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10 Modern Search Strategies Businesses Are Not Doing

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 18:30

Search marketing is difficult and time consuming. There is a lot of advice and a lot of it is outdated or flat out does not work. With that I want to share with you 10 search strategies that are easy to implement and are proven to increase search rankings.

Search Engine Marketing Strategies Content Promotion

If your content is not promoted it does not exist. Creating good content does not help SEO, creating good content and then promoting it helps SEO. If no one knows about your content how will Google know it is good? Promoting your content helps you get links and social shares back to your content and then Google ranks the content high in Google. Focus on promoting your content using good content promotion tools or just relationships you have built. The lowest hanging fruit is email marketing content.

Social Media Marketing

Getting social media signals is a form of a “quality” signal which Google is able to use as part of their algorithm. Basically, if your webpage says “Black Cat” how will Google rank you over the other people who rank for “Black Cat”? They rank webpages with social media shares and backlinks as “good quality content” and the more quality signals you have (again, quality signals are links or social media signals) means you will rank higher.

Having a social media marketing plan to get consumers to share your content on their social channels is very important. Creating good blog content and then sharing on your social channels allows Google to value your site higher and therefore rank it higher.

Removing Duplicate Content

Creating landing pages with the same content but just subtle differences is a 2009 SEO tactic. Remove any duplicate content and make all content at least 80 percent unique. If you cannot make it 80 percent unique then consolidate your pages to remove duplicate content. The Panda updates are so advanced now they can really devalue your site if you have too much duplicate content (around 20 percent).

Removing Bad Backlinks

Using a backlink analysis tool can enable you to look at your backlink profile and disavow any bad backlinks you have. You can export all of your links and disavow any poor quality links you have.

Local Citations Auditing

For businesses especially just starting out you want to build a solid foundation of “no-follow” links so Google gains trust with your website and then you can get solid high authority links on top. To do this doing a local citation campaign is a must. You can use tools like Moz Local or even builders like YEXT to build local citations for you quickly and effectively.

Content Research

Having effective content is critical and if you are not putting historical data or trends into your content creation you are behind the times. You can use tools like Buzzsumo to see what content has produced the best social media shares or backlinks and therefore make even better content. This makes your content better and more effective than ever before! You can also use trends to see which pieces of content are strongest during time periods or seasons. Or, there might be time sensitive content producing great results you can replicate easily and effectively.

On Page Optimization

Having good on page optimization is important otherwise, how would Google know what to rank you for? The first part of on page optimization is keyword research and understand what are your best keywords to rank for on every page. Once you understand the keywords you want to edit your meta title, description, URL, H1 tag, and body content based on it. For the ultimate guide to on page optimization check this out.

Speed Optimization

One of the main technical SEO improvements in 2016 and beyond is site speed. Having good site speed, judged by the Google page speed tool, if extremely low hanging fruit for any business trying to gain organic search rankings. You can use the Google page speed tools to see how you do and what improvements are needed to have a better score. Use this tool to get a quicker speed and provide a better user experience.

User Experience Testing

One factor people do not know about in Google search is usability. Having good usability allows Google to see visitors interacting positively with your site and then they can rank you higher based on this. This video shows the pogo stick and how to solve it but a good user experience is always a good start and having a clear landing page for the searcher to go to.

Interlinking

One very easy to implement and manage tactic is interlinking. In your blog content and service pages you can interlink from one page to the other so you can pass authority from one page to the next. This only works if the page has authority to begin with but it can be a very good tactic to pass good authority from one to the other to rank other pages higher. However, only do this if it makes sense and works well for the content.

Search Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Modern Search Strategies Businesses Are Not Doing" was first published on Small Business Trends

Pizza-Pulling Reindeer Didn’t Work Out for Domino’s (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 16:30

Think it would be cool to get your pizza delivered by an actual reindeer? You’re not alone. In fact, Domino’s recently tried to make this very thing happen in Japan.

For the holiday season, the pizza chain announced that it would have reindeer pulling sleds with pizza deliveries on them. Then customers could track their pizzas by GPS just like with regular deliveries.

However, the idea didn’t exactly work out. As it turns out, it’s much more difficult to train reindeer than those old Christmas stories make it out to be. Or maybe they only listen to Santa.

Either way, Domino’s couldn’t make the reindeer-delivered pizza idea work. It was a cute idea, but not exactly a practical one. This goes to show that not all ideas that sound fun or exciting are actually fit for a real business environment.

Practical Marketing Considerations Do Not Have to Beat Creativity

But Domino’s isn’t scrapping the idea entirely. Instead, the company is dressing up some of its scooters to look like reindeer. It might not be quite as exciting as the real thing. But scooters are at least a bit more practical for business purposes.

Remember in your own business there are times those brilliant ideas of yours simply may not be practical. Don’t give up! Rethink those ideas and figure out how you could pull them off given practical limitations.

Image: Domino’s Japan

This article, "Pizza-Pulling Reindeer Didn’t Work Out for Domino’s (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Whiten Your Teeth and Give Yourself Flawless Skin with this Selfie App

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 14:30

If you’re looking for the perfect selfie image that looks a cut above for business profiles or company websites, the new Facetune 2 app is one option.

The original Facetune app offered photo retouching for selfies and was known for its easy to use interface and powerful image-editing and beautifying tools. This made it a popular photo app on the App Store, and the second version appears to offer even more features.

In addition to fixing blemishes, red-eyes, whitening teeth and changing shapes, Facetune 2 claims to have other updates too.

A Peek at the Latest Facetune App

The first noteworthy feature is Live Preview, a way to view the modifications you make to your selfie before saving the image. You can now see if you have made your teeth a little too white, or have gone a bit too far in using the face-reshaping tool.

The Live Preview feature compliments Relight, another feature that lets you control the light source illuminating your image. With this tool, the app’s developers claim you can dramatically change the mood of any picture by simply adjusting the lighting and where that originates.

If you like creating caricatures with your image — not appropriate for some business profiles perhaps — face manipulation has been improved with a 3D modeling engine that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI). The apps developers claim it can quickly identify and determine your natural facial structure and manipulate it for a desired affect.

These features and more including perfect eyes and smiles and flawless skin features, professional tools, artistic tools, and magic mirror camera features are available with different pricing structures.

You can get each tool a la carte with an in-app purchase from 99 cents to $2.99. And if you want to subscribe, you can start at $3.99 per month or pay $19.99 for a full year.

Facetune 2 is available at the iTunes App Store.

This article, "Whiten Your Teeth and Give Yourself Flawless Skin with this Selfie App" was first published on Small Business Trends

Opportunity Fund Targets Minority Businesses, Loans More Than $60 Million in 2016

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 13:00

Small businesses in California that can’t access capital through traditional lenders have another option. Opportunity Fund is an organization that provides microloans to small businesses. Since it was founded in 1994, the organization has loaned more than $164 million to more than 5,500 businesses.

And in its 2016 fiscal year, Opportunity Fund provided over $60 million in loans, with a special focus on helping minority owned businesses, though that is not a requirement to obtain funding.

Small Business Opportunity Fund Loans

Anna Suarez, Small Business Marketing Director for Opportunity Fund said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “Opportunity Fund’s philosophy is that small amounts of money and financial advice can help people make permanent and lasting change in their own lives, driving economic mobility and building stronger communities.”

David Anderson is one entrepreneur who has taken advantage of Opportunity Fund’s microloans. Anderson is the owner of Sage & Company, a business that sells household items like mops and cleaning equipment at events.

Anderson said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “When the recession hit, everything changed. The distribution channels like home shows where I sold products wouldn’t bring in as many people, but costs remained high. So it was difficult to keep up with inventory and other costs.”

So when Anderson heard about Opportunity Fund, he applied for a small loan and used it to build up his inventory so that he could have a more reliable supply of products.

Anderson also appreciated the ability to access a small amount of money. In the past, when he had tried to work with larger financial institutions, he said he actually had a more difficult time securing a small loan from banks that normally work in larger amounts. Opportunity Fund’s median loan size is $18,000.

And for some small businesses, securing any amount of money from traditional banks or lending institutions can be difficult or even impossible. But to work with Opportunity Fund, businesses just need to be located in California and be in business for at least a year with credit that is currently on time. Even if you have past credit issues or no credit history, Opportunity Fund will consider your loan.

Suarez says, “Most Opportunity Fund borrowers are unable to obtain funding from traditional financial institutions, so they seek an Opportunity Fund loan due to our specialization in affordable and responsible small business microloans and our understanding of their circumstances from having worked with thousands of similar borrowers.”

Image: Anderson with a customer at a home show

This article, "Opportunity Fund Targets Minority Businesses, Loans More Than $60 Million in 2016" was first published on Small Business Trends

50 Tips for Marketing Your Business This Holiday Season

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 11:30

The holiday season is upon us. And it provides many unique opportunities for all different types of businesses to market to customers in new and unique ways. Whether you own an online business, a local store, or even a B2B company, there are ways you can promote your business throughout the coming months. Here are some ideas you can use to market your business this holiday season.

