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Do’s and Don’ts of Affiliate Marketing

There’s no denying that the job market is one that is very volatile. Sure, there are roles available, but these can be minimum. As such, many will look online to see if there are any opportunities that can help them build a career from the comfort of their own home. One of the more popular methods of making money online is those who undertake affiliate marketing. The concept of affiliate marketing is for a person to make a referral to goods or services in return for a commission.

The great thing about affiliate marketing is that it can be done by anyone. There are many companies that are looking for budding marketers to promote their product or service, so it’s very rare there is a niche you can’t take advantage of.

Affiliate marketing will normally involve the running of a blog, but other methods can be used, such as social network pages. However, to be a success in affiliating marketing, there are some factors you need to consider.

DO

Consider Your Areas of Expertise

Much of the success involved with affiliate marketing can be attributed to the knowledge the marketer has. When it comes to commission-based income, it can be tempting to opt for the most profitable. However, if we’re not fully knowledgeable, then we could be making much less. Looking at your expertise allows you to start promoting what you know. There’s nothing stopping you researching other avenues while you set up your first campaigns. For example, if you have family you may want to create a blog that provides reviews around some of the top products for family’s and children such as this blog which over reviews of the umbrella stroller maclaren

What Avenues You Will Use for Promotion

As noted, the most popular way of affiliate marketing, but this can also be used in tandem with other platforms, such as social media. In some instances, social media pages may be more popular than the website, so some may feel that this is most viable platform. Depending on what you’re marketing, the can be a series of platforms you can make use. And just because one doesn’t gain as much traction as the other, doesn’t mean a sale can’t be made.

It’s also worthwhile ensuring that the program you’re using allows for paid advertising. For example, if you’re using the free version of WordPress, then your options can be limited. However, opting for a self-install on your own server, you’re free to sculpt your content as you see fit.

Adhere the Rules and Regulations Set out By the Affiliate Company

When a company offers a service or product, it makes sense that there will be certain industries that they don’t want to be involved with. Such companies also want to ensure that the right kind of message is being portrayed when marketers are promoting their goods. As such, there will be instanced where a certain affiliate program will have terms and conditions attached. It’s important to adhere to these guidelines, otherwise you could find your partnership cut short.

If you read through the terms and conditions, and still have questions, then make sure you reach out to the company. In most instances, it’s only too happy to offer clarity to ensure that he correct procedures are being followed.

DON’T

Sign Up for The First Program You Come Across

In our excitement to secure a role in affiliate marketing, it can be easy to be persuaded with the first offer that comes our way. However, research is vital to be deemed a success in affiliate marketing. Even if you have an understanding of the product you’re looking to promote, you should ensure that the affiliate partnership is realistic and fair.

Expect to Make a Fortune Overnight

When reading success stories related to affiliate marketing, it can be easy to become misguided in our expectations. Affiliate marketing can offer a series of rewards, but it can take a huge investment of time, and sometime finance.

It can be worthwhile looking at our goals and then looking at the process we’re looking to use to get there. A business plan can be a great of doing this. From here we can sure our expectations are realistic which in turn means we’re less dissuaded during more turbulent times.

Spam Your Affiliate Link

When you sign up for an affiliate program, you will often be issued with an affiliate link. This link will often be in the form of a web address that includes your affiliate link. While it can be tempting to promote the address in forum links and comments, it’s important that you do this in the right way.

If you’re offering a valuable answer with your link offered as a resource, then this is fine. However, just randomly posting the link will often make you seem unprofessional, and probably won’t get the attention you’re looking for in any event.

Focus Solely on Sales

Although there is need to generate a profit when dealing with affiliate marketing, it’s important to ensure that we’re presenting visitors with a hardcore sales pitch. While there is nothing wrong with offering content that outlines the benefits of a product or service, it still needs offer valuable content for the reader. Hitting them with a sales pitch as soon as they hit the website will only deter them for venturing any further.

While there are some considerations to make when affiliate marketing, if it’s carried out in the right way, there’s no reason as to why you shouldn’t be able to carve a successful career out of it.

Lessons learned from the Equifax security breach

September 2017 saw one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States, Equifax, admit that they suffered a security breach, which went unnoticed for almost three months. During this period, over 143 million accounts had been violated, with hackers stealing identifiable information such as social security numbers and dates of birth. This kind of data breach is particularly damaging because the information stolen can be used for identity theft and other crimes.

When personal data is in the hands of the people that it actually affects, the consumers themselves, there is a lot that can be done to protect it and most people are actually very good at keeping private details, well, private. When it comes to service providers, we trust them to have the same level of diligence. Trouble with that is, hackers are unlikely to attack individuals when they know that service providers have a veritable treasure trove of data that is infinitely more valuable, meaning that they are far more likely to come under sustained attack.

Of course, none of that exonerates Equifax and nor should it. Companies of that size have not only have the means to implement the latest and greatest security measures, but they also have a legal and moral obligation to do exactly that and more.

I’m not talking and you can’t make me

What makes the matter even worse is the fact that Equifax is keeping schtum and not even attempting to communicate with its own customers with regards to the data breach. Whether or not you lay the blame squarely at the feet of the company, its lack of communication is simply unforgivable.

The whole affair highlights just how little control consumers have over their own data, and indeed their money, although not all companies are built in quite the same way as our reviews of best credit monitoring services of 2017 shows, some companies are just better at this than others and can actually be trusted – even in the wake of the Equifax debacle.

