10 Digital Marketing Channels to Keep an Eye On

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 22:30
What do you think will be the next big digital marketing channel and why?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Amazon

As content marketing continues to drive results for businesses trying to reach their audience, it’ll become more common for organizations to produce their own books for distribution on Amazon. As one of the largest eCommerce destinations to date, Amazon offers your business an opportunity to get discovered in front of a new audience likely interested in your offerings.

– Brian HonigmanBrianHonigman.com

2. Influencer Marketing

Internet users are growing numb to the common digital marketing techniques, such as banners, that have been used for years. However, they are increasingly listening to influencers on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Because of this, these influencers will increasingly be able to facilitate highly effective campaigns for all types of industries.

– James SimpsonGoldFire Studios

3. Online TV Sites

Goodbye cable television, you just don’t make sense anymore, especially when I can watch any episode of South Park on Hulu. I have a dozen friends in the last two months who have switched from cable to a smart TV subscription, and they are so much happier. The commercials are even better than the junk you see on cable because you help determine what kind of commercials you are interested in.

– Jon ClineRokit SEO

4. Reddit

With $50 million in fresh funding, the community-oriented platform is well positioned to change how regular people interact with digitalcontent and how brands build communities by effectively engaging consumers. Reddit is not the most brand-safe environment, but it is one that holds a lot of potential for marketers due to its super loyal audience.

– Firas KittanehAmerisleep

5. Pinterest

Once Pinterest rolls out their targeted ad platform it could be a huge channel. Pinterest users spend more than users of any other social network, and the visual natural of it makes it perfect for native advertising.

– Josh WeissBluegala

6. Podcasts

The next big thing is already here. I think we’ll see a comeback of an earlier media form: podcasts. As on-demand content becomes more niche and podcasts became more accessible and shareable, I forecast that this channel will see a huge growth in listeners.

– Basha RubinPriori Legal

7. Earned Social

Social marketing has oscillated between hero and whipping boy for much of the past five years, but the best is yet to come. While there have been tremendous advances in paid social within the past year, earned remains the single greatest untapped opportunity. As brands start to see social as word of mouth, they will learn the importance of driving organic sharing and the value that comes with it.

– Brewster StanislawInside Social

8. Live-Streaming Platforms

With the demise of cable subscriptions and the rise of streaming video content, the next big digital marketing channels are likely to be the live streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. An increasing number of people will likely use them for their video needs and as a result, businesses can reach various members of their target audience by marketing on these platforms.

– Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

9. Instagram

I think Instagram will soon be the next big thing as it appeals to companies interested in reaching targets through high investments. Up to now, Instagram hasn’t managed to reach the same levels of popularity in terms of marketing campaigns as its counterparts Facebook and Twitter. But thanks to increased geo-positioning, the site could potentially provide a huge boost to local advertising.

– David TomasCyberclick

10. LINE

Pretty much everyone has a mobile messaging application on their phone these days. However, LINE is the only one of these applications that is currently setup in a way where businesses can utilize the platform from a marketing perspective. I see this becoming an integral way public figures and brands communicate with their audience in the near future.

– Cassie PetreyCrowd Surf

The post 10 Digital Marketing Channels to Keep an Eye On appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

AMI-Partners releases I-Signal

AMI Partners - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:07
AMI has released the latest issue of I-Signal, a publication which  provides a periodic, graphic review of the strategic issues, trends and directions impacting information technology (IT), communications and related industries.  As you will see, I-Signal includes a wealth of worldwide SMB trend, usage, spending, RTM/channel and cloud transformation perspectives, based on AMI’s ongoing tracking surveys: 10 Trends Impacting the SMB […]
Categories: SMB

WW SMB Migration to Cloud Accelerating

AMI Partners - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:03
Worldwide SMB ICT spending has risen steadily, albeit with increasing shift from traditional on premise IT products/services to hosted and remotely managed solutions. By year end 2014, WW SMBs will have spent over $1 Trillion on IT and communications solutions. Future growth will be driven by the rapid adoption of hosted/cloud-based solutions. Overall, WW SMB spending on cloud services is […]
Categories: SMB

SMB Holiday Security Tips

SMB News - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 19:37

This holiday season thousands of shoppers will trust companies across the country with their credit and debit card information. But with the holiday cheer, shouldn’t come fear. Though cyber-attacks against businesses spike near the holidays, you can help your readers learn how to protect their small business. Why? Because….

Thirty-seven percent of respondents to the 2014 Symantec Small Business Holiday Survey report that customers have expressed concern about the security of their personal data.

Twenty-eight percent of small businesses plan to provide security training to all employees this holiday season.

According to Symantec’s 2014 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), more than 400 million identities were exposed through data breaches from October through December last year – which is more than double the 149 million exposed in the other nine months combined.

