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All posts by Mike Sperling

About Mike Sperling

Mike Sperling Bio 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.

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.

Increasing Cash Flow

Is your small business having problems with its finances – specifically with cash flow? Finding the answers to this common problem can be tough. Thankfully. there are some things that business leaders and owners can do to solve this issue and prevent it from recurring in the future. No matter your budget, there are always ways to increase your sales and grow your business. Here are a few ideas to get you started to increasing your cash flow:

  • Current Clients – Talk to your current clients who already know your business and have had positive experiences with you and your company. It’s much easier to upsell a client who already is familiar with your work, the quality of your product and services, and has already incorporated aspects of your services into their business.
  • Ask for Referrals – In addition to adding services or products for your current clients, ask them to provide you with client referrals. If you know that a client is satisfied and happy with your products, ask him or her for the names and contact information of other small business owners who might also benefit from working with you.
  • Re-evaluate your Pricing – When was the last time you looked at the pricing of your products or services? If your pricing is too affordable, you won’t be taken seriously. But if your pricing is too expensive, you will lose some business to competitors. Complete some careful research about the prices of your products as compared to competitors and how a price change may impact your business.
  • Create Incentives for Ontime Payments and penalties for late payments. Part of the problem with cash flow is the issue of clients paying late or missing payments. Create an incentive program for those who pay on-time or even early.
  • Re-evaluate your Assets. Is it time to look at underperforming services or products and pull them from your business? Consider what brings in the cash and what does not.

Facebook Advertising

The numbers are in and, believe it or not, Facebook is closing-in on 2 billion users! Due to this, Facebook’s unparalleled audience gives it an “insurmountable competitive advantage,” according to Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush. This competitive advantage means Facebook advertising is an excellent investment that will get your business, services, and products viewed by thousands daily, if not more!

Wondering how to get started on Facebook advertising? Here are a few things to consider:

What is the goal of your advertising campaign? Do you hope to meet new customers or hope to retarget the customers you already have? Do you plan to increase brand awareness or have consumers download your app or possibly click on an ad that brings them directly to your landing page? This decision will give your advertising campaign a goal that will be measurable.
Who do you hope to attract in the advertising? More specifically, who is the audience? With Facebook advertising you can choose: location, age, gender, or any number of demographics to target a certain group according to your campaign goals.
Decide on the location of your ads. Facebook offers different types and locations of ads that can increase traffic and bring brand awareness to your services and products.
What is your budget? Decide on a budget that is in keeping with your marketing strategy. With Facebook, your company can set a budget for daily clicks, pay-per-click, or other options. But first, decide on what you want your amount to be so that you can strictly adhere to it.
How do you want your ad to appear? Do you want one image, multiple images, or even a video that can highlight your business? Images can beautifully display your services and products, and can increase traffic to your website.

Once you have made some of these decisions log into your business page and get started on reaching your share of those 2 billion users!

The Business Logo

American society is filled with logos that shape our buying and encourage consumers to return to the same products time and again. I bet if I asked you to envision the logo for Nike, Lego, or FedEx that you would have no problem. Therefore the logo that your company uses is extremely important because it is the first thing a consumer sees when considering your business, service or product. The logo is the face of your brand. It should be easily recognized and tell the consumer something about your business and personality. Take for example, Apple. Most people recognize the one bite out of the apple regardless of color or size. It stands for innovation and the evolution of technology. Is your company’s logo easily recognized like Apple Corporation or do you still have work to do?

 

Here are a few tips for creating or choosing a logo that will fit your company.

  • Keep it Simple – The more detail the harder it will be to recognize. A simple concept will allow consumers to identify your brand quickly whether it is on digital media or print media.
  • Be Different – Obviously some big name brand companies are doing it right if they bring brand awareness with a logo. Do not copy them. Instead be unique and true to your brand, locale, and personality.
  • Be Relevant – If your business is a courier service certainly don’t pick a turtle as your logo but rather something that will tell the consumer about your speediness and accuracy.
  • Avoid Trendy – You want your logo to last a long time and be recognizable over many years. Avoid font types and colors that are popular now but many look dated in a few years.
  • Use Color – Many businesses are identifiable just by the color they show. For example, Coca-Cola is known for its red and white cans. Make your choice in keeping with your business.

 

Basics of Branding

Branding – Coca-Cola, Apple, and McDonalds know how to do it so well that consumers recognize colors and logos before they even see the product name. Branding is big business especially if you want clients to recognize your slogan, logo or color palette. Entrepreneur online states it best, “Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors.” Here are some basics that you should consider when it comes to branding your company, service or product.

  • Define – As a company define your brand. Decide on what your mission and goals are. Include a description on what your target audience is and how you plan to reach them. Define the benefits of your product/service as well as how you want people to view your business.
  • Create a Voice, Logo, Tagline and Color Palette – Each of these items will make your product or service easily recognizable and create a link to consumers every time they hear, see or identify with your business.
  • Build Your Brand – Key areas to consider are: your business name, the names of your products or services, any slogan you use, your logo, the style and quality of your stationery, product pricing and packaging, your premises, where and how you advertise, how you and your employees dress, how you and your employees behave and your company website.
  • Do Your Research – Find out what the competition does and do something to make your company stand out from the rest. Where does your business succeed and beat the competition and where does it fall short.
  • Review – Plan a regular review of how your brand is doing. Consider how consumers view your brand and how easily your service and products are recognized.

