Propel Businessworks https://propelbusinessworks.com Brand, Website, Digital and Content Marketing Company, Portland, OR Tue, 22 Aug 2017 14:46:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Importance of Being Social https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/importance-social/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/importance-social/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 13:00:58 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8281 Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and jscreationzs

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and jscreationzs

Social media has redefined and reinvented the way we communicate. Twitter invites us to join the conversation while Facebook empowers people all around the world to stay connected. Businesses today have a unique opportunity to directly engage with consumers across multiple platforms. Marketers stress the importance of being active on social media, but why is it such an integral part of modern business communication? What can it offer small business owners compared to different marketing tactics? Here are just a few benefits that set social media apart:

Builds Trust

Social media has empowered both consumers and companies alike to share thoughts and ideas openly. With the advent of social media, businesses are able to answer questions, share information, and interact with consumers like never before. These direct channels of consumer engagement allow businesses to build trust with their consumers through immediate responses, transparency, and accountability.

Social media is an open platform where anyone can post reviews, comments, or concerns. Businesses that actively participate in social media have a higher level of accountability to their consumers to be transparent about their business practices. Building trust with your consumers through social media encourages them to refer your company and become repeat customers.

Improves Brand Image

As a business, your social media accounts are remarkable tools for improving your brand image. Business profiles are publicly viewable 24/7, offering great opportunities to promote new products and services. However, the open nature of social media can be just as helpful to your brand image as harmful. If a customer writes a bad review about a restaurant on their Facebook page, the restaurant has the opportunity to apologize and rectify the issue right away.

Unfortunately, PR incidents such as this are not always handled in the appropriate manor. If you are not careful about how and who is responding to criticism for your business, a social media nightmare like the one Amy’s Baking Company  faced could occur. In a nutshell, the owners of the business responded to criticism of their bakery by insulting customers with profanity and unwarranted comments. If Amy’s had the right person and procedures in place to handle reviews, they could have avoided the bad publicity they received. Overall, social media can improve your brand image if handled correctly and responsibly!

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Until recently, search and social media were consisted separate entities. However, now more and more users are using Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites to search for products and information. Because of this trend, businesses have the opportunity to tailor their SEO efforts on social media to drive traffic and sales. Social media allows users to reach your website through organic search and content, meaning that your paid advertisements within newsfeeds are able to work in tandem with free Twitter statuses.

The combination of paid and organic search via social media has the power to drastically improve your performance. Social media is, now, a primary search engine to promote new content for your business. Using social media SEO can take your business from low visibility to a prominent search position. To achieve this focus on high quality content, well-developed pages and research SEO practices your company can implement!

These are just three of the reasons why it is important for your business to be on social media. Interacting with your consumers and utilizing social media platforms to promote your business is crucial to your business’ success. For more information on how social media can build trust and improve SEO, check out the following articles:

Forbes – 6 Ways Brands Build Trust on Social Media

Social Media Examiner – 18 Social Media SEO Resources

Mackenzie Priest

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Presentation Matters https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/presentation-matters/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/presentation-matters/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 13:00:45 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8280 Image courtesy of Pixabay and Nemo

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Nemo

Blogging is one of the best tools you can use to share ideas and connect with customers. Whether writing a blog for your small business or sharing professional ideas, content is ultimately King. However, the formatting and presentation of your blog is incredibly important to the success of your endeavors.

When developing a website, functionality, content and esthetics are all top on the priority list. When writing a blog, the same applies. Not all of us are blessed with artistic eyes, however here are a few formatting hacks that can ensure your blog looks as sharp and keeps readers coming back for more:

1. Don’t write a novel

A safe range for blog posts is 500-700 words. Any longer than 700 words, and readers start to lose interest. Keeping the content short also improves the visual appeal to potential readers. With people leading busier and busier lives, reading a short article is usually more intriguing than a long wordy one.

2. Use Subheadings

When reading through any text, it’s easier to grasp key ideas when large chunks of information are broken down. A great tool to avoid overly dense content is using subheadings. For example, if you are writing about the best-roasted chicken recipe, break down the article into separate parts. The first section could cover Prep Work followed by a section on Seasoning and then Cooking. You don’t have to use subheadings for every article, but they are extremely useful.

3. Be Bold

Formatting something bold automatically increases its importance within any text. Bolded content helps draw the eye and nicely emphasize a key section of the article. Add bolded subheadings and key words to your articles so it’s easy for readers to find information.

4. Order and Unordered Lists

Instead of simply writing each one of these tips out, we numbered them so you can easily see each one. Using lists is a way to compile information into manageable sections so readers can easily see key ideas, facts or data. Utilize bulleted and numbered lists whenever possible, especially when quoting data or important facts.

5. Point out key Info

Adding bolded or italicized text to key sentences and phrases also helps the reader’s eye be automatically drawn to 
that information. Formatting your text like this can ensure that readers get the key idea of your article.

6. Add Links

When referencing specific sites or articles, always include a hyperlink or link to the site or where the content was originally published. This allows your readers to gain more information about a topic or your source. Linking can also help you avoid plagiarism and copyright infringement issues by properly citing sources. Additionally, if you are discussing a topic that may be industry specific or not common knowledge, linking the text to a definition is a nice touch.

7. Be short and Spacious

Big blocks of texts are not visually appealing. An easy way to improve the esthetics of your blog is to use spaces when appropriate. Always add spacing between paragraphs and also keep them small, 3-6 sentences long.

8. Add (High Quality) Pictures

Adding an appropriate, relevant, and interesting image or graphic to a blog article can really help your point pack a punch. High quality and resolution pictures are always the best way to go. Most phones come with cameras that will take more than adequate blog-quality photos. Whenever possible use photos you have taken yourself or subscribe to a stock photo service to avoid copyright infringement.

9. Be consistent: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Staying consistent with your blogs brand voice is incredibly important. It ensures that your readership stays engaged and your content properly represents your company. Keeping the content formatting consistent is just as important because it reinforces your brand identity. When you find a blogging style and formatting that you enjoy, stick to it as much as possible.

Good formatting takes time, along with some trial and error. If you follow these tips, it’s sure to improve your blog’s visual appeal and help keep your branding consistent. We hope that you found these ideas useful and for more information, feel free to contact us or check out these links:

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/appearance-matters-how-to-format-your-blog-posts-for-social-linkbait-success/49116/

http://bloggingtips101.com/blog-post-format-formatting-effectively/

-Jamie

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Why Influencer Marketing Should Be On Your Agenda https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/marketing-tips/influencer-marketing-agenda/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/marketing-tips/influencer-marketing-agenda/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 13:53:37 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=19321 Influencer Marketing

Photo via +Simple and Unsplash

Influencers are the modern day business referral. After an influencer recommends your product or service, an influx of leads and conversions often come your way. With strategic management, influencers can offer a greater ROI than traditional sponsorship or advertising — it’s the new way to get ahead and break into markets.

Influencers are rife on all the major social media networks and often run their own blogs too — there are eligible influencer candidates to suit the budget and requirements of all businesses. Let’s explore exactly why influencer marketing should be on your agenda, and what you and your business can gain from leveraging this latest addition to the marketing mix.

It’s powerful

There are very few things with the potential to drive conversions more effectively than word-of-mouth recommendations. With over 74% of people turning to social networks like Instagram for guidance on purchase decisions, and 49% specifically relying on recommendations from influencers before making purchases, it’s clear that there is a lot of untapped potential in influencers.

Instagram is the social network that sees the most influencer marketing due to its highly visual nature that lends itself perfectly to photos and videos of products, but Facebook, Twitter, and blogging sites are also widely used for influencer collaborations.

Influencer marketing offers an opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth recommendations through personalities that consumers already trust and admire. In return, influencers ask for monetary compensation, and sometimes a free sample of the product or service to try for themselves (honest reviews are often the best way to manage sponsored content). Reviews can be a particularly great way for new, smaller, or relatively unknown brands to grow their reach and piggyback off the credibility of influencers.

Not sure where to start? Check out this guide on what platforms you should be using to partner up with the best influencers to get the ball rolling.

Native advertising oozes authenticity

Influencer Marketing

Photo via kate.lavie

These days, 43% of people rank authenticity over content. This means that it’s important for your marketing tactics to come across as genuine, informative and not overly salesy.

Interestingly, 47% of online consumers now use an adblocker plugin on their web browser. What does this mean for you? It means that it’s paramount to put your money behind brand influencers and native content to market your products instead of disruptive ads. On-page ads will soon be a thing of the past.

In contrast to the disruptive ads of old, native advertising places brands and products subtly amongst ‘organic’ content. Overall, this creates a more pleasurable experience for users, who are not distracted from the content they intended to watch, view, or read by an irrelevant ad. Instead, the ad is subtly woven into the content they’re already consuming.

Take Naked Juice, the American smoothie brand, as an example. This brand has gained exposure across multiple industries and niches by leveraging fashion and beauty bloggers on Instagram. As a versatile product, Naked successfully caught the attention of new customers from a broad range of backgrounds — people who were happy to share their morning, fitness, food, and fashion routines and stories.

Have a think about what secondary niches might be a good fit for your product. If you’re an online bookstore, consider what kinds of influencers would like to do a post about what they’re reading right now. Chances are that you could target a wide range of willing influencers, from beauty bloggers to parents on Instagram..

Hyper-targeted advertising with high engagement levels

Influencer Marketing

Photo via Pixaby and Pexels

Influencer marketing can vary from the macro to the micro.

The term microinfluencer means influencers on a smaller scale. They are individuals who work or specialize in a particular industry, in a particular location, and have a substantial, though not huge, online following. Microinfluencers usually have a modest number of followers, however their audiences are significantly more engaged than those of some of the megainfluencers.

Microinfluencers are really useful for two reasons. Firstly, with these smaller influencers, you can really target areas of the country or world that you want to get your marketing messages to. Are you a brand opening a store in New York, and looking to gain press exposure and let people in the Big Apple know? You should try sourcing microinfluencers in that New York neighborhood to entice potential customers to your shop.

Secondly, with higher engagement levels, comes a greater chance that the right people will be seeing your sponsored posts. According to Hubspot, Instagram users with fewer than 1,000 followers can generate likes 8% of the time. This is a significant increase from users with 10-100,000 followers who achieve a lesser 2.4% like rate.

To harness the power of the right microinfluencers, it’s first important to cast your eye back to your buyer personas. Consulting in-depth data about your target audience, including purchasing habits, location, and hobbies will help you shortlist which verticals, areas, and industries to begin your search with.

Influencer marketing might just be the supercharged marketing tactic you’ve been looking for. Be sure to base every decision you make on what your target audience searches for online, and the kind of content that they enjoy to ensure maximum engagement. Convinced yet?

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant

Influencer Marketing

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I love my job. I get to collaborate with businesses of all shapes and sizes to help them produce an effective content marketing and social media strategy. I love seeing them get the results they deserve to take their business to the next level. Score!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What You Need to Know About Twitter https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/what-you-need-to-know-about-twitter/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/what-you-need-to-know-about-twitter/#comments Tue, 25 Jul 2017 13:00:38 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8279 Image courtesy of PIxabay and habergibitv

Image courtesy of Pixabay and habergibitv

Twitter is one of the most dynamic consumer engagement tools available. The issue is knowing to how use it. Simply starting an account and posting content is not enough to get your small business connected to your customers. Twitter Gurus around the world have developed tricks of the trade for building dynamic communication, brand voice and, ultimately, gaining followers.

So where do you begin? What can you do to keep people interest in what you have to say? Here are a few ideas of how to get the most out of Twitter and build your business at the same time.

Start with a Solid Profile – This includes choosing an applicable name and appropriate picture that represents your business. Keep your Twitter handle or name easy to remember so Twitter users are more likely to engage with you. For your background photo, use something that is expressive of your business’ story. For example, café, coffee beans or a unique picture of your establishment are a good place to start. Keep your profile picture simple: use your logo or a headshot for a personal touch.

Brand Voice – Know your personality and stick to it. Marketing experts love to emphasize the importance of brand voice and for good reason! Your company’s brand voice is what makes it unique and gives it a personality. If you are a fashion company or accounting firm, your choice of topics and content will be vastly different. Make sure that your word choice and topics stay true to who and what you are. Develop a communications brand kit that outlines what and how you communicate with your customers. Keeping your brand voice true to your company and consistent will also ensure that your audience gets to know you faster and keeps coming back for more.

Follow for Follow? – Building your audience After creating your profile and establishing your brand voice, you need to make sure you are encouraging people to follow you. If you have an existing blog, e-newsletter or other social media profiles, promote your Twitter account and ask people to get in on the conversation. Another good tactic is to start following prominent people and companies within your industry. Reach out to customers directly by asking to follow them and ,hopefully, they will return the favor.

Bridge Twitter with other media A reason why Twitter is such a dynamic consumer engagement tool is its versatility. Sure, you are confined to 140 characters per post, but within those characters you can put links to interesting articles, blogs, images, videos, etc. Spicing up your tweets with different media keeps your posts interesting and followers interested. tweetpic.com offers a free photo shrinking service so you can easily share pics with your followers. If you want to share articles without lengthily links, use bitly.com or ow.ly to shrink links to a fraction of their original size.

Leverage your Twitter content on other Platforms – Using cross-platform promotions is a great way to drive traffic to your site and keep your brand voice strong across multiple channels. If you are posting a new blog, promote it on Twitter with a catchy phrase. Have a new e-newsletter coming out this month? Why not promote it on Twitter with a picture that’s related to the content. Make sure that you have links to your other social media sites or website on your Twitter profile. Also put your Twitter handle on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media outlets that your small business uses. The goal should be to keep people moving around on different platforms but still ultimately focused on your company.

Twitter started as a means to generate conversation and awareness, now it’s your turn to leverage the power of the Twitter-verse. For more Twitter tips and tricks, check out these articles. However, other social media experts such as Forbes and Social Media Examiner provide great tips that will help you to leverage your Twitter account.

We would love to hear some of your Twitter success stories! Share them with us.

Jamie

For more Twitter tips, read:

Forbes’ “31 Twitter Tips: How to Use Twitter Tools And Twitter Best Practices for Business

Social Examiner’s “How to Use Twitter for Business and Marketing

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4 Ways to Manage Your To-Do List https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/4-ways-to-manage-your-to-do-list/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/4-ways-to-manage-your-to-do-list/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 13:00:26 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8278 Image courtesy of Pixabay and bohed

Image courtesy of Pixabay and bohed

With life and work pulling in you multiple directions, it’s easy to lose track of things. Making to-do lists and task lists are awesome ways to keep everything straight. The old fashion pen to paper technique is still very affective however there are some great tools available to help keep you organized. Here are a few tips and tools you can use to keep your communication efforts and life on track:

Define and Redefine Your To-Do

Making to-do lists is not for everyone. Some people like keeping what they have to do bottled up in their heads. It might work for some people but the benefit of writing down what you have to do usual pays off. Start by making a rough draft of your to-do or task list. Read through it and cut out anything that doesn’t need to actually be there. Refining your to-do lists ensures that you are keeping pace with what you have to do while not overwhelming you with the minor details. Using categories and subcategories is an easy way to keep a detailed list without too much bulk!

Drop the Clutter and Archive

When working within any field its easy to get overwhelmed with current projects. An easy way to stay focused on the tasks at hand is to make sure you de-clutter your work environment and archive old projects. Your user interface can easily get covered with old documents or excel files, keep folders for each project or client handy to ensure that you are staying organized but not hording unnecessary content. Having a clean workspace will keep you on task and focused.

Keep your tasks Reasonable and Feasible

There is nothing worse than biting off more than you can chew. This results in poor work on your part and disappointed clients. Breaking down your tasks into smaller chunks can reduce your stress and ensure that you don’t miss any details. Give yourself deadlines for tasks and make note of when you finish something. This will ensure that both you and your client are satisfied with the work produced. Don’t forget to celebrate small wins!

Embrace Apps, they are your Friends!

To keep yourself on task and organized, here are a few helpful applications we love:

           Trello

  • Online and application platform that allows you to easily separate tasks and lists.
  • Some cool features include board sharing with others, email reminders and multilevel list making capabilities.
  • Reminders pop-up in push notifications and due dates are highlighted when the task is close to due date.

         

            Evernote

  • This application is a great way to jot down ideas and keep a running list of things you have to-do,
  • The platform is user friendly and can easily export into word doc format. This is especially useful if you are working on communication efforts such as blogs, social media and    newsletters.
  • You can create texts, reminders and lists all in one user-friendly place.

       

          Google Calendar

  • Google has always been at the user-friendly forefront and their calendar alerts are no exception.
  • This application operates online using your gmail account so that you can stay informed of your to-dos where ever you go.
  • You can create message alerts and push notifications on your smartphone or tablet as well.

Whether you like to stay classic with a notepad or high-tech with one of these apps, staying organized can help keep your business and communication efforts thriving. For more organizational tips for your business or communication plan, check out these sources:

Lifehacker – Simplify Your To-Do List

Fast Company – Make your To-Do List more Effective!

Jamie

(Content image credit: DallisonLee.com)

 

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10 Ideas to Create Conversation on Social Media https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/10-ideas-to-create-conversation-on-social-media/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/10-ideas-to-create-conversation-on-social-media/#respond Tue, 27 Jun 2017 13:00:02 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8277 social-media

Image courtesy of Pixabay and niekverlaan

Image courtesy of Pixabay and niekverlaan

The number of social media posts we see on a daily basis is astounding. From businesses to individuals, the content reaching us through social media varies from entertaining to easily ignored. Individuals seek engagement and a relationship with the brands that they care for. From a simple acknowledgement of a specific user, to asking a question, to contests… social media can be an effective way to create conversation with your consumers.

So how can you as a company engage in conversation with your consumers in a unique way that will encourage them to communicate with you? We have identified 10 ideas to create conversation on social media:

1) Acknowledge new followers: Use their @Username or mention them in a Facebook post. Everyone loves to be recognized and engaging with new followers shows that your company cares for their consumers.

2) Create contests: No one turns down a free something from a business! This could be offering a service for free or a prize that everyone is after. Encourage followers to participate in the contest and you will see conversation start.

3) Ask a question: Many businesses are afraid to ask questions because of the answers they may receive or the lack of response. Asking questions is an easy and effective way to encourage your followers to communicate. Which leads us to….

4) Monitor your brand engagement: Know what is being said about your business and by whom. You have the opportunity to respond to all your users, provide clarification, and create a true conversation. It goes both ways after all!

5) Post consistently: You cannot neglect your social media websites. You must be pushing new content out to your consumers regularly in order for conversation to start. If you neglect your social media pages, you could miss out on opportunities for growth in your consumer base.

6) Retweet or share: Consumers love to know that the businesses they care for and follow are reading what they have to say, as well. If it is relevant to your brand, retweet or share their posts. It may start a conversation with just that individual or others could be interested in the topic of conversation and join in.

7) Positivity, sincerity, and friendliness: We have all seen individuals and companies whose content seems harsh or negative and the way they engage with their followers seems unfriendly. Make sure that when responding to your followers or posting original content, your brand voice is consistent with your company’s ideals. Being negative can create a poor brand image. If you are friendly and positive, you are more likely to see consumers who want to talk with you!

8) Use hashtags: As we’ve said before… the hashtag frenzy is not just a trend! Using a company specific hashtag along with related topics, will allow you to track what is being said. You can, also, use the what’s trending feature on Twitter or search by specific hashtag to then engage with the consumers talking about your business.

9) Post recent material: Social media serves as a way for consumers to track news on the things they care most about. Be sure to post articles, press releases, or other news related resources to keep your users up to date. If they have questions, they will likely ask you.

10) Call them to action: When posting, try to incorporate a call to action. Whether it be a follow, a retweet, etc., a call to action will increase the number of people who participate in conversation with your business.

It’s not too late to start communicating with your consumers. Who is talking about your brand right now? How can you use these social media tips to engage with them and create a lasting relationship? Check out your company’s Facebook or Twitter page this week to see who you can reach out to!

Jamie

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Should You Get a Security Camera for Your Business? https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/security-camera-for-your-business/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/security-camera-for-your-business/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 07:00:00 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/uncategorized/security-camera-for-your-business/ Yоur Business iѕ оnе of your mоѕt imроrtаnt invеѕtmеntѕ, ѕо уоu should соnѕidеr all possible ways to protect it. This includes everything from protecting your files from online attacks to protecting your office from burglars.

While protecting the files on your computer is as easy as purchasing some good and well known virus protector (like Kaspersky, Bitdefender or Norton), for a fairly small amount of money, protecting your office space and goods would require a bit more thinking…

Security systems can ѕеrvе as аn еffесtivе wау tо рrоtесt, еѕресiаllу when уоu аrе оut or going оn аn out-of-town triр. Onсе уоu hаvе one installed уоu will fееl mоrе confident аbоut lеаving уоur office аnd kеерing it ѕаfе from thiеvеѕ and burglаrѕ. Also, keep in mind that most insurance companies require their clients to add extra protection. This often includes security cameras or other surveillance tools.

If уоu are ѕtill dоubtful аbоut уоur decision to acquire a ѕесuritу саmеrа for your business, you ѕhоuld see ѕоmе оf thе bеѕt fеаturеѕ thаt theѕe products роѕѕеѕѕ, and learn about the imроrtаnt bеnеfitѕ that уоu соuld еnjоу frоm рurсhаѕing аn оutdооr wireless ѕесuritу саmеrа.

Eаѕу installation 

In the past, mоѕt security саmеrаѕ required рrоfеѕѕiоnаl inѕtаllаtiоn. But these days a good kit can be inѕtаlled on уоur рrореrtу easily juѕt by reading the mаnuаl and fоllоwing the ѕtер-bу-ѕtер рrосеѕѕ. Most come with all the required cabling but some wireless camera setups even bypass this laborious task. This means you don’t even need to worry about аll thе electrical wiring оf a wirеd саmеrа system that соuld саuѕе роtеntiаl thrеаtѕ tо уоur hоmе and make it mоrе susceptible tо accidents саuѕеd by fаultу wiring.

Thаnkѕ tо the dеvеlорmеnt оf cheap wirеlеѕѕ ѕесuritу cameras it iѕ nоw роѕѕiblе for рrореrtу оwnеrѕ like уоu tо inѕtаll ѕесuritу саmеrаѕ withоut аѕking for thе ѕuреrviѕiоn of рrоfеѕѕiоnаlѕ. It dоеѕ nоt need рrоfеѕѕiоnаl installation, and it wоuld not require you to аltеr уоur рrореrtу’ѕ infrastructure. Thiѕ unique fеаturе makes them реrfесt fоr рrореrtу owners who hаvе nо еxреriеnсе in inѕtаlling them.

Mоnitоrѕ your Business 24/7 

Anоthеr important feature of having a security camera for your business is the сараbilitу tо protect рrореrtiеѕ twеntу fоur hоurѕ a day аnd seven dауѕ a week. By installing a camera on уоur рrореrtу, you саn mоnitоr your hоmе еvеn while уоu аrе оut of town. Wirеlеѕѕ security саmеrаѕ are uѕuаllу сараblе of сарturing imаgеѕ and trаnѕfеrring them tо a раrtiсulаr Intеrnеt аddrеѕѕ. Onсе configured, you сan receive important alerts via email whеn рrоblеmѕ in your hоmе or business аriѕе. Yоu соuld еаѕilу соntасt thе аuthоritiеѕ when mаliсiоuѕ реорlе are trespassing or trying to gain access to your property.

Offеrѕ аdvаnсеd features for рrоtесting уоur Business 

An outdoor wireless security саmеrа possesses all thе fеаturеѕ nееdеd in order tо mаkе sure thаt уоur hоmе, home office, or business is 100% safe from thiеvеѕ and burglаrѕ. Mоѕt оf thе wirеlеѕѕ оutdооr саmеrаѕ оn the mаrkеt also offer advanced fеаturеѕ ѕuсh as аutоmаtiс diаling and mоtiоn detectors. Onсе these dеtесtоrѕ rесеivе ѕignаlѕ from any unnесеѕѕаrу motions around уоur office, thеу automatically diаl thе number of аuthоritiеѕ аnd infоrm them of thе problem.

These саmеrаѕ аlѕо соntаin mоnitоring ѕуѕtеmѕ which аllоw uѕеrѕ tо dеtесt whether thеir саmеrаѕ аrе experiencing аnу technical difficulties. Not only that, but they also monitor the реrimеtеrѕ of уоur рrореrtу аnd ѕеndѕ ѕignаlѕ tо the camera once mоtiоn iѕ detected. Then, thе саmеrа receives thеѕе ѕignаlѕ аnd ѕtаrtѕ rесоrding thе еvеntѕ in its view.

While purchasing a security camera for your business might feel like a significant investment, it is definitely worth its money if you consider how much you can lose if you don’t have one. Also, if you spend some time on the internet and browse for one online, you’ll notice that nowadays it’s really not that expensive. As it turns out, even dummy cameras have positive effect in stopping burglars.

Protection of your office goods doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective! Nowadays you can buy high quality cheap security cameras and surveillance systems for a low price and never worry again.

Jeffrey Ulrich is the CEO of Chinavision Wholesale Ltd.

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Play By the Rules: Developing a Good Social Media Policy https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/play-rules-developing-good-social-media-policy/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/play-rules-developing-good-social-media-policy/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:00:50 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8276 Image courtesy of Pixabay and succo

Image courtesy of Pixabay and succo

Knowing where to begin your social media efforts can be confusing and frustrating. With so many different social media platforms to fully understand, it can be difficult to know how each one will affect your company. It is important for you to develop, and for everyone on the team to understand, your company’s social media policy. Your social media policy should include rules to follow when utilizing company specific social media platforms.

Some important things to remember about social media:

1) Everyone is on social media:

Your content on every platform is being shared with everyone that has access to the Internet. You have the potential to reach a wide range of individuals.

2) What you say is what people will read:

After you post anything on a social media platform, it is up to the reader to interpret. The Internet lacks a “tone of voice” that a phone-call or face-to-face conversation can clearly get across.

3) Your name is tied to your social media platforms:

The Internet allows page visitors to make their own opinions of the company based off of what is posted; this includes on personal pages. You have the opportunity to excel OR damage your brand by what you post.

4) It’s a two-way conversation:

Although you think your job may be done as soon as you post your content, page visitors have the opportunity to comment. This is a great opportunity for your company to engage in conversation with what could be a potential client.

What do you include in your social media policy? Your social media policy should follow and reflect your company’s already established policies for its employees. Some tips to on making a great and effective social media policy for your company:

1) Respect yourself and your audience:

We have all experienced or witnessed an individual who has made their own opinion of a company known via the company’s social media platforms. Resist starting an argument with the individual.

2) Be truthful in your content:

When your credibility is lost, it is incredibly difficult to regain the trust of your customers. Make sure the information you are posting is accurate and truthful.

3) Be responsible and remember you represent your company:

Anything you post online through a social media platform is a reflection of the company you work for, represent, own, or manage. Inappropriate content can cause a lot of damage for your company.

4) Think before you post:

Once it’s posted, it’s available to millions of people.

5) Admit your wrongs:

We all make mistakes and it is important to own up to them quickly and humbly. Correct the error as soon as you are made aware of it and apologize with humility.

6) Provide valuable content:

Be unique in what you post and make sure it is valuable to your audience. You could be reaching your next client and/or connection with everything you post.

Social media has greatly impacted the world around us, and has become one of the means by which we communicate with one another. Revisit your company’s social media policy and make sure all employees are fully aware of their responsibilities on different platforms. By making everyone aware, you mitigate the risks of a negative online presence.

Bren

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Why Automation is Essential in Email Marketing https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/email-marketing-is-essential/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/email-marketing-is-essential/#respond Tue, 06 Jun 2017 07:00:00 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/uncategorized/email-marketing-is-essential/ In the era of social networking and mobile messaging, tech analysts tend to predict the demise of email once or twice a year. In spite of these gloomy projections, however, email is still regarded as one of the most useful and widely-used components of the internet.

While it may be true that mobile applications such as WhatsApp do a great job of providing instant messaging enriched with social media features, email is still king when it comes to digital marketing. In fact, if anything, email has become a more powerful marketing force because so many advertisers are falling to the siren call of social media.

Email has grown into a more focused and less frivolous medium of communication than it was in the early days of the internet. In 2015, an Italian IT research firm estimated the number of global email messages sent each day to be around 205 billion, which can be further interpreted as more than two million emails sent each minute. A sizable portion of this traffic takes place on mobile devices; to this effect, smartphone notifications make email more visible and open rates can range from 15 percent all the way up to 70 percent, depending on the campaign.

Modern Attitudes Towards Email

Email has achieved an aura of seriousness and formality that should be very attractive to brand managers and marketing specialists. Members of Generation X were raised on email the same way Millennials have been raised on social media. But when Millennials look for a job or make a major online purchase, they still turn to email. Similarly, when Millennials sign up for an email newsletter sent by a brand they are interested in, chances are that they are serious about waiting for these messages and opening them at their earliest convenience and in a comfortable setting.

With all this in mind, email marketing is seeing strong success rates these days; however, email marketing can be a time consuming process, particularly when compared to working with social media campaigns. That’s why many marketers are turning to automation when they formulate their email marketing plans.

importance of email marketing

Photo via Pexels

Understanding Marketing Automation

Traditional email marketing campaigns do not offer much in the way of automation. Aside from the ability to launch a massive, browser-friendly email campaign and check the rate of opened and read messages, legacy email marketing is not particularly rich in features.

Modern email marketing automation software offers advanced tools such as an executive dashboard that provides an instant, real-time glimpse at analytics and other information valuable to brand managers. Automation also means the ability to run drip campaigns and other strategies to cultivate leads and guide those leads through the conversion process. Furthermore, leads can be scored and adequately recycled so that they can benefit from CRM integration and Facebook pixel tactics.

Example of Email Marketing Automation

Imagine that an information security firm has a new data loss prevention solution for enterprise clients. Once the mailing list has been prepped, a newsletter about network intrusions and data breaches can be sent out to garner interest.

Since information security products and services usually require a certain sales process, members of the sales team need to focus on leads who are ready to buy. With an email marketing automation campaign in place, leads are constantly evaluated through demographics and certain actions taken on landing pages and social media. This allows salespeople to concentrate on solid prospects instead of trying their luck with leads who only have a passing interest on the subject of preventing data breaches.

Another advantage of automation is that it can easily scale according to interest. If the information security newsletter is being shared among IT professionals, a secondary campaign can be created to target new leads more specifically.

In the end, email marketing automation is too powerful a tool for companies to ignore, whether they focus on B2B or B2C marketing. Automation is exactly what many brands need to achieve marketing success these days

Lewis Robinson is a business consultant specializing in digital media and sales.  He’s begun multiple corporations and currently freelances as a writer and personal consultant.

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20 Amazing Benefits of Hugging According to Science (+10 Hugging Tips) https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/20-amazing-benefits-of-hugging-according-science-10-hugging-tips/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/20-amazing-benefits-of-hugging-according-science-10-hugging-tips/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 07:00:00 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/uncategorized/20-amazing-benefits-of-hugging-according-science-10-hugging-tips/ Over the centuries, various forms of interpersonal touch have become less common, influenced by changes in cultural values and new technology. Nowadays, with twenty four hour access to mobiles, texting and email, many people spend more time interacting with their technology than they do with each other. This lack of touch has many effects on different aspects of our lives, and can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation and insecurity.

So why is touch so important to us? We typically think of touch as a pleasant, but not very important part of life. But touch plays an integral role in our daily experiences. It influences what we buy, what we eat, who we love, and even how we heal. We use our sense of touch to gather information about our environment and to establish social bonds with each other.

Multiple studies have concluded that touch, especially hugging, provides numerous health benefits. If you’re looking for a great way to boost your immune system, reduce your stress, improve your sleep and even help cure depression, you need to consider hugging. Hugs have no side effects and require no prescription. Even better, they’re free and can be given and received anywhere, at any time.

Here are 20 great reasons why you should hug and allow yourself to be hugged every single day.

1. Hugging Helps to Fight Stress Induced Illness

It’s a well known fact that stress can weaken the immune system, leading to colds and other illnesses. As the body tries to cope with stressful situations, it responds by becoming physically sick.

Scientists have been investigating the link between physical touch and a healthy immune system. In a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effects of receiving hugs on the immune system. Participants were tested on their susceptibility to the common cold, after being exposed to the virus.

It turns out that the people who received more hugs, and greater social support, were less likely to get sick. In fact, researchers calculated that the stress-buffering effects of hugging explained thirty two percent of that beneficial effect. And amongst those participants that did get a cold, those that received hugs reported fewer symptoms.(1)

The researchers concluded that hugs are a way of providing support, and being hugged more frequently could be an effective means of reducing stress and stress related illness.(2)

Bottom line: Hugs help us fight stress and keep us healthier.

2. Hugging Boosts Our Immune System

Hugs strengthen the immune system. When you hug someone you are placing some gentle pressure on their sternum. This activates the Solar Plexus Chakraand stimulates the thymus gland. The thymus gland regulates and balances the body’s supply of white blood cells, keeping you healthy.(3)

The link between touch and a healthy immune system is also documented in a

2010 study published in the journal Developmental Review. The study examined the effects of massage therapy, and concluded that participants showed a noticeable drop in heart rate and blood pressure. They also exhibited a boost in their immune systems, increasing their white blood cell count and decreasing their levels of cortisol.(4)

Bottom line: Hugs boost the body’s immune system and keep us healthy.

3. Hugging Reduces Stress

When we are stressed our nerve endings send information to the body to release the hormone cortisol. This hormone slows down the body’s healing process. Cortisol stimulates the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, which, if not controlled, creates a number of health problems.

Studies have shown that hugging can affect cortisol levels in the body by causing the release of a hormone, oxytocin, known as the ‘love hormone’. Oxytocin is also referred to as the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproduction.(5)

When we receive a hug, the body releases oxytocin, making us feel calmer and more relaxed, and stress levels are reduced. The oxytocin acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and helping women endure the pain of childbirth. Matt Hertenstein, a psychologist at DePauw University describes oxytocin as promoting feelings of devotion, trust and bonding, and says it lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.(6)

Bottom line: Hugs reduce stress by releasing oxytocin which relieves anxiety and helps us to bond.

4. Hugging Satisfies Our ‘Skin Hunger’

Skin is the body’s largest organ. It acts as a defence against the outside world, regenerating at an incredible rate Skin is also our brain’s data collector. The soles of our feet, the tips of our fingers, and our lips are all especially designed to collect the smallest details of sensory data and transmit them to the brain via nerve endings.(7)

Touch is the very first sense that we acquire, so it makes sense that touch and physical contact is necessary for our well being.

Sadly, many people are touch-deprived. One study found that one-third of people receive no hugs on a daily basis while 75 percent said they wanted more hugs.(8)

Humans become nearly unrecognizable in the absence of touch. Two hundred years ago, French scientists spotted a creature resembling a human running through the forests. Eventually the creature was caught, and it turned out to be an 11 year old boy. They named the child Victor, and determined that he had been living wild in the forest for most of his life. Initially doctors thought that Victor was mentally retarded, but eventually the physicians and psychiatrists concluded that he had been deprived of human physical touch, which had retarded his social and developmental capacities.(9)

These findings are validated in a study conducted by the Miami Touch Research Institute, which demonstrated the importance of touch for preterm babies. Babies that received daily massages has an accelerated growth rate forty seven percent greater than the babies in the control group, who were not given massages.(10)

Bottom line: Hugs provide the skin contact that our bodies need to remain healthy.

5. Hugging Increases Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is produced and spread by neurons in the brain. It is formed by the amino acid called tryptophan, which sends messages through the blood and tells the brain to produce serotonin.

Serotonin is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone because it helps to make us feel happy, relaxed and confident. It also acts as an appetite controller, and mood regulator.(11)

Health issues such as depression and obesity have been linked to an imbalance in serotonin levels. Serotonin affects and controls mental and emotional processes, motor functions, hormones, blood pressure and motor functions.

Low levels of this hormone can cause sleep disorders and even obesity, as most of our serotonin is found in the body’s digestive system. When levels of serotonin are too low, the brain receives a signal that the body is hungry, and we feel the urge to eat. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between obesity caused by overeating and low levels of serotonin.(12) Once serotonin levels normalise, the desire to keep eating disappears.

Serotonin flows when we feel important or significant, and the reverse is true when serotonin is absent. We feel lonely and depressed. This can lead to unhealthy attention seeking behaviour, or even cause people to join gangs and fall into criminal behaviour.(13)

Many antidepressants on the market today are based on increasing the production of serotonin. However, there is an easier and healthier way; hugging. Hugging releases serotonin into the body, which improves our mood and helps to increase our happiness.(14) High levels of serotonin negate sadness and increase pleasure. This has an immediate effect on our mood and how we feel.

Bottom line: Hugging increases serotonin levels in the body, making us happier.

6. Hugging Balances the Nervous System

When we receive a hug, a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure sensors called the pacinian corpuscles send messages to the brain via the Vagus nerve. These corpuscles can sense touch and react to it.

Studies have shown that when a person receives a hug, their galvanic responseshows a noticeable difference in skin conductance. This is due to a transfer of electricity and moisture from the person doing the hugging. These electricity and moisture levels create a more balanced nervous system.(15)

According to neurologist Shekar Raman, MD, forms of touch such as a hug or pat on the back are processed by the reward centre in the central nervous system, making us feel happiness and joy.(16) The more we connect with others, the happier we feel.

Bottom line: Hugging leads to a balanced nervous system.

benefits of hugging

Photo via Jen Reviews

7. Hugs Are Anti-Aging

As we age, our hormone levels drop, leading to a loss of muscle mass. In fact, our bodies lose up to five percent of our muscle mass each decade past our thirties.(17)

Now studies are focusing on the benefits of oxytocin in regenerating muscle mass and activating muscle signal pathways.

In a study conducted on mice, in which researchers injected oxytocin into older mice with muscle damage, they exhibited better healing after nine days than mice who did not receive the hormone. The mice that received oxytocin were able to repair muscle damage up to eighty percent more than the young, untreated mice.(18)

The results demonstrated that oxytocin is important in maintaining a youthful body and healthy muscles. Since hugging increases the body’s capacity to release oxytocin, it also has the capability to help prevent aging.

Bottom line: Hugging keeps us young and maintains muscle strength.

8. Hugging Protects Against Heart Disease

Scientists have shown that hugging causes the body to produce oxytocin, helping to calm the nervous system and create relaxation, but oxytocin has another as well. It reduces blood pressure and heart stress.

In a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, researchers worked with two groups of women. The first held hands with their partners for ten minutes then hugged them, while the second group just sat quietly next to their partners. After the ten minutes were up, the women discussed a recent event that had been stressful for them. The women in the no-contact group showed significantly higher blood pressure readings than those who hugged and held hands.(19)

The participants who did not have any contact with their partners also developed a quickened heart rate of ten beats per minute compared to five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment.(20)

Bottom line: Hugging leads to lower blood pressure and a reduced heart rate.

8. Hugs Act as Nonverbal Communication

Almost seventy percent of communication is nonverbal. The interpretation of body language can be based on a single gesture and hugging is an excellent method of expressing yourself nonverbally to another human being or animal.

Judith Kestenberg, a psychoanalyst specializing in child development, has conducted research on muscle tension. Her study shows that all muscles exhibit an ever-changing alternation in muscle tension during any activity.

Based on her observations of babies, Kestenberg identified ten rhythmic patterns changes that she felt corresponded to particular developmental tasks. Each rhythm has its own specific meaning and non-verbal signal. For example, one type of rhythm indicated a withdrawal or separation between two bodies, while another rhythm simulates the need for bonding and connectedness.(21)

In a well documented case, twin babies born twelve weeks prematurely were placed in an incubator together. This allowed skin to skin contact and stabilised the weaker baby. This practice has come to be known as ‘kangaroo care’, and is often used to help premature infants regulate their temperature, gain more weight, and sleep better.(22)

Kangaroo care is not a new phenomenon. In the early 1980s, the mortality rate for premature infants in Bogota, Colombia was seventy percent. The babies were dying of infections and respiratory problems as well as lack of attention paid to them by a bonded parent.

‘Kangaroo care’ for these infants evolved out of necessity. Mothers were given their babies to hold twenty four hours a day, keeping the baby tucked under their clothing as if in a kangaroo’s pouch. If a baby needed oxygen, it was administered under an oxygen hood placed on the mother’s chest.

When doctors studied the health of these babies, they noticed a drop in neonatal deaths. Babies were not only surviving, they were thriving. Currently in Bogota, babies who are born as early as ten weeks before their due date are allowed to go home within twenty four hours, as long as they can breathe on their own, are able to suck and have a healthy colour.(23)

Bottom line: Hugging is an important form of nonverbal communication and provides multiple health benefits.

9. Hugging Relieves Pain

Sales of over the counter pain medications have exploded in recent years, even though in many cases their effectiveness is limited.

Now scientists have found that emotional bonds can reduce pain aches and pains. They call this effect ‘love induced analgesia’.

Researchers at Israel’s Haifa University recruited dozens of female volunteers and repeatedly subjected them to temporary, mild pain by touching them with a hot metal rod. In the first experiment, a complete stranger held the women’s hands to try to comfort them, while in the second experiment they had a partner standing near them but not touching them. In the final experiment the partner was allowed to hold and stroke the woman’s hand as she was being touched by the hot metal.

The results showed that when a loved one touched their skin, volunteers’ pain scored dropped significantly. The researchers also found that the more a woman’s partner expressed empathy and support during the experiment, the lower the level of pain and the greater the level of relief. The study concluded that social touch has a powerful pain killing effect and suggests that empathy between romantic partners may explain the powerful effects.(24)

Bottom line: Hugs from loved ones provide drug free pain relief.

10. Hugs Can Help with Depression

In addition to releasing oxytocin, hugging also causes the body to produce dopamine. Known as the pleasure hormone, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain‘s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses. It allows us to see rewards and pushes us to take action to achieve them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s Disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction.(25)

Deficient levels of dopamine activity in the brain can cause depression characterised by low energy, and lack of motivation. In some cases, a severely dopamine deficient person may even wish to commit suicide, but often won’t do anything about it.(26)

Using MRIs and PET scans, scientists have shown that hugging stimulates the release of dopamine.(27) This is a much safer way of alleviating some of the symptoms of depression, than taking medications with multiple side effects.

Bottom line: Hugging raises our level of dopamine and reduces symptoms of depression.

11. Hugging Reduces Fear of Mortality

As human beings, we all know that we are going to die some day. This can be very frightening for people with low self esteem who feel like they are not living meaningful lives.

In a series of studies on fears and self-esteem published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers demonstrated that hugs and touch significantly reduce the fear of death and mortality.

In one particular study, participants were approached as they walked through a university campus and handed a questionnaire to fill out. Some of the participants received a light, open palmed touch from the researcher as they were handed the forms, while others were not given any physical interaction.

The results showed that participants with low self esteem, who received the physical touch, reported less death anxiety on the questionnaire than those who had not been touched.

Touch also appeared to act as a buffer against social alienation. Participants with low self esteem demonstrated no noticeable decrease in social connectedness after being reminded of death, but only if they had received a light touch.

This research suggests that touch plays a beneficial role in providing comfort and reassurance to people who are depressed and dealing with thought about their mortality.(28)

Bottom line: Hugging can help people to accept their mortality and reduce fear of death.

12. Hugs can Help to Treat Insomnia and Anxiety

Lack of sleep can create a long list of secondary health issues that can disrupt the body’s normal function, and increase the risk of serious medical problems like heart attacks. Studies have found that sleeping with weighted blankets helps insomnia and anxiety.

Weighted blankets are filled with plastic poly pellets and weigh between fifteen and thirty pounds. They work by relaxing the nervous system via extra pressure – a form of deep touch therapy.(29) Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is felt when we touch, hold, or stroke others, or when we pet animals.

Basically, what the blanket does is to mould to the body like a warm hug. The body responds as if it is receiving physical contact, and the brain releases serotonin, causing the nervous system to relax.(30) With the nervous system relaxed the body is able to fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.

A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offered safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety in patients. These results were confirmed in a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which indicated that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.(31)

Bottom line: Hugs can alleviate anxiety and help us to sleep better.

13. Hugs Can Decrease Food Cravings

Often when we eat, we are eating not just because we are hungry, but for emotional reasons as well. In fact, the brain circuit that controls eating overlaps with the brain circuit that controls interpersonal relationships.

Eating actually sends oxytocin in the dopamine rich areas of the brain, making us feel pleasure and relaxation. Oxytocin is released by physical contact and supportive interactions with other people. Release of oxytocin brings on feelings of trust and generosity. It also reduces stress and anxiety. In fact, eating releases oxytocin in dopamine rich brain areas, which helps explain why eating can be soothing and pleasurable. This explains why we’re drawn to emotional eating; it mimics the same feelings of comfort we get from close friends and family.(32)

Improving our relationships, therefore, can have an impact on weight loss. By increasing the quality and closeness of our relationships, we increase the amount of oxytocin in our system and that reduces food cravings.(33)

Bottom line: Hugs cause the release of oxytocin which decreases food cravings and helps prevent emotional eating.

14. Hugs Increase Bonding and Strengthen Relationships

Relationship expert Dr Pam Spurr notes that the simple act of hugging can go a long way in keeping relationships healthy and happy.

For couples, hugging helps to bridge the gap between what happens in the bedroom and what happens in day-to-day life. It maintains the intimacy that occurs when making love, and ensures that partners feel emotionally connected to each other.(34)

A study reported in the Daily Mail suggested that hugs are more important for a couple’s happiness than sex. The article notes that hugging provides many benefits including stimulating our touch centres and our olfactory centres (the part of our brain responsible for smell). This is why smell and touch of our partner makes us feel loved and cared for.(35)

Hugs also provide a form of communication separate from sex, which allows couples to feel close without draining their energy. When couples touch, they let down their guard and feel love and acceptance towards their partner. Touching and hugging is the best way to maintain a strong emotional bond and connection.(36)

15. Hugs Improve Self Esteem

Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. Touch and smell are the two most important senses in infants, and a baby recognises its parent by touch. From the time we are born, our family’s touch shows us that we are special and loved.

