Posts in "Business" category

Facebook Pixel: Explained

Social Media marketing takes many forms. Not just providing your followers with relevant and interesting content, it is also useful for attracting potential customers with paid advertisements.

Each platform has it’s own analytics tool but for now (drum roll please) Facebook Pixel! The Facebook Pixel is code that is associated with a Facebook ad. The code can be placed on the webpage to track the ad’s success. With Pixel you can use your limited marketing funds more efficiently to reach the specific audiences that care about you and your content which means fewer wasted ad monies!

Reach more people:
By seeing who is clicking an ad, your input along with Facebook’s algorithms can decide who else sees your ad. If there are a lot of clicks by women in their 30’s, it will increase the frequency that those women see your ad.

Get more sales:
If the people who are seeing an ad are the ones who are most likely to engage, then this will get the right people to your website and increase sales or engagements.

How does it measure results?
Using “Ads Manager” you can monitor relevant statistics related to your ad. Performance results include how many people clicked, the ad’s total reach, the cost spent on the ad, and how much was spent by customers who saw the ad. All of this is great information when you are decided where to place those marketing dollars!

Places to use the pixel code?
Depending on the results you are seeking, here are a few ideas of places the code could be helpful.

• Sale confirmation page – See the sales that were directly generated from your ad
• Contact Us submission confirmation page – Discover how many customer inquiries were initiated by the ad
• Pricing and more information page – On this page, you can tell who became interested in your product or service based on your ad.

Facebook Pixel gives advertisers more useful targeting and meaningful feedback data to refine audiences. Pixel is a POWERFUL tool to help you reach the best audiences with the greatest level of engagement, and track interactions. Here is Facebook’s installation directions through the Ad Manager on your Facebook account. Happy Tracking!

Email Lists: Boost Your Chances, Get Seen!

When sending out an email, most marketing professionals want one thing: For people to see it! It’s hard to get that mythical 100% open rate and still harder to get a 50% open rate. However, there are a few things you can do to boost your chances of being seen.

Sending at the Right Time:
Choosing the right day and time to send an email can mean the difference between a 1% open rate and a 10% open rate. There has been a lot of research done on when people open their emails. While most work emails are opened within 6 seconds of them hitting the inbox, most marketing emails are read within 60 minutes.

Tuesday is the top day to send. Week days are generally better since most people don’t tend to check their email as frequently on weekends. However, based on your business type this also can shift slightly. If you have an event coming up on Saturday, you may want to send that email out Thursday or Friday when people are trying to come up with their weekend plans.

Now, what time is best?  Late morning is a winner with 10 AM being a sweet spot. Other popular times would be 8 PM – Midnight and 6 AM. (These are probably all those people ruining their sleep quality reading emails in bed.)

If you don’t know what’s best for your business, MailChimp offers a great solution with Send Time Optimization. Based on your recipients email habits, MailChimp decides when to send the email. This ensures that your email has the best chance of getting seen by the most recipients.

Sending Relevant Information:
While the time you send can impact who reads it, the content is really the deciding factor. There needs to be more than just making the recipient think about you and how great you are. You want them to tell other people how great you are, too. Provide fun or interesting news about your company. Make it shareable. If you are getting the email out because it’s 8:30 AM on Tuesday and you don’t want to miss that golden 10:00 hour, that’s not going to increase the engagement. Send it out of Thursday and have something to share.

Top 5 List of Suggested topics:
#5  Top 5 lists
#4  Upcoming events
#3  New blog post
#2  Company news
#1  Promotions

Making the Subject Line Pop:
Like a book cover, making your subject lines intriguing will make people open the email. One-third of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email purely on the subject line. Keep it short and to the point. Make sure that it doesn’t state the obvious. No need to tell people this is your newsletter, they are about to find it out. (Assuming they open it, that is.) Try to solve a problem for them in the subject “What’s mom getting this Mother’s Day?” or “Top Gifts for Mom.”

My Leap From Status Quo

The status quo is the simplest thing to do.  Being content somewhere you’re not meant to be is not a challenge.  It’s like waiting for Publisher’s Clearing House to come knocking on the door rather than trying to find your niche to make your unique mark on the world.  Good things happen to those that live in the status quo.  Great things happen to those who try.

The Beginning

It freaked me out when I left my first job right after I finished college.  I was moving on to another position at another company, but it was a startup and I didn’t know how long it would last.  The people at my former gig pushed me to start pursuing consulting.  They all were running their own web consulting businesses on the side and were older than I was. I definitely felt like I wasn’t cut out for that lifestyle.  I was just out of college – there was no way I could start up a business and provide jobs for other people later down the road.  That path was for people who had “an idea for an app” and could go out there and pitch to the wealthy investors of Shark Tank. Definitely not me.

The Leap

But I took the leap.  Within three months of leaving that job, I went ahead and registered for my first LLC – Christopher LaFay Consulting (genius name, I know).  Even though I felt like I was biting off more than I could chew, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.  After some time past, one new project every couple of months turned into a new project each month (and so on).

The Reason

And it was because I surrounded myself with people who pushed me over boundaries of my comfort zone.  If I didn’t listen to my friends and family who told me to go after the prize of being an entrepreneur, I would have never registered for an LLC, never signed on a contractor to help get a project done, never gotten that first testimonial on Google, never had a “First Employee” and the list goes on.  Now I get to live the dream of an entrepreneur – I get to work with people I call my friends on a daily basis – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

4 Tips to Optimize Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. LinkedIn. Reddit. YouTube. Pinterest. Anyone with access to the internet in the last decade knows, some if not all, this list of the most popular social media sites to date. These platforms have completely revolutionized how people interact and communicate with each other. Social media has risen to be one the prominent avenue that we use to express our ideas, keep in touch with our friends and family – and further our business ventures. Many of these social media accounts allow companies to set up special “business accounts” that allow the social media site to essentially become a website platform to advertise to, inform, and communicate with its current and potential customers. However, without the proper approach, it is very easy for business to let their social media accounts become disadvantageous or even dormant. So, what are the best tips? What will allow your social media campaign to become the most successful and visible? The core idea is based on what social media platforms are built to do – keep you connected with the community around you. Staying active and involved with your friends, followers, subscribers, etc. is what will give your social media campaign the foundation necessary for success. Here are 4 ways to optimize your social media presence:

1. Share what you love.

Share what interests you, what you’re passionate about. It means sharing ideas, highlights, and successes of others that hit home for you. Expressing your interests is an opportunity that others can use to see inside your world and get to know the kinds of things you value. When they are given access to know about you or your business on a deeper level, it builds loyalty and connection with clientele.

2. Share what you know.

They key to sharing what you know is to make sure you are sharing things from your own expertise. Be sure that they are things that interest your friends and followers. This is your chance to show off what your business is all about and your expertise. Show your audience you deserve that Subscribe, Followed, and Like. This strategy reinforces within your social media following that you are reputable and dedicated. (A critical side note: when re-posting articles from external sources TRIPLE check the source and the information. With the rise of ‘fake new’ has become the scourge of the internet and your reputation of providing accurate information can be damaged by perpetuating the problem)

3. Don’t take it too seriously.

All of us have that one subscription or business that we follow that we can never seem to get them to stop sending us too much information or spam that we cannot seem keep up with it all. This is where we can all learn a valuable, if not painful lesson: to not take social media postings too seriously. By that, I mean, post when you can. Perfectionism will kill the purposefully light-hearted, fun culture of social media. Now, there is a very fine line between posting when you can and neglecting your social media accounts. Remember, we don’t want it to become dormant. It is imperative to be consistent with your postings, but be careful not to dog down your following with countless posts. There is a certain genius about posting enough information at the right times that leaves your audience looking forward to, or begging for, more.

4. Stay Positive.

We all know that one person who is a drag at parties, and we typically try to stay away from them. This is also true of social media culture – and followers can have the same response… avoidance and un-subscribing. Keep posts positive in tone and also when responding to comments left on your own posts. Often your responses can make it into timelines of your followers and subscribers… so a comment left for a particularly nasty user might display as an update to EVERYONE who follows you. If you wouldn’t want it heard by your customers, don’t say it at all (even if they might deserve a clever rebuttal.)

These are best and core examples of social media best practices. The goal is to keep you connected with the community around you: but is also can double as public relations – creating new and positive experiences with your clientele through mutual engagement. Staying active, passionate, and current are what make these platforms so exciting and rewarding for creators and followers alike.

Letting Your Team Excel

Stop letting your team have a mindset of “If I can just reach this level, I’ll be happy!” Everyone in corporate America is always trying to strive for the next rung on the ladder and to get that new title so they’ll have more responsibility. It’s been our mindset ever since Henry Ford introduced well-paying jobs on the assembly line to the first Model Ts.

I’ve never been terribly fond of the traditional employment/job title route. Yes, it is important for your team to know what their responsibilities on a day-to-day basis are because that’s how you keep your customers returning to do extended business with you. However, if those roles are limiting, then you may need to rethink them entirely.

For example, earlier this summer we brought on someone whose main goal was to be a project manager and run sales. As the first few weeks progressed we realized a lot of our internal processes were clogging up our gears and not letting us move smoothly as a company. Since organization and smooth processes are “in her blood,” she slowly started asking if she could spend more and more time on making Classic City Consulting a better oiled machine so that while we continue to grow, we are stepping on each others toes.

Fast forward to today: She is currently managing a few of our top clients, brought on a jack-of-all-trades person to work with her and organized our processes so anyone on our team can find out where their project stands at any given time. And this process only took four months!

By being flexible with her original set of responsibilities, she has allowed us to spend less time on the tedious parts of all of our jobs and more time making sure our clients are 100% satisfied with their end product.

Startups: 4 Things You Need To Start Your Business

I’m on the phone a lot – daily (so glad the days of “minute limits” on cell phones are gone now).  Over the last few weeks I’ve had conversations with a few individuals each beginning the route of the startup business.  After finishing these discussions, I realized there were only a handful of themes in all the conversations.

“What do you do for banking?  How do you manage the books?  Should this person be an employee versus a contractor?”

If you haven’t owned a company before (or in a high level of management) then you can easily get overwhelmed by the options you have actually running your business.  Here are the highlights so you can hit the ground running.

Accounting: QuickBooks

For keeping track of your income, expenses, reconciling your bank accounts, knowing what clients haven’t paid in over a month, creating 1099s and W2s for contractors/employees it is fantastic.  When it comes time to payroll and direct deposit your team members, it even does that.  It makes accounting super-simple and your accountant will be very happy you chose a product that he or she already knows how to use.  We use it to setup recurring invoices for clients, make sure our people get paid on time as well as generate reports on how well the company is doing from a profitability standpoint.

A quick note on QuickBooks and Banking

QuickBooks allows you to migrate all of your bank accounts and credit cards into their system so you can categorize everything that comes into (and out of) your business.  I have found that a lot of small, local banks do not have great QuickBooks connectivity and thus make accounting much more difficult.  Personally, I would suggest banking with a larger bank in your area so you can reap the benefits of “accounting made easy.”  If I had to manually reconcile all my expenses (and income) from our different accounts, it would take away from the time I have to give to our clients during the week – and that’s not time I can get back.

Employee or Contractor?

The IRS has a detailed set of rules that defines who is a contractor versus who is an employee.  The three basic rules are:

  • Behavioral: Are you controlling when and how this person is doing the job?
  • Financial: Are you reimbursing their expenses? Do you provide the tools necessary to complete the job?
  • Type: Does the work the person is doing perform a critical role in the business? Does the get benefits?

What it mainly boils down to is understanding and documenting the reasons for/against employee/contractor.  There isn’t a “certain number” of items you have to check off a list to make a person an employee (or a contractor).  Just make sure you take into account everything the IRS tells you to do and make your determination logically.

Critical Employee

During the beginning phases cash on hand is typically a bit tight.  However, there might be that one person who you just have to have on your team in order to make it a success.  You might not have the cash on hand to guarantee a market-rate salary, but if this person is in a position to effect your revenue stream, you might want to consider a simple bonus structure in connection with a lower-than-market salary offer.

First, find out where you want your business’s overall profitability percentage to be.  Let’s say that number is 35%.  If the work this employee touches over each 6 month period is at a 35% profit margin, give out a small bonus.  Do a tiered bonus structure (increasing bonuses for higher profit margins) so the person has the drive to help make the company as profitable as possible.

Simple Website

If you are going to run a business you have to have (at minimum) a simple but solid online presence.  People need to be able to verify you actually exist and the first way people typically do that is through a quick Google search.  If you can’t be found online, you may not actually exist; in the sense of Google-credibility.  If you don’t know where to even start with your website, make sure you budget out some money to get something online before you start passing out business cards.

I admit, I too have been caught in that “oh my gosh, what is going on” moment. When there are so many moving pieces and things … just feel too much. Stop yourself. Give yourself a minute. Boil things down to your basic priorities. These are the 4 things I’ve found (and discovered personally) are essential for getting the operations of your small business running. Whew… just breath. You got this.

Google’s G-Suite Makes Teamwork Easy

You’ve got a small business, now get the tools that will make collaboration a breeze between everyone at the office. G-Suite provides a large set of apps that makes working together easier than ever.

 File Sharing

Drive is the file storage service in Google’s G-Suite. Every file, including documents can easily be shared with others. It’s as easy as right clicking a file, and clicking on “Share”.

gsuite1

The best part is all you need to share the file is an email address. If a client is not part of your team, just type in their email address and they’ll be sent an invitation to view the file. A shared folder is perhaps the most useful feature in Drive. Clients don’t have to worry about email size restrictions which can lead to multiple emails or leaving them looking for some alternative way to get you large files.

Within your own team, you can easily share that folder with everyone. You won’t have to worry about getting the client’s files to the right computer or fussing about downloading the files from an email and moving them elsewhere to the right person — they’re all in the cloud!

Collaborate in Real Time

Docs, Sheets, and Slides (the office suite)  allow you to collaborate in real time with others. You’ll see edits each user makes as they type! Each editor is given a unique colorful caret with their name attached to easily identify which people are working on which sections of a document.

gsuite2-crop

You don’t have to worry about sending an email about what party supplies everyone at the office needs. Send a shared document, and have everyone throw in their ideas. The possible uses are endless.

The real time collaboration works just as easy in Slides and Sheets too. Throw the whole team to work on a sales presentation without worrying about merging changes into one presentation file after everyone finishes their work. Get it all done, simultaneously in one document.

gsuite3

Cost

You can try out Drive and the office apps and other Google apps and services free with any Google account. If you would like business features like domain email, user management, and more storage you can get G-Suite for businesses.

G-Suite is $5 per user per month. Each user gets access to the full suite of Google apps which includes email, an office suite, video conferencing, and more. If you want more storage or a few extra administrative features, you can upgrade to a $10 per user per month plan which is still easily affordable.

Google Crackdown on Popups

Google loves making changes. It is constantly updating and re-inventing its services. The newest change? How their algorithm pulls the precise content you want from your search. When you do a search for almost anything, you get the result you’re looking for within the first 10 results Google retrieves.  The last major change Google made was giving result-boosts to company websites that were mobile friendly (or, to put it differently, discredited sites that were only optimized for desktop views).  Through that change, Google set a new precedent and now 85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label.  Starting on January 10th, 2017, Google released another new rule that effects companies who rely on advertising money for a bulk of their revenue or trying to expand their email list.

Interstitial Pop Ups

Interstitial Pop Up from GoogleWhat in the world is an interstitial?  You are at your computer/phone and start searching.  You finally find that article you’re looking for and click on the link to the website.  However, you are rudely disrupted from your article browsing after only reading the first two words of because a pop up! You know, the ones with the teeny-tiny close button hiding in the obnoxious graphics.  That is what Google is cracking down on.  The goal is to give you, the consumer, the best experience possible – and those types of interruptions don’t allow for a smooth user experience.

These types of pop-ups are most commonly used for two main reasons:

1) Collecting email addresses for your a mailing list

In order to grow the company mailing list, we all know that site that blocks the content we’re searching for with a pop-up connected with their email provider to blast out new blog articles. There is now a need to be more careful – especially with readership on mobile devices. These types of pop-ups are going to reduce site priority in search results. Currently, this algorithm update does not affect desktop experiences. There hasn’t been any discussion around desktop yet, but we plan on keeping our ears open.

2) Advertising Revenue

This is the business area that will be hit the hardest by this change.  A lot of companies rely on advertising revenue because of these pop ups.  Now, those companies are going to have to start weighing the pros and cons of keeping the ad slot revenue at a loss of Google Page Rank.

So What Do I Do?

Google Interstitial Banner AdFirstly, if you don’t have a developer on staff to dynamically change your interstitials to only pop-up on desktop, I highly recommend removing all together for the time being.  As a business owner, I’d rather lose out on a handful of email list sign ups than risk having my website moved down in Google’s Page Rank.  Secondly, start thinking outside the box.  Google will still allow ads to pop up, but that have to use an appropriate amount of screen real estate on mobile.  To the right you’ll see an ad that does pop over the content, but utilizes an appropriate amount of space (it doesn’t block anything).  Start consolidating the information on your pop-up so it can fit into a smaller space so you can both: A) appease Google and B) still collect the information you need.  Perhaps being more concise with your ad content / email sign up form might actually prompt more people to click/sign up.  Nowadays, consumers are so used to having full-screen pop up ads, that their muscle memory automatically closes those out without even having to think about it.

Google is a constantly evolving monster. Often, adapting in response to its users behaviors. Not only are content blocking pop-ups annoying and obtrusive to user experience – now there is an actual penalty for heckling users. In a moment of confession; I can’t say I’m not unhappy about the change. Even if it means I need to make a few more changes to my own data-collecting approaches.


Source: Google Webmaster Central Blog

5 Skills Designers Should Have

So you want to be a designer? It’s an exciting and creative job that gives you a step up into the profitable and ever-changing world of website technology. And let’s be honest for a moment: people and businesses will always need websites designed. This allows for a considerable amount of job security. So what skills should you know before jumping into the deep end? Here are five key skills to have under your belt in order to become a stellar website designer:

1. Understand the Basics

Perhaps the most important skill for budding designers is the ability to understand basic HTML and CSS, the coding languages for the vast majority of websites today. Yes, there are tools that designers can use, such as Macaw and Webflow, that can create beautiful websites using only drag and drop principles. No coding required. The drawback is that you can only rely on these website builders for so long. As you grow as a designer, a client will eventually come up with something too large or complex for a drag-&-drop platform. Then you will want to NEED the knowledge of HTML and CSS.

Knowing the basics of HTML and CSS should be important to designers because it allows you to see the works of your hands come to life. This knowledge will allow you to come to a better grip of what your limitations and expectations as a designer are. HTML and CSS will tell you how different web aspects will appear, such as where images will be placed, how text will look, among other things. Would you build a house without a foundation? No? Then why would you choose to ignore the cornerstones of many websites?

2. Marketing is Key

Your website will unfortunately not draw people to it on its own. The budding designer must be knowledgeable about the advantages of marketing. With the rise of social media, it has become easier than ever to get your name out to the public. However, many designers see this as the job of someone else or not important at all. In order for anyone to acknowledge your brand, they must be informed about it. Becoming fluent if not knowledgeable on major social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) will allow you to get your name into public awareness.

Another important thing to understand is the idea of actual marketing. There has been a rising trend of utilizing advertising campaigns. Websites can use paid marketing schemes such as Google AdWords to place ads in places where specific and targeted people will see them. Know the ins and outs of these marketing campaigns and they will help your clients get business!

3. A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

After spending so much time on a design, make sure you follow through completely. It’s important to put effort into all aspects of your design. One of the highest priorities visually is the quality of the images on your site. Yes, designers can create engaging designs but should the images have poor quality then your whole site can be easily disfigured. Knowing the quality of good photography or graphics is vital to the overall look of your website. Spending the extra money and time on the quality of these things will not only improve your site but also improve your own image as a designer.

4. Print is important too

As a designer, you need to be well rounded. Not only will this open more doors, but it will also help to expand your skill set and make you more marketable. So learn how to design print materials for any websites you may create. Anybody can slap a logo on a template and call it a business card, but having quality print materials is a vital part to any business. That’s where you can come in.

Knowing how to translate a company’s website and logo into print is an excellent skill to have. Many industries still rely heavily on business cards, brochures, yard signs, and printed material. Having this skill will give you the edge when clients go looking for a designer.

5. Be Creative

In today’s ever expanding society of the newest and trendiest websites, you have to stay on the cutting edge of things. Being creative is an imperative part to any good designer’s tool kit. A computer will never be able to create beauty and that’s why you are so essential. Let your creative juices flow and create a masterpiece on the Internet. Keep an eye on those popular websites around you and learn from them. Note what looks amazing and what just doesn’t work. Be your own designer and create something unique and beautiful.

There are so many valuable skills a website designer should possess. The ones listed above are just a sampling of those considered most important. If you truly want to be a designer, start with creativity and go from there. Drive and desire will follow if you’re passionate and inspired. Best of luck!

5 of the Best Startup Practices

In many ways, operating a startup business is a lot like running a marathon. Both require lots of time, training, and planning, as well as self-discipline and flexibility. Like anyone training for a race there are just best practices to efficiently run your startup.

Timing is everything

During a marathon, you rarely see people take off at a flat out sprint in the very beginning. Instead, professional runners set a pace and know when to start pushing themselves. This is critical to a startup company. You must know the market and know when to start pushing your product. If the market is flooded with similar items, you may need to wait in order for your business to take off.

Another important key to the timing of your startup is to make sure you are moving quickly and decisively. Once you start making moves towards your business plan, act with a purpose! These are some of the most important steps in the life of your business. Too many startups have gotten bogged down at the very beginning because they simply dragged their feet getting off the ground.

Surround yourself with supporters

Most marathon athletes have a network of support. This support group is usually made up of friends, family, and other marathon runners who constantly strive to improve and encourage the athlete. In business, this is also important. Make sure you have people in place in your business who will be with you for the long haul. Most startups won’t get off the ground in six months, some not even in a year, so make sure you hire people who are committed and who desire to improve your business. These people will be the cornerstones of your startup.

On a more personal note; try to involve your friends and family in this process. Not only will they be there to help you through the tough times, but they will also be there to celebrate with you in your triumphs. We all need a little encouragement – or a call from a friend reminding us to get some sleep.

Stick to the plan

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of any undertaking is self-discipline. In reference to running a marathon, serious runners have the self-discipline of a monk. They adhere to rigid training regimes, nutrition plans, and practice schedules. In order to have a successful startup, you must adopt this attitude as well. That means setting forth a budget and then sticking to it – not a single penny over. Perhaps you can afford to go over your budget, but in the end, it’s the principle of the matter. If you go over your first budget, what will keep you from going over it for the rest of the life of your business?

In addition, it is recommended that you set forth a schedule for yourself concerning when you want to get certain things done. That way you can see your schedule days, weeks, and even months in advance, and know what you need to get done. It should be well known to anyone reading this article that startups require more time and nurturing than an established business. You should be prepared to spend as much time as needed on your project.

Bend but don’t break

A flexible runner is a good runner. If you run while you’re stiff, you will inevitably injure yourself. Any runner, marathon or not, knows stretching before a race is invaluable. You loosen up your muscles and give your body a chance to enjoy a wider range of motion and to recover faster after the race. Being flexible with your startup is equally important. Things can change in almost any aspect of your business and they might require tweaking. Sure, your company might be your baby and you might have everything perfectly in order.  However, what if things change and initial testing of your product shows you need to alter your course?  Given that your product has never been tested in the marketplace until your first round of testing, you do not know whether or not your idea is one that will stick. Therefore, it is vital to have the flexibility to adapt and change as new factors arise.

Don’t forget to follow through

After all the training and all the preparation, don’t chicken out. Put your feet to the pavement and just go. All the tips and helpful hints are worth nothing if you don’t have the perseverance or knowledge to just get out and do it. This goes for marathons, startup businesses and anything else that might require any great effort. At the end of the day, make sure you know how to do what you need to do rather than what needs to be done. Don’t come to the end of things and be afraid of getting your hands dirty. You’ve come too far to quit now. Follow through.

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