business

24 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

1—How to Stay Safe Using Public Wi-Fi

Having public Wi-Fi in so many places is convenient, but unfortunately, these public Wi-Fi networks are not always secure. In fact, 24.7% of public hotspots don’t use any sort of encryption at all. So, it’s vital to know how to protect yourself and your data while using them. Check out the infographic below from Budget Direct to help keep your data safe.

How to stay safe when using public Wi-Fi

How to stay safe when using public Wi-Fi, brought to you by Budget Direct

 

2—Making Credit Available to Small Businesses  

Fundbox, a leading Fintech company dedicated to simplifying the way businesses pay and get paid, just expanded its partnership with Synchrony, one of the nation’s premier consumer financial services companies,  to make credit available to Synchrony’s growing base of small businesses.

Leading the evolution in small business lending, the award-winning Fundbox has built the first AI-enabled business capital platform, purposefully designed to accelerate small business credit at scale. Fundbox provides a convenient credit solution and enables seamless integration of small business lending as a service within the existing Synchrony workflow.

The Fundbox experience: With the new Fundbox implementation, Synchrony’s small business merchants who are interested in applying for a business line of credit can conveniently access the Fundbox service through Synchrony’s Business Center.

Applying for Fundbox is both convenient and fast. Interested Synchrony merchants simply complete a short application form and then connect a business data source of their choice. Within minutes, Fundbox’s proprietary machine learning models facilitate a credit decision. And for those approved businesses, Fundbox provides access up to $100,000 in a revolving business line of credit, giving these those merchants “in-workflow” access to Fundbox credit service at a time when they need it the most.

“At Fundbox, we have built our entire business experience around the needs of our customers, be they SMEs, B2B platforms, or services like Synchrony,” says Eyal Shinar, founder, and CEO of Fundbox. “With the increased availability of business data, advances in machine learning, and the growth of APIs to make integrations easier, Fundbox is bringing credit risk analysis and on-demand access to capital directly to the point of the B2B transaction. We are consumerizing B2B commerce in a way that no one else has done before at a time when the B2B market needs it the most.”

“Synchrony is constantly looking to provide our small business merchants with new tools and resources. With Fundbox, small businesses can apply for a credit line, which can make a huge difference in helping drive growth,” says Karen Nash Mirkin, senior vice president, Synchrony Connect.

 

3—Award-Winning Banking Rewards Program

The Bank of America Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program was named by Barlow Research as the winner of its 2019 Monarch Innovation Award for Most Innovative Product. Award entries were scored based on uniqueness, stickiness, dependability, ease of use, value and their ‘wow’ factor.

The Bank of America Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, launched in March 2018, is the most comprehensive, multi-product rewards program available in the small business banking space. It rewards eligible small business clients with an attractive suite of benefits and rewards that grow as their qualifying deposit and investment balances increase.

Business Advantage Relationship Rewards & benefits:

  • How to qualify:To qualify, clients need a Bank of America business checking account and 3-month average combined daily balance of at least $20,000 in qualifying Bank of America business deposit and/or Merrill business investment accounts.
  • Three-tiered program: There are 3 tiers in the program: Gold, Platinum and Platinum Honors—with increasing levels of benefits and rewards as a client’s qualifying deposit and investment balances grow. Once enrolled, clients move up automatically when their balances qualify them for the next rewards tier.
  • Fee-free:There is no fee to enroll.
  • Credit card rewards bonuses: 25% to 75% rewards bonus on the base earn for eligible Bank of America Business Advantage credit cards
  • No fees on select everyday banking services: Waived fees on select banking services, including inbound domestic wire transfers and stop payments
  • Cash rewards on Bank of America Merchant Services processing: 0.05% to 0.15% rewards payment on monthly net processing
  • Interest rate booster on Business Advantage Savings: 5% to 20% interest rate boost on Business Advantage Savings accounts
  • Interest rate discounts on select small business loans
  • Full-service payroll feerefunds: Monthly payroll product service fee refunds of $10 to $20
  • $0 online stock and ETF trades(Platinum and Platinum Honors tier only): Waived commission fee on up to 100 monthly Merrill Edge online stock and ETF trades. For full details, visit com/$0detail
  • Priority client service:Access to a dedicated team of specialists at a priority phone number, and a complimentary Merrill Edge financial review

 

4—The Business of Dogs

Today, there are almost 90 million pet dogs in the U.S. As more households welcome pets into the family, spending on pet care has been constantly increasing for decades. The business of dogs is booming despite economic tough times, so how are people managing finances to give their pets the very best?

By the end of 2018, pet parents spent over $70 billion on their fur babies, buying everything from necessary medications to chew toys. Dog owners spend an average of $1,300 a year on their pets, but sometimes emergencies require much more. Urgent vet care, be it routine or an emergency, can lead to high bills. Smart pet parents look for alternatives. The pet insurance industry is set to reach a value of $2 billion in just a few short years as more pet owners use it to protect their pets and their wallets.

Higher quality food, pet vitamins, and even dog-specific CBD products are growing in popularity as pet parents increasingly look for ways to mitigate or prevent damage from pet medical emergencies.

Showing exciting signs of growth and almost recession-proof qualities, there is a lot we can learn from the pet industry. Take a look at this infographic from TruDog for more.

The Business of Dogs
Source: TRUDOG

 

5—Take Your Marketing Automation Further with AI

Guest post by John Oechsle, President and CEO of Swiftpage

It’s been said that artificial intelligence is the future, but I’d argue that AI is very much a thing of the here and now. It’s playing an increasingly significant role in marketing efforts and is taking marketing automation to the next level. And during an era when customers are demanding fast and hyper-personalized service, AI-based technologies couldn’t be more critical.

AI-based technologies bolster marketing automation efforts through personalized interactions. Your business can benefit on a multitude of fronts by embracing these game-changing advancements.

Email marketing: It’s easy for emails to get lost in the shuffle of a busy day. After all, inboxes are overflowing with meeting reminders, work correspondence and plenty of promotions. Enticing a customer to simply open a marketing-related email can be challenging. But with the right tools, you can consider that challenge conquered.

AI-based technologies are helping marketers win the attention of potential customers in numerous ways. For instance, they’re allowing small- and medium sized businesses to improve their email marketing automation strategies by knowing who to target, when and how frequently.

  • Know your target:AI helps businesses understand and foresee customer behavior patterns and detect which strategies email subscribers best respond to. It can also help businesses more effectively automate emails to ensure customers are receiving personalized correspondence and promotions relevant to their needs.
  • Adding a personalized touch to emails pays off. A Statistastudy shows that personalized emails had an open rate of 18.1%, compared to a 13.1% open rate for non-personalized emails.
  • Engage thy customer:Of course, AI-generated emails should do more than attract customers—they should also engage them. Email subject lines can be tailored for each customer, for example, while the emails themselves might contain personalized offers.

Lead nurturing: When it comes to gathering and analyzing customer information, we mortals are no match for the pace and efficiency of computers. AI-based programs are capable of processing user data at lightning speed and can be hyper-responsive to customer needs.

Automating the data collection process can help simplify the lead-nurturing process for businesses, while AI can set the course for future marketing strategies.

  • Capturing information:AI provides marketers with the valuable information they need to close a sale. It tells us when someone has visited their site, which pages they visited and how much time they spent perusing products.
  • Driving sales: Marketing teams are using this data to drive sales, and if statistics are any indication, it’s working. AI could lead to an economic boost of $14 trillion in additional gross value added (GVA) by 2035, according to Accentureresearch.
  • Automated actions:As I mentioned earlier, AI-based software doesn’t just benefit businesses in the long term—it can also be of tremendous value in the present. Through AI, valuable customer information is being captured in real time, and can be instantly used to tempt shoppers with personalized offers and targeted advertisements. Forrester has predicted that 20% of enterprises will begin using AI to make decisions and provide real-time marketing instructions.

Cross-selling: Successful businesses strive to equip customers with the tools and services they need. The trouble is, it can be a bit tricky to determine what those needs are.

  • AI aid:While automation can help track previous purchases and user experiences, AI can take that information and make predictions on the potential for additional sales. It can determine whether a customer is a good candidate for additional products or services and establish which products a customer might be in the market for next.

Once your sales and marketing teams are made aware of your business’s cross-selling potential, they can make customers aware of those additional offerings.

Retention: A happy customer is a loyal customer. AI can help you retain your existing customer base by providing you with a better understanding of client needs. You might think you already have a handle on that front with your CRM platform, but AI can provide a more complete, more actionable picture of your current customers.

Meantime, customers will appreciate the personalized service AI-based software offers and are more likely to become repeat customers.

Reengaging past customers: Customers come and go—and they’ll come again with the right approach. Whatever the reason for losing a customer, it’s never too late to win them back—especially with some artificial assistance.

Helpful insights: AI can provide insight into how and why a customer left and help determine the best way to reconnect. For example, it can be used to send an email with product recommendations based on a customer’s purchase history or inform them of any relevant price drops.

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking into customer engagement and sales/marketing success strategy, you’re undoubtedly already familiar with the ways in which automation can help your business. Now, it’s time to build on those benefits by incorporating AI-based technologies into your marketing strategy.

Businesses are becoming increasingly competitive and to remain relevant, AI-based technologies must be embraced.

 

6—Blogging Best Practices

Orbit Media has been conducting an annual blogger survey since 2014. Here are some of the latest blogging trends.

How long does it take to write a blog post? In 2014, the average blog post took about 2.5 hours to write. Today, bloggers are spending a lot more time on a typical article; time spent per post has risen 44%. The average blog post now takes 3.5 hours to write.

How frequently do bloggers publish? Most bloggers publish consistently but blogging frequency has been in gradual decline for five years. In 2014, “several per week” was the most popular answer. Today “several per month” is more common. The percentage of bloggers who publish daily is half of what it once was.

For individual bloggers, this makes sense. Spend more time writing fewer articles. You only have so many hours in a day. But nothing in the data suggests any benefit to publishing less often. Quite the opposite: Greater frequency correlates with “strong results.”

Other highlights include: 

  • 55% of bloggers write less than 1,000 words per post
  • Bloggers who spend 6 or more hours per post are 56% more likely to report strong results than those who don’t
  • Bloggers who have a strategy of updating older content are twice as likely to report strong results

There’s a lot more information here.

 

7—Small Business Sentiment

BizBuySell.com’s, the internet’s largest business-for-sale marketplace, just released its recent owner poll, a national indicator of small business buyer and seller sentiment.

Key results:

Topic: Government shutdown

  1. Did the recent government shutdown impact your business?
  • Yes, negatively – 18%
  • Yes, positively – 4%
  • No – 79%
  1. (Of those impacted negatively) How did the shutdown hurt your business?
  • Customers who lost wages couldn’t purchase my product/service – 56%
  • Closed offices meant fewer customers in my location – 26%
  • Lost business/payments from government contractors – 18%
  • SBA loan delays – 13%
  • Product delivery was disrupted – 10%
  • Travel was more difficult – 10%
  • Federal or local license delays – 10%
  • Other – 13%
  1. (Of those impacted negatively) Has your business recovered from the shutdown impact?
  • Yes – 60%
  • No – 40%

Topic: 2019 taxes

  1. Have you filed your business taxes this year?
  • Yes – 40%
  • No – 60%
  1. (Of those that have filed taxes) Based on the new regulations of the “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act”, how did your business taxes change this year?
  • The Act raised my taxes – 14%
  • The Act lowered my taxes – 22%
  • My taxes remained the same – 33%
  • Unsure – 30%
  1. (Of those that have filed taxes) In retrospect, how do you believe the “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act” reforms have affected your small business?
  • Positively – 35%
  • Negatively – 20%
  • No Impact – 45%

Topic: Risks to Business

  1. What is the biggest external risk to your business in the next two years?
  • Economic recession – 38%
  • Talent shortage – 17%
  • Large, corporate competitors – 12%
  • Government regulations – 12%
  • Taxes – 9%
  • Healthcare costs – 6%
  • Immigration regulations/reform – 4%
  • Cybersecurity – 2%
  1. President Trump has proposed a 25% tariff on Chinese imports if a trade deal is not reached. If tariffs were to increase, how would that affect your business?
  • No Impact – 39%
  • Negatively – 32%
  • Unsure – 19%
  • Positively – 9%
  1. When do you think the U.S. will experience its next recession?
  • This year – 9%
  • Next year – 15%
  • Within the next 3 years – 36% (#1 answer)
  • Within the next 5 years – 13%
  • More than 5 years from now – 10%
  • Unsure – 17%
  1. Which of these tactics is the highest priority for you when it comes to protecting your business from a recession?
  • Increasing customer volume – 31%
  • Diverse revenue flows – 29%
  • High cash reserve – 26%
  • Limit on inventory – 5%
  • Limit on hiring – 5%
  • Other – 4%

Topic: Immigration Reform

  1. Do you agree with President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border?
  • Yes- 45%
  • No- 41%
  • No opinion- 14%
  1. How could stricter immigration policies affect your small business?
  • Positive impact – 21%
  • Negative impact – 21%
  • No impact – 58%

Topic: Data Security

  1. Do you feel confident your business & customer data is properly protected against external threats?
  • Yes – 53%
  • No – 26%
  • Unsure – 20%
  1. How do you currently store business & customer data? (select all that apply)
  • Third party cloud software – 42%
  • Manual records in secure location – 38%
  • Online files (e.g. excel, word, etc.) – 36%
  • Thumb drives/external hard drive – 22%
  • Third party on-premise software – 14%

 

8—Small Businesses Cautious About Growth and Expansion

Small businesses expressed caution about borrowing capital for growth and expansion this year, according to the latest Private Capital Access Index (PCA Index) from Dun & Bradstreet and Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

Of the small (<$5 million in revenue) and mid-sized ($5 – $100 million) businesses in Q1 2019:

  • 33% report raising or attempting to raise financing for growth or expansion compared to 43% in Q1 2018.
  • 57% say demand for financing was for planned growth and expansion compared to 65% in Q1 2018.

“Business interest in borrowing to grow and expand appears to have plateaued,” says Dr. Craig R. Everett, director of the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project. “Many businesses are playing it safe by maintaining more informal sources of funds and running their business with an eye on cash flow and profitability.”

Among businesses seeking credit, more businesses report tapping into informal, short-term sources of credit. The top three sources for financing success for Q1 2019 are personal credit cards and business credit cards, both at 78% and friends and family at 76%—the highest ever reported for all three.

When asked if the government shutdown has impacted their business, 82% say the government shutdown had “no impact,” 13% say it negatively impacted their businesses, and 5% say it impacted their ability to pay their bills on time.

In a separate, related 2019 Economic Forecast report based on the same group of respondents, 43% say they were preparing or planning to prepare for a recession.

Minority-Owned Businesses Face Access to Capital Challenges

60% of minority-owned businesses surveyed say the current business financing environment is restricting growth opportunities for their businesses, vs. 47% of all the businesses surveyed. Minority-owned businesses also report the current lending environment negatively affects their ability to hire new employees at a much higher rate of 66%, vs. 44% of all surveyed companies. When asked if raising debt financing is difficult, 63% of minority-owned responders say yes, vs. 47% of the whole sample.

More minority-owned businesses attempted to raise financing in Q1 than their small and mid-sized business counterparts, at 36% vs. 29%. While alternative sources for capital are on the rise for most businesses, just 57% of minority-owned companies secured funding in the last quarter from friends and family compared to 76% of the whole sample.

Minority-owned companies are planning to raise financing in the next six months at a higher rate of 41%, vs. 26% of the whole sample, 64% citing their need for financing is due to expected increase in demand, 49% of the whole sample. When asked for the leading reason in preventing their ability to hire, 40% of minority-owned businesses cite government regulations and taxes versus 10% of the whole sample.

“Minority-owned businesses are optimistic for growth and expansion despite their challenges in accessing the funding to do so,” shares Nalanda Matia, lead economist at Dun & Bradstreet. “While the current lending environment is steady at the moment, an economic downturn is a greater risk for these types of businesses who are already facing challenges in a healthy lending environment.”

Despite the challenges, minority business owners are more optimistic for their business’ performance in 2019 compared to 2018, as 48% believe it will be substantially better, vs. 28% of the whole sample, and 57% are extremely confident their businesses will grow this year vs. 41% of the whole sample.

You can download the latest index data here.

 

9—Lendio Study Reveals Funding Challenges for Mom & Pop Businesses

Mom and pop business day was last week. And, according to a Lendio study of more than 7,000 of its mom and pop business customers, these businesses  (defined as those with four or fewer employees) face unique funding challenges.

The study found that while on average, mom and pop businesses take on significantly smaller loans than other small businesses, mom and pops leverage a greater percentage of their monthly sales in order to take on financing.

Key findings

  • The average loan amount for mom and pop businesses is $23,081. The average loan amount for non-mom and pop businesses is $54,188.
  • The average loan amount for mom & pops’ represents a greater percentage of monthly sales than the average loan amount for other businesses (83.2% & 73.2%, respectively).
  • Mom & pops’ average time in business is 5.6 years, vs. 7.4 years for larger businesses.
  • Monthly revenues for mom & pops’ are on average $35,000, less than other businesses.
  • The average credit score for a mom and pop business owner is 30 points lower than that of other small business owners.
  • On average, mom and pop businesses require twice as many interactions with a lending expert, compared to larger businesses, to guide them through the funding process.

In spite of these funding challenges, mom and pop business owners are using online lending to access small-dollar loans. Independent businesses represent 53% of the customers funded through Lendio’s online marketplace, and their loans account for 34% of the total loan volume funded. Common financing needs among mom and pops include equipment purchases, payroll and new business opportunities.

Access to capital allows mom and pops to keep their doors open and increase their economic impact. According to a national study on the economic benefits of online lending to small businesses, for every dollar lent to a small business, its sales increased an average of $2.31. Even more, that same borrowed dollar creates an average of $3.79 in gross output to local communities.

“Mom and pops aren’t solely focused on their own success,” says Brock Blake, CEO, and founder of Lendio. “These businesses create neighborhoods, enhance the sense of community, carry on local traditions, and contribute to local causes in ways that big businesses just can’t.”

 

10—War for Top Talent Prompts U.S. Businesses to Take Action

According to the annual Business Pulse Survey by SunTrust, 73% of surveyed U.S. business leaders say the outlook for their own business is strong. To bolster their competitiveness, business leaders say they are focusing on three top priorities:

  • Evolving the technical skills of employees
  • Focusing on cash management
  • Preparing for potential mergers and acquisitions (M&A)

Hiring is key—46% are highly concerned with attracting and retaining talent and 93% are taking active steps to hire and keep qualified employees.

“Companies are becoming more employee-focused as the talent war continues and the unemployment rate remains at an all-time low,” says Jason Cagle, head of Commercial Banking for SunTrust. “Not only are they focused on attracting employees, but also on empowering existing talent. This starts with training employees to address the rise in emerging technologies. This is key to ensure businesses are able to compete for talent and are better positioned to handle changes in the economy.”

Business actions taken by companies to attract/retain employees:

  • 45% – Increased Wages
  • 43% – Increased Benefits
  • 36% – Offering more flexible work arrangements
  • 31% – Training current employees to fill vacant positions
  • 24% – Hiring more employees that take upfront training
  • 23% – Offering additional recognition programs
  • 17% – Offering College Loan Repayment and/or College Savings Programs

The survey of leaders at U.S. companies reporting annual revenue of $5 million-$250 million finds the pace of technological evolution is driving leaders to make technical training a critical priority in 2019—54% cite a lag in technology as a top barrier for achieving business goals, a 14-point increase from last year. To adapt to the rise in automation and leverage emerging technologies, 77% of business leaders plan to invest heavily in learning and development programs that will empower their current workforce to acquire new skills and fill new roles as their companies grow.

SunTrust also found cash management will be a feature of the short-term strategy of many companies. Financial decision-makers anticipate an increased need to build cash reserves in the upcoming year, with 37% planning to use excess cash to pay down debt and 35% planning to use excess cash in 2019 to build up their cash reserves. Already, 50% say they have invested excess cash from Federal Tax Reform back into their businesses.

When looking at their long-term growth strategy, businesses are increasingly turning to M&A. The survey found 28% of middle-market leaders have identified M&A as a top growth strategy, up from 26% in 2018 and 20% in 2017.

“While companies are continuing to focus on organic growth in the short-term, their leaders are planning to increase M&A activity over the next five years,” Cagle adds. “They see that as a key way to accelerate growth in the long-term. Given the impending wave of retirements of baby boomer business owners, we see this as a critical moment for business leaders to look at M&A.”

Additional Survey Highlights

The middle market is entering 2019 with significant optimism and self-confidence—73% say the outlook for their businesses is strong.

That personal optimism persists in spite of the middle market’s growing concerns about the broader economy in the U.S. and globally:

  • 50% of middle-market leaders “strongly believe” recession will begin this year.
  • Middle-market leaders are split on their evaluation of the U.S. and global economies. 56% feel the U.S. economic outlook is strong (down 6 points from last year), and 52% feel the global economic outlook is strong (down 10 points from last year).

 

11—Leveraging the Power of Banner Advertising

Guest post by Nishant Shah, founder & CEO, BannerBuzz, a leading marketing & printing solutions company.

Long before ‘web banners’ became a popular form of marketing, the word “banner” had a different meaning altogether. It meant a long strip of a fabric bearing a quote and design, hung in a public place, to market or demonstrate something.

For years, businesses have opted for banners as an effective manner of visual marketing and their popularity has remained steadfastly strong. From announcing a new range of products or services to running limited period offers, banners instantly grab attention of onlookers and significantly help with brand building efforts and brand recall.

If you are planning to rejig your marketing strategy in 2019 but are yet to leverage the power of banner advertising to boost brand visibility and pushup sales, you are really missing out!

Here are the top 5 benefits you should know about:

1—More visibility, bigger sales: Banners are a foolproof way to ensure great visibility for your business and are the easiest way to make your presence known.

Research shows some specific fonts are more effective at brand recall. Fonts like Gotham, Myriad Pro and Helvetica Neue LT Std on banners can be much more effective to attracting customers’ attention and to convey a clear and legible message to the target audience?

Even if they don’t act on the offer or the product on display, crisp messaging will ensure brand recall making it much more likely for them to buy from you when the time is right.

2—Stronger connect with customers: Banners offer a blank canvas and gives you the freedom to portray your product in a way that best connects with your customers. The messaging can be endlessly customized according to seasons, time of year, sales and offers running, holiday themes to make sure you always resonate and connect with your audience. Don’t forget that crisp messaging + stunning design results in maximum impact! You can leverage colors, design, & content to create distinctive and unique brand communication to amplify your brand presence.

3—Impactful brand building: Adding to point #2, banners help in advertising a product or service for an extended period and on a massive scale. Among several other features, banners allow you the freedom to frequently change the location, refresh the visuals and update messaging. Positioning them at a vantage point of your choosing makes it easy for you to control who sees your message. When your target audience comes across your brand name and logo frequently, over time a prominent brand association and recall will build up.

4—Conversation starters! A well designed and impactful banner grabs attention and evokes curiosity! Often this gets people talking and before you know it, people are discussing your brand among themselves. Even if they don’t buy from you immediately, thanks to word-of-mouth marketing, you are likely to reach your target customers sooner.

5—Cost-effective, easy setup: Banners are a cost effective and powerful way to advertise practically anywhere with little to no effort as compared to other forms of advertising like newspaper adverts, TV commercials, and press releases. In addition to being able to place it strategically, a brand can easily refresh its visuals multiple times over the year without too much planning or requiring a big investment.

12—Small Business Hiring & Recruitment

Nearly 40% of small businesses hiring in 2019 want to fill sales and marketing roles (39%), followed by customer service roles (36%) and IT roles (32%), according to a survey by Clutch, a B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm.

Brian Weed, the CEO of Avenica, a recruiting firm for recent college graduates, says these positions may be popular because they most directly support customer growth. He says, “Over the last few years, it’s been a pretty strong growth market, and those are the types of positions that support growth—either salespeople who are going to create the initial demand or customer service [people] who are going to work with the new demand that comes in.”

Tricia Lucas, owner of Lucas Select Inc., a boutique recruiting firm, says her firm sees the highest demand for digital strategists and marketing automation experts—“People who understand how to execute marketing campaigns with the right strategy, … those are the people who are doing really well in the job market right now.”

51% of small businesses say they are likely to hire employees in 2019: Experts said this statistic may underestimate the actual job growth small businesses will see this year.

As of October 2018, there were approximately 1 million more job openings than unemployed people in the U.S. Small businesses must consider how they can entice talented candidates in an economy that offers job seekers options. And since many lack the HR expertise and higher compensation packages of larger companies, they should think creatively about their recruitment processes and benefits packages.

23% likely will fire or lay off employees in 2019: Small businesses must carefully consider how they display professional courtesy when letting employees go. Rona Borre, CEO at Instant Alliance, an IT and financial staffing firm says, “Preparing a consistent message is really important, as is being honest and giving employees as much heads-up as you possibly can.”

Small businesses should also be aware of how remaining employees learn about a firing or layoff to avoid misunderstandings.

 

13—Most Innovative States

With the U.S. projected to spend $581 billion on research and development in 2019, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2019’s Most & Least Innovative States as well as accompanying videos. WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 24 key metrics. The data set ranges from share of STEM professionals to R&D spending per capita.

Most Innovative States Least Innovative States
1 Massachusetts 42 Nebraska
2 Washington 43 South Dakota
3 District of Columbia 44 Kentucky
4 Maryland 45 Hawaii
5 Colorado 46 North Dakota
6 California 47 Tennessee
7 Virginia 48 Iowa
8 Utah 49 West Virginia
9 Delaware 50 Louisiana
10 Oregon 51 Mississippi

 

14—6 Steps for Selling Your Business for Maximum Value

While selling your business can take a while, it can obviously be very rewarding. When selling, you want to be able to see a return on your investment for the maximum value possible. But how do you sell your business for maximum value? Every business is different, but there are key steps that everyone can follow in order to sell a business successfully for top dollar.

Use the six steps below to get started on the path to selling success!

Step 1: A professional valuation of your business: The true value of a company can only be determined by an outside party. By hiring a third-party valuation firm, you can obtain a valuation of your business that will be the true value, giving you credibility and proof of value  when you set your asking price.

Everything will be taken into account during the valuation, including sales, debts, assets, and inventories. By reviewing every aspect of your business, the firm will be able to provide a solid value point so you can set a quality sale price that has merit.

Step 2: Financial organization: Potential buyers want to see how profitable the business can be. They also want to see long-term visibility. Because of this, the potential buyer will contemplate a purchase for a longer period of time and complete due diligence before signing on the dotted line. By having your financials in order, you are providing a starting point in which a potential buyer can see how valuable your business is. Have all documentation ready for viewing so you can present your business in the best way possible.

Step 3: Grow sales: It is recommended to take one to two years to sell a business. This provides ample time to get your affairs in order, but also set up your business for success for the sale. While you may be making a profit now—by increasing sales you may your business even more valuable. You can maximize profits by increasing sales, which shows a potential buyer that there is growth potential with your company.

Step 4: Set the time for your exit: Planning your exit a year or two in advance will allow you to be prepared and help with the sale of your business. You will be able to get your things in order to improve sales as well as organize financial records and secure your customer base. A buyer wants to see the organization in place and contracts with customers in order. By working for a year or two on your business, you can secure top dollar by timing your exit correctly.

Step 5: Hire a third-party business broker: To help you facilitate the process, a third-party business broker can come in handy. A broker will be able to guide you through the process, finding the ideal buyer and negotiating deals. A broker can provide you with a valuation of the business, due diligence, and negotiation. Sell-side due diligence will be completed as well to help ensure the success at closing.

A third-party broker can also help secure financing for the buyer by tapping into a network of financial institutions and private lenders. Brokers can also help to vet potential buyers to ensure the process of confidentially with the deal.

Step 6: Complete a Qualifying process for potential buyers: When it comes to business purchase deals, buyers usually must secure financials by a third-party lender. Transactions can fall apart with such deals due to buyers being unable to secure financing. You can save time and receive the maximum value for the business by qualifying any potential buyers. Never engage with a buyer until they have pre-qualified. This ensures you only deal with serious and qualified buyers.

By following these steps, noted also in the infographic below provided by Business Brokers of Colorado, you can ensure your business will sell for maximum value, helping you start a new and exciting venture with the most capital possible.

 

15—Loans for Women Entrepreneurs

We mentioned how the Wisdom Fund helps funnel “money from accredited investors—institutions, funds, foundations, family offices and individuals—into business loans for low- to moderate-income women and women of color,” here last week. Interested investors can start funding women-owned businesses now, by investing in the Wisdom Fund. Investors will earn an estimated 4% annual return, over a 60-month term, on a loan portfolio that’s diversified across established CDFIs. Email [email protected] to get more information.

Women seeking loans should contact a participating CDFI. Partners in the Wisdom Fund’s first phase include:

  • Carolina Small Business Development Fund, which provides small business loans and financial training to startups, existing businesses and community organizations in North Carolina.
  • LiftFund, a Texas-based organization that empowers underserved entrepreneurs with capital and support services in 13 states.
  • TruFund, a national nonprofit organization that provides affordable capital and business development services to small businesses and nonprofits in Alabama, Louisiana and New York.
  • Pacific Community Ventureswill match all borrowers from the Wisdom Fund with pro bono business advisors. Pacific Community Ventures, a Bay Area–based CDFI, invests in small businesses in California that are past the startup phase and creating jobs, and manages a national network of pro bono expert advisors who mentor small business owners on any topic, challenge, or opportunity.

 

16—Small Business SEO

Small businesses plan to create SEO strategies this year, indicating they’re adapting to shifts in consumer search and purchasing behavior. Most of these small businesses also plan to invest in PPC advertising, according to a survey from Clutch about small businesses and SEO.

The findings:

  • 36% of small businesses have an SEO strategy; 23% plan to create one in 2019.
  • Social media marketing (63%) is the most common SEO effort for small businesses, followed by a mobile-friendly website (54%) and keyword research (51%)
  • 48% invest in content marketing for SEO, up 16% from 2018
  • 54% depend on in-house staff for SEO; 28% hire an SEO agency
  • Traffic from search engines (25%) is the primary metric small businesses track to determine their SEO success, followed by leads & conversions (19%) & backlinks (14%).
  • 60% of small businesses with SEO strategies also invest in PPC advertising, an increase of 15% from 2018. An additional 17% plan to invest in PPC in 2019.

 

Quick Clicks

 

17—How to start an online business for $127 or less. Great report from foundr.

18—15 Proven Writing Techniques that Work GREAT in 2019.

19—9 smart tips for avoiding plagiarism from Plagiarism Checker Free.

20—How to improve your Net Promoter Score from Lumoa.

 

21—Not Just Another Conference

Live in New Jersey? You’ll want to check out Morris Growth Con, to be held April 15. It’s a powerful one-day event that will inform, educate and motivate business owners and organizations interested in shaking up the status quo. The day is designed to inspire and invigorate you and let you find your maximum potential with extraordinary results.

Morris Growth Con’s organizer James Jacobi says the event is unlike any other, “Because we are bringing together the educational and business communities in a way that’s never been done before, to promote growth for all.” Jacobi, as a millennial, believes in and fosters hyper growth. He succeeded in arranging the collaboration of the County College of Morris and the Morris County Chamber to produce the event.

Jacobi stresses the need for businesses to learn how to survive and grow in today’s extremely fast-paced environment. He says, “The strength of our vision and our level of belief in it, through collaboration, can solve bigger problems.”

While the conference itself is only one day, organizers plan to offer a runway to success—a series of high value, post-event opportunities for attendees to implement what they learned. In addition, each attendee will leave with hands-on tools that will provide pathways to take their businesses to the next level.

Conference registration is open. See what the excitement is about here.

 

Cool Tools

 

22—Smart Messaging Brings Artificial Intelligence-Powered Texting Service to Business

Sprint just launched Sprint Smart Messaging, a solution to help businesses communicate with their customers through an Artificial Intelligence (AI) text messaging system. Powered by NumberAI, Sprint Smart Messaging responds to customers who text a business’s landline to provide answers to simple questions like business hours and product availability; it can also handle more complex tasks like take food orders or set appointments; this streamlines customer conversations and allows staff to handle other business-related functions.

“Sprint currently serves over five-million business phone numbers that will now have immediate access to Sprint’s Smart Messaging AI-powered platform,” says Sasha Gorman, vice president of development for Sprint. “Our business customers can run their operations more efficiently by responding to messaging requests in parallel and in real-time.”

Sprint Smart Messaging features:

Business messaging: Businesses can now use their landline or wireline telephone number to receive and respond to text messages from customers through mobile phones, tablets or desktop computers.

AI-driven auto-response: Sprint Smart Messaging uses AI to learn about a business and auto-respond to customer questions instantly. Businesses will be able to answer customer inquiries 24/7, ultimately saving on labor costs by sending automated responses to commonly asked questions

Call rescue: Statistics show 62% of calls to small business are left unanswered. Sprint Smart Messaging automatically texts the customer back, re-engaging them and increasing their interest. With Sprint Smart Messaging, 50% of customers whose call didn’t go through are saved from going to a competitor.

Direct customer interaction: Businesses will be able to offer their customers the ability to make transactions, such as order placements and appointment setting, more convenient through its messaging system to increase efficiency on both ends.

“Voice is an inefficient way to communicate with customers. We are moving towards a ‘WeChat’ like world where consumers and business interact and conduct commerce over messaging,” says Tasso Roumeliotis, CEO and cofounder of NumberAI. “Sprint is the first carrier in the U.S. to launch a messaging-based solution to further one-to-one interaction for its business customers.”

Learn more about Sprint Smart Messaging.

 

23—All-in-One Website Engagement Tool For Small Businesses,

BirdSeed, an all-in-one website engagement tool for small businesses and digital marketing agencies just launched. It offers 12 powerful tools, all built into one button, to engage more website visitors. BirdSeed is 100% free and the set-up takes just about 15 minutes from creating your free account to being live on your website.

Why you need to offer more than just live chat: When businesses drive traffic to their websites, they often think of their visitors as whole and forget that each of them is unique with their own needs. Because of their specific communication preferences, buying cycle stage and your ability to respond real-time, you need a blend of tools to engage more visitors, make them want to stay longer and come back later. Even a small increase in conversion of website visitors to contacts can drastically improve the bottom-line.

“More business have moved online, and while many do a great job driving qualified traffic to their websites, they lose the majority of potential leads during that crucial stage of engagement,” says Drew Sheahan, founder of BirdSeed.

Powerful tools to boost engagement for every need

  • Early stage buyers: Many website visitors are just gathering information and aren’t ready to interact directly yet. They need a way to get answers to common questions, the ability to watch informative videos or get directly to an important resource. BirdSeed offers Knowledge Library, Showcase, and Link Launcher tools that fulfil this need.
  • Establish credibility: How do you quickly let your prospects know what sets you apart from your competitors? Website visitors need to be able to see testimonials from existing customers, an area to learn about important company news and a way to submit feedback about their experience. BirdSeed offers Testimonials, Timeline, and Feedback tools.
  • Personal preference: Website visitors need not only live chat, but also the ability to make or request a phone call instantly. BirdSeed Call Request, Phone Contact, and Live Chat tools give them these options.
  • Real-time availability: Businesses need to engage with their prospects even when they aren’t available real-time or outside of business hours. Website visitors need a way to instantly schedule a meeting, send a message or submit their email to get something in return. That’s why Schedule Meeting, Email Capture, and Contact Form Tools come in handy.

Click here to learn more about the 12 free tools offered by BirdSeed.

BirdSeed is free—and the app features two account users, unlimited website visitor traffic, proactive video / pop-up messages, a mobile app to manage on the go, and integration with 1000+ applications.

If you need added value, then BirdSeed offers two Upgrade Packages at nominal costs.

Special launch promotion for first 300 customers: As part of the initial launch, BirdSeed is be offering a special promotion. Any business that purchases either Upgrade package (Plus or Pro) Annual Plan which already includes a 25% discount, they will also receive an additional year completely free. This will only be offered to the first 300 customers and will automatically be applied upon purchase.

Get a glimpse of How BirdSeed Works.

 

24—Self-Service Platform for Facebook, Instagram and Search Engine Marketing

With its powerful technology platform, New Engen helps companies acquire and grow the highest value customers at the lowest cost across digital channels. Today, the company unveiled its new self-service product offering, now available for Facebook, Instagram, and search engine marketing (SEM), so marketers can manage thousands of campaigns and millions of keywords and ads from one centralized platform. The New Engen platform helps marketers target customers at the most granular level, maximizing customer reach by generating a massive number of keywords and ads and optimizing them precisely to efficiency targets. Whether the focus is acquiring new customers, generating more value from an existing base, or increasing customer lifetime value, the platform allows users to define and optimize to their own conversion events, allocating spend where it will have the greatest impact.

“Google and Facebook’s technologies and other tech solutions do not allow for this level of granularity and scale. The New Engen platform gives marketers more control over their campaigns and decisions, and the easy-to-manage interface enables constant testing and quick exploration—it’ s digital marketing at scale,” says Dave Atchison, CEO of New Engen. “Our platform empowers marketers to take more control to drive real, measurable results – well beyond what one person or a full team could do alone—saving time and money and elevating their focus from the mundane to the brilliant.”

The New Engen platform helps marketers unlock significant revenue growth by enabling creative optimization, testing and insights at unprecedented speed, and exploring the large universe of potential searches to capture more targeted, long tail keywords, where competition is sparse. The platform also gives marketers ultimate control to bid, budget and make adjustments at any time and at the most detailed level of data—allowing for more sophisticated bidding decisions—and “learns” from the results, optimizing performance that is not attainable by simply using Google, Bing or Facebook’s UI. Without this comprehensive approach, marketers are forced to bid less effectively and will likely fail to account for important differences due to device, match type or creative images, ultimately not achieving the desired efficiency or scale.

With endless combinations of search terms and ads to find products and businesses, there is significant benefit to targeting granularly. The New Engen platform also takes creative insights to the next level to help marketers create winning ads and campaigns. The platform’s core feature set for Facebook, Instagram and SEM includes:

  • Bulk campaign creation + campaign explorer for quick insights and trends
  • Scaled keyword generation + management
  • Winning bidding tech
  • Targeted ad copy and landing pages marketers are precise in their ad targeting
  • Customized conversion optimization
  • Data-driven creative insights
  • Real-time KPI and trends data

The New Engen platform offers additional features and resources for marketers to manage ad campaigns—from improved cloning, conversion trackers and intra-day management, to New Engen’s Audience Recommender, which suggests new audiences with high odds of succeeding for individual businesses, among many others. New Engen is also planning to release self-service platforms for Amazon, Pinterest, Shopping and Snap this year.

To learn more or schedule a demo for Facebook, Instagram or Search, go here and here.

Business stock photo by GaudiLab/Shutterstock