A young child’s brain needs a lot of stimulation to grow and develop. Physical touch is one of the most important stimulations that can facilitate child development.

This is demonstrated in observations of Infants in eastern european orphanages that that limited physical contact. They usually suffered from impaired growth and cognitive development.

Researchers have found that when institutionalised infants received an average of twenty minutes of touch a day for ten weeks, they subsequently scored higher on developmental assessments.(37)

This association between self-worth and touch remains embedded within our nervous system as adults. Hugs remind us of the affection we received as babies, and therefore connect us to our ability to self-love.(38)

Bottom line: Hugging contributes to childhood development of self esteem and self love which affects us later in life.

16. Hugging Causes Muscles to Relax

If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how relaxed it can make you feel. This is not just a mental sensation: massage causes muscles to unclench, the heart rate to slow and cortisol levels to drop. Once that happens your body is able to relax and recharge, resulting in a happier emotional state and a heightened immune system.

(39)

Oxytocin, which is released into the bloodstream while hugging, helps the body to repair muscles more quickly. It does this by enabling fat in the body to be converted into energy and used for muscle repair.(40) Healthy levels of oxytocin lead to better energy conversion, and therefore better muscle repair and muscle growth.

Bottom line: Hugs cause muscles to relax and helps to repair them more quickly.

17. Hugs Increase Empathy and Understanding

Oxytocin has other benefits too. When oxytocin is released into the body, it produces a feeling of empathy.

A study conducted by Jorge A. Barraza and Paul J. Zak tested the effects of oxytocin on one hundred and forty five college students from UCLA. The students were randomly divided into three groups; one group watched an emotional video and played an ultimatum game which consisted of offering to share a fixed sum of money; the second group watched a control video and played an ultimatum game; and the third group only watched an emotional video.

The results showed that watching the emotional video increased oxytocin levels by forty seven percent. Consequently the participants experienced a change in empathy levels, as demonstrated in greater generosity during the ultimatum game.(41)

The study illustrated how oxytocin increases empathy, even between total strangers. Just by hugging someone, oxytocin is released into the brain, triggering a feeling of empathy in our brains.

Bottom line: Hugging increases our empathy for others and helps social interaction.

18. Hugs Increase Happiness

A UCLA study of 236 people in 2011 showed that raised levels of oxytocin promote optimism and self esteem. This result has important implications, because it means that we can, in effect, influence the genes we were born with and change the way we interact within society.

For example, we may have genes that make us more susceptible to depression, but the way we feel can be influenced by external actions, such as hugging.

As we hug and release oxytocin, our ‘happiness scale’ is raised. In fact, studies estimate that fifty percent of our happiness is genetic, ten percent is affected by our environment, and forty percent is determined by how we are nurtured.(42)

In a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, students were divided into two groups. The first group was instructed to give or receive a minimum of five hugs a day over the course of four weeks. They had to hug as many different people as possible, and record the details. The second group, the control group, was instructed to record the number of hours they read each day, for four weeks.

At the end of four weeks, the hugging group had hugged an average of forty nine times each and reported being much happier. Unsurprisingly, the reading group reported no changes.(43)

Bottom line: Hugging increases our ability to control our feelings and generates happiness.

19. Hugs Are Great for Your Sex Life

Researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga tested the correlation between post-sex affectionate behaviour (kissing, cuddling and talking) and sexual and relationship satisfaction. The two part study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, used an online survey of 335 individuals, and a twenty one day survey of 101 couples.

In the online survey, participants reported that on average they engaged in affectionate behaviour after sex for a period of approximately fifteen minutes. Couples in the second study were then asked to cuddle for longer than this period of time.

The study concluded that couples who spent extra time together felt more satisfied with their sex lives and with their relationship. This level of satisfaction remained consistently higher, even three months after the original survey, indicating that taking time to share intimacy after sex reaffirms the emotional and sexual bond between a couple and makes it stronger.(44)

Bottom line: Hugging increases intimacy and improves your sex life.

20. Hugs Teach Us to Give and Receive

Hugging is a reciprocal act; we give and we receive. In hugging we recognise that there is equal value in giving and being receptive to comfort and warmth.

Hugs show us that love flows both ways. When we hug someone we are opening ourselves up to their energy field, and building a relationship of trust.

In India, Amma, one of India’s foremost spiritual leaders, has embraced and comforted more than 34 million people. Through her hugs, Amma inspires, uplifts and transforms people. When asked where she gets the energy to help so many people, Amma says that everything is effortless if there is true love. Her followers say that her hugs give them comfort, clarity and a sense of calm.(45)

Bottom line: Hugging is a reciprocal act that allows us to give and and receive comfort.

Virginia Satir, a famous psychologist, once said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance, and twelve hugs for growth.(46) Now that you have the scientific proof of all the amazing benefits that hugging can provide, don’t delay – start hugging today!

10 Hugging Tips

Here are 10 tips to help you give and receive great hugs:

1. Make eye contact

  • The eyes serve as the focal point of the body.
  • People who maintain eye contact are perceived as more reliable, warm, sociable and honest.(47)
  • Eye contact opens the channels for non verbal communication.

2. Approach slowly

  • Once eye contact has been made, wait for a signal which indicates that the hug will be accepted.
  • If the signal is given, approach slowly, allowing the other person time to move into the embrace.
  • Sometimes hand clasping, or arm grabbing happens before a hug; that’s fine too.

3. Read body language

  • Make sure that the person you are hugging is ready to accept physical contact with you.
  • Hug only when the person you want to hug extends his or her arms. If the person doesn’t look like he or she is preparing to hug you, then don’t force it. Lower your arms and try to back off gracefully.

4. Open your arms

  • The act of hugging makes us vulnerable. As you open your arms you expose your heart and chest to the person in front of you.
  • Opening your arms shows that you are willing to take the risk and allow someone else into your personal space.

5. Take a Deep Breath

  • Once the hug has begun, take a deep breath.
  • This allows the two bodies to synchronise to each other’s breathing and relax.

6. Lean Into the Hug

  • Many people nowadays practice the ‘tent hug’, whereby their tupper bodies touch briefly, but their lower halves maintain a distance. This type of hug does not give the benefits that full body contact does.
  • When our bodies make full contact, out chakras all line up and energise each other.
  • Without making the other person uncomfortable, lean your body into the hug and make contact.

7. Use a light touch to start

  • Different people have different comfort levels with touch and personal space. For this reason it is important to approach the hug gently.
  • Avoid hugging the person too tightly. The best way to judge how tightly or loosely to hug is to let whomever you’re hugging indicate what they want by how hard they squeeze. If they are soft, be soft back; if they like bear hugs and squeeze tightly, hug back the same way.

8. Be Genuine

  • Don’t expect anything from a hug other than a shared moment of warmth and bonding.
  • Unless stated otherwise, a hug is just a hug, and means nothing more.
  • Hug with genuine intent to share yourself and make the other person feel better, and your hug will likely be welcomed and appreciated.
  • If either of you requested the hug, then make the person you’re hugging feel safe. Act as though the two of you are the only people who matter at the moment.
  • Most people appreciate a good hug. If you are genuine and comforting in your hugs, people will notice.

9. Hold the Hug

  • Hold the hug for at least 20 seconds before letting go.
  • Research has shown that this is the minimum amount of time for emotional and physical benefits of hugs to start working.
  • A hug is a powerful way to communicate that you care for another person, so ending the hug too soon can make both of you feel awkward.

10. Release gradually

  • Once you feel that it’s time to end the hug, disengage gently.
  • Most of the time this release occurs without any verbal cues, and is understood by both people.
  • If your partner is someone close to you, often the hug transits into stroking the arms or hands, or smiling.
  • Enjoy the feel good benefits of your hug!
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How to Know When to Post https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/post/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/post/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 13:00:45 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8275 Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles

Social media is becoming one of the most popular marketing tools around. No wonder because it’s efficient and cost-effective. Virtually every demographic is using some sort of social media making it the best new thing since the TV ad. It can help your business engage with your customers and build brand identity.

The question is when and how frequently should you post? There is no simple answer, social media management is complicated. If you aren’t posting your content at the right time or frequency, all the energy you used to craft a witty tweet or create the perfect Instagram photo could go to waste. The answer is unique for every business, however there are a few general rules that you can follow to help optimize your use of social media and connect with your audience.

Knowledge is Power: Do some Research

When writing a social media plan, you first need to do some research. Take the time to get to know your customers social media habits. Who is your target audience? If you are a local coffee shop, you are probably trying to drive business in the morning, afternoon, and weekends. Your customers in the morning are interested in grabbing a pick-me-up before work. Most likely, they have a smartphone and check their social media channels soon after they wake up. Posting to Facebook in the morning about the delicious new coffee special and scone you have available could give your potential customer the right push to walk in your café.

Timing is Everything: Be Consistent and Optimize

As social media has exploded across the inter-web, so have the tools to help optimize it. Hootsuite and TweetDeck give you the opportunity to schedule posts ahead of time. These tools free up time and ensure that the timing of your posts stays consistent. Followerwonk is a twitter analytics tool that you can use to help schedule and determine the frequency of your tweets to optimize your effect. It gives your business powerful insights about your followers habits and when the most effective time to post new tweets.

As a general rule of thumb follow these rules:

Facebook: Less is definitely more. 1-2 posts per day, spaced out over the day. Some businesses have found better engagement by posting even less often: 3-4 times a week. Experiment with what works for your audience.

LinkedIn: 1-3 posts per week; some businesses up to 5.

Pinterest : Don’t “pin dump;” either schedule pins with Pingraphy or pin in groups of at most 5-7 at a time.

Instagram: Several photos spaced several hours apart over the day; no more than 2 photos in a row

Twitter: More frequent is better, but never all at once: 5 tweets spread out over the day as opposed to 5 tweets 
within 10 minutes.

Google+: Refer to Facebook.

Monitor: Get the Most out of your Post

Writing good blogs or status updates are only affective if your audience is seeing them. As a small business you need to use the tools at your disposal to monitor the effect your social media efforts are having on your business. Checking the response level from consumers is good; you can do this by monitoring your SEO efforts and by using tools like Followerwonk. The overall goal is to check what’s working and alter anything that isn’t.

Again, each business is as unique as your target customer base. Take the time to learn as much as you can. Knowing when the best time to post for your business on each social media platform can drastically impact your social media efforts. Follow the general rules for each platform to ensure that you aren’t overwhelming, or underwhelming, your audience with content.

For more information about when to post check out the following link: Fast Company – How often to Post on Social Media

Jamie

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There Is Such a Thing As An Opportune Moment https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/opportune-moment/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/opportune-moment/#respond Tue, 09 May 2017 13:00:11 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8272 Image courtesy of Pixabay and teresamcgregor

Image courtesy of Pixabay and teresamcgregor

One of the greatest questions that has come about as the use of social media and digital marketing has progressively grown…. “When should I be posting this?” You want to reach your target market and provide them with your content, but when are they online? Will they actually see my post, e-newsletter, or blog article if I post it now or should I wait until later? Is this another one of the posts that will get lost in the digital world? What is the opportune send time?

Fortunately for us, there are some great tools that various platforms have provided that can help us to better understand our target market. For example, Facebook Business Pages’ have a thing called “Insights” that provide us with information such as “likes, comments, and shares”,  “hide, report as spam, and unlikes”, and “post reach.” When you dive in a little deeper, you will see that not only does it provide you with an overview, but it can break these categories down by day. By clicking on “Posts,” you can see the peak times of the day to post that your fans are online.

Your e-newsletter platforms will, also, have a similar analytic function that will help you to better understand the opportune moment to send out your e-newsletter. Let’s say for the first month of sending out your e-newsletter, you try Tuesday’s at 7pm. The analytics section of your e-newsletter platform will provide you with information such as “open rates,” “click through rates,” etc. If you take the time to look over the analytics and you see that your open rate is rather low in comparison to the number of e-newsletter subscribers your letter went out to, you may want to reconsider the time and day you are sending. Put yourself in the minds of your audience. If you are targeting stay at home moms, you aren’t going to send out your e-newsletter at 6pm during the week as they are taking care of kids. If you were in their shoes, when would you most likely see e-newsletter?

However, it is important to note that for every industry, there is a different standard! Not every industry should be posting at the same time. Audiences of each industry are online at different times. Not every industry will have the same open rate percentage.

Analytics tools can seem intimidating at first, but they can be extremely helpful to your business. Learn how to use them through tutorials online or through navigating through them yourself. Or… ask a friend! Understanding your audience and the best time of day to reach them is crucial to the effectiveness of your online communication efforts!

Jamie

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What Your Digital Marketing Campaign Is Lacking https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/digital-marketing-campaign-lacking/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/digital-marketing-campaign-lacking/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 12:31:36 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=19233 Ecommerce is quickly supplanting brick and mortar retail. Ecommerce has grown to eight percent of all retail sales. While this may not seem like a lot, given proper context, it’s actually a massive amount of overall sales. Ecommerce retail sales will grow to $1.915 trillion by the year 2020.

The trend is clear, and businesses will be losing a lot of money if they don’t try to court the digital marketplace. However, digital marketing can be markedly different from traditional marketing strategies. There are a lot of different factors you have to consider if you want to successfully market your product to consumers online. With that in mind, here are a few things your digital marketing campaign may be lacking if it fails to produce results.

You’re Not Tracking the Right Metrics

Some companies just dump ads and marketing materials onto the net haphazardly and expect to see some kind of tangible result. In almost all cases, this is surely a waste of money. Instead, you need to be closely tracking your success. One of the great things about the internet is you have the ability to track the success of a marketing campaign far more closely than with traditional advertising platforms. There is of course no way to tell how many people listened to a radio ad. The only way you can get a close guess to the success of such an ad is to randomly survey radio listeners. That of course means spending even more money with little in return.

With the internet, on the other hand, closely tracking your progress is very possible. However, what metrics should you track? One of the most common is the click-through rate. This is the percentage of people who saw an ad loaded on their computer that actually clicked on the link to reach the website. The click-through rate, though, doesn’t tell you how many people that clicked on the ad went on to make a purchase. For that, you also need the conversion rate. An extremely effective conversion rate is generally over 5 percent. Make sure you are tracking multiple different metrics to measure the success of your digital ads.

You’re Not Learning How to Improve Your Campaign

If those performance indicators show there is room for improvement, tracking such metrics is of course useless if you don’t actually use the data to make substantive changes to your ads and campaign. There’s only a point to collecting such data if it’s used as part of executive assessment. Try to parse the data and find out what lessons you can take from it. For example, a certain landing page may draw in the lion’s share of conversions compared to a certain other landing page. Obviously, one is more effective for a reason. Make adjustments on that page to increase conversions.

Alternatively, you may find you are only receiving conversions from internet users from certain geographic areas. This may be a good reason to alter your campaign to better target the demographic you want to court. Alternatively, it could help you fine tune your marketing to better reach the customers you are drawing in from that location.

Your Campaign Lacks the Human Touch

Whether online or off, advertisements and marketing campaigns that lack the human element and come off as cold or sterile are rarely successful. Just because you are marketing in the digital realm does not mean you should forget to include the human element as well. One great way to do this is with social media outreach in which you can interact directly with individual consumers. Over 80 percent of the US population has a social media account.

Digital marketing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of effort, planning and strategy. However, the rewards you can reap from a successful campaign are massive. Investigate different ways to improve the effectiveness of your digital marketing campaigns.

Lewis Robinson is a business consultant specializing in digital media and sales.  He’s begun multiple corporations and currently freelances as a writer and personal consultant.

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What You Say Isn’t as Important as How You Say It https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/what-you-say-isnt-as-important-as-how-you-say-it/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/what-you-say-isnt-as-important-as-how-you-say-it/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:00:15 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8271 Image courtesy of Pixabay and jarmoluk

Image courtesy of Pixabay and jarmoluk

Capturing your audiences’ attention and keeping it is harder than ever before. With countless social media platforms, smart phone apps, and cat videos, consumers today are never far from entertainment. The average attention span for a US adult in 2013 was 8 seconds. To put this number into perspective, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. Over the last 13 years, Americans have reduced their attention span by 4 seconds according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This means that as a small business, the content you produce and messages you send have to engage your audience immediately.

When creating content, the first step is to know who your audience is. If you are a restaurant writing for foodies, it’s probably ill advised to suddenly go off on a tangent and talk about motor cross. You’ve got to give the people what they want. Giving your audience the topics they want isn’t necessarily the hard part. Crafting your content in the right way is where it gets tricky.

Establish a Voice

When creating a blog post or twitter status, your company needs to create an active voice that is true to the brand (i.e. your brand voice). Getting back to the restaurant analogy, if you are writing a blog about creating a decadent cake or a scrumptious cocktail, both posts need to have the same style of writing, tone, and format. This level of consistency is key to maintaining your brand identity and followers.

Know your Audience

When creating content, the first step is to know who your audience is. Your followers and consumers are people that are interested in what you have to say. Now that you have their attention, your business needs to be able to keep it. Create content that provides a quality experience and adds value to your audiences’ life. Make sure that topics are relevant and up to date within your given field of expertise. If writing an accounting blog, keep your terminology simple and your tips prevalent. If you are writing for a technology firm, discuss industry trends and what is new in your field.

Presentation

Catchy titles or interesting images are tools you can use to attract your desired audience. Your content may not be the problem, but your presentation might use some work. People are innately drawn to images that relate to them or something they want to know more about. Use high quality images when creating your content. You can either sign up for stock photo services like istockphoto.com or download images for free using flickr. Both of these sites are useful tools that can help you create enticing content that engages your followers.

One of the main goals of content marketing is to engage with your consumers and keep them coming back for more. By using these tips, your business will be able craft content that is appealing and connects with your followers. In your next blog, try using high quality photos, stay true to the voice of your brand and always keep in mind who your audience is. For more tips about blog posts specifically check out:

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/26-tips-for-writing-great-blog-posts/

Mackenzie Priest

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Ease the Growing Pains: Make the Digital Business Shift https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/digital-business-shift/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/digital-business-shift/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 12:27:31 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=15673 Relying on outdated methods to manage and operate a business can become a significant liability when it comes to expansion efforts. Access to the full range of tools and resources that may be required in order grow a business, optimize revenue or expand into new markets is never a consideration that should be taken lightly. Software automation and digital applications that may allow for a more streamlined and flexible workflow process can help to ease the growing pains that businesses commonly experience during an expansion. Creating and implementing processes that may allow for greater flexibility can ensure that businesses are able to adapt themselves more readily to changing circumstances.

Data Analysis Techniques Can Provide Valuable Insight 

Being able to predict the future with greater accuracy can ensure that more effective plans are able to be made. Data analytics are often an essential tool for business expansion, one that may be utilized in order to create a clearer picture of any new trends or developments that may be lurking just over the horizon. Digital tools that may be used in order to sort, access or analyze data and information with superior speed and accuracy may not be an asset that businesses can afford to make due without.

Developing the Right Growth or Expansion Strategy 

Rapid expansion can create a number of unique obstacles and challenges that may require businesses to seek out specific resources in order to overcome. Organizational applications and digital resources that allow multiple employees and departments to communicate more effectively can end up playing a pivotal role in any successful expansion. While poor organization can be an issue even under normal circumstances, struggling to communicate effectively or being unable to sort or access important information in an efficient manner can lead to very serious and costly problems. Businesses would do well to craft a more detailed plan or in-depth strategy that may serve as a road map during expansion efforts or periods of rapid growth.

Finding More Efficient Ways to Manage Financial Resources 

Managing the additional capital and other financial resources that may be needed to ensure a smooth and efficient expansion effort can be more than a little tricky. Digital resources, such as a virtual bookkeeper, financial management applications and software that may be used to automate the accounting process in order to ensure superior accuracy may have a great deal to offer. The scalable nature of many digital financial applications mean that they can be more easily adapted to accommodate growth and expansion that might have been possible for organizations that continue to rely upon conventional accounting practices.m

Providing Staff and Employees With Training and Education 

Professionals who have been improperly trained or poorly prepared to face the challenges that may lay ahead may be hard pressed to guarantee optimal performance. Investing in sophisticated digital analytics or upgrading accounting processes by incorporating the latest digital applications may prove to be of very limited benefit in the event that workers are not fully trained to make use of the tools and resources that they will be provided with. Training and employee education may seem like minor concerns, but they can often make a big difference in ensuring that efforts to expand business operations are less likely to encounter an obstacle or bottleneck that could have been easily prevented.

Ensuring a More Successful Future 

While digital resources and enhanced automation may be valuable tools during periods of growth, the right resources may also be of benefit during routine operations. Avoiding accounting oversights and inaccuracies that may be caused by user error or ensuring that all staff and associates are able to communicate with each other more easily and conveniently can help to optimize internal efficiency. Access to the latest range of digital resources can go a long way towards ensuring that businesses are able to enjoy a brighter, more successful and more financially-secure future.

Lewis Robinson is a business consultant specializing in digital media and sales.  He’s begun multiple corporations and currently freelances as a writer and personal consultant.

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Here’s What to Expect With Your E-Newsletter https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/expect-enewsletter/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/expect-enewsletter/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:00:54 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8270 newsletterEmail newsletters (e-newsletters) are a great way to share your information with your subscribers. However, as regular email users know, emails can be ignored, marked as spam, or deleted altogether. It is important to regularly monitor different averages of your e-newsletter including click-thru rates, open- rates, unsubscribe rates, and marked as spam rates.

Let’s start by defining each of the above rates-

Click-thru rates (CTR): “A way of measuring the success of an online advertising campaign for a particular website as well as the effectiveness of an email campaign by the number of users that clicked on a specific link.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Click-through_rate)

Put more simply, the number of times users click on a link that you have provided, which in the case of an e-newsletter would be a link that you have included within that letter. This can be calculated by dividing the number of click-thrus by the number of e-newsletters delivered.

Open rates: “Open rate is a measure of how many people on an email list open (or view) a particular email campaign. The open rate is normally expressed as a percentage, and we calculate it as follows:
Open rate= emails opened / (emails sent-bounced).    (http://help.campaignmonitor.com/topic.aspx?t=89)

Unsubscribe rates: The percentage of unsubscribes that occurred in response to each e-newsletter sent. This can be calculated by dividing the number of unsubscribes by the number of messages delivered.

Marked as spam rates: The percentages of messages marked as spam from all the e-newsletters that were delivered.

What is a good percentage for each rate?

The average rates for the above factors are dependent upon the industry of the business sending out the e-newsletter. For example, if you refer to MailChimp’s “Average Email Campaign of MailChimp Customers by Industry,” you will see that the rates fluctuate in each category.

Constant Contact has, also, provided a break down of the various rates by industry based off research of Constant Contact customers. They have, also, provided information on how to improve the rates and reasons why your rates may be the way they are.

However, there are averages for open rates and unsubscribe rates-

Open rates: According to MailJet.com, “Opened” rate is calculated by taking into account all the emails that are accepted and read by the recipient. Generally speaking, a good range of “Open” rate is between 15% and 25% for marketing emails and minimum of 30% and average of 40% for transactional emails.

To read more: https://www.mailjet.com/support/what-is-a-normal-open-rate,83.htm

Unsubscribe rates: According to MailJet.com, “An unsubscribe rate of less than 1% means you are within industry norm. The only exception is when you send your email to new lists because these tend to generate a higher unsubscribe rate than former emailed lists. However, the industry where you belong also plays a major factor. Overall, a good unsubscribe rate is below 0.5%.”

To read more: https://www.mailjet.com/support/what-is-a-good-unsubscribe-rate,77.htm

Take the opportunity to review and analyze the statistics of your e-newsletter from last month. Try out something new this month with your e-newsletter such as a unique, audience capturing subject line and see if any of your rates change for the better. Let us know if you see any changes to your next months e-newsletter statistics!

-Jamie

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Social Media: Building Brands and Business https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/social-media-building-brands-business/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/social-media-building-brands-business/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:00:00 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8269 Social media has changed the company we keep and the way we communicate with one another. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have taken social networking to the next level. Friends and family can stay in touch like never before. From a business perspective, social media is a powerful tool not only for promotion, but also building brand identity and community. With the rapid fire pace of our digital world, communicating your brand on social media platforms is more necessary than ever.

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Barni1

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Barni1

There is a simple formula that your business can use to positively promote itself:

Listen + Engage + Test = Success

OK, in all honesty… it’s not as simple as it seems. Listening to what your customers want and need while engaging with them creatively is much easier said than done. Testing how your customers are responding to your brand is slightly easier but we’ll get to that later. For now, here is some sound advice when trying to promote your brand on social media.

Build Trust

Build trust and a community of users by being actively engaged and responsive. If a customer has a question or needs assistance with something, quickly responding over social media outlets lets them know you are there to support them. This kind of response lets your customers know that you offer great, on the spot, customer service. This level of service can give your brand an edge by building loyalty and a sense of community.

Humanize your Brand

Social media can humanize a brand and give it a personality. Developing a personality that compliments your brand image is extremely important. If a business has more of a laid-back company culture, using humor or relaxed content is appropriate. If you are a more serious and highly professionally company, humor probably isn’t the best way to go. The goal is to develop a voice that is true to your brand but also engaging with your consumers. Social media doesn’t need to just be a platform for promotion but also personal interaction.

Content is king, keeping it relevant is the Queen.

Content is always referred to as one of the core components of social media. It’s what attracts your followers and keeps them coming back for more. Attention spans are limited to seconds in this day and age; staying creative and informative can keep your customers connected to your brand. Establishing a good reputation with your customers can have a trickle down effect generating new connections with potential clients and business partners. Remember to replicate successful tactics but also continue experimenting. Balancing your content is key; aim to post relevant articles, high quality pictures, and creative text about what’s new with your company.

Engage

Social media can be highly effective when used to your advantage. Platforms allow users to engage directly with brands and promote what they like. The overall goal is to have audience participation and reciprocation. Gaining followers only goes so far; actively engaging with them keeps your brand alive, fresh, and interesting. Contribute, somehow, to your follower’s lives, post relevant information that is connected to the industry you work within and/ or the world. Directly responding to questions or re-tweeting with followers are simple engagement tools that can take your customer interactions to the next level.

Test your impact

The more you know about the return on your social media the better. Sometimes, it’s easy to see how your social media tactics are impacting your business. If you have a surge in purchases and followers, a correlation could be made. However, pinpointing when the best times to post are and what content is getting the best buzz requires more effort. Thankfully using tools like Crowdbooster and Argyle Social can help break down and test the effect of your social media activity. Both are social media measurement tools that can tell you your engagement levels overtime and even how much bang you are getting for your buck.

Brand building on social media can establish a voice for your brand and trust with your customers. Building brand awareness and loyalty can strengthen your company’s position within your industry. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new interactive ideas and keep the conversation about your company alive and thriving. For more information about how to use social media to promote your brand check out the following links:

Clever Ways to Use Social Media to Grow Your Business by Jure

Manage Your Social Media With These Top Tools by Content Marketing Institute

-Mackenzie Priest

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Keeping Up With The Changing Times https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/marketing-tips/keeping-changing-times/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/marketing-tips/keeping-changing-times/#respond Tue, 14 Mar 2017 13:00:47 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8268 DSC_0548Remember the days of MySpace and when they added the “Top 8 Friends” and music playing capabilities? Social media platforms constantly evolve as time goes on. From new designs to new layouts to new features, staying on top of what is new in the social media realm can be time consuming and frustrating. Finding the information and help you need to educate yourself on the changing platforms is key to remaining on the rise of the latest trend.

We have all signed on to one of our many social media accounts and realized something was different. “They changed this” or “They changed that!” or, my personal favorite, “I just got used to the last update!” So, we ask ourselves, how can you keep up with the changing times of social media?

1) Websites:

There are a few websites that provide the latest news in social media including the most recent changes. Once you get to the website, you can either search the topic or you may see the topic at the top of the page.

2) DIY:

One of the best ways to learn about how the recently updated platform works… Do it yourself. You have problem heard about the recent change via a friend, colleague or family member via social media, anyways. Take some time to explore the website and educate yourself on the changes.

3) The platform itself:

Since there are so many people using social media, the platforms themselves have begun to use instructional videos or step-by-step click through instructions for users to navigate through.

4) Ask a professional:

There are people out there that are considered professionals in the field of social media. Take some time to research someone who could help you with the changes. It could even be a blog article that someone has written! Which leads us to #5.

5) Search Engine it

: Google, Bing, Yahoo… If you see a change on a social media platform, try typing in “[Platform name] recent change.” Chances are you will be led to a blog article, a professional in the field, or one of the above websites regarding the topic you are looking for. Explore a few of the top options and you will find the answers to your every question.

Social media changes regularly! The platforms that we have come to know, love, and use regularly go through changes very rapidly. What’s the latest update you have seen on one of the social media platforms?

-Bren

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The What, When, Where and How of Successful Business Communications https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/successful-business-communications/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/successful-business-communications/#respond Tue, 28 Feb 2017 14:00:30 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8267 Image courtesy of Pixabay and FirmBee

Image courtesy of Pixabay and FirmBee

Having a good communication strategy is one of the biggest factors affecting the success of your business. The ability to communicate, and communicate well, can make the difference between success and failure. You may be at the forefront of your field and blow doors off your competition, but struggling to effectively promote your business or communicate with clients can shortchange your company’s potential.

When communicating with business partners and clients, the What, When, Where and How are powerful forces. Knowing what communication method and style to use and or when to use them is essential to effectively growing your business. Knowing your company’s voice and communicating it are two very different things. To keep your communication dynamic and effective, here are a few points to consider:

What: Consistency and Clarity Never Hurt Anybody

Keeping your communication consistent in manor, timing, and method is an effective way to build a positive reputation for your company. Everyone is busy with millions of matters calling their attention. When responding to a question or contacting a client, be clear, and concise. Clearly and simply defining the information you need reduces confusion on both ends of the conversation. Being clearly defining the information you need also lets your clients and business partners know that you respect and value their time.

When: Timing Is Everything

Set a time that you send out response emails everyday and inform your clients when to expect answers. With the amount of email communication that your business receives, it is easy to fall behind or miss messages all together. When entering business with a new client or working with a new partner, make it clear that you respond to emails, phone calls, texts, etc. within certain timeframes. Even if you are not able to fully answer a question or gather requested information, make sure to respond to your client with a message that lets them know when they can expect it. Staying within a routine like this can help you maintain consistency and stay on top of your work agenda.

Where: Know the Right Method

With all of the different channels of communication available, designating the right method of communication is key. Clients and business partners will prefer to communicate in different ways. Emails and phone calls are still widely considered the most professional methods. However, with the advent of smartphones and social media platforms, the boundaries of communication have become blurred. As a rule of thumb, always discuss the preferred method of communication with your client. Email could be the best for some and text messages for others. Consistently using the same form of communication method with a particular business partner is important. Respecting the communication style of your clients and colleagues can ensure that they walk away with a good impression of you and your business.

How: Be True to Your Brand

The style of your communication is a direct reflection on your business. Timing and method aside, you still need to make sure that the style of your communication is true to your company. Make sure that you are sincere with your clients and business partners about business dealings. Whether working B2B or B2C, make sure that the culture of your company is reflected in the best possible way. Maintain professional communication language and never forget the importance of following-up. Following-up with your clients after a project is completed helps maintain a relationship and encourage them to use your services again.

These practices can help you maintain your brand equity and foster a positive image for you company. Word of mouth is still very important and plays a role in helping your business grow. Making sure that your communication strategies reflect your business in the best way can help drive new business and maintain clients. For more information on effective business communication skills and strategies, check out the following links:

http://catalog.flatworldknowledge.com/bookhub/reader/15?e=mclean-ch01_s01

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/223/business_and_finance/successful_business_communication.html

http://www.noupe.com/how-tos/12-secrets-of-effective-business-communication.html

-Jamie

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Guest Blogging: Adding to the Mix https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/guest-blogging-adding-mix/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/guest-blogging-adding-mix/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:00:13 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8266 Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Ambro

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Ambro

You may already have in place a communications plan. In that plan, you may have already established what blog articles you are going to post and when. However, you may have someone interested in guest blogging or you may have come up with a new idea for an article that wasn’t scheduled in your plan. Now you are thinking to yourself… “What should we do? Do we change our plan? Do we not allow guest blogging?” We have some ideas for you.

First of all, it’s ok to change the plan!

The articles that you thought you wanted to publish at the creation of your plan may not be relevant anymore. Replace some of the articles within your established plan with a guest blog or one of your new ideas.

Second, create features!

You don’t have to change from your plan other than adding an additional blog on a specified day. For example, we had a client who halfway through the year started to receive requests for guest blogs. Instead of replacing the blog ideas set forth in their communication plan, they simply added these guest posts as features published on Thursdays of each week.

Third, occasionally publish an additional blog!

When you do this, be sure to let your followers on social media know. Announce the special publication and link to the blog itself on each platform. Your content is valuable and your regular readers will be excited to see an additional blog post that week or month. You may have attended an event you want to write about, had an idea for a blog you didn’t consider before, something new within your field may have happened, or a guest blog is too good to pass up. Just promote it on any platform possible.

Finally, and most importantly, if you have set a schedule for posting, don’t change from it!

You can add posts throughout the week but don’t forget to post. Luckily, some blog platforms let you schedule out your blogs in advance. Once you have set a routine, don’t confuse your readers by not publishing.

Having new content to blog about is never a bad thing. Finding ways to publish that content may seem difficult at first, but there are ways to do it. Don’t be afraid to publish more information than you had originally planned. It is when you don’t have enough information to publish that you should reevaluate your communications blogging plan.

Take a look at your blogging plan to see if an upcoming blog is no longer relevant or could be replaced with different content. Happy blogging!

-Jamie

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The “New” Social Media: Voice of the people or a place to connect? https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/social-media-voice-of-the-people-place-connect/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/social-media-voice-of-the-people-place-connect/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2017 15:44:43 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=14787 Is social media now the voice of the people or still a place to (low-key) connect?

Everywhere I turn these days, I am face-to-face with opinion, with advertising, news and media stories, joisting, cries for attention, vocalizing, hateful lashing out or the ever-mocked baby animals.

It seems social media has risen up in the era of technology to be a platform for expressing ourselves, for rallying, raising our voices and demanding to be heard. Yes, we still connect here. We have groups and hashtags and keywords that link us together, but it is still technology offering up a megaphone to those who’ll listen.

Recently, social media hasn’t been the only place we are convening as a society. We are protesting in massive numbers all across the world. We are marching, rioting, joining causes and collectively raising our hands against the things that violate us, hurt us or that we believe hurt others. And sometimes, we are doing it just to be included in something bigger than us. It doesn’t hurt us, or others – we just want to stand for something.

There is so much division around us that conversation has become tricky, virtual and in real life. No matter where I stand on an issue, my words have the potential of being misheard, misused, misunderstood. We all feel divided, violated, mistreated in some way or another, it seems.

As a professional who has always been intrigued and fascinated by how people communicate, and why they make decisions, and having chosen the marketing industry to make my living I am facing a division of my own. Social media has lost its appeal for me personally.

Has it lost you, too?

Are you wondering if it even matters for you and your business to attempt to break through the noise during this loud season?

Whether you answer yes and you are hibernating from Facebook, Twitter or the throngs of other social platforms – or you answer ‘no’ and you are still there, we are all facing the same information in our feeds and questions about what we’re doing. And no matter how many people we block, unfollow, “see less of”, turn down, turn off or unfriend – it’s still there.

“The sleeping giants have awakened,” as a friend said yesterday.

But I want to be there with you, to laugh with you, wish you congratulations, to support you, to understand and know what is happening in your life personally. So I am wrestling with my own desire to connect with all my family, long-time friends, clients, colleagues and associates, and NOT be bombarded by the division, the hate, the foul language and destruction and… and… and…

And yes. Those who do speak up are often doing that for those who don’t or won’t. Yes, there is value in peacefully and respectfully standing for what we believe. For teaching and lighting a path of awareness and understanding about what violates us and what we believe is right and what is wrong.

What violates me, you ask? Disunity.

At my core, I long for people to come together and even if they have different opinions, to love one another anyway. Not superficially. Wholly and without wanting something in return.

I long for respect and honor.

I ache for closeness and connection.

For joy and peace and patience and kindness.

I crave positive, respectful, kind, mutually uplifting, professional, non passive aggressive communication.

But everywhere I turn online, on TV, on the radio, on my phone – I see the opposite.

And I have to wonder. If I am as turned off by all of this as I am – there MUST be others.

So, from my professional standpoint, those of us who are turned off, who are making the choices to “not go there”, not participate in it, stay away from Facebook and Twitter and [fill in the blank] – are looking for encouragement, togetherness and peace from all the noise.

And those that are there, vocally standing up and rallying the troops, aren’t looking for services, products, business. We are looking for a place to be heard, to be seen, to be acknowledged.

So, a valuable lesson results…

Whatever your business plan is, whatever reason you believe your business must be on social media, whatever you are selling to the masses – do it strategically today.

Lift up inspiring conversation and be a positive force in your world of influence. Let the cream rise to the top and watch your world of business change around you.

We all have a choice. We choose what to believe, what to listen to, what to say, who to associate with, and even who we work with. We live in a country that allows us those freedoms.

If you are miserable and downtrodden, if you are disheartened and discouraged – hear this… You are not alone. I and so many others have been too. So start a conversation that brings light, hope and encouragement.

I am choosing to surround myself with those who are respectful and honorable, and who are joyful, peaceful, patient and kind. Those that choose not to slander, use vulgar language or distasteful imagery just to prove a point or to be noticed. Those that are kind and who have gentle words of life.

We all choose.

I choose who I spend time with, what I listen to and what I believe… and I believe disunity will bring death. But where there is unity, there is life – there is blessing. And where there is disunity…

Be encouraged today that you have the ability to turn off the TV and the radio, to read and research and learn for yourself before jumping on a bandwagon, and to turn off the social noise. You have the ability to encourage others, to provide better care, better service, and better products to a world that is hurting and needs to be comforted and understood.

And even if your audience slows or shortens – stay confident and go gently and joyfully. Your gentleness will be a magnet that will attract those you are meant to work with and be surrounded by.

There is light. Be the light your life needs and you will attract others like you.

]]> https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/social-media-voice-of-the-people-place-connect/feed/ 0 The 5 Ingredients of a Successful E-Newsletter https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/5-ingredients-successful-enewsletter/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/5-ingredients-successful-enewsletter/#respond Tue, 24 Jan 2017 14:00:12 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8265 Image courtesy of Pixabay and Hans

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Hans

We have all received an e-newsletter or two in our time on the Internet. We may have even sent an e-newsletter or two in our time on the Internet. What ingredients have the e-newsletters that you have seen or sent had that made them a successful e-newsletter?

We all know that our e-newsletters must be relevant to our brand, provide content, and reach your audience. But, the ingredients of a successful e-newsletter go beyond just the “known” attributes of an e-newsletter. 5 ingredients of a successful e-newsletter that we have identified include:

1) Having the right list:

It sounds simple and almost a no-brainer, but having the right list is crucial to a successful e-newsletter. You must regularly manage your list of e-newsletter recipients. Some may have asked to be included, others may have asked to be removed, or you have the wrong list altogether! You may even have the wrong email addresses for certain people. All of these possibilities can be a detriment to the click through rate, as well as the success, or your e-newsletter.

2) Provide interesting content:

Although we may not have a lot of time to come up with creative content for our e-newsletters that would capture the attention of our readers, we can provide them with interesting content. Take the time needed to do some research or put together some interesting content for your readers. They will be more likely to continue to read your future e-newsletters or share them with their friends, family, and colleagues.

3) Provide relevant content:

It is ok to provide some fun content on your e-newsletters, but try to remain as relevant to your business as possible. The content you are sending out should be about your business or the industry your business is within.

4) Know the time you should send:

Whether it be from analytics, past experience, or research, knowing what time you should send out your e-newsletters is crucial. Your cliental could be in different time zones, work different hours, etc. Look into when to send your e-newsletter for future success. After you have discovered the appropriate times to send, make sure to regularly post for consistency!

5) Use a catchy subject line:

Do not title your newsletter: [Insert Company Name Here] E-Newsletter May 2014. Yuck! Although it tells you exactly what the email is about, you’re unlikely to catch the attention of your readers. Use something more attention grabbing in your subject line to draw your readers in.

There are many ways to gain success in your e-newsletter. Be informative, but be creative. Keep in mind your audience and don’t lose your brand voice. But, one of the most important ingredients to a successful e-newsletter: PROOFREAD. Receiving an e-newsletter with typo after typo can lead to quickly losing readers.

These 5 ingredients are the puzzle pieces to creating a successful e-newsletter. Have you been successful in your e-newsletters? What have you done to see success?

Bonus- The layout: The layout of your e-newsletter should be aesthetically appealing to the eye. Having a color scheme to match your company’s logo and other branding, don’t crowd information, provide hyperlinks to sections of the newsletter (table of contents), and add tasteful/relevant images. This will draw in your consumers time and time again.

-Jamie

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Better Techniques for Cross-Linking on Your Blog https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/website-strategy/techniques-crosslinking-blog/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/website-strategy/techniques-crosslinking-blog/#respond Tue, 10 Jan 2017 14:00:49 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8264 Screen shot 2014-05-25 at 11.40.23 AMThere are a few essential aspects to a blog: content, keywords/tags, a call to action, and links to relevant websites, articles, or pages. Often times, when you have written a blog, someone has posted a blog with additional information or your company has a relevant article or website page that you want to reference. Linking not only allows your blog readers to follow your links to the respective pages, but it improves your SEO. When cross-linking, you need to keep your readers in mind. Is the link you are supplying relevant to the article or to your readers? Will they be asking “So what?” or “Why is this here?” after you have published your blog? So, what are some better techniques for cross-linking your blog?

1) How do you create a hyperlink:

It is actually very simple! On your blogging website, such as WordPress or Blogger, there should be a button that looks like a link. First, highlight the text that you want your users to click in order to visit a new website or page. Then, click the link button. You will be asked to enter the URL you want to link to from an outside source OR you will be given the ability to link to existing content that is published through your blogging website. Click “Done,” “OK,” or “Update” and your hyperlink is created.

2) Choose the highlighted words wisely:

As mentioned in the previous technique, you MUST choose words to highlight in order to create a hyperlink. Choosing these words is a vital step to SEO success. The words you choose must be relevant to the website you are linking to and your article. For example, we are offering you some techniques on cross-linking your blog. If, I chose to hyperlink on this topic, I would not highlight “As mentioned in the previous technique” to link to a blogging website. Instead, I would hyperlink “Wordpress” or “Blogger” mentioned in the above technique. (Even better… try and use one of your keywords or tags to improve your SEO!)

3) Use a variety of cross-links:

It is a common misconception that when posting a blog, you must always link back to the same page (often your companies website). We recommend refraining from this! Try and add original crosslinks to your every blog. People value new content they may have never seen before.

4) Make it flow:

We have all seen blogs where are the links to mentioned websites appear at the bottom of the post. Instead of this technique, try to add the hyperlinks throughout your post as to make it flow. When you create a hyperlink, you are no longer seeing the URL (http://www.etcetcetc….), but you do see the highlighted words you selected now appearing blue and underlined (this is the link!). If you can incorporate the hyperlinks into your post without disrupting the flow of the article, great! You’re on the right track. Although hyperlinks shared in your blog posts must be relevant, it does not mean they can’t be fun. There are comical or lighthearted videos across the internet that touch on nearly ever topic. You can hyperlink to those if the humor is not crude, vulgar, or damaging to your brand. Consider your audience, but consider your brand image first! So, now that you know a little more about the importance of crosslinking and hyperlinking in your blog posts… revisit some of your past blog articles and try to incorporate some hyperlinks if you haven’t already. Keep in mind the above techniques when doing so!

-Jamie

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What’s So Great About WordPress? https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/website-strategy/great-wordpress/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/website-strategy/great-wordpress/#respond Tue, 27 Dec 2016 14:00:36 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8263 Image courtesy of Pixabay and pixelcreatures

Image courtesy of Pixabay and pixelcreatures

Business communication is a necessary aspect of any successful business. From a company website to blog postings to social media platforms, businesses are publishing more and more content on a regular basis. An easy to use publishing tool that many companies have grown to love is WordPress.

WordPress serves over 60 million people and powers more than 17% of the web. With so many people using WordPress, what’s so great about WordPress?:

1)     It’s a Free Platform:

Everyone likes to save money!

2)     Simple:

It’s user friendly and easy to use. You can start to build your personal website immediately and with ease.

3)     Flexible:

There are many different themes to choose from on the WordPress publishing site. You can choose the one that fits you and your company. (You can even create your own!)

4)     Media Storage:

WordPress has the ability to house your media and gives you the opportunity to edit it. Title it, put a caption, or create a gallery! It’s so easy to upload, too. All you have to do is drag an image in.

5)     Plugins:

WordPress comes with a variety of plugins that can be installed quickly and easily. These include calendars, SEO tools, spam protection, and many more.

6)     Comment Gatherer:

Comments come built-in with WordPress. Manage your comments and engage with your followers!

7)     Search Engine Optimization:

WordPress possess easy to use search engine optimization tools and plugins for further SEO control. WordPress will rate your SEO efforts and tell you where you need to improve according to their color-coded chart.

8)     Scheduling:

WordPress allows you to schedule out your blogs weeks in advance. This saves you and your employees’ valuable time.

9)     Multiple Languages:

WordPress is set up to cater to more than 70 languages.

10)  Support:

With support forums, blogs, and tutorials, users can get the help from the WordPress community.

11)  Mobile Friendly:

WordPress is accessible from anywhere. Apple, Android, and Blackberry all have WordPress applications available!

These are just 11 of the features that WordPress has to offer that make it a great tool for all businesses. Did we miss something that others should know about WordPress? Share it with us!

