Web and Hosting Tips
Written by Brandi Bennett
Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Many people have seen demotivational posters before. They are treated as slightly humorous distractions from an otherwise busy day, serving to provide a reminder of what to avoid or what not to do.
In spite of the fact that these demotivational posters have a dual purpose, many people only see the amusing side of things and move on without ever truly paying attention to the other side of the coin. Take for example the Professionalism demotivational poster above; the image is not a new one, and many people have seen either this image or other similar images before. We look at them, shake our heads, and wonder to ourselves how someone could be so lazy, and then move on with our days. What we fail to realize is that in some aspect of our jobs, no matter what they are, we have painted around the fallen branch instead of moving it.
Are You Wearing Shoes, Does It Matter?
In some instances the lack of professionalism that is displayed doesn’t really affect the workplace. No one can really see the fact that you have taken off your shoes under your desk, after all. The trick is just remembering to slip them back on before you get up, and BAM! Professionalism has been restored.
The issue arises when everyone is able to see the lack of professionalism that you present; think of it as greeting clients wearing mismatched socks and no shoes, or having them step over a fallen branch in order to get to your office, where the real professionalism is. I’m not going to suggest that you work to convey perfect adherence to the standards of professional conduct; let’s face it, we are all human and we all make mistakes sometimes. What I do suggest, however, is working to ensure that the face that your customers see is always professional, and the first step in that process is your website.
Be Sure Don’t Accidently The Wrong Grammars
Typos and formatting do matter. If your text overlaps, if you have misspellings, poor grammar, improperly used words (they’re instead of their, or where instead of wear), poor navigation, and even improper features all serve to convey the idea that your site is unprofessional. While there may be simple reasons for these things to occur, like an update that was not compatible with your theme (if you use WordPress), or an old version of Magento that was upgraded, for example, there is no excuse for not double checking yourself.
Your site is the first experience that your customers have with your company. It is how you are reaching out to introduce yourself to your target market through the internet. While there are instances where a consumer may overlook one issue, such as one improperly spelled word out of the entire site, you want to make sure that your customers do not see your company as one that is prone to mistakes.
Think Like A Customer
As a consumer myself, I know that I personally will not spend money with a company if their site isn’t professional. How do I know that they will address any issues with my order in the appropriate manner if they cannot even manage to ensure that their site is error free? This is the mindset that you will need to have when reviewing your site in order to ensure that it maintains the appropriate level of professionalism all the way through. This does not mean your site cannot be fun! There are a host of highly professional websites that are fun. (We like to think Hostgator’s site is not just professional, it is fun too!) It simply means that your site needs to convey the tone that you want it to, contain the appropriate information, and work to present the appropriate image to your customers. It doesn’t matter what you are selling, it simply matters that it conveys the right message, a message that cannot be present if your site is less than professional.
If you are unsure as to whether or not your site looks professional enough, ask a friend, or find an online editing service that can review the site for you to double check and give you pointers. Take the extra time to double check anything you post, and in doing so, you will make sure that your customers aren’t being asked to step over any branches, giving them the confidence in you that they need in order to purchase your products or services.
Image Source: Professionalism Demotivational Poster. (2014). [image online] Available at: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_MIqc0txxDNM/SvfBIqftprI/AAAAAAAAAA4/S63X2RMUECo/s320/professional.jpg [Accessed: 20 Mar 2014].
Written by Taylor Hawes
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Fostering additional sales is a priority of virtually every business on the planet. After all,
growth requires additional revenue, allowing you to reinforce your offerings to better serve your customers. However if you are a startup, or simply cash-strapped, you probably don’t have the capital to pour thousands into sales lead services. Thankfully there are several tools available to help increase online sales that are both efficient and inexpensive.
ZoomInfo Community Edition – ZoomInfo offers several paid plans but has a free database with over 60 million contacts available under its community edition license. The caveats are two-fold: you have to share your business contacts with ZoomInfo and you are limited to 100 contacts per month. If you are just starting out, it is an excellent tool for leveraging a community of aspiring businesses to the success of all involved.
