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What Could the New Google News Feed Mean for Businesses?

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-07-23 18:00

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) just introduced a new and improved feed feature to its Google app. The Google News Feed allows users to completely customize what they see based on selected topics and search activity. And this new feature could potentially have an impact on businesses.

Inside the New Google News Feed

With this updated feed, users will see a personalized list of topics right when they open the Google app, without having to actually search for anything first. Users also have the ability to dive deeper into a topic on the app with just one click. For example, if you see a news story that interests you, you can click on it to see more related content. Some will even give context right on the home page if there are a bunch of recent articles related to the same topic.

Users can also actively follow certain topics on the app. So if someone is interested in a particular sports team or celebrity, they can specify they want to see news topics related to that going forward.

For businesses, this feature could present some new opportunities. First of all, if a person follows a topic related to your business, it could make it easier for them to discover content related to your company. For instance, if your company is an eco-friendly fashion brand, then people who follow related topics are going to be more likely to see content that mentions your business. It potentially puts more relevant consumers in your path.

It also presents an opportunity for content creators to get their pieces in front of more people. If there’s a trending topic that a lot of people are searching for at the moment, you could create something relevant to your business that also incorporates that trend and potentially have it show up in more people’s news feeds.

Image: Google

This article, "What Could the New Google News Feed Mean for Businesses?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Meeting Owl Makes Remote Workers Part of the Team — But It’s Pricey

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-07-23 15:00

Until very recently the user experience of video conferencing solutions left much to be desired. And for small businesses, the complexities and cost pretty much priced them out from deploying the technology. Owl Labs has created an easy to use, all-in-one audio and video device called Meeting Owl to address the first problem — although the cost might still be a bit high for some small businesses.

Introducing the Meeting Owl Video Conferencing Device

Meeting Owl was born out of the frustration Owl Labs’ cofounder and CTO Mark Schnittman was experiencing while working remotely and communicating with existing video conferencing systems. Along with CEO Max Makeev, Schnittman decided to fix video conferencing for the remote employee.

Meeting Owl is a plug-and-play video conferencing device optimized with a 360 degree camera for a panoramic view and intelligent focus. With these features, it can focus on one, two or three individuals at the same time by automatically identifying and highlighting active speakers in the room. And best of all, the single 360 degree lens doesn’t need to stitch the video, unlike other multi camera systems.

The video optimization software and automatic speaker focus lets you see the most recent in-room participants without adjusting cameras or using remote controls. When it comes to audio, eight omnidirectional echo-canceling microphones and a 360 degree speaker capture and amplify the voices of all participants.

Some of the smart technology integrated into the Meeting Owl includes the ability to intelligently get better over time. Using WiFi, it improves the remote experience by automatically updating and syncing new features in the background.

Meeting Owl is compatible with web-enabled video conferencing providers, including Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, BlueJeans and Skype for Business. When you are ready to initiate a video conference, all you have to do is plug the USB cable to your laptop and you can start.

Pricing and Availability

The Meeting Owl comes in at $799. Although the features it offers are well worth the price, there will be small businesses choosing instead to go with the free options available to them in the market place. But it is important to note, as your business grows, your video conferencing solution has to improve. Free applications, a laptop camera and a regular microphone may not cut it forever, particularly as your need for seamless web conferencing grows.

Even if you decide the system is worth the money and are ready to move ahead however, you may not be able to get your hands on one immediately.

Meeting Owl is currently on backorder with up to six to seven weeks for delivery.

Image: Owl Labs

This article, "Meeting Owl Makes Remote Workers Part of the Team — But It’s Pricey" was first published on Small Business Trends

50 Business Ideas for Vacant Land

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-07-23 12:00

Thinking about investing in a vacant lot? Or maybe you already own one and aren’t sure what to do with it? Luckily, there are plenty of business opportunities you can leverage when you have this type of space. Here are 50 business ideas for vacant land.

Business Ideas for Vacant Land Farm Stand

If you have a piece of land in a decent location, you can set up a roadside farm stand and use the rest of your land to grow or produce food to sell.

Produce Farm

You can also use land to grow produce that you can sell to restaurants or food retailers.

RV Storage

RVs take up a lot of space and many people don’t use them constantly. So you can start a business where you store those RVs on your property for a regular fee.

Boat Storage

Similarly, you can use your land as boat storage, especially if it’s located in a water adjacent community.

Campground

Maybe your vacant land is near a tourist area or just offers some neat views or other features. In this case, you can turn it into a campground and rent space to travelers.

Firewood Business

If your land is stocked with trees, you can use it as a source for timber or firewood to sell. You can also potentially gather wood from other sources and use your land as more of a processing space.

Wind Farm

Alternative energy is a huge growing industry. And vacant lots — if large enough an in the right location — create the perfect opportunity for wind farms.

Solar Energy

Similarly, you can set up some solar panels and work with local communities, businesses or energy providers to offer solar power.

Self Storage Facility

You can also use your space to set up some storage units and offer self storage options to local consumers.

Raising Livestock

If you have enough space and the know-how to raise animals like cattle, you can make a business out of the opportunity.

Dairy Farm

You can also raise cows and produce dairy products like milk and cheese.

Horse Stable

Or you can start a horse stable business where you offer riding opportunities and lessons.

Wool Processing

If you want to work with animals like sheep or alpaca, you can create a business by processing their wool and turning it into yarn and fabric.

Goat Rentals

There’s also a unique business opportunity for those who have the space and ability to raise goats. You can rent them out to other land owners as low cost lawn mowing options.

Educational Farm

If you set up a working farm on your property, you can also make it into an educational farm where you welcome school groups or people interested in learning about farming.

Summer Camp

You might also consider setting up a summer camp on your property where kids can take part in outdoor recreational activities.

Sports Fields

Or you can set up sports fields and rent them out to school groups and teams.

Corn Maze

If you want to welcome visitors to your land, you can also set up a business like a corn maze for which you can charge admission.

Hay Rides

Similarly, you can use a tractor or similar vehicle and pull visitors around on a wagon to create a fall themed hay ride.

Petting Zoo

You can also welcome a variety of animals to your land and set up a petting zoo that people can pay to visit.

Apple Orchard

Apple orchards can also be fun outdoor attractions for people to visit. You can charge admission and let people pick their own apples, while also offering a variety of apple based products.

Christmas Tree Farm

For another seasonal business idea, you can grow pine trees on your property and let people visit and purchase their own Christmas trees.

Ice Rink

You can also set up an outdoor ice rink on your land and charge a small admission fee or even make money from other things like concessions.

Vineyard

As another way to build a business from growing items, you can set up a vineyard and offer wine made from your own grapes.

Golf Course

It can be a process to set up, but if you have enough space you can create your own golf course on a plot of vacant land.

Junk Yard

A less complicated idea would be to simply start a junk yard business where people can bring unwanted items and you can sell this unwanted stuff to others for scrap.

Hunting Property

For land owners in rural areas, you might consider setting up a hunting property people can pay to visit for hunting.

Outdoor Shooting Range

Or you could set up an outdoor shooting range where people can take target practice.

Paintball Course

More of a recreational business, you could set up a paintball course on your land and welcome groups of customers.

Biking Course

Or you could set up a course where people can ride motocross or BMX bikes or take part in similar activities.

Zipline Course

If you have the right type of space and equipment, you could even set up a zipline that people could pay to use, especially if your land has access to interesting views.

Tiny House Manufacturer

Tiny houses have come into style lately. And if you have the right supplies, you can manufacture these homes on your land and even let it serve as a sort of mobile home park for tiny homes.

Glamping Facility

Glamping is another trendy concept. Short for glamorous camping, this would be similar to setting up a campsite, but with some more elaborate amenities.

Drive-In Theater

A more old school business idea but a nostalgic trend still popular with some, you can set up an outdoor theater that people can visit in their vehicles.

Concert Venue

Or you can set up a stage and offer your space as a concert venue to musicians and event promoters.

Event Rentals

Similarly, you can rent out the space for events like weddings or corporate retreats.

Landscape Supply Storage

Landscaping and home supply businesses don’t always have enough space to store all of the items they use or sell regularly. So you could start a storage business that caters specifically to this need.

Training Facility

You can also use your space as a training facility where businesses and their employees can come to learn about things like construction, landscaping or even drone operation.

Plant Nursery

If you want to grow plants on your property, you can construct a greenhouse or simply offer your plants for sale at a roadside plant market.

Beekeeping

Beekeeping is another in-demand business that requires a fair amount of space in order to operate safely.

Roadside Attraction

Roadside attractions like the world’s largest spool of thread or unique old museums can also be businesses, as long as you charge admission or offer a gift shop or other type of paid attraction.

Outdoor Advertising

If your land is near a road or high traffic area, you can construct a billboard or similar type of outdoor advertising structure and use it as a money making opportunity.

Antiques Market

Antiques markets are popular in rural areas and can take up a lot of space. So you can set up your own antiques market that people can visit on your property.

Carpentry

Or you can set up a carpentry workshop and use the space to build large pieces of furniture and other structures.

Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ markets are often hosted by cities and community organizations. But if there’s a need in your area, you could set one up on your land and charge a small fee for vendors to participate.

Pop-up Facility

Or you could offer your land as a space for other businesses to host pop-up shops and events.

Outdoor Yoga Studio

If you have a scenic or serene piece of land, you could open up your own outdoor yoga studio or facility for similar activities.

Art Installation

It’s also possible to set up an outdoor art installation that people can pay to visit. Or you could allow people to visit for free and simply charge for things like food or merchandise.

Outdoor Photography Studio

You might also consider using your land as an outdoor photo studio so you can take unique landscape and portrait photos.

Parking Lot

And if your vacant land is adjacent to some local attractions, you could simply set up a parking lot and charge a fee for people to park there.

Vacant Lot Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Business Ideas for Vacant Land" was first published on Small Business Trends

Using SEO for Growth? Stop Looking for Hacks and Aim for Domain Authority

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-07-23 09:00

SEO for Growth: The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, Web Designers & Entrepreneurs, as indicated by the title, is written to help marketers, web designers, and entrepreneurs utilize SEO to grow their online presence. Unlike other SEO-focused marketing books, SEO for Growth doesn’t focus on the newest “SEO hack” to reach the first page in Google search results. This book focuses on establishing and maintaining a strong presence in a way that helps you, Google, and your next potential customer (or client) achieve your and their respective goals.

What is SEO for Growth About?

The path to SEO mastery in SEO for Growth begins with a shift in perspective and ends in a three-step process designed to help marketers, business owners and entrepreneurs establish domain authority. Domain authority should be the SEO goal of every business on the web. Why? As defined in the book, domain authority is a relative measure of how good your site will do in Google search engine results.

Why is this important to business owners, marketers and entrepreneurs?

Let’s say you own a pizza restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. If you want customers to find you online (now and in the future), you need to get as close as possible to the first page of Google’s search engine results. (Customers don’t often click on page 2 or beyond). To get to the first page, you need to establish and maintain domain authority. To get domain authority, you need a site with good content and a lot of online traffic (like a busy store), which encourages Google to list you in the top spot. Getting listed earlier on the Google search engine results increases your online presence and gives you a competitive advantage over other businesses lower down the list. SEO for Growth shows readers what to look for so they can integrate this process into their overall marketing.

Understanding these basics of SEO and how they relate to your overall marketing is the key insight of SEO for Growth. Even if you don’t want to spend hours learning SEO, the book contends, everyone in a business should understand how SEO works. Without that understanding, many business owners and web developers will continue to believe that SEO is a bag of hacks and a website is just a digital brochure.

Author John Jantsch is a consultant to small and mid-sized businesses, an author, speaker, and creator of the Duct Tape Marketing brand, which includes a book, podcast, marketing system and a consulting network. Jantsch has received numerous awards and mentions for his work including being featured by Forbes, Huffington Post and the American Express OpenForum.

Co-author Phil Singleton is a consultant in SEO and web design (who also happens to be a consultant in the Duct Tape Marketing Network). After founding a tech company in Asia ultimately reaching $10 million, Singleton launched his own brand, Kansas City Designs.

What Was Best About SEO for Growth?

The best part of SEO for Growth is the overall message that SEO is not an “add-on” or a “supplement” to marketing. SEO, the book reinforces, should be fully integrated into overall marketing efforts. That message applies regardless of your role in the SEO process. The book’s message is also coupled with a simple three-step path focused on sustaining SEO efforts rather than a simple “try to hack Google to reach page one” effort that is common in many marketing advice books.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

While SEO for Growth is great for its practical approach to SEO from a business perspective, it spends a little too much time getting bogged down in some details about SEO business owners may not necessarily be interested in. For example, the book discusses the changes that Google made to their algorithm. While the book provides information about these algorithm changes from a unique perspective (helping readers understand why Google made them), more detail could be provided on the connection between those algorithm changes and the way businesses should market themselves and sell online in the future based on them.

Why Read SEO for Growth?

SEO for Growth serves as a guide to the “spirit of SEO” for business owners, marketers and entrepreneurs. Instead of trying to find a way to chase or trick your customers (or Google) using “SEO hacks”, the book gives expert advice on how to integrate SEO into a seamless marketing experience. It reinforces the need for SEO to be a seamless part of the integral customer experience. In doing this, it also outlines a pathway for an SEO-confused or SEO-ignorant business owner, marketer or web developer to increase their online presence, keeps their customers happy and keeps Google pleased. If you are looking for a deeper level of SEO strategy to integrate into your marketing, it’s a good place to start.

This article, "Using SEO for Growth? Stop Looking for Hacks and Aim for Domain Authority" was first published on Small Business Trends

Influencer Marketing Days Provides Professional Development, Networking Opportunities

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-07-22 13:30

Influencer marketing can help businesses build trust and excitement by working with influential people in a particular industry or niche.

If your business has yet to dive into the world of influencer marketing, or if you just want to learn more about this marketing concept, you might be interested in attending Influencer Marketing Days.

The event takes place on September 25 in New York City and features professional development and networking opportunities for marketers and influencers.

You can learn more about Influencer Marketing Days in the Featured Events section. And check out even more upcoming small business events in the list below.

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

WEBINAR: Give Your Team What it Needs for Speed
July 25, 2017, Online

Join us Tuesday, Jul 25, 2017 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (EDT) to discover how to give your team what it needs for speed. The right technology tools and resources can help your team respond to—and stay ahead of—your competition and the market. Whether you have two employees or 100, you can always ramp up team speed. From improving processes and decision-making to boosting collaboration and providing your team with the technology and tools it needs, this webinar will explore the ways in which team speed can be leveraged as a critical competitive edge. Our panel of entrepreneurs and experts will engage in a lively, informed and interactive discussion about how you make your team more nimble and agile—and boost productivity and profits as a result. Our Panelists include Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, Gene Marks, owner and operator of the Marks Group, and Ramon Ray, Small Business Evangelist at Infusionsoft, publisher of Smart Hustle magazine, and Technology Evangelist at SmallBizTechnology.

Influencer Marketing Days
September 25, 2017, New York, N.Y.

Influencer Marketing Days is a forum rich in professional development and laser-focused networking opportunities. Whether you are a marketer involved in PR or integrated marketing, community development or social media management, or an influencer looking to leverage the power of influencer marketing, this conference is for you! It is the must-attend event both for marketers responsible for their company’s influencer marketing campaigns, and for influencers looking to optimize monetization of their clout. Whether you already run influencer marketing campaigns or you’re investigating ways to leverage this powerful type of marketing, Influencer Marketing Days will equip, educate, and inspire you to make the most of your efforts.

Rule Breaker Awards Ceremony
October 24, 2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.

On October 24, 2017 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way in a ceremony featuring the Rule Breaker of the Year and Rule Breaker Award winners.

NextCon
October 23, 2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.

At NextCon, you’ll gain:

– Proven techniques to garner higher customer satisfaction.
– Insider strategies from leading experts to help you provide amazing customer service.
– Methods of engaging your employees to better deliver on your customer experience.
– Hands-on training with Nextiva’s technology and products so you can take advantage of tools you already have, or learn about new ones.

Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.

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.

Image: Influencer Marketing Days — Todd Crawford, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Impact Radius.

This article, "Influencer Marketing Days Provides Professional Development, Networking Opportunities" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Tips for Managing Your Brand and Running Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-07-22 12:00

Image can be a huge factor in the success of your small business. So it’s important to manage how customers see your brand. And you may also need to manage your personal brand as well. Here are some tips from members of the online small business community for managing your small business and entrepreneurial image.

Learn How to Create a Successful Small Business Brand

Success as a small business isn’t just about the numbers. It can also be about your brand and what it portrays to customers. In this CorpNet post, Rieva Lesonsky shares the steps you can take to create a successful small business brand.

Become an Industry Thought Leader

Being a thought leader in your industry can lead to increased trust and a better reputation for your business. But how do you accomplish this feat? Mary Blackiston of SUCCESS Agency discusses further here.

Use These 10 Best Change Management Strategies

Change is often the only constant when it comes to running a business. But it’s important that you really grasp how to manage change so you can make the most of it. Ilana Brudo elaborates in this Connecteam post. And you can see more commentary on the post over on BizSugar.

Develop the Master Skill for Success

Every entrepreneur wants his or her business to be successful. But fewer actually consider what it means to be successful. This Prepare 1 post by Blair Evan Ball examines what it means to be successful and how you can develop the skills needed.

Take Advantage of These Overlooked Online Promotional Tactics

There are plenty of ways you can promote your business online. But some tactics are more popular than others. So you might have overlooked some of the online promotional tactics listed in this SMB CEO post by Ivan Widjaya.

