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Create an Eco-Friendly Office

Posted on May 2, 2013 by Jessica

How to Make Your Office More Eco-Friendly

You've probably noticed that people are more interested in the environment than ever before, and plenty of individuals are bringing these concerns into the business world. Some people say that it's not possible to live an eco-friendly lifestyle at work, but chances are, they have not even given it a try. This lifestyle is actually possible in a number of different ways.  Reducing the cost of overhead is a major bonus.  Of course, you will also be doing the environment a favor.

Let's explore some of the different things you can do around your office:

Recycling Bins

Chances are, if you do not have recycling bins set up in the office, people are not going to go out of their way to find one. Therefore, you should put recycling bins in the kitchen area and in the office itself. When you see people who are not using them or about to put their recyclables into the trash can, remind them that an appropriate container exists not too far away. 

Light Timers

No need exists for every single light to be on all night. Furthermore, lights do not need to stay on in places where employees sit for only a short amount of time. For example, the lights in the break room can certainly be turned off after a certain amount of time of inactivity. Instead of wasting all of that power, be sure to set the timer for an appropriate amount of time. 

Relax with The Power

Yes, people do not want to be terribly uncomfortable at work, but you also do not need to get out of control with the air conditioner and the heat either. If it is nice enough outside that the windows can be open, let the fresh air do the job. Of course, in the event that you are not going to be turning the heat on as much, be sure to let employees know to bring a light sweater with them to work from now on. 

Paper Waste

One major problem associated with offices is the amount of paper they use on a regular basis. Encourage employees to print double-sided copies, and make sure that email is the selected method of communication as frequently as possible. You should also ask employees to try to limit the number of copies they make, and be sure they are not printing out materials that have absolutely nothing to do with work.

What can YOU do?

All of the items above are great starts to a eco-conscious lifestyle at work.  What other things can you do beyond these basics? Let us know in the comments! 

How to Design a Successful Company Logo

Posted on April 18, 2013 by Jessica

When you are just getting started with your business, there are many things that you need to keep in the air. As you are juggling your start up costs, your new customers and your own product, you also need to start thinking about your company logo. A company logo will represent you to the public at large, so take a moment to figure out what you need to consider.

Choosing Qualities
Your logo is meant to describe you and your company. That means that any adjectives people come up with when they look at your logo are going to be applied to you. That's good if the logo conveys things like speed, originality and new beginnings. It is not good if the logo conveys things like sloppiness and boredom! Before you even put pencil to paper, stop and think about what you want your logo to say to the people around you. 

Choosing Colors
We have very strong connotations with regards to color. For anyone who drives, red means stop and green means go. Red, white and blue have connotations with regards to flags. Think about how the colors that you choose will reflect your company's attitude. For example, if you are a green, environmentally-friendly company, consider using blue or green. If you are want to promote safety and stability, consider an earth-tone. 

The rule of thumb states that the simpler a design is, the more readable it will be. You want people to recognize your logo at a glance, and generally, the less lines you use, the better. Think about how the logo will look on things of various sizes. Something that looks fine on a T-shirt might not do so well if you shrink it down. 

Lots of Options
When you are creating a logo, it is always in your best interests to make a number of them. Do not work exhaustively on one design. Make at least a dozen or more. This gives you more material to work with, and it allows you to stretch yourself. The logo that works well for you may be one that is a combination of several designs. Be open to new ideas!

Getting Input
Never roll out a logo without testing it on a number of people. Show the people around you your logo and ask them for their impressions. Ask them to be honest, and ask them what their impressions are. If you keep hearing the same things over and over again, it is time to consider what that means. The more people you show, the better.

When you are looking to create a logo for your company, remember that you should give the process due time and thought. A good logo is one that works for you, and you will find that it can enhance your marketing extensively. Have you created a logo for your company? What were any challenges you faced in the process? Tell us in the comments below!

5 Easy Ways to Improve Outreach Emails

Posted on March 4, 2013 by Jessica

While businesses thrive on the ability of the consumer to purchase its products, sometimes an invisible barrier exists that hampers this exchange, specifically, if consumers are not aware of the product or the business. For those interested in e-commerce, outreach emails are a great opportunity for making connections with potential customers and directing them to your wares. Knowing that though, what are the most effective steps for crafting the perfect outreach email?

1) Branding is Key - As any marketing executive can attest to, branding is one of the most important steps in creating an attractive business. Just as you wouldn't call clients and ask them to purchase products from your garage, it's important when sending outreach emails that you do so from a branded domain. Spam comprises a large percent of people's inboxes these days, meaning that their first inclination upon seeing an email from a domain they don't recognize is to simply delete it and move on. This is obviously contrary to the aims of an outreach email.

