Cloud Services for your Business

If you have always feared losing your data and important business information in the event of a fire, theft, hacking or other incident, it’s time to move your business to the virtual cloud. Unlike traditional hosting, cloud services deliver hosted services over the Internet. Thus, apart from ensuring safekeeping of your data and information on a virtual server on the cloud, such services also allow easy access to your employees on the go - from anywhere and at anytime. A cloud can be either public or private. While anybody on the Internet can use public cloud services (like Amazon Web Services), private cloud services cater to a limited clientele.

When it comes to cloud storage, you can save a great deal of money. Unlike physical servers that are expensive to maintain, cloud storage is affordable and makes accessing, sharing, syncing and updating, files—usually from any device— fast and simple.

Here are 3 cloud services, which if used judiciously, can make your work easier:

crashplanCrashplan: If you want to back up your information and data securely to multiple locations, this service which has no storage limits is your ideal bet. Apart from backing up your computer every day, Crashplan even saves files from all external drives that are attached to your machine. This service is available for Windows, Mac, Open Solaris, and Linux. Apart from free plans, paid plans are available, which are worth $24.99/year (CrashPlan+ 10GB), $49.99/year (CrashPlan+ Unlimited), and $119.99/year (CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited).

google-driveGoogle Drive: Despite being one of the newest entrants on the block, the service of Google Drive goes beyond simply storing your files. You can share files and work in partnership with anyone using Google Drive. Apart from easy access to the built-in Google Docs, you can also enjoy Gmail and Google+ integration with this service. You can start for free with 5GB, and upgrade to 25 GB or 100GB for $2.49 and $4.99 per month respectively.

carboniteCarbonite: This service helps in backing up your data automatically, by offering step by step direction to restore files accurately where they were earlier. You can use this program to access your files from anywhere and even use devices like your iPhone, Android, iPad, or BlackBerry to access information on the go. Windows and Mac users can choose from three  Carbonite plans, all of which come with unlimited storage, and start at $59/year. Plans for small businesses start at just $229/year.

Apart from these services, there are many others worth checking like

So, depending on the nature of your business, select from these cloud services to streamline your business processes and work fast as well as effectively.

10 Ways to Get Your Business in Trouble with Email

Stop Spam ReportsHow could something so easy, so cost-effective, and so powerful get you in trouble? It usually happens the moment you think that easy, cost-effective, and powerful tools can’t possibly be abused.

1. Get spam complaints. Spam is in the eye of the receiver. If your audience thinks your email is spam, all they have to do in most cases is click one button in their email program, and your email address is flagged as possible spam forever. Spam complaints destroy your delivery rate and reputation. To avoid spam complaints, you have to avoid looking like spam.

2. Use deceptive ways to collect contact information. You can find email addresses everywhere you look, but not everything shiny is gold. Collecting email addresses from web sites, directories, and web-crawling computer programs will give your email list more spam complaints than sales.

3. Violate the CAN-SPAMAct. Consumers hate spam, so Congress decided to take action on spammers by creating the CAN-SPAM Act. You can be fined if you violate the CAN-SPAM Act, but the laws also shed light on the email marketing practices that consumers dislike the most.

4. Send too much email. Your business has to survive, and regular communications are the key to staying top of mind with customers. Sending the right amount of content at the proper frequency is a balance that will reward you if you practice keeping your finger off the “send” button when your customers aren’t ready to hear from you.

5. Buy an email list. Email list purchases or rentals fail not because of the quality of the list, but rather because consumers dislike receiving unfamiliar emails.

6. Share your email list unintentionally. Sharing your email doesn’t necessarily have to involve handing a disk to a friend or colleague. When you send an email with hundreds of email addresses copied into the cc field, you are sharing your entire list with everyone you’re sending to.

7. Share your business with a spammer. If you send email from an email server that also hosts other businesses, that server is only as good as the reputation of the other people who send email from that server. If your shared hosting partners are spamming people, your emails can be flagged as spam by email programs. Using an email service with a good reputation is critical to your delivery.

8. Go it alone. Effective email marketing is nearly impossible without partners to help you with formatting, delivery, and strategy. Just like a good CEO surrounds herself with key people to grow a business, a good email marketer is surrounded by partners who are invested in the success of the business.

9. Hide your identity. Even if your audience knows you, they still have to recognize you. Your email’s “from” line has to be familiar, your brand has to be prominent, and your email address has to look friendly to the companies that decide which emails to deliver and which to send to the junk folder. You can read more about creating familiar emails in Chapter 9.

10. Fail to plan. If you’re going to invest time, energy, effort, and money in an email marketing program, take the time to plan the steps necessary to be successful.

Using Squidoo to Promote Your Business

If you’ve recently got yourself a Squidoo lens, you could use this post to turn into a Squidoo lensmaster (an indispensable tool in the ever-evolving sphere of Internet Marketing!) Here are some steps to ensure Squidoo Success:

Ensure that your lens looks GREAT!
There are a number of techniques, which you can use to ensure that your lens looks GREAT before it hits cyberspace. You obviously know that the quality of promotions and quantity of visitors depends on the appearance of your lens. Here are a couple of recommended options:

Polish Your Lens: Add a relevant photo, check if your Flickr and YouTube modules are relevant, ensure that your copy is error-free and be sure that you have REALLY described your topic; these are the most important ways to polish your lens.

Tag Tricks: Use your SEO skills to tag your Squidoo lens for maximum online exposure. Beginning with an optimized lens URL, ensure that your copy includes the right keywords and add your keyphrase to your module title as well.
Start slow and be patient while you develop your Squidoo lens

You don’t have to build your Squidoo lens in a day! Take your time, prioritize the information you want to present on your lens and begin working on it accordingly. Once you have a lens, don’t fret that you aren’t popular instantly! Take time to add content to your lens, sign guest books and comment on other blogs, network with friends.

Your lens on Google, yes – it’s possible!
Want to find your Squidoo lens on Google and other major search engines? You can use “add url" page and get listed. Here are some of the options, which you can use:

  • Google's Add URL page
  • AddMe Free Search Engine Submission
  • Submit Express's Free Website Submission

Market your lens online
You can choose to blog about your lens, discuss it on Facebook/Linkedin and other social networking communities. You could even link your lens to your personal blog or have a blog about using Squidoo and how it benefited you. Use Twitter extensively to promote your lens. You could even use the various article submission sites, including wotarticle, ezinearticles, article alley, amazines, Submit Articles Free.

Use Social Media
Social media are primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information. There are a number of social bookmarking websites, which you can use to promote your Squidoo lens. The most important sites are listed below:

  • digg.com
  • del.icio.us
  • stumbleupon

Quick tips for a Squidoo user

  • Proofread your lenses, before you publish it.
  • When you sign in guestbooks, offer comments of value. Try not to be marked as spam, and/or banned for good!
  • Provide visitors a reason to contribute on your lens. To do this, you could use polls, guestbooks etc.Once your Squidoo lens is ready, email it to your friends and family and invite them to create a lens of their own – you get a bonus, if they do!
  • Link your lens to your Flickr profile, eBay auctions, Craigslist and any other social networking websites, which you use.
  • Ensure that your lens is available in the appropriate category.
  • Use a Squidoo Banners & Buttons Creator to create a HTML link.

Social Media Management Tools

social media managing toolsAlmost any type of business these days can benefit from using social media management tools. Though social media management tools are available for small businesses, they are not really publicized as well as those for medium and large businesses. Before choosing a social media managing tool for your business, it is important to know what you need them to do and why you need them and have those answers ready as they will help you choose more wisely among the myriad of tools out there. Here is a brief overview of what you should consider before choosing such tools along with some popular tools that can make your job easier:

Why do you want the tool for: Before choosing a social media managing tool, it is important to ask yourself why you need it? Some of the probable answers may be: to improve the workflow, to monitor keywords, to engage better across multiple social platforms or to get an in-depth analysis of your social media engagement. Depending on the answer to this question, you can choose the perfect tool to suit your needs.

