7 Self Development Tips to Improve Business Success

Experienced entrepreneurs understand that running their business is not a stagnant task. They must always be aware of changing economic conditions, new trade developments, and better methods of dealing with their customers. If you have a business, you can ensure your success as your business grows by keeping these 7 self-development tips in mind.

1. ABL: Always Be Learning

Smart business owners know they can never simply rely on their present knowledge and skills. They must keep their ears to the ground on developments within their industry and within the culture, to optimize their ability to serve their customers on many different levels. Subscribe to trade magazines, stay alert to new technologies, and take a global view of the world. Read up on methods to reduce your small business operational expenses. These measures will allow you to stay ahead of the pack and grow your business.

2. Develop Top Level Time Management Skills

Entrepreneurs often spend a great deal of time juggling tasks. Days can pass quickly, leaving you wondering if you actually accomplished the things you intended to do. Learning time management skills will help you to work more effectively, accomplishing the most important tasks first, and going on to fill in other tasks, as needed.

3. Learn How To Network Effectively

Getting together with others in your industry can be a good way to extend your connections and increase your knowledge. Trade shows and business conferences will allow you to meet people who can help you grow and promote your own business. Acquaintances are likely to show up at other meetings, which will help you to cement new relationships and extend your influence in your sphere of industry. Attending conferences also allows you to learn from your competitors in a friendly, cooperative environment. Use these opportunities to work on your people skills, and be ready to do your part in helping others to make new contacts.

4. Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is a method of assessing situations and addressing problems in a more logical and insightful way. It involves understanding the problem at hand, gathering factual information, and eliminating biases that interfere with clear decision-making. It also involves questioning evidence and recognizing patterns. Critical thinking eliminates irrelevant issues and gets to the heart of the matter, with hard facts and outcome-based solutions. Learning this method can help you to make better decisions in your day-to-day operations.

5. Hone Your People Skills

You should always be refining your interpersonal skills. If you need to work on your skills, read extensively on psychology, sociology, conflict resolution, and developing empathy with others. Look for ways to exercise these skills every day, so you can advance your understanding of your customers and their needs. These efforts will pay off in better business opportunities and increased growth.

6. Stay Alert for New Marketing Techniques for Reaching Customers

Effective marketing has become critical to growing your business opportunities. Make a point to keep up with the latest digital marketing trends, which continuously change on a regular basis. Falling behind on your marketing can cause you to miss out on a number of new customers’ demographics. For example, in Thailand, podcasts have slowly become a popular method for sending out messages related to products and services. Audio methods can often be a good way to reach customers who may not have time for reading blogs or print articles.

7. Develop Healthy Habits For Yourself and Those Around You

A busy schedule and stress can deplete your ability to function at your best level. Make sure you take the time to develop healthy habits to sustain you as you strive to improve your business success. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly to maintain fitness, and engage in activities that help you to deal with stress, such as meditation, walking in nature, or prayer. If you emphasize the importance of these activities, your team will also come to understand their value.

Conclusion

Running a business requires energy, optimism, and foresight. To keep your business moving forward, you will have to stay attuned to the many changes that can occur, over time. With these 7 tips, you will have a solid groundwork for keeping your business on a profitable track.

Guest Post: About the Author

Maryn is a tech enthusiast and creative content writer. She is interested in all tech-related stuff, digital marketing, travel, fitness, and personal improvement. Find Maryn on Twitter @MarynMcdonnell.

13 Ways to Market a Local Small Business

Small businesses with a physical brick-and-mortar presence have a unique opportunity to promote their goods and services while leveraging their reach in the local community. These 13 local marketing ideas will get you more involved in your town and gain more visibility for your small business.

Form Alliances with Neighborhood Businesses

Consider teaming up with a neighbor business to cross-promote and maximize your reach. Create partnerships with multiple businesses that offer customers incentives for shopping at each of your alliance businesses.

Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Local Chambers of Commerce provide a number of benefits for small business owners, including providing networking opportunities, giving businesses visibility in the community, and bringing credibility to your business and your expertise in your industry.

Send Press Releases to Local Media

Local newspaper reporters are always looking for newsworthy items to feature in articles. Use press releases to notify the media about new and interesting things happening in your business.

Use Social Media

Social media sites can give local businesses an extended reach to the local market. Take time to create and update business profiles on Facebook, Google+ and Google Places, Foursquare, and Yelp so customers can find your business when searching online.

Leverage Online Review Sites

Customers share their shopping experiences — positive and negative — on various online review sites. You can maximize exposure on these sites and manage any less-than-great reviews by creating official profiles and checking for feedback on a regular basis.

Provide Freebies or Giveaways

Regardless of what type of business you have, there are “freebies” you can offer to draw in new customers. You don’t have to give away the store or even anything with a high cash value, but small things like coupons, samples, and free consultations can attract the interest of customers looking for a deal.

Advertise Where It Counts

Local businesses have several options when it comes to advertising — newspapers or town newsletters, radio, billboards, in-store ads, even online advertising works for some local businesses. Before investing in any advertising, though, take time to determine which option will reach the largest portion of your target audience.

Host an Event

Get your name in front of potential customers in the community by offering free events such as workshops, classes, or networking events.

Use Printed Marketing Collateral

Small business owners can get customers to think about their businesses repeatedly by strategically using business cards, postcards, flyers, brochures, and other printed marketing materials.

