15 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1) How to Get Found Locally
With most consumers turning to the Internet to find local businesses, it’s imperative your site is optimized and provides what potential customers are looking for when they search.
The students at Kendall College in Chicago have put together several charts showing what small business owners in specific industries should do to optimize their local listings.
2) 7 Tips to Super-Charge Mobile Marketing this Holiday Season
Guest post by Jess Stephens, CMO of SmartFocus
- Think mobile: According to the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Americans have smartphones, and for a growing number, their mobile devices are the primary entry points to the web. That’s why it’s crucial to optimize marketing promotions like email campaigns for mobile devices. It’s also a good idea to check how the emails look across a variety of smartphones and tablets. An email that renders beautifully on an iPad might not display as well on an Android smartphone, or vice-versa.
- Maximize mobile page speed and target browsing behavior.Users expect lightning-fast load times, and their patience is shorter now than in past years. If you don’t deliver, customers will move on to another site that loads more quickly to avoid delays. Another way to serve mobile customers better is to set up email campaign triggers based on browsing behavior. This enables you to get the right message to the right person at the right time, which can increase conversion rates 10-fold.
- Use personalization to engage your audience more effectively.Today’s consumers expect personalization, so make sure you always include local store information in email campaigns that are designed to attract recipients to brick-and-mortar locations. The best strategy for mobile customers is to use GPS information to locate the nearest store. For emails that are opened on a desktop, use the IP address and past purchase data to identify the customer’s local store.
- Remove the friction from the buying process.With mobile devices especially, it is crucial to quickly engage customers and make it easy for them to buy from you. The bad news is that you have only a few seconds to capture the customer’s attention. But the good news is that if you optimize the visual presentation by placing calls to action strategically, you can improve your chance of making a sale exponentially. Make sure your email is scannable, that customers can easily get the additional information they need to make a purchasing decision and that your purpose in contacting the customer is crystal clear.
- Evaluate 2014 results and apply lessons learned.Planning is a core part of a successful mobile marketing strategy, but nothing can take the place of real-world experience. Take a look at how your company performed during last year’s holiday season and apply lessons learned to this year’s marketing strategy. Look at what worked in 2014, identifying buyer behavior and response rates to specific promotions for insights that can drive sales in the upcoming holiday season. Also evaluate campaigns that weren’t as effective as you’d hoped last year and pinpoint the source of the shortfalls.
- Target showroomers and webroomers with an omnichannel approach. Showroomers are customers who come into stores to check out products and then buy the item online from another retailer. Webroomers do product research online and then make an in-store purchase from another vendor. By using omnichannel techniques such as beacons to broadcast mobile content in the store, price transparency, offering free shipping on and offline and targeting each group via in-store specials and online promotions, you can pick up sales from both showroomers and webroomers.
- Launch your holiday campaign soon. Some people wrap up their holiday shopping before the trick-or-treat items are off store shelves while others complete their holiday buying in a flurry of activity at the last minute. You don’t want to leave any potential revenue on the table, so serve both groups by launching your mobile marketing strategy for the holidays as early as you can. A longer campaign timeframe can enable inclusion of many different types of promotions, including wish lists, sneak peeks and consumer-generated content to drive sales. The quicker you get started, the sooner you can start ringing in holiday sales.
3) How to Scale Your Business in 2016
Have the Right Tools, the Right Mindset and Be in the Right Place for Maximum Success
Guest post from ONTRAPORT
Companies that are prepared to scale have significantly more leverage in their own growth since they’re able to grow their operations without needing to quickly increase operating costs.
Invest in the Right Tools
No matter what stage your business is at right now, automation—of everything, from autoresponders to monthly billing to marketing—will always help increase efficiency and decrease the time you spend on day-to-day business maintenance, allowing more time for growth stimulating projects.
By investing in the right tools early on, you’ll have an even easier time controlling and promoting your business growth. That’s why it’s worth spending money early on to do everything from developing a complete brand identity, to setting up a reliable, high delivery CRM and an international payment gateway.
The number-one thing you want to consider when looking at any new tools is whether or not the time it saves you is worth the money that you spend on it each month. If you can’t yet guarantee that the tool is worth the price, go with a free version that allows you to export your information from it at a later date as your business grows.
And if you can guarantee that the price of the tool is worth the investment, get the most practical tool that you can afford. Look for all-in-one platforms that fulfill multiple needs and let you rely on one team for support, rather than many.
Have the Right Mindset
Another thing many small business owners forget about as time runs on is that it’s important to keep the right mindset when you’re looking to scale your business. Every interaction should be looked at as an opportunity to make a new, beneficial connection. Every person should be dealt with as though they’re going to be your next best customer. And, most important, every customer should be treated as though they’re your best customer ever.
Be in the Right Place
After you’ve invested in the right tools and made sure you’re in the right mindset for explosive growth, the only thing left to do is being in the right place at the right time. It seems obvious, but for so many small businesses, the day-to-day of running operations bleeds over into everything and eclipses opportunities to learn more about their industries, about best practices for marketing and sales, and about the newest trends in entrepreneurship and small business operations.
That’s why our event, ONTRApalooza, to be held in Santa Barbara, California on October 22-23 is designed specifically for entrepreneurs and small business owners. In fact, by promising that you’ll accomplish meaningful work at the event ONTRApalooza recognizes the unique situation that entrepreneurs and small business owners are in.
Called “the must attend conference for entrepreneurs” by Forbes, ONTRApalooza is the premier place where entrepreneurs come to learn more about how to run their businesses so that it doesn’t run them. It’s the place to come to automate processes and lay the groundwork for predictable, achievable and scalable success in business.
4) Where to Start a Small Business for Less
SmartAsset set out to find the cities with the lowest startup costs and looked at “the typical costs of starting and running a business” in 81 of America’s largest cities. The expenses measured included office space, utilities, filing fees, legal and accounting costs and payroll.
Among the key findings are that nine of the top 10 cities with the lowest startup costs are located in the south. SmartAsset says southern cities have low commercial office rates and relatively low labor costs. Not surprisingly, the report shows startup costs in San Jose and San Francisco are over 50% higher than the average for the cities studied. California also has some of the highest taxes in the U.S. (but as a Californian, I have to say, it’s a great place to live). This, says SmartAsset, may mean that “while Silicon Valley and San Francisco have produced some of this century’s most well-known startups, those successes may be difficult for most entrepreneurs to replicate without substantial funding at the outset.”
Chattanooga, TN, was the least expensive city, while San Jose was the most.
5) 4 Unlikely Items SMBs Should Budget For and Why
Guest post by Will Reynolds, SecureDocs CEO
- Professional services:These days it’s pretty cheap and easy to buy a “company in a box” via online legal services, and many startups will successfully go down that route. However, if you have a big idea, unique Intellectual Property or plan to take on investors from the outset, you may want to take more formal legal advice and have someone put together a tailored package of documentation around items such as incorporation, employment, CAP table and Share Plans. The same goes for using an accounting professional, even if you are not making money. Having all your ducks in a row from day one will take some investment. Good lawyers are not cheap, but it will be a lot less expensive and stressful than having to unravel legal, accounting or tax complications in the future.
- Marketing software:When we started our business, SecureDocs, we underestimated the cost of dedicated marketing software and also the potential value of marketing software. Our marketing software bill is the single biggest expense for our business after salaries. Writing the check each year stings a little, but I only have to look at the sheer scope of what we are able to achieve with it, and the revenue that it brings, to understand that we probably wouldn’t have a fast growing business without it.
- Virtual Data Room:A Virtual Data Room should be your central document repository that represents the value of your business. If you start early and organize all current and future critical documentation in a single system of record you are in a perpetual state of readiness for rounds of funding, licensing deals, partnerships and of course the reason you started your business in the first place: a successful exit. A business with an incomplete document record going into a financial transaction will at best face a big clean up bill and at worst be unsellable.
- Snacks, lunches and entertainment:If you’re going to ask people to join you at a startup they’re going to be making some significant sacrifices. They’ll likely be trading salary for equity and a heavy dose of uncertainty. Which is fine, they know what they’re signing up for, however, providing food and refreshment related perks can go a long way towards increasing your team’s happiness and productivity. Lunches and after work drinks also provide a great forum for team bonding and idea generation. Relative to the cost of people it’s a small expense with a potentially large return.
6) What’s in Your Productivity Manifesto?
Guest post by Virginia Fraser, senior communications editor, Insights Learning and Development.
Everyone wants to be more motivated and productive at work, but what many don’t realize is that when you’re doing seemingly productive tasks, like checking emails before bed, it’s really killing your work productivity. Stepping away from the phone and resisting the urge to update after every ping of an incoming email is a simple way to avoid being ‘always on’ and increase your overall productivity. Keeping yourself connected 24/7 doesn’t allow the necessary recharge and refresh to happen before the next work day.
Motivation is a key factor to a person’s productivity. If you’re in the wrong role, you won’t have an intrinsic sense of motivation that pushes you when your role challenges are demotivating. To increase your productivity, you have to make sure you’re in a role that interests and challenges you. To be in the right role, you have to have a strong sense of self-awareness to know what you like and where your strengths lie.
Another key factor to productivity is a person’s environment. To be the most productive you can be, [your business should be] in an environment that aligns with your interpersonal preferences. If you are introverted and are in an environment where you can’t get time to think on your own, you won’t be productive. Similarly, if you’re extroverted and [your business] requires you to work alone for lengths of time, your productivity will also be impacted.
A factor that impacts your employees’ productivity is their ability to navigate obstacles with resilience and openness to adaptation. If it is likely an employee will be completely derailed by the introduction of an obstacle, then they won’t be able to overcome it successfully. If they know they’re going to hit a wall and not be able to easily get over it, they might not even try to pursue the task and their ability to complete assignments will be impacted significantly.
Keep in mind tips that work best for your personal strengths and weaknesses, and work to find little ways to manipulate your tasks to fit your personality to maintain your motivation and productivity in the office place. Tricks like knowing what time of day you feel most productive and getting the hardest items on your to-do list done then are easy manipulations. Being clear about your role, knowing yourself and learning to successfully navigate obstacles all add up to an efficient workflow process.
7) Why Millennial Women Take A Wait-and-See Approach to Retirement Savings: How to Better Manage Your 401k
Guest post by Chris Costello, cofounder & CEO, blooom
Why do women put off managing their retirement savings? I think the problem is two-fold: financial strain and intimidation. First, financially, many younger women are preoccupied with paying off student loans and dealing with day-to-day expenses. Saving for retirement is, therefore, not regarded as a priority and is generally put off until they feel more established.
Second, many people are not aware of how investing works, let alone a 401k. And there is very little professional help available because these women generally do not qualify for a traditional advisor. Therefore, they are left to fend for themselves or rely on a friend or relative to give them advice, [which] can either lead to giving up entirely or making incorrect choices.
[Hopefully] the five “Best Steps” provided below will help Millennials realize the best time to start investing is now. By spending less and saving more under a structured budget young women can take control of their finances. Consequently, they will see there is enough money to pay the bills and save for retirement. And with today’s financial tools, such as blooom, there is affordable professional money-management options upon which they can rely. With self-discipline and today’s online tools, the Millennials do not have to wait any further to invest in their future.
Best steps to get back on track
1. Budget: Create a budget where each dollar you earn has a purpose, which not only includes paying bills, but also saving. This makes you proactive with your money and puts you in control of your finances.
- Spend less than you make: While this sounds simple, many people find it difficult to carry out. It takes discipline, but the pay-off is enormous.
- Save More: The only way to save is to spend less than you make. The way to save more is to be more disciplined with your budget. Gradually decrease where you are expending money to increase your savings.
- Manage your savings correctly: It’s critical that you manage your savings correctly to optimize its earning potential. It’s great to allocate money into your 401k, but when, as a 20 year old, you have it sitting in a money market fund you are losing out on significant future earnings.
- Take advantage of today’s technology: Today’s technology is bridging a financial gap that has long existed between the “haves” and “have-nots”. Traditionally you needed a large investment portfolio to have a professional manage it for you. Ironically, however, it’s the people just starting out with the new student loan repayment, new house, new job and new 401k that need the most help! Enter the robo-advisor, like blooom. It is an online investment service that automates the recommendations and asset management on behalf of the investor. It is typically low-cost, has low account minimums, and attracts investors who are comfortable doing things online. It’s a perfect option for busy Millennials.
How blooom can simplify the process
Blooom is a robo-advisor built exclusively for helping middle class Americans with their single largest financial asset—their 401(k), 403(b), 457, or TSP. Blooom analyzes the health of the 401(k) and professionally manages the account through to the client’s retirement. We also have a certified financial planner available to advise clients on their financial questions.
We provide the same type of 401(k) portfolio management and advice that was once only accessible to the wealthy. And we’ll analyze your 401(k) for free. If you have more than $20,000 in your 401(k) blooom charges $15/month. If you have less than $20,000 we charge $1/month.
8) Which Industries Have the Most 1099 Workers?
According to the folks at Payable, the independent workforce, AKA the Gig Economy is growing faster than the entire workforce. In fact, they report 40% of Americans are not working full-time, 9-5 jobs. Whether part-time, hourly, or self-employed, an economist studying this trend found that up to 85% of all jobs created from 2005 to 2013 were “alternative” or nontraditional.
But, who are these workers and what jobs do they perform? Payable says while recent focus has fixated on the on-demand economy as the poster child of independent workers, their growth and financial vulnerability. However, when looking at recent statistics, on-demand workers (comprising contractors like Uber drivers, Taskers, and Upwork freelancers) only account for less than 10% of the total 30 million people working as independent contractors.
Check out the infographic below to understand the diversity of workers in the Gig Economy.
9) Leadership Training for Diverse Small Business Owners
Extending what it does for small business, Wells Fargo and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Foundation just announced the bank is making a $1.2 million investment (over two years) with the majority of the funding going to establish training opportunities for diverse-owned small business leaders across the country. Specifically, the money will “fund micro-grants, a leadership training impact study and the expansion of the Chamber Training Institute (CTI), a program designed in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.”
The Chamber Training Institute was expanded this year to include chamber leaders from the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC), U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC) and National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
10) Do You Use a Social Intranet?
Social intranet provider Incentive says getting employees to change their work habits and adopt new tools often presents a variety of obstacles. To help you convince them, 451 Research analyst, Alan Pelz-Sharpe, offers his insights in the infographic below.
11) Connecting Freelancers to Jobs
The Freelancer’s Union reports there are an estimated 53 million freelancers in America. That’s a lot of people looking for jobs. To help freelancers find work, giantGator just launched in beta hoping to “streamline the daunting search process for freelancers by aggregating opportunities in one place.”
giantGator is essentially a freelance marketplace, providing “an allinone search engine” for freelance opportunities.
Searching for Crowdfunders
12) Pretty Feet
Soniped, which offers a hands-free home pedicure device, using sonic wave technology, has already raised more than $47,000 (out of its $50,000 goal) on Indiegogo. Soniped president Jason Wade says the machine is “so much more powerful and convenient” than a pumice stone or foot file.
13) World’s Smallest Bluetooth Earbuds
Truebuds, the world’s smallest Bluetooth earbuds, has already raised more than $411,000 on Kickstarter. The stereo earbuds also boast a six-hour battery life and what the company says is a crisp and rich listening experience.
14) PayPal Goes One Touch
Bill Ready, senior vice president, Global Head of Product & Engineering for PayPal, tells us the company is bringing its “One Touch” payment technology global. A year ago PayPay launched One Touch™ with PayPal across mobile. Then earlier this year, it brought One Touch to the Web to the U.S. and expanded it in Canada and the UK. Now One Touch is available in 13 new markets, including: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
If you’re an “eligible merchant” in those markets, One Touch will automatically be enabled. You can check here to find out if One Touch is already enabled at your small business.
Ready says One Touch allows consumers to “securely checkout across all eligible merchants without needing to enter a username, password or payment information, so long as they are using the same device. Of course you’ll need a PayPal account to use One Touch.
According to Ready, since its launch, One Touch has led to a 50% or greater improvement in conversion of PayPal on mobile devices.
15) Hootsuite and Facebook Integration
Hootsuite has integrated Facebook’s updated Page features into Hootsuite Campaigns, which will help marketers run mobile-optimized Facebook marketing campaigns directly from their Hootsuite dashboards.
The company says “Hootsuite Campaigns enable businesses to reach new audiences through social media contests, sweepstakes and galleries.” With the Facebook integration, these contests and campaigns can link to Facebook Pages with prominent call-to-action (CTA) buttons for users on mobile devices, which Hootsuite says will help increase the number of leads, followers, and engagement.