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5 Practical Ways Bitcoin and Blockchain Can Impact your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 17:30

With all the buzz around blockchain tech and cryptocurrencies, small businesses might feel left out.

Even for those who are not necessarily cutting-edge in terms of tech, these five tips can empower entrepreneurs and small businesses in leveraging bitcoin and blockchain as cryptocurrencies for their financial and other needs.

Using Bitcoin and Blockchain in Your Small Business Accepting Payments in Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies

The survival of the cryptocurrency revolution is completely reliant on its acceptance, and that is where small businesses can excel. Some larger companies, like Amazon and Tesla, are currently accepting cryptocurrency with not too many small businesses jumping on board.

First, let’s talk a moment about why accepting cryptocurrency can be of benefit to you:

Little to no fees — Credit card processors will easily charge you 2-4 percent in fees for using the service. Cryptocurrency transfers are close to free, although services will usually charge a minimal amount (0-1 percent) which means you will save money. Note that you can use services that can confirm blockchain transfers faster, but will have a bigger fee to expedite it.

Faster access to your funds — Banks are not involved with the transactions, and there are no centralized clearing processes. This means you get the payments considerably faster. For example, most bank-based payment processors send payment within 1-2 days. You can get Bitcoin payments within minutes to a few hours, depending on the network’s cryptographic load.

No government ties — Since cryptocurrencies are not tied to any governments or regulatory agencies, there are no borders to consider. You can avoid international exchange rates or transaction fees.

Avoid disputes — Although cryptocurrencies are completely digital, they work like cash rather than credit. All sales are final, and there is no way for a customer to dispute a transaction. If you have had issues with people contesting charges, accepting cryptocurrency can change that for you.

You can actually make a name for yourself by being a pioneer in this regard. It’s as easy as setting up a payment processor that specializes in cryptocurrency.

While many services will offer “wallet” capability, some startups go beyond this. CryptoPay, for instance, offers both a digital wallet for Bitcoins and a physical debit card, which allows users to spend cryptocurrency at any establishment that accepts Visa debit cards. CryptoPay is one of the more established players in this niche and is planning to raise funds through an initial coin offering (ICO) in order to further improve its services.

Signing Agreements with Vendors Through Smart Contracts

Signing agreements with vendors would usually require a lawyer to draw up a contract for you and your client to sign. This can be an agreement for an exchange of service and money, complete with the agenda and timeline. You would wait for that contract to be finalized, parties to sign it, and it would get notarized. Then you would do the work and expect payment to arrive. If the other party didn’t pay you as agreed, you would then go back to your lawyer to bring suit against the other party.

Smart contracts change all of that by making it simpler.

Blockchain technology makes smart contracts possible – these are digitally-signed agreements that can execute certain things when certain conditions are met. You create it with the services you will provide, the mutually agreed upon cryptocurrency amount, and the deadline for the service to be completed.

Once submitted, the contract cannot be altered, and copies will be hosted across all the nodes in the blockchain, so that it’s completely accessible at any time. Because the contract is on the blockchain, it is monitored to be sure that the service promised is delivered. Then when the service is completed, the cryptocurrency is exchanged on the due date without anyone having to do anything to start the process.

There are services that enable businesses and individuals to execute legally-binding smart contracts, such as Agrello, which dispenses with the need for the middlemen, such as lawyers, and eliminates the possibility of breaking the contract.

Conserving Power through Smart Electric Grids

While cryptocurrencies have been criticized for their excessive use of electricity, we are seeing a turnaround in being able to conserve power through the blockchain. In some larger cities, folks are selling solar power on the blockchain to one another.

Essentially, they harvest the solar energy from their own solar panels and then store the excess on a smart power grid. Then, they utilize blockchain technology in order to monitor electricity usage, availability of solar-generated power, and such.

These communities also use the blockchain to sell excess energy to their neighbors or the electricity grid, or to acquire energy when their solar cells are short. All transactions are, of course, dealt with in cryptocurrency.

As a small business owner, you can benefit from using someone else’s excess solar energy, which can result in savings from buying electricity from the grid. If you have a big enough solar power facility, you can even be a net seller of electricity.

The Brooklyn Micro Gird is a P2P energy market based on the blockchain technology. Such projects and initiatives will improve our ability to monitor and manage transactions, as well as creating a connected and distributed network that could disrupt the energy market on a larger scale.

Keeping Track of Logistics and Vendor Shipping

As we mentioned previously, the blockchain is tamper-resistant when it comes to the integrity of your documents. You can add whatever you want, and you cannot delete or change any document or transactions within the blockchain – although everything can be audited and monitored by all parties involved.

This means a lot for the small business owner who needs to track inventory. When you receive inventory, its transaction is recorded in the blockchain. When you sell that item, it’s recorded. When you ship the item, it’s recorded. Who you purchase the inventory from, who purchases it, and who is shipping is all recorded and makes your life much easier. This means no more costly programs that are supposed to do this for you that happen to allow for transactions to be altered or deleted. All of it is done in real-time and with no major cost to you.

Several startups are trying to revolutionize the supply chain. The future holds many promises and it’s only a matter of time until businesses use this technology.

Paying Utility Bills Through Bitcoin Wallets

In the past, one of the reasons people weren’t excited about cryptocurrency was the lack of use for everyday items. We want to be able to pay bills or buy gas with our cryptocurrency and allow our bank accounts to grow while we do so. This has slowly been changing and we are seeing more Bitcoin wallets giving the ability to make utility payments for us.

The above-mentioned platform CryptoPay offers a way to easily make bill payments without having to manually transfer your Bitcoins to your US dollar bank account. Some wallets even let you convert your Bitcoins to fiat currency (like Euros or US dollars) so you won’t be affected by the volatile values.

Conclusion

While cryptocurrencies haven’t been embraced over the last few years like we had hoped, we are still seeing growth happen — both in terms of their values vis-à-vis fiat currency and more acceptance across different businesses. Jumping on board now broadens your customer base and provides you with some added benefits that you can’t get in today’s current market.

Bitcoin Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Practical Ways Bitcoin and Blockchain Can Impact your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Laurel and Wolf Connects Small Interior Design Businesses with Customers Via Crowdsourcing

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 15:30

A new platform is offering small interior graphic designers an opportunity to connect with customers via crowdsourcing. As a trend, crowdsourcing has been offering a variety of businesses this same opportunity. From 99 Designs for graphic designers to Upwork for freelancers there are a growing number of options. Now you have Laurel & Wolf for interior designers.

Crowdsourced Interior Design

The company’s founder Leura Fine got the idea for her business from looking at what startups in some other industries had done. She thought applying the same type of concept to interior design could make the process easier for consumers while also making it easier for interior designers to scale their businesses.

Here’s how it works. Users go online and answer questions about their project, upload photos of their space and even include some of the items they want to incorporate into the design. Then they can choose a designer from the more than 800 on the platform. Designers provide a rendering of their design with a fully executable shopping list to help the customer bring the design to life. Or they can even order everything directly through Laurel & Wolf.

For interior designers, this crowdsourced interior design platform offers a unique opportunity to connect with customers and provide design services to them in a quick and efficient way.

Laurel & Wolf’s story also brings to light how concepts from other industries can help entrepreneurs build unique niches in their own area of expertise. For Fine, this meant applying crowdsourcing and an online platform to interior design. But you could also apply similar concepts to areas like fashion or architecture. Building a place for businesses to connect with customers online and share ideas so that customers can make informed decisions is something that could benefit both customers and companies in a lot of different niches.

Image: Laurel and Wolf

This article, "Laurel and Wolf Connects Small Interior Design Businesses with Customers Via Crowdsourcing" was first published on Small Business Trends

82 Percent of Users Want to Know Why Your Business App Is Requesting Personal Information

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 13:30

For mobile app users, security is top priority and this is something you need to know when developing an app for your small business.

App Privacy Concern

For example, 82 percent of users want clear reasons why your business app is requesting their personal information , a new study has found. If you’re asking someone using your mobile app to give you their location and other private data, you had better be prepared to come up with a good reason why.

Safety of Personal Information Important to Users

According to the report by B2B ratings and reviews firm Clutch, emphasizing security is especially crucial if your app requires sensitive financial information, such as bank account numbers.

A large number of respondents (76 percent) said the safety of their personal information was very important to them.

Users Prefer Shorter Onboarding Process

Mobile users also don’t want to spend too much time getting started.

The report revealed nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents thought the app onboarding process should take 60 seconds or less. In fact, the more time participants had to spend providing information, the more frustrated they became.

Focus on Data Security and Faster Onboarding to Win Customers

As the report shows, building a secure interface should be high on every business owner’s list of priorities.

It’s also important to emphasize app privacy to assure users their information is absolutely safe and gain their confidence. Take the PayPal app, for instance. Users get a prompt notification, informing them their account details will be protected by the company.

“Laying out the technical specifics… won’t actually make people feel as secure as they should feel,” said Jordan DeVries, director of UX and UX/UI firm Brave UX. “Rather, the sense of security is much more of a long play.”

To boost user experience, it’s also important to reduce the onboarding time. The study shows if users become impatient during a key moment like onboarding, they’re more likely to “churn” — to stop using the app.

A faster, easy-to-navigate user interface can help businesses keep their users engaged.

Clutch surveyed 501 individuals across the United States who have installed and subsequently used an app requiring set up of an account within the past three months.

Mobile Phone Users Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "82 Percent of Users Want to Know Why Your Business App Is Requesting Personal Information" was first published on Small Business Trends

25 Tips for Small Businesses Selling at Farmers Markets

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 12:00

Farmers markets offer great opportunities for farmers and other small businesses to connect with customers and make sales. But it’s not as easy as just reserving a booth and setting some products out on a table. Here are 25 tips to help you succeed when selling at farmers markets.

Selling at Farmers Markets Visit Markets Beforehand

One of the biggest factors in your farmers market success is the actual market. You need to find one that fits with what you want to accomplish. And the best way to make that determination is to go and see for yourself.

Leigh Adcock, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network said in an interview with Hobby Farms, “Every market has its own culture and vibe. Some markets cater to busy shoppers who want to quickly buy their week’s vegetables while others create a more social setting with music and kids activities. Talk to other growers and folks buying at the market to get a sense of what the market is like.”

Learn the Rules

Every market has its own set of rules. So you also need to check with organizers to see what types of items, tables and selling methods are allowed before you get started.

Start Small

It can also be a good idea to choose a small market without a huge vendor fee or one that requires you to invest in a lot of equipment for your first market. This allows you to learn the process and make some mistakes before they’ll really have a negative impact on your business.

Find a Unique Niche

Every farmers market has tons of people selling tomatoes and lettuce. So what makes your products unique? You can niche your products by offering a unique variety or a certain type of produce. Or you could even package your products into kits or bundles to make your booth different.

Differentiate Your Products

Your actual products should also be unique in some way. Maybe they’re the most fresh tomatoes or the largest watermelons. But make sure that differentiation is clear to those walking by your booth.

Do a Dry Run

Before you head out to the actual market, set up your booth at home to make sure everything fits and see if there are any areas where you might be able to improve.

Keep Detailed Checklists

Then, make a checklist that includes everything you need to bring, from the actual products to the things you need to set up your booth and display your items.

Remember the Essentials

In addition, don’t forget things like water and snacks for yourself and your team. You’re going to be working hard all day, so you don’t want to be hungry and uncomfortable.

Display the Best Looking Foods

When setting up your booth, the foods on display can make a huge difference. Don’t set out a bunch of brown apples or wilted spinach. Choose your best products and display those front and center.

Stack Your Items High

The way you arrange your items can also make a big difference in how people perceive them.

Urban Farmer Curtis Stone shares the philosophy “Pile it high, watch it fly.” As he explains, creating the illusion of abundance can make your products seem more appealing to passersby. So stack your products rather than laying them out on the table. Or you can even hang things from the top of your booth or utilize other unique display tactics just so shoppers can see a lot of your products all at once.

Decorate Your Table

But simply putting out items isn’t enough. Add some decor like table cloths, trays and photos to add some visual interest to your booth.

Present Yourself Well

You’re also a big part of how shoppers perceive your booth. So don’t show up with messy hair and dirty jeans. Be comfortable but clean and professional so people feel good buying food items from you.

Stand Up

Stone also suggests that standing rather than sitting at your booth can make a big difference. This puts you at eye level with your customers and lets you interact with them more naturally.

Make Eye-Catching Signage

You can also add some signage to your booth to grab shoppers’ attention and let them know exactly what they can expect from your products.

Hire a Designer

But don’t just write a haphazard sign on a piece of cardboard. You want your signs to look professional and represent your business. So unless you’re really confident in your artistic skills, hire someone or ask a creative friend to help you put together some good looking signage.

Clearly Label Prices

Customers don’t want to have to ask you for the price of every item at your booth. So put out signs with prices that are clearly marked and easy to read.

Be Friendly and Talkative

When people approach your booth, greet them in a friendly way and make sure they know you’re available to answer any questions. Don’t be pushy, but do engage them in conversation when the opportunity presents itself.

Create a Consistent System

You should also have a set system for things like taking money and packaging sold items. Make sure bags are easily accessible and everyone working at your booth knows the process for accepting payments. That way the experience is consistent for every customer.

Create an Operations Manual

John Suscovich of Farm Marketing Solutions suggests creating an operations manual that covers every step of the process, from packing your items for transportation to how you package them when customers buy. This allows you to keep all of your employees or helpers on the same page, making it easier for you and creating a more consistent experience for customers.

Keep the Line Moving

If people walking by your booth see a huge line, they might just pass by without stopping. So try your best to move through the line quickly without pushing customers away.

Create a Flow for Your Booth

Part of limiting huge lines at your booth is setting it up in a way that still allows people to shop while others are completing purchases. This all depends on the layout of the market, of course, but if you have room, create some signage to make it clear where people should stand while waiting to complete purchases.

Answer Questions While Selling

You also need to be able to multitask. Practice accepting payments while answering questions from other customers so you can keep the line moving even while others shop.

Create a FAQ Sign

It also might be helpful for you to create a FAQ sign if lots of customers ask you the same questions over and over again. This can make the process easier for them and save you time so you can complete sales.

Display Photos from Your Farm

Lots of people shopping at farmers markets like to actually connect with the farmers they buy items from. And one way to help people feel connected to your booth is to display some photos from your farm, showing where their purchases come from.

Share Recipes

You can also create unique displays or packaging for products that offer recipes and cool ideas for what people can make with your items.

Farmers Market Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "25 Tips for Small Businesses Selling at Farmers Markets" was first published on Small Business Trends

Amazon Creates Alexa Workshops for Small Tech Entrepreneurs

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 10:36

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Galvanize, a 21st-century school for entrepreneurs, engineers, and data scientists, are going to be holding Alexa Skills development workshops to teach developers, designers, and technology buffs how to build skills for Amazon Alexa, the operating system for the company’s smart speaker Echo.

Amazon’s Echo has 70.6 percent of the emerging voice-controlled speaker market compared to Google’s 23.8 percent, this according to eMarketer. With such a large share of the market, it means users and businesses will want to integrate the technology to improve their operations. And Amazon is partnering with Galvanize to give small developers the skill sets they will need to make this possible.

What Is an Alexa Skill?

Skills are essentially Alexa‘s voice activated version of an app. And they have many different applications from helping you check your credit balance or make payments to improving your productivity. The Alexa Skills Kit is the tool box designers, developers and brands use to build more skills to engage with their customers, employees, friends and family. The skills kit has self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples to easily and quickly create new skills for Alexa.

Alexa Skills Development Workshops

Galvanize will bring the Alexa skills development workshops to seven locations across the US in 2017 beginning in late August. The instructors at Galvanize have been trained by Amazon Alexa experts so they can teach the latest development to build for voice with Alexa.

You will learn Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit, AWS Lambda (part of Amazon Web Services), and the Node.js backend JavaScript framework.

Here are the locations where these workshops are being held:

  • Aug. 26: Phoenix, Arizona
  • Aug. 28: Denver, Colorado
  • Aug. 29: New York, New York, and Seattle, Washington
  • Aug. 30: Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, California
  • Aug. 31: Boulder, Colorado
What Can You Build?

Once you have been certified, your skill set gets published in the Alexa Skills Store, where millions of potential customers can seek your services. You will be able to build a voice user interface (VUI) to create an Alexa skill.

Small businesses are using Alexa to order supplies, set reminders, manage to-do-lists, control office equipment and much, much more. But small businesses can also create skills to provide potential customers with certain services, much like business apps created for a mobile device. There are currently more than 15,000 skills, and of course there is a skill that lets you find the best ones, Skill Finder.

Whether you are a freelance developer, a small business owner or someone looking to supplement their income, creation of new skills can be a good business model.

Small Businesses Using Alexa

A great skill example is the one created for Domino’s Pizza. With this skill, you can order a pizza and have Alexa update you on the status of the delivery.

Small restaurant owners can create the same type of skill to update on deliveries, reservations, store times and more. The possibilities are almost limitless.

Cost

Amazon and Galvanize are making the workshops available for free. So the only thing you will have to invest is your time and the willingness to learn something with a huge upside. The half-day session doesn’t require any development experience, so anyone can attend.

More workshops will be held throughout the remainder of 2017. Learn more here.

Image: Amazon

This article, "Amazon Creates Alexa Workshops for Small Tech Entrepreneurs" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Clothing Franchise Opportunities to Try on For Size

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 09:30

Starting a retail clothing business comes with a lot of risk and overhead. But there’s slightly less risk if you can find a good brand to franchise with. There’s a wide array of clothing franchise opportunities out there. Here are 10 options to consider.

Clothing Franchise Opportunities Gap Inc.

Gap Inc. runs some of the most recognizable names in fashion retail, including the Gap, Old Navy, Athleta and Banana Republic. The company is expanding into select international markets through franchising, though it doesn’t offer franchise opportunities in the U.S. or other countries where it has company run stores. You also need extensive business experience to be considered.

Plato’s Closet

Plato’s Closet is a chain of clothing stores that focus on gently used clothing that is still fashionable. The initial investment is between $150,000 and $500,000. And there are also opportunities for franchisees to invest in multiple locations.

Mainstream Boutique

Mainstream Boutique is a women’s fashion brand that offers opportunities for franchisees who want to really connect with their customers and offer quality products. The initial franchise fee ranges from $18,000 to $35,000.

Once Upon a Child

Once Upon a Child is a chain of stores that sells gently used kids’ clothing, toys and other children’s items. Franchisees need a minimum of $75,000 in cash or liquid assets in order to get started.

Hometown Threads

Hometown Threads is a clothing business that lets customers order custom embroidery, monograms and other custom items. The company has a handful of franchise locations around the country and is currently accepting new franchisees.

Instant Imprints

Instant Imprints is another franchise business that offers custom apparel and similar products that can be used for promotional purposes, group outings and more. Franchisees must have at least $100,000 in liquid capital to get started.

Apricot Lane Boutique

Apricot Lane Boutique is a business that features fashion forward retail stores in shopping centers and high traffic areas. The initial franchise fee is $34,500 and it includes training, technology and a recognizable brand name.

Kid to Kid

Kid to Kid offers a resale franchise opportunity for those interested in owning a family friendly business. The company has plenty of prime territories available. And the initial investment ranges from $247,980 to $373,480.

Big Frog

Big Frog is a clothing franchise that offers custom t-shirts and more. The initial franchise fee is $39,500. And the company also requires franchisees to have about $50,000 on hand for working capital when starting out.

Pro Image Sports

Pro Image Sports is a franchise that sells officially licensed merchandise from professional sports teams, including jerseys and other apparel and accessories. The company charges $30,000 for its initial franchise fee, with a smaller fee for any additional stores.

Clothing Rack Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Clothing Franchise Opportunities to Try on For Size" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Is Amazon AppStream 2.0 and Why Might Your Business Need It?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 08:30

Remote access to digital resources has become one of the most important features of today’s business ecosystem. And with people spending more time working remotely, businesses and individuals are looking for reliable platforms to access said resources. The Amazon AppStream 2.0 application was created with this very goal in mind.

Version 1.0

When Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) introduced AppStream in 2013, it had great hopes. The company wanted to streamline the costly process of managing apps on premises. It approached the problem by streaming Windows desktop apps to users via a browser across many different devices.

It didn’t pan out as intended, and Gene Farrell, vice president of Amazon Web Services enterprise applications and EC2 Windows, said as much, explaining “With AppStream, we set out to solve a significant customer problem, but failed to get the solution right.”

Amazon AppStream 2.0

Fast forward three years, and Amazon AppStream 2.0 was released after much customer feedback. With 2.0, users can now stream desktop applications from Amazon Web Services to any device running an HTML5 compatible browser. Access to the applications no longer requires setting up streaming services using an SDK, because it is fully managed by Amazon. This has resulted in a responsive and fluid user experience.

What Can You do With Amazon AppStream 2.0?

With the new service, you can:

  • Run desktop applications on any device, including Windows and Linux PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks,
  • Maintain a single version for all your users with easy access to your users from anywhere,
  • Get instant-on access to desktop applications (meaning no large files to download or time-consuming installations),
  • Keep applications and data on Amazon Web Services, allowing you to isolate your applications for secure delivery,
  • Integrate with your IT environment, including on premises and Amazon Web Services, and
  • Enjoy the benefits of a fully managed service you don’t need to maintain.
Benefits of Amazon AppStream 2.0

With AppStream 2.0 you will have access to the latest version of your applications running on Amazon Web Services compute resources. The data is never stored on your device so you will get improved performance with a secure experience.

The pay-as-you-go pricing means no upfront capital and or premises infrastructure maintenance, while being able to scale as needed instantly.

Is it a Good Model for a Small Business?

The answer of course will depend on many different factors, but small businesses can benefit from AppStream 2.0.

Price varies according to region and resources you use, but here is an example. With the lowest price point, you will start at 10 cents per hour to secure two central processing units and 4 gigabytes of memory for each user. You also have to add a $4.19/month fee for each to cover the Microsoft RDS software license.

This comes out to 80 cents per day for each user for an eight hour day. The monthly bill will run you $20.19 for a five day week, including the Microsoft RDS software license.

Businesses with mostly remote workforces such as online buinesses and many others can benefit from the service. But the service can apply to any business as long as it makes financial sense.

Try Appstream 2.0

The Try It Now feature gives you up to 30 minutes to experience sample applications for business, design, engineering and software development. You will be able to upload and open your own files, save your work and print.

Conclusion

Beyond the cost of the service, with AppStream 2.0 you are not paying for IT personnel, maintenance, updates, security concerns or other costs associated with growth or scalability. The service will not be for every business, but for companies opting to use it, it will mean more time to focus on core services and grow their businesses.

Image: Amazon

This article, "What Is Amazon AppStream 2.0 and Why Might Your Business Need It?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Master the Art of Motivating Your Sales Team With These 20 Strategies

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 07:30

If you want to increase sales for your small business, you need a great sales team behind you. But even the best of sales teams get into slumps now and then. That’s where this list of great motivations come in.

How to Motivate a Sales Team

To keep your sales team operating at their best, you need to motivate them. There are several different methods you can turn to — here are 20 of the top ones.

Build Team Trust

First and foremost, you need to have your team’s trust if you want any request from you to be taken seriously. That means you need to be transparent with them, sharing what you expect of them and what you’ll do to support them. Then you need to actually follow through with those things to earn their trust.

It also helps if you can build trust among the members of your sales team so that they also trust each other. Make clear that you want to create an environment of transparency and encourage open communication among all the members of your team.

Make the Meaning Clear

A Harvard Business Review study found that people who find meaning in their work are more likely to take ownership over it. And that, of course, has a major impact on performance.

To make this type of meaning clear to your sales team, be open with them about how their work impacts your business, and how, in turn, that impacts them. For instance, if making a major sale could help your company secure a big investor, that could make it more clear to your team that what they do actually matters on a big scale.

Document Customer Successes

Another way to share the meaning in your work is to show how sales impact customers. Create case studies or customer success stories to share with your team, especially the ones who worked with those customers. Or even share thank you notes or positive comments with them.

Track Daily Wins

Recognition is, of course, a major factor when it comes to motivating a team. But if you wait around for big wins to recognize when someone has done a great job, you leave the door open for people to fall into bad habits. Instead, create a routine of recognizing things that your sales team has done well each day or week. That way, you never forget to share your thanks for those little wins.

Recognize Your Sales Team Publicly

It can also be a good strategy to recognize your sales team publicly, rather than just in a meeting or company newsletter. Thank team members who have done exceptional work at events or even on your website for a little extra dose of motivation.

Set Clear Goals

When motivating a sales team, it’s also paramount that you make it clear exactly what you want to motivate them to do. Of course you want more sales — but get more specific than that. Are you looking to move a certain type of product? Are you looking to hit a specific number by the end of the quarter? Set really specific goals for individuals and/or your team as a whole.

Encourage Team Unity

Setting overall goals for your team to hit within a certain time frame can also help you create a supportive and motivating environment. Say you want to hit a certain dollar amount in sales by the end of the quarter. Put up a display in your office to track the team’s progress and let each person share their wins at the end of each day or week. Then they can all congratulate and encourage one another throughout the process.

Host a Sales Contest

But you can also benefit from creating a healthy competition between the members of your sales team. Set a clear objective and offer a prize for the person who achieves that objective first. There are plenty of different formats you can use to motivate your sales team in your own unique way.

Let Your Team Set Their Rewards

When it comes to contests or rewards, no one knows what will motivate your team more than your actual team. So ask them what rewards they want for sales contests or objectives rather than just offering some generic prize.

Learn Your Team’s Goals

It can also help if you know what your team members want to accomplish in their own professional lives. You might have some team members who are satisfied remaining in sales and just want to make as much commission as possible. And others might be more interested in moving into management or other roles. If you know what those goals are, you can better tailor rewards and future opportunities to those individuals.

Provide Growth Opportunities

For that matter, providing opportunities for promotions or professional growth can be a great motivation factor. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to offer promotions for everyone who reaches a certain number of sales. But you could also provide opportunities for them to attend events or networking opportunities or to add new skills to their resumes for the future.

Invest in Coaching and Education

You can also bring in coaches or provide opportunities for your sales team to attend courses so that they can continue to grow professionally. Those opportunities can serve as rewards, but they can also teach your team members valuable skills that they can then apply to their work at your business.

Create Happy, Healthy Employees

No matter what kind of rewards or contests you offer, your team isn’t going to work as efficiently as possible if your team isn’t happy and healthy. So you could consider starting an employee wellness program, encouraging regular breaks or vacations or just making sure your team has sufficient health benefits to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Recognize Individual Skills

Each member of your sales team has different strengths and weaknesses. Where one might excel in making cold calls, another might work better with clients who like to meet in person. If you recognize those skills, you can better apply them when you assign tasks to that you set up your team for a better chance at success.

Don’t Disrupt Important Tasks

Once your sales team is motivated, the worst thing you can do is disrupt or distract them. So try to avoid sticking them with extra work that isn’t related to their main sales objective. And don’t distract them with a lot of non-essential meetings or other items that break up the workday.

Automate or Outsource Administrative Tasks

Additionally, all of those little admin tasks that often accompany making sales can sometimes weigh on your team. You might not be able to hire extra people to handle those tasks, but if you can invest in any automation systems or outsource some of those tasks to others, it could help your sales team stay on task.

Use Data to Identify Weaknesses

Big data can provide a lot of insights that you might find helpful when looking for ways to improve your sales team. For instance, your analytics platform might indicate that certain team members are more effective when under pressure at the end of the quarter. Or maybe your whole team works better when you try out a different management structure.

Host Offsite Outings

To help your team work better together, spending some time together outside the office can be beneficial. You could go the traditional team building route. Or if your team is not too into that idea, simply going to a local happy hour or casual dinner can be just as effective.

Ask for Input

You can’t hope to motivate your team as efficiently as possible unless you actually get some input from your team. Ask them, as a group and individually, how you can best motivate them. What are they looking for in a workplace and in the rewards you provide?

Lead By Example

And of course, the best way to let your team know what you expect from them is to show them. Be an example of the type of worker you want at your company, in terms of work ethic, attitude and motivation.

Happy Team Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Master the Art of Motivating Your Sales Team With These 20 Strategies" was first published on Small Business Trends

FedEx Won’t Add Holiday Surcharges on Regular Sized Shipments

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 06:30

Appoaching the Christmas holiday season, FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) has announced it will not apply residential holiday season surcharges on regular sized shipments.

Big Changes in FedEx Holiday Surcharges in 2017

“To support our millions of loyal small business customers and consumers shipping holiday gifts at FedEx Office and FedEx Onsite locations, FedEx will not apply holiday season surcharges except for packages that are oversized, unauthorized or require additional handling,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, senior vice president of Integrated Marketing and Communications at FedEx, in a press release.

If you ship packages requiring additional handling, however, be prepared to face an increase to some surcharges for FedEx Express and FedEx Ground shipments during the holiday shipping season. The same will be the case with oversized or unauthorized packages — as Fitzpatrick explained. These surcharges include a $3 per package increase for additional handling, $300 per package increase for ground unauthorized packages and $25 per package increase for oversize packages.

“These packages consume an inordinate amount of cubic space in FedEx Ground and FedEx Express equipment in the U.S. and Canada,” Fitzgerald added.

The surcharge increases will take effect November 20 to December 24, 2017 but will apply only for packages fitting into the special categories specifically mentioned in the company’s release.

UPS Adding Surcharges on U.S. Residential Packages

FedEx’s main rival United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) said in June it will levy surcharges on U.S. residential packages during the peak holiday season this year. The company also said it will marginally increase surcharges on packages that are larger, heavier, or have unconventional shapes during selected weeks in November and December 2017 as it seeks to combat spiraling costs of delivering eCommerce packages.

It would seem the move by FedEx not to levy residential holiday season surcharges on regular sized shipments is a competitive one. And small business shippers will doubtless welcome the move.

FedEx Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "FedEx Won’t Add Holiday Surcharges on Regular Sized Shipments" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Restaurants Likely Will Notice Impact of Chinese Aluminum Foil Tariff

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-08-14 05:00

The Trump administration is considering a plan to tax aluminum foil imports from China after finding that the country is heavily subsidizing aluminum foil.

Looming Aluminum Foil Tariffs

The Department of Commerce could impose a reciprocal 16.56 to 80.97 percent tariff on aluminum foil after the department discovered that the Chinese government supported aluminum producers.

“The United States is committed to free, fair and reciprocal trade, and will continue to validate the information provided to us that brought us to this decision,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement Tuesday. “The Trump Administration will not stand idly by as harmful trade practices from foreign nations attempt to take advantage of our essential industries, workers, and businesses.”

The Commerce Department won’t make the countervailing duty decision, which allows the government to impose duties in order to create a more level playing field, until at least October 23.

The investigation into aluminum foil producer subsidies is not part of a broader investigation into China’s aluminum trade that President Donald Trump initiated by executive order in March.

The Aluminum Association, a trade group representing foil producers which first complained about China’s attempt to manipulate the aluminum market, was pleased with the administration’s preliminary decision.

“U.S. aluminum foil producers are among the most competitive producers in the world, but they cannot compete against products that are subsidized by the Chinese government and sold at unfairly low prices,” Heidi Brock, the president and CEO of the association, told CNN.

Salmon in Foil Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Small Restaurants Likely Will Notice Impact of Chinese Aluminum Foil Tariff" was first published on Small Business Trends

Upcoming Twitter Chat Can Help You Prepare for the Holidays

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-08-12 13:30

Think it’s too early to start preparing your small business for the holiday season? Think again!

The holidays require a lot of preparation for a lot of small businesses. And fitting all of that work into a month or two isn’t feasible. Instead, you can learn more about preparing your business now as part of an upcoming Twitter chat.

The #HolidayBizPrep Twitter chat, sponsored by the UPS Store, is slated for August 15. During the chat, you can learn from small business experts and other entrepreneurs about the best strategies to get ready for the upcoming holiday season.

Learn more about the #HolidayBizPrep Twitter chat and other upcoming small business events in the Featured Events section and the list below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

ChallengeHER for Women Business Owners
August 15, 2017, St. Paul , Minn.

ChallengeHER works specifically with the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) federal contracting program as a tool to help to assist women business owners leverage federal awards, learn the federal procurement process, and to connect them with the right people. With this knowledge, you are much better positioned to grow your business and increase your revenue. Join us Tuesday, August 15, 2017.

UPS Store #HolidayBizPrep Twitter Chat
August 15, 2017, Online, Twitter

On Aug. 15, at 2 p.m. EDT, please join Small Business Trends founder and CEO Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends), small business branding and technology expert Ramon Ray (@ramonray) and bestselling author, and small business columnist and speaker Steve Strauss (@SteveStrauss). These three experts will discuss preparing your small business for the holiday season in a Twitter chat sponsored by The UPS Store (@TheUPSStore) under the hashtag #HolidayBizPrep. Tis’ the season — to prepare!

Staples Breakroom Makeover Contest
August 31, 2017, Online

Win a $50,000 Ultimate Breakroom Makeover for your office!

The breakroom in any office serves as a place to refuel, boost productivity, attract & retain top talent, and gather away from desks & conference rooms. Is your current breakroom lacking and in a need of an upgrade? If so, enter and you could win a breakroom for your office that will help your employees recharge, refresh, and be more productive.

Slack Frontiers
September 12, 2017, San Francisco, Calif.

Finding better ways for teams to work together is one of the biggest challenges facing every company and industry. That’s why Slack is introducing Frontiers on September 12 – 13, Pier 27, San Francisco. Slack Frontiers is a two–day conference that brings together leading thinkers, Slack customers, developers, and partners to explore how the nature of teamwork is changing. Be among the first to hear about Slack’s newest products, learn how Slack improves work and workflow, and hear from customers about the ways their organizations are evolving.

Influencer Marketing Days
September 25, 2017, New York, N.Y.

Influencer Marketing Days is a forum rich in professional development and laser-focused networking opportunities. Whether you are a marketer involved in PR or integrated marketing, community development or social media management, or an influencer looking to leverage the power of influencer marketing, this conference is for you! It is the must-attend event both for marketers responsible for their company’s influencer marketing campaigns, and for influencers looking to optimize monetization of their clout. Whether you already run influencer marketing campaigns or you’re investigating ways to leverage this powerful type of marketing, Influencer Marketing Days will equip, educate, and inspire you to make the most of your efforts.

ONTRApalooza
October 04, 2017, Santa Barbara, Calif.

ONTRApalooza is a three-day conference for entrepreneurs, marketers and business leaders packed to the brim with hands-on workshops, in-depth software sessions, and inspiring keynotes from leading experts. Join in on Oct. 4 – 6, 2017 to learn the strategies that are getting results now. Leave prepared to make a bigger impact.

Rule Breaker Awards Ceremony
October 24, 2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.

On October 24, 2017 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way in a ceremony featuring the Rule Breaker of the Year and Rule Breaker Award winners.

NextCon
October 23, 2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.

At NextCon, you’ll gain:

– Proven techniques to garner higher customer satisfaction.
– Insider strategies from leading experts to help you provide amazing customer service.
– Methods of engaging your employees to better deliver on your customer experience.
– Hands-on training with Nextiva’s technology and products so you can take advantage of tools you already have, or learn about new ones.

Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.

More Events More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

Twitter photo Shutterstock

This article, "Upcoming Twitter Chat Can Help You Prepare for the Holidays" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Tips for Using New Technology to Benefit Your Business

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-08-12 12:00

Technology is constantly changing the way businesses operate. And while that’s a good thing, it can also be a bit tough for small business owners to keep up. But members of the online small business community know what it’s like to work with changing technology. Here are some tips they’ve shared for keeping up.

Learn How and Why to Build a Chatbot for Your Business

Some businesses could benefit from using chatbots for certain functions like customer service. But it’s important to understand how exactly to use the technology before getting started. Marcia Riefer Johnston shares the how and why in this Content Marketing Institute post.

Segment Your Audience to Chase Conversions

If you want to make more sales for your business, segmenting your audience using your CRM or similar tools can provide a major boost. In this Kissmetrics post, Anthony Capetola explains why you’re missing out if you’re not already segmenting your audience to increase conversions.

Make Use of Virtual Data Rooms

Protecting your data should be a top priority for pretty much every small business owner. And Virtual Data Rooms offer a unique opportunity to keep data safe in the cloud. Ivan Widjaya elaborates in this SMB CEO post.

Improve the Security of Your Small Business

Additionally, there are a number of other security methods you should consider to keep both your business’s physical and virtual property protected. Sage Singleton lists some of those methods in this post on the CorpNet blog.

Don’t Fall for These Online Marketing Shams

When hiring marketing agencies or professionals for your business, you need to be aware of some of the shams out there so you don’t end up wasting valuable time and resources. In this Strella Social Media post, Rachel Strella details some of the most common types of shams. And BizSugar members share thoughts on the post here.

Learn to Use SEO in the Machine Learning World

Machine learning can provide some major benefits to businesses. But it can also complicate things when it comes to SEO. Learn more about using SEO in the machine learning world in this Search Engine Journal post by Dave Davies.

Use These Lead Nurturing Emails

Through all the technological advances in recent years, email remains a powerful way for businesses to communicate with customers and prospects. If you’re looking to nurture leads by email, take a look at the examples in this SUCCESS Agency blog post by Mary Blackiston.

Prioritize Your Data Mining

With so much data out there for businesses to take in, it can be difficult to know where exactly to start. But having a strong starting point is paramount, as Stephen H. Yu outlines in this Target Marketing post. He also shares some tips for making informed data decisions.

Build Web Traffic with Pinterest

Social media platforms like Pinterest have had a major impact on how people communicate and how businesses market their products and services. For more tips on how you can use Pinterest to gain more traffic to your website or blog, check out this MyBlogU post by Ann Smarty.

Increase Engagement Using These Facebook Marketing Tips

Of course, Facebook is another social media platform that is evolving rapidly with new technology. To keep engagement high, check out these tips from Rebekah Radice. Then see what BizSugar members are saying about the post here.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

Future Tech photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Tips for Using New Technology to Benefit Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Really Bad Reasons to Put Off Becoming EMV Chip Card Compliant (INFOGRAPHIC)

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-08-12 09:30

If you’re like most businesses, you already accept chip-based credit and debit cards. If, however, your business is not EMV compliant yet, there might be some serious consequences in your future.

Financial services company TSYS (NYSE:TSS) has created an infographic for the National Federation of Independent Business to explain why companies need to become EMV compliant.

5 Bad Reasons to Not Become EMV Compliant

The infographic presents five intentionally silly reasons to put off becoming EMV compliant — to make a point. The infographic also includes the important data to back up why such compliance is absolutely in your business’s best interest.

The Rest of the World is Wrong

Data reveals 76 percent of payment terminals outside the U.S. are EMV compliant. But apparently that’s still not a good enough reason for some businesses to switch.

Living Dangerously is a Thrill

By not becoming EMV compliant, you also run the risk of exposing confidential customer data to hackers and cybercriminals. Chip-based cards make transactions safer for you and your customers.

Customers are Overrated

Did you know 69 percent of consumers are less inclined to do business with an organization with a history of data breaches? In other words, if you are not serious about preventing data theft, you will lose business. This gives you another good reason to switch over to EMV cards.

Merchants Have Unlimited Cash

Fraudulent transactions cost businesses dearly, especially smaller businesses. So, unless you have an unlimited source of funds for your business, it’s in your business’s best interest to prevent data thefts.

Change is Hard

Accepting chip-based cards is also quite simple. Instead of swiping a chip card, customers insert the chip into the point-of-sale terminal for the entire duration of the transaction. Surprisingly, despite this, many businesses continue to not accept EMV cards.

To learn more about the dumb reasons for not upgrading to EMV payments, check out the infographic below:

Click to view bigger image…

EMV Cards Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Really Bad Reasons to Put Off Becoming EMV Chip Card Compliant (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Blue-Collar Gold Shows the Potential Beyond the Stereotype

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-08-12 07:00

When most people think of entrepreneurs, they think of white-collar employees. They don’t think of chimneys. Yet, chimneys were the essential ingredient behind Mark Stoner’s rise to million-dollar success. Like others, Stoner didn’t believe a blue-collar job was the path to big success. His trip through the blue-collar industry was supposed to be temporary until he found something “better”. But things didn’t out that way. Blue-Collar Gold: How to Build a Service Business From the Dirt Up is the story of Stoner’s success and the lessons he gained along the way.

What is Blue-Collar Gold About?

Most people have a negative view of the blue-collar jobs. Society today often views them as inferior to white-collar jobs and certainly not the path to a lucrative business career. This bias assumes that blue-collar workers are not entrepreneurial like their white-collar counterparts.

Stoner’s own experiences, as depicted in his book, tell a very different story.

Before launching the blue collar business that would make him millions, Stoner was a member of a country band that was on the rise. They had won awards, gained a little attention, and were preparing for a deal. Unfortunately, that’s when trouble with the band leader and an ego inflated with success sent the group’s fortunes spiraling.

Stoner took the opportunity to dive full-time into a very unusual side gig — that of a chimney sweep. But through a series of unexpected twists and turns, it would also lead to blue-collar gold and make him a millionaire. The process wasn’t a straightforward one. For a long time, he treated his chimney-sweeping like a “job” instead of a profitable business.

Then he got seriously injured on the job.

It occurred to Stoner he could scale the business and scale he did. He shifted into business growth mode. Stoner obtained more trucks, expanded his service area, and began to grow the business to the point he could step away and still earn income.

Blue-Collar Gold contains the lessons on leadership, business development, and marketing that Stoner gained along the way. His core message is that a great potential exists in supposedly blue-collar businesses but entrepreneurs have to be willing to step outside their comfort zone  By moving past the “blue-collar” stereotype, entrepreneurs can find new frontiers of opportunity with the same growth potential as the high tech startups you see on television or in magazines.

Stoner turned a one-man side gig as a chimney sweep into a multi-million dollar business. He is a speaker, the current president of the Chimney Safety Institute and founder of the Sir Vent Chimney and Venting Service, a franchise that developed out of his expertise in the chimney-sweeping industry.

What Was Best About Blue-Collar Gold?

Blue-Collar Gold deserves credit for highlighting the business potential in supposedly blue-collar businesses. As Stoner reports (and news reports have declared for years), hundreds of blue-collar jobs go unfulfilled each year. These gaps in the economy are waiting for entrepreneurs and workers to fill them.

Blue-Collar Gold also demonstrates how leaders can use theory and practical experience to become better leaders. The book shifts between Stoner’s actual experience and the insights to be gained. This interplay of experience and learning is exactly what entrepreneurs need to advance in their careers.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Blue-Collar Gold is better suited for professionals already in blue-collar businesses. While the book offers plenty of helpful tips it lacks critical details prospective blue-collar entrepreneurs need to get started. Some of these details include funding, money management and business planning. Providing these details could help a prospective blue-collar entrepreneur break  into a new industry or a current blue-collar business owner refine his or her management skills.

Why Read Blue-Collar Gold?

Blue-Collar Gold tells an advice-packed, inspirational “rags-to-riches” story to inspire anyone interested in taking a second look at blue-collar business. Stoner also deserves credit for changing the discussion within the blue-collar business world itself. The blue-collar businesses have traditionally emphasized technical skills. Stoner’s journey shows the power of including business development and other “soft skills” into the blue-collar business world with unexpectedly profitable results.

This article, "Blue-Collar Gold Shows the Potential Beyond the Stereotype" was first published on Small Business Trends

Don’t Want to Stand Out Networking? Then Don’t

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-08-11 17:30

Most people still envision networking as a Pokemon Go game where the professional who exchanges the most business cards wins. In the eyes of author Dorie Clark, this narrow view of networking robs professionals of the opportunity to create valuable and meaningful long-term relationships. Clark’s book, Stand Out Networking: A Simple and Authentic Way to Meet People on Your Own Terms helps readers transition from the “I need the business card of everyone at this event” mindset to the “I’m here to exchange awesomeness with the people around me” way of thinking.

What is Stand Out Networking About?

For professionals tired of networking events, Stand Out Networking may offer a very simple solution to the “I-hate-going-to-networking-events” problem: Don’t go. If you are attending a networking event for the sole purpose of collecting more business cards, you may be wasting your time. As Clark points out, people don’t gain a lot of value from business cards. They gain value from the relationships with the person on the business card. Relationships, not number of business cards, are the currency of networking discussed in Stand Out Networking.

Networking, as Clark suggests, should be focused on building relationships because that is the overall goal in the first place. We attend networking events to grow our network of relationships. Traditional advice on networking, however, focuses so much emphasis on the trying to “win” at networking instead of the process of building a relationship. This leads people to believe that they “should” go to a networking event if they want to strategically advance their career.

A better approach, Clark says, is connecting on a deeper level with individuals, online and in the real world. Find ways to connect with people that match your personal style of relating to people (i.e. introvert or extrovert) and demonstrate your unique talents and skills. It doesn’t matter if that connection occurs at an event or through a blog post. It only matters that you exchange meaningful value with the relationships that are in your network. By exchanging unique and meaningful value with others, you establish a relationship that can open up more doors than a simple exchange of business cards with a person you have never met. By exchanging value, you truly learn to stand out.

Clark is an author, speaker, media commentator, marketing consultant, adjunct business professor, and guest lecturer whose book “Reinventing You” was rated as the #1 book on Leadership by Inc magazine and one of the Top 10 Business Books of the Year. A former award-winning journalist, Clark enrolled a program for the academically gifted at 14. She went on to graduate two years later with a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. Along the way, she also became a Grammy-nominated jazz producer.

What Was Best About Stand Out Networking?

Stand Out Networking continues the theme of adaptability that is present in Dorie Clark’s best-selling book “Reinventing You “and applies it to networking. This offers a much more realistic response to networking than most networking books which still focus on traditional networking techniques that are slowly dying out. Clark’s overall suggestion counters the idea that you need to fit a certain mold to network effectively. Instead, Clark attests, you should adapt networking to your personal style so that you can connect on a deeper and more comfortable level. This is encouraging and empowering news for networking-tired professionals.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Stand Out Networking does an excellent job at demonstrating how networking can adapt to technology and your personality. This empowering book provides several actionable and interesting recommendations for readers to consider when trying to figure out how to refine their network skills. One area that could be developed more is the application of the book’s philosophy to real-life case studies. Specifically, the book could cover the results of an individual’s networking efforts before the book and their results after using the book’s information on a daily basis.

Why Read Stand Out Networking?

Stand Out Networking looks at the future of networking for all professionals.Networking focused on short-term goals (like trying to meet everyone at a networking event) or in ways that are counter to our personal style of communication aren’t sustainable over the long-term. That’s where this book comes in. It pushes readers to invest in the long-term game of building a strong network that evolves with your future career.

The book also recognizes the impact of technology, both the potential and liabilities. Many books focus on technology (in particular, social media) in an overly optimistic tone. Clark, however, cautions readers to choose quality over quantity, no matter how they connect with a person (online or off). This is an important principle to keep in mind as our world moves into a tech-oriented world that still requires smart networking to thrive.

This article, "Don’t Want to Stand Out Networking? Then Don’t" was first published on Small Business Trends

Join Us for The UPS Store #HolidayBizPrep Twitter Chat and Make Sure Your Business is Ready

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-08-11 15:30
Sponsored Post

It may sound crazy to get ready for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Christmas shopping while the pool is still open and it’s still hot enough to grill outside.

But small business owners know it’s never too early to prepare for what might be the most important few months of your business year.

So pour yourself a nice cold glass of lemonade and leave the lawn mowing for another day.

On Aug. 15, at 2 p.m. EDT, join Small Business Trends founder and CEO Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends), small business branding and technology expert Ramon Ray (@ramonray) and bestselling author, small business columnist and speaker Steve Strauss (@SteveStrauss). The chat will be moderated by Jon Gelberg (@Jon_Gelberg) Executive Editor, Content Strategies at Inc. Magazine.

These three experts will discuss preparing your small business for the holiday season in a Twitter chat sponsored by The UPS Store (@TheUPSStore).

Follow along by searching and using the hashtag #HolidayBizPrep.

During this chat you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Share top tips with other small business owners.
  • Learn the best tools and tactics to close that Holiday sale.
  • Get tips on where to spend your Holiday marketing budget.
  • Learn how to take advantage of Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is set for November 25, 2017. It’s a special day created to encourage support of small businesses, and it can provide a huge opportunity — if you take advantage of it for your business.

Participate in the Twitter Chat

To learn from experts and other small business owners who will answer these questions and more, be sure to join us.

Participation is simple. Follow the discussion at #HolidayBizPrep and add the hashtag to your tweets when responding to a question or posting one of your own.

More Details:

What: The UPS Store “Marketing Tips for the Holiday Season” Twitter Chat

Who:

  • Sponsor: @TheUPSStore
  • Small Business Trends founder and CEO Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends)
  • Small business branding and technology expert Ramon Ray (@ramonray)
  • Bestselling author, small business columnist and speaker Steve Strauss (@SteveStrauss)
  • Executive Editor, Content Strategies at Inc. Magazine Jon Gelberg (@Jon_Gelberg)
  • Be sure to follow @inc as well!

Where: Twitter

Hashtag: #HolidayBizPrep

When: Tuesday August 15, 2017, 2 p.m. EDT

Twitter Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Join Us for The UPS Store #HolidayBizPrep Twitter Chat and Make Sure Your Business is Ready" was first published on Small Business Trends

Microsoft Unveils Beta Version of Outlook.com, HP Debuts Small Business Printer

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-08-11 13:31


If you use Microsoft’s Outlook for business email better hurry and get your comments in so you can have a voice in how the platform evolves. Microsoft is seeking feedback for a beta version of what comes next. Also, if  your small business still relies on printer having a printer, a new HP device specifically designed for this has been introduced.

Check out these headlines and more below in this week’s Small Business Trends News and information roundup.

Technology Trends Microsoft Unveils Outlook.com Beta Version and Wants Your Feedback

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) has unveiled a new beta version of Outlook.com, complete with a fresh new design and intelligent features. Outlook Beta Launched Microsoft says the new Outlook.com, its free personal email service, is a smarter opt-in web experience. But plenty of business users will find the service helpful too.

HP Debuts New Wide Format Printer for Small Businesses

Mobile-enabled printing is allowing small businesses to access their printers remotely from their smartphone, tablet or laptop. The new OfficeJet Pro 7720 Wide Format All-in-One printer by HP (NYSE:HPQ) is going to have mobile-enabled printing capability with a price point small businesses can afford.

Popular  Business Platform WordPress Gets First Maintenance Release for Update 4.8

Small business favorite publishing platform WordPress has just announced its first maintenance release — 4.8.1 —  since the release of its latest update in June. Named after American jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans, WordPress 4.8 “Evans” was released June 8 and has already been downloaded more than 13 million times.

Economy Proposed New York Law Could Require Government to Buy American

You’ve already heard about some of the “Buy American” initiatives that are attempting to support American manufacturers. But what if buying American made products was actually required by law? That’s what one lawmaker has proposed for certain government purchases in central New York. Ted Morton is an Erie County Legislator who has proposed this new rule.

Small Business Loan Approvals Hit New Post-Recession High, Biz2Credit Reports

Big banks have brought good news for small businesses. According to the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, a monthly analysis of loan approval rates, big banks approved 24.5 percent of funding requests, a new post-recession high in July.

Franchise Save Local Business Act Addresses Joint Employer Issue for Franchises

Lawmakers have unveiled a bipartisan bill designed to roll back the controversial joint employer rule franchise owners argue has created “extreme” liability issues across a wide range of industries. The Save Local Business Act According to members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Save Local Business Act (H.R.

Best Franchise Bargains Based in Maine and Montana, Recent Data Suggests

When starting a franchise, the location of the company’s corporate headquarters seems to be a factor in determining cost. For example, franchises headquartered away from the coasts seem to be a better buy. That’s with the exception of those based in the upper mid-west and south. Howmuch.net has crunched the data pulled from a list of the nation’s finest franchise opportunities.

Marketing Tips Marketing Emails Sent at 4 p.m. have the Highest Open Rate

Planning to send your next marketing email? Consider sending it at 4 p.m. Turns out it’s the best time to get a response from your target audience. This interesting insight comes from a new study by email marketing software provider, GetResponse. The report found emails sent at 4 p.m. receive the highest open rate (25.13 percent).

Expert Suggests Yelp Alternative to Market Your Business

Andrew Zimmern thinks Yelp is useless. The host of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” on the Travel Channel offered an alternative to looking up restaurants on Yelp in an interview with Business Insider. His issue with the review site is that it crowdsources a lack of expertise.

Sheetz Rewards Unofficial Brand Ambassador with Free T-Shirt

Brand ambassadors can come in many different forms. Sometimes you can carefully craft a strategy to entice customers to promote your business in very specific ways. But sometimes customers come up with their own unique ways to promote your business — and you just have to run with it. Such is the case with Andy Peck, who created the Instagram account Mozzaratings.

Retail Trends Little Caesars Pizza Portal Provides Inspiration for Business Automation

Pizza chain Little Caesars just unveiled its new Automated Pizza Portal — a system for ordering and picking up pizza that could provide some inspiration for small business automation.

Celebrate and Buy at National Farmers Market Week Aug 6 to 12

It’s National Farmers Market Week this week, from August 6 to 12, 2017. Last Thursday U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed the Proclamation designating this week as “National Farmers Market Week.”  This is the 18th year the U.S. Department of Agriculture has supported National Farmers Market Week.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Tigris Events Provides Event Support, Marketing Services

Events offer so many opportunities for small businesses to connect with potential customers and promote their offerings. And that’s just one of the specialties of marketing and promotions agency Tigris Events. Read more about the company and how it differentiates itself in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does Helps businesses hold marketing events.

Mobile Technology Google Says New Algorithm Could Make It Easier for Others to Find Your App

By 2017 the Google Play store reached an impressive 2.7 million app publications, with more than 82 billion apps being downloaded in 2016. So how can you weed out the best applications from a staggering 2.7 million apps? Well, Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is going to make it easier with a recently improved search and discovery algorithms which will highlight quality apps.

3D Super Mario Bros Video Suggests Use of Augmented Reality in Business

Ever wish you could jump inside a video game? That’s becoming a more realistic possibility thanks to new technology like augmented reality. That possibility was demonstrated very clearly in a video that went viral this summer showing an augmented reality version of a Super Mario game. Abhishek Singh is the creator of the app featured in the video.

These Solar Powered Clothes May Be Able to Charge Your Phone

Tech and fashion aren’t two industries that normally have a lot of overlap. But ISHU is a company that’s trying to change this. The company has already gained notoriety due to its “anti-paparazzi scarf” — a scarf reflecting flash from a camera so it’s more difficult to photograph the wearer. And now, the company is working on a line of solar powered clothing.

Small Business Operations 2 of 3 Managed Service Providers Not Offering Adequate Cybersecurity Support

Security has become the one issue everyone must deal with in the connected world we live in. For small businesses who are coming under increasing attack, it is even more pressing. A new survey report from Kaspersky Lab only increases this anxiety, as it reports two-in-three managed service providers (MSPs) are suffering from a shortage of qualified cybersecurity staff.

USDA  Launches Mentorship Initiative to Help Farms, Ranches and Local Rural Businesses

Acquiring the necessary expertise to successfully run a business in any industry takes time. Without the proper guidance, the trial and error method is costly in terms of time, capital and other resources. The launch of a mentorship initiative between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and SCORE will support new farmers and ranchers so they can avoid these mistakes.

SageWorks Releases CashSage Tool to Measure Your Cash Flow – Free!

Shifting pieces like operating costs and profit margins around to increase cash flow makes for a game of financial chess for small businesses.  Now, an online dashboard allows business owners to use  a series of sliders to see how changing important benchmarks can accomplish this goal.

Social Media Google Plans Snapchat Rival, How Can Your Business Benefit?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is reportedly working on creating a Snapchat rival. And it could be something worth watching for small businesses. The company is in talks to transform its Instant News Articles into something similar to Snapchat’s Discover feature.

Facebook Will Put Faster Loading Sites Top of News Feeds

A one second delay in page load time translates to reduction in conversions, page views and customer satisfaction of 7, 11, and 16 percent respectively. And as mobile becomes the primary means of internet access for more users, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has announced a new upcoming update to News Feed which will direct users to faster-loading links on mobile.

10 Ways Your Business Can Use the New Facebook Cover Video Feature

You can now upload a video to the cover image area of your business’s Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) page. That means you have the opportunity to pack even more interest and information into the top of your Facebook business page. Videos can be between 20 and 90 seconds long. So you have a limited amount of time to work with.

Startup What is Indiegogo for Entrepreneurs?

Crowdfunding platforms have turned traditional funding on its head, so much so it is poised to surpass venture capital or VC funding. With more than $34 billion raised in 2016 through different crowdfunding platforms, the launch of Indiegogo for Entrepreneurs is an attempt to support those seeking funding from concept to market.

78 Percent in Survey Seldom Meet Someone Who Makes A Strong First Impression

Are you making a good first impression? Researchers with the UK’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) think not. The organization has created a special division called RADA in Business to pass on dramatic skills useful to the business community.

Microsoft photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Microsoft Unveils Beta Version of Outlook.com, HP Debuts Small Business Printer" was first published on Small Business Trends

Survey: American Farmers Need Broad Tax Relief

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-08-11 12:00

American voters are in favor of tax reforms to support farmers ranch families and other agricultural small businesses, a new survey has found.

American Farmers Need Tax Relief

According to the study, seven out of 10 voters agreed passing tax reform legislation should be a priority for Congress.

“Americans are ready for tax reform, and many know the toll that taxes take on our farm and ranch families,” American Farm Bureau Foundation President Zippy Duvall said in the release announcing the survey results.

Voters Express Support for Agricultural Tax Reforms

More than half of voters also backed specific tax reform provisions to benefit farmers and ranchers.

Some of these provisions include:

  • Allowing farmers to subtract machinery purchases in the year those purchases are made,
  • Allowing farmers and ranchers to average their income,
  • Reducing capital gains taxes,
  • Repealing the estate tax.
Current Tax System Unfair, Say Polled Voters

By a significant 3:1 margin, voters believe the current U.S. tax system is not fair to farmers in several regards.

The poll also revealed some specific concerns over certain tax provisions. For example:

  • Seventy-three percent of those surveyed support the ability of small businesses to write off business-related expenses,
  • By a 17-point margin, respondents believe farmers should not pay taxes when they sell farmland and use the money to buy different farmland,
  • Three in five said farmers or small businesses should not pay taxes on equipment sales if money goes toward replacement.
Tax Rate Reforms Needed

The survey also found the majority of voters (63 percent) believe the federal income tax rates are too high.

Seventy-two percent of surveyed voters said they would strongly support decreasing federal income tax rates for farmers.

There was also overwhelming support for lower federal income tax rates for small businesses (80 percent).

Duvall commented, “Congress must take action to provide tax relief, and farmers and ranchers will be sharing that message with their lawmakers until this job gets done.”

Digital media and survey research company Morning Consult surveyed 1,996 registered voters, on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for this study.

Corn Harvester Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Survey: American Farmers Need Broad Tax Relief" was first published on Small Business Trends

Build a Following for Your Business with Facebook Watch

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-08-11 10:30

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is launching a new video-only platform called Watch. And it could be something for small businesses or influencers to keep an eye on.

A Look at Facebook Watch

The Facebook Watch platform, which will be accessible on mobile, desktop and in Facebook’s TV apps, will focus on shows that have episodes that fit into a theme or storyline. And users can follow their favorites so that they never miss episodes. There will also be features to help users discover new shows that fit with their interests or that their friends are talking about.

To start, Facebook Watch will only be available to a limited number of publishers while Facebook grows the platform. But the company plans to roll it out slowly to more users in the coming weeks.

Video is already a popular format on Facebook. But this new platform takes it to a new level. Since Watch focuses on shows with recurring episodes, it gives users an opportunity to keep audiences continually engaged with new content.

Facebook Show Pages and Ad Breaks

Facebook is also releasing Show Pages, which are basically like the homepage for your show. And over time, Facebook also plans to make it possible for users to monetize their shows through Ad Breaks.

And there are plenty of different ways businesses can create shows to fit into the new platform’s guidelines. Say you’re a business coach. You could create a show where you work with one business in each episode, and show their story from start to finish, sharing tips and examples along the way. Or if you’re a food blogger, you could create a cooking show with episodes featuring unique dishes each week. You could even start a makeover show to showcase your skills as a makeup artist or beauty blogger.

Of course, other platforms like YouTube also offer content creators the ability to create their own shows and organize them into playlists and recurring themes. But with the overwhelming popularity of Facebook, this new feature could certainly present some unique opportunities for businesses and influencers to grow and connect with their audiences.

Image: Facebook

This article, "Build a Following for Your Business with Facebook Watch" was first published on Small Business Trends

What are the Most Annoying Ads on the Internet?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-08-11 09:30

It’s official: popups are the most annoying ads on the web. In fact, 50 percent of respondents in a recent survey said they would not return to or recommend a web page using them.

What Are the Most Annoying Ads on the Internet?

But it’s not just popups that annoy most people. Ads that distract like the ones with flashing animations and ads that clutter are also disapproved of by users.

What’s more, 69 percent of people who installed ad blockers said they were driven by annoying or intrusive ads.

These insights come from a study by Coalition for Better Ads, a forum of international trade associations and companies involved in online media.

Popup Issues More Common on Smaller Sites

Interestingly, the report also found most popup ad issues complained about by consumers do not occur on the pages of mainstream publishers such as newspapers or business publications. Rather they appear mostly on smaller sites.

One reason why smaller sites might be running the kinds of ads that annoy visitors is because they lack quality control resources larger publishers have at their disposal.

Mobile Advertising is Fraught with Problems

According to the report, mobile users also complain about a wide-range of ad issues.

Popups account for 54 percent of complaints, whereas 21 percent of respondents complained about high ad density. The latter problem makes it difficult for users to find the information they are looking for, the survey said.

What Small Businesses Must Do to Succeed

With complaints about popups so prevalent, businesses need to look at other ad options. For example, advertisers may opt for less disruptive alternatives such as full-screen inline ads that offer the same amount of screen space as popups.

It’s also important to remember that making a user wait to access content leaves them with a much more negative experience.

Google ran a global survey of 1800 ad block users for the report.

Image: Google

This article, "What are the Most Annoying Ads on the Internet?" was first published on Small Business Trends