You’ve started a business and registered your business name in your state as your trade name. That’s the name you’ll use on your bank account, tax return, and other official documents. You’re ready to start operating in your state, but you’re not done yet. Once you start using your business name to promote your products and services in the marketplace, it becomes a brand name. Just because you registered your business name and got permission to open your doors within your state doesn’t mean that you can use the name to promote your goods and services without hitting some major roadblocks. State registration of your business name has nothing to do with trademark registration of your brand name. Trade names and trademarks are two very different things . The first step to branding your business is picking a good brand name, but once you pick that name, your work isn’t done. You need to make sure that you can freely use that brand name to promote your products and services now and in the future. In other words, you don’t want to invest time and money into building a brand that can’t grow with your business. You need to conduct a comprehensive trademark search to ensure there are no conflicts with your brand name that could prevent you from using it now or expanding in the future. What is a Comprehensive Trademark Search? Trademark searches come in many shapes and sizes. A truly comprehensive trademark search typically costs at least $1,000 and is ordered by an intellectual property attorney using a professional search company. The attorney gets a report that is hundreds of pages long, reviews the report and all of the potential conflicts in its entirety, and provides a written opinion advising the client of any potential problems with the name the client wants to use. Compare that comprehensive trademark search with a preliminary search that anyone can do by visiting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website and searching its database. The differences are massive. The biggest problem with relying on the results of this type of search is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database only includes active records and direct or nearly direct matches. If you search for “Skyless,” you won’t get results like “Schyliss” or “Skyler” even though your name could conflict with those marks. Another option is to work with your business attorney or a legal document services provider like LegalZoom or MyCorporation to conduct a trademark search. Be careful because some of these providers might advertise that they offer comprehensive trademark searches, but they’re not truly comprehensive. These trademark search services are typically far less expensive than the $1,000 or so that an intellectual property attorney will charge you for a comprehensive search, which should be your first red flag that they’re not really comprehensive at all. These search services might advertise that they check the USPTO database, state corporate databases, domain names, social media profiles, and more. This might be true, but unless they’re searching all of those sources and databases using highly advanced search methods, they won’t catch all potential conflicts. The spelling example discussed earlier is just one reason why the search process matters as much as the sources and databases used to conduct the search. If your mark is determined to be confusingly similar to another mark in consumers’ minds, you could be in trouble. Spelling matters, line of business matters, and future growth plans matter. These are just a few nuances that separate a truly comprehensive search from every other type of search available. They’re not the same … not even close. Another key difference between comprehensive trademark searches and all other searches is related to common law. The United States is the only country where the law gives rights not to the first person to register a mark but rather to the first person to use a mark in commerce. What does that mean to you? It means that a search that does not include a detailed common law search (which no search does except a truly comprehensive search) is useless. Think of it this way: If you search the USPTO database for your brand name and get no hits in any class of goods or services, you might think that the mark is clear for you to use. But that’s not necessarily true. For example, a business could use that name already but never registered it. If that business operates in a similar business as yours, they could oppose your mark when you try to register it. If you choose not to register at all, that other company could find you in the future (the Internet has caused the world to shrink and they will find you) and demand that you stop using your brand name. You’d incur legal fees to fight and might have to completely rebrand your business, which is incredibly expensive. Similarly, a USPTO search or a search using a free tool like the one available at Knowem.com could include canceled marks in their search results. If you see only cancelled marks in the search results, you might think that the mark is clear for you to use. Be careful. There could be someone else using the mark who has the rights to it based on common law. For example, the owner of the original mark might not have renewed the registration but still uses the mark. Another company may have started using the mark since the original registration was cancelled. If either of those companies offer goods or services that are similar to yours, you could get into big trouble later if you use that name. Fighting a trademark infringement can be very expensive but doing a comprehensive trademark search now to ensure that your mark is clear to use and grow with your business will end up costing you significantly less money in the long run. What’s Included in a Comprehensive Trademark Search? A comprehensive trademark search is critical to ensure your brand can grow with your business. While it’s costly up front, the amount of money it could save you in the future is much, much higher. Keep in mind, not all “comprehensive” trademark searches are truly comprehensive. A true comprehensive search is usually only done by an intellectual property attorney who can digest the hundreds of pages of possible conflicts that a professional search company finds and determine which are potential problems and why. A comprehensive trademark search includes a search of: The most current data using the most expansive search methods Active and inactive federal records All relevant federal classes of goods and services (not just the class for your mark) because there could be indirect conflicts Federal indirect conflicts other than classes Multiple state databases Common law conflicts Web-based and traditional sources (e.g., trade journals, industry publications, and more) Traditional domain names Social media usernames and profile URLs Weighing the Risks and Rewards Remember, it’s the common law search and searching beyond exact matches and directly-related classes of goods and services that are missing from most search services. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who conducted trademark searches using free or cheap online tools and services only to find themselves facing an infringement lawsuit years later. Don’t let that happen to you! Think of it this way: If you hired an exterminator for your house, would you only pay for him or her to spray one room? If you bought homeowner’s insurance, would you only pay for fire insurance or would you pay for fire and theft insurance? If you lived in a flood zone, would you also pay for flood insurance? Only you can decide how much you want to invest in protecting your business and your valuable assets like your brand, so when it comes time to do a trademark search, consider the risks and benefits of the options available and choose wisely. Trademark Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Why the Trademark Search You Paid for Isn’t Good Enough ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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When you dine at Tender Greens , a sandwich and salad restaurant chain in California, you don’t just get to see the food that you and your fellow diners are enjoying that day. You will also find yourself surrounded by the food the restaurant plans to serve in the coming weeks. The restaurants grow their own produce in aeroponic towers at each location. The gardens allow the restaurants to cut down a bit on food costs, though due to small locations they can’t grow everything they use in every meal. However, thanks to the vertical tower gardens, they can grow more than even the founders originally expected. Erik Oberholtzer, co-founder of Tender Greens told Fast Company: “We’ve always been interested in growing on site. But all of our restaurants are in high-density urban areas, so aside from a few planter boxes we thought there was nothing beyond decorative that we could ever do.” Eventually, the restaurant would like to source up to 60 percent of its produce from aeroponic and hydroponic systems. Those systems use significantly less water than traditional field farming techniques, which can be especially beneficial given the current drought in California. Another benefit to the on-site vertical gardens is that customers get to see exactly where at least some of the ingredients for their meals come from. Since many consumers are becoming more health conscious and aware of the impact their eating habits can have on the environment, knowing the origins of their produce provides added peace of mind. It can also lead to conversations and learning experiences between the restaurant’s staff and patrons. Oberholtzer said: “We’re all in on controlled environment agriculture. This sets the occasion for us to have a conversation with our guests around the future of farming and the role that we intend to play in that.” In the future, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more restaurants take after Tender Greens and start growing some of their own ingredients where customers can see, making them part of the process. The farming techniques in use are still growing and improving. So, on-site produce could even eventually become something that customers expect in a local dining experience. Image: Tender Greens Facebook This article, ” Tender Greens Restaurants Grow Their Own Produce On-Site ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Content is king. You know it. Your competitors know it. Your customers also know it, even if they’re not entirely aware of how it affects their lives. The trouble is that there’s so much noise going on in the social stratosphere that it’s hard to stand out and find the “right” targeted kind of ears and eyes to read your blog posts, newsletters and videos, otherwise known as the people that will eventually turn into paying customers. Following are tips you can use to up your content game with a new content distribution strategy: 1. Platform is Just as Important as What You’re Dishing Out So many would-be marketers set up an account on every content sharing platform out there and mass “share” everything when a new article, podcast, video, etc., is released. This approach is very counter intuitive for a number of different reasons. Mainly it doesn’t take into account whether the content being shared — being spread to the masses — is relevant to the audience who sees it. If you’re sending out a bunch of salesy “Add 10 pounds of muscle by next month” type of links to a LinkedIn marketing group, think of what the users would think about your brand. 2. Be Helpful and Reliable Tossing a link to your sales page out to your Twitter followers every 20 minutes, even every day, is a sure fire way to lose customer loyalty and trust. Same goes for blog posts, vlogs and podcasts. Seek to always gain and maintain real trust before asking for the sale. Your customer will be yours forever if you’re constantly teaching them something or providing entertainment, without regularly bombarding them to buy your product. 3. Make Content Easy to Digest There are two venues you can choose from, depending on your audience: Long-form and short-form. If you want to cater to an audience who is looking for in-depth coverage about a particular topic, you should opt for long-form content. Medium length, list formatted articles that are around 700 to 1200 words, are easy for customers to scan without too much strain on their eyes or time. Same thing with video: a quick and information-rich five minute video is going to get a lot more views and shares than one where you’re hmm-ing, ha-ing and pontificating for 10 minutes or longer. If you are targeting an audience who enjoys entertaining, bite-sized talk about a topic, you should opt for short-form content. Short articles — with lots of photos, preferably — work wonders. With regard to video content, a 2 to 3 minute video can go a long way if you offer value. There is no right or wrong in this — it’s all about your decision on how you will acquire traffic. 4. Always Evaluate Results Yes, you need to bring customers in largely using freely-distributed information and entertainment. That’s the reality of the era we’re living in. Still, you can’t keep blindly pushing out free stuff and never getting any results (ie., sales and/or leads that could lead to future sales). Determine if content that’s getting more “likes” or “shares” tends to drive more sales or not, then figure out what sets that content apart from the non-performing stuff and figure out a way to replicate the success in future distributions. 5. Create Future Leverage Ask bloggers, vloggers and social butterflies in your niche if you can do guest posts on their blogs, or be an expert guest on their podcasts to increase your reach in the industry. Form friendships with people who have social media influence with the types of people you’re trying to attract to your content.  Always reciprocate when the opportunity arises, no matter how busy you might be. 6. Map Your Strategy Write or type out a formal creation/distribution plan for your content. Decide what days and times to post once and then never deviate from that plan. This will also help you to gain trust and be deemed as a reliable source in your niche area of expertise. 7. Link All Your Distribution Channels Together This should go without saying. Make sure you have clickable social sharing buttons on your main and supporting sites. Make sure all your social profiles have a link to your main sites. Make them clickable links. Don’t expect people to copy and paste your URL … they probably won’t! 8. Be Better Than the Competition Social media is “loud” and very cluttered. You need to stand out. If your biggest competitor is delivering top-notch totally fresh content to his or her audience every day, how can you expect to compete with their influence on people by posting every other day, or even less? If their vlog videos are studio quality 1080p with a sweet external Audio Technica mic, and you’re still using an old 480p cam with built-in mic, how can the customer view you as a successful authority? Find a way to be better. Take your own thought-provoking images to support your posts or to make people laugh. Do what they  won’t! 9. Curation is King Maybe not, entirely. It’s certainly not as good as original content. However, you can become an authority in your niche by delivering equal parts fresh content and the highest-quality content circulating on the Web currently. The trick is to offer the content as a link or embedded video or audio file, then offer some short insights of your own to give context to your audience. If you want to quote written content, offer short paragraphs only, to avoid “aggregating” the content, which is just straight copying someone else, and does nothing to bolster your credibility. As Matt Cutts has famously said: “Create, curate, don’t aggregate!” 10. Mobile Responsive is a Must. Your site has to be mobile responsive to get any traction from mobile users. If they can’t read or watch your stuff from their smartphones, they’ll find a site they can use. Most modern WordPress designs are very responsive as are other modern themes including Joomla and eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Magento. Always try to test each post on a mobile device before sending it out to the cloud. Simple issues like a poorly-oriented image can completely destroy a mobile user’s ability to enjoy your content. Newsstand Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Up Your Game With a New Content Distribution Strategy! ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Leaders of large companies are coming under more intense scrutiny and pressure to drive innovation within their organizations, in order to avoid being disrupted by smaller, more nimble competitors. Many are responding to this threat by flagging innovation as a corporate value and running idea submission contests, designed to promote thinking outside the square and maintain competitiveness. Continue reading →

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could set your phone to “away” instant messenger style? To not just set your phone to vibrate but to actually let callers know that you are unavailable. A new U.S. patent recently granted to Apple might do just that. According to a recent AppleInsider report , future iPhones may come with the ability to automatically broadcast your operating status to contacts. Callers would then be able to access this information to determine if you are available to take their call before they ever bother dialing. Apple patents can give some idea of future product features, but details remain sketchy. Right now it’s looking like this system will work by having your iPhone send automatic status updates to a central server. Information such as if your phone’s ringer is on, if it is in airplane mode, and details about battery life, location, and cell signal strength might be included. Callers could then see this information through an app and determine if it’s a good time to call. This could be useful if you are traveling with poor signal strength or even in a different time zone. It could also be handy for those who have a lot of business meetings to attend. On the flip side, this system is potentially convenient for those who make frequent business calls and need to know if it’s a good time to contact clients and partners. Users would purportedly be able to limit the information shared through the apps settings. That’s a comforting feature as not everyone wants to broadcast their location or other information. Still, whether you can limit information shared or not, there will be privacy concerns from some users. Such a system might be better as an optional download rather than coming pre-installed. It’s unlikely Apple will be adding this new capability to their iPhones in the very near future. There are potential risks and benefits but the system could be useful if implemented effectively and with proper consideration for users. iPhone Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Apple Patents a System That Can Broadcast Your Availability Status ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Several observers have claimed that crowdfunding — the use of an Internet-based platform to raise small amounts of money from many people for a project or business — will “democratize” startup investing, giving any entrepreneur anywhere in the world equal access to potential investors. While that’s probably an exaggeration, the new fundraising tool will make it easier for entrepreneurs to access capital from investors that aren’t in their local community. Historically, most investment in start-up companies has tended to come from nearby financiers because investors need to access private information about entrepreneurs and their ventures, carefully monitor the progress of ventures in which they invest, and provide assistance to company founders. All of this is facilitated by investing close by, research on non-crowdfunding investments (angel investments and venture capital) has shown. Crowdfunding will reduce the need for investors to be proximate, recent analysis shows. In general, the Internet reduces many of the barriers that distance creates, facilitating transactions between geographically-distant parties in a wide variety of business settings; and researchers argue that the Web should do the same for financing start-ups. While only a handful of studies have examined this question, the results suggest that crowdfunding facilitates raising money from geographically-distant investors. Studies of both Sellabrand, a Amsterdam-based online platform for financing musicians, and Kickstarter, a U.S.-based crowdfunding platform, both indicate that the likelihood of faraway investors financing a start-up is more similar to that of a nearby investor online than offline. However, these studies show that crowdfunding doesn’t truly “democratize” investments, giving entrepreneurs anywhere in the world the same odds of raising money. The Internet does not eliminate all of the costs and difficulties associated with investing in faraway companies. For instance, it does little to facilitate access to information about the entrepreneur’s personal characteristics, such as her persistence or resiliency — attributes that tend to be known by people who interact with the entrepreneur regularly. As a result, when entrepreneurs use crowdfunding platforms to raise money, geographically-distant investors tend to favor those businesses and projects that have already garnered support from the entrepreneur’s friends, family, and social network. In short, the evidence thus far suggests that crowdfunding platforms make it easier for entrepreneurs to raise money from investors outside their local community. But they also increase the importance of getting initial investments from those close by. Money from friends and family signals to faraway investors that they will do okay investing in geographically-distant ventures. Kickstarter Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” How Crowdfunding Changes the Geography of Startup Investing ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Is the digital technology we are see that is emerging going to be able to provide the positive tension between rational and randomness that takes place in our innovation activities today? Continue reading →

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Small business owners wear many hats and make many decisions each day. Most of these decisions are small and they have minor impacts. Some, however, are common to most small businesses and can have major impacts. That’s what this post is all about. The First Big Challenge Facing Most Small Business Owners is Finances. As the CEO of a start-up frequently said to me, “Cash is king.” Businesses exist to make money and most small business owners run their finances without adequate planning or oversight. They monitor bank balances, accounts receivables, and expenses, but most don’t have a basic financial forecasting and reporting/monitoring structure in place. Many don’t have the luxury of a line of credit or other source of funding to help them remain solvent when inevitable financial speed bumps occur. If your business needs some help in the financial area, here is a short “best practices” checklist to consider: Get help to create a basic financial reporting structure, such as within QuickBooks or your chose accounting software. Document financial reporting guidelines to assure timely reporting and item entries that you, your employees, 1099s, etc., will follow. Create a forecast of all important financial data, such as revenues, accounts receivable, and key expense types. Commit to a regular schedule to review the reports, comparing your results to forecasts and previous time periods. Investigate short-term financial options such as a line of credit, credit card, silent investors, or other personal funds. The Second Big Challenge Facing Most Small Business Owners is People. Every person is critical to the operation. One poor performer can have major negative impacts. A sudden resignation by a key contributor can slow production of goods or services. Finding new talent for growth or to backfill openings can drag out for months because the owner is distracted by other activities or simply doesn’t have the skill to find good talent. Motivating the current team members can be overlooked or not be an innate talent of the owner. If your business needs some help in the people area, here are a few ideas to consider: Block off a few hours to consider carefully the performance of each member of your current team. Determine those who are critical to your success and what you can do to motivate and retain them, then do so. Determine those who are not performing successfully and what action you will take to address this, then do so. The Third Big Challenge Facing Most Small Business Owners is Time. Few seem to have enough of it, even if they are working 60 hours a week or more. After working long hours for years, they begin to feel they have become a slave to their business … that it is running them rather than they running it. If you are working more hours than you want and not feeling like it is getting any better, then consider these suggestions: Jot down the action items you are doing for a day or two, then review them with an eye toward those that could be eliminated. Take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I failing to delegate work that others could be doing?”, then delegate appropriately. If not in place, establish more organizational structure in your daily activities, such as a daily “to do” list and time scheduling for key activities on your calendar. Make a commitment to yourself to reasonable work hours and hold yourself to them, which will cause you to avoid low-value work. If you are a business owner who doesn’t have any of these big challenges, it’s possible you are not paying attention to one or more of them. Think again. Don’t miss this opportunity to improve your business and your work/life balance! Republished by permission. Original here . Challenge Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” 3 Challenges Small Business Owners Face ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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In emerging marijuana businesses both the opportunities and the risks are, pardon the pun, high. The same could be said for the industry’s startup potential. And even though traditional banks are not getting behind the industry just yet, there are investors in the marijuana industry. But even if you decide to take on a backer in your marijuana-related business, it doesn’t diminish the myriad risks. Rx Marijuana Use in Nearly Half the U.S. The use of medical marijuana is hardly taboo these days. Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that allow for some form of medical marijuana use. According to data compiled by ProCon.org, New York, Minnesota, and Maryland passed laws in 2014 to grant the use of prescription marijuana. Eleven states passed laws in just the last five years and more are currently considering similar measures. Out in the Open This rapid growth is giving credibility to the medical marijuana industry as a whole. And there is more startup potential than ever in that industry. And now that use of medical marijuana is more widely legalized, the people behind these businesses needn’t hide from the public or rent low-budget, non-descript conference rooms in the middle of nowhere. There’s actually an explosion of conferences for companies and entrepreneurs already working in legalized marijuana. And these are havens for entrepreneurs considering entrance into the industry, too. If you’re interested in learning more about the variety of marijuana business opportunities, check our events calendar to see some listings of conferences in that niche. When you attend one of the conferences, it’s best not to go in green. Generally speaking, this is not the pop culture version of the marijuana industry. This is serious business. To that end, here are some industry-related business terms to give you an idea. A full glossary of marijuana business and industry terms is provided by the Marijuana Investor News. Some of those terms include : Collective gardens Gardens shared by qualified patients that produce and process cannabis for medicinal use Food-based MMJ concentrate Produced by extracting cannabinoids from medical marijuana through the use of propylene glycol, glycerin, butter, olive oil or other cooking fats Industrial hemp All parts and varieties of the cannabis plant that contain less than .3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp production is controlled and regulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; it is illegal to grow hemp without a permit from the DEA. MMJ Commonly accepted abbreviation for medical marijuana MMJ infused product manufacturer A business licensed to operate a manufactory that infuses products with medical marijuana. The Growing Season The number of companies involved in marijuana, recreational and medicinal uses combined, is growing. And the industry itself is growing, too. There is more legal money involved in the marijuana business than ever before in the U.S. ArcView Group is an investor network but it also helps growth within the marijuana startup scene. According to Troy Dayton, ArcView’s CEO, the total legal cannabis market in 2014 grew to $2.7 billion, a 74 percent increase over the previous year. And it’s likely these numbers will increase this year. Simply put, there are more people at liberty to contribute to the medical marijuana economy. Michael Zaytsev, co-founder of the High NY Meetup.com group is focused on empowering cannabis leaders through networking and knowledge. He says: “There are countless opportunities in this industry for entrepreneurs — tourism, compliance, education, branding, software, hardware, biotech and more.” In its Cannabis Industry Report, Viridian Capital Research found : “More institutional capital will flow into public cannabis companies in 2015, reflecting the sector’s growth prospects … “. Time To Grow Up Puns and joking aside, the marijuana industry is legitimizing itself. And with that growth also comes a time of maturity. Even if banks are refusing to back the industry — mainly because in the eyes of the federal government it’s considered illegal — private and public investors aren’t exactly shying away at the opportunity. There are even “hands off” investment opportunities where the actual marijuana plant is never handled, such as the MassRoots iPhone app, the information-sharing community that trades publicly on the OTCQB, an over-the-county securities market, under the symbol ‘MSRT’. Here are some recent examples highlighting the growth and acceptance of the marijuana industry: Investors in ArcView Group’s network more than doubled their investments in the cannabis industry last year. In 2014, the group’s investors put $39 million into 53 companies somehow connected to the marijuana industry. In January, Founders Fund announced participation in a multi-million dollar investment round into a cannabis venture. This month, Kevin Harrington, one of the original Sharks on the hit show “Shark Tank” and co-founder of Entrepreneurs Organization will be part of panels during the Marijuana Investor Summit in Denver. That type of investor is not looking for some garage grow room operation. They’re expecting a professionally-run and well-managed business as the recipients of their investment money. And in the face of this rapid growth, Viridian’s report warns that this year will see many more marijuana-related businesses fail because of this. Researchers said: “The industry is undergoing a shakeout on a very fundamental basis due to the early stage nature of the industry and the lack of executive experience. Hype will not be enough to sustain companies in the eyes of investors and may contribute to action by regulators. We will likely see a number of public cannabis companies fail this year. With increasing flows of ‘smart money’ will come increasing demand for companies to demonstrate top-tier management and sustainable business models.” The Buzzkill Of course, the one big risk involved with any business in the marijuana industry is the fact that marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. State laws and business licenses aside, marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 narcotic per the federal Controlled Substances Act. And there is no federal agency that will back its use for any medicinal purposes. And as with any illegal industry, the legal landscape is fogged. It stands to reason that this area will remain a hot topic for the near future. Remember, use of marijuana for any purpose is still illegal in more than half of the U.S. So there are interstate commerce laws to consider on top of the federal. Within the “canna-business” community, the risks involved are considered essential knowledge and emphasized because of the domino effects they can create. For example, traditional financing and even normal banking can get complicated because federal regulations preclude transactions involving “drug money.” Proceed with caution and preferably with strong local and online communities to guide you. Medical Marijuana Dispensary Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Marijuana Businesses Offer Opportunities, But Also Risks ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Blending in-person and online networking and building active, engaged and loyal communities are key factors in today’s small business success. We should have an online presence but we cannot hide behind our websites, blogs, or social media platforms. People want to know, like, and trust who they are considering or people with whom they’re already doing business. We need to put a real face with that image of what we promote online. The ICON15 Small Business conference, hosted and presented by Infusionsoft.com , is one of the best conferences that Small Business influencers, leaders and owners attend each year. I was there again on behalf of Small Business Trends capturing some insights and interviews from keynotes and session speakers. More than 3,000 media professionals, small business owners, keynotes, session speakers and attendees gathered for education, information, motivation and fun. It was a huge small business “pep rally.” I interviewed some of the best of the best and one excerpt appears in the video at the end of this article. From podcasting, sales, focus, branding and content marketing, to video, local marketing, professionalism and perseverance, these small business leaders shared their stories and bared their souls. They shared their experiences, hope, commitment and the ineffable joy for what they have built and are doing. Clate Mask, CEO and Founder of Infusionsoft, @ClateMask Mask (pictured above) shared some personal and candid changes he made personally this year to grow and calm his chaos. “I did two things this past year with building my team and building myself that helped me calm my chaos and take some weight off my shoulders. It’s a continual investment in those areas. “I promoted a team member and upgraded an existing position with a new team member that added more experience.  I also meet weekly with a coach, who helps me to see things differently. It’s vital that I can help leaders lead in a more powerful way.” John Lee Dumas, EntrepreneurOnFire Podcast, @JohnLeeDumas Dumas’s very enthusiastic approach on his award winning EntrepreneurnFire podcast translates to his interviews with some of today’s most inspiring Entrepreneurs 7-days a week. “The biggest benefit of podcasting is its on demand feature. If you miss it, you can always go back to it and it will be there. I was no longer on somebody else’s schedule.” Wes Schaeffer, The Sales Whisperer, @SalesWhisperer Schaeffer, of TheSalesWhisperer.com , is all about inspiring sales professionals to be the best of the best, with sales ideas, automation sales tools, his Think Like a Man podcast, CD’s, books, keynotes and workshops. “You want to enter the conversation going on in the mind of the prospect. Learn about them before so you give them information they are interested in.” Greg Head, CMO Infusionsoft.com , @GregHeadAZ The chief of marketing for Infusionsoft.com, Head (pictured above) leads a team of  successful and passionate sales and marketing professionals who help entrepreneurs build businesses, have a great life and “Focus to Grow.” “The simple answer is by focusing on a smaller segment of customers you can serve well, narrowing what you offer, and having fewer tactics, ironically you can focus and grow the business better.” Andrew Davis, BrandScaping.ca, @TPLDrew Davis, of BrandScaping.ca , has wrangled for The Muppets and written for Charles Kuralt. He’s marketed for tiny startups and Fortune 500 brands. His new book “ Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships ,” puts his common sense approach to work for small business. “Define your niche and focus on being something to somebody.” Carey Ballard, Director of Content Marketing at Infusionsoft, @CareyBallard1 Carey heads up Infusionsoft’s content marketing initiatives via blogging, social media, video. “Use content marketing to educate and brand yourself as resource and leader in your field or industry. You don’t have to be creating all your content. You can be a ‘content curator’ that brings great content to your community.”   Rohit Bhargava, Influential Marketing Group, @RohitBhargava Bhargava, of Influential Marketing Group , is a marketer, speaker, trend curator, author of five best-selling books including “ Non-Obvious: Connecting Data to Action in a Data-Crazy World ” and “ Likeonomics .” “One of the trend ideas that is gaining traction now is ‘glanceable content’. Putting content into a format where people can consume it quickly and capture attention and interest in a short span of time.” Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends, @SmallBizTrends Small Business Trends is an award-winning online publication for small business owners, entrepreneurs and is the premier source of information, breaking news and advice covering issues of key importance to small businesses. “The number one thing for small business success is perseverance. People give up too soon before things start to take off. You have to stick with it, and find ways to motivate yourself. “ Carmen Sognonvi, Urban Martial Arts , @UMAMartialArts Sognonvi combines old school marketing tactics like flyers and signage with new school digital marketing to build a local following in Brooklyn, New York. “When you are a local brick and mortar business, it’s really important to have a good ground game. Flyers, signage and promotional booths at street fairs built our first 100 clients in the first 6 months.” 2015 Icon Small Business of the Year Brian Young, Home Painters Toronto, @HomePaintersTO The community vote this year for the 2015 Small Business ICON Grand Prize went to Brian Young from Home Painters Toronto .  Brian won a $10,000 prize and many more opportunities await Young to continue to grow his business. He attributes his success to “having good role models and turning to them whenever I had a bad day. I used movies too and am especially a big Rocky fan. Whenever I watch it, I knew that no matter how bad things got, there’s always a way around it.” Here’s an excerpt of my interview with Clate Mask: Group of People Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” 10 Online Community Building Tips From Small Business Pros Who Have Done It ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

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