Create Something New Everyday and Watch it Go Global


©iStock/denizbayram

Here’s the sweet, creative story.

36 Days of Type, a global design challenge that now partners with Adobe, started as a personal project that went global after Nina Sans and Rafa Goicoechea, both graphic designers from Barcelona, first decided to challenge themselves to create something new everyday, as a way to experiment with new stuff outside their comfort zone by setting personal daily design challenges.

This year [2019], the project asked designers everywhere to come up with visual interpretations of the letters A through Z, and the numbers 0 through 9, and share them on social media between April 2 and May 8.

McKinsey Design got involved.  Almost 50 designers and graphic artists from across the firm, including client and non-client facing colleagues alike, volunteered to submit artwork. You can see all of their pieces right now, along with captions explaining their process or inspiration, at McKinsey Design’s Instagram account.

Look closer at where a creative journey can lead you and it’s probably where you least expect it.

10 Tips to Help You Create a Smart Business


05/13/2019
Smart companies are not just those that have intelligent leaders. They also have systems, tools and proper planning in place that allow every department or function to run together seamlessly. To become a smart company, you need to integrate smart ideas into every facet of your business. Here are some tips from members of the online small business community.

Manage Your Website Effectively
Your website is one of the most important tools your small business has. To manage it effectively, you need access to the right tools. In this WP Buffs post, Brenda Barron provides a full explanation and walk-through of GoDaddy Pro, so you can see if it may be helpful for your business.

complete article

05/10/2019
SBDC Centers offer free consulting and free or low-cost training. (Find yours here.) Their results speak for themselves: SBDC clients grow sales by an average 18.1%, which is 4.3 times the national average. March 20th is SBDC Day, and to celebrate, we assembled some tips from their experts.

complete article

05/08/2019
Small businesses can be more vulnerable to cyberattacks than larger companies because they often do not have sophisticated and comprehensive systems to protect themselves from hackers, viruses, malware and whats called ransomware. And owners who are focused on customers and employees may not ensure that their defenses are up to date.

But there are things small businesses can do to improve cybersecurity.

complete article

05/06/2019
Whether you are an entrepreneur plotting to launch a startup or a CEO strategizing where to put another office, knowing where the next hot city is would be a game changer. Should you expand to Raleigh? Would you attract better talent in Austin or Atlanta? With the new Surge Cities Index, Inc. and innovation policy company Startup Genome crunched the data to score and rank the top 50 metro areas in the U.S. on seven key indicators–from early-stage funding metrics to job creation. Finally, here’s the smartest way to answer the age-old question: Where should you go next?

complete article

05/03/2019
We are creatures of habit. Everything we think, say and do is a result of deep-seated habits etched into our minds through years and years of repitious behavior. Those very same habits either help to propel us forward or to hinder our progress in life. In fact, the state and quality of our lives right now is a direct reflection of our daily habits.

Habits are an undeniably powerful part of life.

complete article

05/01/2019
Big companies often have big perks. That is especially true in the technology Opens a New Window.  space, where free meals, gyms, and even day care are quite common. Even more traditional large companies that do not offer those kinds of benefits still have things that smaller businesses Opens a New Window. do not — there are more opportunities for advancement, more training opportunities, and maybe even the option of transferring to another location.

complete article

04/29/2019
The latest report from Clutch says 39% of small businesses will add sales and marketing employees.

This data point underscores the importance of sales and marketing in today’s digital commerce. You must optimize websites, social media channels and eCommerce sites to make it happen. And you need sales and marketing employees to do  the heavy lifting.

Some small businesses have already created a digital presence. And the job of sales and marketing generally goes to in-house staff. This job often goes to employees with the necessary skill sets or to someone learning on the job. But remember how important these positions figure in the company’s growth.

complete article

04/26/2019
Billing your customers is, of course, vital — but even more critical is getting paid for those bills. Thanks to the ongoing evolution in the payments industry, there are more payment tools and platforms to choose from to help find the perfect option for your business based on how many payments you receive, the type of business you have and your budget.

complete article

04/24/2019
Ever wonder how people get chosen to speak at TED? Well, it is curator Chris Andersons job to weed through the thousands upon thousands of possibilities and choose who will appear on the events prestigious main stage. Clearly, the guy is amazing at separating the wheat from the intellectual chaff.

Which is why TED fans (or anyone looking to make themselves smarter and more aware in easily digestible 20-minute chunks) should pay attention to Andersons picks for the 10 best TED talks of 2018. Touching on topics ranging from astronomy to social justice to artificial intelligence, they are guaranteed to change how you think about the world.  

complete article

04/22/2019
Switching careers can feel intimidating, but you have got to make some moves if you’re spinning your wheels at your current job. Tech industry jobs are hot right now, and you can make great money once you’ve got the know-how to compete with other tech candidates. Here’s a breakdown of the fields with the best opportunities.

complete article

04/19/2019
What is the best retirement plan for a self-employed person? Which is the best retirement plan for a small business owner? More importantly, which is the right retirement plan for you – as a business owner and / or a self-employed individual? Choosing the best retirement plan for you and your personal financial goals will depend on a few factors. Those include how much you can save into a retirement plan, whether or not you have employees and when you are setting up the retirement plan. Is it during the tax year or when filing taxes? To name a few.

complete article

04/17/2019
Here are 15 examples of great integrated marketing campaigns that work by combining content, digital and website marketing, with traditional marketing methods like PR.

complete article

04/15/2019
Here are three popular things that are actually not mandatory for all small businesses:

1. Aggressive Marketing

It is easy to go overboard with marketing. With so many tools available, your gut instinct is to try anything with the slightest potential. Even if you stand to lose money, you want the assurance of knowing you are doing everything you can to gain the interest of your target audience. And it is difficult to ignore a marketing tool that has worked marvelously for other small businesses. If they had to do it all over again, these businesses would likely spend 10% of their time developing their products or services and 90% marketing them.

complete article

04/12/2019
So what sets those who actually take the plunge from those who only dream? What pushes a keen hobbyist or excellent amateur into actually becoming a business owner? A recent study of more than 400,000 people out of MIT came to decisive answer, and it is not the one you are probably expecting.

complete article

04/10/2019
Many successful entrepreneurs were inspired to start their businesses after noticing a hole in the marketplace that needed to be filled, whether it was Bill Gates creating an operating system for home computers, Pierre Omidyar starting an online auction site, or Elon Musk building a reliable electric car.

But what happens when you want to jump feet first into a marketplace thats already crowded? We spoke to the entrepreneurs behind a wide-ranging group of successful companies in some of the most competitive digital spaces — from butchers to home brands to eco-friendly cleaning products — to get their insights into what makes a business that lasts.

complete article

04/08/2019
Today, tens of thousands of people are considering starting their own business, and for good reasons. On average, people can expect to have two and three careers during their work life. Those leaving one career often think about their second or third career move being one they can run out of their own home. The good news: Starting a home-based business is within the reach of almost anyone who wants to take a risk and work hard, as are a plethora of other low-cost ideas.

complete article

04/06/2019
Now, I do not want to burst any happy bubbles for those of you who are already treading the traditional pathway, but that traditional narrative no longer makes much sense, because over the past two decades, big corporations, big academia, and big corporatist government have rigged the business world so that the longer you wait to start your own company, the less likely you are to be successful.

Because of this, young entrepreneurs (Mil

complete article

04/04/2019
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) included a bevy of changes that will affect the 2018 federal income tax returns of many small and medium-sized businesses and their owners. As tax return time approaches, here are the 10 changes that are most likely to affect your business or you as an owner.

1. New flat 21% tax rate for corporations
Before the TCJA, C corporations paid graduated federal income tax rates of 15%, 25%, 34%, and 35%. Personal service corporations (PSCs) paid a flat 35% rate. For tax years beginning in 2018 and beyond, the TCJA establishes a flat 21% corporate rate, and that beneficial rate applies to PSCs too. So the tax cost of doing business as a profitable C corporation is greatly reduced, and this favorable development will show up on 2018 corporate returns. Enjoy.

complete article

04/02/2018
When done correctly, a tagline can become synonymous with a brand. A good tagline should communicate your companys message quickly and effectively, helping your target customers understand how you can help them in a way that’s easy to remember.

Since it is something that will likely appear in all of your companys marketing materials and may stick with you for years, your team should put a lot of care and consideration into crafting your tagline.

complete article

03/29/2019
A business plan is a written description of your business future, a document that tells what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you have written a plan, or at least the germ of one.

Business plans are inherently strategic. You start here, today, with certain resources and abilities.

complete article

03/27/2019
Very few entrepreneurs have an accounting or finance background. Here are four tips to ensure your small business is achieving profitable growth.

Most small business owners start their own business because they have a passion for something, a new idea, want to be their own boss or are seeking more financial stability and/or earning potential. However, very few entrepreneurs have an accounting or finance background.

complete article

03/25/2019
The standards for small business success have unquestionably gone up. Todays small businesses must do a lot more to stay competitive than their predecessors. Myriad businesses, however, take this notion a bit too far. Once they discover yet another resource or strategy with the potential to elevate their success, they jump all over it. This is partially due to the many online articles urging business leaders to devote more effort to virtually every element of their businesses.

complete article

03/22/2019
Many small businesses start out with a single location or product offering and grow over time. Expanding your business is a good way to increase your long-term profitability and reach a wider audience.

