5 tips for starting your own business
(BPT) - There’s no doubt the pandemic has hit small businesses hard. Even in its early weeks, February to April 2020, the number of active businesses plummeted by 22%, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. And unfortunately, the consequences of the early shutdowns impacted minority-owned businesses even harder, with Black-owned businesses seeing a 41% drop, Latinx businesses 32%, Asian businesses 26% and women-owned businesses 25%.
Does that bad news mean that now is the wrong time to consider starting a new business? Not necessarily. Opportunities exist for small businesses today, including support and funding for start-ups — and especially for minority business owners.
If you want to start a small business, here are steps to get you started.
1. Do your research
First, make sure you understand the current market for your business. This step is crucial to turn an idea into a full-fledged business plan.
Ask questions like:
Ask other business owners about their challenges and rewards to explore whether this is a good option for you. Use market analysis tools recommended by resources such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) to get to know the market for your business.
2. Write a business plan
No business can find funding, investors or partners without a solid business plan. Learning to write a comprehensive plan also forces you to fully think through every aspect of your proposed idea. The SBA is a great resource to research types of business plans.
Enlist the help of other business owners during the process if you can to understand how their plans helped them and what to avoid.
3. Fund your business
Every business needs capital to get started. Your business plan’s financial section should provide a clear idea of the capital you need to launch. Most businesses rely on multiple financial sources, including:
SBA loans can be a good option. For example, Huntington Lift Local Business is a small-business lending program focused on serving minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Huntington is a top SBA 7(a) lender that has developed creative lending options and other features to help bring relief, recovery and growth to small businesses across the Midwest.
With Huntington's program, businesses can secure SBA-guaranteed loans from $1,000 and up to $150,000 with:
“The economic uncertainty sparked by the pandemic has highlighted the need for increased financial opportunity for everyone starting or sustaining their small businesses,” said Huntington’s SBA program director, Maggie Ference. “Everyone deserves a shot at success, and our program delivers a new solution to customers when they need it most, whether for a startup or an established business looking to grow.”
4. Develop a marketing plan
Creating a brand identity and communicating it well is crucial to success. Consider hiring or contracting marketing services to help you choose your business name, create a logo, build your website and develop a strategic marketing plan to get the word out about your business.
5. Take care of business
Dotting the Is and crossing the Ts is necessary for any business. Details include choosing your business location and registering your business, applying for all the required licenses and permits, including federal and state tax IDs — plus opening your business bank account. Also, consulting an accountant with experience helping small businesses can ensure you have your business and financial ducks in a row.
Starting a small business is a daunting challenge, but it can also be a rewarding opportunity. Taking the time to fully explore and utilize all the resources at your disposal can help ensure that your new business will be a success.
Businesses need marketing. Specifically, they need marketing to be effective and to both convert consumers into customers and turn customers into repeat business. There are lots of tools available that businesses can leverage for effective marketing. Here are some essentials that you should have on your radar.
Online reviews can be a powerful marketing tool. A majority of people look to reviews before choosing a business for goods or services. What they see as far as reviews of your business can make the difference between them choosing you or your competition. Positive reviews can be a strong influence in this regard, as can how you respond to negative reviews. You can encourage your customers to leave reviews by offering incentives in exchange. This could be a one-time discount, points in your rewards system, or entries for a prize drawing. You can even just ask. A follow-up text or email after a purchase can be a great way to do this.
The Right Social Media Platform
Social media is pretty much everywhere these days. If you aren't using it as a part of your marketing strategy, you're missing out. Of course, with so many different platforms, it can be tricky to know which ones you should be using. Not all platforms are right for all businesses. When determining what platform or platforms you should be using, examine who your target audience is. Different demographics use different platforms, so you should be focusing your social media efforts on those that are most used by people you want to reach. Another thing to keep in mind is that different platforms work better for different kinds of posts. Once you choose a platform, cater your posts to the type and style that works best for it. This will give you the best ROI for your social media marketing.
