/Business Technology

How to Use a Blog to Boost Your Business

Nowadays, a business website is considered incomplete if it doesn’t have a blog. Blogging started out as a mere hobby, an online journal where individuals would share their thoughts, feelings, experiences and opinions. However, businesses have found that blogging is also a valuable resource for lead generation, customer service, boosting search engine rankings, and brand marketing and promotion.

Today we give you a number of ways starting your own business blog could give your business a much needed boost in the right direction.

1. Get More Online Exposure

Businesses devote entire departments to marketing, where the only goal is to constantly think of the next big promotion, event, or advertisement that can lure customers in. Nowadays, instead of investing money in other online marketing tactics, more companies are opting for the creating a company blog.

According to a recent study, company websites with blogs get 55% more traffic, with 37% of marketers saying that blogging is the most important type of content marketing. A company blog, as long as it is carefully maintained, can be an infinite source of leads for the company. Engaging content will bring in interested viewers, who will then share your blog posts to other people who might need them. Free advertising at its best!

2. Cement Your Reputation as an Industry Professional

Customers are more likely to give you their hard-earned money if they can see that you, as a company, know what you’re talking about. Blogs are a great way to disseminate important information that your target audience might find useful. For example, if your company is a provider of loans, having a few articles on how to save money, raise one’s credit score and ensure loan application success gives off the impression that your company is knowledgeable in all matters concerning your field.

3. Promote More Customer Interaction

Before, customers could only reach a company through phone, or email. Customers felt that businesses were distant and uncaring of their needs. Blogging is a great way to close the gap between consumers and businesses. At the end of every blog post, consumers can share their thoughts about the post and the company as a whole through the comments section.

Businesses can place someone in charge of answering these comments to encourage interaction. This makes businesses seem more “human” in the eyes of a consumer, which helps convert leads. Existing customers are more loyal to companies who will take note of their suggestions and make changes in the company accordingly.

4. Boost Search Engine Rankings

Blogs make business websites appealing not only to visitors, but to search engines as well. Imagine, each blog you write is a separate page that can be indexed, giving you more chances of being found on search engines. Around 5-7 billion searches are made by people each day. Now imagine if even a small fraction of these people find their way to your website. Let’s say your company sells dietary products online and you have several blog articles on dieting. So the next time someone searches for “common diet myths” for example, if you have a blog post on diet myths, your blog post has a chance of showing up on the search engine results. The more blog posts you have, the more likely you’ll have something that someone out there is searching for.

Google’s algorithm keeps changing, but some of their basic rules don’t change. Search engines like Google favor pages with longer content (around 1,140-1,285) and value viewer retention more than number of views. So it matters less how many people view a certain page, and more how long they stay engaged with that page. Blog posts with interesting content, especially those with images and videos embedded on them, can sustain the interest of viewers for several minutes.

5. Get Extra Income For Your Company

While the main purpose of company blogs is to attract new customers, interact with old ones, convert viewership to sales and boost brand reputation, there’s nothing wrong with making a little bit of money on the side. There are a variety of ways for you to monetize your company blog, from well-placed ads to affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is basically earning commission for referring another business. For example, if your business provides renovation and repair services, you can apply as an affiliate for manufacturers of construction materials and fixtures. Then, on your company’s blog, you can write a review on these manufacturers, linking to their website in the process. Every time a viewer clicks on the link and makes a purchase, you make a commission from it.

Conclusion

Blogging can greatly affect a company’s reputation, online exposure, customer service, and income generation, making it a powerful tool that is accessible even to smaller and newer businesses. Being new and having fewer resources is no excuse to ignore the benefits of blogging. In fact, business with blogs experience 126% more lead growth compared to businesses without a blog. Who knows, blogging might just be the key to transforming your virtually unknown business into a thriving, influential powerhouse.

5 Tech Trends Shaking Up Small Business in 2016

In this digital era, small businesses now have access to a wealth of tools they’ve never had access to before.  Even small startups are now able to compete in local and global markets at levels previously limited to enterprise companies. New marketing techniques, payment methods, inventory management tools, and development tools – all of these are being made possible by rapid changes in technology. And small businesses are the ones who are winning. Below are the top five trends you should keep an eye out for during the rest of the year.

EMV Chip Technology

Now that security is at the top of the minds of most consumers, EMV chip technology is gaining popularity as these chips make it difficult for malicious individuals to create fake payment cards. Traditional credit cards use magnetic strips which contain unchanging information. When an attacker gains access to the information, they’re easily able to clone the cards and use it for malicious purposes. EMV chips on the other hand generate codes for each transaction. If an attacker were to gain access to these databases, they wouldn’t be able to use the codes for future purchases.

Since EMV technology is fairly new, most small businesses need to overhaul their credit card processing software and terminals with modern versions which support reading the chips.  

Ecommerce Business

Now that many point of sale (POS) systems have ecommerce support built-in, small businesses are able to leverage the best of both digital and in-store customers, leading to greater sales.  Popup shops for example, enable small businesses to test new revenue streams, engage with customers offline, improve brand awareness, and also educate new customers on product offerings. At the end of the season sales don’t have to stop because your online properties can stay open throughout the year.

Analytics Tools

Business analytics tools are becoming increasingly popular. While they were mostly considered useful for large corporations, small businesses are beginning to realize the value of real-time data and use analytics tools. Why? Because analytics tools help small businesses see what they’re doing wrong, what’s working for them, and how to improve. There are many tools for different aspects of your business such as social media, email, and marketing campaigns. Most popular of these tools is Google Analytics. By allowing all your data to converge on one platform, small businesses can now leverage their new found information to make informed decisions.

Inventory Management Software

Inventory management is one of the biggest challenges small businesses face because they often don’t have the ability to dedicate individuals to handle the tasks. This often results in wasted stock and lost goods. Fortunately, modern inventory management software makes it easier than ever for small business to keep track of inventory simply by scanning barcodes and then having the data digitally logged into their systems.

Mobile Applications

Although they used to be limited to larger companies, many small businesses are beginning to launch their own mobile apps. Tools such as the Microsoft PowerApps tool are making it easy for virtually anyone to create their own apps regardless of technical expertise. In many cases the advanced technologies behind applications are enabling businesses to embed click-to-call voice and video communications capabilities within their code. This means you can seamlessly integrate video chat into your apps as a new way to communicate with your customers and enhance the overall experience.

Looking Ahead

Although all these trends are fairly notable, this list is far from comprehensive. Technology is always evolving and there’s so much innovation going on that it’s impossible to list everything here. The best way to keep pace with these shifts and changes is to ensure you’re always open to learning new things. By reading up on industry trends and having the flexibility to try new things within your business, you’ll be able to make the most of the modern systems out there.

With the latest technology tools in place, it’s a good time to revisit your business structure. Call CorpNet.com today for a free business consultation to incorporate a business, form an LLC, file a DBA and more! 888.449.2638

Charles Costa is a writer and marketing analyst for Fit Small Business and other publications. He focuses on helping companies grow, one word at a time. His areas of expertise include software, hardware, biotech, finance and general technology. You can learn more about him at CharlesCosta.net.

Image: Adobe Stock

                               

Email Ethics: What Small Business Owners Can Learn From the Latest Political Scandals

The conversations centered on Hillary Clinton’s email practices and the leaked DNC email messages have probably not escaped your notice. Regardless of political affiliation or viewpoint on the controversies, I think there’s one thing we might all agree on as business owners: It’s important to treat our email communications with care.

We can learn some valuable lessons from the email mistakes and oversights made by individuals in the public’s eye. And we should also think about how we might avoid other sorts of damaging email mishaps.

  • Never badmouth a colleague, vendor, competitor, or client in your email messages. Never EVER assume the only person reading your email will be the one you’ve directly sent it to. If a recipient forwards your email, you never know where it might land. And even if no one forwards it, your sentiments could travel by good old-fashioned word of mouth. That’s not fair to whomever you’re having issue with. A direct, constructive conversation with the person—not a snarky behind-the-back email— will always be the way to go.
  • Be ultra-wary of whom you send anything deemed confidential or proprietary via email. Has the person you’re sharing with agreed to treat the information as such? Is there an agreement in place that could land you in hot water for sharing certain pieces of information? And if you’re not sure whether or not information should be kept close to the vest, find out before you share it with someone else.
  • BEFORE you hit “send,” double-check to make sure you’ve included only the intended recipients in the “To,” “Cc,” and “Bc” fields. This will help you avoid sending confidential information to people you shouldn’t have disclosed it to. Also, if you ignored the advice in the first bullet point above and have vented frustration about someone, double-checking recipients will help you avoid accidentally sending your message to the person you’ve written about. And yes…I know of people to whom this has happened!
  • Avoid Bcing (blind copying) people on email messages. People typically Bc other people in emails when they secretly want to inform those people of what they’ve sent to a “To” recipient. But if a Bc’ed person “replies all,” the gig is up and it can destroy trust and create hard feelings with the direct recipient. Consider keeping others informed by Ccing them instead. That way it’s all out in the open. Or, if you really don’t want the “To” recipient to know you’ve shared your email with someone else, forward it instead. It’s still a bit sneaky, but less risky than a Bc. 
  • Read your email messages out loud to assess tone and clarity. Without the benefit of facial expressions and vocal inflections, email messages can oh so easily become misinterpreted. Always read them out loud to yourself before sending them. That will help you pick up on any hint of harsh attitude that might make recipients feel defensive or angry. It will also enable you to check how clearly you’re communicating. If your email is too long-winded, redundant, or confusing, simplify it so it states what you want to share without making recipients work too hard to understand it.

Whether you’re just starting a business or running an existing one, email is among the most effective, tried-and-true communications tools you’ll have at your disposal. But as these recent political email scandals have demonstrated, none of us should take it for granted. Give your email messages the attention and respect they deserve. Consider the tips I’ve shared, so you don’t fall prey to careless blunders that might hurt your business reputation.

Image: Adobe Stock

                               

4 Tips to Help You Determine if You Should Spend Money on New Tech

Closeup of a white desk with a modern laptop computer and an antique typewriter back to back. Horizontal format with copy space. Old vs new concept.

Budgets are tight all over, and with so much new and emerging technology available to new business owners, it’s difficult to know when it’s wise to spend the money and when to just sit tight. Jim Browning, research vice president for Gartner, outlined four guidelines for managing IT expenses when he spoke at the Midsize Enterprise Summit. It’s good advice for those who want to start a business, too. Here are some rules of thumb to help evaluate when investing in technology makes sense for your business:

Align Your Technology With Your Business Goals

Browning says to start by evaluating how each of your technology investments serves your business goals, a principle he calls “doing less with less.” A technology budget for a typical office will include items such as Internet service, computers, tablets, smartphones, scanners, copiers, printers, and shredders. Depending on your line of business, you may need additional specialized equipment. For instance, a company with heavy graphic design, video production or teleconferencing needs might invest in a monitor with 4K capability to get double the resolution available. Make a list of your existing equipment as well as equipment you’re considering purchasing and identify what role each serves in advancing your business goals.

When evaluating how your technology serves your business goals, you should keep your financial goals in mind. How much does each piece of technology contribute toward generating a return on investment (ROI) in comparison to its expense? When evaluating this, consider your total cost of investment (TCO), not just the direct cost of purchase. Direct costs of purchasing equipment only contribute about 20 percent toward total TCO, Gartner estimates. The other 80 percent consists of expenses for labor, tech support, and maintenance. When these other costs are factored in, a $1,000 PC might actually end up costing $15,000 over a three-year period.

Remember to factor in TCO when calculating your ROI. This means it’s important to consider factors such as the quality of a vendor’s customer service and tech support when purchasing equipment. Map out each purchase decision and its rationale to make sure you’re getting a good return on your equipment investments.

One other factor to consider when calculating ROI is tax deductions. One advantage of buying equipment over leasing it is that you can deduct the full purchase price your first year.

Standardize Your Technology

Standardizing your technology is another key to lowering your costs when investing in technology, says Browning. This includes both simplifying your technological environment and reducing the number of vendors you work with. For instance, if you have a BYOD policy and your employees are using a wide range of different devices and operating systems, this increases the range of potential technology integrations, version updates and security risks you need to manage, thereby increasing your administrative time and costs.

Establish a BYOD policy that limits your employees to specific mobile device platforms and operating system versions. Similarly, standardizing your other hardware and software selections will lower your total cost of ownership by improving manageability.

Segment Your Users

A third key to keeping your technology purchases on budget is segmenting your users. At most companies, different types of employees will have different technology needs. However, allowing everyone to have an individual technology profile will needlessly multiply your equipment and support costs.

The solution is to define a set number of technology profiles within your company restricting which equipment and applications different types of users should have access to. To keep your company’s number of technology profiles manageable, most organizations should have no more than three to five different technology profiles, Browning says.

Go With Good Enough When Possible

Browning’s fourth guideline for keeping technology equipment investments under budget is going with “good enough” when possible. You don’t necessarily need the latest cutting-edge technology for every piece of equipment to stay competitive. Key pieces of equipment related to your company’s core strengths should certainly be kept up-to-date. For instance, if you’re an accounting firm, you need to keep current with the latest accounting software updates.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to buy a new PC and operating system every time you upgrade your software. In fact, 70 percent of technology purchases don’t need anything beyond “good enough” to serve their function, Browning says. Keep your costs down by buying refurbished equipment, which is often as good as new equipment but much less expensive.

Now that your technology tools are in place, it’s time to protect your personal assets! Call us today to form an LLC, incorporate a business, file a DBA and more! Don’t forget – we also offer free business consultations!

Roy Rasmussen, co-author of “Publishing for Publicity,” is a freelance copywriter who helps small businesses get more customers and make more sales. His specialty is helping experts reach their target market with a focused sales message. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, and business coaching.

Image: Adobe Stock

Business Technology Trends for 2016

Futuristic smart glassesWith 2015 drawing to a close, businesses around the world are planning for the year ahead. Companies across all sectors have a vast range of platforms and tools available to them that offer the power to enhance customer engagement and maximize profit.

Enterprises of all sizes can now reach their customers through multiple channels at any time; diversification, experimentation, and a will to implement new working methods can all revolutionize a business’s success. Developments like smartphones, Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, and smartwatches have expanded the business landscape, and as technology continues to evolve at an incredible rate, marketing and communication capabilities increase with each innovation.

With this in mind, what new trends can companies look forward to in 2016, and how can these innovations help the business?

Wearable Tech will Open More Doors

When we consider wearable tech, what do we think of? The short-lived Google Glass? Bluetooth headphones? Or do we imagine futuristic devices that offer gaming and Internet browsing on the move without the need for analog controls?

Whatever the term evokes for each of us, wearable tech will continue to become more commonplace in 2016, with smartwatches and virtual reality headsets more fact than science fiction. Continue reading “Business Technology Trends for 2016” »

By | November 20th, 2015|Business Technology|0 Comments

4 Tech Trends That Will Affect Your Small Business

775_4721130I’m a big fan of technology that makes my work running CorpNet with my wife, Nellie, easier. Whenever there’s a new tool or app, I jump on it to see if I can incorporate it in my workflow. Some I’ve adopted, while others, not so much.

Here are 4 tech trends I think will make my (and your) work a lot easier in the not-too-distant future.

1. Data and Analytics

We’re currently experiencing a surge in focus on data and analytics, and for good reason: by 2020, we will have created about 40 zettabytes of data. Now, I may not know how big a zettabyte is, but suffice it to say: pretty damn big. All of this data is useless if we don’t know how to leverage it.

I’m really digging tools like Doppiometrics that aggregate all the analytics and reports you care about into one place. And that’s important too: knowing what analytics to care about. For me, some of the biggest ones are:

  • How much web traffic we have
  • Where that traffic is coming from
  • How many email subscribers they have
  • How many of them are clicking and buying
  • Our conversion rate on our ads

Continue reading “4 Tech Trends That Will Affect Your Small Business” »

By | June 18th, 2015|Business Technology|1 Comment

Which Is More Important: User Experience or Security?

