small business
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12 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1. Does Your Small Business Need a Customer Experience Program?

The evidence, according to Primary Intelligence says yes—in fact, 52 of companies with customer experience programs in place have customer retention rates higher than 75. For more, see the Infographic below.

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2. 5 Things You Can Learn from the Summer Olympics

Guest Post by Kelly Lafferman, CMO and Principal, Findsome & Winmore, a digital marketing firm. She was part of the sales and client services team at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

With the countdown to the Summer Olympics in Rio well underway, the world is eagerly anticipating the largest sporting event of the year. From a marketing perspective, professionals can learn a lot about branding, advertising and other ways in which the Olympics captures the attention of a global audience through strategic initiatives.

  • Gold Medal Messaging Moves the Needle: One of my tasks at the Olympics was to fill seats at the less popular events (everyone wants to attend the gold medal gymnastics event, but fewer people are buying archery). Positioning these events in a strategic way, and pairing them with the major events, led to successful ticket sales and attendance rates. This shows sometimes, you have to make the messaging and the products more innovative to meet your marketing objectives.
  • Like Any Olympic Sport, Marketing Takes Coaching, Training and a Lot of Practice: There is something to be said about resilience in this industry, and the Olympics themselves are an excellent metaphor for the years of hard work that goes into being the best. To succeed, choose the right mentors (coaches), prepare for the ups and downs of the marketing world (training) and practice your skills until they are perfected.
  • Even the World’s Most Time-Tested Product Can Benefit from Innovation: At the Centennial Games, our team was the first to generate revenue from skyboxes and suite-style seating. It was the first time this option was made available to patrons and it was a product that clearly filled a void. They sold out at every venue! With an event so steeped in tradition, I admired our leadership’s willingness to be innovative. Even though things had been running smoothly for (thousands) of years, they still sought out opportunities to take the product offering to another level.
  • Sales is Marketing, and Marketing is Sales: At the Olympics, I was responsible for putting together packages for a combination of sporting events. What I learned from this experience, which helped to shape me into the marketer I am today, is whether you are marketing something tangible (tickets) or something more abstract (brand awareness), you cannot fully understand marketing until you understand how to sell.
  • Keep an Eye on The Podium: Marketing isn’t just for your clients. Much like Olympic athletes receiving global recognition for their hard work with medals on a podium, marketers should also promote their company’s accomplishments to the world. Applying for awards and seeking accolades for your products and services helps demonstrate expertise and ultimately can assist in generating new business.

3. Do You Need a Registered SSL/TLS Certificate?

The CA Security Council says it’s “smart to have a registered SSL/TLS certificate.” However, many small ecommerce businesses don’t know what kind of SSL/TLS certificates they need. The CA Security Council says there are many benefits to having a certificate, including, strong confidentiality, authentication and integrity for communications between endpoints, interoperability, and more. Check out the infographic to see what level of certificate you may need.

small business


4. Don’t Hit Send Until You Read This

The folks at MailTime caution you not to hit send on that email, until you answer these five questions.

  1. Is this email too long? Did you ever get the feeling your long, detailed email didn’t get the thoughtful response it deserved? With our inboxes generally overloaded with hundreds of emails, it becomes harder to read and/or comprehend every message we receive, especially those that get lengthy. Results from a recent MailTime survey indicate that 76 of respondents disapprove of emails longer than three paragraphs, and 20 of people claim that they won’t fully read an email longer than one paragraph. To ensure your message gets read, get to the point—quickly.
  2. Should I cc everyone? It used to be “corporate tradition” to cc everyone, but email with multiple recipients and replies can be a nuisance. To make it less overwhelming, review your list and determine which recipients are necessary to include. If the subject matter doesn’t apply to one of the recipients on your list, and you’re sure they won’t reply, remove them.
  3. Is my signature necessary? Trick question—the answer is to always include a signature. You don’t want to leave the recipient hanging, wondering how to get in touch with you. It may also provide more info about who you are, who you work for, and links to your social media pages.
  4. Did I spell everything correctly? Auto-correct helps us avoid typos, but mistakes do still happen—and if you’re trying to close a deal a misspelling can jeopardize your chances and damage your reputation. To avoid this from happening, double check what you’ve written before you hit “send”, especially names!
  5. What time is it? Mobile emailing makes work-life balance a struggle—don’t make it worse. When sending and responding to emails, think about traditional phone etiquette. If it’s before 8 am or after 10 pm in the recipient’s time zone—don’t hit send!


5. What is the Omnichannel?

Suddenly everyone is talking about the omnichannel (or omni-channel), but does that mean for your small business? BigCommerce has all the answers—right here.


6. Free PR Advice for Small Business Owners, Entrepreneurs & Inventors

National public relations firm Orca Communications Unlimited recently launched “Free PR Tips Tuesdays” (#freeprtipstuesday), a complimentary service that provides expert insight public relations matters to for business owners and startups.

The company answers questions related to media coverage and how to obtain it. Orca founder & CEO Julia Hutton realized that many entrepreneurs and startups get so tied up with the nuts and bolts of launching their businesses they rarely have time to think about marketing and PR—the details of which should actually be considered early in the business planning stage.

Want free tips? Just click on the links on Orca Communications’ Facebook and Twitter pages or go directly to the agency’s website and click on the “Free Tips” tab.


7. On the Road Again

Vistaprint just launched Vistaprint on the Road, a 25-week tour of the United States in a 40-foot branded RV. The trip will cover 22 cities in 18 states to learn more about small businesses and the way they market themselves.  Small business owners will be invited to come on board to consult with Vistaprint employees on a variety of topics, such as design, digital marketing, finance, and others.

Vistaprint launched the tour to provide face-to-face communication with customers, enabling its employees to get instant feedback on new products, campaigns, etc. The RV is carrying hundreds of product samples, giveaways, and is offering the ability to take a complimentary professional headshot.

To see whether the Vistaprint RV is headed to a town near you or for more information, go here.


8. Workplace of the Future

Want to know what the workplaces of the future will be like. Join innovators from Warby Parker, Google, Johnson & Johnson, VaynerMedia, SumAll, and others for the first Life@Work Culture Conference, a two-day retreat in rural Hudson Valley on July 20-21.

The organizers say reinventing the traditional conference in the same way companies are reinventing the workplace, the Life@Work Culture Conference will spur conversations, the exchange of ideas, and connections.

The Life@Work Culture Conference is the first major conference produced by Live in the Grey, an organization dedicated to creating authentic workplaces where people can bring their whole selves to work every day.

Attendees can choose from shared cabins and camp-style housing ($925-$1,550), glamping tents ($1,750), and luxury cottages ($1,950). Invitations to the Life@Work Culture Conference can be requested here.


9. Are You Happy with the State of Your IT?

Technology influencers at small businesses are less than satisfied with the current state of IT at their companies, according to the most recent findings from Insight Enterprises’ Intelligent Technology Index.  According to Insight’s new survey-based whitepaper, Ever-Evolving Tech and Your Growing Business, “It’s impossible for growing businesses to ignore how Intelligent Technology can impact work, a reality causing them to recognize that rather than a financial burden, technology should be optimized and considered an important part of their strategic plan.”

The survey shows 47% of respondents at small businesses give their current IT infrastructure a grade of C+ on average, and say their current technology is a hindrance to incorporating or adopting new technologies.

In fact, 42% of small business respondents plan to see an increase of 27% over their 2015 budgets, outpacing the expected budget increases for mid- to large-sized companies by approximately 10 percentage points.

Where do respondents from small businesses plan to allocate their money?

  • 40% will invest in maintenance of existing equipment and infrastructure,
  • 35% will invest in innovation, including the adoption and development of new technologies
  • 72% of respondents plan to adopt new cloud services
  • 47% will invest in Software as a Service (SaaS) and 40% will invest in Security as a Service.
  • 69% are budgeting for new technologies, including:
    • Dashboard and data visualization applications (40%)
    • Data virtualization (39%)
    • Wearable devices (20%)
    • 3D printers (13%)


Cool Tools

10. Send Handwritten Cards from Your Phone

KardZee just released a mobile app, which learns and stores users’ handwriting (as opposed to taking a screenshot), making it easy to send real, handwritten cards right from your smartphone.

The company is committed to disrupting the way the world buys and creates real printed and posted cards, and believes that mobile technology can provide solutions to our everyday obligations and needs.

KardZee founder Keverne Denahan says, “KardZee makes it possible and extremely convenient, for people to send real cards, in their own handwriting, while they’re on the go.

Senders can choose to use one of the stock card designs available in the KardZee mobile platform, or upload their own images. You can also choose from stock sentiments to be featured on your card, or write your own. A partnership with Amazon enables KardZee senders to include a digital gift card with their handwritten cards, which recipients can scan and spend through their own smartphone.

Pricing starts at $2.99 for a postcard. Traditional greeting cards cost $4.99.


11. Mobile Solutions

Cox Business has expanded its hosted voice solution, IP Centrex, giving business customers enhanced connectivity capabilities with voice, instant messaging and more through their smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. When all features are activated, Cox Business users will maintain in-office connectivity while working anytime, anywhere.

The IP Centrex solution now delivers business voice, instant messaging, presence, collaboration and more. The initial launch includes six applications for smartphone, tablet, and desktop computers providing outbound calling, click-to-dial, instant messaging, and Outlook integration (Windows only). Two-way calling is available for the mobile smartphone app and includes mobile phone line integration for greater voice call reliability.


12. Talking About Phones…

Ooma, Inc. just expanded its Ooma Office phone system to include IP phone support. The move provides small businesses with the option to use a combination of analog phones and fax machines, mobile phones, and/or IP phones to optimize productivity and efficiency.

The IP phones will be sold exclusively by Ooma as part of the Ooma Office phone system. Each provides advanced features including blind transfer (1-step transfer), supervised transfer (2-step transfer), internal extension dialing and Do Not Disturb, in addition to caller ID, call waiting, call waiting caller ID, three-way conference calling and message waiting indicator.