23 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

Note from Rieva: We were hacked last week, so last week’s Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know didn’t run, resulting in an extra-beefy edition this week. Be sure to check out all the holiday-related posts, #2-#7.

1. Getting Paid

Who gets paid when? Fundbox recently analyzed the 20 million invoices in its system revealing some surprising information on who gets paid when. Some key findings:

  • 64% of small businesses are affected by late payments on open invoices.
  • Many large corporations take the longest to pay SMBs. The corporations that take the longest to pay are:
    • Walmart – 86 days on average
    • McDonalds – 64 days on average
    • Target – 48 days on average
  • Industries most affected by late payments include cleaning services, accounting & bookkeeping, web design, landscaping services and construction.

Check out the infographic below for more findings.

The Waiting Game - A Fundbox Infographic

Happy Holidays!

2. You Can Win $5,000 or a Customized Business

CAN Capital, the market share leader in alternative small business finance, recently surveyed small business owners about what they’d like to invest in to start 2016 off strong. New equipment/expanded inventory was the top pick, with 29% putting it first on their list. It was followed by improved technology systems (24%), expanded marketing efforts (18%) and business strategy/consulting (17%).

Managing inventory is also a top concern for the holiday season, with more than half (53%) of small business owners citing it as their biggest worry. Competing with big-box retailers was next (27%), followed by hiring seasonal employees (21%).

Knowing that now is a particularly stressful time for many small business owners, CAN Capital created a way to reduce entrepreneurial stress and even grant some holiday wishes. CAN Capital’s Take the Reins Giveaway will provide 15 small businesses the tools they need to have a more successful start to 2016. You can enter your business for a chance to win $5,000 toward essential items like equipment, merchandise, technology or a custom business plan from one of CAN Capital’s small business experts: Gene Marks, owner and operator of the Marks Group PC, a firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses, or me.

To enter to win these items through CAN Capital’s Take the Reins contest, small business owners just have to tell CAN Capital how the item they want will help their businesses grow in the New Year. CAN Capital will select the winners after the contest ends on December 31st. Ten small businesses will receive the essential item of their choice and another five will be selected for the custom business plan from either Gene or me.

Daniel DeMeo, the CEO of CAN Capital explains, “CAN Capital helps small and medium-sized businesses take the reins every day of the year by providing fast, efficient access to working capital. We launched this contest near the holidays knowing the season is one of the toughest times for small businesses to manage cash flow while still investing in their own growth. By entering the contest and choosing either an essential item for their business or a custom business plan from an expert, small business owners can start the New Year strong to drive success in 2016.”

If your small business is ready to “Take the Reins” this holiday season, you can enter here.


3. Holiday Benchmarks

How are you feeling about this holiday season? Here’s what other small business owners think, according to the OPEN Holiday Growth Pulse from American Express. Overall entrepreneurs are feeling optimistic—55% anticipate holiday sales will be the same as last year, while 37% anticipate a better season this year.

About half of small business owners (53%) plan to host a holiday party for their employees this year and 42% plan to give gifts to them. Is that gift a bonus? Half say their staff will get bonuses equivalent to less than 5% of their salaries, 23% will give a bonus between 5-15% of salaries and 5% will give a bonus exceeding 15% of salaries to their staff. And 22% of business owners don’t plan to give a bonus at all.

Business owners aren’t ignoring their clients, however, 69% plan to give holiday gifts to their customers and clients, spending, on average $5370.

Interestingly, women entrepreneurs will be a little more generous than their male counterparts:

  • 46% of female entrepreneurs will buy gifts for employees, compared to 38% of male entrepreneurs
  • 56% of women business owners will give bonuses to employees, while 43% of male-owned businesses are giving bonuses
  • 57% of women-owned firms will host a holiday party, compared to 50% for their male-owned companies


4. Holiday Shipping

As a busy business owner, you likely don’t have much time to get your holiday shopping and shipping done. Knowing you likely need all the help you can get Endicia has created a helpful infographic. Check it out below.

 Holiday Shopping Infographic

5. Holiday Trends

According to a recent survey from eBay and TNS, here are some holiday buying trends:

  • Americans are increasingly planning on financing the holidays by saving throughout the year (up 4% from 2014)
  • People buy Christmas presents online primarily due to cost/best price
  • Half of American consumers consider themselves good at Christmas shopping
  • People plan to spend more money on their children this year than last year ($308.56 vs. $272.00)
  • On average, women in the U.S. buy seven more presents during the holidays than men.
  • Finances are reported to be the biggest cause of stress during the Christmas season, particularly among females and young people
  • 60% of young people (16-24) find finances to be their biggest stressor for the holiday season
  • Those under 35 are more open to the idea of giving a second-hand item as a gift
  • Millennials take their cues from the Internet—30% think the online shipping deadline for online sales indicates the end of the Christmas shopping season
  • 16-34 year olds are more likely to use mobile devices to buy items for the holidays, up 8% since 2014
  • Half of 16-24 year olds plan to keep their unwanted gifts

If you want to keep track of what’s selling, you can check out this really cool Holiday Heat Map from eBay.


6. Shoppers Beware!

According to a recent survey from BeFrugal more Americans (42%) are worried about being a victim of identity theft, credit card fraud or a store’s data breach than traditional concerns like sticking to a budget (27%) or dealing with crowds (27%) this holiday season.

When shopping this holiday season, 75% of Americans are concerned about sharing their credit card or personal information. Among those, 63% worry about security when spending at retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores or pharmacies, only 53% have the same apprehension about spending on a brand’s website, and just 45% feel nervous about spending on a brand’s mobile site or app.

While Americans have adopted basic security habits, most don’t take additional effective measures: 78% don’t enable text verification for accounts and 75% don’t frequently update their passwords.

If you want to be more safe and secure, BeFrugal suggests:

  • Use unique and long passwords for every login, account or website. Also, update passwords regularly.
  • Check the URL address for a padlock symbol and make sure it is secure (also look for the “s” in “https”).
  • Enable text verification for accounts whenever possible. (BeFrugal offers this security feature for its cash back shoppers.)
  • Install software updates, including antivirus.

Holiday Shopping Survey Infographic

7. Holiday Campaigning: A Workback Plan for Local Businesses

To help local business owners capture consumers this holiday season, YP, a leading local marketing solutions provider, is offering insights on what they can do to establish a digital presence, promote their business and expand their audience.

Hopefully you’ve already reviewed your online presence, defined your tactics, tested you message and launched your initial campaign. Now you need to:

3 weeks out (week of Nov 30): Stay top of mind:  Share authentic content about your business, such as photos or videos, to connect with shoppers searching online, and drive traffic to your website. Keep your business active on social channels throughout the holiday rush.

2 weeks out (week of Dec 7):  Inspire trust: Remind customers where you can be found and encourage feedback.  Positive reviews help inspire trust in consumers not only during the holiday season but also beyond.

1 week out – (week of Dec 14): Make one final push online: Update your website to create more urgency such as a countdown to when a promotion expires.  Be measured about the timing and frequency of ads especially for email and social marketing.

Holiday week of (Dec 21): Close the sale: Take charge of the conversation and be direct on why your business is the right choice

1 week after (Dec. 28): Ending the promotion: Be prepared for returns; update digital properties with regular hours; continue to answer every call to close sales.


8. 6 Ways to Improve the Checkout Experience

Guest post by Haresh Kumar, VP of Marketing, Moovweb

Retailers are losing $18 billion annually due to shopping cart abandonment. Research shows more than 2 out of 3 users who add items to their online shopping carts leave without making a purchase. The numbers are even worse on mobile where conversion rates are 70% lower than desktop. So why are consumers leaving right at the point of sale and what can companies do about it?

Even multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies are failing to implement some of the critical best practices for checkout. Here at Moovweb, we’ve incorporated the findings of leading research center on e-commerce usability Baymard Institute to categorize six types of best practices that you can apply to your mobile checkout and increase conversions up to 25%.

  1. Messaging: 92% of the largest U.S. e-commerce sites fail to have adequate messaging throughout checkout. Use clear, direct language to help consumers understand what they need to input and why. Enhance form field labels with short descriptions (e.g., “Your security code: a 3 digit code found on the back of your card”). Avoid generic error messages such as “Invalid.” And explain why you require a phone number (for shipping issues) rather than leave customers guessing.
  2. Context: Consumers are often interrupted on mobile devices, as they are doing other things. To meet expectations for fast and easy transactions, brands must provide experiences that match the mobile users’ contexts with smaller touch-based screens and in-the-moment needs. Save mobile users time and taps by auto-detecting card type based on their card number and auto-detecting city and state based on zip code. Disable auto-correct for name fields and provide numeric keyboards for phone and credit card information.
  3. Design and Navigation: Mobile customers expect a checkout experience that is user-friendly and seamless—25% of shoppers abandon shopping carts because the website navigation is too complicated. Ensure the font is legible—never use one below 11 pts—and provide adequate spacing between clickable elements. Offer a guest a checkout option—30% of users abandon their carts if they are asked to register up-front. And make it easy for mobile users to keep track of where they are in the checkout process by labeling each step (for example, “Step 1 of 3.”) Avoid using a coupon field, as it prompts shoppers to coupon hunt. Many will abandon their carts to look for a coupon and fail to return.
  4. Trust/Security: Creating a sense of trust and security is key during checkout since 17% of shoppers ditch their carts over concerns about payment security. Include credit card logos and site seals from anti-virus software brands. Consider encapsulating certain fields to make them feel more secure. Add a padlock icon to reinforce users’ sense of security. And give customers one last chance to review what they ordered and ensure they entered everything correctly before they proceed with their order.
  5. Funnel Insights & Analytics: Insights on where in the checkout process drop-offs are happening are the key to minimizing shopping cart abandonment. Use field-level analytics to track in which fields (name field, address field 1, address field 2, etc.) customers drop off. Analyze user behavior by segment (e.g., traffic source, geography, device, returning vs. new) and tailor the checkout experience to their needs. For example, if they came from an ad promoting a sale, fill in the promo code for them.
  6. Testing/Iteration: When testing your mobile checkout, be sure to set up statistically significant tests. You should not call tests before you’ve reached a 95% confidence interval or higher. Run your tests for at least 1-2 business cycles. Determine the sample size in advance and run the experiment until the predetermined sample size has been reached. One useful tool for calculating sample size is testsignificance.com.


9. Entrepreneurial Passion Drives the Global After-Hours Economy

The world’s small and medium business owners have contributed $8.3 trillion to the global economy by working beyond the standard industry hours for their businesses, according to a new global survey by Sage. And American SMBs have contributed $1.9 trillion of that $8.3 trillion.

But these contributions come at a price. Nearly half (46%) of all global business owners work more than 40 hours a week. German entrepreneurs are working particularly hard, with 57% working more than 40 hours every week. U.S. entrepreneurs are working more than the average, with 47% working 40+ hours per week. Australian business owners are achieving a better work-life balance, with 31% saying they are working more than 40 hours a week.

This survey by Sage, the market leader for integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems, highlights the true sacrifices made by entrepreneurs around the world.

Over a third (36%) of those surveyed say they have sacrificed family time for their businesses. That figure was particularly high in South Africa, where 44% of business owners have had to make the difficult decision to choose work over family.

Globally, 44% of business owners say their dedication to their businesses has affected their relationships. Equally, 44% of U.S. business owners say their relationships have been affected by their dedication to their companies.

Perhaps as a result of their long work weeks, over half (52%) of German small business owners have canceled a date because of work. This is particularly high compared with the global average of 27% and U.S. average of 30%.

The survey highlights the sacrifices made by small and medium business owners to power the global economy. Over half of business owners globally (66%) and in the U.S. (68%) say the extra hours are worth it.

More than a third globally (41%) and in the U.S. (34%) are driven by the love of what they do, while 38% globally and 44% in the U.S. say they are motivated by the sense of achievement. Particularly motivated are entrepreneurs in South Africa, where 51% say they are motivated by the love of their business, with 59% motivated by the sense of achievement.


10. Facing the Fact: As an SMB Owner, You are Also HR

A guest post by Julien Emery, an emerging thought leader in the world of HR automation and the cofounder and CEO of Allay, an HR software platform that helps automate timeconsuming administrative tasks like benefits, on-boarding and compliance.

You might wish otherwise, but as CEO of your SMB, you are also wearing the HR hat. Rest assured that there are several tools and tips that can help you better manage those HR-related tasks. Here is a list of things you can do to focus more on people  and less on tedious tasks:

Remove the administrative work: Repeatable tasks such as managing payroll, tracking finances, and filling out government forms can be a real time suck, not to mention boring. Existing tools automate such administrative “to do’s” so that you can focus your time on more important business matters.

Find a broker to help manage benefits: As a SMB owner, it is your responsibility to help your employees understand and interact with their benefits. The easiest way to do this is to partner with a trusted broker who can handle this major initiative.

Focus on people: Never forget that your business is only as good as your people. The environment you are creating is the future of your business. When interviewing for candidates, remember that attitude and passion should trump talent.


11. 6 TED Talks All Entrepreneurs Should Tune In To

Guest post by Fabiola Stein, Global Head of Marketing for Sage One. You can reach heron LinkedIn and Twitter.

It’s a hectic Tuesday morning—you’re scheduling meetings with investors, emailing the new marketing assistant, and trying to figure out how to improve the way you run your business. Being an entrepreneur means you’re on top of everything your startup needs—even though at times it may not feel like it—but are you taking the time to learn new things so you can recharge and grow, too?

Before you say “I don’t have time for that!” consider tuning in to TED Talks as an easy and edu-taining way to inject a little guidance into your personal and professional development. From 11-year-old jazz prodigies to business advice based on New York City trash, TED Talks present a range of topics based on the concept that great ideas can be shared in an average of 18 minutes or less—ideal for busy entrepreneurs.

Here’s a list of my favorite TED Talks for you to add to your personal “lesson plan.” You may be surprised by what you can learn from a 13-year-old, an Aussie, a couple of failures, and a guy named Simon!

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (20:55)

Take note of the way you’re sitting right now—it says a lot about who you are. Amy Cuddy is an expert in nonverbal behavior, and her TED Talk demonstrates how confident posture can positively affect your brain and increases your chances for success. Heed her advice, “fake it until you become it,” and that goes for your body language as well. Take a few minutes to be mindful of your body language right before your next big investor or pitch meeting. Maybe even test Cuddy’s advice by striking a “Wonder Woman” pose before the meeting to boost your confidence. Give her nonverbal behavior suggestions a try and notice how your guests respond to your more poised approach.

How Leaders Inspire Action (17:57)

There’s good reason why Simon Sinek’s speech is the third most watched video on TED: he demonstrates the power of “why.” Sinek shows how the most influential leaders have achieved great success by connecting their message to a purpose. Using examples like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Steve Jobs, Sinek explains, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Chances are you have been more focused on “what” you do then “why.” Making a shift to identifying your brand’s purpose is a great way to create a more meaningful connection with your consumer.

How to Make Work-Life Balance Work (9:57)

Nigel Marsh asks a very important question that, as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to answer: “What does a life well-lived look like?” Starting your own business is everything you’ve dreamed of, and it’s far too easy to let your other passions disappear because of it. Marsh argues that focusing on business success while neglecting other meaningful relationships and aspects of your life is an unbalanced measure of success. He instead suggests a more balanced approach to work-life balance and offers some ideas worth every businessperson’s time.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure (20:58)

When J.K. Rowling began to write the story of a magical, orphaned boy who lived in a broom closet, she had no idea of the success that would follow. In this speech, she opens up about the heartbreak of failure as a means for learning how to push ourselves to succeed. True success takes risks, and as the owner of a company you know that because you took a chance and followed your passion in hopes of a more rewarding career. Facing and embracing failure as opposed to fearing it will offer you an opportunity, and your reward will be the knowledge of how to react to adversity.

What Adults Can Learn From Kids (8:05)

Would you ever take advice from a 13-year-old? Well, Adora Svitak encourages you to. In this piece, Svitak schools adults everywhere while debunking the myth that adults always know better. She effectively argues that age and experience often hinder creativity and limit ideation. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to identify with the child-like spirit of daring and risk-taking; however, as you immerse yourself into your business and the stresses of success and fears of failure kick in, chances are you’ll be playing the role of the responsible adult sooner than you thought. To keep your inner child alive, turn to your team for fresh ideas and input; they don’t carry the burden you do, so tap into their imagination in order to explore ideas and opportunities that benefit your growth.

Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating (7:14)

Eat, pray, love and create! Like J.K. Rowling, Elizabeth Gilbert passionately reinforces the idea that we learn best from our failure. When you experience great failure or even great success, it is important to remember your “home” so that you can return to it and stay focused on your goal. In this case, home is your passion, your craft, and your service. When faced with challenges, avoid paralysis by forging ahead and focusing on creating and producing. The actionable and creative energy will often help you work through the obstacles. If you’re wondering where that passion comes from, Gilbert has some ideas on the source of creativity.

The above links are just a few nuggets of inspiration available, and if you’re like me you’ll quickly realize investing a few minutes to explore nearly any subject in the TED Talks library can pay off big in your business and personal development. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be inspiring others and presenting ideas worth sharing with your very own TED Talk!


12. “Joinership” is the New Leadership

Guest post by Nick Goode, Global Commercial Director at Sage One, Sage’s cloud accounting and payroll solution for start-ups and small businesses. You can find Nick on  LinkedIn and Twitter.

It’s no secret that most companies value leadership over just about anything else. It’s an attitude reflected in our culture and on the surface, it appears to be the key to success. However, in my experience, there’s another component more important than strong leadership—an element that rarely gets the spotlight, because it’s all about not stepping into the spotlight. I’m talking about “joinership.”

A recent survey of over 4,000 Ph.D. candidates found that only 11% of respondents expressed a desire to be a “founder,” while a massive 46% expressed interest in becoming a “joiner.” That’s a difference of over 4 to 1, but is it really surprising that most people would rather join a passionate team than try to build something themselves from the ground up? Strong leaders may inspire people to join their cause, but it’s those early hires and early adopters—the fledgling community who believes in a company’s ideals—that will make or break a young business.

Part of the reason everyone tends to focus on leadership is that so many programs gear us towards it in the first place. I can’t think of a single MBA program that prides itself on teaching students to “become the followers of tomorrow.” Whereas leaders are seen as the pinnacle of an organization, there’s a bit of a stigma to following, even though they can have a much bigger impact on an organization over the long run. That’s not to say leadership isn’t important. It is of course, but a leader can’t do much without followers.

So let’s break apart the false dichotomy into three parts: leaders, joiners and followers. What makes joiners different from followers? It’s easiest to see the difference on social media. If you have a lot of followers on Instagram or Twitter, it looks very impressive. However, what are those followers doing? Are they engaging with you? If they’re liking posts, commenting, reposting content, and suggesting friends every #FollowFriday, rather than passive followship, it suggests a true spirit of joinership, rather than merely following.

It’s the chemistry between these types of joiners and their strong leaders that creates a synergy for success—a point often brought up by the greatest leaders. Attracting passionate joiners is fundamental to a company’s short- and long-term success—they are the advantage that sets you and your business ahead of the competition. Again, I want to make a clear distinction here. There is a massive difference between hiring from a pool of job candidates and hiring from a pool of passionate joiners. Joiners work with leaders towards a unified vision—they happily stay long hours to reap better rewards and the culture they help build and become a part of is a natural fit. In fact, aside from enthusiasm and commitment, there’s a huge financial incentive as well: a bad hire can cost up to 15 times their base salary.

Of course avoiding expensive mistakes is important, but by attracting excited joiners exponential value will be added to your company. Once you hire them, something interesting happens: joiners beget a culture of more joiners. In fact, Google has found that hiring one well-performing joiner can create up to 300 times more productivity.

From the research mentioned here, and what I have witnessed working for a big corporation and with entrepreneurs, it is so important to have a mix of both leaders and joiners, and both are of equal importance. Just imagine: a whole team of people passionate about the same vision, working towards the same goals without any dead weight dragging them down. Sounds pretty good to me. So focus on leadership by all means, but don’t forget the importance of joinership. It’s the new success alchemy.


13. It’s the Happiest Season of All

And it’s not just holiday sales that are making business sales soar. According to new data from Pipedrive, CRM software for small businesses, small businesses in a variety of industries (not just retail) around the world close more deals in November and December—and the last two weeks see the highest conversion rate. In fact, small businesses worldwide close 3.15% more deals on average during this time period. In comparison, U.S. small businesses close 2% more deals while Germany, the Netherlands and Australia are the highest closing with more than 5%.

Pipedrive Infographic 3 0

14. Small Businesses are Marketing More

According to a recent by Constant Contact most small businesses expect 2015 to end on a high note, with 67% expecting their annual revenues to exceed 2014 revenues. The economy remains an obstacle, however, with 46% saying it is still taking a toll on their businesses.

Despite this, small businesses are maintaining a cautiously optimistic outlook, with 78% expecting 2016 revenue to increase (44% are expecting an increase of 10% or more; 34% expect an increase of less than 10%). The holidays, however, are invoking less confidence. When owners of B2Cs were asked if they expect 2015 holiday revenues to exceed 2014 holiday sales, 40% said yes; 26% said no; and 34% were unsure.

Becoming Better Marketers

But there’s an upside—71% say external forces, such as the economy and increased competition, have forced them to become better marketers. And marketing is clearly a priority: 68% say their businesses conduct more marketing today than they did two years ago, with 60% spending more time on marketing per week than two years ago.

More than half (52%) say they squeeze in their marketing activities anytime they can, day or night, while 24% conduct their marketing activities anywhere by using their mobile device.

More marketing activity does not necessarily mean an increased marketing spend, however. Respondents were fairly evenly divided when it came to whether or not they were planning to allocate more money to marketing in 2016 with 34% saying “yes”, 35% saying “no” and 31% aren’t sure.

“Go To” Marketing Tools

The top three marketing methods for finding new customers are word of mouth, email, and websites, not surprising given that these complementary channels offer strong ROI. When asked what trends they expect to impact their marketing the most in the next two to three years, these three came out on top:

  1. Video streaming 51%
  2. Internet of Things 43%
  3. Messaging Apps 37%


15. BYOD Security

Most companies now support their employees’ use of mobile devices, but the security protocols vary greatly. Champion Solutions Group and MessageOps, a change management platform, recently surveyed companies of all sizes about their security protocols. It found 20% of companies still do not lock out users based on number of access attempts and that over 70% of companies do not require 2-step authentication, one of best strategies for information security.

Some key findings of the survey include:

  • Organizations are nearly evenly split between those that have a formal BYOD policy (47%) and those that do not (53%).
  • When it comes to password policies, most organizations favor complex alphanumeric passwords of six to 10 characters.
  • 77% of those polled have policies to lock out devices after multiple failed log-in attempts, usually between three and five failed tries.
  • Around 72% of organizations require re-authentication of mobile devices after periods of inactivity, with most opting for lockout after five to 15 minutes.
  • The vast majority of those polled have provisions in place for expiring passwords and prohibiting re-use of old passwords.

Chris Pyle, President and CEO, of Champion Solutions Group and MessageOps says the report will help businesses develop policies around mobility services. He adds, “Many of our customers would like to know if their policies are too constraining or too loose, and this gives them the ability to compare to their peers in the same industries and size of business.”   


16. Saving Money

Want to put a little extra cash in your pocket? The folks at Snagshout say, “With a little creativity and an Internet connection, getting that extra spending money is as easy as clicking checkout.” Here are 5 sites (including their own) it recommends to keep more money in your wallet:

  1. Snagshout, a new social deals website, creates a social connection between shoppers and brands. With Snagshout, shoppers can “snag” a deal for their favorite products (up to 90% off) in exchange for writing an honest review to help other potential customers make a decision. Snagshout works alongside Amazon to serve as a product discovery platform for shoppers to purchase consistently updated products that give them great savings on items ranging from groceries to clothing in exchange for honest review.
  2. Choxi offers brand-name electronics, fashion trends and designer merchandise for low prices. Everything is sold straight from the manufacturer or a licensed agent, no third parties so no extra fees. Choxi makes sure finding everything within the consumer’s budget is easy.
  3. iConsumer offers great savings with deals and coupons from over 45,000 brands. Customers can earn cash back from over 1,600 stores such as Target and Overstock as well as earn stock in iConsumer with each purchase. Shareholders save with coupons and deals and earn cash back rebates when shopping.
  4. Pay Your Selfie lets you earn up to $1 per selfie. Available through the Apple and Play store, Pay Your Selfie offers users a chance to get paid for their selfies. Users take selfies that match certain tasks, like dancing at concert or sipping their favorite drink. Once $20 is earned, users can cash out or donate to a charity of their choice.
  5. SponsoredTweets: Twitter has become the go to social media outlet for news updates. Why not get paid while getting the latest news and gossip? SponsoredTweets allows users to give companies access to their Twitter feeds. Writers create a tweet based on guidelines provided by the advertiser and SponsoredTweets takes care of the rest. The payout depends on the amount of followers and interactions the tweet gets.

17. Analytics Overload?

There’s certainly no shortage of marketing analytics tools. But, maintains Collin Sebastian, Chief Product Officer of  UserZoom, “We’ve been on a dangerous path for a while now because so many of these tools are limited, and they mislead research rather than fully inform it.” Here are three trends Sebastian says you need to keep an eye on.

Trend 1: We’re Relying Too Much on Quantitative Analytics

Depending too heavily on quantitative analytics is a bad idea. Sure, you’ll have a lot of data, and a sense of where the problems exist, but no real direction for why those problems exist, and what the customer would prefer. What happens when marketers invest billions into quantitative data tools without first properly evaluating the analytics of those tools is disappointment.

Trend 2: We’re Not Scaling Results

More than any time in history, we have the ability to gather massive amounts of data. Yet that only takes us so far, as we’ve seen from results like those from the CMO Survey. Typically, we want to gather some form of qualitative research to complement that quantitative data, but right now, most of the options available for qualitative research at scale fall short. Scale is vital to market research, because top executives need to grasp the needs of the wider market, and not just a handful of people.

Trend 3: We’re Not Understanding Our Customers

The truth is, we need more than quantitative data and we need more than just 10 people to weigh in on a yes/no answer (as in a survey). We need deep insights from our target audience in order to fully understand what’s happening with whatever challenge we’re facing.


18. Customer Service Forecast for 2016

For most small businesses customer service is their #1 priority—but it’s tough to find the time and resources to do it right.

Tom Byun, the general manager and SVP of the Global Small Business division of LivePerson, which provides live chat software, shares some insights about how small businesses will continue to use messaging to retain and build customer relationships next year.

Small Business Will Go More Mobile and Messaging Will Be Key

Mobile is growing faster than the web and the hottest thing on mobile is messaging apps, according to Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends report. Messaging puts the human back into digital communications, which, according to a recent LivePerson survey, small businesses are looking to expand. In fact, enhancing the customer’s experience and support was the #1 priority for more than 560 SMBs included in the survey. Small businesses, which have lagged large businesses in terms of mobile and app adoption, will begin to close that gap in big ways in 2016. Low cost or even free online tools will help them do that.

Small Business Will Have To Step Up on Customer Service

Customer support isn’t just about fixing problems. It’s about connecting with customers and building strong, lasting relationships. Small businesses have long had the advantage when it comes to personal ties and delivering the personal touch to customers. The growth of digital engagement—such as messaging, social media and live chat—give big businesses new avenues to connect with consumers one-to-one. Small businesses will find that they, too, need to offer more digital engagement channels because that’s how more consumers want to connect and stay connected. They don’t want to pick up the phone to call a small business anymore than they want to pick up the phone to call a large business. They can’t always trot down to the store or shop. They want to send a message, and get a response that they can absorb at their convenience.


19. Simplifying and Growing the Freelancing Economy

Fiverr, where “every freelancer can turn their services into a product sold to small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world” is planning to more aggressively attract the vast majority of freelancers who still operate offline. This goal will be fueled the recent round of new financing ($60 million) Fiverr just received from Square Peg Capital, and its existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Accel Partners and Qumra Capital.

Fiverr is also going beyond $5. All freelancers on Fiverr will soon be free to set their own Gig® prices rather than be required to start them at $5. Over the next several weeks, Fiverr will introduce easy-to-understand Gig Packages across several pricing tiers. This will dramatically simplify the way Fiverr sellers price and bundle services. The new Gig Packages will also help Fiverr freelancers make more money, create greater value for buyers and make sellers nimble enough to attract SMBs, entrepreneurs and even corporate marketing departments.

Freelancers can package their core services with other value-added services, such as printing and stock imagery directly on the Fiverr marketplace.

The new Fiverr platform features will also allow more experienced freelancers, who may have shied away from online marketplaces, to design and execute packages that allow them to earn more without any perceived quality concerns based solely on price.


20. Making Healthcare Decisions

Ardina, which offers digital healthcare membership subscriptions, just launched a new program to help employees at Central Ohio businesses that do not offer health insurance benefits, better understand and manage the Open Enrollment process, which is now underway until January 31.

According to Healthcare.gov, many uninsured Americans find the health insurance enrollment process “confusing”. If you or your employees are among the confused, Ardina compiled a top Dos and Don’ts list to help Americans better understand how to select the right healthcare plan

DON’T forget about deadlines: The deadline for Open Enrollment is January 31; so it’s important to start researching your options now to ensure you don’t miss the cutoff date.

DO understand all of your options: Take the time to research all your eligible healthcare plans and supplemental benefits options and weigh the pros and cons of each. Although it can be tempting to choose the first one you find, it’s important to compare options to save you time and money in the long run.

DON’T forget to assess the total package:  Before making a decision, look at the entire plan and costs, including your deductible, monthly payment and tax implications.

DON’T forget to research the network: Research which doctors, hospitals and healthcare facilities are part of your plan to ensure it’s convenient for you and meets your needs. Often, this is an afterthought (not as important as the cost of the plan), but it can pose problems if you’re not familiar with who is part of your network.

DO ask experts for help: Sites like Healthcare.gov and mosaicemployeebenefits.com are wonderful resources to help answer questions and navigate the complexities of healthcare insurance. Insurance experts can help you understand if you qualify for subsidies, which supplemental benefit options are available to you, etc.


Cool Tools

21. Getting & Giving

Tuesday, December 1 is #GivingTuesday. And to commemorate the occasion Squarespace is donating $100,000 to Code.org to help underrepresented groups access computer science education. Which is great for them. But you get to benefit as well. Squarespace is also offering customers 20% off their subscriptions. Check it out—prices start at just $5.


22. Gift Card Program

Gyft Inc., the pioneer of the mobile gift card wallet, recently announced that it will  launch the Gyft Business app on the Clover App Market. Gyft Business enables any small or midsize business (SMB) with a Clover point-of-sale (POS) system to seamlessly reduce costs and harness the benefits of gift cards with just a few taps on a Clover POS screen. With Gyft Business, every SMB can now provide the same in-store experience as a national retailer like Starbucks, allowing customers to purchase and reload gift cards with ease.

Gift cards are beneficial to all kinds of businesses. They improve sales and boost in-store traffic by serving as a constant, branded reminder in a customer’s pocket or mobile phone. Gift cards have also been consumers’ top-requested gift for nearly a decade, according to a recent study from the National Retail Federation. And SMBs can build wider customer awareness by offering gift cards, as over one-third of gift card recipients are new customers.

If you already have a gift card program, Gyft Business—which is free to install and has no monthly fees—can easily convert existing gift cards so they can be swiped, scanned or manually keyed in during checkout.


23. Online Community Goes Mobile

 Townsquared, an online community designed to help small businesses connect and share resources with each other, just announced a mobile application for iOS users. The app will allow small businesses to share expertise and best practices, receive the latest neighborhood news, organize local promotions and events, and send and receive crime and safety alerts in real-time.

Rohit Prakash, CEO and coufounder of Townsquared says, “Connecting with other neighborhood business owners that go through the same experiences eliminates isolation and gives [entrepreneurs] an incredibly valuable resource. Sharing advice, information and efforts, can be the tipping point between success and failure.”

Key features and capabilities include:

Live Feed: Townsquared members can get on-the-go updates from their business neighbors, stay on top of news, events, and discussions, and quickly contact the community when they have questions or information to share.

Urgent Alerts: Urgent Alerts can be used to immediately reach all members of a Townsquared neighborhood with time-sensitive news such as a shoplifter-at-large, emergency responder actions, local evacuations, major street closures, and suspicious activity.

Resources: Quick access to the resources section of the Townsquared app allows members to share valuable, evergreen documents that can help their businesses thrive.

The mobile app is free and is available for download in the Apple App Store: http://appstore.com/townsquared.