SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Building Brand Recognition for Your Startup: Website Fundamentals

When launching your startup, it is likely that the thought of how to best get exposure and a loyal following for it is at the front of your mind. And even better if you can do so while also building up your brand identity and its ability to be recognized and remembered by consumers, right? With the right elements, your website can make this happen for your startup. Use your website as a powerful tool to develop your brand and its ability to connect with and engage consumers.

Domain name
Your domain name is a link to your website (both literally and figuratively) that people will interact with before even reaching the homepage of your site. Therefore, you must help set your site up for success by Brandchoosing and registering a domain name that ties in with your brand and promotes recognition and remembrance of it.

Make the domain name for your site something that is short and sweet, no longer than about four words. It should also be simple to spell out and to share, whether through word-of-mouth or digital mediums. Avoid using hyphens or numbers, as they tend to be accidentally put in the wrong place or left out entirely. These things will help your site’s domain name be remembered and shared, and as a result, promote brand recognition with more people, both on- and offline.

Your site’s domain name should also be brandable in the sense that it should itself be relevant to your brand. When a person sees it, they should know that it is connected to your brand if they are familiar with you. If a person has never before heard of your startup, once they visit your site they should see how its domain name ties in with the brand that is presented there.

Your brand’s logo will take up some valuable real estate on your website, placed prominently at the top of its homepage and various other internal pages. Ensure that it speaks to the message your brand wants to communicate and gives people the right idea of what your brand stands for and represents.

Both in design and in color scheme, your logo should not be too similar to that of your competitors. Avoid having it be overly fussy in a way that detracts from all your hard work on the rest of the site or that makes your brand look like it was indecisive on what it most wants to convey with its logo. The right logo makes a website and its design, as well as further promoting the site’s brand. The wrong logo can confuse consumers as to what your startup values and/or has to offer them.

Links to social media
Include links to each of your brand’s social media accounts on its website in a way and in a location that they are easily seen. Place them prominently on the site’s homepage or on a clearly identifiable tab. By directing traffic to your social media accounts through your website, you are allowing web users to see more of your brand’s content through its social media posts and your brand to build up the engagement of its social community online.

Content catered to your target market
Everything your brand does with its website needs to be done with its target market in mind. Give them content they find interesting and useful within your site. If you are not quite sure of who makes up your target market and what it is your target market wants to see from your brand, you will need to conduct market research in order to find out. This can be done either through primary research methods (like surveys and focus groups) or secondary research, in which your startup takes data already collected by an outside organization and uses it to form its own conclusions.

Know who you are using your site to market to, what it is they like and want to see, and craft your site around this knowledge. It is much easier to promote brand recognition with a specific segment of the market that you are working to get the attention of with your site than it is to attempt to do so by making general content that you hope pleases everyone.

Of course, your startup’s website needs to express what it is as a business and what it has to sell to the consumer. On top of that however, it needs to be a part of your startup’s online presence that serves as a strong representation of its brand and allows visitors to it to see that brand. Having your brand represented well on your site will allow people to recognize it, remember it, and be encouraged to follow along with all it is doing.

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The Top 8 IoT Trends For 2018

Daniel Newman , CONTRIBUTOR
Exploring all things Digital Transformation


Amazon Echo

An Amazon Echo sits on a table in New York.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

An IHS survey estimates that there are 20 billion connected devicesglobally as of this year. Will 2018 be “The Year of IoT”? Not exactly, but the future looks promising and 2018 will show a promising trajectory.

Despite the huge gains in connectivity, the truth is 2018 will be more of a steady (rather than explosive) growth period for the IoT, full of fits and spasms, and everything that goes along with them. It will see lots of investment—lots of growth—and widespread adoption in a few major industries. But it will also see some growing pains—“fragmentation frustration,” potential data breaches, and security issues galore.

IOT Survey

A recent study shows about 2/3 of companies are currently utilizing IoT



So, will 2018 be an exciting year? Yes—ish. The truth is, we’re right smack in the midst of a revolution—no matter how imperfect it may initially seem. If that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is. The following are the top eight trends we’ll see in the coming year.

1. The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is jumping aboard, hoping to harness the power of the IoT to connect with customers, grow their brands, and improve the customer journey in deeply personal ways. But industries like healthcare and supply are not far behind. They’re using the technology to connect with patients via wearable devices, and track products from factory to floor. In many ways, the full potential of the IoT is still being realized; we’ll likely see more of that in 2018.

2. It Will Also Become More Fragmented: Just as the IoT continues to grow, it will also become increasingly fragmented. As we’ve seen with the growth of as-a-Service (aaS) programs and cloud solutions, that fragmentation will create some hurdles for many companies, as they deal with compatibility issues throughout their industries. Though companies like Qualcomm are leading the push for IoT device standards and certifications, in many ways, the genie has already left the bottle. It’s now a matter of wrangling her back into place if we want to put those standards in place.

3. Which Leads to Greater Security Concerns: I’ve said it before, but fragmentation leads to system compromise. Almost every time. The more complex, the more network security challenges. Indeed, securing all these connected devices in an environment with minimal regulation will be difficult. Finding a solution to keep data safe will be a main goal in the coming year.

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Four Key HR Trends To Watch In 2018

Chee Tung Leong , CONTRIBUTOR



You may have already noticed it.

Subtle changes in your office space allowing you to concentrate more. Your boss being that little bit more concerned about your professional growth. Maybe it's also gotten just that bit easier to get your application for time off approved.

2017 has seen people analytics arrive "with a vengeance": this year, 69% of companies studied have been actively taking steps to improve the way they look at people data, compared to only 10-15% before.

If managers are able to effectively analyze and predict staff needs accurately, making the office environment more productive, improving career development, and implementing human resource processes should become much easier.

 The increasing adoption of human resources (HR) software has helped streamline the data analytics process and expedite “social connections” by providing management with the speed to act on these real-time and actionable insights.

With this as a strong foundation for progress, 2018 promises to have some radical changes to the HR landscape.

1. Shift from Employee Engagement to Employee Experience
With the growing influence of millennials and the increasing transparency catalyzed by the digitalization age, employees are expecting a more engaging and enjoyable work experience. 2018 will finally be a year where leaders start to focus on developing the “Employee Experience”, an ecosystem that integrates three core dimensions: engagement, culture and performance management.

This new focus will drive leaders to examine their employee journey map and optimize it much as customer experience teams do for customer journeys. It will be an exciting time where HR will continuously experiment with technology in the market such as pulse feedback tools, employee wellness apps, modern communication and productivity tools that will help facilitate the understanding and development of the employee experience.

2. Race to Digitalize HR
An important corollary to improving the employee experience through analyzing employee data is the digitalization of the workplace itself. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning tools like GetLinks or Arya have disrupted recruitment practices, effectively lowering costs and obtaining candidates with the better fit.

Josh Bersin shares his perspective, “just as many digital disruptors have toppled businesses in travel, retail, and other industries, we should essentially ‘topple’ our HR thinking with the adoption of digital solutions,” he says. “HR organizations now have to learn how to ‘be digital,’ not just ‘buy digital products.'”

In this vein, Singapore-based OCBC Bank recently developed an in-house mobile app, HR In Your Pocket, giving employees a holistic HR resource center for submission of leave and claims, tracking medical and lifestyle benefits, and internal job postings. It also features an in-app chatbot to address questions employees might have about HR.

As this rolls out, such practices are getting high visibility in many other companies. In Asia, where HR practices in some countries are still relatively nascent, there is a significant opportunity for ‘leapfrogging’ - skipping legacy technologies and processes altogether and progressing directly towards a more digital HR that would rival developments in more advanced countries.

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Beat the Street?

It was all explained to me a decade ago by well-known SBSer and SMB Nation member Bob Hood from Chicago, IL. Loosely translated he indicated many a wise person has gone to their grave trying to “beat the street” in investor parlance. Yet it seems that Harrisburg, PA-based D&H Distributing has done exactly that according to its most recent quarterly report. Because D&H Distributing in privately held, it doesn’t file standard reports like a 10K statement so it’s a bit difficult to confirm its growth; it doesn’t report revenues or earnings. But taken at face value, here is what I know about D&H’s success in beating the street.

Top Growth Categories at D&H, September to November 2017 (year-over-year):
Digital Signage 51%
Connected Home 42%
Server Products 36%
Network Security 26%
Workstations 19%
Wireless/networking 17%
Notebooks/desktop 14%
Printers 13%

Gartner reports that server shipments grew 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2017 after declining 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017. IDG reported similar numbers. If you look closely above, D&H is reporting that Server Products are up 36%, clearly a case of beating the street. But hailing from Seattle and the home of Microsoft Servers, forgive me for being a bit skeptical. I dug a bit deeper.

First there are two different measurements. Gartner and IDC are measuring server shipments. D&H is measuring the category of server products. So the growth rates don’t align (not apples to apples). D&H offered the following as sources of server-side growth.

1. Server refreshes – Small businesses tend to lag behind in upgrading technology. There are a number of five to ten year-old servers out in the small business channel running Windows Server 2008/2008 R2, and we are seeing a bit of a refresh cycle for that market.

2. Component and accessory add-ons – Many competitors and peers in the channel focus on selling a lot of inexpensive servers. D&H focuses on selling servers built to last. We sell more memory and hard drives per system than our competitors, on average. We sell upgraded RAID solutions on average far above the channel. We sell remote management modules, encryption modules, premium RAID keys, and other advanced technologies, even on servers for small businesses. All of these items are sold based on the value proposition of each one. The greater market tends to selectively overlook this strategy.

3. More sophisticated server solutions – D&H actively recommends high-availability solutions for our clients, typically two or three servers and an iSCSI or FC SAN. Most of the channel reserves this kind of solution for the mid-market and up, but there are a lot of small businesses who rely heavily on their data and systems being available. Those are the customers we cater to.

4. Focus on new technology – when Intel brings out a new family of technology, we drive that message in the market not only through our Intel customers, but through our HPE and Lenovo DCG customer bases, also. We find that we traditionally get a head-start on selling the latest and greatest by educating our customers on the value proposition and business advantages of moving to a newer technology platform, which tends to bring some server upgrades onto the calendar for D&H and its customers.

Any way you slice it, it’s both bold and impressive that D&H can beat the street. It’s niche focus on small business has resulted in extraordinary returns from expertise.



Forward looking
D&H is headed towards it’s 100-anniversary and it expects to add a 5% increase in its customer base over the next 18-months. “The distributor foresees significant opportunities for resellers who are looking to expand, as the industry faces a potential SMB back-office refresh cycle, spurred by the latest end-of-service dates for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 solutions.” What it’s referring to is the end of mainstream support on January 9, 2018. You read it here first!

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Infographic: 2018 IT budgets are up slightly; spending focus is on security, hardware, and cloud

In a recent Tech Pro Research survey, 39 percent of respondents said their 2018 budget would increase between 1-10 percent over 2017. This infographic has more information about how that money will be spent.

By Amy Talbott

In July and August, ZDNet's sister site, Tech Pro Research, surveyed tech workers about the IT budget for the 2018 fiscal or calendar year within their organization. Over half said that in terms of funding, their organization would dedicate more to IT.

However, another interesting trend emerged from this survey with regard to organizational IT spending. In this year's survey, 48 percent of respondents said they felt executive management at their organization valued IT funding as much as other departmental budgets. Last year, 65 percent of respondents said the IT budget was given equal importance within their organization. The portion of respondents who felt that their organization values the IT budget less than other departmental budgets was up to 36 percent this year, from 21 percent in last year's survey.

Within IT departments, a premium is being placed on security spending. Fifty-three percent of respondents said security will be a top priority in the 2018 budget. This isn't terribly surprising after high-profile events in 2017 like the WannaCry, or WannaCrypt, attacks and the Equifax consumer data breach. Respondents listed hardware purchases, cloud services, and software purchases as other high priorities for IT funds.

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Image: Erik Underwood/TechRepublic

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