Tips on Managing Your Workforce Remotely

So many people are now working from home (WFH) 100% of the time. Hopefully if this is the case for you, you can maintain productivity and stay positive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While a lot of us are used to living the entrepreneur life from a home office, it’s still a big adjustment to have to self-isolate and stop all face-to-face interactions with coworkers and clients.

I encourage you to use this time to take a closer look at your overall business goals, focus on your health (both physical and mental) and self-care, and enjoy some family time at home.

I think many small business owners are having to pivot their marketing strategy, and what they do when the coronavirus passes could look quite different from what they did before.

I wanted to share some useful tech tools that can make your day-to-day WFH life much easier.

Team Communication Tools

This is probably the biggest WFH product decision you’ll have to make. Your team needs a reliable and easy-to-use tool that lets them instantly message coworkers. The right one for you depends on your business needs and challenges, team size and budget.

1. You may have heard of Slack. This tool gives you the ability to create channels around multiple topics and invite users. From marketing content ideas to social media tactics to office dog photos, your team can create relevant channels for easy chat and collaboration.

It also integrates with many useful tools, including Outlook Calendar, Twitter, HubSpot and Salesforce, so you can see what’s going on at all times right in the Slack app (no need to click in and out of your daily calendar or Twitter feed, for example). There are SO MANY fun and creative emojis you can use too, making remote messaging in a challenging time like this a little more lighthearted.

2. Another popular platform is Discord. Popular with gamers, this voice, video and text tool isn’t just for talking to coworkers, but for finding like-minded communities and new friends. You can create “servers” and “channels” for specific topics, similarly like you do for Slack channels. While Slack has more business integrations, Discord has voice channels, so you can easily chat with team members. Discord also lets you set user roles and permissions.

3. Flock is a cloud-based team communication tool with video and audio calling, screen sharing, text chat, integration with other business applications and more. You can tag colleagues in comments and to-do lists, upload documents, images and videos and set reminders and due dates. Polls, code snippet sharing and group discussions are available, and it integrates with other apps such as Trello, Github, Google Drive and Asana.

Team Collaboration Tools

Your employees need to be able to share their work, whether they’re creating on a marketing strategy or editing a press release. Here are a few that might fit your small business needs.

1. G Suite is a Google product that’s made up of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products. In one suite of tools, it offers email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation decks, shared calendars, cloud storage, and more.

You can comment and make suggestions on specific documents through Google Sheets and Docs, edit documents online simultaneously and collaborate on projects and documents. It’s easy to give users permission to specific files.

2. Evernote: This is more than a note-taking app. Evernote helps you capture, prioritize and share ideas, track projects and to-do lists. I find it super helpful for note-taking, obviously, but also as a sort of “digital filing cabinet” that simplifies organization. There’s a free, basic and business package available.

CRM Tools

CRM stands for “customer relationship management,” and CRM tools help you with things like inbound lead management, sales tracking, social tracking and eNewsletter delivery. Here are three to consider:

1. MailChimp is an all-in-one marketing platform with tools to create everything from emails to postcards. They have a great selection of templates to choose from that can then be further modified to suit your brand. Their intuitive interface and thorough reporting are great, but things can get expensive as your subscriber list or number of emails increase. You can compare their different plans on their website.

2. Constant Contact has always been a big rival with MailChimp to be the brand name in email marketing. It’s a huge company and a great option if Facebook is a big part of your online marketing strategy. Constant Contact has an email option that is designed so users can easily share your newsletter on Facebook.

This option can be considered the most social media-friendly and has all the major features of the others noted. If your online marketing involves Hootsuite (you can integrate this into Hootsuite) and you focus your efforts on gaining traction on social media then this is a great newsletter tool for you.

3. AWeber is an extremely popular option and recommended by many professional marketing companies. It gives you five plans to choose from and a long list of features such as unlimited email marketing campaigns, follow-ups, lists and Auto Responders.

Many people believe their Auto Responder platform is superior to other companies, allowing businesses to automate the process of delivering personalized emails to customers on a schedule.

Project Management Tools

A collaborative task management tool lets everyone track and manage all of their projects. Think of it as an online scheduler, taskmaster, and collaboration tool to manage your team’s workflows.

1. Asana is one of the leading tools and gets a lot of positive feedback. It allows everyone on your team to follow the whole workflow of a project in an easy visual tool. You’ll always know where your team is at and who’s responsible for what and when.

From daily reminders on a task that’s due, to the ability to easily add collaborators or assign teammates a sub-task of a project, Asana makes it simple to see what everyone’s day, week and month looks like (but you can easily move things around if plans change).

2. Monday.com is a pretty simple, intuitive visual team management tool (it’s really a project management platform). It runs processes, workflows, and projects in one digital workspace. Visually, it looks the same as a collection of very customized spreadsheets, in which every team member can log their tasks and update them with status reports and other relevant information.

That means that every person can see all active tasks and keep count on their progress. Team members can work on multiple projects without getting lost by using Monday’s weekly overview. The workflow can be customized just about any way you want it to communicate priority, what’s done, not done and so on. The colourful designs and big buttons don’t hurt either!

Social Media Management Tools

Many small businesses will already have a social media management tool set up. A social media management tool allows you to manage all of your accounts from one dashboard, which saves you both time and frustration. These tools share your content at the best possible times throughout the day, so your followers and fans see your updates more often. It’s a smarter and more efficient way to schedule and share your social media posts.

The best part about these tools is the built-in analytics system, which will give you a glimpse into what’s performing well, and when your social media posts are making the most impact.

Here are two social media management tools I personally use:

1. Buffer shows your scheduled posts and analytics (how in-depth those analytics get depends on the plan you choose). Many small business owners choose Buffer because of its sleek, clean interface that’s easy for beginners to get the hang of.

2. I find that while Buffer is great for less demanding social media needs, Hootsuite is where it’s at if you want to see your timelines, replies, and more across all your social networks.

Both Buffer and Hootsuite offer free and paid plans, so you can always try them out and see which one feels like a better fit for your small business.

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And while it’s not a tool your entire workforce might use, I’m liking MoneyMinderOnline during these uncertain times. It not only gives you a place to track your spending, but you also get insights into your spending habits, and you can look ahead to improve your cash flow, clear your debt, and start saving for your big goals.

I hope I’ve given you an overview of some tools that will help boost your team’s productivity and morale while you’re all working from home. You may also benefit from our article on boosting business efficiency on our website.

Using the Different Types of Social Networks to Benefit Your Business

You probably interact with several different social networks. As a business owner, you are probably familiar with online marketing because you recognize the need for social media marketing. The reality is that since everyone else is doing it online, you need to do it as well. If you don’t have that approach, you will be left in the dust and everyone else will move past you. However, what you may not realize is that there are several different types of social networks that may benefit your business.

The popular social networks and then some

The chances are that you are involved with the popular social networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You may also be interacting using Instagram and YouTube. On the other hand, you may not even be aware of the other social networks and how amazing they may be for your brand and for your business. What you may not realize is just how much there is to social media and how much more you may be able to get out of it than you are aware of right now.

The different types of social networks do all sorts of different things and help you to accomplish what you want to accomplish in many different creative ways.

  • Social networks: The function and purpose of a social network are really simple. Social networks connect people to each other. That is exactly why they are called social networks. Social networks can benefit your business in several different ways, such as allowing you to do market research, generating leads, building relationships, etc.
  • Discussion forums: A discussion forum is a great place to get involved if you want to share your opinions with other people, hear their opinions, and really get a stimulating conversation going. All sorts of interesting nuggets of information can emerge as a result of a discussion that you have on a discussion forum.
  • Networks that share media: A network that shares media does just that. It is a network where people can share all types of media, such as photos, videos, and any other type of media that you can imagine. This type of network can benefit your business in similar ways to what happens with social networks. They can help you to build your brand and to build relationships, engage your target audience members, and generate leads, among a whole list of benefits. In many cases, these types of media are more effective than words (if used in combination, your content will be highly effective). It is important to remember that many people are visual, which is why they respond so well to visual content.
  • Content curation and bookmarking networks: If you are searching for new content, this is the type of network to do it. There is a good chance that not all of the content that you share is original content. You may be curating some of your content, which is an intelligent part of your online content marketing strategy. There are networks that can help you to get where you are going in this regard. This type of network can benefit your business in several different ways, including increasing your brand awareness, engaging your target audience members, and increasing traffic to your website.
  • Networks where you can leave product and/or service reviews: This is an important type of network because other business owners count on your opinion and similar opinions from other people. The fact is that everyone considers and buys a variety of products and services. Why not go a step further and share your opinion about what you have researched and purchased? It will certainly help the business owners if you do so.
  • Networks for publishing content: Content is the bread and butter of all businesses. No matter what you do and what you offer, the fact is that you will need to tell other people about those offering and your brand. Otherwise, the person on the other end will not know about you and if they don’t know about you, you will not be able to establish a relationship with them and they will not buy anything from you at any point. Content marketing is a necessary approach for all businesses. The networks that specifically enable business people to effectively share their content for maximum impact are a critical tool to the success of those businesses (yours included).
  • Networks where people with common interests can get together: This type of network can apply to personal or professional interests. They are very effective and very successful on the whole. Because this type of network helps people to build relationships, that also means that you will be engaging the other person and build your brand.
  • Networks where people can shop for products: Since shopping is necessary and everyone does it, this type of network will be around for a very long time. Similarly to the other networks that have been discussed here, this type of network can also build brand awareness, enhance engagement, and sell products to other people.
  • Networks where people can trade: This one is probably obvious. If you have things that you don’t want or need anymore, there is a very good chance that there is another person who does need and want it. It is a great way to clean up and build some sort of relationship at the same time.
  • Networks where people can be anonymous: One of the most attractive features of the Internet for many people is the idea that they are anonymous. Before the Internet, many people were reluctant or afraid to communicate using their own name. Now they can hide behind anonymity, which feels safer. Of course, it is not always the right approach to take but it is how many people feel.

Conclusion

Even if you don’t get involved with all of the different types of social networks, it is important that you are aware of their existence and understand exactly what they are for and how they work. It is interesting to note that most of the different types of social networks have common threads: building brand awareness, engaging audience members, and establishing new relationships. It is only then that you will be in the position to reject them if you don’t feel that they will work effectively for your business.

You Engage on Social Media-But Are You Engaging?

Many businesses get one very basic thing about social media engagement wrong.

The average entrepreneur thinks about engagement in terms of single interactions. A post that gets a lot of shares and likes is not really engaging the audience. It’s only when there is a long-term relationship that you really start engaging.

Think of it as a real-life engagement. Consider that every single interaction is a date with your customers.You get to know each other on these dates. You tell them what you’re about and they tell you what they like and what they don’t.

After seeing each other for a while, you’re ready to move to the next step. The customers now expect to see engaging content. When you post on your media channels, they’re bound by loyalty to interact with it. Now, you’re engaged.

Ask Not What Your Customers Can Do for You

The way to any customer’s heart is through value-oriented engagement. Don’t think of ways in which you can get a benefit from your followers and fans. Think, instead, about how you can be of service to them.

You’re trying to build trust in your brand through engagement. You’ll never generate real engaging content if your audience doesn’t feel you are contributing to their lives.

What does that mean in practice? Well, for starters, it means engaging back. If your patrons have questions, answer them openly.

Make sure that you are always quick to address complaints and concerns when they are presented publicly.

