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  • 9 Advantages of Your Tech Business Going Eco-Friendly This Year

    bright bulb close up 1108572

    What if your company could save money and change the world for the better? Going eco-friendly makes your tech business stand out from the crowd and shows you're tapped into the concerns of your customers.

    Around 88 percent of Americans feel protecting the environment is essential. The majority of people care about the Earth, and they'll support green businesses. In addition to attracting like-minded people to your brand, there are nine distinct advantages to your tech business going eco-friendly.

    1. Reduce Your Costs

    Reducing energy use and recycling cuts back on your costs. When the company as a whole looks at ways of lessening your carbon footprint, you'll save money on printing, energy used from lights left on and even temperature control issues.

    Some recycling centers pay for beverage cans or plastics, too. Not only will you do something beneficial for the environment, but you'll also make a little money back in the process.

    2. Use Less Energy

    When your company commits to green methods, embrace significant changes such as clean energy. Adding solar panels to your headquarters is one example of a way of reducing your energy usage and turning to more sustainable practices.

    SAP America creates software and provides software services. It's committed to using green energy and purchased more than 350 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy to run its data centers. As part of the company's commitment to sustainability, it also offers a free online course to help others in IT and digital technologies transform into an eco-friendly model.

    3. Attract New Customers

    One of the most significant benefits of going green isn't the reason you should choose sustainability, but a perk of embracing eco-friendliness — attracting new customers. People who are committed to reducing their carbon footprint seek companies with the same philosophy. You'll automatically attract a few customers by merely sharing your mission of a more sustainable business model.

    4. Gain Name Recognition

    A side effect of going green is that you'll gain recognition and possibly earn awards. Branding isn't an easy task for any company, so if you are mentioned in an environmental magazine or receive an award from a local organization, you'll get your business name in front of the public.

    Another tech biz focusing on sustainability is Die-Tech. It's won the MANTEC Manufacturing Award for Excellence in Sustainability for its efforts in green practices. A few of its endeavors include adding a pollinator garden, heating and cooling production areas via a geothermal system and using the land around its facility as a wildlife habitat.

    5. Have Healthier Employees

    Establishing greener practices means you're putting out less pollution and are more focused on the health and well-being of everyone in the building. Several studies indicate that green buildings produce happier, healthier and more productive employees. For example, adding certain types of green plants to the interior of your building improves air quality.

    6. Impact Climate Change

    No matter which side of the fence you sit on about climate change, there is no doubt that what we do today has an impact on the world we leave for future generations. While some tech industries create more emissions than others, reducing energy consumption and pollution is an excellent first step for facilities that manufacture electronics and those that provide services for digital devices.

    Sprint chose more sustainable business practices, such as reducing GHG emissions by 48 percent and using smart building analytics to reduce energy consumption further.

    7. Increase Profits

    When you spend money and energy updating buildings and the overall appearance of your brand in the community, you'll see results in the customers you attract. Building local goodwill has a $6 return for every dollar spent.

    People also state they'll pay up to 10 percent more for green products and services, but this statistic may vary by how dedicated your target audience is to the environment.

    8. Empower Other People

    As a leading brand, you have an opportunity to empower and educate others about sustainable practices. Offer classes, help your community start an organic garden and set the example for other business leaders in your community. As one company, you can only do so much to create change, but as a community, you can make big strides toward a healthier future for all.

    Google is a tech company with a strong commitment to going green. Not only does it focus on making better decisions in the small things it does, such as using resources more wisely, but it also offers users technology that helps it use energy more efficiently and in a more sustainable manner. Its data centers are as energy efficient as possible, too, reducing consumption as millions of searches happen on their servers every day.

    9. Attract Top Talent

    Another benefit most companies don't realize when choosing to embrace a green working environment is that you'll attract others who care about building a more sustainable future. Top candidates may want to work for you instead of a competitor just because they are doing something better for the world around them. If all other things are equal between two potential employers, the top talent may choose your company because of eco-friendly practices.

    Go Green and Change Your Company

    Going green does much more than merely protect the environment. Eco-friendly practices create a company atmosphere where employees consider more than the here and now. The company culture changes when businesses look outside themselves at what they can do to have an impact on the Earth. Positive changes start with small shifts in attitude. The advantages of going green are just added benefits your company receives for doing something good.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • Are Your Harnessing the Best Strategies for Your Social Media Channels?

    Social media is a must for today’s marketers, but knowing exactly how to market on each social media platform can be overwhelming. About 30 percent of millennials say they engage with their favorite brands on social media, so not having a specific strategy will at best be ineffective, and at worst damage your brand image.

    You only have so much time in a day, so utilizing your social media marketing time to the best advantage is important. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can implement that will improve your overall social media outreach and make your efforts more successful.

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  • Best Practices for B2B Companies and How to Convey Them on the Web

    Promoting B2B business online

    Marketing a B2B company can sometimes be a challenge. When you’re trying to get another company to buy your products or services, it isn’t quite the same as marketing to a consumer. If you want to make a strong connection online, you need to know the correct way to portray your B2B business.

    There are a few best practices any B2B company should follow when promoting themselves online. Here are seven of the ones you need to know.

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  • Building a Website – Website Content

    Writer TypingThe main reason for people to visit your website is your web content. But many web designers and developers forget this significant fact in their race to design the best looking and most user-friendly of web pages. An okay looking web page with good content is bound to get lower bounce rates than a pretty web page with poorly written content. So, while designing your website, pay attention to the content of your website because that’s what will make visitors stay.

    Types of Web Content

    Web content is not just limited to the quality of text for articles or your blogs. It also includes the graphic displays such as pictures and videos.