What do you want to measure: It is important to ask what exactly you want to measure with such tools? Here again, there are multiple responses, including measurement of value of each post, evaluating the user engagement with regard to a particular campaign or time period, or it could be analyzing and understanding where you stand against a competitor. There are different tools, which are good for different sets of measurements. Therefore, understanding what you need is extremely important before going onto identifying the perfect tool.

Budget: Another important factor to consider before selecting tools is your budget. Tools cost money and knowing your budget beforehand will help you choose the perfect tool to suit your budgetary needs.

Competitors and their importance: Finally, when choosing a tool, it is important to understand how competitors and their movements play a role in determining your own business processes. Understanding this will help you choose a tool that will allow you to understand more about this factor.

Types of tools

Once you are clear about what you want, what you need it to do and why you want it, searching for the perfect social media management tool becomes a cakewalk. There are several options available today, some of which are listed below:  

HootSuite: Available in three packages namely Enterprise, Pro, and Basic, which are targeted toward medium-sized or small businesses, this tool can let you control and check analytics for your online activity.

Crowdbooster: This is an excellent analytical tool that allows you to analyze your tweets and Facebook posts. It also advises you about the right time for posting, what the audience needs, and whom to interact with while posting your comments and posts. Preparing better content for your posts can be easily done with the help of this tool.

SproutSocial: This tool helps you monitor all your social media activity, across all networks, at once. Using this tool, you can actually retweet with relative ease while also responding to initial posts and comments.

Postling: This tool helps in social media management across multiple platforms while providing excellent listening and monitoring features.

Apart from these, you have a wide variety of other tools like TweetDeck, CoTweet, and SpredFast, just to name a few. Choosing the best social media management tool will essentially depend on your precise requirements, time you are willing to invest, and your budget.

Social Spam: What it is and how to avoid it

If you're marketing your business on Twitter or Facebook, be sure not to be marked as Spam. Following are some great tips on creating great social content that will get your clients to interact more without being too self promotional or spammy.

Understanding Social Spam and avoiding it

Utilizing LinkedIn to Gain Exposure and Credibility

linked-in-crowdThough LinkedIn was originally meant as a platform for professionals to network, it has slowly gained popularity amongst business owners as the new age method to gain exposure and credibility within the LinkedIn fraternity. If you too are eyeing a slice of fame and recognition by utilizing LinkedIn for your business, here are some useful tips to help you in your endeavor:

Manage your profile like a pro: Unlike other social networking sites, LinkedIn needs you to be at your professional best as it’s a way to showcase who you are and how serious you are about your business. So, optimize your LinkedIn profile with a professional image of yourself, your website link, link your blog feed to your profile and share your experience as well as skills so that people get to know more about your credentials and who you are. When you fill out your profile, decide judiciously about how much you want to share. Remember that apart from your direct contact, even those connected to your contacts’ networks would be able to view the information that you put on your profile. It would also be wise to make your profile relevant to the target audience that you wish to attract.

Keep up your presence: Don’t forget about it all after you have created your LinkedIn profile. Remember – like any good marketing strategy, you should try to have a weekly presence, if not daily, by taking some action on your profile. It could be announcing some interesting news related to your niche, new product launches or something else that may interest others. For example, if you are in the airlines business, recent news like participation of Bryan K. Bedford – the CEO of Frontier Airlines, on the reality TV show Undercover Boss, or a false alarm caused by a "suspicious" passenger on a Pinnacles Airlines regional jet would be good news items to share. Though many business owners consider time to be a soft-cost, finding even ten minutes a day can be hard without proper planning. So, have clearly defined goals regarding how to maintain your presence on this platform.

Build your network: As a business owner, your top priority should be to build connections. Find present and former colleagues, business associates, friends and other people you already know physically on LinkedIn to connect with them. The more connections you have, the more other people are likely to be connected to you. Since these networks grow exponentially, you would be able to reach all your contacts, and a chain of the contact’s contacts in a jiffy. Every time you add or change some information on your profile, the same will get spread to the web of people connected to you. Thus, you can make a small addition to reach thousands of profiles within minutes. So, try to make at least one new connection every day to take your business to the next level.

Ask for recommendations: Seek out recommendations from your LinkedIn contacts as they make your LinkedIn profile more personal and dynamic. What’s more, they add credibility to your business and may impress the potential clientele.
Join groups: Joining groups or starting your own groups on LinkedIn is yet another way to reach prospects. A group membership makes it easier to connect with new people, and offer an additional ground for circulating messages to other professionals having similar interests. Whether it is a professional group like web design and development experts, content developers or a group for people who love to talk about parenting, skiing etc, finding groups matching the demographic of your target audience is the key to success. This way, you will get a free advertising opportunity that reaches millions within seconds. A word of caution though – business owners who blatantly use LinkedIn to sell their wares or services, and offer nothing of service to others in return tend to get poorer results than their counterparts who balance their LinkedIn activity on the give-and-take approach.

Use Searches: LinkedIn allows users to search the millions of other users based on parameters like profession, zip code, number of connections etc. You can even type keywords related to your business (say, “content developers” in case you are into content writing business, “website development” or “web designers” for web development businesses) to find new people with whom you can get connected.

So, use your LinkedIn presence judiciously to gain exposure and credibility.

Skin Cancer Infographic

Following is an infographic I designed for a client to promote skin cancer awareness and the importance of sunscreen, how to detect skin cancer, skin cancer rates in the US and more.

Embed the image below on your site - simply copy and paste the code


skin-cancer-detection-infographic

Embed the image above on your site - simply copy and paste the code

 

Using Web Analytics for Marketing

email-statisticsWebsite analytics are very useful tools for those who fully understand its scope as well as its limitations. Web analytics are basically a reading of the happenings on any website. Most of the things which go online are anonymous. However, web analytics use a combination of cookies, JavaScript and log files to identify all web users and the kind of activities they perform online.

Web analytics are used by marketers to identify recent online trends and improve on their marketing campaigns. Marketers can use web analytics in several ways for better results, some of which are:

Measuring offline statistics: As with online campaigns, offline marketing strategies also need to be measured to judge their effectiveness. Using web analytics, a marketer can track offline data and judge whether or not a campaign is having the desired effect. It is a good way to compare the overall results of various elements that form a part of your marketing strategy.

Judging the sources of traffic: You can use web analytics to figure out how your site visitors like your business online. Knowing which sources drive the maximum traffic to your site allows you to understand where you are positioned in regards to online search engine indexing. Also, it helps you in determining whether or not your social media campaign is working well and what kind of email campaigns have been most effective in increasing hits to your website. Using all this data, you can chart out a strategy of action for specific web pages.

Measuring conversion rates: The first step in successful business is to get more and more visitors to your website.  The next step involves converting these visitors into leads and viable business sources. In order to achieve this, you need to offer your customers attractive content, which compels them to conduct business with you. A strong calls-to-action approach helps in converting web site traffic into valuable business leads. Use two or more variations in a landing page to know which approach works better and gets more revenue. Web analytics can help with all of these steps and even give you an insight into determining web content keywords which give most leads.

Validating data: Web analytics is used by marketers to focus on several metrics and map out the variations in traffic flow to the web site. These readings can be used to authenticate your own researches regarding which articles or products work best on the site and which ones are not received well by consumers. The collective data can be used to create more consumer friendly content for the web page.

One thing that drives all marketers is the return on investment from any marketing source. All marketers need to know where to dedicate their energy, resources and time in order to get the best returns on their investment. Web analytics provide marketers with all the data required for their next initiative. It gives an overall view of which areas are most profitable, which are untapped resources, and which ones do not work at all. Using web analytics prevents them from wasting money on dead sources and guides them to use ways which can be beneficial for the business. So, if you haven’t yet used web analytics, it’s time to make the most of it.

Driving Traffic Through Online Forums

forumsAn Internet forum is an area for discussion made available on a website for users to post discussions, read and respond to posts by other forum members. Online forums allow members or users to start new topics and reply to existing posts too. Conversations on forums are called threads.

With the advent of the internet, businesses are leaving no stone unturned to promote their businesses online. Among the various other means to market websites online, forum posting is turning into a popular option. To top that, it has been noted that visitors to websites by way of forums are worth more than any average visitor. Why? Simply because, forum visitors are active information seekers and engaged users, who are more likely to be interested in your services. However, you should note that forums are primarily beneficial for driving human traffic to your website. Search engine rankings follow closely and with a signature link with every post, you are assured greater visibility in the search engines too.

Here’s how you can take advantage of internet forums to drive traffic to your website:

Introduce Yourself: Begin by participating in the ‘Introduce Yourself’ section of the forum. Also, don’t forget to welcome new members!

Become an Active Member: You could choose forums or topics, which interest you or are closely related to your business or service and actively participate in the discussions. Try solving problems and offer help and advice when required. Don’t underestimate yourself and believe that you cannot become a moderator. The effort that you put in to become a moderator on a forum is worth it and you are assured increased visits to your blog as visitors already believe you are a subject matter expert.

Your Signature Tells All: A well-defined signature, with linked text to your URL, is essential if you want visitors to notice your link. Here’s an example:

Your website and SEO: Do you know you can drastically increase your traffic with the help of forum postings?
Michelle Crossley, studio1c

Say NO to SPAM: Drop your links in the posts you visit or reply at. But, not in a spammy way! If you are dropping links before you establish yourself as an active contributor, it won’t take you long to be ignored or banned!

Know the Forum Rules: Different forums have different and specific rules. Make sure that you have read them thoroughly (usually you can find a post on the forum rules prominently displayed in the forum index) so you aren’t banned after you have posted.

Check for typos and missing words before you click ‘Submit’.

While you work hard to increase free website traffic, you should ensure that users find relevant information on your forum posts too!

10 Keys to Your Overall Email Marketing Success

Key Principles to Email MarketingIf you learn nothing else from this article, I recommend you master the following key principles. Most of the statistics that suggest high returns on email marketing investment depend on how closely you adhere to these basics.

1. Only send email to people who know you. People open email from people they know, and they delete email from people they don’t recognize or mark it as spam. It doesn’t even matter what’s legal or ethical. If your business makes a habit of emailing total strangers, then your reputation, your budget, and your growth will suffer for it.

2. Don’t treat email addresses like email addresses; treat them like relationships. An email address is one of the most personal things someone can share with your business because it’s an invitation to send your messages to a place where he or she sends and receives personal communications as well as business ones. Email doesn’t work if it feels like a computer-generated HTML document. It has to come across as being part of a meaningful relationship.

3. Send relevant content that has value to your recipient. You probably weren’t going to send irrelevant, valueless content on purpose, but content with good intentions isn’t the same thing as value and relevance. In order to ensure that your emails are valuable and relevant, you have to know exactly what your audience wants. You have to be a good listener to be a good communicator.

4. Engage your audience in the content you write. This requires attention-grabbing subject lines, clear headlines, and thoughtful content.

5. Maximize your delivery rate. Getting email delivered is harder than you might think. Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) such as Yahoo!, AOL, and Hotmail work diligently to block emails from unwanted senders. If your email isn’t up to professional standards in reputation, technology, or permission, you might as well be sending your email directly to the junk folder.

6. Don’t share email lists with anyone. Your email list is a valuable asset. It will lose value if you loan it to someone else because the people on your list won’t recognize a foreign sender. You should never borrow an email list from someone else. That list is full of people who aren’t familiar with your business, and you are likely to attract more enemies than friends.

7. Set expectations with your recipients. When someone signs up to receive your email communications, they do so with the expectation of receiving something of value. If you don’t communicate clearly what that value is, your audience will draw their own conclusions. Tell your audience what you’ll be sending and how often you’ll be sending it. That way, you’ll defeat any value, relevance, and frequency objections before your audience even signs up.

8. Look professional whenever you communicate. If you’re a salesperson, you know how to dress for success. Similarly, if you’re an email, you need to look familiar, inviting, and consistent.

9. Be ready to respond. Email communications can be highly automated, in an off-putting way that distances you from your customers. Don’t set an email auto reply in your in-box and take a mental vacation. Keep an eye on your communications and your responses so you can take action, make changes, and repeat positive results.

10. Regularly review your campaign results. The longer you practice marketing the more you realize how unpredictable your results will be if you don’t analyze your past and make adjustments based on your data. Use email tracking reports to help you improve, progress, and grow.