Learn the Difference Between Content Marketing and Paid Advertising

Content marketing and paid advertising both have their place in small business marketing strategies. But they each have their own set of pros and cons too. Learn more in this Wood Street, Inc. post by Jon-Mikel Bailey. You can also see what BizSugar members have to say here.

Ensure People Actually See Your Content With these Promotion Tactics

When you create content for your business, you need to make sure people actually see it if you want it to have any impact. The tips in this Marketing Land post by Blaise Lucey can help you make sure your content gets in front of the most potential customers.

Increase Your Authority and Influence as a Marketer

Sometimes, marketing messages are only as strong as the person sharing them. So you need to have influence and authority if you want your messages to resonate. Brent Csutoras talks about how you can increase your authority as a marketer in this Search Engine Journal post.

Keep SMEs Away from Your Content

SMEs, or subject matter experts, can be invaluable for your business. But they aren’t always the best choices when it comes to creating content, as Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing goes over in this post. BizSugar members also share thoughts on the post here.

Consider If SBA Loans are the Best for Your Business

Though small business startups can sometimes be bootstrapped, they may also need funding to get off the ground. Options include taking out a loan, but how do you get started? In this Smallbiztechnology.com post, Marc Prosser outlines SBA loans and how businesses should decide which loans are right for them.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

Dollar brand photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Tips for Managing Your Brand and Running Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Billion Dollar Fitness Mogul Shares 10 Tips for Building a Brand Around a Mission

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-07-22 09:30

Does your business have a mission, which goes above and beyond making money and profit? The savviest of companies use their mission to build their brand. They never falter in their unwavering commitment to develop their brand around their unique mission.

One highly reputable business magnate who has successfully built a brand around a mission, is Carl Daikeler, CEO and co-founder of Beachbody.

Daikeler and his co-founder Jon Congdon created Beachbody is 1998. Congdon is now President and Chief Marketing Officer of Beachbody and helps drive the company’s mission to help people achieve their goals and enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life.

The California-based company has gone on to be a leading resource of home fitness and nutrition tools, providing top weight-loss solutions, such as P9OX, Insanity and 21 Day Fix.

Through the Team Beachbody Coach Network, it is Daikeler’s aspiration to generate the largest community of peer support related to health and fitness in the world.

Beachbody’s approach to fitness and its mission to help people achieve their fitness goals, has meant it has attracted the support of millions of satisfied customers.

Building a Brand Around a Mission

Small Business Trends caught up with Daikeler, who provided 10 inspiring tips for building a brand around a mission.

Make It About the Results

According to Daikeler, it’s not about the brand, it’s about the results.

“I’ve often seen charities — which should be the MOST mission-driven organizations — be more about their brand than they are about the RESULTS of their efforts. Such a waste,” said Daikeler.

Beachbody is helping people get healthy and fit and its co-founder and CEO says the brand doesn’t matter unless people are getting better results with the company’s combination of fitness, nutrition and peer support than any other solution.

Align Staff and Management on the Mission

Daikeler also advises businesses building their brand around a mission to ensure staff and management are aligned to the mission. Though the successful fitness mogul warns it’s not always easy to do this:

“Keeping the finance and operations department aligned on the mission isn’t easy. They hear about the mission and think ‘Yeah, right. So about the profits.’  You need to make sure decisions are made that do not contradict the mission in every area of the business.”

Train Salespeople Not to Sell but to Solve Problems

Daikeler advises businesses to think in the longer term, about the relationship they are starting with the customer and stand behind what they promise. At Beachbody, the company aggressively trains people not to sell, but to help solve a problem.

“’I’m not here to convince you. I’m here to help you.’ Salesmanship cannot be about the numbers,” warns Daikeler.

Commit and Deliver on Your Promises

The Beachbody co-founder and CEO says when building a brand around a mission, businesses should commit and deliver on their promises.

“We promise to help people get healthier and lose weight in a specific period of time. If we don’t achieve the promise, we either give people their money back, or preferably find a way to better serve them on what we promised,” says Daikeler, advising other businesses to stick to their mission’s promises.

Know That It Will Be Hard

“Everything is hard and there’s always competition,” Daikeler says. But Beachbody knew creating solutions to get people results would force them to actually workout with intensity, and it would require them to admit “cheap nutritional supplements” are worthless.

Other businesses should know it will be hard but realize that quality matters.

“But it’s hard to sell the real thing in a sea of charlatans. It’s hard. But we handle it,” the health and fitness mogul commented.

Treat People with Respect and Be Courageously Forthright

Another point Daikeler shared in his tips on building a brand around a mission, is to always treat people with respect and be “courageously forthright.”

Daikeler cautions a mission to solve a problem plaguing society for so long — like weight loss — will come with pitfalls. There is no template for success, which is why the problem still exists.

Daikeler advises businesses to admit mistakes, treat customers with respect and make it right “100 percent of the time.”

Improve Everything

Daikeler also recommends businesses should keep improving and stay committed to serving the mission.

“As we peel back the layers of the onion, we see that there is no silver bullet. There’s always a next best thing,” says Daikeler.

Beachbody breaks successful business models — when necessary — to better serve the mission. That’s why, for example, the company created Beachbody On Demand, recognizing that DVDs are dead.

Observe What Works

According to Daikeler, other successful businesses leave clues on how to promote and influence with less mission-oriented initiatives. While the missions may be different, the strategies and tactics can be similar, and businesses should pay attention to everything, observing what works.

Work with Passion and Enthusiasm

“If your passion to live up to the promise of your mission doesn’t burn hot, you will drift when the going gets tough (And it will get tough. Guaranteed),” Daikeler warns.

Businesses should find a way to “keep their fire stoked.” In order to achieve this, Daikeler says he listens to customer success stories and hunts for Beachbody’s own weaknesses — a process he never stops!

Care

Finally, all businesses need to care, Daikeler advises.

“Our mission to help people achieve their health and fitness goals strikes a very sensitive nerve for many people. Throughout the company we make it a point, whether they are staff, management, vendors, reps, or customers, we care about their experience when it comes to our company,” Daikeler told Small Business Trends.

Other businesses should do the same, he says, as caring is all part of the mission.

If you have any experiences or success stories on building a brand around a mission, feel free to share them with us.

Image: Carl Daikeler

This article, "Billion Dollar Fitness Mogul Shares 10 Tips for Building a Brand Around a Mission" was first published on Small Business Trends

Uncertain Winds Ahead : How We Survive Sudden and Unexpected Change

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-07-22 07:00

Change: The Tools You Need for the Life You Want at Work and Home is about adapting to change, but it focuses on a specific kind of change. This kind of change isn’t something that you can prepare for. It’s the kind of change, like an unexpected illness or job loss, that can knock you off your feet.  In those times, the book says, we have to tap into a new set of resources to find a solution. Change provides a mental road map to those resources so that readers can live through those obstacles and come out on the other side.

What is Change About?

For most things in life, the answer can be found with a click. Looking to start a business? Google can provide you millions of business plan templates and advice to get started. Looking for a new job? Google can provide millions of solutions for that as well. There are some changes, though, that shake us to our core.

Change provides a mental road map for dealing with complex problems that Google can’t answer.

In the book, author Gary Bradt uses real-life  (but fictional) stories to illustrate the kinds of problems that he is focused on. He follows three employees while they experience changes sudden changes in circumstances in their business and personal lives:

  • First, there is Kimberly, an executive who is struggling despite her “superwoman” image. She is rushing from appointment to appointment, rarely has time for the relationships in her life, having trouble connecting with her team at work, and has little time to “get a workout”.
  • Then there is Justin, an engineer, who is laid off after devoting 20+ years to the company.
  • Finally, there is Ken, an executive at the same company where Kimberly and Justin work, who has to live with the difficult decision to lay people off from work.

Throughout these tales and his own personal story, Bradt shares his advice on dealing with sudden and unexpected change. This kind of change, the book reminds us, will happen to everyone. Dealing with this kind of situation successfully isn’t a matter of finding a quick external solution (like a book or seminar). It requires tapping into the right tools and strategies such as having the right mindset, investing in relationships, breaking free of the past, and focusing on priorities. The book focuses on helping readers integrate these tools and strategies into their lives now before it becomes too late.

Bradt is a clinical psychologist by training who became a speaker, executive coach, and author after nearly losing his first child to a heart condition. Bradt’s career received a major boost when he was selected as a featured speaker by Dr. Spencer Johnson, author of the wildly successful book, “Who Moved My Cheese?”.

What Was Best About Change?

The first thing that readers will come across is the effortless way Bradt uses stories to communicate his message in a simple and highly engaging way. These stories reinforce how sudden and unexpected change happens to everyone and often has ripple effects that impact both our personal and professional lives. This is important to remember because sudden and unexpected change requires different solutions to regain work-life balance than most would expect.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The book does an excellent job of demonstrating the power of our thinking patterns during periods of change and adjustment. Many books focus, rather gloomily, on the problems caused by the disruptive nature of the future. These books encourage adapting their business but they don’t help readers learn how to adapt their minds.  This book attempts to remedy the situation. However it could use more refinement. Specifically, information on how to implement the book’s suggested tools (like the ToWho list) on a personal and organizational level would be helpful.

Why Read Change?

Business schools and business plans help us anticipate change, but they don’t help us deal with unexpected and sudden changes (like business failures, loss of a family member, illness). For those kinds of situations, you need more than a motivational book, a Google search, or a seminar. To survive unexpected and sudden change, you need to transform. Change helps readers launch into that transformation  As Bradt points out, the key to transformation starts with our thoughts. By changing the way we think — using suggestions from the book — we start a chain reaction that keeps us grounded in a constantly changing and uncertain world.

This article, "Uncertain Winds Ahead : How We Survive Sudden and Unexpected Change" was first published on Small Business Trends

Fearless and Free: Rewriting the Code for Women and Career Success

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 17:30

Fearless and Free: How Smart Women Pivot — and Relaunch Their Careers, proudly states that women should skip chasing career ladders and run their careers like a startup. The world of “follow the rules and you will move up the ladder” is dying out. Women, in particular, need to take charge of their careers before it’s too late. The book provides recommendations and inspiration drawn from the authentically raw stories of women who pivoted their career and personal brands, again and again, to thrive in a constantly changing and chaotic world of work.

What is Fearless and Free About?

Fearless and Free, concerns itself with the decisions that women have to make about their careers. Unlike other books, the focus is more on the “work” in “work-life balance“. Author Wendy Sachs argues that the future world of work presents some unique challenges unique to women. For women to thrive in that future world of work, these challenges must be confronted. The book’s message about confronting these challenge can be simplified into two messages: Women need to be fearless. Women should work in ways that provide the most freedom.

First it’s important to examine the “fearless” part here. In the current workplace, Sachs argues, there is an unwritten code about how women should act in the workplace. This unwritten code challenges women who assert themselves and their right to a better work-life balance. To break this code, Sachs urges, women should become comfortable with being more assertive and clear about what they want and need, leveraging their power as professionals.

Concerning the book’s second message (Women should work in ways that give them the most freedom), Sachs makes two points. The first point is that employers now have a freer relationship with employees. Instead of building long-term relationships with employees, many jobs are content to hire people on a short-term basis. This leaves employees on a much more unstable ground regarding job security. Because of this new “normal”, Sachs argues women should focus more on themselves and less on chasing a career ladder. By ditching the chase for a career ladder. workers are free to adapt their careers to whatever happens in a constantly changing world.

Sachs is living proof the career advice she provides for women in her book, Fearless and Free, actually works. Sachs has experience in TV production (winning an Emmy and working for companies such as Dateline, NBC, CNN and Fox), editing (serving as an Editor-in-Chief of Care.com and other sites), and as a speaker on issues related to work/life balance for women and living life proactively. She says she started the book after becoming frustrated with the limited options she had as a highly skilled professional in a fast-changing (and still) male-dominated world.

What Was Best About Fearless and Free?

The best parts of Fearless and Free are the authentically raw stories Sachs provides while discussing career pivoting. There are plenty of other books that discuss the need for career pivoting, but Fearless and Free goes deeper into what it takes to get out. The answer? Fearless and Free advocates a three-step process of continuous self-development and networking, establishing a personal brand to stay “top of mind”, and keeping an eye on opportunities to deliver on your personal brand. This gives the individual, rather than a business, ownership of the career path.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Fearless and Free provides a lot of helpful information and truly engaging stories delivered in an entertaining style. Sachs doesn’t just tell the stories of these women (including herself) who have pivoted their careers. She provides a little of their personality so readers can observe how these women were able to transform themselves while career pivoting. The burden of change in the book, however, falls squarely on individual women. What should businesses and the government be doing to positively reinforce a world of career-pivoting women?

Why Read Fearless and Free?

Fearless and Free serves as a great supplement to any book on work-life balance. It provides a deeper look into what working women will probably have to do several times in the evolving work world — pivot. Sachs uses her own example and that of many other women from various industries to demonstrate how women can do this. The approach builds on personal strengths and leverages the opportunities around them (from professional relationships to social media and beyond) to thrive in a world that is fast-changing, budget-cutting and still unbalanced in its approach to work and family. Using Sachs’ book, women can gather the recommendations and inspiration they need to transform any failure or change in circumstance into a higher level of success.

This article, "Fearless and Free: Rewriting the Code for Women and Career Success" was first published on Small Business Trends

Comcast Business Webinar Looks At Giving Your Team What It Needs for Speed

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 15:30
Sponsored Post

What does speed mean in your small business?

Maybe it means getting deliveries out on time. Or maybe the speed at which your team is able to assemble and implement a new marketing initiative — or make a new hire, or meet a client’s demanding deadline.

No matter what speed means to you, certainly the speed with which your team can access the information they need and communicate with customers, clients and each other no matter where they are would need to rank highly

There is an Answer to Boosting Your Business’s Agility

Fortunately, no matter what speed means for your small business, there’s one place to learn more about how to give your team more of it.

And, like everything else about success with a small business, taking advantage of this opportunity requires you to act quickly. (No surprise there!)

Details on the Comcast Webinar

Comcast Business is offering a new webinar July 25, 2017 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT with the aim of teaching small business leaders some vital lessons about how to motivate their teams.

Called “Give Your Team What it Needs for Speed”, the one hour session includes three business leaders with enough combined experience to make the webinar well worth your time.

Meet Comcast’s Small Business Panel

Panelists include Small Business Trends CEO and founder Anita Campbell, who along with SBT operates a range of other online communities, newsletters and small business websites.reaching an estimated 6 million small business owners and leaders per year.

The expert panel also includes Gene Marks, owner of small business technology and consulting firm the Mark Group. Marks is also a popular commentator on Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

Last but not least on the panel is Ramon Ray, an entrepreneur, writer and public speaker now serving as Small Business Ambassador for CRM software Infusionsoft. He is also publisher of Smart Hustle Magazine and Technology Evangelist at Smallbiztechnology.com

Here’s Why You Should Attend

Comcast believes regardless of the size of the team, it can be made faster and more agile.

And means of achieving that increased agility range from better processes and better decision making to better collaboration through technology and tools.

Could a faster team be leveraged as a competitive advantage?

To learn how greater speed and agility can lead to greater productivity and profits in your business, sign up to attend this important event. .

Details

What: Comcast Business Give Your Team What it Needs for Speed webinar

Who: Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends), small business commenter and consultant Gene Marks (@genemarks) and technology evangelist Ramon Ray (@RamonRay)

Where: Register here.

When: July 25, 2017 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT

Team Efficiency photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Comcast Business Webinar Looks At Giving Your Team What It Needs for Speed" was first published on Small Business Trends

New Platform Automates Social Media Ads, Study Provides YouTube Insights

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 13:30

How would you like to save some time but still get what you need from social media? There’s a new tool that can help you automate ads on both Facebook and Instagram.

And if you’re thinking about using YouTube as part of your content strategy, a recent study can help you learn about what types of videos are most popular. Read about these headlines and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media Can needls Platform Automate Small Business Ads on Facebook and Instagram?

A new platform aims to make small business advertising on Facebook and Instagram even easier. Digital has surpassed TV ad spend, and the gap is growing at robust pace. According to eMarketer, the almost $1B lead digital had at the end of 2016 will increase to more than $25B by 2020. For small businesses, if they want to succeed it means making their presence felt on digital channels.

How-To Videos Among the Most Watched on YouTube

Want to drive more traffic to your YouTube channel? Make sure you upload more how-to videos because they are among the most watched on the site. This insight comes from data presented by San Francisco-based video production company, Visual Z Studios. Why You Should Post How-To Videos Research reveals how-to and style videos on YouTube receive, on average, 8,332 views.

Economy More Than 1 in 4 Millennials Work a Side Hustle

Who says Millennials are more into vacations than work? Millennial Side Hustle Statistics New data from Bankrate shows that 28 percent of Millennials, between the ages of 18 and 26, are working on their own on the side right now. That means, in addition to their regular source of income, the youngest members of the workforce are putting in extra work for some extra pay.

US Beef Exports to China: What Cattle Ranchers Need to Know

American beef should soon wind up on Chinese plates as a trade deal between the two countries gets finalized. It would mark the first time American beef was sold in that country after it was banned in 2003 over a mad cow disease scare. On June 12, the deal was finalized and the first shipments are expected in China July 16.

Employment Analysts, Not Accountants, Are Most Sought After for Small Business Finance

In today’s small business world, the person who keeps track of the numbers may be less important than the person who can tell you what those numbers mean. New data from the jobs site Indeed.com reveals that among the top 10 in-demand finance jobs, not a one is an accountant. The number one, most in-demand job wanted by small businesses is business analyst.

$30 Separates the Highest and Lowest Paid Developers, Survey Says

The cost of hiring a freelance developer for your business could still vary considerably. A new survey says the cost of a developer — like an expert specializing in Javascript, for example — could vary by as much as $30 per hour depending on where in the world they live. The gap is even larger when looking at averages from city to city.

Marketing Tips Could the Latest in Branding Be Not to Have One?

Before spending time and energy branding your next product or service, it may be time to think again. Brandless is a startup that works with manufacturers to eliminate the extra costs that are often associated with offering branded products. Instead, the company just provides basic products with simple labels that just state what’s in each product.

 

Move Over Avocado Toast, This Restaurant Has Designed a Whole Menu Around This Tasty Food

You’ve no doubt noticed the avocado toast trend that’s been sweeping the nation over the last few years. But one business has decided to take the trend to a whole new level. Avocaderia is an avocado bar completely dedicated to avocado based foods. It includes avocado toast, but also other foods like smoothies, burgers, chocolate mousse and more.

Retail Trends Lesson From Bridal Chain Closing: Always Remember Your Customers

Nationwide bridal store chain Alfred Angelo abruptly closed up shop recently, giving customers almost no notice and leaving brides who had already paid for dresses scrambling to pick up their purchases or find replacements. Some brides drove hours to pick up their dresses at stores, having only a couple hours notice after reading of the impending store closings online.

What KFC Can Teach Small Businesses About Success in China

At a recent Gateway17 event in Detroit, small businesses learned more about the products in demand from Chinese consumers and some tips on marketing to them. But you can also learn about selling to Chinese customers by studying international brands like KFC. The fast food chain is the largest of its kind in China.

 

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Virtualitics Specializes in Visualizing Data for Business

When it comes to analyzing data, having accurate visualizations can make the the task infinitely easier. And new technologies like augmented and virtual reality can potentially help businesses create those visualizations. And that’s exactly what Virtualitics specializes in.

 

Technology Trends New PayPal Samsung Deal Should Make it Easier to Take Payments

Samsung Pay will now work with PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) wherever it’s accepted. Since Samsung Pay works with traditional card readers, that list includes basically all businesses that accept credit cards.

Looking for a Great Business Idea? Start a Virtual Reality Arcade

Looking for a unique new business idea? Consider starting a virtual reality arcade. That’s right — arcade businesses no longer need to consist only of video games from the 80’s and cheesy prizes. There are already businesses around the world that are integrating this new technology into their offerings. Take the case of Playdium Virtual Reality arcade in Causway Bay, Hong Kong.

Beware! New Phishing Attacks Disguised as Replies to Previously Asked Questions

Cyber criminals have come up with yet another way to get you to open an email. This month’s Comodo Threat Intelligence Lab report has identified a new type of phishing email. According to Comodo, the new scam involves emails disguised as a reply to a previously asked request for information. The emails also appear to come from a legitimate contact or familiar brand, the report says.

Reality Check: Drones Will Take the Dull, Dirty, Dangerous Jobs

If you’re hoping to have a pizza delivered by drone to your house soon, you might have a wait. One industry expert sees a different future inspecting remote pipelines and such for drones. Brandon Declet knows what he’s talking about. Declet is the CEO and Co-Founder at Measure, one of the first companies to offer drones-as-a-service.

Bots Are Taking Over: Fiverr Adds Subcategory Dedicated to Chatbots Development Gigs

The attack of the bots continues as they spread their reach everywhere from data gathering, to analytics, web indexing and more, automating tasks across the internet. And now it’s easier than ever to create your own bot. Freelance marketplace Fiverr has a new subcategory dedicated to chatbots development services.

Power-Blox Providing Off-the-Grid Energy to Small Business

A Swiss Company, Power-Blox, has created fully autonomous power grids that can be easily scaled up without the need for extensive expertise, centralized control or configuration. The ‘Plug and Power’ technology behind Power-Blox enables anyone to create an autonomous grid that can power schools, businesses, hospitals, homes and entire villages.

Social Media Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "New Platform Automates Social Media Ads, Study Provides YouTube Insights" was first published on Small Business Trends

Rohan Gilkes of Wet Shave Club: Successful Subscription Businesses are Data-driven

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 12:00

I was “digging in the crates” recently and found some really great stuff that for one reason or another I haven’t worked into the series. And although this isn’t a “one on one” conversation, this session from ExCom 2016 — an event I co-organized with eCommerce thought leader John Lawson — is just as relevant today as it was last year.

Insights on Running a Subscription Based Business

Small Business Trends Publisher Anita Campbell led a great conversation on the benefits and challenges of running a subscription based business, from both a B2C and B2B perspective. Rohan Gilkes, owner of Wet Shave Club, and Sangram Vajre, cofounder and CMO of account-based marketing platform Terminus, share their experiences in growing subscription businesses. And together they cover a lot ground and provide some great insights that can help those considering this business model understand the what to do, and what to avoid.

The following is an edited transcript of the session. To hear the full conversation click the embedded video/audio clips below.

* * * * *

Small Business Trends: Rohan, we can tell from the name of your business, Wet Shave Club, what you sell, but would you describe for everyone what exactly does a customer get when they subscribe to the Wet Shave Club and what are they paying for every month?

Rohan Gilkes: With Wet Shave Club, customers get a monthly box of wet shaving products. Wet shaving products are like your old school razor where you would go into a barbershop, you probably see it in the movies. They put this shaving soap in your face and it’s a double edged razor. The brush and talcum powder, maybe some cologne. All types of random stuff that men who like this traditional shaving experience would use. They pay between $19 per month, if they’re going to subscribe for an entire year, commit to an entire year, or they pay $29 per month if they’re going to go month by month.

Then we have a three month and a six month as well. It really allows us to smooth our revenue out by having people commit for a longer time and we reward them with a discount.

Small Business Trends: Are you from a barber background by chance?

Rohan Gilkes: I am not from a barber background. I actually don’t even wet shave. I shave with clippers. I actually just came across the opportunity and I felt like I could probably knock it out. My background is I just build internet companies. I used to be an accountant and I started finding opportunities online and teaching myself everything I could teach myself about internet marketing and hustling online. When I came across this opportunity, I took it and it’s working out.

Small Business Trends: We’ve got a very different kind of business over here with Sangram. It’s not a B2C business. Tell us what you sell to your customers and who they are and what they pay, Sangram.

Sangram Vajre: I’m the co founder and CMO of Terminus. For those of you who don’t know, Terminus is the original name of Atlanta. We are an account-based marketing firm. We started about a year and a half ago but really got the product to market just a year ago. We are at 1.5 million in recurring revenue. Today, about 130 customers. 30 employees.

What we do for B2B companies is help them make sure that their message is in front of the right people on the channels that their customers care about and we have done it through an account based marketing platform.

The other challenge that B2B faces is that less than 1 percent of the leads turn into customers. Think about it from a CEO, CFO, or anybody executive, if less than 1 percent of your leads are going to turn into customers, that just almost translates into saying that 99 percent of your efforts don’t mean anything. We want to solve that problem. Our goal is to help B2B marketers turn more of their leads into customers. We understand that in B2B, unlike B2C, the decision is made by committee. There are more people involved in the decision making process. Sometimes there’s 10, 15, 20 people, the bigger the organization.

We’re able to put your message in front of your target audience, the entire account. If you want to target a sales team, the entire sales team is going to start seeing your message, as opposed to just that one person, on the channels that they care about. That has really changed the way B2B marketing has been done today.

Small Business Trends: Essentially, you’ve got a software that provides a service for your B2B customers. Is that right?

Sangram Vajre: Yep. It’s $1,000 a month, subscription business. Most of our customers sign up for annually recurring revenue. For us, that really helps us out quite a bit. It’s literally you sign in, you connect to your Salesforce or any CRM for that matter and upload a list of companies, and tell us who you want to target in terms of roles and then we’re able to put your message in front of them, anywhere they go, proactively.

Small Business Trends: That’s great. You said you just got financing. $7.5 million?

Sangram Vajre: Yes.

Small Business Trends: Okay, good. But when you first started with the business, did you start it on a shoestring? Did you have investment? Did you put savings into it? Tell us what you invested to get it started and give us a little of that story.

Sangram Vajre: Just like Rohan, this business was started by another two gentlemen, my other two co-founders Eric and Eric. I just call them the “Erics.” They got $300,000. A lot of people are probably familiar with David Cummings (serial entrepreneur and Pardot cofounder) here in Atlanta. He literally gave Eric $300,000 and said, “You’re smart. You’ll figure something out. Go start a business.” He started with doing something in the advertising space and, clearly, me coming from a Martech space and marketing, and understanding this problem, something that I was facing every single day. When I saw what they were trying to put together, I was able to jump in and say, “Let’s change the game here.”

Small Business Trends: Rohan, I know you bought this business. Tell us the story about how you bought it.

Rohan Gilkes: Sure. Randomly, I was hanging out on Reddit. I’m on there everyday. I guess it wasn’t that random. On r/entrepreneur some guy just posted a thread saying that he had this business. He was doing maybe $200 per month in revenue. He wanted to sell it. I was thinking, “Wet Shave Club. Wet shaving. What the hell is wet shaving?” I went on Google and I googled wet shaving. At the time, Dollar Shave Club was really, really kicking. I felt based on the fact that this market was already validated, for me.

Some people look at competition and they say there’s this big company that’s just going to crush me. I have to go against Gillette or Dollar Shave Club. They have probably $100 million in funding by now. How could some little guy compete with them? For me, I look at competition as a real validation of the marketplace. People are already educated. They’re already used to the concept of receiving shaving products every month in the mail and I felt I could do it. I reached out to the guy. It was on a Tuesday. By Saturday I had paid him $4,000.

His monthly revenue was very, very low. It was less than 500 bucks. That Saturday I got the passwords and I started working. We changed the website. We rebranded. We expanded the product line. We rebranded the boxes. We then almost tripled our price. That’s another thing, too. I would rather go after a customer that is willing to pay a little bit more and get a higher quality customer who is more likely to stay on than try to compete in the weeds of $9 or $10 or $12 per month, which is what he was charging.

After we made all those changes, this already was a two months process of changes. We went out to search around on Google to find new producers and manufacturers that would improve the quality of the products. We found people in Pakistan. They would send us stuff. We went through so many different versions. I have a post where I show the different images of the different razors that we received. We tested it. It was terrible. We sent it back. We found another manufacturer. This whole process was just figuring things out all on Google. This is the question I get. How did you guys find out about manufacturers and production and soaps?

We just googled everything, emailed people, they sent us samples. We tried it. If we liked it, we ordered more. If we didn’t like it, we found somebody else. It’s really two month of hustling and then we relaunched the business and got going.

Small Business Trends: Did that have any unexpected headaches? You’ve described some of the things about the products and so on. Was there one thing that maybe surprised you that you weren’t expecting, Rohan?

Rohan Gilkes: Yes. There are a lot of headaches. This is my first product business. I think one thing that is so crazy is the logistics around shipping. Every month we have to say we’re going to assume that we’re going to have 1,000 customers at the end of the month, whatever that number is. That number is a guess. It has to be a guess because we’re going to be onboarding new customers and we’re also going to be losing customers.

If our data is right, we’re going to be onboarding more customers than we’re losing. But that number is going to be an educated guess. But, a month before that, we would have to, based on that educated guess, order product. That product is going to come in, it’s going to sit in a warehouse. There’s costs associated with that. Then we’re going to have to repackage it, ship it back out. There’s costs associated with that. Then we’re going to have leftover product. There’s costs associated with that. That whole process of guessing, your order times, figuring out logistics, shipping, product storage, that part of the business is very difficult. I can’t say we have fully figured it out, but we do a really good job now based on past experience and past trends.

Small Business Trends: Is there any particular analytics tool that you use to help you or do you have a variety of tools?

Rohan Gilkes: We have a variety of tools. The main tool we use is Cratejoy. Cratejoy is, I guess, what Shopify is for regular one-off purchase eCommerce stores. They manage the subscription business. We can get some data and look at trends and look at churn, which is probably the biggest number … The most important number in this business is how many of your customers you’re able to retain from month to month versus how many you’re losing. Once you figure that out, things are … You can build a very, very big business very, very quickly if you can understand that churn number and your customer acquisition cost number.

Small Business Trends: I have one last question. What is the one important lesson you think other entrepreneurs should know about starting and growing a subscription business?

Sangram Vajre: I think the one thing we believe that has helped us is distilling down the problem that we’re solving. We talk about this every time, every meeting that we start, or the kick off meetings that we have, we continue to say this problem to ourselves. Less than 1 percent of the leads turn into customers. We need to solve this problem. Every new hire, every employee, every onboarding call, every marketing collateral that we put out there, everything has this problem clearly stated that allows us to look at everything from that lens. When we think about production innovation, when we think about new marketing messages, when we think about the sales process. Everything is looked from that lens. It really helps us make sure that we have our eyes on the prize, we know what we’re trying to do and what problem we’re solving because if you don’t know that, every single problem or solution seems like a good solution.

Small Business Trends: Thank you. Rohan, your lesson.

Rohan Gilkes: I really think that subscription based business, they’re really data driven businesses. Yes your branding and your marketing and your experience has to be right, that unboxing has to be great, but at the end of the day it’s all about the data. You have traffic coming in and then you have your conversion rates, what percentage of that traffic is going to convert into a customer. Say that number is 5 percent or that number is 3 percent. That could be the difference between your business being successful or not being successful.

You have traffic, conversion rate. You have your churn, which is very, very important, how many people are leaving. What kind of allocation you can have between your customers? How many of them can commit to one year? How many of them commit to one month? It’s really about the data. For me, that’s probably the thing I’ve learned the most in the past year and a half or two years.

This article, "Rohan Gilkes of Wet Shave Club: Successful Subscription Businesses are Data-driven" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Businesses Sold 40 Million Items on Amazon Prime Day — Twice Last Year’s Total

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 10:30

Are you selling your products on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)?

If you are not, here’s a good reason to consider the platform. During the recently held third annual Prime Day event, customers ordered more than 40 million units from hundreds or thousands of small businesses. This was up from 20 million units sold last year.

Small Businesses Win Big with Prime Day 2017 Sales

Small businesses offered deals on everything from apparel to toys, household goods and handmade items. Many businesses, in fact, experienced their largest sales day ever.

Small business owner, Lawrence Bibi, CEO of LightAccents, a seller of lights and decor, said, “LightAccents had a fantastic Prime Day. It was our best sales day in over two years.”

What Prime Day Has to Offer to Small Businesses

An increasing number of small businesses are leveraging Prime Day to boost sales during a historically slow time of the year. But that’s not the only reason for small businesses to look forward to the event.

Prime Day also helps small businesses prepare for the upcoming holiday season.

Ben Arneberg, co-founder of Willow & Everett, said, “Overall, for the Prime Day event (all 30 hours), we saw about 20 times more overall sales. This is a huge benefit to our business, as it gives us exposure to thousands of new customers, and helps us with cash flow as we ramp up on inventory for the Holiday Season.”

Why Small Businesses Should Consider Selling on Amazon

As one of the largest ecommerce companies in the world, Amazon provides a lucrative platform for small businesses.

Not surprisingly, therefore, a growing number of small businesses (73 percent) today are considering selling on Amazon.

If you are interested in sourcing products to sell on Amazon, you must remember that it’s somewhat different than looking for products to sell on eBay and similar auction websites. Depending on the type of products you are trying to sell, there are certain things you need to keep in mind.

If you want to source products overseas, you may try online wholesalers such as Alibaba (NYSE:BABA). It’s important for you to look into Amazon’s FBA service to handle the fulfillment side of your business and also secure a good rank on Amazon.

With a well-defined strategy, you can make the most of Amazon and reap benefits during events such as Prime Day.

Image: Amazon

This article, "Small Businesses Sold 40 Million Items on Amazon Prime Day — Twice Last Year’s Total" was first published on Small Business Trends

Influencer Marketing Secrets Revealed: Can it Boost Conversions?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 09:30

Every marketer has their little tricks up their sleeves when it comes to promoting their brands. Usually they follow by the same general model, adapting the same practices to different projects, or to fit certain needs. There is nothing wrong with this method, but it won’t work if you don’t add in new ways of marketing as they become more successful with customers.

Influencer marketing is a clear example of this thought in practice. Social media has been a powerhouse in promotion for years. But where that new means of marketing meets more traditional forms of endorsement advertising has been growing, though many people are still shaky on how to properly apply it to their campaigns.

Why Influencer Marketing?

Businesses keep doing the same mistake again and again: They discover a traffic generation strategy (in the vast majority of cases that’s Google search) that works for them, start growing exponentially and then instead of reinvesting into discovering more growth opportunities they keep feeding from that single source until it stops working for them.

Unlike most of online marketers may think, Google search is not the only source of traffic and awareness. There are more ways to generate clicks and sales:

The power of word of mouth should never be underestimated. People buy from people and via people’s recommendation. That is where the power of influencer marketing comes into play.

Influencer marketing is essentially the newer form of celebrity endorsement. We all remember sitting around Saturday morning and seeing a commercial for Proactive come on the screen, with a flawless skinned A-list actress trying to convince us that she had a problem with acne at some point in the past.

Think of influencer marketing as a more down-to-earth, simple version of that idea. You are taking the equivalent of celebrities in the digital realm (YouTubers, social media stars, bloggers, etc.) and having them push your brand into the spotlight. They endorse you to their fans which can be in the literal millions, and you reap the benefits.

The bigger of those benefits is creating a solid, trusting customer base. That base includes the influencer(s) that you have managed to snag. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that can vastly increase your conversions.

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

Now that you understand why influencer marketing is so great, we can start looking at ways to incorporate it into your campaigns and get those conversions really growing. These are by no means exhaustive, but consider them your starting point. It won’t be long before you begin to see results, and can build on them.

Know Your Influencers Well

There is no point in trying to target an audience, much less find an influencer to help you do so, if you don’t really know who you are talking to. Before you begin you need to really understand the demographic you are catering to. Not just who they are, where they live and the basics (age, gender, education and income level, etc.). You need to know what they want, need, and don’t even realize they need.

Who do they watch you YouTube? Do they prefer Netflix or Hulu? Do they use Tumblr? Reddit? Facebook? Snapchat? Instagram? Do they like dogs or cats better? Do they put ranch on their pizza? It might seem like overkill, but the better you know your audience the more direct your trajectory will be when finding the perfect influencer to reach them.

Talking to your audience is almost always the first step to understanding them better. I’ve always been an advocate of surveying tools to help you better understand your niche community. Moreover, surveys provide so many opportunities beyond the obvious audience research. For example, you use them to actually build connections with influencers (by providing them with various perks in exchange for taking the survey). And afterwards, you can turn the results into a solid linkable brand asset and invite all the participating influencers to spread the word. That’s what Moz has been doing, quite successfully, with their “Search Engine Ranking Factors“:

  • Invite niche influencers to participate
  • List those influencers as contributors on the landing page
  • Build trust and turn your brand into the niche knowledge hub which, in turn, brings more conversions because buyers now know who they are buying from:

Featured tool: I know there are a few obvious surveying tools out there but I’ve recently discovered Wyzerr which is probably new for most of the readers. It lets you build fun interactive quizzes that are actually enjoyable to take, so you are likely to get many more responses with it:

Work out a Flexible and Effective Rewarding Strategy

I have just mentioned perks above and this is something you need to put some thorough thought into.

I am approached by so many companies on a daily basis: they invite me to check their tools out, participate in expert interviews and compete their surveys. Sadly, there are so few companies who actually get the “rewarding” part.

Don’t get me wrong: Not all influencers will insist on being rewarded. Most of them will simply want you to be polite. No one likes being used. Never demand.

That’s why I emphasized being flexible in the heading above. Don’t go to each influencer with the same cookie-cutter approach: Some of the influencers will want to be paid while others will get offended when you offer them a pay. Some possible perks include:

  • Exclusive access to your tool;
  • Free trip to your conference or meetup;
  • The opportunity to get featured together with other prominent niche influencers, etc.

Don’t miss the opportunity to thank your influencers after your campaign is wrapped up. Simply sending out a thank-you card or a branded coupon card can go a long way. It can very cost-effective too. Stock photography can come for free (here’s a good list) and designing a card is easy with sites like Canva.

Remember a proper “Thank you” notice is yet another opportunity to engage those influencers in sharing your brand around. As an example, here’s me sharing Buzzsumo’s gift basket because I was truly surprised and excited:

There will be different rewards for different influencers, so there needs to be a tool that could help you manage the process properly. Salesmate helps organize and scale your influencer onboarding. It lets you clearly see which step of influencer onboarding your managers are at and what works for different influencers in terms if incentives:

Salesmate integrates well with all my favorite apps too, so it’s nice to be able to keep everything under one roof.

Important note: When working on your rewarding strategy, keep in mind the legal aspects of online endorsement. Kerry O’Shea Gorgone gave a solid outline of disclosures influencers should be using when endorsing anyone online:

Learn The Power Of Micro-Influencers

You don’t have to always be looking to get the guy who has a million Twitter followers to promote your brand. How about the gal with 100k? Or that teen blogger who has managed to build a steady ad-revenue through their beauty blog? Influencers come in all sizes, and that is where micro-influencers come in.

They don’t have the reach of the most popular social media mavens, but they have a dedicated audience and are often easier to secure. Plus you can build a relationship with them that goes beyond just marketer/talent.

It all comes down to how engaged their community is rather than how many followers they have managed to build!

Tools like Klear and Twitonomy will help you both discover and analyze the reach of niche (micro-)influencers. They both work for Twitter. Here are more ways to discover influencers beyond Twitter.

You may also want to up your social media engagement by investing in Facebook ads and target your influencers’ followers. You’ll be sure to generate many more leads from your advertising campaign if you incorporate your influencers’ identity (logos, pictures) into your display advertising. Of course, you need to get influencers’ permission first.

Aim Higher: Focus on Building Loyalty

Brand loyalty is always a must, and influencer marketing really helps you to build it. They already have a relationship with their audience, and they are putting you forward as trusted within that relationship.

You are reaching them through someone they already know they can and should listen to. If you can prove to them that trying your brand out was a positive decision then you have a chance to hooking them for life.

Influencer marketing campaign shouldn’t really focus on the actual ROI (conversions or sales). There’s much more to it: The long-term goal should be to build trust which always results in a natural increase in conversions.

Building a brand ambassador program is a natural extension and a goal of an influencer marketing campaign.

Jeff Bullas (speaking of influencers) did an awesome breakdown of how you can use brand ambassadors by utilizing visual content.

Conclusion

There are many different ways that we can market our brands. Conversions are the natural conclusion to those efforts, and so we tend to be tangled up in the bigger picture. Breaking it down into smaller aspects of each campaign we can see where every piece fits into the whole.

Influencer marketing may not be the sandwich, but it is at least the cheese between the slices of meat. It adds something real and effective where that final push was lacking. You can vastly improve your conversion rate with the right influencers driving interest.

Do you have any tips for using influencer marketing to boost conversions? Let us know in the comments!

Influencer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Influencer Marketing Secrets Revealed: Can it Boost Conversions?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Could the Latest in Branding Be Not to Have One?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 08:30

Before spending time and energy branding your next product or service, it may be time to think again.

Brandless is a startup that works with manufacturers to eliminate the extra costs that are often associated with offering branded products. Instead, the company just provides basic products with simple labels that just state what’s in each product. And all of those items cost just $3.

Basically, Brandless is banking on consumers caring less about brand names than things like quality and value. By taking the branding and marketing costs out of the equation, the company can offer these items for less than consumers can find them from most other sources, without compromising quality.

Ready to Go Brandless?

If the company’s hypothesis about consumer priorities proves to be true, it could have a major impact on small businesses. Consider all of the money businesses spend on branding campaigns and how that money could go toward offering more value to consumers.

Of course, there may still be plenty of shoppers who equate recognizable brand names with quality. So you’ll have to carefully consider your products and target customers before opting for an un-branded approach. But this trend could certainly be something for businesses of all sizes to watch.

Image: Brandless

This article, "Could the Latest in Branding Be Not to Have One?" was first published on Small Business Trends

What’s the Dirty Word in Your Business?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 07:30

As a business owner, are you focused on how much money everyone is spending in your business? Or do you focus instead on how much profit you‘re going to make? Unfortunately too many small business owners focus too much time and effort on how much money is being spent and not nearly enough time figuring out how to make more money (i.e. Profit). It‘s more of a poverty vs. abundance mindset. Why not be a little different and focus on abundance vs. poverty as a small business owner?

There is a dirty word that surfaces for small business owners from time-to-time, which typically causes them to feel ill and break into cold sweats. BUDGETS. Nobody really wants one or frankly ever asks for one. It has a punitive, I‘ve just got called down to the Principal‘s office, feel to it. Budgets are constraining and inhibiting to growth and sustainability. A more energizing and productive path to take is developing a Profit Plan. This way you‘ll be able to focus on achieving profits vs. not spending yourself out of business.

Focus on Your Profit Plan, Not Your Budget

I used to be a pretty decent golfer with a low single digit handicap. There are lots of great analogies between golf and business. One of the main ones we focus on as business coaches is that both business and golf can get unnecessarily complicated. Anyone who has taken a few golf lessons can tell you that. You can get so focused on the proper mechanics of your swing that you forget how to hit the ball. And it stops being fun and starts feeling like work! I learned early on that the best thing to do with my golf swing was to keep things simple. Boil it down to one or two swing thoughts as I was addressing the ball and then forget everything else.

It helps to have the same kind of focus in business so things don‘t get overly complicated and it stops being fun. For small business owners, developing and executing a successful Profit Plan is essential to set the stage for making money on purpose. Start simple by asking yourself:

  1. What do I want my company’s sales to be for the coming year?
  2. How much do I want in profit/net income/the bottom line?

Those two numbers should be the key focus (i.e. swing thought) for you and your team. That way, everyone is focused on how you are going to make those sales and profit goals a reality. No confusion, no complexity.

Too many folks are directed to focus on a budget instead of a Profit Plan and what happens is they often lose sight of sales and profit goals and focus solely on the spending and expenses. Remember that the “score card“ in business is not how little you spend, but how much profit you‘re able to make. So be sure to focus on profit and not simply spending.

Chart Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What’s the Dirty Word in Your Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Late 70s and Early 80s Was a Difficult Time for the Firm

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 06:30

This cartoon is basically just a play on words. You see “Founded” on signs a lot followed by a year, so adding “Dumbfounded” and some additional years isn’t a huge stretch. The trick for me on this one was, as usual, the details.

Which years would be dumbfounding? Was it early on in the business? Some sort of later issue? How long did it last? Which years sound funniest? Should it be an even or odd number of years?

I wish I could say there’s some sort of cartoon calculus to offer some answers, but mostly you just feel it out. (Which is good because I’m bad at math.)

This article, "The Late 70s and Early 80s Was a Difficult Time for the Firm" was first published on Small Business Trends

Explore These 3 Approaches to Create Your Own Pension Fund

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-07-21 05:00

Like flip phones and floppy disks, pensions are largely a thing of the past.

According to an analysis from global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson, the percentage of Fortune 500 employers offering a defined benefit pension plan to new hires dropped from roughly 50 percent in 1998 to just 5 percent in 2015.

Today’s workers are more often offered a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k). The difference is evident in the name: A defined contribution plan lets employers and employees contribute to an investment account. A defined benefit plan promises employees a set benefit at retirement and puts the responsibility of providing that benefit — including the investment risk — on the employer.

Create Your Own Pension Fund

It’s easy to see why people without pensions are envious of older generations. But it’s still possible to create pension-like income on your own. Here’s how.

Consider an Immediate Annuity

With an immediate annuity, you give an insurance company a lump sum and receive monthly payments for life. The amount of those payments depends on a few factors, including the size of the lump sum, your age and interest rates.

These annuities can address the fear that your money will dry up, but they aren’t for everyone, says Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner and blogger at WealthPilgrim.com. “The No. 1 problem is that you give up access to that money. If you die tomorrow, it goes away.”

You can structure the annuity so that if you die before receiving an amount equal to the lump sum, the balance goes to your beneficiaries — but electing that option will lower the amount you get each month.

Keep Some Stocks; Start an Income Plan

Some believe that it’s best to invest in stocks only preretirement; post-retirement, it’s all about bonds and fixed income. In reality, shunning equities after you’ve stopped working might be one of the quickest ways to run out of money. You need your money to continue to grow in retirement, and stocks provide that growth.

Once you have a properly allocated portfolio, you can work with a financial advisor to create an income plan that details how you’ll approach withdrawals.

A tip from Frankle: Ask to receive monthly distributions. “It’s only natural that when people get to the stage of not getting a paycheck, it’s scary. Rather than setting up a once-a-year withdrawal, set it up so it’s almost like a paycheck.”

Monthly distributions also make it less likely that you’ll pull more than you need from a 401(k) or an individual retirement account. It can be hard to return unused money due to the contribution limits on those accounts.

Bank on Your Home

If you own your home, you can use a reverse mortgage to take advantage of the equity you’ve built. These mortgages allow you to stay in your home and convert that equity into a stream of monthly payments. As long as you remain in the home, you don’t have to pay back the loan. If you move, sell it or die, the loan is typically repaid from your estate or the proceeds of the sale.

These loans have historically gotten a bad rap due to high costs and variable interest rates, but in recent years, they’ve grown better in these respects. Still — like immediate annuities — they’re not the right choice for everyone. Before you consider one, Frankle suggests another option: downsizing.

“If you need a reverse mortgage, chances are very good you’re living beyond your means, and you’re spending more than is coming in,” he says. “A reverse mortgage doesn’t solve that core problem. Many people would be better off downsizing and reducing expenses.”

Downsizing might not give you additional income, but it does make more of your income available for other expenses.

Piggy Bank Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Explore These 3 Approaches to Create Your Own Pension Fund" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Ways to Provide Exceptional Customer Service in eCommerce

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-07-19 17:30

Since shopping online implies there is no personal interaction with a sales person, many customers grow frustrated if they encounter issues with the website or an order. To make matters worse, lots of online businesses fail when it comes to customer service by offering slow, delayed responses — or not offering them at all. Poor customer service can drive customers away faster than anything else. In fact, 3 out of 5 customers have not completed a purchase due to poor service.

eCommerce Customer Service Ideas

Providing stellar customer service with your e-commerce business can do wonders to make your company stand out amongst the competition. This process is not always simple, but it can mean a world of difference when it comes to sales. Here are 5 ecommerce customer service ideas to consider.

1. Have an Easy-to-Understand Return Policy

One major concern many online customers have is the hassle of returning a product. Since anywhere from 15-30% of online purchases are returned, having a clear return policy for your online business is extremely important. Writing out detailed instructions, of which are listed multiple times on your site or in emails, assures customers they can purchase with confidence.

Be sure to clearly state if you provide a full refund, partial refund, or offer store credit. You may also want to consider extending your return window, or even offering a lifetime guarantee. Offering easy and free returns influences 68% of online purchases, so you want to make the entire process as simple as possible for your customers.

Purple, an online mattress company, offers an excellent example of a well-defined return system. Their site lists out details for each product, from bed sheets to mattresses, and clearly states which returns will be refunded and which will not. If customers have further questions or concerns, Purple also includes their return department’s email address and phone number so customers can contact a customer service representative directly.

2. Personalize Each Experience

Online customers crave a more personalized buying experience. In fact, over 70% of American consumers expect personalization from online businesses. Personalization can include offering customers personal shopping account logins that record past purchases, shipping addresses, and suggest related items for their next order. One easy way to offer some personalization is by using marketing automation to send out triggered emails with special offers tailored the past shopping behavior of each customer.

Personalized shopping can take many forms. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it. More importantly, use personalization to address customer concerns in shopping online vs. at a physical store near them. For example, Bluestone, an online jewelry company, found a unique way to bring their brand experience to the next level. Customers can set up an appointment online and a consultant will come directly to their homes, allowing them to try on the jewelry in the comfort of their own home.

This “try before you buy” service gives customers some peace of mind (especially before making an expensive purchase) as well as provides a personalized shopping experience by allowing the customer to choose which pieces to view. The company even offers a “design your own” feature for rings, earrings, and necklaces – providing a truly personal experience for each customer.

3. Ask for Feedback

As the great musician Stevie Wonder once said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Customers are not very likely to leave a review, especially a positive one, if you do not ask. Sending out a follow-up email asking customers to rate their experience or to write a short review increases the likelihood they will leave feedback. Make sure you include their comments on your site or social media; as customer reviews play a major role in purchase decisions.

Take the instance of an online purchase for an air vent cover for a HVAC. Unless the item or purchase experience was exceptionally wonderful (or terrible), it’s highly unlikely for such a product to receive a review. However, one company sent out a follow up email to its Amazon customers with links that made it easy for the purchaser to leave a quick comment and rate their experience:

4. Provide Live Chat

Having a live-chat option can increase customer satisfaction by leaps and bounds. Plus, it’s an easy way to answer questions and concerns instantly. Rather than waiting for an email response, customers can receive assistance right away, which means they are less likely to leave your website without purchasing.

Outsourcing an online chat service is a great strategy, especially for smaller online businesses who can’t afford to hire round-the-clock customer service reps. Sites like Influx will handle online chats 24/7 for your e-commerce business and provide peace of mind for you and your customers.

5. Provide Service via Social Media

Customer service via social media is expected by e-commerce customers today, and they want responses instantly. Many customers use social media because it’s easy for them to find a business and contact them directly.

There are, however, some downsides to using social media for this purpose. The big one being lack of privacy. Many companies reply to concerns with a link to their customer service page or respond with a private message.

Determine which of your social media platforms has the largest number of followers or activity, then promote your support services there. You can use social media monitoring tools to alert you when your brand is talked about online so you can respond to inquiries quickly.

Final Thoughts

Providing a remarkable customer service experience from your e-commerce business gives your company an impressive competitive advantage. Focus on making the whole buying experience easy and personal for your customers throughout your site. Clearly list return and exchange instructions, and ask customers to review their experience to help your business improve and attract new audiences. Most importantly, don’t shy away from thinking outside the box!

Ecommerce Business Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Ways to Provide Exceptional Customer Service in eCommerce" was first published on Small Business Trends

Looking for a Great Business Idea? Start a Virtual Reality Arcade

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-07-19 15:30

Looking for a unique new business idea? Consider starting a virtual reality arcade.

That’s right — arcade businesses no longer need to consist only of video games from the 80’s and cheesy prizes. There are already businesses around the world that are integrating this new technology into their offerings.

Take the case of Playdium Virtual Reality arcade in Causway Bay, Hong Kong. It’s located directly above Razer’s Hong Kong store and is decked out with all of the latest VR equipment. There’s even a virtual boxing ring that offers a workout akin to an afternoon at the gym.

Basically, this new technology offers businesses an opportunity to update an old concept. Most people consider arcades to be fun places to visit. But if all you have is a standard assortment of old games, there’s nothing to set yours apart from all the rest.

So instead, you could invest in some VR equipment and offer games and experiences that work with the technology. You could even have customers choose the experiences they want, like a boxing ring, racing game or even a flight simulator.

The possibilities are only increasing when it comes to virtual reality. And businesses that take advantage of those new opportunities could find a lot of early success.

Image: Playdium

This article, "Looking for a Great Business Idea? Start a Virtual Reality Arcade" was first published on Small Business Trends