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5 Reasons To Use MailChimp For Your Business

In the frenetic world of online marketing, it can be challenging to stand out as a small business owner. You may be overwhelmed with all the options out there for promotion and find yourself confused on which avenues to invest in to bring in clients and sales. Luckily, as time goes on, more user-friendly and effective solutions are being brought to the market and with a little research and learning, you can grow your business with less effort and more style! One of the greatest ways to reach your audience is through email-based marketing. Let’s face it, most people are constantly connected to their email accounts throughout the day, tapping messages on their smart phones or toggling between browser tabs at work. It’s easy to bring your business to someone’s mind when all they have to do is open an email that is right in front of them. And hands down one of the best options out there today is MailChimp, featuring an easy to read interface, simplified design process, and sophisticated tracking options. If you are looking for a clean and simple way to send newsletters, coupons, and other offers, look no further than this amazing program. Here are just five perks you’ll enjoy when you use MailChimp for your small business. Save money There are a handful of different services to keep in contact with your customers, but most of them require subscriptions and can really eat into your profits, especially when you are first starting out. But MailChimp is absolutely free to set up and free to use if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers! And for many entrepreneurs, it takes quite a while to build up that kind of subscriber base- so why not save money during those first slow months and put that cash towards inventory or other marketing? No design background necessary We are all aware of the impact of great design- we ourselves tend to only click on and peruse websites/newsletters/posts that are clean, colorful, simple, and easy to read. Other mail-integration marketing companies can make it hard to put together something that comes off as such, and you may end up with cluttered and archaic-looking emails that simply get deleted. Don’t waste that opportunity when your business is sitting in someone’s inbox by putting forth a substandard product. MailChimp is incredibly clean and simple, while allowing you to control things like color schemes and fonts, and brings appealing design to the forefront. Smaller time investment For a small business owner, every moment of every day is worth money and it’s hard to do it all and still maintain some semblance of work/life balance. So the less time you can spend cobbling together a newsletter or coupon, the better. Luckily with MailChimp, there are several pre-made design templates to choose from and you can simply click, insert a bit of text, add a picture or two, and you’re off and running! It’s also easy to create a custom, regularly-used template (think monthly newsletter) and save it for later- then when you’re ready to send a new campaign all you need to do is swap out your current info and media. Then you can use that time you saved to brainstorm new ideas, squeeze in a workout, or spend time with the kids. Tracking made easy Getting detailed feedback is crucial to learning what works and what doesn’t, anticipating your clients’ interests, and promoting your services. MailChimp’s integrated tracking reports allow you to watch everything from open rates and click rates, to when and where your clients are opening their email campaigns. You also...

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3 Reasons To Bring Your Mom to DWC

In today’s fast-paced and ultra-connected world, technology is what holds us together. It drives our commerce, supports our social lives, and is the tool we use to create our futures. The amazing thing is that computers haven’t even been around that long- it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that most families owned their own desktop, and it would be almost another two decades before smart phones became a thing. If you’re under the age of 30, chances are you’re extremely comfortable with technology and can traverse the digital terrain with no problems. But many older people are just now entering the personal computing market, or have been struggling to catch up with their now-outdated technologies. Some of our parents and grandparents may be feeling lost or left out in the data-driven modern life, but luckily there are people and places out there that can help. At Digital Workshop Center, we offer several classes that can help our community elders master the latest and greatest smart phones, tablets, and computers. Here are just three great reasons to bring them in and sign them up today! They can harness their email with Computer 101 There are few places that still offer the most basic of computer classes, which is a shame considering how many people could still benefit from them. In our Computer 101 course, we can teach anyone how to be comfortable with the day-to-day functions of their laptop or desktop including, but not limited to: Organizing files and folders Browsing the internet and saving bookmarks Composing and filing emails Sending and receiving photos and videos We have courses in both Mac and PC applications, taught by our resident computer gurus, which are perfect for anyone who is new to computing or simply making a transition from one system to the other. They can stop sending embarrassing texts with iPhone/iPad 101 Many of us may find humor in reading the latest “texts from my mom” memes that are floating around the internet, but secretly we hope that will never happen to our own parents. Help them avoid a technology gaffe by bringing them and their new iPhone or iPad into Digital Workshop Center for our intro class. In only 3 hours, this course can help anyone master their shiny new Apple product by teaching things like: Downloading, deleting, and using apps Checking weather, email, and news Finding files, music, and photos Navigating the internet browser Sending text messages or photos Whether you’re 60 and you got a new iPad for your birthday or you’re 30 and just switched from an Android to an Apple phone, this is the class for you! Learning the ins and outs of any piece of technology is a worthwhile investment, as it will save you time and effort the more you use it. And not to mention, save you from any embarrassing fumbles. They can capture memories with Digital Photography Classes Digital cameras are everywhere these days, but many people still struggle with understanding all the complicated settings and gizmos that make them work. Everyone can appreciate the importance of photography, especially when it comes to preserving family memories and exploring new hobbies. People over 50 are one of the fastest growing groups purchasing new digital cameras, and we’re here to help them get started taking photos painlessly. Just a few of the things we can teach them include: Using both auto and manual shooting Settings for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO Basic composition Importing image files onto a computer We offer basic courses in getting to know either your digital SLR (DSLR) or point...

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Web Development: No Better Substitute for Learning HTML

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 8/31/12] When prospective students approach me about enrolling in some of my beginner web design classes, they often ask if they should learn HTML or purchase Adobe Dreamweaver to edit their website. Everyone’s needs are different, but I always give the same answer. HTML, or Hyper-Text Markup Language, is the fundamental language of the Internet, while Adobe Dreamweaver is a tool to help you write that language better. The analogy I typically use is that of a learning any foreign language. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re interested in learning Russian. You could study books, talk to other people who speak the language, and purchase an electronic translator. When you use the translator, it will understand what you are trying to say in Russian the majority of the time. However, there will be times where the language just won’t be interpreted properly. You may ask it to teach you how to ask “where is the nearest Internet cafe?” When you say it to a native Russian speaker, you may get some strange looks because the phrase you’re given doesn’t exist. Now, use the same analogy for learning the language of the Internet. Today, HTML is a vast, evolving language with many twists and turns, depending on what you want to do with it. The large number of scripting languages that have branched off of HTML could be thought of as different dialects. When you use Adobe Dreamweaver or a similar HTML editor, it’s similar to using an electronic translator. Dreamweaver will get it right most of the time. But, when it translates wrong, you need to understand how to actually read the code and speak the language to fix it properly. The program can only interpret what you tell it to do, and, therefore, it will inevitably translate something wrong. Dreamweaver offers a design view, which is a what-you-see–is-what-you-get editor. This is fantastic for novice developers who need to make simple changes, like editing plain text or adding an image. However, when the page won’t format correctly and additional code is needed, there’s a code view that becomes a necessity. Each view has its advantages, but any coder would tell you that staying in code view becomes the only way to go to over time. Why? Because the program can’t translate what you want to say with your code properly. The top thing to remember when jumping into any web design is to not get discouraged, and be sure to add as many tools to your tool belt as possible. Only then will you know if Dreamweaver is right for you. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or...

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Reasons to Never Use Internet Explorer Again

[This article was originally published in The Coloradoan on 8/24/12] For years, I’ve avoided Internet Explorer at all costs. It’s a poorly written Internet browser application with numerous security flaws. The fact that these flaws are well documented has always been a point of confusion because I’d think that a mega-company like Microsoft would surely have the resources and brain power to fix them. But, alas, I’ve been saying that for a long time and Microsoft continues to fail on all accounts with Internet Explorer, or IE. Why is IE so bad? Let’s begin with the obvious. In today’s technological age, when a software becomes too big, there are malicious people who try to tear it down. As IE became the most widely used browser somewhere in the past decade, more hackers have been hard at work to breach its security. That’s a red flag in itself to stay away. Another huge flaw with IE is that Microsoft has always released fixes to known bugs on a timed schedule. While these often do fix some of the issues, software vulnerabilities don’t follow the same schedule. As one problem is fixed, many others may pop up. This leaves a window when issues aren’t addressed until the next scheduled security release. Next, there’s the release of Internet Explorer 9, which is supposed to rival top competitors like Safari and Firefox. However, there is a major problem with IE9: older Microsoft operating systems such as Windows XP don’t run IE9 properly. So, only those who have made the leap to Windows 7 are able to use the newer version. Not a very practical update for the masses who don’t yet have or want Windows 7. Last, there are many alternatives to IE, such as Firefox and Chrome, that don’t share the same problems. These alternatives are well-built browsers with better security features, better handling of add-ons and extensions, and more. And, the best part: they are all free. So, why waste your time or energy with IE when there are better options out there? Typically, when I ask people why they still use IE instead of an alternative browser, it’s lack of knowledge of their choices. You should consider all of your choices, and, once you adopt a new Internet browsing experience, I think you’ll enjoy it more. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or...

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Search Engine Optimization a Must

[This column originally appeared in The Coloradoan on 6/29/12] If your business has a website, it’s important to get it atop the results for search engines such as Google and Bing. In fact, 94 percent of shoppers research a product online before making a web purchase, including to the Complete Shopper Intelligence Study. Shoppers overwhelmingly turn to search engines for information, with 61 percent of shoppers say they often or always use a search engine while researching a future online purchase. With more business being conducted online, search engine optimization, or SEO, is becoming vital to business success. SEO involves a series of actions taken in the design of your website to ensure it will rank atop search engine results. While there isn’t one magic way to make this happen, there are many guidelines you can follow to improve your ranking. They include optimizing your website title, keywords, description and searchable text. When a user types keywords into a search engine, all four of these areas are checked for relevancy and your results are returned based on any hits that are found. The more relevant your site is, the higher your rank will be in a search engine. Of course, there are many other factors in your website’s design that will affect your ranking. The most common of these would be your attempts to try and trick a search engine by repeating keywords or searchable content unnecessarily. All search engines out there today are extremely intelligent. They can tell the difference between good and bad SEO practices on your website. So do yourself a favor, and stick to the basic guidelines of SEO. You will actually be rewarded by search engines if you do so. The topic of SEO is lengthy but important, and one that all businesses need to address. Remember, if someone is using a search engine to find what he or she needs, and it’s something you provide, you need to make sure your website can be found easily. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or stu@...

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