Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Technology's Impact on Marketing

For the last thirteen years Coca-Cola (KO) has held the number one slot as the world's most valuable brand. But it was only a matter of time before the the well known brand was knocked from its thrown. But it didn't just drop to second, but third place. Who finally unseated this soda giant? According to the Market Intelligence Center Apple took over as king of the marketing hill, with Google taking a close second.

The annual report by consulting company Interbrand that lists the years “Best Global Brands” has been released every year since 2000. This is the first year since the reporting began that Coke has not taken first place. In 2011, Apple ranked eighth on the list, but few are surprised that they have made it to the top of the list. The fact that they barely surpassed Google did surprise some. However, with the massive increase in technology, how people communicate, work, play, and shop, many are not surprised. Mr. Jez Frampton, a chief executive at Interbrand, felt it was only a matter of time before technology took over the top spots.
Among the top ten best global brands, five of them are in the technology industry.

While executive vice president and chief marketing leadership officer Mr. Joseph V Tripodi did express disappointment at no longer holding the top spot, he stated that they were honored to be included in such an esteemed group of global brands and congratulate both Apple and Google on their success.

The face of marketing continues to change with the times. New technology has opened marketing doors that were not available before. With an ever increasing global market, social media, advanced viewing devices, and broader accessibility, the face of marketing will continue to change. With Facebook's 2012 IPO and the hype surrounding Twitter's pending decision to go public, marketing experts will have to stay on their toes. Apple and Google had better stay on their toes too – remaining on top may be more difficult than they imagined. Technology is moving faster every day, and as many marketing directors are finding out, things can change in just a short period of time.

If your company is looking for help with marketing solutions that you can afford, we can help. We are committed to providing quality services at an affordable price. Contact us to find out how we can help your company increase their profits while reducing cost.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Small Business Tips: Formatting Your Emails So They Get Read

Tweeting, text messaging, and blogging are all the rage when it comes to small business communications with customers and other businesses. And yet, emails remain as popular as ever because of their advantages. They're easy to compose and require only an Internet connection to send. Recipients receive your message instantly but can take their time reading it and responding. To get the maximum benefit from using emails, follow these guidelines.

·         Keep it short. Emails are not the place to show off the essay-writing skills you learned in English class. Your recipients are busy people who want to digest your message quickly. Make sure your emails talk only about one subject and average about five to ten sentences long. If you must discuss something more extensively, put the discussion in a PDF or document, and upload it with the email.
·         Use descriptive headers. If you want recipients to read your emails right away, tell them exactly what it's about in the header. Avoid pithy titles like “My Reply” or “Need Your Okay.” Instead, use complete sentences that describe the content, such as “I Need Your Approval on This Budget Proposal by Thursday.”
·         Break it up. To make your message easier to scan, avoid writing it with one solid block of text. Break it up into multiple short paragraphs. If you must describe three or more items, break the enumeration into lists. Use bullets if the items have the same importance or numbers to show importance or a sequence.
·         Include pictures. Pictures can show rather than tell, thereby eliminating dozens or hundred of words. However, be sure to explain briefly in text what the picture is about. Use images that are 100K or less for quicker transmission and downloading. If you need to rely on larger graphics, store the image on a picture site and then post a link to it.

If you want more information on improving your small business communications, please contact us.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Warning Signs That You Need to Find a Bookkeeper

Do you find yourself wondering if it might be time to find a bookkeeper?  Here are five warning signs that it might be time to take this step – although many times you are in way over your head if they occur.

  1. Your banker or business advisor has requested financial statements.  If this happens and you do not have your bookkeeping records in order, you need to act fast.  The trick will be to find a bookkeeper who can get this information processed fast enough to meet your deadline.

  1. You are getting angry phone calls from suppliers looking for payment.  Everyone can miss paying an invoice now and then. But if you are consistently late paying your suppliers, you risk losing your credit privileges and your business may be in peril if you can’t purchases your supplies or inventory.

  1. You don’t know how much money you have coming in.  If you can’t keep track of your accounts receivables, you won’t know if people are late paying you.  Unfortunately, some customers may take advantage of this if they know they can get away with paying you late.

  1. You’ve hired an employee and need to pay them.  Once you’ve crossed the threshold of not being able to run your business on your own, you must find a bookkeeper who can take care of payroll for you.  The employee and income tax laws are generally too complex for many small business owners to handle on their own.

  1. You are having problems keeping track of your business and personal expenses.  This is a huge red flag.  If you get audited and you have not kept careful records, the government may disallow certain expenses even if they were genuinely business related.  Also, if you tend to lose receipts, you can easily miss out on business expenses that you could be writing off.

So if you have encountered any of the above warning signs, consider it time to find a bookkeeper. Imagine Solutions is here to help! Call us today for a Free Consultation! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Miranda's Cooking Creations - Cheese Enchilada Lasagna & Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole (Both Gluten Free)

So I have been in a cooking mood lately. Here are two new Gluten Free Recipes I have come up with.

 Cheese Enchilada Lasagna

  • GF Cream of Chicken Soup 8oz
  • Sour Cream 8oz
  • Chopped Green Chilies 4oz
  • Mexican Melting Cheese - one wheel
  • Mexican Crumble Cheese - one wheel, crumbled
  • White Corn Tortillas
  • Monterey Jack Shredded Cheese - 1 bag
  1. Put Soup, sour cream, green chilies and half of the melting cheese in a pot on the stove and warm it up.
  2. in 9x13 pan spread a spoonful of the mixture on the bottom of the pan.
  3. lay out corn tortillas across the pan, top with the crumbling cheese and sauce.
  4. continue layering till you reach the top of the pan.
  5. spread the monterey jack cheese on top.
  6. Bake at 350 till bubbly and Enjoy!  To add some protein to the meal, ad some shredded chicken to the sauce mix. 
Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole
  • 1lb cooked chicken- cubed
  • 1 package cubed ham
  • 1 can of GF Cream of Chicken Soup 8oz
  • 6 slices of Swiss Cheese
  • 6 slices of Havarti Cheese
  • 1 stick of butter - melted
  • GF Stuffing Mix or GF Bread Crumbs
  1. mix chicken, ham and soup in casserole dish
  2. top with cheese, alternating slices of cheese, cover entire bottom.
  3. mix stuffing and butter together and top the casserole dish.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 30-40 mins or until bubbly.
I hope you enjoy these recipes as much my co-workers, family, friends and I do. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Building Businesses: Don't Rely On Traditional Methods

The businesses of today are not anything like their counterparts from the past. They are more likely to be online business, less focused on traditional means of growth and more about the customer experience.Building businesses today takes a whole different set of rules than did building up businesses in the past. 
It is important to note the changing climate in the business world and take advantage of it. For one thing, just about anyone can start their own business today if they have the desire to. Considering the number of online businesses that exist, it is easy to see why this door is more open to many people now than it ever was in the past. 
Online businesses rely on customer service. This is because there are so many potential websites that a person could choose to go to that it only makes sense for them to choose the one that treats them right. As such, customer service is the most valuable element that an online business can have. Having a staff that can handle customers is an option. For smaller startups, it is sometimes just a matter of having the right personality and temperament that suits customers. 
The experience that the customer receives at the website is what is going to make them tell their friends about it. Easy navigation, quick service, and top flight service is what they are looking for. That is what will make them tell their friends about a website. 
Traditional means of opening up a business for the most part no longer apply. Instead, other routes are being taken to bring businesses into being. The Internet is a great place to get started. 
For answers to any other questions about getting a business started, contact us today. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

How to Investigate Potential Employees for Your Small Business

Congratulations on growing your small business so successfully that you now need the help of an employee or two. That decision will allow you to do more to meet your customers' needs. Large corporations have an array of investigative services they can use to check out potential candidates. Your company can't afford that luxury yet, but there's one thing you can look at beyond the resumes and cover letters of applicants. Investigate what they've done online.
  • Look on the candidate's social pages, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Tumbler, to see what he likes to do when he's not at work. You may find his posts railing against the government and photos of his drunken escapades amusing or showing a serious lack of discretion and professionalism. If he limits access to his social pages only to his friends, ask him to friend you.
  • Use Google Search to find any mention of your applicants online. If they have common names, you may have to qualify the search by adding their locations, employers, or jobs. Look under the Images, Videos and New options. If the individual is particularly active online, use Google Alerts to email you when any new activity about that person appears on the web.
  • Examine the details of his employment on LinkedIn or other job hunting sites. Do all the dates, employers, tasks match the resume sent to you? Or are their serious discrepancies, which could indicate careless at best and deception at worst?
If your investigations reveal something that concerns you, don't be afraid to question your candidate about it during the interview. He may have perfectly logical explanations for it. For more information on what to do for your small business, please contact us.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Is Workers Comp Necessary for Your Small Business?

There are small businesses sprouting up everywhere and thanks to the Internet, you can manage and grow your own business with ease and professionalism. Small side cleaning businesses, sales operations, cupcake bakers and baby-sitting operations have become full time endeavors for some; and though you can do a lot of things on your own, sometimes you do need others to work for you so that you can manage the operation.

Employees or Independent Contractors?

Though many small companies are opting to have independent contractor arrangements with workers, some still prefer to have employees instead of contractors as a personal preference. If this is your choice, workers comp must be a consideration for you.

When it comes to workers comp, various states have different requirements. For example, some states do not require you to have workers compensation insurance if you have less than three workers, while others require you to have it if you have one independent contractor who is subcontracting out jobs.

There are some trades that sometimes don't require you to get workers compensation insurance including, housekeepers, child care workers, farm workers, non-profit employees and paper boys. However, these trades are going to vary state by state.

What if You Don't Want the Hassle?
If you really don't want to hassle with workers compensation, then working only with independent contractors is the best way to go. However, if you really must have employees and subcontractors, there are things you can do if you don't want to get this type of insurance.

Basically, you have to make sure to cover yourself, especially if you have workers out doing any sort of physical jobs. In order to cover yourself effectively, you want to consult a lawyer and draw up several contracts. Your lawyer might also have additional contracts that he will recommend for you based on specific rules in your home state.

The basic contracts you will need your immediate subcontractors to sign include:
  • A contract stating that they carry adequate liability insurance on the work that they do.
  • A contract stating that they are taking care of workman's compensation, unemployment taxes, and any other taxes and benefits related matters on anyone working on the job under them
  • A contract or waiver stating that all of their subs have been paid out (This contract must be signed after the job is complete and before you make the final payout. This insures that subcontractors you have no immediate relationship with, do not have legal grounds to come after you or any private property owners of the job site for non-payment)
Contact us to learn more strategies to increase the efficiency of your business.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hesitant About Implementing A Social Media Strategy? Now Is The Time...

Do you have a presence on social media, and is it working for you today?  This is a very important question that all businesses should now be asking themselves.  With social media being the preferred method for finding an evaluating a small business, it is vital that your image is polished and compelling.  You will only have a brief window to capture your potential customer's attention and you need to create a place that keeps them focused on you and your product or service.  Social media is no place for boring.

The idea should be to stimulate a conversation.  It can be between you and your customer or between your customer's themselves.  Social media can serve to help you monitor your reputation as well.  This will be the first place your unhappy customer will come to complain.  It is also the best place for you to showcase your business through images and video.  This is the place for you to let your personality shine through and connect with your customers in a way you could never do through a glossy brochure or sales call.

Forbes Online recently examined some of the reasons small business has been reluctant to use social media:
  • Building my brand on the web would take a lot of time that I just don’t have.
  • I’m not sure what to do with social media, so I do nothing.
  • I like real-world networking; social media is not right for me.
  • I’m in a small niche and am known to all the people who need to know me, so it would be a waste of time.
  • I don’t see how social media can help me do my job.
  • There are too many options (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Pinterest, Google+, etc.). I don’t know which are right for me.
If this conversation is one you have had with yourself, think again.  There are only a few things you need to do to get started: 

You should have a "voice" on every platform that you can handle.  Different types of customers prefer different methods of social media communication.  Did you know that  "YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 than any cable network"?  If this is the demographic you wish to attract, you should create a channel and start making videos that help you "connect" with this customer group.  It is not necessary to create a presence on every platform, keeping it active and interesting can be a big job so only set up what you can properly maintain.

When you have everything up and running, including a professional image and interesting information, you can begin to build a following.  Remember, once you have started this process it is very important that you do not abandon it to decay.  Your "followers" will expect fresh conversation regularly and will disengage with those sites and feeds that don't hold their attention.  It will also take some time to build your social media presence and following so be patient and be consistent.

This is what social media is all about, communicating with your customers and colleagues.  Here is your opportunity to put a face and a voice to your business.  You can engage your audience through questions, create informative infographics and even share humor or industry specific news.  Keep the conversation focused on your customer and their needs and less on your sales pitch.  If you can encourage customers to post photos of themselves using your product, you can keep an ongoing interaction fresh and interesting for a very long time.

We all know that social media influences customers when it comes to their decisions to buy, or not.  Social media also makes it much easier for people to share their experiences with each other, good or bad.  Be absolutely sure that you keep all interactions as positive as possible, but not sterile.  If you address a complaint that comes up, quickly and with great customer service, you will earn more customers than if there were no complaints at all.  Make monitoring your number one job and your presence on social media will bring you a great return on your investment.

If you would like to discuss your social media strategy and make sure you are taking full advantage of all the opportunities it can afford, contact us and let's talk.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Biggest Trends In Web Design

Help Me Imagine Websites

Help Me Imagine my website! 

Web design has been evolving constantly since the birth of the web, but the last few years have seen some especially dramatic changes. If you have a website and haven't updated your design, it might be time to take a look and decide whether a redesign or all new site is right for you.

Here are a few features that have emerged in the last couple of years as indispensable:

Responsive Web Design

Responsive design allows your site to run on multiple devices and browser sizes seamlessly and without image clipping or reading difficulties. In the past, mobile devices often had difficulties running on conventional websites, which were typically designed for large computer monitors. Responsive design allows a site to run on any size monitor, without the laborious development of separate designs for each individual platform. Responsive design saves development time and money, reduces site complexity, and lets your site look the best that it can.

Use of a Content Management System

Once upon a time, updating a website was a process that involved delving into layers of code - even if the necessary change was something so small as adding a couple of words to a particular paragraph. Some sites may still be built in this way today - and they'll look great. However, better alternatives have emerged. Content Management Systems serve as an invisible system beneath your site's service. A CMS will allow you to update and manage your site without ever looking at any code.

Design Language

One last thing you should consider is the way in which your site is designed. The rise of mobile web-browsing has seen a shift to easy-to-read, standardized buttons and icons that display well on a relatively small screen. This allows mobile users to have the best possible experience, while also looking great on desktops, too.

Take a look at Imagine Solutions if you're considering a new design.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Get You Marketing Strategies from Imagine Solutions

It is time to develop a marketing campaign to promote your products.  There are quite a few ways to get your message across to your customers.  However, some methods may be better suited for the needs of your company.  Here are a few helpful marketing strategies to get you started in developing your campaign.

E-mail, Website, or Social Media
Since most of the world is connected using the Internet, e-mail, websites, and social media are fantastic ways to reach your customers.  You will want to avoid creating spam, so a better alternative might be to develop a website.  You can promote the website and urge customers and potential customers to enter their e-mail addresses and send them special offers that way.  You can also publicize your social media medium on the website and other places on the Internet, which will attract a greater audience.

Traditional Advertising and Events
You should attend events to create social networking among potential business partners and clients, allowing them to see that you are genuine and can back up what you say.  By attending events, you can also show that you honor commitments.  Events are related to traditional advertising because they both have been done for quite some time.  Traditional advertising will be especially effective with the older population because they may not be as familiar with the Internet as the younger population.  Traditional advertising should include TV advertisements, radio advertisements, and advertisements on public walls, windows, or billboards.

In-person Interactions and Direct Mail
If someone comes into your office seeking a product, you want to win their business.  You can do this by having effective in-person interactions.  You should show the customer that you care about their needs.  Direct mail can also help to show potential customers that you value the business relationship.  You can follow up in-person interactions with mail being sent directly to the customer’s home.  This follows-up on your offer and helps to let you know if the customer is still interested.

Quality Over Quantity
You can have 100 advertisements out there in the world through the Internet and traditional advertising, but it will do no good if the quality is bad.  It is more important to have good quality over quantity.  A good design team can help you develop the most effective and appealing advertisements.  It is important to remember that quality is also related to matching the advertisement content to the target audience.

These are only a few effective marketing strategies but all of them should attract new customers for your company.  You need to remember that marketing strategies need to be changed regularly to provide fresh information for customers.  What worked a year ago for attracting customers may not work today.  Contact us at Imagine Solutions to find out how best to market your products and services.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Paperless Accounting Systems: Advantages and Disadvantages

Paperless accounting systems, also known as cloud accounting software, is, quite simply, accounting software hosted on remote servers and is becoming increasingly popular with businesses today.  However, there are numerous advantages and disadvantages of using this software.  It is ultimately your decision as to whether cloud accounting software is a viable option for you and your business.

Reduced cost.     Cloud accounting software can save your business quite a bit of money.  Since it is hosted on remote servers, you have no need to purchase hardware.  There is no need for updates, since the servers automatically keep the software up-to-date.  Since cloud accounting software is maintained by the service provider, you have no need to worry about maintenance or overhead costs.

Ease of access.     You can access your cloud accounting software anywhere.  Since it is hosted on remote servers, there is no downloading or installing involved.  This allows you to quickly access the software, complete your task, then disconnect.  All you need is computer and internet access.

Potential downtime.     When using cloud accounting software, you are dependent on your internet connection.  In short, if it is down, you will not be able to access the software.  Additionally, occasionally the server that your software is hosted on will be down due to outages.  If this occurs, you will not be able to access the software.

Security issues.     Since cloud accounting software is hosted on remote servers, there is a risk of your data being stolen.  When choosing cloud accounting software, you will want to be sure you are working with reputable and reliable service providers.  A good rule of thumb:  If you are not comfortable putting it on the internet, do not put it on cloud accounting software. 

Your business could benefit from implementing cloud accounting software.  Contact us at Imagine Solutions Group for more information.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to treat car deductions.

Own a small or one-person business and want the best car deduction? Here's your options:

1. Purchase the car in the name of your corporation or LLC and pay for all auto expenses and gasoline by the business... Of course if you don't use the car 100% for business, you'll have to have a journal entry notated in your books that gives you a distribution/draw for the amount equivalent to percentage of personal use
2. Purchase the car personally and then have the business give you an auto allowance per month (to cover gas, maintenance and car insurance that you personally obtained)
3. Purchase the car personally and then have the business reimburse your mileage

Which is best?

Depends on how well you keep records and how much you use the car for personal stuff. For *most* people, #1 will give you a slightly higher deduction than #3--but it's more work. Between #2 and #1, #2 gives you the potential to receive the best deduction as you're getting money tax free (as an individual) to pay your insurance, maintenance, etc. The hard part about #2 is that you would have to keep good car records and report the actual mileage to the company on a consistent basis. ‪#‎HelpMeImagine‬

Friday, July 12, 2013

You Have Business Plans, Now What?

Everyone starting a business was told at one point to create a business plan.  You read about, applied your knowledge and created the rough draft.  It was tweaked and fine-tuned to perfection, and now you're ready to implement your strategy.  As you get underway, sometimes plans written on paper doesn't work the way you envisioned.  The plan may look good on paper, but isn't good on execution.  Delays or distractions can steer you away from following the plan step by step.  You may discover another strategy that works better than what's written down.  Life happens, and companies must learn how to make lemonade out of lemons.

Many business men and women have a plan, but never look at it.  How will you know if the business plan is going according to plan if you don't look at it?  Review the plan based on how well the business is going.  It should be reviewed no later than yearly, but there are exceptions.  Companies with business expansions, targeting new markets, introducing new products and cash flow problems need to look at the plan monthly or quarterly.

Business plans come with a marketing plan.  The marketing plan gives you detailed marketing strategies to make your business plan a reality.  Both are necessary, and both must be reviewed together to compare what written to the current state of the business.  If one plan needs work, the other plan needs adjustments too to stay on track.  You can't have one without the other.

If your business plan involves tracking revenue, have a system in place to track it often.  Control and monitor the process weekly or monthly.  See how it’s faring with your plan.  Track the target market, your competitors and revenue projections.  Keep a file of this information for comparison.  If anything is under performing to where it completely misses the mark it's time to make adjustments.

Businesses change and grow, and as companies move forward the strategies in business plans don't work, outdated or not effective as it once was.  The good news is that business plans are not set in stone.  They can be adjusted to the current situation.  Revise the plan in the same one-year, three-year and five-year guidelines you were taught to do.  Use what works in the past to anticipate future performance.

Business plans are a guide for businesses to steer their dream into a reality.  Pitfalls are bound to happen, even to the best of us, and we have to change with the times.  Doing this not only creates flexibility but it is imperative for company growth and success.  Contactus for more information on business plans, strategies and assistance with your company.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How to Gain Profits While Looking for Bookkeeping Help

How to Gain Profits While Looking for Bookkeeping Help

Do you find yourself looking for bookkeeping help for your business?  What defines a company is how much it profits from its business transactions. The more you earn, the bigger your place in the business world. This is why proper management of your bookkeeping is extremely important.

When a company’s accounting is mismanaged, the business is left in an extremely vulnerable state.  So every step that a company takes is critical. Consequently, if incorrect information is stated in its books, it follows that incorrect decisions will be also made while running the business. Bookkeeping is indeed crucial and that is why no company should risk not having a bookkeeper to handle this job.

You need bookkeeping help for tasks such as maintaining your balance sheets, recording all monetary transactions regularly, preparing profit and loss statements, payroll, filing of taxes, inventory of equipment, along with other important tasks.

These responsibilities are very time consuming especially to those not accustomed to doing them. Putting these responsibilities at the mercy of people who are not experienced in these processes, is like taking a gamble where your whole business is at stake. So, it is better to assign these duties to someone who really knows what to do. You need to hire some bookkeeping help.

Profit is the number one advantage of hiring a bookkeeper as they will be able to handle your bookkeeping properly and provide you with useful information so that you can make sound decisions for your company. An excellent bookkeeper is someone who knows the ins and outs of the profession and is dedicated, organized, and motivated to helping your company succeed.

This leaves you time to concentrate on the other aspects of your business that require your attention.  Also, if your bookkeeper does their job correctly, you can avoid penalty charges due to late filing of federal forms or costly revisions due to errors. In addition, having accurate documentation of your accounting also helps to attract potential investors.

Therefore, it is important that you only hire bookkeepers that can live up to your expectations. To do this, look for a legitimate and experienced bookkeeper.

Imagine Solutions was established to provide companies with the expertise, support, and resources needed to improve their business by reducing costs and increasing profits. We are committed to providing high quality services at an a fordable price to ensure our clients achieve, sustain, and fi ne-tune their operational excellence. We empower our clients to reach goals beyond their own expectations. 
Imagine Solutions bookkeeping services are designed to lessen the burden of daily, weekly and monthly accounting & bookkeeping tasks that take your attention away from focusing on your business. Our experienced staff is available when you need them to make sure your books are accurate and up to date.

We will work with you to fill any gaps that you have in operating your business effectively. Whether it is 1 hour a week or 160 hours a month, we can provide the services that you are looking for.

We have QuickBooks Pro Advisors and QuickBooks Certified Users on staff. We also offer other online accounting programs to fit your needs. Our experience covers numerous industries including retail, professional services, construction, consulting, education, non-profits and more.

  • Accounts Payable
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Bank Reconciliation 
  • General Ledger 
  • Financial Statements
  • Expense Reports
  • Credit Card Management
  • Daily Money Management
  • Sales Tax
  • Tracking and Reporting
  • Job Costing
  • AIA Billing
  • Vendor/Customer Support
  • Custom Forms
  • Inventory Tracking
  • Budgeting
  • Forecasting
  • Merchant Services