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The Challenge of Measuring Influencer Marketing Results

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 15:30

Brands aren’t always sure how to measure results from influencer marketing campaigns. But there’s an easy way to rectify that problem — consider your brand’s goals before actually launching a campaign.

Small Business Trends caught up with Geno Prussakov of AM Navigator, a company that runs marketing campaigns for merchants, at the recent Influencer Marketing Days conference in New York City’s Times Square. Prussakov is also the Conference Chair for Influencer Marketing Days. So in organizing the event, he’s spoken to a lot of brands and influencers about the challenges they face when it comes to influencer marketing.

Tips on Measuring Influencer Marketing

And there’s one challenge that stands out to Prussakov. He explained that the number one question brands seem to have is how to measure the results of their influencer marketing campaigns. And while there’s no one right answer to the question, Prussakov did offer some tips.

“Before you launch your influencer marketing campaign, identify the goals and objectives. What is it exactly that you’re trying to generate? What is it exactly that the campaign is supposed to yield? And then analyze it against the metrics that will be corresponding to whatever you’re trying to achieve,” Prussakov said.

So a brand that is relatively new might be more interested in gaining pageviews or social media followers. But businesses that are more established could be more interested in focused influencer campaigns aimed at converting fans into actual buyers. In that case, you’d look at actual sales numbers.

Those varying goals can also have an impact on what types of influencers you choose to work with and what types of campaigns you choose to run.

Prussakov added, “Influencers can be tremendous introducers. Some of the larger ones can be a great broadcasting medium. Think of them as a billboard along the road. You can get your message out to huge numbers of people by enlisting a major celebrity. But it is the smaller celebrities or smaller influencers with much higher engagement rates with their followers that will really produce not only the branding element that we’re talking about right now, but also help on the bottom of the funnel, convert those people that are becoming aware of your brand into customers.”

This article, "The Challenge of Measuring Influencer Marketing Results" was first published on Small Business Trends

Automation Crucial to Growing Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 13:40
Sponsored Post

There’s a tale of two small businesses. They’re the same type of business with one big difference. One is growing and another is stagnant and making more work for itself than it’s worth.

The reason for that big difference: automation.

That’s the gist of the new Small and Medium Business Trends Report from Salesforce. Salesforce surveyed nearly 500 small business owners and leaders for the second annual report. Companies between 2 and 199 employees were included.

According to the report, small businesses that are automating certain processes are growing. Businesses that aren’t, are floundering.

The survey reveals that small businesses automating their processes in some way are 1.6-times more likely to be growing than those that don’t. Likewise, growing small businesses are twice as likely to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) as stagnant businesses.

That’s not to say that all small businesses that fail to automate processes and adopt AI tech are doomed to never grow. But for companies finding themselves in a rut, it appears automation may be a solution.

“When we look at SMBs in the category of ‘growing businesses,’ there are more than a few common characteristics; they’re more likely to prioritize CRM in their budgets, to use helpdesk software, and to focus on providing consistent and personalized customer experiences,” notes Marie Rosecrans, Salesforce’s senior vice president of Small Business Marketing.

Take, for instance, those two similar small businesses — the growing business and the stagnant business (those that showed a 1 percent drop in revenue over the last two years).

Salesforce finds that it’s most likely they’re undertaking the same processes. That includes tracking customer data. The Small and Medium Business Trends Report finds that 95 percent of all small businesses are aware of the benefits of doing this.

How they accomplish this is a different story.

The growing business is likely using automation via a CRM platform, like Salesforce, to track customers. However, only one-third of small businesses surveyed by Salesforce actually use a CRM platform.

The rest are likely tracking their customers using non-automated technology, like a spreadsheet. And they’re tracking communications through their inbox.

It’s CRM where the growing business sees the need to automate. Salesforce found that growing small businesses are more than twice as likely to pick CRM as their top automation priority.

A small business that adopts automated CRM can provide more personalized customer service without a lot of the hassle of tracking conversations with customers and having their data at the ready.

Brent Leary, the co-founder of CRM Essentials, reviewed the data from the Small and Medium Business Trends Report and notes, “Many small businesses aren’t addressing customer acquisition and retention issues as if they’re at the highest levels of importance, or possibly don’t equate CRM as a solution to those challenges.

“The importance of providing customers quick answers to questions they have cannot be overstated, as it can be the difference between a one-time customer transaction, or a long-term customer who not only spends more with you, but also refers business to you – thus lowering customer acquisition costs,” Leary added.

The irony is that automating key business processes is designed to save small companies the time they desperately need. Of those responding to Salesforce’s survey, 66 percent of small business leaders say they’re responsible for at least 3 parts of the company.

And more than half of the companies asked (55 percent) say that time just isn’t on their side when it comes to accomplishing what they need to do every day.

Automation is clearly the answer. Small businesses spend an average of 23 percent of their day manually entering data into different systems. That’s nearly 2 hours of an 8-hour day!

So, what’s the problem here?

A stagnant small business that fails to adopt any automated processes is struggling to keep up with its own pace. It’s so bad, it’s dragging the business down. And the company’s team can see a competitor automating and growing. What possible reason is there not to automate the key business processes?

In a nutshell, the Salesforce Small and Medium Business Trends Report finds that the stagnant business doesn’t have the time or budget to implement an automated process like CRM.

Price was picked as the main reason a small business doesn’t adopt automated technology. Right behind that is how easy (or not so easy) it is to get a small business started using an automated process.

Sixty-two percent of the small businesses surveyed by Salesforce say that training would help them adopt automated technology faster. However, the same small businesses that say they need training on adopting and implementing automation don’t have time for it or can’t afford it.

Just 26 percent of those surveyed say they have more than one IT person on staff to help with that training and implementation.

Leary suggests these reasons for not adopting automation and AI at stagnant small businesses should not be excuses. He says, “The willingness to invest in automation, AI, and other technologies to improve customer engagement, and the ability to consistently provide valuable experiences over time, separate growth oriented small businesses.”

Image: Salesforce

This article, "Automation Crucial to Growing Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 of the Best Business Presentation Apps for Your Smartphone

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 12:00

Effective presentations are vital in securing new business and helping a firm grow. Thanks to advancements in technology, small businesses now have a wealth of tools available to them for delivering powerful presentations, quickly and efficiently.

Best Presentation Apps

Here’s ten of the best business presentation apps for your smartphone designed to help you win over your audience.

MightyMeeting

MightyMeeting is a presentation sharing tool for Android smartphones. You can use the app to upload presentations to the cloud. Employees, colleagues and clients can then join a meeting room to view your presentation from anywhere in the world.

Those with access to the presentation can use an interactive whiteboard to share notes, images, graphs and sketches. The presentations on MightyMeeting can be sent out as an PDF document.

The MightyMeeting app can be downloaded for free on Android devices.

Haiku Deck

You can create a presentation in just a few minutes with the help of the Haiku Deck app. This intuitive app enables you to import images from social media sites. The app also allows you to sync your presentations between your iPhone, iPad or the internet.

The Haiku Deck app is free to download onto iPhone and iPad.

Keynote

Keynote is a powerful presentation app, which comes complete with cinematic transitions to help professionals make world-class presentations.

With iCloud built in, businesses can keep presentations fully secured and accessible across different devices with Keynote.

Keynote is available on the App Store for IOS devices. It can be downloaded for $9.99.

AIO Remote

AIO Remote is an app that turns your Android device into a presentation remote. The app can be used as a nifty tool when you are presenting PowerPoint slides from a computer or from another presentation app.

With the AIO Remote there is no need to switch back and forth between devices, as, using the File Manager option on the AIO Remote, you can find what you’re looking for from your Android device.

The AIO Remote app can be downloaded for free.

Google Slides

With the Google Slides app you can create and edit presentations and share them with others from your Android smartphone or tablet. This intuitive app enables you to not only create new presentations but edit existing files as well.

You can share and collaborate presentations at the same time from remote destinations. Slides can be added and rearranged in presentations. As all presentations are saved in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about losing your work with the Google Slides app.

Google Slides is free to download and can be used on both Android smartphones and iPhones.

WPS Office

The WPS Office is a simple yet effective presentation app. The app has a range of features designed to make presentations easy to create and effective, including the ability to insert, resize or crop images. Office documents can be exported to PDF with ease with the WPS Office app.

The WPS Office app is available to downloaded for free on the App Store for iOS devices.  It is also available on Android mobile devices.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint can be downloaded onto an iPad, iPhone or Android smartphones. The PowerPoint app enables businesses to create and edit impactful presentations whilst on the go. The presentations created on the PowerPoint app can be accessed in the cloud.

Microsoft PowerPoint app is free to download onto iOS and Android mobile devices.

FlowVella

With the FlowVella app you can combine words, images, links, videos and PDFs to create an effective presentation whilst on the go. Another great feature of FlowVella is the fact you can record videos of your presentations and share them anywhere.

The FlowVella app is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices and can be downloaded for free.

SlideShark

SlideShark is used by sales professionals and other business presenters to present and share PowerPoint presentations from iPhone, iPad or iPod devices. You can broadcast SlideShark presentations over the internet in real-time to attendees of your meetings from your iOS device, regardless of what device they are using.

You can upload PowerPoint files via the SlideShark website, open files from email attachments or import files from cloud storage.

The SlideShark app is free for individuals and costs $149 a year for the team edition.

ShowPad

ShowPad is specifically designed to help salespeople present and share content that matters to help them shine above competition, sell more products and ultimately grow their business. The ShowPad app is an easy-to-use sales presentation platform whereby sales teams can present dynamic content in presentation format.

Presentations can be costimized and used again for different sales situations with the ShowPad app. All meetings, presentations and activities can be easily logged and shared with ShowPad.

The ShowPad app can be downloaded for free onto both Android and iOS smartphones.

Business Presentation Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 of the Best Business Presentation Apps for Your Smartphone" was first published on Small Business Trends

11 Questions to Ask Your Cloud Service Provider

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 10:30
Sponsored Post

Once you’ve decided to adopt cloud computing, it’s time to begin your search for a cloud services provider.

A cloud service provider (CSP) is a company that offers one or more pieces of cloud computing functionality including SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.

Likely, the first thing you’ll discover when looking for a cloud service provider is that there’s a very large number to choose from. How do you know which provider is the right one for your small business? The key to success lies in the answers to the questions below.

Questions to Ask Your Cloud Service Provider

As with web hosting providers, not all cloud service providers are equal. By asking these questions, in no particular order except the first, you can quickly eliminate many potential providers from your list.

1. What Cloud Computing Services Do You Provide?

This is a great first question for quickly weeding out a number of providers from your list. After all, if they don’t provide the cloud services you need, they won’t be a good fit.

For example, if you want an end-to-end SaaS business management suite, and a service provider doesn’t offer that, you can stop asking your questions and remove them from this list.

2. Where Is Our Data Stored?

You want to make sure that your data is being held in an up-to-date data center. This will help insure both reliability and performance as you access services.

It’s a bonus when the provider has a fall-back data center or two. That way, if there’s a problem at the primary data center (i.e. earthquake, flood, power loss), your services will fail over to a secondary data center with little to no interruption on your end.

3. How Secure Is Our Data?

Security is always important, especially when it comes to safeguarding customer data. Ask your provider about:

  • Their security policies and practices;
  • The size and experience of their security team; and
  • Past breaches and issues.
4. Do You Perform Regular Backups and How Fast Can You Perform a Restore when Needed?

Backup and restore is a critical cloud computing functionality. If your data gets deleted, corrupted, or even becomes a victim of ransomware, the best solution is to restore a recent backup.

Timing is important here as the older the backup, the more data you end up losing when it’s restored. Ask potential providers if they provide hot backups, ones that run regularly during the day. That way, you’ll only miss an hour or two of data when you perform a restore.

Also ask how long it takes to have a restore done. You don’t want to wait days to be back in business.

5. How Frequent Are Your Service Outages and How Long Do They Last on Average?

As the average cost of downtime for SMBs is $7,900 per minute, this is a business-critical question.

Don’t be put off by a provider that has experienced outages; it happens to them all. Instead, focus on the number of outages and how long they last. A great cloud service provider has few outages and they should not last long.

Also ask about maintenance outages. These are scheduled outages during which the provider upgrades their hardware and software. Find out how much warning you get before these occur (so you can accommodate them) and whether they happen during business hours (which will impact you directly).

6. How Easy Is It to Manage My Services?

Most small businesses have small IT teams — if they have them at all. Therefore, being able to easily manage their hosted services is an important factor in selecting a provider.

Many providers offer consolidated services management functionality and that goes a long way toward helping a small business do more with less.

7. How Flexible Are My Services?

One of the big advantages of cloud computing is the ability to add capacity and services as they’re needed, and remove them when they are no longer being used. This “flexible consumption” license model will save your small business money by enabling it to run short-term projects without having to permanently purchase hardware and software licenses.

Make sure your cloud provider offers flexible consumption. If you don’t need it now, you likely will be glad to have it in the future.

8. Can You Consolidate All My Service Charges Into One Bill?

Both your IT and finance team will be glad you asked this question because, by consolidating your cloud services bill into one, you’ll get an overall view of what you’re buying and what you’re using.

In the case of the flexible consumption licensing model mentioned above, it will enable you to quickly see if you’re paying for services you no longer use or, if you’re coming close to a limit and need to purchase more services.

While you’re at it, ask potential cloud service providers about service charge increases. How often do they occur and how much warning do you get before they happen?

9. What Service-Level-Agreements (SLAs) Do You Offer?

A service-level-agreement (SLA) is just that — a promise to provide a specific level of service whether that’s uptime, backups, restores or more.

A service provider often offers more than one tier of SLAs. For example, a lower-priced tier may promise that a restore request will be completed within one business day while a higher-priced tier promises that a restore request will be completed within one hour.

Also ask about penalties, such as financial compensation or free services for a period of time, if the provider does not meet the promises within an SLA.

10. Can You Provide References?

This is a very important question to ask. Don’t take the service provider’s word for how good they are. Ask to talk to current customers without the provider being present.

Also, search Google for “(provider name) review”. This way, you can find more feedback and input as you make your decision.

11. What cloud offers are in place to do a proof of concept to showcase your services?

Most companies don’t ask for offers that are in place to explore a proof of concept. For example, if you have an application that needs to be migrated to cloud infrastructure, Meylah offers $1,500 in free assessment services to easily help you build a plan for migration or $2,000 in development services towards a cloud application development.

Wrapping Up

The questions above will enable your small business to whittle down the list of potential cloud service providers to a manageable amount.

Once a provider passes that gauntlet, feel free to ask more questions including technical specifications and limits as well as industry-specific compliance needs.

Do not stop asking questions until you’re satisfied that a provider is the right fit for your business. Always remember, it’s much cheaper to discover things beforehand then after.

Cloud Technology Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "11 Questions to Ask Your Cloud Service Provider" was first published on Small Business Trends

Customers Can Now Order Food Right from Your Facebook Page

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 09:30

Social media channels are becoming all-in-one platforms where you can get almost everything. Case in point is the addition of the new food ordering feature directly on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). After a year of testing, responding to feedback and adding new partners, Facebook is rolling out a feature allowing small restaurant owners to offer food for order on the platform.

Customers Can Now Order Food on Your Facebook Page

Using your Facebook page, your customers can now order from your restaurant for delivery or pick-up. And if you don’t deliver, they can use one of the many delivery sites Facebook has partnered with to provide the service.

For small business owners in the restaurant industry, the internet and social media have introduced affordable channels to attract new customers. In the case of Facebook, this includes the two billion people that use it every month. The food ordering integration is a win/win for customers and restaurants, as they will meet on a platform they both use.

Alex Himel, Vice President of Local Marketing at Facebook, explained it this way in the press release, “People already go to Facebook to figure out what to eat by reading about nearby restaurants, and seeing what their friends say about them. So, we’re making it even easier.” 

Simplifying the Ordering Process

Facebook is bringing together ordering services such as EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo along with national chains like Panera, Five Guys and others in one place. This also includes hundreds of local restaurants too.

When customers find your restaurant, they can see what their friends and other customers think about it by looking at the reviews and comments being left.

Then all they have to do is click the Order Food tab in the Explore menu to browse the restaurant. Once they find you, they can click StartOrder to order for delivery.

If your restaurant doesn’t deliver, customers can sign up for a delivery service and get their food that way. And best of all, they can do this while still on Facebook without having to go to another site.

More Reasons to Have Your Restaurant on Social Media

If you still don’t have your restaurant on social media, Facebook’s new feature is one more reason to do so. Here are some more. According to a study by GlobalWebIndex, 42 percent of internet users in the U.S. are regular eaters of fast food. And 44 percent of them are likely to interact with a brand on a mobile app, while 24 percent are likely to follow brands on social media. Meanwhile, 28 percent are more likely to opt-in for personalized loyalty rewards from brands. And the best way to get a hold of these users is with a strong online presence that includes social media.

Facebook says the new service is rolling out everywhere in the US on Android, iOS, and desktop so it may be time to learn more about how you can use it to your best advantage.

Image: Facebook

This article, "Customers Can Now Order Food Right from Your Facebook Page" was first published on Small Business Trends

Fulfillment By Amazon Doesn’t Have to Be Hard: Here are 8 Things to Know

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 08:30

Do you make products that you need to ship around the world? Or do you have plans for a business that requires warehousing? Or maybe you’re interested in trying to turn products for a profit using online marketplaces. In any case, you’ve probably heard about Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), and have considered using it to boost your reach and profitability.

FBA is a service that allows you to use Amazon’s warehouses to store, pack, and ship your products anywhere in the world. It’s an attractive prospect to small business owners who want to scale their business and compete on a national (or international) level, but there are some things you should know before you get involved.

Key Things to Know About Using Fulfillment By Amazon

On the surface, FBA sounds fantastic, but there are a handful of caveats to the efficiency and value of the system:

1. Inventory management. First, understand that Amazon isn’t going to take care of everything for you. You’ll still need to pay close attention to your inventory levels, and restock when appropriate. If you’re managing more than a few items, you’ll probably want to invest in an inventory management system that works with FBA. Otherwise, you’ll be in for a confusing mess of new orders and outbound shipments, and you’ll probably end up with shortages and overages.

2. Potential profit margins. Next, you’ll need to think about the potential profit margins you can turn when selling on Amazon. On Amazon, your products will be competing with other sellers from around the world, which means your prices may need to sink lower than usual. If your cost of production and shipment is high, your profit margins could be too low to justify the system; make sure you run the calculations before moving forward.

3. Amazon fees. Before your profitability analysis is complete, you’ll need to account for Amazon’s many FBA fees. For starters, you’ll be paying a per-order fee for order handling and a per-product pick and pack fee. You’ll pay extra handling based on weight, and will pay a storage price based on how much area you’re currently occupying. There may be additional fees for oversized items, items stored for longer than six months, items stored during peak periods of the year, and other special service fees.

4. Amazon category approvals. Some categories of products listed on Amazon require Amazon’s pre-approval before they can be listed. Depending on what products you’re offering, this could significantly slow down your listing process, and interfere with your overall sales.

5. Amazon defaults. If you’re selling the exact same product as another seller, and that seller is closer to the person buying the product, Amazon will, by default, route that order to the closer seller. This may not be a big deal for you if you’re the only seller offering a certain product, or if most of your customers are in close proximity to you, but it’s worth considering if you’re not ready for national competition.

6. Shipping costs. In some cases, you’ll qualify for part of Amazon’s free shipping program. In others, you’ll be responsible for paying for your own shipping. This can increase your costs by hundreds to thousands of dollars a month, depending on your volume and what shipping service you use (as well as what kind of deal you negotiate).

7. Production and acquisition efficiency. If you want to build a sustainable business through FBA, you’ll need to have a streamlined way to produce and/or acquire the goods you intend to sell. If you’re reselling other products, that means procuring a low, consistent price that can secure you a profit. If you’re making your own, that means stabilizing your manufacturing efforts, which could be a massive undertaking.

8. Returned and damaged items. Finally, you’ll need to consider the fact that some of your items will arrive to the customer damaged, and some will be returned. How are you going to deal with these requests? What will you do to make sure your customers remain satisfied, and ensure your average rating remains respectable? Amazon may offer suggestions, but it’s not going to run your store for you.

Is Using Fulfillment By Amazon Right for You?

FBA isn’t an inherently good or inherently bad system; it’s going to work phenomenally well for some business owners, and abysmally for others. If you don’t want the hassle of managing your own warehouse, or if you’re a small operation that needs a shortcut to get wider reach, FBA will probably help you on that journey. Otherwise, the caveats and restrictions may make it difficult for you to strike a profit while leaning on the system. Do your research before proceeding, and try not to depend on any one channel for success.

Amazon Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Fulfillment By Amazon Doesn’t Have to Be Hard: Here are 8 Things to Know" was first published on Small Business Trends

Truck Drivers Most In-Demand Among Small Business Jobs Not Requiring a College Degree

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 07:30

Not every small business is looking to fill its IT department with some new recruits.

In fact, there are thousands of small businesses right now looking for employees who don’t possess a college degree.

Leading online job site Indeed.com pulled another set of figures and found which non-college degree jobs are most in demand among small businesses.

In Demand Jobs Without a College Degree

Indeed finds that truck drivers are the most sought after talent at small businesses. In fact, truck drivers are some of the most in-demand workers right now, no matter if a job requires a degree or not and no matter the size of the company. Drivers, in general, are the third most in-demand worker. And delivery drivers, as the jobs are listed on Indeed.com, ranked nine on the site’s 10 most in-demand positions.

Customer service reps are the second most in-demand workers among small businesses in the U.S. Restaurant managers are fourth and retail sales associates are fifth.

To pull this list, Indeed calculated the percentage of small business job postings that do not require a degree by job title over the last year. The jobs were all posted by businesses with 200 or fewer employees.

Babysitters and nannies, restaurant servers, administrative assistants, and warehouse workers round out Indeed’s 10 most in-demand jobs at small businesses.

“These roles may not require degrees, but they require a specific set of skills, experiences, or in some cases, professional training or certification,” Indeed senior vice president of HR Paul Wolfe told Small Business Trends.

Hone Your Hiring Process

With so many small businesses looking to fill these positions, competition is stiff. It’s likely your competitor may be looking to fill the exact same role and you may be interviewing the same person for each of your positions. In that case, it’s best to have your company’s hiring process down pat.

“Businesses looking to hire these in-demand roles should be very clear about what their requirements are in order to attract the best candidates for their open roles,” Wolfe added.

This article, "Truck Drivers Most In-Demand Among Small Business Jobs Not Requiring a College Degree" was first published on Small Business Trends

Take Advantage of These 2 Small Data Hacks to Grow Your Business

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 06:30

Big Data is a hot topic. And it can work wonders for the right kind of company.

As a small business, however, you are not the “right kind of company”.

The REAL gold is in your Small Data.

The Benefits of Small Data Analytics

Leveraging Small Data can provide huge gains in profitability and cash flow (some studies have shown that the increase can be as high as 50 – 60 percent).  And it allows you to do it in a low-risk way, in a very short period of time (how does next week, next month, or next quarter grab you?)

Small Data is the transactional data captured by your interactions with customers, suppliers, team members, and your products and services.  It’s the data that is residing in things like your accounting system, your CRM, your ERP, Excel spreadsheets, and similar small data troves.

A full-on undertaking to leverage your Small Data requires equal parts data science, programming, forensic auditing, and creativity.

Small Data Hacks

However, to get you started down your Small Data analytics journey, I’d like to give you two very effective “small data hacks” that you can use to begin apply the power of Small Data.

Try these in your company.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.

Small Data Hack #1 – CVPM Analysis

CVPM Analysis is a way of dissecting the way your business looks from a granular, or transactional level.  To do your CVPM Analysis you need to analyze your revenue, your gross profit, and your overhead on a “per transaction” basis.

What you are looking for are changes in these granular amounts over time.  For example, over the last three fiscal years.  Or if more relevant, over the last four most recent quarters.  Generally, better insights are gained by looking at your CVPM Analysis over three full fiscal years.

Let’s look an example of two different businesses to clarify this concept. Some relevant data from each of the businesses is as follows:

Business Alpha Business Beta (A)   Number of Customers 1,000 370 (B)     Frequency Per Year 0.5 6.0 (C)   Average Gross Profit $ 350 $79 Gross Profit (A x B x C) $175,000 $175,380

This information tells us that we are looking at two businesses with completely different approaches and structures (two different business models).

Business Alpha maintains a large number of customers who only buy something about every two years (frequency of 0.5 per year), but it’s a bigger ticket item than Business Beta.

Business Beta has far fewer customers (about one-third as many), but they buy a smaller ticket item much more frequently (about every two months).

But look at the end result. Both businesses return pretty much identical Gross Profit results. Each business has about $175,000 to cover overhead expenses, repay debts, re-invest in growth, and provide a return to owners.

Small Data Hack #2 – Product Matrix Analysis

Product Matrix Analysis is a method of looking at specific customers, or customer segments, and comparing sales by product (or product category) for each customer.  It provides a view of the breadth of revenue from each customer derived from your different products and services.

It usually most effective to start at more aggregated levels, and drill into more detail as the data and analyses indicate.

Product Matrix Analysis is most powerful when it is done with the following dimensions:

  • Customer – sales
  • Customer – revenue
  • Customer – gross profit
  • Market or business segment
  • Geography
  • Industry

The tables below provide an example to guide you:

Sales Revenue By Customer Customer Revenue Acme $   35,000 ACX $   23,600 Bergstrom $   74,835 Manilo SP $ 126,959 TOTAL $ 260,394

The information contained in this first table is interesting.  But it does not provide a lot of detail about the components of the revenue total for each customer.  At best, it would likely lead you and your sales team to be content with Manilo SP’s volume of revenue and simply “try to sell more” to Acme and ACX.

The table below provides a more detailed, and useful view of the same customers, using the concepts of Product Matrix Analysis.

Product Penetration Matrix (by revenue) Customer Product A Product B Product C Product D TOTAL Acme $   35,000 $     nil $     nil $   nil $  35,000 ACX $     nil $     nil $     nil $ 23,600 $  23,600 Bergstrom $   12,500 $ 19,325 $   1,350 $ 41,660 $  74,835 Manilo SP $ 103,000 $ 23, 009 $     950 $   nil $ 126,959 TOTAL $ 150,500 $ 42,334 $   2,300 $ 65,260 $ 260,394

The information from this Product Matrix Analysis would likely lead to different conclusions.

For example, although Manilo SP looked like we should be satisfied with their revenue (when only sales revenue from the first table was used), we actually shouldn’t be satisfied at all.  They are purchasing a relatively small amount of products C and D from us.

So Get Hacking

Now that you have read about these two hacks, get going with small data analytics right away.

Take the next hour or two, gather your team, and decide to apply CVPM Analysis and Product Matrix Analysis in your company.

You’ve got nothing but increased profit and cash flow to gain.

Data Concept Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Take Advantage of These 2 Small Data Hacks to Grow Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

What is a Business Pivot and How Can it Hurt Your Company?

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-10-17 05:00

Entrepreneurial and business topics are nothing if not rife with buzzwords.  Whatever the latest trend is must be branded with a memorable term.  And while chasing “synergy” or whatever the word-du-jour is may be relatively harmless, it’s not often that some flashy new expression carries with it meaningful insight.

And sometimes, the latest craze can actually hurt your business.  That’s the case for pivoting.

In fact, at last year’s ProfitCON I rubbed elbows with some of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs I have met. Unlike other events I attend, these entrepreneurs where planning out the year ahead by doing more of what was already working for their company.  Most entrepreneurs mistakenly revamp their company year in and year out, day in and day out. That, I truly believe, is a mistake.  Don’t pivot. Align.

What is Pivoting?

Pivoting is not just a label; it’s a mindset.  The idea is that you’re constantly looking for ways to tweak your business model in order to capture more business.  Okay, so that doesn’t sound so terrible on the surface.

But here’s the problem.  Assuming you started your business because you have a unique offering delivered up with excellent service, as you pivot you run the risk of moving away from what made you successful in the first place.

You may think that if you can just change up enough factors that you’ll enchant your ideal customer or you’ll arrive at some magically profitable stage.  But constantly changing the way your company runs — just for the sake of change itself — is a risky proposition.  Just like the child who pumps mountains of quarters into an arcade came, saving up buckets of tickets only to be disappointed when they redeem those tickets for a cheap piece of plastic, pivoting can end up being not only unrewarding, but also expensive.

So What’s the Alternative?

Alignment. And while there may be some of you who are skeptical that alignment is just another buzzword, read on!  Alignment, put simply, means that everything in your company works together to achieve your goals.  From the way you gather new customer leads to the way your technology works and the way you collect money, alignment seeks to maximize efficiency and quality while minimizing waste and inefficiency.

In order to achieve anything close to alignment, you must begin with a clear articulation of your mission, your goals for your company.  Not only do you as a leader need to understand what you’re trying to achieve, but every member of your staff needs to understand it as well.

Once you have your mission statement, you take a giant step back and assess every aspect of your business.  Determine if your customer service procedures are efficiently working toward your goal.  Look at your business with an eye for eliminating bottlenecks and streamlining procedures in order to achieve best outcomes.

You may wonder if pivoting and alignment aren’t really the same thing at the end of the day, but they’re genuinely not.  Pivoting isn’t efficient.  Pivoting consumes resources.  And pivoting doesn’t always result in better outcomes.

Alignment, on the other hand, has your company goals at its very core.  All of the changes you might make in pursuit of alignment are measured, specifically designed to bring your company closer to your ideal model.  The difference is that pivoting can eventually end up taking your company down a rabbit hole, while alignment is always focused on true north.  Pivoting might make you feel better and more productive for a little while, but it is alignment that will actually be more fulfilling and more profitable.

Managing Business Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What is a Business Pivot and How Can it Hurt Your Company?" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Power of Testimonial Videos for Amazon Product Pages

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-10-16 15:30

If you’re not including testimonial videos on your ecommerce product pages, especially on Amazon, you could be missing out on a lot of sales.

Small Business Trends caught up with Frank Morelli of Gen.video at the recent Influencer Marketing Days conference in New York City’s Times Square. Morelli is an Account Executive with Gen.video, an influencer marketing platform that helps ecommerce businesses integrate video content from influencers right on their shopping and product pages. The company also has a special relationship with Amazon that could help small businesses selling on the huge ecommerce site.

During the conversation, Morelli shared some thoughts about the importance of using video content on product pages, and how using video from influencers can be a great way to set your brand apart.

The Impact of Ecommerce Testimonial Videos

He said, “It’s a lot easier to connect with someone who’s just like you and I and who has built a following from the ground up than it is to connect with a brand who’s this huge household name and you’re not sure if you trust their word or not.”

Of course, a lot of businesses already understand the power of using influencer marketing in their social media or content marketing strategies. But Gen.video focuses more on integrating that content into actual ecommerce stores. This is a concept that you can apply to your own hosted website or even popular ecommerce platforms like Amazon. In fact, Gen.video is a programming partner with Amazon. So the company can help brands get video content from influencers up on product pages easily.

Basically, having video content that explains something about the product and offers a third party’s perspective about it can help convince some of those potential buyers who might be on the fence about hitting that buy button. Video is already a very popular format for online marketers. But using it in this way can help businesses impact the opinions of the people who are really close to making a purchase.

Morelli said, “Video in general is an extremely important process in terms of educating consumers. And when you’re able to place video on a product page it kind of completes that cycle. And when you’re working with influencers on different social platforms it’s kind of providing a content story for them as they’re going through that purchase funnel.”

This article, "The Power of Testimonial Videos for Amazon Product Pages" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-10-15 18:00

Entrepreneurs offer a powerful service to the world. They take an idea that exists only in their heads and turn it into reality. In the daily grind of emails, phone calls, and to-do lists, this powerful vision can get lost.

Don’t let it.

Entrepreneurs are awesome, but sometimes they need a little inspiration to keep pursuing their goals.

This list of 10 books about successful entrepreneurs demonstrates that potential. The entrepreneurs on this page all came from humble beginnings but they were able to tap into their inner entrepreneur to create entrepreneurial magic. They used everyday items like hair products, hamburgers and perfumes to create a wonderful life for themselves, their families, and the world.

Inspirational Business Biographies

If you are ever in need of some entrepreneurial inspiration, take a peek at one (or more) books on this list. You won’t be the same after reading!

Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch — Naturally by Miko Branch

Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch –Naturally is the story of the rise of Miss Jessie’s, a hair care product specifically designed for curly haired women.

Told from the perspective of founder Miko Branch, the book follows the journey of Miss Jessie’s from a household experiment into an award-winning, industry-changing brand that opened a whole new market.

Miss Jessies’s didn’t grow to its current level of success without inspiration from the original “Miss Jessie”, Miko and Titi Branch’s self-assured paternal grandmother who inspired her granddaughters with self-created hair products.

It was that spirit of independence and experimentation that led Miko and Titi Branch to create Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding after they launched their salon. It became an underground hit, eventually winning several awards.

The book follows along as the brand known as Miss Jessie’s moves from the website to its first retail outlet. From that point, a wild ride would ensue.

PAPA: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza by John H. Schnatter

You’ve heard of “Papa John’s”, the global, multi-million dollar pizza company, no doubt. You have probably also seen “Papa John” himself, John Schnatter, in a Superbowl ad or other commercial.

What you haven’t heard is the story of how Papa John became the brand that it is today. For that, readers can turn to the book written in Schnatter’s own words, PAPA: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza.

This book will follow the leap Schnatter took from his humble beginnings. (His business office was a broom closet and he had to sell his car to buy used pizza equipment.)

The book follows Schnatter’s triumphs, as well as his failures. It also details the core values that he adopted from his parents and how he integrated those values into a growing business.

Filled with colorful family photos and insightful advice, “PAPA” combines business advice and the memoir of a man who jumped on a dream and never let go.

Dave’s Way by Dave Thomas

Another company that you might think you know all about is Wendy’s. You might also know the owner behind Wendy’s, Dave Thomas, as well as his daughter who serves as the store’s logo.

What you don’t know is how Wendy’s grew from one restaurant specializing in square hamburgers into the third largest restaurant brand on the planet.

Written in Thomas’s own words, Dave’s Way starts off following the founder’s early life, career and military service.

Using this as a starting point Thomas then shares the strategies and principles his business used to become a global brand. The last section ties the first two parts of the book together, sharing the wisdom Thomas has gathered along the way and his advice to business owners who want to carve out their own story based on the three principles that have guided his own success: hard work, humility, and integrity.

If you ever wondered how Wendy’s grew to the successful brand it is today, this book will give you a peek at the life and business strategy of the man behind the logo.

Jo Malone: My Story by Jo Malone

Jo Malone’s background was no blueprint for her multi-million dollar success. Her story started in one of Britain’s “council houses”, the United Kingdom’s version of public housing. Malone suffered in school because of dyslexia. Ultimately, she opted to drop out to take care of her mother after a stroke.

That’s just the beginning, though.

Malone always had a “nose” for scents and would often experiment creating different fragrances. She began a career path giving facials, but she did one thing that made her stand out.

She sent her clients some of her candles and other scented beauty items as a thank-you gift. Clients appreciated the gesture, but they liked the scents even better.

A new career began.

Jo Malone: My Story shares the story of how Malone rose to become a master perfumer and entrepreneur with no formal training, using only her nose. It also follows her story after a cancer diagnosis and her leaving of the perfume company she founded to start the second chapter in her life.

Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away by Lisa Napoli

When the name Ray Kroc is mentioned, McDonald’s usually comes to mind. You may not have heard a lot about Kroc’s wife, Joan. But with Lisa Napoli’s book Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away, you will.

Joan Kroc (aka “St. Joan of the Arches”) became known for her numerous donations ranging in the millions, both to public causes (like alcoholism and nuclear disarmament) and to anonymous recipients.

This book is about the couple’s life together and the life of Joan after Ray Kroc’s death in 1984. Kroc was a former milkshake mixer salesman who wanted more.  He found that opportunity in McDonald’s turning a single restaurant into a billion-dollar franchise while married to his previous wife.

Joan was a musician who played the Hammond organ and who was also married when the two first met. A few years and two divorces later, Ray and Joan would emerge as the couple who controlled McDonald’s billions. Joan didn’t feel comfortable sitting around with all of that money. She gave it away, lots of it! Her efforts would make her one of the most powerful and generous philanthropists of the 21st century.

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm — From Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen

When someone tells their spouse or significant other they want to quit a full-time job and start an egg farm, you might expect that person to have a background in agriculture. Lucie’s husband didn’t.

He had only raised a few chickens in the backyard. None of those managed to lay a single egg.

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm — from Scratch is the story of the Midwestern family who turned this weird dream into a reality.

The book follows the Amundsen family from its scramble to find over 2,000 chickens to the forging of Locally Laid, the pasture-raised and award-winning business they would create.

If you are ready to get inspired by a family who turned a wacky dream into a thriving business consistent with their values, Locally Laid is for you.

Lilac Dreams: My Journey from a Sewer Drain to the Boardroom by Bonnie Hathcock

Lilac Dreams: My Journey from a Sewer Drain to the Boardroom is about the need to appreciate your past in order to fully own your future. Bonnie Hathcock had reached the highest level at the C-suite level.

She was named “one of the most powerful women in HR” by Human Resource Executive magazine.

But she didn’t feel comfortable in her role. She felt like she didn’t belong. She had done everything a leader was supposed to do. She got the right degrees. She excelled at her work.

Finally, Hathcock realized she wasn’t comfortable with herself. She was still living out a narrative from her past. It was a narrative of pain, of hurt, of being abandoned by her father at three years old, and of being bullied in school.

Finally, one day, Hathcock decided to own her past, realizing it had made her the person she is today.

Lilac Dreams is the story of how Hathcock reached that realization and leveraged that insight to create a happier life.

Beyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own Terms by Maureen Chiquet

As we grow up in the world, we are given labels. We adopt labels to describe ourselves. For the most part, this is healthful.

They help us create a sense of self. Labels can also hold us back.

We create rules for our labels. We start to put ourselves in a self-imposed box because of our labels.

Beyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own Terms is about breaking out of that box to reach a new level in life.

Written by the former global CEO of the Chanel, a luxury fashion line, the book chronicles her transition from a shy literature major to the most powerful positions in the fashion brand.

It talks about the risks she and obstacles she faced when she decided to follow her own path. Her book serves as a guide for anyone, especially women, break free of their current situation by adopting a new label of their own choosing.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

It’s hard to imagine the world without Nike, but this global company has only been around for 53 years.

Before that, it was only the dream of Phil Knight after he graduated business school and was ready to invest $50 from his father into something new.

He was ready to start his own business.

That dream would eventually become a billion-dollar company.

There hasn’t been much written about the origin story and founder of Phil Knight.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike is that story, written from Phil Knight’s point of view.

The memoir shares his journey as a child through his development as the owner of a billion dollar brand. You’ll find humor, loss, competition, and wisdom, all wrapped up in a well-crafted and inspirational tale of a man who kept running to victory.

How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life by Lilly Singh

Lily Singh accomplished something by herself that businesses with hundreds of employees dream about. Singh became a global brand and she did it in less than 7 years.

Lily Singh started making YouTube videos while struggling with depression. She took on the username, “Superwoman” because she once held a belief as a child, that she wore an invisible “S” on her chest that allowed her to do anything.

She did everything on her channel from impersonations to more serious discussions about life, her Punjab heritage, and growing up as a young woman in the modern world.

Her YouTube videos started receiving millions (You heard right, millions!) of subscribers. Along the way, celebrities dropped by, Singh won numerous awards, appeared in music videos, took acting roles, and promoted a bracelet campaign for girls’ education in Kenya.

In other words, Singh became a “bawse,” someone who embraces life with all its challenges and uses it as an opportunity to uplift others. Her book, How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life provides the basic “bawse” principles so others can achieve greater success on their own, no matter their situation.

 

Books Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur" was first published on Small Business Trends

In-store Retail Continues Slump In Fall But With Some Positive Signs

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-10-15 15:00

Retail sales at brick and mortar stores continue to slump moving  into fall. That’s just one of the insights from in-store analytics firm RetailNext’s year over year numbers in the Retail Performance Pulse report for September.

But not all was doom and gloom in the reports as some regions showed more positive numbers than in August.

RetailNext Retail Performance Pulse September 2017

Sales declined by 7.2 percent and traffic by 7.3 percent year over year, the report shows. The numbers also indicate both traffic and transactions peaked earlier in the month. Toward the end of September, sales hit their highest numbers in the brick and mortar stores monitored.  The lowest days for the month were around the Labor Day weekend.

Both sales and traffic were at their lowest points on September 5 with transactions hitting their lowest points on September 3. For returns, the lowest point came on Saturday September 2.

The Retail Performance Pulse report for September also looks at the regional numbers to decipher patterns and trends. The Northeast suffered the biggest decline in a few metrics, most notably sales. Sales in the region dropped about 9.3 percent, the report indicates. While still not positive, those are better numbers than the August drop in sales of 11.5 percent.

The South’s traffic and sales had the smallest declines of any region. The Shopper Yield for the South was up 4.0 percent for September. That’s a big jump from last month’s minus .8 rating.

The Midwest had large increases in several metrics. This is despite the fact the region’s September numbers saw the biggest traffic declines nationally.

Sales (4.3 percent) and traffic (6.1 percent) also decreased for the West in September by 4.3 percent and 6.1 percent respectively. However, those are better than the 8.8 percent and 7.4 percent declines seen for August.

RetailNext analyzed a total of seven million shopping trips nationwide to compile its data for the report.

Image: RetailNext

This article, "In-store Retail Continues Slump In Fall But With Some Positive Signs" was first published on Small Business Trends

USPS Rate Hike Could Cost Businesses Nickel More on Priority Flat Rate, 50 Cents a Letter

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-10-15 12:00

The price to send a letter may be going up a penny early next year — making it a full 50 cents for a stamp.

USPS Announced New Prices For 2018

The US Postal Service proposes that increase and a nickel across-the-board hike on Priority Mail Flat Rate packages, too. If the changes are approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the new prices will take effect on Jan. 21, 2018.

For small businesses, postage and shipping costs can account for a significant expense. This, of course, depends on the type of industry you are in.

The changes are minimal but for small businesses that tread a thin line on profit margins on products they have to ship, that nickel could have some impact. If your company offers free shipping, the hike on Priority Mail packages is another cost your company has to absorb.

Nominal increases on mail could impact small businesses that use the mail to communicate with customers for billing, invoicing or even marketing.

The USPS said in the release, “While Mailing Services price increases are limited based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Shipping Services prices are adjusted strategically, according to market conditions and the need to maintain affordable services for customers.”

Check out the full list of proposed changes to mailing and shipping rates from USPS:

Mailing Services Price Changes

The cost of a letter would go up to 50 cents, from the current 49-cent price. That’s the cost for a 1-ounce letter. Each additional ounce will still cost 21 cents.

Metered letters will go up from 46 cents to 47 cents. Postcards will increase from 34 cents to 35 cents.

There is no proposed increase for outbound international letters. They’ll still cost $1.15 for a single ounce.

Domestic Priority Mail Flat Rate Retail Price Changes

The proposed changes from USPS also include a flat nickel rate increase on Priority Mail Flat Rate packages. Flat Rate packages allow you to ship anything that fits inside a specified size box (provided by the Post Office), for a fixed price.

If they’re approved, the new cost to ship a Small Flat Rate Box will be $7.20. It will cost $13.65 to ship a Medium Flat Rate Box.

Large Flat Rate Box rates will go up to $18.90. While prices for a Large Flat Rate Box bound for a U.S. Army, Air Force or Navy installation will go up to $17.40.

These prices also affect special envelope packages.

Regular Flat Rate Envelopes will cost $6.70. A Legal Flat Rate Envelope will cost an even $7 and Padded Flat Rate Envelopes will be $7.25 to send.

If you want to look at the price filing and the proposed changes with the Postal Regulatory Commission, you can do so here.

USPS Van Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "USPS Rate Hike Could Cost Businesses Nickel More on Priority Flat Rate, 50 Cents a Letter" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Mathematical Corporation Leverages Technology for Competitive Advantage

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-10-15 09:00

If you ever wondered where business’ obsession with technology is taking us, The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible might give you a clue. The book focuses on a particular type of organization, the “mathematical corporation”, as an example of the kind of businesses that you could see in the very near future.

What is The Mathematical Corporation About?

In the book, a “mathematical organization” is an organization that leverages both human labor and machines to achieve its objectives. This type of organization is able to sort through huge amounts of data to do amazing things, like personalize loyalty cards for every single customer or predict the effectiveness of a movie by analyzing the moods of audience members through previews.

Achieving these kinds of astounding feats requires a new way of working. In the future, robots, AI and Big Data will play a greater role in the workforce, shifting the kind of work available for humans. As robots are used in more industries (ranging from transportation to law), human labor will focus on capabilities that are unique to humans. These capabilities include insight, creativity, reasoning and culture. Combining the strengths of humans and machines allows humans to tap into an unprecedented level of knowledge.

Arriving at this point where humans and machines work harmoniously together requires a new form of leadership. That leadership, the book says, must be capable of “flipping the switch”. That “switch” involves viewing labor in a whole new light. Instead of focusing exclusively on automation or human labor, leaders that “flip the switch” employ a hybrid approach. This approach uses both machines and human labor as the situation requires it.  Identifying the situations that require human labor, machines, or both is a key aspect of this book. Learning how to adapt your workplace for these kinds of situations is the other.

Authors Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern are experts in the fields of big data, computer science and innovation. Josh Sullivan is the senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consultant in analytics and digital solutions. Angela Zutavern also works at Booz Allen Hamilton, as the vice president.

What Was Best About The Mathematical Corporation?

The Mathematical Corporation offers an exhilarating and proactive view of the world in the future. It chooses to focus on what humans can do instead of what they can’t. It focuses particularly on what leaders should do, which is unique in a book on this topic This makes it easier for a business owner who may not feel technically ready for the future. As the book points out repeatedly, it isn’t the technology that will help your business thrive in the future, it’s a leader’s ability to lead that will set the stage.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Mathematical Corporation is not specifically targeted to small or medium-sized businesses.The book’s examples come from well-established and large organizations, like Merck and the FDA, with the budget and labor to turn the book’s content into reality. Owners of smaller businesses can get some benefit from this book however, particularly in the revolutionary new way the authors describe leadership of the future. While the book may not give a step-by-step roadmap to innovation, it offers a revolutionary new way of using technology that can offer a decisive competitive advantage as we move further into the 21st Century.

Why Read The Mathematical Corporation?

As discussed above, The Mathematical Corporation discusses how modern technology can be leveraged in the present for a competitive advantage. A lot of books discuss business innovation, but they tend to focus on the technical details. This book focuses on innovation from a leader’s point of view — a leader who may not know (or need to know) the technical details. Yes, you can collect more details about your customers (their location, their comments, etc.), but where is all of that going? The Mathematical Corporation starts a conversation around the answers. It shows readers that the primary focus of a leader going into the future is not on technology or data. It is the application of that technology that matters more than ever. It is the application of technology that will drive your organization forward in an uncertain future.

This article, "The Mathematical Corporation Leverages Technology for Competitive Advantage" was first published on Small Business Trends

Attend This Facebook Live Event to Give Your Local Marketing a Boost

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-10-14 13:30

What’s the one big secret to local marketing success?

To answer that question, you’ll need some input from an expert. And you can get just that with an upcoming Facebook Live event, “One BIG Secret to Local Marketing – with Rev Ciancio of Yext.”

The event takes place October 18 from 1 – 1:30 PM EST. During the event, Ciancio will provide insights and practical pointers for small businesses looking to boost their local marketing efforts. And guests can even ask questions.

This is just one of several upcoming events that could help your small business in a big way. See more in the Featured Events section and 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

FACEBOOK LIVE Event: “One BIG Secret to Local Marketing – with Rev Ciancio of Yext”
October 18, 2017, Online, Facebook.com/smallbusinesstrends/

Join us on October 18th from 1 – 1:30 PM EST as we put Rev Ciancio of Yext on the “hot seat” for insights in local listings and marketing for local businesses. Rev is plain spoken and a former business owner himself, and is full of practical pointers and advice. Get to know Rev by joining us for this fast-paced, relaxed and informative live session – bring your questions!

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.

Dreamforce 2017: Blaze Your Trail!
November 06, 2017, San Francisco, Calif.

Discover an entire world of innovation at the Dreamforce event. Four days of transforming your career, innovating, giving back, having a ball, and connecting with your community of fellow Trailblazers — all at the largest software conference in the world. Sound amazing? It is. With 2,700+ sessions to help every role in every industry succeed, the opportunity to get hands-on with the latest product innovations, and 170,000 Trailblazers to learn from, Dreamforce is a must-attend event – register for a free Expo+ pass today!

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.

Facebook Like photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Attend This Facebook Live Event to Give Your Local Marketing a Boost" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Ways to Update Your Marketing with New Trends and Technology

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-10-14 12:00

New technology, trends and techniques are likely to have an impact on how you do business in 2018. These changes can vary depending on your business or industry. But members of the online small business community have lots of experience updating their online marketing and other operations. Here are some tips to help your small business do the same.

Pay Attention to the Key Drivers of the Coming Digital Transformation

Technology is constantly transforming the methods businesses use to run their everyday operations. So if you want to keep up, you have to pay attention to the factors that drive that change. This post by Blair Evan Ball of Prepare 1 includes a rundown of some of those key drivers.

Don’t Believe These Myths About Video Social Media Marketing

Video has become a huge part of the social media strategy for a lot of businesses. But you can’t believe everything you hear about video social media marketing. In this Marketing Land post, Jordan Kasteler debunks some common myths about using video on social media.

Learn These Trends Regarding the Future of Content and SEO

Content marketing and SEO are two concepts that constantly change due to evolving trends, tools and technology. To learn more about the trends that could impact the future of content and SEO, check out this Content Marketing Institute post by Andy Betts.

Use These Techniques to Grow Your Business in 2018

Looking forward to 2018, you’ll need to grow your business in ways that are going to resonate with modern consumers. This post by Valentine Belonwu on Just Money Web includes some key tips for growing a business in 2018. And BizSugar members share thoughts on the post too.

Steer Clear of These Content Marketing Best Practices

There are some common tips and best practices for content marketers that might actually do more harm to your business than good. To avoid any negative impact from those marketing myths, check out the list and explanations in this post by Neil Patel.

Remember These Three Essentials for New Websites

A website is an essential part of any online marketing strategy. And there are some essential ingredients that go into making an effective website, as Ivan Widjaya of Noobpreneur reviews in this post.

Keep Your Core Values in Mind

As technology and trends change, your methods are likely to change as well. But one thing that shouldn’t change is your business’s core values. This Strella Social Media post by Rachel Strella includes a discussion on seeking clarity regarding those values. And members of the BizSugar community chime in here.

Improve Page Speed for More Traffic and Conversions

No matter what kind of fancy online marketing methods you use, all of your efforts can be derailed if your site loads too slowly. That’s why improving page speed can lead to more traffic and conversions for your small business. Jeremy Knauff elaborates in this Search Engine Journal post.

Follow This Legal Guide for Bloggers

There’s more to blogging than just throwing a few quick posts together. You need to consider legal issues like copyright and fair use images. This Process Street post by Ben Mulholland includes a guide you can use to navigate these legal issues for bloggers.

Use These Business Tools for Entrepreneurs

The tools you use to run your business can make a big difference in how you reach customers. The tools listed in this post by Vartika Kashyap on Onaplatterofgold.com can go a long way for your business. You can also see commentary on the post over on BizSugar.

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.

Discussing the Latest Trends photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Ways to Update Your Marketing with New Trends and Technology" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Insider Tips for Women Owned Small Businesses Seeking Federal Government Contracts

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-10-14 09:30

The federal government is awarding more contracts to women owned small businesses than ever before. There’s still a long way to go. But for women who haven’t ever considered doing business with the federal government, it might be a good time to reconsider.

Federal Contract Tips for Women Owned Businesses

In fact, there are some opportunities for government contracts that are meant specifically for women owned small businesses. Here are some tips for women business owners looking to navigate the world of government contracting.

Consider if the Federal Government Would Be an Ideal Customer

Government contracting isn’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the opportunity without at least exploring whether your products or services might work for some government agencies. Every government agency needs to purchase all of its supplies, materials and services from somewhere. So consider if what your business sells could be a good fit for any of those agencies or offices.

Lourdes Martin-Rosa, President of Government Business Solutions and American Express OPEN Advisor for Government Contracting said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “The only thing the federal government really manufactures is money. So if they’re going to purchase anything, whether it’s zippers or furniture, it’s going to come from a private entity. And hopefully in most cases that’s a U.S. business.”

Register with the System for Award Management

Before you’re able to apply for any government contracts, you need to register your business. To do that, visit the System for Award Management and create a profile for your small business. Complete the entire process so that government agencies can find your business when looking for contractors to do business with.

See if Your Business Qualifies for Set-Asides

There are also set-asides in select areas where women owned small businesses are supposed to get priority. But it’s not in every industry. You can see the list of set-asides for women owned small businesses online to see if your business might qualify in one of these areas. If it does, it could give you an advantage when applying for contracts in that area.

Self Certify as a Woman Owned Small Business with the SBA

If your business does qualify for any of these set-asides, you’ll need to register as a women-owned small business. This is a self-certification process that you can complete online through a portal provided by the SBA.

Receive Bid Notifications

From there, you have to actually bid on contracts. Those bids come up for different agencies at different times. So you’ll want to constantly be on the lookout for anything that might be relevant to your business. You can also sign up for notifications so you’ll be the first to know when new bids come up in your industry.

Study Procurement Forecasts

But you don’t have to wait until each bid is actually posted in order to get your business ready. Each federal agency provides something called a procurement forecast on its website. This is basically a list of products and services that it plans on utilizing in the near future. So you can look up those procurement forecasts for the agencies you’d like to gain contracts with to give your business a better chance of being ready when those bids are posted.

Attend Government Contracting Events

As with basically any aspect of growing a business, education and networking can go a long way when it comes to government contracting. And there are plenty of events out there that can help. OPEN Forum, for instance, hosts educational events for small businesses looking to make the most of government contracting. Through these events, you can access valuable resources to learn more about getting government contracts, as well as network with others in your industry and meet actual government buyers.

Find a Strategic Teaming Partner

Even if your business is in an industry that sets aside a portion of its government contracts to women owned small businesses, those contracts only have to actually go to women owned businesses if there are at least two such businesses that apply. So if you apply for contracts where you’re the only one, those set-asides won’t benefit your business. But Martin-Rosa recommends networking with other women in your industry who are interested in government contracts so you can apply for some of the same ones in order to help each other’s chances of securing those contracts.

Research the Agency’s Mission

Each government agency has its own mission and goals. So when applying for contracts, it helps to tailor your bid to the specific agency, rather than utilizing a one-size-fits-all approach. Before submitting a bid, do some research on the agency’s mission so you can make it as appealing as possible.

Keep At It

Government contracting isn’t an easy process. The government is supposed to allocate about a quarter of its contracts to small businesses in the U.S. And about 5 percent is meant to go to women owned small businesses. But the government doesn’t always meet those goals. So it’s important to keep going and improve your strategy over time.

Capitol Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Insider Tips for Women Owned Small Businesses Seeking Federal Government Contracts" was first published on Small Business Trends

Beached Whale: Staying Afloat in a Sea of Innovation

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-10-14 07:00

As a business owner, you understand disruptive change is the new norm. Businesses can no longer rest on their laurels, assured their customers or competitors will remain in the same place. Competition has gone global and customers can now literally leave with a click. To complicate matters even further, businesses have to keep up with an ever-increasing array of technology just to stay relevant. Beached Whale: Learning to Swim in the New Ocean is an urgent call-to-action for business leaders to shape up for the new digital world or risk losing it all.

What is Beached Whale About?

Dr. Daren Martin uses the analogy of a stranded denizen of the deep in his book Beached Whale as a metaphor for businesses that have a work culture that stifles innovation. Business owners need to realize that a “beached whale” business can’t work in this fast-paced economy, Martin explains. Businesses can no longer rely on controlling the message. Customers will get involved, whether you like it or not. If a customer or supplier has a horrible experience with your business, they can literally tell the world with a click about it. Competitors will get involved too. If your product or service takes months to release, another company can create it faster. If a customer finds a coupon from your competitor, they can leave your business with a click.

It can be a scary world if you are a “beached whale business”.

“Beached whale” businesses don’t start off that way. They become “beached whales” as a result of success. As a business grows and develops, leaders and their workers naturally create (official and unofficial) rules to maintain that success. This is perfectly fine. The problem occurs when a business’ workers get mentally “stuck” in these rules and ways of doing business. They stop going the extra mile because they believe the future will remain the same. The focus is on stability, not innovation.

The problem is, the future we’re facing is not predictable.

Beached Whale was written to help business leaders recognize the signs of a “beached whale” business so they can see ahead of time before it’s too late. Trying to innovate at that point will take more effort than moving a beached whale back into the ocean.

Martin is an author, speaker and consultant with a Ph.D. in Psychology. Growing up in Louisiana, he spent the majority of his time in Asia. And while pursuing his Master’s degree in psychology, he started a business which he maintained for 20 years. After selling that business to a Fortune 500 company, Martin began dedicating his time to sharing the information he has learned with others.

Martin is also the author of “A Company of Owners: Maximizing Employee Engagement“, another book reviewed on Small Business Trends.

What Was Best About Beached Whale?

Many books on the topic of business innovation and culture can get rather detailed (and boring in some cases), but Martin’s books always offer a unique and creative spin. Unlike other books on the topic, you won’t find complicated models or diagrams. But you will find illustrations of hand-drawn whales (OK, lots of whales) and text in digestible chunks on the right page. This unique setup makes for a quick, but effective read. Martin managed to take a metaphor, illustrations, and his knowledge and turn it into a powerful call-to-action.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The downside of a book like Beached Whale is that it won’t give you a straightforward plan or model for innovation. Beached Whale is principle-based. The book will identify some of the principles that should be present in an innovative work culture, but it doesn’t provide a way for readers to go there. That doesn’t seem to be the point, however. The point of “Beached Whale” is to give you an overview of the mindset and workplace culture you should strive for in the future.

Why Read Beached Whale?

Beached Whale is best suited for the business leader who is starting to feel overwhelmed by innovation. He or she might have read a few books about it and come away asking “How do I avoid falling behind?” Beached Whale offers a cleverly illustrated answer to that question. The book does away with all of those complicated questions and focuses on the key issue on the radar of every business expert, workplace culture. If you want the first steps to creating an innovative workplace, this book can be a starting point. It covers a broad array of issues within the topic of workplace culture in digestible chunks of knowledge that can get you started on the right path.

This article, "Beached Whale: Staying Afloat in a Sea of Innovation" was first published on Small Business Trends

What’s Your Number 1 Reason to Attend Business Conferences?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-10-13 15:30

Do you enjoy attending business conferences on behalf of your small business?

The first time you went, you were probably excited. Then you go to one or two and you start to find the reasons to not go to future conferences. Or maybe you like the first experience and make them regular parts of your agenda.

Whatever your experiences have been with business conferences in the past, we want to know this week WHY you’re going to these events.

Even if you dread going, sometimes your presence is absolutely necessary.

You might find them motivating. Or perhaps you enjoy networking with small business owners just like you.

Your business could be in a little rut, too, and needs some inspiration. The right business conference is a great place to find it.

If you’re a leader in your industry, a business conference is an excellent place to spread your influence. Some might even pay you to speak at them.

And then, let’s be honest, a trip to a business conference is a chance to get away from the office for a few days. It’s a cleverly disguised working vacation.

Tell us your approach and the reason you attend business conferences in this week’s poll question.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Business Conference Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What’s Your Number 1 Reason to Attend Business Conferences?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Shopify Adds Google Autocomplete, eCommerce Sales Zones Emerge

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-10-13 13:30

If you run an ecommerce shop, your goal should be to make the buying process as easy as possible for shoppers. And a new feature from Shopify should help merchants do just that, by offering autocompleting forms to save people time in the checkout process.

Additionally, some ecommerce merchants are making the process easier for buyers by meeting them in person. And a new concept, safe zones, could help merchants navigate this process safely.

Read about these headlines and more below in the weekly Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Retail Trends Shopify Adds Google Autocomplete to Speed Up Checkouts — Especially on Mobile

Abandoned shopping carts are a huge problem for online merchants. And one of the biggest offenders is the form customers have to fill out when they check out. Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) is getting rid of this problem by making Google Autocomplete available for its merchants.

Ecommerce Safe Zones Popping Up Around the U.S.

If your fledgling ecommerce business sells to a local clientele — through sites like Facebook or Craigslist — you’ve no doubt worried about your safety when meeting a buyer. Reports of crimes associated with these meet-up transactions should create a healthy skepticism of conducting business this way.

Economy 2017 May Be a Record Year for Small Business Transactions, says BizBuySell Report

This is shaping up to be a record year for small business transactions. According to the latest BizBuySell Insights Report, there were a total of 2,589 closed transactions (small businesses that were bought and sold) in the second quarter. This was followed by 2,368 and 2,534 closed transactions in the first quarter of 2017.

Small Business Optimism Drops, But Not For Long, Says NFIB

The optimism coursing through many small businesses earlier this year is not as easy to detect right now. According to the September NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism report, the dip in sentiment is fueled by a large drop in expected sales.

Frisco, Texas is the Fastest Growing City in the U.S. for Business

Thinking of opening a small business in a new city? Maybe you want to expand your business to a new, rapidly growing city. Well, Frisco in Texas is the city with the fastest local economic growth in the U.S., according to an in-depth study of 2017’s Fastest-Growing Cities in America.

Local Marketing What is the Amazon Local Associates Program and How Can It Help Your Small Business?

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has just expanded its Associates program with a new addition called Local Associates. With this initiative, small local businesses and individuals can increase their revenue by making recommendations of items sold on Amazon.

Small Businesses Can Now Advertise on Spotify with New Ad Studio Launch

Do you want to create and manage a Spotify ad campaign for your small business? With the new self-serve advertising platform called Spotify Ad Studio, you can. Described by the company as the industry’s first self-serve audio platform, you now have access to a powerful tool to reach potential new customers. Spotify Ad Studio was just launched in the US in beta mode.

Marketing Tips Small Business Favorite GetResponse Announces $30M Investment in U.S.

A direct marketing platform already very popular among U.S. small businesses is expanding its business domestically with a huge new investment. GetResponse, the European-based online marketing platform, is increasing its U.S. operations with a big investment and a new Boston office to better serve American small businesses.

This One Thing on Your About Page Can Boost Conversions by 300 Percent (Infographic)

If you’re missing a call-to-action in your about us page, you’re missing out on several leads. That’s according to data presented by digital marketing company Siege Media. Data shows adding a call-to-action towards the bottom of your about us page can increase conversions by 300 percent.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: The Lost Cajun Brings Unique Food, Atmosphere to a New Location

Cajun restaurants might be all the rage in Louisiana. But they’re not nearly as common in the mountains of Colorado. So when the founders of The Lost Cajun moved across the country from their home in Louisiana, they realized there was an opportunity to bring their favorite foods to a new market. Read more about this business and its growth in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations There May Be 56 Million Business Meetings in America Today (INFOGRAPHIC)

If you are working, there is a good chance you are part of the up to 56 million meetings taking place today. And as the new infographic from Cincinnati Bell Inc. (CBTS) indicates, you also might be part of the 76 percent that thinks they are unnecessary meetings. This brings us to the title of the CBTS infographic, “How to Master Meetings.”

FedEx Office Expands Same Day Delivery to 1,800 American Cities

FedEx Office (NYSE:FDX) has expanded its same-day delivery service, FedEx SameDay City, to 1,800 cities across the U.S — from Seattle to Miami and from San Diego to Boston. The service is now available to more than 34 million people in over 30 markets nationwide.

Social Media Snapchat Adds Context Cards and How Can They Help Your Small Business?

With the new Context Cards on Snapchat (NYSE:SNAP), you can now get everything from contact information to Uber rides, book a table through Resy, and more. The goal of Context Cards is to deliver more information on the Snaps you are watching.

Technology Trends Cortana Now Works in Skype, Small Businesses Have Virtual Assistant for Chat

Have you ever been in the middle of a chat on Skype and suddenly needed to find out more about a competitor’s product, or what time your favorite restaurant closes. Well, with the new integration of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) virtual assistant Cortana with Skype, you won’t have to interrupt the conversation to find out.

Half of All Small Businesses Use WiFi Technology Almost a Decade Old

Small businesses are using older WiFi that doesn’t fit their needs on several fronts. A new Linksys sponsored survey says half of the small businesses polled are using WiFi technology that’s over eight years old. Beyond not being able to keep up with mobile expansion, business owners are concerned over the lags in security and speed.

Report: 5 Small Business “Sins” Potentially Leading to a Data Breach

It seems incredible, but people in organizations still use weak passwords like “12345,” bearing in mind the security threat in today’s digital ecosystem. This is one of the data points the 2017 edition of the annual BeyondTrust research report revealed.

AIM  Shuts Down After 20 Years Without Ever Making a Dent in the Business Market

Get ready for one final good-bye from a familiar voice. After 20 years, when people needed to get off the phone to go online, AOL Instant Messenger was there. Now it’s leaving for good before the end of the year. Oath (NYSE:VZ), the Verizon-owned company that controls AOL, announced last week that AIM will shut down on December 15.

Image: Shopify

This article, "Shopify Adds Google Autocomplete, eCommerce Sales Zones Emerge" was first published on Small Business Trends