Sponsor Local Youth Sports Teams

Donate to a local youth sports team or charity event to get your name included in the program, on apparel, and other places where it will lend visibility in the community.

Optimize for Mobile Shoppers

Many people shop locally with their mobile devices in-hand to find stores, check deals, and compare prices. Don’t miss out on an opportunity by neglecting your mobile presence.

Encourage Shoppers to Join Your Email List

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with customers long after they have left your store. Make it easy for customers to sign up for your email list while they’re in your store. Consider offering an incentive such as a discount or a special offer upon sign up to generate interest.

Use Your Website Wisely

You may have a small-town business, but there are still many ways to leverage a strong web presence. At a minimum, make sure your website is updated frequently, includes your address and hours, and provides multiple ways for customers to contact you. If you have a service-based business, you may even consider incorporating an online booking tool into your website to make it easy for customers to schedule appointments.

Pick one or two of the marketing ideas above to get started, give them a try, and see what impact it has on your business.

Guest Post: About the Author

Alana D. Frazier is a copywriter at paper writing service. She is fond of learning something new so that she tries to keep up with advancing technologies. Additionally, she attends different conferences and presentations to improve her skills.

Relationship Marketing — What is it and How Can You Use It?

Does your marketing process create long-term relationships with your customers, or do you instead focus on getting the sale and moving on to the next prospect?

There’s a lot of value in building strong relationships. They enable you to spend less time and money on new customers, and it maximizes the value of the ones you have. And customer retention makes a big difference in your bottom line; a retention increase of 5% can increase revenue 25-95%.

What is relationship marketing and how can you take advantage of it to improve your return on marketing investment? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing is designed to foster long-term engagement, interaction, and loyalty with customers. You want to develop strong relationships by personalizing your marketing approach and meeting their needs as directly as possible.

This relationship is created at the beginning when a prospect is just becoming aware of your brand, and it is fostered through and after the sale. Excellent customer service is a crucial component, as many people leave a company, not because of an inferior product, but because of a poor experience.

Businesses can use a variety of technologies to facilitate the relationship, from social media outreach to email marketing. The data created from these interactions has to be analyzed so your brand can keep pace with how people are reacting to your messages. The key is to deeply understand your customer —  when you know exactly who they are and what their most significant needs are, you can construct highly personalized marketing that helps them feel connected to you.

Understand Your Current Brand Loyalty

The starting place for any relationship marketing program is to know where you are now. Hopefully you already have a strong brand that engenders loyalty, but if you don’t, you can learn how to create one. Understand the psychology behind what makes customers loyal to your brand, and make a plan to move in that direction. Do you currently have a customer loyalty program? If you do, how well is it working? What feedback are you getting from customers who use it— and who stop using it?

Finally, what does your current customer churn look like? Today’s big data and technology mean that you can see this at a very detailed level without much effort. You can not only see what happened in the past but predict what your churn levels will be going forward. Once you’ve gathered data on where you currently are, it’s time to use relationship marketing to improve loyalty and customer retention.

Use Data to Personalize Your Approach

You already understand precisely who your customers are; now it’s time to be deeply personalized in your approach. People crave a unique experience that feels like you know them personally. Companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu do big business by using individual customer history to recommend future purchases.

A personalized experience helps a prospect bond to your company and trust you more strongly. They believe that you understand their needs,  and they are more receptive to hearing your ideas on how to meet those needs. This trust is the beginning of a relationship, and when you keep your communication consistent, that connection deepens over time.

Create Compelling Content

Part of building a relationship with your customers involves not continually focusing on the sale. You want to bring them into your brand story and help them to see a more personal view of your company. For instance, Marriott advertised in 2017 on Snapchat with “Snapisodes” that highlight a variety of travel destinations. Of course, they hope you’ll book with them when you travel, but the marketing itself isn’t a sales pitch. It’s educational and informative and helps build the relationship young people have with the brand.

As another example, Zappos uses their “Beyond the Box” page as a newsroom of behind-the-scenes content, including a story about an employee determined to live their best life despite cancer.

These stories aren’t direct sales pitches, but they are emotional, compelling snapshots that help readers feel more connected to the brand.

Make Your Sales Process Efficient and User-Friendly

When people are ready to buy, you don’t want to put any obstacles in their path. Be sure you’re aware of the user experience on your website and throughout the sales process. Smooth user experience will reinforce the sale and increase your profitability.

You also need to make sure your behind-the-scenes processes are efficient, from the sale to customer service. Customer service is especially important because a poor experience here can undo all the hard work you’ve put into building your customer relationship. With an easy-to-use sales process and great post-purchase support, you can win a customer for life.

Maintain Your Relationship After the Sale

The biggest goal of relationship marketing is to maintain your connection to a customer after the initial sale. When an existing customer makes a second, third, or further purchase, they often spend more money. You also don’t have to spend all the marketing time and money on winning those subsequent purchases.

Existing customers aren’t just valuable because of the additional buying they do, but also because of the advocacy they can provide for your brand. A happy customer will talk to friends and family about your products and encourage them to buy as well.

A great customer relationship pays significant dividends over the long term. That’s why you can’t afford to focus on single-transaction marketing. Start building relationships today!

Guest Post: About the Author

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

Guide to Marketing Your Small Business

When you run a small business, you may not have as much money in your budget to work with as you would like.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you should cut your marketing expenses when funds are tight.

As a small business owner, marketing is one of your most valuable tools. As such, it is one that should never be neglected. While you may not have the money to run multi-million-dollar campaigns, there are marketing methods that are affordable on even the tightest of budgets.

If you are looking to get the most out of a limited marketing budget, keep reading to discover some helpful tips in this guide to marketing your small business.

Get a Clear Picture of What You Can Afford

If you know that you have a limited marketing budget but don’t know exactly how much you can afford to spend, now is the time to crunch some numbers. Before you dive into creating a campaign, you need to figure out exactly what you can (and can’t) afford.

Coming up with a marketing budget can be tricky. If this is something that you are struggling with, talk to your accountant. They’ll run the numbers for you and help you determine how much money you can afford to invest in your business’ marketing efforts.

Create an Elevator Pitch

As a business owner, you should be marketing all the time regardless of where you are. That’s where your elevator pitch – a short statement intended to engage someone and pique their interest in your products or services – comes in.

According to a study conducted by Microsoft, the average human attention span is a mere eight seconds. In other words, you only have eight seconds to engage someone and make them want to know more about your business. From there, you only have around a minute to sell them on your service or product and make them want to buy.

In short, you need a killer elevator pitch.

If you are good with words, writing your own pitch is your best bet. If it’s something you struggle with, though, paying a professional writer to help you out is well worth the investment. A solid elevator pitch is something that you’ll use time and time again, and the return on your investment will be huge.

Invest in the Right Swag

When you are working with a limited budget, trying to market your business with wholesale hats or t-shirts might seem out of the question. Hear us out, though.

While the initial cost of investing in branded swag for your business may seem out of reach, there are ways to make this type of marketing more affordable. And using the right promotional items can provide a huge return on your investment.

Buying customized pens or keychains has a smaller upfront investment than buying t-shirts or hats, but think about what usually happens to those items. They end up in junk drawers or trash cans and are never seen or thought about again.

Something like a hat or t-shirt, on the other hand, is likely to be used time and time again. If you buy wholesale blank t-shirts and print your logo on them, every time someone wears one, they become a walking billboard for your business. The number of impressions that can be made by a single hat or tee is huge, so this type of swag offers a lot of bang for its buck.

If you can’t afford to pay for custom-printed apparel or accessories for your business, there are ways to make it more affordable. You could, for example, buy wholesale blank t-shirts and customize them yourself using iron-on vinyl decals. Another option? If you have a friend or associate with a screen printing or embroidery shop, see if they would be willing to customize your blank hats or shirts in exchange for the products or services your business offers.

Embrace Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is huge, and it should be a part of every small business owner’s overall marketing strategy. When you consider the fact that email marketing has an average return on investment of $38 for every $1 spent, there is no denying that money spent on digital marketing is money well spent.

Email isn’t the only option, though.

Search engine optimization, online advertising campaigns, social media marketing, etc. can all help you build awareness of your brand and connect with your target audience. Don’t try tackling it all on your own, though. Working with a marketing agency is well worth the investment. Keep in mind, too, that most agencies offer service packages at various price levels to make it possible for even smaller businesses to afford their services.

Build Relationships

Consumers don’t want to be sold to. They want to have meaningful relationships with companies that provide the products and services they need. Rather than inundating members of your target audience with advertisements and marketing materials, get to know them. Provide them with valuable resources that will help them out without costing them a single penny.

Keep in mind, too, that keeping customers is less costly than acquiring new ones. Make customer retention a primary focus in your business. Keep your current customers happy, and give them an incentive to share your business with their family and friends. Treat people the way you would like to be treated, and you will likely see an uptick in your revenue.

Conclusion

You don’t have to have a multi-million-dollar budget in order to successfully market your small business. As you can see, there are all sorts of affordable marketing methods that will enable you to build brand awareness, gain new customers, and keep existing ones without spending a small fortune. You may need to get creative, but you can market your company on even the tightest of shoestring budgets.

Guest Post: About the Author

Brenda Kimble is a writer and stay-at-home mother of two daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! In her free time, she loves crafting, spending time with her family, and writing for companies. She also enjoys strolling the streets of her quaint neighborhood in Austin, Texas to find the trendiest hot spots for fashion, food, and live music.

Your Complete Checklist for Working Remote

Working remotely can be a challenge for employees with busy families. Noise, interruptions, and other distractions can derail a daily schedule, especially when there are no managers around. Complex or confusing tasks can be more difficult where there isn’t someone right next to you to ask for help.

Physical equipment like desks and computers provide the foundation for working remotely but eliminating distractions and maintaining focus requires a lot more. Noise reduction and proper lighting also help reduce the urge to take breaks. Use this checklist to make sure your work environment is ready for remote tasks.

Comfortable Chairs

Office chairs should be well-padded with armrests and backrests. Chairs should be high enough off the ground that your feet rest flat on the floor. Adjustable office chairs are designed to provide adequate support, so use those in the office instead of dining room or kitchen chairs.

If you want to work in the living room occasionally, a chair with good leg and back support are still essential. Recliners or beds can be comfortable but may cause neck strain if used for too long.

Adequate Desk Space

Desks come in a variety of shapes and sizes but try to buy more desk space than you think you need. Desks less than 36” wide feel cramped and have little room for documents, monitors, and other essentials. A keyboard tray is helpful for external keyboard use and frees up valuable surface space.

Choose a desk that has drawers and cubbies for storage. While plastic sets of drawers and other desktop organizers can be helpful, they can get in the way. Drawers are perfect for storing documents and writing supplies out of sight, yet within reach. If you’re working remotely from a co-working space, choose a space that has functional desks instead of rows of tables.

Printer and Scanner

Even if your work is entirely digital, a printer provides a chance to take a break from staring at a screen. Print long documents and curl up in an armchair to read them without straining your eyes. If you aren’t printing very often, get a supply of long-lasting printer ink to avoid having ink dry up between uses.

Scanners also come in handy, especially if you ever need to send important personal paperwork. To cut down on the amount of equipment you need, get an HP inkjet printer that has built-in scanning and copying capabilities.

Extra Monitor

Laptop and desktop users can benefit from having an extra screen for displaying data or video conferences. Having an extra monitor reduces the amount of time employees spend switching tabs or windows, increasing productivity significantly.

Laptop users, in particular, need a monitor that can be raised to reduce eye strain. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration says that the top of a computer screen should be at or just below eye level to reduce neck and back strain.

External Mouse, Keyboard, and Webcam

An external mouse is typically easier to use than a trackpad. It can be used in a more natural position for the arms and wrists, which reduces long-term strain. Get a wireless mouse to reduce the number of cables on your desk.

Laptop users may find an external keyboard helpful. To reduce eye strain, laptop users can put their laptop on a stand that raises it to eye level, and then use an external keyboard to continue typing comfortably.

An external webcam and microphone are vital for video conferencing. Although most laptops now include webcams, they can be challenging to adjust, and their video quality isn’t as good. External microphones can also reduce background noise, including typing. Microphones with on/off buttons are more efficient to quickly mute a noise or a cough than clicking around on your video conferencing app.

Noise Reduction

If you live alone, your work environment may be quiet most of the time. However, construction and other noise sources eventually creep in, and it’s best to have a way to deal with them.

Fans and white noise machines can work great for reducing low noise levels. Outside noise can be muffled with noise-reducing curtains. Shared co-working spaces or coffee shops may require noise-canceling headphones.

Keep in mind that music can be distracting, especially if it has lyrics. If you need to listen to music while working, consider sticking to instrumentals like classical or jazz or music from other cultures if you don’t understand what is being sung.

Proper Lighting

Natural lighting makes your work environment easy on the eyes. Working near a window is best, but you may have to position yourself carefully or get a matte screen cover to reduce glare and eye strain.

Get a sunlight-imitating floor lamp for working in the evenings or on cloudy days. Although most laptop screens are bright enough to illuminate keyboards, working on a computer in dark rooms can cause eye strain or cause you to mistake a comma for a period. If you must work in a room with insufficient lighting, turn your screen brightness down to match the room’s level.

Even with natural lighting, take a 15-minute break every two hours to give your eyes a rest. Also, try 20-20-20 breaks: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to focus your eyes on something 20 feet away.

Powerful Software

Many companies use instant messaging and video call software to keep everyone in touch while working remotely. If you’re expected to use specific software, install it, and adjust its settings before you need to use it.

If you’re a contractor or freelancer working remotely for multiple clients, look for the right combination of applications that allow you to communicate with clients. Some clients may expect video calls, while others want cloud sharing for important documents.

Download browser plugins that enable you to block social media and other distractions during working hours. You can get similar software for your phone, or simply keep your phone on the other side of the room while working.

Buckle-Down and Get to Work

Working remotely presents a unique set of challenges. It requires focus and organization, but it can be rewarding for self-starters who want to free themselves from a daily commute.

Invest in high-quality furniture and electronics for your workspace so you can stay comfortable and keep everything within easy reach. Pay attention to the details like lighting and software. With some discipline and practice, you’ll be able to achieve your career goals without setting foot in an office.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining InkJet Superstore, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country. She is a happily married mother of one who enjoys spending time with her family and reading in her leisure hours.

How To Write A Business Contract That Will Protect Your Interests: 8 Essential Tips

Drafting business contracts might not be the most exciting task you will have to do as a business owner, but it is absolutely necessary for all small businesses. Here are eight essential tips for small business owners about how to write a business contract that will protect your interests.

#1 Focus on the Most Important Clauses

The first thing you should do is figure out the most important clauses for your business. Then, you will need to focus on these clauses throughout your document. To put it simply, clauses are the sections you will want to include in your business contract. They will always depend on the project you are working on, so there is no definitive answer to what clauses you need.

Nevertheless, every small business owner should think about which terms, requirements, and conditions you would want to discuss in your document and negotiate with whoever you are signing the agreement with. You should also consider which points you are willing to compromise on and which ones not that much.

#2 Use Understandable Language

Though many businesses want to use strictly formal terminology, it is not always a good idea to use too many terms that will make your document sound too complicated. This is why you need to strive to use language that you understand. Reserve some of the legal jargon (also known as legalese) for the final documents but use something simpler on the stage of negotiations.

Remember that you are not a professional attorney, so using a limited amount of legal jargon will prevent your document from sounding like gibberish to you. Opt to use language that you will understand no matter what so that you can avoid misunderstandings and don’t get confused too much.

#3 Think Through All the Possible Outcomes

A common mistake made by small business owners when writing legal documents is that they forget to discuss all the possible outcomes. Just like using too much legal jargon, forgetting to discuss all the possible outcomes can result in misunderstandings between you and whoever you are signing the agreement with.

One of the main aims of any and every contract is to predict all the possible outcomes and address them immediately in the contract when you are writing it – not after you have come to an agreement and suddenly remembered about the possibility of this or that happening at some point. This is exactly why many business owners prefer hiring a professional attorney.

#4 Use a Professional Writer

That being said, it is not always necessary to hire a professional attorney for your contract. Instead, you can consider hiring a professional freelance writer who has sufficient experience writing such documents and has all the necessary skills that you would want a contract writer to have. This might even make the contract writing process more affordable.

Affordability, of course, is crucial for small businesses, so it is a really good idea to consider professional writers instead of attorneys. For example, you could choose a writer with the help of a writing service like Writing Judge to find the best specialist for your document. You can compare writers and check their reputation, experience, skills, and so on.

#5 Talk About Payment Options

In some way, the payment options are a part of the clauses you would want to discuss in your document concerning your agreement. However, your payment options and details need a completely separate section because of their importance. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing your payment options:

  • Do preliminary calculations to make sure everything is right.
  • Be reasonable and don’t overestimate or underestimate your costs.
  • Always remember the possible additional expenses you might have.
  • Clearly state everything you want to discuss your payment options and details.
  • Try to talk about everything you want to discuss and don’t leave out any important details.

#6 Remember About Both Parties

When writing your contract, remember that you are doing it both for your business and for the other party, so write down the obligations and duties of both parties. Think about all the small and big details you would want to discuss including terms, responsibilities, obligations, and so on (both financial and non-financial).

Just like with your payment options and details, remember to be as clear as possible and don’t forget any small responsibilities that each of you will have. Your aim is to avoid ambiguity and be concrete in what each of you will be doing, when you will be doing it, how you will be doing it, and how much it will cost.

#7 Determine the Controlling Law

Determining the controlling state law or rather the clause about the controlling state law of your document is crucial for your agreement. This will, in turn, give you the opportunity to have all the legal proceedings to take place in your home country or region.

Firstly, it will be less expensive for you because you will not have to travel. Secondly, you will feel more confident because you will be in your home territory. In other words, determining the controlling law now will make all of your future procedures much easier because you will have somewhat of a foundation for your actions laid out from the start.

#8 Include Clauses About Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

Last but not least, don’t forget to include a clause about confidentiality and another clause about intellectual property. These two are essential for several reasons, but let’s get to them one by one.

When it comes to confidentiality, there might be some information that you don’t want others to know about. This is usually either something personal about the employees in your company or the personal information of your clients.

And when it comes to intellectual property, there will always be something your business has patented or wants to patent at some point. It is best that you note down your intellectual property in the document rather than figuring out such things already when you have signed the agreement.

Final Thoughts

All in all, writing a legal contract will take a while the first several times you do it, but once you write a contract a few times, you will get more practice and eventually get used to it. Just follow the tips in this article about how to write a business agreement and you will start making progress.

Guest Post: About the Author

Thomas Lore is a 23-year old writer, who is currently working for Pick The Writer. Also, Thomas is a creative and diligent freelance blogger, who is always seeking for new ways to improve himself.

How To Recover From A Sudden Fall In Web Traffic

One of the things no one likes to see when logging into their Google Analytics account is that their website traffic is in decline. Especially if it seems to be completely out of the blue, and very suddenly. There is no reason to start panicking yet, and you should be aware that any feedback, even the negative one can be helpful, and actually turn out to be a great way to improve. If you’ve noticed such a decline, it simply means it is high time to perform another SWOT analysis of both your brand and its website. Follow these guidelines and find your weaknesses in order to level up! 

Double-check the data

Before starting with the damage control process, you need to make sure you are dealing with the correct and up-to-date data. There is always a possibility that the latest upgrade has altered the status, so the first step is to log into your admin account and inspect the code to check for any delays in the reporting of data. Imagine that, you may not even have the problem! You can do this by entering the control/command + F, and search for the analytics section. If your code is not altered and there is no missing data, it’s time to see what’s caused the drop.

A more thorough analysis of the data can be done with the help of the search console. Google is offering this option for the fastest tracking of errors, in order to improve your website’s user experience. The next step is to check the ranking of your targeted keywords, so you can optimize them better if needed. You can even check for any other websites that are proving a link to your site by choosing the “Search Traffic” option. External links are important, but the internal linking structure maybe even more. You don’t want users to have any error messages due to some broken links, which may be the cause of the fall. Now, when you’ve gathered this information, you are ready for the next step.

Check for Google penalties

There are numerous messages from Google which can help you see the problem. So, if your website has been violating some of the recommended rules and regulations, Google has reserved the right to give you a penalty. Don’t worry, if this is the case, there are some things to do about it, and get the said penalty removed, bringing your traffic to the original levels. One of the most common reasons for the violation is the omission factor. By using this phrase, Google is telling you that your website has weak links in the code.

For example, your website may be prone to some processes that are not in your control, which can not be a good thing. Remember that Google is trying to warn you because if not in compliance with all the regulations, your website can be an easy target to be hacked. And everything you’ve been building and working on can be lost, not even to mention that you’d be risking your visitors’ personal information and IP addresses. You need to make sure that your site doesn’t support or allow any type of spam content, whether from users, or some other hack-related problem.

This is only one of the reasons why it’s highly recommended to hire a service of a digital marketing agency to help you track the regulations and any irregularities. Furthermore, investing in SEO services will result in better on and off-page optimization, preventing most of these issues. The experts can read into the results faster, and there are whole teams of people dedicated to specific areas, who have already dealt with similar issues, meaning they will know what is the priority. They can also help you in the analysis of your competition, checking for any negative mentioning of your brand.

Pinpoint the major problems

It is true that the website is losing traffic, but it can’t possibly be the whole thing. Meaning, there must be certain pages or keywords that are declining in a number of clicks. You must identify them precisely, and track these changes. Change the date range in order to see if the decline is steady, and compare the results for several time intervals. This will help you put the things in perspective, and gain some valuable input. Perhaps it’s time to alter the targeted keywords, or add some new ones!

If you have established that the penalty was given, check for other search engines to confirm this. So, if your ranking hasn’t dropped on, for example, Yahoo browser, there is your confirmation. There are two types of penalties and you’ll have to deal differently with algorithmic and manual penalties. Check for the Manual Actions field in the Search Traffic option to see if you have any messages. Any duplicate content or unnatural links can be considered a threat, and you need to remove it as soon as possible.

Damaging reviews and misleading content

Consider the possibility that there is a decline in your website traffic due to some bad publicity stunts created by your competition. Or maybe one of your customers was not satisfied with your service, and it turns out they have a blog, vlog or are popular influencers. People are following the trends and listening to reviews of “relevant” others, so check for anything that could’ve caused the problem, as you may be able to fix it. Brand awareness is crucial in business, but it can be a double-edged sword.

The public perception of your brand is hard to establish but quite easy to destroy. Negative reviews can follow you for a long period of time, and they will drive away potential customers. And not only from your website but from your brand completely. Don’t put yourself in such a risk, and work hard to get to the bottom of it, if this is the case. Try to find the source of these negative reviews and offer a formal apology, along with a gift in merchandise, service or discounts for future cooperation.

Conclusion

There are plenty of reasons and causes for the fall in traffic, and for each of those numerous variables to consider. The best you can do in order to solve the problem is to investigate all the data thoroughly and invest in a professional service to help you speed up the analysis. Whatever the reason behind the decline, you ought to approach the problem systematically and without any panic moves. Be aware that there is a real possibility that traffic simply fluctuates if you can’t find a problem in your code or any other sources we’ve mentioned. You can always use this situation to improve your business in general, and maybe even find out about new methods and strategies you can apply to grow traffic.

Guest post: About the Author

Nick is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged in projects for Media Gurus, an Australian business, and marketing resources. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby.

How to Increase Your Visitor-to-Lead Conversion Rate

Website traffic is an important metric that reflects the relevance, popularity, and engagement levels of your small business. More people on your site means that you’ve optimized your site very well with ample content and keyword implementation, technical specs, and other nuances that elevate your site’s ranking. It gives you a competitive edge, and it lets you connect with more people in your audience. Their presence is another representation of your standing, but it’s far from the only metric that you should keep an eye on when you’re growing your business.

Transforming that initial spark of curiosity into actual sign-ups and purchases is a whole other issue for small companies, seeking to improve their conversion rate and their customer loyalty. To turn your website visitors into genuine, qualified leads, buyers, and subscribers, you need a targeted strategy for your business. Here are a few steps to consider that can help you boost your CRO and make use of all that traffic on your site!

Implement site-wide CTAs

Website visitors want a sleek, simple, no-fuss experience every time they find themselves perusing your pages. However, some incentive is always a good idea, especially when you know how to effectively scatter call-to-action buttons that inspire them to subscribe or make a purchase. Your CTAs need to be simple, brief, but also clear so that your visitors will know what they should do next.

Your blog posts, your product descriptions, videos, images, all of your content on your site is an opportunity to place an effective CTA that will generate better leads. Use your FAQ page to link back to relevant pages, and post CTAs to entice people to decide with ease. Sometimes, a powerful CTA will do you more good than an entire blog post about the perks of your specific product range.

 

Use social proof to your advantage

Every small business owner knows that building credibility takes time and dedication, not to mention numerous strategies for effective marketing, branding, and communication with your audience. But leveraging your existing credibility is possible when you use tech to show your website visitors that they can trust you like so many others already do. This phenomenon is called social proof, and there are tools that serve to showcase social proof to your website visitors that also help convert more people into leads and buyers.

Small businesses can benefit from integrating a conversion rate optimization tool into their website so as to present social proof to each visitor in a simple, but effective way. The tool will generate notifications every time someone makes a purchase and let your browsing visitors know – this will, in turn, help them take the leap and buy from your business thanks to those brief social cues that others have done the same.

Publish customer reviews

Building trust is the key prerequisite for earning more leads, let alone more purchases and long-term loyalty. In addition to social proof and showing that others have successfully purchased from you, user-generated content is one of the most effective ways to showcase previous customers’ trust and inspire more people to feel comfortable trusting your brand. Wondering where to begin? Start with publishing up-to-date and relevant customer reviews on your site.

Yes, those on Google are also important for your SEO purposes, but make sure that your website visitors are greeted with a few words of encouragement from your previous customers, too. In addition to having a dedicated page for customer reviews, you can publish them right next to products they purchased for further trust-building, and play them on a reel on your homepage, too. Star ratings work well when combined with written reviews and testimonials, but you can also add video reviews from customers as well as influencers.

Rely on regular analytics

To nurture better leads, you need to understand where your tactics might be going wrong in the beginning. In addition to regular A/B testing of your landing pages, you should also keep tracking engagement rates and conversions across your website, too. With that kind of data at your disposal, you can spot the kind of CTAs, product descriptions, landing pages, and other content that have the most effect on your website visitors to actually engage with your brand.

This is the only way to notice if a certain page keeps “losing” visitors and sending them off your site because of too many distractions, a popup that’s annoying them, or a misleading invite to make a purchase. Measure and record the results of each of your campaigns, and keep an eye on the performance of every single part of your site. That will help you gain the necessary data to tweak the entire website for better lead conversion.

Conversion rate optimization is highly dependent on data and customer behavior, but also your own creativity and persistence when it comes to refining your approach over time. Customers change and their preferences change with them, so keeping up with their needs is a key piece of the puzzle. Plus, continuously monitoring industry trends is necessary for your small business to stay competitive since there will always be more eager businesses joining the playing field. Turn more website visitors into quality leads and buyers, and you’ll also improve your customer loyalty and your brand reputation over time.

Guest Post: About the Author

Sophia Smith is a lifestyle and social media blogger, and graphic and UX designer. She is an aesthete and photography lover by heart who absolutely loves everything that includes visual communication. Sophia is also very passionate about yoga and mindful living. Lately, she writes about digital marketing topics, from content to social. She has contributed to a number of publications including Women Love Tech, Leader Maker, Legal Reader, Businessing Mag, Ruby Connection, Cause Artist, and many others. You can find out more about her writing by following her on Twitter. 

How to Negotiate Rent on Commercial Spaces

When it comes to finding a lease there will be several things on your mind; location, size, affordability, and condition to name a few. But, when it comes to renting out commercial spaces the affordability factor becomes a much more important thing to consider. The fact of the matter is that you need to understand not only how much the rent is, but all of the other costs involved in running a commercial space as well. It can quickly mount up.

This is why, when it comes to a commercial lease, negotiation is a key factor and something you should consider doing. As, if successful, you can easily assure a much safer financial setting for yourself.

So, with that in mind, here are the key ways to ensure you get a good rate when negotiating rent for your commercial space:

What is a Commercial Rental Lease?

A commercial lease is a formal, legally binding, rental agreement between your business and a landlord. The commercial lease is something that allows you to use a space for business activity in return for money.

What is the Difference from a Private Lease?

When it comes to setting up a lease, there is a difference between a private tenant lease and one taken out by a company. The underlying foundation of both is fairly simple: the exchange of money for the use of a property for a set period of time. But, there tends to be much more flexibility and less government-enforced protections for a commercial tenancy. A business tenant is expected to take on much more responsibility and have a higher understanding, especially in comparison to first-time renters, for example.

For this reason, a commercial tenancy is more likely to be negotiable in terms of renting prices and terms. As it is more of a business arrangement than a regular residential lease is set out to be.

Things to Look Out For

Some of the biggest factors when it comes to commercial leases that are important to be aware of are the factors that can affect rent… or may mean financial payouts at a later date. This includes factors such as:

  • Rent Reviews – these can quickly raise the price of your rent and perhaps make the lease completely unaffordable. If you have a rent freeze clause for several years, it is important to know when the review is expected, as you can then determine your financial standing before the increase.
  • Underletting – sometimes a commercial lease doesn’t always work out. Not all businesses last beyond their first two years or so. It’s important to understand if you have options in case this happens. A good choice would be to underlet the space to a different company. But, beware–you are still liable even when you underlet!
  • Breaking the Lease – in some instances, ending a commercial lease early may be necessary. To protect your business you should always try to ensure there is a break clause that will allow you to break the lease early. This can save you financially, as otherwise you would be held liable for rent until the very end of the lease.

It is important to understand these terms and know the financial implications.

Tips for Negotiating your Commercial Rent

Once you understand the basics of a commercial lease, it is then a simple case of actually negotiating it. This can be quite a long process and you are not always guaranteed success. But, if you do manage to secure a reduced rate it can be incredibly beneficial to your long-term business finances.

  • Understand the costs and try to research the area. If the rent seems a little steep in comparison to the competition, then mention it – you may get a discounted rate to match the market!
  • Get a professional opinion. At the end of the day, you won’t find the best rate unless you involve a professional expert to advise on the issue.
  • Do not agree to pay legal fees for both parties, as the landlord should be able to cover their own costs.
  • Understand the extent of the reparation clause in your agreement and what this means for you from a monetary standpoint. Don’t immediately agree to fix everything at the end of your tenancy, as this could mean much more than you expect!
  • There may be some different ways that a landlord may wish to entice you to rent with them. So, ensure you ask about any potential inducements (it may not be money, but it could be a sweet deal).

When it comes to a commercial lease, assume everything is up for negotiation if you have certain needs or want something slightly different. As a tenant, the negotiation process is almost always in your favor so it’s a good position to be in. But, if you feel unsure or unable to negotiate, you can always get someone on your side to help/do it for you.

In these cases, you will end up paying for their expertise. So remember to weigh out their costs vs. the savings you are achieving to determine if it is worthwhile or not.

Final Thoughts

Overall, when you are starting or moving a business into its first official commercial space, it’s important to be aware of your position and how best to take advantage of it. Especially when negotiating your lease, as it could mean a great deal of savings/benefits for your small business.

Guest Post: About the Author

Natalie Wilson is a freelance writer for a number of different business publications. With a range of knowledge in the business and insurance sector, she is an avid researcher and writer in the commercial property valuation field. Natalie is now a freelance writer looking to specialize in the topic. You can connect with her on Twitter.

6 Ways eCommerce Businesses Can Cut Their Shipping Costs

Shipping can either make or break new eCommerce businesses. Massive corporations like Walmart and Amazon have shipping down to an exact science, with order fulfillment centers all over the country. Amazon already accounts for around 40 percent of all online sales. To compete, small businesses need to find a way to get their products to consumers quickly without charging them a fortune in shipping. In fact, 28 percent of online shoppers abandon carts because of unexpected shipping costs. When it comes to winning over new consumers, new e-retailers need to do everything they can to lower the cost of shipping without impacting the overall quality of their delivery services. Here are six tips for cutting shipping costs in the eCommerce industry.

Purchase Used Shipping Materials

It all starts with finding the right shipping materials. Companies looking to save money on their shipping costs should consider purchasing used shipping containers. Consumers don’t really care how their packages arrive as long as the product is intact and arrives on time. Purchasing used plastic containers, gaylord boxes and other shipping materials can help these companies save a fortune over time. Many of these containers will just end up being recycled or disposed of eventually so this is one of the best places to reduce costs. Companies can even label their used shipping containers to create more brand awareness. It’s just about finding low-cost materials that keep the company’s products secure.

Print Labels at Home or the Office

Companies can also print their shipping labels at home instead of going to the post office. Websites like Stamps.com make it easy to print shipping labels, which saves the company a trip to the post office. They can have the carrier pick up the package right from their home, office or warehouse without having to worry about pick-ups and drop-offs. If the retailer is using a sales platform, they can connect this software to their printer and the machine will automatically print off shipping labels every time a new order comes in. When getting products out the door as fast as possible is the only way to succeed in the eCommerce industry, companies should try to shave off as much time as they can from the order fulfillment process.

Reduce Package Size and Weight

Most package carriers like UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Post Office will charge companies for shipping based on the size and weight of their packages. Companies should find shipping containers that match the size of their products, so they don’t end up overpaying for shipping. They still need to leave room for packaging materials that keep their products safe, but the smaller the container, the less the company will end up paying for shipping.

Retailers should also look for lightweight used shipping materials such as cardboard boxes and plastic totes. Reducing the overall weight of the package can be just as important as its size when it comes to trimming costs. To keep their items safe, retailers can use recycled shipping materials like recycled newspaper, cardboard pellets, and other low-cost items. These materials tend to weigh less than other types of shipping materials and they cost less upfront as well. Not to mention they’re also good for the environment.

Partner with Regional or Local Carriers Whenever Possible

While UPS and FedEx might seem like the obvious choice when it comes to shipping, there are other carrier services that might charge less. Companies should spend some time researching the carriers in their area until they find the lowest possible price. They can even use this research as leverage to negotiate with carriers, especially if they plan on shipping out hundreds of items per year.

Some regional and local carriers may only serve a certain part of the country, but if the company’s consumers also happen to live in this area, it might be the company’s best choice when it comes to shipping. Some smaller carriers are doing everything they can to compete with the likes of UPS and FedEx, so some companies might be able to negotiate a lower price, considering the carrier will be grateful for their business.

Purchase Insurance from a Third Party

Depending on the overall value of the package in question, some retailers may want to get insurance for their packages, or at least offer their consumers the option. While signing up for shipping insurance through a major carrier like UPS might be more convenient in the moment, going to a third party can help these companies save money. Third-party shipping insurance providers usually offer a lower rate than some of the biggest carriers in town. Retailers should establish a lasting relationship with an insurance provider, so they can quickly insure their packages without having to go through a carrier like UPS. If the company is doing a lot of shipping, they might be able to negotiate a lower rate per package.

Be Aware of Hidden Fees

There are all kinds of hidden fees involved in shipping, especially if the company is shipping to a remote area or a foreign country. Having the customer sign for packages, shipping insurance, rush hour surcharges and more could easily inflate the cost of shipping. Most consumers don’t want to deal with these kinds of fees. They just want to see “Free Shipping” and move along with their day. That’s why the retailer should do this research beforehand, calculating the entire cost of the shipment instead of surprising the customer with a last-minute fee. Retailers should try to find carriers that limit these kinds of fees altogether

Final Thoughts

Reducing the cost of shipping is about more than saving retailers money. Low-cost, reliable shipping is one of the only ways these companies can compete with massive e-retailers like Amazon and Walmart. The more a retailer can save on shipping, the more they can pass on these savings to the consumer.

Guest Post: About the Author


David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, IBC totes, and industrial racks. He holds an MBA as well as a certificate from Daimler Chrysler Quality Institute for completion of six-sigma black belt training.