2) Reach the Right People - This might seem like an obvious point, but contacting the right people is crucial to the success of an outreach email. When researching viable clients, be sure to send your email to the people most likely in charge of purchasing your product. The most persuasive and informative email you've ever crafted means nothing if it doesn't go to the person with the power to make the decisions you need.

3) Attractive Subject Lines - Going along a similar vein as crafting a brand for your email, it's also important to make an accurate and persuasive subject line. Since people often delete first and ask questions later, the subject line is your first line of defense against an unwarranted deletion. To create a strong subject line it's important to specifically address the person you're emailing and be sure to phrase your goal in the form of a question. For example, "isn't this interesting?" can be a great way of tempting people to open your email and get into the meat of your content.

4) Keep it Simple - Once you're working on the general body of your email, you'll find it's helpful to keep it as short as possible. Five hundred characters is a good general guideline, as people prefer something just short enough to tantalize them than a long essay they have to work through.

5) Get Personal - Make sure the opening of every email personally greets whoever your email is directed towards, if no name is available it can be as simple as a general greeting to the department or company you're contacting.

With these tips in mind, it won't be long before you've crafted the perfect outreach email, and from there it's just a matter of sending it out to as many potential clients as possible. Are there any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments!

How to Effectively Manage a Team's Workflow

Posted on February 25, 2013 by Jessica

When you are in charge of managing a team or a group of employees, ensuring they have a steady and efficient workflow can be done with a few tips and tricks. Effectively managing a team's workflow is possible by understanding your goals and various ways of working with the employees or team members you are in charge of yourself. The more aware you are of the goals of any project, the easier it will be to create and organize a plan to keep everyone focused at all times.

Outlining all of the short and long-term goals for any project is a way to help with increasing work productivity and workflow. When you are unsure of how to begin managing a team, properly outlining all goals and steps required in order to complete the project you are working on will help you to get focused and to stay in the present. The more steps you write down and organize, the easier it will be to begin any type of project, regardless of the industry you are representing.

Set Deadlines
Setting deadlines for specific tasks for all individual team members helps to keep others focused and on track with completing a project and sticking to their goals. When you set deadlines in place, it helps to create a conscious awareness of time for everyone who is working towards completing the project, giving them more of an incentive to get to work and to continue working towards the end goal.

Open Communication
Open communication when working together with a team is extremely important, especially when you have the responsibility of delegating tasks or ensuring other team members are keeping up with the workload. Getting to know your team members can help you to assess personalities and which jobs or tasks are right for all of the individuals you are working with together. The more open you are about deadlines, motivation and persistence, the more likely your team is to actively listen to you.

Time Management Tools
Using time management tools can help with ensuring everyone that you are working with is sticking with schedules and understands that the deadlines set in place are serious. You can use time management software on your team's computers and various websites to keep team members from becoming distracted with social media or other websites in the midst of completing any type of project that is being worked on.

Are there any other ways that your team manages its workflow? Let us know in the comments below!

Motivating Your Employees

Posted on February 18, 2013 by Jessica

In the competitive world of retaining the best employees, it is clearly understood that vacation pay, health care and salaries make the top of the perk wish list. As things like bonus cutbacks, raise freezes and fewer stock options become necessary, it is harder to keep employees motivated.

Even though companies go through good times and bad, they still want their employees to know that their job is more than just a paycheck, and they want their people invested in their organization’s future. To do so, they must create the environment and culture that make people want to stay. Below are five economical and surefire ways to keep your employees motivated in 2013.

Flexibility – Time has no price. Along with offering paid vacation time from work, most companies enhance that benefit with some paid time-off or the ability to work from home after a specific amount of time. Things like summer hours, flex-time and 4-day work weeks are all still at the top of the wish list for employees. The cost to the company is very little, but it can help a good workplace suddenly become a great workplace for the employees.

Encouraging Good Health – Even though it may not be realistic for all companies to have a health club or gym, employers can reward their employees who want to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle to keep their work and life balance in check. One way to do this is by offering employees gym membership discounts. As well, offer team building events that add an element of social activity mixed with physical activity as an alternative to happy hour. Some ideas might be team bowling, softball games and dodge ball (our team particularly likes hiking). 

Rewards and Acknowledgements – Everyone likes to be rewarded and acknowledged. This can be something as simple as singling out a top performing employee with a coffee gift card, having a happy hour event after work for employees, bestowing your office staff with a massage or tickets to a baseball or football game. This type of gesture encourages camaraderie, helps keep employees motivated, boosts morale and has employees looking forward to the next surprise.

Work Environment – Create a nice work environment around your employees that reflect their personalities and skills. Studies have shown that offices and cubicles are shifting to light interactive spaces with lots of color. These promote positive energy and a nice comfortable area for employees to work in.

Does your office use any of these methods to motivate employees? Which work best for your team? Let us know in the comments below!

What is Facebook Graph Search?

