How To Ensure You’re Providing Employees With a Healthy and Safe Workspace

It may come as somewhat of a shock to most of us, but workplace safety is actually a pretty substantial issue in the United States. For a developed country, we have a lot of preventable accidents happen — nearly 7 million workplace injuries per year! This number certainly doesn’t include all of the times employees feel like they have to take unnecessary risks to get a job done or fail to report relatively minor injuries and close calls. 

Obviously, as a manager, one of the most important things you can do is take steps to ensure your employees are working in a safe and healthy work environment. Where there are inherent risks, it is your duty to educate employees and put forth an effort to mitigate them as much as possible. Beyond just physical health, this also means providing a safe place mentally and socially as well. 

 

Especially in the era of COVID-19, taking the time to assess risks and make calculated efforts to limit health disasters is of the utmost importance. The challenges may be different, but ultimately the responsibility is the same. 

 

Here are some things you can do as a manager to help ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all of your employees. 

Encourage a Culture of Safety

It isn’t always easy to encourage employees to take workplace safety seriously, If your company has been fortunate enough to have avoided injuries for quite some time, it can be easy to become complacent. In these situations, one of the best things you as a manager can do is lead by example. Take safety seriously and do your best to encourage others to do so as well. 

 

Education and constant reminders are some of the best tools for building an atmosphere of safety. Take steps to ensure that all employees are properly trained and have received the appropriate equipment to complete their jobs prior to them starting work. In addition, put signage and other forms of visual reminders where people will see them regularly. 

 

Some of the most common workplace injuries come from tasks that employees do nearly every day without an issue. It can be in the form of an object falling on them, repetitive motion injuries, strains, overexertion, or overexposure to loud noises. As a manager, encourage employees to take the time they need to do the job effectively and safely without rushing. Frequent breaks to rest and stretch can also help. 

Promote Personal Health

No matter what you think is going on in one of your employee’s lives, chances are you don’t really know or understand the whole story. Employees could be dealing with all sorts of hidden issues or unseen disabilities that make work more challenging than it should be. Although personal issues really shouldn’t be allowed to impact work performance, we’re all human and occasionally things leak over on accident. 

 

As a manager, strive to help employees promote their own personal health in any way that you can. For instance, make sure you are ADA compliant and capable of supporting all employees no matter the situation. 

 

Likewise, encourage employees to do small things that will benefit their health in the long-term. For instance, taking regular work breaks and going on walks can relieve stress and help tense muscles relax. If possible, work towards offering wellness programs and health-related perks to employees such as gym membership discounts or free yoga classes once or twice a week during lunch. 

Create a Friendly Atmosphere

The atmosphere of your workplace is a commonly undervalued factor when assessing the health and safety of a workplace. It may not seem obvious, but a negative company culture or a few tasteless or rude employees can completely change the tone of an office space. This can lead to decreases in employee satisfaction and productivity as well as increase feelings of stress and anxiety in the workplace — neither of which should be present in an employee truly feels safe. 

 

One of the big things you can do as a manager is spot problems early and work towards addressing them before they blow up. Encourage the use of inclusive language in the workplace — this can help employees feel less alienated by coworkers with different values and more part of a larger team. If disagreements do arise, work through them as a neutral character and try to address them with empathy and compassion. 

 

The role of employers is changing when it comes to workplace safety. Twenty or thirty years ago safety may have only included physical health; now it includes not only physical health, but mental health, inclusion, protection from harassment, and cybersecurity. As a manager, this means there is a lot on your plate when it comes to the health and welfare of your employees. 

 

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Workplace safety is a serious issue in many workplaces. Managers must work to encourage an atmosphere of both physical safety, equality, and inclusiveness in the workplace. It isn’t always an easy task, but it can be a rewarding one at the end of the day. 

 

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Franchise

Most would-be entrepreneurs consider buying a franchise as an interesting business opportunity.  This is mainly because you get a chance to be your own boss from the start and don’t need to start a business from scratch. Also, when you start a new business you are faced with a  lot of unknowns, whereas with a franchise you get a successful model that is already in motion.

Although franchising offers several advantages for most would-be business owners, there are some disadvantages you should be aware of, before deciding to buy an existing franchise.  It’s a decision that shouldn’t be made overnight and the key thing to remember is that the popular notion that franchises are less likely to fail than other businesses is just a myth. Running a franchise is also hard work and you need to be prepared to operate your new business based on someone else’s rules.

In this article, you find some basic pros and cons you should be aware of before embarking on a journey of buying a franchise.

The Pros

Startup stage skipping

Just like with most things in life the beginning of a new business is hard.  At the startup stage, you need to write a business plan, do market research, test your product, and if the testing goes well, scale it. When you buy an already established franchise you are able to skip these sections.  The whole system has already been tested and it has proven itself to work and so basically you need to apply an established system to your market.

Name recognition

In the beginning, it is always difficult to get your customers to recognize your brand.  With a well-known franchise, you already have a name that people know and trust. So, when you purchase a franchise most of the work is already done for you, and customers know what to expect.

Lower risk

Most established franchises have the backing and support from large and established corporations. Most of these corporations have already tested business models in different markets across the country and are without a doubt effective. Because of their history of success getting a loan for a buying a franchise is always easier than getting a loan for starting an independent business. Banks are always more eager to invest in an existing franchise than in a new business that hasn’t had an opportunity to prove itself in the market.

Training program

Every successful franchise has an easily replicable system. This includes employee training on how business is done at every location. New employees will get on-site training on opening procedures, daily procedures.

Marketing and advertising

Naturally, when you purchase a franchise, you will be required to invest your time and money in

Marketing and advertising. The big advantage is that the franchises themselves will promote your business through nation-wide campaigns that will be broadcasted on TV, radio, and online.

Be sure that you will have a dedicated input from your franchise on how to create and execute your own effective campaigns. What they may also provide is a marketing plan that will cover market analysis, sales forecast, and budget.

