Essential Services Your Business Should Outsource

Accounting - Pexels

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question,what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers. 

All businesses are living, breathing systems. They have an ebb and flow. Don’t forget you started your business because you have a product or service and are the most qualified person to provide that product or service. This does not mean you excel at every aspect of running a business. We’ve talked a lot about marketing at Dispatches because that and design are what we excel at providing. 

We are also advocates for outsourcing tasks you aren’t comfortable with doing or are not very good at doing.

Outsourcing can remove added stressors and ultimately let you focus on what you are good at. 

Accounting and Financial
J & A Creative Group outsources our accounting and financial elements to a local firm Accounting Plus, who we cannot recommend highly enough. Even if you aren’t local, we highly recommend partnering with a financial expert.

For starters, it’s important to have a set of fully organized accounts for your tax return. You have to provide the government with a lot of information come April 15, and an accountant can help you gather it all professionally. If you wanted to get a mortgage for a business office, you will likely need an accountant to help you prove  you can make repayments.

Also, an accountant can help you figure out what expenses can be claimed on your taxes and which ones can’t be claimed. Unless your business is accountancy, it is unlikely you’ll know every tax code, but an accountant most certainly will. 

Improving Businesses Processes
It’s impossible to fully improve, streamline and tweak business processes internally. It requires an unbiased viewpoint and well-trained staff. A service like Six Sigma Master Black Belt offers companies large and small a way to improve their processes and more importantly save time and money.

Because, as is normally the case, training staff and managers internally can be a costly endeavor, particularly if you are the only staff member. Internal training, or taking time away f your business to attend process training on your own can take you away from the projects that bring in revenue.

Cloud Computing
Cloud computer can save you time and space and if used correctly regularly backup your data. 

It’s understandable if you have some trepidation when handing over things like business data to the cloud. Or even an IT management company. 

First, this will save you space as you won’t need a server on-site. It will save you time because the server will (if you partner with the right company) – it’ll be looked after and upgraded by your outsourcing provider removing server maintenance from your to-do list.

Second, you have a service that can fully look after and schedule data backups on a regular basis. Traditional storage solutions are prone to failure and loss, but cloud computing is much safer. Sure, data can still be lost – but you can create backup, after backup, after backup! You don’t have to worry about storage space either. With the right company, your part of the cloud is fully upgradeable at a moment’s notice.

Event Management
Business events are vital, whether you’re a big business or a smaller one. They’re good chances to network and build up solid corporate relationships in a friendly environment. Your business has to get out and about to stay relevant and meet potential clients and customers, and this is one way to do so.

But, when done alone, it can become a real annoyance. Booking a venue, sending invites, sorting the catering, the list is long. Event planning is similar to planning a birthday party but on a higher level. It’s like organizing 10 parties at the same time.

This is where an event planner can help you. Obviously, you’ll need to be involved through every stage of the process, but the event planner will handle the details.  You’ll have final say on location and food, but you won’t have to go out searching for and booking these things.

Outsourcing should make your business life easier. When used correctly, you will be able to run your business as usual and accomplish other tasks at the same time.  

J & A Creative – Now taking new clients!

Jason​ and I are super excited to announce that the graphic design portion of J & A Creative is taking on new clients! Our website is up and running here and  you can see more of Jason’s award-winning design work here.

Because we recognize each client has individual goals and budgets we work hard to maximize the investment with custom quoting. For a custom quote (including a new business discount!), please fill out the contact form below!

Social Planning How You Might Be Missing The Mark: Webinar Takeaways

This webinar was centered around the five mistakes most businesses make when creating social marketing plans. Presenters Uri Bar-Joseph, Senior Director of Marketing at Simply Measured, and Lauren Berry, Enterprise Client Partner at Simply Measured, promised a webinar to understand how past performance should influence next steps and how to create a social planning framework to help ensure you hit the mark.

The webinar from opened with a question:
Hardest Part of Social Planning

Bar-Joseph commented that planning is like thinking and you can’t separate it from human nature. We plan because we want to set ourselves up for success.

“Planning should be the starting point of the social media marketing management process,” he said. “Planning is one of the four functions of marketing management, alongside analysis, implementation, and control.”

Twenty-five to 30 percent of your time should be dedicated to planning the social campaigns.

From there it quickly moved into the Social Media Marketing Management Process.
SOcial Media Marketing Management ProcessSocial media marketers should look at each component of the process and then integrate the individual components to come up with the best processes and practices for your organization.

Make sure you have the right goals that align with your business’s goals. Make sure your goals are aggressive, but not too aggressive. The most important reason to set good goals is to improve.

As yourself: What makes a win for the stakeholders? How do you get the rest of your organization to celebrate wins with you? Find someone on that same team to be a devil’s advocate.

Data should be used to enhance performance, not just to have a cool report. Don’t get bogged down in the numbers. Find one to three goals and metrics that will help you map business needs. You don’t need 60 pages to share that information.

Avoid tunnel vision. Your strategy should be multiple components, not just a single one to focus on. This goes hand in hand with not falling in love with the plan. You need to be flexible. By being attuned to what goes on around you and evaluating the plan along the way you will be more likely to meet your goals.

Don’t ignore your competitors, but don’t assume that the first competitors you think of are your actual competitors. Find a competitor set that you can compare yourself against. This should be competitors who are targeting the same audience you want to target. Then look and see what social platforms they are using and how they are using those platforms to engage that audience.

Social is fast, but you still should review the data and the data of your competitors. A competitive analysis is not always about beating someone. It should be easy to get competitor information and glean practical data from that information. That data should also help you create a persona (or personas) for your target audience.

Don’t limit your data to social, you should also talk to sales people and research group that did secondary research on the audience.

Your audience can and should tell you what they care about. When you know that information, don’t be afraid to try it. While it is easy to get distracted by new social channels and predictions of demise of established channels, pay more attention to where you audience is and where they might be.

Look at your audience demographics, those metrics may tell you a different story about your audience than you originally thought it would. Interactions should support the business goals. Goals are not necessarily key performance indicators. Focus on specific goals and find the key performance indicators that will give you the right answers.

When evaluating your plan, make sure to include answers to : do your assumptions still hold? Can you validate those assumptions either way?

Takeaway slide:
Social Planning Takeaways

Promised takeaways were:

  • How to think about planning in context with social analytics
  • Tips for better strategic planning and performance measurement
  • How to collect social data about your brand, audience, and competitors

All three elements were reviewed, but not in concrete or specific examples.

You can see the entire Twitter conversation from the hashtag: #SimplyPlanning.

What do you think?

ASAE’s MMCCon website takeaways

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 2.31.04 PM

Anyone else remember the awesome 1996 movie Space Jam? Turns out it had one of the first movie websites and it’s still alive. Check it out here.

You might be wondering what a kids movie website from almost 20 years ago has to do with marketing, media or social content and the answer is everything. The super smart Suzanne Carawan tweeted this gem at one of the first sessions I attended at MMCCom:
Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 2.34.17 PMShe’s absolutely right! People rarely go looking for older content. A website isn’t a digital archive of everything your organization has done for the last 20 years.

The first step to freeing yourself as a content manager and your organization from the mountains of digital content you’re being smothered by is to ask this: Would you take the content with you if you moved? It’s ok if the answer is no. (If you haven’t already done a content audit and/or created a content strategy, this would be a good time to do that step too.)

The take the second step and ask: Who owns the content? Is that person even still with the organization?

Now that you’ve started considering what content you want to keep and what content might be better in a vault, review your user behavior. Check the analytics. Look closely at what people are searching for on your website. Then search for those things! If you can’t find the answer in one or two clicks. your audience has probably totally checked out too. Remember just because you added a Google search bar to your site does not mean you are like Google. Make sure you find a way to give your web users access to content in a way that makes sense to them.

A show of hands indicated that most people do not go to a website without a goal in mind (even if that goal is just to waste a bit of time or be entertaining). Your web users are no different.

Is your audience happy that they came to your site? You can find this by checking the analytics for time on site, pages visited, exit pages, etc. Look at the overall picture the analytics paint, not just each piece of information. It can be tempting to rely on surveys to determine if your web content is working. These should be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of users will tell you what they think you want to hear. The analytics should give you as much if not more insight than a survey will. This isn’t to say surveys don’t have a place, they do, just not necessarily on website usability.

Ideally, your website should be able to solve a users need right then with content? Answer a question, satisfy curiosity, lead the person in the right direction. Most web users are happy to follow a Wikipedia like rabbit hole, but only after their initial question is answered.

ASAE’s MMCCon content takeaways

Last week I attended the 2014 MMCC Conference. It was 48 hours of intense learning, collaborating and general brainstorming. So much so that I tweeted this as I left the conference:
Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 1.49.25 PMMany of the content takeaways are applicable even if you aren’t in the non-profit world.

  • It’s important to know what content your organization has and where it is located. Make sure to do (and then update regularly!) a content audit. This is the first step n creating a content strategy which will give you a good overall picture of your organization’s landscape. With a content audit you will know what pieces are located where.
  • Create a WHY for each channel you use to share content (print, podcasts, Facebook, twitter, etc). Why are you using these channels? Who is the audience consuming information in these areas? Who is visiting your website, what pages are they looking at and when? What are people searching for? Are they finding it? Don’t just look at entry pages in Google analytics, look at exit pages.
  • As you create the WHY for each channel think about your organization’s mission, vision and business objectives. Those three things alone need to be what drives the content. What are the goals? Membership? Sales? recruitment? Brand recognition?  Make sure each channel (and ultimately each content item) supports the business mission, vision and general objectives. If it doesn’t, is there a way to realign the content to fit? Why is it necessary if it doesn’t support those three things? While thinking about the WHY think about what defines success. What makes individuals pieces of content successful? What makes the overall content successful? The website, the Facebook page, etc. All content items should have a definition of success specifically for that piece.  All channels should have a definition of success specifically for that channel. Add a column to your editorial calendar labeled ‘outcome’. Know why you’re doing what you do.
    • 3 parts to review:
      1. Core target audience.  Who is the audience that you should be reaching with your content marketing?
      2. What will be delivered?
      3. What is the outcome for the audience?  Drive sales and revenue? Save costs (email versus paper) or sunshine (creating happier customers, keeping customers longer, get them more involved, etc.)
  • Each member (or audience) category should have its own content marketing strategy! Give people what they want, what they need, when and where they want and need it. Don’t make people search for content!
  • A content strategy must have a designated gatekeeper. A person who can look at a suggestion, content item or request and determine if it does meet the business mission, vision and general objectives. Or know how to create the piece to meet those requirements. Someone must have the authority to send the request back for more brainstorming.
  • Find a way (good source: slide share!) to share ALL presentations to the right audience. For an association, this might be in the member community site for those who miss out on a webinar, a conference or a presentation. Make the presentations available on demand to watch or re-watch.

Be sure to check back in the next few days for more takeaways from the conference as I have time to decipher my handwriting and review the tweets from the conference.