and you are available to talk at any time. You never know what people might be going through at home, so make time for them and help them out as best as you can.

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  1. Allow them to Progress

Every worker wants to know that their career will progress over time. Clearly outline the opportunities for promotion and progression to everybody who joins your company. They want to know there is something to work towards and it will keep them motivated every time they step into the office. Allow certain employees to shadow their superiors and offer insights into what their other colleagues do on a daily basis. Growing their knowledge and enhancing their skills will benefit you, them and your company as a whole.

  1. Trust Them

Nobody wants to be micromanaged at work; it is extremely demotivating and demoralizing. Make sure you establish a level of trust amongst your staff so that they feel free to carry out their duties effectively and without being judged. Schedule regular catch ups with each of your members of staff, so that you can monitor their progress regularly and talk about where improvements could be made. Equally, make sure you give them credit when they deserve it and offer incentives for those who are excelling.

  1. Spend Time Getting to Know Everyone

Your employees want to feel important and valued in your company, so don’t just see them as another body to carry out an important task. Get to know them on a human level and it will work in your favor. You will be able to learn their hobbies, likes and dislikes; this will actually help you to schedule them on shifts, organize business trips and other work related activities. You might find that someone is really interested in travelling, so they would be the ideal person to send on a business trip overseas. Getting to know people and how they operate will work wonders for your business as a whole.

  1. Socialize with your Employees

The time you spend with your staff doesn’t need to be limited to the office. Organize social events and seasonal activities so that everyone gets the chance to blow off some steam after a big deadline. Offer to take everybody out for a coffee at lunchtime, or throw a surprise birthday party on somebody’s special day. Socializing with your colleagues and going that extra mile is really important, as it helps you to build friendships and solid professional relationships outside of the workplace.

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Every entrepreneur has to take huge leaps at some point in their career and now it is your turn. Allow your company to grow and flourish, by hiring people that are going to be excellent representatives of your business. As long as you trust each individual and you treat them with respect you will be able to have excellent working relationships with them all. Over time you will become confident in your interview skills and managerial know how; your employees will grow to respect you and you will be setting yourself up for huge success in the future.

Five Things You Didn’t Realise You Needed in Your Office!

Your office is so much more than four walls. It’s the space where your workforce spends most of their days, and so it makes sense that it should be a nice environment. Not only will this be more pleasant to work from, but improved mood is likely to boost productivity, meaning better work produced and more profits for you! If you look after your employees, they will look after your customers, clients and business- and providing them with a decent space to work from is one of the ways you can do this. We all know that we need good technology, ergonomically designed furniture and proper storage in the office- but there are a few other details that you might have overlooked. These things can improve worker happiness and productivity and make your office run that bit better. Here are ideas for five changes you could make!

Lots of Daylight

Daylight is a natural mood booster, and when your workers are happier they will do better work. You might think as long as your office is well lit, it doesn’t matter how much daylight comes in but it’s not the case. Make the very most of the natural light you have coming in. This could mean moving to an office with large windows, or if you own the building you could have the windows made larger. It could mean switching up the blinds or window treatments you have up to allow more light to come in, or changing the layout so that desks are positioned next to windows. It’s simple but so easy to overlook, if you want happier and more motivated workers a quick switch up in the office could really help you to achieve this.

A Light, Neutral Colour Scheme

As well as getting in as much natural light as possible, the way you decorate your office can have a big impact too. Choosing a light, neutral colour like a white, magnolia or very light grey can help make the office look more spacious and bounce the light around as much as possible. If your current space is looking a little worse for wear, a lick of paint can make all the difference. It will help to make the office look clean, modern, bright and airy. Even if you’re renting your office, you will usually be allowed to make cosmetic changes. Keep it simple yet beautiful and really make the most of any light coming into the room. According to colour psychology, blue makes people most productive and has a calming effect on humans, For this reason, adding some blue to your office could be beneficial if you wanted to bring in a bit of colour.

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Plants

Psychologists have shown that plants actually increase productivity in the workplace. In general, plants and flowers also help to boost our mood and reduce stress. This is thought to work on the principle of color psychology (green being a calming colour) and evolutionary. Our ancestors would have worked hard to produce crops and flowers and plants were seen as a ‘reward’ of this hard work. This is great as it means a few simple plants added to the office can make a big difference. Encourage workers to bring in a plant they love to put on their desk- and dot around a few bigger potted plants. As well as boosting mood, they’re a professional and unfussy way to decorate. The leaves add colour and texture to a neutral space without making it look cluttered.