437_3017933A user-friendly website is essential for success in business today. Sites must not only be easy to navigate on PCs, but on smartphones and tablets, as well. Complicating all of this is the increasing pressure businesses feel to ensure all interactions are as secure as possible. In an ideal world, businesses would be able to balance both without sacrificing one for the other. Unfortunately, many businesses today are forced to weigh usability against tightened security when building apps or redesigning websites.

But with the ongoing threat of data breaches, businesses can’t afford to stop paying attention to security. Brand reputation is at stake. Without an easy-to-use website, though, they may not be able to build a high-impact reputation in the first place. It’s important that business strike the right balance between both to keep customer safe without creating a complicated user experience.

User Experience vs. Security

When a consumer navigates your site, there’s likely a specific purpose. A customer may be interested in learning your store hours or directions, searching for information on pricing, making a purchase, or one of many other goals. If information is the end goal, your website’s navigability is the most important thing, since customers will likely grab information and go. In that case, the only time you’re likely putting customer data at risk is if your site is hacked or you’re collecting information. Continue reading “Which Is More Important: User Experience or Security?” »

By | April 23rd, 2015|Business Technology|0 Comments

Reducing Business Risk Through Technology

438_3383186This is a guest post from Kimberley Laws.

You run a tight ship. The “i’s” are dotted, the “t’s” are crossed, everyone knows their roles, and everything is in its place. There is one thing, however, that even the most conscientious business leader can fail to anticipate–risk.

Thankfully, the marketplace is teeming with technology designed to combat potential peril and keep your company safe and secure.

By partnering up with technology, you can protect your business from both inside and outside threats.

Here are just a few ways that technology can safeguard your business from risks.

Risks Associated with Time

While your company does face external risks, one of the most common sources of loss and waste comes from within — lost productivity. Continue reading “Reducing Business Risk Through Technology” »

By | March 5th, 2015|Business Technology|0 Comments

Must-Have Global Tech Tools

Many companies seeking to grow and expand have begun to look outside their locality and towards the global market. While these expansions might offer great opportunities, it also offers many challenges for business owners especially when handling overseas employees and customers. In order to make this transition as smooth as possible, you first need to address three primary issues:

  1. Human capital – there are numerous laws and regulations in different countries that you will need to follow if you intend to go global. Do your research beforehand when drafting up employee contracts so your benefits parameters are in-line with the law of that country.
  2. Technology – you will need to figure out how to centralize all of your systems so that they are usable in other areas where technology is not as advanced.
  3. Joint Ventures – in order to broaden your reach in these foreign markets, you might consider partnering with pre-existing foreign companies in your market. While these ventures can come with a great deal of risk due to potential fraud issues, when done properly it can present opportunities for effective expansion.

To make managing your global presence easier, there are numerous tech tools that can help you with collaboration, project management, localization and more. The infographic below lists various tools you can use to help manage your expansion and presence.

GlobalTechTools-IG

By | November 12th, 2014|Business Technology|Comments Off on Must-Have Global Tech Tools

How Technology Helps (and Hinders) Small Business Owners

432_2979754Ah, technology. It’s changed the way we do business…mostly for the better. But most of us who rely on our mobile devices can be victims of them from time to time.

Recently, Small Business Trends paired up with Verizon to conduct a study on how business owners use technology. What we found was pretty interesting.

How Technology Makes Us Better Entrepreneurs

One facet of the study focused on the ways business owners leverage technology. How many of these can you relate to?

 

  • Save Time and Money. As much as 61% of business owners find they save time and money with mobile technology. For me, that time savings comes from having access to all my important information within arm’s reach.
  • Better Customer Service. Being connected means being able to respond to customer service inquiries and complaints faster.
  • Improved Workflow Efficiency. T

Where We Let Technology Take Over

There’s always the other side of the coin, isn’t there? While it’s wonderful to be able to stay on top of our businesses through our phones or tablets, there is a line many of us cross sometimes that makes us a little too accessible. Continue reading “How Technology Helps (and Hinders) Small Business Owners” »

By | October 22nd, 2014|Business Technology|Comments Off on How Technology Helps (and Hinders) Small Business Owners