Symantec, a global leader in protecting small business security, recommends small businesses do the following:

Remove sensitive data from your network: SMBs will often store sensitive data that isn’t frequently accessed on a computer that either is not or only intermittently connected to the network. Removing this data from the network will help greatly reduce security risks.

Talk to third-party vendors and employees: Most SMBs rely on third-party vendors for help with a business need, like accounting or security, and these third-party vendors often have access to sensitive customer information. Small business owners should ask their vendors about how they are protecting corporate information and look for ways to limit unnecessary vendor access to sensitive data. Additionally, small businesses should train their employees on security best practices, like setting up strong passwords, backing up data and identifying phishing emails.

Multi-layered security: Today’s advanced threats call for multi-layered protection. SMBs should protect its data during prime holiday buying times, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with a security suite that goes beyond basic anti-virus, like Norton Small Business or Symantec Endpoint Protection.

Keep your OS updated: The holidays are a perfect time to update security software and operating systems. This will protect against recently discovered vulnerabilities, as well as the increased likelihood of attack that comes with the holiday shopping season. Norton Small Business updates systems automatically, as well as tracks and flags devices that are running older software versions

Categories: SMB

eCommerce Site Success: 9 Big Time Tips To Make Your eCommerce Site Better

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 19:00

Selling online is easy – you use an ecommerce platform like Shopify, Infusionsoft, BigCommerce, Volusion or one of many other solutions and you’re done. Right? No.

To successfully sell online it takes specific strategies and best practices.

Julie Grace is the head of engineering at Tindie.com, a community for buying Arduino producdts –  interactive electronic objects. Julie gives some awesome tips in how to ensure YOUR eCommerce business runs smoothly, profitably and grows!

The full story is at First Round Review, my excerpts are below.

Have a great browsing experience:

“When you’re a small startup, you don’t need to hurry to implement search,” says Grace. “If your product catalog starts out small and people don’t know what to explicitly search for, then the best thing you can do is optimize for browsing. The worst thing you can do is prematurely build features like search right out of the gate.” 

Take customer feedback seriously: Tindie also took customer feedback very seriously, keeping a close eye on how people chose to engage or critique the site’s navigation.

Have a great search option: You can build your own custom search engine, or use a 3rd party search service. Both options can be useful.

Most importantly, you need to be mindful of how your search system can impact your SEO — especially when you’re trying to build brand presence, she says. At first, Tindie would generate unique URLs for search results and products based on the parameters customers selected (like price range, etc.). This led to inaccurate results, which damaged the company’s Google rankings. “When you start thinking about search, you have to consider the functionality, but you also need to think long-term about URL structure and whether you’re ‘polluting’ your Google search results with all these additional pages that are useless to customers. These can have a very negative impact on your SEO, which directly affects your brand.” 

Be Thoughtful About How You Route People

When it comes to optimizing conversions, you want to make sure you’re directing traffic in ways that keep people on your site, even if they don’t find exactly what they want.

Other tips include:

  1. Don’t force your users to create an account before they can buy
  2. Avoid gimmicks to extract customer information
  3. Make your checkout experience fool-proof.
  4. Keep your company’s ‘About’ section minimal
  5. Invent the Best Shopping Cart

The post eCommerce Site Success: 9 Big Time Tips To Make Your eCommerce Site Better appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

16 Tips for Mompreneur SMBs

SMB News - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 15:58

In the United States, there are 10.6 million women-owned SMBs, generating $2.5 trillion in annual revenue, according to the Center for Women's Business Research. Included in that staggering number is the multi-talented mompreneur SMB—she’s not only running her household, but her small business operations too. With so many moms diving into entrepreneurship, the need for resources to create successful small businesses is in high demand.

Diana Ennen, President of Virtual Word Publishing has some ideas for moms to create their own SMB. Perhaps even the business of her dreams.

by Diana Ennen

Mompreneurs SMB Magic –  Tips to Create the Business of Your Dreams

A successful mompreneur SMB is one who has taken her passion and what she loves to do and been able to make a successful business out of it. It’s not always about the money (although that helps) it’s more about having a business you are passionate about and one that helps others as well.  Be proud of your mompreneur SMB title and the business and lifestyle you are achieving.

Tips to Running a Successful Home-Based Business:

Know that it takes commitment, dedication and passion.  There will be some rough days especially in the beginning, but it’s so worth it.  As long as you truly believe in your business and your services you’ll do great.

1         Do your research.  Read as much as you can and follow those in your industry who are doing it now.  There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel.  Social media has made it so much easier today.

2         Market aggressively.  And even when you get clients continue to market.  Too many make that mistake.  They get a client or two and then stop.  You want to always be out there so then you become known as the go-to person for those tasks.

3         Have a great website.  That says so much about your professionalism.  Most today will check out your site and social media before they hire you.  It’s well worth it to have a good one and with WordPress today, you can even create one yourself although I highly recommend getting it professionally done.

4         Brand yourself well.  It’s so easy to do by just having a consistent theme on your website, marketing, social media, proposals, etc.

5         Have a plan of action and stick to it.  So many go into business and just hope for the best.  Instead, plan for success.  Doesn’t need to be anything detailed, but write down your goals, how you are doing to do business, pricing, what you will offer, etc., and then write down actionable steps to achieve it.  Revisit this plan often.

6         While you are planning, implement a marketing plan and get really clear on who you want to work with and why it’s a good fit. It not only helps with marketing copy, but also provides confidence in your marketing as you know your own strengths and what you can do best.   (Want to see my marketing handout, email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you.  Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com

7         Don’t delay doing a marketing plan because you feel it’s too technical or time-consuming.  Just do it!  But remember a marketing plan is not a one-time do it and forget about it.  You want to constantly update yours.

8         Do marketing you love! Don’t market and do things you should be doing because “others” tell you so.  If you aren’t comfortable doing it, you won’t do it often. Find what works for you and of that on a consistent basis.

9         Marketing via social media - Get creative on social media.  Be engaged.  It’s about relationship building.  Don’t just promote.  I see so many and it’s sell, sell, sell.  Yet, I haven’t connected with them enough to know why I would buy from them.  It’s a huge turnoff.  Yes, you do want to promote and talk about your business, but be their friend first.

10       Reach out.  I absolutely love it when someone connects with me and I can tell they really get me and truly have been following me and know about my books, services, etc. But be real.  For example, if you endorse someone on Linkedin and you’ve never worked with them before and have no idea of their skillset, you send the wrong message and a huge red flag.

11      Be careful on social media. Remember that often times long before someone hires you, they are following you and seeing what you offer.  If you are constantly complaining about too much work, not knowing how to do something, or lousy clients, guess what?  They are going to run and FAST!

12      More is not always better on social media.  It looks awesome to have thousands of fans, but if they aren’t loyal fans, it’s not doing to do much good. 

13       My best secret for marketing success is to take one of my best articles,  develop a pitch and then sent it out to reporters, blog sites, etc. who might be interested.  It works! Plus, best yet is even months later you can hear back from someone who then has a need for your article and they want to connect.  

14       Be consistent in your marketing. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see.  Businesses go full steam ahead for a few weeks and then disappear for a few months and then go it again.  Some repeat this time and time again and what happens then is the next time you say, “I’m back.” No one cares.  OUCH! 

15       Enjoy the successes, big or small.  When you do that, you feel that winning feeling and want to do more of it.

16        And finally, be that valuable resource that clients simply can’t do without.  Make those deadlines (and even get them done before they need to be done), do a great job, and always make your clients feel like they are your only clients.  Yes, they know you have others.  However, when you make them feel special, it just feels great and they want to work with you more.

Know there will be good days and bad days, but work to make sure you have more of the good ones. Love what you do and have fun.  There’s so many types of businesses you can do at home, choose one that works for you.  Continue to grow and learn along the way.  It’s important to keep up and it’s never been easier with so many offering free webinars and teleseminars and training.  And finally you need to always market your business even when you have a full client base.

So what is the future bring for mompreneur SMBs? It’s just going to continue to get better and better.  Mompreneur SMBs have been around for a long time.  However, the difference today is that they are so widely known and respected and it’s commonplace today to hire one.  Plus, social media has just opened up so many doors and enabled them to connect with their potential clients and clients in a way that didn’t exist before.  Just do it!

Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing, http://www.virtualwordpublishing.com offering PR and marketing services and also hosts PR classes through www.prsuccessseries.com.  She has been featured on Fox Business News, CBS, CNN Radio, USA Today, Woman’s World, Entrepreneur Magazine, Home Business Magazine and so many more.  She’s also the author of six books on starting your own business including the best-selling VA the Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA, Contact her at Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com or @dianaennen for a free PR Informational Package.

Categories: SMB

How your SMB can Save on Energy this Winter

SMB News - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 22:13

Energy costs can be SMB's largest single expense, especially with the arctic air sweeping across the nation today.

  By Kevin Stevens

Arctic air is sweeping across the nation and higher heating bills won’t be far behind. Unfortunately, these chilly winter months can hit small to mid-size businesses particularly hard because energy costs are often their largest single expense. The good news is, there are several simple steps business owners can take to save money, conserve energy and help their bottom line.

  • Shop Energy Suppliers: By shopping energy plans before the frigid temperatures settle in, SMBs can save big on their electric bills by locking in a fixed-rate for their energy. According to Choose Energy, the nation’s leading energy marketplace, businesses can lower their monthly heating bill by up to 32 percent just by switching suppliers. 
  • Use Smart Power Strips: Smart power strips are time-controlled power strips that can help cut energy consumption during hours of little use. Consider setting these strips to turn off for at least a few hours during closed times.
  • Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances: Break rooms and kitchens are popular areas in businesses. Make sure your appliances are Energy Star appliances to make your business more energy efficient. 
  • Substitute Incandescent for LED Light Bulbs: The initial upfront cost for LED bulbs is higher, but it does pay off in the long run. Incandescents can cost almost 400 percent more to operate than LEDs.
  • Monitor the Thermostat: Each degree lowered on the thermostat can save between 2 and 5 percent on the heating bill. Business owners should consider lowering the temperature during closed hours. To make it easy, programmable digital thermostats are available at most hardware stores for $25-$75.
  • Look for Leaks: By covering leaks, customers can earn up to 5-10 percent in savings. Business owners can check for leaks by looking for air drafts surrounding windows and doors. Drafts can be covered easily using spray foam, or for windows, shrink wrap.
  • Inspect Insulation: Insulation plays a big role in saving energy. Often times, just adding a few inches of insulation (instead of replacing everything) can be done quickly, providing long-lasting savings. Costs incurred with insulation may qualify for energy-improvement tax credit.

Just by following these simple tips, businesses will waste less energy and save more money, which will ultimately help their bottom line.

Kevin Stevens is product market manager, small-mid size business at Choose Energy, the nation’s leading energy marketplace. In October, Choose Energy announced a small-business offering in New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania where small to mid-size business owners can shop for providers online to help them save time and money with their electricity plans. To learn more about Choose Energy, visit www.ChooseEnergy.com.

Categories: SMB

Zipmark Buys WorkingPoint. Here’s 3 Reasons Why It Matters. Bill Payment Marries Financial Management Solution.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 18:00

Zipmark, an awesome service enabling bank to bank payments recently  bought WorkingPoint, an awesome service that provides bookkeeping, tax reporting, inventory and expense management to small businesses.

One of my “vendors” uses Zipmark to enable me to pay her immediately – from my bank to hers.

Zipmark, for businesses, competes head on with PayPal and other payment solutions. WorkingPoint provides invoicing,  and a business dashboard that allows our users to quickly gauge the state of their finances

This purchase is important for a few reasons:

  • Zipmark – can now offer YOU and its existing customers more services – through WorkingPoint (and vice versa)
  • Point online payment solutions such as PayPal must consider upping their game to provide  more all in one solutions to customers.
  • WorkingPoint’s founder is an Intuit alumnus, and Zipmark’s founder Jay Bhattacharya, CEO sold one of his earlier businesses to Intuit.

Point solutions, which provide ONE solution to their customers are “good” but integrated solutions, providing a suit of services are much better for you business – integration is the word of the day.

Are you using several different point solutions? Is it time to use more integrated, all in one solutions?

The post Zipmark Buys WorkingPoint. Here’s 3 Reasons Why It Matters. Bill Payment Marries Financial Management Solution. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Holiday Free Shipping Battle: Target Takes on Amazon and Why Your Business Should Care

SmallBiz Technology - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 15:49

As the holiday season approaches, both brick and mortar and online retailers are looking for every advantage they can get to secure their piece of the sales pie. For small businesses, this can be a huge task as the big dogs, like Amazon, Target, Walmart and others, dominate sales due to their size. But, even the big dogs are battling and small businesses should be taking note so they can use some the same tactics in their market to find sales success.

I recently wrote and article, “Target Takes On Amazon With Free Shipping This Holiday Season: What Your Business Should Know“, for the Endicia Savvy Shipper blog. In the article I share a number of ways that Target is battling Amazon to take a piece of the sales pie. What’s great, though, is that many of these same tactics can be used by small business retailers, both online and brick and mortar, to increase their sales.

Take a look at the article and let us know how you can impart these tactics in your small business and find holiday success.

The post Holiday Free Shipping Battle: Target Takes on Amazon and Why Your Business Should Care appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

PC World: Startups, Not Big Companies, Hold a Lock on Technology Support Services

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 20:00

PC World writes how it’s startups, not big companies who have the upper hand and best chance of success in the tech services sector.

My input to the article was:

Ramon Ray is a small business and technology evangelist and the publisher of Smart Hustle magazine. Ray sees the DT trend similarly, acknowledging that in the coming years, “startups will be faster and nimble,” and “Big companies will have to adopt.” As the relationship shifts in favor of more agile young companies, Ray notes that “Big companies will no longer hold a lock on their core services… Startups will work with big companies to fulfill bigger projects.”

And company size can play a significant role in one thing that startups do extraordinarily well – innovating. Their size allows them to change and experiment with new tools without burning through too much money on infrastructure and retraining, and allows them to choose the methods that work best for their team on the fly.

Read what 3 other experts said here.

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Categories: SMB

Net Neutrality – Seth Godin Helps Explain Why It’s A Good Thing

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 20:47

For the politicians, net neutrality is a political issue.

However, it’s more than “just a political” issue. It’s an issue, that if not decided properly by the FCC can affect the lives of consumers and businesses for years to come.

For some months I’ve been thinking, why can’t some companies get faster Internet access, if they opt to pay for it? Isn’t that freedom of speech? Isn’t that our free enterprise?

However, based on a post from Seth Godin, I’m leaning more towards the feeling the we must keep the Internet neutral and not allow one company to pay more for better access to it.

Here’s a partial excerpt of what Seth wrote, read the full article here.

What if search engines or ISPs decide to ‘disappear’ content they don’t like? When there are plenty of middlemen, it’s not really an issue. But when there’s lock-in, it’s too late to have this discussion.

We make a deal with the natural monopolies in our lives. They get the privilege and the profit of being the only one, but in exchange, they accept the responsibility of being open middlemen, of being neutral, of not blacking out those that don’t pay up or that don’t agree.

If ConEd or your local power utility said, “sorry, our electricity can’t be used on Maytag appliances because they didn’t pay a slotting fee,” you’d be appropriately incensed. But when it happens to ideas, I fear the cost is even greater.

We live in the connection economy, a world based on ideas. When a few corporate titans can control the flow of those ideas and the essence of that connection, we’ve given up far too much.

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Categories: SMB

The Secret to Raising Capital for Your Small Business- It’s About People, Not Money

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 16:00
The Secret to Raising Capital for Your Small Business- It’s About People, Not Money

by Norm Merritt

If you’re struggling to raise capital to fund your small business venture, it could be that you’re taking the wrong approach. It’s time to think people, not banks.

The recession has seen the world of small business loans become increasingly restrictive – and that’s a big problem. There are very few businesses, no matter how insanely high your margins are, that can survive without a sizable initial investment.  Costs such as labor, equipment, premises, permits and regulations mount up quickly and it’s all too easy to run short of cash at a vital moment.

We explored alternatives to traditional banks for small business loans in a previous blog post but the truth is this – the real key to raising capital is not building credit, it’s building your network.

Without a solid understanding of how networking and relationships can affect business capital, businesses become dependent on hard-to-come-by bank loans and other short-term funding options. Even if (perhaps especially if) you haven’t even started opening a business yet, now is the time to start finding the people that can really make a difference to your chances of success.

Key Steps to Take 1. Approach prior successful business partners

If you’ve made money for another business person in the past, cultivate that powerful relationship for all it’s worth.  Remember, this isn’t just about getting them to give you money (although that would be ideal – it’s always good to work with ‘known’ partners), it’s often about leveraging these contacts to build your network.

Approach these people first, in a structured, organized manner, and tell them about your business. Remind them of your past successful collaborations and ask them both for advice on your business idea. Remember, a lot of successful people tend to have a lot of knowledge and an even bigger sense of self-worth, so asking for advice – not money – is a great way to get input on your concept and to massage their ego before asking for cash.

Project confidence and have plenty of facts and figures ready to back up your claims that your business will be successful.

2. Identify potential investors in your area

You’re looking for people with money to spare who have expressed interest in your industry in the past. These people may have invested in some of your competitors or may have formerly owned a business in your industry. Find out who they are, make a list and approach each one. Contrary to the silicon valley image of investors pumping money into crazy billion-dollar schemes, most investors like to put their money in areas of which they have knowledge and in which they have a great deal of experience.

Note: this kind of knowledgeable investor is well-worth his weight in equity. It can be lonely and stressful building a new company, so this kind of informed support is vital.

3. Attend trade shows and industry events

Trade shows and other industry events are not just great places to find out about the latest trends, they are ideal places to network for investment.  Investors will actively be on the look out for new players, so are more likely to be receptive to your pitch. It is, therefore, clearly to your advantage to attend as many such events as possible. Make sure, however, that you are organized prior to each event. Put together information packets that include your business card on top so that potential investors can easily see who you are, what you do and how to contact you.

Even better, do the ground work before the event.  Use twitter and LinkedIn to reach out to potential investors and arrange coffees and meetings at the event. Be bold but friendly – and ask for advice not money – and you’ll be amazed how many people are willing to share some of their time with you.

4. Ask for referrals from your current network

Get in the habit of closing every meeting with a request for another meeting with another key investor. At the end of a meeting with a contact, thank him or her for their time and request that the contact introduce you or set up a meeting with an investor they know who may also be interested in what you’re offering.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this process. Given that most investors will only invest in a limit portfolio, people can love your idea without necessarily wanting to invest. Leverage that love to build your network.

5. Practice your elevator pitch

In order to be successful, you’ll need to be able to pitch your business to investors using just a few words. Practice explaining who you are, what you do and why investors should be interested in your business in no more than 30 seconds. You can check out more advice on perfecting your elevator pitch here.

Read: 6 Core Elements of the Small Business Elevator Pitch

6. Manage your business perception

It doesn’t matter how great your business is; it matters how great people think your business could be. Remember, a lot of investors aren’t interested in the finished article because their is less ‘upside’ money to be made. Your pitches should talk about current success but emphasize future potential. Come across as confident, professional and ambitious and you’ll make the right first impression.

Don’t focus just on money. Find out what motivates each of your key investors. For some, the possibility of financial dividends is exciting, but others want to invest in businesses that will make a positive impact on the world or bankroll new, innovative ideas. Learn ahead of time what each investor’s values are – and speak to those values in order to motivate him or her to invest.

Some Final Thoughts

Getting investors to put money into your business is challenging but doable – and a great option in today’s age of restricted access to bank loans.

Start networking early and focus on cultivating relationships rather than on meeting your investment goals. If you do that, there’s no stopping you.


Norm Merritt is the President and co-CEO of ShopKeep, a provider of cloud-based point of sale software for managing retail shops and restaurants. Norm is the former CEO of iQor and is passionate about building teams that put customer care at their core. Norm holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and is a Certified Public Accountant.  

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Categories: SMB

4 Reasons Intuit Is Killing Old Quickbooks In Favor of Quickbooks Online

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 11/04/2014 - 19:00

Most small businesses use Quickbooks – you installed the software on your computer 10 or 20 years ago and it’s humming along.

But today, face it – Quickbooks is bloated, outdated and sometimes a pain to work with. Sure, your accountant loves it – but you don’t.

Intuit executives know this and have been on a steady campaign to make Quickbooks Online the default financial operating system for small businesses.

At a recent conference an Intuit executive said:

“Our mission is to make accounting seem invisible for small businesses by leveraging the power of the cloud so that the time-intensive work of keeping the books organized happens automatically every time an invoice is sent, a customer makes a payment, or an employee gets paid,” said Dan Wernikoff, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business Group. 

  1. The old Quickbooks, installed on your computer is no longer relevant a cloud based world.
  2. You can’t access it via your cell phone – it’s NOT mobile
  3. It’s not intuitive and easy to use
  4. Files can get corrupted and it’s not easy to move from one computer to another.

These are joust four reasons why Intuit’s battle cry is to move small businesses, it’s current customers and new customers to Quickbooks online – a much better, more visual, easier to use cash flow management service for small businesses.

What’s the competition saying?

Xero‘s going directly after those businesses ready to leave the old Quickbooks. Sage is offering a slew of new solutions for small businesses – including Sage One. Shopkeep and other iPad based point of sale vendors have built in solutions for their customers – or can connect their systems to 3rd party accounting solutions. GoDaddy’s financial service (bought from Outright) and Frshbooks offer a nice set of services for solo entrepreneurs and very small businesses.

While I’m not sure if I’ll ever think of accounting or cash flow as being “fun” – I know that cloud and mobile based solutions are getting easier and easier and easier!

The post 4 Reasons Intuit Is Killing Old Quickbooks In Favor of Quickbooks Online appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

7 Retargeting Companies Startups Should Take Advantage Of

SmallBiz Technology - Tue, 11/04/2014 - 16:00
What is your favorite retargeting/remarketing company and why?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. AdRoll

You can’t argue with experience, and AdRoll has decades of experience with optimization and creative strategy. I like them because they have different levels of membership that offer different focuses for your company’s retargeting strategy, because no two problem situations are the same between companies. It feels very customized, and I love that.

– Rob FultonExponential Black

2. OneSpot

The stellar team at OneSpot has made it much easier for clients to amplify their content with paid media, previously the sole domain of media buying agencies. Via one of the most user-friendly platforms I’ve come across in a long time, OneSpot helps build meaningful audiences and increase content exposure.

– Sharam Fouladgar-MercerAirPR

3. Stay.ee

Stay.ee is a URL shortener for companies in the travel industry that allows us to build retargeting pools made up of users clicking on our links but not necessarily coming to our website. Stay.ee attaches a retargeting pixel through the link, not through landing on our site. If the person clicks our link on Twitter that points somewhere else, we’ve still captured them in our retargeting pool.

– Brooke BergmanAllied Business Network Inc.

4. Adfirmative

On day one, Adfirmative offers an advertiser past-audience data to improve and better allocate their remarketing spend. It offers a real-time bidding system. Advertisers can access months of data to continually hone and optimize their ads during the first seven days that wouldn’t be possible without this stored prospect data.

– Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

5. ReTargeter

ReTargeter plans start at $500 per month for smaller businesses. It’s best known for its customer service and an Internet reach of 98 percent. It also offers managed or full service plans.

– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

6. Perfect Audience

They send you an email each week with a list of converted sales and help you optimize to get more over time.

– Jessica RichmanUBiome

7. Criteo

Criteo’s algorithms are more powerful than the more well known services such as AdRoll and ReTargeter. I also love how well Criteo works across different devices and platforms, allowing me to retarget the full spectrum of consumer without having to manage multiple accounts with multiple providers.

– Firas KittanehAmerisleep

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Categories: SMB

IHOP Tweets Are Hip But Small Business Should Focus On Value To Your Audience.

SmallBiz Technology - Mon, 11/03/2014 - 19:00

Advertising Week wrote a story about how IHOP got real cute with its Tweets and was using more “hip” language to attract a younger audience. Granted, I’m over 40 (maybe old by some) and overall have never been into “pop culture” so I don’t know what most (or any) of the words that IHOP used in its Tweets mean. Furthermore, I do applaud them for using words that their target audience get excited about – like fleek.

However, my CAUTION to us small businesses, is don’t try to be cute with your Tweets or any other online content. Know what your audience wants and provide value to them. Don’t try to be cute, use slang and be HIP if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Be true to your brand voice, provide intense value to your audience and you’ll be fine.

IHOP is a zillion dollar company and can afford to hire a fancy brand agency to guide it into experiments like this. For the sake of your time and money, just remember FREE.





That’s the four word secret to social success.

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Categories: SMB

3 Pitfalls for SMBs to Avoid

SMB News - Fri, 10/31/2014 - 19:36

By: John McGee, CEO OptifiNow

Approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month. Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least two years, half at least five years, a third at least 10 years and only a quarter stay in business 15 years or more. With so many businesses launching and folding up each year, there are lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of others.

Most SMB owners have heard advice about what should be done with their business, but many times that advice is too general or too particular to a completely different niche. Rather than being told to conform to a certain mold, businesses owners should observe what has caused failure in other ventures and evaluate if those pitfalls are something they need to avoid as well. The common mistakes businesses often make include:

1. Focusing on the customer base you want versus the customers who are actually interested in your product or services.

               During market research and when writing a business plan, entrepreneurs are able to develop a sense of who they will want to market their product or services to in terms of a target customer. But, if after launch the majority of sales are coming from a different market segment, do not be afraid to take a change of course and redirect your efforts to capitalize on an emerging opportunity.

2. Lacking a differentiator from competitors.

               Cost-savings, better quality, efficiency, technology, these are all reasons that your product or service might be different from other similar solutions already on the market. Figuring out what your unique qualifiers are and how to explain them to your audiences will influence the overall success of your business.

3. Not being able to succinctly describe what your business does.

               Whether you are communicating via email, in person or over the phone it is essential to have an easy to understand two to three sentence description of what your company does, why your product or service is important and why it is unique. Investors, customers and partners will only give you a limited opportunity to catch their attention. Allowing it to slip by because you are unable to articulate what you do is a fatal error.


About the Author
John McGee, President OptifiNow

As the President of OptifiNow, John leads the company’s vision, strategy and growth. John founded OptifiNow to solve a common problem of enterprise customers – the shared struggle of managing national and global sales teams with brand and legal compliant messaging. OptifiNow was built from the ground up by simplifying the complex needs of customers. The result is a software platform that delivers a complete suite of customer engagement solutions for its clients.

For more information visit http://www.optifinow.com/

Categories: SMB

Success with Social Marketing: How to Build A Strong Customer Following Using Social Media (Video)

SmallBiz Technology - Fri, 10/31/2014 - 15:30

Do you struggle with social marketing in your small business? Are you lost when it comes to using social media to help GROW your business and build a strong customer following?

If you answered “YES” to either question, then we have a gift for you! Our very own Ramon Ray, technology and marketing evangelist and the editor of Smallbiztechnology.com, recently joined Business Circle, brought to you by AT&T, for a online video presentation on how to find success with social marketing. During this hour long chat, Ramon explains:

  • How small businesses can use social media to build a strong,and loyal, customer following
  • What every small business needs to know about cyber security
  • How to make your site mobile friendly
  • How to turn customers into ambassadors for your business.

You can watch the full video below, or click here:


Do these tips help? You can find more great tips on the Business Circle brought to you by AT&T website, or continue to follow along here at smallbiztechnology.com!

The post Success with Social Marketing: How to Build A Strong Customer Following Using Social Media (Video) appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB

Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Store and How It Will Impact Your Local Business

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 17:00

Many of you have probably already heard the announcement of Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar store, which is set to open in New York City just in time for this year’s holiday shopping season.

Amazon has been leading the way in online sales for years, so the arrival of a brick-and-mortar location makes perfect sense for the evolution of the company. However this brick-and-mortar store (and others that will presumably follow) will likely shake up local businesses, just as Amazon has done to online businesses in its decade-long history.

If you have a local brick-and-mortar store, you’re probably wondering how Amazon’s move will impact you.

This was the topic of discussion in Ramon Ray’s recent article for Endicia’s blog, The Savvy Shipper. According to Ramon, Amazon’s brick-and-mortar locations will impact local business because of:

  • The Push for Convenience
  • The Storefront-Online Combination

In the article, Ramon elaborates on these points, explaining how Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores will change customer expectations about the shopping experience. To learn more about how Amazon’s decision will impact your local store, you can read the full article here.

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Categories: SMB

How Long-Tail Keywords Are Becoming Even More Important

SmallBiz Technology - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 15:00

Have you noticed that Google is really pushing its smartphone app? This indicates how the online world is tilting heavily to mobile. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about this trend in recent months…and years.

Rather than get bored with all the talk about “going mobile,” the important thing is to ask the question: If users are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile computing, what should I do differently to position my business better?

We get some help in answering this question from the way Google is promoting its app. People are interfacing with Google more and more by talking rather than inputting via a keyboard (either real or virtual). This should cause you to take another – or perhaps your first – look at long-tail keywords.

Building Long-Tail Keywords

A quick definition is called for. “Pizza parlor” is a keyword. “Pizza parlor close to Six Flags” is a long-tail keyword. You’ve probably noticed that people speak differently than they write and that difference is amplified when compared to how people write in search boxes. People looking for your kind of business will be much more descriptive when they are verbally “asking” Google to find it for them. This gives you the opportunity to create some nicely targeted long-tail keywords on your website.

I also need to say that visitors who find your website by using long-tail keywords are much more likely to be high-value prospects. Just the fact that they have used a long-tail keyword means that they have pushed themselves further down your sales funnel. You may not see a big bump in overall traffic, but high quality traffic will increase.

The first step in finding your best long-tail keywords is to just talk about your business, thinking about all the phrases you might use to describe it or ask about it. Be sure to “ask” about your products or services as you do this. Make a list. Consider your keywords from different points of view. Don’t worry about editing now. You can separate the good, bad, and ugly later on.

Let me give you a quick example. A basic keyword would be “vintage clothing.” A brainstorming session would look like this (with the long-tail keywords in italics):

  • Is there a vintage clothing store near the JC?
  • Is there a vintage clothing store open at night?
  • Are there any vintage clothing stores that have children’s clothes?
  • Do any vintage clothing stores sell online?

Include Products and Services

If our example vintage clothing store had any specialty, such as jeans or hats, those terms would be excellent when constructing long-tail keywords. The same principles apply if you’re a service provider.

Adding your location is a standard way to form long-tail keywords. A writer friend did a lot of work for a construction company that wanted keywords such as “bathroom remodeler Dallas” in the copy. He wrote phrases such as, “When looking for a quality bathroom remodeler, Dallas area homeowners often turn to their neighbors for references.” You sometimes need to be a little clever.

Try to work your long-tail keywords into headlines and subheads and don’t overdo it. Above all, Google is sensitive to keyword stuffing, so don’t make that mistake. Keep your usage natural and authentic.

If you need a little help brainstorming, use Google’s AdWords keyword planner and Wordstream’s free (30 searches) keyword tool. Also, as you probably guessed, long-tail keywords will also boost your success in traditional searches.

Image: “Lemur catta 001” by Alex Dunkel (Maky) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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Categories: SMB

Unraveling the Complexities of Small Business Legal Matters: Video from Wix Small Biz Breakfast

SmallBiz Technology - Wed, 10/29/2014 - 21:00

Small business owners usually begin their new ventures with a creative idea and a passionate desire to bring that idea to life. Of course these are essential ingredients to small business success, but you can be doomed for failure if you don’t consider those other nagging issues that may block your way – legal matters. Recently, Wix held a Small Biz Breakfast to help unravel the complexities of small business legal matters.

Smart entrepreneurs take the time to educate themselves in these legal issues before moving forward, often speaking to lawyers who deal specifically with business law. One such lawyer is Christine Wong, a New York City lawyer with over ten years of experience in commercial litigation, including working with small businesses and startups in areas such as contract negotiation, investor financing, and acquisitions.

Christine joined host Ramon Ray at a Wix Small Business Breakfast to discuss small business legal matters. The discussion included three main areas:

  • Partnerships
  • Return policies
  • Updated documents

There was also a question and answer session where audience members could get answers to their own legal questions regarding starting or running a small business.

This special Wix Small Business Breakfast session was recorded and is now available as a 46 minute YouTube video. Whether you currently run a small business, or are thinking of staring one, you’ll definitely find this discussion of legal matters helpful. Click the button below to watch the video, or view it directly on YouTube by going here.

The post Unraveling the Complexities of Small Business Legal Matters: Video from Wix Small Biz Breakfast appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.

Categories: SMB
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