Lead411 – Another searchable database, Lead411 offers great detailed information including email addresses and phone numbers for contacts. It is not free, but is a reasonable $29.95 per month and offers you access to over 100,000 company profiles and 700,000 executives. If you decide to upgrade to the $39.95 plan, you are permitted access to nearly three times that many contacts. The one drawback with this particular service is the sometimes questionable quality of the information therein, so tread with caution.
Jigsaw – Jigsaw is part of the prolific and ubiquitous Salesforce.com. You earn points for adding or updating any of their contacts and can then use those points on free contacts. They offer paid plans but if you are cash strapped you can start out by earning free credits and building your address book in the process. All listings include name, title, email, phone number and address.
Pipeline and Contact Management
Zoho – Zoho is a customer relationship management (CRM) program unlike any other. The basic level is free and allows you to have up to three users and 5,000 records. With mobile access and a usable interface, the app sets itself apart from competitors, to your benefit. In addition, it can scale with your business and the upgraded plan is only $12 per month.
Streak – if you are using Gmail as your email client then you Streak is a must-have. It is a simple plugin that integrates your CRM directly into your inbox, enabling management of multiple contact conduits simultaneously. You can designate your contacts as leads, prospects, customers, etc all within Gmail. Furthermore, sharing data with co-workers is easy, allowing the ability to share part of your inbox with others. For the busy or forgetful business-person, it can even schedule emails to send later.
Contact Monkey – Another powerful free add-on is Contact Monkey. This tool lets you know who opens the emails you have sent, how they opened it (mobile or desktop), and if they clicked on any links. When working to tailor your communications for best reception, this data is invaluable.
Rapportive – When dealing with clients, context is crucial. Also an add-on to Gmail, this tool integrates all the data about your contact next to their emails for easy viewing and consideration. You will see their picture, pertinent data, and any public social networking info, giving you a comprehensive picture of their online presence.
Newsle – If your contact appears in the news, it is always a great reason to touch base with them. Newsle tracks anyone you know with your social media network and notifies you if they appear in the news. It is a great way to have an excuse to get in touch with a prospect, either to capitalize on a financial success, or wish them well in the event of difficult times.
While this list is certainly not comprehensive, it is a great place to start. These inexpensive and free sales tools will help you generate some new sales leads and manage those leads more effectively to increase your online sales, synergizing to assist your business in one of its primary goals: revenue through efficient outreach.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Friday, March 14th, 2014
There are few among us that take delight in organization. The process of planning something instead of building it requires a great deal of patience. When it comes to content, however, everything from your process to your impact can benefit from an organizational outline. By enabling writing, reading, focus, and memory, outlines are a powerful tool for any business blog, improving perception and enabling your commercial goals.
They Facilitate the Writing Process
Writing is a unique skill set, endowed in only a few. Unfortunately for those of us without that gift, our companies need content, and that content must be of prime quality to build a readership.
Fortunately, outlines help ease the process of writing, imbuing the kind of quality required of published content for even those with meager writing skill. By creating a structure around which ideas are formed, the mind naturally constructs ideas in a coherent manner, allowing you to easily articulate one element of your piece after another, unburdened by concerns of flow and formation.
Furthermore, they help provide inspiration. When writing content paragraph by paragraph without understanding the “geography” of your work, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. By understanding your work from a top-down perspective, filling in the prompts with coherent paragraphs becomes a much less arduous task.
They Make Reading Easier
The writer isn’t the only party that benefits from outlines. The ever-important reader reaps the fruits of organizational effort as well.
Our minds are eased by structure. Traffic lights, lines at grocery stores, and chapters in books all help us understand the boundaries of our actions and attention, working to help guide our cognitive resources in one, simple direction. Outlines are much like the road signs that lead us to highways and points of interest, constructing a narrative and helping set expectations for what’s to come.
In addition, well-crafted headings help summon the resources needed to finish reading. If your reader is forced to determine whether they should continue with each passing paragraph, the cognitive burden involved is likely to lead to page abandonment. Attention grabbing headings help remedy this decision-making process by piquing their interests and guiding them forward.
They Provides Focus
If you’ve ever had a conversation with a pedantic acquaintance, then you know how difficult unfocused conversation can be. If your conversation partner is offering compelling information
or engaging you on an active basis, then your attention is held, identifying value in the
experience. In the case of the talkative friend, however, your mind wanders, wondering when
the toil will end, and when your next important task can begin.
Poorly structured pieces are like wordy cohorts: they amble, providing value, but only among meandering sentences. Outlines help remedy this situation by setting reader expectations and then delivering on them in an efficient manner. An article entitled “The Ultimate Guide to Product Pages” makes a lofty promise, but by breaking the writing process into manageable chunks, the reader develops an understanding of the aspects of product pages that a cursory discussion could not deliver, perceiving value and continuing through to the final paragraph.
They Make Your Message More Memorable
Your content delivers value, but that’s not its only purpose. In helping your customers, your ultimate goal is to strengthen your brand and facilitate sales conversion through an engaging
conversation. Without the mental association between your content and your company, these
efforts fall short.
Outlines, through their multiple benefits, help build this desired association. By allowing writers to write more effectively, easing the readers burden, and providing focused value, readers
inherently recognize the value of your efforts. The end result is an enhancement of brand image
that will have a synergistic effect on commercial success.
With content gaining importance in the marketplace, it’s tempting to prioritize pace over
organization, but savvy writers know that outlines facilitate both rate of production and ROI. By
unburdening your writing process, improving reader experience, adding focused value to your
content, and leaving an impression in the minds of customers, outlines represent one of the
most valuable tools in your blogging and marketing toolkit.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Thursday, March 13th, 2014
There are many elements of your business that contribute to its success, but perhaps the most important (and intangible) is your brand. From the visual design of your ads to the reputation of your customerservice team, your brand has a voice, and identifying it can improve many aspects of your operations. By understanding the importance of this voice, identifying the characteristics that articulate it, and honing in on your desired perception, you too can take advantage of this powerful tool.
First, it’s important to understand what “voice” is in a marketing sense. Simply put, it is how you say things and what language you utilize when talking about your products, services, and business.
Your voice creates a culture that your customers will recognize and relate to. If properly implemented everything your business produces (emails, website copy, social media messages, etc.) will all have this same tone. Well utilized, a clear voice will connect you to your customer through consistent rhythm, pacing, word choice, and aim.
Defining Your Identity
So how can you craft this elusive unique voice for your brand? The key lies in identifying the following three traits:
● What your brand is
● Who your target customer is
● What you sound like
Maintaining a voice that’s consistent with your current marketing efforts will help strengthen your reputation, identifying your target customer will help craft a voice that resonates with them, and determining what your voice will sound like will help craft the language you use.
While these items can be challenging to nail down, the following steps will help you identify the points that separate you from competitor and help you craft a clear voice that communicates efficiently and personally with your customers:
1. Identify your company’s values- Why was your company started? What is the driving force as to why you are in business? It should be clear from your mission statement, catch phrase or tagline.
2. Pinpoint any basic human values your company embodies- Perhaps your company is more spiritual focused or abstract. Identify what these are.
3. Note what it is about the way your company works that is different- What makes you stand out from your competition? Noting this difference will help show you your priorities and values.
Constructing Your Message
Once you have distinguished yourself and know clearly who you are it is time to select language. There are several linguistic considerations to weigh.
The first is formal vs informal language. This will largely be denoted by your audience. Ask your team which will appeal more to your customers: “Here is an opportunity we would like to bring to your attention” or “Hey there is going to be a great sale coming up!”?
The next is technical vs. simplified language. Depending on what kind of business you are and the education level of your base audience your vocabulary will need to accommodate their reading level. In addition, B2B and industrial organizations will need to deliver language that meets the technical knowledge of their target audience.
Among the more subtle aspects of your voice is colloquial language. If you can make pop culture references and the vast majority of your audience will understand them, inserting some slang into your voice is an option. However if you have an older or more traditional audience you might want to stray away from these. This can be largely dependent on the geographic location of your audience.
The final and most niche consideration is swearing. Rarely there are companies who can get away with swearing as part of their brand voice. Less extreme swear words such as “hell” or “damn” might seem insignificant to you but can still have an impact with your audience. If it is a significant part of your voice proceed with caution.
Once you have developed a clear banding strategy craft your brand voice is an essential next step. A clear brand voice is a simple tool to help your consumers relate and better identify with you, improving your customer service, recognition, messaging, and revenue.