Believe it or not, social media has been people’s first choice for customer service since at least 2016. In a way, it’s people taking advantage of the public nature of the platform. Regardless, you should see every instance of customer service as a double opportunity.

You can address a customer’s concern and at the same time generate good faith with that customer and any others who see the interaction. Customer service interactions are an absolute gold mine for engagement.

Three Ways to Really Start Engaging

There are countless tips, tricks, and insider information about how to improve social media engagement. Try some of these tried and true approaches to boost authentic engagement.

1. Make the First Move

Someone has to start the conversation on the first date. As the business, that responsibility rests on your shoulders.

There are many things you can provide that your potential customers want. Informative articles and blog posts are two simple ideas. Remember that it’s about generating value for them.

Don’t try to push a product on the first date. That comes later. First, show them you care about who they are and what they want.

2. Listen More Than You Talk

If your relationship is going to last, you’ll have to listen.

Don’t guess about your customer’s wants and needs. If you put in the effort, all the information is available with a little research.

Look at social media and website analytics. Define your audience demographics and look at what competitors are doing. You have to know who you’re talking to first.

Once you know who you are dating, you can start listening. Look at their social media posts. What do they want, what sort of things are the dissatisfied by? Use this info to craft your engagement strategy.

3. Be Relevant and Topical

Don’t be afraid to have a voice about current events. If you want to elicit a response, you need to talk about things that are relevant to your audience.

Be careful however, this requires a delicate approach and a good read on the pulse of your patrons.

Start Really Engaging

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media engagement. As stated earlier, there’s enough advice about it out there to fill a sizable library. However, not every tip will work for every company.

Start by finding out who your customers really are and put yourself in their shoes. Then start working on offering more value through your social media engagement.

5 Incredibly Useful Handmade Men’s Jewelry Tips for Small Business

Setting up a small business is fraught with risks because the incubation period is long and survival is difficult in a market that is competitive in the extreme. One can invest a lot and get very little in return when one ventures into business or even end up losing everything.

Choose the right product:

If one takes a look at the fashion world, there are low-value accessories produced in bulk and sold at throwaway prices. Then there are handcrafted products that command premium prices and always draw a select clientele. Choosing the right such handcrafted product with a unique appeal is the starting point for a small business. It should cost less but must have million dollar looks. One such product in the handmade men’s jewelry category is metal bracelets made of niobium, silver, copper and gold wires, twisted together and hammered into shapes that appeal to man’s intrinsic macho nature. Tie up with a maker of handcrafted men’s accessories and you have a source.

Brand it:

Launch your range of branded handcrafted jewelry for men online and create a website as well as list products on popular portals. It is important to give a nice sounding brand name and think up some unique properties that will set it apart and make it look desirable for men who wish to stand out from the crowd. Handcrafted men’s bracelets made of niobium, gold, silver and copper wires twisted and hammered into shape, each one unique, are ideal for high-value branding.

Price it right:

One advice people usually get is to price a product low so it can be competitive. It works differently in the world of handcrafted fashion accessories for men such as handcrafted jewelry where the value goes up in proportion to the perceived uniqueness of the product, its rarity and that it is chosen by a few. It is a logical thought that if a product is priced high there must be something special about it. Support it by creating hype about the product.

Sell it:

It is worthwhile exploring all possible avenues to sell handcrafted jewelry for men and this means offline as well as online.

Create a buzz:

Leverage the power of social media to create a buzz about personalized jewelry for men and it is sure to get results. People become promoters when you use strategies such as offering freebies should someone’s efforts result in a sale. For instance, one can get someone to wear the jewelry and leave a feedback on the impression it created and the change it made in his life.

Selling niche products can be exciting and challenging. It can also be rewarding. Instead of selling in bulk at low margins, one sells low quantities but makes a good profit. The only thing to keep in mind is to source the right handcrafted jewelry for men and use one’s ingenuity to promote it as one’s own creation.