business

16 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

1—How to Create Long-Term Relationships

Closing a sale takes a lot of work, and it can be tempting to think of the moment the deal is done as the final goal. Yet for a lot of businesses, the key to success isn’t simply completing sales, but building long-term relationships with customers who can be counted on to return. These long-term relationships make up the foundation of a company’s ongoing success in many cases. After all, McDonald’s wouldn’t have become the giant it is today if it only sold one burger to every customer. Completing the sale isn’t enough in many cases — your business needs to close multiple sales to the same customer. Check out this helpful infographic from Owner Connect.

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2—The Importance of Mentors

How important is mentorship to small business owners? To find out, Kabbage, Inc., a global financial services, technology and data platform serving small businesses, surveyed business owners and found out:

Only 22% of small businesses had mentors when they started their business. Another 17% indicated they have an advisor, which suggests a paid relationship for consulting and advice. This leaves a wide percentage of business owners—63%—not pursuing professional guidance at the onset of their business.

92% of small businesses agree mentors have a direct impact on growth and the survival of their business. A previous Kabbage report revealed 84% of small businesses reach profitability in the first four years of business, with 68% attaining profitability in the first year. The early years of any business is a crucial make-or-break period and most small business owners agree mentors are vital to success.

The study shows 61% of small business owners mentor others, and 58% specifically mentor younger entrepreneurs. This shows small business owners are taking the time and finding value in giving their time to mentor, and younger entrepreneurs are seeking mentors to help them. This was most prevalent in industries such as real estate, property management and construction.

Of the 63% of small business owners who don’t have a mentor, 89% wish they did. This highlights a need among the entrepreneurial community to easily find and connect with others that can deliver actionable advice and value to a business.

“A great mentor is someone who provides objective advice, provides counsel from a fresh perspective, is willing to collaborate, listen and learn, as well as remind you of your goals, your purpose and what you’re working so hard to achieve,” says Amy Zimmerman, Kabbage’s Head of People Operations. “Businesses have a great opportunity to provide everyone in a company the benefit of mentors—from the founders to the interns—as the data shows it’s critical for success. We began offering this perk at Kabbage and have seen great success as it can be a low-cost benefit of which businesses can take advantage today.”

If you’re an existing or aspiring small business owner looking for a mentor, you can find one for free at SCORE.org.

 

3—How Businesses Use Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories, launched in 2016, are certainly successful—about 300 million people a day use them. According to 99firms, on average, users under age 25 spend around 32 minutes a day on Instagram, while older age groups spend more than 24 minutes per day on the social platform.

Numbers like these mean your business has an opportunity, by using Instagram, to reach a broader audience and promote your brand, taking engagement to a whole new level. Already, according to Instagram, 1 in 3 of the most viewed Stories are from businesses.

Check out the infographic below from 99firms to learn more about how other businesses use Instagram Stories to give voice and personality to their brand.

 

4—5 Ways Your Sales Team Can Get More Out of the Company’s CRM

Guest post by Xavier Musy, Chief Architect of Swiftpage

CRM platforms are already firmly ensconced within the sales technology and strategies of most small and midsized businesses. Sales teams have been using their CRMs for basic, day-to-day-functions—such as managing customer information and tracking purchase history—for decades. In that time, CRMs have faithfully served as a place to store data, log notes, and manage contacts.

But while sales reps have long been using the platform’s core features, most aren’t getting as much out of their CRMs as they could be. Even more concerning, some businesses could be using the wrong CRM altogether.

Technology is helping CRM platforms become more sophisticated, and in order for businesses to remain competitive, they must keep pace with their new and emerging capabilities.

They can do so by utilizing the following features:

Work faster with voice activation: Voice-activated technology is reshaping the consumer universe. Though it was once cast aside as a trendy novelty feature, voice is now serving as an invaluable tool in the CRM space. The technology acts as a virtual assistant that helps sales and customer service teams access important customer data with a simple voice command.

This technology is crucial in the fast-paced and time-sensitive sales world, where a timely response to a customer inquiry can make or break a sale. If you’re still hesitant to embrace voice-activated technology, consider this: by 2020, about 50% of searches will be voice searches. And even if you don’t capitalize on this revolutionary technology, your competitors will.

The power of predictive technology: Consider it a Magic 8 ball that actually works—predictive technology helps sales teams determine their next best moves. It maps out sales sequencing, customer behaviors, and buying trends.

Predictive analytics in a CRM benefit sales teams in a number of ways. The technology helps reps make educated predictions—thus minimizing risks—on which products to promote and which customers to target. Furthermore, it allows businesses to create more successful marketing campaigns through tailored content.

The number of businesses adopting predictive technology is fast growing; the global predictive analytics market is expected to reach $14.95 billion by 2023. It’s is a powerful tool, and one small and midsized businesses should utilize to position themselves for future success.

Track interactions with ease: You’re probably already using CRM to track customer interactions, and might think you’re up to speed on that front. But even if you’re using the platform as a tracking tool, you may not be taking the function as far as you could be.

CRMs can—and should—be used to log multiple elements of the customer experience. You should be using it to record response times, monitor retention rates and analyze buying patterns.

Customer interactions are incredibly valuable, and the more effectively sales teams track them, the more likely they are to forge strong relationships.

Go mobile or go home: CRM platforms have been offering mobile capabilities for the past decade, and most sales teams are already utilizing their platform’s on-the-go powers.

But just as you’ve ditched that Nokia flip phone, we hope you’ve become more sophisticated with your mobile CRM strategy, too. Today, the right mobile CRM solution is streamlined to make it easy for users to find the information they need remotely.

The latest cloud and mobile CRM technologies feature a user-friendly design that gives sales reps instant access to their most important data, even when they’re oceans away from the office. And as you probably already know, a business’s ability to instantly address customer needs puts it in a prime position to make a sale.

Mobile CRM advancements are paying off. Research from Innoppl Technologies reveals that about 65 percent of sales reps who’ve adopted mobile CRM are achieving their sales goals; conversely, just 22 percent of reps using non-mobile CRM met those same targets.

GDPR compliance: The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an issue small businesses can’t afford to ignore. The legislation, which took effect May 25, requires all businesses with customers in the EU to comply with a complex and exhaustive set of data laws.

Becoming—and remaining—GDPR compliant can be challenging for resource-stretched small businesses. Fortunately, the right CRM can be of great assistance.

Businesses can use CRM to keep tabs on their customers’ privacy preferences, and to monitor how employees are using customer data. The right CRM can also restrict access for specific users to ensure employees only have access to data that’s relevant to their roles.

A recent study revealed only about half of surveyed businesses expected to be GDPR compliant by the deadline. If you’re among the many small businesses struggling to meet the new requirements, turn to your CRM for a little help.

Technology is continuing to reshape how businesses approach cultivating strong customer relationships. Sales reps must embrace these technological advancements to remain relevant in this competitive and ever-changing landscape. Embracing the latest features of your business’s CRM platform is a great way to do just that.

 

5—Photos Create Powerful Impressions

LinkedIn profiles are essential for finding partners, vendors or freelance assignments. So your profile needs to be complete, professional and engaging. That includes your photo—never underestimate the powerful impression a photo can make.

JDP analyzed 2,000 LinkedIn profile photos, across 11 industries, to see “who’s doing it best and who’s making us cringe.” Factors taken into consideration included: framing, lighting, resolution, attire, facial expression and photo origins (selfie, cropped from a group, professionally shot, etc.)

Take a look at the infographic below from JDP to make sure you’re making the best impression you can on LinkedIn.

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6—Retail Transformation: Are You Keeping Up?

Retail has transformed, and digital has become a more prominent force in the industry. This shift has largely been driven by changing consumer expectations for more omnichannel, personalized and engaging commerce experiences that move beyond a simple transaction.

In this new retail world, retailers need to constantly revamp their business models to stay relevant and competitive. This requires a focus on experience-driven commerce in which retailers create memorable interactions and shoppable moments for consumers across touchpoints. Retailers need to evaluate content strategies, personalization rules, marketing campaigns and use of emerging technologies.

What do consumers expect in their shopping experiences today? To find out Avionos surveyed consumers about their online shopping habits, preferences and expectations in the year ahead. The report details retail trends from a consumer perspective and offers strategic advice for how a marketer or e-commerce decisionmaker can gain a competitive edge.

Key findings include:

  • Search has replaced traditional browse and navigation methods:When browsing online, 66% of consumers begin their search on Amazon or Google.
  • Retailers need to have a digital and physical presence:63% prefer to purchase big-ticket items like electronics or furniture in a store.
  • Social media is an active commerce channel, but influencers aren’t:55% of consumers have made a purchase through a social media channel. However, 60% have never purchased a product promoted by a celebrity or social influencer.

To learn more about how consumer expectations in 2018 are driving transformation in the retail industry, download the Enabling Experience-Driven Commerce Anytime, Anywhere report today!

 

7—Small Business Website Security Report

Online security is a major challenge these days, especially for small businesses, which are often an easy target. Most business owners have little security expertise, operate on tight budgets, and lack the financial ability to implement sophisticated protection used by large corporations.

According to GoDaddy cybersecurity research, 67% of U.S. very small businesses (between one and five employees) spend between $1 and $500 per year on website security. And keeping up on website vulnerabilities is a challenge: Only 30% of operators surveyed by GoDaddy regularly check for vulnerabilities, while 40% rarely, if ever, check.

Key findings from GoDaddy’s report include:

  • Of the 1,000 very small businesses surveyed, nearly half reported suffering a financial loss due to hacking. One in 8 say the loss was greater than $5,000.
  • Three in 10 small businesses that suffered a cyberbreach reported they had to inform customers and clients.
  • It’s not enough to clean up compromised files, hackers regularly create ‘backdoors’ on a compromised website, so they can secretly re-enter a platform even after a file cleanup.
  • Malware/computer viruses and phishing are the most common types of attack and can target any aspect of a business.
  • Of the 65,000 global website cleanup requests, half involved outdated software on the most commonly used platform and tools, WordPress and its content management system (CMS).

 

8—Big Tech Comes to the SMB Main Street

Guest post by Eric Friedrichsen,  Senior Vice President and General Manager, Mid-Market and Ecosystems, SAP North America.

When you’re a small business owner and you’re confronted with terms like big data, omnichannel solutions and machine learning, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The fact is many growing companies operate on razor-thin margins—that’s why it comes as no surprise that big priorities like staying ahead of the competition, making your customers happy and keeping the lights on take precedent over the intricacies of the latest technologies.

Frankly, there aren’t enough hours in the day for small business owners to learn about new technologies or how these tools can help their businesses grow. With new updates hitting the market at record speeds, it can be a bit daunting to think about adopting the latest complex technologies. They want something that’s easy to buy, easy to deploy and easy to use.  It’s really that simple. Small and midsize companies don’t have time to wait to realize a return on their tech investments, they need to see value quickly.

Now, due to increased cloud adoption and never-before-seen automation, it’s possible. Emerging technology has shifted roles and become the “great equalizer” for SMBs rather than a velvet rope keeping them out of the growth party—and it doesn’t even have to be complicated. Other technologies are enhancing the way that people are doing face-to-face business and providing up-leveled customer experience at scale—allowing businesses to retain the same personal touches that make them unique, even as they grow. Many might think the move to digital comes at the expense of these personal touches, but in fact that’s not true. Growing companies are learning they can indeed “have their cake and eat it too.”

Take Valley National Bank, for example. The bank, one of the few remaining family-owned, multigenerational independent banks in northeastern Oklahoma, got its start in 1982 by an entrepreneur who had a vision of helping businesses that larger banks may have difficulty serving. He also saw the “human element” as a key foundation for the company’s success.

Valley National Bank recently began to see the need to digitize core tasks, such as deposits, loans and customer account management. They were also outgrowing their legacy systems and they knew they needed to get on a path to digital transformation quickly.  They recently chose SAP for Banking and SAP S/4HANA to enable real-time, fully integrated banking to improve the way they run and operate.

With this digital-first mindset, Valley National Bank will not only become flexible and begin to automate everyday job functions, but they’ll have a 360-dgree view of their customer and dramatically improve the way they engage with them. This will allow the bank to provide their customers with a modern financial experience.

Today, real-time, consumer insights and data for a small and medium-sized bank is no longer impossible if you have the right technology.

It doesn’t just stop with banking. In the Sports and Entertainment industry, the ability to maintain and enhance customer touchpoints is vital for growth and success in today’s digital economy, and you can’t focus on your customer if you can’t efficiently scale and run your day to day operations.

The iconic College Football Hall of Fame (CFHOF) was able to reach even more fans by implementing cloud technology that helped them reduce by 50% the time they used to spend on reporting. The organization attracts hundreds of thousands of fans each year, therefore running their business on spreadsheets was no longer an option. They wanted a solution, however, that would be easy to use for their employees and easy to deploy with IT support and expertise from the right company and partner. No one can really do this on their own—whether your big, midsize or small—and recognizing that is key during the process. In the end, the CFHOF has greater agility and scalability with a robust ERP solution implemented in less than three months. They can now add new entities and products more easily and their people feel empowered to support operations.

At the end of the day, guts and resolve are what make businesses grow. By offering solutions that help entrepreneurs solve real-world challenges, we are enabling new, innovative ideas and fresh products and services that make the world run better—like ensuring you’re focused on getting families a home or creating unique experiences for football fans.

Technology will never replace the need for human innovation; you can’t automate entrepreneurial DNA or replicate the spark from of a good idea. However, it can free up some of the time and energy it takes to run the day to day and make sure that business owners can get back to what’s important for them.

 

9—Do Your Employees Have Side Jobs?

Chances are they do. In fact, 36% of employees have a side job in the gig economy, according to a new survey by Clutch, a leading B2B ratings and reviews firm.

But as many as 25% of them don’t tell their managers—creating a host of potential issues for employers. Even workers who don’t currently participate in the gig economy say they want to—17% are actively looking for a side job.

The study suggests businesses need to adjust to the growing number of gig economy workers, and evaluate their policies around employees having side jobs. Without formal policies in the workplace, experts say employees have little or no legal requirement to disclose their work in the gig economy.

“[If] you don’t expect the work to affect your primary job in any way, it’s not unreasonable to simply proceed without disclosing it,” says Alison Green, a management consultant who pens the Ask a Manager blog. “You’re not obligated to disclose everything you do outside of work.” Respondents apparently agree, because 25% of those with side gigs say they didn’t tell their managers.

Workers use side gigs to supplement income: Most workers in the gig economy have the same primary goal: earn extra income outside of their day jobs. Nearly 70% of gig workers identify income as the reason they work a side job. Gig workers often use that supplemental income to pay debts, increase savings, and spend on nonessentials such as travel. And the gig economy can also serve as a safeguard against unemployment, some workers say.

Companies can benefit from the gig economy: Although some employers might be wary of allowing their employees to take on additional jobs, many companies benefit from hiring gig workers. Nearly 60% of companies hire gig workers.

Companies can avoid the costs associated with recruitment and benefits by hiring freelance or contract workers for short-term projects or tasks that require specialized knowledge. Companies are most likely to hire gig economy workers for assistance with technical tasks; 28% rely on gig economy workers for development, analytics, and IT services.

The study findings strongly suggest that as the gig economy changes traditional norms surrounding work, companies must consider how the benefits and drawbacks impact their business.

 

10—You Can Win a $25,000 Prize Package

Independent We Stand invites both the public and business owners to help promote the importance and strong economic benefits of “buying local” through the eighth annual Indie Award. The contest provides a chance for the winning independent business to reinvest in themselves through a branding, advertising and public relations makeover valued at $25,000.

Getting involved is as easy as nominating locally owned small businesses that go above and beyond to support their communities through charitable donations and community outreach. The web-driven small business of the year contest also gives supporters the opportunity to acknowledge businesses that exceed customer service expectations and also grow their local economies.

“With small business optimism at a record high, consumers have a chance to boost that positive outlook even more through this contest,” says Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “We want to help bolster the efforts to grow small business, just like our members do every day in their communities, by giving customers a platform to recognize their favorite indie businesses. The bottom line: we all win when small businesses succeed and people buy local.”

Anyone can nominate a small business online. Voting begins as soon as a business is nominated. Consumers can vote a maximum of three times per 24 hour period from the same IP address. Any locally owned and operated business in the U.S. is eligible to enter the contest. Nominate and vote at IndieBizAward.com. The winner of the 2018 Indie Award will receive:

  • Branding, advertising and public relations makeover from independent advertising agency,The Meridian Group, valued at $25,000
  • $1,000 STIHL equipment certificate
  • Plaque to display at winner’s business
  • Public relations and social media recognition
  • Quarterfinalists receive an Independent We Stand Premium Membership, for life

Nominations and quarterfinalist voting runs through November 11. Semifinalist voting begins November 19 and ends on December 16. The announcement of the Indie Award winner will be made on December 19, 2018.

Sponsors include STIHL Inc.Do it Best Corp. and PPG Paints.

To nominate and vote for your favorite small business, visit www.IndieBizAward.com.

 

Quick Takes

11—Small Business Payments Spotlight

Bank of America Merchant Services, in partnership with Forrester, has just released the 2nd annual Small Business Payments Spotlight, an informative report exploring new findings related to commerce trends, fraud and security and consumer preferences. These insights are incredibly valuable for small businesses as they navigate their ability to evolve and grow in a fiercely competitive and changing environment.

At the core of the issue—consumers have fundamentally changed the way they shop for goods and services, thanks, in large part to technology evolving at breakneck speed. Small business owners who continue to adapt to these shifts in behavior and preferences are being rewarded with a growing, loyal customer base. On the other hand, small businesses set in their ways—and those failing to recognize the grave consequences of a customer data breach—risk going out of business.

Take a look at Small Business Payment Spotlight and learn what you need to do to stay competitive.

 

12—Does Social Media Affect the Hiring Process?

It seems like job hopping has become the new norm making it difficult for businesses to attract and retain top talent. But, the digital age has transformed the job search and hiring process, and social media has taken on a key role. Paychex surveyed job applicants and hiring managers to find out what most applicants are doing to clean up their social media and what hiring managers specifically check for when they’re doing research.

A quick look at the findings shows:

  • 67% of hiring managers say Facebook has the most incriminating information
  • 85% of hiring managers check an applicant’s Facebook before a job interview, while only 66% check LinkedIn profile, followed by 40% who check Instagram and Twitter
  • On average, hiring managers check candidates social media profiles 2.2 times each

You can check out the full study here: Social Engineering the Job Search

 

13—Event Manager’s Guide to  Planning an Event

Planning an event can be overwhelming if you’ve never successfully held one before. So before you plan your next event, check out this guide from The Photo Team.

 

14—The Importance of Office Design

What does today’s workforce look for in current and prospective employers. One important factor is the design of the office they work in. Capital One released new data recently to help shed light on the significance of office design, and found:

  • Flexibility is crucial:Professionals increasingly want to work at companies that accommodate a variety of work styles with flexible design, workspaces and hours. In fact, 85% of office professionals surveyed believe flexible workplace design is important and 83% say they have their best ideas when working in flexible space options.
  • Tech expectations:Employer expectations are high across the board, and technology is no exception. Most professionals (85%) across the country say it’s important their next employers be early adopters of technology and quick to invest in and implement new tech.
  • Location meets its match:When considering a new job, 66% of full-time professionals believe workplace design and environment is equally important or more important than office location.
  • Design elements in vogue:The most desired design elements for workspaces include: natural light (57%), easily reconfigurable furniture and spaces (37%), artwork and creative imagery (30%), collaborative spaces (30%), and a tie (25%) for bold colors and spaces for rest and relaxation.

Read more about the survey here.

 

Cool Tools

15—Bringing Enterprise Tools to SMBs

Guest post by Rainer Zinow, Senior Vice President: Product Management, Business One & Business ByDesign

To be able to react quickly and adapt with agility to new market conditions are key requirements for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in today’s economy. These abilities help businesses gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. It is SAP’s mission to lead our customers into a new era—the intelligent era—where the workforce can concentrate on higher value tasks.

SAP Business ByDesign is SAP’s cloud ERP software for mid-market businesses that takes the user on an insight-to-action journey.

The solution is a cloud ERP “suite in a box” for fast-growing mid-market businesses, to scale and compete without the complexity and cost. It connects every function across a company to time-tested best practices and in-depth analytics. Highlights include:

  • Streamlined end-to-end processes
  • Agility to quickly adapt for new opportunities
  • Real-time analytics included to help improve profits and efficiency

The SAP Business ByDesign 1808 release: With the new 1808 release, SAP Business ByDesign continues the insight-to-action journey with custom-tailored overview pages in combination with information-rich data sources and the ability to integrate Predictive Analytics. It now enables users to incorporate relevant insights into overview pages, that also come with pre-delivered content.

Moreover, the new release of SAP Business ByDesign supports companies to define the content of role-specific overview pages by key users—which can then be deployed to all affected users. Business users can adapt them even further to suit their specific needs.

In the current release, customers can access the relevant data within SAC and run smart Insights to identify key drivers regarding any delays. For example, is it happening with specific customers, sales agents, or simply with orders placed on a particular day of the week? (Just click this link to see how SAP Analytic Cloud and SAP Business ByDesign work together.)

Interested in leveraging this technology? Visit the SAP Business ByDesign Cloud area of sap.com. And more information about SAP Business ByDesign’s 1808 release highlights here.

 

16—Solutions for B2B Marketers to Reach Buyers

Demandbase, the leader in Account-Based Marketing (ABM), recently unveiled a next generation Targeting Solution, dramatically improving how B2B advertisers and marketers reach buyers. The new solution leverages Artificial Intelligence-powered intent data to more accurately identify and reach target buying committees. The Demandbase Targeting Solution also includes a new level of control and visibility for customers, exposing the real impact of media dollars in terms of accounts, opportunities and deals, rather than just impressions and clicks.

“B2B advertising has traditionally borrowed from B2C marketing technologies, resulting in a tradeoff between precision and scale, as well as a great deal of wasted advertising spend,” says Chris Golec, CEO of Demandbase. “Our new Targeting solution offers the scale of Google along with the precision of LinkedIn to deliver superior business results. This new offering will fundamentally change how B2B marketers measure the performance of their ABM investments.”

Demandbase’s Targeting Solution is offered in a subscription-based model with a new level of transparency on media cost, publisher performance and business results across the funnel. The AI-powered solution processes over 50 billion intent signals each month to target the right buyers while optimizing cost and performance. The Targeting Solution allows marketers and advertisers to:

  • Build and manage account-based audiences based on firmographic data and intent profiles
  • Create and execute advertising campaigns reaching accounts and their key buyers with personalized messaging
  • Measure advertising impact along with engagement, conversions and opportunities at the account level
  • Export audiences to data management platforms
  • Compare the performance of multiple advertising channels based on key ABM metrics
  • Improve SEO and paid search performance by discovering which keywords should be used for different business audiences

 

Business stock photo by ESB Basic/Shutterstock