Monday, December 28, 2015

Six Tips to Help You Hire the Right Employees

A recent survey found that poor hiring costs small business owners roughly $10,000 per wrong hire.  We also learn that just under half of all new hires fail within their first 18 months of the job.  This happens so frequently because flaws are often overlooked during the hiring process.  Wondering how hiring managers can identify the qualities that make happy and driven employees in order to avoid hiring mistakes? These six tips are key to hire the right employee:

Assess the work ethic.

Ask your candidates to elaborate on their work experience.  Listen for details and keep your ears open for signs of excitement and motivation.  If you’re interviewing recent graduates who may lack in the experience department, see what extra curricular activities they took
Photo via: chrislema.com
part in. 

“Listen” to their resume.

Resumes are simply a story about their author.  Check for jobs and activities that coincide – an indication of a strong work ethic and the ability to commit multiple activities simultaneously.  Look for patterns in previous positions such as length of employment or job structures they gravitate towards.  Make a note of gaps between jobs and have the candidate tell you about them.

Determine integrity.

Ask the candidate about his or her biggest failure or disappointment.  Have them tell you more and it and pay close attention to see if they took the right level of responsibility for it.  Were there moral conflicts in their decision-making process?  If so, how was it handled?

Evaluate maturity.

Have the candidate share where he or she hopes to be in five or ten years to get an idea of their career drive.  Also have them share one of their biggest regrets.  As they reflect on their regret, listen for maturity about it instead of bitterness and whining.

Throw them for a loop.

Instead of shaking hands and sending your candidate off at the end of the interview, invite them to join you on a tour of the building or in the cafeteria.  Watch how they act and converse in a more casual setting.  The new setting will really illuminate his or her personality traits and give you idea who they really are.

Heed your gut.

Candidates need to have strong examples of how they handle situations.  If they give weak answers, make sure to ask targeted questions during their next interview.  If you have any doubts, don’t ignore them.  If your gut is telling you something isn’t right, listen.  You don’t want to hire someone who gives lots of  “right” answers if you simply don’t feel they’ll be a good hire.

Hiring the right employee is a challenging process.  Hiring the wrong one is costly and time consuming.  Take the time to find a candidate who will mesh well with your team and you’ll reap the benefits of a positive impact on your total work environment.
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Questions to Ask a Writer or Writing Company Before Hiring

You have a business and need a writer, but aren’t sure where to begin?  As when hiring any employee, be sure to get all of the facts straight. Here are six questions to ask a writer before you hire:

How will you communicate and deliver completed assignments?

When you hire a writer, you will likely have a primarily virtual relationship.  Today, more writers work via email.  You may never work with the writer face to face throughout your relationship.  Make sure to find out which ways your writer will communicate and how you will receive completed work. Effective communication is key to company success.

What is your turnaround time?

Deadlines must be must – no matter what.  If writers don’t have assignments over in time, that isn’t a good
Photo via sunlightmedia.org
thing.  Your projects deserve to be handled with care so make sure to hire a writer who can commit to meeting deadlines.

What is included in the quote?

Find out what quotes from your writer include.  Revisions, and if so, how many? Does the writer expect time for travel, if applicable? Does he or she charge for in-person meetings? These are all important things to know prior to hiring him.

What industries can you write about?

Usually freelancers can writer about a variety of topics.  It’s great to find out where your writer excels, and which areas he or she does not feel comfortable with.  A good freelancer identifies his or her weaknesses and sets limitations.  During an interview, request samples of the writers work to see if his or her claims hold true.

What are your freelance work hours?

Find out if your writer is a full-time writer or if he will be writing around several other commitments.  Depending on your needs, the answer to this question may be a deal-breaker.  If you have short deadlines or the need to reach your writer immediately, and he or she has a full time job, this writer may not be the best choice for you.  However, even writers with other commitments can still work out well.

Do you know how to optimize content for search engines?

