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Shopify Introduces Shopcodes, QR Codes Connected Directly to eCommerce Items

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-09-17 18:00

The easier you make the checkout process for customers when they shop online, the more they are likely to buy from you — or so the people at Shopify believe. Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) recently introduced Shopcodes, a service taking customers to a product or cart in your Shopify store when they scan a QR code.

The choice to use QR code is in great part driven by Apple’s decision to finally add QR reading to its camera in June of 2017. Apple’s influence in the mobile segment is undeniable, and the company’s decision has prompted marketing platforms for brands, companies and developers to do the same.

Shopify took  a similar path, and with Shopify Shopcodes it wants to make mobile shopping much easier than before. What makes it different is the QR codes can only be generated within Shopify stores, and they are only used for shopping.

Creating and Using Shopify Shopcodes

Creating the QR codes is as simple as downloading the app and going to the dashboard in Shopify. When you create the code, you can customize it with links to a product’s page or the shopping cart page.

You can add discounts to the Shopcodes or make changes through the app dashboard with additional information or promotions. And each transaction can be tracked through your Shopify Analytics dashboard to see where the traffic and sales are coming from.

Once the codes are created, they can be used in the digital or physical world. You can download the codes, print them and place them on products, offline ads, or windows in your brick and mortar store. When customers scan them, they can find out more about your store, products or be directed to your Shopify store.

Shopcode is one more tool to make your small business more accessible to your customers. In highlighting one of its features, Corey Pollock, Product Manager at Shopify, said on the company blog, “Instead of manually typing in your website’s URL on their mobile devices, shoppers can be taken directly to the product in your Shopify store instantly.”

If you are a Shopify merchant, you can get the Shopcodes app for free through the Shopify App Store.

Image: Shopify

This article, "Shopify Introduces Shopcodes, QR Codes Connected Directly to eCommerce Items" was first published on Small Business Trends

City Tries to Improve Community with Small Business Training Program

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-09-17 15:00

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts is putting an emphasis on supporting its small business community with a new executive training program called RiseUp Springfield.

Riseup Springfield Small Business Training Program

The program, which is a collaboration between the City of Springfield, the Association of Black Business and Professionals and the city’s Chamber of Commerce, consists of courses held at the University of Massachusetts center in Springfield. The training program will offer knowledge, tools and networking opportunities to help small business owners support and grow their businesses.

Business owners don’t need a degree to participate in the program. But there are some basic eligibility requirements. For example, businesses must be located within the city of Springfield, must have an annual revenue of between $150,000 and $10 million, must be in at least the third year of business ownership and have at least one other full-time employee besides the owner or owners.

The city and its organizations take the growth of small businesses so seriously because of the huge impact these businesses can have on the local economy.

Chairman of the Association of Black Business and Professionals, Robert Jones, explained to 22News, “They tend to hire locally, and if you’re hiring somebody locally, and if you’re giving them an opportunity to earn an income to support their family, everybody benefits from that. The business, the families, thus, the communities.”

The program offers a great example of a city supporting its small business community. Training and education can provide small business owners with a major boost. But it’s not always easily attainable.

So if successful, RiseUp Springfield should increase the chances of its local small businesses growing enough to hire more employees, spend more capital locally and grow and sustain the local economy.

Springfield Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "City Tries to Improve Community with Small Business Training Program" was first published on Small Business Trends

Franchise Businesses Expected to Grow Faster Than the Economy This Year

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-09-17 12:00

Eighty percent of franchisors, 64 percent of franchisees, and 76 percent of suppliers expect their business to do better in the next 12 months. This is according to the Franchise Business Economic Outlook Report released by the International Franchise Association.

Franchise Business Economic Outlook for 2017

Prepared by IHS Markit Economics for the International Franchise Association’s Franchise Education and Research Foundation, the report goes on to say franchise businesses are expected to grow faster than the economy in 2017.

Why the Positive Outlook?

In assessing the indicators driving the positive outlook for franchises, IHS highlighted several points. It is basing the growth on solid gains in consumer spending, residential investment, business fixed investment and exports.

Consumer spending, which franchises rely on, is projected to increase by 2.6 to 2.7 percent annual rates during the final two quarters of 2017. This is based on increases in household finances with gains in employment, real incomes, stock prices and home values.

The public sector is also going to play a role with the release of federal funds for surface transportation projects as well as defense and security. 

Challenges

The biggest concerns for franchisees are joint employer, tax reform, minimum wage, and health care costs.

A joint employer ruling was enacted during the Obama administration, and the ruling was particularly burdensome for small businesses. But the Labor Department rescinded the ruling under the Trump administration, and the Save Local Business Act is gaining traction with bipartisan support.

Robert Cresanti, International Franchise Association President and CEO, is positive about the Trump administration as it applies to businesses. Cresanti said in a release, “We’ve seen positive steps toward a more business friendly environment, such as rolling back unnecessary regulations, but there is still much work to be done. With a burdensome tax code and a confusing joint employer standard, franchise businesses are still competing with one arm tied behind our back.” 

Additional Data Points from the Report

The number of franchises is set to increase to 745,000 in 2017, an increase of 1.6 percent or close to 12,000 new establishments. This of course will increase the employment rate, growing the sector by 3.1 percent, which is much better than the 1.7 percent of total private nonfarm employment.

In terms of monetary output, franchises will generate $711 billion in nominal dollars, an increase of 5.3 percent in 2017.

Franchise businesses across 10 broad business lines were surveyed. Commercial and Residential Services is expected to grow at 3.0 percent, while personal businesses will experience even higher at 6.1 percent.

Franchise growth also varies according to region, but the top five States in the survey were, Utah, Florida, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin with growth of 7.6, 7.0, 7.0, 6.7, and 6.5 percent respectively.

Entrepreneur Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Franchise Businesses Expected to Grow Faster Than the Economy This Year" was first published on Small Business Trends

Eyes Wide Open: Empowering Tips From a Blind Businessman

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-09-17 09:00

Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly offers a new way of seeing in business. The book was written by a man who needed to learn to “see” in new ways — literally. The brain doesn’t just record what people observe. It actively serves as director, commentator and producer of what they see. Author Isaac Lidsky didn’t appreciate this lesson until he received a rare medical diagnosis that altered his entire life. He was going blind. As Lidsky struggled to understand and live with blindness, he developed a new vision for his life. This vision, something he calls “eyes wide open”, is about breaking free of the “blind spots” in your own life.

What is Eyes Wide Open About?

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.”
– Helen Keller

As Lidsky shares in Eyes Wide Open, people take sight for granted. They naively assume that the world they see is an objective “fact”. They assume their boss’ request for a meeting means they’re getting fired or a coworker who ignores them was trying to be rude. They don’t accept that what they “see” is a feature of their brains, not just their eyes. Scientific experiments, however, demonstrate there is more to “sight” than the light that hits the retinas. It involves what people think they see. This subjective view of their vision is something few of them take the time to realize.

Eyes Wide Open shares how Lidsky learned this lesson. As a veteran child actor, Lidsky, landed a once-in-a-lifetime gig as “Weasel” on the TV show “Saved by the Bell: The New Class”. Life was good. He was in every teen magazine and was doing the TV promo rounds.  Then, Lidsky received the news that would alter his entire life. He had retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that leads to progressive blindness.

At first, Lidsky held on to simple hope in a cure or at least, a delay. Doctors didn’t know when his blindness would happen, so he ignored it. Then one day, he couldn’t hide anymore. Lidsky grappled with his new diagnosis for a while until he realized he had two choices. He could remain paralyzed by debilitating fear of his blindness or he could create a new vision for a new life.

Slowly, but surely, he decided to create a new vision for himself. When he chose a new vision, his life changed beyond what he could have imagined. This “vision” is what Lidsky wants readers to “see”. Your reality isn’t some objective “out there”. It starts within you. By changing your focus on what you “see”, you change what you believe. By changing what you believe, you create a whole new possibility for your life. You live with your eyes “wide open”

Lidsky, who played “Weasel” in “Saved By the Bell: The New Class” is a Harvard alum who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in math and computer science. Lidsky went on to become a law clerk for Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Ginsberg. He also started two companies, one which he sold for over $200 million. The other company, ODC Construction, was a struggling construction company later exceeding $70 million with his help. Lidsky also founded Hope for Vision, a non-profit for visually-impaired diseases.

What Was Best About Eyes Wide Open?

First of all, Lidsky’s entire book and life story are pure inspiration.

Second, Lidsky has a unique way of sharing his insights in an eclectic way. Unlike other self-help books which give straightforward biography with occasional insights, Lidsky prefers a different approach. In Eyes Wide Open, he presents a scene from his life and then dissects it and liberally peppers the book with these insights.  It’s like a TEDx, lecture hall event, and story time all wrapped into one. This makes Eyes Wide Open a fascinating read.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Eyes Wide Open isn’t focused on quick application. Readers will not find any bullet points, 10-step guides to success, or anything like it. Instead, readers will find a conversation with an inspirational man who practices the message he wants others to follow. Lidsky wants readers to think deeply about his words instead of  self-development “hacks”.

Why Read Eyes Wide Open?

Lidsky’s background spans many areas of expertise: entertainment, legal, business and now public speaking. The fact he was able to develop and refine his “eyes wide open” philosophy while working in all these careers suggests its adaptability. While he discusses the same topics as many self-help gurus might, Lidsky takes things from a different perspective.

Many self-help books focus on inspiring or motivating you to seize the day. Eyes Wide Open agrees with this philosophy. Lidsky might add that you need to address your perceptions first. If you don’t reflect and test your assumptions about life, you will remain in a self-fulfilling loop. That is great when things go well, but it hurts when things go wrong. If you or someone you know feels trapped in an uncomfortable circumstance, Eyes Wide Open can open your mind to transforming the way you view that obstacle.

This article, "Eyes Wide Open: Empowering Tips From a Blind Businessman" was first published on Small Business Trends

Explore Franchise Ownership Opportunities at Upcoming Event

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-09-16 13:30

Buying a franchise offers a great option for those looking for a proven and straightforward way to break into the world of business ownership.

For those looking to explore the possibilities of franchise ownership in northern California, an upcoming event can present you with all the necessary information and connections you need to get started. The Northern CA Franchise Business Expo is scheduled for September 26 in Palo Alto.

There, you can meet face to face with select franchisors who are expanding in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with other specialists who can help you get the resources you need to succeed.

You can learn more about this event and others in the Featured Events section and the full events 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

Northern CA Franchise Business Expo
September 26, 2017, Palo Alto, Calif.

Exclusive opportunity to meet face to face with select franchisors expanding in the San Francisco Bay Area, funding specialist, gov’t agencies, and other resources to help you embark in your entrepreneurial journey! Sponsored by Silicon Valley SCORE.

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

IMD 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. #InfluencerDays
Discount Code
SBT15 (Save 15% on conference passes with code SBT15.)

ONTRApalooza
October 04, 2017, Santa Barbara, Calif.

ONTRApalooza is a three-day conference for entrepreneurs, marketers and business leaders packed to the brim with hands-on workshops, in-depth software sessions, and inspiring keynotes from leading experts. Join in on Oct. 4 – 6, 2017 to learn the strategies that are getting results now. Leave prepared to make a bigger impact.

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.

Choose a Franchise Image Via Shutterstock

This article, "Explore Franchise Ownership Opportunities at Upcoming Event" was first published on Small Business Trends

Cracking the Freelancer and Contractor Code – and Other Small Business Secrets

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-09-16 12:00

Running a business totally on your own can be a tall task. But you don’t necessarily have to hire traditional employees in order to get some help running your business. There are plenty of other options out there today, ranging from freelancers and contractors to AI tools and voice assistants. Learn more about these different methods from members of the online small business community by checking out the tips below.

Learn the Difference Between Employees and Independent Contractors

Today’s businesses have more options than ever when it comes to building a team. You can go the traditional route or outsource some of your operations to independent contractors. But it’s important that you understand the difference so you can make the best choice for your business. Bradley Stockwell of Merchant Capital Source offers a brief explanation here.

Consider Hiring a Marketing Freelancer

Want to really kickstart your marketing? Hiring a freelancer that specializes in marketing can give you a huge boost. In this DIY Marketers post, Will Zimmerman explains how to go about hiring a marketing freelancer and how doing so can benefit your business.

Dodge Small Business Burnout

Running a small business is hard work. And all that hard work can sometimes lead to burnout. That’s why you need to carefully manage your workload and your team. Get more tips for avoiding burnout in this Biz Epic post by Stacy Montes.

Work Through Your Stress

In addition, you’ll likely run into plenty of stressful situations in business. So it’s important for you to find ways to work through those situations. Rachel Strella offers some tips in this Strella Social Media post. And you can see commentary on the post over on BizSugar.

Put Personal Assistants to Work for Your Business

A few years ago, you’d need to actually hire someone if you wanted a personal assistant. Now, there are plenty of tech devices that can serve that purpose. But the advent of those devices can have an impact on business. In this Marketing Land post, Eric Enge explains what you need to know about this growing trend.

Use AI Tools for Your eCommerce Brand

If you have an ecommerce business, help can also come in the form of artificial intelligence. This Digital Current post by Sam Hurley includes insights into how and why you should use AI tools to support your ecommerce brand. And you can see what BizSugar members have to say about the post here.

Consider Using a Registered Agent

Registered agents are service agents that can accept certain legal documents and government notices on behalf of businesses. Having one can help you understand some of the requirements and ensure legal documents are responded to. Nellie Akalp of CorpNet elaborates in this post.

Create a Resource Center That Attracts Links

In order to attract website traffic, you’ll need other websites to link to yours. That means you have to offer content or information that’s strong enough to convince others to link to your website. In this Search Engine Journal post, Chuck Price outlines how you can create a resource center that attracts genuine links.

Learn the Difference Between a Small Business and a Startup

Just because you own a small business, it doesn’t mean you own a startup. In this Kexino post, Gee Ranasinha explains the difference between the two and why it should matter to your business. And BizSugar members share input on the post here.

Check Out These Winning Content Marketing Examples

Sometimes the best help you can get for your business is through looking to other companies for inspiration and examples of great work. So if you’re looking to improve your content marketing, check out the examples in this Content Marketing Institute post by Stephanie Stahl.

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.

Secrets Image via Shutterstock

This article, "Cracking the Freelancer and Contractor Code – and Other Small Business Secrets" was first published on Small Business Trends

California Considers 12 Week Leave for Small Business Employees

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-09-16 09:30

California is currently considering a bill that would require some small businesses to offer 12 weeks of maternity and paternity leave for employees.

Up for Consideration: New Parental Leave Law in California

The New Parent Leave Act would apply to small businesses that have 20 employees or more. If passed into law, it would require those employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for new parents. Currently, this requirement only applies to businesses with 50 employees or more.

The bill has already passed in the Senate and is currently waiting for the Governor’s signature. Governor Jerry Brown has until October 15 to sign or veto the bill. Brown had vetoed a similar bill in the past, but has since worked with lawmakers to make changes to limit potential harm to small businesses.

Of course, most small businesses would love to provide employees with this type of leave. But for some businesses with small teams, losing essential employees for that much time can make things challenging. Since the bill doesn’t require businesses to provide paid leave, it’s not an issue of actual dollars. But if you’re down an employee for that long, it can still make an impact on what your business is able to accomplish. And hiring temporary employees isn’t always a viable option if it’s a specialized position.

Additionally, this bill is essentially an extension of existing requirements being extended to even smaller businesses. So if that trend continues, it could potentially have even more of an impact if the law is ever extended to include businesses with even fewer than 20 employees.

Experts have argued both the pros and cons of this proposed bill. And of course, there are major potential benefits for families and workers. But small businesses might be forced to make some major adjustments to stay afloat.

Gov. Jerry Brown, California Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "California Considers 12 Week Leave for Small Business Employees" was first published on Small Business Trends

Are You Underestimating Your Mobile Marketing Potential?

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-09-16 07:00

Mobile apps and ads only scratch the surface of the future of mobile marketing. For businesses that are ready to exploit that potential, Mobile Marketing: How Mobile Technology is Revolutionizing Marketing, Communications and Advertising, written by expert Daniel Rowles, provides an interesting sneak peak. Along with that sneak peak, “Mobile Marketing” offers strategies for businesses to capitalize on the trends changing the way we interact with screens of every type.

What is Mobile Marketing About?

“Mobile is not a channel like social media, outdoor advertising or search; it is something that impacts all of the other marketing channels, both online and offline.”
Mobile Marketing

The primary purpose of Mobile Marketing is to break mobile marketing out of its current narrow scope. Rowles’ vision is to help business owners and marketers think bigger. As explored in the book, smart mobile marketing is more than creating a mobile version of your website, an app, getting users signed up to receive a text message, or creating a mobile ad. It includes strategies and tools such as beacons, IM chatbots, virtual reality, mobile search, near-field communications (NFC), and more. Many businesses still hold a narrow view of mobile marketing.

This change in technology will only be useful if marketers can work in a multi-screen and multi-device world. Right now, businesses focus their attention on one screen at a time, the phone (and related devices like the tablet) or the computer. This world view will need to change as the world continues to develop more devices that can access the internet (“smart appliances”, WiFi enabled TV, personal data assistants and more. Businesses will also need to know how to integrate more “off the internet” activities into their marketing efforts. As Rowles points out, consumers don’t often pass neatly through the marketing funnel one stage at a time. Before those customers visit your site on their smartphones, they might check out your website on their laptops, ask friends, write down some information, lose the information and then decide to order your product only after forgetting to buy a holiday gift. Marketers currently don’t have a way to seamlessly combine these experiences yet, although progress is steadily being made.

Marketers don’t, however, need to wait until the right technology comes along. They can get started today with strategies that integrate as much of the marketing funnel as possible. Mobile Marketing shares this information in its “Digital Toolkit” and checklists in the second and third parts of the book. This toolkit and the accompanying checklists help readers test their current mobile marketing practices and refine them so they can develop processes that profit, instead of run from, the unpredictable future of marketing in a multi-screen and multi-device world.

Rowles is a digital marketing trainer, lecturer, author, Course Director of the Chartered Institute of Management, host of the Digital Marketing Podcast, and the CEO of Target Internet. A previous edition of the book Mobile Marketing was selected as a winner of the 2014 Small Business Trends Book Awards in the “Social Media” category.

What Was Best About Mobile Marketing?

Mobile Marketing provides an excellent overview of the technology and psychology of the mobile marketing field. The book provides detailed insight into key areas of the mobile marketing process including Google Analytics, technology, advertising and SMS marketing. These areas are rarely combined in the same book which already makes this source more comprehensive. Rowles takes it a step further by offering strategies and recommendations on how business can leverage options from the future of marketing.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Mobile Marketing offers incredible insight into the mobile marketing industry. This insight requires some familiarity with mobile marketing. This book won’t take you from a newbie to a marketing guru. Mobile Marketing assumes readers are familiar with tools and strategies like Google Analytics dashboards and email list segmentation. It also assumes readers are more interested in the overall picture of mobile marketing a opposed to looking for a quick “create an app and get rich” scheme.

Why Read Mobile Marketing?

Mobile Marketing offers a much-needed integrated perspective of the field of mobile marketing. Many marketing books remain focused on one device or strategy. While this can be helpful for in-depth knowledge, it doesn’t provide the kind of comprehensive knowledge that marketers will need to thrive in the complex marketing world of the future. It focuses on the future of mobile marketing where every screen (not just phones) offers opportunities for marketers to build and grow their businesses. If you are looking for a book that can demonstrate what this future-oriented perspective might look like, this book is definitely something you should consider reading.

This article, "Are You Underestimating Your Mobile Marketing Potential?" was first published on Small Business Trends

[POLL] What’s Your Go-To Small Business Funding Source?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 15:30

In the recently released Small Business Trends Magazine Finance Edition, the focus is on small business loans and other funding options.

It’s an important issue! When you’re seeking to start a new business or expanding an existing one, it often takes money. And that includes money you currently don’t have.

Where Do You Go When Seeking Money To Expand Or Start a New Venture?

Yes, in an ideal world, you might have existing funds from retiring after long-time employment, a large savings account or money from selling a previous venture.

But realistically, this isn’t always going to be the case. And you don’t want your next great business idea to be held up by a lack of cash.

What’s Your Go-To Small Business Funding Source?

So when you need money to start your next business or perhaps expand an existing business into a new market, where do you turn?

Let us know in the poll below.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Checking Finances Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "[POLL] What’s Your Go-To Small Business Funding Source?" was first published on Small Business Trends

New Security Features from HP, iPhones Unveiled This Week

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 13:30

The tools you choose to support your small business can make a huge difference in your daily operations. And thanks to constant tech advances, those tools are getting better and better. This week, HP, Apple and T-Mobile all announced new solutions and upgrades that can help small businesses improve operations. Read more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends HP Focuses on Connectivity and Security for Small Business Printing Upgrades

Remote work is now a reality for small and large businesses alike, and HP (NYSE:HPQ) has introduced new solutions and printers to support this workforce. The HP Roam and HP Connection Inspector security features have been developed to address remote printing, collaboration and mobility. And A3 business printers and scanners introduced in 2016 have been expanded.

Apple’s New iPhones Add Security, Imaging and Other Features Important to Small Business Users

Now your iPhone unlocks when you stare at it and charges up without plugged in. In fact, the three new iPhones introduced Sept. 12 include security, imaging and other features that might just make them perfect for small business users.

T-Mobile Launches SyncUp FLEET for Small Business Vehicle Management

T-Mobile (NYSE:PCS) has announced the addition of SyncUP FLEET to its SyncUP family of Internet of Things (IoT) products. The new service is going to give small and large businesses a fleet management solution with the company’s “un-carrier” pricing and contract philosophy.

Avast Targets Small Businesses with Cyber Security Packages

The new Avast Business solutions portfolio is addressing small businesses by simplifying and optimizing security to ensure business continuity and decrease downtime. The new offering has come as part of Avast’s $1.3 billion acquisition of AVG in 2016. This gave the company a more robust threat detection technology and infrastructure.

Constant Contact Launches Shopify App for eCommerce Entrepreneurs

Constant Contact (NASDAQ:CTCT) is coming together with Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) so you can increase your online sales by sending targeted marketing emails and managing your customer data with a new app. According to eMarketer, the retail ecommerce market is going to total $2.290 trillion in 2017, which is an increase of 23.7 percent for the year.

Small Business Collaboration Favorite Google Drive Desktop is Being Replaced

The Google Drive desktop app for Mac and PC is going to stop working on March 12, 2018, with support ending on December 11, 2017. Before those deadlines get here, Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has launched replacements called Backup and Sync and Drive File Stream, which it is making available for G Suite customers.

Microsoft and Adobe Partner to Offer Small Businesses e-Signature and Team Communications

In September of 2016 Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) CEO Shantanu Narayen announced a partnership in the Azure cloud environment. The goal was to help businesses transform customer engagement. Almost one year later, they have expanded the partnership to include e-signatures and team communications.

Economy 72 Present of Small Business Owners Feel Overwhelmed (INFOGRAPHIC)

Small business owners have too much to do in too little time. Not surprisingly, a majority of them (72 percent) feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities. That’s according to a new survey by management consulting company The Alternative Board. Data from the survey has been turned into an infographic by the National Federation of Independent Business.

Small Business Owners Are Optimistic — and in a Spending Mood, Report Says

Small business optimism is at a post-recession high, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’s August Small Business Economic Trends Report. NFIB Small Business Optimism Index August 2017 More specifically, the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose by 0.1 points in August to a total of 105.3, which is the highest it’s been since 2006.

Expert Tells House Committee Small Businesses Need Their Own Regulations

Small businesses need their own regulations. That was the sentiment shared by Phillip K. Howard, founder of the non-profit organization Common Good, at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee recently. His argument, in general, states that overly complicated regulations place a huge burden on small businesses.

Employment Covered California Could Be a Model for Small Business Health Coverage

Covered California, the state’s public health exchange, seems to be stabilizing the health care market in California, even as similar programs in the rest of the country seem to be floundering. For this reason, the program could serve as a model for the rest of the nation — and for the small business sector in particular.

Where Does HR Software Fit in with Your Small Business? This Free e-Book from HRdirect Smart Apps has the Answers

Trying to decide what kind of HR software your small business needs? Maybe you’re trying to decide if a business as small as yours really needs HR software at all. Those may have been valid questions back when only a few options existed and all were insanely expensive. Today, however, that’s no longer the case.

Finance Concur Hipmunk Helps Small Businesses Manage Travel Expenses

Concur Hipmunk has announced a new lightweight travel and expense solution for small businesses. Built on top of the technology from Hipmunk, Concur Expense, and TripLink, it will provide access and visibility with basic tools for managing travel programs. Businesses using cloud-based travel and expense platforms spend less time on travel planning and creating expense reports.

Fintech Opens Opportunities for Small Business Lenders – and Borrowers

Small business lenders have unprecedented opportunities ahead of them, according to Rohit Arora, the CEO of Biz2Credit. The only thing is, not all lenders are positioned to seize these opportunities. The ones that are, says Arora, are the lenders that understand two things. “They understand the changing expectations of today’s borrowers.

Another Kind of Tax Reform, New York FINALLY Poised to Roll Back Commercial Rent Surcharge

New York City Council is considering making cuts to the city’s commercial rent tax. The tax consists of a 3.9 percent surcharge on annual rents of more than $250,000 for stores and select businesses located south of 96th Street in Manhattan.

Marketing Tips Tips to Become an Authority Through Content Marketing

Want to become an authority in your industry? Content marketing can help you achieve just that. But you can’t expect to just write up a blog post or two and suddenly become a trusted influencer. It takes time and a carefully planned strategy in order to really build up authority.

Retail Trends Bikini Themed Coffee Business Sues Over City “Dress Code”

A new set of ordinances in Everett, Washington has led to a lawsuit from “Hillbilly Hotties,” a chain of coffee stands in the area. The new ordinances serve as a sort of dress code for workers at cafes and quick service restaurants, stating that employees must wear at least tank tops and shorts. The measure includes some more specific descriptions about what skin must be covered up.

Retail Sales Chill as Summer Comes to an End

As summer ends, retail sales are falling, according to in-store analytics firm RetailNext. The company recently published its latest Retail Performance Pulse report, providing a detailed analysis of how physical stores performed in August 2017. The report found sales had significantly dropped during the month.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Bubbakoo’s Burritos Founders Met While Working for Another Restaurant Chain

Business opportunities can come from unlikely places. In the case of Bubbakoo’s Burritos, the founders met while working at another restaurant chain before they got the idea to team up and start their very own business. You can read more about the business, how it got started and how it has grown below in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations Xero Increases Focus on Small Business with Four New Tools

Xero (NZE:XRO) just unveiled four new products this week, increasing its focus on creating a more well-rounded selection of tools for small businesses.

Your Small Business Can Now Add Guests to Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams now lets you invite guests to all Office 365 commercial and educational accounts. What this means for your small businesses is you can add people from outside of your company to your team so they can collaborate no matter where they are.

1 in 5 Small Businesses Lack HR Confidence

A staggering one in five small businesses lack confidence in various aspects of human resources. These were the findings from the latest Paychex Small Business Survey.  The survey polled 250 principals of businesses in the US with 2 to 500 employees.

17 Percent of Small Business Employees Never Get Workplace Safety Training

Your employees consider their safety at work a top priority. And they want to know that you’re taking it seriously, too. But a new survey from small business insurer Employers finds that a surprising number of small business employees never get any workplace safety training. And the smaller the business, the less likely they’re going to get that training.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Highlight Small Businesses’ Need to be Prepared

With recovery starting after Hurricane  Harvey in Houston and Floridians just beginning to emerge after Hurricane Irma, it a good reminder for  small businesses everywhere to rethink their preparedness. Meanwhile businesses in both locations will be facing the challenge to try to rebuild.

Startup Plus Sized Fashion Week Shows International Viability of Niche Market

Recently international fashion designers came together in Lagos, Nigeria for the first ever Plus Size Fashion Week Africa. The event featured collections from designers around the world created specifically for plus sized and curvy consumers. While this is the first event of its kind in Africa, the niche it represents has been increasing internationally for years.

Indiegogo Now Requires Monthly Updates from Campaign Entrepreneurs

Crowdfunding platforms have given many individual entrepreneurs and small businesses an alternative resource for capital. But as the industry goes through some growing pains, companies are continually making improvements to ensure the credibility of their funding structure.

Security Features Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "New Security Features from HP, iPhones Unveiled This Week" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Businesses Spend Up to 240 Days Per Year Working on Admin Tasks

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 13:00

A new report from Sage reveals small businesses spend up to 240 days annually working on administrative tasks, translating to 17 percent of their total manpower.

Suffice it to say, spending 17 percent of total manpower dedicated to a task outside the core function of a small business is counterproductive.

With so many automation solutions available in the marketplace, why aren’t small businesses using these technologies? And what can be done to lower the administrative burden for these companies?

In order to find out, Sage commissioned Plum, an independent consulting firm, to carry out a survey. More than 3,000 companies across 11 countries took part with the goal of finding out if technology can be used to get rid of this inefficiency. 

What is Administrative Burden?

As defined by Sage, administration is divided into operational and regulatory. The regulatory portion doesn’t contribute to the running of the business, but it is mandated by governments with required compliances across industries. Small law firms, medical practices and accounting firms are but a few examples of the businesses needing to comply with such regulations. And it is the regulatory portion which is responsible for the lost man-hours and cost.

Making small companies efficient benefits the country as a whole. The survey found in the US a five percent rise in productivity can increase the GDP by $324.3 billion. And when it comes to total contribution to the country’s economy, these businesses provide more than 50 percent of the GDP and employment. 

Findings About the Administrative Burden on Small Businesses

Eight types of administrative tasks were identified as being responsible for small business inefficiency. They are accounting, HR, payroll, tax-related tasks, chasing late payments, processing invoices received, generating invoices and processing payments, talent acquisition and training.

Many small companies are aware of the benefits of digitization, with 30 percent having fully digitized their accounting, the most time consuming of administrative tasks. However, 47 percent don’t have a software solution in place.

When it comes to HR — another time intensive administrative task — it has the lowest uptake of software followed by late payments.

What is the Reason for Not Digitizing Administration in the US?

The respondents to the survey had several reasons. The biggest one is actually “Nothing,” with close to 30 percent giving this reason. Another 20+ percent said it was time consuming, while an almost equal number gave implementation costs as their reason. Others pointed out complicated processes, incompatible legacy systems and lack of training.

Sage says convincing small companies of the benefits of using administrative software to save time and money must be a priority.

The CEO of Sage, Stephen Kelly, said in the report, “We believe that digitization is a critical enabler in reducing the burden of admin.”

Available Solutions

Small businesses have many options when it comes to the automation solutions available to them in the market place. Whether you want to take on the task yourself or outsource the job, in today’s digital environment, the sky is the limit.

The most important thing is to ensure the product or service you choose is compliant with the regulations in your industry.

Busy Desk Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Small Businesses Spend Up to 240 Days Per Year Working on Admin Tasks" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Business Loan Approvals Hit New High at Big Banks

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 10:30

Big banks continue to bring cheer for small businesses.

According to the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, a monthly analysis of loan approval rates, approval rates at big banks improved one-tenth of a percent to 24.6 percent in August, a new high on the index.

Biz2Credit Lending Index August 2017

Small banks also gave small business owners a reason to smile. In August, loan approval rates rose one-tenth of a percent to 49 percent from July’s 48.9 figure.

Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora said, “It’s a good time for bank lending; the big banks are approving nearly a quarter of the loan requests they receive from small businesses while the smaller banks are granting almost half of the funding applications they receive.”

Approval rates by institutional lenders remained at 63.9 percent, the all-time high for the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index.

Approval Rates by Alternative Lenders and Credit Unions Drop

Meanwhile, alternative lenders saw a decline in small business lending again. Approval rates declined one-tenth of a percent in August to 57.1 percent. Notably, approval percentages have declined every month for more than a year now.

“Alternative lenders still are players in small business lending because they are willing to provide funding for borrowers who have less than stellar credit or little credit history at all,” Arora explained. “Since they accept higher risk by funding borrowers who do not have stellar credit histories, alternative lenders charge at a higher cost of capital.”

Along similar lines, loan approval rates at credit unions dipped to 40.3 percent, hitting a new low for this category on the index.

For the report, Biz2Credit analyzed loan requests ranging from $25,000 to $3 million from companies in business more than two years with an average credit score above 680.

Image: Biz2Credit

This article, "Small Business Loan Approvals Hit New High at Big Banks" was first published on Small Business Trends

12 Ways to Protect Your Company Against a Client Going Into Bankruptcy

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 09:30


The number of businesses that file bankruptcy grows each year. With almost 800,000 bankruptcy filings in the last 12 months, according to a report compiled by the U.S. Courts, it is inevitable that you will have dealings with a client that finds themselves in this predicament eventually. Protecting your company while working with such a client is imperative for the security of your business, which is why we asked 12 members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

How can you best protect your business when a large client is at risk for bankruptcy?

How to Protect Your Company Against Client Bankruptcy

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Avoid Single-Source Dependence

“In business, single-source dependence is problematic. Having one superhero employee is a problem. Only having one internet connection could be problematic if it goes down. In the same way, becoming dependent on one large client is unwise. Have several large clients so you aren’t left reeling.” ~ Ismael Wrixen, FE International

2. Ask to Be Paid Before Work Begins

“The best practice that will keep your company proactive from clients going bankrupt? Always get paid before any work is completed. At my digital marketing firm, contracts demand payment on the first of the month before that month’s work begins. It’s the most optimal way to fully protect your business from not only bankrupt clients, but ones that run the risk of being fraudulent.” ~ Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

3. Keep a Paper Trail

“Keep notes and document everything in case you need to appear in bankruptcy court to go before the judge and make an appeal for payment. It’s important to also consider how much work you want to continue doing for that client given the risk you may not be paid. You will also want to create a plan that determines the rights to any work you have created but not been paid for.” ~ Murray Newlands, Sighted

4. Be Proactive or Quit Before It’s Too Late

“You may have to be proactive when working with unstable businesses; it’s wise to ask for a deposit up front. If you sense that a company is challenged or paying bills too slowly, pause the work before the liability has piled too high.” ~ Peggy Shell, Creative Alignments

5. Start Negotiating Now

“Once your client goes into bankruptcy, their debt to you is probably going to be wiped out. Get in as early as possible and start chipping away at it. Ask for 30 percent payment now, and extend the rest. Or ask for 50 percent and say you’ll cancel the rest of the debt. Do everything you can, and be flexible, to extract as much cash as possible.” ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

6. Communicate Consistently and Assertively

“I had a client go bankrupt one time, but they were trying their best to pay off all of their vendors as a part of the bankruptcy. However, they were not able to pay off every contract, so some were erased. However, I got paid because I kept in communication with them consistently, had rapport, and was assertive without being too pushy. Make yourself as visible as possible to them, or get left out.” ~ Andy Karuza, FenSens

7. Get Paid, Don’t Float Payments

“The specific actions you can take in every situation are different, but protecting your business should always be the top priority. To do that, you’ll want to tighten your payment terms as much as possible. Think you can get net 30? Try for net 15. And then you’ll need to be rigid on those terms. Stop everything if they miss an invoice. You don’t want to be holding the bag when the lights go out.” ~ Ashish Datta, Setfive Consulting

8. Cut Your Losses and Diversify

“Once you see the possibility that your client will file for bankruptcy, it’s time to cut your loses and start searching for new clients to replace this one. Stop rendering services to minimize the debt, as it’s possible you will not get paid on services owed. Cut your losses and move towards the future. Of course, follow due diligence to recoup losses, but move on simultaneously.” ~ Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance

9. Increase Your Marketing

“Timing wise, it might seem like a strange time to increase your marketing spend without any guarantee of a future contract. But if you were able to land one large client, you can certainly land more. Take a chance and refocus on your marketing.” ~ Erik Bullen, MageMail

10. Revoke Their Terms

“Immediately after learning about a client’s financial hardship, it is time to revoke their terms. If your customer is even considering filing for bankruptcy, their payables are the first place they will start cutting back. If your product is critical to their operations they will find a way to pay you in advance, and in your benefit, they won’t be able to get terms elsewhere.” ~ Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

11. Get Assurances and Payments

“I would be proactive about my financial relationship with any large client. If you hear rumblings about a potential bankruptcy, try to front-load your next several payments or get a written assurance that they won’t default on any of the obligations the business has to you. Get some legal assistance and determine what the best course of action would be for several scenarios  — get ahead of this!” ~ Bryce Welker, Beat The CPA

12. Adapt Payment Terms and Hold the Line

“Bankruptcy is something that negatively impacts everyone, but as a business owner you must ensure that your team isn’t at threat. Work with the client and adjust your payment terms to a “pay up front” model, particularly if you’re in professional services. This ensures that you’re servicing the needs of the client, but also being responsible to the health of your own organization in the process.” ~ Michael Spinosa, Unleashed Technologies
Thinking Man Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "12 Ways to Protect Your Company Against a Client Going Into Bankruptcy" was first published on Small Business Trends

Xero Increases Focus on Small Business with Four New Tools

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 08:30

Xero (NZE:XRO) just unveiled four new products this week, increasing its focus on creating a more well-rounded selection of tools for small businesses.

New Xero Products

The new Xero products, which the company announced at its recent Xercon event in Melbourne include:

  • Lifeline Learning Platform, a cloud-based platform that allows educators to build curriculum and exams for educational or workplace training purposes
  • The Xero HQ open practice platform, a multi-vendor platform that lets accountants and bookkeepers run their entire back office
  • Xero Expenses, a mobile expense management platform with open APIs
  • Xero Projects, a platform for managing time, costs and profitability of professional service jobs.

This is the largest ever product release for Xero. But these new products don’t mean the original Xero accounting solution is going anywhere. The new offerings are just a way for the company to expand the types of solutions it offers for small businesses.

“We said our strategy was to move from just being the back-office accounting tool to providing front office tools. We’ve made all of our money selling one thing to 1 million small businesses, so now we’re selling to the employees of small business,” Xero CEO Rod Drury told ZDNet.

For small businesses, the slew of new products means that there are even more options out there for small businesses to choose from. And it’s not all just about cloud-based accounting anymore. So for the customers already using Xero for their accounting needs, adding on one of the new products should be a fairly simple way to improve operations.

This move also signifies a larger shift in the way Xero looks at its offerings. Instead of focusing on just one offering, the company is clearly trying to offer a more complete group of solutions. So even more releases in the future could certainly be possible too.

Image: Xero

This article, "Xero Increases Focus on Small Business with Four New Tools" was first published on Small Business Trends

72 Present of Small Business Owners Feel Overwhelmed (INFOGRAPHIC)

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 07:30

Small business owners have too much to do in too little time. Not surprisingly, a majority of them (72 percent) feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities.

That’s according to a new survey by management consulting company The Alternative Board. Data from the survey has been turned into an infographic by the National Federation of Independent Business.

Improving Productivity is a Challenge for Small Business Owners

Because they often feel overburdened, 60 percent of business owners said they would like to have more time over less work.

When asked about the key productivity challenge they face, most business owners (39 percent) said finding paperwork is their biggest time waster. Poor time management (38 percent) is also a bane for most small business owners.

Steps Business Owners Think Will Improve Their Productivity

Interestingly, small business owners seem to know what exactly needs to be done to become more productive.

Sixty-four percent feel they need to delegate more responsibility while 56 percent believe communication is key to enhancing their productivity.

Small Business Owner Productivity Tips

As a small business owner, you’re most likely inundated with urgent tasks every day. Getting everything done on time is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you.

There are some simple steps you can take to ease your work pressure. For example, you can start making lists to prioritize your tasks and plan properly. It is also a good idea for you to develop your employees’ leadership skills to allocate your work to different resources.

To understand whether you’re doing well or not, assess your productivity from time to time. Once a month, go back to your list to see outstanding tasks that require your immediate attention.

By staying organized, you will have more time and convenience to juggle work and personal commitments.

To know more, check out the infographic below:

Images: The Alternative Board

This article, "72 Present of Small Business Owners Feel Overwhelmed (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Milking Your Brand for All It’s Worth

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 06:30

Sometimes you’re sitting around thinking “I wonder what would happen if I put a cow in an office,” and something like this comes out the other end.

It’s certainly odd, it doesn’t adhere to any normal humor formula, and it’s just a little wistful, but it does make me laugh for some reason.

And now I want a glass of milk. (And some Oreos.)

This article, "Milking Your Brand for All It’s Worth" was first published on Small Business Trends

3D Printing Businesses: Here are 5 Ideas for you to Consider

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-09-15 05:00

No matter how many times you see a 3-D printer in operation, it’s a sight to behold. They make for great YouTube videos, no doubt.

Starting a 3-D printing business? There’s a steeper learning curve than in some other businesses.

“With a 3-D printing business, not only do you have to run the business, you have to learn the technology,” says Liza Wallach Kloski, co-founder and president of HoneyPoint3D, based in Concord, California.

At roughly $13.2 billion in 2016, the worldwide market in 3-D printing products and services is small but growing, according to IDC Research Inc., a market research firm. The sophistication and capabilities of the technology have increased since its infancy in the 1990s. People and companies are printing a seemingly endless array of products in materials such as plastic, metal, concrete and even food. Meanwhile, many consumer 3-D printers cost less than $1,000.

3D-Printing Business Ideas

Most 3-D printing businesses fall into five categories, and many offer more than one service. As you craft your entry into the industry, consider which would be right for you.

1. Service Bureaus

These 3-D printing businesses own or lease printing equipment and offer printing as a service to their customers. They compete on the efficiency with which they turn around orders, the variety of materials they print with and the quality and sophistication of designs they can print. Sculpteo, a French company, is a big player here.

It’s a crowded, competitive field, and it can be hard to differentiate your company. One way, Wallach Kloski suggests, is starting a service bureau that serves a niche clientele. For example, she says, no big service bureaus currently serve schools.

2. File Creation

Some 3-D printing businesses combine engineering and design know-how with computer-aided design tools to turn their clients’ back-of-envelope ideas into 3-D-printable files.

Business that create 3-D-printable files compete on their brainpower and expertise. Even if you’re designing simple objects, you need to have a design background and be versed in CAD software, Wallach Kloski says.

3. Equipment or Software Makers

Some of these companies make printers, which can range from small consumer models to those used in industrial settings for prototyping or mass production. As with any manufacturing, these 3-D printing businesses have high fixed costs, meaning business owners must invest large amounts of capital before the first machine rolls off the line. Most proprietors also have a background in manufacturing, engineering or a related discipline, like the founders of Desktop Metal of Burlington, Massachusetts, which recently secured $115 million in venture funding.

Similarly, no one just wakes up one morning and starts a CAD software company. That typically requires some experience at a company that makes design software.

4. Supplying or Supporting the Industry

These 3-D printing businesses provide supplies, materials and equipment to the people and companies doing printing. This includes businesses that sell the printing equipment to end users and other businesses that supply filament, the spools of plastic that are a raw material for 3-D printing.

Then there are services such as maintenance, repairs and education. HoneyPoint3D, for example, offers online courses in design and printing.

5. Selling Finished Products

These 3-D printing businesses sell products that can be made only with a 3-D printer. Perhaps fast turnaround is important to the customer, or a degree of customization that would make mass production unfeasible.

For example, Barcelona-based Crayon Creatures uses children’s drawings to produce a three-dimensional version. In 2014, Hasbro partnered with 3-D printing company Shapeways to produce customized My Little Pony toys on demand from the designs of adult fans known as “bronies.”

3D Printer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "3D Printing Businesses: Here are 5 Ideas for you to Consider" was first published on Small Business Trends

Artificial Intelligence Secrets Revealed: 3 Impacts for Digital Marketers

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-09-14 15:30

Artificial intelligence is something we all use in the modern day, yet we never really stop to think about how this amazing technology has evolved over just the last decade. The field of study was officially founded in 1956 but, according to Livescience, mentions of robots and artificial intelligence date back to ancient Greek, Egyptian and Chinese times. The first breakthrough in artificial intelligence was made in 1997 when the Deep Blue artificial bot developed by IBM defeated the current grandmaster in chess, Garry Kasparov. Many more breakthroughs were made later on and, today, this type of technology has become part of our daily lives.

There are many examples of how we have adopted artificial intelligence as part of our daily routines. Think about the last time you opened up the app store on your smartphone. The front page of the app store provides you with personalized recommendations. This is an excellent example of artificial intelligence.

Most smartphones today also come equipped with a virtual artificial assistant, such as Siri on Apple’s devices. These artificial assistants can perform certain tasks for you and can provide you with personalized answers based on your input. Games are probably one of the best examples. The characters in games that are not controlled by the player usually utilize some form of artificial intelligence to interact on their own and make their own decisions.

How Artificial Intelligence Fits Into the Business World

Artificial intelligence is not only useful to the average person but can also have benefits for almost any type of business out there. There are different ways in which artificial intelligence can be used by a business — sometimes to increase the productivity of employees, or to increase their exposure on the internet. Many businesses have also adopted artificial intelligence to help them cope with thousands of customer queries without having to hire new employees; thus leading to massive savings. From boosting the results of a standard display advertising campaign to ensuring the business uses the right influencers in a social media outreach campaign — artificial intelligence is now an essential part of digital marketing.

The way businesses are planning and executing digital marketing campaigns has also been affected significantly by artificial intelligence. No longer do businesses need to rely on “estimates,” as they now gain access to more accurate data than they ever had access to before. Businesses are utilizing artificial intelligence during every part of the digital marketing process, from the planning stage, through the production stage and even after the campaign has ended, to help them track the results and identify potential shortcomings. All of this will enable them to improve their future campaigns.

AI in Digital Marketing

To better understand just how much of an impact artificial intelligence can have on a business’s digital marketing strategies, let’s discuss some of the ways this technology can be utilized for a more successful marketing campaign bringing in more customers and making it easier to convert those customers into sales.

1. Search Engine Optimization

Let’s start with one of the most important subjects businesses tackle when it comes to digital marketing — this being search engine optimization. In the beginning, search engine optimization does not have as significant an impact as perhaps paid-per-click advertising would have, but when a business spends some time on optimizing its website, targeting keywords and building good backlinks, it can reach top rankings in Google and get thousands of targeted visitors to its website.

The most significant way in which artificial intelligence is changing the way businesses are planning and executing their search engine optimization strategies comes into play with the latest tools that are readily available to be used, such as SEMRush and WordStream. These tools utilize artificial intelligence to analyze a website’s structure and content, then provide the marketer with personalized solutions to help them rank better in search engines, such as changes they can make to their website, new keywords they can target or backlink, opportunities they can use to get better rankings. According to an article published on Forbes, the particular area where artificial intelligence may be the most useful is the way this technology specifies exactly how a marketer can utilize keywords and other elements in existing content for better performance in Google and, of course, the other major search engines.

2. Ad Delivery

Since paid-per-click advertising is a particular type of marketing technique that businesses tend to utilize excessively, especially when the company’s website is not yet ranking high in search engines, we should also discuss how artificial intelligence is affecting this particular type of digital marketing strategy. There are two primary ways in which artificial intelligence is used in online advertising.

Businesses are now able to provide certain advertising networks, with Google AdWords and Facebook Ads being the most popular examples, with a few keywords, and the artificial intelligence behind these advertising technologies will then automatically suggest the best keywords to target, based on the ones added by the marketer. In some cases, a simple URL of a website would include popular hundreds to thousands of potential keywords to target as the technology can analyze the content of the URL entered and suggested the best keywords to target for attracting visitors to the website.

This isn’t all there is too artificial intelligence and paid online advertising. Once keywords have been decided on, a marketer can input a daily or campaign budget, and the technology will then automatically decide how much the marketer should pay for every click that is sent to their website. This cost can fluctuate during the day — when there is more competition, the technology may allocate more money to each click for the particular marketer to ensure their ads are more visible. Search Engine Land explains that artificial intelligence has evolved to the level where no human interaction is even needed, and the advertising campaign is completely automated by the artificial technology behind the platform.

In addition to the above-mentioned advantages that artificial intelligence brings businesses who are advertising online, we should also note that artificial intelligent technology has been implemented into ad delivery services of many networks — including Google AdWords and Facebook. The technology that was implemented in these networks can analyze data of the visitors — the people to whom ads are displayed — and then draw up and display adverts that will spark an interest to particular visitors; thus offering a more personalized ad experience to the visitors and better value to the advertiser. There are numerous ways in which this particular feature can be beneficial, including with other types of marketing, such as blogger outreach campaigns.

3. Split Testing

Artificial intelligence is also an excellent strategy for split testing different types of campaigns to find what works and what does not work. Many ad networks have already implemented split testing abilities into their artificial technology to help business owners reach more customers without wasting money on advertisements that do not work for them.

A marketer can link multiple ad sets together and then the artificial technology, embedded into the ad network’s platform, will monitor the performance of the ad sets that were linked together. In some cases, with the marketer’s permission, the artificial technology will automatically make some minor adjustments in the campaigns that are running to make them more effective.

In addition to this, the technology will also slow down the campaigns or even stop them in some case if they are not doing well. The ones that are doing well can then be automatically be boosted by the technology so that those ads can be served more frequently to visitors. By doing this, the marketer and the business owner can benefit from the fact that campaigns that are not doing well will not waste them any extra money, and they would not have to continuously check in on the performance of their campaign — which would waste quite a significant amount of time — since the artificial technology will do this for them.

With split testing, marketers can test out different types of ad sets — such as different banners that they had designed to see which banners attract the most visitors, or a variety of headlines and call-to-actions, which helps them identify what type of text they should use when they are compiling new adverts. The results they obtain here can also be used in future advertising campaigns as the marketer can mirror the text and graphics that were present on the most successful past campaigns in new campaigns to ensure they do well from the very first time they are executed.

Conclusion

Technology is rapidly evolving, and artificial intelligence is one particular sector that has seen a lot of attention and development lately. Businesses have also noticed that artificial intelligence can help them increase their reach and revenue, by employing this technology in different sectors of the company.

Digital marketing is one of the best sectors to employ artificial intelligent technology in, offering a business the opportunity to reach the best and widest range of consumers, offer them expertly crafted messages and converting the audience into long-standing customers — without having to hire hundreds of employees to handle the intrigued tasks that artificial intelligence can bring the company.

AI Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Artificial Intelligence Secrets Revealed: 3 Impacts for Digital Marketers" was first published on Small Business Trends

Bikini Themed Coffee Business Sues Over City “Dress Code”

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-09-13 15:30

A new set of ordinances in Everett, Washington has led to a lawsuit from “Hillbilly Hotties,” a chain of coffee stands in the area.

The new ordinances serve as a sort of dress code for workers at cafes and quick service restaurants, stating that employees must wear at least tank tops and shorts. The measure includes some more specific descriptions about what skin must be covered up. But the lawsuit claims that the descriptions are confusing and could potentially lead to humiliating and offensive searches for workers. The second ordinance redefines the city’s lewd conduct ordinance and outlaws the facilitation of lewd conduct.

The city has stated that the measures were necessary due to “a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands throughout the city.”

But the owner and employees of Hillbilly Hotties, where baristas typically serve coffee while wearing bikinis, claim the ordinances take away their right to self expression and unlawfully target only female workers.

The lawsuit states, “Just like Starbucks with green aprons, UPS with brown trucks and outfits, and Hooter’s with short-orange shorts, the baristas’ attire evokes a message at work.”

Employee Uniforms Can Be … Complicated

Whatever you might personally think of the idea of “bikini baristas,” the idea of using attire and similar factors to differentiate a business and create a unique experience is something that a lot of businesses can relate to. So while curbing crime is certainly a noble goal for a city, doing so at the expense of business and workers’ rights might not prove to be the answer.

There are certainly a lot of different factors to consider in this case, and not a simple answer for either side. But most businesses likely wouldn’t appreciate their local governments stepping in to determine what sort of attire is appropriate for employees to don at work. So the outcome of this lawsuit could be one to watch for small businesses.

Latte Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Bikini Themed Coffee Business Sues Over City “Dress Code”" was first published on Small Business Trends

Expert Tells House Committee Small Businesses Need Their Own Regulations

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-09-13 13:30

Small businesses need their own regulations. That was the sentiment shared by Phillip K. Howard, founder of the non-profit organization Common Good, at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee recently.

His argument, in general, states that overly complicated regulations place a huge burden on small businesses. The costs per employee of these regulations is much higher for small companies than they are for large companies just based on the resources those businesses need to spend simply to understand and comply with government regulations.

Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Small Businesses

More specifically, Howard laid out three steps that Congress can take to reduce the regulatory burden placed on small businesses. The first step involves appointing an independent commission to test methods for making compliance easier on small businesses. The second would involve the creation of one-stop-shops where small businesses could get any type of federal permit. And the third would privatize the enforcement of regulatory issues by allowing small businesses to receive approval from certified regulatory experts.

“It would initiate such energy in our society, if people could be confident that they understand the law and can follow their hearts to do what has made the American economy great,” Howard said to the Committee.

Howard’s suggestions would theoretically allow small businesses to spend less time worrying about regulations and more time running their businesses. His argument, in part, is that the small businesses that actually care about following the rules are put at a competitive disadvantage, because they have to dedicate so much time and resources to understanding all of the complicated compliance issues that were largely created with big corporations in mind.

Instead, he thinks that small business regulations should be simple and easily accessible for all. This could encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the country and provide a big boost to the economy as a whole, Howard argues.

Capitol Dome Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Expert Tells House Committee Small Businesses Need Their Own Regulations" was first published on Small Business Trends