Blog

April 23rd, 2015

164_Prod_CIn today’s world of ever-changing technology, information overload and endless to do lists, it can seem hard to keep up. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to just get more done? While there’ll likely always be tasks to accomplish and something to do, there are certainly things you can change to boost productivity. And that starts with identifying bad habits. Here are five of them you should kick now to bring your productivity to an all-time high.

Constantly checking email

This is an obvious one most people already know of, but how many of us actually follow it? The reason it’s a productivity killer is because it destroys your focus. Even worse, constantly checking email has been linked to anxiety, depression, lower performance and even decreased memory function.

To overcome this habit, designate specific times of the day to check your e-mail. For example, first thing in the morning when you wake up, after lunch, and at the end of the work day. This will prevent constant email checking from breaking up your flow while you’re on the clock.

Working long days

It’s 8pm, you’ve already worked 12 hours, but you just want to knock out one more item on your to do list. You’re exhausted, but you tell yourself to push through anyway - even if it takes another hour. How many of us have been here? If it’s more often than not, it may be a good idea to kick this habit as it’s an absolute productivity killer.

Studies have shown that working more than eight hours a day lowers productivity and raises the risk of burnout. The reasoning is simple...mental fatigue. Once you’ve worked a certain number of hours, your focus will be less sharp and your productivity will consequently drop. Which leads us to our next point...

Not getting enough sleep

Rest is essential to maximizing your productivity. And the most essential type of rest you can get is sleep. Research has shown that getting five hours of sleep or less multiple nights in a row has the same effect on you as a 0.10 blood alcohol level. Not only that, but you’ll also suffer from headaches, be mistake-prone and get distracted more easily. Basically you’ll be an unfocused mess.

Working continuously without a break

Studies have shown that you need to take breaks if you want to achieve maximum productivity. This is because a break allows you to rest your brain. Often during a break, you may even come up with new creative solutions to problems. And the best part is that when you return to work, you’ll feel revitalized with a fresh focus and ready to be challenged.

Multitasking

In this day and age, multitasking is often touted as a positive skill. And while this may be true in small bursts, spending hours juggling tasks is a surefire way of lowering productivity. The reason behind this is that switching between tasks causes a loss of focus and creativity. Think of your brain as a computer with a limited amount of RAM. Now what happens when your computer’s RAM is pushed to the max? It usually slows down and doesn’t function as well. Your brain acts in a similar way, the only difference being that you can’t buy more RAM to install in your brain - not yet, at least.

On the contrary, studies have shown that focusing on one task for a larger block of time (don’t forget to throw your break in, though) allows you to boost your productivity and get into a flow with your work. Try it out and you may find yourself accomplishing more tasks than you ever imagined possible.

Interested in learning about more ways to increase productivity? Want to find out how your technology can help? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 22nd, 2015

BusinessValue_Apr21_CAs a small business owner you’ve gone through the painstaking effort of making your products or services known to potential clients. Once you’ve managed to close the deal, the next step is to plan how to get repeat business from those clients. You can do just that by using email marketing to retain clients for longer, and build profits over an extended timeline. Here are some email marketing ideas to use on your list of subscribers.

Offer promotional codes

Offer your customers a promotional code that provides a special discount or a freebie on their next purchase. You can place the code in an email as a thank you for your customers’ sign-up or first purchase. Also consider adding an expiration date as a way to monitor whether your customers have used the code or not. Promotional codes are a great tool to express gratitude to your customers, and show that you value their business.

Rewards program

This is one of the simplest email marketing strategies as you can offer anything to make your customers feel special. You could go for a “buy one, get one” promotion or offer an extra month of service after a yearly subscription. If applicable to the nature of your business, you can create points programs for your customers to collect, and they can redeem the points for something afterwards.

Host contests

The purposes of contests are to excite your customers, increase engagement, and increase brand awareness. You will also have the opportunity to find out more about your customers by asking detailed questions as part of the contest entry process. For instance, you could ask them to complete a quick survey about your products or services, giving you ideas for future email campaigns.

Give freebies

Send freebies via emails occasionally, or on your customers’ birthdays. You can give away anything related to your business that your customers will find helpful, such as eBooks, videos, or other tools. Add an expiration date to these freebies to enable you to follow up if they haven’t claimed it.

Send notifications

When you have a new product or service, you can notify every customer on your email list. In addition, when you run promotional codes with expiry dates, rewards programs, or contests, you can send reminder emails to alert your customers, encouraging them to take action on your offers.

Email marketing is best used to retain existing clients. Since it’s much cheaper to retain an existing client than acquire a new one, email marketing is an incredibly cost-effective marketing solution that is well worth a try.

If you’re looking to implement email marketing to improve sales, give us a call today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 21st, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Apr20_CBusiness continuity plans (BCP) are designed to protect your company’s resources and data in the event of a disaster. Backing up data, getting insurance and marking rally points are some of the main components of a BCP. One of the most important processes is running an exercise to test whether the BCP actually works. But a business continuity exercise can be a challenge in its own way, as it involves all your employees and executives. Don’t be overwhelmed - we have a few proven steps to get you started.

Set objectives

The first step to any efficient exercise is having clear objectives. Think about the results you want to see at the end of the exercise. These outcomes may include, but are not limited to, IT disaster recovery, evacuation routines, off-site recovery plans, and supplier management. If there are measurable targets that can be put into the equation, then all the better. For instance, meeting a recovery objective after a disaster within x number of hours.

Select the right type of exercise

Essentially there are four levels of exercises, each increasing in complexity and difficulty.
  • A walkthrough - this exercise involves a team meeting to discuss whether the present BCP has everything covered and is up-to-date.
  • Desktop exercise - ideal for new or intermediate teams. A desktop exercise takes place in a room where delegates discuss a fictional scenario delivered via a series of powerpoint presentations. Role-playing and dramatic simulations are not part of this stage of the process.
  • Functional exercise - this level allows employees to perform their duties in a simulated environment. It is designed to exercise specific team members, procedures, and resources in the event of a disaster.
  • Live or real time - this is a full-scale exercise performed in real time with normal business suspended. The aim is to see whether people can do what’s expected of them within a set timescale. A live exercise is often complicated and costly to organize, but will generally ensure a much smoother process if the worst does happen.

Develop a scenario

Take what you’ve learned from the team, the objectives and plan to develop a scenario. Depending on the type of exercise, you should have a scenario tailored to suit your objectives. Be creative when simulating incidents. You may need only two or three to keep your employees busy for a couple of hours - during that time you can monitor their performance.

Prepare employees

Assign a group of representatives responsible for making announcements and preparing conference rooms to relay the plan to employees. Be specific about who in the company are participants, observers, and facilitators for the purposes of the exercise. Explain courses of actions to everyone involved in the plan. Remember, your BCP’s success depends on your employees’ cooperation, so do your best when you’re clarifying the plan.

Run the exercise!

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. After careful planning and scheduling, it’s time to put your plan into action. Make sure you observe the exercise closely and ask yourself these questions: Are there any potential areas that can be improved? What should you do more of, or differently? What went well, and what didn’t? End the exercise with a feedback session where employees can express their opinions and share their ideas.

If you don’t get it right the first time, then go back to the drawing board and schedule another exercise. It only gets better with every practice.

Are you ready even if disaster should strike? Contact us today and we can help you develop a business continuity plan that keeps your company in the game.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 18th, 2015

SocialMedia_Apr13_CWhich social media networks does your company focus the majority of its marketing efforts on? Chances are, if you’re anything like the majority of organizations, you spend more time thinking about Facebook and Twitter than any other channels. Yes, it’s true that these leading platforms can drive results when they are used to employ effective marketing strategies. Yet there is more to social media than these two sites - and with recent changes meaning it’s now easier than ever to keep up with regular pinning, Pinterest is one such network you’ll want to become more active on.

Pinterest recently announced the launch of an updated and improved browser extension that enables users to save content and pin it to their boards. The platform has supported browser extensions like this for several years already, but the latest enhancements reduce the number of clicks needed to pin images and other content to boards. It is also now simpler to track down the specific board you want to pin an image to, or to create a brand new board from within the browser extension if you don’t already have one that fits.

For casual social media users, the Pinterest button that comes with the browser extension makes for a simple way to bookmark content on Pinterest in order to come back to it later. Pinterest itself gives the example of a food blog - while you’re browsing a recipe, you can click the Pinterest button on your browser and in just a couple of clicks save a visual reference to one of your boards. Then where you’re ready to start cooking, you can easily find the image and click it to return to the blog.

But the benefits are there for those of us using social media for business purposes, too. The extension makes it simpler for you to pin both your own content, which users can then share by re-pinning or clicking on find out more on your web site, and for you to pin and share other relevant content from around the web that will be of interest to your prospective customers. Never forget the golden rule of social media marketing, that your profile - on whichever platform - shouldn’t just be a non-stop stream of promotional messages. Social media is different from conventional advertising, and your content should be a blend of subtle promotion and other, non-sales content that is of genuine interest to prospects.

Pinterest is growing in a big way, meaning now is the perfect time to accelerate your marketing efforts on the platform. There are now said to be over 50 billion pieces of content pinned on the site, spanning over a billion boards, and traffic is both growing and moving to mobile devices. In fact, over 80% of the site’s traffic comes from mobile. And while Pinterest has long been considered to be a predominantly female-friendly site, the channel’s popularity with men is growing, and is outpacing the overall growth in the Pinterest user base.

If Pinterest doesn’t already figure in your social media marketing strategy, it’s about time it did. Give us a call to discuss how we can help you propel your social media efforts forward.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 18th, 2015

InternetSocRepMngment_Apr17_CBusinesses are relying on social media more than ever to get their voices heard on the Internet. Social media is a powerful tool to connect with customers and to establish an online presence. However, so many companies make mistakes that are too important to ignore, and which could seriously damage your online reputation. As a business owner you need to keep your organization in check, and avoid these common online reputation management pitfalls.

Choosing the wrong person to manage your accounts

With a vast selection of social media channels out there, it is normal for businesses to have more than one account. But are you employing the right person capable of managing these accounts? Think about it: your company’s social media accounts are used to portray who you are, and to communicate with customers on a regular basis. In short - this is a job that could make or break your reputation, and you should be extra careful when selecting someone for this position.

Expressing your personal opinion

You’re making a big mistake if you let your emotions get in the way when posting content on your business’s social media profiles. Discussing religion, politics, or other controversial issues may turn off people who matter to your business. Unless they’re relevant to the nature of your business, avoid mentioning sensitive topics. Instead, try to keep a neutral tone, since the goal of your social media efforts is to appeal to everyone.

Deleting or ignoring negative comments

Negative feedback can be painful to hear but, if you can put aside your pride, it is a real opportunity for improvement. When customers post a negative comment, deleting or ignoring it can make things go from bad to worse. Customers may think that you’re not taking their issue seriously, and could resort to posting complaints on all sorts of platforms, which quickly become impossible to control. Don’t let things get out of hand - reply in a timely manner and try to solve their problems as best you can.

Posting fake reviews

Another online reputation mistake is to post negative reviews on your competitors’ website to dampen their credibility. This underhanded strategy is ethically wrong. Similarly, hiring someone to leave a good review for your company is inadvisable. Instead, focus on delivering high-quality products and services to generate authentic customer reviews, which can really pay off in the long run.

Being inconsistent

To build a good online reputation, you need to be consistent. Your social media fans followed your page for a reason - they have certain expectations that you will post regular and interesting content. Updating social media with ten posts one day, followed by complete silence for the following few weeks, is a bad example of consistency. Don’t disappear for days or weeks on end. Try to schedule a routine and interact with your audience on a regular basis.

A credible online reputation is an important part of your business’s public image. If you want to discuss how to establish an online presence, contact us today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 17th, 2015

164_C_OffYou may have heard that now there are apps on your phone that allow you to scan documents. And for those who don’t own a scanner, this is extremely convenient. But with the release of Microsoft Office Lens scanning app last year, this technology has became a whole lot better. Here’s why you should you should be excited it’s finally making the transition to iOS and Android.

What is Microsoft Office Lens?

Microsoft Office Lens is virtually a scanner in your pocket. You snap a picture of anything with text on it, and just like that it’s converted into a scanned document. What separates it from other similar apps out there is its ability to make the scanned text editable as if it were in a Word doc.

Unlike most of the other phone scanning apps, Office Lens automatically detects the borders of the item or document you’re scanning. This means you don’t have to bother lining up the edges of the item with a grid - you just point and shoot. The Lens app then optimizes the picture so that the text is easy to read. It does this by cleaning up shadows and straightening awkward angles. Also, the images you snap are automatically synced to OneNote. This allows you to easily store them, transfer to your other devices or share them later. Additionally, the images can also be saved to MS Word, Powerpoint or PDF. Originally launched in March of 2014, up until now Microsoft Office Lens was only available to Windows Mobile users. This seems a god sent to anyone who has had to rewrite scanned docs to make changes or reformat information.

To give you an idea of some of the items Microsoft Office Lens can scan, check out the list below:

  • business cards
  • billboards
  • receipts
  • invoices
  • notes
  • white boards
  • really anything that has text on it
Why is this cool? Well, imagine you’re at a meeting and there have been a long series of notes written on a white board. Instead of having to scribble all these notes down on a piece of paper, you can simply snap an image of the board. Afterwards you can edit the text from the whiteboard as you see fit, adding in your own notes or ideas.

How to get Microsoft Office Lens app

If you use an iOS device, you can download the app for free on iTunes.

As for Android, a fully functional version of the app is not yet readily available. However, you can get a preview version by joining the “Office Lens Android Preview” community on Google +. There you can sign up to become a tester.

Want to learn more about Office Lens and other Office products? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 11th, 2015

Browsers_Apr10_CWhen was the last time you opened a web site, got everything you needed from it and then closed it? It’s something we do less and less - instead, more of us are accustomed to keeping a page open for reference for some time, perhaps even leaving it open when we put our computer to sleep, and often bookmarking it to go back to later. But what if you need to access that page when you’re working on a different device - say your smartphone or tablet - and perhaps even in a different location? New support for syncing bookmarks in the popular Opera browser, between its and mobile and desktop platforms, makes it easier to keep track of all the pages you’ve opened but haven’t quite finished with yet.

Bookmark syncing is already standard practice on most browsers, and those who use Google Chrome in particular will already be familiar with being able to log into the browser on different devices and access all your bookmarks just as you left them. Yet, despite its popularity with over 300 million users, it’s a feature that was oddly missing from Opera until an update last month. Bookmark syncing is now supported across Opera’s desktop platform, Opera Mini for iOS, and Opera for Android, with Opera Mini for Android expected to follow soon.

Syncing your bookmarks on Opera browsers is as simple as it is on the likes of Google Chrome. Simply sign into your Opera account on each device that you use (after creating an account if you don’t have one already), and your bookmarks will magically appear for you to access, edit and add to. Of course, if you’re happy as you are, then you can use Opera as you always have done and without signing in - the only difference is that you won’t have access to your bookmarks on any devices where you’re not connected.

Though it may lack the glitz and glam afforded to other, newer browsers like Chrome and Firefox, Opera is a stalwart that has been around since 1995. At the start of this year, one of Opera’s original developers unveiled a brand new browser, Vivaldi, after he became disillusioned with Opera’s change of course from its original functions and purpose. Designed for power users who spend a lot of time online working with high volumes of content, Vivaldi might be for you if you not only like to bookmark lots of pages, but also have a tendency to keep numerous tabs open.

Learn more about how different browsers can help you boost your organization’s productivity - get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Browsers
April 10th, 2015

164_C_MWRemember when Internet Explorer was your go-to browser? Actually, you may have trouble remembering. Yes, it was that long ago - like, the 90’s. Google Chrome, Firefox and the other modern browsers of today have evolved, and Internet Explorer has simply not kept up. Microsoft plans to change that. Not by updating Internet Explorer to 21st century standard, but by instead reinventing the wheel with their new web browser Spartan. Here are some of its advanced new features that could forever change how you use the web.

What is Spartan?

Spartan is Microsoft’s new web browser that will be released later this year along with Windows 10. Microsoft’s aim is to build a browser that is designed for the modern web, which creates a more personable experience when interacting with it. Here are few of the incredible changes Spartan has in store.

Web Note

Also known as inking, Web Note allows you to edit web pages directly. You can do this by either typing them or using an interactive pen that allows you to literally circle, underline, or annotate pages as you see fit. These annotations can then be shared with friends and colleagues via email or social networking. They’ll also be stored on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage for easy collaboration.

Reading View

A web page can be a busy place, and the guys at Microsoft know that. That’s why they’ve created Reading View, which provides distraction-free reading to keep you focused on the content. Reading View eliminates ads, fancy CSS styling, sidebars and comments, creating a simple format that feels as if you’re looking at an open book.

Cortana, your new personalized assistant

More and more phones are enabling their devices with personal assistants, so why not web browsers? Cortana is designed to make your web browsing experience easier and more personalized. For example if you’re looking up a business or restaurant, Cortana can provide additional information such as opening hours, address and contact info. Another nifty feature of Cortana allows you to get a definition or content explanation without leaving your current page. Just highlight the word, right click and select Ask Cortana. She’ll provide you with the info you’re looking for, right there on your web page.

Want to learn more about Spartan or other Microsoft Windows News and tips? Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2015

164_C_ProdLove it or hate it, technology isn’t going away. The world is evolving by the day and, with it, so is tech. The fact of the matter is that if you’re not incorporating new technology into your business, your competition is going to gain an edge over you. And with so many apps, updates, hardware and more being released by the day, how do you know which technology actually boosts your business’s productivity? Here are a few questions to ask to ensure you’re getting the most out of your technology.

Is this making my job easier or harder?

There’s no questioning that technology can make our lives better and our jobs easier, but it can also make everything more difficult. Here are a few ways it can slow you down:
  • Distraction - From email to Facebook to Skype or Gchat, technology can be a 24-hour distraction. If you are constantly switching between technology apps and programs - whatever your reason - you’ll certainly end up in a state of distraction, causing your productivity to take a hit.
  • Too complex - Some technology is simply too complex for the average user. To fix this problem, either use technology that is more user-friendly, or leave your IT guy to the job.
  • Too much - There are simply hundreds and thousands of apps and programs that can be used to make your workflow and job easier, but if you use too many you’ll likely be slowed down as you bounce between them all. The trick is to use only what you need, and nothing more.

Does my tech work?

This is almost a no-brainer. Your tech needs to work in order for you to reach your maximum productivity. If you’re still using a break/fix contractor and you’re calling him every other week, is this increasing or inhibiting your productivity? The answer is pretty obvious - it’s probably slowing you down. So what do you do? You need to get a more effective technology solution that is going to “just work”.

If you’re a small business owner, one way to do this is through managed services. This is a hands-off solution where an MSP handles all your IT, usually for a fixed monthly fee, so you never have to think about it. MSPs are proactive about preventing problems from ever occurring in the first place, meaning you’ll have fewer IT issues creating disruption and downtime in your workday.

Is this tech job my responsibility?

Just because you know how to troubleshoot a broken application, does that mean you should? If you’re a business owner or have a job role outside of the tech department, it will benefit you in the long run to leave the job to the tech team. Why? It’s for the same reason the owner of a restaurant doesn’t mop the floors or clean the toilets. They have better things to do with their time, and so do you. You have a specific role for a reason, and you’re creating the most value for your company when you stick to that role. Do yourself and the tech team a favor and leave the tech alone; you have a business to run.

Want more ideas on how to maximize your productivity and use technology to its greatest good? Give us a call and let’s talk today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 8th, 2015

BusinessValue_Apr7_CAt the end of the day, the success of any business comes down to whether it's making a profit. But building and maintaining relationships with the customer base responsible for that revenue is even more significant. Visionary business owners are implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems as a part of their business operations.

Imagine a product that you purchased a couple of days ago breaks after its first use. You contact customer support and describe the issue, only to be told to wait for another representative to call you back. You wait for hours, and still nobody calls back. After sending an email to customer support, there's a chance you get a call back, but it's from someone unfamiliar with your problem and you awkwardly have to explain yourself for the third or fourth time. An effective customer relationship management system can eliminate this problem and many more. Here’s what you need to know.

CRM defined

Customer relationship management is a system that allows businesses to manage, record, and evaluate their customer interactions, in order to provide better services and boost sales. You can use CRM to store customers’ contact details, accounts, leads and sales opportunities all in one place, usually in the cloud so that the information is accessible by anyone in your organization, and at any time.

Why you should invest in CRM

  • Master data management - This is a method of recording and sharing customer data across the CRM process. When customer data is recorded, the CRM system centralizes the data into one file, called a master file. Everyone within the company then has access to this data source, preventing confusion from inaccurate or duplicated data.
  • Collaboration - Nowadays clients want their support from a company’s customer service team to be as fast as possible. But one of the problems in the customer service arena is a lack of consistency. CRM systems are able to ensure customer information is shared among departments to better understand circumstances and requirements, and provide a more consistent service.
  • Customer segmentation - A CRM system arranges your customers into groups based on criteria such as age, gender, location, and even their likes and dislikes. This allows you to target marketing messages to your customers more accurately, potentially increasing your sales numbers.
  • Task tracking - CRM systems have task tracking features that enable your employees to stay on top of important tasks, such as contacting customers via email or phone, and following up on leads. CRM systems also send reminders to employees about their assigned tasks, so that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • In-depth reporting - Another benefit you can derive from implementing a CRM system is a thorough analysis of your customer base. CRM-generated reports give details including an overview of product sales numbers, the marketing strategies that work best, your most successful products or services to date, and even a prediction of whether your sales target will be met at the end of the month.
If you’re looking to improve customer service and increase sales conversion with CRM, contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.