There is just no excuse for not addressing customer’s concern, especially when the situation is so bad that those same customers face the very real possibility of becoming victims of identity theft and all of the repercussions that come with that including, but in no way limited to:

  • Credit card fraud
  • Social Security Number Misuse
  • Passport fraud
  • Driver’s license number misuse
  • Change of address

Any one of these can have very serious consequences for the victim, so when the company that just had your sensitive information stolen is effectively refusing to communicate with their customers, those same customers have every right to be angry. It remains to be seen how this will affect Equifax in the future, but have no doubt their reputation has been very badly damaged, and it’s largely their own fault.

Effective communications systems seem to have been forgone too, although to be fair how is a single entity supposed to manage 143 million phone calls from customers all wanting to know the same thing? That being said, according to an Equifax chief executive ‘only’ around 15 million people tried to access the company website, in the wake of the attack.

Hacks highlight an uncomfortable truth

The security of our information is increasingly being placed in the hands of large corporations and we have no say in how it is used, stored or protected. Trust is a valuable commodity and it takes time to build it to the point where nobody questions it, or at least feel comfortable placing that trust in one company over another.

As consumers we have little choice but to place our trust in these corporations, but we do have the power of choice still and there are plenty of other fish in the sea. More trustworthy fish, as featured and reviewed elsewhere on AAACreditGuide.

There are steps that can be taken, as a consumer, in the event of something like this ever happening again and while it may already be too late for the customers of Equifax, it is worth noting for the future that you can protect yourself if you act quickly. Of course, the ability to react is wholly dependant on the company being forthcoming in the first place, which Equifax failed to do – the hack was reportedly discovered late July, but the company waited until September to say anything at all. It was a wait of a little over a week; plenty of time for the stolen data to be used and too late for customers to do anything about it.

If there is one lesson that companies need to learn from this mess, it’s that they need alert customers immediately so that appropriate measures can be taken, instead of waiting nearly two weeks.

Protecting yourself in the event of data theft

There is one thing that customers can do, immediately, to stop anyone from using their details, in credit fraud at least.

Placing a freeze on your credit lines prevents anybody, even you until you authorise the agency or agencies to ‘unfreeze’ them, using your information to open new accounts anywhere and opening new lines of credit. Credit fraud is the major goal behind identity theft, so protecting yourself in this way, the very moment you know your details may have been compromised, is going to save you from some incredible headaches later on down the line.

Credit freeze is seen as something of a ‘nuclear’ option, akin to dropping a truck on an ant, but when it comes to protecting yourself against identity theft, until measures can be taken by the various agencies to protect or change details, then it is worth it.

It’s also worth remembering that no company can protect itself from a determined, skilled attack – not even government agencies are immune, which has been proven time and again. The way the company responds however, means everything. The customer must always take priority over the company trying to save itself from embarrassment. Something that Equifax has learned the hard way.

Affiliate marketing – an Easy Start-up?

Affiliate marketing is one of the big buzzwords in marketing circles right now. It seems every e-commerce operator and dating site has a section dedicated to its “Affiliates” these days, as these types of businesses were amongst the first to recognise that they could drive a lot more traffic if they had legions of third parties out there helping them to sell their wares.

However, one of the other big growth areas in the Affiliate market has been the emergence as Affiliate marketing as one of the key growth channels for the online casino and gaming market. The market is worth over $100 billion globally so it’s no surprise that the operators want as much of this traffic as they can get.

Gaming – is it Global

Online Casinos and gaming is where the real growth is, and this area is tipped to soon overtake the real-world Casino market. However not all territories actively encourage or indeed allow online gaming. The USA for instance prohibits online gaming, as does China. More progressive countries and territories however are welcoming to the concept and the market in Europe, in particular is very buoyant.

Is it for Everyone

In essence, if you have an audience of adults, then you have the potential to have a worthwhile affiliate site. Most iGaming operators, and by this we mean the operators of many Online Casino’s and online slots game sites, are very willing to sign up new affiliates. Often this will be on a Revenue-Share model whereby the Affiliate will receive a percentage of the revenue generated by the players they have driven to the site. This can be extremely lucrative and many multimillion-dollar business have been built on the back of this strategy.

Some of the largest sites however have been criticised in the past for taking on affiliates, receiving the traffic and then deciding to abandon their affiliate partnership strategy once they get to a certain size – often at the cost of lost revenue and profit to the affiliate. In this regard, it is therefore worth partnering with small to medium sized casino site operators who have a long-term strategy for growth.

An Operators viewpoint

We talked to Scott Manford, the CEO of Wizard Slots, one of Europe’s leading online casino operators: “We greatly value our affiliate partners; indeed, we view them as part of our team and a critical part of our overall marketing strategy. We make all of the marketing collateral we have available to the affiliates and make it as easy as possible for them to access this resource as well as being able to view, in real time, the results of the traffic they are driving and of course in turn, how much money they are making. We also ensure that we pay our affiliates strictly on time and often within a few days of the month end – as we realise they are often small businesses and need the cash-flow to help drive the traffic. So, anything we can do to help them also helps us. Many of our affiliates are smaller operations and some of the most successful are run by individuals who are active in particular market segments or are very good at SEO or whatever”

It’s clear then that many Casino site operators view the partnership with smaller affiliates as an important facet to their traffic acquisition and furthermore they see this as a way to get low cost visitors.

The Risk

Affiliate marketing looks like a fairly low risk opportunity for those with the right audience or reach. If you can drive traffic to a site via endorsement or a link or coupon then you can monetise that traffic. The beauty of this for both the casino operator and indeed the want-to-be affiliate is that there is very little cost in the evet it doesn’t work to plan. Whereas if the traffic is sticky and the revenue share deal is equitable then the affiliate can often make as much money, if not more, than the operator. To that extent its certainly worthy of further investigation, for those with a ready stream of traffic.

Craft a Quick Site and Optimize Every Area of Your Online Presence

The overall experience of using your website is largely dependent upon your design and the ability to display your pages and page components quickly. No one wants to wait and attention spans are dwindling. By ensuring that your site is both intuitive and responsive, the risk of losing visitors is minimized while the impact and impression conveyed is one of lasting satisfaction, guaranteeing traffic well-into the future. There are certain aspects of design and configuration which any website speed optimization service needs to attend to. Here we have listed the most common WordPress site speed factors and how they affect your presence online. 

Page Load Time & The Human Attention Span

The human attention span appears to be on a steady decrease. As the amount of influences and external stimuli increase, people are less and less likely to have their attention drawn to one thing for a prolonged period of time. In the year 2000, the average person had a twelve second attention span. Today it has been measured at just eight seconds, which is just one second lower than a goldfish. It is no wonder than the slightest delay in your page load time results in no less than a seven percent chance of a loss of conversion.  The faster your site, the better the overall user experience, if due to nothing more than keeping their attention.

Improve Your Page Load Time & Improve Your Conversions

Many studies confirm the correlation between page load time and conversion rate. A study of thirty-three retailers across the US showed that once page load time decreased from eight seconds to two seconds, there was a 74% increase in conversions. Given that the US has an average page load time for major retailers of 6.9 seconds, there is certainly ample room to capitalize on this fact. Good website speed optimization services will not only reduce your page load time by means of operations in the backend, but your on-page elements will also be streamlined and focussed towards upping your conversion rate.

Search Rankings and Page Load Time

WordPress site speed affects not only your page access time and the overall usability of your site, but it also impacts your search rankings. While your page load time does not currently have as greater effect on your rankings as other aspects of SEO, over the coming months it will begin to be factored in more and more. Google has been using your speed as a ranking factor since 2010, and since 2017 the speed of mobile pages has also been included in rankings.

The Importance of Page Speed to Mobile Users

In many areas of the world, mobile users far outnumber desktop browsers. In countries such as Egypt, India and South Africa, more than 50% of browsers are mobile-only users, while in first-world countries the number of mobile users is projected to steadily rise to higher than there are conventional desktop browsers. Given the higher latency of mobile connections (on average), it is becoming increasingly important to optimize your site for a mobile audience. Speed becomes an integral factor in gaining and holding users.

The Effect of Page Load Time on Your Bounce Rate

Your WordPress site speed has a great effect on your bounce rate. Research undertaken by Google shows that when your page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, there is a 32% higher chance of a bounce. From 1 second to 5 seconds, the chance of a user bouncing skyrockets to 90%. A completely under optimized site with a page load time of ten seconds has a bounce rate of 123%. It is therefore critical to employ website speed optimization service(s) to ensure that you aren’t losing visitors simply due to something as trivial as an optimization issue. Independent research confirms these numbers, with a leading web performance engineer at Google, Ilya Grigorik, determining that every second in page load time increases your bounce rate by a minimum of .65%. That alone is far too much and completely unnecessary.

How a Fast Page Load Time Improves Customer Retention

Successful ecommerce hinges on a fast, well-optimized framework to grant great customer retention rates and the delivery of well optimized, highly targeted ads. KISSmetrics has revealed some rather interesting statistics regarding shopping behaviour. Their research shows that 47% of all customers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, while 40% of all customers will abandon your site completely if it takes more than three seconds to load. Poor page load time will deter 79% off all shoppers from returning to buy from the same site again, proving that your WordPress site speed is imperative to holding and growing a customer base.

Google’s Page Speed Reporting Tool – A Basic Analysis

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a fantastic tool which gives you a good indication of your state of optimization. Yet you can’t take your PageSpeed Insight score at face value, there are multiple factors to be considered which are not monitored and reported on in their entirety. One should of course begin by addressing the primary factors listed by Google’s invaluable tool, while other optimizations such as content caching, the use of a content delivery network (CDN), minimizing third-party content and lowering the amount of blocking requests are steps which only professionals and advanced end-users will begin to implement. 

WordPress Site Speed – Query Response Improvements

When you employ website speed optimization services, your site will undergo optimization of its database alongside many other adjustments. This in turn improves the responsiveness of queries on your site as well as decreasing page load time. Thanks to having less links cluttering your sitemap, search indexing services will be able to crawl you more efficiently. Your content will be found easier and have a better page rank.

Enhance The Entire User Experience & Elevate Your Success

When you take the time to implement website speed optimization services, you are not only improving one aspect of your site, but rather enriching the entire user experience. Your WordPress site speed is the number one underlying factor behind building and growing a successful online presence. Countless research has been carried out which serves as a major advantage to anyone crafting the perfect site. Use the insights of others to structure your site as an asset to the online community, while sealing your own success at the same time.

How To Grow Your Company Online With SEO

With a record number of Google searches taking place, there’s never been a better time to go through all your SEO techniques and look for better ways on how you could improve them. Luckily, this is not such a complicated process. While most people think about creating new personal goals, you should know that it’s also important to make new business goals too!

Here, we will discuss some of the exciting and straightforward techniques to increase traffic to your website. Remember that a perfect SEO presence boosts your blog’s value, authority and ranking. So, which are some of the most attractive and beneficial methods?

We had a chat recently with Keep SEO Simple a leading Scotland SEO company and here’s some of their top tips for growing your business online.

Always Try To Add Value!

