Blog

August 25th, 2014

Printer, copiers, and scanners are the hub of every office.  When they aren’t working correctly, a good day turns bad. From paper jams and error messages, or quality problems like smearing, mis-feeds, and ghosting, printer issues can cause havoc in an office.

Plus, it’s easy to sink thousands of dollars into maintenance and copier repairs, especially if you don’t have a Dean Office maintenance contract.   If you want to avoid common printer problems AND save yourself a small fortune on replacements and repairs, follow these 3 easy steps:

Keep It Clean

There is no faster way to gunk up a laser printer and cause printing problems than by letting it get dirty.

On a monthly basis, use compressed air to blow out the inside of the printer. Remove the toner cartridge for better access, and don’t forget to do the back if it is accessible. It also helps to take a vacuum to the outside. If you print labels or use any other type of specialty media like transparencies, use rubbing alcohol to clean the rollers inside the printer.

Do Your Maintenance

You can almost infinitely extend your printers lifespan by doing the regular maintenance suggested by the manufacturer.

This includes replacing rollers, filters, and occasionally replacing

the fuser (the printer’s internal furnace.) If resources are tight here’s a little money-saving secret: you only need to do this type of maintenance at 1.5 to 2 times the manufacturer’s usage recommendation. In other words, if your printer’s manufacturer says to replace rollers every 100,000 pages, you really only need to do so every 150,000 to 200,000 pages.

Use a Surge Protector

Nothing will send your printer to the bone yard faster than an electrical surge caused by lightning or other issues on the power grid. When internal components are fried, it is often cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to fix the existing one.  It is easy to protect yourself with a $25 surge protector.  DO NOT plug a laser printer into a UPS or other battery backup system. The printer’s power draw is too much for a battery to handle.

Printer and copier repairs don’t have to mean a standstill for your office.  If you are unsure about how to best service your printer or copier, Dean Office can help with a service plan that fits your need and walk you through the above steps.  An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure.

For printing and copying we recommend Dean Office to all our clients.

August 21st, 2014

BValue_Aug18_CThe vast majority of countries in the West have some requirement or law that states that businesses need to meet the needs of their employees. For many businesses this means implementing systems that afford a duty of care and allow employees to do their job adequately. As such, it is a good idea for companies to have an accessible technology plan.

What is accessible technology?

Accessible technology, also commonly referred to as assistive technology, is the idea of creating or implementing technology and systems that cater to employees with disabilities. While not every company will have or require accessible technology, it is required by many countries that businesses meet the needs of disabled employees.

To that end, it is a good idea to develop a plan on how to implement accessible technology. To help, here are five steps you could take:

1. Defining your strategy

The accessible technology strategy should be the first thing you develop as it will be the foundation of the overall plan. When looking at your strategy you should define how accessible technology fits into your overall organization plan and how it will fit with your existing strategies.

What you are looking to do is to figure out how this form of technology will fit with existing systems and increase overall operating effectiveness. From here, you can define the overall objectives, budget, and vision for the plan.

2. Identifying requirements

In this step, you should look closely at existing technology in the organization and the needs of your employees. Because each company is different and the needs of employees are different you should be careful to also identify the technology needs of your employees.

When looking at both the needs and existing systems you can work to come up with an overall set of requirements, along with a general priority. For example, will you need to modify existing computers or purchase new ones?

The key idea here is that you need to figure out exactly what you need.

3. Picking the new technology

Once you have identified what changes you need to implement, what new technology you will need, and your budget, you can then begin looking for the best solutions. The most effective way to do this is to work with it experts like us who can help you find and integrate the best technology and changes that will meet your adaptive technology needs.

4. Implementing and training

Once you have defined the changes, and new technology to integrate, you need to implement it. This may include altering physical devices and machines where necessary, and then testing the systems to make sure they are working properly.

It is also be a good idea to train your employees who will be using the systems, and the team who will be managing the systems.

5. Maintaining

As with all tech systems, it is important to realize that the solution you implement will not work forever, and will eventually require maintenance, updating, or even replacing. You should take steps to audit systems on a regular basis to ensure they are still meet the needs of your company and employees.

This can be a time consuming and potentially costly step, especially if you neglect it. We strongly recommend working with a company like ours, who can help manage your solution and ensure that updates and any necessary changes are implemented when they are needed, and that should needs change, systems are subsequently updated to meet the new requirements.

If you are looking to implement accessible technology in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 24th, 2014

BusinessValue_July21_CWhile technology is without a doubt the backbone of almost every business, it can be difficult for business owners to manage or implement it. To many, technology has become so complex that a dedicated IT team is necessary. One solution that may prove more favorable however is to outsource your IT to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is an MSP?

When small to medium businesses look to outsource the management of their technology, many turn to a Managed Services Provider. These service providers function as partners in the management of a business's technology and often assume responsibility for managing, installing, and monitoring all, or at least a large part, of your tech on your behalf.

Because many of these IT partners are focused on technology services, they can often provide technology services equal to, or better than, hiring an in-house IT team. Beyond that, most IT partners offer services at a fixed monthly rate, thus allowing your business to effectively budget for IT expenditures.

5 Ways an IT partner can help

Aside from stabilizing costs and offering powerful IT solutions, there are many ways an IT partner can help your business. Here are 5:

1. Provide stability and direction

Technology is always changing, and the number of services and solutions available is simply staggering. Do you go with Windows, OS X, or Linux for your operating system? What about servers? Do you want cloud services? If so, which? Simply picking the right solution for your business requires an IT expert.

IT partners know technology and take the time to get to know your business needs and goals. From there, they can help pick and implement the best solutions that will support your current demands and provide the necessary IT platform on which you can stably expand your business.

2. Allow you to focus on your core business function

Anyone who is not an IT expert but has been thrust into the role of managing technology quickly comes to realize that technology management and implementation is a full time job. What this means in many small businesses is that someone has to give up time focusing on their main role to focus on technology. This inevitably results in a loss of overall productivity.

By outsourcing your IT, you and your employees can focus on core business functions, without having to worry about pressing technology issues and staying up-to-date with tech developments. This results in an overall increase in productivity.

3. Help you learn how to leverage technology to meet your business goals

To many, new technology like the cloud, advanced databases, and web languages like HTML and CSS are simply too confusing. They may even be downright scary! When people feel overwhelmed by technology, they will often not be able to use it in the best possible way or they will shy away from it. This can lead to decreased productivity, unused technology, and a wasted investment.

Many IT partners don't just install and manage systems, they also take the time to ensure that employees are comfortable with them and understand how to use them. This increases overall tech buy-in and can in turn reduce wasted investments, saving you money in the long run.

4. Enable you to use the latest technology

A common complaint of many who work in small to medium businesses is that the technology systems in the company are old or slow. This is largely due to the fact that many businesses operate on thin margins and simply cannot afford to update systems or integrate new ones.

IT partners offer their services to many different companies and therefore need to ensure that they are using the latest technology. Because most of these services are offered over the Web, they can pass along the features and updates to your business without you having to invest in new technology.

Beyond this, many MSPs offer full-service solutions that include picking the best technology for your business. They can install systems based on your budget and also manage them, ensuring that systems remain up-to-date and fully support your business needs.

5. Ensure compliance

Many industries like healthcare, education, finance, and real estate, require that businesses comply with strict regulations regarding technology and its use. Some governments even require that all businesses meet privacy regulations, making it difficult for businesses to know what the requirements are and if they are actually compliant.

IT partners also operate in these industries and are compliant. This means that they can often ensure that your business and systems are also meeting regulations.

If you are looking for an IT partner who can help your business get the most out of your technology, contact us today to learn more about our managed services.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_CIn part one of our two part article on increasing the shareability of blog content you create, published last month, we revealed five tips. From creating longer content, to playing on specific emotions, and including images, we highlighted ways in which you can potentially increase the shareability of your content. In this article, we take a look at five more tips.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections - perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used - people generally share everything, even if it's not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What's old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has - when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions - shares, likes, etc - drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content - articles included - can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content - there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won't see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn't, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 29th, 2014

BusinessValue_May26_CSocial media has become such a large part of business strategy and marketing. Many businesses invest time, money and energy into creating a wide variety of content for their social media platforms. One of the most popular types of content is articles. While many businesses go to great lengths to create articles, some have a problem with ensuring or increasing the chance that what they write and post will be shared.

The key to getting your content shared

There are countless blog posts on how to create content that is shareable. And to create content that will be shared by users on social media and other platforms you need to know why content gets shared in the first place.

In order to help, we scoured the Internet and found a great article over at OK Dork, which was written by the content masters at BuzzSumo. This article listed things you can do to increase the shareability of the content you produce. While it is quite a long article, we found there were some great tips worth talking about here. In order to make things a little easier, we have split this article into two parts. Here are the first five tips you can leverage to increase the reach of your content, and more specifically the blog articles you create:

Create longer content

Take a look at what people share on their social media profiles and there is little doubt that the vast majority of content is short, and can range from often photos and videos of funny cats to memes. But look at the articles that are shared and you will often find that the most popular ones are actually longer, or long-form as they are referred to by content experts.

The main reason for this is because there are fewer long-form article creators out there, and there is a demand for higher quality, well researched and well-written articles. Sharing this type of content generally adds some depth to a posting which can create a more involved and sustained dialogue.

You might want to mix it up to increase shareability by creating some articles which follow this longer style approach. You could try writing shorter articles on a regular basis, for example, with a 2000 word article say once a month.

People like images

Think about the last time you read an article in the newspaper without an image, or even saw a link on social media without an image. Did you remember the content, or did you even click on the link? Many people wouldn't. So, if you want your content to be shared on social media add some visuals.

With longer content visuals not only serve to draw the eyes of the reader and break up content to keep the reader engaged. For shorter pieces, an image can attract initial attention and give the reader some an idea about what the subject of the content is.

The key here is to include visuals with every piece of content. Make sure that the image relates to the content and is interesting enough to capture attention, enough that users will want to share what they see and read.

Even Twitter users like images

Although Twitter is largely based on text posts visual content tends to be shared more by users of this platform.

As per the point above, try to have a visual with every piece of content. If you are an avid Twitter user, try coming up with titles or overviews that are 100 characters or less. This will leave room for a link on Twitter to the content. If social media users likes the content, and there is an image too, chances are higher that they will share it via Twitter.

Using certain emotions really helps

If you want people to share your content, you need to write articles that evoke emotion. The three most successful, when it comes to sharing, are:
  • Awe
  • Laughter
  • Amusement
If your article inspires one of these three emotions, you have a drastically higher chance of the content being shared. Generally speaking, if content makes someone laugh or think about an issue then are more likely to share what resonates with them.

The other emotion to capitalize on is selfishness. Take a look at your Facebook News Feed and we guarantee that you will see a ton of quizzes shared by people. These quizzes are usually something like "What TV character would you be?, or "What's your dream job?", etc. While entertaining, these quizzes appeal to our more narcissistic sides. They provide little to no value to your followers, but they can be fun and help social media users establish an identity which they can compare with others trying out the same 'test'.

You can also try to create articles that challenge normal assumptions or are opinion pieces on relevant hot-button issues. The spark of debate that the content ignites is sure to attract interaction with comments and sharing, and you can also keep interest going via social media.

Users love infographics and lists

When writing your articles, you have a wide variety of ways you can format your content. Most people will agree that your articles, regardless of length, need to be broken down into easy to read sections, especially if you want to keep mobile users reading. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the two most popular are through infographics and lists.

What this tells us is that readers generally prefer content that can:

  • Display a large amount of information in a clean, easy to read, and visual format i.e., infographics.
  • Are scannable.Take for example list articles. You can format these to be highly scannable, yet still include all the essential information.
  • Tell us what to expect. We like to know what an article is about before we read it.
If you are writing longer articles that contain a large amount of information try creating an infographic, and summarizing the most important parts in a list.

Next month we will reveal five more tips to enhance content sharing. In the mean time, if you have any questions about creating effective content or on social media, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 30th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr28_CTechnology, while integral to every business, is one of the most challenging aspects of business operations to manage. This is especially true for small to medium businesses, where margins are thin and people are often employed to do more than one job. One option owners and managers can employ in order to better manage their technology is partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is a Managed Service Provider?

In the IT industry, a Managed Service Provider is a company that offers small to medium businesses the ability to outsource the management of their day-to-day technology and IT needs.

In other words, an MSP is essentially your IT department. If something technology-related breaks, they help fix it. If you need an app devised or want to upgrade hardware and software, or take a look into virtualization, they can often help in these complex areas too. Many of these organizations act as your business partner to help increase the effectiveness of your business operations, and achieve your overall goals.

Do I need an MSP?

While there are a wide variety of IT partners out there, you might be unsure as to whether you actually want or need to work with one. To help make the decision easier, we have come up with a list of five signs that your business could benefit from outsourcing your IT management to an MSP.

1. You don't have a dedicated IT department or staff

A commonality many small businesses have is that employees often wear more than one hat. The problem with this is that those who are not necessarily IT experts, but are perhaps more tech savvy than others, are tapped to look after the company's IT needs. Businesses can suffer from gaps in knowledge of the latest IT developments. It is also a challenge to balance IT needs while also running a business and remaining productive.

While for some small businesses having a knowledgeable tech person look after the IT on top of their main job works, the chances are high that they aren't planning for a future in IT and may not be able to carry out complicated upgrades or even ensure that your systems are secure beyond the current environment. This can undoubtedly lead to increased problems in the future, which are likely not going to be fixed.

Instead of hiring a full-time IT staff member, you could look into using an MSP who can offer the same services, but at a fraction of the cost. This allows your employees to focus on their main roles, while also allowing you to rest easy knowing that your IT demands are being adequately taken care of.

2. You have continuous tech problems

At first glance, many of the systems we use on a daily basis are relatively simple. That is, they are simple when they are working. But, when systems breakdown business owners quickly come to realize that the technology utilized in their businesses and the systems that support it are not only complex, but are becomingly increasingly so.

Complexity aside, all technology will eventually break. When it does, you need to factor into your budget resources to make replacements and repairs. If the technology incorporated into your business is constantly experiencing problems there is a good chance this is having a negative impact on profits and productivity.

By partnering with a quality MSP that looks after your technology, you can be assured that a team of experts are running your technology and systems efficiently and that you are able to meet IT demands and scale to meet future needs. Decreased maintenance and replacement costs can help improve your overall productivity and even profits.

3. The people looking after IT are overwhelmed

Any growing business needs technology to be able to scale to meet and support growth. This often overwhelms even the most seasoned IT professionals. Even if your business has a dedicated IT role or team there is a chance that they can become overwhelmed.

When the pressure is on important issues may not be addressed and corners may be cut in order to meet current demands. This can lead to increased costs and problem issues down the road, resulting in an even more overwhelmed Technology department.

The great thing about quality IT partners is that you often don't have to outsource all of your IT needs to them. If, for example, you have an employee who is a whizz with building computers but does not have the time to oversee the whole of your technology needs, then outsourcing some functions can free up their skills or allow them to work more effectively in their main roles.

4. Your IT budget is unpredictable

The cost of technology is ever changing. Some months you may have to replace a computer while others may see a new server needed or a security issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Because of this, actually budgeting for technology is incredibly hard, especially for small businesses.

Most IT partners offer their services on a flat-fee, monthly basis. This makes it easy for companies to budget for technology. The upside to this is that while your budget is predictable, overall costs and overheads are often reduced because your systems are kept in better working order and will last longer.

5. You have trouble prioritizing your IT needs

It can sometimes seem like a new system is needed on a near monthly basis. From servers to email systems; computers to mobile devices; your business will almost always require ongoing technology. The problem many businesses face is that they simply are not equipped with the skills and the knowhow to recognize what their IT priorities should be.

Do you update a server, or look for a new email solution first? And in what order do you need to implement updates? It is not always obvious what the answers to these questions are, especially when everything seems urgent. If you outsource the management of your technology, the companies you partner with can take the time to get to know your company's needs and demands and prioritize. This will make your organization more efficient and better able to reach business goals.

If you are struggling with technology in your business, contact us today to see how as your IT partner, we can work with you to ensure that your technology is working for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr07_CPretty much every profession has its own language or set of terms that those working in that field quickly master and use on an everyday level with colleagues. However, this can pose problems for those people not involved directly with a specific industry. For example, it can be a challenge for business owners to effectively communicate with Web designers and developers. To make things easier, it can be useful to know some of the more common Web design terms.

Here are 20 of the most used Web design terms that could help you communicate effectively with designers and developers about what you want from your website:

  • Alignment - The position of the various elements on your page. Alignment can be focused on the borders of the page, or positioning of elements based on other elements - e.g., aligning all images to the left side of the page, and making sure the text is aligned to the right of each image.
  • Banner - A form of advertising that is usually at the top of a page and goes from one side to the other. On many sites, the banner also contains links that can be clicked through to reach other pages.
  • Below the fold - The point on the page where viewers will begin to scroll after the page has loaded. Generally you put the most important information above the fold (what the visitor sees first) and supplement information below it.
  • Color wheel - A circle of colors that allows designers to easily pick out primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complimentary and contrasting colors - e.g., on most wheels red is opposite green because they complement one another.
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets allows designers to dictate the look and feel of a page. These are usually codes that dictate the font, color, and layout of a Web page.
  • DPI - Dots Per Inch is the resolution of an image or monitor. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution or quality of the image.
  • Entry and Exit pages - This indicates where a viewer enters your page from an external source, and where a viewer will usually exit your site from. The vast majority of entry pages are the homepage, so these should be designed to capture and maintain interest. Exit pages can be the homepage, or perhaps a signup form.
  • GIF - Pronounced Jif, is an image format that is best suited for small images with few colors. These can also be animated.
  • Header - This is the absolute top of any page.
  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language, is the main language used to write webpages. For example, the bullet points in this article would be written as < ol><li>HTML - Hyper Text ...</li></ol>. Browsers read this code and translate the directions given.
  • JPEG - An image format best suited to pictures and images with a large number of colors. The vast majority of images on the Internet and websites are uploaded in the JPEG format.
  • Lorem Ipsum - Placeholder text is used by developers when creating mockups of pages or layout so they can see how the text will look when the page is finished. This can be any form of text and is usually nonsensical, like 'Lorem Ipsum Dolor'.
  • Orphan - A word or short sentence that appears by itself, below the text on a page. Generally these should be avoided, and can be easily 'adopted' by adjusting spacing between letters and words, or editing content.
  • Parent/Child elements - With HTML and other Web languages there is a relationship between elements (parts of code). Parents dictate elements that will be inherited by other codes (children) that are within the main parent group. For example, if you assign a headline a certain style this style becomes the parent. Any other elements like a bolded word within the headline will be a child. The child will take the same style as the headline and have the added bold format as well.
  • Pixel - The smallest element of any image and your monitor. It is essentially one dot of color. The resolution of images and monitors (how clear the image is) is often displayed in pixels. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution and quality.
  • PNG - An image format that is most commonly used for images that have large amounts of uniform color or transparent backgrounds.
  • Script - A small bit of code that enables browsers to do more than just displaying text. If you've ever watched a video while on a website or downloaded something directly from a page, you have interacted with a script.
  • Watermark - A mark of ownership which is usually applied to the background of images or content. This is used to highlight ownership and deter theft of visual content. If you plan to post images on your site that you create, you might want to consider adding a watermark as protection.
  • White space - Space that surrounds text, images or other parts of the page. It is generally believed that the more white space there is, the easier it is to read content and draw attention to important aspects of a page.
  • Wireframe - A visual representation of a website's layout with directions for visuals, location of content, and style for each page. This is usually constructed before the site is built and is more or less a road map for developers.
Of course, these are just a few of the terms designers and developers use on a regular basis. If you want to understand how to get the best out of your website and technology then we're here to help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 2nd, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar31_CA business website is arguably the most important marketing and branding tool today. It is often the first level of interaction customers have with your company and many visitors will decide whether to work with you based solely on how your website is designed. Therefore, you need a website that is designed to engage and meet your visitors' needs. One of the best ways to achieve this is to learn about common mistakes other businesses have made when designing their websites to avoid making the same errors.

The business value of a business website is that it creates a solid online presence and boosts your brand image and market reach. Even if your business is not Internet based, a website can be used to create a certain impression and ultimately contribute to your bottom line. The key is to make sure you create the best impression. Here are six of the most common mistakes businesses make with website design:

Mistake 1: Building for the sake of building

Websites are important and some businesses believe that they should have a website, so they go ahead and simply build one. You should first take steps to define your target market - who is it that you want and expect to visit your website.

Once you have a defined target market you can then take time to build your site for your market. For example, if the majority of your target market uses mobile devices to browse the Web you should take steps to design your site so that it is viewable on mobile devices.

You should also determine what you want visitors to do on your site. Some companies want them to click through to another site, while others want them to sign up. By defining how you want your visitors to interact you can then develop your content and design around this.

Mistake 2: Designing a website that is too busy

It can be tempting to put all of your information on one page or even have a ton of images and videos. The truth is, this can be distracting largely because once someone lands on your page, they won't know how to get around, find the information they want, or even to know what they should do next.

Busy or flashy websites with lots of animations or large amounts of text also usually don't scale all that well. So, when someone looks at your site on a mobile device they will likely find it too hard to navigate and leave, which is counter to what you are trying to achieve.

Instead, aim for a website that is simple and clean. Important information should be quick to find and read and it should be clear who you are, what you have to say, and what you want the visitor to do.

Mistake 3: Lacking call to actions

Most business related websites have a goal as to what they want visitors to do. Maybe it's download an app, call the company, or even sign make a purchase online. It is essential that you lead visitors toward what you want them to do in the most clear and concise way. The best way to do this is through a call to action. These are usually buttons at the bottom of sections or pages that motivate the user to click and follow the instructions on what to do next, be that sign up to something or get in touch.

The best calls to action stand out from the content, drawing the reader's eye and hopefully inspiring them to click. They should also be clearly written, simple, and direct. e.g., 'Call us today!' or 'Download now!'

Mistake 4: Misguided content

It may seem worthwhile to write in-depth content about your products or services but this isn't always the case. People skim read the basics on the Web and it's different than other mediums.

What you should do is condense down your content so that it only states the most important information. Tell the reader what your product or service does and provide a few of the most important benefits. What you are looking to do is develop enough interest so that visitors to your site will click on the call to action and connect with you.

If you have the time and profits, creating a more visual site where you showcase the products or show how you can help in a short video may lead to higher engagement and possibly higher customer conversions. Take a look at the popular software and service sites like Dropbox, Microsoft, and Google. The content is highly visible and simple, yet provides just enough information so the user knows what the service is and what they are expected to do.

Mistake 5: Static content

It can be tempting to invest the time to write a great website, get the content online then just leave it sitting there. The Internet changes and what might have been regarded as great website design and content a couple of years ago may not be seen in the same light today.

It is advisable to periodically update your site's design and content to reflect current trends; making it more modern. Another related aspect of your content is that you need to ensure that your content is up-to-date. If you are hosting a contest and put the information on your site, you should make sure to take it off of your site, or update it when the date passes. It looks a little unprofessional to have content that is still talking about 2012 or even 2013.

Mistake 6: Doing it yourself

The vast majority of small business owners and managers don't have in-depth Web design skills, yet are determined to build their company's website themselves. This can lead to unexpected problems or a website that doesn't meet your needs. We strongly recommend that you work with a qualified designer who can help ensure that your website is designed and built to high standards.

If you are looking to boost your website's design contact us today. We can help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar03_CBusiness owners and managers are often looking for ways to connect with their customers, drive value and build brands. The difficulty is that there's no easy solution to achieve this. Many business have a website and social media profile but find these are often not enough to drive relationships and business forward. Another element you might want to try, that can help drive business connections, is blogging.

If you're looking to get people more involved and connected with your company, spread your brand image and message, and perhaps establish your company as an industry leader, then blogging might just be the answer.

There is little doubt that companies that blog effectively do see an increase in overall value. That being said, it can be a challenge to develop and maintain a successful blog.

Here are 7 tips for businesses looking to start a blog or develop an existing one into a more successful platform:

1. Define your topics and your audience

As with almost every business process, there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build your blog, such as the topics you write about and your audience.

Take a minute to establish who your target audience is, such as your average customer. Pick some basic characteristics that cover the majority of this group. Focusing on who you are writing articles for can make writing not only easier but more relevant and effective.

Many of the most successful business blogs choose blog topics based on their services or products and news. The key is to select topics based on what you think your audience will find useful or interesting. You might not want to spread your blogs over too many topic areas as these can be hard work to cover on a regular basis. About 4-8 is a good amount to aim for.

2. Be consistent

With defined topics and a target audience in mind, you are well on your way to establishing a solid foundation for your blog. The next element is to devise a calendar of how often you write blogs and cover certain topics. If, for example, you picked four topics this could equate to one article a month for each topic.

What you are striving for is consistency. You should be writing and posting a new article at least once a week, or more. If you establish a calendar based around your topics you will find it easier to write content on a regular basis and soon it will become a natural part of your weekly tasks.

3. Be relevant

Even with defined topics, it can be a struggle to come up with new ideas for blogs. It can be tempting to write about a new product or feature, but you have to be careful that it doesn't read too much like boring marketing material.

Instead, focus on what your audience would like to read. Often the most successful articles are those that answer common questions asked by clients, or talk about how a product or service can help a client. Other articles could be related to your products rather than directly about them. For example, if you own a coffee shop then writing about food that goes well with coffee might be an interesting blog idea.

Personal opinions can provide an interesting perspective and many readers find these types of business blogs refreshing. However, you do need to be careful of ostracizing those who might not agree with you or putting people off with negative blogs.

4. Don't forget the CTA

Remember, your business blog needs to have a purpose: You want to not only develop interest in the company, but to drive business. At the end of most if not all of your articles you can include a call to action (CTA) that suggests to the reader to contact you, come in for a visit or email.

5. Keep articles easy to read

It can be tempting to write a 4,000 word article with a ton of great information. Google and many search engines do look positively at long-form content and this might work well for your search rankings. The only problem is that when many of us read articles online we skim them, looking for salient points and skipping up to 90% of the article.

To that end, keep articles on the shorter side - around 500-1,000 words. Use shorter sentences and headings like H3 and bold to separate content and make it more scannable. Writing a longer article? Split it into two, three or even four parts. This helps drive interest to return to check out the new parts when they are posted.

6. Promote and share your content

Share your blog content on your social media profiles. This increases the reach of your blog, but also drives traffic to your website. You can put an easy to see link to your blog on your homepage and even in email headers.

Many writers also find success in contributing, or writing a blog for other websites. This helps not only spread your ideas, content, and company name, but can also help find content for your blog as other writers contribute to yours. Try contacting friends and colleagues to see if they would like you to write a post for their blog.

7. Remember you don't have to be the only contributor

Finally, you don't have to be the only person writing your blog. Ask your employees if they have any article ideas they would like to write about. The more writers contributing, the more content there is. This also takes the pressure off of you having to develop, write, and post everything, as well as offering a different voice for variety.

If you are looking to launch a blog, contact us to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Feb03_CMarketing is one of the most challenging aspects of business that companies face. One has to be constantly evolving and trying out new ideas and strategies in order to remain successful. Many businesses start with a website and social media platform, so that they can interact with customers and clients and create business relationships. While these can be effective, there is one really useful marketing tool that shouldn't be forgotten - the blog.

Define business blogging

When we talk about blogging, most people ask two questions: "What is blogging?" and "Is business blogging any different from personal blogging?"

A blog, a portmanteau of Web log, is usually a page on a website where authors post written articles. The content, usually called a post, can be incredibly varied, from along the lines of a journal style to breaking news or even thoughts and opinions to open up debate.

Business blogging is the act of creating content that is related to your business. The topics are usually narrowed down to relate to the products or services you provide. For example, you are reading this post on our blog, which largely focuses on technology in business. The vast majority of business blogs are not profit oriented (the company isn't out to make money directly from their blog articles) and is usually a part of their marketing plan.

Why do businesses blog?

There are 3 main reasons many businesses blog:

1. A blog can increase traffic to your website

One common complaint many business owners have about their website traffic, or the number of people who visit their site, is that it is lower than expected. There can be many reasons behind this, the most common being that the content on the website is static. Think about when it the last time you updated your whole site was.

Even if your site effectively explains what your business does, search engines generally look kindly on websites that are active. It is incredibly hard to keep re-writing your website, so one of the best ways to fix this is by blogging. When you create a new blog post, a new page on your website is usually indexed - added to the site structure, kind of like the index at the back of textbooks. This activity tells search engines that your website is active. Active websites will usually show higher in search results.

Blog articles are also great to share on social media services. By sharing content with your existing customers there is an increased chance of your name and profile being seen by people who aren't your customer yet but could be in the future.

If you have more people seeing your content in different places - search results, social media, etc. - you should see an increase in overall traffic to your website.

2. A blog is a great way to show your expertise

Think about the last time you needed to purchase a new item, say a computer. Did you pick the first shop you saw, then walk in and purchase a computer? Chances are high that you didn't. Most people research companies and retailers who have a good rating or who come across as an expert, and purchase from them.

As many people do this research online, it can be a challenge to establish your company as the expert in your field. Your blog can be the perfect tool to establish your company as a go-to expert. If you answer common questions and provide tips, there is a higher chance that your articles will be regarded as helpful and having potential customers contact you. What this means for you is an increased chance of conversion.

3. Blog articles have a positive long-term effect

When you search on the Internet you will often find a number of blog posts at the top, with some maybe even being from the last year or so. A well crafted blog post will often see a wealth of interest within the first few days of posting largely because of sharing via social media services and users who have subscribed to your posts.

If your posts get a fair number of shares, comments, etc. there is a good chance that search engines will begin to show it higher in results. What this means for you is that the post will continue to be seen in results for a of couple weeks to months or more, depending on keywords, etc. This translates to longer visibility, and a higher chance of traffic and leads in the future.

Of course, not every post will be a smash hit and bring leads pouring in, but an active blog that produces good content could prove to be of great value to your business. It will take time, but most bloggers do see increased payoffs.

Looking to learn more about blogging? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.