Posted on February 15, 2013 by Jessica

Facebook is rolling out their new Graph Search, and a media storm is taking over. As a search system, it gives access to a great deal of information that many people either didn't realize was public or didn't think would be used in this way. It's something of a wake up call for many Facebook users. It has the potential to be abused, but it also can be a great tool for businesses.

Information Database
To realize how the Facebook Graph Search works, think about Facebook as if it were a massive database of personal information. Each person is an entry. Within that entry, a large amount of information about them has been collected and filed away. According to Facebook, the four main categories of information are people, photos, places and interests.

Using the Information
Graph Search works by allowing you to type in a sentence or string of keywords to find people who meet those criteria. So for example, you could search for a list of all of the doctors in your city who like the TV show House. Or you could search for every single woman who likes cats and works at Walmart. You can search for people fitting any category, liking any interest.

Business Usage
For a standard user, the Facebook Graph Search is a novelty with a few tertiary uses and plenty of room for abuse. For a business, it is a treasure trove of demographic information. Any business with a Facebook page relies on their fans liking them. With Graph Search, these businesses can search for all people in a given area who like their page and who fit any other description they want.
Businesses will be able to see anything about their fans that those fans post online. This could be religion, or pets, or favorite TV shows, or favorite sports or anything else the business could think to search for. It opens up a massive amount of untapped marketing potential.

Potential Criticism
Right now, Facebook Graph Search is under scrutiny because of the wealth of information it provides, much of which might not be something the users want shared. Complaining about Facebook breaching privacy is all too common, and it seems like more and more people simply don't realize the information they post is public. When this information starts being used against them, there is bound to be a backlash. Whether the utility of the search or the potential for abuse wins out remains to be seen.

Are there any other benefits do you think Facebook Graph Search could provide? Let us know in the comments below!

Five Killer Blogging Mistakes

Posted on February 12, 2013 by Jessica

Blogging is an excellent way to bring traffic to a website. However, there are many common mistakes that people make when they make posts to their blog. These mistakes drive traffic away, rather than bring it in. With that in mind, it is important to know how to avoid these issues in order to build a superior website and boost traffic. 

The five most common mistakes in blogging are:
1. Focusing too much on SEO
2. Not running a spell check or grammar check
3. Focusing too hard on sales
4. No facts and no fact checking
5. Making posts too long

When most people start writing a blog for traffic purposes, they immediately focus on SEO, or search engine optimization. While SEO should be considered in writing a blog, it should not be the only thing keeping the blog together. When posts are stuffed with search-engine friendly keywords, they start to make less sence and provide less useful information. Rather than focus on several keywords similar to the topic, focus on writing useful content and keeping the keywords at a minimum.

Another easy mistake is simply not running a spelling or grammar check before making a new post. Blog posts that are riddled with spelling mistakes make the piece appear unprofessional and rushed. This detours people from reading further, even if the information provided is extremely beneficial. Simply proofreading the work usually takes care of this issue. There are also several spell-checking programs that can aid those who are continuing to have problems.

Focusing on sales is also another pitfall many blogs see. People browse blogs for interesting information, not advertisements. When the focus of a blog becomes sales, many people shy away from it. One easy fix is to create blog topics that relate to the product or service, then making a casual reference to it in the post, such as “I recommend using this product to solve this common problem.”

Having facts and useful information is what drives people to blogs. People want answers to their issues. Having factual information helps to gain trust and bring traffic to the blog. Many times, new bloggers will focus on strong opinions in their writing. While this can be good, it is hard to initially get a following of dedicated readers without having facts to back up the opinions expressed in the blog.

Lastly, long posts can be difficult for the reader. Many people simply browse the internet and skim-read most of the content that they find. Keeping a post under 800 words helps to give concise information the reader can quickly digest.

If you are a blogger, have you identified any mistakes that affect your blog's success? Or if you simply read blogs, are there things that bloggers do that affect your reading enjoyment? Please share with us in the comments below.

5 Ways to Optimize Pinterest for Your Business

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Jessica

With the world's biggest search engine taking things like “social presence” into account, you can't deny that social sites are becoming more important to businesses. Pinterest is one of those sites that's going to become key in developing brand recognition and, as successful businesses will soon see, profits.

The best way to take advantage of Pinterest is by optimizing your Pinterest account.  Here's five tips for how to do just that.

1. Create Keyword-Rich, Unique Boards

Try running a search for “Things I Love” boards on Pinterest. You'll find tens of thousands, if not millions, of results. This means that this term is absolutely useless when it comes to search engine optimization, mostly due to the fact that it's so saturated.

Instead, try putting the keywords you want to focus on in your board's name. “Amazon TV Reviews” and “Search Engine Optimization Infographics” work a lot better than “Things I Love”.

