SIMPLIFY SERIES: What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

What is a lifestyle entrepreneur?

We’re all familiar with the general entrepreneur. They’re the ones with a knack for business; the kids selling lemonade out on the sidewalk, or mowing lawns for everyone in their neighborhood. They embark in the business world with an idea and a pitch, hoping to land investors or funding. They build their empire quickly, taking big risks thriving at the center of their growing company. They’re the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of our world. We know them well.

But there’s a new kind of entrepreneur entering the scene, one whose popularity has grown almost seemingly overnight. They are the lifestyle entrepreneur. The lifestyle entrepreneur is one who often exists quietly in the background, slowly waiting for their budding business to grow into an empire. These entrepreneurs aren’t at the center of their business, in fact, it mostly revolves around them. They put their ideal lifestyle first and let the business work around them. They’re the Lewis Howes and the Tim Ferriss of our world. We may not know them well now, but we certainly will.

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What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

The term “Lifestyle Entrepreneur” was coined by Lewis Howes, and though it has various different meanings, the general idea is that the lifestyle entrepreneur is a person who creates a business with the intention of altering their lifestyle, and not for the sole purpose of making profits. They focus more on the rewards provided to those who enjoy and have a passion for what they’re doing in life. Generally their business does well because of their true passion – it can be contagious. People (and customers especially) can’t help but to flock toward those who’ve “figured it out” – the ones making money doing what they truly love.

And though the lifestyle part looks different for each lifestyle entrepreneur, the point is they don’t work in their business and then come home for the day – their business supports their life, it’s a part of it, it’s in everything they do because it’s what they’re passionate about.  

Regardless of the differences among lifestyle entrepreneurs as individuals, they all tend to share some similar traits. Here are some things that set lifestyle entrepreneurs apart from the business crowd.

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Put Life First

Of course money is important to anyone starting a business or working in the professional field in general, but for some entrepreneurs, money isn’t everything. A lifestyle entrepreneur will often measure success by how much they love their work, not how much they earn.

To a lifestyle entrepreneur the freedom to work in their own way by their own rules, the flexible schedule from any location, and the ability to spend more time with the people important to them are all more important than the money in the bank. Paying the bills and being able to survive are still a must for them. They wouldn’t thrive in their lifestyle if they weren’t making ends meet. The difference is that they aren’t defining themselves by their net worth – they don’t focus so heavily on the numbers, and center their business around the other benefits they receive.   

Lifestyle entrepreneurs

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Spend Time in Their Business Because They Love It, Not Because They Feel Like They *Have* To

For the lifestyle entrepreneur, business and life become one symbiotically working machine – and that’s a great thing! – because they’ve taken what they love and figured out how to make that pay for their lifestyle, rather than the other way around. It’s an idea that is sometimes called a muse business, one that starts with an interest and then turns into a product or service.

It can be thought of as a sort of means to an end, though oftentimes for a lifestyle entrepreneur there is no hard “end” in sight. They’re doing what they love so what’s the rush? Their business may take some time to build, but for them that’s cake compared with spending the rest of their life working a standard 9 to 5.    

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Turn Passions and Interests into Products and Services

Given that your standard lifestyle entrepreneur is going to wind up putting in a lot of long hours building up the business that will eventually buy their freedom, it’s critical that they build off of this idea of a muse business and stick with it. Though the particular qualities for a business will vary depending upon the person building it, they should at least adhere to a few standards of success.

First, the business needs to be able to grow without demanding a ton of extra time. If freedom and flexibility are the heart and soul of a lifestyle entrepreneur’s ideals, a ton of extra time being “plugged in” isn’t going to align with that.

Of course, there are going to be times when the lifestyle entrepreneur is going to have to put in a few extra hours here, maybe a weekend there, which is fine, because they’ve built it all around something they enjoy. There isn’t anyone breathing down their neck or keeping them on the clock, so if they don’t like what they’re doing, it can be detrimental to their business.

Second, the foundation of a muse business is that it’s automated for the most part; the lifestyle entrepreneur is a professional at delegating tasks, and constructing things in such a way that they are easily repeatable. They are well organized and don’t make major changes all the time, which means that they aren’t spending extra time monitoring tasks or redoing those that weren’t done right. They have time to focus on the big picture, so they can grow over time, in a way that works for their business.

It’s about striking a balance between knowing what only they can do, and knowing what can easily be outsourced to virtual professionals.

Lifestyle entrepreneur

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Embrace the Value of Outsourcing Early On – and Reap the Benefits Later

Which brings us to the last characteristic: lifestyle entrepreneurs know the value of outsourcing. In fact, small businesses often center their success around outsourcing the tasks that used to have to be completed by an in-house team.

Technological advances have made it easier than ever for businesses to outsource all kinds of professionals, from receptionists and assistants, to entire sales, marketing, and accounting departments. If a function repeats at regular intervals, it’s likely something that can be systematized, automated, and handled by an entirely virtual team.

We’ve written plenty of articles about why businesses should take advantage of virtual assistants and tips for succeeding with virtual help, but at the heart and center of it is this idea that the virtual assistants take these everyday, repeatable tasks – the social media posts, phone calls, copy editing tasks, etc. – and complete them as if they were a part of the actual in-house team. There are cost saving benefits on top of time saving benefits and increased efficiency – all details that are familiar to the lifestyle entrepreneur who’s comfortable handing off a thing or two.

The business style of a lifestyle entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, but it’s a growing trend that’s here to stay. It’s likely that technology will continue to empower these kinds of people to get out there and craft the life they’re excited to live. May they continue to bring us innovation and inspiration (and maybe a little envy for their laptop lifestyle!).

How To Actually Take a Vacation as a Small Business Owner or Entrepreneur

Small business entrepreneur vacation blog

If you’ve read our article on Why Business Owners Should Be Comfortable Taking a Vacation, you understand just how beneficial a vacation can be for your productivity, creativity, and overall well being. The thought of going on vacation is an exciting one for most people, but when you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur the idea of time off can be somewhat daunting.

Instead of booking flights and planning the details of your excursion, you’re busy thinking about the projects that may get missed or the emergencies that might arise. But vacations are an important part of any working person’s life, regardless if they own a business, and they’re possible if you have a good strategy with a bit of planning.

It can be scary to think about leaving your business behind for a few days or weeks at a time, but we’ve got some advice on how to actually take a vacation and ensure that your business is still thriving when you return.   

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Delegate and Keep Your Staff Prepared

One of the best ways to get your business to a place that it’s well-prepared for your absence is to delegate your tasks – especially the ones you don’t need to be doing anymore anyway. Having a trusted person or group of employees who can handle the bulk of your work while you’re out can ease your mind, and will show you that you can also rely on those people to cover tasks on a normal daily basis too, allowing you to focus on the business and expand your opportunities.      

Having someone that you trust in place to watch the business is only half the battle though. You still have to make sure they’re well prepared to handle the regular tasks in addition to any surprises that may come their way.

Have meetings with your staff well in advance to discuss the types of things they’ll be covering while you’re gone, and run through what-if scenarios to prepare for the unexpected. Train the most important key player as if you were hiring a replacement for yourself, because, in essence, you are (for the short-term anyway). You can leave detailed instructions or checklists for them to access in case they’re still unsure of something while you’re away, and if you’re still not comfortable, set aside a window of time when they can call you each day, just to check in if nothing else.

You may find it useful to do a test run before you actually leave, to make sure everything runs smoothly, or you can take a shorter vacation the first time around and gauge future trip lengths based on how it goes.

how to take a vacation blog

Set Boundaries Ahead of Time and Make Them Clear      

If it makes you more comfortable to check-in here and there on vacation that’s fine, but set your expectations ahead of time and stick to them. Let your staff and fellow vacationers know so they can make plans around them.

Realistically speaking, if you planned ahead and prepare your staff for your absence there won’t be a need for daily check-ins anyway – and it will be better for everyone if you don’t plug-in quite so often. But a block of time here or there probably won’t hurt anything, especially if people know to expect it ahead of time. If your staff has questions, they can wait until you’re available to answer them, and likewise, your family or friends will understand that you’re taking the time so it won’t disrupt any plans.   

If you decide to have scheduled check-ins though, make sure it’s clear that this is the only time you’ll be doing work stuff while away. If you’ve set up boundaries that people know you won’t be working outside of, your work won’t disrupt your vacation nearly as much. If that means you have to turn off your phone or mute notifications outside of these times that’s fine, but you’ll get more out of your vacation if you can unplug often, and your fellow vacationers will thank you.

Let Customers and Clients Know You’ll Be Away

This is especially important if you’re the one that does most of the legwork when it comes to interacting with customers or clients, but it’s a nice courtesy even if you’re somewhat removed. Let them know exactly when you’ll be gone and who best to reach out to if a question or issue arises so that there aren’t any surprises.    

If you have multiple people taking over for you while you’re away, let these employees know ahead of time who will be able to answer which particular types of questions, and then make a list of those people to send to your client so they aren’t getting bounced around if they call.

Preparing your employees and your clients ahead of time increases trust for both parties and sets you up for success, so it’s a win-win situation.  

how to take vacation small business owner entrepreneur blog

Be Okay with Almost Perfect

The reality of the matter is, regardless of how much you prepare, things still might not exactly go as you planned. If you go into your vacation knowing this, not only will you be able to relax better while you’re away, but when you get back you’ll be able to use the issue as a learning experience, rather than a reason to panic.

If you trained your staff well before leaving and set them up for success, the mistakes they do make – if any – are likely going to be minor. With all of the resources you empowered them with before leaving (and with a periodical check-in if it’s needed), they’ll realistically be able to handle anything that comes their way.

If you handle the mistake with a cool head upon returning, your staff will feel more confident when you decide to leave again in the future and will know how to avoid the same mistakes again.

Schedule That Vacation

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your business will fall apart without you there 24/7, but in reality if you and your staff are prepared, you’ve set up the right expectations, and you have fail-safes like check-ins in place, things are probably going to run just as smoothly as they would if you were there.

It may take a few times of you taking a vacation before the process is perfect, but each time you can fine-tune it until you feel comfortable stepping out whenever it’s needed. Empower your staff, set the necessary boundaries, make preparations, and trust the process if you’re ready to get out there and go on your next adventure.

Why Business Owners Should Be Comfortable Taking a Vacation

Business owner entrepreneur vacation blog

Come back in two weeks for our follow up piece about how to get your business to the point where you actually can take a vacation.

 

As a recent Forbes article by Victor Lipman pointed out, America is becoming the “No Vacation Nation.” So much so, in fact, that 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year. And while the reasons for not taking the time off varied slightly (“too many projects or deadlines,” “decrease the chance for advancement,” and even being pressured not to take one by their manager), the bottom line is, American workers simply aren’t taking time off – but they should be.

The effects of not taking time to recharge can be felt by anyone in the workforce but can be especially hard on entrepreneurs and business owners who tend to put their all in the company they worked hard to build. Taking a vacation is about more than just travel, though. Studies show that our productivity dips after logging long hours for an extended period of time (CNBC), so burning the midnight oil might actually be doing more harm than good in the long run.

There are a countless number of benefits to unplugging and taking a little “me” time every once in a while. Here are a few good reasons why business owners and entrepreneurs should be comfortable taking a vacation.  

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Recharging Is Good for Your Brain and Your Body

Working non-stop all the time can really take a toll. In fact, a study at the University College London found that people who worked more than 55 hours per week had a 13% greater risk of heart attack and were 33% more likely to suffer a stroke when compared to those who worked 35-40 hours per week (Harvard Health Publishing). So being overworked is about more than more than just a little-added stress.   

Being stuck on “go” for so long can leave you mentally drained as well, which leaves you vulnerable to making mistakes, and zaps your creative energy. Sure, you’re making it through the day-to-day stuff just fine, but are you still finding it easy to come up with exciting new directions for your business? If not, a small break from the grind might just be the thing that gets those juices flowing again so that you can get back to innovating.

And if you’re looking for a reason outside of a good mental charge, studies have shown that spending some time outdoors can improve memory, help ward off depression, and lower blood pressure to name a few. Business Insider recently listed off 12 science-backed reasons to spend more time in nature and, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I need much more convincing.

Unclog Your Thinking Path to Find a New Perspective

Sometimes the best way to gain new insight on a problem or project you’re working on is to disengage and find a new perspective once you’ve had some time away. Not to mention the fact that being away from your business will force you to see it in a new way. A new outlook can show you how the business can operate without you there since by leaving you will have of course left it in some capable hands.

Often you’ll hear that a business owner actually missed working while they were away – and that’s great! That means that you’ll come back into work eager and ready to produce at your full potential. Without the break, you may have been so stuck in the motions you were really not thinking about why you were doing them in the first place. You know what they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

You’ll come back with excitement and some new ways of looking at things, and hopefully with a deeper appreciation for the people you’ve chosen to share your journey with. Looking at things from the outside can often help you truly see them, so take a step back every once in a while, and see what kind of perspective you can gain.

Find New Inspiration

You can’t have a new perspective without a wealth of new ideas. Just the mental and physical break alone is likely to open up your channels for inspiration, but add in the change of scenery and routine and you’re likely to find some killer insight that may have previously been blocked out by stagnation.

Staying in the same setting for too long can have a surprisingly negative impact on thinking. In fact, pretty high up on Inc.’s list of 25 ways for entrepreneurs to find inspiration is to find new surroundings. It’s been shown to boost creativity and increase productivity, and not stepping away every once in a while can have an adverse effect. You fall easily into a routine, your blinders go up, and you sort of just go through the motions.

Out on vacation, you may meet someone whose conversation sparks a great new idea, you may see a new way of doing things that you may never have thought of before, or maybe you’ll simply come back to work and be able to see things through a new lens. All of these outcomes would be great, but you won’t have any such opportunities behind your desk every day of the year.

 

If your business is at a point where you feel like it couldn’t possibly run without you, consider reevaluating a bit to find out what it needs to get there (and check out our next blog post for some tips on how to do just that!). You won’t be able to sustain at 100% the entire time your business is running, so why not start figuring out how to get it to a place where it could stand on its own to legs for a while without you?

The evidence for the benefits of vacation is quite convincing, and at the end of the day, stepping away from the job every now and then will pay off in the long run. So book that cruise, plan that week-long hiking trip in the mountains, or even take a long, relaxing weekend with the family. Close your laptop, turn your phone on silent, and go find out what a little time off has to offer for you.    

The Ultimate Guide: In-House Receptionist vs. Virtual Receptionist

in house receptionist vs virtual receptionist blog

It’s a rivalry for the ages, a question at the forefront of the minds of many small business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals: In-house receptionist or virtual receptionist?

In the days of questionable answering services and outsourced companies based outside of the US, the answer may have been an obvious one. Now, though, tools and technology have made virtual reception better than ever. Many businesses tout the service as their secret to success, as it allows them to cut costs and increase adaptability.

Still, some people remain on the fence when it comes to comparing the two. They’re left wondering if the savings are truly that great with a virtual receptionist, or whether their customers will be negatively affected by the lack of personal interaction.

We understand these questions and concerns better than anyone and are here to clear it up once and for all with our Ultimate Guide to picking which is best for you: In-House Receptionist or Virtual Receptionist.     

Cost of a Receptionist

In-House Receptionist

Wages for full-time, in-house employees are a major expense for any business, especially if you add on things like taxes, insurance, and benefits that are often provided. Vacation, sick time, personal leave, holidays, and even breaks throughout the day start adding up when it comes to a company’s employees.

  • The average in-house receptionist has an annual salary of $27,920 (U.S. News).
  • On average, life insurance costs $150. Health coverage adds $2,000-$3,000 for a single person, more if the coverage is for families, and dental plans can run $240-$650 (MIT).
  • Turnover costs an average of 16% of the annual salary of your receptionist (so $4,467.20 for the average salary mentioned).
  • On top of this, office supplies and overheads can tack on an additional $922-$1,106 annually, per employee (Chron).
  • Add in the costs of paying a manager to oversee this person or even the amount of time an owner has to spend managing them instead of working on more important tasks, and things really start adding up.

Virtual Receptionist

With a virtual receptionist company on the other hand, you only pay for the services you use. here is no additional cost for training, you don’t pay for vacations or sick time, and most importantly, you aren’t paying an annual salary with benefits and insurance.

  • You pay a service fee, not a salary.
  • You can select from various plans to fit your budget and needs.
  • No downtime or turnover costs.
  • Pay by the task, not by the hour, so there’s no downtime (The Admin Center Pricing).

Customer Service

In-House Receptionist

You really can’t beat the smiling, familiar face of a receptionist greeting you as you walk into a building. That human touch can be very important to some businesses, especially in a situation where walk-in clientele are fairly common.  

  • Familiarity with your clients.
  • In-person, human factor.
  • If you’re short staffed or your receptionist steps away, missed calls can happen, or customers can be left on hold waiting. In fact, 58% of people say they hate being on hold, and 15% are likely to hang up after waiting just 40 seconds (Salesforce).

Virtual Receptionist

Gone are the days of questionable service with virtual receptionists. Quality virtual companies will make it a point to learn every aspect of your business, and will give your callers an exceptional experience that stands on its own against (and may even rival) an in-house employee.

  • Multiple people trained extensively on your business, so whoever gets the call is going to be knowledgeable and helpful.
  • No long holds or wait times for customers; just quick, friendly service.
  • Often virtual reception companies will go above and beyond in their hiring, recruiting people with additional skills and who speak more than one language.

Availability

In-House Receptionist

When it comes down to it, an in-house receptionist is available when you are. From the time the company doors open to when they close, an in-house employee can be there, but this simply doesn’t cover the extra hours that are possible with virtual alternatives.

  • Available from open to close, but early mornings, nights, and weekends are left unmonitored.
  • On top of this, in-house employees require time off for vacation, sick days, or anything else that may come up, leaving gaps in your coverage at times (remember those stats about how much people hate to be on hold?).
  • Not to mention the fact that 50%-80% of people will simply hang up the phone if their call goes to voicemail (DestinationCRM), resulting in a lot of lost potential.

Virtual Receptionist

For ample coverage during the times that matter most, you just can’t beat the support that virtual reception services are able to offer.

  • Available for extended hours, from before you open until after you close, and on weekends too if you need it.
  • Virtual teams are comprised of multiple people, so when one is out for the day it goes completely unnoticed on your end – no disruption, no wait times, and no voicemail in place of a person answering your calls.  

Efficiency

In-House Receptionist

The reception department of a company is usually a “one man job.” And while multitasking skills are a part of the job description, it’s still one person doing everything.

  • An in-house receptionist is there in person with you, so if you have questions for them or want to exchange ideas they’re readily available.
  • They’re able to do unique, one-off tasks generally easier.
  • As their employer, they really get to know the ins and outs of your company.
  • They’re only one person – that means their skill-set is less robust and their time is limited.

Virtual Receptionist

When a virtual reception company is hiring, they usually try to find people with diverse backgrounds, broad experience, and unique capabilities that you simply can’t find all in one person.

  • With virtual reception services you have access to an entire team of people.   
  • There is no downtime in their service, so you can get things done faster and more efficiently.
  • Technology has made it easier than ever to be in touch with your virtual team at any moment. Their work is possible through the use of intelligent software and modern technology, so they’re familiar with how to keep you up-to-date and in-touch with your customers 100% of the time.

Scalability

In-House Receptionist

When business is booming and it’s time to bring in a few extra hands to help out it’s exciting, but recruiting, training, and keeping employees happy is a tough task and can be a burden on resources. And on the flipside, when seasons get slow or the business enters a lull period, letting people go isn’t fun for anybody.

  • On average, it takes up to eight weeks for a new receptionist to achieve a full level of productivity, meaning that you have to wait that long to truly scale up, and lose money in the meantime (MIT).
  • That translates to a loss of 1%-2.5% of a loss in total revenue while the new hire gets up to speed.
  • Hiring and firing takes time, takes resources, and there’s no guarantee that the new person will stay around, meaning that you could potentially have to do it all over again.

Virtual Receptionist

Virtual reception services are set up to scale with you as quickly as you need, with a small increase in service fee.

  • There’s no need to hire temporary or seasonal workers to increase support during busy seasons.
  • No lag in productivity for training periods, and no loss in revenue as a result of downtime.
  • No turnover, because you always have a full staff of people at the ready to support your business.

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in house receptionist vs virtual receptionist infographic

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When it comes down to it, it’s hard to beat the quality and value that you can get with a virtual receptionist. Whether you’re looking to support your business entirely with virtual help or you’re interested in supporting your current in-house staff, you’re guaranteed to benefit from virtual reception services.

5 Ways to Start Working On Your Business, Not In It

working on your business not it in blog

Maybe this scenario sounds familiar: a client has a question about your product or wants to change some minor details in their account, so you hop on the phone and offer them some support. You spend a few hours each day sending outreach emails, connecting with potential clients on LinkedIn, or even making cold calls in order to grow your client base; or maybe you’re pouring over financial documents and budgets, or putting some final edits on web content and blog posts until everything looks just right.

You push yourself to the limit and because of that your business is thriving, but you notice that you haven’t seen much growth in a while. You’re happy with where you are at, but you know that your business could reach greater potential if you could just push a little further, maybe put in a few more hours to start seeing the payoffs.

But there are only so many hours you can put in before all of your brain power and energy are spent on the day-to-day things, and you can’t even think about growth, let alone concepts like diversification, innovation, or any of the things that brought you here in the first place.

If any of these situations sound like you, don’t fear! You aren’t suffering from a lack of motivation and you certainly haven’t lost that fire that brought you here in the first place, you’re simply working in your business rather than on your business.

Here are five ways to turn the tables back around to start working on your business once again.

Put Aside Time for Dreaming

Working on the day-to-day stuff is fine, especially early on in your business when time and budgets are limited. But if you’re finding it hard to put aside the time needed to plan and strategize the big picture, then make that time.

Add a block of time to your calendar each day – it can be an hour, 30 minutes, whatever you can spare – and make sure you don’t do anything else during that time – ever. Treat this block of time as if it was a meeting with your most important client or a phone call with a potential investor. Anything you aren’t likely to push aside for other tasks.

If you aren’t growing or innovating your business, there may not be as many of those big client meetings or investment opportunities as there would be with a clear growth plan in place. A small investment in time now can pay off big later.

Systematize What You Can to Make it Repeatable

Efficiency and repeatability are the grease that gets those squeaky business wheels really rolling. If you’ve got tasks that get done at a regular interval and with an almost identical process each time, consider documenting the process to create a system. Once the system is in place, someone (ideally not you) should be able to follow the steps and carry out the project with little difficulty and a small margin of error. The more of these systems you can put into place, the more efficient your business will be, and the more smoothly things will run over time.

Now more than ever, some of these day-to-day tasks can even be automated, so consider looking into the processes that don’t need a human touch every step of the way, and find a software to fit the need. Social media automation is a great example of how this can work. You or someone on your team can write a batch of social media posts at the beginning of the week and set them up in a system like Hootsuite to post them automatically throughout the week on your chosen schedule. It’s quicker than writing a new one each day, and lets you keep your mind focused on other things for the remaining days.

Outsource the Smaller Tasks

Building off of the idea of systemization and automation, if you have tasks in your business that are simple and repeatable, but don’t quite merit hiring a full-time employee, consider outsourcing the tasks to a team of virtual assistants. We’ve written about the benefits of utilizing virtual assistant services before, but the basic idea is outsourcing saves you the money and hassle of hiring in-house employees for small tasks where full-time attention isn’t required.

There are virtual assistant companies that offer the basics – answering calls, scheduling appointments, etc. – and full-service companies that can even help fill roles like sales and marketing in addition to the basics. It’s something we at The Admin Center call “teamsourcing” because in a sense they become an extension of your team. So take the time to do some research and find the one that’s right for you.

After the initial set up the process is really like automation. For the tasks that are simple but still require human involvement, outsourcing is kind of the best of both worlds. Some companies will even manage the automations you already have in place, too, so you can really start taking things off of your plate to spend time on the things that need your attention most.  

Hire Properly, Train Well, and Treat Your Employees With the Golden Rule

It’s great to get those small, day-to-day tasks out of house and in the hands of an experienced team of virtual assistants, but sometimes in-house employees are inevitable and making sure they are a good fit can save you endless time and money down the line.

Finding the right people from the start is going to set you up for success now, but training them thoroughly and treating them well are going to set you up for success forever. Give people all of the tools they’ll need to do well on the job, show them your expectations early on, and then empower them with the confidence they’ll need to meet them. Encourage growth and learning along the way, and you may just find that your employees are inspiring you on the business, too.

If you feel like you’re finding the right people and offering adequate training but still don’t have great retention, consider doing some self-reflection; the more you lose people, the more you’re pulled back in, so do your best to not lose sight of this. Are you paying fairly and to industry standards? Is your work environment pleasant? Do people feel heard and appreciated?  

If you treat your employees with the respect you’d want to be treated, they’re going to return the favor. Not only will they do their job well, but they’re more likely to go above and beyond, really maximizing their capabilities to ensure that you achieve the change you want to see in your business.

Trust That Someone Else Can Do What You Can

No matter how much time you put aside, regardless of the solid systems you have in place or the superstar teams you’ve hired, if you can’t let go of the little stuff, you’re never going to make it out. It can be very tempting to feel like you’re the only person who could possibly perform some of the tasks it takes to run your business. You did them in the beginning and now your business is a success, so of course at times you’ll feel like you’re the only one who knows how to do them just right. When it comes to the small stuff that keeps your business running though, a little bit of trust will set you free.

In reality, that team of outsourced experts is going to have no trouble at all churning out those simple, automated tasks that you sent to them (you know, the ones you set up efficient systems for; the same ones they do for countless other businesses successfully), it’s literally what their business is set up to do. Their model thrives on doing great work just like yours does, and they’re bound to manage your business needs above their own even, often putting their clients first, so it’s safe to say you’re in good hands.

And what about those employees that you hired, tirelessly trained, and work so hard to nurture? If you trusted them then, you can trust them now. At the end of the day, your success is equal to theirs, so they’re going to make sure they’re doing what they can to make it happen.

If you find yourself working in your business and start losing hope about all of those things that fit into the “working on your business” category, consider taking a step back to assess that things really are set up the way they should be. Chances are you’ll find some processes that can be automated, some tasks that can be outsourced, and some quality people that can take some of the load so that you aren’t the only one bearing it.

Your business will always require a bit of you in it – that’s why it’s your business in the first place – but take advantage of all of the possibilities out there and starting working on your business, rather than just in it.

Paid Search vs Organic Search: Which Is Better?

search engine optimization article

Search engine optimization – once an afterthought when compared with other marketing strategies – is now at the forefront of inbound marketing success. The value of having your site show in the search results has been shown time and time again, especially if you can land a high spot on the front page. According to Search Engine Watch, websites that rank at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) win 36.4% of search traffic.

There are two ways to land yourself on the front page of the search, though, which is a fact that often confuses people. Paid search and organic search are both valuable ways to ensure that your company is one of the few that shows up at the top for your target keyword and market, but which is best?

When comparing paid and organic searches, instead of asking which is best, it may be wise to ask which is best for you. Both have unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s a matter of knowing which will work best for you to get the most out of your marketing dollars. Often people find that using a combination of the two gets the best results, and understanding the differences can help you decide when and how to use which method to maximize your success.

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Organic Search

Organic search results are the ones that appear below the ads. They naturally occur in the search results page because their content is relevant to the searched term, according to the search engine algorithm, and therefore organically add value to the people searching for them. When it comes to the benefits of organic search, the numbers are truly astonishing.

The first 5 organic results on the front page of Google, for instance, account for 67.60% of all clicks, while 6 to 10 account for just 3.73% (Zero Limit Web). The remaining searchers are clicking on the paid ads, trying a new search engine, or giving up entirely.

Numbers aside, here are some of the pros and cons of organic search:

Pros

  • Trust: When you’re searching for something on Google, which results are you most likely to select? The top ones, undoubtedly, and that’s because as searches we’ve grown to trust the results. When we’ve clicked on top results in the past, we’ve likely been satisfied, which is going to make us all the more likely to do it again. This perception of credibility works well for your company if you’re at the top of the results because more people are guaranteed to click through to your site.
  • Long-lasting: So long as your content remains relevant, your page is likely going to remain at the top, which simply means more beneficial exposure over a longer period of time. You can think of it as a “set it and forget it” kind of marketing plan because once you put in the effort and resources upfront, you never have to do it again – but you’ll reap the benefits long-term.
  • Click-throughs: If you’re comparing the click-through rates of organic versus paid search, organic makes up nearly 68%, especially for buyers who have interest but not necessarily an immediate purchasing intent. This is especially important for many B2B businesses that have a longer buying cycle.
  • Compounded ranking: Each time you rank high on the search results page, you increase your chances of ranking high again. By ranking high, you not only build trust with users, but you also build a good reputation with search engines. The more authority status the engines give you, the higher you’ll rank over time.

Cons

  • Initial investment: At the heart of great organic search results is great content; content can be anything from articles and whitepapers, to videos and infographics, but the best content utilizes Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics and can take some time to produce. Whether it’s internal staff or outsourced contractors, someone will have to take the time to research and create the content, which means that it will inevitably be a lofty investment.
  • Time: On top of that, ranking for highly competitive keywords can take months or even years, so there’s a good chance your marketing team will be at it awhile. If you’re able to stick it out and see your efforts through to achieve high ranking, the return on investment is almost a guarantee, so stick with it and try different methods until you find the one that works best for you.

Paid Search

In essence, paid search results are advertisements for your company. Generally speaking, you associate an ad with certain keywords, and when a user searches for those keywords your ad displays at the very top of the search results, in a section marked as “ads”. If the user clicks on your listing, you pay a small amount, which is why it’s called Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. The placement of your ad compared with your competitor’s ad depends on the amount that each of you bid for a certain keyword, as well as a few other factors.

The pros and cons of PPC advertising have some similarities and differences to those of organic search:

Pros

  • Time: Paid search rankings show at the top of results as soon as you pay for the ad placement, rather than after months of time and resource investment. You simply decide the keywords you want to rank for, the message you want those searchers to see, and define a budget for the search engine to work within. It’s fast and can be very effective.
  • Success after click-through: Paid search is geared toward the more serious and eager buyer. Though it accounts for much less search traffic than organic results, the actual revenue amounts for each search time are quite comparable.
  • Targeting: Paid search is tailored to reach certain audiences, so if you’re targeting correctly, you have a high chance of getting your message in front of the people you want to see it. Not only can you target by keyword, but you can filter even further and segment by location, marital status, education level, and much more. It can take a bit of effort to discover which combination of factors is best for your exact audience, but honing in on it can have great results.

Cons

  • Cost: In general, PPC advertising can be quite costly for a few reasons. First, bid price is based on keyword, so the more competitive the keyword, the higher the price will be for each click on your display ad. And, paid search advertising requires a high level of expertise and understanding to be successful, so you’ll have to find a knowledgeable person or team to manage the campaigns.
  • Short-lived: As soon as you stop paying for PPC ads they go away, so they don’t have the same long-term effect that organic search content can have.
  • Lack of trust: Drawing on the example from the organic search results section, users tend to select organic results before they’ll click on the ads at the top of the page because there isn’t the same level of trust. People know that they’re paid for ads, so there can be a certain suspicion over how relevant the information might actually be. Though numbers vary among studies, it’s generally shown that roughly 10% of clicks were the result of paid listings. The organic listings simply have more credibility among searchers, so they’re more likely to get selected.

When it comes to best practices for SEO and ranking on SERPs, generally a combination of organic and paid nets the greatest results. Utilizing both ensures visibility and also increases credibility, secures everlasting search results, and targets buyers at multiple parts of the buying cycle.

Mix and match how you utilize search for your marketing strategies, making sure to track the results so you can improve things as you go and try new tactics when the current ones aren’t working. Search engine optimization takes time and effort, regardless of which method you use, but the results are always worth it.

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Great Culture in a Remote Work Environment

Remote work culture with virtual team

At The Admin Center, we’ve touted the benefits of a virtual work environment from the very beginning. It’s a workplace structure that’s ideal for our business and all of our team members. From the cost savings benefits for both the company and the employee to the greatly increased candidate pool and diverse set of creative minds, we think remote work is pretty great.

But remote work – though wonderful at most times – does have its disadvantages. Maintaining an awesome company culture and keeping morale and engagement high while reducing feelings of isolation can be a bear. Luckily there are a few extra steps you can take to ensure that your employees are productive, happy, and excited to be a part of the team.
Here’s our Ultimate Guide to Creating Great Culture in a Remote Work Environment.

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Take Advantage of Your Company’s Chat/Messaging Platform

Whether it’s Slack, Google Hangouts, or one of the various other messaging platforms available for office environments, utilizing a company chat feature of some kind is one of the best ways to bring employees together and make sure they feel included and heard.

Having dedicated chats for various teams, projects, or departments can be really helpful for organization and collaboration, but having casual chats keeps things fun and makes people feel more like they’re in-office. In a standard environment people often break up the monotony of a day with water cooler talk or a quick chat with a work pal, so why not recreate that experience over chat? At The Admin Center, our casual chat group is named “small-talk” and we describe it as “Non-work banter and water cooler” talk, a place that we all share pictures, talk about our weekends, and just generally get to know each other.

In a virtual environment, you aren’t sharing a cubicle or office with someone; you don’t pass people in the halls or get those little opportunities to ask a person about their day. In a remote work environment you have to create those moments yourself, which requires people to be willing to put in a little bit of extra work, but in the end, it allows for happy teams and close friendships – no matter how far apart your employees actually are.    

Use Video for Updates and Meetings

Here at The Admin Center, we have a policy that all meeting attendees turn on their cameras during a meeting (and if an employee doesn’t have a webcam we send them one – so no excuses!) for the simple importance of seeing each other’s faces. Without the opportunity to meet face-to-face it can be hard to communicate and empathize at full potential, but using video helps with this a lot. You don’t feel like you’re talking at a void, and you can see expressions, hear varied tones and inflections, and can actually look someone in the eyes when you’re speaking with them – it can be very personal!

Trust and communication are the foundation on which a successful remote work environment are built, and these things are so much easier when you can actually see the person you’re engaged in conversation with. There are plenty of video meeting software options available – Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting, UberConference – and with many of them offering free subscriptions, video meetings are now easier than ever to set up.

Plan/Facilitate Group Projects

In my experience, remote workers can be very “heads-down” when it comes to projects. We all tend to do it; you start in on something, plug into your music, and you’re lost to the world. It’s how a lot of us focus, but it can also contribute to a feeling of isolation. Though not every project will lend itself to this structure, setting up group projects instead of individual ones can help alleviate this problem.

This works especially well in the planning phase of client projects, but if it’s something that isn’t coming naturally you can always create group projects, too. Maybe you’re planning to migrate to a new CRM, or maybe your marketing efforts have fallen flat. Mix-and-match a bit with who you bring together on things like this, and you might be surprised at what people come up with. When people come together to work on something – especially people who wouldn’t normally be working together – it can really foster a sense of togetherness, and quickly tears down the walls that virtual environments often build unintentionally.

Have Casual Team Meetings

Of course, it’s important to touch base in team meetings to discuss goals, projects, or anything business related, but putting aside time for fun meetings such as “Happy Hour” and “Coffee Break” over video is a great way to build a sense of community. You can really make the structure of these casual meetings anything you want, but here are a few ideas I think are kind of fun:

  • Happy Hour: Hold these the same time every month, such as on the last Friday. Create an open video chat and have a theme associated with it (such as dressing up for Halloween, sharing favorite recipes, or the best jokes everyone can think of). Employees are welcome to pop in and out over the course of the hour to share some laughs and continue to build their relationships with their colleagues.
  • Coffee Break: These can be more frequent, maybe one each week. A similar structure where it’s an open meeting that people can pop in and out of when they’re free. People all bring their coffee and have a casual chat, maybe about the coffee or maybe about something that happened to them that day. It’s less structured than Happy Hour but equally as fun.
  • Book Club: Hold these on the same day each month, too. Get together with a group of people and discuss a non-work-related book that you’ve collectively read. It could be fiction or nonfiction, depending on people’s tastes, but keep it more personal and less work-themed so that you’re connecting with people and not their positions.