-Jamie 

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5 Tips to Improve Your E-newsletter Click Through Rate https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/5-tips-improve-enewsletter-click-rate/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/5-tips-improve-enewsletter-click-rate/#respond Tue, 13 Dec 2016 14:00:35 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8262 Image courtesy of Pixabay and Hebi65

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Hebi65

Emails, alerts, and notifications can easily be ignored or overseen. We all have spam blockers through our email accounts that filter our emails on a regular basis. But, as businesses, we use e-newsletters and we want that information to be seen by our consumers. So, how can you improve your e-newsletter click through rate and avoid falling into the “spam” category?

1) Read more teasers:

Give your readers just enough content and add the “Read more” or “Find out more” teaser at the end to make them want to read on. Your subject line should catch their attention and be creative which leads us to….

2) Creative and attention drawing wording

Nothing is worse than getting an email that makes you hear the Charlie Brown teacher in your head. “Wah wah wah” or “Blah blah blah.” You want your readers to continue reading so be creative! Draw them in with creative wording that catches their attention and stands out from all of their other emails. Don’t give away the entire subject of your email or e-newsletter in the subject line. For example, “This is what I am talking about” doesn’t work. Neither does “Insert Subject Here.” Be clever!

3) Mobile friendly formatting

Consumers are using their cell phones or tablets to obtain information more and more. As we all know and have experienced, formatting for a cell phone versus formatting for a computer is VERY different. When sending out your e-newsletter, you need to make sure that it is mobile friendly! If a consumer receives your e-newsletter and it is not formatted to their mobile device, they may not read on.

4) Be relevant and unique

Alright, there may be something worse than receiving an e-newsletter or email that makes you hear that “Wah wah wah” voice in your head. Receiving something from a company that is completely irrelevant to their business would be worse! If you are a marketing company, don’t send out an e-newsletter about accounting. Seems simple, but it happens all too often. Your content should be relevant to you and your consumers. Ask yourself if what you are sending out makes sense to your company! On top of being relevant, be unique. People can go to the internet and find information on nearly every topic possible. Be as unique as possible and include some personality.

5) Manage your sending list

 When’s the last time you went through your sending list? This may be a reason you aren’t seeing success in your click through rate. Make sure email addresses are still valid and that your list includes all those who WANT to receive your e-newsletter.

Bonus: Strategically place your call to action

It needs to stand out! It needs to catch the attention of your readers. It cannot be at the very beginning of your e-newsletter. Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer… Where in the e-newsletter would the call to action make you take action?

-Bren

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Comparative Analysis Between Digital Offices and Traditional Office Spaces https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/comparative-analysis-digital-offices-traditional-office-spaces/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/comparative-analysis-digital-offices-traditional-office-spaces/#respond Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:00:08 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=12956 Our friends over at www.findmyworkspace.com take us on a tour of the differences between digital offices and traditional office spaces.

Twenty years ago, location was the most important factor contributing to a business’ success. An accessible and presentable physical location was absolutely essential. In fact, marketers would warn you to forget about starting your own business if you couldn’t secure a good location for your organization.

Digital offices

Photo via Pixabay

Times have changed since then. Location is still crucial for certain industries (e.g. retail, restaurants, etc.). But there are some types of businesses now that can successfully operate without a physical office. Thus, the terms “digital office” or “virtual office” have been coined.

A virtual office is a business address that exists only in cyberspace. The use of technology such as laptop, cellphones and internet connection allows entrepreneurs and their team to conduct their business from any location. Meetings can be conducted via Skype, Viber, Join.Me or other video conferencing software. Documents can be transmitted via email, Google docs or the use of online team management softwares such as Asana or Basecamp.

This setup provides cost savings and more flexibility to business owners compared to renting a traditional office space.

Some companies even provide the use of a physical address, ideally in a prestigious business location; a receptionist to answer calls and an actual front desk to receive hard copies of documents. Physical office space and conference rooms may be also available for rent, when the occasion calls for it.

Now that we’ve studied a bit of background about virtual offices and how they work, we look at the distinct differences and advantages / disadvantages of a digital office versus a traditional office space.

Costs. Definitely, operating a digital office is much more affordable compared to a traditional office space. This can help you set aside your funds for use in the business or investments. Or you can save the money now and then rent a place in a nice business district, when the time is right.

Digital offices vs. physical office

Photo via Flickr

Renting or leasing a physical office space might require a big chunk of your monthly budget. Contracts usually require a minimum of 6 months to at least one year. For needed equipment and tools, you will need to invest more in a traditional office space for your and your team’s use.

In terms of financial costs, virtual office is the clear winner.

Physical location. Having a physical location can project more trust and credibility with clients and business partners. Your office provides a tangible venue on where you can meet with different people and where you can showcase your company’s vision and products.

Entrepreneurs with no physical office space need to rent a meeting room or meet with clients in coffee shops or restaurants. This means less control on the vibe and privacy of the location. Pictures of your products may not be as appealing as actual product samples that individuals can touch and hold.

For physical location, traditional office spaces hold the upper hand.

Flexibility. Want to work from home? Want to maximize your productive hours while being able to take care of your personal errands too?

digital offices

Photo via Pexels

There is much less fuss in working from a virtual office. It allows you more flexibility on tailoring your working hours (especially when you’re dealing with overseas clients or employees in different time zones) and meeting locations for the client’s convenience. A commute-less working day is a very nice bonus, as you might not have to spend any time in rush hour traffic.

In a physical office, hours are usually less flexible. There’s also a chance that some business partners might find your office location inaccessible or unattractive.

A digital office takes the cake in terms of flexibility.

Culture. Having all employees in one physical workplace can foster better teamwork and camaraderie. This can also strengthen your company identity more than having remote employees you don’t get to interact with personally.

If you are an extrovert who requires a certain dose of human interaction daily, having regular social interactions can improve your work motivation and productivity. If your team is new or fairly new, having a common workspace might be an advantage as you can keep track of your employees’ work output and productivity.

A virtual office with remote team members might be more challenging to manage. You might not get the chance to know the work style of your staff or influence the person’s mindset to fit your desired culture.

If you are dedicated to building your unique organization culture, a traditional office space is the way to go.

In deciding on your office space, which of the above pro’s and con’s are the non-negotiables for you? Only you know what is best for your company. 

Gemma Reeves on Digital OfficesAuthor Bio:

Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business.

Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace

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The Importance of Blogging and Your Brand https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/importance-blogging-brand/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/importance-blogging-brand/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 14:00:24 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8261 Image courtesy of Pixabay and Nemo

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Nemo

Blogs are more than just a way to share information you have learned. They play a big role in brand communication, as well. What you blog must be consistent with what you want your brand to represent. The content you decide to publish on your blog says a lot about your company. You don’t want your readers to be confused about what your business offers, nor do you want your readers to question your content.

When trying to decipher what to publish on your blog, consider how you have defined your company and what you have to offer your consumers. You know your brand better than anyone else. You have defined your brand and its values. This is the content your readers want to see in your blog posts. The content you publish should be relative to your brand. Why post a blog about food recipes when you’re an athletic shoe store? Before posting a blog, ask yourself these questions:

1)     Would my consumers value this information as it pertains to my brand?

2)     Does the content of this blog relate to my brand?

3)     Does this blog align with my company’s values?

4)     Would publishing this blog damage my brand’s name?

Another thing to keep in mind, blog posts are not limited to be shared solely on your company’s website. The articles you publish can then be posted on your social media platforms and pushed to your readers through e-newsletters. By posting your blogs in more than just one area, you are increasing your visibility and, hopefully, engagement with your consumers. If the content is reflective of your brand, consumers will consistently check your social media platforms to find the information they are looking for.

Blogging can be fun! But, blogging is a serious aspect of your brand’s communication efforts so should be taken seriously. If you have any questions about what to blog or blogging in general, feel free to ask us!

-Jamie

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5 Reasons Google Analytics is Your New Best Friend https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/5-reasons-google-analytics-is-your-new-best-friend/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/5-reasons-google-analytics-is-your-new-best-friend/#respond Tue, 08 Nov 2016 14:00:00 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8260 Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and pannawat

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and pannawat

What is Google Analytics?

The term marketing analytics can be intimidating, especially to a small business owner. Google has taken the fear factor out of website performance analysis with their streamlined Google Analytics service. The product collects visitor data for your website and compiles it into a report that offers insights into the habits of your customers.

The Google Analytics service is designed to simplify the way small businesses monitor their online performance and increase their competitive edge all for the wonderful price of FREE.

Why use Google Analytics?

It all starts with the traffic to your website.  Driving traffic to your site is one thing, but understanding it is a whole other endeavor. Websites are accessible 24/7 meaning that potential customers are able to visit your site at any given moment and provide you with important data about their habits.

Google Analytics is a tool that gives you a thorough understanding of your customers’ behaviors. It can tell you when your customers visit your website and how often. Making strategic business decisions is always better when the whole picture is available. This service offers a user-friendly and comprehensive system that any small business can add to their marketing toolbox.

Which metrics should I be looking at?

Google offers some 230 metrics to choose from when creating a custom report. Standard Reporting is the most straightforward and user-friendly option that covers audience, traffic and content report metrics. Every business is different, however the following is a list of the top five metrics that all small businesses can gain useful information from.

1) Audience Location:

This metric reveals the geographical location of your website’s visitors. Using this metric, your small businesses will gain insights for making important decisions in respect to targeting both existing and new markets. This metric may reveal that you are advertising in the right area or that a new emerging market opportunity may exist.

2) Audience Engagement:

This metric shows how effectively you are capturing your audience’s attention. To do this Google analyzes a few key data sets: visitor visit duration, number of page views and number of pages accessed. It is important to note that the content of your website affects the visit duration. For example adding more content and placing calls to action on a page entice visitors to stay longer. This metric can also be used to determine what content is appealing or unappealing to your visitors.

3) Traffic Sources:

Traffic source information can help you devise a strategy to optimize the number of visitors to your site. This report details how many people visited your website and what way they accessed it. The different sources of traffic include search traffic, direct traffic, social media, referrals and organic search. This metric can be very useful when deciding how and where to market your website. Encouraging your target market to visit with the right kind of content and keywords is incredibly important.

4) Organic Search Traffic:

This metric goes hand in hand with search engine optimization (SEO) because it shows the key words visitors used to find your site. When a visitor finds your site organically it means that they did not use your specific business name but rather a question, product type, etc. to find it. Driving traffic because of the needs of your customer or services they are looking for is a key factor in growing your website’s business.

5) Social Media Traffic:

Social media is incredibly important for driving traffic and this metric shows how effective your efforts are. It breaks down the source of each social media referral (which site or posts are getting the most responses) and helps you evaluate your current media strategy.

By simply measuring and monitoring the right metrics, your small business has the ability to implement lasting growth strategies. Google Analytics is a great way to build your business and a friend who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to your business strategies. For more information visit the Google Analytics site and or read the following articles:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-tools/top-tens/ten-ways-google-analytics-can-help-your-small-business/article18553430/

http://www.add3.com/insights/google-analytics-part-2-standard-reports-key-metrics/

http://www.vtldesign.com/inbound-marketing/seo/five-google-analytics-metrics-every-business-should-run/2/

Mackenzie Priest

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How to Find the Right Images for Your Blog https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/find-images-blog/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/find-images-blog/#respond Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:00:39 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8257 planWith every blog comes at least one visual. Readers want to see images that are relative to your blog posts. However, knowing where you can obtain an image for your blog is more complicated than you might think. Many images found on the Internet are either copyrighted or protected, and using them can lead to copyright infringement. So, in an era where images and videos are needed to draw in your readers, where do you go to get them?

There are three ways that you can obtain blog images:

1) Purchase:

Images are available through websites such as www.istockphoto.com after paying a subscription fee or buying credits to purchase an image. The images through such sites are high quality and they offer a variety of photos.

2) Free:

Everyone loves to save money! Photos are attainable through websites online at no cost. Some websites where you can find free images include www.photopin.com and www.flickr.com. Although free, every website has certain rules to abide by in using their photos. Users need to make sure they are following these rules and giving proper attribution.

There are several other free sites including Pixabay & Freedigitalphotos.net.

3) Take them yourself:

The easiest way to avoid copyright infringement or issues of the like… take and use your own photos! Most cell phones come equipped with cameras that take “blog-quality” photos.

If you are going to use a photo that is available online, you must be aware of proper attribution rules and the licenses the image’s owner has on that particular image. If you have not been given express permission from the image’s owner, you are in danger copyright infringement. In order for an attribution to be correct, it should include: the image’s title, the author, source, and license. However, the required attributions differ depending on the owner’s license.

Keep in mind we’ve all seen A LOT of different images. Be creative, be unique, be relative, but most importantly, be mindful of copyright law. Let us know what method you have chosen by posting a link to your blog below. We always enjoy reading a new blog!

-Jamie

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Building a Foundation for Business Communication https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/building-a-foundation-for-business-communication/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/building-a-foundation-for-business-communication/#respond Tue, 11 Oct 2016 13:00:19 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8256 Image courtesy of Pixabay and stokpic

Image courtesy of Pixabay and stokpic

Looking at all the communications needed in business can be overwhelming. From telephone calls, to emails, to social media platforms, the need to connect to your consumers is constant. The stress associated with the various social media platforms alone, can be frustrating and overwhelming. Since business communication is a vital aspect of business, what are some tips to manage your business communication tools and resources?

1)     Identify and define your industry:

Before you start using communication tools, be sure to define your business by industry and identify traits that describe your brand. Once you have identified these traits, talk with your team to decipher what your brand voice should be across all platforms. This should be consistent!

2)     Come up with a strategy:

A business communication strategy is key to your success. Everyone on your team should be aware of how you will use these communication tools across al platforms. Your strategy should include what tools or resources you will use, how you will use them, what you will say, etc.

3)     Research different platforms:

With some many different business communication tools and resources, take the time to research which ones are most effective for your business. Look into what competitors within your industry are doing to communicate with their customers. It is likely that you will discover a favored platform that is effective for your industry.

4)     Start off with one:

Just one platform can be overwhelming at first. Take your time getting familiar with just one communication platform and once comfortable, add a second, and so on. Make sure that you know how to use the platform effectively to remain in contact with your consumers.

5)     Ask for help:

Some of the available platforms can be confusing. There are people out there who specialize in business communication strategies and they can be a valuable resource to your business. With their help, you can learn how to use different tools effectively and efficiently for your business.

Effective and professional business communication is vital to the overall success of your company. The way you communicate with your consumers will help to create a face for your brand. If you fail to use your business communication tools properly, your business can face a poor brand image. Check in with your team today to see that your communications are all up to par and are being used according to your company’s standards.

-Bren

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Hashtags: Do You Know What’s Hot https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/hashtag-do-you-know-whats-hot/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/hashtag-do-you-know-whats-hot/#respond Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:00:55 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8255
What is a Hashtag?

Photo via HypnoArt and Pixabay

What is a hashtag? Where do you use them? What do they do?

Many of us have seen videos making fun of the recent spike in popularity of the hashtag while some of us have no idea what a hashtag is. Hashtags allow social media users, most commonly on Twitter, the ability to search for a certain topic and engage in conversation. They are formatted as #Topic. For example, a user interested in a specific television show can search #InsertTVShowHere and find what people across a social media platform, like Twitter, are saying about that show. Social media platforms also display the most common “trending” or “hot” hashtags that allow users to see what is most commonly being talked about on the platform.

It is a common misconception that hashtags can only be used on Twitter. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest also use hashtags to help organize content and conversations by topic. When a user searches for a specific hashtag, all content and conversations that have used that hashtag will be brought up. This provides a convenient way for interested consumers to find the information they are looking for and allows businesses to track the trends.

What’s your first step in the hashtag frenzy?

Create a company specific hashtag and use it! It is one thing to use a common hashtag, such as #marketing, versus using a hashtag that is unique to your company alone, such as #YourCompany’sName.

So how can your business use hashtags most effectively?

Create a campaign specific hashtag. For example, if you want to engage with users and see how they are using your product, create a clever hashtag that coincides with the name of your campaign and ask your consumers to use the hashtag when they use various social media platforms. This will allow you to engage with your consumers and create a relationship.

The good thing about hashtags?

You are not limited to using just one! You can use your company specific hashtag along with more common hashtags to increase the visibility of your content. Then, when someone searches the common hashtag, your content is displayed as well!

Now that you have some social media tips regarding hashtags, take some time to research how certain companies have engaged with their consumers via hashtags. What hashtags have worked for them? How many hashtags do they use? What’s trending now in your industry?

 -Jamie

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10 Industries that Should be Using E-newsletters now https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/10-industries-enewsletters/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/10-industries-enewsletters/#respond Tue, 13 Sep 2016 13:00:43 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8254 Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and sippakorn

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and sippakorn

Our email accounts are flooded with a variety of different emails everyday. From family and friends, to businesses, to spam… email is a part of our everyday communication. However, emails can easily be ignored if they do not provide unique or relative information to the reader. So the question is, how can different industries use e-newsletters to cater to the needs of their customers without being ignored or reported as spam? Each industry can use e-newsletters differently to reach their customers by changing the content per industry.

Fashion:

An e-newsletter distributed to customers interested in fashion needs to provide the latest and greatest in fashion, tips on how to achieve certain looks, highlights of certain designers, or places to obtain the newest styles. By providing readers with links to stores that they can get these styles, readers look forward to a one-stop email that gives them the most recent information of the fashion industry.

Restaurants:

E-newsletters for restaurants allow them to show off their newest or favorite dishes. Restaurants can use the e-newsletter to provide readers with special events such as brunch or happy hour, release dates of new or seasonal dishes, or with special recipes straight from the kitchen.

Entertainment Venues:

Venues such as performing arts centers, local venues such as the House of Blues, or convention centers can send out e-newsletters to let locals know about upcoming events. By providing local customers with information regarding their events, venues can catch the interest of customers and get them to come to the events. Everyone likes to break away from the stress of work and everyday life. Entertainment venues can capitalize on this!

Hotels/Hospitality:

Hotels experience fluctuations in room prices throughout the year and by sending out e-newsletters that provide customers with upcoming deals, the hotel may gain more customers and fill their hotel. The hotel can update customers on changes or upgrades made to the hotel.

Personal Maintenance:

Hair salons, nail salons, beauty stores, etc., can all use e-newsletters to inform readers of current trends as well as deals. The trends within our society are constantly changing and by providing readers with the most up-to-date information, readers will most likely continue to utilize the e-newsletter and regularly schedule appointments.

Schools:

Educational facilities could benefit from e-newsletters by supplying alumni and current students with the most recent news relative to the school and surrounding area. Special events, reunions, updates on specific people, or changes to the school can keep your alumni involved with the school and increase the number of visitors to school related events.

Real Estate:

The home industry is constantly changing whether it’s new listings, new sales, or upcoming listings. Realtors can use an e-newsletter to make clients and potential clients aware of changes in the market or upcoming open houses. This can lead to more foot traffic in open houses and, hopefully, more sales!

Charities/Non-profits:

Charities and non-profits are constantly doing various fundraisers to raise money for their specific causes. By distributing an e-newsletter with upcoming events, they have the potential to gain participation and, therefore, help their causes.

Airlines:

Traveling can be a big headache to find the best deal. However, airlines can use e-newsletters to promote their most recently updated flight schedules, provide flight-tracking information, and provide their customers with the most current prices. Airlines can promote their business by providing readers with customer’s experiences with the airline.

Health:

The health industry is constantly finding new viruses, cures, supplements, warnings, or diet regimes and customers are curious. E-newsletters can provide readers with information and evidence regarding the health industry and places to find the needed regimes.

Although these are only 10 industries that should be using e-newsletters, other industries can find effective ways to use e-newsletters to reach their desired audience. Think about your industry and if there are ways your company could use an e-newsletter to prosper!

 -Jamie

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A Business Owner’s Guide to Delegating https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/leadership-resources/business-owners-guide-delegating/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/leadership-resources/business-owners-guide-delegating/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:00:12 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8253 Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and pakorn

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and pakorn

Delegation is the key to owning your time as a business owner. Most times business owners have too much on their plate, which causes their time to become extremely limited, and, sometimes, projects take longer than needed. If this sounds anything like you, there is hope! Everyone’s time is limited, but your time is most valuable because you are the expert. There are some responsibilities that can be delegated to other individuals in order for you to maximize your time and alleviate some of the stress associated with running a business.

When delegating projects, tasks, assignments, social media or blogging or other areas of your business, it is EXTREMELY important that you chose an individual who understands your business and has your business’ best interest at heart. If the individual does not clearly understand your business, you may find the work to be sub-par. For example, if you have someone managing your social media, you may find the information they display on those websites are not in alignment with your company and can lead to a poor company image.

So, how do you avoid creating more problems like this when delegating projects in your business? Here are some delegating tips: 

1)     Make a communications plan:

The best way to avoid any problems and to provide clarity to those who will be doing the work, a communications plan can set out what you want done and when. It will be their “go to” for directions while they are working. The plan should set out what your company’s mission statement is, which social media platforms your company is using and what you want posted on those sites, and the specifics of the various blog articles you want written.

2)     Give them as much information as possible:

The individual you have chosen to delegate work to should know as much about your business as possible. The more they understand and are aware of, the more their work can benefit your company. Giving them this information eliminates confusion and helps the worker understand what is expected of them.

3)     Make sure they know your company’s specific brand voice:

If you have someone writing for you, the voice they use can either benefit or damage your brand. Make sure your brand voice is consistent across all platforms and that the tone they are using fits with your company’s goals and image.

4)     Set check-in phone calls:

Although tasks may be delegated, you are still the overseer of all work. Your name is tied to your company and you want to make sure that the work is sufficient. By checking in with the worker who you have delegated work to, you can make sure that they are staying on track and can update them on tasks you want completed. This form of team management also provides a certain level of accountability that your workers may need to stay on target, consistent, and on time.

Although you may be hesitant about delegating such tasks, the amount of time you save will benefit you and your company in many ways. Alleviate some of your stress by giving some of your workload to a trusted employee. Once you do, you can focus on other parts of the business that may need more of your time.

-Jamie

(Image credit: www.clker.com)

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The Foundation of Your Online Presence https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/website-strategy/the-foundation-of-your-online-presence/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/website-strategy/the-foundation-of-your-online-presence/#respond Tue, 09 Aug 2016 13:00:13 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8252 Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 3.42.22 PMYour website is the foundation of your online presence. Potential clients will research your company, and when they do, one of their first interactions with your company will be your website. This means your website should be easy to navigate, provide current information, and grab the viewers attention. Whether your company consists of 2 employees or 600 employees, your company’s website is EXTREMELY important to your success.

But, what makes a good business website?

1)     Keep it simple:

The internet can be extremely frustrating to navigate for those who don’t use it often or are new to the idea of Internet. Having too much information, images, or buttons to click can detract users.

2)     Keep it updated:

If something has changed in your business, make sure to change it on your website. Provide the most up to date information. There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting a website that hasn’t been updated in years!

3)     Provide necessary business information:

Although some people may be familiar with your business and what you have to offer, others may not. Don’t overwhelm the visitor with too much information, but provide them with the necessities: what you do, when you opened, your staff, etc.

4)     Provide contact information:

This goes along with #3. If they have questions, they need to easily find your contact information.

5)     Provide support:

As previously stated, the Internet can be confusing for some users. Provide a FAQ, live chat, or email address that allows for them to get the help they need. This, also, allows you to see the changes you may need to make to your website if the same question continues to arise.

6)     Make it easy to navigate:

The names of the various parts of the website should be easily understood by all users. Sometimes being creative and unique can confuse the audience. Keeping with conventional naming systems such as “Contact Information” and “About” is easier to understand and leaves visitors satisfied.

7)     Make it interesting:

There’s nothing worse than visiting a site that has no color, links, information, or contact information. Visitors will not be attracted to your website. By providing a unique feature or making the site interactive, visitors are more likely to become recurring visitors.
These 7 tips should help you set a solid foundation to your businesses online presence. After you have completed your company’s website, you can then shift your focus to your company’s social media platforms, where you can link back and refer to your website. Consider your company’s website as the foundation to your online presence!

-Jamie

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5 Ideas Your Business Can Use For E-newsletters https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/5-ideas-your-business-can-use-for-e-newsletters/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/5-ideas-your-business-can-use-for-e-newsletters/#respond Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:00:25 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8251 Image courtesy of Pixabay and kropekk_pl

Image courtesy of Pixabay and kropekk_pl

Having an E-newsletter is an effective way to reach your audience. Keep your readers up to date on all of your company’s news and announcements. But are you having trouble putting content into your E-newsletter? Here are 5 ideas your business can use for your e-newsletter whether you’re just starting our or looking to improve one you’ve already been sending:

1. Resources

Your E-newsletter is a great place to share relevant resources to your company’s brand and target market. If you want people to come to you for information, take the best resources you’ve found or published recently and add them to your E-newsletter. This also shows your audience you are keeping up to date with what is happening in your industry.

2. Design Tips

Find a layout that works for your brand and stick to it. If you want to use your brand colors, include your logo, or use a specific type of font or design, make sure that it is engaging. Don’t choose a font color that isn’t easily readable for all ages. Make sure that your typography doesn’t include a font that is overly distracting or too whimsy. Don’t be afraid to show your style – but make sure that you are upholding your values and that you are representing your company in a way that you are proud of!

3. Subject Line Suggestions

When you check your email, what is the first thing you see? You see who the email is from and you read the subject line. The subject line is arguably the make-or-break element of your E-newsletter. Keep in mind that if your subject line sounds dull – no one is going to open the email to read it (e.g. discounts, spam, offers, or dull subject lines). Have fun with it! Ask an engaging question that people have to open the email to read about; use a pun and use your words in order to grab your audience’s attention.

4. Upcoming Events & Updates

Your E-newsletter keeps your readers up to date with your company’s latest news. If you have an event, put it in your E-newsletter ahead of time so that people have time to plan ahead and mark it on their calendars. Have a new product? This is the perfect time to share the release of a new service! Share the new product and link it to your company’s website. Not only will this inform your audience of your new service, but it also drives traffic to your company website.

5. Product Descriptions

Are you known for a specific service and feel as though some of your other services go unnoticed? An E-newsletter is a great place to write about services you offer that need more attention. Focus on a product or service that hasn’t been selling as much.

Following these guidelines, your E-newsletter should have a fresh look, informative feel, and the highest potential to increase your current open-rates. Best of luck with your irresistible new E-newsletter!

-Jamie

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Category Organization: It Does Matter https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/category-organization-matter/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/category-organization-matter/#respond Tue, 12 Jul 2016 13:00:54 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8250 Blog categories and tags
Image courtesy of Pixabay and BRRT

Image courtesy of Pixabay and BRRT

Blog categories and tags are a file and search system for your posts. Categories are the main topics generally listed on the side of a blog’s page so that readers can easily search articles and posts related to certain topics. Tags are specific themes or key-phrases assigned to individual articles and posts. There are usually a few tags assigned to one post.

I like to think of blog categories and tags as the endless sea of files on my hard drive. Categories are the major folders and tags are the little folders inside of the major ones. When I want to find something, pull it up quickly, or group items together, being able to search by category or tag help my life.

Similarly, readers can easily search related articles when searching your blog by category or tag. Just like a personal filing system, it is crucial that posts are accurately categorized and tagged so that readers receive quality results when searching under a specific topic. If they click on the “Social Media Marketing” category and receive a result with the title “Content Marketing at its Best”, then it’s clear that the post was mis-categorized. Help point people to the right material by accurately categorizing and tagging your posts.

Lastly, if you do not currently have a ‘blog categories and tags system’ in place, sit down and produce a list. Consider 4-10 categories that will be the umbrella topics for your blog posts. From there, construct a list of anywhere from 8-15 tags that are sub-categories and themes within your posts. Then, consistently plug these and only these categories and tags into your editorial calendar so that when you post an article, you have the pre-determined category and tags readily available.

No one ever said being organized was inefficient!

-Jamie

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7 Steps To Better Social Media Engagement https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/7-steps-social-media-engagement/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/7-steps-social-media-engagement/#respond Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:00:49 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8249 What makes for successful social media engagement?
Image courtesy of Pixabay and LoboStudioHamburg

Image courtesy of Pixabay and LoboStudioHamburg

Most days, I am a Ping-Pong ball between Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest. The social-verse is exciting, ever shifting, and never sleeping, which motivates me to strive for highly engaging posts; producing quality over quantity in order to standout.

The following seven steps have allowed me to be more successful with my posts and have led to better social media engagement:

1. Beef up all of your social media profiles.
Searches pick up on key words and that includes words listed in your social media profiles. Chisel out time to go through each of your profiles and fill out all of the information, inject key words, and inter-connect them where possible.

2. Be visually appealing.

A best practice is to have custom photos on all of your social media profiles. For example, if you still have the common Twitter background, figure out what you need to do to create a branded one. Also, post photos frequently on all profiles.

3. Make an editorial calendar.
Build a social media editorial calendar that followers can count on. Many brands establish themed days (e.g. wisdom Wednesdays highlight quotes and inspiring posts, or video Fridays, etc.).

4. Cross-promote.
As much as possible, hashtag, tag others, mention others, connect with others; strive to constantly expand the reach and breadth of your posts by including others.

5. Change up your cover photos.
Periodically change your cover photos on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. When you do, it shows up in peoples’ newsfeed.

6. Engage yourself.

You also have to engage. I commit to 3 groups on LinkedIn, 3 groups on Facebook, and 2 communities on Google+ that I consistently follow and engage with. Whether it’s a comment or submission, it is a great way to expose my brand and myself and directly engage with others.

7. Stay up to speed.
Pick your medium of choice (blog subscriptions, a Twitter list with influential social media marketers, books, etc.) and stay up on the latest trends in social media. I make it my business to read one Hubspot guide a weekend to learn about the latest updates and features on various social media platforms, as well as the best practices on how to use each one for business.

If you’re not doing any of these, implement one a week to, realistically, do all of them well. If you’re doing some, then keep moving forward. Also, measure your post engagement after implementing some or all of these steps to determine what is working best for you and your business.

-Jamie

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What Happens When A Small Business Marketing Conference Isn’t What You Thought? https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/leadership-resources/what-happens-when-a-small-business-marketing-conference-isnt-what-you-thought/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/leadership-resources/what-happens-when-a-small-business-marketing-conference-isnt-what-you-thought/#respond Tue, 14 Jun 2016 13:00:03 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8248 IMG_5322_2I was excited. Really, I was. Being given a ticket to a marketing conference which no less than a dozen people in my new network had been talking about and recommending was pretty cool stuff.

Granted, being GIVEN a ticket is also pause for consideration and I had been forewarned that the information may be skewed toward selling of product, services and more, but I was curious to watch and learn, and I was eager to reconnect with my peeps.

I anticipated sunny weather, smiles and at the very least, confirmation of industry updates and strategy. I expected to meet great people and network as per usual.

What happened instead is worth mentioning.

Call me optimistic, enthusiastic, willing and motivated. Even call me committed or reliable – just don’t call me gullible.  Trust me when I say, not all marketing conferences are worth your time. Some should just be hung in the street as an example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing leading lambs to the slaughter.

How someone holds two of these 3-4 day conferences every year, discusses the same topics and approaches, and essentially sets up the event the same way and STILL boasts an average crowd of four hundred truly is commendable. But it IS a MARKETING conference – someone knows how to market to their target demographic. The only problem is – that makes his average demographic naive sheep, which knowingly I am not.

Between the nature of the content and the speed at which he flew through the information, my initial impression of the first two sessions on day one was that this would be a good review of basic business startup practices. I had hugged the necks of my new network of professionals from the San Diego business weekend I attended in January and was enjoying the charisma and energy of the host and the event in general. The notebook looked meaty with it’s spiral binding and one hundred and fifty pages, and I even “won” (thanks Ray!) a t-shirt that was thrown out into the crowd at the beginning of the event. We were off to a good start, I thought.

Lunch was delicious and I shared a table with friendly people who were kind enough to answer all 101 of my questions about their past experience with the events. Every one of them had attended a past event with this host, which I found interesting. They return because of the people, sharing time with “friends” and the opportunity to promote their business. Ok, fair enough. A standard networking club. Got it.

Here’s where I had to step off the merry-go-round…

After lunch, in session three, titled “Relationship Marketing” (which I was looking forward to quite a bit), the host proceeded to advise the entire room to (in my own words) be inauthentic. From suggesting we “must get the maximum number of friend/connections on ALL social media platforms”, to going to our “competitor’s social media sites and asking their friends to be [our] friends”, even recommending we always “do [our] best just in case someone is watching” I cringed more than not. Clearly this session was not living up to its name.

I’m sorry, but let me explain:

IMG_5614a. I only want to do business with people I know, like and trust and not everyone is my target market or referral partner, nor are they all my friend or someone I SHOULD be connected to. So, friending and connecting with everyone isn’t my idea of sound advice.

IMG_5615b. If I found out one of my connections or ‘friends’ was going to my social profiles and asking all of my friends to be their friends with the ulterior motive of scooping my friends’ business away from me, trust and friendship would not be part of our relationship and they would not be a connection any longer. But, that’s why #1 is so important. People you CHOOSE to friend are vetted… or should be.

c. Having integrity and character means being the best version of ourselves – ALWAYS, even when NO ONE is watching! THAT is authenticity.

But it didn’t stop there. Many of the tips offered were outdated, sneaky, ILLEGAL, or just plain incorrect. Here are just a few examples:

1. “Increase your database with a few user-generated websites.” example: CatsinSinks.com which he explained allows site visitors to upload photos of cats in sinks in exchange for contact information which is then used to market and/or advertise to those people.

– The user who enters their information in order to engage with a website, should always be provided fair warning of any attempt to collect information which may be distributed or used for any purposes other than simply engaging with that website. Not being up front about the use of that collected information is illegal. Period.

2. “Run in a local election and lose.”

– While this may be good for name exposure and may increase awareness, not everyone should run for an office seat. Perhaps this is why our government, school systems, etc have the issues they already have. Just saying.

IMG_53313. “Try to get your products or services on Groupon or Living Social.”

– If not done very carefully, this can put you straight out of business. Just ask this guy.

4. Start a blog… and be sure to link from your blog to your website.

– What? Why encourage people to have two sites that compete for traffic? I teach small businesses to start a blog, yes. But the blog should be ON your website! The whole point is blogging regularly to leverage your expertise in your field and increase organic search engine optimization and readership… on your site.

5. “Write Part 2 of a Blog Post, making sure that there is no Part 1.”

– He says this creates ‘panic’ in a visitor’s ability to not find the first post and makes them search, read, etc everything you’ve published trying to find it, which forces them to ‘get to know you’. Then, by the time they’re done ‘getting to know you’, they’ll feel like they’ve known you forever, which makes them more interested in continuing to follow you. Again, I’m sorry, but my first thought would be, how unorganized is this writer? My second thought, they clearly don’t know how to market themselves. And lastly, you are wasting my precious time!

Don’t use tactics or pull the wool over your audience’s eyes. Be respectful, friends! Do I really need to say that you will benefit more from honesty in the long run?

Now, I get that he’s had some pretty amazing opportunities handed to him in his life and that the stories surrounding those opportunities have given him perspective. He’s learned through experience and is now teaching what he knows. He is a guru, yes – of marketing? No. Of systems and tactics? YES. Strong accusation? Maybe.

Being positive and having a sunny outlook may draw people to you, which is part of your marketing approach, sure. But being in the marketing industry is a commitment. What worked last week may not work today. It is always evolving. So taking marketing advice from a systems and tactics guru is not recommended.

For someone who is teaching marketing, I was surprised to see he had not updated his Twitter account in almost 3 weeks, wasn’t using an event hashtag to increase awareness or engagement across any/all social platforms and hasn’t maximized his website or blog for sharing and readership.  He’s an author, speaker and coach. He should be doing all of those things. So, why isn’t he? I guess I don’t understand.

Unfortunately, this host is not a leader in the marketing industry. He has found and developed a system that works for him, which he teaches, uses his events to promote and makes a LOT of money on – I’m sure. (along with the mastermind groups, which I’m assuming are one of his business cornerstone offerings…)

“Being my age, I have been to more than my share of those kinds of conferences. The whole purpose is to sell themselves. They are there to sell their system, their CD’s, their books, and their coaching.  The fact that four hundred sit and stay, is either a reflection on them individually, their ignorance, or a reflection on the sheer desire they have to be like the host,” says my friend Susan Saurastri, OC Real Estate Agent.

But if being a “rockstar”, as he was referring to it, means being sneaky, only doing enough to get you noticed, not believing that a good reputation is worth it’s weight in gold and that people will only work with you if you appear bigger and better than you really are, I am not only NOT a rockstar, I don’t want to be one.

I’m glad I didn’t pay for a ticket to attend this event and I’m so grateful I was able to see and spend a day with a few peeps.

That said, the purpose of this blog article is not to defame the business owner and presenter, which is only one of the reasons I am not naming him or the conference in this post.  Instead, I want to inform and encourage you to be smart and take the events you may happen upon for what they’re worth. See through the veil and don’t drink the kool-aid, my friends. Not everyone that speaks in public really is an “industry expert”. Sometimes they have just taken a sizable dose of their own medicine.

I chose not to return to the conference for day two and three (today and tomorrow), instead opting to enjoy doing business I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do during this time, and I am doing it poolside. Building a business and a brand is hard work, don’t let any coach, event host, or tactic-driven preacher tell you it’s easy. But don’t pretend you can’t enjoy it along the way.

So, what have I learned?

  1. There truly are more reasons to attend events, conferences and seminars than just the focal topic. Meet people, practice your elevator pitch, catch up with lifelong friends, or explore a region.
  1. If the conference information wastes precious time, give yourself permission to opt out. I would be at the conference today and tomorrow, networking and enjoying the people if I had wifi access and could work during the sessions. Even though it’s painful to listen to and I almost couldn’t stomach sitting through the third session yesterday due to the mis-information being given, the people I knew and met are good, well-intentioned people. “Salt of the earth,” as Susan would call them.

Jamie Teasdale – Founder

Were you at this conference and you had a different observation? Perhaps you stayed through today? Or maybe you experienced a conference that went south?

Please share your story below or offer your advice to our small business readers:

What Happens When A Small Business Marketing Conference Goes South?

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7th Birthday Reflections: The Propel Story & What’s Next https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/7th-birthday-reflections-propel-story-whats-next/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/7th-birthday-reflections-propel-story-whats-next/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 18:08:56 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=10477 In March of 2009, the world was in turmoil. Businesses were closing, the economy was in the toilet and people everywhere were losing their jobs, homes and more. After 4 years working at a job I didn’t dread each morning with a company full of people I felt fairly close to, in one fell swoop on March 15th we all learned we would be downsizing in waves and our company would be closed that summer. The first wave of layoffs would happen right away with a 2 week notice.

I was in the first wave along with about 50 of my peers and was jobless as of March 31st, 2009.

On April 1st (no joke), I woke up with a sense of freedom. I could sleep, travel, visit friends and family, or begin my search for the next thing. Within a short 2 weeks, a business was born after my parents (long-time business owners and entrepreneurs) introduced me to my first clients. They were a security company who needed help with many areas of their business. From administrative assistance and company organization, to growth strategies and executive support, I dove in head first and never looked back.

PrintI knew branding would be important to the presentation of my company and I also knew I needed to bootstrap it. Deciding on a name and a logo was fairly easy and I didn’t waste time with a lengthy branding process because I knew it would likely change once I got some research underway, tested the waters and established a few foundational points. I used my artist signature as the logo and went with a name that wasn’t already registered with the state and which I could own the URL of. I had a graphic designer draw my logo, I built my own website and designed business cards in Vista Print and I was off.

The first year of business was a test in determining what I really enjoyed doing, what I was MOST passionate about and what the Portland business market needed. I tested the 2009 economy and had conversations with business managers and owners who were struggling and needed help. What did they need? How much could they pay? What could I do to help?

I learned a lot from that first year, too. I learned how to negotiate, how to build relationships, how to market and sell my services, and I used it all to feed my passion to support small business owners in growth and success. From the beginning I also had a hunch that I should document my processes so I could duplicate myself in the form of support staff. But I also knew I didn’t want to hire an employee right out the gate, so I found reliable associates (some friends, some family members – which isn’t the best decision 100% of the time) who I trusted and knew I could work well with and train to be contractors. I was not only helping small business owners grow, I was helping people launch businesses that could support them. Win, Win – or so I thought.

In January of 2010, it was clear to me I needed to rebrand. JJT Solutions just didn’t cut it. No one knew what I did because I was doing so many things, thus I felt the need for the “umbrella” name that would encompass it all. So, I set out to hire a brand agency (also friends of mine) who took me on an amazing journey of discovery to unearth Propel Businessworks. By April I had a new name and logo and in June of 2010 I held an awesome relaunch party at the agency’s office location where I announced the brand and my excitement for the future. I had invited over 300 guests and over 100 attended. Friends, family members, networking associates, clients, contractors, you name it, they showed up for me. What an honor.

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Shortly after that, business picked up and I moved into an office off 7th and Hawthorne where I settled in and established Portland residency for the company. In early 2011, I hired a temp employee who remained with me for about 6 months until heading off to school. During that time we moved into our most recent office home with Turtledove Clemens off 1st and Jefferson in the Jefferson Street Station building downtown, the office to end all offices and the cornerstone memory we lived at for 4 1/2 years.

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DSC_2183 copyHiring was a learning lesson and one I’m grateful for. Emma was a gem and she taught me a lot about being an employer, training, HR manager and more. That experience also taught me how hard it is to be an employer in general, let alone in the Portland area. Expenses, regulations and strict rules were the name of the game and I decided not to replace her when she decided to move on to her new adventure.

The contractors I have worked with over the years have been amazing assets to Propel and our client base. And I still have a few from the early days. I have hired two other times since 2011 and both were also good experiences that taught me even more about my weaknesses, my strengths and the areas where I am just not cut out for the path ahead. Overall, I have learned that my team of contractors serve me well. And I work well with them, mainly because as a responsibilitarian, working with others who are responsible to build their own businesses, stay true to their word and who perform well in their strengths gives me great satisfaction without the overhead and responsibility and risk of being “a bad guy” someone has to work for.

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Lesson learned.

Propel has served clients all over the United States and continues to. However, as a native of Portland, my heart is truly for those businesses within our growing city. And knowing WHO we seek to serve really has freed me to focus and rest in who we are.

Today, we offer small to medium sized businesses branding project support, WordPress website development and design and SEO strategies, collateral design (think business cards, rack cards, letterhead, brochures, etc) and content marketing planning and management (blogging, email marketing and social media). That is who we are, what we believe in and what we do well.

The number 7 is the number of completeness or perfection. While I am far from perfect, I certainly feel that Propel has “settled in” to who we are, what we do and how we do it. The first seven years of business have been an amazing, whirlwind of an experience – and it is far from over.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 6.27.30 PMOne of my known MO’s is that businesses need to constantly be testing, adapting and growing with the changing times, technologies and offering better, more strategic services or products, customer service and communication, and more. We can never just “sit”. And so, with the number 7 also comes a new chapter. I write this from my newly appointed home office with a grin on my face knowing the next 7 years will be better, brighter and more seasoned.

Propel-5 copyThank you for following along, supporting Propel and myself and for being such a great part of my journey. All of this is for you, so enjoy and let me know how I can help you when the time comes.

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7 Resources for Better Business Communication https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/7-resources-business-communication/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/7-resources-business-communication/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 13:00:43 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8259 Image courtesy of Pixabay and Unsplash

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Unsplash

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… efficient business communication is key to a businesses success. Business communication is not limited to just phone calls and emails, but also social media, scheduling, and task planning platforms. Figuring out the best business communication strategy for your business can be time consuming and frustrating. It is a difficult task to pick the right platforms that work for your business.

7 resources that we have identified for better business communication include:

Trello:

Trello is a great project or tasking planning website. Trello allows you to manage what projects need to be done, by whom, and by a certain date. Your staff can communicate with one another using their Trello-specific user handles (ex. @bren). As mobile devices become the dominant source for people’s scheduling and communication needs, Trello has a free mobile application. It’s easy to use, user friendly, and free!

Google+ Hangout:

Similar to Skype, Google+ has a unique feature called “Hangout.” Hangout allows users to video call individuals or groups for free. Hangout allows you to send messages, use emoji’s, or share your screen with up to ten users. Hangout is free and is accessible from your computer or mobile device.

Toggl:

Toggl is an easy to use time tracking software. Through Toggl, you can track your time manually or through an interactive task timer. Toggl makes it possible for users to track their time by project or task. The platform makes invoicing easy by allowing you to export your timed entries into Freshbooks.

Dropbox:

Dropbox allows you to share your documents, images, and presentations from anywhere. Oftentimes, in emails, you receive an error message saying the document you are trying to send is too large. Dropbox allows you to share these large files with anyone. Dropbox synchronizes your files automatically through cloud technology.

WordPress:

WordPress is a great communication tool to publish blogs and create beautiful websites. WordPress is a free tool that is, also, rather user friendly. Blogs can be scheduled out weeks in advance and websites updates can be made quickly.

Hootsuite:

Hootsuite is a great tool to manage all of your social media platforms from one place. Through the dashboard, you are able to manage your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Google+, and Foursquare profiles. Hootsuite allows you to schedule out your posts, retweet content, and see who is trying to reach you. This is a great site for brand management and customer engagement.

Evernote:

Evernote is a useful tool to collect all of your notes, files, and images in one place. Your saved content is accessible from anywhere, you have an internet connection. Evernote allows you to work with your friend and colleagues and share project information with one another.

These are just some of the tools available for business communication purposes. The options are limitless! What resources is your company using for business communication? We’d love to hear your input.

-Jamie

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How You Can Use Your E-News To Create Better Buzz https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/enews-create-buzz/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/enews-create-buzz/#respond Tue, 10 May 2016 13:00:43 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8247 Announcement Timing is Everything.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and stockimages

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and stockimages

I know a company or brand has accomplished a successful and effective campaign when everywhere I turn, I see something about it. For example, Instagram pops up and there’s a picture from the company’s feed, then on Facebook a friend has liked their page, while on Twitter, another friend tweeted about it. I have consciously taken note when this happens and inevitably, I end up clicking on the article or looking it up. E-news announcement timing is everything. Here’s how to use your e-news to create better buzz.

Leverage Internally

When sending out an e-newsletter, the best you can ask for is a base following before any strangers ever see it (e.g. the landing page, social media profile, etc.). The best place to get this base following and grow your audience is internally. Whether it’s your immediate employees or your personal and professional network, make sure you’ve sent your e-newsletter there first. Have an “ask” for them such as liking your new page or visiting your landing page and leaving a comment or sharing something. By ensuring a base audience before it even goes public, the reach of your announcement will go farther. (P.S. Do this a week before the public e-news is sent so that it has the chance to circulate through your network).

Blast It On Social Media

Plan and schedule various posts about different pieces in the e-newsletter 2-3 hours after it goes out. Post different verbiage and photos on various platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, so that your audience reads your e-news and then sees something else about it on a social site.

E-newsletter

The e-newsletter is a powerful tool that requires a brilliantly executed plan every time it goes out. Establish a scalable system to repeat on a weekly or monthly basis. Choose pieces for the e-news that have been monitored and measured and had the most engagement to increase the chances that it gets read. Also be sure to monitor when your audience has read your e-news in the past (time of day, day of the week, and frequency). Assuming an internal network has already engaged with it and the social media posts are on standby, send out the e-news.

Measure

Once the e-news has gone out, measure the following two to four week later: the email read and click rate, exactly how many people visited the landing page and when, how many more likes the Facebook page has, and how many people left comments. It is incredibly telling as to how successful the e-news was. Spend time hashing this out so that you know what to do more of next time.

In order to create great buzz and inspire the best social media engagement, you have to give the fire a little fuel, which includes a plan, leveraging your internal network, spreading the word on multiple channels, and timing your e-news well.

-Jamie

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What To Know When Traveling To NYC For Business! https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/leadership-resources/what-to-know-when-traveling-to-nyc-for-business/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/leadership-resources/what-to-know-when-traveling-to-nyc-for-business/#respond Tue, 26 Apr 2016 13:00:38 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8246 What To Know When Traveling To NYC For Business!  – When I traveled to NYC for the #SMWNYC conference, I did meet some great people and explored a city I hadn’t visited in over 10 years, but the entire week was an experience… here’s why:
What to know when traveling to NYC for business!

What to know when traveling to NYC for business!

#1. Crosswalks & traffic lanes are a mere suggestion here. – Seriously. Don’t be nervous when your taxi merges with another lane during rush hour, only to be pushed back into the lane you thought you were in. There are no rules except get where you need to be.  As for the crosswalks, own them. That’s all I can say. Just don’t forget that jay-walking isn’t legal in all cities and when you return home, be aware of your surrounding officer surveillance.

#2. This city NEVER sleeps. – No matter how snowy, rainy, foggy or early it is, do not underestimate the rudeness of an open window in the middle of the night. On the flip side, remember that if you treat them the way they treat you, they’ll respect you and you’ll get better service, no matter what hour it is.
#3. Big critters are normal & probably due in part to trash bags left piled on the sidewalks. – Trash bags line the streets. When the garbage men can make it around, they will. Don’t be surprised to see cockroaches the size of your thumb and rats the size of small cats in plain sight. It comes with the territory.
#4. People who are famous don’t say they’re famous. – Not everyone in New York is a celebrity, although many think they are or should be. But running into a hairy chested, gold chain wearing, greased hair suave who is paparazzi’d by an event attendee doesn’t mean a tandem selfie is required. When the accompanying bleached groupie in suede points out that ‘he’s famous’, know she’s pulling your leg and proceed to the nearest exit. You’ll be glad you saved your breath.
#5. Mothers from this area must forget to teach their sons manners. – It simply amazes me how many lazy and/or ignorant males there are in a city so full of ‘sophistication’. Don’t be surprised when the guy in front of you doesn’t hold the door, or the taxi driver motions to ‘get in the cab’ when you have (3) awkward bags and a line of cars waiting for you to load the taxi trunk.
#6. Take EVERYTHING in stride. Can’t change people & changing situations is only an option when you’re ACTUALLY in control. – No matter what, perspective is a choice.  I can’t change the angry volunteer who yelled at us to ‘raise your hand… it’s like kindergarden people’. I won’t argue with the housekeeper who is all but calling me a liar to my face, especially when I know I was NOT lying. Trying to explain yourself to a taxi driver is often times just not worth it. Give them the address and let them drive.
#7. Taxi drivers who listen to Snoop are my FAV! – When in doubt, turn off the ads playing on the backseat taxi TV and tell the driver to ‘turn that up’ when Snoop and B.I.G. cycle through the Pandora radio. Trust me. You’ll remember your experience (and your childhood) fondly. At least they have some appreciation of the classics!
#8. Style doesn’t always have to be sacrificed for comfort. – Boots are smart for winter weather, but nothing beats in-soles and good sox.
#9. My hair is softer when washed at home. – No matter what shampoo and conditioner I use, my hair is partial to home.
#10. When packing for a trip, remember security lines are a hassle and dress accordingly. – Forty layers, belts, boots, laptops, a carry-on, liquids pulled outside in a ziplock and a shoulder bag make for an interestingly time-consuming security line check point. Next time: slip-ons, no coat or belt, check the bag and carry a purse only.
#11. Spending money is inevitable. Might as well go with the flow because you certainly can’t take it with you. – No matter how well you plan, there are always unforeseen expenses. Breathe and buck up. At least you have the means.
#12. Walk more. – That is all.
#13. If you plan ahead & know where you’re going, other out-of-towners you encounter will think you’re a local. – This is also true for locals… When you hold your head up and walk with a confident purpose, there is no opportunity to believe you’re a visitor.
#14. Not every airline is created equal. – When booking a ‘cheap flight’ be prepared to trade good prices for great service or consumer care. I learned this the hard way. Paying for checked bags is one thing, paying $50 for a carry-on is just ridiculous! Then to hear the plane had run out of food even BEFORE we had been rerouted to Albany due to LGA closures (then reopens, then closures, then reopens) where we were forced to wait for 2 1/2 hours just seemed like poor planning. I will never choose to fly Frontier Airlines again.
#15. You’ve got about a 15% chance of sitting next to somebody cool on the plane. – This is just math. Between the four flights it required to travel to and from New York, I landed exactly two conversations that were anything even remotely resembling kind. For my last leg (Dallas to Portland) I ended up next to a Texan that thought chatting up a storm, passing crude jokes and spewing foul language was funny and completely appropriate at 9:30pm.
#16. Taking pictures of what you’ve packed in your luggage isn’t completely neurotic, it’s actually reassuring. – When given the ultimatum of needing to check every bag you brought, even when you put all of the ‘most essential necessities’ in, what was meant to be your carry-on, it’s easier to part with said bag knowing I will remember exactly what was in the bag. If one encounters the need to replace a bag, this reassurance is just soothing.
#17. Jet lag is really just sleep deprivation while traveling backward through time zones. You can get it even if you’re just crossing the U.S., & it gets worse when flying at night. – Jet lag is actually possible without the need for travel through and/or to another country. With flight delays, layovers in different time zones and arriving at my final destination (back home in Portland, Oregon) at 3:30am EST, Saturday was quite foggy. Luckily I had two days to ‘recover’ before hitting the office again.
Overall, the trip was, as you can see, one experience after another. Armed with these lessons, my next trip to the Big Apple will be even more enjoyable!  Have you experienced any of my lessons? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts!
-Jamie
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When A Beast of a Project Becomes A Massive Blessing https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/when-a-project-becomes-a-blessing/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/when-a-project-becomes-a-blessing/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 15:21:03 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=9929 March 2016 was madness, and not because I follow sports. I officially tallied up more hours than I have on any other month in seven years of business. What’s more, I knew it would be intense. But I’m pretty sure that no amount of preparation would have prevented the valuable lessons I learned along the way.


At the end of February I turned on my out of office to let people know I would be extremely busy in March, but I would get back to them as quickly as possible. I’m glad I did, too. Not only was it wise for my clients, team and associates to know what to expect, it reminded me of a very valuable lesson…

I am allowed to create and set boundaries.

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“Hello, I’m Jamie, and I’m a responsibilitarian.” Responsibility is my top strength according to StrengthsFinder 2.0 and the only cure for my ‘at once’ nature, is to remember that I am human, not a robot. This means I have basic survival needs like drinking water, feeding my body, and getting rest (not to mention vats of dark and delicious coffee – but I digress). As a business owner who wears every hat a business has to wear, this quality comes in handy. I am dedicated to the task at hand, to my job and to others. But sometimes it’s a weakness, and I have to learn again that I need to continue sharpening my healthy boundaries and realistic expectation setting skills.

Here are a few ways I did that this last month:

1. The easiest expectation I could set while going into March was giving my schedule flexibility and dedicated blocks of time to accomplish work. I didn’t make any appointments or take any meetings that couldn’t wait until April. I also let other clients know that I had a massive project coming to a boil and would be more able to focus on their work on certain days, or at certain times of the week or month. When we give proper expectations and then follow through, the level of trust those around you have will increase significantly. Believe it. My clients were gracious because they were able to trust my word.

2. The second was turning on my out of office (vacation email responder) to let people know I was committed to responding, that I received their message and would do my best to get back to them within 72 hours. It’s amazing to me what happens when people have that head’s up. The urgency of smaller issues subsides and they give you grace in that moment. It also frees up the looming wonder of what is happening in your inbox every moment of the day and provides a cushion for you to get back to them in what is still a reasonable amount of time.

3. The third strategy I empowered was to get additional help. Not only did we need extra hands on deck to finish this project, I needed to reign in a couple of extra team members to help organize and accomplish the work we already have from current clients. Because I would be less available, I delegated to those I trusted and have worked with before and it saved me in the end. When we trust our ability to hire well (find and pay for good help), the burden of managing a lot of spinning plates becomes less stressful. I was able to put those on a kind of auto-pilot while I dove into the coordination of launching the website at hand.

As a planner (that’s my Futuristic strength), I tend to have the vision to see what is ahead and pull forward a plan of action for how we will survive and be most efficient (my Maximizer strength) in getting there. So, what if you don’t have these strengths? Here are a few helpful lessons I also learned this month:

  • It’s ok to say no. Not everything that passes through my door is the right fit, project, client or endeavor for me. While some may press and push, knowing what you do and being committed to doing it well will help you know when to hand over work to someone else. I referred business to a few trusted associates last month due to my workload and the potential client’s needs – and it was liberating. I feel like in doing so, I solidified who I am and what I want, while also reinforcing my work/life balance priority.
  • Set a schedule and stick with it. I am the first to tell you that I work a LOT. Granted, I love what I do and it fulfills my passion, but I have to put exercise and ‘downtime’ on my calendar. I even put date night on the schedule so I remember what I’ve committed to. However, it does me absolutely no good to add it to my calendar if I don’t follow-through and I feel guilty and exhausted at the end of the day if I don’t stick to my calendar. This also serves as a sort of checklist of what I accomplished, and a tracking system for how much time I spent where. You may need to block off time to respond to emails, or check voicemails, or even make lunch or dinner. But having something on your calendar means it is important to you that it be there, so give it the time you have allocated and you’ll feel refreshed, fed and ready to carry on.
  • Razor Clamming on the OR coastDon’t neglect your personal life. While my husband, family and friends knew I was working hard in March toward a pretty strict goal, and were super supportive in the process, I also had to be sure to take time to focus on my home and my relationships. Taking calls, responding to texts, and just taking time to be in relationship (#4 strength = Relator) fuels all of us. When we suck the love tank dry and don’t refill it, relationships wear thin and begin to break down. Remain committed to the long-lasting priorities and remember, business is temporary.
  • Give yourself grace. While I am ecstatic that I hit the mark and I did what I said I would do, somewhere along the way there was a twinge of guilt for working too much and too hard. Even though I had prepared my home and husband and family and clients, and even though I knew it was temporary, somehow it also felt like I had abandoned my higher priorities to become a workaholic. But sometimes we have to do what we have to do and it strengthens us in the process and my priorities have become even more clear to me through this journey. I choose to give myself grace for doing the best I could do with what I have been given and being strong through the process and then celebrating the accomplishments!

Kelly Rae Roberts - Portland, OROverall, the project I was gifted to be a part of was a labor of love that took us just shy of a year to produce. It was a delight for me to join forces with people all around the globe (and right here in my backyard) to birth the dream of client I have come to respect and admire. It was energizing working with her and while I didn’t really know who she was or even to what level she did what she does before I came on board, I know now just why we got along so well. She is Kelly Rae Roberts and she is a Possibilitarian, full of beauty, gratitude, joy and kindness. She finds light and love in her life and pulls that out in others too. What a gift.

I don’t think any amount of research would have given me the insight to know what I would come away with from this project. And there way no way of understanding what kind of a role I would play or how this project would change my life through the lessons I learned and I’m so grateful for all of the amazing ways it has been a blessing.

Do you have a project like this? Have you been a part of something significant that has taught you lessons about life and priorities and boundaries? I’d love to hear about it! Please share in the comments below or send me an email. I hope I have inspired you to take stock of what is most important to you and how to organize your goals so you accomplish exactly what you need to.

– Jamie

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3 Simple Tips for Writing a Good Blog (it doesn’t have to be complicated!) https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/3-simple-tips-for-writing-a-good-blog-it-doesnt-have-to-be-complicated/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/3-simple-tips-for-writing-a-good-blog-it-doesnt-have-to-be-complicated/#respond Tue, 12 Apr 2016 13:00:34 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8245
Image courtesy of Pixabay and StartupStockPhotos

Image courtesy of Pixabay and StartupStockPhotos

The beauty of a blog is that it’s a blank canvas. It’s in the writer’s hands to do with what he or she pleases; to make it what he or she envisions; and to execute that vision with however much or little consistency he or she wants. The secret is that it doesn’t have to be complicated! The other secret is that a blog will be as great as what you put in it. In honor of making life simpler today, step back and look at your writing. In layman’s terms, a blog means writing and posting value-rich pieces on a regular basis. Within that framework, remember the 3 M’s:

Make it logical

Whether it’s lists, bullet points, chronological order, or strategically dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, the best blog post means a reader walks away with action items and a clear understanding. To accomplish this, I conduct four tests:

1) Is it in the right order, does it flow, and do the points build well on one another?
2) Does it make sense, have I gone on a tangent anywhere, and have I stayed on topic in every paragraph?
3) What will the reader walk away with after reading this?
4) What, if any, action items are present?

Depending on your blog and audience, make sure to understand what you are trying to achieve and adjust the above tests accordingly. Perhaps “your thing” is not to make sense and be humorous, in which case some of these logic questions wouldn’t apply. But I still take a minute after every post to make sure it passes the logic test.

Make it relevant

Pop culture, news, technology; a blog must be relevant to gain traction. This might be a rather obvious point, but in my blogging research I have encountered two things: being too late in the game by writing about a topic that has already passed, and writing on a topic that just isn’t very popular or relatable. Even if you have a blog in a niche area, the posts can still be tied to relatable or relevant ideas that readers can absorb:

Stay on top of it – If my goal is to be cutting-edge, then I make sure to have the right triggers in place to alert me on breaking news or trend announcements (Google Alerts and Flipboard). This allows me to join the conversation while it’s hot when Google announces its next search-ranking algorithm (Hippo?).

Give it an anchor – No matter how specific or perhaps vague a topic is that I am writing on, I always try to find an example or current event to keep it relevant in today’s world and/or tie a reader in to relate better.

Make it interesting

This is simple. Rule of thumb: write posts that you would stop and read and would be inspired to share.

Once you decide what you want to say, then these are the 3 tips for writing a good blog: structure it coherently, link it to something current, and make it valuable to the reader.

-Jamie

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Research Tips For The Rest Of Us https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/research-tips-for-the-rest-of-us/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/plan/research-tips-for-the-rest-of-us/#respond Tue, 22 Mar 2016 13:00:18 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8239 Researching Articles
Image courtesy of Pixabay and Hermann

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Hermann

The Internet is an endless sea of reliable and unreliable sources. Wading through it is not only overwhelming and time-consuming, but also one of the hardest stages of writing articles and blogs.

What I’ve done to remedy the anxiety of this step is to create a simple process with strategies on how to use information without plagiarizing and a go-to list of resources to avoid endless research.

Overview

When I’m inspired by an idea or a question pops in my head, the first thing I do is Wikipedia it. Yes, I know the credibility of this website is debatable, but when you want a superficial overview on a certain company, person, situation, place, etc. Wikipedia can be a useful resource. Similar websites include Reference, Encyclopedia, and Ask. The overview allows me to create a list of the things I will need to further look into. Likewise, if I have a broad topic, an overview allows me to choose the aspect I want to hone in on.

Research

Next, I pull together the necessary research materials so I can whip out my writing in one sitting. The type of topic and article dictates where I go for research. For anything historic, scholastic, or academic, I use official dot-edu or dot-org websites that I know are official and trusted (e.g. loc.org). For modern topics and digital trends, I find the trendsetters and authorities in the industry and research articles they have written. More specifically I find influencers on Twitter, Google, and Google+. I believe quantity of followers can represent quality, but it’s never a bad idea to do a bit of background research on an author before trusting their work by their followers. With technical issues, features, and questions, I seek out forums on trusted platforms (e.g. LinkedIn). I use Google quite a bit. However, the art of Googling reliable sources is an acquired skill. To learn how to use Google for your research, read this.

Citing

The third important step in this research process is citing your article’s well-deserved sources. Creating hyperlinks to your source directly in a blog entry (oh yeah, like this one) is acceptable citation. You can also create endnotes1. These citation methods are popular for online articles and blogging. I figure if the NY Times can use hyperlinks as citing, then we’re okay. Lastly, don’t forget quotations if you’re copy-pasting. Even paraphrasing deserves a shout-out to the original source.

With these three steps, I am able to use my simple process strategically in order to eliminate the stress of the overwhelming amount of resources available on the Internet. How do you avoid plagiarizing and find the best information? Do you have a process?

If you are looking for reliable resources, my top favorite authority sites in various industries are: Forbes, Mashable, Wired, Entrepreneur, and the Library of Congress.

-Jamie

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Endnotes

1Like this one

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Understanding the Power of Social https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/understanding-the-power-of-social/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/understanding-the-power-of-social/#respond Tue, 08 Mar 2016 14:00:45 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8238 What’s the big deal with social media?
Image courtesy of Pixabay and edar

Image courtesy of Pixabay and edar

While the never ending social media posts are a headache for whomever on your team has the pleasure of non-stop posting, it’s absolutely necessary to be active on social media. Understanding the power of social is simple because it’s all around us, every single day. I can confidently tell you that if you are not on social media, at this point you’re a dinosaur. People expect to hear from you. Your customers (both current and prospective) want to hear from you. It’s within these large networks that “social contagion” is possible, leading to changes in behaviors, actions and ultimately traffic and sales for your business.

Your social media profiles are mini salespeople working for your company

Think of your social media profiles as little connectors and salespeople out there talking about your brand, products, and inviting people to check you out. If you think about it along these terms, you’ll take more pride in your profiles and understand the importance of the quality of your online presence. In many cases, it’s peoples’ first interaction with you. We all know how devastatingly important first impressions are. In our fast-paced world of social networking, information spreads rapidly with just a couple clicks. This is how noticeable snip-its go viral. When considering virtual campaigns, make sure there is a clear call to action so that efforts and outcomes become tangible.

Beautiful example of the power of social media in action:

Situation

In Alabama last week there was a sudden and tragically unexpected snowstorm. There was complete shock and chaos when the storm hit. People were stranded, others abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the street, families were separated, and everything was in disarray.

Social Networks Solution

Within a few hours, a Facebook page popped up, SnowedOutAtlanta. It was setup to help stranded motorists. One man said he was running out of insulin shots for his Diabetes and if anyone had extras. Others said they had no place to stay and people near them took them in. The page has 45K+ members all coming together to help one another.

Imagine

Imagine your company sponsored that Facebook page. The branding recognition would be invaluable. The lesson learned here is that social media success is hit or miss in terms of being at the right place at the right time with the right people viewing your posts at the right moment. Having said that, you need to be prepared to react to things quickly. You need to have as strong a following as possible so that when an opportunity presents itself, your platforms are up and running (case in point: Atlanta storm).

Gain insight into your target audience

Besides creating brand loyalty, instigating sales, and being awesomely relevant in today’s digital yellow pages called social networks, your efforts come full circle when you’re able to collect your analytics and find out who your target audience is. You are able to see exactly who is engaging with your content, profiles, and website, which in turn tells you how to communicate and brand better. It’s an excellent feeling to know who’s on the other side of the phone when you need to know what to say.

Lastly, be genuine. The online community is fabulous at ignoring disingenuousness. Care about what you’re putting out there because value-added will lead to trendsetters and opinion leaders picking you up, taking you into that viral channel. So what are you waiting for? Step into digital.

-Jamie

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How to Find Your Brand Voice https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-branding/how-to-find-your-brand-voice/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-branding/how-to-find-your-brand-voice/#respond Tue, 23 Feb 2016 14:00:14 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8237 Brand Voice
Image courtesy of Pixabay and TheAngryTeddy

Image courtesy of Pixabay and TheAngryTeddy

The art of a consistent, appropriate, and cohesive brand voice is an important one that requires constant TLC. How to find your brand voice means truly looking at the personality, values, and style, and is based on target market research and interactions you have with clients, customers, and consumers, as well as with each other. This worksheet tool gives you a foundation to use so your brand’s communications are clear and consistent. Here’s an example:

My Brand Voice Profile

Mission Statement
Many believe this is the anchor of your business; the heart that beats, or should, in every employee at the company – it’s your core purpose. Here are some questions to consider when developing this: What do we do? Who is our audience? How do we serve our consumers? Why are we in this business? What do we want to be known for?

Tagline
This represents a brand’s unique value proposition. It should stand out from the competition, be notable, and embraced by everyone internally. Need a resource? Here are some companies that nailed it.

Values
Consumers care about what the companies they buy from are saying, representing, and advocating in the world. We are tending to take more pride in our purchases making statements about what we support. We experienced the green wave and now we’re into the cause wave (e.g. TOMs). See this extensive guide to shaping your company values.

Target Market Profile
This is the audience to whom all of your marketing efforts are geared and the group that you want engaging with your brand.

Keywords
What do people type into Google when they’re looking for your brand? Those are your keywords. These are important because they need to pop up in your Meta tags, content, website, and more in order to have your brand show up in search rankings. This is the intricate world of search engine optimization.

Language
A brand’s language is comprised of the words it uses and how those words affect its audience. Depending on the industry or personality of the brand, the language may be scientific, relatable, informative, friendly, stern, etc.

Tone
This is how you say something. I like to look at it as if your brand were a car, what car would they be? The answer will tell you a lot about your brand’s personality (e.g. a Fiat versus a Jeep) and can help steer the tone in which you write and say things (e.g. elegant versus edgy).

Approach
Now, pull together everything you’ve written and define your brand’s approach, comprised of the goals you have for your voice (e.g. conversation starter, consistent resource, factual, etc.).

These exercises may appear trite, but they are what differentiate bonded teams working towards one goal from disheveled teams moving in different directions. Your brand voice comes out a million times a day to an array of different people so make it count.

-Jamie

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Utilizing Your Blog and Website Keywords https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/utilizing-your-blog-and-website-keywords/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/utilizing-your-blog-and-website-keywords/#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:00:13 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8236 Using Keywords to Boost SEO
Image courtesy of Pixabay and FirmBee

Image courtesy of Pixabay and FirmBee

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) changes it stripes so often, it is difficult to stay afloat in the Google-verse. The formulas created for content to show up in Google search rankings is so tumultuous that I can’t even remember what the difference was between Penguin and Hummingbird. All I know is that now articles keep telling me we live in the Siri-search age where people search in full sentences, a trait we learned from Apple’s Siri. All of that confusion put aside, I can confidently say that whether it is phrases or words, the beating heart of SEO is still its keywords. How the formulas choose to take them into consideration doesn’t change the fact that keywords have been and still are the main stars on the Google search platform.

Another ridiculously broad buzz word: keywords; the list of phrases and words that are most valuable to your company/blog/products because they are the most searched by your target audience on Google. Simplified, if you are a software company providing event management systems to nonprofits, then your hottest keywords could most likely consist of “benefit auctions”, “charity gala”, “event management software”, etc. Most platforms today will suggest or recommend keywords to you. Unfortunately, a hunch doesn’t have the same ROI as labor-intensive research.

Here’s a list of proactive steps you can take to compile a list of valuable, effective blog and website keywords with high ROI for your industry, company, or product:

List

List your 5-10 closest competitors. Scan their websites and blogs, pulling out the most commonly used phrases and words. Track this in an Excel spreadsheet, using 4 columns: words, phrases, themes, and products. Pick which columns apply to your exercise. Do the same for your website and blog and see how it compares. There are different schools of thought as to whether you want to use the same keywords as competitors and steal the spotlight, or use completely different ones to differentiate yourself and tap into another audience.

There are programs you can pay for and use as well. See Keyword Tools article for resources.

Utilize

Based on those keywords and which school of thought you adopt, go back through your website content and blog (recent and future posts) and utilize these keywords, phrases, and themes as much as possible.

Establish

Budget allowing, set up your Google AdWords account.

    1. Save your Excel list of phrases/words as a CSV file.
    2. Upload the CSV file to your AdWords account.
    3. Create a new “Campaign” using those keywords.
    4. Create 3 variations of an Ad using different text and photos.
    5. Set a generous daily budget.
    6. Run your campaign for a week (monitor daily).
    7. At the end of a week, look at how your keywords/phrases performed. Were the ones that you thought were strong words searched a lot? Were some of the popular searches surprising? Also, determine which ads and keywords were the most successful (e.g. highest CTR). Delete or Pause the ads/keywords that were unsuccessful.
    8. Based on your findings, you might have to go back and edit your list of keywords and rework some of your website and blog content.
    9. You may also choose to continue your AdWords campaign with the successful aspects. Just make sure you set a realistic daily/monthly budget that you can afford to invest.

This is a living process in that it does not stop step 3. As SEO specialists, business owners, and marketers, we must continuously monitor, measure, and adjust. Always take note of new buzz words and phrases in your industry and test the “suggested keywords” offered to you on blog and website keywords platforms. Just make sure you’ve done the real research yourself. While time consuming, it’s extremely beneficial.

If you are looking for a resource, I highly suggest Moz.

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How I Took the Fun Out of Disneyland https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/customer-service/how-i-took-the-fun-out-of-disneyland/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/customer-service/how-i-took-the-fun-out-of-disneyland/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 14:00:57 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=9158 Walt Disney sure created a magical empire. I'm fascinated by all of the imagination, hundreds and thousands of jobs supported, the masses of people who are magnetically attracted to this place, the amazing attention to detail, and how it all started with a mouse. Happy 60th Birthday Disneyland!

Walt Disney sure created a magical empire. I’m fascinated by all of the imagination, hundreds and thousands of jobs supported, the masses of people who are magnetically attracted to this place, the amazing attention to detail, and how it all started with a mouse. Happy 60th Birthday Disneyland!

It wasn’t until the second half of our last day at Disneyland that I realized I had to share about my observations of the “happiest place on earth”. My family could arguably be the #1 Disney-loving family of the Pacific Northwest and we would rival any other. Put us on Disney’s version of the that ‘millionaire show’ and we’d never use our lifeline. I have personally been to Disneyland twelve times and I marvel and revel in each experience, usually running first to Pirates of the Caribbean or Splash Mountain and moving on to Haunted Mansion or Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Enter my niece; the human that changed everything for me, starting with the realization of how much one human could love another. Yes, because I don’t have children yet, I never knew what this feeling, this completely overwhelming heart explosion, was. So, when my brother and sister-in-law decided it was time to take Hudson to visit the mouse for the first time, wild horses couldn’t keep me from joining them. And my parents had to be part of the adventure as well. (If you think I’m joking about the Disney-loving Smith’s, just check out my dad’s professional connection to Walt.)

So, we set out to experience Disney’s magic through the eyes of an (almost) 3-year old, for the first time, and it was wonderful. I’ve got pictures and stories and videos to prove it.

But what I learned about myself and how I saw Disney during this trip was just as extraordinary…

These experiences and opportunities aren't just what life is about (magic and wonder and fun with family), it is another wonderful perk of being an #entrepreneur! Business ownership isn't for the faint of heart, but it is worth it, if only for today's benefit of taking a mid-week day to marvel with your niece.... #justsayin First trip to visit the mouse and all she could talk about were the Teacups! Just look at that face!! I'm melting...#throughtheeyesofachild #familytime

These experiences and opportunities aren’t just what life is about (magic and wonder and fun with family), it is another wonderful perk of being an #entrepreneur! Business ownership isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is worth it, if only for today’s benefit of taking a mid-week day to marvel with your niece…. #justsayin First trip to visit the mouse and all she could talk about were the Teacups! Just look at that face!! I’m melting…#throughtheeyesofachild #familytime

People who ask me how I became an entrepreneur will hear me tell the story of how my parents have been small business owners since I was very little. How, from a very young age, I was involved in many aspects of their businesses and I learned about the value of not only hard work, but customer service and quality of product and service delivery. At the tender age of 10, I was already learning the skill of communication and the importance of every detail, area and hat of a business. I was mentored (by my father) and went through a second elementary school during my young ages. The school of entrepreneurship.

Now that I’ve painted the back-story, let’s get back to Disneyland, because no matter how much I love the thrill of the rides, the giggle that inevitably bubbles up after the drop of the briar patch fall or the magic of the “other world” you’re transported to on each and every ride, this visit in December of 2015 showed me oh, so much more. And it all leads back to my analyzing strength and the attention I pay to the details – what has been instilled or built into me. And ultimately, with my mentorship and being in the thick of business for over 22 years, it inevitably leads to the business of Disney.

No matter where I go, no matter how badly I want to be on vacation, no matter who I’m with or how fun it’s supposed to be, my eye always finds the hidden corners of brilliance, or conversely, the missed opportunities – the places where a business had a chance to be great, but missed the mark.

Interested in what I noticed about the Disney empire and how it relates to every day business? Here’s where it gets juicy…

Lessons I learned (again) from Walt’s magic kingdom:

Customer Service really is everything

Disney has got customer service down. It appears in different ways throughout the park, but you’ll notice the employees are all about you. There is nothing better than experiencing friendly care and to feel valued when you are working with a small company or a corporation. In fact, corporations often have a harder time serving with consistency due to the sheer volume of places where it needs to be trained, monitored and held accountable. But it always matters when a large business pays attention to you and expresses interest in your needs, your opinions or the reason you’re shopping with them.

Apply it: Customer service isn’t just about taking a return what a product doesn’t work out. Find one place where you can add a personal touch that will make your customer feel welcome and valued. It could be a thank you note, a feedback request that shows your customer their opinion matters, or it could be an unplanned phone call or a simply “good afternoon” greeting when they come through the door of your establishment. Remember that impressions are lasting – whether good, or bad.

Cleanliness IS next to Godliness

If you’ve ever visited the mouse in Anaheim, you can’t help but notice the “sweepers” who walk the streets cleaning up trash constantly. You might also notice that garbage cans are consistently emptied, bathrooms are stocked and clean, and not a tree branch is out of place. While there is always the exception and not everyone will have the perfect experience, Disney places value on stewarding their park and keeping it clean – constantly.

Apply it: There are quite a few different areas of business that this concept can be applied to. If you have a physical space, cleanliness could be taken literally. If you work from home, it could mean it’s time to get your paper files organized, or your accounting records in order.

"We hope you'll have fun on Mickey's Fun Wheel, where fun is our middle name.”

“We hope you’ll have fun on Mickey’s Fun Wheel, where fun is our middle name.”

Being detail-oriented is the bees knees

My eyes are trained to look for flaws. I know, I know – it’s a curse. But really, I am always looking for the “extra mile”, and usually you’d find the places where a business or individual could have cut corners. When I consistently find greatness or excellent effort I seem to translate that into trust. When you’re standing in line for one of the ever-popular attractions, what is the easiest way Disney can make the waiting less painful? To keep your attention. Entering any ride is part of the experience and no detail goes un-noticed. Air vents, speakers and cameras are painted or decorated to match the atmosphere. They blend in. And, you rarely see the back of one of the animatronic characters, but if you do, their costume is complete. It even shows up in the cast member’s one-liners, as proven while waiting for the ferris wheel in Disney’s California Adventure where you hear the ride attendant say “We hope you’ll have fun on Mickey’s Fun Wheel, where fun is our middle name.” Disney has people thinking this stuff up – all the time! How fun to brainstorm the cute and clever wording, the character’s costumes and every detail of a a ride’s experience. The detail and time they spend creating these environments is simply mind-blowing, and let’s not lie – I’m impressed by it

Apply it: Every day, take an opportunity to find one way you can improve whatever your schedule has you doing. If you’re preparing a presentation, add the extra touch that you might not feel you have time to do. If you have a meeting with a team member or coffee with an associate, take 5-10 minutes before the meeting to review their Linkedin profile or prep questions or conversation points. The details make all the difference in your confidence level and in the trust you build.

Imagination will take you places

Entrepreneurs are visionaries. They look out into the unknown and create. When a vision grows legs (or a tail) there is opportunity to learn, build, adapt and grow it into something amazing. Walt Disney’s story started when he was a boy. His imagination was vivid and he ran with it. Imagination is the helium in your balloon. Have fun with it. Let yourself go wild and see what unfolds.

Apply it: Maybe you’ve been thinking about an “add-on” service or product you could create. Let your idea flow. Start brainstorming it and writing it out and see where it goes. Another way to apply this lesson is to think about something you don’t have now that you know you really want. It could be a physical office away from the home, or a team of 1 or 5 employees. Begin visualizing what you want and your mind will begin helping you get it.

Do not despise small beginnings

Next time you feel less than confident about your past, your less-than-expert status or you’re frustrated that your business isn’t where you want it to be, remember that the empire that the entire world knows today started with a tiny little, hand-drawn mouse. As of 2014, Walt’s small beginning can boast (54) feature films, (7) destination sites around the world, operations in more than (40) countries, and over (166,000) employees worldwide.

Apply it: Practice gratitude on a daily basis. Period. Wherever you are now, you have come a long way since the place you started. Your personal growth will feed your professional growth, so be sure it’s a priority and then remember the lessons and opportunities you’ve been given.

Disneyland is a magical place. Before my last trip, I had a conversation with a client who is not a fan of the consumerism, crowds, prices and more. I can absolutely see that perspective. My perspective though, is one of wonder, that a simple man with a simple cartoon had one simple idea that led to another and another and soon he was physically building his legacy. Today, that legacy serves as a playground for millions, employment for millions, a place where joy can be found any day of the week, around every corner, and a place where imagination launches and runs free.


References: Disney Careers – http://disneycareers.com/en/about-disney/global-footprint/

 

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Join the “You’ve Got Mail” Revolution https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/join-youve-mail-revolution/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/join-youve-mail-revolution/#respond Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:00:36 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8235 Why email communication at all
Image courtesy of Pixabay and geralt

Image courtesy of Pixabay and geralt

For better or for worse, our business and social lives rely heavily on email. Sometimes our seemingly archenemy, email does have a strong communicative core and the potential to be used effectively.

Don’t we all love our flooded email inboxes after a two-week vacation; the sea of unopened digital messages awaiting our response? Why hasn’t Outlook created an automatic pre-response, telling people not to email in the first place if we’re Out Of Office (OOO)? While I cannot imagine that anyone truly loves his or her email, I still believe in its communicative functionality. Like most anything, if used properly and organized effectively, email can be a powerful tool. Here’s how to use email communication to your benefit in 3 phases:

Phase One: Personal

Assess the number of email accounts you currently have and what each one’s purpose is. I suggest having one email for coupons/shopping (a spam email) and one for personal correspondence with family, friends, banks, travel, etc. I find that having a SPAM email to use when I want to subscribe to certain websites and newsletters substantially diminishes the mess in my personal inbox. It is also an email that I can purposefully go into when you have extra time to catch up on the world or weed through coupons.  So, do you still have an old AOL or Hotmail account that you should upgrade to a new email platform like Gmail or Yahoo? Do you have too many accounts that you have forgotten about? Go through your account list and clean it up, and create a new SPAM email in addition to your personal.

Phase Two: Professional

Take the time to get to know your work email platform. Whether it’s a computer in an office or a professional account, whether it’s Outlook or Gmail, spend an hour going through the settings, creating a tag system, organizing folders, and setting up tasks. You’ll know you have a fully functioning email system when you can concisely and simply answer the question, what do you do when an email hits your inbox? For example, when I get an email, I decide whether I can take immediate action or not. If not, I flag its due date, set a reminder on a specific day, and place it into the appropriate folder. Designate a set amount of time to work out a quick, understandable system.

Phase Three: Universal

Join the “You’ve Got Mail” Revolution and adopt the new email lingo. First, in the subject line of an email add your ask, such as “Action Required: Tomorrow’s Sales Meeting” or “Confirmation: Tues 3pm” or “Report: Twitter Analytics”. By adding this, a person in a hurry can make a much quicker decision as to what to do with your email. Secondly, speak in bullets. Imagine you’re in an elevator and have exactly 2 floors to tell the person inside your message. Lastly, sign off by re-stating the purpose of the email, be it “the ask” or the conclusion, and more importantly, whether or not you need a response. If you do not need a response, let the person off the hook from engaging in a ‘thank you’/’sounds good’ correspondence and write: “no response necessary”. The hope is that people will catch on, but even if they don’t, you’ll be helping yourself and those around you in the email-verse. LinkedIn agrees. Join the You’ve Got Mail Revolution.

How do you use your email efficiently? What tricks or tactics do you use on a daily basis in order to have effective communication?

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The Content Code https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/the-content-code/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/the-content-code/#respond Tue, 19 Jan 2016 15:00:21 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=9170

The Content CodeThe Content Code by Mark Schaefer is an applicable slam dunk course in online and content marketing. After hearing about the book from an associate on the East Coast last year, I finally took the opportunity to buy the audio book on Audible in December.

I wish I knew I would need to buy the paperback version, too. This book is packed with awesome advice, tips and how-to lists that I want to refer back to over and over.

Honestly? I can’t recommend this resource enough!

Thanks Mark! You knocked it out of the park with this one!

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Content Curation for Newbies https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/content-curation-for-newbies/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/content-curation-for-newbies/#respond Tue, 12 Jan 2016 14:00:39 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8234 Successful content curation
Image courtesy of Pixabay and PublicDomainPictures

Image courtesy of Pixabay and PublicDomainPictures

Listen up newbies! Content curation is not copy-pasting your favorite aspects from someone else’s commentary or post. It is not regurgitating everything you’ve read online. And it is certainly not re-wording others’ articles. Content curation is the community manager version of an art curator. It is a refined and highly analytical business of cherry-picking puzzle pieces from a wealth of information, and introducing it in a new, organized, and coherent way. It is becoming well-versed on certain subjects and drawing your own conclusions and connections to share with your community.

Seek Knowledge

The first portion of content curation, similar to an art curator pursuing an academic degree, is to envelop yourself into seeking knowledge. This can manifest itself as research, web-surfing, informational interviews, and more. It is the stage where you equip yourself to be able to make informed decisions around weeding through great and good information versus bad information on a certain topic. Know the who, what, why, when, and where of topics pertaining to your community.

Make Extractions

The next phase is to pull the puzzle pieces from everything you’ve learned, similar to an art curator selecting artworks to place in a gallery. At this point you should feel confident enough to select the aspects, themes, and specific pieces of information that are most relevant to your audience and that you can draw connections between in a valuable way. The pieces of information you choose to focus on should be accurate and clear. In laymen’s terms, the information you are weeding out can consist of points of view on a certain subject, best practices, popular topics, buzz words, and more. Get some content curation tools to help you out.

Paint a Picture

The last stage is to sit down, quiet your mind, and put the puzzle together. It is all in the design and delivery, similar to an art curator creating the display in a gallery. Consider these three questions when building your puzzle: do I see an interesting and fresh connection between the pieces? Do I have a conclusion that I haven’t read about yet; something new that I can offer to my audience? Is there a creative, innovative way to package this information and offer it to my community (e.g. a riveting infographic)?

Take pride in your content just as a good art curator would in their art pieces. The benefit of your selectivity in value-added content allows for a loyal following and rich community in return. Content curation for newbies. To learn more about how to better curate, considering we are all content curators, visit Mashable’s take on it.

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Powerless to Powerful Women: Molly Mandelberg Has Found Her Calling https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/powerless-to-powerful-women/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/powerless-to-powerful-women/#respond Tue, 05 Jan 2016 12:00:42 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8744 IMG_0534Meet Molly Mandelberg, I am passionate about my work for two main reasons: 1) is that I love seeing people thriving and figuring things out and really utterly happy. 2) is that far too often I come across incredible, powerful, beautiful, talented women with no self worth, who hate themselves, their bodies, or their jobs.

Often these women are dating men who treat them as poorly as they treat themselves. (Or worse, are married to them.) It’s easy from the outside to say there’s something wrong there. But coming from someone who’s been there, in the dark with low self worth, an unfulfilling job and in love with someone just as unhappy, I can tell you, it can take an incredible amount of strength to first see that there’s an issue and then ask for help in those situations.

And once you are ready, finding the right kind of help is so important.

Most often it is as simple (and complicated) as mastering your mindset.

That’s what I do. I work with intuitive, compassionate women who, even though they’re smart and tuned in, are still feeling small and disempowered and sometimes just downright suffering in their relationships and in their lives. I help them master their mindset and stand fully in their power so they can create happy, healthy relationships and a bold and joyful life. I call it empowerment advocacy.

There is nothing more satisfying to me then watching someone shift from hopeless to hopeful. Training people to transform their outlook on life from powerless to powerful.

wild banner2I feel like one of those lucky people who happened to find out what they were passionate about early in life. Now I get to help other people follow the breadcrumbs toward their passions. While I’ve only been officially in business for about a year, I have been doing this work almost my entire life. As a small girl, when a friend of mine was being picked on for not moving forward into the next grade, I remember standing up for her and doing whatever I could to assure her that she was smart and good and on the right track. Sounds silly but it’s true.

After spending a lifetime analyzing how people operate and think and grow, I’ve spent over eight years studying the essence of being and the law of attraction as well as how to heal and rejuvenate relationships and how to get the most energy and vitality out of your life. I am delighted to have found a way to funnel all of that information – or more accurately, the strategies that really moved the needle for me in life – into a widely accessible (meaning “online”), though exclusive, program (limited to 30 participants) that is launching January 16th.

My new program, called Heartspace Boot Camp: The 21 Day No B.S. Road to Happy, Healthy Relationships, is structured into three weeks, separated by conference calls to review the material and answer questions, where we go from the internal world to the external. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Week One focuses on the Self and the mind mastering tricks.
  • Week Two gives frameworks for how to better connect and communicate with others.
  • Then Week Three explores purpose and what we intend to contribute to the world, the legacy we want to leave and how to go about living that.

It's Time...Spots are limited to ensure that each participant can have access to feedback and support during the course. Also, it allows those in the program to get to know each other via the private Facebook group and weekly conference calls, which begins building a support network where participants can expand into a community with others who are making similar breakthroughs in their own lives. (Register Here)

Some people find they are at a turning point in life and will do anything they can to keep things the way they are, terrified of change. Then there are people who need a gentle kick in the bum to move forward. I have happily assigned myself as a loving and compassionate a**kicker.

It’s time to move forward into more clarity, confidence, connection and joy!

Your future is waiting.

Molly Mandelberg, WildHeartsRiseUp.com

 

IMG_0534About Molly: Molly Mandelberg has been studying personal development, high performance, the law of attraction and the nature of being for many years to be able to effectively assist women in empowering themselves.  She received her hypnotherapy certification at The Life Transformation Center, where she studied the Transformational Healing Method created by Marilyn Gordon.  She has also undergone Past Life Regression Therapy training with Dr. Brian Weiss at the Omega Institute in New York. 

Molly studied Art at the University of Oregon and traveled the world for a number of years, collecting the experiences she needed to be successful creating transformation in the lives of others.  She also enjoys leading workshops and retreats as a motivational speaker, helping people take their lives to the next level.  

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Annual Business Planning: Jamie-Style https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/annual-business-planning-jamie-style/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/annual-business-planning-jamie-style/#comments Tue, 05 Jan 2016 04:56:14 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8898 If you know me, odds are good that you know about my annual business planning ritual. Every year, I go through a six step process that brings clarity and purpose to my business for the upcoming year.

Because I consistently get questions about what I do during my retreats, how I do it, what I cover, and why, I thought it would be useful for my network, and small business owners everywhere, to gain a little insight into just what these six steps look like for me.

#1. Begin a list of questions.

These can range from general questions like:

  • “What are my top revenue producing products/services this year?”
  • “Are my price points on target for my industry, target and time/effort?”
  • “Are there services I should consider eliminating?”

…to more specific questions, such as:

  • “What one area do I want to focus on growing next year?”
  • “Where is my time being spent and should I invest in finding help?”
  • “What one thing do I need to focus on in Q1?”
  • “What should my email list sign-up incentive be?”

Can’t think of any? These questions are usually ones that have been bouncing around in the back of your head for a while. Trying starting a list now, and saving it in a place that will be easy to access. Maybe you have an online project management system or tool that you can access from your phone, or maybe you have a Daytimer. Once you’ve started the list, begin adding to it over the next few days, weeks or months whenever one of these questions starts bothering you and you’ll have your list ready for planning time.

