Effective Marketing For Your Small Business

No matter what your niche may be, it is a common belief that marketing your business effectively can be somewhat of a headache that will require a considerable amount of planning, time and most importantly, money. When it comes to small businesses, effective planning is a must in order to help your business thrive and stay ahead of your competitors. Without a thorough marketing campaign in place, not only could your business go unnoticed by your target market, but you may lose out on sales to other, similar businesses.There is a misconception that marketing is more or less the same as advertising and is something which can be completed by just about anyone. Although marketing is incredibly easy to understand and apply to your small business, advertising and marketing your business are completely different and are both vital in order for your business to thrive and succeed. By adhering to the following steps, your business will not only benefit from a more thorough marketing plan, but also a more aggressive take on your current marketing strategies.Devise A Clear Plan: Before getting to the grind with any marketing campaign, it is imperative that you are firstly clear of what your goals are in regards to your small business marketing. Identify who your target market is to ensure that you receive optimized results and identify what the needs of these customers are to ensure that your products and services, thus your marketing plan, caters for these requirements.List Your Small Business: Directory listings- both on and offline- are a great way in which to optimize your business’ exposure. Yellow pages, local business directories and even online business directories can help you target both local and further afield customers (depending on your niche and capabilities). It is extremely beneficial to add listings both on and offline as often, when a customer looks for a business in an offline directory, they will often check the web for further information. Ensure that your listing is clear, concise and be creative with what you say about yourself. It is always beneficial to investigate into how other, similar businesses have listed their services for some ideas.Press Release Distribution: Press releases are a great way to get free publicity and what’s more, you do not need to help of a professional PR company in order to utilize this medium. By writing your own press releases and submitting these to various blogs and websites with added links back to your site, you can help increase your company’s awareness backlinks which in turn will increase your page ranking within search engines.Optimize Your Website: It is advantageous to frequently monitor your site in regards to your content, design and features. Keep your site up to date with current trends or trends that are used with competing businesses, and ensure that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is applied throughout the entire site to help increase your page rankings, thus your traffic. Always check the functions of your site and ensure it is easy to navigate as confusing sites will only result in lost sales. Sign up to social networking sites such as Twitter which can link back to your site as a way in which to notify consumers of your presence, increase your presence on the web and also help drive visitors to your site.Customer Contact: Many small businesses will, from time to time, experience a decrease in their sales which more often than not is due to lack of communication with their customers. By submitting monthly or quarterly newsletters or e-marketing letters, you can remind your existing customers of your services, notify them of your promotions and potentially even obtain new customers should your newsletters be passed on.Monitor Your Progress: Throughout the duration of your marketing campaign, it is imperative that you monitor your progress and clearly identify what works and what does not. Often, a business will waste money continuing with an ineffective strategy without investigating into why it does not work or how it can be altered. Not every marketing strategy will work for your small business, so eliminating those that will hinder rather than aid your business is crucial.Effectively marketing your small business is imperative in order to gain the success you desire, but by ensuring that all bases are covered, you could reap some exceptional benefits. Marketing is a board spectrum and those methods which work for your business may not work for others, and vice versa. However, by understanding the needs of your target market and being aware of how these needs can be marketed effectively, you are guaranteed to see success from your marketing efforts.

How IT Companies Can Effectively Manage Client Hardware

Despite the emergence of “The Cloud”, local hardware will always be required. Even the most basic small business client has a router, a network switch, a PC and one or more printers. Other clients may have Firewalls, Servers, Plotters, Multi-Function Units and any array of other hardware – most of it IP-enabled.Multiply that by multiple clients, and you’ve got an awful lot of hardware that becomes really easy to waste a lot of time and effort trying to manage – if you’re not organized.From Chaos to OrderThe first step in bringing order to the chaos is to buy a Label Printer. My personal favorite is the P-Touch Handheld range from Brother. Anything that you can easily carry with you, plug into the mains (battery operated is fine – but batteries run out, and you then start to forget to label things) and print labels will do the job. If you have more than one engineer, buy them all label printers and get them to label them with their own names – they’ll be more inclined to look after them.Next, organize a time for an engineer to visit client sites with his labeler at the ready – grabbing and labeling anything and everything with a power plug on the end and making a written note of each to take back to the office.(Talking of power plugs, get your engineers into the habit of labeling these too, especially servers. Clearly knowing which plug belongs to a PC and which to a monitor is a real benefit when you’re crawling under a dark desk on a dirty floor trying to work out what to unplug and what not to.)Why Labels?But why bother labeling things?


