IT Market Watch

The technology available to us in recent months have continued to increase and make users lives that much easier. It has given many small business the opportunity to be creative and expand their business idea on new technological platforms that can appeal to their customers. There’s always something new every month. This month, however, we’ll take a look at the major tech trends and devices of 2017!

  • Smart Home Tech – Devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Echo Show and newer additions from Google and Apple have made these innovations possible through their collaborations. With Amazon Echo and Echo Show, this easy to use home speaker has everything your phone has in the comfort of your home. With hands-free text messaging and phone calls to anyone on your contacts, to already integrated music apps at your fingers disposal, the Amazon Echo is a fun IT tech that every home should have.
  • Daydream VR – The much anticipated new Lenovo and HTC VR platform/devices will have better tracking capabilities, a handful of new smartphones such as the Samsung S8 work with the Daydream platform.
  • Chatbots – Chatbots, computer programs that use artificial intelligence to facilitate human conversations, continues to help customer services when it comes to smaller businesses. Chatbots have been helpful to big and small companies in finding products, providing shipping information, to even pinpointing business locations. Companies are able to build connect bots with users on Facebook Messenger, Office 365 mail, Skype, Text/SMS, etc.
  • Collaboration tools – Emails are long gone now that there are several different tools that make collaboration that much easier in the workplace. Tools such as Google Hangouts, Slack, Skype for Business have continued to help business work to their advantage. It is said that later in the year, Facebook Workplace and Spark by Cisco Systems will also be added in the collaboration market.

Amazon Cloud Features

 Amazon cloud has created more exciting features that are providing business with incredible benefits that further engage them with their customers. Along with these features, they have also provided an easier way to organize, maintain and grow their data, and maintain all their business within one simple place.

Amazon Simple Storage Service is a scalable, high-speed, low-cost, web-based cloud storage service designed for online backup and archiving of data and different application programs. Amazon S3 provides two set of storage classes – S3 Standard and S3 Infrequent Access. Standard is set for frequently accessed data that is mainly delivered with low latency and high throughout. S3 Infrequent Access, however, offers a low storage prices for backups and long-term data storage.

One of its feature is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, otherwise known as EC2. EC2 is a pay-as-you-go cloud platform which includes compute power, storage and database services as its core components. THE EC2 provides a multitude of virtual server deployment services and options, as well as computing, networking and security upgrades.

The use of EC2 reduces the time needed to boot and obtain new server instances to minutes, allowing the user to quickly scale capacity.
Within the cloud, it also features:

  • Unlimited data and object storage of most data types in various formats. A stored data set can range from 1 B to 5 TB.
  • Provides Reduced Redundancy Storage (RRS), which reduces latency by storing data in regionally segregated buckets, helping save resources.
  • Strong authentication ensures security of regionally stored data.

With Amazon Cloud features, your business is able to excel within its customer service, and even within the business itself. It is an easier way to gather all information needed and maintain it in a secure place that is also easily accessible to you and your workers.

Color Combinations We Like

When it comes to web, print or, really, any design, color combinations play a crucial role in the designs appearance. Because of this, it is important to keep the basic rules of color combining in mind when creating a new design.

When deciding on a combination, you want to incorporate a variety of colors so that the design comes to life. At the same time, you don’t want to have too large of a variety since it could make it difficult for the audience to follow the design. In general, you want to have at least 3 main colors in your design:

  1. The Primary Color, which makes up about 60 percent of the design.
  2. The Secondary Color used to back up the primary color should make up about 30 percent of the design.
  3. The Highlight Color used to emphasize parts of the design should make up about 10 percent of the design.

 

Deciding on the right combination requires keeping in mind the basic rule of complimentary colors. These are colors opposite to from one another in the color wheel. In other words, cool colors with warm colors. Using a variety of shades of a specific color can also be helpful when deciding on a combination.

In general, the combinations are usually decided on depending on what kind of business the design is being created for. In this case, you would have to take into consideration what pictures you would need to incorporate, what colors are associated with the brand of the business, and what kind of influence is the business to make in the audience.

We decided to ask our Sperling Interactive team of designers what their favorite color combinations are. The following are their answers:

Andrew: A combination of light grays, blue, and white is Andrew’s favorite because it gives a clean and sleek appearance to the design, and simply looks good all together.

Jose: A simple red, blue and green is Jose’s favorite combination. These colors are highly influenced by the Dominican Republic’s flag and, also, by the fact that these colors can create a variety of other colors.

Julia: Recently, Julia has been enjoying white or subtle colors with a brighter accent color, like cream, white and a bright mint green. She feels it creates a modern and clean feel.

Holmes: One of Holmes’ favorite color combinations is light blue, gray and white with yellow highlights because enjoys the clean color the cool tones create. Another favorite is orange and yellow because these demand attention and are challenging colors to work with.

Rose: A combination of purple and green tones with some grays and white is Rose’s favorite because it brings color balance while still being lively.

Stacey: Bright floral color combination is what she enjoys the most along with shades of blue and gold. She says that, even though those are Michigan colors, the combination is a reliable contrasting one.

Benefits of Direct Mail Marketing

 

Some may think that direct mail: like catalogs, envelopes, coupons, etc., is overrated now that digital marketing has taken over but reality is that this is still one of the most effective marketing strategies.

According to the Creative Guerrilla Marketing site, studies conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) show that direct mail receives a higher response rate than emails. This makes promoting your products and services more affective. The reason for this is because it is more likely to open a physical mail rather than an email. By doing this, it is a physical entrance of your brand to their home, which helps perceives the mail as an invitation rather than spam. This act also allows your consumers or potential customers to build a physical bond with your brand, which helps keep your company in their minds when thinking about a specific service or product you offer.

Encompassing its successfulness, direct mail marketing also makes measuring the success rate much more simple than in the digital form. Measuring the outcome of a direct mail marketing campaign can include the response rate of phone calls and/or, depending on whether this was provided to consumers in their mail, the amount of coupons received back.

Direct mail can also be portrayed as a more friendly marketing gesture. Because of this, whenever a follow up phone call needs to be made, instead of having a boring and cold conversation with the consumer, your employees phone calls with the consumers can be more friendly and with better communication. Having a warm conversation can lead to better and positive brand recognition.

The most valuable benefit that comes from direct mail marketing is that it teaches you about what demographics, or audience, you should be targeting. When getting the address of the responsive consumers, you could gain better knowledge of what interests them the most, what their income is like, and much more. By acknowledging the customers you already have, you could figure out what consumers you should be targeting.

Why you Need Reputation Management

Are you a small or local business owner? Did you know that small/local businesses are more vulnerable to online reputation attacks? By this I don’t mean having hackers going in to hijack all of your media. It is much simpler than that. Someone posting negative content through videos, blog posts, complaint comments, or even promoting your competition or developing a hate site are all ways in which your business’ reputation can be attacked.

Word-of-mouth can travel much quicker than you may expect. If your business is being under attack and you don’t invest what is needed in developing your online presence and reputation, your business will suffer damages—like lost revenues—later on.

Luckily, we have searched and developed some points to guide you in avoiding such losses.

Assess Your Online Reputation:
The first step is to assess your current reputation by looking up the name of your business, your name, any brands and products in relation to your business, you high-profile employees, and usernames or handles. By doing this you would be able to determine where to start in managing your online reputation.

Be Active in All Relevant Online Mediums:
If you don’t already, make sure your business is on these 3 MAJOR platforms:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Google+

Having a strong online presence can surpass any negative postings about your business, especially if you’re engaging with your audience.

Aside from the 3 major platforms though, stay up to date with other online properties that may be associated with you industry. If your business has visually-oriented products, get active on Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and all other visual websites.

Avoid Online Argument:
Sometimes your audience can leave harsh comments about your business, but you must avoid negatively engaging with them. When handling these situations, be nicer than you think you should be and respond professionally.

Make Blog Posts:
Creating blog posts with relevant keywords in them can help with your business’ ranking. It also provides you with a reliable platform to respond to any major allegations made about your company.

Develop Platforms for Executive Names:
All individuals associated with your business (founders, owners, executives) should have strong social media. Many times, a company’s identity is associated with executives and, if they do not have high profiles online, they could be leaving themselves open to any online antagonists.

Be Mindful:
If your business is receiving a lot of negative feedback, you should probably reconsider whatever it is you are getting negativity for. There may be some weaknesses that your company members should address. If in fact you are in the wrong, own up to the mistakes made by your business and try to make amends with your customers.

It is crucial to invest your time and—sometimes—money in your business’ reputation development. People could be looking up your business online to find out more about it. If you are not taking control of your business’ brand online, someone else will.

“A Year in Search 2015”

If you haven’t done so yet, you must watch “A Year in Search 2015,” a video that features the main worldwide events of 2015 and the questions they arose on Google Search.

The video shows a variety of clips from all the main events to hit the news this past year. It demonstrates events from the Syrian refugee crisis all the way up to the black/blue, white/gold dress crisis that had tormented humanity around the world.

In the background, the audio from Caitlyn Jenner’s moving ESPY Awards speech about overcoming all adversaries and moving along to greater things plays along. A very appropriate audio, this is, as we have all witnessed some difficult moments around the world and have worked to become more unified to overcome those moments.

The top 3 global questions that arose from the Paris Attack were:

  1. What happened in Paris?
  2. Why did ISIS attack Paris?
  3. Is it safe to travel to Paris?

Aside from the crisis, though, there were many great 2015 moments featured in the video like Queen Elizabeth II’s grand milestone, the discovery of water in Mars, and the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Here are the top 5 entertaining questions that came about these amazing events:

Queen Elizabeth II’s longest-reigning British monarch—Top Questions in the UK:

  1. How old is the Queen?
  2. Where does the Queen live?
  3. Why does the Queen have two birthdays?
  4. What does the Queen do?
  5. How much is the Queen worth?

The discovery of water in Mars:

  1. Is there life on Mars?
  2. Is there life on other planets?
  3. Are aliens real?
  4. What do aliens look like?
  5. Is there water on Mars?

Release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens:

  1. What order should I watch ‘Star Wars’?
  2. Who is Kylo Ren?
  3. Is Luke Skywalker Kylo Ren?
  4. When do ‘Star Wars’ tickets go on sale?
  5. Who is Finn in ‘Star Wars’?

Click here to watch the Google video: https://www.google.com/trends/story/2015_GLOBAL

Spring Cleaning for Business

Spring is a time for new beginnings and a fresh start.  Many individuals use this season as a time to do some much needed spring cleaning of their yard and home after the long winter months.  Spring can also be a perfect time for cleaning up and organizing your business as well.  This could mean a myriad of things depending upon your field of work but there are some steps that all businesses can take to “set themselves to rights” whether it is the physical office or the electronic email.  Businesses may even find that getting organized and clearing out the old or unneeded items can be a financially advantageous.  Let’s look at some ways that you may want to do a little spring cleaning this season in your small business.

  • Purge the Office – Take this chance to purge the office of all items that are no longer needed.  For example recycle any old or broken electronics.  Donate duplicate items to a worthy cause and get a tax receipt.  Replace any broken items or fix items that need a tune up, like the office shredder or report binder.  This may take time out of a work day or may need to be done on a non-work day to do a thorough cleaning.
  • Organize the paper files – According to the National Association of Professional Organizations, paper clutter is the No. 1 problem for most businesses. Studies show the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing concentration and creative thinking. Therefore, go through your filing cabinets and shred anything that’s out of date or no longer relevant to your business. Scan items that you question whether you will need them in the future.
  • Organize your inbox and electronic storage files – It is time to clean house when your email is overloaded and not organized into manageable files and folders.  Take a little time each day to sort and purge emails that slow down your work process. In addition, unsubscribe to newsletters or other subscriptions you no longer read.
  • Tidy your social media accounts – Take stock of your accounts and make sure your profiles are up-to-date.  There’s no point in having multiple Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Instagram profiles if you’re not actively posting and monitoring each account.
  • Take stock of the furniture around the office most especially the lobby – The couches, rugs, lamps and tables are a reflection of your business, so make sure they are cleaned and updated regularly.  Examine the furniture for rips, scratches and fading.  Either get the items repaired or replace them.

 

Phablets

In the world of technology, new trends hit the market quickly and can sometimes take the world by storm. As trends go, the Phablet is a hard one to miss. This phone/tablet hybrid is half smart phone and half tablet thus the Phone-tABLET. This feature-rich device boasts screen sizes between 5 and 6 inches that offer the portability and functionality of a smartphone crossed with the dynamic, big-screen experience of a tablet. Some even come with a stylus.

