small business

15 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know


By Rieva Lesonsky


1—Uncover Your Pot of Gold with These Email Tips

Campaigner is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by sharing tips to help you build brand buzz. Check out the infographic below for more details.


2—Spotlight on Hispanic Small Business Owners

Hispanic entrepreneurs are increasingly optimistic about the future, not only for this year—but for the decade to come. And they see their heritage as an important advantage to their success.

According to the 2nd annual Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight, 60% believe the national economy and 67% think their local economies will improve in 2018—much higher than their non-Hispanic counterparts (46% and 48%, respectively).

Hispanic entrepreneurs are also more bullish on revenue and hiring in the year ahead—71%  believe their revenues will increase, compared to just half of non-Hispanic small business owners. They are also more than twice as likely to plan to hire more employees in the year ahead (37%, versus 16% of non-Hispanic small business owners).

“Hispanic small business owners expect robust economic growth, higher revenue and increased hiring in 2018,” says Elizabeth Romero, Small Business Central Division executive, Bank of America. “As one of the fastest-growing segments of the small business sector, Hispanic entrepreneurs also anticipate strong long-term growth, and are leveraging digital tools, social media and their community to ensure they continue to flourish in the evolving small business climate.”

These optimistic sentiments appear to extend well into the future—77% report growth plans over the next five years, while only half of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs cite the same. And 89% also believe the business environment for Hispanic entrepreneurs will strengthen in the next decade.

Hispanic business owners see heritage as a key differentiator

While two-thirds of Hispanic small business owners believe they face unique challenges, many say their heritage provides an advantage with respect to:

  • Business growth: 43% say their heritage helps, vs. 16% who say it harms them; 41% say it has no impact
  • Customer development & retention: 42% say it helps, vs. 15 percent who say it harms; 43% say it has no impact.
  • Networking: 39% it helps, vs. 23% who say it harms; 38% say it has no impact.

Hispanic small business owners trailblazing in social media use

According to the survey, Hispanic entrepreneurs lead their non-Hispanic peers by 20 percentage points in the use of digital tools to run their businesses (93%, compared to 73% of non-Hispanics). Three-quarters also report they are reliant on social media in running their businesses, vs. just 40% of their non-Hispanic counterparts.

In addition, a solid majority of those Hispanic entrepreneurs who are active on social media use it to connect with clients and peers—including to market their businesses (78%, compared to 49% of non-Hispanics), network (76%, compared to 46% of non-Hispanics) and share updates with customers (74%, compared to 39% of non-Hispanics).

This all pays off—53% say social media engagement positively impacts their bottom lines (vs. 29% of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs), and 86% say the social media feedback is important to the success of their businesses (vs. 47% of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs). Social media is also helping Hispanic businesses get off the ground, with 66% saying it was important when starting their businesses, vs. 21% of non-Hispanic small business owners.

There’s a lot more information in the study. For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s Hispanic small business owners, read the full 2018 Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight.

And be sure to check the Bank of America Online Community to read the article I wrote about this


3—Year of Instagram

In today’s fast-paced economy, a digital presence is as much of a mandate as a business model. According to a survey from Fiverr nearly half of entrepreneurs increased their investment in digital marketing over the last two years, while only 4% decreased investments. More than three-quarters of those surveyed say a well-developed digital content strategy helps their businesses stand out.

Fastest-growing-platforms in 2017

Fiverr marketplace data shows Instagram was the platform du jour for small businesses in 2017, but Facebook and Twitter also experienced strong gains:

  • Instagram 4.5x growth
  • Twitter 3x growth
  • Facebook 2.5x growth

What led to the Instagram growth spurt? Fiverr says, for one, it’s easier for entrepreneurs to produce content for Instagram and easier to grow a following. And Forrester Research reports that Instagram brand engagement is currently 10 times higher than Facebook’s, and 84 times higher than Twitter’s.

There’s more in the infographic below.


4—Video Marketing Update

Guest post by Andre Oentoro, founder, Breadnbeyond

Video marketing is becoming more important for business growth in 2018. That can be credited to how social media platforms are improving their services to be more video-oriented.

Even the more formal social media, LinkedIn, has opted to develop a support for in-app video upload and playback to ensure that B2B companies are more comfortable with their platform.

The popularity of video content is increasing rapidly in the last few years. Cisco predicted that by 2021, video will make up 82% of the global internet traffic. This is, in part, due to smart devices (which are used to view videos) being more accessible and affordable for everybody.

For businesses and online marketers, this means you need to pay more attention to more brand-building visual content like explainer videos, product demo videos, and webinars.

If you are still new to the video marketing world, you might have some catching up to do. At  Breadnbeyond we’ve curated the most significant changes that happened to social media platforms in 2017.

LinkedIn native videos update: LinkedIn, a prominent social media marketing platform for B2B and freelancers, consists mainly of professionals. LinkedIn introduced in-app video upload and playback to their users mid-2017.

The rise of temporary videos on social media: Temporary video content (like Snapchat and Instagram stories) has narrower reach, but a much greater urgency—resulting in better engagement rates. A short video with 150 views and 130 comments is much better compared to a video with millions of views, but only a few hundred shares and comments.

Don’t get me wrong, content reach is a useful metric to have, but for an entirely different purpose. If you’re a new brand trying to make a name for yourself in the market, reach is crucial. But user engagement is way more difficult to get—and it’s more favorable in most of the social media algorithms these days.

Download my latest guide to Choosing The Best Explainer Video Production Company and learn how to get the most value out of your explainer video.

There are 30+ facts and predictions for video marketing in 2018 in the infographic below.


5—Helping Small Business Owners Use The Cloud To Unplug

Guest post by Herman Man, VP of Products and Partnerships, Xero Americas

Technology gives us the power to stay connected no matter where we are. For small business owners, it means they can run their ventures anywhere, anytime. Unfortunately, most small business owners are taking this to the extreme—staying on the job when they’re meant to be off.

This trend is revealed in a recent survey, commissioned by Xero, which revealed that only 14%  of small business owners can check out completely while on vacation. With more of the U.S. workforce picking up sporadic jobs (up to 30% are estimated to be participating in the gig economy) and the ubiquitous nature of technology, small business owners are more likely to work while they’re away.

The cloud: The vacation enabler: While getting away may be harder for some than others, those who use cloud accounting software are more diligent about taking time off. For example, 69% of Xero users have taken a week or more of vacation in the last 12 months, compared to 55% of non-Xero users. Those who use cloud accounting software also see more benefits from vacation, including better work-life balance, stronger relationships with family and friends and improved personal productivity. While taking time off ultimately resides with the business owner, it seems cloud apps are helping them take longer, more beneficial vacations. So how can technology companies build on this and develop products with features that help small business owners check out more?

Ensure mobility: Mobility is a huge factor for small business owners, with many of them today opting for the non-traditional office. Xero’s survey also reveals some of the most unusual places SMBs have worked, with one adventurous entrepreneur claiming theirs as the top of a mountain in Morocco, while another said floating in a tube at the Great Blue Hole in Belize. It’s evident small business owners can get work done no matter the setting. So, even four minutes of time waiting in line at the coffee shop can be time well-spent with the right mobile platform. For these reasons, the user experience needs to be designed for every environment. The user needs to be able to access the platform on the beach with as much ease as they would from their office.

Automation via machine learning: For small business owners, time spent on manual tasks such as data entry, filing or chasing clients may seem miniscule, but over time these minutes can add up to hours. One of the best ways technology companies can help give small business owners the option to take more time off, is by automating tasks like these using machine learning systems. If the applications they use can, for example, complete their expense reports for them or predict their reply to an email, these are valuable minutes and seconds they can get back in their day—time that can potentially be turned into that elusive vacation time!

Technology affords business owners more flexibility to stay connected while away, but it also keeps people on the job when they’re supposed to be off. As an industry, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to help protect small business owners’ mental health and wellness as they try to keep up at a rapid pace. Software features that enable them to access their business-critical data and applications on-the-go, along with technology to help them automate and scale are just a few ways we can assist small business owners to manage their businesses from wherever they are, and maybe even switch off once in awhile.


6—6 Tips to Fix Your Website’s SEO

Only 5% of Americans don’t search for local businesses online—and 53% of consumers search for them at least once a month. But, according to Qamar Zaman of One SEO Company, which specializes in local SEO to keep small business traffic consistent, ineffective SEO buries most small business websites deep in Google search results and ensures most potential customers will never even find them.

Here are his 6 tips to fix your website’s SEO:

  1. Help customers actually find what they need: Customers searching online are already impatient. Changing website architecture to group similar pieces of content together helps them get crucial information faster—crafting a better user experience that drives conversion.
  2. Identify unique selling points—and own them: Every small business has distinguishing factors that are important to communicate with clear and appealing content—whether that’s impeccable customer service or a highly superior product. This dovetails with other customer experience improvements like making sure your website loads fast.
  3. Make websites mobile-friendly: Mobile outranks desktop use—and you’re shutting out the majority of potential paying customers when you provide them with a difficult navigation experience on their phones.
  4. Make sure to N.A.P. consistently: To help drive new local clients, make sure your business’s name, address and phone are consistent across the site. This helps search engines correctly index information.
  5. Up your social media game: Businesses that have more social engagement rank higher in search. You should make sure that you’re routinely posting on social networks and answering potential customers as soon as they comment.
  6. Get outside sources to link to your website: Search engines use backlinks to judge a site’s importance and credibility, meaning you should be reaching out to anyone who will link to your site. This can be anything from asking customers to write reviews, to reaching out to a local newspaper.

7—What Consumers Want from Advertising

Clutch survey U.S. consumers to learn more about their advertising preferences and found that:

  • 58% of consumers prefer TV advertisements over any other medium.
  • Facebook (36%) is the most favored form of digital advertising.
  • 80% of consumers name food and drink ads in their top three categories of advertisements.
  • Males are more likely to enjoy technology (49%) and sports (49%) ads, while women enjoy fashion and beauty (69%) and travel and leisure (54%) ads.
  • 53% of consumers say they prefer and remember advertisements that are humorous.

You can learn more in What Consumers Want in Advertising.


8—What to Do in a Crisis

Guest post by Josh Weiss, president, 10 to 1 Public Relations. You can reach him at [email protected].  This is part one of a 4-part series.

The media crisis has already begun so what should you do? Ready Fire Aim. That’s how too many companies handle a crisis. They respond before they know what their message is, and they end up saying the wrong thing to the wrong audience.

It’s easier if you plan for a crisis in advance so you can execute your strategy when needed, but a lot of companies find themselves unprepared during an emergency.

When a crisis occurs, companies tend to make one of two opposite, but equally painful, mistakes. One mistake is being too afraid to say anything at all. By taking too long to respond the company fails to stop the bleeding before the damage is complete. A quick acknowledgement and action by the company is essential to ending a crisis. The more news cycles the company waits to show they care and are trying to fix the problem, the worse it will be.

The other mistake is speaking too quickly without an organized strategy or a designated spokesperson from whom all statements will be controlled and consistent. A company can look pretty bad when different spokespeople contradict one another. It only leads to more confusion and issues to resolve. It also looks horrible when a statement is made, but only hours or days later the company needs to backtrack because the company’s desired message or strategy has changed.

Both of these mistakes (and the inconsistencies they create) are not due to ineptitude by any individuals. Rather, it’s simply a lack of a simple message and simple direction from the top. In the middle of a media crisis, it’s too late to form a committee and discuss options.  Leadership needs to act quickly to calm the storm, but clarity and consistency is also needed.

Simplify and clarify your message: One of the first things company leaders need to quickly decide are a few core message points from which all statements and actions will revolve around—no matter who is speaking or listening. The key is clarity and direction. The statement should clearly and simply state what the company is focused on during the crisis, and what the company will do after the initial crisis is over.

For example, say your healthcare organization has a major HIPPA violation. An example of your core message points may be:

  • We will take care of our patients impacted by the violation
  • We will investigate and take action where appropriate
  • We will redouble all efforts to prevent any future similar violation

These statements may not seem very deep, but they’re very powerful. They’re a promise allowing all parties, internal and external, to set their expectations. They become the mile markers for which the overall response can be judged.

The statement lets those who are impacted, the public in general, and the media know the company cares and is working on proper resolutions. It’s hard to hate someone who’s trying to help. It may not stop anger or fear, but there’s comfort in knowing the issue is not being ignored and the company has a plan of what to do to fix it.

To company spokespeople, it gives clear statements to convey to anyone that will listen. The statements are general enough that they can be given quickly to media, even before all the facts are known. It shows the company isn’t ignoring the crisis, or the anger or fear it might create. It shows the company cares. It also creates a clear path to show the public in the future that the company followed through on its commitment, wherever that path might lead.

These simple but direct statements also give internal guidance to employees on how they are supposed proceed in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. It also points in the direction where the light at the tunnel will (eventually) appear.

The first statement, to take care of the patients impacted, is something employees can start doing immediately. The second statement lets internal teams know they need to investigate what happened and the third statement instructs employees to figure out if anything needs to change internally to make sure such a violation doesn’t occur again.

Ultimately, during any crisis there’s lots of details and nuance that to insiders seem important. As company leaders, you need that info to evaluate the details and decide how to fix the problem, but these details aren’t important to the general public. From a message and direction standpoint, the best thing a company can do to protect its brand image and minimize the damage is to simplify and clarify the goals into a statement that is easy for everyone to understand and rally around.


9—App Overload

In its new report From Workplace Chaos to Zen: How App Overload Is Reshaping the Digital Workplace, Ring Central found the very workplace apps intended to streamline tasks have sparked an app overload that’s injecting chaos into business workflows and costing enterprises billions in lost productivity.

Specifically for communications applications, workers today are using an average of four apps, with 20% of workers using six or more. This includes apps for phone calls, texts, web meetings, video conferencing, team messaging, and more. And 69% of workers waste up to an hour each day navigating between myriad communications apps, amounting to a waste of 32 days per year.

To counter this app fragmentation, 66% of workers want a single communications platform that will bring a sense of productivity to their workplace. However, the C-Suite is more likely to be content with their current suite of tools (44%), revealing a disconnect with the cultural shift to newer communications and collaboration solutions.

App overload is creating workplace chaos

Today’s flood of communications has upended the modern workday, creating a sense of workplace chaos that’s taking a toll on employees and their companies.

  • More than 70% of workers say their communications volume is a challenge to getting work done.
  • 68% toggle between apps up to 10 times an hour, and 31% say toggling causes them to lose their train of thought.
  • Workers find navigating between apps more annoying than doing household chores (53%), paying bills (52%), and trying to lose weight (50%).
  • Despite the prevailing feeling of app overload, workers find team messaging to be the least disruptive to their workday.

Workers seek one platform for simplicity

The report says workers believe a single platform integrating all their communications channels would bring more simplicity to their workday. Specifically, the data shows:

  • Employees believe this would help them achieve better workflow (67%), be more productive at work (65%), make work feel less chaotic (62%), and make it easier to work remotely (61%).
  • Workers 45+ years old still prefer email (51%), but 18- to 44-year-olds prefer team messaging (43%). Team messaging–centric platforms are growing quickly in popularity as the preferred “home base” for a single communications platform.

From Workplace Chaos to Zen: How App Overload Is Reshaping the Digital Workplace is based on a survey of knowledge workers across all industries in the United States, U.K., and Australia, conducted by CITE Research on behalf of RingCentral. To view the full report, click here.


10—Getting a Tax Refund

Guest post by Lisa Henken, Chief Customer Officer, Netspend

As the tax deadline approaches, there’s a new way a number of SMBs are getting their tax refunds this year. Filing your business’s taxes electronically and setting up direct deposit is key to ensuring your company receives its tax refund as quickly and conveniently as possible.

However, if you are a solopreneur or small business owner who chooses not to bank with a traditional financial institution, this can pose a challenge or even delay that much-needed return. Luckily, prepaid options and alternative solutions are available to help small businesses get returns as quickly and easily as possible. By setting up a prepaid card or account for your small business, you can still receive your return quickly, safely and conveniently, while also compartmentalizing some of your personal and business expenses for tax preparation. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when using a prepaid card or account to get your return as quickly as possible:

  1. Set up your return to directly deposit right into your prepaid card account.
  2. Ensure the name on your tax return matches the name on your prepaid card account.
  3. Make sure your account information is up to date and your account is in good standing.
  4. Set up mobile text messaging alerts through your prepaid card account to notify you when your tax return deposit has been posted.


Quick Takes

11—Guide to Self-Employment Taxes

Taxes are complex—even (or especially) for independent contractors. Check out this article from Ridester to learn what you need to know.


12—Communications Help for Startups

Startups usually need the most help with their marketing communications, but have the least ability to pay for this. A new program from PR Boutiques International™(PRBI), a global network of independently-owned strategic communications firms, is offering selected businesses $50,000 in products and services under its new accelerator program.

Act now—the deadline for applying is Thursday, March 15.

Here’s a link to the application form.


13—Startup Camp

Check out this 5-day camp, that focuses product and design. Students learn how to build best-in-class products, save hundred thousand dollars on production, make a great PR coverage and raise a seed round.

The next session starts in late March.


Cool Tools

14—Is it Time to Toss Your Business Cards?

Convey is a “powerful connection platform that replaces business cards and static contacts with live, dynamic connections so you can build stronger, more valuable professional and personal relationships.”

It simplifies and streamlines the entire process of meeting someone into a simple click of a button. In an instant, a cross-platform and always up-to-date connection is established. Convey is built to complement existing CRM, marketing automation, and customer service tools, and it reduces data entry time and costs and provides higher quality contact information for busy sales teams.

Check out these fun facts:

  • 10 billion business cards were printed last year for a total spend of $786 million, yet 88% are thrown away within a week
  • Employees spend an average of 5.5 hours a week logging activities and updating records into a CRM system
  • 88% of CRM users admit to entering incomplete contact information into a CRM and 62% do not log all of their activities


15—Track Your SaaS Spending

Siftery launched Siftery Track to help businesses track, visualize and optimize their software expenditures. The product connects to an accounting system or other financial accounts and automatically generates beautiful visualizations of historic and forecasted spend by product, category, or team.

“The rise of SaaS, the emergence of new software categories, and the fragmentation of existing solutions have all contributed to the growth and complexity of most companies’ software stack,” says Vamshi Mokshagundam, Siftery’s CEO. “Track helps companies tackle this new world of SaaS confidently, allowing for procurement decision-making to be more decentralized or responsive while maintaining oversight and budgetary discipline.”

The service also includes an intelligence layer which sends alerts for new products, duplicate charges, unexpected increases in spend, and more. This helps budget owners stay on top of new developments and identify savings opportunities with minimal effort.

Track is a freemium product—its core functionality is available for free.