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  • Start Up Business Success Stories

    start up businessStepping into the world of entrepreneurship in the hopes of one day earning enough in your business to leave your job can be overwhelming, to say the least. There are multiple decisions and factors you need to consider so that your business starts on a solid footing and has sufficient safety nets in place to survive and grow in an overly competitive market. However, taking inspiration from successful start up business stories can be a great means of fueling your commitment and clarifying your vision and goals.

    In this post, we look at 4 successful start up business stories that can fuel your motivation and recharge your entrepreneur spirit.

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  • 8 Menu Types You Should Consider for Your Company Site

    The menu on your website sets the tone for all the other elements of your site. The right menu type creates an overall website hierarchy and also puts first-time visitors at ease, guiding them where you'd most like them to go.

    Once a user lands on a company website, about 50 percent of them use the navigation to get oriented with the website before moving forward. Your navigation structure is arguably one of the most crucial elements of your site.

    Choosing which menu type to use is as important as the colors and layout of your site. Here are eight menu types you should consider as you design or redesign your company website.

    1. Hamburger Menu

    You've probably noticed that more and more sites are using the hamburger icon like you'd see on your mobile device to indicate that there are more choices for navigation. A hamburger menu frees up valuable space you might wish to use for other elements while still allowing you to include important links you otherwise might not have room for.

    However, use this option very strategically. Some studies show that the use of a hamburger menu may hurt user experience (UX). If your audience is made up of older people, for example, they may avoid the hamburger icon. A mere 52 percent of those over 45 years of age know what the icon means.

    Big Spaceship offers a simplistic, almost mobile device approach to navigation on their landing page.

    Big Spaceship offers a simplistic, almost mobile device approach to navigation on their landing page. There's a round icon that says "menu." When you hover over it, the icon animates into a hamburger menu such as you'd see on your mobile device. Click on the hamburger menu, and you discover the options for contacting the advertising agency to get more information about working with them. This menu structure is simple and to the point.

    2. Menu Bar

    A menu bar is something you've likely seen frequently during your online journeys. It's a bar with navigation options that appears either horizontally across the top of the page or vertically to the side. It almost always appears above the fold and typically just under the site header. A menu bar tends to have a background with buttons or solid text on top.

    There are certain features that users expect to see in the navigation bar, so keep those in mind as you're choosing your navigation categories. For example, you'll need choices such as home, about us and contact.

    3. Mega Menu

    A mega menu drops down when the user hovers over one of the elements on the page. It's one main panel that offers all the main navigation options on the website. Think of it as a sitemap that's user-friendly. Mega menus are useful to sites that have a variety of categories with choices under each category.

    Reading truck body uses the mega menu option to highlight the products they provide.

    Reading Truck Body uses the mega menu option to highlight the products they provide. Under each main category, they offer a number of options. For example, service body trucks are available with aluminum service bodies, Cranemaster bodies or steel service bodies. The mega menu allows the company to keep their main navigation structure manageable while still showing the various styles available.

    4. Drop-Down Menu

    A drop-down menu is another way to organize a lot of categories in a way that doesn't overwhelm site visitors. Unlike the mega menu that needs a hover, the drop-down menu forces the user to take action, such as clicking on the title of the button. When the user clicks on the button, the rest of the menu appears under the button. You can still expand this menu to take up most of the page, or you can keep the choices directly under the button as a bulleted list.

    5. Animated Navigation Bar

    Another element you can add to your navigation bar that makes it more interactive is a bit of animation. For example, if the user hovers over one of the choices, the text color might change or the choice might expand slightly in size. Make the changes fairly simple so as not to bog down the speed of the site. A slight animation grabs the user's interest and makes them take action.

    jack donuts does a good job integrating just the right amount of animation in their navigation bar.

    Jack's Donuts does a good job integrating just the right amount of animation in their navigation bar. Upon a first look, the text is white. Hover over any of the choices, however, and the letters change to a deep purple to match the rest of their color scheme. For those who have animations turned off, an alt-text box pops up that has the title tag of the button inside.

    6. Separate Page Menu

    Some sites need a separate page for each category to cover all the many links on the site. You often see this type of structure with larger eCommerce retailers and blogs. For example, if you sell hats and have three dozen cowboy hat styles and two dozen fedoras, you aren't going to put those links on your homepage. What you would do is have a button for fedoras and create a page that lists the different fedoras with links to more intensive descriptions and photos of each.

    7. Circular Timeline Navigation

    Do you want to get a little creative with your navigation? Circular timeline navigation works particularly well for history-based choices and to tell the story of your company from the beginning to now. A circle puts the focus on your navigation, making it part of the entire screen rather than the top or side of your page.

    BryBry received a nod as one of the best in navigation designs from Awwwards.

    BryBry received a nod as one of the best in navigation designs from Awwwards. The navigation is certainly unique in that it plays as a video, and you have to click and hold to navigate where you wish to go. There are some drawbacks to this type of creative navigation, such as confusion on the part of the user. A better solution might be to put navigation in a circular layout but lose the video component of having to hold to go to a new page.

    8. Fixed Navigation

    Want to keep navigation available at all times? Create a fixed navigation bar that drops down as the user reads down the page. A fixed navigation bar is particularly helpful on sites with lengthy content pieces. If the user suddenly decides to sign up for your services, for example, they can get to your services page with a quick click of the button rather than having to scroll all the way back up to the top of the page.

    Menu Types

    The above are just a few of the menu types available for your website navigation. The best menu type to use is the one that matches the overall tone and purpose of your site. You may even find that combining a couple of different models has the best results. Try out a few different styles, do some A/B testing and see which performs best with your site visitors.

    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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  • 8 Rules for Designing Call-to-Action Bars

    A call-to-action (CTA) bar is a widget area on your page, typically in a color that stands out from the rest of the design and invites visitors to take an action. Using anchor text in your call to action can increase your conversion rate by as much as 121 percent. Call to actions matter, and the way you deliver them matters.

    You already know that UX is extremely important – the user experience is everything if you want visitors to stay on your site. Figuring out the best way to present even a CTA bar can mean the difference between strong conversions and weak ones. If you aren’t quite sure how to utilize a CTA bar, here are eight rules you can follow to make sure yours is as effective as possible.

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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 You Choosing the Right Colors for Your Website?

    When it comes to choosing colors for your website design, you are faced with an entire rainbow of choices. It is vital that you choose visually pleasing colors. On average, people form their first impression of your website within 50 milliseconds. That means if your color palette isn't visually pleasing, it takes the user less than a second to be turned off.

    Choosing the right colors for your website can seem almost daunting if you aren’t quite sure where to start. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true tips that will help you choose the perfect color combination to use on your site.

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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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  • How Does Social Media Marketing Affect B2B Businesses?

    Social media provides an excellent platform for marketing efforts, helping drive user engagement and acquire leads. Plus, 92% of B2B marketers utilize social media in their marketing efforts. As a result, marketers who do not embrace social media tend to fall behind the competition regarding reach and exposure.

    Although many perceive social media outreach as more suitable for business-to-community (B2C) outreach, the proliferation of businesses on social media has narrowed the divide between B2C and B2B. Social media aids tremendously in connecting with both consumers and other businesses. Seven strong social media strategies a company should incorporate into its marketing efforts include the following.

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  • How Free Services Lead to Increases in Revenue

    Giving away goods or services sounds a bit counterintuitive, doesn't it? After all, it costs you time and money to offer services to others, even if just in the bandwidth used by your site. However, providing free services without expecting anything in return may lead to an increase in revenue for your business.

    One of the highest levels of human interaction involves reciprocity — whenever someone gives you a gift, you feel as though you should give them one back. This type of mutuality drives business, but smaller companies often overlook mutual benefits in their marketing efforts.

    Think of your free services as a "give, give, give, get" marketing model. Not everyone you offer a free service to will buy from you, and that's okay, because some will. Offering free services leads to an increase in revenue over time and examples show companies using the principle of reciprocity effectively.

    1. Attract Browsers

    In an ideal world, every person who visited your website or popped onto your social media page would become a customer. In real life, very few people who land on your page convert into actual leads. You have a few seconds of their attention to grab them and collect their contact information. If you offer a free service, they're much more likely to share their email with you so you can make a deeper connection later.

    2. Establish Your Expertise

    No matter what industry your business falls under, you must establish that you're the authority in your field. You know more than the competitors, stand out in areas others don't and you connect with your customers on a level higher than other brands in your genre.

    Offering something free that ties into how much you know not only establishes you as an authority but enacts the reciprocity principle so buyers will think of you when they're ready to buy.

    wishpond establishes their expertise in matters of marketing to promote their all-in-one platform solution

    Wishpond establishes their expertise in matters of marketing to help promote their all-in-one platform solution. Webinars are free for anyone to watch and include topics such as "Collecting and Nurturing Leads with Your Website & Email Marketing" and "How to Get Thousands of Clients Using Sweepstakes and Contests." Wishpond doesn't ask for anything to view the webinar, but they do point out how their services help business owners grow their contact list and client base.

    3. Gain Social Media Shares

    One of the ways reciprocity works is when you give someone something of value, and they want to tell others about your generosity. While the person may not be in the market to buy what you offer, they are more likely to share your resources with others via social media and word-of-mouth marketing. It doesn't cost you much to provide a free service, such as a webinar or a free guide, but the results can drive traffic to your site and give you increased brand recognition.

    4. Offer Free Information

    For businesses where customers invest a chunk of money in your brand, offering a free quote may entice them into sharing their information and investing time in your business. If you run a service business, free quotes are often expected and may keep the competition from overtaking you.

    garrety glass offers a free quote on their landing page

    Garrety Glass offers a free quote on their landing page. The call to action (CTA) button is larger than the other buttons on the page and invites users to "Click to request a free quote." They also offer a look at some other projects they've completed in the area in case you'd like to see some of the work they've done before contacting them for a quote.

    Offering a free quote gives the user something without expecting anything in return. They may or may not buy the windows from Garrety Glass, but they're more likely to if the company spends time with them showing how they can meet their individual needs.

    5. Give a Bonus

    One way of enticing customers into ordering from you now is offering a bonus if they do so. There are any number of offers you can provide, including buy one get one free or additional add-ons for one of your services or products.

    In one study, an author looked at the difference between offering something for free and something for a penny. He offered a chocolate kiss for a penny and then for free. The value of the chocolate when offered free was perceived as higher. The moral is that you don't have to provide something which costs your business a lot of money, but if you offer it free, it has instant value.

    Whatever you offer does have to actually create value for your user. Offer something that makes their lives easier or helps them in the industry you're already in. Make sure the bonus is relevant to your business. Don't give away golf tees when you own a restaurant.

    6. Try Before You Buy

    Free trials are another way of attracting users, particularly if you sell software, a service or some type of food product. When the user tries the item, they're more inclined to buy it as long as it meets or exceeds their expectations. If the sample is free, they tend to think, "Why not?" Then, if the item is valuable to them, they're likely to buy.

    7-11 gives free samples of Slurpees on specified days

    7-11 started giving out free samples of their Slurpees on specified days and saw their sales skyrocket. The brand put no limitations on the free sample cups, other than the size of the samples. However, people could refill their cups or get as many samples as they wanted. People didn't, though, instead they purchased full-size Slurpees after tasting the treat and made other purchases as well.

    7. Establish Goodwill

    There is something to be said for establishing goodwill in your local community. Have a presence at a local event and give away something free to build a positive brand image. If you sell heating and cooling systems, give out hand fans at the local fair. Offer free trials of your product at a booth at a trade show. Give back to local charities.

    Your brand is more than merely the products you sell, so giving something away should also reflect the values and concerns of your top executives and what you stand for as a company.

    Offering something for free for a limited time creates a sense of urgency where users feel they must sample your offering and share their contact information before the offer goes away. Be careful here that you don't just say something is limited and then offer it for five years. Users don't appreciate feeling duped, so if you want to provide a limited freebie, make sure the number and period are minimal. You can always offer something else later.

    Rise Above the Competition

    Today's global marketplace is highly competitive. Successful businesses find ways of standing out from other brands. Offering a freebie is one way of attracting attention and drawing in new customers. Not only will you attract new customers but the principle of reciprocity will make them more inclined to buy from you in the future.

    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 High-Quality Images Boost Your Branding Efforts

    Have you ever visited a website with images that didn't relate to the website or were extremely poor in quality? Your first thought was probably that the site wasn't very professional, and your overall impression may have been extremely negative. Today's mobile devices and PCs have higher screen resolutions than ever before. People expect sharp images and photos that aren't grainy.

    Around 77 percent of B2B marketers say branding is a critical aspect of their growth — images are only one part of that branding, but they make a huge impact.

    When it comes to branding efforts, the last thing you want your brand associated with is low-quality images. Fans of your brand should immediately expect high-quality, sharp images that draw them into the topic at hand and keep them interested. Your photos need to enhance the overall image of your brand and your professionalism.

    Here are six things to keep in mind as you boost the quality of your images and tie them into your branding:

    1. Choose Relevant Images

    Although stock photo sites abound, these images aren't always specific to your brand. If you want to tie your pictures to your branding, you must come up with guidelines for them so that they're immediately recognizable as part of your company. They should also highlight your products and services rather than showing a random person doing something generic.

    Truskin Naturals add splashes of natural images in a way that highlights their skincare products

    Truskin Naturals takes it to the next level by adding splashes of natural images in a way that highlights their skincare products. Note the high resolution of the photos and how they look almost as though you're there in person. The three-dimensional effect of the water splashing up is a powerful branding message about the natural ingredients used.

    2. Show off Your Brand

    As a business owner, you hear so much about not self-promoting or ramming your product down people's throats. However, remember that it's okay to show your product in images and add your logo. Most people follow their favorite businesses on social media, so let people know you're a business — they have to know before they can follow you.

    3. Evoke Emotions

    One of the best ways of connecting with your customers is via emotion. Figure out what emotion you want users to have when they land on your website and what images best convey that emotion. If you're looking for a feeling of warmth and home, determine what images best depict that emotion. A good measure of the emotion evoked is the one you feel when you first look at the image.

    Superior hardwoods uses images that show the superiority of their products.

    Superior Hardwoods of Montana has a customer base seeking high-quality products for their homes. Any images of their offers should show off the superiority of their products. The company achieves that goal from the moment someone lands on their homepage. The pictures of a gorgeous log home and rugged interiors featuring beautiful woods evoke a feeling of warmth.

    4. Know Your Message

    In one study of Facebook, brands that posted about once a week — between one and five times — doubled their engagement rates. Posting regularly to whichever social media platform you choose allows consumers to count on your brand and increases the likelihood that they'll look for your posts.

    Make sure you know what message you'd like to convey. Whether you're posting content, showing off an infographic or sharing someone else's post, make sure it matches your brand message. If your message is that you help customers overcome a specific problem, every photo you share on social media needs to align with that message.

    5. Be Authentic

    Have you ever seen an ad for a piece of real estate that didn't even come close to measuring up to the actual property? Nothing frustrates consumers more than an image that looks far better than the product is. While you do want to highlight your products in the best light, don't make them look like something they aren't.

    If your handbag is smaller than the average purse, make sure other elements in the photo highlight its actual size. An unhappy customer is likely to tell others how unhappy they are. They also aren't likely to order from you again if you trick them into thinking your product is something it isn't. Be upfront and honest — even with your photos.

    Gerber uses creative backgorunds in their images that shows their products true to scale and size.

    Gerber makes sure they aren't dishonest about their products since they make baby food and parents would protest loudly. Note how their images use creative backgrounds but are true to life as far as size and scale. They don't try to make their foods look like something they aren't. Instead, they let the product do the talking.

    6. Hire a Professional

    This tip is crucial — if there's one thing you should invest in, it's your images. Go ahead and hire a professional photographer who specializes in product shots. Your images will take on a personalized and professional quality that your competitors may lack. Professional-quality photos alone allow you to stand out from the crowd.

    Even on a limited budget, you can still find a couple of solutions to hiring out your images for your site and social media. Work with a photographer on a contract basis, only adding new pieces as your budget allows. You could also seek out a student at a local school who's getting ready to graduate and just wants to add to their portfolio. They're likely to work for a fraction of the price of an experienced photographer.

    If your budget doesn't even have room for a student, take free online photography courses and invest in the best camera you can afford. Study what other brands create and come up with ideas of your own. Even a small improvement in the quality of your images is a positive boost in the right direction.

    Revamp Your Brand Image

    If you've used images in the past that don't reflect well on your brand, slowly replace them a little at a time as your budget allows. Set up some basic standards and messaging for images going forward. Invest in the image content for your brand and attract new customers while keeping the old ones. Pictures are indeed worth 1,000 words — or maybe more — so choose the ones you use for your brand carefully.

    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 Accurately Appeal to Potential Customers

    What is that special “it” factor that makes some businesses more appealing than others? In a perfect world, you would put out a tweet or an ad and customers would instantly flock to your store or website. However, in the world of marketing, you have to do some very specific things to make an impact and grab the attention of potential customers.

    There are some specific psychological triggers you can use to appeal to potential customers. Figuring out what makes your target audience tick is the main component of appealing to them. Here are seven ways you can stand out to the exact people you most want to reach.

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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 Effectively Monitor Your Competitors

    Thorough insight of your industry can aid tremendously in distinguishing your business strongly from others. You and your competition mold industry trends and approaches, so it makes sense to gain insight by thoroughly monitoring your competition.

    Monitoring competition has several benefits. For one, you can use a specific marketing campaign or social media strategy as a case study, without taking the risk that the competitor did by actually implementing it. By seeing what works, along with what doesn't, you can craft an enticing campaign in response.

    Monitoring is a great way to maintain cutting-edge knowledge of your industry. The five methods below are a great place to start for monitoring your competitors:

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  • How To Highlight Your USP On Your Website

    A Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, is a factor the seller presents to the target audience to convey why a product or service is superior to competitors. You can verbally mention a few advantages during a radio or television ad or show images that get your point across in print media.

    So how should you go about calling attention to a USP online within your website? Keep reading to get tips, as well as case studies from brands that excel at this.

    Showcase Industry-Related Knowledge

    Perhaps you sell a product easily obtained almost anywhere, but it’s an item that has varying levels of quality depending on the source. Since the late 1800s, the De Beers diamond company has used the slogan, “A Diamond Is Forever.” It has successfully established itself as a brand able to provide enduring jewelry that matches that phrase.

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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 Make a 3-D Printer Purchase Worth It for My Business

    3D printer

    A 3-D printer is capable of building some amazing things, from a 3-D-printed acoustic guitar to a handmade camera lens and medical models. Despite its incredible technology, a 3-D printer is a considerable investment that needs analysis as a business purchase. After the purchase, businesses should regard aspects like choice of materials, safety precautions and 3-D modeling education for optimal results.

    Businesses that want to get the best use for their buck out of a 3-D printer, helping impact their production process for the better, should heed the six tips below.

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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.

    Read more

  • How Your Business Should Be Giving Back This Holiday Season

    holiday donation

    Successful entrepreneurs and businesses give back to the local community and, thus, earn the support and respect of community members and nonprofits. By teaming up and showing you care, your business can amplify its presence in the area and compete with larger entities.

    Success is intrinsically tied to how well the community is thriving on economic, social and cultural levels, so small businesses must remain active participants in their community. Give back with the support of your staff and by networking with area businesses. Try these seven outreach methods to boost how your company gives back this holiday season.

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