14 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
I know it’s still September, but the holidays will be here before we know it. Posts 1-3 address the upcoming holiday season.
Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure (or both—very common around the holidays) smart small business owners want to save money. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) offers some great tips for getting the best deal on your hotel travel in the infographic below.
2—The Social Side of Holiday Shopping
G/O Digital has created a report on The Social Side of Holiday Shopping. Some interesting key findings:
- Holiday shoppers love local on social: 72% of respondents say they prefer to see local business’ ads on social media during the holidays, rather than national retailers.
- Consumers expect open communication during the holidays: 73% note at least some importance for local businesses to communicate with customers on social media during the holiday season.
For a free copy of the report go here.
3—Prepping for Holiday Email Marketing
Guest post by Marion Price, Holiday Marketing Specialist, iContact
- Try a gentle re-engagement campaign to inactive email subscribers to get your lists clean and ready for the holiday season. Growing and maintaining a healthy and engaged subscriber list of contacts invested in what you have to say requires consistency, dedication, and time. However, no matter how good you think your list is, over time, your open and click rates can decrease. The ramifications of low engagement are greater than you think. If you don’t watch your engagement rate, it can eventually lead to internet service providers (ISPs) filtering your emails out—even from the inboxes of contacts who legitimately subscribed. While having high list numbers is great, if a segment of your contacts doesn’t open your emails or click on your content, it’s best to decrease your volume of messages to the group, reassess the value of the content you are sending, or remove those contacts entirely.
- Make the email sign-up form on your website easy to find; ask for email addresses at the point of sale, offline and online. Catch your prospects at a time when they are most excited—the purchase. Take time to consider what could be essential information down the road for segmenting your list, such as product interest, geographic location, or previous purchases. A secondary step that is important, but often overlooked, is creating a welcome message that your new subscribers get as soon as they are added to your list. Welcome messages usually see open rates 4x higher, and click rates 5x higher than typical bulk promotions, so they are a great place to include a coupon for the subscriber’s next purchase.
- Set up your data collection and analysis process before you start holiday sending, so you can track your campaign performance over the coming months. Keeping tabs on your conversion rate, list growth, web traffic, and engagement on an ongoing basis will help you determine what promotions are performing well or falling short, or having technical issues. Managing your new subscriber data as you collect it helps you identify your various audiences so you can adjust your campaigns to maximize personalization (an example of this would be if you get an influx by a certain age group or location). Many people pay attention to just opens and clicks in an email but that’s not proof of campaign success. Remember, the most important thing is conversion, whether that is a sale, donation, or lead acquisition, so all metrics should point toward increasing that number.
4—State of Lending for Mid-Sized Businesses
Bibby Financial Services recently released survey results that examine the who, what and why of commercial finance needs and challenges for financial decision makers. This survey is the second in an ongoing series of quarterly surveys designed to capture cash flow outlook, business confidence and seasonal topics for these mid-sized business decision makers (BDM’s).
A few top line results:
- The survey shows 74% of BDM’s plan to seek working capital in the next 12 months, an increase of 30% over the Q1 2016 survey
- Growth strategies top the list of funding needs at 57%, a 19% increase over the Q1 survey.
- Additional reasons for accessing capital include new equipment (48%) and technology (47%).
- 50% believe their abilities to grow their businesses is impeded by a lack of access to funding
- 38% explored asset-based lending (ABL) as a funding solution
- 61% said rapid technology changes left them with an unexpected need for funding.
- 42% report they’ve seen an economic slowdown since the Fed increased rates
- 29% are keeping an eye on future rate increases, fearing that potential hikes will make it more expensive for them to obtain working capital.
- They share an overall positive view of the economy: 1 in 2 mid-size businesses believe the economy is healthy and well-positioned for growth; only 12% report a negative outlook.
- 63% hit benchmarks for growth and performance over the past 12 months, and another third stated they were close to meeting these goals.
Check out the infographic below for more information.
5—Welcome to the SMB Zone
Microsoft Stores, which already offer free resources for entrepreneurs, now have dedicated SMB Zones offering small business owners hands-on access to business-grade technology and technical guidance tailored expressly with them in mind. The SMB Zones are also a great place for Microsoft partners to connect with their customers and showcase the latest Microsoft products as well as their own value-added services.
Plus, Microsoft Stores launched Accelerate Your Business, a leasing program designed to simplify the decision-making process and ensure small business owners have access to the latest in business-grade devices, warranty options, and in-store and online training and support.
At the more than 100 stores and microsoftstore.com small business owners can take advantage of various offerings, such as Answer Desk, Surface Membership, in-store Small Business Academy workshops and customized events to build their businesses.
Microsoft wants to help the millions of small business owners beat the 50-50 odds and stay in business longer than five years.
Check out this blog from Microsoft’s Cindy Bates for more information.
6—Best Days of the Week to Send Emails
New data from Yes Lifecycle Marketing’s cross-channel marketing platform Yesmail360 shows emails sent on Thursdays spark the greatest engagement, such as open rates and unique click rates. However, emails sent on weekends perform better in terms of conversions.
The Q2 2016 Benchmark Report: Day of the Week Email Performance, showed open rates for emails sent on Thursdays were 14% higher than the Q2 average, unique click rates were 41% higher, and click-to-open (CTO) rates were 24% above average. Despite this, Thursday conversion rates were among the lowest, falling 23% below the Q2 average. Emails sent on Saturdays and Sundays resulted in conversion rates 60% and 40% higher than average, respectively, suggesting that marketers should capitalize on weekend campaigns to convert the most consumers.
Other findings include:
- Wednesdays sparked the highest average order value (AOV) at $118.62 for retail brands.
- Thursday was the top engagement day for the past three quarters.
- While overall open rates have remained fairly consistent, unique click rates have fallen by 18% year-over-year while CTO rates have dropped by 16% over the same period.
7—The Office of the Future
Guest post by Adrian Mezenberg, Vice President of Product Management, StarTech.
What Will the Office of the Future Look Like? It’s already easy to see what the old sci-fi movies got wrong about the future workplace: Offices today aren’t just classic workplaces with more futuristic technology. While the technological advances have been incredible over the past few decades, one of the biggest changes has been in the nature of work itself. There’s no longer a clear line between home and office, and teamwork is more important than ever.
Today, people can work anywhere—at an office building, at their kitchen tables, on a commuter train, in an airplane. Another huge change is how much more collaborative work is today. Modern technology needs to enable teamwork anywhere, anytime with connected, flexible and portable solutions.
Next-Level Connectivity: In a knowledge and data economy, people need tools to work with high-resolution, high-bandwidth and graphically intensive images as well as video and CAD drawings. Clinicians require fast access to data and high-resolution media. That’s why organizations are adopting disruptive technologies like Thunderbolt 3, which facilitates single cable docking of laptops to multiple displays and peripherals.
In the future, offices will likely rely on WiGig wireless connectivity, which operates in the 60GHz frequency range and can transmit data at speeds up to 7Gbps. WiGig could eventually yield speeds of up to 25Gbps, according to analysts, and when integrated into products like docking stations, it could be a next-level connectivity tool for the offices of tomorrow.
More Flexible, More Mobile: The blurring of the line between the home and office has resulted in a greater demand for flexibility and comfort in working environments. Ergonomic workstations help people stay healthier, including desks that enable people to work while sitting or standing and flexible mounted displays.
Universal docking stations that can accommodate any laptop or mobile phone brand into a fully functional workstation offer maximum workplace flexibility. In the future, employees will increasingly demand advanced mobility tools to keep them as productive on the road as in the office.
Devices that Go Anywhere, Do Everything: A highly mobile workforce demands device portability, which explains why devices have been getting smaller and lighter. This trend will continue, but device utility and connectivity will also persist as core user requirements. Users need to run more sophisticated business processes on the go, including editing and presenting capabilities. Travel A/V adapters with the latest I/O profiles (like USB-C) will become increasingly essential as road warriors demand connectivity and full functionality everywhere.
In addition to mobile devices that function as workstations, the cables that connect these devices to peripherals are evolving, such as the USB-C connector, an increasingly popular, future-proof solution. A standard connector that can carry multiple technology protocols (like DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3), USB-C will be adopted by more manufacturers so users can connect universally from anywhere.
Making Meetings Simple: Like devices, meeting spaces are also evolving due to workforce mobility. In tomorrow’s office, meeting spaces will accommodate onsite workers as well as colleagues and customers located in the field. High-tech solutions like multiple displays and sophisticated conferencing systems will simplify and streamline the meeting experience for everyone.
Mid-20th century visions of the future workplace focused on devices, and that vision was borne out in part by the advanced technology that powers businesses today. Technology will continue to play a starring role as the workplace evolves. But the workforce will continue to evolve as well, so look for a future that is more connected, flexible and mobile in the years to come.
8—The Perils of Information Overload
We’re constantly being deluged by information—2.5 million emails are sent every second! How do you avoid drowning in too much information? Check out the blog from sales-i and the infographic below.
9—State of Domains
The following are the top-line numbers:
- The total number of registered domain names rose to 334.6 million worldwide across all top-level domains
- 9 million domain names were added to the Internet in Q2 2016
- Domain name registrations have grown by 38.2 million, or 12.9%, year over year
- The .com and .net TLDs reached a combined total of approximately 143.2 million domain names in the domain name base in Q2
- The base of registered names in .com equaled 127.5 million names, while .net equaled 15.8 million names
- Verisign processed 8.6 million new domain name registrations for .com and .net, as compared to 8.7 million domain names for the same period in 2015.
10—HR Tips: Preparing for Fall
Tips from ADP
Summer ends this week—and open enrollment is approaching. It’s a great time for employers to shift their focus to your fall HR priorities. So what can you do to get ready for a transition from a slower summer to a busy year-end?
- Prepaing for open enrollment. Use this time to educate your employees of the different benefits options offered, as they consider changes to their benefits package.
- Readying for ACA reporting. 2016 was the first year requiring employers to report health insurance information to the IRS. With deadlines in February and March, fall is a good time to start gathering information in order to accurately report in 2017.
- Communicating voting leave policy. Because this year is a national election year, you should consider your state’s voting leave policies. Thirty states have adopted laws governing voting leave, and employees may request time off to vote in fall elections. Now is the time to communicate that policy.
- Providing school activities leave. With school back in session, employees may request time off to attend parent-teacher conferences and school activities. This provides a good opportunity to educate employees about your paid time off offerings, and remind them of your policy on remaining vacation days.
11—Conference for Nurse Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurial thinking can be applied in almost every industry. According to the National Nurses in Business Association, now, more than ever, “nurses need to protect the longevity and financial future of their careers. With the constant upheaval and changes in the health care system, it is essential that nurses diversify their knowledge to incorporate sound business practice knowledge.” The Association notes that many nurses today are choosing the entrepreneurial path to coincide with their nursing careers.
To help the NNBA is holding its Nurse Entrepreneurship and Career Alternatives Conference October 14-16th in Las Vegas at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.
This year’s theme is “Advancing Nurses Through Entrepreneurship” and is perfect for all practicing nurses, aspiring nurse entrepreneurs, and current nurse entrepreneurs who wish to grow their business.
12—Cash Flow Made Easier
Palo Alto Software, the world leader in small business planning and financial management software, just announced a new feature for its renowned flagship product LivePlan. The new “What If” scenario forecasting feature was created to help small business owners, 44% of whom say a top challenge facing their business in 2016 is cash flow management. Using this feature you can see what your bottom line would look like if you added a new employee, raised prices or invested in new equipment.
Company CEO Sabrina Parsons says, “One of the best ways a small business owner can gain insight into how to grow their businesses is by developing strategic forecasts which include ‘What If’ Scenarios. Combining these financial models with the information LivePlan has on industry benchmarks gives the business owner a great vantage point to see where their business can improve. Quite often, small business owners fail to realize that fast growth—while a ‘best-case scenario’—creates an increased pressure for cash, and often requires a small business owner to be prepared with additional financing.”
LivePlan has also added seven additional metrics to its Benchmarking feature. The new Benchmarks provide deeper insights allowing users to compare productivity metrics like monthly revenue per employee, monthly net profit per employee, as well as spending metrics like percentage of revenue spent on marketing, to similar businesses within a user’s industry. Small business owners can create a strategic forecast, iterate on that forecast with “What If” scenarios, and then see how their financials stack up against industry standards.
For more information about how LivePlan can help your business, visit LivePlan.com.
13–A One-Stop Portal for Print Apps
In November HP Inc. will launch a marketplace for HP and third party printing and imaging applications. The HP JetAdvantage On Demand site is designed for HP resellers and customers to easily purchase, deploy and manage applications through the cloud.
JetAdvantage On Demand is the first portal in the industry to offer a marketplace for first and third party software as a service (SaaS) apps with integrated services for managing apps, users and devices. This enables an app store procurement experience along with easy, consistent deployment and management that doesn’t require the expense of server infrastructure. JetAdvantage On Demand is designed to support customers with multi-vendor print environments as most apps in the marketplace will work with HP and non-HP printers alike.
Every app offered through the marketplace is HP Security-Certified, meaning the apps comply with data privacy best practices such as:
- Security threat analysis and mitigation
- Data privacy standards compliance
- Static code analysis
- Appropriate solution controls
In addition, sensitive data is protected through business-grade encryption in transit and while stored in the cloud. Flexible authentication options help guard against unauthorized access to information.
JetAdvantage On Demand will offer one-stop shopping for many of the top imaging and printing apps. At launch, the portal will include two existing JetAdvantage On Demand apps, JetAdvantage Private Print and JetAdvantage Insights, along with new apps from HP and Fenestrae. Additional SaaS apps from HP and third parties will be added to the marketplace over time.
14—New End-to-End Billing Solution
FinancialForce, a leading Cloud ERP provider on the Salesforce Platform, recently announced FinancialForce Billing Central, which it says is “the only cloud application that unifies billing, revenue management, and accounting operations on one single platform, building seamless processes and providing end-to-end visibility across the customer lifecycle.”
Modern businesses are increasingly shifting from perpetual selling to service and subscription models. A new survey from CFO Magazine revealed that 70% of CFOs say more than half of their revenue now comes from services, which includes professional services, subscription-based services, service-level agreements, managed services and usage-based contract. And 28% of the CFOs indicate all of their companies’ revenues are services-related. Despite this major shift in business models, most ERP and billing systems haven’t kept pace and do not support modern customer engagement.
At the same time, the shift to services and the importance of subscription renewals has placed an even greater emphasis on how customer experience and success impacts overall business growth and profitability. CFO Magazine also reported that 34% of CFOs believe they should become more engaged in customer satisfaction, retention, and renewals and 36% think they should be more involved in product/service development.
With Billing Central, FinancialForce customers will now be able to:
- Consolidate billing sources across multiple customer contract types
- Support tier and volume-based pricing
- Seamlessly Integrate with Salesforce CRM for 360-degree customer visibility
- Visualize the entire customer lifecycle – from opportunity to renewal
- Leverage real time cloud reporting for revenue and customer analytics
- Gain full audit and control of revenue sources
- Avoid duplication of data and objects in Salesforce CRM
Billing Central enables businesses to benefit from a single cloud platform strategy and manage customer billing on the same platform that sales, services and customer support staff are using—for complete customer lifecycle visibility, from opportunity through to renewal.