How To Make Your Small Business Look Big

There are clear upsides to having a small business. You are agile and can change directions on a whim. You don’t have to conduct focus groups or wait through months of testing. You’ve got autonomy, since no other company owns or controls you. Of course you’re not competing directly with the biggest firms in your industry, but there are a few tools that can help your small business look bigger online.

How To Make Your Small Business Look Big

Build/Redesign Your Website

Last year the U.S. Small Business Administration estimated that 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website. Without an online presence, your small business can go unnoticed by potential customers. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to create a small business website that looks like a big business website. In fact, many small businesses actually have more impressive websites than big businesses because they take advantage of the fact they are agile, nimble, and have autonomy. A new website is an achievable goal.

Plan Strategically

Strategic planning isn’t only for big corporations or non profit organizations. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. What’s the vision?
  3. What are the obstacles?
  4. What are my resources?
  5. What’s my strategy?
  6. What are my tactics?
  7. What will we monitor and measure?

Establish A Marketing Budget

Procter & Gamble spent nearly $3 billion in marketing in 2014! That’s more than any other company in the world. While no small business can even dream of matching that, there’s a cost to getting your product, service, or brand in front of potential customers and clients. How much do you need to spend to look big? It depends on your business and whether you are selling direct to customers or direct to businesses. On average, companies spend about 6 percent of their revenue on marketing.

Don’t Rely Exclusively on Social Media

Social media is all the rage these days and it’s true that it shouldn’t be overlooked. At the same time, it makes no sense to rely exclusively on social media. Some people do it because it’s mostly free. Success depends a lot on the industry and your target audience. If most of your target audience is on Facebook, then spend some of your time there. If you’re in a professional business and you need to connect with professional colleagues, I’d recommend LinkedIn. If you run a restaurant and you want to show people how great your food looks, try Instagram, which is also a great tool for connecting with teenage consumers. See which sites the big brands in your industry use, and use that as a guideline.


Cyber Security – Will Our Risk Decrease If We Have Fewer Devices?

This is a good question but I don’t think it’s immediately a cyber security question. There is definitely a correlation between the number of devices you have to manage and potential risk. And it’s possible there’s a cost savings by having a laptop instead of multiple devices as there are fewer computers that need to be serviced. But I think your actual cyber security risk goes up when you give people mobile devices. Laptops can be used in many unsafe places and their versatility might actually increase security problems.

The real answer is the educational one. If people make the right choices, then cyber security risks can be minimized.

Here are some pointers to help you create an action plan to strengthen your company’s defenses against hackers:

1) Failure to cover cyber security basics – software and operating system updates

2) Not understanding what generates corporate cyber security risks

3) Lack of a cyber security policy

As part of their cyber security policies, companies should:

  • identify risks related to cyber security
  • establish cyber security governance
  • develop policies, procedures and oversight processes
  • protect company networks and information
  • identify and address risks associated with remote access to client information and funds transfer requests
  • define and handle risks associated with vendors and other third parties
  • be able to detect unauthorized activity.

4) Confusing compliance with cyber security

5) The human factor – the weakest link

6) Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy and the Cloud

7) Funding, talent and resource constraints

Think of this security layer as the immune system of your company that needs funding and talent to ensure that you don’t experience severe losses as a consequence of cyber-attacks. A good approach would be to set reasonable expectations towards this objective and allocate the resources you can afford.

8) No information security training

Employee training and awareness is essential when covering your base in terms of information security.

Another quick look at the most common file types that hackers use to penetrate your system and trigger attacks that can lead to data leakage tells you what types of actionable advice you could include in your employees’ trainings on cyber security.

9) Lack of a recovery plan

Being prepared for a security attack means to have a thorough plan of what can happen to prevent the cyber-attack, but also minimize the damage if is takes place.

10) Constantly evolving risks

Polymorphic malware is harmful, destructive or intrusive computer software such as a virus, worm, Trojan or spyware that constantly changes, making it difficult to detect with anti-malware programs. That is why you should take into account that your company might need an extra layer of protection, on top of the antivirus solution.

The first line of defense must be ensured by a product that can act proactively to identify malware, block access to hacker controlled servers and stop data leakage, but also keep your system protected by patching vulnerabilities (usually, applications that are not up to date, such as Flash or Java).


