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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Competitive Employee Benefits

Building a successful business means more than just selling more  products and services.  It means having an impact on the lives of your customers and your employees.  Not too many years ago employee benefits meant merely health insurance and retirement packages. Now the business landscape has changed. What other benefits can employers offer their workforce to make a company more competitive and attractive to the highest level employees?

  • Dental Insurance – An insurance plan that not many companies offer is a dental plan. Dental insurance is a common benefit though not required by law. Employers have options of choosing Fully-Funded Employer Plans, Partially-Funded Employer Plans or Fully-Funded Employee Plans depending upon the level of funding you plan to give.
  • Flexible Spending Accounts– Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, are a means of helping benefits set aside money on a pre-tax basis in order to cover basic medical expenses. Pre-taxed dollars are taken directly from the employee’s paycheck and deposited into the account to be used for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • Vacation Time – As an employee accrues seniority their paid vacation time can increase.  This is a common practice usually starting at two weeks for new employees.
  • Flextime– This attractive benefit is a great option for many parents who find it impossible to work a normal workday and care for children or an elderly parent.  Under a flexible work arrangement, an employee can choose to work typical business hours so long as they complete assignments in a timely manner.
  • Remote Working– Yet another option that may fall into a benefit category is remote working for employees that need to work at home for part, or all, of the day.  Believe it or not, remote workers tend to be efficient and productive unlike the stereotypical “work at home” situations of the past.
  • 401K Plans – Competitive base pay, health insurance and a 401(k) plan are usually the must have benefits necessary to attract and keep talent in your company.
  • Long/Short Term Disability– This is an insurance policy that protects an employee from loss of income in the event that he or she is unable to work due to illness, injury, or accident for a long/short period of time.
  • Vision Insurance– While not a common insurance benefit many companies are now offering a low cost option. Vision insurance pays for employees to have regular vision examinations and pays for a percentage of the cost of corrective equipment.

Google Analytics 101

As an owner or manager of a small or medium sized business, you know it is critical to have a website in our modern business environment. You even know that using social media and online campaigns is a necessity in our tech driven business world. Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply build a website or be active on social media. Businesses need to completely understand who is visiting their website, what brought them there, how long they stayed and what caught their attention while they were there. That is where Google Analytics comes into play.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free Web analytics service that provides statistics and basic analytical tools for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing purposes. All you need to get started is a Google account. One of the major benefits of using Google Analytics is to gain complete freedom in managing your website’s content.

What can Google Analytics do?

For small and medium sized businesses with small marketing budgets, Google Analytics might be the perfect choice. It has some major marketing advantages that will help you monitor and track your website including:

  • Target your online visitors – Google Analytics can help you to keep track of the kind of visitors coming to your website and use popular keywords that may be used in the process of searching for specific products. By using this information, you can target a niche audience who may be keen on purchasing your products.
  • Measure the results of your marketing campaign – Using the various functions of Google Analytics you can measure whether your campaign has been successful in reaching the right types of visitor and whether that visitor to your website has converted to a buying customer.
  • Improve your web page quality – Do visitors bother to read your blog, click on the links or take heed of your call-to-action? Google Analytics can help you improve areas of your website that are not doing what it should be doing, whether it is placement, content or navigation issues.
  • Measure Changes over time– Google Analytics can use data visualization tools including a dashboard, scorecards and motion charts, which display changes in data over time.
  • Integration with other Google Tools– Since this is a Google product, it has the advantage of integration with other Google products, such as AdWords, Public Data Explorer and Website Optimizer.
  • It’s FREE!-  Google Analytics offers many advanced marketing evaluation tools that would normally cost your company a pretty penny.

 

Grow your Audience with Social Media

Social Media Marketing has grown substantially over the past few years. It has evolved from a fun, easy, light activity into a powerful tool for businesses to promote their products and services. Social media is one of the most effective ways to increase exposure of your brand. Unfortunately simply having a social media presence is not enough.  You must use creativity and marketing “know-how” to make the most of your pages, posts and tweets. Where should you start to engage and grow your audience?  Here are a few tips on social media tactics for your company.

  • Make it Easy to Engage – Use your landing page to cross promote your social media pages. Be sure you have easy-to-find social media buttons and ask visitors to follow you or like your page. You may want to offer some sort of incentive to get your audience to do this like offering a discount or coupon if they like and share.
  • A Call to Action– Research shows that if you ask your audience to do something, they are more likely to do so if you make it obvious. For example, your tweets have a 12x higher chance of being retweeted if you ask for it, and 23x higher if you actually spell out the word “retweet.”(Source: CoScheduleBlog)
  • Hold Question and Answer Forums– “Ask Me Anything” on Inbound.org, gets anywhere from 50 to 350+ upvotes. Wouldn’t you like that for your company? Q&A sessions are a great way to answer any questions that your followers may have as well as provide information to consumers that may have some interest in your brand.
  • Create Contests! – Social media contests help boost engagement in a number of ways. It engages consumers, promotes your brand, and encourages sharing and liking.
  • Conduct a Poll or Survey– While Americans hate phone surveys they tend to react to online polls more positively. Not only does a poll engage your viewers but it also lets your audience know that you actually care about their opinions and plan to take action upon the results.
  • Quick Responses– Customers will be more likely to engage with your company on social media if they feel like you are actually there. Respond quickly to comments and most especially questions and criticisms. Show your viewers that you are active on your own pages and care what the audience is saying.
  • Join in Chatting– Whenever you get a chance to engage your audience in real time – do it!  Twitter Chats, Facebook Forums and other social media “chats” can show the reader that you are on the ball.

Providing Exceptional Customer Service

There are so many facets to your business to maintain and nurture on a daily basis that it is sometimes overwhelming to figure out where improvements should be made. One area that can always be improved upon is customer service – the life and heart of your business.

Standing out in today’s competitive marketplace means putting exceptional customer service at the top of your list of “things to do.” No matter how great your product is or how talented and experienced your staff is, one of the things that customers are most likely to remember is the direct interaction they have with your company. Whether that interaction is positive or negative is all up to you and your front line employees. Here are some tips to delivering exceptional customer service to each and everyone of your clients and consumers.

1. Training, Training and more Training– While this may seem boring or tedious, the better your employees know their job, the product and the customer, the better they can handle issues that arise. The more an employee knows about the general workings of the office, who does what and common issues that arise, the better they can not only handle customer questions and complaints, but they will almost be able to anticipate them before they happen. In addition, the more breadth and depth of knowledge the employee has about the products/services your company offers, the more likely they will be able to answer questions and concerns without having to pass it off to a more knowledgeable member of your team. There is nothing worse than getting passed off with a statement of, “Sorry I can’t find the answer for you!”

2. Customer Service Skills – Inevitably there will be that customer. You know the one. They are angry, passive aggressive or frustrated. Dealing with this type of personality may seem Herculean, but with a little finesse and practice it can be done – and even have a positive outcome. Acknowledging the issue, using active listening and reflecting back on their feelings is a great strategy to diffuse a volatile situation.For example say,

  • That must have been very frustrating.
  • I would be upset too.
  • So this is what I understand the issue to be, right?
  • Let’s clear this up.

A little attentiveness, clear communication and a whole heap of patience will do wonders.

3. Online Follow Through – With so many avenues for customers to interact with your company, it is a good idea to regularly check social media pages and online reviews for customers who are less than pleased. Follow through with issues online and make sure you post how the problem was resolved. For example, if a customer complains via Facebook explain the resolution in a “reply post” and thank them for bringing it to your attention. This will show not only that you are active online but that you follow up on customers needs in every arena.

Brand Consistency in the Social Arena

Social media used to be just  fun, light and easy. In the last few years it has morphed from a playground to the smart marketers dream arena!  According to Pew Research, two-thirds of American adults ( 75%) use social networking sites. The rise of social media has affected such things as work, politics, communication patterns around the globe, as well as the way people get and share information about health, civic life, news consumption, communities, teenage life, parenting, dating and even people’s level of stress. To marketers, social media is a perfect platform to raise brand awareness.

While social media offers amazing opportunities to reach customers that were previously outside the normal reach of the targeted audience, branding on social media platforms needs to be carefully crafted and consistent with your overall brand name.  Here are a few suggestions to keep your brand identity and message consistent across social media.

  • Different Platform, Same Message – If your company is on several platforms including: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and the list goes on and on, be sure you are putting the same message out there about your product or service.  Yes, you may say it in different ways depending upon the platform but the overall message should be the same.  LinkedIn tends to be more professional while Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter tend to be more easygoing and light.
  • Different Platform, Same Look – It doesn’t matter what social media you choose whether it is one or a whole bunch of them,  your visual look should be the same on each one. For example, if you have a logo or a color palette, be sure to use those across all social media.
  • Different Platform, Same Voice – Your company voice and tone should remain the same across all social media.  This may get tricky if several employees are posting for your company. They should collaborate on the way that things are written and posted.  A social media calendar and regular brainstorming sessions should help with this.
  • Different Platform, Same Relevancy – Regardless of the social media channel your company chooses you should be sure to have posts and tweets be relevant and current.  This is especially true if part of your brand is that you are a trend setters, or up-to-date in your field.