Gain increased purchasing

The main advantage every big business has over small businesses is their access to increased buying power. Franchises often purchase large amounts of inventory on behalf of their franchisees, which means you will acquire these major assets at a low cost. Also, you will benefit from your franchisor’s deep-rooted relationship with suppliers.

Access to financing

The biggest obstacle in buying a franchise is naturally the price.  Although the exact cost differs depending on the franchise,  there are franchise fees that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and in some cases, the whole investment can cost one million $. On the other hand, some cost tens of thousands of dollars but even that can be a big investment for most people. Not to mention the royalty fees and other startup expenses

Most business owners commonly seek financing whether they are starting a new business or buying a franchise. Getting secure financing is never easy.  The gold standard in financing is SBA loans and in order to get them, you need to satisfy stringent eligibility requirements.

Some of the SBA loans are specifically reserved for franchises but keep in mind that you can obtain a loan easier if you qualify for an SBA microloan for starting a business of your own.

Developed technologies, work methods, and deep-root relationship with suppliers

After you join the franchise network, you will quickly obtain knowledge and technologies created and fine-tuned by the former franchisor. This way you will be able to avoid mistakes that are common at the business start, you will have access to already proven suppliers and developed work methods.  This will essentially reduce the possibility of bankruptcy and potential damage which commonly happens due to business inexperience. Also, it will decrease the time needed for launching a business and achieving operational quality.

The benefit of economies of scale

When you join the franchise network, you will have the chance to use the advantages of economies of scale.  These include areas of goods and services supply, marketing, scientific research, technological development, and other crucial business processes.  When developing a non-franchised business, you don’t have the chance to receive the same cost and benefit ratio you would have by joining the franchise network.

You are your own boss

When you own a franchise, basically you are your own boss. You will be able to create a more flexible schedule for yourself and overall will have more autonomy over your career and even work from home.  

The cons

Working by the franchise’s rules

Every business owner loves to be his own boss, but with franchises, things are a little bit different. You will maybe have autonomy in how the business operates, but most of the time you will have to follow the rules. Which means system operations, regulations, and instructions of the franchise. Also, if you have discovered a more efficient way to do business, that might not mean anything if the company doesn’t approve of it.  You probably won’t get the resources for your idea also.

High initial investment

Of course, it always depends on what franchise you are going to invest in, but some initial investments can be very costly, especially for big-name franchises. However, there are always lots of franchises that can be afforded with any budget. Do your research, and watch out for the royalty fees some franchises charge their franchisees. Typically, the royalty fee is 4-6 % of your gross sales revenue and it shows depletion to your profit potential.

Limited creativity

Franchises always have a pre-established brand, therefore there are significant creative limitations for franchisees who are looking to explore, make changes, or add something new to the company’s business model or brand.  You will also have restrictions set on where you can operate, what you can sell, and also what suppliers you can use due to the pre-established business model.

Shared financial information

Most franchisors frequently gather financial information from their franchise as a way of improving their business model and analyzing royalty payments. Because of this, franchisees have very little privacy in their business finances. However, renowned franchise companies have a good habit of sharing most of the financial information back with their franchisees. This allows them to compare their performance with the rest of the franchise system. By doing this, franchisees are able to improve their performance and profitability.

 Franchising contracts aren’t irreversible

An important thing you should be aware of is that the contract you made with your franchisor isn’t permanent. When the contract finally reaches its end date, the franchisors have the right not to renew it. However, you also have the power not to renew it, if you are not satisfied with your franchise.

Marketing and advertising expenses

When you invest in a franchise, many contracts will oblige you to pay for the marketing and advertising expenses.  Because of this, you must always read your contract thoroughly in order to be aware of all the conditions you are accepting.

Reputation management issue

It doesn’t matter how good your franchise is positioned, it is still bound to the national franchise. This means that if the brand has any issues it will always affect your business outcome. Also if there is a scandal in the national office or another franchisee gets bad publicity, your business can also be affected.

Contractual agreements

When you decide to purchase a franchise, you will be obliged to sign a Franchise Disclosure Agreement, which states what you can and cannot do as a franchisee. If you break one of these requirements you can easily lose your business. Also, if you decide to leave the business, the process of shutting down your business will be much more difficult than if you didn’t sign a contract with the national franchise.

 How to find the right franchise?

If you’re having trouble finding a franchise that interests you, then maybe you should attend some annual franchising trade shows. There you will have the chance to many franchisors and experts in one location. From time to time, these shows educational seminars that can help future franchisees get a better insight on what to expect and what are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a franchise.

If you already have a clear idea of what franchise you would like to own, the best way to start is to contact the franchisor.  By doing this you will get all the information about the availability, cost, and other crucial details about the franchise.

Another way is to contact existing franchisees who are already looking to sell their franchise.  This way you will probably save some money because you may avoid some of the initial franchise fees.

Investigate the franchise

Before you do anything, it is best that you do a thorough investigation of the franchise you are interested in. The time you spend investigating the industry, market and the franchise itself will make you more confident in your decision on whether to buy or not to buy. If you rush things and make the wrong decision, it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars and not to mention the loss of time and energy it will create.  So, try to be thorough and don’t rush this important step.

 Before you decide to buy, make sure that the franchise has an established reputation, quality products or services, adequate capital, and foremost satisfied franchisees.

Dangerous waters and detailed questions

Sometimes buying a less-known franchise that is not that expensive can be dangerous.  Just because a business is selling franchises, doesn’t mean that it will be successful. Remember, sometimes selling their franchises is their business and that’s all they are interested in. The success of individual franchises is quite irrelevant to them. This doesn’t mean that inexpensive less-known franchises are worthless, but a reminder that thorough investigation is necessary

If you decide to go this way, don’t be surprised if you are asked detailed questions about your finances. A franchisor will also want to know about your personal assets, and this is mainly because they want to make sure that you have a fall-back position to carry the business if it goes into financial difficulty. You will also be asked about your spouse’s financial situation, in order to make sure that you both are ready for the financial commitment that is necessary for running a successful franchise.

You will surely be asked about your background, experience, and aspirations. These questions are carefully designed to help the franchisers decide whether you are the right person to run the business successfully.

Final thoughts

Remember that franchises prosper from teamwork. Other than just you, there is your franchiser and every franchisee that works for your company.  The community should be supportive collaborative an that’s why before you decide to purchase, make sure in what kind of community you are getting yourself into. Do your research and if you pick the right franchise, you will be on your road to success.

How Did COVID 19 Affect People with Disabilities

COVID 19 presents a global threat, and the pandemic is particularly dangerous for many groups, including the elderly, people who already have a health condition, and people with disabilities. Everyone in the world is affected by this crisis in some way or another.

The risks are not just health-related. The global economy has suffered a lot thanks to the virus, and many people are endangered, as they can’t provide for themselves and their families. Some people are given opportunities to work from home and keep their income steady, while others don’t have the same luxury. Read on for a thorough breakdown of how COVID 19 affects people with disabilities.

1. Not All Disabled People Are Affected the Same Way

We shouldn’t bundle all people within a group together, because being disabled can be a lot of different things. What we’re getting at, is that some disabled persons live alone, and cope with it just fine, while others depend on help from others.

A lot of disabled people live in groups, such as nursing homes. People who live in such facilities are impossible to isolate. As everyone already knows, isolation is the best prevention against COVID 19. The people who can’t isolate themselves are at the highest risk of exposure to the virus.

Imagine living in close quarters with many other disabled people, with no chance of isolation. In those conditions, people with disabilities are at high risk of contracting COVID 19, because they aren’t just in contact with other invalids, they are also in contact with the helping staff. It’s not a single doctor or nurse who takes care of them, they’re a dozen.

The medical staff is very exposed to COVID 19, and they take the biggest risks. Furthermore, their patients are at risk too, meaning that medical facilities aren’t exactly the safest right now. Finally, we can conclude that people with disabilities aren’t affected equally, and their disability isn’t the biggest risk. On the contrary, the risk lies in their living arrangements and their possible exposure to COVID 19.

2. Economic Stability Is a Huge Factor Too

The harsh reality in any crisis is that well-situated people are generally safer than those with low or no income at all. The same goes for the disabled. Being rich or having some financial backing goes a long way for treating any medical condition, and preventing exposure to a virus as widespread as COVID 19.

Money is not a bulletproof shield, but it is a shield of sorts. In a state of emergency, it can help immensely because it can provide the necessary protection and coping mechanisms. Generally speaking, people with disabilities usually aren’t as financially stable as those with no medical conditions. People who live in countries with proper social care systems don’t have to worry as much as those in low-income countries.

Money can get you medical, hygiene, and food supplies to last in this difficult situation. If you have money to spare, you can pay for various delivery services, which are extremely popular these days. Most people, not just those with disabilities, don’t have big savings for dark days.

You can say we’re all experiencing those dark times right now. Social service programs that help the disabled financially aren’t exactly giving out enough money to provide savings. Those cheques are usually instantly spent on basic needs. If you’re disabled and manage to get a job, which is incredibly difficult right now, you can say goodbye to the social support cheques.

3. Is Working an Option?

People with disabilities have a much harder time finding a job at any time, let alone during a crisis. Some disabled people are lucky enough to have jobs that can be done from home. They are in the best position right now because they have a steady income and they can self-isolate.

On the other side are people with disabilities whose work involves human contact. They’re at risk, and there’s nothing to be done because they can’t just go and work from home. If they leave their job, they won’t have any income unless they manage to get some social security fast. What’s better, to be poor and “safe”, or to keep your job and stay exposed to COVID 19? There’s no right answer to that question since both options are far from perfect.

If you’d like to help people with disabilities in this time of crisis, it’s best to apply for the NDIS registration process at Provider Plus. It’s a very difficult process, so you shouldn’t do it without professional help. Provider Plus is an all-in-one service, which can help your business become an NDIS registered provider in no time. They have a 100% approval rate for all their clients, which speaks volumes about their success.

Conclusion

Even though maintaining physical health is important, we shouldn’t disregard mental health either. This global state of alert is not beneficial to the mental state of anyone. Isolation is more difficult for those with mental issues. They must be given some leeway, and the right to occasionally go outside and take a breather.

People with disabilities are usually bundled together, under the same banner, but they are not the same. Their disabilities differ, some have physical disabilities, while others have mental health conditions. Each of these conditions should be addressed specifically, and these people should be given appropriate help, especially in these dire circumstances.

Is Drug Testing at Workplace a Good Idea?

Here we have a slightly controversial topic on our hands. Objectively looking drug testing at the workplace has its benefits and of course, it has its drawbacks.

Many companies consider drug testing at the workplace a fair policy and safety precaution – they are not only protecting their business but their employees as well. There are even laws and regulations regarding workplace drug abuse.

Let’s start with all the types of drug testing methods available for workplace testing and work towards whether or not it’s a good idea.

Types of drug testing methods

A drug test determines whether or not an employee is using any illegal substances. Currently, many employers, as well as employees, are starting to realize the importance of this policy. This is also why both employees and employers should be aware of all the possible types of drug testing methods.

The most important thing to know is that you have options as there are at least five types of methods available for workplace drug testing.

The first option is the most common option used for drug testing and that’s a urine drug test. If someone has been using drugs recently, the traces of it will most definitely be detected in the urine.

While urine drug testing is the most common type of drug testing, a saliva drug test is the most popular one. This type of test is pretty self-explanatory and the reason for being so popular is due to its less invasive nature. Besides this method is not as expensive as all others.

The hair testing method is another good way of seeing whether a person has been using drugs. However, many people claim that this method is no good because it doesn’t measure current drug use but it can detect if someone used months before – which is not the point when it comes to workplace drug testing.

Another method includes blood testing. This method is the most invasive one and at the same time the most expensive out of all. And even if this method is often avoided because of its cost and invasiveness, it’s the best way to detect the presence of substances as well as the exact amount of substances used.

The fifth method includes perspiration testing. This method is fairly new and it requires wearing a sweat path on the skin for a couple of days. This patch will detect the presence of drugs through perspiration.

Benefits of drug testing at the workplace

Safety of the employees

The number one reason why drug testing at the workplace is a good idea is safety. Every employer should provide a healthy and safe work environment. One of the ways to do this is to implement the drug testing policy.

Workplace injuries and hazardous situations are often related to substance use. People who use drugs are less aware and they also tend to be less concerned about their own safety and the safety of others. Additionally, drugs tend to slow reaction time which means that those who use drugs are at risk and pose a risk to their coworkers as well.

Drug testing at the workplace will ensure that all employees are safe and healthy and it will prevent a dangerous situation, especially in high-risk jobs.

Avoiding legal problems

The drug-testing program can save you a lot of troubles, especially those of a legal kind. Just imagine how many legal problems can an employee who uses drugs cause. They can endanger not only their own lives but the lives of their coworkers as well as your own company.

Workplace drug testing program ensures that all your employees are safe, that the environment that they work in is also safe and that no one poses any risk.

Avoiding problems and maintaining good company image

Employees who use drugs can’t perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Drug intoxication causes many problems, and one of those includes making mistakes and giving poor results at work. Consequently, this affects the image of your company.

The best way to ensure that your employees are giving the best possible results and thus maintaining a good public image of your company is to implement a drug testing policy into your company.

Drawbacks of drug testing at the workplace

Invasion of privacy

Drug testing at the workplace is often seen as an invasion of privacy. Many employees feel like drug testing is a violation of their privacy, their freedom and also a lack of trust from their employer.

This is especially true in cases of random drug testing when a random employee is chosen to do the test. That individual may feel resentful and insulted.

Expensive drug tests

As mentioned above, there are several different types of drug tests and some of them can be pretty costly. This is the main reason why so many employers tend to stay away from implementing drug testing programs.

Bottom line is that in many cases the benefits of workplace drug testing outweigh the drawbacks. Nothing beats the safety of your employees and the safety of the work environment.

There are different methods of drug testing that don’t have to be all that expensive and yet they do the work. Ultimately, the decision about whether drug testing at the workplace is a good idea or not is on the employer.

The Impact of COVID-19 On SEO

All across the globe, the pandemic of COVID-19 has changed people’s lives and not for the better. However, hard as these measures may be on the lives of individuals, the impact on society as a whole can be just as terrifying. People are losing their jobs, enterprises are getting shut down and even those that are still running are worried about their future. Even industries that exist in the digital environment are affected by all that is going on.

A perfect example of this is the industry of digital marketing, specifically the field of search engine optimization (SEO). This impact, nonetheless, is not so easy to analyze, mostly due to the fact that it has so many contextual factors to take into consideration. So, in order to further examine the effects of COVID-19 on SEO, we need to cover the impact on the technical aspect of SEO and the state of the industry as a whole. Here’s what you need to know!

1. Essential vs. non-essential employees

While it may be true that a lot of people are getting jobless due to the fact that their workplace is getting shut down, when it comes to those working in the digital environment, things are not so clear-cut. In fact, the majority of digital marketing agencies already employ telecommuters and allow their employees to work from home (if only a day or two every week). This means that the structure of the workforce in the industry shouldn’t change that much. With adequate tools like web conferencing software, collaboration software and employee management software, the majority of SEO agencies will be able to efficiently transfer all of their work into the digital environment.

2. The clients

Other than the employment status of their staff, SEO agencies are mostly concerned by the willingness of their clients to invest. First of all, a lot of businesses are seeing a massive fall in workload and revenue. Now, due to the fact that their marketing budget is usually a percentage of their average annual revenue, a lot of enterprises might start pulling their investment. On the other hand, online businesses are currently seeing an increase in workload, seeing as how people are spending more time at home and, therefore, have more time for online services. They also consume far more content. Also, due to the fact that the majority of them are looking to avoid crowded malls, e-commerce is also more popular than ever before.

Keep in mind that online businesses are probably the ones that were the most eager to invest in SEO, to begin with, seeing as how their SERPs directly affect their traffic and their revenue. Since now the competitiveness is even higher, the majority of these enterprises realize that scaling down on their marketing spending is definitely not a wise idea. After all, after every recession, those who managed to maintain continuity are the ones who get back on track the fastest.

Finally, we need to try and figure out which industries are marking the biggest growth amidst all of this. First of all, you have the retail industry which is marking a 34 percent spike in March. The gaming industry is also huge, seeing as how even the most adventurous people are now forced to commit themselves to indoor activities. For this very reason, social media is also marking a substantial increase (about 29 percent). However, industries like travel and tourism, as well as the event industry, are on an expected decline. For how long will this trend last… well, it’s hard to tell at the moment.

3. The content

Content marketing is pivotal to any successful off-site SEO project. Now, when it comes to the content itself, it’s more than clear that people nowadays are mostly concerned with the epidemic, which is why content dealing with this sensitive topic has the greatest CTR. Nonetheless, seeing as how we’re talking about something that people are genuinely interest and affectionate about, it’s vital that content creators realize that it’s their moral duty to do these things right. This is why you need to ask yourself is your use of keywords related to coronavirus relevant to your topic, as well as – is it ethical? This is especially true if the topic is more opinion than fact-based.

Naturally, due to the fact that they’re bored senseless, people are also looking for content that will provide them with fun indoor activities. Therefore, DIY projects are far more popular than ever before. Another major boost in popularity can be seen in the field of microlearning. More and more people are exploiting this chance to take online courses but also to work on things they always wanted to try out but never had the time or energy to pursue. For instance, those with more athletic aptitude are more likely to look up calisthenics workout routines and tips.

4. Professional assistance

There are a lot of guides and tools out there that promise small business owners an opportunity to handle their own digital marketing campaign. The thing is, however, that the end result is never quite the same. Sure, a DIY SEO project can help you somewhat improve your rank, however, in a world where 33 percent of all searches end with the No.1 result, can you really afford to settle for being on the first page? The truth is that those who plan to stay competitive want to invest in professional SEO services. This way, they can get an end-to-end SEO project with guaranteed results and continuity in terms of ranking.

5. On-site optimization and updates

A lot of things have changed due to coronavirus and its consequences. Having proper metadata is as vital as it ever was, nevertheless, there are other factors in play, as well. For example, you might have been forced to close your brick and mortar office, which is why you need to update the info on your website. If you were forced to downsize your team and therefore operate on a smaller capacity, you need to let your audience know this in advance.

For instance, companies in the e-commerce industry are receiving an unprecedented number of orders on a daily basis, which causes a lot of logistical delays. It is, therefore, a great move to address your audience about this issue either immediately upon entering your site or via email outreach. You can even promise them special rewards after the crisis is over, nevertheless, this is a more of a PR issue than it is an SEO one.

6. Watch up for Google updates

While it is true that google updates are a fairly regular occurrence, you need to understand that the situation at the moment might facilitate these things a bit. Why? Well, first of all, we’ve mentioned the fact that there’s much more content being both published and consumed than is usual. Second, it’s important to mention that there’s a lot of false information circling around, which can potentially damage the reputation of the search engine as a whole. Therefore, it’s logical to expect that the staff behind the algorithm will be much more alert and active in the following weeks.

7. Survey your audience more regularly

Like Google, businesses and digital marketers need to be quicker to change and adapt, as well. As we’ve mentioned before, the behavior patterns of your audience have changed overnight and marketers can no longer stick to pre-COVID-19 numbers. The amount of time that people spend on social media, blogs and YouTube, the quality of content and many other factors have their own metrics that need to be adjusted. Therefore, it is pivotal for every serious digital marketer to start new surveys and see what the numbers show.

In conclusion

As you can see, even amidst the crisis, there’s no rest for those who want to lead their business towards a brighter future. Businesses that aim to survive the incoming crisis need to find a way to stay competitive. Seeing as how the majority of people in self-isolation turn to the internet for answers and pastime, SEO might just be the most effective way of achieving this.

Ways Businesses Can Use SEO to Combat Coronavirus Impact

While it is true that some businesses and industries are suffering due to the effects of COVID-19 on the industry and society, not all businesses are doing as badly in these conditions. You see, while people are being locked in their homes, which means that they’re either forced to work as telecommuters or are losing their jobs, for some businesses, there are also those who can see past the crisis. Naturally, even those businesses that get shut down will look towards rising again, after the dust has settled. Speaking of which, why would you have to start from scratch? With the help of SEO (and digital marketing, in general), you can successfully combat the effects of Coronavirus. Here are several tips to help you do so.

1. People use online services to overcome this situation

If your business is providing an online service or a door-to-door delivery like the majority of e-commerce businesses, chances are that your services are now more in demand than they ever were before. You see, people are turning their backs on traditional retail in favor of e-commerce, seeing as how this approach allows them to keep up with their social distancing practices. In other words, while some industries are not doing so great, your own revenue might go up.

Now, rule of thumb is that you should use about 10 percent of your average annual revenue, however, if the industry is particularly competitive, setting aside anywhere between 20 and 50 percent may be acceptable. If your revenue is growing, so should your marketing spending. Just keep in mind that you’re not the only one with this idea. Since about 33 percent of all online searches end with the No.1 result, chances are that your position on the SERPs will determine your audience and your revenue. This means that when it comes to your Google position, now’s not the time to start being skimpy.

2. People consume more content

The next thing you need to understand about coronavirus and its consequences is the fact that they’re keeping people indoors consuming more digital content and craving more entertainment. This is why, despite the fact that some industries are currently doing quite poorly (manufacturing, energy, etc.), online businesses are on a steady rise. More apps are getting downloaded than ever before, more shows binged and more video games played. Other than this, people are watching more YouTube, spending more time on social media and, overall, consuming all sorts of content from traditional text-based posts all the way to podcasts. Ensuring a better position for your content, through SEO, is, therefore, a great idea.

3. A campaign to counter the effects

In order to protect your business, you need to know exactly what you’re up against. This means getting the right assessment of your current situation and the effects that this situation may have on your business, as a whole. The first step in getting this done lies in hiring the right team. In order to get the maximum effect out of your digital marketing campaign, you can’t leave anything to chance. Ideally, you would find a trusted SEO reseller that specializes in white label SEO. This should provide you with an end-to-end SEO service. DIY SEO methods can be quite effective but without a bigger picture, they’ll never give you what you truly desire.

4. Cutting less leads to bigger returns

Saving money is a good idea, in general, however, saving money at any cost is never a smart move. Why? In the past, we had several financial disasters and crises and all of them showed one thing. By cutting less during downtime, you’re gaining more in better times. Why is that so? Well, first of all, you’re not disrupting your business, which means that you need to take a smaller leap in order to get back to your full capacity. Second, due to the fact that you’re demonstrating resilience, you’re creating a stronger case in the eyes of your audience and potential investors.

5. A chance to overcome your competitors

Even though we’ve listed many reasons why keeping up with your marketing is such a good idea, there are a lot of your competitors that are going to ignore this advice entirely. Some of these competitors even had bigger marketing budgets than your own enterprise, which means that, in regular conditions, you had a tough time overcoming them. This is where your SEO plays huge in days to come. By providing your business with higher Google rank and better SERPs, you’re demonstrating a clear superiority of your brand over theirs. Due to the fact that these companies were industry top-dogs in the pre-COVID-19 days, your feat will seem even more impressive in the eyes of your audience. In other words, you’re using the strength of their own brand to your own advantage.

6. Checking the customer sentiment

It goes without saying that a lot of customers are changing their shopping habits in isolation. Why? Well, first of all, the fact that they may soon be in a much worse financial state makes them reconsider their priorities. In other words, they’re more reluctant to spend money on luxury goods and services. Also, due to the fact that they’re not going out so much, they’re less likely to spend money on clothing and jewelry items. The same goes for all sorts of cosmetic goods. Still, all of this is situational and depends on the region and the service in question. A great SEO analytics effort can help you figure this one out quite effortlessly.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, combating the Coronavirus impact will require a lot of PR and sometimes, exploiting the rising organic traffic might be the best way to do so. Inbound marketing is quite effective at subtly making a great impression on your audience, which is just what you need, at the moment. However, this requires a lot of technical knowledge and strategy development, which is why you definitely need some professional help. Needless to say, moments of crisis are the time for you to display your entrepreneurial prowess.

