How to Establish a Marketing Budget in the Current Climate

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Given that small businesses are not blessed with huge financial resources, it is imperative that they invest their capital in line with a strategic vision. This should be applied across all commercial disciplines, but particularly those that are capable of delivering significant ROI (such as marketing).

According to a new study, however, managerial and strategic errors cause SMEs to inadvertently waste 25% of their paid search budgets, while others simply fail to create a viable budget in the first place.

With this in mind, it is imperative that your SME creates a detailed and accurate marketing budget before spending a single penny. Here are some steps that can help you to achieve this objective:

Start With Establishing Clearly Defined Marketing and Business Goals

While establishing a budget may be pivotal to your endeavours, it is difficult to achieve this without having a clear idea of your marketing goals and how they empower you to accomplish long-term business objectives. This will enable you to determine a justifiable marketing spend, while also ensuring you have the means to invest in other areas of the business as required.

Additionally, this creates context for your clearly-defined business objectives and helps you to achieve them more effectively. If you decide that you want your business to grow by as much as 20%, for example, you will need to identify complementary marketing goals that allow you to target new customer segments across various platforms.

This will also indicate the scale of your marketing strategy, and the resources you will need to bring it to life.

Once all of your business and marketing-centric goals have been clearly outlined, you can begin to create a realistic and viable budget.

Understand the Basic Rules of Creating a Marketing Budget

As you can probably tell at this stage, the size and scale of your marketing budget will be largely influenced by your core commercial objectives.

With that being said, it is also recommended that you adhere to the fundamental rules of creating a marketing budget (along with the guidelines that are suggested for businesses of variable sizes).

For example, as a general rule it is recommended that small, start-up ventures that are less than five years old invest between 12% and 20% of their gross revenue on marketing disciplines. Interestingly, this is more than larger and more established companies are advised to spend on marketing, with companies of this type likely to invest between 6% and 12% of their gross revenue.

The reason for this is simple, as SMEs and new ventures are looking to build brand awareness and claim a viable market share. In contrast, established firms can minimise their spend as they have a fixed market share that they can target, as they leverage the fact that it is five-times more expensive to acquire new customers than retain existing ones.

Allocate Funds to the Various Elements of Your Marketing Budget

We have already touched on PPC and paid advertising earlier in the article, but this is one of many marketing elements that will make-up your overall marketing strategy. While these will be combined as part of an integrated and tactical plan that drives your marketing spend, each must be allocated an individual amount to ensure that you get the most from your capital.

There are two further considerations to keep in mind here. Firstly, you should understand the customer segments that sit at the heart of your business, as this will influence the channels that you use to reach them. Similarly, you will need to identify universally popular channels that deliver the best ROI, so that you can make an informed decision when allocating funds.

In terms of the latter, the Forrester Research Group has published a digital marketing forecast across all B2B sectors in the U.S highlighting where capital will be spent in the near-term.

Intriguingly, email marketing, social, search marketing and display will all see increased expenditure during the next years, as the average digital marketing spend exceeds £1 billion. In most instances, these tactics should therefore play a pivotal role in your marketing budget, alongside less strategic elements such as PPC and traditional advertising.

On a final note, you should also conduct competitor research to allocate your marketing spend. This not only offers an insight into best practice, but it also highlights how much you will need to spend in order to achieve specific goals.

Consider Implementation Costs

At this stage, you will have an informed budget that has been allocated to specific marketing disciplines. The final step requires you to factor in the variable costs of implementation, as you look to secure the specific skills that can execute your campaigns.

Given the increasingly diverse nature of contemporary marketing, most firms will combine the skills of their in-house team with external contractors. While the former will include permanent employees who can offer strategic insight and management skills, the latter will be hired on a temporary basis and according to the demands of each individual project. Your cost base will therefore vary at different times, but it at least contributes to a more accurate budget.

Freelancers and external specialists may also be required to handle the more technical elements of your campaigns, including outbound marketing, SEO and even content creation. Given that the average asset that ranks on the first page of Google contains an estimated 1,890 words, for example, it is little wonder that even SMEs outsource their content creation and marketing needs.

The key is to minimise these implementation costs without compromising on execution, so you will need to perform an audit on the skills that exist in your marketing team. You must then consider the best and most cost-effective way to augment these skills, while identifying the main areas where external help will be required.

The Last Word

So there you have it; four key steps towards establishing a viable marketing budget in 2017. By following these and maintaining a core understanding of your businesses needs and financial limitations, you can create a realistic budget that also enables you to realise your goals.

6 Top Tips For Choosing Your Website Domain Name

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Choosing your domain name wisely is essential. It’s your identity.

For something that has a minimal outlay, your domain name has tremendous power. So how do you choose it? Follow our 6 top tips for choosing a powerful domain name.

1. Brand First

As a start-up, branding is everything. You are competing against a sea of noise. You need to stand out.

Your chosen domain name must reflect your brand name, be memorable and easily recognisable. So, scrap any hyphens and make it simple.

