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// by Shaundell Newsome / Feb. 27, 2015 0 comments
Building Relationships

Great companies know how to tell the truth over and over again until customers build a relationship with their brand.  In this blog you will learn how to simply tell the truth and establish your brand in the process.

Be True to Your Company

First, small business owners need to tell the truth about the identity of the company.  The worse thing you can do is become a schizophrenic company.  If you change your brand every time a customer engages you it will be hard for them to do business with you.  Don’t try to be everything to everybody.  For example:  Wal Mart decided that it wanted to be a low price leader for consumers.  Nordstrom’s wants to be a high end clothing store for its customer.  Both companies clearly identified their brand. 

Tell your Customers the Truth

Second, the customer is the most important relationship to a company.  They pay the bills. Being inconsistent in the delivery of your product, service or brand may be perceived as a betrayal. Lying to the customer can be catastrophic to any company. You have to give them the same thing over and over again.  McDonald’s, Microsoft and Ford Motor Company know their customers and are consistent in delivering on their brand promises. 

Bring True Value to the Market you Serve

Finally, make sure that you bring true value to the market.  Find a way to solve problems in the community.  When some people felt lonely, Neil Clark Warren decided to create E-Harmony as online platform to connect single folks.  Dating services have been around for a very long time.  He decided to make it easier for people to come together on an online platform.  Fandango changed the way most Americans purchase movie tickets.  Instead of buying tickets at the box office people get their electronic show tickets online to skip lines at the movies.  This new method brought the value of convenience to moviegoers.

The Truth Will Set You Free

The truth is that companies that are true to their customers always bring value to the market and are truly successful.  

Shaundell Newsome
Sumnu Marketing

Shaundell Newsome first became an entrepreneur at 14 years old while attending the H.S. of Graphic Communication Arts in Manhattan, N.Y.  He was mentored by a deacon in his church who owned Lou Edna Graphics, a printing and advertising company in Brooklyn, N.Y.  After a decade in the military Newsome helped market and establish the world’s largest locals gaming company.  Later he founded Sumnu Marketing to assist small business owners to grow their brand through the Twelve Steps of Marketing. sumnumarketing.com | @SumnuMarketing | More from Shaundell

// by Scott Clugston / Feb. 26, 2015 0 comments
Jobs

When looking for work, freelancers find the Internet a double-edged sword. While it seems to simplify the hunt for opportunities, it has also given rise to both lowball bidders and opportunities that border on fraud.

That’s why freelancers have been getting savvier and more selective in their prospecting methods. Consider these proven methods for finding well-paid work:

Ask clients for repeat business

Ask clients for referrals

Network with prospective clients

Network with fellow freelancers

Pitch agencies

Deliver speeches

Create partnerships

Search reputable niche job boards

Tell people how to do your work

Turn down low-paying work

Ask clients for repeat business

If your clients pay you the rates you want to earn and you’ve built a good relationship with them, ask questions about their upcoming projects and needs to get them thinking about hiring you again in the future.

Ask clients for referrals

Many freelancers have already worked for clients that both liked the work they did and paid a fair price for that work. Those clients may know other businesspeople who could use similar services and are open to paying professional rates. Why not ask those clients for referrals?

Network with prospective clients

Whether you attend events in person or contribute to discussions in online networks like LinkedIn or Google+, you can interact with people over common interests. You make an impression on other people. You build your reputation. You show up on more peoples’ radar. And over time you can open doors for yourself by asking for opportunities to work with those people you’ve connected with.

Spend time on various networks to find out where your prospective clients, and their connections, hang out. When you find these places, target your efforts to them. Start with places like:

  • Professional organizations that cater to your prospective clients
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Industry trade shows and conferences
  • Websites that cater to potential customers

LinkedIn groups and other online forums If you’re having difficulty learning where to meet prospective clients, ask people you know. And remember that you may meet prospective clients (and their contacts) at any time or place, so be ready to network wherever you are.

Network with fellow freelancers

Joining trade associations and informal groups (e.g. Yahoo or Google groups) helps you become known to others who you might consider competitors. Some have more work coming in than they can handle, so they might outsource some of it to you once you get to know them and build rapport. They’re helping you and they’re helping clients by hitting deadlines they can’t meet themselves.

Such groups are also great for water-cooler talk, sharing tips and learnings, as well as discussing industry information. And if your business ever experiences a slump, your peers will be there to lean on for support and to see you through it.

Pitch agencies

Many businesses outsource work to advertising and marketing agencies. To meet their clients’ deadlines, agencies either hire or contract a variety of professionals: copywriters, designers, social media specialists, public relations managers, app developers, and so on.

Meet people in agencies and you may find their “overflow” project work flowing to you.

Deliver speeches

Members of your target market may attend trade shows, workshops and other events that need public speakers. Contact event organizers, who frequently organize keynotes, panel discussions, workshops and other forms of “live content marketing”. There are few better ways to get you in front of prospective clients.

Create partnerships

Let’s say you enjoyed collaborating on a project with other freelancers. (e.g. building a business website where one person wrote copy, another designed the site and a third coded an ecommerce module for the site). Talk to your partners about jointly finding and working on similar projects.

If they agree, you can publicize this collaborative relationship on your respective websites. Consider naming this alliance and creating social media presences (e.g. Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn company page, Pinterest page, separate website) to promote the group.

By pooling your marketing efforts, you’ll land work as a group you may not have won alone.

Search reputable niche job boards

Look for job boards that cater to the specific work you do. People who post jobs on such boards may better understand the value you can deliver and offer commensurate rates.

Don’t discount larger freelance job boards like Elance and oDesk, and try Kijiji and Craiglsist too. You may need to sift through many lower-paying gigs, but good opportunities can be found there.

Not sure where to start? This post about finding freelance jobs shares 17 great sites to find work.

Tell people how to do your work

This tip may seem counterintuitive. Why write blog posts or a book to explain what you do and risk having people learn from your material and do the work themselves?

Not everybody will go the DIY route. When you publicize your know-how, some people will ask you to do the work because they lack the time, expertise or resources to do it themselves.

Besides, anybody who comes across your tips will see you as an expert and call on you or refer you when they hear that other people need your talents.

Turn down low-paying work

When you avoid gigs that don’t pay the rates you want to earn, you create more time to market to clients who pay those higher rates.

This isn’t always the easiest advice to follow. If you’re building a portfolio, for instance, you may want to accept lower rates in return for referrals, portfolio pieces and whatever other benefits you can obtain. Just remember your long-term goal of seeking better pay.

When will I see results?

You can’t predict the speed at which these methods produce results. Pitching for a job you find on a job board might elicit an immediate response, while an insightful comment you add to a LinkedIn group discussion might be found months later by somebody looking for that insight to solve a business problem.

Work consistently at each method and you’ll find you both produce results and that the results come more easily. The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.

Scott Clugston
Director of Sales
FreshBooks
Scott Clugston is the Director of Sales at FreshBooks, the Cloud Accounting solution helping 5 million users invoice their clients with ease. Start your free trial today to get organized and get paid.
// by Hal Shelton / Feb. 25, 2015 0 comments
Business Plan

Running a business without a plan is like running down the street with a blindfold on. A business plan removes the blindfold, creates a map, and prepares you for the certain bumps in the road.

In this post, you will discover what a business plan is, why you need one, and what style is best for your situation.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan contains five key elements:

1. Business goals

2. The reasons why these goals are attainable, including most importantly your value proposition and competitive advantage

3. A plan for reaching those goals

4. Data backing the uniqueness of the products and services to be sold

5. Supporting information about the organization and team attempting to reach those goals

But it is much more than a document: It is a process to test ideas to determine if they are feasible and financially attractive. During the process, you develop a consistent set of messages, based on facts and analysis, which can be used in discussions with customers, funders, board members, advisers, vendors and employees.

While you may think the only goal of business plans is to seek funding, ultimately, a business plan is written for yourself — to help you set goals, decide whether to start or grow a business, and develop a compelling message of why you will be successful.

As a small business owner, you are probably working 60 to 100 hours a week and still not getting everything done. If you are working this hard, make sure it is worth the effort. Again, this is where a business plan comes in. For example, if you forecast earning $20,000 a year, is this good news? It is good that the number is positive; however, if you live in a large city, have family financial obligations, are paying off bills and saving for retirement, and plan to make this your full-time activity, it is unlikely you will be satisfied with $20,000. Wouldn’t it be good to know this before you invest too much of your personal resources and time?

What’s Your Style? Finding What Type of Plan Is Right for You

Business plan styles range from informal, back-of-the-envelope sketches to 30-page plans with illustrations and exhibits. Which style you choose depends on a number of factors including are you seeking funding, are you starting a new business or growing an established business, is the business complex and needs much explaining, etc. Common to all styles is a clear message.

Plans for Existing Businesses

Start with a short plan, emphasizing mission and goals, to ensure the venture/project is headed in the right direction for the next year. If you are planning to grow your business, focus on markets, products, and services, in addition to having sufficient resources. If you are solving an operating issue, focus on that particular matter, such as staffing, cash flow, operations, vendors, etc.

For example, a business that is focusing on increasing sales may determine after talking with its customers, looking at its competition, and conducting research, that it needs to enhance the awareness of its products and services in the marketplace and, in particular, the online marketplace. In my book, I share an all-graphic, brief business plan that is ideal in this situation.

If you’re seeking funding from your current bank, use a medium-sized plan in the 7 to 15-page range. Talk with your small business loan officer and see what they require from someone the bank already knows.

Meeting Expectations

Most business plans start with an executive summary and end with the financial statements. In between are sections that describe the business idea operationally. You have the flexibility to arrange this discussion in a manner that best describes your company. However, if the format is too different from what your audience is used to, they may find it difficult to read your plan. Make it organized, clear, and purposeful.

It helps to know your audience and what information they need to act favorably. For example, a customer wants to know you will provide quality products/services and will be around to provide maintenance or upgrades. A vendor wants to know that you will pay invoices on time and be a repeat buyer. A banker wants to know how much money is requested, what it will be used for, how long the funding is needed for, and reasonable projections that you will have the resources to repay the loan in full. Hence, while you may focus on sales, the banker will focus on cash flow.

Usually you will not be in the room when your business plan is read, so it needs to speak for itself and reflect positively on you and your business.

Be able to explain the following clearly and succinctly:

  • What customer problem you are solving, and why your solution is better than current alternatives; sometimes called the value proposition
  • What tasks are necessary for the business to succeed
  • Most important, why you will be successful

Key Lessons

  • A business plan is primarily written for yourself. However, it should not be about you — it should be about the market and your customers.
  • A business plan is both a document and a process.
  • Business plans need to be tailored to your situation and kept current.
  • Design your business plan in a manner that best explains your business idea.
  • Know your audience and what information they need to act favorably.
  • The message is more important that the style.

Next Steps

1. Note the reasons you are considering writing a business plan.

2. Describe your audience, what you would like them to do after reading your plan, and what information they need to favorably take that action. The audience could be you, a banker, an angel investor, a key vendor, a potential employee, a contracting official, a key customer, etc.

Hal Shelton

Hal is a SCORE mentor who is passionate about helping small businesses start and grow. He has been a CFO and board member for NYSE/NASDAQ publicly traded companies and nonprofits. He is currently an active investor in early-stage technology companies and is the Amazon bestselling author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Feb. 24, 2015 0 comments
Funding

When it comes to funding your small business, obtaining financing isn’t the only challenge entrepreneurs face. Apparently, learning about and understanding your financing options is a hurdle in itself, according to OnDeck’s latest Main Street Pulse Report.

In the most recent quarterly survey of small business owners:

  • 80 percent of business owners don’t think banks do a good job of explaining what it takes to qualify for different types of business financing.
  • 75 percent of business owners admit they don’t know all their financing options.
  • 66 percent of business owners don’t have a strong understanding of how business credit is calculated and how lenders use it to deny or approve financing applications.

Let me debunk some of the most common business financing misconceptions I hear from small business owners.

Myth: The SBA gives business loans.

Reality: The SBA does not make direct loans. They do, however, guarantee loans through a variety of financing sources including banks, credit unions and non-bank lenders. The SBA guarantees a portion of the loan to lessen the risk to lenders and make them more likely to lend to small companies.

Myth: If the banks turn me down, I’m out of luck.

Reality: Banks are only one financing source that’s open to small businesses. Other lending sources may include community-based microloans, alternative financing methods such as merchant cash advances or factoring, credit unions or crowdfunding. The best option for you depends on a variety of factors, including how much money you need, how long you’ve been in business, your business credit history and how fast you need the money.

Myth: If I don’t have good business credit, there’s no way I’ll get a loan.

Reality: Your business credit score is important, sure. But it’s easier than it used to be to find financing with a less-than-perfect credit score. In the wake of the Great Recession, when banks tightened the purse strings, a variety of alternative lenders sprang up to help small businesses find the capital they needed. You may pay more for your financing if your credit isn’t stellar—that’s just how it works. But you’re not necessarily out of the running. 

The study also reports that 87 percent of business owners haven’t found a resource that explains how to qualify for financing. To help in that regard, OnDeck is partnering with SCORE to provide education about financing. They’ve also created a website, BusinessLoans.com, to educate entrepreneurs about their options.

Of course, one of the best resources around for financing education and assistance is your SCORE mentor. Your mentor can assess your needs, explain your options, help you prepare your application and even connect you with financing sources in your community. Visit www.score.org to learn more and get matched with a mentor today.  

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
// by Rochelle Robinson / Feb. 23, 2015 0 comments
Mobile Marketing

Consumers are busy and need to find information quickly and easily on the go. Mobile devices have made it easier for people to access information at their fingertips. In order to remain competitive, small businesses should have a mobile marketing strategy to reach new customers, generate new sales, and provide information effortlessly.

1.Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Consumers are easily frustrated when they access a website that is hard to read and not optimized for mobile devices. One way to make sure a website is accessible on a variety of devices is to use responsive design. Responsive web design is customized coding that ensures your website will automatically change its appearance based on the screen size of the visitor’s device.

2.Develop a Mobile Application

A mobile application must be downloaded and installed on a mobile device. Mobile applications are available through vendor-specific devices such as Apple’s App Store or Android Market. Using a mobile application can allow more user customization for online shopping, gaming functionality, and the ability to provide complex complications such as online banking. A mobile application is harder to update and more expensive than a mobile website because it requires code updates for operating system platforms.

3. Use SMS to Communicate

Short Message Service (SMS) is a 160-character text message sent to customers using their mobile phone. Text messages are often used to share information on sales and discounts, creating a sense of urgency and prompting action. Businesses can build client lists by requesting customer phone numbers to send text messages in-store, through social media, or via websites. SMS texts have been proven to have eight times the response rate as email marketing. A successful text will identify the business and concisely state what you want the consumer to know or do. There should always be a way for consumers to opt out or stop receiving messages.

4. Improve Local Online Marketing

Customers are often on the go and will search for a place to eat or shop based on their location. Small businesses should submit their information to local online directories including Google, Bing, Yahoo Local, and YellowPages. Make sure to include a phone number, correct hours of operation, and the best category to describe your type of business. Add pictures of your business so customers will have an idea of what to expect. Encourage clients to provide reviews on Google or Yelp.

5. Social Media Advertising

Social media is a great tool for having conversations and engaging with existing and potentially new customers. Send news and updates to customers via their mobile devices, use a Facebook business page, or create Facebook advertisements. Facebook recently announced product ads, a solution designed to help businesses promote multiple products or their entire product catalog, across all the devices their customers use. Notify users about promotions or create a sponsored tweet using Twitter. Post pictures on Pinterest, a powerful visual virtual pinboard of things that interest your clients. For example Whole Foods developed a Pinterest board for gardening, DIY products, and recipes that may interest consumers. Using social media beyond regular posts can increase sales while letting customers know more about you and your business. 

Rochelle Robinson
Digital Business Strategist
ConsultRochelle.com
Rochelle L. Robinson is a digital business strategist focused on helping small businesses develop a strong digital strategy, improve business development efforts, and implement innovative online marketing solutions.
// by Aliana Marino / Feb. 20, 2015 0 comments
Circle Studio

In this month’s client success story, Kari Neigebauer-Koch, founder and owner of Circle Studio, explains how Pilates and gyrotonics strengthen the core of the body and how SCORE strengthens the core of her business.

How did it all begin?

Kari grew up doing ballet, but after college, she hurt her back. She tried yoga, chiropractic treatments and massages, but they only offered short-term relief. She discovered Pilates and finally found a long-term solution for her back pain. It helped with her posture and balanced her body.

She loved teaching and wanted to become a Pilates instructor. She moved to New York City to learn from a student of Joseph Pilates, the creator of the system, and became certified to teach. At her first job, Kari saw a giant wooden machine with pulleys that “looked almost medieval.” This was a gyrotonic machine. She tried it and found even more pain relief. She needed to learn and teach gyrotonics too.

“Pilates is really the core, and it’s the art of control and mastering your body, alignment and form. It’s more linear. Gyrotonics…is an expansion system. It’s more circular but still very core centered. So it’s the yin and the yang of the Pilates.” Kari knew she needed both in her life.

She moved back home to Portland, Oregon, but the city didn’t have a studio at the time that combined Pilates and gyrotonics. With her mom’s encouragement, Kari created a studio that did.

What did you learn from SCORE?

Kari worked with SCORE for several years on different aspects of growing her business. One mentor helped her develop a mission statement and business plan, the core of her company.     

Another SCORE mentor introduced Kari to the world of Human Resources, one of her biggest concerns. She also learned the financial side of business, the nuts and bolts of Quickbooks and accounting.

Business was booming, and Kari hired 7 employees within the first year. Then, the recession hit.

How did SCORE help you through the recession?

“SCORE gave me someone to talk to. It’s a really lonely place to be in a recession as a solo owner.” Kari talked with her SCORE mentors about every major decision, and she learned how to communicate with her employees to keep them on board.

“I don’t think I would’ve made it through without going to SCORE on a regular basis.”

Adding the yin to her yang

When her son was born, Kari realized she needed a partner to help run the growing business and maintain a better work/life balance. She asked Lynnea Amend, one of her Pilates instructors, who accepted the job.

First, Lynnea had to catch up and learn how to run a business. She worked with SCORE to get on the same page as Kari.

Next, the duo had to learn how to communicate and become a solid team. Just like marriages, opposites attract. So a SCORE mentor helped forge a new partnership of different personalities. Kari and Lynnea formed the yin and yang of Circle Studio.

What advice would you give to new business owners?

“I would tell them to go to SCORE. Get a business plan. Go to their workshops. It’s like private counseling for free.

It’s about building those good healthy habits from the start…the more you prepare, the better.”

Aliana Marino
Communications Manager
SCORE
Aliana is passionate about helping small businesses thrive and getting the word out about the great work SCORE mentors do across country. 
score.org | Facebook | @SCOREmentors | More from Aliana                   
// by Raj Tumber / Feb. 19, 2015 0 comments
Gone Viral

Word of mouth publicity is the most effective viral marketing in real world, on social media and on search engines.

Word of Mouth Marketing In the Real World

In a conversation when people share their positive experiences about a specific product, service or business, their opinion becomes more of an endorsement. When businesses consistently deliver consumer satisfaction then the word of mouth often pays off in the long run.

When it comes to long term customers, it often starts from that first experience. First impression matters especially if it's based on the positive experience. Just like businesses looking for loyal customers, customers are also looking for a business than can satisfy their comfort zone. As customers continue to experience consistencies in satisfaction, they become loyal customers. Customer loyalty often brings in more customers through the word of mouth.

A client of mine owns a food and beverage business where employees are trained to address every customer by his/her first name so that the customers feel connected. They also treat every regular customer as if it's their first time so the quality of service remains consistent. Majority of the customers are word of mouth referrals.

From Word of Mouth to Social Media

When people share their shopping and dining experiences on their social media page then it takes word of mouth publicity one step further. Viral publicity through social media did not exist decades ago but today it has become a major advantage for businesses and a disadvantage in some cases.

People add preferred business pages to their collection of pages that they are following on social media and at times they even engage in the business blog posts by sharing their own comments. Many customers even post location “check in” on their own page which help increase the business exposure. Since viral publicity is a big component of social media, businesses get more exposure through their target market and general population, and this is just another channel of word of mouth marketing.

From Social Media to Search Engines

Not only social media helps spread the word of mouth experiences, it's also a bridge between word of mouth publicity and search engine based exposure. Social media posts are actually a form of blogs and spiders or web crawlers attract to blogs. This also means that the blogs will get picked up by the spiders or web crawlers to be indexed on search engines. Then when potential customers conduct any form of research online about a specific product, service or business, they see ratings, reviews, videos, blog or similar posts, and then they go directly to the found content.

Viral publicity from the word of mouth to social media has definitely changed the way businesses do business today. Like positive feedbacks, negative feedbacks spread very quickly. However, many businesses that pay close attention to customer feedbacks consider some of the negative feedbacks as constructive criticism to improve the quality of their product or service.

The key here is marketing technique. We all know the power of viral publicity. It's mostly free and the biggest investment is time and strategy. Whether it's a product or service, it's all about the end user or consumer experience.

As it's been said, “word of mouth marketing is the best form of marketing”. So give your customers an experience, something that they can talk about.

Raj Tumber
Mentor
SCORE Las Vegas
Raj specializes in strategic business development and is currently authoring a book on the topic of strategic development. Other areas of expertise include technical administration, consumer electronics, investigations and analytical science.
SCORELV.org | Facebook | More from Raj                
// by Jimmy Daly / Feb. 18, 2015 0 comments
Email Marketing

When you hear the term email marketing, you probably think of coupons, newsletters and maybe even spam. The negative connotation is unfortunate because email marketing can drive real revenue for any business if it’s handled strategically.

One way to unlock email’s massive potential is taking advantage of triggered emails. Most email marketing — newsletters, promotions, coupons, sales, etc. — is sent to a large group of people at the same time. The message is generic because of the sheer volume of recipients and, as a result, open and click rates are low. Emails end up in the spam folder because recipients don’t engage with them.

Triggered email on the other hand is different in that the content and calls to action are personalized for each and every person. Welcome emails, receipts, reminders, notifications — these are all great examples of triggered emails.

These emails are expected, contextual and serve a unique purpose. As a result, they are opened at up to 8x the rate as promotional email.

Now, let’s look at a few ways to scale triggered email to automate your marketing.

1. Send great welcome emails.

Welcome emails aren’t really meant to say “hello”. Rather, a welcome email is the first step in your customer onboarding process. That means that every welcome email should have a very specific goal that will get your customers to take an action that you know will lead to a great experience.

Here are a few examples of welcome email goals:

  • Create a profile
  • Check out our most popular items
  • Impour data
  • Download this PDF
  • Learn about our most important features

These goals will vary depending on your business but think in terms of quick wins. Ask yourself, “What actions lead to great customers?” and work backwards. Here are a few examples of great welcome emails.

SumAll

Welcome Email

Fab

Fab Welcome Email

 

Check out way more welcome email examples here.

2. Send great receipts.

You may think that receipts mark the end of your relationship with a customer since it means they have made a purchase. But customer lifecycles can repeat themselves, creating a steady stream of recurring revenue.

Receipts should be functional. They must deliver the information regarding the transaction but they can also tell the customer what to do next. Here are a few examples of what that next step could be:

  • Refer a friend
  • Buy an accessory product
  • Upgrade to a premium product
  • Write a review

Receipts are nearly guaranteed to be opened so take advantage of the attention by carefully placing calls to action. Don’t be overtly promotional but make sure your receipts are consistent with your brand’s look and feel, and offer some value to the recipient.

Here are a few examples of great email receipts:

Uber

Uber Receipt

 

Dollar Shave Club

 

Dollar Shave Club

 

Learn more about sending great email receipts.

3. Send great retention emails

All businesses track customer activity like signups, pageviews, purchases, etc. But are you tracking inactivity?

Once you’ve invested the time and money in acquiring customers, it’s important to keep them. It costs much less to retain an existing customer than it does to find a brand new one. For that reason, retention emails can generate a lot of revenue quickly.

A retention email should be sent to nudge a customer or user to come back. Perhaps they let their free trial expire without upgrading or haven’t made a purchase in a year. The idea isn’t to sell them right there in the email, it’s to re-engage them.

Here are a few great examples of retention emails:

Squarespace

SquareSpace

 

 RunKeeper

 

RunKeeper

 

Learn more about retention emails here.

One common misconception about triggered emails is that you need a massive marketing budget to send them. That’s not true. Nearly every email marketing program allows you to send a welcome email. And behavioral email tools are very affordable.

Creating just one triggered email that you can use over and over again will net you a better ROI that creating new promotional emails to send every week. Over time, you can refine your copy and calls to action to ensure your triggered emails are making you money.

Have any questions? Just leave a note in the comments and we’ll be happy to help.

Jimmy Daly

Jimmy Daly is the content editor at Vero, a behavioral and transactional email service, and creator of the Swipe File marketing newsletter. You can follow him on Twitter or the Vero blog for regular updates on email marketing.

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Feb. 17, 2015 0 comments
2015

What are small business owners’ expectations, hopes and challenges for 2015? Good news: According to Rocket Lawyer's Semi-Annual Small Business Index, which surveys some 500 U.S. business owners, entrepreneurs are feeling better today than they have in a very long time.

A whopping 80 percent of entrepreneurs in the survey believe their companies will experience growth this year. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that 61 percent say their businesses grew dramatically last year!

With renewed confidence in their futures, small business owners are getting ready to invest in their companies in various ways, including:

Hiring Is on the Rise

Overall, small business hiring plans are up 27 percent compared to the same time last year. However, more than half (54 percent) of entrepreneurs in the survey are planning to focus on hiring independent contractors. By comparison, 44 percent plan to hire part-time workers and 40 percent expect to hire full-time employees.

Boosting Their Online Presence 

Small business owners in the survey are recognizing the importance of having a strong online presence for their business and brand. In fact, more than one-third (35 percent) say improving their online presence is their number-one concern for 2015. To help with this, they’re hiring marketing employees (27 percent). Expecting that improved marketing will drive leads, 37 percent also plan to hire for sales positions.

Going Mobile

Developments in mobile payments technology such as Apple Pay have small businesses very interested. In fact, 60 percent of small business owners in the survey say they would consider offering mobile payment options in 2015. The primary reason for doing so (cited by 68 percent) is to offer customers a simple, seamless payment experience, but 51 percent also say they believe mobile payments offer new opportunities for their businesses to surpass competitors. I wasn’t surprised to see that Millennials are the most likely to be excited about mobile payments’ future—71 percent say they’re likely to consider adopting mobile payments this year.

Challenges

It’s not all smooth sailing for small business owners, however. New legislation such as minimum wage increases in many states, as well as continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act, have 27 percent of entrepreneurs in the survey worried that they either don’t understand, or will fail to comply with, government regulations.

On the legal side of things, the biggest problem small business owners reported in 2014 was difficulty with contract negotiations. More than one-fourth (27 percent) say that this is a challenge, and as more small businesses hire independent contractors, creating solid contracts with those workers will undoubtedly going to continue to grow in importance.

The good news is that whether you’re struggling with challenges, getting ready to grab opportunities or both, there’s one place you can get help making plans for the future. Your SCORE mentor can help you understand legal issues and contracts, figure out your best options for hiring and plan for a more successful marketing strategy in 2015. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor today. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
// by Jeanne Rossomme / Feb. 16, 2015 1 comments
Motivation

“You don't need to follow your passions. You need to carry them with you.” Mike Rowe, TEDTalks “Learning from dirty jobs” 

Maybe you are staring at another hopelessly full inbox, or a barrage of employee/customer complaints, or a big stack of unpaid bills.  Or maybe you are just staring out the window at yet another cold, gray winter day.  

Here are a few techniques to help you stay positive and passionate:

1. Dream or Inspiration Wall: Somewhere near your daily workspace, consider creating an inspiration wall of your goals, accomplishments and company vision. Dream Walls can keep you inspired and focused on what is truly important.

2. Gratitude Journal: Research in psychology suggests that the simple act of “counting our blessings” can help with improved sleep, better health, and greater happiness.  Simply work in a practice (preferably a few times per week) or writing down 1-5 things that you have experienced over the past week for which you are grateful. Be personal and specific. Even events that initially may seem negative (like an irate customer) may turn out to be the source of an important change or shift.

3. Pump up music: Create a play list of sings that get you fired up.  Start each day listening to your music before tackling the day’s priorities.

4. Inspiration feeds: Select a few people, blogs or sites that consistently keep you energized and subscribe to their feeds or newsletters.  (My latest find in the new Startup podcast series – it is awesome!)

5. Exercise to keep up your physical energy: Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert exercises at points in the day when he know his physical energy is low and needs a boost. Another effective technique is to take quick 5-minute breaks every hour for deep breathing or quick strength exercises.

6. Smile: Even if you do not feel it, smiling will create a positive energy.

How do you carry your passions with you?  Share in the Comments section below.

Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne