Big data and business intelligence (BI) used to be only for enterprise companies. Now, however, thanks to the software as a service (SaaS) revolution, even small businesses can afford to track and tap into a wealth of information. However, becoming a data-driven small business isn’t easy. Because you’re dealing with complex troves of records that have multiple sources and are therefore highly unlikely to be structured uniformly, it can be difficult to process it all and interpret it into insights your business can actually use. What’s more, many of the leading business intelligence solutions require unreasonably expensive and lengthy onboarding processes and they can only be used by teams of coders. Not exactly small business-friendly. Here’s how to make the most of the data at your fingertips. Use a Central Location for Data A central location for all of your data means you save time getting it all together. There’s no need to log in and out of multiple accounts to collect the data and join it all in a single place, as long as your holistic BI dashboard can feed all the data from multiple sources to a single cloud-based hub. According to a recent study  by Aberdeen, the average business intelligence user references 30 unique data sources on a regular basis. When all of your sources are set to automatically aggregate to a central hub, you’ll know exactly where to go to look for vital information about your key performance indicators (KPIs), so you can more easily make data-driven decisions about your business to grow profits. Ensure Wide Accessibility To be the most efficient, your BI platform needs to be accessible from multiple devices. This is where using a cloud-based platform comes in beneficial. Because it runs in the cloud, anyone with access can log in to the platform from anywhere there is an Internet connection, using the web or an app on a mobile device.  Being able to get to the information you need, when and where you need it, ensures that you’ll be able to make the most of it. Keep it Simple The platform you use should be as simple as possible. It’s easy to get swept away by immersive dropdown menus and data slicing parameters, but if you let the complexity go overboard, it will not only take more time to use — it will be harder to get the valuable information you need so you can take action. The more data sources you have, the more complex your data matrix will become. You’ll need a platform that can help you centralize, parse and visualize all the data and process it for your ongoing real-time analysis. This will help you address the challenges of big data, simplifying everything so you can focus on what matters, instead of wasting time. Focus on Ease of Use There are plenty of BI platforms out there today, but a lot of them require the users to be proficient in coding to gather and process the data into actionable insights. This isn’t a problem if you happen to work as part of a team of developers. But for the average business, having the technical resources just isn’t possible. Instead, focus on finding an easy-to-use system that doesn’t require coded queries and find people proficient in coding to help program it. When tools involve cumbersome learning curves and ongoing usability friction, you’ll have a hard time getting employees trained to use it, and when they are trained, they are less inclined to want to use it. Your data isn’t going to do you any good if you spend so much time gathering and processing it that you can’t focus on what to do with it. Remember the Benefits of Fast Action Today’s consumers act fast, so to get or keep their business, it’s important for you to be able to act fast too — responding to your customers’ needs as they come. While some issues can be anticipated, others can’t. Real-time data technologies can help you act fast — no matter what your customers demand. Data shows many external factors can influence search behavior — from holiday sales, to sporting events, and even the weather. Use real-time insights to tailor your approach as necessary. Use The Right Business Intelligence Solutions Studies show the businesses which get the most value from business intelligence solutions and analytics, focus on collaboration and boosting team confidence, rather than technology alone. With the right platform, your business can glean insights from data to produce better products and services, improve the overall customer experience, and more. Data Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” How Small Businesses Can Make the Most of Big Data ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Google wants small businesses make the most of the internet, and it’s doing its bit to encourage them. In April, the internet giant announced it will offer free workshops to help small businesses improve their online presence.  To that effect, it has now shared a video that explains digital marketing for small and medium businesses. The 43-minute video is part of the Google Partners Connect video program and provides useful tips and insights to strengthen your online presence and grow business. It features two presentations: one on mobile consumer behavior and one on the importance of micro-moments. Part 1: Mobile Consumer Behavior Presented by Aditi Manwani, Product Marketing Manager at Google, the first part of the Google Partners Connect video provides some interesting insights on consumer behavior and introduces the concept of micro-moments . Manwani says micro-moments represent a new consumer behavior trend. Increasing use of mobile is changing the way we behave, making these micro-moments more important than ever. She explains this by talking about four moment types. The first type is the “I want to know” moment when consumers are not ready to buy yet. Next is the “I want to go” moment when they want to visit a local business. This is followed by the “I want to do” moment which is either before or after the purchase. At this moment, businesses have the opportunity to build loyalty. Finally, there’s the “I want to buy” moment when consumers are still making a decision of how to buy. By being useful and staying accountable, businesses can capture these moments. Part 2: 10 Ways to Grow Your Business Online In the second part of the video, Google digital evangelist Frederick Vallaeys shares some cool tips to help you boost your business online. He begins by saying that every second more than 40,000 searches are made on Google. Yet, as he remarks later, only 45 percent of businesses in the United States have a website. It goes without saying that there’s an opportunity waiting to be grabbed, and businesses are simply not doing enough to make the most of it. Emphasizing the importance of mobile, Vallaeys adds that businesses should think mobile first when they build their website. That’s because, mobile is getting bigger and a mobile-first approach will help businesses do well on desktop as well. He provides more information on how businesses can connect with customers at moment of relevance by selecting the most appropriate keywords. Among other things, he highlights the importance of videos to “raise trust factor” and the need to acknowledge and respond to online reviews to connect with more customers. Another word of advice for small businesses is to measure the impact of their online marketing initiatives and be reasonable while setting goals. Response to the workshop and the program has been overwhelmingly positive, with businesses appreciating Google for sharing valuable insights. Many small business owners used the #PartnersConnect hashtag to thank the company. Thank you #partnersconnect and #Google for another great, informative live stream! — Josh Echele (@Josh_Blayzer) May 4, 2016 Gotta grab those micro moments! Thanks @googlepartners for a great presentation! #partnersconnect — Jennifer Hill (@jenniferdhill) May 4, 2016 Neat #partnersconnect presentation, thanks @googlepartners @MarketingChimp1 ! — 3PRIME LLC (@3PRIME) May 4, 2016 In the coming days, Google will upload more videos under its Google Partner Connect video program channel on YouTube. Image: Google This article, ” Google Shares Ways To Increase Traffic To Your Business [Watch] ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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NetTALK , a platform similar to Vonage that lets users make inexpensive international calls via their WiFi or wireless connection, just announced the launch of several new features, one of which is intended primarily for small business use: 4G LTE wireless telephony service. The company also introduced a mobile app (netTALK Connect Talk), a messaging app (netTALK Connect Messenger) and a new WiFi version of DUO, its patented hardware device that connects landline phones to the netTALK service. NetTALK Mobile App Reduces International Calling Costs In citing the reason for the service, Nick Kyriakides, netTALK co-founder and COO, in an exclusive interview with Small Business Trends, said, “Globally, there are around 50 million expats living in countries in where they were not born. NetTALK helps them by reducing the cost of international calls to between 30 to 40 percent.” NetTALK has focused on the retail consumer since its founding in 2008, but with the new 4G LTE service, that is changing. Now the company is pivoting toward the small office home office (SOHO) market, with the goal of enlightening small business owners to the advantages of using the service. Here is a rundown of each of the new features along with their description: NetTALK Mobile App 4G LTE Wireless Service Business users (and others) can add 4G LTE service from T-Mobile to the netTALK apps and stay in touch with co-workers worldwide. The Small Biz Plan offers users unlimited talk and text with 10GB of data for $40 per month, plus the price of the SIM card, a one-time fee. Features include: Unlimited international talk and text within the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico; Unlimited music and video streaming without using data; Unlimited international data and text in more than 140 countries; 4G data rollover (unused 4G data rolls over to the next month); Unlimited customer support; No annual contract or credit check. The service works on virtually any unlocked, GSM-compatible phone, which means users may be able to keep their current device. Companies can also add multiple phone numbers for little additional cost. U.S. numbers range for $1.99 for one month to $11.99 for one year. Canadian numbers range from $2.99 for one month and $19.99 for one year. “Businesses that want to appear as having a presence in multiple locations can set up numbers very cheaply,” Kyriakides said. “They can even purchase temporary numbers, in case they travel to other countries for business and don’t wish to incur heavy fees.” NetTALK Connect Talk App NetTALK Connect, a new mobile app available for iOS and Android, allows users to have more than one account per app and gives them the chance to purchase a low-cost Canadian or U.S. phone number. This helps them to make cheap international calls from locations all over the world. Users can: Have multiple accounts from one app; Purchase inexpensive Canadian or U.S. phone numbers; Make calls to mobile and landline phones worldwide while saving up to 40 percent; Connect via WiFi, 3G and 4G; Get a free conference call bridge with unlimited participants. “With the Connect Talk app, users can sync up the app to their home phone line (DUO), “Kyriakides said. “Now, whether they are traveling internationally or are in the office, users never miss a phone call. It comes through their smartphone application.” NetTALK Connect Messaging App The Connect Messaging app allows users to send and receive messages with netTALK’s secure messaging service with built-in VPN. Messaging between app-to-app is free, there is no limit of messages between app users and users can send and receive messages from anywhere in the world. Similar to the Connect Talk app, users can also “go mobile” with the netTALK DUO, which enables messaging using their DUO home phone number while on-the-go. Also, the app features message delay and undo (users can “unsend” a message), native emoji support and no advertising — a trait some other messaging services can’t boast. DUO WiFi NetTALK now offers a WiFi version of its award-winning VoIP device and digital phone service, DUO. The netTALK DUO enables free nationwide calls to any phone in Canada and the U.S. from anywhere in the world, as well as low international rates. No computer is necessary as the netTALK DUO plugs directly into a router or modem — and now works via WiFi as well thanks to the new version. The reason for introducing the WiFi version had to do with convenience, according to Kyriakides. “Lots of people’s routers are in weird places in their home, such as basements or cabinets that are hard to get to,” Kyriakides said. “DUO WiFi can plugin where it’s convenient — a living room or kitchen, for example. It works just like a wireless printer.” Image: netTalk This article, ” NetTALK Adds New Features to International Call Service for Expats, Businesses ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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While most delivery services offer basic location services, UPS on Wednesday announced that it will be rolling out its “Follow My Delivery” app that allows users to check on UPS delivery progress. The minute-by-minute tracking service works on both computers and smartphones and at the moment, it is only available for packages shipped using the more expensive UPS Worldwide Express and UPS Air options. Monitor UPS Delivery Progress To monitor UPS deliveries on live map, business owners will have to sign up for a UPS My Choice account. This is a free service that provides online package signing, package alerts and approximate delivery times. The app sends an email to the recipient once their shipment is loaded to the transport truck and within the email there’s a yellow “Follow my delivery button” that opens a web page that shows the map of your local area. The live map starts working when the delivery truck leaves the loading area and shows both the package’s final destination and its current location. The map automatically gets updated every 2-3 minutes. For safety reasons, the app doesn’t reveal the driver’s exact route. “Follow My Delivery is the latest example of how we use technology to improve the e-commerce consumer delivery experience from the point of purchase to the time of delivery,” said Teresa Finley, UPS chief marketing officer in a press release . Because users can be able to check on UPS delivery progress in real time then they are in a better position to know when their packages are coming and they can better arrange their storage