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Finnegan Pierson - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 22

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Transitioning Back to Civilian Life is Never as Easy as You Expect

When you joined the military, you learned a new way of doing things. In fact, nearly every aspect of your life changed in some way. Just as those changes required adjusting your mental perspective, returning to civilian life after years of military service will also require a shifting of your attitudes. Many veterans are unprepared for the practical or emotional upheavals that leaving the service can produce, but learning how your life will change will help prepare you for a new path. 

Have You Really Considered the Practical Changes? 

In a way, the military provides a protected and sheltered existence for many of its members by bestowing a handsome benefits package. The benefits offered through military service help make enlisting an attractive option for many, but it also gets you accustomed to certain privileges. Once you return to civilian life, you'll lose some of those benefits. 

One of the biggest practical shocks new veterans face is the cost of living, particularly if they previously took advantage of base living. You'll now have to pay for an apartment or home, as well as utilities. While groceries on the base were likely cheaper or discounted, you'll no longer benefit from those savings. Additionally, you'll have to pay for your own vehicle, auto insurance, and health insurance. Many veterans find that they're unprepared to handle these expenses, as they return to civilian life. 

The Emotional Impact of Your Transition 

Once you leave military service, you'll have plenty of baggage. The physical baggage can be dealt with easily enough, but emotional baggage may be harder to handle. Upon returning to civilian life, many veterans find that it takes an entirely different mindset than that needed to function in their military careers. 

One of the most common problems in this regard is constantly feeling tense or on edge. This can become so problematic that it can affect your ability to concentrate and perform complex tasks. You may also feel that you experience anger and frustration more frequently, though you may not be able to say exactly why you're experiencing these feelings. This flood of negative emotions can increase stress levels and inhibit your ability to sleep, which will serve to complicate the problem. After a while, untreated emotional problems will begin to affect your physical health. 

How Can You Make Your Transition Easier? 

When it comes to practical concerns, making your transition to civilian life can be easier with a little research. First, it will be important to set your goals and develop an actionable plan. Many veterans find that they must start at the bottom rung in their careers, even with the experience and skills they amassed in the military. Expecting the pay cut that goes along with starting over will help you better prepare for civilian life. Alternatively, you may choose to get training to pursue a new career path. Even if it means trying to work from home before completely transitioning into the workforce. Your mental health is important, and it is worth doing what is best for you.

You should also take the time to research your options for keeping your cost of living low. This means renting a cheaper apartment to start, which can help you save up for a home purchase down the road. You should also contact community veteran's services and groups to take advantage of additional benefits and resources. 

Emotionally, it will be important to take care of your mental health. This may mean seeking out therapy options to help you cope with your transition or joining support groups, where you can discuss your experiences with other veterans. You should also feel comfortable telling others that you don't want to talk about your military service. Whether they're simply curious or have negative attitudes towards the military, it can do more harm than good to engage in these conversations. 

In general, the best thing you can do for yourself is to practice a healthy lifestyle. Eating right and getting enough physical activity will not even keep your body fit, it will give you something positive to focus on. Practicing stress relief techniques can also be helpful. You might try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Looking for ways to live happier and healthier will help you reduce the stress of your transition while relying on support from your community and your loved ones will help you overcome most of the challenges you'll face.

Publish Date: May 11, 2020 11:51 AM


6 Steps To Build a Business That Can Succeed in the Digital Age

In this day and age, every business needs to adapt to the digital space, no matter their industry or size. However, if you’re unfamiliar with the online landscape and recent technological advancements, it can be difficult to get started.

What exactly do you need to succeed in the digital age? Who can help you figure out a plan? What should your goals be? These are all relevant questions that require a methodical approach. Fortunately, you can answer them by following these six steps.

woman placing sticky notes on wall

  1. Figure Out Your Goals

Before you start creating a complex plan, you should figure out what your goals are. These should be crafted as long-term goals supported by a series of short-term goals. For example, your long term goal can be higher conversions on your website, supported by short-term goals of improved search engine results rankings, higher social media engagement and increased traffic to your webpages.

Of course, you should also consider areas other than marketing. Can your internal processes be improved with technology? Are you missing out on opportunities because your team isn’t able to respond to quick-changing platforms? Look at every aspect of your business, determine which goals can help your company the most, then set those as a priority.

  1. Get the Right Tools

You can’t implement your vision without the right tools. In regards to the digital space, that usually means technology. For example, if you’re trying to expand your partnerships with long-distance enterprises, you’ll need software to facilitate a virtual meeting. On the other hand, if you want to process digital wallet payments, you’ll need POS hardware with those capabilities.

Take a look at your goals and figure out what tools you need to accomplish them. In some cases, you may be able to use one tool to advance several goals at once.

  1. Find Experts

Having tools are all well and good, but what if you don’t have the expertise to use them? Fortunately, there are a number of professionals out there who can help you design and implement digital strategies.

There are two different ways to form a team of technological experts: in-house or outsourcing. Each has its own benefits, but the choice ultimately depends on what best fits your business. In-house experts are usually members of a small team that exclusively works on your projects. If you outsource, you pay another company that potentially works with many different businesses.

  1. Utilize Digital Marketing

If you’re not using digital marketing, you’re at a huge disadvantage. The majority of consumers use the internet to research before making a purchase, meaning your online visibility plays a big role in building your customer base. To give yourself a fighting chance, you need to have a professional-looking website that’s easy to navigate. Most website visitors only spend a few seconds on a page, so you have a very short time frame to impress them.

You also need to improve your search engine results page rankings to ensure customers can easily find your website. There are lots of strategies to do this:

  •       Pay per click advertising
  •       Search engine optimization
  •       Paid search advertising

This is an area where experts can help; their focus on the digital space means they can choose the best approach and even provide the necessary content to pursue it.

  1. Build Your Brand Via Social Media

Branding is important, especially if you’re targeting the younger generations. What does your business stand for? What is its mission? What do you want customers to connect with?

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, is one of the best ways to reach out directly to consumers. This connection is invaluable, as research shows that consumers are more likely to buy from a familiar brand. It’s also an excellent way to keep tabs on your customers’ feelings about campaigns and policy changes.

  1. Use Data To Determine Your Next Steps

 Perhaps the most important step of all is to track your data. It’s the only way to determine if you’re being more efficient, generating more profit and generally meeting your goals. Make sure to analyze data on a regular basis and use that information to adjust course as necessary.

 

Publish Date: May 8, 2020 1:42 PM


Tracking Your Network Traffic

Businesses today are more complex than ever before. The data that moves across networks—healthcare records and banking transactions— often have high stakes.  Businesses have evolved to rely on the security of highly confidential, complex data sets, yet network infrastructure was created to simply move “data packets” with little regard to their complexity or confidentiality— in its purest state, the network doesn’t care if your data is from the FBI or your mom. Luckily, computer scientists and engineers have created a solution: network monitoring. 

Network Infrastructure and the Data Problem

Network infrastructure was built on a remarkable simplicity of basic communication protocols— computers send information back and forth to each other based on a series of inputs and outputs. The unbelievable interconnectedness of the modern world comes down to a rather simple system of computer communication; however, the beautiful simplicity of this system causes complications. 

The computer recognizes network communications as “data packages.”  The problem with this aspect of network infrastructure is that all information passed through the web looks the same to the computer. This style of data transferring becomes a challenge for businesses that rely on sensitive information. Since every data package looks the same, it becomes difficult to know if you’re sending the correct information. When you’re a bank or a doctor’s office, this is a huge liability. Network monitoring, such as a fiber tap, provides businesses visibility into individual packets of data to ensure security. 

Data Monitoring and IT Security

The large majority of modern businesses have full departments designated to networking monitoring and security. It is essential that companies that use sensitive information are sending the data they want where they want. While there is a large variety of networking tools available, they all seek to discover the contents of individual data packets. The two most common methods for monitoring network traffic are TAP(Test Access Point) and SPAN (Switched Port Analyzer). 

TAP vs. SPAN

TAPs and SPANs identify the data inside packets using different methods. A network TAP is a hardware device that is inserted into the cabling network to copy and monitor data packets A SPAN is a software program that is applied to a router and duplicates the incoming and outgoing traffic.  SPANS will usually forward the duplicated traffic to a specific port. 

The Benefit of a Network TAP 

Most commonly, businesses choose a network TAP over a SPAN due to common problems in SPAN software including:

  • SPAN software requires a lot of work from the computer’s CPU, which can result in poor performance. 
  • Errors in data copying are easily “dropped” from a SPAN port, which can result in inconsistent reporting.
  • The storage requirement of data packets can exceed the space available on a port, which can cause crucial errors to be left undetected. 

Different Kinds of TAPS: Passive and Active

Network TAPS fall under two subcategories: passive and active. Passive TAPs require no power generation and don’t communicate or interact with other “players” in the network infrastructure.  Passive TAPs are an attractive option to businesses because they are highly reliable and don’t require a lot of maintenance or configuration. 

Active TAPS require a power source to send their signals and copy data packets. While active TAPS are able to efficiently copy network traffic, many businesses prefer passive TAPs because they don’t require a power source. If a company experienced a power outage, active TAPS would not be able to generate a signal and would not be reliable, whereas passive TAPS would still generate and receive signals. 

The infrastructure of the Internet is brilliant— it has enabled modern wonders, such as online banking and E-commerce. The majority of contemporary companies have harnessed the simplicity of network structure to create the products that define modern society. Although network infrastructure's simplistic nature has created a world in which you can send money to your friends via applications, it has also posed some security complications. Today, modern companies rely on network monitoring to ensure the security of their data. 

 

Publish Date: May 7, 2020 3:05 PM


Tips to Attract and Retain Talent

Now more than ever, people have choices when it comes to where they work. To remain competitive, businesses need to find ways to attract and retain talent in their market. Some businesses struggle with how to attract and retain talent as they hold onto age-old policies and procedures that stymie growth and don't nurture the type of work environment that today's talent is looking for. If you're a business owner or manager and are looking for ways to attract talent to your company, here are some helpful tips you can use to bring in-- and keep-- the right employees. 

Support Growth

It's a common misconception that today's talent isn't looking for an employer where they can spend most of their career. In fact, younger talent can be extremely loyal to the right employer, but it takes some work on the employer's part to make employees want to stay. One thing that today's talent is looking for in an employer are programs that nurture growth. They want to have a clear career path and tools to help them get there. By implementing a professional development plan at your company, you can encourage your employees to take on additional career training to help them grow in their career. You may even want to consider developing a mentor program, where younger talent can learn from seasoned employees. By investing in your employees' career growth, it makes them feel valued and will increase the likelihood that they will stay with your company over the long term. 

Embrace Flexibility

Today's talent is looking for a flexible work environment that will allow them to have a better work life balance. Companies that aren't getting on board with embracing flexibility are seeing less retention among younger employees and have a more difficult time attracting new talent. Give your employees the flexibility to work the hours that are best for them. This can be helpful for younger employees who may struggle with childcare or other home obligations that may prevent them from working traditional hours. Even if your company cannot allow for employees to make their own hours, considering a policy that allows them to work from home periodically can help retain today's talent. There is plenty of work from home tools that can keep your employees engaged and connected with the office even when they are working remotely. 

Promote Downtime 

Employees who work hard need time to disconnect so they can rest and recharge before heading back into the office. Companies that expect their employees to be available 24/7 struggle to keep talent, as their employees often suffer higher rates of burnout and eventually seek other employment. It's critical to your company's success to allow your employees to have downtime. They'll make less mistakes and be able to produce their best work when they feel rested, so whether you implement a policy that prevents them from answering email after work or encourage them to take breaks, finding a way to promote downtime is crucial. You should also consider adopting a generous time off policy that will allow them to take extended breaks from work throughout the year so they can really recharge their batteries.

Give Back

These days, younger talent is seeking employment with a company with a generous philanthropy policy. If your company does little to give back, you may have a harder time attracting these community-minded individuals who believe in the greater good. In addition to offering philanthropic giving, you may also want to consider adopting a policy that allows your employees to have so many volunteer hours each year so they can also give back to their community in ways that matter most to them. Not only does this attract community-minded young talent, but it also looks great as a company that you're so willing to give back to your community. 

You don't have to completely change your company to bring in new employees. With these ideas in mind, your company should be able to attract and retain today's unique set of talent. 

 

 

 

 

 

Publish Date: May 5, 2020 1:56 PM


How You Can Use Inbound Linking to Boost Traffic

If you have a website, you know how important it is to have quality links. These can help you reach the top pages of Google, provide your potential and current customers with the information they are looking for, and make it easier to have an authoritative tone when it comes to the type of work that you do. Take a look at how you can learn more about using inbound linking to boost your traffic and find out what this can mean for your customers. If you are not already taking full advantage of it, you might be surprised by the results. 

Make Social Media Work for You

If you already have some type of social media, make sure you are taking full advantage of it and putting it to work for your inbound links. First, assess the social media channels that you have. This could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others, based on the type of business you have and how often you use them. Next, think about what type of material you want to put out there and make more people aware of. Perhaps it is a blog post you've written about new changes to your industry, or maybe you want to highlight how long your company has been around by offering an anniversary special and enticing new customers in. Either way, you can share your links on social media and encourage others to do the same. This can help you grow your business and get more traffic in ways you might never have imagined. 

Creating Content People Will Want to Share

If you don't already have a blog, it is important to start one as soon as possible. That is because your blog can be a good source for having inbound linking and helping you both rank higher on Google, along with getting even more traffic. Think about what type of content your audience is looking for and how you can help them. Perhaps they need information on when to have their pool fixed or how often it needs to be maintained if you own a pool business. Or maybe you are in lawn care, and they need to understand how you can help them keep their yards looking nice and avoiding bugs and other small predators. The best way to help people understand why they need your services and what you can do for them is to talk about it-or in this case, write about it. This creates interesting and helpful content that people will want to share with others while giving you the chance to establish yourself as an authority in the field. 

Understand How to Use Inbound Links on Your Website

You don't have to limit inbound links to just your blog. You can use them effectively on your website, and help people reach even more information. For example, you can use your services page to link to blog posts you have created on different services, and why they are so important to have. This can make it easier to rank higher in search engines such as Google while giving a boost to your authority in the area of your business. No matter what you do, made sure you use at least a few inbound links on your website. You can always go back in later to either update them or change them altogether, based on your needs and what you think your customers would benefit from the most. 

If you have a small business, you likely already know how important it is to establish yourself as an authority in your field and get to the top results in Google. You can use inbound links to help boost your company through both social media and your own website. You can also attach a blog to your website, and create content that people will read and come back to often, which can help your company even more. 

Publish Date: April 24, 2020 1:38 PM


Marketing: Stay In-House, Outsource, or Both?

Businesses of every size have more marketing opportunities than ever before. In addition to the traditional channels of broadcast, radio, print, and out-of-home/billboard advertising, marketers now have a full suite of digital platforms at their disposal as well. In order to take advantage of these opportunities to build awareness and share messaging, companies must decide what role their in-house marketing department is expected to play. One size does not fit all, and there are pros and cons to different approaches. We’ll look at a few common setups and explore the best mix of insourcing and outsourcing to achieve effective results.

Your Marketing Department

Most companies have either a marketing director, chief marketing officer, or creative director who oversees managing the public’s image of their business. In some cases, public relations are also folded into this role, in others, they focus more solely on advertising, branding, and community outreach. This key marketer may also be responsible for media buying or overseeing the buying of media.

Beyond this manager or executive, department make-ups vary greatly. There may be a single assistant who helps them communicate with outside production and buying companies. Or they may have a producer who can write, shoot video, record sound, and produce marketing materials. Others may have a “cast of thousands” with copywriters, producers, graphic artists, media buyers, and social media leads on their team.

The reality is that most companies rely on some level of outsourcing, whether that means employing an advertising or digital agency, specialty producers like a link building service, or a combination of companies to handle their efforts.

Advertising Agencies

The traditional advertising agency or agency of record is designed to be a one-stop shop for a company with marketing departments of any (or no) size. Beyond owners and executives, agencies usually have account executives who serve as the chief point of contact between their clients and the agency. Their job is to bring in new business, negotiate terms, pricing, and contracts, and to keep the clients abreast of current projects and new opportunities.

Agencies usually have a media buyer or team of buyers who are in contact with local and regional broadcast, radio, newspaper, and out-of-home print companies. In addition to building schedules on behalf of their clients, they must be aware of the media climate in their area, understanding the ratings of television and radio stations, circulation numbers of periodicals, and impressions for billboards and other out-of-home opportunities.

A creative director will oversee the agency’s art department to build graphics, logos, and print pieces, as well as copywriters who are responsible for their client’s brand voice and scripts for commercials, websites, and articles. Finally, they will also have audio and video producers who can shoot and edit commercials and deliver them to advertising channels.

Marketers who hire ad agencies can expect full service, but they will pay handsomely for it. For many, this is a worthwhile investment, as it enables them to save on staff and equipment. For others, the cost is too prohibitive, as they are still paying for advertising as well as the agency’s production costs and commission.

Digital Agencies

As we’ve moved into the digital advertising age, digital agencies have emerged as a boutique option to handle a certain portion of marketers’ needs. Namely, they will perform the same function as a traditional advertising agency, but only for web-based media. Specifically, they will work on digital banners and graphic-based videos for the web, as well as advertising optimized for different social media platforms, including managing social accounts, boosting posts, and paid social ads.

The price tag of a digital agency is usually less than a full-service advertising agency as their services are more focused.

The Best Balance

As you can see, there are tradeoffs to any approach. If you hire a large marketing department in hopes of handling everything in-house, you will need to pay nearly a dozen professionals and invest heavily in video, audio, and digital production equipment. This is more feasible these days as subscription services like the Adobe Creative Suite and powerful computers able to handle production have come down in price. For most companies, the best route is a balance of a small marketing department who can outsource specialized needs to professional producers and agencies.

The key is for your in-house marketers to effectively communicate the company’s vision and branding to anyone they have hired. Consistency is crucial to branding. They must be ready to enforce brand guidelines and insist upon analytics and reporting to monitor results. Agencies and outsources must be held to high accountability standards and show return on investment.

Publish Date: April 24, 2020 12:30 PM


5 Great Reasons to Open a New Business

Hundreds of new businesses open every year. They serve different industries and provide different services, but they all have one thing in common: a driven business owner who wanted to strike out on their own.

Making the decision to open a new business is tough. There’s risk involved, but the rewards can be worth it. Here are a few compelling reasons to open your own business.

You’re Ready To Be Your Own Boss

When you work at a normal job, you’re subject to the whims of your employer. If they change the rules and regulations, you have to follow them or risk punishment.

By starting your own business, you’ll be in control of everything. You’ll be in charge of policies and key business decisions instead of having bosses or supervisors who make those decisions for the company. This gives you full independence at work.

Keep in mind that you’ll also be in charge of day-to-day operations. This means you’ll have to find ways to encourage employees to work productively. You’ll also have to figure out how to finance your business, whether that’s through a merchant cash advance or a traditional business loan. It’s a lot of responsibility, but the payoffs are well worth it.

You Fulfill a Need in the Community

Think about the services and stores you have access to in your community. Are you happy with the ones you have? Are there certain services that just aren’t available to you where you live? If so, you have a compelling reason to start a new business.

By opening a business in an underserved industry, you’ll fulfill a need in the community and can give people access to better quality services. Even better, you’ll corner the market on those services. This helps stimulate your local economy which, in turn, creates more jobs and strengthens the community for years to come.

You Want Full Control of Your Income

As an employee, your hours and your income are based on the needs of your employer. It doesn’t matter if you have more availability and could work longer hours. You’re stuck with the shifts they give you. Worse, you can’t guarantee that they’ll recognize your hard work and give you a raise even when you deserve one.

As a business owner, you’re in charge of your income and the hours you put in. You could potentially increase your income each month and, depending on the type of business you run, work better and shorter hours.

If the business isn’t performing the way you want it to, you’re able to implement changes to speed up its growth. Just remember that you’re going to have to motivate yourself to reach those new income goals.

You Want to Pursue Your Passion

When you work for someone else, your day can feel like drudgery. You’re only able to work on the projects and tasks they want you to when they want you to do them.

As a business owner, you’re free to follow your passions and build a business that focuses on the things that inspire and motivate you. You’ll still be working hard each day, but it will feel less like work and more like fun.

There will always be slow days, but as long as you can stay fired up about your passion, you’ll enjoy what you do.

You Can Do It Better Than Anyone Else

You don’t have to open a business in an industry with zero competition. In fact, competition can be healthy! It all depends on whether you can do things better than others in your area.

If you have a skill or can provide products that are better suited to the needs of your community than the ones provided by other businesses, it’s time to set up shop! Brand loyalty only goes so far. If you can consistently improve quality and do things better than others, you’ll be successful.

Starting your own business is exciting, but it takes work and a lot of determination. If you’re not sure that you’re ready, that’s okay, but if any one of these reasons stands out to you, consider opening your own business.

Publish Date: April 22, 2020 10:58 PM


7 Tips for Improving Web Design Process and UX

A well-designed website should include a user interface that is accessible, intuitive and efficient for users. No matter how good your content is, if your site is designed poorly, users may leave with a bad impression of your company. These seven tips can help you improve the design of your site and its user interface.

1. Determine the Purpose of Your Site

What your company wants the user to be able to accomplish when using your website should be the guiding principle for the rest of your design process. You should begin your investigation process by asking the key stakeholders questions such as, who the site is for, what they want users to be able to do, and the primary purpose of the website. Use the answers to these questions to create a set of goals for the project.

 

2. Do a Content Audit

Once you know what you want to achieve with the site, you need to take stock of what is already there. Make an outline of the navigation scheme of your website and the types of content under each navigation header. If you have a very large site, it may be useful to use a tool that can crawl your site and automate some of this process.

3. Know Your Brand

When designing a site, it is important to design it in such a way that it fits your brand. You will need to familiarize yourself with your brand attributes. Attributes to consider include, the culture of your company, the personalities of your target customers, your company's communication style and what makes your brand unique. You can determine these attributes by interviewing stakeholders, conducting customer surveys and other methods.

4. Use White Space

What you do not put on your page can often be as important as what you do. Using white, or negative, space appropriately can help make your site easier to navigate. For example, using margins around text blocks can help make text and images stand out on your pages. The use of white space can also make your site appear more attractive and professional. You will want to find the right balance between including valuable content and using enough negative space to enhance the usability of your site.

5. Optimize Your Page Speed

Users expect pages to load quickly. Just an extra five seconds of load time can result in 20% more of your users leaving your site without accessing any of the information you want them to see. You can improve page speed by compressing all of the images you use, eliminating unnecessary plug-ins, and optimizing your site for use on mobile devices. You should test how well your site performs on the slowest connection speed your customers are likely to be using.

6. Focus on Functionality

It can be easy to succumb to the temptation to design an aesthetically pleasing site with lots of bells and whistles and forget to make the site functional for the end-user. You should begin by making sure your site meets the needs of the user and designing a functional interface and then add on extras to make the site more memorable and aesthetically pleasing. However, you will need to keep testing to make sure that whatever you add to the site doesn't compromise the functionality.

7. Hire a Professional

Most companies do not keep professional web designers on staff full-time. If your company is one of them, you may want to hire a professional to design your site. This process can be made easier by using a service, such as talentpowered, to locate and evaluate potential designers.
A well-designed website can be an invaluable asset to any company. However, a poorly designed site can leave potential customers with a bad impression of your company and may send them to your competitors. These seven tips can help you design a user-friendly, efficient, and memorable site that can enhance your brand, increase customer satisfaction and portray your company as trustworthy and professional.

Publish Date: April 22, 2020 9:45 PM


How Realtors Can Get More Military Clients

Current and former military members are among the best real estate clients you can hope for. They are extremely loyal customers, quick to make referrals to family and friends. They are a pleasure to work with because of the efficiency and discipline with which they handle stress and take last-minute complications in stride. They are open to the advice of an established expert, though they may be shy about asking questions. Not only that, but they represent a potentially lucrative niche market.

Don't assume that just because there is no military installation near your community that there are no veteran homebuyers in your community. Following discharge from the service, veterans may settle all over the country. One step toward reaching the veteran market is by making a habit of asking each prospective client, "Did you serve?"

1. Take Advantage of Educational Opportunities

Most current or former service members who are looking to buy a house use a VA home loan to do it. These are great products that provide 100% financing with no mortgage insurance and typically lower interest rates. Even veterans with low credit scores can often qualify for them.

However, VA loans have their own unique requirements. You can best serve your clients if you understand the specific requirements of a VA loan and can explain how they apply. The Department of Veterans' Affairs may offer educational programs specifically for realtors to train you on the nuances of VA loans. For more information, you can contact the VA Regional Loan Center in your area.

2. Build a VA-Savvy Team

As a realtor, it often falls to you to facilitate contact between the buyer and other members of the real estate team, such as contractors, lenders, and home inspectors. These professionals must also understand the specifications required of a property financed by a VA loan. Your clients may not know which professionals are familiar with VA loan requirements and which are not. They will appreciate you putting them in touch with professionals who have the desired knowledge of and experience with this unique loan product.

This requires you to do the legwork beforehand. First, you must seek out professionals who are VA-savvy on your clients' behalf. Second, you must establish a relationship with them that will be mutually beneficial to all parties.

3. Understand Buyers' Unique Needs

Every buyer has individual needs and expectations from the home-buying experience. The needs of military members, particularly those still on active duty, tend to be unique compared to other homebuyers but consistent among servicemembers.

For example, veterans and active-duty personnel alike may be relocating to a new and unfamiliar area. They will be relying on you for information not only about the housing market but the community at large. Be sure you are able to answer their questions about school districts, transportation, etc.

While a veteran may be looking for a forever home, an active-duty member may expect to move again within a matter of years. Therefore, he or she may be looking for a home that has potential as a rental property or significant resale value so that he or she can reap a significant return on investment upon redeployment.

Active-duty servicemembers may have only a short amount of leave time in which to visit a new community and conduct a search of available homes. Therefore, if you want to work with military clients, you will have to be prepared to act fast. A process that may take weeks or even months with civilian clients may need to be completed within a matter of days.

If you want to serve the military homebuyers' market, one of the most valuable steps you can take is to involve yourself in veterans' organizations. This gives you opportunities to learn more about what members of the military require from real estate professionals, find new clients, and network with other professionals catering to the same niche. Many realtors who help servicemembers report a unique satisfaction from helping those who answered the call to serve their country.

Publish Date: April 22, 2020 6:06 PM


6 Ways To Protect Your Online Business

The internet has enabled many entrepreneurs to create and run their own businesses. For many people, this is a dream come true. The possibilities and opportunities are almost endless. However, the internet can also bring new security challenges. Protecting your online business from hackers and other threats can be challenging. These six tips will help.

1) Select a Secure Web Host

Your online business’s website is hosted by a service provider. While many founders look for an inexpensive option to help keep costs down, security should probably be your top priority. Saving a few dollars each month is nothing in comparison to potentially losing your business to hacking.

When you are searching for the right host, consider which ones put the physical and digital security of their servers first. You will also want to find one that can work well with options such as SSL and data encryption.

2) Learn Digital Best Practices

One of the best ways to protect your business is to educate yourself on cybersecurity best practices. This doesn’t need to be advanced security (although hiring someone to help with that may be worthwhile). It can simply be learning how to create good passwords, avoid email vulnerabilities and detect threats.

A small amount of security literacy can go a long way. Many criminals tend to target unprepared businesses. A little effort could help keep you safe. If you have anyone working with you, make sure to train them also.

3) Encrypt Sensitive Data

Your business will likely have some sensitive data. This can include customer information, payment details, competitive plans and more. Learning to identify the different types of sensitive data will help you to properly protect that data.

In most cases, you will want to encrypt your sensitive data. Anything that could be damaging if it were accessed by an unauthorized party should be protected. It can be helpful to hire a consultant to help with planning your data protection strategy.

4) Use HTTPS

Communication between your website and browsers should be protected using a secure sockets layer. If you visit an SSL-encrypted website, it will connect with the HTTPS protocol instead of HTTP. This technology encrypts data being sent between the server and client, making it nearly impossible for a hacker to read data being sent back and forth.

For any e-commerce website, this is a must-have. You need SSL to defend against payment information theft. Furthermore, people feel more comfortable shopping on SSL-encrypted sites.

5) Make Backups

Ransomware is becoming an increasingly common way to attack businesses. You can protect yourself against this by creating backups of your data regularly. These backups should be stored in multiple locations. Many businesses have external or network hard drive backups as well as cloud backups.

Creating a regular backup schedule will help to ensure that you always have a version of your data to roll back to when you need it. If you have a busy business, you likely want to back up at least daily, if not more frequently.

6) Secure Your Network

Another vulnerability to your business is your local network. Other devices on your network can be used as access points to attack your business systems. Applying good network protections such as using encrypted wi-fi, implementing secure passwords, changing network device login credentials and more can be very helpful.

For many online business owners, that network may be a home network. You may be running a team across multiple home networks. If this is the case, set up a virtual private network for people to connect through. This will help you to have more control over the connection security of your team.

Learn More

With the above tips, you can protect your online business from many digital threats. Running a business online can be personally and professionally rewarding. However, it can also be dangerous. Fortunately, by hardening your security, you can ward off a lot of would-be hackers.

Publish Date: April 22, 2020 7:21 AM


Staying Focused Throughout Your Workday

Staying focused and alert during your busy workday can be challenging. Bad habits related to poor diet, inadequate sleep, and negative thinking can keep you from performing your work at your best potential. Here are some easy tips to stay focused throughout your workday.

Don’t Rely on Caffeine and Sugary Foods

Caffeine and sugary foods can give you short bursts of energy, but they won’t keep you fueled throughout the whole day. Try not to drink coffee all day long; limit yourself to just one or two cups at the most. Eat snacks that are rich in protein and fiber to stay feeling full and energized.

Make a Firm Commit to Better Nutrition

Make a commitment to treating your body better by taking a comprehensive approach. Level Thrive offers an eight-week nutritional program that helps people address nutritional deficiencies. Its content includes vitamins, protein, probiotics, fiber, and digestive enzymes. Le-vel thrive reviews report a noticeable increase in mental clarity and enhanced focus. Specially formulated supplements will help you to stay continuously fueled and energized at work much more effectively and nutritiously than sugar or caffeine.  

Let Yourself Get Plenty of Rest

One of the most important tips to staying focused while at work is getting enough sleep at home. If you’re running on just a few hours of sleep to power through your whole workday, you’re going to have a tough time of it. In order to stay focused and alert, you should really try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

Don’t Stress Out

When you’re feeling stressed out about deadlines or anxious about an issue at work, it can seriously impede your concentration. Effectively, you can end up dedicating more of your thought process to be stressed out about the task at hand rather than the task itself. The best way to actively manage stress throughout your day is to stay conscientious about controlling it. Try to recognize when stressed out or erratic thought patterns are slowing down your workflow. When that happens, focus on calming yourself down before you resume trying to focus on your work.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Staying positive about what you’re doing can help you get through a workday much more easily. Even if you don’t really like what you have to do on a particular day, you need to try to detach from your negative perspective and try to take on your day neutrally. Focus on what you like about what’s happening in your workday instead of fixating on negative emotions like dread or anxiety. Even if you’re not happy about what you’re doing, it helps to project as though you are.

Take a Break When You Need One

You have to take some breaks throughout your workday, or else you’re going to burn out. To the extent that you can, it’s essential to give yourself a couple minutes to decompress periodically. Taking your attention off of what you’re doing for just a minute can help improve your attention span overall.

Stretch and Move

When you take a minute for a break, it’s a good idea to get up and stretch a minute. Getting up and staying mobile can help keep your blood flow circulating and help you stay alert. It can also help your joints from getting stiff and sore.

Don’t Start Your Day with the Easy Stuff

It’s natural to run out of steam over the course of your day, so it doesn’t make sense to try to tackle the easiest items on your agenda first thing in the morning. Instead, start with the more difficult tasks first. Typically, the most successful people get the most done during the first part of their work day.

Improving your nutritional intake, staying rested and relaxed, and taking an organized and positive approach to your workday will help you stay focused at work. Some of these measures may seem like a big change at first. Over time, however, they can easily integrate into your regular workday routine.

 

 

Publish Date: April 21, 2020 3:15 PM


7 Tips for Improving Web Design Process and UX

A well-designed website should include a user interface that is accessible, intuitive and efficient for users. No matter how good your content is, if your site is designed poorly, users may leave with a bad impression of your company. These seven tips can help you improve the design of your site and its user interface.

1. Determine the Purpose of Your Site

What your company wants the user to be able to accomplish when using your website should be the guiding principle for the rest of your design process. You should begin your investigation process by asking the key stakeholders questions such as, who the site is for, what they want users to be able to do, and the primary purpose of the website. Use the answers to these questions to create a set of goals for the project.

2. Do a Content Audit

Once you know what you want to achieve with the site, you need to take stock of what is already there. Make an outline of the navigation scheme of your website and the types of content under each navigation header. If you have a very large site, it may be useful to use a tool that can crawl your site and automate some of this process.

3. Know Your Brand

When designing a site, it is important to design it in such a way that it fits your brand. You will need to familiarize yourself with your brand attributes. Attributes to consider include, the culture of your company, the personalities of your target customers, your company's communication style and what makes your brand unique. You can determine these attributes by interviewing stakeholders, conducting customer surveys and other methods.

4. Use White Space

What you do not put on your page can often be as important as what you do. Using white, or negative, space appropriately can help make your site easier to navigate. For example, using margins around text blocks can help make text and images stand out on your pages. The use of white space can also make your site appear more attractive and professional. You will want to find the right balance between including valuable content and using enough negative space to enhance the usability of your site.

5. Optimize Your Page Speed

Users expect pages to load quickly. Just an extra five seconds of load time can result in 20% more of your users leaving your site without accessing any of the information you want them to see. You can improve page speed by compressing all of the images you use, eliminating unnecessary plug-ins, and optimizing your site for use on mobile devices. You should test how well your site performs on the slowest connection speed your customers are likely to be using.

6. Focus on Functionality

It can be easy to succumb to the temptation to design an aesthetically pleasing site with lots of bells and whistles and forget to make the site functional for the end-user. You should begin by making sure your site meets the needs of the user and designing a functional interface and then add on extras to make the site more memorable and aesthetically pleasing. However, you will need to keep testing to make sure that whatever you add to the site doesn't compromise the functionality.

7. Hire a Professional

Most companies do not keep professional web designers on staff full-time. If your company is one of them, you may want to hire a professional to design your site. This process can be made easier by using a service, such as talentpowered, to locate and evaluate potential designers.
A well-designed website can be an invaluable asset to any company. However, a poorly designed site can leave potential customers with a bad impression of your company and may send them to your competitors. These seven tips can help you design a user-friendly, efficient, and memorable site that can enhance your brand, increase customer satisfaction and portray your company as trustworthy and professional.

Publish Date: April 17, 2020 8:07 PM


5 Reasons Why Reviews Are Vital to the Success of Businesses

You want customers to start pouring into your online or physical store. However, this won't happen overnight. In fact, you may have a hard time getting new customers because you're not following the right strategies. Are you encouraging customers to leave reviews? Are you posting these reviews to your website so potential customers can see them? Getting reviews for your business is one of the most important aspects of marketing. Here are a few reasons why reviews are important for your business and its success.

Build Trust

When a potential customer reads a positive review left by a current or former customer, they might start to trust your brand and believe that you can be the perfect solution to their problem. When it comes to reviews, people tend to trust what others have to say. So if they read a negative review about your business, they're less likely to make a purchase or do business with you. Customers want to ensure they have the best experience possible. After all, it's their money they're spending and they want to spend it wisely. Therefore, you have to first gain their trust if you want them to take the plunge.

Increase Sales

Having positive active pk reviews can make a big difference in your sales. If customers are saying good things about your brand, then others are more likely to buy your product or service. No one wants to buy from a company that doesn't have good feedback from current customers. In fact, potential customers would deem it a bad decision to go ahead and buy a product if other people had a bad experience with it. So by having good reviews on your website or on Google, you can ensure that your sales remain high or increase.

Boost Your SEO

You can improve your website's search engine visibility if you have good reviews. When people talk about your business on the web, it increases your website's visibility in the major search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Some experts claim that reviews make up about 9% of the major search engine ranking factors. The more visibility your website has, the more traffic you generate to your website. The more traffic you get, the more sales you can make. Therefore, you should make sure you're generating positive reviews to boost your search engine visibility. 

Create Brand Loyalty

Reviews are also important because they help boost customer loyalty towards a brand. People who leave a review about a brand, product or experience are often very likely to make a purchase with a particular company again in the future. This is very important because reviews aren't just for showing potential customers your brand is trustworthy, but they're also for existing customers. An existing customer who leaves a review essentially shows that they're willing to come back and make another purchase in the future. This is big because it boosts sales and shows other customers just how trustworthy your brand may be.

Remove Doubt

Reviews can help remove any doubts a potential customer may be having about your brand. For example, if you're an e-commerce business that sells dog supplies, a customer leaving a review about a dog harness and its adjustability will help other customers decide if it's the right fit for their dog. One customer may be afraid that their large dog won't be able to fit the harness. However, a reviewer who may have a similar-sized dog can shed light on how flexible and adjustable the harness is. As a result, this helps remove the doubt that the harness won't fit.