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  • How Data Visualization Benefits All Industries

    Even the most skilled analyst has difficulty reading raw data because it's nothing more than a wall of text, numbers or data points. Looking at a long list of addresses and city locations, for example, doesn't really give you a clear understanding of the regions where most of your audience comes from. Sure, you can probably identify several cities or states, but that doesn't offer anything actionable.

    To take collected, raw data and turn it into something useful or practical, you must utilize a process called data visualization. More importantly, data visualization allows you to present data to nearly everyone on a team, even those unfamiliar with the information or content in question. For example, you can make charts and diagrams to explain a particular demographic or data set to executives. With the right tools, you could even just send them the visualized data, and they'll be able to
    understand it.

    Of course, none of this is possible with raw data.

    data visualization

    1. Understand or Identify Value

    One thing that is increasingly common these days, thanks to big data systems, is that the information we are collecting streams in endlessly. While not technically accurate, this notion is correct in the sense that you'll always have something new to process or analyze. The problem with raw data is that it may never reveal or even have inherent value. You may have a long list of telephone numbers or email addresses, for example, that give no clear indication of how or what to use them for.

    Step one regarding data visualization is to discern how valuable the data you have in your hands is. This enables several things, the most obvious of which is the option to put that information to use internally. But it also tells you what data is most valuable, providing you with even more assets to sell or barter with. You could take the data you have, for instance, and sell it on a second or third party marketplace. Even though it may not directly help with your brand and processes, it can still be valuable to someone else — and help you by creating an additional revenue stream.

    Visual content is a must if you want to capture the attention of your audience. But you would be none the wiser if you merely threw up some media on your brand's social profiles and then checked back every so often. You'd only be able to discern what was popular and what wasn't. You'd never be able to apply that information to future campaigns or posts. With data visualization systems in place, however, you can better understand which visual content works, how, why your audience likes it and even pinpoint exactly who likes it.

    2. Near Instant Access to Business Insights

    Whether you are at the top of a company as an executive or c-suite member or you're further down the ladder as a project or department manager, the information you need to make informed, accurate decisions is mostly the same. You need a clear, comprehensive picture of the steps you are going to take so that you can make accurate predictions and use this as a basis for your decisions.

    In layman's terms, you can look at various conditions or scenarios and gauge how they're going to affect your business.

    Data visualization processes allow you to see these connections, to make sense of what and why something is happening. For example, you can see how a particular decision affected your most recent shipments, and what that resulted in on the consumer side of the equation. This allows you to either change or optimize the process, ultimately, to boost that bottom line.

    Simply put, you cannot make a decision or take action — at least not efficiently — without the proper insights. Data visualization is the act of taking all the data you have and making it practical or actionable so that you can extract insights.

    AOL teamed up with a data analyst team at Dapresy to iron out a more actionable way to reach their audience with the data they were collecting. As a result, they were able to meet ballooning business objectives, unlock hidden insights and increase their customers' confidence in them.

    3. Stay Up to Date With Trends

    The general market is continually shifting, and when you have an ever-changing audience, you have to stay on the bleeding edge. It's difficult though, especially when it comes to making accurate predictions about trends, to predict which way they're going to go. If you align your business objectives to match a growing trend, and it does the opposite and disappears, you're going to lose out on a lot of opportunities and waste a lot of resources.

    Data visualization helps you take control of the situation and plan for the worst while optimizing for the best. It offers the insights and statistics to spot trends and opportunities early so that you can take full advantage of them.

    More importantly, with the data compiled and processed, decision makers and managers have the information they need to assess customer behaviors and conditions. This enables them to take appropriate action and direct the rest of the organization as necessary.

    This visualization of "daily routines of famous creative people" allows you to see what all key influencers have in common. You know that saying "great minds think alike," well this visualization proves otherwise. It also offers some other fascinating insights, so take a look when you have the time.

    4. Get More Minds Involved

    A data analyst or a data scientist is a professional that can look at various data sets and understand what it means and figure out what to use it for. That definition is a bit broad, but you get the gist of it. And there are many data analysts across a variety of industries, including marketing, retail, customer service and more.

    Of course, it costs money to employ a data analyst, and it does no good to have them or a related team confined to a single department or area. The data they are viewing and processing, needs to be passed to other key leaders and team members. In fact, a data analyst may not even know how valuable a set of information is if they don't understand other processes, tasks or projects going on at their company.

    Data visualization allows you to take data, which would otherwise be remarkably dull and confusing, and make it readable for everyone and anyone. It can then be passed on to other departments, getting more minds and team members involved. This opens up many new opportunities, especially if those looking over the visualizations can find a unique use for it.

    IBM was able to determine cities with the most commuting woes, simply by reorganizing the data they collected during a 2010 survey. This allowed them to better understand and present the data to everyone, not just an internal group of analysts.

    5. Improve Performance and Sales

    After launching a new product, you will eventually find out how it performs. You'll know if it sold well, how much money it made and maybe even what areas or stores had the most sales of the item. You could use that information to build a decent customer profile for future campaigns.

    However, the insights you collect without looking at the actual data are shallow and basic. You can't make a more informed decision with them. It would be like grasping at straws. It's still considered a gamble in many cases, because you may not fully understand why a product even sold well or performed poorly.
    By collecting loads of data and organizing it to be more viable through data visualization, you can improve the performance and sales of your brand. You can identify the product changes you made that improved or decreased sales as well as what future changes might correct any issues.

    The point is that data visualization enables you to boost your company's performance and sales because you can make sense of the vast amounts of data coming in. You can also discover more actionable insights and turn those insights into strategies.

    Lexie Lu

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has a cup in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How the Internet Shaped the Education Field

    There was a time when children walked to the local one-room schoolhouse, sat in front of a teacher for hours on end and turned in work on writing boards or paper. As times changed, different technological advances entered the classroom.

