Friday, June 9, 2017

7 tips for successfully marketing your small business online


The online marketing environment has essentially leveled the playing field; small businesses can get noticed on a big scale right next to major brands with massive marketing budgets — without having to spend even close to the same amount. Despite requiring less money for the return on investment, there are still many strategies that you need to consider before just jumping online and marketing whatever comes to mind.

Here are some strategies that I’ve employed as a small business owner, freelancer, and startup founder. I’ve found that these approaches have led to proven and sustainable online marketing success for myself and many other entrepreneurs just like me:

  • Define your brand and its attributes as a starting point so you can use these attributes to send a consistent message, look, and feel wherever you market online. This means having a logo, a tagline, and color palette that goes on your website, social media channels, marketing collateral, email signature and also any offline marketing materials. If you are not creative, you can work with a graphic designer who can take the list of attributes that you believe define your small business brand and set it apart from others and create a visual representation for you. There are numerous freelance graphic designers who provide good value while delivering a professional look for your brand. Look at websites like Upwork, Fiverr and 99Designs for hiring talented freelance designers.
  • Research what your competition is doing online before you put anything out there about your small business. See what language they use and what they do in terms of marketing tactics and then consider how they are doing in terms of successfully engaging their audience. You can see how well the specific audiences are being engaged by paying attention to the social media conversations that exist (or that are missing). This will also help you to further differentiate your marketing messages, visuals, and tactics.
  • Spend time developing content for your website, social media pages, and online profiles. While you may already have the starting of a website, there’s more you’ll most likely need to do because often small business owners do not realize how much content is really necessary and valuable to attract traffic. You’ll need to include information associated with what you provide, contact information, and becoming more relevant almost daily is the need to add some video or other visual content. Then, there are the other online marketing channels that also require a steady content diet. All of the content has to be related back to your brand definition, be consistent, and be relevant. If you are struggling with how to generate all this valuable content, a freelance content writer is part of an effective, low-cost strategy that will help you achieve this critical aspect of online marketing.
  • Formalize your marketing strategy to include both online and offline tactics. You cannot approach any part of marketing in a haphazard way that you do when you have a few free hours here and there. It has to be formalized into a structured plan that includes tactics, a budget, a timeline, and a way to measure results so you stay on target with what you want to achieve from it. While this can all seem overwhelming as a small business owner and overdoing it, having a formal marketing plan is the pathway to success that so many skip over. You can find sample marketing plans online or in books that can help you understand how to structure your marketing strategy. Better yet, you can usually find a mentor somewhere willing to help you.
  • Learn about the different types of online marketing tactics, channels, and platforms so you can determine which ones will work for your small business. For example, if you are looking to stir up more local business for your offline presence in addition to your online presence, you may want to consider online local marketing strategies that incorporate SEO, geolocation, mobile marketing and SMS marketing. However, if you are strictly an online business, then leverage some of the aforementioned tactics, but also create a content strategy, email marketing strategy, video marketing strategy, and promotional strategy. Once you have invested time into understanding what each does and how they are used as well as what tools and platforms are available to help you automate and streamline the work, then you can decide what you may want to try as first steps. Don’t take it all on at once. Instead, do a few upfront and then add as necessary. All I started with was a blog that I turned into an incredible online marketing machine.
  • Create an online marketing budget that fits what is comfortable for your cash flow and current financial position. You don’t need to spend a lot to get a lot. In fact, most online marketing typically involves sweat equity. However, you can consider paid online marketing tactics related to search, display, and social, including cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-action (CPA) as well as display ads and social ads. Also, spend time educating yourself about these, what they do, how they are used, and what type of results to look for before you start throwing money at any of them.
  • Track and measure everything you do online. This is probably the one piece of advice that will generate the most success for you. Knowing what is delivering for you online and what may need improving or replacing has to be part of your overall strategy to achieve online marketing success. This is one of the reasons why online marketing has surpassed offline marketing. Finding and knowing the actual numbers is so much easier to track thanks to the tools that compile and analyze the data from your online presence. This easily found information will be giving you insights you would have never received from print ads or a press release sent to a newspaper. With every measurement, you’ll see how to retarget, revise, and renew your marketing approach, messaging, and channels.

Don’t be afraid to seek help, stay on top of trends that impact the online world, leverage your network and connections, spend time teaching yourself, or dip into the pool of freelancers that offer affordable talent at your disposal.

Be patient, thoughtful, and flexible above all else. Marketing online success will follow.

3 reasons freelance coders choose to leave big corporate

freelance_coder

According to research firm Edelman Berland, in 2015 there were 53 million freelancers in America alone. That represents a little over a third of the American workforce. But, the freelancer trend is not just an American phenomenon. The UK boasts 1.88 million freelancers, and that number continues to grow. European freelancers are joining the party, with an estimated 8.9 million freelancers now and likely more on the way.

Technology plays a major role in this increase in the number of freelancers worldwide. Now, in an increasingly connected global marketplace, freelancers are no longer encumbered by geographical location. Their office is, quite literally, the world.

One profession that benefits from this widened global reach is freelance coders. There is little doubt that coders are in major demand. From tech giants like Google and Facebook to small mobile app developers, companies of all sizes and shapes need coders.

So why would a coder choose to freelance rather than accept a traditional position with a tech giant or a startup looking to make major waves in the industry? What would make a coder leave a company like Google and all its perks to pursue a freelance career?

As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons for becoming a freelance coder. Here are just a few to consider:

Number One: It’s the Money, Honey

A recent Bloomberg article chronicles the tale of James Knight, a 27-year-old coder who quit a job with Google’s Manhattan office to become a freelancer. The article notes that Knight was willing to give up some of Google’s enviable employee perks “because as an independent he’s pulling down about twice as much as he did at Google.”

Yes, you read that right. While every coder in the world may not have the spectacular financial success Knight is enjoying, the article notes that top tech talent is in such high demand that big companies and startups are willing to pay as much as $1,000 per hour for talented coders with the right skill set.

Why are companies willing to pay so much? Bloomberg continues: “While companies still recruit many of the best minds, they’re turning to independent software developers to get a stalled project moving or to gain a competitive edge. In some cases, the right person can be the difference between a failed and successful product.”

Number Two: The Freedom’s the Thing

However, the potential for greater financial gain is not the only motivating factor for freelance coders. Freedom is also a quite seductive perk. For instance, Knight and his wife are planning a trip to Spain and throughout Europe in March, made possible by the flexibility a freelance schedule affords.

On the subject of freedom, Anibal Ambertin, freelance coder and founder of SynergicSource, notes: “I like moving around and traveling a lot. I like sporting and enjoying daytime every day, and for me, “only weekends” is not an acceptable option anymore. I do put my good 50-60 hours of work a week… I just choose how, when and where, and that has improved my quality of life 1000 percent.”

Number Three: The Pursuit of Professional Passion

Another significant factor that moves many coders to freelance is the ability to choose the projects about which they are passionate. The article “The Rise of the Freelancer” states: “The overall consensus among freelance workers and independent contractors is that they find their work very rewarding. According to a survey taken by Field Nation, a work platform for independent contractors, 90 percent of those surveyed “view themselves as deeply committed to the work they do for their clients.” They’re also three times more engaged in their work than the 30 percent of traditional workers who feel the same. That’s likely because they get to choose when and for whom they work. In turn, freelance workers feel much more aligned with the work they choose to do.”

Ambertin echoes that sentiment, observing: “I have worked for big consultancies attending projects for big customers in many different roles: development, technology architecture, management and process improvement. As fun as it was, the trail of bureaucracy-led inefficiencies was something that always frustrated me. I like better working with startups, with high-performance teams and a 100 percent value-delivery mindset. Get things done. Be truly agile and build great products over filling up reports, countless useless meetings and other perks of the corporate life.”

The ability to simply enjoy the work being done and avoid the extraneous matters that come with being in a corporate climate holds much appeal. Knight lists another bonus in the form of increased motivation. He states: “There’s definitely a level of stress that comes with being independent that’s absent at Google, but I like that. I have motivation issues if I don’t think my paycheck is on the line.”

Is There a Downside?

Knight brings up an interesting point. What he views as motivation, another coder may view as a high-stress situation. Freelance income is completely dependent on productivity and level of skill.

When asked if freelancing is right for every coder, Ambertin answers: “Definitely not. If you are not a top-performer, I wouldn’t even try. When you are “out there” nothing matters other than creating and delivering quality products. In this world there are no excuses, no “over-estimations” and no cover-ups. You don’t deliver, you don’t get clients.”

Then there is the matter of additional skills beyond coding that freelancers must possess. Ambertin adds: “You can miss the social aspect of the “big office” sometimes. Another thing is that you need a lot of self-control. If you cannot set yourself a routine, boundaries, working-hours (as unusual as you want them, but you need them) and clear goals, you’re done. And last, but not least: can you really market yourself? Do you have the network, the guts, and the will to go through hunting for cool clients, teams and projects to work with?”

Freelance coders must also think about the financial side of going independent. Issues such as how to handle taxes, how to get paid and how to pay others you might bring into a project with you, and how to set up reasonable retirement strategies are all serious considerations for freelance coders.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

5 timesavers for your global business

Top_Five_Timesavers_for_your_Global_Business Taking your company global may represent the single, most important business move you will ever make. But even if you have successfully conquered the domestic market, such growth can make things very complicated, very quickly. To save time, money, and sanity, there are plenty of services tailor-made to support your rise to global domination. Here are just a few: Airbnb for Business Airbnb has disrupted the world of accommodation for globe-trotting travelers, but they also have a branch of their service that is dedicated to business travel. This gives your team complete control of their own travel, and removes the third-party complications and expense of using a travel agent. Your workforce can book business-ready units, with all the amenities you could possibly need, and the added bonus of a host who is experienced with the specific needs of business travel. Airbnb integrates with Concur for tracking expenses, and best of all, your company can take advantage of the affordability and flexibility so many travelers have come to depend on. Skype for Business Skype for Business (S4B) is now fully integrated with Microsoft Office 365, providing you with centralized integration of all your communications, as well as your CRM. For teams on the move, S4B offers some exciting features that help you facilitate meetings with up to 250 people at a time. Enjoy high quality audio and video, screen sharing, selective muting, transfer presenter control, and fully encrypted signals for the ultimate in privacy. If you are doing business with companies in foreign countries where language is an issue, S4B even offers a translation module that supports more than 50 languages. Schedule your meetings, invite stakeholders, and connect without even leaving the Office platform. And of course, you’re already familiar with the Microsoft apps, so there is zero learning curve. Zendesk As your company scales, outsourcing is a must to maintain a high level of service. Rather than adding an additional payroll expense, consider outsourcing your customer service to Zendesk. Zendesk will support your growth with phone, live chat, support ticketing, and call center features that will keep your customers happy, and supply you with robust analytics that can help you improve your service or product. Zendesk also offers a suite of outbound integrations, providing your customers with a rich, high-touch experience that will leave them with a positive impression of your company, and you with a centralized platform from which you can engage your customers on popular social apps like Twitter, and Facebook. Outsourcing As your company grows, your projections will change dramatically. Your staffing needs may shift, and it is always necessary to remain nimble in any circumstance. You can outsource just about everything these days, from copywriting, graphic design, marketing, web development and website design to IT security, executive recruiting, and even temporary CEOs. Hiring a freelancer is more economical and expedient than permanent staffing, as you can hire on a project-by-project basis, and save the extra payroll expense for more important things. It will also allow you to more accurately predict your expenses, which, during a growth phase, is a hot point. To hire a freelancer, it’s as easy as browsing sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Envato, or companies like Crossover for long-term talent recruitment. You’re going to be surprised at the skilled personnel you can hire on a temporary basis – and it’s a clear win that frees up a lot of extra time for you to focus on running your business. Hubstaff Hubstaff is the ultimate time tracking software suite for global teams, and makes it easy to monitor the activity of your workforce, no matter where they are located in the world. Set hours, schedule shifts, track time, and get metrics on what each employee is up to, even down to how much time they spend working on specific applications or websites. Hubstaff collects screenshots, and is completely HIPPA compliant, blurring the images to assure the confidentiality of sensitive materials. Hubstaff makes paying your global workforce easier too, leveraging payroll data directly to your preferred accounting program, and facilitating payouts through all of the most popular payment processors, including Payoneer, PayPal, BitWage, and more – and all packaged into a handy mobile app so you can monitor and micromanage to your hearts content, no matter where your physical self might be.

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7 tips for successfully marketing your small business online

The online marketing environment has essentially leveled the playing field; small businesses can get noticed on a big scale right next to m...

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