17 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
Every small business owner needs to understand SEO. Taking a look at this infographic from SEO Tribunal is a great place to start.
2—Please Help—Your Feedback is Needed
Our friends at SCORE have designed a new resource to help aspiring entrepreneurs, and they are looking for feedback. Your responses will help in creating a Start-Up Roadmap, which will help aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the country.
Please click on the link below to complete a quick and short (no more than 10 minute) survey on this new tool for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
3—Strategies to Boost Your Business’ Holiday Cheer
Guest post by Samya De Paula, WhatsApp’s SMB lead of user engagement
With summer just a distant memory and the fall leaves already on the ground, the holiday season will be here before we know it. And for many small business owners, that means one thing: crunch time. With sales from the 2017 holiday season topping nearly $692 billion—the highest total in 12 years—SMBs everywhere want a slice of the holiday pie, and for good reason: Increased sales mean even more opportunity for businesses to connect with customers.
As people increasingly turn to mobile to research and make purchase decisions, and technology evolves at such a rapid pace, it’s imperative small business owners remain on the pulse of consumer habits to stand out in the crowd and attract and retain customers — especially at this crucial time of year.
So what should we expect this year and how can small businesses maximize their holiday cheer this season? Here are three strategies to get the most out of the most wonderful (and busiest!) time of the year.
1—Customer communication is changing: Lean into mobile messaging
With businesses of all kinds going mobile-first, it’s no surprise that US retail m-commerce sales were up more than 40% in Q4 2017. What’s more, eMarketer expects total U.S. m-commerce sales to grow an additional 32.7% this year. Couple this with the fact that 49% of consumers prefer messaging a business over talking to them on the phone, and it puts everything into perspective: When it comes to connecting with consumers in a meaningful—and timely—way, people don’t want to pick up the phone or send an email, they want to send a message. It;s a simple and efficient way to reach customers on the go and in the moment.
2—Timing is everything: Plan your communication accordingly
Holiday shopping has become a year-round affair. Gone are the days of Black Friday signaling the start of the month-long shopping craze. In fact, 30% of millennials shop for gifts year-round, and most Gen X and baby boomers do most of their holiday shopping between September and November. Meanwhile, more than one-third of Gen Zers—who have increasing purchasing power—report they don’t start holiday shopping until after Black Friday, and 15% of that age group waits until after December 15. Understanding the shopping behavior of your target audience and the right time to engage them with promotions, special offers and holiday-themed products is crucial to converting leads into sales. So take the time to get to know your audience and make sure you’re coming up with a communication plan well in advance. The shopping season may not start at the traditional time for your customers, so make sure you’re ready when it does.
3—Speed is key: Respond immediately
In a 2013 Forrester report examining what it means to provide good customer service, 66% of adults surveyed said valuing their time is most important. And with the explosive growth of mobile and the emergence of the “always-on” consumer, this demand for efficiency has become increasingly prevalent. So when communicating with your customers, speed is key; otherwise, people will take their business elsewhere. While business owners can’t be on their phones or computers at all times, one way to ensure customers aren’t left hanging is to incorporate smart, quick replies in your mobile messaging strategy. With automated messages, you can provide fast answers to frequently asked questions, welcome customers to your business, and, with away messages, let them know you’re busy but will get back to them soon. This also ensures customers feel heard and valued, which cultivates a strong sense of brand loyalty. It’s a simple gesture that goes a long way toward enhancing the customer experience.
It’s hard to believe, but the excitement around the holidays is already in full swing. These strategies will help you cut through the noise, reach customers in the moment and build meaningful connections with your audience. Happy shopping!
4—Holiday Sales Expected to Increase Between 4.3%-4.8%
The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects holiday retail sales in November and December (excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants) to increase between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. The forecast compares with an average annual increase of 3.9 percent over the past five years.
The holiday forecast is consistent with NRF’s forecast that annual retail sales for 2018 will increase at least 4.5% over 2017.
5—A Guide to Mobile Ads
Mobile advertising has an advantage over other types of ads, due to mobile’s geo-targeting and data-matching capabilities. By capturing data, such as location and shopping preferences, you can deliver relevant ads directly to a consumer’s phone whenever they are near your business. Mobile ads drive social media results as well.
Take a look at the infographic from Connext Digital to learn more.
6—Help Your Small Business’s Sales Force Meet Goals on the Go
Guest post by John Oechsle, President and CEO of Swiftpage
When it comes to the importance of taking your sales team mobile, the numbers speak for themselves. Did you know that outside sales reps now spend 89% of their time selling remotely? It’s no wonder why. Studies show mobile customer relationship management (CRM) tools can increase productivity by nearly 15%.
Mobile CRM technology can certainly work magic—but not without a magician at the helm. After all, implementing a mobile sales strategy is no easy task. It requires planning, proper execution, and the right mobile sales tools. Growing your business through mobile sales can be as challenging as it is lucrative. To ensure your sales team is taking the right approach, ask yourself the following questions:
Does your mobile sales tool put the right information in front of your sales team?
Chances are, you’re counting on your mobile CRM to bring in more revenue for your small business. And statistically speaking, the odds are in your favor. According to a study, 65% of companies with a mobile CRM reached their sales quotas. Conversely, just 22% of companies without mobile CRM reached the same goal.
A good salesperson knows their mobile CRM is valuable in the field—but only if the right information is readily accessible. Your mobile sales tool should include your CRM’s most important and relevant customer information so that sales professionals can easily access important data while on the go.
Conversely, avoid mobile CRM solutions that attempt to squeeze your entire customer database and functionality into your CRM’s mobile application. It will be too large and cumbersome for out-of-office employees to navigate and they’ll use it sparingly to avoid the hassle.
Is your team trained on how to use the mobile sales tools they have? The best mobile sales tools are intuitive and easy to maneuver, but your sales team could always benefit from training to master your business’s mobile CRM.
Ensure your employees are up-to-speed on how to use your mobile sales tools, and encourage them to report any bugs or issues that are making it difficult to use. You might also consider hosting a seminar or question-and-answer session to address any lingering concerns (studies show that sales training leads to bolstered sales and a higher employee retention rate). Sales professionals should be aware of their mobile CRM’s key features, and be comfortable with navigating the system.
Additionally, your mobile CRM system should be well designed, and include applications that help sales pros quickly and easily retrieve the information they need to make a sale. If your sales tool is too complicated to use, you’ll be paying for a product that’s more valuable in theory than in actual practice.
Is this the right tool for your size business? If your sales team is small, you’re in a great position when it comes to mobile sales tools. Your business has the option to choose from CRM solutions that are tailor-made for a company your size, and that can support your specific needs.
Small businesses are significantly better positioned for success by selecting a customized solution to suit a small (but mighty!) sales team, rather than trying to use the same CRM as your enterprise competitors.
Remember: the needs of small sales teams can differ greatly from the sales armies of corporate giants, and your mobile sales strategy and technology should reflect those differences.
Is the tech you’re using right for your space? When companies are marketing to consumers within a specific industry, their mobile sales needs are as unique as the verticals they’re targeting. The real estate and manufacturing sectors, for example, are seeing a high demand for industry-specific CRMs.
When researching your mobile CRM options, ensure the one you choose is a good match for your vertical. While some tech tools are designed to be flexible to meet the requirements of a specific industry, others aren’t nearly as malleable. And while some might be small business-minded, they could still lack the features your sales team needs to be successful in the field.
Identify the key information and technology your sales team requires to be successful and make sure the CRM solution you choose will work for the space your business is targeting.
How about third party integrations? When shopping for a sales and CRM tool, look for one that aligns well with a variety of third-party solutions. The integrations you seek should be ones that benefit your business and team while they’re making sales outside the office.
Sales professionals should not have to struggle trying to navigate and toggle between several apps and tools on their mobile device. That’s why it’s important to ensure your mobile CRM tool is complimented with the right integrations to give your team the edge it needs to make the sales in the field your small business is relying on to grow and thrive.
The definition of a sales professional’s “office” is more fluid today than ever before. They could be striking deals from their home, a customer’s place of business– or even poolside on a sunny day. Statistics indicate that an increasing number of Americans are working remotely, and sales professionals are at the forefront of this trend.
Make sure your sales team is equipped with the tools it needs to succeed – whether it be at the company’s headquarters, or on the go.
7—Are You Busy or are You Too Busy?
“I’m so busy.” We’ve all heard those words—most of us have said them. In fact, 9 in 10 small business owners feel busy daily—but they enjoy it, according to a new survey from Vistaprint. The survey asked SBOs what keeps them busy and what would help them be more productive in their office and home lives.
What drives busyness for SBOs? The answer from business owners: the need to make money (64%), having lots of things to do (56%), and wanting to feel productive (36%).
The survey also shows SBOs spend more time on administrative and project management tasks than on marketing, product development or design, (which are essential to growing businesses).
- 72% of those surveyed say administrative tasks are keeping them the busiest, followed by customer service (70%) and project management (62%).
- 63% spend less than five hours a week on marketing their business.
- 75% are going it alone, not using outside resources to save time (which seems counter-productive to me)
There’s more information in the infographic below.
8—The Differences Between On- and Off-Site Employee Appreciation
With more employees working remotely, the methods that employers use to show appreciation must evolve as well. At least 50% of the U.S. workforce has job responsibilities that are compatible with working off-site, at least occasionally. Because of this, office environments and work relationships no longer resemble those of decades past. In a just released study of appreciation differences between on-site and off-site workers, 89,000 employees across America shared their thoughts about what engages them on the job. According to workplace relationship psychologist and business consultant, Dr. Paul White, the survey’s creator, one of the new challenges for employers is to figure out how to appropriately show appreciation to employees who are not physically on site.
White’s study, utilizing the Motivating by Appreciation Inventory, is the first to assess the differences in preferred ways to be shown appreciation in the workplace with respect to long-distance versus face-to-face work environments. Beginning with Gallup research findings that one of the core elements in increasing employee engagement was communicating appreciation, White spent four years gathering data on the relationship between worker motivation and perceived appreciation, particularly as it related to remote staff.
When asked to rank their preferred “language of appreciation,” both groups preferred Words of Affirmation (defined as oral or written praise) the most, Quality Time second most frequently, Acts of Service third, and Tangible Gifts the least.
On-site v. off-site employee preferences in appreciation
Words of Appreciation
Long-Distance Employees 38%
General Employees 48%
Long-Distance Employees 35%
General Employees 25%
Acts of Service
Long-Distance Employees 19%
General Employees 22%
Long-Distance Employees 7%
General Employees 6%
Long-distance employees’ preferences shifted significantly, however, away from Words of Affirmation toward Quality Time—with 10% of remote employees moving toward desiring time with colleagues. Quality Time could encompass having someone take time to listen to them , “hanging out” with coworkers, or working together on a project. Remote employees named Quality Time as their preferred means for being shown appreciation more frequently (35%) than on-site workers. (25%).
Words of Affirmation remained high for both groups of employees, but the long-distance workers did not value this type of appreciation as much as their on-site colleagues. The remote workers weighed it as being much less significant (38%) than in-office staff did (48%). These results suggest that supervisors and staff members working in long-distance work relationships must be more cognizant of remote employees’ desire to spending time with colleagues (often requesting connecting by video rather than email, text or phone). Because chance, spontaneous interactions are less likely to occur in long-distance work relationships (e.g. seeing colleagues in the hall or break room), incorporating meaningful interactions that speak to long-distance colleagues have to be more intentional to be effective.
White summed up what he believes, from a practical perspective, to be “the single most important lesson” in the findings gleaned by the study: “We have learned that to achieve effective communication of appreciation to remote colleagues, one must be more proactive than in face-to-face relationships.”
9—6 Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Payables Process
While cleaning AP’s processes may not be glamorous, it’s a task that must be done and done regularly. With just the right amount of elbow grease, these six tips and tricks will get your AP process shining in no time:
1—Single point of entry for all invoices: Invoice entry is, arguably, the most critical part of the AP process. After all, you can’t pay a supplier if you don’t know what you owe a supplier. From issuing payments faster to reducing fraud, a single point of entry has far reaching benefits for the AP department.
Pushing for a single invoice entry point, however, requires drawing a line in the sand. Start by creating a special invoice-only email address. Make sure suppliers are aware of this change in protocol and begin enforcing it by reminding suppliers that emails sent to any other address will not get paid. Money can, after all, play the part of both the carrot and the stick.
And for those tech-averse suppliers; replace AP’s fax number with a virtual one that automatically converts faxes into emails.
Again, this may all be easier said than done—especially considering any restrictions in your supplier agreement contract. What’s that? You haven’t updated your supplier agreement?
2—Update supplier agreement contracts: Get in the habit of checking this vital contract often. The only way to get the best performance from payables is by not relying on rules made back in the Clinton administration—you don’t want to hamper AP with rules based on old technology.
For example, rules specifying the frequency of check issuance may have its roots based on postage transit time—a rule that shouldn’t apply to electronic payment. If these types of rules are in place, you can be certain AP staff will follow those to the letter—waiting for the last day to issue payment, “because that’s the way it is.” This kind of rule-entrenchment can put a damper on discounts and stifle efficiency.
3—A 1099 for every W9—and vice versa: “This is a one-time low-cost supplier, I don’t need their W9.” How many times has that sentence been uttered from receivables or procurement only to end up scrambling for vital tax information later in the season?
Don’t ever think one lowly supplier won’t meet the $600 threshold the IRS sets for 1099s. Whether it’s a one-person shop or a large corporation, always collect pertinent tax information from each and every supplier.
This is an instance where the payables compliance process should influence policy in other departments; insist that every supplier provide a W9—this makes issuing a 1099 easier by years end.
4—Limit one-off payments to card: Try as you will, there’ll always be a one-off where you can’t rely on the playbook. That’s to be expected. However, in the case of paying suppliers, insist that one-off situations be paid by card. Or, barring a supplier’s ability to process invoices by card, ACH—but never paper check.
The robust nature of card transactions allows AP to quickly pay suppliers and removes the burdensome follow-up of reconciliation. Plus, invoice payments sent by card hit the suppliers account much faster than conventional check.
AP staff should remove any inactive supplier. This is defined as any supplier that hasn’t been issued a payment in three, six, or 12 months. Doing so on a regular basis will slowly churn out stale suppliers. It’s this constant and repeated MVF maintenance that most AP staff fails to do—which can introduce fraud and hamper supplier relations.
6—Go paperless—rid AP of paper invoices and checks: We’ve been circling around this in the tips above, so let’s say it clearly: The #1 tip for any accounts payable department is to go paperless. Which, again, is much easier said than done. It’s best to take small steps towards a paperless payables process.
Aim for 3% of suppliers converted to paperless payment per quarter (or any percentage you want). Ultimately, aim for 0 paper payments. As they say: “Aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land in the stars.”
10—Latinos Feel the American Dream Could Be Disappearing
Financial security and homeownership are at the heart of the American Dream, but many Latinos feel the idea of the American Dream could be disappearing, according to the latest State of the American Family Study by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).
The new study examines American family attitudes towards finances and financial planning, and found that 38% of Latinos believe the American Dream is disappearing. When asked about the definition of the American Dream, not living paycheck to paycheck is more likely to be part of the American Dream for Latinos. Latino households are more likely to have a broader definition of family that includes extended family, and 24% worry about being able to care for their parents as well as their own nuclear family.
“With strong family and cultural values, Latino families are juggling multiple financial priorities, such as a future caregiver role for elderly parents,” says David Hufnagel, Latino market director at MassMutual. “We want to empower families with resources to help them achieve their long-term financial goals and prepare them to protect their loved ones from unexpected events.”
Juggling financial priorities: Latinos face some big challenges, including having the lowest household income of all segments surveyed and being among the least prepared for a financial emergency. With an average household income of $107,801 of those surveyed, it appears that Latinos have relatively lower accumulated wealth. Latinos have diverse financial priorities:
- Having an emergency fund (81%)
- Ensuring stable income for the family in case of an unexpected event (76%)
- Not becoming a financial burden for family (74%)
- Developing a comprehensive financial plan (65%)
- Paying for college education (61%)
Interestingly, 75% of those who selected homeownership as part of their American Dream are confident that they will one day own a home if they do not already. However, although short-term needs such as building an emergency fund and ensuring stable family income if the unexpected happens are top priorities, they worry about meeting competing long-term goals as well as issues beyond their control.
Paying down debt: Paying for higher education and wanting to play an active role in preparing children for future success through financial education are especially important for Latinos. But as student debt levels continue to rise in the U.S., many families are worried about managing both day-to-day expenses and paying down debt. The majority of Latinos carry some type of debt in the form of mortgages, credit cards and student loans:
- 63% have a mortgage. The average mortgage debt is $181,292.
- 64% have credit card debt. The average credit card debt is $9,652.
- 27% have student loan debt. The average student loan debt is $32,650.
Preparing for financial emergencies: Latinos are less prepared than other consumer populations surveyed for a financial emergency with 19% having less than a month of monthly expenses saved.
- 28% of Latinos have 1-3 months of expenses saved if there was an emergency.
- 23% of Latinos have 3-6 months of expenses saved if there was an emergency.
- 21% of Latinos have more than 6 months of their monthly expenses if there was an emergency.
“We want to help mitigate worry and build confidence in attaining the American Dream,” says Hufnagel. Our financial advisors, many whom are bilingual, are committed to providing practical action steps to help families in their local communities meet both short-term financial goals and long-term financial security.”
MassMutual offers the following three financial tips to help address top financial concerns of Latinos:
- Pay down debt: The key is to find the proper balance between debt, income, savings, and retirement as part of an overall financial strategy. Start to find that balance by viewing the elimination of your debt as a long-term financial goal—one that is planned for, reviewed, and assessed regularly. Consider creating a debt management plan, or use MassMutual’s 5-10-15-20 calculator, which can help address your financial goals and concerns: income, savings, retirement and debt.
- Establish an emergency fund: An emergency fund is a reserve devoted to unplanned financial disasters such as sudden job loss, a house fire or a trip to the hospital. To play it safe, financial professionals recommend couples sock away between six to 12 months’ worth of living expenses in a liquid, interest bearing account—more if your job security is in question or you are self-employed.
- Save for college: Start saving as early as you can, even at birth for a child’s education. Remember that time is on your side to have your money work for you through interest earned and compounded over the years. With a comprehensive savings strategy, you can help reduce – or possibly eliminate—your child’s need for student loans. To help you figure out how much you need to save, visit the MassMutual college savings calculator.
Other helpful financial tips and an overview of research findings from the Hispanic and other groups can be found here.
11—What Causes Workplace Ghosting?
“Ghosting” a potential employer is an acceptable practice, according to a new survey from Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm. More than 40% of job seekers say it’s reasonable to ghost companies during the interview process, abruptly cutting off communication when they decide not to pursue a job.
Workplace ghosting occurs because job seekers accept another job offer (30%) or decide a role is not a match (19%). Job seekers also ghost in response to being ghosted: 23% say they ghost when a company stops communicating with them.
Overall, more than 70% of job seekers have abandoned a job application, and 55% have abandoned 1-5 job applications during a job search.
That could be cause for alarm. FullStack Labs CEO David Jackson says, “If we’re losing good candidates because of a problem with our process, that could be having a bigger impact than we’d like it to.”
A strong economy means candidates have more jobs to choose from. As a result, companies must work harder to win talent.
Companies that fail to communicate signal approval of ghosting: Companies that ghost candidates may inadvertently signal their approval of ghosting.
- 36% of job seekers received no response from the last company that rejected them.
- When candidates do receive a response, only 30% end with a generic rejection email, providing candidates with much-needed closure.
- 21% of job candidates are rejected by phone; only 13% receive a personalized rejection email.
Other survey highlights:
- 41% of job seekers believe it’s reasonable to ghost a company—but are not happy when companies ghost them.
- Reasons for ghosting include accepting another job offer (30%), never hearing back from the company (23%), or deciding the role was not a match (19%).
- Among job seekers who believe ghosting is reasonable, 48% say it’s best to ghost during the early stages of the interview process.
- Ghosting becomes less acceptable as the interview process progresses. Still, 9% believe it’s acceptable for an applicant to ghost after accepting a job offer or for a company to ghost a candidate after extending an offer (8%).
12—Best Countries to Start a Business
Although we like to think of the U.S. as the leader of the entrepreneurial world, according to the Reboot we’re not a startup mecca. That honor belongs to New Zealand. Some other survey highlights include:
- The U.S. ranks 49th in ‘economies to start a business 2018.’
- Over 70% of global businesses have implemented reform in the past year.
- Economies in Canada, Hong Kong and Georgia (the country, not the state) are start-up hotspots.
- Of all economies analyzed, Jamaica and Uzbekistan have experienced the most growth 2017-18.
Check out the infographic below for more information.
13—How to Choose Ergonomic Furniture for Home Offices
Guest post by Danny Charles, Stilus Design And Construction
As more and more people are operating home-based businesses, the look and feel of homes is also changing quite fast. The living rooms need to be used for purposes other than living and relaxing. [Many] must be able to house a home office as well. While when running a business from home quite a few things must be taken into account, planning the right furniture is key. And for increased productivity—and your own well-being, it’s important to choose ergonomic furniture for your home office. Here’s what you need to know
Estimate the room space you have: This is one of the biggest mistakes many people make when choosing furniture. They either undercalculate or overcalculate the actual space they have. You don’t want to have an office space in your home that looks empty, or that has so many things stacked up, making the whole space look cluttered and dingy. Before actually deciding on your furniture for your home office, it’s important to measure the office space and account for doorways and windows. It the window offers a good view you would do well to take this into account. Also the time spent in your office will determine the kind of furniture you should use. If you spend 7-8 hours in your home office then the chair and table must be designed accordingly.
Do you have a budget in hand? You need to have a clear idea about your home-office furniture budget. Factors include your personal preferences and your budget. Look online for sites which talk about home décor in general and home-office furniture and styles in particular, and where you can learn about prices and fine ideas and inspiration (see #14 below). Remember, you’ll also need money for equipment and phone and internet services, so you cannot afford to go overboard on furniture alone.
Will you have visitors?: If you have visitors coming to your home office then try to carve out a small space where you can have some privacy for discussions.
14—28 Great Ideas for Decorating Your Home Office
Whether you work out of your home full-time, or only use it occasionally, having an updated, functional and stylish office helps increase productivity. Top Reveal has compiled 28 creative ideas you can incorporate into your home office.
15—How to (Safely) Access the Dark Web
There are good reasons to access the Dark Web. But you need to make sure you’re protected when you go there. The folks at vpnMentor, a VPN providers, explains why you need a solid VPN service to safely access the Dark Web and explains what you might find when you get there.
Businesses can now better connect their employees to popular business platforms such as Salesforce, QuickBooks Online and Concur, supporting CRM (customer relationship management), accounting and invoicing, plus streamline additional processes with new apps for Xerox ConnectKey® devices. Purchasing and implementing the apps is simple with a new e-commerce-enabled site.
New apps make work easier: The ongoing development of its ConnectKey-enabled portfolio underscores Xerox’s position as a print technology powerhouse. The latest enhancements make labor-intense, time-consuming efforts easier and offer new twists on traditional ways of working.
- Xerox Connect App for Salesforce:access to Salesforce’s Customer Relationship Management system right at the multifunction printer (MFP); upload and share sales management information to client folders by scanning the documents directly into Salesforce.
- Xerox Audio Documents App:securely transforms hardcopy documents into audio files allowing commuters, multitaskers, or audio enthusiasts to listen on the go instead of reading.
- Xerox Connect App for QuickBooks Online:offers a hassle-free expense reimbursement process with multi-receipt scanning. Receipt data is extracted into an expense report and submitted with notifications sent to reviewers for timely approval. For Concur users, a similar receipt management app will be available by year’s end.
- Xerox Forms Manager App: simplifies management of multiple forms while reducing paper-based filing risks. With intelligent routing capabilities via embedded QR codes, scanned forms are automatically routed to the appropriate email address.
- XeroxQuick Link App: enables a fast start to printing without IT support. This intuitive app sends an email directly from the device containing appropriate links to install, and connects computers or mobile devices with the drivers and configuration settings.
Extra value for channel partners: Alongside an improved design for a better user experience, the e-commerce-enabled Xerox App Gallery provides a global marketplace for channel partners to promote and sell apps. Also, channel partners can share in the revenue when their customers purchase an app.
Xerox’s newest ConnectKey-enabled apps will be added to the Xerox App Gallery in select geographies between fourth-quarter 2018 and first-quarter 2019.