MILLENIALS

Millennials And Why I Employ Them

Ok so without really admitting my true age to the masses, I will let you know a few things about how I grew up and I will let you figure it out.

I used to go to Blockbuster when I wanted to see a newly released movie

I would spend hours reading books at the library when writing a paper

I used this thing called a payphone when I needed to call someone remotely

I would wait outside the CD store when new album came out

Sound familiar? Things are so different now, so convenient and technology rules the world. So, it can be difficult to relate these “old times” to a lot of the people I work with today. “The Millennials” By most definitions, milleLEADERSnnial’s were born between 1982 and 1996

It can feel as if this new wave of young people creates some friction for older management, but as the IT leaders of the future, I learned to embrace my millennial counterparts, make them feel welcome, and more importantly, keep them engaged. Barely knowing a time without using email, these managers of the future will be more diverse, and have a vastly alternative outlook to many trends like technology innovation, security, management style and career planning.

My Experience

They are either driving me batty or impressing the crap out of me! They can be hard to manage, easily frustrate with protocol and just plain lazy, or their creativity is absolutely brilliant and they don’t let the threat of failure bother them. Its really all in how you manage them that allows them to be most effective for your business.

Why We Love Them

geekMillennials have no fear and aren’t afraid of hard work. If you set the goal or target and release the reigns, they will find a way to get there and produce a pretty creative result. In my business, I employ a 26-year-old who is extremely tech savvy with a change-focused work ethic. It helps us old folk who are set in our ways, and provides a fresh outlook on things I may have overlooked. They have grown up learning that they need to constantly adapt to ever changing times especially when it comes to technology.

Working with millennials means taking on an appropriate management style, while being selective about what personalities will fit your specific working environment. I have learned that taking the time to find out what motivates them will pay off in the end!

Be Flexible

Millennials by nature don’t really like rules. They grew up in an environment where parents asked their opinions, allowed them to make decisions, and rarely pushed something on them that they didn’t like. If you press too hard on them to comply with the company’s position on things like hours or attire, you could very easily find yourself losing a good employee.

targetDon’t Be Vague

Millennials are not good at interpreting what you meant and very rarely succeed when put into a situation to “wing it”. Though they want responsibility and authority, they are uncomfortable without having some sort of framework for the task at hand. Good instructions and a lot of flexibility in how you get there. They need to be kept engaged to produce a real value for the company. They crave a sense of ownership and purpose, so working towards the specifics of a certain goal is key.

Be Real

One major pitfall that Gen X and baby boomers often fall into is trying to be cool and hip to attract and inspire younger workers. I myself fell into the trap when I was caught typing my virtual assistant. I used a couple of new age trendy words to the reaction of, “I am sorry Diane, I do not understand what you are saying”. Fail! Often this muddies the waters between leaders and their employees who would prefer clear direction.

CommunicationIt seems that Millennial’s want authenticity, and they’re craving the traditional values of a good leader. It’s okay to be old school! It’s about being a mixture of old and new, by being open to the new ideas but still being able to leverage that experience.

Good communication is also paramount to keep the culture open and considerate of individual needs. Millennials want to feel that their voice is heard and valued when it comes to working conditions and decision-making. If they’re unhappy about something they will have no fear about vocalising their frustration. It is important to listen to your employees and ask them what they would like to do and how they would like to achieve success. That way, you can adapt, change and modify based on that feedback.

Managing The Gen “Y” Staff

Employing engagement strategies is a great means of retaining talent, but millennials generally don’t
sucess follow traditional structure, and their display of company loyalty will be no exception.

Ensuring that Millennials are working on interesting projects and feeling like they’re developing their skills will ensure greater interest in what the company has to offer.

If ambitious millennials do leave to see if the grass is greener, it’s important to treat that as a new form of talent management, ensuring they depart viewing the company and its leaders in a positive light. They may sometimes hone the “lazy millennial” rap, but in my experience they can offer immense creativity to your brand, you just have to know how to harness it!

The-Benefits-of-Cross-Selling

The Benefits of Cross Selling

The Benefits of Cross Selling

by Sheryl Davis, Glew

What is Cross Selling?

Cross Selling is a sales tactic that encourages a shopper to buy complementary products.

Think about shopping for tomatoes at a grocery store. It’s common for stores to display items, such as cheese, among an aisle devoted to vegetables. Despite the store having a section specifically for cheese, growthstore managers strategically position cheese among the tomatoes knowing that the combination may tempt hungry customers. The product placement makes it easy for customers to find related items and impulsively pick up goods while shopping. In doing so, stores drive increases to the order value while reminding shoppers that certain products go well together.

Just like cross-selling products in brick and mortar stores, online tactics should bring convenience and ideas to the shopper while also proving to be lucrative for the retailer.

According to research by software provider Monetate, product suggestions can:

Increase revenue up to 300%

Boost conversions by up to 150%

Increase Average Order Value by as much as 50%

Benefits of Cross Selling

Cross selling benefits both stores and customers. For stores, it increases Average Order Value (AOV) and Benefitstherefore benefits revenue. Larger orders also often allow stores to cut down on packaging and shipping costs by consolidating items in a box that may have otherwise been partially full. And keep in mind that driving your AOV higher will increase the Lifetime Value of customers, often providing incremental capital that can be used to market to those customers.

But the good news is that cross selling doesn’t just benefit your store, it also benefits your customers! Shoppers can find items faster when they are recommended on individual product pages. Plus, a well-paired product recommendation can bring a customer’s attention to a complimentary product that they might not have known existed. Adding value to your customer’s experience while making more money? It’s a no brainer.

How to Get Started

1) Use a tool that analyzes purchasing behavior. With a breakdown of products that are most commonly purchased together you can set your cross sale recommendations without any guesswork.

Frequantly-Bought-Together-(for-web)2) Install a Magento extension that will display product recommendations. Extendware’s “Frequently Bought Together” and “Who Viewed This Also Viewed” extensions are built for Magento stores to cross sell on every product page.

3) Monitor items that are selling effectively and consider adding those items to your store as a bundle. You could offer a small discount when purchasing the items Who-Viewed-This-Also-Viewed-(for-web)together, or pull together kits for items to quickly be purchased at once.

Sheryl Davis is a digital marketer at Glew, an ecommerce analytics software provider, where she focuses on helping online stores understand and act on their data. Each week she publishes practical strategies for ways to rock ecommerce success.
Blog | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

 

How-to-Use-Others-to-Grow-Your-Business

How to Use Others to Grow Your Business

One of the biggest challenges of building a company from scratch is the amount of work that lies ahead. Although not all of it is “tough work”, one of the biggest killers of startups is the inability to tackle all of the work that needs to be done before the cash runs out!

Some tell you to work hard, and some tell you to work smart. Spoiler alert: You need to do both. If you can’t do both, the result is most likely failure.

Building Relationships

It is important to create relationships with other businesses before you can leverage their work.

To say this does not imply, being shady and leeching out info from others, or taking credit for other ideas. That’s just wrong, and it gets you nowhere. Actually creating cohesive honest relationships takes time. Its ok to reach out to others for help!

Here are some ways I have been able to build relationships and get some great business promotion in return:

Blog Promotion

When I first started my clothing company, I had a scrawny list of subscribers. I may have mentioned that before! One of the great suggestions a good friend gave me, was to leverage some hard work that has already been effective for others to build their audiences. I built a list of influencers who I decided I wanted to build relationships with.

InfluencerI looked for people who had the type of audience I wanted and those who could personally get value out of my content. I started to engage with them by leaving clever, conversation-provoking comments on their blog posts and sharing their content on my site. After establishing a relationship with a few, I asked if I was able to send them a blog post of my own and asked for their feedback.

Not only was much of the feedback valuable to me, but helped to gain us a ton of exposure to their audiences. The list they worked long and hard to obtain, was now following me, giving us tons of new subscribers and unique visitors. Score!

Guest Blogging

So that was a great example about using your own blogs to leverage other businesses.

Another way to get massive value is by leveraging the audience-building work other businesses have done by getting your content published on their blogs.

It might sound presumptuous and you may be shy at first but its really a similar ask as what we did before.

It is all about building relationships with influential bloggers, engaging in their communities and adding value however you can. Having something of value that others can use to their advantage will in turn gain you exposure!

Releasing an API

Software companies with developer API’s spend a lot of time and money promoting their partner APIintegrations because API’s are a fantastic way to let others do some of the work of making your product more valuable. These integrations help put your business in front of entire new audiences on an exponential scale.

Personally, I have also gotten thousands of trial signups from users that found us in our partners’ integration directories; another great way to leverage someone else’s work right?

Event Participation

Events are not the easiest to organize and they take time. There are thousands of moving parts, and a ton of planning that needs to go on behind the scenes.

But when they are successful, events can deliver a lot of value for audiences, and for the individuals and businesses who are there to engage with those audiences.

Events like doing talks and workshops – are a great way to leverage the work that the event organizer has done to engage with interested people.

Its All About Leverage!

As you grow your profile through channels like blogging, guest blogging and building high-visibility partnerships, you’ll begin to see opportunities come your way that let you leverage other people’s work that require very little work on your own. Things like interviews, quotes in news stories and blog posts, and speaking requests are very effective

3It’s not a quick hack and it takes a lot of work, not to mention it needs to benefit both parties. It means helping the other guys win, while scoring your own big wins at the same time.

Want to work closer with other businesses? Why not try Extendware’s Affiliate Program Extension for your magento store. Its a win win for both parties!

How-I-Learned-featured-image-2

How I Learned to Break Up with Un-Subscribers

Breaking up is hard to do! I mean how many boyfriends have I gone through, the long stretch across the dinner table saying “Its not you, its me!” The sad look, the awkwardness. Being a picky girlfriend and business owner, I can somewhat proudly say that I am a pro at break ups. (Don’t tell my current boyfriend please)

As tough as it may be, sometimes breaking up with unengaged subscribers is best for the both of you. You can’t be shy about unsubscribing contacts, after all they may no longer have value to you and as a result of keeping them around, you may be neglecting the loyal ones. Every pro has their first steps. When I first took the aggressive step of deleting 30% of my email list, I was like, why am I doing this? I worked so hard to get them and now, I am just tossing them aside! It was hard at first, but after the initial feeling of loss, I have seen necessary positive gains.

