There has likely never been a more dire time for new businesses in America than during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recent reporting on the economic impact of the coronavirus, a control group shows nearly 300,000 businesses have closed their doors since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, with closures happening in greater numbers month-over-month. Of these nearly 300,000 businesses that have closed, 60% are not planning to reopen. Of those that are still open (or that plan on reopening), many have admitted that they likely won’t return to pre-covid conditions for at least six months.
In light of all that small businesses have to contend against right now, effective marketing has become more crucial than ever before. Luckily, the audience is there, and in a volume heretofore unseen. One of the strangest instances of societal dissonance is that in a year of mass closures and mounting medical devastation, businesses great and small with a substantial internet presence have posted record gains during the pandemic. Understanding that the internet is the greatest tool for communicating in the history of mankind, those businesses that properly utilize it have the best chance for survival, regardless of the crisis.
Social Media is a Megaphone
While traditional advertising can reach a much larger audience on the internet just by utilizing sidebar and banner ads, or by sending marketing emails to the nearly 4 billion daily email users, social media is the ace-in-the-hole of any small business. Of all the typical marketing tools on the internet, social media offers something that none of the others are capable of doing: engagement. In fact, the ability to interface directly with their clientele means that businesses can bring up important topics concerning their industry and carve out a lucrative corner for themselves, even in a competitive market. If you want to talk with your fans about the pros and cons of weighted blankets for your Minky blanket start-up, and make a killing every FB Live, social media makes it possible.
This type of control over your industry is a far cry from how the same process was done in the past. In the golden age of printed media, the most effective advertisement capable of capturing the humor, outrage, wonder, or envy of an audience was still at the mercy of an entire interlocking web of businesses and systems working in sync in order to be seen, let alone discussed.
- A writer would come up with a tagline and some copy.
- The art department would bring it to life visually.
- The advertising coordinators then buy ad space to be featured in newspapers, magazines, and billboards.
- The printers would then copy the master ad.
- The distribution department coordinates the sending of these newspapers and magazines to newsstands and paperboys all over the country.
- The finished product makes its way to the consumer, and the advertisers pray that they’ve come up with something that would lead the person holding the paper to turn to someone they’re sitting next to and discuss the ad.
With social media providing the tools, the distribution, and the potential audience, a new business can have more confidence in the control they have over the fate of a particular ad. They can instead focus on the all-important task of getting to know better their clients and the market.
The Growing Relevance of Waning Attention Spans
One important piece of information for every business attempting to curate a presence online: the smartphone has seen attention spans in humans drop drastically. Whereas the average attention span topped out at 12 seconds in the year 2000, now studies show that the average person can only focus on something for 8.25 seconds. That’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish. This means that a great marketing campaign must be all the catchier, all the more relevant, and all the more succinct if a business hopes to keep a person grounded long enough to sell them something.
One way around this is to invest more in video production. On average a person will watch a video for 2 to 3 minutes before clicking away, and a majority of people would rather watch something than read the same information if they had the chance. As such, the desire for a competent and professional video production team is on the rise.
These days, the most competitive production companies offer not only space to film commercials with the latest technology but also handle all the sound mixing and ADR in-house. These businesses pride themselves on being the first to properly interpret your vision for an ad and then making it happen for the rest of your audience.
The Marketing Potential of a Great 3PL
Once the audience is found, the ad is created, the engagement is underway, and the orders are made, the next step in leveraging the internet to your advantage is arguably the most important. All the other (admittedly important) work done thus far is merely a preamble to the most crucial part of keeping a small business alive: fulfillment.
In the year 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon posted record-breaking revenue by both internal and external metrics. In the third quarter alone they had cleared over $96 billion, a 37% increase from the previous year. How was Amazon able to do this? Ultimately, it’s because they have already achieved recognition as the global marketplace, and when people are quarantined and are using less of their income on going out, they end up spending more money online. But the underlying reason for their success and why they are considered the most ubiquitous place to buy anything is because they have mastered the art of fulfillment.
When thinking about order fulfillment, it’s difficult to determine which link in the supply chain is most important. Therefore, a solution that makes your business good at everything is the logical, albeit difficult, answer. Finding a 3PL partner who can master order fulfillment may be a daunting task for a small business it’s an extra expense, and knowing the right company from another can be hard but being reliable is the best type of marketing a company can do. If a business has the reputation of being quick, accurate, and helpful, word will spread and the people will come.
Disposing of Hazardous Waste
Did you know batteries, electronics, and appliances are considered hazardous waste? As a result, they need to be disposed of properly to avoid harming the environment. To keep toxic compounds from leaching into soil and water, here’s how to dispose of these products.
E-waste is anything electronic, and consists of the following:
- Cell phones
- DVD (and VHS) players
- Monitors (TV and computer)
- Reusable batteries
- Stereo equipment
- Video game consoles
Appliances are another category of waste, whether they’re functional or not. Since refrigerators and air conditioners can contain chlorofluorocarbons or toxic insulation, they should be left intact before proper disposal. Here’s a look at the types of appliances that should not be put in your curbside bin for trash collection:
- Air conditioners
- Toaster ovens
Any appliances manufactured before 1979 may be a risk to the environment and should be disposed of at recycling facilities that can remove hazardous compounds.
Finally, fluorescent lights are considered hazardous waste due to the mercury they contain. This means that compact fluorescent bulbs and tubes should be disposed of at designated drop-off points so mercury doesn’t leach into the soil.
Disposing of E-Waste
Now that you know what E-waste is, how do you safely dispose of it? Maybe you’ve upgraded some of your electronics, or your TV had an unfortunate run-in with a toddler. Whatever the reason for getting rid of electronics, you have options for doing so responsibly.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has programs in place for electronic recycling. Keeping these items out of landfills is so important for future generations. As a result, an organization can become a certified electronics recycler via the EPA by demonstrating safe handling and disposal practices concerning e-waste.
Big brands such as Audiovox, Logitech, and Yamaha are involved in electronic recycling, both in production and what they refer to as the end-of-life stage. Manufacturers are working on creating products that are easier to recycle, so when the time comes to dispose of them, there are fewer toxic chemicals to worry about.
If you can’t bring your electronics to a designated drop-off for recycling or disposal, look into programs like Call 2 Haul that will come to your home or business for pickup.
A Note on Battery Waste
If you’ve used up alkaline, manganese, carbon-zinc batteries, they can be thrown away in your regular trash bin. These are your household batteries, such as AAs or 9-volts. However, you can recycle these items to keep them out of landfills.
Any battery that requires recycling or special disposal should be labeled as such since they contain lead and/or cadmium. This includes cellphone batteries, laptop batteries, and car batteries.
Sings of Lead Poisoning
Exposure to lead (in batteries or paint, for example) may cause the following health issues:
- Brain damage
- Kidney damage
For battery recycling, Call2Reycle.org is an excellent resource.
Disposing of Appliances
Sometimes you purchase a home with 1970s appliances and you need to get rid of them so you can make room for the ones moving in with you. Or maybe you’re taking advantage of rebates for upgrading your appliances to more energy-efficient models. Whatever the case, you’ll eventually need to dispose of an appliance.
In most areas, it’s illegal to throw an air conditioner in the trash due to ozone-depleting coolant. Whether a window unit or one that services an entire building, it needs to be handled with care. A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician can drain your AC unit if you intend to scrap the metal. Or, a certified junk removal organization can take the whole unit for you. If you intend to transport the AC unit yourself for disposal or recycling, do so with care to avoid puncturing refrigerant lines that haven’t been drained.
Fridges and Freezers
The Health Department or the Department of Public Works usually offers fridge and freezer pickup for as little as $10. Refer to the EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal program for a partner near you, and apply for rebates if you’re purchasing Energy-Star Rated appliances.
Keep in mind that everything in a fridge or freezer is usually recyclable. From the glass shelving to the refrigerant, all of it can avoid a landfill and be reused. With that being said, please don’t take apart your refrigerator yourself and part it out; doing so can be dangerous if not done properly.
Check with your city to see if microwaves can be scrapped and recycled if broken. If yours is still in working order, you might be able to donate it to a shelter or an organization like the Salvation Army.
Washers and Dryers
Unless your washer and dryer are completely trashed, it’s likely they can be donated to an organization or individual who doesn’t mind the mileage. List your items online for free if you want them gone quickly. If you’re purchasing new appliances, it’s possible the company supplying the new ones also takes care of disposing of the old ones.
Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) and Their Risks
Appliances with coolants usually contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which can deplete the ozone if released. This is why air conditioners, fridges, and freezers shouldn’t be tossed in landfills.
The ODS gasses can be found in water coolers, and dehumidifiers as well. If any of these types of appliances are improperly broken down for recycling or disposal. The various ODS is not only released from coolant lines but from insulation as well. ODS gasses in the atmosphere eventually break down and release chlorine and/or bromine, which are the main culprits that hard the ozone layer. As the ozone layer is depleted, the Earth is exposed to harsher UV radiation.
According to Western Elite, a dumpster rental company located in Nevada landfills already release enough greenhouse gasses each year to equal the exhaust of over 20 million cars. We don’t need to add ODS gasses into the mix by improperly trashing appliances.
Disposing of Light Bulbs
Depending on where you live, recycling light bulbs might be required. Since CFL bulbs may contain mercury, it’s very dangerous to toss them in the regular trash. A broken bulb exposes sanitation workers and the environment to toxic chemicals.
Thankfully, it’s pretty convenient to bring spent CFL bulbs to a hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes. Both usually have receptacles for collecting lightbulbs to prevent mercury contamination or poisoning.
Dangers of Mercury Exposure
Mercury is a neurotoxin, which means it can poison nerve tissue. As a vapor, it is invisible and odorless, so exposure can occur without knowledge. While a very useful element, it is toxic and any amount of exposure can be harmful. Since mercury can travel through the body via the bloodstream, it can easily affect the nervous system, the lungs, the kidneys, and the brain.
Signs of Mercury Poisoning
- Vision and hearing impairment
- Difficulting speaking or walking
- Numbness in hands, feet, or mouth
- Coordination problems
- Muscle fatigue
- Rashes on the skin
- Impaired cognitive function (memory, mood)
When you know better, you do better. Hopefully, this information and the resources provided will make it easier for all of us to dispose of hazardous waste in safer ways.
Making The Leap From Small-Sized Business To Medium-Sized Business
Over the years, the confidence of small businesses has grown to an all-time high. In fact, most of the respondents to the National Small Business Association’s survey admitted they anticipate economic growth, while some others said they felt very confident about the future of their business.
With this, clearly, the future is bright for business owners.
It doesn’t matter the current size of your business. It’s advisable to plan and structure to prepare for the future.
A little proactivity when it comes to growing your small business will pay off in the long run. Here are 6 tips on how to grow your small business.
- Improve your homepage:
Besides making signing up or purchasing easy and improving SEO, ensure your homepage looks as great as possible.
Think about this: 96 percent of prospects visiting your website aren’t ready to purchase something. And your homepage is most likely where they will land after clicking on your link.
If they find your homepage to be cluttered or hard to navigate, they’ll move elsewhere. Also, if your web copy is bad or doesn’t show any value of your products or services, they’ll be turned off.
Most times, a simple change can boost your revenue tremendously.
- Pay attention to Analytics:
Many companies, particularly tech giants like Amazon and Facebook, realize the value of utilizing data. And you should, also.
A report in The Economist notes, “the world’s most precious resource is no longer oil, but data.” luckily, unlike oil, any company can benefit from data.
As a small business owner with social media pages and a website looking to grow, you can employ free digital tools to gain insights into your customers.
For example, Google Analytics shows page visits, how your audience arrives at your page, bounce rate, and average time on site, which can provide insights into where to focus your marketing efforts.
- Invest in systems:
We already know you’re a pro at this business ownership stuff. However, if you’re trying to handle everything by yourself, you might end up limiting yourself for potential growth. A business powered by systems is one that can handle the multi-layered demands of growth.
Having robust systems such as powerful e-commerce software or a solid CRM in place can help you focus on the important aspects of growth and expansion while the money keeps rolling in.
Inspect your current operations to see what parts are monotonous or repetitive and make it your aim to outsource or automate as much as possible so that you can pay close attention to small business growth.
- Make a plan to grow your business:
There are several ways to grow your small business, from optimizing your website for mobile to email marketing campaigns to encouraging online reviews.
The main thing is first to have a plan that you can execute. Unluckily, nearly half of businesses do digital marketing with no clear strategy.
The ideal way to grow your small business is never to become self-satisfied and always be tested. Identify your audiences’ needs, test your hypothesis, iterate, and then test again.
- Focus on scalability:
When time, money, and expertise are in short supply, you may feel tempted to go with the cheap (or quick) fix. And investing in basic solutions that don’t need a huge learning curve or financial investment can seem like the right option.
Things aren’t always what they seem.
Definitely, your dream solution may have an intimidating learning curve or be a stretch. However, ending up in a patchwork maze of several inefficient and inexpensive systems that only appear economical will end up costing you more money in the future.
- Always have a backup plan:
When you’re a solopreneur, you’re usually able to pivot when things don’t go as planned. However, as your business grows and becomes more sophisticated, these quick adjustments will prove more difficult.
Ensure you have a plan in place for emergencies or unforeseen situations so that you can deal with the inevitable obstacles in the journey.
With growth comes fear. Sometimes it may feel easier not to take the risk and stick with the status quo. However, you’re prepared for this. You’ve concluded the groundwork, and your foundation is strong and steady. You’re set to meet your growth goals.
Safety Procedures to Protect Your Company’s Worksite
You may have the best in personal protection, but what are you doing to protect your business as a whole? Business security, whether in reference to data or physical property, is essential. You can’t have eyes on your worksite 24/7, but there are ways to ensure you’re protecting your assets.
Don’t Do It Alone
Outsourcing security is a given these days. You can’t manage your company’s hard drive, parking lots, and buildings on your own. Here are some recommended security measures to practice at your workplace.
We all hope that nothing will happen to disrupt our safety or the security of our workplace. But, in the event that a natural disaster, robbery, or accident occurs, it’s important to already have a protocol in place.
This should include knowing evacuation procedures, regularly backing up data, and having a notification system in place to notify employees. If you’re working with a company like CBI Security, you have a team of experts who will not only evaluate your current safety and security protocols but help you implement new ones as the need arises. Having a fresh set of eyes to help you plan ahead can be well worth the investment, whether it’s an IT department or surveillance.
Fail-Safe vs Fail Secure Systems
Depending on the type of information or property you’re protecting, you may have fail-safe or fail-secure systems. Do you know the difference?
Some doors need to remain unlocked, even in times of emergency. These may include stairwell doors or exterior doors that provide an exit route to those insides. If power fails for your building, it may be a good idea to have fail-safe doors that will remain unlocked.
In contrast, some doors need to remain locked for safety. They may be protecting virtual or physical assets or sensitive information. It is a good idea to have some doors that stay secure in the event of power failure.
Also known as a Managed Access system, it’s convenient to have different levels of access for various employees. If this can be designated remotely when needed, even better. You can monitor building access with the use of keycards, and your tiered access control system will let you know who’s going in and out, as well as when. Whether you have a security company monitoring access, or a local facilities manager, you can simplify granting and denying permission to employees or contractors.
Depending on the system you use, you can use your smartphone to control:
- Responses to alarms
- Door locks
- Keycard Access
Light it Up
What good are your security cameras and closely-monitored doors if you don’t have adequate lighting at your worksite? Whether you invest in exterior lights that automatically turn on at dusk, or motion-sensor lights, be sure that everything under surveillance is illuminated. This can help you identify burglars if they are caught on camera, or deter them in the first place.
The same goes for inside your worksite as well. In the event someone is inside after hours, you should have security lighting that allows cameras to do their job of capturing someone in the act. Security lights can also aid employees if the power fails and they need to navigate out of inner offices or down stairwells that don’t have natural light sources.
Improve Customer Service
Are your employees trained to acknowledge guests who arrive on your property? They may be clients coming in for a meeting, or someone loitering to get an idea of your office layout. While the burden of identifying and stopping potential intruders should not fall solely on your employees, they should be trained to notice people onsite. Making a potential intruder aware that their presence has been noted can help prevent future crime. Or, if the visitor is a client, it can simply make them feel welcome doing business with you. Either way, it can be a win-win situation.
If you have an office that deals with customers on a regular basis, you may fall under the Federal Protective Service security guidelines. If so, a representative from the agency can work with your company to ensure your worksite provides a safe environment for both employees and customers.
Recommendations from the Federal Protective Service
- Security guards at building entrances
- Metal detectors at building entrances
- Closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring common areas
- Arrange office furniture to provide natural “barriers” between employees and visitors/customers
- Install hidden notification devices for employees to utilize in the event of a threat (i.e. buttons under counters)
Clean Up After Yourself
In offices or at the construction site, cleaning up after yourself can be crucial to safeguarding information and materials. What protocol do you have in place to secure files, building equipment, and construction supplies? To prevent theft, ensure your employees are meticulous about powering down their computers and machinery at the end of their shifts, as well as locking cabinets and office doors.
Be sure you’re disposing of sensitive material appropriately, and discarding construction waste responsibly. While it may be convenient to empty trash into an onsite dumpster, it’s not ideal for confidential documents. Most dumpster rental companies sort through the waste they receive in an effort to recycle what they can; as a result, it’s important to go the extra mile and shred anything that shouldn’t be shared.
Whatever systems and procedures you have in place, they’re no good unless they’re tested. Be sure you’re routinely carrying out drills to monitor for vulnerabilities in your security system or employees. Get your staff familiar with how to respond to alarms or notifications so if they’re ever faced with the real deal, they’re prepared. If you can reduce employee turnover, these drills will be easier to facilitate because everyone will be more familiar with them each time.
It can be daunting to invest in costly security measures upfront, but they’re usually worth it. Not only can having a security system reduce the cost to insure your business, but they can help prevent future losses via theft or vandalism.
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