But while growing your venture might be something you’d like to do eventually, now might not be the ideal time to dive in. Here are four reasons you might choose not to grow your business, and instead stick with the status quo.

complete article

03/20/2019
Get out your pink paint. Or your coral, or yellow or teal. By the time you finish reading this column, you’re going to be painting one wall of your small business a color that will pop on Instagram.

Why? Because Instagram is today’s powerhouse social media site for consumer businesses. And if you give customers an inviting way to post to Instagram, they’ll advertise your business for free.

A few years ago, if you wanted to reach retail consumers, the social media site of choice was Facebook. While it may still work for reaching certain demographics, many consumers – especially female Millennials – love Instagram.

complete article

03/18/2019
A new report is saying that almost half of people recently hired (41%) used an online job board to find work and 61% flagged automatic job alerts as helpful. What is more, a full 14% found their present job using social media. The findings from How Do People Find Jobs? published by the B2B research firm, Clutch, highlights how today’s candidates are connecting with small businesses and vice versa.

complete article

03/15/2019
How did life lead you to entrepreneurship?

I have been in the technology industry for 25 years. I am a business-facing technologist, which basically means I have a background in finance and business. However, I stumbled into being a software engineer early on in my career. This resulted in a passion for data and solution creativity.After hitting the 20-year mark of working for enterprise-size organizations, I decided I needed a change. I experienced some life-threatening health challenges–all while taking care of my two sons with their own unique needs. A culmination of it all really made me stop and reflect on what I really wanted to do on a daily basis and the people I do it with.

complete article

03/13/2019
Step 1: Set meaningful goals.
People do nott achieve goals unless the goals are meaningful to them. Sure, every seller has a quota for this year, but so what? If you want to maximize your motivation to achieve the goals, you must know why achieving it is important to you. To do that, go beyond your one-year quota-focused goal.

complete article

03/11/2019
Are you making big changes to your small business?

Whether you’re entering a new market, eliminating services that your clients love but no longer work for you, or changing the structure of your business entirely, follow these three tips to shake up your small business without losing revenue or hurting your reputation.

complete article

03/08/2019
Most working class Americans are employed by companies that either require or offer retirement savings options in the form of a 401(k), 403b), or pension plan. Because these contributions are automatically deducted from the employee’s paycheck, saving for retirement tends to be a rather painless process. Over time, the cumulative effect of regular monthly contributions leads to a nice sized nest egg that can be used in the retirement years.

But for entrepreneurs, the story is a little different. With no steady paycheck or employer-sponsored plans, many of these hardworking individuals forgo retirement contributions.  And though it may not seem like a big deal in the early years, this misstep can prove to be dangerous and irresponsible as entrepreneurs age.

complete article

03/06/2019
Crowdfunding has become a viable form for funding a venture, project, cause, event and much more. For small businesses looking to bypass traditional sources of financing such as bank loans, angel investing or venture capital, it is now a great option.

If you have been thinking about starting a campaign, it is important to note there are different types of crowdfunding. And this does not mean the platform or portal such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others.

The confusion stems from clumping crowdfunding under one umbrella, when in reality there are different types or models. Depending on your project, choosing the right model for your small business is critically important to ensure the success of your campaign.

complete article

03/04/2019
Being a leader can be a difficult, and sometimes thankless, job. You work long hours, make tough decisions, and try your best to make your employees and your customers happy. But things don’t always work out the way you hope.

Every leader can use a bit of inspiration and humor every once in a while. Adding some fun to your day can make it all come together and, at the same time, perhaps even put a smile on your face.

The next time you feel down, here are 17 funny leadership quotes to perk you up.

complete article

03/01/2019
Procrastination is an odd compulsion. Everyone has experienced it, but the underlying reasons can be tough to pin down.

After all, procrastination delays the very activities that bring people closer to their goals — whether that is building a thriving business or stronger triceps. So why do not humans just sprint toward that brighter, fitter future?

The science.
Scientific studies of procrastination have spiked over the past 20 years. Researchers once considered the issue a basic time-management problem, but they now view it as a complex and highly individual phenomena.  

complete article

02/27/2019
Not every step you take to move your business forward will be a big one. But sometimes, even small steps can make a large impact on your future. Here are some recent tips and insights from members of the online small business community about big and small steps you can take to really make an impact on your business.

complete article

02/25/2019
Like departments and agencies throughout government, the Air Force is tuning its acquisition methods to get closer the speed of technology, and will be holding its first live pitch day in March, with an available funding pool of $40 million.

The Air Forces Small Business Innovation Research program has issued a call to start-ups and small businesses—those with fewer than 500 employees—to offer pitches on innovative technologies for secure communications, down-range battlefield operations and digital technologies.

complete article

02/22/2019
I am pleased to bring you my top five tricks for disconnecting – and at least temporarily escaping the job stress.

1. Make the business case.

Taking time to recharge is not just good for your mental and physical health — it is the smart thing to do for your business. Studies have shown that increased stress leads to reduced productivity, while decreased stress levels lead to increased productivity.

complete article

Today in Global Small Business: Create a Winning Global Marketing Strategy


©iStock/metamorworks

What’s affecting me, my clients, my colleagues and other global small business owners:

4 Top Affiliate Marketing Tips, How to Create Successful Social Media Campaigns, How to Write a Business-Winning Proposal and Other Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

19 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1—Private Sector Small Business Employment Increases

By now you’ve all seen the jobs report. But what about small businesses and their contributions? According to the ADP Small Business Job Report in March very small businesses (1-19 employees lost) 9,000 jobs, small businesses with 20-49 employees gained 14,000 jobs, for a net gain of 6,000 small business jobs.

Take a look at the infographic from ADP below for more stats.

2—7 Things You Need To Know Right Now As You Prepare To File Your 2018 Taxes

With a week (or less)  to go until the April 15th tax filing deadline, the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), the nation’s leading advocate and resource for the self-employed and micro-businesses, released its list of 7 last-minute tips for filing accurate returns and reducing tax liability.

Keith Hall, President and CEO of NASE, says, “As you prepare to file your returns, think about hidden deductions and updates to the tax code that might help you. Don’t leave anything on the table; find and use these key policy changes to work for you. And if you still need more time, file an extension.”

1—New tax system: 2018 is the first filing season of the new tax code; make sure you know about these new, potentially beneficial policies:

  • A lower individual rate, which is where most self-employed small businesses file
  • A doubling of the standard deduction, which is $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married couples
  • Reduction or elimination of specific deductions such as for moving expenses or the unlimited state and local tax deductions known as SALT deductions, which are now capped at $10,000

2—Home office deduction: In its sixth year, small business owners who work from their homes can now claim a streamlined, standardized home-office deduction rather than completing a complicated and cumbersome 43-line IRS form. By simply checking the box on your federal tax returns, you can easily save money by choosing the standard home-office deduction of up to $1,500 for the business use of your home.

3—Mileage rate: If you use your automobile for business, you also can deduct a standard mileage rate on your return. The reimbursement rate is 54.5 cents for 2018.

4—Retirement contributions: Limits for retirement contributions have also changed for most Americans. SEPs, IRAs and 401k plans, all allow you to contribute to your own future and take a tax deduction on your 2018 tax return.

5—Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs): Small businesses that offer HRAs can do so without the threat of penalty.

6—Submit your return electronically: By filing your return electronically, you can avoid making errors.

And if you’re still not ready…

7—File an extension: There is always a last-minute extension you can file with the IRS if you can’t make April 15th.

3—Small Business Owners Stay Confident, Despite Concerns  

Nearly half (49%) of small business owners are concerned that a recession could impact the overall success of their company in the next year, according to Capital One’s latest Small Business Growth Index, a biannual survey of small business owners gauging sentiment related to the economy, business conditions and plans for growth. At the same time, 66% say recent fluctuations in the stock market have not changed their business outlook. Additionally, 44% think their financial position will improve six months from now.

“Small business owners remain cautiously optimistic,” says Jenn Flynn, head of small business bank at Capital One. “While we saw a slight dip in optimism compared to Fall 2018, small business owners are still making strategic investments in their businesses, while paying close attention to the uncertainty in the stock market and evaluating the potential impact of a recession.”

Key Small Business Growth Index themes:

Small business owners think stock market volatility will impact their businesses, but many have yet to feel the effect. However, they’re preparing for the impact of future stock market volatility.

  • 49% are or will be more conservative when it comes to inventory or supply management
  • 36% say it has or might decrease their sales
  • 34% say it has or might impact their ability to expand and grow their business.

However, the fluctuations in the stock market have not changed the outlook of 66% of business owners. Additionally, 40% of SBOs report an increase in sales over the past six months.

Optimism has dropped 8 percentage points, with 59% of SBOs saying business conditions are good or excellent, down from 67% in Fall 2018.

The economy and a tight labor market are impacting small businesses’ ability to hire, while those who plan to hire are competing for talent with their pocketbooks.

29% of SBOs plan to hire in the next 6 months, down from 33% in Fall 2018. 66% of these new hires will be full-time employees.

Of SBOs who don’t plan to hire:

  • 29% would like to but are nervous to take on the added expense due to economic conditions 28% cannot find the right talent
  • 24% don’t have the financial resources to do so.
  • 25% say they are investing in other areas of their business.

