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All posts by Mike Sperling

About Mike Sperling

Mike is the Founder and Director of Sperling Interactive. Mike’s keen eye for photography, extensive technology skills and innovative marketing ideas make Mike a leader in the website design and management field. He is proficient in html, css, php, javascript, MySQL and the Adobe Design Suite. Before founding Sperling Interactive, Mike worked his way up from staff photographer at the Eagle Tribune Publishing Company to the lead operator and manager of multiple websites for daily and weekly publications. Known as the “media guru”, Mike gathered years of experience before making the leap to start his own business. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in Photojournalism and a minor in Mass Communications. When Mike is not meeting with clients or designing new websites he enjoys spending time with his wife, Jodi, daughter Zoey, and son Camden. Mike enjoys hiking, geocaching, traveling, movies, the Baltimore Orioles & Ravens.

Tips for Pricing your Products and Services

When you’re first starting out as a new business, how do you know what price to charge for the products or services you offer? You want to make a profit, that’s why you started a business, but you also need to be realistic in what you charge, otherwise people might not buy. It’s a tricky balance to master between covering costs and making a profit if you want your business to grow. Here are some tips on setting the right price for your products or services:

 

  • Consult your Business Plan – Obviously, you started a business in order to make some money. Consider how pricing will affect your ability to grow and expand your business and plan accordingly.
  • Understand your Costs – As you should well know, it costs money to make money (or a product or to provide a service). It’s not enough to cover your costs; in order to survive and grow as a business, you need to factor in profit, too, after costs. Costs go deeper than producing the product itself. You probably have to pay rent, pay employees, and pay suppliers, among others. All of these will affect the price you charge for your product or service.
  • Look at your Competition – Chances are your customers are too. If the products your competitors offer are similar enough to yours, you can probably base your prices off what they charge. If you offer the same product and then some, that is an additional service or a higher quality product, then you can bump up your price a little. It is good practice to compare the net prices as opposed to the listed price.
  • Know the Market – Research and study outside factors that influence the demand for your product. These factors are fairly flexible and can range from the price of the materials you use to produce your product, to a change in the taxes or income levels your customer base can expect in the near future, either lower or higher. Again, you should research your competitors’ trends as well.

 

 

Choosing the right price for your products and services can mean the difference between making a reasonable profit and robbing people blind / being robbed yourself. Know the products or services you offer, or rather what your competition is charging, and see if you can match or beat those prices while still making a profit.

Incorporating U.S. Military Leadership Techniques into your Business’ Success Strategy

It’s no secret that the military produces great leaders, and this has been proven, not only in the field, but in the office as well. Many successful businesses are led by individuals with some form of military background. For example, Verizon’s Chairman and CEO, Lowell McAdam, was in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. for six years. Aside from discipline and obedience training as a results of boot camp, the military teaches you various skills and techniques that translate from victories on the battlefield to success in the boardroom. Here are just a few:

 

  • Proper and Clean Attire – The military enforces a strict dress code down to shined shoes. Dressing sharp ‒ that is, well-fitting, professional clothes and coordinated outfits ‒ creates a sense of confidence, which is important in decision making and leading. Confidence is the key to making tough decisions and being sure about them, versus hesitation no matter which way you look at the situation.
  • Becoming a People Person – First and foremost, the military teaches you to care for your team, and a strong team is founded on diversity. A diverse group of people means that each member has unique experiences, which may provide special skills, talent, or thought processes down the road in order to achieve goals or objectives.
  • “Be, Know, Do”– Taken from the U.S. Army Manual of the same name, this is all about knowing how to do a job or perform a task. When giving instructions, orders, or just telling someone what to do job-wise, you yourself should know the ins and outs of the task itself. Lead by example and show them how to do it correctly, and they will follow suit.

 

 

The military mass-produces great leaders who can adapt and confidently lead their team into battle. The ability to adapt is important because once they’re out of the military, they can take what they’ve learned and modify it for an appropriate job setting, and achieve a level of success which might otherwise not be attainable.

