18 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
Everyone is buzzing about influencer marketing these days. Will it work for your small business? Check out the infographic below from Milkwhale to find out.
2—Controlling Cash Flow Can Cause Personal Strain for Entrepreneurs
New data released by Kabbage, Inc., shows the impact of cash flow on the workload, personal life and take-home pay of small business owners. The survey reveals the majority of small business owners do not pay themselves for multiple consecutive months to control the cash flow in their businesses. In fact, 26% have gone two to six months without paying themselves, with another 25% going without a paycheck for more than six months.
Of the respondents surveyed:
- 63% are regularly stressed or have anxiety due to cash flow concerns
- 42% sacrifice much of their social life and personal hobbies
- 35% often lose sleep or have difficulty sleeping
- 32% say their family life suffers
Yet, respondents have run successful companies for an average of 10.5 years.
The survey also found 91% of small business owners spend as much as 20 hours per week on cash flow management from handling payroll to invoicing and purchasing inventory. If all cash-flow tasks were eliminated, respondents say they would repurpose their time:
- 51% would invest more time in sales and marketing to drive new business
- 35% would further develop their products and services, saying they have new ideas but no time to focus on them
- 32% would spend more time with family, friends and community
- 30% would focus more time on customer service
- 22% would use the time on hiring and mentoring their employees
- 22% would investigate new technologies and business systems to make their company more efficient
3—How Speed Affects Your Website
You are going to be penalized if your site loads too slowly. Get more facts in the infographic below from HostingTribunal.
4—Turbo Speed for Websites
Speaking of speedy websites Wix just launched Wix Turbo, which boosts performance of all Wix websites. To celebrate Wix teamed up with Marvel Studios, ahead of the new Captain Marvel movie to be released March 8th.
5—Managing Multiple Retail Marketplaces
Retail marketplaces have become the place to shop for millions of consumers—in fact, 96% of U.S. online shoppers buy from marketplaces because of the “ease of use”. And if consumers are shopping at the marketplaces, then small retailers must have a presence there.
But for small businesses selling on multiple marketplaces is tough to manage, since you need to track, price, fill orders and ship on each platform. To help UPS is launching a new e-commerce platform that “streamlines warehousing, order taking, fulfillment, shipping, and even pricing across 21 different marketplaces and web stores.” UPS says this solution will help “level the playing field” for small businesses.
UPS eFulfillment allows businesses to make updates to marketplaces on one screen (vs. a monitor for each marketplace), and simultaneously fulfill and ship orders through UPS. You also get:
- Streamlined and central warehousing and fulfillment. UPS handles storing customer merchandise, packaging products once a sale is made and shipping from strategically-located warehouses in Kentucky and California. Or you can choose to use whichever warehouse locations you want.
- Works with Amazon: Many marketplace solutions aren’t able to include products sold through Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). The UPS eFulfillment platform is certified with Amazon Prime.
- A single log-in: You can manage sales on 21 marketplaces and web stores, including eBay, Walmart, Etsy and Amazon Prime.
- Delivery to customers in the U.S. and Canada
- Easy sign up: You can enroll via a quick onboarding process.
- Risk free 60-day trial.
UPS eFulfillment joins another recently launched solution from UPS—Ware2Go, which began last August, and is a digital platform that matches available warehouse space and fulfillment services to merchants’ needs using both UPS and non-UPS warehouse space.
6—Cybercrime More Devastating to SMBs than Other Threats
A majority (58%) of executives at SMBs are more concerned about suffering a major data breach than they are a flood, a fire, a transit strike or even a physical break-in of their office, according to the inaugural AppRiver Cyberthreat Index for Business Survey. The figure jumps to 66% when measuring large SMBs (150-250 employees) that now fear data breach as more detrimental than traditional disasters for businesses.
“In today’s digital age, businesses rely more heavily on their intellectual assets than physical properties—bringing cybersecurity to the forefront,” says Dave Wagner, CEO of Zix Corporation, parent company of AppRiver. “The AppRiver Cyberthreat Index for Business Survey findings punctuate this evolution of American business, and also illustrate areas where business leaders are unprepared for cyberattacks.”
Nearly half of SMBs (48%) say a major data breach would likely shut down their businesses permanently. The percentage increased significantly with 71% of financial services and insurance SMBs reporting a major breach would be fatal to their businesses. Healthcare and business consulting SMBs followed at 62% and 60% respectively.
The survey further reveals SMBs are more concerned about attacks from disgruntled ex-employees than highly publicized threats from foreign countries, or even cyberattacks from competitors, rogue hacktivist groups or lone-wolf hackers.
While SMBs are concerned about cybercriminals, not all of them are on high enough alert. The hospitality industry is a prime example. Only 28% of hospitality-sector respondents believe their business is vulnerable to imminent threats of cybersecurity attacks, compared to 62% of respondents who work in technology and 47% in the financial sector. Similarly, only 50% of hospitality respondents believe a successful cyberattack would cast short- and long-term business losses, compared to 72% each in the financial and healthcare sectors and 71% in the technology sector.
“Today, 6 in 10 U.S. SMBs go out of business within six months of a successful cyberattack,” says Troy Gill, a senior security analyst at AppRiver. “However, I often see a sizable gap between perceptions and reality among many SMB leaders, which is again evident in the latest survey. They don’t know what they don’t know; the lack of preparedness becomes a dangerous weapon for cybercriminals.”
“The establishment of the AppRiver Cyberthreat Index for Business addresses a critical need to understand organizations’ cyber vulnerability and readiness,” says University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity Director Dr. Eman El-Sheikh. “The Index provides a benchmark for small- and medium-sized businesses and leaders to measure our collective cyber resiliency and emphasizes the importance of cybersecurity workforce development.”
7—The Inspired Workplace
Want to create a good impression in your workspace? Want to inspire and motivate your employees? Art can help you do all those things and more. Check out the infographic below from CanvasPop to see what art can do for you.
8—Chatbots: A Conversation on Conversion
Guest post by Stefano Tromba, Marketing Director, Fingercheck
You can hardly visit a website today and not have a live chat feature pop up. Whether manned by an actual person, or through a scripted chatbot, this entire function is becoming more and more sophisticated among small to mid-sized businesses. In other words, it’s not for just Fortune 500 companies anymore. It’s the new, modern way to engage visitors on your site, sell them on your product and keep them coming—all through the expanding technology of automation.
Chatbots offer a real-time answer to questions visitors to your site are looking for. They can also point visitors in the right direction to further your chances of converting a sale. One of the core benefits of chatbots is they’re less expensive than a salaried employee doing all the work and they don’t miss a thing—capturing every visitor. Plus, we humans need sleep—chatbots not so much. Nothing gets missed and that’s something businesses owners, large and small love. Small businesses especially relies on just about every sale and can’t afford to let a potential customer fall through the cracks.
It’s been reported that visitor interactions on websites raise lead conversion by up to 36% with chatbots. That’s a big number that can translate into real dollars when visits convert. Wherever customized live chat is provided, companies are undeniably giving customers a far better experience thus, increasing their chances of conversion. When done right, potential customers are left with a positive feeling and a comfortable experience. Experiences like this are more likely to become to turn visitors into loyal followers of your product and/or service. That loyalty then turns into repeat business. And as we all know, it’s much less expensive to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one.
Let’s get personal: However, building the perfect chatbot requires time and a strong familiarity with your audience. You need to get this part right. Developing scenarios based on frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) is key to getting automated responses that make sense and hit home with your visitors. It helps to develop a relationship with your audience and keeps them engaged. And you don’t need any research to prove that companies who give a better experience usually get one in return with higher sales. Methods differ in this respect and while not every interaction will end in a sale, it does help the likelihood of future sales if/when data is captured, such as visitors email address or telephone number. Having this data is essential for re-targeting efforts later.
Ready, set, grow! Of course, research still shows that telephone and email are still the most common forms of communication and interaction between companies and customers. And nearly half of American adults would rather deal with a fellow human when inquiring about a product. And while that may not change for a while, the stats on chatbots are proving to business owners that they can’t merely rely on these forms of interactions any longer if they plan on growing. Chatbots and live chat functions provide an undeniable advantage and benefits. For quick and instant answers anytime, it offers a convenience that you can’t get through any other means. Any business (especially a startup that hopes to stay competitive) will need to incorporate chatbot and/or some kind of Artificial intelligence into their marketing and sales strategy if they expect keep up with the way modern business runs.
9—Best Cities to Start a Restaurant
Owning a restaurant is a dream for so many Americans. If you’re one of them, check out this report from Bid-0n-Equipment to find out where your eatery has the best chance to succeed.
10—Debunking 4 Commonly Believed Myths About Healthcare for Small Businesses
Guest post by Sally Poblete, CEO, Wellthie
Making healthcare available to your small business employees can be a daunting prospect. Procuring employee benefits can be costly and confusing to a non-expert in the field. However, it is essential to separate fact from fiction when considering providing your small business employees with the valuable gift of healthcare. Please see below four debunked commonly believed myths about healthcare for small businesses:
1—My employees have medical issues; I probably can’t even afford to offer health insurance. For small group health plans, prices vary based on employee age, location, and carrier. The health of your employees is not a determining factor. Small business fully insured plans are “guaranteed issue,” which means that qualified employees, regardless of health status, can get coverage.
While employee benefits can be pricey, employers do not have to subsidize the entire amount. Depending on the budget, the business owner can determine how much they are willing to contribute. Most employers contribute anywhere from 50%-100% of the employee-only cost. Additionally, there is a wealth of health plan options available for a wide range of budgets.
2—Employee benefits are too hard to understand. A study recently found that 4% of Americans couldn’t correctly define the four key health insurance terms necessary for a basic knowledge of healthcare (deductible, copay, coinsurance, out-of-pocket-maximum). Even if you’ve never offered employee benefits before, unfamiliarity with healthcare related language shouldn’t stand in your way from making sure your company is covered. Resources are available to help demystify insurance for small business owners. Licensed brokers are available in a variety of formats to answer any questions you may have. There is also a multitude of explanatory collateral easily accessible online for free breaking down health insurance terminology and preparing small business owners to purchase health insurance plans for their employees.
3—I can’t get insurance. I missed the Open Enrollment Period. Small business owners can make employee benefits available to their employees year round. For the majority of states, the Open Enrollment Period for 2019 was from November 1st, 2018 to December 15th, 2018, with some states (like the District of Columbia or New York) extending their deadlines to the end of January. However, the Open Enrollment Periods only apply to Individual Plans and Medicare, meaning that it is always a good time to offer health insurance to your employees as you are not bound by the Open Enrollment periods. Most insurance companies offer effective dates on the first or the fifteenth of every month of the year for new benefits.
4—I shouldn’t have to provide insurance to my employees if it isn’t legally required. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers who have less than 50 employees are not legally required to offer health insurance. Employees with 50 or more full-time employees may face a penalty for not providing coverage. However, even if your small business isn’t bound by law to offer employee health insurance, doing so benefits your employees, their families, as well as your business as a whole. Employees are far more likely to choose and stay with a company if they are satisfied with the health benefits. In a recent AHIP study, 56% of American adults whose employers sponsored their health benefits reported that whether or not they liked their job’s health coverage was a key factor in deciding to stay at their current position, while 46% said health insurance was either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current position. Furthermore, employees who are insured are consequently more productive while at work.
No small business is too small to offer benefits. Under federal law, a small business must have at least one full-time equivalent employee other than the owner, spouse, or family member to qualify as a small business and obtain health insurance. As long as your company qualifies as a small business under the ACA, you can provide your employees with healthcare.
There’s often confusion surrounding small business health insurance that may prevent a small business owner from taking the crucial steps to make sure their team is covered. Shopping for and purchasing employee benefits has modernized and become easier over time thanks in great part to continuously improving technology. With all of this information and technology at your fingertips, you can feel confident in taking the next steps to provide health insurance to your employees.
11—Do You Appreciate Your Employees?
Although Employee Appreciation Day was last Friday (March 1), it’s never a bad time to show your employees you appreciate them. And if you don’t, well—last year in a survey by Achievers, 55% of respondents planned to switch jobs. The main reason: a lack of recognition at their current employer (44%).
Check out the Employee Engagement Platform on Achievers to learn more.
In today’s tight labor market, employees are in control and constantly fielding new and enticing offers, which means the pressure is on for managers to retain top talent. In fact, the average cost of losing a good hire is nearly $30,000. “Employers need to place as much value on their employees as they do their paying customers,” says Hani Goldstein, CEO of Snappy Gifts.. “To attract and retain the finest talent, companies must incorporate creative and personal ways to reward employees for their hard work.”
Snappy Gifts recently released the findings of its Employee Happiness Survey, showing that 95% of employees attribute recognition in the workplace to the creation and maintenance of a stronger, more positive and engaged company culture; however, one in three employees feel undervalued.
The Happiness Survey also revealed:
- Nearly 45% of employees believe their value at a company is reflected by the gifts they receive; however more than one in three people have never received a gift from their supervisor.
- Of those who have received an employer gift,almost 40% of people have re-gifted or thrown it out.
- Almost 70%of respondents would rather provide input into the corporate gift they receive.
Q&A with Hani Goldstein:
Q: What gifts do employees want the most?
Goldstein: Amazon Echo, Bluetooth speakers, Polaroid Instant cameras, and Ninja blenders. We encourage employers to think outside of traditional gifts. This is why we offer unique gifting options and let the employee choose their own gift from a collection of curated items. Giving a small and thoughtful gift will create a much larger impact than adding that same value to the employee’s annual salary. Just think of an employee that is earning $50,000, they will not care if their salary is increased to $50,100. However, when you give them a gift valued at $100, they will feel acknowledged, motivated and excited.
Q: What are some of the easiest ways to reward employees?
Goldstein: Get creative with gifts and think beyond the classic paperweights, pens, and plaques that have been an industry standard for decades. Giving a small and thoughtful gift to recognize employees creates a much larger impact than handing out gift cards of that same value.
Q: How can implementing a rewards program benefit businesses?
Goldstein: When one in three employees generally do not feel valued, small acts of recognition can make a huge impact to help avoid staff turnover. Companies should remember it is still a candidates’ market and the fight to attract and retain top talent is greater than ever. Rewarding employees and improving team morale could make all the difference.
12—Are You Letting Your Customers Down?
RingCentral, a leading provider of global enterprise cloud communications, collaboration, and contact center solutions, just released a new report, Overcoming the Digital Disconnect: How Disjointed Communications Technologies Are Letting Customers Down — and How to Solve It. Based on a global survey of 2,000 customer-facing employees by CITE Research, the report reveals a direct connection between employee and customer engagement. The data shows that disjointed communications technologies not only harm employee productivity and morale, but also hurt customer satisfaction and the bottom line.
Companies today collect and manage more customer data than ever before across a wide array of channels, yet skyrocketing customer expectations demand swift issue resolution. According to the research, consumers have poor customer service experiences due to disjointed communications technologies. This results in customers dropping four brands per year on average. The research also reveals that employee and customer engagement are closely linked—91% of employees believe a seamless platform that lets them navigate between all the ways they communicate and collaborate with coworkers and customers would make customers happier, which in turn would drive greater employee job satisfaction and happiness.
Disjointed communications workflow hurts the company bottom line: Managing siloed customer data has created friction: complex workflows and disjointed communications technologies frustrate employees, hurting their ability to serve customers, impacting professional and personal relationships, and ultimately, affecting the company bottom line.
- 75% of customer-facing employeessay they can’t effectively service customers due to disjointed communications technologies making it difficult to collaborate with coworkers, hindering productivity, and making them unhappy at work.
- It doesn’t end at the office—50% of employees say they take this frustration home and aremore likely to be rude to their family and friends.
Customers don’t tolerate poor service: In an increasingly digital world, customers expect to connect with companies over the channels of their choice—and lose patience if issues are not resolved quickly.
- Gen Z and millennialscut ties after a poor customer service experience more than five times in a year.
- Were you even listening?86% of customers hate having to repeat themselves via multiple different channels.
- 75% of customers would rather do household choresthan communicate with an ineffective chatbot.
The employee and customer engagement equation: Employees seek to ease communication with colleagues and resolve customer issues swiftly, and customers seek rapid resolution on the channel of their choice. An integrated communications platform delivers this seamless experience, improving both employee and customer engagement and increasing the bottom line.
- 92% of employees say an integrated communications platformwould enhance both the employee and customer experience and improve customer satisfaction scores.
- 86% of employeesagree that a seamless communications platform would increase company profitability and 83% of employees would stay longer with a company.
13—Annual Online Contest Celebrates America’s Main Streets
Independent We Stand just launched its fourth annual America’s Main Streets contest. The three-month long web-driven contest helps consumers, small business owners and Main Street organizations reward a deserving Main Street with $25,000 in cash and sponsor-related prizes. Independent We Stand invites the public to help draw attention to the vital role America’s Main Streets play in the long-term success of communities by nominating and voting for their favorite Main Street.
“We know Main Streets across America help build a sense of place in their communities and are home to countless small, locally-owned businesses,” says Independent We Stand co-founder Bill Brunelle. “Independent We Stand wants to help them thrive and have an even greater economic impact by recognizing the pride business owners and communities take in their Main Streets. This contest is a chance to share those stories.”
All nominations and voting take place on MainStreetContest.com. To help promote the contest, the Independent We Stand team heads out for the “Great American Red, White & Q” road trip starting March 4. The team will visit some of the best U.S. cities for barbeque by making stops on five iconic Main Streets in five days where they will eat, sleep and shop local as well as interview and engage with small businesses, their customers, Main Street groups and small business organizations. You can follow their journey through Asheville, NC; Nashville; Memphis; St. Louis; and Kansas City on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- April 29 to May 26: “America’s Main Streets” semifinalist voting
- June 3: “America’s Main Streets” winner announced
- July 4: “Main Streets Make Us Better” event; “America’s Main Streets” winner announces plans for $25,000 grand prize
14—4 Low-Cost Business Ideas to Help Jumpstart Your Dreams
Guest post by Lisa Crocco
Every day you scroll on Facebook and Instagram, watching your connections (and those random people you have no idea how you started following) self-promote their businesses. You watch their Instagram stories or read their posts on Facebook and ask yourself, “Why can’t I do that?” The answer is you can.
Chances are that one day, those same entrepreneurs decided they were sick of scrolling through social media watching other people live their dreams—they wanted to chase their own. So they did. And if your dream is to start your own business, then it’s time to get moving.
But you don’t have to create a multi-million-dollar business overnight. You can start with a small investment or a low-cost business. If you’re trying to decide what business to start, you may want to consider the following low-investment business ideas.
1—Start a website, blog, or podcast: Pick a niche topic you’re interested in: cooking, lifestyle, gaming, relationships, business, etc. In no time, you can create a brand around this niche that aligns with your dream job and is both low-risk and low-cost.
Once your website/blog/podcast has the framework established, you can start generating valuable content and earning income from affiliate sales and ad revenue. It may sound small, but this can be a solid launching point to jumpstarting your dreams.
2—Become an online coach or instructor: If you have deep knowledge about a particular topic like fitness or cybersecurity and you enjoy sharing your insight with others, think about becoming a coach through various platforms. You can start promoting via your own social media channels, or become an instructor on websites like UDemy or SkillShare.
You can even take it a step further and create e-Books or digital downloads for your audience to purchase, truly launching your dream business with just a little overhead. Though you may begin by teaching behind a screen, maybe one day you’ll be giving a Ted Talk to a live audience.
3—Become an online seller: Have goods to sell? Are you a crafter, refurbisher or thrifter? Then you should consider becoming an online seller to jumpstart your low-cost business. Depending on what you’re looking to sell, you can pick from many ecommerce platforms like Etsy, Amazon, eBay and others.
Start by gathering or creating your merchandise and setting up your online store while keeping your costs minimal. Perhaps you want to simply be a seller for an already established business like Mary Kay or Stella & Dot. This could be a great learning experience to try your hand at sales without risking too many of your own dollars.
4—Try freelancing or consulting: If you have experience in a particular subject matter and dream of owning your own consulting firm, strategic agency or photography studio, then launching a business as a freelancer or consultant can be a great low-cost approach.
Self-promote your business through LinkedIn, or become active on freelance websites like UpWork or CloudPeeps to find gig opportunities. It’s a simple start that will give you a taste for this particular side of your future budding business and could potentially lead you to lucrative opportunities.
These are just a few business ideas with low investment required; there are plenty of others to choose from if none of these sound like the right fit. Whatever low-cost business idea you do decide will help you jumpstart your dream, you’ll need some guidance along the way. Incfile is here to provide company formation services as you get started, and we can lend a helping hand as you get the hang of managing your business too.
This article was originally published on the Incfile Blog.
15—What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?
By 2024, almost 25% of the workforce in the United States will be individuals aged 55 and over. But as workplace ageism grows, it’s not corporate America in which older professionals are finding their later-in-life success. Turn your so-called “liabilities” into assets by removing discriminatory managers, building your own brand, and working for yourself.
“Greyprenuers” are putting a much needed spin on what we assume is the portrait of a typical entrepreneur. Almost 60% of small business owners are over the age of 50.
Among workers aged 45 and up, 60% have experienced or seen workplace ageism—sometimes even costing them a job or promotion. Take your career into your own hands at any age, as detailed in the infographic below from BestMastersProgram.
16—The Power of YouTube Marketing
17—Engaging Your Customers with Conversational AI
18—Digital Marketing Innovation Tool
The Digital Marketing Canvas (DMC) is a co-creation tool and practical guide that companies can use to accelerate business growth. With brainstorming as a starting point and digital strategy as the finish line, users of the DMC will learn how marketing fundamentals and online customer lifecycle work together. Through the structured 11 building blocks approach, companies can guide their own digital strategies and better articulate their value proposition with marketing tactics and digital technologies.
The DMC was created by Jeremy Corman , partner of Café Numérique, casual tech conferences “between the Bar & the Conference”, and founder of Plunch.net. With over 9 years of experience helping businesses with digital transformation and digital strategies, Corman noticed that too often companies use ineffective approaches to solicit input from employees about their digital strategies. The approach of gathering marketing, legal, design, sales, business, HR and other departments in the same room to discuss digital strategy is nonproductive if everyone is speaking their own language. To avoid a cacophony and get every person on the same path, Corman developed the DMC as a tool with a clear process for companies to come up with a plan when it comes to articulating their value proposition with marketing tactics and digital strategies.
The DMC closely resembles the 10-step Business Model Canvas, a tool used to develop or document existing business models; however, the DMC has an 11-step process that integrates the marketing fundamentals canvas with the AARRR model of customer lifecycle developed by Dave McClure, an entrepreneur and angel investor from the Silicon Valley.
Digital marketing canvas overview:
- Value propositions—value delivered, including benefits and unique differentiation
- Mission—defining a company’s purpose and objectives
- Vision—company’s long-term, aspirational business goals, and future positioning.
- Brand—the comprehensive way in which a company is being communicated to users, creating a rational and emotional experience
- Target audience—customers (current and/or future) that company serves
- Market—company’s market position in relation with competitors
- Acquisition—getting visitors from scalable channels
- Activation—measurable first happy experience to get to “aha moment”
- Referral—users referring the product to others
- Revenue—monetizing users’ behavior
- Retention—getting users to come back to AARRR (as frequently as possible)
The DMC is easy to apply and can be cost-effective as marketing gets more specialized and expensive. All it requires are 5-6 people around the canvas, ideally selected from diverse profiles within a company. Ideas and hypotheses are written on sticky notes and placed on the canvas. Once the board is covered with ideas and hypotheses, the next step is to validate the hypotheses by gathering feedback from the market. Check out this sketch of Airbnb’s digital marketing strategy for inspiration.
Since its release, DMC has been used by thousands of companies, startups, consultants, entrepreneurs, universities, and incubators. Download the DMC poster for free or use a collaborative tool on sketch out your own strategy at TUZZit.