It’s been a relatively tame tropical storm season in the Atlantic Ocean but Tropical Storm Erika is making a late-August run at the Southeast U.S. Some tracks have the storm on a path to collide with the southern tip of Florida — and potentially move into the Gulf of Mexico — by early next week. That potential has prompted Florida’s Small Business Development Center to issue a warning to companies in the state: Get prepared. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 25 percent of small businesses never reopen in the wake of a natural disaster, like a hurricane or tropical storm. Some suggest that rate could be even higher, though it all likely hinges on the severity level of the storm. In preparation for such extreme weather emergencies, the federal agency recommends businesses: Determine which of your business systems are mission critical, Develop an emergency communications plan to keep your people connected. Confirm that your business systems are truly ready to function in a disaster. Prepare a disaster preparedness kit for your business In a statement this week, the Florida SBDC says now is the time, ahead of the storm, for small businesses to get together a Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, and Disaster Recovery Plan. The agency is offering some help to small businesses in the lead up to the storm … and a stark reminder of what could happen if businesses forgo being ready in the case of a natural disaster. Michael W. Myhre, CEO and Network State Director for the Florida SBDC, said in a statement this week: “As we remember the 10th anniversary of a hurricane season that devastated Florida, we are reminded of what can happen to a community when its businesses are destroyed and never recover. “Though it is too early to determine if Tropical Storm Erika will maintain its current course, and what intensity it will become, businesses should continue to monitor developments and have a disaster plan in place.” Image: NOAA/ National Hurricane Center As of Friday afternoon, Erika was centered on Hispaniola as a tropical storm (sustained winds between 39-73 mph). Through the weekend, the storm will cruise through the Caribbean Sea, only grazing eastern Cuba’s coastline before bearing down on the southern portion of Florida. The storm’s path could have it impacting the city of Miami as a tropical storm, not a hurricane. Even with steady winds at that speed, it’s enough to cause property damage, knock out electricity, and cause serious injuries. That’s especially true if preparations are not taken ahead of time. Also, consider that the forecast landfall in the U.S. isn’t until Monday morning so the forecast could change and the storm could strengthen or weaken. Though it currently appears unlikely that Florida or anywhere else in the South will see a major impact from the storm, even one day lost carries a cost. Florida’s SBDC is offering, at no cost, to connect small businesses with experts in the state to help them prepare a business continuity plan. These are plans that help a business stay running in the event of a natural disaster. And planning at this point could take as little as five minutes, according to Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. In a statement issued Aug. 27, FDEM director Bryan W. Koon said : “A visit to FLGetAPlan.com takes just five minutes, and can help you create a plan to better prepare your family and keep them safe. The website provides a quick and simple option for those looking to build a basic emergency plan for their family or business.” Even if a small business is not in the expected path of Tropical Storm Erika, it’s wise to prepare in the event of any natural disaster. Hurricanes and major snowstorms allow some time to prepare but others like earthquakes and tornadoes give, at most, a few minutes. You can sign up to see past Webinars and other resources on business preparedness on PrepareMyBusiness.org . Or get more information on local disaster preparedness at FloridaDisater.org , a website operated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Image: Small Business Trends , Palm Trees Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Incoming! As Tropical Storm Erika Looms, Small Businesses Prepare ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

Facebook has been putting more and more of an emphasis on its video platform as of late. But how could that impact YouTube users? Another big name is also working on expanding one of its offerings. Wix is a relatively well known name among the small business community. The maker of drag-and-drop Web design tools has been giving businesses an easy platform to build their websites for years. But recently, the company expanded its offerings to also include CRM solutions. These and more small biz headlines are included in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup. Technology Trends YouTube Ad Revenue Sharing Threatened by Facebook Facebook has been increasing the priority of video sharing over the last year. And many of the videos shared come from YouTube. But this creates a bit of a problem for the producers of those videos. Once a video is downloaded from YouTube and uploaded to Facebook, the video’s creators no longer receive a share of the revenue being generated through Google ads run on their videos. Wix Now Has CRM for Small Business, Too You might be familiar with Wix, a company known as a maker of drag-and-drop Web design tools for small businesses. But the company has expanded its services to also include CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools. Called MyAccount CRM solution, this service offers small business owners tools for collecting and managing contacts, managing email marketing campaigns, and more. Can the Intel Thunderbolt 3 Give Your Mediocre PC Superpowers? As we move to smaller computing devices with hosted applications, the hardware that takes up space is being removed for better overall functionality. This includes powerful graphics cards, which are essential for playing games and watching rich 4K media. Intel has a solution that will solve this particular problem. Could Razer’s New 3D Camera Be Good for Online Presentations? A new 3D camera technology from Razer might be able to remove background from a headshot — as if there were a green screen behind the speaker. With this camera that’s being developed by the gaming company Razer , the user could overlay that captured video over another image on the screen, like for a webinar presentation or video tutorial. LG Promises Large Screen and Long Battery Life with G Pad II 10.1 LG announced on Monday the next G Pad tablet model, the G Pad II 10.1 . The company plans to give its newest tablet an official unveiling at IFA 2015 in Berlin next month. But for now LG is giving a peek at some of the G Pad II’s specs and features. You won’t likely get the highest specs or super clear display out of the G Pad II. Finance Should You Raise Money Through Non-Accredited Investor Equity Crowdfunding? U.S. startups can now raise money from non-accredited investors through online platforms . But just because this type of fundraising is possible doesn’t mean you should use it. Non-accredited investor equity crowdfunding makes sense for certain types of startups, but not for others. Green Business Renewable Energy Group Acquires Imperial Renewables The $15 million acquisition of a biomass and crop waste energy company may show the growing viability of this market as an alternative to fossil fuel . And in turn, this may suggest opportunities for smaller agriculture businesses, like family farms hoping to find alternative markets for their byproducts. Operations McCormick Spices Things Up With Acquisition of Stubb’s Barbeque Sauces Even some of the largest and best-known brands started as small businesses in the beginning. Take two seasoning titans making headlines this week . One featured products originally made from home and sold door to door. The other was originally created to serve a single restaurant in Texas. What States and Cities are Friendliest to Small Businesses Manchester, New Hampshire is the city deemed the friendliest to small businesses by the small business owners operating there. And the state of New Hampshire ranks second after Texas for the friendliest to small businesses as a whole. The rest of America’s Northeast, however, is considered the unfriendliest bundle of states in the entire country, according to Thumbtack. Local Marketing Google My Business Users, Heed this Warning Google has issued an important notice for small business owners with a Google My Business account . The company warns that business owners may soon be receiving a message from Google asking them to take action or have their account de-verified. Marketing Tips Would You Wear a Cape to Promote Your Brand? There are plenty of ways to display your branding to customers. In fact, wearable branding is a whole category on its own. But while some entrepreneurs wear or sell simple sweatshirts or hats with their logo or company name, Allyn Reid chose a more unconventional route. The founder of Sherpa Press instead wore a cape to promote her brand . How to Sync Your Website and Social Media Efforts Marketing through social media is all the rage. And you know websites are important to business. But should you be tackling both for your business ? If so, how do you do it so it makes sense? Read below for some tips on how to make both, or one, work for you. Management Small Business Lessons to Be Learned from Google’s Big Changes Google’s recently announced a drastic restructuring that includes the naming of a new corporate parent company, Alphabet. The change offers key lessons for small business owners in running their companies. The key to the search engine behemoth’s move has to do with the entrepreneur mindset of its founders, Google CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin. Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: GMR Web Team Evolves With Client Needs Digital marketing is an ever-changing field. Different marketing agencies have come and gone as the industry has evolved. But the ones that have stayed have done so by evolving along with the industry. GMR Web Team is one of those agencies. The business started out as a marketing consulting firm, then evolved into a Web design business and eventually into digital marketing . Startup This Entrepreneur will Send Your Message — Via Potato? There are so many different ways to communicate short messages with people these days: texting, Twitter, Snapchat, email. And now you can add another method to that list — mailing a potato . Yes, thanks to Alex Craig, an entrepreneur in Texas, you can now mail potatoes to your close friends (or enemies) with anonymous messages written on them. Professional Wedding Guests Are Part of a Growing Industry in Korea Weddings are usually happy occasions that a bride and groom share with their families and close friends. But a new industry is emerging in South Korea. And it sometimes means that happy couples are sharing their weddings and similar occasions with complete strangers. Kim Seyeon is part of a growing trend of professional wedding guests . Facebook Surges photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Facebook Video Surges, Wix Launches CRM Tools, ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

When Live launched, Facebook only offered access to the video streaming service feature to celebrities with verified pages. However, that might all soon change as the social media giant recently confirmed that Live will be available to all Facebook users with verified profiles in the very near future, TechCrunch reports . That will set the new streaming video service up as a tool for small business owners, among others. Facebook Live runs almost the same way as Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope . Facebook, however, boasts a few different benefits than Meerkat and Periscope. First, Facebook Live broadcasts are saved and available for future viewing. This is definitely a smart move by Facebook, considering the saved broadcasts will add to its ever growing video library that makes lucrative video ads seem more natural in the News Feed. On the other hand, Periscope broadcasts are only available for 24 hours, while Meerkat doesn’t save live streams at all. Furthermore, Live could be considered a more practical and efficient live streaming option because users already have a larger built-in following. While Periscope has a decent head start in the members’ column, having surpassed 10 million active accounts and 2 million users on Android and iOS in just four months, Facebook is betting on its 1.2 billion current active monthly users and the already massive following of celebrities and public figures to leapfrog competitors. Celebrity users who have already made use of the Live feature can start a broadcast, which then automatically shows up in News Feeds of fans who have liked their pages. Fans are allowed to like, share, or leave real-time comments that overlay on the video feed. Live also shows the real-time number of viewers who are watching the broadcast. When the service goes public, any Facebook user with a verified page or profile will be able to broadcast their own live streaming videos the same way. By the way, if you are wondering whether or not your Facebook page is “verified”, all verified accounts have a blue badge next to the profile or page name. Facebook verifies public figures, global brands and businesses, celebrities, and media. Facebook’s much anticipated move to allow verified profiles access to Live brings the live streaming service closer to universal access. This could, of course, see the platform transform into a spontaneous journalism tool, overshadowing the trend that has only just begun on Periscope. When Facebook opens the floodgates to the verified masses, there could be a lot more experimentation leading to even more functions being introduced and more creative ingenuity . More first-person adventures, real-time contests, DIY project walk-throughs, nerdy tech and other news discussions. Many more creative ideas will surface, perhaps redefining social media as we know it. Image: Facebook This article, ” Facebook Periscope Competitor, Live, Should be Widely Available Soon ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

Hiring always presents a degree of risk. When the goal is hiring a sales representative, the stakes are especially high. The lifeblood of your company — your sales revenue — is at risk. Luckily, there are some things you can do to increase the likelihood of hiring a great sales rep. Whether it’s your first sales representative, or you’re back-filling an existing sales position, here are tips from people who’ve ‘been there, done that’: Write Out a Job Description It’s a mistake to think that every sales role is the same, says Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends , who has hired dozens of sales representatives. “That’s why you need to write out a job description when you hire your first sales rep. It makes the scope of the role clear for the candidate’s benefit. It also helps get others in the company on the same page. Don’t skip this step.” Write down the activities the sales rep is expected to do, starting with: generating the lead, through closing the sale, through any post-closing follow-up. Consider such issues as whether the sales rep is required to generate leads, or whether your business has a marketing machine in place to bring in leads.  That distinction is important in determining what skills to look for.  “Some people are good closers if you present them with leads coming in, such as from Google AdWords or an online lead-gen form. Not everyone can go out and prospect to generate their own leads,” says Campbell. Another issue is sales administration and support.  Will your sales person have to enter orders into your system? Will he or she be expected to follow up on post-sales details, such as gathering information or delivering status updates to a client?  Or do you have other staff to do those activities?  “Some sales people expect to be able to hand the sale off and not handle post-closing duties,” adds Campbell. Besides, she says, it’s not wise to load up a sales rep with too much paperwork.  It reduces the time available for making new sales. Determine Compensation Range Always make the compensation package based in large part on commissions, advises Campbell.  “Then the sales role more or less pays for itself,” she adds. A good salesperson is motivated by money. But it won’t help you retain that sales rep if you’re thinking the person can make $75,000 annually in your company, yet the candidate comes in expecting $150,000. Figure out the target compensation if the sales reps meets stated goals or quotas.  If this is a new position, you’ll need a sharp pencil or calculator: Estimate the number of sales a motivated rep can comfortably close each week. Calculating by the week helps you gauge sales more realistically than calculating monthly or annually. This number can become the rep’s quota or goal. Then calculate the amount the sales rep will make from those deals based on the commission rate. Don’t forget to factor in any base salary. From this you should get a good idea of the realistic target compensation.  During the hiring process, express this as the compensation ‘at quota,’ advises Campbell. Consider including a high range for added earning potential if the rep meets stretch goals or exceeds quota. What’s a Good Commission Rate? There’s no right answer to this question.  Start with a commission percentage in line with what is common in your industry, advises Tamar Weinberg, the chief strategy officer for Small Business Trends.  It also depends on whether the person gets a base salary. “Real estate agents make six percent commission and no base salary. If you are selling tech products, I’ve seen anywhere between three percent and 10 percent, with a generous base pay. If you’re not offering base pay, commission could be from 20 percent to 25 percent,” Weinberg says. Also, you “may want to consider adding a team bonus down the road. For example, hitting a certain milestone yields a $X,XXX bonus.” Weinberg also recommends sweetening the commission to encourage stretch sales goals that exceed quota.  For example, for sales “you make up to $375,000, you get three percent, and at $375,001 to $500,000 you get six percent, and for amounts over $500,000 you get nine percent.” Keep Guaranteed Payments Temporary It’s customary in many companies to offer new sales reps a guarantee of compensation for the first 90 days, or possibly up to 180 days, says Campbell. During this ramp-up period, the sales representative is assured of compensation of a certain amount — whether he or she actually makes sales. Be clear that this is a temporary arrangement. Give it a cut-off date. Call it a ‘ temporary nonrecoverable draw ‘ against commissions, so as not to set an expectation of an ongoing salary, advises Campbell. Stoney deGeyter, Pole Position Marketing ’s CEO, offers a cautionary tale about guaranteed entry compensation.  “A few years ago we hired our first sales person (in a long time)….”  The company didn’t have a clue as to what to expect from its salesperson in terms of sales numbers, but decided “to make it lucrative for him to work for us,” deGeyter said. So, Pole Position created a high salary with a low commission structure. “The idea was to pay the way during the learning process, but once sales started coming in take him off salary and move toward commission.” However, “to our disappointment we never hit the benchmarks,” said deGeyter. Several re-negotiations followed over the next three years. “As you can imagine, that’s not something that anyone wants to do and, inevitably, someone feels like they are getting a raw deal. It was literally trial and error for us.” Decide Where to Recruit “It’s not easy to find good salespeople,” says Weinberg. “Salespeople have to be go-getters who are comfortable going in front of people and pitching something.”  Not everyone has the moxie to ask for the sale. She recommends using websites, including LinkedIn, as well as “career-minded sites like Monster or Dice, if a tech product is involved.” She also advises attending meetings and observing professionals in action. Seek out “people who outshine others socially — those people would make for good sales reps, especially since a sales rep needs to be a good schmoozer.” Diane Helbig, who offers an online sales training program, Clarity of Course Sales Training , recommends leveraging one’s network. “Getting a referral to someone can be one of the best ways to gain a salesperson,” she said, noting further that LinkedIn is the go-to site for filling important positions. “Do a search for salespeople, account executive, business development, and see who comes up. You can research them just like you would a prospect.”  You can also post the job on LinkedIn, among other job sites, she said. Don’t overlook existing employees as a referral source to hire your first sales rep, added Campbell.  “Some companies pay a referral bonus to existing employees who refer a new hire. In small businesses this bonus averages from $100 to $500.  Make the bonus payable after the new hire has made it through the first 90 days or other probationary period.” Go for Skills or Experience? Helbig doesn’t believe it is mandatory to hire someone with sales experience. She does, however, recommend finding someone with a particular skill set that includes the ability to build relationships quickly. Also, “they should have a good network and be able to expand on it. They should be able to work autonomously as well.” Experts disagree on whether industry experience is necessary.  According to Helbig, industry experience isn’t important. “If they are a good salesperson, they can learn [the industry] and the value of your product or service. If they are new to sales, consider providing sales training to set them up for success.” However, Campbell points out that direct experience may be crucial in certain industries. “Some types of sales are complex. Or the industry may be too specialized to learn quickly. Small businesses usually need sales fast.  Many of us don’t have the luxury to subsidize a nine-month learning curve.” Check Background and Attributes With These Questions When checking up on a sales-rep candidate, ask about past results.  “You’d want to know what sales they’ve closed, what quotas have been met or surpassed, and how their track record compares to the rest of the track records” at previous employers, Weinberg said. Also assess personal attributes and character. “You’d want to know if they were leaders or followers. Your first sales rep is probably someone you’d want to be a leader, but who is willing to go out and start small to grow with the business. They’re going to be taking risks, because really good sales reps command a higher salary than what a company looking for a ‘first sales rep’ can usually pay.” Ask probing questions to assess the candidate’s sense of urgency, Campbell advised.  “Sales deals die from lack of momentum. You want a person who acts fast. Do they return messages within X number of hours?  What’s their attitude toward emails? An ‘inbox zero’ personality is ideal. What’s their daily routine like — do they set daily goals?  You want a sales rep who will be hounding you for deal approvals because they operate lickety-split, not one you have to hound just to return a call.” Helbig noted that checking references involves legal pitfalls that may prevent you from gleaning much from a reference check, however. She said, “Legally you aren’t going to get many answers other than the basics,” such as “how long they were employed. Companies are taught to not give more information about past employees because it could come back to bite them.” Look for Willingness to Use Reporting Tools Finally, remember that accountability is crucial. So you’ll need some kind of reporting and tracking mechanisms. Hire a person willing and able to use your software programs, or learn them. Weinberg noted that a CRM tool is useful for tracking sales and performance. She likes Salesforce. Your salesperson should enter the contact information of prospects into the CRM. That way you can access this data in case the employee departs (or is asked to leave). As Weinberg noted, “You, as owner, should know what opportunities are gaining ground, as well as the ones that aren’t, and where the salesperson could use support.” “All the companies I have worked for have used forecasting spreadsheets to determine what deals in the pipeline are likely to close, at 10 percent levels, 50 percent levels, 90 percent levels, and 100 percent signed. So for example, you may have one client at $50,000 at 10 percent, three clients totaling $275,000 at 90 percent, and 11 closed deals at $1.3 million.” Weinberg recommends that the salesperson report his or her progress on a weekly basis. “You don’t need to know every call they’ve made.” The salesperson should provide this report every Friday afternoon and the owner should read and comment on it. “If a salesperson doesn’t report, that’s a red flag.” This, by extension, doesn’t mean you should micromanage the salesperson’s activity, she said.  “As long as they are acting legally, morally, and ethically the owner shouldn’t care how the salesperson spends their time — provided results are being realized.” New Hire Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” How to Hire Your First Sales Rep ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

Digital is on the minds of everyone today, from a variety of perspectives. But it’s important to connect those online activities and touchpoints to real life interactions to complete customer experiences, especially in the hotel industry. Nick Ayres, global director of social marketing for Intercontinental Hotels Group , shares how IHG ties digital touchpoints together to complete the customer journey; from the dream, through to the stay, and beyond. * * * * * Small Business Trends: Could you give us your role at IHG and how you got started with the whole idea of integrating social into customer service? Nick Ayres: I lead our global social practice for our consumer brands, as well as our Rewards Club program. I’ve been with IHG coming up on five years, and have been in social business for a few years previous to that. And when I started at IHG, one of the things that we put on our road map early on was to figure out a process by which we could make sure that we’re speaking to customers who were already speaking to us on social channels, as a way to make sure we were having dialogue and two-way conversations with guests. Small Business Trends: When you think about how your customers have changed over the years, the way they’re using social, their behaviors on social, their expectations, what do your customers expect from you? Nick Ayres: They expect that, when they reach out in social, that it’s not a “nice-to-have” for a company to respond. The thing that goes along with that is the expectation for transparency of experience. When we have a guest who stays at one of our hotels, when they reach out to us via social, they expect that we are able to identify quickly the history of that guest with us, so we have a sense of not just who they are, but also the particular experience they might be having, and we as a business don’t act like we’ve never talked to this guest before. So, there is, again, this expectation that there is this red thread that ties a customer to all of their interactions with the brand. That’s certainly not something that was expected three or four years ago. Small Business Trends: Passing on information to the right parties to take the right action talks about how integrated, from a process and technology, and cultural standpoint, that social has become when it comes to customer service. Nick Ayres: Yes, it was really important for us. We anticipated customers would want to make sure the information they were sharing got to the folks that could most directly do something with that information. And the real value is making sure that, when feedback is provided, the hotel is able to act on it — even immediately if there is a customer service issue that’s happening on-property in the midst of a stay. It’s not just the surface of, “Hey, let’s thank guests for providing feedback,”. The example we use is for guest reviews, which is really important for us. If you have a hotel that has ten guests say, “Hey, your check-in experience was really awful. It took a really long time, and people weren’t friendly,” or whatever it might be, simply acknowledging that that feedback is happening is not going to solve the problem. You actually have to do something. If you have ten people that are saying that, and you don’t do anything to change it, you’re going to have just ten more people that say the same thing. So, you have to find ways to make that change. Small Business Trends: So, you mentioned it hasn’t been easy. Do you think moving forward it’s going to be more of a challenge to stay in line with the customers’ expectations and needs? Nick Ayres: I feel like there is always going to be something else that we have to figure out how to attack, that we have to figure out how to provide solutions to. And so, I don’t know that the challenges posed will be more difficult, but I would say that there will continue to be challenges. We focus a lot of attention on the stay experience and the role that mobile and social play in that stay experience. And so, I think, as we get better and get even more laser-focused on delivering exceptional on-property guest experiences, it’s going to help manage some of the expectations that our guests might have. But we know that, at the end of the day, while certainly the things that my teams are responsible for from a Facebook and Twitter and experiential piece are important, at the end of the day, if you get to the hotel and you have a miserable experience, all the rest of that falls to the side. So, we have to do everything we can to deliver the best guest experience that we can and find ways for technology to enable that, both for the guests, as well as for our operators. Small Business Trends: Give us an idea of what you’re going to be focusing in on, moving forward, maybe over the next six months to a year? Nick Ayres: We look at the guest journey — dream, plan, book, experience (which is the stay), and then the “share” at the end. We really feel like the role of social will continue to be woven through the entire guest experience, but we know that we have a lot of opportunities to use content and social to help inspire in the dream phase, and help continue to encourage guests to share content. But we also know that, as it relates to mobile, there are a lot of interesting and innovative things that we can be doing there. Working with my peers on things like anywhere check-in, giving guests the ability to check in to the hotel directly via their mobile devices, versus having to do another process. The speed with which customers expect that we will respond continues to be a little bit of a hamster wheel, where we just try to find ways, as quickly as we can, to respond and make sure that our service levels continue to get better. That’s certainly an area where we’re going to focus, to continue to use technologies and processes and training to continue to meet needs more and more quickly, rather than just sit back and be comfortable with what we’re doing today. Small Business Trends: We talked about the customer journey and the different phases of it. You can map those phases to customer acquisition, lead gen, walking through the sales process, and then retention. Are there any aspects you are focusing in on more than others, and trying to make sure that once you get the customer, you’re able to have them become return guests? Nick Ayres: My team is responsible for our Facebook footprint and things that we do on Twitter and elsewhere; and those are incredibly important and certainly play a role in helping frame brand perception. But at the end of the day, we could have the best Facebook page in the world, and if a guest gets to the hotel, and they try to check in, and they face a rude salesperson, or the pool is out of order for whatever reason—any of those sorts of things—that’s what’s going to stick with customers, right? And so, we want to do as much as we can to really deliver the best guest experience that we can in the midst of the stay. This article, ” Nick Ayres of IHG: Online Digital Touchpoints Complete Offline Customer Journey ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

Chad Mcallister interviews Tim Bates, the startup founder, CEO, and now serves as an interim executive for hire in innovation, product, and senior leadership roles. Continue reading →

[via Innovation Excellence]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

Pets and business are pretty much comedy gold for me. Cats and dogs looking at graphs, attending meetings, sitting at desks … so much fun. This cartoon came from my dog who used to love to sit bolt upright, run upstairs, and bark at absolutely nothing. No doorbell, no mailman, no kids on the sidewalk … nothing. To be fair, she was pretty old. And while she was the sweetest dog, she wasn’t necessarily the smartest. This cartoon always makes me think of her and those goofy canine panic attacks. This article, ” If Dogs Ran Your Small Business ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

Having your content stolen is only a good thing if it’s stolen correctly. In other words, it has to somehow benefit you, the owner of the content. For this reason, the word “stolen” is really not the right word because you’re actually letting people steal, and by definition stealing isn’t usually someone that’s encouraged. Nonetheless, in the digital marketing world the idea of republishing content can be either negative or positive depending on how and when it’s done. Stealing content correctly means that the owner of the content is allowing you to republish it, with his/her permission. In other words, if the publisher makes it known that the content can be republished by posting, for example, an embed code (or all of the options listed in the next section); you’re in the right. If he/she does not make it known and you ask for permission and are then given that permission, you’re in the right. Any other “stealing” of content is wrong. So how can you make this clear, when should you use this tactic, and are there any downsides? The Pros and Cons of Stolen Content The Pros You Get More Eyes On Your Content This is definitely the number one reason businesses like allowing others to republish their content. The more times the content is published, the more eyes that get to see that content and see that you wrote it. This could help bring more visibility and recognition to your brand. It Could Help Bring in More Traffic On that same note, if you have more people viewing your content that maybe have never heard of you before, they may like what they see and then navigate to your page to see more about you. SEO Can Benefit From a Natural Link Whenever someone republishes your content, it is understood that they need to link back to the original. This will be a link back to your website, which will help improve your SEO. It’s an Easy Way to Promote Your Content Going along with the last three points, this is a great way to earn exposure without having to do much at all. The Cons The Republished Content May Outrank You This is the number one negative to this approach. If a great site republishes your content then there is a chance that in the SERPs the republished content will outrank your content. Even if it’s just by one space, all of the traffic will be headed to the result that shows up first. A Spammy Site Might Ruin Your SEO Your SEO wouldn’t be ruined completely, but you don’t want a link back to a spammy site because that will hurt your SEO slightly if it happens to often. You can always disavow these links in the future, but it’s easy to miss! How to Allow Stolen Content Correctly The default setting for most people on the web is “don’t steal content because of duplicate content issues.” If you do want people to steal your content correctly, though, t you can make sure your readers know it’s OK by: Including an embed Code and making It very obvious. Making an announcement about republishing Putting a note about republishing In your “About Us” section The tricky thing about stealing content is sometimes people automatically assume that they can steal your content so long as there is a backlink. The truth is that while a backlink is nice (and necessary), that doesn’t mean it’s OK with every publisher. As a publisher, I highly recommend using CopyScape so that you can keep tabs on anyone and everyone who is stealing your content. If you are okay with certain pieces of content being republished (maybe you used one of the tactics above) then great, but if not then it’s up to you to say something. According to an Outbrain article , using CopyScape is also a great way to find new opportunities. If you know who is stealing your content, you know who is interested in what you do. It may be worth it to reach out and see if they’re interested in working together or publishing something else you’ve created. How do You Know Which Content Can be Stolen? It’s completely up to you to decide which content you want to make available to be republished and which content you don’t. In general, infographics are a great option for republishing because everyone knows where they need to look to see the credit for the infographic (the bottom). Infographics also don’t have as much content as a traditional article, so they’re easier to “steal.” Aside from that, it’s up to you to look at the pros and cons mentioned above and see which content is worth the risk. Republished by permission. Original here . Burglar Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Stolen Content May Not Be So Bad After All ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

No business is immune to failure. Even those with plenty of investors can find themselves out of cash at some point. But businesses with high burn rates are certainly more likely to experience such a predicament. A company’s burn rate is the amount of money it spends each month. For plenty of young startups, burn rate might even be significantly higher than the amount of money being brought in each month. The startups that have plenty of venture funding can withstand that sort of lopsided cash flow for awhile. But it can’t stay that way forever. In fact, a high burn rate is what caused virtual assistant startup Zirtual to abruptly shut down recently, despite successful multi-million dollar funding rounds within the past few months. So, what is a business that needs to spend money in order to make money to do? Danielle Morrill, co-founder of business information startup Mattermark , thinks that more startups should be transparent about how much they spend. And Mattermark is leading by example. The company just published a breakdown of exactly how it spends money each month. While the money the company is bringing in isn’t enough to cover all of those expenses, which totaled $713,000 in June, Morrill thinks it’s a good place to start. The reason such an exercise can be helpful is because it causes startup founders to not only understand where their money is going but also to be accountable for those expenditures. There are some expenses that just can’t be avoided, or shouldn’t be if you want your company to experience rapid growth. For example, $525,000 of Mattermark’s June expenses went toward staff. But you need a team in place if you want to build a successful company quickly. But other companies tend to take their venture funding and spend it on less essential items until they find themselves in a tricky situation. Tomasz Tunguz, a partner at Redpoint Ventures , told TechRepublic: “Having a huge sum of money in the bank can entice founders to dramatically increasing burn rate or diffuse the company’s energy among many projects. It can be challenging to maintain the same execution discipline created by the scarcity of capital when the bank account is overflowing.” So taking a look at those expenses each month, and even giving investors the opportunity to do the same, can help you evaluate which expenses are really helping achieve your ultimate goals. In addition, that transparency can help founders really stay on top of their financial situations so that they know the bottom line. Jonathan Lehr, a managing director at Work-Bench , an enterprise venture capital firm, told CNN: “The most important thing for a CEO to know is ‘when am I going to run out of cash at the current burn rate?’ You can’t just say, ‘burn happened.’” Burning Match Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” How Transparency Can Keep Your Company Burn Rate Under Control ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }

If you’re looking for a study that nicely sums up why business writing is distant, pretentious and ruthlessly disengaging, look no further than 5 Monkeys and a Ladder . This famous urban legend, based on two real sociological experiments, explains the close-minded and anti-growth attitudes that result in the inflated, artless tone content and copywriters so easily slip into. The Study Five monkeys live in a room with a ladder, a bunch of bananas and a cold water sprinkler. When a monkey goes to the top of the ladder to reach for the bananas, the sprinkler turns on and splashes the others with cold water. The other angry monkeys beat it up, and it eventually learns to stop trying. The monkeys are replaced one by one, and each new monkey tries to climb the ladder for the bananas but is pulled down and beaten up by the rest of the group. After some time, the last original monkey is replaced with a new one, and tries to climb the ladder. Guess what happens… they all try to stop it, without even knowing they’ll get sprayed with water, just because that’s the way things are. “The most damaging phrase in the language is: ‘It’s always been done that way.’” – Grace Hopper The Way Boring People Write Something we should remind ourselves of in times like these is an essay by George Orwell called “ Politics and the English Language .” Unlike his other informative essays such as “ A Nice Cup of Tea ,” this was directed at politicians, those timeless masters of verbal trickery. Orwell was sick of being given watered-down truth cloaked in fancy, meaningless language. In this post I’ll go through some of what he said and how it can be applied today. When it comes to business writing, the problem is that it’s always been done that way. For years leaders (and later, advertisers) have confused people with corporate language and business jargon . The problem in businesses has gone so far that it’s totally normal today to ‘leverage a robust solution for a bleeding edge vertical.’ But please – everyone would rather you didn’t. It’s a damaging content writing mistake that’s about as helpful as saying you’re going to ‘do a thing for a place.’ 4 Tips to Avoid Content Writing Mistakes Let’s take a look at what advice Orwell can offer content and copywriters to avoid these content writing mistakes: 1. Never use Clichés or Metaphors If you’ve heard a phrase before, avoid it. Our brains are skilled at ignoring old information, so when you say things like “the best of both worlds”, readers blank it out and get tired of reading eye-rolling text. Cutting useless words from your content is also a way to keep readers engaged throughout the post, doing wonders for your search rankings. 2. Cut Out Verb Phrases No one’s going to be looking for legal loopholes in your content, so don’t speak like a lawyer. An example of a terribly written sentence using verb phrases is: “We have initiated the rolling out process of several systems which are designed to be in charge of the formatting of data that is distributed via email” When you could just say: “We’re implementing a system to format email data” A quick way to find offending sentences is to do a Ctrl+F (Cmd+F on a Mac) for ‘of’, ‘that’ and ‘which’. 3. Needlessly Complicated Words Striving to articulate one’s argument with pompous diction is a most effective way to ensure one remains detached from one’s audience. Need I give an example after that sentence? As Orwell says, a bad writer tries to “dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality” where a good writer sounds like a human being. Words to avoid: Exacerbate, utilize, plethora, myriad, juncture, ascertain, per se 4. Words with Private Meaning When you make a claim without supporting it, you’re using words with private meaning. When you talk about “the most talked-about social media management tool” or “the most efficient document editor” without actually giving a good reason, you’re clouding the meaning of your words to the point where your claims are meaningless. While calling something “the most efficient X” seems impressive at first, an unsupported claim doesn’t go unnoticed — meaning comes from terms with concrete definitions, not debatable ones. How to Catch Bad Writing As boring as it might be, drafting your work is the best way to make sure it doesn’t suck. Accept that your first draft is almost always going to be awful, and prepare to sit down and rewrite most of it when you come back to proofread. My first drafts are almost 100% cliches, verb phrases and needlessly complicated words with private meanings, but it’s easy to catch your mistakes if you know what to look for. The traffic light method is a great way to proofread and your content because it gives a visual representation of quality. To do it, read through your draft and: Highlight red for a sentence so bad it needs removing or rewriting completely Highlight yellow for a sentence that needs a little work Highlight green for perfection. Be ruthless with yourself, and your readers will thank you. From Content to Processes Chances are, good writers are not just good at one thing. While you do get specialized copywriters, content writers, technical writers and sci-fi novelists, it’s likely that they could all manage to do each other’s jobs for a day because the skill set overlaps. Running your business efficiently depends on clearly written processes just as much as a great content marketing strategy depends on epic content. Not only do processes written inside workflow management software help you scale the content writing process and catch errors, they are also a great time saving strategy . Small businesses are at risk of wasting time through lost emails, communication errors or poor coordination, but with collaborative processes, it’s easy to make sure nothing slips through the net. Take some advice from the grandfather of checklists and the man who wrote a process for pilots to fly notoriously difficult Boeing airplanes — Daniel Boorman. According to Boorman: “There are good checklists and bad… bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use, and they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on.” What about good checklists? “Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything. – a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps – the ones that even the highly skilled professionals could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.” — The Checklist Manifesto As you can see, there are parallels between content and processes — and even between copywriting and how an author from the early 20th century wants politicians to speak. Clear writing is an eternally relevant skill, so the next time you think about calling your small business an ‘end-to-end solution for the planning, implementation and execution of robust, scalable marketing strategies and 100 percent proven SEO tactics’ — think again. This article, ” 4 Content Writing Mistakes Small Businesses Make ” was first published on Small Business Trends

[via Small Business Trends]

Follow us @innovationheat – lists / @blackbolenay

{ 0 comments }