11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1) Going Global
One of the hardest aspects of taking your small business global is knowing where to start. According to DHL, two primary questions small businesses interested in exporting ask are: “Where should I export?” and “Will my product be successful in that market?”
If you’re thinking about growing internationally, check out the helpful tips in the infographic below which shows what products are in high demand in specific countries.
2) Are Small Businesses Really Growing?
According to the just released Bank of the West Small Business Growth Survey and Index small businesses may have finally turned a corner. The inaugural Small Business Growth Index shows the small business sector experienced “slight growth driven by consistent or improved company financials, as well as investments back into the business.” In fact about twice as many small businesses saw growth in profitability, sales, and revenue than experienced loss over the past 12 months. Looking ahead, half of small businesses project upticks in profitability, sales and revenue next year.
A few highlights:
- 84% of small business owners say growing their businesses means they can secure their family’s financial future. Looking ahead at the next 12 months, in order to fuel this growth 72% of business owners are planning on investing in their businesses, with 31% planning to debut new product offerings and 25% investing in marketing spend.
- 51% of business owners of growing businesses say investing in technology is “very important” to their business’ success in the year ahead, compared to just 25% of declining businesses.
- To prepare for growth, one-third of small businesses plan to hire new staff in the year ahead. Overall, businesses plan on adding an average of 5 employees to their workforce over the next 12 months. And yet, finding employees with the necessary skill sets and experience prevents nearly a third of small businesses from hiring the staff they need in a timely manner.
- The U.S. economy and state of business owners’ personal finances more strongly impact business owners’ growth plans than the global economic climate. Only 20% of small business owners say the state of the global economy influences their plans for expansion.
- Younger Business Owners (those under 50) are bullish and willing take on greater risk to scale their business. These folks had a strong year and, on the heels of positive growth, are nearly twice as likely to believe their businesses are poised for significant expansion over the next 12 months (64% vs. 33%). In the past year, nearly 90% of them invested in their businesses, compared to 70% of older business owners.
3) CRM Resources
CRM is an increasingly important component of every small business owner’s marketing plan. How much do you really know about CRM? Ben Ratner from HubSpot (one of my favorite resources) has created some resources all business owners will find very useful.
4) It’s Now Easier to Advertise on Facebook and Twitter
According to a Bigcommerce survey of small and mid-sized businesses:
- 48% of merchants say paid online advertising is very important/extremely important to the success of their online stores
- 73% personally manage their online advertising
- 63% have previously used paid social media ads to drive site traffic
- 43% would like more help with paid social media ads
- Not everyone is spending however. The top reasons for not spending more on online advertising are:
- 44% say they “haven’t seen a return on previous advertising efforts”
- 37% “don’t know what the best advertising options are”
And according to BIA/Kelsey, 75% of SMBs use ads on social networks to help increase sales and awareness of their online stores. Effective social advertising solves one of retailers’ top pain points: acquiring new customers, and also creates a meaningful customer touchpoint, increasing the likelihood that new customers return.
To help make all this happen Bigcommerce recently announced a new advertising platform designed to help retailers increase sales, awareness and brand loyalty through major social networks. This will help automate the creation, optimization and reporting behind ads on Facebook and Twitter to help SMB retailers find new customers, not just retarget existing ones. Bigcommerce says, “The new product ads help business owners maximize their marketing dollars by creating ads designed to improve ROI, and save time by automatically importing product information to create each ad.” Here’s what Bigcommerce says makes its new ad product is different:
- It creates Facebook and Twitter product ads automatically by importing product information from their online stores, saving retailers time. Not having sufficient time or confidence in ad performance are 2 of the top 3 concerns for our retailers.
- Most ad products are designed for retailers that already have a lot of traffic; this product helps drive new demand for retailers looking to expand. It allows retailers to find new customers through advanced targeting techniques, not just those that have previously visited their store. (No basic retargeting.)
- It automatically tweaks product ads based on those that perform best—top-selling products, most clicks, etc. to expand opportunities across product lines. The reporting function allows merchants to see which are performing best/worst, and allows them to tweak to help them perform better in real-time.
Why concentrate on Facebook and Twitter? The company says, “Global ecommerce spending is expected to eclipse $2.5 trillion in 2015, social networks have become critical sales channels and sources of referral traffic for established and emerging brands, specifically small businesses. According to a 2015 study by the National Retail Federation, 58% of small businesses are increasing their year-over-year spend on social media marketing with 25% of retailers citing Facebook as a top customer acquisition channel. Similarly, 60% of consumers attest to making a purchase decision from a small business because of Twitter.”
5) 6 Tips for Localizing Your Website for Global Sales
Guest post by Andy Zichek, Director of Product Management at 2Checkout, a payment services provider that maximizes online sales by providing buyers with localized payment options.
When small business and merchants talk localization, there’s a common misbelief that converting text is sufficient. Other factors are far more important for successfully localizing your site for a global audience like colors, culture and avenues for communication.
Here are six tips for localizing your site for a global audience:
1–Translate your site’s language automatically to the user’s IP address: By customizing your content and its language based on the user’s IP address, you can provide a much more comfortable experience for international buyers with little effort. Simply translating the language to a native tongue doesn’t always produce the best results—anyone who’s hit the “Google Translate” button can tell you that much. However, if you’re just starting, this is a better step than none at all.
2–Voice-Over or Caption Your Content: Many people think that translating their text serves the purpose of localization…but what about that creative video or the captions on your slideshow? Those touch points are just as important, if not more, than any other criteria you’ll alter on your site. This is important for a few reasons. One, it makes sense that you’d want your international audience to understand what’s happening across every corner of your website.
3–Optimize for Local Search Engines: To ensure your newly-translated site receives traffic, you’ll need to decode how local search engines can find it with as few barriers as possible. The metatags and keywords that put you on the front page of Google in the States may not apply everywhere else. For search engine optimization, you need the home team advantage, and sometimes more. That means you need a helper on the ground in your target country who understands the keywords and major triggers in that area.
4–Mobile & other Devices: This is the giant elephant in the room, hopefully you understand the importance of mobile devices in today’s day and age for a localization push, but if not, we’re here to spell it out in clean and simple terms.
The fact of the matter is that a large percentage of the world accesses the Internet from mobile devices. In fact, according to State of Mobile research, global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all Internet traffic, and 50% of the average global web user now uses mobile as either his or her primary or exclusive means of going online.
5–Redesign While Preserving Your Brand’s Message & Tone: Sometimes you have to start from scratch and build yourself back up. Think about a wardrobe change for your digital assets. You understand the importance of maintaining your brand across the digital and physical divide, or else you wouldn’t be here. But what if your brand embraces individualism and personal choice while the country you’re marketing in values collective experiences? What does that even mean, and how can you adjust your business to address it?
These are important details to know and take into consideration before plastering your website with images of solo people and inspirational quotes on independence. A good starting point to determine exactly who you’re dealing with is to differentiate between high-context and low- context cultures.
6–Localize on Social: Often people think that if they nail the localization of their website, the international audiences will come flocking to their products or services in droves, with their wallets open. Unfortunately, a website is just one avenue to get your foot in the door and just one step in earning the trust, respect, and purchase from your consumers.
If you really want to speak the local language, you’ll also have to study the local social media networks. And I’ll give you a hint: Some of the most popular U.S. social sites don’t reign supreme with huge swaths of international e-commerce buyers.
6) Are Small Business Owners Bad at Long-Term Planning?
As hard as you all work to sustain your business operations, apparently you’re ignoring making the necessary arrangements to protect your business for the long-term. At least that’s what a new study by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) reports. Only 44% of small business owners have a buy-sell agreement in place, leaving many businesses unprotected, should unforeseen and unfortunate events occur.
The 2015 MassMutual Business Owner Perspectives Study reveals business owners’ underlying values and attitudes toward business planning and illustrates the need for financial guidance and preparation. The study found “many business owners think they are good decision makers but are either not ready or too busy to address all of the essential long-term business planning needed to sustain their businesses. At the same time, business owners feel they need to protect their businesses and families but aren’t confident in taking the first steps on their own and don’t always know where to turn for help.”
What’s top-of-mind for SMBs?
- Protecting the business from disability and death of an owner or key employee had the second and third highest level of importance (44% versus 42%, respectively). However, these two pillars were not very top of mind, with 55% saying they rarely or never think about the effect of disability and 59% saying they rarely or never think about the effect of death.
- Of those with a buy-sell agreement in place, just over half say it is funded with life insurance, but only 5% say it is funded with disability buy-out insurance. The rest were either funded with cash flow from the business or not funded at all.
- Keeping key employees loyal to business: 81% say keeping key employees loyal is important and nearly two-thirds say they think frequently about the issue.
- 90% offer some kind of benefits to their employees, with the top three most common cited as health care (60%), generous salaries (55%), and flexible work benefits (51%).
- Planning for life after the business: Nearly 40% of business owners don’t have a retirement income strategy outside of their businesses and will rely on proceeds from the sale of the business or income from the business post-retirement.
- Most business owners surveyed say they have chosen their successor – frequently it’s a family member. However, 1 in 4 don’t know they’ve been chosen as the successor.
- Just over half of the business owners surveyed said they have had their businesses valued in the last three years, and the resources they are most likely to turn to for guidance are CPAs and financial professionals.
7) Know Your Numbers
There is no doubt that knowing your numbers is critical to success in business. When you get right down to it, this means accounting in one form another. But most entrepreneurs start a business because they had a vision, not because they had a passion for accounting. Fortunately there are some pretty slick accounting software programs on the market today that allow business owners to spend less time crunching the numbers and more time knowing the numbers and making informed decisions.
8) 5 Skills for Creating Quality Content That Gets Shared
Guest post by Paige Weiners, Associate Corporate Marketing Specialist at Blue Fountain Media
Content marketing is one of the most effective and meaningful ways to build relationships with an audience, foster sales, and promote overall business growth. Any business, in any industry, needs proficient content to get their messaging across to their stakeholders. Without clear, cohesive communication, anything your business has to offer—whether it’s a product or service—is meaningless. For small and medium-sized businesses, budget constraints are often roadblocks, so you want to make sure that your ROI is always significant enough to support the efforts you allocate for any given content initiative. To ensure that your content marketing abilities are up to the standards set by top digital agencies, and that your content will get shared on social media, consider these 5 crucial skills and traits for any content marketing success:
1–Writing Ability: You can’t be an effective content marketer without having strong writing skills that allow you to express yourself in a coherent manner. An understanding of how to write both properly and creatively is important to communicate your expertise and insights to an audience in a way that interests them. You could have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t put them down on paper in a way that is understandable, those ideas will lose their value, and you won’t effectively convey your message to an audience.
Creative writing that is both interesting and easy to read will always get read more frequently. Content that is boring to readers or too difficult to understand will get perused, and then skipped past. Subsequently, if your messaging isn’t being absorbed by users, they won’t know the value of your business and will not invest their time and money in your brand. Various online sites offer tips for writing the best content, and showcase expert tips. Check out outlets such as the Content Marketing Institute to learn the best ways to write for your audience.
2–Analytical Talents: While being a good writer is important, it is only one of the necessary skills to succeed in content marketing. The ability to analyze your content to understand exactly what your audience would like to learn about is key to developing content that is tailored to their needs and interests. You need to be able to address the “requirements” your audience looks for in your writing so that you can increase leads and draw traffic to your website. If you’re writing about subjects that aren’t relevant to your audience, it won’t provide value. Getting into the mind of your audience, and determining the main reason they visit your site will help you create successful content.
In a quantitative sense, looking at programs such as Google Analytics will provide you with data to substantiate some suggestions or assumptions you may have about what content is seemingly most effective. Looking at which blog posts, articles, or website pages are always highly trafficked will provide you with insights as to which content most of your readers favor. Additionally, looking at which content is directly leading to or assisting in converting users will tell you what type of content is producing the most return for your business. The time you spend writing is an investment, and it’s vital to know which elements of your investments are providing you with the most sales.
3–Savvy Research Skills: One of the easiest ways to create content is by collectively taking ideas from other content that is out there, and contributing to it with your own ideas and expertise to create a new, unique, and overall better piece of content. Having a thirst to learn about what you’re writing will help develop better content because you’re more knowledgeable on the subject, and will allow you to reference things in your writing no one else has discussed. Paying attention to current events, industry events or thoughts from different industry experts helps shape what’s important for your users be in the know about.
4—Fast-Learning Capability: In content marketing, you won’t always be writing about a topic [you’re familiar with]. To succeed, you need to put in the effort. If you’re a fast learner, the ability to research things and produce high quality content that converts will be a much easier process. Being able to adapt to different industries or areas of expertise within your space provides you with endless opportunities of what kind of audience you can reach or what kind of messaging you can provide. Visit different news sites at the start of each day to read stories relevant to the kind of work you do. The more you understand the scope of work in details, the more effective you’ll be at writing about it.
5–A Knack for Social Media: Today, social media is crucial. In every aspect of business, social media is a key player in growth, and with content marketing, that is no exception. Having a strong social presence allows you to reach far more users, and also allows you a platform to share your thoughts. If you’re writing quality content, you need to disseminate it to your audience in order for it to be effective. Sharing content such as posts, or new website pages on Facebook or Twitter will drive traffic to your site, and reinforce the messaging that you’re trying to get across. The better your content is, the more it will get shared on social media, and the more people you will reach with it. In general, copy that asks questions, or posts that have interesting images perform best. Try incorporating graphs or charts, and vibrant images to increase your engagement.
Content Marketing is Key for Business
Content marketing bridges the gap between your company and your audience, providing you with the ability to communicate your services or products. By tailoring your content to meet the needs of your prospective clients and customers, you can ensure that you’re providing as much value as possible to audience—giving them further incentive to invest with your brand.
9) Most Effective Strategies for B2C Content Marketing
Now that you understand the importance of content marketing, check out this infographic from SCORE, the country’s largest network of free, expert business mentors. SCORE has gathered some interesting statistics on the most effective strategies for B2C content marketing.
- 70% of customers prefer to get information about a business from content rather than ads, so should take the time to develop strong, shareable content.
- 77% of B2C marketers use content marketing
- 48% of businesses publish content daily or multiple times a week. The top types of content include:
- E-newsletters (80%)
- Website articles (78%)
- Illustrations/photos (75%)
- Videos (74%)
- In-person events (69%)
- Blogs (67%)
10) Are Consumers Disappointed in the New iPhones?
Before the announcement last week about the new iPhones, Protect Your Bubble, a nationwide protection provider, released results of its iPhone 6s survey, which asked consumers what rumored new feature they’re most excited about. An improved 12-megapixel camera took the most votes (32%) followed by a more durable frame (20%) and faster A9 Processor (20%).
Protection for the new phone continues to be a high priority—72% think the larger size for the iPhone 6 and 6+ has made it more susceptible to drops, cracked screens and bending. As a result, 35% say they would improve the new iPhone 6s by adding a shatter- and scratch-proof screen, followed by 32% who suggest making the device completely waterproof. .
Although the majority of people say they’re most excited about enhancements to the camera as a new feature, the majority of people (28.9%) wish their phones’ battery life was improved.
On the lighter side, the majority of participants think Siri’s voice should be changed to Jennifer Lopez (36%), followed by their own voice (24%), their spouse (20%), Antonio Banderas (12%) and their parent (8%).
Protect Your Bubble provides protection plans on devices which covers damage from drops, liquid spills and malfunction, and items are replaced by the next day. Device plans start at $5.99 per month, and the more devices protected, the more people can save.
11) A Call to Make Automation Accessible to All
Jayme Fishman, President of Ryan Software, a division of the global tax service firm Ryan, and a self-taught programmer has written a new book for beginners on a simple Windows-based programming language called AutoIt. Fishman believes a huge piece of coding, and the future of coding in business settings in particular, will be in its power to automate everyday corporate processes. He thinks that by making automation accessible to everyone, businesses can combat the challenge of increased demand for such services combined with a shortfall of programming resources in the market.
Fishman believes the future of successful, entrepreneurial companies will be to empower employees at all levels so they can automate workplace tasks, rather than rely on their IT departments or outside consultants to do it for them.
Inspired by the creation of code.org, a grass roots movement that has enlisted the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to encourage a new generation of coders, Fishman thinks AutoIt would be a perfect learning tool for people starting out coding, because of the simplicity, the incredible help file, and a great online mentoring forum.
So he created a basic introduction to programming using AutoIt. Fishman says AutoIt is a simple language to read and understand. AutoIt is free and simple to use, has an active online support community, and has functions built in to manipulate spreadsheets and complex user interfaces, that Fishman believes is the ideal tool for automating routine workplace tasks.