    First, there were scannable tests, then there were computers and today there are online schools from kindergarten all the way through graduate school. Virtual schools exist in almost every state these days, many operating as charter schools or hybrids —part online, part in person. When it comes to higher education, there is a 150 percent increase in the number of students choosing distance learning for at least part of their course of study.

    Even for schools that aren’t 100 percent online, there are some advantages to using the internet in education.

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  • How to Create a Punny Web Design

    If your company’s underlying persona is fun and fresh, you may want to figure out a play on words or pun for your overall web design. People tend to associate a company with the outward appearance it gives. Using humor in your website design and branding efforts can be quite useful.

    Laughter in the workplace has several benefits, including relieving stress and encouraging creativity. You can easily share those benefits with your customers by implementing humor into everything you do. Just be careful, because not everyone has the same humor. The last thing you want to do is offend your potential customers. Here are six tips to keep in mind as you design your punny website.

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  • How To Deal With Negative Google Reviews

    poor review left in ketchup

    In the course of providing service to many customers, it’s likely that every customer will be happy with your services. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to work with your unhappy customers on a resolution that will leave them happy again.

    But what can you do if a customer leaves a negative review? Or even worse, what if someone was to place a fake review online, it was negative, and it was in a prominent place where many prospective customers might see it?

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  • How to Improve Your Site's UX in One Day

    The user experience is one of the most important things to focus on if you want to grab — and keep — your site visitors’ attention. In the modern digital economy, a website is one of the most powerful tools you have to promote your business. The last thing you want is a site that is cumbersome to the user or doesn't hit all the right marks. You have one opportunity to reach the person who lands on your page.

    In fact, the average site visitor only takes seven seconds to make up their mind about a site before potentially bouncing away. Creating a site with good UX is one of the quickest ways to improve your bounce rates and keep visitors coming back time and again. Here are six ways to improve your site’s UX in a single day.

    1. Add More White Space

    Creating more space between blocks of text and/or images makes everything easier to read, which can add to the overall function of your site. Stop trying to cram everything onto your landing page. The focus of your landing page should be pretty narrow for the reader.

    we are sofa is a good example of using whitespace

    Adding white space around your text and titles improves reader attention by about 20 percent, and makes your site feel updated and welcoming. A good example of a design with a nice amount of white space is We Were Sofa. Notice how the simple design has plenty of space around images and headlines, which allows site visitors to spot what they are looking for easily.

    2. Speed Up Your Page

    One of the elements that will impact your UX is how fast pages load. Most site visitors will wait just a few seconds for a page to load. A delay of a mere two seconds can send your abandonment rates soaring up to 87 percent, which can truly impact your conversions.

    amazon.com is an example of a website that contains fast page load speeds

    When you think of some of the biggest online retailers, what is one thing they have in common? Amazon and Walmart.com both load at lightning-fast speeds. People are busy. They want their online shopping experience to be quick and easy.

    3. Add an FAQ Page

    An FAQ page can help with any anxiety a consumer might have about purchasing your product and expand on information not covered in your product description page. If you’re hearing the same questions from customers over and over again, it’s smart to go ahead and create an FAQ page. This simple step allows consumers to find answers themselves, instead of having to wait on a reply.

    glass.com is a good example of a website that contains a well written FAQ page

    An FAQ also shows you are willing to be transparent, which can add a lot of credibility to your site. Glass.com has an excellent example of an FAQ page. This FAQ outlines everything from fees to ways to get discounts.

    4. Try Out Different Call-to-Action Buttons

    You already know the right call to action can entice visitors to convert into customers, but before you unveil your CTA, you should first try some A/B/C testing with different versions of it to see what is most effective with your target audience.

    For example, try varying the color, size and wording of the buttons. Once you figure out what works best with your audience, you can easily add highly effective CTAs in a single day, driving visitors to the place you want them to reach on your website.

    5. Make Your Site Responsive

    In 2015, mobile traffic grew globally by 74 percent, which means creating a responsive site is now essential for reaching all those people browsing the Internet on their phones or tablets. There are several steps you can take in a single day to create a more responsive site. First, you should check out how your site looks on tablets, iOS devices and Android phones.

    Do the images adjust to these smaller screen sizes? Is the text legible? Can you still navigate through the site with the menus? It is important to understand how your site adapts to each size of screen.

    If your site is running on WordPress, you can try a few plugins that will help with mobile responsiveness. When choosing the size of headers and other elements on the page, use percentages rather than pixels to allow the design to adapt easily. When in doubt, pull in a professional designer to help you fix any unresponsive features so you don’t miss out on traffic from anywhere.

    6. Readability

    The average site visitor is juggling a lot of different responsibilities. For example, a parent probably put in at least eight hours at the office, ran errands at lunch, went and picked the kids up from school and threw food in the slow cooker for later. Then, there were sports practices, homework or possibly a school event to attend. By the time they got home, they barely had time to eat, clean up the dishes and collapse onto the couch for a few minutes of Internet surfing.

    People’s brains are overloaded with an avalanche of information. They want to be able to quickly skim over information and get only the main points of what they need. It is vital to make your pages readable. You can do this with clear headers and text broken into short paragraphs. Bullet points make for “skimmable” reading material as well. Keep it short, to the point and easy to skim, and your readers will thank you.

    Making your site more user-friendly doesn’t have to involve a lot of complicated coding. A few simple fixes can make a world of difference in the UX of your website. The goal is to get visitors to stay and keep them coming back, so think about why you stay on the websites you visit and how your target audience lines up.

    Lexie Lu

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has a cup in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How to Improve Your Video Marketing Campaign on a Limited Budget

    Everywhere you look these days, there are videos promoting brands. The world is saturated with video, whether it is on television, websites or social media channels. You might worry that you can't compete with big players because creating video marketing campaigns is costly. While creating a video can be expensive, you can also create one fairly inexpensively on a limited budget.