#2. Begin gathering data and supplies.

table of supplies propelbizworksYou’ll need tools and resources readily available to make the most of your planning session. There is nothing more frustrating than arriving at your retreat destination, 2+ hours away from home, only to find you forgot

If you’re trying to tackle marketing challenges, have marketing data and research ready to go, such as:

  • Social Media profile insights that will tell you what post types are performing best and which days and times seem to be better for posting updates and information.
  • Blog/Website Analytics that will help you identify popular places people are going to on your website, or highly read blog posts that may give you an indication of what your target audience wants from you.
  • Email Marketing statistics like open rates, click-through rates, and days and times you’ve sent blasts or enewsletters.
  • Surveys you’ve sent to your customers or networks.

If you’re deciding on your next new product:

  • Cost spreadsheets will give you bottom line information that will assist in the sales/price point structuring.
  • Prototypes and focus group data
  • Production and sales forecasts may be part of the planning process, or you may already have them ready.
  • Features and benefits

Going over next year’s budget?

  • Print our your Year-to-Date Profit & Loss statements (aka “YTD P&L”)
  • Have your accountant on speed dial
  • Pack your calculator. This is a no brainer, really. 😉
  • Accounting calendars are helpful for planning ahead with cashflow. I have setup a calendar specifically used to remind me when certain bills are due, payroll, annual memberships, tax payments, business registration, rent and utilities. Each year, I simply print out the calendar and dump the info into my budgeting spreadsheet.

snowy night propelbizworksAnd because you never know what may transpire during your planning sessions, I always bring a solid “care box” of planning tools, like:

  • notepads and sticky notes
  • pens, pencils, and highlighters
  • whiteboard and/or flip charts and appropriate markers
  • stapler, tape and paper clips
  • pack your trusty computer (or two)
  • a printer, wifi hotspot, ipad or other tech device you may need to make the job easier
  • food and beverage options of your choice
  • walking clothes and sneakers for exercise breaks, and extra soft sox, just because

#3. Find the perfect spot and decide who’s coming.

Retreat Fireplace propelbizworksIt’s important to find a location where you can focus and be productive, but also a place you can be inspired. If you love solitude and a peaceful place to think, head up to a mountain cabin and crank out some planning amid snow-covered trees, or head to the coast! Of course, there are other options like booking a cool-looking AirBnB in town, renting a conference room for a day, or even locking yourself in the spare bedroom.

Get energy from being around other people? Head to a college library, bustling coffee shop, or co-working space.

You’ll also need to figure out who needs to join you for this planning session. It could be your business partner, team members, significant other, or favorite consultant. Whoever they are, be sure they can help you get things done rather than prove a distraction.

#4. Build an agenda for your time.

Some like to ‘go with the flow’. While I’m becoming known for this approach, nothing can prepare you for the stark realization of the short amount of time you have available to get everything done you want to accomplish. So, create a plan, an agenda, with timeframes for each activity or exercise, then set your alarm and stick to your schedule. If you ever thought working on a deadline was good for you, this will keep you focused!

That said, be willing and prepared to give yourself flex time where you may need more time to sort through hurdles or unforeseen challenges that pop up.

#5. Settle in, set up, and get started!

Business Planning RetreatWhen I arrive at my destination, my first objective is to get familiar with my location, inside and out. Get a feel for your accommodations and decide on the most productive areas for your activities. Usually, I’m rearrange furniture so my table/desk is central to the fireplace. It’s a creature feature I usually require for my retreats.

Once you’ve found your “spot”, get your groceries put away, setup your equipment, grab a glass of water, and get the fire started.

Before you start checking off your list of to-do’s, be sure the smaller, day-to-day problems or emails won’t be a distraction or get in your way. This is your time to figure out important answers and discern the direction of your business for the coming year, so set your out of office responder, turn off your phone’s ringer and then get to work.

Now that you’re setup and ready, begin by reviewing your questions from step one above, and then follow your agenda. Before you know it, you’ll be in the nitty-gritty, running the numbers, analyzing the reports, and making the decisions you need to.

#6. Take a break.

Tea TimeIt may sound like this retreat is going to be all work, but what I’ve learned is that rest and break time is vital to keeping your mind clear and open for inspired thoughts. Be sure to keep your mind engaged and ready to tackle the difficult questions you’re facing head on with regular, refreshing breaks. Give yourself time to ponder, to sit with your thoughts, relax, and open your mind to new ideas. Bring a magazine that inspires you, or talk a long walk or bath in between sessions. And, give yourself permission to go to bed early and sleep a little later than normal each morning. Remember, the brain is similar to a muscle – it gets tired after sprints and needs some rest to be able to perform well again.

By the end of this annual business planning time, you should have answers to at least some of the questions you started with. If you don’t, be sure to make note of the progress you made, any other questions that came up, or anything you found particularly challenging. These notes will be incredibly useful the next time you find yourself doing strategic planning. Most years I find that I need additional strategy sessions to wrap up the final details of the year.

Do you do business planning? What kind of sessions do you have? I’d love to hear your strategies, preparations and planning techniques. Please share below in the comments.

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Three Things to Focus on in 2016 https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/three-things-to-focus-on-in-2016/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/three-things-to-focus-on-in-2016/#respond Thu, 31 Dec 2015 14:45:41 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8551 business planning - a look at 2016

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Unsplash

A fresh start, a blank page, a corner turned. The New Year brings with it new opportunities and new challenges. I find myself reflective this time of year, and I think that’s a good thing. Looking over the last 12 months somehow prepares me to confidently face the coming new year. I think the same is true in business, too. It’s important to document the lessons learned, obstacles overcome, and growth achieved. Recognizing those things keeps us from making the same mistakes again, and encourages us to keep looking forward.

You’ve probably already done your official 2016 business planning, but consider this activity a more reflective and personal side to your plan. As we wind down the last few moments of 2015, go buy yourself a cup of coffee and with a pen in hand, think about these questions:

In retrospect…

  • What was your proudest moment in 2015?
  • What was the biggest lesson you learned?
  • Who became your greatest ally?
  • What changed over the course of the year?
  • Where were you last year at this time?

Looking ahead…

  • What are three goals you want to achieve in 2016?
  • What changes do you foresee happening in your industry?
  • How will you more intentionally spend your time?
  • Who will you spend your time with?

In light of your answers to those questions and the business planning you’ve done for 2016, I would like to suggest three simple strategies to help you actually achieve your goals.

  1. business planning - think in terms of baby steps

    Image courtesy of Pixabay and tookapic

    Think in terms of baby steps. I hope you set big goals and have big dreams for this next year. The problem with dreaming big, though, is how easy it can be to feel overwhelmed and discouraged when you’re not making as much progress as you’d like. Setting reasonable mini-goals within your big goals gives you a way to measure your forward movement. They become something to celebrate along the way.

  1. Operate with a “less is more” mentality. I’m sure you’ve learned by now that always saying “yes” gets you in trouble. This year, be quick to weigh your commitments before making them. Not only will you become the kind of person who can be counted on because your “yes” is yes, but your time will be freed up to be spent more strategically. Invest that extra time on projects and people who really matter. They’re usually the long-term payoff investments, but are also more worth it than the short-term reward.
  1. Make business planning a regular event. In the sheer busyness of life, it doesn’t come naturally to review our progress and goals on a frequent basis. Set aside a day every quarter to do some in-depth digging into the last quarter to assess your progress and make sure you’re on track. Make any course adjustments you need to based on changes in your market and industry. Every month, take half a day to do the same. Weekly, spend at least an hour reviewing your current goals and aligning your tasks in priority with them.

As you prepare for 2016, I wish you all the best in business planning and growth!

-Sarah

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The Pros and Cons of Using a Virtual Assistant https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/the-pros-and-cons-of-using-a-virtual-assistant/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/the-pros-and-cons-of-using-a-virtual-assistant/#respond Thu, 24 Dec 2015 15:00:33 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8680 pro and cons virtual assistantsRegardless of the size and scale of your business, you can find great value in hiring a Virtual Assistant. In the 1970’s, long before the Internet became a major force in business development, virtual assistants were identified with company executives who were always on the move.

They were tasked to manage mundane tasks such as making hotel and restaurant reservations, checking if the laundry or dry cleaned suit were available and confirming travel arrangements.

It wasn’t until the mid 1990’s that virtual assistants started to evolve and find opportunities in other industries. In 2006, Tim Ferris’ bestselling book “The Four Hour Workweek” blew wide open the doors on how virtual assistants can significantly benefit your business.

Today there are millions of virtual assistants worldwide. Leading online job platform Elance claims it has eight million virtual assistants of varying skill sets among its community members.

But with the advantages of hiring a Virtual Assistant also come the disadvantages. This is to be expected as the industry continues to grow and more people are switching careers to become virtual assistants.

The Pros of Using a Virtual Assistant

  1. Streamlines your cost

The primary benefit of hiring a Virtual Assistant is that it lowers your cost of operation. A Virtual Assistant technically is self-employed and owns his own business with virtual assistance as the main trade.

You only pay a Virtual Assistant per productive hour. Because he is contracted on a per project basis and not employed full time, the Virtual Assistant is not entitled to the usual set of benefits.

In addition to cost savings from compensation, you do not need to allocate additional budget for rent, Internet and utilities. These are all considered to be part of the Virtual Assistant’s cost of business.

It is estimated that hiring a Virtual Assistant will generate a cost savings of 40%.

  1. Become more efficient

Virtual assistants are great in organizing and finding new ways to make processes more efficient.

Not many people realize that virtual assistants start out as regular 9-to-5 employees. They know the culture and have the experience to work with supervisors and other employees.

They utilize these experiences to their career as virtual assistants because they have a keen understanding of the value of time. For the most experienced virtual assistants, time wasted is opportunity foregone.

Thus when you hire a Virtual Assistant, one of the first items on the agenda is to organize the work flow. This could be done by systematizing the filing of work or introducing new technology to make frameworks simpler yet faster.

  1. Increases productivity

By having had previous experience, most virtual assistants do not need extended periods of learning. They will need time to acclimatize to the new set of responsibilities but generally this happens while being on the job itself.

Thus, you do not need to spend much time training them. A seasoned Virtual Assistant only needs to be oriented before he assumes the job full time.

Also, by delegating work to a Virtual Assistant, you will be able to free up time for you to focus on functions that require your expertise. You no longer have to allocate time for non-essential tasks or functions that do not immediately translate to business income.

Finally, because virtual assistants are paid per productive hour and upon accomplishing milestones, you can be rest assured they will work harder to meet your targets.

  1. Safely scale operations

If the financial statements show you are ready to scale up your business but you remain unsure about your cash flow, your best option would be to hire virtual assistants.

As previously mentioned, the cost of hiring a Virtual Assistant is comparatively low. It will not significantly impact on your cost of operations thereby keeping your capital exposure to risk at a minimum.

Second, since virtual assistants are hired only on a per-project basis and not full time employees, you can terminate the contract if the arrangement is not working out.

If you hire your Virtual Assistant through an agency, you can have the candidate replaced without losing much time.

  1. Strengthen weak areas

Virtual assistants are no longer just virtual secretaries or virtual personal assistants. Today’s incarnation is much more skilled and highly trained.

You can find virtual assistants who are specialized in a diverse set of skills. There are virtual assistants for market research, transcription services, telemarketing, customer support, digital marketing and payroll preparation.

And given their experience and advanced training, you can always expect top end, high quality work.

As the job has evolved so has the designation. Virtual assistants have grown to be referred to as telecommuters, freelancers or home based workers. Regardless of title, the nature of the job has remained the same.

  1. Gain flexibility

As proprietors of their own business, virtual assistants can set aside their own time.

If you are based in North America and you want your business managed for 24 hours, you should hire virtual assistants from the Philippines and India where time zone differentials exist.

A good example would be an insurance company that needs sales and administrative support.

You can hire virtual assistants who can work with you during operating hours to do sales calls or set appointments. Then you can schedule a shift after operating hours to update your CRM data base, receive incoming inquiries and update work files.

  1. Be less stressed

When you able to delegate a great deal of responsibility, you will have more time for yourself. Productive time is not just measured by the amount of work that you were able to accomplish.

By having time for yourself to recharge, you will be able to come back more reinvigorated for work. Stress is a hindrance to productivity.

Entrepreneurs are encouraged to take active rest during their time away from business. Active rest means getting involved activities that support productive behavior.

Time with family, exercise, learning new skills are examples of active rest. Doing the laundry, cleaning up your home is not. When you have virtual assistants to entrust your business to, you can take that two-week vacation you’ve always wanted with your family.

The Cons of Using a Virtual Assistant

  1. Logistical short comings

Despite the availability of technology and highly evolved forms of communication, it’s hard to beat physical collaboration.

You have to factor in the compromised ability in determining productive behavioral patterns when working with virtual assistants. Working in the virtual world, from the comforts of their own homes creates a sense of security and entitlement which filters real behavioral patterns.

When you share a physical space, it would be easier to get the message across and identify behavioral issues simply by looking out for cues.

  1. Dealing with the language barrier

This is especially true if you hire virtual assistants from remote locations such as India, the Philippines, China and Europe.

The issue on having a language barrier is not just a factor of diction and grammar. Cultural and social nuances will come into play to create differences in perception.

For example, a company from New York may decide to hire a Virtual Assistant from the Philippines to conduct appointment setting. New Yorkers are generally, very upfront in their approach. They tend to go straight to the point and lay out whatever is on their mind.

Filipinos by nature are more conservative in their approach because they grew up under stricter, predominantly Catholic family rules. They will tend to be more formal, extend due courtesy and use salutations in their spiel more than North Americans normally do.

This is may not sit well with the New York-based client who does not want to waste time on pleasantries. But in the same token, you should not expect the Filipino Virtual Assistant to behave like a New Yorker because it is not within his cultural and social profile.

In this situation, there has to be a moderation of expectations and both parties have to work toward a common ground where interests are preserved.

  1. Questions on dedication and commitment

A Virtual Assistant may not be able to dedicate himself to you campaign. By nature, he will manage as many projects as he possibly can. That is how he makes his money and builds his business.

A Virtual Assistant will often handle three to four clients at a time, allocating two to four hours per project. If you want to hire a Virtual Assistant and need one who can dedicate himself to your project, this issue has to be made very clear before work can commence.

And even if you do reach a commitment, there still exists the possibility that the Virtual Assistant will sub-contract your project to another Virtual Assistant.

One of the benefits of becoming a Virtual Assistant is your income potential is dictated by the number of projects you can handle. Accepting projects is also an assurance for them that the stream of income will not be seriously compromise if some work gets discontinued.

  1. Risk of data security

Whenever you engage the services of a Virtual Assistant, you will be passing along confidential information and records. For real estate, insurance and sales companies this includes the leads list.

Even if you use an online Cloud-based file sharing platform, you have no means to finding out if your leads list has been copied or downloaded to another file. A leads list can be converted to cash.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant is no different from hiring someone to assume regular office work. You still need to subject them to interviews, tests and conduct strict due diligence.

Overall, the advantages of hiring a Virtual Assistant outweigh the disadvantages. Safety measures in setting up the IT framework, regular communication and periodic assessment of process should be able to mitigate the risks associated with hiring a Virtual Assistant.

 

Author bio
Felix Felix works with the virtual assistant company OutsourceWorkers. He enjoys writing about entrepreneurship and small businesses. You can connect with him on Twitter.

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8 Valuable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Competition https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/8-valuable-lessons-you-can-learn-from-your-competition/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/8-valuable-lessons-you-can-learn-from-your-competition/#respond Thu, 17 Dec 2015 15:01:27 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8547 Image courtesy of Pixabay and hbieser

Image courtesy of Pixabay and hbieser

“Competition” is an aggressive word we usually associate with the idea of battling it out against other people in order to win the prize. In the business world, those other people are business in your industry with similar products or services, and the prize is ultimately winning the customer or client’s business. Finding ways to learn from your competition might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s a valuable tactic to use to better grow your business. Based on our experience, here are 8 valuable lessons you can learn from your competition:

  1. New marketing tips and tricks. There are always new ideas surfacing on how to better utilize social media and your web presence to reach a bigger audience and gain more clients. Observing how your competition utilizes new platforms or methods first of all can tip you off to cutting-edge ways to reach people, but also gives you the benefit of sitting back and watching for a while to first see how effective a new strategy is before you sink resources into implementing it yourself.
  1. Better SEO strategies. Similarly, using tools like SpyFu allows you insight on what keywords your competitors are successfully using. This tool (and others like it) will show you the keywords a certain website is targeting, and how well it’s working. This is invaluable information you can learn from your competition to keep your content marketing strategy relevant and timely.
  1. How to improve your products and services. Stay abreast of new products, services, and price points offered by your competition. You don’t have to copy everything they do (nor should you), but sometimes you will find it necessary to adjust your strategy so you don’t get left behind in the dust.
  1. How to make customers and clients happier. Reading reviews on a company’s products or services will give you insight into whether needs are being met effectively. Digging into why are (or are not) satisfied with a company will reveal gaps in the market you can emphasize your ability to fill.
  1. See opportunities in the market. Who is your competition targeting? Have they started reaching out to a yet-untapped demographic? Find out how those efforts are panning out, and consider exploring the option for yourself. Look at where other companies are advertising as well, using the placement of their campaigns as idea-generators for your own.
  1. Get a better idea on pricing. This is a huge one. The vast majority of people shop (whether for a product or service) based on the best deal they can find. Quality of those products and services does influence the decision, but for many consumers, the decision will come down to the price point. Learn from your competition to stay informed on what your competitors are charging for similar products and services, and realize you may have to tweak your own pricing accordingly.
  1. How to engage with your audience better. Pay attention to how your competition communicates with people, especially on social media. Monitoring their social profiles will not only help you improve your own social communication, but will also give you a feel for customer satisfaction.
  1. learn from your competition - how your business blueprint is different

    Image courtesy of Pixabay and wokandapix

    What makes your business blueprint different. Just because you share space in the same industry doesn’t mean you and your competitors are identical. In fact, examining the competition more closely can help you better articulate why your company stands out from the crowd or appeals to a subset of the target market. This information can really help you define who you exact target is, and refine how you communicate to them.

Your competition isn’t anything to be threatened by. In fact, they can really become one of the greatest sources of insight you have into your industry and your audience. Learn from your competition instead of focusing on competing with or eliminating them.

What are valuable lessons you have learned from your competitors? How do you keep track of them? Let us know in the comments!

Dig Deeper: Find out how to work with your competition instead of eliminating them

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Making the Most of Holiday Marketing https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/making-the-most-of-holiday-marketing/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/making-the-most-of-holiday-marketing/#respond Thu, 03 Dec 2015 14:43:35 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=8452 holiday marketing strategy

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Pezibear

For most of us, holidays are something to look forward to. They represent a few extra days off work, extra time to spend with friends and family, and an excuse to eat delicious food. Holidays are also an excellent time to breathe fresh life into your marketing strategy by adding some festive cheer to your messaging. Since 20-40% of yearly sales for small-medium retailers happen in November and December, there’s good reason to create a seasonal holiday marketing plan! Over the next few weeks, here are a few ways to “deck the halls” when it comes to your online communication:

  1. Create a holiday logo. Hire your favorite graphic designer to give your logo a festive touch. Your overall cost won’t be huge, and it’ll be something you can use year after year. Use it on everything from your Facebook page to your holiday mail to your website.
  1. Feature shipping specials. If you sell a product online, you’ll have to face the reality of going up against Amazon Prime and other sites offering steep shipping discounts and speedy delivery options. Offer discounted shipping to keep up is a smart holiday marketing strategy.
  1. Design editorial images over stock images. Whatever your product or service is, images portraying that product or service in “real life” being used or experienced by real people is far more effective than basic stock photos. These lifestyle photos tell a story and invite potential customers and clients to be part of that story.
  1. Create promotions and giveaways. It’s obvious, but this is the best time of year to run specials. Even if you missed Black Friday or Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday, don’t think you’ve missed your chance! Surprise your audience with deals all December long. Hint: the most popular deal? A store-wide discount! 41% of consumers prefer this type of discount to any other promotion.
  1. Holiday marketing strategy

    Image courtesy of Pixabay and Skitterphoto

    Get your website ready. With a whopping 82% of holiday shoppers using their smart phone while they shop, it’s important for your website to be mobile friendly! You should already have a site design that’s easy to use from a smart device, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check all the functionality.

  1. Give back to the community. Whatever you’re personally passionate about, get your business involved in it – and talk about it! Take your crew to serve at a soup kitchen or raise funds for a children’s hospital. Socially share about it, and use your example to encourage your audience to participate in similar acts of generosity.
  1. Be extremely social. Stay especially current and relevant on social media during the holidays. People are more active on social media sites this time of year, and you want to capitalize on that exposure. Share your promotions, giveaways, and specials. Celebrating the holidays is a way to humanize your business and connect with your audience.

With a little extra effort, you can get more mileage out of your marketing by adding a holiday-themed twist to your efforts. From social media to your website to your newsletter, brainstorm ways you can make these seven holiday marketing tips work for your business.

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Jared Walker & Dollar For Portland https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/dollar-portland/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/dollar-portland/#respond Thu, 19 Nov 2015 14:00:55 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=7854 After a year of development, Jared Walker has made his mission a reality. Dollar For Portland launched in August of 2015 and has already helped three families with their medical expenses.

With roots firmly planted in Portland and with a brand Portlanders can rally behind, this non-profit is worthy of a shout out!

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Jared Walker, the founder of Dollar For Portland and one of Jamie’s former classmates. Here is what Jared had to say about Dollar For Portland:

Dollar For Portland

1. What is Dollar for Portland?

Dollar For Portland is a non-profit with a mission to empower young people to be generous by simply giving $1 a month to help a local family with medical expenses. 

2. Where did the concept come from?

On April 11, 2012 I received news that my Aunt had passed away after years of battling cancer. About an hour later, my mom called and told me my cousin had gone into labor 7 weeks premature and the baby would need two heart surgeries to live. At that moment I knew I wanted to find a way to help people that are hit with unexpected medical bills. I didn’t have the resources to help by myself. Instead of trying to save a large sum of money to help one family, I wanted to do something more impactful. I wanted to create a platform getting a large sum of people to give a small amount of money to help many families. I knew I wanted everything to be social media driven. That is when the second problem came in to play. Who are the majority of social media users? Millennials. Unfortunately, Millennials are not known for generosity. I wanted to motivate a generation to be generous while helping families with medical debt.

3. Why is this the perfect time to involve youth in giving?

With how connected this generation is through social media we have a huge opportunity. By using social media, we have created a platform where people can connect to a need in their own city, give a small amount, and watch how it makes a difference… All from their mobile device. I think this generation really wants to give and be generous. Dollar For Portland makes it easy. We need to get over the thought that they have to be done with school and well into their career with a house and fancy car in order to give and make an impact. We want them to experience the joy of giving! 

4. How do you involve organizations and businesses in the movement?

We involve other organizations by getting them to nominate families that we can help. We want the organization to look like a hero. We want to partner with organizations that help us get the word out. Businesses can get involved by hosting takeovers so we can highlight the good they are doing in the community. 

5. Where can people learn more?

People can visit our website at Dollarfor.org to learn more about the organization and find ways to contribute and volunteer.

6. How can we all get involved?

The best way to get involved is to SIGN UP! We need users. We need people to go to dollarfor.org/donate and just do it. It takes 19 seconds. You can also volunteer if you want to!

If you have questions for Jared or want to get involved with Dollar For Portland, contact Jared directly.

Jared WalkerGet in touch with Jared:
Email Jared
Contact Jared by phone: 503-853-6850

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Life Lessons for the Business Owner https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/life-lessons-business-owner/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/life-lessons-business-owner/#respond Thu, 19 Nov 2015 13:59:12 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=7313 Life lessons for the business owners

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Unsplash

Being a business owner is a constant learning curve. There are always new opportunities, new challenges, and new situations forcing us to learn and grow. For me, there’s never a shortage of “lessons” I’m being taught. Here are a few business life lessons I’ve been learning the last several months:

Make time to invest in your own business. It’s easy to invest in your clients or customers, putting all your time and energy into improving your products or services to better serve them. But at some point, you have to stop and carve out time to put your own business first. Take those few days off to do some intensive business planning. Make the time and budget to update the website. It might seem like insignificant details, but if your own business is always getting the leftovers, eventually that’s all you’ll have left for your clients and customers, too.

Details matter. Excellence is a way of life. Whatever you’re building, learning to do so with utmost care and attention to detail is of paramount importance. Of course, I don’t mean to get so caught up in perfection that you never finish anything. What I do mean is to tackle the little projects with the same care you put towards the more important projects. Treat the small client project with the same excellence you invest into the much larger client project.

Breakthrough starts with open arms. Worrying and frantically trying to problem solve usually only makes things worse. Choosing to embrace challenges with open arms from a patient mentality puts you in a posture to see clearly. Don’t make hasty decisions before all the facts present themselves. Seek out the facts from reliable, reputable sources – mentors, trusted peers, those more experienced than you. Look for inspiration and open doors to be your guidance.

Celebrate every victory – large and small. In the day-to-day grind, it’s easy to lose sight of the small victories and progress you are making. So you didn’t get every item on your to-do list accomplished today. Honestly, it happens – more often than not, it seems. Instead of focusing on that, focus on the victories you did have. The client meeting that went better than expected. The encouraging phone call with a mentor. The task you had been dreading all week but crossed off today. Those are victories worth celebrating.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! Here’s the thing. You will never run out of tasks to get done. Your to-do list will always regenerate each new morning. And sometimes, in some seasons, there simply will not be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you “should” do. Before you allow that feeling of being overwhelmed to get the better of you, simplify your tasks into the 3-4 MUST DO items for the day in each area of your life: professional and personal. Get those things done, and whatever else you fit in on top of that becomes icing on the cake.

Take a break. It’s been said that the time we enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Turning everything off and retreating away is sometimes the single most healthy and beneficial thing we can do for ourselves and our business. We’re all far more creative with recharged batteries. Taking the time to STOP and prioritize rest in your life will make you a better business owner. (Read more about this topic in a blog I wrote about how taking a vacation HERE)

In the thick of it, life lessons aren’t always pleasant to learn. But looking back over my years in business, I am so thankful for the ways I have grown and changed (for the better!) as a business owner and I look forward to the future lessons I’ll get to learn.

What are some of the life lessons (big and small) you’ve been learning through your business lately?

-Jamie Teasdale

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LinkedIn: Networking for Business https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/linkedin-networking-business/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/linkedin-networking-business/#respond Fri, 06 Nov 2015 14:00:59 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=7288 Chances are, if you are a business or a business professional you already have a LinkedIn profile. If you don’t, you want to!

Today, there are more than 300 million people on the platform, building their network and engaging with their audience. It may be “just another social platform” to you, but we highly recommend LinkedIn for every business or business professional.

If you have been on the mobile application recently, you may have been walked through some new steps (or you may have pressed “Skip” a bunch of times!). LinkedIn wanted to take the time to show users what is possible through their service.

If you weren’t prompted, here’s the steps we are referring to:

Step 1: Connect with people you already know

LIMG_8436inkedIn will use your address book, resume, and your other connections to help you build your audience on LinkedIn with the people you already know. With over 300 million people on the platform already, chances are you have quite a few people within your network using the platform.

LinkedIn allows you to keep track of what is happening with the people you are connected with. This includes:

  • Anniversaries/milestones at a job
  • A promotion
  • A change of job
  • New contact information

Step 2: Connect with people you already know – Part 2

IMG_8437LinkedIn wants to make the process easy. Instead of you going through your address book one-by-one, searching for each person individually, they list the people you may know. To add, the person, you simply press the blue plus sign button – connect with ease!

Now, you may be saying “that name sounds familiar!” or “they look familiar!” Don’t worry… LinkedIn understands (and so do we!). As business owners, we network with a lot of people. The social platform tells you how many connections you have in common.

If you click through to their page, you can even see what degree of connection you are (put more simply, how are you connected?). A first degree connection means you are already connected. A second degree connection means you are connected with someone who is connected with them, and so on.

See someone you don’t want to connect with? Simply skip over them.

Step 3: Join groups relative to your industry

IMG_8438IMG_8439LinkedIn offers more than just individual profiles. They give you the opportunity to join and create groups. Think of a group as a online networking group; allowing people to connect with people that are like-minded with similar interests and information to share.

Join groups such as Social Media Marketing, TED Talks, etc. LinkedIn has groups for nearly every industry. If you see a group that you are interested in following and want to contribute to, click the same blue plus sign as you did when adding individuals you may know.

Groups are another great opportunity to share your expertise and knowledge. As people post comments or discussions in the group, you have the opportunity to chime in.

Step 4: Follow LinkedIn’s Influencers

IMG_8440What is a LinkedIn Influencer? “LinkedIn Influencer is a designation given to approximately 500 professionals who’ve been invited to publish on LinkedIn. As leaders in their industries, geographies, and seniority, they talk discuss topics of interest, such as leadership, management, hiring and firing, disruption, and how to succeed.” (Learn more about the Influencer program)

Who is it that you look up to? Whose opinions and business decisions do you trust and model your own after?

Also, who within your industry is the go-to person? Who is it that everyone knows and talks about within your specific industry? These will be your LinkedIn Influencers.

Note, however, these people do not appear in the same area that your personal connections appear in. Visitors to your page will see these Influencers at the bottom of your page so choose wisely. Who you follow says a lot about you and your business.

Step 5: Follow the companies you like & value

IMG_8442IMG_8443We all have certain companies that we like, whether in or out of the industry we work in. Or, if we are looking for a new job, we may want to stay up-to-date with what a specific company is currently doing. LinkedIn allows you to follow companies, too!

Not only is this a great way to stay updated with news from your favorite companies, but it also provides a great way to learn! See what they are doing and what is successful. What is being liked or commented on most? What is being completely ignored? See what industry leaders are doing and adapt your strategy to incorporate similar tactics.

If LinkedIn doesn’t give you some recommendations, you can always search for them later!

Step 6: Are you really done?

IMG_8444If you blew through these steps, you may have forgotten a certain individual, Influencer, or company that you may have wanted to follow. LinkedIn prompts you to go back and add those people now (again, don’t worry if you don’t have the time to do it now – you’ll have other opportunities!).

At this point, it’s a good idea to briefly go back through the above steps – just to make sure. The more well-rounded your network, the more you’ll benefit from being on the platform.

This is also a good excuse to go back and review your profile. Are there sections you need to update? Job descriptions you want to beef up? Contact information that needs updating? Or maybe you have a more recent headshot to add. It’s always a good idea to review your profile every few months to make sure the information is current, accurate, and representing who you are and what you do well.

Step 7: Add your phone number in case you get locked out

IMG_8445Some people prefer not to give their phone number on social platforms in fear that they may start getting phone calls (or cold calls) from the platform or that their information may be leaked. While this hesitation is valid, adding your phone number also has a key benefit: LinkedIn has incorporated a feature that in the event you forget your password or are unable to get into your account, they can help you get back in using your phone number.

Getting locked out of your account can be a hassle, and we recommend utilizing this feature. We all have more accounts, usernames, and passwords than we know what to do with. Having your phone number listed as insurance for accessing your profile will save you the time it might take calling to regain access.

You can also use your phone number to incorporate two-step authentication to your account, making it more secure than just using the usual username/password combo.

Are you using LinkedIn for either yourself or your business? We’d love to connect with you! 

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Instagram Refresh: How to Drive Website Traffic https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/instagram-refresh-drive-website-traffic/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/instagram-refresh-drive-website-traffic/#respond Thu, 05 Nov 2015 14:11:06 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=6603 Image courtesy of Pixabay and pixolga

Image courtesy of Pixabay and pixolga

With 75 million active daily users, Instagram continues to be one of the most popular social media platforms used. Over a quarter of the US population used Instagram last year, and this number is expected to climb. After introducing ads in 2013, the platform has been growing in popularity with businesses ranging from industry leaders like Nike to the small local coffee shop down the street.

Using Instagram for your business is a smart strategy to connect on a personal level with your audience, and more and more entrepreneurs are embracing this platform. One of the frustrations Instagram presents is the lack of clickable links in photo captions and comments. Many brands have struggled to find a way around this limitation to still use the platform to send traffic to their website. While there is no “magic fix,” here are 3 simple Instagram strategies you can put in place to boost the website traffic you get from the platform:

How a link in your bio looks

How a link in your bio looks

Strategy #1: Put a link in your bio.

The one place links are clickable in Instagram is in your bio. Make sure to add your website URL by going into Edit Profile -> Website. Feel free to frequently change out which link you use; use a photo to feature a blog article or specific page on your site and instruct readers to find the link in your profile.

Pro tip: Google Analytics doesn’t track traffic from Instagram; if someone clicks a link in your Instagram profile, Google will report it as Direct Traffic instead of Referral Traffic. To get around this and track how much traffic you’re getting from Instagram, use bit.ly or goo.gl to shorten a link, customize it, and keep tabs on how well your links do.

What a call-to-action looks like in a caption

What a call-to-action looks like in a caption

Strategy #2: Use a direct call-to-action in photo captions

When you post a photo directly related to a blog or page on your website, be sure to include a specific call-to-action instructing viewers to find the link on your website. You can either type out the URL in your comment and hope that people copy and paste it into their browser, or instruct viewers to click the link in your profile.

Pro tip: Send people to click the link in your profile. While both approaches require an extra step on the follower’s part, going to your profile and clicking the link there is far easier than re-typing it in a browser.

Strategy #3: Use Instagram ads

Instagram recently made this option available to all companies and brands, meaning you can now pay for targeted ads on the platform. You can choose from photo, video (up to 30 seconds, or carousel (a series of four photos) ads, all of which include a “Learn More” link.

Pro tip: While not for everyone, a well-thought-out Instagram ad could be extremely beneficial for your business.

Instagram is likely to remain one of the primary social media platforms for the foreseeable future. While undoubtedly things will change, implementing these three simple strategies will up the website traffic Instagram sends your way.

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Why Insurance is an Important Decision for Business Owners https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/why-insurance-is-an-important-decision-for-business-owners/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/why-insurance-is-an-important-decision-for-business-owners/#respond Thu, 29 Oct 2015 13:00:03 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=7070 When it comes to owning a small business, there are many details to consider in order to keep your business running effectively. One of the most important choices a small business owner can do for their business is purchase insurance.

Ericountry logo 1c Lindberg is our go-to insurance professional here in Portland. Eric has been with Country Financial for over 14 years now, serving both Oregon and Washington. He has helped many small business owners come up with the best policy for their businesses.

 

We recently had the opportunity to ask Eric about the importance of insurance for business owners:


1) Please share the services you provide and whom you serve.

At Country Financial, we offer automobile, motorcycle, homeowners, renters, life, disability insurance to individuals in both Oregon and Washington.

2) What makes Country Financial different from other insurance groups? 

Many insurance groups do not offer the personal service experience that Country Financial offers. I work with all of our clients on a one-on-one basis to create customized solutions based on their needs and desires. I respect the goals of my clients and want them to be able to trust and rely on me to help them with their financial needs.

As a small business owner myself, I understand the busy schedule most business owners have. To make the whole process easier, I meet with my clients individually according to their schedule and what works best for them. It is my priority to understand their needs as best as possible in order to propose the policies that will work best for them.

 

3) We often hear we need to have life insurance. Why is it so important for business owners and executives to invest in life insurance?

Protecting the future of their business is priority. If something were to happen to a business owner and they didn’t have life insurance, the business could fall apart rather quickly without enough capital to keep the business operating. By investing in life insurance, business owners can ensure the business they worked so hard to create stays in business while the owner or partner position is filled.

Further, think of your loved ones. Many business owners have a family that also depends on them. You have the ability to protect your family from financial hardship by purchasing the right life insurance plan that helps to bring in income in the unfortunate event of a life accident.

Many times, I will receive a call from someone wanting life insurance after their health has changed for the worse. However, people should get life insurance now – when they are healthy because it saves them money and offers more possibility of coverage.

 

5) What should business owners be asking when investing in insurance?

Insurance is a foreign concept to many people and when choosing a policy for your business, you need to understand what you are getting.

Some of the most important questions you should ask an insurance agent are:

  • How much experience do they have?
  • Do they have clients similar to you?
  • What is their average response time?

In regards to the policy you choose:

  • What kind of coverage do you need?
  • How long do you want the policy for?
  • What is your financial situation?
  • Is your income going to be growing?
  • What assets and liabilities do you have?

 

6) How can you provide peace of mind and what services do you offer to solopreneurs who work from home? 

Being insured under the policy that is best for you gives you peace of mind that you have the right coverage in the event something happens to you or your assets. Home and auto insurance are both pieces of your financial well-being. Talk to your insurance provider to get their input on what coverage they recommend for your policies considering your home-based business.

When you are working with an insurance company and agent that cares about you and your business, you can rest assured that they are proposing the best policy according to your needs.

 

7) What can you recommend to entrepreneurs or executives should take into consideration when they do a lot of travel for work, whether by car or another mode of transportation? 

They should contact the insurance company who they have their auto insurance through to see what kind of insurance they have while renting a car. You may also want to consider life insurance coverage if you have dependents.

In addition to Eric’s thoughts, we also suggest finding a trustworthy mechanic like our friends at Everett Street Autoworks to be sure maintenance is regular.

If you have questions for Eric regarding insurance, contact him to see how he can help.

Get in touch with Eric:

EricContact him on LinkedIn

Email Eric

Call Eric at (503) 203-1420

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6 Vital Lessons I Learned By Taking A Vacation https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/productivity-and-management/6-vital-lessons-learned-by-taking-a-vacation/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/productivity-and-management/6-vital-lessons-learned-by-taking-a-vacation/#comments Wed, 28 Oct 2015 15:50:06 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=7133 There are some life lessons we only have to learn once. And then there are others. Like, how sometimes life gets so busy that we forget to take a break. Or, we just choose to stay in the wheel, grinding out the day-to-day routine until we are forced to quit. Whether it is our body who says “STOP!” or our immune system is tired and we end up with a raging flu, you know when you have to rest a while.

IMG_7622For me, taking a vacation hasn’t always been the easiest thing. With a company that relies on me for so many of the responsibilities, I have been hard-pressed to find and take more than 2 days off… until recently. The stage was set – our 10th anniversary. An excellent excuse to get away together. And then we invited our family and it all came together beautifully.

The challenge: knowing I needed to disconnect. I mean, REALLY disconnect. I had been working 7 day weeks for months, with little respite in between. Yes, my business was growing, but I knew I could only hold out so long in that work mode. When I made the decision not to take my laptop with me and to turn off my email from the phone I knew I would need during the trip, I knew I had to do it, but I didn’t know the valuable lessons I would learn in the process.

These 6 lessons I learned really do need to be shared, because they are vital to maintaining balance and a healthy work lifestyle.

Lesson 6: Don’t procrastinate. Plan ahead.

I know I always work well with a deadline. How about you? As soon as you know where you’re going and when you’ll be gone, a goal is set to remove yourself from the picture during that time.

entrepreneur planning

Image courtesy of Pixabay and StartupStockPhotos

Begin reviewing projects, client communications, systems and team coverage needs at least 4-6 weeks ahead of time. Are there any client communications or projects that will need dedicated support coverage while you’re away? Who will be there to cover? Which of your clients need a heads-up?

About 2 weeks out, begin setting up guidelines for team coverage – who will report to whom and who is responsible for what. Make sure project assignments and what is needed is crystal clear.

2-4 days before you leave, setup and schedule your out of office email auto-responder and your out going voicemail box message, backup your computer system and devices, wrap up and delegate any final projects or responsibilities, and finish up your communications.

The day before you leave, you should feel great about turning off your computers and turning off emails, phone and text.

Lesson 5: It’s ok – even good – to talk about it.

Not only does talking about it give you even more reason to look forward to it, it also helps you process and announce your time away from the office to those you work with.

conversation

Image courtesy of Pixabay and CreativeProphet

It doesn’t mean you tell the whole world, splash it all over social media or publicly offer up the information that you won’t be home for a week. But, for those you trust and who depend on you, it’s good to give them the head’s up.

I started telling all my associates, team members and clients that I would be gone for a week WELL in advance – as in, 4 weeks before, or more. And, guess what, they respected it. Besides only one text message I received from a business owner I work with who felt they needed urgent help, I didn’t use my mobile devices for work at all. My cell phone was only used for coordinating activities with the family that was all there with my husband and I, and of course, the occasional social update on Instagram or Facebook.

It’s not a bad thing to share how much you’re looking forward to a vacation, or to post a few pictures while you’re out so your online friends and fans will know you’re enjoying yourself. Just be sure your privacy isn’t compromised. Review your social profile security, location services, and privacy settings before you leave and you won’t need to worry about who’s seeing your updates or know where you live.

Lesson 4: It can be done.

IMG_7565Not only did I make the conscious decision not to take my computer AND to turn off my email from my phone, I actually stuck to it. And, guess what? Nothing catastrophic happened while I was disconnected.

I made the decision to schedule a mid-week check-in with my team, which wasn’t really necessary, but it was good for them, and we made it quick, so it was good for me too. The only piece of advice I have when and if you must schedule a team call, is to make it concise, know what updates you’ll need and outline those before you leave, and be sure you set a time that works for the timezone you’ll be in. I forgot to remind my team that Hawaii was 3 hours behind Pacific Coast time. So when Bren called at 7am on Wednesday, I was slightly jarred out of bed. My mistake.

Lesson 3: It opens the mind.

IMG_7513Letting go of responsibility is freeing when you plan ahead and know you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day routine, and the weight of responsibility opens. Even if you are determined to force yourself to let go, that act will release the mind to explore thoughts and ideas and places differently, more, even better. It makes way for the brain to rest and ideate, contemplate, and learn new things.

Wrapping up business chores prior to leaving and fully disconnecting give me space to wonder about new possibilities – something I hadn’t scheduled time to do for a long while due to the workload involved with the growth of Propel.

It also let me wander – through jungles to the tops of mountains, under waterfalls, onto majestic beaches, and into turtle inhabited waters. It let me rest and explore a new place in the world in a way I hadn’t ever done.

I read inspiring magazines cover-to-cover, and articles that made my head think in a new way. And, upon returning home, there were a series of doors opened to me that I had capacity and ability to consider, discuss and thoroughly think through.

Lesson 2: It is absolutely necessary

IMG_7610Taking time off is absolutely, undeniably vital to being successful in business, family, leadership, and I believe, life in general. And for that reason, it needs to be a regular priority.

Admittedly, I tend to be (and people know me as) a busy business owner that works a lot, and through weekends most weeks. It’s not just the nature of the machine I’ve been building since 2009 either. I have made other people, other projects and initiatives more important than my own mental and physical health, yet I’ve always known that taking a day each week to rest can be just as beneficial as taking a whole week of vacation. Somehow it got away from me.

IMG_7825If we don’t give our mind a chance to slow down or stop on a regular basis, it will get too full to hold more, and that’s when health issues can creep in. We can really only absorb so much before we will be forced to clear space, process, and make room for new, more, better. It’s a renewing and recharging process that can’t go unattended.

I believe a day each week is the very minimum amount of workload rest we should take, which is why it is now part of our values at Propel. When I returned from my October 2015 Vacation to Kauai I came back re-energized and resolved to make Saturday sessions a special exception, and to not work on Sunday because I need it. And because owners and managers should lead by example.

Lesson 1: Make vacation a part of my business planning for the next year.

IMG_7756Now that I know and have proven to myself that taking a week of vacation is possible, now that I understand the process of disconnecting without being tethered to technology or responsibility, I know it must become part of my annual planning process. The week of disconnect was so beneficial and not as scary as I thought – so why isn’t it something I expect for and plan for each year?

Whether that means it happens once, twice or four times each year, once each quarter, remains to be seen. All I know is that one week off is a necessity and two weeks is my goal. So, even if I don’t know exactly which two weeks, and lodging and flights aren’t booked today, opening my mind now and preparing to receive those weeks as a gift will help me take the first steps in making it a reality.

Stay tuned for my annual business planning preparation post coming in a couple weeks. Until then, begin thinking about the steps you can take to start moving into a regular routine of taking a day off or a vacation that requires you to get away from the office for 5 business days.

 

Have you experienced something similar? I’d love to hear what lessons you’ve learned throughout your years relating to taking time off and how you integrate balance into your professional life. Please share in the comments below.

 

Enjoy the full gallery here:

 

 

 

 

 

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When the Going Gets Tough… https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/tough/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/tough/#respond Thu, 22 Oct 2015 12:54:29 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=6601 for when the going gets tough - entrepreneur inspiration

Image courtesy of Pixabay and geralt

Being an entrepreneur is no joke! It often calls for long days, sleepless nights, and nonexistent weekends. The flipside, however, is what makes it worth it: doing what you love to make a difference in your sphere of influence. Some days, the rewards clearly outweigh the challenges. But other days, the obstacles seem insurmountable and you might find yourself questioning why you’re doing what you do.

Every day, we all can use a reminder that says, “you can do it!” Today, here’s some encouragement for when the going gets tough from the stories of veteran well-known entrepreneurs:

Walt Disney got fired for lack of creativity and had to close his first company. He faced criticism and many circumstances of failure before establishing one of the most well-known creative empires in the world.

Sometimes, you have to keep persevering for a long time before success comes your way. In the meantime, keep believing in the dream and never stop moving forward.

Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel Corporation) overcame poverty to become the richest man in the world during his time. He let his past drive him to give back. After selling his company, he gave millions to the New York Public Library and founded what would eventually become known as Carnegie-Mellon University.

Just because you feel like you’re starting as far away as you can get from your goals doesn’t mean you can’t attain them.

Steve Jobs (Apple) started a successful company he was then fired from, seemingly ending his hopes for success. Against impossible odds, he bounced back time and again from failures and setbacks to continue pushing creative boundaries to continually set the standard in the tech industry.

Failure is never final unless you let it be.

Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post) endured rejection as an author before finally being published. Even then, it isn’t books she’s known for, but her website, The Huffington Post.

What you think you’re supposed to do might not pan out, but the failure might be preparing you to refine the dream and walk through a different open door.

Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) worked odd jobs through school. It wasn’t until he was 26 after serving in the military that he bought his first variety store. Relying on creativity, he redefined how he did business and in 20 years became known as the richest person in America.

Your combined experiences might seem random, but pulling them together equips you to do what you best.

Milton Hershey (Hershey’s Chocolate) was a failed apprentice printer who started – and lost – three candy companies before seeing results.

Learning from mistakes and being willing to try again are the two ingredients to finding success.

Oprah Winfrey had a traumatic upbringing that included rape, abuse, and running away from home. Her high school job turned into her career, and by leaning in to her past experiences, she recreated what daytime talk shows look like.

Personal struggles don’t have to limit you. They can become what gives you uniqueness and a voice in your vocation.

There are common themes in all these stories: failure, getting fired, being laughed at… And also getting back up again the next day to try again. No matter what challenge, difficulty, or failure you’re currently facing, you have what it takes to make it through. You can push through and see the success on the other side!

 

Sarah Gill

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The Latest in Social Media: Facebook Updates https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/latest-social-media-facebook-updates/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/latest-social-media-facebook-updates/#respond Fri, 16 Oct 2015 13:00:18 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=6688 As social media managers, Jamie and I always update each other on any updates we see on different social media platforms. However, recently it seems as though every conversation starts with a “Have you seen the recent change to…”

Keeping up with every adjustment that happens on social media may seem overwhelming, but these platform developments can greatly impact your business’ social media strategy. If you are using social media for your business, your audience expects you know how to use the platform for your business. If you choose not to educate yourself on the latest changes, you may lose your audience.

 

What are the most recent Facebook updates you should be aware of?:

There is a new, more prominent mobile call-to-action button

Facebook's prominent call to action
When you visit a business page, you typically see a company’s logo as their profile picture and pictures relative to their company as the cover photo. On top of the cover photo, Facebook has incorporated buttons like “Message” or “Like.” Now, if you visit the page on your mobile device, you will notice the call-to-action button spans the width of your cover photo. Make sure that your call-to-action button is set up and working on both your mobile devices and desktop.

There are new sections like “Services” & “Products”

If you follow a number of different business pages on Facebook, you may have noticed that almost every page is the same, besides the images and information they input. Facebook is changing up business pages by allowing users to list services and products as their own tab of the Facebook page. Expect to see more tweaks that will allow us to customize our pages further.

 You can reply to comments via a private message

Reply to comments with a direct message
When our audience posts to our Facebook, we are used to seeing actions like “Reply” or “Like.” Now, you will notice an option to “Message.” Instead of replying for the rest of Facebook to see, you can send a private message between you and your customer/client. Think about the times where someone is having a problem and voicing their opinion on your page. You can and should reply to their comment appropriately, but if you need to discuss matters privately, you can have a one-on-one conversation.

Pages are rewarded for being responsive

One of the most important parts of using social media for your business is responding. With the newest update, business pages that respond quickly are rewarded with a “Very responsive to messages” badge. Of course there is an equation that determines if you are “very responsive,” but the general guidelines are:

  • You must respond to at least 90% of message
  • You must have a median response time of 5 minutes or less

Be sure to respond to messages, but don’t react solely for purposes of getting your badge. If you don’t have the time to dedicate your attention to responding in a brand-friendly way, wait until you can.

 

For our personal pages:

When you updated to the latest version of the mobile application of Facebook, you may have been prompted to “Bring Your Profile to Life.” The changes that Facebook made allow you to personalize your profile page a little more in-depth than before.

The latest updates on Facebook

Choose a video as your profile imageAdd a video to your Facebook Profile Image

We have gotten so used to picking a profile image that fits into a square. But now, you can choose a video to fill your profile image. We can only imagine that other platforms will soon be adopting this setting.

Feature images below your profile photo and cover image

You can now select up to 5 images that will appear directly below your cover photo and profile photo. When you log-in to your updated Facebook application, you will be prompted to make the change as seen below. Facebook featured Images

Write a short bio

If you are on Twitter or Instagram, you know the struggle of having a limit in characters to write a short bio about yourself. Well, now Facebook has adopted this bio feature. Again, when you log-in to the new version of the Facebook application, you will be prompted to add a bio. Keep in mind your bio is short. (See the blue + “Add a short bio” in the image below)

Add a bio to your Facebook
Have you seen any other Facebook updates recently? Share with us in the comments below and we will be sure to look into them and provide information for all to read.

 

Bren Schader

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Welcome to the New EMV Card https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/emv-card/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/emv-card/#respond Wed, 07 Oct 2015 01:20:24 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=6252 With all the rumors, confusion, and hype about the credit card fraud liability shift that happened on October 1st, we wanted to get to the bottom of it and understand the facts.

EMV cardOur friend Tanya Williamson at Gravity Payments took time to answer a few questions for us, and helped us better understand what’s changing and how small businesses should respond.

Here’s what she told us about the new EMV card:

1) What is EMV?

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, Visa, who set card payment standards. An EMV card has a computer chip embedded on the front of the card. These cards are already in use in more than 130 countries around the world.

2) What will the chip do?

Ultimately, these cards will lower the risk of fraud and the production of counterfeit cards. Traditional, magnetic strips are easy to reproduce. The chips, on the other hand, create a unique code for each use, making it nearly impossible to counterfeit.

3) How will the chip effect businesses?

If businesses decide not to become compliant with the new technology than they run the risk of becoming liable for the losses associated with a fraudulent transaction. It is important to note, however, that it is not a legal issue whether you can take EMV cards. You will not get fined, suspended, penalized, or otherwise punished for not upgrading. You are, however, taking on more liability…  For EMV compliant merchants, both they and their customers can have more peace of mind knowing the risk of fraud happening are much lower than they were with the old swiping system.

 4) Is it true that liability for fraud and theft is now shifting to the business/merchant?

Not exactly. What’s changing is the criteria used to determine who’s liable. As of October 1st, the liability for a fraudulent transaction will fall on whichever party – the merchant or the card-issuing bank – is least EMV-equipped. Here are a few examples to explain this better:

  • Example 1: Suzy got sent a new chip card from her bank and walks into a store to use it, but they hadn’t upgraded their equipment yet. A fraudulent transaction happens, and because the store had not upgraded their equipment, they become responsible for Suzy’s losses.
  • Example 2: Joe’s bank hasn’t upgraded to the new cards yet, and he walks into a store to make a purchase on EMV-capable technology. A fraudulent transaction happens, and because the store had upgraded machines but the bank had not yet sent Joe a new chip card, the issuing financial institution is responsible for Joe’s losses.
  • Example 3: In the event neither customer or merchant have chip-capable equipment or if both have chip-capable equipment, the card-issuing financial institution is responsible for losses, just like they have been.

5) What are the pertinent facts businesses should know?

First of all, it bears repeating that you will not be punished simply for not upgrading your payment technology. However, choosing to not upgrade your payment options does put you at risk to have to cover the losses of fraud.

6) What expenses will businesses pay for upgrading their terminals?

The costs of new terminals vary, but the business will be responsible. With that said, a basic EMV capable terminal is going to cost around $300.  You can always get in touch with us for information and pricing specific to your terminal. 

7) How Gravity Payments is helping:

For small businesses, we can help you determine which upgrade option is best for your business!  Give me a call at 503-705-0785 and I’d love to help!

If you have questions for Tanya about the EMV update, contact her to see how she can help.

Get in touch with Tanya:Tanya Williamson

Contact her on LinkedIn

Email Tanya

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True to Who You Are: A Business Owner’s Guide to Identity https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/true-business-owners-guide-identity/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/true-business-owners-guide-identity/#respond Sun, 04 Oct 2015 13:01:09 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3214 True to who you are - identity and the entrepreneurThe road to business success is paved with choices: Will you play it smart, or play it safe? Will you take a shortcut to get ahead or remember slow and steady wins the race? One of the more defining choices you will make many different ways and many different times is whether you will chose to make others happy at the cost of your values, or if you’ll stay true to who you are. We can all think of examples of people who sacrificed who they were in order to get ahead and ended up paying the price later. None of us ever want to end up there, but it can be so easy to compromise in little things until we’re farther off track than we realized. From our perspective, here are five things to remember in order to stay true to who you are in business:

1: Values

Your decisions flow out of your values. By remembering the things you’ve identified as values, you have an automatic litmus test for your actions and decisions. If a product doesn’t meet those standards, you can nix it without hesitation. If a potential client or partner doesn’t align with what’s most important to you, you can stop the relationship before it drags you down.

Questions to ask: What’s important to you? What are you all about? What drives you to do what you do? Is what you’re currently doing consistent with those values?

2: Dreams

It’s likely that the only reason you got into what you’re doing is because you had a dream and a goal you wanted to accomplish. It’s amazing how in the midst of life and struggles, we can lose sight of those big-picture dreams we used to have. Keeping those goals in mind will keep you mindful of how your decisions and actions today are building your future so you don’t get distracted by the temporary glitz and glitter of things that would ultimately sidetrack you.

Questions to ask: Where are you going? What are your goals? What’s the big picture of everything you’re working toward?

3: Perspective

The two extremes of success and failure have a way of warping the way we think. Keeping our journey in perspective keeps us from thinking too highly or lowly of ourselves. When we encounter success, remembering where we’ve come from will help us continue to value the relationships that have helped us make it so far. When we encounter failure, remember what we’ve already overcome and where we’re headed in the future keeps us from believing the failure is permanent.

Questions to ask: Where have I come from? Who has helped me get here? What have I overcome in the past?

4: Community

Having honest people around us is another important way to stay grounded when the winds of failure or success try to blow us off course. Staying surrounded by people who genuinely have our best interest at heart is critical to long-term success. We need people who are willing to help us see the silver lining, and also aren’t afraid to give us a kick in the pants once in a while when we start acting inconsistently with our values and identity.

Questions to ask: Is there anyone in my life who is willing to say hard things to me? Have I developed relationships with like-minded people? How well do I maintain those relationships?

5: Identity

After it’s all said and done, remember this: you are not your business! Whatever success, censure, failure, or fame you encounter as a business owner does not actually define who you are as a person. When we allow our identity to get wrapped up in what we do instead of who we are, that misplaced identity will lead us astray every time.

Questions to ask: How invested am I in my business? Have I allowed my identity as a person to be defined by what I do instead of who I am?

Being an entrepreneur and business owner is tough work, but you can do it! Remembering your values and dreams, keeping it all in perspective, surrounding yourself with loyal friends, and keeping your identity in the right place are safety nets to keep you on track and true to who you are.

-Sarah Gill

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What Your Small Business Needs to Know About the EMV Liability Shift https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/what-your-small-business-needs-to-know-about-the-emv-liability-shift/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/what-your-small-business-needs-to-know-about-the-emv-liability-shift/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 22:10:01 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=5850 emv chip card technology

Image courtesy of Pixabay and PublicDomainPictures

With all the rumors, confusion, and hype about the credit card fraud liability shift that happened on October 1st, we wanted to get to the bottom of it and understand the facts. Our friend Tanya Williamson at Gravity Payments took time to answer a few questions for us, and helped us better understand what’s changing and how small businesses should respond:

 

1) What is EMV?

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, Visa, who set card payment standards. An EMV card has a smart card or computer chip  embedded on the front of the card. These cards are already in use in more than 130 countries around the world.

 

2) What will the chip do?

Ultimately, these cards will lower the risk of fraud and the production of counterfeit cards. Traditional, magnetic strips are easy to reproduce. The chips, on the other hand, create a unique code for each use, making it nearly impossible to counterfeit.

 

3) How will the chip effect businesses?

If businesses decide not to become compliant with the new technology than they run the risk of becoming liable for the losses associated with a fraudulent transaction. It is important to note, however, that it is not a legal issue whether you can take EMV cards. You will not get fined, suspended, penalized, or otherwise punished for not upgrading. You are, however, taking on more liability…  For EMV compliant merchants, both they and their customers can have more peace of mind knowing the risk of fraud happening are much lower than they were with the old swiping system.

 

4) Is it true that liability for fraud and theft is now shifting to the business/merchant?

Not exactly. What’s changing is the criteria used to determine who’s liable. As of October 1st, the liability for a fraudulent transaction will fall on whichever party – the merchant or the card-issuing bank – is least EMV-equipped. Here are a few examples to explain this better:

  • Example 1: Suzy got sent a new chip card from her bank and walks into a store to use it, but they hadn’t upgraded their equipment yet. A fraudulent transaction happens, and because the store had not upgraded their equipment, they become responsible for Suzy’s losses.
  • Example 2: Joe’s bank hasn’t upgraded to the new cards yet, and he walks into a store to make a purchase on EMV-capable technology. A fraudulent transaction happens, and because the store had upgraded machines but the bank had not yet sent Joe a new chip card, the issuing financial institution is responsible for Joe’s losses.
  • Example 3: In the event neither customer or merchant have chip-capable equipment or if both have chip-capable equipment, the card-issuing financial institution is responsible for losses, just like they have been.

 

5) What are the pertinent facts businesses should know?

First of all, it bears repeating that you will not be punished simply for not upgrading your payment technology. However, choosing to not upgrade your payment options does put you at risk to have to cover the losses of fraud.

 

6) What expenses will businesses pay for upgrading their terminals?

The costs of new terminals vary, but the business will be responsible. With that said, a basic EMV capable terminal is going to cost around $300.  You can always get in touch with us for information and pricing specific to your terminal. 

 

7) How Gravity Payments is helping:

For small businesses, we can help you determine which upgrade option is best for your business!  Give me a call at 503-705-0785 and I’d love to help!

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Raising Money for Your Business Using Crowdfunding https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/crowdfunding/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/crowdfunding/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 13:00:16 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=4429 The costs of running your own business can quickly add up and as 2016 is drawing near, small business owners must have a solid financial plan in place.

One of our colleagues, and a fellow Portland small business owner, Cecelia Otto has found a creative way to raise funds for her business: crowdfunding. Although you may not be familiar with the term, you may be familiar with some of the popular crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter that have become growingly popular through social media.

We recently sat down with Cecelia to find out more about crowdfunding and how it can be used to effectively raise money for businesses.

Here are a few key questions we asked Cecelia during our recent interview:

1) Can you define crowdfunding and give us some history on when it started, how it became popular, and how it works?

Crowdfunding is a way to raise funds online for a special project or cause — I liken it to a “do-it-yourself PBS pledge drive.” You set up a campaign page through a platform, and depending on the platform, you can entice donors to give certain dollar amounts by offering a special reward just for donating. Many platforms have a specific window of time that you can collect donations (typically 30-60 days), and with some platforms, if you don’t meet your goal, you can lose all funds that have been raised. The term was first used in 2006, and has really gained momentum in the last couple of years among people of all walks of life. From artists to soccer moms, everyone can find a crowdfunding platform that’s a good fit.

 

2) Will you please share with our readers your journey and how it included crowdfunding.

As a classically trained singer and composer, I had an idea for a project for the world’s first singing travelogue: a special concert tour in celebration of America’s first transcontinental road, the Lincoln Highway. This road was the first memorial to Abraham Lincoln, and it would be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. I tried to seek grant funding from the 14 states along the route, but because I was not a resident and I did not have a proof of concept, I was denied funding through this medium. I had people tell me they thought it was a good project to raise funds via crowdfunding, and in early 2013 I launched my campaign on Kickstarter. In 30 days, I raised a little over $15,000, which enabled me to make this historic tour possible. People responded to the vintage music I was performing as well as my six-month journey, and I released a book and CD about my travels this year.

 

3) How did that become a topic that groups want you to speak about and companies hire you to consult and coach them on?

When I launched my campaign in 2013, crowdfunding was still pretty much unknown to the general public. Artists and inventors knew about it, but I found myself educating people about the medium while I was raising funds. People from time-to-time kept coming to me asking about how I was successful, and they wanted to know how they could become successful. More and more people kept finding me as crowfunding became more popular, and from there, I now speak to people all over the country about crowdfunding.

 

4) What platforms are available, which ones do you work with, and why? 

There are dozens of platforms out there, but I find there are three in particular that get more traffic and have more credibility compared to the others. Note that all of these platforms make their revenue by taking a small percentage of money at the end of the campaign, and these fees can vary.

  • Kickstarter: This is the platform I used, and it’s great for specific projects with an end goal. It does not allow campaigns to fundraise for charity or offer financial incentives. This platform is all-or-nothing, so this means that if you don’t meet your fundraising goal in your timeframe, you lose all funding and your backer’s credit cards will not be charged (and Kickstarter won’t take any money either). While there is a high risk with this platform, it also has the highest credibility because of this risk.
  • Indiegogo: I think of this platform as the kinder, gentler version of Kickstarter. You can opt to have an all-or-nothing campaign or a flexible funding campaign, meaning you can keep whatever funds you have raised even if you haven’t met your goal. Unlike Kickstarter, people can raise money for a charity on this site, and you have slightly more flexibility in running a longer campaign if you need it.
  • GoFundMe: This site is perfect if you need to fundraise money for causes and personal issues. Does your kid need to raise money for a school trip? Are you faced with unexpected medical bills and need a little extra help? This platform is the best for this type of situation. Their campaigns are open-ended, and you don’t have to think of rewards to give people; it’s just cash and cash alone.

 

5) How would a company know if crowdfunding is right for them?

This is truly a case-by-case basis, but I find that almost everyone can use crowdfunding either in their personal life or business; it just depends on the situation. In my short time consulting, I have not yet found a person whom crowdfunding wouldn’t benefit — timing is their main issue, as they have to be ready to take on the work of running a campaign.

 

6) What do you recommend for a positive and effective crowd funding campaign?

Many people think crowdfunding is a “set it and forget it” type of fundraising, which is completely untrue. Since you are not talking with people in person, your online presence needs to be consistent and is crucial to a successful campaign. The more you interact with your backers and people via social media, the better. Your campaign is a full-time job, so plan accordingly. If you don’t think you’ll have the time to write content, promote, and monitor your campaign, I would definitely consider getting a team together to help you. Friends, loyal fans, and family are also important in getting the word out, I would recommend sending an email to let them know about the campaign, and how they can help you succeed.

Do remember, even if you have a team of people to help you, this is your campaign. Your backers will want to hear from you, so make sure you are available during the whole campaign.

 

7) Do you have any rules of thumb or advice on proper etiquette when launching, running, and closing a crowdfunding campaign?

As crowdfunding has gained momentum in the last few years, so have the stories about how people made millions in one single campaign. These campaigns are an anomaly, and for most people it can be difficult to raise even $5,000. Remember that your average person typically gives around $20-30 for their pledge. So with that in mind, you can then set a realistic goal and then gauge your rewards accordingly to maximize the money you receive in return.

One other key component to your crowdfunding page is a good video that is two minutes or less. If the video is longer than that, people are less likely to give. Your video gives the backer a chance to see who you are and what you are about, so keep your information concise and let your personality shine through. If a person donates and they note it on social media, definitely take the time to thank them. As noted before, the more you engage your backers, the more likely they will help your campaign succeed.

 

8) How can you help a company in their crowdfunding efforts?

What we’ve talked about today has barely scratched the surface in regards to crowdfunding. Every company has different needs, and as an out-of-the-box thinker I can help them figure out what to focus on for their campaign, as well as help them build a campaign page that people will respond to. There’s so much information out there now in regards to this topic, and I can help you understand the differences between platforms as well as cut through all of the “noise” to figure out what’s best for you and your business.

I’m currently in the process of writing an eBook that will contain all of these tips and more, and I’m available as a crowdfunding consultant and coach. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you, please reach out. A successful campaign is a lot of hard work, but if you are well informed, have a good crowdfunding plan and a good support system helping you, you can achieve a fundraising goal and find a community who will support you long after the campaign is done.

 

If you have questions for Cecelia about crowdfunding, contact her to see how she can help.
Get in touch with Cecelia:

Find Cecelia on LinkedIn
Email Cecelia

 

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Building Their Online Kingdom From the Press https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/building-online-kingdom-press/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/building-online-kingdom-press/#respond Thu, 24 Sep 2015 12:56:11 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3212 building your social media online kingdomThere’s nothing like fame to get you to social media stardom. Many famous people today are well known not only for their respective talent, but also for their presence on social media. Is it just because they’re famous these people have millions of followers, or is there something more to it? Building an online kingdom isn’t a fluke and takes intentionality. We were curious about what that looks like, and did a mini-case study on four high-profile celebrities and learned some interesting lessons about social media:

Lesson #1: Have a conversation

More and more stars are getting this right, but one who does it better than most is ABC’s Castle star Nathan Fillion on Twitter. He keeps it lighthearted and fun, and makes a habit of engaging with his fans by responding to their tweets.

Your takeaway: When people take the time to comment or engage with you on social media, they want to feel heard. Your thoughtful response gives them the acknowledgement they want, and opens the potential for a relationship.

Lesson #2: Create a loyal tribe

Every business and brand is looking for the radical fans and supporters of your products or services. Doing this is no easy trick, but one of the best ways you can is by making it clear from the beginning that at the end of the day, you’re in it for people, not money. Lady Gaga is an excellent example of this. Despite her fame, she is committed to building relationships with her followers, even to the point of (early on in her career) choosing smaller venues over larger ones. She created a nickname for her fans – Little Monsters – and gave them a private social network to connect with her even more intimately.

Your takeaway: Treat your fans well, and they’ll become your tribe. Use social media as a way to develop relationships and offer value to them they can’t find anywhere else.

Lesson #3: Be invested and genuinely care

It can be hard to really care, but choosing to make people feel like they’re the most important person in the room is your key to success. Taylor Swift does this well by going out of her way to connect with people on social media. Her responses are well-thought-out and caring; she’s become known for giving genuine complements and encouragement to her fans.

Your takeaway: People know “fake” from a mile away. Put thought and heart into how you respond to and interact with people on social media, and avoid getting stuck on “auto-pilot” mode with it.

Lesson #4: Build a good team

Let’s talk about George Takei for a minute. He’s a social media sensation, with 1.74 million Twitter followers, 102,045 YouTube subscribers, 290,000 Pinterest followers, and almost 9 million Facebook fans. There’s no way he’s solely responsible for maintaining all those accounts, and yet the success he has is because of the consistency across all platforms in being true to his message and personality. The secret is the team he’s developed that knows how to “be him” on the internet.

Your takeaway: You may not have the time or ability to manage your social media accounts, and developing a team that knows your company’s personality and values inside and out is key to having a team that can consistently create messaging true to who you are.

You may be building your online kingdom from the ground up – and you might not ever have 9 million Facebook fans! – but you can build an online community for your business filled with loyal fans and backed by a good team by showing you care and creating genuine conversation.

Jamie

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How to Use LinkedIn for Both Personal and Professional Use https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/how-to-use-linkedin-for-both-personal-and-professional-use/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/how-to-use-linkedin-for-both-personal-and-professional-use/#respond Thu, 10 Sep 2015 12:56:58 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3200 LinkedIn for business and personal useLinkedIn is a powerful social network designed for the professional world. Chances are, you’re probably one of the 107 million LinkedIn users in the US alone. The company continues adding features and creating ways for business professionals to connect with each other. Much like Facebook, LinkedIn offers the opportunity to have both a personal page and a business page. Each offers different competitive advantages, and learning how to use LinkedIn strategically for each purpose will boost your returns in using the platform:

3 Tips on using LinkedIn for personal use

  1. Use your profile as a resume. Fill out your LinkedIn sections with keyword-rich descriptions so you can be found by the right people. This is your place to show what your experience is and your level of expertise.
  2. Connect with people via groups. Join groups relevant to your expertise, experience, and industry. By being part of a group with someone, you can bypass the “1st Degree” rule on messaging them. 5-10 groups is a good number to be part of. Groups are an excellent place to learn from other thought leaders, and also position yourself as an influencer in your field.
  3. Utilize the search feature to find strategic people to connect with. LinkedIn has a powerful advanced search engine. It gives you the ability to find overlaps in your connections with influencers you want to connect with and businesses you want to associate with.

3 Tips for your company page for professional use

  1. Maximize your company page for leads by sharing links to your blog articles in page posts. Play around with the targeting tools LinkedIn provides for these posts, and be wary of over-posting or being too focused on self-promoting hard-sales tactics. Instead, post 5-7 times a week about what’s going on in your company.
  2. Use LinkedIn’s Pulse as a way to establish your company as an expert in its field and be a resource. This is a great opportunity to publish select content on Pulse, and include a call-to-action for readers to subscribe to your full blog.
  3. Hire new help by keeping the “Careers” section of your company page up-to-date. People are using LinkedIn more and more to help them find the job of their dreams. Using this platform to search for future employees will widen the pool of talent considerably.

3 important distinctions in how you should treat them

  1. Use your personal page to connect with people, and your company page to provide resources.
  2. Your personal page should be about you specifically, answering what your individual talents and skills. Your company page is the place to talk about the products and services your business offers.
  3. An area shared by both are the potential SEO benefits from setting up keyword-rich descriptions in every section of the profile. This is something you can’t spend too much time refining and continually revising and optimizing.

As a business professional, you should have a personal profile set up on LinkedIn. As a business owner, establishing a company page will ultimately be beneficial in adding authority to your brand. If you aren’t already active on the network, make it a goal for the last half of the year to continue working on your proficiency.

Additional Resources

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The Changing Tides of Social Media: What is Periscope? https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/changing-tides-social-media-periscope/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/changing-tides-social-media-periscope/#respond Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:02:08 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3197 Answering what is Periscope and how to use it for your business

08:27:2015 The Changing Tides of Social Media- What Is Periscope?Recently, I’ve started seeing different posts on various social media platforms pop up talking about some thing called “Periscope.” At first, it was mostly some of the public figures I follow sharing their profile on Facebook or Instagram. Then, a few weeks ago, I started seeing some of my friends begin talking about it, too. I broke down and looked into learning about this new social media platform, and I am excited to share what I’ve found because it has big – BIG! – potential for business owners.

Periscope, owned by Twitter, allows you to stream video live to your audience. So instead of filming something, maybe editing it, and then posting it to YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram, you share what you’re doing right then, right there. Uncut, unedited, and completely live. Basically, think of it as your own private TV channel.

The back story according to Periscope is that they “became fascinated with the idea of discovering the world through someone else’s eyes.” The entire concept revolves around being able to see, in real time, what’s happening somewhere else – almost like being there yourself.

So what does this mean for you? What do you need to know right now about this new platform? It’s a brand new site (just over a year old) so the rules are still being made, but here’s a general overview so you know what people are talking about.

Getting started

Like all other social media sites, you download the app on your phone and create an account. Right now, you either do this by linking it to your existing Twitter account or by linking it with your cell phone number. Currently, all the streaming is done from your mobile phone.

What’s the lingo 

Every social media site has its own jargon: likes, tweets, hearts, etc. Periscope is no different. A Periscope user is called a Scoper. A live-broadcast video is called a Scope. Like Twitter, users Follow each other and similar to Instagram can give Hearts as a way of liking a broadcast.

How it works

Once you’re in, you have the option to follow other users. You can watch live broadcasts, replay old ones, and engage in feedback for broadcasts. And, of course, you can send your own. Once you’ve sent a broadcast out, it will stay live on the site for 24 hours, giving users who missed it live the chance to replay it and still give feedback on it. After 24 hours, your video disappears from your public profile (but not your account).

Who’s using it

Within the first ten days, over 1 million people joined Periscope. The current user count is somewhere around 10 million. Being so new, there’s not much data about who the users are. One notable fact is that Periscope has a large amount of influencers already using the platform; almost 7% of users have more than 10,000 followers. Recent statistics show that Periscope users are watching an average of 40 years worth of video every single day.

Should you jump on the bandwagon?

The creative ways you could use Periscope for your business are endless. How-to instructions, step-by-step guides, behind-the-scenes moments, and real-time announcements are all brilliant ways for brands to engage with their audiences. If your target market is on the cutting edge of technology, being an early adapter could be advantageous for you!

Over the coming months time will tell us more about Periscope as a social media platform. We look forward to watching the growth and seeing how this new platform evolves as we determine how to best use Periscope for business!
-Sarah Gill

 

Additional Resources:

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Old Town Business Owner Jake Hammer Shares Business Growth Insight Your Small Business Can Relate To & Learn From https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/jake-hammer/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/jake-hammer/#respond Thu, 13 Aug 2015 13:00:46 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3190 We recently had a conversation with our client,  friend, and Portland business owner Jake Hammer about his experience as a small business owner. With a team of 18 employees and a growing business, Jake has experience and insight about the high’s and low’s of business.

Jake-HammerJake has been working with Everett Street Autoworks in Old Town for over 13 years. In 2007, Jake graduated from General Manager of the store to owner & operator. Since then, Everett Street Autoworks has become one of the largest auto repair shops in downtown.

In our conversation with Jake, we asked the following questions about small business growth:

1. Please share the services you offer and your business philosophy. 

We offer mechanical service and repair on foreign and domestic vehicles. Services range from oil changes, tune ups, brake repairs…all the way to major fluid leaks and engine rebuilds. Our goal is to make people and cars safe and happy and we work our hardest to make every customer experience as good and positive as possible.

 

2. You’ve been part of the downtown Portland business community since 2001. During your time at Everett Street Autoworks, tell us what advancements your industry has made?

Our industry has gone digital. In 2001, the average “late model” car (5 plus years old) had a couple of computers in them that controlled different components within the vehicle. As time has passed, vehicles became more and more dependent upon computers to operate the different systems within the vehicle. Some vehicles have over 10 different computers within them controlling the various components. We have had to continually educate ourselves with the rapid changes in technology as well as motivate our staff to keep up with advancements.

 

3. Being in Old Town is really convenient for professionals who work in downtown. How have you improved your services to accommodate downtown workers? 

Being in Oldtown is very convenient for anyone who works and lives in the downtown Portland area. We have added two loaner vehicles to our fleet for customer convenience and we have, also, negotiated good terms with a rental car company two blocks from us (Dollar Rent a Car).

In addition, we offer complimentary pick up and delivery for customers that would prefer to not use the MAX or TriMet buses that operate outside our doors. Most recently, we have introduced an UBER business account so that we can have our customers picked up and brought to us towards the end of the work day.

 

4. What is one of the top business lessons you’ve learned as an owner that you would pass along to other entrepreneurs?

One of the top lessons that I’ve learned is that it is ok to fail. I fail all the time. Too often the apprehension from not trying something new or overthinking a situation can cause paralysis, which leads to something worse than failure…in action.

 

5. Your team is close to 20 employees strong. Please share your approach to team building.

Personally, I would never ask an employee to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. Also, team building takes time. We have set team goals in the past with minor rewards (dinners, bonuses) to large rewards (trip to Vegas). It is always rewarding to see the team hit a goal and enjoy the worthy reward.

 

6. As a successful, profitable and growing business, what advice can you give other business owners who are either in startup phase or may be setting goals to grow their team, their business, or their revenue?

I wish I had a better idea of the finances and a more structure approach/plan at the beginning.  Learning key metrics to measure performance of the business and the employees is key to accountability and goal setting. Also, when possible, it is always better to work on the business and not in the business. Operations can drown out the energy and the creative side of any entrepreneur.

 

If you have questions for Jake about Everett Street Autoworks or the auto repair industry, contact Jake to see how he can help.

Everett-Street-Autoworks-LogoGet in touch with Jake:

Find Jake on LinkedIn
Email Jake
Contact the shop: 503-221-2411 or by email

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Introducing Live Streaming Into Your Current Marketing Strategy https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/introducing-live-streaming-current-marketing-strategy/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-communication-strategies/introducing-live-streaming-current-marketing-strategy/#respond Thu, 06 Aug 2015 13:00:25 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3193 Over the past few years, we have seen the development of social platforms like Vine introducing users to video. Other platforms, such as SnapChat, Facebook, and Twitter, have encouraged users to use videos as part of their online strategy. However, the video-loving internet has led to an updated version of video: live streaming.

Live streaming, sometimes referred to as live casting or live broadcasting, refers to video content being delivered in real-time over the Internet. You can reach anyone, anywhere, at anytime! Although the process of live streaming is not necessarily a new technology, it is new to some well-known platforms like Facebook & Twitter.

A new app: Periscope
Periscope app
You may have already heard of the new and already popular platform called “Periscope” that was bought by Twitter earlier this year. Here, users are able to download the app and turn their phones’ cameras into windows which look into their everyday lives, special events, and more.

How does it work?
It’s rather simple: download the app, tap a button, and start streaming! Anyone who is following you will get a notification that you are now streaming and are invited to join in.

As you are streaming, viewers have the ability to leave comments that the live streamer can see and respond to as they happen. If people like what is being said or done in the broadcast, they can give hearts over and over again. (Periscope rewards those who have the most hearts by including them in a section dedicated to the most loved users). If people really like it, they have the opportunity to share the broadcast with their friends & followers. Can you see the amount of exposure available here?

Now, you may be asking “What happens after the live steam is over?” Good news – similar to how SnapChat lets you see friends’ stories for 24 hours, Periscope allows people access to your broadcast for 24 hours. Your content is not lost!

Periscope’s competition
Meerkat app
For those of you who haven’t heard of Periscope, you may have seen or heard of “Meerkat,” Periscope’s immediate competition. Released in February of 2015 (one month before Periscope was bought by Twitter), Meerkat quickly took over Twitter.

How does it work?
Meerkat is another easy-to-use app that can be downloaded. The Meerkat app links with and posts directly to Twitter accounts. As you are live streaming, people have the ability to leave comments that can be seen and responded to in real-time.

But, who’s in the lead?

As we have seen with social media over the years, certain platforms pull ahead of others over time. With both Periscope and Meerkat being released earlier this year, it is truly anyone’s game. However, in a recent report, it seems as though Periscope is in the lead with over 10 million users to date. Another indicator of Periscope’s early success is its ranking in app stores; Periscope ranked in the top ten while Meerkat was in the top 200.

Facebook goes live

You may have missed Facebook’s latest update (as there were about 6 major ones (including See First!) in the past month. Facebook is in competition with Periscope and has introduced their version of live streaming called “Live.” If you follow any celebrities or public figures, you may have noticed the new feature on Facebook as “Live” was being tested by this small group. However, in the last few days, Facebook has announced that verified profiles will soon have the “Live” feature, as well.

Although we all don’t have access yet, we can only imagine that the release of Live to the public is in the making.

 

What this means for businesses        

phone videoAs business owners, we know the importance of adapting. When social media was first introduced, we had to adapt our marketing strategies to incorporate Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. As time goes on and new advancements are made on each platform, we must further adapt our strategies to include the newest features. Live streaming is the new thing to incorporate.

Audiences love to see behind the scenes. Your audience wants to hear from you. You are their resource. They trust you! Live streaming through Periscope or Meerkat will give you the opportunity to share your expertise, be a resource, and share your personality with your audience. All posts do not have to be all business; share your vacation, your travels, and/or other various experiences with your audience as well.

Are you wondering how you can incorporate live streaming into your current strategy? Let’s get to planning! Contact us today so we can brainstorm together how your business and your industry can use the newest features and platforms.

 

-Jamie

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Gravity Payments is Shaking Up the Payment Processing World for Small Businesses https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/gravity-payments-is-shaking-up-the-payment-processing-world-for-small-business/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/gravity-payments-is-shaking-up-the-payment-processing-world-for-small-business/#respond Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:00:14 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3183 When a small business owner decides to start their business or start accepting credit cards as a form of payment, they have a big decision to make. There are many different options and companies to choose from and every credit card processing company differs from the various fees, to equipment requirements, to how they integrate with your existing systems. Gravity Payments is working to make the entire process simpler for less.

Tanya Williamson of Gravity PaymentsA friend and colleague of Propel Businessworks, Tanya Williamson of Gravity Payments has had over 10 years of financial and consulting experience.  As an Account Consultant for the well-known payment processing firm for over three years, Tanya has been helping Portland small business owners select the best in processing solutions.

In a recent interview with Tanya, we asked the following questions:



1. When choosing a credit card processing company, what are the questions a small business owner should be asking?

When choosing a payment processor, you always want to do your research.  Make a list of the things that are most important to you like low rates, a local rep, a company that educates merchants on changes in the industry, a company that gives back to its community, fast deposits, a clear statement, reasonably priced equipment, etc.  When you have a clear understanding of what you’re looking for it’ll be easier to recognize when you come across it.

Look up the processor’s BBB score, ask other businesses who they use and what they like and don’t like about their processor.  Ask for business references from the payment processor you’re interested in.  Go with your gut!  If you feel uneasy about something or sense that you’re being pushed into something like a lease or into making a decision quickly than simply walk away.  Do not move forward with a company that you are hesitant about – 9 times out of 10 your intuition is right.

 

2. What is the top business challenge you find when discussing payment processing options with companies?

I would say the top business challenge I find when discussing payment processing options with merchants is getting past the bad reputation the industry has.  Most merchants are skeptical and weary of payment processors because they’ve been taken advantage of by one at some point.  Payment processing is a very convoluted industry so lack of knowledge makes merchants standoffish….  It’s similar to a car repair shop, most customers think they’re being taken advantage of because they simply do not understand the details.  Unfortunately, all the above is true.

I see unethical payment processors exploit merchants all of the time.  Most payment processors pay their reps with commissions and bonuses so, to get paid, they’ll say whatever they need to say to the merchant to get them to switch, even if it’s a flat out lie.  Overall, I totally get how merchants feel because it’s justified.  The hard part is trying to explain to merchants that we’re different and that we genuinely care about what’s best for them.  At Gravity Payments, we’re salary paid consultants, no commissions or bonuses.   We have a low pressure consultative approach in working with businesses.  We review the merchants current setup and see what savings and improvements we can offer.  If anything, we may just confirm that what the merchant has in place is good and that there’s no reason for them to switch.   Again, it’s all about what’s best for them, even if that doesn’t mean switching to Gravity.

 

3. How does Gravity payments differ from other business credit card processing platforms such as Square or Paypal?

 Square and PayPal are both very different from Gravity Payments.  Square has a one price (2.75%) fits all program.  A flat rate of 2.75% is really good for merchants with an average ticket of $15 or less, this is why you see Square in a lot of coffee shops.  Square is great for coffee shops, food trucks, and other small ticket merchants.  When the average ticket is higher, let’s say $40, the rate of 2.75% is too high.  The merchant should be paying far less than 2.75% at this point.  Furthermore, Square has only one processing option for its merchants.  You can’t use ShopKeep POS or LightSpeed or any other POS solution because Square does not integrate with any other POS solutions or terminals.  They’re definitely limited in this area.

The other main difference with Square is that they have daily billing versus end of month billing which can be a reconciling nightmare.  Most owners and bookkeepers prefer an end of month billing structure.  The customer service offered with Square is very different from Gravity, as well.  With Square, you can tweet or email questions, there is no customer support team or personal consultant.  You lose the personal relationship aspect when working with Square.   PayPal is very similar to Square except for the pricing is slightly lower at 2.70%.

B-bnsqWLlTz3lWJ1241KiGhaZyKbbKmVtouJXWILXPIAt Gravity, we tailor our pricing to each individual merchant because each business is different.  What works well for one merchant might not work well for another.    We can process payments for merchants online, through their smart phone, or in their store.  We also integrate with most all POS solutions and terminals out there so the merchant can choose the processing system that fits their needs. Furthermore, we have a 24/7 support department that merchants can call if they need help in any way.

 

4. Customers trust that their information is protected. What steps does Gravity Payments make to ensure that sensitive information is not leaked and that business owners don’t jeopardize their relationships with their valued customers?

At Gravity, we always make sure that the systems that are downloaded are up-to-date and compliant.  We make sure that full credit card numbers are not being printed out on customer receipts or stored in the terminal.  For those merchants processing over the internet, we discuss the extra security programs the merchant can sign up for to further protect customer information.  We, also, discuss best practices that merchants can be following to ensure that sensitive information is not leaked.

 

5. The “EMV (Europay MasterCard Visa) fraud liability shift” is something business owners may not be completely familiar with. What is it and how will it affect small businesses?

EMV chip technology is the future of credit and debit card transactions.  It was developed to help increase security, reduce fraud, and support value added applications.  Moving forward, every customer’s card will be embedded with a microchip that stores and protects their data better than a magnetic strip.  For every new sale, a customer’s chip card uses a new encryption code (called a token) making each and every transaction more secure.  If you haven’t already received a chip card from your bank, you will soon.

In October, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are shifting over card-present liability to whoever is the least EMV-compliant party in a fraudulent transaction.  So, what this means is that if a fraudulent transaction were to happen at a merchant’s place of business after October 2015 and the merchant was not equipped with EMV technology but the customer did indeed have a chip card than the cost of fraud would fall back on the merchant.  This goes the other way around as well, if the merchant was equipped with EMV technology but the customer did not have a chip card than the cost of fraud would fall back on the bank or card association.

Overall it’s a pretty simple concept but unfortunately a lot of unethical payment processors have used this information as a scare tactic to take advantage of merchants.  I’ve seen other processors force merchants to buy new equipment that was not necessary at all.  What merchants need to know is that their current terminals/systems are not illegal and they will not be fined for continuing to use what they have.

Furthermore, I’ve seen new technology equipment being sold for super high prices which is just a way for the payment processor to make more money.   The new technology equipment is not very expensive.  You can get an EMV terminal for as low as $250 so if the price you’re being quoted is $1,500 than consider that a red flag…

 

6. You recently shared a story on Facebook about a business owner that was taken advantage of by an unethical processor who set the company up with a terminal lease. In your words, it was an unnecessary lease. Can you elaborate on payment terminal leases and why they are unnecessary? 

Never, never, never sign an equipment lease!!!  I consider equipment o5OGATACcgysjNzVmbN1ceKyC-t67qjnX5M1m0eKO14-1leases one of the most unethical practices in our industry.  The merchant always ends up paying far more for the terminal then needed and at the end of the lease they don’t even own the machine, they have to give it back!  Sorry if I sound heated about this topic, I’ve just seen so many merchants taken advantage of in this way and it’s heartbreaking.  The leases I typically see are for $50-$150 per month for 4 years.  Let’s say a merchant leases a VX520 terminal, which is a new technology terminal with EMV, for 4 years at $100 per month.  After the 4 years the merchant will have paid $4,800 for a terminal that cost around $325 to purchase.  They will have wasted $4,475 and again, they don’t even own the terminal in the end.  Some leasing companies even have a restocking fee of $150 for sending the terminal back at the end of the lease.

I have tried several times to get merchants out of leases and never once have I been successful.  What normally happens is that the unethical payment processor gets the merchant to sign a lease which they sell to a third party leasing company so when you call the payment processor to complain about the lease they’ll say they can’t talk to you about it because they don’t service the lease.  They’ll advise you to call the leasing company.  So, you call the leasing company and try to change the terms or cancel the lease and then they tell you that the lease is unchangeable and unbreakable and that the lease was signed so there’s nothing they can do. 

At Gravity, we sell terminals at a reasonable cost, $250 – $550 depending on the model.  If you cannot purchase the equipment than you can rent it on a month-to-month basis.  Rentals range from $15-$25 per month depending on the model.  If you want to stop renting the terminal, you can simply give it back and the rental charges stop.  Overall, you should not be working with a payment processor that offers leases.

 

7. What are the steps taken to integrate Gravity Payments to a website payment systems? (i.e. how does Gravity Payments match with certain web hosts & shopping carts)

Gravity Payments integrates with most all web hosts and shopping carts.  The way we integrate is through a payment gateway.  A payment gateway is an e-commerce application service that authorizes credit card payments for e-businesses and online retailers.  It is the equivalent of a physical terminal located in brick and mortar retail businesses.  Think of it as simply the hardware that the transactions processes through.  There are several third party payment gateway providers, Authorize.Net being the most commonly used.

If a merchant is looking to process transactions online then they’ll want to work with a web developer to determine the best web host or shopping cart to work with.  Once that’s decided then the web developer will be able to let the merchant know which payment gateways work with the shopping cart that was chosen.  From there the merchant will choose a payment processor to integrate with the chosen payment gateway.  There seems to be a lot of moving parts but really it’s pretty simple.

 

If you have questions for Tanya about Gravity Payments or the overall payment processing system, contact Tanya to see how she can help.

Gravity Payments

Get in touch with Tanya:
LinkedIn

Email Tanya

 

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Introducing Facebook’s “See First” https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/introducing-facebooks-see-first/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/introducing-facebooks-see-first/#respond Thu, 16 Jul 2015 13:00:17 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3179 FullSizeRenderIf you haven’t seen these new Facebook options on your mobile device or computer yet, you will soon. Facebook has recently made yet another change to the way consumers receive information…and it requires your attention.

Gone are the days of simply keeping up with a business on Facebook. If you don’t interact with other pages’ or peoples’ posts by liking, sharing or commenting, it is likely you are no longer seeing their page posts at all. But now, Facebook is forcing its users to prioritize which pages and friends they “See First.”

 

What is “See First”

Think about the pages you visit most often, the companies you want to receive updates from, and the friends & family members you stay connected with through Facebook. Now, instead of having to dig around and find them in your News Feed, Facebook now gives you the option of choosing who you see first on your timeline. Think of “See First” as your own personal highlights. The other pages & friends you follow have not disappeared from your timeline…they will still appear after your “See First” choices.

 

How to set it up

From your mobile iOS device: 

Step 1: Log-in or launch your Facebook application using your iOS device. (Currently, the update is not available on other devices).

Step 2: Click the “More” button on the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen.

Step 3: When the new page appears, choose “News Feed Preferences” under “Settings.”

Step 4: Select “Prioritize who to see first”

Step 5: Choose the pages, friends, & figures you would like to see highlighted at the top of your News Feed.

Step 6: Click “Done” located in the top, right-hand corner of your screen.

 

Using your web browswer:

Step 1: Log-in to Facebook

Step 2: In the top, right-hand corner of your News Feed, click the drop down menu arrow.

Step 3: Choose “News Feed Preferences” under “Activity Log.”

Step 4: Find the person, page, group, or figure you would like to make one of your “First See” choices.

Step 5: In the far, right-hand side of the pop-up window, you will see a box with a check-mark that says “Following” followed by a drop-down arrow.

Step 6: Click the drop-down arrow and choose the option “See First.”

See First

What does this mean for the consumer?

Do you remember when Facebook (and many other platforms) introduced advertising into the News Feed? The “First See” option now overrides those advertisements, ensuring consumers see what they want to see first rather than what is being paid for them to see. Consumers are gaining back control of their social media platforms.



What does this mean for businesses?

As we all have seen, social media constantly changes. Once we adapt to a new algorithm or finally develop a strategy for a platform, it quickly changes. With “First See,” businesses lose a lot of the control they once had.

In order to be chosen as a “See First” choice by your audience, you have to:

  • Provide valuable content
  • Be different than the rest
  • Be a resource

If consumers think that you post too inconsistently or that the content you share is not helpful to them, you may not make their “See First” list. It also means you are losing visibility. Although your content will appear at some point in time on their newsfeed, you will no longer be top-of-mind.

(Does this seem like MySpace’s top 8 to anyone else?)

 

Our recommendation?

See First ProcessThis is a change for everyone! Educate your audience about the new change and encourage them to make your personal or business page (whichever you use for professional purposes) as one of their “First See’s”. Use your e-newsletter to provide the steps listed above or share a current article about the change on your social platforms with a reminder to make your page a “First See.”

 

As your business is on social media, it is important for you to stay up-to-date with the most recent changes (although there are many!). Have you seen any changes of engagement or activity on your Facebook since the most recent change? Let us know in the comments below.

 

-Jamie

 

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Hiring & Your Online Presence https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/marketing-tips/hiring-online-presence/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/marketing-tips/hiring-online-presence/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2015 15:28:06 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3174 0708Just this week I was talking with one of my loved ones in California who is currently looking for a new position. As many of us experience, she is working for an employer who is not the correct fit – and for many reasons. After learning about her new search, I gave her my usual job-seeking advice about doing simple research on potential companies she’s considering, prior to applying, I realized how often this step is bypassed.

Now, imagine! You are a growing business and it finally happens. You realize you need to start looking for help. The task is daunting and seems lengthy. Where to post a job opening, how to find time to interview, and how to narrow it down to the right candidates.

Likely, you are experiencing the same dilemma as many other U.S. companies. The influx of applications who really are NOT a good fit. You weed them out, but only one stands out and even they aren’t a good fit.

So, how do you find the right team member for the position you have open?

When looking for a new position, I recommend that those looking for a job perform research on the company they are applying to. The easiest, quickest way to do that? The Internet. Job seekers now have the ability to simply type in a company name and find out all the information they could potentially need to discover if the company is for them. From the company website, to social platforms, to job review websites, job seekers can find out a lot of information.

Google search

After performing an initial search for companies within a specific industry such as yours, if a potential employee searches for your company online specifically, what comes up? Your new team members are looking at your company’s online efforts, placement, communication and to see how they might fit in. Do your values align with theirs? Do you give back? What is the standard for community building?

PBW_0213_006Don’t miss out on the opportunity to hire an amazing employee because your online presence is not in-line with your brand and your overall company as it stands today.

What should companies be doing to ensure they are portrayed in a job-seeker-friendly manner?

  • Provide accurate information on social platforms and your website. This includes contact information, hours, current services/products, etc. If they have questions, they should be able to contact you and not get a bounce back email or disconnected recording.
  • Have a current, updated website. Job-seekers are more than likely looking at a number of different companies as they apply. If they go to your website and it has not been updated since 2011 and a competitor has a fresh website updated in the past year, they may not get the right impression about your company. The likelihood of them picking an out-of-date business over a current one, is one to consider.
  • Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. It is a well-known fact that the number of people using their mobile devices to access the internet is increasingly steadily. There are a number of ways you can check to see if your website is currently mobile-friendly (if your website has been created in the last year, you are more than likely safe). Websites such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test is an easy to use tool to check.
  • Have a consistent and cohesive brand throughout your online presence. For example, is your brand logo and image displayed consistently? And, are you using a different brand voice on your website than you are using on Twitter or on Facebook? Although social platforms may have a more informal tone about them, your brand voice should not differ substantially. And your brand image should ALWAYS be cohesive. Without exceptions.

If a job seeker cannot find you online, it is likely that a few questions will arise –  such as:

  • Why aren’t they up to date with current online marketing?
  • Are they even still in business?
  • How trustworthy are they?
  • Are they financially sound?
  • What are they trying to hide?
  • Since they don’t have time to maintain their online marketing/presence, is the job too involved? Will it require too much time?

For small businesses, deciding to hire can be both stressful and exciting. Before you take the step to post a job opening online, make sure you perform a brand audit of all of the platforms your business is on. Your online presence goes a long way in building trust and rapport, as well as attracting the kind of employees who will stay with you for a long time.

What experiences have you had with hiring and promoting your company online? We’d love to hear your feedback and personal account of how applicants have given you credibility (or not) based on your online presence. Share in the comments below.

 

-Jamie

*For more information on how you can build a strong team & grow your business, visit our article on SteamFeed.com here.

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How Insurance Is Changing Again & Oregon Businesses Are Being Affected https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/insurance-changing-oregon-businesses-affected/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/propel-pro-network/insurance-changing-oregon-businesses-affected/#respond Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:00:08 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3218 Health insurance is quite literally on everyone’s minds these days, especially if you’re in the business world. With the mandate to have every American insured for health coverage, businesses who aren’t offering those benefits are suffering the consequences, in more ways than one.

While companies with less than 100 employees are not currently required to provide healthcare benefits, in 2016 that will change and businesses with 50 employees will be required to provide health insurance options to their employees.

If that doesn’t jolt you, we have a few things you should consider before dismissing offering health insurance to your crew.

IntroOur long-time and high-esteemed colleague, JR Hinds of Hinds and Associates is an insurance veteran. Since 1994 JR has spent his time investing in our Oregon businesses and insurance requirements to help you stay informed and compliant. Now, he is wrangling the ever-changing rules of healthcare for individuals and employers in new ways.

Here are a few key questions we asked during our recent interview with JR:

  1. Thanks for chatting with me today, JR. First of all, please share with our readers what you do and who you serve.

Since 1999, Ive been providing insurance to individuals and businesses with under 50 employees anywhere in Oregon with white-gloved service that larger agencies dont offer. My clients have one contact – me.

I do work with another broker to support my individual clients and am now offering more streamlined and valuable services like sending out informational emails for employers to offer to their clients to help them stay current and efficient.

  1. Over the last few years, with the help of Obama’s Healthcare Act, Oregon businesses have been impacted by new rules and laws. There is a lot that businesses need to know and stay informed on. Can you please give us an update on current/2015 Oregon state business requirements for insuring employees and what businesses should be expecting or preparing for in the next year or two?

In Oregon, businesses are not required to provide insurance to their employees unless they have 100 full-time employees. In 2016 that number will move down to 50 employees. Past that, were not sure what to expect.

That said, one additional rule is that ANY business offering benefits must contribute at least 50% of the employees portion of the premiums.

There is also a Cadillac Tax expected in 2018, but theres tremendous push-back, so no one is sure itll actually happen.

Lastly, small businesses now have to have one non-spousal employee to qualify for a group insurance policy. 

  1. So, with these new changes in health care, many businesses are also needing to change how they operate. What would you say are the top 2-3 challenges Oregon businesses are now facing?

1st. Attracting quality employees, especially with unemployment rates dropping.

2nd. Retaining quality employees because bigger companies are recruiting and enticing applicants with big benefit packages.

3rd. Staying on top of federal and Oregon HR laws.

 

  1. Based on those challenges, what are the top 2-3 changes you see businesses making?

  • More businesses who never had brokers, now need brokers and are contacting me for guidance.
  • Brokers have been bailing of the industry due to frustrations with the systems, new rules and the amount of work required to stay on top of the changes.
  • More businesses are outsourcing positions and expertise, like HR, or payroll and bookkeeping, instead of hiring at employee to fill that position.

 

  1. As a broker, what is your suggestion for ways businesses can address the top challenge they face?

My top recommendation is to use a broker. Brokers do not come with any additional costs and they are a dedicated resource and contact for businesses and individuals.

I also suggest that companies consider contributing a fixed dollar amount instead of a percentage of the premiums and that they offer their employees 2-3 health care choices, such as: 

  • High Deductible
  • Mid-range deductible
  • Low deductible
  • Voluntary Supplemental Benefits: Carriers are now offering benefits that the employees can use to tailor their plan to specifically match their needs. The employee pays for this benefit out of their paycheck.
  • At least one of the choices should be an HSA (Health Saving Account). This option is smart for most because for many of us, our deductible really is lower than we need.

All insurance is risk-management. If you dont use your insurance, a higher deductible is fine. 82% of Americans have less than $1000 in medical bills each year. It doesnt make sense for me to pay an insurance company to take on a risk that I am capable and comfortable taking on myself.

  1. How has YOUR business changed because of the Healthcare Act?

Dramatically. I have to use technology more frequently and often. Besides the new systems, I am calling and Skyping with my clients more due to not having the time I used to have or ability to drive to meet them all in person. I email spreadsheets, and forms and communicate electronically a lot more.

And, on the group side Im offering more added value like our HR portal and employer enrollment portal. This allows the company to provide a dashboard login where employees can access employee documents, view sick pay and time off policies, offer documentation and information on employee benefits and allow their employees to choose their insurance plan. It also helps my clients stay on top of federal and Oregon HR laws, all at no cost to them. This portal offers the company a place to learn and a library of information right at their finger tips.

 

  1. Recently, you shared a few articles from Portland Business Journal with updates about the rate increase requests by Oregon insurance carriers like Moda, Regence, Providence, and Kaiser. With the state’s demand that carriers raise their rates even higher than carriers were asking, what additional business challenges (if any) do you anticipate?

  • Increased deductibles
  • Carriers will continue to narrow their networks. Be aware that your doctor or your prescription might not be covered on your new plan.
  • Do as much due diligence as you can before your plan changes.

 

  1. The increases, of course, don’t just stop at the employer level, it trickles down to employees as well. What can individuals expect as a result of the rate increase? And, do you have any advice for individuals?

Consider increasing your deductibles. Think about how much you have spent in the last 5 years on health care. Why pay for a low deductible if you only use it every now and then? Also, if you prefer to only go to one hospital system, then you can choose a plan that only covers that system instead of a larger plan that allows you to visit multiple providers.

 

  1. Question 9Thank you for the valuable and helpful information, JR. I know that this information isn’t where you leave off though. What resources do you offer for businesses and/or individuals to learn, stay informed or make better decisions for them and their businesses?

Besides the previously mentioned HR Resource Portal I offer as a resource to my clients, my monthly e-newsletter is a great source of updates and information (sign-up is available on JRs website here: http://www.hindsandassociates.net/)

 

Also, my website has a blog and a Frequently Asked Questions area that is a helpful place to start and I also post regularly on Linkedin and JR on Facebook with helpful articles that keep my community informed and current on whats happening in the insurance world

 

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Using Snapchat for Business https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/snapchat-business/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/snapchat-business/#respond Thu, 18 Jun 2015 13:00:11 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3215 Whether it is the introduction of a new platform or changes made to a current platform, the social media realm is constantly changing. Originally, social media was created for you and me – people just trying to connect and interact with their friends, loved ones, and old classmates. Gradually, we started seeing social media adapt to become more business-friendly.

LinkedIn was launched in 2003 as a more serious, business-oriented platform. It was created as a networking platform for business professionals to connect with other business professionals. Today, you can find most everyone on LinkedIn. It’s become a platform where you can post blogs, find jobs, and write recommendations for others.

Companies started using Twitter & Facebook as businesses rather than individuals. Once Facebook and Twitter introduced the ability to create business pages and accounts, companies flocked to social media as a means to interact with their clients as well as their peers.

Today, we see organizations discovering new, creative ways to use social media for growing their businesses. Here are a few examples:

  • Doctors using Skype to interact with their clients out of office
  • Retail stores using Instagram to run a contest and track who is interested in their page
  • Furniture stores using Pinterest to show their audience ways to create a beautiful space with their products.

The options are limitless!

One of the recent social media trends that brands have discovered for their businesses is Snapchat. No longer just a way for teenagers to share pictures with friends, Snapchat has evolved to become more frequently used by business.

But how can you use a platform like Snapchat for business?

Snapchat

Invite your audience to find you 

After creating an account for your business, you will want to encourage your audience to find you. An easy way to do this is by taking a screenshot of your Snapchat profile and sharing it on your other social platforms. Snapchatters can then point their phones at the ghost that appears on the screenshot and find you easily.

Make sure the picture for your business is your logo (or is otherwise identifiable as your brand). You want to make sure your Snapchat username is your business name.

Create a story

In the same way that you can use Snapchat to create a story as an individual (rather than sending an image/video to a single person), you can also create a story for your brand. When posting an image/video, be sure to click the “My Story” button. This will enable all of your Snapchat followers to see what you have posted.

photo

Share updates and promotions

Now that you have created a story thread, you will be able to include promotions and updates. For example, you can create an image which shows a promotion such as “10% off now by using the code SNAP” – but make sure the image settings are set to share for longer than 3 seconds.

Another idea is to create scavenger hunt; snap and share a photo of a specific product your customers have to find or mention in order to receive a discount or free item.

Snapchat allows you to be creative and use images/photos to do so!

Multiple brands have already used the story feature to share updates and promotions. For example, when Kevin Durant received MVP, the NBA used Snapchat to encourage fans to tune in to his press conference as he received his award. With three snaps which included the time, channel, and photos of Kevin at the podium, they increased their viewership.

The news recently highlighted a unique way that surgeons have been using a Snapchat-like app. Have you ever been waiting for a loved one to get out of surgery? The anticipation is dreadful! Surgeons are now using the platform to provide those waiting with updates on the patient’s status. (See the story here. )

Quick Assistance

 You may consider Snapchat as a creative take on customer service. Instead of using a web chat, think about using Snapchat to communicate with your audience and answer their questions. For example, say one of your Snapchat friends sends your business account a question or complaint. You now have the ability to send a personalized video to answer their question, address their complaint, and let them know they have been heard.

Behind the Scenes

Customers love to see behind the scenes of the businesses they love. Similar to how some businesses use Instagram, Snapchat also allows you to post behind the scene images and/or videos that only last for a set amount of seconds. Are you in the process of designing a new product? Show a sneak peak to get your audience excited!

A Quick Hello

Building relationships is crucial to the success of any business. With Snapchat, send personalized hellos from your company and let your audience know that you value them! Seeing your name show up on their notification screen may brighten their day.

photo

Snapchat may still be a foreign concept to some of us. Here is a how-to guide for using Snapchat.

Think of some ways that your business may be able to use Snapchat as part of its marketing plan. Need some ideas? Contact us today and let’s get started on developing a marketing strategy.

-Jamie

Download Snapchat for iOS here.
Download Snapchat for Android here.

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The Importance of Customer Service on Social Media https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/customer-service/importance-customer-service-social-media/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/customer-service/importance-customer-service-social-media/#respond Thu, 04 Jun 2015 13:00:17 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3213 Customer service is defined as: “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services” according to Oxford Dictionaries.

If you have purchased a product, gone to a restaurant, or called a company for assistance about a product or service, you have experienced customer service. The quality of the customer service you receive from a specific company shapes your opinion of said company. If you experience poor customer service from a company which leaves you frustrated, without answers, and/or the feeling of lack of care, then you are less likely to revisit that company again.

For example, imagine you have just purchased the latest and greatest high-speed, internet modem. After completing the installation, you find yourself without internet. After attempting to fix the problem yourself and re-reading the instructions, you find the customer service line. When you call, the person on the other end of the phone is reading off a script, sending you from person to person, not answering your questions, and cutting you off midsentence. You hang up, still with no internet connection, and you are left feeling frustrated and angry. The customer service line that is intended to help you through the process has been no help whatsoever. As a result, you are unlikely to purchase any other products from company ABC again, and you may even return the product you just purchased.

Now, imagine a time that you have called, emailed, or otherwise confronted the customer service of a specific company and you received top-notch service. They treated you well, heard your complaints, and sufficiently answered your questions. As a result, you left feeling satisfied, and you are more likely to return to that company in the future for repeat business. You’re also likely to refer them to someone else.
Customer care

In today’s technological world, customer service is a must-have for all companies. Whether it be through the phone, in person, or on a social platform, an organization must provide quality customer service to maintain and grow its business.

But how do you create quality customer service online? Here are a few suggestions:

Respond, don’t react

After receiving a complaint or negative comment on a social platform, it is in our nature to defend our company. However, it is crucial for your business, as a whole, to refrain from reacting and responding instead. Take the time to craft a response that positively reflects your brand.

It’s important that you don’t wait too long though. According to a stat via an article on the Convince and Convert blog, 42% of responders to The Social Habit research expected a response from a company they tried to contact within 60 minutes.

Acknowledge requests

As business owners, we receive notification after notification, email after email, phone call after phone call, etc., every day.
mention

Although we oftentimes want to let social notifications go, we cannot. Make sure that you are responding to your online audience on a daily basis at the very least. It may be uncomfortable receiving a negative comment; but in order for your company to display good customer service online, you must acknowledge the person and his or her comment(s). This may require an @mention or a direct message.

“A thoughtful and positive response can come as such a surprise to an online critic that it can help to convert the critic into your advocate.” – Forbes

Provide the resources they need

When helping people resolve their issues, make sure you provide them with the resources they need. If you do not know the answer, refer them to someone who does.

Take credit for your faults

Don’t be afraid to apologize and take credit for your brand’s faults. Although we may want to delete the comment from our social platforms, we are all human and make mistakes. Apologize for the mishap and take time to correct it.

Every business has a competitor. With quality customer service, you can avoid losing a customer or client to a company that is providing better customer care. It is your responsibility as a business owner to take care of your customers. Strive for referrals and retain your customers for years to come with customer service that WOWs your audience.

For some examples of companies that have notoriously handled their online customer service well, check out Business News Daily’s article “10 Companies That Totally Rock Customer Service on Social Media.

Bren

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Welcoming Niteo Tours: A Look At A New Startup https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-branding/welcoming-niteo-tours-startup/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/business-branding/welcoming-niteo-tours-startup/#respond Thu, 21 May 2015 13:00:40 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3152 Love to travel? Enjoy learning about and experiencing global cultures?

Welcome to…
niteofinallogo

With their own love for and long experience with traveling, John and Amy Haley paired with Kjell and Carol Garborg to form Niteo Tours. Combined, the four have traveled to 56 different countries across 5 continents. Now, they want you to explore, encounter, and embrace the natural beauty and cultures of global communities they have experienced.

Niteo Team

Carol & Kjell Garborg and Amy & John Haley

Their mission: “We aim to give our guests a top-quality vacation and at the same time partner with global Christian businesses, tour guides, and ministries who are making a difference in people’s lives. In this way, vacation dollars are invested locally in the areas where Niteo Tours brings each guest.”

Everyone loves to take some time away from work and the typical everyday life. As tourism continues to grow, developing countries are benefiting from tourism spending. Niteo Tours recognized the effects tourism had on the social and economic progress of these countries and had the idea:

“Why not give people a first-class travel experience at a reasonable price and at the same time give travelers the privilege and opportunity of knowing their vacation dollars will support Christian work in the countries they are visiting?”

With Niteo, you have the unique experience of traveling with intimate, small groups to experience the culture and beauty of each country you visit. Instead of traveling to a large tourist destination such as a well-known olive grove, travelers get to enjoy a small, family-owned grove and are welcomed into the family’s home.

A small business itself, Niteo embraces the intimate nature of other, local small businesses. When traveling with Niteo Tours, avoid crowds and, instead, explore local hidden spots as they base tours are based off of connections and relationships rather than visiting destination hotspots.

For more information on Niteo Tours and to book your next vacation, visit http://niteotours.com/.

Niteo Tours Website

We had the delight of working with Kjell and Carol of Niteo Tours and helped them brand their company and develop their website, while consulting on their startup along the way. Although Kjell and Carol live in Minnesota, we provided our services remotely via Skype, phone, and email communication.

Know that when traveling with Niteo, you are sure to have a life changing time. We can’t wait to watch you grow!

 

-Jamie

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How to Reach the Growing Number of Smartwatch Users https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/reach-growing-number-smartwatch-users/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/reach-growing-number-smartwatch-users/#respond Mon, 11 May 2015 21:35:52 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3148 Strategy Campaign for Smartwatch Users

Smartwatches

Mobile devices have become an important aspect of the digital marketing industry. With the rise of new mobile technologies in the form of wearables, many businesses and marketers are looking at expanding their list of mediums and extending their online campaigns to incorporate these devices. Based on Paypal’s 2015 report, mobile payments via smartphones have surpassed traditional payment methods, where China, Turkey, and UAE are the top countries with high smartphone shopping usage. Soon, with the rise in ownership of smart wristwatches, it is expected that wearables will also contribute to the increasing worldwide of people purchasing goods via their mobiles.

Paypal’s recent expansion of their application for smartwatches running Android Wear and Pebble OS became a signal for many marketers to also expand their reach to wearables, since it is the largest mobile payment system today. But, how do you exactly create a strategic campaign for your business or client?

Include subtle advertorials
When it comes to smartwatches, everything needs to be short, quick, and easy to read. A Juniper Research report has forecast that advertisers will be spending a total of $68.6 million on advertising via smartwatches by 2019. What you need to remember are the following when building a strategy:
Content needs to be as short as 7-10 words, otherwise, users could click off the website immediately. Quick and engaging content such as digital coupons will be interesting to view on a small screen, especially when they can easily use these virtual discounts instantly via an online payment scheme or NFC-capable payment terminals.

However, marketers need to be mindful of their ads and the people’s reaction once it shows up on their devices. So far, they are highly aggressive in placing ads on smart wristwatches even if it does annoy users.

Consider its paired smartphone
Take in consideration that most smartwatches today aren’t standalone devices, which means that they will need to be paired with a smartphone to perform most of its mobile functions. The wearable list presented by O2 shows 8 devices that still need to be linked to an Android or iOS smartphone. To ensure that your new wearable campaign is working effectively, you should include the paired handsets when creating a strategy for smart wristwatches, as sizeable content will have to be viewed via the handset.
Strategize Campaign blog
One of the most eagerly anticipated wearable today is the Apple Watch that can be paired with the company’s flagship phones (the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus). If you are creating an application for the Apple Watch, then make sure that it connects in real-time and seamlessly with its counterpart app on the phone to better view the responsive website and content on the smartphone screen.

Offer immediate solutions through your services
Hyper-immediacy is the focus of all smartwatches. They are able to provide solutions to users quickly through a quick glance of the device on their wrist. Wired Magazine even said that “the device knows what users want before they want it,” as notifications are sent instantly from their smartphones to their wearables in real-time. Thus, disseminating information such as a flight details, mall sales and coupons updates, and stock market changes.

In addition, wearables are able to locate a person via their built-in GPS tracking. Through this technology, you will be able to target those people who are within the vicinity of the business that are in need or that need your assistance.

Although smartwatches haven’t completely convinced the consumer yet, adopting this new form of technology in your digital campaign presents your company’s ability to innovate. What do you think of Google Glass and other smart headsets as a medium for marketing products and/or services?

 

 

Exclusive for Propel Business Works
Written by Jennifer Birch

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Learning From the Best: Volkswagen Focuses on Mom https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/learning-volkswagen-focuses-mom/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/learning-volkswagen-focuses-mom/#respond Fri, 08 May 2015 22:10:36 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=3144 With Mother’s Day just days away, moms are on our minds. Commercials are reminding us to do something nice for mom this Sunday; buy her flowers or chocolate, and thank her for everything she has done over the years. But there is one commercial a bit different than the rest, brought to us by Volkswagen.

Women gain more responsibilities when they become mothers; feed and bathe the kids, make sure they are safe, get them to soccer practice on time, etc. However, mothers also have some worst nightmare scenarios; your child throwing a tantrum in the store, losing track of your kids in public… And Volkswagen played out a mom’s worst nightmare – her kids creating a complete mess inside a convenience store.

Volkswagen used this commercial to promote their new, more fuel-efficient Passat. The new Passat requires fewer fill-ups and, according to the commercial, fewer fill-ups means fewer stops – and a decreased likelihood of chaos.

Volkswagen Passat

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and Volkswagen

The ad reaches multiple generations and target markets for a few different reasons:

1) Who is Willie Nelson?

For the younger generation, Willie Nelson is not a familiar name. Willie Nelson is a well-known country singer most prominently known for his album Shotgun Willie from 1973. Volkswagen used Willie’s song “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” and triggered the interest and attention of older generations.

2) Mom’s worst nightmare

All mothers can identify with the nightmare and chaos that occurs inside the convenience store. Volkswagen aims to help mothers have a more enjoyable ride. They no longer have to worry about what will happen as soon as they pull over to fill-up.

3) Time to spoil mom

For anyone looking to completely spoil mom this year, why not consider a new car?! Make mom’s life easier this year by getting her the gift that keeps on giving – fewer stops and less chaos.

This isn’t the first year Volkswagen has targeted moms. Don’t remember the previous commercial?

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and hepimordkaTV

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and hepimordkaTV

In 2013, Volkswagen ran a campaign for their Jetta and featured the vehicle for its safety features. One of mom’s (and dad’s) biggest concerns is the safety of their child, especially a newborn!

And, in 2012…. Darth Vader.

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and Volkswagen

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and Volkswagen

Although some may argue that this ad was targeted more towards dads, moms also want to see their kids happy. And what can make a kid happier than seeing his magic “work”?

Do you think Volkswagen’s commercial was successful?

We wish all moms a very Happy Mother’s Day and appreciate you for all you do!

Bren

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Swarm from Foursquare: Here’s What You Need To Know About The New App https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/swarm-foursquare-heres-app/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/promote/social-media-strategy/swarm-foursquare-heres-app/#respond Sat, 02 May 2015 17:48:45 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2826 Have you been “Swarmed” yet? If you were using the location-based check-in app, Foursquare TM, prior to May 15th, 2014, then you are probably somewhat familiar with Swarm at this point.

FoursquareTM chose to rebrand itself and, as part of its rebranding efforts, it spun one half of its functionality (the check-in half) into a second app. They named this new app, “Swarm,” and introduced it on May 15th, 2014.

The FoursquareTM app, itself, now focuses entirely on helping its users who wish to search for nearby places. Foursquare’s rebranding now puts it in direct competition with two other local search platforms: (1) Yelp and (2) Google Places.

This is how the FoursquareTM Help Center defines Swarm:

Swarm is an app that helps you keep up and meet up with your friends. We’ve made it easier than ever to check in to your favorite places, keep up with your friends by seeing who’s close by, and meet up with your friends right in the app.

Now, with just a glance, you can easily see who’s nearby. Tap on a friend to see where they are, like their check-in or send them a message.

Swarm by Foursquare

Image courtesy of FoursquareTM

Loyal FoursquareTM users now find themselves having to readjust to using its sister app, Swarm, for check-ins. Not surprisingly, many people have expressed mixed, and even negative, feelings about the spinoff.

This article will take you through some of the ins-and-outs of Swarm and how it may benefit its users and businesses.

 

Swarm plans to be the “fun” half of FoursquareTM

Image courtesy of FoursquareTM

For now, FoursquareTM and Swarm features still work in tandem. When you check into a place using Foursquare, Swarm automatically opens up to complete the action with the more social and “gamey” features. You can use Swarm to let your friends know your shared experiences with all your friends while using FoursquareTM to add your favorite places and follow others with the same interests.

One of Swarm’s features is called “Neighborhood Sharing.” This allows you to reach out and share your general location with your friends. That way, if any friends are nearby, you can easily invite them to join you from Swarm.

Do you miss the coveted “Mayorship” feature of FoursquareTM? You’ll now find this feature in Swarm. However, you’ll only be competing for this title with your friends now, rather than the entire world. Sadly, if you were a fan of badges on FoursquareTM, those are gone, but you will find plenty of fun stickers on Swarm.

 

Swarm Data: What the Numbers Say

VentureBeat recently published data showing the decline in Foursquare’s download rate rankings since rebranding itself and launching Swarm:

  • As of October 22, Foursquare ranked #923 overall in the U.S. App Store — #25 among travel apps in the U.S. At its peak, Foursquare ranked #44 overall in 2011 — #2 among social networking apps.
  • The results are similar in the Google Play store, where Google estimates Foursquare has been installed on somewhere between 10 million and 50 million devices.
  • Swarm follows the same trend on both iOS and Android…Swarm currently ranks #103 among top social networking apps in the U.S. but is no longer listed among the top 1,500 iOS apps in the U.S.
  • Swarm’s Google Play rank history…Google says it has seen between 1 million and 5 million unique device installs in total.

This may not be the most optimistic data for Swarm, but it’s still a fairly new app. Time will tell whether people will start warming up to it.

 

So, who is “swarming up” to Swarm?

The primary demographic and main target for Swarm includes mobile users who live in urban areas. It’s still too early to tell, but it appears that the majority of users are Millennials (ages 18 – 33) and college students.

 

Is Swarm okay for the next generation to use or is it a safety concern?

When it comes to kids’ safety, parents should be concerned with any location-based app, including Swarm. Some of Swarm’s safety advantages, for the next generation or anyone, really, include the following:

  • The information users share through Swarm is shared only among their friends. (Swarm recommends, of course, that people use discretion when selecting their friends)
  • Users can choose whether to share their locations at all.
  • Unless a user actually checks in, his or her specific location isn’t disclosed.
  • Swarm has set its minimum age for users as 13.

 

Rules and conditions for Swarm users

Following the rules makes Swarm fun and safe for everyone involved.

The rules for using FoursquareTM/Swarm are extremely detailed. They include the following:

  • Registration and eligibility requirements
  • The type of content users can post, and who holds responsibility for that content
  • Copyright protection of FoursquareTM and its partners’ (including Swarm) content
  • Rules and conduct (examples include no spamming, no being fraudulent/abusive/threatening/vulgar, etc.)
  • Special terms for Pages/Verified Venues/Developers/Third Party Sites and Services

You can read the entire “Terms of Use” for Foursquare and Swarm here.

Swarm and privacy settings

FoursquareTM and Swarm both take privacy very seriously. They offer privacy options which can be edited so that only certain information appears on your profile, and some information can be hidden entirely.

According to information from the Foursquare Help Center, the following profile information is viewable to the public:

  • Your name (Swarm only requires a first name)
  • Profile photo (You don’t have to upload your image though, or you can use an avatar)
  • Home city (This is optional)
  • Your bio (Also completely optional)
  • Links to Twitter and Facebook (If they’re connected; they can also be hidden)
  • Your Swarm friends (Public)
  • Tips and Lists (Public)
  • Check-in Comments (Viewable only by people who can see your check-ins)
  • Likes/Dislikes (Public)
  • Check-ins shared to Facebook and Twitter (Public, unless you have made your tweets private in Twitter; viewable by anyone on Facebook who’s allowed to view your activity on that platform.)
  • “Here Now” (You can easily opt out of this feature)
  • Public check-in Photos

Swarm covers all its bases with a detailed Privacy Policy, which you can read here.

One important thing to keep in mind, regarding your privacy: Swarm more or less tells us that we don’t have 100% privacy when using its app. Swarm explains why and how it collects data from its users, including some of their personal information. It also let us know why it may share your information with third parties.

How can a business use Swarm?

Although FoursquareTM and Swarm have become two separate apps, they still work together. Swarm, with its gamey and social features, is geared more for individual use, however. Businesses, on the other hand, are more likely to find FoursquareTM is the better app of the two for connecting with potential and current consumers.

Swarm does offer possibilities for businesses that aren’t afraid of creativity though. Evan LePage shares a good example in a recent article for Hootsuite, “Foursquare vs. the Swarm app: What’s the Difference?”:

A food truck might, for example, use the Neighborhood Sharing feature to let friends know they’re located nearby.

Business owners may find Swarm to be useful from a social perspective. For example, they may use it to help them find other potential business partners or clients who are in the same place at the same time. Having the ability to set up impromptu meetings through Swarm could lead to new business partnerships, lead generation, or even a completed sale. Business owners might also consider using the Swarm app, with its social sharing capabilities, as a way of seeking feedback or for crowdsourcing ideas.

The first step for a business that wants to gain local exposure through Swarm – as well as capitalize upon it – is to claim any venues already listed for it on Foursquare, or create new listings. As well, since your business’ information is shared across the two platforms, any edits or updates made on one site is seamlessly transferred to the other. This includes check-ins and reviews.

You can learn more about setting up your business’ listings and using FoursquareTM as a business by visiting its site here.

Other activities that will help your business show up more often in Foursquare’s local search results – and subsequently boost your business’ results – include:

  • Increase real-life “foot traffic”
  • Run a FoursquareTM ad campaign (Foursquare ads can currently be seen at the top of the search feed. Clicking on an ad bring you to a landing page within Foursquare.)
  • Use the analytics data provided by Foursquare to better understand and connect with your customers
  • Be social and create real connections with other users

Source: Clickz.com: “What Foursquare’s Swarm App Means for Businesses

 

Foursquare sums up how Swarm can work for your business:

People use Swarm to keep up and meet up with their friends. They use the app to check in and let their friends know that they’re frequenting your business. Your business will show up as a check in option if a user is nearby.

Reviews and ratings for Swarm

Many loyal FoursquareTM users have expressed frustration over having to use two separate apps when they only had to use one before. Many also complain that having to use two apps drains their already exhausted battery supplies on their mobile devices. Some users have left Foursquare entirely, rather than dealing with the new app, saying they find it confusing and no longer useful for them. Others don’t mind using Swarm separately, and enjoy it for the social app that it is.

As you can see in the snapshot below, the Swarm app has received 92,810 “5-star” ratings, and shows an overall 3.7 out of 5-star rating (based on 208,376 reviews). Perhaps things are looking up for Swarm, according to these recent reviews and rankings on the Google Play Site. (Snapshot taken on 11/11/14 from the Google Play site: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.foursquare.robin&hl=en).

Get Swarm today through play.google.com

Get Swarm today through play.google.com

 

What are your thoughts about Swarm? Do you think FoursquareTM made a mistake or do you see potential for a new audience? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how businesses may benefit from – or not – from Swarm. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 

Related Resources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/07/30/336531811/some-loyal-foursquare-users-are-checking-out-after-swarm-spinoff

https://support.foursquare.com/hc/en-us/articles/201908440-What-is-Swarm-

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/07/23/foursquare-brand-new-look/13042485/

http://blog.hootsuite.com/foursquare-vs-the-swarm-app-whats-the-difference/

http://www.slideshare.net/carleyjeanne19/swarm-guidesheet

http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/23/will-the-check-in-survive-foursquares-controversial-relaunch-by-the-numbers/

 

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Business Gifts for Long-Term Customer Relationships https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/business-gifts-longterm-customer-relationships/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/business-gifts-longterm-customer-relationships/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:00:22 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2996 5 Great (and Inexpensive) Business Gifts for Long-Term Customer Relationships

 

corporate-gift-giving-720

Are business gifts still ‘a thing’? They most certainly are, says Forbes contributor John Hall. In fact, the writer stresses the importance of letting long-term customers know you’re thinking about them by sending out gifts even when the time hasn’t come for the holidays. Most resources on the matter advise sending thoughtful presents about once a year. ‘Thoughtful’ is a key word here: you don’t want to risk jeopardizing an otherwise important business relationship. Steer clear of risqué items, try to select things that you know the client would appreciate, and avoid cheap, run-of-the-mill presents (like branded pens, for instance!). That being said, you don’t need to splurge a fortune on a gift for a customer. In fact, the best gifts are personal and thoughtful. Here’s a helpful list of suggestions:

1. Small indulgences

Got a client who’s a wine aficionado? Then feel free to send them a customized selection of fine quality wines – a single bottle will do, as long as you know it’s a vintage or brand they would appreciate. Along the same lines, you can opt for a gift certificate from Birminghamcigars.com, if you know that one of your customers sometimes enjoys indulging in this type of pastime. Gift certificates are the most easily custom-izable type of gift and you can’t really go wrong on the business scene with a gift of fine tobacco.

2. Something truly unique

Never underestimate the power of personalized, hand-made or otherwise uniquely tailored gifts. As exemplified by this list on thisblogrules.com, a gift based on someone’s likeness is a sweet, considerate thought that will not go unnoticed – not even in the business world. Keep it PG and family-friendly, but don’t shy away from a lightly humorous gift, such as customized t-shirts, artwork, or framed photos of you and your clients.

3. Gadgetry galoreThankYou

Let’s face it, gadgets are the must-have items of the century. Where would we all be without our FitBits, smartwatches, or other types of wearable tech. The potential problem with gifting gadgets is that some of them tend to run a bit on the expensive side – but at least these totally unique ones that we found featured on mancertified.com look like they provide the bang for the buck. Again, you don’t need to splurge. A very thoughtful business gift I received was an encrypted USB stick (about $100) from a crowd funding team. It did not cost a month’s rent, but it tied in neatly with the concept behind the campaign itself.

 

4. Experiences

Wine tastings, barista classes, a night out at the opera, the drive-in, or a good restaurant. These are all highly unique, unrepeatable gifts that will literally keep on giving. There’s little else that says, “I value you” to a business client as well as an experience does. Again, bear the common rules of courtesy in mind and try to select an experience that is aligned with the customer’s lifestyle choices and preferences, inasmuch as you have gleaned them. Don’t hesitate to shop around for vouchers and discounted events, because when you give the gift of an experience, it shouldn’t be about budgeting as much as it should be about quality.

 

5. Thoughtfulness

That’s right: one of the best gifts you can give a business client is attention, care, and concern. A perfect example of a gift that embodies all these qualities is a donation to one of your clients’ favorite causes. Not only does that donation have the potential to change the world in a certain way, but it also communicates, loudly and clearly, that you resonate with their core values and principles. The rule of thumb here is that the more personal the cause is, the more valuable the gift will seem, too.

 

– Terry Findley

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Selena – A Real American Drama https://propelbusinessworks.com/movie-comparisons/selena-real-american-drama/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/movie-comparisons/selena-real-american-drama/#respond Tue, 21 Apr 2015 17:29:08 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2981 “Selena”

 Hard work, vision, entrepreneurship and the making of a true American dream!

If you haven’t seen or heard of it, “Selena” is a movie based on the life of Selena Quintanilla Perez: a once up-and-coming Hispanic pop star.  This biography follows the star from her humble beginnings to her untimely death in 1995 at the age of 23. In a nutshell, Selena (played by Jennifer Lopez) and her family are hard-working singer/songwriters looking to breakout and make it big in the music industry. It’s a real American drama. But what makes them successful? Here are some important habits to observe.

Don’t Give Up!

Starting from the very beginning of the story, Selena and her siblings grew up in a close, loving family based in Texas with her parents Abraham and Marcela. Struggling to make it by, you see the reality of the American dream: it doesn’t always work out the first time. The movie focuses on Abraham for a time, showing his passion for music and the disappointment he had endured as a younger man trying to make a name for himself singing in a band. Being discriminated against because of his heritage forces him to take on a job he doesn’t necessarily like, but he embraces his role of a married father of 3.

During the course of the movie, you see the passion Abraham instills in his children to do and be better than he did in the music industry. You sense from the parents that they both try their hardest to give their children the best future they can. After abandoning his dream for a time, Abraham sees a new dream: one with his family. And this time he wasn’t going to give up so easily!

Determination Will Take You Far!

Abraham – after hearing Selena’s naturally great voice – forces the launch of a family band. Selena along with sister Suzette on drums, and brother A.B. on the guitar, begin learning how to play songs. His goal is to build an opportunity for his children in the music industry and break the racial barrier that held him back many years ago. Pushing the children to go above and beyond just a fun hobby, he makes them learn how to sing in Spanish. There are many times during the course of the movie where you feel his almost stifling concern to guide his children down the ‘correct path’.

Discipline Offers Great Rewards!

As the movie progresses, you see how the Quintanilla family sacrifices time with friends and participating in normal childhood activities to play a part in this family affair. Although they would rather play outside as children do, Abraham is adamant that they be disciplined and study the craft. Eventually, they would learn to love playing, writing and performing. Selena, as a group, was very popular in the Mexican-American culture, yet many of her fans didn’t know that she was not a born Spanish speaker.  After a successful  Spanish interview, Selena jokes that her Hispanic fans will be so surprised when they hear her American album, wondering how in the world she learned to speak English so fast! Selena (as well as Abraham) is constantly pushing and challenging herself to do more for the fans and more for her family.

 

      “The Americans jump all over us because we don’t speak perfect English, and then the Mexicans jump all over us because we don’t speak perfect Spanish. We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!”

                                                                            -Abraham Quintanilla

 

Partnerships aren’t always the best option!

Just as Selena is gaining popularity, the family decides to bring in some new associates to help the band in its growing endeavors. They include a talented young guitarist, Chris Perez, and a family friend, Yolanda Salvidar. While the partnership with Chris starts off tumultuous, the mood changes after he and Selena fall in love and elope. Even though Abraham is against it at first, he warms up to the young and talented guitarist. The movie does a great job in providing you the feelings of all parties: the couple that loves each other, the father that only wants what is best, and the family that doesn’t want to let go of what they have worked so hard for.

The addition of Selena’s best friend, Yolanda Salvidar to the family band unfortunately doesn’t have such a happy ending. Yolanda for many years now, had run the finances for the band and spearheaded the fan club. She was responsible for sending the fans their requested pictures, signatures and other mementos. Being one of Selena’s closest friends, Yolanda had been privy to the finances in Selena’s fan club and her new clothing line. It is apparent now, however, that she had been stealing from the Quintanilla family and the fans.

Heartbroken, Selena did not want to believe it, even after confronting her with Abraham. Selena agreed to meet with her once more to pick up some documents and discuss business with her. It was at this last meeting that Yolanda shot and killed her friend and rising super star, Selena Quintanilla Perez. She would later explain that she tried to kill herself, but accidentally shot Selena instead. The Quintanilla family would never be the same and the group would be disbanded. Sadly, this story has a tragic ending, but makes you think and ask: does every business really need a partnership? And who should  I consider to partner with?

Hard work pays off!

At a larger than life concert at the Astrodome, Abraham looks on and talks with people about getting their music on the American mainstream. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together. They finally have made it big. After all the hard work the family went through, the dream that started with Abraham so many years ago is being realized. From singing in a small town fair in front of 10 people, to being a successful band with a number one hit, the journey has been long. It has been filled with disappointment, perseverance, and determination. Most people would have been discouraged, but you can’t give up so easily on your dreams!

Lessons Learned

The movie tells a time old tale about the value of hard work and also being careful what you wish for. Putting hard work and love into whatever you do can be seen by other people. Having a driving force also helps you constantly challenge your abilities. With money and power come problems: friendships and family can be tested. As for Selena herself, we can see that she wanted to be true to who she was, and she accomplished that.

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and andrez germanotta

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and andrez germanotta

What did you take away from the movie Selena?

Jessica Clawson

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Finding Motivation When You Need It Most https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/finding-motivation/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/entrepreneur-inspiration/finding-motivation/#respond Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:00:54 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2991 Whether it be in our workout routine or in the workplace, there comes a time when we could all use a little more motivation. How do you know you are needing some motivation?

  1. You dread the task at hand
  2. You find yourself unhappy or not enjoying the things you used to
  3. You are moving further from your goal rather than closer

However, where can you turn to when you can’t find the motivation to get you through?

1. Ask for support

Although it may be uncomfortable for some us who are more independent, find and seek the support of others. When you have feelings of doubt or are in a slump, find someone that you can turn to who will help motivate you and remind you of your goals. Whether it be a friend, family member, or work associate, get their support.

Image courtesy of Pixabay and stevepb

Image courtesy of Pixabay and stevepb

2. Set goals

In order to stay motivated, you need to have a goal in mind. What are you working towards? Where do you want to be long term? If you have no goal set, what is going to keep you moving forward?

3. Find inspiration

Who inspires you? What inspires you? Is it a family member? Someone within your industry? A hobby? When you are needing to find motivation, you also need to find inspiration.

4. Focus on the benefits, not the hardships

Never say never. When you start having an attitude of I CAN, rather than I CANNOT, then you are guaranteed to see a shift in your accomplishments. Stay focused on the positive things in order to stay positive. If something is seeming difficult to accomplish, shift your mindset to how easy it is going to be.

5. Celebrate the small accomplishments

Everyone has a goal in mind. However, there are many small steps that lead to the one large goal. Celebrate the small victories along the way.

 6. Take some “ME” time

Have you ever been doing something for so long that you just get burnt out? When was the last time you took some time to yourself to do something that you enjoy as a hobby or for pleasure? Get refreshed by taking some time to do something for you and get your focus back.

IMG_46237. Small steps first

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take baby steps instead of giant leaps. As they say, take one step at a time.

8. Pinpoint what is holding you back

It may take some time to realize what is holding you back, but take some time to pinpoint what is keeping you from feeling motivated. A new approach and/or perspective may do the trick.

9. Stay positive

Although others may believe in you, you need to believe in yourself. Find ways to keep yourself positive.

photo10. Make a checklist

One of the best ways to recognize accomplishments – small or large – is by physically seeing it. Create a physical checklist and mark things off as they are accomplished. Get the feeling of satisfaction!

11. Determine your “why”

What is it that you are trying to accomplish? If you are trying to lose weight, what is the reasoning? Is it so you fit into your wedding dress, or maybe for an upcoming vacation?

Do you have a story of a time that you were lacking motivation, but found a way to get motivated? We would love to hear what you did to accomplish your goals and find motivation.

-Jamie

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Is Productivity Increased by Stimulants? https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/productivity-increased-stimulants/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/productivity-increased-stimulants/#respond Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:00:14 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2975  Do Stimulants like Coffee Increase Productivity?

