17 Things Business Owners Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—What Goes Up in a Down Economy?
Is a recession imminent? Maybe. But don’t panic. Some businesses and even industries seem to flourish during economic downturns. What’s their secret and how can we learn from their success?
The businesses that succeed during the dips are also predictable. Industries in cosmetics and skincare, tobacco, alcohol, even candy continue to thrive as a testament to the power of consumer spending no matter the economic climate. (And consumer spending makes up about 50-75% of GDP.)
In 2018, more than 1 in 7 Americans were 3 or more months late on their auto loan payments; not a good sign for the economy at large. With another recession potentially on its way, forward-thinking businesses are acting now to prepare for the future by taking lessons from the more “recession-proof” among them. This means reeling in spending, enforcing budgets, upping marketing opportunities, and focusing on building the best products or services available. With decades of economic history behind us to learn from and a variety of tech tools at our disposal today, here’s how any business can survive an economic downturn.
You don’t need to be in one of these “recession-proof” industries to survive a down economy—take a look at what you can learn from them, in the infographic below from Great Business Schools.
2—The Science Behind Being A Smarter Shopper
Guest post by Marc Schneider, CEO, Zebit. Zebit is a new online shopping site, where consumers can shop (for millions of products, including name-brand merchandise) and pay over time—with no interest or membership fees.
We at Zebit understand that money is tight for millions of Americans and 80% of consumers currently live paycheck-to-paycheck. Many cannot pay in full at the point of sale and typically turn to predatory credit options that cost $70 billion a year in interest and fees, further impacting their finances. By offering a 0% payment option, consumers can purchase goods they need and pay the balance over time, even if they have poor or no credit.
Everyone has their own tricks to scoring the best deal, but how many of those tricks can be backed up by hard data? Below are four insights gleaned from surveys, experiments and research studies that could help you become a smarter shopper.
Know your needs: While you may not consider yourself an impulse shopper, everyone has at one point walked into a grocery or department store only to come out with more than the intended purchases. Combating those impromptu habits can be difficult but making a concrete shopping plan can help keep your shopping on track.
A research paper on impulse shopping by Dennis Rook and Stephen Hoch presented five crucial components to impulsive shopping. One of those components was “a reduction in cognitive evaluation.” The paper explains that, when struck by the sudden impulse to purchase something, shoppers critical reasoning declined, leading to the unplanned purchase.
To combat the allure of an unplanned extravagance, respondents in the study relied on mental discipline tactics, such as committing to buying only the items they went to the store for or limiting their access to additional funds like credit cards. Being aware of what you need to purchase, by making a list, ranking the items in your cart by priority, or whatever you need to do to remain focused on what you need to buy, can help curb unplanned spending.
Ditch brand loyalty: The denim company you never stray from or that brand of toothpaste you have used since you were 10, is banking on your loyalty. And chances are good your loyalty has become more of a unconsidered preference than an informed decision based on value or quality.
In a study published by the journal Advances in Consumer Research, researchers found consumers who were more receptive to particular brands proved to be generally less interested in taking advantage of sales or discounts than those without such brand attachments.
Whether your loyalty is based on actual quality, ingrained identification, or both, you shouldn’t neglect shopping around for a better deal. You could end up finding a new favorite, or, worse case, reaffirming what you already knew.
Do your research: It shouldn’t come as a surprise that exposing yourself to a wider range of options for a given product will make you better informed about what you should expect to pay, but there is hard science that proves it.
In a consumer study, subjects were asked to rate their familiarity with the general market price of a given product—a personal computer—and asked to choose the highest and lowest price they would pay for it based on provided specifications. The study explained that, “Subjects indicated a higher mean lower and upper price limit, and a narrower acceptable price range when they were market price knowledgeable than when they possessed little or no market price knowledge.”
While it may not seem like a major insight that becoming knowledgeable in at least the market price of a product, the virtue of shopping around and being aware of how much value you are getting from a sale or markdowns, has only grown. Browser applications like PriceBlink and Invisible Hand can help locate where you might find the lowest price for some of your purchases.
But not too much: Finally, if you are planning a critical purchase in the near future and you’ve done your research, you will probably be just as satisfied going ahead with the purchase than if you spent another week shopping around and agonizing over it.
A survey experiment conducted by researchers at Indiana University showed there was no noticeable difference in either consumer confidence or satisfaction with major purchases, planned or unplanned, after eight months.
The study’s focus was on the performance of the item and did not necessarily take into account its purchase price. However, given that those who spent time shopping around reported about the same satisfaction with their purchase as those who did little research, the only difference between the two groups might be how much they paid for the same reward.
In BizBuySell’s March opinion poll small business owners shared their views on the new 25% Chinese tariffs imposed last week.
Q: If tariffs were to increase, how would that affect your business?
- No Impact – 39%
- Negatively – 32%
- Unsure – 19%
- Positively – 9%
Q: 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%
Q: 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%
Q: 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%
4—Top Tips from Successful Small Businesses
In celebration of National Small Business Week last week, Constant Contact, an Endurance International Group company, asked its All Star customers to share their best marketing advice. The tips, collected through a survey of Constant Contact’s most successful customers, indicated that knowing your customer, being consistent in customer communications and asking for help when you need it were critical success factors.
Consistency is king: Consistency was a dominant theme of the survey, with 20% of respondents saying it is critical for everything from brand messaging, to logos and other graphics, to email delivery methods and timing.
- Dolly Di Pesa of Di Pesa & Company CPAs: “Make sure you are consistent with your messages. Touch base with your clients and prospective clients at least once a month.”
- Jennifer Heagle of Red Apron: “Be consistent in your email marketing but don’t overwhelm your clients with useless information. Keep the content relevant.”
- To achieve consistency, Kelly Elvin of Tip Top Tails suggests: “Schedule time for marketing on your calendar. Otherwise, your emails will not get done on a regular basis and you’ll always be scrambling.”
Many noted the ability to automate everything, from welcome emails for new subscribers to emails triggered by abandoned shopping carts, saves significant time and helps them consistently communicate with their customers.
Do your homework: Constant Contact All Stars were also asked what they wish they had known before starting their small business journey.
- Karla Militello of The Summer Kitchen Interiors: “Write the business plan first, not while you are in the beginning phases of running your business.”
- Lois Higgins of Grassroots Meats: “Find a good mentor associated with your industry and ask lots of questions.”
- Jane Terrell of The Terrell Team: “Existing customers are golden.”
- Gale Blair of Paper Whimsy wished she had known: “How to better handle demand.”
- And for those who haven’t yet started, Susan Elise Morton of Stampin’ Up!: “Think about where your hobbies might lead, as this business started as my hobby.”
Even accomplished small business owners need help:
Of course, even the best marketers can use additional help. When asked what areas they need the most guidance in, the right mix of market tools was the most popular choice (29%), followed closely by evaluating marketing success metrics (22%).
Additional areas where small business owners wanted more help with their marketing include:
- Understanding the data I receive from marketing activities: 20%
- Determining what kind of marketing content makes the most sense for my business: 13%
- Developing effective marketing messaging: 9%
- Creating a marketing plan that meets my business goals: 7%
5—Best Vlogging Strategies for Businesses
Over the last few years, vlogging has become a huge phenomenon. HubSpot reports that 54% of consumers now want to see video content from brands/businesses they support.
Many businesses are incorporating it into their overall content strategies. Interested in the rise of vlogging, online marketplace OnBuy.com used the latest findings from YouGov, to identify the types of vlogs they like the most.
Additionally, OnBuy consulted 34 different social media specialists, branding experts and marketing professionals/consultants to discover the best ways businesses can get started vlogging.
- Educational vlogs in the form of ‘how-to-videos’ (85%) and ‘product reviews’ (67%) are the most popular among Americans
- Entertainment-based vlogs seem to be less appealing—with less than half watching vloggers who focus on ‘gaming’ (40%) and ‘gossip’ (35%)
- 74% of marketing experts believe ‘documenting employees working’ is the best content strategy for businesses to get started with vlogging
- 68% think companies can center their vlogs around ‘simplifying complex industry topics’
- 68% of professionals think ‘influencer sessions’ and ‘employee roundtable discussions’ (57%) are worthwhile vlogging ideas for businesses
For more information check out the infographic below.
6—Small Business Benefits
In this uber-competitive business environment, small businesses view benefits as an effective way to attract and retain top talent. A new report from Clutch shows that small businesses most often introduce new benefits because of employee requests (30%) and that the 30% of small businesses without formal HR resources are far less likely to offer employee benefits at all, placing them at a competitive disadvantage when recruiting and retaining their workforce. Only 10% of small businesses without dedicated HR resources offer employer benefits, suggesting that companies committed to attracting top talent and reducing turnover should formalize their HR resources.
The report also found that 56% of small businesses plan to offer new benefits to their employees this year. The most likely benefits to be offered include—paid time off (19%), health benefits (15%), and retirement benefits (11%).
Overall, 47% of small businesses currently offer benefits. Though businesses with 11 employees or more are most likely to provide benefits. The benefits most commonly provided are health benefits (69%), 401(k) and retirement plans (52%), family leave (48%), and paid time off (PTO) (45%).
Of the small businesses that offer PTO, 28% offer 11 to 15 days of it. Only 5% of small businesses offer fewer than five business days of PTO, indicating small businesses understand the importance of giving employees time off. And of the 56% of small businesses planning to offer new benefits this year, 19% are considering offering PTO.
Nearly one-third of small businesses that plan to offer new benefits in 2019 (30%) are doing so to fulfill employee requests, indicating that small businesses view benefits as a method of attracting and retaining top talent.
7—B2B Buyers’ Demands
B2B buyers’ demands for e-commerce experiences have completely evolved. Their roles as consumers have changed expectations for e-commerce and innovation in their B2B lives—and suppliers need to step up their game.
This and more is found in the 2019 B2B Buyer Report—Positioning Strategic eCommerce in a Digital-First World from Avionos. In the report 74% of B2B buyers say they’d pay more for the same product from a supplier with excellent e-commerce and customer portal capabilities.
The report looks at the demands that modern B2B buyers have for suppliers when it comes to their e-commerce experiences today.
- B2B buyers are purchasing more online: 77% of B2B buyers bought more products online for their companies in the past year.
- Keeping up with digital demands impacts the bottom line: 88% of B2B buyers would turn to a competitor if a supplier’s digital channels couldn’t keep up with their modern demands.
- Amazon and Google are on the rise in B2B: 33% of B2B buyers begin their purchasing processes with either Amazon Business or Google, while 32% start at a supplier’s website or portal.
- Content still isn’t up to par for B2B buyers: 87% of B2B buyers say they experience pain points in the e-commerce purchasing process, with 84% reporting that poor product content has stopped them from completing a purchase.
8—Remote Work and Pay Equity
Nearly half of the world’s companies have remote policies in place today, but it seems less than half of them are doing them right. According to a new study from smart video conferencing provider Owl Labs, remote work may only be benefitting the highest performers and really benefiting men.
- Full-time remote employees are 53% more likely to make $100K and above than those who never work remotely—suggesting remote work opportunities are a luxury offered only to those in top positions.
- Men who work remotely (either always or sometimes), are 48% more likely to make $100K or more than men who never work remotely.
- Among the men and women who always work remotely, there is a pay gap of 25 percentage points.
To make sure this gap doesn’t widen, it’s important for companies to revisit their remote work policies to determine inequities between remote and in-office employees and how to make remote work benefits accessible to all, despite gender or role.
9—Top 15 States with the Most Remote Jobs
For a variety of reasons, such as legal, taxes, and licensing issues, the vast majority of remote jobs require remote workers be based in a specific city, state, region, or country. To help job seekers identify which states have high potential for remote job opportunities in 2019, FlexJobs named the top 15 states where companies recruited the most state-based remote workers in 2018, as well as the most popular remote career categories in each state.
California, Texas, and New York were the top three states with the highest number of remote job postings last year, with others such as North Carolina, Minnesota, and Massachusetts also included on this diverse list of states. Half-time remote workers gain back 11 days a year—time they would have otherwise spent commuting (the average daily commute is 26.1 minutes). In more than half of the top U.S. metro areas telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice. It has grown far faster than any other commute mode.
“According to a new report, between 2010 and 2017 16% of all white-collar jobs added to the economy have been filled by people primarily working from home,” says Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs “As this and other data demonstrates, remote work overall is absolutely on the rise—including those that have a geographic requirement, but also the highly coveted remote jobs that can be done from any location.”
FlexJobs’ U.S. Remote Job Market Map also offers additional important state-specific remote work statistics, such as the remote worker population, top cities within states for the most remote workers, most popular remote career categories, the state’s average commute time, state-specific flexible work policies, and general national remote work facts.
The following 15 states had the highest number of remote job listings in 2018 and are high potential targets for job searchers in 2019. The top three most popular remote career categories in each state detailed below. Many of them are also included in GOBankingRate’s study of the top states to find jobs.
- California: Data Entry, Legal, Nonprofit & Philanthropy
- Texas: Data Entry, Accounting & Finance, Software Development
- New York: Data Entry, Legal, Accounting & Finance
- Virginia: Data Entry, Computer and IT, Legal
- Florida: Data Entry, Legal, Editing
- Illinois: Graphic Design, Data Entry, Accounting & Finance
- Pennsylvania: Data Entry, Computer and IT, Legal
- Georgia: Data Entry, Accounting & Finance, Computer and IT
- North Carolina: Data Entry, Nonprofit & Philanthropy, Computer and IT
- Massachusetts: Data Entry, Computer and IT, Accounting & Finance
- Washington: Data Entry, Graphic Design, Editing
- New Jersey: Data Entry, Legal, HR & Recruiting
- Arizona: Nonprofit & Philanthropy, HR & Recruiting, Data Entry
- Minnesota: Data Entry, Accounting & Finance, Engineering
- Ohio: HR & Recruiting, Data Entry, Computer and IT
Get more information on the top states and companies hiring.
10—Making Business Travel Easier: Whether you take a few business trips a year or are constantly on the go, this article, The Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist from Coworker is a must-read.
11—Online Payment Options: Check out this thorough guide to payment solutions for e-commerce businesses from Datadial.
12—B2B Sales Guide: This guide from Foundation not only explains B2B sales, but shares 5 ways to sell more this year.
13—Get Found Locally: 3 ways to enhance your local SEO from StrategyBeam.
14—Pet Industry Booms: Everyone loves pets, making the industry rife with opportunity. Check out the latest pet statistics here, courtesy CleanerPaws.
15—Time tracker: If you’re looking for a way to track your staff’s time and monitor their activity, check out WorkPuls.
16—Boost Your Online Presence
Vistaprint, which just launched its latest digital marketing product, Search Engine Listings Manager, is partnering with Google My Business to help small businesses throughout North America get found online.
“In working closely with small business owners, we’ve found that they understand the importance of increasing traffic to their websites to bring in new customers and getting listed on Google should be their first step,” Vistaprint Senior Director of Digital Products Alfredo Ramos says. “Our newly launched Search Engine Listings Manager offers a simple and time-saving solution to get business information on Google along with getting listed across additional search engines and online directories with a single submission. This allows small business owners to prepare for any opportunities online, by ensuring they have a professional and up-to-date presence in major search engines.”
With Vistaprint’s Search Engine Listings Manager, small business owners can submit, maintain, and update all their search engine listings information in one place. Any updates or changes are automatically pushed to each platform, saving time and ensuring consistency across all their listings. Streamlining this process helps to eliminate barriers for small business participation in online listings and helps online users to easily find the local goods and services they are searching for.
Vistaprint’s Search Engine Listings Manager is now available for use throughout the U.S. and Canada for just $20 per year and includes a satisfaction guarantee. There’s more information here.
17—Chatbots on Facebook
MobileMonkey is a Facebook messenger platform that lets you build chatbots on Facebook Messenger without writing any code. It allows users to schedule and bulk-send interactive and engaging content, offers, and campaigns to Facebook Messenger contacts. The chatbots created via Monkey can be designed to make appointments, answer FAQs, track purchases, and use A.I. to match content to intent via keywords and interactions.
Get more information.
Business stock photo by K.D.P/Shutterstock