Yes, the term might sound simple, but it’s essential that you always generate fantastic content. It should also maintain its level of relevance for the readers and be ‘evergreen’ wherever possible. The crucial point to note here is that it’s not always about writing top quality content. Instead, engaging with your audience is the next essential pillar.

If you’re looking for easy tips to create more value for your content, take a look at some these methods below:

  • Go through your current content and most read topics
  • Get to know your audience to find the issues that affect them- and help to solve them
  • If you can expand your niche area, then go ahead! However, it should still be popular among your target audience.

Controlling The Whole Browsing Experience

User experience is crucial for Search Engine Optimization. In this case, it’s wise to test the manner in which it affects your readers. The user experience begins even before they visit your blog. In fact, 93% of online experience starts with a simple search.

Here, some of the things you need to look at include:

  • Testing your website’s links and fixing the broken ones to reduce duplicate content or error pages
  • Your blog content should be attractive for both the search engines and users. Keep in mind that readability is an issue that needs close attention!
  • Navigation entails assisting the user in browsing through the website pages with ease. From the structure of the menu to that of the links within the text, even a slight detail may affect your user experience
  • The speed of the page is essential, so remember to test it regularly. Of course, your site is bound to get slower at one point or another. Things such as additional scripts and large images are the likely reasons for such an unpleasant occurrence for your users

The Power of Social Media

Google keeps telling the SEO community that social media has little impact when it comes to improving search rankings. Well, we continue proving Google wrong. Social media signals can increase your company’s website ranking with its clientele and other Search Engine Optimization marketers. So, how can you use the tools of social media to boost your SEO?

  • Produce SEO-friendly, high-quality content
  • Make use of tools such as Buzzsumo to get authority social media accounts in your field
  • Compliment their content, their brand, and ask if they could take a look at some of your latest projects. If they love it, then encourage them to pass it through to their audience
  • Ensure that in all their social media posts they put an explicit URL to your project
  • Quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to have a share from just five high-quality Twitter accounts than from over fifty poor-quality ones.

Neville Medhora, founder of Kopywritingkourse.com is a massive fan of using social media to increase the number of people visiting your site. She says that “leveraging the power of social media makes your ranking soar!”

Visual Content Optimization

Nowadays, visual content is a famous blogging technique that can be used to supplement text. It might even go ahead and replace it but most importantly, it dramatically affects SEO. Learning how to use visual content is not challenging, and once you learn how to use it, it only takes some minutes to increase the ranking of your site.

Here are some few tips to put you in the right direction:

  • Think about your titles carefully
  • Don’t forget to include your metadata, keywords and alt text
  • Pay close attention to the size of your files
  • Have a good video transcript to make search engines find your visual content quickly
  • You can even host the video on your site and not just on YouTube
  • Always try to be as unique as possible, and make your blog’s visual content easily shareable.

Concentrate On Topic Depth Instead of Backlinks

Having several links to increase your ranking in Google is now an ‘old school’ type of practice. Nowadays, getting a high ranking on Google hardly depends on the number of backlinks that you decide to use. Instead, it all depends on the depth of your topic. Recent studies by MarketMuse showed some rather impressive results.

The company ran a test between two groups. They analysed words of close to nine million from Magnifymoney.com with just 1.5 thousand backlinks. Interestingly, it outranked getrickslowly.org which had 31 thousand backlinks because Magnifymoney.com had more engaging and in-depth content for its users.

Always Update Your Online Footprint

Your online presence does wonders for your site. However, the problem is that most of us often forget how a good online print may cover those platforms that we tried out in the past and then later abandoned. Yes, it is a good idea to experiment using brand new areas to improve your presence. You only need to make sure that you keep updating them even if you’re not using them.

Let’s say you own a page on Google+ but for some reason, you’ve stopped using it, or you keep forgetting to post. In such cases, you should be asking yourself one fundamental question. Is the information accurate enough to assist users in learning more about your company?

To help you in updating your online footprint, we’ve discovered a simple method. All you have to do is to come up with a simple spreadsheet that takes care of your entire online presence. After a month, you can then check if the data is fully updated.

Conclusion

Acknowledging the above reasons, you can see that increasing traffic to your blog through SEO is not a stressful experience. Keep in mind that the internet keeps changing and the methods we used one year ago are not the same one’s existing today, or that will exist a year from now.

Have you been struggling with boosting your website’s ranking? These proven, modern day tips can give your site a good kick!

5 ways to keep your employees motivated

Employees are the centre of each business, and it’s time for managers to realise this. Every day their hard work and efforts help run different aspects of a company. But it is how they keep up that hard work throughout the year that is most important. In the age of smart phones and social media, employee motivation is needed now more than ever.

But it is how you continue to keep your employees motivated that counts. It is an issue almost every company has to deal with whether you’re a local store or one of the industry leading stainless steel banding suppliers. Don’t just hold out for that massive Christmas bash at the end of the year where everyone always has a bit too much to drink as something for staff to look forward to. Here are some ideas to get the most out of your workers and keep them motivated throughout the year:

Team Building Days

Take your employees out of their usual office environment and move them to a different setting for the day. Team building days allow staff to work together in groups where they are all striving for the same goal, this is a great way to keep your workforce in high spirits. It can bring together people from different departments and give employees something to look forward to.

Away from the challenge, team building days are useful for managers for finding out each member of staff’s strengths and weaknesses. But can also address any tension that there may be between staff members within the workforce.

Why not consider doing something fun and energetic to keep morale high? For example, paintballing, go carting, or even outdoor activity days involving sports always go down well. If you don’t fancy an action packed day out, keep it sophisticated with a night at the theatre, a day at the races or even a hospitality lunch? Something simple like trying that new restaurant or bar in town will make your employees feel valued and appreciate you as a manager.

Incentives

Having an incentive in place gives everyone a boost of motivation. Whether the target be set over a week, a month or a year, it will benefit both you and your employees by having something to work towards.

Obviously it is up to you what you choose the incentive to be. Most importantly, it has got to be something that will motivate your staff to provide the best results, otherwise it is a waste. Passing on praise when someone has done well can go a long way. But the most popular motivation is a money based bonus scheme. Placing a money incentive into the minds of your staff will more often than not inspire your employees to work hard giving you and your company the best results.

Why not try a companywide bonus scheme and break it up between individual departments? That way each group can collectively come together as a team to reach their goal. If some members are not pulling their weight, they can pick each other up and unite as a group. A company or group based goal ensures that everyone is getting something to look forward to, and you are getting the best out of your staff.

Introducing something simple like Friday lunches, where you can buy in food for your staff at the end of the week, or even renewing the coffee machine that has been playing up for months, can boost morale and motivate people to stay focused. Surprising as it may sound, not everyone is motivated by money, and sometimes a small praise or working within a nice environment with a good level of trust is motivational enough.

Open door policy

As a manager, it is essential to always make time for your employees. Having an open door policy means that members of staff can step forward and have a chat addressing any issues they may have in the workplace, without getting other people involved. It is important that staff feel comfortable around you, but also keep a level of confidentiality.

Encourage staff to share thoughts and ideas with you. This can make them feel like they are bringing value to the business. It can also give them a boost of confidence as they have ownership over their own ideas and projects. After all, staff are going to look up to you as an authority figure and when you know employees are on your side too, they will continue to work hard. Communication skills are key.

Set Targets & Goals

Having clear targets to aim for sets the direction of the company and allows you to get the best out of your staff. Let’s say if you are a small load securing Systems Company, and your goal is to sell 20,000 rolls of stainless steel wrapping in a year, such a big figure could seem quite daunting in January. But if you break this up and divide the figure into quarters, this can make the goal seem much more achievable.

When your targets are achieved, your workforce will remain highly motivated moving into the next quarter, ready to do it again. If you maybe fall short, or just miss out on the target, all is not lost. You can make a plan on how to improve in the next quarter, giving staff a fresh piece of mind and they can focus on bettering their goal in the next quarter.

Keep your staff involved

Involving staff on what is going on with the company can also provide a level of value. Organise a quarterly meeting with all employees to keep them up to date with what is going on and what is to come in the company. Show off some of the figures to indicate how each department is doing and if they are reaching their targets. If the company is doing well, staff can take a step back to see what their hard earned work has done and motivate them to continue to do bigger and better things for the business.

No matter if your company is big or small, or if you have 5 staff or 55, you have to make each one of them feel valued and motivate them to perform in work every day. Create an attractive work environment. Keep staff motivated and yearning for results and all the best things can happen for your business.

Top 5 Ways to show your Employees you Care

Employees are the lifeblood of any organisation, so valuing them – and ensuring they know that they are valued – is vital to your success. Employees who feel supported are far more likely to be motivated, leading to a happier and more productive workforce overall.

Feeling valued within an organisation is also a key factor when employees decide whether to change job, so creating a caring atmosphere can also help to retain talented staff. This atmosphere can be created in myriad small ways, but below are five key areas in which an employer can show that they care about their employees.

  1. Recognition

Acknowledging the good work your employees do is a simple but crucial way to make sure they feel supported. Recognition does not have to take the form of monetary reward – in fact, simple verbal acknowledgement is usually reward enough. You might also consider creating an employee of the month – or week – award, so that team members who have particularly excelled themselves recently are constantly being celebrated.

Recognition does not always have to come from managerial staff, and peers should be encouraged to frequently compliment each other on work well done. This will encourage a mutually supportive team atmosphere to emerge, as well as ensuring that recognition is frequent, ensuring that employees know their contributions to the organisation are valued.

  1. Ask for Feedback

Although this can be difficult – both logistically and emotionally! – having an effective feedback loop between employer and employee is vital to create a work environment in which employees feel valued.

Meeting employees individually to ask what they like and dislike about their roles can be a simple but valuable way to receive feedback, which can be acted upon where possible to improve employee satisfaction. Allowing anonymous feedback can be especially valuable for employees who might be embarrassed to address their concerns to you directly, and can be facilitated by something as simple as a suggestions box in the workspace.

Taking the time to ask employees for their thoughts and, vitally, acting on them, is a really effective way to demonstrate that you care about your workforce.

  1. Consider Employee’s personal Finances

Consumer debt is increasingly a problem, especially as living costs continue to rise. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) recently found that average household debt in the UK stands at £13,200. Personal debt is likely to be a concern of some of your employees, and could even be affecting their performance.

Employees struggling with debt may display signs such as increased anxiety, taking on extra hours or a second job, having poor eating habits, or experiencing insomnia. Fortunately, there is plenty you can do as an employer to support employees who might be going through this difficult experience.

Firstly, although many employees might not want to talk about their debt in the workplace, ensuring that they have the option can help lift some of the weight from their mind.

Education on the issues surrounding debt can also be beneficial. You could consider having an expert in to talk to your employees about the effects debt can have in the workplace, and what options are available to people who are struggling. Simply educating your employees about solutions such as Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs). Formal solutions such as this allow people who are struggling with debt to make affordable monthly repayments, and write off a significant portion at the end of their plan.