According to Techno Crunch online the so-called phablet phenomenon is here to stay. The typical behavior of a smartphone owner includes shopping, social networking, browsing, research, gaming, messaging and streaming. All of these activities become more enjoyable and easier for the user with the dawn of the phablet. Let’s look at the ultimate benefits to owners.

  • Spectacular Visual Display – The larger screen on the phablet makes watching videos, your favorite shows, reading and playing games much easier. Editing documents on the 5 or 6 inches of visual display becomes easier and allows for crisp graphics and displays.
  • Improved Performance – Due to the larger size, manufactures designed a more powerful piece of hardware. Video calls run clearly and video games functions run smooth;y as a result of the impressive quad core processor and increased on board memory.
  • Photo Capabilities – Phablets boast spectacular cameras that allow for better sensors to capture light so you can get better photos.

 

Crowd sourcing

You have heard the phrases, “Many hands make light work” and “Two heads are better than one.”  Crowd sourcing uses just such philosophy and has become a very real and important business idea. Let’s take a look at what crowd sourcing is how it can be used and what is benefits and drawbacks may be.

Jeff Howe, a contributing editor to Wired magazine, first coined the term “crowd sourcing” in a June 2006 article and writes the blog crowdsourcing.com. Crowd sourcing is the process of getting work or funding, usually online, from a crowd of people. The word is a combination of the words ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’. The idea is to take work and outsource it to a crowd of workers. By canvassing a large crowd of people for ideas, skills, or participation, the quality of content and idea generation will be superior.

Crowd sourcing can be used in many different way funding projects or getting a large project done by many hands.  Crowd funding is when a business or educational project is funded by individuals, online contributors or investors.  Most crowd funding is done via web sites which list projects, and provide a means for donors to commit.  In educational and nonprofit outreach, crowd sourcing is a form of engagement, such as participating in an online course, collecting photos of butterflies for a citizen-science project, uploading old photos for a community history project, deciphering sentences from old scanned manuscripts, playing protein folding games to help scientists discover new ways to fight diseases, or participating in online discussions. One of the leading sites is Kickstarter, which since their launch in spring 2009, has funded over $417 million, funding over 36,000 creative projects.

While Crowd sourcing has it’s strong points it also has it’s weak spots in regards to quality and commitment.  Crowd sourcing can improve productivity and creativity while minimizing labor and research expenses. Using the Internet to solicit feedback from an active and passionate community of customers can reduce the amount of time spent collecting data through formal focus groups or trend research. On the flip side crowds are not employees, so executives can’t expect to control them. Following through with non-cash compensations and patience for non employees can prove difficult.  For more information on Crowd Sourcing please visit . . . CBS News,or Crowdsourcing.

 

How to Write a Great Blog

So you heard the secret?  Blogging drives traffic to your site and helps your company get on the social media radar when people share your blog posts. It doesn’t hurt either that It’s also one more cue to Google and other search engines that your website is active and dynamic.  So now that you know this – how do you write a blog that people will want to read?

Here are some key ingredients to a good blog. . .

  1. Grab attention – Create a headline  with key words that will grab the attention of readers and compel them to read it.  In addition it is important that the first 3-4 sentences grab the interest of the reader so they will continue to read until the end. . . and even more importantly come back and read future blogs.
  2. Connect to the Reader. Relate your topic to something your reader can understand emotionally.  This may be through humor, personal story or a key insight that they can connect back to their business.  They will see the added value in your site through your discussions on your blog.
  3. Give Key Points in a “How to” to linked section. By giving readers practical and easy to understand advice they will remember you and possibly subscribe to your site thus guaranteeing future visits.
  4. Publish regularly. If readers can anticipate that you will be publishing once a week or even more regularly they will look forward to hearing from you.  In addition, respond quickly and positively to comments readers make on a regular basis.
  5. Be Visual.  Use headers, numbers, bullets, and pictures to illustrate your point.  This will make reading the blog easy and keep it organized.

 

Probably the best advice about blogging is to be yourself.  Let your company’s personality come out in your words not just your research .  Have fun blogging!