technology best practices for small business growth
Updated: 14 min 12 sec ago
Every business wants to get acquired (by a large multiple).
From SXSW the session, ”5 Secrets to Getting Acquired” was insightful and panelists were Gabe Karp, Partner, Detroit Venture Partners and Matt Wise, CEO, ePrize.
First, there are NO secrets. It often takes dumb luck and a great product.
(SXSW coverage sponsored by Infusionsoft - all in one sales and marketing CRM software for small business)
Check out my video interview with Matt Wise here.
The 5 tips they DID share, however, were:
Have mature and experienced leadership
When companies are looking to buy your company it’s important to have mature and seasoned leadership in the executive team. It’s important for two reasons. 1. You NEED the experience to help your business 2. Your INVESTORS want the comfort of knowing that their investment has a great degree of success.
Talk in sound bites
It’s important that you know how to properly communicate with investors (and others). Be able to speak in sound bites and clearly communicate the value of your business, how it differs from others and etc. Do not speak in nonsensical industry jargon to sound smart.
Be sure that you and your executives are good at common social norms, polite, shake hands and etc. Some executives are not comfortable speaking to people, might be rude or impolite. Leave these people home when you speak with investors (or customers).
Get your financials together
Be very clear and professional in your finances (and other aspects) of your business. KNOW your “stuff”. Treat your business seriously. When investors ask you a question about your business have a good (and truthful) answer.
Go make friends
Before you even think about selling your company ensure you are touching based with the people in your industry who could be possible buyers or influencers in the buying decision.
During the Q&A time I asked how to know when to fire an executive versus keeping them on board. The advice given was that if an executive (or employee) is not adherent to your core values fire them immediately – they will only hurt your company. Clate Mask, CEO and co-fonder of Infusionsoft is passionate about the aspect of company culture.
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There are several ways that companies to market their services and products to consumers and small businesses. PayPal who we know as a payment system for online payments is showcasing their offline POS payment system at SXSW.
(SXSW coverage sponsored by Infusionsoft - all in one sales and marketing CRM software for small business)
Paypal is hosting the SXSW Techset Blogger Lounge where they have a PayPal store and you can download their PayPal app and shop at their store, Here are 5 things small businesses can learn from this PayPal Campaign. The small business solution is called PayPal Here
#idea 1 – Instead of giving away their swag they are demoing their app and letting you pay for it using their app for .01 cents. Neat idea
Idea 2- We know mobile payments are huge. if your small business POS can accept PayPal you really have your own “Starbucks App” folks just open their PayPal app and pay you
Idea 3: Paypal does your publicity for you. As you can see from the screenshot on this blog, your business becomes searchable based on the location of the PayPal user. Last night we ate at the ClayPit Indian restaurant in Austin which also accepts PayPal. They even give direction to the business.
Idea 4: Consumers who are worried about credit card fraud now don’t have to hand you their card, they can link a credit card to their Paypal account and pay you.
Idea 5: Deals and specials – The app has the ability to show you places nearby your location that not only offer PayPal payment but also your specials for customers.
I think the day is not far off when they will also give you reviews of the business and show social check-ins.
Check the PayPal app out for your business or personal use
The post PayPal Showcases Offline Payments at SXSW #PayPalIt appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
On the last episode of Shark Tank one businesses story was that China was no longer the low cost oasis that it used to be. When you add in the incidents of inferior quality which has happened at times – more and more executives are choosing to use USA based manufacturers.
For companies who need manufacturing and want to find a us based manufacturer a ’hidden gem’ is ThomasNet.com. See more information about ThomasNet below
Whether entrepreneurs are looking for contract manufacturers, parts and components,packaging, promotional products, or distribution partners, ThomasNet.com is a central resource for finding everything they need. It’s also a platform for them to grow their businesses by connecting with large organizations that need their products and services.
For example, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, one of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaires, went to ThomasNet.com to find potential U.S. manufacturing partners. From there, she cold called them and visited their mills until she found a company who believed in her idea, and the rest is history.
Another example is Mompreneur Tina Gelhausen, The Quick Split, LLC, who developed small rotary cutters with covers that mothers can tuck into a bag and carry into a restaurant to neatly cut food into small pieces for their children. She used ThomasNet.com to help find manufacturers of plastic and steel products.
Once they’ve started their businesses, these companies can gain another advantage by being featured on ThomasNet.com, too. Manufacturers, distributors and service providers can post detailed information on their companies for free at http://promoteyourbusiness.thomasnet.com/free-profile/. In addition, many of these buyers need to meet supplier diversity requirements and want to work with small and disadvantaged businesses.
What advantages can a business gain by utilizing North American manufacturers/suppliers?
For many businesses, working with North American manufacturers and suppliers provides a marketing advantage. Over the past two years or so, we’ve been seeing buyers actively seeking out Made in America products. We surfaced this in our Industry Market Barometer research on thegrowth of the manufacturing sector in 2012, when we saw companies taking business back from countries like China. Usage of ThomasNet.com is going up, too, and we believe that this is a driving factor. U.S. manufacturers have built new efficiencies into their processes that enable them to provide quality products at very competitive costs. This eliminates the incentive for prospective buyers to look elsewhere.
Many small companies are taking advantage of this trend. SpecCoat(SM), for example, is a small California company that coats printed circuit boards and heavily markets their Made in America quality. Acompany called Monkeyelectric, which builds LED lights for bicycles, found them on ThomasNet.com. They moved their manufacturing from overseas to the U.S., and they asked SpecCoat to do potting/encapsulating work for them because of this “US quality” focus.
The post Looking for A US Manufacturer? Are Chinese Prices No Longer Cheap? appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
At Small Biz Technology, we always love to see examples of small business success – stories that prove if you are willing to work and give it all you have then you just might survive and thrive, even among the big guys. That’s why we’re excited to celebrate with Melinda Emerson as she reaches her 15th year in business.
Melinda Emerson is better known to the world as SmallBizLady, and in her 15 years she’s been quite busy. Her list of accomplishments include being the founder and president of Quintessence Group, a regular columnist for the New York Times, and a bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.
What we also love about Melinda is her mission to give back to other small businesses. She provides many small business resources, such as her Twitter chat #Smallbizchat, her blog Succeed as Your Own Boss, and the Melinda F. Emerson Foundation which provides training materials for future entrepreneurs.
For her 15th year celebration, Melinda is at it again. She’s holding a huge event called 15 Days of Giveaways, where each business day she will be giving away prizes to help out small business owners. The prizes include:
- SmallBizLady Powerpacks including an autographed copy of her Become Your Own Boss Workbook
- SmallBizLady’s Social Media Ninja Kits including her e-book and audio CDs
- A 6-hour coaching session one-on-one with the SmallBizLady in Philadelphia
- A collection of her favorite business books
- A website redesign provided by Duda
- A Voyager Legend CS Bluetooth headset provided by Plantronics
- Google Chromecast
- A Toshiba CB30-A3120 Chromebook
- An all-expense paid trip to Infusionsoft’s conference ICON 2014 in Phoenix, AZ from April 23-25
- Up to 15 lines of VOIP phone service for 12 months provided by Nextiva
- A package to get your business online provided by GoDaddy, including 1 year of domain, WordPress hosting and more
- A NeatDesk Digital Filing System from Sam’s Club
- A Space-Save 10 Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder and a Vayder Technical Mesh Manager’s Chair from Staples
- A $250 gift card to The UPS Store
- A $250 eGift Certificate from Scan My Photos
Want a chance to win one of these prizes? Sign up for Melinda’s email list here. Each day you’ll get an email about the daily giveaway, including a special message that you have to post on Twitter and her Facebook fan page in order to get your name into the drawing.
The contest will run on business days only, from March 5-25, and each day you have between noon and 6pm EST to enter. Winners are randomly selected at the end of the day.
Congratulations to SmallBizLady for reaching the 15 year mark! And good luck to all the small business owners who enter to win these fabulous prizes.
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Everyone has challenges in securing their data. Big companies and small companies. What’s at least a little bit comforting is that big companies have teams and departments focused on managing and securing their enterprises.
The New York Times writes that for startups it’s more of a challenge. They’re strapped for funds and do not have the breadth of resources to secure their software.
What should small businesses do?
I love startups but for small business owners, it’s best to NOT dump your entire business into a startup. Give them a few years (or some reasonable amount of time) to mature, grow and use funding to enhance their security.
Two guys in a garage are awesome – but I don’t think you should let them hold your credit card data, personal customer data and etc.
The NY Times writes:
Government officials say the amount of data flowing through some young companies’ networks rivals what the government itself can collect. The danger, some officials note, is that government agencies have no jurisdiction to protect it, or even the ability to share classified threat information with the companies, leaving the onus to protect personal data from cybercriminals and nation-states upon the companies themselves.
The post Should You Trust A Startup With Your Data? appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Guest Post by Josh Haynam of TryInteract
First, you are walking through a mall and see an interesting storefront that claims to have awesome products. Interested, you walk up to the door, but are stopped short. In order to enter the store and see what they have to offer, you have to fill out a form with your name, email address, and phone number. Disgusted, you walk away.
Second, you see a pizza place that claims to have the best pizza in the city. Intrigued, you approach the store. There’s a nice worker standing outside who offers you a sample and asks you about what kinds of pizza you like. Happy with their friendliness, you approach and begin talking about your pizza likes and dislikes. After a few minutes of talking the worker offers you a pizza based on your preferences and gets you set up at a nice table. After your meal, the worker asks if you would like to get emails when they pizza place is having specials. You agree, happy with the interaction.
The first scenario is how many lead generation forms online today appear. They are static “walls” that are in the way of something you want (like the door to the first store). We put up these walls and hold our information hostage in return for a lead. The forms often look like the one below.
The second scenario is an interactive form of lead generation. The end result was that the pizza place got your email address, the same way that’s attempted in the first scenario; the difference is the method by which that information was procured. Instead of asking up front, a dialogue was started, the process was “gamified.” The worker made it fun for you to talk about what kind of pizza you like (which is valuable information for future marketing) and in the end you decided to opt-in.
In this second process, the quiz automatically asks interesting questions to the user and gets to know them, albeit through an automated process, before asking for a lead. Putting the lead capture after the interactive portion catches people in a different mindset entirely. Asking for information up front is perceived as a necessary evil to access more content. This is abrasive and does not create a good feeling for the customer. However, the second process in which a series of questions or a “game” is used, the customer gets to know you before being asked for their information.
How to use games for lead generation:
- Interactive Quizzes: A quiz can be used to recreate the scene where a nice worker interacts with a potential customer by asking questions about his pizza preferences. You can even make a pizza quiz (don’t do that if your site isn’t about pizza). Using Interact, you can choose from quiz templates that apply to your industry and are designed to convert. Then connect your email list and ask for a lead before showing the customer how they did on the quiz. By the time a customer finishes a quiz, they feel a connection and interaction has already taken place with your brand, leading to 50% conversion rates.
- Hold a Lottery: It’s amazingly fun to enter in a competition where everyone wins. That’s exactly what you can do with a giveaway lottery. Here’s how it works – set up a sweepstakes where the minimum winning is a 10% off coupon and the maximum is 90% off. Then give customers a discount at random in return for their email address. It’s a game that everyone wins, even you.
It’s refreshing when a business takes an interest in us and makes interacting with them fun, especially online where that’s harder to do. Just as in real life where the worker who gamified selling pizza was much more successful than the business that required an opt-in to enter, online marketing greatly benefits from making lead generation more like a game.
The post Using Games to Get You More Leads – Business and Gamification appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Radio Shack is shutting down 1,000 of its stores across the country as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
For small business owners who have relied on Radio Shack for it’s expertise in fixing electronics and selling electronics, it’s time to hook up with a local “gadget guy or gal” who can help you.
Keep in mind that Staples and Office Depot might be able to be a fill in when you need a local store to visit for some of your gadget needs.
I’ve found Amazon.com to be one of the best solutions for just about every gadget (and more) need that I have. Their inventory is massive , prices are competitive and shipping is free (for prime members).
The SECOND lesson is focused on Radio Shack’s closure and what it means for local retailers. With Block Buster closing, Best Buy seriously challenged and now Radio Shack – it’s clear that “the Internet” has made it very tough for retailers to sustain their stores.
Ironically all of these vendors have one thing in common – selling “technology”. Coffee shops are all over NYC – but it’s these “gadget houses” that are closing quickly.
If you’re selling a commodity – you need to quickly figure out your “Internet” angle (Jay Goltz is fervent about this) and aggressively be ready to defend your turf. NOT just defend but go on the “offense” and and provide added VALUE to your customer’s buying experience as well.
The post Radio Shack Is Shutting Down: Lessons for Small Businesses – Find a Geek and Go On the Offense appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
There’s a new service, ScheduleHead which aims to help you schedule your staff and optimize who does want, when. Scheduling staff is not just about putting names on a spreadsheet but it’s about knowing whose best at the job and scheduling it in light of their earning potential.
You can check out more about ScheduleHead here - http://www.schedulehead.com/
According to ScheduleHead here’s its features…
It has a Brain – Schedulehead thinks like you do. It treats your employees like people and considers their skills and history.
It Judges – Schedulehead balances your senior workers among multiple events on the same day to ensure you get the right mix of staff.
It knows your workers – Schedulehead rates your workers from 1 to 5 stars and rewards those who do best.
It talks – We’ll automatically reach out to your workers to get them signed up for and confirm their shifts – eliminate late arrivals and no-shows.
The post ScheduleHead App – Get Help Scheduling Staff and Optimizing Their Time appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Airlines do it successfully. They reward travelers for flying with them -frequent flyer miles. For every small business a loyalty reward system can be as simple to do as a punch card system. As your business grows, you might want to leverage technology to gain intelligence and make the loyalty system smoother.
Many point of sale systems have a loyalty component to their offerings, NCR Silver, which we covered here, recently announced theirs in the press release below.
Loyalty complements the existing automated email and social marketing functionality in NCR Silver making it even easier for cafés, shops, restaurants, boutiques, food trucks, and any small business to reward customers for repeat purchases. Loyalty fits seamlessly into the checkout process, automatically tracking rewards with each sale so customers see exactly what they have earned and eliminating the need for paper punch cards. Rewards and customer information reside on the NCR Silver POS system and merchants retain all the data rather than share it through a third-party loyalty application.
“Satisfying your best customers is critical to the success of every small business,” says Justin Hotard, general manager, NCR Silver. “We added loyalty to go along with email marketing, customer history, and reporting to make NCR Silver the perfect fit to grow any small business.”
Technology has changed how small businesses build loyal customer bases with digital alternatives to the old paper punch cards. Recently, MarketingProfs published ‘Surprising Facts about Customer Loyalty Marketing,’ reporting that if you structure your loyalty program effectively, you will see a lift in visits and revenue from your enrolled customers. The report also notes that over their lifetime, loyal customers spend 10 times more than new customers.
The post Are You Rewarding Your Customers for Repeat Business? Loyalty Programs Can Help. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
You gather in the wee hours of the morning with a group of strangers. One by one you board the bus and take your seats. The driver enters, and you depart on a three day trip ending in Texas. Although this sounds like it could be any routine travel experience, this adventure is anything but ordinary. This is the StartupBus: an entrepreneurial competition like you’ve never seen!
In the case I described above, the people boarding the bus are ‘buspreneurs’ ready to participate in the StartupBus competition. The journey to Texas is minor in comparison to the REAL journey that lies ahead – strangers forming teams, sharing ideas, and creating a startup company to be pitched in Texas in the span of only 3 days.
StartupBus is an entrepreneurial competition that started in North America in 2010, and this year’s race marks the 5th annual event. Based on the 2010 success, StartupBus has also expanded to Europe in 2011 and Africa in 2013.
It begins with hackers, hustlers, and hipsters applying to be accepted onto a bus. Fit is assessed and then qualifying candidates are interviewed, with the best and brightest entrepreneurs being assigned a bus in one of the established regions. This year, competitors boarded the buses on March 2nd, in a scene much like described in the opening paragraph.
But what then, you may ask? To the adventurous, budding entrepreneurs, that’s when all the fun starts. As the bus takes off, one by one people pitch their business ideas, take notes, and gauge interest in specific projects. From this, teams are formed and work begins on making that startup product or app a reality – from choosing a name and logo, to design, marketing and every detail in between.
This year’s teams also have the opportunity to work with Elance freelance workers – support staff working at home on specific project tasks. Having extra help will likely benefit the teams, but the task at hand is still daunting. Once they arrive in Texas on March 4th they must have everything worked out and be ready to pitch the idea – with a final winner being selected on March 6th.
There are seven buses in the 2014 competition, with 32 teams formed.
NORTHEAST – Departing from NYC
- Smart Host
- Sallie Will
NORTH – Departing from Seattle
SOUTHEAST – Departing from Tampa
SOUTH – Departing from Nashville
- Guardian Angel
- Your Scavenger Hunt
- On the List
MEXICO – Departing from Mexico City
- RV Envy
- My Easy News
MIDWEST – Departing from Kansas City
- Startup Games
WESTCOAST – Departing from San Francisco
- The Qutest
Each of the links above will take you to more information about the teams, team members, and their ideas. You can also follow the action on the StartupBus website, including a map that follows the buses, blog posts, daily StartupBus TV shows and playing along in a virtual investing game.
Stay tuned until March 6th at 6 pm when a final winner is crowned.
The post Jump Aboard the StartupBus: An Entrepreneurial Competition Like You’ve Never Seen appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Online reviews have been around for a long time. Yelp, Zagat, Google Local, City Search and other online destinations are (or were) leading destinations for local reviews of local businesses.
But there’s a problem.
A recent study by local online marketing company Yodle
indicates that small businesses are not paying enough attention to how important reviews are and how they can impact a business.
- Only half of small business owners think positive online reviews are important. Many small business owners are not recognizing the importance of online reviews despite the buying decisions of 90% of customers being influenced by seeing positive online testimonials (source: 2013 Dimensional Research Survey). Only 50% of survey respondents think that it’s important for their business to receive positive online reviews and almost one in four (23%) believe that it’s unimportant.
- Most small business owners aren’t receiving or asking for online reviews. More than half of SMB owners (55%) don’t receive any online reviews, while one in five (19%) get an average of only one to five reviews per month. Almost 1 in 4 SMB owners (24%) don’t know if they receive online reviews. Despite the low number of reviews that small businesses are receiving, only 13% of owners are approaching their customers about posting reviews. The biggest reason cited for not approaching customers is “I haven’t thought about it” (43%).
- A significant number of small business owners aren’t responding to or monitoring for online reviews. Although seven in 10 consumers have a more positive view of a company if they see them responding to an online review (source: Bazaarvoice Conversation Index), less than half of our survey respondents (43%) who receive reviews actually do this. More than two in three SMB owners (68%) also don’t even spend any time monitoring for online reviews and all but a handful of the remainder spend just one to five hours per month on this activity.
- Small business owners don’t effectively leverage customers’ online reviews. Only 14% of survey respondents post customers’ reviews to their websites. The remaining SMB owners that have received reviews and have a website (37%) do not post this content.
- Many small business owners believe that the online reviews system is unfair. More than six in 10 SMB owners (61%) think that review sites favor businesses that pay to advertise with them, while only 10% don’t believe that to be the case. Half of SMB owners (50%) also opined that small businesses are unfairly impacted by negative reviews compared to larger business; only 20% of the survey respondents contradicted that opinion. Additionally, more than four in 10 survey respondents (43%) stated that online reviews are unfair because they do not verify that people who leave reviews are actual customers, with a similar number (41%) “not sure” if they’re unfair.
I asked a Yodle spokesperson what a small business owner SHOULD be doing and here’s a few words of advice.
Get in the game. Understand that consumers care about online reviews and it impacts their buying decisions. You need to ask existing customers to post reviews and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
Respond to reviews. It makes a big impact on consumers if they see that you’re taking the time to address a customer’s review whether it’s negative or positive. Replying to a negative review can be particularly impactful. It can help turnaround a bad situation and illustrate that you really care about a customer’s experience with your business.
Monitor for reviews if you’re not currently doing that. How can you respond or know how your business is being perceived if you don’t even know what’s being said or written about you online?
Post customer reviews and testimonials on your website. As an SMB owner, you want to make sure that you’re highlighting endorsements that you receive on your website given that many potential customers are likely to visit it before deciding whether to work with you.
The post Not Paying Attention To Online Customer Reviews Could Hurt Your Small Business. appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
I recently had the opportunity to sit with Gonz Medina, co-founder of Blue Chip Athletic. They are a small, 20-person athletic sportswear company based in Kansas City, Missouri who have a passion for delighting their customers and treating each one as individuals with tender loving care. That’s a task that was much easier when their customer base was smaller, but with growth finding the systems and processes to manage that became a challenge that they tackled head on.
In a recent ClicZ article, I share the secret to Blue Chip Athletics success and how instead of spending time struggling to get a new customer they spend the bulk of their time generating new leads. Couple this with a solid CRM and marketing automation solution, and they are finding great success beyond what they could imagine.
Read the full article here to discover the steps that they are taking to increase their sales and marketing efforts.
The post Why This Small Athletic Company Doesn’t Want Customers appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
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