Sunday, December 15, 2013

3 Big 2014 Trends in eCommerce

The rise of eCommerce has been nothing short of spectacular over the last few years, and 2013 was no different. Yet 2013 is rapidly drawing to a close and as the world looks forward in anticipation to 2014, those in the online retail market will be keeping a close eye on eCommerce trends.

So what does 2014 hold in store for the eCommerce industry? Can online retailers expect more of the same, or is there perhaps a chance that the eCommerce bubble will finally burst? Let us find out by examining some of the expected trends for 2014.

The Social Revolution

No, not Facebook! Not Twitter either, but indeed an amalgamation of all online social networks. It has increasingly become the norm, and it will continue to do so come next year, for people to post, tweet, and upload information about where they went shopping, what they purchased, and what they could not purchase but really hope to soon. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and Youtube are all expected to have a major say in online retail in 2014.

In particular, the use of comment commerce - pioneered by eCommerce startup Soldsie - has proven to be wildly popular. The social commerce platform allows a business to easily sell on Facebook and/or Instagram; all they need to do is upload images of products for sale - users interested in making a purchase then need only to comment ‘Sold’ to complete the transaction. After the user leaves a comment, they will be sent an invoice to the email address that's tied to their Facebook account, allowing them to complete the sale at their own convenience and without having to leave Facebook which dramatically increases conversion rates.

Additionally, the use of comments can help increase business to consumer engagement as Facebook will show this activity to the customer’s friends like it would any other comment that user made. So for example, if a consumer leaves the comment "I can't wait to get my hands on this product... Sold!", the comment will be seen by their friends, who may in turn be influenced to make a purchase. If they make a purchase, once again they will leave a similar comment and that will spread to a new group of friends which can help a business' store go viral and increase their sales as opposed to just dropping a link that leads back to their webstore.  

Big Year, Big Data

2014 is widely expected to be the year of the big data. Online retailers have been accumulating big data for a while now, and it is predicted that the time to put it to good use has finally arrived. Business decisions will be made, or not made, according to this valuable data.

How will it help? Big Data is how successful companies are building more detailed models of consumer behavior.  Instead of relying on the traditional demographic models that marketers used when we were operating in a mass consumption environment and had nothing better, Big Data capitalizes on developing market trends to allow businesses to become far more specific when segmenting their customers.

Big data can also help attain a better perspective of the overall online marketplace, helping retailers understand it better. And that understanding offers the opportunity to engage with customers in new and better ways to ensure that prospects are converted to customers, and that those customers are wholly satisfied.

If It’s Not Mobile, It’s Not Worth It

The very world has gone mobile, and online retailers who do not compete on the mobile, simply do not compete at all. mCommerce grew significantly in 2013 and it will not slow down when the year turns into 2014. In fact, according to numbers reported by IBM, mobile shopping accounted for nearly 32% of eCommerce traffic over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which is up 45% over 2012. Mobile transactions increased by almost 56 percent year-over-year.  It's in the best interests of businesses to create a seamless online shopping experience for users browsing via smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

The options available to consumers have increased manifold, as have their expectations regarding the products and services on offer. Come 2014, retailers who haven’t yet jumped onto eCommerce bandwagon will increasingly find it a necessity to do so, or they risk dooming their business to failure and to obscurity.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Most Popular WordPress Plugins for Security

Cyber attacks, whether by viruses, malware or some other type of IT security breache are on the rise and as we mentioned in our previous post on cyber security, small businesses should take the potential threat of breach very seriously. Many hackers view small businesses as “soft targets” due to the fact that the majority of SMB's don't take cyber security seriously or view it as a large business problem, leaving their valuable data unguarded. 

One area of vulnerablity for many SMB's is their website, especially those that use WordPress, a popular content management system/blogging platform. Due to its ease of use and customization, it's estimated that up to 70% of small businesses have built their websites off of WordPress. However, this popularity and ease of use comes at a price as hackers have become attracted to the platform en masse, with WordPress hacks increasing from 81,000 successful hacks in 2009 to over 170,000 successful hacks in 2012. 

The good news is that there are steps you can take to secure your WordPress site. The infographic below represents some of the most popular security plugins that you can install to help enhance security. 

image source (

While these plugins are a good start for making your website more secure, there are other precautions that you can take to make your site less vulnerable. Take a look at our post on some easy to follow steps to make your WordPress site more secure.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cyber Security Strategies for Small Business

Many small businesses have avoided dealing with securing their networks as it can be a costly proposition. Additionally, many small business owners feel that cyber security is a problem that large financial corporations, big businesses and government have to deal with. Take a look at the infographic below to see just how little small business thinks of cyber security.

  • 77% of small businesses believe that their company is safe from being hacked or infiltrated with by a virus
  • 66% of those surveyed just aren't concerned, either by an external or internal threat
  • Nearly half of those surveyed believe that a data breach would have no impact

The reality though is that small businesses are as big of a target, if not bigger, due to their lack of network security. Recent research shoes that nearly 80% of breaches occur in companies of less than 1000 employees. And, of those, 93% have less than 100 employees. Furthermore, nearly 60% of small businesses close within 6 months after a cyber attack. And the threat will continue to get worse for small businesses for the following reasons:

  • The disconnect that many small businesses have of the perceived threat versus the reality. This has led to a hacker's paradise of networks that are easy to access with worthwhile payoffs.
  • Coming up a cyber security strategy that includes a formal Internet security policy, contingency plans and best practices tends to be a complex issue that can leave small business owners feeling overwhelmed with what steps they need to take.

Precautions Your Small Business Should Take 
Cyber security doesn't have to be complicated. There are several steps that your small business can take to help limit your exposure to vulnerabilities.
1.   Train employees in security principles
Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.
2.   Have and update anti-virus and spyware software Having anti-virus and spyware software running can help with keeping your computers free viruses, malware, and other online threats. You should also make sure to update your programs as soon as their available. Make sure to run a scan at least once a week to ensure your machines are clean.
3.   Update your applications
Your anti-virus and spyware software aren't the only programs that need to be updated. Applications like Adobe's Acrobat Reader, web browsers and other software should be updated when patches are available. 

You can download a nifty application called Secunia PSI, which can help keep track of your applications and when they need to be patched, by notifying you when an update is available and directing you to the appropriate website to download the necessary files.

4.   Passwords
Make sure that your employees use unique passwords that use alternate capitalization, numbers, special characters and are a minimum of 8 characters. You should also require that passwords get changed every 90 days.

If you're handing sensitive data, such as financial information or other personal data, you may want to consider implementing a multi-factor authentication system that requires the user to input additional information, aside from a password, to gain entry.

For small businesses that rely on the Internet and information technology, it can be a balancing act of securing your systems while not having to overextend themselves as “a penny saved is a penny earned”. However, knowing that cyber crime is a very real possibility since small businesses are perceived as soft targets should motivate you to beef up your security. The above strategies are affordable and fairly simple to implement - by doing so, you can prevent having a major headache down the road.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Benefits of Big Data Marketing

Each day, consumers are voluntarily posting vital information about their likes and dislikes on social media sites. If this data can be captured and adequately organized, businesses can have at their disposal the exact information they need to improve their marketing efforts.

Financier and CEO magnate Douglas Merrill once said, “With too little data, you won’t be able to make any conclusions that you trust.  With loads of data you will find relationships that aren’t real… Big data isn’t about bits, it’s about talent.” According to a recent infographic released by IT consulting company, Merrill is onto something -- research shows that big data lends a big hand in the marketing world!

The recent LinkedIn article titled, “Big Data: What Does it Really Mean?” discusses the heavy influence of big data mediums: “From investing and retail spending, to Web browsing, social media, and mobile phones, it's estimated that 90 percent of all data in use today have been accumulated within just the last two years!

So just what exactly constitutes “big data?” Simply put, big data refers to information’s ever-increasing volume, velocity, variety, variability and complexity. The advent of progressive, human activity has led to a staggering acceleration of generated data, however the collection of these data sets have become difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. 

The challenge therefore comes with storing and analyzing huge data sets to support a superior level of decision-making that drives accuracy, time management, customer segmentation and real-time marketing -- and its demand cannot be denied. It is estimated that over the next three years, there will be a 60 percent increase on marketing analytics.

The current value in 2013 for the big data industry is $18.1 billion, with projections expected to nearly triple in 2017 to an estimated $47 billion! We can thank consumer consumption for such  high demands of big data analytics. It’s estimated that three billion people worldwide create eight zettabytes of data; yes -- zettabytes. That’s 1021, or one sextillion. That’s a lot ‘0’ data!

As a result, marketers are coming to terms with how to use big data and analytics to better target consumers. In doing so, they often face multiple challenges at increasing rates, such as resolving the capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualization of large amounts of data.

Recently, new capabilities are taking data analytics to the next level; enabling marketers to utilize big data sets in rapid and cost-efficient ways by implementing the following processes: distributed processing, cloud storage, and data management strategies.

The following statistics from a 2013 survey released by computer software corporation Teradata highlights the benefits of implementing big data marketing strategies:
  • 58% of survey respondents believe making more accurate decisions is a benefit of basing those decisions on data 
  • 50% of marketers say that marketing and IT are not strategic partners in their company
  • 40% of marketers gave their department a grade of C or lower for using data to drive marketing
  • 71% of marketers plan to implement a Big Data analytics solution in the next two years
  • Less than 10% of companies use the data they have in a systematic way
Demographic data accounts for 73% of data-driven marketing, versus transactional data, which represents 38% of data-driven marketing.  71& of marketers will implement a big data analytics solution over the next two years and yet 50% of them say that IT is not a strategic partner. To truly benefit from big data, it's important for marketing to form a strategic partnership with IT or some other team that can actually implement tools to utilize the data to mine patterns and trends, which can then help marketing with future campaigns and strategies.

Visit Maryland computer consulting firm Iconic Mind for a bevy of consulting options to meet your marketing demands!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Starting a Tech Startup

If you're looking to start a technology company, you'll want three things: 
  1. Good people to work with you
  2. Ability to make something customers actually want
  3. Spend as little money as possible. 
The majority of startup companies that end up failing tend to do so because they are missing at least one of the above items mentioned. And those that succeed typically do so because they have all three of the above mentioned which is kind of great when you think about it, assuming that you're looking to start your own company. It shows that there's no secret ingredient to success and that you don't need to come up a particularly unique or out of this world idea. 

Your idea only needs to offer people a better technology than what they currently have and with so many ways to improve upon the types of technology available to people, it doesn't take a brilliant idea to do it better. 

In fact, an idea is only a beginning. Too many times, people who are starting a company believe that the whole process revolves around the initial idea and from there on all you need to do is execute. An idea is only worthwhile if you can prove the business model supporting it. Once needs to look no further than Shark Tank, a reality TV show which features business pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs, to see that an idea isn't worth much without some backing. Or, feel free to go to a VC firm with your brilliant idea and see how many will actually take the time to listen to you.

Don't get me wrong though, ideas are of course worth something, they are the foundation for your startup tech company, however they're not transferable. This means that it's not something that you can just hand over to someone else to execute, which is why it's so important to surround yourself with good people when starting up... good people can help shape the good idea into something worthwhile.

Take a look at the infographic below from that'll answer where the best place is to get money, find talent, mentors and other entrepreneurs.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Big Data is Changing Business Dynamics

Leaders in every industry need to start dealing with the implications of big data; it's not just the data-oriented members of your team. With the increasing volume and detail of information that's coming through due to all the content being producted on the Internet, along with the rise of multimedia and social mediathere is an exponential growth in data that can and needs to be harnessed. For those of you who are unaware of big data is or are just now looking at how it can be used to add value to your business, it's important to understand the basics of it first.

What is Big Data?

Big data is a compilation of data sets that are so large they are impossible to process accurately utilizing traditional on-hand database tools and applications. Many business owners need to be able to capture, curate, store, search, share, transfer, analysis and visualize all their information -- all of which they are unable to do unless they have specific software services to assist them.

The world has an enormous amount of data, 90-percent of which was created only in the last decade. So much data is created that studies have shown that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily. That means 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data are created.

How Does this Affect My Business?

The reason data has increased so vastly in the past years is due to business records and transactions. Your business, like so many, might find yourself creating large sets of data that become physically impossible to sort.

For some businesses, hundreds of gigabytes might be the point when regular management software tools become invalid and, for others, it could be several tens or hundreds of terabytes before it becomes inoperable. Either way, the overwhelming number of data affects eventually many major enterprises such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and other companies.

How Can Big Data Help Me?

  • Human Resource Operations: Many companies can utilize big data to better assist with employee benefits. For example, a company can log health-insurance claim data of its employees, allowing managers to analyze how their employees are using their benefits.

    After evaluating the data, a manager might notice that employees are getting more brand-name drugs over generic with their insurance cards. Awareness can be risen throughout a company on the high costs of brand-name drugs, as well as how clinical trials proved that a generic brand has the same results as their brand-name counterpart. Two years later, a manager might notice that a 10% or greater decline in brand-name purchases over generic purchases.

    By analyzing employee big data that would have otherwise been unavailable, a company has a larger opportunity to save money on health insurance costs by informing their employees. This is a single way HR can utilize big data.
  • Product Development: Businesses utilize big data to increase product development and make products that are more likable to the general public.

    McDonalds has a vast menu and it is always looking for new things to add to its menu. Let's say, for example, they create a new lunch item and launch it. Over the next few weeks, McDonalds logs the number of people who purchased it from every single store it was released to (several thousand). Each day McDonalds might accumulate a total of 25 Terabytes of information of sales transactions – accumulating 700 terabytes of total sales information in 4-weeks.

    Utilizing a big data software, CEOs will be able to breakdown figures and see what percentages of people are purchasing their new menu item. In addition, they can analyze the trends over the weeks and notice whether sales increased, decreased or stabilized since the launch. Using this data, McDonalds can pull the item from menus or make it a permanent menu item.

    McDonalds can also utilize this data to see if specific regions of the world were more acclaimed to a menu item then another, creating different menus varying on the region. McDonalds could only do this by cyphering through big data to find the exact data points necessary.
  • Marketing Trends: Businesses need to understand their clientele in order to manufacture the right products to them. Companies who have large reward or store credit card programs are able to collect data from thousands or even millions of customers and compile it into a database. Information collected includes income brackets, age, gender and other main demographic key factors.

    Based off this big data, businesses can narrow down on the demographics of their most loyal customers and the products they are purchasing most often. Marketing toward these demographics and clothing designs to bring in more customers would not have been possible without big data such as this.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry

Being known as a thought leader within your industry is probably one of the highest, if not highest, compliments that you or your business can achieve, which is most likely what it's one of the hardest monikers to have bestowed upon you. It’s not enough to be good at what you do; a thought leader is meant to be the greatest form of praise, geared towards someone who is on the absolute cutting edge of their industry or making big enough moves to warrant the distinction.

This all then boils down to the question - why in fact is important to become a thought leader? While there are multiple answers to this question, here are some of the more important ones:

  • Grow your business. In general, people like to do business with organizations that have an established name. Think about RC Cola versus Coca-Cola; while many people would find that the two taste very similar, most people would rather buy from Coca-Cola.

    What does this have to do with being a thought leader? Everything! Becoming a thought leader turns your business into a trusted name allowing you to get more leads and closing more business.
  • Higher profits. People who buy well-known brands are willing to spend more for that assurance. By being seen as a leader in your field, your business will be able to charge a premium for its services and products.
  • Good for morale: Employees will like that they work for a company that is seen as a leader.

Do you want your company to be seen as a thought leader in your industry? Here are a few steps that you can take:
Create an Online Presence
Blogs are a great way to show your knowledge and it's good for ranking in search engines (assuming that you're releasing good content) as search engines prize sites that release frequent streams of fresh content. Aside from posting on your own company blog, you'll want to look into opportunities to guest blog on other people's blogs that are in the same niche as your business so that you can bring in additional viewership as well as make friends with other bloggers to create a virtuous, networked circle.
Listen, Engage and Share
It's good to have your eyes and ears everywhere; you don't want to miss out on an opportunity for a relevant convention or networking event. By listening, you can see what the latest trends are and listen to your customers to make sure that they are satisfied with your business. Engage with them, to get them to bonded to your brand. And share your findings and take care to magnanimously elevate those around you.
Be Consistent
Finally, make sure that you're consistent. Whether it's social media or posting on your blog, stick to a schedule and make sure to consistently release new content for your followers to read and engage.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Benefits of a Virtual Office

Much of today's business happens in traditional offices. A physical building houses workspaces to which employees commute every work day. However, with so many new technologies, one of the main benefits emerging is the ability to set up a virtual office. Having a virtual office space allows both small businesses and large organizations to reduce costs, increase efficiency which leads to increased profits. 

With a virtual office, instead of paying high costs of renting an office space, you can instead focus on using funds for hiring and retaining top tier talent. No longer do you need to worry about logistics of moving people to headquarters; no longer is there a need to worry about state lines or country borders. You don't even have to buy technology or cell phones anymore.

Eliminating all that overhead that you'd be paying per square foot, you can compete with some of the larger firms within your industry. 
A virtual office will allow you to reduce client fees while being able to increase profitability. Employees see it as a huge benefit and it allows you to compete at a different level focusing on what’s really important and how to achieve results.
Getting yourself a virtual office space will create an opportunity to conduct business in a professional manner with their clients and develop a great impression while networking. 

Take a more detailed look here at three reasons why you may want to take a look at allowing telecommuting for your small to medium-sized business.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Boosting Company Productivity

No matter what niche your company is in or what it does, being able to improve the productivity of your employees and streamline your workflow can improve your bottom line. The ability to do more with less resources is a fact of life in today's competitive business environment, and that dynamic is not likely to change anytime soon. 


Adding computer technology to your small business is an excellent way to boost the productivity of your company and help each worker get more done in less time. When evaluating your business and your need for computer technology, examine the manual processes your firm uses and think about how those time-consuming manual processes can be automated with the right computer technology.

Use Communication Tools

Workers in today's modern environment are fairly comfortable and adept at using all types of communication tools, from faster paced tools such as text messaging and social networks (Twitter, Google+, etc.) to older style formats like email. By providing employees with the proper tools your organization can improve productivity by enhancing how workers communicate. For example, an in-house IM application can help employees to communicate with one another without the need to visit on another's desk thereby reducing wasted time.


Due to the interactive nature of mobile technology, sharing information through this medium allows businesses to get immediate feedback on products and services from customers. This speed and accessibility have led to faster research and development for companies, an important part of staying ahead of the competition. It has also led to product upgrades moving at a faster rate. 

In addition, the use of mobile technology Mobile technology can improve the services you offer your customers.  For example, when meeting with customers you can access your firm's customer relationship management system - over the internet - allowing you to update customer details while away from the office. Alternatively, you can enable customers to pay for services or goods without having to write a check or swipe a credit or use cash. More powerful solutions can link you directly into the office network while working off-site to access such resources as your database or accounting systems. For example, you could:

  • set up a new customer's account
  • check prices and stock availability
  • place an order online
Mobile technology leads to great flexibility in working - for example, enabling home working, or working while travelling. The growth of cloud computing has also impacted positively on the use of mobile devices, supporting more flexible working practices by providing services over the internet. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

WordPress Security

A few of the more obvious steps that you can do to make your WordPress site more secure includes the following:
  • Make sure that you have the most up to date WordPress installation as well as having all your plugins updated.
  • Delete the admin username. By keeping the admin username, you're making it that much easier for hackers to gain access to your website as you're saving giving them half of the information needed to gain access to your blog, saving them time on hacking your site as now all they'll need to do is figure out the password. 
  • Choose a password that's difficult to crack The password that you choose should be at least each characters and comprised of upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and specials characters. 
  • Protect your WordPress using .htaccess which is a configuration file allowing you to override your server's global settings for the directory that it's installed in. Here's a great article with a few suggestions on snippets of code that you can add to your .htacess file.
Take a look at the infographic below from WordPress Templates, that shows statistics of how many WordPress sites have been hacked over the past few years as well as some steps you can take (in addition to what was mentioned above) about protecting your site. Additionally, you should make sure to regularly backup your database, that way you have peace of mind in case anything does ever happen to your website.
Safety and Security of WordPress Blog

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Iconic Mind Launches Time Tracking Software

Ever wonder where your day goes? Do you hire consultants to work for your business? With a time tracking application, you can figure out how your work day is split up, or manage time for billing purposes, or analyze individual employee effectiveness as well as organizational productivity.

It's with that in mind that Iconic Mind has launched Iconic Time which is the latest application in our business productivity suite. 

Iconic Time is a cloud based application that is accessible via your smart phone, tablet or through a web browser and helps businesses keep track of billable time. With Iconic Time, you'll be able to manage time of your employees in a more efficient manner ensuring effective business management. The application will give you visibility into their actions, helping managers get better insight into what percentage of time an employee spends on a specific task, whether they're working on the right tasks, and which tasks they might be stuck with. With this information at hand, managers will be able to correctly distribute work loads and provide guidance helping contribute to increased productivity. 

In addition, customers who utilize Iconic Time will appreciate the ease of use as well as the assurance of full support from Iconic Mind. From decreasing dropped and lost charges to streamlining billing and accounting functions, this cloud based application is the perfect internal business tool to boost productivity.

To learn more about Iconic Time you can check out our press release or go to our website. Connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook if you have any questions.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Social Media Can Grow Your Business

The number of people using social media sites is astronomical and continues to grow. According to which tries to keep up with the latest statistics, there are 1.11 billion members on Facebook, 500 million overall Twitter users (with about 200 million of those accounts being active), 343 million active Google+ users,  225 million LinkedIn members and nearly 50 million Pinterest users.

With all these people using social media, it should be fairly evident that developing an effective social media marketing strategy can allow businesses to increase their reach, allowing them to boost traffic, improve brand loyalty, and win over potential customers. Below are just a few ways that using the various social media networks can help your business grow.

  1. Build brand awareness and loyalty. People choose to follow brands on social media networks which gives your organization that ability to turn these visitors into customers by sharing valuable content to your followers which they can then reshare among their network. The better the content that you share, the more likely that these followers will 'like' or 'tweet' the message, which gives you even more reach as you'll be not only spreading your message to your fans, but to your fans' network.

    In addition, social media allows your business to deliver top notch customer service which will keep your customers loyal to your brand as well as engage customers on a more personal level and give incentives, all of which grows brand awareness and loyalty.

  2. Builds and helps monitor your brand’s reputation. The use of social media helps businesses to interact and engage with their customers, which helps with building awareness and loyalty (as mentioned above). Not only that, but social media allows you to take control of your brand's message before someone else does giving you control of how you want your business positioned. And while you can't control what's being said about you, with the various online reputation management services available to you, you can find conversations about your business and engage, helping you prevent any potential disasters in case of a negative feedback.
  3. Discover opportunities. Reputation management tools are not only for monitoring when something negative about your brand is being said. They can also be used in helping you to convert prospective customers that are researching your brand. By learning how to listen on the various social networks, you can position your organization to find opportunities on the social web.
  4. Test ideas and get feedback. Social networks give you the perfect place to ask your followers to give feedback on the services and products you're currently offering as well as new ones that you might plan to offer. You can also use the feedback you get to capture testimonials which further helps to build your brand's reputation and helps with solidifying brand loyalty.
  5. Incentives. You can send out discounts or promotions to help increase website traffic, boost sales and have people spread the word about your brand. Offer a discount to Twitter followers who tweet your message or Facebook followers who like your page. 

Social media is not a fad; it's here to stay which is why businesses, especially small and medium sized organization can no longer avoid building a social media marketing strategy. Social media offers an affordable way to reach a large number of people on a very personal level. Remember to be active on these social channels and to engage with your followers to continue cementing relationships which will help to grow your business.
Do you have any additional tips or first hand experience on how social media has helped your business?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

5 Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make During an Interview

Congratulations! You've landed an interview for that job that you applied for... but what good is it to get an interview if you're just going to blow it? Listed below are just a couple of common job interview mistakes, blunders, and errors that prospects make.
Talking Too Much

Sure, when you’re in an interview, people want to learn about you, your skills, and your accomplishments. However, that doesn't mean that you should go into a twenty-minute diatribe on your past achievements or drone on about how you solved a simple technical problem. Keep your answers succinct and to the point; if the interviewer wants more, they'll ask. By keeping your answers to the point, your interviewer will be better able to follow your answers, making you appear better prepared.
Dressing Down

First impressions are important, and the first thing your interviewer will notice is how you dress; your physical appearance can speak volumes to someone who is meeting you for the first time. Even if you know that the firm allows employees to dress casually, you should proceed on the conservative side and show up in neat, professional clothing; you won't get penalized for over dressing, but can possibly get dinged by dressing too casually.

Arriving Late

As mentioned above, first impressions count and can have an impact on your job prospects... but did you know it's possible to make a bad first impression before your interviewer even meets with you?

Running late suggests that you don't care about the job that you're interviewing for as well as a lack of respect for your interviewers time. In addition, it shows that you lack basic time management skills, so make sure to take the proper precautions so that you arrive on time, or a few minutes (5 - 10) early (arriving too early also suggestions poor time management skills). By going the extra step to try and get to your interview on time, you'll be able to give yourself a cushion in case 
something unforeseen comes up.

Not Having Any Questions Prepared 

As well as being prepared for questions you may be asked, also be ready to ask your own questions. Do not be caught off guard when the interviewer inevitably asks, "Do you have any questions for me?" Be prepared with several questions, about the company, the position, or the corporate culture. At an initial interview, do not ask about salary, benefits, or workload. You do not want to appear only interested in money, perks, or having an easy job. You want to show your willingness and ability to do the best job possible, and portray enthusiasm for the position. Not having any questions prepared makes a job candidate seem uninterested, unmotivated, and unprepared.

Asking About Your Salary Too Soon

While it may be one of the determining factors in your decision to work at a company, don't talk money too soon while in the interview. Many interviewers will tell you the salary and benefits that come with the job, though some will ask you what your salary expectations are. Either way, follow the interviewers lead when it comes to discussing salary. You don't want to look like someone who is just in it for the money and doesn't care about the job as it may work against you when compared to other suitable applicants.

Take the time to prepare before your interview, so you don't have to stress out about blunders after it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Using LinkedIn to Generate More Business

LinkedIn is a fantastic network for those looking to grow their business, boost their visibility, and grow their professional contact list, finding new leads, snagging more business and so much more. Check out the following stats to see why LinkedIn is such a great social network when it comes to growing your business:.
  • LinkedIn users are affluent: Over half the users on LinkedIn  earn more than $60K per year and over a third earn more than $100K
  • LinkedIn users are educated: Nearly half have a college degree and over a quarter have a graduate degree.
  • LinkedIn users love the site: Nearly a quarter of the users are on the site a minimum of 30 times per month.
LinkedIn is definitely something that you should incorporate into your marketing strategy to help grow your business by boosting visibility and reputation while getting more leads and finding new contacts. Here are a few tips to help you on your journey to generating more business with LinkedIn.

Have a Complete, Optimized Profile

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John Owens -

It's important to be found if you want to start using LinkedIn to generate business, and the best way to make sure you are found by prospective clients as well as colleagues and friends is to make sure you complete your profile fully and optimize it.

Make sure that you include your previous job and education history as well as uploading a professional photograph of yourself. You should also start thinking about what keywords your ideal clients would be searching for to find the service or product you're offering. 

Have a Compelling Headline

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It's not enough for you to be found in the search results. You'll show up along with other people in the search, so you need to find a way to distinguish yourself from the other results. The best way to do this is by writing a compelling headline that will get a user to click-through to your profile.

The best way of writing a headline that's effective is to come up with one or two keywords for SEO purposes and use them to create an attention-grabbing statement. For example, if you're offering a service in a local area, then you should think about including that location as your keyword within your headline.

Give People a Reason to Take Action
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With people finding your profile and clicking through, it's now important that your profile compels the user to take action, whatever that may be. The first section that a LinkedIn user will see is your Summary section. (You should make sure your Summary section has relevant keywords dispersed in to increase the number of people who find you).

The summary section should be focused on the client and what you can do for them instead of focusing on yourself and your past achievements. This may seem counterintuitive to what you may think about how to use  LinkedIn, but as a business-building tool (we are not looking at job seekers), people are looking at what you can do for them, which is why you want your summary to be client focused. 
With this in mind, be sure your profile speaks directly to your ideal clients. Begin your Summary section with a paragraph about who you are, share some of your story and position your credibility. The rest must speak to your specific target market, who they are, what their problems are and of course what solutions you provide.

Grow Your Network
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In addition to being found in search, it's important to grow your network, as you'll be found more easily if you are in someone's first, second or third level network or are a member of the same group. One good way of growing your network is by posing and answering questions that are relevant to your field in the LinkedIn Answers Section, which will allow you to make new connections and establish your expertise at the same time. 

Groups are another great way to grow your network by connecting with like-minded people. Instead of joining every group that's related to your niche or expertise, you should find groups that have members who are active and engaged. Make sure to join conversations, adding your own viewpoint or expertise when appropriate or create your own conversation as a way to help others. 

Follow Up with New Connections

Make sure that you take the time to follow up with any new connections who have taken the effort to reach out to you as well as the the ones you’ve reached out to and requested to connect with.
Send a welcome message after someone accepts your connection request or sends you a connection request. Thank them for connecting with you and if you can, offer them something of value, to help lay down a solid foundation which will allow you to generate additional business.
Stay connected to your networkreach out to them regularlyadd value for them and move the relationship forward. This means whenever possible, move the relationship offline and have a telephone call or an email. You’d be surprised at how much business still happens the old-fashioned way!

The power of LinkedIn is in the network. Therefore, the more involved your contacts are in LinkedIn, the more powerful a tool it becomes.
Iconic Mind is an IT consulting firm, based in Maryland, that works with clients so that they can make the best use of technology while focusing on data security and network accessibility. Connect with Iconic Mind on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

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