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3 Types of Software to Help Optimize Your Organization in the Cloud

The talk about moving your business to the cloud isn’t new: this has always been the go-to solution for enterprises and corporations. However, small businesses still remained shy to the implementation. Until recently. Stats are showing that by 2020, 78% of SMBs in the US will have fully adopted cloud computing (source: Forbes).

Advantage of the Cloud

According to an article by SalesForce, top advantages of the Cloud include flexibility, disaster recovery, automatic software updates, ability to work from anywhere, increased collaboration, capital-expenditure free, environment friendliness, security, document control, and speed.

Which means nothing can stop organizations from adopting the trends. But there’s more to it. Implementing a change or an upgrade to the system should enforce the overall optimization and performance of the products, services, and interactions involved. Which is why it’s imperative to focus on these three major types of software for the Cloud: contract database software, collaboration software, and security & network tools.

Contract Database Software

Contract management solutions are essential to any business, especially those considering moving to the cloud. There have been many speculations stating that the Cloud isn’t a secure environment for contract management, or that manual processes are more effective. Even often stated that contract management tasks in the Cloud take too much time to be completed (source: ContractWorks). These are all myths, as Cloud solutions have become better, safer and faster across the years. And your organization can benefit from all these positive aspects, and optimize departments such as HR, Sales, Legal, Accounting.

 

Examples of contract database software include Agiloft, Intuit QuickBooks, SurePayroll, Xpenditure expense tracking, and more.

Collaboration Software

Project management and collaboration environments have become crucial for the efficacy and workflow productivity of companies that have remote employees and offer international services or products. To save time, optimize the workflow processes and deliver excellent results while maintaining a healthy team dynamic. To do this, your organization could benefit from a series of software and tools specifically addressed to the Cloud.

 

Examples of collaboration tools (affordable even for small businesses) in the Cloud include Asana, Trello, Citrix Grasshopper, ClickMeeting, MailChimp, Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Zoho.

Security and Network Software

Over 1.8 Billion data records were lost in January 2017 alone, according to BreachLevelIndex. And over 1.6% of data breaches happen in the Technology industry, while over 90% target the Government. The majority of data breaches take place in the US, a report from the same authority shows. This means “security and network” is a sensitive topic. If you’re moving your business to the Cloud, there are tools that ensure your contracts, clients, services, products, and processes are safe from harm.

 

Examples include Spiceworks Network Monitor, WebrootSecureAnywhereAntiVirus, BitdefenderAntiVirus Plus.

 

Of course, the list doesn’t stop here. For organizations that can afford to invest in other cloud-based solutions, other types of software to focus on can be CRM solutions, SEO and Content Generation tools. A complete list of tools and software from PCMag is available here, with explanations and prices. Based on your organization’s activities and needs, you can select the best options to optimize both internal and external processes.

 

Image source: Pixabay

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Beyond Custom Domains and TLDs: 3 Additional Steps to Scaling Your Online Business

Stats from StatDNS show there are a total of 126,980,556 domains that use the TLD “.com” extension, 14,887,979 domains with a “.net” extension and 10,418,897 with a “.org” extension. These are the so-called “traditional domain extensions. Among gTLDs – the new wave, the most popular ones are .xyz, .top, .loan, .win, and .club (source: nTLDstats). A few years back, a custom domain name, branded with your company name was enough to break away from the norm, in an age where Google warned against exact-match domain names. Current trends include the acquisition of a TLD extension that best describes the nature of your business (i.e. .club, .vip, accountant, .me), or in short, an “exact match” TLD.

However, this isn’t enough to gain trust, generate sales and scale your business to the next level. Here are three additional steps to scaling your online business beyond the norm.

1.     Business Email Hosting Plans Can Help with Sales

Free email hosting services such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and others offer less control and expose you to advertising schemes. It also looks unprofessional in this time and age to not own a dedicated email address. And remember, “free is never really free” as your contacts, conversations, and information can be exposed to “advertising partners”. To add more, it is harder to protect your account from phishing, spam, and other attacks.

A business email hosting plan can help your business win over clients, by increasing your brand’s trust and offering a dedicated private space where you can connect with customers and prospects. Brands and customers are likely to buy more from providers who invest in their web infrastructure, including email and communication channels (Skype credit, paid CRM tools etc).

According to LCN.com, a proper email hosting plan should contain packages that meet every need, from starter offers for bloggers and day-to-day email users, to business plans perfect for companies that require storage, multiple email addresses, and built-in control panels. Some of the common requirements from business users include IMAP to synchronize email communication across multiple devices, spam protection against viruses and malware, autoresponders, out-of-office messages, transparent layer security (TLS) protection.

2.     Website Data Stores Valuable Customer Behavior Predictions

Every visit and click on your website counts beyond search engines and actual purchases or sales. Analytics by Google, Bing and other search engines can cover a lot of ground on what works and does not work behind the scenes, and provide substantial help in remarketing campaigns.

Are your customers happy? Do you measure their happiness in any way? According to Userlike, 91% of unhappy customers will unlikely use your products or services ever again. There are at least 6 proven ways to determine their satisfaction, including customer satisfaction surveys, customer satisfaction scores, net promoter scores, customer effort scores, social media monitoring, and the “things gone wrong” method.

3.     Offering Customers Instant Updates on Products and Features

A reputable business will always cater to the needs of its customer database. And foremost, up to date and transparent communication of potential updates, changes and upgrades to the products and services can help build trust and online reputation.

There are multiple ways to do this, generally by announcing the end-result through email campaigns, instant messages, social media, company blog announcements and other channels. In the background, however, multiple processes should work for you and your customers. One of the best ways to combine such processes is to make use of any information databases can offer you. For example, you can create union queries is SQL and Access to create a process that optimizes customer data, as Acuity Training shows us in this article.

The main idea is to make use of customer data and queries to improve products and services, release updates and relevant features that address the needs of your clients.

Takeaways

Break the norm and scale your online business the right way to build trust, a solid online reputation, and a responsive customer process. This implies upgrading to a business email plan that contributes to more solid sales, making use of customer data and offering customers transparent communication in terms of products and features.

Image Source: Pixabay

The post Beyond Custom Domains and TLDs: 3 Additional Steps to Scaling Your Online Business appeared first on Domain & SEO News.

Startup News: Market Stats for the Beauty Industry in 2017 [Infographic]

It is no news that startups have it rough in their first years even in top performing industries such as IT, security, finance, real estate and more. However, market research findings encourage the launch of new companies in emerging industries outside the “app zone”.  Let’s talk about “the Internet of Beauty” and why you should launch a startup in the beauty industry today.

Industry Highlights

The beauty industry represents a multi-billion dollar potential, expected to reach $429.8 billion by 2022, and growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) according to Allied Market Research. Little known fact is that since the 2008’s recession, it has still remained a profitable venture, with the United States generating nearly $56.2 billion.

Global beauty services have also shifted towards a better, more personal consumer experience. In addition, nearly half of global skin care sales have been attributed to Asia and Pacific markets, which triggered the thirst for beauty products among its consumers. An explosive growth of the industry has been reached thanks to social media marketing efforts, customized personal brand messages. More interest had been paid towards everyday community leaders (influencers) both online and offline, as well as to micro-branding and beauty ambassador programs.

Market Customer Behavior and Insights

The industry has enormous potential for growth in the long run, from a more dynamic perspective, as consumer buying behavior varies by category and preferences. According to the data provided by FacialCo, skincare products rank among top picks, followed by hair care products. Perfume, makeup, and toiletries are next in line, with an increase in revenue for online purchases of cosmetics in general. Here is the market share breakdown:

  • Skincare 36.1%
  • Hair care 22.9%
  • Make-up 17.3%
  • Perfume 12.2%
  • Toiletries 10.4%
  • Cosmetic online purchases 10%
  • Oral cosmetics 1.1%

An interesting behavior to watch is online purchases, with a focus on the organic market. As consumers use mobile devices, beauty businesses will continue to extend their reach in joint industries such as apps and mobile solutions. More stats available in the infographic below.

Beauty Industry Highlights Infographic

Infographic created with graphic design software Vengage

The New Business Model: Organic Beauty Products

Much talk has centered on climate change and carbon footprint, which led to a rise in the “everything organic” trend. The beauty industry makes no exception. In the United Kingdom, the demand for organic products has surged. Organic health and beauty products, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), have gone from $30.1 million in 2011 to $54.02 million in 2015. In other words, in just four short years organic beauty product demands have doubled.

In relation to organic personal care market shares, Grand View Research findings estimate the industry is to reach $25.11 billion by 2025. Previously mentioned beauty product categories have witnessed a growing popularity of organically enhanced products, as well. Among key highlights is the consumer perception growth of purchasing organic and sustainable products. Well-known companies have started shifting business and investments in this industry, thanks to that, such as L’Oréal, which acquired “The Body Shop” back in Oct. 2013 to increase market share presence.

Final Thoughts: Pre-Launch Startup Checklist

DynamicBusiness provides a pre-launch startup list to go by. With a few additions, here’s how you can be ready to launch your business in the Beauty industry:

  • Commitment. Often known as passion or unwavering tenacity. In the long haul, you need to believe in your product or service, independent of the industry you plan to take over. Like Sun Tzu says in ‘The Art of War’, “in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”. Own it!
  • Locating customers. And knowing them and their needs like the back of your hand. Ideally, be where your audience is, and don’t lose sight of it. Some beauty businesses work better locally, while others are more location-independent. Research both markets, compare growth potential factors and decide based on numbers and predictions, not based on personal preferences. Growth happens outside your comfort zone.
  • Balance between work and life. One of the first must have items is a business coach, who will teach you how to be effective and fully operational, without disrupting the work-life balance. Especially when you know your product/service is helping someone and improving their lives. What about yours, then? It’s easy to forget to just breathe and take a break, but don’t make it a habit.
  • Business war. Market dominance. Being the best, not just in search ranks, but also in the quality of products and services you deliver. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, they say. But have you thought that it’s also in the hands of the provider? This isn’t the type of war where customers are victims. It is a fight for bringing wellbeing and happiness to customers worldwide. No casualties whatsoever.
  • Cash flow. Money. It’s great if you have them from day 1, but be ready to put in some sweat and effort. Your products/services should be priced accordingly, based on ingredients, techniques, years invested in training and knowledge acquisition, innovation involved and so on. Prices should be kept steady, without frequent spikes, so to maintain a steady cash flow. Optimize your products and services for specific markets. I.e. do not gamble on luxury products in a location that cannot sustain such a segment.

In short: be smart, listen, observe, take notes and apply. A solid market research will aid you greatly in spotting needs that go unaddressed, and where to find them.

 

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Software Automation Solutions That Can Save Your Startup

Automation is a hot trending topic, especially in startup environments, where it has been linked to productivity, efficiency, and agile development business processes. In 2016, InfoWorld quoted automation as an imperative step in “better software testing”. With only 28% of the companies automating more than 50% of their processes, in a survey by XBOsoft, how does this impact the growth in startups worldwide? If your company hasn’t considered cutting down on manual processes yet, start with these 3 types of software automation that can literally save your startup.

#1. Marketing Automation Software

It’s no hidden fact how efficient a marketing automation software solution can be. Aaron Aders believes this type of process is like “working with thousands of couriers that deliver the right content at the right time” (source: Inc.com). Your message and products get delivered fast, accurately, here and now to the right audience, with the right amount of effort and focus.

Key points to consider when using this automated process include the software basics, marketing funnel characteristics, and funnel segments. First, identify a software you are comfortable working with. Then, divide your marketing funnel by leads and prospects. Last, but not least, the funnel segments, where audience specs makes the difference: TOFU (top of funnel), MOFU (middle of funnel), and BOFU (bottom of funnel). Create the content, set the deliverables and let the software do the work. Examples include Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Act-On, Hubspot etc.

This type of software automation will greatly help with Sales, Marketing, as well as aid your team in managing everything accordingly.

#2. Payroll Software Automation

Cashflow is an important aspect in any company, and delivering payments on time can increase values such as happiness and loyalty among employees. 2017 is bringing new light into the payroll matter, highly encouraging startups to use payroll software for better financial management. NextPayments, an Australian company investigates on innovation in payroll options, such as intelligent banking, custom on-location ATM machines, and ways to manage employee payments with just a few clicks. The service is currently available in Australia and New Zealand, with plans to expand worldwide.

Meanwhile, in the US, a study by the National Small Business Association shows that over 40% of companies invest 80+ hours in this process, time which could be put to better use.

Time-Spent-With-Payroll-Study

 

This list of payroll software companies explains better how to save time and energy in dealing with accounting. Some of the tasks payroll software automation can cover include calculating taxes, filling tax forms, making deposits, calculating employee pay, workers compensations, and bonuses. Even more, if your startup is joining the remote revolution and has international team members, a payroll software can ease the process with conversions and country-specific taxes or forms.

Examples of software: Zenefits, Patriot Payroll, JustWorks, Gusto, and more.

#3. Task Automation Solutions

A few years back, IFTTT was one of the most efficient task automation tools available on the market. Today, a few more emerged, such as Zapier, Integromat, and Workflow, because work doesn’t happen on your PC alone, but also on your other devices.

Incorporating cloud-friendly task automation solutions can help workflow among your team members, as well as aid in the overall business flow. Nowadays, such solutions must be app-friendly, and easy to use with add-ons. The main purpose is to deliver an action with just one tap. Customizable integrations should also address time, task management, software development, and sales.

Takeaways

Marketing automation helps you identify the right funnel and deliver your content to the right audience. Payroll automation keeps your employees happy and loyal, while task automation solutions accommodate with the workflow. Consider these 3 types of automation software solutions to save time, energy, resources, and money.

Image: Pixabay.

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How to Realize Your Startup Dream

Many of us have hobbies that we prefer doing than working at an 8-5 job. You may be doing it on the side and profiting in your own little way which is good. But often with the lack of time and capital, we just couldn’t seem to take the next leap forward.

So we go back to our day job to at least have that steady income to cover basic expenses. But with determination and proper time management, it is plausible to pursue your after hours project or your entrepreneurial dreams without compromising your day job.

1. Determine what you want

Goal

Image source: facts.zone

Create a vision and set down milestones for your project. Say you are into crocheting and really believe you can make it into something profitable. If you envision an online shop with your fabulous creations selling like pancakes, then begin by setting up ways for you to achieve that.

Start small as you are still testing the water and only have limited time to spend on it with your day job. Perhaps start a blog which is free just so you can showcase your creations and you can readily update just before hitting the sack.

Then follow it by giving away some of your work to your loyal readers. Then eventually start selling your goods and even begin accepting orders. All these you can plan out on a timeline with consideration to the limited hours you have. Do not rush as it is a learning process.

Celebrate milestones reached, say when you sold your 20th piece. Over time you can confidently decide whether your dream is plausible and whether you are ready to turn this after hours project into your main source of income.

2. Schedule, Schedule

Never mix up your day job with your project tasks. The act of squeezing in your project into your official work hours may turn into a habit which is nothing but a distraction and can even compromise your main source of income.

It takes discipline to do this and it can be quite challenging especially if you are feeling all riled up and excited about your side-line gig. It is important to keep your focus on each at their own proper time as they are both equally important.

Scheduling is key, so set aside specific time or days for you to work on your hobby. And stick to them. You’ll find this way to be more productive as you can concentrate better and your momentum won’t be altered by any sudden task from your boss.

3. Slowly Build Your Clientele

This may mean you giving out your product or service for free just to get something out for people to share and talk about.

And with the digital age, this can be easily complimented by utilizing social media to market your business. This will cost you absolutely nothing but your time and Internet service which there is no doubt you have access to at home or at the office anyway.

Start with friends and families and hopefully they’ll the spread the word about how good you are. And eventually you’ll receive calls for orders and this time with paying customers.

Set up your own site to have a solid asset to send your leads to. Centralize all your activity around your own asset. Here’s a good guide on how to create a site.

4. Know Your Tools

There are plenty of tools that can help you realize your startup dream. There’s a tool for everything these days, from getting you organized to managing your invoices. The key is to create your own tool set. Too much of anything can hurt your productivity, even if it’s too much tools.

Here are a few tools I really like and use a lot:

  • Bustaname to brainstorm a domain
  • Optinmonster to set up email marketing campaigns
  • Launch Rock to create beautiful pre-launch sites
  • Trello to organize your plans and projects
  • Flipsnack to turn your marketing documents into beautiful flip-books to use on smartphones and tablets

flipsnack

5. Find Inspiration

Inspiration

Image via Pixabay

Read up on motivating entrepreneur stories. Many successful businessmen started small while having a day job like you.

Learn from their experiences and gather ideas that may work well for your side line. Realize that there will be days when you feel overwhelmed by your day job and project’s demands.

And you’ll start to lose hope that you can’t do both and may even be compelled to just drop the project altogether. There are many websites to help you out on these challenging times as there are many budding entrepreneurs who are pursuing their passions like you. So don’t despair. Get yourself inspired.

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Customer Confidence Increases with Cybersecurity

As data breaches continually hit the news, consumers are increasingly concerned about their information. The problem is that while most people are worried about cybercrime, they often don’t protect themselves. In a survey released by Symantec, 45 percent of the 20,907 consumers surveyed felt overwhelmed by the amount of information they need to protect. With consumers overwhelmed, they look to businesses to offer assurances regarding the protection of this information. This means that online businesses need to focus on how to protect information to be able to build their customer base.

Training employees are the easiest and more important thing that a business can do to protect information. The top mistakes that employees make are things like sharing passwords or leaving work computers unattended when they bring them home. In addition, over 87 percent of business owners upload information to a personal cloud or storage server. While this may seem like a way to work efficiently, it means that the information is moving to and from different types of security levels. Most businesses use servers that are developed to professionally protect information while most individuals use servers like Dropbox and Google. This means that sharing the information to these servers puts the customer information at risk.

Employees using personal devices in the workplace is rapidly becoming one of the biggest risks for businesses. Legal experts at Steinepreis Paganin suggest writing policies for employees to try to keep these risks down. When employees bring mobile devices into the workplace, they often bring viruses and other possible breach access points with them. A mobile phone with a virus that gets plugged into a work computer to charge can cause a security breach that can affect customer information.

Making sure to update application and operating systems regularly seems mostly geared towards having them work correctly. However, many of these intend to close gaps in systems. In addition, many times hackers are aware of the updates and work quickly to find ways to exploit them. Updating systems and applications and then restarting computers takes time and feels annoying. Not updating, however, can leave customer information at risk.

Finally, think about the ways in which protecting your business protect your customers as well. Simple solutions such as using strong passwords and making sure that emails, texts, and instant messaging programs are encrypted can give your customers confidence when they work with you.

 

Protecting yourself means protecting the information in your care, and sometimes that information belongs to customers. Easing people’s fears about how your business handles their information can be the first step towards building their trust as customers.

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4 Things to Consider When Buying a Domain Name

Whether you’re setting up your first website or you have a strong background in website setup, it’s important to carefully consider your domain name. Buying a domain name plays a huge role in establishing your brand. It’s not a process that comes as an afterthought, and it’s not just the name that matters, either. Here are four other things worth considering when buying a domain name.

The SEO Value

There are many factors that impact where your site shows up in search engine results. In fact, if you’re using a website builder, you’ll have plenty of search engine optimization (SEO) tools at your fingertips. One of these factors that comes into play in SEO is the keywords in your domain name.

Let’s take an example. If someone searches “Start Blogging Online,” they’ll find startbloggingonline.com on the first page of the search results. (Note: Your domain name holds weight in search engine rankings, but there are tons of other factors at play. Startbloggingonline.com ranks for this long-tail keyword not solely because of its domain name but because it utilizes other SEO methods to appear in top results for blogging-related searches.)

Think about what SEO value your ideal domain name would bring to the table. Is the keyword relevant to your business or industry, or does it hold another meaning that more people are likely to search for? When people search this key term, what are they expecting to find? Does your site deliver on those expectations?

Don’t try to stuff too many keywords into your name. Your business name is the ideal option, but if you’re starting a blog and trying to come up with a website name based on what’s available, limit it to one word or a two- to three-word phrase. The longer you get, the more complicated it is for readers to remember, and that can indirectly affect your SEO by reducing your backlink potential.

Though SEO potential should be considered, don’t focus all your attention on what keywords will put you at the top. Consider SEO, but don’t forget about branding. Your domain name should benefit both of these areas, not one or the other.

 

Your Budget

If you’ve done any research into possible domain names for your site, then you’ll notice that some names are more expensive than others. On the low end, you’ll likely pay around $10-$15 per year to register your domain name. However, others sell for thousands of dollars.

This high price tag usually comes with domain names that have been previously registered. They may become available once the initial user’s ownership on them expires or if the owner decides to put the name up for sale. Since the domain has been used before, it often comes with added benefits like inbound links that can help with SEO. If it’s the right domain name for you, it also has the benefit of branding value.

In this case, a business with a somewhat atypical name might be able to snatch up a cheap domain that matches their business name. A more common name—whether other businesses also use the name or it’s just a common word, theme, or phrase—may either be taken or sell for a higher price. If your ideal domain name is priced quite high, then you may have to work this into your budget since it can have certain advantages.

It’s up to you on whether or not you want to tweak your domain name to go for the cheaper option or if you want to take advantage of the branding value and spend the money on a more expensive name. Once you go to register your domain, your registrar will tell you whether or not it’s taken and if it’s for sale. Consider your budget and how much you’re willing to spend on a good domain name, but make sure to have a few back-up options available in case your first choice is not for sale.

 

Your Extension Options

When you create your website and choose your domain name, you’ll have the opportunity to choose between several extensions, which include those like .com, .net, .org, and more. Oftentimes, the .com version of a domain is taken, but you can still buy it with a different extension, and sometimes at a cheaper price.

But are the other extensions worth it? The answer is that it depends.

First of all, you want to make sure your extension reflects the nature of your business or organization. For example, .com represents the word “commercial,” .net is for a “network,” and .org means “organization.”

For most business and personal uses, you’ll want to use the .com version. That’s because it’s the most used extension, and it gives your business credibility in having a presence on the web. It’s also more memorable. If web users can remember your domain name but forget the extension, it will be most likely assumed that it’s .com, which will make you easier to find on the web.

Weigh the costs and benefits. If your ideal domain is taken with the .com extension, you might be able to claim the name with the .net extension. Otherwise, you can search an alternative name to see if the .com is available.

 

Where You’re Buying From

Once you have your domain name picked out and know that it’s available, it’s time to think about who you want to register your domain name with. There are numerous registrars out there, including:

  • GoDaddy
  • NameCheap
  • com
  • iPage
  • Bluehost
  • DreamHost
  • HostGator
  • com

This is not a comprehensive list; it’s just a few examples.

You’ll notice here that some of these options, such as Bluehost, HostGator, and DreamHost, are not only domain registrars but are also web hosts. If you’re hosting through one of these companies, then you’ll have to consider if you want to go through them for both services. Though this has its advantages, many people caution against it.

The pros of using the same company for hosting and registering your domain name include:

  • It’s convenient.
  • Setup is easy.
  • Technical support can help if there are any issues.

However, there are also cons to doing this, including that:

  • It’s not as secure as spreading your services out.
  • It can be difficult to transfer your domain if you choose to change your host.
  • Some web hosts rent you the domain name but actually register it in their name, meaning that you don’t have the rights to move it to a new host or sell it. This is not the case with all hosts, but you should pay attention to the terms of your hosting agreement.

It’s up to you to weight the pros and cons about where to register your domain name, but before you make a final decision, be sure to at least consider other options. You’ll also want to research different hosts and domain registrars to see which one is the best for you. Pay attention to the terms of agreement so you understand what you’re getting from these services.

With these ideas in mind, you should be able to move forward with purchasing a domain name that benefits you and your business in many ways. What domain name options are you thinking about picking up for your next website?

 

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