Blog Archives

What counts as “debts” and “income” when calculating my debt-to-income (DTI) ratio?

It’s important to know your debt-to-income ratio because it’s the figure lenders use to measure your ability to repay the money you have borrowed.
March 15, 2017 at 01:55PM
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Don’t Ignore Your Existing Customers. Here are 7 Ways to Market to Them

Originally appeared on Xerox Small Business Solutions.

By Rieva Lesonsky

In their eagerness to attract new customers, small business owners often forget the value of existing customers. But focusing on current customers, and working to upsell and retain them, can boost your business as much as attracting new ones—at a much lower cost. Here are seven ideas to help you market to your existing customers and increase your sales.

1. Engage with customers on social media

A strong social media presence is essential for building and maintaining relationships with your current customers. Take advantage of the two-way nature of social media. Start by listening to what your customers are saying about your business, your products and services, your competitors and most of all, their needs and problems. Listening carefully will give you ideas for new ways to serve your customers and new purchases you can suggest. If customers reach out to you with questions or comments on social media, be sure to answer promptly.

2. Develop helpful information for your customers

Based on what you discover about your existing customers’ needs, create content to help them solve problems, answer questions or do something better. Share your content on your website, in email newsletters and on social media. Maximize its value to you and your customers by sharing content in print form such as white papers or flyers.

Leverage new opportunities with existing customers to help grow revenue.

3. Offer special promotions to existing customers

New customers often get discounts and deals to lure them to buy. Give your existing customers the same types of benefits. For instance, offer a discount for customers who buy in bulk; who sign up for an “auto-ship” renewal subscription on products that typically need to be reordered, such as toner cartridges or pet food; or who use a credit card and auto-renew their memberships with your business each year. Send colorful direct mail pieces with discounts and other promotions to ensure your marketing stands apart from the mass of mail consumers get every day and successfully captures their attention.

4. Reward customer longevity

Use customer relationship management (CRM) software to keep track of your current customers’ data, such as important dates and anniversaries. For instance, on their birthdays or the anniversary of their first purchase with your company, send a thoughtful note or greeting card (ideally with some type of gift or discount to entice spending). These Xerox templates make it simple to create stunning greeting cards for a variety of occasions.

5. Take it offline

In today’s high-tech, no-touch world, personal interaction means a lot. Take time to get together with key clients in person—for a meal, for coffee or for a meeting to check in on how well your products and services are performing for them. Of course, you can call or email your clients to extend the invitation, but it will likely mean more to them (and create more customer loyalty) if you make it personal by sending a printed note. Xerox’s PrintShop Mail Suite helps you create personalized communications, both one-offs and multiples, tailored to the recipient’s needs.

Take steps to understand & address your customers’ pain points to gain a long term business relationship via @Rieva

6. Honor them

Celebrate your best customers—those who reach a certain level of spending—with an annual party, luncheon or award banquet for the “Customer of the Year.” Send out invitations to the event (try these Xerox invitation templates) and be sure to tell the local media about it, too. Customers feel special when you treat them like VIPs and will strive to maintain their “exalted” position every year.

7. Give them something to think about

When you meet with current clients, be sure to suggest new products and services that can enhance what they’re already buying from you. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t buy on the spot. If that’s the case, it’s smart to give them some marketing materials as reminders of your new offers. When you use Xerox® ConnectKey® devices, you’ll be able to print in gorgeous color for pieces that get noticed—and remembered. Did you forget to bring your printed marketing materials with you? No problem: Use Xerox® Mobile Print and you can print from anywhere so you can always hand the client a brochure, flyer or spec sheet. (This service also comes in handy when you’re exhibiting at trade shows and need a lot of copies. You’ll save on pricey shipping costs.)

With a strategy that embraces social media, content marketing, direct mail and personal interactions, you’ll find your relationships with customers growing stronger by the day—cementing their loyalty and creating long-term customer relationships.

 

The post Don’t Ignore Your Existing Customers. Here are 7 Ways to Market to Them appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 15, 2017 at 12:00PM
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Avoiding a Cash Flow Crisis, How to Work with Remote Sales Reps, Finance 101 on a Napkin and More Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

9 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1—How to Avoid a Cash Flow Crisis

According to U.S. Bank, 82% of small businesses fail due to poor cash flow management. Scott Notarainni, the Managing Director of Corporate Finance at FTI Consulting created the infographic below to help you avoid that fate.

cash flow

 

2—State of the Market: EMV Chip Migration

Earlier this year, the U.S. Payments Forum released a 2017 market snapshot, providing updates on the status of the U.S. EMV chip migration, 2017 priorities for accelerating merchant chip enablement and securing the card-not-present channel, and recently-released resources for the payments industry.

There has been steady progress in the U.S. migration to chip payments. Today, 9 out of 10 Americans are commonly using chip cards at the approximately one-third of U.S. merchant locations enabled to accept chip payments, and an estimated 79% of ATMs will have completed the migration by the end of this year. In 2017, the U.S. Payments Forum will continue to address issues that arise from those parts of the ecosystem that have implemented EMV, and provide education and implementation guidance to merchant segments that have unique and/or challenging migration paths.

Trending Topics: EMV in the Petroleum Environment: At the end of last year, American ExpressDiscoverMastercard and Visa individually announced modified timelines for their respective EMV fraud liability shift policies for automated fuel dispensers in the U.S. The petroleum industry policy changes that were slated to take effect in October 2017 will now take effect in October 2020.

Addressing the Card-Not-Present Environment, Mobile Payments: In addition to aiding the chip migration to reduce in-store counterfeit card fraud, the U.S. Payments Forum is prioritizing the importance of addressing fraud in the card-not-present (CNP) environment in online and mobile channels. In addition, the Forum is launching projects to address the challenges with implementing mobile payments, taking an inclusive cross-industry view to address issues that impact multiple stakeholders.

EMV testing and certification. The Forum updated the “EMV Testing and Certification White Paper: Current Global Payment Network Requirements for the U.S. Acquiring Community.”

The Forum also launched the Mobile and Contactless Payments Working Committee to explore opportunities and challenges, identify possible approaches, and develop practical implementation guidance and best practices for the variety mobile and contactless payments solutions being implemented in the U.S.

To learn more go here.

 

3—5 Tips for Working with Remote Sales Reps

Guest post by Eliot Burdett, author, sales recruiting expert and cofounder CEO,  Peak Sales Recruiting 

The advent of new technology and changing philosophies on work life balance, have created an increasingly mobile work force. Last year, the Global Leadership Summit predicted more than half of all employees will work remotely by 2020.

This will have a profound impact across all industries but perhaps even more so in sales. Sales people thrive on energy, engaging with others and they need to be motivated on a daily basis.

Companies that used to have a centralized sales force have a whole new set of opportunities and challenges when managing a remote team. The ability of sales leaders to solve these will be the difference between a cohesive team that consistently makes their numbers, and one that is isolated, disjointed and hurting the company’s profit margins.

Here are 5 tips to make a remote sales rep connected and successful:

  • Communicate often and on a personal level: Research from the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Managementexplains that workplace isolation negatively effects trust in supervisors and coworkers. Making your reps deal with rejection on an island is a recipe for disaster. This can be overcome with frequent and informal check-ins. Rely on teleconferences or even text messaging to communicate with your team. The constant communication will help lessen feelings of isolation. In addition, we recommend connected with your reps on an individual level. By asking about their favorite sports team or their child’s graduation you will make them feel a strong connection to you, their leader, your company and their mission. It is just as critical to set up peer-to-peer teleconferences. Sometimes, a ‘players-only’ meeting is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Budget for social engagements: A sales rep who feels isolated is doomed to fail. Harvard Business Review reported successful managersof remote sales teams organize face-to-face forums, conferences, workshops and get-togethers. These are planned well in advance and, in addition to building cohesion at work, this gives employees a chance to interact socially, which is critical to building rapport. A good option could be to choose a sales conference to attend together. Plan this into your budget and the investment will pay off in both the short and long term.
  • Make your availability crystal clear:Make it clear to your team via a shared calendar or team project management board when you are available. This sets clear guidelines for how and when you will respond to phone calls, e-mails, or texts. Having reps who feel like they can reach out to you in any given circumstance is crucial for leading a top producing team. This is especially necessary when managing across different times zones. If you are home with your family but it is still office hours on the West Coast or overseas, let your reps know how to reach you with emergencies.
  • Use your reps’ autonomy to develop trust:The lack of face-to-face communications can hinder employee engagement. A study conducted by the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management found that employee engagement is shown to be positively correlated to salesperson job performance. To that point, Forum’s recent Global Leadership Pulse survey revealed that trust has a direct impact on the engagement levels of remote teams. Great sales managers, if handled properly, can use the autonomy of their reps to build trust.  By giving reps the chance to take on additional responsibilities in certain situations they will feel empowered, engaged and connected—despite the distance.
  • Don’t just hire any sales superstar: A common mistake in sales hiring is not hiring based on a certain situation. The assumption is that if someone was good in another selling environment, they will thrive in yours. That is a mistake. Find someone with the right sales DNA who has proven success working remotely.

The bottom line is that the evolution of technology has created an opportunity for businesses to profit from cultivating a remote workforce. However, it is incumbent on you to recognize that the same old rules don’t apply. Tactics such as developing trust, tweaking your communication approach and scheduling social events, can ensure long lasting relationships that will be profitable for your organization.

 

4—5 Tips for Succeeding in 2017

Guest post by Jamie Wright, an attorney specializing in Millennial issues (she’s a Millennial herself), government affairs, crisis communication and conflict resolution.

  1. Network. Many people think it’s a weakness to get help from people. That’s just not true. It takes a strong person to seek out the right kind of support. Get to know successful people in your chosen field, so you can get support and advice from them. If you are lucky enough to find a mentor, take good notes. Take the support and advice now, knowing that someday you will be in the position to provide it to someone else. While you surround yourself with good connections, never cease to be independent. Independence and being strong enough to move forward even if you are taking the next step alone is crucial in being successful.
  2. Think positive. Often, we get in our own way, because our minds are consumed with negative thinking. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want, and immediately replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Use the laws of attraction to bring to you what it is that you want in your life.
  3. Banish excuses. Too often, people are caught up in their own excuses for why they can’t do things. This year, get honest with yourself as to whether something really is a hurdle, or just an excuse. Banish the excuses and keep moving forward. Make individuality a priority, so you leave the excuses behind, define who you are, and stand out.
  4. The Golden Rule. In all areas of life, including in your career pursuits, you should be treating people the way you want to be treated. The way you treat people will always come back to you. Put good things out, so that good comes right back to you. It feels good to treat people with kindness and will open many doors. Having integrity in all you do is important and will help you get ahead.
  5. Forget expectations. It doesn’t matter if something has always been done a particular way, that’s not a legitimate reason why you can’t change it. In other words: Blaze your own trail, don’t feel you need to stick to the ones that others before you have set forth. Use your instincts to help navigate your way.

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative and just add to the stories and thoughts that hold people back. Make this the year where you set concrete goals, take steps every day to work toward achieving them, and drown out the noise that can hold you back. If you want it, you can succeed, but you have to stay the course and persevere. It will be that much sweeter once you do!

 

5—The Importance of Business Meals

Guest post by Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., a cross-cultural consultant, international protocol expert and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide

Business meals are more than just talking shop—they are a way to distinguish your demeanor from the dinner table to the boardroom. You can be the best in your field or tops in your company, but if you mess up the business meal, no one is going to be impressed.  What do you need to know about modern table manners to make a great impression?

Here are seven business dining tips to present yourself in the best manner possible.

 1) Invitations: Remember that the person extending the invitation is the host and is responsible for payment of the bill. When receiving or extending invitations, pay attention to special dietary needs. The host may ask about food allergies or sensitivities, kosher, halal, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free diets. Be sure to RSVP or reply within 24 hours with any dietary restrictions.

 2) Guest Duties: As a guest, observe the host for cues. For example: place your napkin in your lap after the host; the host does so first to signal the start of the meal. When excusing yourself between courses, the napkin is placed on the chair seat soiled side down. At meal’s end, place your loosely folded napkin on the left of your plate after the host does. Don’t refold it.

 3) Silverware & Service Signals: Once silverware is used, including handles, it doesn’t touch the table again. Rest forks, knives and spoons on the side of your plate. Unused silverware stays on the table. If you are resting between bites, place your fork, with tines up, near the top of your plate. To signal the server that you’re finished, place your fork and knife across the center of the plate at the 5 o’clock position. Service signals also include closing your menu to indicate you’re ready to order. If you are browsing an open menu, the server has the impression you aren’t ready.

 4) What should you order? Ask the person who invited you for suggestions on the menu. Ask them to make suggestions or for their favorite dish. Listen carefully because they will provide a top and bottom price range based on the entrées they recommend. Then select a moderately priced item or one of the dishes they recommend.

 5) To drink or not to drink? If the host orders alcohol, and you don’t wish to drink, you simply order the beverage of your preference without an explanation. “I’ll have an iced tea with lemon please” or “Diet Coke please” and continue to browse the menu. You are under no obligation to consume alcohol at lunch or any other time of the day. Polite dining companions will not comment or ask questions.

 6) Connections & Conversation: It’s the host’s job to keep conversation going during the meal; and guests must contribute with courtesy. Just don’t monopolize the conversation, rather ask questions and express interest. Light topics include books, travel, vacation, movies, and pets; avoid politics, sex and religion. If you need to talk to the server, don’t interrupt the flow of the conversation. Rather catch the eye of the server if you need assistance, or slightly raise your hand.

 7) Tipping: The host is the person who extended the invitation, and they are responsible for paying the bill. Consider these U.S. tipping guidelines: bartender: 10-20 % of bar bill, valet: $2.00-$5.00, coat check: $1.00 per coat, server: 15-20% of bill; 25% extraordinary service, sommelier: 15% of wine bill. The tip should reflect the total price of the bill before coupons, discounts, or gift certificates.

 

6—Seeing Green

If you’re an online retailer you might have overlooked the opportunity St. Patrick’s Day brings you. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers projected to spend $5.3 billion to celebrate the March 17 holiday (an all-time high in the survey’s 13-year history), but 7% of adults also plan to make a St. Patrick’s Day purchase online. While it’s likely too late to take advantage of the advice below, file this away in time to prepare for next year’s holiday.

Joey Blanco, the Content & Social Media Coordinator at ShipStation shares some tips to maximize your online store’s St. Patrick’s Day sales:

Go Green: Of those who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a staggering 82% do so by wearing green. Sure, bars and restaurants may take in the most money during this holiday, but the vast majority of their customers will be wearing green clothing that they purchased elsewhere. Make sure you have plenty of green inventory and consider offering discounts or free shipping on green products in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Pass the Corned Beef: Okay, you’re probably not going to sell corned beef in your online store, but more than 30% of Americans celebrating St. Patrick’s Day plan to do so by cooking a special meal in honor of the occasion. Offering holiday-inspired cookware, plates, napkins, table settings, centerpieces or aprons might help you reach these consumers who might otherwise spend all their cash at the grocery store.

Explore Décor: Nearly 23% of people who celebrate the day will add some type of decoration to their homes or offices. Even those who don’t go all-out with parties, special meals or all-green ensembles, might consider purchasing small holiday-appropriate items. Adding some “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” signage, maps of Ireland and leprechaun imagery to your offerings could give your sales an extra boost.

 

Cool Tools

 

7—Quick Money Lessons

Many people struggle to learn about money and finance. To tackle that challenge Napkin Finance set out to “clarify, simplify and translate every day complex financial decisions.”

Napkin Finance teaches you everything about money in 30 seconds or less—in a visual and easy to understand format—think infographic meets Finance 101. The learning tools they provide are designed to help people of all ages better understand finance.

The idea for Napkin Finance came from CEO Tina Hay’s own struggles with finance courses while getting her MBA at Harvard Business School. A self-professed visual thinker, she found the coursework very challenging and found it much easier to understand concepts in a visual format instead of numbers. Check out the website to see how awesome the “lessons on napkins” are.

napkin

 

8—New POS App

NCR Silver has launched a redesigned tablet-based point-of-sale (POS) application, which offers small businesses quicker access to information and faster transaction times via an optimized user interface and improved customer experience.

NCR Silver Version 4 has been redesigned with speed in mind, eliminating 33 taps from the transaction process. Top features include:

  • Vibrant, Easy-to-Use Interface – Version 4 includes a simplified touch-screen navigation menu, new colors, larger buttons and modernized type font to make the system easier to read.
  • Slide-out Menus – The introduction of a slide-out menu gives customers easier access to the main ticket screen.
  • Reduced Pop-Ups –The removal of many pop-up screens provides business owners with faster access to every function.

You can watch a video of the new version here.

 

9—Protect Your Data

Apricorn, a leading manufacturer of software-free, hardware-encrypted USB drives, recently released the Aegis Secure Key 3z hardware encrypted flash drive and the Aegis Configurator. The Aegis Secure Key 3z is a feature-rich USB drive that includes FIPS-level security while eliminating vulnerabilities found in software-managed systems. It also enables security professionals in the most regulated industries, such as banking, government, education, legal and healthcare, to configure and deploy multiple devices simultaneously with the new Aegis Configurator.

Offering the most advanced data protection, the new Aegis Secure Key 3z flash drive offers top-level security innovation (FIPS 140-2 level 3 validation pending) at lower costs and smaller form factor than available before. Combined with the Aegis Configurator, the Aegis Secure Key 3z flash drive provides a seamless workflow for secure storage rollouts.

The Aegis Configurator is Apricorn’s accompanying Windows-based software package that allows 10 or more compatible Aegis Secure Devices to be set up and configured simultaneously. Beyond being exponentially faster than configuring an Apricorn device by hand, the configurator also introduces a host of new features. Automatic random PIN generation, programmable maximum PIN length, master profile creation and storage, and the ability to reformat and pre-load data onto drives at the time of configuration are just a few of the new tools introduced in the configurator launch.

The Aegis Secure Key 3z is available now in a variety of sizes, including: 8GB ($79), 16GB ($99), 32GB ($129), and 64GB ($159). It is available from most online retailers and on the company website.

 

 

 

The post Avoiding a Cash Flow Crisis, How to Work with Remote Sales Reps, Finance 101 on a Napkin and More Things Small Business Owners Need to Know appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 15, 2017 at 11:00AM
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Why You Should Hire an Energy Consultant for Your Business This Year

By Beth Williams

It is an easy thing to forget about your utilities or put them to one side when you are busy trying to run a successful business and manage all of your employees amongst other things, you just might not have the time personally to deal with the all of the different suppliers and the extensive range of deals and types of contracts they offer. Your utilities are very important and shouldn’t be forgotten about or put on the backburner though, in a moment you might think it is just easier to go with any supplier as long as you get your water and energy to run your business. But when your monthly or quarterly utility bills come through the door you might look back at your bills at the heart-wrenching amount that you have to pay and regret not shopping around and searching for a better deal.

If you don’t have to time to manage your business’s energy yourself, and don’t have the resources to train one of your existing employees manage it either as you can’t finance an in house consultant, then you should consider hiring an expert consultant to take all of that work off your hands. If you have never hired a third party to act on your behalf as your energy consultant before it can seem as much of a minefield as choosing energy suppliers, rates, and tariffs, but it really isn’t. Here are a few things you should look out for to ensure that the consultants that you are considering are reputable.

  • Whether they have relationships with and offer contracts with a wide range of different suppliers. If they don’t have a partnership with only one or two different suppliers it means that they will be able to offer you 100% impartial advice on all rates and tariffs from lots of different suppliers because they aren’t loyal to any one company and aren’t working on commission.
  • An up to date website with lots of positive testimonials from a range of different industries is essential to ensure that they are not only professional because they update their website, but that they are trustworthy and are known for doing a good job. You can even ask them if you are able to speak to any of their current clients to get a reference of their work from a genuine client.
  • Make sure they don’t try to offer you any instant prices, and before they even send you any quotes they should do a full check on all of your previous energy and water consumption so they can find a tariff and price that is perfect for and suits your business’s energy needs.
  • They should allow you to request to receive any quotes in writing if they haven’t already done so, and they should also request a letter of authority to act as your consultant when dealing and negotiating with all of the different suppliers.

 

Benefits and How They Can Save You Money

The difference between a consultant and a broker in the energy industry is that one works for commission from suppliers that they work with and one doesn’t, and the consultants are those who don’t. As consultants are not being swayed and biased by their monetary satisfaction from brokering deals with suppliers they are there to offer you completely impartial and independent advice unlike the brokers, both in the first instance when you initial contact them regarding your business energy and ongoing if you decide to hire them as your consultant long term.

Every energy consultant is there to make sure you get the best deal and are on the right tariff for your energy requirements, but they are also there to give advice on your consumption, so they regularly analyse your energy and water usage. This analysis allows you to review and take a look at your current energy demands to understand if you can make any cutbacks in certain areas to reduce your utility spend. An energy consultant should also be able to show you a comparison of your utilities against other similar businesses, similarly to your consumption analysis this comparison can help you to see what you can do to reduce the amount of energy that you use to help not only your pocket but the environment too.

In addition to dealing with suppliers and advising you on your energy consumption and energy consultant also makes sure you stay compliant with all of the necessary industry regulations too. They make it so that you don’t have to stay up to date with all of the many, constantly changing and updating legislation and standards that to you may seem confusing, after all they are the experts, have a great understanding of the industry, and bring their comprehensive expertise to the table to manage everything related to your utilities effectively and efficiently. It is their priority to make sure that your business is adhering to all industry rules so that you don’t get caught out and have to suffer any fines.

They also take care of other little things that you might not have thought of, for example, they make sure that you are paying the correct amount each month as they constantly monitor your agreed rate against the utility bills that you receive. They will check your actual meter readings and usage against what the supplier says you are using and ensure that you’re being charged the correct rate.

Beth Williams is a freelance marketing manager and is currently working with CUB, an Energy Consultancy Company based in the UK that provide a range of energy services to B2B clients including water audit services and advice on renewables and smart metering.

The post Why You Should Hire an Energy Consultant for Your Business This Year appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 15, 2017 at 09:30AM
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Landing Page Design With High Conversions: Tricks of the Trade

 

By Jared Carrizales

As you set out to market your products, you know that you need a landing page to promote your item and create conversions. Generating conversions is often a challenge because it’s easy to create the “perfect” landing page and then get no results. If you do an online search for “landing page designs,” you are going to find hundreds of examples and solutions. The process can no doubt be overwhelming and confusing. Here are some tricks for creating landing pages with high conversions.

1. Get to Know Your Audience

Who are you reaching out to with your landing page? It’s vital that you pin this down before you create a landing page. Your particular niche should reach out to a specific group of potential clients interested in the products and services that you provide. Remember that your job is to help solve your customer’s problems, whether through a piece of clothing, type of food, lifestyle, or service.

Through your landing page, you can communicate the solution to your unique audience in the most efficient manner. Learn about your audience by joining social media groups and forums where they congregate.

2. This Design Element is Key

You may be relieved to know that there is not a “perfect” landing page template or layout, or one that is guaranteed to give you the conversions you want and need. However, some areas apply to most any niche or industry. The color of your page will affect the emotions and unconscious thoughts of your visitors.

Google design uses vibrant colors to reel in page visitors.

By doing a simple study of the psychology of color, you can get a better idea of what you want to convey on your page. The page should not be too busy, as no one has the time or cares enough to try to understand your message. Instead, it should be simple, straightforward, and leave no doubt as to what you are offering.

3. Keep Your Page Simple & Focused

It’s possible that you offer many different types of services and products. However, on your one landing page, you don’t want to try to sell all of it. Each landing page should focus on a particular product or service and should speak to a specific audience.

If you want to use pre-designed pages, use trusted, responsive website themes. If you’re running an online store, Shopify has excellent eCommerce themes that are ready for your content. If WordPress is your content management system of choice, use only customizable themes – you want to maintain full control.

4. Congruence is Vital

It is most likely that someone came to your landing page from a link on an advertisement or blog post. Every part of your campaign should line up in the colors, design, and content. This uniformity of message facilitates trust for potential clients because they see the same message portrayed across various platforms. Eliminate any elements that don’t align with the overall goal of the landing page as it could distract visitors from the main message.

5. Headline Writing Fundamentals

When someone goes to your landing page, the first thing he or she will read is the headline. Target audiences need to connect emotionally with your headline, and you establish that connection by addressing a problem they are facing and explaining how you can provide the solution. Your headline needs to be detailed enough to be convincing but as short and straightforward as possible.

If you need help with headlines, use tools like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and AMI’s Emotional Value Analyzer to help you determine potential success of your headline. If it’s not looking like you’re going to be successful with the headline you’ve chosen, let these tools guide you to improve it.

6. Consider This When Creating Lead Magnets

Choose from a variety of valuable assets that you can offer your target audience. EBooks, blog posts, podcasts, webinars, white papers, and infographics are advantageous for your potential clients and will improve their user experience. Research to discover what would be best for your target audience and offer that to them free of charge.

7. Simple Page Elements That Build Trust

Building trust is a vital part of a campaign. It can be difficult to do this on one landing page, but there are some elements that you can use. Here are some ideas:

  • Client testimonials
  • Awards
  • Company logos
  • Trust seals
  • Social media buttons

8. This is How to Use Calls to Action

It’s vital to have a Call to Action (CTA) button on your landing page that is easy to see. The color must stand out, and the words should align with the rest of your copy. Through your CTA and button, you are asking the visitor to take action. The content should be simple, easy to understand, and bold for visitors who land on this page.

There are a lot of actions you can take on Stumbleupon.com. The designers here make it easy for visitors to know what to do next. Their CTAs are basically explained. You don’t have to create such intensive guidance with your website. Do reflect on this to understand how clear website visitors expect your instruction to be.

9. Learn Search Engine Optimization Basics

Optimize your landing page so that Google and other search engines can find it. Your headline text should use the H1 tag, and your subtitles should be H2s or H3s. Google identifies these as reliable indicators of the content of your page. The harder you work on SEO on the backend, the less money you will need to pay for advertising and campaign costs.

10. Enhance Pages Continually Through Trial & Error

As you work through the layout and content of your landing pages, you might want to consider A/B testing. A/B testing will show you what parts of your pages are working and what elements are failing. With your page variations, you can try various CTAs, content, color, design, images, and more. While testing takes time, it provides you with invaluable insights that come in handy as you move forward with future landing pages.

There is no magic formula for creating landing pages that convert. The single most important items are: 1) keep it simple, 2) keep your message clear, 3) research your target audience, 4) trial and error. Creating landing pages is a skill that can be learned, and once you master it, you’ll find yourself with more conversions than you can handle.

Jared Carrizales is the lead of marketing at Heroic Search – a marketing agency based in Dallas and Tulsa.

The post Landing Page Design With High Conversions: Tricks of the Trade appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 15, 2017 at 08:00AM
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Debt Ceiling

The maximum amount of monies the United States can borrow. The debt ceiling was created under the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917, putting a “ceiling” on the amount of bonds the United States can issue. As of the end of July, 2011 the debt ceiling was set at $14.3 trillion.
March 15, 2017
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5 Cloud-Based Apps Your Business Can’t Live Without

By Ryan Kh

Utilizing technology in the form of cloud-based applications has never been more important for businesses to streamline processes and improve their bottom line. Apps allow managers to become more efficient and offer instant access to crucial information from practically anywhere in the world. With the integration of cloud technology into our daily lives this has never been easier to accomplish. If you’re looking for an app to make connecting with team members more efficient or wanting to connect with customers in a more personalized way, these apps are absolute must-haves.

Campaign Monitor

When it comes to email marketing campaigns, delivering a world class customer experience doesn’t have to be overly complicated or difficult to implement. Campaign Monitor’s easy to use drag and drop email template creator puts the look of custom designed emails at marketers’ fingertips. Personalized emails have been shown to increase revenue by 760%, so it’s for good reason that Campaign Monitor has focused on this capability of their customers. The platform integrates with other business tools like WordPress and Salesforce to build customer profiles that allow you to send personalized emails based on individual’s name, age, gender, transaction history and more.

SugarCRM

Did you know that studies show 75 percent of customers spend more money when they have a good customer service experience with a particular company? Now, more than ever, maintaining positive customer relationships is a crucial part of the success or failure of any business. The SugarCRM application makes fostering these important relationships a breeze by offering instant access to all relevant files pertaining to your customer across all of the devices in your organization. SugarCRM allows any member of your team to become a “customer expert” with a few clicks. With business moving at the speed of light, having a solid CRM tools integrated with your other business apps will keep sales and customer service teams engaged with potential and current customers.

Hootsuite

Social media is here to stay. It’s as simple as that. Out of the three major social media platforms, Instagram is ranked third in total expected revenue for 2017 with $1.53 billion in mobile ad revenue. Hootsuite offers easy-to-use tools for maintaining your company’s social media presence no matter where you find yourself. The app allows users to update existing posts and create new content in an instant. One of the best tools the Hootsuite platform offers is the ability to track messages and mentions in real time allowing brand marketers to capitalize on customer engage and address customer concerns.

Optimizely

How visitors engage with your website from the moment they land there has a significant impact on whether they browse, subscribe and ultimately buy. Optimizely is a tool that work on top of your current website to allow web and marketing teams to run A/B and multivariate tests to find the best possible user experience that leads to higher conversions. Another awesome tool set Optimizely offers is personalization. With Optimizely, marketers can personalize a webpage based on the location of the visitor and what you already know about them. This could be showing different clothes to cold weather versus warm weather shoppers or displaying a popup that says “your cart is waiting” to a returning shopper who abandoned a cart.

Squarespace

Having a visually stunning website that works across all platforms and devices isn’t a luxury but a necessity in today’s digital landscape. Squarespace services anyone from world class photographers to shoe giants like Airwalk. With an easy to use website editing solution and pre-built templates, marketing departments can make changes and deploy new websites without activating their design and development teams. Squarespace also integrates with other business tools to allow teams across the organization to run campaigns and streamline processes.

Being a business manager in today’s ever-changing market can be a bit daunting, but with the help of these five amazingly innovative applications you can grow your bottom line revenue while giving customers the experience they crave. Don’t get left behind. As the great Richard Branson once said “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.”

Ryan Kh is an experienced blogger, digital content & social marketer. Founder of Catalyst For Business and contributor to search giants like Yahoo Finance, MSN. He is passionate about covering topics like big data, business intelligence, startups & entrepreneurship. Follow him on twitter: @ryankhgb

The post 5 Cloud-Based Apps Your Business Can’t Live Without appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 14, 2017 at 11:00AM
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5 Ways to Market Your Local Business

By Rieva Lesonsky

As a small business owner, do you ever feel that your local business is at an unfair disadvantage compared to big, national chains? Surprise: You actually have a significant advantage over these competitors, according to a recent survey by Yodle.

The poll of over 6,000 consumers nationwide found customers trust and use local businesses, and even prefer them to national chains. Here’s what you need to know.

More than eight in 10 consumers (82 percent) currently use local businesses, and in the next year, 48 percent plan to patronize local businesses even more often. (Fewer than 1 percent expect to use local businesses less often.) In fact, consumers use local businesses more often than national chains. In the last 12 months, local businesses accounted for 56 percent of total business use, compared to 44 percent for national chains. Consumers also use local businesses a lot — 83 percent of respondents have done so in the last week.

Consumers aren’t turning to local businesses out of necessity, but out of preference. The survey asked respondents to judge whether local businesses or big businesses have each of the following qualities. Here’s what people said local businesses offer:

  • More personalized service: 96 percent
  • Being trustworthy/treating me fairly: 91 percent
  • Customer service: 80 percent
  • Delivering quality work: 86 percent
  • Being reliable/delivering what’s promised: 79 percent
  • Having professional staff: 75 percent

National chains outperform small businesses in only two areas: 70 percent believe national chains are more likely to be stable than a local business, and 77 percent say they offer more competitive prices. Still, 72 percent of respondents are willing to pay more in order to get the quality service they believe local businesses offer.

Though the average local business is doing a lot of things right, there’s still room for improvement. Here’s what customers want to see that local businesses aren’t delivering:

  • Online reviews: 76 percent want to see online reviews for a local business. Consumers are turning to reviews and social media more often to find companies, and expect to see reviews they can use to make these decisions.
  • Easy-to-use websites: Website improvements are the top change respondents want to see in local businesses in the coming year.
  • Special offers for returning customers: According to the survey, this is the top way a local business can differentiate itself from competitors. Nearly half (49 percent) would like to see more specials, deals and offers (and 20 percent say they’ve seen local businesses adding more special offers in the past year).
  • Self-service: More than one-fourth of respondents would like to be able to book appointments, manage billing and make payments to local businesses online.
  • More frequent online communications: Consumers would like to get the following communications from local businesses:
    • Service/appointment reminders: 84 percent (only 38 percent currently receive these)
    • Advice/helpful tips: 80 percent (just 26 percent currently get these)
    • Business/service updates: 76 percent (only 19 percent currently receive these)
    • Survey requests for feedback: 67 percent (only 13 percent currently get these)
    • Personalized communications: 65 percent (just 15 percent currently receive these)
    • Invitations to events: 63 percent (only 12 percent currently get these)
    • Newsletters: 60 percent (only 15 percent currently receive these)

Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement in how businesses communicate with their customers. Here are five steps your local business can take to stay ahead of the pack.

  1. Update your business website. Make sure it looks current, is easy to navigate and has the basic information customers are looking for (address, phone, hours of operation, prices, services). It should also be mobile-friendly since many customers do their research on their phones or tablets.
  2. Start an email newsletter. You can kill several birds with one by sending your customers a monthly newsletter with advice and helpful tips, updates about your business and new services you’re offering, and special offers or deals.
  3. Get personal. Use customer relationship management software to send personalized emails after you provide service to a customer. Thank them for their business and asked them to take a quick online survey so you can get feedback about how well you’re doing. You can also do this by phone if you have customers who prefer to talk live.
  4. Always ask satisfied customers to review your business online. A whopping 89 percent of respondents say they’re willing to do this, but just 7 percent have ever been asked. Worried about negative reviews? You shouldn’t be: Eight in 10 people who have ever posted an online review were prompted by positive experiences.
  5. Enable customers to make appointments online. This is simple to do and can reduce your staffing needs, too. BookedIn, TimeTap and AppointmentPlus are a few appointment-scheduling options to investigate. Of course, you should still provide the option for customers to make appointments the old-fashioned way, by phone, if they prefer. It’s all about choice.

 

 

The post 5 Ways to Market Your Local Business appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 14, 2017 at 09:30AM
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Why All Sites Should Have a Resource Center

By Lexie Lu

Creating lots of quality content is great for your business. It will provide value to your customers, establish you as an authority, attract people to your website and more. But in order for it to do all of that, people need to be able to find it! A resource center can help with that. A resource center is the section of your website from which all of your content can be accessed. It organizes everything on your website so it’s easy to find and navigate.

Here are four things resource centers are good for and why every website should have one.

It Makes Things Easy to Find

A resource center can make a visitor’s trip to your website much more efficient and enjoyable, especially if they’re looking for information on a specific topic.

Rather than searching through your entire website, they can head to your resource center and find exactly what they need. This greatly increases a site’s usability and leads to a better overall user experience.

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As an example, take Apple’s site for developers using Apple technology. Such a complicated topic requires a lot of information about a multitude of things. The developer’s resource center organizes everything into categories based on the type of resource and topic.

One menu allows you to select videos, guides, downloads and more. Another offers a list of subcategories under larger categories, such as “graphics and games,” “app frameworks” and “media and web.”

It Encourages Discovery

Having a well-organized resource center also allows visitors to easily and naturally discover your content. Even if they come for one specific piece of information, they may see another in your resource center that piques their interest. This will lead them to engage more with your site and learn more about your company.

If your resource center is set up in a way that makes your content look especially interesting and appealing, you’ll have even more success encouraging discovery.

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SunTrust’s Personal Banking Resource Center features various personal finance categories such as “plan & budget,” “owning a home” and “debt & credit.” The page also displays articles from around the site with eye-catching pictures and colors.

It’s easy to imagine coming for one piece of information but ending up clicking through the website as you discover more and more useful stuff.

It’s Visually Appealing

Resources centers are a great way to satisfy the neat freak within your visitors, as well as the design enthusiast.

A well-designed resource center page organizes what you’ve created into easily accessible categories that are also nice to look at. This improves your site’s usability. Plus, the aesthetic appeal will help make your content attractive and encourages more people to check it out.

 

lexie3

 

The resource center over at CJ Pony Parts’ website organizes their articles, videos and guides into menus that features clever copy overlaid on images with visually appealing color gradients. The various colors add a splash of style and personality to the site and make the content look pretty enticing. Below this menu are recent additions that also feature striking images.

Visitors Will Stay Longer

Because visitors to your site know there’s a convenient, central place to discover content, they’re likely to stay a little longer in order to discover some of it. This gives them more time to learn about your company and gain a positive impression of your brand. It also gives you more opportunities to get them interested in what you have to offer.

All of the above points also make for a better user experience, as someone is always more likely to stick around if they’re enjoying their time on your website.

lexie4

It’d be easy to spend a lot of time on KISSmetrics’ website if you’re interested in digital marketing, and that’s in part because of their resource center. It provides a list of marketing guides on a variety of topics. You can scroll down the page to see their various offerings or filter them by category. Having such a wealth of information easily available encourages people to spend more time on their site.

Get the Most out of Your Site

You’ve spent a lot of time perfecting your website’s content. Why let a lack of organization get in the way of sharing it? A well-designed resource center can go a long way toward helping you and your customers get the most out of your website.

Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

 

The post Why All Sites Should Have a Resource Center appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 14, 2017 at 08:00AM
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Federal Funds Rate

The interest rate at which a depository institution lends funds maintained at the Federal Reserve to another depository institution overnight. The federal funds rate is generally only applicable to the most creditworthy institutions when they borrow and lend overnight funds to each other.
March 14, 2017
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Toy Time

From robots to classics, here are the top toy trends for 2017

By Rieva Lesonsky

The Toy Fair just ended and the Toy Industry Association (TIA) says these are among the top toy trends for 2017.

  1. Collectibles 2.0: The NPD Group reports collectibles boasted 33 percent growth last year (to $1.8 billion in sales). The trend is expected to continue this year.
  2. Up & Active: These indoor and outdoor toys are designed to “motivate kids to burn off excess energy.” They run the gamut from tech toys to more classic and traditional games.
  3. Technology Trends: The TIA says 2017 should see a “surge in augmented and virtual reality toys, drones, virtual pets, robotics and more.”
  4. Oh So Classic!: Some of the merchandise in this category may well be the same toys you played with as a kid. These are the low- or no-tech games, puzzles and dolls—which The NPD Group says were “among the fastest-growing toy category” last year.
  5. From STEAM to Stream: STEAM is the new, augmented STEM. Standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, these are educational toys that need to be exciting and engaging, says TIA, to “ignite kids’ curiosity.” This year the addition of Robotics will, according to TIA, “transform STEAM to STREAM.”
  6. Movie Mania: TIA says and Bloomberg Businessweek agrees that licensing has been “a huge boon” for the toy business, accounting for nearly one-third of U.S. toy sales. Businessweek reports, “Almost a third of action figures, race cars and spaceships are tied to Hollywood.” This year, TIA says, there will be “a wave” of family-friendly movies released, likely having an even bigger impact on toy sales.

One trend I’m hearing about from friends and family is buying toys from companies that are making a difference. For instance, Bears for Humanity (pictured above) is a social commerce company that makes its products using certified organic materials and Fair Trade practices. The company hires at-risk women from welfare-to-work programs and donates a bear to a child in need for every bear it sells.

 

 

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The post Toy Time appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

March 13, 2017 at 09:30AM
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Why Do Most of My Mortgage Payments Start Out as Interest?

When you make a mortgage payment, the amount paid is a combination of an interest charge and principal repayment. Over the life of the mortgage, the portions of interest to principal will change.At first, your payment will be primarily interest, with a small amount of principal included.
March 13, 2017 at 09:47AM
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Volatility

1. A statistical measure of the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index. Volatility can either be measured by using the standard deviation or variance between returns from that same security or market index. Commonly, the higher the volatility, the riskier the security.
March 13, 2017
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Glass-Steagall Act

An act the U.S. Congress passed in 1933 as the Banking Act, which prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business.
March 12, 2017
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Nonfarm Payroll

Nonfarm payroll refers to any job outside of farms, private households and the nonprofit sector. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases closely-followed monthly data on nonfarm payrolls as part of its Employment Situation Report. The headline figure, the change in the total number of nonfarm payrolls compared to the previous month, is used as a gauge of economic health.
March 11, 2017
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Civil Rights Clinic

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