    Experts predict that by 2019, 80 percent of consumer internet traffic will be video viewing. When you consider that number, it's a no-brainer that you need to implement videos into your marketing campaign. Here are eight key ways to improve your video marketing even if your budget is mere pennies a day.

    1. Focus on the Unique Selling Proposition

    If you only have the funds to create a single video, really hone in on the quality. Make sure you get across your unique selling proposition (USP). Before you can create a successful video, you have to understand its purpose. What message do you want to get across to the consumer?

    blendtec videos mix unusual items to see if their blenders will take abuse

    Blendtec does a series of videos titled "Will It Blend?" where it tries to mix unusual items to see if its blenders hold up to extreme abuse. In the video screenshot above, the tester tries to blend Justin Bieber merchandise. He also attempts to blend a computer keyboard, Amazon Echo, iPad, iPhone and glow sticks.

    2. Get Your Customers Involved

    Ask your customers to upload their video testimonials to social media. Customer testimonial videos are among the most effective marketing tactics. These days, almost everyone has video capability on their cellphones, so ask your favorite customers to upload testimonials. Offer them a loyalty prize or discount, or host a contest to encourage them to create the testimonials.

    3. Go Live

    If you aren't already using Facebook Live videos, now is the time to get involved. About one out of every five Facebook videos are live, and live videos are watched about three times as long as non-live videos. Viewers tend to expect a more casual approach for live videos, so you won't be expected to have professional quality production. A live video is great to stream from an event you're attending, capture a speech you're giving to a local crowd or create buzz and excitement about a drawing or other marketing pull.

    martha stewart live streams holiday preperation videos

    Martha Stewart is the queen of housekeeping tips, and she proves that point in a live-streamed video that provides information on prepping for the holidays. The video features tips for outdoor decor. She uses her own branding by using Martha Stewart products to create the decor and explaining where viewers can buy these items, such as Home Depot.

    4. Get on YouTube

    If you're going to spend money creating a video and making it the best it can be, put that video on YouTube. YouTube is often overlooked as a social media channel, but has more than a billion users. If you want to reach a new audience, YouTube is a good bet. Something that is even more exciting about placing a video on YouTube, though, is that you can make it shareable. Others can embed your video on their own websites and share it on social media. You'll gain access to more than just YouTube viewers.

    5. Create a Sense of Urgency

    If you want a video that urges your customers to take action, create a sense of urgency in the viewer. The goal of your video should be to get the user to take some type of action as soon as they finish watching the video. The goal might be as simple as signing up for your mailing list or more specific, such as buying one of your products.

     quincy compressor video shows viewers how to prevent a catastrophe

    Quincy Compressor offers a film that introduces you to Daniel, a man trying to enjoy a day out on the lake fishing. The only problem is that Daniel's compressor at his business failed. The focus is on the catastrophe and how Daniel could have prevented it, urging the viewer to take action before they face a similar issue.

    6. Solve a Problem

    One of the most powerful things you can do in a video is solve a problem for the consumer. The Quincy Compressor example accomplishes this as well as the sense of urgency. The problem may be one that the consumer isn't aware they have until you point it out. To solve a problem, you must first understand your target audience.

    Why do most people buy your product or service? More than likely, the reason they buy is the problem your product solved. Know your target audience so the solutions you offer become clear and you can play them up in your marketing videos.

    7. Be Yourself

    Allow your personality to shine through in all the marketing you do for your brand, but especially in videos, which should entertain the viewer. Even a low-budget video can grab the attention of consumers if it is unique enough. You might not yet be able to afford an expensive marketing firm to come up with a campaign for you, but you know your brand better than anyone else. You can come up with something fun and interesting on your own for now.

     saddleback leather  shows off its sarcastic side to reach consumers

    Saddleback Leather does a good job of showing off its sarcastic side in its marketing videos. The leather company is a fairly small business compared to some of the bigger players, so this shows clearly how you can still reach consumers and make your video memorable without spending a fortune.

    8. Study Videos

    One of the best and cheapest ways to improve your videos is to study what other companies are doing right. Take the time to dig into videos online and look at the script, the tone, and even the angles and lighting. You may even want to invest in a course on Udemy or a similar site and learn some of the ins and outs of video production. While studying in this way doesn't replace years of education, you can pick up enough tricks to improve your videos and your bottom line.

    Improve Your Video Marketing

    Even small changes make your videos better and attract more customers. At the end of the day, improving your brand image and attracting new clients is the key to success. You may have a tiny marketing budget, but you can invest your time in creating something worthwhile for your brand. You don't have to spend a fortune to create an impact.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How to Increase Productivity From Your Creative Team

    increase productivity

    Productivity is something every business owner wants to increase, but typically struggles to figure out the right formula. When it comes to creative teams, the last thing you want is to squelch their creativity in some way. Finding the right balance between pushing them to improve and encouraging them to dream isn't easy.

    About one-third of employees are disengaged on the job, and lack of employee engagement costs companies somewhere between $450 and $550 billion each year. What if you could turn those numbers around and ensure everyone on your team felt engaged and productive, no matter the season or other outside influences?

    Part of productivity involves the worker and how well they focus and apply themselves. Not everyone has the same level of drive. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to enhance the productivity of your creative team.

    1. Encourage Collaboration

    In a study of over 1,000 companies, researchers found companies that encouraged collaboration between employees gained workers who were five times more likely to be high-performing. This makes sense, because working with people from different departments and with different skill sets spurs creativity and new ideas. Instead of only working with the creative team, if leaders pull in ideas from sales and leadership too, the brainstorming alone inspires new and exciting transitions.

    2. Improve the Work Space

    Even minor improvements to the workspace may help workers not get as distracted. While open concept offices are popular right now, some people work best in a quiet area without distractions. Allow for the advantages of an open concept while still providing pods or separate offices where people can go when they need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the office.