space, potentially even cutting back on thefts as the delivered merchandises don’t have to stay for long on the front porches. Since the launch of the UPS My Choice service in 2011, UPS has enabled businesses to better manage their deliveries. In addition to the solution, UPS also works with ecommerce retailers all over the world to achieve profitable growth using UPS ecommerce solutions that includes UPS Access Point network, fully-landed price information, multi-language web storefronts, web order marketplace fulfillment, simplified returns and other vital services and products that accelerate both domestic and international business growth. With this app, businesses are not only able to track packages and monitor their UPS delivery progress, but they are also able to build customer loyalty using customized delivery notifications. “With these custom notices, our e-commerce retailers are able to send a tailored discount offer, product referral or thank-you message to their online consumers as part of UPS My Choice delivery alerts,” Finley added. Image: UPS This article, ” Check On UPS Delivery Progress with New Follow My Delivery App ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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In a time when search engine ranking factors have been analyzed to death , one of the final mysteries in ecommerce marketing is how to rank on Amazon. That’s right — it’s far easier for a small business to find solid, usable advice on how to raise its search engine rank on sites like Google and Bing (so they appear earlier in search results) than it is to do the same on Amazon. Why is this the case? The answer is complexity. You see, at their core, search engines focus on boiling down all types of content (text, images, videos, and audio) so they can be ranked equally. This drive toward homogenous ranking makes it easier to conform to identified standards that yield better search results. How To Rank on Amazon Amazon on the other hand uses a variety of visibility engines including: Search ranking; People who bought this bought that; Top 100 sellers in product categories; and Based on your previous browsing history. Given this complexity, it becomes much more difficult to determine how to rank on Amazon. In order to do so, you need to isolate one ranking methodology from the others so you can observe its effects. This is exactly the approach used by Ripen eCommerce in their groundbreaking study, “Amazon SEO research study – inside Amazon’s search engine” , a deep dive into Amazon’s search ranking factors. “We poured over more than 746,500 search results for 16,930 keywords, looked for correlations between those data points, and tried to determine what factors appear to improve a product’s search ranking,” says David Rekuc, Ripen’s marketing director and the head of the study. “Much like traditional SEO, we found several factors influence search results on Amazon, and optimization has a compounding effect.” So, how do you rank on Amazon? Using the findings of Ripen’s study, we’ve compiled the following guide and explained how to rank on Amazon. What’s Not in This Guide Before moving on to the guide, it’s important to note what factors were excluded from the study and thus from the guide ( click here to learn why each was excluded): Reviews; Search terms; Target audience; and Platinum keywords. After speaking with Rekuc, we also learned that the study: Focused solely on physical products (including books), not digital; Excluded all visibility engines except search ranking; and Determined rank exclusively by using the default search sorting method, relevance rank. How to Rank on Amazon: The Guide Ripen’s study focused on identifying the correlations between specific product listing details and search rank on Amazon. Based on these correlations, we’ve created a guide that will teach you how to optimize your own product listings so they will rank higher in Amazon’s search results. Ranking Factor #1: Sales Rank The most important factor in search rank on Amazon is a product’s sales rank. As the chart below illustrates, there’s no question that products with higher sales rank numbers appear more often in Amazon search results. In other words, these products are much more visible than those with lower sales ranks. The study went on to find that the influence of Amazon sales rank influenced more than merely search rank: “Not only did we see a strong correlation between sales rank and SERP, but we also noticed that top selling items had incredible ranking power for a wide range of search queries. On Amazon as a product’s sales rank improves, the number of search queries resulting in that product also increase.” This correlation between search rank and sales rank leads us to the first step in optimizing your products to rank on Amazon: increase your sales rank as fast as you can in order to trigger a “snowball” effect. A higher sales rank will lead to more visibility in search results which will lead to more sales and so on. At first this suggestion may seem like a catch-22. After all, how can you raise sales rank when your product is less visible in search results? Amazon Search Optimization Step 1: The key to success here is to start by focusing on conversion rate (i.e. sales) until the snowball effect kicks in. Use both Amazon and outside advertising and promotion to drive targeted traffic to your products. This will increase the likelihood of sales that in turn will increase your product’s sales rank, leading to greater visibility in Amazon search. Certain products such as books can be pre-sold, a factor that you can use to increase your sales rank before the product even goes “live”. One caveat on sales rank: The study only focused on top-level product categories. As the study notes: “Amazon uses more than one sales rank metric. For each of the search indexes, Amazon maintains a sales rank value; we call this a top-level category sales rank. The site also maintains subcategory sales ranks. For example, this crib mattress from American Baby is ranked #52 in the baby category — but it’s #1 in the mattress pads subcategory. Because our study only investigated each product’s top-level category’s sales rank, and not the appropriate subcategory sales rank, there is a good chance we’ve actually understated the importance of sales for an item in search results.” Ranking Factor #2: Category While not directly correlating to search rank, knowing how to work with top-level categories on Amazon can make the difference between visibility and invisibility in search results. Here’s how it works: When you run a search on Amazon, you can either specify a top-level category or simply search all departments: Let’s say we run a search in all departments for refrigerators. Here are the results: As you can see, the search results are returned for all departments (listed on the left) in which refrigerators are listed. Some searchers might narrow their search by clicking on refrigerators under appliances in the left column however, the number one selling refrigerator is not in the “Appliances” category, it’s in the “Tools & Home Improvement” category: Clicking on that search result instead of using the left category menu lands us directly in the “Tools and Home Improvement” category (note the change in the top search bar) after which all your searches will use that category instead of all departments: What’s the effect of this scenario? If you’re selling refrigerators on Amazon, it’s important to note that the top selling refrigerators use “Tools & Home Improvement” as their top-category. If you use “Appliances” as the top-category for your refrigerators, then by the time a searcher reaches step 4 above, your product will be completely invisible in search results. Ouch. Amazon Search Optimization Step 2: To retain visibility in Amazon search, make sure to do your research and list your products in the top-category in which the best selling competitive products are listed. Failing to do so will result in a dramatic loss of search visibility. Click here for more details on categorization including information on blended search categories… Ranking Factor #3: Product Fulfillment Amazon offers three primary fulfillment relationships to its vendors: 1. Amazon Shipped & Sold – In this case, you have a vendor relationship with Amazon. You sell the product to Amazon at wholesale prices, and Amazon sells it for whatever retail price they deem appropriate. 