04 Apr

5 Digital Marketing Challenges for Small Businesses (+ How to Overcome Them!)

Digital marketing often seems like a challenge in itself. It’s all anyone is talking about but when you try a new strategy it’s tough to see results. It’s as if you’re missing out on a huge opportunity if you don’t explore the world of digital marketing, but you can only invest so much without getting a return.

The good news is that you’re not alone.

We’ve narrowed down the top challenges that small businesses face when it comes to digital marketing. Even better, we have the keys to overcoming them!

Persuading Company Leadership to Invest in Digital

Change can be difficult. When you’ve been successful using the same marketing strategies over the course of the business, it’s tough to convince leadership within your company to take the plunge and try something new. This is especially true if they’ve had a bad experience with digital marketing in the past!

When approaching company leaders about a new strategy, it’s important to lead with the bottom line. What results are you expecting to see from the campaign? How will you measure them? Speak in terms that they are interested and invested in. Revenue not reach. Sales not followers.

If all else fails, take a look at your competitors. Highlight the ways that they are beating you on digital platforms and share your plan to narrow the gap.

Insufficient Infrastructure

One of the key reasons that many digital strategies fail is that they don’t have the proper infrastructure to support the campaigns. Before launching your digital marketing initiatives, make sure that you have the technology, partners, and tools in place to manage the campaigns from creation to measurement.

In some cases, this requires new software tools to manage email lists, automate responses, and capture information. For others, this is a broader-scale look at their technology infrastructure and evaluating everything from hosting to data storage.

Your website is the centerpiece of your digital marketing strategy, so ensure that it’s functioning at a high level with full service hosting and maintenance.

Consistency

Digital marketing places a high value on CONTENT. Social media, blogging, webinars, podcasts… it can be exhausting! Many small businesses start with great intentions, but the content creation falls off as soon as things get busy. In order to avoid that lack of consistency, it’s crucial to plan ahead.

Start by creating a content plan for the next 30 days. Then, identify who will be responsible for creating content. It’s beneficial to have a single person dedicated to content creation so that the voice is similar across all platforms.

Finally, don’t feel obligated to create content from scratch for every channel. Can you repurpose your blog posts into social media captions? Do you have white paper content that can be transformed into a webinar or podcast? Chances are that you have plenty of content available – the key is to share it with your audience!

Proving Value

While digital marketing platforms offer an abundance of analytics, it can sometimes be difficult to tie those metrics back to true business success. The key is to start with extremely clear goals for what you want to achieve. For example, if you are running an ad campaign on Facebook, the metrics that Facebook shares will be things like link clicks, impressions, and reach. So, to set goals for the campaign, it’s important to understand how many link clicks you need to convert the number of sales that you’re looking for.

From there, stay consistent with your measurements. Set aside a time each week or month to evaluate the performance and tweak to optimize success.

Lack of Clarity

If there’s one thing that you take away from this blog post: don’t try to do everything! The digital marketing strategies and options that are available and trendy can be overwhelming, so avoid the temptation to try everything that you hear about. It’s much more effective to do a few things really well than to get burned out on trying each new thing that comes on the market.

If you’re struggling with how to choose a path forward, let your clients be your guide. What channels to they spend time on? What is important to them? What type of content are they interested in?

Focusing on your ideal client and connecting with them online is the key to success in this crazy world of digital marketing.

22 Mar

Digital Spring Cleaning for Your Business

As of March 20th, Spring has officially sprung! While, depending on where you are, it may take some time for the warmer temperatures to reach you, the arrival of Spring is the perfect reminder to take a fresh look at your business. The typical Spring cleaning tasks of tidying the office and thoroughly cleaning your space are still important but make sure not to neglect your digital assets as well!

As we move towards a more digital world with remote workers, online storage, and outsourced data management, we run the risk of ignoring the “mess” that we can’t physically see. Ever been looking for file that you’re SURE you put in the right folder but it’s no longer there? Wanted to back up your website but weren’t sure where to start?

Spring clean your business’ digital assets with these 5 tips:

Site + Data Backup

Start by backing up all of your information. This way, if you make an error during your organization, you have a full backup to rely on. Depending on where your site and data are stored, you may have automated backups already captured, so contact your hosting provider to ensure that you don’t lose any valuable information.

Softsys Hosting clients who have invested in managed hosting services enjoy free daily backups and 24/7 monitoring to make sure that their data is always available when they need it.

File Storage

This is the perfect time to evaluate your file storage solutions. If your business is like many others’, you might have several different solutions for your file management – client files are stored in one place, internal documents in another, and contracts in yet another service. Take the time to consider streamlining your storage solutions or investing in your own infrastructure to manage future growth.

Once you determine WHERE your files will be stored, create a plan for how they will be organized and who needs access to what. Document this system in an easily-accessed file so that everyone in your organization can understand and follow the plan. Include a naming convention for files so that they are easily searched and located.

Email Organization

Feel like your inbox has gotten out of control? Stop putting off the problem and get your inbox back in line by dedicating a couple hours to organize and simplify your communication. Start by determining a filing system. You probably created one when you first started your account but have gotten away from using it because it no longer fits your needs or you just became overwhelmed. Evaluate the folders you have in your inbox, archive those you don’t use anymore, and create folders for needs that have arisen in the meantime.

Once you have a system in place, the goal becomes Inbox Zero. You read that right, ZERO emails hanging out in your inbox. Studies have shown that eliminating email clutter leads to increased efficiency and productivity and your inbox is the place to start. File away until you’ve addressed everything in your inbox, giving you a clean slate.

Finally, unsubscribe to newsletters and emails that you don’t find value in. This will help keep your inbox clutter-free and allow you to focus on what’s most important.

Update Site + Social Media

Sometimes digital outlets like websites and social media accounts are created and then forgotten. Sound familiar? Take the time during your Spring cleaning to make the necessary updates to your online storefront. Check the addresses, branding, and messaging on all of your accounts to make sure they are correct and consistent.

This is also a great time to add new products or services that you provide or update any team member changes.

Digitize Processes

Now that your digital environment is organized and decluttered, consider what offline processes can be digitized. Do your team members enter information into your CRM system manually or is there a system that syncs it with your intake forms. Is each follow up email written one at a time or do you have an automated sequence that sends it immediately?

Plan for future growth by digitizing processes that are currently slowing you down.

05 Mar

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Hosting Provider

Over the last 10 years, web hosting has evolved dramatically and with it, the providers that are available to you. From huge corporations like Google and Amazon to smaller boutique providers, the options can seem endless. So, how do you differentiate to determine what is better for you and your business? Ask yourself these questions:

How much support will you need?

Consider the level of support that you’ll likely need to set up and manage your IT environment. Some hosting providers offer full managed hosting services and a customer support department that is there to assist with any issues while some providers are more hands-off. If you’re pretty tech-savvy, you might focus on other criteria to determine the best fit for you. However, if IT is a bit out of your expertise, look for a provider with a dedicated team to help you manage your business’ digital assets.

How important is your server security?

Of course, security is important for every business, but there are some instances when it’s truly the most important aspect of your IT environment. Do you collect credit card information? Store medical records? Manage sensitive data? In those cases, finding a hosting provider who is known for their security measures and can offer the peace of mind you need is paramount. Alternatively, if you’re running a blog or business site that doesn’t collect user information, a security breach would not be as detrimental.

What is your budget for hosting?

While budget is likely relative to the functionality you need from your hosting provider, make sure to outline what you are able to spend on a monthly basis. Consider what services you can outsource to the right hosting provider as well! For example, if you currently contract an IT maintenance company, you may be able to replace that expense with the right web hosting provider.

Do you plan to scale up in the future?

What are your plans for business growth? Make sure that your hosting provider can support you both now and in the future. While beginning on a shared server may make sense, it’s important to know that whoever you choose can facilitate a transfer to a dedicated server or managed services platform in the future.

How do you plan to handle backups?

Will you plan scheduled backups of your data or would automatic backups be beneficial for your business? Often something that is overlooked until they are needed, backups are crucial to avoiding IT headaches. Find a provider that offers routine backups as part of their service offering so that you can stay focused on your business without stressing about your data.

Where is your target market located?

While most companies can manage everything remotely, considering your target market during your hosting provider evaluation will help make sure that your site loads well for your most important visitors. Do you own a local business? It might benefit you to work with a provider that has a data center nearby. Need to reach consumers around the world? Make sure that you choose a company who has experience with global businesses and can make sure your site is up around the clock – no matter what time zone.

How many site visitors do you expect per month?

Consider your average web traffic when determining the hosting environment that will be most efficient. Sites with fewer visits can likely thrive on a shared hosting account whereas high traffic websites may need a dedicated environment. Find a hosting provider that can walk you through the different options that they offer to determine the best fit for you.

For a headstart on determining a hosting provider, take the Softsys Hosting Assessment!

24 Feb

5 Google Analytics to Consider When Evaluating Your Website Performance

In this digital world we live in, there is no shortage of data. We’re surrounded by it every day. The value of data, however, lies in its application. How you use that data to make decisions that improve your business.

When it comes to Google Analytics, the amount of data can be overwhelming. Logging into your GA dashboard, you are immediately greeted with metrics, graphs, and statistics comparing performance across a particular date range.


These 5 metrics will help turn that maze of metrics into a clear picture that provides valuable feedback on your website’s performance:

  1. Users: The first and most basic metric to monitor – how many people are visiting your website? This statistic is less relevant on a day by day basis and more important over time. You want to make sure that your site traffic is growing, so we like to look at this number on a month over month basis. This will help you in a few ways. First of all, you’ll notice any cycles in your web traffic. For example, do you see a spike in certain months/days? Work to understand why and consider offering a promotion to capitalize on that increased traffic. On the other hand, identifying slower months will help you allocate your advertising budget and try to fill in those times with lower numbers by increasing your ROAS (return on ad spend).
  2. Acquisition: In other words, where are your site visitors coming from? Do they come to your site directly? Click through from another website? Find you via social media channels? Or organic search? Understanding and monitoring how potential customers or subscribers find your site will help you take advantage of those channels and use them to the fullest.
  3. Bounce Rate: Take the guesswork out of determining if your site content is resonating with your audience. The Bounce Rate measures what percentage of users click through to another page on your site versus hitting a single page and leaving. While the optimum rate varies by industry, typically somewhere between 41%-55% is considered average. Anything below that would be excellent! If you find your bounce rate to be higher than you’d like, consider two things: your website acquisition and content. For example, if you are driving traffic to your site via an ad that promises answers to a certain question, but it’s not evident in the top half of the page, users are likely to give up and click away. Ensure that there is not a disconnect by evaluating your content and comparing it to the path users take to your website.
  4. Session Duration: Another great metric to track engagement is the average duration a user remains on your site. How long are they engaging with your content? Obviously, the longer someone stays on your site, the better (though not always – for an e-commerce project much better metric would be conversions and goals reached). This is especially important to track when you make changes to your website structure or content.
  5. Behavior Flow: Taking it one step further from session duration, the behavior flow chart depicts exactly how users are interacting with each page of the website. Essentially, this is a trail of breadcrumbs that maps the track users take from page to page. From this, you can determine the most engaging pages and where to place your most important content for maximum exposure. On the other hand, you’ll also be able to measure which pages are most likely to result in the user leaving the site altogether.
22 Jan

Why Softsys Hosting is Different: Customer Service

Navigating the web hosting environment today can be intimidating! There are large-scale providers like Amazon and Google. Plenty of new startups that are focused on niche industries. And they all offer similar services. It can be hard to decide what is best for your business (Need a little help? Check out our hosting assessment here).

We’re starting off the year with a series of how to differentiate between web hosting providers and what makes us different.

First and foremost, we take pride in our customer service. We believe that treating customers well is the key to any business’ success. So, what makes our customer service department different?

web hosting customer service

24/7 Support

For many of our customers, IT and web development is not in their primary job descriptions. They are business owners, office managers, and designers. They don’t want to take time away from their main responsibilities to handle IT issues. So, we understand how important it is to be available at any time of day because they’re working after hours.

That’s why one of our key principles for web hosting customer service is to be there for you at any time. Our helpdesk is open 24/7 to serve our customers around the world.

In-House Experts


Is there anything more frustrating than support professionals who aren’t familiar with your specific situation? We take pride in keeping our customer service experts in-house where other hosting companies cut costs by outsourcing their customer service departments. What does this mean for you? You have personalized, knowledgeable web hosting professionals to resolve your issues quickly and effectively.

Multiple Channels of Support

We like flexible support options and we know you do too. That’s why we offer support services via email, live chat, and over the phone! For less urgent questions, our secure helpdesk offers a ticket-bases system to get in touch with one of our professionals. In the middle of making changes and need a little guidance? Our live chat hosting techs are ready to walk you through whatever changes you need made. For situations where you need to talk to someone immediately, our emergency phone support is a great option!

These options ensure that we’re able to serve you in a way that’s most convenient for your business.

100% Customer Focused Techs

Don’t trust your crucial IT functions to “experts” who aren’t fully focused on customer service. Our support professionals are entirely dedicated to serving customers and addressing issues as quickly and painlessly as possible. They aren’t splitting time between departments or distracted by their other tasks. We invest in our web hosting customer service professionals to ensure that they are the best in the business – because that’s what makes us the best in the business.

Initial Installation + Setup Support


One of the most critical times in your web hosting is the initial application installation on our servers. There’s nothing more frustrating than deciding on a web hosting provider and not being able to take the next step forward. That’s why we offer side-by-side support throughout the initial installation and setup to make sure everything goes smoothly.

22 Jan

11 Web Design Trends for 2018

 

Web design is constantly evolving and it seems more rapidly each year. If it’s been more than a couple of years since your last website update, it may be time to think about a redesign. While the site content may remain similar, redesigning its presentation to be more engaging to your users can result in considerable traffic increase, engagement, and ultimately, more sales!

managed dedicated servers Softsys

Thinking about giving your website a little facelift to kick off the new year? Here are the trends we expect to dominate in web design for 2018:

  1. Video: This should come as no surprise, but video will continue to take center stage in 2018. The key will be integrating video into your website’s UX so that it’s seamless and doesn’t interrupt the other types of content on the page.
  2. Interaction + Animation: Consumers in 2018 are looking for more from their online interactions with brands. When it comes to web design trends, that means integrating ways to personalize each user’s experience through interaction and animated elements on the website.


web hosting with Softsys

  1. Interesting Page Transitions: Throughout all of the advancements in web design, one thing has remained constant: transitioning from page to page. This year, expect designers to ease the transition from page to page with consistent design and page element animations.
  2. Maximalist Sites: Over the last several years, “clean” sites with abundant white space have dominated web design. Now, the reverse is starting to appear as designers buck up the web design trend with saturated, colorful designs and more complex structure.
  3. Content: As with video, content isn’t going anywhere in 2018. Creating valuable content that’s highly engaging is the key to keeping consumers coming back to your site. Continued focus on connecting with users through this type of content will dominate the coming year.
  4. Break Up Longform Content: When it comes to content, designers are focused on coming up with innovative ways to present longer form articles. Incorporating corresponding graphic elements, animated illustrations, or interactive features help keep readers engaged throughout the full experience.
  5. UX – Giving Users Choice: Give users the ability to “choose their own adventure”, so to speak. Instead of dictating how they engage with your website with just one option, present your content in several different ways to appeal to as many users as possible.
  6. Shadows: To give depth to previously flat designs, designers in 2018 are adding shadows to elements from illustrations to buttons. Using this to create dimension in the site helps encourage users.
  7. Mobile First Design: Continuing the trend from the past several years, mobile first design trend will be paramount in 2018. As mobile has finally surpassed desktop in total users, ensuring that your site is navigable via phone and tablet should be your first priority.


mobile web design Softsys

  1. Illustrations: Custom illustrations are the new hot graphic element for designers.
  2. Asymmetry + Fewer Grid Constraints: One of our favorite design trends for the coming year is the breakdown of the traditional grid. Asymmetry will rule the day as designers literally think outside the box.

With some of the design trends like video and animation, it’s important to have a hosting environment that can run your site effectively. Not sure of your requirements? Take our hosting assessment to find out exactly what your business needs are.

03 Jan

3 Reasons to Invest in Managed Hosting Services

As technology is typically a part of your business that is “behind the scenes”, it can often be a bit neglected. Unfortunately, as a “Check Engine Light” in your car that is ignored or a slow leak in your ceiling that you keep putting off fixing, a neglected IT environment can lead to big problems for you and your business.

Like in those cases, if something goes wrong, it’s nice to have the experts on your side.

Even if you aren’t experiencing issues with your technology, it’s crucial to have a good handle on that aspect of your business. Need a demonstration of how crucial IT is to your company’s productivity? Switch off the wifi and see how long before panic ensues.

Technology can either be a crutch or a catapult to your growth.

Here are three big reasons to turn your IT from an afterthought to a strategic business advantage.

FLEXIBILITY

 

Your business is unique and has unique technology requirements. Don’t settle for an “out of the box” solution when you need an environment that will truly support and propel your business forward. At Softsys Hosting, we own all of our hardware from servers to network switches. This provides us total control over your infrastructure. In turn, we have the ability to build custom configurations that are perfectly suited to your needs.

There’s no longer a need to wonder whether a certain package will work for you and your business. We’ll make sure of it.

 

PEACE OF MIND

 

Is there anything worse than upgrading a software service, making a change to your website, or adding a user to your technology environment only to find out that your service has completely crashed? Of course not! That moment of panic can (luckily) be avoided with a program of consistent backups.

With our managed hosting services, we back up your entire service both weekly and daily to help ease the stress of a potential mistake.

Don’t realize your services are down right away? Accidentally deleted information that you realized you needed? We retain backups for the last 6-7 days so you have access to the data you need.

 

SUPPORT

 

Technology can seem overwhelming at times. It has the ability to make our lives and businesses much more effective but can also cause stress when it’s not functioning properly. That frustration is compounded when there isn’t a clear fix or someone to help get back on track.

Our in-house support team is available 24 hours a day to help solve your problems LIVE.

Service is our main focus and we pride ourselves on serving clients with speed and accuracy. We feature on average between 10-12 minutes response time to support tickets and work to make sure your experience is as seamless as possible.

We also monitor issues on your account for you and, in many cases, can fix problems before you even realize they are there. This keeps you focused and your business on track.

Don’t wait for your next technology emergency to reevaluate your IT systems. Invest in your company’s growth by devoting the time and resources necessary to support your critical systems with Softsys Hosting managed solutions.

03 Jan

5 Systems to Outsource and Scale Your Business in 2018

With the flip of the calendar comes a new year of opportunities. A new year of goals, revenue targets, and challenges. A new year of growth for business owners around the world. While goals and projections for 2018 have likely already been established, as people are getting back into their offices after the holidays, the question becomes HOW.

If you’re looking to grow your business in the new year, your approach will make all the difference in whether your growth is temporary or sustainable. For example, growth can come from additional work. Maybe you spent 30 hours per week working on your business in 2017 and plan to grow by dedicating an additional 15 hours in the coming year.

For many entrepreneurs, 30 hours of work pass within the first couple days of the week so working longer hours isn’t an option. In that case, it’s imperative to work smarter. Prioritize. Delegate. Outsource.

 

While outsourcing services and giving up control over certain systems can be intimidating initially, it frees you up to focus on your core business and revenue-generating activities.  

 

Our advice? Start small. Choose one aspect of your business to outsource and continue from there.

 

Here are 5 things we recommend outsourcing to enable you to grow in 2018:

 

IT Services: Unless IT is your core business, it’s time to bring in the experts. Moving your technology to a managed hosting environment will allow you to enhance your business and minimize distractions. IT is also a key component of your growth as it often needs to grow with your company so ensuring that you have the technology and service needed to keep your business running is crucial.

 

Accounting: Not only will this save you time, it may very well save you money. Hiring a professional to take care of your bookkeeping and tax preparation services is an investment that often pays for itself.

 

Payroll Services: This is another area where an outside professional can handle a task more effectively and efficiently than you are able to.

 

Legal Services: If you have growth plans for 2018, you may be looking to acquire a business, start a separate business, or otherwise change the structure of your company. While you likely can file your business paperwork yourself, ask yourself if the benefits and costs savings outweigh the risks. In this field, especially, hire a lawyer to look over your business legal needs and save yourself the potential headache.

 

Assistance: If you’re not ready to hire a full-time office assistant, look into virtual assistance to help with smaller tasks like data entry, research, or cold calling.

 

Not sure where to start? Consider the tasks that require a good bit of your time and are not a core competency of yours or your business’ and start researching outsourcing options.

Outsourcing parts of your business requires an investment of time on the front end, but will enable you to focus your energy on growing your company over the course of the year. Not to mention giving you peace of mind that your trusted partners are handling your business functions while you plan for the future.