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Join This Twitter Chat During National #SmallBusinessWeek

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-04-29 13:30

National Small Business Week is just around the corner. That means there are plenty of different events and opportunities for small businesses to network and grow.

One such opportunity is an upcoming Twitter chat hosted by SCORE. The #SmallBusinessWeek Twitter chat takes place on May 2 and will feature a small business-focused discussion encompassing a variety of relevant topics.

And that’s not the only upcoming event that might be of interest to your small business. You can check out the Featured Events section for more information on the National #SmallBusinessWeek Twitter chat and more.

Then check out the list below for even more upcoming small business events.

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

National #SmallBusinessWeek Twitter Chat, Hosted by SCORE
May 02, 2017, Online, Twitter

Join SCORE as they host a National Small Business Week Twitter Chat on Tuesday, May 2 from 12:30-1:30 pm EST. Please follow SCORE’s Twitter @SCOREMentors ?and use the chat hashtag #SmallBusinessWeek to participate in the discussion. See you there!

TECHSPO Toronto 2017
May 18, 2017, Toronto, Ontario

TECHSPO Toronto 2017 is a 2-day technology expo which takes place at the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. TECHSPO Toronto brings together developers, brands, marketers, technology providers, designers, innovators and evangelists looking to set the pace in our advanced world of technology. TECHSPO Toronto 2017 promises to be better than ever and we’re excited to see all the amazing tech companies and talent that will be joining.

Secret Knock
May 22, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Secret Knock is going to be the single greatest event for the top entrepreneurs and action-takers in the world to connect, share ideas, and help take each other to the next level. Each of the attendees have believed in themselves enough to get to where they are, and they are not stopping now. Secure your application for one of the few spots left at the Secret Knock.

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 chat photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Join This Twitter Chat During National #SmallBusinessWeek" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Steps to Becoming the Best Entrepreneur You Can Be

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-04-29 12:00

Whether you run a local business or one that’s completely online, your success probably hinges less on the products or services you sell than about the entrepreneur you are. So how do you upgrade your skills, creativity and instincts — for the benefit of your business, of course. Members of our small business community have experience in many of those areas. Check out some of their top tips in the list below.

Learn Local SEO Strategies

If you run a local business, you might think that you don’t need to worry about online marketing. But SEO can be a major factor for helping potential customers find you. Here, you can see some local SEO strategies shared by Bill Hartzer of Search Engine Journal.

Find Creative Ways to Hire Summer Employees

Summer is a popular time for businesses to boost productivity by hiring some extra employees. But hiring temporary employees sometimes requires a little creativity. Check out some strategies in this When I Work post by William Harris.

Learn How to Find Your Gross Profit

Understanding your profits is essential for tracking your business’s goals and progress. To learn a simple way of finding your business’s gross profit, check out this Fundera Ledger post by Billie Anne Grigg. Then see what BizSugar members are saying about the post.

Know the Importance of Supervisor Training and Development

If you want your employees to be successful, then you need good leaders and supervisors. In this SMB CEO post, Ivan Widjaya details why it’s so important for small businesses to understand the importance of supervisor training and development.

Make Your Brand Stand Out on Social Media

Whether you run an online business or a local business, social media can be an extremely helpful tool. But you need to be able to make your business stand out on social media if you want to have any success. Mary Blackiston shares some tips for doing so in this SUCCESS Agency blog post.

Understand The Facts About Snapchat and Instagram

Snapchat and Instagram specifically are growing in popularity with consumers and marketers alike. But since these platforms are constantly changing, it’s important that you understand the basics, as outlined in this Resonance Content Marketing post by Rachel Parker. BizSugar members also share thoughts on the post.

Create Effective Standard Operating Procedures

To get the most out of your team and your business, you need to have some clearly outlined processes and procedures. For more on how to actually create those procedures, take a look at the Process Street post by Adam Henshall.

Check Out The Latest Domain Extensions

When creating your small business website, you no longer have to settle for a simple .com extension. In this Smallbiztechnology.com post by Helen Cartwright, you can check out some of the new domain extensions that are available for businesses to use.

Listen to a Few Great Entrepreneurial Podcasts

If you want to expand your entrepreneurial knowledge, podcasts can be a great resource. This crowdSPRING post by Amanda Bowman features nine podcasts that all entrepreneurs should listen to. And the BizSugar community also comments on the post here.

Consider Your Audience’s “Where” and “When”

When thinking about your audience, you might stop with simply considering who they are. But thinking about where and when your audience might come across your message is also an important consideration. Kevin Lee elaborates further in this Marketing Land post.

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.

Entrepreneur photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Steps to Becoming the Best Entrepreneur You Can Be" was first published on Small Business Trends

How Do You Fire a Family Member?

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-04-29 09:30

Ninety percent of businesses in the United States are family owned. Some of the biggest brands in America were family founded and are controlled by a family.

Walmart and Berkshire Hathaway are two of the largest examples.

While family-run businesses can be close-knit, friendly, successful and inspiring, they are not without their challenges. One challenge of family leadership is becoming stuck in the same old ways of doing things (because of family pressure) even when the company is growing.

Another challenge is breaking bad news to employees of the company who also happen to be family members. For example, how do you attempt to demote a family member to a lower rung on the company ladder? Or, worse yet, how do you tell Mom and Dad it might be time to retire?

How Do You Fire a Family Member?

In order to shed some light on the unique challenges facing family-run businesses, Small Business Trends spoke with Kathy Kolbe, a global leader in discovering and accessing the power of human instincts, and her daughter Amy Bruske, President of Kolbe Corp. Kathy and Amy have been working in their own family business for more than 20 years. Both are award-winning consultants and advisors to more than 3,000 owners of family businesses and Fortune 500 companies.

As mother and daughter, working together for more than two decades, Kolbe and Bruske have personally experienced every situation discussed in their new book Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-Owned Companies, which provides research-based insight on the most effective ways to run a business and manage relationships.

Neither Kolbe nor Bruske recall a time when they wished they were working anywhere else.

Here’s some advice they share with Small Business Trends on how to tell a family member they’re no longer needed in the business.

Don’t Become Known as the Family Member Who Fires People

First Kolbe and Bruske insist family members can avoid being criticized for firing another member of the family by praising the individual’s level of effort, if appropriate, and by confirming and discussing what they naturally do well and careers suited to those abilities. Family members should analyze why continued efforts would not be fruitful and examples and references for where and with whom they might succeed should be given. Criticisms of being the one doing the firing could also be avoided by sharing a vision for the future and, as Kolbe and Bruske explain:

“Agreeing on how you will share the information with others, including all company employees and non-employee family members.”

Show Some Tact When You Fire a Family Member

Family members firing co-workers with a family attachment should show tact about the uncomfortable situation at all times. According to Kolbe and Bruske, employers firing family workers should avoid bringing up any other family members’ performances in the company. They should also refrain from discussing the situation with other family members who are uninvolved in the management of the business.

During social situations and at family gatherings, the family business members should avoid referencing the situation to avoid awkwardness and conflict.

Equally, families should not, according to Kolbe and Bruske:

“Incriminate or assign blame if they in fact tried hard and did nothing unethical or against policies.”

They should also avoid itemizing errors or omissions and assigning guilt to anybody.

Forcing the founder out of a family business is an even more complex task than firing family employees.

Attempt to Build Trust

To help assuage this difficult and complex situation, Kolbe and Bruske say family businesses should aim to involve a non-family adviser who is trusted by the founder. They should also openly ask the founder about his or her plans for the future and, if possible, have the founder set a transition date and communicate decisions to others. Company time should also be invested into assisting the founder in moving on to a desired adventure.

“Create a special celebration event or document (e.g. book, painting, photos) that the founder can look forward to and that can be used for closure,” Kolbe and Bruske recommend.

Avoid Bullying or Patronizing

In such situations, it is important that the founder is not bullied or patronized. The true entitlements of the founder should also be honored. The family business members should also not be afraid to ask for the founder’s advice or, as Kolbe and Bruske explain:

“Change everything that the founder did that made the business successful.”

Running and working for a family business can be rewarding and fulfilling but is not without its trials and tribulations. As explained above, tact, patience and diplomacy should be applied when it comes to the difficult situation of firing a family member.

Fired Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How Do You Fire a Family Member?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Money on the Table Shows Why We Need Gender-Balanced Business Leadership Now

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-04-29 07:00

The need for a gender-balanced form of leadership in the modern workplace has been documented for years. While some progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done before the world makes even a dent in the so-called “glass ceiling”. Author Melissa Greenwell wants to know why it’s taking so long. Her book, Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits through Gender-Balanced Leadership explores the delays in creating a more gender-balanced form of leadership and what these delays are doing to a company’s potential bottom line.

What is Money on the Table About?

While Greenwell has the moral high ground arguing for gender-balanced leadership, in Money on the Table she wants to draw her reader’s attention to the financial and strategic reasons for more gender-inclusive leadership. Greenwell argues strongly that businesses with more gender balance earn more money, hire better talent, and make better decisions over male-dominated ones. In her view, businesses that offer more opportunities for women (especially in leadership) will have a decisive competitive advantage in the future.

Money on the Table starts off the “gender equality in the workplace” conversation by pointing out the discrepancy between nice-sounding policies and real action. To understand that a gap still exists, Greenwell cites interviews from both male and female executives. These interviews revealed key differences in how male and female leaders implemented gender equality. Both male and female leaders, however, still hold to the social convention of women taking care of the house in addition to work. This social convention seems held even in businesses more open about gender inclusion. To make things a little clearer, the workplace (especially leadership) is slanted socially, psychologically and financially to maintain the “glass ceiling” despite attempts to change it.

Despite this dismal picture, Greenwell is confident we can break the “glass ceiling”. With a willingness to proactively change how we educate, hire and promote women in the workplace, businesses can tap into the positive and profitable cycle that will give them a unique competitive advantage. As other businesses take note, our society will move closer to the critical mass it takes to make a more permanent change in workplace practices. At that point, every business will wonder why they took so long to embrace gender equality in the workplace.

In addition to being an author, Greenwell is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Finish Line, an athletic apparel retail business. In her 30-year corporate history, Greenwell has spent over two decades working at the C-suite level. She is also a certified executive coach and speaker on the topic of gender-balanced leadership. In addition, Greenwell is the director of the Special Olympics Indiana Board and Finish Line Youth Foundation.

What Was Best About Money on the Table?

In Money on the Table, Greenwell offers probably one of the most authentic voices you will ever hear on gender balance in the workplace. In the book, she is not afraid to confront leaders, male and female, about their roles in advancing gender equality in the business world. She wants real change and provides the research to support her belief that gender balance needs to be addressed aggressively. In summary, Money on the Table is not a dry, academic book that talks about gender balancing policies. It’s a practical guide for policies that Greenwell believes we need immediately.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

For all its urgency, Money on the Table pushes leaders to act quickly in regards to gender equality without providing a clear overall look at what a comprehensive gender-balanced policy should look. The second part of the book does contain some general recommendations and principles but no checklist or directions are given for leaders who want to start from scratch. In other words, Money on the Table helps explain why workplace equality is important but doesn’t give a comprehensive look at how to get there.

Why Read Money on the Table?

In Money on the Table, Greenwell places specific emphasis on leaders at the top of the organizational chart  because she contends that leaders set the tone for workplace culture. As she describes in the book, the behavior and beliefs of executive leaders have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the business. Organizational culture is not static like furniture. It’s dynamic, something that is reinforced daily through the words and actions of the people in the workplace. Money on the Table offers a more proactive and ambitious guide to the reality of gender equality in business. The book offers a way for leaders to make a financial and strategic case for becoming more active about hiring and retaining more women at all levels of business.

This article, "Money on the Table Shows Why We Need Gender-Balanced Business Leadership Now" was first published on Small Business Trends

Technology Disruption Has Lead to the Rise Of The Craft Brand

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-04-28 17:30

Brands aren’t what they used to be. In the past, brands were a physical symbol that represented value. When you bought a Coca-Cola, the red logo assured that you were getting a good soda. Nowadays, brands have become more complicated. They still represent a physical product, but they can mean a lot more than that. In The Rise Of The Craft Brand: Why Small is Going to Be Huge, author Ben Zifkin explains how this changing definition of branding can be leveraged to help a small business compete with a large-sized competitor.

What is The Rise of the Craft Brand About?

The central message of The Rise Of The Craft Brand is about technology’s disruption of the relationship between branding, distribution and commerce. Just a few years ago, the only way to get a Ralph Lauren shirt was to find a retailer, like Macy’s or Sears, that sold that product. With the rise of technology like the internet, you don’t even need to leave your chair to purchase that Ralph Lauren shirt from Amazon, the Ralph Lauren site, or any number of online stores and auctions.

This disruption between branding, distribution and commerce has resulted in the emergence of craft branding. Craft branding, unlike other types of branding, doesn’t depend on going big. The goal isn’t to reach every customer in the world. The goal of craft branding is to produce specialty. Craft branding is the strategic marriage of a small business brand and technology. When these two get together, big-name retailers are in trouble.

Why should big-name retailers be frightened by craft branding? There are a couple of reasons. First, many big-name retailers (although this is slightly changing) rely on mass-produced brands that don’t have the flexibility of a craft brand. The old-school brand of the past was a physical symbol focused on getting a transaction from mass-produced items (like a Coca-Cola bottle). Craft brands are different. They can afford to charge higher prices and produce on a smaller scale because they can leverage technology and a deeper relationship with an audience that wants a distinctive experience.

The Rise of the Craft Brand explores how small brands, like Under Armour were able to leverage their resources to become disruptive competitors to established businesses like Nike.

Zifkin is a former software engineer and consultant, founder and CEO of Hubba, a B2B network that connects retailers and brands. An avid supporter of technology is on the board of directors for Ladies Learning to Code and Hacker You.

What Was Best About The Rise of the Craft Brand?

Rise of the Craft Brand approaches the topic of a branding from a different (and much-needed) perspective. The trend in business books has been to discuss branding as a concrete “thing” that a person or business does. Rise of the Craft Brand expands that concept of branding and demonstrates how commerce will be affected by it. The brands profiled in this book provide a glimpse of how current businesses are adapting now for that upcoming future.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Rise of the Craft Brand celebrates the empowering potential of small businesses to make a big impact but it could use more detail to flesh out the concept of a “craft brand”. First, the book identifies a few characteristics of craft brands” but fails to show how craft brands differ from other types of brand. Second, the book fails to outline a specific strategy for craft brands. The author shares his own personal experience with Hubba along with other businesses but there isn’t enough detail for a full-fledged strategy. Having this kind of strategy might help struggling small business owners.

Why Read The Rise of the Craft Brand?

“For any business leader interested in the future of commerce, Rise of the Craft Brand offers a glimpse into the technology that is disrupting big-name retailers. This disruption is changing the ways that brands are created and developed, leaving room for small businesses to make a big marketing impact without a large-scale budget. For those who want a sneak peek of what this disruption looks like in the present, Rise of the Craft Brand profiles small businesses that were able to benefit from this disruption and launch into a powerful brand while following their own path to success.

This article, "Technology Disruption Has Lead to the Rise Of The Craft Brand" was first published on Small Business Trends

After Big PR Fail, United Airlines Tries to Fix Its Customer Service

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-04-28 15:30

Weeks after the company’s PR nightmare stemming from a video of a customer being dragged off an overbooked plane, United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) has been doing some soul searching.

The company just released 10 new policy changes aimed at improving customer service. Some of those changes include limiting use of law enforcement personnel to safety and security issues only, not requiring seated passengers to give up their seats involuntarily, increasing incentives for those who do give up seats, and making sure that crews are booked onto flights at least 60 minutes prior to departure.

After the initial incident, the company stumbled over its response. Messaging from Unites Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz was inconsistent and, in the eyes of many customers, inappropriate. So calls for boycotts and lawsuits ensued.

Hopefully, your small business will never experience a PR nightmare that’s even close to the one United has found itself in. But at some point, you may experience some negative press or customer sentiments toward your brand. And when that happens, it’s important to come up with a satisfactory solution and response quickly.

United Airlines is Trying to Fix Its Reputation

This new plan from United is a decent example of showing customers some changes stemming from a negative experience. It shows that the company can potentially learn from its mistakes and won’t let a similar incident happen again. However, in the case of the United debacle, it might have been better — and less damaging to the company’s brand — to have come up with that solution sooner.

United Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "After Big PR Fail, United Airlines Tries to Fix Its Customer Service" was first published on Small Business Trends

Tax Cuts, Lending Upticks Make Small Business Headlines

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-04-28 13:30

Small businesses got some welcome news this week — in the form of President Donald Trump’s proposed tax cuts.

In addition, a recent report suggests that small business loans at institutional lenders and small banks are on the rise. You can read about these news items and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Finance Small Businesses Big Winners in Proposed Trump Tax Cuts

Historic tax cuts for American small businesses could be just around the corner. In an announcement at the White House today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin unveiled proposed sweeping reforms to the tax code for all U.S. businesses. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn presented proposals to overhaul the personal tax code.

Small Business Loans at Institutional Lenders, Small Banks on the Uptick

The latest Biz2Credt Small Business Lending Index shows a positive outlook for small business loans based on their approval rates. Specific upticks were measured at institutional lenders and small banks.

Economy National Small Business Week: The History of an Entrepreneurial Tradition

A lot has changed in America since the 1960s and while many things are different in today’s United States, at least one of the fundamentals driving us all forward is still the same.

Residents of This State Want to Work from Home More than Anyone Else in the US

A not-so-surprising trend is gathering steam across the U.S. The trend, which is indicative of what is happening in other markets around the world, is that more and more workers want to work from home. To better understanding how this trend is taking shape in the U.S, a New York-startup called AND CO set out to identify the states that have the most residents who want to work from home.

Marketing Tips Chocolate Rain 10th Anniversary Calls Attention to Power of Viral Marketing

This week marks the tenth anniversary of viral sensation “Chocolate Rain” by singer and internet personality Tay Zonday. And this milestone isn’t just about celebrating a flash-in-the-pan online hit. It also serves as an important reminder for businesses. Chocolate Rain was one of the first truly viral internet sensations.

How to Use Different Types of Content When Marketing Your Small Business (Infographic)

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 6 years, you’ve probably heard about using content marketing to promote your small business. Even as a solopreneur, content marketing works to bolster brand awareness, build your reputation, attract customers, and keep your website fresh. However, with all the noise online, content marketing has gotten harder.

Retail Trends Amazon’s New Subscription Service Should Have You Rethinking Your Products

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) just added a new marketplace, Subscribe with Amazon, to help consumers find digital subscriptions, highlighting a potential opportunity for companies to increase ongoing revenue streams. Subscribe with Amazon Digital subscriptions can include things like Amazon’s Prime service, music streaming services and even online newspaper subscriptions.

New Trend: Marijuana — at the Drive-Thru?

Ever since states like Colorado started legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use, most customers have had to go into stores to make their purchases. But that’s no longer the case for customers of one Colorado business. Tumbleweed Express is a drive-thru marijuana dispensary in Colorado. It’s housed in an old car wash.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Brickell Men’s Products Offers Natural Grooming Options

There are plenty of natural and luxury grooming products out there for women. But the market for similar men’s products isn’t nearly as robust. Enter Brickell Men’s Products. The company started because of a lack of natural skin care options and has started to offer more and more grooming options without all the chemicals found in most other men’s products.

Social Media LinkedIn Reaches 500 Million User Mark; 9 Million Businesses Use Site

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) has hit a major milestone. The social media site just hit the half-billion user mark. That’s right — 500 million users. Further, there are now 9 million businesses actively on the site. The power of this community benefits a global audience, allowing businesses and their perspective employees and clients to connect like never before.

Startup What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur? (INFOGRAPHIC)

What separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest? Among other things, prior work experience seems to be a key deciding factor. According to data gathered by accommodation booking agent Central London Apartments, 96 percent of successful entrepreneurs credited “prior work experience” for their success.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, Leveraged a Local Market for Global Success

Jack Ma built one of the world’s largest eCommerce companies, Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) by leveraging opportunities in a local market. Ma was born in Hangzhou, China, in 1964. He grew up poor and started off by giving English tours to foreigners for free. Today, his net worth amounts to approximately $28.

Technology Trends Google Says Websites Shouldn’t Mark Republished Content for Index

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) recently suggested more steps toward eliminating duplicate content across the web. And website owners, including small business owners, may want to pay attention considering the search engine has a history of eventually penalizing sites for not taking heed.

10 Ways Digital Signatures are Changing How Contracts are Signed

Development in digital technology has introduced new levels of efficiency across almost all industries. In the business world, everything from the way companies communicate to accounting, HR, marketing and even how documents are signed has been improved.

YouTube Provides Update on Restricted Mode Filter

YouTube is making more changes to the now-controversial Restricted Mode. YouTube Updates Restricted Mode In an official post on the YouTube Creators Blog, the site’s vice president of product management, Johanna Wright, says the algorithm that filtered content out of Restricted Mode was wrong.

More Entrepreneurs Hiring Help for DIY Website Builder Tools

DIY website builder tools have seen amazing growth in the marketplace. And it’s no surprise why. With tools from vendors such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Jimdo and WordPress.com, you build your own website through a do-it-yourself experience. With them, it’s possible to have a classy-looking website online in a matter of a few hours or less.

Infusionsoft Propel Supplies Mobile Marketing Experience

Infusionsoft used the kickoff of day one of  #ICON17 to announce Infusionsoft Propel, the latest mobile based solution from the company. “You need to be connected and present with your customers in the ways they want to be connected,” said COO Terry Hicks in an announcement streamed on the company’s Facebook page.

WordPress Announces Yet Another Maintenance Update

WordPress 4.7.4 is now available. The release contains 47 maintenance enhancements and fixes. Chief among them includes a visual editor compatibility fix for an upcoming version of Chrome. With the new update, uploading audio and video files will no longer result in broken thumbnails.

Guru Introduces New Feature to Get Paid As You Complete Tasks

Starting May 2, all freelancers working in the Guru platform will be able to create task-based agreements that will see them get paid once they complete their tasks. Guru Task-Based Agreements “We already introduced recurring billing to give you greater control over how you get paid,” said Guru’s communications manager Anna Bassham in an official post on the Guru blog.

Have You Seen the New Home Page for Google Analytics?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has a new home landing page for its popular analytics service. The page features clear data sets and simplified language, generally making it easier for anyone to navigate and understand.

Image: WhiteHouse.gov/YouTube

This article, "Tax Cuts, Lending Upticks Make Small Business Headlines" was first published on Small Business Trends

Bob Jenkins of Leadpages: Most Small Businesses Still Don’t Believe They Need Landing Pages

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-04-28 12:00

It’s 2017 and there are multiple surveys out there saying more than half of small businesses out there still don’t have a website. And, according to an upcoming survey from Leadpages, even many of those with websites don’t understand why landing pages are important – why they need pages optimized for converting site visitors into contacts and leads.

While on the exhibition floor at Infusionsoft’s ICON 17 event this week I had a chance to speak with Bob “The Teacher” Jenkins, Manager of Education Content for Leadpages. Bob shares why landing pages are important and why it’s more important than ever to have those landing pages optimized for conversation. He also discusses why Google’s emphasis on speedy page load times will impact your landing page conversion rates.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the whole conversation watch the video, or click the embedded SoundCloud player.

* * * * *

Small Business Trends: So give us a little background on Leadpages.

Bob Jenkins: We pre-launched Leadpages in 2012 before the software existed. Our co-founder and CEO Clay Collins had an idea of turning templates that could be uploaded into a template machine where people wouldn’t even have to upload them, they just need to change what the text was on the page. And so, in November of 2012, we had a pre-launch. January it was launched as an actual product with a couple hundred users right out of the gate. Four and a half years later, we have 47,000 customers. We are number 148 on the Inc. 500. We’ve been profitable since day one but have also raised $38,000,000 dollars in that time frame from venture capital money. So we do very well with our customer base. We love helping small businesses make it easier to market what they’re doing and turn more people into customers.

Small Business Trends: So what are a couple of the biggest challenges small businesses face in creating pages that actually convert?

Bob Jenkins: First of all, it’s knowing that they should have a landing page. A lot of people think they need a website that has all the bells and whistles; has fifteen pages or forty-five pages, and then low and behold, none of their pages actually have a way to capture a lead. They might have a phone number or they might have contact us or something like that, but the difference between a regular website and the landing page is that idea of focusing on conversion. So, first of all, small businesses have to realize that they have to have those types of pages. We have a small business report that is being released here this spring that’s finds most small businesses don’t even think they need a landing page. All you need is a website…that’s just not cutting it.

Now, once they have a landing page, what they need to remember is that people don’t care about your product, they care about their problem being solved. So, in your landing pages, make sure you’re communicating what’s the number one problem you’re solving, and describe enough of the solution to make them want to say yes to knowing more. Whether that’s giving their email address or that’s buying a product, don’t overwhelm them with all the details and information until they’ve said at least one yes along the way.

Small Business Trends: Are there any other important aspects of landing pages that customers overlook?

Bob Jenkins: One is to make sure that your ability to convert is easy to find. We call these call to action buttons. They need to be of high contrasting color. They need to be above the fold, which means as soon as you land on a page, that button is visible. You don’t have to scroll for it, you don’t have to hunt for it. And there’s another one lower down so if you have a landing page that has a couple of scrolls worth of page content, have at least one other button on the page. A lot of people overlook that.

We also overlook the idea of design. With our software we give you a lot of templates which are already pre-designed for conversion. They’re not just designed to look good, they’re designed to convert. Having that is a real good advantage if you’re using something else or doing it on your own, just make sure you take into consideration the aesthetic, have it look good but make sure that all things are pointing toward those call to action buttons. So the people take the action.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the things that they have to do from a mobile perspective with modern landing pages?

Bob Jenkins: Just to emphasize your question, Facebook has about 1.8 billion users. 1.2 billion access it monthly on the phone. That gives you 60 to 70 percent of people are accessing landing pages on the phone because they’re going from social media or they’re clicking on an ad and they’re going to that mobile site. So everybody has to have mobile responsive pages. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

Building a website in a traditional website platform or an old school design, that’s just not mobile responsive. So you want to make sure that it’s responsive and even more than that, optimized. One of the things we love that we introduced to our builder a few months ago was the ability to hide or show sections based on what kind of device people are using. Not only are they responsive and look okay, you can read them, it’s not like you have to scroll left and right on the page and zoom in and zoom out, but you also have that ability to see the content as it should exist. So having mobile optimized pages is also an advantage.

One thing to note about that is the call to action button, again. Think about holding a phone. There’s only so much scrolling before somebody starts to give up. So a traditional landing page, even something that might be made from one of our pages initially, might not have the button above the fold on that first screen on a mobile device. It’s mobile responsive, it’ll still look good, but you might have to scroll a little bit to get to it. So thinking about how does the experience for mobile user differ from the desktop and have the button right away on the front where your thumbs going to be. You know, most people are right handed so have it very accessible to that right handed thumb, hopefully even across to the left as well for the left handers too.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little about speed. What’s the speed, the efficiency you really have to have before somebody just walks away?

Bob Jenkins: This is a very important question because Google is going to penalize search results if you’re not actually strong in the speed department. So if your page is not loading in two seconds, you’re going to be hurting. We want to get ours under one second and that’s the kind of thing we strive for. New users to around 760 to 800 milliseconds is what we’re seeing. Sometimes it’s a little longer or shorter depending on image sizes and things like that but it’s definitely a concern so not just on your mobile device through the high speed internet but how does it look on 3G, how does it look on internationally when you’re in places that might not have high speed internet. So that one second might be a little longer. But you want to make sure it’s under three or four seconds as much as possible.

This article, "Bob Jenkins of Leadpages: Most Small Businesses Still Don’t Believe They Need Landing Pages" was first published on Small Business Trends

Finally! Etsy Launches New Studio with Supplies, Tutorials

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-04-28 10:30

Following the original announcement in February — Etsy Studio is officially open.

Etsy Studio Launches

The much-anticipated marketplace dedicated to craft supplies is the perfect companion to Etsy’s business model. Before Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY), there wasn’t a large dedicated platform where makers of handmade and vintage items could buy and sell their wares. The potential was always there but it was Etsy that turned it into a global movement.

Since its founding in 2005, Etsy has brought together more than 28 million active buyers with 1.7 million sellers. This unique platform designed for the creative entrepreneur grossed more than $2.84 billion in 2016.

The peer-to-peer, eCommerce platform on which Etsy operates has made it possible for creators to turn their hobbies and passions into a viable business.

A survey of Etsy sellers showed that 76 percent of them consider their Etsy shop account a business, and more than 30 percent of them consider it their primary source of income.

Etsy’s success comes from the company’s people-powered approach. The ecosystem operates on a sustainable model that empowers the creators and the new Etsy Studio plans to bring it all together.

Etsy Studio

The newly launched Etsy Studio is a natural evolution in the Etsy network. Stocked with more than seven million items, DIY artists are bound to find what they need for their creations.

Branded as much more than a marketplace, Etsy Studio aims to create a one-stop destination for all things creative. Shoppers will be able to search with detailed filters such as material type, colors, sizes and more. And the new platform will provide pinch and zoom features for the closest look possible.

The project is a culmination of thousands of interviews and research into what the craft supply community was searching for.

Etsy Community

The community aspect of Etsy will carry over into Etsy Studio. Sellers and their customers will have the ability to directly communicate with each other in a conversational tone.

Etsy Studio will also have tutorials with step-by-step instructions for craft creation. The launch will include 70 original craft projects with a new tutorial added every week. The aim is to continuously inspire, not only the experienced makers but also those new to DIY.

The $44 billion industry has seen weakening in-store sales in some sectors, although most buyers still prefer to physically purchase their materials. The new Etsy Studio will inevitably increase the shift of craft supply purchases from offline to online.

Image: Etsy

This article, "Finally! Etsy Launches New Studio with Supplies, Tutorials" was first published on Small Business Trends

Is it Okay to Bring Your Spouse on a Business Trip?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-04-28 09:30

Business travel can be hard on a relationship when you’re frequently gone for days or weeks a time. But have you ever considered bringing your spouse along on one of your trips? It could be a nice break from the loneliness of solo travel — however, there are some things you should think about first.

Check With Your Boss Before You Bring Your Spouse on a Business Trip

Secretly taking your spouse along with you without mentioning it to the folks paying for your trip is a terrible idea. With that being said, the very first thing you should take into account is the approval of your boss.

You should have a pretty good idea as to whether your boss will allow your spouse to travel with you or not. They obviously won’t pay for your spouse’s travel expenses and any extra accommodations (if they do, you’ve found a pretty fantastic company), but asking your boss if they can tag along isn’t a preposterous request for someone who has built up some credibility and trust.

Explain to your boss that you simply want some company and that your spouse won’t be a distraction. If anything, their presence will allow you to feel more relaxed and at home.

6 Tips for Making it Work

If you get the go-ahead, you don’t want to squander the opportunity by abusing your situation. The following tips should help you make the most of this chance to let your spouse tag along.

1. Set Expectations

It’s absolutely imperative that you set expectations for your spouse before you leave. Otherwise, they may feel left out and neglected, which can hinder your ability to be productive.

“It’s a work trip for one of you and your time will reflect that,” experienced business traveler Jesse Ghiorzi says. “You can do your best to spend time with your partner, but prepare yourselves to be apart and view the time together as a bonus.”

In other words, make sure your spouse knows that business trips do in fact involve work. You aren’t just traveling to grab lunch with a client and then enjoy two or three days of sightseeing. You’re most likely there to do two or three days of work and then grab an occasional meal with your spouse. As long as they know this ahead of time, everything should be fine.

2. Plan for Fun on the Bookends

One popular technique savvy business travelers use is booking leisure time on the front or back end of a trip. They either go a couple of days early or stay a couple of days late — using vacation time to compensate for these days. In fact, one study says 72 percent of travelers have extended a business trip with a leisure component.

You’ll obviously have to coordinate this with your company, but most won’t object to letting you schedule an earlier or later flight (so long as the price is comparable).

3. Give Your Spouse Something to Do

While we’ve discussed the importance of setting expectations, that doesn’t mean you should just leave your spouse in the hotel room all week waiting for you to finish work. It’s a good idea to give them something to do. This will help them have a good time and see the city while you’re taking care of your responsibilities.

Since your spouse is probably limited by a lack of transportation — especially if there’s no rental car, or the car is in your name — you can help them find things to do within the vicinity of the hotel. If you’re in a big city, a local walking tour of the city is one great option. (Hint: You can generally find free tours in most major cities.) Other good ideas include taking a jog through a local park, visiting museums, and checking out coffee shops.

4. Be Careful With Expenses

You can obviously spend as much of your own money as you want on a business trip, but be very careful when it comes to bringing your spouse along. Your company will pay for most of your obligatory expenses — food, transportation, etc. — but they probably aren’t going to cover your spouse’s spending.

In order to avoid slipping up, make sure you both pay for your own things throughout the week. Even if you both go enjoy a nice dinner, pay for your meal and let your spouse pay for their meal. It’s much easier this way and you won’t run the risk of mixing things up.

5. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

When you travel by yourself, you probably have a pretty normal routine. You get up early, grab breakfast in the hotel lobby, go to whatever meetings or work-related responsibilities you have, enjoy a relaxing dinner, and head back to the hotel room for some sleep. But when you have a spouse along, you often feel the pressure to do something after you get off work. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking in the sights and enjoying your time together, don’t push yourself too hard. Rest is important and you have to prioritize work over everything else.

6. Don’t Go Together All the Time

For most couples, going on business trips together isn’t something that should happen all the time. It’s best when you do it occasionally as a way of breaking up the monotony of travel. Do it too much and you risk getting overly comfortable and forgetting the major focus of the trip.

Finding Work-Life Balance

One of the keys to a healthy career is finding some work-life balance. While this often requires compromise, there are some unique situations in which you can blend things and have surprisingly positive results — business travel included.

By bringing your spouse along with you on a business trip, you get the opportunity to enjoy special experiences together. It won’t work for every couple, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Couple Traveling Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is it Okay to Bring Your Spouse on a Business Trip?" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Strengthen Customer Relationships When Time is at a Premium

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 17:30

As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business. And while the things that go on behind the scenes certainly matter, you can’t focus on them at the expense of your relationships with customers.

Small Businesses Are Built on Relationships

When people think about small businesses, a certain image is conjured up in their minds. They picture a quaint storefront on a main street in a small town. They see friendly storeowners who know customers by their first names and interact with them as they walk in. They picture handshakes, smiles, and promises that are always honored.

See, small businesses are all about interpersonal relations. They thrive on connections and conversations. But somewhere along the way, companies moved away from the heart of small business. With so many different forces and distractions competing for attention, small businesses have started spending less time focusing on relationships and more time dealing with “important” administrative tasks and responsibilities.

The problem with this shift in small business management is that nothing is more important than customer relationships. While payroll, accounting, digital marketing, website analytics, paid media, hiring, and training matter, they can’t take away from the focus on customer relationships. As soon as relationships erode, the business follows closely behind.

Do yourself a favor and conduct a quick analysis on your small business. Are you so wrapped up in the day-to-day tasks and managerial responsibilities that you’re no longer fostering healthy relationships with new and existing customers?

If this is the case, you aren’t alone. It’s an epidemic in the business world and you’ll find thousands of other business owners in the same boat. However, at some point, you have to make the conscious decision to get out of the boat and return to what made you successful: relationships.

4 Ways to Strengthen Customer Relationships

You can’t snap your fingers and wish your way into stronger customer relationships. What you need is a customer relations strategy that targets particular weaknesses in your business and builds on the strengths that you already have. And while every business will have different needs and action steps, the following tips should provide you with a solid footing on which you can build for the future.

1. Use CRM Software

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term used to describe the handy tools small businesses utilize to streamline the management and nurturing of customer relationships.

“It’s usually a cloud-based system that stores information about your clients, potential clients and contacts in one central safe place that everyone in your team can access and update wherever they are,” small business expert Nadia Finer says. “A CRM can also help you grow your business and keep customers happy by keeping track of interactions and tasks, and giving you a clear view of your sales pipeline.”

What Finer is really getting at is this: CRM makes it easier to manage customer relationships when you don’t have the time to manually handle every task.

As a general principle, most businesses extract 70-80 percent of their profits from 20-30 percent of their customers. One way to maximize the value of your CRM system is to use the built-in analytics tools to keep track of who your most valuable customers are.

As marketing manager Christopher Meloni explains it, “This sort of tracking, with the help of your CRM software, will in-turn enable you to allocate your resources in such a manner that those 20-30% of your customers get the best customer service, always. This is called target-based allocation, and it can prove wonders for you and your business organization.”

CRM can also be used to help you handle customer complaints in a swift manner. By delivering fast responses, you can deal with problems as they arise (instead of letting them fester). Other valuable uses – depending on the CRM system you use – include the ability to analyze customer buying patterns, send out automatic updates, and keep track of who customers are and how they’re likely to respond in certain situations.

2. Invest in Business Intelligence

Are you currently invested in business intelligence? This is the fastest developing trend in small business and you have to make it a priority if you stand any chance of acquiring and maintaining a base of loyal customers that continue to come back time after time.

“Business intelligence for small business helps to gather data about your customers’ behavior and structure it in a clear form so that it can be analyzed fast and easy,” explains Heiko Troster of datapine. “With insights about your customers’ behavior you can make effective business decisions.”

Data is the ammunition of your communicative efforts. When you understand who your customers are and what they want, you can effectively forecast needs and satisfy their desires. You still have to strategically act on the information you have, but at least business intelligence tools can provide you with valuable data that you’d otherwise miss out on.

3. Gather More Information on Customers

Customers want to be known as more than an invoice number or receipt. They want to be seen as individuals with personal lives, needs, and sensitivities. When you have advanced CRM and business intelligence tools in place, you can tactfully gather more information on your customers and gain a fuller picture of who they are and what their needs are. This will benefit you in the long run by allowing you to interact with customers on an individual basis.

4. Reshape Your Social Media Strategy

What does your current social media strategy look like? If you haven’t made a conscious effort over the years to make your social media presence about your followers, then your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles are probably self-serving. All of the content you post is about your brand and you aren’t adding any real value to your customers. Sound familiar?

If the goal is to strengthen customer relationships, you’ll need to reshape your social media strategy and make it less about you and more about them. Make it an avenue for two-way conversations to take place.

“Unlike a one-way conversation where a company typically dominates the narrative and doesn’t really acknowledge or interact with visitors/followers , a two-way conversation directly connects brands and consumers,” says Carolyn Edgecomb of IMPACT. “A two-conversation is a dialogue, where brands speak and listen to their audience, responding directly to their wants and needs.”

The classic rule of thumb is that 80 percent of your social media posts should add value to your brand without directly promoting your products and services. Try your best to meet this goal.

Make More Time for Customers

Forging strong relationships with customers takes effort. But thanks to the technologies you now have available to you – such as CRM systems, business intelligence tools, and social media – it doesn’t have to require a ton of time.

Now’s the time to create a game plan for success. How are you going to handle the many needs of your company without compromising on the customer relationship front? It’ll take some trial and error, but you can find a solution.

Business Woman Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Strengthen Customer Relationships When Time is at a Premium" was first published on Small Business Trends

Entrepreneur Launches Global Business in Her Kitchen with Less Than $500

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 15:30

Not all new innovations need to be expensive, high-tech products. As one entrepreneur recently showed, you can solve some seemingly complicated problems with a more simplified approach.

Example of a Simple Innovation

Kavita Shukla is the founder of FreshPaper, a product that is intended to help food stay fresh longer. But it’s not a complicated, technical gadget. It’s simply a piece of paper infused with spices that you can put anywhere you store produce.

And although this business aims to take on a pretty serious world problem, Shukla didn’t need to put much into the product initially. She started with less than $500 and created the product in the kitchen of her studio apartment. And now, FreshPaper ships to farmers and families in 35 different countries around the world.

Food waste due to spoilage is a huge problem in many parts of the world. And organizations and startups have spent tons of money trying to innovate new ways to keep food from going to waste. But this product shows that sometimes answers to big problems can be solved simply — by entrepreneurs with a flash of inspiration.

In fact, FreshPaper was inspired by a home remedy from Shukla’s grandmother. So even when your business is trying to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem, remember the lesson from this example of a simple innovation: the answer might actually be simpler than you think.

Image: Fenugreen

This article, "Entrepreneur Launches Global Business in Her Kitchen with Less Than $500" was first published on Small Business Trends

LinkedIn Reaches 500 Million User Mark; 9 Million Businesses Use Site

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 13:30

 

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) has hit a major milestone. The social media site just hit the half-billion user mark.

That’s right — 500 million users. Further, there are now 9 million businesses actively on the site.

The power of this community benefits a global audience, allowing businesses and their perspective employees and clients to connect like never before.

LinkedIn Reaches the 500 Million User Mark

“We now have half a billion members in 200 countries connecting, and engaging with one another in professional conversations and finding opportunities through these connections on LinkedIn,” the company says in a statement.

LinkedIn continues to lead the professional sector of social media. Since being acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2 billion, LinkedIn has added features that are tailored to businesses. For instance, the LinkedIn Small Business area of the site provides resources in three key areas: branding, marketing, sales, and hiring.

Branding

The vast network of users creates an audience for business to tell their unique story. Considered the Facebook of business, LinkedIn creates a platform to showcase your business model as well as the faces behind the scene.

Marketing

With a pool of 500 million users and more than 9 million business, the marketing potential within LinkedIn is huge. Marketing campaigns have the potential to create more meaningful relationships when compared to standard methods.

Sales

The LinkedIn space creates an unspoken environment of trust. Transactions are initiated on an even playing field with direct access to customers and decision makers.

Your business can use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to create filters and reach your chosen prospects.

Hiring

Recruiting is where LinkedIn shines and the basis of its platform. With the new milestone of half a billion users, you’re guaranteed to find the right candidate.

LinkedIn’s blog publishes more than 100,000 articles every week, making it a one-stop resource worthy for small businesses to visit.

These are just some of the services available to small businesses on LinkedIn. Are you one of the half-billion active users on LinkedIn? When is the last time you logged in to the site? And is your small business or brand active on the site?

Image: LinkedIn

This article, "LinkedIn Reaches 500 Million User Mark; 9 Million Businesses Use Site" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Ultimate Guide to Green Practices for Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 12:00

Adopting greener working practices that prioritize creating a more sustainable business which is kinder to our environment, is becoming a leader concern for small businesses. Not only can crafting sustainable practices help businesses save money on the likes of energy bills, but it also ensures a business adapts a more environmentally-responsible reputation.

Green Practices

If you’re looking for ways to make your small business greener, check out Small Business Trends’ ultimate guide to green practices for your small business.

Recycling

Recycling is one of the easiest and most effective ways for a small business to become greener. Simply placing recycling bins next to photocopiers and in other strategic places in an office or work premises will encourage employees to place waste in an appropriate recycling container.

Recycling comes with multiple tangible benefits for small businesses, including lowering waste costs, making savings on new purchases, increasing morale within the workforce, improving the image of a brand, and, of course, meaning the business is doing its bit to help conserve energy and materials, and save the environment.

As the Environmental Protection Agency states, approximately 75 percent of solid waste that’s thrown away is recyclable. By being savvy about recycling at work and encouraging workers to adopt recycling practices will ensure a small business starts to positively contribute to the environment.

Energy Saving

When you’re not at your desk, why does your computer need to be switched on? Similarly, when the office is empty, why do lights need to be left on? Energy is an unavoidable business expense but fortunately there are many ways a business can make energy savings and thereby reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

One of the simplest ways to reduce energy consumption is to switch off. Whether it’s appliances, lights, heating or the radio, switching off equipment when it’s not in use will save on power.

Instead of relying on artificial lighting, use natural daylight whenever possible. Why? because it’s free! So, open the blinds and clear the windows to let as much natural light filter into the office as possible.

Switching to energy-efficient equipment might require a fairly large initial investment but can save your small business money on energy bills in the long-term, not to mention ensure you operate a greener business. As can installing occupancy sensors in rooms that are not constantly occupied, such as bathrooms, cloakrooms and conference halls, which automatically switch off the lighting when the room becomes vacant.

Going Paperless

We’re firmly entrenched in the digital era, so why not ditch the use of paper almost entirely and opt for solely digital forms of communication and paperwork, an accomplishment that will not only save a small business money but put it on the environmentally-friendly business highway.

Small businesses can adapt paperless principles through a myriad of efforts. Some of the most effective ways to ditch paper in favor of digitalized communication is by sharing files digitally, storing files in the cloud-based systems, such as Dropbox, phasing out photocopying and faxing, swapping paper bills and statements for digital ones, encouraging digital communications, generating digital business cards, using electronic signatures, making meetings paperless and training staff to be ore digitally competent.

As well as helping to save the environment from man-made demise, going paperless at work comes with other advantages, such as improving collaboration among members of staff.

Reducing Heating and Cooling Costs

Cold winters and hot summers take their toll on a business’s energy costs. Whilst heating and cooling expenses are unavoidable for most businesses, there are a number of fairly simple techniques you can implement to help reduce such costs.

According to the Department of Energy, warm air escaping from a building equates to around 20 percent of heating costs. Preventing drafts by weather-proofing doors, sealing window frames and other leaks can significantly reduce heating costs in a building.

Smart thermostats, which enable businesses to set temperatures for different times of the day can help a business save hundreds of dollars throughout the winter. As can ensuring the company’s boiler is running efficiently!

In the summer, the cooling demands in offices can be equally as energy-draining. Using ceiling fans and encouraging the use of desk fans will mean the workspace is less reliant on costly air-conditioning to cool the building down.

Utility companies often offer energy saving incentives, which are worth investigating. For example, some energy suppliers will lower a commercial customer’s energy bills in return for allowing the business to cycle off air conditioning during peak time periods.

Greener Ways to Travel

Commuting to work by vehicle and going on business trips can wreak havoc on a company’s carbon footprint.

Counter the negative effects of business travel by walking or cycling to work and encouraging colleagues and employees to travel to work by such methods. If cycling or walking to work isn’t possible, encourage staff to share lifts with one another to help cut down on the emissions being produced on the commute to work.

A World Economic Forum Report from 2008 revealed that business travel accounts for an average 15 percent – 20 percent of a company’s total carbon emissions. If your business does require a hefty amount of business travel, opt for greener ways to travel other than planes. Trains, for example, use 50 percent less fuel per passenger than an airplane for the same trip, making trains a much greener choice for business travelers.

Virtual Staffing

Hiring virtual staff that work remotely and provide virtual staffing and reception tasks opposed to in-house employees that require office space, comes with a number of benefits to small businesses. As such virtual staff do not have to travel to work and can conduct business tasks from their own locations, virtual staffing can be an effective way for small businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and become more environmentally astute.

Donate to Earth Tax

Another lesser known and lesser practiced ways companies can go green is to donate a percentage of its profits to Earth Tax. The clothing brand, Patagonia, has introduced a new way to raise money for environmental causes — an earth tax. The outdoor clothing brand calls for business to donate 1 percent of their annual sales to grass root organizations dedicated to environmental causes and promoting sustainable agriculture practices. As of 2016, Patagonia had donated $70 million to such initiatives.

With a little time, effort and imagination, there’s plenty of ways small businesses can become greener and save money and expand their credibility in the process.

Save the World Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Ultimate Guide to Green Practices for Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Ways Digital Signatures are Changing How Contracts are Signed

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 10:00
Sponsored Post

Development in digital technology has introduced new levels of efficiency across almost all industries. In the business world, everything from the way companies communicate to accounting, HR, marketing and even how documents are signed has been improved. Digital signatures like those offered by Eversign or Docusign took some time before gaining wide acceptance, but small businesses and large enterprises alike now use the technology instead of overnighting documents back and forth.

Here are 10 ways that digital signatures like the options Eversign or Docusign offer are changing the way that contracts are signed and the impact they have on small businesses.

Changes in Legality

It goes without saying, the most important element of a contract is its mutually accepted legality. Both signatories and any overseeing governing bodies have to agree to its legitimacy.

Since their inception, digital signatures have been recognized as legitimate and legally binding representations of an agreement. Where applicable, digital signatures have clearly altered the definition of “signed” when it comes to contracts.

Any eSignatures by Eversign, for example, all meet the strict security and authentication requirements  required under U.S. and European law.

The United States Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) have requirements before an electronic signature can be recognized as valid under U.S. laws. These include the intent to sign, consent to do business electronically, association of signature with the record and record retention.

If both parties agree to these, digital signatures are then valid and legally binding.

Changes in Security

The security threat in today’s digital landscape is no secret, but physical documents are just as vulnerable or more. In addition to theft or being misplaced, paper can be damaged in a flood, fire or other unforeseen disaster.

With digital signatures, documents are no longer aimlessly floating around waiting for a signature like a physical document, and once they are signed they can be stored digitally for safe keeping. Best of all, they can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

Greater Efficiency in Multi-Transaction Contracts

The power of digital signatures is evident in how they’ve changed the way multiple businesses sign contracts. Internal and external parties can sign contracts regardless of location faster than ever before.  Because of digital signatures, local, national and international parties are able to more easily finalize a deal and expedite the signatory process.

Changes in Controls and Audits

Digital signatures make it easier to manage a wide range of record keeping practices. It quickly turns contracts into excellent sources of documentation, whether the contract is an internal agreement between employees or an external one with another organization.

The technology has changed the way contracts are managed and archived, so they can be accessed immediately for e-discovery or when there is an audit.

Greater Efficiency in Internal Contracts

Digital signatures have also altered the internal operations of businesses. The efficiency and convenience the technology offers has seen its use increase dramatically. More companies are using contracts to enforce general operations, which in the past didn’t require such agreements.

Internal contracts include everything from basic assignments on a project to more formal agreements, such as promotions and employee contracts. Digital signatures deliver an aspect of formality and accountability to the day-to-day operations of a small business that are legally binding.

Improvement in Company Image

Implementing digital signatures lets your customers, vendors and partners know your company has the latest technology in place when it comes to finalizing a contract.

All things being equal, the fact that your small business uses digital signatures could be the differentiator to get that deal. The additional expense of the back and forth of a physical document, whether it is local, in another part of the country or around the world, is one more task or expense everyone would rather avoid.

Improved Corporate Social Responsibility

A certain level of CSR is expected from businesses when they enter into a partnership with organizations in different industries. With digital signatures, you are showing your level of awareness about the environmental impact of using paper and the associated costs that go along with it.

It is not just the paper, but the transportation of a document, especially if the other signatory is far away. All of this has an environmental impact. For many of today’s businesses that are already going paperless, using digital signatures lets them know you are on the same page when it comes to the environment.

Better Time Management

Physical document management is time consuming before and after signing a contract. The physical signing, handling and managing of paper contracts as well as the pre and post signing tasks often go unnoticed.

Once the document is signed, the inefficiency also extends to the life of the contract. If one of your employees needs to see a contract at a later time, make a copy and send it to a client, the process can take a minimum of 20 minutes to find, fax, send a copy and put it back. If you add that to all of your physical documents, you can see how the time can quickly add up. This of course doesn’t take into account a lost or misplaced document.

With digital signatures, it is as easy as finding the contract on a server and sending it in an email in less than one minute.

For example, Eversign securely stores your documents after completion and makes them available in your Eversign account. You can also manage your documents by setting them to auto-expire, exporting the to private location or permanently removing them from the Eversign system.

Better Cost Management

For a business, implementing a policy that saves money without affecting the overall efficiency and functionality of a service is great all around.

Digital signatures  are much cheaper. Not having to pay postage, courier, storage, management and other document handling fees is definitely a plus.

Accelerated Company Evolution

Digital signatures provide a fundamental shift in how a business signs contracts. Implementing this solution also makes the organization evolve technologically because solutions also have to be integrated.

Digital signatures and cloud-based contract management are designed to work well with other applications by automating repetitive tasks and making resources available remotely.

On the surface, digital signatures may seem to only change the way a company signs contracts, but the fact is they change the way businesses operate for the better in general.

In addition, to improving how contracts are signed, platforms like Eversign or Docusign introduce new levels of efficiency, save costs, and improve the image of the company, among other benefits.

Signing for Shipment Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Ways Digital Signatures are Changing How Contracts are Signed" was first published on Small Business Trends

Really Big List of National #SmallBusinessWeek Events

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 09:30

This year, National Small Business Week takes place from April 30 through May 6. And there are tons of different events, contests and other celebrations scheduled throughout the week.

The U.S. Small Business Administration hosts many of the events. But other businesses and communities throughout the country also celebrate with their own contests, luncheons, promotions and more.

National Small Business Week 2017 Events

The list below includes events from the SBA and more. You can see if there’s anything of interest in your local area or online. We’re also going to add to the list throughout the week. So keep checking back for even more Small Business Week opportunities.

Sunday, April 30 “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” Workshop

From Google and NectarSpot Marketing and Design Company, this workshop will focus on how businesses can use online tools, like those from Google, to make their offerings more visible to local consumers online. The event takes place from 1 PM to 4:30 PM CT in Naperville, Ill.

Monday, May 1 NSBW Awards Luncheon

In Washington, DC, the SBA kicks off National Small Business Week with an awards luncheon on Monday from 11:30 AM to 2 PM ET. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will announce the National Small Business Person of the year, along with other awards.

From Birth to Legacy: Creating a Business with Lasting Impact

Taking place from 8:30 AM to noon PT, this free workshop takes place at Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif. and features multiple sessions all focused on building a business that sticks around for the long haul. The city also hosts a number of other events at City Hall through the rest of the day.

Tuesday, May 2 Facebook Live with SBA Administrator Linda McMahon

For those who are more interested in online events, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon and Facebook’s VP and Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan will chat on Facebook Live on May 2 from 11:30 AM to noon ET. The conversation will center around how to build a successful business. And you can even submit your own questions for consideration.

Oakland Retailers and Restaurants

In Oakland, Calif., this event focuses on highlighting the city’s shopping and dining scene. It will also include information about current trends, best practices and opportunities for those local businesses.

Legal Issues for Businesses

Another event put on by the City of Oakland, this event takes place at City Hall and shares some information about the legal issues that impact all different types of small businesses.

Grow Your Business Online Workshop

In Nashua, N.H., the Neighborhood Merchant Alliance and Donation Network puts on this event aimed at helping small businesses use SEO, online advertising and other tools to help them gain visibility.

NSBW Twitter Chat Hosted by Score

SCORE, SBA’s resource partner and NSBW fiscal agent, will host a NSBW Twitter Chat on Tuesday, May 2nd from 12:30-1:30 pm ET. SCORE’s handle is @SCOREMentors ?and the chat hashtag is #SmallBusinessWeek. Additional information and chat questions will be provided next week.

The U.S. Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Small Businesses

Hosted by SCORE, this webinar features Visa Economist Jay Hawkins and a discussion about the current state of the U.S. economy and how it can impact small businesses going forward. You can register for the event online. And it starts at 2 PM ET.

SBA and GBYO Partner for Webinar

We’ve partnered with the US Small Business Administration to host a free webinar session on Wednesday, May 3rd, hosted by Anastasia Kudrez, speaker for Google’s ‘Get Your Business Online’ program.

Wednesday, May 3 National Small Business Week Road Tour Kick-Off

This year, the National Small Business Week road tour makes its first stop on May 3 in Indianapolis, Ind. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will be on site to honor local businesses. And the event will take place from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM ET.

Oakland Makers & Artists Day

This networking event takes place at Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif. and features opportunities for artists and makers to share ideas, resources and more. The event is free and features several different sessions all aimed at helping artists and creative business owners thrive.

5 Fabulous Habits of Local Business Champions

This informative webinar from SCORE focuses on the habits that can help local business owners gain success. It takes place for about an hour starting at 2 PM ET. And you can register for the free event online.

Grow Your Business Online

Another webinar from SCORE, this event offers tips about connecting with customers online. Starting at 4 PM ET, the webinar features by Anastasia Kudrez, Speaker at Google’s Get Your Business Online.

Thursday, May 4 National Small Business Week Road Tour Stop

Then, the National Small Business Week road tour will make its next stop on May 4 in Arlington, Texas. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will visit with local business owners from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM CT. And you can also watch the event live on SBA’s website or Facebook page.

Oakland Small Business Taskforce Town Hall

This free town hall event features a panel of business experts and taskforce members in Oakland, Calif. Small business owners and entrepreneurs in the area can attend the event to share thoughts and start conversations about issues that impact businesses in the area.

How to Write Your Email Content in 15 Minutes or Less

Hosted by Bria Sullivan, Webinar Content Developer at Constant Contact, and Dave Charest, Senior Manager of Content & Social Media Marketing at Constant Contact, this is another free webinar from SCORE. The live webinar starts at 3:30 PM ET and takes place for about an hour.

Find the Hidden Money in America

There are tons of hidden opportunities for entrepreneurs. This free webinar from SCORE, sponsored by Chase, features some tips for finding those seemingly hidden opportunities to make money and grow your business. The webinar starts at 5 PM ET.

Friday, May 5 National Small Business Week Final Road Tour Stop

Finally, the National Small Business Week road tour will make its final stop on May 5 in Fresno, Calif. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will meet with local business owners who will share their stories with event attendees. And you can also watch the event live on SBA’s website and Facebook page.

Pathways to Capital Workshop

For businesses in Oakland, Calif. that want to learn more about different ways to access capital, this free event at Oakland City Hall may be of interest. From 9 AM to 2 PM, the event features financing workshops and panels all about how businesses can access capital.

Saturday, May 6 Shop, Dine, Visit Oakland!

In Oakland, Calif., the city wraps up Small Business Week by encouraging residents and visitors to stop by many of the local businesses throughout the city for sales, promotions and other specials. There’s also a wine festival and other events taking place throughout the city during the day.

Events Running All Week UPS Store Pitch Off Contest

Small business owners and startups can enter the UPS Store’s Pitch Off contest from April 18 through May 31 by uploading a 90-second video describing their business or idea on the UPS Store’s website. Then family and friends will have the chance to vote on the video entries throughout May.

New Small Business Lessons Available on the Primer App

There are a host of new Primer lessons tailored for small businesses authored by small business experts (you may recognize a name or two!). The lessons will be available within the app next week.

Re:Work Announces Upcoming Blog Series

Re:Work is announcing an upcoming month-long blog series focused on small businesses. We’ll bring you stories and tips for thinking about culture, hiring, and compensation, specifically in a small business setting. Please share suggestions and proven people practices on how to #makeworkbetter.

Google Small Biz Will be Sharing Social Media Content

We’ll be sharing content on our channels all week long, so make sure you’re following us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so you have the most up to date information to share with your networks.

Did we miss a National Small Business Week 2016 event? Let us know by leaving a comment below or emailing sbtips@gmail.com.

This article, "Really Big List of National #SmallBusinessWeek Events" was first published on Small Business Trends

YouTube Provides Update on Restricted Mode Filter

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 08:30

YouTube is making more changes to the now-controversial Restricted Mode.

YouTube Updates Restricted Mode

In an official post on the YouTube Creators Blog, the site’s vice president of product management, Johanna Wright, says the algorithm that filtered content out of Restricted Mode was wrong.

The filter incorrectly removed about 12 million videos from Restricted Mode, a feature designed to limit the amount of mature content available to users at schools, libraries and other institutions. The problem is many of these videos did not contain mature content at all but were instead simply about the LGBTQ+ community.

This created the impression to some that YouTube was trying to censor and limit information about sexual orientation. And the LGBTQ+ community naturally took offense.

According to an Engadget report, some examples of videos that were taken from Restricted Mode included music videos from the group Tegan & Sara, a video about a person “coming out” to their grandmother and one containing lesbian wedding vows.

“One thing we heard loud and clear was people’s desire to report videos they believed were being inappropriately excluded from Restricted Mode,” Wright says on the YouTube blog.

Wright says the Restricted Mode is being fixed but the site is also providing a form for creators to use to address specific videos that were wrongfully filtered.

“Though Restricted Mode will never be perfect, we hope to build on our progress so far to continue making our systems more accurate and the overall Restricted Mode experience better over time,” Wright says.

What is YouTube Restricted Mode?

YouTube Restricted Mode is supposed to prevent mature video content from being seen by younger users or users who would rather not see it.

Content dealing with topics including drugs and alcohol, sex, violence, mature subjects, and profanity, will likely have their videos automatically filtered from Restricted Mode.

These videos have a more limited audience but, of course, may be vital to a creator’s content plan on YouTube.

But these general filters are still leaving a lot of gray areas for YouTube and its algorithm.

And this is particularly true on topics related to sex, Wright explains. specifically on the topic of sex. Because there is clearly a difference between videos with mature sexual content and those simply dealing with issues related to sexual orientation.

“This is one of the more difficult topics to train our systems on, and context is key,” Wright says.

Only educational and straightforward videos about sex may be included in Restricted Mode in the future.

Otherwise, many videos on this topic will still be filtered by YouTube’s Restricted Mode.

YouTube Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "YouTube Provides Update on Restricted Mode Filter" was first published on Small Business Trends

National Small Business Week: The History of an Entrepreneurial Tradition

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 07:30

A lot has changed in America since the 1960s and while many things are different in today’s United States, at least one of the fundamentals driving us all forward is still the same. While our values shift and IT creates realities considered science fiction back in the days of the Hippies and gas guzzling cars, the importance of small business remains one of this country’s immovable bedrocks.

That’s why celebrating National Small Business Week is as much a part of our collective experience as baseball and the Fourth of July. It’s fitting that some of the folks championing the event that runs from April 30 – May 6 are located at the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Washington D.C.

Small Business Week and the SBA Proclamation

“Every year since 1963 the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing that the country should honor and recognize National Small Business Week,” Stephen Morris, Online Media Coordinator for the U.S. Small Business Administration told Small Business Trends.

“In the U.S., small business is the backbone of the economy. They create two out of three new jobs and more than half of Americans own or work for small businesses.”

The SBA has long been the main federal agency that deals with small business issues. They deal with everything from supplying advice and assistance on how to start and manage a small business to a variety of specific loan programs and guarantees as well as contracts.

Involvement

The agency’s involvement with National Small Business Week stretches back to the earliest days of the event. Consider President Lyndon B. Johnson’s comments during National Small Business Week on May 24, 1965, where he specifically mentioned small business loans guaranteed by the SBA.

“Small businesses constitute more than 95 percent of all of the businesses in this country. They employ 40 percent of our entire labor force. They provide a livelihood for more than 75 million American citizens. Local development companies financed by SBA have created nearly 8,000 new jobs.”

Roots

The SBA traces its roots back to 1932, The Great Depression and the  Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). This is the grandparent of the modern version of the SBA. There were several other predecessors that took shape during WWII and the Korean War. Then on July 30, 1953, Congress created the early version of the modern SBA through the Small Business Act.

The social conscious of the SBA was evident quickly. The  Equal Opportunity Loan (EOL) Program was developed in 1964 to attack poverty by relaxing collateral and credit requirements.

Main Goal

“Today, our main goal is to educate and inform small business owners about the resources that are available to them,” Morris said adding that the SBA started planning for this year’s National Small Business Week immediately after they wrapped up last year’s festivities.

“All of our 68 district offices will be doing an event this year with many doing multiple events during the week for the small business community they represent.”

Some of the events planed for this year will cut a wide swath since they will be available online through the SBA website. Morris says this year’s event will start on Sunday and have a definite online flare.

Broadcast

“That Sunday at 4 p.m., we are going to broadcast a social media panel discussion that will deal with social media best practices for small business. That will be broadcast live from Washington D.C.”

One of the highlights will take place the following Monday when the SBA announces the National Small Business Person of the year winner. The schedule also includes comments from new SBA administrator Linda McMahon. She was the CEO at the World Wrestling Entertainment . McMahon and her husband ,Vince, built the empire that made her a billionaire. She was confirmed Feb 14th.

National

At the beginning of the week, McMahon will meet with and recognize  national small business owners in Washington D.C. She will attend events in NYC and other locations before finishing off with an event in Fresno, California. The SBA has 10 Regions and 68 Districts which will hold other events during National Small Business Week.

There will also be a series of webinars throughout the week on a series of different topics to be announced shortly. These are an opportunity for small business owners all across America to gain new knowledge and engage with thought leaders. There will be a total of five of these events during the week.

Social Media

The social media aspect to these events helps the SBA to get the word out to small business owners on a scale that’s only possible online. In fact, Morris says last year there were “hundreds of millions of impressions on social media,” with over 10,000 small business owners participating in the events carried out in cyberspace.

“It’s all become a really big online event which obviously  wasn’t the case back in 1963, but the Internet has become a really big part of how to reach small business owners. Besides, that’s where small business does business these days so that’s where we go to reach them.”

Online Small Business

As his title suggests, Morris is no stranger to the online small business space since he handles all the social media for the SBA. He says the administration realized several years ago the importance of the trend towards an online presence.

Still, he says the SBA favors a multi-pronged approach.

“While we definitely regard social media as an important way to reach small business owners, it’s not the only thing that we do,” he says. “ We have a bottom-line mentality that should resonate with small business owners. We carefully calculated all the returns on investments and that dictates things like how often we post in which networks we use most often.”

Advantages

He goes on to say that one of the advantages to the new digital media is the robust analytics that weren’t available back in the days of AM radios and bell bottom pants.

Regardless of the delivery method, the sentiment around National Small Business Week hasn’t changed. Today it might have a strong online presence, but the prevailing mission is still as black and white as an old television set in the desire to foster all aspects of small business.

Award

“Every year we give an award for a business that has recovered from a disaster,” he says mentioning how a business that was damaged in Hurricane Sandy last year received help.

“We brought them to D.C . to recognize and celebrate how they got their business back up on their feet as well as the contributions they made to their community.”

Small Business Trends a supporting co-sponsor of National Small Business Week.

Small Business Administration Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "National Small Business Week: The History of an Entrepreneurial Tradition" was first published on Small Business Trends

What This Law Firm Can Teach You About Empathy

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 06:30

Not displaying empathy as a company can cause your marketing strategy to go terribly, terribly wrong. You only need to look at United’s developing PR nightmare for a prime example.

The Importance of Empathy in Business

But the importance of empathy in business goes beyond preserving your company’s image. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) did a study that analyzed the relationship between empathy and job performance, evaluating over 6,700 managers from 38 countries.

The study gathered data from both subordinates and superiors. Employees ranked their managers according to how attuned the managers were to the staff’s personal situations. Did they:

  • realize when employees were overworked?
  • care about employees’ personal problems and losses?
  • show interest in employees’ “needs, hopes, and dreams”?

Then those in leadership over the managers rated them on their overall job performance.

There was no question from the study that strong empathy skills are connected to superior job performance. The CCL’s results showed that “empathic emotion as rated from the leader’s subordinates positively predicts job performance ratings from the leader’s boss.”

Yet no matter what industry you’re in, it is only too easy to fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on how your service benefits your company. Your business does need to stay afloat, but caring about the needs of your customers is a vital part of making that happen.

Literal and Figurative Customer Pain Points

The importance of empathy in business is a lesson that the people at J. Reyna Law Firm have taken to heart.

J. Reyna focuses exclusively on defending clients who have suffered severe personal injuries. Empathy is important in any business, but it’s crucial in an industry where the goal is to assist people who are suffering.

The firm has helped many people who have experienced trauma while working in construction or oilfields, as well as those who have been hurt in automotive accidents. Clients include people who have needed complex medical care for damage done to the brain or spinal cord.

People who experience a serious injury are not merely going through physical pain. They also have anxiety about how their injuries are going to affect the future. Will they be able to go back to work and when will they be able to do so? What will be the impact on their families? Will they have enough money to make it through until everything is resolved?

And perhaps most importantly of all, will justice be done?

Experience Provides a Unique Perspective

Juan Reyna has a special understanding of his clients because he himself has had an immediate family member who suffered a traumatic injury. That situation gave Reyna a singular point of view for approaching how he does his job as a personal injury lawyer.

Reyna says, “It’s sad but society is so accustomed to reading about accidents on the news, that we’re desensitized to hearing about accidents to a degree … However when it’s YOUR family in the hospital or when it’s YOUR son/daughter/wife/husband that was hurt or even killed by an irresponsible party — there are no words for the pain you feel.”

He now helps victims of personal injuries with a true understanding of the financial crisis that’s facing them. He understands the emotional pain they’re going through, as well as their desire to right the wrongs they’ve experienced.

Empathy-Driven Business Practices

But if you merely feel your customers’ pain points and do nothing about them, having empathy does no good. Compassion must shape your business practices.

With his clients’ needs in mind, Reyna works on a “contingency basis.” He doesn’t charge people for a consultation fee, and he doesn’t charge for his services unless he wins a case.

He and his team put in the time to determine what is required to help each client succeed. His focus is not on earning money by taking as many cases as possible, simply hoping that some will be successful. Rather, he makes sure to explore every opportunity that could help all of his clients win. He also gives his clientele close personal attention and makes sure to communicate well with them.

3 Lessons on Empathy

1. Make sure you’re offering to solve a problem that you truly understand. By doing so, you’ll gain enormous credibility with your customers and actually be able to help them better.

2. Don’t merely focus on how you can benefit your company. Yes, you need to keep your interests in mind. But remember that by helping your customers, you are also helping yourself.

3. Adapt the structure of your processes to the needs of your customers in a way that accommodates the importance of empathy in business. Can you adjust the way you accept payments so that you relieve some of your customers’ stress while still making a profit? Any way you can make the buying experience easier for them will also benefit you.

Law Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What This Law Firm Can Teach You About Empathy" was first published on Small Business Trends

Weighing the Risks of Mobile Payments at Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-04-27 05:00

Regardless of their industry or size, merchants from all over the world are beginning to embrace mobile payments, thanks to benefits like accepting payments wherever you want and improving the customer experience.

That doesn’t mean that there’s not a downside to mobile payments, particularly security concerns.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Mobile Payments

Before small business owners start accepting mobile payments, they should take the time to compare the benefits and risks of mobile payments so that they’re certain that mobile payments are the right fit for your business.

 

The Benefits of Mobile Payments Customer Convenience

The biggest advantage of accepting mobile payments for small business owners is that it makes it easier for your customers to pay you. Instead of having customers pull out out their credit cards, cash, or write out a check mobile payments support contactless payments via their smartphones.

This not only speeds up the checkout process, it also gives you the chance to engage with your customers throughout the entire customer journey.

For example, using beacons allows you to send customers coupons when they’re in proximity to your store, browse product descriptions while shopping, upsell additional products, and accept payments wherever and whenever the customer prefers.

By making it easier for your customers to make a payment and interact with them, you can increase conversions and turn these customers into loyal brand advocates.

Reduces Expenses

Mobile payments eliminate the need for you to purchase expensive point of sale equipment by simply converting your mobile device by using a card reader or app. It also reduces the cost of paper and ink since you can email or text receipts to your customers instead of printing out paper receipts.

Improves Cash Flow

Mobile payments can increase your cash flow in a couple of ways. For starters, customers prefer to pay with their credit or debit cards over methods like cash. Also, most mobile payment processors transfer funds to a business account in under three days.

However, technology, such as the blockchain, makes transactions occur in real-time.

Integrates Loyalty Programs

Mobile payments makes it possible to integrate loyalty and reward programs since customer information is stored in the app — like being able to send customers a coupon when they’re in proximity to your store.

This means that your customers will automatically receive reward points or coupons for every transaction that they make.

Considering that repeat customers on average spend around 67 percent more than first-timers, seamlessly integrating loyalty programs can be a major boost to your bottom line.

Access to Actionable Data

Mobile payments can also provide customer data, such as how frequently they shop at your business, how much they spend, and what their preferred payment method is. This information can be used to target your customers based on their shopping behavior, patterns, demands, which improves customer service.

When you improve customer service, you can increase your sales.

Mobile payments also provide additional insights, such as automatically tracking your inventory. For instance, if you operate a food truck you’ll know when it’s time to order food products so that you don’t run out.

The Risks of Mobile Payments Watch Security

With the amount of high-profile data breaches, it’s understandable why security is a top concern among both business owners and customers.

Mobile payments are secure for the most, thanks to tokenization and biometrics, it’s been found almost half of all mobile payments are not secure.

Outdated Technology and Infrastructure

While mobile payments are less expensive than traditional POS systems, it still requires new hardware, such as a terminals or phones that can support Near Field Communication.

In other words, if you’re system is still an older credit card terminal, or you don’t own a smartphone then you can’t accept mobile payments. You also have to have a strong internet connection and updated infrastructure that make it possible to process mobile payments.

This may not be that big of an issue in developed countries, but for developing markets this is a challenge for small business owners.

Cross-Platform Solutions

Since there is a variety of different mobile devices and operating systems, like Android and iOS, and thousands of networks, a one-size fits all payment solution isn’t always available.

While mobile payments share similar qualities, there are slight differences. For example, Apple Pay employs a Secure Element (SE) to protect sensitive information, while Android Pay relies on Host Card Emulation (HCE).

User Adoption is Slow

Despite the fact the customers prefer to use credit or debit cards, most choose to stay in their comfort zones when it comes to making a payments. So, even though mobile payments are tied to a credit card, customers are more comfortable in swiping or inserting their cards in a terminal instead of waving their phone over a terminal.

Difficult to Read Terms and Conditions

Like any other agreement you would sign, business owners must first read and understand the terms and conditions presented by the mobile payment processor.

For example, processors like Square, will charge a 2.75 percent swipe fee for transactions. However, they’ll charge 3.5 percent plus $0.15 for each manually entered transaction. If you don’t read the fine print, mainly when it comes to processing fees, you’ll notice an unwelcome surprise when open your invoice at the end of the month.

Images: Due.com

This article, "Weighing the Risks of Mobile Payments at Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends