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.
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.
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
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.
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 Express, Discover, Mastercard 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 15, 2017 at 11:00AM
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
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
- 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.
The post Landing Page Design With High Conversions: Tricks of the Trade appeared first on Small Biz Daily.
March 15, 2017 at 08:00AM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
March 14, 2017 at 09:30AM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 14, 2017 at 08:00AM
From robots to classics, here are the top toy trends for 2017
By Rieva Lesonsky
- 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.
- 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.
- Technology Trends: The TIA says 2017 should see a “surge in augmented and virtual reality toys, drones, virtual pets, robotics and more.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
March 13, 2017 at 09:30AM
5 Fresh Ways to Boost Customer Experience; How to Become Known As an Expert in Your Industry; Should You Advertise on Local Radio? & More
Small Business Reading List
Articles You May Have Missed this Week
By Rieva Lesonsky
- 5 fresh ways to boost customer experience
- How to prevent on-the-job injuries caused by fatigue
- How to become known as an expert in your industry
- Should you advertise on local radio?
- Is digital marketing a part of your marketing budget?
- Which SEO tactics work best?
- Why local search matters
- 4 keys to successful construction project management
- What do March Madness & loan alternatives have in common?
- 3 secrets to making an emotional connection with your customers
March 10, 2017 at 11:00AM
By Mike Kappel
Whether you’re thinking of starting a business or currently own a business, you need to work on relationship building. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “It’s all about who you know,” then you might understand what I’m talking about. There are five types of business relationships you need to develop when you’re an entrepreneur.
I’ve been a business owner for over 30 years. Without certain types of business relationships, I would not be where I am today.
Types of business relationships you need
Even though you’re busier than all get out, you need to develop and maintain both personal and professional relationships. Your business relationships will carry you through the ups and downs of ownership. And, they will help you grow your business.
Take a look at the five most important types of business relationships you need as an entrepreneur:
Customers can make or break your business. If a customer is dissatisfied, they can spread the word like wildfire, convincing anyone who will listen that they should avoid your business. But, when you work on building business relationships with customers, you develop a loyal following. Trust me, customer satisfaction is something you don’t want to take lightly.
Having a business relationship with customers means addressing any questions or complaints they have, exceeding expectations, showing your appreciation for their patronage, asking for feedback, and thinking of new ideas to keep them coming back.
You need employees who work hard to help grow your business. Relationship building with the people you work with is one of the most important parts of owning a business.
Employees are a major asset to a company. If you want to keep your employees, you need to show you appreciate them. Since I work side-by-side with my employees each day, I actually call them my co-workers. Heck, I spend so much time with my employees that they’re like family to me.
Don’t take advantage of your employees. Show your appreciation for their hard work, respond positively to good ideas, and develop trust. I cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of teamwork in an organization.
3. Lenders and investors
Maintain the relationships you have with your business’s lenders and investors. Not only do lenders loan you the money you need to start your business, they can also provide loans for growing your business.
Building business relationships with investors is equally important. There are a few types of investors you might have at your business. You could have an angel investor, peer, venture capitalist, or even a family member invest in your company. Keep a relationship going with those willing to put money into your business ideas. Both your lenders and investors can provide insight into your finances.
You might think that you want nothing to do with your competitors because they’re … well, competitors. You may have even conducted a market analysis, and invested hours into figuring out how to outperform the other players in your industry. In reality, you need to develop some sort of relationship with the competition to be successful.
As I was beginning my second startup company in 1988, I called and introduced myself to the two major competitors in that market. One competitor had been around for 20 years, and the other had been in business for a whopping 40 years! I introduced myself as a friendly competitor.
I was able to build a mutually-beneficial relationship with both competitors that has lasted to this day. Throughout the years, these two competitors had different seasons when there was a lull in their sales, and I easily could have taken advantage of those situations. But, I refused to do that. I like competing, but I don’t like playing dirty.
Developing relationships with competitors can really help you succeed in your business. Competition keeps you on your toes, opens doors for you, and teaches you about the industry.
Last but not least, developing a business relationship with vendors and suppliers can really aid your company. Reliable suppliers ensure your business needs are met. You can get competitive prices, quality products, and on-time orders if you maintain your business relationships.
If your suppliers come to know you as a trustworthy businessperson who always pays, they might be more understanding if you face small business cash flow problems and can’t pay right away. Instead of requiring you to pay a large sum upfront, suppliers can develop a payment plan.
Mike Kappel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company, and its subsidiaries. Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online payroll and accounting software for U.S. small-business owners. Connect on Twitter: @PatriotSoftware.
The post 5 Types of Business Relationships That Owners Need to Succeed appeared first on Small Biz Daily.
March 10, 2017 at 09:30AM
By Anum Yoon
No matter what type of business you run, there will come a point where you need to outsource some tasks. Small business owners work long hours doing a lot of different types of tasks. About 65 percent of them work at least two weekends a month and around half skip summer vacation to stay on top of work.
However, having a balance between work and personal is vital for the long term. Fortunately, you can outsource some of your management tasks. This will free up your time so you can create that balance and your business will continue to grow.
Know When to Outsource
The first step in a successful outsourcing attempt is to know the right time to outsource projects. Outsourcing does add an expense to your budget that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Some reasons to consider outsourcing:
- You can’t keep up with the workflow
- Important tasks are falling through the cracks, such as bookkeeping or online promotions
- Your internal employees are unable to accomplish the work needed
In addition to freeing up your time, outsourcing can help you bring in specialized expertise that you can’t afford full time.
Choose What to Outsource
Once you confirm it is the right time to outsource, you have to decide what tasks to outsource. For example, if you run a freelance business, your clients might hire you because of your specific writing voice. In that case, you wouldn’t want to outsource your articles as the voice would be different. Some things you can likely outsource easily without losing the personality behind your business include:
- Social media management – planning, scheduling, creating content
- Revenue source management – payments, billing, customer accounts
- Website design – integrating design and functionality for your website
Hire the Right Helpers
Outsourcing is only helpful if it allows you to reduce your workload or bring in special expertise you don’t possess. If you have to spend even more time explaining how to complete tasks than it would take to just do them yourself, then you may not be working with the right people. The right helpers will:
- Have enough experience that you can give them general directions and they can complete the task
- Be self-starters
- Be excellent at what they do
If you hire a writer, you want a writer who can make the prose on your website shine. If you hire a graphic artist, that person needs to be able to come up with a solid logo, web design or other graphic as needed.
However, hiring the right help is a lot more than just hiring someone with experience and ability. You also need helpers who are reliable. Freelancers, especially artists, have a tendency to be a bit unreliable. They are typically creative types, after all. The goal is to find a freelancer who is creative but also organized and turns work in on time.
Know When to Cut Ties
Part of succeeding with outsourcing is to know when to cut ties with the freelancer. The last thing you want to do is continue to pay for outsourcing when it isn’t effective for your business or when you no longer have the funds to afford outsourcing. Some reasons to cut ties:
- The freelancer is unreliable and/or doesn’t respond when you try to communicate about issues.
- Your business income drops dramatically and you need to reduce costs.
- You need different or more advanced expertise than your current freelancer offers.
When you work closely with someone on outsourced projects, it can be difficult to break things off. However, you have to approach it from a business perspective. Be professional, be fair, give the freelancer a little notice that you’ll no longer need their services, and do what is best for your business in the long run.
Successfully outsourcing management tasks is simply a matter of figuring out where you need help and then hiring the best of the best. Bringing a few people on board to handle everyday busy work or specialized tasks will help take your business to the next level.
March 10, 2017 at 08:00AM
By Cliff Ennico
“We started a business some time ago, and have about 10 employees.
The business has done well, to the point where we want to give our employees options to acquire stock in our company.
We had our lawyer draw up a stock option plan and agreements granting options to our employees, but we’re getting hit with tons of questions and don’t know how to answer them. Can you help?”
When you give options to your employees, keep in mind that many if not most of them have never seen anything like this before.
Here are the most common questions they will ask, and my best answers.
Does this mean I own stock in the company? Not yet. Options give employees the right to acquire stock in the company at a future time, for today’s price. Until the employee exercises the options (swaps the options for actual shares), the employee has none of the rights of a shareholder. If the company has a Shareholders’ Agreement in place, employees should be required to sign onto the Agreement when they exercise their options and become shareholders.
What is this $0.00001 “par value”? Is that what I pay for the stock? Par value has nothing to do with what the employee will pay when exercising his options. Par value is an arbitrary amount used by accountants and lawyers to establish the “stated capital” of the company. Because some states (such as Delaware) impose taxes on a company’s “stated capital,” par values are set as low as possible.
The exercise or “strike” price is what the employee pays for shares when she exercises options.
How did you come up with the exercise (strike) price? By having an independent appraiser determine the market value of the company, then dividing that value by the number of issued and outstanding shares of stock.
Why must I pay for my shares? Why aren’t they just free? Because of the tax laws. If a company gives shares to employees for free, the employees are taxed on the full market value of the shares at “ordinary income” rates (see below).
The exercise price cannot be lower than the company’s market value per share at the time of grant. Otherwise, the employee receives a taxable “bargain”.
I’ve been working here for years. Why aren’t some of my options vesting now to reflect my years of service? Because if they vested now, the employee would be socked with taxes on the full fair market value of the shares he received upon exercising the option. Because options are considered compensation, that value would be taxed at very high “ordinary income” rates.
What the Heck is a “cashless exercise”? Does that mean I get stock for free? “Cashless exercise” is actually a good thing for the employee. If an optionee needs to exercise options (to avoid their expiration, for example), but cannot afford to pay the strike price in cash, electing a “cashless exercise” enables the employee to receive some (not all) of their options without having to pay a penny for them.
Here’s an example of how it works: Let’s say an employee has 1,000 vested options he/she needs to exercise with a strike price of $7.25 each, at a time when the market price of the company is $10 a share. Without a “cashless exercise” option, the employee would need to cough up $7,250 in cash in order to exercise his or her options.
By electing a “cashless exercise” for all 1,000 shares, here’s what would happen: the company would reduce the number of shares to be received upon exercise by 725 ($7,250 divided by the $10 market value) to pay the exercise price of $7.25 per share. The employee would receive the balance of the shares (1,000 minus 725 = 275).
This of course results in the optionee having a significantly lower percentage ownership of the company than was initially promised to him, but without having to pay anything for that lower percentage. Obviously, the higher the market value of the company’s shares, the fewer shares would be necessary to pay the $7.25 strike price which remains fixed.
What happens if I leave the company? This depends on what the option agreement says. Generally, if an employee quits or is terminated “without good cause” (for example, in a downsizing), the employee loses all options that have not yet vested, and is required to exercise her vested options within a short period of time (usually 90 days after termination) or else lose them. Some plans allow employees up to one year to exercise options if termination was due to their death or permanent disability.
If an employee is fired “for good cause” (for example, incompetence, embezzlement or fraud), he should lose all vested options and the company should have the right to buy back all vested options for One Dollar. Allowing an employee who has cheated the company to become a stockholder is one of the dumbest things a company can do.
Cliff Ennico (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2017 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
The post When You Give Employees Stock Options, Expect These Questions appeared first on Small Biz Daily.
March 09, 2017 at 09:30AM
Email is one of the most widely used forms of communication on the planet. In fact, approximately 205 billion emails are sent every day – almost thirty emails for every person.
But despite email’s ubiquity, few small business owners take the time to ensure that their system is up to scratch. Unfortunately, email comes with its own unique set of disadvantages, from the 300 million new pieces of malware each year to the 87% of senior managers who are using personal emails for professional purposes.
If your emails are unsecured, your business could face real world consequences. One high-stakes example is the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails during her presidential bid. But you don’t have to be famous to become a victim – in fact, small businesses are being targeted more and more frequently by hackers and malicious software.
Many small businesses run their own computer systems, but many more work with a third-party. Either way, whether you’re augmenting your own team or whether you’re hiring the services of someone else’s, you’ll find yourself working with an administrator.
An administrator’s role is to ensure the smooth running of your systems, including your emails and any internal servers and software. You’ll want to make sure that your administrator is capable of installing and maintaining dependable security software, such as firewalls and monitoring tools.
How to Stay Secure
Email security can seem low priority to a business owner, but it’s important to take the time to put the work in. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you by gathering five top tips to get you started.
It’s not just external threats that companies have to deal with. In fact, your employees can be your own worst enemy. Many breaches are down to human error, which is typically as a result of either carelessness or ignorance. That’s why you’ll need to provide training and education where appropriate. Ensure employees are familiar with your company’s email policy and put safeguards in place to stop messages from being forwarded to people they’re not intended for. Educate staff on common email scams and basic etiquette and ensure that they report any faults or flaws to your administrator.
Authentication – when users log into their accounts with a username and password – is designed to make email communication more secure. But authentication alone isn’t enough – you’ll also need to ensure that the process is encrypted, scrambling the signal for any malicious software that’s listening in.
Use Digital Signing
Some ‘black hat’ tools allow hackers to spoof email addresses and signatures to mimic employees without having to crack the server. This means that unauthorized people might be posing as legitimate employees and causing damage to your business and brand. Fortunately, you can combat the problem by using digital signing – such as GnuPG and PGP – to provide an additional signal to show that your emails are really coming from who they say they are.
So much new information is created – it’s estimated that 90% of the data in the world has been created in the last two years – that it’s hard to keep tabs on it. Unfortunately, this means that many conventional security features are either overwhelmed or out of date almost as soon as they’re released. You can combat this by running powerful, specialist software and by ensuring that it’s up-to-date at all times. And, to protect your sent emails, you can encrypt attachments to maintain a level of control even after they leave the system.
Back Up Your Data
Of course, it’s impossible to safeguard against absolutely everything, so it’s important to take regular backups of your data in case something goes wrong. That way, even If your server crashes, you’ll still be able to access old emails and to restore data in the case of an emergency. But be sure to solve the problem and to check for viruses and malware before you do it.
The current security landscape is complex and dynamic, and it changes so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep up with it. That’s why you’ll need to work with a specialist, and it’s also why you should make it a priority.
Unfortunately, security breaches are more common today than ever, with over 70% of organizations being compromised by a successful cyberattack in the past twelve months. Taking the time to secure your communications can be expensive, but it’s an investment in the future and could save money in the long term. It’s time for you to carry out an audit.
Alek Manov is responsible for the visual communication and user engagement at EuroVPS. He is passionate researcher of human psychology and always looking for a way to innovate and implement new experiences by challenging the established design patterns. Books lover, explorer by nature and full Law of Attraction practitioner. Twitter: @magneticlab.
March 09, 2017 at 08:00AM
By Andy Bailey
Successful companies have clearly defined goals and detailed plans for achieving them. They know that business goals aren’t chosen once and then quickly forgotten. Instead, they’re frequently monitored and re-evaluated.
In every Petra Coach planning session with a company, we help to unify the team in goal-setting by defining a “quarterly theme.” This process starts with a brainstorming session where team members set goals for themselves and the company as a whole. Then we help everyone work together to agree on one overarching theme and visual, which allows them to track progress through the quarter and achieve the goal.
Quarterly themes vary by situation, goal and company. For those wanting to drive visits to their website or online sales, they might take on a social media or email campaign theme. For a team that is unified around more personal goals like weight loss and better eating, the team may opt for a fitness theme. Both are strong and can propel your company forward if developed collectively by team members.
Whether you choose a personal or company-oriented challenge, what’s important is that you take the time to come together as an organization to make it happen – and that everyone has buy-in and accountability.
Here are four steps to create a successful quarterly theme:
- Include everyone. Standing quietly on the sidelines won’t help your company implement a collaborative quarterly theme or its goals. Get everyone involved, even if it’s in different ways. For example, some team members may be more likely to vocalize their ideas while others may be more comfortable creating the graphic. But you need input from all team members to ensure you are working toward the right goal and that it is attainable.
- Set a SMART goal. As you develop your quarterly challenge, specify what your goal is and how you’ll measure success. Also, the goal should be achievable and realistic. For example, if your challenge is for each team member to bring in new business prospects, determine exactly what that means. When has a new business prospect officially been “brought in?” How many new business prospects is each member responsible for bringing in, and does everyone have the tools to do so? Lastly, be sure to set a timely deadline for the goal. Make sure it’s clear to everyone how they can succeed and that expectations are understood across the team. The theme should be challenging, but should also prepare the entire team to succeed.
- Engage in competition. Sometimes just the idea of competition spurs people toward success. And that’s what you want. Split your team into small groups, take one of the main company objectives and challenge each team to develop a method for tracking progress toward the goal. After developing their ideas, teams should do a quick sketch to show how it will work and be monitored. Then, have each team pitch its idea to the group. This ensures the best ideas come to the surface. Vote on which method you believe is best and have all teams rally behind this idea and put it into motion.
- Treat yourself. Let’s be honest—perks make competition better! Determine up front what the reward will be when the team has worked together to accomplish the goal. That will keep members motivated through the quarter and propel them toward the finish line. It could be a celebration at the office, such as ending work early one Friday and ordering in your team’s favorite food, or a company outing to a ball game or go-cart race.
Successful companies work with their teams to build trust and strengthen teamwork – and it’s even better if you can have fun while doing it. A quarterly theme enables you to set competitive and achievable goals and track progress. It brings out the best in your team, helps them work together to achieve goals and yields higher productivity and loyalty. That leads us all to greater success.
Andy Bailey is lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra Coach and serves in an advisory role on the Gazelles Council, the leaders of the Scale Up movement. Visit his blog at www.petracoach.com for more business and leadership insight.
March 09, 2017 at 11:00AM
Using Video to Drive Sales, How to Manage Your Data, Vote for Best Main St. in America, How to Create Viral Infographics & Other Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
10 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—Creating Viral Infographics
Want your infographics to go viral. Visme has put together an infographic (naturally) telling you how to do just that.
2—Managing Your Small Business Data
We all know how important data is to businesses today, but a general lack of trust in the quality of their data prevents them from achieving strategic business objectives. A report from edq.com (Experian Data Quality) shows Nearly half of organizations globally say that a lack of trust in their data contributes to increased risk of non-compliance and regulatory penalties (52%) and a downturn in customer loyalty (51%). To be of value to organizations, data needs to be trustworthy.
You can download the report here and check out the infographic for more.
3—Small Business Startup Stats
Guidant Financial asked its clients about living the entrepreneurial life. Check out the infographic below for their answers. And you can get a copy of Guidant’s white paper: The Complete Guide to Starting a Successful Business. Click here to download now.
4—How to Use Video to Drive B2B Sales
Guest post by Andrea Kalli, founder, VirtualAssitant.net
Business-to-business, or B2B buyers today do not contact a supplier directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete, research shows. For businesses, this means that much of the decision-making process takes place before a potential B2B purchaser even contacts you to discuss your products or services.
Well-crafted explainer videos can increase your return on investment (ROI) by helping you engage with and influence buyers during the early stages of the purchasing process so you capture more sales.
Why B2B Videos Work: Well-produced, quality videos can give business consumers the information they need to evaluate your product or service compared to others. These videos also promote your brand and knowledge, serving as informational and engaging trend pieces. Whether or not a B2B purchaser decides to buy your product after watching the video, they walk away from it with a better understanding of your brand, products, and services, and may decide to buy from you next time. This is the qualitative explanation of why B2B videos help to increase sales.
B2B videos also increase your search engine optimization and make it more likely that a B2B purchaser searching for an item will come across your product before those offered by your competitors. Every service or product you offer is a solution to a problem. A video is the best way to emotionally engage the viewer in a sort of “show and tell” presentation where you talk about the problem, reveal your solution, and make a call to action for them to get it from you.
The more video content, and other online assets, you create the more chances of success you will have. When you regularly create and share engaging video content, you increase your product placement in search results and get more business.
How to Drive Small Business Sales with B2B Videos
Once you understand why videos are an important part of your small business digital marketing strategy, you need to know how to create high-quality videos that will drive sales.
Before you create content, define your purpose or your message: Are you trying to sell more products or services? That’s a sales video. Do you have a unique, next generation product you need to explain? That’s an explainer video. Your purpose should be as short and succinct as an elevator pitch. Always make sure your video has a purpose in mind and you follow through with it.
When you make a video keep its end result in mind: You will be able to develop a stronger video quickly and with fewer costs when you keep the end purpose in mind. A targeted, purposeful video will also resonate more with users than a general video whose purpose is not clear. Before you start your video project, know what you want the end results to be, and make sure you let your audience know what you want them to do once they’re done watching.
To connect with your target audience, your video should be in the right format or style: When there is a mismatch between your audience and your video’s format or content, you will not be successful. Will it be in a presentation style? An illustrated animation story? A whiteboard sketch video? It seems simple, but it is such an important step in the design process.
Think about the style and tone of your brand and that of your regular clients: While it would be acceptable for a B2B business brand to have a sleek, designed video, it would not make sense for that same brand to use animation in their videos. When you keep your brand in mind, you can make decisions regarding the tone, language, style, and intent of the video that ensures success. What is the emotion you want to trigger?
Once you have your purpose and tone, determine what an appropriate length is for your video: If you’re creating a product demo, your video could be anywhere from 60 seconds to 3 to 5 minutes long. (Cisco did research on this and determined the sweet spot for B2B video length is 60 to 90 seconds). Any longer than that and viewers might lose interest. On the other hand, if you wanted to generate thought leadership, 5 minutes would be your minimum video length.
With these tips in mind, you can create targeted videos that meet your purpose and leverage your video assets to grow your business and drive sales. Always know too that if producing video is challenging for you, you can always seek the expertise of those who specialize in it.
5—Win a Main Street Makeover
On February 27, Independent We Stand kicked off its second annual America’s Main Streets contest to reward a deserving Main Street with $25,000 in cash and sponsor-related prizes. The public is invited to nominate and vote for their favorite Main Street. Main Street organizations can also nominate themselves.
“In our inaugural Independent We Stand ‘America’s Main Streets’ contest last year, we saw an outpouring of hometown pride from across the country,” says Independent We Stand cofounder Bill Brunelle. “We know small businesses on these Main Streets help them thrive and have a measurable economic impact. Now we want to hear those stories! It’s as simple as going online and telling us what makes your Main Street great or what could make it even better.”
Voting begins as soon as an area is nominated. Nominations started last month and run through April 23. All nominations and voting take place on MainStreetContest.com.
To support the contest, the Independent We Stand team will hit the road for “The Great Rocky Mountain Road Trip” starting April 24, visiting 5 iconic Main Streets in 5 states in 5 days. Look for the team in Denver, Casper, WY, Bozeman, MT, Idaho Falls, and Salt Lake City. You can follow their journey on Facebook and Twitter.
The presenting sponsor of the contest is STIHL Inc., the country’s number-one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment and the founding sponsor of Independent We Stand. Supporting sponsors include our friends at Alignable, as well as Do it Best Corp, North American Retail Hardware Association, PPG Pittsburgh Paints and SnapRetail.
6—Is Everybody Happy?
Seems so, according to the inaugural American Express Global SME Pulse. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the U.S. and around the world are optimistic about the economy and confident about their futures. The survey shows these businesses in the U.S. are “even more optimistic about the global economy than their foreign counterparts” (54% vs. 39%) and are even more “upbeat” when it comes to their local economies (59% vs. 45%).
Some highlights from U.S. SMES in the survey:
- 69% of expect significant revenue growth (at least 4%) over the next 12 months.
- 42% anticipate revenue growth of at least 8% over the same period.
- 35% forecast a net profit of at least 8% per year over the next three years.
- 48% say their most important strategy to grow domestic revenue is more effective marketing and sales to domestic customers, followed by understanding changing customer demands (46%).
When it comes to “enhancing innovation” 73% say “developing & implementing innovations” is the challenge they will work hardest to address over the next three years by:
- Encouraging all staff to contribute ideas (68%)
- Incorporating customer feedback into the research and development process (67%)
- Encouraging an innovative culture by accepting challenge and risk (66%)
- Employing talented innovators (65%)
- Creating innovation taskforces within the organization (62%)
- Allocating staff time for idea generation (62%)
- Investing more in R&D (62%)
The SMEs are focusing on growth and expansion strategies to improve their financial performances.
- 36% of U.S. SMEs say growing their share within existing markets and the same number say expanding into new domestic markets will contribute the most to their businesses’ financial performance over the next three years
- 27% believe expanding into new international markets will be a contributor to financial performance
- 58% rely on bank loans & 50% rely on existing working capital to fund their investments
7—Small Business Owners are Still Optimistic
Another survey underscores all this entrepreneurial positivity. According to a New York Life survey, fielded recently by Ipsos Public Affairs, the optimism among small business owners significantly outpaces that of the general public, with 60% of business owners feeling positive about the coming year, compared to 43% of Americans aged 30 and up. This optimism can be attributed to several areas small business owners think will positively impact their businesses:
- Technology – 75%
- The new political landscape – 57%
- The employment market/talent pool – 56%
- Interest rates – 54%
- Health insurance – 53%
Small Business Owners Are Building Their Companies in 2017:
|Plan to incorporate mobile technology in my business||66%|
|Plan to network more with other business owners and/or professionals||64%|
|Plan to grow my company- e.g, open another location, increase revenues, expand capabilities, etc.||62%|
|Plan to seek additional capital||55%|
|Plan to hire more employees||52%|
|Plan to improve my employee benefits package||49%|
|Plan to take out a loan||46%|
Some of the key planning steps (financial and otherwise) that small business owners are interested in taking throughout 2017 include:
- Learning about ways to minimize taxes – 79%
- Taking a family vacation – 75%
- Learning about ways to build an emergency fund – 71%
8—New Features from Instagram
Instagram launched a new feature allowing users, including those with Business Profiles, to share up to 10 photos and videos in one post. The social platform reports small businesses are using the new feature to highlight their products and showcase their brands.
If you want to see how your business could use this feature, check out the three companies Instagram highlights that are taking advantage of the new offering:
Behind the scenes product creation: Japanese textile factory @shimogawakyozo displayed photos of textiles as well as a video of the loom creating fabric.
Collections of products: UK artisan @HopeInTheWoods spotlighted multiple images of his handmade woodenware.
Telling a larger brand story: India-based @TheBurplapPeople created an ad campaign in a single post, showing off their burlap bags and telling the viewers a story about how their product can be used.
9—Launching Pad for Innovators
SOSA, which connects corporations and small business startups, recently announced it is expanding globally and opening in New York City.
Roy Oron, CEO of SOSA explains, “Innovation is the driving force behind the corporations that remain ahead of the curve and having an effective open innovation program is a critical piece of that puzzle. By bringing the world of global startups and corporate giants together under one umbrella, we are connecting the supply and demand of corporate innovation and helping our partners infuse open innovation into their operations.”
SOSA says its New York space “will serve as a landing pad for the world’s most promising startups that are ready to go to the U.S. market and need to hit the ground running by developing critical relationships and engaging with local corporation and investors. International startups will also gain access to services that help them effectively access the U.S. market.
The New York space joins SOSA’s already thriving Tel Aviv location, where it has created a global bridge to Israel’s innovation ecosystem helping over 200 corporations and members engage potential partners on the ground, effectively screen over 2,500 startups and manage all functions of their local presence.
A few months ago HonestFew announced the launch of its new book discovery engine. The platform enables readers to find the perfect ebook for them. HonestFew negotiates deals with large publishers and independent authors to provide ebooks for $0 to readers.
HonestFew’s platform is 100% free for readers. Here’s how it works: Book titles and authors remain a mystery. Each book is condensed into a concise 1-line description in a Cards Against Humanity-style stream, with readers browsing through intriguing one-liners like “Killing a person raises your lifespan by 20 years”.
Readers can click to see more and download the book. It’s up to creators to sell their work with just 1 sentence, which puts billion-dollar publishers and indie authors on a level playing field where the best book wins.
New titles are added every week, with all books brought down to $0. HonestFew’s selection of books includes titles from indie writers, independent publishing houses, and Amazon bestselling authors. This movement represents a controversial shift from traditional bookstores to a direct-to-reader model. Just as customers abandoned television for Netflix, readers are leaving print in favor of electronic books that are faster, cheaper, and available from anywhere.
The post Using Video to Drive Sales, How to Manage Your Data, Vote for Best Main St. in America, How to Create Viral Infographics & Other Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know appeared first on Small Biz Daily.
March 08, 2017 at 11:00AM