2. Think Concise

No one is going to remember a domain name that’s long and bulky. It needs to be snappy and succinct.

For example, if you run an electronics shop called Rob’s Electronics Warehouse & Store then you might imagine that your domain would be something like:

‘www.robselectronicswarehouseandstore.com’

…but this is far too cluttered and isn’t memorable. A good domain name would be a simplified version, such as:

‘www.robselectronics.com’

Additionally, if your business name is long and you can’t simplify it into a shorter more succinct domain name then it may be worth condensing it into an acronym.

For example, if Rob didn’t want to shorten his business name then an alternative domain name option would be to condense ‘Rob’s Electronics Warehouse & Store’ into:

‘www.rews.com’

However, if you do decide to condense your domain name you need to be confident that your consumers will recognise and associate your business with the acronym that you’ve used (this can be something that can be achieved within your wider marketing strategy).

3. Say It Out Loud

You might have some incredible ideas bouncing around in your mind, but before you become fixated on a domain name, say it out loud. Pop it in some random sentences and see how easily it rolls off the tongue. This will underline how memorable it is.

4. Choosing the right domain extension

Choosing the right domain extension will depend on the type of website that you are launching. Domain extensions can often go overlooked but they are incredibly important to signal to Google what Internet category or country code you operate in.

.com domains have become the most commonly used extensions for commercial businesses but there are plenty more which you should be aware of, some other top-level extensions for you to consider are:

    .org for organization
    .gov for government
    .edu for all educational institutions
    .int for international organisations
    .mil for military
    .net for a network

There are also country code domain extensions, these are ideal if you plan to target your business to one specific country, for example:

    .co.uk for UK-based businesses
    .com.es for Spanish-based businesses
    .com.au for Australian-based businesses

5. Be Flexible

All of the above is all very well, until you see that the domain name you have your heart set on is not available. This is not the case every time but it does often happen.

If the domain name that you want is not available because it has already been bought then you may discover you need to refine, be creative, and definitely be flexible. Many domain name providers have automatic idea generators should you need some pointers.

6. Don’t Stop At One

Yes, it’s quick, easy, and cheap to get one domain name. However, if you really want to ring-fence your brand then you need to future-proof your domain name. If you can, you should try to get hold of a range of different domain extensions and similar domain names – make them yours, and stop others from cashing in on your success.
Summary: Choosing Your Domain Name

Choosing your domain name is just one of the steps to building a website from scratch, and even though it may seem like a minimal task that doesn’t need much thought, it really is the opposite. Your domain name should not be overlooked, you should pay extreme attention to it and choose carefully.

Remember to put your brand first, be concise, simple, memorable and flexible, and to choose your extension wisely.

5 Pieces of Legal Advice That Small Business Owners Should Know

If you are going to be running a small business anytime soon, then you are going to have to know some important things about the law. As with any business out there, small or large, you must obey the law and you must understand what your legal obligations are. However, of course, you don’t have to do this on your own. There are plenty of attorneys for small businesses who can help you understand what you need to know about legalities as a business. Keep reading down below to learn about these top things and how you can get the right attorneys on your side to push your business forward in a legal way.

  1. Don’t underestimate how much you’re going to have to pay in legal fees

Of course, you’re going to have to pay out legal fees if you want to get the help you need to keep your business safe. And many small business owners just don’t budget enough into their monthly and annual budgets for legal fees. Never underestimate how much you’re going to have to pay out to attorneys and for various other legal fees. You have got to make sure there is enough money set aside in this fund to keep you and your business safe and prosperous.

  1. Make sure you get the right attorneys on your side for the variety of legal tasks you have to get done

You don’t just have to follow one law in the books to keep your business safe. You are going to have to follow multiple laws across a whole spectrum of legal fields. That’s why you have got to figure out which attorneys that you need for the variety of legal services that are required of your business. For example, you might need an attorney to figure out which licenses you need to get your business running. Or you might need an attorney to help you in a case of your worker’s injury on the job. Each of these tasks is going to take specialization on the side of the attorney.

  1. Don’t break any laws and operate in a safe manner

Of course, one of the first steps to operating a small business is ensuring that you are operating in a safe and legal manner. If you think something is against the law and you have a bad feeling about some kind of business transaction, then most likely it is. If you are completely unsure of what to do, then be sure to consult the right attorney who can help you make the best decision. You definitely don’t want to get into any sort of legal trouble, as this is going to cost your business a ton of money and could even put you out of business in the end.

  1. Ensure that you are operating under the right licenses and accreditations

When you first start out your business, you’ve got to get everything set up. And depending on what industry you might find yourself in, you are going to need to get certain licenses and accreditations on your side. Make sure that you properly research what licenses you require, consult with your attorney, and get those licenses under your belt.

  1. Know that you’re going to have to put a lot of time into this

When you are starting up a small business and obeying the law in all ways, you should know that you’re going to have to put time and effort into this. It’s not going to happen overnight and you are not going to find success right away. Make sure that you know how much time you have got to put into this and budget enough of that time.

There you have it. Going through the legal hurdles necessary to your business can be a tough and challenging thing. However, when you know the above points, this is going to make your life a bit easier.

Using Live Interactive Broadcasting to Grow Your Business

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Video continues to play a vital role in every business’s online marketing, with immense potential to boost your reach and consumer engagement. Watching videos accounts for one third of the time people spend on the internet, and this is only expected to keep growing in coming years.

Live broadcasting takes video further, enabling viewers to interact with businesses in real time. How can companies like yours use this to improve your online performance?

Hosting Live Broadcasts from Big Events

Visiting a high-profile trade fair, conference, expo, or launch event? This is an ideal opportunity to get a peek at upcoming trends, meet influential figures, and generate leads.

Not everyone will be able to attend, but your business can share an exclusive insight into events of all sizes by broadcasting to these people live. This is more engaging, more instant, and more exciting than any blog post or press release you may normally distribute following an event.

Your viewers will effectively be at the venue alongside you, seeing new products, thought-leaders, and other features they’re unable to in person. They can request you drop by a certain booth, ask special guests specific questions, or simply direct you around the location.

Rather than just watching a recorded video, they’re getting involved directly. You can also cover your own business’s role at the event, advertising your upcoming releases or concepts in a subtle way; hammering the point home will only chase viewers away.

Sharing How Your Products are Developed

Certain products fascinate consumers. The latest smartphones, tablets, or labor-saving tool can capture your customer’s’ imagination, and videos detailing their creation can pique  their interest further.

However, give them a live interactive broadcast rather than a dry scripted video: take them down to the factory floor or lab to watch your products come together in real time.

You will build a greater bond of trust with such a transparent approach, as consumers may be skeptical of heavily-edited videos, and your customers can ask questions of your host or your employees to learn more. This helps you to deliver the information they really want and minimize wasted time.

Live interactive broadcasting is at its most effective when your videos are crisp and clear, accessible to viewers across the globe. Popular video platforms like Skype may be well-known and trusted, but common technical problems may cause irritation in the long run. Go for a service with stronger connections instead.

Take Customers on Behind-the-Scenes Tours

Following on from the above, taking your customers on a behind-the-scenes tour allows you to lift the curtain on certain aspects of your business. It’s understandable that you want to keep specific areas secret, and viewers will understand that, but this is ideal to add more personality to your brand.

You can open these real-time live interactive tours by asking viewers which departments or locations they want to visit first, and elaborate on the importance of each as you approach. For example, if you take them to meet your design team, introduce them and ask if they can explain a little of their current work.

Tours behind the scenes might cover such diverse topics as your advertising, your web design, your product packaging, and your admin. Make it fun and dynamic by inviting viewers to share their thoughts, ask questions, and offer suggestions.

Broadcast Live Training Videos

Most of us know how frustrating it can be to buy a product and struggle through the set-up process. Instruction manuals may be filled with jargon or make things seem more complicated than they need to, only adding to the irritation.

Recorded how-to videos are often uploaded to manufacturers’ websites or on YouTube, but what if these are too quick or vague? Customers are forced to seek help from unofficial sources or contact your customer service department, possibly at their expense.

By broadcasting live training videos in real time, your in-house experts can educate customers on a product’s entire range of features and functions. They will be able to take questions from viewers and share insightful demonstrations, clearing up common points of confusion.

Training videos can be recorded and separated into different parts based on their subject, and added to your website for future reference.

Share Real-Time Interviews with Leading Figures

Interviewing a thought-leader or notable figure in your industry can educate and entertain your customers, and live interactive broadcasting transforms scripted conversations into more fluid, engaging videos instead. Invite viewers to submit their own questions and encourage them to ask what they really want to.

This technique allows you to bring your viewers into the interview with you, giving them the power to influence the line of questioning. You might prefer to ask customers to send questions in ahead of the interview, as well as throughout, to avoid awkward periods as you wait for them to start flowing.  

Depending on the figure you choose to interview, your live interactive broadcasts may incorporate product demonstrations or visual aids, adding more dynamism and exploring topics as per viewers’ requests.

Live interactive broadcasting has real potential to make your business more engaging, inviting customers to get involved with your brand and showcase the creative characters behind your company. With just a smartphone and an app, you can broadcast to the world in real time, boosting your visibility and demonstrating your commitment to interacting with customers.

Have you thought about how this could help your business get ahead?

10 Tips for Improving Teamwork in the Workplace

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It’s obvious to see that an organization benefits when its employees are working together synergistically.

Good teamwork helps to build morale in the workplace, which makes workers more productive and ultimately improves profits. For organizations that have excellent teamwork, problem-solving is easier – since people with different skills and knowledge will work together to produce a creative solution.

Without good teamwork in the workplace, it’s difficult to progress as a business – which can result in stagnation and loss of market share. In fact, 86% of employees and executives state that workplace failures are a direct result of a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication.

If you want your employees to work together and produce great results, here are some tips to improve teamwork within your organization.

1. Encourage Informal Social Events

Although formal team building events are encouraged in certain HR manuals, a simple Google search for “bad team building experiences” will provide you with a litany of horrors.

From bathing naked with managers to nearly being trampled to death by horses, there are limitless stories online of employees being coerced into doing things they don’t want to do.

Forcing people to participate in compulsory team building activities is, ironically, detrimental to good teamwork. What’s fun for an HR manager might be degrading for an employee, and the last thing you should want is for resentment to grow among your staff.

Instead of imposing team building from the top down like a ruthless dictator, it’s more effective to allow teams to build organically. Plenty of people would have a problem with being forced to perform a humiliating haka in imitation of the New Zealand rugby team, but most people are okay with a glass of wine and a nice meal at a restaurant.

In low-pressure, informal surroundings, team members can get to know each other and form bonds which will carry over into the office.

Instead of budgeting for elaborate team building events, you can budget for low key social meet ups. This will save you a lot of money and will produce better results in terms of teamwork and morale.

2. Clarify Roles

If there is any ambiguity regarding roles and responsibilities, it’s impossible for people to work together effectively. Even worse, you may end up with situations where workers are unfairly delegating their work to others – which creates resentment.

To combat this, it’s important for roles and responsibilities to be clearly documented. This documentation should be available for all to see via the organization’s intranet, so people can refer back to it if there is a clash of opinions regarding obligations.

To avoid confusion, each new employee should be referred to this document as part of their onboarding process. This is especially important when onboarding remote workers, since they won’t have the option of face-to-face communication to clear up any immediate questions regarding responsibilities.

While it’s not essential for workers to know the exact responsibilities of every person in the organization, workers should be crystal clear about the responsibilities of their immediate team mates.

You may wish to create a handbook for each team in the organization, detailing objectives, roles, and projects. For common tasks which involve multiple team members, workflow images help greatly in clarifying how and when each individual should contribute.

For example, this workflow image from the internal handbook of an infographic design agencydescribes the process involved in creating an infographic. It clearly indicates when the content writer, editor, and designer should contribute to the project.

3. Specify Goals

All employees should be clear on the long-term goals of the organization. This should be covered during the onboarding process for new employees and regular updates should be made via company meetings.

If the organization doesn’t have clearly defined, measurable goals – then it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page. If everyone knows that the organization’s goal is to generate 10 million USD in revenue for the year, this will influence all team communications and keep everyone moving in the same direction.

With goals for the organization clearly stated, you can now set goals for individual teams.

Your content team might have the goal of doubling website traffic and producing two blog posts per week (which equates to 104 blog posts per year). Because the goals are specific and measurable, it’s obvious if the team is on track or not.

When you have clear goals to work towards, communications become streamlined and teamwork becomes purposeful.

4. Reward Excellent Teamwork

One of the best ways to build camaraderie in the workplace is to give formal recognition for employee achievements. One of the best things to praise your employees for is excellent teamwork.

If an individual goes above and beyond their role to help the organization as a whole, ensure that they feel appreciated for their efforts. Also remember to appreciate employees who go out of their way to help others in need, even if this doesn’t correlate with business goals.

Showing gratitude for altruistic behavior is an excellent way to create an awesome, friendly culture. When you have a workplace where people are rewarded for helping one another, teamwork will naturally improve.

Recognition can come in the form of kind words from a direct manager, or perhaps a photo in the company’s internal newsletter with a description of the achievement.

5. Don’t Micro-manage

If you treat your employees like children who can’t be expected to work like unsupervised adults, don’t expect them to work together like an effective team! In order for teamwork to flourish, respect is required.

It’s important to specify goals, set deadlines and give employees all the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities, but when you micro manage, employees will be less inclined to work effectively and more inclined to do what’s required to please their direct manager.

Even if an employee is fully committed to the organization, they will never perform to the best of their abilities if they have someone breathing down their neck.

As an alternative to micromanaging, build a culture of trust, respect and honesty. If you create a wonderful culture, teamwork will naturally flourish.

6. Establish Effective Communications

Your workers don’t have to become best friends in order to work effectively with one another, but practicing good communication is important.

From a practical perspective, you can improve workplace communications by publishing an official communications policy and introducing new employees to it during their onboarding process. This policy should mention ideal channels of communication for specific scenarios, how to communicate with people who’re not native English speakers, why you should avoid technical jargon and so forth.

From a cultural perspective, the management team should lead by example and demonstrate good communication. A great way to do this is to encourage managers to listen carefully to their subordinates and solicit honest feedback.

If managers are behaving in ways that make life difficult for their teams, but people are too scared to speak up due to the risk of being fired – this will create a problem. In order for a team to work together, communications need to be open and genuine.

In a survey of workers in the United Kingdom, 42% stated they have left a job in the past because of a bad manager. Encouraging feedback helps to improve communications but also reduces employee turnover.

If your managers can’t take honest criticisms without feeling personally attacked, they may not be suitable for managerial roles!

7. Celebrate Individuality

Remember the saying: “there is no “I” in team”? This philosophy would be appropriate in the industrial era when workers were replaceable and all processes were systemized.

Denying the individuality of your workers is a bad idea if you want to keep them engaged. People have different personality types, skills and preferred ways of working.

In a study by Aachen University in Germany, it was found that 10% of people are early risers, 20% of people are true night owls and the other 70% fall somewhere in the middle. Despite evidence that genetics play a significant role in our body clocks, most organizations are tailored to early risers.

Similarly, ask any introverted employee what they think about working in an open-plan office and you’re likely to get a brutal response.

Ironically, forcing everyone to work in the same open-plan office environment, on the same time schedule is not going to improve teamwork. When you allow employees to work in the ways that make them the most productive, teamwork will naturally improve.

Encouraging flexible working practices such as remote work, creating quiet workspaces within your office and respecting the individuality of each worker will help to boost engagement, teamwork and employee retention.

8. Use Project Management Tools

Embracing flexible working practices can dramatically improve teamwork, but only if you use the right tools.

Fortunately, with tools such as Zoho Projects, Basecamp, Asana, Slack and LiquidPlanner, your team members can communicate and collaborate effectively without the need for face-to-face interactions.

While email and instant messaging can be great for keeping people on the same page, you might want to host a weekly video conference so that team members can communicate via a more intimate channel.

Check out this resource for a comprehensive list of project management tools.

9. Get Feedback From Everyone

Oftentimes, great ideas can come from unexpected places. In order to achieve the long-term goals of the business, it’s wise to solicit ideas and feedback from all roles within the organization – from the receptionist to the CEO.

Brainstorming sessions can be great for generating ideas, but there are some disadvantages. Sometimes, the people who provide the most contribution are the ones who’re naturally outgoing and talkative – rather than the ones with the best ideas!

To solve this, open as many feedback channels as possible. Some employees will deliver excellent insights during one-to-one meetings with their managers, whereas others may prefer to voice their opinions using an anonymous feedback box.

If everyone within the organization can deliver meaningful feedback using their preferred channel, and it’s obvious that management takes this feedback seriously and makes appropriate changes – this creates an excellent workplace culture where everyone feels valued.

When people feel valued, they work together more effectively.

10. Hire Wisely

Most organizations suffer from terrible, ineffective hiring processes. Ultimately, your hiring process should be used to predict how well a new recruit will help your business to achieve its long-term vision.

Instead, interviews usually accomplish very little other than making the interviewer feel superior by asking ridiculous questions such as: “If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?”

While it’s time most organizations completely overhauled their hiring process, one incremental improvement would be to involve more team members that the new hire is set to work with.

Your HR manager may be looking for very different criteria than the new recruit’s team members. If a person ticks all the boxes in terms of skills and culture, but there are potential personality clashes with team members, this will do more harm than good when the new employee arrives.

Every person that a new hire works with on a daily basis should be able to voice their opinion regarding the hiring process – not just the recruit’s direct manager.
Conclusion

Teamwork isn’t something that we can forcefully impose upon our workers. Instead, good teamwork will naturally occur when there is a healthy workplace culture, where employees are treated as individuals and open communication is celebrated.

There’s no need to be dogmatic and stick to management principles that were effective 100 years ago. By taking whatever steps are necessary to get the most out of each employee as an individual, you will also get the best performance from your teams.

8 Ways the Cloud Could Help Your Business Be Better

Everyone most likely has already heard of the cloud and how innovative and forward cloud technology is for almost any task. Well, the best decision you could make for your company is to integrate your operations within the cloud in some way. Instead of the old model of data storage and software functionality, with a physical hard drive, the cloud takes the information and keeps in stored remotely on another server. Here are eight reasons why this model could help your business do even better this year.

1. Stronger Security

Cybersecurity is one of the biggest concerns that small business owners have in today’s world. Even if you update your computer hardware at your business every few years, you’re still not keeping up with the latest trends in hacking and computer viruses. Large corporations keep up with the criminals’ pace by having dedicated teams of cybersecurity experts. Smaller companies can get a better handle on things and keep their data more secure if they use a cloud-based server with a solid reputation.

2. Smoother Communication

Your business can also benefit from much better communication with a cloud solution for your computer technology. Communication is the key to working more efficiently and making better decisions. The cloud gives every stakeholder a way to open the same file or software type, no matter where they are located in the world. This way, if you have a burning question for your team about the latest project, but you’re out of town, it doesn’t have to wait.

3. Easier Access

Having access to company resources is another key point that keeps a business productive. With the cloud, your staff has guaranteed access to essential files and applications. Whether you’re operating small business phone systems or an intricate network of proprietary software, the cloud can keep every member of your team in the loop about the project. The cloud is also open at any time of day, no matter what the hour is. It never takes a holiday and is available no matter what type of schedule your physical business maintains.

4. Improved Productivity

Improving productivity has always been a key goal of business owners throughout history. Well, now with cloud-based hosting solutions and software options, productivity can finally increase in a significant way. It’s simple. Employees have the tools they need, no matter where they are. Remote workers can work at a pace that is more natural for their work style, giving you more results.

5. Better Portability

In nearly all industries that rely on computers and internet technology, the cloud has also introduced the idea of portability in work. As early as a decade ago, it was more common for tech workers to have to report to a physical location each day. Generally, this was where the main computer servers and data storage centers were located. Now, with the internet and the prevalence of cloud servers and remote data options, your employees can work almost anywhere in the world. You can also have your company offices nearly anywhere since it’s so easy to access a cloud-based service.

6. Faster Results

Business models across industries also have seen faster results because of more cloud options. Call centers with virtual business PBX technology have helped customer service hubs revolutionize the way they receive and expedite calls. Customers are getting what they need, faster, and with more convenience.

7. Less Downtime

A cloud-based solution for your company could also help you avoid business downtime. Most cloud services are routinely and seamlessly updated throughout the month so service is rarely interrupted. If your company still has the large data center within your corporate headquarters, downtime can vary. Issues such as weather, personnel, or technology breakdowns could impact service throughout the company.

8. Lower Costs

Finally, the biggest benefit to choosing a cloud-based service is cost. If you get rid of the physical space that’s needed to host a network of servers, you end up with a completely revamped physical space plan for your company. You’ll use less real estate to house machines and people to fix and operate those machines, saving you money.

No matter what type of business you run, the cloud has the potential to offer you some benefits. Take the time to see what options are available for you and your field with a cloud-based service.

Starting a New Business Off on the Right Foot

Starting a new business is often a huge undertaking. Seeking out tips, insight and information in order to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible may be well worth the time and effort involved. From creating the right business plan to anticipating the many different financial concerns that new businesses and startups typically encounter, effective preparation can really pay off. The following concerns highlight some of the most important decisions that must be made in order to maximize the chances that new startups will be able to enjoy greater success.

Choosing the Right Industry

Selecting an industry that may offer greater opportunities for new business may seem like a pretty basic idea, but it is a concern that many new-business owners often overlook. It is not uncommon for new businesses to be based around a core idea, one that may not always be well timed in terms of consumer trends, market forecasts and events that may have a lasting impact across an entire industry. Testing the waters prior to making any big decisions and assessing forecasts and speculation regarding a particular niche or market can provide potential business owners with useful insight regarding whether to act on an idea or to shelve it until a more opportune time.

Crafting a More Detailed Business Plan

A good business plan serves as a road map, one that may be used to avoid many potential pitfalls, obstacles and complications which may be lurking just over the horizon. More in-depth, detailed and comprehensive planning and preparation efforts can often make the difference between a successful startup and a failed venture. Even the most promising new businesses can flounder due to poor planning and those who may be considering starting a new company or venture would do well to ensure that they will be working with the right business plan.

Addressing Financial Concerns

From raising enough starting capital to ensuring that operational expenses can be handled until a new venture becomes profitable, there are numerous financial concerns that prospective business owners may need to consider. Lacking the accounting skills or financial experience needed to deal with such matters can often become a real problem. New business owners may wish to consider the pros and cons of creating their own accounting process and the potential benefits of outsourcing bookkeeping services for small business owners are often significant. Access to the greater insight, guidance and range of solutions that only a professional can bring to the table can often be a real asset for new startups, especially those that may lack the resources needed to staff their own financial department.

Seeking Out the Best Employees

A well-trained staff can often be a critical asset, especially for smaller organizations that may already be struggling just to establish themselves. First-time business owners often make the mistake of attempting to do everything themselves and many end up missing out on a great deal. Finding the right professionals to fill key positions, hiring employees who will be both energetic and dedicated and ensuring that a lack of manpower is less likely to become a problem can all make a tremendous difference. Staffing-up ahead of a launch or expansion effort can provide startups and smaller businesses with the edge they have been seeking.

Adapting to Changing Circumstances

Failing to anticipate change or being unable to adapt to new circumstances could prove to be nothing short of a disaster for new startups. Small businesses that prioritize flexibility are often far more likely to deal with problems or issues that may develop or to pursue new opportunities as they arise. Failing to assess the effectiveness of their operational process or to change and update a business plan as new information become available could place new ventures at a serious disadvantage. Adaptability can be of paramount importance when it comes to ensuring a new business is more likely to succeed.

How Can An Accountant Can Help To Grow Your Business?

Whether you use accountants in Manchester, London or one that works remotely from a different country, an accountant is an important and valuable asset to any business. But, how much do you use the input of your accountant to drive your business forward?

1 Forecasting and Budgeting

For any business to survive, let alone thrive, it needs to break even or, even better, post a profit. Losing sight of your finances is not a great way to run or to grow a business. An accountant is a specialist with the knowledge to guide you in many key financial areas including forecasting and budgeting.

· Forecasting – this is a financial guestimate based on past performance and taking into account current market conditions, as well as other factors, that predict what the next few months or years could hold for your business in terms of financial pressures and opportunities.

· Budgeting – if you spend more than you make, the shortfall and the results will be catastrophic. In the short term, your business may be able to shoulder this but without proper budget setting and monitoring, your business is doomed to fail.

2 Identify KPIs

Financial success is not the only measure of success potential customers and stakeholders are interested in. what key performance indicators (KPIs) show that your business is on a sound footing and the one to do business with?

Accountants have the ability and the knowledge to be able to pull these KPIs from your business. It could be the increased turnover of products on your production line to improving rates of delivery and efficiency.

3 Cash Flow Projections

Cash flowing in and out of your business must be monitored but more importantly, understood. It is a sad state of affairs but many businesses that have gone to the wall have done so because cash flow was stuttering and stagnant. As well as chasing customers for payment, you also need to project where bottlenecks in cash flow could present a problem.

Again, an accountant with their finger on the pulse of your business could project this information, helping you to determine when sticky patches could arrive.

4 Industry Benchmarks

You are not the only business to dominate your sector. Remaining competitive is about pushing ahead with products and services, offering something more, bigger, better than you main competitors.

Developing your business is key and that means working ON your business, as well as chasing more orders, bigger orders and more customers. What you may not have a chance to do is to spend time understanding how your competitors are operating, the KPIs they are hitting and so on.

An accountant with their finger on the pulse of your business and the marketplace is a valuable resource for you. They can measure your business against others, determine your current position and suggest changes that will make your business financially more in tune with the market place.

5 Value Your Business

Raising capital is essential for many businesses to grow and develop. Essentially, part of this process is letting potential investors know key information, from the value of your business on the open market today and its project value with growth in the future.

Do you really know how much your business is worth? Your accountant can provide financial information in a way that makes sense.

6 Becomes Part of Your Management Team

Finally, whether you bring an accountant in-house or continue to outsource to leading accountants, an accountant is a valuable and specialist asset to the management team of your business. They have the specialist financial knowledge, from corporate tax to cash flow projections and more that your business – and your team – needs in order to grow and steer your business to success.

Effective Online Reputation Management: 6 Reasons To Monitor Mentions

Effective online reputation management requires observation, speed and data selection. To succeed online, you need to listen to what your customers are talking about, monitor what your competitors are doing, and predict where your industry is going. Although this may seem overwhelming, mention tracking is a quick way to overcome all of these challenges.

With this article, I will walk you through 6 reasons to monitor mentions, and actionable tips for effective online reputation management using mention tracking. In detail, you will learn how to:

Keep in mind, the starting point for monitoring is to fine-tune a tool that will help you to find mentions online.

To save you hours of tedious work and help you to achieve all the goals listed above, we created the Brand Monitoring tool, which has grown into a powerful online reputation management solution. Setting up the tool will take you 1-2 minutes.

Most mention monitoring tools work with keywords, and a keyword type fully depends on your final goal. Read on and check the infographics below to find out what to track in your specific case.

When you are ready, first go to the Brand Monitoring tool and type in your keywords.

Set up Brand Monitoring tool

If needed, narrow down your search by including or excluding additional keywords. Then select the language or country you would like to track your mentions in. Finally, you can opt to receive an email report at a given time, but we will get back to that later.

Now, let’s move to reasons to monitor mentions and actionable tips to empower your brand online.

Tip 1: Use Your Competitors’ Best Practices

Use your competitors' best practices using mention tracking

Tracking your competitors’ mentions will help you to understand what works for them and apply their best practices for your brand. Start with checking the most popular resources and authors talking about your competitor, and reach out to them to tell them about your products or services.

Here is how you can do it using the Brand Monitoring tool:

  • Set up two campaigns — the first one for your brand, and the second for your competitor’s brand. Go to the ‘Statistics’ tab to compare the overall number of your competitor’s mentions against your brand’s mentions within a specific time period.

Brand Monitoring statistics tab

  • Scroll down to ‘Top Domains’ to find websites that mention your competitor and don’t mention your brand. Pay special attention to those that put backlinks to your competitor’s website by switching ‘Mentions’ to ‘Backlinks’ on the top left. Study each source and check its monthly traffic to find the most authoritative sites.

Brand Monitoring top domains

  • To find relevant forums and influencers, go to the ‘Mentions’ tab and select ‘Forums’ on the top left.

Brand Monitoring mentions on forums

  • Tag mentions from preferred resources and authors so that you can find them quickly later using filtering by custom tag.

Tip 2: Get Insights From Your Customers

Get insights from your customers with mention tracking

By monitoring what your customers are saying about you, you can better relate to them and so see how your brand is viewed from their perspective to find out what they love, hate or feel is lacking in your product. Their conversations will give you valuable insights about what can be improved in your product or changed in the way you communicate with your customers; this will also allow you to create more detailed buyer personas.

Using Brand Monitoring allows you to:

  • Assess your overall mention sentiment — compare the positive vs. negative mentions numbers in the ‘Overview’ tab. Click on each sentiment type to see filtered mentions one by one.

Brand Monitoring mentions overview

  • See your brand/product associations by searching for a particular word next to your brand using the ‘Mentions’ tab.

Brand Monitoring track particular word

  • Add tags to the selected mentions, like ‘new feature’, to get back to them later.

Tip 3: Find Influencers and Ambassadors for Promos

Find influencers and ambassadors for promos with mention tracking

Among the most authoritative industry influencers, you can find those who talk about your competitors and those who are not fully on your side. It is a great opportunity to turn them into your brand ambassadors and improve your brand positioning online. Start by reaching out to them with a good pitch to give them or to change their mind about your brand.

Here’s how you do it using Brand Monitoring:

  • Check an author’s number of followers on Twitter, and also see the number of their posts in a forum where they have an influence.

Brand Monitoring mentions on Twitter

  • Add their mentions to favorites to reach out to them later.

Tip 4: Evaluate Your Campaigns’ Effectiveness Quickly

Evaluate your campaigns' effectiveness quickly with mention tracking

To assess how successful your PR or online marketing efforts are, check your overall coverage and the mentioning resources’ authority. By monitoring mentions, you can also see if you are in line with your set campaign goals, which will help you develop better strategies in the future.

Using Brand Monitoring allows you to:

  • Check the campaign’s overall reach (=number of mentions), the estimated reach of each mention, and the number of backlinks in the ‘Overview’ tab.

Brand Monitoring estimated reach

  • While looking through each mention using the ‘Mentions’ tab, pay attention to the monthly traffic of a mention source, the top forums that mentioned you, and the number of comments or threads discussing your brand.
  • Filter mentions by negative/positive sentiment so that you can see your potential customers’ reaction to your message.

  • Export the data and create a report of your results.

Tip 5: Discover New Industry Trends to Follow

Discover new industry trends to follow with mention tracking

Keeping up with trends is what keeps businesses alive these days. Industry topics monitoring allows you to predict where your industry is going and get ahead of your competitors. Research the latest trends to find out if your potential or present customers see value in them. This will give you new ideas for blog posts and help you spot potential opportunities for future marketing campaigns.

This is what you can do using Brand Monitoring:

  • Spot spikes in the number of mentions for a particular topic, especially on forums and social media. The spike tells you that a topic has gathered steam online, which can play into your hands and contribute to your upcoming PR campaign around a trend.

Brand Monitoring mention trend

  • Add a custom tag to the most insightful mentions to get back to them later.

Tip 6: Prevent Crises

Prevent crises with mention tracking

Constant mention monitoring allows you to identify a potential crisis involving your brand before it becomes a scandal. If you react quickly and accurately, you will be able to mitigate damage and even earn extra points of respect for your brand. You have to focus on negative comments and reviews, and Brand Monitoring will help you with the monotonous search and filtering.

Here is how you do it:

  • Keep an eye on your overall mention sentiments every now and then, and compare positive mentions against negative ones with the ‘Overview’ tab.

  • Filter your mentions by negative sentiment, look through a resource’s authority and, if required, take action immediately — reach out to people.

Brand Monitoring negative sentiment

  • Set alerts on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to receive mentions on time and manage negative comments via email.

Brand Monitoring alerts

Online reputation management is not a piece of cake, but consistency makes it more effective and easier. Develop the habit of tracking mentions on a regular basis and keep in mind your goal for doing so.

But that is not all! We have prepared a concise checklist containing these 6 actionable tips to help you improve your online reputation management. Use the banner below to download and print it.

 

The Ultimate List of Tech and Marketing Conferences & Events in 2019

We are happy to present you a comprehensive calendar of tech and marketing conferences & events across the globe which covers all areas of online marketing and makes it easier for you to keep abreast of the events that fit your needs the most. Events which will be attended by SEMrush are marked with our logo.

The calendar includes events from more than 50 countries all over the world, so don’t forget to choose the country of your interest in the drop-down menu. And please note that some of the dates haven’t been confirmed yet, but we keep updating the list on a regular basis. 

We have already listed many dates for 2019, with more to follow later on. Are you aware of some other conferences & events that are still not on the list? If so, please let us know in the comments and we will add them to list!

Meanwhile, check out SEMrush first Global User Conference – SEMrush LIVE! This immersive and interactive multi-day retreat filled with valuable speaking sessions, hands-on workshops and intimate and meaningful networking opportunities will take place in Prague, CZ on May 15-17, 2019.

SEMrush first Global User Conference - SEMrush LIVE

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