  1. Create a positive Environment

Creating a positive working environment is a simple way to show employees that you care about their wellbeing. The workspace does not have to cost the earth, but should be well maintained and equipped with everything your employees need to effectively do their job.

Having a separate room for breaks is crucial – especially for work spaces in which employees interact with the public.

Atmosphere is also an important part of the work environment – conflict can easily lead to an uncomfortable place to work, so ensuring that any issues between employees are quickly resolved is essential. This positive atmosphere will be fostered by the peer recognition mentioned earlier – a supportive and comfortable working environment ensures employees feel valued.

  1. Opportunities for Training or Promotion

This is perhaps the most important factor in ensuring that employees stay with your company in the long term. Employees should receive adequate training when they begin their role, communicated clearly. It is also essential that employees feel able to ask questions at any point.

Opportunities for further training, or promotion, also shows that an employer cares about their employees, since it demonstrates their willingness to invest in the employee’s future as an individual. In the same vein, current employees should be considered for promotion before new openings in the company are advertised externally. The possibility of promotion is an excellent motivator, as well as demonstrating that an employer cares about their employee’s career holistically, rather than keeping them stuck in a single role.

By following these steps, employers can show their employees how valuable they are to the organisation, creating a comfortable and positive atmosphere in which achievements are recognised, and concerns addressed. Properly supported employees are likely to be at their most productive, so taking the time to create a supportive workplace benefits both employer and employee.

Startups And Initial Capital Outlays

No two businesses are alike even if both belong to the same industry.  This is because each going concern has specific requirements and that includes the amount of capital it needs to operate.

So how do you go about determining the amount of capital your startup needs?  What should you do first and foremost?

The first step is to come up with a checklist of all items (big or small) required by your business.   Use info found on the web or from other reliable sources to have an idea on how much each item costs.  Do not skip this step because mere estimating without proper research could lead to disaster.  Prospective financiers might pass up on your funding application if they see that the numbers you are presenting are not close to what’s real.

As a startup, you’re understandably cautious about your initial capital outlay.  You’ll want to get by with the least amount of capital without compromising your business.  Every item you buy must be carefully thought out.  Buy the “needs” and put off the “wants” for now.

Securing Data In The Work Place

Security breaches do happen even within organizations where security codes are the hardest to break.   How do you ensure that your most valuable data is 100% secure?

Make everyone accountable

Raising awareness about the dangers of laxity regarding data safety is a good measure.  However, holding everyone accountable seems more effective according to some surveys.  Try to create a system where staff can update, report, or caution others about the latest security breaches happening around the corporate scene.

Check your systems and processes for any lapses

Work hand in hand with every department to find out if there are any security gaps that might have gone unnoticed.  Involve every unit – marketing, sales, admin, finance, personnel, your IT Support Glasgow company, and others when scouting for lapses.  While you’re at it, make sure your communication lines are open and that the company is serious about it.

 Do a risk evaluation

One of the tops must dos is to be able to pinpoint your weaknesses. Also, be able to identify your most important assets. This alone will help you ward off threats to cyber security.

Creating your brand – 5 essential tips

“Don’t judge a book by its cover!” they say.

Well, I’ve got a reality pill for you. Books with ill thought through covers don’t sell nearly as many as those that have got a great design on their sleeve.

And that’s because we do make judgements. Like it or not, life is fast paced – and don’t think for a second that there are many people with time to waste digging deep into your marketing material or web page trying to figure out if you can provide what they want.

They won’t, they’ll be clicking ‘back’ and finding a company with a well thought through message.

If you want to make sure you don’t lose a single customer – follow these tips to make sure your brand speaks volumes about what you do.

  1. Who are you looking to appeal to?

Your business has a target audience.

Maybe you know which locations or demographics make up that audience – maybe you don’t. But no matter how broad an appeal you think you’ve got, there’s no one-size that will fit all people.

If you’ve got an audience nailed down – your next job is working out what appeals to that group of people. This is where researching the buying or browsing habits of a specific demographic is important.

If you think your product has a wide-ranging appeal – your work load has just quadrupled, because the piece of marketing that hooks a 40-year-old man isn’t likely to appeal as much to an 18-year-old woman.

Understand who’ll use your service and what will win their business.

  1. Consistency

Sometimes, creating your brand needs to come before anyone with any design skill has even opened Photoshop.

That’s because the best branding applies over every platform and every medium.

Take a look at the bank you use:

Every single interaction or piece of communication you get from them carries their design and company feel. You’ll get the same layouts, types of picture, tone of writing – and if you don’t – it’s because they’re working on a quirky marketing campaign that probably isn’t going to be as successful as they hoped.

Therefore, building your marketing material, website, uniforms and offices is going to need a script to work from.

Most people start this by understanding what it is you’re trying to provide. You might be glib and say, “Well it’s this product” –  which is fine if you’re bringing something unique to market – but If you’re not, you’re going to need to think about the message behind what you’re doing.

For example:

  • Does your app boost productivity?
  • Does your driving school cater for older learners as well as young?
  • Does your coffee shop have booths for people who want to work in private?

These are just some off-the-cuff examples – but understanding what makes you unique and how that delivers value to your customer is the key to finding a great message – than applying it in your content, copy and design.

  1. Awesome content

By now, you’ve established that your ‘brand’ is far more than just your logo and web design. It’s the message you’re putting out about what your company brings to the world. That’s why we would always recommend you work with someone that can support you in the execution of your digital strategy, such as  Think Zap who have some of the greatest minds and web designers in glasgow.

So, to do this, you’re going to need some red-hot content.

It’s vitally important that you do two things here.

