September 29th, 2015

164_C_SMDo you ever feel like you’re the only business owner who struggles to market their company through social media? Are you confused as to why you’re not gaining any traction? Well, you’re not alone. A recent survey reveals that many small business owners struggle gaining a return on their social media marketing efforts. Here’s how to avoid the mistakes of the majority.

Survey details

The survey was conducted by a small business directory and support network known as Manta. They surveyed 540 of their small business members with the aim of learning how much ROI these companies are gaining from social media marketing.

The results

Based on data on the 540 participants, 41% of businesses are receiving a return from social media marketing, which leaves nearly 60% with nothing to show for their investment of time and money. And as for the businesses that are gaining a return, over 80% earn less than $1,000 a month from their social media efforts. More surprisingly, close to half bring in less than $100 a month.

As a small business owner, should these numbers be cause for alarm? According to the CEO of Manta, John Swanciger, part of the reason the return is so low for most businesses is that their social media priorities are misguided. He notes that social media is less about bringing in new customers, and more about community building. "For a long time, the mantra was that social media could bring in new customers,” he says. “In reality, social media is a community builder, and your biggest fans are your already-loyal customers. When small businesses treat social media as the new word-of-mouth community, the real return will follow."

One of the oldest marketing tactics around is word-of-mouth marketing. Every day, people recommend products, restaurants and businesses they love to friends and family members. And social media is the perfect platform to cultivate your fans’ love of your brand. But according to the Manta survey, less than 8% of business owners cited building community as their primary social media goal.

So how do you build a community on social media?

Besides the obvious investments of time and money, here are a few quick tips to get you started:
  • Regularly post content that is valuable to your social media following - the keyword here being valuable.
  • Ask your followers questions to start conversations, and then engage with them. This builds a connection between your brand and customers.
  • Show your followers that you genuinely care about them, and they’ll likely do the same for you with glowing recommendations to friends and family.
Of course there is much more to it than this, but these quick tips can help you get started. If you’re struggling with your own social media efforts and would like to learn more, we’re happy to point your business in the right direction. Call us today to speak with one of our experts.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
May 6th, 2015

164_BizV_CWell, you created a business page for Facebook, you patted yourself on the back, kicked up your feet and waited for the flood of new business to come in. How’d that work out for you? Probably not so well. But this doesn't mean you should give up and turn your back on social media. This is a brave new world for all online businesses so you should expect a steep learning curve. To help you along, here are some tips about how to better track your social media ROI to see what’s working and what you should drop.

Why it’s difficult to track social media ROI

The reason many business owners find it difficult to track social media ROI is because they don’t understand the purpose of the platforms from the perspective of traditional marketing. It's all too easy to expect immediate payoffs and profits, not to mention increased business. But while social media itself moves and changes fast, businesses should remember it still takes time to increase brand recognition, build relationships and enhance a company's reputation, whatever the platform. It is brand recognition that produces more sales in the long run. So don't lose heart if you are not making progress in the first couple of months. If you play the longer game, you'll enjoy more success.

So how do you measure ROI?

It comes down to tracking everything you can, including:
  • Online purchases
  • Online contact forms
  • Video views
  • E-book Downloads
  • Social interactions (this includes Facebook likes, Twitter follows and more)

To track these, you can use any or all of the three methods below.

Tagging Urls

Tagging a URL is basically adding a “tag” or more characters/words to the end of the original URL. Below are two examples of a normal URL and tagged URL:

Normal URL:

Tagged version of the same URL:

Adding this tag allows you to easily track which of your social media campaigns are producing the desired results. Without doing this, you run the risk of of all your social media visitors being recognized as organic, rather than ones that have come from a specific campaign or strategy you’re implementing. An excellent tool to build your unique URL is Google’s URL builder.

Google Analytics

This is the most obvious strategy for tracking your social media campaigns, and Google has long been the market leader in tracking the success of online marketing. A Google Analytics account can be set up in a matter of minutes, and then makes it easy to track your campaigns. Go to Acquisition and then check All Referrals. Here you’ll see where people are discovering your site - be it a Google organic search or social media network.

Call Tracking

Call tracking is often used to track the ROI from Facebook ad campaigns, though it can also be used on other social media platforms. This tactic allows you to measure how many phone calls you are getting from your customers on social media sites.

To do this you list a different phone number on a particular social media page than on your business website. For example, if the number listed on your business website is 763-984-6577, you instead list 763-984-6555 for the social media page you’re tracking. By seeing how many people call the number listed on the social media page, you’ll gain a better understanding of how effective that particular page or ad is. If it’s effective, you’ll know to use whatever methods are working from this page or ad in your other social media efforts.

Want more ideas on how to measure social media ROI or to get more value out of your IT investments? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from Source.

March 22nd, 2010

MSIn today’s tough market environment, many small and medium businesses are turning to Managed Services. But is the up-front cost worth it? We say yes—and think you’ll agree when we explain why.

With Managed Services, an IT consultant constantly manages your network, typically from afar. In other words, someone will prevent many IT problems—and fix those that do occur before they disrupt your operations.

Despite this benefit, many companies still consider Managed Services an unnecessary expense because it typically involves a monthly or yearly fee. But there are many ways that such a model can actually lower your IT costs.

  • Lower overhead. It can be expensive to hire and train IT staff. In fact, staffing is often the largest portion of a company’s IT budget. You can eliminate much of that expense with Managed Services, which provide you with high-quality IT staff at a fraction of the cost.
  • Increased cost predictability. The cost of responding to an IT problem is usually an unplanned expense—and often a significant one. With Managed Services, you prevent problems, so you can better predict (and therefore manage) IT costs.
  • A better business model. Additionally, Managed Services provide an efficient business model. There’s less IT down time, which means employees are less frustrated and customers are always served. That increases employee retention and helps you create long-term business relationships—which in turn can increase your revenue.

Contact us today for more information about our Managed Services.

Published with permission from Source.
Topic Articles
July 27th, 2009

For many small and medium-sized businesses, the cost of maintaining an old PC may be more expensive than upgrading to a new one. This insight comes from a survey conducted by research firm Techaisle, which polled 630 companies across seven countries.

Their research suggests that the average cost for SMBs to repair PCs over three years old can be 1.65 times as expensive as repairing PCs under three years old. Repairs include replacements, usually from hardware failure, and the cost to fix software crashes. Small business respondents with PCs older than three years experienced network card failures nearly eight times more than respondents with PCs less than three years old. This was followed by power supply failures, motherboard failures, software crashes, and virus attacks. Midmarket respondents experienced a similar trend, with network card failures at six times higher, followed by power supply failures and motherboard failures.

In addition, respondents said desktops that have been in use for more than three years are more susceptible to attacks from malware and viruses (28 percent), while older notebooks are 58 percent more likely to endure a virus attack. The cost of related lost worker productivity should also be factored in by companies wishing to hold on to outdated hardware.

Are you hanging on to old PCs in an attempt to money? Contact us today. We can help you assess the health and condition of your PCs, as well as determine the cost of maintaining existing PCs versus upgrading or replacing them.

Published with permission from Source.
Topic News
May 29th, 2009

article_australiaThe Australian government recently announced a new tax break for small businesses that could help defray the cost of acquiring new assets, as well as provide stimulus for growth despite tightening credit markets. The incentive, announced by Treasurer Wayne Swan and Small Business Minister Craig Emerson as part of the federal budget, boosts from 30 per cent to 50 per cent the amount that businesses with incomes under $2 million can deduct on equipment purchases over $1000. These purchases can include IT-related hardware such as desktops, laptops, servers, routers, switches, storage, and other peripherals.

To qualify for the tax break, small businesses need only to invest a minimum of $1,000 per asset, or combine their purchases to meet the minimum threshold. For example, a server purchased for $5,000 is eligible for a $2,500 deduction, in addition to depreciation-related expenses. A business purchasing two Netbooks for $500 each, with the deduction in effect only pays for one.

A few conditions apply to the tax break. First, the business’s annual income must be under $2 million. Businesses earning over this amount can continue to take advantage of the existing tax break of 30 per cent for eligible assets acquired prior to June 30, 2009 and 10 per cent for eligible assets acquired between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009.

