Idaho Business Fueled by the Sun

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Written by Emily Valla, Senior Marketplace Director

As Carl Simpson points out the contraptions on a roof at a Meridian home, his eyes light up. He is clearly passionate about what he does, and why he does it. For the past seven years, Simpson has installed more than 1,000 solar tubes as part of his Treasure Valley- based business, Renewable Energy Northwest.

You may have heard of solar panels providing electricity to homes and businesses —and Simpson can do that too —but, his expertise is on solar thermal energy. Think, heating your hot water by the power of the sun.

The tubes sit on top of a roof, on an exterior wall, or even on the ground, and absorb energy from the sun. Simpson describes the unit as two glass tubes with a vacuum in between.

“The ultra violet rays go inside the tube, and (the inside) can be 400 degrees in an hour even at negative 30 degrees,” said Simpson.

The outside, however, would match the temperature.

BBB Credibility

Renewable Energy NW became BBB Accredited in 2012. Accreditation is important to Simpson, because he doesn’t have many competitors, which isn’t typically why businesses seek accreditation. What Simpson does is unique, and he often finds potential customers don’t know much about solar thermal energy. When they go to seek other quotes, Simpson says they don’t always find other options. So, to establish credibility, he sought to align with Better Business Bureau.

“(It’s) extremely important that we deliver satisfaction and affordable renewable energy solutions,” Simpson said in an email.

He wants his customers to do their homework and find he is committed to upholding BBB Standards.

Solar Power Savings

Simpson regularly outfits existing homes, to the tune of about 80 per year, but he does just as many new construction homes. He says that’s where there is the most opportunity: solar energy can be integrated into the design from the start. A large portion of Simpson’s business is commercial projects.

One of Simpson’s favorite projects was a car wash in Fruitland. He says the installation paid for itself within 18 months, when comparing the cost savings over natural gas to heat the water used in the wash. A CPA by training, Simpson pays close attention to the numbers when it comes to cost savings. He wants clients to be aware of incentives available to them for installing the solar units, and he sends links to the possible options along with quotes before beginning a project.

Potential cost savings are a big attractant for potential customers, as are environmental impacts. Simpson says his system is 94 percent efficient, and can function on days with minimal sunlight. Customers often begin with just heating hot water, which Simpson says is about a quarter of most customer’s energy bills. If they’re interested, customers can also do heating and cooling systems, including radiant floor heat. Simpson says homeowners with pools are often attracted to solar energy.

For those considering making the switch to solar thermal energy, Simpson encourages them to do their homework. He suggests asking questions about permitting and what the installation process is, as this is an important safety step.

Important questions to ask include: What is the strategy to prevent overheating? How will the installed units look? What is the warranty if anything breaks? As satisfied customers are the core of Simpson’s business, he offers a 10-year warranty on panels.

And to ensure he’s doing everything he can to assist the customer he welcomes customer feedback.

To learn more about Renewable Energy NW visit renewableenergynwllc.com.

Portland Business Is a Family Affair

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Written by Veronica Craker, Content and Communications Director

When Carey Flamer-Powell and her wife welcomed their daughter in 2011, it sparked a passion to give back that ultimately launched her Portland business, All Families Surrogacy.

“Once we had our daughter it was this amazing feeling of someone giving us a huge gift,” Flamer-Powell said. “There’s no way we could create that gift without the help from a perfect stranger.”

The same-sex couple turned to a fertility clinic in Portland to find a donor to help them have a child. For them, the process was relatively easy and within a year of trying, they were parents. But Flamer-Powell knew their case was special and there were families all over the world finding it difficult to have children.

In 2014 Flamer-Powell created All Families Surrogacy and her business exploded with growth.

“We went from zero to a very full clientele in about three months,” she said. “Surrogacy is a very high demand in the United States because there aren’t very many countries that do it.”

The most common form of surrogacy, and the one Flamer-Powell practices, is gestational surrogacy. With this type of surrogacy, the surrogate is simply the carrier and has no biological or legal ties to the baby.

“We are sort of the last country that practices it ethically, meaning all parties have separate legal representation,” Flamer-Powell said. “All parties are fully informed of the risks, legally, medically and psychologically.”

Compensation for surrogates can differ, but there is typically a base fee of $30,000 for first-time surrogates and $35,000 for experienced surrogates. This doesn’t include other expenditures that might pop up during the process.

“The biggest misconception about surrogacy is that people think surrogates are doing this for money and nothing could be further from the truth,” Flamer-Powell said.

Most of Flamer-Powell’s staff, including herself, have served as surrogates. This has provided everyone with a unique perspective on the process and has helped them create a warm environment for both the parents and the carrier.

The Surrogates

Angela Padilla, who serves as a surrogate case manager, was a surrogate for another company before going to work for All Families Surrogacy. She said she didn’t get the type of attention and support she was hoping to get when she signed up. But she’s found that with Flamer-Powell.

“I just wanted to help a family have a child because it happened so easily with me and my husband,” Padilla said. “Really, the parents should get the credit. Everything they’ve been through as parents, I don’t know if my husband and I could do that.”

Why BBB

About a year into her business Flamer-Powell decided to become BBB accredited. She said it is a way to offer peace of mind to her clients and surrogates.

“I want to ensure surrogates and the parents, we’re here for the long haul, we’re transparent and ethical, we have nothing to hide and we’re trying to do everything we can to provide stability in the world of surrogacy,” she said.

To learn more about Flamer-Powell’s business visit allfamiliessurrogacy.com.

Lunch Dates for Busy Singles

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Written by Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager

Patti LaFond, owner of BBB accredited coaching and matchmaking company Meet Me for Lunch in Anchorage, met her husband, Chuck, at a ‘break-up’ party she and her ex-boyfriend threw when their relationship ended after seven years.

Yes, that’s how they met.

LaFond started out as a tour operator and eventually specialized in Alaska tours for single women. She advertised the tours in AlaskaMen Magazine as “Experience Alaska and meet Alaskan men along the way.”

The themed packaged tours brought groups to Alaska six times a year, visiting Anchorage, Kodiak, Skagway, Fairbanks and Seward. That was how LaFond honed her matchmaking skills. Meet Me for Lunch evolved from these singles tours to a local service where Patti could facilitate introducing single people to each other to create long lasting relationships.

LaFond, who didn’t know anything about professional matchmaking, checked out other dating franchises before deciding to start her own company. She advertised in magazines, TV, radio and word-of-mouth resulting in a dating machine signing up an average of five people a day. This didn’t exactly sit in line with her values of bringing couples together for long-term relationships —not simply a revolving door dating service.

Today, matchmaking is just one part of her company. Her subsidiary, Dynamic Dating, is the coaching side of her business which includes in-person sessions and two signature eight-module programs. According to her statistics, there have been 90 plus marriages, with another 52 percent of people in her database in long-term relationships.

LaFond is a big supporter of Better Business Bureau after becoming accredited in 2009. She likens her business to a therapist’s office where everything discussed is personal.

“How else would someone check me out because everything is confidential,” she said. “I tell people to check me out with BBB.”

One of her successful matches was Alicia and Conrad Froh who met in 2009 through MMFL and married in 2012. Both were in their mid-50’s at the time. It was Alicia’s second date but Conrad’s ninth or tenth and he was about to give up.

Alicia had tried online dating sites before without success.

“There are too many variables that are missing on online dating sites. You don’t know what you’re getting,” she said. “With Patti’s company, you must pass a background check —she takes out the unknowns.”

When asked about consumers using online dating sites compared to a fee based matchmaking service like hers, LaFond responded that online dating sites are not competition.

“Go try and figure it out on your own,” she said. “Get the ball rolling. You are casting a big net going online with hardly any filters.”

LaFond believes personal coaching and the singles events she organizes sets her apart from other dating companies and has been a component in her success. She adds that woman feel safe using her services because she screens all participants.

LaFond believes dating is a bit different than it was 20, even 10 years ago. In the past, it was customary for men to be expected to pay for the date, while today splitting the check is totally acceptable. It was also once customary for men to make the initial phone call, but today women often make the first move.

One of the biggest differences now is how couples communicate. Between texting, email and social media the dating scene is constantly changing.

But LaFond points out one thing to remain constant is women still seek her out for discretion and security. While men use her services because it is more efficient and less time consuming.

They simply need to show up.

To learn more about Meet Me for Lunch visit meetmeforlunch.net.

New Incentives for Employers Help Workers Recover After a Workplace Injury

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Leah with one of her patients.

Written by Rena Shawver,  L&I Return to Work Partnerships

Leah’s Story

When a horse reared up behind her, all Leah could do was hope for the best as the 1,200-pound animal came down on top of her.  The vet tech knew instantly her back was broken.  After multiple surgeries to repair several breaks and a long recovery period, Leah had recovered physically as much as possible.  Among other things, her “new normal” meant no heavy lifting. She realized her permanent physical restrictions would not allow her to work with large animals again.  But being a veterinarian technician was the only work she knew; and she loved her job. 

Today, Leah is working full-time as a vet tech with a new employer at a small animal emergency clinic. Although she was hired for her skill, as a certified preferred worker through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), her employment comes with financial incentives that will benefit both her and her employer.

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Veterinarian technician Leah Wiltse-Perry was severely injured when a horse she was leading reared up and came down on her, breaking her back in several places. Through the Preferred Worker Program, she’s been able to find a medically-appropriate permanent job as a vet tech working with small animals at Pet Emergency Clinic in Spokane.

Supporting workers after recovery

Like Leah, some workers are not able to go back to their old jobs because of permanent medical restrictions caused by a workplace injury or illness. They’ve healed but are limited from doing certain tasks.

L&I certifies these workers through the Preferred Worker Program and provides financial incentives and premium relief to eligible employers who create medically-appropriate, long-term jobs for preferred workers.

Major changes to the Preferred Worker Program

Last January, the Washington State Legislature expanded the Preferred Worker Program to allow all employers in Washington State, including the employer of injury and self-insured employers, the opportunity to hire a preferred worker.

Under the rules of the expanded program, employers will receive the following:

  • Financial protection against subsequent claims,
  • Premium relief,
  • Bonus payment equal to 10% of the worker’s wages or $10,000, whichever is less, for continuous employment, and
  • Reimbursement for:
    • 50% of the base wages paid to the preferred worker, up to $10,000.
    • Some of the cost of tools, clothing, and equipment the worker needs to do the job.
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Leah shows her supervisor, Mike O’Dea, DVM, and her Vocational Service Specialist, Ellen Nagourney, how the modified equipment bought through L&I’s incentive programs help her at work.

Why offer incentives to support jobs?

Many employers at heart want to help their workers after an injury, but find making that transition from the job of injury to a new job that meets the worker’s physical or mental restrictions a hardship financially.

Preferred Worker Program incentives help the worker and employer keep their relationship, giving them extra support and guidance through a transition period often with the help of a vocational counselor.

Other return-to-work incentives

Stay at Work is another return-to-work incentive program. L&I reimburses eligible employers for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for injured workers while they heal. Employers covered through the workers’ compensation State Fund may qualify for financial incentives from both the Stay at Work Program and the Preferred Worker Program.

Hiring employers could also qualify for additional financial help to modify equipment at worksites that will help preferred workers complete certain work-related tasks.

Using return-to-work programs help lower an employers’ workers’ compensation costs both in the short and long-term.

Learn more about the Preferred Worker Program

Already, about 100 employers have contacted L&I with interest in hiring some of the 1,500 certified preferred workers who are ready to work and are supported by the financial incentives of the Preferred Worker Program.

To learn more, sign up for one of L&I’s  Preferred Worker workshops by going to www.Lni.wa.gov/PreferredWorker.  Or contact the Preferred Worker Program by phone at 1-800-845-2634 or by email at PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov to ask how to apply for preferred worker benefits.

Hear more about Leah’s story by watching this video.

January Scam Wrap-Up

Scam Computer Key

The following are scams that were reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in January. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA

This month there were 17 scams reported in Alaska with an estimated $6,100 lost.

Utility Scam

An Anchorage resident reported someone impersonated Municipal Light and Power in order to steal $300 from them. They claim they received a call from someone saying they needed to pay their electricity bill or they would be disconnected. The caller told them someone would be by their home in a few hours to disconnect the power if they didn’t pay up over the phone. After getting off the phone with the person the victim called back to say they were not with that utility company. The person on the other end of the phone preceded to pretend to be someone else. The Anchorage resident ceased communication.

Online Purchase Scam

An Anchorage man reported he lost $4,650 when he tried to purchase a Cockatoo for $1,400. The man claimed he was told to use United Pet Express to ship the bird. When he contacted the shipping company they informed him he needed to make a $2,400 deposit to cover any issues with delivery, which he did. Before the bird was shipped he was told he needed to pay $750 to cover the birds’ shots. Finally, he received a message from the “delivery man” stating he needed another $690 to drop off the bird and the refund. The man refused the pay any more money, and never received the bird.

OREGON

This month there were 83 scams reported in Oregon with an estimated $2,860 lost.

Counterfeit product

A Medford woman reports she lost $429 after she ordered two hoverboards from a California company for Christmas. The woman reports one of the hoverboards did not work. She called the company, but got a message stating the voicemail box was full. She emailed the company three times and got a response from customer service asking what was wrong with the machine. After explaining her problem, she never received a response. Her order did not come with a return address and repeated attempts to contact the company have not been answered.

Rental Home scam

A Gresham woman reported she lost $400 in a rental home scam. The woman reports she found a Craigslist ad for a rental house in Portland. The landlord said they lived in New York and requested she send a deposit via MoneyGram to his personal assistant and then he would send the keys. The women sent $400, but never received the keys.

IDAHO

This month there were 106 scams reported to Scam Tracker out of Idaho with an estimated $17,775 lost.

Facebook friend scam

A Caldwell man reported a fake Facebook friend tried to con him out of thousands of dollars. The man states he received a message on Facebook from who appeared to be an old friend of his. The friend said he had won $150,000 through a Facebook contest and the Caldwell man was also listed as a winner. He was told to send a message to “Agent Terry Williams” with “Non-Governmental Organization.” The man did this and was told by the “agent” that in order to receive his funds he would need to pay up. The man states: “He then sent me a list of amounts I could claim as my winnings starting at $100,000 and going up to $600,000. The catch here is that you pay $1,050 to claim $100,00, up to $10,500 to claim $600,000.” He was also told he needed to keep the contest a secret. The man became suspicious and reported the incident to BBB Scam Tracker.

Tax Collection scam

A Boise man reported he received an automated voice message claiming to be the IRS and he had a lawsuit and federal arrest warrant issued against him. He was told to call a number immediately. The man knew he did not have any legal action against him and did not call the number. He then reported the incident to BBB Scam Tracker.

MONTANA

This month there were 14 scams reported to Scam Tracker out of Montana with an estimated $300 lost.

Passport service scheme

A Manhattan woman reported she lost $178 when she tried to expedite the passport process for her five-year-old. The woman used an online service that told her they could help rush the process on obtaining a passport for her child. However, after paying the fee she contacted the National Passport Information Center and was informed the child had to be present at the office in order to obtain a passport and the information she was receiving from the business was not accurate.

Online Windows Support scam

A Deer Lodge woman reported she was almost victim of a tech scam. The woman reports she was working on her computer when she received a notice with a Microsoft logo telling her she had a virus and to call 877-767-7342. The woman called the number and spoke to man named “Bruno Williams.” He asked to do a diagnostic test to her computer remotely. The woman became suspicious and hung up on the man.

WASHINGTON

This month there were 200 scams reported to Scam Tracker out of Washington with an estimated $9,600 lost.

Online pet purchase scam

A Spanaway woman reported she lost $505 in a pet purchase scam. The woman reports she purchased a puppy from http://www.modestshihtzu.com via MoneyGram. The woman states once the seller received the money they requested additional funds to transport the dog in a special crate. When she refused, the seller told her they would deliver a dead puppy at her doorstep. The woman ceased speaking with the seller, but have received threatening emails from them.

Pierce County Sheriff Imposter Scam

A Buckley woman reports she received a call from someone claiming to be with the Pierce County Sheriff. The woman reports she received a call from a “Lt. Parker” who told her a warrant had been issued for her arrest for failure to appear for a civil duty court in December. She became suspicious when the caller told her she needed to purchase $1,975 in MoneyPak cards and to call the “Sheriff’s Treasurer” to give them the confirmation numbers so she wouldn’t be arrested when she went to the sheriff’s office to sign some paperwork. The woman contacted her local police department and confirmed the call was a scam.

December Scam Wrap-Up

Sign Scam Represents Rip Off And Scams

The following are scams that were reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in December. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA 

This month there were eight scams reported in Alaska with an estimated $10,600 lost.

Lottery Winner Scam

An Anchor Point woman reported she received a notice in the mail stating she won an international lottery. The letter claimed she needed to travel to Madrid, Spain to collect the $4 million prize.

Debt Collection Scam

A woman from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson reported they were contacted by “CFS,” an unknown mediation firm attempting to collect debt from him. The debt collector stated he was hired by Midland Financial, but the woman reports she spoke with Midland Financial and they had no record of “CFS” or the man he spoke with.

OREGON 

This month there were 38 scams reported in Oregon with an estimated $14,000 lost.

Grandparent Scam

A Eugene man reported he was a target of the “family emergency” scam. The man reports he received a call from someone asking him if they knew who he was talking too. The man told the caller he thought they were his grandson. The caller said they were in fact his grandson and that he got into trouble in Florida. The caller said he needed assistance getting out of jail. The Eugene man called his actual grandson who told him he was not in Florida, but was in Oregon getting ready for work.

Yellow Pages Invoice Scam

A Portland woman reported she received a fake invoice from Yellow Pages Oregon. The woman reports the fax requested she verify her information for a free listing. The woman responded to the fax and a month later she received a $1,100 bill claiming she had signed a legally binding one-year advertising contract. The woman reports she still receives notices with additional fees added to the original bill.

MONTANA 

This month there were three scams reported in Montana with an estimated $550 lost.

Debt Collections Scam

A Missoula woman reported someone she knows received a call from a man claiming to be with the Consumer Assistance Bureau. The man called to claim a debt for her “elderly friend” that needed to be paid immediately or she would have to go to court and pay a $100 late fee. The woman reports the man threatened her and another person who called to check on him.

Online Purchase Scam

A Bozeman woman reported she lost $553.50 to an online purchase scam. The woman reports she purchased a trial of eye and face creams for $10.90. Afterward, she received the items again for five months, with costs totaling $553.50. The woman reports she did not agree to having the product sent monthly. The products arrived without paperwork, tracking number, confirmation number or receipt.

IDAHO 

This month there were 36 scams reported in Idaho with an estimated $675 lost.

Dish Network Scam

A Rigby woman reported she received a call from a Dish Network representative who offered to upgrade her service for free. She agreed and gave them the last four digits of her social security number to process the upgrade. Then they informed her she needed to send them $150. The woman hung up on the caller and called Dish Network and they told her someone was spoofing their phone number to convince people to give them money.

Breast Cancer Donation Scam

A Meridian woman reported someone by the name of “Sara” called her continuously for five weeks asking for donations to a cancer charity. They requested a $200 donation to be paid by credit or debit card. The woman asked the caller to send information about the charity, but they stated it costs money for stamps so they couldn’t send her anything. Eventually, the woman contacted the American Cancer Society and was told they do not call to solicit donations.

WASHINGTON 

This month there were 59 scams reported in Washington with an estimated $11,000 lost.

Lottery Scam

A Yakima man reported he received a letter stating he won $1.3 million. He was told he needed to send $12.99 cash, money order or check to receive the award. The man reports he did not enter a contest.

Grant Loan Scam

A Yakima woman reported she received a phone call from someone offering her an unsecured loan for $1,000. All she had to do was purchase a $120 Amazon gift card and call them back with the number. The woman did not buy the gift card.

WYOMING

This month there was one scam reported in Western Wyoming.

A Jackson woman reports she received a phone call from someone claiming to be collecting donations for Wyoming veterans. The woman had never heard of the charity and asked to be removed from their call list. The caller continues to call the woman asking for donations.

 

Top Five Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now

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Written by guest blogger Corianne Burton, SEO Specialist with N2Q Consulting

“Make the customer number one.” “The customer is always right.” “Customer service is priority numero uno.”

These platitudes may seem tired, but they speak a long-known marketing truth. However, foundational marketing often makes the mistake of simply denying the fact that the customer comes first.

Thinking you know better than your audience, seeing consumers as numbers and not people, and failing to give customers their due attention are seemingly trite mantras from days of old… but they’ll come back to haunt you. If you become tone deaf to these truths, you’ll pay in lost traffic, missed prospects and opportunities, and even your loyal, long-time customers going a new direction. The good news is that you can still take back the success of your marketing campaigns. Just make sure to address these key foundational errors that many marketing firms make.

1. Thinking You Have All the Answers

…Or thinking that you need to have them. Marketing is tricky; it’s an ever-changing field of consumer attraction. While you may have great ideas, keeping current and creative requires humility. You must step back from all the good that you know (or, believe you should know) in order to listen. To learn. To ask questions.

Stop relying on the tried and not-so-true marketing methods. They only maintain the status quo and – as you can tell by our name – this is something we don’t like. To say no to the quo and move into the great beyond, you must listen to experts in the field, ask questions and get creative with marketing efforts that work well for your company and with its goals. If you need help, ask. After all, holding fast to the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades may hurt your endgame.

2. Believing One Size-Fits-All

Furthermore, making assumptions and following stock strategies reaps problems for campaigns and your client relationships. In other words, marketing proposed to “fit everyone” likely fits no one. Failing to listen to your audience or understand the goals of your company lead to lackluster marketing campaigns.

Focus on a segmented, targeted audience rather than a broad one. Taking into account the habits, triggers, interests, goals and hopes of prospects allows you to tailor your marketing to better meet their needs. Plus, matching these details to the goals, products and services of your company helps build relationships. This considerate attention leads to loyal customers.

3. Avoiding the Social Scene

You may desire to remain aloof from the crowd (whether digital or real world), but being antisocial in marketing efforts hurts your business. While social media proves vital to success (for those companies whose customers engage with it), half-hearted efforts produce full failures. Yes, nothing is better than a poorly run campaign.

To take advantage of social media, make sure you’re attending to Facebook or blog comments and questions. Build relationships rather than broadcasting or promoting yourself through these platforms. You’ll be rewarded by knowing more about your audience. The truth is consumers want to know that you see who they are beyond a mere notch in your sales belt.

4. Not Taking Advantage of Analytics

In the activity of a week, assessing the impact of marketing campaigns by “feel” proves difficult. Often this critical assessment gets set aside for lead chasing and advertising. Yet, marketing 101 teaches that tracking and measuring results is crucial for knowing what is working.

Fortunately, a host of analytics offer help in determining your return on investment. Google Analytics, social media analytics such as Facebook insights, and email campaign data give feedback to let you know where adjustments need to be made for greater success. Use the figures and switch up campaigns by concentrating your efforts on what works.

5. Failing to Draft a Strategy

Digital marketing and technology bring a flurry of business boosting options to your door step. It’s exciting! Unfortunately, these opportunities also prove overwhelming, even paralyzing to your marketing efforts. Or, if you eagerly jump in with both feet wherever you can, you run the risk of landing in the wrong place.

Marketing objectives and goals culminating in a strategy are vital. Identify where you want to go and the tactics on how to get there become clearer. Plus, assessing each marketing component to ensure it leads to the same destination proves easier. Your analytics will more accurately measure what you intend to when your direction is set.

The Wrap

Whether you go DIY or hire a creative agency to get your efforts flowing, addressing the details of your marketing campaign proves critical to your success. Your audience does come first. The customer really is numero uno.

Humble yourself to listen to your prospects, customers, industry experts and even your competition to adopt a marketing strategy which tailor fits your company and demographic. Engage with your audience to build loyal relationships. Be sure to use analytics to measure and adjust as needed.

Doing nothing out of fear or everything out of eagerness yields poor marketing results. Money and time are precious commodities poured into these efforts. Use them wisely by developing an intentional marketing campaign that avoids these top marketing mistakes.

To speak with a beyond the status quo marketing firm for help with any marketing efforts that overwhelm or allude you, reach out to N2Q today. We love to see you succeed.

 

How to Refresh Your Brand in 2017

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The close of one year and the start of the next brings many things. For most individuals and businesses a new year means a new start, providing a clean slate with which to move forward. While this may not be technically correct – after all, the clock striking midnight on New Year’s Eve doesn’t erase previous performance – the mindset of change and starting over can be refreshing, especially for small businesses with big goals.

Whether 2016 was a year overflowing with success or wrought with challenges, the coming of 2017 is the perfect time to refresh your brand, fine tune your focus, and get started on the right foot. A brand refresh can have great potential, reminding you of your vision, ensuring consistency, and encouraging growth rather than stagnation. Here’s what you can do to ensure 2017 is your best year yet.

Connect With Your Audience

Most companies choose to leave outsiders in the dark when it comes to business strategy. For many, this is a logical decision, preventing competitors from overtaking your ability to gain ground. However, this approach can have the opposite effect with customers, putting up walls that create unnecessary distance.

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to inspire some loyalty and emotional ties. Consider posting a blog summarizing your activity and successes in 2016 and thanking your customers and fans for all that they do for you. When shared on social media, these posts provide the kind of information that stimulates a connection between you and your customers.

Target a New Market

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If you’re a small company or a new business, you may not be reaching everyone who can make use of your products and services. In order to maximize potential, use the start of a new year as inspiration to grow and improve.

Take time with your marketing team, and review who you are targeting, what you are targeting, and where the majority of your sales are coming from. With this information, you can draw conclusions regarding what areas you can approach more aggressively, and which audiences likely aren’t receiving the attention they deserve.

Reevaluate Costs

Even the most successful companies in the world can feel the pain of pinching pennies. To improve your odds of financial success in the new year, it’s important to take a deep dive into your expense reports.

Start from the top down and evaluate each category that drives your spending. Sure, you may not be able to do anything about monthly rent, but making minor energy saving changes, like limiting printing to must-have reports, can really add up over the course of the year. Look for unnecessary expenses that your team can do without that won’t compromise employee morale, and make some cuts for the new year.

Try New Marketing Techniques

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How you market your products and services can be a great opportunity for growth and change. With so many options from social media marketing to email newsletters, there’s bound to be a strong strategy you’ve never considered.

Instead of doing the same things day after day, take a look at what your marketing campaigns may be lacking. Are you tracking your success with Google Analytics? Are you focusing solely on Twitter instead of taking advantage of Facebook? By taking the time to identify shortcomings, you can find a great way to move forward in the new year.

Brainstorm New Ideas

When the status quo is positive, it’s easy to fall into a predictable rhythm every year. However, there’s no good way to grow without incorporating changes. The start of another year is the perfect time to start brainstorming new ideas, whether that means putting more focus into research and development, or simply improving community relations with volunteer activities.

Consider putting out a suggestion box and soliciting ideas from your team. Take at least one option offered, whether functional or recreational, and implement it company-wide. This strategy not only shows that you listen to feedback, but can also demonstrate a willingness to keep moving forward.

A brand refresh offers many benefits, providing a new perspective on your corporate identity and an opportunity to build connections with current and prospective customers alike. If you’d like to do more than simply exist in the new year, this can be your chance to revitalize your brand and move your business forward. By changing up marketing techniques, building emotional connections, and launching new products or services, you help ensure that 2017 will be a smashing success.

Have a Healthy and Happy 2017!

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In 2016 consumers turned to BBB serving the Northwest more than 5,328 times to look up health clubs, fitness centers, and gyms. Unfortunately, BBB has processed an estimated 90 complaints for the fitness industry in 2016 as well. The complaints ranged from billing and collection issues to contract issues.

To get the most out of your membership and to avoid signing up for something you can’t afford and won’t use, follow these tips:

  • Warm up with a tour. Before signing up at any gym, ask to take a tour of the facilities. Make sure the gym has the equipment, classes, and trainers you are looking for. Ask about busy times, wait times for equipment, whether classes require pre-registration, availability, and cost of trainers.
  • Look for discounts. Gyms often offer specials at the beginning of the year. From free week passes to heavy discounts to first time members, this is a great way to see if the gym is a good fit for you and save on sign up costs.
  • Don’t feel coerced. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join right away. A reputable gym will want you to read the contract thoroughly before signing up. Make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are also in writing. Be sure to ask about the cancellation policies and how membership is renewed.
  • Know the true costs. Gyms often use special introductory offers to encourage new members, but the price could go up more than you budgeted once the initial period is over. Make sure you understand what the regular monthly fees will be and what they include.
  • Check bbb.org. BBB has Business Reviews on more than 15,000 health clubs, fitness centers, and gyms. Read what previous customers say and see how the businesses respond to complaints.

To find a list of accredited fitness centers in the Northwest visit our Accredited Business Directory.

How to Track Social Media in Google Analytics

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As they say, ignorance is bliss.

Unfortunately, this generally doesn’t apply to digital marketing. In fact, ignorance may be as far from bliss as possible, especially if your social media accounts aren’t performing to your standards.

For those with no way to track website performance and metrics, it can be easy to believe that you’re hitting all of your benchmarks, driving new traffic, and harvesting adequate leads. Overlooking weak spots and missing pain points completely is also possible without a good way to objectively evaluate how your social media accounts are functioning.

Luckily, there’s a better way. Google Analytics is a free tool widely used by novice webmasters and seasoned veterans alike. It offers an easy way to evaluate traffic sources and determine the effectiveness of social media campaigns. Providing insight into the many facets of site functionality, Google Analytics can unwrap your website’s performance, uncovering the truth about what your digital marketing is able to accomplish.

Curious? Here’s how you can make the most of your social media stats:

Track Traffic Sources

Many marketers erroneously believe that as long as website traffic stays steady, everything must be fine. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Without a solid understanding of where your customers are coming from and how they’re getting to you, it’s very challenging to get a full picture of consumer web behavior. Google Analytics is extremely valuable in this arena, breaking down traffic from exact point of origin.

Under the category Real Time there is a section called Traffic Sources. From here you will be able to see exactly where traffic to your website is originating, a function that silos results based on individual traffic sources. Many of these sources should be expected; most marketers see many results from Google and direct access, as well as social media sites, blog posts, and more. Take the time to go through your most popular sources, and determine which are social media sites and see how these sites rank overall.

Set Goals with Campaigns

In order to truly hone in on how your social media marketing campaigns are working, Google Analytics lets users set up goals. This feature allows you to narrow your results, tracking specific features regarding how consumers perform once they reach your site.

Under the Admin tab, click Goals, and then select New Goal. In the fields provided, enter the data you wish to track, including pages visited or viewing duration. Choose a name that summarizes what you’d like to accomplish, and select Destination as the type. Then, in the destination field, enter the tail end of the URL you’d like to track. For example, if you’d like to see how many Twitter followers make a purchase, you can set this field to reflect your Thank You page. Users can also add monetary value tracking or incorporate a sequence of pages through the Funnel feature.

View Conversions

For most marketers, conversions are an end goal. Fortunately, Google Analytics makes tracking conversions easy, providing access to one-click insight by going to the Acquisitions menu, selecting All Traffic, and then choosing Channels. From here, users can enable the Social view to see exactly how social media sites break down.

The report generated here will include many valuable stats, including goal conversion rates, goal completions, and goal value, providing a great overview into how your goals are performing for each social site. Users can also utilize the Assisted Conversions report, accessed under the Conversions menu under Multi-Channel Funnels. This report maps which leads were originally, but maybe not specifically, a result of social media marketing. For example, a customer may have found your site through social media, clicked away, and then used Google to find your page again days later in order to make a purchase.

Draw Conclusions

Google Analytics is a great start, but numbers alone can’t tell you how to improve. Instead, you need to learn from what information you have available, using it to develop insights that can be applied to boost your social performance. Devise questions that relate to social behaviors and see how your customers are fitting into the mold. What social media sites have the highest visits? Do Facebook leads have a longer page duration? Is your traffic from Twitter viewing more pages on average?

Formulating these questions can help you get to the root of your social media successes and failures, especially when you are running specific campaigns. For example, if visitors from Twitter are spending more time on your landing page but don’t see a reason to click through, perhaps your marketing materials are misleading.

For marketers at all stages of the game, access to analytics can be the demarcation between growth potential and slowing sales. Google Analytics can provide many of the insights you need to improve performance, putting game-changing resources right at your fingertips.