The Business of Online Advertising

Learn through customer analyticsOne thing is certain about today’s consumers–more and more of them are spending more and more time (and money) online. If that’s where they are, shouldn’t your business be there too? If you’re a busy small business owner and not sure where to start with online advertising, here’s a brief background and a few best practices to get you digitally dialed in.

The Basics
Email marketing, display advertising, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, online video and social media marketing all fall underneath the digital umbrella. You can click here to for a quick reference guide http://www.quirk.biz/resources/emarketingone to find more information on the different channels and which are best suited to your current strategy.

And if you’re like most business owners, decisions about how to allocate limited resources will also play a significant role in which channel(s) to explore. This easy-to-read chart http://moz.com/learn/local/digital-marketing-options can help you compare options based on the amount of time and money you can expect to invest in each.

Best Practices Before Getting Started
As with any type of campaign, make sure you set out with a clearly defined goal. Whether it’s generating more awareness for your brand, driving traffic to your site or increasing sales be sure your objectives are designed to help you achieve a certain end.

Dare to be different, and don’t be afraid to try something a new. http://www.inc.com/ss/7-successful-viral-marketing-campaigns Take advantage of the ability to provide prospects with interesting and engaging content. Whether this is an interactive game, funny video, a little creativity can go a long way in getting you noticed by more users.

A great ad with eye-catching imagery, compelling copy or an irresistible offer is only the beginning. If you promise something in your ad, be sure you’re delivering on the other end through a custom landing page, a digital storefront or an information request form. The last thing you want is to get your prospects to act only to find the destination confusing or completely irrelevant. http://www.forbes.com/sites/drewhendricks/2014/02/28/5-landing-page-mistakes-that-are-killing-your-chances-at-conversions/ And it doesn’t end after “going live,” don’t forget to test your ad to ensure everything is working properly!

Measure Your Success
A challenge marketers face with traditional forms of advertising is navigating the murky waters of the measurement. This can make it difficult to determine the return on investment and overall effectiveness of a campaign.

However, you can track and trace you online efforts easily with the help of tools like Google Analytics http://www.google.com/analytics/. The wealth of information in these reports can provide you with data and insights you can learn from to help sharpen your strategy and improve your messaging and conversion rates over time.

Do you plan to include online advertising to help your boost your business’ bottom line?

How to set (and stick to) a budget

How much do you spend? How much do you earn? If one equals the other, you’re in trouble. And, if you spend more than you earn, you’re in really big trouble.

The solution? Set a budget, and stick to it!

The goal? Live within your means, avoid falling off a cliff and into debt, and start saving https://www.cbtc.com/personal/savingsTypes.aspx?id=14 – for emergencies, special occasions, and for your future.

Easier said than done? No. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a little commitment. And, taking that first step.

Getting started
Check these 8 easy tips for creating a personal budget http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/10/18/8-steps-to-creating-a-personal-budget. Pay particular attention to Step #8: “Don’t set yourself up for failure. Making sacrifices is part of managing expenses, but if you set restrictions too high and too soon, you will be less likely to follow your budget over the long term.”

The first step to successful budgeting is knowing, and tracking, where your money goes. You can do it with pencil and paper, or consider one of the personal finance software programs http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/01/03/budgeting-software-options/ such as Quicken or Mint.

Setting priorities
The second step is to set priorities. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index4.htm Try to cut back your spending to about 90% of your income.

Stretching that dollar
If you think it’s impossible to save anything, or to save more than you’re saving now, you might be surprised that it is possible and, maybe, painless. Here are 10 tips for saving on a tight budget. http://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/saving-on-a-tight-budget

And, if you simply can’t image how to spend less than you’re spending now, start thinking about new ways to reduce your monthly bills. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index5.htm

Sticking to it
Don’t get discouraged. If Plan A doesn’t work, come up with a Plan B to focus on your finances http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/budget/stick-to-a-budget .
Budgeting will be easier once you find the path that works the best for you.

7 Ways to Keep Your Credit in Check

Keeping your credit in checkWhether you’re looking to obtain your first credit card, purchase a car, or even buy a second home, at one point or another in your life, you will need to borrow. To be able to borrow affordably you’ll also need a strong credit report. A credit report is the tool that lenders use to determine whether to grant you a loan and the interest rate to offer you. Continue reading

Telecommuting: Is it good business for you?

There’s a popular trend that’s taking place in companies today; a growing number of employees are trading in their cubicles for their living rooms and working at home for at least part of the time. According to a report based on U.S. Census report statistics, 50 million U.S. employees hold jobs that can be conducted from home.

It’s easy to see why employees like working from home. They get to eliminate commuting time, save money on fuel and clothing, and gain valuable time in their personal lives. But what’s the impact for employers? Is allowing your employees to telecommute good or bad for your company? Here’s a look at the pros and cons:

The Pros

Increased employee productivity. Research has shown that employees who work at home are often more productive. When they are in the office, they have to stretch out work over an eight-hour day, whereas at home, they have an incentive to get their work done in less time. They also don’t have normal office distractions, such as socializing with co-workers and taking long lunches. Research has shown that employees who telecommute are also less likely to take sick days.

A valuable work/life employee benefit. One of the biggest benefits of telecommuting is that it reduces the time employees have to spend commuting to work, giving them more time in their personal lives. As a result, telecommuting can be a smart and cost-effective benefit for attracting and retaining employees, particularly those who have young children.

Cost savings. Telecommuting can impact your bottom line by allowing you to reduce expensive office space and other overhead costs, including office supplies and equipment.

Improved morale. Employees who have a work life balance are likely to be happier, and work harder to maintain their jobs.

 The Cons

Decreased personal interaction. The most successful companies are those that foster a spirit of collaboration and teamwork with employees. Having employees physically separated can limit their personal interaction.

Reduced control. When your employees aren’t physically present, it’s more difficult to monitor their work and progress. You can counter that by arranging to have in-person meetings from time to time and regular check-ins.

Security risk. At many companies, employees have access to critical and sensitive data. Providing remote access to this data on their home computers or allowing them to bring home confidential information can put the security of your information at risk.

Do your homework before allowing employees to work from home.

For more information on telecommuting, including helpful strategies, check out these articles from Monster.com http://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices/workforce-management/employee-benefits-management/telecommuting-strategy.aspx and Mashable http://mashable.com/2014/01/27/employees-work-from-home-considerations/

Friday Focus: The Greenwell Foundation

Located alongside the Patuxent River, Greenwell State Park provides St. Mary’s County residents with year-round opportunities for recreation and leisure. While the land itself is managed by the state of Maryland, the programs offered by the park are coordinated and funded by the Greenwell Foundation, a nonprofit organization. This week’s Friday Focus interviewed Cara Fogarty, Director of Communications for the Foundation. Cara GreenwellFoundation_horse and barnspoke with us about the Foundation’s work and some upcoming events, and also shared her favorite story about how Greenwell’s summer camp program was able to touch a local family in a special way.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The Greenwell Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing accessible and inclusive programs, services and facilities for all community members, with and without disabilities, in Southern Maryland. The Foundation operates in Greenwell State Park, a 600-acre property located along the lower Patuxent River in Hollywood, Maryland.

The Greenwell Foundation offers therapeutic and recreational horseback riding, summer camps, nature programs, veterans’ programs, accessible site rentals and regularly develops new programs—often in collaboration with area agencies and nonprofit organizations—to meet community needs. All programs are designed to be inclusive, allowing people with disabilities to fully participate. Additionally, the Foundation serves veterans, at-risk children and transitioning youth with disabilities.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: There are several, but one that sticks out in my mind comes from a family with three children. One of the children has Down syndrome. The mother discovered that he could attend Camp Greenwell alongside his two sisters. She didn’t have to put him in a “special” camp. She didn’t have to undergo an interview/intake process. She could simply sign him up as easily as she did her other two children. For the first time in his life, she said he was treated equally and given the same opportunities in the same environment as every other child. Our mission is to create this environment that allows all children to play and experience camp together.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: There are many challenges, but I would have to say that funding is perhaps the biggest. Many people think because we are in a state park that we are funded by the state of Maryland and that their tax dollars support us. In actuality, the Greenwell Foundation is a small, private foundation that relies on donations, memberships, program fees, grants and facility rental fees. We receive no funding from the state of Maryland. The state takes care of the park itself, but the Greenwell Foundation runs the programs. We have an excellent relationship with the Department of Natural Resources/Maryland Park Service, but we are on our own! A nine-member Board of Trustees and an executive director oversee the work of the Foundation. We maintain a very small permanent staff and add a seasonal staff. This is purposeful to help us maintain costs.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have a few events coming up this spring:

Every second Sunday of the month we have “Sundays in the Park” when we open the doors to Rosedale Manor from 1pm-4pm. People are welcome to browse through this historic building which was the summer home of John Philip Greenwell, the gentleman who donated his property to the state of Maryland. Our next “Sunday in the Park” day will be this Sunday, May 11.

On Saturday, June 7, we’ll be hosting our second annual 5K Fun Run & Dog Walk, held in conjunction with Dr. Tim Modic of Mechanicsville and Smiles for Life. People can run or walk the 5K, or they may bring their dog(s) for a nice trail walk with their best friend! This event also features raffles, kayak rides, soccer and other field games, water balloon archery, tie-dying shirts and pony rides. These are many of the same activities that take place at Camp Greenwell, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get a sneak peek at camp! The event is a benefit for the Greenwell Foundation’s Therapeutic Riding Program and Smiles for Life.

We also have our largest “event” of the year coming up—summer camp! Nine weekly sessions of Camp Greenwell and many specialty camps (Horse Camp, Fishing Camp, Kayak Fishing Camp, Nature Time Camp and Adventure Camp) begin June 16.

Visit http://greenwellfoundation.org/ for more information on any of these events and programs.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We have an active and growing volunteer program. Volunteers are the heart and soul of Greenwell. Our volunteer coordinator helps people find the right fit, whether it is volunteering with the Therapeutic Riding Program, Vets Helping Vets, gardening, construction projects, etc. We also have a Camp Buddy program for 13-16 year olds who volunteer with our summer camps. It’s valuable experience for the young teens and a tremendous asset to our campers.

Load & Go with Reloadable Cards!

Have you heard the news? There’s a nChoosing a credit cardew way to pay! We’re rolling out a new option for you to add to your financial arsenal: the Community Bank of the Chesapeake Reloadable Card.

An alternative to a credit or debit card, reloadable cards have risen in popularity in recent years—1 in 6 people in “Generation Y” use them. And for the nearly 70 million Americans that don’t use checking accounts, a reloadable card is a secure, easy way to manage funds including weekly paychecks, which can be directly deposited into the reloadable card account.

Already have a checking account? That’s okay—the card is for you, too! Reloadable cards can be used as a supplement to a Checkcard and can be a big help when it comes to budgeting. Use the card to set aside money for your holiday shopping, for miscellaneous expenses during the month or for a special event like a wedding or big trip.

The reloadable card works as a “checkless checking account”. You can direct deposit paychecks, shop and pay bills online, get cash at ATMs and use the card virtually anywhere. It’s an alternative to carrying cash and you’ll never have to worry about overdraft fees. It’s also a safer option than cash or a Checkcard; reloadable cards are PIN protected and are not linked directly to your checking account, so in the event that the card is lost or stolen, your other finances will stay safe.

In addition to peace of mind, the card offers text message alerts that allow you to manage your money on the go, and online access so you can instantly load funds whenever you need them.

Want to learn more? Stop into any of our convenient branch locations for more information or to purchase your reloadable card today!

5 Tips for Online Shopping Safety

Online Shopping SafetyIt’s quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for consumers to shop for goods and services. It doesn’t require you to purchase gas, wait in long lines, or even comb your hair. And thanks to advances in technology, you can now do it right from your phone. It’s online shopping. And while it’s definitely the easiest, most convenient way to shop, it does present some risks. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself: Continue reading