The majority of SBOs are competing for talent with their pocketbooks. Of those who plan to hire in the next 6 months:

  • 76% provide industry leading or competitive salaries
  • 47% offer more benefits to employees
  • 43% market their business as a great place to work
  • 35% invest in differentiated or modern office perks
  • 29% provide an option for flexible work environments

Plus, 34% have leveraged the gig economy for their business, and 19% say that it has helped them get work done in a tight labor market

The tax plan:

  • 51% of SBOs say the tax plan has been positive for small business. More male business owners say the tax plan has been positive for small business (57%) than female business owners (41%).
  • 21% of SBOs expect to pay more in taxes this year, up from 19% who expected to pay more in Fall 2018 and 11% one year ago.
  • 53% of business owners think they will pay about the same.

Business owners are split on how they’ll be impacted by AI and Machine Learning:

  • 53% of SBOs with $1 to $10 million in revenue believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is already impacting or will impact their industry. Additionally, 48% of these SBOs are concerned about their ability to hire the right tech talent to help advance their business into the future.
  • However, most business owners with $1 to $10 million in revenue do not think that some of their employees’ roles will be replaced by AI and ML-based technologies. Only 8% feel some of their employees’ roles will be replaced in the next five years, and 19% feel some of the roles will be replaced in 10 years.
  • 23% of all SBOs feel pressure to change aspects of their business, like customer experience, based on industry innovation driven by large companies like Amazon.

“Change is a constant for small business owners, and it’s encouraging to see them remain resilient as they interpret new things like tax reform and the impact of technology on their headcount,” says Brad Jiulianti, head of small business card at Capital One. “We look forward to seeing how business owners continue to innovate to meet the changing needs of today’s marketplace.”

4—4 Top Affiliate Marketing Tips for Beginners

Guest post from HostingTribunal

Affiliate marketing is worth $12 billion and still going strong. Even after being around for so long, it remains one of the best ways to earn handsome money online without any upfront monetary investment.

But there’s no easy money to make in affiliate marketing. If you want to earn $10,000 in your first month as an affiliate marketer, you’re bound to be disappointed.

That’s not going to happen.

Affiliate marketing is hard work and sales grow gradually. First, you’ll have to learn the ropes of affiliate marketing, create a website, publish some great content, and build social media presence. These things take time.

Affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Understand that.

What else must you know before you plunge into affiliate marketing? Here are 4 top tips for beginners.

1—Know your niche: As much as possible, pick a niche you know most about. If you are a yoga enthusiast, you may be better off entering an affiliate program in this niche than picking a niche about, say, car parts.

2—Test your product: Know the ins and outs of the product you’re marketing. Take your time to find out how’s it different from competing products. Without this knowledge, you’ll have a hard time convincing consumers that you’ve the answers to their problems. And if you can’t show customers that you can help them, they aren’t going to waste their time listening to you. The global retail revenue approaches $3 trillion, so there is no shortage of shopping options.

3—Create a slick, visually-attractive site: The attention span of consumers is perhaps not more than a few seconds. This makes it crucial to be able to catch their attention the moment they enter your site. Otherwise, they’ll navigate away to never return. WordPress, the most popular website creation tool, is absolutely free. So are many plugins and themes. If you spend some time building a site, you can ensure it is fast, pretty, and user-friendly. These are the qualities that consumers love in a website.

4—Leverage social media: Millions of people visit social media sites every day. There’s no way you ignore social media and still become a successful affiliate marketer. That said, publishing promotional content left, right, and center on Facebook and the like will get you nowhere. You must use the medium to establish a rapport with your target audience. This you can do only by offering them value.

To learn more about the potential of affiliate marketing and most rewarding niches, take a look at this infographic below.

5—How Small/New Businesses Can Execute Successful Social Media Campaigns

Guest post by Social media influencer expert, Joe Gagliese, is cofounder and managing partner of Viral Nation.

1—Post emotional and fun content. Small business owners need to take measured risks and have a sense of fun to find success. Consider the recent Tweet from the son of the owner of Billy’s Donuts (named Billy). The Tweet and accompanying picture showed the sad owner of the doughnut shop with a request to come visit. The message quickly went viral. Billy’s Donuts grew its Instagram followers from around 35 to 125,000 in a matter of days. The entire family is now pitching in to bake more product to keep up with demand. This situation is a great example of viral social marketing. The Tweet used emotion and a great visual of a sweet older gentleman to evoke empathy. Who doesn’t understand wanting to help their dad? Small businesses should take this example to heart. They need authenticity in their messages and also a sense of playfulness.

2—Develop influencer partnerships and campaigns. Even the smallest of businesses can establish relationships with quality influencers. Find influencers who use your product or service and will enthusiastically share their experiences with their followers. Ideally you can offer these influencers free products or services in exchange for their promotions. Talk to them about the ways you can benefit each other, and then you’ll find influencers that are invested in your success. You want influencers that are shown to engage directly with their fans. Look at how they respond to comments. If the influencer is starting conversations and producing great content, then you want to get in with them on the “ground floor” before their popularity takes off. The best influencer campaigns will generate organic website or physical store visits as well as generate additional followers for the brand. Influencer marketing provides small businesses with the potential to reach targeted consumers in a much more organic and personal manner than a typical direct sales pitch.

3—Create and share interesting visuals. Social media campaigns are increasingly visually based. Instagram is fundamentally about sharing interesting stories and developing emotions through pictures. Some small businesses offer a product that’s easily captured in photos. Billy’s Donuts has delicious glazed, sprinkled, and chocolate-frosted doughnuts that look delicious. But a donut shop could also include visuals of the customers or doughnut-making machinery. If you offer a service instead of a product then you require more creativity. Use visuals to tell a story about the customer journey. Or showcase the people inside your office. Invest in a great camera or latest cell phone to capture high-quality shots for your social channels.

4—Repurpose your content. Once you find some impactful and viral content, then you need to run with it as far as possible. What this means is to use your popular content across multiple social channels and for a variety of other purposes. Consider again the Billy’s Donut example. The company is doing great but should also use the “sad dad” imagery on other channels or with merchandise. Once you have a social hit on your hands then you have to build the brand as much as possible. You can also create an arrangement with your influencer network to run Facebook or Instagram ads through their content. Make sure you have content ownership of the campaigns you run with an influencer so you can repurpose it in multiple ways. Use it on your own social campaigns or integrate the content into a tutorial. Extract maximum value from all of the content that you use with social. Develop videos that discuss your unique value proposition, and include them on your site, all social channels, within presentations, and anywhere else it makes sense.

6—3 Tips for Freelancers to Write a Business-Winning Proposal

Guest post by Vidya Chandra, LinkedIn Group Product Manager

LinkedIn ProFinder data reveals that 70% of small businesses have hired a freelancer in the past, with 83% of those businesses looking to hire a freelancer again. The takeaway? There is more opportunity in the gig economy than ever before. It also means, that there are more freelance professionals vying for the same jobs you’re looking to win. Knowing you’re competing with people who have a variety of backgrounds and expertise, creating an effective and impactful proposal is crucial, especially if you rely on freelance work as a main source of income.

Luckily, there are a few simple ways to grab your reader’s attention, peak their interest, and get them excited about what you (and nobody else) can offer. Below are my three top tips, as well as insights from LinkedIn ProFinder experts, for freelancers looking to take a smarter approach to their proposals to gain new business in 2019.

1—Make it personal and establish trust. You won’t be the only freelancer vying for a job, so start by introducing yourself, and tailoring your proposal to the needs of the client and their project. It sounds simple, but it is a tactic that is often overlooked in proposal writing. Make your value clear, and your delivery concise and personable.

Nader Mowlee, a career coach and LinkedIn ProFinder Expert, does this by sharing his past successes, “I do this by telling short stories of my previous clients whom I’ve successfully helped. I begin the short story (following the STAR Method of writing) by describing the situation my client was in and the problem they had before they met me. Then I share the number one tactic I taught that person, how fast they were able to implement it, what their final outcome was and how it made them feel after achieving their ideal results.”

2—Be succinct, but thorough. Clients are busy and, put simply, lengthy proposals won’t get read. I recommend outlining the key messages you’d like to convey about the service you provide. Then, as you build and develop your proposal, always check that list to be sure you’re not only getting your point across, but also keeping them clearly visible to the reader. Utilize easy-to-read formatting and take liberties in bulleting out points instead of differing to lengthy sentences and paragraphs.

Another reason to keep it succinct? Your information is available in a multitude of places online. Knowing this, feel free to direct prospective clients to these auxiliary resources, and link to additional resources like the following:

  • Professional website or portfolio. Your website is a great place to house your previous client work and include more context of completed projects. Make sure you have all your contact information, your LinkedIn page, your social channels (if relevant) linked so that anyone that views it can easily paint the bigger picture of work you do.
  • LinkedIn ProFinder page. LinkedIn ProFindermakes it easy to showcase your experience and any recommendations you’ve received during your freelance career. Be sure to link your page so potential clients can dig deeper into the noteworthy work you’ve delivered to past clients.

3—Explain your “Why?” In today’s gig economy, the common thread for those that land the job is clear: they make it easy for clients to hire them. By defining the reasons why you should be chosen over other candidates is imperative in proposal writing and making this clear throughout could make the difference between landing the job or missing out on a new client.

Think about the service you provide and how you will be able to deliver something different than others in your category. Whether your specialty lies in finance or marketing, think about how you’ll be able to go above standard expectations and provide an unparalleled experience for the client. LinkedIn ProFinder expert Mariya Lugmani leads with her successes, “Describe in detail how you handled and delivered the required services and/or products in an efficient and timely manner. Include examples/case studies to be more specific. A prospective client is looking for your experience and your ability to manage their project efficiently and effectively.”

Sometimes the best way to explain these points is to have a previous clients share their experience. Don’t shy away from including referrals, or even encouraging your reader to check out the endorsements you’ve received on your LinkedIn profile.

Proposals are just one piece of the broader freelancing puzzle. My best recommendation for those just getting started is to learn as much as you can, soaking up all the resources you can. Dive deeper into ways you can write better cold emails to drive more leads, or more generally, how a few small changes can help you get more work. Don’t be afraid to take it a step further by proving to clients that you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Offering a free consult is a great way to paint a picture of your value beyond what is written on paper.

7—The Pros and Cons of PEOs vs. Fully Insured Plans for Small Business Health Insurance

Guest post by Sally Poblete, CEO of Wellthie. Poblete has been a leader and innovator in the health insurance industry for over 20 years. As a broker and former industry executive herself, she founded Wellthie out of a deep passion for making health insurance simpler and more approachable for consumers and small businesses.

As a small business owner, you want to provide your employees with health insurance. However, there are a plethora of important choices to make in a limited timeframe. When it comes to providing your team with health insurance, as long as you are well informed it will greatly simplify the process of choosing what health plans ultimately make the most sense for you and your company. If you are not entirely sure whether you should use a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) or consider Fully Insured Medical Plans, it might be helpful to know the pros and cons of each:

What are PEOs? PEOs offer services ranging from payroll processing, benefits administration, HR training and support, and workplace insurance coverage, to both small and medium-sized businesses.

The Pros of PEOs                                                                                    

  • PEOs include employees with all of the PEO’s co-employees to create one larger group/pool of employees; This enables the PEO to provide the employees with access to employee benefits similar to ones they would receive as part of a larger corporation, despite the fact they work for a small business.
  • PEOs offer more services to small business employees than just health benefits. PEOs make available compliance support, payroll, human resources services, and workers compensation.
  • PEOs lower the administrative burdens of small businesses which allows them to focus on their core business strategies in lieu of worrying about the minutiae of benefits.

The Cons of PEOs

  • PEOs offer a very limited choice in carriers, meaning that your employees won’t necessarily be presented with the best options for them or their families.
  • PEOs require administrative fees to support their services and are charged per month per employee or percentage of total payroll.
  • PEOs force small businesses to rely on an external team (rather than internal employees) to handle important and sensitive HR processes.

What are Fully Insured Plans? Fully Insured Plans are employer-sponsored health plans where the premium rates are fixed for at least a year (could have longer contracts) and are based on the number of employees enrolled in the plan each month and their ages. The company pays the insurance carrier a premium.

The Pros of Fully Insured Plans                                                        

  • With Fully Insured Plans, the prices are based on ages and/or zip code which allows employers to budget. The rates do not vary with the health of employees, and you cannot be denied based on the health of your employees (no medical underwriting required.) The insurance provider manages all claims, and the risk is assumed by the insurance company.
  • With Fully Insured Plans, you can traditionally choose your own package and decide on carriers, as opposed to being required to stick to a very limited set offered by a PEO. You can purchase a fully-insured plan if you have at least 2 employees. Some PEOs require you to have a higher minimum number of employees (5 Employees).
  • With Fully Insured Plans, there are no administrative fees paid to a PEO. You can choose your own payroll company and have internal HR resources.

The Cons of Fully Insured Plans

  • With Fully Insured Plans, premium costs can be higher depending on your geography and age of employees, regardless of the overall health of your employees. (Sometimes claims experience varies depending on the size of the company.)
  • With Fully Insured Plans, you don’t have the “one-stop shop” of payroll, HR, and compliance that is available with most PEOs.
  • With Fully Insured Plans, the administrative burdens associated with running a small business fall solely on the business.

The health insurance options available for small business employers are vast, and there are pros and cons to each choice available to you and your employees. Prior to making a decision, it is best practice to be as familiar with all of the details as possible. In the case of PEOs vs. Fully Insured Plans, neither is necessarily better than the other. The best approach to acquiring small business health insurance is entirely dependent on the specifics of your company and your individual employees. If you do your research and don’t rush into making a final decision, you’ll secure coverage for your team that suits all parties concerned.

8—Catapulting Your Digital Transformation

Guest post by Priya Sri, CEO and founder of CubeYogi. She’s a software industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience, and about 10 U.S. patents in her name. CubeYogi is a firm of Zoho experts based in South India.

Today, Zoho/Salesforce/SugarCRM are some of the most popular business software in the global arena. Their user base is raising at a tremendous pace. If you’re seeking the right solution tailored to your business needs, here’s the “secret sauce” we use at CubeYogi in the decision-making process.

1—Identify the stakeholders: Who are those in the business who will be using the system, rather, administering the system that you are going to buy/build?

2—Come up with a budget: When I talk to key decision makers, I realize many of them don’t have even a ballpark idea of their estimated budget. This becomes key in outlining the plan for your digital transformation.

3—Pin down your KIAs: What are the Key Impact Areas (KIAs) in your company? Of course, it is the dream of every leader to transform the entire company. However, first steps first. So, I strongly urge you to come up with the top three KIAs that impact your company the most—those that would add the most value when digital transformation is applied to them

4—Define your change management plan: Change means resistance. There will be resistance from your team. Resistance doesn’t immediately mean you need to back off. You need to approach resistance the Zen way.

5—Play the champion: You are the one who’s heading this. So, you be sure of what you are doing first. Project that confidence. Say it loud and clear to your team. Keep talking about it. Utilize every opportunity to capitalize on that momentum and drive the change.

Be the champion. Be the change.

9—WorkInspired: How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work

The What Would You Do with More Time? survey by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace examining how employees across eight nations view their relationship with work and life, asking the simple question, “What would you do with more time?” was recently released.

They surveyed nearly 3,000 workers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the UK, and the U.S. Part one, The Case for a 4-day Workweek?, found that 75% of workers say it should take less than seven hours each day to do their job—yet specific time-wasters result in 40% of employees working more than 40 hours a week, and 71% saying work interferes with their personal lives. Part two asks employees: If you could get these lost hours back in your day, what would you do with more time?

People wish they could spend more time with their families, traveling, and taking better care of their mental and physical health.

  • With more time, the top 5 things people worldwide wish they could do more of are spend time with family (44%); travel (43%); exercise (33%); spend time with friends (30%); and pursue their hobbies (29%).
  • Rest and relaxation were also big themes, as 27% of people said they would want to get more sleep and 22% would focus on mental health. More sleep is a universal desire regardless of age—from Gen Z (27%) to baby boomers (26%)—although U.S. workers (33%) crave more sleep than all other nations, with Indian workers desiring the least amount of additional shuteye (16%).
  • While all nations rate spending time with family and travel as their top two desires, the remaining top 5 “more time” wish lists vary by country. For instance, employees in France, Germany, the U.S., and the UK listed “sleep more” as a top 5-priority; UK and Indian workers wish they had time to learn a new skill or hobby; people in Mexico and India would spend more time watching TV, movies, or listening to music; and Mexican employees were the only ones to have “read more” in their top 5 list.
  • On the bright side, 62% of all workers agree their job offers enough flexibility to have a healthy work-life balance, while only 14% either disagree or strongly disagree.
  • What would you do with more time at work? Personal development leads the way.
  • Regardless of age, role, level, or country, all employees wish they could spend more time developing new skills, as it was the top-rated answer for both individual contributors (44%) and people managers (40%) alike—with exactly half of Gen Z respondents and 47% of millennials craving more time to develop skills.
  • A whopping 66% of employees in India wish they had time to develop new skills, with the U.K. (49%), Mexico (48%), and Australia (47%) following suit as the nations where more professional development is desired the most.
  • While helping customers was the second highest-rated wish for individual contributors (31%)—and a greater desire the older the worker—the remaining top-5 desires fall squarely in the personal maintenance camp: take a meal break (#3); take a mental break/meditate (#4); and catch up on work (#5).
  • Both managers and employees—especially in Australia—wish they could spend more time on long-term or significant projects (27% and 23%, respectively), and 23% of employees wish they had more time to innovate, brainstorm new ideas, or find a better way of doing things.
  • Workers in Mexico (37%), Canada (27%), and Germany (26%) would use extra time to exercise during the workday. On the other hand, only 13% of UK employees would use extra time to exercise, but 32% wish there was more time to eat.
  • Workers in Australia, the UK and the U.S. feel the busiest, as they are most likely to spend additional time in the day simply catching up on work. In France, 25% of French workers would spend extra time looking for a new job compared to the worldwide average of 16% and Mexico at only 11%.

Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos says, “While the vast majority of workers say work interferes with their personal lives, it’s clear people want to do meaningful work and want to do well by their employers. It’s the employer’s responsibility not only to provide workers with the tools, processes, and resources to optimize their time at work, but also to empower employees to best manage work-life harmony with clear and specific time-off policies, creative and self-service scheduling solutions, benefits to help relax and refuel, and, above all, open communication between the company, employees, and their people managers to ensure time while working is time well spent.”