2. Enrich Your Image Names with Keywords

If you're familiar with on-site SEO when it comes to images, then it should come as to no surprise that you'll find more success with your pinned images if the file names are optimized.

Rename your images to something keyword-rich and descriptive before you pin them. An infographic about media corporations should be named media-corporations-infographic.jpg.

3. Optimize Your Descriptions

You can use up to 500 characters in the description area for each of your pins. You should pepper (but not stuff) your keywords into those descriptions so that your pins are able to rank in Google Images.

4. Make Your Content Easy to be Repinned

To make a long story short, Google is starting to consider how large of an influence you have on social networks in its rankings. While there's no solid evidence that the number of pins, retweets or likes actually affects your rankings yet, there's a good chance it will in the future.

Your best bet to stay ahead of the curve is to make it easy for users to repin your content. The best way to do this is simple: add Pinterest buttons to every page of your website where you have other social media sharing buttons.

5. Be Active on Pinterest

One of the most fundamental parts of success when it comes to social networks is your own activity. Pinterest is a place where the more active you are, the more likely your content is to be shared.

Take some time to become an active user. Repin and comment on other people's boards. You'll find that your board's followers and fans of your brand will grow fastest this way.

Can you think of any other optimization techniques for Pinterest? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Ways to Use Email Marketing in 2013

Posted on January 3, 2013 by Jessica

If a business wishes to be successful, it is vital to create an email marketing campaign. An email campaign shows that a business is willing to take on modern ideas, and such a project does not require a significant amount of money. The information below may help a business set up a good system and find something that works for the future.

1. Send Surveys to Customers - It is crucial for a business to be aware of how customers feel at any given time. If a business does not realize that a customer is unhappy with a product or service, the consequences may prove to be dire. Emails reach people quickly, and a customer may be able to send a response the same day.

2. Advertize Upcoming Sales - It is not unusual for a sale to receive little attention. This may be due to the fact that many people are not aware of sales before they occur. Emails may prove to be useful when it comes to spreading awareness. A business may send messages that tell customers about upcoming savings events.

3. Invite People to Enter a Contest - Contests are an excellent way to promote a business and a product. A business may use its email marketing campaign to encourage people to enter their names in the contest. This is also a way to get information about customers and potential customers.

4. Ask Customers to Review a Product or Service - This option may appear to be similar to sending a survey, but the differences are not something to ignore. A survey limits how a person may respond. When a person writes a review, he or she may hold total control over the situation. He or she may write whatever comes to mind, and this is a positive thing for any business.

5. Link Customers to the Business Website - Some customers may be unaware of the address for the website of the business. A business may lose sales because of this issue. The people in charge of writing the emails may wish to link to the website at the bottom of the message. When this option plays a role, people may not feel that the business is being forceful or aggressive.

Are you planning on using email marketing to reach and communicate with your customers through email in 2013? If you have any additional tips, please share in the comments below!

Mobile eCommerce Trending in 2013

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Jessica

It’s true that your consumers are still spending more time on their desktops than on their mobile devices. However, recent studies show that the mobile access has topped 10% of all Internet traffic. If your retail website is not optimized for tablets and smart phones, you may be losing out on significant profits in the coming year.

An infographic from Shopify shows that the percentage of orders placed on mobile devices grew from 7% in 2011 to 17% in 2012, and predicts that mobile traffic will grow to 40% in 2013. It's also been predicted that, in 2013, the number of people using smart phones will increase from the current count of over 2 billion. It's highly recommended that businesses improve the usability of their mobile offerings through smart phone website optimization and tablet applications.

Here are some things to consider for your eCommerce business in 2013:

1) Optimize for mobile devices - Your website should have a responsive design that reacts to a visitor’s device or will render in a pleasing manner on small screens.

2) Improve checkout experiences - Too much friction during the checkout process is going to alienate your customers. This includes too many fields over too many web pages and validations that empty fields. Make sure your checkout is secure, fast, and simple.

3) Avoid having small and too few images - Make sure that you have several large images with zoom options on all of your product detail pages.

4) Keep it simple - While keeping your product graphics detailed, if your site navigation is confusing or you have too many other graphics or weird icons, you’re going to lose the interest of your customers. Keep your design simple and attractive so that it helps buyers to make the decision to buy from your site.

5) Get rid of tiny or old fonts - More and more online shoppers are not that computer savvy and will be more comfortable with large, legible print. With the option to choose from many web optimized fonts, pick a good one and don’t be afraid have large fonts.

If you want to stay competitive, you need to stay on top of these trends. Your website should function properly on a variety of mobile devices and you should seriously consider having an app presence. Consumers will be expecting platform-specific offers, improved shopping experiences, content that is geo-specific, and other features that fit their ever-increasing mobile lifestyles.

Are you planning to cater to your mobile eCommerce customers in 2013? Let us know in the comments below!