business

16 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

*I’ll be taking a small break until after Labor Day for this column! See you in September!

1—Web Design Trends

When’s the last time you redesigned your website or gave it a facelift? While you likely incorporated the trendy designs of that time, does your site look a little old? Web design  trends and techniques change quickly these days—and you need to keep up.

Check out the 7 web design trends that will dominate this year in the infographic below from Branex.

 

2— Bad Google Reviews Costlier to Small Businesses Than Yelp or Facebook

Womply, a marketing and CRM software provider for SMBs recently published its Impact of Online Reviews on Small Business Revenue study, the first comprehensive look at the correlations between online review patterns and sales revenue and American small businesses.

Among the major findings, the study reveals that low ratings on Google are more damaging to small businesses than poor ratings on Yelp or Facebook. Companies with an average Google star rating of 1 to 1.5 average 33% less revenue per year than the average business. For comparison, businesses with the same star rating on Yelp or Facebook average 19% and 9% less yearly revenue than the average business, respectively.

The findings, which you can find on Womply.com shed light on a number of questions facing small businesses, including:

“Every business is more successful when they can make data-driven decisions, but small businesses have historically not had access to good data,” says Womply Founder and CEO Toby Scammell. “This groundbreaking study ensures that small business owners don’t have to rely on conjecture when making critical decisions about how to manage their online presence and engage with their customers online.”

Other key findings:

  • It pays to have an open dialogue: Businesses that reply to at least 25% of their reviews average 35% more revenue than the average business.
  • Recent reviews have more value: Businesses with more than nine “fresh” reviews (reviews posted in the past 90 days) earn 52% more revenue than the average business. Additionally, businesses with 25 or more fresh reviews earn 108% more than average.
  • 5-star ratings aren’t all they’re cracked up to be: The star-rating sweet spot for revenue is between 3.5 and 4.5 stars. In fact, 5-star businesses actually earn less on average than 1-star businesses.
  • It’s okay to have a handful of detractors: Businesses that average 35-50% negative reviews earn nearly the same as the average business.
  • Response rate matters: 75% of small businesses don’t respond to any reviews, but businesses that reply to more than 20% of their reviews earn 42% more revenue than businesses that don’t respond at all. Consequently, businesses that reply to at least half their reviews earn $166,000 more in annual revenue than businesses that don’t reply to any reviews.
  • More is better: Businesses with more than the average number of reviews (83) earn 82% more annual revenue than businesses with review counts below the average. In addition, businesses with 200+ reviews earn twice as much in revenue compared to the average business.
  • More profiles claimed equals more revenue: Businesses that claim their free listings  on at least three of the major review sites (e.g. Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor) average $107,000 more annual revenue than a typical business, and $179,000 more than businesses that don’t claim their listings on any review sites, a 60% swing in revenue.
  • Consumers are kinder than you think: Nationally, 81% of online reviews for a typical business are positive.

Of all small business categories, Americans are kindest in online reviews to chiropractors (95% positive ratings), followed by religious organizations (92%), art galleries (91%) and dance schools (91%). Americans are the harshest to taxi and shuttle services (65% positive ratings), followed by hotels and motels (67%), real estate businesses (67%), and auto wash and detail business (67%).

“This study,” says Scammell, “gives small businesses insight into where to spend their efforts online.”

 

3—Helping Small Businesses Digitize

Let’s face it, the best way to increase your company’s efficiency and productivity is to go digital. Adobe just introduced some products to help you do just that. Adobe Sign for small business, delivers enterprise-level e-signature capabilities designed expressly for small businesses.

Small business employees rank paper-based processes as a top impediment to business efficiency, with 75% saying they still sign documents with pen and paper, according to new research from Adobe. That’s crazy!

I saw a demo of Adobe Sign and it was powerful, yet simple to implement. Adobe says when combined with its other market-leading document technologies, (Adobe Scan and Adobe Acrobat) Adobe Sign for small business will help you “digitize legacy work practices that rely on signatures, like customer onboarding, contracts and approvals, payments and invoices, and much more…Adobe Sign for small business now completes the toolbox for small companies to fully digitize their businesses.”

Plus, if you’re still in the startup phase,  Adobe Sign is integrated into the Acrobat Reader desktop app, so if you can Acrobat Reader installed, you can send two documents for e- signature each month, free of charge.

Features of Adobe Sign include:

Sign up customers directly from your site: Adobe Sign allows you to take any existing PDF form and automatically convert it to an online web form, giving your customers a modern, completely digital interaction with your brand.

Let customers sign and pay for services in a single step: Consumers do not like having to take numerous steps to complete a purchase. When you ask them to sign a contract and then redirect them to yet another form so they can pay, you risk losing the purchase altogether. One sure way to lose new customers is to put them through too many steps to complete a purchase. Adobe Sign is integrated with Braintree, a PayPal service, so it’s easy to collect payments from customers when they fill out and sign a form.

Bulk send a single form to hundreds at once: Small companies need to send a standard agreement to multiple recipients for signature. But sending them individually wastes time and makes it harder to track responses. Adobe Sign automates the process and allows you to collect tens to hundreds of signatures at once with the click of a button, and easily track who has signed the form.

If you, like many small businesses, are drowning in paperwork, think of Adobe Sign as a lifesaver. For additional resources:

See the infographic below for more details.

 

4—Is Office Relocation a Good Thing for Small Businesses?

Most employees say the benefits of office relocation outweigh the challenges, according to a new Clutch survey. Businesses typically move office spaces due to their growth or changing needs. To ensure a smooth transition smooth, you need to be communicative about the progress of the new office search.

“It is important for each organization to put someone in charge of the move who will keep communication open and transparent [and] who will also come up with ideas to make the transition fun,” says Leslie Saul, owner of Leslie Saul & Associates, an architect and interior design firm in Cambridge, Mass.

Office Relocation Distracts Employees, So Take Time to Collect Feedback: Businesses that are positive and open about the office relocation can make employees see the move as positive, too. However, distraction is inevitable when a business moves, and it will take time for employees to adjust to a new space—67% of employees say they found office relocation challenging, despite the overall benefits of the move, and 30% call moving a distraction.

All Star Cleaning Services in Fort Collins, CO moved from a 1,500-square-foot to a 5,000-square-foot office space last year. While employees now appreciate the larger space, they were initially frustrated with the move. “What was supposed to take 3 weeks ended up talking almost 3 months before we were able to fully move into the remodeled areas,” General Manager Ajia Holiday says. “Trying to answer phones and give solid customer service while people are [installing] a floor above your head can be a very stressful work environment.”

The company lost some employees as a result of the stress of the move. The employees who stayed, however, know the move was necessary for the growing business.

New Office Spaces Give Employees More Comfort, Space, and Productivity: Most employees say they received new perks when their company moved office spaces, including more comfort and space. The top benefits of office relocation for employees were a more comfortable space (67%), more space to accomplish tasks (61%), a more visually appealing space (50%), and improved productivity (48%).

If you’re thinking about moving, look for an office space that offers new or different amenities to employees. This helps build enthusiasm among workers.

 

5—Customer Service Expectations

Glady just released its 2019 Customer Service Expectations Report.

Highlights:

Expectations are Outpacing Reality  

  • 86% of consumers expect that when they follow up on an issue (whether via the same channel, or a different one), the next agent should be aware of their past conversations. However, only 24% experienced this expectation as a reality.
    • This expectation extends to a physical store as well, with 2 in 3 consumers expecting agents on the phone or digital channels to know their previous interactions in-store, and vice versa.

Generation Z: Born to Omnichannel

  • They’re the only generation that uses email (58%) more than the phone (56%) to interact with companies.
  • They’re 1.5x more likely to contact customer service more than 10 times a year compared to Gen Xers, and 2.5x more likely than boomers, giving these companies a few more opportunities to engage.

Read their blog to learn about more key trends and statistics here.

 

6—Micro Businesses are Hurting

Small and micro businesses in the U.S. saw significant signs of declining revenue growth in Q1 2019, continuing a downward trend since 2017, according to a research report released from Invoice2go. Less than 30% say they plan to hire any new employees or add any subcontractors this year.

A review of invoiced dollar amounts from Invoice2go U.S.-based users over the past three years, reveals slowing growth in 2018 (as compared to 2017) and negative growth when comparing Q1 2019 to the same period in 2018. Specifically, the YoY growth rate across industry sectors dropped from 14% in 2017 to about 3% in 2018. And numbers from Q1 2019 showed a (negative) -3% growth rate compared to about 4% growth in Q1 2018.

Such negative growth raises concerns for the small business economy especially if the downward trend continues through Q2 2019 and beyond. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

“Small business [are] truly the backbone of the economy, so taking a critical data-based look at what’s really happening according to the numbers is an important indicator for the country as a whole,” says Greg Waldorf, CEO of Invoice2go, which primarily serves 1-2-person businesses. “And from what we are seeing in our own users’ invoicing activity, it’s hard to deny some clear signs pointing toward a downturn if not possible recession on the horizon.”

Hottest Growth States & Sectors: Which micro business sectors and U.S. states grew the most (in terms of invoiced dollar amounts between 2016-2018) or suffered the most losses?

The most growth

Outdoor services (landscaping, gardening, pest control) up 11%,

  • Construction (up 10%)
  • Rhode Island (up 18%)
  • Hawaii & Idaho (both up 15%)

The least growth

  • Arts & Recreation (2% growth)
  • Technical Services (2% growth).
  • Educational Services (down -1%)

There’s more information in the full report.

 

7—Boost Efficiency & Audience Engagement with Conversational AI

Guest post Jeremy Wood, Vice President Product Marketing, Hootsuite 

Users are spending more time messaging. This shift from public to private spaces is eye-opening for many reasons, not the least of which is the profound impact these changes are having on consumer expectations. A survey cited in Hootsuite’s 2019 Social Trends Report shows 90% of consumers would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses.

One of the primary benefits of using chatbots in one-to-one communications tools like messaging is scale. Bots are able to boost efficiency by answering simple questions and guiding the customer through more transactional exchanges, freeing up team members to focus on more complex customer needs. According to Facebook, the expectation of an immediate response may even help explain people’s rising interest in bots: U.S. conversation on Facebook around chatbots grew 5.6x in a year.

Bots, however, can be used beyond the expected sales and customer service use case and extend across the entire marketing funnel to create awareness, engage and re-engage customers.

Tips to getting started with chatbots

1—Start simple and choose one key priority: Whether you want to use a bot for customer service to help automate repetitive and transactional exchanges with customers, or incorporate chatbots into Facebook messenger ads to engage or re-engage customers, it’s important to start simple and focus initially on one key priority your chatbot can help solve.

2—Decide who is going to build the bot: Once you know what your bot will do, you need to decide if you will build it yourself, either internally or using a DIY platform, or get support from a bot provider.

3—Evolve your chatbot strategy: Analyze to determine your chatbot’s success based on your key objectives. From there you can develop a more holistic chatbot strategy informed by what you’ve learned. Conversational AI is evolving very quickly, a clear initial focus with clearly defined goals will help develop a set of internal best practices to inform other chatbot activations.

 

8—Remote Work On the Rise

The number of people telecommuting in the U.S. increased 159% between 2005 and 2017, according to new data based on an analysis of American Community Survey data by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs. The data shows 3.4% of the total U.S. workforce currently telecommutes, up from 2.9% in 2015. “Telecommuters/remote workers” refer to non-self-employed people who principally work from home at least half-time.

“Remote work has grown steadily since 2005 as more companies of all types—private, public, nonprofit, and startup—recognize the bottom-line benefits of integrating remote work into their business strategies,” says Sara Sutton, Founder, and CEO of FlexJobs. And Sutton expects that trend to continue due to “improvements to technology and increasing demands from employees in a tight labor market.”

Findings include:

  • Between 2016 and 2017 remote work grew 7.9%
  • Over the last 5 years, remote work has grown 44%
  • Over the last 10 years, remote work has grown 91%
  • 7 million people in the U.S. currently telecommute, up from 3.9 million in 2015

“Talent shortages are fueling the growth of workplace flexibility right now because not only is it one of the most sought-after benefits among job seekers today, it also expands the talent pool by allowing employers to hire the best and the brightest from around the world,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics.

Take a look at the 2019 Remote Work Statistics Report, which offers additional data around the value of remote work to companies, employees, and the environment.

 

9—Employees Less Likely to Stay at a New Job after a Bad Onboarding Experience

Hibob, an HR tech platform that helps high-growth companies engage with their employees and develop their culture, recently released the findings of its employee onboarding study, showing 64% of new employees are less likely to stay at a job after a negative onboarding experience. This is especially important to consider as the hiring market continues to be competitive, with 40% of employees expected to quit their jobs this year.

Of these employees, some of the most important to consider are millennials since they’re the true future of the workplace. Research conducted by Gallup found 60% of millennials say they are open to a different job opportunity, likely because 55% feel like they are not engaged at work. In other words, if businesses want to retain young talent, they need to ensure an engaging, positive workplace experience from the first day of employment.

“The quitting economy is a serious issue facing businesses across the United States, and it’s showing no signs of stopping. One of the best ways to combat this issue is by taking charge of company culture and rethinking how HR strategies can protect businesses while keeping employees happy,” says Ronni Zehavi, co-founder and CEO of Hibob. “From our survey, we’ve learned that new hires want transparency and value the human side of the onboarding process, where they can be set up for success while organically making friends.”

What New Hires Want From Their Onboarding Experiences

  • Employees often feel mislead by job descriptions.More than 25% of employees say they didn’t receive enough information about their jobs before accepting the offer. And only 40% of employees say their current jobs completely reflect how the position was described during the interview process.
  • New hires prefer an organic onboarding process.Of the new hires surveyed, 33% dread adapting to office politics and personalities more than learning protocol or filing onboarding paperwork. About half (49%) of employees believe the best way to get acclimated to a new job is by making friends in the workplace and would rather make friends with coworkers than have a designated new-hire buddy.
  • Interactive onboarding would make new employees feel more comfortable.New hires don’t want to be singled out—38% report feeling most welcome during onboarding when included in a group of other new hires. Additionally, new hires prefer intro meetings and interactive onboarding groups (31%) more than happy hours with colleagues. This is important for businesses to consider, especially when 52% of employees say they spend up to five hours being on boarded at their new job.

 

10—Do You Sometimes Feel Like an Imposter?

Do you ever worry you’re not good enough? Do you feel praise is just people trying to be nice?

Well, you’re not alone. All of us, at one point or another, have questioned our capabilities and competence in the workplace. This behavior has a name—Imposter Syndrome—and studies show 70% of us will suffer from it at some point in our lives.

Check out the infographic below from Resume.io to help you identify the specific type of impostor syndrome you might be experiencing and practical tips on how to overcome it.

 

Quick Clicks

 

11—Are Franchisees Happy?

The answer is “yes” according to this report from Guidant Financial and Lending Club. It’s loaded with great information about franchising and franchise trends.

 

Cool Tools

 

12—Using Images to Search

Instead of using keywords to search, it can be easier to search using an image. Reverse Image Search lets you do just that—when you see a picture of something, but you don’t know what it is,  the Reverse Image Search app lets you upload a picture and their image search engine looks it up for you.

This app is very useful and simple to use.

 

13—New CRM and Marketing Automation Software for Small Businesses

Keap, formerly Infusionsoft, just unveiled its new product lineup of CRM and marketing automation software built for small businesses. Earlier this year when Keap first rebranded, it introduced the first edition of the new product lineup—Keap Grow.

“In small business, responsiveness often determines if you win and keep clients,” says Keap CEO Clate Mask. “It’s the everyday chaos of growing a small business that gets in the way of delivering consistently great service. If leads don’t get contacted immediately, or appointments take weeks to get scheduled, clients move onto the next small business. That’s why 44% of clients cite ‘poor follow up’ as the reason they chose not to hire a small business.”

The Keap product lineup now includes:

  • Keap Grow is an easy way for small businesses to manage sales and impress clients in one place. It includes the most essential tools for managing clients and winning more business, including CRM, appointments, phone, text & email messages, quotes, invoices & payments, tasks & reminders and nudges, simple reminders when it’s time to follow up with a lead or client.
  • Keap Pro is a complete sales & marketing toolkit small businesses can customize to win more business and save time. It includes all the tools that are part of Keap Grow, plus Campaign Builder for sales & marketing automation, visual sales pipeline & lead tracking, Smart Forms & recurring billing and user roles for multi-users.
  • Infusionsoft by Keap is a robust all-in-one CRM, sales & marketing automation platform for small businesses. It includes Campaign Builder for sales & marketing automation, full CRM with sales pipeline, lead scoring and advanced capabilities like reporting, integrations, ecommerce and more.

Watch this demo now to see which Keap product might be right for your small business.

 

14—Mobile Access to Business Loans

Invoice2go and Square Capital are partnering to give U.S. Invoice2go customers a fast, seamless way to access the funding—from inside their Invoice2go mobile app. This partnership is the first time Square Capital has had a partner incorporate embedded access to business loans through their mobile app, making the process of applying simple and easily accessible.

“Access to capital can be the largest obstacle standing in the way of growth for many small businesses. In fact, according to a Federal Reserve survey, a staggering 70 percent of small businesses that apply for traditional loans do not receive the funding they want,” says Greg Waldorf, CEO of Invoice2go. “Partnering with Square Capital means we can help more one and two person businesses access the funding they need to buy equipment, invest in marketing, hire staff, or invest in anything else their business needs to grow.”

Loan offers range from as little as $500 to as much as $100,000. With more than half of Invoice2go’s customers in the building and home services industries, the Square Capital partnership stands to improve access to financing especially for those delivering large home improvement projects. Now, small businesses such as contractors can apply for funding to cover up-front expenses or anything else their business needs, and get their jobs started faster.

Convenience is key here—there are no long forms to fill out or long waiting periods. You can  begin the application directly from the Invoice2go app, and once approved, get the funds in your account as early as the next business day. Repayment is convenient and automatic.

 

15—Competitive Insights for Your Business

Alexa.com now equips marketers with free competitive insights typically available only to resource-rich companies with dedicated analytics teams. Serving more than three million unique users per month, the Alexa Site Overview service now reveals a brand’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to reach its audience. This includes relevant data about the site, its audience, keyword gaps and opportunities, as well as the same data about competing sites.

Alexa.com’s Site Overview improves SEO and content marketing workflow. Input a website and Site Overview will instantly serve up a customized list of keyword opportunities for the site, the top websites competing for the attention of that site’s audience, that site’s traffic metrics compared to the average of those top competing sites, and other competitive intelligence.

“People have an emotional reaction when they see that competitors are beating them at something,” says Andy Crestodina, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media, a web development agency located in Chicago. “This is the fastest way to see what’s working for them and not for you.”

The key capabilities of Site Overview include:

Keyword opportunitiesKeyword recommendations are curated for the site across several categories enabling you to get quick ideas for your content strategy.

  • Keyword gaps identifies keywords that are currently driving traffic to competitors, but not yet to the marketer’s site.
  • Easy-to-rank keywords identifies popular keywords that the marketer’s site can likely rank for, given its Competitive Power in search.
  • Buyer keywords identifies keywords used by the site’s audience that demonstrate high commercial or purchase intent.
  • Optimization opportunities identifies popular keywords driving a small amount of traffic to the marketer’s site, which could be better optimized to help drive more traffic.

Competitive analysisBenchmarks provide a side-by-side comparison against competitors.

  • Traffic sources shows the percentage of overall traffic from search engines to your site compared to competing sites.
  • Referral sites (backlinks) shows the number of referral sites driving traffic to your site compared to competing sites.
  • Top keywords show the top search terms driving traffic to your site and your competitors.

Audience insightsBrowsing habits of a site’s audience reveal unique opportunities to connect with prospective customers.

  • Audience interests shows the categories of interest shared by a site’s audience, along with other sites in those categories that they visit.
  • Audience overlap shows sites that share an audience and compete for their attention.

Traffic statistics—Website popularity and engagement is reported using monthly site metrics and traffic statistics, helping marketers evaluate growth potential.

  • Alexa rank displays a site’s overall ranking in global internet traffic and engagement.
  • Audience geography shows estimated percentage of visitors to the site by country.
  • Site metrics shows engagement, traffic sources, site flow, and total backlink metrics for the site.

For companies that regularly execute on content and SEO strategy, Alexa.com’s subscription plans allow customers to go in-depth on the above features while providing additional SEO analysis services, all starting at an affordable price.

“In the last few years, we’ve made big moves to help digital marketers drive real impact in their organizations with the addition of intelligent SEO, SEM and content analysis capabilities,” says Andrew Ramm, President of Alexa.com. “The new Site Overview service is now a central hub for [businesses] that don’t have the resources to handle a deluge of data but need direct and effective insights they can act on quickly. By keeping tabs on where competitors are finding success, [businesses] can discover their own competitive edge.”

There’s more information available here.

 

16—Eliminate Wi-Fi Dead Zones at Your Small Business

More and more retail and restaurant customers prefer doing business with stores and restaurants offering reliable Wi-Fi. If you don’t offer them now, check out NETGEAR Business’s Orbi Pro Mesh Wi-Fi Ceiling Satellite.

Benefits:

  • Covers a broad range of business environments, from small cafes and retail stores to larger event venues with outdoor patios.
  • Eliminates ‘Wi-Fi dead zones’ within a large space such as a multi-level business office or manufacturing facility
  • Supports more than 40 simultaneous Wi-Fi connections
  • Eliminates cable installation costs, making it easy for you to set up—even if you don’t have an IT expert on staff.
  • Easy hardware setup, so it can be placed on a desk or mounted on ceiling or wall to install anywhere.
  • Prevents guests from accessing company resources and private data.

 

Business stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock