We bring you the best and most informative small business news every week. Whether we heard about new funding opportunities, great advice or inspirational stories, you can find them all here. We update our round up every week so come back regularly.
Top Small Business News – December 24th, 2012
STARTUP & SMALL BIZ
Last week, we asked readers to name the absolute worst jargon from 2012, the words and phrases that drove them bonkers. After sorting through the dozens of entries, as well as consulting with a number of people on the ground — that is, those working in corporate offices and PR firms — we noticed two patterns emerging. Corporate communicators are still tired of the usual jargon, such as leverage and synergize, yet they seem to be growing somewhat tolerant — though perhaps inured is more like it. Social media jargon is the emerging culprit, as many respondents said Internet-born acronyms and adjectives are driving them to drink.
No. 1 – Would you believe that fantasizing is the #1 way your brain can unintentionally ruin your goals? It seems unlikely, right? The thing is, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the research): psychologists have found that while positive thinking about the future is broadly beneficial, too much fantasy can have disastrous results on achieving goals. Researchers tracked the progress of how people cope with four different types of challenges. As an example, in one of those challenges (trying to find a fulfilling job), those who had spent the most time fantasizing performed the worst in a variety of critical data points like…
I am a great advocate of testing your idea in the market if possible prior to launch. The benefits of doing this are that you get a lot of information that will help you build a strong business, such as: You get more information about your target market – who they are and what they want. You may get some sales!! You can refine your business model before things are really fixed and its hard to change. The idea is to test whether people will actually buy your product or service. The most accurate way to test this is of course to ask them to hand over cash! This will ensure you get their honest opinion.
The holidays are, kind of costly. Many of us shut down for a period of time. Shipments don’t go out the door. Business gets interrupted. Key people go on vacation. There are holiday parties and other distractions. And of course, the holidays means it’s time to dole out year-end bonuses too. It’s all good and fun but let’s face it: it’s expensive. I started my business in 1994, which means I’ve survived 22 holiday seasons as a business owner. And I’ve watched hundreds of my clients do the same. So it should be no surprise that I’ve learned a few things not to do at this time of year.
If any business is to survive and prosper it will need a steady flow of customers. Here is a quick checklist of techniques you can put into use this week to help develop your business and expand your customer base. Here are the main categories: Write Stuff, Blow Your Own Trumpet, Get Into The Field and Expand Your Network. Continue for more details.
Let’s say you’re an over-worked mom and you want to hire a life coach to help you get some perspective on your hectic life. At an event, you meet two coaches: one who introduces herself as “a life coach for everyone,” and one who says she is “a life coach for working moms who are struggling with work-life balance.” Who do you think you’d be more likely to hire? Establishing a niche focus helps you better connect with the needs of your audience. And when you cast the net too wide, you actually risk losing business because you lack focus.
Maybe someone should share with these companies what I am about to share with you… Did you know that one unhappy customer tells 10 to 15 others about their experience? If it’s really bad they’ll tell the whole world. For every complaint that could be made, around 20 people don’t bother. This means 20 lost opportunities. If you handle a complaint badly or with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude or, worse still, if you hide behind the ‘rule book’, you will lose that customer for good. You can’t afford to lose even 50 cents because this will mount up according to something known as the “multiplier effect”
More than half (55 percent) of employers in the survey already have workplace wellness programs in place. While improving employee health is the top goal (cited by 92 percent), reducing healthcare costs was the second most important goal (cited by 85 percent). The major health issues employers say their employees are struggling with are obesity (5 percent), stress (51 percent) and lack of exercise (51 percent).
Is your small business growing? If so, it may be time to codify some workplace rules. Here are seven tips for creating an employee handbook. No 1 – Forget the jargon. Filling an employee handbook with legal terminology and oodles of fine print is no guarantee you’ll avoid disputes with your employees. That’s because labor law is complex: It’s impossible for a handbook to include verbiage that covers every potential legal issue that could arise. The point is to communicate, not legislate. Strive for succinctness and clarity.
When I started this post, I wanted to share 13 Social Media Predictions for Small Business in 2013. However, for those of you who might be superstitious, I didn’t want to jinx the New Year before it even began. So, I decided to go with 14 predictions instead. No need to worry about doomsday prophecies from the Mayans or Nostradamus. The experts I consulted see only a bright future ahead for small businesses.
Small Business Weekly Review – Dec. 17th, 2012
I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of mentors over the years, and I can’t imagine standing where I am if it wasn’t for them. Despite all the challenges of running a business, the biggest constant in my life is those mentors, and their advice. I also think it’s important that mentors come from many different perspectives, as mine have. These are the five types of mentors I’ve had over the years, and the ones I think any entrepreneur can benefit from.
While Google’s top search terms might not directly influence your industry, don’t dismiss them altogether. Staying on top of popular or trending topics on search engines and social media can provide business owners an opportunity to “get your name out there by sharing something you already have online that meets the need of what people are discussing. Or you can quickly whip up a great resource, blog post or video to address” the trending search terms or topics.
There’s the sense that a single bad review can kill your business. Or that a handful of unhappy customers can send new customers away and ruin your brand in the search engines. And while it’s important for a small business to build an online review strategy, it’s equally important to remember that we’re all human. A few bad reviews won’t kill your business. In fact, those negative reviews may even help.
More online retailers are offering free shipping as customers come to expect it. Last year, more than half of all online transactions during the holidays included shipping at no charge, a 10 percent jump from 2010. While you may need to offer free shipping – at least as a promotional feature during the holidays — to retain and attract customers, don’t jump into it too quickly. Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when offering free shipping to your customers.
Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be hard. Here is our free template Please note that this is one of many templates available. They are generally all the same, the most important fact is that they contain very useful information that you may not have thought about.
A lot of small to mid-sized businesses are realizing the value of optimizing their Websites for conversion, but many find the idea of where and how to start a bit daunting. Before your small business gets started with conversion optimization, there are a few things you’ll need before you get started. Personally we use Unbounce for most of our own and our clients’ projects because of the design of the application and the feature-set offered, but again a different tool may better suit your needs and/or price point, so take a couple for a spin and see what fits!
Maybe you’re applying for a great new job, or perhaps you are approaching a potential new customer to offer them your products or services. Would it surprise you to know that one of the first things the majority of people do in order to find out more about you, is to type your name into Google? What do they see when they do this? The answer that you really want to be giving is “exactly what I want them to see”. Although unfortunately in the majority of cases this is not what happens. It’s more often the case that the person searching for you will either find nothing, or in a much worse scenario, content from personal social media profiles that you would rather they hadn’t seen.
And, while it’s super-easy to buy thousands of followers in just a few clicks, Twitter will only benefit your business if your followers are meaningful accounts – ones that will listen to the messages you’re disseminating and help to spread your words. Here are some techniques on how to populate your account with potential brand advocates, not empty accounts who don’t care about your brand or business.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that crowdfunding is purely about the exchange of funds,” says Liz Gerber, assistant professor of design, technology and social behavior, and director of the Creative Action Lab at Northwestern University. “We tend to focus on the exchange of funds, but there are many other resources that are exchanged.” Through crowfunding campaigns, she says, entrepreneurs are “getting experience communicating. We’ve jokingly called it a ‘Speed MBA’ in marketing and operations management. You have to effectively communicate over and over and over again.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a business legend. She is well known in her industry and influential in the tech community. Despite her advocacy for increasing the number of women in executive leadership, she admits she’s not a champion for those who “put life first.”
“If I hear anything about work-life balance, I’m instantly not a fan. If you’re leading a business, you can’t run off to pick up a child. No one gave me work-life balance. I raised three kids, and they are happy.” I said nothing, only nodding and looking agreeable, trying not to be contrary with this powerhouse of a woman. And that’s precisely the problem…
Small Business Weekly Review – Dec. 10, 2012
But who didn’t see this coming? For the past few years we’ve had people calling themselves “investors,” who have no experience investing, swanning around the Valley, slinging money at people calling themselves “entrepreneurs” who have never held an actual job, let alone run a company. How could this have ended in anything but a train wreck? We’re Shocked — Shocked! — By All Of This!!
Here is one way to understand the difference between cash flow and profit: If you buy something for $2,500 and sell it for $5,000, you doubled your money and made a sweet profit. But if the person who bought that item for $5,000 does not pay you for 90 days, your cash flow will suffer greatly. That’s the difference. So cash is king, and here then are 5 ways to increase your cash flow…
As the founder of Leancamp, I’ve been a proponent of Lean Startup and it’s related approaches since 2009. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time and work with some of the different leaders in the Lean Startup world. Here’s how I’ve seen things go down. t’s important for founders to understand the background of Lean Startup, they often seem incompatible or counter-intuitive, so this history will help you make sense of it and hopefully make more informed decisions.
You create return customers by creating the most amazing experience — not just a good first impression, but a phenomenal last impression. It’s not a transaction; it’s an interaction. Anyone can ring up something a customer hands them and let him walk out the door. The goal is to create loyalty, which is about a customer having confidence and a comfort level with you. Clerks should give customers business cards that include a cell phone number where they can be reached, even on their day off, he recommends. And then there’s the follow-up…
How bad is it if a client has to follow up with you on deliverables? Real bad, especially if it happens frequently. They hired you to produce, and now they have to chase you? You should be nipping at their heels with reports, progress reports, suggestions and hopefully, the bacon you promised. Be proactive. Deliverables are promised. You’re late, and while perhaps forgiving with a good result, your client’s overall experience lessens. Trust weakens. But when you deliver on time, your client feels they made the correct choice, that their trust was well invested.
Some companies collect new ideas in a wiki, which is good for storing information, but terrible for finding it. They end up becoming a disorganized mess of great ideas that go to the wiki to die. To create a culture that fosters innovation, organize new ideas in a way that empowers you to act on them. Here are four tips to help you organize your ideas and drive innovation.
Now, apart from the language issues (kudos to the other French start-ups for finally realizing that the world doesn’t speak French), half of the websites where rather uninformative. Two of the start-ups had only a Rocket Start landing page with no information whatsoever on what they’re doing. Just for the record, a cryptic quote like: “We are marrying fashion with technology” is as useless as saying you are the next generation social application.
With close to 1 billion users, Facebook is the social network where you are likely to interact with your customers and target audience. The popular platform has spawned millions of tools that make it possible to reach further with Facebook. However, if you really want your small business to benefit from Facebook, you must engage and encourage participation from your audience. Here are 6 Facebook Marketing Tips for Small Business.
Do you want more Facebook fans without running contests or advertisements? Are you interested in increasing the engagement on your Facebook Page? If you’re looking for some creative ways to boost your brand’s profile on Facebook, here are three ways to do it that don’t involve giveaways or advertising. You don’t have to be a huge brand to use some of these innovative ideas. What they’re doing can inspire your own “reveals” on a much smaller scale and increase engagement with your community on Facebook.
What you really need to understand. Getting content and social media marketing right requires you to look beyond the accumulation numbers to understand not just how many, but what, why, how and when. Reminding us the goal is not to be good at social media, but to be good at business. The challenge then becomes taking a holistic approach, to extract from social media the indicators that support your marketing strategy.
Small Business Weekly Review – Dec. 3rd, 2012
STARTUP & SMALL BIZ
Got a few thousand dollars lying around? If your office is similar to the average U.S. household, you just might. A survey by eBay and Nielsen Customized Research found most of us have 50 unused items around their home that, if sold, could bring in $3,100. The printer you replaced, the cell phone you upgraded and the book you never read — it’s time to convert that clutter into cash. Here are several items just waiting to be turned in for money, and how to cash in.
Most new entrepreneurs expect their first business idea to be a great one. I did too! However, now I know that in my journey as an entrepreneur, it has taken creating and evaluating hundreds of ideas and then executing a few, for me to develop my skills to the point where I can create and recognise ideas that will make successful businesses. So how do you begin that journey as someone wanting to start your first business? I am going to give you an overview to those questions here.
Adeo Ressi is trying to nail down a mathematical relationship between the personality traits of founders and the future investment returns of their companies. His premise: that there’s a verifiable correlation between an entrepreneur’s fluid intelligence, for example, and his success. Eventually he hopes to see thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs take an hourlong aptitude test every year; in seconds an algorithm will tally their scores and not only cull the doomed from the future Jack Dorseys but also spit out a rough valuation of their companies years on.
Here are six tips to help college students leverage campus resources to land start-up funding. #6 – Try something unconventional to raise awareness. Just $2,000 short of our goal, I decided to run a triathlon and match any funds raised. In our first year, it translated into the money we needed and more than 50 different supporters. The following year, we kept many of the supporters engaged in our progress, and a couple of them reached out with advice and opportunities that we have since been able to capitalize on.
The Azulais knew they needed to install a retractable awning. The problem? The $5,000 expense. Allon Azulai says banks weren’t interested in loaning money to the 6-month-old business, adding, “We could have gone into debt with a credit card, but we didn’t want to.” Instead, the Azulais signed up with Smallknot, a crowdfunding platform tailored to independent businesses. Unlike Kickstarter and other platforms, where almost anyone can ask for money, Smallknot, approves only established small businesses and startups beyond the idea stage that need a minor financial boost.
Psychology, when used properly, can increase your conversions by interacting with your customers in a more intelligent, and almost subliminal way. Read the 10 techniques below to learn how to apply some science to your marketing. #1 – Help Customers Break Through “Action Paralysis” by setting minimums. There are several approaches to make your potential customers aware of free trials. Most companies opt for copy such as “Sign up for a 30-day free trial”. But a good alternative is to use a soft approach such as “No payments for the first month”. Same purpose, but potentially a different result.
6. Use Lists – The more friends and followers that you build on Twitter, the harder it will get for you to keep track of what’s happening on your timeline. Organising your followers into lists is a great way to get around this problem. When you organise people into lists, you are able to filter your timeline so that you only see tweets from one specific list at a once. This can be used to categorise people based on your own criteria so you can monitor what is happening with a particular group of users. For example you could create lists for different topics such as “business” and “politics”, or you can create a list of your favourite users. The choice is yours.
During the year, I add infor about products, services, apps, marketing campaigns, new businesses, and any other idea. Some are scribbled on a memo pad from a hotel room. Others are torn out of magazines or newspapers. If it is an idea I think important, I find a way to create a physical archive of it. Sometimes bookmarking an idea in a browser just isn’t enough. Then at the end of the year, I look through that folder filled with hundreds of small ideas, and start to filter them. I group similar concepts together and think about how they will matter for the new year. My philosophy when looking at trends is pretty simple – I focus on three things…
Most small businesses are missing an opportunity to become the only or preferred source of their offering to leading-edge boomers and seniors (LEB/S) simply because they’ve assumed that differentiation can’t be done. The reality is that virtually all offerings can be made different in a way that matters to LEB/S. So what should your messaging to LEB/S do to differentiate you from every other perceived competitor? Here’s a list of seven differentiators to apply to your marketing.
There are a number of companies out there are already doing the content marketing thang. They’ve got a blog and some videos. They’ve got a marketing manager or agency developing content. But then there’s a few crazy companies. These crazy companies actually involve every single person in their business to create content. Not only is this strategy bringing about significant results in launching a successful business blog, it is transforming how people on these teams think, sell, interact and work together. The results I’ve seen are so inspiring they must be shared.
Thanks for reading, hope we’re helping!