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All Grown Up – Why Your Small Business Needs A Web Solution, Not A Website

Raise your hand if you have a website for your small business. Now keep it raised if it is generating a significant volume of prospects or sales. Not holding your hand up anymore? You are not alone.Just a few years ago, small companies flocked to the web in droves, rushing to post their first website, anxious at the prospect of low-cost instant exposure. The web was going to be the great equalizer, putting small business on par with the big brand names, dangling the promise of visitors flocking to a company’s site to purchase its wares or partake in its services. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, for most small businesses and organizations, the promise fell short and company sales did not skyrocket from an unending march of site visitors.So, what happened? For one, the web quickly became ultra competitive. Millions of sites sprang up in every business category making it virtually impossible to be found in the search engines. What little bit of traffic the businesses may have enjoyed when the site was first launched began to dry up. Also, as the web evolved to become a more interactive user experience, it became more technologically complex and many small business websites did not keep up. The other part of the problem was in the approach; not understanding that just putting together a website, even a pretty one, and finding some faceless company offering cheap web hosting services is not likely to make you the next great success story. A large hurdle that many small business owners and managers face is the tendency to compartmentalize the web into a few oversimplified tasks: grab a cheap domain name, find a budget small business website design and development person, look for some impossibly low-priced website hosting, and then expect their website to magically appear on page one of Google. Unfortunately, this ends up being a waste of time and money.A Solutions-Based Approach with Professional GuidanceTo create an effective web presence requires a solutions-based approach with clear ideas about what you want to accomplish and who the audience is you are targeting. The right elements have to be present; a well orchestrated website design with cohesive branding, solid technical acumen, clearly defined objectives for the organization, reliable small business web hosting services and some method of marketing your site and tracking the results. The web is constantly evolving and search engine competition is fierce. Being successful on the web requires consistently evaluating the site’s effectiveness based on your objectives, understanding the latest technologies and trends, having a dynamic website marketing plan and constantly fine tuning.While you don’t have to spend a fortune to create real value on the web, you should also be realistic. Understand that being successful will require an investment that you should plan for and a clear vision of how your website fits into the goals and objectives of the organization. If you don’t have the experience and technical resources in-house, working with a professional web solutions provider, preferably one specializing in small business web design and development can provide great benefits. A good starting point in the process is to have an understanding of the core elements that are part of a successful website strategy and how they fit together.The Elements of a Web Solution1) Domain names – Choosing the right domain name is an important branding decision which impacts how your organization is perceived and also how it is found in the search engines. Purchasing from a cheap bulk registrar or choosing can spell trouble.2) Website Design & Development Services – Find a provider that specializes in small business web design and development. An organization that offers a solutions-based approach can assist your company in doing thorough needs analysis and in designing all of the elements to work well together. First impressions count!3) E-mail Management – E-mail is a key communication tool for your business. The right system will help you maximize communications within the company, on the road and with your customers.4) Social Media – Social media such as blogging, Podcasting and other web 2.0 tools can greatly enhance customer communications. Your web services company should be able to help you evaluate how social media tools can best benefit your web presence and business objects.5) Small Business Website Hosting Services – All web hosting is NOT created equal. There are many nuances and technical consideration involved with hosting solutions. It is best to stay away from budget hosting companies. Look for a managed hosting provider who can help you select the right plan for your web solution goals, get your website up and running and support you as it grows and evolves.6) Website Maintenance – How will your site be maintained and updated? Having both small business web development and managed web site hosting as a package is immensely helpful for maximizing web server resources, identifying problems and keeping the site maintained and updated.7) E-Commerce – Will you be actually selling on your site or using it for lead generation or information dissemination? If you are selling products, who will create and maintain your product database. How will transactions be handled? What about web server requirements? Working with a professional can help ensure you make the right choices for your e-commerce site.8) Business Process Interaction (database development, customer relationship management, integration with your business management systems) – A website needs to be more than just an ad on the Internet to be effective as a business tool. There are many ways the web can be used to improve your business processes and integrate with your existing systems such as accounting or contact management.9) Website Marketing – How will people find you on the web? Will you optimize your site for organic search or employ paid marketing techniques or a combination? What directories should you list your site in? Search engine marketing has evolved to be a complex specialty. It’s critical that you understand the tools available for driving traffic to your site and if needed, know how to evaluate and engage a web marketing specialist.10) Website Analytics and Conversion – Having a great site isn’t enough if your visitors aren’t doing what you intended; buying something, contacting your company or using your site for an information source. Does your site have usability issues? What kind of reporting will you use to track site visitors? What do you need to know and do to convert your visitors into action-takers?It’s a Process and a Work in ProgressWhile there is certainly a lot to think about, creating the best possible website solution for your business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Your website can and should be a work in progress, evolving as your business grows. Because most small businesses do not have an internal IT staff to handle the technical elements of web development and planning, working with a web solutions provider that specializes in small business website hosting services and small business web design and development is a good start. Such an organization can help you identify your goals, manage the technical aspects of your site and guide you in your marketing efforts. They can also help you work within your budget to develop a plan that combines all the elements into a cohesive whole for creating and maintaining a successful web presence.Conclusion The web has grown up to be a terrific marketing medium for small businesses and organizations. Done right, it can be the most cost effective and powerful marketing and communication tool in your arsenal. The promise is still there. However, to truly leverage the power of the web, it is important to take a good, hard look at the website you currently have or the one you are thinking about creating. The elements of a successful web presence: small business web hosting, website design and development and web marketing are only the framework for a well thought-out web solution designed to reach your customers and truly benefit your business.

The Evolution of Marketing Automation

While aiming to promote products and services successfully in the market, businesses had realized the importance of adopting marketing strategies early on. Due to the intense competition, marketing strategies got infused with the technological innovations in order to evolve out as the modern marketing, which is now embedded in the customer’s lives and affecting it at a rapid pace.Fortunately, from radio to internet and smart-phones, nowadays technology has revolutionized the ways marketers can reach to their potential customers. But, back then in the late 50′s, with almost no effective marketing channel, companies were finding it challenging to approach a huge customer base.This is how automation technology came into existence. It has traced its origins back from a Customer Relationship Management or CRM that came out of Rolodexes and a pack of business cards. It acted as a rescuer for the companies who were endeavoring to maintain their employees and client’s records into a central knowledge group. But, in no course of time, it became the fundamental business element and started finding its applications in professional business services as well.During the late 1980s, CRM platforms had gained more power in terms of customer support servicing, sales management, and forecasting. But, the high price tag kept it confined to few multinational corporations.In 1999, Mark Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, invented the Monthly Licence (MLC) fee model, with aiming to offer cost-effective and agile business model, that further introduced SaaS or Software as a Service. And in contrast, this technology evolved out as an amalgam of email capability, web analytics, and the Marketing Resource Management (MRM). With the advent of the internet, marketers were seeking potential ways to reach their customers. The pioneer of this space Eloqua came in 1999 and developed a product, later renowned as automated marketing service in 2003.Soon, the success of this trend led to the arrival of more players in the market such as Pardot, HubSpot, WhatsNexx etc, and industry started gaining momentum while shifting marketing automation services to cloud platforms.By 2008, new platforms such as HubSpot, Act-On, ruled the market, and the advent of social media marketing, content management, search engine optimization made marketers incorporating a variety of automation tools.In the period 2013-2014, the automation industry witnessed a huge growth financially through acquisitions when a giant marketing software company ExactTarget acquired a marketing automation company Pardot for $95.5 million and in turn, spent $2.5 billion to acquire ExactTarget, This is recorded as its largest acquisition ever.I found people wondering if CRM and marketing automation co-exists. In fact, few consider the later as a subset of the CRM industry which follows one of the marketing laws suggested by Al Ries and Jack Trout. To clarify, CRM is sales focused software while the other is user-centric software that completely focuses on marketing strategy. Where a CRM manages company’s interactions with their customers, a automation software streamlines company’s marketing tasks, and work-flows. However, these two, together, go hands in hand and reinforce company’s insights and efficiencies. A good CRM-marketing automation integration unleashes an opportunity to handle data management and strategies marketing plans.It can filter relevant data and required fields to standardize tagging and data, and ideal processes. Also, it can run auto-cleaning processes to clean the dumped data in a CRM system. Businesses utilizing automation software have witnessed an incredible growth of 451% in qualified leads and 14.5% in sales productivity as well as 12.2% marketing overhead reduction. We can conclude by saying that the future of marketing completely belongs to Marketing Automation.

Business and Brand Puns – How To Attract Consumers With Humour

Everyone loves a good pun.There’s nothing better than making your audience and consumer instantly smile, or even chuckle, just by hearing or seeing your business’ name. It is an instant icebreaker, and lets the consumer know that you are a down-to-earth, approachable business.However, we realise that not everyone feels the same way about the idea of turning a business or brand name into a pun. They might not work for everyone, and instead of attracting a consumer, it may well put them off a business altogether. Also, there is the possibility of causing confusion as far as different cultures and translations: if you want to appeal to a more international market, it is probably best to stay away from a brand pun.Most adversity to business and brand puns is quite unfair though. Many businesses are thriving with business puns, and it makes some businesses reputable solely based on their name. So, if you are a non-believer of the power and attraction of puns, we hope to bring you round to our appreciation after reading this!Free Promotion!
The promotion, reputability and publicity that all come from simply having a business name pun is undeniable, as well as ridiculously under-appreciated.When your business has a funny (or punny!) name, people will definitely take pictures and share those images with their friends. Nowadays, that image will certainly end up online, on social media and possibly in a trending list article about epic puns from the UK.Since all business goals revolve around gaining reputability and getting their business well known, this is definitely one way to do it. This is free promotion; you just have to make sure your phone number and business information is closely linked to your business name pun. For every person who clicks onto that image of your business name pun, there will be someone looking for what you do who will take note of your number.However, in order to gain promotion and publicity from your punning name, you don’t have to wait and rely on others to draw attention to your business. For example, it can be a selling point for a promotion or competition on social media. You can offer incentives for everyone who has a picture taken with your funny sign, or use it as a way to encourage other puns or funny business names in another campaign.Make it Memorable
Perhaps the most important, and valuable, fact of utilising a witty pun as your business name is that it is bound to be memorable. A pun makes everyone smile, laugh, or even groan (in a good way!), and this humour helps people remember. However, be careful, as one of the worst things to do for your business is choose a name that is spelt wrong in some way – even if it has been adjusted to fit a pun.For example, you may remember an optometrist called “OptimEyes”, but would you necessarily remember how to spell it? It wouldn’t be harmful as a store, in order to gain attention on the street, however if people tried to Google the name, they may be searching many wrong spellings.Alternately, spelling and having to explain your business names are always obstacles in naming your business or brand. Even if you name your business a relatively normal, plain name, you will get questioned on your choice. At least if you are explaining a punny business name, there is a story to go behind your decision. It is easier to explain “OptimEyes – eyes as in the ones we specialise in!”, rather than explaining how you came up with “Eyesify” and how exactly you spell that, or worse.Asides from spelling, a main advantage of a punning name, rather than a made up or plain name, is that there will be a story that people will enjoy hearing, and undoubtedly remember. The funnier, and more unique, the pun and the story behind it: the better! Plus, even if there isn’t more of a story than “it rhymes / made us laugh”, your name will still be far more memorable as a pun.Multiple Meanings
One useful advantage of utilising puns in your business name, or even tagline, is that you can be quite clever with it. You can use your business pun to mean many different things, and add different facets to your business and what you provide.Of course, this isn’t possible for all puns, but there are a few gems that can get away with multiple meanings that can be attributed to your brand in a positive way. For example, there’s a cheese cake supplier (and we literally mean a cake – made out of cheese), who mainly supply stacks of cheese for weddings and special occasions, called C’est Cheese.This is a great example of a pun with multiple layers of meaning that can all be attributed to the supplier in a positive way. Firstly, their name is cleverly chosen in French, meaning literally “it is cheese”, which is true, but they are also playing on the fact that they are being cheesy in our British associations of the word. Also, they’re playing on the fact that the French line rhymes with “say cheese”, as well as playing on the well-known French term “c’est chic”, meaning “it is stylish”. There are so many positive associations with the name, as well as the fact that you will remember it, making it a perfect pun.Plus, even if the meanings are simple to understand, a pun will usually add an extra layer of meaning for your business. For example, we discovered a tile-laying business, simply called Bonnie Tiler. This is a perfect example of an easy pun that makes you smile with its simplicity. Of course, it plays on the famous singer Bonnie Tyler, whilst adding the extra facet of the business being bonny tilers (bonny or bonnie as in attractive and happy), which is an association you’d like to be known for as a business.Overall, we think these positives and advantages of puns far outweigh any negative associations. Of course, brand and business name puns tend to work better for smaller businesses, mainly on a national level. However, there are many examples of bigger brands utilising puns in taglines or advertising slogans, rather than keeping them as permanently in their name.Plus, some are so subtle that you may not even notice them at first: for example, Absolut vodka is infamous for its advertising campaign revolving around their name, such as “Absolut magic”. This is clever, as you don’t notice it at first, but they are using their name in order to describe their product and add positive attributes to it, playing easily on “Absolut/absolute”.Therefore, no one can deny that puns are effective, and a good way to market your business or product. There is an acknowledgement that puns are cheesy, and they exist in a clever, ironic, self-aware comedic form as business and brand puns often. So, what’s not to like?

Commercial Financing – The Benefits of Off-Balance-Sheet Financing

There are two different categories of commercial financing from an accounting perspective: on-balance-sheet financing and off-balance-sheet financing. Understanding the difference can be critical to obtaining the right type of commercial financing for your company.Put simply, on-balance-sheet financing is commercial financing in which capital expenditures appear as a liability on a company’s balance sheet. Commercial loans are the most common example: Typically, a company will leverage an asset (such as accounts receivable) in order to borrow money from a bank, thus creating a liability (i.e., the outstanding loan) that must be reported as such on the balance sheet.With off-balance-sheet financing, however, liabilities do not have to be reported because no debt or equity is created. The most common form of off-balance-sheet financing is an operating lease, in which the company makes a small down payment upfront and then monthly lease payments. When the lease term is up, the company can usually buy the asset for a minimal amount (often just one dollar).The key difference is that with an operating lease, the asset stays on the lessor’s balance sheet. The lessee only reports the expense associated with the use of the asset (i.e., the rental payments), not the cost of the asset itself.Why Does It Matter?This might sound like technical accounting-speak that only a CPA could appreciate. In the continuing tight credit environment, however, off-balance-sheet financing can offer significant benefits to any size company, from large multi-nationals to mom-and-pops.These benefits arise from the fact that off-balance-sheet financing creates liquidity for a business while avoiding leverage, thus improving the overall financial picture of the company. This can help companies keep their debt-to-equity ratio low: If a company is already leveraged, additional debt might trip a covenant to an existing loan.The trade-off is that off-balance-sheet financing is usually more expensive than traditional on-balance-sheet loans. Business owners should work closely with their CPAs to determine whether the benefits of off-balance-sheet financing outweigh the costs in their specific situation.Other Types of Off-Balance-Sheet FinancingAn increasingly popular type of off-balance-sheet financing today is what’s known as a sale/leaseback. Here, a business sells property it owns and then immediately leases it back from the new owner. It can be used with virtually any type of fixed asset, including commercial real estate, equipment and commercial vehicles and aircraft, to name a few.A sale/leaseback can increase a company’s financial flexibility and may provide a large lump sum of cash by freeing up the equity in the asset. This cash can then be poured back into the business to support growth, pay down debt, acquire another business, or meet working capital needs.Factoring is another type of off-balance-sheet financing. Here, a business sells its outstanding accounts receivable to a commercial finance company, or “factor.” Typically, the factor will advance the business between 70 and 90 percent of the value of the receivable at the time of purchase; the balance, less the factoring fee, is released when the invoice is collected.Like with an operating lease, no debt is created with factoring, thus enabling companies to create liquidity while avoiding additional leverage. The same kinds of off-balance-sheet benefits occur in both factoring arrangements and operating leases.Keep in mind that strict accounting rules must be followed when it comes to properly distinguishing between on-balance-sheet and off-balance-sheet financing, so you should work closely with your CPA in this regard. But with the continued uncertainty surrounding the economy and credit markets, it’s worth looking into the potential benefits of off-balance-sheet financing for your company.

TV 2.0 – The Future Of Television And The Genesis Of A New Entertainment Form – Part 2

Though still in its infancy, the World Wide Web has already become a significant feature in all of our lives. The majority of us now access the Web throughout the day, both at work and at home. It’s profoundly altered the way we conduct business, and how we communicate with family and friends. It’s also changed how we entertain ourselves, but this paradigm shift has only just begun. As I wrote in the conclusion of Part 1 of this article, the Web has the potential to become its own entertainment medium, sharing content with movies and television, but also providing its own unique programming. So where will this new content come from?Like no other distribution outlet before it, the Web offers the independent, semi-professional or niche video producer an ideal venue for reaching an audience. This is great news for young filmmakers, new talent, and artists who want to concentrate on reaching viewers beyond the film festival circuit. With distribution access on the Web, screening in a theater is no longer necessary. The economics of this are a potential boon for independent producers because, even though digital technology has made filmmaking cheaper, it is still by no means cheap if you want production values that rival what audiences are used to seeing in a theater or on their TV screens.The same is true of music on the Web: more artists now have the chance to be heard, but the business is becoming more fragmented as a result. Apart from the purely manufactured and heavily produced acts that the major labels distribute, it will be harder to achieve the kind of recognition and fame that was possible in the past. The critical and financial successes bands like U2 or Coldplay eventually achieved will be harder for new acts without the support of an industry marketing machine behind them. Likewise, though young filmmakers don’t need to worry about finding distribution, it’s doubtful that most will ever get the kind of budgets and recognition most Hollywood filmmakers take for granted.With the Balkanization of entertainment comes a problem in terms of content visibility. Right now, there are so many independent Web sites around, that it’s easy to miss great work. Most independent, producer-driven sites have relatively low traffic, certainly not enough to generate interest from significant advertisers which is the only way such producers can see revenue from their efforts. Getting quality content out of the niches and into the mainstream will be the domain of a new breed of entertainment provider: the Web video network. Like MySpace and sites like it have done for music, the successful Web video network will find, aggregate, and distribute a wide variety of fresh content to both niche and general audiences. As they serve various demographics, these new networks will have the ability to connect programming and advertising in a way that isn’t practical for an individual producer.True, this system exists to some extent already, and has for quite some time (Atom Films and iFilms come to mind), but these currently function more like magazine racks than dynamic media companies. The new Web video network will have to be more than just a library if it intends to enable the future of Web entertainment. It needs to provide a branding experience similar to television, but with all of the choice, flexibility and scale that I talked about in Part 1. It also needs to actively pursue great, original programming. In order to make Web video profitable for the network and content producer alike, it also needs to connect content, viewers and advertisers with precision.One of the great features of the Web, and what has been so refreshing about it, is that we have less interaction with traditional advertising than in other formats such as newspapers, magazines and television. Having been bombarded with an ever-increasing number of ads for decades, the public is becoming resistant to them. This is especially true of younger audiences who, studies show, are distrustful of advertising and therefore harder to reach. Traditional commercial advertising is an area of concern for broadcasters because of this, and no doubt the way in which television programming is paid for will undergo radical changes in the coming years.TiVo has allowed people the option to skip advertisements that in the past they’d be forced to sit through. Watching programs through video on demand allows the same bypass, as almost all VOD programs are either commercial free, or very nearly so. However, as video sharing sites have proven, good commercials can be as engaging as the best programs, and be as frequently watched if the content is compelling enough. What we may see happen with TV 2.0 is that commercials will be fewer but better, and more expensive for the advertisers to buy time for. Product placement will also become more ubiquitous, with name brands liberally spread throughout a given program.On the Web, commercials need to be more targeted, more precise and for an advertiser to try to do this would require more time and resources than they would be willing to allocate to the task. Likewise, for an independent content producer to attract the attention of advertising that might actually generate revenue, they’d have to be able to attract significant traffic beyond the reach of most stand-alone websites. Enter the Web video network. By aggregating content from various producers, and creatively approaching advertising in a method unique to the Web environment, these content providers can make entertainment advertising profitable without losing the consumer-driven focus that’s so crucial to captivating an audience.By its nature, the Web will continue to be a democratic entertainment medium, but this doesn’t mean the major media companies can’t have a significant role to play. Though it’s hard to envision now, given the structure and economics of the entertainment giants, the short form, which is ideal for the Web,has potential even for them. Few realize it today, but daytime soap operas such as “The Guiding Light”, began as fifteen-minute daily installments (the soap opera format coming originally from radio). It wasn’t until 1956 that the first half-hour soap opera debuted, later expanding to the hour-long format we’re now familiar with. The short form has continued to be common overseas, where networks such as the BBC routinely schedule short-forms like “Story Makers”, a fifteen-minute per episode children’s program. “Creature Comforts”, which many Americans are familiar with as a half-hour program on BBC America, originally aired on the British network ITV in ten-minute episodes.Just as iTunes changed the focus of music from the album back to the singles of yesteryear, I would say that original Web content is and will continue to be about the short and not the feature.Short programs can be both entertaining and profitable, and offer new creative avenues for writers, directors and talent. Imagine a series like “Creature Comforts” being produced specifically for the Web, or a soap opera or drama made compact. The idea of quality episodic programming is realistic, and presents new creative and financial possibilities for everyone involved. The programs can be self-contained stories, known in television as anthologies (think “The Twilight Zone”), or episodic programs with a stable cast of recurrent characters. Soap operas, reality and lifestyle programs are an ideal place to begin and are already appearing on the Web. The short form opens up great opportunities for motion pictures as well. Prior to the changes brought about by TV in the 1950s, movie theaters screened feature films, cartoons, newsreels, comedic shorts and serials. It was only after television borrowed many of these formats and made them more profitable on the smaller screen that the motion picture studios stopped making them for theatrical release.Obviously, redefining entertainment to include the short form as a stable product would require a significant shift in the way the major entertainment companies do business. As with most innovation these days, the early pioneers of original Web programming will most likely come from independent producers. Over time, as these shows prove themselves to be profitable, the networks and studios will come on board, operating cooperatively in much the same way as the motion picture studios, television networks, and indie production companies do today. Far fetched? It is not at all. It required the same imagination to take film out of the Nickelodeons and into the theaters. And what about television?On September 7, 1927, Philo Farnsworth transmitted the first television image a simple straight line few could have realized how much this new technology would change our lives. Even when the first regular broadcasts began in the United States in 1928, with W3XK in Wheaton, Maryland, only the most visionary people could have envisioned the medium’s possibilities. Soon, however, television appropriated the news, soap opera, and game show formats from radio. Dramas came from live theater, and comedies initially followed the variety format laid out by Vaudeville. Over time, television refined these and it’s programming developed its own unique style. TV is now such a fixture in popular culture, that most of us can’t imagine living without it.The Web as an entertainment medium has equally enormous potential, and can become something very different from the TV of today. It can provide a forum for amateurs and semi-professionals to share their work, and can also allow professional producers the chance to create profitable content. Just as television can take advantage of the computer screen and cell phone to make its content more portable, Web-originated content can flow in the opposite direction from your computer to your TV. Web networks, functioning much like cable providers, can aggregate and monetize Web programming unlike individual producers. Where and how we view a program will be up to us, and the Web’s potential as an entertainment medium of the future will only be limited by our imaginations.

Google’s “Everflux” is Causing a Stir

Most small businesses know how important it is for their web sites to be found in the search engines, especially Google, since it is responsible for around 60% of all search traffic on the web. One of the reasons Google is so popular is because it provides really good results when searchers look for information, products, and services on the web. So when something changes with Google and how it ranks web sites, people definitely pay attention!If you follow your own web site statistics, you may have noticed some changes lately in your Google positions. Evidently, the Google index (where the web data is stored) is being refreshed on a daily basis now instead of every few weeks, which is causing web site rankings to fluctuate. This constant refreshing is being referred to as “Google Everflux,” and it’s beginning to cause quite a stir. This is good news for searchers, since it means Google can provide “fresher” search results that reflect the latest information available. However, it may not be such great news for small businesses struggling to get or keep good rankings in Google.The basic principles for getting ranked in Google remain the same; you must build quality inbound links to your site and provide valuable content on your pages that gets updated regularly. But now that Google is constantly refreshing its index, you will most likely need to watch your rankings a little more closely and be prepared to take action when necessary. Some other tips that may be helpful to your rankings include:- Social Bookmarking – Google has started paying attention to links that come from social bookmarking sites (such as Digg, Reddit, Technorati, etc.), so consider using these sites as a source of quality inbound links.- New Inbound Links – Keep adding new inbound links to your site, since older links that are pointing to your site may be dropped as newer content is added to Google each day.- Quality Content – Add new content to your site regularly, and make sure it is useful and valuable to your readers. Content such as informative articles and blog posts can help build credibility and establish you as an expert in your industry, which also helps your Google rankings.- Keyword Research – Research the right keywords for your business, don’t just guess. Find the search terms that people actually search with, not just the terms that you think they would use in a search. And don’t forget to check out what your competitors are using for keywords, too.Don’t panic. It looks like Google Everflux will be with us for awhile, so a little bouncing around is to be expected. When monitoring your stats, watch for trends that develop over time, and make your adjustments according to what shows up in the data.

The 10 Elements of a Comprehensive Brand Identity, and How to Use Them to Your Business Advantage

The use of brand identities have evolved over the years with corporate organizations adorning their various office complexes, products packaging and other marketing collateral with aesthetic logos and designs.The proliferation of brand identities is nothing new. Their use stems from the need to help existing and potential customers differentiate a particular organization’s brand from that of another. Wikipedia notes that, “Branding began as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp… with origins in ancient times.” What then is new about corporate identities? What’s new is the sophistication that today’s brand managers have incorporate into their identities; and how many organizations are positioning their brands in order to remain relevant in today’s competitive marketplace.Brand identities have increasingly grown in importance and relevance that marketing professionals cannot afford to overlook its potential. An effective brand identity possesses two unique powers – recognition and differentiation. First and foremost, brand identities help an organization’s target audience “recognize” a brand among several competing brands. The recognition attribute activates our sensory organs to identify with a particular brand.General observation shows that customers are usually favourably disposed to a brand whose identity can be easily recognized. Hence, more and more organizations continue to strategize on improving their brand identities in order to help their target audience recognize them quicker and easier too than others.Second, brands have the power to “differentiate” themselves from those of similar competing ones. What differentiates various mobile phone manufacturers is their brand identity – Nokia, Samsung, Siemens, Blackberry, Apple, and Techno. Brand identities help customers to distinguish a particular product, service or business from that of another.The hundreds of books – and thousands of articles like this one – makes one appreciate the importance and relevance of brand identities in business marketing. However, it is a paradox and alarming the fact that brand managers have largely failed to realize that the brand identity contest is more than just having compelling logos and designs on some packaging, stationery, company vehicle and signage! The author believes that there are at least ten unique elements that constitute a comprehensive and top-notch identity system. An understanding and correct application of these elements will help you beat corporate obscurity pants down and position your brand for long-term success.Brand Identity and the Logo
Just as a person’s personality goes beyond his/her name, a brand identity extends beyond the corporate logo which most graphic designers and company executives have erroneously and solely ascribe as their corporate or brand identity. This failure, however, permeates through and rubs off on the entire organization; and limits the prosperity of such brands.Successful brands are compelling, well-positioned, marketable and above all, comprehensive. They extend beyond just their brand names and logos. Without sentiments, just a few Nigerian brands come to mind in this category – GTB, Cadbury, Glo (and the rest of the GSM network providers), Unilever, Indomie, Vitafoam, Fan Milk, and UAC (you may complete the list).What then are the 10 identity elements that makes of a comprehensive brand identity system as identified by the author?
1. THE BRAND NAME – the brand name is what your brand is called. It identifies a product or service and the organization behind it. The name is the commonest element and starting point of a brand identity system. Customers spontaneously relate with a brand name easily more than any of the other brand identity elements. Smart companies give their brand names the most professional attention it deserves.2. THE LOGO – a symbol, sign or an emblem that depicts the visual image of your business. It identifies your business in its simplest form. In a world where visuals are more appealing, it pays to have a visual frame of reference.3. THE BRAND COLOURS – brand colours are an effective way to connect with your audience in an emotional way. The most prominent brands are defined by their colour. Think of GTB’s dominant Orange; MTN’s yellow; Facebook’s blue; and GLO’s green.4. TYPEFACE (OR FONT) – a typeface is a set of characters that share common design features. Compelling brands are consistent in the use of typeface on every business stationery, and in every business communication including advertising. There are hundreds of typefaces to choose from – Arial, Garamond, Calibri, etc.5. THE OFFICE AMBIENCE – Grossly ignored by many, the office ambience tells more of the type of organization a client or customer is dealing with. It is very important to have a lively and at the same time professional work environment. Did you know that office setting and furniture like chairs and desks have a lot to do with the kind of environment prevailing in the office?6. THE CORPORATE TONE – the corporate tone is very important in moulding your audience’s perception of the kind of brand that you are. A tone is an attitude or emotion towards the subject and the reader or listener. Successful brands know that the corporate tone must be courteous and professional at all times; and must convey strength and confidence at all times.7. THE POSITIONING STATEMENT – a positioning statement is a very short descriptive summary of how an organization or individual wants to be perceived, usually in about 6 to 15 words. Brand positioning is about recognizing a niche for your business and constantly communicating it.8. THE BRAND PACKAGING – the saying, “how you look will have a lot to do with how people perceive you,” also come to play in brand packaging. Most of us have bought products at one time or the other for just the reason of a compelling packaging. Packaging is designed to capture a customer’s attention and it can directly effect whether they buy the product or not. Innovation and creativity come into play when it comes to packaging.9. THE CORPORATE DRESS CODE – Businesses of all sizes typically adopt a dress code to help guide employee
decisions related to proper appearance and attire for the workplace. The corporate dress code could be something from corporate dress, business casuals, to uniforms. Some organizations may allow employees to wear casual clothes on Fridays or during special occasions, while enforcing the corporate dress code during the majority of workdays.10. THE BRAND’S INTERNAL SYSTEMS (Substance) – to succeed, a product and service need both positioning and substance. Media firms have brilliantly positioned products and services only to see them die because they didn’t align with consumer expectation. If you are a First Bank, and you position yourself as “Truly the first”, your bank products and services should reflect commitment to excellence and innovation. If your substance and positioning are not in sync, you will eventually get out of business or you will have to change your content, positioning or both.

Health Care Reform – As of Today

It came about last week. I was sitting in a State Conference for insurance professionals. I knew it was coming and I was ready to see if maybe THIS time, I would get more understanding than I had before. There was so much coming at me with regards to health care reform, I seemed to be in a tidal wave of information that seemed to change daily. The good news is, it was not just me. The bad news is, eve n many of those people “in charge” have little to no idea what is the 2,000 + pages of legislation called “health care reform”. A few things I came away with, I will share here…as well as an excellent bit of compiled info on some recent points to keep in mind for the coming months of 2010.1 – Don’t worry if health care reform seems confusing… it is. Many who felt health care reform would be a good thing for the United States, I feel, forgot how many cooks would be in the kitchen on this one. Sure, there were some “head chefs”, but everyone wanted to make it something good for them or the people they represented. Unfortunately, I also feel that all these “chefs” forgot to consider one party of people and that was others. They seemed to forget the masses of people this was supposed to help and instead focused on a plan so riddled with more questions than answers.2 – Health care reform will change even more. If you thought this bill was it, think again. If anything more could go wrong in our political administration I would be shocked. I just don’t see this group of “changers” lasting much past one term in office. With that said, one of the first things that will be adjusted and changed will be health care. No matter who takes over, the bill we currently are so concerned with and the bill that would take until 2014 to completely make itself known will change so dramatically we really won’t know anything until it’s all said and done.3 – We will be the ones to help make sense of it all. I write to many colleagues each and every week and one thing is certain… the insurance professionals will be the ones to be sure that the regular people know what health care reforms will effect the people we get an audience with. We as professional insurance agents and representatives will be the ones on the front lines making sure that our clients understand what is out there and how and/or what to do about it. If we work with companies and their benefits, we will be the ones those human resource professionals and business owners will be turning to for answers. Will you be ready. Start now and take a little each day to be more “up to date” than the agent down the street. It will help you stand out as “the go to” for health care reform answers.4 – We all have to share. If we get some great pieces of information, we need to share it as soon as we can with as many people as we can. The information about health care reform is not meant to be secret, but many have no idea where to get it. If you get a handle on some piece of this legisltation, share it. Share it in an article or a newsletter. Share it in speech or over coffee. When we share information, we keep all the facts on the table and together we can all work this out.Below is a compilation of some items to consider with regards to health care reform. Feel free to pass on any of them that you see fit for you and your situation:- Retiree Health Subsidy. For plans that satisfy various application and submission rules, the federal government will reimburse participating employers 80% of an early retiree’s (age 55 and over but not eligible for Medicare) health claims between $15,000 and $90,000. This program is to be effective as of June 23, 2010, and will cease upon the earlier of exhaustion of its $5 billion in funding or January 1, 2014.- Increased Resources. The Health Reform Bill allocates an additional $300 million to fight health care fraud and abuse over the next 10 years.- Transparency. Effective immediately, physician practices who provide their patients MRI, CT, and PET imaging services are required to inform those patients in writing of other suppliers in the community who can provide those services. The Health Reform Bill also requires disclosure of financial relationships between physicians, hospitals, pharmacists and other providers and manufacturers and distributors of certain drugs, devices, biologicals, and medical supplies.- Community Health Assessment.

Provide Home Health Care

Home health care refers to the process of having a health care provider, usually a nurse or a nurse assistant, come to the home of a person who is elderly or disabled and help them with basic daily activities that due to their age and disability they are unable to perform themselves.It can take many forms, depending on the extent of assistance the patient requires. For some patients, basic assistance with housework and meal preparation is the extent of their need. For others, full medical knowledge may be required.Evaluate the needs of your loved one before contacting the provider and discussing your options. The level of care offered varies greatly, from weekly visits to live-in companion care. The home health care agency can explain your options and discuss pricing with you.Medicare provides coverage for some home health care, depending on the specific needs of the senior involved. Any care you want beyond the coverage offered by Medicare or your own insurance company would have to be paid out of pocket. This can make it difficult to provide the level of care you sometimes want, but most companies are aware of this issue and can help you find a financing plan that works.As the needs of the patient change, so does the providers arrangement. Be prepared for your home health care needs to increase, and be aware of the point where you will be interested in ending home health in favor of looking into a nursing home of some sort. Of course, most seniors prefer to stay in their own home as long as possible.You may be able to keep home health care but may need to change providers. For example, if you start with an untrained companion provider basic cleaning and meal preparation services, you may at some point need to hire a nurse or nurse assistant to take care of the patient’s increased medical needs.This is a good option for seniors who have minor difficulties performing the basic activities of daily living, like bathing and dressing themselves, but otherwise are healthy. For seniors that live far away from their family, they can help provide social interaction and interest to the lives of the senior.Home health care is a good choice for many elderly people. It is, however, a complex decision that requires taking into account the finances available, the needs and wants of the senior, the availability and willingness of the family to provide care, and the potential future needs of the senior. By contacting them and discussing your situation and concerns, you can determine the best course of action for you and your family.