Getting Your Customers to Share Personal Information, Avoiding Tax Mistakes, The Power of Chatbots, Help Writing a Business Plan and Other Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

Date posted: February 13, 2017

small business

22 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

 

1—Can Working in an Office be as Dangerous as a Contact Sport?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Check out the infographic from eFileCabinet which shows how working in a traditional office setting can cause injuries.

1

 

2—Are You Making Costly Tax Mistakes?

According to researchers at Balboa Capital, more than one-third of small business owners are at risk of making a costly mistake on their taxes. The infographic below has more details.

tax

 

3—Marketing Challenges

While most small business owners embrace online marketing channels like websites and social media to grow their companies’ reputations and revenues—many have not yet harnessed the full potential of their online presence. This, according to the first-ever Web.com Small Business Digital Trends Report from Web.com and Dr. David Ricketts, Innovation Fellow in the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.

David Brown, CEO of Web.com, says, “In 2017, it is no longer enough for small business owners to be online with just a website. They need business-specific social media channels that engage customers, they need a search-engine-optimization (SEO) strategy that will get them on the top of search lists, and they need online marketing advice from real people who understand how to stay one step ahead of their competition and customer expectations.”

The report surveyed small business owners nationwide to learn how they are using online channels to grow their businesses. The results showed:

Small Business Owners Only Use Some Online Marketing Tools

Overall, 72% of small business owners (SBOs) believe the primary purpose of their online presence is to market to or engage with customers, and 89% report their business’ online presence is doing the job. However:

  • Only 17% of SBOs will be investing in search engine optimization (SEO) in 2017
  • 42% don’t useboth a robust website and social media channels for marketing
  • 31% are retail businesses, yet only 12% say the main purpose of their site is e-commerce
  • 26% have a single-page website
  • 43% have no plans to change or improve their online presence this year
  • 85% have hit a roadblock when attempting to use social media to promote their businesses

When it comes to building and maintaining their websites:

  • 68% handle their online presence in-house
  • 22% outsource to an online marketing firm
  • 9% get help from friends and family

The primary area in online marketing SBOs need help with so they can meet their top priorities are online advertising (29%) and website maintenance or expansion (26%).

Search Engine Optimization: An Underutilized Asset for Small Business Owners

Although search engine optimization (SEO) can help businesses stand out from their competitors, most SBOs don’t cite it as a priority. Only 17% plan to add SEO to their online marketing strategy in 2017, and a mere 5% say SEO is a top priority this year.

Online Security and Small Business: Security Breaches May Go Undetected

Most SBOs (81%) think their webpages are secure or very secure, but they may be unaware of vulnerabilities that could compromise their businesses. A report from online security company, Whitehat Security, says 86% of all websites have at least one vulnerability, indicating SBOs may be putting too much faith in their current cyber protections.

“When addressing cybersecurity, the primary question is—do these small business owners truly know if they are secure or not?” says Dr. Ricketts. “Security breaches can go undetected by even the largest of organizations, small business owners may unknowingly be at risk.”

Small Business Owners Are Hitting Roadblocks with Social Media

Overall, 88% of the SBOs embrace social media and 54% plan to invest in social media in 2017. However, 85% have encountered a social media challenge or roadblock, including:

  • 23% only use their personal social media handles to market their businesses
  • 15% are worried about reputational risks
  • 14% are overwhelmed with the upkeep, including constantly developing interesting content
  • 13% don’t understand how social media will help their businesses
  • 10% don’t know how to set up social media channels to integrate with their businesses

The SBOs say Facebook is the most effective social platform, ranking four times more effective than any other social media channel. Twitter was the next, followed by Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and Snapchat.

 

4—How to Get Personal Information from Your Customers

Consumers are willing to provide their personal information to businesses in exchange for deals, coupons and savings. How can you take advantage of this? The folks at Valassis explain how in the infographic below.

Personalization-Pledge-Infographic1-page-001 (1) (002)

 

5—Global Social Media Use Grows

Hootsuite and We Are Social recently released Digital in 2017, the 6th annual report of social media and digital trends around the world. Examining data from 238 countries the report shows 50% of the world is now connected to the internet.

Key findings include:

  • Internet penetration increased 10% in the last 12 months, hitting 3.8 billion, or 50% of the world’s population.
  • Global social media use increased 21%, reaching 2.8 billion users globally.
  • Mobile social media use increased 30% year-over-year to surpass 2.5 billion users globally, with 91% of social media users accessing social from mobile.

The United States alone contributed 22 million (25%) of the 88 million new social media users across North and South America in the past year. Increased use of smartphones and social messaging has changed how people communicate, so businesses need to transform their communications strategies to increase customer engagement and real-time interaction across the customer journey.

Check out their SlideShare for more information.

 

6—Most Businesses are Not Prepared to Deal with Cyberattacks

A study of 3,000 companies in the UK, U.S. and Germany, conducted for Hiscox, shows that 53% of businesses in the three countries are not prepared to deal with cyberattacks. The Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2017 assessed businesses according to their readiness in four key areas—strategy, resourcing, technology and process—and ranked them accordingly. While most companies scored well for technology, 30% qualified as ‘expert’ in their overall cyber readiness.

U.S. ranks high: Nearly half of the top-ranked companies or ‘cyber experts’ (49%) are U.S.-based, with a heavy weighting to multinationals and other large organizations. Larger American firms are also targeted more often than others with 72% experiencing an attack in the past 12 months and nearly half (47%) of all U.S. firms experiencing two or more. More than half (55%) say they have cyber insurance.

Momentum builds behind cyber insurance: Overall, 40% of firms have cyber insurance. Again, the U.S. ranks at the top with 55% having insurance. 

Incidence of attacks is high: 57% of businesses have experienced a cyberattack in the past year and 42% have faced two or more. It took two days or more for 46% of the businesses hit to get back to business as usual.

Cybersecurity spending is rising fast: 59% of cyber security budgets are set to increase by 5% or more over the coming year, while 21% will increase spending by a double-digit amount. Attacks prompt more spending on technology. Around a quarter of firms that experienced a cyber-attack responded by increasing their spending on prevention or detection technologies (24% and 23% respectively).

Smaller firms hit hardest: While big firms incur the highest costs in nominal terms, the financial impact of cyberattacks is disproportionately high for the very smallest companies. Small businesses also appear more complacent than their larger counterparts, with 29% saying they changed nothing following a cybersecurity incident (compared with 20% of larger firms). Smaller firms are also more reluctant to adopt key cybersecurity initiatives.  

 

7—Most SMBs to Increase Digital Marketing Budgets in 2017

GetResponse recently released the results of a study examining expected digital marketing investments among SMBs in 2017. The study also identified the channels most likely to drive spending. The results:

70% will increase their digital marketing budgets: Of that group, 30% say their budgets will “increase considerably,” while 40% say it will “increase somewhat.” Of the remaining 30%, 28% say their budgets would remain unchanged, while 2% will spend less in 2017.

Social, mobile and email are poised to drive growth: Of those spending more the areas that will primarily drive growth are: marketing on social networks (59%), mobile marketing (50%),  email marketing (42%), video production (28%), search marketing, including paid search and content creation and management (both at 26%), data collection and analytics and corporate website maintenance and development (both at 23%) and commerce experiences (16%).

 

8—Harness the Power of Chatbots

In its new global chatbots report, OpenMarket, found there’s a lot of opportunity for businesses to harness SMS-powered chatbots to enhance customer satisfaction and ultimately increase customer loyalty. According to the report, financial services is the top industry in which consumers would like to see better customer experiences and engagement opportunities via SMS (49%), followed by retail (27%) and travel and hospitality (24%).

There are more findings in the infographic below.

EMBARGO_OpenMarket_ChatBot_Infographic_1.17.17

9—Small Business Optimism Hits New Highs

As many as 85% of small business owners are optimistic about the economy this year, according to December’s SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard®. The last time optimism about the economy was this high was in May 2015.

Perhaps the reason for the optimism is that 66% of small business owners expect to be profitable in 2017, with a third looking to grow the size of their company as well.

More data is in the infographic below.

surepayroll

 

10—T&E Expenses: Trends and Best Practices

Certify, a leading automated travel and expense management software provider, just released its 2017 Expense Management Trends and Annual T&E Outlook its 5th annual expense analysis. Certify says the “report is designed to help finance leaders identify new and emerging best practices for T&E expense management and benchmark current processes to those of their peer companies.”

Survey Highlights:

  • Companies of all sizes were represented in the data: 27% Small Business (fewer than 100 employees); 43% Midsized Companies (101 – 999); 30% Enterprise(1,000+).
  • Current trends in expense management systems: 46% of companies are using some form of a manual system (down 4% from the 2016 study); 37% of companies are currently on a web-based system, and 17% manage expenses using an ERP system.
  • Among small business, 64% are using some form of a manual process compared to just 20% of enterprise companies.
  • For T&E pain points, employees losing paper receipts increased to 52%, followed by employees’ failure to submit reports on time (51%), the time it takes to reconcile, review and approve reports (36%), reviewing for policy violations (28%), and errors on expense reports (26%).
  • Benefits of switching to a web-based system extend into traditional accounting functions as companies use system data to enhance annual budgeting and planning (44%), auditing (40%), annual budget planning (35%), forecasting (26%), and financial/regulatory reporting (23%)
  • For companies that switched to an automated expense management system, 70% realize a full return on investment in one year or less, with 89% of all companies achieving full ROI in 2 years or less
  • The ways companies achieved ROI by: improving efficiency in the expense reporting process (57%), reducing processing costs (48%), travel booking controls (22%) mobile accessibility (22%), eliminating payment for duplicate expenses (21%), and others.

 

11—Growth Plans

According to Insureon’s 2017 Small Business Outlook, 82% of small business owners are planning for growth in 2017—a strong sign for overall economic health heading in 2017. However, the survey uncovered a disparity in plans for growth between men- and women-owned businesses. Among women owners, 25% have no growth plans. At men-owned businesses, the figure is just 11%.

2017 plans include:

  • 58%: buying new equipment or furniture
  • 34%: selling a new product
  • 33%: hiring an employee
  • 30%: offering a new service
  • 23%: moving to a new location

 

12—Enter to Win

The 2016 OPEN for Government Contracting Awards from American Express OPEN are now open for applications. The awards, in its seventh year, recognize standout small business contractors in the following categories:

  • Government Contractor of the Year
  • Woman Government Contractor of the Year
  • Subcontractor/Teaming Government Contractor of the Year
  • On-the-Rise Government Contractor of the Year

Businesses owners can apply or nominate others who have experienced government contracting success over the past year. Full information and criteria for the awards can be found on OPEN Forum.

The deadline to enter is 12pm EST on March 15th.

 

Quick Links

 

13—Love & Money

According to data from LendEDU, money issues interfere with many otherwise happy relationships. In fact, 32% of people in a recent survey say honesty about personal finances is more important than honesty about fidelity. You can read about it here.

 

14—Why Company Culture Matters

When it comes to hiring, it’s important to find people who fit your corporate culture.

 

15—Do you Suffer from Text Neck?

I know I do. Here’s what to do about it.

 

16—Getting More Out of Instagram

The addition Instagram Stories last August helps businesses bring their stories to life. If you convert your account to a business one, you have access to Instagram Business Tools, which provide deeper analysis and more features coming soon.

 

17—Growing Sales

One of the best ways to increase sales is to build connections with your customers. Infusionsoft has a host of automated marketing and sales tools that will help you do just that. And with the new product updates the company just launched, it’s easier than ever to connect to current and recruit new customers.

 

18—Biggest Sales Days for Digital Retailers

Magento reports Black Friday was the biggest sales day of 2016 for digital retailers, followed by Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. Learn more here.

Read This!

19—You Need a Business Plan

Despite what you may here, if you want your startup to succeed, you need a business plan. We all know it’s challenging to find funding, and in today’s tight-money and competitive marketplace, investors demand a solid, convincing and sustainable business plan.

You can get help creating your plan by getting a copy of the new edition of the best-selling book The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan, by Hal Shelton, an experienced CFO, business expert, angel investor and SCORE mentor.

The book offers an essential road map of how to understand, develop and communicate an effective business plan. This new edition also provides updated information on funding options, as well as a bonus section covering key start-up issues.

The books covers:

  • The biggest issues for startups in their first 100 days, including setting your compensation, hiring staff and creating marketing programs
  • Crowdfunding and the significance of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new rules
  • The pros and cons of alternative funding solutions
  • User-friendly worksheets to follow along and write your own plan: www.score.org/secrets_business_plan

 

Cool Tools

 

20—On-Demand Delivery Service For Online Print Products

The UPS Store recently launched a “Print on Demand” pilot program enabling customers to receive on-demand delivery service for select print products—from business cards and presentations to flyers and brochures. To facilitate delivery, The UPS Store is collaborating with Deliv, a leading same-day delivery company that will provide a web-based solution to schedule and fulfill deliveries. The one-hour (one-hour from the time the print job is complete and the customer selects a delivery window) print delivery service is the first of its kind and is available now at more than 180 The UPS Store locations in Chicago and Dallas.

The premium service will be available for deliveries within a five-mile driving distance from participating The UPS Store locations in the pilot cities. To learn more about Print on Demand go here.

 

21—Tools for Project Managers

First, the bad news. According to GetApp, almost half of all traditional software projects are delivered late or over budget. For every $1 billion invested in the U.S., $122 million is wasted due to poor project performance. Only 2.5% of companies successfully complete 100% of their projects.

Now, the good news. Using the right project management software can play a crucial role in solving this problem. Project management solutions are the most sought-after software in 23 U.S. states among small and midsize business (SMB) buyers.

GetApps’s new research shows 95% of project managers use more than one tool regularly. You can learn mor about solving the problem here.

 

22—Collect Online Payments with Ease 

Zoho recently introduced Zoho Checkout, a payments solution that allows businesses to create customized, secure checkout pages without requiring the technical expertise traditionally needed to set up checkout pages. The solution offers flexible payment options, real-time analytics, and customizable design. Zoho Checkout is the latest addition to the Zoho Finance Suite, a comprehensive cloud-based financial application.

Zoho Checkout is feature rich and offers email integration with MailChimp and real-time analytics.

The solutions is available with a free plan that supports one payment page, with no restrictions on the transaction amount per month. There are also standard and professional plans at $9 and $29 per month respectively, which cover a more comprehensive feature set. For more information on the breakdown of the different plans and available features.

 

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