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What is Ephemeral Content and What Can It Do for Your Business?

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 16:30

Ephemeral content is content that has a limited lifespan. Unlike a blog or a web page that stays up indefinitely, ephemeral content is usually up for 24 hours or less. For many marketers, this seems completely counter-intuitive. Traditional marketing has always focused on content that lasts and can be recirculated well into the future. However, with the popularity of Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook stories growing, marketing strategy needs to keep up with the changing times to remain effective.

What Are Stories?

Stories are compilations of photos or videos. They can be live or pre-designed. There are options to get creative with filters and artwork, or you can simply point and shoot. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook all have versions of stories. Each platform has subtle differences but they’re more alike than they are different. Facebook users are gifted a story each year when Facebook compiles their year in review posts.

For many businesses, video content feels out of reach financially. It may not be in the budget to invest in the equipment or hire a vendor. The cost-risk analysis may be too scary for a smaller business.

One of the great things about ephemeral content marketing is that you don’t need special equipment. If you have a smartphone — you do have a smartphone, right? — then you have what you need. Part of the charm of the story is the authenticity of it. The less slick the better. This is a way to add video to your marketing strategy without the big investment.

Who Uses It?
  • Taco Bell uses Snapchat to promote new products and customer experiences.
  • The NBA gives fans sneak peeks of the team behind the scenes to boost excitement and viewership for upcoming games.
  • McDonald’s unveiled a new product line on Snapchat.
  • Mashable engages consumers by running a weekly contest to get featured in one of its stories.
  • GrubHub offers exclusive promotions to its followers.
Why Does Ephemeral Content Marketing Work?

At first glance, it does seem awfully strange how content which disappears quickly actually works. So, what is driving this phenomenon and why is it successful?

The fear of missing out, or fear of loss, has always driven marketing strategy. That’s why the world is full of signage touting clearance items, today only, closeout and once-a-year sales. Ephemeral marketing takes this same concept and kicks it up a notch. It gives everything a now-or-never feel to it. This drives shoppers to make decisions more quickly and shortens the sales cycle.

Do I Really Need This?

Marketing is about communicating effectively with the target audience. Ephemeral social media platforms aren’t a thing of the future. They are now. Millennials made ephemeral content relevant and generation Z is expanding on it.

Generation Z has reached adulthood. The oldest members are entering the workforce, and according to Nielsen data, they make up 26 percent of the population of the United States. Do you really want to ignore 26 percent of the population in your marketing strategy?

The most successful businesses keep up with the trends. Can you imagine not having an online presence? At one point, there was a choice to embrace the internet and create an online presence or not. Those who chose not to didn’t fare very well.

How to Leverage Ephemeral Content Marketing
  • Prove it. Everyone says they’re wonderful and they do charity work and they love babies and puppies. The new generation of consumers is done hearing everyone pat themselves on the back. They want companies to prove it. If your company volunteers time, show it off with a Facebook or Instagram Story.
  • Be authentic. Ephemeral marketing is an opportunity for the customer base to get to know the business on a more personal level. Have a real employee give a behind-the-scenes tour of the offices or manufacturing plant or sales team. Let your personality show through. Don’t be perfect, be real.
  • Engage your audience. This is the perfect opportunity to connect with your target market. For example, you can use the live option with Instagram Stories, and viewers can interact in real time. This can be as simple as an ask-me-anything session.
  • Sneak peek. Use it to create buzz for an upcoming event or sale. Launching a new product? Build up to the big announcement by creating stories that drop tantalizing behind-the-scenes hints.
  • Keep it fresh. People don’t usually visit a web page regularly to see what’s been updated, but they’ll check their stories regularly because they know they’re timely and new.
  • Be consistent. Create a plan and stick to it. If you only create ephemeral content occasionally, people will stop looking for it. If your content goes live each day at a certain time, they’ll look forward to it.
  • Stay relevant. Much like other marketing content, make sure you’re staying relevant, so your target market will want to engage with you.
Important Reminder

Ephemeral marketing is not a replacement for other forms of marketing. Don’t stop what you’re doing. Add this into the mix.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What is Ephemeral Content and What Can It Do for Your Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Only 9% of Small Business Owners Expect to Cut Staff Due to Automation

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 14:40

The new National Small Business Association (NSBA) and ZipRecruiter Report reveals only nine percent of small business owners expect to cut staff due to automation. More significantly, 24 percent said they would need more employees, while the majority, or 67 percent, said they would need the same number of workers.

Impact of Automation on Small Business Employment

The NSBA and ZipRecruiter Report provides comprehensive data on the state of small businesses. It covers demographics, sentiment, economic outlook, hiring, financing, technology, policies and much more. Members and nonmembers of NSBA totaling 1,633 small business owners participated in an online survey from Dec. 18, 2017 – Jan. 8, 2018 across all industries and states in the US.

Small businesses are experiencing record high numbers in different metrics, while at the same time showing optimism about the future. More than half, or 53 percent, reported higher revenues, and 84 percent said they are confident in the future of their business.

The report says there are decade highs in small business outlook, and small businesses continue to provide great opportunities for the labor force. Cathy Barrera, chief economist at online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter, which partnered with NSBA for the report, said in the press release, “We tend to think of corporate America when we think of career ladders, however, small businesses have ample opportunities for career growth.”

As to the impact of the gig economy, it hasn’t affected the number of full-time jobs that much, but part-time employment has increased in the past five years. Thirty-seven percent said they have increased the number of part-time employees, while only 17 percent decreased their full-time workers to part-time.

Automation, Employment and Wages

One of the biggest drivers for implementing automation solutions is customer expectation moving forward. A Pew Research Center survey revealed 65 percent of Americans expect more automation in businesses. Having this technology in place will make small businesses more efficient and productive, with or without more employees.

This will greatly depend on many factors, including industry and location, but wages will play a more important role in acquiring the right talent. The low employment rate, which is currently at 4.1 percent, has increased the level of competition in wages.

In the report, 58 percent said they have increased the wages of their employees in the last year. And another 64 percent expect to do the same in the coming year.

When asked, “How do you expect your average per-employee wages to increase over the next 12 months?” Twenty-one percent said 1 to 2 percent, 25 percent said 3 to 4 percent, and 11 percent indicated an increase of 5 to 6 percent. However, 35 percent said there wouldn’t be an increase and 2 percent said some or all of their employees will see a decrease.

The outlook in the National Small Business Association (NSBA) and ZipRecruiter Report is overall positive, but challenges remain.

Images: NSBA

This article, "Only 9% of Small Business Owners Expect to Cut Staff Due to Automation" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Businesses in Dallas and Waco, Texas Will See New AT&T Mobile 5G This Year

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 13:00

This is the year 12 lucky cities in the US will experience standards-based mobile 5G from AT&T (NYSE: T), making it the first carrier in the country to do so.

AT&T 5G Rollout Cities

The announcement comes just two months after AT&T carried out its first fixed wireless trial at Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco. And not surprisingly, Waco is one of the 12 cities which will take part in the deployment by the end of 2018. Parts of Atlanta and Dallas along with Waco will be the first three cities for the deployment.

Small businesses, such as Magnolia Market, will benefit greatly from the fast speeds, low latency and capabilities requiring the persistent internet connection of 5G. The technology is going to allow owners to increase their digital capability and presence by deploying more services and interactive rich media content.

Standard-Based 5G

The standard-based 5G identification is meant to distinguish services such as AT&T’s own “5G Evolution” and others like it from other carriers which are not true 5G. The new deployments will be based on 3GPP standards and operate over mmWave spectrum.

Igal Elbaz, senior vice president of Wireless Network Architecture, and Design, said in a press release, “After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G — and do it much sooner than most people thought possible.”

Hitting Peak Speeds and Devices

The theoretical peak speeds of 5G approach multiple gigabits per second, and AT&T says it expects to reach those speeds and the lower latency rates the technology offers as the network grows. But in order to experience these capabilities, new smartphones have to hit the market.

The announcement from AT&T comes before the availability of consumer 5G devices. The Verge has reported Qualcomm is working with phone companies and carriers to release 5G devices in 2019. This, of course, doesn’t match AT&T’s timeline for the trials, so both sides will have to coordinate their launch with more thought.

Image: AT&T

This article, "Small Businesses in Dallas and Waco, Texas Will See New AT&T Mobile 5G This Year" was first published on Small Business Trends

Experience your Very Own LG Gram, the Whole New Compact Practicality between your Fingertips for Free by Entering #likegram Event

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 11:32
Sponsored Post

– Lightweight, dual channel memory, quad core CPU, ThunderboltTM 3, powerful battery, and MIL-STD-810G approved durability in just your pouch

– Participate in the #likegram event to have yourself your very own New LG gram!

No matter the type of person you are, as a businessman — or woman — you have a morning routine getting ready for work. With only minutes left, your routine becomes a scramble as you frantically untangle and shove power chords, genders necessary to keep your laptop going for the full work day in your now bulky bag. During the process, you may find yourself muttering something about having sacrificed everything for the weight you initially tried to rid of.

But what are you to do? You just get on the train, shrug off the frustration of the morning haste and pull out your computer to get a head start to the workday. While working, you can’t help but become steadily nervous about the receding bar of the battery icon as you run several heavy-weight programs already slowing your workstation down because everybody knows – the lighter the laptop, the lighter the performance, and short lived. You scan around for an outlet you know isn’t there, the laptop continues lagging, and your bag is heavy, weighed down by yet another set of accessories with more design purpose than its functionality.

This morning commute becomes a one sentence description with the New LG gram Z980 — the ultra slim laptop with much awaited combination of more of better things that doesn’t ask you to compromise performance for portability and vice versa.

So exactly what aren’t we sacrificing because of the thin and lightness from now on?

First, Speed. The 8th generation Core i7-8550U and 16GB RAM makes the leap – by 40% to be exact — compared to dual core. Simply put, your laptop will take less than 10 seconds to boot. On top of its brain power, data tunnel size matters. ThunderboltTM 3, evolutionary port capable of transferring data 8 times faster than USB 3.0, and DDR4 also adds more speed to your workflow. For perspective, picture transferring data up to 40Gbps while connect two 4K displays/one 5K display while charging and powering another device – all possible with a single ThunderboltTM 3 connection. As for DDR4, it is a whole 50% faster than DDR3, doubles the memory bandwidth while maintaining its slim design, and adds 8GB of additional memory on top of its basic 8GB. In short? It’s faster than fast.

All of its speed and performance could be overshadowed if users have to rely mostly on the laptop adaptor. Slim laptop by design fell victim of underwhelming battery power due to its physical limitation. LG made a breakthrough not just increasing its battery power by 20% from its 60Wh predecessor to 72Wh (making it top of its slim laptop class) but also the charging speed. Imagine using heavy applications for hours and being pleasantly surprised to find it still has plenty of battery power left, and it only took three hours to fully charge it to last 22.5 hours(when tested on 13” LG gram Z980). So with just two fingers you can carry your laptop around all day minus everything else.

Just from the looks alone, the New LG gram takes a generous nod toward portability within its weight, lifespan, and large display.

“Laptop” defeats its original purpose if it is not light. And light is not light if you end up carrying extra weight to support the light laptop in reality. Think about the recent hip and slim laptops that people ‘like’ to carry in a nice pouch. Sure, they do carry the laptop in such pouches, but they also make sure the adaptor, extra external battery, genders are also along for the ride in their shoulder bag or backpack.

Enter the New LG gram Z980 featuring an ultra-slim bezel surrounding the IPS screen allowing more visibility in a more compact form contributing to the dazzling picture quality in exquisite manner with minimal distraction. With this, the laptop’s specifications are of a 13 inch display, total weight of 2.1 pounds, and thickness of a mere 1.6cm. In other words – the pouch, only the pouch, and nothing but the pouch.

The last but most important question: how tough is it against daily bumps on the road?

Whilst thinner and lighter generally goes hand in hand with fragility, Nano carbon fiber protected LG gram is practically a shield against an array of attacks from nature and your daily routine.

This laptop, light and thinenough to be held with just two fingers, passed the seven categories of the Military Standard (MIL-STD-810G) test with ease. The MIL-STD-810G is a barometer of sturdiness of any items that would be used by US military forces. The New LG gram Z980 is set to survive all conditions of pressure impact, exposure to high and low temperature, salt fog, sand and dust exposure, low pressure, gunfire vibration, and random vibration. So no more wear and tear by train rattle, rush hour battle, other unexpected conditions you may encounter.

Going through your entire day with nothing but your laptop does not have to feel like navigating through an uncharted land of if’s and can’ts. With LG gram — powerful, slim, and sturdy — leave for your meetings without constantly checking off your mental checklist — you’re not going to need that anymore.

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Intrigued? Jump at the chance of winning the New LG gram Z980 for free by checking out our video and participating in the #likegram event across social media.

Photos via LG Global

This article, "Experience your Very Own LG Gram, the Whole New Compact Practicality between your Fingertips for Free by Entering #likegram Event" was first published on Small Business Trends

Attention Marketers: Less than Half of Teens Will Use Facebook This Year

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 10:30

If your small business relies on marketing to teenagers, you may want to think of any strategy that avoids Facebook (NASDAQ: FB).

According to new eMarketer research, this will be the first year that less than half of internet users between the ages of 12 and 17 will use Facebook.

That figure doesn’t mean the social media site is dead by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Facebook continues to add users at a positive rate. The data shows that 169.5 million users will access Facebook this year. That’s up only 1 percent over last year but it’s still growth, nonetheless.

And that number of users certainly shouldn’t scare you off marketing your business on Facebook. If anything, it should encourage you to think longer about marketing your company there. You may not reach the teens who are looking for other social media sites but you likely will reach the parents of those teens.

Digging deeper, eMarketer’s numbers show that Facebook will lose 2 million users under the age of 25.

With Less Teens on Facebook, Where are They?

So, what are the kids into these days?

It’s not so much Instagram that’s the alternative to Facebook. Instead, Snapchat is encroaching on potentially younger Facebook users. eMarketer expects Snapchat to add 1.9 million users under the age of 25 this year. Instagram will add 1.6 million, according to their data.

Of course, there may come a time very soon when those younger users who are going to Snapchat or Instagram today will choose a different site. It seems no one from a younger generation wants to use the site that’s most popular among their elders.

Just like kids don’t want to be on the same site as their parents (today, Facebook), that same theory could apply to today’s popular kid-friendly social sites.

“Snapchat could eventually experience more growth in older age groups, since it’s redesigning its platform to be easier to use,” eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson says in a company blog post. “The question will be whether younger users will still find Snapchat cool if more of their parents and grandparents are on it. That’s the predicament Facebook is in.”

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Attention Marketers: Less than Half of Teens Will Use Facebook This Year" was first published on Small Business Trends

Style.me Gives Ecommerce Fashion Sellers Plugin to Offer 3D Fittings

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 09:30

Style.me just announced the availability of its 3D virtual fitting and styling technology for retailers and consumers for the North American market. You can now let your customers see how the clothes you sell online look on their personal avatars.

3D Virtual Styling in Action

The patented technology by Style.me brings together 3D rendering and 4K video to accurately capture the garments. After they become part of your catalog, customers can see how each item looks on their avatar. Using their smartphone, tablet or computer, they can also get fit recommendations and purchase merchandise in real-time.

For small boutiques and other retailers, this is a technology that will solve many of the difficulties of selling clothes online. Shipping costs for returned items, complaints about damaged merchandise and other merchandise problems can be minimized or avoided entirely.

The technology has the potential to make selling clothes online as easy as it is in brick and mortar outlets. The CEO of Style.me, Rufus Parkinson, said retailers in the US are dealing with the transition to eCommerce and the demands that come with it from consumers. In a press release announcing the new plugin, Parkinson said, “Our technology enables a personalized shopping experience that consumers were long craving, whilst inspiring them to find the styles and outfits they love.”

The Technology

Style.me has created a comprehensive system designed to be easily integrated into the workflow of a company’s ecommerce platform.

It starts by integrating the system with a one-time installation. Style.me says it only takes a few lines of code, and you will be up and running. After the installation, you can digitize the garments in your inventory using 3D scanning, and according to the company it only takes seconds.

The inventory then becomes part of the content management system, which includes an analytics dashboard with insights into customer behavior and proportions. This includes body sizes and shapes, desired fits, preferred styles, mix and matching, and ultimate purchasing triggers. You can then use the data to make purchasing decisions, deliver targeted marketing, and run a more efficient business.

E-Commerce Integration

The integration of e-Commerce gives small businesses access to new markets and a lot of potential for growth. For small clothing stores still on the fence because they don’t want to deal with returns and the associated costs, Style.me offers a technology which reduces these pain points or makes them disappear altogether.

Image: Style.me

This article, "Style.me Gives Ecommerce Fashion Sellers Plugin to Offer 3D Fittings" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Toy Companies Thrive While Toys R Us Announces Store Closings

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 08:30

Toys ‘R’ Us is slated to close 180 stores across the US as the 115th North American International Toy Fair gets underway in NYC. But the market is rewarding nimble small businesses creating new toys faster than large established corporations.

Fox Business reports Toys ‘R’ Us hopes to restructure and recover after the company filed for bankruptcy. The 180 stores it is closing represent around one-fifth of its locations, but it is not affecting the US toy industry as expected. The $27 billion US market has slowed down, growing at only 1 percent in 2017, but the slowdown is attributed to the ebb and flow of the toy industry as products become hits or flops.

For small companies, the market provides great opportunities. At the fair, small toy companies told Fox Business it is all about having the right product, delivering it to market faster, and smart marketing.

Shay Chen, CEO and founder of Flycatcher Inc. told FOX Business, “For a startup in the toy industry, the hardest thing will be getting to the market so you need a good sales group and obviously you need a good toy.”

More than 1,000 toy companies from over 100 countries are attending the toy fair, and many of them are small companies looking to come up with the next big hit. And this requires spotting trends on social media and collapsing production times, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Small Toy Companies Can Compete by Being Nimble

If small toy companies want to compete, they have to be very flexible and identify trends quickly to capitalize on them. This means fast turnaround times before copycats flood the market with imitations of your hit toy.

The Wall Street Journal explains toy companies are copying the production model of fast-fashion retailers who introduce new items in as little as 25 days. And this is where small companies can compete because they move much faster than their larger counterparts. However, Hasbro, Mattel, and others have also implemented this model within their companies with divisions designed to operate just like small companies delivering quick turnaround times.

But, as Chen said, at the end of the day, creating a hit toy is the best way to beat your competition.

Image: The Toy Association

This article, "Small Toy Companies Thrive While Toys R Us Announces Store Closings" was first published on Small Business Trends

7 Reasons Starting a Small Business is Crazy – Seriously!

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2018-02-22 07:30


I think people who start companies are, without a doubt, just a little bit crazy.

Myself included.

And people who start more than one company? Deranged lunatics – all of them!

Why? Because it’s insanely hard!

You’re signing up for a ridiculous amount of work.

But I also think you have to be crazy to start a company.

Your startup journey will be the wildest ride of your life.

Why People Who Start Companies Are Crazy

Here are seven reasons why.

1. It Takes A Ridiculous Amount of Work!

Many people who are seriously thinking about starting a company are usually thinking about the end.

You know, when you sell your company for millions or billions of dollars and money rains from the heavens.

Here’s the reality about being an entrepreneur:

It takes a ridiculous amount of work before you get anywhere close to that dream scenario.

Starting your own company means sacrificing your own time to build your company. It’s a full-time commitment. Expect many long days and long nights.

2. You Must ‘Dream While Awake’

Statistically, the odds of success aren’t in your favor.

You might fail.

Only 25 percent of venture-backed startups succeed.

Despite the awful odds, you unwaveringly believe in success. There’s huge power in delusional thinking!

The first company I founded? It almost failed. Twice.

Thankfully, that company survived. It eventually became profitable and continues to thrive today.

To survive, you need to be able to project an unbelievably (albeit unrealistic) great future.

Craziness is required to project that ridiculously bold vision and the enthusiasm to match.

This is what enables you to attract the team and investors you’ll need to make your delusion a reality.

3. Raising Money for Your Startup Is Challenging

I pitched more than 100 VC firms for the first company I founded. I got a dozen meetings.

The end result? Rejection.

It almost took me two years to raise a Series A round.

It’s remarkably hard to connect with top-tier investors.

Even when you do get a meeting, you’re going to run into some skeptical VCs.

4. Hiring Is Difficult

Unless you have a proven track record in the startup world, it can be incredibly hard to lure talented people to work for you.

Why would someone risk leaving a steady good job to believe in your crazy idea?

However, you should never settle because there’s a lack of available talent. You need to hire the best person for the job – someone who will help grow your business.

Here are three questions you should ask to weed out the good candidates from the bad:

  1. Tell me about your best achievement and why it was so great.
  2. How do you decide what to do next?
  3. How do you know what you did paid off?
5. Being Boss Sounds Great, But…

So you think you’ll be your own boss?

You’ll quickly discover that, although you’re “the boss,” you really aren’t in control of your company.

If you have investors, you’ll quickly discover they’re more demanding that any boss you ever had.

And let’s not forget about your customers. Think they aren’t really in charge? Think again! They’re probably more demanding that any of your old bosses or your investors!

Being the boss isn’t glamorous. You’ll probably actually lose freedom and have more responsibility than you ever could have imagined.

6. Pivoting Almost Never Works

If things go south, your company can always pivot and everything will be OK, right?

Well, here’s the thing. Pivots almost never work.

Although pivots have been made to sound cool, really it’s just a way of saying, “Oops, my vision didn’t match reality.”

Your investors and employees will lose confidence in your leadership. People will either start tuning you our or quit.

There’s little margin for error when you start your own company.

7. You’ll Do Less of What You Love

Being the founder means doing less of what you love.

For example, if you love coding, don’t expect to do much (if any) when you’re the boss.

You have to hire people who are better than you at what you love to do those things. Then you have to nurture and lead that team.

You have an entire company to run. That means inevitably sacrificing working on those things you’re most passionate about.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

Yes, we may all be crazy. As an old Apple ad reminds us, we should celebrate being one of the crazy ones:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

We aren’t just crazy. We’re courageous. We’re dreamers.

We’re willing to risk money, failure, and our reputation.

We’re willing to feel uncomfortable all the time.

Would you rather have it any other way?

If your answer to that one question after reading this article is “no,” then congrats! You’re crazy! It’s time for you to go start your company!

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "7 Reasons Starting a Small Business is Crazy – Seriously!" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Hidden Mystery Behind Building Trust with Potential Customers

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2018-02-21 16:30

We don’t buy products, services or companies. Well, we do, but we buy them from people we trust. We all operate in competitive industries. Our prospects can find what we sell just about anywhere. So, how do they decide who they buy it from? They buy from the person they trust. Therefore, people buy from people – first.

Importance of Building Trust With Customers

Knowing this, we have to be sure we are conducting ourselves in a way that is trust building. The number one way to build trust is to care more about the prospect than about ourselves. And yet, one of the hardest things to do is to NOT think about the sale.

So, what do we do? Start by embracing the idea that the more you think about selling, the less you will actually sell. You will be working against yourself and your best interest. If you can own this truth you are on your way to gaining trust and growing your business.

Now, focus on your prospect. The more you learn about them the more you will be able to identify if, and how, you can help them. The truth is this is all they are interested in. They don’t care about your product or service. They care about the problems they have, the challenges they are facing, and their own success. If you can connect your product/service to their situation, you are far more likely to gain their business.

You can’t assume you have a solution for them. That’s one of the traps of sales — believing your offering is valuable to everyone. Maybe it should be, but it isn’t. It’s only valuable to the people or companies who see value in it. And the only ones who are going to find it valuable are the ones that trust you to provide the solution.

Consider these three steps to being the person your prospect will buy from:

  • Assume nothing — Realize that you don’t know whether you have something they should buy until you know more about them. You also don’t know if you want to do business with them until you know them. Just because they look like they fit a mold doesn’t mean there’s a fit.
  • Do discovery — Develop a comprehensive list of questions you can ask them to really learn about them. These questions should go beyond the scope of the situation you can resolve. You want to know how they operate, what is most important to them, their budget and timeline, and more.
  • Really listen — This is critical. Attentive, intentional listening is the most important part of trust building. When you are really listening to someone they can feel it. And you can honestly determine whether you can help them, and whether you want to. This real listening provides you with the platform for responding to them.

When you implement these steps you will find that you are developing deep relationships where you should be. You will build trust that will positively impact your business over time. And the people or companies that should be buying from you, will.

They will want to enter into a business relationship with you, and they will refer you to others. Because people buy from people. Period.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Hidden Mystery Behind Building Trust with Potential Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends

48% of Business Owners Who Want to Sell Have No Exit Strategy

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2018-02-21 14:30

Having an exit strategy when you start a business makes it that much easier to execute rational and informed decisions when you want to get out. But the UBS (NYSE: UBS) Q1 Investor Watch Report, “Who’s the boss?” reveals 48 percent of business owners don’t have a formal exit strategy.

This is the 22-second edition of the quarterly survey, and this time around it is looking at how investors feel about business ownership. The survey also explores the exit strategy of business owners, including selling their company and leaving it to their heirs.

In the report, UBS points out the majority of business owners don’t have a full understanding of what takes place in the selling of a business. It identifies a knowledge gap for the 75 percent of owners who believe they can sell their business in a year or less. This is on top of the 58 percent who have never had their business formally appraised, and the 48 percent without exit strategies.

Stewart Kesmodel, Head of Global Family Office, Americas for UBS Global Wealth Management, explained the challenge of selling a business this way in the press release. He said, “Selling a business successfully requires a great deal of planning, which owners often underestimate. Before pursuing a sale, it is important for business owners to not only have a view on the value of their business to potential buyers, but also an understanding of how that price applies to their personal needs post-transaction.”

In the survey, 1,085 of the 2,245 high net worth investor were identified as business owners (770 current/315 former). Their business had at least one employee and $250k in annual revenue.

Key Business Exit Strategy Findings

Selling the business is the preferred strategy of 52 percent of the respondents, which 41 percent plan to do within five years. Another 20 percent said they plan to leave it to family, 18 percent are going to close the business, and 10 percent don’t know.

As to the reason for leaving the business, 65 percent said it was a good time to sell and they are ready to retire, while 49 percent indicated they are looking to find a work-life balance.

So how do the heirs feel about inheriting a business?

More than 4 in 5 or 82 percent rather have the money from the sale of the business, and only 18 percent said they wanted the business. This is probably why 89 percent of owners said they won’t pass their business on because family members are not interested. Lack of qualification and wanting a family member to take another career path was sated by 21 and 9 percent of the respondents respectively.

Takeaway from the UBS Survey

Plan early with different exit strategies in mind. This will allow you the flexibility you need to get the most out of your business, whether you sell it, pass it on to your family, or have someone else manage it for you.

You can take a look at the rest of the data here and the partial infographic below.

Images: UBS

This article, "48% of Business Owners Who Want to Sell Have No Exit Strategy" was first published on Small Business Trends

Facebook Giving Businesses the Ability to Post to Crisis Response

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 16:30

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has announced businesses and organizations can now post on its Community Help feature, designed to make it easier to ask for and give help during a crisis.

Facebook Community Help for Businesses

By enabling businesses to post on Community Help will assist firms in providing critical information and services for people when they need it the most. Facebook has started to roll out the feature for certain organizations and plans to make it more widely available in forthcoming weeks.

In times of crisis, interactivity and connecting people is more important than ever. By posting on Facebook in response to a crisis, the Community Help feature will enable businesses and organizations to provide people with urgent help, such as food, shelter and transportation.

This will help businesses meet aims of providing help and assistance during times of crisis and ultimately shape stronger, more interactive communities.

As Asha Sharma, Head of Social Good at Facebook, commented in a statement on Facebook about the Community Help development:

“Our priority is to build tools that help keep people safe and provide them with ways to get the help they need to recover and rebuild after a crisis. We hope this update makes it even easier for people to get the help they need in times of crisis and will give businesses and organizations and opportunity to build stronger communities around them.”

Since it was launched in 2017, Community Help has seen people engage more than 750,000 times via posts, messages and comments. People have turned to the Community Help feature for information and assistance during more than 500 different crises around the world.

By allowing organizations and businesses to post vital information and messages will help people get the crucial assistance they need during times of crisis.

Image: Facebook

This article, "Facebook Giving Businesses the Ability to Post to Crisis Response" was first published on Small Business Trends

2 out of 3 Service Contractors Won’t Get Hired if They’re Not Tech Savvy

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 14:30

Being tech-savvy is fundamental to functioning in today’s highly connected world. A new survey commissioned by Verizon Telematics and carried out by KRC Research highlights the extent of this example as it reveals 2 out of 3 customers said they would not hire a service contractor who is not tech-savvy.

Service Professionals Are Expected to Be Tech-Savvy

The study surveyed service contractors and small businesses in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); construction; landscaping; plumbing and trucking/delivery. And in all cases being tech savvy did affect the bottom line across all the industries.

Service contractors are in most cases small businesses, whether they are a sole operator or part of a company that is slightly larger. For these organizations, technology is essential in optimizing operations and delivering the best possible service for their customers.

Jay Jaffin, chief marketing officer at Verizon Telematics, pointed out the importance of being technologically proficient across the entire workforce of a business. In a press release announcing the survey, he said, “In an age where nearly everyone has a smartphone, customers expect that mobility, connectivity and tech savviness will extend to the home service vendors they choose to work with,” said. “By simply connecting their vehicles and technicians, businesses can anticipate changes to schedules, handle more last-minute jobs, send a different technician to the next job if one is running late and most importantly, drive huge gains in customer satisfaction.”

The data was collected using an online survey with 506 participating service contractors working in the five service industries. It was carried out by KRC Research from Sept. 28 to Oct. 9, 2017, with a minimum of 100 professionals from each industry taking part. After the conclusion, the consumer side of the survey was completed seperately. A total of 1,026 individuals 18 years of age and older took part in the study online between Nov. 2 and Nov. 6, 2017.

Some of the Results Of the Survey

Another important data point from the consumer side of the survey was, 79 percent of U.S. consumers expect tech-savvy home service contractors.

On the service provider side, 70 percent of contractors have recognized ensuring future business success will require adopting new technologies. And contractors who have started using work applications on their mobile, tablet or laptops have noticed higher rates of customer satisfaction.

Mobile technology is especially important for this group as they are always on the move. The productivity levels of HVAC workers increased by 92 percent because of mobile technology. And 63 percent of construction workers experienced increased customer satisfaction, while another 53 percent said they saw higher sales.

The infographic below has additional information about the survey.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "2 out of 3 Service Contractors Won’t Get Hired if They’re Not Tech Savvy" was first published on Small Business Trends

Want to Step Up to Your Biggest Small Business Challenge? Read This First

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 13:00

As a philanthropist and award winning television host of shows like “Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” Ty Pennington has a proven track record of motivating people. That’s why Small Business Trends was happy to interview him and learn what he thought was the biggest challenge facing a small business.

“People who have small businesses are focused on what their passion is. They don’t always know what it’s like to try and market or the best way to accomplish that goal with their brand,” he said. Pennington will be co hosting the third season of the web series Small Business Revolution — Main Street.  He says finding a team that can focus on branding for you can revolutionize the way you look at your business and help to revitalize a small town that’s struggling at the same time.

Small Business Revolution-Main Street Business Services

“Small Business Revolution — Main Street” is sponsored by Deluxe, a company that offers a variety of small business services. The show brings small town community leaders, experts and business professionals together to help small towns and smaller enterprises there. Over the first two seasons, small businesses in Indiana and Pennsylvania got help with business and marketing advice as well as physical improvements totaling $500,000.

Voting for the third season’s winner in underway here

Amanda Brinkman stars in “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” and she’s also the executive producer of the show. She told Small Business Trends she’s seen a few areas that challenge small businesses’ success.

 Know Your Numbers

“We’ve seen two things. First is their finances. Knowing their numbers and what their numbers are telling them is important,” she says adding the second big challenge is staying on top of and understanding the technology curves that help small business owners get the most from digital innovations.

“A lot of people didn’t start a business because they couldn’t wait to build a website or use email marketing to stay in front of their customers,” she says.

As well as working on the upcoming season of “Small Business Revolution — Main Street,” Pennington’s flagship show, Trading Spaces, is set to come back on air on the TLC network in April.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Want to Step Up to Your Biggest Small Business Challenge? Read This First" was first published on Small Business Trends

7 Ways A Cloud Based Virtual Assistant Will Make You a Better Entrepreneur

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 11:30
Sponsored Post

Did you know that more than half of Americans want their own personal AI assistant, and why not? Having a cloud-based virtual assistant to hand your tasks off to is like a dream; your own guy or girl Friday that can handle everything from scheduling to research, project management, and even sales.

Happily, with the rise of cloud based virtual assistants, this dream is coming true. And, for entrepreneurs, there are many benefits to using one.

What is a Cloud Based Virtual Assistant?

Before we jump into the benefits however, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page as to what a cloud based virtual assistant is.

A cloud based virtual assistant is an app that understands “natural” language text or voice commands and can complete tasks on your behalf. In other words, you can talk to the app using real, everyday words. In addition, the app can live online or on a device like your smartphone.

What we’re not talking about here is a human virtual assistant. While those folks can provide many benefits of their own, they’re not part of this conversation.

Whether online or on a device, one critical feature of a cloud based virtual assistant is its ability to connect to multiple systems and sources of data. For this reason, they are “cloud-based” because they can reach into the cloud to access what they need. As you’ll see below, this is how they get work done for you.

Cloud Based Virtual Assistant Benefits

Cloud based virtual assistants help you be a better entrepreneur by taking on the tasks that can fill your time so you can focus on higher-value work like delighting your customers and finding more of them.

Here’s a look at some of the ways you can use a virtual assistant.

Onboarding Sales Leads

You can waste a lot of time with tire-kickers, folks who download your sales materials but aren’t really interested in buying anything.

Tools like Conversica help you discover your most promising sales leads by starting a conversation that eventually leads to contact with a human. Once you’ve got them on the phone, the business is yours to win.

Meeting Scheduler

One of the most time-consuming tasks is setting up a meeting. You send the invite, they say they can’t make it and off you go with that lovely game we call “let’s see if we can find a time and place to meet in under 10 emails.”

Wouldn’t it be great to hand off that whole process to someone else? Well, thanks to the rise of virtual assistants like x.ai, you can. This tool handles all the back and forth to set up meetings and all you have to do is provide some basic input at the beginning.

Now you can spend more time actually meeting rather than trying to set the meeting up.

Meeting Facilitator

Once your meeting is set up, a virtual assistant can help you make the most of your time together. This technology is still evolving, but we get an interesting peek into the future of virtual meeting assistants in the infographic below from Cisco; a future that is starting to arrive today. The future looks pretty sweet from here.

Project Management Assistant

Project management is a key element of a well run business. Using project management helps assure that work gets done and delivered on time and as promised.

However, finding out what’s going on at any one moment can mean a lot of time spent running down updates and statuses.

Now you can get around that problem by using a virtual assistant like the one created by integrating Redbooth and Cisco Spark. This “virtual project management assistant” can run down questions like, “Where’s everyone with their tasks,” “How much time is left before this part of the project is done?”, and “How many hours should I bill my client this month?”

It’s nice to be able to spend your time working in your business rather than on your business, right?

On-Demand Info

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get critical information on the fly just by asking a question? That’s exactly what Dickey’s Barbecue is starting to roll-out to their chain of franchise restaurants.

Laura Rea Dickey, CEO of the Dallas-based company, says franchisees can use an Amazon Echo to ask Alexa for “up-to-date data on daily sales, inventory levels, scheduled deliveries by suppliers, customer ratings, and even optimal smoking times.” And that’s all without leaving the kitchen.

Outside of the work area, folks can still access visual data as well.

Personal Assistant

Aside from scheduling, cloud based virtual assistants can make it feel like secretaries have come back in style. Some examples include:

  • Providing reminders so you never miss a meeting,.
  • Adding items to your to-do list,
  • Reading your email to you and even replying,
  • Making conference calls for you so you don’t have to remember to bring the number,
  • Finding flights, lodging and restaurants for you locally or when you travel,
  • Finding out the weather forecast and reporting news you’re interested in hearing.
Housekeeper

After a hard day at work, wouldn’t it be nice to come back to a comfortable home? Using cloud based connections with smart devices, a virtual assistant can make sure that the lights are on, soothing music is playing and the temperature is just right.

A well-rested and relaxed entrepreneur is an effective entrepreneur and a cloud based virtual assistant can help you enjoy your time out of the office.

Additional Resources

The links below lead to handy posts that can help you learn more and get started with a cloud based personal assistant today.

For more on how to offer AI virtual assistance as part of a larger cloud based business service, contact Meylah today.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "7 Ways A Cloud Based Virtual Assistant Will Make You a Better Entrepreneur" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Compete as a Brick and Mortar Business in the Age of Amazon

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 10:30


There’s no denying that Amazon is ruling the roost right now in the retail sector. However, just because the ecommerce giant owns the lion’s share of the market, doesn’t mean brick and mortar is obsolete. For proactive retailers, there are plenty of ways to stay relevant.

Amazon Isn’t Going Anywhere

In June 2006, Standard & Poor launched the S&P Retail Sector ETF, using the ticker symbol XRT. This ETF is used as a sort of barometer for tracking and gauging the health of the nation’s retail sector over time. While it does include some ecommerce businesses in the fund, XRT is predominantly comprised of brick and mortar retailers.

Any educated, data-driven conversation on brick and mortar business in the U.S. should involve an examination of XRT. Keeping this in mind, what does it currently say about physical retailers in a marketplace that appears to be dominated by ecommerce?

“It’s highly unlikely the brick and mortar retail model will completely disappear. However, based on the recent price performance of XRT, these companies will need to undergo some drastic changes in order to compete with the likes of Amazon,” Mark Soberman writes for NetPicks ETF Investor. “Without question, major disruptions are occurring within the retail industry. Not everyone will survive.”

While the future isn’t exactly bright for brick and mortar, Soberman’s words are laced with optimism for those willing to identify disruptions and adjust in accordance with new changes and developments.

As Boston Retail Partner’s Ken Morris says, “Brick-and-mortar isn’t dead, it’s evolving.” In his opinion, “Stores are no longer stores, they are distribution points for products.”

If you want proof that brick and mortar retail isn’t going to vanish, look no further than what Amazon has been doing over the past couple of years. Despite being the king of ecommerce, Jeff Bezos and crew have actually started launching physical stores in select markets like Seattle, Portland, San Diego and Boston. They’ve also launched Amazon Go — an upscale convenience store that requires no checkout — in Seattle (and have plans for more locations across the country).

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that Apple has found great success with its retail locations, despite generating most of its revenue via ecommerce. In fact, Apple stores have been one of the driving factors in the company’s growth over the past few years.

What does all of this mean? Clearly Amazon and other ecommerce sites are dominating the retail landscape, but there still appear to be prime opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses that are willing to do what it takes to compete.

The question is, how do traditional brick and mortar companies remain competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace where trends come and go?

4 Ways Retailers Can Compete in the Age of Amazon

If you’re still using the same sales and marketing strategies from the turn of the century, you’re on the verge of becoming obsolete. Today’s customers aren’t opposed to shopping in brick and mortar stores, but you have to appeal to their evolving needs and preferences — many of which have been significantly altered by their online shopping experiences.

The following tips will give you a nice starting point for becoming more competitive in today’s marketplace:

1. Create a Compelling Experience

One of the great advantages brick and mortar retailers have over ecommerce sites is the “touch” factor. There’s something about being able to touch products and interact with people in a face-to-face manner that makes physical retail special. But if you want to maximize the touch factor, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about customer experience inside of your stores.

Every store has a customer experience built in, but only a few are strategically, meticulously developed with customers in mind.

“The truth is, most of our experiences as consumers happen almost accidentally. Many retailers may have a general idea of the experience they want in their stores, but only a few have taken the pains necessary to engineer, plan and stage those experiences with precision,” retail futurist Doug Stephens explains. “That engineered quality of experience is precisely what has made retailers like Apple, Starbucks and Sephora strong. The experience you receive in a Starbucks, Apple store, or Ritz hotel is not accidental but completely deliberate and by design.”

You need a customer experience strategy. Not a vague idea that you and your team discuss in theoretical terms, but a concrete strategy with tangible action steps that will be implemented in order to give customers what they’re looking for. Until you do this, you’ll find it difficult to compete.

2. Drive Online Traffic to Your Stores

Even brick and mortar stores need an online presence. In fact, it’s the strength of your online presence that helps your store remain competitive and successful.

View your website as a resource that people use before visiting your store. The more you can build convenience into your site, the more effective it will be at funneling traffic to your store. Some things you may consider doing:

  • Clearly list your inventory online so customers know whether or not an item is in stock at their local store.
  • If your store is large and items are hard to find, provide aisle and bin numbers for each product online. This increases convenience and helps customers find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Give customers the opportunity to reserve/purchase items online and pick up in store.

Little tweaks like this make a huge difference and make customers more willing to stop by your store (rather than purchase online from one of your competitors).

3. Invest in a Geo-Conquesting Strategy

One of the bigger trends in retail today is the use of location data to engage, convince and convert shoppers. With so many ways to collect data, it would be foolish not to put it to use.

“Retailers should consider creating a ‘geo-conquesting’ strategy by utilizing location data and geofencing to find audiences that shop at competing locations,” entrepreneur Brian Handly suggests. “Toys ‘R’ Us, for example, could work to incentivize and win over the shoppers at the GameStop, Target, Walmart and BestBuy locations, sending them relevant ads and offers when these competitive shoppers browse their phones or social media.”

4. Try Smaller, Local Stores

Today’s consumers have become spoiled. When they shop online, they’re used to perfectly tailored, heavily personalized experiences that take thousands of data points into account. While you don’t have all of the same resources and opportunities, there are ways for your brick and mortar business to capitalize on the desire for hyper-personalization.

Cutting-edge businesses like Lululemon are moving away from cookie-cutter stores and are focusing on innovative, hyper-local stores to take the personality and flavor of the community into account. This gives them the chance to zero in on individual customers and address specific needs and desires.

While there’s something to be said for consistency across different stores, this may be a concept you look at down the road. By making stores feel like they belong in the community, you are making it much more likely customers will see your brand in a positive light.

Don’t Let Amazon Deter Your Business

It’s easy to study the growth of Amazon — a company that took 18 years to catch up with Walmart in market cap, but just two more to double it — and be deterred by your own limitations and constraints. However, Amazon isn’t your enemy.

As a brick and mortar retailer, Amazon is showing you the way. The company has peeled back the layers and revealed what your customers want — convenience and high levels of engagement.

Will you have to digitize some of your processes and dip your feet into ecommerce to remain competitive in the coming years? Certainly. But there are also plenty of opportunities to take advantage of your existing infrastructure and delight your customers offline.

Learning how to balance your business model will prove to be the most important skill over the next decade.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Compete as a Brick and Mortar Business in the Age of Amazon" was first published on Small Business Trends

Hatch Raises $1.3M to Help Small Businesses Develop Mobile Apps

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 09:30

In its effort to help small businesses develop mobile apps without the upfront cost of traditional solutions, Hatch has raised $1.3 million.

Hatch Apps

The Hatch automated software development platform allows entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses to develop, launch and manage native iOS, Android and web apps. The new funding is going to be used to launch growth initiatives and scale the company’s engineering and infrastructure teams with the goal of continuing to develop innovative approaches to software creation.

As more small businesses increase their mobile presence, developing their own apps delivers greater control, customization and management. This includes modifying content and functions, sending push notifications, making updates and more without the back and forth with developers. And Hatch says it can make this happen at one-tenth the cost and time of existing software development options.

The CEO of Hatch, Param Jaggi, pointed out the challenges businesses without tech backgrounds face when creating their own applications. In the press release, he said, “…I’ve seen how opaque the industry is, and how vulnerable businesses are when they lack the technical knowledge to create and implement their own software. By automating app development, we’re striking down barriers to entry and making it possible for anyone to build production-grade software without writing a line of code.”

The Process

You can create the app yourself or get help from a specialist. The process is as easy as choosing what kind of app you want to create and using the company’s design wizard to get help in the customizations of the application. And if you can’t or don’t want to do it, Hatch will customize the app for you, free of charge.

Additional features include content management, live updates to the app stores, push notifications from your dashboard, analytics and more with native code packages. With native code, your Android, iOS and web apps will work as intended on each platform.

When you finally finish your app and launch it, Hatch uses scalable infrastructure with automation and machine intelligence to make it available at all times with the latest updates.

Pricing

Hatch has a flat monthly all-inclusive pricing structure which includes automated server storage, data management, debugging, updates, analytics and all other backend processes. The $1,000 price tag also provides unlimited app users and administrator seats. You can start by trying it for free.

Controlling Your Apps

With the type of control Hatch provides, you can make changes right away when you introduce new products, services and promotions to your business. This gives your customers access to the latest information so they can make purchasing decisions, visit your brick and mortar store or ask questions. It makes your company more available, which is critically important in a 24/7 commerce world.

Images: HatchApps.com

This article, "Hatch Raises $1.3M to Help Small Businesses Develop Mobile Apps" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Tips for Differentiating Your Home Improvement Contracting Business

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 08:30

Getting a leg up on the competition in the home improvement business can be tough.  Small Business Trends spoke with Dave Yoho, the Founder and President of Dave Yoho Associates, a consulting company that’s been representing small businesses since 1962.

Differentiating Your Home Improvement Business

Yoho  shared some tips on how a small home improvement contracting business can stand out in any crowded marketplace.

Talk with Clients

There’s more to being different than offering free estimates and the lowest price, Yoho says.  One of the ways that contractors can differentiate themselves is to establish a personal connection by talking with clients about their specific needs.

“If someone doesn’t recognize the value people put on their personal time, they’re going to do what everyone else does,” he says suggesting this kind of connection adds a personal touch that adds depth to advertising and special offers.

“Contractors need to be able to deal with the people that contact them so they can get something out of it,” Yoho says, adding the example of roofing contractors telling a prospect about the average lifespan of shingles in their area.

Listen to Clients

Of course, listening to any prospects is just as important. When they start talking about remodeling a basement and you interrupt them to talk about the high-quality drywall you use, they’ll lump you in with all the others who use high pressure sales tactics.

When you’re listening to them talk, you’ll get to understand what their needs are.

Pay Attention to Cycle Times

You need to give customers accurate estimated completion times for jobs. In the home improvement industry, there are many variables like weather that can affect this. Yoho stresses contractors need to be organized so they have accurate “cycle times” to get the job done on time. That way, the client is happy, everyone gets paid and the business gets a great reputation.

He uses the example of a window replacement project.

“It might take six weeks from the day you sell it to the day you complete it,” he says. “The work year might have 48 weeks with holidays and bad weather.”

Dividing those numbers gives you a cycle time–the number of days you need to complete the project factoring in all your operating costs.

It’s a simple formula to make your business more efficient and credible.

Find a Smaller Target Market

Narrowing down the area you work in as a home improvement contractor is a great way to separate yourself from the competition.  One way to do this is to geographically tag any of the keywords you use on your website or in social media.

For example, if you use a keyword like “bathroom renovations” you can narrow down your market by adding a location so it reads “Philadelphia bathroom renovations.” Using a technique like this helps you to build stronger client relationships in a more condensed area.

Look at Your Structure

If you’re bogged down with an inefficient supply chain or bookkeeping system that’s not right for your home improvement business, you’ll have no time to work on differentiating yourself.

That’s why Yoho suggests a smaller firm in this space standing head and shoulders above the competition always needs to be looking toward improvements across the company.

“That goes for the installation crew, the sales crew and even the people working in the office,” Yoho says, cautioning against just using tried and true methods because they work.

Keeping open minded can give you an edge. Getting employee input at a weekly meeting is a good start.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Tips for Differentiating Your Home Improvement Contracting Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Sick and Tired of Doing Content Marketing Without a Plan? Read This

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2018-02-20 07:30

Case studies. Whitepapers. Blog posts. Social content. Videos. Newsletters.

Your content obligations never end. In fact, B2B marketers employ an average of 13 different content marketing tactics.

And it’s no wonder — content marketing has incredible potential for those who can master the craft. According to this year’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report for North America from CMI, the most effective content marketers allocate 42 percent of their total marketing budget to content.

Companies are increasingly spending more on content, yet just 30 percent say their organizations are effective at content marketing. Incredibly, 55 percent aren’t even sure what content marketing effectiveness would look like.

Where’s the disconnect?

For starters, the mere thought of content marketing can be overwhelming, particularly for SMBs and mid-sized brands. Developing a strategy is key, yet so many miss this critical first step and instead jump head first into content creation, just to say they’re creating something.

That’s just not sustainable. You can’t throw your resources at creating different content types without having systems in place to measure its efficacy and adjust for better marketing ROI over the life of your campaigns.

A key consideration is deciding which content type or types are most worth your time, effort and resources. Which pieces of content resonate best with users? Which are best for each stage of your funnel? Which content types generate not only the most, but the best quality leads for your business?

This awesome and comprehensive infographic explores 11 popular content types, with an analysis of each that includes:

  • What it is
  • The benefits of doing it
  • “Sweet spots”–where this content type works best
  • How much it costs to outsource
  • How difficult it is to start and maintain
  • Power tips to help you master this content type
Selecting the Right Types of Marketing Content

If you’re struggling to keep up with your content obligations and not sure the various pieces of your content marketing strategy are really working together, check this out and keep it handy. The key to the best content marketing ROI lies in focusing your efforts where they have the potential for greatest impact.

Check it out:

Image: Venngage

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Sick and Tired of Doing Content Marketing Without a Plan? Read This" was first published on Small Business Trends

Apply These 4 Secret Techniques to Turn Your Blog Visitors into Customers

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2018-02-19 16:30

To blog or not to blog? I get this question from our eCommerce clients all the time. Many of them have tried blogging, but are discouraged because “it hasn’t worked for them.” They publish several articles per week or per month and give up when they don’t see the sales coming in right way.

One of the many reasons why they don’t see results is because of low website traffic. Unfortunately, if a website has low traffic, blogging won’t increase that traffic overnight. To have articles or blogs rank organically, it takes months and requires the execution of several search engine optimization practices.

However, many of those clients do have website traffic but still have no eCommerce conversions … so, what’s going on in those cases? I’ve found that most experience poor results because they don’t optimize their articles for conversions and don’t implement other efforts to stay in front of their readers. As you’ll see in the tips below, the key is to think of content as the initial point of contact, or an introduction. Once you grab the attention of your readers, you can then nurture them until they convert into paying customers.

How to Turn Blog Visitors into Customers 1. Create Relevant Content

No matter how much content you produce, if it doesn’t speak to your ideal target customer, you’ll be wasting your time engaging the wrong type of readers. Thus, take time to develop a content calendar that speaks to your audience and addresses their specific interests or concerns.

Think of your content as a helping guide for your ideal customers in different stages of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration and purchase. For instance, let’s say you have an eCommerce store that sells boating shoes and you’re trying to get new customers that are in two different stages of the buying process:  awareness and consideration.

As you can imagine, the content produced for ideal customers in the awareness stage will be totally different from the content generated for ideal customers in the consideration stage. The ones in the awareness stage are not familiar with your brand, so they’ll need a “softer” introduction to your products.

For example, you can create a fashion guide about how to pair boating shoes with clothing. In that guide, you can introduce your shoe brand to users who were just looking to learn fashion tips online and were not specifically searching for your shoe brand.

On the other hand, the content targeting ideal customers in the consideration stage can be more focused on your brand and benefits because this target already knows your brand. For example, that can be the case of a user who already joined your newsletter but hasn’t made a purchase yet. If so, that user can get an article like this one:

In such articles, you’ll want to emphasize things like your unique value proposition, company story, and/or testimonials. In other words, convince users that your store is better than your competitor’s.

2. Capture Your Readers’ Email Address

This tip is essential to make other key efforts work successfully. The idea is to capture your reader’s information while they are reading your blogs, so you can build your email list, retarget those contacts on other platforms, and email them to convert them into paying customers.

One of the best ways to do this is by using email lightboxes. They are pop-ups that capture email information, usually by providing an incentive such as a discount offer. See below how Banana Republic encourages visitors to join its newsletter using pop-ups:

They may seem like a small addition to your website, but I’ve seen a great increase in email subscriptions thanks to this little tool. And the more targeted you can make it to the user, the better. You can customize them with many online tools or apps that will allow you to take care of the whole design and customization process.

Sumo is one of those tools, and it will allow you to get super targeted with your pop-ups. For instance, you can use this tool to customize your pop-up copy based on specific URLs. So, you would be able to show different messages according to the website your reader is on.

Let’s say your visitor is reading about how to choose the perfect engagement ring. Then you can show a message that says something like: “Looking for the perfect ring? We’ll help you decide. Add your email below.” This message would be very different from the one another visitor can get reading about necklaces. Targeted messages like those will increase your conversion rate.

3. Retarget Your Readers on Social Media

Not all your blog visitors will be ready to make a purchase at a moment they read one of your articles, and that’s okay. As long as you remind them about your brand and products, they will come back to your store if they are interested. The low conversions arise when you don’t stay in front of those blog readers, and they end up forgetting about your brand in the long run.

In other words, what you need to do is remarketing. There are many platforms that can be used for remarketing, but, in this tip, we’ll talk about social media.

There are two ways you can retarget your previous blog readers using social media:

  1. Using their email addresses
  2. Based on your website’s tracking pixel

The first option, using an email list, will help you retarget the users that subscribed to your newsletters while reading one of your blogs. This segment will be “warmer” than the “all visitors” segment because they decided to engage with your brand.

To retarget an email list, you’ll have to create a custom audience on Facebook. Just go to “Audiences” located in the drop-down menu of your Ads Manager, and select the first option: Customer File.

Then you’ll have the option to import your contacts directly from Mailchimp or upload a CSV file. Choose whichever option works best for you.

If you choose the CSV option, you’ll see a popup like the one below:

Just upload your file, follow the instructions and you’ll be able to create a new custom audience for your remarketing ads.

Another option available is to target previous blog readers based on your Facebook Pixel. To do this, just go back to the Audiences tab, but this time select the second option: Website Traffic.

On the next screen, select “People who visited specific web pages” to only target people who have visited your blog. Then, to “URL contains” add “blog.” This will work if you use the word “blog” for all your article URLs. If you’d like to target specific blogs, add the content there.

Once your custom audience is populated by Facebook, you’ll be able to use it in your campaigns. 

4. Set Up an Email Drip Campaign

 At this point, you have a strategy set up for email capture and retargeting; now it’s time to nurture your leads. You can do this with an email drip campaign. Don’t get scared by that term. They are just email campaigns set up with automated rules, optimized for conversions.

For instance, you can set up an email drip campaign for anyone who signs up for your newsletters so they automatically get a welcome email. According to the recipient’s behavior (opens it vs. doesn’t open it), you will then set up another email accordingly. So, if a user opens it, you can send another piece of content to keep nurturing that lead, and so on.

Email drip campaigns increase conversions because they are automatic (you don’t have to follow up manually) which reduces human error — and they are sent in a timely manner. The users will get the emails you’ve set up as soon as they fulfill any rules in the drip campaign.

Conclusion

Armed with these tips, it’s time to start turning those blog visitors into lifelong customers of your brand. What other tricks or tactics have you used in the past that have worked in this instance? I’d love to discuss new ideas in the comments below.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Apply These 4 Secret Techniques to Turn Your Blog Visitors into Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends

20% of All Searches are Made with Voice (INFOGRAPHIC)

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2018-02-19 14:40

A new and very interactive infographic by Adzooma takes a look at how online advertising will be trending in 2018. And one of the data points is the growth of voice search, which now makes up 20 percent of inquiries on Google’s mobile app and Android devices.

Online Advertising Trends

In addition to the upcoming trends in 2018, the infographic also provides tips to stay abreast of changing technologies, new SEO requirements, and the way we communicate digitally. Adzooma also looks at audience targeting, Google, PPC, images and videos along with voice search.

The reason your small business needs to keep up with the information in this infographic is that online and mobile advertising is taking over traditional advertising around the world. And if you don’t know where your customers are, buying ads in a medium they don’t use will yield a low return on your investment.

The data for the infographic comes from Adzooma, which specializes in Small business online advertising, and from Search Engine Land, Google, and other sources.

Integrating Voice Technology into Your Small Business

Voice search is growing, and according to the data below, it will account for 50 percent of all searches by 2020. So making your website, ads and other digital assets voice friendly is key to ensuring you won’t be left out now and in the near future.

Another benefit of using voice technology is it conveys a more clear intent of what users are searching for. This gives marketers, SEO specialists and your small business a much better way to make your ads and marketing campaigns easier to find.

Location-based optimization or GPS-based SEO is growing along with video ads. And mobile will continue to be the key technology driving online advertising, which now stands at 43 percent of all digital ad spend.

According to Adzooma, the glue holding it all together is still Google. Not only does it deliver around $2 for every cent spent on Google Adwords, but it now has 32.4 percent of mobile spend advertising too.

You can take a look at the interactive infographic below to find out more about audience targeting, PPC and more.

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Photo via ShutterstockOther images: Adzooma

This article, "20% of All Searches are Made with Voice (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends