Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utitlizing

Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utitlizing

In a world forever changed by a global pandemic, we are also experiencing a business world forever changed. While COVID-19 has obviously given businesses a whole slew of challenges, there are also key takeaways that can be applied to improve business operations in the long run. These are not necessarily new technologies, but they all deserve an extra round of applause for helping our team and other teams continue to make it through our time away from the office. They will also certainly have a new face even after the pandemic dissipates.

With that said, here is our list of the most helpful tools for continuing remote operations:

 

Adobe Connect

Videoconferencing has largely made the transition to remote offices possible. There are many videoconferencing platforms out there, but Adobe Connect has primarily been what our team has used. It’s an essential communication tool to more closely mimic that in-person conversation as well as explain more complex tasks and issues. It comes in handy both for internal and external meetings that would typically happen in person.

Slack

Slack (or a similar platform) has been pretty much essential for any business to continue operations through these times. It is arguably the best way for teams to instant message each other to keep projects flowing. Our team utilized Slack before this all began, but this pandemic gave Slack a newfound purpose for our team at Enterprise Iowa.

Microsoft SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint has been another essential technology our team has used away from the office. It’s a web-based shared library that allows each member of our team to access files outside of the office. Prior to the pandemic, we mostly had to be at our desks to access company-wide files. This has truly allowed our team to operate fully remote.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Like SharePoint, Adobe Creative Cloud has a shared library feature. When creating graphics for a variety of uses, the library is helpful tool to keep themes consistent across all design elements. This means that from anywhere, anyone on our team can create new themed designs without having to access files on the network in the office.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp has been another life-saving communication tool in the times of COVID-19. It has been our best and easiest way to share information with our audience. This not only includes updates about continuing business through these times, but also serves as a relevant information tool for the virus itself.

Hootsuite

Much like Mailchimp, Hootsuite has been another way to keep our customers and audience updated through social media platforms. Hootsuite is an easy place to manage all social media platforms, schedule reminders, and allows access for our team members within the account. Again, it allows us to update everyone regarding our business and COVID-19.

WordPress

I’m writing this blog with WordPress right now! WordPress has been another essential tool to keep everyone updated and informed. Aside from the blogs, the websites we run are also created with WordPress. Again, websites are a fantastic way to update everyone about continuing business as well as finding relevant information about COVID-19.

Docking Stations

This one is different because it is hardware rather than software, but docking stations paired with laptops have been incredibly useful through the pandemic. As companies look to new technologies for their offices, docking stations allow much more flexibility when working from home as well. Rather than having a stationary desktop, having a laptop that you can connect to a docking station for all office files, programs, etc. that you can also disconnect to take the laptop anywhere allows for a lot more freedom away from the office.

 

As you can tell, the age of communication is changing—and that change has been expedited by this global pandemic. COVID-19 has forced all of us to rethink how we operate our businesses, and many of these practices will likely carry over to a post-pandemic world. While some jobs will return to what they once were, and some jobs never really changed throughout this pandemic, a lot of jobs will likely be transformed forever by technology used remotely to grant employees more freedom when it comes to the workplace.

Remember, while more and more of the country begins to reopen and businesses may be returning to normal, or our new normal, COVID-19 has not just disappeared. Cases are still on the rise, so it is important to still be taking safety precautions even as we ease back into our typical day-to-day lives. Throughout these changing times, stay happy and stay healthy.

A Post-Grad Job Search in Times of the Coronavirus: What It’s Like and What You Can Do

A Post-Grad Job Search in Times of the Coronavirus: What It’s Like and What You Can Do

As I finish up my internship with Enterprise Iowa, I have also graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University. In a world forever changed by COVID-19, not only is health on the line making last semesters and graduation ceremonies look very different, but there are millions of graduates looking for jobs in one of the most insecure economies we have seen in history.

 

Advocates for the character of this generation will say that we are a generation of activism. I remember a professor of mine sending admiration to my classmates and our generation saying something of the following nature:

“My generation and generations before you guys understand that the world can be a dark place, but we tend to accept that’s just the way things are. Your generation understands that the world can be a dark place, but instead you do not accept that’s just the way things are. Instead you see an opportunity to change it.”

So, as we have seen exemplified by this pandemic in multiple ways, the world can sometimes be a dark place. But if anyone is prepared to enter a world of uncertainty, my generation might just be the ones cut out for the challenge.

 

Although industries as a whole may be scaling back labor costs and become cautious of new hires, it is important to note that jobs are still out there. More importantly, there are companies who are finding increased demand and a need to scale up their business in light of this pandemic. Also, many of these companies are offering phone and video interviews and allowing new hires to work from home as they train and get accustomed to their new job until it is deemed safe to return to the workplace. I have also seen more fully remote positions than I ever remember seeing in the past. And, in the age of technology, it is much easier to find these jobs–and find these jobs safely from your couch–with company website career pages and online job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Monster. Additionally, LinkedIn is a great source for job postings tied in with a social media aspect. With these resources, it is easy to browse a wide variety of jobs that may pique your interest and match your qualifications. Personally, I’m a big user of Indeed, LinkedIn, and company website career pages.

 

This is a post targeted towards 2020 graduates, but there is also a record number of unemployed Americans since the Great Depression. Therefore, here are some basic tips for anyone who is in need of employment:

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network. Employment is largely about who you know, not what you know. Even if your mom’s best friend is currently unable to bring you on at her office, she may know someone else who is hiring. And, the worst answer you can receive is no, and the answer will always be no if you don’t try.
  • Create an aesthetically pleasing resume and cover letter to represent your personal brand. The content, while it does have importance, is probably less important than you think. It is more important to catch the employer’s eye when sifting through a stack of applications. A black and white page filled with 10-point text will probably be overlooked simply because it is boring to look at, not because your resume isn’t impressive. So, keep things simple, easy to read, and add something interesting to catch the eye.
  • Be open to applying to and accepting jobs that you may have not previously considered. Especially if you are struggling to find employment, have an open mind when applying for jobs and broaden your horizons. You may be surprised to find out what you enjoy doing, and even if you later figure out that you don’t like it, you can always search for new employment down the road when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Apply, apply, apply, and then apply some more. You can expect to hear back from just 10% of jobs you apply to. Additionally, it is unlikely that all of that 10% will result in a job offer (and that 10% statistic is under normal economic circumstances). This statistic is not meant to be discouraging or daunting, it just goes to show that applying to a multitude of jobs is important. So, when it comes to the success of job applications, you will find safety in numbers. And remember, you will face a lot of rejection, so try not to take that too personally.

 

Here are some other notable facts and pointers to consider while you continue your job search:

  • Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, federally administered student loan payments are suspended until September 30th of this year. This act only applies to federal loans and not private loans; however, if applicable, contact your private loan provider to ask about payment relief.
  • Research COVID-19 relief scholarships. These funds are obviously not a guarantee, but it may be worth it to apply. Some websites worth checking out are Scholarships.com, Scholly, and FastWeb.
  • For immediate relief, see if you qualify for unemployment benefits while you continue your job search. Unemployment benefits and qualifications vary by state, but Iowa’s fact sheet and application can be found here.

 

All in all, it is important to stay hopeful. That may be easier said than done in the current times we are facing, but try to hone in on the things that bring you joy while keeping sight of the bigger picture. Eventually, something good will come to us all—in this case in the form of a new job—and we will all settle into our new normal.

 

Quick links to websites mentioned in this article:

Indeed: https://www.indeed.com/

Glassdoor: https://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm

Monster: https://www.monster.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/

Scholarships.com: https://www.scholarships.com/

Scholly: https://myscholly.com/

FastWeb: https://www.fastweb.com/

Iowa Workforce Development: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits

Top 5 Tips for Working from Home

Top 5 Tips for Working from Home

To promote the safety and well-being of our population during this pandemic, many companies have told their employees to stay home and work remotely. While this is a rather difficult transition for many, there are simple things to do to make life a little bit easier throughout this time. As I write this blog from my couch, I have compiled a list of tips and tricks to stay productive at home. 

1) Establish a Routine 

Establishing a routine may just be the most important tip for effectively working from home. It will help outline day-to-day activities to stay in line and productive at work. When will I start work? When will I take my lunch break? What can I do to keep me focused and motivated throughout the day? What kind of time needs to be allocated to the tasks I need to complete?These are all valid questions that can be incorporated into a daily routine. Perhaps getting in the routine of keeping and following a schedule or list to follow day in and day out will help keep you on track at work. 

2) Get Ready for Work 

This is not to say that you still need to dress business casual to work from home (although feel free to if that helps). However, sticking to a morning routine before “heading off to work” will help you get in the right mindset to be a productive employee. My top recommendation for this tip is to continue setting your alarm. Furthermore, before beginning work for the day, try doing simple things such as starting your day with some exercise, hitting the shower, and making breakfast to send a mental signal that you are ready for work. 

3) Create a Separate Office Space 

You do not need a nice, at home office to utilize this tipMy home office has become one end of my couch with a side table. The important part here is that this is not somewhere I typically sit and lounge on a regular basis. The point is to have a physical separation of your personal and professional lives within your home. It’s possible for this to work out for some people, but the one thing I recommend avoiding is working from bed. 

4) Utilize Technology and Keep in Contact with Your Team 

Technology is what makes work from home possible. However, a new adjustment for most of us is electronically communicating and coordinating shared documents with everyone. At the office, we are used to having easy access to everything we need and stepping next door to ask a coworker a question. Moving that all online can be a difficult transition. Having shared access to necessary documents through cloud technology is a necessity for team-based environments. It is also important to utilize messaging and videoconferencing apps to maintain good communication with everyone involved in your line of work. Communication is still key! 

5) Minimize the Distractions 

It is no doubt that an endless number of distractions can come from working at home. Many of us have taken on the extra role of care providers and teachers for children, are sharing spaces with family members also working from home in completely different lines of work, or have new furry coworkers who are always in your business. This is not to mention other simple distractions that arise in a home environment that we do not typically face at the office: How many trips to the fridge will I take today? What new shows are on Netflix? I’ll just take a quick ten minute break to fold some laundry. Again, a solution to this goes back to tip #3. Try to keep a separate office space secluded from many of the distractions you face to remain as productive as possible. 

But don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself falling victim to these distractions. Yes, it is important to find ways to stay focused and more productive at work. But more importantly during this time is to be honest about your work. Try to keep detailed notes of when you’re taking breaks and for how long. So, while a small break here and there may be healthy to clear your mind and get back on track, just be honest with the work you have actually completed. 

Those are just a few tips to start out with, and you may find that not all of them help or that something completely different helps you the most. What’s important to remember is that many of us are facing the same challenges that come from working at home. I find that most of us are understanding, forgiving, and patient as we are going through the same complications of this transition. In the end, this is not a permanent state and learning how to be productive with your coworkers remotely may end up being a skill we can all benefit from in the future. 

Top 5 Priorities for Client Communications in Times of Crisis

Top 5 Priorities for Client Communications in Times of Crisis

Whether your responsibilities lie in communicating to your client or on behalf of your client, a time of crisis is going to put your capabilities to the test.

1. Take extra time to personalize your communication strategies to match each audience you are interacting with.

For example, an email to clients or stakeholders might contain information about what methodology you have in place for customer outreach or how you intend to retain a surge of new customers that may drop off once the crisis dissipates. Outreach to a client’s customer base might alternatively focus on the plan to keep business operations going with minimal disruption or targeted training videos to help users self-teach. Because consumers generally react better to content they can understand, making the extra effort to customize messaging will pay off long-term.

Tip: Do something different or special to make your message stand out. Go ahead and use your electronic newsletter templates and social media channels. But maybe a personalized email from you to your clients (employees or volunteers) – without all of the graphics and polish – will let them know you are making a special effort to reach out to them.

2. When a crisis situation is ongoing, there really is no such thing as over-communication.

No matter which audience you are communicating with, maintaining a clear, consistent message is important. Let your audience know you are there to help in whatever capacity you are able. Remind customers or clients of how you’ve altered your business model to better assist everyone affected by the ongoing situation. Also, it is important to keep communicating with clients and/or customers even if your business is inactive; if your goal is to have an active, thriving business again long-term, you need to maintain those key relationships.

Tip: In a time of crisis there’s a lot to communicate in a little amount of time. Create an information hub so your audience can find all information related to the crisis in one place. Once you’ve established an information hub, update the content regularly or as new information becomes available.

3. If you must make budget cuts, be kind to your big picture bottom line.

Realistically, spending ad dollars to sell gym memberships isn’t a responsible expense when the whole state is under stay-at-home orders unable to frequent crowded places like a gym, for example. So, we understand making cuts here and there during tough times. Having said that, reallocating all your marketing dollars or thrashing your overall budgeted expenses prematurely isn’t a smart business decision. If your business weathers whatever storm it is going through, you’ll be in a better position to recover if you can hit the ground running again with some planned expenses rather than have no budget to work with and no way to reach your audience to bring them back in. The point is, try not to make decisions out of panic; think you business strategy through.

4. Keep employees and volunteers feeling in-the-know and valued.

The way leadership communicates (or doesn’t communicate) to employees and volunteers will directly impact loyalty, which can lead to a loss of talent. Employees remember how they were treated during the worst of times much more vividly than during the best of times, so it is important to allow employees as much empowerment as possible during crisis situations. In some cases, your organization will be responsible for communicating with employees or volunteers, including volunteer board members. It is important not to overlook this hugely important aspect of successful crisis communication management. Remember, you can do all the right things on behalf of your client’s brand and budget, but if you don’t treat (or help them treat) their employees with respect and kindness during troubled times, the whole structure will collapse.

5. Give good business advice without taking advantage.

It might feel like an easy upsell to encourage a client to add on social media services and an extensive SEO package to boost their business during a time when face-to-face commerce has minimized and digital marketing is critical, but who are you really serving? While your ultimate goal as a business owner is to make money, you need to be realistic and be loyal to the clients who are being loyal to you. If your team is stretched due to economic hardship, there is nothing wrong with changing price points to help your business model move forward. But pushing services on struggling clients is only appropriate if you are actually helping your client by doing so. For example, if a local restaurant doesn’t have an online presence, it is absolutely appropriate to ask the question, “How is your community going to support you if they’re unable to find you?” However, the answer isn’t necessarily to start a website, a Facebook page and an Instagram account all at once. You can give good advice without taking advantage. You can give a customer what they need without giving them everything they need at all at once.

How is Enterprise Iowa handling the COVID-19 crisis?

Like most other businesses nationwide, our team is doing the best we can to minimize the risk we put on each other and put out into our community. We’ve taken measures to work from our homes, serving our clients through Adobe Connect meetings, Slack conversations and more. While most businesses can’t have a perfect plan in place for a situation like this, our team has done well adapting to our new working normal. We feel fortunate to be able to continue to serve our clients and do our part to help stimulate economic prosperity in Iowa during this low point. For any businesses struggling to get through the economic hardship inflicted by COVID-19, reach out to see how we might be able to help revise and rejuvenate your business strategy.

The Importance of Having a Web and Social Media Presence for Small Businesses and Startups

The Importance of Having a Web and Social Media Presence for Small Businesses and Startups

Why is this important?

It is a well-known fact that the world is becoming an increasingly electronic place. We turn to the internet to buy our clothes, to see where the nearest gas station is located, or to read reviews about a hair salon before booking an appointment. We use social media to connect with our peers and celebrities, stay updated about world events, and be notified of what’s coming next from our favorite companies.

With this rather recent shift in the way that we live our lives, it is important for companies to adapt to this shift as well. Those who do not stay ahead of the curve risk losing relevance in the modern world, hence placing their company in peril.

This is especially important for small businesses and startup companies. Small businesses typically rely on locals for their business, so it is important to have a strong presence in your community—especially when communities are becoming increasingly online. Additionally, the internet makes it possible to extend your small business outside of your local community if applicable, like buying anytime and anywhere from online retailers, for example. For startups, the internet and social media are the best and easiest ways to get your name out there to new customers. The internet can also be a fantastic sole medium to use for startups due to low overhead costs, the ease of connecting with customers, and essentially being “open” 24/7.

Aside from the benefits that websites and social media provide for businesses, there is also risk involved for ignoring this aspect of all of our lives. As a 20-something on the cusp of the Gen Z and Millennial generations, regardless of whether I am a customer online or in-person, I almost always cross-reference any business establishment online (whether that be a website or social media). Let’s take a restaurant for example. I rarely choose a new restaurant without doing research online before going out for dinner. With that said, if I cannot find a link to a website or at least a social media page that allows me to view the menu, I am unlikely to pick that restaurant.

Restaurants are only just an example, but the same rules apply to all kinds of businesses. In general, if I cannot find a website or social media presence to back up the company, the credibility of the establishment is severely diminished in my eyes. There is also a very slim chance that I will choose that company over one that I can do ample research on beforehand.

Web

What  information should I include on a website?

The most important element to include on a website is who your company is and what you company is trying to accomplish—include an about page for further details. List products and services offered, even if they are not available for purchase online. Most importantly, list ways to contact the company. This includes but is not limited to: address, phone number, email, and social media links. Other things to include that may not always be applicable are login portals, career pages, help pages, etc.

How do I create the website and maintain it?

There are many good options currently available for website creation. Creating a site from scratch is always an option, but there are also dozens of simple platforms available such as Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, etc. where you have the skeleton of a website already given to you to then fill with content. After purchasing a domain and filling the site with content, the website is ready to go live.

However, websites require maintenance and updating content, themes, and products/services. For further reference, check out the Web Content and Maintenance Service offered by Enterprise Iowa here: https://www.enterpriseiowa.com/services/

Social Media

Which platform(s) should I choose?

There are dozens of social media platforms available, and it is best to hone in on just a few that will best help your company succeed. Here is a list of some popular social media platforms that business should consider using:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Snapchat

However, not all of these platforms are appropriate for every kind of business. For example, if you are a bank, photo sharing sites like Instagram may be difficult to regularly post content, and therefore while not completely useless, Instagram is likely not the best option. On the flipside, more creative firms would flourish with the Instagram platform. Knowing your company and where your customer’s eyes will be is key when considering which social media platforms to focus on.

How should I upkeep social media?

Social media does require a fair amount of upkeep to stay relevant. However, it is a much cheaper alternative to traditional marketing and a much easier way to connect with your current customers plus attract new ones. Using social media management tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social to plan out content in advance can be extremely helpful, but if you are unable or unwilling to take on that extra cost, live posting within the platform is always an option. All in all, the benefits of connecting with and attracting customers typically far outweighs the cost of neglecting social media all together this day in age. Enterprise Iowa also offers social media management services for your business to utilize. 

All in all, the advantages of implementing a web and social media presence can only elevate your business. Especially for small businesses and startups, consider creating a website and utilizing social media profiles on some of the suggested platforms. All of the details involved with starting or owning a business are a large undertaking. To avoid some of the chaos, consider hiring an outside firm to assist with your web and social presence. Visit https://www.enterpriseiowa.com/services/ for more information.

Understanding SEO and How It Can Help Better Your Business

Understanding SEO and How It Can Help Better Your Business

Whether you own a small business or lead a large organization, finding new ways to meet objectives can be challenging. Developing a marketing and communications plan can help you identify creative new sources of revenue. From targeting new customers to reeling in potential donors, your marketing strategy is key, and incorporating web services into your overall plan is crucial – after all, your website is the unsung hero when it comes to boosting your brand and increasing earnings.

In today’s digital age, most people rely on the internet to gather information about a potential vendor, investment or product. In many cases, when a user doesn’t know where to look, he or she will engage in a Google search, entering key words to lead them in the right direction.

According to Moz, the average Google search session lasts just under a minute. This means your website needs to appear high in the Google search results listings in order to gain new views, which means paying attention to your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization is the practice of writing and posting web content in a way that encourages search engines to promote it to searchers. Because search engines like Google use an algorithm that helps connect users to content that best matches their search criteria, writing content with this algorithm in mind can be a highly effective marketing and communications strategy for bringing in new business.

Search engine optimization is a complex process that aims to put your company’s name and website in front of more potential customers. While this may not seem like a top priority but instead like a complicated way to spend man hours, it is actually an important strategy for successful online marketing. As a business owner in the Des Moines metro area, this is just another way for you to stay ahead of the competition and see more dollars.

Why Should Your Business Implement an SEO Strategy?

Enhance your company’s web presence by incorporating SEO into your marketing and communications plan. Search engine optimization is a the process of raising your online visibility, and a detailed strategy can help you get the attention and results you need to bring in new customers and encourage repeat clients.  In fact, there are three main reasons to implement this type of content strategy: (1) to improve search engine results rankings, (2) to connect with customers more effectively and (3) to establish local authority.

1. You Want to Rank Better in Search Results

Typically, a person uses a search engine to find businesses, choosing — whether they realize it or not — based on rankings. If you’ve performed a Google search for your services and location and noticed your business’s website didn’t show up on the first page of results, you should start looking into SEO strategies. Think about it logically: How are potential customers supposed to find your company when most internet users don’t look beyond the first page of search results? This is where an SEO strategy can make a big difference.

Additionally, by designing content specifically for a local audience, a strategy known as geo-targeting, you can better hone your strategy and bring in more business. Search engines like Google take geo-targeting into consideration when displaying web pages, meaning your company’s website could rank higher with a local-based strategy. An experienced blogging team can not only boost your website’s traffic by increasing visibility with searchers, but also keep up with algorithms, relevant industry topics and local keywords.

2. You Want to Connect With Customers More Effectively

Without the right SEO strategy, it can be difficult to reach your desired audience. In the Des Moines metro area, there is a lot of competition, so you want to have a strong, professional web presence that encourages potential clients to choose you. But if they can’t find you on the web, then they can’t choose you. With a detailed marketing and communications plan that includes SEO, you can better reach your audience and hopefully convert curious searchers into clients.

3. You Want to Establish Your Local Authority

Potential customers want to know that the business they are researching is trustworthy and competent. As a part of search engine algorithms, a large emphasis is placed on having authority as a business, including knowing what you’re doing and providing information to customers effectively. Additionally, if your content uses proper geo-targeting for the Des Moines metro area, for example, people living in Des Moines will see you are knowledgeable on the area and have experience in the industry.

Establishing trust and local authority through SEO can directly influence how your customer base grows. The more content you produce, the more trust you develop with the search engines and the better you will rank, giving your company a competitive edge when it comes to a potential customer’s first impression. In fact, “72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles,” according to a 2017 study by iMPACT.  This means that ranking higher for a local Google search for your local services could significantly improve traffic to your website – and hopefully help bring in new revenue. Through detailed web pages, blog posts, and more, you can build a relationship of trust and authority, not only with search engine algorithms but also with searchers.

Should You Hire an Outside Company for SEO?

If you own or operate a business, your time is likely stretched thin already, and curating new content on a regular basis would only further stretch that time. Hiring a company that specializes in web content and maintenance can help you improve your website’s visibility in a simple Google search, as well as posture your business as a local industry expert. Among other things, a company experienced with writing for SEO adapts your website to increase visibility.

If you need help starting a blog or improving SEO on your current website, contact Enterprise Iowa. We help clients generate new, engaging blog content to entice new customers and retain existing ones.