Tips to Improve your Website

The Internet is an ever-changing miracle of technology, and it is important that you keep your website up-to-date. Improving your website often makes for a better, more seamless user experience, which in-turn will reward you with a satisfied customer. A website that looks dated or that doesn’t have the latest features ‒ as they pertain to your business ‒ is almost a turn off for would-be customers. Here are some helpful tips to improve your website for the modern world:

  • Add a Mission Statement – Also known as a value proposition, this informs visitors to your website about your company. Information to be included in the statement is: the location of your company, to whom you market and serve/sell, what your company does, and the benefit(s) customers can get out of using your company. The mission statement should go on your homepage, and you can add it to your About or Blog page(s).
  • Incorporate Social Media Links – If your company has social media profiles ‒ which it definitely should nowadays ‒ you should add links on your website for visitors to follow. Utilizing social media greatly increases the amount of traffic your website receives.
  • Use Calls-to-Action – When a visitor first gets to your website, can s/he easily navigate through the various pages to fulfill the purpose of their visit? While there are some basic calls-to-action, such as “call/email for a consultation”, you should strive to update them for a better user experience. Some examples of more advanced calls-to-action are: click here for more information, sign up for a webinar, and view pricing.
  • Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly? – The advent of the Internet has birthed new technologies, most notably the smartphone. Almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays, so it’s important that your website be optimized for mobile. You can test this out yourself on your own smartphone, and ask yourself the following: when would someone go to my website on mobile? How is the experience on the website right now? Remember, mobile optimization is all about user experience, so your visitors should be able to navigate your website effortlessly and with ease. Check out the mobile category on our blog for more information.

One of the biggest considerations for a quality website is user experience. Most updates and new features are released to make the whole experience for visitors to your website easier, and more enjoyable and fluid. It’s a smart technique to garner more traffic to the website and, therefore, more potential customers. The content should be flattering and attention-grabbing, but not so flashy that users are turned off. There’s a delicate balance to making a user-friendly website, and getting it right will be so beneficial, not only for you, but also your new customers.

Choosing the Right Business Exit Strategy

A business exit strategy is a business owner’s plan to sell their investment in their company in order to either make a profit or limit losses, depending on the level of success of the business. A good entrepreneur will have already conceived their particular exit strategy and defined it in their business plan. This is because an exit plan may play a significant role in choices regarding business development. Business owners may choose from the following exit strategies and more:

 

  • Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) – An IPO is when a private company’s stock is made available to the public for the first time. This particular exit strategy is geared more toward smaller companies because they’re more likely to not offer stock and because of how few IPOs are successfully executed in one year in the U.S.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) – You may choose to sell to a buyer who wants to purchase the company for a specific reason, most often because they find that your company will make a good fit with their other existing business(es).
  • Management Buyout – This occurs when the current owner of a business decides to sell the company to his/her managers. This way, the managers are able to reap the rewards of owning a business, instead of just being employees. This is typical among larger corporations because of the exorbitant cost of purchasing a company.
  • Liquidation and close – This is a fairly simple exit strategy in which the owner decides to close up shop, so-to-speak, and sell everything to make a profit.

 

Whichever strategy you choose, it should be well thought-out and defined in your business plan. You should always consider how your exit strategy might affect your business decisions, and plan accordingly.

Top 5 Ways to Gauge Search Engine Results

Understanding the Google Search Results Page (SERP) is like trying to navigate the Atlantic Ocean without a map; there are so many new updates and algorithm changes you must stay on top of in order to surpass your competitors. Here are 5 tips on bettering your Search Engine Marketing:

  • Bounce Rate – Get an understanding of what it means to have a high and low bounce rate, and which one you should strive to attain. For example, single-page websites, like blogs, typically have a higher bounce rate than those with many pages within the site. If you’re looking to lower the bounce rate of your site, you should first look at your bounce rate from different angles. A healthy bounce rate for search ads is between 30-40%, and between 70-80% for display ads. Find out which one your website is and how you can attain those recommended bounce rates.

 

  • The Importance of SEO Page rank – To start, attaining a first-page ranking status is important because it makes your site more visible to people who search for your product or service. This usually means that your website will get more traffic than other sites with a lower ranking. The higher your website ranks in a search engine, like Google, the more traffic your website will receive, so you should aim to be #1 in Google search results. This, however, is easier said than done. Another key factor is how relevant your keywords are. Some keywords perform better than others, so take the time to carefully consider which keywords you want to use.

 

  • Is your Google My Business Listing Up-To-Date? – Google My Business is where you can create and manage your business listing(s) in the [Google] search engine. When users search for your business, a box will show up on the right side of the screen which displays the most relevant search result. The box features the name of the business, the location, telephone number(s), hours of operation, and even Google reviews from customers and clients who have had experience with that business. It is essential to keep this information up-to-date and accurate so that your business can be featured as the most relevant search result.

 

  • Audience & Traffic in your Target Market – The ability to reach your target market is essential to keeping up with the current marketing strategies. A good practice to ensure you’re appealing to the right audience is to do some research and understand who in the community can benefit from your product or service. It is wise to create appealing content, content that gets people interested in what you have to offer. Another modern idea is to include multimedia – graphics, visuals, and videos – with your content. Research has shown that users are able to retain more information with the help of visual aids.

 

  • Enhance User Experience (UX) – User experience will be a determining factor in your website’s bounce rate. If your website is too flashy or too complicated to use, users will be ultimately turned off, increasing your bounce rate. Your website should be intuitive enough so that visitors can navigate easily, yet have some personality, flair, and pizzazz so that people enjoy the time they spend on your website.

You should also strive to make your content mobile-friendly. This ties together the above-mentioned strategies to give your website a competitive edge in the fight to rank highest in search engine results.

Multicultural Marketing Strategies

With a constant influx of people from varying socioeconomic backgrounds residing in our communities, businesses should really begin the practice of marketing their products and services to these people for a variety of reasons. Multicultural marketing is an excellent strategy because you can communicate to your consumer base on their level, through their language, culture, traditions, religion, and many other factors. The benefits of connecting with your audience in this way is two-fold. First, you, as a business leader or owner, can expand your target audience to include people from many different walks of life. And second, the multicultural audience you attract will feel included and you can even give them a voice in the community as they make suggestions and recommendations on how your business can better serve the community or how to make a product better.

So, how can you market your business to reach these people? Maybe you should consider translating your website into another big language in the U.S., like Spanish. You should also take into consideration where in the U.S. your marketing ads reach and research the demographics of those areas. Is what you market, or rather the way you market it, offensive to other countries? For example, an issue of Sports Illustrated Magazine might feature a fit, young woman sporting a revealing bikini on the front cover. This standard of beauty, however ubiquitous and widely-accepted across the U.S. is not consistent throughout the entire world. So think of someway to redesign your ads to positively reach the maximum number of people. You should also keep in mind that ads which are successful here in the states may not work so well overseas. One of the most important things to remember is all the cultural differences that are actively present not only around the world, but also here in the U.S.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop Edition

Having trouble deciding between when to use QuickBooks Online and when to use Quickbooks Desktop? Did you even know that the two exist and that there are differences? Quickbooks Online is better for service-based businesses, whereas QuickBooks Desktop Edition is recommended for businesses that sell products. Desktop has more features, but Online is continuously adding new features. Desktop has been around since the ‘90s, and you have to download and install software and periodic updates. Although it is equipped with fewer features, the Online version of QuickBooks is a more contemporary version of the software; all you need is an Internet connection, no downloading and installing updates on software that takes up space on your hard drive.

As previously stated, the Online version is geared more toward businesses which provide a service and which do not incorporate inventory tracking.

The Online version has many advantages:

  • Your accountant and others may access your  Online account via a user I.D. and password you provide them.

 

  • Conduct transactions using a Mac, PC, or other mobile device.

 

  • Automatic Updates – Online automatically saves any changes you make, similar to the auto-save feature in Google Drive.

If yours is a product-based business, then Desktop may be a better choice for your business’ financial needs and responsibilities. The Desktop version offers the following features and many more:

  • Two Options for Tracking Inventory – Average Cost Method & FIFO (First In First Out), whereas the Online version only offers the FIFO Method.

 

  • Batch Invoicing – Send the same invoice to multiple clients for whom you performed the same service at the same price.

 

  • Industry-Specific Versions – For businesses that are one of the following: General Business, Contractor, Retail & Nonprofit, Professional Services, or Manufacturing & Wholesale, the Desktop version offers certain features depending on the category of business from the above-mentioned list.

 

Whatever the case, be sure to choose the right version of QuickBooks for your business.

Marketing Strategies Using Podcasts & Videos

In this day and age of ever-changing technology, incorporating podcasts and videos into your business marketing strategy is one of the best ways to expand your target audience.

The idea of podcasts has been around for over a decade now. What may have started out as a group of friends gathered in a room geeking out about their favorite sci-fi TV shows or movies to an unseen audience, has since morphed into the booming entertainment platform many of us use today. Over the years, both the sound quality and the quality of the content discussed have improved such that listeners regularly tune in to their favorite podcast series to get the latest scoop on what’s going on in the world. And what’s really good for businesses that attract new listeners to their podcast series is that if these new listeners enjoy the content you cover on one podcast, they will usually go back to the first podcast episode and binge from there. This helps you as a business build a long-standing fan base.

Similar to incorporating podcasts into your marketing strategy, videos are also a newer trend among smaller businesses looking to attract new viewers and reach their target audience. Now, while the concept of video is nothing new, using video as a marketing strategy is a fairly recent idea to promote your business and the products and/or services you offer. Video is a smart strategy, as many people tend to learn better with visual aids.

There are many benefits to incorporating videos and podcasts into your marketing strategy, including:

  • Boost your Brand Awareness – Taking the time to record a podcast or film a video about your specific products or services will attract consumers to your company. Research shows that many consumers are more inclined to buy a product when they see it in action, see how to use it or interact with it, rather than deciding whether or not to buy it based on still images and product reviews from other consumers.

 

  • Build your Online Presence – The use of podcasts and videos will facilitate in making a name for yourself and for your business on the Internet.

 

  • Show your Face and Personality – With videos, you can show consumers that you are a real person who cares about your company and the products/services provided.

 

  • Enhance Social Media Engagement – Uploading these podcasts and videos to your many social media accounts will garner more listeners and viewers, further expanding your audience.

Using podcasts and videos as your marketing strategy may very well be the way to go to expand and reach your target audience. Take advantage of the technology that exists, get your foot in the door early and let people know who you are and what you do.

Optimizing Communication with Customers

How does your company communicate with clients? Email, text, video conferencing, snail mail, or in-person contact are a few of the ways to do it. But are you doing it right and at the proper times? Business communication specialists recommend optimizing all the ways that you communicate so that clients have a positive experience regardless of the method. Let’s take a closer look at communicating with your consumers.

 

  • Email is a great communication tool because it allows the viewer to look at the communication when it is right for them, versus the need to reply to a phone call or instant message immediately. The urgency is lower with emails and they also allow for communication that can reach several parties, thus keeping everyone in the loop. One negative aspect of email is the vast amount of messages that most business people receive on a daily basis.
  • Phone – Sometimes when an issue needs close attention and immediate feedback, it is best to just pick up the phone. It allows for human contact and tells your client that you are handling the problem as you speak.
  • Newsletters – Whether done electronically or in paper form, these are still worthy of creating if you want to reach a
  • broad audience and hope to keep everyone on the same page or make announcements about new products or news.
  • Virtual Conferencing – Regardless of the platform you use, whether it is Google Hangout or Skype, seeing your client can take away all the guesswork of reading the mood and reception to an issue or problem. These conference calls are great with remote clients or clients in several locations.
  • Texting – If you need a quick answer that can be done in a few characters this may be the way to go, especially if you have just had contact with the client and you are already on the same page.

 

Regardless of which method you use to optimize communication with your clients, try to be aware of the positives and negatives of each method.

Common Mistakes of Start Ups

According to Forbes Magazine, 9 out of 10 start ups fails! Other studies, such as the Harvard Business Study, are more optimistic in stating that only 50 percent fail in the first year. They all agree, however, that making it past five years is a milestones that may mean you are solid enough to survive the horrible stats about start up survival. What are the stumbling blocks that make new businesses so risky? Well, honestly the list could go on forever, but here are a few of the more common mistakes of starting your own business:

 

  • Cash Problems – One of the largest mistakes new owners have in launching a successful small business is the cash issue. Running out of cash can have many causes including not understanding the market, losing investors, pricing problems, or financing issues.
  • Motivation – Starting a new company is possibly one of the most time-consuming and stressful events for any human being. Keeping the motivation going can be difficult, especially if key leadership dwindles or is also not motivated.
  • Product Problems – Many new companies rely on one or two services or products. If one of those fails, so does the company. New businesses need to broaden their offerings and target larger audiences to stay afloat.
  • Lack of Support – New businesses need employees and leadership personnel that are versatile and can handle many roles at once. Young companies many times do not have the cash flow to hire such individuals.
  • Failure to Handle Feedback – In our society and social media-crazed land, feedback on poor job performance is almost instantaneous. With numerous review sites, your company can be ruined with negative reviews or the inability to react swiftly to feedback from clients and employees.

 

There are numerous reasons why good companies go under. Continue to read our blog as we follow these reasons over the next few months.