Take a Hike!

It turns out, I wasn’t the only one. My friend bought a business with a mess of an email list. It had 53,000 people on it, but about 13,000 had signed up during a contest and had not been emailed in over 90 days. 10,000 more subscribers had been sequestered into a “do not mail” list and also hadn’t been emailed in over 90 days and another 16,000 were on the newsletter list, which received monthly emails.

I was in the same boat, thinking about spam complaint rates. Mine were high, engagement was low, and a large portion of my email list hadn’t been sent a message in 90 days. It was time do do something!

Graymail Can Be Trouble

My big problem was that was seeing low engagement rates on a contest I was running. I learned that some IGraymailSPs flag email from known graymail senders and send it directly to junk folders, even for brand new subscribers who haven’t even had the chance to engage with your email.

I suspected that the 12,000 who signed up for the contest didn’t really want their emails and if 30% of the company’s email list is people who aren’t opening emails, it can keep emails from being delivered to people who really do want your emails.

Unsubscribing 14,000 people was terrifying! The thing is, after someone doesn’t respond to 10 to 25 emails, one has to ask themselves if these people are worth dumping.

Admit Your Faults

 I really wanted to re-engage others, some that had signed up and never received an email even after more than 90 days. Again with the awkward moments…” uh so, yeah we haven’t been emailing you but we still want to, cool?”. So I refined my language to this email: “Looks like we haven’t been emailing you!” A little under 50% opened that email, and we were back in business.

I made it look like, yeah my bad, but I want ya back! Some people found the humor in it and wroteback that they missed us

Those who opened the email were put back on the promotional list. Those who didn’t open received the same email a couple weeks later with a different subject line and image. Those who didn’t open anything were eventually weaned off the list.

Its important to investigate other reasons people might not be engaging. One reason could be that they have provided an email address they don’t actually use, or maybe they have images turned off, which can foil the tracking pixel.

We Miss You!

One way I acted to reengage customers was to send a text-only reactivation email saying “We miss you”. In it we had customers answer a few siWe-Miss-Youmple questions such as “Are you getting too many emails? Too little emails? What do you want to hear more about?” and other questions. Subscribers had the option of filling out a preference form or unsubscribing.

What started as a 0% open rate grew to 20%. One key was to make sure that I wasn’t using “Spammy” language, where it would trigger peoples spam email alerts, bypassing their actual inbox. Once you lower the spam complaints and the better your deliverability gets, the more you’re convincing email providers that your emails are worth putting in customer’s inboxes. If you are  using an unhealthy or inactive list, you’re at risk of being flagged by ISPs and having your clever campaigns sent right to the junk folder.

Here are some tips that can help!

Consider a One-Time Opt-In

Search your database for those people who haven’t opened or responded to your emails, and ask if they want to continue receiving your emails. If they don’t respond, delete them. Just because someone doesn’t want to receive your emails doesn’t mean they don’t want to buy your products! Most people will appreciate at your attention to their preferences.

Don’t Buy Email Lists!

Shoppers don’t like unsolicited email and don’t want to be on any lists they never subscribed to.  Let users make their own choices.

Don’t Auto Subscribe E-Receipt Recipients

An e-receipt program isn’t an opportunity to go nuts while growing your list. Don’t assume. Ask customers who sign up for e-receipts whether they want your emails.

Make the Unsubscribe Option Very Visible

Put the unsubscribe button at the top of your emails. Make it bold or add some color.

Offer a Preference Center

Ask your subscribers how often they’d like to be contacted and what messages they’d like to receive. This gives subscribers a sense of control over what information they receive and when. It is also great so you can tailor your emails accordingly.

Extension Highlight!

SMTP-Email-(for-web)

Easily use your own custom SMTP server for sending mail with Magento SMTP Email Extension. 4 authentication modes, 3 secure connection modes, and custom ports are supported. Optionally log outgoing mail for auditing and even send mail through the administrative interface.

How-to-Win-Customer-Loyalty

How to Win Customer Loyalty

It doesn’t get better than having lots of loyal customers right? To be able to have a group of customers who love your product and aren’t afraid to tell others is a huge win! Word of mouth marketing and repeat customer’s costs 0 marketing dollars and is a sure fire way to ensure you are keeping everyone happy.

Who Participates in Loyalty Programs?

There are really two tiers to loyal customers. You have your early stage customers and your later stage customers. Let’s break it down.

Early Stage Customer Loyalty Can Come From:

  • Surveys and Feedback
  • Email Subscriptions
  • Open Rates and Click-Through Rates
  • Mobile Alert & Notification Responses
  • Social Engagement

Later Stage Customer Loyalty Could Include:

  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Purchase Frequency
  • Customer Spending
  • Upsell/Cross-Sell Purchases
  • Testimonials/Reviews/Referrals

It is important to be able to distinguish between the two categories as it will determine how relevant your campaigns are depending upon the customer. Being able to identify this allows you to feature the right tone, frequency, and benefits. If you continue to engage customers frequently, you can easily build customer loyalty. This can result in higher rates of purchasing and advocacy from your already-loyal customers and additions to the ranks of customers you already consider loyal.

If you want to achieve this, you will need to leverage your customer engagement platform to paint a complete picture of what you know about your loyal customers including preferences and interests, purchase behavior and frequency, order details, and more. Campaigns like this enables you to gather more information about their hobbies and interests or reasons for purchasing. All of this information makes it easier to accelerate purchase cycles, cross-sell, and upsell.

Harness Insights

InsightsKnowing the attributes of your loyal customers makes life easier when trying to find additional prospects who could one day become loyal customers. This way, you are not starting from scratch with these prospects, but pursuing those customers with similarities.

Using a customer engagement platform is a great way to perform personalization at scale and can cultivate relationships and learn more about consumer behavior.  For my clothing store, I use a platform to learn the habits of my customers, such as what trends they like, what age group they are in, and what interests they have socially such as entertainment, leisure, and sports. The customer engagement platform has also motivated my staff to set up strategies, such as automated birthday campaigns, that help drive merchandise sales and enhance the value of being a fan.

Who Are Your Customers?

Getting into the minds of individual customers is vital to engaging and keeping them loyal. It pays to keep customers happy! Maybe you have a lot customers who aren’t loyal…yet. Don’t overlook the value of the non loyal customers. They will take a different type of engagement than your typical loyal customer. Look at the data CUSTOMERSthat you have about loyal and non loyal customer behavior to determine if there are behaviors or activities that differ between the two groups and identify any commonalities amongst the groups that can help you communicate with them in a more personal way. This way, you can tailor your communications to your non loyal customers to guide them toward the behaviors and activities that build loyalty and help nudge them to the next stage of their customer lifecycle.

There may be non loyal customers that may not engage with you at all anymore. In fact, they may no longer be customers. Most consumers are willing to switch brands if it means getting more benefits. However, just because they have churned away from your brand doesn’t mean they are gone for good! You just have to win them back and focus on re-engaging them with relevant communications based on what you have learned about their behaviors. This includes insights you’ve taken from social channels and paying attention to negative word of mouth, such
as an online review.

Win Them Back

A Win back can be anything from a personalized email or letter telling them you miss their business, or aWin-them-back survey as to what would make them want to come back to your brand. People love deals, so maybe offering a discount or special code just for them to draw them back in. There are a variety of ways to win someone back and even convert them in to a loyal customer, you just have to give them some personal attention and learn about what they really want, not what you think they want.

Many times, marketers invest their hard work and precious dollars in campaigns and promotions aimed at getting customers to make that first purchase. But once those customers are in the door, they’re left largely to their own devices. By consistently engaging those customers over time with relevant, appealing offers, you can cultivate long-term loyalty that translates into higher revenues and advocates who drive even more business for you through powerful
word of mouth.

3

Why not try Extendware’s Loyalty Program extension for your Magento store? This extension allows you to incentivize customers based on order history, average order amount, and account age.

 

HOW-TO-FIX-COMMON-MAGENTO-SEO-MISTAKES

How To Fix Common Magento SEO Mistakes

SEO is the key to running a good online store. If you’re doing Magento search engine optimization yourself without issues, then you are in great shape! It can certainly be a challenge for those who have less SEO experience. Kind of like myself! When I first started my online clothing shop, I was struggling to get my store to a higher than 50 position.  I was goof with blogs and keywords so I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t in a better spot! I then realized my low traffic and low rankings were due to issues in my Magento SEO settings. After identifying this, I took some action to fix these issues and I want to share them with you!

Default Settings

The main thing you need to do is go through all configuration points and change every single default setting. The default Magento installation is pretty useless when it comes to SEO. It has certain settings, but they are insufficient for proper search engine optimization and fighting competition.

You can’t leave the default settings as they are and you will still need to go through them and tune everything up before installing any third-party SEO extensions.

Changing URLs/Deleting Pages

If you change URLs or delete pages and don’t set up a proper redirect, it will cause more 404 mistakes on your website. Google says it’s okay to have some URLs returning 404 pages, but still they want you to fix them. Just go to System, then Configuration, then Catalog, and Create Permanent Redirect for old URLs. Its good to eliminate these as nothing scares a customer off more than a 404 message!

Image OptimizationImage-Optimization

Magento doesn’t change the name of the product image or add an alt tag so you will have to do this yourself if you want your images bring you passive traffic from search engines, and SEO friendly name tags. Try Extendware’s Image Optimization  extension to optimize your images and reduce their size without sacrificing image quality!

Default Descriptions

If you go to System, then Configuration, Design, HTML Head and finally Default description and enter it, Magento will put this description to all pages without a custom description. Remember that each of your pages is considered to be unique, including meta tags.

Translated Page URL’S

If your product is site.com/product.html for the English language, you should have different URLs for the same product in other languages as well. I learned that you have to change it for each language your store is geared towards. Make sure to do it on all pages too not just home page, which means all product pages!

Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets are a great way to have more exposure and attention without necessarily being in top 3. Results in Google with rich snippets have higher CTR and more clicks. Implementing rich data is pretty easy and should be only be made once.

rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”

rel=”alternate” connects pages with the same content, but in different languages so don’t ignore it! You might even want to use another tool – “x-default hreflang” for international landing pages. Make sure to link translated pages with each other. It is usually done through country flags or links with language names’.

Layered Navigation/SEO Optimization

Layered-NavigationLeaving Magento layered navigation as the default or third-party, without tuning SEO settings is an important mistake which may lead to hundreds of pages with messy URLs and duplicate content. Check out Extendware’s Layered Navigation extension to increase sales by making your catalog more filterable, aesthetically appealing, and faster for your customers to find the products they want!

XML sitemap

To make sure all of your store pages are indexed and re indexed properly and fast, you will need to upgrade your XML sitemap. Make sure to check the content before submitting it to Google Webmaster Tools. Default Magento XML sitemap only includes products and category pages and doesn’t contain images.

Duplicate IssuesProduct-Sorting

Ok so Magento is a culprit of duplicate content, which Google hates! Product Sorting can increase the effectiveness of your online product catalog and can increase your conversion rates. Sort products on your sales page by Best Sellers, Top Performers, Most Viewed, Number of Reviews, and more. Easily cascade your sorting options – such as always showing in stock items first. For more info check out Extendware’s Product Sorting extension.

Load Speed

Full-Page-CacheLoad speed on any website is an official Google ranking factor. An e-commerce store’s speed influences bounce rate and customer’s likeliness to return. Magento itself is very slow in terns of site speed and SEO. So it is recommended to use a cache service such as Extendware’s Full Page Cache extension. This will reduce your Magento store’s First Byte Time, increase your web server request rate, reduce database load, and make your store much more responsive!

All in all, Magento is a great platform for my business, but like anything, it takes time and investment in the right tools to make it run fast and efficient. For more tools that focus on SEO and performance, visit Extendware’s Performance Extensions. They are sure to help you like they did me!

Have questions on the spot? Extendware now has a live chat!

Good-Help-Is-Hard-To-Find-Hiring-a-Virtual-Assistant

Good Help Is Hard To Find-Hiring a Virtual Assistant

You might hear colleagues or acquaintances mention how helpful their personal assistant is and wonder, wait…why don’t I have one? Sure I run my own business, but I could use the help! I don’t need someone at my house but I used to wonder, “How can I do this!”

Recently, the idea of small business owners using a virtual assistant to outsource daily business tasks has gained popularity, but many people don’t know how to hire or benefit from one. I recently have hired a personal assistant and can tell you, it has made my life so much easier! However, that may not be the case for everyone, so let’s chat about what they are and how they can help you too!

Outsourcing a Personal Assistant

Is a Personal Assistant Right for You?

The first thing I did was make a list, (a long one) with all of my daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Once I did that I set aside a couple lists:

  • What I enjoy doing/what I need to do as an owner myself
  • What I hate doing and takes up a lot of time
  • Minor tasks and busy work

It was a major analysis, which I have to say in the long run was a great way to get organized! So I then wondered where to look. I live in the US, and a US based virtual assistant can earn a salary that can start at about $15 an hour (and those with a specialty might command higher rates). Talented administrative-task virtual assistants from abroad can be secured for as little as $3 to $6 an hour. Wow, that’s quite a difference!

Agency Pros and Cons

It might be costlier to hire a VA from an agency due to large overhead costs, but an agency might arrange for an entrepreneur to use multiple assistants to smooth over gaps in availability or in skill sets. I thought about taking this route so that I could relax and trust in the agency. I used services like Elance, Odesk and Upwork. However, I then I began to dig around more and saw the many independent contractors on those platforms, also looking for work and in my price range.

So I decided to post a job listing because when it came down to it, I wanted more personalized attention, given that it’s just that one person on the gig. An agency might rotate in multiple virtual assistants for one assignment or pull one away to their convenience not mine. The most dedicated assistants almost always are independent freelancers with whom the entrepreneur builds a relationship with.

A key factor to consider is how important is it for the person to be awake while you work and how aware of American culture you need the person to be.  I decided to go with a gentleman who lives in New Zealand. He speaks English fluently and I can usually communicate with him directly around 4PM my time, yet his work schedule will take him into the timeframe where I am sleeping at night. I have to say, its pretty cool to wake up to tasks being fulfilled, and if any issues, I do have the window to talk with him in the evening.

Create a Listing

Good-Help-Is-Hard-1So I wrote this well-edited, detailed job listing, and I was pretty happy with it. A good friend told me that when posting a listing such as this, you should always put in a call to action that merits a response to see if the applicant has read the description. For instance, ask the applicant to provide examples of his or her work.

You will be able to tell when a candidate seems motivated. When Oliver (my now assistant) reached out, he was so excited about the opportunity, he asked to interview via skype right away, and followed up immediately after our call. Nice work, Oliver, I like your style.

Hiring

Create a list of the applicants whose responses you like, read the reviews about them and then line up interviews. A platform like oDesk or Upwork can show an entrepreneur how a candidate scored on an English proficiency exam and how many jobs he or she has previously done. Some of these companies even have the ability to generate a contract, monitor work and set up a payment system.

A video conference like I used on Skype, is a must and will serve a few purposes: It can reveal the person’s grasp of English and the setting that he or she will likely be working from — and if it’s an decent setting from which to make a phone call on your behalf and the applicant’s overall attitude and personality.

Managing Your New VA

So now you have some of the day to yourself, but you still have the responsibility to allocate tasks smartly and effectively so that you can actually enjoy it. The more specific you are in explaining tasks, the better. As a result of good management, a virtual assistant will in time learn your work style and you will be able to give that person more responsibility and encourage more initiative taking.

There are some great tools out there for virtual assistants that you can use to help integrate them into your world.

Here are some good ones I have used:

Trello-A great task management system where you can both add to do lists, and move things into different categories when completed

Hubstaff– A screen shot tool that takes images of the assistants screen regularly and tracks their productivity, so you can make sure you are paying them to work not hang on Facebook all day!Good-Help-Is-Hard-2

Slack– You can create teams on here, and communicate via instant messages, and even send files. I am obsessed with this one.

Process Street-Allows you to set up a repeatable process for your VA to run through

It will be up to you to decide whether to trust your assistant with information like passwords and other sensitive materials. Start out with small things, such as granting access to social-media accounts. You may want to consider having an assistant sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Here Are Some Great Task Ideas for Your Virtual Assistant

Bookkeeping

Keeping tabs on bills and other bookkeeping matters can be one of the easiest things to assign to a virtual assistant. You can have them follow up on tasks such as outstanding invoices or unpaid bills which, lets be honest, is no fun.

Online Research

This is great for assistants. They can help you find information on corporate websites, explore new products, scout potential employees, and even reach out to business contacts! One thing to make sure you do is send clear instructions and user names and passwords so they can easily access what they need to. I have Oliver search blog topics and new fashion trends for me which is huge for my website, and he does it weekly so we are always on top of things.

Data Presentations and Database Entries

Turning raw data into a clear PowerPoint presentation or summarizing research findings in a Word document can be a huge timesaver when prepping for meetings. Another great thing is having your VA enter info into excel sheets etc. Creating timelines, entering emails, and competitor analysis are some great examples.

Good-Help-Is-Hard-3Email Management

I have a tendency to waste time in my email inbox. To avoid this I have my virtual assistant filter my most important emails and respond to the rest on my behalf. Email management is easy to do remotely, but you need to provide guidance on how to pick out key emails and ask the assistant to copy you before sending out any responses to reduce the risk of errors.

FollowUp-Email-(for-web)Automate emails without the hassle with Extendware’s Follow Up Email Extension

Social Tasks

Virtual assistants can be a good bet to handle tasks such as writing holiday cards or sending thank you notes, which can be a huge help to a very time consuming but important task.

Travel

Whether its finding hotels, booking airfares or mapping out trip itineraries both for business and pleasure, VA’s can help! Assistants can take advantage of the growing number of travel research tools and review sites on the Web. They can also deal with the hassle of navigating time zones when booking or researching international travel options by phone.

Scheduling

Tasks can include dealing with meeting invitations from others, scheduling appointments with clients and helping to plan events. The only hard part is getting comfortable enough to let go of your calendar for a bit!

 

 

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Social Media Tactics to Help Drive Traffic to Your Ecommerce Site

Ahh social media. It’s your best friend and your worst enemy. I’ll admit I had a few years where I refused to be a part of it, but it slowly crept into my life aPhoto-1nd before you know it I was checking my Facebook page at least 5 times a day! But I wasn’t checking in for the latest gossip about The Bachelorette, or stalking my ex boyfriend’s pages. No, I was actually using Facebook and other social media outlets for news and information. Today, more then ever, people are using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more to promote their businesses, and I knew that’s what I had to do to be successful and reach the right people.

So marketing on social media must be a piece of cake right? Wrong. Attracting consumers to your site through social media is easier said than done. To be successful in the world of social media, you need more than just tactics…you need a well thought out marketing strategy.

 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you begin the adventure into the wild world of social media.

What Am I Trying to Accomplish?

Start thinking about the various goals you are setting for yourself and be specific! How many followers are you striving to reach? How many conversions do you want? Traffic? Audience Growth? It all matters and ironing out a concrete goal plan is key to making this all work.

What Do Your Customers Want?

You may think you know what they want, but it is amazing the insight you will get when you just ask! Using social media is a great way to ask customers on a personal level; “Hey what is it you like about us?” “What can we do to make things easier?” The feedback here is priceless information to better your business.

What’s my ROI?

Ok, so if you aren’t getting a return on your investment then you are doing something wrong. Or maybe you had some reach but its not what you expected. That’s ok. Try another campaign, change up your strategy, audience, creative…it’s all about the results and the more you experiment the better your financial results will be.

It’s All About the Dataanalytic

Customer behaviour such as where your social media traffic is coming from and which types of content receive the most views is crucial in leveraging data. You can discover best practices this way, and if one thing doesn’t work, try new factors the next time and don’t forget to reference your history often. Some social mediums have a dashboard with this information similar to Google Analytics. Get the Google Analytics Dashboard Extension for Magento Here!

Sharing is Caring

Most people don’t visit social media sites with the intent of shopping. I know I don’t, yet somehow I wind up joining seminars, buying books, and linked out to Amazon on nearly every visit! This type of marketing is about building relationships first and actual sales are second. Establishing trust is the best way to engage with your target customer. Statistics reveal that people will typically interact with 5 pieces of content before even making a purchase.

So once your plan is in place, its time to start using some tactics to make the most of your social media presence, promotions, and marketing.

Social Media Tactics

Paid Advertising

Paid options can help to dramatically increase your sales. You can push people to website for specials, social page for likes, even sign people up for a newsletter. You don’t have to have a large budget either, its more about your message, demographics overall campaign.

#Hashtags

In the beginning I was confused on what this # sign even was. What they do is help your content become easily discovered and expand the reach of your posts. They are great for interaction but make sure to avoid over using them, and stick to just one or two per post or else you might be labeled as a #hashtagaddict.

Reviews

Let’s face it, when booking a hotel, or choosing a restaurant or new purchase, we all look to reviews from other people! The same goes on social media, so take your success stories and brag a little.photo-2

Feeds and Buttons

Make sure to promote your social pages on all that you do. Buttons are a great way to share on your website, and feeds like twitter are another fun way to engage with people in the social world on your site.

No Sales Pitches

Sales pitches are a great way to lose customers. We aren’t selling encyclopedias door to door here! A better method is to share content in your posts, stories, news, tips and tricks or anything that engages the consumer. I use the word engage a lot because that’s the key to all of this.

Images

Nothing draws the eye more than a compelling product image. This gives your customers a chance to share with others and repost. Using platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for this. You can also encourage people to post images of your product in use! I had my friends all share photos of my clothing line and I got more comments and likes then I have ever had. Boom!

Relationships

No not Tinder that’s a different blog for a different day! You can build relationships many ways in social media especially by being attentive to messages and comments and making sure to respond to everyone. It may seem time consuming but will make a difference in a sale. Another fun way to interact is by joining similar interest groups. You can keep up on the industry, check competition and chat with like minds.

Keywords

Using high-conversion keywords in your posts can increase their visibility and you can then reach people beyond your followers. Just do some keyword research to find the terms consumers are searching to find content related to your industry, business, and products/services, and integrate them into your posts.

Consistancy

Posting content on a regular basis is critical to improve customer engagement and drive more traffic to your eCommerce website. Frequency can vary based on your market, but consistency is key to show your audience that you’re interested in constantly sharing valuable content. To make this process easier and save time, use a marketing automation tool such as Around.io so you can schedule posts in advance.

Blog It

blog-it-2If you have a great blog (like this one),you will certainly want to share it with your online social groups. Again, a great way to keep things relevant and allow your followers to share and stay in the know with all you are doing.

Keep it Simple!

No one likes information overload. Keeping it short and sweet you’re your updates attract more engagement on social media than longer posts. If you can tease with engaging headline, your followers are more apt to read it and then share the content if its brief and compelling.

As you can see, there are tons of ways to drive more traffic to your site using social media. I once thought it was a simple process, but it is much more complex but can be so much fun too with the right mindset. Good luck and try not to get distracted by the Farmville or Candy Crush invites!

Check out Extendware’s Social Media!

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Why People Look But Don’t Purchase

I started my online clothing store 8 months ago. Once the excitement wore off, I was nervous about a lot of things. Do people care about my clothes? Is the competition too steep? How will they even find me for crying out loud? I didn’t have a large budget and had tried some small social media buys, word of mouth etc., but that was it.

To my surprise, after about 3 months or so, I was getting amazing inbound numbers. People were actually finding me! This was a huge achievement, but sadly my bank account wasn’t exactly celebrating yet. I was drawing all of these people but my clothes weren’t selling.  Sure I had the occasional “window shoppers”, but looking at my stats, I could see some people were checking reviews, FAQs, and generally showing a deep interest in my product. So what gives?

Here are some facts I looked up as to why I wasn’t making those sales:

1.My Shipping and Handling was too high.

I was sure my prices were fair and way under the competition, so why would people abandon ship! That’s it right there…” ship”. delivery
My S/H prices were way too much and they weren’t flexible. I was so focused on the actual product prices, I failed to realize the amount that adds up in shipping. I shifted some numbers around and was able to make certain purchases include free shipping. There are lots of ways to fix shipping to make it more appealing. You may even want to include a countdown time so people have a short window to snag the zero-dollar transport deal.

2.What Return Policy?

Return-policyYikes, I slowly realized that people are much more apt to make a purchase with a return policy. Sounds like a no brainer right?  Maybe, but at  first my thought was that I didn’t want to deal with it or lose money but in reality I was losing customers. So I found a way to limit the policy with certain rules attached so that people wouldn’t take advantage. I also included size charts to reduce the amount of returns I would have to deal with. I rarely have returns because my clothes are awesome, but also because I do the most I can to alleviate issues before the purchase.

3.A Photo of Me and My Dog Was Not Enough to Gain Trust

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I mean, it’s a great picture and we both have trusting eyes, but this may not be enough for some people to feel secure enough to enter their credit card. Doing a little research I found that a lot of people are nervous these days when it comes to online payments and transactions. So I decided to get third party security involved and make sure my customers knew that we had their safety in mind. This is especially helpful for the log in and shopping cart areas.

4.I Wasn’t Mobile Friendly

responsiveIt never occurred to me how many people would be online shopping on the bus, at the nail salon, at work, in line at the DMV! I had figured well, I can access my store on my phone but when I really sat and looked, it was super tiny wording and you could hardly see the pictures! So I had the site redesigned to include mobile and even tablet layouts. Now you could easily see everything, click side tabs to search different products etc. Heck if we get big enough, we may even create an app!

5.My Pages Were Too Clutteredweb-design

I just had too much to say. Words and names and buttons… it was just too much visually to take in. When I redesigned the site, I noticed more pages being explored and more time spent on each. Cleaning up my messy room, deemed to be a crucial part of my online success!

A Little Help From Your Web

A lot of people rush into building their stores (like I did!), and forget to do a little research as to how it can be better and what steps can be implemented to make your customers have an overall better experience. My big issue was all look and no buy, but with a little elbow grease and a lot of coffee I was able to figure it out.

Abandoned-Cart-Email-(for-web)

One tool I used to alleviate my shopping cart runners was the Magento Abandoned Cart Email Extension. I was able to email those who ditched their cart and bring them back to visit my store. Plus, I could also see why they left which gave me the great insight I have shared with you today. Happy Selling!

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Why is it Beneficial to be a Part of an Affiliate Program

The marketing world today is exciting and dominated by affiliate trend. Those who don’t know what an affiliate marketing program is should learn it fast. For that, it is the latest way for marketers and bloggers to make money by flexing their marketing muscles. Affiliate networking is all about getting the piece of the action and getting paid handsomely for it. Widely known for the win-win situations they create and the great results they can provide, affiliate programs seem to be the new golden child of marketing.

1

What is an Affiliate program and how does it work?

Launched by 2Amazon in 1996, affiliation has managed to earn true popularity only in recent years. Affiliate programs are a form of the performance-based marketing through which a company, also known as a merchant, agrees to pay its affiliates (or webmasters) for the visitors or clients that they bring in through their efforts. Based on the object of the contract, the affiliate will advertise certain products and pay a flat fee or a previously negotiated percent per every sale or visit which was brokered through the referral.

Why Opt for an Affiliate Program – The Benefits Associated

An affiliate program is structured on the idea of a mutually beneficial relationship through which both the advertiser and the publisher can draw consistent benefits. However, the affiliate market is a fiercely competitive performance-based, result-orientated market which will require good marketing skills to bring about consistent income and professional success. Overachieving affiliates tend to be well connected, thus marketing passionate people, a fact which usually brings bloggers and online marketing specialists to the front of the pack.

Leaving that aside, providing you have some marketing skills of your own, here are a few of the benefits brought about by affiliate programs and why they are totally worth giving it a try:

  • You are your boss meaning that you set your own goals to chase after.
  • You have a flexible schedule which you design however you deem fit.
  • It is one of the fastest, free ways to make money online (not to be confused with the easiest).
  • The affiliate program is a transparent agreement which functions on clear, well-defined terms. Affiliate programs usually function on simple contracts which leave little to no room for confusion and misinterpretation.
  • The better connected you are, the easier it is to create real impact and get paid.
  • You get paid based on your results, This means every time someone uses your referral to visit and buys a product which you are advertising, you are paid a commission amount. While SEO and digital marketing require constant ticking and are often paid per project, an affiliate program will pay you the commission you agree upon every time a sale is facilitated through your referral.
  • Affiliate marketing is cemented on ROI and sales, a fact which makes it a very powerful online marketing tool. If you can sell, these numbers will turn into hard cash.
  • Most of the affiliate programs which the companies are running can be joined free or with a certain charge and without a tedious set-up process.

Which affiliate program to choose?

Choosing the right affiliate program is not easy, considering that one can easily find a variety of affiliate networks in every field of 3the market. However, some of the fields are saturated, hyper-competitive areas which make them unattractive for most marketers out there.

If you are a seasoned affiliate marketer or want to become one and you are looking to join a rewarding affiliate network, try the Extendware Affiliate Program. The affiliate program is free to join and is based on the Magento Extensions and various development/configuration/customization services associated with them. Once you log in, Extendware’s backend has readymade links and banners you would need to promote and states so that you can track your progress all of which already include your personal code so that when people click on them you automatically get the set commission. In addition to the exceptional quality of the products and the great price Extendware is selling them for, you will get bi-weekly newsletters, exceptional support and extra prizes at the top tier level, this affiliate program is quite generous with its top-performing marketers.

The commission section is organised in 4 Tiers which range as follows:

  • Tier 1 ($0–1,499 in sales) earns 10% of every purchase to the affiliate
  • Tier 2 ($1,500-2999 in sales) earns 15% of every purchase to the affiliate
  • Tier 3 ($3000-4,999 in sales) earns 20% of every purchase to the affiliate
  • Tier 4 (above $5000 in sales) earns 25% of every purchase to the affiliate

The affiliate program also includes clear steps and detailed suggestions that educate you on how to best advertise the products. Doing affiliate work is quite fast and rewarding even for a novice who has just entered. When done right, it has every potential to pile up a significant income. So what are you waiting for? The time to affiliate and collide with success is right here!