Exercise Equipment

Unfortunately, office jobs tend to be pretty sedentary. This is bad news for employees, sedentary work can increase the chances of obesity (and its related ailments such as high blood pressure, heart issues and diabetes). It can reduce mobility and fitness levels and overall have a negative impact on health. As employers, once of the ways we can help to combat this is by providing office exercise equipment. Something like an active stool or exercise ball instead of a normal chair is good for posture, balance and core muscles. An under desk treadmill, stepper or exercise bike can be good for leg muscles and provide light cardio exercise. You could also switch to standing desks for some job roles. To take this a step further, you could add a stability ‘fitness wobble cushion’ which requires you to stand and keep your balance as you work- great for legs and core. Either way, getting employees moving in some way is good for their health, can reduce stress and even reduce sick days in the future. You’ll improve focus and productivity and decrease restless energy. Even the best employees can struggle being cooped up all day, these things can help to alleviate that feeling. If you have a social area, how about adding a pool table or a mini office golf putting set?

 A Social Area

Do you have a social area in your office, for break and lunchtimes- or a place to sit before work? If not, it’s well worth setting one up. First of all, workers won’t have to leave the premises when they go on breaks, and this can mean you’re not losing minutes here and there from them returning back a little late. It can also help with socialisation and bonds between employees. Businesses need workers who don’t just work well themselves, but who can also communicate and work well with others. Giving your employees a space where they can chat and get to know each other can be very beneficial. Collectively, companies spend a fortune each year on things like team building activities and events that bring employees together to improve communication. So this isn’t something to be overlooked. A few comfy chairs, a coffee machine and a vending machine would suffice. Ideally a kitchenette area with a place to heat food would be better.

Had you considered any of these things for your office? Do you have any ideas on how you can make your office more pleasant for workers, therefore boosting mood and productivity?

How to Build a Successful eCommerce Brand

People are rapidly turning to online shopping, which makes it a perfect time to start an online business. However, there are probably hundreds of companies out there offering products that are same, or at least similar, to yours.

The good thing is that branding can be a lifesaver for your business. You have to stand out from the crowd and show people why they should purchase your products, and not the products of your competitors.

Your products might be great, and your website appealing and well-optimized, but that doesn’t mean that you will succeed. According to statistics, 55% of all eCommerce sales are done through branded stores, while 45% are done via marketplaces. Therefore, you have to build a strong brand in order to beat your competitors.

It’s time to take the first step towards your success.

Personalized, but safe service

Customer data points are very useful for personalization. The data is your gold because you will know what your customers want before they do.

So, include those data points in your eCommerce business:

  • Shopping Cart – recommendations based on the current content of a customer’s wish list or cart
  • Search Queries – recommendations based on search terms
  • Purchase History – recommendations based on a customer’s past purchases
  • Social Behavior – recommendations based on product rating, shares and likes

You can also recommend products based on geographic location and customer segmentation, such as demographic. Use this data to provide your customers with the best service possible. This will help you understand your customers and their relationship with your product and brand.

Are your customers mostly gift-buyers? How often do they buy products from your website? Look for patterns in your customers’ behavior because that is precisely what will point you in the right direction. Also, it’s always a good idea to personalize your product packaging. Many brands are doing it, and people seem to love it.

Since, as an online business, you will collect and retain sensitive personal information about your customers, you have to show them that their information is safe with you, especially when it comes to payment and delivery.

You can make your brand trustworthy and reliable by using payment card industry data security standards (PCI DSS). These standards apply to all organizations that store, process or transmit cardholder data, so your business should have PCI DSS compliance, too. However, keep in mind that, even though you are operating online, you still need to adhere to your federal and state privacy laws.

Engaging approach

The impression you make on people who come in contact with your brand for the first time is very important. Therefore, you should make sure that they see your brand in the best light.

First, you have to ensure that your customers can see and feel that they can engage with your brand.

Always ask your customers for their opinion. Give them an opportunity to review your products and chat with you. Use these options on your website and social media pages. 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend that brand to others. So, this will help you both increase brand engagement and attract new customers.

Next, you can turn your customers into brand ambassadors who will help you share your amazing story all over the internet. They are a powerful tool that will help you raise awareness about your company. The reason that brand ambassadors are so credible is that they don’t actually work for your company but are only huge fans.

Emotional connection with your target audience

If you want others to share your story, you have to give them a reason to do so. Tell them your story and engage with them on an emotional level. By giving customers a strong “why” you will provide them with something to believe in. Try to answer these questions:

  • How did you start your business and why?
  • What are your values?
  • What makes you different from your competitors?

People like to hear a story behind the products they buy. Get them to fall in love not only with your products but your brand as well.

For example, if you use your lifestyle as an inspiration for your brand image, you will attract people with similar interests.

If your vision matches your customers’ opinion, your fans will be dedicated to you. Actually, if you include this vision in your posts on social media and newsletters, they will be happy to share that with others.

Consistency as a branding tool

Did you choose your style? What about the color, design, style of writing, and other elements of your brand? Do your social media channels, emails and adds follow your style?

Once you determine your style, it’s important to stick to it. Use it consistently in all of your marketing efforts in order to become recognizable.

Your style represents your brand’s personality. It can tell more about your values then you think, and it can engage people on an emotional level.

Whenever you want to share something, ask yourself – is this consistent with your brand story?

Remember, your employees should also understand your style and vision. They have to represent your brand in the best possible way.

Conclusion

If you miss the opportunity to build a brand today, it can cost you your business. Products come and go, but if you build a personal brand, people will keep coming to your web shop.

Remember, brands are not established in a day, but these tips will help you get one step closer to success.

 

Guest author, David Webb, is a Sydney-based business consultant,online marketing analyst and a writer. With six years of experience and a degree in business management, he continuously informs the public about the latest trends in the industry. He is a regular author at BizzmarkBlog. You can reach him on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

3 Things You Never Want to Experience With Customer Relations

Nightmares can affect us in many different ways. A recurring nightmare can constantly pester us and force us to wake up worried and in cold sweats, and they can also become psychologically damaging at times. Luckily, this is rare and most of us experience nightmares because we’re worried about something. Whether it’s a phobia of losing your business or being embarrassed during a public appearance, here are some of the customer relations nightmares that you never want your business to go through, and also how to avoid them.

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  1. Injuring a Member of the Public, a Client or a Customer

All hell will break loose if you injure someone in your line of work. When it’s someone in your own company, then it can usually be handled in a professional manner. This is because the employee doesn’t want to lose their job and the employer doesn’t want to create a public outcry or draw attention from the media.

Injuries can happen in a number of different ways, and there’s a huge difference between physical and psychological injuries. For example, specialised services like Elan Law bed bug lawyer may be required if you operate a service such as a hotel or fashion store. Bed bugs can easily transfer between people on their clothes, and it can create widespread panic. No one wants to be told that a customer found a bedbug in one of their packages you sent overseas, and it will create a storm of negative publicity.

In order to prevent situations like this, it’s important to learn everything about your business and plan for any possible failures because there’s no coming back from it. Make one mistake, and you’ll likely lose a huge chunk of your business, if not the entire company.

  1. Going Viral in All the Wrong Ways on the Internet

Going viral on the internet can happen in a number of different ways, but you’ll ideally want it to happen in a positive way. Going viral for negative reasons will get you out there but, contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is positive. The internet is a ruthless and cutthroat place, so if you want to stand out it has to be for all the good reasons and you may even need to learn about how internet culture works if you want to take advantage of going viral. The last thing you want is to have your name associated with an internet meme that mocks your company, because you will forever be branded as a joke business that can’t be taken seriously.

  1. Being Ridiculed by Another Company With No Comeback

And lastly, on the topic of internet culture, it’s important to understand that other companies will try and take advantage of internet trends to bring your business down. For instance, Wendy’s started a social media stir when its Twitter operator started ridiculing other companies and people on Twitter. The Tweets went viral and boosted business for Wendy’s. Although it sounds ludicrous that negative comments directed at paying customers helped to boost their business, it’s one of the quirks of the internet and you need to be ready to appeal to the general audience of social media if you want to remain successful. If you’re on the receiving end of this type of ridiculing, then you need to prepare a comeback or else you’ll be shunned by many young and impressionable consumers.

Why do only 10% of Startups Succeed?

Statistics show that around 90% of all startups fail, but what we can’t understand from this fact is why it happens so often? Another thing we can’t learn from such cold statistics, but experience has proven it time and time again, is that many startups fail even before they start working.

This, however, doesn’t mean that people should be put off and give up on the idea before they have even registered their company. On the contrary, this should send a message to all those interested that they need to stay focused, work hard and be realistic about their expectations. So, what are the characteristics of those startups that have made it?

Right product or service

Your offer may be of excellent quality, but if people don’t need it, you won’t be able to survive as an entrepreneur. As a matter of fact, most owners of failed startups list “lack of market need for their product” as the main reason for their failure.

This means that you have to be spot on when it comes to what you’re going to offer. It as to be unique and different, in a good way, from what your competitors are offering. In order to be sure there’s demand for your product or service, it is necessary to conduct market research, so that you don’t rely simply on your gut feeling.

Being involved in everything

A startup doesn’t really allow roles to be very clearly divided, since things tend to be pretty organic and responsibilities often overlap. That’s why all entrepreneurs need to pay attention to absolutely everything that’s going on. They don’t have the luxury to ignore anything, believing that someone else will take care of it.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that each task is equally urgent and important, which is why you need to be able to prioritize well. If you allow various less significant tasks to distract you from what’s really important, you won’t be able to focus on the things that really matter to your business.

