4 Marketing Tools You Can’t Live Without

No matter how large or small your company is, handling the pressures of modern marketing strategies can be stressful. From content marketing to running analytics, markers are more busy than ever before. To simplify your marketing techniques, here are four tools you shouldn’t live without:
marketing tools

1. CRM

Every company needs a high-quality customer relationship management (CRM) solution to track, organize and follow up on sales leads. However, some CRMs are not user-friendly or they’re too expensive for fledgling startups or small businesses to afford. Shop around until you find the right option for you.

2. Marketing automation tool

If you want your marketing team to maximize efficiency and increase revenue, you need a marketing automation tool, such as Marketo, HubSpot, Eloqua or Pardot. Choose a solution that offers easy CRM integration, email marketing and lead generation. This way, every step of the marketing and sales processes will be covered.

3. Analytics solution

Every industry is increasingly relying on metrics to make evidence-based business decisions. So why should your company be any different? Use Google Analytics or Kissmetrics to track the success of your marketing efforts. With these tools, you can get a better understanding of how customers respond to everything from your homepage to your monthly newsletters.

4. Webinar

If you want to reach a wide audience to perform product demos, introduce new features or answer company questions, webinars are the best choice for your business. Not only do they offer interactive polling and Q&A features for your audience, but they let you talk to people from all over the country from your laptop or tablet.

IT Professionals Are Like Star Wars Characters

star wars charactersAs many of us are still recovering after seeing “Rogue One,” mourning the passing of Carrie Fisher and greatly anticipating the next “Star Wars” film coming out later this year, you might have this iconic series on the mind. While the IT world is galaxies away from stormtroopers and Jedi knights, we still believe there are some similarities between the classic film characters and certain individuals you will encounter at work.

Han Solo: The Rebel

You’ve all known these IT professionals. They are great at what they do and not afraid to show off a little or bend a few rules, just like one of my favorite Star Wars protagonists, Han Solo. While tough to work with at times, they’ll always have your back when times get tough. They can go rogue, but it’s usually for good reason. And the Force is always with him.

Luke: The Newbie

N00b. We’ve all been the new guy or girl before. Just like Luke getting his first lightsaber or starting to learn about the ways of the Force, you need to be patient with this type of IT employee. While he or she might have a lot of hidden talent, this individual might also be intimidated by the weight of new responsibilities. Don’t scare workers like this off before they’re able to save your back when your industry’s equivalent of a Death Star shows up.

And … maybe be wary of their parents.

Princess Leia: The Fighter

She’s scrappy. She’s independent. She knows her way around a blaster. Much like the Han Solos in your office, she knows she’s good at what she does, but mostly prefers playing by the rules and knows how to work a crowd. Don’t let her imprisonment by Jabba the Hutt fool you — she’s always ready for a challenge. She’s always got a few tricks up her sleeve. And she’s definitely no damsel in distress. She’s the perfect gal to have on your team.

No one would know you’re related to the newbie.

Yoda: The Expert

Knows the ways of IT, he does. Mysterious. Wise. Every office needs a guru, just like all fledgling Jedi knights need masters like Yoda to show them the way. Whether you’re the Yoda of your department or know who is, don’t take these experts for granted.

Darth Vader: The Tyrant

Security. Standards. Order. Yeah, “no” is your middle name. Although you’re probably involved in your own Shadow IT projects, you have alarms, traps and systems set up to uncover rebels in your company who use unapproved software. But you’re not a bad guy. You’re just misunderstood. In your heart, you want to do the right thing; it’s just your company is preventing you from it.

Boba Fett: The Mercenary

You’re an original. You play by whatever rules you want, moving from gig-to-gig. You consult, sharing your expertise for the highest bidder. And you don’t take flack from anyone. Teams love to have you because you solve big problems. Some people don’t like working with you, but that’s not your issue; it’s theirs.

Love sci-fi? Me, too. Take Sci-Fi Personality Quiz to determine your sci-fi personality. This quiz totally groks you.

5 Changes That Impact HR and Your Business

hrEvery year, the HR field goes through major transformations. From the rise of analytics to an increased emphasis on employee engagement levels, change is always taking place. In conjunction with the new presidential administration, an increasingly younger workforce and the introduction of new technology, here are five changes in HR that may impact your business this year:

1. Affordable Care Act

The Trump administration has repeatedly stated that it will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). Therefore, as an HR leader, you must stay up to date with the latest movements in the health care and insurance sectors. The plan to take its place hasn’t been clarified. Nor has the timeframe.

2. Overtime pay

In May 2016, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez updated the DOL’s final rule regarding overtime regulations. This will extend overtime pay to an estimated 4 million workers within the first year of implementation alone. Prior to this motion, businesses did not have to pay overtime if their workers made more than $23,660 per year. This rule update raises the limit to $47,476 a year. This change may likely affect many employees at your organization.

There’s no word on whether the Trump administration will work to undo this law.

3. Minimum wage

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, yet 29 states plus the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than the national average. Many state and city governments are in the process of increasing or are debating increasing their minimum wage, which could impact your non-salaried workers.

Chances are likely this will continue to be driven by states, cities and counties.

4. Feedback, not reviews

With a younger workforce on the rise, many companies are doing away with the dreaded performance review. Instead, organizations are turning to continuous feedback, rather than only once or twice a year. As an HR leader, you may be responsible for reworking your existing performance review strategy this year.

Because more companies are looking to do away with reviews, there’s a need for a better audit trail in case you need to lay off or fire workers. In fact, as a best practice many companies institute an employee performance improvement plan with information about the steps the company has taken to help the employee.

5. Rise in technology for remote working

People want the option to work remotely and not be tied down to their desks. Many offices across the country are introducing video conferencing tools and work-from-home policies to improve workplace satisfaction levels and leverage innovative technologies. This is something to be aware of as an HR leader moving forward into 2017 as 60% of the workforce will be working remotely. And more HR departments are working with IT counterparts to help make this happen for their company, including assisting with internal communications plans to roll this out to employees.

Choose a Webinar Product

You’re investigating a new webinar product or switching from an old one due to issues. You already know webinars are incredibly beneficial for any company making product, business or general announcement to a wide audience.

webinarWhile you may know how much you need a webinar service at your organization, how do you select the right provider to partner with? Here are four ideas to get you started in the right direction:

1. Is easy to use

No matter what, you want to choose a provider that offers webinar services that are easy for you and your participants to use. Nothing will lower your webinar attendance rate faster than if the audience has to jump through several technical hoops to even view your presentation.

2. Is reliable and robust

While you might only plan to use a basic webinar tool, you also might consider choosing a provider that offers additional robust features. After all, interactive options such as polls can make even the most standard webinar much more interesting for your audience. Engagement is one of the key reasons why so many marketing departments use webinars.

Customization, add-on features and more can be considered under robust. Are these things important to you? If so, make sure you note that. It’ll help you pick the right tool.

3. Enables integrations

Do you need it to integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) software? How about marketing automation tools like Marketo, Eloqua and HubSpot? Integration extends your existing software and makes your webinar more valuable. It can also reduce errors and double work. For example, you may want to send out recorded webinars to your clients. Without this option, it will be far more difficult to make this happen.

4. Has great customer service

Did you know some companies charge for even the most basic customer service, like answering the phone when you need help? It’s true. Of course some companies embed great customer service into the overall price, like ReadyTalk. Depending on how comfortable your workforce feels with your webinar platform and what’s important to your business, you may need better customer service.

Speaking of customer service, we even send out proactive tips and provide additional concierge services (for a fee). Additional concierge services can be anything from helping with everything to ensure your webinar is flawless to handling the basics of the meeting, like the greeting.

5. Meets your SMART goals and budget

The price varies greatly among products. As above, consider everything in the package. For example, some companies charge for customer service … but it’s not listed on their base price. Webinars can cost anywhere from $10 a month to more than $1,0000.

But more important, is whether the webinar meets the reason you’re buying one. Are you getting the leads and revenue you need? Will you get the attendance you need? Will you be able to train people? Conduct demos? This is critical. SMART means specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. Ensuring your webinar platform’s success means taking the time to go over why you need one in the first place … and to get specific.

6. Has good reviews

Analysts research software all the time and provide reviews on that software like Aragon Research. Websites also have a number of reviews available, indicating what they like — and don’t like — about products. Don’t just trust testimonials on the company’s website. And if you need to, ask if you can get a reference. Most good companies will provide names to help you select the right software for your needs.

7. Enables you to try or demo

These days if you can’t try or demo a product, it’s probably not worth buying. Many companies, like ReadyTalk, provide free trials. You can decide whether it meets your needs or not. Of course, many companies have a limit to the free trial. And those same companies may extend the free trial if you ask them to.

And while we’re on free trial ….

 

Start Free Webinar Trial

5 Tips to Grow Your Business

As a small business, you may feel at a loss as to how you should effectively grow your operations. If you’re looking to expand or improve profit margins in the new year, here are five tips you might benefit from.

1. Simplify and reduce costs

Focusing your strategy, focusing on best-selling products, focusing on your target consumers … there are many ways to simplify your business to promote future growth. Reduce overhead costs and build up your core team in order to lay the firm foundation on which you hope to flourish. Costs can be associated with your outdated phone system to ineffective communications.

You can also simplify your employment strategy by hiring freelancers or giving up the office you don’t need, and the expenses, and enable your team to work remotely. Roughly $24 / month is easier to swallow than thousands for a downtown office. Reducing costs by simplfying is easier than you think.

2. Reach out to prospects and customers

how a business owner can grow a businessSuccessful marketing tactics revolve around meeting the average consumer where they are. And where most consumers are at is on social media. Build meaningful customer relationships online! Don’t forget a content marketing plan, including webinars.

3. Embrace data

Many small businesses are afraid of data-informed decision-making because they believe it’s costly or won’t support their specific needs. This isn’t the case, as many analytics websites are free or low-cost, such as Google Analytics. Start measuring your progress today!

4. Use video marketing

Most consumers would rather watch content than read it today, which is why video marketing tools are so integral for growing small businesses. If you want to stand apart from your competitors, put videos on your homepage, in your marketing emails, on your social media pages and on your blog.

5. Move to unified communications

Whether you move away from desk phones to enable mobile devices or upgrade your web and video conferencing tools, you need to unify and strengthen your business’s communication strategy. By choosing one vendor, you can save money while providing communications to your company.