Video is becoming an increasingly popular and important marketing tool. Many people find videos to be more interesting and engaging than written content, so if that's what your marketing needs to improve on you might need to add some video content. You can do videos that advertise your products and services while showcasing your company's brand and personality. How-to videos have recently seen a surge in popularity as well, becoming one of the ways businesses are striving to maintain consumer interest and engagement during the current ongoing pandemic. If that wasn't enough of a reason to use video, keep in mind that you can optimize videos to improve SEO rankings as well, which will also make it easier for your business to be found on search engines.
Blogs can be valuable tools for businesses. It's hard to overstate the importance of content when it comes to marketing and SEO, and blogging is a great way to add content to your site. It can also be used as a way to communicate with consumers, which can be great if that is one of your weak points. Blogging can’t fix all your communication problems, but it can enhance your marketing campaign. Quality blogs can help consumers see you as more of an authority in your industry, and adding a comments section at the bottom can provide you with an opportunity to engage in some dialog with them.
Email is another great way to communicate with your customers and can be an excellent marketing tool as well. Of course, for it to work, you'll have to get consumer email addresses to contact them with, but there are multiple ways you can approach that, so you should be able to find a method that works. Once you have email addresses you can use them to send customers personalized email marketing messages, which can help you generate repeat business. Personalization is key here, and is a huge factor in getting your messages read and keeping them out of the spam folder.
Data analytics is key to the success of marketing efforts. It's what allows you to understand and interpret customer data in ways that will be meaningful and helpful to your business. When used correctly, it can help you understand your target audience, know where to find them, and how best to reach them. It also plays a key role in your marketing personalization efforts. By understanding consumer habits and patterns you become better able to predict future trends and can use that information to guide your business practices. You can and should use data analytics to guide your marketing strategies, identify what is working and what isn't, and refine as you go.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to market your business is to take advantage of online business listings. This is a great way to raise awareness for your business among your local consumer base. Most of the time when people are searching for a business, they prefer for it to be one local and close by. By claiming business listings you increase the chance that your business will be one of the ones they find. There are general listings that are good to claim, like Google, Facebook, and Yelp, and other industry-specific listings that you should also claim. You can improve your chances of being found even further by optimizing your business listings.
Browser Push Notifications
Web browser push notifications are great ways for websites to engage consumers. These notifications work by sending messages to consumers after they opt in to getting them. Some companies find that using a soft opt in approach helps them get more people to opt in. Once customers click on the notification they are directed to the page of your choosing. These notifications can be used to confirm transactions, link to informative pages, to offer promotions, or to mark different points in the customer lifecycle. They're a good way to repeatedly engage consumers and encourage future interactions.
There are a lot of tools businesses have at their disposal that they can and should be using as a part of their marketing strategies and efforts. These tools can make a huge difference in whether or not a business is successful, and how successful they are. If you aren't using some of these methods, give them a try and see if they work for you.
Read this next: How to Build a Business When You Don’t Know Where to Start
Gathering new customers should be a priority for every business. Customers are the lifeblood of your business and while you will have customers who stay with your business for years, you are going to need more customers to keep your business growing. To do so, you will need to focus on those new customers and appeal to their needs.
Marketing in the Right Places
One of the ways your business can attract new customers is to market in the right places. It’s important that your product is offered to those who will use it, which means you should have a target audience. A target audience is your business’s ideal customer and you should identify everything about them, from where they live, what their lifestyle is like, etc. so that you know who you are marketing to. Target marketing is effective because your marketing goals are focused. You will get more people than just your intended audience, but without that direction, your business will have a harder time gaining new customers.
Another priority of your business should be making sure that your customers have positive experiences. Provide the best quality service that you can and be accommodating to your customers. You want them to be pleased with your business so that they will leave a positive review. There is great power in positive reviews. 68% of customers say reading positive reviews influences them to visit a business. If your customers don’t have a positive experience, you may lose their business and their negative reviews can negatively impact your business for years. It is well worth the effort to make sure your customers have a positive experience at your business.
Utilize Social Media
Another way you can attract new customers to your business is to utilize social media—specifically, the right kind of social media. If your target audience is older men and women, Facebook should be your priority social media to use. If your target audience is college students, Instagram should be your priority social media to use. You can use multiple platforms, but your social media campaign should be synced and updated frequently. Make the most out of social media to attract new customers.