    Other things that help people perform at maximum capacity include ergonomic office furniture, such as desks that convert from sitting to standing and a variety of tools like mouse pads with wrist supports or comfortable chairs.

    3. Update Your Break Room

    Everyone needs short breaks from work here and there to recharge and return to the task re-energized. Is your break room a pleasant place for workers to spend time? Or is it a dark, closed-off dungeon of a room? Think about ways to enhance your break room space. Adding frameless glass panels brings in more natural light, for example, while still allowing the space to be set apart from the rest of the office.

    4. Offer a Long Lunch Break

    The modern office has shifted to a results-driven place. That works sometimes, but it can also create employee burnout. When employees step away from the task at hand, they may find they come back with a fresh perspective. There is a big connection between how engaged employees are and whether they get a lunch break or not.

    About 20% of American workers think their boss will see them as lazy if they take lunch breaks too frequently, and others worry about what co-workers think. Create a company culture that encourages regular breaks and understands breaks are important for refilling the creative well. Encourage your creative team to get outside and take a walk, too, or even visit a nearby museum.

    5. Allow Remote Work

    In a survey of over 3,000 workers, 65% felt they were more productive at home because of fewer distractions and interruptions from colleagues. Not to mention the stress of commuting to the office and the strain of office politics.

    Remote work is highly desirable and may even help your company attract some of the top creatives in the industry. The idea of working from home is quite attractive because of the savings in transportation and clothing costs, not to mention more time with the family thanks to the lack of a commute.

    6. Encourage Five-Minute Meetings

    Have you heard of a stand-up meeting? This is a quick, five-minute meeting (no need to sit down) where everyone gets on the same page and can, therefore, work more productively through the rest of the day. The leader can highlight a task that needs to be completed that day, update the group on goals or get an update from a vital component of a project. Five-minute meetings in the morning help avoid the onerous emails back and forth and the trips to co-workers' desks to find out where they are on a project.

    7. Use Project Management Software

    Project management software allows workers to see which tasks still need finished and who is working on what. And yes — project management software is even beneficial when everyone works under one roof. There is no lag time in figuring out where others are in their tasks. Team members see at a glance where everyone is and what still needs completing.

    For jobs where many different elements need to come together, look for project management which shows elements of the project or at least allows for uploaded files. This lets the writers see where the graphic designers are and the marketing professionals to see what everyone is working on at any given time. It's a seamless way of coordinating bigger projects and breaking smaller tasks into manageable parts. It also avoids a scenario where an important piece of the puzzle goes missing.

    8. Develop a Company Culture for Improvement

    Does your company inspire your workers to improve? You must invest in your employees with training and team-building workshops. Think about the long-term impact you want these programs to have on your team. Do you want them to work together like a well-oiled machine? That might not happen after one trust-building workshop, but it might happen after three workshops and a retreat. Think of these tools as investments that help your brand in the long run and build the best creative team and best employee bank in the business.

    In addition to team-building tools, consider productivity enhancers such as challenging your workers to get "one percent better" in time or talent with each task. Reward success and those who strive to learn and do better for your company. Offer software that helps them with productivity but doesn't invade their privacy. For example, a timer they can use on their desktop for spurts of work and break time is a welcome tool, but software that tracks their every move and makes them feel jittery isn't.

    9. Reduce Stress

    It only makes sense that a stressed worker is a less productive worker. Stress impacts our focus and ability to stay with a task for long periods of time. Reducing the stress for your team is a vital part of creating a productive group. The standard advice for combating stress includes exercise and activities such as deep breathing and personal activities the person enjoys.

    Get out of the office as a team and take a walk and get some fresh air. If things are getting particularly heated in exchanges between team members, encourage them to take a break alone for a bit and reconnect after they have time to de-stress. Host a yoga class during lunch time or plan classes for after-hours in activities the person might enjoy. Insist your team takes their lunch and frequent breaks to step away from high-stress situations and come back refreshed.

    Trust Your Team

    If you've hired well and worked at building your team, it's time to step back and trust them to do what they do best. Many managers make the mistake of micromanaging their employees. This isn't a good use of your time and it frustrates highly skilled workers — many will just leave and go somewhere they feel more trusted to complete the tasks they're more than capable of completing. Give them the tools needed to grow and then allow them the freedom to become more productive and valuable to the team.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How to Instill a Positive Company Culture and Receive a Strong Return

    Company Culture

    Millennials have entered the workforce, and generational stereotypes may create a clash that isn’t beneficial for positive work culture. At the same time, the generation labeled “narcissistic” isn’t unreasonable with all of their desires, such as requesting a flexible schedule. Their willingness to speak up encourages other generations to do the same.

    Companies need to avoid negative assumptions, and find out how to empower their new hires and existing employees in a growing and aging job market:

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  • How to Provide Resources for Your B2B and B2C Clients Effectively

    If you manufacture any type of product, you likely run both a B2B and B2C aspect of your business. Single purchases of a product to a consumer are possible because of how popular e-commerce is today. While you once needed a middleman to effectively distribute a product, today you can sell it yourself and cut a step from the process.

    Most companies today sell products to both consumers and businesses as a way to increase their revenue and build market share.

    1. Update Your Shopping Cart

    Experts predict that by 2022, online sales will reach about $700 billion. E-commerce grows each year and should continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Reaching both your B2B and B2C clients online requires a cart that can handle retail and wholesale prices and a way to register those with a wholesale license.

    Another aspect of catering to both B2B and B2C is by offering services that both consumers and businesses want. Think about sites such as Walmart that now allow people to sell goods on its site, but they sell those items to consumers.

    rakuten sells products to both consumers and businesses

    Rakuten is an example of a site selling to both consumers and businesses. Businesses can set up a store to sell their goods and consumers purchase items from the site. It offers three options for companies to partner with them — Sell on Rakuten, Become an Affiliate, or Advertise on Rakuten.

    2. Split Your Marketing

    You only have so much of a marketing budget, so you'll have to decide how to split it up effectively. Marketing for B2B and B2C are different. When marketing to consumers, you want to give them a reason to purchase now and tap into their emotion. When selling to other businesses, you must inform the client about how your product or service can help them and be clear about the value proposition. Where you market also changes based on who you market to.

    3. Separate Info

    If you serve both B2C and B2B clients, take the time to create separate areas that cater to them. This allows you to customize the experience based on what information that client wants and what questions different kinds of customers have.

    shipley energy separates its services into two categories, home and business

    Shipley Energy supplies heating oil to both homes and businesses. To reflect the different needs, it separates its services into two categories — For Your Home and For Your Business. It then breaks down the services it offers for each, with a focus on the needs of most homeowners on one side and the specific needs of business on the other, such as fleet fueling. The text is a bit different for each type of customer as well.

    4. Vary Pricing

    When you serve consumers, the pricing is fixed for the most part. You might offer a sale here and there or free shipping with a specific order amount, but the fixed cost of the product remains the same. However, when you work with businesses, you might quote a different price depending upon the size of the company and how big of an order they send your way.

    The easiest way to handle separate pricing structures is to ask businesses to contact you for a personalized quote. They can still connect via email or a form, but offering a custom quote allows you to review the specifics of the potential order and come up with the best offer possible that is competitive with other companies similar to yours.

    5. Deliver Goods More Efficiently

    When you unify your B2B and B2C processes, you have a better handle on overall inventory and delivery logistics. You can invest in better software and processes to track sales and shipping through all points of the process. Even if everything goes through a single department, you can still separate business and consumer orders by having different people in charge of those accounts.

    adobe creative cloud

    Adobe Creative Cloud is an excellent example of a site that delivers digital goods based on the needs of both B2C and B2B clients. Individual users subscribe for $52.99 per month and access features for one person, but businesses can create a license management and deployment program for multiple employees. Prices vary based on needs, and the system varies slightly depending upon the requirements of the customer.

    6. Offer Different Customer Support Options

    The technical and customer support needs of consumers is different from that of business owners. Take the time to adequately train staff to handle your different types of customers. It's smart to have two departments, since business needs are quite specific and different from consumer concerns. Make sure your customer support team is a well-trained machine that handles issues immediately and professionally.

    Integrate Both Aspects

    Integrate both B2B and B2C operations to save money and effort. With a little foresight, you can serve both types of customers effectively. Having just one website lowers overall costs. Customer experience is enhanced as you get a firmer grip on the prices you can offer businesses and remain competitive.

    There are some situations where it's best to separate the two different sides of your business and offer both a B2C and a B2B site and separate processes. However, there are still some marketing and customer service features you can integrate into a cohesive whole.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • Is Your Company Guilty of Inconsistent Branding Strategies?

    brand attributes

    A consistent brand image makes your business instantly recognizable to the public. Consider some of the larger companies out there and how their branding works. For example, when you think about Subway, does freshness come to mind? When you think about Nike, you likely think about fitness or sports. These brands have consistently advertised their companies in a way that creates a powerful image that stays with consumers.

    In a survey of 3,000 consumers, researchers found more people are looking for an omnichannel shopping experience, where they interact with brands across physical and digital platforms. As the way consumers shop changes, look for ways to present a consistent image across every channel where your company does business. Inconsistency may make you seem untrustworthy, and at best, will confuse your customers.

    Minor differences in marketing are sometimes tricky to spot, however. Recognizing where you're not consistent is one of the first steps to fixing your branding issues. Here are nine questions to determine if your branding is spot on or needs some work.

    1. Do You Have a Mission Statement?

    Does your brand have a mission statement? Your mission isn't what you sell, but why you run your company. For example, perhaps you saw a need for working families who want to put quick, but nutritious, meals on the table, so you started a meal kit delivery service. Your mission is to help families enjoy healthy meals that are easy to put together. You may need to brainstorm a bit to figure out what your mission is and what value you add to the world, but with a little work and collaboration with employees and leaders in the company, you should be able to come up with a solid mission statement.

    2. What Is Your Brand Personality?

    Some brands make a mistake because they have one personality on social media and another on their website or in person. You need to figure out what your brand personality is and use it in all interactions with your customers. Think about your typical customer — if you serve generation Z, your brand's personality is probably young and fun. If you serve baby boomers, you might be respectful and serious. Whatever your personality, define it and use the same tone across all content. That helps consumers develop a sense of trust that your brand is authentic and not playing games.

    3. How Do You Involve Current Customers?

    One of your best brand ambassadors is a customer who already loves your product or service. Reward your customers when they refer someone to you. A consumer who comes to you from someone they know is about 18% more loyalthan one who stumbles across your brand accidentally. Companies are sometimes uncertain about how to implement a referral program, so they avoid it. However, all you need to do is figure out the value of a new customer and share some of that profit with the referrer. Get your accountant involved if necessary, but figure out a way to reward your word-of-mouth marketers.

    As for consistency, when you have fans promoting your brand, you must develop a strategy that allows them to share the word about your company, but provides them with the materials that match your image. So, you might post memes on social media and ask followers to share, or you might send out an extra promotional item for them to give away to family and friends. Doing so helps you control the message.

    4. Does Your Team Have Access to Templates?

    If you want a consistent look across ads, social media posts and other elements your team designs, you must create templates different team members can use. Platforms such as Canva and Adobe Cloud allow you to develop a template any member of your design team can download and adapt for a new campaign. So, if you want all your hero images on your website to be a certain size, the template ensures that. However, you can go further and add a frame to all Facebook posts or add a specific font and size for text.

    5. Have You Created Document Guidelines?

    Write down your expectations for how your brand appears. Since your sales team may send out something different than your marketing team or leadership team, it's essential to develop some brand standards everyone in the organization adheres to. Place your guidelines in a readily accessible document and include details such as the tone of voice with examples, commonly used phrases, color palette, typography details and what fonts and sizes get used when and where. Add details to the document as you wade into new marketing outlets. Creating a document also makes onboarding of new employees much smoother, as you'll have references in writing of what represents your brand best.

    6. Do You Know Where Your Audience Hangs Out?

    Small businesses sometimes throw a bunch of marketing out there and hope something sticks, but this isn't the most effective use of your marketing dollars. You must first know who your target audience is, then you can look at factors such as that 55% of 18- to 29-year-olds use Instagram. You must study where your people hang out online, as well as where they hang out in real life, and come up with branding that reaches the right demographic.

    7. How Is Your Internal Branding?

    Did you know your employees are some of your best — or worst — brand ambassadors? They share details about where they work and what they do with family and friends. If you create excitement and consistent internal messages, that will translate when your employees go out into the world. Treat your employees like they're part of a family, and develop a company culture that reflects your mission and brand values. Going back to the example of starting a company to help working moms, how does your business help the working moms on your payroll?

    8. Who Are Your Brand Police?

    Have you ever seen a post go up on social media, only to have the brand remove it shortly after? This situation is a result of inconsistent messaging and not having the safeguards in place to protect your brand from hiccups. Ensure your company has consistent messaging by appointing a few people to police social media posts, advertising, communications with others and anything that goes out with your brand name on it. Ideally, your "police squad" should involve people who've been with the company for a long time and fully understand the values and message behind the name.

    9. Do You Look for Positive Associations?

    Be careful who you align your brand name with. You might have complete control over your image, but if you partner with a brand that suddenly has an image crisis, it can reflect poorly on you. Make sure you fully understand the purpose of any cause you put your name behind. Choose charities in keeping with your goals as an organization. For example, if your mission is to help those working moms, you might team up with an organization that provides free resources to single moms.

    Create a Stable Image

    Uniform branding requires attention to detail and making sure you monitor what people are saying about your brand and how you are communicating to the public. You'll spend years ensuring your branding is consistent — it's an ongoing job. However, the result is a brand consumers recognize and trust, so the effort pays off in the end.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • Marketing Your Website - Through Social Media

    social media marketingOnce you develop your website, you need to develop traffic to the new website. In order to receive visitors and potential leads, you will have to market or advertise your website. One of the best ways to do that is through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

    If you’re just starting to look at using social media to market your website, here are the benefits of doing so:

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  • Multiple Locations Does Not Mean Multiple Websites

    Whether you run a huge corporation with locations all over the world, or you started a small business that has expanded into neighboring towns, centralizing all your operations into one website simply makes sense. Not only will you reduce costs in design and web hosting fees, but customers of one location might be interested in other locations.

    Creating a separate website for each location is a bit old school, and designers did use that model once upon a time. But, with modern location tools and the ability to segment websites, it is less troublesome to serve up unique pages for each location while keeping everything on one website. Google is also shifting the way that it looks at keywords, domains and websites so that it is not as necessary as it once was to ensure you use a keyword specific to that location.

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  • Seven Tech Leaders Who Changed the Industry (for the Better)

    Tech changes at a lightning pace, bringing us new capabilities with each year. You could argue man has invented items to make his life more comfortable since the beginning of time. In 2400 BC, someone invented the abacus, and in 1657, the Christiaan Huygens created the pendulum clock. But, the explosion of technological advances in the last 100 years is mind-boggling.

    Today, technology geniuses continue to change the world as we know it, improving our everyday lives and taking our tech capabilities farther than we ever thought possible. Here are seven leaders in the industry you may or may not have heard of.

    man adjusting tehnology wiring

    1. Bill Gates

    No list of tech giants would be complete without Bill Gates. He is best known for co-founding Microsoft and changing the interface of computer operating systems, so they were easy for anyone to use. The world likely wouldn't be the same today without the prevalence of user-friendly computers. Microsoft also introduced the world to the Xbox, creating a generation of gamers and changing the way we look at the world of computer software.

    Gates offers inspiration to future tech leaders because of his inventor's spirit. When something is new, the task of inventing a new method or ability from nothing seems daunting. However, if Gates hadn't left school and put everything on the line to see his vision come to life, the world would have missed out on modern software and many other inventions from this brilliant man.

    2. Ginni Rometty

    Ginni Rometty is the chair, CEO and president of IBM. One of her most significant contributions to technology is the way she's integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into other industries. In addition to focusing on new technologies are deployed for AI, she also is at the forefront of emerging technologies such as blockchain and quantum.

    On the personal side, Rometty has a passion for creating a better workplace for women. Under her leadership, the company implemented extended parental leave and a "returnship" program that allows women to return to the workforce with hands-on training. Rometty shows that women in tech can be tough, smart and caring all at the same time.

    young man using laptop

    3. Wai-Loong Lim

    Wai-Loong Lim, the founder of Y Studios, is known for coming up with unique interface and product design solutions, especially in consumer electronics and telecommunication. He has lived and worked in both Singapore and Canada, so he can communicate between the two cultures and accomplish tasks that someone without that background can't.

    Y Studios is also one of the few design companies with a focus on human/robot interaction and user experience with virtual reality (VR), AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). Lim points to cultural context as the basis of his designs matched with innovation in each industry.

    He'd like to be the one to start a movement where people value experiences over things. His goal is designing quality products that last so people don't have to replace them regularly but can spend that money traveling, helping others or seeing the world. Lim proves you can design high-tech products and still live a life of adventure.

    4. Reed Hastings

    In the 1990s, the way people viewed videos began to change. First, VHS tapes became obsolete. As DVDs took their place on video rental store shelves, Reed Hastings had a vision for a service that mailed your movies to you, so he co-founded Netflix. His bigger vision was a service where consumers could stream movies with no wait time whatsoever.

    Hastings still serves as the chairman and CEO of Netflix — he changed the way we view and rent movies. Gone are the big video rental stores of yesterday, replaced with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Hastings' vision changed the way we experience movies and TV shows.

    laptop being used for technology monitoring

    5. Peter Thiel

    Peter Thiel is the co-founder and chairman of Palantir, a company creating software with the aim of connecting data and human environment. He is the co-founder of PayPal and runs a venture-capital firm called Founders Fund, where he's invested in famous technology companies such as Facebook, Airbnb and Spotify.

    Most people barely remember a time when you couldn't transfer money instantly online. Thiel is one of the first pioneers in digital currency. Imagine a world where you couldn't Venmo cash to your friends for pizza — it wasn't too long ago, actually. Young designers and entrepreneurs should take note that Thiel found success because he saw a need and filled it for consumers.

    6. Mark Zuckerberg

    Mark Zuckerberg is a Harvard dropout, but it's unlikely he regrets that decision as one of the richest men in the world and co-founder of social media giant Facebook. Even though social media wasn't new when Zuckerberg arrived on the scene, he revolutionized the industry by providing a user-friendly platform meant to create opportunities for interaction.

    He also monetized social media in a way that drives business and website traffic in the current online marketing environment. Love or hate the platform, it is still the biggest social media site with more than 2.32 billion monthly active users. Zuckerberg proves you can make a path in an already established industry if you bring fresh ideas and ih3nnovation to the equation.

    7. Elon Musk

    Elon Musk, who founded companies such as Tesla and SpaceX, creates a buzz in the tech industry for his visionary ideas. Tesla produces energy-efficient vehicles, and SpaceX has successfully tested reusable rockets. His goal is to make space travel commercial in the near future. Musk has an impressive background with citizenship in South Africa, Canada and the United States.

    Musk has a passion for revolutionizing transportation in any way possible and has accomplished successful testing others said was impossible. He is an excellent example of going after your passions no matter what anyone else says.

    Find Inspiration From Everyday People

    Although the seven tech names above have accomplished great strides toward technology and made an impact on our society, don't overlook the little guy who knows a lot about technology. You can learn new methods and fresh ideas from anyone with an interest in tech. The seven influencers above are certainly influential, but dozens upon dozens of tech moguls are out there with something to teach.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • Should My Company Invest in Making a Mobile App?

    More and more companies seem to have apps these days. It's a fun thing to tell customers they can download your app, but if you don't think through the pros and cons, an app may wind up costing a lot of money and producing little return. Some industries benefit more strongly from an app than others. However, as a rule of thumb, nearly every company benefits in some way.

    The use of mobile apps is on the rise. Mobile app downloads should reach 284 billion by 2020. Here are some of the reasons you should consider adding a mobile app and a few examples of companies doing mobile right.

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  • Start Up Business - How To Get Help With Funding Your New Business

    start your own business helpEntrepreneurs require funds through which they can establish their startup businesses and establish a foothold in their industry. However, they usually do not have enough funds and need investment from external sources.

    In the modern era, there are a number of opportunities available for startups to get funding and spread their reach via digital means. However, the abundance of choices also makes it difficult to opt for appropriate resources that can help them cover all expenditures. It is necessary to find the business niche first then perform a search to determine which method is most suitable.

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  • Start Up Business - Maintaining Social Media Presence

    girl searching social mediaSocial media offers the perfect platform for businesses to connect with their target audiences. A strong social media presence has become a necessity for businesses both large and small.

    The fact that social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and others have millions of active users makes it too powerful of a platform to ignore. A company can leverage the power of social media to create a strong bond with their customers, build a brand image, and see their profits climb exponentially.

    While the importance of maintaining a social media presence cannot be ignored, not all companies have the resources including time and manpower to manage a full-force social media campaign.

    The solution, however, is simple: Outsource!

    Outsourcing social media marketing provides many benefits. Here are five ways businesses can benefit from outsourcing social media management to an experienced firm.

    1. Get the Help of Experts

    When you outsource social media marketing to an experienced agency, you can leverage their experience, expertise, and knowledge in creating a strong social media presence. Companies that offer specialized social media services use tested strategies for creating an online presence. This makes the costs of hiring the experts worth it in the end.

    2. Create a Consistent Brand Message

    You should have a consistent brand message across different social media sites. An expert social media agency will tightly define the brand message and integrate it across multiple platforms. A consistent brand message is important to connect with customers.

    3. Social Media Analytics

    An expert social media agency can perform advanced analytics allowing you to gain more insights about your customers. You will know which products or campaigns get the most positive response from online users. The information gathered through social media analytics can help fine-tune your overall marketing strategy.

    4. Save Time and Effort

    While posting on social media sites may look simple, it's not as easy as it seems.  Managing multiple social media accounts is time-consuming. Creating posts and responding to users requires a lot of effort. There are a lot of things to look at to create the perfect post.

    By outsourcing the activity to an experienced social media company, you will be able to divert the saved time and effort of the in-house team to more important aspects of running a business.

    5. Dedicated Team of Experts

    When hiring a social media agency your business obtains the services of a dedicated and knowledgeable team of experts. The team consists of top-of-the-line social media experts, graphics designers, content marketing strategists, and certified digital marketing specialists. Their combined efforts will do wonders for your social media campaign.

    A social media consultant can take the pain out of managing a presence in the cyber world. The rewards of outsourcing to an experienced social media agency exceed the costs. If you want help in creating a social media presence, you can contact BCS Website Services by dialing 804-421-2400 today and book a consultation.

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