Ready for fast growth

Depending on the line of business you’re in, you might face a rapid growth, which you have to respond to appropriately. Contrary to popular belief, fast growth is sustainable. It is also exactly what entrepreneurs and investors dream about and a sign that you’ve made it.

Startups should be looking at a double-digit growth rate after several months of operation. Otherwise, they’ll never be able to grow enough to reach the point when they can be considered a well-established business. Finally, startups sometimes run out of financial resources exactly because they haven’t grown fast enough. So, those companies that have made it wanted and achieved a fast growth in the early phase.

A capable team

Since there are different types of problems startups are facing, it’s always a good idea to have a versatile team of people to respond to all challenges, from the owner to a professional virtual receptionist. The versatility we’re talking about here refers more to a mindset, rather than a skillset.

Teams have to be ready to adjust their plans, change products, take new approaches or even start all over again. A good team can take a blow and recover and, most importantly, learn from their mistakes.

Aggressive marketing

Successful startups use aggressive and appropriate marketing methods to attract attention and inform people about the offer. In order to have an efficient campaign, you need to exactly who you are going to target and how you’re going to do that. That means you should be aware of the demographics, age and gender of your target groups and their shopping habits.

Using social media has become a must and all successful startups have exploited them quite extensively and efficiently. Those who have failed to embrace this and many other modern trends simply missed out on an opportunity to capitalize on some very efficient channels through which many new customers can be attracted.

Conclusion

If you want your startup to be among the 10% that make it, you should most definitely pay attention to these and many other things. Remember that most business endeavors fail because they either offer something not many people need or because they don’t bring any added value to their offer. Both of these issues stem from the period before the company is registered, which means you need to do your homework and research the market.

Needless to say, you need a lot of courage and flexibility to adapt your plans, but if you play your cards right, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing experience of witnessing your startup grow and a financial compensation for all your effort and troubles.

 

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Guest Author is Alex Williams is a journalism graduate, and a rookie blogger trying to find my luck. Blogs are the perfect opportunity for presenting yourself to wider audience, getting the chance to showcase my expertise and receiving recognition. I am a regular contributor at Bizzmark Blog

5 Ways to Market Your Business Online

With technology only improving, businesses and consumers are becoming closer than ever before. Social media is more prevalent in society than in the past, and small businesses everywhere are embracing the new ways to market their services using online tools to help promote further customer reach. Here is a list of 5 ways to help market your business online:

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  • Facebook

Facebook is a great way of advertising and raising awareness of your product. By creating a page for a business and adding its location you are opening up the possibility of having customers digitally check themselves into your venue. Customers are then able to engage and review a businesses services and share this with their social network. It is important to remember to reply to comments to continue to build the rapport between business and consumer. Facebook also offers paid advertising and marketing campaigns through their business portal

  • Twitter

Twitter is another way of attracting customers, although it does take longer to build a large network on Twitter. The key to a successful Twitter is to always engage in relevant posts, follow any relevant profiles and be smart while still being funny. Engagements are what build your followers on Twitter. If you’re worried about having the time of running your social networks, organisations out there to provide social media help to develop a content marketing strategy that will help build your online growth.

  • Website

Having a website allows you a stronger online presence, and gives businesses the opportunity to display a list of the services available to customers. A website is also a great way of sharing the products, events, sales and opening times. Services such as WordPress are simple website builders. For a low cost it is possible to buy your own domain from these sites, with the option of an email address attached.

  • Emails

In the modern world email is the best form of contact for most customers. Whether you sign up for a free email service or get one through a website, email is a great way of responding to customers enquiries in a professional manner. Customers respond positively to speedy responses from businesses. Through having a registered email address assigned to your business, you can provide subscription services directly to customers, providing them with the option of being notified of sales or further events.

  • Coupons Vouchers

Everyone loves to think they’re getting a good deal. Sharing coupon vouchers through your social platforms will drive business and grow the customer base. New companies that have provided new customer discounts or free delivery have been successful in entering the market in major cities across the globe. Through having a campaign offering free services or VIP sales to clients, for things such as signing up to your email subscription service, discounts on their birthdays, free delivery or new customer discounts, consumers are urged to try a product for the first time.

It is important to not to put all your eggs within one basket, and be able to see the broader picture. One method of marketing may work better for you than another, however the important thing to remember is that all this does not have to be done alone. Consulting with services that provide provide social media help can alleviate some of the stress that can be added when struggling between traditional face to face services and online services allowing the balance to be achieved within the business.