15 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
1. The Positive Sides of Stress
Most of us think of stress as a productivity killer—and it certainly can be. But research conducted by psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dodson back in 1908 actually showed that moderate degrees of stress can both boost performance and learning outcomes.
2. Best Cities for Women-Owned Businesses
March is Women’s History Month and the personal-finance website WalletHub has released its in-depth analysis of 2016’s Best & Worst Metro Areas for Women-Owned Businesses.
To help women advance their goals of entrepreneurship, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across 10 key metrics.
The 10 top metros for women entrepreneurs:
- Nashville, TN
- Chattanooga, TN
- Columbus, OH
- Memphis, TN
- Milwaukee, WI
- Rochester, NY
- Kansas City, MO
- Spokane, WA
- Greensboro, NC
- Honolulu, HI
The worst metro was San Jose, CA, followed by Oxnard, CA, Greenville, SC, Pittsburgh, PA, and North Port, FL.
Colorado Springs, has the highest percentage of women-owned businesses with paid employees, (23%), and Syracuse, N.Y., has the lowest, (13%).
Fresno, CA boasts the highest average revenue of women-owned businesses with paid employees, ($2.3 million) while Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL has the lowest, ($520,939).
3. Small Business Views of the Presidential Race
A new political survey from Alignable, the social network for small business owners, reveals that a whopping 81% of small business owners believe that politicians do not understand them. The survey also shows business owners are deeply divided on specific candidates and issues.
The survey provides insight into small business owners’ opinions on hot-button issues and presidential candidates.
Here are some survey highlights:
81% of small business owners think politicians don’t understand them. At the time the survey was taken the business owners said their favorite candidates were Donald Trump (29%), Bernie Sanders (23%) and Hillary Clinton (19%). Trump simultaneously is viewed as the “most feared candidate” and the “most helpful” for small business.
Eric Groves, CEO of Alignable says, “The data is clear: there is no definitive front-runner and there is no one- size-fits-all candidate. To appeal to small businesses, candidates need to convey that they understand the issues business owners face on a daily basis and are willing to act to drive positive change. Small businesses will be watching closely and will be voting accordingly, not necessarily along party lines.”
- 50% of SMBs support a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants.
- 36% support building border fence between the U.S./Mexican border fence
- 35% support a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants (Verify mandatory for immigrants (35%) indicating support for these reform measures
- 56% support a minimum wage increase
- 38% say the minimum wage should stay the same
- 72% support expanding background checks to include gun sales made online and 70% support the same at gun shows
- 71% are in favor or prohibiting suspected terrorist from purchasing guns
- 47% support the complete ban of assault rifles.
- When it comes to open carry though, 50% are ok with permitting the carrying of guns by patrons in their businesses, and 50% want them banned
4. 3 Reasons Why Your Marketing Strategy is Failing
Guest post by Molly Jacobson, owner and founder, Jacobson Strategy
It can feel pretty defeating when you’ve put your oh-so-valuable time and energy into planning and executing a marketing plan, only to barely see a difference in your bottom line. It makes you want to throw in the towel and give up on this seemingly useless time-sucking endeavor that every business publication keeps promising is your silver bullet. Well, guess what—you’re not alone.
According to a report by SBI Research, it’s estimated that as many as 71% of marketers are falling short of their revenue targets by adopting the wrong marketing strategies. That’s right, not only are you not alone, but you’re in the majority! So, let’s put our past marketing grievances aside for a moment and determine what went wrong.
- Your strategy was nonexistent. Sometimes you just want to go with flow and take things as they come. Who doesn’t? Who shouldn’t? A marketer with the mission of building a business! Depending on tactics without a clear strategy in place is the biggest and most common mistake I see. It’s like starting a business without a plan – a major marketing crime that will lead you down Failure Lane.
Solution: Create a clear strategy and action plan that you can stick to. It doesn’t have to be 50 pages long; begin with how you will capture new leads, determine the frequency of your email campaigns, social media posts, videos, blog posts, etc. If you’re not sure where to begin, utilizing the help of a marketing coach can go a long way to ensuring your tactics are impactful.
- You were a copycat. It’s important to do your research and know what your competitors are doing, but being just like everybody else isn’t a unique selling point. It’s imperative you set your business apart from the competition. When your target audience is unable to differentiate your products/services or campaigns from the competition, it means that you’re competing on price alone—rarely a smart move (unless you’re Walmart).
Solution: Determine what makes your company unique. Do you provide unmatched personalized care? Do you have exceptional customer service? Does your company have an interesting story behind it? Identify what makes your company special, and spread the word!
- Your target was off. Have you done your market research and determined who needs and benefits from what you’re selling? Are the people you’re targeting the people who actually want your product or service? Are you targeting at all? Before letting your marketing horse out of the gate, your ideal client profile needs a face.
Solution: Identify your target customers and get to know them like they’re your best friend. Where are their values? What are their biggest struggles? How do they spend their free time? Where do they shop? Where do they read/hear the news? This will help you to pinpoint where to attract their attention and the precise message you need to get across.
5. 3 Winning Strategies for Boosting Customer Engagement
“If I had a plaque or mug for every time a company tried to connect with me….oh wait, I do, and they all sit in a drawer somewhere,” says Peter Gossin, Product Marketing Manager on the U.S. Windows and Devices Team at Microsoft. “In a digital age, wouldn’t it be nice as a customer or employee to get something that keeps you connected to the things you care about?”
Gossin believes there are three winning strategies for using technology to increase engagement.
- Create Unique Customer Experiences. As part of its newly branded flight experience, called Alaska Beyond, Alaska Airlines is modernizing its fleet of airplanes and reinventing what it means to fly. A new Windows inflight entertainment solution is party of that strategy. Deployment of the Windows inflight entertainment solution has already begun with 7,000 Windows Toshiba Encore 2 tablets hitting the skies to date, and more on the way to accommodate Alaska’s route growth and customer demand.
- Empower Your Employees & Brand to Connect More Closely with Customers. Gossin says he has seen companies give away devices on other platforms but believes they are missing a huge opportunity to connect using customized branding and apps. Windows-based tablets, like HEXA Spring or Blue Mini starting at just $70, can be branded with a company logo and contain completely customized content within the device. Westgate Resorts is one of the largest resort developers in the world. Until recently, all of the company’s nearly 80,000 annual closings proceeded along a paper path, requiring agents to print, review, sign, and ship more than 40 documents. Preparing these documents took time, which slowed down the process and tested buyers’ patience. Automating this process and then providing customers with a customized Windows-based tablet after signing made the connection stronger because the signing process was easy and they had a way of engaging with their customers after the sale.
- Recognize and Reward Employees—Make it Meaningful. Employee gift-giving programs of the past were generic and usually reserved for holidays and work anniversaries. One company went a bit farther by recognizing what would be most meaningful to their employees. Royal Caribbean knows its crewmembers are at the heart of the great vacations the brand delivers. It also recognizes the level of commitment it takes to live aboard a cruise ship. They decided to invest in technology that made it possible to stay in touch with friends and family. Crewmembers of the new, high-tech ship Quantum of the Seas were given low-cost Windows tablets so they could talk face-to-face with loved ones via Skype, share photos on OneDrive and send and receive email. The boost to crew morale was so high, Royal Caribbean is giving branded tablets to its more than 40,000 crewmembers.
6. No Time for…Anything
Do you complete your daily to-do list every day? If so, that’s great, since new research from Time etc, an award-winning virtual assistant service, found that 43% of American workers don’t finish their daily to-do list.
Key findings include:
American employees are swamped with grunt work, which is taking time away from tasks that are vital to their jobs.
- 57% spend up to half their time attending calls/meetings
- 54% dedicate 25% or less of their day to important, deadline-oriented assignments
- 43% of employees do not finish their daily to-do list
- 43% spend up to half their day scheduling calls/meetings
- 14% feel they spend too much time responding to emails
Creativity and professional growth, as well as work/life balanve are being put on the back burner.
- 93% spend 25% or less of their work day brainstorming creative or new business leads
- 59% stay at work beyond their scheduled hours
- Of that 59%, employees are staying late to catch up on tasks such as organizing to-do lists (24%), updating timesheets (20%), doing their expenses (17%)
- 27% workers feel that working on small tasks makes it difficult to complete their long-term goals
7. Small Business Tax Tips
Running a small business comes with a myriad of responsibilities—and dealing with taxes is one of the most important. As tax deadlines approach, business owners start feeling the pressure and scramble to start their tax preparation, often resulting in simple mistakes and overlooked requirements that can be costly for their company.
In an effort to help small businesses stay on the right side of the IRS this tax season, here are two of the most common tax mistakes small businesses make and solutions to avoid them courtesy of the small business tax experts at The Neat Company.
- Unaware of all the taxes owed. The IRS is not the only agency to which taxes are owed, uninformed small business owners often overlook the sales taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, local taxes, self-employment taxes and other specialty taxes that come from various taxing authorities at the state, county and district levels.
Completing the many tax returns that come from these agencies can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive, so proper education is essential.
Solution: Hiring an accountant part-time or outsourcing bookkeeping and accounting duties to a knowledgeable professional is a reliable way to not only be aware of the various taxes owed but also that you’re filing correctly. Consulting a local Better Business Bureau or department of revenue are also viable options.
- Failing to keep financial records up-to-date. Keeping track of and filing various paperwork associated with financial transactions is tedious work, but it easily become stressful and overwhelming if it’s attempted right before the tax deadline. Failing to track expenses and enter transactions into a cohesive system can result in headaches for the person tasked with filing returns and leave your business vulnerable during possible audits.
Solution: Developing an accounting workflow where transactions and other financial paperwork are processed, organized and filed will keep financial records at your fingertips not only for tax time but also helps small business owners monitor the progress of their company. Software solutions, such as Neat’s, can help automate this process and can be incorporated into helpful tax software solutions such as Quickbooks and Xero.
8. Responsive Design Emails Get Better Response
According to Yesmail brands that implemented responsive design in all their email campaigns garnered a 55% higher mobile click-to-open (CTO) rate and a 23% higher desktop CTO rate than marketers who didn’t use responsive design in any of their emails.
Yesmail’s Q4 2015 Email Marketing Compass, Do or Die: The Implications of Ignoring Responsive Design, suggests that brands not using responsive design are missing out on an opportunity to actively engage consumers on mobile.
The report also found that for all brands, regardless of responsive adoption, mobile opens accounted for over half of all email opens and mobile revenue accounted for more than a quarter of all email-generated revenue. While desktop still brought in larger average order values (AOV), mobile AOV was growing faster. Desktop AOV grew by 13% year-over-year, while mobile grew by 15% over the same period. Similarly, mobile click-to-open (CTO) increased by 26% over the last two years while desktop CTO decreased by 29% in the same period.
To download Yesmail’s Q4 2015 Benchmark Report: Do or Die: The Implications of Ignoring Responsive Design, click here.
9. What Are You Worried About?
According to a recent survey from ADP Small Business Services, small business owners are concerned about HR issues. Chris Rush, ADP’s DVP of Strategy says entrepreneurs are worried about:
Covering Their Bases: There is no one clear source of information that companies use for ACA. Confidence levels are split and a many (43%) do not understand the penalties associated with non-compliance.
Realizing Regulations: Knowing and acting are two different stories when it comes to mandates. For example, only a quarter of small businesses are aware of and taking actions to comply with new overtime regulations.
(Not Quite) In the Bank: Only 25% of small business owners intend to raise wages this year.
Navigating New Hires: 70% of small business owners experience problems during the hiring process (e.g., longer hiring cycles, productivity loss and below-standard employees).
10. Twitter Remarketing
Guest post by Kate Endres, Associate Director of Engagement Marketing, Blue Fountain Media
The growth of social media has been astronomical, and for any marketing plan to be successful, companies need to consider social media an essential element if they wish to reach their goals and objectives.
Brands want to be top of mind for their target audiences. We as [marketers] are able to reach recent visitors to our websites on Twitter with the use of Remarketing ads. With this objective on the Twitter platform, advertisers are able to promote specific tweets or accounts to users who have recently visited their website.
How can this be done? By matching recent web visitors to Twitter accounts using a browser cookie ID. When creating the ads, you can write copy that is directly relevant to a user who has recently visited your site rather than hitting them with a general ad. It makes sense, as these users are fairly likely to convert if they have previously shown interest in your products or services offered on the site.
To do it, simply create a “Tailored Audience” for remarketing purposes, and you can advertise to those users that have previously visited your site. To further improve the effectiveness of your remarketing campaigns on Twitter, you can segment the visitors depending on what page they landed on. For example, you may find a higher conversion rate by remarketing to users that visited your checkout page rather than just your homepage. By running multiple campaigns and testing accordingly, you are able to determine what works best for your company.
11. B2Bs Digital Ads Programs Ineffective
Demandbase, the leader in Account-Based Marketing (ABM), recently revealed the results of its Ad Waste Survey, issued in conjunction with Wakefield Research. Overall, 71% of B2B marketers surveyed believe their organizations’ digital advertising frequently fails to meet expectations. The survey shows that while the rise of digital marketing is rapidly transforming B2B advertising, the true impact of digital advertising can be difficult to measure and, without the right tools, can lead to program inefficiencies and ad waste.
The Demandbase survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of respondents know aspects of their digital programs are ineffective:
- Difficulty in measuring ROI is the number one challenge B2B marketers face
- 96% admit their digital advertising inevitably reaches a significant number of people outside of their intended target, leading to ad waste
- 89% agreed that their digital marketing mix is not optimized and a different mix would yield better results
The survey concluded there is still a large focus on metrics that are typically more suited to B2C campaigns. In fact, more than 50% measure success by conversion rates and cost per impression.
“B2B marketers are realizing that while their digital advertising strategy may be reaching a large audience, it’s not necessarily delivering the right results,” says Peter Isaacson, chief marketing officer at Demandbase. “B2B marketers need to adjust their strategy away from B2C best practices and look at B2B-focused solutions that can deliver more effective advertising, personalization and sales programs to the specific accounts that will really deliver business results.”
12. 3 Ways Intranets Promote Workplace Productivity
Guest post by Chris Pyle, CEO, MessageOps
Companies are always looking for ways to boost productivity while making their employees happy at the same time. Here are my three tips:
- Upcoming Events: Many companies would like to share, in a common place, upcoming company and marketing events. The ability to share marketing and/or corporate event calendars is a must. Marketing might get frustrated that they share events on the [company] website, but no one is going there to see what is coming up.
- Social: An overall theme throughout our discussions with our customers is they want their intranets to be social, meaning they want the ability to Like, Follow, Share and give “SHOUT OUTS” and recognitions to and with their peers. They want the ability to know whose birthday it is, whose work anniversaries are coming up, and recognize a job well done.
- Device Responsive:Let’s face it—we work on many devices, not just our desktop(s). Therefore, your Intranet site should be fully device responsive so you can stay productive on the go.
13. Shipping Made Easy
Shippo just launched an API to help ecommerce stores and their customers track shipments. The new API helps customers track their packages right through the store rather than on the carrier site, or receive a text message whenever the shipment status changes.
Stores that use Shippo can ship with multiple carriers through one platform, saving them hours of time not having to integrate multiple carriers’ code into their own sites. And Shippo negotiates integrations for 15 carriers, plus negotiates rates for USPS and DHL.
Smaller stores can enter all their shipments into the Shippo dashboard, which automatically generates the best prices through the ideal carriers.
14. New Search Engine
Plonked, a search and analysis company, recently launched an advanced search engine that it says, “significantly improves users’ ability to discover, analyze and connect with tech companies, at no charge.”
Plonked is designed for anyone who is searching for tech businesses, whether for lead generation, M&A or a potential employer.
Plonked founder and CEO Ankur Varma says, “Even the most obscure small businesses are in fact connected to the other 24 million businesses in the United States in just 3 to 4 hops.”
Plonked features include:
- Simple search interface: search using natural language
- Powerful company dashboard: displaying quick facts, connections, similar companies and news
- Business health metrics to more effectively analyze and compare companies
- An explorer that provides a comprehensive view of a company’s ecosystem, including similar companies, customers, partners and vendors
15. News from Xero
There’s a lot of news from Xero. Here’s a summary:
Xero is partnering with Google to help small businesses keep on top of their customer relationships by integrating with Google’s Gmail platform and Google Apps for Work.
The Gmail integration takes email out of the inbox and puts it into the accounting workflow, giving small businesses even more information about their relationships with their contacts without leaving Xero. The Gmail integration is available now.
Xero also supports Xero for Android used by Xero’s mobile small business owners and accounting providers globally, enabling them to create and send invoices, add receipts, and create expense claims anytime, anywhere.
This month Xero will partner with Microsoft Power BI offering its users an easier way to access and analyze information from Xero and other sources to make smart, informed decisions for their businesses. The powerful analytics will create compelling data visualizations of the most commonly tracked 25 small business metrics including cash position, revenue vs. expenses, profit loss trend, debtor days and return on investment.
Other features include:
- Big Data for Small Business. The integration between Xero financial data and Microsoft Power BI enables small businesses owners to analyze data with greater speed, efficiency, and understanding.
- Data Visualization = Better Decision Making. Integrations with Microsoft’s Power BI and Office 365 increase Xero’s reach and usability and allows small businesses to extend their current Microsoft investments to easily view their Xero data alongside other critical business data, including Dynamics CRM, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Google Analytics, Zendesk and Stripe.
- Time is Money. The ability to speed up the process of making smart, informed decisions gives precious time back to Xero’s small business and accounting subscribers, so they can direct energy towards serving their customers instead of “the business of doing business.”
Tomorrow Xero will launch Xero TaxTouch, targeting America’s 54 million freelancers. TaxTouch is a new app developed specifically for people who submit a Schedule C form with their tax filings.
Xero TaxTouch app allows a user to automatically download bank and credit card transactions from major U.S. banks and credit cards, and provides an easy way to track business expenses and maximize business tax deductions. With one tap, the app generates a report detailing Schedule C data, making it faster and easier for freelancers and their tax professionals to prepare yearly tax returns.
Users can separate business expenses from personal expenses by swiping right for business or left for personal. Xero TaxTouch helps eliminate any costly surprises by estimating quarterly tax payments and helping to continually track business-related earnings. It also helps freelancers save money by categorizing expenses according to IRS-approved business deductions categories.
Xero TaxTouch is priced at $5.99/month, or $29.99 for the first year and will be available for download on iOS from the App Store on March 8, 2016.
In conjunction with the release of TaxTouch, Xero released a survey of the on-demand freelance workforce. Survey highlights include:
- 92% of these freelancers are happy with their jobs
- 10% of respondents are surprised at tax time because they don’t know or understand their tax responsibilities
- 25%+ don’t track or deduct business expenses from their taxes
- About 67% do not file quarterly tax estimates
- Almost 75% don’t work with a professional to file their taxes
- 37% use an online tax program
- 20% use a desktop computer program
- 16% complete their own IRS forms