Firstly, you’re acknowledging the existence of a device. If it’s labeled, you know about it and can document it for future reference.Secondly, when new hardware “mysteriously” appears at a client site and a client calls you for support on it (probably outside your support contract) you can save yourself a heap of time trying to work out why Windows 7 Home Edition is installed on it rather than a Business O/S.Thirdly, labeling hardware speeds up the support process. If a user telephones the Helpdesk to say they can’t print to “That printer in the corner of the office”, then you can ask them to read the label and quickly identify which printer it is that they’re trying to print to.What to label?What the label says depends on the hardware, but the label should help you easily identify the hardware in question. Some examples:-PCs – Workstation name, Fixed IP address (if applicable)
Servers – Server name, Fixed IP address, Domain name
Routers/Firewalls – External IP address, Internal IP address
Network Switches – Internal IP address, Management IP address
Local Printers – Locally attached Workstation name
Network Printers – Fixed IP address, Queue Name (//Server/Queue)We’re not going to worry about Workstation and Server naming schemes, IP address ranges or any other standards just yet. Right now we’re focusing on documenting what’s already out there.In some cases the engineer won’t be able to identify network equipment. Rather than ignore the hardware, they should label it as “unidentified” and raise a support ticket or make a written note to investigate how to identify it later.This takes some time, especially if you have a lot of clients – but it’s time well spent. You should make this type of ‘discovery work’ a part of the on-boarding process of every new client, as the time spent discovering hardware now will pay dividends when you’re supporting that same hardware later – perhaps in a time-sensitive situation.Document your findingsGoing forwards, make it a policy that from now on, every piece of hardware you deploy to a client site should have a label on it.Document your findings. If you have an RMM tool such as GFI Max, then you’ll already be able to scan networks for devices. Supplement this automated information with your own findings.Pretty soon you’ll have a good overview of the hardware at all your client sites. It’ll make supporting the client, both remotely and on-site, a *lot* easier.The use of the labeler as a force of good doesn’t stop there.Hardware in the WorkshopWhenever an engineer brings a piece of hardware back to the Workshop for troubleshooting, it needs to be labeled. You might label it with the client’s name, a brief overview of the issue, and if you’re using a ticket system, the ticket number.This might sound obvious, but how many times do engineers walk back into the office, drop off some faulty hardware and then get distracted by something else? In this scenario, a colleague may be left scratching his head over who the hardware belongs to and why it’s here, or worse, think the hardware is “spare” and go and re-use it for another job they are working on…


Talking of spare hardware – it’s worth creating a process to deal with this too. I like to create an area of the workshop that is specifically for Hardware under Repair, Hardware under testing, and Hardware for disposal. Then, as hardware comes in…If it’s hardware that is to be sent back to a manufacturer under RMA, it’s labeled as such and placed in the “Under Repair” area of the workshop.If it’s hardware that may be faulty and required testing, a ticket is raised for this and it’s labeled as “For Testing” and labeled with the appropriate ticket number. The hardware is then placed in the “For Testing” area, and you can confidently give your newly employed Junior Technician something productive to do on his first day in the office.If it’s hardware for disposal, it’s labeled with the fault and marked as “For Disposal”. It’s placed in the “For Disposal” area of the workshop and once every few weeks you arrange for a specialist IT disposal company to collect the pile and dispose of it in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.Save Time With LabelsThe amount of time IT companies can waste trying to re-use faulty hardware that has simply been left lying around, or re-testing known faulty equipment is mind-blowing.A simple system of labeling such hardware saves hours of wasted time.I hope this article has helped to describe how armed with a label printer you can build the basis of a series of systems that lay out how your business deals with client hardware.

Lifesaving Safety Tips For Water Sports Enthusiasts

Tips to Insure a Safe Fun Time with Water Sports and Boats!Water sports are very popular amongst athletes and non-athletes alike especially in the hot days of summer. After all, any of the water sports is an excellent way to keep cool and look cool, stay active and tanned as well as get your exercise and its health benefits.However, water sports can be dangerous, too. Reports of drowning and other water-related accidents worry us and yet we still fail to adopt certain safety guidelines to avoid becoming the next victims. Well, if you want your family and friends to be safe at all times while engaging in water sports while having fun, it pays to take heed of the following safety tips.Be a Strong SwimmerIn any water sport, it is important to be a strong swimmer. At the very least, you will be able to swim to shore or to avoid moving objects on the water such as boats. Likewise, you must ensure that the other participants in the sports are also strong swimmers not only because it is a competition where the strongest have the highest chances of winning but also because lives are at stake here.


Wear a Life VestMany drowning deaths in the open seas have been attributed to the failure to wear life vests. Even if you consider yourself a good swimmer, life vests are de rigueur in case you lose consciousness or get tired from floating on your own. And remember that not just any toy flotation device will do for the purpose.Learn CPRDo not rely on the lifeguards and other medical personnel to come on time to save the life of a family member or a friend. YOU must learn how to administer CPR at the soonest possible time because mere seconds can mean the difference between life and death.Your local college, hospital and Red Cross branch offer CPR classes so take advantage of them.Avoid Alcohol and DrugsAlcohol and drugs will never ever mix with water sports. Both substances have adverse effects on your mind and body, not least of which is slower reaction time, lesser focus and, worst, unconsciousness.If you must take alcohol, do so after the competition is over so that you are in no danger of drowning. Well, of course, you will be in danger of alcohol-related traffic accidents so you are better off staying away from it. Stay in Designated AreasOf course, one of the thrills of extreme water sports is facing death in the eyes and living to tell the tale. However, if you want another shot at that heart-pumping move, then do try to stay within the designated area of the competition.


For individuals who are swimming in the open seas, this tip is very important especially when strong currents and waves are present.Know the Safety Rules of the SportEach sport has its own safety guidelines and equipment. It pays to become familiar with them and then take heed.

For example, if your sport says that you have wear shoes and a helmet like wake skating, then do so. Better yet, you should undergo sufficient training before hitting the competition circuit.
Indeed, water sports accidents, injuries and deaths can be significantly reduced if only we know how to engage in them as safely as possible.

Equestrian Style in Your Home

Your love for horses doesn’t need stop at the barn. Horse people enjoy having decorative horse elements in the home. Whether you are a lifelong equestrian, an admirer of horse sport, or someone who loves the equestrian look, having equestrian style in your home adds character and tradition. How you bring equestrian elements together can make the difference in telling a story or having your items overlooked.Equestrian style was popularized when Ralph Lauren hit the fashion world by storm. He made both nautical and equestrian styles livable for mainstream people. It became possible and affordable to have the sporting lifestyle look. And while many people took up stirrup pants and hacking jackets, decorating with equestrian style has been around for hundreds of years. Look no further than the English countryside. Whether you have acquired equestrian pieces from the barn, or you are just starting out, giving your home or space an equestrian estate feel is not difficult. As with any design, the key is to start with a plan that includes well-thought-out furniture placement and a good color scheme. Traditional furniture works best when designing an equestrian style space. Dark, substantial wood furniture with good quality upholstery or leather gives mind to the English countryside, where most equestrian trends originated. Steeped in custom and tradition, equestrian elements have changed little through the centuries. Garner ideas from books and magazines, or search the internet for ideas.


Once furniture placement has been established, anchor the space with a good rug. Vintage rugs protected fine wood floors from muddy hunting boots, numerous hounds, and country parties. These rugs were handmade and vegetable dyed. Today’s production rugs lack some of the character of the older rugs, but can still lend the style and are always a smart choice to bring a space together.Equestrians love art, and art that includes the horse is always a favorite. Some equestrian artists have stood out through the years, with George Stubbs being immensely popular during England’s sporting days. His works are traditional, beautiful, and have color schemes that are easy with which to work. Reproductions of his paintings are available on the internet.No equestrian space would be complete without horse tack, the equipment leather goods used in riding and training horses. Whether you choose stainless steel stirrups or bits, old horseshoes, or leather strap goods, these pieces strategically placed are key elements to bring your space to life. A favorite of ours is a silver mint julep cup used to hold pens or flowers. Stirrups make good bookends. Harness brasses can be framed or mounted cleverly over light plates. Snaffle bits can serve as window panel tie backs. Equestrian books are another design element that is readily available and brings authenticity to your space. These books are available as novels, training books, or picture books.


To add softness and comfort to your space, yet still maintain style, consider adding needlepoint or horse themed equestrian pillows. Throw pillows come in many styles and colors. Look for traditional fabrics and authentic embellishments like fox hunt buttons, harness brasses, or other pieces of horse equipment.Bringing equestrian style to your home or space adds character. Horses have had a close relationship with man for most of human history. Only since the invention of the automobile have we been so distanced from him. Bring equestrian style to your home by using these design ideas, and bring horses into your decor.