These are just a few ideas of what could be many. If you’ve got a fun one that you do, let us know about it in the comments!

In-Person Meetups

There is nothing that can bring a team of people close together quite like meeting up outside of work. At my old jobs it’s been things like trivia nights, happy hours, lunches out together, and even going to gymnastics gyms to hop around on some giant trampolines (I highly recommend this activity). Unfortunately, this type of getting together isn’t usually possible if your team is made up of virtual employees, as people don’t generally live in the same area.

If you’re really serious about creating a strong culture in your remote environment, you could set up company retreats once or twice each year, and get everyone together to do things that aren’t directly work-related, but bring people together. Group activities such as hiking, cooking, or learning a new skill can all foster a sense of closeness, and naturally provide an opportunity to discover more about each other.

Full-out retreats might not fit into the scope of every company, though, and that’s okay. If you have people clustered in an area, organize something that gets them together. Or, if your team is all over the place, put together a virtual get together where you all turn on your videos and just get to know each other. Maybe you agree to all do the same activity, or maybe you just talk; either way, the face-to-face time is going to do wonders for your sense of company culture.

Getting Involved in Your Local Community

Though you may not all be working out of the same places, putting a focus on local community improvement no matter where you are is a great way to define your culture. By encouraging community involvement from employees and management, you’re communicating that you care about their lives outside of work, and care about the lives and environment of the world around you. You express a vested interest in your people as a whole, and not just for what they bring to the table nine-to-five. It communicates good ethics, and lets employees know that your company is about more than just the business stuff.

And, if you think it might be hard to get people out and about in their local areas, offer some kind of soft “perk” to those interested in spending time outside of working hours to serve in their community. The experience is guaranteed to leave them feeling positive and confident when they’re done, and offering an incentive in exchange further demonstrates that you’re interested in their world and how you can make it the best it can be for them.

Send the Office Perks to Them

There is no way around it, people love perks. It doesn’t matter if it’s a company branded t-shirt, mug, or if you’ve got a fully stocked kitchen at your office’s disposal, people feel special when they get things. Though you may not be able to send a refrigerator full of goodies to each of your employees across borders, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to opt out of the perks.

Sending small fun-filled packages throughout the year – like candy during Halloween or vouchers for their local community events during winter holidays – can speak volumes to the fact that you’re thinking about your employees, you care about making them smile and ensuring that they’re enjoying their at-home environment. Gifts to commemorate milestones in the company, a job well done, and birthdays are great options, too. Welcome packages to new hires with branded “loot” can really make people feel important and involved, and are one of my favorite ways to get people excited about being a part of the team.

If you aren’t keen on mailing out packages all the time, there are other ways to “give back” to your hard-working crew. At Zapier, for instance, they give premium music streaming accounts to their employees, so that they can listen to music throughout the day. It opens up avenues of conversations between people, and helps everyone gain a better understanding of each other through tastes in music.

Reward Badges/Employee of the Month Programs

Employee of the Month programs work really well for some in-house companies, why shouldn’t that success carry over into the virtual space? Being recognized for excellence makes people want to strive to be recognized again, and can spark a sense of friendly competition among coworkers. And though you may not be able to post the winner’s picture on an actual wall, you can give them a special Slack icon, send them a gift card to a fun store in their area, or simply send out an email that really lets them shine.

If Employee of the Month isn’t a good fit for your company, try having something like a Badge system instead. Badges should be something that anyone can earn at any time – as opposed to a single employee once a month. They can be earned for any number of things, from training to helping others to compliments from a client. Get creative with it, and have some kind of prize for when a person earns a certain number of badges, so that employees have extra incentive to excel.   

This isn’t to say that people need a reason to go above and beyond, many people do this naturally and that very fact is probably why you wanted them on your team. But why not reward them a little for their excellence?

Ask for Feedback

You can have dedicated chat channels for this, but the most valuable feedback may come from anonymous surveys that will allow people to share genuine thoughts without the pressure of reprimand. No matter how “open door” your policies are, there are bound to be shy or wary people who don’t feel comfortable sharing candid thoughts or feedback – and that’s okay, as long as they have another outlet where they can safely express issues, give praise, or whatever may be on their mind about the company.

You can read as many articles as you want about good culture, how to improve your workplace, or how to keep employees happy, but the best advice is bound to come from within, directly from the people it’s intended to help. They can likely provide some sound knowledge on client needs or new ideas for a project, but they’re also a great source for finding out about what’s working, what’s not, and how to make everything come together cohesively. You hired them because you trusted their ideas and opinions, now’s the time to let them really put their talents to work.

Culture is one of the most important aspects of a business, and it’s something more companies should invest in. There are some pretty solid reasons why good company culture is so important, but the bottom line is that it’s about your people, and people should be your number one priority. If you can get together a group of people who genuinely care about your goals and mission; that are willing and excited to work toward accomplishing the same thing you are, wonderful things are bound to happen. You can’t have a great business without great people, and you won’t have (or at least won’t retain) great people if your culture isn’t there to match that greatness.  

Take some time to review your company’s current culture and see if there are areas you can improve. Looking to improve, but stuck on how to change it? Ask your employees, they’re sure to have a few ideas for how you can improve and bring everyone closer together. A little bit of time up-front will gather you so much return in the long run. And hey, you’re likely to have a good time along the way so it’s a win-win – you can’t beat it!

5 Reasons Why You Need Video Marketing (Video)

Video content marketing blog

Move over, articles and blogs; video marketing is the new heir to the content throne.

You’ve heard every adage out there when it comes to content marketing: content is king; if content is king, then context is God; content is king, distribution is queen. Yet, what really is content marketing? I think Content Marketing Institute said it best:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Instead of directly talking about a product or service to drive sales, your goal in content marketing is to spread information. You share knowledge with your target audience in hopes that with a better level of understanding they’ll be able to make an informed decision about the subject of your content (and hopefully your products or services, too) and view your company and brand as a thought leader in the future.

Content can be any kind of media, really, but the most common types of content in marketing are written marketing (blogs, ebooks, white papers, etc.) and video marketing. And while written marketing has often been thought of as the true powerhouse of content marketing, video marketing is really starting to have legs. If you haven’t started exploring video for your own content marketing efforts, here are a few reasons why we think you should.

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It’s More Memorable Than Written Content

Remember that catchy jingle or slogan from those commercials when you were a kid? How about the words to all those cartoon movies you once cherished (“There are no happy endings because nothing ends”)? No matter what we do we can’t get them out of our heads, meanwhile many of the books we once read seem to be ‘in one ear and out the other’, so to say.

That’s because our brains are susceptible to something called regression – which is that tendency for us to have to read and reread a concept in order to fully grasp it. Don’t blame yourself, though, audiences will retain 95% of a message that they watch in a video, compared to 10% retention when the message is read in text (Pop Video).

Videos are memorable; they have images and sound, patterns and repetition, and qualities that tend to stick. We use multiple senses when we watch videos and our brains seem to love that. According to Idea Rocket, 80% of customers remember a video they viewed in the past month. It’s a powerful medium, and if you aren’t one of the businesses taking advantage of it you could lose out against your competitors who are.

Video Has Good Return on Investment (ROI)

Content marketing in general has been shown to be worth its weight in gold, since organic search traffic is so much more desirable than that of paid advertising. Everyone wants to be Number One on Google, and you just can’t do that without good content. And while it can take up more resources to make videos than it does to write an article, 83%of businesses say digital video has a strong ROI according to a study done by Wyzowl – so it’s worth the effort.

Video conversion rates outperform other marketing content by 70% (Vidyard), which means a dollar spent on video will get you a lot farther than a dollar spent on other efforts. People like to watch videos, it’s a pretty simple concept. In fact, there’s a saying that goes, “Video is like pizza – even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty good”, which speaks volumes to its value.       

Videos Are Easier to Consume for Smartphone Users

Admit it, you’re reading this article from your phone right now. If you aren’t, you’re in the minority, because 56% of people access websites from their phone or device, rather than a desktop computer. It’s now easier than ever to consume information on a commute to work, while taking a break in the day, or even while multitasking alongside another activity. Luckily, this creates the perfect opportunity for companies to reach audiences outside of working hours like they once had to. Now, your ideal client might be checking you out while he’s out and about, or at home relaxing – so make it easy for him to understand your best stuff!

If you’ve optimized your site, then it’s already responsive and ready for mobile access; make sure your content is, too. Include videos as a part of your existing blog posts to boost their effectiveness, or have them as stand-alone pieces that send a strong message on their own. And, while it’s true that two-thirds of consumers prefer videos that are under 60 seconds (Insivia), that doesn’t mean that longer videos will go unwatched.

If you’ve got a good message that adds value, your audience is likely to watch it regardless of its length. Professionally made, well-presented videos are great for telling a story, but even a good Facebook Live recording has its place and time. If you’ve got information to give, people will come to get it.

Video Content Is Favored by Social Media and Search Sites

If you’ve ever searched for something on Google, chances are you’ve noticed that relevant videos sit comfortably at the top of the organic results. Likewise as you’ve been thumbing through social media sites lately, surely you’ve recognized the trend of video content popping up much more frequently than still images, and especially more often than plain text. In fact, the Facebook algorithm is admittedly set up so that videos show up more frequently than other forms of content (Entrepreneur), with the focus being the curation of the most relevant and engaging content for audiences.

It centers around the idea that video content is easy to consume, and has the ability to spread information in a concise, shareable, and meaningful way. Studies show that 59% of executives will watch a video on a topic, rather than reading about it, if both platforms are available, and 54% of senior executives share work-related videos with their colleagues weekly (Insivia). Over time video has become one of the most popular ways for people to get information, so it’s no surprise that it’s given special treatment.   

It Encourages Social Sharing and Builds Trust

People love video. It’s easy to say at this point, and it’s true; studies show that 55% of people watch videos online every day (Insivia). More than half of people online each day prefer watching videos because it’s visual, it’s emotional, it has the power to make us laugh or cry, to teach us something new. It sticks in our minds after we watch it, and impacts us on a subconscious level.

People feel personally connected to messages in videos, it builds trust with a viewer. Trust is the foundation of conversions and sales, but the word “sales” doesn’t mean that your videos need to be about your product or what you do. Provide people with interesting, useful information and the rest will fall into place. Content marketing is about building trust and long-term relationships with people, and video can act as a one-stop-shop for this.

And, if a person feels emotionally connected to an idea, they’re going to want to share it. According to a study done by Wyzowl, 76% of users said they would share a branded video with their friends if it was entertaining. Social shares increase traffic, traffic increases sales; it’s an obvious pathway to conversion if you know how to take it there.

(Click the infographic to enlarge)

video marketing infographic

Share this Image On Your Site

Video content marketing was slow to start but has since been gaining exponential popularity. Some projections even show that video will account for 74% of all online traffic by the end of 2018. With the relatively low bar to entry and the infinite possibilities, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t start exploring video for your own content marketing efforts.

Need a little help getting started, or aren’t sure if you have the resources needed to make videos? Talk to us today about our animated video services!  

What Your Professional Website Says About Your Business

What a professional website says about your business

(And what it should say)

We’ve all been there; you’re excited about a new company or product, or maybe you’re applying for a new job and want to check out the company before committing. You’re searching for more information, so what’s the first thing you do? You visit a website. Whether you’re sleuthing a potential new tool, investigating a competitor, or simply browsing around in a fit of boredom, chances are you visit websites quite often – they’re ubiquitous! – which is why it’s more important than ever to have a killer site representing your brand and business.

First impressions are everything, especially in today’s highly saturated and competitive environment. It’s someone’s introduction to your brand – like the business card of modern technology – so it needs to be a great experience; otherwise, your prospect may pass you over for the competition.

There can be a lot of pressure and confusion around setting up a good professional website, after all, it’s meant to represent YOU, so naturally, you want it to be perfect. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when setting up or improving a website, and what you can do if yours doesn’t adhere to these standards.

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Navigation

It may seem like common sense, but good website navigation is one of the most important aspects of a quality website design. Think about it this way, you don’t want your site visitors to have to figure out how to use your site, you want it to be intuitive. Their journey around your page should be well thought out and choreographed based on the journey you want them to take; tell them where to go so that you can show them exactly what you want!

The Bad:

  • Cryptic and confusing menus with no clear structure or flow.
  • An overwhelming number of choices and options, creating confusion and communicating a general lack of planning.
  • An illogical setup that isn’t in-line with your buyer persona or what you want to express about your brand.
  • Clunky or out-of-date design that leads to unnecessary difficulty when finding things on the site.

The Good:

  • Your navigation bar is concise and free from clutter, and any menus you have are straightforward and easy to follow.
  • The buyer’s journey is intuitive and purposeful, with no excess information or choices beyond what is necessary.
  • An architecture that’s based around your target audience, your brand goals, and the content you might create in the future.
  • Modern, responsive design that keeps up with trends and communicates that you care. It tells potential customers that you are paying attention to your field and adjusting accordingly.

Branding and Appearance

Branding is at the core of your business; it’s the essence of who you are and what you want that to mean to the world. Your brand is something you should have well-defined before even starting your website design since it’s central to everything you do – from the conversations you have to the content you publish.

Your website is the first thing a potential buyer is going to look at, so make sure that the appearance – the font, images, logo design, even the type of language and voice that you use – coincides with your brand.

The Bad:

  • Your design is generic, you use obvious stock images with no weight behind them, and your color scheme is random, out of place, or non-existent.
  • The tone and feel of your content changes drastically from page-to-page, communicating a lack of planning or focus.  
  • Your web copy feels forced, generic, or simply out of place.
  • Your logo doesn’t fit in.
  • Your website does little to reflect your business or the message you’re trying to send.

The Good:

  • You’ve either customized your design in-house or hired a company to do so, but it’s tailored perfectly to your brand colors, fonts, and graphics, and reflects exactly who and what you want your business to be.
  • Your voice is confident and consistent. It is obvious that you are a thought leader in your area of specialty and your content always delivers value and purpose.
  • The copy on your site is clearly written by someone who understands your brand well and can articulate your purpose. It isn’t overly wordy and helps carry a site visitor along in their journey without any extra fluff or jargon.
  • Your logo is a professional representation of your business; an embodiment of the company’s mission, values, and culture rolled into one graphic.
  • Your website lets visitors know exactly who you are and what they can gain from interacting with you. It is branded well and is something you proudly share within your community.

Function

Your website will do nothing for you if it doesn’t work. If it’s slow to load, isn’t mobile-friendly, or if it’s generally not easy to use, people are going to click away just as soon as they came in. Regardless of changes in design trends and technology, these core aspects remain important and it’s easy to see why.

Forty percent of people say that they’ll abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load (source) and 56 percent of people access websites from their phone, rather than a desktop computer (source). Simply put, if your website doesn’t work well people aren’t going to want to use it.

The Bad:

  • Your site has so much going on that it takes ages to load.
  • On the desktop your site looks great, but it isn’t mobile optimized and information is lost when people access it from their smartphones and devices.
  • Your visitors aren’t sure where to find the information they’re looking for and spend too much time navigating its layered, complex structure.

The Good:

  • Your domain hosting service is rock solid and you’ve reduced plugins, custom applications, media, and anything else slowing down your load speeds so that your site is lightning quick – on the homepage and anywhere else a user might be landing.
  • Your whole site shows on a mobile device. Information is readily available and easily digested in the smaller formatting. If your hosting platform didn’t have this feature built in naturally, you employed the help of experts to make sure that your customers could find you from anywhere.
  • Simple is better in today’s website trends. Your site is free of clunky layering, unnecessary add-ons or pages that distract from the real purpose of the site. A visitor knows exactly where to begin on the site and exactly where their journey ends. There are clear calls to action, contact information is easy to find, and important details like pricing and testimonials aren’t hidden away.

If you put a genuine focus on making your site good for your target audience, you’re guaranteed to increase traffic, secure more conversions, and inevitably land more sales. With so many countless resources available for improving your site there’s really no reason not to make a few changes if you feel that the time has come.

Take back the control and make sure your website says exactly what you want it to say about your business.

Referral Programs: Do Your Customers Tell Their Friends About You?

Referral program

Referral programs are the holy grail when it comes to B2C sales, but does it translate to B2B? Sources like Refersion say absolutely, citing some pretty compelling data. Companies with B2B referral programs see more growth in general, and customers who were referred have a greater lifetime value. This means that referrals not only bring customers in, they keep them around longer, and with a better overall relationship over the time you work together.

The concept of referrals is simple: buyers trust the opinions of the people around them, especially those who they respect and know have high standards. If a trusted friend or colleague provides them with glowing feedback for a company that perfectly fits their needs (ideally your company), they’re more likely to check it out and approach it with greater confidence than they would have if they found it through an ad or general online search.

Referral programs take the legwork out of finding potential products and suppliers, so they benefit your prospects, too. It removes the risk of the unknown, which makes people feel safe in making such important decisions (that often come with a high price tag). The higher the stakes, the more likely people are going to want to have a trusted source of information as well. So if you’re offering a service that’s going to cause some major changes and downtime – CRM migration, for instance – it’s going to be invaluable to have third-party endorsements on your side.

In fact, 69% of companies with referral programs report that their deals are closing faster (Influitive), so if you don’t have a program in place, you could really be missing out.

Think it will be too hard to get referrals from your current clients? Think again. According to Influitive, 91% of customers said they’d happily provide referrals for companies they love.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you don’t have a super successful referral program in place, but don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are some tips on how to get some referrals and keep them consistently flowing in.

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Be Proactive

If you’re waiting for your customers to come to you with a referral, you’re probably going to be waiting awhile. That’s not to say that your customers don’t know anyone who could benefit from your services, or even that they don’t want to give you a referral; it just means they aren’t directly thinking of it – which is why you have to.

The best way to know if a customer is ready to give a referral is by first understanding their experience with your company and services. Are they happy? Is there room for improvement? By opening up an avenue for conversation, you can find out who the best candidates are for referrals, and start planning your targeted approach.

One of the best ways to gain insight and feedback from your customers is with a survey. Make sure to ask questions that result in honest, actionable results. You can use software like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, or you can have a good old-fashioned conversation to check how things are going. When you know who your most loyal customers are, you’ll have a better idea of where your best referrals will come from.     

Take Advantage of the Positive

The most valuable referrals come after your customer has had a positive experience with your services, or at least has been reminded of them in a recent conversation. With a current success at the forefront of your customer’s mind, they’re much more likely to refer you than if their experience has been anything other than exemplary.

Think about it this way, you wouldn’t request a raise from your boss just after a subpar month of performance, and this is no different. If you aren’t delivering on what you promised a customer (which can simply be a failure in your onboarding system to set up realistic expectations), they probably won’t want to refer you.

If you’ve got some stellar metrics to present to your customer, or they gave glowing feedback in your survey, take advantage of that and ask away. Chances are they’ll be excited to do it.

Make it Easy

Being mindful of your customer’s time can take you a long way when it comes to asking for a referral, so make the process for them as easy as possible. Provide clear instructions that walk them through the process from start to finish, so they aren’t having to take the time to fill in gaps or tie up loose ends. Offer them a sample template that they can send to the person they want to refer, for instance, or see if you can be the one to facilitate a three-way call or meeting. Anything you can do to take the heavy lifting out of the process for them will make it all the easier for them to agree to the referral.

If you feel like you’re met with resistance or pushback to the idea, though, back off a bit and let them know that they can come to you if and when they’re ready. Pushing them on it again isn’t likely to get you anywhere. Once things have cooled off a bit, you may be able to approach them with a different way they can advocate for your company without having to directly refer you, such as leaving an online review, doing a testimonial, or anything else that allows them to give you a vote without as high of stakes.

Offer Incentives

I think it goes without saying, that people like to get things – especially in exchange for something they’re going out of their way to do. It’s not to say that people won’t refer you if they aren’t going to get anything in return. If you’re doing great work for them, they’re going to want to share their secret, but why not sweeten the deal a little?

You know your customers better than anyone, so you’ll know what they want in an incentive. Maybe you get them a gift card to Starbucks or Amazon, or a free month of your services. If you don’t have a ton of resources to work with but still want to say thanks, sending a small yet thoughtful gift in the mail can go a long way, too.  

In a referral program we designed and implemented for our client Grifols, we sent healthy snack boxes as a tangible thank you for when a donor referred a friend and saw great results. They weren’t premium boxes with top dollar price tags, but the gesture let people know that they were appreciated, which had a major positive impact.

Be Referable

I know this seems a bit obvious, but since referral marketing is one of the most powerful ways to land new leads and increase sales, it’s worth putting an extra focus on being referable. You already do great work and your customer knows this; it’s part of why they picked you and why you still work together. But even if you think you’re doing your very best, there are likely areas in which you can improve, that you just may not have thought of yet.

This can be something as simple as interacting with them on social media or mentioning them in a blog post, or even sharing an article with them that you think they might find value. Anything that goes beyond the basics of delivering what you promise (or more!) is going to be recognized and appreciated. Make your customers feel special, communicate to them that you care and that you fully understand their needs, and they’re likely to repay the favor.

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referral programs infographic

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Referral marketing is one of the best, low-cost ways to bring in new leads, increase sales, and overall improve customer loyalty, and luckily the concept isn’t rocket science. Word-of-mouth has a way of spreading like wildfire, even if there’s just a small encouragement to ignite the flame.

By doing exemplary work, listening, asking when the time is right, and making it easy, you should be able to increase your loyalty and referral rate in no time. Get creative with the process, experiment, try different things out to see what works; there isn’t one right way to do referral marketing, but the one wrong way to do it is not doing it at all.