Dan Schawbel, best-selling author and research director, Future Workplace adds, “Workers worldwide clearly see the benefit to stay relevant in their jobs by investing time in training, yet also desire more time with their family, to travel, and get fit. Instead of trying to have a balanced lifestyle, which is especially difficult in today’s highly connected, technology-driven world, workers should seek integration, ensuring they allocate time to their biggest professional and personal priorities each day. There’s more of a need today to work smarter and be more efficient to free up time to invest in things that matter most, inside and outside of work.”

There’s more research from The Workforce Institute at Kronos, including the recent Working Your Way study, which found that organizations often undermine their own employee experience around work-life harmony when it comes to time off, productivity, and workload. You can subscribe to follow The Workforce Institute at Kronos for insight, research, blogs, and podcasts on how organizations can manage today’s modern workforce to drive engagement and performance.

10—Deadly Jobs

Are the top 5 deadliest occupations compensated fairly relative to how dangerous they are? GPS fleet management company Teletrac Navman pulled data pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the top 5 deadliest occupations by fatality rate. As you can see in the infographic below, the workers taking the most risk, aren’t necessarily compensated in relation to the danger of their jobs.

  • Logging Workers: $40,830
  • Fishers and Related Fishing Workers: $41,190
  • Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers: $138,690
  • Roofers: $42,780
  • Refuse and Recyclable Materials Collectors: $38,920

Truck drivers are in the bottom percentile for salaries at $39,790 with a fatality rate of 24.7.

Check the infographic below for more information.

11—Private Company Executives Feel Less Prepared

Nearly half of public company executives see no slowdown ahead in the time and effort to be spent on compliance with the new lease accounting standards issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board, according to a new Deloitte poll conducted in February 2019. In fact, after they file Q1 2019 earnings, 25% expect to spend the same amount of time and effort on lease implementation related activities and nearly as many (23.9%) plan to spend more.

“One would expect that the level of effort around lease accounting compliance would drop off considerably for U.S. public companies once 2019 first-quarter earnings are filed, but that’s simply not the case,” says Sean TorrDeloitte Risk and Financial Advisory managing director, Deloitte & Touche LLP. “Whether public companies need to better streamline lease accounting operations, fix temporary manual processes or refine technology solutions, there remains a lot of work ahead for many public companies. Private entities appear to have even more work ahead.”

Private companies appear behind in lease accounting implementation efforts: 33.2% of private company executives surveyed feel unprepared to comply with their 2020 lease accounting compliance deadline—a rate exceeding any expressed by Deloitte-polled public company execs since the respective standards’ issuances (in February 2019, only 6.9% of U.S. public company executives felt unprepared).

“It’s critical to understand that lease accounting compliance is non-negotiable, and many organizations still have a lot of work to do to achieve compliance—particularly on the private side,” says Mark DavisAudit & Assurance partner and national managing partner of Deloitte Private Enterprises for Deloitte & Touche LLP. “However, the one thing private companies have to their advantage is that public companies were required to implement the new standard first. Private company leaders can learn a lot from public companies’ efforts to date.”

Some of the lease accounting implementation lessons private company executives can learn from public company leaders are:

Finding leases is easier said than done. Collecting necessary data on all organizational leases in a centralized, electronic inventory has been rated a top challenge for executives more than once in the past by Deloitte poll respondents. “Whether leases are on paper, dispersed globally in various languages or embedded within larger contracts, gathering data needed for lease accounting calculations is a considerable undertaking. Private enterprises can learn from public companies by developing robust lease data plans and data quality procedures not only for initial abstraction, but also ongoing data maintenance,” continues Davis.

Change management is rarely fast or simple. “The organizational changes resulting from the new lease accounting standards are far-reaching and may include areas of the organization such as IT, operations, accounting and finance, tax, treasury, and financial planning and analysis. No matter who is managing the lease accounting implementation at an organization, it’s important to achieve alignment with the various internal and external stakeholders impacted by the changes. Davis concludes, “Private companies can benefit from strong project management, including a clearly defined roadmap, regular stakeholder engagement, and effective change management and training procedures.”

12—Tech Pros Need to Develop Skills to Confidently Manage

SolarWinds, a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, just  released the findings of the SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow.

The report explores confidence, current and future skillsets, career development, and barriers to career success to provide a clear understanding of how tech pros and the businesses they serve can improve to better manage future technology realities.

The majority of technology professionals are not fully confident they have all the skills needed to manage their environments into the near future, especially when it comes to emerging tech.

  • 75% of all tech pros surveyed are not “completely confident” in having all the necessary skills to successfully manage their IT environments over the next three to five years—even though 99% have worked to develop a skill over the past 12 months.

This is also consistent with a recent study SolarWinds MSP conducted with The 2112 Group, 2018 Trends in Managed Services, which found only about one in four partners feel their managed service skills are expert-level, while 65% claim only basic managed service skills, with room to improve, and 5% admit they lack basic skills or capabilities altogether.

As business size increases, so does confidence: 49% of small business tech pros are somewhat to completely unconfident in their ability to manage environments into the near future with current skillsets, compared to 31% of medium-size tech pros and 27% of enterprise tech pros who share this sentiment.

An August 2018 Deloitte® survey of SMB executives revealed 57% of the respondents surveyed are planning to spend more on IT this year than they did in the past year. These findings are echoed in a recent Tech Pro Research study, which found 44% of participating technology professionals ranked internal employee training and development as a critical priority for 2019 IT budgets.

When it comes to the idea of implementing or managing specific technologies, emerging tech is a pain point (despite how much mind share these buzzworthy technologies get in headlines). The top three technologies tech pros feel unequipped to manage with their current skillsets are:

  1. Artificial intelligence (53%)
  2. Quantum computing (43%)
  3. Machine and/or deep learning (43%)

According to the Gartner® list of strategic technology trends that have the potential to disrupt and are on the verge of becoming more widely used in the next five years, AI and quantum computing both rank in the top 10.

There is a great opportunity for tech pros to increase their knowledge of these technologies and to have productive conversations with businesses on the reality of implementation in the near future.

Tech pros will continue building skills in daily operations with an eye toward areas like data science.

  • In the past 12 months, tech pros have prioritized skills in systems and infrastructure management (47%), security management (SIEM, policies, compliance, 41%), and hybrid IT deployment/management (41%).
  • Along with the top three overall, small business tech pros also worked to develop coding and scripting skills (46%) and mid-size tech pros worked to develop network management skills (40%).
  • In the next three to five years, the top two skills tech pros plan to develop skills are hybrid IT deployment monitoring and management (47%) and security management (46%).

This is in line with what tech pros say will be most important to their organizations’ transformation over the next three to five years (by weighted rank): cloud and/or hybrid IT, and SIEM and/or threat intelligence.

Small businesses rank IT security protocol and/or processes as number one, and technology innovation as number two, while the third career development goal is management/leadership skills (people management).

Tech pros have an appetite to prioritize career development on a weekly basis but are hindered by factors like time and cost—83% say their day-to-day IT tasks extend into time earmarked for career development, with 28% saying this always happens.

As business size increases, the percentage of tech pros who say “always” decreases, suggesting small business tech pros are even more strapped for time than their enterprise counterparts. This is alarming, considering tech pros enjoy technology skills training, with 49% finding it informative, 31% saying it’s engaging and interactive, and 26% reporting it’s not long enough.

However, training should be customized according to business size, as 34% of small business tech pros report training programs often assume knowledge they don’t have. This is potentially due to the amount of vendor-led training SMBs engage in to get past adoption hurdles. To solve this, vendors should consider customizing learnings according to business size.

To explore and interact with all of the 2019 findings, please visit the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, a dynamic web experience that presents the study’s findings by region and additional insights into the data, as well as charts, graphs, and socially shareable elements.

Quick Clicks

13—15 Proven Writing Techniques that Work Great in 2019 from Content Fiesta.

14—The Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Marketing Online from Canva.

Cool Tools

15—New App Takes the Worry and Work Out of Getting Paid for Small Businesses

Square, Inc. announced the Square Invoices app, providing sellers a self-serve and elegantly designed tool for creating, managing, and sending invoices from anywhere. As part of Square’s wider ecosystem of mobile tools, the Invoices app enables sellers to manage all aspects of their business in real-time from their mobile devices.

“The way we do business is changing; not everyone works from an office and small businesses need the flexibility to handle core processes like invoicing on the go.” says Alyssa Henry, Seller Lead at Square. “With the Square Invoices app, small business owners are able to get paid remotely and access their funds quickly and securely.”

According to a recent report from Fundbox, it takes the average small business 21 days to get paid after sending an invoice. With the Square Invoices app, sellers can get paid quickly and easily—no more manual invoices and waiting for checks to come in the mail. Whether they are getting paid for photographing a wedding or after taking on a new landscaping job, sellers can send invoices and get paid, in just a few simple taps. In fact, more than 60% of invoices processed through Square are paid the same day.

With its launch, Square Invoices also enables businesses to send sleek, professional estimates to confirm details of future jobs through the app or on desktop. This feature is especially useful for service businesses like home and repair providers, freelance consultants, wedding and event planners, photographers, and others who need to provide a quote to secure prospective customers.

Since launch, more than $13 billion has been processed globally through Square Invoices. The Square Invoices app is available today in the U.S., Canada, Japan, the UK and Australia via the App Store or Google Play. To learn more about the new Invoices app, feel free to check out their post on the Town Square blog.

 

16—Optimizing Cash Flow for SMBs

Bento for Business, a leading provider of B2B payment solutions, just announced a new payment solution, partnering with Visa to transform how SMBs manage and optimize their most critical asset—cash.

Bento for Business’s financial operating platform brings more complete financial controls to SMBs for their expenses, payments and purchasing, cashless workflows, working capital, banking, and more. Visa Business debit cards will now be integrated into the platform to instantly give millions of Visa SMBs access to Bento for Business’s modular financial solutions for their distinct working capital challenges, such as budgeting, expense and spend management, and bookkeeping.

“The SMB segment is a priority for Visa, and we continue to be an advocate for the 30 million SMBs in the United States,” says David Simon, Global Head of Small and Medium Enterprises, Visa. “The Bento solution will evolve how Visa Business cardholders and merchants manage expenses and gain insights into their cash flow and financial management activities.”

Farhan Ahmad, Chief Executive Officer, Bento for Business, says, “We are confident that working with Visa will strengthen and accelerate our mission to bring a complete financial operating platform to the underserved SMB market and help these businesses to unlock the fullest potential of their working capital.”

Visa customers using the Bento for Business platform will immediately benefit from complete control over expenses prior to purchase, real-time insights over their cash flow, secure physical and virtual cards, 24/7 support, and access to savings on travel, fuel and other services based on their purchases.

 

17—Get More out of LinkedIn

ContactOut is a simple browser extension that helps you find the email addresses and phone numbers of people listed on LinkedIn. ContactOut finds emails from 75% of LinkedIn users (2x better than the next closest competitor) at a 97% accuracy rate.

It speeds up the recruitment process, enabling you to find job candidates and hire faster. ContactOut will also let you up your sales game, enabling you to find elusive contact information of prospects.

The company has been around for more than three years and has thousands of users—including from one-third of Fortune 500 companies. It has been named one of the best freemium email outreach tools available multiple times.

18—Bringing the WhatsApp Business App To iPhone

Now you can use the WhatsApp Business app on the device of your choice. They just introduced the WhatsApp Business app for iOS. Like the Android version—which over the last year has been adopted by millions of businesses around the world—the WhatsApp Business app for iOS will be free to download from the App Store and will include features to help small businesses and customers communicate. These include:

  • Business Profile:Share useful information about your business such as a business description, email or store addresses, and website.
  • Messaging Tools:Respond to customers easily with efficient messaging tools—quick replies to provide fast answers to frequently asked questions, greeting messages to introduce customers to your business and away messages to let them know when to expect a reply.
  • WhatsApp Web: Chat from your desktop to manage conversations and send files to customers.

The WhatsApp Business app is free to download from the App Store in Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, India, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. The app will be rolling out around the world in the coming weeks.

19—Take Control of Your SEO

DataForSEO, a top software technology companies and SEO API data provider based out of Ukraine, recently launched, what they’re calling “the best API built for SEO tool makers and agencies”. DataForSEO enables digital marketing teams to gain the full governance over the data they use every day, rather than being chained to the third-party software they have absolutely no control of. This API provides all the data you need for custom SEO software – Bulk Search Volume, CPC, Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), Keyword Research, and Site Audit. The company provides the comprehensive SEO data via API at a simple, predictable price.

Simple, Easy-to-implement, High-Speed API: Building digital marketing software requires a lot of time and money. DataForSEO can make the entire process much easier. The API functionality is simple and doesn’t require completing any unnecessary steps. You don’t need to create projects, add keywords and so on. You just set a task to retrieve data from the system, and it returns everything in the result array to you.

“With our APIs you don’t have to worry about scraping SERPs, building complex backend systems, and hiring expensive software engineers,” says Nick Chernets, the CEO and founder of DataForSEO. “Our APIs allow you to get over technical complexities and focus on what you are good at – developing ideas into tools!”

High-Speed, Fresh, Accurate, and Real-time Data: SEO companies and agencies require up-to-date, reliable data to work with. DataForSEO ensures that they are always working with fresh data with its proprietary data harvesting technologies and robust APIs. The data is delivered in real-time for a specified search engine, language, and location. Also, the DataForSEO system is tested and stable and guarantees 99.99% availability and high-speed delivery.

Key benefits

  • 5-Star, 24/7 live support: DataForSEO provides top-class support during the whole process of implementation—testing and integration. You can opt for any communication channel—group chat, Skype call, or online contact form.
  • Simple pricing: No need to sign any contract or make huge upfront payments. It uses a “pay per use” pricing model. Your credits remain in your balance until you use them.
  • User dashboard with clear statistics: You will be always in the know how you spend your credits for API usage.
  • Reduced cost, improved efficiency: By using DataForSEO APIs, some of the SEO software providers have cut 60% of the overall cost and development time.
  • Trial period: DataForSEO offers a trial period that is not time limited. On signing up, you receive 1000 credits on your balance and use it whenever you like.

Check out the YouTube video.

Business owner stock photo by g-stockstudio/Shutterstock

Branding Strategies That Create Customers Who Spend 300% More

How to use the Internet to create and grow your brand.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Brand equity or its value is based on how much profit a brand makes, how strong the brand is in comparison to the competitors and the role that the branding plays in the product purchase. A Nike logo matters for shoe purchases, a Keebler Elf matters a little, but not as much in cookie purchasing. The number one brand in the world, Apple, is presently worth $214 billion.

Branding is the process of creating a name, logo, symbol, and personality to represent your product or service. Brands become valuable when customers associate high value and quality products or services with your brand. Branding is vital because it creates a memorable imprint on the consumers’ brain that helps establish awareness and long-term loyalty. It provides a consistent image so consumers know what to expect. Satisfaction is based on meeting or exceeding expectations. A stable, positive image is essential. New entrepreneurs spend so much time building their new products that the importance of branding is often forgotten. The branding process can seem daunting for a new entrepreneur, but a few simple steps can start the process.

1. Establish a brand identity.

Base your brand identity on the product’s key value proposition, which is the number one reason why customers purchase your product or service. The proposition should be able to be stated in a clear, succinct manner. Base all subsequent communications on this image. Lyft stresses, “Rides in minutes,” whereas Uber claims to be “The smartest way to get around.” Thumbtack “helps you find experienced professionals.” While conducting sales training, I found that veteran sales reps typically struggle to state their company’s value position. The reps would usually report what product they sell, in feature-specific terms. For example, the reps would say, “We sell after-market automotive parts.” They would struggle to say why the customers buy their product in value-specific terms. Instead, the value proposition should be, “We sell auto products that cannot be found anywhere else, to repair your antique and valuable vehicles easily and quickly.” Value and quality always matter first and foremost.

Related: The 8 Laws of Branding

2. Consider the look of the brand.

Part of a brand identity involves the visual representation of it, which includes the logo, the colors, type font, and other design aspects. Research on the effects of color has shown that color is a critical aspect of branding. Between 62 and 90 percent of the customer’s initial product assessment is based on color. For example, red represents power and energy, or passion and love, and green exemplifies nature, health, fertility, and good luck. These meanings are culturally based. Keep color consistent throughout your webpage and any social media you use so that customers associate these feelings with your brand.

Font and logos can create a great deal of emotion. Google fonts is a library of 915 fonts, most of which are available for use with an open license. Many sites demonstrate the best Google Fonts to use. The most important thing is readability and accessibility. Creativity can lead to pretty, artistic fonts, but these are not as easy to read. Studies have found that Arial is easiest to read, but harder to read fonts, are more memorable because you have to slow down to read. Again, be consistent across all sites and postings. Make sure that that your branding strategies are distinct from competitors and memorable, like the Lyft mustaches.

3. Create brand awareness.

Once you have your brand’s value proposition and image, you can use the Internet to build awareness. Know where your target market is. Know what sites they frequent online and what influencers they follow. Some of these data can be found by merely spending time browsing and doing research. For any B2B business, customers likely use LinkedIn and trade associations or organizations unique to that industry. If you are looking to start an online catering service, your customer might be frequenting wedding websites or other party idea sites. Secondary data sources like Nielsen provide much of this information for a fee.

Related: 5 Startup Branding Trends to Watch for in 2019

Start producing content on your sites and as many external sites as possible that your target market might read. Produce as much different content as possible that may provide value to your customer. Give readers a reason to come back and learn more. Referring to the catering company example, discuss wedding planning topics at least weekly. Businesses that blog regularly get 97 percent more inbound business. Link to as many other social media channels that you can. Make it easy for other people to share or link to your material by using linking buttons. Press releases are especially useful and can increase your search ranking with Google. If appropriate to your company, post online videos and podcasts. The more you saturate the Internet, the more likely the customer can find your product.

4. Build trust, credibility and loyalty.

Once you begin to establish your clientele, make sure you consistently provide outstanding customer service and products. Customers will come back time after time if you provide a quality product and add value. Create a referral program. Give customers rewards to bring more customers to you. This tactic works by both bringing in more customers and keeping your current customers happy because they are receiving added benefits. Promote your product by encouraging happy customers to rate your product and provide feedback online.  

Related: 13 Fun Facts That Will Make Your ‘About Me’ A Lot Less Boring

As you continue to build your business, do not change your brand. Do not change the logo, slogan, or any part of your brand identity. You spent all this time and money building awareness and loyalty. Why would you intentionally throw that away? Changing the brand or re-branding will erode this value. Coca-Cola has the fifth most valuable brand in the world, and they have never changed their logo. PepsiCo is known for frequently changing their logo. While PepsiCo has the 22nd most valuable brand, its brand equity is $40 billion less than Coca-Cola. The only time it ever makes sense to rebrand is when a brand has been destroyed beyond repair (Valujet). If you think that changing your brand on a slumping product will improve your sales, you do not understand your business.

Keep your customers engaged long term. Keep your conversations active and current so that customers want to participate in your communication efforts continually. The more people are involved, the more other people will want to be included due to social proof theory. Repeat customers spend 300 percent more on average than new customers.

How Small Business Owners Can Create an Employee Sick Time Policy

It happens a few times a year. The dreaded cold virus takes your office by storm, and you’re left with extra work to delegate to fewer and fewer people. This is when your employee sick time policy needs to be up to snuff … or sniff? In addition to being sympathetic toward afflicted employees, you also need to take the financial and operating needs of your business into account, ensuring you can continue to run a successful business with your staff out sick.

When you’re scrambling to meet your business’s day-to-day demands, it can be difficult to take the time to establish an official employee sick time policy. There are a few reasons why it’s important to do so, however, including:

  • To help ensure that your informal employee sick time policy complies with minimum state and local legal standards
  • To give employees a clear understanding of their opportunities and obligations
  • To help ensure that sick leave is used appropriately, minimizing its disruptive impact on your business

How to Create an Employee Sick Time Policy

When crafting a policy, begin by addressing these six questions:

  1. What are the legal requirements for sick leave in my jurisdiction, including possibly overlapping state and local laws?
  2. What are the typical sick leave policies of my competitors?
  3. Should I combine vacation and sick leave allowances, folding them into a simple “paid time off” policy so that I don’t have to police the legitimacy of a sick day?
  4. How much sick time are employees typically using today, and is there any reason to think it will change in the near future?
  5. What should the sick leave notification requirements be?
  6. What are the penalties for employees who violate the policy?

Once you’ve established (or updated) your sick day policy, be sure to explain it carefully to your employees. In doing so, you might discover that some hypothetical sick leave scenarios are not addressed by the policy, giving you an opportunity to fine-tune it.

Empty desks and chairs signify many employees out sick

Look for Patterns

Updating or establishing a new policy is also a good occasion to review employees’ sick day patterns. Are there any associates who appear to be out more often than might be justified by actual sickness? If so, you might consider delicately probing to ascertain whether any non-sickness related causes, such as low morale, need to be addressed.

No matter how carefully you developed your policy, it cannot protect you from a major labor disruption caused, for example, by a local flu epidemic. That doesn’t mean that you can’t factor such a contingency into your workforce and financial planning, however.

Suppose, for example, that you always experience a seasonal surge in business during the winter months that typically coincides with frequent sick call-ins. You could pay a high price in lost business, possibly resulting in a cash flow squeeze, if multiple employees call in sick at the same time. How can you prepare for that?

Financial Contingency Planning

You might consider moderately overstaffing during that period to give yourself a little cushion. Alternatively, you might make arrangements with a labor agency or with specific individuals who you know could step in to fill a gap on short notice.

On the financial side, an adjunct to an employee sick policy might be tapping into your rainy day fund or arranging for a short-term business loan to keep your business running when employees are out sick. You could use these funds to hire temporary staff, for example.

Making predictions is hard, especially about the future, once quipped Yogi Berra. But a sound and consistently followed sick leave policy, coupled with contingency planning, might immunize your business against catching a nasty seasonal cold this year.

How to Choose The Right Logistics Plan for Your Business and Create a Lasting Relationship in The Process?

The importance of a good solid logistics plan in your business is paramount. Logistics is fundamental for many companies to go about their day to day activities. Simply moving your goods from A to B isn’t as easy and straightforward as it sounds, and when planning the logistics for your business, it’s important to remember that you aren’t just making plans for shipments. You also have things such as regulations, licences and taxes to worry about.

Logistics planning

Outsourcing your B2B logistics

On boarding a specialist and expert B2B logistics provider such as Tuffnells may be the ideal solution, and by doing so can let you get back to the general day-to-day running of your business. When looking into outsourcing your logistics to a third party supplier look at the cost vs. benefit, quality of transportation and whether they will deliver on your business promises.

By looking at these key factors you’ll be able to ensure you choose the right logistics company to support your business, keep your customers happy and help build long lasting relationships.

Optimise your internal operations

Even if you choose to partner with the most experienced and sought after B2B logistics provider on the market, your internal teams could jeopardise operations if they aren’t working in synergy. If sales aren’t communicating well with production, and production with distribution, there is a great risk that customers will not have their orders fulfilled on time and therefore potentially damaging your reputation.

When planning your logistics operations for the year ahead, ensure you look at how smoothly your internal operations are running – by addressing this swiftly, you can ensure that producing and moving your goods happens without problems.

Introduce technology to your inventory management

Regardless of whether you hold a large or small amount of stock, both levels can pose problems if not managed efficiently. If you run out of stock because paperwork has not been updated, this can cause massive delays in the overall supply chain and subsequently mean clients can be without products for days.

Inventory management is a must if you’re wanting to create a strong logistics plan. Consider upgrading your current system to make stock management more streamlined, meaning production can be informed automatically if more products need to be created. Cloud technology has moved forward at an exponential rate – adopting cloud into your business can not only streamline your overall process and ensure goods get to the right place at the right time, but can also be scaled up should your company continue to grow.

How to Create a Catchy Print Ad

By Bernadine Racoma

This post is sponsored by Roller Banners UK, delivering roller banners and exhibition stands on time, at low prices and to the highest quality.

With the tight competition in the business world today, breaking into a market can be very difficult. You have to make sure that your marketing materials stand out, so people will remember your product or services. In a sea of print ads in magazines, newspapers, or billboards, people usually cannot select what their eyes land on. But they get to select what their brains will remember. Here are some tips to remember to make sure your printed ad will not go unnoticed.

Go Big and Go Bold

Choose a font that is legible, easily recognisable, and visible from afar. Generally, a bold typeface is clearer and more impactful compared to cursive-like fonts which can sometimes be difficult to decipher, especially if badly placed. Your objective is for your brand to be recognised almost instantaneously.

White Space Is Good Space

The eyes are more drawn to blank space as opposed to space that is stuffed with too many words. If the eyes see cramped space on the ad, the viewer may not even bother reading it. Remember that you are also making advertisements for the busy eye, and people did not intend to read your material when they bought the magazine or newspaper where your advertisement is. Three seconds is all it should take for your ad to be remembered, so make good use of the space you have.

Choose Colours Wisely

As a rule of thumb, light-coloured text should be placed on a dark background, and vice versa. It is also highly helpful that you are at least familiar with the psychology of colours and their effect on the viewer. For instance, you may use calming colours such as blue or grey for more professional ads, while yellow or red usually elicit dynamism and energy. When it comes to magazine, newspaper, or banner printing, make sure that the quality of material used will produce the same colours of your print ad as they were during the editing phase on your computer.

Make Them Visual

Make use of graphics, illustrations, pictures, and shapes. You can even go as far as using the words to form a certain shape. Also, make it a point that your words and the photos you incorporate in your ad are coherent or complement each other and are not a source of confusion.

Know the Trends

And try to incorporate them in your ad if you can. Trends exist for a reason – and that is because the general public uses them or talks about them. Witty, humorous slogans or hashtags are a good way to catch attention. Capitalise on existing trends so that your ad is likely to be noticed or can be easily recognised.

Know Your Target Niche

More important than knowing the trends, you must first identify the type of customers you want patronising your product. Your advertisement should cater to your customers’ needs. Make your material appropriate to the age group, gender, or race of your target market. Conducting informal surveys can be a good way to know and understand your customers’ preferences.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you attempt to create a catchy ad, and you are sure to capture your target market’s attention. You can also check out https://www.rollerbannersuk.com for more details and ideas.

Subscribe to the Small Business Bonfire Newsletter
And get your free one-page marketing plan template.

Bernadine Racoma
Bernadine Racoma is a senior content writer at Day Translations, a human translation services company. After her long stint as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her interest in writing and research. Like her poetry, she writes everything from the heart, and she treats each written piece a work of art. She loves dogs!

How to Create an e-Commerce Facebook Ads Strategy: A Case Study


3 Ways to Create Your Facebook Ads Strategy for An e-Commerce Site

People are on Facebook to chat with friends, to see friend’s photos, to meet old friends and so on. You can’t immediately start selling your products or services to people who don’t know you. They have to understand who you are, what you can offer them, why they need you, and why they have to buy from you instead of your competitors.

You have to earn their trust.

To begin the trust process, I often create a Facebook Ads strategy for my clients based on 3 different phases:

  1. Brand Awareness
  2. Engagement
  3. Conversion

Brand Awareness Campaigns

In the first phase, Brand Awareness, our goal is to make people connect with the brand/product/service. Once they know the brand, they will know who the company is, what they can buy from them, what its standards are, and the benefits of investing in their a product or service.

The first campaign is focused on growing the page to increase the number of targeted fans. By “targeted”, I mean people who are really interested in investing in a related product or service.

I usually use a corporate or product image for this kind of campaign with copy that shows the values and the corporate features of the brand or the Company. People that see the ad are more prone to think “Wow, why haven’t I heard about this brand before?”

Engagement Campaigns

In the second phase, Engagement, my goal is to establish a relationship with the fans of the page. The goal is to receive likes, comments, shares, and maybe questions about how to buy the product or the service.

In an engagement campaign, I usually use a video that immediately highlights the benefits, the advantages and/or the main strengths of a product or a service.

Below is an example of an Italian e-commerce store that sells “Made in Italy” oil (sorry; copy is in Italian): 

figure-2.pngFigure 2: A campaign video

Let’s see the performances of this campaign:

  • Timing: Campaign was live from November 5th to 10th.
  • Budget: 50 euros (so less than 10 euros per day).
  • Goal: At least 20,000 people to reach, and more than 50 engagement keys (likes, comments, shares).
  • Results: 40,315 people reached, 69 likes and 22 shares + direct messages to know how to buy the oil.

As you can see in 5 days with 50 euros, we reached brilliant results.

Campaigns for Conversions

The third phase, Conversion, is focused on selling the products to people who already know this product because they are a fan of the page or have visited the e-commerce site several times before deciding to buy (retargeting).

For this kind of campaign, I use the carousel to show more products at a glance or a customized image with products I have to sell.

Facebook Ads are extremely powerful for commerce that promotes a special offer or discount (in my experience, the discount has to be strong; for instance, 50%) or free shipping.

How a Beauty e-Commerce Earned 11.875 Euros in 5 Days with Facebook Ads

Here is a brief case study of a beauty e-commerce that sells hair products. Let’s look at the results during a Black Friday promotion!

  • Timing: from November, 21th to 25th.
  • Budget: 1.300 euros.
  • Results: 166 purchases.
  • Cost per result: 7.83.
  • Purchases Conversion Value: 11.875 euros

These results are amazing: I spent 1.300 euros, and I earned 11.875 euros in 5 days.

This is the ad:

figure-3.pngFigure 3: A successful ad campaign

Let’s Analyze the Campaign Starting From the Structure

1. I chose a “Conversions” campaign since my goal was selling products (not traffic to website or engagement).

2. I tracked “Purchase” ad event.

figure-4.pngFigure 4: Purchase conversion

3. Audience.

I used retargeting:

  • People who visited the website in the last 60 days.
  • People who made a purchase on the website in the last 60 days.
  • People who added to cart products in the last 60 days.
  • Email leads of customers of the last 3 months.
  • Lookalike.

I also targeted my audience for interests (I chose hair brand names and beauty interests).

  • Location: Italy.
  • Age: 24-55 years, only women.

4. Platforms: I chose only Facebook feeds, Instagram feed and Audience Network.

5. Copy: It was very minimal, clear and it focused on keywords such as “Black Friday”, “capelli” (= hair), “bellezza” (= beauty), “SCONTO” (= sale).

  • The sale amount is clearly expressed: 50%.
  • Also, the title highlights the percentage of discount.
  • The copy was brief, and it was easy to read: focus only on the discount — no more information. 

In this case, the copy was very short; in other cases, you can try a longer copy.

Research Tip

I suggest you use the Topic Research tool from SEMrush to find ideas for keywords your customers use; it is so important to use the same language that your users do in your marketing — including on Facebook.

figure-5.pngFigure 5: Topic Research – SEMrush

With data from the Topic Research tool, you will have an idea of which copy/keywords to use for your ad. You can find your creative inspiration will providing the information your target audience is looking for.

6. Image: I used a collage of real products (not an image you can find on a stock image website), and the consumer attention is pulled to the middle by a big circle that shows the huge discount.

7. Call-to-Action: I used “Shop Now”.

You have to choose a call-to-action according to what you ask your customer to do. Get straight to the point.

Conclusion

I explained these three steps process for Black Friday promotion, but you can adopt it throughout the year. If you decide to promote your business on Facebook, you have to advertise on it not only during strong promotion days (such as Black Friday or Christmas sales) but also throughout several months of the year.

In this case, I recommend you to think about a strategy that could bring you real interested customers. I have already said that you have to earn people trust before trying to sell them your products or services, so I suggest that you create some ads throughout the year with different goals:

1. Start From a Like campaign to get fans interested in your brand (Facebook Audience Insights can help you a lot); you have to add real targeted fans to your page. This kind of campaign should run almost 15 days per month. I have seen in my experience that even 5€ per day is great.

2. Promote Videos throughout the year, in particular just before you launch your products or services sale. Your goal here is to get engagements on videos, especially people who ask for more information about your brand and what you do or sell. If you don’t have any, think about creating them. Videos are effective and extremely engaging. A tip for you: when creating your campaign’s audience, type your brand name’s competitors in the “Detailed targeting” section. For instance, if I am promoting a digital marketing event, I can type “Social Media Week” and other similar events:

How to Create an e-Commerce Facebook Ads Strategy: A Case Study. Image 4Figure 6: detailed targeting

So you can show your ad to people who are interested in your competitors’ activities.

3. When you have built your trusted audience, it is the right moment to sell your products or service. Remember that you can’t sell to “cold audience” on Facebook: if people don’t know you, they won’t buy anything from you. So, focus on retargeting.

Show your ad to “hot audience”, that means an audience that is inclined to buy from you. People who:

  • Already visited your website during the last 90 days.
  • Already visited your purchase page during the last 30 days.
  • Watched your videos at almost 50%.
  • Already purchased from you (or added to cart) during the last 90 days.

Retargeting on Facebook is really powerful for sales.

3 Issues That Can Negatively Affect Your Facebook Campaigns

In my experience as a Facebook Ads manager for clients, I have committed three errors that I am going to share with you so that you can avoid them.

1. Creating Ads Quickly

For many reasons (clients pressure, enthusiasm, too many ongoing projects) you may think you can create a campaign in just 1 hour.

Wrong.

It takes a lot of time, sometimes even if 8 or 10 hours to create a single campaign. The risks you want to avoid are selecting the wrong audience and create boring advertising.

Take your time when:

  • Analyzing data from Facebook Audience Insights.
  • Analyzing the language of your audience; how do your target talk on forums, blogs, and social networks? 
  • Creating attractive images or videos.
  • Writing persuasive copy.

2. Running the Same Campaign For a Long Time (i.e., one month).

Wrong. It is better to concentrate all of your budget in a short period campaign rather than splitting your budget into several days.

For example, if you have to promote a product, tell people your promotion will expire in 3 days, so your campaign will be online for a few days. It is better to spend 200 euros in 3 days than 200 euros in 20 days.

3. Making Ads Complex

Wrong. Make your ad easy:

  • Easy to read
  • Easy to understand

You have a few seconds to grab your customer’s attention on Facebook, so avoid complicated copywriting, complicated discounts or strange images. 

Simplicity is the best choice:

  • Get straight to the point in a few short sentences.
  • Show your products or an image that visually explain the benefits of what you are trying to sell.

I hope this article can be useful to you. I am glad to answer to your comments or thoughts below. 

Create a Foolproof Plan for Your Company’s Fiscal Health

Your business will be permanently profitable after this expert-led course.

3 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

You’ve probably seen fellow entrepreneurs hit the ground running with a great idea and plenty of cash from investors, only to watch their startups fizzle out after a few years.

Why do some companies seem like a sure thing out of the gate, then turn out to be lemons when push comes to shove? The answer lies in each leader’s financial knowledge and plan (or lack thereof). A stellar financial strategy is a lynchpin in any successful business. No matter how revolutionary your ideas are, your business simply can’t survive or thrive without a profitable financial blueprint.

In order to kickstart a company that will become profitable and stays that way, you need to turn outdated ideas about business finance on their heads. You don’t need a pricey MBA to do it, either: an expert-led course like Manage Your Money for Maximum Profit with Mike Michalowicz should do the trick.

Mike Michalowicz is an entrepreneur, author and money guru who knows a thing or two about creating a financially stable company that’s built to last. His valuable new class is based on his latest book, “Profit First.” It’s an immersive course that helps you understand shockingly simple yet novel concepts about financial management and growing your own business.

Michalowicz’s core four principles of financial health will get the ball rolling for your inventive ideas, then create a profitable “rhythm” for your company that leads to long-term gains. His approach goes beyond numbers, tackling the psychology of why new C-suites make the same money mistakes again and again and showing you how to avoid those missteps.

Profit from sales isn’t the only way to rake in cash for your business. You can also bring in more money with intelligent cost-cutting, strategic renegotiating and discovering lost revenue opportunities — Mike covers all of the bases in this class. He even has roadmaps for entrepreneurs whose credit card or loan debt is holding them back.

If you’re ready to dive into business classes that go beyond cookie-cutter financial advice, you can sign up for Manage Your Money for Maximum Profit with Mike Michalowicz for $14.99 right now. That’s 68 percent off the normal price of $49 — it’s the first of many smart investments you’ll make as a business owner.