Simple tips for getting yourself to appear more often in Google searches

The following tips will help you appear more often in Google searches:

  • Make sure your website is up to date. Make sure it says what you want to say about yourself and your company. If you can change the language every few months (or more regularly) do so.
  • Write a blog and post frequently
  • Contribute content on someone else’s blog as long as your site is linked
  • Get your clients and business partners to link to your website. Make sure the link language is consistent. .org’s and .edu’s carry more weight.

Make sure you have a Google+ page, get people to review you on Google+, create your Google local pages. Even though Google+ is not the success Google hoped it would be, Google is still dominant so Google+ content has Google search value.

What should we be using for virus protection?

This is a complicated question and the answer depends on how you use your computer. Personally, I haven’t used Norton or McAfee in years. Both of those anti-virus programs are extremely resource-intensive and make day-to-day use of the computer challenging.

I recommend the following:

  • Always update your devices. If there’s an update available, run it. Most updates exist because a security loophole has been identified. The bad guys look for the weakest defenses. Follow this for all of your devices – PCs, Macs, iPhones, Androids, etc.
  • Set up your computer so that you are not the administrator. Most programs – even the bad ones – need administrator-privileges in order to run. If you accidentally download something, it will prompt you for an administrator password.
  • Do not download programs that are free. There’s always a hidden catch. Nothing is free. You might be installing a malware toolbar (this is common) along with your free program.
  • Use Windows Defender if you have Windows 7 or Windows 10. Just use the built-in anti-virus software and uninstall your other programs if you have a newer computer running one of these two operating systems.
  • Back-up and prepare for the worst. Visit and use code TWIT.. Set up an online backup for your most critical documents and make sure you have copies of your operating system and other software.
  • Use common sense. If something looks fishy it probably is phishy. Don’t click links in emails that look strange or come from people you don’t know.

How to Build a Referral Program – Part 3 – Tools to Make a Referral Program a Reality

Tools to Make a Referral Program a Reality

If building a referral program sounds very complicated, particularly if you’re not a web developer and have no talent for online marketing, maybe this post will be helpful. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that already exist on the market for taking the complicated and making it intuitive:

  • – One of the most popular and well-reviewed tools for referral programs online, Ambassador makes enrolling, tracking, and rewarding all easy to manage from a single, simple dashboard. You’ll particularly like the intuitive analytics that show you exactly where you’re having the most success.
  • Referral Rock – Here you can create, track, and expand upon referral programs to boost word-of-mouth sales. There are plenty of options here, including creating referral rewards, customizing the “friend offer,” and links to help you share information about your referral program on social media.
  • – If you’re looking for more social media engagement, WishPond helps you create landing pages, contests, promotions, and automation for leading platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
  • – Easy, simple, and intuitive—the exact kind of program you want if your focus is to make the process as navigable for your customer as possible.

Happy World Back-up Day

Happy World Backup Day! This is probably not your favorite made up holiday, but it is still an important one. How’s your backup system? Would you know what to do if your computer croaked right now?

The video above reminds us why backing up our files is so important. It’s also really easy to do using CrashPlan, Windows’ built-in tools, or another backup utility or service. You need more than one backup, too.

Remember also that your backups are only as good as your ability to restore your data from them, so today is a fine day to test your backups as well.

Technology Acronyms – If You Know What tl;dr means, just skip this post.

I was reading a post by Steve Gibson about recent attempts to hack Apple’s iMessage (apparently successful), when I spotted the acronym TL;DR. While the Security Now podcast and Steve Gibson’s site makes for some very high quality reading, I thought a short post about technology acronyms might be useful. If you know what tl;dr means, just go ahead and skip this post.

TL;DR: Too long; didn’t read

What It Means: Said whenever a nerd makes a post that is too long to bother reading.

“The TL;DR of the research study is….”


AMA: Ask Me Anything

What It Means: Ask Me Anything is a series started on Reddit, where an authority on a subject fields open questions. It is now used more widely on the Internet, with any sort of public Q&A being termed an AMA.


Bae: Babe / Before Anyone Else

What It Means: Urban Dictionary says Bae is a Danish word for poop. Unfortunately, the Internet thinks it’s a term of endearment: either an acronym for “before anyone else” or a shortening of “babe”. Soon enough, pop stars Pharrell and Miley Cyrus turned it into a song, “Come get it, bae.” Sorry Danes, this is what the word means, now and forever. The good news is that most of the Internet also treats it as a term of mockery in memes and captions for images, so you can feel free to use it to be sassy. If you’re interested, Esquire has a detailed piece on the rise of bae.


