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Tips for Setting up a Small Business Network

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Every network requires the foundations of routers and switches – the essential pieces of equipment. Although they look pretty similar, they actually have different functions in the very network. Small business (SMB) owners often confuse the two, and fall at the first hurdle. Well, do not make the same mistake and remember that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. That being said, you should strive to make informed decisions, pick hardware which supports your specific business needs, and stay on the safe side.

The state of interconnectedness

Switches connect different devices like computers, printers, network-attached storage (NAS) and servers that are on the same network, and possess an Ethernet cable port. They basically make the communication and sharing of information possible. On the other hand, routers are used to tie networks together. In fact, these devices connect computers (networks) to the internet, and allow them to share one internet connection.  A router also acts as a dispatcher, choosing the way your information travels, repelling cyber-attacks and assigning priority orders.

Note that, apart from switches and routers, there is some additional infrastructure at play here, such as electrical outlets and wires. However, if you go for switches with inline power, for example, you can avoid this altogether and place wireless access points (WAPS) wherever there is a network wall jack. Furthermore, bear in mind that the hardware you purchase today may become outdated in just a few years. Hence, it pays off to design the network with this redundancy in mind, and stay flexible to future changes.

Moving parts

In any event, for flawless communication, it is advisable to invest in business-grade switches and routers. Consumer and home networking products do not cut it, especially not when business starts growing. You do not want to outgrow them before they become obsolete, do you? Many business owners add Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIPs), video surveillance, integrated messaging and other features. It also goes without saying that you must choose the best data cabling for copper or fiber connectivity and Ethernet networks.

Now, many entrepreneurs opt for switches and routers that are easy to install and manage. For obvious reasons, functionality and simplicity are two guiding principles.  A bulk of small organizations is not eager to pay dearly for IT technicians.  Therefore, one has to comprehend the difference between unmanaged and managed switches. The former is a more likely choice for an SMB, as it works out of the box, providing only the basic configuration features.

As for the managed switches, they give users more control when it comes to modifying how the internet gets consumed. They demand a higher level of technical aptitude, and usually have a proprietary graphical user interface (GUI) for programming and monitoring. In both cases, however, the scalability of the device can be determined by simply looking at the number of ports they have and identifying the number of devices you need to connect.

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Lay the network groundwork

There is no going around the fact that you must grasp the basics of networking hardware. Your goal is to tie the devices together with switches, and utilize routers to connect the computers to the internet.  The aforementioned tips and practices are a good starting point to build a network capable of meeting the needs of a growing company. Remember that the choice of products depends on how you plan to use the network, features you want, your tech capacities and at last, tolerance for risk.

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Business

5 Ways You Can Use Technology to Improve Customer Experience

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Customer experience is a collection of impressions that your audience gets from doing business with you or merely by interacting with your brand. Therefore, pinpointing what constitutes it may be quite difficult, due to the fact that different people get stimulated by different things. Still, this is a field where technology can be of immense help in more than one way. Here are five examples of how technology can be leveraged to improve customer experience.

1.      Using chatbots

The simplest way to show your audience that you do care about them is to provide them with an immediate response when they try to contact you. This is exactly what chatbots are there for. Other than this, chatbots can drastically cut down the volume and gravity of human error, providing for much better customer experience. This way, you also get to increase your customer base and grow your operations.

2.      Big data analytics

The biggest problem with interpreting the needs of your audience lies in the fact that there’s the subjective factor that you can never really predict or anticipate. With the help of big data analytics, such a thing might, at last, become a possibility. The bigger the number of your test subjects, the more reliable the results will be. Nonetheless, access to big data isn’t all that you need to focus on. What you also need to pay attention to is the right analytical tool. Some businesses even decide to go for business intelligence software, in order to help them turn this data into actionable information.

3.      Automating your feedback-gathering process

The biggest problem with feedback lies in the fact that the majority of your audience doesn’t leave any. They go to your site or e-store, complete a purchase and leave things at that, leaving you in the dark to wonder whether they’re content with the service they’ve received. Nevertheless, by collaborating with platforms that specialize in the art of creating an efficient customer satisfaction survey, you can overcome this obstacle with relative ease. Other than learning a thing or two about your customer service (from reliable and credible sources), this way, you also get some responses that are good enough to be used in testimonials. All in all, your options are quite numerous.

4.      Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)

The very term experience is something highly subjective. However, what if you had the means to drastically increase the immersion of your customer’s interaction with your brand? VR and AR can help you do just that. First, it goes without saying that advertising and marketing will become more effective. Once you add one more dimension to your brand’s interaction with your customer base, you’ll be able to raise your customer experience to the next level.

5.      Internet of things

The biggest downside of the manufacturing process is the lack of understanding of how the items you produce are actually used. You make your items to serve one purpose, describe the way they should be used and leave tutorials and guidelines for your customers to follow but is there really a guarantee that these items will be used in this way? Of course not. With the help of internet of things (IoT), you might finally be able to get some insight into the life of your products once they leave your inventory. This insight alone will help you drastically improve their efficiency and, therefore, customer experience that comes from them.

Conclusion

The very last thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that customer experience isn’t a feature, but the overall impression that your customers have after interacting with your brand. Still, with the help of technology, you can gather data on what matters to them the most, as well as what works the best. Some tech trends offer additional features for your customer base to embrace, thus taking you one step further.

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Business

Reasons to Outsource Social Media Management

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Outsourcing has become very popular among modern companies. Having professionals take over part of your business process and not having to deal with it on a daily basis is a great option. Not to mention that you don’t have to hire a professional to do only one thing in your company, just opt to outsource it to someone who does only that and pay for the service, not the talent. There are numerous reasons why outsourcing social media management makes so much sense, and we are going to cover some of those reasons today.

When do you know you need a social media manager

Most companies do not realize how important the presence on social media is for obtaining new clients and maintaining old relationships. This is why hiring an inexperienced intern to take over this part, or having someone post something a few times a month. This is not a valid strategy and ends up costing your company a lot. Having consistency is essential. So if you are not certain you have the right people or tools to take this on it is essential that you outsource it to the best possible expert who will be able to handle the workload and ensure that there is a foolproof social media strategy in place to ensure the best possible results for your company. Taking into consideration that there are currently 3.397 billion active social media users this is a channel you cannot afford to overlook.

Having a strong social media presence can help establish your brand

And having an experienced social media manager who can take on this challenge is essential. They will know what are the best strategies for your company. You need to have a strong presence not only to attract possible customers but also to quality SEO lead generation as conducting outreach from LinkedIn, Facebook can be far more efficient if you have an established name and following on the selected social media platforms. Leads that you are contacting respond better to recognizable brand names and to companies they can research and read about directly from their customers.

Your social media manager will know which tools to use

This is one of the biggest benefits of outsourcing social media management. You won’t need to invest in all the latest tools and products needed for this section of the business process. The company or person you outsource it too has already all the necessary tools and the required knowledge of how to use them, making it the process itself far more efficient.  In addition, using the right tools for social media management can ensure that you get the desired results far more efficiently than if you did the whole process alone, step by step.

Saving both time and money

This is definitely the most important reason to outsource social media management. First of all, having an expert take over means that you won’t have to allocate your own time and resources to deal with this marketing aspect. Secondly, you will only have to make one single monthly payment and not think about additional investments into ads or tools that can be quite costly. Based on the social media management plan that you get from the company you have outsourced so you can get all the necessary information regarding what you are paying for and be able to monitor the desired progress.

There you have it, valid reasons why social media management outsourcing makes the most sense for both you and your company. All that is left is finding the perfect fit so that you can outsource it as soon as possible.

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Business

Offline Business Promotion Tricks You Should Be Using

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In the digital world, it’s quite hard to find a business that focuses as much on offline business promotion as they do on their online activity. Sure, there are a lot of businesses that still don’t have a website but even they are present on social networks, with some even using their social media profiles as a primary sales platform. All of this makes people neglect, even overlook the importance of offline business marketing that still gives outstanding ROI. With that in mind, there are five methods that you should definitely be using.

1.      Networking

The first thing you need to understand is that in the B2B world, face-to-face meetings are still incredibly relevant, which is why you need to put a stronger emphasis on networking. Therefore, you need to learn how you come across in the business world, how to present your business in a positive light and, overall, how to make a strong first impression. Other than this, you need to understand the nature behind these interactions and make sure that a positive personal relationship has a way of transferring itself into a business world. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect, so don’t expect to make a huge impact on your first convention.

2.      Offer samples for free

The simplest way to get word of mouth endorsement (and positive reviews) is to ensure that some people get your products early on. Now, even those who are interested may be reluctant to be the first one to try (or test) the product, which is why you may want to consider offering some of these products for free. In return, all that you should ask from these lucky recipients is that they endorse the product and spread the word, of course, if they like it.

3.      Promotional materials

Another great idea that you need to explore is the use of promotional products in your campaign in order to create a stronger brand image. This way, you get to spread the brand awareness about your business without actually offering products for free (in any quantity). Also, these promotional materials can be offered to your customers, given to your employees for their loyalty, shipped to your partners or be used in a contest. They can even become an incentive if you decide to include them in the offer. Overall, this is an amazing idea worth some exploration.

4.      Street art

The reason why street art is somewhat more effective than billboards and signs is due to the fact that it works in a much subtler way. You see, when you encounter a billboard, you don’t even have to look at it in order to know that it’s an ad. This means that your defence mechanisms will already be up and you’ll take any message that comes to you this way with a slight dose of doubt, even scepticism. This is a process that every single audience member goes through. With street art, the curiosity might prevail and the message you decide to send may stand a better chance.

5.      Attending an event

An industry-related event is a great place for you to do some networking and display/spread your products, both of which are methods that we’ve already mentioned. However, it’s also a place where your presence may be mandatory. Potential clients may expect you to be there and failing to appear could send a wrong message. You’ll either be seen as not-relevant-enough-to-be-invited or it will be assumed that you aren’t that interested in what you do. This is one of those scenarios where the consequences of not attending may be a more relevant factor than the actual benefits of attending. Therefore,  send your staff at least if you can’t go there in person.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, most of these offline business promotion tricks can be integrated into your digital marketing as well. Street art can be used as guerrilla marketing to enhance your online presence; giveaways can be turned into a social media contest and networking can easily start with an online outreach. As you can see, each of these methods creates a positive ROI in more than one way.

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