In today’s world, experienced writers are proficient at optimizing blog content – and it’s considered part of the process of writing an assignment.  Make sure your writer knows how to optimize a title and blog content and write a compelling meta description that makes readers click.

Before you hire a writer, ask some key questions to help you get to know the writer a little better.  By doing so, you can hire someone who is hardworking and dependable and forge a long lasting relationship.

What questions do you ask a writer prior to hiring him or her?

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Smart Online Marketing Goals for 2016

Marketers, the New Year is right around the corner so it’s time to think about online marketing goals for 2016.  A lot of things have changed this year, so it’s important to take some time to analyze the tools and trends that have emerged as you sit down and devise your online marketing goals for the upcoming year.  Focus on goals that will help lead your business to greater success, that are achievable and that will help make you a happier, less stressed small-business owner.  Here are three that should top your list:

Refine your online marketing strategy.

The online world of marketing evolves constantly.  For a year or two, the same campaign may work -- but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it a continuous point to re-evaluate your marketing strategy in efforts to incorporate new strategies.  Spend time researching new software, tools or breakthroughs as they relate to SEO, social media, PPC and analytics.  Once you grasp what is happening in the industry, figure out which processes are valuable to your business and strive to incorporate them into your workflow.  Try to delve into new technology with your eyes wide open and adopt the new changes with an open mind – cutting-edge technology is advantageous for businesses.

Monitor your website’s performance.

SEO requirements change very quickly, which means it is essential to monitor your website’s performance.  An analytics service is good, but your involvement needs extend beyond that.  Monitoring your website’s performance doesn’t mean simply logging in weekly to see if you have more traffic than weeks past.  You need to check for traffic indicators, Google penalty threats, inbound link reports and more.  Once you understand how Google updates affect you and your website, you can modify your online marketing strategy accordingly to better your performance.


Jump on the Attribution Modeling bandwagon.

Attribution modeling is much less complicated than the term implies. It’s a simple concept that essentially means reading website analytics data and focus on how users get to your website, navigate your website and why they leave your website.  The focal point is user experience and how your visitors interface with the design of your website.  Oftentimes, small businesses obsess over simply the volume of traffic alone – and while volume is important, so is a positive user experience.

Get a jump-start on these marketing goals before 2014 is here and your small business will gain a head start on its online marketing strategy.  Remember not to get stuck in marketing ruts and to always research new, better technology that can reinforce your online brand presence, strengthen website performance and boost online sales.

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Seasonal Business: Make the Most of Your Slower Months

Photo via myproverbs31life.com

Seasonal businesses don’t have to be viewed as a business that only operates during a few short months – there are ways to help boost business all year long, and make the most of those slower months.  Even after your presumed key season has passed, you can use your resourcefulness to learn more about the needs of your customers and try out new ideas.  Here are some specific ways to maximize the months when you have a little down time:

Have a blog and maintain it.

To build page rank, focus on your blog during the slower months. While it’s important to treat your blog like a queen all year long, it’s crucial not to neglect it when your business is slow.  Write posts that are full of great content and are relevant to your target audience.  Your page rank will increase – just remember it doesn’t happen in a day.

Extend your season.

Sell something specific to cold weather?  Instead of the typical November through March sales months, try to extend your season by one to two months both before and after that time frame. If you offer your products or services for a slightly lower cost your customers will take note and business will likely boom.  Your season is probably longer than you think.

Seek niche markets.

If you bake cookies, pies and muffins that sell like crazy around the holidays, find a way to increase revenue during the other months too.  Consider adapting your products to a niche market.  Contemplate developing gluten or sugar-free products that a smaller audience will adore. There's a lot of reasons why you should serve a niche market.

Hold an event or cross-promote.

As you work hard to stay afloat during the less-than-prime months, remember you are not alone.  Team up with a complementary business and co-market an event or promotion with them.  Think outside of the box -- a photography business could cross-promote with business that sells photo props or headbands for children.  A bed-and-breakfast could cross-promotes with a nearby restaurant or offer deals to a play or movie.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to other businesses – you just may form a successful partnership ally.

