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TikTok Marketing in 2020: How to Use TikTok for Your Small Business

When you think of the short-form video platform, TikTok, you may picture a teenager filming themselves doing a viral dance video. But dancing is just one of the popular forms of content being uploaded to the app that has taken the world by storm and is all over the news right now as we wait to see if it will be banned in the US or bought out.
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Brilliant Summer Reads for Entrepreneurs

Summer’s in full swing, and it’s the perfect time to get caught up on a little business reading. Are you looking for entrepreneurial inspiration and not sure what to read next? We reached out to our influential colleagues to find out about the business books they are enjoying this summer.

Read on to be inspired by the books our B Corp Founders, Digital Marketing Influencers,  partners, and our staff are reading right now. 

Great Summer Reads for Business

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

Suggested by Denise Taschereau of Fairware Promotional Products

‘”It’s a short and compelling read on how something as simple as a short checklist can solve problems and workflow issues. Needless to say, we now have workflow and process checklists at Fairware to try to minimize common mistakes.”  – Denise Tashereau
 
About the book
“Atul Gawande shows what the simple idea of the checklist reveals about the complexity of our lives and how we can deal with it.”
 

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battlesby Steven Pressfield

Suggested by Mari Smith, Facebook Guru
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Being Virtual: Top Virtual Business Tools We Can’t Live Without

Since its inception in 2002, Out-Smarts has been a virtual organisation.Being a Virtual Business | Out-Smarts We had a brief flirtation with bricks and mortar a few years ago but it wasn’t a good fit.

A virtual organization is an organization involving detached and disseminated entities (from employees to entire enterprises) and requiring information technology to support their work and communication. Virtual organizations do not represent a firm’s attribute but can be considered as a different organizational form.

Or in plain English – a business that has no physical location that depends on technology to operate effectively.

Virtual Business Benefits

In 2018, a business like ours doesn’t need to have an office. The ubiquity of online tools makes that possible. These tools make it easier to start and grow a business since your overheads are much lower (which is especially important in a place like Vancouver where office space is at a premium). But big businesses are clueing into the benefits too.  Telecommunications giant TELUS has a goal of having 40% of their team members working on a mobile basis, 30% working within TELUS buildings, and another 30% working from home full time.

Not only does being virtual keep your costs lower but it’s also way better for the planet as well. Teams who work from their home office don’t have to drive or take public transit which means less pollution being emitted into our planet each day. It also leads to higher scalability. With a physical office, increasing your staff often requires moving into a larger office space. With a virtual team, you can scale up your business without worrying about the extra costs associated with the required square footage.

Even back in 2002, it was possible to run a business virtually as long as you had an internet connection (although those were a lot slower back then), good processes and communication channels in place. This still rings true, although it’s much easier now thanks to cloud computing, apps and social media.

More importantly, though, working for a virtual company is good for the soul. It gives your team more flexibility to put their lives and families before their work (which is the way it should be anyway), it gives them more flexible work hours and no commute time which makes them happier and more likely to stay not to mention more productive. Happy Team = Happy Company = Happy Customers.

Of course, no good thing is without its drawbacks. With a virtual business, there is a risk of isolation, less cohesiveness, and a lack of camaraderie amongst employees. In a virtual environment, there is much less opportunity for spontaneous conversations that could lead to collaboration or new ideas. There’s also the chance that things can get lost in translation or misconstrued in electronic communications. To tackle this at Out-Smarts, we make sure to stay on top of our social side, and even schedule it into our calendars each month. We have weekly update calls with our team members, take the time to ask about our respective weekends on Monday mornings, and get the whole team together for beers once a month.

We’ve come a long way since 2002 when it comes to optimizing our virtual business, but we’re always keeping an eye out for new ways to improve our company culture and create a rewarding experience for customers and team members. Along the way, we’ve picked up an arsenal of tools that have become mainstays for productivity and efficiency. Here are our favourite tools for running a virtual business:

Virtual business tools that we can’t live without:

We’ve never met our bookkeeper, she lives in the US but that doesn’t matter – online accounting and invoicing software (Quickbooks) allows us to easily share financials.

Teamwork – This project management tool has recently come to the top of our list of must-haves. Team members can see all ongoing projects, tasks, and deadlines at a glance which helps keep everyone on track. It also enables us to give clients an insight into what we do for them and lets us set deadlines, hours and stay on top of communications.

Boomerang for Gmail – This is a tool for anyone battling an overstuffed inbox! Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to be sent out at a later date, set reminders to follow up, and take emails out of your inbox until you need them.

Google Docs and Google Drive– We are able to share all of our documents and spreadsheets and it’s perfect for collaborating on a project in real time. We’re also able to categorize our projects and link back to Teamwork.

Google Calendar – The integration with Google Calendar and the rest of the G-Suite tools makes this an easy choice. We use it to schedule meetings, pencil in vacation time, and invite attendees to events. It also integrates with Google Maps which helps by calculating trip times and sending prompts for when you need to leave.

Office 365 – This classic suite of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive is a mainstay for creating content.

1Password – It took us a few tries to find a password vault that worked well for us. We found 1Password to be the right fit for our company as it lets us store documents, logins, and other confidential information in one place.

SquareUp – This is a free point of sale app that lets us accept card payments, manage invoices, and give digital and printed receipts.

WordPress – We build all of our websites on WordPress. We love the versatility of being able to create beautifully designed custom websites on a trusted platform.

Hootsuite – We schedule, manage, and monitor social content for our clients through Hootsuite.

Grasshopper – Virtual phone systems like Grasshopper have helped us run our business through our cell phones. We can host phone extensions for everyone on our team, set up call forwarding, voicemail, and more.

JoinMe and Zoom – For a team to work together towards the same goal, there needs to be the occasional conference call. We like web conferencing tools like JoinMe and Zoom, and even use them for meetings with out of town clients.

Skype – For getting in touch with clients in the US, we rely on Skype for free online calls, messaging, and affordable international calling to mobiles or landlines.

Milanote is a tool for organizing creative projects into beautiful visual boards. By design, it feels a lot like working on the wall in a creative studio – visual, tactile and sometimes a bit messy – Milanote is a great fit for designers who work in teams remotely.*

With the use of the tools above, office communications are available to us from almost anywhere in the world. These technologies we’ve adopted not only streamline communication but provide practical services that empower our team to stay on task and stay engaged.

Need help growing your business? Contact us to find out what we can do.

*sponsored post


Mastering Social Media to Grow Your Small Business at Small Business BC June 2018

Join Mhairi at Small Business BC or from the comfort of your office and learn about the basics of social media as we share our tips and tactics for success.

Seminar Date

Thursday,  June 28th, 2018 – 1:00pm to 4.30pm

Mastering Social Media to Grow Your Small Business

Just because you know what social media is, does not mean that you necessarily understand how to use it to grow and develop your business. This workshop focuses on understanding social media, what is it and how it’s connecting people.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how/if social media should be an important part of your marketing strategy.
  • Understand what opportunities are available for you to leverage social media for business growth and prospecting.

This seminar is hosted at Small Business BC in Vancouver and delivered to other locations via live webinar. All webinar participants will also receive access to a recording for seven days after the live session.

 

Register to attend at:


Mastering Social Media to Grow Your Small Business in Terrace and Kitimat

Next week, Mhairi will be heading up to Northern BC to present ‘Mastering Social Media to Grow Your Small Business” at the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce on February 27th then on to the Kitimat Chamber the next night.  The Terrace event is full but there are still a few spots in Kitimat. Click on the link to register below.

Just because you know what social media is, does not mean that you necessarily understand how to use it to grow and develop your business. This workshop focuses on understanding social media, what is it and how it’s connecting people.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how/if social media should be an important part of your marketing strategy.
  • Understand what opportunities are available for you to leverage social media for business growth and prospecting.

Tickets: FREE
Light dinner included

REGISTER TODAY: Email info@kitimatchamber.ca

Terrace and Kitimat businesses welcome!


Website Bounce Rate and the 8-Second Rule

website bounce rateYou have seconds to convince a first-time visitor to stay on your website. Approximately 50% of them leave within those first 8 precious seconds for a number of reasons, but there are ways you can reduce your website bounce rate.

Your website should make the best first impression so that it convinces visitors to stay.  Keep them on your site and lower your website bounce rate with these 4 tips:

1) Speed Up Website Load Time

There are a number of sites that can measure your website’s load time. The quicker your website loads, the less likely a first-time visitor will leave. A couple of sites we recommend are Pingdom and Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Pingdom has a free tool to test your website’s loading time.  It’s simple and easy. Enter your website’s address, select a location and Pingdom analyzes it, gives you a performance grade and identifies in a detailed report what may be slowing down your website’s load time.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is also free and just as easy. You type in your website URL, click on the analyze button and wait for the results. You will receive two performance reports;  one for desktop and another for mobile both of which have their own a PageSpeed Score that ranges from 0 to 100 points.  Side note: your website should be optimized for mobile devices – which includes both smartphones and tablets – otherwise your website may not show up on Google Search results on mobile.  The reports give advice on what to fix and how to fix it to make your website better and lower your website bounce rate.

2) Define The Purpose of Your Site

Your website should solidify your online identity and your services and/or products should be clear and obvious. The top left hand corner is the most important part of your site – use it to showcase what you do and define your purpose so that visitors get it instantaneously. Showcase what you do and who you do it for.

3) Simple Website Navigation & Layout

Keep your website simple, make it intuitive to use and design it to be desktop and mobile responsive. These elements will keep first-time visitors on your site longer and make them less likely to bounce (leave after visiting only one page). Have all information about your products and/or services on your website.

Another way to reduce your website bounce rate is if you keep getting asked the same questions, then it is a good idea to make that information available on your website too because people would rather move onto another competitor’s website to find the answer than to call up your business.

You should have two sitemaps – one for Google (XML) and the other for people. It is paramount that people can find the content they are looking for on your site easily, so don’t overwhelm them with links. Too many links and menu items can cause confusion and result in people leaving your site if they have to keep clicking around to find what they were looking for. Pages should be linked from the menu or from inner pages (to help Google crawl them all).

Include easy to find contact information on every page of your website. Having an address, phone number and email in plain sight makes visitors feel that they are dealing with an actual business.  

4) Give Website Visitors Reason to Come Back

Provide dynamic content such as blog posts, images, videos and etc. Use a blog to set yourself apart by showcasing you’re an expertise in your industry and how you will deliver on their expectations. If you can offer valuable information like giving free advice this results in trust and  goodwill. It will bring visitors back to your website and increase the likelihood that they will retain your services.  

Videos are great for boosting conversions and return visits too. Use videos to highlight a new product or explain your business. Make sure though to keep videos short – less than 2 minutes – so visitors stay to watch.

Differentiate your website and business by having a distinctive logo and by sharing consumer reviews so that visitors don’t go searching for reviews about your company on other sites that you don’t have control over.  

Lastly, update your site often. An active and fresh website will not only make first-time visitors stay, but come back again and again.

Conclusion

Take a moment to look at your website from the perspective of a first-time visitor or better yet, have a friend do it. Identify what your website may be lacking from what we’ve outlined above. Implement some of these tips to reduce website bounce rate and see if it convinces more visitors to stay on your website longer than 8 seconds.  Some of these changes will be easy to put into action and others you may feel are too technical. If that’s the case, contact your web developer or give us a shout – we’d be happy to help.

About the writer: Gloria Botelho is a practicum student from the Digital & Mobile Marketing program at Simon Fraser University. Gloria lives in East Van and is obsessed with cats, flowers, street art and all things Portuguese. You can follow her on Twitter @glorbot and on Instagram @gloria_boria.


Reasons To Be Cheerful October 2016

A-maze-ing Laughter - Yue Minjun - Sculpture
A-maze-ing Laughter – Yue Minjun – Sculpture

Online tools make us happy. For those of you who have been longstanding followers of this blog, you will likely remember our Reasons to Be Cheerful posts. It has been over three years since our last one. It’s not that we’re not cheerful it’s just that we’ve been kind of busy growing.

The whole point of the reasons to be cheerful posts is to share websites, tools, apps, blogs and other cool stuff we use or have discovered lately. After 3 years, we have quite a long list but we won’t dump them all on you at once!

Canva

We use Canva regularly, and have done for ages, to create images on the fly. You can upload your own photos and images or access the Canva repository images (they don’t cost much usually $1), add great graphics and text and best of all Canva has preloaded templates for social media, Facebook posts, blog graphics and more. This is a must have in any marketer’s toolbox.

Designrr

Every small business owner wants to write a book right? Or at the very least an ebook. Often the content and design are the only things holding us back. Designrr is a great tool that make this happen. You simply grab a URL (i.e. a blog article you have written), choose a template, tweak, tune and publish.

MentionMapp

MentionMapp makes discovering Twitter’s gems easy. It visually displays people, places, events and conversations so you can see the connections, track conversations, hashtags and trending topics all in one view.

Barracuda

Find out if your website has been impacted by Google’s algorithm changes using this Penguin Tool.

Twitter Analytics

Most Twitter users don’t know this exists! If you are using Twitter for your small business it is important to track your top tweets, impressions, mentions and followers. Twitter analytics is a great tool to let you do so.

Wishpond

If you are looking for a marketing platform that is affordable, easy to use and has all the bells and whistles you need to manage campaigns across multiple platforms, Wishpond is the one. Its a great alternative to Infusionsoft at a much lower price point. Use it to build landing pages, manage social promotions, website popups, online forms, lead activity tracking, lead management, lead intelligence, marketing automation, email marketing and measure success with marketing analytics.

Square

If you want to accept credit card payments for your small business then Square is great. It’s easy to set up an account, they send you a dongle that you attach to your phone or device to accept payment (or you can do this manually too). You link Square to your bank accounts and you’re ready to go. Even better, it’s much more cost effective than traditional tools since there’s no monthly fee and the percentage they take is smaller.

Starbucks App

We all need caffeine to get us through the long days as entrepreneurs right? The Starbucks apps is not new but using it to order your coffee and pick up without waiting in the queue is. It’s particularly useful at conferences when you have a short break and long wait for your latte. I really shouldn’t be sharing this one….