How to Use Live Chat on Your Website to Maximize Conversions

How to Use Live Chat on Your Website to Maximize Conversions

Live chat is the ultimate sales hack. It’s a big call, but I stand by it. The reason is simple. It’s the easiest way to bump your website conversions in real-time without split testing.

This won’t come as a surprise to many of you who have already tried live chat to increase leads (and save on customer service). But, for most of you, it didn’t work right away.

Websites like Kissmetrics and SaneBox (which trialed our service when we founded) have tried live chat, and the data was conclusive. There was no increase in conversions, and in some cases a reduction.

In this post, I’m going to deep dive into the data science and psychology of a successful live chat install, one that increases conversions.

The Theory of Chat as a Conversion Optimizer

In the past, businesses used advertising to drive customers to a phone number. Customers would engage with a sales person. Every phone call had a person on the other end.

Then the internet took off and put something called a website in the middle.

Now, all those customers see a website before they talk to a real person. We expect a website to do the heavy lifting. It’s cheaper than humans, right?

Not always. Statistics show that, on average, only 2% of website visitors convert to an enquiry or sale. There’s an argument that lots of money is being left on the table.

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Non-optimized websites convert at 2%

Live chat is well positioned to be the fix. Real humans have a way of talking to the people you drive to your website.

And, with live chat, businesses won’t need to worry if they don’t have the money, time, or resources for A/B tests or a landing page designed by Oli Gardner.

In fact, you can have the world’s worst site, or even a blank website, and still convert.

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When you or your team sit on live chat, you should notice that between 10 and 50% of all your website visitors engage with you.

If done correctly, typically, a third of those should become a lead or, in the case of E-Commerce / SaaS sites, buy or sign up.

Beware: Live Chat Can Sometimes Reduce Conversions

Most people make the assumption that live chat will work in all conditions. You get to talk to your customers so that’s a good thing, right?

Wrong.

Websites that convert well do not work well with live chat.

The psychology is simple. The visitor has likely come from Google and found their answer in 0.24 seconds. Then they hit your website, and it’s almost always going to take longer than that to find what they want.

When they see a live chat button, it’s an exciting moment. (Maybe for me, at least.)

Live chat is the path of least resistance.

But, this is not a good thing in situations where the website can outperform the live chat agent.

Take E-Commerce. Online stores are designed for buyers, and buyers are comfortable purchasing this way.

Proactive live chat can distract users away from the buying experience by seducing them into a conversation. Our research shows that a significant portion of visitors will choose chat over the prominent CTA.

And because the “add to cart” and “checkout sequence” is easier than trying to complete a transaction through a live chat agent, live chat reduces conversions.

Which Sites Work for Live Chat?

I get asked this all the time. Truth is, they all do.

But each type of site requires a different implementation.

The easiest way to prove the ROI of chat is to capture leads from the conversations. Tracking uplift in signups and sales is a little trickier.

  • If a website has a 5% or greater conversion rate, don’t use chat until you’ve mastered everything mentioned below.
  • If a website has a 2-5% conversion rate, get some data (I’ll explain shortly).
  • If a website has a conversion rate below 2%, launch chat immediately.

Get Me the Data!

On the sites that are converting well, I like to take a data-driven approach.

The homepage might have a great conversion rate, but what about the “About Us,” “Pricing,” or “Contact Us” page.

It’s possible those pages aren’t converting well.

Here’s a live chat data checklist you can use:

  1. Create a list of all the main pages on your site likely to get prospective customers.
  2. Find the conversion rate for each page, split into business hours and after hours.
  3. For each page, find the average time to enquiry or signup. For example, from the time someone hits the page, it takes, on average, 25 seconds for them to start filling out the enquiry form, which they submit by 50 seconds.

You can find this information using Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, or specialized apps like Formisimo.

Who’s Your Customer?

Before we look at how to use the data, we need to understand who the right customer is.

The idea is to move mountains in order to talk to your best prospects but not talk to time wasters at all.

Here’s your customer characteristics checklist:

Question: Which countries do your best customers come from? Which countries do the time-wasters come from?
Answer: We get this data from ChartMogul.

Question: Which pages on your site are your best prospects likely to visit? Which pages are time-wasters likely to visit?
Answer: We look at the leads generated via our platform, and we look at the page chat was initiated on.

Question: Which page on your site has access to a login/support/area where visitors can log in?
Reason for the question: You don’t want to waste resources annoying your existing customers.

Setting Up Live Chat for Conversions

Step 1 – Page Selection

Using the data above, install the live chat platform on the pages that mean the most to you.

Some chat platforms need you to install the platform on all the pages. This is to ensure that a conversation can continue if the visitor is clicking through pages.

Step 2 – Proactive Greetings

“Greetings” is industry lingo for automated chat popups. It’s a critical feature for generating leads.

With most good live chat providers, you can set triggers for proactive greetings, such as:

  • Time on website (popup after a specific time on site)
  • First-time or returning visitor
  • Current page address is “….”
  • Visited the following page(s) “…..”during this session
  • Referring website address is “….” (i.e., facebook.com, google.com, forbes.com)
  • User’s country or city is “….”
  • Searched keyword is “….” (from a Google paid ad, or Bing)
  • Custom variable (via API into your CRM, software, etc.)

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Good live chat providers let you customize the opening sentence based on the greeting. This creates a more personalized experience for your visitor.

Here’s Your Basic Greeting Setup Checklist:

  1. Have the “time on website” trigger set to “equal to or greater than the average time to completion of CTA/form.” That is, don’t distract people before you’ve given them a chance.
  2. If you don’t have a user login area on your site (i.e., no existing customers), set a greeting to returning visitors starting with “Welcome back.”
  3. If you do have a login section for existing customers, don’t show chat on any page where they can access it (unless you are providing customer support which is a totally different beast).

Step 3 – SaaS vs Leads vs Support

Different applications need different setups. Getting it wrong will cost you.

SaaS Setup

Some companies want the website to do the heavy lifting without a sales person. Think E-Commerce sites or certain SaaS sites where you can sign yourself up without requesting a demo.

If the website is converting below 2%, do this:

  1. Answer a visitor’s first question (usually a common FAQ)
  2. Ask for the visitor’s name, phone number, and email, and tell them you’ll get an expert to get in touch
  3. Point the visitor to the sign-up link and suggest they sign up
  4. Send details captured in item #2 to your CRM or marketing system and use nurture sequence to drive them back to the CTA

The idea is that you’ll still have your same conversion rate on site, plus a few more people whose concern you solved.

And you’ll also have a whole bunch of leads who wouldn’t have converted during that visit, people you didn’t know and wouldn’t easily get back.

Then let email/content/automation or a direct response from your sales team do the work.

Lead Generation Setup

Using live chat for lead generation is becoming much more common.

Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Have a FAQ or knowledgebase system that sits side-by-side with your chat console (or use a Google doc on another screen). This helps you answer visitors’ questions faster.
  2. Have an easy way to capture lead information (for example, set up a Wufoo form with fields for name, email, etc.) This ensures that you have a separate place for all your leads.
  3. During a chat conversation, don’t be afraid to control the conversation and ask for details.

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Expert Tip: I want you to imagine a scale with leads on one end and customer satisfaction (CSAT) on the other.

When a visitor comes to your site, what they’re hoping for is to have alltheir questions answered, instantly.

What your business wants is the largest number of leads you can capture from your traffic and a reduction in your CPL. If you are just robotic and go for the kill, you’ll get leads but tick customers off as well.

To each end, leads and CSAT are mutually exclusive.

The balance is to provide 5-7 FAQs in response to questions, and use an exit statement for anything else.

For example: “I’d love to get your question answered by one of our experts, who I’ll pass your details to ASAP.”

Customer Support Setup

Customer support is a different beast altogether.

The goal is to reduce the amount of email and phone tickets and resolve customers’ issues on the fly.

The reason support works via chat is you can have the backwards and forwards in real-time without chewing tickets and email responses, which can take days or weeks to resolve, ultimately infuriating your visitors.

From my experience, you do need dedicated agents – people who know your product inside and out.

The best way to begin is to have your sales and/or product people handle support requests for one month. Then you can create a knowledgebase of all the questions and answers and provide it to agents you hire to do your support.

How to Choose the Right Chat Software

There are a few key players: LiveChatInc.com, Zopim, Olark, LivePerson, SnapEngage, and I’d throw in Tawk.to (because they’re free).

Here’s my list of things to look for (all of those listed above have these as far as I know):

  • Proactive greetings with customizable triggers
  • A mobile app
  • Mobile responsive chat widget for the end user

At LeadChat, we actually use the LiveChatInc.com platform because it’s by far the most advanced.

LeadChat’s Top 4 Chat Tips

1. Don’t use offline chat (i.e., “Leave a message”)
It’s rude. People see chat, they expect chat. It’s not nice to trick them into an offline form. Either have chat online, or off.

We find offline message capture still distracts people from the core CTA, with the added issue that there are no agents to respond to questions.

2. Answer within 15 seconds
If you have chat, you should answer people when they ask. 15 seconds is our rule of thumb. Anything longer is unfair.

3. Chat needs to be 24/7
Your website doesn’t close, neither should your chat. After hours represents more than 60% of your week because two-thirds of the day is after hours and there are weekends. We see 50-60% of leads come through for our clients after hours. You can find chat agents on Upwork.com, Peopleperhour.com, or specialist companies like ours – LeadChat.com.

4. Use the data
Beyond leads, you will capture amazing insights through the chat transcripts.

Here are some things to look for:

  1. Traffic insights – Are you getting poorly qualified visitors and leads?
  2. Product opportunities – Are people asking for things you don’t do? Consider offering those.
  3. Missed opportunities – Why are people asking about things you clearly offer? Maybe your website is not communicating this well enough.
  4. Top 5 FAQs –What are the most common questions? Could you fix your homepage to address these better?

Summary

Live chat is here to stay and is an amazing tool for communicating with visitors if it’s done right.

Determine why you want live chat: More leads, more conversions, or to offer customer support.

Take a data-driven approach and create a benchmark. Follow the guide above and you’re sure to get some great results.

What the Color of Your Logo Says About Your Company (Infographic)

What the Color of Your Logo Says About Your Company (Infographic)

If you are building a company that depends on making people feel sexy and sophisticated, it’s probably going to confuse your consumers if you your logo is bright green.

That’s because different colors are associated with different feelings. Green conveys organic growth, the earth, nature, or feelings of caring. Meanwhile, black communicates feelings of sophistication, authority or seduction. Not convinced? Consider the green logo for Starbucks or Greenpeace and the black logos of Chanel or Sony.

Color isn’t the only design element that communicates with your customer about your brand. Font, spacing between letters and shape also tell your brand story in that instant when a first impression is formed.

Have a look at the infographic below, compiled by Canadian plastic-card maker Colourfast, to get a sense of whether your logo is conveying the right message.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

 

8 U.S. Presidents Who Started as Entrepreneurs

8 U.S. Presidents Who Started as Entrepreneurs

U.S. presidents sure like talking about the importance of small business to the country’s overall health. For instance, Barack Obama said, “I think Ronald Reagan tapped into [the fact that people wanted] a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

But, how many U.S. presidents have actually been in the trenches, running their own enterprises? Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made business experience the principal reason for his election in 2012, recently saying, “I’d like to have a provision in the Constitution, to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.”

While the jury’s still out on whether business know-how makes for a better president, here’s a look at eight U.S. leaders who were hard-working entrepreneurs.

1. George W. Bush, Invested in Texas Rangers

george-w-bush

Term: 2001 to 2009

The first U.S. president with an MBA, Bush invested $600,000 in Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers. In 1998 he sold his stake in the team for $15 million — a 2,400 percent return on his initial investment.

Quote: “Prosperity results from entrepreneurship and ingenuity.”

Credit: George W. Bush Library

2. George H.W. Bush, Formed Oil Development Co.

george-hw-bush

Term: 1989 to 1993

After graduating from Yale, Bush, along with neighbor John Overby, formed the Bush-Overby Oil Development Co. in 1951. Family connections helped him finance its operations, with Bush’s uncle Herbert Walker investing nearly a half million dollars. By 1953, Bush-Overby had merged with another independent oil company to form Zapata Petroleum, and in 1959 Bush moved to Houston as president of Zapata Offshore.

Credit: MSNBC

Quote: “Equality begins with economic empowerment.” 

3. Jimmy Carter, Managed Peanut Farm

jimmy-carter

Term: 1977 to 1981

When Carter’s father died in 1953, the family farm was in danger of being lost. So, Carter made the tough decision to resign from the Navy and return to Plains, Ga., to run the struggling peanut farm. Carter reportedly threw himself into farming the way he had with his naval duties, and hard work and effective management made the Carter farm prosperous by 1959.

Quote: “It’s not necessary to fear the prospect of failure but to be determined not to fail.”

Credit: Mind the Image

4. Harry Truman, Opened Men’s Clothing Store

harry-truman

Term: 1945 to 1953

After serving in France during World War I, Truman returned to the U.S. and opened a men’s clothing store in Kansas City, Mo., with his wartime friend, Eddie Jacobson. The shop flourished for three years, but unfortunately failed in the postwar recession.

Quote: “I studied the lives of great men and famous women, and I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.”

Credit: American Gallery

5. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Opened Rehabilitation Center

franklin-roosevelt

Term: 1933 to 1945

A victim of polio, Roosevelt founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in 1927. Still operating today, the Warm Springs, Ga.-based institute serves about 4,000 people with all types of disabilities each year.

Quote: “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Credit: Franklin Roosevelt

6. Herbert Hoover, Opened Mine Engineering Business

herbert-hoover

Term: 1929 to 1933

With a geology degree from Stanford University under his belt, Hoover launched his own mine engineering business in 1908. His company employed 175,000 workers and specialized in reorganizing failing companies, seeking new mining prospects and finding investors to pay for developing the best mines.

Quote: “Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.”

Credit: Old-Picture

7. Warren G. Harding, Purchased a Struggling Newspaper

warren-g-harding

Term: 1921 to 1923

In 1884, when Harding was 19, he and several partners purchased a small, struggling newspaper in Ohio called The Marion Star. His wife Florence helped manage the business operations for the newspaper, which became a financial success.

Quote: “America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration.”

Credit: Gerrysburg Daily

8. Abraham Lincoln, Owned a General Store and Ran a Law Practice

abraham-lincoln

Term: 1861 to 1865

The only U.S. president to receive a patent, Lincoln invented a device to lift riverboats over sandbars. He also owned a general store and ran a law practice. He has become a symbol of perseverance, always rising up in the face of failure.

Quote: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” 

Credit: About

Haz publicidad con imágenes

Haz publicidad con imágenes

Todos los días se suben más de 300 millones de fotos a Facebook, esto sin contar las tablas, ilustraciones, gráficos, “doodles” y otras imágenes que se incorporan cada minuto a Pinterest, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr e Instagram (adquirido por Facebook en US$1,000 millones). Considerando este panorama, seguro te preguntarás: ¿de qué manera puedo lograr que los elementos visuales trabajen a favor de mi negocio?

Un primer paso es dejar de depender de los aburridos archivos históricos (de fotos) y, en lugar de ello, contar la historia de tu compañía de manera visual. Ésta es una excelente oportunidad para lograr que tu negocio exprese una imagen innovadora. Pero también hay otras formas de enviar el mensaje de que tu empresa se encuentra en constante evolución. Aquí te presentamos algunos tips para lograrlo.

Por qué ser más visual

Un estudio de Mashable Social Media y EyeTrackShop reveló que la gente dedica menos tiempo a ver los comentarios en el muro de Facebook y más a observar las fotos colocadas en las líneas de tiempo de esta red social.

Por lo tanto, comunidades ricamente visuales como Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ y Facebook cobran relevancia, pues ahí puedes compartir contenido creativo sobre tu marca. Asimismo, tu propia página de Internet o blog son espacios en donde puedes compartir imágenes que cuenten de manera inteligente la historia de tu compañía.

Muchas organizaciones sólo contratan fotógrafos para cubrir eventos especiales o lanzamiento de productos. Sin embargo, “esto ya no es suficiente”, señala el estratega de marcas Nick Westergaard, de la firma Brand Driven Social, en Colorado, EE.UU. “La fotografía no es algo que se pueda dejar para después”, dice.

La clave se encuentra en mantenerse alerta y tener en mente que el contenido puede encontrarse en cualquier lugar; desde un almacén, hasta las camisetas de la compañía. Algunas empresas han causado un mayor impacto al presentar fotos llamativas de sus productos en Pinterest, Instagram y en su blog. Esto también funciona con negocios que tienen productos que podrían parecer poco fotogénicos, como en el caso de la británica McKay Flooring, especialista en diseño y fabricación de pisos. Precisamente, esta empresa familiar fortaleció su posición en el mercado a partir de su incursión en estas plataformas.

Por otro lado, es posible utilizar imágenes de los eventos del sector a los que asisten tus colaboradores o mostrar los videos de capacitación a manera de documentales. Lo único que debes tener en mente es que una gran fuente de inspiración se encuentra justo en frente de ti, sólo tienes que abrir tus ojos para identificarla. Por ejemplo, publica fotos de clientes realescomprando tus productos o de integrantes de tu equipo brindando un servicio (previa autorización).

El poder de las fotos

Ben & Jerry’s utiliza las imágenes que sube a Instagram, Tumblr y Facebook en donde deja ver la belleza de hacer negocios en Vermont. Incluso, empresas de la vieja escuela como General Electric (GE) han comenzado a usar las fotografías en línea para generar interés en la marca y colocarse en la mente de los consumidores.

Cuando se habla de contenido, muchos negocios piensan sólo en texto. Sin embargo, las fotos y otros elementos visuales también pueden convertirse en contenidos relevantes para compartir a través de las campañas de mercadotecnia.

Además, puedes añadir imágenes relacionadas con tu empresa en tus correos electrónicos, en tu página personal o en tu blog. No olvides que al ser atrevido y publicar elementos visuales únicos, lograrás capturar mejor la atención de la gente, incrementarás la lealtad de tus consumidores y registrarás más clics en tu sitio Web.

Source: Soyentrepreneur.com

5 tips para crear un logo sobresaliente.

5 tips para crear un logo sobresaliente.

Tu logotipo es la cara de tu empresa. Comúnmente es lo primero que la gente ve y la cosa que más recuerda. Si nos preguntaran, la mayoría de nosotros podría identificar algunos logos icónicos, ya sean las letras cursivas de Coca-Cola o la palomita de NIKE. Y ése es el punto: debes invertir tiempo en crear un logo perfecto que se guarde en la mente de las personas.

“Otras personas deben ser capaces de hablar por tu marca”, dice Jonah Berger, autor de Contagious: Why Things Catch On. “Amas tu empresa, crees que es maravillosa, pero si tú no estás para decírselo a los demás, ¿qué es lo que la gente recordará y que le dirá a otras personas?”.

Los mejores logotipos tienen varias cosas en común. Berger dice que existen cinco claves para crear un logo exitoso:

1. Simplicidad
El principal elemento de los mejores logos es su simplicidad. “Una buena forma de pensar en términos de simplicidad es analizar cuántas piezas en movimiento hay en el logo”, dice Berger. Por ejemplo, el antiguo logotipo de Apple era color arco-iris, mientras que el actual es en un negro sólido o una escala de grises. Esa simplicidad hace que el logo sea más fácil de ver, algo que los consumidores agradecen.

“Cuanto más fácil sea procesar las cosas, más nos gustan”, dice Berger. Por esa razón, muchas marcas presentan elementos estéticos fáciles de digerir. Otras de las grandes marcas como IKEA, IBM y Coca-Cola siguen esta regla. “Es difícil encontrar logos icónicos que tengan más de dos o tres colores”, afirma.

2. Consistencia de marca
Tu logo comunicará a los clientes sobre tu marca, por lo que debes asegurarte de que el diseño concuerde con el mensaje de tu empresa. Consideremos nuevamente el logo de Apple. Hace unas décadas, dice Berger, “el multicolor tenía una asociación con la libertad y el carisma”, pero ya no es así. Aunque el logotipo antiguo de Apple connotaba el espíritu libre de una nueva empresa que estaba amenazando a los gigantes, su posición actual como una de las empresas más exitosas requiere la imagen futurística que ahora tiene.

Aun así el logo de Apple es más ligero y amigable que el de IBM que es “oscuro e imponente”, afirma Berger. “Eso es consistente con el mensaje que Apple quiere dar: Somos tecnología, pero tecnología amigable y fácil de usar”. Si estás iniciando una nueva empresa, debes pensar seriamente cuáles son las características clave de tu marca y cómo quieres incluirlas en el logo.

3. Hazlo memorable
Esto significa que crees un logo que sea fácil de recordar para los consumidores, lo que te ayudará a atraer clientes por recomendación de boca en boca, dice Berger. Tu logo debe “ayudar a recordarles que existes y por qué existes”.

La simplicidad generalmente ayuda a hacer a los logos más memorables, pero interesantemente “un poco de incongruencia”, también puede ayudar a incrementar la memoria de acuerdo a Berger. Si el logo de Apple no tuviera una mordida “podría ser más fácil de procesar, pero más difícil de recordar ya que sería igual a miles de cosas que has visto antes”. Por eso, pon algo diferente o inesperado en tu logo para que sea más fácil que sobresalga.

4. Hazlo increíble
Este elemento es el que hace que tu logo destaque y te ayude a diferenciarte de la competencia. TalentBin, un motor de búsqueda que ayuda a los empresarios a encontrar talento, tiene un logo que ejemplifica su calidad. El logotipo consiste en una caricatura de una ardilla morada en un unicornio. Aunque parezca algo ridículo, tiene un significado: “En la industria del reclutamiento, una ‘ardilla morada’ es un tipo de persona difícil de encontrar”, sostiene Berger. “Es una forma de demostrar que son infiltrados, que conocen la cultura”.

La ardilla morada no es el logo principal de TalentBin, pero generalmente es usado internamente en conferencias y materiales promocionales otorgados en eventos de la industria. “Si eres una empresa establecida, quizás no quieras un logo tan extraordinario”, dice Berger. “Pero  si eres una startup necesitas tomar riesgos”.

5. Evalúalo en el mercado
Finalmente, si no confías en tus instintos al diseñar tu logo haz un estudio de mercado, recomienda Berger. Esto puedes hacerlo a través de internet y en redes sociales, simplemente preguntando a la gente. El punto es no asumir que tu logo es genial. Antes de imprimir tus tarjetas de presentación, obtén retroalimentación acerca de si tu logotipo dice lo que quieres que diga.

Source: Soyentrepreneur.com

Hiring a Professional Photographer? Consider These 3 Things First.

Hiring a Professional Photographer? Consider These 3 Things First.

Finding the right photographer for your startup is a lot like finding the right hairstylist or barber. There are cheap ones, expensive ones, lousy ones — and great ones. Unfortunately, there are no legal regulations, restrictions and licenses that photographers need to hold. That means there isn’t a guarantee on the quality of work that a photographer will produce. In a market where any Joe Schmo can pickup a camera and call themselves a photographer, that leaves you, the potential client at risk for failure.

1. Photography organizations can help.

Fortunately, photographers realized that clients felt this way decades ago. They created self-imposed regulations and established formal organizations to monitor and regulate the quality of imagery photographers were producing. Organizations like the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) hold annual conventions and trade shows to assess and advance the industry standard quality of photography. Both of these organizations have search boards available to find photographers who abide by their code of ethics.

In addition to regulating these code of ethics and the quality of the photography photographers will produce, PPA also provides liability insurance for photographers who are members of their organization. Remember that if you’re hiring a freelance photographer to work on location or in your business, they should have some form of liability insurance in case anything is broken or damaged during a photo shoot. Most freelance photographers should have some form of liability insurance.

Also note that most photographers have a specific niche that they focus on such as weddings, portraits, product photography, commercial photography, etc. You can then narrow down each of these categories into further specializations — much like medical doctors. Some photographers will only specialize in using natural light, while other are strictly use studio lighting.

Some photographers will only shoot film, while other will only shoot digital. Which photographer you choose should solely depend on your creative vision and the project that you are looking to photograph.

For example, if you want to hire a photographer to photograph small products, you don’t necessarily want to contact a wedding photographer. In that same respect, if your business was selling high end wedding dresses, you could choose to hire a fashion photographer to create high end editorial fashion photos with them. It really is up to your creative vision.

As with most startups and small businesses, if your primary concern is budget, I’d advise being open about that when speaking with a photographer for the first time. A savvy / creative photographer will know how to work within a reasonable budget. Don’t expect miracles if you’re on a shoe-string budget, but if you have reasonable expectations, any job is possible. At worst, a photographer should be able to advise you on what options you have to cut the cost of production but not decrease the quality of the final images.

2. Copyright 101 — who owns the images?
One of the most confusing aspects of hiring a photographer can be figuring out who owns the copyright to the images. To be clear, unless you have a written and signed work-for-hire agreement, the photographer will retain the ownership of the images they photography. Why? The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 clearly states that the ownership of an image is retained by the person who created it. Therefore, you do not own the images. You are in fact licensing the images.

Remember that a photographer’s job isn’t just pressing the shutter button. They’re using a combination of lighting, posing and post-processing to make your vision a reality. They learn these techniques after years of trial and error. You’re hiring a photographer for their expertise — not their ability to push a button.

3. Expect unexpected costs when hiring a photographer.

Hiring a photographer is a lot like buying a video game console. You pay for the hardware, but generally speaking, there is nothing else included when you buy it. You’re forced to buy games in order to make the system work. The same can be said for most photographers. When inquiring about rates, you should ask if the following items are covered in their estimate:

Printing: While digital photography is the current standard of photography, many photographers still make a living by selling physical prints. That means you’re paying for your time on set and also paying for physical prints — unless that’s included in the photography package. Plan to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on physical prints, regardless if the photographer prints in-house or outsources the images to a print lab. Because the photographer is selling a physical product, you should obviously assume there is a markup for profit.

The printing rates of most professional photographers will never compete with express print centers, like Walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc. However, the quality of the prints a photographer will create or order will generally be better than that of the express print centers. If price is the deciding factor of where you’d like to print the images, find a photographer who does not offer print services.

As digital photography has taken over the print market, you will find photographers who simply do not offer print services. In these cases, you want to be sure they provide you with a written consent form to print your images. Most ethical express printers and print labs will not print professional quality images without a signed release from the photographer, because they can be accused of copyright infringement.

Digital rights: If you don’t require physical prints and prefer digital files, many photographers will offer the digital files at an additional cost, called a Digital Rights Fee. Simply put, a digital rights fee covers the opportunity cost of having you walk out of their doors without charging you for print work. This does not mean that you own the copyright of the images.

The Digital Rights Fee will include an explicit agreement which will outline where and for how long an image may be used. For example, if you’re hiring a photographer to take images of your staff for use on your website, most photographers will not bill you anything extra for doing so. However, if you are hiring a photographer to photograph an advertising campaign for your business, expect to shell out extra for licensing fees.

The difference between those two examples is usage. In the same way that singers are paid more for national campaigns than they are for local gigs, photographers will charge more depending on how the images are being used. While this can be a little confusing for some, remember that if you’re hiring a photographer to shoot an ad campaign for you, their images are “selling” your product for you. Marketing images will have a direct impact on your potential income. It’s the reason that advertising is so successful — and photographers are well aware of that.

In the even you want to buy out a photographer’s copyright outright, plan to pay a premium. Most savvy photographers will not sell their copyrights for anything under a five to six-figure investment.

Makeup, hair and wardrobe: Before you say, “Absolutely not happening!” — hear me out. If you’re going to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on someone to photograph you, your staff or model, then invest in a team to help primp everyone.

This isn’t your high school yearbook. Nothing feels worse than spending the money to create beautiful images when your hair is halfway done, your shirt is wrinkled, your clothes are too big or your forehead is greasy. Invest a couple of hundred dollars on a creative team. Remember that you’re investing in your brand and your self image. Every penny counts.

Most photographers will have a makeup artist, hairstylist and or wardrobe stylist they recommend. In the even that they do not, I’ve found plenty of great artists by simply searching the hashtags #makeupartist, #hairstylist, #wardrobestylist on Facebook and Instagram. You can generally hire freelance makeup artists and hairstylists for around $100 to $300 per person. Wardrobe stylists who pull from fashion houses can charge anywhere upwards of $500, because they spend a couple of days pulling clothes for a photo shoot.

Retouching: Professional retouching is one of those costs that most non-photographers overlook. Whether it’s removing small blemishes, cleaning up backgrounds or high-end digital manipulation, retouching is its own art form. Not all photographers are great retouchers and many photographers don’t have the time to spend retouching hundreds of images — so they will opt to outsource the work.

Outsourcing retouching can cost anywhere from $10 to $75-plus per image depending on the amount of retouching needed. If you think that your business will require 100+-plusimages, you can quickly calculate how retouching can quickly add up. This is why the preproduction process is so important.

It’s much easier — and cheaper — to fix hair, makeup, wardrobe, backgrounds, etc. in person than it is digitally. A little extra elbow grease can save you a ton of money in the long run. For example, if you’re hiring a photographer to photograph the interior of your business, spend time cleaning up the place before they get there. While most photographers will give your business a once over, if they miss that cluttered desk of yours by accident, it would take ages to fix those images digitally.

Consultation fees: I find that most clients see photographers as freelance art directors. There’s a definitive difference between an art director and a photographer. An art direct specializes in everything surrounding advertising, including but not limited to generating new ideas, creating designs, managing projects, etc. A photographer’s job is to take that vision and make it into a reality.

That doesn’t mean that photographers aren’t capable of being great art directors, but because of their limited time, most photographers will charge consultation fees outside of a normal consultation. It’s a photographer’s way of being mindful of their time. This weeds out any cold leads for a photographer, so that they can spend their time making money just like any other entrepreneur.

Source: Entrepreneur.com

7 Ways to Optimize Your WordPress Website

7 Ways to Optimize Your WordPress Website

WordPress is considered an excellent platform for budding entrepreneurs to create websites for their startup or small business. This content management service (CMS) is used by millions of business owners who live in every corner of the world. More than 400 million websites worldwide are powered by WordPress, including more than 100 million in the United States. WordPress sites around the world publish posts every 17 seconds. Most of the top one million websites in the world are powered by WordPress and related to business. These facts clearly show the significance of WordPress as a content management service for businesses of all sizes.

Simplicity, social media integration and the large number of theme options available are key reasons why startups and small businesses prefer WordPress. However, you need to keep several important facts in mind before you think about using WordPress for your business website.

1. The quality of themes.

Thousands of free and premium themes are available for those planning to create a WordPress-based website for their startup. However, you need to be careful in selecting a reliable theme from those available. The theme should be flexible and you need to have the ability to make modifications without much hassle.

2. Hosting.

This is another crucial factor when it comes to creating a website for your startup. You need to look for a managed WordPress hosting service that will help you keep your website up and running at all times. In addition, they should provide regular updates and backups.

3. Choose your plugins wisely.

Installing too many plugins on your WordPress website will slow its performance. Only add the plugins that you will actively use and delete the rest.

4. Configuring your website.

After you finalize WordPress installation, you need to configure it accordingly. For example, you should think about how the comments are moderated, permalinks are set up, and other best practices. This is easily accomplished in WordPress settings and should be done during your initial setup.

5. Mobile Interface.

Many website visitors will access your site through their mobile devices, so your WordPress-based website needs a responsive mobile interface that will provide a smooth experience for users. Users won’t tolerate much irritation from pinching and pulling.

Adam Farra, CEO of HostGator says, “It can be a bit of a chore to make certain that your site is mobile-friendly. But it’s worth the effort. Doing so will help to assure that your site ranks as highly as possible in search engine results.”

6. Security.

WordPress comes with decent security features but consider implementing more advanced security measures using plugins and other best practices to deter potential threats. Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of High-Tech Bridge says, “I would say that a popular CMS, such as WordPress or Joomla may be considered secure in default installation if they are properly configured, don’t have third-party code and are up to date.”

7. Search engine optimization.

Consider search engine optimization (SEO) to enhance the visibility of your website on Google and other search engines. Using SEO best practices along with WordPress plugins like WordPress SEO by Yoast you’ll be headed in the right direction. In addition to search engine optimization, it’s important to use the new SEO (Social Engine Optimization) as well. Establish an active presence on the social media networks where your customers spend the most time and you’ll quickly build a brand people trust.

Source: Entrepreneur.com