Seek customer reviews and feedback.

During your slower time, concentrate on how to earn new, or repeat business during your next busy season.  Customer reviews are priceless.  Ask for testimonials and success stores from past sales seasons and feature those in your e-newsletter, your blog or social media websites.  Not only will this speak volumes about your business, but your customers will also enjoy the recognition.

While your business may have months that are significantly more profitable than others, don’t write off the other months of the year.  The slower times can be a great way to build clout around your business, try new products and seek feedback from your customers.  Your customers’ needs are different all year long – so do your best to serve those needs in ways your current business allows.

How do you maximize the slower months of the year to help your seasonal business?
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Tips to Help You Start, Maintain and Grow a Business Blog

Blogging has literally exploded over the last few years.  In fact, even back in 2005, BusinessWeek proclaimed that Blogs Will Change Your Business – and the publication was right.  If you’ve been holding off with the belief that blogs are a fad, it’s time to realize they’re here to stay and your business needs one.

Why are blogs important for business growth?

Blogs reach and engage large audiences in a way that traditional one-way information doesn’t have the capability to do.  At the same time, blogs put a face to your business name while highlighting your expertise and passion for your industry.  Another bonus: blogs are collaborative and they encourage interactions.  Soliciting comments from readers is a great way to engage with customers.

Here are some tips to help you start, maintain and grow a small business blog:

Identify a goal and blog intention

While you want to promote your business, don’t make the plugs too obvious in your content strategy.  Decide what your purpose is and allow it to drive your content.  Most blogs are centered on sharing information that their readers find useful.  Define your goal, and adhere to it.

Start your blog with the right software

Once you decide you want a business blog, consider your hosting software options.  Free blogging software can be a simple and cost-effective solution for small businesses.  If your blog takes off, you may consider integrations with existing business Wed domains (and remember to communicate to your readers of the host changes).  Remember to make sure your blog is simple for users to navigate.

Dedicate yourself to regular and relevant blogging

Two signs a blog has lost its way are when there are no active posts for more than two weeks, and
Photo via www.zincsolutions.com
when blog content is off topic from previous posts.  Blog inactivity and irrelevant posts give an unfavorable impression of your business.  Keep your posts consistent with the use of a calendar and research current issues so your blog is compelling and relevant.

Develop a traffic-generating plan

Last, but far from least, is finding a way to move visitors to your business blog.  There are a number of ways to generate traffic to your blog, both non-traditional and traditional in nature.  Add built in RSS feeds and remember that your email signature and main business Website and great places to link your blog.

Your blog is worth the time and effort it takes to start and sustain. By sharing content via your blog with your visitors, you’ll establish a strong reputation for your business within your industry.  Happy blogging!

What has helped you maintain and grow your blog following?

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis.  She is mom to two young children and enjoys spending time watching them grow.  Lori enjoys shopping, spending time with her husband and kids, reading, and traveling.
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why You Should Guest Blog (or Hire Someone to do it for You!)

You have figured out ways to make your blog get real attention.  But do you contribute guest posts to other blogs?  While it may seem like the last thing you have time to do, or counter-intuitive, guest blogging is worth it.  You can reap huge benefits from guest blogging, or hiring someone to guest blog on your behalf.  Guest blogging allows you to take what you do and love and spread knowledge into other areas of your target market.  It spreads your reach and builds an authoritative reputation for you and your business.  Here are some ways content outside of your virtual walls can benefit your business.

Reach a broader audience.
Through writing guest posts, you create added awareness with people who are interested in the topics you’re writing about.  These people may not know about your business, but will see you as an expertise and in turn, want to check out your business.  So you will…

Attract new leads.
There’s no double that guest blogging provides a perfect opportunity to generate leads.  The readers of the blog you contribute to are likely looking to solve a problem – and your post may help them.  It’s a win for all.

Build strong relationships.
Relationships are the foundation of a strong business.  Contributing guest blogs is one of several ways to establish new relationships with other bloggers in your niche.  It allows you to join an already-established community, and share what you know.  Plus, it could also lead you to new partnerships with the blogger for future business opportunities. You never know what doors it may open. 

SEO benefits.
Guest posting is good for search engine results.  As you write guest blogs, you prove that you are well
Photo via edgital.org
informed about and have experience related to the products or services you provide.  This means that people who enter a search into Google for the topic may find the post you wrote.  Yes, this happens when you write on your own blog too.  However if the blog you guest post on has larger readership and significant social media following, it’s more likely to be shared socially – a SEO indicator that the content is high quality and relevant. 

Guest blogging, whether you’re the author or you hire someone else to write the posts on your behalf, is a great way to build credibility and receive greater personal and business exposure.  Consider the many benefits of guest blogging as you ponder whether or not to invest the time in writing for another business.  It’s time well spent.

How has guest blogging proved beneficial for your business endeavors?

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why You Should Hire Work from Home Professionals

Are work from home individuals capable of completing work at the same level and quantity as those who work from a brick-and-mortar building?  Many people may have this question run through their minds as they contemplate hiring a work from home professional.  But the answer is yes; individuals who work from home boast a lot of positive attributes that may them the perfect addition to your team. Let’s explore some of the reasons why you should hire work from home professionals:

They’re highly motivated.
Work from home professionals are given a great sense of freedom.  Many of them find this type of work environment extremely desirable.  A standard office has its distractions such as loud co-workers, numerous phones ringing and distractions when simply filling up a water bottle.  Those who work from home tend to work more hours than those who work in a typical office setting with higher productivity.

They are more productive.
Many work from home individuals are great at time management.  They may check their email after hours, just to prepare for the next day.  This means questions may be answered on timely basis.  The human brain does best when it focuses on things for about an hour and a half.  When you’re a slave to your cubicle, that doesn’t work.  Traditional job structure doesn’t allow for individuals to maximize their productivity according to the way the human brain best functions.

They have no commute.
There is no commute for work at home individuals, which means your employee won’t be late.  They

Photo via: comerecommended.com 

save on gas and wear and tear on their vehicle.  Hiring work from home professionals means you’re helping make the world a little more eco-friendly.

They’re empowered.
Individuals who are trusted to work from home are instantly empowered, which means they a lot of pride in their job because they feel trusted.  Work from home individuals are more creative and more enthusiastic about their work than those who work in a traditional office setting.

Save on overhead costs.
When you hire a professional who works out of their home, you actually save money.  You don’t have to have the office space to accommodate the individual, nor any of the other costs that come along with housing an employee in a brick-and-mortar setting for forty or more hours per week.  There are a lot of ways companies save money when employees work from home.

While it may be hard to step back and hire an individual who works in a different state or even a different part of the country, you’ll be glad you did.  Professionals who work from home are experts who are both productive and able to produce high quality work.

Why did you hire a work from home professional?  Was your experience excellent?

Photo via: comerecommended.com

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis.  She is mom to two young children and enjoys spending time watching them grow.  Lori enjoys shopping, spending time with her husband and kids, reading, and traveling. Feel free to leave her a comment.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Page Rank: The Basics

Page rank is a term that many of us throw around without truly understanding.  Everyone uses it but no one really understands how it truly works. Billions of pages exist and millions are generated daily and the search issue is more complex than you probably think. Pared down to the basics, it’s a numerical value that indicates the importance of any page on the Web.  It’s an algorithm named after Larry Page, the name of its developer and one of the founders of Google.  This algorithm used by Google web search engine ranks websites in their search engine results. Page Rank is one of hundreds of factors used to determine search results.  But how does it work? 

Pages that are more “important” carry more weight than pages that are deemed as less important.  You may wonder if it really matters to your business and the answer is yes, it does!  Page rank is an important factor as it relates to a site’s ranking in the overall organic search results. Plus websites in the top three organic positions on Google receive over 58 percent of all clicks from Web users according to a study from Optify.

The rank of a page is determined by three factors; the first is the number of pages linking to your page. The next is the Page Rank of the pages linking to your page. The third is the total number of outgoing links from the pages linking to your web page. 

Photo via: www.mypremiumtricks.com
You gain the most Page Rank boost from pages that have high page rank themselves and link to only a few other websites.  Incoming links from pages of low page rank with many outbound links boost your pages page rank – as long as you don’t link back to them. 

As the Internet grows, the scales that determine Page Rank constantly evolve.  This results in changes in a page’s Page Rank, where the measures will increase or decrease for no apparent reason.  Called the “Google dance”, this phenomenon is just another reason why it’s essential to continually build your site by adding fresh content and to work on building the site’s number of inbound links from other highly ranked sites.

The reason Google works is simply because it relies on the millions of people who post links on website to verify which other sites afford valuable content.  Google then assesses the significance of every web page with the use of several techniques.

Fun Fact: Page Rank is derived from the name of its developer Larry Page.  He’s one of the founders of Google. 

Hopefully this info provided some clarity about what it is and does.  Remember that Page Rank tells the importance of a page in relation to other pages. It’s just one of many factors that determine ranking in the search results. 

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ways to Find New Ideas for Blog Topics

After writing blog post after blog post, you may find yourself struggling to come up with fresh and relevant topics to elaborate on.  However, to keep your audience engaged, you need to continually generate simple yet powerful new content.  Here are some easy ways to find new ideas for your business blog.

Answer customer questions.
Your customers come to you with questions because they see you as a knowledgeable expert in the industry and value your opinion.  It’s likely lots of other people out there have the same questions as your customer.  Those questions you receive are the perfect starting point for a blog post.  There are a couple benefits to this type of post too.  First, you will establish yourself as an expert in your field.  Second, you’ll increase the chances that others will find your blog when searching for this topic and possibly earn yourself some new readers.

Photo via worthofweb.com
Read industry related blogs.
While you don’t want to completely steal other people’s blog posts, reading industry blogs can spark a new idea for a post and you can add ideas of your own to complement it.  If you see a post that you like, take the topic and discuss your own thoughts in relation to it.  Don’t forget to rovide references and data to support your thoughts.

A great way to think of a new blog topic is to write a blog about a recent news story.  When something happens that makes the news, use the event to write a post.  Discuss the possible impact it may have and make a point to add value and provide additional insight to make your post stand out.

Share and discuss Infographics.
Look around for Infographics related to your blog’s focus.  Check sites like Mashable and Pinterest and upload the image, then do a brief write up on it.  You can even create your own Infographic and write a post about it too.  There are lots of reasons why your business should be using Infographics, and this is just one.

Hold an interview.
Instead of scouring online for ideas, seek a customer or thought leader who is willing to help you and discuss industry trends.  Hold a face-to-face interview or send the questions via email and use your response as content for your blog post. Interviews are nice in a lot of ways – they are also a great opportunity to collaborate with others in your industry.

An active blog with fresh content is a great way to boost your business’s bottom line.  Consider these tactics to generate more topics for content.

What techniques do you use to think of new ideas for blog content?

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ways to Show Customers You Care in the Digital Age

Customers are the lifeblood of a successful business. Of course – any customer likes to feel appreciated – so it is important to express your thanks.  After all, a solid business is founded on good relationships so showing your clients you’re invested in them is a smart move -- it establishes trust and loyalty, pure and simple.  According to Gartner Group, 80 percent of your company’s future revenue comes from 20 percent of your current customers.  So it’s a must when it comes to customer retention and saying thanks will help you do just that.

Most businesses have the same ideas when it comes to saying thanks to their customers.  Instead of doing what the other businesses do, you need to think outside of the box to make an impression that will draw repeat business.  Here are some ways to show your customers that you care in the digital age:

Use a video to thank them
A brief video is a great way to personally thank your customers.  Address them by name and it will resonate like nothing else.  A personalized video is the equivalent on a handwritten letter in our age of digital everything.  It’s personal and unexpected and truly makes your customer feel as though they are appreciated.
Photo via onthecloud.mycroburst.com

Name drop
Thank your customer individually with a personal message or on your Facebook page.  You can even thank them in your blog or in your company newsletter.  Drop their name and it will let them know you notice them and show them that you value their business.

Brand outside of the box
It is as good of a time as any to be the business known for the cool… anything.  Skip the pens, coffee mugs and mouse pads – they’ve all been seen time and again.  What other ideas do you have?  Chances are anything you want to brand is possible.  If you give away another calendar, it is likely going to be shoved to the back of the drawer with all of the other calendars your customers already have from their dentist office and their plumber.  Brand something your customer will love – and you may even make their Facebook page too.

Handwrite a letter
In the era of digital everything, there is nothing you can do for (nearly) no cost that will make a bigger impact than sitting down and writing a thank you letter. The feeling of opening your mailbox and finding an envelope with a handwritten letter inside is unlike anything else.  Don’t underestimate the power of traditional snail mail – it can be a refreshing change from the world of technology.

You don’t have to do what all of the other businesses do when it comes to showing your sincere thanks to your customers.  Break away from the stale and unimaginative ways of expressing your gratitude and get creative.  You and your employees are likely an untapped spring of resources – you just have to dig beyond the surface to find them.

How do you show your customers you appreciate their business?
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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 Practical Reasons You Should Run Your Business Remotely

Running your company remotely is a feasible and very attractive option for many entrepreneurs.  The technological tools exist to share and collaborate on documents, you can communicate in real time and it’s attainable to meet your deadlines.  There are also many practical advantages.  Here are some reasons you should run your business remotely:

Photo via amistadbonds.com 
Lower startup costs.
This is a no brainer, but a very important advantage.  For a young company, lower overhead costs are a dream come true.  Saving on office rental and running costs allow you to hit the ground running with minimum expenses.  You can use those funds to best develop your product or service and make yourself more competitive.

Purposeful communication.
Not sharing a brick and mortar physical space doesn’t mean less communication. Often it promotes a need for more frequent and purposeful contact.  Without the ability to walk into an employee’s office at any given time or have a talk in the break room means each and every point of contact becomes essential.  Meetings have a new meaning and employees have a mutual respond for one another’s time.

Team quality.
On paper, remote working may seem like you’ll be more relaxed…and it’s a possibility with the right team.  Due to distance from your workforce, it’s essential to make the right hires.  Find a team of people that are disciplined with a strong work ethic. 

Give your employees space.
Space from your employees promotes a sense of trust.  If you have the right team, your employees can feel empowered and produce quality work, even without you breathing down their necks.  Working together, but at a distance encourages employee growth and hopefully they’ll thrive on the responsibility.

Extend your reach.
A business without a localized office gives you the ability to hire employees around the world. A global presence gives your company diversification while allow you to tap into problems with a different mindset and expose your product or serves to more markets.  Through hiring people that can’t commute to an office like working moms, you’ll see different ideas and innovation.

So many entrepreneurs live and breathe their startup. Their passion is the drive of the young business.  Sometimes being up close and personal can lead you to see problems in just one way or approach things from a specific angle.  Having some distance encourage you to look at opportunities differently.  Running your startup remotely is practical and more young entrepreneurs are seeing the undeniable benefits.

What are your thoughts on working remotely?

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis.  She is mom to two young children and enjoys spending time watching them grow.  Lori enjoys shopping, spending time with her husband and kids, reading, and traveling.

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