The first is establishing your ‘voice’ – it’s not good enough to hope that people extract the info they need from the words, videos or images you’re putting out – you need to be certain that you’re delivering your info in a way that appeals to your specific audience(s).

The second is providing real value. People have a strong nose for what’s legitimately unique and valuable content. Gone are the days of rehashing someone else’s hard work and passing it off as your own – Google’s algorithms saw off the plagiarists a long time ago.

Hopefully you’re building your business and brand around something you’re passionate about – if this is the case, let your passion shine through and put your ideas into the branding. Content truly communicates what your business is all about – even if someone else is helping you put it together, it should have your drive and energy at its heart.

  1. Build some hype

We’ve just talked about the passion you’ve got for your product – but sharing that passion doesn’t have to end there. If you’re excited about your brand launch let the world know!

And if you’re tired after all the hard work you’ve been putting in to get the company off the floor – knock back a double espresso, take a deep breath and let the world know!

Think about the next big Marvel film that’s coming out. It might not be for another 18 months – but they let the world know about it two years before because they want people talking, checking it out online, speculating.

You want this too – and the good news is, you’re not going to have to put videos of you fighting in Lyrca on YouTube to let the world know.

Instead, let people have an insight into your product. Let people know why you’re going to be different. Put together an email campaign that draws the interest out of your audience. Offer people incentives to sign-up for sneak peeks.

This is where social media becomes your friend. If you’ve done Tip 1 properly, you know which platforms your customers will be likely to use. If not, go back and read Tip 1 – and focus on the universally used Twitter and Facebook in the meantime…

  1. Create a strategy

Creating a brand is a lot of work.

You might think that it’s a case of deciding on your message then getting it out there – but what is that message? What does ‘getting it out there’ look like on a daily basis?

If you’re going to do a good job of taking you, your company and your product or service to market then you’re going to need more than a rough end goal and luck on your side.

A lot of people use timelines and Gantt charts to do this. Sure, there are going to be some tasks that are never ending – but making sure you get to your brand launch date with everything on time isn’t a single task – it’s co-ordinating about 50 different tasks.

It’s only if you can bring all these things together that you’re going to reach that end goal with the success you deserve.

 

6 reasons you should start you should start a side project TODAY

If you’re interested in entrepreneurship the concept of side projects or ‘hustles’ won’t be new to you – they’re essentially streams of work and income that take up smaller chunks of your time than your main role.

If you think about it right now – you could probably dream up a couple of ideas that would make you a bit of money with relatively little effort; buying and selling, monetising your social media, producing content, blogging – and so forth.

I’m here to give you 6 reasons why you should have started by now – and if you haven’t – how your inaction is limiting your life options.

  1. You can start with no investment

The nature of modern marketing means getting off the ground doesn’t have to be an expensive affair.

There are people out there who are looking for whatever service or product that you’re hoping to sell – you’ve just got to find them. Sure, a big glossy TV advertising campaign will find them quickly – but with no money to spend you’re going to need a stronger strategy. Focusing on social media is a great first step.

Now, you’ll see that there are lots of people pushing their services through social media in an aggressive and short-sighted manner. Social isn’t the place to ask people to buy your service – it’s the place to prove your worth and offer value.

Build your professional network, create valuable content, look at what other successful people in the field are doing. Ultimately – interact.

Don’t be afraid of some old-school marketing either. Social can be flooded – which means picking up the phone and offering someone a face to face meet or some paper based information about what you do can really stand out.

  1. It develops you and your skills

Sitting at the same desk every day can turn life a little stagnant.

At school, college or university you might have had an aptitude for something creative – writing, design or drawing, but when was the last time you dusted that skill off and took it for a spin?

If you’re lucky, your talent will hang around – but most of the time you need to be exercising it to make it work.

If that 9-5 is getting you down – there’s nothing to say that one of your dormant skills or daydreams isn’t the source of your future income – but unless you try, you’re never going to know.

  1. It gives you options

It’s demoralising to know that there’s no option but to keep on the same hamster wheel of work day-in, day-out.

Setting up a side-hustle isn’t going to give you the option to walk away from work the following day – but it does give you some food for thought.

Say you’re putting an hour every evening into a side project – and you’re making a small extra income doing so. Based on what you’ve done so far – could you scale up and say goodbye to the day job?

Maybe you could, maybe you couldn’t – but unless you put the time in you’re not going to find out.

  1. It focuses your energy

How you expend your energy dictates a lot of your general feeling toward the world.

There’s a lot of energy zapping activities that don’t give you anything back – beyond perhaps the fleeting twinge of excitement you’ll get finding out who’s going through to the judge’s house on X-Factor.

When you start putting your energy into something that gives back – you’ll start to feel a lot more positive and enabled.

Perhaps a client tells you something you’ve produced is excellent – or you see someone commenting and sharing your content on social media. You’ve created that, from nothing. These achievements, no matter how small in the greater scheme of things – reinforce your worth and value.

You have great ideas and impressive skills that you should be proud of – but they’re doing nothing while you watch TV or play Candy Crush.

  1. It forms the foundation of something big

There are many instances of something enormous growing from an idea that started very small. Both Apple and Hewlett Packard started with two friends playing with tech in a garage – and eBay started as a very definite side hustle.

Working on a secondary project gives you the flexibility to be trying something while minimising risk.

They say a successful entrepreneur has failed dozens of times before finding the idea that makes them huge – but these failures don’t have to be spectacular and result in your living on a friend’s sofa.

Journaling what you do can be a great exercise when you’re starting something small. Keep it as a place that you record ideas, successes, failures, projects and more. You’ll look back on it in a year or two astounded at how things have changed.

And if you don’t see any change – shake the hustle up a little more. Try a new angle, ditch a project and try something new. You’ve got a big idea in you, you just need to coax it out.

  1. You take control of your fate

The position of employee is a vulnerable one.

Now, that’s not to say that your employment rests on a knife-edge every day – but whether or not you have a job tomorrow doesn’t truly lay in your hands – you’ve got teammates, managers, directors, share-holders and the market as a whole to decide on that.

If you can carve out a niche doing something on the side – you’ve always got something to fall back on should the worse-case scenario occur.

Planning for this worst-case scenario can be a great move too. Ask yourself, what would you do if the company you worked for closed its doors tomorrow?

There’s a good chance that you’ll never need to enact this plan – but if you’ve got a sure-fire way of making sure your bills are paid – then it gives you an answer to an even more empowering question:

“What happens if I decide I don’t want to go to work tomorrow?”

7 ways to take your side hustle to the next level

Having a side hustle is a brilliant idea.

Even if you don’t work it hard, it’s likely to be a steady little stream of additional income, some independence from the 9-5 – and maybe even the beginnings of something ground-breaking.

Getting started is one thing – but if you do want to take your side project to the next level, you’re going to have to make a few more tweaks:

  1. Perfect your transitions

For a triathlete, the transition between swimming to cycling then cycling to running can make or break a race. Spend ages trying to peel a wetsuit off when you can’t reach the zip and you’ll watch vital seconds evaporating from your time.

Having a side hustle is similar. You’ve got to be ready to switch from one role to the next – and chalk any wasted time up in between to experience.

The key is to reduce this time.

Okay, so that might mean coming home on public transport – and screaming at the driver to go faster, in our experience, rarely works. So why not take that time to update your business social media instead?

Having a desk set up at home that’s ‘side hustle workspace’ means you can sit down and, hopefully, snap straight into work mode.

Understand that procrastinating as you move between roles is essentially taking money out of your pocket. Stay sharp.

  1. Find a safe haven

Almost all side-projects start at home – which can be painful, because that’s where there’s often the most distractions.

If home isn’t the right environment for you to work in, find somewhere that is.

Perhaps that means heading to a local coffee shop? Maybe a public library? You might find your gym or a local hotel doesn’t mind you using their space while ordering the occasional sandwich and coffee.

Keeping your head in a good space is really important if you want to maximise your time.

  1. Set your alarm

A study by a UK insurance company discovered that 7:15am is the average time we get out of bed. On the other hand, most successful company CEOs report getting out of bed at around 5am.

So, what’s right for you? That’s really for you to decide – but keep this in mind, being up at 5am gives you another 2 hours before anyone else is up – over a year of working days, that’s the equivalent of working an additional 14 weeks on your side hustle.

14 weeks!

And not only are the 14 weeks being invested in something that’s entirely your own – but unless you’re dealing with a lot of CEOs, your phone, email, Facebook and other distractions are unlikely to break your flow.

  1. Health = productivity

I know, who’s got time to go to the gym when there’s already too few hours in the day?

Well, here’s some good news, studies show that every 10-minutes spent exercising in the morning pays itself back double during your working day. So, squeeze in a 20-minute run and you’ll up your productivity by 40-minutes in the ensuing day.

The reason is all to do with the hormones that are released during exercise. Dopamine and serotonin improve your mood and focus through the day – leading to great levels of work.

If you choose to exercise in the evening you’re still going to see some striking benefits – as exertion improves your sleep quality. The more rested you are, the more focused you’ll be.

  1. Consistency is your friend

It’s a common misconception that increasing your output means trying to shoe-horn as much into your day as is physically possible.

Not only is this not true – but wearing yourself out trying to ‘binge-work’ can actually be counterproductive, as it depletes your energy excessively and can leave you fatigued for days.

Instead of thinking about how much work you can hammer during one day – think about what putting in a steady amount of effort over a prolonged period of time will offer you instead. 10 minutes a day spent on your project equates to nearly 40 hours each year – so why not take that figure and scale it up and down as you see fit.

Don’t forget though – 10 minutes isn’t 10 minutes if you spend 4 minutes of it making a coffee – so don’t let those transitions slip!

  1. Set goals

There are some definite perks of working for a big company. It’s always nice to get some recognition when you do something well – and the social events can really boost morale.

So, when it’s just you, your idea and your computer – the little perks that are usually found over the brow of each metaphorical hill are replaced with just more work.

Endlessly striving for success is hard, especially when you have no definition of success.

The answer is setting yourself some goals. They might not be enormous things – perhaps a day off to do something away from your desk – or a date with a loved one when an invoice is paid. Set the goal and make sure you stick to it, it’s easy to neglect looking after yourself.

  1. Create some ‘brain space’

Albert Einstein once quipped that there was no need to remember his own telephone number because he could always look it up in the phone book.

Given that old Albert wasn’t short on IQ, it’s no surprise that there’s a good amount of truth in this concept.

If you can keep you brain focused on the most important things (and in this instance, we mean your side hustle) – then you can expect increased performance, namely; productivity, creativity and efficiency.

Now, that’s not to say that you should drop out of society and neglect the basics to make sure you can dedicate every ounce of IQ to your own business – but it does mean you can assess parts of your life and decide whether they’re truly worth your mental application.

So, perhaps you deeply despise keeping you accounts up to date. Or maybe you just can’t stomach tackling a busy supermarket. Whatever it is that grinds your gears – see if you can eradicate it. Sure, it might cost you a little financially, but balance that against the benefits of freeing your brain up for bigger things.