In a sense, a small business owner is only as successful as the relationships he or she builds. There are relationships with customers, with business colleagues, with contractors, and with employees – and should any of these relationships fall apart, the fate of the business is in jeopardy. In this edition of the Smart Hustle Recap, we will feature a variety of articles that will help you build stronger relationships.
Better Business Networking
Networking is a vital part of small business success because you never know where a new connection will lead you. As guest contributor, Jen Slaw, says, “Our connections will become our clients, team members, strategic partners, mentors, and advisors.” By networking, you can form relationships that will better your business. If networking isn’t your thing, take a look at this article. Jen Slaw is sharing five things you can do to immediately expand your business network.
Click to read 5 Steps to Form & Nurture Business Relationships
Relationships with Contractors
No matter how hard you try, you can’t do it all yourself, small business owner; you will occasionally come across tasks that are better handled by an expert rather than using a DIY approach. One such example is app development. More and more small businesses are understanding the benefits of creating their own app, but lacking knowledge of coding and design requires them to hire out. This article can help you form a better relationship with your app developer so you can clearly communicate your needs and help to create a stunning end product.
Click to read 5 Tips for Working with an App Developer as a Small Business Owner
Social Media Relationships
Social media is an ideal place to cultivate your relationships with your customers, and no one knows more about this subject than Ted Rubin, the Chief Marketing Officer of Brand Innovators and creator of the concept “return on relationships.” In this article, Ted offers tips to help you make better digital connections using social media.
Click to read Ted Rubin’s Advice on Building Personal Relationships through Social Media
Bonus Article: Workplace & Employee Relationships
Forming strong relationships with employees involves creating a culture within your small business where team members know they are valued and love to come to work. To create a better workplace environment, check out this article by guest author Randy Stocklin, the founder of One Click which was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 50 Places to work in 2016. Randy is sharing four tips that will help you build stronger relationships and culture in your business.
Click to read How to Build a Rock Solid Company Culture
So how are you doing on relationship management in your small business? Check out the articles above to get help in these specific areas! You can also get more advice at SmartHustle.com – or spark up new relationships with your business peers by joining the Smart Hustle Community.
The post Smart Hustle Recap: Tips for Stronger Small Business Relationships appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Marketing often requires so much effort that it’s no surprise that many businesses work with agencies or hire expert consultants to help them advertise and grow their business. Most businesses use a combination of social media, email marketing, SEO, PPC campaigns, and user generated content to build their online presence, and just one of these tasks can quickly become overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are a lot of incredible tools that make it infinitely easier to take care of your business’s marketing yourself. If you want to DIY your marketing, there are 6 tools that all small and medium businesses should add to their marketing toolkit.
GetResponse is an essential tool for all DIY marketing toolkits, regardless of the size of your business. Their goal is to help you create beautiful marketing materials that convert, with zero experience needed on your end. Creating a landing page, for example, as never been easier. Their drag-and-drop editor and more than a hundred mobile responsive templates makes it easy to create gorgeous landing pages, no coding knowledge required.
Image source: https://www.getresponse.com/features
Their email marketing features in particular offers incredible value to businesses. Like their landing pages, they offer easy-to-customize email templates that are just as stunning and mobile responsive. Through their software, you can also quickly import thousands of subscribers from multiple platforms to your email list, send out autoresponder campaigns, preview what your content will look like in the users’ email, and get email analytics. Email marketing is essential for lead nurturing and sales purposes, and this software is an ideal solution.
Trello is a virtual collaboration tool that can be organized like a to-do list, allowing you to see what’s being worked on and who is working on it. It’s separated into boards, then lists, then cards. You could, for example, have a board specifically for content marketing, with lists including “to be assigned,” “in progress,” “pending review,” and “complete.” Specific tasks can be added to cards, which can be moved from list to list.
Image source: https://trello.com/guide/collaborate.html
The interface is user-friendly, and it allows you to add as much information as needed; you can invite specific team members to boards, assign tasks, and add comments, files, and checklists to each card. Did I mention it is free?
Social media should be an essential part of your marketing strategy, regardless of industry, and tracking your social media results can take up a lot of time. Brand24 is an incredible social media monitoring and analytics tool, and an essential must-have for the DIY marketing toolkit.
Image source: https://brand24.com/features/
With this tool, you can monitor a specific keyword or groups of keywords as well as mentions, and see what people are saying. This software will show you how the volume of both discussion and reach are evolving for your business, and whether the discussion is positive or negative.
This tool helps you identify key discussions you should take part in, so you can jump in and engage where it counts most.
Wisestamp is another great tool that can help you elevate your email marketing campaigns. This tool enables you to create gorgeous, customized signatures to place at the end of your emails. You can add your name, job title, contact information, and even a headshot or picture to your signature. This adds a more personal element to the emails, and can increase conversions and leads.
Image source: http://www.wisestamp.com
With their pro plan, you can create multiple different signatures, and you’ll have access to their premium templates and design features.
User generated content, including reviews and social content, is effective at driving conversions of all types. Actually getting users to create and post that content, however, is sometimes easier said than done. Once you have to track it down and find it, it becomes exhausting. That’s where Yotpo comes in.
Image source: https://www.yotpo.com/features/review-generation/
While many users will happily read reviews and use that information to make their buying decisions, only a small number actually leave them. Yotpo automatically sends perfectly timed follow-up emails to your customers after a purchase that asks them to leave a review. They’ll then display these reviews on your product pages to help increase further conversions.
Yotpo now also new content curation features, which helps you find social UGC, then creates easy-to-moderate shoppable feeds that can be used to drive conversions.
Hootsuite is one of the best all-in-one social media management tools available. With so many platforms available for businesses to be on, keeping track of it all by yourself is almost impossible without a tool like this one to help you.
Image source: https://hootsuite.com/products/social-media-engagement
Hootsuite allows you to manage, schedule, and monitor your social media activity from one dashboard. Platforms supported include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. You can also assign team members to respond to specific messages or streams of engagement, ensuring that no potential customer will fall between the cracks.
The post DIY Your Marketing: The Essential Toolkit for SMBs appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
As we enter the first days of Autumn it’s easier to think about things like jingle bells and snowflakes. If you are a small business owner who wants to end 2016 with a BANG, then it is essential that you start planning your holiday campaign now. The National Retail Federation reports that businesses can make as much as 30 percent of their annual sales in November and December alone! There is fierce competition to win customers’ during the holiday season, so a mediocre marketing campaign just will not do.
Inspiring Ideas for Local Holiday Marketing
Many businesses focus their holiday marketing efforts online, relying on tools like social media and paid advertising to reach potential customers. However, local businesses should never underestimate the importance of traditional and tangible marketing materials such a signs, banners, and postcards. Customers will be able to see and interact with these elements in real life. They have a more ‘personal’ feel and can also drive word-of-mouth marketing in your local area.
So how are you planning on marketing your business this holiday season? If you are in need of inspiration, I would like to point you to an article I just read on The Business Journals website titled How 3 Small Businesses use Staples Print & Marketing Services to Market for the Holidays.
I won’t give away any details– you really have to hear about these marketing ideas from the small business owners themselves! Get your creative juices flowing this holiday season by reading the article here.
This article was written in partnership with Staples; however, all opinions and experiences expressed are my own.
The post Three Small Business Provide Holiday Marketing Inspiration appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
In December 2013, Ingrid Victorsson found herself among the 110 million Target customers who’d had their names, phone numbers, email, and mailing addresses stolen in a massive data breach. Her thoughts on the matter amounted to a shrug and “meh, it happens,” — but there weren’t many who shared my laissez-faire attitude. In the end, nearly non-existent security measures ended up costing the company around $50 million in settlements.
I asked Ingrid Victorsson, a marketing professional from Boise, Idaho to put together some advice we can use to be more secure. In her off time she enjoys studying local history, eating cheese, and cuddling her dogs.
Target is hardly the only company to lose customer data. In fact, it’s happened far more often than it should, and it seems the cases are only becoming more numerous as time goes on. From poor security measures to leaked information, businesses have become careless with the precious information their patrons have entrusted to them.
According to a Harris Interactive poll, nearly 90 percent of U.S. consumers said they would avoid purchasing from a company if they felt their privacy was not protected. The good news is that setting yourself apart from the eBays and Anthems of the world is easy enough; it only requires marketing your security measures — and following through on those promises.
Protecting Customer Information
Before we get to marketing, there are a number of things you should be doing to protect your customers’ data. Depending on the size of your company, the way your systems are set up, and what information you have, consider the following security measures.
Use A Dedicated Server
As a money saving effort, many small businesses host their files on a shared server. On a shared server, different sites are are being hosted on the same machine — and individuals outside your company have access to your server. This means your website may be put at risk due to another site’s weak security. While it’s significantly more expensive, a dedicated server will greatly reduce the chance of your site being hacked by an outside party.
Encrypt Your Data
Keeping sensitive records unencrypted is always a risk — and it’s one that’s not worth taking. Data security is good business, which means there are plenty of affordable and convenient software solutions on the market. Pick one, use it, and set up an update schedule to keep yourself one step ahead of the hackers.
Layer Website Security
Since hackers use several approaches to break into sites and steal data, installing multiple layers of security is one of the best ways to keep an ecommerce site safe. Firewalls, contact forms, and login boxes all give thieves more work to do to access data — and make them less likely to succeed.
Employ a Malware Monitoring Service
Malware monitoring services not only protect your website and visitors from malware, they also notify you if your site has been compromised or infected with malicious code. Another option is endpoint protection, which guards your network and email against spam, malware, and dangerous file types.
Police Removable Storage Devices
Establish a policy wherein all removable storage devices are identified and controlled. This will prevent malware and viruses from getting in and keep sensitive information from getting out.
Shred, Shred, Shred
Shred, burn, or pulverize paper records of sensitive consumer data as soon as you no longer have use of it. It’s the law.
Run Wiping Programs
Deleting a file doesn’t permanently remove it, and just like paper documents, disposal rules apply to electronic media as well. There are a number of data erasure software programs available that can permanently remove files from a hard drive — if you don’t have one, get it ASAP.
The fewer people have access to sensitive information, the better. Sensitive customer files, whether paper or electronic, should be kept in a centralized location under lock and key, and only available to employees who have “need to know” status.
Make Security a Company-Wide Responsibility
Don’t rely solely on either an internal IT employee (or an outside IT service provider) to protect customer information. Your IT person may not be aware of exactly how data is being used and shared. Discussions should be coordinated between IT, sales, marketing, human resources, and other departments to ensure that all those with access to customer data are managing and protecting it in a way that provides the highest level of security.
In the event of damage, recovering data from servers or hard drives may be necessary. Do your research and be sure you use a reputable service or software — don’t let just anyone have access to customer records.
When considering data recovery services like this one, there are a few things you need to look for. How fast can they work? What type of devices can they recover data from? Where can they perform their recovery? Sometimes a cleanroom is necessary, other times you may prefer to have them on-site.
Create a Breach Plan
If the worst happens, you need to have a plan in place to handle it. This includes:
- Isolating the problem
- Notifying customers
- Getting an IT security expert involved to fix the situation
Swift notification is crucial when a breach exposes an individual’s name along with other identifying information — it will give your customers time to take defensive action. Furthermore, it can make a world of difference in the legal ramifications you face, as well as your brand’s reputation.
Marketing Security Measures
Data privacy and security is more than a risk management issue, it’s also a way to assure your customers that the trust they place in your company is warranted. Consumers are well aware of the risks surrounding data security and privacy, and differentiate yourself through a reputation for strong data privacy and security practices is a great way to gain a competitive edge.
A mind-blowing 80% percent of customers are more likely to purchase from companies that are perceived to be protecting their personal information.
But how do you market your security measures in a way that customers will hear it? Since most consumers only skim privacy policies when purchasing product online, it’s important to offer the information in more than one place.
- Include security/privacy measures on the about page of your website in an easy to read format — give them the the bullet points, not the whole shebang.
- Dedicate part of your newsletter to how you protect customer information.
- Add it to your advertising copy!
Customers want to know you care enough to protect them. By implementing a comprehensive data protection plan and spreading the word to customers — both potential and current — you can get a leg up on both hackers and your competitors.
The post Selling Security: Why It’s More Important Than Ever appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
What’s one thing every non-technical company leader should know about technology?
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 BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. The Future of Tech
I’m not the most tech-savvy guy, but I try to stay current on popular tech trends. Knowing what’s coming and what kind of technologies may be used by my competitors in the next five-to-10 years gives me perspective when I try to plan the next steps for my business and customers. Every non-tech leader should at least know what’s out there.
– Matt Doyle, Excel Builders
2. The Latest Tech Trends
Staying up on the latest trends – perhaps by having a technical team member deliver a weekly tech trend briefing to you, or by regularly reading a tech-focused blog or newsletter – is crucial. You don’t need to know everything about tech as a non-technical leader, but you should be well-versed enough to know when to get advice on tech decisions that will have an impact on your business.
– Leigh Rowan, Savanti Travel
3. The Level of Work Involved
When a non-technical person is working with a technical person, the biggest point of mutual contention manifests itself as: “How long will this take?” Make a point to hone your understanding of the scope of the work, and not just the end result you have in mind, so that you have a rough idea of whether a project will require a foundational change, a small tweak or isn’t even possible at all.
– Roger Lee, Captain401
4. The Right Tech Hires
Hiring the right people for your technological needs is the first step in obtaining technology and putting it to efficient use. If you are unable to identify the right talent on your own, find those in your network who can provide that expertise and give a second opinion. This will lead to higher-quality discussions and broaden your experience in identifying top talent.
– Kevin Yamazaki, Sidebench Studios
5. The Value of If/Then Statements
To easily speak with your technical team about features, talk using if/then statements. For example, IF a new signup deletes their account, THEN send me an email and an SMS, and notify our Slack team. Everything in technology can be broken down this way. Plus, it’s exactly how developers talk!
– Chris Brisson, Call Loop
6. Your Customers’ Capabilities
I’m keeping up with how my target demographic uses technology. Because we aren’t really a tech company, we’re unlikely to lead a charge toward adopting new technologies. Thus, understanding how your customers already use tech helps you stay relevant. If we didn’t understand that non-mobile/tablet users are few and far between in China, we’d be in trouble.
– David Mainiero, InGenius Prep
7. The Effects on Your Business
Every company leader should know the latest technology trends in their industry and how they affect their business. All businesses today are driven by technology. If you can’t understand technology directly, you should have other people explain it to you in layman’s terms. Don’t avoid learning the crucial ways it affects your business because no technology is too difficult to learn if it’s explained properly.
– Piyush Jain, SIMpalm
8. The Basics
It’s important for a leader to understand the technology that his employees and counterparts are using. Even if they aren’t an expert, they need to know, understand and use the technology in order to ask the right questions and engage in the discussions that have an impact beyond the technology. Take the time to learn the basics, because even a little bit goes a long way.
– Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance
9. The Importance of SEO
The single most important marketing tool in today’s business world is SEO. All non-technical leaders should understand how it works, the value for their business and how to build around it.
– Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors, LLC
The post 9 Things You Should Know About Technology If You’re a Non-Technical Leader appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Ransomware can lead to a company losing its proprietary information that sets it apart from the competition. The theft of intellectual property can lead to public dissemination and cause the loss of a competitive advantage.
Companies who are hyper-focused on their customers are in a constant state of re-design. If you look at Uber App, Google and so many other apps and services we use daily – you’ll notice they’re constantly getting better and event. Even Microsoft Windows 10 is always updating and upgrading itself with better design.
While some-times we don’t like designs, or don’t like them initially – overall – upgrading our look and feel is important.
What about you?
Are you analyzing your digital design, your retail store design and more to ensure it’s looking as good as it can and serving your customers as best as
Recently FreshBooks updated its interface to make it easier for customers.
They had 3 objectives:
Objective #1—Simple Product
Objective #2—Natural Collaboration
Objective #3—Faster Product Improvements
Lessons for you? Be in constant awareness of the need for better design.
The post Everyone’s Improving Their Design – Are You? Lessons from FreshBooks. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Tons of energy is put toward acquiring and retaining customers in any business, big or small. Using customer relationship management (CRM) software is one way to take the stress out of that process. However, finding a CRM to keep track of all those clients and prospects shouldn’t add stress to your day.
To assist in small and medium businesses’ searches for CRM software, Capterra’s Software Lab has evaluated some of the over 450 solutions on the market today and presented the top 20 solutions in our new Most User-Friendly CRM Software report.
I asked Kelsie Anderson, Capterra’s research associate to share the results with us.
In such a competitive and growing market, these 20 systems stood out from the rest in terms of usability, customer services offered (for implementation, training, and support), and average customer review ratings. Capterra took all of these factors into account when evaluating these solutions.
To test usability, Capterra performed direct user testing in each of these systems. We chose tasks that were representative of how most companies would use CRM, measuring how much time and how many clicks it took to complete these tasks in each system. We also scored each system using an SUS score (an industry-standard questionnaire that determines perceived ease of use), which gave us an idea of how much our team liked using the system.
We tested each solution twice. The first time we completed tasks without evaluating training, an indicator of how intuitive the system was to use. For the second testing round, we performed the same tasks after evaluating available training materials for the given solution, measuring learnability.
With a perfect score of 100, Teamgate topped the list with stellar task completion times, a full array of customer services, and a five-star review rating average. Overall, our testers had a lot of great things to say about the most user-friendly solution:
- “The system is easy to use but has quite a bit of functionality. It‘s easy to navigate without compromising capability.”
- “Very sleek. Very user-friendly. Very intuitive. Probably my favorite system of the bunch.”
- “My favorite system. You don’t even need training because the system becomes second nature after a few clicks around.”
Less Annoying CRM and Close.io weren’t far behind, tying with scores of 92. Both systems also averaged 5 star reviews from their customers and made task completion efficient in our testing rounds. However, both systems scored slightly lower than Teamgate in their training resources offerings.
Capterra found that, on average, it took about 30 seconds and 9 clicks to complete a task in a CRM. Considering that it can sometimes take more than five minutes and 30 swear words to find the napkin you were taking notes on during a sales call, CRM can be a real timesaver.
Even more encouraging, 13 of the solutions our most user-friendly report also made it onto our Top 20 Most Affordable CRM Software Report, showing that you don’t have to sacrifice quality when looking for a solution that will fit your budget.
Teamgate, for example, is #16 on our Most Affordable report. However, it still only cost about $22 per user per month, well below the industry average of about $36 per user per month. By using these two reports together, you can rest assured that you’re picking a quality solution that doesn’t break the bank.
At Capterra, we believe that software can and should make your professional life easier. Our Top 20 Most User-Friendly CRM Software report can help point you in the direction of systems that live up to that expectation.
The post What’s The Most User-Friendly CRM Software? Capterra Report Shows. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Increasingly I find myself clicking “unsubscribe” to email newsletters. I don’t want to unsubscribe from them – but so few have an option to “update my preferences”. Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, Mail Chimp all have options to “update preferences”. However, there are some providers, such as Vertical Response, that only have one option for the read “un-subscribe”.
Often times people want to update their email address, but if you only give the option to “unsubscribe” you’re not just annoying them – you’re hurting yourself. Most people will just unsubscribe.
Of course having only one option, “unsubscribe” is not just the only problem, here are a few more things you can do to make your email newsletter a winning success:
- Have a great subject line
- Tell a story and have great content
- Have a simple, but good design
- Ensure it’s easily readable on smart phones
Now go fix that “unsubscribe” problem.
The post The One Problem Your Email Newsletter Has and How To Solve It. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Many businesses have multiple locations, with headquarters all across the world. With that level of growth comes the challenge of coordinating team efforts over distance. Thankfully, an assortment of tools available online today make it easy to erase those miles and communicate almost as if you were in the same room with your coworkers.
Cloud-based software allows everyone on your team to have real-time access to in-progress work. Plus, there’s no expensive IT maintenance required, so you can save money while also increasing productivity. Win-win for everyone.
Having a solid project management platform is critical to the success of your team, whether you’re all working locally from the same office, or you’re spread out all over the globe. No matter your industry, there are lots of moving parts to coordinate. Project management software that integrates with your CRM keeps things simplified. Quickly and easily manage clients, projects, to-do lists and calendars from a central location – accessible from anywhere there’s an Internet connection.
Live Video Chat
Sometimes, business will call for live video chats with a small group of people. With tools like Google Hangouts, Blab, and Skype, there’s a way to host video conferences with small groups of people for free. Blab works great if you need multiple hosts with mostly viewers. Skype is popular, but not an ideal choice if you want to record the call for later viewing. If your team is all over the world, chances are you won’t find a time that works well for everyone to attend live, so you’ll want the option to view the chats later.
When you’ve got a team of people working, it only makes sense to use an editorial calendar. CoSchedule offers a robust calendar that teams can work on together, ensuring everyone remains on the same page. As an added bonus, it features a WordPress plugin so you can keep your editorial calendar right inside your company blog. You can automatically schedule your posts to go out to Facebook and Twitter, too.
Social Media Management
While CoSchedule can help with social media management to a degree, it can be a hassle to load all of your other social content in the platform if you’re working from your WordPress blog. Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite allow for multiple team members to access your social accounts, schedule posts, and more.
Buffer includes the ability to schedule Pinterest posts, a nice bonus for businesses that need to maintain an active presence on that network.
If you need to quickly and easily share files among coworkers, there are many options – Dropbox and Google Drive are simple and effective. OneDrive, Microsoft’s answer to their competition, is another good solution.
OneDrive is the better answer for small teams who also need cloud-based access to Microsoft Office, because an Office 365 subscription includes the ability to share with other users. Each user on the shared account gets their own 1 TB OneDrive space, plus 60 free Skype minutes a month.
No matter which of these platforms you choose to use, you can download them to your computer and mobile phone so files and folders can be shared directly from your hard drive or mobile device. And, if you have multiple team members who need access, you can control what is shared with whom in just a few clicks.
Skype is great if you want to share a screen with a small group, but when more than one person needs control, it’s not ideal. That’s where ScreenHero comes in. Share a single screen, but allow multiple people to work on the document together – each with their own cursor. With the voice chat feature, it’s like working in the same room together.
With the variety of cloud-based tools available today, there’s no reason your remote team can’t operate as a cohesive unit regardless of distance. When there’s something that needs to be done, you’ll be able to find the tool you need to accomplish it.
The post 6 Tools for Unified Teams appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Organizing and hosting events is a powerful way for businesses to strengthen their brands in their local markets, or nationally. A well-organized event can generate media attention, bring VIPs together, enable prospective customers to have an occasion to get to know you better and so much more.
Marketing the event can be an arduous activity, but I’ve been using Zapier, EventBrite and Infusionsoft to really make the event marketing process much easier.
Sure events take a lot of work to organize, especially as they get bigger, but the benefits can be well worth it.
Over the past several years I’ve hosted and produced dozens of events. The biggest one is the Smart Hustle Small Business Conference – http://www.smarthustle.com/conference with 400 attendees .
One of the things I wanted to do differently with this event is to not send the same email, asking people to register, to people who have already registered. Conversely, those who have not registered yet, I wanted to be sure to encourage them to register.
Traditionally, event marketers send the same big email blast to everyone in their list instead of segmenting the list and respecting that different people need different messages.
EventBrite is one of the best services to use for overall attendee event registration.
Infusionsoft is one of the best services to use for marketing automation.
Zapier is the best service to use to connect different online services.
So where’s what I do:
Through EventBrite attendees can register to attend the Smart Hustle Small Business Conference.
Once they register, Zapier adds a new record to Infusionsoft tagging the attendee as registered to the conference.
I then use Infusionsoft to send very targeted emails. One set of email prepping registered attendees about what they can expect at the conference. The other set of emails I can send a different message encourage those who haven’t registered to register.
In this example, I’m showing you some ways I do event marketing – but you can use the principles of marketing automation and message segmentation in so many other ways.
The post Event Marketing: Using Zapier, Infusionsoft and EventBrite For Better Marketing appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
As I travel cross the country, I’m amazed at the number of business owners who are still relatively new to the power of using content and “social media” to engage with their customers. Part of this rise is fostered and enabled by CRM companies integrating social dynamics into their platform.
Today Nimble announces a slew of new and updated integrations (Office 366 and Google Apps) into its software. In addition it’s enriching it’s social connections and business contact information.
You can use Nimble to not only keep in touch with your customers and other contacts but also build and save profiles based on a variety of business information – such as industry size and location.
The power of CRM is a) everyone in your company can get the same snapshot of one customer b) everyone on your team can better collaborate about customers (or others) c) you can glean public insights on each contact in your database d) you can segment customers and better market to them.
The post CRM Plus Social Plus Business Information Is A Winning Combination: Nimble Upgrades appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Content marketing makes up a huge part of most brands’ marketing strategies. It can yield incredible results that impact all areas of your business and its online presence… but only if you do it right.
While many brands all over the world are reaping the benefits of their content marketing efforts, just as many are puzzled as to why it’s not working for them.
If you aren’t getting the results you want, there are 6 common reasons why your content marketing isn’t working. We’re going to look at each cause and solutions for how to fix them.
You’re Doing Content Marketing with No Goal
Most brands take on content marketing because they believe it will help their business, but sometimes, that’s as far as their strategy goes; they pump out blog posts and cross their fingers and see what happens. They don’t have more specific goals for their content marketing strategy, which is ultimately why it fails.
You need to ask yourself what you specifically want to achieve with your blog posts. Do you want to increase your sales, or get more leads? Showcase your industry expertise? Boost SEO rankings?
Caption: Trunkclub’s blog provides visitors with fashion advice, like how to pick out a pair of boots. In order to see their collection and full recommended outfit, users need to create an account and login, driving conversions and sign-ups.
You need to know what you want your content marketing strategy as a whole to accomplish, and then optimize each post for the specific goal you want it to accomplish; you can’t just go on autopilot and hope for the best.
To address this problem, you need to take a look at what you want your content marketing to achieve and come up with ways to optimize for those results. Doing thorough keyword research, using alt tags in images, and specifying meta descriptions can help you increase the changes of your content being indexed, for example. Placing clickable CTAs throughout your site to learn more about a product or sign up for your newsletter can drive sales and leads, and providing consistent, high quality content educating your readers can build your credibility.
You’re Content is Stagnant
If we find something that works once in our content marketing, it’s easy to want to stick to that, whether that’s a style of post or a certain subject. While this might work for a little while, but long term, users are going to get tired if they don’t feel like each post is offering them something fresh and new. Whether you’re only posting too-similar listicles or going over the same topic with little variation, you might lose viewers in favor of competitors that are more diverse.
While it’s important to figure out what works well for your audience, you still want them to feel like they need to read each post for fear that they’ll miss something if they don’t. Some strategies to prevent stagnation in your content marketing include:
- Featuring high quality guest posts from other industry experts
- Add infographics or videos
- Place interactive features (like polls or quizzes) in your content
- Share a mix of case studies, how-to information, and breaking industry news
- Check what’s trending now; Clearvoice has a great database of trending articles if you’re stuck and can connect you with high quality freelancer
Keep an eye on what’s working for you, and check in to your analytics frequently, as it can change before you know it.
You Aren’t Tracking Results
Some businesses will run entire content marketing strategies without ever thoroughly tracking any of their results. Monitoring analytics of your content can tell you what’s working and what isn’t, and it can often give you a lot of insight into how to product better content over time.
Some important metrics to track include:
- Conversion rates, including leads or sales
- Bounce rate
- Engagement rates
- Page views
Tracking the activity on your website is important, but it’s also just as important to see how your content marketing is affecting your social media and email marketing campaigns. They’re all intricately linked together, so looking at the big picture is important, too.
There are a ton of great tools available to help you track all of this information about your content marketing; Google Analytics is a great go-to tool for all businesses, and will even show you where your best traffic is coming from and how they move through your site. Other tools like Cyfe let you create dashboards that pull analytic information from multiple sources, including Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, and ecommerce tools like Shopify.
Your Content is the Same as Everyone Else’s
There are tons of posts being put out every day; in this current climate of content overload, the question becomes how do you stand out? With a million posts about Facebook Ads or how to choose a wedding cake or best interview questions to ask, how is yours going to be different?
Ultimately, you need to decide how you’re going to be different, and what you can uniquely offer readers that no one else can. Even if it’s just your writing style and your voice that’s unique, something has to be special.
There are a few ways you can write unique posts and lead magnets. One way to do this is to comb the internet and message boards for unanswered questions; if one question keeps getting asked over and over again, there’s clearly an audience and a demand for content that addresses it. Another great method of creating new posts is to take a broader idea, like “Ten Classic Wedding Menus” and focusing in on one niche idea that fits within it, like “Six Wedding Menus to Keep Your Gluten Free/Vegan/Paleo Friends Happy.”
Sometimes, creating content that’s different from everything else will rely on a combination of research and understanding (and fully embracing) your specific niche.
It’s Not Actionable
This is one of the biggest problems most content has; it’s so heavily theoretical, or there’s so much information overload, that users walk away from content thinking “well I still don’t know how to do any of that.” It’s like the manager that keeps telling salespeople “just sell more! Try harder!” As anyone who has ever worked in sales knows, this doesn’t actually ever help anything.
If you take a close look at a lot of how-to posts (or even content in general), they’ll talk about a problem or an idea but won’t show you to actually execute it. It therefore is rarely actually useful, and still leaves your readers wanting.
Your content should offer specific actionable content that users can make use of. This post, for example, is actionable by offering solutions to the problems that prevent success with content marketing. It’s the difference between the manager saying “you need to sell more” and saying “By showing the complementary product and showing them as a set, you’ll have bigger sales.”
Actionable content is valuable content, and that’s what will drive results.
It Feels like a Sales Pitch
While you can feature your products and place information and snippets of content to drive conversions, your content should not read like one long 1,000 word sales pitch. It doesn’t feel genuine, and in the age where “authentic content” is king, you’ll lose readers quickly.
We’ve all seen content that is so clearly created only to promote a product or an affiliate link, and the result is that readers are automatically less likely to trust it (and you).
Trademark Universal Stone’s blog post about whether granite is worth the return on investment is a great example of how to promote your products (theirs is granite) without making it read like a sales pitch.
If you’re going to promote a product or place affiliate links, it should almost never be the center of a blog post or lead magnet. Content marketing is about building a relationship with your customers, and if it reads like an advertisement, it won’t be effective.
Instead, subtle mentions of a product and a link and/or CTA to learn more are all that’s needed. You can also place a call to action at the very end of the post, encouraging users to contact you to learn how you can help them more.
Content marketing can work, and if you’re putting regular, consistent effort into it, it should be working. Even if your content worked for you in the past, maintaining an effort towards adaptability will keep you up to date on best industry, marketing, and SEO practices, keeping you moving in the right direction and giving you better results long term.
The post 6 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Sucks appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
It happens to many small businesses: you start out strong, generating a buzz that draws in customers and grows sales. Then time passes, and you realize you have not been winning any new business lately. While there is much to be said for keeping your existing customers happy and loyal, the only way you can grow is by acquiring new leads and customers. When the sales pipeline seems to have closed, it’s time to analyze what is going wrong. In this edition of the Smart Hustle Recap, we have an article that will help you assess the reasons why you are not winning new business lately – and correct the problem! We are also sharing tips for using Facebook Live and four steps that will help you improve your IT security.
New Business Has Slowed? Here’s Why
The key to business growth is acquiring new customers, so if you’ve noticed that things have slowed down, it’s time to take notice. While slow business growth can happen for reasons like an economic downturn, there are often business missteps that are to blame. In this article, sales guru Adrian Miller is sharing five reasons why you might not be seeing the new business you’d like. Figure out which are applicable to your situation, then use her advice to fix it.
Click to read 5 Reasons Why You Might Not Be Winning New Business
Connecting with Customers via Facebook Live
Video marketing is a hot trend right now, but do you know what is even hotter? Live video. The thought of appearing live and unscripted on camera in front of your customers might sound daunting. However, when you understand the benefits of live video (and the fact that your fears are largely exaggerated!), you’ll be ready to take the first step into this promising area of marketing. In this Smart Hustle interview, social media expert Kim Garst shares the benefits of Facebook Live and five tips that will calm your fears and get you prepared for your first live video.
Click to read 5 Tips for Using Facebook Live to Get Closer to Your Customers
Enhance Your IT Security Today
A sobering statistic for you: in a recent survey of 500 IT professionals, 30 percent said they believe there is nothing they can do to protect the security of their company. If you’ve ever felt the same way, it’s time to eradicate that self-defeating thought and take charge because you definitely CAN improve IT security at your business! In this article, cloud service LogMeIn is sharing four simple things you can do to greatly enhance the security of your company.
Click to read How to Improve IT Security in Four Simple Steps
So what is troubling you these days? Winning new business and sales? Forming better relationships with your customers? The security of your business data? These articles are sure to help, and for more tips and advice, catch new content over at SmartHustle.com.
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So you’ve got a theme for your new business, but you need just the right icon to represent it. You’re not going to settle for just any representation. It’s has to speak to who your brand is and it has to be unmistakably recognizable. Your icon, in large part, is how your brand will stick in people’s minds.
I’ve asked Jeff Garrett, Founder of Lumberjacks Restaurant to share his advice with us.
Be bold, be original
There are a lot of icons and symbols for businesses, large and small, that look awfully similar. While one brand might be more recognizable than another or they may be in totally different industries, it’s best not to run the risk of confusing the consumer.
Avoid the hundreds of thousands of themes that you could purchase or even obtain for free from various websites. Get creative to set yourself apart. Once you’ve decided, trademark it so it can’t be used by anyone else; consumers will eventually associate that logo directly with your brand. Trademarks are valuable assets to businesses – they allow you to grow your brand awareness and lead to more business, but must be renewed every few years.
In addition to being original, your icon should embody everything about your brand. If you’re a delivery service, your icon should emphasize speed. If you sell flowers, consider a delicate and colorful icon.
When determining an icon for the full-serve restaurant I founded, Lumberjacks, we obviously wanted a lumberjack as our icon. But, it had to be the right lumberjack. We avoided images of a hipster-like lumberjack, as “in” as that is today, and went with the big, burly, yet friendly, lumberjack. This was important because our slogan is “Where the Big Boys Eat” and we serve large portions of down-home cooking.
Be mindful of colors too. Different colors represent different things and trigger the brain in different ways. For example, red is a very powerful color. Among other meanings, it’s the color of adventure. Red is also one of the top two favorite colors in the world and the international color for stop. Green is universally associated with nature and represents growth. Shades of color are also important to consider. One shade of blue means something different than another shade of blue. Different shades of blue represent trust, dignity, strength, dependability and cleanliness among other qualities. Consider what it means to put different colors together.
Don’t be so two-dimensional
While icons or logos have to be two-dimensional for websites, letterhead, business cards, menus, matchbook covers and advertising collateral, consider taking them three-dimensional.
Statues can be a great draw for consumers, but make sure it’s accessible. The right statue can grab attention of the casual passerby and possibly lure them over. A statue can also be a photo opportunity for visitors; when that photo is shared on social media, that’s more exposure for your brand. A three-dimensional icon can become truly iconic.
Our 12-foot tall, 650-pound fiberglass lumberjack statue in a red flannel shirt and blue jeans, hoisting an ax over his shoulder that stands outside our restaurants is hard to miss. It’s definitely an attention-grabber and your icon, whether two-dimensional or three-dimensional, should be too. Our guests are always stopping to take pictures with the big guy.
Change is good … Sometimes
Don’t be too quick to change your icon. If you feel it no longer accurately reflects your brand, change it, but be careful to not change too much. You don’t want to confuse or lose your core consumer base which has come to recognize your brand one way or which may have been attracted to your brand because of your icon. Think carefully before changing colors and avoid replacing your icon with something completely different.
Lumberjacks changed its icon a few years ago, both the two-dimensional and three-dimensional versions. We discovered the one we were using on our signs and website was mean-looking and reminiscent of Bluto from the Popeye cartoons. Our original statue was made of wood and didn’t weather the natural elements well, splitting and cracking. We’re actually a pretty friendly bunch and we know real lumberjacks, who are tough and rugged, hold up well in all sorts of weather.
After finding our fiberglass lumberjack, made by a company in Wisconsin that produces statues for Disney theme parks, we bought the trademark rights to it. It and our website logo represents us accurately, they speak to who we are and consumers recognize the images. We don’t plan on changing again as we’re growing.
About Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garrett is the founder of Lumberjacks Restaurant, a full service log cabin themed diner, serving breakfast all day, lunch and dinner in large portions of down-home menu items made from scratch with fresh, quality ingredients. Founded in 2004, Lumberjacks is known regionally in Northern California and Nevada as “Where the Big Boys Eat.” Lumberjacks began franchising in 2010 and today has nine locations in two states with a 10th location opening by the end of 2016
The post How to Select the Right Icon for Your Business. Advice From Owner of Lumberjacks Restaurant. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Business owners, entrepreneurs, and innovators, are you ready to learn how you can use technology to stay ahead of the competition? For just one night, best-selling author and technology expert Ramon Ray will be sharing his experiences as a successful entrepreneur, in an event titled 10 Ways Growing Companies Use Technology to Stay Smart and Competitive.
Sponsored by Citrix, this event is a great opportunity for business owners and entrepreneurs to mingle with others in their local business community and to learn how to keep their businesses moving forward. You will learn:
- How to use technology to save time and money while increasing productivity
- How to leverage the power of mobility and the cloud
- Why technology can’t be a quick fix in a bad business process
- And so much more!
There are two stops on the tour – Denver and Austin. Here are the other important details:
#SmartBreak Denver: #SmartBreak Austin:
Date: Tuesday, September 27th Date: Thursday, September 29th
Time: 5:30 to 8 PM Time: 5:30 to 8 PM
Register HERE! Register HERE!
Register for the (at)Citrix #SmartBreak #smallbiz event in #Denver and #Austin!
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Technology can give you an edge over the competition – if you know how to use it correctly! Take your business to the next level by registering for the event closest to you.
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There is nothing more frustrating than a slow computer. Having to wait for your computer to catch up to what you are doing can not only cause frustration but can create a loss of productivity and revenue. Thankfully, there are some simple solutions in the way of upgrades that can get you back on track. These solutions are the topic of an upcoming webinar from the business team at Lenovo: Smart Tech Upgrades to Drive Productivity, Performance, and Profitability.
Free #webinar on Smart #Tech upgrades with @LenovoSMB on 9/20!
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This free webinar will bring together a group of tech expert panelist that will discuss the importance of keeping your technology updated, the benefits of cloud computing and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and factors that should drive your business technology choices. Here are the webinar details:
Smart Tech Upgrades to Drive Productivity, Performance, and Profitability
Tuesday, September 20th
1:00 – 2:00 PM EDT
Sign Up HERE
This is a FREE webinar, so I hope you will join me, as I will be participating on the panel. I will be joined by Eric Knopf, co-founder of Webconnex, and TJ McCue, who consults on content strategy and produces web content for technology companies. The webinar will include lively discussion, best practices, and thought-provoking questions and answers and is great for anyone in business who uses technology and wants to be more productive, improve performance and be more profitable!
Secure your spot by registering today. I hope to see you Tuesday, September 20th!
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For your small business in its infancy, technology can be the most important tool at your disposal to maximize potential, draw in clients and manage your business effectively through the stormy waters. However, fail to use technology shrewdly and you might see your ship sinking to the bottom of the ocean in no time. Here’s a list of ten ways that this could happen – and what to do to steer clear of them.
I’ve asked Joel Duncan, a freelance writer-photographer, with a passion for technology, entrepreneurship and education to lend his expertise. He is particularly interested in how new technology is being used to positively change and connect the world.
1. No website
One of the biggest mistakes a small company can make is to assume they don’t need a website because of the size of their business. Think a local plumbing company or a hair salon.
Just because these businesses are only going to attract clients from the local area does not mean that they won’t benefit from a website. Most people search for options on the internet, even if the thing they are searching for can’t be bought online.
Having a social media presence is all well and good, but the website must be the anchor for any social media sites being used. However, one important caveat to remember is that it must be professional-looking, responsive, and easy to navigate – sometimes having a poorly-designed website is worse than having no website at all. If you are looking to draw clients in with a messy website, then you will lose out on that good first impression and your clients will skip to a smarter competitor.
2. Misusing Social Media
Now this is a big one. Social media is a very alluring marketing channel for new businesses because more often than not it’s free.
It is easy for businesses to start their online branding efforts via social media under the naive assumption that the customers will instantly flock to their profiles. This definitely isn’t the case, especially since a lot of small businesses just don’t understand the right way to use social media. A very common error that businesses often make is that they try to use too many social media channels and neglect differentiating their strategy for each one.
For example, they might decide to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest, which is already a lot to manage, then will proceed to use them in the same way. Social media users will quickly unfollow and go somewhere else if they see the same content repeated on each platform. A smart business should show different facets of its business on different channels. For example, a restaurant might share only photos on Facebook, videos on YouTube, links to magazine reviews on Pinterest, and promote new deals and offers on Twitter.
3. Not being interactive on social media
Some businesses think that social media is just a free marketing tool. But the clue is in the name – social. Its imperative that whoever is managing the social media sites for your company is doing more than just opening accounts in your company’s name and getting the logo and the brand out there.
Social Media channels give businesses the opportunity to develop their online personality. It’s a place to communicate with clients, forge connections, offer advice, and above all, be honest. Social media users are accustomed to companies behaving like this online, and if your company doesn’t get involved, do not expect many clients to come your way because they have been turned off by your social media attitude. It may be free to open a Facebook account, but for your business to thrive, it means you need to spend a lot of time interacting with potential and actual clients.
4. Keeping Tabs on Your Progress
After you have established a website and a decent social media presence, the next step is to ensure that you know what is working for you and what isn’t. Companies that are in the dark about how their services are performing are not in any kind of position to decide what to enhance and what to jettison. Good web analytics tools can keep your business abreast of how well it is doing, and should be high on the list of priorities of things to invest in. Remember: data is all important!
5. Not Having IT Support
Companies who don’t think it is worth investing in decent IT support may be worryingly unprepared when disaster strikes. Often a small business will just have one employee handling the entire company’s technological infrastructure, and they may not be fully prepared for any eventuality. A investment worth considering might be to outsource your IT support to an experienced and professional outfit who can help you guard against malware, data loss, and all the other hordes of tech gremlins that lay in wait.
6. Failure to reinvest in hardware/software
It might be very tempting for a company to persist with their aging PCs and temperamental printers because the cost of replacing them might appear too high. Most hardware has a life expectancy of about three to four years. But offset these costs in the long-term against the rising expenditure in repairing the dinosaurs on your desks and it might make a lot more sense to just invest in newer, fitter machines.
7. Leaving Yourself Exposed
It is vital that your company’s IT system is protected against all kinds of calamities that could end your enterprise in a single stroke. If you take the time to plan for doomsday then you might just survive it. What about if your office floods and destroys all your machines, and, more pertinently, the data that is on it? You will need to have backed up all your information on cloud servers. You can also protect your infrastructure from cyber threats and viruses.
8. Cutting Corners with Software
It might be very tempting to illegally download that version of Microsoft Office to save your company money when it is just starting out. But pirating software can result in fines and the arrival of malware into your system.
9. Using Home Equipment to Run Your Business
Yes, your business may be small. But do not expect that the same hardware and software that you use at home will be robust enough to power your company. When things go wrong, and they will if they can’t cope with your tech traffic – then you will regret not investing in something more appropriate for your business model. When your company experiences downtime due to a painfully slow internet connection, it is the company’s coffers that will suffer in the long run.
10. Skimping on Training
You can save your business a lot of money if you ensure that your staff are qualified to operate hardware and navigate software. To some, it might seem that understanding how to use a printer or how to work a spreadsheet might be learned as you go. However, if your new employee accidentally wipes your accounts from last year, or causes physical damage to your printer, then you only have yourself to blame for not making sure they were trained in the first place.
Remember – most of these pitfalls can be avoided by careful planning and having priorities in order. Yes, they might require more investment than is available to a new business right from the outset – but they might prevent a lot of headaches further down the line!
The post 10 Technology Mistakes That Kill Small Businesses appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
When you read about successful entrepreneurs, one of the most common themes you’ll hear time and time again is the importance of having a mentor. Smart people know they can’t do it all on their own, and mentorship offers them the opportunity to talk through ideas, get feedback, and learn from those who have been down the path before them. In this Smart Hustle Recap, we are stressing the importance of mentorship by sharing two recent articles on the topic. We also have a blog post on business growth advice, and a rare, personal look at Smart Hustle Editor Ramon Ray.
Benefits of Mentorship for Small Business Owners
As a small business owner, you are already quite busy. Should you make time for mentorship? Is it really that important? If you want to succeed, the answer is yes. This article shares three important areas where a business mentor can help you learn and grow – a true eye opener for those of us who tend to do things on our own.
Click to read Don’t Go It Alone: How Having a Business Mentor Can Change Your Business
Tips for Attracting Mentors
A mentor is typically someone who is a ‘step ahead’ of you in the business world – they’ve been through it all and have lived to tell the tale. But how can you appeal to someone who is obviously very busy and get them to share their time and experience with you? The answer is by being a good mentee. In this article, guest contributor Ella Rucker shares five ways you can become a mentee that your ideal mentor cannot refuse.
Click to read 5 Smart Ways to Maximize Your Potential for a Business Mentor
Business Growth Tips from GlambitiousIAM.com
Glambitious I Am is an innovative network for female entrepreneurs who have a diverse set of professional experiences and are eager to share their advice with others. In this article, six members of the “Glambitious Power Circle” contributed their top tips for business growth. It’s no surprise that mentorship made the list (“Join a Group of Like-Minded Entrepreneurs” and “Find an Accountability Partner”), but to see what else made the list, you’ll have to read the full article.
Click to read 10 Business Growth Tips from the Glambitious Power Circle
An Inside Look at Entrepreneur Ramon Ray
Ramon Ray, Editor of Smart Hustle Magazine, is used to being the one who interviews others. In this twist, Ramon finds himself at the other end of the interview table! Zev Asch, President of Ledaza, sits down with Ramon to ask him about his entrepreneurial journey and other personal questions, like his biggest wins and mistakes, and who inspires him the most.
Click to read Zev Asch Interviews Smart Hustle Magazine Editor Ramon Ray: What the Entrepreneurial Journey Is Really About
The four articles listed above all have a common theme: mentorship. Having other entrepreneurs around you who inspire and push you is an important part of running a small business. In fact, we felt so strongly about this that we created the Smart Hustle Community to help business owners network and learn from each other! Check out the community here, and for more great articles, head over to SmartHustle.com.
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