Customer reviews will always be a major factor in gaining new customers. People trust what others have to say about a product or brand. If the general consensus is positive, a customer is more likely to shop that brand.

Publish Date: April 17, 2020 1:15 AM


What You Need To Do Before Starting a Business

Launching your own small business can be exciting, however, there can be many things that need to be considered before you begin. That doesn't mean, though, that you should necessarily feel concerned. With a little research and some effort it can be possible to start your business off right and boost your chances of seeing success. 

 

Sort Out Your Finances

One of the first things that you need to do before you seriously begin to make plans for your business is get your personal finances in order. This is because when you are starting a business and you need financing to fund it properly, many lenders will look at your personal credit as an indicator of your trustworthiness, since your business is not yet established. If you are in need of credit repair Houston addressing your poor credit before taking any further steps towards starting your business can save you some trouble down the road. 

 

Do Your Research

While you are getting your personal finances in order, you should also be doing plenty of research for your new business. To begin with you need to make sure that you understand the product or service that you intend to offer, as well as have a clear idea of what the market for that product or service is like. You will need to know who your competitors are, and discern what it is that you can offer that they can't. After you have developed an understanding of your product and the market, you also need to do some research about who your customers are. Knowing who your target audience is, and who your ideal customer is, will help you to design a better product for them, as well as give you guidance when it comes to your marketing strategies. 

 

Develop a Strong Business Plan

After you've done plenty of research, the next step should be to develop a sound business plan. Although some may be tempted to skip this step, and would prefer to figure things out as they go, there can be many reasons why it is beneficial to have a plan in place before launching your business. One reason is that if you seek out any loans or financing, there are many institutions that will require you to provide them with a business plan, so that they can have an understanding of what they're loaning you money for. Additionally, a business plan can be a handy blueprint to have when you are making business decisions, and are unsure what is the best move for you. Having this kind of guidance can not only help you as you make important decisions, but it can help to keep you focused on your goals and increase your odds of success, too. 

 

Learn About Your Financing Options

Just as it can be important to be educated about your product and your potential customers before beginning your business, it can also be important to make sure you are educated about all of your financing options. When funding a small business you can apply for a traditional loan, for lines of credit, or you can seek investors, to name a few options. All of these options can have their benefits and drawbacks, so making sure that you understand the ins and outs of these different types of financing, as well as what would work the best for your intended business structure can be important, and could save you a lot of hassle in the long run. 

 

The Bottom Line

Deciding to launch a small business can be an exciting prospect, however, it may come with its share of challenges, as well. For new businesses, there can be many risks, and the reality is that many small business struggle early on.

 

That doesn't mean, though, that you should necessarily feel concerned. With a little effort and some research, you can take the steps you need to to help ensure that your small business is successful. 

Publish Date: April 15, 2020 12:34 AM


4 Ways To Get More Site Traffic

Websites have become critical marketing tools for most businesses and organizations. However, the usefulness of your site is directly correlated to how much traffic your site gets. A site that hardly anyone visits is not a very effective tool. Consider trying these four ways you can drive more traffic to your site. 

  1. Create a Google My Business Listing

Local results on Google search are an important tool for driving traffic to businesses. Google allows you to create a free business profile that you can update with your address, phone number, business hours, photos, special offers, promotions and other information. This information will be visible to customers who are searching for the products or services you offer in Google search and Google maps. Your listing will include a link to your site, as well as all your visit in-person information, so it can help drive both traffic to your site and customers to your physical location. 

  1. Write About Topics People Are Searching For

Search engines drive the majority of traffic to most people's websites. For your business's page to show up in search results, you need to write about topics that people are searching for. There are many tools you can use to see what topics are being searched on the most. Choose popular keywords that are relevant to your business. It will not do you much good to rank well for a keyword that has nothing to do with your business because visitors will likely leave your site if it isn't obvious how your site meets their needs. Try to choose the relevant keywords that have the least amount of competition to focus on. It will be easier for your site to make it to the top of the search rankings if you are focusing on keywords that a lot of other sites are not also focusing on.

  1. Write Guest Posts

Writing guests posts on popular sites that have readers who may be interested in your products or services can be a good way to drive traffic to your site. Because many readers may not make it to the bottom of the post or read any information about the author of the post, it is best not to rely solely on a link to your site at the end of your post to drive traffic. Instead, consider including links to useful resources throughout your post and make one of those links a link to your site. Avoid putting too many links to your content, because that can make your post look spammy. Instead, make your post useful to the reader and provide them links to both your site and to other helpful resources. It can be helpful to build an outreach campaign designed to create a network of relevant, quality sites that you can regularly contribute guests posts to. 

  1. Link Building

One of the factors in how well your site ranks in search engines is how many other sites link to your content. There are multiple approaches that you can take to link building.  The first thing you will want to do is make sure your site has lots of high-quality content that people will want to link to. Make your site a useful resource and people will naturally begin linking to it. 

However, even with high-quality content, it can take some time for natural link building to work. You can accelerate the process by linking to your content in guest posts or soliciting other site owners to write relevant content that links to your page. You will need to use this approach judiciously. Google penalizes sites it feels are trying to game the system by purchasing links in "link farms" or paying sites with poor reputations to host their content. 

Increasing traffic to your website takes some time and effort, but in the long run, it is worthwhile. These four techniques can help you build your traffic. 

Publish Date: April 14, 2020 5:07 PM

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