2. Third party sold, Amazon Fulfilled – This is a typical consignment relationship. The product is still entirely owned by a third party seller, but it resides in an Amazon warehouse ready to be picked and shipped when ordered. Amazon calls this program Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). In most cases, this is the best route for a merchant to sell Prime-eligible products directly to the consumer. 3. Third party shipped and sold – This is a typical drop-ship relationship. The item is listed for sale on Amazon.com but resides in the seller’s warehouse. When an order is placed, the third party seller picks and ships the item. As part of the study, Ripen assigned ranking factors an “r-value”. As the study explains, “The higher the R-value, the more likely that products or pages fulfilling that ranking factor will rank better in search results.” As the chart below demonstrates, the correlation found between product fulfillment method and Amazon search rank was strong: In fact, third party fulfillment seems to negatively affect a product’s search rank. As an independent factor, when a product is “Prime eligible”, it also ranks higher in search. Amazon Search Optimization Step 3: If you want your products to rank higher in Amazon search, investigate the opportunities to have your products sold by Amazon and be Prime eligible as the alternative fulfillment methods seem to negatively impact Amazon search ranking. Ranking Factor #4: Keywords Ripen’s study notes an interesting departure from a widely held belief on product keywords: “A great deal of existing Amazon SEO advice suggests keyword stuffing the product title, but we advise against keyword stuffing at the cost of click-through rate.” The insight here focuses on title length. While Amazon provides 500 characters for a product’s title, the average cutoff (where the title doesn’t fit and is truncated) on mobile devices occurs at 74 characters and on desktop devices at 110 characters. As the chart below demonstrates, there’s a correlation between shorter titles and sales rank showing that products with titles under 74 characters sell better: While a keyword-stuffed title may gain a product visibility for more keywords, the numbers show that it can backfire instead. For example: A product titled, “Bed Sheets — King/Queen/Full/Twin — Black/Blue/Orange/Green/Red” may show up in more searches, but sell less because shoppers will click through less often. A product titled, “Bed Sheets — King — Red will show up in less searches but lead to more click-throughs as it’s the exact product for which the shopper is searching. Given this bias towards exact product titles leading to more sales, Rekuc hypothesizes that, “uploading different images for product variations will also lead to better click-throughs. After all, a shopper looking for a red sheet will be less likely to click on an image if it shows black sheets even if the product title says red.” He also recommends stuffing the keywords into product descriptions instead of titles. “The correlation between description and Amazon search ranking is low, but it can’t hurt.” Amazon Search Optimization Step 4: Make your product titles concise and to the point. While your products may show up in less searches, this approach is shown to correlate with higher sales. Ranking Factor #5: Discounts While the correlation between pricing discounts and Amazon search rank were low, Rekuc offered another hypothesis here. “Discounting your products, especially at first, may lead to more conversions which in turn will raise your sales rank leading to a better search rank.” Amazon Search Optimization Step 5: Consider pricing discounts up front to increase sales rank, which will positively affect Amazon search rank. Conclusion While Ripen eCommerce’s study is by no means a complete view of how Amazon ranks products in its search results, it’s the first tantalizing view behind the curtains of the ecommerce giant’s methodology for doing so. If you want to know how to rank on Amazon, review the guide above for 5 steps you can take to increase the search rank of your Amazon products.  Please share additional tips you have on ranking in Amazon in comments. Amazon.com Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” A Behind The Curtain Look At How to Rank on Amazon ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Choosing the perfect business structure for your new business can seem a little daunting. The incorporation process is riddled with cumbersome legal jargon, and it’s enough to confuse even the sharpest of entrepreneurs. Like it or not, it’s crucial you do your homework. Although some business structures do share similarities, each one comes hand-in-hand with its own unique set of advantages — and the company type you choose will inevitably pose major legal implications for your business and the way in which it’s taxed. To help point you in the right direction, here are five of the most common business structures, what sets them apart and how they’re taxed: Which Business Structure Is Right For You? Sole Proprietorships A sole proprietorship an extremely basic business structure in which you’re fully responsible for a company’s assets and liabilities. You don’t need to take any action or sign any paperwork in order to form a sole proprietorship — so long as you’re the company’s sole owner, all of your business activities will automatically come under this status. Freelance writers and consultants tend to favour the sole proprietorship model. The single greatest advantage of forming a sole proprietorship is that it is not a terribly costly endeavor. You won’t have a whole lot of legal costs, and you enjoy full control over your business and all of the decisions that it must make. That said, as a sole proprietor you will maintain unlimited personal liability for your business. Because there is no legal distinction between you and your business, you could end up losing personal assets if the business runs into trouble. As a sole proprietor, all of your business income will be treated exactly like personal income — which makes filing taxes for business purposes extremely simple. Business income, losses and expenses are all reported on your personal return. Partnerships Loads of professions rely on partnership structures in order to do business. In the Unites States, there are three main types of partnership arrangements that new business can choose from: general partnerships, limited partnerships and joint ventures. General partnerships ensure that profits, liability and management duties are equally divided among business partners. Limited partnerships are a bit more complex, and allow partners to have both limited liability and limited input on management decisions. Finally, joint ventures are effectively treated as general partnerships that come with an expiry date. Partners involved in a joint venture can continue working together after the conclusion of a joint venture, but they’ve got to subsequently file as such. Key partnership advantages include the protection of shared financial commitments, a quick and inexpensive incorporation process and a built-in incentive for ambitious employees. On the other hand, the primary disadvantage of forming a partnership is that they do not come with limited financial liability. Similar to sole proprietorships, partners retain full liability for a company’s finances and debts. Partnerships must register with the IRS, and will be expected to file an annual information return each year. Partnerships are also typically liable to pay employment taxes and excise taxes. Meanwhile, partners will be responsible for paying income tax, self-employment tax and estimated tax. Limited Liability Companies A limited liability company (LLC) is a popular business structure designed to provide the legal flexibility and tax efficiencies of a partnership with the limited liability of a large corporation. This structure is suitable for businesses operating in a wide array of industries. The key advantage of forming an LLC is that it protects company owners from personal liability for the business activities or debts of that company. LLC owners also enjoy minimal record-keeping responsibilities, and this particular business structure makes it relatively simple to share and distribute business profits. The only tangible disadvantage of the LLC structure is the way in which it’s taxed. In the eyes of the law, an LLC isn’t its own tax entity. That means company members are technically considered self-employed, and will be expected to pay their own self-employment taxes in order to cover things like Social Security and Medicare. It also means that LLCs must file taxes using either a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship tax return. How your LLC must ultimately file will depend largely upon how many members your company has. For more information on how your LLC is taxed and which forms you will need to file, it’s worth taking a look at the IRS guide to Limited Liability Companies . Corporations A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders, and is typically recommended only for larger businesses with multiple employees. As a separate legal entity, the shareholders and members of a corporation enjoy limited liability for company debts. Setting up a corporation is a bit more difficult than an LLC, as corporations are subject to more complex tax requirements and legal responsibilities. That said, corporations do hold a key advantage over other business types because they are able to generate crucial business capital through the sale of company stock. Corporations must register with the IRS — and unlike partnerships or sole proprietorships, are responsible for paying federal, state and local taxes . As a separate, tax-paying entity, corporation owners are only required to pay taxes on corporate profits that have been paid to them. That will typically include a salary, bonuses and any dividends that may have been received. Shareholders who are also employees will be expected to pay income tax on their wages; however, some employee benefits are considered deductible or partially-deductible businesses expenses. S Corporations An S corporation is different from a normal corporation in that its owners are only taxed on a personal level. The owners of S corporations also enjoy limited personal financial liability, and the profits and losses of that corporation can pass through their personal tax returns. As a result, an S corporation isn’t technically taxed — only the corporation’s shareholders are paying taxes. S corporations also enjoy a substantial amount of tax savings because only the wages of employee shareholders are subject to employment tax. A lot of employee expenses can also be written off as business expenses. To be considered an S corporation in the eyes of the law, you must register your business as a corporation in the state where it’s headquartered. It’s also worth pointing out that not all states tax S corporations equally. For more information on S corporations and how they’re taxed, you should visit the IRS website . At the end of the day, the type of business structure you choose for your new company will depend entirely on what it is you’re after. Sit down, and have a long, hard think about how you want your business to operate and where you see that business headed in the long-term. Above all else, if you’re in doubt, always get in touch with a professional. Folders Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” What Kind Of Business Structure Should I Use When Starting a Business? ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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  Embed this Infographic on your Site Different communities may attract different kinds of entrepreneurs. Some qualities — such as customers with sufficient disposable income, availability of a large employee pool, low taxes and fewer regulations — certainly tend to make a community more appealing to entrepreneurs  in general. Still other aspects of a community might appeal to a specific type of entrepreneur. In an effort to determine what kinds of entrepreneurs are drawn to different communities, Small Business Trends recently conducted a study of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners to discover the types of business owners drawn to various U.S. cities. The study then looked at the characteristics of communities that drew each group. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share these results.  We’ll look at what communities seem to draw the most women entrepreneurs, minority entrepreneurs and small business entrepreneurs and why. We’ll also look at the results of a NerdWallet study that attempted to rank cities by their attractiveness to young entrepreneurs. But let’s get started with the top cities for women in business. Top Cities for Women Entrepreneurs When it comes to cities attracting women entrepreneurs, some of the names on the list shouldn’t be too surprising. Top communities on the list are known as leaders in tourism, fashion, finance, media and entertainment. But some have also seen the burgeoning of women owned engineering and tech firms. Some communities also offer organizations and incentive programs aimed at promoting women entrepreneurs. Here are the top cities for women entrepreneurs based on the data: New York City Since New York City is the biggest city by population in the U.S., it shouldn’t be too surprising it also has the highest number of female entrepreneurs by a decent margin, with 413,899 according to recent Census data. In addition to the large population, the city also draws in a large base of female entrepreneurs thanks to booming industries like tourism, fashion, finance and media. NYC also offers resources specifically for women entrepreneurs in the city. Los Angeles The second most populous city in the U.S. also boasts the second largest number of women entrepreneurs, with 192,358. Due in part to the large entertainment industry in Los Angeles , there is a huge need for businesses in a variety of creative fields such as hospitality, tourism, transportation and food service.  Millennial and women entrepreneurs make up a large number of business owners in these niches. Chicago With 123,632 women business owners, Chicago is third on the list both in terms of women business owners and general population. Chicago’s large business community can be attributed in part to its many professional and educational institutions as well as to a decent tourism industry, which impacts everything from shopping to food. The city has also seen growth in female owned engineering and tech firms in recent years. Houston The fourth largest city in terms of population is also the fourth on the list of top cities for women entrepreneurs with 102,813. Aside from the population, Houston , like other Texas city’s, has no corporate income and personal income tax. Houston also has a number of incentives and programs, such as enterprise zones and industrial districts, aimed at getting business owners to start or relocate their businesses to the city.  It’s strong medical community attracts women entrepreneurs as does tech, finance and the law. Dallas Dallas is another city that benefits from the state’s tax structure when it comes to attracting new business owners — of any kind. The ninth largest city in terms of general population has 52,798 female business owners. Aside from the tax structure, the city’s infrastructure, cost of living and available workforce may contribute to its attraction. Target industries include building, food manufacturing, media, IT and more. San Diego With 47,942 female business owners, the eighth most populous city ranks sixth on this list. San Diego draws in entrepreneurs from a variety of industries, including aerospace, maritime, cybersecurity and manufacturing, through research, advocacy and similar support programs. San Antonio San Antonio has about 44,295 women business owners and ranks seventh in terms of overall population. Again, in addition to favorable tax conditions , San Antonio also offers some property tax programs that could benefit local businesses, along with foreign trade zones, industrial districts and more incentive programs to bring businesses to the area.  A high number of women business owners tap into lucrative retail, restaurant and communication niches. Phoenix The sixth largest city in terms of general population has 44,294 women business owners. Technology, manufacturing, bioscience and advanced business services are all growing industries in Phoenix. The city also has a diverse talent pool and proximity to several high profile educational institutions. In addition, the Women’s Enterprise Foundation offers scholarships and grants to women in Phoenix looking to further their education and leadership skills. Philadelphia Philadelphia has the fifth largest population in the U.S. and about 40,906 women business owners. The city’s neighborhood revitalization efforts, skilled workforce, centralized location and corporate support initiatives are draws for businesses.  Women business owners are concentrated in healthcare, construction, technology and staffing services. San Francisco With 40,135 female entrepreneurs, the city with the 14th largest population has a larger than average entrepreneurial community thanks to a diverse and innovative business ecosystem. San Francisco’s research centers, universities and business leaders make it an attractive option for tech business owners and those in creative industries.  Successful woman owned companies in San Francisco are in technology, mental health, dermatology, printing and staffing services. Miami Although Miami is 44th in the U.S. in terms of population, the city has 39,762 female business owners. Part of the reason Miami draws in so many women entrepreneurs is its business incentives such as enterprise and empowerment zones. The city also has a vibrant tourism industry and diverse talent pool. Detroit Though Detroit was hit hard by the recent recession, the city has 38,576 female business owners. The city  ranks 18th in terms of general population. Since emerging from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, Detroit has a high demand for products and services in a huge range of industries. And lax regulations and low barriers to entry make it a great option for women entrepreneurs just starting out or looking to break into new markets. In addition, Detroit is packed full of engineers and manufacturing professionals. And there’s even a growing tech sector attracting business owners to the area. Memphis Memphis ranks 20th in the country in terms of population and has 35,710 women business owners. The city offers tax incentives, site selection assistance, research services and similar resources in order to attract businesses to the area. Target industries include bioscience, manufacturing, green business and music and tourism. Austin The 11th in overall population and fourteenth in number of women business owners, Austin boasts 34,253 female entrepreneurs. The capital of Texas offers the same tax benefits as the other Texas cities on this list. And with a vibrant music, arts and creative scene, it’s a big draw for creative and young entrepreneurs. Charlotte Charlotte ranks 17th in terms of general population and has 32,008 female entrepreneurs. The city draws in women business owners with incentives like tax credits, financial programs and even contracting opportunities. The city also has several business districts that it is working to revitalize. Seattle The 22nd largest city in the U.S. has about 29,617 women business owners. With programs like business financing, workforce development and site selection assistance, Seattle  is working to draw even more entrepreneurs to set up shop in the area. The city even has several outlined areas where it designates funds specifically for services that benefit businesses in the area. Fort Worth With 29,425 female business owners, Fort Worth attracts entrepreneurs with its low cost of living, business friendly tax structure and talented labor pool. The city, which is 16th in terms of overall population, also offers enterprise zones, public improvement districts and neighborhood empowerment zones. Portland Portland currently has about 29,074 women business owners. It ranks 28th in overall population. The city boasts a vibrant creative community that attracts entrepreneurs ranging from chefs to designers. It also offers financial support, business districts and other economic development strategies. San Jose The 10th most populous city in the U.S. has about 28,981 female entrepreneurs. San Jose  works to attract entrepreneurs through workforce development, real estate and cultural programs. Denver With 28,725 women business owners, Denver is currently the 23rd largest city by population in the U.S. and the city boasts qualities that would attract any entrepreneur regardless of gender. A big part of the city’s draw for business owners is its young, active and energetic workforce. Some of the industries that the city is focusing on include health and wellness, energy and bioscience. Jacksonville The 12th largest city in the U.S. currently has about 28,749 female entrepreneurs. Jacksonville  is working to redevelop some of its economically distressed areas and promote private capital investment for businesses in the area, part of what might draw some of those business owners to the city. Atlanta Atlanta’s 28,172 women business owners make it 22nd on this list, though it’s fortieth by overall population. The city works to attract business owners and grow its business community by providing small business loans, issuing bonds to spur commercial development and promote other relevant business incentives. Indianapolis As the 13th largest city in the U.S., Indianapolis boasts 27,668 women business owners. Indianapolis  touts its ability to offer businesses all the accessibility of a small city, but the amenities that you would find in much larger cities. There are also tax abatement programs, grants and similar business incentive programs offered. Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital currently has about 27,064 female entrepreneurs, and is the 24th largest city by population. Government contractors and political service providers are of course more prevelant in Washington, D.C. than they are in many other cities. But the city also offers business improvement districts, community development corporations and similar programs to improve its business community. Columbus Columbus is the 15th most populous city in the U.S. and has about 27,044 women business owners. The city has some very specific goals for adding capital investment and creating jobs in the community. So the community is working to attract investments for local businesses, connecting startups with local resources and helping existing businesses to expand. Baltimore The 26th largest city in the U.S. is also 26th in terms of female entrepreneurs, with 24,599. With business friendly features like steady tax rates, counseling and talent recruitment, the local government and business community both work to create a diverse and tight-knit business community in Baltimore . Nashville With the 25th largest population in the U.S., Nashville boasts 24,115 women entrepreneurs. Known as Music City, Nashville’s creative community is part of what makes it a draw for entrepreneurs. In addition, the city offers employment, investment and tax incentives for certain businesses. El Paso The 19th largest city in the country, El Paso has about 21,872 female business owners. In addition to the tax reasons that make Texas such a popular destination for just about any entrepreneur, El Paso has business incentives like foreign trade zones. Las Vegas The booming tourism industry in Las Vegas is part of what attracts some business owners, including the 21,421 female business owners, to the city. Tax credits, financing and other state and local incentive program also attract some entrepreneurs to Las Vegas. Oklahoma City Oklahoma City has 20,163 women business owners and is the 29th largest city in terms of overall population. A big draw to this city is its low cost of living. But there are also some business specific programs like enterprise zones, foreign trade zones and more. Images: NYCEDC ,  Visit Houston ,  DCCD San Antonio ,  San Francisco Travel ,  Greater Memphis Chamber ,  Visit Seattle ,  San Jose ,  Atlanta ,  Brand Columbus ,  Visit El Paso This article, ” 30 Top Cities for Women Entrepreneurs ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Four years after falling flat as a random chat “roulette” site, video sharing service Airtime has been relaunched as a free group video chat mobile app. The brainchild of Napster co-founder Sean Parker, Airtime was launched in 2011 as a live video chat site. It generated a huge level of buzz, stringing up endorsements from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Olivia Munn and Martha Stewart. Yet within a matter of months, a lack of user activity rendered the site dormant. The concept was effectively dead and buried. But now, Parker and his team have totally revived Airtime as a dynamic group video chat room. Airtime Group Video Chat Relaunched Available as a free iOS  and  Android  app, this new version of Airtime enables users to create a private room, invite others to join and then drop in a diverse range of media in order to experience it collectively. Thanks to Airtime’s heavily-integrated interface, that media can be pulled directly from mainstream sites like YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud and Spotify — placing the app within striking distance of major competitors like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. “With Airtime, we’re demonstrating that technology can do much more for our relationships than provide a platform for likes and comments,” Parker and his team wrote in a blog post announcing Airtime’s return  in April. “With Airtime, you can make new memories with your people rather than just showing them what they missed out on in your life. This is the future of social.” According to Parker, up to six users are able to post in a chat room in real-time. Yet each message can be monitored by as many as 250 group members — and users are able to receive doorbell notifications of thumbnail reactions to their posts. A far more social beast than its predecessor, this latest version of Airtime group video chat also works harmoniously with other mainstream social media networks. Video posts on the app can be instantly re-posted onto sites like Instagram — with Airtime overlaying a readable URL that followers can type in to join your group chat room. With numerous brands already having harnessed formidable levels of recognition and lead generation from engaging with would-be consumers on Airtime’s more established competitors, industry analysts have already pointed out that small businesses could ultimately stand to make huge gains from getting involved with the new platform. In the long-term, Parker has also said he’s keen to further integrate Airtime for TV streaming so that friends can watch their favorite shows with one another and chat about them in real time from opposite ends of the planet. Those ambitions directly echo that of video streaming competitor Meerkat. Earlier this year, developers announced Meerkat would be ditching live-streaming in favor of a more social video sharing experience. This article, ” Airtime Relaunches As Group Video Chat, Wants To Be The Future Of Social ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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In the era of massive competition, small business automation can be used to stay afloat. With a large amount of workload to tend to and a number of hats to hone, small businesses are usually pressed for time. Necessary day-to-day tasks pile up and can be time-consuming and redundant. As a result, businesses cannot focus completely on the important tasks at hand. Since this becomes a continuous process, it may lead to an inhibition of growth. Small business automation is an effective solution for this problem. It is the method of streamlining repetitive and arduous operations by making it hands-free. In other words, Business Process Automation (BPA) utilizes technology in a smart way to make the tasks simple and more efficient, thus increasing productivity. Here are some of the effective ways to get started with your small business automation process. Use Small Business Automation For Daily Tasks If you look closely, you will find that certain daily tasks take up more time than necessary, thus affecting productivity. These tasks can include: Checking emails Project management Communication Providing customer support Apart from relying on apps and other tools, these activities can be automated by grouping them together according to the relevant categories. For example, going through emails twice or thrice a day instead of every few minutes can save a lot of time. Automate Repetitive Tasks You need to identify the tasks that are labor-intensive and repetitive. Which tasks of your business’s operation require repetitive management and do not have much human-added value? These are the ones that need to be automated first. Some of these tasks may include: Accounting and payroll Invoicing Inventory management Creating reports Tools like Openbravo, Freshbooks and so on can automate these tasks for you. These tools will eliminate scope for human error while saving money and time, which you can invest in other important tasks. Streamline Data and Metrics Data is one of the biggest assets of small and medium businesses. This includes data involving consumer activities as well as the analytics indicating company’s performance. There are a number of ways to gather customer data like providing free WiFi, monitoring customer behavior and so on which may become more time-consuming than you thought. Additionally, monitoring metrics to analyze the progress of the new strategies being rolled out by your company can turn out to be quite tedious as well. The good news is, the entire process can be automated with the help of various tools and apps. For example, Google Analytics, Act, Qualtrics etc. can simplify these tasks. In addition to that, wireless automation has already cooked up a storm over the years making business processes more accessible and increasing connectivity. With data degradation becoming a major concern, small business automation is being debated as one of the solutions for this problem. Integrate Marketing Automation Simply put, marketing automation is the method of streamlining and simplifying marketing operations with the use of software. Every company deals with a host of conversion paths for their customers. These may include: Google search Social media conversions Email marketing Content marketing It becomes very inconvenient to chase each of these unique conversion paths individually. This is where marketing automation comes in. Tools like MailChimp, HootSuite etc. are highly effective. Additionally, with mobile marketing gaining momentum, attending to the relevant requirements has become the need of the hour. Recently, the marketing software provider, Marketo announced a partnership with the mobile marketing company, Vibes to automate mobile marketing. Hire Small Business Automation Experts With several automation processes going on, these can become quite confusing and difficult to manage at a certain point of time. Hiring an automation expert can be an effective solution in that case. An automation expert analyzes each business process that has been automated, identifies loopholes, implements the right strategies and devises methods to increase the efficiency of every process. An expert will bring experience to the table and set your business’s automation methods on the right track. Automation is the next-generation solution for small businesses to focus more on the growth and unlock their full potential. With automation becoming the norm for today’s entrepreneurs, it is time to make the most of it. Production Line Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Effective Tips for Small Business Automation ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Profit is how we keep score in business. Just because you can pencil profit into the financial section of your business plan doesn’t mean it automatically will happen. As an entrepreneur, you have to commit fully to “minding your own business” to generate the profits that you seek. Here are several strategies I encourage you to follow as you look to make your small business more profitable. How To Make Your Small Business More Profitable Use Good Resources To operate a profitable small business, you have to constantly evaluate the productivity gains from people and resources. I don’t hire someone without knowing the potential return on investment for my business. You can’t afford waste with a small company. Before buying equipment, inventory, or supplies, consider the direct or indirect impact the investment has on your bottom line. Use Monthly Sales Goals Putting pen to paper and analyzing profit potential doesn’t take a lot of painstaking effort. However, putting hands to dirt to execute your weekly and monthly sales goals is an exercise that you want to start early. It is rare to find profits without hard work. If you always focus on monthly sales goals then you will focus on weekly sales objectives. By doing this on a regular basis you will always stay focused on marketing. Too often business owners focus on the job at hand  and don’t fill their pipeline. Always Look for Efficiency Gains The key to maximizing profit potential in a small business is to always look for efficiency gains. Look for ways to save $100 per month. Check your fees that are deducted monthly from your business account. Are you using that club membership? website app? or email marketing program? Reduce banking fees and consider leasing equipment to improve profitability. Use a bit of humility to do what is necessary to reduce costs. Profitable small-business owners often change light bulbs, do routine plumbing, clean and perform other laborious tasks. Hiring someone to do these things is naturally more expensive. Efficiency isn’t just about cost reduction, find ways to get the same or greater value with a lower investment. Increase Revenue The key to optimizing your profits lies in your ability to increase your revenue at a higher ratio than your costs. In the short term, you need to generate the maximum value from each customer and upsell them additional products and services to get more business. By focusing on your customer experience that will lead to word of mouth referrals and repeat business. It’s much cheaper to keep a loyalty than to go out and secure a new one. You also want to have a lead magnet and sales funnels to attracting new customers as an additional growth strategy as well. Pricing Strategy Evaluate your pricing strategies to enhance profits and make your small business more profitable. Make sure you evaluate all your hard and soft costs in your pricing model. Don’t undersell your products and services to drive a high-volume. Precise pricing attracts the right buyers who are willing to pay for quality. Regular discounting establishes a price orientation with buyers and minimizes gross margin. The path to profitability includes an emphasis on optimizing revenue and reducing costs. Eliminating waste and controlling costs are important as well. Profitable small-business owners create business strategies that are driven by sales. Republished by permission. Original here . Chart Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” 5 Tips to Make Your Small Business More Profitable ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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