Second, the purchased equipment must be new. However, in certain cases the tax break can apply to substantial improvements to existing assets, such as upgrades to the office network or new storage devices. Software is not included in the tax break unless it’s bundled with a hardware purchase.

Third, purchases must take place between December 13, 2008 and the end of 2009, and the equipment must be installed by end of 2010.

While the tax break will reduce the Australian government’s overall revenue, it is expected to preserve jobs and encourage growth in a sector of the economy that needs it most during these tough times, making it a great boon for small businesses. It’s also great news for IT hardware vendors and their VARs, who may see a boost in sales after fearing the worst from the global recession.

Related articles:

Published with permission from Source.
Topic Articles
May 4th, 2009

Research conducted by SIS International Research and sponsored by Siemens found that small and midsized businesses (SMBs) with 100 employees could be leaking a staggering $524,569 annually as a result of communications barriers and latency. The study identifies these top five pain points, in order of estimated cost:

  • inefficient coordination
  • waiting for information
  • unwanted communications;
  • customer complaints
  • barriers to communication

In addition, researchers determined that the time spent per week dealing with communications issues was more than 50 percent higher in companies with more than 20 workers. In hard costs, your company could be losing up to half a million dollars each year by not addressing employees’ most painful communications issues!
The good news:  we can help you implement applications and services to greatly improve your inter-company communications, including collaboration tools such as email and shared calendards and address books, social media technologies such as blogs and wikis, and IP-based communication tools such as instant messaging (IM) and Voice-over-IP (VoIP). Call us today and let us help you stop this expensive leak.Related articles:

Published with permission from Source.
Topic Articles, News
February 2nd, 2009

The_ROI_Series3_bigWhen an economic downturn starts to hurt, small businesses often hunker down and cut costs. But new technology solutions may be necessary for survival and growth—and they may not be as expensive as you think when you consider their return on investment (ROI). In this three-part series, we’ll review what ROI is, explain how an ROI analysis can help you save or make money, and provide guidelines for analyzing the ROI of a technology investment.

Part 3: Analyzing ROI

As we explained in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, today, more than ever, small businesses considering a technology investment should analyze not only the costs of that investment, but
the expected ROI as well. Unfortunately, few models exist to guide you through that analysis,
and with good reason: Determining ROI involves looking at many components, then applying those components to your particular situation.

Doing this requires making many choices, so first, let’s look at the things one must consider—from both a cost and benefit perspective—when considering the ROI of a technology investment.

  • Your existing technology infrastructure. There are few companies without existing technologies in place—and any new solution will need to work with these systems to be effective. There will likely be costs associated with the new technology’s impact on existing systems—but there will also be benefits. For example, a new technology might offer more efficient automation of workflow or improved information collection, storage, and access.
  • Your business processes. A new technology can clearly improve your businesses processes as described in Part 2 of this series—by reducing downtime, improving productivity, and lowering costs. But implementing the new technology will likely involve training staff in using the technology—and that can have associated costs.
  • Your external relationships. Finally, no business is an island: Your systems may link to customer and vendor systems. As a result, any new technology may impose constraints or require changes of external organizations or individuals—in the way information is delivered or received, for example.

To solve this puzzle, it can be helpful to ask three different but related questions about the technology solution’s cost,effectiveness,andefficiency.

  • Cost: Can you afford the technology—and will it pay for itself? To answer these questions, you’ll need to know the cost of the solution itself and the monetary value of the resources used to implement it, measured in standard financial terms. You’ll then compare the dollar cost of all expenditures to the expected return (in terms of the projected savings and revenue increases). You may need to project the cost and return over a multi-month or multi-year time span in order to show a payback period.
  • Effectiveness: How much bang for your buck will you realize? Now the analysis becomes more complex. Analyzing the effectiveness of a technology solution requires you to look at its costs in relation to how effective it is at producing the desired results—in essence, to expand your measurement of ROI beyond cost savings and revenue increases to include performance relative to your company’s goals. To do this, you’ll probably want to look at unit cost or activity cost.
  • Efficiency: Is this the most you can get for this much investment? Finally, you’ll want to ask whether the technology will produce the greatest possible value relative to its costs. That can present difficulties, as it will require you to conduct a similar analysis on many alternatives, perhaps simulating the performance of the alternatives in some way.

These three types of measurements differ in several ways. While the first is based simply on
Financial metrics—i.e., cost in pure dollar terms—the other two include production output metrics, including the quality of goods or services and customer satisfaction. These production output metrics may even extend to employee morale, or in the case of some companies (such as manufacturers of “green” products or non-profits), social or political benefits.

All of these measurements, however, help you answer the same basic question: whether an economic downturn is a time to reduce technology spending, or a time to examine priorities
and decide which technology investments will pay off in the long-term.

Published with permission from Source.
Topic Articles
February 2nd, 2009

When you have to lay off staff, software-as-a-service can often make up the difference, especially in sales and marketing.

Every business wants a hot niche, and Starr Tincup had one. In 2003, the Fort Worth marketing and advertising startup decided to cater to software makers in the human resources industry—and quickly signed 20 customers. Then the growing pains set in. By 2005, staff had ballooned to 80 from 4, plus more than 200 contractors. But revenues were just $2.5 million, and soon Starr Tincup was $500,000 in debt. SaaS made the difference in the turnaround.

Published with permission from Source.
Topic News
January 12th, 2009

Businesses need to use the economic crisis as a time to reassess their IT needs and options. Server virtualization, consolidation, and energy costs are a good place to start.

Published with permission from Source.
Topic Articles, News
January 2nd, 2009

The_ROI_Series1_bigWhen an economic downturn starts to hurt, small businesses often hunker down and cut costs. But new technology solutions may be necessary for survival and growth—and they may not be as expensive as you think when you consider their return on investment (ROI). In this three-part series, we’ll review what ROI is, explain how an ROI analysis can help you save or make money, and provide guidelines for analyzing the ROI of a technology investment.

Part 1: Understanding ROI

There are two ways to look at the value of technology: total cost of ownership (TCO), which quantifies only the cost of a project, and ROI, which quantifies both the cost and expected benefit of the project over a specific timeframe.

Traditionally, businesses have used TCO when analyzing the cost of internal infrastructure projects such as upgrading an e-mail system. But even with internal systems, ROI can be a better method: If your old e-mail system goes down, for example, your sales team can’t contact customers electronically and must spend more time making phone calls. If your employees spend two more hours on calls than they would on e-mails, you’ve actually lost money by not upgrading your e-mail system.

When it comes to any non-internal technology, however, ROI has long been the gold standard. That’s because technology can drive profit growth by increasing revenue.

Looking at ROI is particularly important when an economic downturn limits your budget. Indeed, an economic downturn may be the best time to assess your technology spending—because by investing wisely during a downturn, you can strengthen your future.

As an example of how ROI works, consider the case of a small, high-end electronics boutique. The current point-of-sale (POS) software program is beginning to show strains from the company’s expansion and increasing inventory, and customer service issues are arising—a problem since the company’s mission is to provide exceptional customer service. The company’s owner believes implementing a new POS software program will help address these issues, but deploying it will be costly.

The key question is which will cost more in the long-term: spending the money to provide a solution—or the losses the boutique will incur by not doing so?

That question may be easier to ask than to answer. As important as determining ROI is, there is still little consensus about how to measure it accurately. ROI, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder. That’s because ROI has many intangibles—things that don’t show up in traditional cost-accounting methods but still maximize the economic potential of the organization, such as brand value, customer satisfaction, and patents.

For example, a knowledge management system may not reduce your costs in obvious ways, so how can you justify it in a tight economy? You probably can’t if you measure ROI by asking what a project will do for your bottom line in a year. But if the new system leads different parts of your company to collaborate, which in turn produces better goods and services that lead to top-line growth, then your ROI is strong.

In Part 2 of this three-part series, we’ll go into more detail about how a technology investment can provide a high ROI.Later, in Part 3, we’ll offer some guidance for conducting your own ROI analysis.

Published with permission from Source.
Topic Articles