Expert Advice for Entrepreneurs from Google for the Christmas Season (and Really, for Anytime of Year!)!
(BPT) - Small businesses have a major impact on their communities: 67 cents of every dollar spent on small businesses stays in the local economy. But when it comes to growing their businesses, nearly one in four small business owners say marketing is one of their biggest challenges. As small businesses prepare for the holiday rush, they are investing in digital marketing to reach new customers and stand out online.
Below are a few easy, effective ways to grow your business during this busy time of year from Kim Spalding, global product director for small business ads, Google:
1. Be discovered and build a website
People are increasingly searching for small businesses. In 2019, search interest in “mom and pop shops” hit a three-year high.
To make sure holiday shoppers are finding your business, Google My Business is a free and easy way to help businesses show up in Search and Maps. Businesses can attract customers by creating a profile where they can update their store information (like their holiday hours), create free posts that promote a special holiday offer or event and reply to reviews. Platforms like Wix and WordPress also offer free accounts that help small business owners build mobile-optimized and budget-friendly websites.
Once you have a website, adding a basic map or store locator can help customers more easily find your store by showing them your store’s location on a map and giving directions.
2. Make it easier to sell online
Ensuring customers’ online holiday shopping experience is easy and seamless is critical. Shopify is a complete commerce platform that lets you start, grow and manage a business. Shopify enables you to sell in multiple places including web, mobile, social media, online, marketplaces, brick-and-mortar locations and pop-up shops.
3. Reach more customers
Small business owners have a lot on their plates — especially during the holiday months — and finding the time to create engaging content can feel impossible. Hiring a copywriter from services like Fiverr frees up time for small business owners to focus on running their businesses while expert freelancers draft copy to attract customers.
A simple way to reach customers quickly, Smart Campaigns, created specifically for small business owners, takes 15 minutes to set up, and can help small businesses create and optimize ads to attract customers to their website or Maps. Smart Campaigns saves small business owners time by optimizing their budget across Google Ads to deliver the results they crave.
Expanded Local Campaigns can help businesses increase foot traffic by surfacing Promoted Pins that appear on the map when users are getting directions and planning their route to a destination.
4. Get a customized online business plan
Even though most business owners know their customers are on the web, 80 percent still aren’t making the most of digital tools that can help them reach more customers and work more efficiently.
Google for Small Business is a free, one-stop shop to help small businesses simplify how they select and use the online tools that can help them reach more holiday customers and work more efficiently. First, business owners input their business name, answer a few questions about their business and select a goal. Then, they receive a step-by-step, personalized plan of recommended products to help them stand out online.
Growth for small businesses isn’t always about doing more, it’s about getting things done in less time, with less complication and less worry. This holiday season, these tools can help businesses thrive by providing the support needed to connect with more customers and meet goals.
Innovations in technology that have allowed the person to try their hand in business have also provided a plethora of opportunities for helping a business to succeed. Today, industries of all kinds rely on technology to maintain a streamlined service for their employees and customers. But is technology that important to business? The following list details some of the ways tech can be utilized to enhance the day-to-day operations of a business.
If you run a retail business, nothing can cost you as much in both your budget and sales than an unorganized inventory system. Thus, one of the most important features a retail business must have is a high tech point-of-sale system. According to Celerant Technology, learning how to use a retail POS is an important investment that can transform your business, so it's essential to utilize all the features available to you. These POS systems allow you to have a detailed and live report on your inventory. Consider introducing training for your employees to use this system as they will probably be the ones interacting with it the most.
Communication Tools and Apps
Communication apps and tools have saved thousands of businesses over the years. This is because information is a highly valued asset in business. Communication tools, such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram, can allow your company to take advantage of minute-to-minute opportunities. Also, video communication tools like FaceTime have provided small business owners the ability to negotiate via the internet with their clients or potential vendors. This alone has provided countless opportunities to less-established businesses, which, according to BroadVision, are opportunities that would not have been there if it weren't for these communication tools and apps.
Often, it is not the lack of marketing or sales that bring down a business, but the lack of accuracy within its financial records. Your own lack of organization can easily create issues with your local county or even the IRS. There are currently hundreds of financial software tools out there that have saved businesses from going through these ordeals. They often provide you with notifications dealing with your taxes and updates on changes to the law that could affect you.
Technology is not something people should fear as a tool that can steal jobs. It can supplement and enhance your team's efforts, opening the doors to a business' growth. Simply follow the list above to begin implementing these technology tools and suggestions into your own business.
(BPT) - If there’s one thing that keeps small business owners up at night, it’s cash flow problems. Without solid cash flow, businesses can lose employees and suppliers, and watch as their normal business operations fall apart. When small businesses run into these issues, they often struggle to find a way out, making cash flow problems feel like quicksand. Thankfully, it is possible to pull yourself to safety. Here are just some of the ways small business owners can adapt their business practices and overcome the nightmare of poor cash flow.
Rethink your invoices
If you’re not sending invoices out as soon as possible, start right now. It’s simply the only way to get paid. But beyond that, you may consider changing your invoice policies to encourage timely payments from your customers. You can offer a small discount if they pay before the agreed-upon term, charge a late penalty or consider invoice factoring or financing. Whatever you do, keep on top of your invoices because they’re ultimately the key to solving any cash flow problem.
Take stock of your tech
Your technology investments were supposed to improve operations and drive efficiencies to save you money. But did they? Consider taking stock of your existing technology infrastructure. You may find hidden, costly issues that hinder your ability to maintain solid cash flow. For example, if you invested in an ecommerce site but it has poor UX design and doesn’t accept popular payment options like PayPal and Apple Pay, you’re leaving money on the table.
If you’re not a tech expert, it’s critical you have a technology partner that you can count on to give sound advice. Dell Small Business advisors can provide insight into the latest advancements and help guide your decisions to improve both your operations and your cash flow.
Upgrade your accounting software
If you’re using outdated accounting software, you may be turning a blind eye to potential cash flow problems. Newer accounting systems come with advanced monitoring capabilities, can automate invoices and generate cash flow reports. These reports provide insights into your cash inflow and outflow, so you can quickly identify and resolve cash flow problems. The best method to take charge of your company’s financial health is to have the best information available, and the simplest way to do that is with powerful accounting software.
Making long-term investments may be reckless for small businesses tight on cash. But there are other ways to make your money work for you while maintaining liquidity. For example, you can direct your accounts receivable payments to a high-interest savings account so you start earning interest immediately after your invoices are paid. You can then move money to an interest-earning checking account to pay for your regular expenses. You can also use money market accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs) to improve your cash position. The important thing is to change your investment mindset and find ways to maximize every dollar coming in and going out.
Optimism is an essential characteristic of any entrepreneur. But if you’re letting that optimism get in the way of sound business practices, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. For example, buying more inventory on the simple belief that you’ll hit your sales targets during the back-to-school season is a fool’s errand. Stop playing the “hope” game and go back to your data. Set realistic targets and expectations and build your cash flow strategy around that.
While cash flow issues can certainly be alarming, they can also be temporary. By taking these steps and developing a thoughtful approach to your inflow and outflow, you can resolve cash flow problems and strengthen the financial health of your business.
(BPT) - A challenge for any entrepreneur is getting access to capital. If you’re like many, you’re constantly looking for ways to reduce expenses and free up cash flow so you can be ready for anything, whether it’s a slow season or an opportunity to expand.
When tax season rolls around, you’re already taking a deep dive into your expenses and income for the past year. Don’t stop when you file. With all that information at your fingertips (and fresh in your mind), it’s a great opportunity to take a big-picture look at the health of your business and make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
Use the following tips to take your tax preparation efforts a step further and boost your cash flow in the upcoming year.
Dust off your business plan: No doubt when you started out in business, you were eager to put your vision to paper. Most entrepreneurs get busy with the day-to-day pressures of deadlines, and that vision can recede into the background. Schedule some time with your board members or business partners to revisit and update the business plan. Now that you understand the realities of your market, you should have plenty of ideas on creating the 2.0 version of your enterprise. When finished, it’s important to not allow it to gather dust again. Set goals and schedule check-in meetings with your team to make sure everything’s on track.
Update your budget: The nature of entrepreneurship is being agile in the face of change. Market trends, price changes from vendors and suppliers, effects of new laws and ordinances, even road construction are variable forces that can send anyone’s budget into a new direction. That’s why your budget isn’t ever going to be a spot-on prediction. Think of it as a plan. If you stay on top of it, you can spot the trends early and make adjustments right away so you can reap the full advantage — or head off problems before they become unmanageable.
Check your credit score: If you’re planning to raise capital to expand or make improvements in the next year, checking in on your credit score is an important first step you can take several months before you apply for the loan. Even if you have a business credit score, certain business loans still require a look at your personal credit score, especially if you’re a sole proprietorship. Visit Your.VantageScore.com to find free resources to learn your credit score. There’s also helpful information on what factors influence your score and things you can do that can help increase it over the coming months to help you get the best rate possible.
Create a tax strategy: The tax break Congress passed in December will save small business owners 20 percent on their tax bill this year. In the coming year, small business owners have many opportunities to capture more tax savings with the right plan and strategy. For example, if you’re planning a large equipment purchase, you may find yourself in a better tax bracket in 2019 if you time it before Dec. 31, rather than waiting until the following year as planned. Have a meeting with your accountant to discover more ideas.
Pay down debt: One way to use the windfall of your 20 percent tax savings is to pay down revolving loan debt. Doing so is a great way to raise access to working capital should you need it down the line. Depending on the source of credit, reducing your credit-to-balance ratio is one factor that could raise your credit score. Before you do so, make sure you have enough cash flow to meet your expenses.
Improve accounts receivable: If your business extends lines of credit to your customers, it may be worthwhile to implement a credit check policy on all new customers. Knowing they’re creditworthy before the fact can help you create the appropriate plan for them and protect your business. Credit reporting is also an effective way for even a small business owner to let customers know they are serious about collecting what’s owed. In the end, you’ll get paid faster and increase cash flow.
The life of an entrepreneur means things can change drastically on a dime. A thorough check-in with your finances can put you in the best position for success. To learn more about the tools and solutions offered by VantageScore, visit Your.VantageScore.com.
One of the challenges facing small businesses today is trying to deliver the same customer experience as larger competitors. As technology advances and takes on an ever-growing role, small businesses can tap new innovations to better communicate with customers, save money and simplify operations. These tips can help you establish a strategy that can benefit both your business performance and customer experience.
Digitally Transforming Your Business
(Family Features) One of the challenges facing small businesses today is trying to deliver the same customer experience as larger competitors. As technology advances and takes on an ever-growing role, small businesses can tap new innovations to better communicate with customers, save money and simplify operations.
As small business owners look to transform digitally, they face a number of options, from upgrading their technology to optimize shipping operations and decrease costs to adopting digital marketing tactics to better understand and target their customers. While it can be difficult for a small business that is well-established using analog processes to switch to digital, the key is to start with the final objective in mind; in other words, begin by defining your end goal. Once you’ve determined the desired outcome of digitizing your business, these tips can help you establish a strategy that can benefit both your business performance and customer experience.
Reach customers through digital marketing
Beyond the content, an effective strategy establishes connective links between all your marketing touchpoints, from email to blog and even to your traditional tactics, such as direct mail and more, all with the goal of boosting credibility and visibility via search engine optimization and foot traffic.
Optimize operations through the cloud
“The SendPro C-Series is designed to take the guesswork out of shipping and mailing,” said Jason Dies, executive vice president and president, Pitney Bowes SMB Solutions. “These digitally connected sending devices allow users to better manage their sending operations on one platform, providing the confidence that they selected the right carrier and class of service for each expedited envelope and package, track all shipments from one dashboard and provide consolidated visibility and control of postal and carrier expenses. Plus, the open platform allows developers to create new applications specific for the needs of small business owners.”
Make decisions based on analytics
Use mobile to communicate with customers
Find more tips for transforming your business for the digital age at pitneybowes.com/us/digital.
Elements of a Digital Transformation
Before diving head-first into a digital transformation, consider what aspects are most important to your business.
Boost Business Digitally
Google G Suite is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps teams communicate, collaborate and get things done from anywhere, and on any device.
Yext puts businesses on the map by letting companies manage their digital knowledge in the cloud and sync it to over 100 maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems and social networks, as well as facilitating face-to-face and digital interactions that boost brand awareness, drive foot traffic and increase sales.
Promote by Acquisio is an advertising solution that helps businesses get new customers with zero expertise needed by creating tailored ads, providing optimization, on-the-go text notifications for incoming leads and tracking of all recorded incoming calls from ads.
Nimble is a simple social sales and marketing CRM that helps companies nurture relationships across email and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
DocuSign lets people sign, send and manage documents anytime, anywhere, on any device, replacing traditional methods that require printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting documents.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (two business owners)SOURCE:
(BPT) - Small businesses still struggle to obtain credit; nearly half of those who applied for credit in 2016 didn’t get all the funding they sought, and 17 percent of those who didn’t apply for financing skipped it because they didn’t think they could get what they needed, according to the Federal Reserve Banks’ Small Business Credit Survey. However, a growing number of small businesses are turning to alternative sources of financing.
“The process for accessing and receiving funding can be slow and cumbersome and alternative forms of lending are greatly helping to improve the availability of financing for small business owners,” says Jacqueline Reses, head of Square Capital. "Ensuring that the financial system is more inclusive and addresses the needs of small business owners who may have been previously underserved by traditional lenders is paramount."
The Federal Reserve study has shown steadily increasing numbers of small businesses, with annual revenues of less than $1 million, seeking financing through non-traditional sources such as online lenders. In 2014, just 18 percent applied to online lenders, while in 2016, 21 percent did.
As the alternative lending industry continues to grow, small business owners should keep five points in mind when evaluating loan offers, Reses says:
Total payback amount of a loan
Knowing how much a loan is going to cost isn't always easy. For a small business owner, being able to see exactly how much you will need to repay and accounting for that in your budget is crucial, and you should always look for transparency. Total payback amount is the dollar value that represents all costs, so business owners know exactly what they will owe over the life of the loan.
Businesses should look for this when they assess loan offers. Assessing offers solely on other metrics like APR may not always provide a fair or easy comparison.
The ease of repayment is also important to consider and there are some unique options available to small businesses looking for flexibility when it comes to repayment. With Square Capital for example, a fixed repayment amount is automatically deducted from the business’s daily card sales processed through Square until the loan is repaid, enabling the business to pay more when things are busy and less if things slow down. Businesses also have the opportunity to repay early and without penalty at any time before the end of the loan term.
Traditional small business loans can take weeks to process from the time you collect all the paperwork to apply, to the time you actually get approved, to when you see the money in your account. Yet, according to the Fed's survey, the majority of small businesses that applied for credit in 2016 did so in situations where time was a factor; 64 percent wanted to expand their business or take advantage of a new opportunity, and 45 percent needed the money to cover operating expenses.
While some funding sources have a reputation for being faster to approve, getting the money can still take time small business owners don’t have. Others have been able to tackle both of those challenges. For example, Square Capital can see the health of a small business based on its sales and transaction data, allowing it to evaluate the business's stability and actual ability to repay over time. With this unique insight, it can assess eligibility for a loan and deliver offers right to the small business owner. From there, an application takes as little as a few clicks to complete and once approved, funds are deposited as quickly as the next business day.
Business owners may know how much they need, but be less aware of what size loan they can afford. It's important to accept a loan offer that your business can repay within a reasonable time period while also helping it grow.
Square Capital's ability to use unique data to assess the eligibility of a business for a loan also enables it to provide access to loan offers tailored to a business's cash flow, reducing the risk of businesses borrowing more than they can afford to repay. Loans are sized based on a reasonable projected payback period so that a small business can use its funds to grow and not be stuck in debt for extended time periods.
Before applying for credit from any lender, it’s important to do your research. Know how they present their offers, look for transparency and flexibility that puts the borrower first and understand customer satisfaction and lender dependability. Working with a trusted brand is important to many small business owners and should be to you as well.
While online lenders are opening up access to the financing small businesses need to run and grow, it's important to do your homework and carefully determine which financial partner best meets the needs of your business. To learn more about small business loans through Square Capital, visit www.squareup.com/capital.
(BPT) - The year 2017 is still in its infancy, but research shows small business owners feel this year could be one of the best in recent memory.
A new survey, commissioned by Staples and conducted by Wakefield Research, found that 85 percent of small business owners surveyed reported feeling "optimistic" about the small business climate in 2017. That's good news for the owners as well as for their communities, because for many, this optimism is motivating owners to put earned revenue directly back into their businesses and employees.
According to the research, 97 percent of respondents said they plan to increase investment in their companies this year, while 67 percent plan to hire new employees. Those fresh hires also appear to be in line for better benefits, as 72 percent of small business owners report they plan to increase staff compensation in 2017.
"We conducted this survey to better understand the pulse of small business owners and to further identify those priority product and service areas in which we can help our customers achieve success in 2017," says Frank P. Bifulco Jr., chief marketing officer, Staples.
The survey included 502 small business owners across the country. For purposes of the research, small businesses were defined as companies that had 10 or fewer full-time employees.
While the research found that small business owners are optimistic about 2017, it also provides a favorable outlook for the years ahead. In fact, many small business owners report they hope to make small business ownership a family tradition. Ninety-one percent of those surveyed said they would encourage their children to start their own business, and 93 percent said they felt running their own business was the best kind of job satisfaction there was.
Finding the tools to support small businesses
For small business owners across the country, optimism can often be directly tied to market success and having the proper tools to support future growth. Staples Print and Marketing Services offers a comprehensive suite of services, providing everything from business cards and logo design to marketing materials and signage.
Small business owners can find additional support materials online by visiting Staples.com and the Staples Small Businesses Hub. The Hub is a resource that offers expert tips, information and industry advice - everything a small business owner needs to grow their business in 2017 and feel even more optimistic in the years to come.
To learn more about how Staples can support the initiatives in your small business, visit Staples.com.
Success in business is often built on a commitment to core values, such as service, integrity and passion. The following strategies, including building relationships with customers, having a bold vision, being passionate and inviting others to share in your success, can help grow the success of your business, too.
4 Essential Strategies for Growing Your Business
(Family Features) Since opening its first store in 1986, the foundation of Mattress Firm’s success has been built on a commitment to its core values: service, integrity and passion. Now, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, a three-decade journey has seen it grow from a single Houston store to 3,500 stores in 48 states. The following strategies can help grow the success of your business, too.
Be deeply connected and highly visible. Sophisticated product knowledge, meticulous financial measurements and high-level strategic planning are essential skills for every business leader. However, successful managers put just as much emphasis on getting to know people as they do learning markets and numbers. Building relationships with your customers, your community and your industry is essential to understanding how to serve their needs. Strong personal connections – between team members and management; the company and the community; and retailers and business partners – are the keys to the success of any business.
Be bold. A bold vision to revolutionize the sleep industry became a reality when the doors to the first Mattress Firm store opened July 4, 1986 in Houston. The founders, Steve Fendrich, Harry Roberts and Paul Stork, didn’t know at the time that a single store would grow into a publicly traded company with 10,000 employees nationwide, but they believed in their vision and their values. Plans written down on paper are great – they are used all the time to evaluate new markets and consider future opportunities, for example – but real leadership requires more than just a strategic plan; it takes boldness and the courage to act decisively on not only data-driven insights, but the knowledge that you’ve gained from your relationships in your industry and community.
Be passionate. It is essential for leaders to be passionate about their business for two reasons. First, customers respond best to someone who shows that they genuinely care about solving the problem that their product is intended to solve. Second, your passion will carry you through the inevitable setbacks along your way to success. Ask how your company helps your customers, then use that answer as inspiration when times get tough.
Invite others to share in your success. One of the most important things a leader can do is develop the next generation of leaders to ensure the ongoing success of the organization. This requires confidence on your part, as you cannot feel threatened by new ideas and new talent that are the natural result of cultivating a successful team. The emphasis on inclusivity and collaboration will trickle down through a company’s culture, creating an environment where all team members feel empowered to share both ideas and concerns in the spirit of constant improvement. Companies such as Mattress Firm foster a positive sense of discontent, feeling pride for far they’ve come, but always looking for ways to improve the customer experience. If you trust your team members, they will trust you. If you build a culture of clarity, accountability and respect, you will become an employer of choice that attracts, retains and develops top talent.
Mattress Firm’s founders dreamed big in 1986. They opened a store, but more importantly, they had a vision to improve lives through a better night’s sleep. Every day since then, passion, culture and community, combined with the willingness to do the hard work necessary to get the job done, has made that dream come to fruition. Learn more at MattressFirm.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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