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11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1. Top 25 Cities for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released its annual report ranking the top 25 U.S. cities for entrepreneurship and innovation. Check out the infographic below.



2. Getting Found by Consumers

Vistaprint’s Digital Services Division surveyed consumers to better understand how Americans discover small businesses.

Among the findings—if you’re not online, you’re almost invisible. About one-third of consumers are not likely to shop at a business that doesn’t have a website.

Other notable highlights of the survey:

  • 75% of survey respondents shop at a small business at least once a month; 33% shop at one weekly
  • 33% find businesses via word-of-mouth
  • 45% are unlikely to shop at a small business with a poorly designed website; only 5% of Millennials will
  • 60% say it is important for small businesses to have a social media presence
  • 7% discover a small business for the first time online,
  • 25% of Millennials use social media as their first point of research for small businesses

Reviews are a major factor

  • 75% say reading reviews is either somewhat or very important before visiting a location
  • 50% say bad reviews are the most likely factor keeping them from shopping at a small business

For more check out the Vistaprint blog.


3. The Importance of CRM

We all know we should be using CRM (customer relationship management), but not all small business owners know how to take advantage of that data. Regular contributor Matt Zajechowski of Digital Third Coast says with CRM “marketers have access to an under-utilized and valuable asset right at their fingertips that can positively impact both customer experiences and ad targeting. CRM software is a vault of valuable data that tracks the interactions companies have with their customers.”

Want to leverage your customer data? Zajechowski worked Signal to create an actionable visual guide showing marketers how to do just that.

crm data


4. Social Media Dominates SMB Marketing

SMBs are shifting their marketing from more traditional channels  (print, radio and TV)—and  even classic word-of-mouth to the newer, more viral digital practices, such as social media and online video, according to data in a new survey, “Unlocking the Most Powerful Shift in SMB Marketing” from Magisto, a popular smart video storytelling application.

The survey found that while the marketing goals remain unchanged (75% of SMBs want to generate new customers and more than half want to build customer loyalty and grow brand awareness), the ways to reach these goals is “shifting drastically to strategies using social media and video,” a shift driven mostly by Millennials.

According to the survey, Millennial marketers are 84% more likely to use social media to promote their small businesses than invest in print advertising, and Millennials are 136% more likely than Baby Boomers to create videos for social media. Also, virtually no Millennial SMB marketers would invest in television advertising.

Key findings include:

Social is the new mass media: 90% of Millennials at SMBs lead with social media in their marketing strategy.

The culture of authenticity: Over half of Millennials at SMBs lead with branded lifestyle video stories versus traditional product overviews that their older colleagues continue to create.

Targeting audience: Millennials are 183% more likely than Boomers to post a video to Instagram.

Takeaway: Social media is the new word of mouth

Magisto says, “Social media is the new word of mouth marketing and is driven by the generational understanding of the power of video. Millennial marketers are driving word-of-mouth conversations via social media, allowing them to have greater reach and target outside of their immediate sphere of influence.


5. What Matters Most to Small Business Owners?

Are you going on vacation this summer? According to the American Express OPEN 2016 Small Business Monitor, 61% of entrepreneurs plan to take at least one full week off this summer, the highest  percentage in a decade. All in all, the Monitor indicates entrepreneurs are feeling pretty good right now. Findings show:

  • 84% of small business owners “see the glass as half full”
  • The small business owners who take a salary have given themselves average salary increase of $2,310
  • 75% of entrepreneurs plan to grow, and for the first time since the recession, 39% plan to hire in the next six months. However, 19% says the biggest challenge to growth is finding the right staff.
  • 83% are confident in their ability to access capital
  • 36% are concerned about cash flow (down from 45% last year)
  • 53% are worried about their ability to save for retirement


6. 3 Easy Ways to Build a Personal Brand

Guest post by Paige Weiners, Corporate Marketing Specialist, Blue Fountain Media

Thought Leadership: When it comes to personal branding, whether you work in the fashion industry or the technology industry, there are plenty of ways to highlight your expertise and showcase your skills to a respective audience. While it can be time consuming, sharing your knowledge on a particular subject in relevant media outlets through content contributions, guest posts, or general quote commentaries, is a great way to develop yourself as a thought leader and really work on your personal brand. Whether it is writing an article on best practices, or a special speaking gig, these opportunities are perfect ways to start developing your own personal brand.

Search Engine Optimization: While we normally hear about SEO for certain keywords that a company may be going after, using some of those same SEO best practices for your personal brand can be quite effective. Traditionally, utilizing appropriate public relations efforts (leveraging relationships with reporters, using tools like HARO, etc.) can be an excellent starting ground for gaining some publicity surrounding your name and skillset. When it comes to SEO, you do need to garner links from authoritative websites back to the website that you’re trying to optimize for search engines. In the PR realm, if you are able to provide value to these reporters or editors as they work on their content pieces, they’ll be likely to attribute quotes to you, mention your name, and hopefully include a link to your site. If you regularly blog about relevant topics on either your own site or an external site, you should be including relevant social media links in all your bylines so you can garner more links to those pages.

Get Active on Social: Whatever your industry is, take time to really dive into the social communities that are related to your field or expertise. Whether it’s on LinkedIn or Facebook, participating in different social groups is an incredibly effective way to get your name out there and meet people with similar areas of expertise. Aside from the networking end of it, discussing relevant topics with peers can also help you build out your knowledge base.


7. Marketing to Hispanics

If you’re selling financial services to the Hispanic community, it pays to listen to social conversations for the unique cultural nuances they reveal. Partnering on a social listening analysis, Jelena Group and OYE! Business Intelligence examined thousands of Facebook and Twitter conversations about the financial needs of U.S. Hispanics, including English and Spanish-speakers. The research found the top conversation drivers were retirement (22%) and how to protect one’s family (13%).

Here’s some insight from the analysis:

top financial“Carpe Diem” Mentality: One of the key cultural elements is the ‘belief in living for today because tomorrow is uncertain,’ or the maxim ‘only God knows what the future will bring.’ By crafting financial messages with an urgency to today’s terms, brands can bring their message to a Hispanic household’s daily to-do list rather than saving it for a conversation at a later date.

Hispanic Media Needs Financial Education Content: Hispanic decision makers are hungry for educational messages that uplift and inspire their community. Develop stories about your brand’s unique approach to financial education, particular to the Hispanic community, and watch how new audiences notice.

Affluent Hispanics Need Guidance Too: The lessons learned about money are foundational to future success. According to a 2014 Wells Fargo study, when it comes to Hispanic investors, 92% say their parents talked “a lot” or “sometimes” about the value and importance of hard work when they were growing up, but in contrast, fewer than half said their parents talked as much about financial issues.  The lack of information and the tumultuous economy in their home countries are just a few of several reasons Hispanic households earning more than $100K still require guidance.


8. Who is the “Typical” Small Business Owner?

To better understand how today’s U.S. small business owners compare to tomorrow’s, BizBuySell surveyed more than 3,000 current owners and prospective buyers to compare demographics, preferences, motivations and more.

The study found that while small business owners getting ready to sell are still mostly white men over 50 years old (Baby Boomers), the next generation of owners are an increasingly young, more diverse group. About 49% of 18 to 29 year-old Millennial buyers identify as a minority, compared to just 19% of buyers 50 or older. However, there are still few female business owners. Women make up just 22% of both current owners and prospective buyers.

Among the findings:

  • Small business ownership runs in the family. 55% of sellers have a parent or grandparent that owned a small business.
  • Buyers want to get out of corporate America. The number-one motivation for purchasing a small business is the chance to be your own boss, cited by 63% of all buyers.
  • Veterans show interest in small business ownership. 12% of sellers and almost 10% of buyers are veterans. More than one-third (39%) of veteran buyers intend to use military loans to make their small business dreams a reality.
  • Few female business owners. Just 22% of current business owners, and potential business buyers are women.

Check out the full whitepaper.


9. 5 Ways to Use Online Forms to Boost Customer Engagement 

Guest post by Leeyen Rogers, VP of Marketing, JotForm.

  1. Offer a quick registration form to users who want to sign up for emails from your company. This can be as simple as asking for an email address with a call-to-action like “sign me up!” or “Get me on the list.” This is an important step in getting the user to opt-in to receiving promotional emails which can lead to a more engaged, active customer or user.

If you’d like your form visitor to self-select which categories of content they’re interested in receiving, you can set up your form so that the messages your user receives are more relevant, thus helping drive up engagement even more.

  1. Gain customer feedback. Listen to a user’s experience and get them to reveal their pain points and experiences with using your product or purchasing from your store. You can be very strategic with your customer feedback surveys, such as sending them to specific demographics, types of customers, customers that have purchased specific items or products in a certain category. Then, you can use the information to improve.
  2. Offer prizes. Everyone loves free stuff! Host a giveaway to increase engagement and add some customer delight into the mix. Depending on what you’re looking to gain from the giveaway, adjust your form so that it collects the information that you need. For example, if you’re a home goods company, have users submit a photo of how your product (whether a couch, lamp, piece of artwork, etc.) looks inside their home. Make it fun, and even turn it into a contest if you’d like!
  3. Invite customers to your event. You can host an event at your brick-and-mortar store, or at another location. The details are totally up to you—consider having music, free appetizers and drinks, raffle items and giveaways. Send out an exciting and informative RSVP form that makes your customers feel special as you invite them to your exclusive event. Your RSVP form should include the obvious necessities like date, time, place, and occasion. It can also include options to bring a +1 or fill out any other information.
  4. Use payment forms that re-engage customers. If your product is sold out, include a form field where users can enter their email to be notified when the product comes back in stock. Use a call-to-action like “Get me on the list!” “Notify me in case of restock” or “Let me know when this item is available.”


10. Business Reviews Differ by Gender 

No surprise that men and women buy differently. But gender also impacts the overall volume of product reviews. Take a look at the data from Bazaarvoice:

  • Overall percentage of review volume: 66% women v. 34% men
  • Apparel/accessories: 85% women v. 15% men
  • Automotive: 14% women v. 86% men
  • Consumer electronics: 37% women v. 63% men
  • Food/beverage/drug: 69% women v. 31% men
  • Hardware/home improvement: 45% women v. 55% men
  • Leisure: 63% women v. 37% men


11. New Small Business Loan

Wells Fargo recently launched its FastFlexSM Small Business Loan, an online, fast-decision loan that is funded as soon as the next business day and offers a competitive interest rate to small businesses with short-term credit needs. The new loan product joins the Wells Fargo family of small business products and comprehensive support offered through Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®.

Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo’s head of Small Business says they created FastFlex “because small businesses want faster, more convenient loan options, online and at competitive rates.” Wells Fargo, Stevens says has a “$100 billion lending goal.”

The typical FastFlex Small Business Loan customer is expected to have strong cash inflows, and short-term credit needs for funding ranging from facility expansion to cash management. The loan will be available with one-year terms, at amounts ranging from $10,000 to $35,000, with required payments made on a weekly basis automatically deducted from the customer’s business-deposit account. It will be available to Wells Fargo business-deposit customers who have been a customer of the bank for at least one year.