DAE: Does Anyone Else?

What It Means: DAE is generally a prefix for a question, where the person asking wants to know if they are not alone in whatever they are experiencing. It’s huge on Reddit, niche forums, and discussion groups, but is not used as regularly elsewhere on the Internet.


DM: Direct Message

What It Means: Twitter’s Direct Message feature lets you send private messages to your friends, or receive private messages from anyone. It’s especially useful for sharing information you don’t want to post in public, like your phone number or address. “DM” is slowly becoming the default way of telling someone to message you privately, much like “PM” in the past for personal message/private message.


ELI5: Explain Like I’m 5

What It Means: When someone gives a complex explanation for an event and you need them to dumb it down for you, ask them to “explain it like I’m 5 years old”, or ELI5. Most often, it’s used to explain science or technology in layman’s terms. Big on Reddit and discussion forums, not so big on other forms.


FTFY: Fixed That For You

What It Means: This particular phrase is used in two ways. The first is literal, where if you say something that has an obvious unintentional mistake, another person on the Internet corrects it for you, adding, “FTFY.” The other way is sarcastic.


Facepalm: Short for “Ugh, idiot.”

What It Means: When someone does something stupid, instinctively, your palm hits your own face or forehead. That entire series of action is now reduced to a single word: facepalm. It can be used to convey dismay, disappointment, ridicule, or disapproval.


Headdesk: Supreme frustration

What It Means: Headdesk is the extreme facepalm. When someone says or does something monumentally idiotic, you hit your head on the desk to convey your utter loss of faith in humanity. As you flail for hope, take solace in the knowledge that at least you can express your feelings in one succinct word.


HIFW: How I Felt When

What It Means: This is another acronym that reduces the number of characters you type, giving you more space to say what you want in the 140-character limitation of Twitter. Typically, HIFW is paired with an image, video, or a hilarious reaction GIF when words aren’t enough.


ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

What It Means: One of the few times the Internet tries to be polite, ICYMI is just a precaution when you aren’t sure if other people already know about something, or when you are repeating something you have said before. It’s a way of saying, “You might have already seen this, but if not, here you go.”


IRL: In Real Life

What It Means: The Internet is the virtual life. People often have a whole second persona online, or keep their real life neatly separated from their online life. If you want to talk about something in your real life, the qualifier “IRL” is enough to let people know. Just remember, the Internet can aid in real-life interactions.


JSYK: Just So You Know

What It Means: FYI, if you still use “FYI” to be sassy when schooling someone, you’re old. JSYK is the new FYI, so get with it. End of.


NSFW: Not Safe For Work

What It Means: If you’re at the office, you don’t want to open a link that has nudity, graphic language, or anything offensive. If the link says “NSFW”, then it’s not safe to open in an environment where someone might see it and be offended.


TBT: Throwback Thursday

What It Means: When you want to post an old photo, hold off till Thursday and tag it with #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT. It’s a sure-fire way to get more likes and comments on Instagram. While TBT is used more on Instagram than anywhere else, it has become a central part of the Internet’s lexicon and is used everywhere.


YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary

What It Means: In a similar situation or with a product, your experience might not be the same as someone else’s experience. The Internet has decided to make it easy to say that with “YMMV”.


YOLO: You Only Live Once

What It Means: YOLO is a justification for doing something that you probably shouldn’t be doing, but want to do it anyway. It’s also used ironically as commentary on someone else doing something idiotic.



How to use Calls to Actions Effectively in Email Marketing

5 tips to use Calls To Action (CTAs) effectively in your email marketing

Here are five tips to use Calls To Action (CTAs) effectively in your next email campaign.

1. Number of calls to action

How many calls to action should you have in one email? It might seem like more CTAs give subscribers more options, which means increased engagement with your brand. But that’s not always how it works.

If your email has too many calls to action, subscribers can get overwhelmed. Make the choice simple by providing one call to action and if you must have more than that, give your secondary CTA a different weight by making it a different color or placement.

2. Calls to action placement

Where’s the best place to put a call to action? There’s a lot of debate on this one. Some email marketing experts say your call to action should be “above the fold,” which means subscribers should see the call to action without scrolling down. Others say placing the call to action at the bottom of an email makes the most sense.

They’re both right. To figure out which one is right for your email, use common sense. If a subscriber can quickly understand the purpose of your email, placing a call to action above the fold makes sense. However, if your offer requires some explanation, put the call to action at the end of the email.

In the example below from Birchbox, the call to action is placed at the end of the email because the offer requires some explanation:

3. Call to action design

Your call to action should stand out. That means you should make a few design decisions that encourage subscribers to click. Here’s a list to consider:

Create a button

You can still include hyperlinked text in your message, but don’t use it as the sole call to action. Create a call to action button. Using a button rather than a hyperlink can increase conversion rates by as much as 28%.

Pick a unique color

Make the email call to action a color that’s not used, or rarely used, in your email so it stands out. Take a look at the email from De Beers. Notice the light blue color used for the call to action.

Size matters

Make sure the button looks right size-wise in your email. Preview your email after it’s designed to make sure the call to action fits with your overall presentation.

Use white space to your advantage

Don’t feel the need to clutter the area around your call to action, leaving white space near it draws the eye. Take a look at the white space around the “Register Now” call to action used in an email by SXSW:

4. Call to action copy

Don’t underestimate the importance of word choice in your call to action. The words in your call to action provide the necessary direction for subscribers to follow through with an action. Use these tips to get your wording right:

Use action-inducing words

You want subscribers to act fast, so make sure your word choice reflects that. Use action words like “shop,” “book,” and “order.” Tack on an urgent word to encourage instant action like “now” or “today.” Consult this great list of 80+ marketing words for more choices to use in your email marketing campaigns.

Keep it short

Your call to action should be short and to the point. Notice that most of the call to actions in our master list above are about 2-4 words long. That’s what you should aim for.

Be relatable

More and more calls to action contain “I” or “me” in the copy. You’ll notice several examples in our list like, “Yes! I want a free upgrade” or “Count me in!” Using language like this makes a call to action more relatable and encourages subscribers to click.

5. Test your CTA

A small change in your call to action can make a big difference. You might not expect higher click-through rates as a result of moving your call to action above the fold, or changing the color, but it happens all the time. That’s why testing is important.

You can test every aspect of your call to action. From placement to copy, you can test various aspects and let your audience’s response decide what’s best.

Of course, you only want to test one thing at a time or you won’t know which change makes a difference. For example, if you want to test call to action copy, one group of subscribers gets an email with “Shop Now” as the call to action copy and the other group gets an email with “Shop our Spring Collection” as the call to action copy. The test focuses on one thing: the text. Use the data to make the best choice.

Calls to action to use in your email marketing campaigns

When you create an email marketing campaign, the most important components are the calls to action or CTA. Calls to action grab a subscriber’s attention and encourage him or her to act.

For this action-packed post, we’ve curated calls to action, broken out by category to help you use calls to action effectively in your email marketing campaigns.

Calls to Action That Get Clicked

Calls To Action that encourage a purchase

Shop now
Shop our fall collection
Shop now. Get 50% off.
Shop our best sellers
Act now
Save today
Buy now
Buy now. Pay later.
Buy it today
Yes! I want one.
Order now
Repeat your order
Claim your coupon
Reveal my mystery coupon
Start saving today
Don’t delay. Save now.
See your hand-selected deals
Get 50% off now
Shop for the clothes you want
Get the style you want
Get your winter wardrobe
Get free shipping
Free gift with purchase

Calls To Action for content

Learn more
Read more
Curious? Read on
Download the eBook
Download now
Keep reading
Read the full story
Get the app

Calls To Action for video

Watch now
See the crazy video
Hear from our CEO
Hear her story
See the difference you make

Calls To Action for events

Reserve your seat
Register now
Book your tickets
I’m coming!
I’ll be there!
Count me in!
Book now for early bird prices
Sign me up
Save me a spot
Register for our webinar

Calls To Action for service-based businesses

Book your next appointment
Start your free trial
Upgrade now
Yes! I want a free upgrade.
Make me a VIP
Sign up and save

Calls To Action that focus on results

Find out how
Start today
See how your business benefits
Get results now
Start now. Get results.
I’m ready to see a change

Calls To Action that collect feedback

Complete our 5-minute survey
Take a survey
Leave a review
Give us your feedback
Let us know how we did


Free Images For Blogs & Marketing

Free images for blogs are important as the owners don’t usually make a lot of income form their sites. However free images are also needed by marketers working for businesses to lower production costs.

I found this great list of free images for blogs and marketing.