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How Fit Is Your Business Website?

Depending on how recently you’ve been to the doctor for a checkup, you may or may not have noticed that there are essentially two steps to figuring out how healthy you are: First, there is an interview and/or questionnaire, and then you usually get a series of short tests.

By studying the results, your physician can get a fairly accurate picture of what’s going on with your body and make appropriate recommendations.

Believe it or not, you can follow the very same process with your business website to keep it fit, active, and healthy for a long time to come. Given the amount of money you probably spent to get your web presence in the first place, doesn’t it make sense to ensure that it’s operating as it should be – both as a piece of software and as a marketing tool?

Here’s how you can think like a doctor and assess your website’s health and fitness:

Begin by Looking for First Impressions

Just as your visit to the physician begins with an interview, your inspection of your website should start with a quick look around. How is the layout? Are the visuals in good shape? Is information about your company and/or products up to date, and are all your links working?

More often than not, this quick “eyeball test” will tell you much of what you need to know. Perhaps your website is looking old, tired, and out of shape. That might be a sign you’re due for a redesign. Or, if something looks a little fishy, you might need to update your hosting software and check for viruses.

Either way, you shouldn’t skip this important step. Looking through your website at least once a week is a great way to cut off problems before they develop.

Continue by Going Deeper with Tests

Just as your doctor will draw a little bit of blood to make sure things are going well inside your body, it’s a good idea to dig deeply into your web analytics package now and then to figure out what’s going on beneath the layer of HTML on your website, too.

In the same way that vitamin deficiencies are easy to spot under a microscope, a quick scan of your most important traffic sources, content viewed, and bounce rates should tell you which parts of your site are “hot” and which ones aren’t working or converting as well as they could be.

The beauty of studying analytics is that you can sometimes get access to insights that wouldn’t have been otherwise obvious. That’s especially true if your website looks great but isn’t doing much to contribute to your bottom line. A few simple numbers and graphs might be able to show you exactly why.

A healthy website, like a healthy body, requires continual attention and maintenance. A fit and healthy website is something that helps your business grow and grow. A web presence that’s not fit, however, is a waste of time and money. Remember that and be sure to check its appearance and performance regularly.

The Problem With DIY Small Business Websites

A lot of us can remember having a relative – maybe a father, grandfather, or uncle – who liked to tinker around the house and fix broken faucets, mend light sockets, and otherwise keep things in shape. And reality television is full of men and women who have saved money and had a blast by doing their own renovations. Maybe that's why we run across so many business owners who decide to forgo the time and expense of hiring a professional web design firm and build their own websites, either from scratch or from a template.

That should be a great way to lower your bills and get more involved, shouldn’t it?

It certainly can be, but the sad fact is that most business owners – even the ones who are already fairly web savvy – don't have the expertise to give their site a professional feel. And of those that do, few have the time required to get the job done right.

These days, web design is less like home renovation and more like auto maintenance. Whereas just a couple of decades ago, just about anyone who had some free time and a little understanding could slide under a car, diagnose a problem, and make a quick repair, autos have gotten more complicated. Most have processors and self-monitoring systems that are as expensive as the basic components themselves, and messing with one could easily throw other systems out of whack.

Your company's website is similar. Set things up the wrong way, and you risk having site that doesn't load well on different types of browsers, can crash when you make content updates, can't be found (or is poorly rated) by search engines, and so on. Any of these problems is likely to end up costing you more – in terms of lost business, if not web development expenses – then they could ever hope to save you.

There's nothing wrong with popping the hood and getting your hands dirty a little once in a while; in fact, when it comes to online marketing, a business owner who was closely involved has an enormous advantage over someone who isn't. Think twice before deciding to build your own site, however – what seems like a fun and simple project could end up stalling your business before you can even turn the key.

Is Your Internet Marketing Campaign Like a Shotgun… or a Scalpel?

Going online, building a new small business website, or even just putting together an ambitious online marketing plan for the first time can all feel like opening a giant door to the world's customers. No matter what your limitations were before, you can now reach new buyers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, virtually anywhere on the globe.

In most cases, that's a really great thing.

And how could it not? Actually, opening the marketing floodgates can actually be a big hindrance to some smaller businesses because it can pull them away from their core focus. Here's the problem: no matter what you sell, there are probably dozens of other companies in the world that sell the same thing, or something similar… and the vast majority of them are online. So the people who buy from you now usually don't do so because they don't have any other choice, but because you offer something distinctly unique.

If you can find that unique quality, then you can take it and make it the core theme of your online marketing campaign. You can use it to explain why people are better off buying from you than they are for many of your competitors, and you can say clearly with conviction. But without any of those things, you're "just another vendor" trying to make a buck online. In that case, why should anyone choose you, when there might be someone closer, cheaper, or that they're more familiar with?

When it comes to marketing, online or off, you should think of your campaigns as scalpels, rather than shotguns. In other words, you shouldn't just be looking for "anyone with a few dollars to spend," as much as you should your perfect customer. If you can stick to that approach, and find these people gradually, then they'll reward you by buying again and again, not to mention sharing information about your business with their friends.

It's a very big world out there, filled with lots and lots of customers for what you sell. Just be sure to keep perspective and look for the ones that make the most sense – we can promise it will end up being better business for you, and a lot more fulfilling for them.

Is the Link Between Social Media Marketing and Higher Profits Real?

Social media is everywhere, and studies show the average American likes to visit sites like Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis. So, that means social media marketing must be incredibly important to your online marketing plan, doesn't it? 

Or, to get closer to the point, does being successful on social media necessarily indicate that you are well on your way to Internet marketing profits?

A lot of companies are asking themselves that very question, as they pour lots of time and money into things like sponsored tweets, viral campaigns, and other distinctly social tools. On the one hand, they're putting their faith into the power of social networks; but on the other, they are very aware of the fact that few companies have been able to show a definite link between successful social marketing and real bottom-line improvement.

So, how do you answer this question for your business, and determine whether you should be pouring resources into social media marketing? Here are a few guidelines to help you:

  1. First, it's important to note that most businesses should be taking advantage of some form of social media, even if it isn't advertising or extensive campaigns. It's a great way to communicate with customers and meet buyers one-on-one, so you don't want to miss out on that opportunity.

  2. Next, consider treating your social profiles as you would any other Internet marketing tool (such as a banner ad or pay-per-click campaign). You wouldn't spend money on those without tracking the results and seeing what you're getting in return, so don't do that with social media, either.

  3. And finally, you shouldn't put an inordinate amount of time and energy into anything that you aren't sure is going to pay off. Feel free to experiment and work at your social profiles, but don't do it at the expense of email marketing, search engine optimization, and other proven means.

If you're looking for the right online marketing mix for your business, why not let the Kinetik team of experts help? Call us today to arrange for a free consultation and see what we've been able to do for other companies just like yours.

4 Reasons You Might Need (and Want) to Upgrade Your Company’s Server

Companies call us for IT help all the time. When they do, however, they hardly ever ask for a new or upgraded server – instead, they talk about slow networks, missing emails, and even persistent error messages.

That’s probably to be expected. Not a lot of people from outside of the IT profession know the details of their company’s server configuration. And, most of the men and women we work with don’t think or care much about servers until they stop working the way they are supposed to.

Still, outdated servers can lead to big problems within your business. To show you why, here are four reasons you might need (and even want) to upgrade your company’s server:

#1 Your Company’s Server Has Important Work to do

If you aren’t familiar with your server, it’s essentially a computer within your office that has a very specialized set of tasks. Instead of having a keyboard, a monitor, and graphics cards (like other computers and workstations), it typically features a heavy-duty CPU and lots of storage space. That’s because your server has a lot of jobs, which may include managing printers, keeping databases, and coordinating email and other network functions.

#2 There are Lots of Reasons to Upgrade Your Server

Naturally, the older your server is, the more likely you are to have performance issues or component failures. But, it’s rarely a good idea to wait until your server is on its last legs. That’s because newer servers bring faster performance, better security, and the ability to manage more users at once. Conversely, older servers may be dependent on out-of-date software that can’t be replaced.

#3 A Growing Company Often Needs a Growing Server

Imagine for a moment that your company is growing. As part of that process, you might expand to a bigger location, invest in new phone lines, and even put up a new website. Doesn’t it make sense that your server should be upgraded at the same time? It’s an easy detail to overlook, but remember that your existing server was probably designed for a much smaller team. It can easily become a performance bottleneck without improvements or replacement.

#4 Server Upgrades are Best Handled by IT Professionals

Because servers are so critical to the day-to-day operation of your business – and because upgrading servers requires backups, file validations, and much more – it’s the kind of job you shouldn’t try to handle on your own. A qualified IT professional can help you choose and install your new server quickly. Bypass their help, and you might find yourself wondering what happened to your data, or your in office network.

Upgrading servers is often an easy decision once you understand why the change is needed, and what kinds of performance and security gains you can get in the process. Have you been putting off replacing one of the most important pieces of computer hardware that your company depends on?

Did you know that you can have the Kinetik IT team assess your server, and other technology, to look for security risks and cost-saving opportunities? Contact us today and see what we can do to help.

How Social Networking is Like a Dinner Party

It's a little bit ironic that a lot of people who use "social" media extensively find themselves sorely lacking in social skills. Believe it or not, there is a certain decorum to the way things are done on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and the further you stray from it, the more your manners are going to affect your ability to market yourself and your company.

Think of social media sites as a big dinner party; it's okay to talk business and network a bit, but being rude and overbearing is only going to scare people away. Here are three quick tips to help you stay polite and profitable:

It's ok to put your business out there. People, even those you don't know personally, will sometimes be interested in your company, what you do for a living. Feel free to answer questions enthusiastically, but don't make every profile or post into a virtual advertisement; you'll only push interested prospects away.

Don't dominate every conversation. Just as in real life, if no one else can get a word in edgewise, or express an opinion that's contrary to yours, you aren't exactly going to attract new friends. Be engaged but not bullying – you want to leave people with the impression that you’re a helpful professional, not someone in full-time marketing mode.

Participate in conversations started by others. Whether it's online discussions, forums, or even just short posts on their wall, try to get involved beyond your own content once in a while. Not only does that make everything a lot more fun, but it shows that you’re online for reasons other than making a quick buck.

There are a lot of great potential customers for you to meet through social media. Just be sure to follow the rules and stay in their good graces the same way you would if they were actually sitting across from you.

Are You Forgetting the Unbreakable Rule of Email Newsletters?

Believe itThere's a lot that goes into successful email marketing – so much, in fact, that entire books and seminars have been devoted to the subject. And yet, a lot of business owners and marketers don't understand the one unbreakable rule for sending email newsletters… or not, that rule isn't that you have to continually promote your products and services to the contacts on your list. Instead, it's a reminder that you simply cannot afford to lose subscribers unnecessarily.

Why is this so important? Once upon a time, it wasn't that difficult to find new subscribers. In fact, the numbers suggested that you could come out ahead by offering one product or discount after another. If you pushed a little too hard and someone removed themselves from your list, you could almost always find a few others to replace them if you were willing to work at it. 

Now, though, people are being much more selective about what they'll allow in their inbox, and a lot of marketers are seeing their email newsletter subscription list losing clients as a result. And, when you lose a subscriber, you might be permanently losing an ongoing sales opportunity to work with someone who was once interested in your products and services. If you can't replace them, you're taking a valuable part of your Internet marketing effort and throwing it away forever.

For that reason, it's important that you follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Don't contact your subscribers too often; for most businesses, between two and four times a month is plenty.
  • Respect your subscribers' time; don't send them offers that aren't relevant to what they need.
  • Mix in some interesting articles along with your sales message; don't make your newsletter completely promotional.
  • And finally, offer unique discounts or ideas in your newsletter; you want to prevent subscribers from leaving by giving them something they can’t get anywhere else.

Looking for more great email marketing advice? Visit our blog again soon, or talk to a member of the Kinetik team to see how we can help you turn your newsletter into something more.

More Great Data Protection Tips

Recently, we've been showing how small and medium-sized businesses can take steps to prevent cyber attacks and digital theft. That's because, even though you might not be as big a prize to hackers as a major retailer like Target is, there are probably lots of thieves who would love to gain access to your files. And that's not even counting the data loss risks that come from floods, fires, and other everyday disasters that can destroy your technology.

With that in mind, here are a few more great ways to keep your digital files (and reputation) from being lost:

Keep data backups offsite. By keeping backups in a remote location (and transmitted through an encrypted connection), you protect yourself in the event of a theft inside your company's walls. Plus, you'll have access to your files if you need them following a fire, flood, or other disruption to your office.

Have a trained team overseeing your data. Often, business owners and executives either don't know how to spot the signs of a cyber attack, or are too busy to look out for them. With the right hosting and IT security team on your side, you'll have somebody who knows what to look for and can take preventative steps at the first sign of trouble.

Don't overlook the little things. As we mentioned in the past, little things like changing passwords and updating hosting software can go a long way toward keeping you protected. Don't forget the simple steps, and you won't be vulnerable to the most obvious kinds of online attacks.

The bottom line on data security is that it starts with the right philosophy and lots of planning. Why not let the Kinetik team look for risks in your IT structure and show you how to protect your business? Call or email us today for a free consultation.

What the Right IT Management Does For You

More and more, businesses are starting to realize that managing IT in-house isn’t the best way to get premium service or save money.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but most of them come down to scale and expertise – business owners and managers don’t know enough about IT to hire the right personnel and make the right investments, and even if they did, it would be cost prohibitive to get what they really wanted.

 It’s not surprising, then, that more and more new clients are coming to us for outsourced IT management. You might be considering the same. By using a specialized vendor as your “IT department,” you give your business a few important advantages:

Things Just Work

 This is simple, but it’s more important than a lot of business people realize. When you have the right vendor managing and monitoring your systems, you can stop worrying about the little issues (and accompanying workaround fixes) that suck so much time out of your daily schedule. When things just work the way they’re supposed to, you can get more done without having to worry about issues of hardware and software.

You Stay Ahead of Customers and Competitors

When you have someone who knows technology looking out for your business, they can help spot new hardware, practices, and apps that can help your business grow or save money. That saves you the time you would’ve spent doing the same, of course, but it also gives you the opportunity to anticipate what your customers may ask you for in the future and stay one step ahead of your competitors.

Your IT Partner Fixes Problems Before They Become Problems

With IT management, your vendor can stay on the lookout for potential problems or issues, identifying and correcting them before they affect your business. If you’ve ever lost access to telephones, email, or something else that’s crucial to the day-to-day operation of your company, you know how important it is to prevent these sorts of outages.

You Get to Stop Worrying About IT Staffing

Finding the right technology personnel is hard enough. Keeping them – and keeping them trained – is a whole other challenge, and one that can put a huge dent in your bottom line. With an IT management agreement in place, you can stop worrying about hiring technology staff, paying their bonuses and continuing education costs, or keeping things covered when they are away from the office.

IT management can be a constant headache, or it can be a competitive advantage. Which would you prefer?

Wondering what good outsourced IT management could do for your company? Contact the Kinetik team today and let us walk you through plans and options that might make sense for your business.

5 Great Tips for Avoiding Data Loss

When news breaks that mega companies like Target and national banks had been the victim of a huge cyber security breach, business owners and executives around the country immediately started to wonder how vulnerable their companies were. 

That's a good question, and an extremely important one in the digital age. It goes without saying that very large businesses, and those with extensive e-commerce operations, need to have multiple security layers in place to protect customer data. But, even if you don't have millions of customers, or billions at stake, there are a handful of important tips you should follow to prevent data loss and theft:

1. Back up everything, and back it up often. Regardless of whether the data loss comes from a hacker or power surge, you should have backup copies of your most important files in place and ready to use.

2. Update your hosting software frequently. The kinds of cyber attacks that affect most small businesses aren't sophisticated. Instead, they rely on known exploits in software packages like WordPress. By updating yours frequently, you can often close the door to would-be opportunistic thieves.

3. Change passwords regularly and don't use obvious words or phrases. We've all heard this advice before, but it still holds true. In the same way that you shouldn't make your pin number "1234" (something that nearly one out of 10 people do), your company's passwords shouldn't be easy for automated software to guess.

4. Restrict access to trusted personnel. In a lot of small businesses, anyone borrowing the owner’s or manager's password can get access to anything on the company website, or in databases. That's a prescription for disaster. Set different security levels so that employees can access what's needed, but not more.

5. Keep an eye on your technology. Often, you can prevent digital break-ins before they happen, simply by paying attention to things like the number of failed logins to your website or server. The closer you’re watching things, the less opportunity thieves have to catch you napping.

Feel like your company’s online security isn't what it should be? Talk to a member of the Kinetik team today to see how we can help.