8 Things Entrepreneurs Should Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1. Cooking Up Profits
First, let me admit I am not a cook. But I know many people who find cooking to be a stress reliever and a creative undertaking. If that’s you—or if it could be you, you’ll want to read what Kevin Yu, the CEO and founder of SideChef (pictured), an iTunes Top-10 cooking app, has to say about cooking and starting a business.
Yu maintains, “Cooking can keep budding entrepreneurs healthy mentally and physically as well as teach them valuable lessons to apply to their business practices.” Yu’s points:
- Save money: When money is tight, cooking and eating in the office allows people to save money and remain self-sufficient.
- Eating healthier: Cooks know what goes into the food they prepare, allowing them to eat healthier, which in turn makes them feel better and supports mental creativity.
- Take a break from work: Cooking offers a break to clear the mind and reduce stress.
- Team building: Coworkers can use cooking as a team-building exercise where everyone is responsible for cooking part of a recipe or a dish. Working together in various environments towards a common goal leads to a stronger [team].
- Positive work environment: Whether cooking together or for one another, providing sustenance for colleagues promotes a positive work environment, especially when baking treats for the office.
- Support local businesses: Startup CEOs can support fellow small businesses by going to local farmers markets and family-owned groceries. This sets a good example for employees and shows them how small businesses can flourish.
- Networking talking point: Everyone loves to eat and talk about food. Socializing around cooking is a great way to bond.
- Cooking methodology: Various aspects of the cooking process can be carried over to business, including planning and preparation, sourcing, improvising, setting deadlines along the way and taking proper steps to reach an end goal.
- Healthy work, life balance: Being able to cook and partake in something enjoyable during the day promotes a healthy work-life balance so that quality of life does not decrease while a business is taking off.
2. What’s Your Story?
Every entrepreneur has a story, and Microsoft wants to know what yours is. They just launched a user-generated video contest (search #MSSmallBizContest on Twitter), asking entrepreneurs and small business owners to share their stories by creating a 2-minute video.
Microsoft is offering a combination of cash prizes, Office 365 and Surface Pro3 to the top 5 finalists. Also included in the grand prize is the winner will have their story amplified via Microsoft’s SMB channels.
Contest deadline is 11:59 PM PT on January 11, 2015. Ten semi-finalists will be selected by a panel of judges (of which I’m one), and then public voting takes place from January 20, 2015 to January 30, 2015. Winners will be announced on February 2, 2015.
3. Wish Your Customers Happy Holidays
Animoto is also having a video contest. The point is to show you how easy (and effective it is to use video to send messages to clients and customers. I’m also judging the Animoto video contest. All you need to do is create a company holiday video and you’ll be entered to win a number of great prizes. The deadline is December 31. And you can sign up for a FREE trial account.
4. A Rewarding Year
Many small business owners consider the holidays their “credit card rewards redemption season,” using the rewards to give employees holiday gifts or year-end bonuses.
Wells Fargo just surveyed its small business customers, about half of whom said they “like” using rewards at this time of year. In fact in October gift card redemption hit an all-time high.
What are business owners redeeming this year? Here are the top 5 redeemed merchandise (in order of popularity):
- Pro V1 Golf Balls
- Single-Cup Brewer
- Noise-Canceling Headphone
- 7″ Digital Photo Frame
- 8-Sheet Crosscut Shredder
Cash redemption and airline tickets were also high on the list.
5. Protect Your Small Business
With the Sony hack still leading the news cycle, small business owners are rightly concerned if something similar (though on an obviously smaller scale) could happen to them.
Of course it can. Gokhan Inonu, the president of Cardtek USA, which provides mobile and digital payment systems has some advice for SMB retailers. For the holidays, Inonu says, “Businesses should beef up data security: [The holidays are] a time for all businesses to step up financial security, but especially small businesses that may not have the resources to install top security technology or software and have to rely on new and possibly inexperienced employees, etc. The risk for the merchants is a damaged reputation, but for [small business owners] it could be financial disaster, not to mention the grief of a having your private information breached.”
Looking ahead to the New Year, many small businesses are planning to add employees. If you’re planning to hire, Inonu advises you to spend time and resources on employee training. He says, “This will not only save time, but reputation and consumer loyalty in the long run. New and temporary employees should be trained beforehand to protect customers and the business itself. Make sure to train all of your employees for processing payments, making a habit of checking IDs and streamlining the whole shopping process.”
6. Increase the ROI from Social Media
We all know how important social media is to our businesses. But one of the challenges of social media is measuring ROI. Moment.me, a provider of social media marketing solutions, recently launched Leads, a solution they say gives SMBs “the ability to use the social media conversation going on around their businesses as a tool for effective lead generation.” During beta businesses saw a 30 percent click-through rate on offers, as well as a 25 percent increase in social media followers. The program helps you easily identify and offer rewards to your top influencers who post content from or about your business.
“Small businesses have a unique opportunity to personally interact with a relatively small customer-base,” says Dovev Goldstein CEO of Moment.me. “By being hyper-targeted, Leads empowers SMBs to make the most of their limited resources, allowing them to use the tweets, photos and videos of their most relevant customers to turn social content into click-through.”
Leads, says the company is ideally suited for restaurants, bars, hotels and stores, where there is a near-constant stream of social media content being created around shareable experiences. You get a access to a detailed list of the customers that have been posting content on social media, sorted by their reach, influence and followers.
Leads enables you to personally interact with these key influencers directly, on the social media network they originally posted from, and offer them rewards or incentives to share their experiences with friends and followers from their networks.
7. Good News for Etsy Entrepreneurs
If you sell on Etsy, you’ll want to know that Shoppost, a social commerce platform from Zantler, is now available. Using Shoppost, you’ll be able to “merchandise and sell yourr products in-stream on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr with a post that mimics an e-commerce storefront.” Essentially, while on social media, shoppers can get product details including images, availability, sizing, colors and pricing that comes directly from your Etsy page. Each shoppost has a buy button where customers who click go directly to your Etsy branded shopping cart.
There’s also a Shoppost web app which provides analytics about customers’ engagement and which products convert best on which sites. The company says their early data shows a 22 percent engagement rate with shopposts on Facebook. Reflecting the move toward mobile—42 percent of all engagement with shopposts happen via mobile.
Shoppost is free to both consumers and businesses.
8. Help for Help Centers
Your customers have questions and they want answers immediately. AnswerDash, a leading provider of contextual answer technology for websites, is joining forces with the Zendesk Help Center “to further customer self-service initiatives for Zendesk clients.” What this means is website users have access to Help Center content wherever and whenever they have questions. All it takes is a click of the mouse—users don’t have to type search queries.
Another feature of the new alliance is Zendesk clients can transform Zendesk tickets into new AnswerDash contextual Q&A via a new app that plugs into Zendesk’s popular customer service platform, enabling customer service agents ton respond directly to support tickets. Those tickets are then converted into self-service Q&A to head off similar support requests in the future.
Jake Wobbrock, CEO and co-founder of AnswerDash, says, “For most online businesses, 80 percent of support ticket volume is due to just 20 percent of the most frequently-asked questions, leading to customer service agent fatigue and inability for support teams to cost-effectively scale.”
This self-service technology makes it easy for users to get answers to their questions while they’re on the webpage, instead of having to go to another site.
If you’re interested in integrating AnswerDash with Zendesk, go here.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva.
Photo Courtesy: SideChef