How Chatbots Can Help You Increase Conversion

Chatbots have evolved impressively thanks to the rise of artificial intelligence. Many brands have recognized the potential of these sophisticated tools and now use them to provide seamless user experiences. Studies predict that 85% of customer interactions with brands will be handled without a human agent by 2020. 

From immediate feedback to humanizing brand presence, chatbots can improve your conversion rates on multiple levels. Here is what to know.

Providing Excellent Customer Support

With the advent of mobile technologies, social networks, and natural language processing, online customers’ expectations have also grown. Being held on hold while trying to connect with a customer support representative is not an option for them anymore. They want brands to provide exceptional customer service 24/7, across multiple online channels. Research says that most customers want brands to address their problems and questions within 24 hours.

This is exactly where chatbots shine. They are available to your prospective customers 24/7, providing them with real-time assistance. Chatbots will ask customers relevant questions to learn more about their needs and problems and provide clear, accurate, and helpful feedback. Precisely because of that, online users often consider them a faster, more convenient, and real-time resolution to their minor problems.

Another great benefit of chatbots lies in the fact that they streamline your customer support assistants’ jobs. By automating many repetitive tasks, they help them focus on more challenging tasks and, therefore, boost customer satisfaction.

Simplifying the Customer Journey

Statistics say that one of the most common reasons why people ditch shopping carts is a too complicated checkout process, as well as the fact that they need to create new accounts. They often need to fill out a lengthy form and then verify their email address before finalizing the purchase. This is a tedious process that may frustrate your target customers and prevent them from buying from you. 

One of the easiest ways to optimize your checkout process is to use chatbots on your website. Use them to simplify buyers’ journeys and provide customers with guided task completion. One such example is Ebay’s ShopBot. It asks customers numerous questions, such as what brands or product features they are looking for. The bot interactively guides users, encouraging them to complete the purchase. Another amazing example of using chatbots to improve sales and user experiences is Lyft that lets users request a ride via their Messenger bot, Slack bot, or Amazon Echo. The bot provides data about their driver’s location and sends the photo of the license plate and the car model to ensure a client’s security.

Evoking FOMO

In today’s oversaturated digital marketing landscape, when your prospective customers are bombarded with different brands and products, getting yourself noticed can be extremely challenging. To engage users and entice them to convert faster, many brands focus on triggering customers’ fear of missing out, or FOMO. For example, they offer time-sensitive deals, exit-intent popups, exclusive offers for VIP customers, etc. Many SaaS brands rely on social proof tools like Cue that displays real-time notifications about new webpage visits or product purchases. 

Combining your most powerful CRO tools with chatbots can also be highly effective. For example, you could use bots to inform users about your brand’s latest news or trends. Chatbots help you promote exclusive content to generate leads and time-sensitive offers to inspire impulse purchases. 

Providing Personalized User Experiences

Research says that 63% of online users don’t know that they’re talking to a bot. While your goal shouldn’t be to deceive your prospective customers, it is still good to know that chatbots can provide reliable user experiences and humanize your brand. 

This is exactly where you need to hire reliable content creators. Their task is to create an engaging chatbot script that reflects your brand’s personality and values. Your goal is to keep users’ conversations with your chatbot more natural and consistent. To humanize your chatbot, consider giving it a human name, such as Ross, Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. 

Apart from using chatbots to make customer conversations more relaxed, you could also provide more personalized product recommendations. For example, Sephora’s bot asks users about their needs and preferences and, based on them, recommends the right products. A user can even upload a photo and try out different makeup products.

Collecting Feedback from Users

Online businesses are continuously trying to understand their customers. They use numerous techniques for collecting customer feedback, such as surveys, online reviews, social media polls, quizzes, website analytics, heatmaps, and so forth. 

This is exactly where chatbots can help. For example, if a user is leaving their shopping cart, a chatbot could ask them why they are leaving. It could offer several options for users to choose from, such as “not interested,” “the price is too high,” or “I want to explore other options.” Or, you could create a one-question survey in your chat to assess users’ satisfaction with your website, products, or brand. 

This sort of feedback is immensely important to any marketer wanting to improve their conversion rates. By gathering honest feedback directly from your customers, you will be able to identify the most common user experience issues and resolve them fast to improve conversions. In the abovementioned scenarios, a chatbot can even help you save the sale. For example, if it finds that the product is too expensive for a customer, it could recommend more relevant products that suit their budget.

Over to You

With the rise of artificial intelligence, chatbots have become an inseparable aspect of your conversion rate optimization strategy. They give you the opportunity to simplify buyers’ journeys, provide personalized product recommendations, and evoke their emotions. Above all, you can collect customer feedback easier and use it to improve user experiences and sales.

 

How do you use chatbots to improve conversions?

Ways You Can Develop a Healthy Work Environment for Your Employees

Almost all business leaders realize that the happier and healthier your team is, the better they will perform. And of course, great performance by employees means that your company grows and succeeds more easily.

However, too many leaders don’t put a lot of thought or planning into their work environment. They let it be whatever it is – which is often something not conducive to high productivity and engaged work. 

The good news is that you can create a work environment where your employees are healthy and happy. Here’s what you need to know. 

Provide a Sense of Mission For Everyone

Too many company mission statements are a mish-mash of corporate-speak that doesn’t really mean anything to anyone. It goes on the wall, but it isn’t lived out day-to-day. But your business can be different.

People’s lives at work are greatly enriched if they feel that they are doing something meaningful. It gives them a sense of ownership and encourages them to do their best work. Pay alone doesn’t encourage creativity and engagement. Mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30% more likely to become high performers. 

Making your mission the front and center of every day isn’t just good for employees, either – it’s essential to a successful organization. The mission makes your team cohesive.

Patagonia is a great example of this. They have an explicit mission to be a steward of the planet and among other initiatives, don’t make metal pitons that are hammered into rock. Their clothing is made from organic cotton. And it doesn’t stop there. Their headquarters welcomes employees’ children and the company allows surfing breaks, flexible schedules, and volunteering sabbaticals. 

The result? A successful company, 4% turnover, and 9,000 applicants for new openings. 

Pretty impressive!

Offer Health and Wellness Resources

A company that wants a truly healthy and happy environment will offer the resources to make it happen. 

A big part of this is allowing workers time off when they’re ill, and encouraging them to treat their illness rather than being a “hero” and coming to work sick. Using a natural treatment method such as CBD can help employees battle a number of cold and flu symptoms at once, such as aches and pains, fatigue, and even nausea.

You can also offer workplace wellness programs. Wellness programs encourage healthy behaviors, give options for treating problems, and encourage employees to be consistent in their health efforts. 

As a result, your company will save a significant amount of money. The average financial return on these programs is $3.27 in health savings for every dollar spent, along with $5.82 for every dollar spent in lower absenteeism. 

Employees appreciate these programs, both for the impact on health and on the overall culture of the company. In fact, 87% consider these options when choosing an employer.

If you want a happier, healthier workforce, consider offering a variety of health-related programs employees can take advantage of. This may include health educators, counselors, and even massage therapists. Health educators and counselors can provide in-depth education on preventive care employees can engage in to keep themselves in tip-top shape. These educational programs often teach lifestyle changes and choices such as diet or exercise programs or meditation techniques.

Don’t Overlook Mental Health

Americans are among the most stressed populations in the world, and nearly half feel worried on a regular basis. Helping your employees handle these pressures is important. Some of the cause is work stress, but many Americans also feel stressed about finances, their health, and their families. 

Offering access to confidential mental health programs like an Employee Assistance Program can also make a big difference. You can also encourage the use of technology, like mobile apps, to monitor and improve mental health.

Be sure you don’t stigmatize or punish employees — officially or unofficially — who take advantage of these programs. Otherwise, you’re working against the health and happiness you’re spending money to provide.

When you prioritize physical and mental health in the workplace, you’re sending a message that your employees matter and aren’t just a worker to you. You see them as people, and that’s important for a healthy work environment.

Give Consistent Praise and Recognition

Not receiving praise and recognition for good work is a consistent complaint among employees. Too many workplaces focus on correcting mistakes and overlook when people do a good job. It’s simply expected.

Unfortunately, not giving praise and recognition puts your employees on the fast track to leaving the company. Being unappreciated is the number one reason employees look for other jobs. 

Make a plan and include recognition as a regular part of the workday. Whether it’s encouraging employees to brag on each other or getting a thank you from a manager, your staff needs to feel appreciated. Be sure to solicit feedback from your employees on a variety of things — did your team deploy a new product?  How did it go? Have you implemented that new recognition program? What’s working and what isn’t? Great bosses ask for feedback and put it into practice. It’s yet another way to recognize your employees’ contributions.

Healthy and Happy Workers Matter

Why should you bother with employee health and happiness? Because it matters to your business and your bottom line. Companies with happy employees outperform competitors by 20%. Plus, when your employees are happier it impacts how they do their job.

Unhappy employees telegraph their attitude to customers. So do happy ones. So if you want excellent customer service, you want to have a happy, healthy staff.

You’ll also save significant money on health costs, turnover, and absenteeism when your team is healthier and happier. 

Most of all, you’ll be treating employees as what they are – real people who really matter. That, alone, is plenty of reason to invest in a healthy work environment.

Client Communication: How to Do It Right

Communication, they say, is the basis for any healthy relationship. Much like in romantic bonds, family relations, and our friendships, transparency and honesty are necessary for all parties involved to feel appreciated and to know each other’s expectations. It’s not much different with professional bonds, isn’t it? The clients that give you the most trouble are the ones that send you lengthy emails with zero useful feedback, the ones that bombard you with information you cannot use, and the ones that don’t know what they want. 

Whether you’re working as a solo freelancer or you’re a part of a larger agency, if your role involves any amount of client interaction, you know that misunderstandings can cause more headaches than any amount of actual work ever could. Implementing certain rules, sticking to specific habits in client communication, and setting boundaries are all very important ways in which you can ease those headaches and make sure that your collaborations are more effective.

Define the process

Some companies and freelancers still assume that every single one of their clients has the same idea of the services they provide. For example, the field of digital marketing is a vast one indeed, and if you haven’t specified which particular areas your expertise covers, you can expect your clients to either come to you with a slew of questions, or to assume that you do exactly what they need and want. In both situations, you’re already in a mess. 

First of all, make sure that every touchpoint of your communication entails clear information. Your website, for starters, should have a clear page explaining your services in full. When someone reaches out to you, before the collaboration even begins, you should make sure that they know exactly what you can do for them, and what your business doesn’t cover. That way, you’ll prevent many misunderstandings and you’ll be able to qualify client leads more efficiently than ever. This can be done by using proposal software that will allow you access to a variety of client proposals.

Establish boundaries

We’ve all been there: a client sends you emails in the middle of the night, with no regard for your personal time off, expecting you to reply as soon as yesterday, and constantly in need of changes and alterations to your original service. Some clients are needy, others are borderline certifiable, but sometimes you cannot assess if they are a good match for your business until very late in the collaboration. 

In any scenario, setting those boundaries early on can help you manage those complicated relationships better. For starters, you can emphasize your work hours and when you’re available for communication via chat, phone, or email, and how long it typically takes you to respond. You should also let your clients know that when they need changes to your provided service or product, you have a process to stick to, and explain how long it takes. All of these details could be beneficial for letting your clients know how to get the information they want without disrupting your workflow. 

Embrace discovery

Especially when you’re in a creative industry, delivering something that will be in line with your clients’ expectations and needs can be tricky. Creative work is very individual, although based on expertise, and if you’re running a web design agency, for instance, you can often go through several stages of back-and-forth communication before you actually complete the work at hand, by no one’s fault in particular. Those interactions can still take away a chunk of your valuable time, and preventing that can be beneficial for you and your clients.

You can create and send out a customized web design client questionnaire as a part of your discovery process in an attempt to cover all of your bases and prevent all those changes early on. Of course, it’s always possible for your client to send the design back for tweaks, but you can at the very least prevent major, time-consuming changes that can affect your productivity. This is especially handy if your customers aren’t familiar with the industry and wouldn’t know what kind of details you need to begin with, so some guidance is essential.

Ask for feedback to improve 

Some clients like in-person meetings, some love Skype, while others enjoy the email correspondence that comes with clarity and transparency. In any scenario, you might not be perfectly compatible in terms of those preferences with each and every client, but you can find ways to accommodate their needs without disrupting your own process. A great way to avoid conflicts would be to ask your clients for feedback regarding your performance but also your communication and availability. 

Insights collected in that way could be helpful in defining your future relationships and in redefining expectations in your existing collaborations. In a similar manner, you should feel free to provide your own comments and feedback if you feel that your client should give you more space or that they aren’t available enough to the detriment of the project, causing missed deadlines and the like. Transparency in the form of regular feedback is a healthy way to let your client relationships blossom over time.

 

Although it takes time to evolve as a freelancer or even as a part of a team within an agency, you can certainly find ways to improve how you interact with clients. Take these tips into consideration, and you’ll be able to ensure long-lasting bonds and more satisfied clients down the line.

Best Free Conference Call Services for Businesses

Having the right conference call service on your side can help improve your business in so many different ways. First of all, it provides you with a chance to contact members of your team who are far away on a moment’s notice. It also allows you to skip the necessity to go across the globe in order to attend a meeting in person. Sure, a lot of people prefer a face-to-face meeting, however, organizing one in order to resolve an issue in several minutes is a waste of everyone’s time and resources. Fortunately, a conference call service can help you avoid this but which platforms are the best for your business? Here are several worth considering.

  1. Skype

It would be simply unfair not to mention skype at the very top of this list. Why? Well, the first reason is the fact that even today, skype boasts with as many as 1 billion downloads and about 300 million monthly active users. One more thing that sets skype apart is the fact that it’s at the very top of the industry for years now. Keep in mind that this tool is completely free and that it provides you with a simple and efficient conference call service that you can use for both international and local meetings alike.

  1. Google Hangouts

If there’s one thing that we can notice about Google nowadays it’s the fact that it tries to be competitive in virtually every field out there. This ranges from becoming competitive with MS Office, with tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets. One incredible Google tool that you can use for conference call services is the so-called Google Hangouts. The best thing about this tool is that it’s completely browser-based and that, all you need to access it is a Google Account. In other words, it’s a tool that you can always default to.

  1. Zoom

Another amazing tool for conference calls, especially if you have a particularly large team, is Zoom. The only downside of this tool lies in the fact that your calls are limited to 40 minutes, however, seeing as how the majority of meetings don’t actually exceed 20 minutes, this is more than enough. Other than this, by having a limited time for the meeting, you’ll have extra motivation to keep it short and to the point. It is estimated that we spend about 31 hours in unnecessary meetings each month, either way, so avoiding this might be especially important. Needless to say, you have both free and premium accounts.

  1. Redback Connect

When it comes to hosting a conference with a particularly large audience, what you might need is a tool that’s closer to a life event streaming service than an IM software. Redback Connect is a perfect example. As is expected, this is something that can completely erase all geographical boundaries, which makes it ideal even for major industry-relevant conventions. The fact that you can also provide your audience with an on-demand content makes for another major selling point of this tool.

  1. Viber

Another tool that you need to take into consideration is the use of Viber for the purpose of conference-calling. The problem with this idea lies in the fact that Viber’s biggest advantage also tends to be its major downside. Namely, a Viber is a tool that virtually everyone nowadays has installed on their phone. On top of this, it also has a desktop version. The fact that it has a wide personal use makes people available 24/7, however, this also means that they might get distracted by other (personal) messages that they receive while working.

  1. FreeConferenceCall.com

The next tool that’s worth your consideration is the FreeConferenceCall.com. This is a reliable and simple tool with a more than self-explanatory name. The tool itself can be registered for free in a matter of minutes but you also have an option to continue with your Facebook account, thus facilitating this already short process even further. The use of this tool is also quite simple, seeing as how you can set up an online conference in a simple three-steps-long move. You get a free account, you invite participants and you start an audio conference. It really is that simple.

  1. WebEx

One more amazing tool that you should consider using is WebEx. The benefits of using this tool are numerous, the biggest one being the fact that you get to the conference call, screen share and file share within the same platform. Due to the fact that the tool also has a simple and effective whiteboard for quick and efficient messaging, it is more than clear that this is an end-to-end conference tool like no other. This is particularly effective when you’re sharing visual ideas. For instance, in a scenario where you’re trying to design a custom sign for your business. A brainstorming session in WebEx can be quite a sight. Now, the tool itself is not free, however, you do get a trial period. This means that you can always use it as a one-time solution.

  1. UberConference

One of the tools that a lot of people probably expected to see earlier on this list is the popular UberConference tool. What you get is a free conference call tool that specializes in voice calls. Sure, conference call services in 2020 usually imply video support, however, the truth is that audio always comes first. This is especially important to allow various parties to participate in conference calls while driving.

  1. FreeConference.com

Finally, we have one more tool with a self-explanatory name that can provide you with a highly-efficient online meeting room for your staff. The platform has support for any device, which gives you an additional layer of versatility that you need. Add to this the fact that you get support for international dial-in numbers and what you’ve got yourself is an ultimate tool for going global with your business. 

In conclusion

At the end of the day, there are several factors that all of these tools share. First, the registering process is always free and simple and the tool itself has a simple and intuitive interface. In fact, one could even get out of the way to claim that it makes little to no difference when it comes to which of the tools you decide to use. Now, while differences may not be exactly astronomical, they’re definitely present. Also, seeing as how no tool is so clearly superior or inferior to others, you can just pick the one that fits your own personal preference without the fear of making the wrong choice.