11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—SMS Rules for Success
With a read-rate of 98%, SMS has long been considered one of the most effective marketing channels. Text messaging is now widely used by small business owners to grow sales.
However, according to the folks at TextMagic, the desired results from a texting campaign can be achieved only by following certain rules. So, they recently created an SMS Marketing Periodic Table—a tool designed to help marketers make the most of their texting efforts.
TextMagic says, “The instructions are outlined in the SMS Marketing Guide box at the bottom of the table. And the actual table is divided into categories. In some, you will have to choose between elements (Goals, Metrics, etc.). The other is similar to checklists put together so you don’t forget anything (Text message elements, Delivery).”
2—10 Tips for a Successful Black Friday/Cyber Monday
Global commerce company Shopify (affiliate link) says running a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale can cause stress for retailers as they prepare their businesses for a massive influx of traffic and sales.
To help you prepare Shopify is sharing its top 10 tips for how you can “win” Black Friday/Cyber Monday this year.
1—Two words: Start now. According to research from NFR, every year, 40% of customers begin researching and doing their holiday shopping as early as October.
2—Plan and organize your sales. What will be your offer? Begin to plan your campaign at a high-level, noting any assets, apps, inventory, etc. you might need to pull it off. Look at all of your products and plan your sales ahead of time instead of putting on a sale last minute.
3—Do you have enough inventory to get through the holidays? Look at your sales from last year—do you need to produce or order more?
4—Make sure you’re running at the right speed. Page speed optimization may be the single biggest factor in SMB’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday performance. A one second delay in page load time has been found to yield 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% loss in conversion.
5—Consider creating abandoned cart emails. One of the easiest ways of keeping cart abandonment low is by setting up awesome abandoned cart emails. This way, when a customer adds a product to their cart but leaves your store, you can use a compelling email to bring them back to complete their purchase. Shopify makes this easy with built-in abandoned checkout recovery and also a nice selection of abandoned cart apps in the Shopify App Store to choose from.
6—Build buzz around your upcoming sale. Tease your customers with emails of what’s to come, post sneak-peeks of upcoming sales on social media, and start piquing the curiosity of your customers. A great way to create buzz is by using a countdown clock. Install POWr’s Countdown Timer.
7—Start your email marketing campaigns. This year, email marketing will play a larger role in the success of store’s holiday sales. Begin planning, creating and scheduling the emails you’ll be sending out during your Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Here are some ideas for email campaigns you can put together:
- Announcing Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale
- Last reminder before sale ends
- Exclusive sale for email subscribers
8—Reward loyal customers. This is a great time to build relationships with your previous customers and get them to come back. Send emails to (and retarget) your previous customers with the best deals. Give existing fans and customers the opportunity to access a sale earlier or give them exclusive sales just for being a subscriber on your email list.
9—Offer easy and hassle-free returns. Be the online retailer that goes above and beyond the call of duty for their customers. It might just get those on-the-fence about purchasing your product to pull the trigger since you’re showing confidence in your product and removing the risk from the customer.
10—Track everything. Set up Google Analytics—a free traffic tracking tool that every ecommerce business owner should be using. If you’re not setup with Google Analytics on your store, or you just want to ensure you’re using it properly, check out our beginner’s guide on Google Analytics.
3—What Your Company Should Be Doing About Digital
Guest post by Eric Friedrichsen, Senior Vice President SMB, SAP North America. He has more than 25 years of experience in the software/SaaS industry.
One of the most mind-boggling feats of the 1969 lunar landing is how NASA pulled it off with the technology it had. For context, consider that our cellphones today have more computing power than all of NASA did in 1969. Side-by-side against the best Apollo computer at the time, the iPhone 6 performs instructions 120,000 times faster.
If that’s not enough for you, today’s video game systems have the same power as a 1997 military supercomputer, which cost millions of dollars at the time. Last I checked, the Nintendo Switch was retailing for $300.
It’s a cliché I know, but facts like these underscore how quickly and vastly technology changes over time and how important it is for our everyday lives. It’s why I am so excited to be working at a technology company: I’m seeing firsthand the digital economy come to life, and not just for the elite but for companies of all sizes and people all over the world.
3,000 executives agree
A recently-released study by Oxford Economics on digital transformation of 3,100 executives from 17 countries (which was commissioned by the SAP Center for Business Insight) gives us a powerful overview of what small to large businesses are prioritizing and the things they’re concerned about.
Here are some of the findings that stood out to me:
- Mid- and large-sized businesses agree that the top two global trends that will most impact their business in the next two years are (1) technological change and the digital economy and (2) the increasing pace of change
- When it comes to tech, the top two areas that mid-sized businesses were invested in are (1) cloud and (2) mobile. In terms of planned technology investments over the next two years, both mid- and large-sized organizations plan primarily to invest in big data and analytics
- Of those companies that are truly digital transformation leaders, more than 80% say transformation has increased market share and profitability
- 33% of those leaders expect revenue growth between 10 and 15% next year
Skullcandy, a cutting-edge brand credited for revolutionizing the headphone industry, is one great example of a digital transformation leader. When they implemented their cloud ERP in 2008 they were coming off the classic Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks system. Nine years later through growth, acquisitions and an IPO, the stability and performance of the system has helped them sustain their business that has gone from $70 million in revenue to $250 million today. Going digital has also made it easier to streamline operations across the globe.
From 3,000 to 3
The most consequential finding from the Oxford Economics study however, is while organizations know digital is important, few are actively embracing it. Few, in fact, might be an understatement. Only 3% of organizations surveyed have completed digital transformation projects across the enterprise. (“Completed” is not really the right word. Digital is a process that never really ends). Digital transformation essentially means when companies apply the use of digital tools to automate and improve the way they work. A digital business is built on new computing infrastructure—the pillars of mobile, cloud, big data and analytics.
If 97% of companies are not digitizing, they have a huge risk of falling behind if they don’t begin to move toward this evolution. Today, as many as 37% of small- mid-sized companies say outdated technology keeps them from achieving their business goals. It certainly didn’t stop Skullcandy, and they are reaping the benefits today.
Yes, digital is certainly easier said than done. It’s as much a strategy as it is a mindset. It’s long-term. As the report to the survey puts it:
Stop doing piecemeal IT projects. Stop treating IT as the enabler of business rather than a strategic partner. Stop handing off responsibility for digital transformation to a siloed group and then complaining when it doesn’t deliver any significant changes.
Stop doing these and start doing the opposite. That’s as suitable a starting point as any.
I always like quoting the CEO of the small business Sock It To Me, who noted that by going digital her organization saw “an incredible improvement with our forecasting and ordering accuracy” and they can now “conduct analysis to develop strategies and pursue growth…”
My advice to you is just that—pursue growth. Be bold and own your digital evolution.
4—Why Consumers Shop Small
More than three-quarters of U.S. consumers say shopping at or using a small business is important to them—mostly due to the impact these businesses have on the local community as the number one reason. This is according to a recent survey conducted by Vistaprint. The results of which were announced in The Consumer Small Business Shopping Report.
The report reveals that consumers value local commitment more than twice as much as prices when it comes to shopping small.
Vistaprint CEO, Trynka Shineman says, “The Consumer Small Business Shopping Report shows 25% more consumers plan to shop or work with a small business in 2018 versus 2017.”
Other notable findings include:
- Nearly 70% will shop at a small business more if they are on a first-name basis with the owner, showing how much customers value personal service.
- Commitment to the local community (52%) and personal service (42%) rated as the top drivers for shopping at or working with a small business.
- More than 75% of consumers overall plan to shop small for the holidays. In the Northeast, 85% of consumers plan to shop small.
5—Workplace Safety Gives You a Recruiting Edge
With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering below 5%, small businesses looking to grow often have a harder time finding talent to fill open positions. Many factors motivate job seekers, but a new survey of small business employees by EMPLOYERS® found small business owners may be underselling an important factor that could give them an edge when recruiting new talent.
Somewhat surprisingly, the survey shows the safety of the work environment is among the top criteria employees consider when evaluating a new job offer. It ranked behind expected criteria such as compensation, the nature of the work and proximity to home, but ahead of factors such as the quality of potential coworkers and opportunities for professional growth.
The survey also found that while 89% of small business employees believe their employers make workplace safety a high priority, 10% disagree. People who work at businesses that employ 86-100 people were more likely to say their employers prioritize workplace safety (96%), compared to people who work at micro-businesses that have one-nine employees (87%).
Employees of certified women-owned business were also more likely to believe their employers place an extremely high priority on workplace safety (62%). Women-owned-businesses are more likely than the average small business to provide workplace safety training once a year.
“In today’s tight labor market, it’s important that small businesses recognize that safety of the work environment is a top priority for employees. One way to attract and retain valued talent is to have and communicate a commitment to workplace safety. By fostering a safe work environment, small businesses can protect and retain their most valuable asset, their employees,” says David Quezada, Vice President of Loss Control at EMPLOYERS.
Employers are falling short in providing training
The survey also explored the comfort level employees have addressing workplace safety concerns with management. In fact, 52% of employees say they’d report concerns to the business owner and 48% say they’d speak with a direct supervisor. More women (51%) than men (43%) are comfortable reporting work-related safety issues.
While workplace safety is a priority for many small businesses, more can be done to foster safe work environments. The EMPLOYERS survey found:
- 17% of employees surveyed say they’ve never received workplace safety training
- 25% of micro-businesses employees (9 or fewer employees), have never received workplace safety training
- 40% of employees say their employer does not display OSHA signage prominently or they’re not sure if it is displayed
How to create a culture of safety in the workplace
EMPLOYERS recommends you take the following steps to create a culture of workplace safety to protect your workers, and perhaps gain a recruiting advantage:
- Identify and assess potential hazards. Identify potential hazards in the work place, and develop policies and procedures to ensure employees can do their jobs safely.
- Lead by example. It is important to not only communicate safety goals to everyone, but for business owners to set the model example for others to follow.
- Train and educate regularly. Train new employees during orientation and set up regular trainings for all employees throughout the year. It is also a good practice to include workplace safety policies in employee handbooks and display safety posters throughout the workplace to remind employees about the business’ safety priorities and procedures.
- Enforce and evaluate. Conduct regular workplace safety audits, safety meetings and annual safety training sessions to enforce regulations and keep safety top of mind for employees.
6—Sweating the Small Stuff Can Cost You
Sage, a market leader in cloud accounting software, recently released an economic report, Sweating the Small Stuff: The Impact of the Bureaucracy Burden, showing the world’s business builders currently spend an average of 120 working-days per year on administrative tasks, accounting for approximately 5% of the total manpower for the average SMB.
- A 5% increase in productivity in the U.S. could lead to an increase of close to $325 billion in gross value add per year.
- Small businesses spend between 230-240 days per year on admin alone, which equates to 17% of total manpower spent on administrative tasks each year.
- Of administrative tasks analyzed, accounting is the costliest—amounting to over 20% of total time spent on administrative tasks. This is followed by invoices and taxation.
- Roughly 30% of all SMBs surveyed have fully digitized their accounting; however, nearly 50% have no software solution in place at all.
- When asked about reasons for not digitizing administrative tasks, the most common answer was “nothing”, followed by “time consuming” and “implementation costs”.
Nancy Harris, managing director, Sage North America says, “This research confirms there is a huge opportunity for SMBs to increase their bottom line and productivity by automating administrative tasks. In smaller businesses, (those with fewer than 10 employees) this represents an opportunity to automate these processes and free up their colleagues to work on more strategic priorities for the business.”
7—Power of the Cloud
According to the Insight-sponsored report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, cloud computing is no longer a decision made solely for tactical reasons like cost savings or ease of implementation. Instead, key strategic business demands—the need for greater business agility, data capabilities, and better customer and user experiences—are compelling companies to embrace cloud systems,
Respondents are nearly split when it comes to hybrid and private cloud adoption, while total public cloud usage captures only a fraction of the market:
- Hybrid approach with systems hosted in both the public and private clouds (42%)
- Host most of their systems in a private cloud (40%)
- Host most in the public cloud (13%)
The types of systems most likely to reside in the cloud, include:
- Email and communication tools (54%)
- Billing and invoicing (29%)
- Business intelligence (29%)
- Payroll (26%)
- Customer service (24%)
- Project management (24%)
Cloud improves company performance
The benefits of cloud adoption are even more pronounced among small to mid-sized companies:
|Large companies||Small to mid-sized companies|
|Time to market||15%||47%|
|End customer experience||32%||48%|
|Ability to manage security||26%||39%|
|Ability to mitigate risk||28%||39%|
For all respondents, 49% say cloud or hybrid cloud systems have significantly improved collaboration, followed by business agility and flexibility (45%), their ability to manage, analyze, act on and share data (43%) and their ability to empower employees and create a better user experience (42%).
8—New Apps for QuickBooks
Now small business owners have even more options for apps that can integrate with their QuickBooks and help with tasks, such as expense tracking, HR, inventory, or organizational charts, allowing them to focus more on running their businesses and less on accounting and back-end processes. There are now more than 500 apps listed in the QuickBooks Online App Store.
Some of Intuit’s newest app integrations include:
- AutoEntry—an app that automates entry of bills, receipts, bank statements and sales invoices
- Clio—a cloud-based legal practice management solution
- Quotient—an online estimating and proposal app
- Chargebee—a subscription management, recurring billing and invoicing solution
9—End-to-End HR Technology Platform for Small Business
Small business benefits provider Decisely recently unveiled the first centralized HR technology hub for small businesses. The new, expanded Decisely HR Platform integrates and automates recruiting, applicant tracking, insurance benefits and payroll to simply and effectively manage an employee’s lifecycle with an employer.
Decisely enables employers to post resumes online at more than 75 websites, including Indeed, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, and Google Recruiter; track candidates; send job offers; onboard new hires; execute payroll; and manage benefit open enrollment periods through a single, integrated dashboard, eliminating the hassle and expense of managing disparate HR technologies and disciplines.
- Recruiting and applicant tracking: Research from Bersin by Deloitte shows it takes an average of 52 days and $4,000 to fill an open position. Decisely Recruiter helps small businesses streamline the hiring process through integrated recruiting, review and hiring tools.
- Integrated payroll: The platform integrates key information, reporting and payroll vendors into a single, centralized dashboard via PrimePay to eliminate dual data entry tasks, saving time and reducing errors.
- Paperless onboarding of new hires
- Employees annual renewal of insurance benefits
- Employees self-service life event management
- Employer self-service work event management
10—SMB Security Bundle
GamaSec recently launched its GamaSure PLUS website security package, which it says is the industry’s first one-stop shop for SMBs to easily and inexpensively gain cloud-based protection, remediation-as-a-service, and a Data Breach Limited Warranty powered by Assurant. It combines a security technology purchase with financial assurance and remediation services.
The GamaSec service eradicates website vulnerabilities for SMBs, and backs it up with a $50,000 Data Breach Limited Warranty. You can instantly sign-up for the GamaSure PLUS cloud-based service bundle, which costs $144 a month, or $154 a month with optional PCI-certified Web Application Firewall and DDoS attack protection.
SMB-focused cloud-delivered website security: Since GamaSure PLUS is cloud-delivered, it’s fast and easy. GamaSec remediation specialists conduct the specified fixing on the website owner’s behalf.
The Data Breach Limited Warranty within GamaSure PLUS is only available to users in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. GamaSec offers its GamaShield PLUS plan for other worldwide users that include combinations of website security and remediation-as-a-service.
For more information on GamaSure PLUS and a detailed list of features, go here.
11—Run API Tests From Anywhere
Postman recently announced a major update to its Postman monitoring feature allowing developers to select geographical locations from which to run API tests. This solution enables developers to monitor and measure network latency issues from a network in one region to a network in another region.
In today’s global economy, companies need to reach customers all over the world. Any geographical location with access to the internet is a potential customer base for businesses offering online products or services. But while growing online potentially increases revenue, it also poses latency challenges.
Businesses need to know if customers in locations thousands of miles away can access services or products as easily and quickly as customers in local areas. If customers outside a company’s geographical region can’t access a site from their devices quickly, they get frustrated and turn to competitors to find the same products or services.
In addition, monitoring traffic in multiple locations helps developers quickly detect and resolve API latency issues before customers encounter issues, such as a slow loading website.