innovation

18 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

 

1—Get 24/7 Insight Into Your Cash Positions

Kabbage, Inc. recently launched Kabbage Insights, an automated tool that calculates and predicts cash-flow patterns to help you identify cash surpluses and deficits in your small business.

In less than 10 minutes, you can connect your real-time financial data to Kabbage Insights and access an analysis of your company’s historical, current and future cash-flow. The product continually evaluates the transaction activity of its customers over a 90-day period and organizes it in an easy-to-understand dashboard, allowing customers to quickly visualize their net growth without taking the time to calculate it themselves.

As a leader in predictive analytics and artificial intelligence for small businesses, Kabbage Insights produces personalized forecasts to predict the future cash position of a business. Customers can then set a desired low-balance threshold and receive automated alerts if accounts are predicted to dip below it, empowering small businesses to identify, act upon and prevent cash deficits before they occur.

Paired with the Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index, Kabbage Insights allows small businesses to compare their company’s performance to similarly-sized businesses operating in their state and industry. The tool, which is free, helps small businesses anticipate changes, benchmark their growth, plan ahead and make more confident business decisions like when to cut expenses, invest or borrow.

 

2—Award for Black Women Entrepreneurs

For most entrepreneurs what’s at stake in a business is not only a legacy, but their livelihood. We know that now, more than ever, small businesses need support, so I wanted to share one program that is already live – and was created to support Black female business owners and entrepreneurs. Our hope is to ensure business owners and entrepreneurs across the country know about the following contest and grant, before the deadline to enter on April 15.

Black women, while one of the fastest growing sectors of entrepreneurs and business owners, are also the most underfundedPine-Sol and ESSENCE are on a mission to celebrate and support the enduring legacy of Black women in business, and champion entrepreneurs, by hosting the first ever Build Your Legacy Contest—a $100,000 grant will be awarded to one Black female entrepreneur to support her business. The contest is now live, and the deadline to apply is Wednesday, April 15.

The Build Your Legacy Contest is about showing up to support Black female entrepreneurs at a time when being a business owner is more challenging than ever. Women across the country are encouraged to celebrate those who have inspired them to create their own legacies that serve both their families and communities.

Build Your Legacy Award

Entries are open now and will remain open until April 15.

  • Visit (com/your legacy) to submit a video introducing yourself and your business, why you started your business and how you would use $100,000 to grow and/or support it.
  • To enter you must have a registered business (LLC, Inc, etc.)

When will the winner be announced?

  • Three semi-finalists will be announced in May
  • Semi-Finalist voting will be open to the public: June 1 – July 1, 2020
  • Final winner announced: July 4, 2020

 

3—Help for Home Service Business Owners

If you’re in the home service industry, you should know about Leap which has created a platform combining an industry-leading software solution in an end-to-end point of sale application. This application digitizes every stage of the in-home sales process. Developed by industry veterans, the application helps businesses eliminate errors, increase efficiency and automate the day-to-day sales process, changing the way home services are bought and sold

Shashi Bellamkonda, who has been helping small businesses and technology companies for more than 18 years, has just joined Leap as its new Vice President of Marketing.

“I have always been fascinated by Leap’s story and how bringing technology to people and businesses can help solve problems,” says Bellamkonda. “Leap has a great culture that sets them apart from other start-ups. Their continued growth and next steps make it an exciting place to continue my career.”

What exactly does Leap do? It provides digital contracting and estimating software that helps entrepreneurs who own home services companies go paperless and reduce their reliance on manual processes. By automating key functions of your  business, Leap helps you save time and money. Plus, you’ll improve your customer’s buying experience.

Bellamkonda’s goal is to help Leap grow its footprint as it enters new verticals and supporting the expansion of Leap’s partner and integration network. Together, this will ultimately realize Leap’s vision of obtaining market-wide adoption of its platform by the home service industry.

 

4—User Generated Content

Rekha Brar, founder and owner of Blossom Box Jewelry says user-generated content is one of the reasons her site has seen 600% YOY growth rate over a three-month period, in addition, she says, “to leveraging a trusted partner for website development and optimization.

Brar says user-generated content like unboxings or organic videos come across as more authentic than ads or paid influencer content. Below she shares some insights and tips on how retailers can drive organic influencer growth to increase customer engagement and ultimately drive sales.

  • Integrate technology to create an always-on business persona: Consider integrating a chatbot into your website. From tracking data insights, you can see consumers look for 1:1 interaction when choosing a company to engage with, and a chatbot provides constant, real-time access to this immediate communication.
  • Build a community: Consumers want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. By sending a thank-you note or video, you can help make that connection. It’s important that consumers feel acknowledged and appreciated—this will set your business apart from larger corporations where a customer might get lost in the mix. Capitalize on your size as a small business to make these direct connections.
  • Implement seasonal updates: Correlate your packaging with the season. This thoughtful adjustment makes receiving the product—and giving it as a gift—even better for customers. Also, consider updating your website with holiday or seasonal banners, and run promotions to incentivize customers to make a purchase during the busy season.
  • Learn from your customers: Consider implementing a quarterly survey to learn directly from customers—what did they like/not like about the website? Was it easy to find and purchase the product? Would they buy the product again? Use the insights gained from customers to make adjustments to your website, selling process, etc. This is also a great way to make a connection—allowing consumers to play a role in how a brand conducts business.
  • Use data insights to drive engagement: User-generated content, such as unboxings and organic videos, resonate well with consumers. In fact, authentic, user-generated content is what more consumers today crave. Consumers need to be constantly engaged to stay on/revisit a site. Organic video content is becoming an increasingly important aspect of driving traffic to Blossom Box Jewelry. Identify what your customers are looking for and reflect that in your business strategies.
  • Review your website with fresh eyes: Ensure your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and that your products truly pop on the page. Consider working with a partner to help with website development and maintenance. Modifications that may seem insignificant—such as posting clearer images, leveraging images to tell your brand story, and removing whitespace—can make a huge difference in converting sales on the website.
  • Tell a cohesive brand story: Align marketing across platforms; be consistent among social networks and on your website. Create authenticity and tell a story with your brand, and ensure you’re telling the same story through social media pages, your website, and even your product packaging. Telling a story through your brand can help to create an emotional connection with customers. Think outside the box when it comes to leaving a lasting impression. Consider putting a ‘call to action’ on the product packaging—include a hashtag and ask customers to post about their experience with the product. This is a great way to build a community and connect like-minded people.

 

5—Where are the Nation’s Marijuana Dispensaries?

One business that remains open in many states where businesses are shuttered during the coronavirus are marijuana dispensaries. And as marijuana becomes legal in states across the country, it’s no surprise that dispensaries are becoming more common.

Verilife recently analyzed dispensary listing data from more than 600 U.S. cities to find out which cities and states have the most marijuana dispensaries per 100,000 residents.

Findings

  • Oregon hosts the most marijuana dispensaries per capita. There are more than 660 dispensaries located throughout the state or 16.5 per 100,000 residents.
  • Even though Oklahoma’s medical marijuana law was passed in the summer of 2018, the state has already seen a boom in dispensaries. Oklahoma is home to the second most dispensaries per capita, which equals about 15.6 dispensaries per 100,000 residents.
  • Nine Oklahoma cities and eight Oregon cities are listed within the top 30 rankings. However, it’s Missoula, Montana that’s home to the most dispensaries per capita with 18 marijuana dispensaries per 50,000 people.

Take a look at the full report—it’s interesting. And maybe there are startup opportunities in some of these cities and states.

 

6—5 Reasons Why Your Business Website Should Have A Blog

Guest post by Ram Kezel, public relations coordinator, Hostinger, a webhosting company

Before deciding which goods or services to pick, people tend to research them online. In this scenario, your business website can help to make a memorable first impression. You should grab people’s attention and turn it into sales. To do that, in addition to the usual information, your business website should have a blog as well. And here are 5 reasons why.

#1 Reason: Be Up To Date: There is a good chance that your goods or services are not changing every other day. In this case, your website might seem quite static. But you can update your blog as often as you want. It shows that the business is alive and up to date. There is a wide selection of topics you can cover. It doesn’t have to be directly related to your business.

“Even though we offer hosting services, in our blog we share our daily thoughts, lessons, and discoveries. For example, one recent blog post was How to Stay Inspired as a Web Designer. This way we can show that we are up to date: working, improving, and sharing our insights,” says Arnas Stuopelis, chairman of web hosting provider Hostinger.

#2 Reason: Get Organic Traffic: Your blog posts are visible not only for your customers but for the search engines as well. Corey Wainwright writes on HubSpot: “Every time you write a blog post, it’s one more indexed page on your website, which means it’s one more opportunity for you to show up in search engines and drive traffic to your website in organic search.” Relevant blog posts can increase your organic traffic, bring potential clients, and boost your sales.

#3 Reason: Become An Expert: If you are deeply interested in your field, you can write blog posts that review the current situation, trends or other important information. It can help you to build your own personal image as an expert on this topic. The media might start to quote your blog or ask for your opinion on similar topics. This brings you extra coverage and increases your business reliability.

#4 Reason: Build Relationships: Another important part of a blog post is its comment section. It helps to start a discussion and build a relationship. A website can look like a one-way communication channel. But blog posts help to change it. Forbes writes: “It helps form a more personable relationship between the company and the customer: giving a human image behind the logo.”

#5 Reason: Improve Social Media Content: Your business probably has social media accounts as well. And sometimes it can be a real headache to decide what to post online. You don’t want to seem too pushy with your ads. And you don’t want to be too random either. Your blog content can help with your social media and be a great reason to update your status with the latest post.

 

7—Logo Redesigns

It’s always dicey when businesses decided to change their logo. Will their customers hate it or love it? When well-known businesses switch up their logos, the stakes are even higher.

Visual Objects recently published two articles on how people feel about well-known logo redesigns, including Facebook, Yahoo, Slack, Sears, and Warner Bros.

Check them out here:

We found that:

  • 80% of people prefer the old Facebook logo
  • 79% of people prefer the old Sears logo
  • 58% of people prefer the old Yahoo logo
  • 73% of people prefer the new Slack logo 
  • 89% of people prefer the old Warner Bros. logo

 

8—Biggest Tax Procrastinators

Tax Day may be delayed due to the coronavirus, but a recent survey from IPX 1031 shows many Americans are tax procrastinators even in normal times. IPX1031 analyzed Google search data from all 50 states and the 30 largest American cities during last year’s tax season to determine which cities and state have the biggest tax procrastinators.
Here’s what they found:

  • The states with the biggest tax procrastinators: (1. California 2. Nevada 3. Texas 4. Colorado 5. Oregon 6. Washington 7. Hawaii 8. Georgia 9. Arizona 10. Maryland).
  • Nearly a quarter of surveyed respondents didn’t know that Tax Day is April 15!
  • In 2019, the IRS received the largest amount of tax returns during the week of Tax Day, (17,806,000 tax returns). The second most popular week to file taxes was the first week of tax season (16,035,000 tax returns).

There’s more information in the full report.

 

9—Next-Generation Loan Marketplace Expands Services

Lendio, a marketplace for small business loans, recently secured $55 million in capital.

The investments enable Lendio to expand its online bookkeeping platform, Sunrise by Lendio, where small business owners can manage their cash flow and visualize their financial health.

Additionally, Lendio will tap the funding for enhancements across its lender services division. Based on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) partnership model, the lender services division provides banks, credit unions, and online lenders access to a custom, white-labeled online application that allows the financial institution to accept loan applications online. In addition, lenders are now outsourcing the customer-facing sales function to Lendio, harnessing Lendio’s knowledge of loan products and small business needs, as well as its ability to increase customer conversion rates.

 

Cool Tools

 

10—Taking Surveys

Part of serving your customers is knowing what they want—and one of the best ways to find out is by asking them.

If you’re looking for a survey tool, check out surveyanyplace.com. They’re a startup that “focuses on creating fun, mobile, and interactive quizzes and surveys.” They says these types of surveys not only allow you to engage with your audience, but also allows you to let your own brand identity or personality show through.

One feature that sets SurveyAnyplace apart is ReportR, which allows you to create personalized PDF reports based on the answers on the questionnaire.

If you want to learn more, check out this article comparing them to  Survey Monkey.

 

11—SMBs Aren’t Fully Leveraging Business Analytics

Research from Onepath, a long-time provider of managed technology services to SMBs,  found that 67% of SMBs are spending at least $10,000 annually on people and technology to maintain their data analytics solutions, and 75% of survey respondents reported spending at least 132 hours each year on maintenance of these systems. And yet, the vast majority said their companies could be making better use of their solutions.

  • OnePath says, “The paradox of the survey results—that companies are spending excessively on data analytics tools but not getting full value for their investments—seems rooted in the fact that SMBs recognize the tremendous benefits data analytics can provide.” 59% of survey respondents say it would take longer to deliver products if managers and executives didn’t have access to data from their analytics solutions
  • 56% say it would take longer to service customers
  • 54% say without the data, their companies might actually make decisions that would harm their businesses

So, what’s keeping SMBs from maximizing the value of their data analytics tools? As is the case with other technologies, many SMBs simply lack the in-house resources to properly vet, deploy, and use these systems.

  • 57% say they didn’t have the right people to manage the process of implementing the solutions
  • 62% say they could make better use of the tools if they had more training

Of course, neither of these problems have prevented SMBs from buying data analytics solutions, which respondents report are being used across major departments (sales, marketing, finance and engineering). Interestingly, IT is the biggest user of data analytics tools, per the survey results.

More data points from the Onepath survey

  • 60% of SMBs are using a web or cloud-based data analytics system. Only 9% are still using an offline tool such as Microsoft Excel.
  • The systems are used for a variety of purposes, including decisions on how to grow the business (66%), budgets (59%) and staffing (40%).
  • 35% said it took too long to implement their data analytics solution, and 49% said they could make better use of the tools if they were easier to use.
  • 19% have three or fewer people inside the company whose job it is to maintain these solutions, while 60% of the companies surveyed have between 100-500 employees.

For a complete view of the survey results, click here.

 

12—A Suite of Tools Making Professional-Quality Video Possible

Vimeo Create, a new suite of tools for making high-impact social videos in minutes, was recently launched providing a fast, easy solution to grow their businesses with video.

Vimeo Create combines smart editing technology with an intuitive interface that guides users through the video-making process, from start to finish. Users can select from a gallery of professionally-designed video templates, or they can create a video from scratch using their own footage and storyboard. Vimeo Create is fully integrated with Vimeo’s suite of workflow tools, so users can make videos optimized for each social media platform, natively publish them and measure results—all from within the Vimeo platform.

Video is vital for every business, yet the barriers for creating video remain high. Vimeo’s recent proprietary research, The 2020 SMB Video Report, found that while over half of small businesses used video in their marketing strategies in 2019, only 22% feel they’re using enough video. Time, cost, and complexity were cited as the greatest challenges with video-making, and if these friction points were removed, virtually all SMBs (96%) say they would create more video.

“Video is the most impactful medium we have today for human expression at scale, and businesses need an online video strategy to reach their customers. But the research is clear: small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have the tools, time or budgets to make videos at the volume and quality needed to compete,” says Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo.

Key benefits of Vimeo Create include: 

  • Fast, easy video creation: Get started with professionally-designed video templates that can be quickly customized or create a video from scratch. Vimeo’s AI-powered technology will turn clips, photos, music, and text into a high-quality social video in minutes.
  • Unlimited stock content: Leverage a premium stock library featuring millions of HD video clips, photos, and commercially-licensed music tracks – available to Vimeo Create users at no extra charge.
  • Full branding control: Find the right look and choose the right message for any business with customizable colors, fonts, layouts, logos, text captions, and calls-to-action.
  • One-stop shop for video marketing: Automatically tailor videos for each social media platform by creating versions in every format and ratio (square, vertical, horizontal). Then access Vimeo’s high-performance video marketing tools to natively publish videos across the web and measure their impact in one seamless workflow.

Vimeo Create is included in Vimeo Pro, Business and Premium memberships and available across web and mobile apps. Anyone can unlock a free trial of the full tool suite. To start using Vimeo Create, please visit vimeo.com/create.

 

13—Digital Solution for Omnichannel Payment Security

PCI Pal, the secure payments provider, recently launched PCI Pal Digital. Combined with its existing Agent Assist and IVR payment solutions, PCI Pal Digital will enable a true omnichannel secure payments environment for contact centers and businesses taking payments across the globe. The new solution empowers organizations to offer secure payment options for digital engagement channels including Webchat, social media, email, SMS and more.

PCI Pal Digital enables security for payments through any digital engagement channel. Once payment has been requested on the customer’s preferred channel, PCI Pal generates a URL that directs customers to a secure page that allows them to safely enter their payment details. Throughout the entire process, the contact center agent is able to track the customer’s progress in real-time, allowing organizations to provide a seamless customer experience without any disruption to the customer payment journey. PCI Pal’s technology ensures payment information is secure by descoping all digital channels from the requirements of PCI DSS.

James Barham, CEO, PCI Pal says, “As businesses add digital solutions to their customer engagement strategy, it will be important that they ensure adherence to increasingly stringent compliance and data privacy rules and regulations (such as the California Consumer Privacy Act). With PCI Pal Digital, we are helping our customers move to this next phase of multichannel engagement without sacrificing customer experience or security.”

PCI Pal Digital is served from within PCI Pal’s global, true-cloud platform and is available to integrate with any existing customer engagement environments or payment service providers. For more details, check out the product here.

 

Quick Clicks

 

14—SEO Lags

This isn’t good news—only 30% of U.S. small businesses use SEO, according to a new survey report from The Manifest. For small businesses looking to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic, SEO is an affordable strategy to improve online visibility and traffic.

The top 5 strategies for small businesses that use SEO are:

  • Keyword research and targeting (70%)
  • Local search optimization (53%)
  • Mobile-friendly sites (51%)
  • Content creation (45%)
  • Link building (24%)

 

15—How Do The Top Sites Drive Traffic

If you’re counting on social media to drive traffic to your website, you’re doing it wrong, according to a report from Alexa, an Amazon company. So how do the top websites drive traffic? The report shows:

  • Only 1.1% of the top business sites generate their traffic from social media
  • The top businesses’ traffic is 72% more likely to be generated by direct searches than from the results of a search engine
  • Although top sites are overall more likely to have their traffic come from direct searches, over 15% of the top business sites’ traffic does come from referrals through from other domains

 

16—Up your e-commerce game. With the possible spreading of the coronavirus, consumers might prefer to shop online than in person. Check out all these useful and relevant stats about e-commerce from KommandoTech.

17—Is there a psychology to setting prices? Australian-based Conjoint.ly says there is. Check it out.

18—Bad Blood in the Workplace.

Are you worried about what your former employees say about you? A survey from Frac.tl shows most ex-workers only take the time to review your company if it’s a bad one—over half of reviews only get 1 or 2 stars.

  • About 4 in 5 people who leave online reviews of their company have no regrets about it—but over 12% wish they had been more negative
  • More than 10% of Americans lied or “stretched the truth” on a review they left about an employer—and half of those did so in an attempt to damage their ex-employer’s reputation
  • Over 84% of people searching for a job look at online reviews, and 1 in 3 have turned down a job offer because of the reviews they read

Small business stock photo by SOPRADIT/Shutterstock