 

Everyone in the office has a moment from time to time – or maybe several moments – where they’re just not feeling very productive. With many factors that could be the possible culprit, for whatever the reason, productivity levels have gone down.

If you’re tempted to reach for a beverage or other item to help rejuvenate energy in cases like this, you’re experiencing an impulse common to today’s competitive, overworked workforce. Coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, cigarettes, and even prescription drugs all have seen usage as a pick-me-up at the office. But do those stimulants really help you work better, faster or smarter?

Benefits to Productivity

If you’ve ever tried using coffee, energy drinks, or other substances as a way to give yourself a quick energy boost and to increase your productivity at the office, you’ve probably noticed that they do seem to have a noticeable effect. For example, studies show that caffeine blocks receptors in the brain that cause people to feel sleepy.

However, there are certain tasks where this “pick-me-up” has a higher level of efficacy than others. So think about the type of work you’re going to do before choosing to chug an energy drink. Tasks that require quantity over quality will receive the biggest benefit from caffeine.coffeepic

 

  • Repetitive tasks. Stimulants seem to improve productivity for the majority of people when performed with repetitive tasks, such as answering e-mails.
  • Creative tasks. If you’re looking for a boost in your productivity when working on a marketing campaign where creativity is the primary requirement, you’re probably not going to receive much of a boost from the stimulant.

 

Detriments to Productivity

If you use coffee or an energy drink as a way to boost your energy, you need to be aware of how the caffeine will interact with the cortisol your body produces. The chemical cortisol gives your body an energy boost at certain times of the day. Because cortisol typically is at its highest level in a person’s bloodstream in the early morning, just after noon, and in the early evening, you can receive the biggest benefit from ingesting caffeine at other times of the day.

 

Some people have tried prescription drugs to gain a boost in energy. Prescription drugs that are aimed at improving memory or in helping people with attention disorders are among the most popular for people seeking a boost to request from doctors, according to a Time Magazine report. The ADHD drug, Adderall, is a common one, making up a part of a group of drugs called cognitive enhancing drugs.

pillspic

Those using the drugs report improved memory in some circumstances and better focus. One study referenced in the Time report said those who tried the drugs tended to receive the most benefit if they struggled with focus before ingesting the drugs. Those who had good focus already didn’t receive as great of a benefit from the drugs.

 

Long-Term Productivity Boost Ideas

Even though there seem to be some benefits for those looking to boost productivity from all of these options, there are some unknowns, too. For example, it’s not known whether these prescription drugs would cause long-term health problems from overuse. And then there’s the ethical dilemma of a doctor prescribing the drug for an unintended use, and whether such prescriptions could lead to abuse.

There’s a more positive side to these concerns, though. As these options grow in popularity, will pharmaceutical companies consider developing drugs aimed specifically at cognitive enhancement?

It’s tough to see workers ever letting go of that traditional cup of coffee at break time, providing a pick-me-up. However, it’s possible that at some point in the near future, you may be using that coffee less as a pick-me-up and more as a means of washing down the cognitive enhancing drug that your doctor prescribed. (At that point, you may want to consider switching to decaf!)

 

 

– Mark Kirkpatrick

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The 2015 Report On the State of Cyber-security https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/sec-finra-report-state-cybersecurity/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/sec-finra-report-state-cybersecurity/#respond Tue, 10 Mar 2015 11:00:52 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2959 Slide1The 2015 Report On the State of Cyber-security

SEC staff have been conducting sweep examinations of over a hundred registered investment advisers and broker-dealers to test the preparedness and  practices of these firms against cyber-security attacks. What they found convinced the SEC to issue a Risk Alert through its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE).

The Risk Alert basically summarizes the findings of the examinations for the general public. Staff questioned 49 registered investment advisers and 57 registered broker-dealers about their cyber-security governance, policies, risk management, response to third party, service provider risks and ability to uncover unauthorized activities. They were also questioned on the level of management of risks associated with remote access to client fund transfers and information.

The intention was to establish how prepared these firms were to face cyber-security risks and protect their client’s money and information from attacks.

Important Findings:

  • 74% of investment advisers and 88% of broker-dealers have reported cyber-attacks in the past. They claim that these attacks are usually a result of malware or fraudulent emails. Sometimes the attacks were direct and sometimes they came through vendors the firm used.
  • 83% of investment advisers and 93% of broker-dealers have adopted written information security policies. However, only a small number of investment advisers and broker-dealers (13% and 30% respectively) include provisions about whether the firm is responsible for losses to clients due to cyber-attacks.NEWcyberpics2
  • Only 9% of advisers and 15% of broker-dealers protect their clients against such attacks by offering security guarantees to them in the written policy statement.

The Upside:

  • Some form of data encryption is used by almost all investment advisers and broker-dealers in their firms.
  • 58% of broker-dealers maintain insurance that covers losses that may arise due to cyber-attacks, but only one in five investment advisers do the same.
  • On average, 8 out of 10 broker-dealers require the assessment of cyber-security risks of vendors before giving them access to the firm’s networks. But only 32% of investment advisers have similar requirements for vendors they work with. Vendor contracts include requirements related to cyber security in a majority of broker-dealer contracts (74%) and a minority of adviser ones (24%).
  • Cyber-security policies are decided by a majority of broker-dealers and advisers based on firm-wide assessments of cyber risks, weaknesses and potential consequences of attacks.

This Risk Alert published by the OCIE focused more on the existence of controls rather than their quality to defend against cyber-attacks. Cyber-security preparedness was also placed as a priority on the OCIE’s 2014 examination.

FINRA published the results of its own cyber-security examination as well. The exam was conducted on broker-dealers and was focused on understanding the threats these firms are exposed to, their level of preparedness or understanding of vulnerabilities and their procedures and policies for managing the threats.What-to-blog-on

The report published by FINRA includes individual case studies to establish the ‘threat landscape’ faced by broker-dealers in the sector. According to the report, broker-dealers face a number of threats including hackers trying to penetrate the firm’s systems and compromising client data or firm data.

FINRA Recommendations to Mitigate Risks:

  • Board-level and senior-level management in a firm must engage in dealing with cyber-security issues. Firms need effective governance and leadership to establish protections against these threats.
  • Asset vulnerabilities, as well as external and internal threats, must be comprehensively assessed by the firms to understand the risks they are up against.
  • Technical controls must be used to protect the firm’s hardware and software from potential attacks. These controls can include access and identity management, penetration testing and data encryption.
  • Staff must be assigned roles for responding to cyber security incidents in the firm. Training must be provided to staff which can reduce the chances of such incidents. The risk assessment process, intelligence gathering and past loss incidents must be highlighted in such training. Response plans must be fully developed, implemented and tested by the firm.
  • When dealing with vendors who have access to the firm’s systems and data, strong due diligence must be incorporated throughout the lifecycle of the arrangement.
  • The industry can be protected from such threats if firms collaborate through intelligence sharing opportunities.

FINRA and the SEC have both highlighted the growing risk of cyber security threats faced by the industry in their reports and recommendations. The rapid increase in such attacks and the fast-paced development of the attackers’ technical abilities has become a cause for concern.

The two regulatory bodies have established that, despite the efforts of broker-dealers and investment advisers, there is still a long way to go before their systems are fully secure.  But with the proper procedures and policies firms can reduce this risk for themselves and their clients significantly.

    About the Author:  Andrew May is a FINRA arbitration attorney and the founding member of Chicago boutique financial firm May Law.  He is also a frequent guest blogger on a variety of business and finance blogs and enjoys sharing his expertise with investors and entrepreneurs.  Click here for more info.

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What’s New in the Medical Industry? https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/medical-industry/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/medical-industry/#respond Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:24 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2956 The ability to communicate with our loved ones through real-time video via computer or even cell phone was once a futuristic concept. However, today many of us use Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts on a regular basis. From calling our family or friends, to catching a lecture, to watching a video podcast…telecommunication has become a norm.

Now, ask yourself: What are some other common tasks you wish telecommunication could be used for? How about doctors’ appointments?

Well, what if we told you that you really could visit your doctor from anywhere; at home, in another state or country, or even from work? The good news is that this has, in fact, become a reality.

What is telemedicine?

The medical industry has adopted the concept of telecommunication as a means for medical professionals to see, consult, and diagnose patients. This form of medical services is referred to as “telemedicine,” or telehealth.

Telemedicine is defined by Wikipedia as:

…the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. 

In other words, patients can now Skype their doctors for common illnesses and be given a diagnosis. These patients not only save time and money, but they also have an added convenience with their ability to access their doctors from anywhere.

Your virtual doctor awaits - abc news

abc Action News explains.

 

So how does it all work?

According to US News:

The average appointment lasts 10 to 15 minutes and has a flat cost of ​about $40 per appointment for both apps… You’re then sent on your way with detailed instructions on how to proceed and, in some cases, a prescription.

Julius Wyllie of TapCare, a local Portland based telemedicine practicing doctor, treats 40 different ailments; acne, allergies, bronchitis, sinus infections, and more. If your condition requires you to visit the doctor in person, you are not charged.

TapCare

Other pharmacies are beginning to look into the idea of a virtual doctor. For example. Walgreens is in the process of testing out their version of a new mobile app that will allow patients to see a doctor without leaving home.

However, the idea of a virtual doctor is not a new concept. In the early 2000s, companies such as Teledoc and American Well were offering 24/7 access to doctors through telephone and video chats. The difference? Teledoc and American Well offer services through employers and/or healthcare organizations whereas startups like TapCare are providing services straight to the consumer.

 

What other industries do you think will be able to utilize Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts to replace in-person transactions and/or services?

Jamie

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How To Promote Like Starbucks https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/promote-starbucks/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/promote-starbucks/#respond Mon, 23 Feb 2015 12:00:10 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2927  

How To Promote Like Starbucks

Are you a Starbucks junkie who’d gladly stomp across a bed of rusty nails for a Caffe Americano? Or do you scoff at the coffee maven’s high prices and frilly drinks? Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how you feel about Starbucks. Fan or foe, you must admit that no one markets better than they do. From this modest location in Seattle to over 21,000 outlets worldwide, Starbucks has become THE name in coffee around the globe. Yes, Starbucks has re-written the rules of advertising and turned the marketing industry upside down. If you’d like to promote like Starbucks, here are a few methods you might want to try.           

 

1)  Promote “Patriotically”

Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, used a stroke of genius when he appealed to America’s sense of national pride to promote his brand. During the 2013 Government shutdown, Schultz offered a free coffee to anyone in the country who purchased a coffee for someone else. In Entrepreneur‘s “Starbucks’ Free Coffee Promotion Isn’t Actually About Ending the Government Shutdown,” Schultz explained that the company wanted to set a good example and “help people support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country.” While some were not fooled and eagerly pointed out that the this altruistic endeavor was, in fact, a cleverly disguised “buy one, get one” promotion, it did bring people through the coffee shop’s doors and increase the brand’s “street cred.”              

 

2)  Mine Customer MindsRoasted-Coffee-Beans-2058671[1]

The secret behind any successful business is listening to your customers and giving them what they want–and the My Starbucks Idea initiative allows Starbucks to make that happen. Not only does this clever crowd-sourcing tool enable them to closely monitor customer opinion and collect ideas pertaining to potential products and customer service improvements, but it also invites consumers to actively interface with the Starbucks brand–creating greater customer loyalty and enhancing Starbucks’ “warm and fuzzy,” approachable image.            

   3)  Recruit and Toot

No one toots their own horn more subtly and creatively than Starbucks. Yes, their “arms wide open, come on in” persona is communicated at every opportunity–even in their efforts to recruit. The Starbucks career site and its many employment-focused social media accounts do more than simply advertise jobs, attract hopeful candidates, and serve as a resume-collecting portal. They also reinforce the company’s people-friendly image. As “Social Recruitment Strategies to Learn From: Starbucks” adds, “with clear messaging that states that Starbucks gives its applicants a chance to be more than an employee, but a partner, the people of the company are placed at the forefront of its immense success.” Once again, it’s all about the people.               

4)  Promote “Playfully”

Your customers want to have fun. And Starbucks knows they’ll even promote your products for you, if you turn it into a game. When Starbucks first introduced its pumpkin spice latte–yes, that sip of heavenly nectar that is only available in the fall–they introduced a contest to determine which city it would be launched in first. Suddenly, communities across the nation were competing for the first sip of a beverage they had never even tried–and, in the interim, helping to promote the Starbucks brand. Furthermore, as “How Starbucks Turned the Pumpkin Spice into a Marketing Jackpot” offers “creating a limited-time-only marketing campaign is a great way to drive sales and demand.” When summer ends and the leaves begin to turn, Starbucks can count on its legion of PSL fans entering their doors in hordes to enjoy this seasonal beverage before it disappears until next year. Yes, Starbucks is more than just a homey coffee shop with tasty beverages. After all, there are plenty of those around. The secret to Starbucks success lies in its marketing prowess and clever promotions–and its image as your home away from home. If you admire Starbucks’ social media savvy and would like to harness the power of social media to promote your brand, you will want to learn more at “Budgeting for Social Media Marketing.”

 

 
– Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and pumpkin spice latte addict who is counting down the days until October arrives. There are a lot of days left. You can follow her at The Embiggens Project.

 

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Nightcrawler: Observations of Where Marketing Meets Entrepreneurship https://propelbusinessworks.com/movie-comparisons/nightcrawler-observations-marketing-meets-entrepreneurship/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/movie-comparisons/nightcrawler-observations-marketing-meets-entrepreneurship/#respond Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:00:09 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2949 “If you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket.” Lou Bloom

A man at the end of his income, we immediately see the brilliant and complex nature of Jake’s character in this dark story of one thief’s quest to weasel his way into an industry and into the spotlight. Lou (Gyllenhaal) becomes intrigued by the pursuit of capturing sensational stories in exchange for dollars and we watch him move from painfully unaware into an orchestrator of art and his career.

From the start, his rookie moves make me cringe, but his determination, drive to learn, and motivation are relatable. Throwing himself into a freelance profession, we tag along with Lou as he learns the lingo, the equipment, the strategies and how to navigate the ethically-questionable work of TV news reporting.

The movie is crude, the language harsh, and it grips various emotions, especially from my female and business owner perspective, but what we see from this portion of Lou’s life is worth a conversation. This film is the story of an entrepreneur, clawing his way into and through a profession he knows nothing about, using nothing but his smarts and his ability to learn quickly to simply get ahead.

A few takeaways from the film, from my humble perspective:

1. Television News Is Marketing

From the moment Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) arrives on the screen, we feel the competitive nature of the sensational news-chasing job and being “the first guy on the scene”. They’ve just captured a terrible accident, on camera, and whisk themselves off to sell the footage to the first station who’ll pay top dollar.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” Joe guffs.

Lou asks questions, observes and fuels his drive by stealing a bike in exchange for equipment. He throws himself into crime chasing, flubbing his way through, completely unaware of boundaries and finally captures footage he believes to be valuable.

Nonchalantly walking into a new station, he is directed back to Nina Romina’s (Rene Russo) editing studio, only to snag her attention by enticing a juicy cut of the shooting crime scene her caught on camera. After watching the reel, Nina quickly spins the story, using the graphic footage to boost interest in the segment. She praises Lou, pays him for his work, and offers him advice for future pieces. He’s hooked.

What we learn from Rene’s character leads us to the conclusion that story spinning is a way of life for television producers. It makes me question truth.

2. Immerse Yourself in Learning Your Craft

Lou heads home to see his footage on the news and we watch him begin his portfolio by saving the first segment to his computer. What happens next is intriguing. He begins searching information online. He turns his police scanner up and listens for various police radio codes, taking notes and learning each use and call sign. We learn that, in certain industries, anyone can make a new career if only by simple online research and studying.

“I haven’t had what you would call a formal education, but you can find most anything if you look hard enough.”

3. Even False Confidence Can Be A Magnet

While you can’t imagine that Lou has ever been a manager, let alone a business owner, we find him interviewing for an intern position he’s suddenly seeking to fill. Lying to and asking the applicant tough questions, Lou ultimately offers Rick (Riz Ahmed) the job. I can only piece together that he has learned technique through studying language patterns and business courses.

Rick negotiates pay and they shake on the deal. He is green, but Lou spends hours teaching him what to listen for. It’s apparent that Lou doesn’t need talent, he needs a body and someone who is eager or perhaps, as desperate as he is. He succeeds.

But Lou is a tough business owner, yelling at Rick and expecting, no demanding, perfection. But he sticks it out, for no known reason except to earn a flat nightly rate. Was he taken advantage of? We find out later in the film, Lou would use any means to escalate his own stardom and revenue.

4. Questionable Business Actions

Without spoiling the movie, in the final half we watch Lou make decisions with no sense of humanity or reality and only seeking the best frame of his footage.

  • He tampers with the scene of a car accident.
  • His dating skills are rusty and downright creepy, proving his brilliance is socially awkward. But instead of connecting emotionally, he threatens and pushes his position and desire for a “business partnership”.
  • He is offered a partnership with another successful TV news video producer and actively turns it down, only to compromise ethics of any trade and sabotage the competition, eliminating them from the equation.
  • Choosing to hide evidence from a crime scene, he offers his footage as TV fodder. Believing his own lies and justifications, he pursues the story which results in the loss of his employee and the advancement of his career.

In each scene, we expect Lou to receive consequences of his actions and somehow he navigates away from them each time, reminding me of the stark realization that even though this is a movie, life just isn’t fair. Unscrupulous business owners do exist and they aren’t always caught.

Nightcrawler gripped me as a marketer and an entrepreneur, simultaneously.

Marketer: From the news desk side, marketing is paramount to ratings and my own personal theories about inflated and hyped up new stories seem reinforced. Remember that your attention is valuable and companies will do what they need to do to get you to watch, buy and talk about them. Don’t be gullible.

Entrepreneur: Immersing one’s self in a profession isn’t always done for the right reasons. When priorities are unbalanced, we can see ethics begin to fall aside. If you have a feeling about a professional you’re working with or have questions about the standards they live their career by, dive deeper. Don’t neglect your gut.

“Why you pursue something is equally as important as what you pursue.”

YouTube Trailer:

-Jamie

Review from MetaCritic:
Starring: Bill Paxton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo
Summary: Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a driven young man desperate for work, discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling — where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Nina (Rene Russo), a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

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How Can Twitter Help Businesses Recruit Perfect Candidates https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/twitter-businesses-recruit-perfect-candidates-2/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/twitter-businesses-recruit-perfect-candidates-2/#respond Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:00:00 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2911  How Can Twitter Help Businesses Recruit Perfect Candidates

 Over the years, recruitment agencies have evolved to keep pace with technology. Video conferencing, handheld tablets and mobile computing devices, which were only fictional gadgets often talked about in movies and books, are now a reality. The internet has grown from a small community to a network that has broken the global barriers. It has also become one of the largest marketplaces in the world. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have all become hotspots where recruiters can find candidates to fill the vacancies in their organizations.

One of the best ways to recruit candidates is using Twitter. Twitter is basically a social network similar to Facebook, but instead of detailed networking, it employs a messaging method known as ‘tweets’. These tweets are broadcast to everyone who is following a particular user handle.

social-media-tools

Here are a few ways Twitter can be used as an excellent social media platform to recruit the best talent for your organization:

 

  1. Understand How Twitter Works

Let us take a moment to sit down and understand how Twitter’s platform works. First an account is created and personal contacts are added. There is an option to follow other accounts and those associated with celebrities, political leaders and the major brands. Accounts (aka Twitter profiles) of various recruiters can also be followed in order to see how your mentors or competitors are using the platform. While this doesn’t directly locate the right candidates, building a network always works. The idea here is adding various corporate accounts through which contact can be made with thousands of candidates and job seekers around the globe.

  1. Sourcing The Candidates

Twitter is an excellent platform that allows identification and interaction with potential candidates even before they apply for a job. Remember, on Twitter, hashtags (#hashtags) are the easiest way to create visibility to a larger crowd. Hashtags can be effectively used to target a wider audience that will notice the message via the hashtag. A list can be made of the various hashtag communities comprising job seekers and professionals and several internet tools have the ability to help you identify such communities.

For tools for identifying communities, check out:  SocialBro, WeFollow, What the Trend, and Hashtag.org

  1. Engaging Followers

To build a Twitter network and gain a huge list of followers, it is important for recruiters to update content that is engaging. Simply using Twitter as a one-way broadcast channel truly is undermining its great potential.

Building a community is essentially easier. In order to have a large group of followers, post content and engaging tweets that provide something entertaining to the reader. Rest assured that just posting jobs in your tweets isn’t really a good way of attracting more and more followers. The content should be made interesting to the readers to make themsocial media career want to follow your tweets. And when they respond or Retweet your post, respond to them. Build conversation.

 

  1. Measuring Performance

It is a common myth that the Return on Investment (ROI) cannot be tracked on social media. This used to be true during the earlier days of Facebook and Twitter, but today due to advances in internet technology, there are several tools that make monitoring your ROI a cakewalk. Simply counting the number of followers as the indicator for a campaign’s success isn’t really a great strategy. For real results that get candidates, rather than simply followers, various tools need to be used that allow for adjustment to the campaign.

 

For performance measuring tools, check out:

  1. Time Management

Most people think of social media as a waste of valuable time. This certainly can be partly true, as social media can be a time-consuming activity that can hinder workflow. But with the necessary discipline, there are several tools that not only make the whole social media experience a lot easier, they also help save valuable time.

Some tools can be used to automate tweets, saving from the need to post at regular intervals. Some of the tools even allow the users to know when their tweets will get the maximum visibility and response based on search history.

For Twitter time management, check out:

Twitter is indeed one of the most interesting tools that can be utilized by recruiters to attract a steady inflow of candidates and job-seeking professionals. While these above steps make it a bit easier, patience is the key since time is the best answer for seeing a difference in the results.

 

 

– Luke Peters

Luke is an avid fan of books and other media related to marketing and internet technology. He is also the current contributor for http://www.currentitjobs.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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The Best of Super Bowl XLIX’s Commercials https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/super-bowl-xlixs-commercials/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/case-study/super-bowl-xlixs-commercials/#respond Sat, 07 Feb 2015 14:00:53 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2914 Every year, TV viewers everywhere know that the Super Bowl brings the best commercials (and the most expensive commercials!). In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, the media world breaks out into a frenzy as Super Bowl commercials are “leaked” and teasers about the campaigns expected to be appearing in the Super Bowl cause a stir.

SuperBowl_Image_566x290

Image courtesy https://azsuperbowl.com/about-us/economic-impact/

Super Bowl XLIX’s commercials were no exception. Kim Kardashian’s T-Mobile commercial as well as Budweiser’s puppy commercial leaked days before the Super Bowl and media was abuzz. However, the leaked commercials did not override the excitement the commercials that aired on February 1, 2015.

So, what ad campaigns caught the worlds’ attention?

Chevrolet:  2,201,246 Views

Chevy

Image courtesy YouTube

Every football fan was yelling at their television when the Chevrolet commercial opened the Super Bowl. Just as the game was set to begin, the Chevrolet commercial aired showing the outside of Arizona’s University of Phoenix stadium. As Super Bowl viewers got excited for the game to start, it appeared as though cable had gone out! Surprise! Chevy played with all of our hearts; they were highlighting their brand new 2015 Chevy Colorado featuring 4G LTE Wi-Fi. With 2,201,246 views so far, it is fair to say that Chevrolet’s commercial caught the attention of viewers everywhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHS426cnNBA

 

Budweiser: #BestBuds, 25,991,792 Views

Budweiser

Image courtesy YouTube

Year after year, Budweiser has pulled at our heartstrings. We have grown accustomed to seeing the Clydesdales and now, it’s the puppy! In 2014, we saw the golden puppy arrive at the Clydesdales’ stable over and over again after being returned to its respectful owner. Then, it appears the Clydesdales had become best buds with the small pup as they escort him “home.”

In 2015, the puppy returns. This time, the puppy escapes his collar and ends up on a truck headed away from the stables. After searching for the puppy, the puppy finds his way home but is welcomed by a wolf. The Clydesdales escape their stables in time to rescue the puppy and return him home safely.

Budweiser knows how to bring a viewer to tears; no one can resist a beautiful Clydesdale and adorable puppy. #BestBuds has already had 25,991,792 views to date and continues to grow.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAsjRRMMg_Q
Coca-Cola: #MakeItHappy, 3,839,072 Views

Coca-Cola

Image courtesy YouTube

Coca-Cola took a modern problem and showed the world how they can change it. The commercial shows Coca-Cola being spilled into the server stack and hatred messages of hatred being changed to messages of optimism and happiness. With social media and mobile mediums becoming so common, cyber-bullying has reached an all-time high.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibgvkXm9Qkc

*Update*- The #MakeItHappy campaign has been suspended after Coca-Cola was “tricked” into quoting Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

McDonald’s: Pay with Lovin’, 10,560,636 Views

Pay with lovin

Image courtesy YouTube

McDonald’s has received negative press about what their food is actually made of. However, the commercial in Super Bowl XLIX helped to change the perception of their brand. The idea of paying for food by calling your mom to say ‘I love you,’ hugging your family, telling your son what you love about him, or dancing can only bring a smile to your face. Starting February 2, McDonald’s began randomly selecting customers to pay with loving.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq2Sm2XGv_s

 

Wix: #ItsThatEasy, 31,179,468 Views

Wix

Image courtesy YouTube

Wix has been one of the most successful brands when it comes to views of their Super Bowl commercial. With over 31 million views so far, Wix was able to tie in ex-professional football players who were fan favorites like Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith, and Terrell Owens. Former players hand in their jerseys and start up their own small business and Wix helps them to create websites to help grow their business; a great tie in of former players to catch the attention of the football fans already watching the game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5SB1Ypy1EM

 

Snickers: Marcia Marcia Marcia!, 12,002,875 Views

Snickers

Image courtesy YouTube

Snickers has continued to use their “Eat a Snickers” campaign with high-profile individuals in unlikely situations in respect to their known occupation. The Snicker’s campaign in Super Bowl XLIX took “The Brady Bunch” and put unlikely male figures into female roles. Snickers was able to capture the attention of older generations who grew up watching “The Brady Bunch,” as well as younger generations, since the re-runs have aired for years. No one can forget “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqbomTIWCZ8

 

T-Mobile: #KimsDataStash, 16,219,559 Views

T-Mobile

Image courtesy YouTube

As we mentioned before, the Kim Kardashian T-Mobile commercial leaked days before the Super Bowl. Kim seemed as though she was going to be giving a PSA however as the commercial started, it became evident she was making fun of herself taking so many selfies and promoting T-Mobile’s unused data plan. A clever take on the stereotypical PSA announcement that proved effective.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTwzsV3I3OQ

 

Bud Light: #UpForWhatever 17,062,424

Bud Light

Image courtesy YouTube

What goes better together than beer and video games? Beer and retro-video games… Pac-Man! Bud Light brought back memories for many of us by incorporating a real-life game of Pac-Man for a fan who was inspired by his Bud Light bottle to be #UpForWhatever. Who doesn’t love Pac-Man?

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9A1NowrnGI

 

Mercedes-Benz: Fable, 11,513,008 Views

Mercedes

Image courtesy YouTube

Mercedes-Benz used a classic fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” to promote their brand new AMG GT. Perhaps a bit different for Mercedes-Benz; however, audiences across all ages are familiar with the classic fable and can therefore relate to the commercial.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQvdIGeUUvo


Clash of Clans:
 32,228,259 Views

Clash of Clans

Image courtesy YouTube

Perhaps the most popular commercial so far from the Super Bowl… Clash of Clans with Liam Neeson. We all know Liam’s voice from previous movies (Taken) and have all had our names improperly pronounced at a coffee shop. Clash of Clans was not the only mobile application game to have a commercial throughout the game, but it was one of the most effective with the use of a well-known actor like Liam Neeson and his iconic voice. Perhaps we will begin seeing a rise in mobile gaming commercials after the success of Clash of Clans?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC2qk2X3fKA

 

Nissan: #WithDad, 15,078,550 Views

Nissan

Image courtesy YouTube

Some of us were left in tears after watching the With Dad commercial brought to us by Nissan. Seeing a young boy growing up watching his dad drive professionally, we see his dad pick him up from school and embrace his boy. Nissan touched hearts everywhere as we can all understand the bond between children and their parents.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd1qCi5nSKw

Always: #LikeAGirl, 55,604,505 Views

Like A girl

Image courtesy of YouTube


Perhaps one of the most spine-chilling commercials of the Super Bowl was Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign. In the campaign, filming producers asked individuals what doing a task “like a girl” meant to them. The commercial inspires women to remain self-confident and positive regardless of what society stereotypes as “girlish” actions.

The commercials from Super Bowl XLIX grabbed the attention of audiences everywhere. However, some believe the commercials were too emotional. What are your thoughts on this year’s commercials?

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“The Social Network” – A Cautionary Tale https://propelbusinessworks.com/movie-comparisons/social-network-cautionary-tale/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/movie-comparisons/social-network-cautionary-tale/#respond Thu, 05 Feb 2015 14:00:44 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2902 For those of you who have a Facebook page (1.23 billion active users worldwide) you have Mark Zuckerberg to thank. It’s not only Mr. Zuckerberg however, that helped dream up this idea. Although he is the main designer behind the internet site, there were other influencers who helped propel the process along.

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Image and video courtesy of YouTube and Sony Pictures Entertainment

For those of you who have not seen the movie The Social Network, it is the story of Mark and his time at college when the idea is first taking shape, and the subsequent issues from being an extremely intelligent and driven individual who proved socially awkward and lacked empathy.

How To Lose Friends & Influence People

In just the first few minutes of the film we see an excellent example of how not to keep or make friends. Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is on (what he might call) a date with a fellow student Erica. He is obviously intelligent as his vernacular displays, and it is immediately apparent that he has no social tact or empathy for others’ emotions. He belittles her, makes assumptions about her social standing and later, embarrasses her publically. You are lead to believe in short order, that Mark has trouble getting, and keeping friends. Although he is not really interested too much in the social aspect of people, he is the architect of the biggest social networking site ever. A true definition of irony.

You are rooting for this hardworking underdog, while also realizing how painfully emotionally inept he is. It is eventually his fault that leads to the downfall of his friendship with Eduardo Saverin, Mark’s only friend. After the introduction of Facebook and consequent court battle, Mark can no longer call Eduardo, having been taken advantage of and betrayed a friend.

What we can learn:

Those of us that identify with Mark and his persistent work ethic and drive, remember that it is not only helpful, but important to give a attention and time to those who help you with work and care about you personally. Try to get on the same page with ideas, projects and products, and work on delegating tasks. Mark and Eduardo’s biggest issues were the lack of communication, and the fact that Eduardo had a different idea for the site than Mark did. As this idea of Facebook blossomed and got bigger, they ran into a time old dilemma of starting a business with your best friend. Unfortunately, the two entrepreneurs aren’t safe from falling into this statistic.

Enter the third party problems: Sean Parker and the Winklevoss brothers. First appearances belong to the brothers. You see these physically strong and very prestigious pair of Harvard students approach Mark with their idea for a site for their campus. From this interaction between the two parties you are to glean  that the brothers are smart, strong, more privileged, and that when they ask for something, they always get what they want.

Mark is going to put a stick in their wheel spoke for the first time in their lives, and they are of course going to be less than happy about it. It is suggested that Mark essentially steals their idea for a startup site of Facebook, calling his creation something different and developing it, initially, on a smaller scale. Mr. Zuckerberg snuffs the twins and their deal by beginning his own site, The Facebook.

2003thefacebook_medium

Enter the Entrepreneur Catalyst

Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake) is the quintessential entrepreneur and having run across Mark’s idea online is immediately drawn to reach out to the man behind The Facebook. He likes the idea of creating something original and being in the spotlight, but as we soon see, plays an important role in the collapse of the initial plan for Facebook.

Sean is a strange catalyst for Mark. He is charismatic and energetic, while also meeting him intellectually. But while his extrovert personality fuels Mark’s ideas and work we almost believe Mark is striving for Sean’s approval as he makes the jump and moves to California, taking ahold of Sean’s vision for building and growth of the startup.

Meanwhile, Eduardo continues his own efforts trying to boost the business side of Facebook in the only way he knows and much to his surprise is cut out of the project by Sean (seemingly unknown to Mark). But, when Eduardo approaches Mark, Mark appears emotionally unaware of how upset Eduardo is and what it meant to him.

We see the classic tale of hype and words ruling over loyalty and sense that Sean says things that Marks wants to hear, making Mark inattentive to other aspects of Sean that are less than reputable. Eduardo had financially backed the startup and was making his best efforts to develop relationships that would reinforce the foundation of the company.

Even though a few attempts were made to get Mark’s attention, it seems that Mark will not listen to a best friend, even when he just has his best interest at heart. Mark passively used and abused his friendship with Eduardo and Sean to get ahead.

A Cautionary Tale Akin to Macbeth

The movie is reminiscent of Shakespeare. Except this is the technological age, so instead of two people fighting over a woman or the throne, it’s intellectual property, an idea and a website. Two friends are being misled; two friends are fighting, and two friends vying for something that is intangible. It reminds me of Macbeth, when talking of chance or fate.

Macbeth says that if fate wants him to be king it will just happen without him having to do anything. But by “anything” in this situation, it means that he will not be driven to kill anyone to be king. “Anything” for Mark, means that he keeps to himself, works hard, doesn’t ask too many questions and lets things unravel on their own. The Social Network is a story of the hero’s accidental cut throat tactics.

What we can learn:

In today’s world, we have to work with many different types of people. Being a leader means realizes that sometimes you are not the only one with the best answers, or the only answers. Watch what others do, ask others for advice, and learn from others’ mistakes. It is not weakness to compromise or ask for help.

Although there are pros and cons to being a hard worker like Mark, a networking shark like Sean, and a business marketing minded thinker like Eduardo; remember that you all need to work together. This is a cautionary tale of what happens when an idea takes flight way faster than a team can keep up with.

-Jessica Clawson for Propel Businessworks

“The Social Network” image courtesy IMDb.

“The Facebook” image courtesy SBnation.

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Jamie Teasdale Talks Reaching Your Business Goals on MediaShower https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/jamie-teasdale-talks-reaching-business-goals-mediashower/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/jamie-teasdale-talks-reaching-business-goals-mediashower/#respond Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:00:48 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2894 Jamie Teasdale had the opportunity to be interview by MediaShower about reaching your business goals. You can find the full interview on their website, but here is a sample of the interview.

teasdale

Propel Businessworks helps individuals reach their business goals. How does the team at Propel Businessworks achieve this?

Propel is a small business growth strategy company. We help small business owners develop their brand, establish online presence through websites and social media presences, and develop content marketing plans that we can also execute.

We help small businesses grow!

What kind of businesses can PropelBusinessworks.com help?

We work with solopreneurs and startups, small businesses with teams of up to 20, as well as online businesses or those with store fronts. Whether they are just getting started or have been in business for 15 years, we can help them get to the next level.

What are some ways that businesses keep themselves from prospering? How does Propel Businessworks help those businesses overcome whatever it is that holds them back?

For the full interview, follow the link below.

10,000 Hours in 10 Minutes: Jamie Teasdale on Reaching Your Business Goals

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New Year’s Resolutions for Every Small Business https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/years-resolutions-small-business/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/prosper/business-growth-strategy/years-resolutions-small-business/#respond Mon, 05 Jan 2015 23:47:10 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2889 Making it through another year in your small business is a great achievement, but your work is still ongoing! We asked small business owners what they wanted to happen in the New Year, and these classic challenges are worth taking another look at to develop on.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Markgraf-Ave

Image courtesy of Pixabay and Markgraf-Ave

1) Profitability and Growth

This most basic of issues is something everyone with a small business faces. Things like: controlling costs, maintaining profit margin and incrementally improving it, and retaining clients while gaining new ones are on every business owner’s mind.

Although these are things that seem like no brainers, as a New Year resolution we recommend re-visiting and reevaluating your structure. Look for ways to create a dynamic organization that is prepared to face these every evolving challenges.

Whether it’s branching out into a new target to capture new clients, finding new distributors for supplies, or providing additional training to your employees – growth is all about keeping the business growing with the times.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay and StartupStockPhotos

Image courtesy of Pixabay and StartupStockPhotos

2) Productivity

While the productivity of your employees and team members is always a concern, you may consider ways to improve this area of your business in this new year. Making your employees more efficient can be as simple as utilizing a new technology, or sending them to a training course.

But often times it means management changes like focusing on giving clear guidelines so your team members know what is expected of them. Promote from within as often as you can allows your training costs to remain low.

Whenever possible, try to delegate tasks evenly, and remember – this includes you. When the owner is over-worked rash decisions are more likely, which could damage your employees work efficiency and can cause the train to jump the track. Remember you can’t do everything by yourself! Divide responsibility and work on making contingency plans if you run into any snags.

Lastly, you may plan for regular team morale boosts! Small perks like bringing in bagels, coffee or doughnuts on a random Thursday morning, or throwing a fun, activity-focused holiday party can go a long way in showing your team that you appreciate them.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay and StartupStockPhotos

Image courtesy of Pixabay and StartupStockPhotos

3) Marketing

Another year, and many things have changed in our industry – and they always will continue to. This year we encourage you to consider thinking about ways to improve on your strategy. Hone your target demographic by reviewing data from analytics, census reports, getting feedback from customers, and an analysis of competitors. Learn what your competition is doing and understand where your products rank. Anticipate consumer buying trends and product distribution needs, and create advertisements by getting customer input. How have these things changed within the past year, and how can the new changes be met? Consider hiring a consultant to help you create a new configuration for your marketing tactic (we might know some people).

 

Starting a small business can be gratifying, but as a small business owner, there are many challenges that every proprietor must face. But just like New Year Resolutions, there are tactics and tips for you to overcome the ever-evolving issues. While these are timeless topics, we hope that you can develop dynamic solutions to ring in 2015!

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Budgeting for Social Media Marketing by Kimberley Laws https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/budgeting-social-media-marketing/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/budgeting-social-media-marketing/#respond Wed, 31 Dec 2014 12:00:07 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2881 In this internet-crazed, social media-addicted, mobile device-obsessed world, companies need to foster a strong digital presence. Whether your business is interested in entering the realm of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging or any other online marketing tool, you will not only need to develop a plan of attack–you will also need to devise a method of funding it. And this means creating your very first social media marketing budget.

As a newbie to social media marketing or budgeting, itself, this may seem like an impossible feat, but it isn’t actually that complicated at all. Here are some of the things that you will need to keep in mind in order to create a comprehensive budget that will keep you in the black while enabling you to embark on an effective campaign.

Choosing Your Platforms

Before you can begin allocating funds, you will need to figure out which social media platforms you are interested in using. This will involve a certain degree of research–and the requisite man hours to do it. Once you’ve decided on one or several platforms, you will need to determine what sort of graphics you will need such as a Facebook banner, Pinterest Board images, and Profile images or icons, and factor in the costs associated with developing these. You will also need to create top-notch company profiles on each venue.

social media career

Developing Content

The whole point of any social media marketing effort is to supply an eager audience–filled with potential customers, of course–with awesome, share-worthy, and hopefully, viral content. And, unless you have a collection of volunteer modern day bards and witty wordsmiths, you will need to pay for it. Your content creators will need to generate mind-blowing blog posts, a-ha inspiring infographics, and first-rate photographs. As Social Hospitality’s “An Intro to Budgeting for Social Media Marketing” states, “all content must be done with a degree of professionalism, so commit to skilled writers, photographers, videographers, designers, and everybody else in between.” And, whatever you do, do not cut financial corners in this area.

Creating Campaigns

Awesome content is all well and dandy, but when it comes to making conversions, you will need to incorporate special promotions, advertising, public relations, and other sales-generating offerings into your content mix. This involves hiring talent that specializes in digital marketing.

Promotions should have their own individual budgets in order to keep them manageable and to enable you to better measure their level of success. Don’t forget to factor in payroll expenses, advertising related to the promo, any graphics or content writing associated with the promo, and, if applicable, any prizes awarded to participants.

When it comes to your social media advertising budget, you will need to determine how many ads you will run, the duration that they will be running for, which platforms you will use and their associated costs, and the expenses involved with developing the ads.

You will also want to factor in the costs associated with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Assess and Revise

In order to avoid wasting your company’s time and money on fruitless endeavors, it is important to measure and assess the success of your various social media marketing activities. If an effort is proving futile, after all, it is best to re-route those fund into something that yields better results.

Thankfully, there are products that can do exactly that. According to “How to Collect and Visualize Big Data Insights from Social Media,” DMX, for instance, enables you to easily parse, filter, and transform data into something meaningful.

Creating your first social media marketing budget is not as daunting as it sounds. By breaking it down into these easy and doable steps, you can ensure that your company’s digital marketing efforts make fiscal sense–and that your balance sheets stay in the black.

If you’d like some advice on using Twitter to your company’s advantage, check out “Creating a Successful Social Media Strategy Part 2: Twitter.

 

-Kimberley Laws
Freelance writer, avid blogger, social media addict, and creator of The Embiggens Project.

Image courtesy of Thinkstock.com.

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8 Modern Lighting ideas for Home Office from Jessica Max https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/8-modern-lighting-ideas-home-office/ https://propelbusinessworks.com/guest-blogs/8-modern-lighting-ideas-home-office/#respond Mon, 29 Dec 2014 13:00:08 +0000 https://propelbusinessworks.com/?p=2878 Lighting can work wonders for any home. It can emphasize certain areas of the room or provide an open space for going about your daily activities. A poorly lit home can lead to eyesight problems and affect your overall mood, especially in regions that are known to be dark during the day. In the home office, lighting is extra essential, especially for productivity. When modern technology meets architecture, you get a great combination of practicality with sophisticated design. Lighting is no exception and here are 8 ways to make the most of modern lighting for your home office.

office light

1. Make the Most of Natural Light.

Even if you live near the North Pole, natural sunlight exists wherever you are. Take advantage of this. In your home office, open the shades or curtains during the morning and early afternoons on a sunny day. Not only does this save you a lot of money on your electric bill, but also you get all the great benefits of natural sunlight such as vitamin D, which helps boost happiness and mood. Keep in mind, that natural sunlight can make a computer screen difficult to see. Be strategic in how you set up your home office.

2. Work With Angles

 Two things to keep in mind when aligning your workstation are glare and shadows. It may not be wise to place your desk directly across from the windows in which the screen is in direct contact with the light. You may want to place your workstation against the windows so that your computer will face against the light. However, remember to have fun with angles in your home office. Getting the most from natural light depends on the placement of your desk and chair. A good rule of thumb is to place your workstation to face north or south, so that the sunlight does not create shadows.

3. Utilize Ambient Lighting Over Task Lighting

 Do you live up north away and lack sunlight most of the year? Try to make the most of ambient lighting. The basic premise of ambient lighting is to make the most of overhead lighting. Recessed lights that come with many homes may be able to do the job, but do not settle for what you already have if it is not sufficient. Existing ambient light installed in a household is typically not designed for a home office. Do not be afraid to install or place additional lighting to supplement your ambient lighting sources. The best ambient lighting illuminates an entire room evenly. It minimizes the amount of alternating areas of dark and bright light patches. Keep in mind that although task lighting is enough to get the job done, ambient light can set a mood for the room.

4. Take Your Task Lighting to the Next Level 

Unlike ambient lighting, task lighting is more practical and essential to a home office. Task lighting is meant to ensure that you get your work done under the best possible lighting conditions. With the advancements of modern technology and architecture, from sleek floor lamps to bold table lamps there is a plethora of modern lamp designs that can supplement your home office. If you are unsure how much lighting you may need, try to go with a lamp with a dimmer option. This can allow you more versatility as many tasks require differing intensities of light. Remember not to overrule your ambient lighting structures for task lighting. There may be times you will need more light in certain areas of the room, but always try to keep the overall atmosphere light enough to maintain a good atmosphere.

5. Add Some Accent Lighting

 There are three basic layers of lighting, ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting provides the base and mood, task lighting provides functionality and practicality, and accent lighting is the most aesthetically appealing part of the room. Just focusing on one over the other can hinder the potential of your home office. While ambient lighting meets the need for a mood and task lighting meets the need for practicality, accent lighting meets the need for interior design and beauty. Expert interior designers suggest a height-based approach to considering all three layers of lighting. For instance, the ambient lighting may be the recessed lights, task lighting may be small desk lamps near your computer, and accent lighting may be table lamps placed around the room.

6. Coordinate Your Lighting

 After deciding what type of lights you want, try to create a theme for your home office. If you are going with a modern theme with bold colors, you may want to emphasize accent lights more. If you are more of a practical person, you may want to go with neutral colors for a sophisticated look. Try to think about what colors you want in the room and then think about a theme that can supplement your ideas into a cohesive vision. Do not be afraid to have trendy task lamps or ambient lights as they may add to or inspire your overall vision. Nothing is wrong with being a little bold with your home office. After all, you will be using your home office and having something that both practically and aesthetically appeals to you is important.

7. Maximize Space

 Not everyone has the luxury of large home offices. For those who are in the majority of having a tight room, you can easily optimize your space by utilizing pendant lights, sconces and emergency lights. These lights are installed from the ceiling or walls, thus allowing more room for your workstation and other furniture. You will be surprised how versatile some pendant lights and sconces can be. Try a desk sconce with swing arm lamp for ultimate flexibility in lighting use.

8. Avoid Strain and Use Some Shades

Because natural light often results in glare, consider using some shades, sheer curtains, or blinds to control how much sunlight enters your home office. You want to optimize your use or natural sunlight as much as possible without having to suffer the eye strain. By installing some shades, you can make the most of the natural sunlight while avoiding the pitfalls it may have in your home office. If you are not in shades or cannot afford to install them, try to use an indoor plant near the window to block some light and prevent some glare.

No matter what your needs are in a home office, do not underestimate the importance of lighting. Lighting is what makes a home office work and it is essential for your mood, productivity, and need for beauty.

Jessica Max
Emergency Lights

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