Common Issues of Start Ups

Starting your own company can be time consuming, stressful, and costly. On the other hand it can also be exhilarating! The idea of being your own boss and launching your own business can be the experience of a lifetime especially if it is something your feel passionately about. For many young entrepreneurs, starting a business is a mix of emotions. There will be hurdles to conquer and also successes to celebrate. Here are some of the more common issues that you should be aware of before you crack open the champagne for your newest business adventure.

  • Financing – Whether new businesses have done their research or not sometimes financing becomes the biggest problem. The market can fluctuate and lenders and/or investors can change the terms of agreements. Financing is one of the biggest issues most startups encounter so be sure to have your homework done about what things will cost and when you hope to turn a profit.
  • Marketing – If selling a product or service is your business be sure to have a solid marketing plan set before day one. This will take lots of research on the competition and what consumers really needs. Look at digital marketing and well as traditional print media.
  • Doing It All – As a new business owner there is a temptation to do it all from crunching the numbers as your own accountant to being the man who replaces the ink in the printer. Rely on people who can do things for you, which means hire the right people who can take on some of the responsibilities.
  • Location – Believe it or not the old adage of, “Location, Location, Location” applies to companies as well. Choose a location where your company can profit the most whether it is in a cost-effective, low rent building or on a main street where your name will be out there. Think before you chose a location.

Beef Up Your Resume

It is the age-old “Catch 22”: you need experience to get a job but can’t get experience without having a job!  This is a problem for many recent graduates who are out on the job hunt and finding that their resume just doesn’t have what it takes to land the job they want. Graduates often find that unless they had an internship or valuable experience while taking classes that their resume needs to be beefed up . . . (that is without lying). Here are a few ways to beef up your resume that may help you get the interview that you are shooting for.

  • Focus on Skills – While new graduates may not have a wide array of work experience they do have skills. Even workers who only have part time work experience or internship experience have started honing skills whether it is in customer service or a specialty in the field.
  • Focus on Academic Success – If you are a newly minted grad then you may find your resume thin on experience, so focus on what you have learned including the skills that were required to get through college. Many of your courses probably stressed project management, communication skills, independent working, gathering information from a variety of sources, distilling complex concepts into an accessible argument, clear writing skills and so on.
  • Show Your Motivation – Sure you may be “green”, but if you can show that you are a self starter you may be ahead of the pack. Show that you are gaining knowledge through interning, volunteering or shadowing someone in the field you hope to enter. This shows motivation and drive!
  • Highlight Technical Skills – Again, you may not have coveted experience but if you have technical skills that can help you land a job them list them on your resume. In fact, present links or examples that can show what you know.

Common Resume Mistakes

The ink is still drying on many college student’s diplomas and they are hard at work trying to land their first “real” job. They have completed their classwork, filled out numerous applications and have written a resume to impress the leaders of their chosen field. That resume is the first impression a company will get of the hopeful applicant. Make sure to cross your “T”s and dot all your “I”s before pressing submit or mailing in that resume. Here are just a few common resume mistakes you should avoid made when applying for your dream job.

 

  • Grammatical and Spelling Mistakes – Nothing says inexperience and lack of effort more than a resume that has not been edited and edited and checked and checked. Be sure to proofread the resume for all spelling and grammatical errors. In fact, you may want a job coach who has years of experience to look at your resume before you apply.
  • Using the Same Resume for Each Application – A resume should match the position you are trying to attain. Make a resume specific to the field and even the company that you are applying to. By using a generic resume you are not taking advantage of details from your skills and education that should be put front and center on each job application.
  • Being Too Wordy or Saying Too Much – Employers have limited time to get through the pile of resumes for each position. Get to the point and make it easy for the Human Resources Department to see what you excel at in a glance.
  • Not Being Yourself – While your resume should highlight your education, skills and strengths should also show your personality such as your volunteering. Interests, passions and drive. Discuss how you can do this with a job coach or professional resume writer.
  • Submitting Incorrect Information – We have all done it at some point or other. Make sure you check and double check that all dates, phone numbers and position titles are accurate. You really don’t want an HR representative questioning your accuracy. That would make for a not so good first impression and may take you out of the running all together.

Perils of Rebranding

How your clients and customers perceive your brand can mean a lot for your bottom line. If your color palette. logo, tagline and perception of your product or services is rebranded sloppily you may encounter trouble. While rebranding may be a fresh start it also have several perils that entrepreneurs need to be aware of and avoid at all costs.

 

  • Know Why – Knowing why you are setting out to rebrand your service or product is important. You need valid reasons of why you are changing your logo, tagline or color palette in order to do it successfully. Having valid reasons for scrapping your old brand awareness and building a new one will keep you focused.  
  • Consult the Public and Employees – If your employees are not on board and your customers are confused, you may encounter some resistance on your quest to rebrand your image. Be sure to consult both groups before you start a rebranding campaign.
  • Backlash – Avoid alienating your loyal customers if you are trying to rebrand. Backlash can mean customers miss the old way of doing things and how your company was perceived. Think about how customers revolted when Coca Cola reworked its slogan and cola formula to reach new customers. Epic failure.

 

Check out these companies that failed at rebranding their products from Coca Cola, tropicana orange juice or The Gap.