2016 Holiday Marketing Ideas Include Coupons With Purchases

The holiday season is a great time to garner some repeat business. And you can do that by including a coupon or special offer in each purchase so that customers can take advantage at a later date.

Cross-Promote With Other Businesses

You can also use a similar strategy to attract customers from other local businesses. Just exchange coupons or go in on a special offer and give those items to shoppers at each store.

Host a Thank You Dinner

If you have some really loyal customers or clients, you can say a special thank you at the holidays by taking them out to a lunch or dinner.

Partner With a Local Charity

You might also want to do some charity work during the holidays. If you have a local business, you can invite representatives from a local charity to collect money or share their message at your location for a day.

Donate Money to a Cause

Or you could simply choose to donate a portion of your profits throughout the holidays to a particular group or cause.

Invite Santa Claus

People love visiting Santa Claus around Christmas time. So you can invite him to your store or business to attract some families who are out shopping.

Exhibit at Holiday Shows

You can also get your products in front of more eyes by showcasing them at special shows or events throughout the holiday season.

Offer Gift Wrapping

Whether you sell products in a retail store or online, your customers are likely to want some of their purchases gift wrapped. So you can offer that as an extra service or even as a complementary add-on.

Publicize Your Returns Policy

When people purchase gifts, they want to know that they can be returned if by chance it doesn’t work out. So you can create a flyer for your store or display your policy prominently on your website so customers know what to expect.

Hand Out Hot Chocolate

For local businesses, handing out hot chocolate or other seasonal beverages can be a great way to spread some cheer and attract passersby.

Create a Fun Lights Display

You can also show off your spirit by creating a festive lights display that people will go out of their way to visit.

Create Holiday Window Dislays to Attract Customers

Or you could use your store windows to create a festive environment that also showcases some of your popular holiday products.

Let Kids Decorate Cookies

You can also get the kids involved in the holiday festivities. Host a cookie decorating party or give them a similar activity they can do while their parents shop.

Have a Party for Another Holiday

Holiday parties are incredibly popular around Christmas. But you could make yours stand out by celebrating a different holiday, like Bake Cookies Day on December 18 or Bacon Day on December 30.

Send Early Cards

If you plan on sending out holiday cards to customers or clients, you can also make those stand out by sending them out early.

Contact Bloggers Who Make Gift Guides

If you have products that could make great gifts, you can get them in front of more potential buyers by getting in touch with bloggers and asking them to feature your items in their holiday gift guides.

Give Away Free Samples

For those businesses that sell food items or anything that customers might want to try out before buying, giving away free samples can be a good strategy to encourage more sales and get more people through the door.

Have a Pampering Station

Holiday shopping can be stressful. So if you want to create a great experience for stressed out shoppers, you could offer some kind of pampering activity, like massages or guided meditation.

Hold a 12 Days of Christmas Sale

To keep people shopping throughout the holiday season, you can host a special sale where people can get specific products or deals for twelve days leading up to Christmas. You can even throw in some fun themed days to really get people into the spirit.

Give Away Stocking Stuffers

For those shoppers who are trying to finish off their holiday shopping, little stocking stuffers can be a real attraction. So you can give them away with each purchase or offer them at a discounted rate for people who spend a specific amount on other items.

Put Up Stockings for Customers

You could also help customers feel more connected to your store or business by displaying stockings or similar items with their names on them. Even little paper stockings can help you decorate your business and reward customers for shopping with you.

Play Christmas Music

You can’t create a festive environment without a little holiday music. Create a custom playlist or find a radio station with holiday music that really sets the perfect mood for your customers.

Decorate Your Website

Even if you only do business online, you can still show off your holiday spirit. Add some holiday inspired elements to your website, like snowflakes, a flying Santa, ornaments and more.

Send Out Festive Emails

You can also cater your email marketing efforts specifically to the holiday season. Add festive titles and touches that will appeal to those in the holiday spirit.

Display Holiday Themed Art

For local businesses, you can dress up your store and support local artists by displaying holiday themed art at your location. You can even offer it for sale to help those local artists find buyers.

Offer Gift Cards

Gift cards are very popular around the holidays. So you can offer them to your customers and make sure to display them prominently around the checkout area so even last minute shoppers know they’re an option.

Include Gift Card Bonuses

If you do sell gift cards, you can make it an even more intriguing option by offering bonuses. For example, you might include a $5 gift card with the purchase of a $20 gift card.

Create a YouTube Video

Video marketing is a great way to attract new customers throughout the year. And the holidays are no different. You can even create a themed video that shows off your holiday spirit with a song or a spoof of some popular holiday stories.

Host a Twitter Chat

For B2B or online businesses, you can get more customers involved around the holidays by hosting a special Twitter chat on a holiday related topic.

Have a Photo Contest on Facebook

On Facebook, you can encourage your followers to get involved by asking them to share their favorite holiday photos. You can even make it into a contest to give them an incentive to participate.

Create an Instagram Hashtag

If you want to increase engagement on Instagram throughout the holidays, you can create a specific hashtag that people can use to show off how they use your products in holiday gifts, recipes, parties and more.

Update Your Logo

Your logo can offer you a really simple way of showing off your holiday spirit. Just add some holiday themed elements or even just change it to a holiday color scheme just for the season.

Offer Extended Shopping Hours

During the holidays, you’re likely to do more business than you normally would the rest of the year, so it might be a good idea to extend your store hours on some popular shopping days just to offer a better experience for some customers.

Include Free Shipping

For online stores, free shipping can also be a very effective way to get more customers to actually purchase from you during the holiday season.

Sponsor a Holiday Event

For local businesses, look for local events like parades, races or other popular destinations and see if they accept local business sponsors. This can be a great way to get your business in front of more potential customers.

Offer a Grab Bag of Gifts

Some holiday shoppers just aren’t sure what to buy. But you can help them out and offer a sort of fun experience by offering grab bags or surprise gift items that they can purchase at a discounted rate and unwrap to reveal later.

Put Together Gift Baskets

You can also potentially sell more of your products by bundling or creating gift baskets that include multiple items in one.

Create a Holiday App

For mobile businesses, you can create a holiday specific app that’s catered to holiday shoppers or offers a holiday-specific experience.

Offer Gift Delivery

Even for local businesses that don’t normally ship products, you can offer to ship or personally deliver gifts for busy customers around the holidays as an extra service or offering.

Change Product Names

Whether you have a product based business or even a restaurant with specific menu items, you can show off some festive spirit by changing the names of your products to something that works with the holiday theme.

Have an Ugly Sweater Contest

Ugly sweaters are a big part of the holiday season for many consumers. So you could have a fun contest in your store or online to reward the customer with the ugliest one.

Create Holiday DIY Projects or Recipes

The holidays are a big time for people to get creative with homemade gifts, recipes and more. So if any of your products might work in those types of projects, you can create a tutorial and post it online.

Launch a Local Search Campaign

Local search is also very important when it comes to attracting local shoppers who are looking for specific types of businesses. So it can be a great time to run a local search advertising campaign.

Suggest Product Combinations

For people who are looking to make multiple purchases but aren’t necessarily sure exactly what they want to buy, you can make suggestions based on the items they’ve browsed or the items in their online cart.

Start a Remarketing Campaign

You can also target past customers or people who have browsed products on your site already by taking advantage of remarketing options.

Create a Holiday Themed Landing Page

For any holiday marketing campaigns, it can also be a good idea to set up a special holiday landing page. This can show off any themed promotions and also help you measure the effectiveness of those campaigns.

Have a Secret Online Sale

To reward your email subscribers or best customers, you can have a secret sale that you don’t publish anywhere else. This can make them feel important and give them the opportunity to get a really great deal.

Launch a Holiday Blog Campaign

If you have a blog for your business, you can also create themed blog posts to show off gift ideas, recipes and more.

Make a Downloadable Holiday Resource

You could also make a downloadable resource, like a shopping guide, recipes or even an ebook that customers can access on your website or through email.

Give Client Gifts

And finally, giving gifts to your best clients, customers and colleagues throughout the holiday season can be a great way to show your appreciation and create a great experience for all.

Snow Globe Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Tips for Marketing Your Business This Holiday Season" was first published on Small Business Trends

YouTube Users, Would You Switch to Twitch?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 10:30

Twitch’s plan to have a piece of YouTube’s pie is no longer a secret. The Amazon-owned video-streaming platform has been adding more and more services that have traditionally only been available on YouTube.

In August this year, Twitch updated its video upload feature, allowing users to upload videos directly to the platform. This means that streamers can now apply their production and video editing skills to archived clips for their audiences.

