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The Top 10 Sales Don’ts to Avoid at All Costs

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 21:30

Every day people enter sales positions or start businesses.

They are either taught techniques and tricks of the trade, or they assume that certain behaviors are appropriate. Unfortunately, many of these people are doing the wrong things and therefore, not getting the results they seek.

Below are the top ten sales don’ts, listed from least offensive to screaming hot bad.

10. Do Not Hand Your Business Card to Everyone You Meet

First of all, they don’t want it. Secondly, you are telegraphing that you are interested in what you can get, not what they need. Only give your card to people who ask for it. This way you’ll know who really wants it. DO ask for the other person’s card every time. You’ll want to follow up with them, if only to send them a short note saying it was nice to meet them.

9. Do Not Prospect by Email

I’m not talking about email marketing which I believe in. I’m talking about prospecting; sending an unsolicited email to someone trying to gain their business. It doesn’t work for a whole host of reasons. Remember, the prospect wants to know that you want to do business with them specifically. Make them feel like you are working to gain their business by going the extra step of regular mail or phone.

8. Do Not Pitch on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a place to build relationships and position yourself as an industry expert. No one wants to be sold – anywhere. Plus, you don’t know whether you want to do business with someone just because you’re connected to them on LinkedIn. Use the platform to connect and build. Business will come naturally when and where it makes sense.

7. Do Not Connect with People Just to Sell to Them

People see that coming a mile away and will avoid you like the plague. Remember, people don’t like to be sold to. Have a reason to connect with people outside of selling to them. Or, if you find someone you think might be a potential client find out how you are connected to them and ask for an introduction.

6. Do Not Give a 30-second Commercial That is 2 minutes Long

I see this happen all the time. Someone starts and just doesn’t stop. The more you talk, the less people listen. So create a 30 or less second commercial and use it. If you can’t figure out how to say what value and results you bring in 30 seconds or less, get help figuring it out.

5. Do Not Lie

Enough said

4. Do Not Over-promise

It’s better to be realistic with what you can do. A lot of salespeople want the money so badly that they will agree to do anything the prospect wants. Then they find out that they can’t deliver.

3. Do Not Tell People Everything You Do

When you are in that sales appointment do not go on and on about your products/services, bells and whistles. To tell you the truth – they aren’t listening! They only care about a solution to the current problem they are having. So talk about your solution to their problem. Later you can share more as you build the relationship.

2. Do Not Sit Around and Wait for People to Call You

Sales is a verb. It’s an activity you have to engage in daily in order to grow your business.

… And the #1 most offensive Don’t?

1. Don’t Sell

Yep, I said it. There is no place in sales for selling. We see selling as convincing, cajoling, or persuading. That’s not what it’s all about. Sales is about matching a solution to a problem. So don’t sell. Listen, learn, and connect what you have to offer to the problem they are having.

Have you committed any of these don’ts? That’s okay. We all have at one point or another. Moving forward, remove them from your practices and you’ll see your sales increase.


Guitar Amp Dial Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Top 10 Sales Don’ts to Avoid at All Costs" was first published on Small Business Trends

Cracking the Sales Code with These Two Basic Principles

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 19:30

The classified ad screamed: “$600/Month Guaranteed!”

This was a lot of money back in the day.

I was a new high school graduate and had only a vague notion of the saying in business that “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” I would learn soon enough.

It was my first big sales job. I would be selling vacuum cleaners, cold-calling door-to-door. But the company managers weren’t demanding sales numbers, just behaviors.

The sales training was not what I expected. The sales trainer was not Alec Baldwin in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” pounding the ABC’s of AIDA (sales-speak for “Always Be Closing” and “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action”).

Sales was more than FAB. Selling was not just:

  • Features — describing what product is.
  • Advantages — what it does.
  • Benefits — the value to the customer.

Instead, George, my trainer and mentor, taught two basics:

  1. Think behaviors, not ‘dollars’; and
  2. Practice influence, don’t ‘sell.’

Door-to-door selling taught me that sales is first about behaviors. Get your behaviors right, and the money follows.

The sales funnel statistics were simple. At the top, at the widest, was the action that I had to perform as a condition of employment for that 600 bucks.  The job was easy; knock on 100 doors a day, six days a week.

It didn’t matter what happened. No one home or not interested? I just had to bang on doors. This behavior, I was assured, would lead to three invitations to return that evening to present the machine. For every three presentations, one sale would result. The company numbers worked for me. As I got better, I needed fewer numbers at the funnel’s wide top to get a sale at the narrow bottom.

The second skill George, my mentor, taught, was to influence, to persuade.  Good sales training programs remind us the first step in the sales process is to establish rapport. The prospect must respond and then trust you.

Earning the confidence of the prospect begins with the other person making a move in the salesman’s direction. In door-to-door sales, that microscopic move was getting the homeowner to respond and to open the door.

If you’re not knocking on doors, what might that look like? That first response could be getting an email reply.

If the prospect will not open the door, or answer the phone, or return an email, there is no relationship. And there will be no sale.

Please understand, I am not minimizing the skills and the teachable science of salesmanship. Rather, I learned in cold calling that sales also includes the art and craft of personal interaction.

Always try to get your prospective customer to make a move in your direction.

Here’s what it looks like when selling is life and death: in hostage negotiations. Have you ever wondered how those guys from the FBI talk their way in and get live bodies out?

It might go something like this. The hostage negotiator (sales guy) will spend considerable time establishing a personal connection with the criminals.

Our negotiator will suggest bag lunches be brought in to feed the hostages and delivered on plastic trays.

At the end of the lunch, the negotiator will ask for the trays to be returned.

If the hostage-taker complies and returns the trays, then the negotiator knows that within 72 hours the hostages will be released.

Hostage negotiators, like sales professionals, understand that the start of persuasion is to get the ‘prospect’ to begin to respect the power of the negotiator-salesman. The micro-obedience begins with the returning of a worthless plastic tray.

The negotiator will then suggest ever-increasing incremental exchanges until the hostages are set free. The power comes from persuading the other person to make moves.

Whatever you’re selling, remember to focus first on behaving a certain way, and then on persuading and influencing your prospect.

Classified Ads Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Cracking the Sales Code with These Two Basic Principles" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Easy Ways To Sell Without Being Pushy Or Obnoxious

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 17:30

One of the greatest fears entrepreneurs face when selling is being too pushy. Nobody wants to come off like one of those obnoxious salespeople.

You know what I’m talking about. Those people who are more interested in shoving their product or service down your throat than they are in actually figuring out what you need. Despite your protestations, they push and push until you finally find a way to escape from the conversation.

You know that nobody likes dealing with that type of person. So when you’re selling, you’re deathly afraid of being that person. Let’s face it. Selling is hard. Really hard.

Getting someone to buy your product or service can create a lot of pressure. You want to make sure that you’re approaching each prospect the right way. You don’t want to be too pushy, but you also don’t want lose sales because you’re too afraid to close. It’s a like walking a tightrope.

You have to strike the right balance between getting your point across and not pushing your prospect into a corner. Fortunately, this is much easier than it sounds.

There are easy ways to sell and techniques you can use to ease into the sale rather than rushing into it. Below is a list of actionable easy ways to sell and tips you can use to enhance your sales process and ultimately close more deals.

1. Remove the Pressure

This is one of the most important tips on this list, but for many, it’s the hardest. You’re trying to build a successful business. In order to do this, you need clients.

Not only that, you might depend on your business as your primary source of income. Because of this, it’s easy to feel pressured to get each prospect to buy from you. This pressure can cause you to make mistakes. It can make you rush straight into your sales pitch rather than taking the time to get to know you prospect.

However, it’s important to realize that this pressure can cause you to become that pushy, aggressive person when you’re trying to sell. In the end, this will cause you to lose more than you win.

It requires you to change your mindset. Instead of believing that you absolutely must get this sale right now, understand that in the end, it’s more effective to work your sales process until it’s time to close.

2. Take Your Time

One of the best easy ways to sell while not being pushy is to take your time. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is rushing straight to the sales pitch. It’s like asking someone to marry after the first date!

If you come off like you’re desperate for the sale, it will turn your prospect off. Remember, you want your prospect to be as comfortable as possible.

This is why it’s so important to develop your own sales process. A sales process helps you organize your sales interactions by giving you steps to follow before you actually close the deal.

Your sales process should include the following:

  • Introduction: How will you begin the sales interaction? What’s your elevator pitch?
  • Needs Discovery: What does your customer need? What are their pain points? How can your company help?
  • Solution: This where you present your solution. Make sure you’re addressing their needs and pain points.
  • The Close: Make sure there’s no further objections and ask for the business.

Your sales process should include these four points. When you follow a viable sales process, you can find a way to provide the solution your prospect needs.

3. Let Your Prospect Do the Talking

If you follow this sales tip, there will be no way that you will appear to be too pushy. Why? Because you’re not doing the talking. After all, it’s hard to be aggressive when it’s your prospect that is speaking, right?

Encouraging your prospect to do the talking will make it much easier to sell without being aggressive. It also helps you understand your prospect more, which means your chances of winning the sale increase.

The best way to get your prospects talking is to ask great questions. Anyone in sales knows this.

Good open-ended questions will encourage your prospect to open up to you. When they feel comfortable talking to you, it will be much easier to earn their trust. The more they talk, the deeper the connection you’re able to build with them.

4. Make Your Prospect Feel Comfortable

The more comfortable your prospect is, the better your chances will be of earning their business. Being aggressive will make your prospects feel nervous and tense, which is why it’s so ineffective.

One of the easy ways to sell and get your prospect to feel comfortable with you is to smile and relax when you’re interacting. Use humor to get them in a better mood.

When you show that you’re comfortable and relaxed, your prospect will feel the same way. Do whatever you can to put your customer at ease and you won’t have to worry about pushing them to buy.

5. Focus On Their Problems, Not Your Product

You’ve probably heard it said many times: your customer doesn’t care about your company, product, or service. They care about themselves. They care about solving their problems.

This is another rookie mistake that pushy salespeople make.

They rush into the pitch without any regard for the prospects needs and pain points. This sends the message that you see the prospect as nothing more than a dollar sign. Then you go on and on about your product without even addressing what your prospect really needs.

This is another reason why it’s so important to take your time and get your prospects to talk. Find out what their problems are and figure out ways to solve them.

You want to become a partner and a consultant to your prospect. Not just someone who wants to sell them something.

This approach can take more time, but it’s more effective in the long run.

The important thing to remember about these easy ways to sell is that they work together to create an approach that actually helps your prospect. That’s what this is all about. Your objective is not to sell your product or service. Your objective is to make your prospect’s life easier.

If you follow these five easy ways to sell, it will be impossible for you to become that pushy, obnoxious, ultra-salesy entrepreneur that nobody likes. As a matter of fact, it will cause your prospects to see you as someone who genuinely cares about their needs and concerns.

Remember, when you focus on selling solutions instead of products, your sales interactions will be much more successful.

How do you avoid coming off as pushy?

Pushy Salesman Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Easy Ways To Sell Without Being Pushy Or Obnoxious" was first published on Small Business Trends

You Won’t Believe How Easy it Is to Break the Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 15:30

“The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is our easiest to break mobile device.”

OK, so that’s not how the company is advertising the Note 5, except for maybe in the Bizzaro world.

But Samsung is admitting its new product has a pretty serious design flaw. The Note 5’s stylus can be inserted into its silo in both directions, but one of those directions can cause permanent damage to the phone’s functionality and disable the stylus detection feature.

The Verge reports:

“The flaw is particularly annoying because of the ease with which the S Pen can be inserted into the Note 5 the wrong way. With previous versions of the Note, it was impossible (or simply very difficult) to put the stylus in blunt end first, but the Note 5’s redesigned S Pen means it’s the same shape all the way down its length, and can be pushed into the phone just as easily the right way as the wrong way round.”

Samsung issued a statement recently advising users to carefully read the Note’s user manual. The company advises: “We highly recommend our Galaxy Note5 users follow the instructions in the user guide to ensure they do not experience such an unexpected scenario caused by reinserting the S pen in the other way around.”

However, Android Police says Samsung was “aware of this issue when it shipped the Note 5 and still did not seek to actively address it — the official manual for the phone very clearly states that the S Pen should not be placed in the device backward, lest damage occur to the phone or pen.”

They also include a video in their report showing the breakage in action.

The Note 5 was introduced earlier this month. Its upgrades from the previous Note include a more comfortable ergonomic design featuring a curved back and narrower bezel.

Another new feature allows users to write down ideas or quick notes when the screen is off even if it is locked. Samsung says PDF files can now be annotated with the S Pen and users can use ‘Scroll capture’ to capture Web articles or images even if they are long. That assumes, of course, the pen doesn’t break.

Meanwhile, Wired gives the Note 5 and its sister phone the S6 Edge an 8 out 10, saying they’re both “great phones.”

The publication adds:

“With about 10 minutes of customization — downloading the right theme and hiding the right apps — they’re exceptional phones.”

The Note 5 is available now from all major U.S. carriers, and sells for between $700 and $750.

Image: Samsung

This article, "You Won’t Believe How Easy it Is to Break the Samsung Galaxy Note 5" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Store Sales

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 13:00

With fall shopping for back-to-school winding up, fall clothing and décor shopping about to start and holiday shopping season just around the corner, small retailers are looking for ways to determine the hottest products to stock their stores.

Did you ever think to use Pinterest for this purpose?

I recently wrote here about Pinterest’s new Buyable Pins, but selling directly from Pinterest isn’t the only way this social media site can boost your retail store’s sales. Pinterest can also help you decide what to stock, promote and feature in your brick-and-mortar store.

That’s because, unlike most social media websites, Pinterest functions as a visual “wish list” for consumers planning to make, build, decorate or buy something.

According to the recently released 2015 Pinterest Media Consumption Study, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of Pinterest users have looked at their Pins on their smartphones while shopping in a store. Crafts, fashion/clothing, home decor, food and drink, design, hair and beauty, and gardening products are among the top categories consumers refer to most often in-store.

With 73 percent of Pinterest users having purchased a product they saw on the site, clearly Pinterest is more than just an inspiration board. As consumers pin products they want on their Pinterest boards, popular Pins can serve as indicators of what trends will be hot for the coming seasons.

Here are some ways to use Pinterest to drive sales in your store:

Industry Pins

Check out products that are pinned in your industry or niche, such as women’s fashion. Stock up on the types of products that everyone’s pinning, whether that’s boyfriend jeans or sweater coats. If you own a salon and everyone looking at “hairstyles” is pinning elaborate braids, stock up on pretty hairpins and hair products to help create those styles.

Follow Trends

Interpret general trends for your audience. If your target customer is plus-size teens, that doesn’t mean you need to only search for plus-size fashion pins. Look at what the general audience is pinning and interpret it for your customer. If average teens are pinning fringed ponchos and leggings, your plus-sized audience will want their own version of those items.

Track High-End Products

Likewise, look at high-end products that customers are pinning to guide your stock decisions. If your customers are pinning designer handbags beyond your shop’s price range, are there more affordable versions you could sell in similar shapes or colors?

Listen and Learn

Learn what your customers like. Create your own business Pinterest boards and see what items your customers like or Pin most often. If one type of product gets a lot of response and interest, stock more of that product.

Create an “As Seen On” Section

Try merchandising your store by featuring items “As seen on Pinterest.” Create a display spotlighting products that are popular on Pinterest in general or items from your boards. Or hold a promotion with a discount on those products for people who follow you on Pinterest. If you sell food, beverages or crafts, create displays with all the elements needed to recreate a Pinterest recipe or make a Pinterest craft.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Use Pinterest to get feedback. Ask customers to post pictures of things they’d like you to sell on your Pinterest boards, or share their own Pins. Of course, you don’t need to stock something if just one person pins it, but this can give you an idea of your customers’ tastes.

Pinterest gives you a fascinating look into your customers’ hopes, dreams and wishes for their purchases. Take advantage of it!

Image: Pinterest/YouTube

This article, "How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Store Sales" was first published on Small Business Trends

How You Can Be “Out to Lunch” AND Still be Productive

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 10:30
Sponsored Post

You don’t need to be at work to work.

Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and ever smaller laptops, we can bring a veritable office with us anywhere we journey, whether our destination is a restaurant for lunch or an overseas vacation getaway.

Nowadays, we can be productive literally anywhere — on vacation, out to lunch, relaxing on a park bench or at your favorite restaurant. You can be anywhere, or on your way there, and make observations that can help you with your business. You can also use your time out of the office to refresh yourself and renew your spirit, both of which contribute to creativity and increased productivity.

Vladimir Nabokov, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, addressed the fact that location isn’t a factor in terms of inspiration in his famous “Inspiration” essay:

“One and the same person can compose parts of one and the same story or poem, either in his head or on paper, pencil or pen in hand (I am told there exist fantastic performers who actually type out their immediate product or, still more incredibly, dictate it, warm and bubbly, to a typist or to a machine!). Some prefer the bathtub to the study and the bed to the windy moor — the place does not matter much, it is the relationship between the brain and the hand that poses some odd problems.”

Always Be on the Lookout

When you’re enjoying a tasty lunch at your favorite cafe, take a look around. Is the business using a point of sale (POS) system to accept payments? If you own a retail location, this could inspire you to use such a system at your place of business, thereby streamlining sales transaction productivity.

Use Time Away to Recharge

Have you had a horrible morning with problems arising everywhere that’s left you trembling and feeling helpless? Stop working and take a break and walk in the fresh air. It will help you recharge and it can refresh you so that you’re not only ready, but itching to get back to the office and solve those problems quickly and decisively.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Sometimes, it’s a matter of paying close attention to the world around us. While walking toward a destination, maybe a business luncheon or conference, you view the world around you with both eyes wide open. Depending on your business needs and where you are walking, you could be participating in a visual feast:

  • Storefront displays
  • Marketing billboards
  • Bus-side promotions moving past you

Paying close attention to these items can spark marketing ideas for your own projects if you’re present in the moment and taking things in. The simple act of paying attention and being aware of our surroundings can spark innovative ideas that can lead to increased productivity.

Free yourself of the notion that you can only find ideas during office brainstorming sessions.

Observe Others

If you’re at your favorite Thai restaurant for lunch, take a glance around you at the employees and staff, the businesses operations and at others dining in the restaurant. Perhaps you see someone using a new gadget or device that catches your interest?

You may spy something like a 2-in-1 laptop — a laptop that becomes a tablet courtesy of a removable keyboard. This may then prompt you to purchase one for yourself and after doing so, you find that it proves invaluable to you. With such flexibility and mobile capability, you can bring it with you anywhere and find that you get far more accomplished.

Your observation has led you to a new device that ultimately led to increased productivity — and now you’re getting lots of work done when out of the office.

Use a Little Forethought

While planning a vacation, using a little forethought can pay dividends long after you return.

Maybe your wife is dying to finally enjoy a week in Hawaii, but you need to network for some business-related reason. Do a little research. For example, you may find there’s a convention or trade show taking place in Paris. With a little prodding you can get your better half to forget visions of blue waters in exchange for Paris’s Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré’s renowned designer boutiques.

And one afternoon while your spouse is strolling through those boutiques, you can slip away for a few hours to attend that event, finally meeting the freelance graphic artist who can save your neck on a big project.

In a different scenario, you could instead choose to visit an interesting city where an important client lives. You can then leverage your time away to have lunch or dinner with the client, cementing a key relationship that could benefit you and your business for years to come.

If you’re a die-hard, you could even plan a trip somewhere in proximity to several important contacts and make use of numerous dinners, lunches and afternoon cafe meetings. It all depends on your needs and preferences.

And if you genuinely just need to spend your vacation, well . . . vacationing, forgetting all business-related matters and simply enjoying your days relaxing on the beach, sightseeing or eating a delicious meal might be just what you need to recharge your batteries.  You can then return ready to conquer the world — or at least the to-do list waiting in your office.

Put a Little Spring in Your Step

Listening to your favorite music while taking a walk can be beneficial to productivity as well. Music is a great mood influencer. Immerse yourself in something that will get those creative juices flowing, whether it’s Beethoven’s Ninth or your favorite rock anthem.

With the proliferation of ear buds and cloud-based music, you can listen to audio anywhere — during your commute or while taking an afternoon constitutional to get your blood pumping.  Put yourself in the frame of mind you need to be in to let your imagination and creativity get to work for you.

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Digital devices mean you can take care of just about anything — anywhere — at any time.

Returning from vacation and need to go through an entire week’s worth of emails? Not a problem. Just find a nice place to sit down and soak up the sunshine or walk to a nearby park and find a secluded bench. Pull out that smartphone or new tablet of yours and start plowing through those emails, deleting unnecessary ones and crafting quick replies to others.

If a particular email message is significant enough to require some much needed inspiration, put the phone away and take in what’s going on around you. Perhaps the answer is waiting for you — somewhere out there.

Whether it’s courtesy of a tech device, the use of a little foresight, turning inward, making an effort to turn your view outward — or even completely by accident — you don’t always have to be sitting behind a desk to get work done.

It is possible to be out of the office — AND still be productive.

Lunch Image via Shutterstock

This article, "How You Can Be “Out to Lunch” AND Still be Productive" was first published on Small Business Trends

Venture Capital is Different Now than During the Last Boom

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 08:00

Like all markets, venture capital markets have boom and bust cycles.

These days, the industry is in the midst of a boom, with investment hitting levels not seen since the peak of the last cycle, 15 years ago. But this boom looks very different than its predecessor.

Fewer, more financially-oriented investors, managing smaller amounts of capital, are putting their money into later-stage, older companies concentrated in a narrower set geographies and industries, and are exiting more through acquisitions than initial public offerings (IPOs) this time around.

The venture capital community is much smaller today than at the time of the last boom.

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) reports that 1,704 venture capital funds were in operation in 2000, but only 1,206 in 2014.

During the last boom, the industry managed more than twice the amount of capital it does today – $331.5 billion (in 2015 dollars) versus $158 billion (in 2015 dollars).

The average fund in 2014 was only two-thirds the size of the average fund at the turn of the millennium.

Venture capitalists are much more likely to be purely financial institution than at the time of the last boom. Corporate venture capital funds – venture capital investment arms of operating companies like Intel and Google – accounted for 24.1 percent of all venture capital investments in 2000, but only 17.6 percent of VC investments made last year.

Similarly, the corporate venture capital fund slice of venture capital dollars has shrunk from 14.1 percent of the total in 2000 to 10.7 percent in 2014.

Venture capital deals have moved to a later stage in the investment cycle this time around.

According to NVCA, 16.8 percent of the venture investment dollars and 9.8 percent of the investments made were in later stage deals in 2000. In 2014, those fractions were 24.5 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively.

Venture capitalists are focusing even more on deals previously invested in by other financiers – business angels, super angels, angel groups, venture capitalists and so on.

In 2000, 72.8 percent of venture capital dollars and 57.5 percent of venture capital investments went into follow-on deals rather than first-time funding opportunities. In 2014, the follow-on fractions had risen to 85 percent of venture capital dollars and 65.9 percent of venture capital investments.

As typified by the media discussion of the mega fundraising rounds of Uber and Airbnb, the number of very large venture financings has increased dramatically. As a result, the valuation of the typical venture capital deal is higher today than it was during the peak of the previous cycle, even when measured in inflation-adjusted terms.

The median pre-money valuation of a venture investment rose from $35 million (in 2015 dollars) in 2000 to $40 million in 2015, according to analysis by the law firm WilmerHale.

Venture capital investments have become much more concentrated in software companies in California. In the second quarter of 2000, the software industry received 25 percent of venture capital dollars. In the second quarter of this year, the industry garnered 42 percent.

In 2000, California-based startups captured 41 percent of venture capital funding, while in 2014, they grabbed 57 percent.

These days, exits are most likely to occur through acquisition, while IPOs were a more common path in the previous book. NVCA data shows that 39 percent of successful venture capital exits occurred through IPO in 2000 but, in 2014, only 20 percent did.

Venture-capital-backed companies are taking longer to exit. The median time to an IPO was 3.1 years in 2000, but 6.9 years in 2014. For exits via mergers and acquisitions, the median time to exit was 3.2 years in 2000 and 6.2 years in 2014.

While the venture capital industry is back in a boom after several long years of a bust, the up cycle is different this time around. In the world of entrepreneurial finance, history morphs as it repeats itself.


Stock Ticker Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Venture Capital is Different Now than During the Last Boom" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Tips for the Coolest Corner in the Office this Summer

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2015-08-31 05:30

Unfortunately, it is very hard to concentrate and work efficiently during summer.

Although many offices have an air conditioner, still this may not be enough to cool us especially in some parts of the U.S. Also, some people do not like the unnatural cold weather the a/c creates and prefer other cooling alternatives. Therefore, I have put together the below hints for you so you can keep working in hot weather.

Find the Coolest Corner in the Office

If you don’t feel cool enough in your own cube, go to a conference room or exchange cubes with a coworker for a few weeks. Try to find the corner in the office you feel most comfortable working at. On the other hand, some offices feel so cold due to a/c that you may need to do the opposite and find the warmest place in the office so your body can feel at the right temperature.

Drink as Much Water as You Can

Due to dehydration, you can easily lose your concentration and not able to fully focus on the task that you are working on. Therefore, you need to drink at least a liter of water during the day. By the way, you cannot replace water with an energy drink or a soft drink like cola.

Work Outside

Okay, outside is very hot but if you have the opportunity, you can go to a park or a seaside and work in the shade. Of course, it is not recommended to stay outside between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. but other than this time frame, working outside will help you enjoy the summer even in the work hours and get some fresh air.

Use Curtains and Window Blinds

If you don’t like to use the air conditioner, you can open the windows but close the curtains so that you are not subject to extreme sunlight but still when the wind blows, you can feel cooler. In addition, you can get some fresh air.

Try Using a Fan

You can get a mini fan which you can place on top of your desk next to your computer screen. In this way, you don’t need to use the a/c but still feel cool. Plus, using a fan is much cheaper compared to using the a/c. If you are a business owner, you can save money with this option.

Thermometer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Tips for the Coolest Corner in the Office this Summer" was first published on Small Business Trends

Federal Government “STEPs” Up to Help Small Biz Expand Into Exports

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2015-08-30 18:00

The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced an award of $17.4 million for small businesses to expand their commercial efforts into other countries for the fiscal year 2015.

In an official release, SBA administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet says:

“Exports are a central part of America’s economic growth; with export-supported jobs paying 15-18 percent more. Yet less than one percent of small businesses export; and of those that do, 58 percent of them export to only one country. Unlocking trade opportunities for small businesses is key to continued growth and expansion. SBA’s STEP program ensures local resources are available to help small businesses tap global markets. By funding states and their export development partners, the SBA is delivering the tools and resources required for small businesses to launch their services and products abroad. With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States, SBA’s STEP program ensures that America’s small businesses can succeed in the 21st century global economy.”

With the economy taking severe hits over recent years, the State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP) is the government’s answer to improving business and jobs. Authorized in 2010, it is a federal and state program that awards grants to states and territories of the U.S.

STEP aligns with President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative, which called for doubling U.S. exports at the time. STEP activities are managed and provided at the local level by state government organizations and are authorized by Section 1207 of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, as amended.

The latest round of awards is the fourth, with the $17.4 million going to 30 recipients around the country for the period of October 2015 through September 2016 giving an average of $580,000 per award.

In most cases the federal government provides 75 percent and the state provides 25 percent of the funding. It goes for support of export training show exhibits, design of international marketing products, subscriptions to services by the Department of Commerce and other efforts aligned with program goals.

For more information on the STEP program and to get in on next year’s grants, go to the resources section on the SBA website.

Small Business Administration Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Federal Government “STEPs” Up to Help Small Biz Expand Into Exports" was first published on Small Business Trends

“Spam King” Faces Hard Time, Fines

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2015-08-30 15:30

He’s been called the “Spam King,” and now his reign is at an end. There’s no better reminder to avoid spamming and other illegal and unethical marketing techniques. The cautionary story of Stanford Wallace is one to remember.

Wallace, 47, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty recently in federal court to accessing roughly 500,000 Facebook accounts. Federal authorities say he used them to send unsolicited ads in the guise of friend requests.

Wallace is charged with fraud criminal contempt, and faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine, NBC News reports.

The FBI says Wallace began spamming Facebook users in November 2008, and sent 27 million spam messages over the next four months. He was indicted in San Jose, California, in 2011.

An official FBI release says charges spring from both fraud and violating a judge’s previous order to stay away from Facebook. Authorities say Wallace maintained a profile there under the name “David Frederick-Sinful Fridays.”

But Wallace’s spamming career predates Facebook and even social media. According to Ars Technica, he began in the 1990s with a company called Cyber Promotions.

Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson writes:

“Wallace first spammed fax machines and then moved on to e-mail, believing that he had a legal right to market his wares as he saw fit. Dubbed ‘Spamford’ by opponents, he eventually embraced the nickname and even registered the domain spamford.com.”

Wallace spent the 1990s fighting lawsuits from AOL and other Internet service providers. (Anderson notes that Hormel — the makers of the Spam meat product — also wrote him a letter objecting to “spamford.com.”)

In 2004, the FTC filed suit against Wallace and collected a $4 million judgement two years later.

Facebook wasn’t the only social network Wallace targeted. He and partner Walter Rines had a plan to spam MySpace users, directing them to websites selling adult dating services and ringtones.

As Anderson writes, Wallace sent 860,000 messages by logging into about 300,000 users’ MySpace accounts. He was the subject of 800 complaints. In 2007, MySpace sued both Rines and Wallace, and the FTC went after them for violating an earlier injunction. But Wallace was defiant:

“During his deposition with Frankel, the FTC lawyer, Wallace insisted that the messages he sent to other MySpace users weren’t ‘unsolicited’ at all. This was the beauty of sending links from one MySpace user to the user’s friends. ‘A message between two friends is not defined as ‘unsolicited’ by several standards,’ Wallace said. ‘If I call you up tomorrow and ask you if you’d like me to send you a document, is that an unsolicited phone call, or do we have an existing relationship?'”

Courts didn’t seem to buy his argument. By 2011, Wallace had wracked up nearly $1 billion in judgments against him in cases involving spam on MySpace and Facebook.

Wallace is free on bond and scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 7.


Image: Sanford Wallace/Google+

This article, "“Spam King” Faces Hard Time, Fines" was first published on Small Business Trends

Be Prepared for Your Next Business Event

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2015-08-29 18:00


Have you given much thought to planning for a business event this week? Here’s a chance to do a little research to make the most out of what such events have to offer.

Make a plan and know what you hope to get out of the experience.

Do you want to promote your brand, sell a product, gain information or maybe just focus on networking? A goal can give you direction and help you make the most of your time. Finding out information like what brands will be there, what other business owners are likely to attend, and what functions will be taking place can give you an edge no matter what your objective. Go in armed with knowledge and get a leg up on the competition.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Content Inc. Summit
September 11, 2015, Cleveland, Ohio

Are you an entrepreneur looking to get more out of your marketing or to drive innovation in your industry? Then you’ll want to check out the Content Inc. Summit, a one-of-a-kind, day-long workshop happening in Cleveland on Friday, September 11, 2015, following Content Marketing World 2015. Exclusive Small Business Trends $195 member discount available to the Content Inc. Summit.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ (Use code SMALLBIZ to save $195!)

New York Scope Week
September 22, 2015, New York, New York

Instantly expose your brand to millions of livestream viewers. This September, the most influential Periscope.TV broadcasters meet in one location to share insights on livestreaming, connecting on social media, metrics, branding and more.

Adobe Max
October 3, 2015, Los Angeles, California

MAX provides strictly unplugged, old-school inspiration with a mix of people from creative leaders, designers, broadcast and video pros, tech and business strategists, photographers, and more. This shared energy and passion sparks new ideas, drives new partnerships, and breaks new ground every year. MAX attracts inspirational and iconic speakers that share their personal stories. GRAMMY-award winning band Kings of Leon will be there and you can connect with 5,000 other creatives at daily social events.

Global Small Business Forum
October 23, 2015, Chicago, Illinois

The Global Small Business Forum 2015 held in Chicago will help entrepreneurs and small business owners export successfully and network with their peers. It will answer such questions as: What’s the best way to ship goods? How will I get paid? Do I need a license? Should I sell direct or indirect? Does my business have what it takes to sell in China?

Bizapalooza
October 28, 2015, Online

Bizapalooza is an online event that begins on October 28, 2015, and brings together the “rock stars” of small business success, entrepreneurial expertise and marketing wisdom, sharing their sought-after insights during this virtual festival — 3 days of Peace, Planning and Profits. Discover the best business building techniques from the world’s leading experts. You’ll rub shoulders with the biggest names and brands in small business marketing, soak up countless tips and new strategies and enjoy extensive networking opportunities all from the comfort of your home, office or local coffee shop. This is a unique opportunity for you to connect face-to-face with the top small business experts while networking with like-minded peers from around the globe.

UnGagged 2015
November 9, 2015, Las Vegas, Nevada

UnGagged is a gathering of the smartest, most forward thinking and most courageous SEOs and digital marketers on the planet. For 3 days they get together under one roof, sharing the latest proven techniques. This is an event for technopreneurs, online publishers and SEO professionals. Hear from those who know what they are talking about. No recordings. No pitches. Just pure SEO insights you won’t get anywhere else!

Discount Code
Debra (20%)

World Business Forum New York 2015
November 12, 2015, New York, New York

In 2015 the World Business Forum will present two days of powerful stories; of individuals who face shocks – both personal and organizational – and who use those shocks to achieve the extraordinary. Speakers include Sir Richard Branson, Jim Collins, a former faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Walter Isaacson, once the 14th editor of TIME magazine in 1996 and named Chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, Adam Grant, author of the New York Times bestseller Give and Take and Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD.

SleeterCon
November 16, 2015, Las Vegas, Nevada

SleeterCon is the accounting solutions conference for professionals to learn and differentiate their practices, with in-depth education to prepare for the future.
Discount Code
CRUSHZONE50 ($50)

More Events More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.
Attending an event photo via by Shutterstock

This article, "Be Prepared for Your Next Business Event" was first published on Small Business Trends

Master Content Marketing with These Tips from Our Community

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2015-08-29 15:30

Content marketing has become a major part of many marketing strategies, and for good reason. The concept is one that can adapt to so many different industries, budgets and target markets. But that also means that no two content marketing strategies look the same.

For tips on how to build a content marketing plan that works best for your business, read on for this week’s Small Business Trends community news and information roundup.

Use These Effective Lead Generation Strategies for Content Marketing

(Neil Patel)

One of the main goals of your content strategy to be generating leads. There are several ways of doing this that different types of businesses have found to be effective. In this post, Neil Patel shares the six most effective lead generation strategies for content marketers.

Benefit from These Social Media Hacks

(VerticalResponse)

Social media has become such a huge part of most content marketing strategies. But each day, people find even more ways to use different social platforms to help their businesses. This post by Lisa Furgison includes nine social media hacks that businesses can use to sell products, find images and more.

Check Out This Guide to Google Analytics

(The Savvy Copywriter)

For any content marketing plan to be effective, you need to know what has worked for you in the past. One way to do that, at least in terms of metrics like page views and referrers, is by using Google Analytics. Kimberly Crossland shares a guide to Google Analytics in this post. And BizSugar members discussed it further.

Stick to Your Budget with These Marketing Musts

(Noobpreneur)

Content marketing has made life quite a bit easier for business owners who have little to no marketing budget. Anthony Yap shares some marketing tips that work even for businesses that don’t have a lot of money to spend.

Don’t Give Up on Blogging

(The Content Direction Agency)

Plenty of fuss has been made recently about the end of blogging as we know it. And while it may be true that the blog world is in a state of flux, that doesn’t mean blogs have no value. Lacy Boggs shares some thoughts on blogging and how it can still be valuable for different businesses. BizSugar members also had some thoughts to share.

Develop a Mobile Content Strategy

(iBlogzone)

You already know that mobile content marketing is important. But not just any content will do. You need to carefully consider the type of content that will most resonate with your audience, along with other factors like platforms and frequency of posts. Stephen Moyers goes into more detail about developing a mobile content strategy.

Write the Perfect Ecommerce Email

(Lidyr Creative)

Consumers today are inundated with boring promotional emails, many of which just get deleted without even a look. So if you want your emails to stand out from the rest, take a look at these tips from Nikki Purvy. You can also see discussion about the post at BizSugar.

Master Yelp for Your Local Business

(SmallBizDaily)

Yelp is one of the most popular websites for customers to find information about their local businesses. For that reason, it’s very important for you to use the platform wisely to communicate information. Kelly Sciora shares some tips for using Yelp for local businesses.

Understand How Social Signals Impact Search Rankings

(The SEM Post)

It’s important to understand how all of your marketing strategies might impact one another. While social signals, such as shares and other interactions, don’t have a direct impact on search rankings, Jennifer Slegg argues that they can still be beneficial to those rankings in more indirect ways.

Use Courtesy on Sites Like LinkedIn

(Social Media Slant)

LinkedIn has become a popular platform for professionals to connect and network. But it has also become a popular place for those professionals to just reach out to anyone and everyone without a second thought. To make more meaningful connections, Cendrine Marrouat suggests applying the same courtesy rules on LinkedIn as you would for real life connections. BizSugar members also shared thoughts on the post.

You can help make these community roundup posts even better by suggesting your favorite content to be featured. Just send suggestions to sbtips@gmail.com or submit posts to the BizSugar community.


Reading Tablet Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Master Content Marketing with These Tips from Our Community" was first published on Small Business Trends

From Humble Beginnings in a Garage, Family Business Thrives for 60 Years

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2015-08-29 12:30

There’s a long-held belief that about half of businesses fail within their first year and even more fail within five years. So for a business to make it 60 years or longer, that’s quite a rare accomplishment.

Perfection Spring & Stamping Corp. in Mount Prospect, Illinois, is a businesses that has accomplished that feat. And maybe even more impressive, the business has been run by the same family, the Kahn’s, for that entire time period.

Louis Kahn is the one who originally founded Perfection Spring & Stamping Corp. back in 1955. The then 28-year-old enlisted the help of his Aunt Fannie and used his $5,000 in capital to purchase a coiling machine and a used four-slide machine to set up a metal bending operation in his garage.

Through the years, the company grew to include more employees, more space, and more services.

Currently, Perfection offers punch press stamping, fourslide fabrication, coil spring manufacturing and assembly finishing services. The company has worked with other businesses such as Webster Chicago Corporation, RCA, Heath-Kit, and Warwick Television to provide those metal bending and manufacturing services.

Louis headed the company for several decades, but eventually retired back in 1991, leaving his sons David and Joshua in charge. David currently serves as the company’s president and Joshua serves as its executive vice president. And even Louis’s granddaughter, Rachel, has joined the business, working in the human resources department.

That third generation is part of what makes Perfection such a special story.

According to the Family Business Institute, just 12 percent of family businesses are still viable into the third generation. So, Rachel’s involvement is not only helping the business now, but providing some hope for future success while still keeping the business in the Kahn family.

To this day, the family-owned business still follows many of the same principles that it was built on. But that doesn’t mean that every aspect of the business is old fashioned. To survive all those years, the ability to adapt to new technologies and business methods was absolutely key.

Louis Kahn said in a retrospective interview celebrating the company’s 60 years in business:

“We had SPC in place when most of our competitors didn’t know what SPC was. We had computers in place when most of our competitors did not even have fax machines. We had CNC Coiling equipment when most of our competitors were still doing their looping and trimming manually. To continue to thrive, Perfection needs to adapt, change, reinvent itself and never believe that ‘Good enough is good enough.’”

Throughout its six decades in business, the company has had to adapt to things like stronger environmental regulations and customer expectations, along with recessions and globalization of its competitors. But while the company has updated its technology, environmental policies and plenty of other business practices to keep up with the times, there are some things that it will simply never change.

Joshua Kahn said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “Our guiding principles have never changed – trust, integrity and service. We’re basically a division of every company that we do business with, so we need our customers to have more profitable products and innovate. So we do whatever we can to help them do that.”

He also added that sometimes helping their customers means not always following the “customer is always right” philosophy.

Joshua Kahn says the company sometimes has to tell customers no, while always providing an explanation and some alternatives. The idea is to better guide customers through the process in a way that will be more likely to help them succeed. This means more long term relationships for Perfection, rather than just quick one-time transactions.

Kahn also believes the tactic has helped the company gain new business, since many new customers come from previous client relationships. For example, some employees at client companies who have managed accounts with Perfection have moved on to new companies and then gone out of their ways to switch their new company’s business over to Perfection.

And it’s that type of interaction that lets the Kahns and their team know that they’re really doing something right.

Managing those customer relationships, as well as the relationships with colleagues and employees, is a huge part of any business. But the importance of those relationships can be even greater for a family business like Perfection.

Running such a business does come with its share of challenges.

Joshua Kahn said that it can be tough to keep from talking about business on holidays and at other family gatherings. But the Kahns make it work. He also said that they all feel the family aspect of their business is much more of a strength than a weakness:

“There’s always a level of trust with the people around you. Whether you agree or disagree with them on an issue, you know they have your best interest at heart as well as the best interest of everyone working for us,” Kahn says. “Because we’re not just a family business in that we’re family owned. We know and appreciate the needs of our employees and their families so we want to make sure we succeed for them as well.”

Right now, the company is dedicated to doing what it has always done — providing great service and staying true to its values while quickly adapting to the changing landscape of the industry. It’s a challenge for any business to stay afloat for as long as Perfection has.

But the company has worked for decades to build its reputation and relationships. So while working to move forward and continue to grow, the Kahn family can have some pride in the fact that 60 years in business puts them in pretty exclusive company.

Images: Perfection Spring & Stamping Corp., Facebook; Top Image: Joshua, Rachel, Louis and David Kahn

This article, "From Humble Beginnings in a Garage, Family Business Thrives for 60 Years" was first published on Small Business Trends

Venture Mom: Busy Mom’s Guide to Hacking Small Biz From the Kitchen

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2015-08-29 09:00

With a few exceptions, books written on the topic of how to start a business are heavily targeted to three audiences:

1. Tech-savvy startups
2. Serial entrepreneurs
3. Business school grads

Try adding moms to that group.

In her aptly named book, “Venture Mom: From Ideas to Income in 12 Weeks,” Holly Hurd promises to help any mom build a profitable business out of their everyday hobbies, interests or talents in just 12 weeks.

“Venture Mom” offers a first-hand look and a particularly clear step-by-step guide to “mommy” entrepreneurship. The guide is based, in part, on the author’s own experience as a mom turned business owner. As a result, you get a book that is part anecdotal, part expert advice, and part business hacking manual.

Hurd dispenses with a lot of the traditional business advice that states you have to complete mounds of paperwork to plan, research, and fund your business. Instead, “Venture Mom” asks readers to find the internal and external resources in their current life now that could make them profitable.

In response to the typical business plan, in “Venture Mom” Hurd offers a simplistic, but highly specific 12-week plan to research an idea, build products and services, and market them. Hurd is mindful of the many obstacles a potential mom will face in completing her plan. For example, she realizes that a mom who is good at crafting may not have the tech savvy to build a fancy website.

Her advice?

Build a website (even if it’s just one page) for now, and add to it as time or profits allow.

The success stories in “Venture Mom” also characterize the entrepreneur Hurd is trying to reach. She doesn’t focus on moms who make the magazine and newspaper headlines. She focuses on the mom who made incredible cookies and decided to sell them at bake sales and then on a website.

Overall, her goal is to get moms to start thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs, just like the business owners in the magazines and newspapers they read. Even if it takes longer than 12 weeks, moms can take their first steps with the idea of “What I sold or did …?”

Hurd (@VentureMom) is an author, business consultant, and speaker who began her journey into women’s entrepreneurship after collecting stories of moms who grew into entrepreneurship on their own way.

The best part of the book is the straightforward, step-by-step business advice that comes from a rising expert in the field of moms and entrepreneurship. Holly Hurd understands the demands and realities of a mom trying to juggle a business and delivers a book that speaks to that reality.

What is not present in the book is any detailed information on obstacles or any information on failures. “Venture Mom” provides a lot of success stories and alludes to some obstacles, but doesn’t go into a lot of detail. Information that could be more helpful includes:

  1. Identifying more of the obstacles that a mom might face.
  2. Providing more examples of failed business attempts and how readers can avoid those mistakes.
  3. Providing more advice on how to keep track of accounting and bookkeeping.

Although the book focuses on moms, the advice can be applied to any individual who needs or wants to “bootstrap” or “hack” their way into entrepreneurship.

“Venture Mom” is a business book that speaks to the reluctant entrepreneur, who, for one reason or another, feels unready to move forward.

If you happen to be a mom, Holly Hurd’s advice, based on her own experience, provides a quicker and more creative path to business ownership than the typical “how to plan a business” book.

This article, "Venture Mom: Busy Mom’s Guide to Hacking Small Biz From the Kitchen" was first published on Small Business Trends

Incoming! As Tropical Storm Erika Looms, Small Businesses Prepare

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2015-08-28 19:30

It’s been a relatively tame tropical storm season in the Atlantic Ocean but Tropical Storm Erika is making a late-August run at the Southeast U.S.

Some tracks have the storm on a path to collide with the southern tip of Florida — and potentially move into the Gulf of Mexico — by early next week. That potential has prompted Florida’s Small Business Development Center to issue a warning to companies in the state: Get prepared.

The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 25 percent of small businesses never reopen in the wake of a natural disaster, like a hurricane or tropical storm.

Some suggest that rate could be even higher, though it all likely hinges on the severity level of the storm.

In preparation for such extreme weather emergencies, the federal agency recommends businesses:

  • Determine which of your business systems are mission critical,
  • Develop an emergency communications plan to keep your people connected,
  • Confirm that your business systems are truly ready to function in a disaster, and
  • Prepare a disaster preparedness kit for your business.

In a statement this week, the Florida SBDC says now is the time, ahead of the storm, for small businesses to get together a Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, and Disaster Recovery Plan. The agency is offering some help to small businesses in the lead up to the storm … and a stark reminder of what could happen if businesses forgo being ready in the case of a natural disaster.

Michael W. Myhre, CEO and Network State Director for the Florida SBDC, said in a statement this week:

“As we remember the 10th anniversary of a hurricane season that devastated Florida, we are reminded of what can happen to a community when its businesses are destroyed and never recover.

“Though it is too early to determine if Tropical Storm Erika will maintain its current course, and what intensity it will become, businesses should continue to monitor developments and have a disaster plan in place.”

Image: NOAA/National Hurricane Center

As of Friday afternoon, Erika was centered on Hispaniola as a tropical storm (sustained winds between 39-73 mph). Through the weekend, the storm will cruise through the Caribbean Sea, only grazing eastern Cuba’s coastline before bearing down on the southern portion of Florida.

The storm’s path could have it impacting the city of Miami as a tropical storm, not a hurricane.

Even with steady winds at that speed, it’s enough to cause property damage, knock out electricity, and cause serious injuries. That’s especially true if preparations are not taken ahead of time. Also, consider that the forecast landfall in the U.S. isn’t until Monday morning so the forecast could change and the storm could strengthen or weaken.

Though it currently appears unlikely that Florida or anywhere else in the South will see a major impact from the storm, even one day lost carries a cost.

Florida’s SBDC is offering, at no cost, to connect small businesses with experts in the state to help them prepare a business continuity plan. These are plans that help a business stay running in the event of a natural disaster.

And planning at this point could take as little as five minutes, according to Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. In a statement issued Aug. 27, FDEM director Bryan W. Koon said:

“A visit to FLGetAPlan.com takes just five minutes, and can help you create a plan to better prepare your family and keep them safe. The website provides a quick and simple option for those looking to build a basic emergency plan for their family or business.”

Even if a small business is not in the expected path of Tropical Storm Erika, it’s wise to prepare in the event of any natural disaster. Hurricanes and major snowstorms allow some time to prepare but others like earthquakes and tornadoes give, at most, a few minutes.

You can sign up to see past Webinars and other resources on business preparedness on PrepareMyBusiness.org. Or get more information on local disaster preparedness at FloridaDisater.org, a website operated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Image: Small Business Trends,
Palm Trees Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Incoming! As Tropical Storm Erika Looms, Small Businesses Prepare" was first published on Small Business Trends

Facebook Video Surges, Wix Launches CRM Tools,

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2015-08-28 17:30

Facebook has been putting more and more of an emphasis on its video platform as of late. But how could that impact YouTube users?

Another big name is also working on expanding one of its offerings. Wix is a relatively well known name among the small business community. The maker of drag-and-drop Web design tools has been giving businesses an easy platform to build their websites for years. But recently, the company expanded its offerings to also include CRM solutions.

These and more small biz headlines are included in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends YouTube Ad Revenue Sharing Threatened by Facebook

Facebook has been increasing the priority of video sharing over the last year. And many of the videos shared come from YouTube. But this creates a bit of a problem for the producers of those videos. Once a video is downloaded from YouTube and uploaded to Facebook, the video’s creators no longer receive a share of the revenue being generated through Google ads run on their videos.

Wix Now Has CRM for Small Business, Too

You might be familiar with Wix, a company known as a maker of drag-and-drop Web design tools for small businesses. But the company has expanded its services to also include CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools. Called MyAccount CRM solution, this service offers small business owners tools for collecting and managing contacts, managing email marketing campaigns, and more.

Can the Intel Thunderbolt 3 Give Your Mediocre PC Superpowers?

As we move to smaller computing devices with hosted applications, the hardware that takes up space is being removed for better overall functionality. This includes powerful graphics cards, which are essential for playing games and watching rich 4K media. Intel has a solution that will solve this particular problem.

Could Razer’s New 3D Camera Be Good for Online Presentations?

A new 3D camera technology from Razer might be able to remove background from a headshot — as if there were a green screen behind the speaker. With this camera that’s being developed by the gaming company Razer, the user could overlay that captured video over another image on the screen, like for a webinar presentation or video tutorial.

LG Promises Large Screen and Long Battery Life with G Pad II 10.1

LG announced on Monday the next G Pad tablet model, the G Pad II 10.1. The company plans to give its newest tablet an official unveiling at IFA 2015 in Berlin next month. But for now LG is giving a peek at some of the G Pad II’s specs and features. You won’t likely get the highest specs or super clear display out of the G Pad II.

Finance Should You Raise Money Through Non-Accredited Investor Equity Crowdfunding?

U.S. startups can now raise money from non-accredited investors through online platforms. But just because this type of fundraising is possible doesn’t mean you should use it. Non-accredited investor equity crowdfunding makes sense for certain types of startups, but not for others.

Green Business Renewable Energy Group Acquires Imperial Renewables

The $15 million acquisition of a biomass and crop waste energy company may show the growing viability of this market as an alternative to fossil fuel. And in turn, this may suggest opportunities for smaller agriculture businesses, like family farms hoping to find alternative markets for their byproducts.

Operations McCormick Spices Things Up With Acquisition of Stubb’s Barbeque Sauces

Even some of the largest and best-known brands started as small businesses in the beginning. Take two seasoning titans making headlines this week. One featured products originally made from home and sold door to door. The other was originally created to serve a single restaurant in Texas.

What States and Cities are Friendliest to Small Businesses

Manchester, New Hampshire is the city deemed the friendliest to small businesses by the small business owners operating there. And the state of New Hampshire ranks second after Texas for the friendliest to small businesses as a whole. The rest of America’s Northeast, however, is considered the unfriendliest bundle of states in the entire country, according to Thumbtack.

Local Marketing Google My Business Users, Heed this Warning

Google has issued an important notice for small business owners with a Google My Business account. The company warns that business owners may soon be receiving a message from Google asking them to take action or have their account de-verified.

Marketing Tips Would You Wear a Cape to Promote Your Brand?

There are plenty of ways to display your branding to customers. In fact, wearable branding is a whole category on its own. But while some entrepreneurs wear or sell simple sweatshirts or hats with their logo or company name, Allyn Reid chose a more unconventional route. The founder of Sherpa Press instead wore a cape to promote her brand.

How to Sync Your Website and Social Media Efforts

Marketing through social media is all the rage. And you know websites are important to business. But should you be tackling both for your business? If so, how do you do it so it makes sense? Read below for some tips on how to make both, or one, work for you.

Management Small Business Lessons to Be Learned from Google’s Big Changes

Google’s recently announced a drastic restructuring that includes the naming of a new corporate parent company, Alphabet. The change offers key lessons for small business owners in running their companies. The key to the search engine behemoth’s move has to do with the entrepreneur mindset of its founders, Google CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: GMR Web Team Evolves With Client Needs

Digital marketing is an ever-changing field. Different marketing agencies have come and gone as the industry has evolved. But the ones that have stayed have done so by evolving along with the industry. GMR Web Team is one of those agencies. The business started out as a marketing consulting firm, then evolved into a Web design business and eventually into digital marketing.

Startup This Entrepreneur will Send Your Message — Via Potato?

There are so many different ways to communicate short messages with people these days: texting, Twitter, Snapchat, email. And now you can add another method to that list — mailing a potato. Yes, thanks to Alex Craig, an entrepreneur in Texas, you can now mail potatoes to your close friends (or enemies) with anonymous messages written on them.

Professional Wedding Guests Are Part of a Growing Industry in Korea

Weddings are usually happy occasions that a bride and groom share with their families and close friends. But a new industry is emerging in South Korea. And it sometimes means that happy couples are sharing their weddings and similar occasions with complete strangers. Kim Seyeon is part of a growing trend of professional wedding guests.

Facebook Surges photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Facebook Video Surges, Wix Launches CRM Tools," was first published on Small Business Trends

Facebook Periscope Competitor, Live, Should be Widely Available Soon

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2015-08-28 15:30

When Live launched, Facebook only offered access to the video streaming service feature to celebrities with verified pages.

However, that might all soon change as the social media giant recently confirmed that Live will be available to all Facebook users with verified profiles in the very near future, TechCrunch reports.

That will set the new streaming video service up as a tool for small business owners, among others.

Facebook Live runs almost the same way as Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope.

Facebook, however, boasts a few different benefits than Meerkat and Periscope. First, Facebook Live broadcasts are saved and available for future viewing.

This is definitely a smart move by Facebook, considering the saved broadcasts will add to its ever growing video library that makes lucrative video ads seem more natural in the News Feed. On the other hand, Periscope broadcasts are only available for 24 hours, while Meerkat doesn’t save live streams at all.

Furthermore, Live could be considered a more practical and efficient live streaming option because users already have a larger built-in following.

While Periscope has a decent head start in the members’ column, having surpassed 10 million active accounts and 2 million users on Android and iOS in just four months, Facebook is betting on its 1.2 billion current active monthly users and the already massive following of celebrities and public figures to leapfrog competitors.

Celebrity users who have already made use of the Live feature can start a broadcast, which then automatically shows up in News Feeds of fans who have liked their pages.

Fans are allowed to like, share, or leave real-time comments that overlay on the video feed. Live also shows the real-time number of viewers who are watching the broadcast. When the service goes public, any Facebook user with a verified page or profile will be able to broadcast their own live streaming videos the same way.

By the way, if you are wondering whether or not your Facebook page is “verified”, all verified accounts have a blue badge next to the profile or page name. Facebook verifies public figures, global brands and businesses, celebrities, and media.

Facebook’s much anticipated move to allow verified profiles access to Live brings the live streaming service closer to universal access. This could, of course, see the platform transform into a spontaneous journalism tool, overshadowing the trend that has only just begun on Periscope.

When Facebook opens the floodgates to the verified masses, there could be a lot more experimentation leading to even more functions being introduced and more creative ingenuity . More first-person adventures, real-time contests, DIY project walk-throughs, nerdy tech and other news discussions. Many more creative ideas will surface, perhaps redefining social media as we know it.

Image: Facebook

This article, "Facebook Periscope Competitor, Live, Should be Widely Available Soon" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Hire Your First Sales Rep

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2015-08-28 13:30

Hiring always presents a degree of risk. When the goal is hiring a sales representative, the stakes are especially high. The lifeblood of your company — your sales revenue — is at risk.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to increase the likelihood of hiring a great sales rep.

Whether it’s your first sales representative, or you’re back-filling an existing sales position, here are tips from people who’ve ‘been there, done that’:

Write Out a Job Description

It’s a mistake to think that every sales role is the same, says Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, who has hired dozens of sales representatives. “That’s why you need to write out a job description when you hire your first sales rep. It makes the scope of the role clear for the candidate’s benefit. It also helps get others in the company on the same page. Don’t skip this step.”

Write down the activities the sales rep is expected to do, starting with:

  • generating the lead,
  • through closing the sale,
  • through any post-closing follow-up.

Consider such issues as whether the sales rep is required to generate leads, or whether your business has a marketing machine in place to bring in leads.  That distinction is important in determining what skills to look for.  “Some people are good closers if you present them with leads coming in, such as from Google AdWords or an online lead-gen form. Not everyone can go out and prospect to generate their own leads,” says Campbell.

Another issue is sales administration and support.  Will your sales person have to enter orders into your system? Will he or she be expected to follow up on post-sales details, such as gathering information or delivering status updates to a client?  Or do you have other staff to do those activities?  “Some sales people expect to be able to hand the sale off and not handle post-closing duties,” adds Campbell.

Besides, she says, it’s not wise to load up a sales rep with too much paperwork.  It reduces the time available for making new sales.

Determine Compensation Range

Always make the compensation package based in large part on commissions, advises Campbell.  “Then the sales role more or less pays for itself,” she adds.

A good salesperson is motivated by money. But it won’t help you retain that sales rep if you’re thinking the person can make $75,000 annually in your company, yet the candidate comes in expecting $150,000.

Figure out the target compensation if the sales reps meets stated goals or quotas.  If this is a new position, you’ll need a sharp pencil or calculator:

  • Estimate the number of sales a motivated rep can comfortably close each week. Calculating by the week helps you gauge sales more realistically than calculating monthly or annually. This number can become the rep’s quota or goal.
  • Then calculate the amount the sales rep will make from those deals based on the commission rate.
  • Don’t forget to factor in any base salary.

From this you should get a good idea of the realistic target compensation.  During the hiring process, express this as the compensation ‘at quota,’ advises Campbell. Consider including a high range for added earning potential if the rep meets stretch goals or exceeds quota.

What’s a Good Commission Rate?

There’s no right answer to this question.  Start with a commission percentage in line with what is common in your industry, advises Tamar Weinberg, the chief strategy officer for Small Business Trends.  It also depends on whether the person gets a base salary.

“Real estate agents make six percent commission and no base salary. If you are selling tech products, I’ve seen anywhere between three percent and 10 percent, with a generous base pay. If you’re not offering base pay, commission could be from 20 percent to 25 percent,” Weinberg says.

Also, you “may want to consider adding a team bonus down the road. For example, hitting a certain milestone yields a $X,XXX bonus.”

Weinberg also recommends sweetening the commission to encourage stretch sales goals that exceed quota.  For example, for sales “you make up to $375,000, you get three percent, and at $375,001 to $500,000 you get six percent, and for amounts over $500,000 you get nine percent.”

Keep Guaranteed Payments Temporary

It’s customary in many companies to offer new sales reps a guarantee of compensation for the first 90 days, or possibly up to 180 days, says Campbell.

During this ramp-up period, the sales representative is assured of compensation of a certain amount — whether he or she actually makes sales.

Be clear that this is a temporary arrangement. Give it a cut-off date. Call it a ‘temporary nonrecoverable draw‘ against commissions, so as not to set an expectation of an ongoing salary, advises Campbell.

Stoney deGeyter, Pole Position Marketing’s CEO, offers a cautionary tale about guaranteed entry compensation.  “A few years ago we hired our first sales person (in a long time)….”  The company didn’t have a clue as to what to expect from its salesperson in terms of sales numbers, but decided “to make it lucrative for him to work for us,” deGeyter said.

So, Pole Position created a high salary with a low commission structure. “The idea was to pay the way during the learning process, but once sales started coming in take him off salary and move toward commission.”

However, “to our disappointment we never hit the benchmarks,” said deGeyter.

Several re-negotiations followed over the next three years. “As you can imagine, that’s not something that anyone wants to do and, inevitably, someone feels like they are getting a raw deal. It was literally trial and error for us.”

Decide Where to Recruit

“It’s not easy to find good salespeople,” says Weinberg.

“Salespeople have to be go-getters who are comfortable going in front of people and pitching something.”  Not everyone has the moxie to ask for the sale.

She recommends using websites, including LinkedIn, as well as “career-minded sites like Monster or Dice, if a tech product is involved.”

She also advises attending meetings and observing professionals in action. Seek out “people who outshine others socially — those people would make for good sales reps, especially since a sales rep needs to be a good schmoozer.”

Diane Helbig, who offers an online sales training program, Clarity of Course Sales Training, recommends leveraging one’s network.

“Getting a referral to someone can be one of the best ways to gain a salesperson,” she said, noting further that LinkedIn is the go-to site for filling important positions. “Do a search for salespeople, account executive, business development, and see who comes up. You can research them just like you would a prospect.”  You can also post the job on LinkedIn, among other job sites, she said.

Don’t overlook existing employees as a referral source to hire your first sales rep, added Campbell.  “Some companies pay a referral bonus to existing employees who refer a new hire. In small businesses this bonus averages from $100 to $500.  Make the bonus payable after the new hire has made it through the first 90 days or other probationary period.”

Go for Skills or Experience?

Helbig doesn’t believe it is mandatory to hire someone with sales experience. She does, however, recommend finding someone with a particular skill set that includes the ability to build relationships quickly.

Also, “they should have a good network and be able to expand on it. They should be able to work autonomously as well.”

Experts disagree on whether industry experience is necessary.  According to Helbig, industry experience isn’t important. “If they are a good salesperson, they can learn [the industry] and the value of your product or service. If they are new to sales, consider providing sales training to set them up for success.”

However, Campbell points out that direct experience may be crucial in certain industries. “Some types of sales are complex. Or the industry may be too specialized to learn quickly. Small businesses usually need sales fast.  Many of us don’t have the luxury to subsidize a nine-month learning curve.”

Check Background and Attributes With These Questions

When checking up on a sales-rep candidate, ask about past results.  “You’d want to know what sales they’ve closed, what quotas have been met or surpassed, and how their track record compares to the rest of the track records” at previous employers, Weinberg said.

Also assess personal attributes and character. “You’d want to know if they were leaders or followers. Your first sales rep is probably someone you’d want to be a leader, but who is willing to go out and start small to grow with the business. They’re going to be taking risks, because really good sales reps command a higher salary than what a company looking for a ‘first sales rep’ can usually pay.”

Ask probing questions to assess the candidate’s sense of urgency, Campbell advised.  “Sales deals die from lack of momentum. You want a person who acts fast. Do they return messages within X number of hours?  What’s their attitude toward emails? An ‘inbox zero’ personality is ideal. What’s their daily routine like — do they set daily goals?  You want a sales rep who will be hounding you for deal approvals because they operate lickety-split, not one you have to hound just to return a call.”

Helbig noted that checking references involves legal pitfalls that may prevent you from gleaning much from a reference check, however.

She said, “Legally you aren’t going to get many answers other than the basics,” such as “how long they were employed. Companies are taught to not give more information about past employees because it could come back to bite them.”

Look for Willingness to Use Reporting Tools

Finally, remember that accountability is crucial. So you’ll need some kind of reporting and tracking mechanisms.

Hire a person willing and able to use your software programs, or learn them.

Weinberg noted that a CRM tool is useful for tracking sales and performance. She likes Salesforce.

Your salesperson should enter the contact information of prospects into the CRM. That way you can access this data in case the employee departs (or is asked to leave).

As Weinberg noted, “You, as owner, should know what opportunities are gaining ground, as well as the ones that aren’t, and where the salesperson could use support.”

“All the companies I have worked for have used forecasting spreadsheets to determine what deals in the pipeline are likely to close, at 10 percent levels, 50 percent levels, 90 percent levels, and 100 percent signed. So for example, you may have one client at $50,000 at 10 percent, three clients totaling $275,000 at 90 percent, and 11 closed deals at $1.3 million.”

Weinberg recommends that the salesperson report his or her progress on a weekly basis. “You don’t need to know every call they’ve made.” The salesperson should provide this report every Friday afternoon and the owner should read and comment on it. “If a salesperson doesn’t report, that’s a red flag.”

This, by extension, doesn’t mean you should micromanage the salesperson’s activity, she said.  “As long as they are acting legally, morally, and ethically the owner shouldn’t care how the salesperson spends their time — provided results are being realized.”

New Hire Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Hire Your First Sales Rep" was first published on Small Business Trends

Nick Ayres of IHG: Online Digital Touchpoints Complete Offline Customer Journey

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2015-08-28 10:30

Digital is on the minds of everyone today, from a variety of perspectives. But it’s important to connect those online activities and touchpoints to real life interactions to complete customer experiences, especially in the hotel industry.

Nick Ayres, global director of social marketing for Intercontinental Hotels Group, shares how IHG ties digital touchpoints together to complete the customer journey; from the dream, through to the stay, and beyond.

* * * * *

Small Business Trends: Could you give us your role at IHG and how you got started with the whole idea of integrating social into customer service?

Nick Ayres: I lead our global social practice for our consumer brands, as well as our Rewards Club program. I’ve been with IHG coming up on five years, and have been in social business for a few years previous to that. And when I started at IHG, one of the things that we put on our road map early on was to figure out a process by which we could make sure that we’re speaking to customers who were already speaking to us on social channels, as a way to make sure we were having dialogue and two-way conversations with guests.

Small Business Trends: When you think about how your customers have changed over the years, the way they’re using social, their behaviors on social, their expectations, what do your customers expect from you?

Nick Ayres: They expect that, when they reach out in social, that it’s not a “nice-to-have” for a company to respond. The thing that goes along with that is the expectation for transparency of experience. When we have a guest who stays at one of our hotels, when they reach out to us via social, they expect that we are able to identify quickly the history of that guest with us, so we have a sense of not just who they are, but also the particular experience they might be having, and we as a business don’t act like we’ve never talked to this guest before. So, there is, again, this expectation that there is this red thread that ties a customer to all of their interactions with the brand. That’s certainly not something that was expected three or four years ago.

Small Business Trends: Passing on information to the right parties to take the right action talks about how integrated, from a process and technology, and cultural standpoint, that social has become when it comes to customer service.

Nick Ayres: Yes, it was really important for us. We anticipated customers would want to make sure the information they were sharing got to the folks that could most directly do something with that information. And the real value is making sure that, when feedback is provided, the hotel is able to act on it — even immediately if there is a customer service issue that’s happening on-property in the midst of a stay.

It’s not just the surface of, “Hey, let’s thank guests for providing feedback,”. The example we use is for guest reviews, which is really important for us. If you have a hotel that has ten guests say, “Hey, your check-in experience was really awful. It took a really long time, and people weren’t friendly,” or whatever it might be, simply acknowledging that that feedback is happening is not going to solve the problem. You actually have to do something. If you have ten people that are saying that, and you don’t do anything to change it, you’re going to have just ten more people that say the same thing. So, you have to find ways to make that change.

Small Business Trends: So, you mentioned it hasn’t been easy. Do you think moving forward it’s going to be more of a challenge to stay in line with the customers’ expectations and needs?

Nick Ayres: I feel like there is always going to be something else that we have to figure out how to attack, that we have to figure out how to provide solutions to. And so, I don’t know that the challenges posed will be more difficult, but I would say that there will continue to be challenges.

We focus a lot of attention on the stay experience and the role that mobile and social play in that stay experience. And so, I think, as we get better and get even more laser-focused on delivering exceptional on-property guest experiences, it’s going to help manage some of the expectations that our guests might have. But we know that, at the end of the day, while certainly the things that my teams are responsible for from a Facebook and Twitter and experiential piece are important, at the end of the day, if you get to the hotel and you have a miserable experience, all the rest of that falls to the side. So, we have to do everything we can to deliver the best guest experience that we can and find ways for technology to enable that, both for the guests, as well as for our operators.

Small Business Trends: Give us an idea of what you’re going to be focusing in on, moving forward, maybe over the next six months to a year?

Nick Ayres: We look at the guest journey — dream, plan, book, experience (which is the stay), and then the “share” at the end. We really feel like the role of social will continue to be woven through the entire guest experience, but we know that we have a lot of opportunities to use content and social to help inspire in the dream phase, and help continue to encourage guests to share content. But we also know that, as it relates to mobile, there are a lot of interesting and innovative things that we can be doing there. Working with my peers on things like anywhere check-in, giving guests the ability to check in to the hotel directly via their mobile devices, versus having to do another process.

The speed with which customers expect that we will respond continues to be a little bit of a hamster wheel, where we just try to find ways, as quickly as we can, to respond and make sure that our service levels continue to get better. That’s certainly an area where we’re going to focus, to continue to use technologies and processes and training to continue to meet needs more and more quickly, rather than just sit back and be comfortable with what we’re doing today.

Small Business Trends: We talked about the customer journey and the different phases of it. You can map those phases to customer acquisition, lead gen, walking through the sales process, and then retention. Are there any aspects you are focusing in on more than others, and trying to make sure that once you get the customer, you’re able to have them become return guests?

Nick Ayres: My team is responsible for our Facebook footprint and things that we do on Twitter and elsewhere; and those are incredibly important and certainly play a role in helping frame brand perception. But at the end of the day, we could have the best Facebook page in the world, and if a guest gets to the hotel, and they try to check in, and they face a rude salesperson, or the pool is out of order for whatever reason—any of those sorts of things—that’s what’s going to stick with customers, right? And so, we want to do as much as we can to really deliver the best guest experience that we can in the midst of the stay.

This article, "Nick Ayres of IHG: Online Digital Touchpoints Complete Offline Customer Journey" was first published on Small Business Trends

If Dogs Ran Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2015-08-28 08:00

Pets and business are pretty much comedy gold for me. Cats and dogs looking at graphs, attending meetings, sitting at desks … so much fun.

This cartoon came from my dog who used to love to sit bolt upright, run upstairs, and bark at absolutely nothing. No doorbell, no mailman, no kids on the sidewalk … nothing.

To be fair, she was pretty old. And while she was the sweetest dog, she wasn’t necessarily the smartest. This cartoon always makes me think of her and those goofy canine panic attacks.

This article, "If Dogs Ran Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends