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Insider's Guide

By Dawn Malinowski

Owner of SocialTrend Internet Solutions, LLC

At SocialTrend Internet Solutions, we love to empower our clients to improve their business through online marketing. Our goal with this article is to provide ideas for any small business owner to get started or expand their online marketing footprint. We hope to educate, inspire and support you in achieving your business goals through online marketing. We will discuss best practices for your business website, social media tips, how to incorporate blogging into your web presence and the importance of consistency and search engine optimization. Let’s get started!

First, your business must have its own website. This is so critically important – without your own dedicated domain name customers can’t find you or will deduce you are not a legitimate company. According to the Digital Influence Index, 89% of consumers today use the internet as a research tool before making a purchase. Without a website you are missing out on all those new leads. If you have an outdated or poorly built website, make this upgrade a priority. Having a hard to navigate, messy website can be worse than not having one at all if you portray an unprofessional brand when new clients visit your site. Whether you are starting from scratch or want to revamp your current website, here are some important guidelines:

Responsive website – A responsive website is easily readable across any device (mobile, tablet and desktop) with minimum resizing and panning to view. More people view digital content on mobile devices then desktops, so be sure your website can handle all types of devices beautifully.

Consistent branding –Be sure the style of the website is consistent with your brand – modern, traditional or eclectic.

Professional look – You need professional, high resolution logos and pictures. Be consistent with font used, colors for headlines, buttons and text.

Contact Form – Consumers like anonymous contact. Include an email address or a contact form so new clients can send a quick note to start the initial conversation with you.

Customer testimonials – This is a perfect avenue to share personal stories of how you have succeeded and they will resonate extremely well with potential new customers.

Geography – If you are a service company, be sure to include a description of the geography you cover. If you are a product company, highlight how far your products have traveled to customers.

If you don’t know where to start as it relates to a website, visit the sites of some of your favorite companies. Find a few that you feel reflect the right style and tone you want to convey for your business. Bring those ideas to a web developer, and they should be able to take it from there.

Social media is an ever-changing landscape and can be difficult to navigate on your own. The biggest mistake people make is thinking they have to do every social media platform and as a result, they fail at all of them. Instead, focus on one or two platforms and do a fantastic job on those. Same rules apply here as on your website; be consistent with your brand, use professional logos, etc. The followers on your social media platforms will expect you to be updating regularly. If you grow stale, consumers will see your social media as being neglected and will not use it as a source of information and certainly will not share it with their network connections.

Blogging is a very effective way for businesses to engage their customers and find new ones – it’s not just for individuals. If you are not new to the online marketing game, then you probably already have a website and a good presence on social media. Adding a blog to your website is the next step. A blog allows you to do many things including:

•  Add fresh content on your website, which helps you rank in search engines and gives your website visitors something new to investigate.

•  Generate perfect material to use for your email marketing campaigns and your social media updates.

•  Introduce a new service or product.

•  Make a personal connection with your customers by telling “stories” about yourself and your business

•  Demonstrate your expertise in your field and educate your clients on your industry

A blog is relatively easy to set up and update (you or your web designer should be able to easily add it to any existing website) and can actually be a very fun outlet for a business owner. Same rules apply – be sure to update on a regular basis and use the blogging platform to reiterate a consistent brand.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complicated beast and not something we can go into deep detail here. First, know where you rank in each major search engine (Google, Bing) and determine if SEO is something you need to focus on based on your results. Chances are you should. In order to determine your rank, be sure you use consistent search criteria and a “clean” computer. This means a computer that you haven’t worked on before, otherwise the history saved on your computer will influence the results and give you a false ranking higher in the search results.

Second, we recommend engaging a professional for your SEO work. If this is something you don’t want to do, then you need to educate yourself on how each search engine’s algorithm works so you can determine how to update your website to optimize it for the best results on each search platform and for the most critical search criteria. Remember 89% of consumers use the internet to research before they make a purchase and you don’t want to miss those leads because you are not ranking high on Google – SEO is important.

Overall, like all things in business, you should have a plan. Create a strategy for your online marketing campaign and be consistent. Keep everything updated regularly and in line with any changes you are making with your brand and message. Have fun creating your campaigns and execute your plan. Then sit back and watch your business grow.

Master the Art of delegating

By Kathleen Brady, Georgian Court University

Delegating is an overlooked, yet essential skill to master. Its purpose is to enable you to dispose of simpler tasks to free you up to perform tasks that are of greater value to your business. The truth is you probably can do most tasks better and faster than your employees. Delegate them anyway. The better your team does under your leadership, the more successful your business will be.

Understand that there is a difference between assigning a task and delegating one. If there are multiple directives, required check-ins and a significant amount of supervision time, you have merely assigned the task. This method will cause you to become a choke point and slow down the work process. Remember, people rise or fall to the level of expectation. Delegate tasks and hold people accountable. Use the four-step delegation process outlined below.

Think it through. Clearly define your goals and objectives, assign the tasks and assess progress to ensure you get the end result you want.

Assemble the team. Identify the person(s) who can get the job done. Be sure that they:

• Have the ability to perform the task.

• Understand the project’s overall objective.

• Can complete the task in the allotted timeframe.

• Are aware of established performance standards.

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Always operate under the principal that you can never be too clear. It is important to communicate exactly what needs to be done in an unambiguous effective manner. Indicate specifically what you want the staff member to do and be sure to confirm that the person is clear about the assignment.

Provide specific deadlines. “ASAP” is meaningless. So is “In a few days. Try, “I need it in an hour” or “I need it Wednesday afternoon.” Leave no room for ambiguity. Setting specific deadlines and allowing your team to manage their own workload will ameliorate your constant need to hover and inquire, “is it done yet?” to the relief of both you and your staff.

Delegating is not just a way to reduce your workload and complete projects. It is a way to develop employees and strengthen your workforce. Once you learn to mobilize forces around you, you will maximize your leverage, free yourself up to perform tasks of greater value to your business and maybe even find a little spare time to enjoy your life.

Kathleen Brady, CPC, is director of Career Services and adjunct instructor at Georgian Court University and principal of Brady & Associates Career Planners, LLC, a career coaching and professional development training company. She can be reached at kbrady@careerplanners.net OR KBrady@georgian.edu

Preventive care is essential for your pet’s health

By Dr. Rebecca Guglielmo

VMD, VCA Bayview Animal Hospital
It is important to remember that just like with people, good health in animals comes from preventive care. Just as we have our cholesterol and blood pressure checked more often as we age, pets need annual exams and bloodwork as well to screen for illnesses such as diabetes and thyroid disease.

Also, many pets are on medications and need to monitor their effects on internal organs. The Center for Disease Control recommends that veterinarians check a fecal sample yearly for microscopic parasites, which are not only harmful to your pet, but many are also contagious to people. Because one out of every 15 dogs in Ocean County recently tested positive for exposure to Lyme disease, annual vaccination for Lyme and other illnesses is more important than ever before.

Frequent dental cleanings also help prevent periodontal disease from harming organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart. In addition, monthly heartworm and flea and tick preventatives are an important part of wellness care and prevent diseases that can be life threatening and expensive to treat.

If you detect problems early, you can treat and resolve these illnesses with less expense and greater success. Pets age at a faster rate than humans and their health can change significantly over the course of a year. Early intervention helps your pet live a longer and healthier life!

At Bayview Animal Hospital, our Care Club membership allows for these services at a discounted rate to make veterinary care more affordable. We treat a variety of species including dogs, cats, reptiles, birds and pot-bellied pigs. We provide house calls for patients who get too anxious being transported in a car, and boarding services for our furry friends while their owners are away.

Everything you wanted to know about lighting & didn’t know who to ask

By Meredith Nole

American Efficient Lighting
Wonder how much you would save with LED lighting and whether your lighting would be excellent? Look no further; here are answers to your questions.

Regardless of the fixture, the bulb is the source of illumination, which is why the more you understand about the bulb chosen, the more you will be able to design the exact right lighting you want and need for your uses, saving money, improving seeing or safety.

Look at your lighting needs from an economical aspect, as well as design and beauty and, yes, health.

•  Light your tasks, instead of a fixture in the center of the ceiling to light the room to eliminate shadows and uses less wattage.

•  The color of the bulbs create impact on the human body, your space and activity levels. Cool 5000K for action or to help with limited seeing, or soft, warm 2700K-300K for relaxing, getting ready to sleep and help balancing circadian rhythm. Sleeping with white or bluish light into your room is not beneficial.

•  LED lighting is perfect to use in all your locations. For an A-shaped bulb, make sure they are as similar in look as a regular incandescent. For recessed fixtures, get floods that throw light where you need it out and down.

•  Under-cabinet LED strips allow light directly onto counter tops.

•  Exterior lighting, flood, narrow flood or spot, have light go where needed.

•  Using LED in your track lighting; 7 watts replacing 50 watts. If your track is older and you dim it, LED bulbs may flicker due to not drawing enough power and you would be best served to switch your track heads for new electronic low voltage with a compatible dimmer.

Lighting controls are the next “big thing.” Using efficient LED bulbs and LED lighting fixtures, and allowing lights to go on when you enter rooms is the most cost effective way to use your lighting, whether residential or commercial spaces. Why pay for wasting energy?

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