The company also made it possible for Android and iOS users to create and share clips from live streams within the Twitch app. And now, the company has made things even more interesting by announcing a slew of improvements to the manual upload feature.

The content creators who have been testing Twitch’s new Uploads Open Beta are now set to enjoy new language settings, increased tag character limits and wider support for common video file formats.

In addition to the existing MP4 support, you can now upload H.264-encoded videos in FLV, MOV and AVI formats. These are, of course, only half as many as YouTube supports, but it’s definitely a step that will accommodate the needs of many users.

The company has also fixed a whole lot of glitches, including a bug that caused videos to restart near the end of their runtime and issues that kept users from uploading custom thumbnails.

While Twitch cannot boast of having all the features that YouTube has, its continuous updates of competitive features shows how serious they are in competing with YouTube. And though Twitch is mostly used for video gameplay, some entrepreneurs like Chris Pirillo already have a presence there.

YouTube or Twitch?

In your opinion, is it possible that Twitch’s moves to compete with YouTube might attract more business users — particularly businesses connected to the gaming industry?

Image: Twitch.tv

This article, "YouTube Users, Would You Switch to Twitch?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Bing Adds Holiday Hours for Business Listings

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 09:30

As the holiday season gets into full gear, businesses of all sizes are keeping odd hours. Whether you are shopping for a last minute gift or you just need to grab a bite to eat, the Bing holiday hours feature will let you know who is open and when.

Bing Includes Holiday Hours on Business Listings

According to Bing, it is collaborating with business owners and trusted partners in order to provide consumers with real-time accurate holiday hours.

All you have to do is search for local businesses on Bing, and if the hours of operation have changed for the holidays, you will receive the latest update. With Christmas and the New Year fast approaching, this can be a very useful tool so you won’t waste time searching for businesses that are open.

If you want customers to discover your business on Bing local, it only takes three simple steps, and best of all, it is absolutely free.

First, claim the listing of your business. In most instances, Bing probably has a listing for your business, and if it doesn’t you can add a single or multiple locations.

Second, complete your listing profile, which includes hours of operations amongst other details, such as services and contact information.

Third, verify your listing and you will receive a PIN on your phone, email or place of business to protect it from unauthorized changes, and you are done.

If you are a small business and don’t use Bing as part of your overall digital presence, you should consider adding it. According to Forbes, Google currently has 64.5 percent of the US search market share, while Bing, which also powers Yahoo, has 32.6 percent, so it is a considerable portion.

Bing has stated on its blog the business hour feature is now available on desktop and mobile for all of the holidays moving forward.

Images: Bing

This article, "Bing Adds Holiday Hours for Business Listings" was first published on Small Business Trends

Making the Most of a Post-Brexit U.K.: What Opportunities Exist for U.S. Small Businesses?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 08:30

With Britain’s breakaway — affectionately called Brexit — from the European Union pending, U.S. small businesses may be wondering what economic opportunities exist in the U.K. post-Brexit?

For the answer, Small Business Trends turned to Professor Stephen Roper, Ph.D., Director, Enterprise Research Centre, Warwick Business School, Coventry, U.K. He responded to our questions via email.

Post-Brexit Small Business Opportunities

“The U.K. will remain ‘friendly’ to U.S. companies due to commonly-held language, culture and business practices, which makes the U.K. an easy market to conduct commerce,” Dr. Roper said. “Brexit will create new opportunities as some U.K. firms react to the uncertainty by not investing, and there is the potential for some European companies to see the U.K. as a less appealing market in future.”

There is also the possibility for U.S. businesses to seek venture partners in the U.K.

“U.K. firms will be seeking new export opportunities, and this may be one area where U.S. firms can usefully find partners,” Roper said.

Prospects for British companies doing business outside the U.K. are also good. The Guardian reported that small businesses feel upbeat about their international trade prospects as compared to domestic.

Remarking on the topic, Dr. Roper indicated that approximately one in five small businesses in the U.K. currently export, so there is substantial potential to develop this area of the economy.

“The U.S. is also a good market for U.K. products and one of the few with which the U.K. actually has a trade surplus,” he said. “Technology businesses, in particular, in automotive, life sciences and IT see the U.S. as both an important market and proving ground for new products.”

Despite the prospects, in the short-term, uncertainty regarding the possibility of tariffs and slower growth in the U.K. market dominates other considerations. Even so, Dr. Roper said that U.S. companies should adopt a “business as usual” mindset.

“Sometimes, the media hype around Brexit is deafening,” he said. “The reality is nothing has yet changed and won’t for the next two years or more for most businesses. There are good deals to be done over this period.”

Another opportunity for U.S. businesses may come as the result of EU companies shuttering contracts with U.K. firms.

In a previous article regarding Brexit, Dr. Roper was quoted as saying “European firms may also switch orders away from the U.K. to insulate themselves from any changes in trading relations between Britain and the EU.”

He amplified on that sentiment in his email response, saying, “My sense is that this switching is very likely. If I was sitting in France or Germany at the moment, I would be thinking very hard before placing long-term supply contracts with firms in the U.K. German auto manufacturers, in particular, have been suggesting that U.K. suppliers may need to relocate to ensure that they remain within the EU.”

He added that “certainty and clarity” are key to successful trade agreements.

“If the U.S. can establish clear trading rules with the EU — either with or without the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — then this will at least create a stable environment within which businesses can operate,” he said.

Dr. Roper was reluctant in his email to weigh in on the effect that Donald Trump’s election could have on relationships between the two countries. However, in a November 11 blog post on the Enterprise Research Centre website, he said that Trump’s victory could have “consequences for the thousands of UK small and medium-sized businesses,” especially as the U.S. is the U.K.’s biggest export destination.

“[T]he general policy stance in terms of trade and industry is relatively clear: an emphasis on rebuilding manufacturing capacity in the U.S. and potentially re-shoring jobs is likely to be important,” he said.

England voted for Brexit by a 53.4 to 46.6 percent margin. Once Prime Minister Teresa May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — which could happen as early as March 2017 — Britain will have two years to disengage from the EU fully.

USA, UK Flags Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Making the Most of a Post-Brexit U.K.: What Opportunities Exist for U.S. Small Businesses?" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Approach to Venture Teams

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 07:30

Remember those old Reese’s commercials where one person gets his peanut butter in another person’s chocolate and they both discover that the combination is delicious?

Well, entrepreneurship is similar. It is better when younger and older people join together.

The Benefits of Multigenerational Entrepreneurs

At a recent Harvard Business School Club entrepreneurship event in Cleveland, entrepreneur par excellence, Dan T. Moore, highlighted the complementarity between young and old in entrepreneurship and said that the two should work together on new ventures.

Dan’s idea makes sense to me, and is something I have long advocated. Young people are often long on energy, risk taking, and new ways of problem solving, but they lack experience, industry knowledge, and social capital. Older people are often short on energy, risk taking, and a willingness to alter the status quo, but are long on experience, industry expertise and social ties. Teams of younger and older entrepreneurs cover all the bases.

Building companies is difficult. Doing it successfully requires a lot of hard work. Young entrepreneurs without spouses and kids are often the ones willing to live on ramen and work 100 hour weeks to build new products, cold call prospective customers, and raise money.

Young people are also more likely to take risks. Having a family and a mortgage make it difficult to take a lot of chances. But the college students that I teach don’t have a lot of responsibilities weighing them down. They figure that if they take time off from school to start a company and it fails, they can always reenroll. And if they found a company right after graduation and it fails, they believe that can always go find a job.

Young people are less likely to be beholden to the status quo. They were the ones who figured it was easier to send pictures than to send emails or texts because they weren’t invested in the older technology. They didn’t care about the advantages of taxis or hotels when ride sharing or homestays were an option. When you aren’t vested in the status quo, it’s often easier to see how something new might be better.

But young people are missing some key company-building attributes. They often lack experience. They have to learn the hard way that they making bad hires, putting together financial statements incorrectly, designing products that won’t work, or are going after the wrong initial customers, because they haven’t already learned those lessons.

Older people often have a deep understanding of how industries work from having spent many years in them. This knowledge gives them insights that outsiders don’t have about the workings of suppliers and customers.

Finally, older people have better social ties than younger people. They know people who can help them build start-up companies. Few collegiate entrepreneurs I know have Linked In connections to many angel investors and venture capitalists or C-level executives in the industries that their start-ups are targeting. But many middle-aged entrepreneurs I know do. Those connections are crucial to financing companies, finding suppliers, and getting opportunities to demo customers.

Those who wish to help build start-up ecosystems might take a page from the old Reese’s commercials. Forcing younger and older entrepreneurs to collide and mix might be the key to greater success. Older and younger entrepreneurs, it seems, are like peanut butter and chocolate — they are better together.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Reese’s Peanut Butter Approach to Venture Teams" was first published on Small Business Trends

Holidays Are a Good Time to Boost Mobile Sales

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-12-05 06:00

Holidays can be a trying time for any company. While some companies see increased profitability and patronage during this time of year, other businesses struggle with marketing, consumer interest and increasing labor costs. However, many of these issues can be eliminated by adapting your ecommerce platform to the mobile-centric nature of today’s online shoppers.

How to Increase Mobile Sales During the Holidays Start Early

When it comes to offering steep holiday discounts, retailers are now starting their sales sooner than ever before. As such, it’s a good idea to begin your holiday planning as early as September. Apart from giving you the opportunity to tackle all of the approaching festivities, this also lets you begin your research into the latest consumer interests, needs and trends.

An early start such as this also gives you ample time to develop and rollout any pertinent marketing campaigns. Not only will this ensure your preparedness for the upcoming holiday rush, but it also gives you the chance to start pondering plans, including potential sales and advertising strategies, for the New Year.

Capitalize on Holiday Travel

Historically speaking, it’s always been difficult to advertise to consumers during their travels. Roadside bulletin boards and radio advertisements aside, there are few routes to connect with potential shoppers who are visiting family or going on vacation. In fact, approximately 64 percent of shoppers spent more on their overall travel costs than actual gifts in 2015.

With mobile marketing, however, retailers can now deliver messages, promotions and information on new product launches via SMS message. Moreover, consumers can use their mobile device to access the Internet, thereby allowing them to peruse digital flyers and place online orders.

Take Advantage of Popular Shopping Days

Black Friday is generally the busiest shopping day of the year. As a result, retailers from every niche suddenly find themselves offering massive discounts and sales that are unheard of at any other time of the year. While this trend still holds true at physical, brick-and-mortar stores, studies have shown that online shopping is just as popular on this specific date.

You might not realize that online retailers have their own counterpart to Black Friday. Cyber Monday, which takes place on the following Monday, is meant for armchair shoppers and those who don’t dare brave the madness that is typically associated with Black Friday. The concept of Cyber Monday has become so popular that some ecommerce sites cannot even handle the additional traffic.

If you’re expecting a sudden uptick in online visitors during this period, you might want to consider upping your bandwidth capacity and strengthening your ecommerce servers. Ensure the presence of a recent system backup and, if necessary, review your current disaster recovery plan. Not only does this ensure the stability of your site during the busiest time of the year, but it can safeguard the personal information, including credit card numbers, of your customers.

Give Your Website a Holiday Theme

A holiday makeover is a fantastic way to achieve continuity between your marketing tactics and your ecommerce storefront. This simple tactic can even boost brand or product awareness.

Remember, you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to give your site a new look. In fact, companies who regularly change up their site’s aesthetics are bound to draw in even more visitors. The popular search engine Google, for example, frequently modifies their iconic logo to celebrate special events and holidays. On big holidays, a portion of the traffic to the site is just there to see what they’ll come up with next.

Just make sure that your new theme is compatible with most popular mobile web browsers. The smaller displays and limited functionality of today’s smartphones and devices might run into problems when translating large images or advanced coding. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a third-party web developer or IT specialist to test your site. You don’t want to encounter any bottlenecks or unexpected errors when the big day finally comes.

Synchronize the Online and In-Store Experience

Coordinating the customer experience both online and in-store is another great method when trying to maintain continuity and reinforce your brand’s image, culture and attitude. It can also save a lot of time when creating promotional campaigns, planning future sales and targeting specific demographics.

Given the prevalence of mobile communications, as well as the growing amount of consumers who are constantly on-the-go, there are plenty of options to consider when synchronizing your customer’s ecommerce experience with that of the physical store.

Flash sales, which usually only last for a matter of days or even hours, work extremely well with mobile marketing tactics. Because details of such discounts can be distributed instantaneously, and since they can be distributed to certain demographics or even your entire mobile customer base, you’ll be able to meet the needs of your shoppers like never before.

Some companies have even embraced in-store kiosks, which serves as an informational hub for customers. These units can display nearly any type of helpful information imaginable, including specific product details, sales deadlines, special offers and more.

Meeting Increased Demand While Still Enjoying the Holiday

Despite the sudden uptick in business, the holiday season doesn’t have to be a stressful time for you or your company. By finalizing your marketing campaigns as early as possible, utilizing mobile advertisements to target specific demographics and ramping up your workforce to meet the increased demand, you’ll be better poised to take on the impending consumer rush.

Online Shopping Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Holidays Are a Good Time to Boost Mobile Sales" was first published on Small Business Trends

Learn Secrets to Small Biz Success at These Upcoming Events

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-12-03 14:30

Want to learn the secret to small business success?

While there might not be just one secret to making your small business successful, there are some things you can learn to help your journey over the next year and beyond. And you can learn some of those things at Secret Knock, a Los Angeles conference scheduled for May 2017.

So if you’re looking to take your business to the next level, you might want to consider signing up for Secret Knock and other small business events throughout the next year.

You can learn more details about Secret Knock in the featured events section. And you can see even more events to add to your small business calendar in the list below.

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

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Secret Knock
May 22, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Secret Knock is going to be the single greatest event for the top entrepreneurs and action-takers in the world to connect, share ideas, and help take each other to the next level. Each of the attendees have believed in themselves enough to get to where they are, and they are not stopping now. Secure your application for one of the few spots left at the Secret Knock.

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.

Secret Door image via Shutterstock

This article, "Learn Secrets to Small Biz Success at These Upcoming Events" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Small Business Tips for SEO, Content Marketing and More

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-12-03 13:00

When it comes to marketing a small business, there are many different methods you can use. There’s SEO, content marketing, email lists and more. If you want to learn more about marketing your business using some of these methods in 2017, take a look at the tips from members of our small business community below.

Watch These Marketing Trends in 2017

If you want your marketing plan to work in 2017, you need to understand all the latest trends, tools and methods available. In this Midas Media post, Nat Rubyan-Ling shares some marketing trends you should know for 2017. And BizSugar members comment further on the post.

Get Better Insights About Your Audience

If you want to create content that resonates with your audience, then you first need to learn about them. There are some essential tools and methods you can use to get useful insights, as this post by Jenny Knizer on the Content Marketing Institute blog points out.

Find an Interesting and Profitable Niche for Your Online Venture

Whether you’re creating a blog, an ecommerce store, or any other type of online business, you need a niche. Since there are already so many different types of businesses online, you may need to get creative in order to find a niche that is both interesting and profitable. This MyBlogU post by Ann Smarty includes some tips.

Use These Customer Retention Strategies That Work for Small Businesses

Once you’ve executed your marketing plan and gained new customers, you still need to work hard to keep those customers coming back. Luckily, there are some tried and true customer retention strategies that can work for small businesses. You can see some of them in this Plousio post by Evan Tarver.

Learn What to Do After Creating Your Buyer Persona

If you want to market to specific customers, you first need to create a buyer persona so you understant who you’re marketing to. But even that isn’t enough. For more on what to do after you’ve created your buyer persona, check out this Magnificent post by David Reimherr. And then see what BizSugar members are saying about the post here.

Rank for Your Competitors’ Keywords

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to using your competition to gain search traffic. In this post, Neil Patel examines some of the pros and cons of this concept for different types of businesses.

Build a Marketing Budget for 2017

Before you really get started on your marketing efforts for the new year, you need to set some kind of budget so you don’t reach beyond your means. This Search Engine Journal post by Jacob Baadsgaard features some tips you can use to create a marketing budget for 2017.

Use Marketing Velocity to Increase Your Sales and Revenue

Marketing velocity is the speed at which your marketing efforts work to deliver results. So its an important concept for marketers to understand. In this crowdSPRING post, Ross Kimbarovsky details some ways you can use marketing velocity to increase sales and revenue. And the BizSugar community also shares thoughts on the post.

Help Your Ecommerce Store Recover From a Growth Setback

Running an ecommerce business isn’t easy. You’re likely to face setbacks at some point or another. So understanding how to recover from those setbacks is paramount. Shayla Price shares some tips for doing just that in a post on the Kissmetrics blog.

Get the Most Out of Your Holiday Emails

Email marketing can be an especially effective tactic during the holiday season. But in order to get the most out of it, you need to really understand your subscribers and what they’re looking for this holiday season. To see more tips about getting the most out of your holiday emails, check this Marketing Land post by Scott Heimes.

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.

Typing Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Small Business Tips for SEO, Content Marketing and More" was first published on Small Business Trends

50 Business Ideas for College Students

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-12-03 10:30

College can be a great time to explore entrepreneurship. And there are plenty of different business opportunities that college students can start without a lot of upfront expense or time commitment. Here are 50 potential small business opportunities for college students.

Business Ideas for College Students Blogger

Blogging can offer great opportunities for college students. You can choose a topic or niche that interests you and work to build up an audience on your own schedule.

Virtual Assistant

You can also work from your home or dorm room as a virtual assistant, offering services like email communications and social media management.

Tutor

If you have expertise in a specific academic topic, you could offer your services to other college students as a tutor to help them get through specific courses.

YouTube Personality

YouTube is a great platform for building a business. You can earn money through ad revenue or work with brands as an influencer.

Social Media Manager

For those who have a fair amount of social media knowledge, you can offer your services to businesses that need help managing their social media accounts.

Social Media Influencer

You could also build up your own social media accounts and then work with brands as an influencer.

Social Media Consultant

Or if you’d rather simply offer your expertise to brands so that they can work on their own social media accounts, you can offer your services as a consultant.

Podcaster

Podcasting is another potential business opportunity that you can work on from your home or dorm room and set your own schedule.

Child Caretaker

If you’re looking for a more low-tech business opportunity, you could offer child care services to parents in your community.

Housesitter

Or you could serve as a housesitter for people traveling out of town.

Dog Walker

If you like spending time with dogs, you could start a business as a dog walker and appeal to local pet owners.

Pet Groomer

You could also start a pet grooming service where you offer to wash and groom animals for a set fee.

Inventor

There are also plenty of opportunities for college students to invent brand new products and then license or produce those items to sell.

Graphic Designer

If you have some design skills, you could start a business as a graphic designer, working on logos, branding elements or other designs for clients.

Web Designer

Web savvy designers could also set up a business designing websites for businesses or individual clients.

App Developer

Or if you’re really skilled with mobile technology, you could start a business developing mobile apps for clients or even making your own and then selling them in app stores.

Clothing Designer

Fashion savvy college students, you could start your very own clothing line out of your home or dorm and then sell your designs online or in local boutiques.

T-shirt Designer

Or you could use online marketplaces to offer t-shirts with your own custom designs for sale.

Jewelry Maker

If you want to make some other unique wearable creations, you can make your own jewelry and sell it online or at local events.

Flea Market Vendor

You could also sell a variety of different products at flea markets in your area on the weekends.

Farmers’ Market Vendor

Or if you grow or can any of your own food products, you could sell items at farmers’ markets on the weekends.

Soap Maker

Soap is another product that you can easily make in your own home or dorm and then sell online or at craft fairs or events.

Candle Maker

Or you could make your own scented candles and sell them in one or more of those avenues.

Vintage Clothing Seller

If you have an extensive vintage collection, you could set up your own online shop where you can sell vintage clothes. Then you can scour resale shops and flea markets for even more vintage finds to sell.

Ebook Author

If you have enough vision or expertise to write a book, you could self-publish your own ebook and sell it on platforms like Amazon.

Ecommerce Reseller

You can also pretty easily set up your own ecommerce business on sites like Amazon or eBay and then sell a variety of different types of products.

Event Photographer

Photographers, use your weekends off from school to start an event photography business where you could photograph weddings, conferences or other events.

Portrait Photographer

Or you could offer portrait photography services and sell various packages for family photos, senior portraits and more.

Recycling Service Provider

If you want to start an eco-friendly business, you can offer to pick up select items from people and take those items to local recycling facilities.

Book Seller

College students often have a lot of books lying around. You could start a business by selling some of those books online and maybe even open up your own shop.

Transportation Service Provider

You could also start a transportation service where you offer rides to other college students who don’t have reliable transportation.

Errand Service Provider

Or you could offer to handle various errands for busy college students or others in your community.

Student Magazine Publisher

You could also start your own magazine about student life or a variety of other topics and then sell copies or ad space.

Baker

If you enjoy preparing food, you could start a business as a baker for special events. Or you could even sell specific products to nearby stores or bake shops.

Tech Support Provider

For tech savvy college students, you could start a service where people with tech questions can contact you for assistance in exchange for a small fee.

Computer Setup Povider

Or you could offer to set up people’s computers or other devices if they need some help getting started.

Tour Guide

If your college campus is in an area that’s popular with tourists, you could offer your services as a tour guide and shop people around the community.

Laundry Service Provider

Some college students might not have enough time or patience to do their own laundry regularly. So you could start a laundry service where you charge a small fee to take care of that chore for your fellow students.

Musician

Musically inclined college students, you can start your own band or musical act and play at local events or venues.

Student Website Operator

You could also start your own website for your fellow students and charge a membership fee or even work with local businesses for advertising opportunities.

Social Networking Founder

Or if you have an idea for a new social networking site, a college campus could be the perfect place to get started and test out your idea.

Freelance Writer

For writers who don’t necessarily want to make a business out of their own blogs, you could offer services as a freelance writer for other publications.

Resume Service Provider

Or you could offer services to your fellow college students who are entering the job market by writing or critiquing their resumes.

Illustrator

Artistically inclined college students, you can offer your services as a custom illustrator for businesses, authors or other organizations that need specific items drawn out.

Artist

Or you could create your very own drawings, paintings or other works of art and sell them online or in local galleries.

Delivery Service Provider

If you have reliable transportation, you could also start a delivery service for food or other items.

Proofreader

You could also start a business as a proofreader where you look over papers or other assignments that your fellow college students want edited.

Welcome Kit Provider

If you’ve been in college for a few years, you know some of the essential items that newcomers should have. So you could put together and sell welcome kits for new students and their families.

Personal Trainer

For those who are more physically focused, you could offer personal training services to help your fellow college students avoid the dreaded “freshman 15.”

Sports Coach

Or you could provide coaching services aimed at people competing in specific sports.

College Students Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Business Ideas for College Students" was first published on Small Business Trends

Higher Standards is the Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-12-03 08:30

Corporate scandals, an economic recession, lawsuits and outright stealing of the public’s money predictably have soured the relationship between the American public and big business. To prevent future fraud, the government unleashed an army of regulatory watchdogs and created laws designed to keep business in check. While this added more surveillance, it can’t guarantee compliance.

What better environment for a Marine to enter?

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street: 11 Key Principles from Battlefield to Boardroom is a book that takes a look at business from the point of view of an ex-marine Marine turned Wall Street insider.

What is The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street About?

Ken Marlin experienced a “value shock” when he transitioned into the financial services industry after the military. Executives procrastinated, ignored or even sabotaged their client’s interests. For Marlin, the defining moment happened in the midst of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He worked in a business that was near the devastation, but his former employer was more concerned about the potential profit from a cancelled meeting.

Enough was enough. He started his own investment bank and never looked back.

Guided by values he learned from the military, Marlin was able to create that bank and advisory firm. In his new role, Marlin’s academic training, corporate banking experience and decade of military service found a good fit. Wall Street was entering a difficult and chaotic period and needed a person who could keep a clear head during mergers, acquisitions, selling a business and more.The wisdom gained from those experiences became the stories and lessons in his book, The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street.

Leaders, Marlin argues, have to change the values that drive business culture for their long-term survival. In particular, a profitable and sustainable business must build a strong competitive base with preparation, trust and strategic discipline. Without this base, businesses won’t have the capacity or clients to successfully compete. It is Marlin’s hope that business leaders can adopt the same values that led to the Marines’ continued success.

Marlin is the founder and managing partner of Marlin and Associates, a boutique investment bank and advisory firm. His goal with the company was to create a business that exemplified the values he admired in the military. He served for 10 years in the Marines as a captain and infantry commander.

What Was Best About The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street?

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street deserves credit for its optimistic view that profit focused culture can be fixed from the inside out. In true Marines style, Marlin attempts to fix this toxic work culture in a simple way. He then reinforces these principles with engaging military stories and his own experience with clients. This combination of principles, stories and insight can be very helpful when examining leadership as it exists in today’s complex business world.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

If you are not familiar with terms like “valuation” and “bulge bracket”, The Marine Cops Way to Win on Wall Street may be a little too technical. For those who are familiar with these financial terms, the book offers numerous stories that exemplify — or, in some cases, don’t — great financial stewardship under pressure. For those who aren’t savvy in the financial industry, the book still offers engaging stories and principles for leaders of all types to follow.

Why Read The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street?

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street is an energetic call-to-action for a specific audience — those who work in the financial services industry or who deal with finances in their businesses. But the book has applications for leadership in all businesses. Marlin writes from his experiences in the financial services industry with a goal of  improving accountability and vision within it. The applications of his work, a principled leadership with a focus on a strategic and long-term competitive vision, can be extended to all business. This book shows why having such a strategy is important for long-term profitability.

This article, "Higher Standards is the Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street" was first published on Small Business Trends

Latest Product Innovation: Sweeter Chocolate — That’s Better for You? (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-12-02 16:30

Love chocolate? Well, you’re in luck. Nestle (VTX:NESN) has reportedly found a way to change the structure of chocolate to make it even sweeter. And as a result, the company should be able to make some of its most popular candy bars with less added sugar. That means Kit Kats, Butterfingers and other popular chocolate bars could soon get a bit healthier.

This innovation comes at a good time for the company. Some countries and cities around the world are implementing sugar taxes and even special labeling rules for sugary foods. So the new sweeter chocolate could allow Nestle to avoid some of those issues that impact food items with a lot of added sugar.

It’s important for food companies to find ways to adapt to new rules and standards like this. But changing the actual structure of chocolate can’t have been easy. The company now has to implement a whole new chocolate making process for all of its foods.

Trend Driven Innovation Pays Off

However, when you have some popular products that people don’t want to see changed, you might have to get really creative when coming up with ways to adapt your products to new rules and trends. People probably wouldn’t be happy if Kit Kats all of a sudden were just not as sweet. But if this new process keeps the product more or less the same, just with different processes and ingredients, it could be well worth it for the company.

Brownies Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Latest Product Innovation: Sweeter Chocolate — That’s Better for You? (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

New Features from Facebook, Instagram Make Business Headlines

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-12-02 14:30

Social networking platforms have the opportunity to make a difference in a variety of different areas. For example, Facebook just unveiled some non-profit partnership tools including safety check and donation features.

And Instagram also recently released some new features that might look familiar to users of other platforms like Periscope and Snapchat. You can read about these updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media Facebook Unveils New Community Help, Safety Check, Donation and Non-Profit Partnership Tools

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) recently unveiled some new tools as part of its Live feature at the social network’s first Social Good Forum held on 17 November in New York. The new tools include community help, safety check, an expanded fundraiser features, and nonprofit partnerships.

Instagram Introduces Two New Features that Borrow From Periscope and Snapchat

Instagram is putting the popular ephemeral spin on video streaming and private messaging. Taking a page out of the books of Snapchat and Periscope, the app is introducing two new features: live video and disappearing photos and videos for groups and friends in Instagram Direct.

It’s Come to This? Pro-Trump Entrepreneur Blocked from Incubator’s Social Network

Andrew Torba, founder of Gab.ai, a social network preferred by conservatives, has been blocked from Y Combinator’s (YC) private social network, Bookface. Officials at Y Combinator, a funding source for early startups, says  it was due to a Facebook post that, allegedly, violated the investment firm’s harassment policy.

Economy Entrepreneur Who Helped Build Wrestling Empire From Nothing Could Be Next SBA Chief

President-elect Donald Trump may be close to naming former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon as the next administrator of the Small Business Administration. McMahon met with Trump at his Manhattan Trump Tower office on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Could Your Future iPhone Sport a Made in the USA Sticker?

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s consistent campaign promises was to bring jobs back to the U.S. As part of that emphasis, Trump routinely called out Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) as a company that should be doing more production in the states. And it does appear that Apple has been looking into the possibility of assembling iPhones, at least in some part, in the U.S.

Employment ‘Fight for $15’ Protest Demands Increase of Minimum Wage

A national “Fight for $15” protest Nov. 29, that had many taking to the streets, found many commenting on Twitter as well. The national protest day saw workers from fast-food chains, airports, retail stores and other industries participating in a union-backed strike to rally for higher wages, union rights and immigration reform. Uber drivers in more than two dozen cities also joined in.

Franchise Big Mac Creator and Early McDonald’s Franchise Owner Dies at 98

The creator of the Big Mac has died. Jim Delligatti lived to 98 and is best known as a McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) restaurant franchisee in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. His story and success show that one franchise owner can have a big league impact on the overall company.

Marketing Tips 64 Percent of Top Performing Marketers Use Automated Email Weekly, New Report Says

A majority (64 percent) of high-performing marketers send automated emails to their contacts at least once per week. And that’s how they generate the maximum number of leads. The insight comes from the new 2016 State of Customer Journey Marketing Report.

Why This Company Dug a Giant Hole on Black Friday (Watch)

Businesses can use publicity stunts for a variety of different purposes, from raising awareness about a cause or issue to promoting a new product. But one company recently launched a publicity stunt aimed at accomplishing something totally different — digging a big hole. Cards Against Humanity is the company behind the giant hole.

Retail Trends How Were Your 2016 Small Business Saturday Results? (POLL)

Small Business Saturday gets more and more attention every year. The day after Black Friday is becoming one of the bigger shopping days of the holiday season and small businesses are the focus. If you market your business properly and join the movement, there’s a good chance you’ll find shoppers who make it a point to patronize small businesses during the holiday season.

A Watch Sold Every 3 Seconds on eBay on Black Friday

Black Friday has come and gone. In fact, the first wave of traditionally major holiday shopping days are history already. Early reports indicate that Black Friday wasn’t like it’s been in the past. It’s still a big shopping day but a lot more shoppers are spending more time and money on Black Friday online.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Ships-a-Lot Helps Ecommerce Businesses Fulfill Orders

Order fulfillment is an incredibly important part of running an ecommerce business. But it’s not always easy. That’s where Ships-a-Lot comes in. The company was born out of the needs of another ecommerce company. And now it provides fulfillment services for a variety of different ecommerce businesses. You can read more about the business in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Startup Surprising New Business Trend: Customers Pay to Smash Things in New Rage Rooms (Watch)

The latest trend in stress relief might surprise you. Some customers aren’t working through their issues in doctors’ offices or taking pills to relieve their stress. Instead, they’re smashing things. Rage rooms are new types of businesses popping up around the country that let customers take baseball bats to breakable items in order to work through their stress or anger.

Apparel Brand Uses Virtual Reality to Tell Its Story

There are lots of brands out there that pledge to give back to good causes. But it’s rare that customers actually get to see first hand what kind of an impact their purchase makes. That’s where GIMME360 is trying to make a change. And it’s doing it through the use of virtual reality.

83 Percent of Entrepreneurs Get Support from Family, Bank of America Study Says

Family support is crucial to succeed as an entrepreneur. Luckily, most business owners have the necessary backing from home. That’s according to a new Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) study.

Technology Trends A Recognizable Character Could Help Both Universal and Nintendo (Watch)

If you’re heading to any Universal theme parks over the next few years, you might see a familiar face. Mario, the popular plumber from many Nintendo video games, is headed to Universal theme parks in Orlando, Osaka and Los Angeles. Universal and Nintendo first announced their partnership over a year ago.

Smartdesk Brand Autonomous Introduces Customizable ErgoChair

Whether you are at home or work, a company already famous for revolutionizing the desk may change the way you sit as well. The ErgoChair from Autonomous may change the way people sit at their desks or at their computers forever. That is, if it can do all the things its designers say it can.

HP Mini Workstation’s Price, Size Make Intriguing Option for Small Business

If your business could benefit from smaller but still very versatile workstations, a new option has appeared on the horizon it may be worth considering. You might consider the HP Z2 Mini which seems to deliver in terms of size and the features it offers. The company describes it as the industry’s first ever mini workstation, and it comes loaded.

Drone Racing Could Be the Next Big Thing in Sports (Watch)

Drones and virtual reality are both growing trends in the tech sector. And now, the two concepts are combining in a new sport — drone racing. Here’s how it works. Drone pilots use virtual reality headsets to fly drones around an obstacle course from a first person perspective.

SPACO’s Attention Grabbing Levitating Speaker System Empowers Business Owners Too

While video gets more attention when it comes to rich media, it wouldn’t be much without audio. The creators of SPACO, the voice controlled levitating speaker, have designed a system that looks as good as it sounds, while performing some magic. The 720-degree SPACO speaker has smart technology integrated into the system so you can control it with your voice.

VC & Angel Capital Is There a Series A Financing Crunch?

Since 2007, the number of high potential technology companies receiving seed or angel rounds of financing has increased dramatically, while the fraction of those businesses obtaining follow on financing has declined. Some observers have claimed that this pattern shows evidence of a Series A financing crunch. I’m not so sure. Let’s start with the facts.

Image: Facebook

This article, "New Features from Facebook, Instagram Make Business Headlines" was first published on Small Business Trends

Ecommerce Expert Panel: Tips and Advice for How to Sell More During the Holiday Season

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-12-02 13:00

Last week on Black Friday we held our first Facebook Live broadcast featuring a conversation with three ecommerce experts discussing what retailers can do to be successful during the holiday season.  Key points discussed include:

  • Online shopping just keeps getting bigger! $1.15 billion in online sales was generated the day before Black Friday, just between midnight and 5:00 p.m. That is a 13.6 percent increase over last year.
  • Mobile online shopping accounted for $449 million of that. And three-fourths of mobile shopping was done on smartphones as opposed to tablets.
  • Online shopping is no longer limited to just one or two days during the holidays. It’s spread out across the season
  • Chatbots might not be big this holiday season, but they will be eventually
  • Devices like the Amazon Echo will change the game and make it easier to buy things with your voice instead of clicking, typing or swiping

Panelists for the conversation were:

  • John Lawson, ecommerce seller extraordinaire, founder of ColderIce Media, and author of the Amazon best-selling book Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs
  • Peter Messmer, Director of Growth at AddShoppers.com, an onsite marketing platform that makes optimizing and engaging your ecommerce customer easy.
  • Alan Berkson, Director of Community Outreach for Freshdesk.

Click on the video above to see the entire conversation. Below is an edited transcript of a portion of the broadcast. 

* * * * *

Small Business Trends: What happens during the holiday season from a B2B spending perspective? Any insights on those on that?

Peter Messmer: I would say it probably mirrors what we see on the B2C side. The spikes might not be as high but you know I would imagine have left over budget at the end of the year, so get the stuff that you need. You know if it’s going to be a little bit lower if you know you’re you’re buying from channels that are doing like end of year deal.

John Lawson: I deal with a lot of independent ecommerce guys and I’ll tell you right now a lot of them are part of the spiking numbers you’re probably seeing right now.

So people are right now running out to J.C. Penney’s and Walmart buying stuff up and then they’re going to send it to FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and then you’re going to see it being resold to the consumer on platforms like Amazon and eBay. They’re talking about the deals they’re getting in Black Friday sales; then they’re flipping them for less than retail pricing on the marketplace channels.

Small Business Trends: According to the Adobe Digital Index 25 percent of consumers will pay higher prices during holiday season. Do you both brick and mortar and online shoppers are willing to pay the kind of premium?

Peter Messmer: I would think that would tend to be people buying gifts, and when you’re buying a gift for somebody you might not be quite as price conscious. Especially if it’s your baby, your son or daughter and they want a specific item that’s not that cheap; it’s a premium brand and you know you might splurge during the holidays so you’re willing to pay a higher price.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about where bots. Are people using bots this holiday season to drive opportunities or do you see that is something that’s going to be coming maybe next year or the year after?

Peter Messmer: I don’t know so much about this year. I know a lot of people are starting to experiment with Facebook Messenger bots and stuff like that. I installed growth thought to myself actually I don’t really use it too much but I installed it. I think this is again kind of like John was saying, this is going to be an area to watch for sure.

I’ve seen some interesting start ups in the chatbot area, especially for ecommerce. You can even run Facebook ads to get someone to start a conversation, and then it’s all AI driven after that. An example could be:

  • Chatbot: We sell T-shirts are you interested in them?
  • Customer: Show me a Carolina Panthers T-shirt.
  • Chatbot: What’s your size?

And the bot drives the conversation. So I think those are going to be really interesting to watch.

Small Business Trends: Just how important is customer service/customer experience during the holiday season?

Alan Berkson: There’s never a more stressful shopping season than the holiday season. The buyers are stressed, the sellers are stressed, so trying to put a little perspective in, stay calm and keep empathy I think is probably one of the biggest things.

Small Business Trends: We talked about chatbots earlier from a marketing perspective, maybe you can talk about it from a service perspective.

Alan Berkson: One of the things we’re working on at Freshdesk is actually the flip side; how can I make the customer service agent more effective. I’m just going to relate a story it’s about my mom and dad. My mother bought a Microsoft Surface Pro. And she was trying to set up her email on it. and couldn’t do it. She called up Microsoft and they couldn’t help her and then they conferenced in GoDaddy who hosts her email and they couldn’t solve it.

I went and did a quick Google search and I found that a solution in about three seconds. So my question is why couldn’t they solve the problem? And how many times have you called up and you’ve got an agent and they didn’t know something? And then you can call the same company and get an agent and they’re very knowledgeable? That gap is a customer service challenge because you get an inconsistent experience, so we’re looking at chat bots to actually help the agent.

Small Business Trends: About conversational commerce. We have devices like the Echo. Are we at the point where we’re going to see a significant amount of commerce coming through these devices? Where you actually say to your device ‘Hey I want you to buy something for me’. Instead of clicking or swiping.

Peter Messmer: I think it’s about removing friction from shopping. Probably all of us in our ideal world when we needed to buy something we like to just say to somebody go buy this for me. I don’t feel like going on to the store. I don’t even feel like cracking open my computer and going to the Web site and figuring it out. I just want to say buy this. This removes a ton of friction.

You can just order something through the Amazon device. So I think the stage we’re in right now is they’re doing promotions you can only get through the Echo because Amazon is trying to get people hooked on it. And the more people they can get using this the more used to ordering through Amazon and through this device they are going to be.

Alan Berkson: I think there’s definitely a technology piece and a people piece. I agree with what Peter said about people changing their habits and being able to do that. But I also think that we’re actually going to blow past the voice activated piece into a anticipatory piece.

So my devices are going to talk to me and say ‘I see you’re running low on this should I order it’ and you just say yes, or you can set it so it’s more automation and more anticipatory.

Small Business Trends: Is Facebook eating up the social commerce market or are there other sites that you need to be focusing on?

Peter Messmer: Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla. It also has the most tracking. Sites like Snapchat really have no tracking so you can’t really tell. And Instagram technically is part of Facebook if you want to group it together. But what we see at least in the last stats that we polled is Twitter drives a lot of traffic in Q4. So I don’t think it’s Facebook or nothing. I think a lot of those other channels can be significant.

John Lawson: I was at a Shop.org and I swear they said something on stage like 80 percent or more of purchasing is influenced by social media. We can’t even measure the influence of social media you know on purchasing decisions today. So even if I’m just looking for something on a site I’ll just go and google that site and see if they have a social presence before I purchase from that site. That makes me feel better.

Small Business Trends: One last thing. Amazon is still the huge gorilla. So a small retailer during the holiday season — what’s their best play with Amazon?

John Lawson: I say Amazon is the NFL and you are a peewee. You’re not in the same league. Amazon is not your competition. They are not.

They’re not taking business away that you can grab back. You have to really think about how to compete in your field. And when you start trying to compete with somebody in the NFL and you’re in the Little Leagues you’re just going to get confused and you’re going to get hurt. Try to work out how to create a unique personalized experience for your customer and they will be very attached to you.

Image: Facebook

This article, "Ecommerce Expert Panel: Tips and Advice for How to Sell More During the Holiday Season" was first published on Small Business Trends

How Were Your 2016 Small Business Saturday Results? (POLL)

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-12-02 11:30

Small Business Saturday gets more and more attention every year.

The day after Black Friday is becoming one of the bigger shopping days of the holiday season and small businesses are the focus.

If you market your business properly and join the movement, there’s a good chance you’ll find shoppers who make it a point to patronize small businesses during the holiday season.

How Were Your 2016 Small Business Saturday Results?

Millions of small businesses across the country are participating in this event every year. Did yours? This week, we want to know:

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

Image: @ShopSmall

This article, "How Were Your 2016 Small Business Saturday Results? (POLL)" was first published on Small Business Trends

50 Ways to Grow Your Email List

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-12-02 10:30

There’s a lot of hype surrounding new marketing strategies like social media and mobile applications. But having a strong email list is still a must for small businesses. If you’re looking to grow your subscriber base in 2017, here are 50 ways you can grow your small business email list.

How to Grow Your Email List Include a Sign Up Form on Your Website

To get people to sign up for your email list online, you need to make sure you have a working sign up form displayed prominently on your website. The form should include a description of what people will get by signing up, along with any other information you require from them.

Offer an Incentive

It’s also essential that you tell people what’s in it for them. Don’t just say you’ll send regular updates or offers. Tell people if they’ll get discounts or free content or other helpful resources.

Be Clear About Your Offerings

You should also be very specific about what you plan on sending and how often. If people aren’t sure about what they’re signing up for, then they aren’t likely to sign up at all.

Reassure Subscribers About Spam

People also want to know that they aren’t going to receive a bunch of spam. So along with your signup forms, tell people that you won’t spam them or sell their email addresses to any third parties.

Create a Free Download

To get people to sign up, you can also create exclusive items that they can download for free just by signing up. This might include forms, worksheets or other downloadable resources.

Write an eBook

If you want to really entice more signups, you can write an ebook and offer it for free for anyone who signs up for your email list.

Include Testimonials

To show people how helpful your email list can be, you can include a testimonial on your landing page or sidebar from someone who found it to be a great resource.

Have a Sign-up Sheet

You don’t have to only collect email addresses online. You can also include a sign up sheet in your store or physical location for people who want to sign up.

Request Emails During In-person Sales

You can also go out of your way to get people to sign up for your list simply by asking people who are making purchases if they’d like to leave their email addresses.

Reward Sign-ups

You can also offer a one-time reward for people who sign up, like an exclusive coupon code that they can use within the first year.

Include a Link on Your Business Cards

You can also use your business cards as a way of letting potential subscribers know about the benefits of signing up for your email list. Just include a link and some information on the back.

Start a Club

For local businesses or those who want to grow customers through events, you can start a club and use your email list as a way of distributing relevant information.

Have a Name for Subscribers

Even if you don’t have the capacity to start a club, you can make your email list seem like an exclusive club by having a specific name for the group or encouraging interaction in some way, like through social media hashtags.

Host a Giveaway

A contest or giveaway can also be a great incentive to encourage sign-ups. Just ask people to leave their email addresses as a way of entering.

Sponsor a Giveaway on Another Site

You can also increase your reach even more by sponsoring a giveaway on another website or with another business.

Invite People to an Event

If you have an idea for a one-time event that might interest some potential subscribers, you can ask people to sign up in exchange for a ticket or event information.

Provide Helpful Online Content

If you want to show people that you can provide them with great content via email, then you need to first show them that you can create great content in general. That means you can start a blog, YouTube channel or other content strategy to showcase what you have to offer.

Create Content Upgrades

Once you create great content, you can add extras like worksheets or additional information that people can only get if they sign up for your email list.

Have a Password Protected Part of Your Website

Or you could create a whole section of your website that’s password protected, and then only offer access to that section to your email subscribers.

Start an Online Community

You might even consider adding a community feature like a forum or even a Facebook group and granting access to those who sign up.

Cross-promote with Other Businesses

You can also connect with other relevant businesses or industry experts and promote their email list with your subscribers and have them do the same for you.

Encourage Email Sharing

Your subscribers can also be a great help in promoting your email list. Ask them to share their experience on social media or share their favorite emails with their contacts.

Visit Trade Shows

If you promote your business at trade shows or other events, include a sign-up sheet or contest that people can enter by signing up for your list.

Collect Emails from Mobile App Users

Or if you want to create your own mobile app, you can offer it for free to those who sign up for your list.

Have an Opt-in on Order Pages

When people make purchases on your website, you can create an option that lets them opt-in while completing their order.

Make Order Confirmations Work for You

Once people have already completed their orders, you can send them a confirmation email that also includes an easy way to sign up in case anyone missed the form on your website.

Include Email Requests with New Orders

Or you can include a sign-up card with the actual package you send out with purchases so people can sign up if they’re happy with the experience.

Include a Sign-up Link in Your Signature

Your everyday emails can also provide opportunities for more email subscribers. You can include a simple sign-up link in your signature for those who are interested.

Add it to Your Social Profiles

You can also include a sign-up link in your social media profiles along with a quick description or incentive for signing up.

Join a Networking Group

If you want to appeal to other professionals in your area or industry, you can join a networking group to meet relevant contacts.

Offer a Free Service

For service-based businesses, you can offer a free consultation or simple service in exchange for people signing up.

Speak at an Event

To share your expertise and show people the kind of information they might get by signing up for your list, you can speak at industry conferences or events.

Give Away Regular Downloads

Free downloads can be great one-time incentives. But you can also attract new subscribers by offering freebies on a regular basis and publicizing them.

Preview New Offers on Social Media

Each time you create a new offering or exciting piece of content, make sure you offer a preview on social media so that your followers can see what they might be missing if they aren’t already signed up.

Create Separate Opt-ins

If you offer a variety of different content to subscribers, some people might not want to sign up because they don’t want to receive all of that different content. But if you separate it into more specific lists, like one just for discount offers and one for curated content, you might attract more sign-ups.

Have QR Codes on Signage

On any signage or print materials, you can make it really easy for people to sign up for your list by scanning a QR code with their smartphones or mobile devices.

Add a Call to Action on Facebook

Facebook also makes it really easy for you to add a call to action to your page. So you can make your call to action the ability to sign up for your email list.

Publish Offers on LinkedIn

If you have content that includes upgrades or requires a password, you can share the link on LinkedIn to increase visibility and gain subscribers from that platform.

Promote Exclusive Content on Pinterest

On Pinterest, you can also share any visually appealing content that includes a link to sign up for your list.

Share Your Expertise on YouTube

Or if you create YouTube videos, you can include calls to action that encourage people to subscribe.

Mention Relevant Influencers on Twitter

On Twitter, you can tag relevant brands or influencers when talking about your emails to increase visibility.

Include Calls to Action on Blog Posts

If you blog for your business, you can also include calls to action at the bottom of each post to encourage more sign-ups.

Partner with Influencers

To increase visibility for your business among relevant consumers, you can partner with influencers and then direct new visitors to a landing page with your sign-up form.

Host a Webinar

If you have relevant expertise to share, you can also host a webinar and allow people to sign up for free by leaving their email address.

Ask for Sign-ups from Direct Mail

If you have a direct mail list, you can ask those people to go paperless by signing up for your email list instead.

Request Emails on Sales Calls

And when you or your team speak with customers or prospects during sales calls, you can also collect emails or encourage people to sign up.

Include Social Sharing Buttons

You can also encourage people to share your emails or any other content you might offer by including social sharing buttons that make it really easy for them to send your content to others via email or social media.

Ask for Help from Employees

Your employees also might be able to help you spread the word by promoting your list with their own contacts.

Consider a Pop-up

Though pop-up windows might be annoying, they have shown to be effective for promoting email lists on websites. So it could be worth considering.

Create Great Email Content

And finally, if you want to get more email sign-ups, you need to share great content via email. Whether that’s discounts, information, downloads or other types of content, you need to make sure it actually lives up to the hype.

Email List Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Ways to Grow Your Email List" was first published on Small Business Trends

What is Udemy And How Can I Use It For Business?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-12-02 09:30

Type “Online marketing courses” in a browser, and you will get 29+ million results with every option imaginable. And one of the search results undoubtedly will be Udemy, an online learning platform.

What is Udemy?

Udemy has a library of over 40,000 courses, 20k instructors, and 12 million students in 190 countries around the world, so it has reach. The question is, in addition to earning money by creating courses, can you use Udemy for a business you already have.

The answer is yes, and here are some of the things it can do that can directly increase the presence of your business in the digital world, while earning you money from the courses.

How Can Udemy Benefit Your Small Business?

It can position you as an expert in your related field. Whether you are an accountant, artist, mechanic or plumber, you can create course that can teach people how to do things. You can charge for the courses or offer them for free. This in turn will drive traffic to your site by people that are ready to buy your products and services.

Udemy is also an outlet that gives you free marketing and promotion. By creating a course on the site, you have a potential audience of millions of people. These are visitors that want to engage, so their participation rate will be much higher than other ecommerce sites. And for users that take your course, you can build your list of subscribers with their name and email addresses, which can be used for future promotions.

So how do you create a course on Udemy?

Creating a Course on Udemy

Before you start, create an account and go to this link to review the quality standards of Udemy. This will ensure you are following the rules as to what the company expects. But some of what it looks for include, HD video, good audio, 5 lectures, and at least 30 minutes of video content.

As an instructor Udemy has a revenue share system where it pays you 50 percent of the net amount received for your course, minus any applicable deductions.

When you are ready, go to Udemy Teach and you will see the ready to create a course page. You enter the title and you will be prompted to go to the next page.

Course Goals

This is an important page, because potential students will be making their decision based on you put here. It appears on the landing page, so make is as clear as possible without being too wordy or gimmicky.

 

The user interface is very intuitive across the entire process, and Udemy has done a great job to simplify the input of the information.

Test Video 

Since this is a platform that uses video to deliver the courses, Udemy wants to ensure the quality is high. You have to send a 2-5 minute video recorded on the same equipment you will be using for the course.  The video you submit will be reviewed and you will get feedback on how to improve it, if it needs it, within two business day.

A quality video ensures your students can see and hear everything you say. You can review the test video instruction before you even send any sample here.

Curriculum 

In the curriculum section, you will put together your course. The page has several prompt where you can add and create sections, lectures, exercise, quizzes and more.

Course Landing Page 

The course landing page is the first thing anyone sees about what you are offering. Again, Udemy has done a good job of having the right prompts so you can fill title, subtitle, course description, images, videos and more.

Once you fill it out, you can click the preview button and see how it will look. You can play with it until if feels right for you.

Price

This page is self-explanatory, so you set the price you are going to charge for the course. You will be directed to the premium page where you will fill out the financial information. If you don’t want to charge for the course, select free.

You can also create instructor coupons to promote your course.

Automatic Messages

This is an automated message that will be sent to student when they join and complete the course. Although this is optional, it is a great way to continue engaging with your students.

Submit for Review

When you have filled out all the information, you are ready to submit your course for a review. Once it is approved, you can market and promote is to drive student to your course.

Udemy is a great learning portal that provides affordable lessons for anyone with an Internet connection. It has thousands of free courses, and even thousands more where you will have to pay. Whether you are creating a course as a source of income or to promote your business, it can do both, and best of all, it is free.

This being Udemy, you can take a course on how to create a Udemy course by taking one. It is a step by step guide created by the company available for free. You can take the course by clicking here.

Images: Udemy

This article, "What is Udemy And How Can I Use It For Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends