18 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1) A Day in the Life…
Are you or have you thought about being a retailer?One tool that makes life easier for retailers is POS systems (Point of Sale), and yet, according to Software Advice, who helps small businesses find the right software, 64% of retailers don’t use a POS system.
Take a look at the in infographic, ‘A Day In The Life of a Small Business Retailer’ that shows what it’s like to run a business with and without a POS system.
2) Holiday Sales
Speaking of retail, we’re about to enter the busiest, most important time of year for retailers. Indeed although it’s only early October—and here in southern California the temperature topped 100 degrees this weekend, many retailers were already displaying their holiday wares.
Hopefully your holiday prep is underway. But you need to make sure you’re on top of the trends. Here’s what you should know, courtesy of Jake Gasaway, the cofounder of Stitch Labs. (Also, check out the Holiday Retail Guide from Stitch Labs.)
- Data will take a front seat in planning for the holidays. Retailers will be relying more on data to drive sales and inventory decisions. How retailers gather data is just as vital as the data itself. Implementing a central inventory management system that tracks cross-channel sales data is what retailers will rely on most to make smarter decisions this holiday season. During the holidays, retailers need to pay particular attention to bestselling items, and how they gather the supply of these items. These two factors will impact, and could cause overselling—which is something retailers often face during such a busy shopping season. By looking at historical sales reports, such as top-selling products or bestselling items by channel, retailers can better prepare their operations and warehousing. Retailers should also add one more safety net by setting a ‘Low Stock Threshold’ on those best selling products so ‘Out of Stock’ becomes a thing of the past.
It doesn’t stop at individual business data. Retailers should also leverage industry insights to drive business decisions. While unique business analytics is the priority, ecommerce industry data is just as important as getting a peek into the current health of the industry and where it’s headed.
This Internet Retailer sales prediction article, depicted through 2018, is a good place to start to get up-to-speed on the current upward trend. With these two types of data available, retailers have a viewfinder into future holiday sales and the ability to sell even more, because they know where they stand against the market.
- The holiday season is the perfect way to tap into 80 million Millennials who will be shopping, everywhere. Millennials are the largest age cohort ever with over 80 million individuals in the United States. Additionally, Millennials were raised and shaped by technology, and are the most “connected” generation, never far from a smart phone, laptop, or similar device. Because of this, traditional marketing has become less and less effective with these types of shoppers. Retailers have the opportunity to turn them into loyal customers for decades to come. Millennials value brand loyalty, and their purchasing power is on the rise. As the Baby Boomers move closer to retirement, Millennials will take over their spending segment.
To capture this brand-new audience, retailers need to get creative. A few great suggestions include:
- Host a faux-Black Friday sale (see Amazon’s #PrimeDay)
- Focus on social media, leveraging Facebook and Instagram to build a network
- Retarget last year’s holiday shoppers and lure them back with a special promo code
- Host a hashtag promotion where you encourage customers to share purchases on Instagram and Twitter
- Consumers are in search for the best prices and experiences, and they’re willing to search anywhere (offline or online) to find them. To succeed this holiday season, retailers must be available to customers everywhere, and at all times. The trick to succeeding as an omnichannel seller is to be active on multiple sales channels, while maintaining a single brand throughout each channel. Consistency is key to increasing sales, and building a loyal customer base.
Forbes discussed the omnichannel revolution in an article from February 2015, where, “according to a survey conducted by Retail Systems Research in June 2013, around 84% of the retailers polled worldwide believed that creating a consistent customer experience across channels was very important. Moreover, multichannel shoppers have a tendency to spend more than regular shoppers as they have access to a wider product range and additional discounts.”
What does this mean for you during the holidays? Make sure your website is first and foremost, mobile friendly. Be sure to offer discounts across channels, not just through your shopping cart website, but also in your brick-and-mortar, and even email campaigns.
3) How to Beat the Big-Box Retailers
Another challenge facing small retailers is the ongoing struggle to retain market share, revenue and customers when competing with the big-box stores. Retail giants leverage economies of scale to steal customers and revenue away from small businesses, making competition increasingly difficult.
However, according to Broadview Networks, there are several ways small businesses can outsmart, outpace and out-service the retail goliaths in their respective markets by leveraging cloud-based phone systems and mobile technologies.
Streamline in-house technology: Leveraging cloud-based solutions allows small businesses to rid themselves of antiquated hardware and software that is not only taking up physical space, but is likely interfering with daily tasks such as scheduling meetings and connecting with other locations. Cloud-based video and conferencing solutions, such as OfficeSuite HD Meeting, allow small businesses with multiple locations to collaborate and meet face-to-face in real time for added efficiency and productivity. Features such as hot-desking allow employees to turn any phone in the system into anyone’s phone—same phone number, speed dials and voicemail—which ensures ease of use and accessibility, whether they’re offsite or at another location.
Leverage the cloud to enhance the customer experience: The cloud has leveled the playing field by enabling small businesses to interact with customers in more sophisticated ways, leveraging services previously reserved for large corporations. Functions like call center services and mobile twinning, which allow an incoming call to ring multiple phones at once, can improve the customer experience and helping to increase revenue in the long run. With just a simple call center queue, the customer understands that their inquiry is important, their call has been received and their needs will be addressed within a finite amount of time.
Make necessary changes at a moment’s notice: Leveraging cloud-based solutions allows small business owners to access all aspects of their technology from one central dashboard. A centralized dashboard, such as MyOfficeSuite, not only frees up budget that would ordinarily go to an IT specialist to maintain the technology infrastructure, but allows the owner to make quick changes as business needs evolve. Whether adding a newly hired employee to the database, adding new capacity and functionality or ordering additional products, a central dashboard provides companies the nimble and flexible support they need to grow.
4) The Lucky 7 Must-Haves for SMBs to Optimize Online Sales
Want to get the most from your online sales? Here’s some advice from the experts:
- Target your audience with verified business and consumer data: As corporate data grows 40% annually over the next decade, marketers need to get a handle on their data quality. It’s estimated anywhere between 10 and 25% of B2B marketing databases have errors, according to VentureBeat‘s 2014 State of Marketing Report.
Advice: Mike Iaccarino, CEO, Infogroup, which services 70% of Fortune 100 companies:
“When looking for a data provider, it’s important to keep in mind the way in which the data is compiled and verified. Due to the nature of offline campaigns, offline data is more accurate. It’s verified by human beings and isn’t based on web scraping. And in today’s world where digital marketing is at an all-time high, it’s more important than ever for marketers to reach the right consumers or businesses with the right message. So, look for a provider that goes above and beyond in the verification process to provide you with the highest quality data possible.”
- Grab their attention with strategically placed earned media coverage: About 1 in every 4 news consumers are influenced by content in news outlets, e.g. print and online media, when written by a brand, found Acquity Group’s 2015 Next Generation of Commerce Study.
Advice: Dave Parro, Retail Technology Lead and Partner at Walker Sands Communications:
“While earned media is a powerful tool for increasing brand awareness and establishing credibility in the market, it’s most effective when used in conjunction with earned and owned strategies. B2B companies have to understand their specific customers’ buyer journey and the role that different channels play in the discovery, research and purchase phases of the decision-making process. For example, a media placement might put a company on a prospect’s radar, but it could take a PPC or email marketing campaign to turn them into a lead. And a great piece of content might finally close the deal. Earned media is a critical touch point with prospects, but it shouldn’t be the only one.”
- Engage them on social media in real-time: 98% of marketers report a positive impact to revenue from real-time marketing, with 89% of real-time marketers in agreement that they can easily tie these efforts to overall business goals, according to The 2015 Wayin Real-Time Marketing Report.
Advice: Jordan Slabaugh, VP, Wayin, a social display and intelligence platform:
“The most effective marketing strategies today are integrating real-time marketing moments and campaigns that require brands to communicate to consumers in more agile ways. Brands that devote a portion of their budget on real-time digital marketing efforts are seeing a significant return on investment. Leveraging user-generated content across social media is both authentic and incredibly persuasive, and marketers that can understand their target audiences and embrace their social content across marketing channels in real-time are in a great position for growth.”
- Drive traffic through killer search engine optimization (SEO): Forrester’s Interactive Marketing Forecast for 2011-2016 predicts that 26% of all advertising spending will come from interactive marketing. $33 billion of that spending will come through search.
Advice: John Fairley, VP of Digital Services at Walker Sands Digital
“The power of SEO is unbelievable. There are over 22 billion internet searches made every month in the United States, so in order to make sure your business gets your share of that traffic and that it translates into achieving your business goals, it’s critical to invest in SEO services.”
- Gain their trust through strong product content management (PCM): 78% of consumers say quality product information online is very important when it comes to making a purchase decision, and 64% say the same for in store, as found in a new study by Shotfarm.
Advice: Mike Lapchick, Founder and CEO, Shotfarm, a product content exchange network
“Product margins have been so severely beaten down over the past decade that efficiency gains and increased conversions have become the few remaining areas of focus when looking to stay competitive. If you run product information through that mill, a direct hit on both becomes immediately apparent: 1) the quality of product information has an enormous impact on sales, returns, and customer retention and 2) the efficiency with which product information is managed, exchanged and readied for ecommerce carries an enormous resource and opportunity cost. The good news is that, by using a proper product content exchange, both can be fixed quickly and affordably. There are few things a company could do to provide more gain with such a small amount of effort.”
- Optimize your serviceability by working off a scalable and fully-integrated eCommerce platform: 87% of buyers prefer ordering from a company offering delivery transparency, says The Acquity Group 2015 Next Generation of Commerce Study.
Advice: Chris Dalton, CEO, CloudCraze, a natively developed Salesforce eCommerce application
“In order to keep up with the growing expectations of users in all levels of the supply chain, B2B companies need to be working on an eCommerce platform that allows for the most nimble, connected, transparent and scalable end-to-end process possible. And this doesn’t need to be seen as a painful process either — some platform integration processes take as little as eight weeks, seeing ROI in just five months and for a surprisingly affordable initial cost.”
- Build loyalty by providing a personalized customer experience: 49% of consumers are comfortable with retailers collecting personal info, in exchange for more personalized service, according to a past Cisco Customer Experience Research report.
Advice: Bob Barr, Managing Director, Acquity Group, (part of Accenture Interactive)
“Every B2B procurer is also a consumer. So when consumers visit your site, they’re comparing your e-commerce platform not only to your competitors’ but also to the convenience and functionality they enjoy on their favorite consumer e-commerce websites. As more and more B2B buyers clamor for enhanced customer experiences, the brands that respond with robust online commerce capabilities will gain revenue and global market share, while those that ignore e-commerce will gradually become irrelevant to large sections of the marketplace.”
5) The Gig Economy
The Freelancers Union and Upwork just released the 2nd annual Freelancing in America study revealing insights into the almost 54 million people freelancing in America. The study says today more people are choosing to freelance—60% say they started freelancing by choice, up 7 percentage points from last year. And half say they would not quit freelancing and take a traditional job with an employer—no matter how much it paid.
Other key findings:
- 60% of the freelancers who left traditional employment now earn more than they did before—and of those, 78% started making more money within a year or less
- More than one-third report a higher demand for their services in the past year
- Almost 50% expect their income to increase in the coming year
- 73% says technology is making it easier to find freelance work—51% found a project online,
- Top 3 sources for finding work: personal contacts, professional contacts & online sources
- Flexibility is the top reason people choose to freelance full-time
- 78% of freelancers would recommend freelancing to their friends and family
Interested in a freelance career. Check out the results deck here.
6) How Much Does $20k Get You?
Before you write your rent check, check out the interactive infographic from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It took a look at how much $20,000 (annually) gets you in 13 different U.S. cities. The results are really interesting.
7) Small Business Optimism Up, Yet Growth Stalls
According to the 5th annual The Hartford’s 2015 Small Business Success Study, only 33% of small business owners’ primary goal is to grow their businesses (meaning experiencing a large increase in sales, revenue, and staff), down from 41% in 2012, while 55% are looking to maintain their businesses at their current size. Despite this, 73% of biz owners feel successful about how their businesses are operating now. And, 52% are optimistic that the national economy will improve this year, a significant increase over the 33% who felt that way in 2012.
Even though they’re feelings successful and optimistic, 72% say the number of risks they take stayed the same over the past six months, while 17% have increased the risks they are taking.
|Major Risks to Their Business||2015||2012|
|Slow economic growth||48 percent||67 percent|
|Healthcare costs||39 percent||53 percent|
|Taxes||37 percent||59 percent|
|Uncertainty about federal regulations||31 percent||56 percent|
Characteristics of Highly Successful Business Owners
But, The Hartford’s study revels that small business owners who take more risks and feel optimistic about the national economy tend to be more inclined to say their businesses are extremely or very successful. These highly successful business owners aren’t as conservative as others and rely on better-qualified talent, better guidance from other professionals, and bank loans. Those who feel less successful, says the survey, seem to be taking on more of the load and stress of running a small business on their own.
Small Business Owners Want It “My Way”
Here’s my favorite question in the survey. When asked which theme song would be their small business anthem, the top three small business anthems selected were:
|Which song would be your small business anthem?||2015|
|“My Way” by Frank Sinatra, because I am determined and hard-working||35 percent|
|“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, because I am hopeful and optimistic of achieving my goals||21 percent|
|“We are the Champions” by Queen, , because I have persevered and been successful||14 percent|
Although “My Way” came out on top for all small business owners, those who feel extremely or very successful are more likely to be singing ‘We are the Champions” by Queen. While those are great choices, I personally like “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway musical Wicked.
8) Car Talk
A new survey from Manta and Ford shows more than half of small business owners use their business vehicles for personal travel, and almost 75%s say they would be more productive if their vehicle enabled them to make hands-free calls on the road.
Other survey results show:
Purchase price, maintenance and fuel costs are the top considerations for business owners looking to purchase a new vehicle
Approximately 13% of the small business owners surveyed rely on vans for their businesses, 25% drive trucks, 16% drive another type of service vehicle, 23% drive cars and 18% drive SUVs.
Regardless of which vehicle they choose, flexibility is key for these entrepreneurs. Nearly half report they use their business vehicle primarily for driving themselves to appointments, 36 percent use it to carry equipment to job sites, 30 percent make deliveries and 8 percent transport customers.
“Dual use was one of the key considerations in the design of Ford Transit Connect,” [the best-selling commercial van in America] says Yaro Hetman, Ford brand manager for Transit, Transit Connect and E-Series. “Customers appreciate that the seats fold down for deliveries during the week and the vehicle works well as a family van on weekends.”
Connectivity technology boosts productivity
Nearly 75% say they’d be more productive if they could make hands-free calls through a Bluetooth-enabled system, such as SYNC3—Ford’s new communications and entertainment technology that features faster performance, more conversational voice recognition, a more intuitive smartphone-like touch screen and easier-to-understand graphical interface to help Ford customers connect on the road.
In fact, 25% rank hands-free phone calls as the number-one thing that gets them through spending a lot of time in their vehicles. For others, snacks help them power through.
9) Entrepreneurial Women are Wealthier
According to The Business Journals SMB Insights whitepaper, women business owners are wealthier and have household incomes 56% higher than other full-time working women. But, no surprise, these women entrepreneurs lag the financial stature of men business owners.
Overall, women owners’ personal attitudes about business, such as the desire to be at the top of their field and/or profession, is on pace with that of men. However, the whitepaper reports, while being financially successful is a top priority for both, women business owners place meaningful work as a higher priority, and the women want and need to be engaged in work that is personally satisfying and fulfilling.
On average, women owners work fewer hours (48.1) than male owners (52.8) per week and travel less often. However, women owners are more stressed, time pressured, and concerned about spending enough time with their families.
10) How Much Do You Know About SBA Loans?
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved $45,000 in loans so far this year, a 25% increase over the same period last year. Another interesting SBA loan stat is that SBA loans account for only 5.8% of loans but represent 66% of all jobs created in the U.S. economy.
Check out the history of the SBA loan and its benefits for the US economy and small business in the infographic below, courtesy of SmartBiz.
11) The Domain Name Game
Verisign recently released its most current “Domain Name Industry Brief.” Here’s a look at the numbers at the end of Q2 2015:
- 296 million: the number registered domain names worldwide across all top-level domains
- 2 million domain names were added to the Internet in Q2 2015
- 5 million: the number of .com and .net TLDs
- 5 million: the base of registered names in .com
- 15 million names: the base of registered name in .net
- 7 million: the number of new domain names for .com and .net processed by Verisign in Q2 2015
12) What Affects Startup Success
Lots of factors help determine whether your start up will be successful. Check out the infographic below to see if your startup has a good chance of being successful.
13) Partnering with CPAs
CPA.com and Biz2Credit, a leading online resource for small business finance, just announced they’re teaming up allowing CPAs to “provide even more support to [their] clients and leverage the service for their own financing needs, too.”
Biz2Credit’s cloud-based platform gives entrepreneurs and small business owners access to a network of more than 1,300 prescreened lenders. Financing, which ranges from $5,000 to $5 million, can be arranged in as little as 24 hours for lines of credit, expansion loans, working capital and other uses.
Rohit Arora, co-founder and CEO of Biz2Credit, says, “The average small business owner spends 24 hours preparing and processing a loan application, and we think that’s time better spent building the business. Our application takes four minutes or less to fill out using a smartphone, tablet or laptop.”
Biz2Credit will become part of CPA.com’s Partner Solutions, a lineup of best-in-class services that CPA firms can offer clients seeking business efficiency, flexibility and better financial insight into their operations.
14) Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Drives Marketing Success
Demandbase, a leader in Account-Based Marketing (ABM), and research firm Demand Metric recently released results from a new benchmark report, “Account-Based Marketing Adoption.” The findings show “ABM has moved swiftly up the adoption curve, [due] in large part to the B2B marketers who use ABM are seeing increased revenue, with 96% reporting that ABM is a key driver of marketing success.”
ABM is not a new concept—it allows marketing and sales to target and market to the accounts they value most. However, new technology makes it possible to scale ABM efforts from 50 accounts to 500 or even 5,000. This precise approach to targeting brings the right accounts into the sales cycle, making the marketing and sales process more efficient, while significantly growing revenue. In fact, the study shows that ABM increases engagement with target accounts; 83% of respondents agree this is the number-one benefit of ABM.
“ABM is more than just a marketing strategy; it has become the cornerstone of most B2B marketing plans,” says Peter Isaacson, chief marketing officer at Demandbase.
Additional study findings include:
- 71% of B2B organizations are using ABM, interested in adopting the strategy or are testing it.
- 60% of those who have employed ABM for at least a year attribute a revenue increase to its use.
- 43% of those using ABM for three or more years report it impacts the entire funnel, compared to just 12% for those who have used ABM for two years or less.
- 70% of ABM users report that their sales and marketing organizations are mostly or completely aligned, compared to 51% for non-ABM users.
- 83% of ABM testers and 72% of ABM users have plans to increase their usage of ABM in the coming 12 months; none have plans to decrease ABM usage.
- While large companies are currently the heaviest users of ABM at 41%, small companies are the most aggressive testers at 23%.
15) Is Your Business Safe from Email Scams?
You may think your business is too small to be targeted, but this year $1.2 billion will be lost due to email compromise scams. Click here to find out how to keep your small business safe.
16) Client Engagement On-the-Go
vCita, a leader in client engagement platform for small businesses, recently launched vCita Mobile, a new solution that supports the on-the-go lifestyles of service-based SMBs—from coaches to accountants, doctors and home services providers.
vCita Mobile is an integrated, customizable client engagement and CRM app that enables small business to access information, perform critical client facing tasks, and quickly serve customers 24×7, while saving resources on routine tasks such as scheduling, invoicing, and document sharing. The CRM app is uniquely integrated with the business website and email to empower clients to schedule appointments, book services, and pay fees online.
Among the new capabilities:
- Customizable Online Portal: Invite clients to a branded service portal where they can schedule appointments, pay invoices, share documents, and communicate online or on their phone.
- Instantaneous Customer Service: Get instant notification for any client request from the web, email or social and immediately respond via the mobile app.
- Everything In the Palm of Your Hand: Access all client information anywhere you go, including contact details, social network profiles, previous communication history, appointments and payments.
- On-The-Go Billing: Create and email invoices outside the office and request clients to pay online or via their mobile device.
- Automated Notifications: Set reminders for upcoming appointments, or send alerts to clients who require a follow-up at a specific time or warrant special attention.
17) Shipping Made Easier
If you’re a Shopify merchant, you can now use Endicia to get direct access to U.S. Postal Service shipping solutions. By integrating with Endicia, Shopify can now provide U.S.-based merchants with the ability to manage and print USPS shipping labels for domestic and international orders directly from Shopify’s admin.
18) Security for Small Business
Digital Guardian, the only endpoint security platform purpose- built to stop data theft, has acquired Code Green Networks, a provider of Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions for the network, cloud and mobile devices.
The company says this positions them as the only security firm exclusively focused on protecting customers’ valuable data at the endpoint, on the network and in the cloud from both insider and outsider threats. This deal is the third acquisition in just a year for the cybersecurity firm.
The combined solution will also provide:
- Comprehensive data protection for the network, endpoint, cloud and mobile devices Advanced data protection from threats originating inside or outside an organization
- Data discovery for endpoints, network, servers and in the cloud
- Context and fingerprint-based data classification for structured and unstructured data TrueDLP is generally available today, and will continue to be sold as a separate solution until it is fully integrated into the Digital Guardian Data Protection Platform.