Attracting new customers may feel daunting and overwhelming. But it is doable. By having a target audience, focusing on positive experiences and utilizing social media, you can attract new customers to your business.
Read this next: How to Modernize Your Small Business
How can you achieve success for your small business? One way: Marketing. Finding effective, easy-to-execute marketing strategies can boost your business by helping you engage your customers while attracting new ones.
Here are five ways to help grow your business by boosting awareness among the locals, getting your small business more known in your neighborhood - and increasing sales in the process.
How can small business owners make their companies stand out from the crowd? Finding effective, easy-to-execute marketing strategies can boost your business by helping you engage your customers while attracting new ones. Here are some proven ideas to help your business thrive!
(BPT) - With over 30 million small businesses in the U.S., it's tough to stand out from the crowd. Successful small businesses turn first-time customers into repeat business, building momentum and growing sales.
How can you achieve this? Marketing. Finding effective, easy-to-execute marketing strategies can boost your business by helping you engage your customers while attracting new ones. Here are some proven ideas to help your business thrive:
Engage first-time customers
Show new shoppers that they matter. Send welcome emails and recommend products to complement what they bought. Offer special deals to keep them coming back.
Utilize positive customer reviews
Did you know over 60% of consumers read reviews before buying? Reviews can include ratings, testimonials, photos, videos and more.
Treat reviews as marketing gold, sharing them with customers and prospects to build trust and increase sales. You can generate and integrate them into your website, on social media and other marketing efforts.
Turn shopping carts into opportunities
Let’s face it, plenty of potential customers add items to their online shopping carts and never check out. While these “abandoned carts” seem challenging, they're an opportunity.
An effective way to convert abandoned carts into sales is by drawing on the power of customer reviews. Adii Pienaar, vice president of commerce product strategy for the email marketing platform CM Commerce, says small businesses can change their fortunes with this approach.
“Our most successful small business customers don’t just send a reminder email to shoppers about items left in their carts,” said Pienaar. “They take it a step further and include positive reviews and ratings about that product with the follow-up, knowing how much importance buyers place on others’ experiences. By featuring personalized product reviews for abandoned cart items, there can be a recovery rate of 5-10%.”
Spark interest with special offers
Entice new and returning business by offering discounts, encouraging shoppers to give your business a try.
Also, if you don’t have one already, create a loyalty program for frequent shoppers, or a referral special for those inviting friends to your website or social media.
Shoppers don't want mass emails treating them like just another number. Small businesses that tailor emails based on each customer’s shopping experiences and interests are far more successful in driving sales.
Creating customized content may sound complex, but it all comes down to how you organize your customer list. For example, segment your customers by which products they’ve purchased, then use this information to inform them how to best use their products or remind them when it’s time to re-order.
Personalization really pays off when you incorporate dynamic content — information that changes based on a person’s interests — in promotional emails. Use a customer's previous purchases and shopping interests to generate ideas on products to complement items they already bought. For example, recommend a similar flavor of cupcakes to ones they ordered before.
These proven marketing approaches can springboard your business to success. But, how do you get started?
Marketing has greatly evolved, with many new, easy-to-use tools. You don’t need to be a marketing expert, technical whiz or creative designer to use them.
For example, CM Commerce is an email marketing platform designed for small ecommerce businesses. It can easily create professional email campaigns to enhance and grow your business.
To help small business owners, CM Commerce features pre-built email marketing recipes for everything from welcome emails and newsletters to abandoned cart reminders and more. Business owners can follow these guidelines and put their email marketing plans in place with a single click.
“I always recommend small business owners invest in email marketing,” said Pienaar. “It’s a cost-effective way to establish your brand and regularly reach your customers and prospects. Most importantly, email marketing has the potential for huge returns and can truly make your business stand out.”
For more tips and ideas to grow your business, visit The Marketing Resources Hub.
Sales positions have changed more in the past decade than any other time in history, becoming more complex, competitive, and tech dependent than ever before. This article explores three ways that sales positions have evolved and how you can adapt your business to account for these changes. This will help ensure that your business continues to be successful throughout the sales evolution.
Being a salesperson has always been a challenging yet rewarding job, but the position is a lot different than it was in the past. Sales positions used to be simple. You had a product, and you found a buyer. Just like that, the commission checks were rolling in. However, in these modern times, sales can be more complex. Here are three ways that sales positions have evolved and how you can adapt your business to account for these changes.
With the explosion of technology, there are so many programs and devices designed to enhance the sales experience. In fact, it's rare to find a salesperson that isn't using some sort of technology, such as handheld credit card readers, laptops, cellphones, and more. In order to keep your sales team up to speed, your company should provide access to all of this technology, rather than assuming they will invest in it by themselves.
Perceptions of Salespeople Have Changed
As with any industry, some bad apples in the sales industry caused many negative stereotypes about salespeople. It's like a stain that seems to linger no matter how hard you try to clean it. You must protect your business from these bad apples. There are some attitude and personality traits you can test for. It would be a good practice to test all of your salespeople, so you don't end up with bad apples staining your company's reputation.
More Competition Than Ever Before
Technology keeps consumers connected with each other, but it also keeps businesses connected with consumers. Now advertisements can be tailored to buyers without a salesperson needing to be present. Often, this means that by the time a salesperson gets around to pitching to a potential new customer, this person has been bombarded left and right with competitors. Now salespeople must work harder than ever to gain a customer's loyalty. You can't stop your competitors from advertising, but you can make sure to advertise just as much to bridge that gap between your salespeople and consumers.
It's true that sales positions have evolved over a short amount of time, but your salespeople don't have to be left behind. The three tips above are easy to implement within your business and your sales team. This will help ensure that your business continues to be successful throughout the sales evolution.
Not sure how to transform your business to be more tech-savvy? We recommend reading this article next.
Today, to stand-out and gain not just customers, but to gain loyal customers, you need to deliver superior value to them - and provide them with what they truly value in the service equation. It is no different in the hotel business. In fact, delivering outstanding service is absolutely crucial today, literally 100% of the time. Here's what business and leisure travelers are truly looking for today.
Whether someone is traveling for pleasure or work, they want to be comfortable in your hotel at the end of the day. Not all hotels are built similarly or function the same way. Some are better quality than others. The different features that a hotel provides are referred to as its amenities. These could encompass anything from free Wi-Fi to a hotel pool in which guests can swim whenever they want. Depending on what they’re looking for, amenities will often determine the hotel that people choose, so your hotel should at the very least provide the following basics:
Good WiFi and Cell Coverage
More and more hotels, cafes, and buildings are providing free Wi-Fi to their guests. Just because WiFi is available doesn’t mean it’s of good quality. There are a number of ways that you can improve the technology of your hotel. There are systems that reduce cellular dead zones so that customers can stay connected on your property. There’s nothing worse than a spotty connection that drops out all over the place.
Basic Kitchen Appliances
A small refrigerator can make a big difference in how comfortable a hotel room is. Guests aren’t going to be grocery shopping for the week, but it’s convenient to have somewhere they can store snacks or leftovers from dinner. A microwave allows guests to heat up their food. A lot of people don’t like to eat out the entire time that they are away from home. These small kitchen appliances can make a huge difference for guests.
A lot of people like to work out on a daily basis to keep up with their fitness level and mental health. When away from home for work or vacation, a gym facility on-site is very beneficial to guests. You don’t need to have a ton of expensive equipment available, but a few treadmills and cable machines can help people get their workout in for the day.
A lot of a hotel’s success relies on word of mouth from previous guests. It is also helpful if people want to return to your facility the next time that they are in town. Having as many amenities for your guests as possible, particularly the technology-related ones, will help increase your positive reputation and bring more guests to stay at your hotel. If people don’t feel like they were comfortable or had enough conveniences available to them during their stay, this is the reputation you will form in the hospitality industry. So to give your hotel the best chance of success, consider including amenities like the ones listed above.
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