10 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know This Week

By Rieva Lesonsky


1—Are You Emotionally Intelligent?

Most of us use our emotional intelligence every day. Its simply the ability to perceive, understand and manage emotions. According to NetCredit, having strong emotional intelligence improves your relationships and your professional outlook.

You can easily improve your emotional skill set by identifying your strengths and weaknesses and taking steps to work on them. Check out NetCredit’s infographic below to help you figure out what kind of emotional intelligence you have.



2—How Much Do You Know About Identity Theft?

It seems like every week brings news about data breaches, which increase the risks of identity theft and fraud. Unfortunately consumers are still not being vigilant about protecting themselves. A national survey by Experian, the world’s leading global information services company, reveals that not only is America’s collective guard down, but people feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to identity theft. The survey results coincide with Experian’s national launch of IdentityWorksSM, a comprehensive set of identity theft protection products offering consumers a powerful and user-friendly array of features, including Experian CreditLock and extensive dark web monitoring.

IdentityWorks helps consumers recognize potential identity fraud and respond to it, arming them with credit monitoring and alerts, and credit reports and scores—which are often the first indicators of identity theft and fraud. This new product extends beyond credit information to include dark web monitoring and alerts, and noncredit transaction monitoring (bank account, Social Security number, change of address, etc.) to detect when a consumer’s personal information is actively marketed on the web or abused in noncredit transactions. IdentityWorks also includes Experian CreditLock, giving consumers real-time access control to their Experian credit file. In addition to the expertise and assistance of fraud resolution specialists, the product also provides the peace of mind of up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.1

Concerned about the threat and the hassle

The survey shows that complexity, inconvenience and perceived odds of becoming an identity fraud victim have discouraged consumers from making identity protection best practices part of their daily lives.

While 84% of those surveyed say they’re concerned about the security of personal information online, 64% agree it’s “too much of a hassle to constantly worry about securing their personal information online” and 53% say staying on top of financial transactions is a challenge. And 48% don’t even check their credit reports regularly for errors or suspicious activity.

Significant misconceptions about identity theft and fraud

Most (56%) believe the risk of identity theft goes away over time. Many (53%) think banks and credit card companies monitor their accounts, so they don’t have to worry about identity theft, and nearly 1 in 10 respondents believe they aren’t at risk because “my credit is bad/I don’t have enough money.”

The reality is last year, more than  15 million Americans were victims of identity theft, up 16% from 2015.

Key findings

  • 49% don’t believe they are likely to become victims of identity theft.
  • 72% think thieves are only interested in “wealthy people’s identities.”
  • #1 perceived identity theft threat: data breaches (#2: phishing emails)
  • 26% search for themselves online to see if anyone else is using their identity
  • 52% have either been victims or know someone who has suffered from identity theft
  • 55% of those victimized by identity theft while traveling, say it took from weeks to more than a year to resolve issues related to identity fraud.

Monitoring for fraud and protect personal information

  • Check your credit report for accuracy. You can get a free report from each credit bureau annually at
  • Consider an identity protection product like Experian IdentityWorks to help monitor your financial accounts and credit report.
  • Password-protect your phone. Your phone provides access to sensitive information and accounts. Set a unique password to unlock the device, and enable remote finding and wiping software to track the phone or destroy the data if it’s lost or stolen.
  • Use a password manager to create strong passwords for online accounts, and change them regularly.
  • Don’t access financial information or shop online using public Wi-Fi or an unsecured network.

If you want to learn more about identity protection and dealing with fraud, as well as more details on this survey, visit the Experian Credit Education blog.


3—Being Snarky Comes at a Cost 

Whether they’re daring customers or trolling competitors, many brands showcase their bolder personalities on social media and reap the rewards of increased engagement and media attention. But aside from increased impressions, what impact does that sass really have on their overall brand perception and, most importantly, customer relationships?

The latest data from Sprout Social, a social media management platform for businesses, reveals a snarky brand personality only appeals to a third of consumers, while being friendly and helpful charms about 80% of them. In fact, 88% of consumers are annoyed when brands make fun of followers, and 67% feel the same way about brands making fun of competitors.

Other insights from the report include:

Keep politics to a minimum: Seven in 10 consumers find it annoying when brands take part in political conversations on social.

Actions speak louder than words: 48% of consumers are more inclined to purchase from brands that interact with consumers on social media.

Consumers love varied formats for social content: 83% think videos are cool and 60% want to see GIFs.

Humor doesn’t correlate to sales: While it may grab you a few laughs, only 36% of consumers say humor on social media will make them more likely to buy from a brand.

If your audience is younger, you have more leeway on Instagram: Millennials want to see more brand personality on Instagram, compared to other age groups.

Despite wanting helpfulness, customers are left in the dark: It still takes brands an average of 11 hours to respond to inbound messages—a full hour more than they had to wait a year ago.

“With all the praise and media attention given to daring social brands, it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon,” says Scott Brandt, CMO of Sprout Social. “However, developing a brand personality needs to be a thoughtful and tailored process that starts with truly understanding who your audience is and what they’re looking for. When a majority of your consumers would rather see, you be helpful than funny, craft your content accordingly.”

For more information visit


4—How Do You Spell CRM Evolution? With 4 C’s

Guest post by John Oechsle, CEO, Swiftpage 

Sony Walkmen were all the rage, cell phones were the size of eggplants, and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody was the No. 1 hit. The year was 1987, a time when technology was advancing at a tremendous pace. Just imagine—four years later, some Americans would begin communicating via SMS text.

Enter 2017. Driverless cars are cruising the streets, and high school students are Skyping with astronauts in space. New technologies are shaping the world around us, and small businesses have a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on these advancements. This is especially true with customer relationship management (CRM), an area that businesses were smart to pay attention to 30 years ago in 1987—and can no longer afford to ignore in today’s competitive environment.

As the technological complexity of customer relationships evolve, so must our approaches to them. The area is best tackled through the four C’s of customer information, which are crucial components of any business plan.  Currency, correctness, consistency and completeness are—and arguably, have always been—the most effective path toward forging intimate, long-term relationships with customers.

Currency and correctness: Currency and correctness go together like the PC and mouse. After all, data only has value when it’s up-to-date and accurate. While the internet makes it easy to link up with others, it’s important to ensure connections are managed properly. Remember, customer information is constantly changing. People move, switch jobs and update email addresses. Social media accounts might be inaccurate or outdated. This all underscores the importance of maintaining current and correct customer information.

If customer information is kept accurately and up-to-date, it can prove to be invaluable when used with predictive analytics technology. It can help an organization learn a lot about customer trends and who to reach out to for a sale at what time and via which method of contact to give the company the best chance for a successful interaction—giving the business its best chance to retain existing customers while growing by developing new customer relationships as well.

We’ve come a long way since 1987, when the first version of Microsoft Excel was released for Windows. Excel was preceded by programs such as Lotus and VisiCalc, which were used to store customer data and other important company information. Before then, punched cards were a popular way to save information. Oh, and don’t forget the infamous Rolodex, the original CRM. It’s truly incredible to think of the advances information management has made in such a short time period.

Consistency: Consistency has always been a hallmark of helping businesses grow. After all, success is impossible if a business can’t maintain positive and long-lasting relationships with its customers. We have infinite options for storing detailed customer information. We use mobile apps, cloud servers, customizable CRM software solutions, email, Google Docs, Excel spreadsheets and—gasp—pen and paper when we’re in a pinch! If the customer information is not consistent across all of them, currency and correctness go out the door.

It wasn’t always so simple to store all that information on a computer. Apple’s 1986 enhanced Macintosh computer had limited capacity and could store just 4 MB worth of files. To put that in context, the ’86 Mac had enough space to store about one decent quality mp3 song file today.

Completeness: Completeness is not just about knowing a customer’s address and birthday; it’s an across-the-board collection of customer information aimed at documenting every individual customer interaction. And complete record keeping wasn’t always easy to accomplish through technology. In the late 1980s, computers were only beginning to make their way into mainstream life. By 1989, just 15% of U.S. households owned one and customer records were often kept tucked away in filing cabinets.

Today, we’re fortunate to live in an age where we can keep an effortless record of emails, web analytics and online sales with the right technology. We can detail each interaction a customer has with any point of contact at the business, and that information can then be stored and shared so everyone has the same, complete information about the customer’s experience. It’s easy to make notes of face-to-face meetings and phone calls, too, with tools that have been developed for just that purpose—including pioneering software solutions like Act! that were laying the foundation for modern CRM technology all the way back in 1987.

With such effective and reliable technology available at our disposal in 2017, we are wise to take advantage. Bringing the four C’s together gives businesses the ability to mine information, examine trends, and forge lifelong relationships with their customers that enable the business to grow and thrive.

And, at the end of the day, isn’t finding ways to connect and form relationships with our customers what it’s all about—both today and back in 1987?


5—Are You Making a Good (or Bad) 1st Impression with Online Prospects?

Velocify, a leading sales acceleration platform, recently announced the results of its newest study, Sales Lead Response: The Ugly Truth Behind Call, Voicemail, and Email Practices, which  reveals that most sales teams are not making the most of their inbound sales opportunity.

“It was eye opening to find out how many sales reps are limiting their own sales efforts,” says Velocify CEO and President, Nick Hedges. “The results of this study show many companies are throwing money away by not responding appropriately, or at all, to high-value leads. The first impression you give a potential buyer is so important. Over time, poor lead response can be devastating to an organization’s bottom line and its ability to compete and grow.”

Velocify says effective follow-up needs to be timely, appropriately persistent, and the message itself needs to add value for the recipient. To assess effectiveness, the study analyzed lead response tactics, including communication channel, timing, frequency, and quality of the message in comparison to established best practices. Velocify research shows these four communication factors have the greatest impact on lead progression, and ultimately conversion to a sale.

Message Quality is Critical to Maximize Lead Response

Velocify scored sales reps’ voicemail and email messages against five effective characteristics. Voicemails were graded on context; clarity; length; personalization; and tone, and emails on clarity; context; personalization; length; and clear Call to Action (CTA).

The study found there is significant room for improvement in communication quality, and ample opportunity for sales reps to hone their skills, and improve templates and scripts to be more successful. Surprisingly, 82% of voicemails and 92% of emails that were assessed needed improvement. The most pervasive issues behind the low ratings were:

  • More than half of voicemails lacked good tone.The wrong tone can give the impression that the rep lacks enthusiasm for the product or their job. Plus, if the voicemail sounds like the rep is reading from a script, it will give the impression of poor training and lack of product knowledge.
  • Half of all emails received lacked a clear CTA.Most had too many CTAs but some failed to include even one CTA.
  • 39% of emails lacked the prospect’s name. With so many automation options available today, sales reps need to be sure to include the personal touch of addressing prospects by name in the body of their outreach emails.

Communication Speed and Appropriate Persistence Drives Results

According to the study, most sales reps were too slow to follow-up and not persistent enough. Maintaining a consistent and disciplined follow-up process is just as important as the quality of your message. Consider that:

  • More than 33% of leads didn’t even receive a call.
  • Only 7% of prospects received a call within the recommended best practice of one minute.
  • 85% of leads didn’t receive the optimal number of voicemails.

Similarly, most email follow-up was too quick, too slow, or not frequent enough:

  • 35% of leads received an email in less than one minute, the recommended best practice is to wait 20 minutes before sending an email so it doesn’t feel like an automated, impersonal email to the prospect.
  • Only 5% of leads received the optimal number of emails.

By fine tuning communication timing and frequency, plus putting more emphasis on persuasive and proven messaging, companies can improve their initial impact on inbound sales leads. In fact, many customers are optimizing the value of their leads with Velocify.

Download the full report Sales Lead Response: The Ugly Truth Behind Call, Voicemail, and Email Practices to identify opportunities for your team to optimize inbound lead response and increase sales.


6—Finding Independent Contractors

LinkedIn recently unveiled insights of the growing contractor phenomenon from both the company and the contractor point of view—who they are, where they’re working and what they want in their jobs. With the Open Candidates feature, LinkedIn members have been signaling to recruiters that they are open to new roles, specifically contract roles.

With LinkedIn’s new Contractor Targeting feature making it simpler for recruiters to identify those interested in contract work, demand is up: Not only have contractors received 24% more InMails in the past year, but competition to hire them was already in top 10% among all LinkedIn talent pools.

Who is contracting? Contractors are equally male and female, and most have not been working for very long—58% of U.S. contractors have less than 10 years experience. They’re educated—52% have bachelor’s degrees and 25% have masters degrees.

What U.S. cities are hiring the most contractors? Highest demand for contractors is in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago, with Washington, DC and Los Angeles serving as “hidden gems” for hiring managers, with a low demand but high supply.

That said, Contractors don’t stay in one job very long: the median tenure at prior company is 11 months, and of the jobs that current contractors have had, 45% have a tenure of less than a year. Some are staying longer—30% have switched jobs after six years with one employer.

Who’s hiring them? SMBs (40%) are hiring the most contractors when compared to midmarket (35%) and enterprise (25%) businesses.

What industries do they work in? The top industries for U.S. contractors are Software and IT services, followed by media & communications. The report found, however that Healthcare and Real Estate are gaining traction among contractors with a 11% and 10% net gain, respectively.

What skills are most common today, and what will we see in the future? The most common skills among today’s contractors are social media, marketing and event planning. However, the report shows that besides communication, technical skills continue to climb with SQL and data analysis among the fastest-growing skills among contractors—keeping pace with high demand for IT skills, especially in software engineering.

What do contractors care about? Company culture makes their top 3 priorities (44%), behind compensation/benefits (64%) and a good work/life balance (59%).


7—Act Now to Kickstart Retirement Planning

Spark 401k, Capital One’s suite of low-cost, all-ETF 401(k) plans designed for businesses with less than 100 employees, is eliminating set-up costs for all new 401(k) plans established between now and June 16, 2017. By establishing a 401(k) plan, small business owners can boost their retirement savings, access personal and business tax deductions and credits, and attract and retain the best talent. Businesses can sign up online through June 16 (so act fast!) to save up to $750 and help themselves and their employees build a plan and work toward retirement goals.

401(k) plans offer a variety of benefits for small businesses, but many business owners believe they’re too expensive to set up. According to a 2017 Pew Charitable Trusts study, small businesses say start-up costs are the top reason they don’t offer a plan. Many small businesses also think they’re too small to offer a 401(k). In fact, a 2016 Capital One Spark Business survey found only 16% of small businesses offer a retirement plan, with 60% saying their businesses were too small to offer one.

There are many benefits to offering a 401(k) plan, including:

  • Save for retirement while lowering personal taxes
  • Lower business taxes
  • Access tax credits
  • Attract and retain top talent

To be eligible for the free set up of a Spark 401k plan, business owners or plan fiduciaries must purchase an Individual, Safe Harbor or Traditional 401(k) plan through by June 16, 2017. Only one offer applies per customer.


Quick Links

8—Credit Card Debt: How Does Your State Compare?

According to the Federal Reserve, 72% of Americans have at least one credit card. So how much credit card debt do we have? And which states’ or cities’ residents carry the most debt? LendEDU gives us all the answers here

Cool  Tools

9—Amping Up Local Marketing

Surefire Local (a client) recently released its Surefire Local Marketing Cloud, the first local marketing automation system. This easy-to-use platform is an ideal solution for local business owners looking to amp up their digital marketing presence.

Built exclusively for hyper-local businesses, as well as franchises with multi-location franchisees, dealers and distributors, the Surefire Local Marketing Cloud consolidates digital marketing activities—from Google AdWords campaigns and organic search to email marketing, social media and even reviews—into one tool with a single, secure login. Cloud users can utilize the dashboard to quickly manage and act on customer leads.

Some key features: of the Surefire Local Marketing Cloud:

  • Advertising: Quickly start campaigns from Google AdWords, Facebook and more
  • Mobile Lead Management: Receive lead notifications on any smartphone and trigger an automatic drip email marketing campaign
  • Content Publishing: Workflow to manage and publish new website & social media content
  • Online Visibility: Build a larger web footprint for any business by creating business listings across 70+ directories, instantly make changes, and publish new or seasonal offers
  • Reputation Management: Increase reviews from customers with a reputation management tool that allows staff to monitor and respond directly to reviews
  • Analytics & Benchmarking: Know which channels are giving the most return and how the business is performing against competitors

Surefire Local Marketing Cloud centralizes all leads from phone calls, web forms and reviews in one unified tool, along with Google Analytics and Google Search Console. The powerful engagement and reporting features then allows for smarter decision-making.


10—Calculating Your ROI

All small business owners know the value of ROI, buy it’s not always very easy to calculate ROI in specific areas. Here are two great tools for measuring ROI that’s not traditionally been easy to measure.

1—Email: Do you know how much your emails are worth? You can find out using this great tool from Sleeknote.

2—Internal Communications: Getting employee attention for important company news is anything but simple. To help businesses understand the true cost of internal communications, SnapComms has designed a Return-On-Investment (ROI) Calculator that measures the average hourly employee cost of different internal communcations efforts.

For more information, and to try the ROI Calculator first-hand, please visit SnapComms ROI Calculator for Internal Communications.