Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Avoid Being Marked as Spam

Spam— ugh, what a dreadful thing. We’ve all had to suffer through sorting through our inbox and deciphering what’s important and what’s, well, trash. Personally, I’d rather watch paint dry. While we can all agree that dealing with spam isn’t our favorite pastime, we must not forget that potential leads out there could be marking your emails as spam right as this very moment. I rank this up in my top 10 biggest business fears— no one, and I mean no one, wants to put time and effort into an excellent marketing campaign to have it marked and tossed in the spam box, and then even worse be put on the horrifying blacklist (dun dun duuuuun).

Here’s the big question: how do you avoid this? If you do the research, you may come across a ton of steps of precaution. They’re all important enough to print, frame, and hang above your workspace. We’d rather you save some paper and look to a shortened but golden list of rules below: manage

Avoid the use of spammy words.
Spam filters search for particular words that are often associated with spam emails. When certain phrases or words are used, points are assigned to a spam score that correlates with your email marketing campaign (spam filters do not release their filtering process, so there’s no one way of knowing how large the score can be) . If the collection of these points exceeds the spam score, the filter sends the campaign into the recipient's junk mail folder. With this being said, there are many words that you can avoid using in order to keep your email campaign’s spam score low. Now, there are literally hundreds of these, but I’ve compiled a short list of words that you as an event planner might use when creating the subject line for your campaign:
Best Price
Limited Time

Look at your content.
Along with your subject line, the body of your emails are being watched by spam filters. Using all uppercase letters and several exclamation points in your subject line is a big red flag for filters, but this can also be the case when used in the body. Using several different images and bright colors such as green and red (sorry, Christmas lovers) is typically a no-no, along with adding attachments and using incredibly long content. As a rule of thumb, you should think about what you’d like to receive in an email. Would you want a flashy, too bright, wordy, and shouty email from someone asking you to use their product and/or services? If your answer is no, then you should consider this while you create your own campaign.

Tell email recipients your location.
It is a requirement to list a physical address in the emails you send out for marketing, whether it be a street address or a post office box. The footer of your email is the perfect place to put this information.

Always offer an opt-out of your emails and always honor it.
It is absolutely necessary for you as a business owner to allow someone to opt-out of marketing campaigns, make it easy for them to do so, and to honor this within 10 business days of the opt-out request. Ignoring these kind of requests is a surefire way to be placed on a blacklist.

Monitor what is being done for you.
You may employ people to handle your company’s marketing, and in that case you should always monitor how they are handling your marketing campaigns. Remember that you and your company will be held responsible for any spamming violations made, not the person you’ve hired.

It’s also important to be cautious when using your personal email for marketing. Sending a mass email from your inbox will alert spam filters faster than you can say “blacklist.” With Inspherio, you don’t have to worry about using your email as a marketing tool. Inspherio offers email marketing management that allows users to review a detailed report of campaigns that have been recently sent out, helping you keep an eye on whether or not your campaign is being marked as spam.

There’s definitely an art to avoiding being blacklisted, so be sure to check off the list of do’s and don’ts when creating your next marketing campaign. And don’t forget, with a program like Inspherio, building and managing your email marketing has never been easier. Check us out for a free trial if you haven’t already!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Using Technology in the Event Industry

If there is one thing that professionals in the event industry have finally accepted, it was the impending descent of Event Technology. We couldn't avoid it and why would we want to? Now that it's 2015, it's been recognized that event technology spans from the ability to gain great sponsorship opportunities, the ease of gathering speaker and exhibitor materials, instant connection to attendees, and the seemingly effortless ability to manage your entire event business.

All of your business information— leads, events, services, products, pricing, invoices, payroll, contracts, and more— it's all got to go somewhere. Wouldn't it be great to have a system that gathers all of this data and allows you to utilize it so that you can completely manage and grow your event business in one program?

Well, we’re here to say there is.

Let’s take a step back and look at all of the programs you’re using right now to run your company— Quickbooks? Mailchimp? CRM? Salesforce? Spreadsheets? Pen and paper? Now, ask yourself why you are using so many different programs during such a technological revolution in the event industry. While this type of industry can be fun and thrilling, it definitely isn’t always easy. It’s stressful enough just trying to plan a single event, but running an entire business that plans several events a week, wouldn’t it make sense to use something that makes your workload lighter and simpler? 

The days of using upward of five to seven different programs to power your business is over. As Liz King of Techsy Talk says, “Forcing yourself to test out new technology trends is the most effective way to get the experience you need to make technology a driving force in your life and your events.” So, put down the pen and paper and take a look at what we have to offer.

Inspherio is a great addition to the world of event technology as it can administer the most important aspects of your event business. From generating contracts and sending them for e-signatures to scheduling events and keeping track of leads, Inspherio is specifically designed to make sure everything for your business is in its right place and easily accessed at all times.

“The silos of services will start to break down, streamlining the planning process by creating more comprehensive technology products and solutions. Planners want simpler solutions and want to work with fewer vendors,” says Jessica Levin, president of Seven Degrees Communications. We find it to be very important to have a program in which you can rely, to make the planning process easier and more effective, and that’s why Inspherio was created.

We’ve listed just a few solutions below that may give you some insight on how Inspherio’s technology can help you and your business:

Keeping an eye on the finances of your business is rather crucial, especially when you have money coming in and going out. Inspherio knows the importance of keeping your business’s account detailed and organized. With this program you have the ability to:

>Create and send invoices to your clients and in turn they have the ability to pay instantly in their private Client Portal.
>Track your income, all of your expenses, reimbursements, vendor and employee pay. 
>Run Reports that show the details of your company’s Profit and Loss.

Time is precious, so filling out paperwork can often times be a bit of a pain, especially when your time may be more valuable elsewhere. With easy-to-fill out templates and the Client Portal, you can create and send a contract to a client easily and quickly, all with the ability to sign electronically.

This features allows you to input all of your employees and their information. From there you can assign them to different events, appointments, or tasks, and keep track of their payroll. If you staff a large number of employees, no problem. Simply import the data using a CSV file into our system and voila, everyone’s there and ready to be put to work.

This is huge for any business, and we get it. Inspherio features Email Marketing, which allows you to create your own email template or use system generated templates. Simply create what you like— adding your own images, links, and other flare, and schedule and send to the Contact Groups of your choice.

When it’s all said and done, it is important that both you and your clients are provided with the best experience possible. “Getting savvy with tech is more about aligning with and accelerating desired business results. Just think more about benefits,” says Jeff Hurt of Velvet Chainsaw

So take the next step in the technological revolution and get your company and its workflow in control. By integrating event technology like Inspherio into your next event, your opportunities are endless. Why on earth would you want to pass that up?

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Quality over Quantity: The Importance of Putting Your Business’s Value First

Despite what Punxsutawney Phil saw on Groundhog’s Day this year, spring season is still just around the corner for event professionals. Whether there will be six more weeks of winter or not, there’s a good chance your business will see an influx of potential clients. This is nothing to be afraid of— if you have a ton of leads coming your way then you’re definitely doing something right! However, it’s good to keep in mind that you are only one person and even if you do happen to staff several employees, running your company ragged is bad for business.

While you may want to take on every project that falls into your lap, remember that you must uphold the promise you've made in assuring folks of your high-quality services. Here are a few things to always remember:

Always, always, always be wary of the accidental double booking. There’s nothing worse than having to call a client after finalizing dates because you realized you’ve already got a gig in the books on that particular day. Don’t think we’re questioning your expertise, but hey, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. This is why keeping calendars detailed and organized is absolutely vital, along with sharing them with any employees you may have so that they, too, are up to speed. Don’t forget that with Inspherio, double booking events is avoided like the plague.

Double booking’s unfriendly cousin— Overbooking. Oh yeah, there is definitely such a thing. Some businesses may thrive from keeping their calendars jammed packed, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. As a business owner, it’s important to know your limit. If you and all of your employees are working non-stop, at some point one, or all, of you are going to get tired and grouchy, which could ultimately result in the demise of the high quality services you promise to your clients. It’s easy to avoid this by simply setting a limit to how many events you do a week and if by chance you need to book extra, compensate by seeking extra help.

It’s okay to say “no” to a potential client. I know, this can always be a bit of an awkward situation. But you must etch into your mind that not all clients are going to be a good match for you and vice versa. Step back and take a look at your business, whether it be wedding planning, photography, videography, DJing— you’re doing something you’re good at for a reason. You’ve recognized this, started a business, and now you’re out there making the promise that you can deliver to clients the best of the best. If you happen to say yes to a client who expects something from you that you aren’t sure you are able to give at 100%, then you shouldn’t be working for them. This isn’t to say you aren’t good at the business, but rather a call of attention to the value of your business. Don’t debase that by contracting with a client that you know you won’t be able to satisfy.

Being busy is good, but we know that when it comes to planning events and making clients happy, getting sloppy just isn’t an option. We propose to you this Spring season that you give it your all while always remembering the importance of resting and recharging your batteries.

Don't forget you can manage your business better with Inspherio. Keep track of your events, clients, calendar, and so much more all in one program.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Year End Tax Tips for Wedding and Event Planners

It’s that time of the year again where you find yourself scrambling to find all those receipts and bits of paperwork that you knew you’d need when filing your taxes. We hope you kept everything together, because we know every penny counts when you’re trying to save on taxes. There’s good news: if you’re a wedding planner, your chances of racking up deductions are high.

We’ve put together a list of tips of the trade in year-end tax filing that’ll keep your wallet from thinning.

Working from home. We know there’s probably a majority of wedding planners out there that do their business from home, and that’s good news if you do. Working from home means you could be eligible for a home office deduction
Learning more about your business. If you took educational courses in order to improve your skills as a business owner, you can deduct the costs as a business expense.
Fete your business customers. Did you entertain a client preceding or following a “substantial business discussion”? If so, this means that 50% of the entertainment and meal expenses are deductible. The entertainment can take place the day before or after for an out-of-town customer. What’s more, spouses or significant others can tag along when the situation calls for it.
Stock up on depreciable equipment. Under current law, the maximum Section 179 deduction for business equipment is limited to only $25,000, while 50% bonus depreciation generally isn’t allowed anymore this year. Nevertheless, don’t hesitate to buy needed equipment if the price is right. At tax return time, you can maximize deductions, including any retroactive extensions of favorable provisions ultimately approved by Congress.
Add vacation time to business trips. Generally speaking, you can deduct travel expenses – including airfare, lodging, ground transportation and 50% of meal costs – if the primary purpose of the trip is business-related. As long as you spend more days on business than pleasure, you should be in the clear. However, note that expenses that are strictly personal, such as a sightseeing jaunt, are nondeductible.
Overhead used. If you’re just starting out in the wedding planning business, your cost of overhead may be low. If you’ve been in the bizz for a while now, it’s probably substantially higher. Either way, you can deduct the cost of items used to manage your business such as laptops, iPads, printer, cell phone, and office supplies.
Marketing your business. We know that marketing and advertising your amazing wedding planning skills can sometimes be costly — now you can get more bang for your buck. If you dished out cash for your business’s website, online and print advertising, business cards, and other marketing expenses, you can add this to your long list of deductions.
Celebrate with your staff. If you happen to have a staff working for you, sometimes a little celebration may be in order for the success of your wedding planning business. Normally, deductions for business entertainment are limited to 50% of the cost. However, under a special tax law exception, you can write off 100% of a company party, like a July 4th or Labor Day picnic or barbecue, as long as the entire workforce is invited.

Deadline to file taxes for Business is March 16th and Personal returns is April 15th for this year. If you are not ready to file your return, you can file an extension. E-filing an extension is the way to go and you can use an IRS authorized E-file service provider like ExpressExtension and get an additional 5 to 6 months to prepare and file your return. Learn more at IRS or Express Extension. If you ever have any questions regarding your taxes or deductions, please contact a tax professional. 

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