11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—Building a Killer Email Marketing List
Email marketing it still one of the most effective ways to market your small business, so building a strong email list is key. Find out how in the infographic below.
2—Should You Delegate to a Virtual Assistant?
All business owners are busy, and yet are often reluctant to delegate. If that sounds like you, consider hiring a virtual assistant. Check out the infographic from MyTasker below to see how a virtual assistant can help you.
3—How to Improve Customer Experience
One way to win customers—and keep them—is ensuring their experience with your business is stellar. With so much competition these days, there’s not a lot of margin for error here. Ledia Dilo, the Director of Omnichannel and Member Care for BJ’s Wholesale Club, shares 5 tips for enhancing customer experience.
- Personalize: Use the data you have to connect with your customers on a deeper level. Acknowledge your customer.
- Efficiency: Create a customer service model that allows your company and employees to respond and solve customer service issues in an efficient manner. Balance quality and cost.
- Empower: Empower your employees to make decisions to keep your customers happy. Their empowerment will lead to satisfied customers and higher first contact resolution. Align your processes to support your first contact resolution strategy.
- Listen: Provide opportunities for your customers to provide honestfeedback then create change to address their needs. Make sure your customers know you are listening by closing the feedback loop.
- Learn: Your customers can always teach you something, make sure you’re willing to learn from them, whether it is through their words or actions. Measure both satisfaction and level of effort at the program or issue level.
Dilo is not just talking the talk here—BJ’s walks the walk. It earned the top spot for overall customer experience in retail according to the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings and came in 8th overall, out of 331 companies ranked.
For those not familiar, BJ’s is a membership warehouse club store serving the east coast of the U.S. They enhance their members’ experiences by providing perks, such as more payment options than the other major wholesale clubs, price savings on food and gas, accepting manufacturer’s coupons, an in-house full-service deli and the ability to Pick Up & Pay®. Another perk BJ’s offers is many of their items are packed in smaller and more convenient sizes and the stores typically carry 7,000 items compared to an average of 4,000 at other clubs.
4—Getting ‘Real’ About Content
It’s “time for organizations to ‘get real’ about their content identity,” according to a study from Accenture Interactive. The research, You Are Your Content, shows “quality content is the single most important driver of brand engagement. It is more critical than ever for organizations to master their content identity as it is the true reflection of who an organization is to its audiences.”
Since Accenture’s first annual State of Content report last year, the percentage of companies producing large amounts of content has doubled. And is shows there’s been an “explosion” of new distribution channels, which has “disrupted every industry.”
According to the report, “High-performing companies are transforming themselves into content-driven organizations…to truly own their organization’s voice by bringing talent in-house to manage and create content. Indeed, 76% of companies plan to leverage in-house talent to create content in the next two years. The survey respondents says “a lack of in-house talent” is the top barrier creating quality content. Donna Tuths, global digital content lead at Accenture Interactive says, “There is now a clear need for organizations to ‘get real’ and gain control of their content strategy.”
You are Your Content Insights
A company’s content reflects its “personality, identity and voice.” Yet, the research shows “a misalignment between the perceived goals of content versus current realities.”
- 84% affirmed the importance of content in shaping the brand experience
- 78% believe content must clearly convey everything they want external audiences to know about their company
- 40% of executives responsible for content at their companies say they clearly understand the goals for their content
- Only 29% think the content they produce is consistent in style and tone across channels
- Less than a third believe their content reflects their company’s core values
There seems to be a disconnect between what management and employees think. CEOs were twice as likely as employees in saying their company’s content accurately reflects their culture and character, while less than one-third of employees strongly believe that.
- 80% believe it’s necessary to master new platforms
- 35% plan to invest more in content creation rather than paying to place their content
5—5 Tips for Getting a Loan
Kabbage, a financial services, technology and data platform, recently hit a milestone—the company has extended more than $3 billion to small businesses across the country, and has “served over 100,000 small businesses through its platform.”
Victoria Treyger, Kabbage’s chief revenue officer says, “The platform’s ability to deliver the right product throughout the entire customer lifecycle rather than just a single loan has been critical to driving the exponential growth rate for our direct lending business.”
If you’re looking for money, Kabbage advises, “Industry-specific loans can provide you with working capital when you need it. Because these loans are specially designed for the unique needs of your industry, they often involve a more streamlined application process, better rates of approval and a product that is simply more effective for your needs. However, even when applying for an industry-specific loan, there is always a chance of being turned down.” To increase your chances of getting a loan, Kabbage has compiled a list of 5 tips to help set you up for success.
- Write an industry-oriented business plan: When you write a business plan for a general banker, they often only understand the overarching themes and may not have a distinct understanding of industry jargon. However, that is different when you are applying for an industry-specific loan. The loan officers looking at your documents likely understand your industry inside and out, and as a result, a business plan that truly explains your goals and how they fit into your industry can boost your chances of approval.
- Share industry-specific data: Some industry-specific lenders don’t even require a business plan. This is often true of Fintech companies who use different criteria to evaluate the creditworthiness of lenders. For example, instead of providing a business plan, a three-month cash flow estimate and a number of other forecasts, you may simply share a lot of data about your company or your personal finances. This data can vary from lender to lender, but it can also be affected by your personal preferences as well as the apps or programs you use.
When deciding which information to share, consider sharing data that is unique to your industry. For example, if you run an e-commerce shop and you’re applying for a loan for retailers, you may want to share your data from your payment processor, ordering software or inventory records. Alternatively, if you are building up a service-oriented company, you may want to share data about consumer reviews—as those reviews can be an important indicator of your future success.
- Figure out how much you need: Even if your lender doesn’t require one, you should write a business planfor yourself. It should detail what you want to buy and how you expect those investments to affect your long-term sales and revenue. Try to be as exhaustive and detailed as possible when outlining your financial needs. If you forget necessary expenses, you may not borrow enough money. That can prevent you from having the working capital you need.
- Offer to put up collateral: Whether you are applying for an industry-specific loan or another type of business loan, you may be able to improve your chances of success by putting up collateral. The collateral you select can vary from buildings to equipment to inventory, and it may even include personal assets.
In particular, with industry-specific loans, you may want to put up collateral that is relevant to your industry. For example, if you own a restaurant with an expansive wine cellar, you may offer to use that as collateral, or if you own a software company, you might use a trademark or a piece of intellectual property as collateral. In many cases, a general lender may not understand the value of these types of assets, but an industry specialist may be willing to jump on the opportunity to use those types of niche items as collateral.
- Do some comparison shopping: If possible, don’t just apply for the first loan you find. Even in the world of industry-specific loans, there can be a lot of competition, and if you want to find the best product for your needs, you should do some comparison shopping. Look at the cost of the loan in terms of interest and fees, but also look at the application process. Consider how time-consuming it is, what information you need to provide and how easy the application is to navigate. You can even apply for more than one loan and then choose the winner based on which option has the best terms.
6—Dream Digital Contest
SAP SE is holding a Dream Digital contest that’s offering small business owners across the country the chance to win SAP technology plus a $500 reward to help realize their digital dreams and transform their businesses.
To enter, small businesses must submit a short video or essay online, detailing their digital dream for their businesses. You can enter through April 23. Public voting starts April 17 and ends before midnight EDT on May 1, 2017. Votes can be cast on the Dream Digital contest website. For each vote or social share using the hashtag #DreamDigital, SAP will donate $1 to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a wonderful nonprofit dedicated to inspiring young people from low-income communities to stay in school and recognize business opportunities. Winners will be announced on May 5, 2017—the last day of National Small Business Week.
Winners will receive a gift card to be used toward the digital purchase of a bundle of insights from the SAP Digital Consumer Insight data service, which uses customer location data to improve marketing and sales activities; a one-year subscription to SAP Digital CRM, a simplified cloud CRM solution for individuals and small teams, but with enterprise-grade capabilities for sales, customer service and simple marketing campaign automation; and a one-year subscription to WorkConnect by SAP, a new recruiting solution from SAP that helps remove the stress of hiring with easy job postings and candidate management—all in one web application.
“Small businesses have an incredible economic and social impact on the U.S. economy,” says Madhur Aggarwal, general manager, SAP Digital Commerce. “This contest is an opportunity to celebrate these businesses and help make their jobs a little easier through digital technology. The SAP offerings they can win provide insights for making better business decisions and simplify customer engagement and the hiring process. They are tools to fuel business success.”
The Dream Digital contest features the U.S. debut of WorkConnect by SAP, which enables small business users to reach dozens of job boards, track and manage candidates, and easily collaborate on team feedback. Users can post a job once and it automatically reaches multiple boards, saving hiring managers significant time. You can access a free 30-day trial version or buy it digitally online at SAP Store.
7—Lights, Camera…The Top 7 Trends in Corporate Video
Guest post by Vern Oakley, a veteran filmmaker, teacher, speaker, and industry thought leader. Oakley is CEO and creative director of Tribe Pictures. He directed the major motion picture, A Modern Affair, as well as the Emmy-winning children’s TV program, Reading Rainbow. His work has won over 500 international awards, including the Cannes Golden Dolphin. Oakley is currently an Adjunct Professor in Baruch College’s Communications Graduate Program.
We live in a visual society—and increasingly a video society. The corporate world knows this, and is leveraging video for uses other than just branding or marketing. Video is now often used to communicate important messages for moving people to action: for example, to invite investors to take a stake in your company, to encourage employees to rally around a strategy or initiative, or to recruit prospective employees.
As a filmmaker and creative director, I’m constantly looking for the next technology or trend to make my own work stronger and understand the context that corporations are coming to the table with. Here are some trends I’ve noticed lately.
1) Welcome to the video tsunami. Video is by far the way more and more people want to receive messages and information. We’re at the crest of the wave, and the surf is up. By 2020, 84% of all internet traffic will be video. That’s an astounding number.
2) Video continues to move in-house. Many of the Global 1000 corporations have in-house video departments. The middle market is looking to outsource the whole video operation and avoid staff and space allocations. More to come on that.
3) There’s a lot of terrible video out there. The barrier to entry is so low in terms of costs and business is so thirsty for content, which means there is a profusion of mediocre video. A great percentage of it is simply ignored.
4) Smart businesses demand ROI and ROI demands context. To understand and create effective video content is a skill unto itself. What distinguishes the merely acceptable from the truly great is an advanced level of strategic and creative thinking, a firm grip on the business challenges, and the societal context your audience is experiencing.
5) Virtual Reality is a contender. We’ve barely scratched the surface of VR’s massive potential for corporate and institutional applications. While VR is currently in the “trough of uncertainty” stage of its development, there’s no doubt more immersive and interactive video experiences are here to stay.
6) Culture beats strategy. Cultural differentiators are the most surefire (some might say only) way to stand out in a crowded global business environment. It starts at the top—no secret there. A lot of the most compelling work solves a specific communication challenge around building and improving a company’s culture, for example, human resources (recruiting, on–boarding retention), investor relations, CEO or executive messaging, values, purpose, and corporate communications.
7) Business has two speeds: faster and faster. Every project has tight time constraints. This is a result of the speed of business and the reality of the lives of corporate leaders. As service providers, we need to understand their pressure and work with it to assemble pop-up teams at a moment’s notice and do great creative work under duress.
Video is here to stay. The future is filled with potential and opportunity. In the end, understanding your audience, making work that begs to be viewed and shared and having clarity around the business problems you’re using video to solve add up to the successful use of video in a noisy world.
8—Do Your Employees Take Too Much Time Off?
Employee absences can lead to a decrease in workplace productivity and can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, one of the nation’s largest mutual life insurers and a leading provider of employee benefits, just released its 2017 Guardian Absence Management Activity Index SM and Study.
The research shows employers are making a conscious effort to reduce the impact of absences while dealing with the growing challenges of interpreting and complying with federal, state and local leave laws. The study shows an improvement in key absence management metrics, including enhanced productivity (+21%), reduced lost time (+22%) and reduced costs (+50%).
Nearly one-third of companies say they’re making a major effort to improve their absence management practices, up from 22% two years ago. As a result, the average Index score – a measure of the degree to which an employer is implementing absence management activities on a scale of 1 to 10—improved to 4.4, up from 3.7 in 2014, a 19% increase.
The study advises business that want to achieve even greater success should focus on these best practices:
- Use the same resource to manage Short Term Disability (STD) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leaves
- Integrate STD and FMLA with other leaves
- Consider nurse case management
- Incorporate health management programs (such as Employee Assistance Programs, wellness and health risk appraisals, and disease management)
“Absence management was once viewed as a concern only for large companies, but it is becoming a higher priority for small and medium-sized companies, and they are starting to reap the benefits,” says Scott Larsen, Vice President, Group and Worksite Markets at Guardian. “By outsourcing absence management activities, employers can alleviate the administrative and compliance burden on their human resource teams while reducing their risk, increasing workplace productivity and improving their bottom line.”
Businesses can use the Guardian Absence Management ScorecardSM to benchmark their leave management efforts against companies of similar size and receive a customized assessment of current absence management activities.
You can check out the The Guardian Absence Management Activity IndexSM and Study here.
9—Are You Making These Design Mistakes?
You can communicate visually—even if you don’t have design experience. To learn how, check out this video series, Make Information Beautiful from Visme. Check out the video intro and link to the first episode which addresses 15 design mistakes made by non-designers.
At Imagine 2017, Magento Commerce, a worldwide leader in cloud digital commerce innovation, unveiled several major enhancements to its flagship product Magento Commerce Cloud, including content management, social commerce, shipping, payments and business intelligence capabilities. Offerings include drag-and-drop content management features that make it easier to build rich sites, social tools that facilitate social commerce, and built-in analytics that help merchants elevate their brand experiences. Magento says this these enhancements will enable “merchants and developers to delight their audiences with seamless, personalized experiences across all channels and phases of the customer journey.”
Here’s the quick rundown of all the news:
Magento Digital Cloud for B2B: Features include custom catalogs and pricing, quoting and backend integration. This allows companies to address the complex needs of B2B companies and mirror the interactions of the best B2C brands.
Magento Shipping: Out-of-the box access to carriers (UPS, FedEx, etc.) and advanced “shipping intelligence” provide merchants with full visibility into fulfillment, from cart to door, and customers with customized shipping options. Shipping cost/convenience is the top reason for cart abandonment, and this should help merchants drive conversion and loyalty.
Magento Social: Merchants will be able to intuitively link their stores and online catalogs onto social media channels. Customers can not only interact with their favorite brands, but they can use social to navigate faster online orders. Ultimately this will become a powerful social advertising tool that will help merchants excel in commerce.
Magento Commerce Cloud: Includes Magento BlueFoot CMS for simplified content management, as well as the launch of Magento Social for companies to automate customer engagement across social platforms.
Mobelisk, a pioneer in modular and IoT-enabled Smartcases recently launched MoGo for Windows, which utilizes smartphone devices as an engine, allowing for premium specifications and highly customized functionality. The company says, MoGo can “perform in the harshest conditions, while providing workers with the durable technology they need to get the job done. Mobelisk can offer these hardware upgrades at a fraction of what the cost would be if they had to rely on traditional third party ruggedized hardware and software manufacturers.”
MoGo is the first in its industry to feature an integrated array of cloud-connected IoT sensors in the MoGo case that measure shock, vibration, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure independently from the smartphone device. This allows both proactive service and support of the devices in the field, and the ability to capture valuable real-time operational data.
Mobelisk will be the first in the industry to offer this unique approach to enterprise mobility on Windows 10 Mobile, showcasing seamless integration across desktop, tablet, and mobile for full device management.
“We’re providing functionality that extends devices built for business such as the HP Elite x3 into other markets and key verticals that are relying more and more on mobile solutions. HP will now be able to offer optimized solutions for mobile workforces, giving workers that couldn’t rely on fragile hardware in the past the solution they need,” says Dennis Hamann, Founder and CEO of Mobelisk. “We’re taking a strong 3-in-1 mobile device and adding enhanced capabilities through modular hardware and IoT sensors in the case to make it perfect for vertical markets such as fleet management, field services, hospitality, retail, healthcare, and many other business fields.”